#81
location: near where ludivine is

Sissel sneaks in the kitchen in the camp and takes some food. He is starving after being prisoner for a while by some slave owners. He looks down at his tome(noseferatu and flux) and drops a fork by mistake. "Crap!" he said thinking he is going to get caught.
 
#82
Sissel wanders around the camp as he sees Ludivine's wyvern. He doesn't really know anything about the outside world and he pokes it's side. "This isn't anything like the cell I was in." he said amazed at the wyvern.
 

Jessica2477

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#83
Ludivine Daulfern
Mentions - derek cazenari derek cazenari


Upon receiving the unwelcomed touch, Fosc growled and his jaw immediately snapped at the wolfskin. The wyvern, seeing the intruder, quickly moved into defensive mode. He opened his mouth and quickly snapped his teeth again at the other to grab his cloak, with the full intent to swallow Sissel, as he had been trained to do.

Ludivine, hearing this, quickly looked to see that her mount was trying to eat a person. She ran over to the wyvern, "Fosc, no! Wait a minute! Spit them out!"

Fosc ceased his actions the second Ludivine commanded him to stop. He looked to his rider, midswallow, then gave a small annoyed grumble. He hacked and upchucked the wolfskin until he spat Sissel back onto the ground, the man coated in the wyvern's thick saliva.

Ludivine glared at Sissel, readying her lance. "What do you think you're doing?"
 

Conway

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#84
7 days ago
Thalia​

Joris flew down the streets of Thalia on his steed, Lumen, full gallop; a river of dead foes filled the street behind him. His lance drove forward striking down two more enemy soldiers. He did not once let up on the reigns, for he knew what was at stake. The capital was under attack, enemies had infiltrated the Counsel, the Royal family, the counselors, the priestesses, everyone else, they were all at risk. If someone could not reach them then...

"NO!" Joris shouted at himself, that would not happen, not so long as he was present in the city. He rode hard, making for the Counsel, braving the arrow fire and striking down all who blocked his path. Finally, he could see it, but there was something wrong. There were men hammering at the door with a makeshift ram, Thalian men! Enemy forces must have barricaded the door from the inside. Joris breathed in, Lumen took note and did the same, pushing herself harder.

"AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!" Joris's signature, war cry was unleashed. Any sane person would be forgiven for thinking that some sort of haste spell had just been cast on Lumen, as she was now galloping faster than a Pegasus in a full dive. The men on the ram turned, stunned by this sudden, loud, bellowing. Soon however they saw the blue crest on the center of Joris's armor, and realized who it was. Inspired by his cry they let out their own cry, and swung the ram a final time with an almost in human strength, crashing through the doors at the exact moment that Lumen sailed over them into the hall. He was in.

Instantly, there were three dead bodies on the ground with the last two falling soon after. Joris scanned the Counsel hall, no more enemies, but how? Surely there has to be more. Several other corpses littered the room, mostly Counselors, but a hand full of enemies too. Had the everyone else escaped?

"Where is Sir Asker? The Enemy's main force has breached the the first line! They are in the City!" A messenger cried out. Joris knew he was probably speaking of Uncle Geralt, but he he was an Asker none the less.

"I am Joris Asker. Speak up, give me your report!" His commanding voice compelled the messenger to speak.

"So, hear it is sir. I was sent to find Commander Burke and get some reinforcements, but he's dead. So they send me to General Alice of the Pegasus knights, but she's dead. So they send me to find Sir Geralt Asker who is head of the defense of Thalia, but he's missing and the whole line is falling apart." Damn, there was not enough time. Joris needed to get to the front and fast.

Wailing and screaming could now be heard from the rest of the city. A small gathering of Cavaliers, soldiers, and knights had now formed at the entrance to the counsel building. A troop of Pegasus knights landed nearby and limped over to them as well, one man looked around the group. and asked, "Who is in command here?" All eyes, turned to Joris, and the knight rode up to him. "I'm Captain Vespillo, we, we have all been effectively grounded. We can't get higher than the buildings without being hit with a volley of arrows."

"Well then, you fly boys should fall in." Joris trotted forward, and turned back to the assortment of fighters behind him. "DEFENDERS OF THALIA!! The Enemy is at the gates! They are in our city! They are plundering and murdering and looting our city!" he stopped for a moment to let that sink in. "WE can still win this though! If we can push them back and wreak havoc to their archers, then our fly boys can take the next chance to strike, and we will take the next and the next, but this all rides on YOU!! WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE! NOW RIDE! RIDE, DEFENDERS OF THALIA! TO ME, NOW CHAAAAAAAAAARGE!!!!!!!" Once again he let out his war cry, but it was bolstered by every man and woman behind him.

Two soldiers, who were looting bodies, lifted their heads, only to be separated from them. Another two became joined by a lance, as a third was trampled under Lumen. Joris's small force tore through the streets the Thalia, Howling their wild cry as they did. They were nigh invincible, many fled at their presence, others were slain, some put up a resistance, but still fell. The moral of the men went up, they could charge all the way Cerkaust like this. A screech filled the air, as a group of wyverns descended on the troop. Joris charged, slipping his lance down the open mouth of a wyvern, as he drew his sword and nearly chopped the head off another. A lance broke against his armor nearly sending him flying. He coughed up blood. An arrow found its way into his shoulder, as he ended another Wyvern rider's life.

Finally he saw the archers, "NOW! NOW WE CAN..." He looked behind him to see no one, further back up the street, all of his comrades lay dead and dying. Was this all for nau... "Release!" a volley of arrow cam flying at him. Two sunk themselves into him before Lumen reared up, knocking him off, saving his life at the cost of her own. Joris sat up, opened his mouth to let out another war cry. His face quickly became antiquated with a war-hammer, and everything went black.
...
"что за хрень, я думаю, что он все еще жив!"
"Давайте возьмем его в босс"
...
"Отправь его обратно"
...
"Что, черт возьми, происходит"
...
"That one looks important, take him..."
...
" ... can't use him, he's got no connections outside of..."
...
"Damit! I send you to do one thing and you bring back..."
...

Joris awoke, delirious and drowsy. He let out a grunt and tried to foucus his extremely blurred vision. "Damn, he wasn't suposed to..." the firgure turned to his attendant, "Go make some... tea, for our guest." Tea? Where was he? he seemed to be on a bed made of some sort of fine fabric, and his wounds looked like they had been tended to well, but by whom? Was he still in Thalia? He stood up and slid off the bed, catching himself on a post. "Ah so I see you are awake, welcome to my estate."

Joris rubbed his eyes to try and regain his sight again, "Who, who are you?" He appeared to be a tall and lean man with darker skin, fine clothes and an assortment of jewelry.

"I am Jamal, and you are?" His smile seemed inviting and warm as he gestured towards a chair.

"Thanks," Joris took a seat and continued to try and wake himself up, "Im Joris, Joris Asker."

"Ah and Asker, any relation to Geralt Asker?" The attendant walked back into the room holding a tray with a teapot and two cups.

"Um well sort of yes, he is my adoptive father. Do you know him? Do you know what happened to him? Wait, What happened the Thalia? What, happ..." Joris stood up almost in a panic.

"Calm down now, here have some tea." His voice was rational and comforting. The attendant poured a cup of tea for Joris. He took a breath and sat down. Well, he was still alive, and clearly not in a Staislav prison camp, so the must have won, right? He took a sip of the tea, perhaps it would help him calm down. "Alright then, so well to answer your first question, I did not really know him, but I know of him." Joris took another sip of his tea, finishing the cup. Jamal smiled, "Well can you tell me something? Did your, adoptive father ever introduce you to his friends, outside of Thalia?"

Joris rubbed his face, he was starting to feel a bit queasy, "Um, no, Uh.im not sure im feeling the well."

"Oh, have some more tea, im sure it will help." Jamal smiled again and Joris nodded taking a sip from his newly filled cup. Wait, he wasn't feeling like this before... The Tea!! Jamal hadn't had a single drop yet!

"Wait, the, the tea. You, you haven't." Jamal's smile faded, into a more disgusted face. "You, you! you spike... wha... Why... you..." Joris collapsed and everything went dark once again.
...
Joris began to stir. He rubbed his temple and tried to sit up only to hear the rattling of chains. It took him a few more minutes before he really came to his senses. He was in a dark room with an iron bar door which let in the little torch light from outside this cell. He looked to his feet. They were shackled together and to the wall. His hands were not bound at all, but not even he could break steal chains. There was nothing in his cell but a simple plate of mostly rotted food at this point. Joris finally realized, he was now a captive, which meant he had failed, and Thalia had fallen. A single tear made its way down his cheek as he lamented the loss of his country.
 
Last edited:
#85
Sissel looked away with an awkward rub on his head. "S-sorry... I never came out of my shelter before..." he said. "It's just that your wyvern is really beautiful, and I've always wanted to see one. I've only seen them in books." He blushes his face a little. "Name's Sissel by the way." he brings his hand out as his tail droops down. "I really am sorry." His smile a little. "I hope there's a way to make up to you."
 

Falcon

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#86
(( Collab with Falcon Falcon , Verran Verran , Jessica2477 Jessica2477 , Nomad-22 Nomad-22 ))

  

Reina looked with surprise at them all. She had not expected this show of support. True she had promised payment to two of them, but as it had yet to be claimed she'd half expected them to change their minds.

"Thank you all-" she started. But before she could continue there was a knock at the door.

A sleepy looking teen boy stood behind it, an apron tied over an untucked shirt. "Pardon, but we have the baths drawn. Well two of them. You'll have to take turns.... We'll change the water between of course!"

Gavril swallowed the lump in his throat. His heart beat faster, forcing him to take deep, slow breaths to relax himself. His nerves were acting up... He's had to deliver heartbreaking news before, but this... This was different.

If it wasn't for his incompetence as a Pegasus Knight, as a warrior of Thalia, the late mediator and his family would have all been safe right now. They'd have been together, strategizing a plan to bring Thalia back into their control. If he had done his duty of protecting the family for as long as he could hold a weapon, Reina's father would have never perished.

It was Gavril who should have been decapitated that day, not Lord Elias...

But, the least he could do is not be weak mentally. This was Ahni's punishment against him, and thus it was his responsibility to share the news to the girl he had failed in the worst ways he possibly could. Should Reina never forgive him, he'd understand. He didn't deserve it.

"Lady Reina." He spoke up, "I would suggest allowing our comrades to take their baths first. I need to speak with you, privately."

“Oh! That reminds me,” Sadia interjected, clapping a hand to her forehead, “we’ll need some supplies. After all, Rachel can’t be cleaned up all proper with what they’ll have here. I’ll go out and buy some, shall I?” Hinting towards getting new clothes and dye for Reina’s hair.

Korwin narrowed his eyes at her. “What places would be open this time of night?” Knowing full well that Sadia had no intention of buying anything.

“Hmph!” she sniffed, “No respectable barmaiden doesn’t know where to buy clothes at any time of the day. What if a customer were to ask?”

“Fine, but I’m coming along,” Korwin assented, “none of us should be wandering the streets alone. That is, if our glorious leader allows it.”

“My knight in shining armor,” she drawled in response, but made no further argument.

Reina's gaze shifted from Agato and Sadia to Gavril who had an urgent look on his face as he asked to speak with her alone. "Do what ever you think best," She told the two mercenaries, "so long as you don't cause trouble.

A moment later her eyes flicked to the nomad who had been so brave in saving her early that morning. "Jebei, I'm sorry, but can you give me a minute with Gavril? I'm sure if you don't want a bath that the kitchen can find food or something..."

Jebei nodded at Reina. He had been getting hungry especially with everything that has happened. ‘Spirits above I do need to rest my mind from all this.’ The nomad thought with mild amusement. Exiting the room and heading for the kitchen, Jebei muttered.

“Hope they have some good soup here.”

Within minutes the room had emptied with the various tasks each person had taken upon them-self to do. The serving boy was more than happy to take Jebei to find a meal in the kitchens, and assured the others that he would be awake to open the door when they returned, and that the baths could be kept warm. That left Gavril and Reina alone to talk.

"What is it?" she asked keeping her seat, "you look like that time you had to tell father I fell off your Pegasus. Even if I was mostly unharmed."
"I'm afraid this is much more serious than that." Gavril said, a solemn smile on his face as he thought about how to word his next sentence correctly.

"I suppose I should not beat around the bush. Lady Reina, as you know Thalia suffered many casualties during the invasion... Unfortunately, your father was one of them... He fought and died with valiance, and I regret I was not able to protect him as well as I should have... May his heroic soul find peace. But, I'm afraid that is not all I have to share."

The Pegasus Knight took another breath to relax his nerves. "Your mother was captured during the invasion and is believed to be held at the Stanislavian capitol as a prisoner. Your brother was believed to be captured as well, but there is no evidence of such a thing. We've had to list him as missing until then."

Reina stared at him blankly for a minute, numbness setting in. She knew this was a possibility, had since leaving the city, she had spent more time than she probably should have in that long walk through Thalia imagining what might have happened, what the worst case scenario would be, what the most likely outcome was.... but now that she was hearing it, reality seemed so far away.

And then it was like all her emotions came crashing down at once. Her brother's fate unknown, her mother captured... worst taken to Stanislav, the capitol no doubt. Her father gone.... She could almost feel his hand ruffling her hair, almost hear his big booming laugh.... and it was all gone.
Tears stung the corners of her eyes and she hastily tried to blink them away, tried to will the numbness back because right now that would be better than a breakdown, or so she told herself.

"If - " she could feel herself choking on the words, "If there's no news of Elim then - then odds are he either escaped or is cooperating... they'd confirm the other two options..."

Gavril watched her, a mixture of his own emotions settling in. He may not have known Reina's father for as long as she did, but he had been an honorable man. He was a shining example of what Thalia was about, and now he was gone... The knight would spare his charge of the details; she needn't know unless she demanded to know.

The image still haunted him to this day.

"Both are a possibility, and I'm afraid we won't know for certain until we know of his whereabouts..."

Gavril gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "Lady Reina. In times such as this, a moment's weakness would be more beneficial to the psyche than hardened emotions. If you need release, please do so." He told her. Bottling emotions, especially as strong as despair, would only do more harm than good in the future.

The understanding hand on her shoulder and the gentle, understanding tone of her companion was Reina's undoing.

She choked, blinking her eyes furiously, but there was no stopping the tears now that they started. She bent forward and a wordless, almost soundless sob, face twisting with unbearable sadness as she tried to hide it behind a hand.

He gently rubbed her back as she cried and soon brought her in closer for a hug. The loss of one's relative was never easy, and while Gavril couldn't stop the pain and heartache she felt, he could be there to support her through these hard times.

"There there... I'm sorry you had to find out this way."

Would Reina even have time to mourn him? She had to not only get Thalia back under her control, but survive the Stanislavians that were aching to get their hands on her... What was she going to do?

Reina clutched close to him, turning her head to bury her face in the soft sleeve of his uniform so her tears wouldn't harm his armor. Sobbing, still mostly silently, she let herself cry out, trying not to feel embarrassed.

When she could speak again she took her time forming them, still leaning against Gavril needing the support a little while longer.

"I'm glad it was you..." she managed, "If - If I had to hear this news now, I'm glad it was someone who cares too... I'm glad it was you..."

It was a little while longer before she could sit up, scrubbing the tears from her cheeks and only succeeding in smearing on more muck. There was no hiding the red eyes.

"Agato and Sadia should be here soon with those supplies she wanted..."

“A good meal.” Jebei commented to himself. Guess house people know how to cook after all, he concluded. Walking back from the kitchen the nomad entered the room. Subsequently, Jebei found Reina red eyed from obvious grief and a solemn faced Gravil.

Confused before it dawned on him. ‘Something terrible has happened.’ The horse rider silently thought, now feeling awkward that he stepped into this moment.

Gavril's attention turned to Jebei the second he walked through the door. There was nothing he could say that would make the situation better, but at the very least he could try to prevent an awkward silence or give the other man an out.

"Good to see you again Jebei. Lady Reina and I have finished our conversation so there is no need to step out again." He assured the archer with a smile. "I feel now is a good time for me to retire my armor for the evening..."

Gavril gently placed a hand on Reina's back and offered a smile her way, "I hope you rest easy."

A flash of pain in his pinkish gray and brown eyes, before he turned to head to the separate room to take off his armor.

Reina hastily stopped trying to scrub her cheeks, knowing doing so would only draw more attention.

"Gavril was just telling me news of home," she murmured awkwardly trying to smooth out the front of her tunic. "Fresh cloths sound nice... I think I'll just step out and see if Sadia's back. She mentioned something about finding some."

There was no hiding how exhausted she was as she moved toward the door. True she had slept a bit against Jebei's back as they rode to town, but between nearly being killed, interrogating Sadia, and Gavril's information the emotional toll was beginning to show.

***

Korwin and Sadia had made their way out of the room, down the stairs, across the tavern, and out into the night. The duo set their path up the high-street. Together, they looked like bored tavern hoppers, seeking their next drink. However, Sadia’s eyes danced with a merry light and soon the pair turned off the road just as a few night watch guards passed them on their patrol. Sadia darted ahead with giddy girl’s eagerness who had an eye on a particular dress.

Knowing her, Korwin thought, she probably does. Despite appearing alone, Korwin didn’t trust that someone wasn’t watching them. Be it out of simple curiosity, or a paranoid new alley who wanted to make sure that their story was sound. However, a bit of robbery wouldn’t hurt that. “I’m assuming you already know a place,” he said.

“Of course!” she chirped, “a good barmaid knows all the lovely stores.”

“I doubt Rachel would much approve.”

“What she doesn’t know for certain, will only give her a few nights of bad dreams.”

“You’re awfully confident of that.”

“I tend to be,” she said as she peered at the back door of a building, “ah, here it is!” Sadia grinned at the door as a child grins at a jar of candy that doesn’t belong to him. Having already checked that they weren’t being followed and confident that any eye that may be seeing them didn’t care, she drew a metal rod from under her skirt and wedged it in between the frame door.

“Grab and smash?” Korwin queried.

“Grab and smash!” Sadia sang as she jimmied and wrenched at the door until, finally, she succeeded in separating the latch from the frame and the door opened. Letting Korwin keep watch, she strolled inside humming a merry tune. Traditionally, it was “smash and grab” and it meant simply breaking and stealing everything that looked to be of value. The practice of common thugs and brute ruffians. While Sadia considered herself a ne’er-do-well of much higher class, there was use in reversing the steps of such a simple tactic. Namely in how others would take the fall.


As a maiden gazing upon trinkets of delight, so too did Sadia cheerily stroll into out of the storeroom and into the store proper. The shutters to the shop were shut, but a new lantern at her waist remedied the problem. It was one of her favored marks for such occasions. On the run under a guise that allowed for the comforts of the world. No tricks of looking as a desperate and starving vagabond or, she shuddered with exaggerated force at the memory, as a wandering leper. No, when nobility couldn’t be afforded or of use, casual comfort would do.

And this, as one of the better standing general stores, had all the variety she would need. She hummed a jaunty tune as she danced lightly across the floor. Picking up an item, spinning around with it, before setting them back into its proper place. Every now and then she would place an item into a satchel she had taken a fancy to. Three different bottles of dye of different color found their way in there along with some rope, lantern oil, a tarp, including a cloak of weather-proofed, brown mink’s fur and three sets of colored clothes that were pretty enough to suit the daughter of a wealthy merchant on the road. Naturally, she included a new outfit for herself. A girl needed clothes after all. Furthermore, she strapped a tent roll to her back and under the cloak with a bedroll nestled on top.

After swiping the any spare coins left behind the counter, she set herself to the second part of her job. Smashing. Softly still, she violently looted the place of anything and everything her arms would carry while breaking half of what she couldn’t. Then it was out the back again in a dash, Korwin turning to follow hot on her heels. Down through the alleys they weaved, no one the wiser as to where they were.

Dropping various items from her bundle along the way, she eventually emptied herself of her excess gear, strew about for every random Tom, Dick, and Harry to pick up. Together, they strolled back onto the high street and up towards the inn. Well, she strolled. Korwin stalked. If only he relaxed more, she thought, then it would be a perfect night!

Together, they strolled back into the tavern and, figuring that whatever Reina needed her alone time for was over by now, burst open the room with the proclamation, “we finished shopping! It was wonderful! But Agato didn’t want anything, so nothing for him. But I have plenty of dyes for you, Rachel, and more clothing options! Oh! I’m so sorry, I forgot to ask what everyone else wanted too. Well, next time I go, you all must give me a list.”

Reina's eyes widened for a moment as she saw the haul Sadia had brought back. "Where did you get all this after midnight?" she started before it clicked into place that she might be better off not knowing. The expression on her face spoke volumes.

But the truth was she was too mentally and emotionally exhausted to deal with it at the moment. She just couldn't handle this possibility on top of everything else. "I'll-" she paused, "I'll assume that whoever you got these good from was reimbursed and - and if not will be before we leave, if- if you need more funds let me know the amount."

Her chin went up stubbornly as if daring anyone to tell her otherwise in her present frame of mind. The fact that she had been crying was evident by the dirt stains on her cheeks.

"Now," Reina started," I think it's easier to cut hair if it's clean, right?" This question was clearly expecting some answer. "So, Sadia, maybe the two of us should go take over the tub room for a bit? and then the men can do whatever they need after?"

Sadia clapped her hands together with glee and said, “why yes! Everyone has been properly reimbursed and hair is best dyed when clean. So let’s go get clean!” Twirling, she gaily led the way out of the room and towards the baths.

Neither she nor Korwin made any comment on the obvious stains. For his own part, the dark armored man simply made his way past and grabbed and sat upon a stool next to a window. He could well guess a number of possibilities as to what would make Reina cry. All of which were none of his business nor concern unless Reina made them so. Not really caring if that was a kindness or not, he pulled out a whetstone from a pouch on his waist and got to work honing his naginata.

Jebei nodded with sympathetic respect but before he could say anything Sadia and Korwin loudly returned. The nomad briefly grimaced, thinking.
‘Spirits above! She is loud as a colt in mating season.’ He looked on as Reina handled the situation as humanly possible.

His respect, for her grew. To carry on spite of the obvious grief she was dealing with said a great deal. Being only a new companion there wasn’t much the rider felt he could help. The best Jebei manage at the moment was to focus on inspecting his shortbow when given the option to do so while the women cleaned themselves up.

Reina carefully picked out a clean outfit from those Sadia had provided. A full length tan dress, skirts divided for riding, with a full length hunter's green hooded over dress. It would wear well for a few days and then she would switch to the next. Hopefully by the time she got through the third they would have found time and a place to do laundry. Reina knew her original outfit was badly in need of mending.
It was strange how the mind fixated on the smaller things when it couldn't handle the rest.

Without saying much she took the clothing under her arm and followed Sadia down the stairs to the bathing chamber, which was located beside the kitchens. It was a fairly private room with no windows, but well heated. The tubs stood behind folding screens that had been set up like little rooms to provide privacy. At their base was a little stove intended to keep the water hot until the bather was finished. Each tub seemed to drain into a pipe that one could presume ran off into the inn's kitchen gardens. It was, on the whole, an efficient system.

The boy who had been attending them was dozing in a chair by the kitchen stove as they entered, and a young woman, easily his twin, turned from the pot of stew she was stirring on the stove.
"Oh good, I was wondering if the rest of you were going to get settled. You must have had quite a journey to be up at this hour. Never fear, our inn keeper makes a point of having staff available at all times to care for his guests." The way the girl said "inn keeper" was filled with affection indicating that whatever the arrangement was that had her and the lad up at this hour was a pleasant one.

"I think I'm going to bathe first" Reina managed tiredly but politely, slipping into the room and peeking around on of the screens, relieved to find a cake of soap and a stack of fresh towels. "But the stew smells amazing."

"I'll have bowls ready when you're done if you like, and if you're staying more than the one night you can put your old things in the hamper and we'll get them washed and delivered to your room. Considering the hour I imagine you'll sleep quite late."

"Yes... that would be nice. I think I can convince the men..."

Once Reina had satisfied both of the other women that she really didn't need any help, and adjusted the screen for full privacy, she was free to undress and slip into the tub, sighing at the feel of the hot water. It felt an eternity since she had taken a proper bath.

Sadia had been quite cheerful to both lead and go along with every step on the way to and into the bath. It had been quite nice to watch, and a bit entertaining to listen to her short back and forth with the youngsters. Although, she made certain to leave a pair of shiny copper for their trouble and bonus. Not to mention to help spin the representation that they were, at the least, kindly folk. Fine and happy to tip the hard-work of others.

Stepping lightly, the maid moved behind her own set of screen. Finally, at long last, in private, her smile slipped. Though not fully. In fact, it would be better to say it transformed. Her lips were still upturned, but no longer with glittering joy. Instead, it was contented. But her eyes spoke of a strange fervor. An eagerness shone within them that belied some deepened faith that, possibly, bordered onto mania. She stripped herself of her clothes, dirty muck and blood from all the night’s excitement. And it was tempting, oh so tempting to take one of her spare knives from a fold of skirt or boot and just completing the mission. It would have been easy enough. So easy that there were many ways to do it.

‘But, ah,’ she thought, ‘best keep to the plan, the new plan.’ That plan she wasn’t wholly familiar with, but, to what her meager mind grasped, was progressing well enough. And joy was in her heart at the thought of it. Her worst slip up led to the best conclusion. The feeling of being back to what she belonged soaked through Sadia just as much as the water soaked her as she slid into the tub. Muscles relaxed and she sighed in utter contentment.

“Rachel,” she softly sang, letting a sparkle that was neither in her soft smile nor her devout eyes weave into her voice, “Rachel. What color shall we turn your hair?” Sadia made a mental note to make certain that she took their clothes with them. After all, it wouldn’t do for some over eager servant of the innkeeper to look through them and fully find the state of them.

By the time Sadia spoke, Reina had already scrubbed seven days worth of dirt from her form and carefully started on her hair. She winced as she felt her sore head, but was relieved to find that Agato had known something of healing, and the bleeding was fully stopped and clotted and had been for some time. She scrubbed her scalp thoroughly, being mindful of the tender spot.

"It might be easier to start with a lighter shade and move darker later if needed," she answered carefully as she used a ladle to help rinse the suds. "I know Agato wants me to cut it. To be honest I find the thought irritating, but he has a point about not being more of a mark than necessary for bandits." There. If either of the inn staff were listening in that would be a fat bit of gossip for them later. And it fed right into the story they had crafted.

For a moment she was tempted to stay in the tub and relax, dirty water or no, but Sadia's voice from the next stall made her doubt the wisdom of that idea. She had half expected to be attacked on the stairs on the way down which was why she had made Sadia go first. Reina climbed out of the tub, and pulled the plug herself, not wanting the girl to see how dirty the water had been since that might give them away.

A moment later she had dried off and changed into the clean dress before collecting her things and heading into the kitchen for a bowel of the promised stew.

"For your trouble," she murmured pressing a coin of slightly more value than the one Sadia had laid down, into the girls hand. In truth it was the smallest measure she had. Reina hoped it would pass.

Sadia exited the bath moments after Reina. Before she exited the screens, but after she dressed into her own new outfit and gathering all her belongings, the would-be assassin let the bounce return to her step. The natural energy of the maid carry into her face and gait. It was as natural as rain and light as air. “Sounds wonderful, Rachel,” she said, “just tell me how you want to look and we’ll get right to it!”

She took only small notice of the money Reina left. It tickled her that she’d leave such a large coin. Not that it was unheard of, but it was indicative of the princess’s potential wealth. Not that it really mattered. For the masquerade they were beginning to put on, the level of coin was fine. And, if anything, it spoke to a slight naivety. It would do and she would learn. Certainly, she thought, he won’t let that stand. It was the most baffling part of the plan. Surely, surely, a naive Reina would serve better in the long run. But, Sadia had never been one to question a plan given from above. And never would.

Falling into step with Reina, the auburn maid said, “but, I imagine the cutting can wait till tomorrow, if that would be preferred. Certainly, we must color your hair while it’s wet. How about a wonderful golden thatch? It will take some doing, but I’ve bought enough for the occasion.”

It didn't take much to get a spare basin and a bucket of water to take up to the room with them, once both ladies had finished their stew. Truthfully this manner of completing the task left Reina filled with relief. It meant that at least one other person would be resent while Sadie did that job, and that gave the younger woman much comfort when once considered the events of that evening.

"The staff said they would have two more hot baths drawn in a moment for whoever wants to go down next," Reina announced to those in the room as they returned. She seemed calmer now, more relaxed, but there was a sadness to her that couldn't be shaken. "And there's stew in the kitchen. Sadia says she'll dye my hair here, if that's not a problem for anyone."

The process of dying her hair didn't take long, even if it was a bit messy. Fortunately, Sadia seemed to know exactly what she was doing. soon every inch of Reina's locks were a burnished gold, although there was a coppery tint to them that came from the natural blue beneath. Still, she hardly looked like herself and that was the point.

She was right about it being easier to let Sadia near when the others were present too. While the men all took their own baths and got food in their own time (despite the odd hour) at least one stayed in the room at every moment. Most comforting was Gavril. His presence was familiar even without his armor. Though he spent the time sharpening his weapon, Korwin seemed to be often close by as well. Jebei she left to his own devices, feeling as though she had imposed on the man far too much already.

When all was said and done, and her hair dry, Reina pulled up her hood, pushed a spare cot provided by the inn into a dark corner away from everyone, and promptly curled up with her face to the wall, leaving the others to argue over who got the other cot and who shared the bed. Reina presumed that Korwin already had his own room somewhere else.

She didn't think she would sleep, hadn't even bothered to grab a spare blanket or pillow, but she needed to be left alone and at the moment pretending seemed to be her best option. In fact she did lay awake a long while listening to the others, trying not to think about the last couple days at all, but when she eventually dropped off she slept like the dead. Neither stirring not rousing until someone chose to wake her.
 
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Verran

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#87
The village of Abelsol 20 miles south of Thalia

Sadia thoroughly enjoyed dying Reina's hair. Gold was an excellent result and she couldn't be more pleased. A young maiden now sat here, perfect to being the daughter of some rich merchant somewhere in Thalia. Oh she'd be turning heads for certain, which would be wonderful. The right kind of attention. The attention that opened doors with distracted people. Oh the pockets she'd pick when they came to any new town. Sadia could just imagine it. Wonderful times are ahead, she thought, wonderful times!

As beds were chosen, Sadia simply dove into the bed, as soon as Reina had taken a cot, of course. Korwin didn't care to dispute the bedding and, finally, taken off his armor. For the first time, he revealed his rugged, bearded face with black hair and grim, auburn eyes. The man examined his armor, ignoring Sadia's curl up and any of the other's possible complaints on the matter.

But, seeing Reina without blanket, awakened the modicum of kindness that he seemed to keep somewhere down in his twisted self. He grabbed, from the cupboard, one of the spare blankets and, after unraveling it and all without speaking, dragged the blanket over her. It lacked the gentleness of the touch he had with the wound, but it certainly allowed her to continue to do nothing while still being fully covered. He then returned to the chair he'd claimed previously and continued to pour over his armor, checking it for dents and chips. A nightly ritual for him.
 

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#88
Day 0, the Fall of Thalia late night.


Metal boots crashed into the muddy earth as she dismounted followed by two further sets that quickly flanked her gait as she strode towards the tent. Behind her, the rest of her wing landed with rumbling pounds that shook the earth. A roar rent the night of flames. A wyvern, as enraged as his master at the events of the capital. The rape of Thalia. The woman agreed with the sentiment, full stop. Two guards stood by the entrance. Nervous, even fearful, at her arrival. Gripping their weapons and looking at each other, as if debating whether or not to even dare challenge her. On almost any other night, she’d entertain such soldiering. Those who, despite know who she was, would still follow protocol and demand her identity and proof of it. But tonight, everyone was suspect of blame at this atrocity. There was no standing for it.

Raising a hand, she flicked two of her fingers. Immediately, two of her mounted wing mates shot forward, their wyverns grasping the two suddenly screaming soldiers and picking them up like flailing ragdolls. Not to be dropped at some obscene height, but to be set aside. The knight strode into the tent unopposed. To his credit, the armored man inside had already drawn his blade and stood facing the entrance. Nervous as to what his men had screamed about, but ready to fight nonetheless. To the soldier’s further credit, he immediately went to one knee upon sight of her. Tip of the blade a mere millimeter above the ground as he scrambled to remove his helmet.

“Lieutenant Braxis.” It wasn’t a question. She’d long since knew every man and woman, horse and wyvern, that should have been allotted to this mission. A mission that, while critical, should have been carried out with ease with the units given and the power they had within the city. A mission where such a turn of events demanded at least an explanation. She also knew that none would suffice. What was happening here, was unacceptable. Intolerable. Inexcusable and unpardonable.

“My Lordess Commander!” Lieutenant Braxis exclaimed, “we weren’t expecting you.”

“Indeed. Where is Captain Miron?”

“I…uh, he should be in the council chambers. Directing the battle from there.”

“Excellent. Now, tell me Lieutenant, what precisely were your orders from the Captain.” The man paled for, while he couldn’t see the Lordess’s face, he could feel her eyes. Glaring lances into his shuddering hide.

“I, um, Lordess…”

“The orders, Lieutenant.”

“Well, you see…”

“The orders, Lieutenant.” Her voice hadn’t raised. In fact, it had dropped to a soft whisper that still had no issue in slicing through the air. To even put up a hint of denial would no longer be tolerated. Braxis cut to the chase.

“They were to intercept any who tried to flee the city and…and kill them.”

“And have you followed that order, lieutenant?”

“I, uh, no, my Lordess.”

“Explain.”

“While we did work to intercept anyone leaving the city, we’ve only detained them. And not killed them.”

It seemed to be the right answer. The lance of eyes relented and, a moment later, the Lordess Commander clapped Lieutenant Braxis on the shoulder. “Good,” she said, “you have remembered the orders from above the Captain and put them first.” She then thought, we may yet salvage this. Continuing to speak, she said, “now, Lieutenant. Keep intercepting all leaving the city. But make certain that, when detaining them, they know it is for their own protection. That bandits may be in the woods. Keep reinforcing that their safety is paramount.”

To even sound like he wondered at the purpose of the orders would be courting danger. The Lieutenant only reply was, “yes, my Lordess!”

She left him to it, storming back out of the tent. Gesturing to the air, her two riders who had picked up the soldiers deposited them in sudden heaps in front of the tent. She had no time for them. The tent was on a slight hill upon the edge of a forest, some thousand meters from Thalia. It provided an excellent and concealed view of the surrounding land that lead up to the walls. Smoke rose in billowing spires behind those walls. It was time to bring it to an end.

Together with her sub-commander and 1st attendant, she swept upon her black wyvern, Dervone. As one, her wing took to the skies. But the air was far from empty. Beyond even the smoke and scatter specs of the few other riders above the city. No, she rose into the leathery wingbeats of one hundred wyvern riders of her legion. Banners proclaiming both Stanislav and her forces adorned spears, lances, and wyvern tails. Elite each and every one of them, they had flown a mere half hour after the first raven arrived heralding joyous news at Thalia’s sacking. Thalia’s sacking. Those two words were all she needed to know. No flowery language nor exaltation of the strength and valor of their victory had lulled her into even a second’s delay. The horns had been sounded and her forces were martialed. Giving orders to follow her and to dispatch to her other forces across the border with the strict policy of preventing and stopping all other tragedies across the land, the Lordess Commander took her wyverns on ahead.

Despite the rapidity of their departure, it had still taken several ours to fly the many miles to the capital. But now, as one, they streaked over the remaining meters to the walls as she bellowed her commands. “What is happening here is an atrocity! A tragedy! And stain upon the honor of our home! This, then, it what I call you to do! Any soldier who once claimed to be our comrade must be brought to heel! Give them one chance to give themselves up to the righteous judgement of our tribunals! If they do not hasten to respond, slaughter them as proven traitors to Stanislav! Do this, and by the morning light, our honor shall be cleansed! COME FORTH, FOR WE FLY!”

The loyal Stanislavians echoed her last two words and their wyverns, long trained to roar with their riders, bellowed together into a horrendous cacophony that rent the night and rose above the sound of butcher and battle below. To the Thalians, it must have seemed the end was upon them. A new, fresh force of wyverns to challenge and dominate the already beleaguered pegasus knights for total control of the air. To the traitor forces, they must have seemed the coup-de-grace to the battle. A reserve force kept hidden and unleashed to clean up all remaining resistance. It took only a second to turn it all up on their heads. As soon as they cross the walls, wings began pealing off, diving down amongst the soldiers. Fresh screams and shouts of pain erupted from the Stanislav forces as soon as they failed to surrender quickly enough. Most of those were mercenary, or even mere bandit. But some who failed to respond were also Stanislav troops. It hardly mattered to the Lordess. By ransacking the city at all, many would face court martial in the days to come. That matter was, however, for the future for she only had two concerns on her mind.

First was making sure the Thalians got the message that they were here to help. The official story could wait till the morning sun. As long as none of her riders engaged with Thalians, there would be no further complications. So she flew on the back of the wind towards the uncharred, still pristine, half of the city. For almost half a mile, she flew unchallenged over it before a squad of pegasus knights rose to meet her. “Stop! Stay your blades! We come with tidings,” she called as she, and her wing, brought their wyverns into a hovering halt.

The knights did not engage, but shot above her. Wyverns, particularly Stanislavian wyverns, were known for their unstoppable dives as the beast brought all its mass to bear, crashing down upon a target. It would give the knights comfort to have such a weapon nullified against them. Calm them in their confusion for surely they had seen the reinforcements and guessed that they had, surprisingly, turned against the invaders. “The forces that pillage you are no friends of Stanislav,” she called, layering the actions with explanatory words, “they stole arms, armor, and mounts from us. We, the 5th legion’s Storm from the Wind have come the many miles to assist in whatever method we are able.”

The knights, tired and drained as they were, could see the banners. Might even know her armor and personal standard. But she had no time to wait for a reply that they might even want to deliberate anyway. There was a battle to win and a Captain to call to trial. “Know what I’ve said and do what you will!” She left them with that, bringing her mount wheeling and making a crow-line straight for the council chambers. Soldiers stood outside them. Brutes, more like. Hired muscle who were more loyal to Miron than to any ideal of Stanislav. She gave them the same chance that the rest of them were getting.

“Surrender!” the Lordess Commander demanded as the wing began to swoop down. To her joy, they did not. Raising their weapons to defend themselves against the flyers. She needed to let off some steam. As one, they dove. A few arrows whizzed up, but only one even glanced harmlessly off her mount’s scales. With a roar, they crashed down on top of them. Dervone crushed an archer beneath his bulk while she lashed out with her spear. A shaft of wood and steel with a strange, organic looking bone of a blade thrust into a beast of a man. Red decorated the silver white as it adorned the rest of her silver armor that covered her body in plate and chain.. He crumpled, axe still raised to swing. She dismounted.



Lordess Commander Tersch.jpg



The rest of her wing followed suit and, as a team. As a house. They moved forward into the hall. Bellowing out again a demand for surrender. The entrance hall was no different than the doors. The bandits rushed the riders with their mounts behind and, with grim efficiency, were cut down. Each man and women working to cover each other and their wyverns with a series of blocks, strikes, and the mixed in chomp of a wyvern down on some soldier. Soon enough, the platoon that barred their way were nothing more than broken corpses behind them as they strode into the council chamber. Once more, the Lordess Commander’s demand for surrender shot out but, this time, it was answered.

“We surrender,” Captain Miron with a smile. The audacity the snake had to still be smiling as the city burned. As if he knew exactly how to slither out of the problem. However, he had yet to deal with her. She had waited a long time for this moment. To finally deal with the ambitious little worm and crush his fanged head beneath her heel. His purpose, which she had never liked to begin with, had come to an end. He hadn’t even served properly.

“Captain Miron,” she said as she beckoned two of her wingmen forward to take custody of him, “you are under arrest for failure to follow orders. Such failure that lead to the atrocity that began in this very hall and spread to the entire city. How do you plea?”

“Oh surely, Lordess Commander,” he said as bindings clapped his wrists together behind his back, “the answer must be obvious. Not guilty. I can hardly be blamed for the tragedy that happened here, but I suppose that explaining it all would be best done in front of the tribunals back home.”

“No, Captain,” she said with apparent relish, “you will be tried now.” The Lordess Commander was hardly going to let the snake of a man slither his way back home to poison the eyes of justice with a trial that he would manipulate at every turn to his advantage. No, his fate would conclude here. “I invoke the rite of wartime tribunal where you will be tried by a council of your peers, betters, or subordinates in the event that the tried cannot be, with ease, transported back to the homeland.”

“But my Lordess,” he said, a nervous chuckle breaking into his smile, “this surely cannot be wartime. A terror attack, yes, but not war.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied, “it certainly looks like war out there. Smells like war. Feels like war.” She finished, looking dead at him while squeezing her lance with blood still dripping off the bone-looking blade. “I say it is wartime.” A technicality, but a useful one that came with her rank. Wartime was decided by her until such time a Grand Warlord countermanded her.

“My Lordess Commander,” he began again. And she was pleased to detect a note of rising panic in his voice as the rest of his men in the chamber were chained and manacled. “It certainly is, beyond a doubt, possible to send me home.”

“Oh no,” she replied again, “my legion is, as of now, working to get past the border fortresses to try and prevent further tragedies. Save as many lives as they can. And help the Thalians keep their lands safe and whole. It won’t be possible to move you with the proper escort for quite some time. I say you will be tried now.” Another technicality but, while she hated using them, for dealing with filth as this. A snake who loved to use such technicalities to slither his way free from what would strangle normal men. They were appropriate.

Real panic cracked for an instant into his voice as he took his last straw, “My Lordess, forgive my boldness, but there appears to be only you, your sub-commander, and your subordinates among your number. The tribunal would require a third member of either my betters, peers, or my subordinates.

This excuse, finally, gave the Lordess Commander a mere instant of pause before, smiling to herself, she came to an excellent solution. “You’re quite right, Captain Miron,” she said and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Maarit,” she calmly continued, “go fetch Lieutenat Braxis.” The rider saluted and pelted off while fear flashed for a moment in the Captain’s eyes. They did not have to wait long. Wyverns flew as the wind and the Lordess Commander’s soldiers knew far better than to keep her waiting with such menial task. Soon enough, the rider returned with the nervous Lieutenant in tow. The Lordess saw no point on stand in much ceremony and simple commanded that Captain Miron be hauled to the center of the chamber while she took a seat upon the bench directly in front of him. Her sub-commander sat next to her while Braxis, after a moment’s hesitation, sat on her other side.

“This tribunal has been called to examine the actions of one Captain Miron. He stands accused of disobeying the direct orders of Stanislav in regards of taking control of Thalia. Rather than a simple transition of power to those who would favor our ends. The results of such disobedience has lead to the plundering and burning of Thalia and her people. Such a colossal atrocity has only one form of justice. Death. What do you say in the face of the charges?”

Captain Miron was silent for a moment, before puttering forth, “it is to my deepest shame that I lost control of my men. That they, in their lust for wealth, sought to plunder the city as power was transferred. Claiming that it was their right and way of bringing honor to Stanislav. I was then, compelled to write that our takeover was glorious lest I draw their ire. However, by saying it was a sacking, I hoped that relief would arrive as soon as it could. Your standing here is proof! Living proof that my prayers have been answered!”

The Lordess Commander had no doubt that Captain Miron would continue to regale and extol the virtue of their timely arrival until the sun rose if it meant getting out alive. It was time to get to the heart of the matter “Lieutenant Braxis,” she cut in, “please tell me, precisely, what Captain Miron’s orders were.”

And Braxis did. In faltering words, it was sure, but he shared Miron’s orders to kill all who would attempt to leave the city without proper guard. She had no doubt that such a loose net was imperfect in intercepting all that would flee, but it would’ve been an extra factor of fear had not Braxis followed the heart of the orders that had been given by the Grand Warlords. That Thalia was to be taken with as little harm as possible. Snapping the focus back to Captain Miron, she said, “such is his testimony then.” She rose.

“He’s lying!”

“Yet I know he’s not. All those in favor of finding this man, no, this sniveling abomination before us guilty and, not only a traitor, but a butcher of the realm. Raise your right hand.” All three did so. “Then let the sentence be carried out.”

“No wait!” he begged.

She strode towards him, brandishing his spear.

“I can tell you…” he pleaded, but was silenced as the tip of her spear pierced his throat. Not quite enough to kill him, but enough to choke. She immediately pulled out a cloth from a loop in her belt and cleaned the blade. The blood of scum, she’d tolerate until the battle was over. The blood of a traitor, however, was to be cleaned as soon as possible. “Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten about all the hired help. That will be looked into and how Stanislav overlooked it. And anything else you had to say, will certainly be answered by…other sources.”

Desperately, his eyes twitched and searched while he gargled and choked on his own blood. Collapsed and died. Pathetic as himself. She lifted his head after his body stilled. Yes, the light had abandoned the former Captain Miron’s eyes. The Lordess Commander smiled, satisfied with the results, before turning to her men and prisoners in the room. “Leave them here till we find whoever is fit enough to lead this city. We still have a city to save.” They all fell in with her, striding out of the room and leaving the prisoners chained upon the floor with the corpse.

And they did. Within the hour, all forces of invaders were quickly rounded up and either killed or, as word came in the change of command and the immediate lenience that was given to those that surrendered, captured. All traitor corpses were disposed of in due haste. By daybreak, the Lordess Commander had met with the remaining and new leadership of the city and to be nation and had worked out which side got which prisoners. She was able to maneuver it such that they felt they had the choice in the matter and was able to get any of the proper Stanislav soldiers who would face the justice of their tribunals back in their homeland. During the meetings, she had tasked her small forces to helping in anyway they could in putting out fires, rescuing those they could, and even beginning reconstruction efforts through using their wyverns to move massive boulders of debris. It was with this act that she was able to secure a time, in the early morning, where she could address the people of Thalia.

So it was that, under the morning sun when the last of the fires finally died out, that she stood before most of the people of the city with her one hundred wyverns and riders. Not a one had fallen. So fierce had they been, and so confused had their foe, that none had even suffered anything beyond minor injury. She was proud of them for that. That they were still standing tall, waiting for her next order without an instance of hesitation. The Lordess Commander knew, within her heart, that with such men and women and wyverns at her side, there was nothing her people would not accomplish. She removed her helmet. Grey eyes surveyed the clustered citizens in front of her while short, black and greying hair framed an aging face.

“People of Thalia!” she boomed, “what happened last night, cannot be put into words. The devastation and suffering inflicted upon your good city and all of you, cannot be paid for. Not in words. Not even in action. There is nothing that I can do that will truly help heal the blood and fire inflicted upon and lost last night. But, it does deserve an explanation. To that end, Stanislav accepts full responsibility for these events! I say again, it was Stanislav’s shortcomings that allowed for such an atrocity! For, no longer than a fortnight ago, a fort of ours that rested near the border was raided. From it, arms, armor, mounts, and even two wings of wyverns were stolen from us by violent and aggressive bandits. Who, armed as such, did not remain in Stanislav but crossed the border in secret and made their way many miles southward to this fair city. We were so focused on discovering their layer on our side of the border and so ashamed that such a thing would happen to us that all we did to warn you, people of Thalia, of the danger was to encourage you to increase your forces against the bandits at the border. For this failure, there is no excuse. All I can do, is beg our apology upon you.”

With that, she, the Lordess Commander of the fifth legion of Stanislav, prostrated herself before the people of Thalia. Not only her. Seeing their leader bow down, head to the ground, in front of the crowd. The wyvern lords and knights, one hundred and one, the pride and dignity of Stanislav, placed themselves below the lowest beggar in that moment. For a moment, the Lordess let silence reign, before she continued, “but, my good people of Thalia. If you’ll have us. If you will grant us this second chance. We will do all we can to help. To serve. To bring you justice!”

Almost as one, one hundred and one wyvern rides rose to their plated feet. At full attention, a fierce energy emanating from them as their Lordess Commander spoke. “We beg you to allow us this. To fly across your skies, march through your lands, and seek any and all remnants of brigands and bandits. Find them and expunge them from their lairs! Filling your jails and submitting them to your justice! And we will not cease until each and every one of you is safe. Safe that you can walk freely around at night in your city, in your country, from border to border without fear of assault. If you let us, my forces, the might of Stanislav, into your lands. Enter our protection, all this, I Lordess Commander Amelia Tersch, do swear to you!”

It was the resounding cheers that told her she had won. That their hearts were now falling into Stanislav’s hands. Certainly, there would be a good number of those who would oppose such a change, but the burning of Thalia had scarred onto the people’s minds that they needed a protector. Their own knights, while majestic, had failed. Stanislav had, while accepting blame, still come to save the day. And that, at the end of the day, was what mattered. The wyverns of Stanislav had saved them. Ravens, pigeons, and all sorts of messengers were dispatched no later than an hour after Tersch’s speech. Winging their way to the Thalian forts that denied the fifth legion access to their country, despite the pleas of its generals, commanders, and sub-commanders. No more and they streamed on over the border, seeking slavers, bandits, brigands, and all who would harm Thalia. Soon, a blessing returned bearing the mark of the Grand Warlords to proceed with treaty discussion under the Lordess Commander’s judgement. One would arrive in time. It only took until the next day for the rough treaty to be devised. Thalia officially became a protectorate of Stanislav on the 17th day of Zoi in the Season of Growing 1012 ADW.
 

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#89
An Unlikely Acquaintance

(A collab between myself and Conway Conway )

Night was coming in Eshil, and after some time at the inn, Martha headed to the pub deeper in Abelsol. Heading inside the building she headed to the wooden counter where the bartender cleaned glasses, the blonde took in the rest of the room. Three men sat in one corner of the room, playing cards and joking among themselves, while one other person sat by themselves. Only one other person sat at the bar, paying her no mind and she herself didn't bother him.

"What can I get ya?" The bartender asked.

"Some of your strong ale." Sitting she pulled out a coin pouch and rummaged through it, before frowning at how much coin she actually had left. Sighing softly, her brows furrowed. She was running low on coin, meaning that this may as well be her last night at the bar and possibly in Abelsol. Really, she didn't intend to stay long, but she may have to have Gertrude prepare to leave sometime tomorrow at the earliest.

Perhaps, she thought, she could see if she can contact anyone her father may know deeper in Eshil? She doubted they would help the daughter of such a greedy man, but it was all she had for now.


The very last of Veran's coins lay on the bar in front of him. A silver for a room at the inn, 30 coppers for a meal, that would leave him with 2 silvers and 43 coppers to his name. He let out a curse under his breath; he needed to find a job, preferably one that paid well and took him far away from Stanislav and Thalia. At least he had enough for a few cheap drinks to wash away everything for a moment.

He glanced down the bar at the newcomer. A woman, looked like she was a higher class from the way she held herself, perhaps he could get a job as a guard for... wait. That blonde hair, those eyes, why did he recognize her? Was she, that's what it was, she was a Lord from Thalia. He looked down averting his gaze, knowing that this last week was probably no better for her than it was for him. Perhaps she was on the run? Veran took another sip of his drink. Perhaps he could get a job working with her as she ran away. He sighed, why would she have any reason to trust him? Veran looked over to her, the least he could do was buy her a drink so she could wash away what she was probably feeling.

He knocked on the bar, and the bartender slid his way over to Veran pouring him another mug of the piss like beer, while Veran slid forward another 4 copper pieces. He looked up to the bartender, "So how much for what she's drinking?"

The bartender glanced over at the Thalian lord, "Her's is 15." Veran sighed, damn that was a lot.

He slid forward another 15 coppers and looked back to the bartender, "Get her another one. Tell her, to people having a bad week." The bartender nodded and finished pouring Veran's drink, before heading off to the other end of the bar.

With the bartender returning shortly after pouring the man at the end of the bar a drink, Martha perked when the bartender gave her glass.

"I'm assuming he helped paid?" She questioned, earning a curt nod from the man behind the bar.

"To people having a bad week." The bartender replied, and Martha's lavender eyes glanced to the other bar patron as she took the first sip of ale, a soft hum escaping her in thought.

"Give him my thanks." She responded, before lavender eyes glanced back down where Veran sat. Her small bit of gratitude was genuine, though she was also curious and albeit, a bit skeptical. The man looked to be from Stanislav, and if so, then what exactly was he did he mean by bad week? With another nod, the bartender went to relay the message.

Veran did not meet her gaze, simply staring down at his drink in a solemn silence. He sighed as the bartender returned relaying her message of thanks. Veran wished to speak with her, but not through the bartender from other sides of the bar. He knew now that he was forced to make the first move, which he did not want to as it would make him seem more suspicious.

He nursed his drink for a while longer before standing up and moving closer to Martha. His gaze seemed to be tired, and a bit cold, but was not aggressive or piercing. It was a genuine look that told her that his week was likely also quite bad. He sat near her but left a vacant seat between them as to prevent her from getting the wrong idea.

He took another sip of his drink, and let the silence sit for a moment before speaking. His Stanislav accent is unmistakable.

"You are of Thalia, are you not?" His eyes never left the table, and his voice was gruff with a cold blunt undertone, "If it helps, I no longer have a place in my country, nor any love for it, not after what has been done."

Martha remained seated and, after bringing her attention back to her drink, didn't move even as Veran sat closer. Eyeing him for a moment, the look on his face enough for her to keep her hand from going to her blade at her hip. Once spoke to, she took a moment before responding. Hearing that he had no place, nor love, for his country caused her brows to raise a bit in surprise. Ah, so that must of been what he meant about a bad week. "Yes, I am." She answered, studying his face for a moment before going back to her drink.

"What state was Thalia in when you last saw it?" She asked after some silence fell between them, and depending on his answer, she may ask one more thing. The last she had seen it, her family was safe. She was only in Eshil on her father's request really. She was sure that the streets ran red by now, and Thalia was nothing more than a shadow of itself. The mere thought was upsetting, and if the man beside her hadn't expressed his current feelings on his home country, she may have said some very unlady like things-- and if she were any drunker, she may have tried to brawl with the man.

Veran let out a slight sigh of relief. She had not attacked him, nor had she forced him away. He did not want to get into a fight here. He was already a criminal in Stanislav, and hated by Thalians. there were few places he could still go without being told to leave, or worse.

He glanced over to her inspecting her face once more now that he was closer. He definitely recognized her; she was a noble that was wanted by Stanislav, but he could not pin down her name. He went back to staring into his drink.

He took a sip and continued staring into his drink, "Would you like the rosy and flowery version, that will be kind on the ears, the story told by Stanislav's propaganda, or the cold truth?" He expected he already knew the answer, but asked anyway to judge her character.

His words earned a chuckle, and resting her class on the counter top, she said, "the cold truth. What point would there be, beating around the bush?" She wanted to know, plain and simple, but the one thing she was most uncertain about ever finding out...well, she doubted Veran could give her answers-at least any that she wanted or needed, but she still needed to know.

"My only other question, for now anyway, is if you happen to know anything of a woman and young boy who go by the surname Fabre?" It was worth a shot, and, if he answered her at all, she may at least get to know anything about her mother and brother at the very least. She was grasping at straws mostly now. Her eyes lifted from her glass to stare holes into Veran. She wasn't sure if he'd be truthful to her, then again if he wasn't he may end up with a black eye at best.

Veran chuckled himself at her curt response. He took a sip of his drink. "The Thalia you once knew is no more. It is no more than a puppet for the elite of Stanislav, who are no doubt carving up your lands into their own areas of influence. It is the same in name only, to appear less threatening to the rest of the world. Most of the lords and nobles have been captured or killed, with what few who remain working with Stanislav out of fear, or under threats to captive family members." He stopped for a moment taking a sip of his drink. "One slight bit of good is that since the takeover was so quick, the devastation was kept to a minimal." He seemed to shrink a little and grow colder for a moment. "Even still, I know there has been more than one case of a company leaving for a village, which then ceases to exist."

He took a long drink, finishing his glass. It was not hard to understand what he was implying by that last line. He looked over and shot a glance to the Thalian lord. Fabre, Fabre, where had he, ah yes. The familiarity came to him now, she was Martha Fabre, a lord of Thalia.

"Fabre, huh?" He sat up, returning Martha's stare. His eyes were cold and serious. He rested his hand on his lap, only a few inches from his own sword, a precaution and a warning. "That would make you Martha Fabre, No?" He waited a moment to ensure a sword was not to fly towards his neck before continuing.

"I shall not leave you at a disadvantage, I am Veran Kolarov." He moved his hand back up onto the bar, showing that he did not want a conflict. He reached for his glass and went to take a sip, but cursed as he realized it was empty. He glanced to Martha, then back to his empty cup. He held it up, "Keep this full and you will know everything I can tell you about your family and Stanislav."

"Ah, I figured as much." She muttered, but was glad that at the very least, no more blood was spilled. Lavender eyes darted to his hand as it moved., her own fingers twitching momentarily, though she didn't move to draw her own blade.

"Yes, I am Martha Fabre." Her voice quieted some, but her words held weight to them. Gaze landing back on Veran's face as he offered to tell her more if she paid for another drink, she reached into her coin pouch and pulled out a couple copper pieces before setting them onto the bar.

"Get him another, good sir." She spoke to the bartender, who nodded his thanks and did as requested. "Continued thanks for earlier, on top of the information." She added once the bartender went to assist other patrons and the like.

He waited until the bartender poured his glass, then raised it to Martha with a nod, taking a sip before resting it back on the table and continuing.

"The last I remember your face and name was the only Fabre still on the wanted list, which means the rest of your family have already found." He let it sink in for a moment taking another sip of his drink. "Their ultimate fate, I do not know. I suppose if I were to guess, then it depends on who captured them. If it was someone with a great deal of cunning, they would keep them hostage, use them as bait to try to lure you back to Thalia. From there they could use you as a political pawn, threatening your family if your didn't comply. They'd probably use you in a sham marriage to someone in their camp so that they may claim the rights your name holds, from there they might dispose of you, or keep you to show off like some sort of trophy." He took another sip of his drink. "Then again it is more likely they were found by people who do not think like that; they would have had them executed on the spot. Either way it is not good."

He sighed, and relaxed a little. She had gotten the information that she wanted, and had not attacked him. The information was not good news, but it was what she needed to hear. He finished off his glass again and looked to Martha, "So, hearing that, what are your plans?" he patted his sword, "You may have a competent swordsman at your side. So long as the path takes us far from Stanislav, and it pays."

Martha remained quiet and let his words sink in, fingers drumming lightly on the bartop once he finished. Her expression had darkened at the mention of marriage. If she was going to marry, it would be with someone she at least felt something for damnit.

"I plan to stay in Abelsol for another day or so, then head deeper into Eshil for now." She spoke, before a humorless chuckle escaped her. "I do not have a hefty amount of coin on me due to the extended stay here, but name your price and I will let you accompany me as long as you wish." She responded. "Though, if you'd rather prefer waiting on setting any prices, I have no problem with that." She added thoughtfully.


With another knock the bartender was back, and refilled his glass once more. The least he could do was recoup the cost of the drink he bought her. " So long as it does pay, and takes me in any direction other than Thalia and Stanislav. When or how much does not matter to me, so long as you don't try to cheat me saying you get two coppers, or some говно like that."

Veran grabbed his drink and was about to take another sip, but he stopped, glancing over at Martha. He paused and thought about it for a moment, then raised his glass to her. "To Liquor, and its magical ability to wash it all away for but a moment."

Sipping on her drink, she awaited his response as the bartender came back. Hearing his opinion on the matter of payment, she nodded in approval, before saying; "If there is one thing I am not, it is a cheat. Be sure that you'll be paid more than what two simple copper pieces are worth." She assured, and when he raised his glass for a toast, she chuckled, raising her own. "To liquor, and to our little alliance." She replied. Finishing off her ale, she motioned to the bartender to refill her glass, putting four copper pieces down. "Give me what he's having." She spoke, already feeling nicie from her ale. Though, she figured that she'd save a bit more if she drank what Veran had.

Veran downed his own drink, pushing his glass forward. He raised an eyebrow and let out a low chuckle. "You sure? Its cheap yes, but it's still some stiff stuff. You drink it to get real drunk." He shook his head, "Suit yourself." The bartender filled his glass, and he looked over to Martha again, holding up his glass.

"What should we drink too now?"

"I'm sure, as long as it'll save me some coin." She responded before taking a sip and, after a moment grimaced. Regaining her composure, she thought over Veran's question. Taking another sip of her drink.

"How about to a relatively safe journey, hm?" She asked. There was no telling how long their journey would remain 'safe' but she silently prayed to Anhi for a safe journey from here on out. At least, as safe as it could be anyway.

"I'll drink to that," Veran said downing another glass. What was this now, his eighth drink? Damn, he had wanted to get something from these drinks, but they did not hold a candle to the hard liquor of Stanislav. He sighed sliding it back to the bartender again. He sat there, nursing his next drink. A long stretch of silence began to hang in the air.

Letting the silence sit between them for a moment, Martha finished off her own drink, and motioned for the bartender to pour her another. Once she got her glass back she turned her head to Veran.

"What do you plan to do once you're far enough from Stanislav and Thalia?" She asked then. He had asked her about her plans, but she was rather curious about his. Did he plan to try and leave Jedica altogether? Try to pick up a new identity elsewhere?


Veran sat there nursing his drink for a while, thinking. Finally he finished it off and slid it forward, to be refilled. "I don't know. Suppose I'll hire myself out as a mercenary or armed guard. Perhaps, if i ever end up up in Abaroa I'll catch a ship off this continent to somewhere where people will look at me as something other than a Stanislavian dog." He took a long sip from his newly filled cup.

"Suppose I haven't even given it much thought yet. It hasn't been that long, still focusing on the getting far away from Stanislav part right now." He took another sip, "so i'm amusing you have connections south of here that you are hoping to rely on, or are you just headed south to explore the fields of Eshil?"


Martha listened to Veran, and her suspicions were mostly correct it seemed. Nursing her own drink, she hummed thoughtfully.

"My father has a few connections here in Eshil, not many however. I do hope to rely on them for the most part, if things go smoothly. However, if they do not help then I'll simply have to rely on myself and my retainer." She sighed.

"I suppose I'll have to rely on you as well, for now." She added, more of an afterthought than anything.


"Your retainer you say. Eh, makes sense when sending the daughter of an important figure to another country." He finished his drink, and was about to slide it forward again but stopped himself. There was no point draining more coin into these, even if it wasn't his. It's not like he was going to get drunk off this stuff anyway. Besides, the more coin Martha had, the more she could pay him later. He put his cup off to the side and sat up.

"Do not worry. I do not claim my blade is the fastest, nor the strongest, but a blade needs more than strength or speed to win. I trained all my life to fight, I can hold my own in battle." He looked down at Martha's blade. "So, is that just for scaring off the common thief, or do you know how to actually use that blade?"

"Well, she's more so my former teacher, having taught me the sword." Martha replied, patting the blade at her side.

"You see, she was once part of the Pegasus Knights of Thalia, but retired and took up the role of a cavalier instead. I had begged my father to have me learn the sword and hoped to learn the lance, and my father reached out to any who would be willing to teach me for very little if any pay with enough persistence from me. I had wished very badly to become a Pegasus Knight myself, but as you can see, that dream will not come true." She explained, a solemn look crossing her features momentarily.

"However, Gertrude became like an older sister to me, and has been by my side ever since, which I'm grateful for." Martha added with a smile, then said, "if it wasn't for her, I'd likely have marched back to Thalia myself in all honesty-oh, forgive me I've started rambling." She blinked, having come to realize just how much she was talking and, be it the liquor or some form of embarrassment, she quickly returned her gaze to her glass, small smile still in place as she laughed softly to herself.

"That was more information than you asked for, I'm sure. Ignore my ramblings, the liquor seems to be getting to me." She admitted.

Veran raised an eyebrow at how much Martha was revealing. He sat up, surprised, but not judging what she was saying. He gave her a nod, "That is the magic of this liquid, and why we drink it." He relaxed himself, letting out a sigh. "At least you still have someone watching your back." he said in a low mumble. He pushed his cup forward for a refill, despite what his reasoning from a few moments ago. After a long sip, he began tracing his finger along the bar.

"When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming the commander of an army; leading my men to victory and ruling the world with intelligence, fairness, and, when called for, an Iron fist. Some dream that turned out to be." He took another sip, letting the silence sit for a moment before looking to Martha.

"You know, in my opinion, it is better if you do not join the Pegasus knights. You Thalians rely on them too much. Yes they are strong, powerful, and fast, but if you ever get into a proper fight they have no infantry support. In a proper battle between nations, the ground forces are the ones that decide the battle. Having a powerful air combat unit helps, but when they are the massive part of the military, you will always loose. Without troops on the ground, how can you transport supplies, food, arrows, tools? Do you have flying wagons, no. Control of the skies gives you a great advantage, but it has its limitations. Take Stanislav, the Infantry are the core of the army, supported by a strong air unit in the wyvern riders. The archers on the ground can shoot down your Pegasus Knights while the infantry take your supplies and loot your countryside. Your military is just not effective, you need more ground forces." Veran's voice was not charged with emotion, but rather, a blunt and straight forward logic, with the slightest hint of frustration.

"I get that you are a peaceful people, and that it is better for you to have a faster more mobile force to quell bandits and whatnot, but your leaders are oblivious when it comes to matters of military. If you want to be peaceful, then you must do everything you can to stay out of other conflicts, which means you must be neutral. To be Neutral however, you must maintain an effective military. Maintaining a military would discourage others from invading you. If Thalia had thought and realized that, Stanislav may have thought twice before invading." He stopped realizing he had also just gone out on a rant of his own. He shook his head and took another sip, staring down at the table. "Sorry, I do not mean any offence. Your country's politics confuse and frustrate me is all. It looks like this might be getting to me after all."

It was Martha's turn to be surprised, taking pause in taking another sip from her glass. Letting Veran's words sink in, she set her glass down.

"I believe that it would be natural for another country's politics to be confusing to many, and I take no offense." She spoke, relaxing. "Sometimes dreams do not work out anyway-I'm a Councillor heir, so in the end that is what I'll become." She pushed her glass forward for a refill.

"I do, however, wish to at least get close enough to pet a Pegasus at least once."" She mused. That would probably be the closest she'd ever get ro fulfilling her dream anyway. If she lived long enough that is.

"I've lost track of how much I've had to drink, but what other stories do you have to share? While we're both still coherent." She asked, chin resting against her fist as a curious look came to her features. She only knew so much about Stanislav, but they had already shared so much abour themselves at this hour it might not hurt to share a bit more-at least nothing either may consider sensitive or important information.

"A story, eh?" Veran considered it for a moment. Should he reveal more about himself? It was fine, he supposed, so long as he didn't clue her in to him being a former soldier. It Might sour their small relationship, and lose him this easy job. He thought for a moment about what he could tell her about.

"Well, there is my father. From when I was little, he would train me with the sword, day and night. Any time he was not at work, or training with my older brother, he was pushing me harder and harder." The slightest hint of a smirk traced itself across his face, as he took a sip. "He was great at that. Pushing me to my limits, and forcing me to break them. Made me the man I am now." He stopped for a moment and thought for another moment, before continuing. "Now, while my father pushed me harder and further, my brother helped widen my skills. As my father pushed me to knew heights, my brother expanded on my skills, forming a sturdy base from which I could continue pushing further with father." He stopped, he was telling much, and this was enough for now. He took a sip of his drink, glancing over to Martha. Perhaps it was time to pick her brain.

"What of you? Any stories of interest that you have?"


Martha thought for a moment, before speaking.

"My father liked to play favorites. Despite me being his heir, he favors my younger brother Gavin much more than I. Gavin would insist upon learning the sword alongside me and Gertrude would teach him as well. Because of Gavin and Gertrude I likely wouldn't be as proficient as I am now, with Gertrude's somewhat strict teaching and Gavin's encouragement and enthusiasm." She sipped at her drink for a moment.

"I could talk on and on of my brother really, he's a good kid, but I don't wish to bore you." She admitted as she went back to her drink. Before adding, "though, if you wish to hear any other stories of home life, then ask away. However, I can't guarantee they'll be exciting." She warned with a snort of amusement.

"Playing favorites huh? I have a similar experience with my elder brother, but I suppose it made sense since he was the heir to my family." Veran nursed his drink some more, and thought for a moment. He then turned back to Martha.

"Eh, I suppose speaking of your brother wouldn't hurt, and besides coming from where i came from, it takes a lot to bore me." Veran finished off another drink and slid his glass forward, and settled in for a story.

"I'm sure my father does it because I wasn't born male, but it matters little now." She spoke offhandedly, before looking to Veran as he brought up how he didn't bore quickly.

"Heh, if you say so. My brother once recklessly took Gertrude's horse and we had to chase him throughout the streets, said he wanted to try riding a horse once we finally stopped him. He had no prior training so really he had no control, and if Gertrude hadn't been quick to call her steed back someone could of gotten hurt. He started crying and apologising once he saw how upset we were, and we all got a scolding when we returned home." She recalled the memory vividly. Gavin was a sweet boy, though he easily could get into slight mischief. Something that, at times, gave her a headache.

Going for another refill on her drink, she was starting to feel a bit tipsy, well really she might of been getting drunk at this point, hiw many did she have now? By now Gertrude had come to make sure her charge was alright, walking straight for Martha and placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Lady Martha, it's about time to call it a night and rest." She spoke up, though eyed Veran for a moment. She didn't know this man, so of course she'd be a bit wary of new company around the lord.


Veran nodded listening to Martha as she spoke of her brother. He took a sip of his drink, and began to think of his family. No doubt they would know that Veran was a wanted criminal, and hate him for disgracing his family name. If he ever saw his father or brother again, they would certainly...

Veran's though was interrupted by the approaching footsteps. He took a sip; 10ft away, far enough that Veran was comfortable taking a look before pulling up his guard. He glanced over his shoulder, a Midorian woman, similar age to himself, heading straight for Martha. He caught her gaze as she spoke to Martha, then shrugged and took another sip giving the impression that he bore no ill will.

That must be the Gertrude she spoke of, Veran thought. He finished his drink and looked back to Martha, "I told you this was stiff stuff." He shifted his gaze back to Gertrude, he already knew who she was but figured he would be polite. "So, care to introduce us, Martha?"

Pouting slightly at Gertrude, Martha quickly downed the rest of her drink, before Veran brought up introductions. "My apologies, Veran this is Gertrude. Gertrude, Veran. He'll be accompanying us from now on, and he's good company." She introduced the two, Gertrude relaxing at hearing that Veran wasn't a possible threat. She did pick up on his accent, and would keep an eye on him as if testing him in that case.

"It'd be good to have another pair of eyes looking out for My Lady. Do you have a place to sleep? It's about time to call it a night, else she'll be here all night and complaining about the headache she'll have in the morning."

At this Martha was pouting fully now, and Gertrude sighed softly at her drunken friend's antics.

Veran finished his own drink, nodding politely to Gertrude after the introductions. He picked up on the fact that she was still wary of him, which she should be. Veran was similarly eyeing up Gertrude. He could see in her eyes and the way she moves that she was indeed a capable fighter. "It is good to meet you too. Though, I am more than a pair of eyes," he added placing a hand on his Scabbard.

He looked to Martha, "Agreed, I did warn her that what I was drinking was stiff, but she chose to continue anyway." He then glanced back to Gertrude, "And yes, I do have my own place to stay for the night. I imagine you will have your hands full though." He leaned over to Martha one last time, "You have a good retainer here, best not to make her mad."

He stepped back from the table, picking up his rucksack and throwing it over his shoulder. He looked to the both of them, "I am turning in for the night now. I have a room in the Inn across the street. Where shall we meet in the morning?"

"Good, despite her skill she's still learning, and having another swordsman around will do her good." Gertrude nodded as he wordlessly mentioned his skill. Mentioning Martha's drunken state, the Midorian chuckled softly, saying, "She has a tendency to be stubborn at times, though it's not too big of a concern." She spoke, tempted to tease Martha but holding back on that.

"Yeah, Gertrude's pretty great." Martha admitted, breaking out in a small, if admittedly drunken, smile.

Upon being asked where to meet, Gertrude looked thoughtful. "Well, how about the market? We have to stalk up on a few things before heading out." She suggested, before helping her charge to her feet. "Have a good night, or at least try to." She added.

A curt nod was all Veran gave to Martha's response. She was clearly very drunk. Gertrude was certainly right about how stubborn she was. Veran shrugged, "Sure, I shall meet you there tomorrow morning. Until then," He said with a wave, and walked out of the Bar to the inn.

It had been and interesting day, he had parted ways with the old trader who had cared for him. Spent a day drifting through the town, searching for work with no luck, only to find some in the most unlikeliest of places. He had met the daughter of a counselor of Thalia, and just been hired as her guard. Perhaps his life would not be as dull as he thought it would be.
 
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Fyrra

Edgepeasant
Posting Speed
A Few Posts a Week, One Post a Week
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Male, Female, Transgender, Androgynous
Favorite Genres
I'm open to a lot of things, but my comfort zone usually involves medieval and modern settings, with varying degrees of realism and fantasy. I like to explore mature themes, not for the sake of sex, but just because I like it when a character has to actually stop and weigh their options.
Genre You DON'T Like
Romance as the driving force of the story, but especially het romance. It's best as a subplot.
#90
Renewed by the young mageling's enthusiasm, the armored person turned away from her and raised their faceplate before breathing in the open air. One deep inhale followed an exhale, and then another, before they lowered their visor once more. That this Paige would never have made it back to Atrea on her own only forced their resolve further into place, reinforcing the reality that this could not be a permanent departure. Indeed, returning to confront the tide itself was paramount.

And with a mage at their side, even as inexperienced as this one, the task itself felt less daunting.

"Very well then," was all that was said before the suit of armor strode forth.

In two hours' time, the sound of running water joined that of the steel and leather leaving their mark on the ground, the afternoon sky turned to a vibrant, reddish dusk rarely seen so openly in the forests further north. Soon, the steel-clad warrior pulled their supply pack free and stopped to clear out a space for a tent and a small fire.
 

Toogee

Little Toe of Justice
#91
Paige Spiros
Interacting with: Fyrra Fyrra
Location: Eshill Plains In a van camp by the river

“Oh thank goodness…” Paige sighed in relief as Ravness finally settled down into a camp spot.

For nearly two hours, Paige followed Ravness across the Eshill plains, presumably heading west. As someone who had never ventured out of the country before, this was the longest the young mage had ever walked. Within 30 minutes of their journey, she missed the merchant caravan. As cramped as it was, at least she could sit down. Yet the armored knight kept going, not showing any signs of weariness. Paige began to question whether there was a human underneath all that armor. She could never tell, despite her best efforts to sneak a peek whenever Rav lifted their visor.

The first thing Paige did when they arrived was rush the river. She knelt down and filled her water pouch to the brim. She proceeded to drink half of its contents before filling it up once more. The pupil was not used to having sweat on her brow, so she spent a few minutes splashing water across her face. Finally, have been reasonably refreshed, Paige made for Ravness’s cleared campground. The girl took off her cloak, spread it across the ground, and collapsed upon it.

“Phew,” Paige said, facing the fading sky before turning to Ravness. “I didn’t think you were ever going to stop.”
 

Falcon

Adventure Finder
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Group Roleplays, One on One Roleplays, Chat Roleplays
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A Few Posts a Week
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I have a shifting work schedule, so My online times will be random.
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Adept, Advanced, Prestige, Adaptable
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Male, Female, No Preferences
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Aggressive, can be passive depending on point in RP.
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Fantasy, scifi, futuristic modern, fantasy modern, Action/adventure, Mystery, Fan-based,
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MxM or FxF, Libertine, horror, High-school, slice of life
#92

An attempted assassination and unusual twist of circumstances leaves Reina with some new companions she doesn't entirely trust. The thief Sadia and Reina's savor Agato have agreed to accompany the group to the far coast. However, before that can happen Agato's contract must be purchased from the merchant he has currently been hired to guard, and the group is badly in need of supplies as none of them was expecting, nor prepared for the sort of journey that lies ahead of them. Together they prepare to explore Abelsol's marketplace.


Chapter Three: A Marketplace Brawl



About a day and a half to two days ride east and south of Abelsol, in a rough stand of trees, lay several scattered tents and make shift wooden huts. It was large enough it might pass for a small village of its own had it not obviously be built in such a way that the occupants could tear it town, pack it onto the backs of the horses hobbled near by, and move on quickly. In fact they had moved it several times over the passed few months, although by all evidence they had been camped in their current spot for several weeks.

The group was hidden well enough as they were. Located several miles off the main road with the trees and several hills between them and anyone who might see. And even if they were found the occupants had no fear. All were well armed and trained, if not professionally at least proficiently with the weapon of their choice. Their leader, a grizzled man in his late thirties with two days growth of beard on his chiseled face sat sharpening his sword in the opening of a tent, while his horse grazed nearby. A lance sat propped just inside beside well worn armor that had once belonged to an Atrean captain. Whether it rightfully belonged to him, or he had taken it from a dead foe none now knew who followed him.

Cold eyes peered up at the sniveling weasel of a man who stood before him. He was a lean mercenary, as ruthless as Benedict himself, but no where near as intelligent. He had rode his horse hard to get here so quickly with his message. message that could have spared the mount considering nothing could be done about the failure it described.

"First, Telnet lets the young wolfskin man escape, and now you nearly kill your horse to bring me this news, Rothgar?" his cold gaze set the man shrinking back a step. "It seems you want me to have a bad day then?"

"N-no, sir. I-I-"

"I expected the girl to make it across the boarder." Benedict continued. "Ludgren is not so great a talent as he believes himself to be, but I have men in Abelsol watching for her and any like her. And I have eyes and ears in the towns beyond. Did you think spies look only for the fur covered in these parts? No. Any man who works for me knows to keep watch for any trinket that could bring in a bit of coin. How else do you think I could get my hands on so many glittering gems as this?" The cavalier gestured with a hand at the rest of the camp.

As Rothgar looked deeper in he could make out the shape of several cages under several tent canopies. Each housed between one and three individuals. Most of them younger than the one that had escaped. Their forms were as varied as one might expect in a land as rich as these. Wings, claws, fox and cat ears, even some ordinary humans. Some meant for bounty, others ransom, but most -- most would be taken to an island off the southern coast of the plains and sold for a hefty profit.


  

In the village of Abelsol itself two men watched the inn where Martha had disappeared into the night before. They had been told to watch for any fleeing Thalian nobles, given a description of one in particular to seek, and warned she might be in disguise. This girl, while both blonde and taller than expected, certainly fit the bill. She was the right age, had the right accent, and seemed to have more coin that should rightfully be expected of any young woman in these parts. Heeled shoes could account for the height, and hair could be dyed.

"Are you sure you heard her mention moving on to that man last night?" one whispered.

"Yes. She hired him as some sort of guard and they were to meet up in the market place, no doubt to buy supplies."

"Then we'll try to snag her from the shadows at the first available opportunity.Try to time it before he arrives. It looked like he knew how to use his sword."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Even if she's not our target she's the sort to have a father or uncle somewhere who will pay a hefty sum to get her back. Our boss will be pleased enough with that."


  

When she finally woke it felt almost surreal to find the sun streaming in the room's window. Reina sat slowly, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, for a moment disoriented to find herself on a cot instead of the ground and friends, new acquaintances, and some possible enemies so close at hand. She cringed inwardly that she had let Sadia so close to her the night before, and her hand flew to her bag to insure it was still there, before remembering she had used it as a pillow. She still did not want to guess at how Sadia had procured the dye and clean clothing the night before.

But as her hand felt the bag and confirmed it and its contents were still there her face fell. She was badly prepared for the trip that lay ahead and she knew it. Reina's eyes darted around the room, seeking out the others to see what they were doing as her mind raced, trying to figure out the best way to broach the subject of going to market. Not to mention the fact that she still needed to meet with Agato's current employer, and buy out his contract. One way or another she was going to end up spending a lot of money today. At some point she was going to have to figure out how to earn it back.


  

The marketplace of Abelsol took up the majority of the east side of the town. Shops lined the streets, many buildings hosing the proprietors above them. The streets here were wider than elsewhere, largely because in-between the shop doorways were set up a variety of tables and stalls, many covered over by colorful canopies.

It was very well organised into districts. Weaponry on one side, followed by clothing and house wears, food sold in another section. Streamers and wooden signs were hung between buildings both as cover from sun and weather, and as an indication of what sort of shops one was likely to find. In fact if you knew what you were looking for odds were you could go directly to the sector you wanted and find all variety of it. If you didn't know what you wanted, however, it was quite easy to get lost.

Cries of sales and quality goods filled the air along with the sounds of children laughing, patrons bartering, and general chatter. Shopkeepers hawked their wares and bashed their competition in one breath. Beggars asked for coin on street corners. Street vendors offered food to hungry passers by. In short the very atmosphere was so changed from the very early morning hours before that it was almost a different city.

In one corner of the market near where assorted goods were sold, one very distraught shopkeeper spoke to the town guard.
"I'm telling you it's those ruffians I turned away the other day. They didn't have enough coin so I sent them on their way."

"These the same folk you reported a week back?"

"Yes sir. unsavory brute with an axe and his gang. I'm sure of it. If it's not them then some other bandits type sort. The area's growing full of them of late."

"It would be a good place to start looking for the culprit...." One muttered. The guard who seemed to be in-charge of the investigation nodded. "We'll need to to make a list of the items stolen if you can... give us an idea of what to look for... wouldn't surprise me if they were hiding with the merchandise in the slums until things die down. No one there ever seems to report anything strange..."
 
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Conway

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#93
So there are some ruffians in town Veran though to himself with a sigh. He was pressed up against a wall in an alley just on the edge of the market, his grey cloak pulled up and his sack slung over his shoulder. From there he overheard the entire conversation the merchant had with the guards. Veran had not been able to sleep well this past week, and so had gotten up early to case the marketplace. After all there was no such thing as being too careful, so long as you are not too slow.

Either way, it was something to be on the lookout for. Veran shifted his way through the side alleys around the market making his way towards the road that provided the shortest path to the Inn Martha was staying at. He stood nearby and pulled his hood down, waiting for his new employer and her retainer. The sun had risen quite high in the sky by now, and it should not be long before they arrived; he could inform them of his findings then.
 
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#94
A Colab with Falcon Falcon
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The main city of Ufral may have been large and populous, hidden in the central canyons near the largest source of water available in the desert, but the rest of the nation was scattered and empty. The majority of the nation were nomads, with a town or two set against an oasis when available. Toward the boarders were outposts. These were set up with supply lines and enough water availability to keep them running, and the majority of them were owned by some lord or another. It was toward one of these that Esmail was headed.

It was about mid day, but a windstorm had kicked up so much sand the the sun was obscured. Esmail had dismounted his camel and pulled up his hood and mouth guard, tying a kerchief around the animal's eyes. He led the way by foot, guiding the animal towards the square grayish shape he could just barely see, praying they could make it before things got worse. Esmail knew he should have sheltered an extra day back at that last town, but waiting got him nowhere near his goal. Reaching this particular outpost might.

He didn't know how long it took, fifteen minutes maybe twenty, but eventually he reached the gate. A sound banging of his fist on the plank door saw him and the camel safely inside. No man in his right mind would leave anyone outside in this storm, expected or not. Although without a proper introduction he might never make it farther than the gate house and main courtyard.

Fortunately, the shaman had an introduction. Before he could even get his hood off or the mouth-guard down, a gloved had had fished a letter out of his pocket. This particular outpost belonged to one Lord Jamal who Esmail had to give credit for knowing how to play the great political game.

Outside the wind whistled with the grating of sand scraping against stone and wood. Shutters creaked and groaned. A glance into the courtyard showed the leather covers that created a ceiling barrier flapping against their ties. They would hold though. Esmail could tell at a glance they were new and well cared for.

The guards unfolded the letter, careful not to tear it for they could see the wax seal. Their eyes tracing over the words written in the familiar hand of their master. One pulled a cipher key from his pocket comparing the letter forms to ensure it was not a forgery.
"You've come far, traveler. What aid do you see that you bring with you a token of our lord's favor?" His tone was low and grizzled as hard eyes tried to pierce the shadow beneath Esmail's hood which was still up. But his words were formed with the elegance of a man who had been blessed with the opportunity to study.

"For the moment a place safely out of the sand for the night... longer if the storm still brews. “Maybe a chance to restock my provisions." Esmail answered coolly unwrapping his head and face and shaking the sand out of his protective gear. He saw the guards start as his pale skin and hair were revealed.

"He must be Absalom's Albino. His shadow," one whispered quietly, but the shaman heard.

"I prefer to be called by my name, Esmail." His gaze was unflinching as he met their stared, his expression never changed.

The one holding the lettered frowned as the pieces suddenly clicked into place. An intelligent man. "We will of course, offer any aid you seek as instructed by our lord," he started, handing the letter back. But before he could say more there seemed to be a commotion rising in one of the other buildings.

Joris sat in the solitude of his cell, back pressed into the corner and ankle still chained to the wall. He had sat there for, he knew not how long. One leg pulled close to him, the other stretched out, his arm resting upon his knee, and his glare directed to the cell door. A pile of somewhat rotted food lay just inside it. He had not so much as touched any food or water in several days, instead choosing to survive off of sheer will. The guards that passed by every so often made jokes, but would freeze momentarily if they caught a glimpse of Joris's piercing expression. The heat, dehydration, and the self imposed starvation was beginning to affect Joris however, as he found himself falling unconscious in his sitting position more and more. Now however he was staring intently at the door of his cell, while listening to the howling of the sandstorm outside, somewhat grateful that his prison was made of sandstone.

There was a click from the corner and a long creak as the Gate to Joris's cell opened. A single man stepped through, holding a plate of simple Hardtack, and a cup of water. Another creak echoed as the door shut behind him. He stepped into the pile of rotted food, and lifted his foot, disgusted, as if he had just stepped in dung. He sighed and walked over to the corner where Joris was eyeing him, with extreme prejudice. He squatted down in front of Joris and shoved a piece of hardtack in his face.

"Eat," Joris didn't move, "Eat the stupid food!" Again Joris did not even blink, staring directly at the guard. The guard sighed and put down the hardtack, instead shoving the cup in front of his face.

"Drink. ... It's water, drink it!" Not a muscle moved on Joris. By this time the guard was starting to get frustrated. He stood, looking down at Joris. "Eat!" He said with more power, now also stomping on Joris's outstretched leg. Joris didn't even flinch at the heavy boot came down on his leg. The guard made an scowl and squatted again, "Listen to me. If you don't fu..." Joris cut him off by slamming the plate into the guard's face, stunning him. Joris then grabbed him and spun him around into a choke-hold. "HELP!" the guard managed to squeeze out. Joris lifted his other fist and began pummeling the guard's face, as the door creaked open again. The new man came in and tried to punch Joris in the face, only to have his fist met by Joris's cracking the knuckles and sending him toppling over clutching his hand. Another guard stepped in; this one held a long wooden stick used to beat people. Joris sent the first man, who had received quite the pummeling by now, headfirst into a wall, knocking him out cold.

"Come on then!" the guard taunted as he stepped forward swinging his club. He got a good strike to Joris's side whacking against his ribs, but that was a one time hit, as Joris pinned the arm with his own and proceeded to pummel him in the face. More guards began to flood in from outside, so Joris violently jerked his arm up, feeling the crack as he broke bone, putting the guard out of action. He stood in the center of his cell ready to take on any foolish enough to enter his domain. He didn't realize as the second guard from earlier stood up behind him. The first of many guards stepped through the gate, but just as Joris was to attack him, the second guard lunged at him from behind. This would normally only shift him slightly, but as he stepped forward to brace himself, his chain became taught against the wall and the force of the tackle sent him flopping onto his face.

"Get him now!!" A guard called as three more jumped on top of Joris, attempting to pin him.

It quickly became apparent that there was some sort of fight going on in the larger sandstone building across the courtyard, and when the guardsmen rushed across, none noticed that Esmail was still with them. He wasn't able to see the whole fight, though he did catch enough to know the situation, before the captain pushed forward.

The man who had moments before been analyzing Esmail's letter roared with, something that was as much rage as it was frustration, as he barreled into the room and began pulling men off the prisoner before they could accidentally smother him. He wasn't the tallest in the room, but he was stocky. The sort of man who spent hours training. The grey hair at his temples belied his build.

Yet even as he moved the gradual sound of a slow clap seemed to swell in the resulting quiet as Esmail strode forward, standing just enough in the light to be seen, but far enough back that the shadows still obscured his form. Those not in the fray began to look around for the source of such a deliberate sound as it began to have a distinct echoing effect, caused by the way Esmail cupped his hands and took advantage of the acoustics of the stone hallway. For a moment it was unclear who he was applauding, though his gaze never seemed to leave the form of the foreign solder slowly being revealed as the captain continued to pull men off of him and shove them out of the cell.

The captain, however, seemed to take no notice of Esmail's theatrics as he scolded his men as only a commanding officer can do. "What are we now? Pigs? Bandits, barbarians? Common highwaymen, that you would attack an unarmed and shackled man? Would you dishonor our lord such? Would you dishonor yourselves?"

Even with the weight and strength of 5 guards on top of him, Joris held his own fairly well, almost managing to push himself up into a kneel several times. Just as the Captain through off one man Joris flung another into the wall, the remaining three were shoved out of the way of Joris as he stood, picking up one of them and sending him flying headfirst into the same wall, knocking him out and leaving him atop the other guard, who had been trying to recover. The final two were pulled off by the Captain and aside. Joris took note that the man was aiding Joris, at least for the moment and decided to disengage, taking a few steps back into his corner. In all there were five guards laying on the ground, either unconscious or with incapacitating injuries. Three more had serious bruises and welts from Joris, with only the captain, who Joris had not attacked, and two other guards, who had wisely stayed out of the cell, being unharmed. Joris heard the clapping and immediately looked for the source, finding it in the figure who obscured himself in the shadows. Joris sent him a scowl, so now he was was not only a prisoner, but a form of entertainment for this man. He spat the blood from his mouth and cocked his head to the figure, making his displeasure known.


"There are few things in this world worth sacrificing life and sanity," Esmail's voice rang out with an almost jovial tone, speaking common although his accent was heavily Ufralian. "It seems to me this man might have found one." With these words he stepped into the light, his complexion contrasting sharply with the darkness of the guard next to him who took an instinctive step back.
"Tell me, Why do you fight? By your appearance you are very far from home. You are a prisoner here. By the food on the floor you are refusing to eat, and yet you fight?" There was a hint of unmistakable respect in Esmail's tone as he spoke. "Why?"


Joris stood his ground staring down the obscured figure, not moving an inch. His scowl could frighten a bear and the tension emanating from him was so palpable it could be cut with a knife. Joris made no attempt to study the man or try to get a better view, opting to stand there in silence letting the tension talk for him.

"Well? Answer hi..." the bruised guard froze with fear as Joris turned his gaze towards him. He could almost see the guard crack from the pressure, as a bead of sweat found its way down the guard's face. Joris turned back the figure.

"Why?" he spat back at him, "Why do I have to answer to one who is too afraid to show himself properly?"

"I never said you had to answer me," Esmail answered with a soft chuckle as he strolled right up to the cell gate. Shadow and light still playing across his face, and while his features were even easier to make out the poor lighting from the very covered windows, paired with torchlight and stormy conditions outside didn't exactly make them obvious.
"While I do apologize I have not the ability to create better lighting. You should be aware that I am one who might have the clout to get you out of here depending on the answers you give. As for fear--" his lips twisted in mirth as he gave another little chuckle, "I doubt you know what true fear is." One black gloved hand reached up to oh so gently grasp one of the bars of the cell.

Joris obliged the man remaining quiet now as he now just said he no longer needed an answer. He continued his scowl. Joris did not like this man; he knew his type. He was like a snake that would coil around him and use him, snuffing Joris out if it suited his needs. Not the pleasant type, and definitely not one to trust. Joris eyed him closely as he stepped forward getting a better read of his face, not that Joris really could read much further passed the outward expression on his face, but it lowered Joris nerves a little to put a face to the man. Joris was surprised when the man offered him an out to this cell. He tried to hide his surprise, but would be no match for a man of words like Esmail. Instead he furrowed his brow and made his distrust of Esmail clear.

Esmail's words on fear earned him a chuckle of his own. Joris smiled slightly, letting Esmail know that he could not be intimidated. Then his expression shifted as he was provoked to speaking again. "Oh, I only know one fear." He jerked his leg up violently letting the chain grow taught and creak slightly from the force he was pulling with. "And I am living through it, and persevering."

Esmail knew the look that crossed the other man's face. He had seen it before. But it didn't bother him because it was the sort of look that said the other man was honest. Yet he did not let his own mask drop. Not here. He needed the guards to believe the rumors they'd heard. So often what the mind made up was a stronger hold than the truth. Let them believe that he was Absalom's albino, the specter that had done so many impossible things ... and may he never have to prove otherwise.

"Let me level with you," the shaman started keeping his voice level. "You may call me Esmail Faruq. I have been hired to locate the daughter of a noble lady of the city and bring her safely home." There was only one true city in Ufral and most would know what he meant. "So long as she remains in the desert I have a decent chance of finding her. However, if she leaves the domain with which I am familiar..." He spread his hands, "Well you can imagine that I would require some help. This is where you come in."

Joris had no interest in this lady he had to find, there was only one thing he wanted. Even though he was slower when it came to wars of words, only a fool would not see where he was taking this. Joris still did not trust him however. "And why would your stupid little fetch quest do for me? What? Are you going to promise my freedom then drug me like that two faced shit, Jamal? Or do you just want to keep me as some form of sick entertainment?"

"HEY! How dare you insult Lord Ja..." One of the guards spoke up.

"Oh? So eager to defend the man who pays you are we? Well then, step on in, defend his non-existent honor in front of everyone." Joris held out his arms inviting the guard to a challenge. The guard stood there, trying to make a mean face, but being utterly crushed by the weight of Joris's will. "So eager to defend him with words when your opponent is caged and chained, but not willing to give your life for the man? Pathetic, just like that two faced shit."

"Thalia has fallen," Esmail cut in not caring how abrupt the words would seem, how brutal given the situation.
"Your lords have fallen. Mine have not. In exchange for the use of the tracking abilities I believe you have, in exchange for the fighting abilities I know you have, and in exchange for helping me to find and defend the lady until she is safe, I can offer you this." Somehow his expression didn't change even once. "I will have these men return any items taken from you at your arrival here. I will pay for a new horse, weapons, and even suitable armor. And as we travel you will be free to seek out rumor of your homeland, and if you are smart, discern what is true."

And Esmail waited, holding a hand up to silence the guards. The prisoner's next response would tell him much of the man. Would he take the bate of his fallen home? Would he grasp the hand of potential friendship? or would he seek out the deeper game?

Joris Scowled at Esmail again when he was spoken to. He could feel the snake like slithering of the Shaman's words. Joris was clearly at a significant disadvantage, and he knew it, Esmail probably knew too by this point. Joris's eyes traced back and forward across the floor of his cell, heavily contemplating. Every so often he would glance up to see if there was any change in Esmail's face and glare at him. He contemplated for quite a while. The idea of finding out about his homeland was extremely tempting, almost intoxicatingly so, but Joris knew there was more to this game. That was the extent of Jori's knowledge on the matter however; he knew enough to know that there was more to it, but could not discern what was still hiding beneath the surface. This could be his only chance, to get out of this cell. But could this man be trusted, no. At least not, Damit! He's going to play my like a flute and leave me to rot somewhere. But Thaila, this could be. The bastard is probably enjoying watching me struggle with this decision. Joris took a breath and calmed himself, looking back up and locking eyes with Esmail. "So what's the catch? There's always a catch with you people."

"My people?" Esmail barely raised an eyebrow but the expression was there, amusement. "Precisely what do you mean by 'my people'?"

Joris scoffed, he had no time to play this man's games, "You talkative types who think they can get away with anything because you have a silver tongue." He crossed his arms and stared at Esmail still expecting a response to his question.

Esmail could help but laugh when he heard this, and not his amused little chortle that most people heard when he was on the verge of mocking them. The was a deep chuckle that started in the belly and worked it's way out. In a strange way it suited him better.
"Are you asking my personal reasons? or are you wondering if I'm the type to hang you out to dry?"

Joris, simply continued to scowl at him, now displeased that he was being laughed at.

"How about I answer both then if it will put your mind at ease?" Esmail questioned when the laugh subsided, and for a moment there was a spark in his usually emotionless eyes. "I have never once broken a contract once made. If it helps you feel better we can write it down and you can hold onto it so that if for some godless reason I do break my word any court you care to drag me to will rule in your favor. As for a catch... if you will call it such. There may come a day when I do need to travel outside Ufral and I get the feeling returning you to... wherever you wish to go, would give me someone to contact on such an occasion." It was the truth, if only the barest sliver of it.

Joris traced the floor with his eyes again considering the deal. He knew he could still not trust this man fully, but the idea of getting out of this cage and getting home to Thalia or to get the chance to do something instead of being locked away in this prison was too much. This was his fear, being locked away somewhere, not being able to help his nation in her time of need. Joris looked back to Esmail, staring at him, trying to get any sort of read on the man, but also giving himself away in the process. He was not to be trusted, but he could trust a sword or a spear, and a document of sorts would prevent him from facing retribution should it come to that. Joris stepped forward, dropping his arms to his sides. He pointed a finger at the Albino, "Know this, if you are ever dragged before a court by me, it will not be you, but your corpse." Implying that he accepts without saying it. The least Joris could do was try to intimidate him and make him understand the truth behind those words.

"Good thing I never break my word," Esmail shrugged. "Captain, bring this man his belongings, unchain him, and perhaps arrange better quarters."

"Sir," The captain started looking both a little amused and a little unsure at this whole arrangement. "We were authorized to give you aid, not prisoners."

"Do you really with to keep this one around? he's that valuable to you?" the sly tone had slipped back into Esmail's voice.

The captain sighed. "You there," he pointed to one of the two guards who had not participated in the fight. "Do as he says. and then bring... our new guest to the gate house. I believe we had documentation to draw up. Several forms of it." This last remark was made to Esmail who only smiled that twisted grin of his and nodded.

The guard shook in his boots clearly still worried that he was now going to get beaten by Joris. He looked to the captain half expecting him to change his order. Eventually the guard stepped into the room and reached for his keys, pulling them out an approaching Joris. He slowly knelt down and unlocked the shackle on Joris's ankle, before quickly scampering back to the gate. Joris reached down and felt his ankle where he had been shackled, rubbing it a bit before standing back to his full height. The guard quickly saluted the captain and scampered off again to fetch the few things that had come with Joris.

Joris moved towards the door to his cell, stepping over the guards who were still barely coming to consciousness, or rolling around clutching broken bones. He stopped at the gate, inspecting it for a moment, before stepping out of the cell into the hallway.
 

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#95
Abelsol
Now eight days since the takeover of Thallia


Sadia woke up first, naturally. Well, it was natural to her anyways and she wouldn’t care a copper for who found it strange. After all, a true barmaid could likely go the entire night and not catch a wink of sleep and still be able to serve guests in the morning sun. Even go throughout the entire second day too with nary a yawn. Though, sleep would be far harder to stave off for the second night. Certainly, there were ways around such a problem but, she stretched and allowed her eyes to trail over each member in turn, marking their faces, there were ways with dealing with that.

With a whip and a whirl, the woman sprang out of bed and landed, cat like, with her fingers and hands cushioning and softening the fall so that nary a sound marked her landing. Then, she began her routine. Stepping each leg up in turn, she warmed her muscles. Followed then with reaches for the sky, that far more turned into crescent moons with her arms. Finally, she slid forward and up, into a rising cobra. Then, Sadia was truly ready to begin. Sliding her legs up and out, she became flat as a board, yet more spread than a starfish. Flexing up into a sitting splits, she twisted one way, then the other. Stetching out ligaments as she rotated her legs underneath her. Turning to look as if she were leaping upon the ground. For five minutes, she worked warmed her muscles in an exotic, static dance. As if to keep with such a tempo, she chanted with a soft voice that wouldn’t wake a fly:

“The Mother Cat,
sprang up one day.
Splotched tale in the air,
she jaunted away.
To the county faire,
for young ones to care.
“My little kittens, they must chase,
so I’m off to buy some lace!”

But Mother Cat,
wherefore you go?
Beyond the town,
you do stroll.
What’s there could be foun’?
Why won’t you turn roun’?
“My little kittens, they must chase,
so I’m off to buy some lace?”

Sweet Mother Cat,
how you tarry.
Your kittens mewl,
fraught with worry.
How could thee be such a fool!
Or are you merely so cruel.
“My little kittens, they must chase,
so I’m off to buy some lace!”

Oh Mother Cat!
You’re far from home!
Your kittens dead,
cold as stone.
What’s ruined your head?
To leave them, unfed.
“My little kittens, they must chase,
so I’m off to buy some lace!”

Finished, she sprang to her feet. Other such work, work that would actually build a bit of muscle, would come later. For now, she wanted to be off and about her duty. Not any duty particularly assigned to her, but one she had long undertaken. Off she pranced, grabbing her new outfit from its place under the covers and pulling them on and over her old dressing shirt and puffy shorts. Out of the room, down the stairs, and sweeping past, before the innkeeper could muster a protest, swept into the kitchen.

Despite the only dawn of morning coming in, the few cooks were hard at work. Cooking the communal breakfast under the clutter of pots and pans. Wafts of baking bread and a call to seek one of the local dairymen for cheese or to send a youth to the market penetrated her ears. All as familiar to her as a life she had just left behind. Still starstruck and awed by her fortune, such sweet fortune, for a mere barmaid to have been taken the fancy of such a noble merchant’s daughter. All for the simple self-sacrifice she had given. A drawn knife at brigands who sought to defile such a fair maiden. For sure, Sadia knew she had done nothing worth such gratitude. An attempted charge at one had merely resulted in her own fool self being shoved, mostly by her own momentum, out a window. Agato was the real hero who, hearing the crash of glass, came rushing in. Yet, such a kind and benevolent woman had remembered her. A mere maid who she had decided to take into her care. In return, though not asked till late last night, Sadia would serve.

“A token of bother upon you,” she said in a smile and daze, “but Miss Rachel and her companions, who a hulking, black armored brute led in last night, will be supping in their room. Kindly, with compensation of course, bring some tea, bread, cheese, and a bit of meat and vegetables, up there.”

The matron of the kitchen, an elderly woman with iron gray hair yet of sufficient bulk that bespoke of fair food, shot her a beady, appraising look. “Aye,” she at last said, “you were with them when they came in. Looked a right mess too. What happened?”

“Oh, I daren’t say much. Just know that she has taken me into her service!” she glowed.

“Ah, I see now,” her eyes narrowed, “make certain you don’t get too star struck now. Us folk have no business getting involved with any foreigner runnin’ ‘cross the country. Nothing more than what’s natural anyway. Food, drink, and trade.”

“But I’m certain the Miss is kind,” she batted back in innocence.

“Aye, but you can’t be so sure of that when alone on the plains.”

“Surely…”

“Jus’ be careful and watch yourself when it comes to people with enough coin for such an escort and not from around here.”

“I…yes, I certainly will. But I’m sure nothing will be the matter,” Sadia said as she bowed her way out. But not before distinctly hearing the chief chef’s reply of, “fool girl,” on her way out.

Then it was back out and up the stars, quick and jumpy as a cat, but just as light. The Innkeeper gave her a short glare but, as he had heard talk of the food being paid for, he couldn’t well berate her for barging into his kitchen. That was nothing to the instantaneous glower Agato shot her when she returned. He was well awake when finding her gone. The maid allowed the eyes to stop her short and gasp softly at the intensity of it. Before allowing the brevity of his look to suggest that she had only imagined it penetrate her features.

“I, er, breakfast will be up in present time,” she said. Softly enough so that everyone who was still sleeping sleep, and all who were awake and in the room could hear while fully brushing off Agato’s instant glare as mere imagination.

Korwin had indeed woken up only half a minute after Sadia left. While he wasn’t worried about her betrayal, not after last night, he did have appearances to keep. In the time she had been gone, it allowed him a decent bit of planning that often boarded upon brooding. He had decided that leaving at first light would not be wise. The inn would always be busy enough that someone would see them leaving and anyone with even half a mouth of gossip would tell the tale of a group of armed and armored guards leaving with two fair maidens at the crack of dawn or middle of the night.

So he left the others to rest. There was the matter of Gonz. One that would, he had no doubt, be as irritable as a rash on one’s bum. Hopefully it would be dealt with quickly. Then there was the matter of supplies and precisely when to leave. The former meant a trip to the market. A nuisance, but an abideable one. He would take stock of the supplies they did have before letting someone haggle the merchants into fair prices. Or he’d argue one with blunt logic that they wouldn’t pay an outrageous price. The confused scattering of refuges of Thalia made prices flux chaotically as people debated staying in the new protectorate or leaving it.

The latter issue was, thankfully, an easy enough. They would simply walk out. Preferably with some larger party, most favorably a tribe, and would simply detach from them later. Barring that, going out the gate of the direction they wanted to travel was best. Certainly, anyone who had eyes out for them would see. But the same held for most of any secret ways out of the trading. It would take time to craft a truly quiet exit of the town. Time Korwin was far from willing to spend. Speed was preferable to stealth upon this exit. There would be plenty of time to cover their trail in the wilderness and deal with most things that could follow them. It would take a platoon to truly challenge even this sudden and motley crew of warriors. At least, her surmised as such. That or a few individuals with great skill. Or a dragon. Anything larger in number would be hard pressed to keep up with a group their size. Still, there wasn’t much to be done until they were all up and moving. The day could proceed quite casually as long as they moved with moderate dedication towards leaving today.
 

Takumi

Hoshidan Princess
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#96
So there are some ruffians in town Veran though to himself with a sigh. He was pressed up against a wall in an alley just on the edge of the market, his grey cloak pulled up and ha sack slung over his shoulder. From there he overheard the entire conversation the merchant had with the guards. Veran had not been able to sleep well this past week, and so had gotten up early to case the marketplace. After all there was no such thing as being too careful, so long as you are not too slow.

Either way, it was something to be on the lookout for. Veran shifted his way through the side alleys around the market making his way towards the road that provided the shortest path to the Inn Martha was staying at. He stood nearby and pulled his hood down, waiting for his new employer and her retainer. The sun had risen quite high in the sky by now, and it should not be long before they arrived; he could inform them of his findings then.

Martha Fabre & Gertrude
Abelsol​

Martha yawned softly as she stretched and made her way to the market after Gertrude woke her and gave her something for the horrible headache she ended up getting from her night out drinking. After bathing and getting dressed for the day, she walked beside her retainer to meet with Veran.

"I hope I didn't say anything absolutely embarrasing last night." She groaned softly to herself, and Gertrude chuckled as she patted her charge on the shoulder.

"I doubt it My Lady, even if I wasnt there for the whole time you two spoke whatever you told him likely isn't anything he could use to tease you. Besides, he doesnt seem like the teasing type....I on the other hand-" she grinned as Martha groaned and nudged her gently with her arm.

"Gertrude please, it's too early." She protested, but couldn't keep the amused look from her own face. So far, today was a good one, but it was only beginning and things could change in the span of a second. Spotting Veran, the noblewoman rose her hand and gave a small wave in greeting as Gertrude gave him a small nod.

Toma had been left back at the stables for now, Gertrude planning to go back and get him once done at the market she didnt want to risk any accidents in such a crowded place with children running about after all.

Conway Conway
 
#97
Sissel looked in his bag to search for something. He grabbed a letter written in red ink or blood. He gave the letter to Ludivine and asked her "Do you happen to know who wrote this?" It read:
'the choices you make shape you
the shape you make shapes others
make the wrong choice and you'll repeat the past.'
"I found this at a camp nearby. There was a girl I found 10 years ago, who i promised to find her again when I get out of the place. tells me. This must have something to do with the corrupted war." He asked curiously.

An unarmed girl in pink hair rides her pegasus playing chase with a mouse. The mouse hides in a hiding hole. "Ok Rose, that's enough, let's go back to... Ah!" she turns and sees an "undead" axe user. "R-rose, Fly away!!!" the girl flies off into a tree nearby a village. Her pegasus crashes into a tree. "Ow... again..."
 
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ElDorado

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#98
Apollo Galata
Three Days Ago

Sudden sharp strikes of pain may shock and unsettle, but it is the constant throbbing wounds of the heart that reach deep into a man and change him. Apollo could sense it happening to himself. The past few days weighed on him like heavy stones, and the thoughts that plagued his mind were becoming unbearable.

Like a strike of lightning, destruction had come upon the city, and just as suddenly, it had gone away, leaving all those affected reeling in its wake. The ashes of the city clung to the air for days even after the fires were put out. As a result, the nose perpetually itched, the eyes never rested, and the mind was not forgetting.

“We have been spared,” his mother kept saying. “All because your father was so wise.”

The Galata Manse was a smoldering heap of charcoal now. The family had salvaged what they could of their riches and of their servants, but by their possessions alone, the future was bleak. All that Galata had left of great value was their great influence.

“I did what I had to do.” That was how his father saw it. He knew, and Apollo did too, that there was nothing honorable about saving yourself and your family. And in this case, at so heavy a cost, it was utterly selfish.

The Stanislavs’ motives were obvious. This city would not be called the capital of Thalia for long, and the church would not long be so highly revered. Friends of the family were now in chains, prisoners as of a war. All the rhetoric in the council had come to this: all they had worked for had ended in this: and now that they had got it, Apollo only felt repulsed.

”Do not forget who you are,” Tasia’s soft voice was on his ears like a ghost. ”You know what the heralds taught… you know what people you serve…” Her parting words were like a riddle perpetually spinning in his mind. “And you know you care for her more than you show. Only add doing to knowing, Apollo. It is not enough without doing.”

“If we go, milord, we cannot come back. We’ll be sleeping on hard dirt. Your parents may pay a penalty for not reporting you. This will cost you.”

Apollo’s hands did not cease from packing the bag. “Fine. Just stay if you’re so against it.”

“Milord, I am with you unto death. I only meant to be sure you were aware of the cost.”

“I am.” Apollo stood up. He had grown a little taller than his servant Doul, but not by much. The man was a capable spy and something like a father to him. Doul was the only man Apollo had confided his thoughts in, the only one he could trust with the changing of his heart.

Doul nodded slowly. He was ready now, too.

With the bags slung over their shoulders, they left the city under cover of night.
 
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Conway

King of Redheads
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#99
Martha Fabre & Gertrude
Abelsol​
Martha yawned softly as she stretched and made her way to the market after Gertrude woke her and gave her something for the horrible headache she ended up getting from her night out drinking. After bathing and getting dressed for the day, she walked beside her retainer to meet with Veran.

"I hope I didn't say anything absolutely embarrasing last night." She groaned softly to herself, and Gertrude chuckled as she patted her charge on the shoulder.

"I doubt it My Lady, even if I wasnt there for the whole time you two spoke whatever you told him likely isn't anything he could use to tease you. Besides, he doesnt seem like the teasing type....I on the other hand-" she grinned as Martha groaned and nudged her gently with her arm.

"Gertrude please, it's too early." She protested, but couldn't keep the amused look from her own face. So far, today was a good one, but it was only beginning and things could change in the span of a second. Spotting Veran, the noblewoman rose her hand and gave a small wave in greeting as Gertrude gave him a small nod.

Toma had been left back at the stables for now, Gertrude planning to go back and get him once done at the market she didnt want to risk any accidents in such a crowded place with children running about after all.
Veran stood against a wall waiting for the Two to arrive. He continued to mull over his situation in his head. The number of coins he had left, the remainder of the supplies that he had received from the merchant yesterday, his new job protecting a Thalian Lord, his situation regarding Stanislav... Eh it was certainly not the worst he could be in. Considering the circumstances it was quite good, but it's not his circumstances that he needs to be considering anymore, it was Martha's. He glanced towards the Market, Ruffians in town was never good news. That means that the guards of the town are either horrible guards or bought out by whoever was leading those ruffians. Either way they could not be relied on if those ruffians decided to attack Martha.

He sighed, glancing back down the road and spotting Martha and Gertrude walking his way. If something did happen it would be up to Gertrude and himself to protect her. Assuming that she really did know how to use that sword it would be easier, but still better to inform them of the situation and urge that they leave as quickly as possible. He nodded to Martha as she waved to him, while picking up his sack and moving to meet them as they continued towards the Market.

"Miss Martha, Gertrude." He said plainly in greeting, "I would suggest that we purchase our supplies and leave as quickly as possible. Apparently there were some Ruffians causing trouble this morning. Best to get out of town before they cause more."
 

Verran

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Islas de Abaroa, 26th day of Zoi in the Season of Growing 1012 ADW.
11 Days after the fall of Thalia.
Port City of
Levitum

Jedica_country (2).jpg

Morning broke high and fast over the city. Cutting back the swirling fog and driving the sleeping gutter drunks to finally find their way home through the wooden planks and earth streets of Levitum. Up and down the struggled past cracked and pealed homes and warehouses. Up silent streets with closed curtains and dim or no lights inside and past moldy signs with peeling paint or a cracked board. As a mindless, scattered horde, they struggled their way into new alleys or into their own homes. Or pounded hopelessly on their doors, demanding and begging to be let in. There were two areas all avoided. Dark and imposing upon a cliff overlooking the port stood a remnant of the elder days. Brick walls of weather stained stone, save for where ivy took command, marked the fortress that housed the ruling pirate. All knew better than to ask for a scrap of charity from there. The other was the other stone building in the entire city. The temple, dedicated to the healing grace of the Church of Ages. No drunkard, even in the befuddlement of their mind, felt worthy to approach and pass its sacred columns, well-tended despite their age, and beg for blessings and forgiveness from vices they would turn back to as soon as the sun went down.

Eventually, silence would return to the city proper, with only the gulls softly calling out the morning as they soared over the chaotic twists and turns of roads that merged into and out of each other as if a river had reached an extensive delta that finally spilled out into the sea.

Not so down by the sea itself. Already, a smattering of people scurried up and down the docks. Calling, shouting, bickering, and debating as the fishers who woke at the crack of dawn moored themselves into port and began to offload their crates or nets of catch. A hodgepodge of tall mast vessels dominating the docks while small sloops and even dinghies, wedged their way between them. Already, the typical roar of relaxed anger pervaded through the docks of Levitum. Among such vessels, the captain slid his moderate caravel in between two massive galleys, shouting with a good-natured grin upon his face while securing the ships position in the docks and cursing out all around him.

For Rendan’s own part, he didn’t join in the violent cussing. Instead, he lounged on the deck, idly flipping through a book. It was one of Arell’s that he thought might hold some snippet of information that would be valuable. He didn’t doubt the kid, but he was looking forward to a good drink ashore. Sadly, drinking was the last thing on the orders from the captain’s to-do list. Instead, the merry crew would be fanning themselves out into the city and seeking any word as to the adventuring fleet. The captain had a solid hunch that, as with many things, some word of them would have washed up into Levitum. Which meant it was their job to find it. Frankly, Rendan wished he was simply below deck and making concoctions. There I go again, he thought, more like mother every day. Idly, he wondered if that was a good thing, but put the matter from his mind and returned to bemoaning the task at hand.

Still, he supposed there wasn’t much he could do to delay. He needed the job and didn’t want to risk finding one of less pay. Not now. Guess there’s nothing for it, he thought as he snapped the book shut and sprang to his feet, slinging his nodachi across his back. The deck creaked beneath his feet as he walked down from the poop deck. He took a deep breath. The salt and fish rushed to meet his senses. Sharp as the morning sun, the sea and shouts rocked him slightly. It was probably one of the few pleasant smells of the place. It didn’t remind him of home at all. Rendan yanked himself back to the present. “Oi! Arell!” he shouted, not knowing exactly where the lad was, “let’s get off this bucket and explore!”

“Watch what yer callin’ a bucket!”

“Sorry sir! Arell!”
 
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