Kaustir, Chapter 3

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  1. CHAPTER 3
    The Red Purge




    The gryphon's head was slick with blood.


    [​IMG]

    A body hit the ground. It was lifted up. A head snapped right. Blood ran again. The body crashed down.

    Lukesh circled his victim and seized him again by the collar, hauling up his face to torment. The Czar's fist made pulp of nose and jawline. His knuckles came back bloody. He tossed the man down a third time, then raised his foot to stomp.

    Along the wall of Zirako, where the Grey Tower battlements loomed above a magma vent, he stalked his crawling foe. His foot came down on spine and kneecap, and with each thud escape was thwarted. Behind them, on the sun-baked slabs of the promenade, a row of guards and ministers stood stoic. They looked only above each others shoulders. Practice had made perfect. They had learned to look the other way when the Burning Czar was in his rage.

    Lukesh kicked the man over and brought his fist down hard. His victim stopped crawling.

    The Czar straightened and opened his fist to look at the stone tablet held there. Its well-cut glyphs ran red with blood. He wiped his other hand and spat first words to the man below.

    "The tablet is a fake."



    * * * * *​



    "A fake?"

    Amalia sat up in bed and hugged her knees. Beneath rough Dorgrad blankets the general's ribs were bandaged and her grazes daubed with salve. The others stood or sat around her, some bedridden or bandaged like herself. They nursed the wounds of insect bites and poison stings. It was their third morning in the barracks, after nights of fever and exhaustion.

    Nils nodded. "The Guild of Geologists have confirmed it. A near-perfect replica, forged by conjuration magic. The glyphs were altered only slightly. Instead of west, they pointed east." He smirked, finding humour somewhere in this disaster. "The real Weapon is probably in the Prosperos Sea, as far from Avarath as Dorgrad itself."

    K'Jol polished his mantis blade trophy. "Whoever made the fake has just declared war on the Czar."

    On a bed beside him, Theo tentatively removed the splint from his leg and winced. "But I felt something... when I held the stone... It was real."

    "The conjuration," murmured Seiyr from behind a stack of paper. The engineer had turned her own bunk into a makeshift work desk, and for the last seventy hours poured over charts and reports. "The stone was of the same material and resonated with something. The fake tablet acted as a geomantic compass. It didn't lead to the Weapon, but it led to something like it... something touched by the divine."

    "The insect queen," mused Takeda. The East-Man had busied himself the last few days by helping the Ipari. They had gone through the quarters of Foreman Henvit together, and discovered the traitor's deranged journals. "Henvit's ravings spoke of her as a god."

    Another squad rushed past the barracks window, swords and armour clanking. For days Chambers Nine and Fifteen had been awash with activity. More troops were being called in to help explore the hive tunnels. A scattering of drones remained and Warden Bracht had both hands full with the systematic cleansing of the tunnels. The hive was half the size of Dorgrad, burrowed in tandem with the mineshafts, its every extent concealed by Henvit and his co-conspirators.

    "That bug was no god," Rakar grunted as Arania peeled a dressing from his newly healed chest.

    Seiyr glanced at Theo, a thought occurring. But she did not voice it.

    "Any luck with the conspirators?" Arania asked, but was met with Nils's shaking head.

    "Three other foreman have been arrested. But the ringleader was a Commissar. An Avian named Knox. He fled Dorgrad before the attack. The Ipari are hunting him now."

    Rakar stood and stretched his back. "The first of many hunts to come."



    * * * * *​



    Czar Lukesh closed his hand around the tablet and slammed his fist into the man once more. There had been a brief reprieve - a moment in which his victim offered explanations. He had been tricked. K'Larr had used an advent - convinced him the tablet was real. But when all was said and done, what mattered innocence? The loyalty of the mess beneath him was not in question. All things were theater. The blood that flecked the gryphon-head gargoyle was there for the people. The punishment enacted was there for the ministers and guards who witnessed it.

    The silhouette of a leader, and the one who had failed him, was only for the eyes of the desert. There so the cultists of the Insect Queen, the Draken revolutionaries who had burned Avarath, and the followers of K'Larr would know that vengeance had awoken.


    His victim stopped moving. Lukesh wiped his mouth and nose. His skin was already burning. Tossing the tablet away he cleared his throat and stared down at the man before him.

    "Lut Sar. I promote you to High Inquisitor of Kaustir. Find the men who wronged you. Find the men who betrayed me."

    A sword drew from his belt sheathe. Lukesh ran the narrow blade across his palm, slicing flesh and shedding blood. His fluid mixed with his fellow Nocturne's, blood to blood, pledge to pledge. It was the Kaustir way - an oath of wrath. He closed the fist and splashed more drops upon the battlements.

    "Death to our enemies."

    Then he turned and trod the bloody path back to his inner chambers, as the new day sun rose above the desert.

    [​IMG]

    The Red Purge had begun.​
     
    #1 Asmodeus, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014

  2. [​IMG]
    Nassad looked at Gwendolyn for a moment as he packed his things. He didn't know him, and he didn't like him. In fact he hated most Avians. They were just like birds, crows and sparrows, but they had knowledge. It bewildered Nassad as he thought about the Avian's physique. He felt compelled to subdue the creature then dissect it. Sure he had met Avians before, but he had never worked with one. Sadly, this emotion would not be fulfilled. Nassad finished his packing then readied the cart. Dograd, that was where he was heading. He needed to capture a miner named Theo. This was boring, he enjoyed his work but it was boring. Finding the lost souls out in the world who would soon be the meal of Czar. Sometimes he wished he had an abundance of corpses to examine. The body was the vessel for something greater than itself and Nassad knew that. He wanted to know every intricacy and mystery that the body had hidden within it. Nassad had this feeling from childhood.... Nassad paused his thought before going any deeper into his slightly dark past. "Gwendolyn grab the flay whips, it's going to be a long journey."
     
    #2 Eternalfire61, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  3. The next three days, messengers arrived and delivered their news straight to the bed ridden General.

    Rebellion in Avarath. Request aid.

    Czar Lukesh persecuting religious cults.

    Avarath merchants in uproar. Supplies running low.

    Your father told me the news. Congratulations! I can't wait to meet him.


    The feeling of dread suddenly turned to confusion. Amalia blinked and looked up at the messenger that brought her the last scrap of news.

    "What is this?"

    The messenger paused, looking confused as well. "A message, General."

    "Yes I know, but what is it about?"

    "I thought... I thought you would know General Lortik."

    "No I have no clue what this message is talking about." She groaned as her head pounded. "It sounds like it's from my mother."

    "Indeed it is," said the messenger, sweating slightly. "She looked pleased when she gave me the message."

    "Pleased?" She squinted, trying to find some sort of explanation for the note. "But what did she mean by 'him'? And congratulations? Congratulations for what?" She groaned at the mental exertion and shooed the messenger away. These questions could be dealt with at a later time.



    Amalia gathered her party around her bed, even Theo, looking grim and sore. In addition to the bandages on her ribs, the nurses wrapped more around her head. They said they healed the head wound, but the concussion would last for another day or so. Amalia wasn't worried to hear this. In fact, the general felt guilty for receiving such generous treatment when she hadn't even lifted a sword. The healers should have spent more time on the actual fighters than her.

    She laid the recent messages out on her bed for the others to read. Underneath the sheets, she rubbed a crystal for comfort, a souvenir of her first battle as general. The nurses said they found her gripping it when she was pulled from the rubble.

    "I'm sure you've heard the news. There is rebellion in Avarath and it's led by the draken." She did not glance at Rakar or K'jol. They had saved her and Dorgrad, and were innocent in her eyes. "The city's supplies are running low because of it and the generals there are requesting aid."

    Amalia fingered a lock of her black hair, frowning.

    "But there is also the missing Commissar. We didn't find the weapon, but we can at least get revenge."

    Her gaze was serious and hard. "I am going to the rebellion. If you wish to come with me, you can. If you wish to pursue the Commissar you have my permission, but you are to send me news if anything happens. Is that understood?"
     
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  4. "But Father . . ."

    "Enough Mahstrah! It is your duty as my daughter to do this!"


    I stared into my father's eyes, wanting to protest, but I could tell from that Look in his eyes that His mind was made. As much as I wanted to stay home with my family, It was clearly important. We stayed there silent, for what seemed like an eternity before The silence was finally broken.

    "Mah, darling Listen to me. This is a matter of dire importance. It involves the Czars Life." I could see the fear in his eye's, hear the worry in his voice. This was something that had to be done. But the fact that I was to be ripped from my home and sent to the Avarath all for the life of a man I'd never met. I could feel the trepidation in the back of my mind building and rising.

    "Then why can't you do it! Why Must I go!" The look my father gave me an almost disheartened look as he let out a deep sigh before placing his hands firmly on my shoulders. He looked me right in the eye, that fear, that pain, gone. The look in his eyes was a bound and determined one as he spoke.

    "If I were to leave it would cause suspicions. People would notice. This has to be an absolute secret. No one must know." Slowly I watched my father reach into his jacket and pull out a letter and a small amulet with the family sigil in the center before placing them into my hands saying "Listen close. You mustn't argue anymore. Just listen. Head to Avarath. In the silver district You'll find the Iron Blood Inn. When you get there ask the bartender to rent the basement room, and show him this amulet. He will take you to the informant. When you meet him, before anything you must confirm it is him. Simply ask him, When will the Iron run dry. If he is the correct man He will reply, When the sea overtakes the desert. From there hand him this letter. He'll give you very important documents. You mustn't read them. They only put you in more danger. Bring them straight home, and do not stop for anything. Do you understand."

    I couldn't bare the thought of leaving but If the Czar truly was in danger, it was my duty to do what I could to protect him. I stood there silently for a moment before nodding my head and stuffing the amulet and letter into my pocket. Looking Up at my father I forced a smile before saying "I'll leave at sundown, Let me get prepared for the journey." I forced one last smile before wrapping my arms around him saying "I'll See you in two weeks time."

    With that we Parted ways and I headed upstairs to my room to pack. I flew up the old sandstone staircase and ran straight to my room. As soon as I hit my door I through it open, and as soon as I was inside slammed it shut. Slowly I slumped against the door and slid down to the floor my chest heaving with every shaky breath I took. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes as the fear sank in. This was the first time I would ever leave the city. Leave my home. I was terrified. Slowly I brought My knee's to my chest and buried my face as I cried for the first time in month's.


    When I'd finally finished crying I climbed to my feet and grabbed my old knapsack filling it with clothes for the trip and a few other essentials. I then strapped my sword to my hip before wrapping a cloak around me folding my wings in to allow the cloak to cover them and hide them. I quickly made my way to the front door but as I was about to open it I stopped remembering what my father said. If he left it would make people to suspicious but if people visibly saw Me leave wouldn't they be just as suspicious? I thought for a moment before making my way to the back door and slipping out into the garden.

    As I stepped out into the old garden that's when I saw Carlial, The Anthro my father had hired to teach me how to fight with a sword. He was a large, wolf anthro with grey and white fur that undoubtedly made the heat unbearable at times. He was simply meditating in the garden next to a small pond, which was a luxury for most. Stepping closer I tapped him the shoulder startling him only partly. When He finally looked up at me with those sky blue eyes of his he loosened up a bit before saying.

    "Damn child. How many bloody times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that?"

    I chuckled softly at his humorous tone before glancing around the garden to make sure we were alone before kneeling down in front of him until we became eye level saying "Listen. I need your help, but no one can know about this. I need your help to protect me. I'm heading to Avarath alone, and I need you to come with me, no questions asked." Carlial sat there silently for a minute. Just thinking. Finally he stood and placed his hand on my head before saying

    "When do we leave?"

    Looking up at him I pulled a cloak out from my pack which I knew would fit him well enough and handed it to him saying "Now." I waited for him to put his cloak on before raising my hood to hide my face as did he. As we made our way out to the streets through the back exit, and started towards the gate. This was the beginning of my journey. It was up to me to get this information for the sake of the Czar
     
    #4 FurerDante, May 19, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2014
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  5. He lay there, in a pool of his own blood. The sun set, or his eyes fluttered shut; it was all the same to him.

    A pair of Wraiths flowed forward, covering him with a black cloak against the evening sun. They returned, with buckets of blood, and splashed them onto the cloak and around the ground.

    The evening sun threw its long shadows on the Grey tower. The ministers and guards had long since departed. The cloak began to dry out. The blood thickened on the ground in the dry air, but it shivered, and crawled towards the prone figure, drawing sharp angles towards his body. Towards his open and panting mouth.

    [​IMG]

    A resurrection ritual.

    Story of Nu
    [​IMG]

    She was allowed to live, in honour of how the Czar took his own bodyguards.

    The talismans were still sporadically confiscated. Writings were found nailed into back alley walls. Even though the source of rot was excised, it was too late. The rot had spread to several other wounds in Kaustir. The aftermath of his failure was not pleasant.


    This beating was the third one Luk- ... the Czar, had administered to him. He understood. The reasoning was indisputable. Still, he sat in silence at his desk, hands slowly balling into fists.

    [​IMG]

    The wood splintered as he hammered down with both fists. Only once. The desk creaked and groaned as he continued to press into the deformed fiber, deafening in the silent office, hands trembling with fury. Twin trails of blood ran from the corners of his mouth, his fangs goring his lip open.

    He closed his eyes and passed a hand down his face. The sigh was loud.

    All trace of emotion wiped away.

    Back to business.
     
    #5 unanun, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
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  6. Three Days Before
    [​IMG]

    Draegal crawled through one of the aqueduct tunnels, a group of Fire Foxes behind him. Each of them adorned a mask to prevent the spores from entering their lungs. The Forest Kin responsible for the poisoning the water had fled the minute the group had arrived at his house, they would have chased but the mere sight of his house stopped the group in their tracks. The man had turned his wife into a farm for the fungus, the body had been carved open and infected with the fungus, the infection blackened her skin and rotted her face.It wasn't until the body was set on fire, did the group realize that she was still alive, agonizing screams escaped her lips as she burned alive. With the help of Lut, the area was put under lockdown, forcing the Forest Kin into the aqueducts. Twenty-Six search groups were formed, Draegal was in group number fourteen.

    They had been down in the aqueducts for three hours when they found the body. The Forest Kin had been strung up, he was held up by what appeared to be scythes but in the styling of a mantis's claw. The scythes pierced the shoulders, the stomach, and the chest, with blood still flowing from the wounds. Draegal went up to the body and collected some of his blood in a vial, after that he left the rest to the fire foxes. After he left they soon went to work on cleaning up the aqueducts by burning any area infected by the fungus and the body along with it. When Draegal met and debriefed Lut on their findings, he was furious, the man had escaped the justice of Kaustir by dying and it angered Lut "He didn't deserve death, death is to good for him, he deserved to to be punished for the crimes he had committed to Kaustir." he said.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Present Day.



    He stood above the sand dune, the hot Dorogian sun pressed against his back. He had been running for so long, he just ran and ran and ran, they would be after him soon, he only had one hour after all. He looked up at the sky and stared at the little speck of white that took the name of cloud, its sole presence dotted the Kaustirian sky, no, it dotted the Dorogian sky the sun was messing with his head. He looked around him and saw nothing for miles around but sand and sky, his new home, maybe he would find an oasis before he died, the water would do him little but it would be a nice spot to die in. He decided to stop daydreaming and continue his escape from the king of his tribe, Lukesh or was it Draegal, no those name weren't right he had never met a soul who shared those names and yet they rang through his head, "It must be the sun" he thought. He needed to keep moving, dying out here was a much more pleasant thought than being caught by the huntsmen of his tribe. He took one step forward and the ground gave under him causing him to tumble down the large dune, hitting his head on a rock on the way down, knocking him unconscious.

    He awoke in a cave, a cave the flowed with water and was covered in gems, it was an underground oasis but he couldn't remember for the life of him how he got there. He patted himself down looking for his aux, and was surprised when he met the unyielding gaze of the owl, no the unyielding gaze of Skera his aux. He had forgotten his aux, albeit for a brief moment, it was a notion that scared him "How long was I in the direct sunlight." he questioned. He motioned Skera towards him and activated his aux, healing his wounds and restoring some of his energy. He then got up and began to wander around, the cave was well lit despite him being unable to find the entrance. After a few minutes of wandering he came across a room where every surface was covered with a gem of sorts, and in the middle of the room stood a Draken "Hello, who are you and where are we?" he called out. When the Draken didn't respond, he decided to get a little bit closer and as he approached the Draken turned around and it was him. He looked down at his hands, they lacked scales, he felt his hair, it was still there, he ran to one of the smoother gems and looked at his reflection and saw the same Nocturne he always saw, he was Darius Hakir, the fourth son of Piccero Hakir, Darius the blood scholar, he was not a Draken and yet every time he saw the Draken's face, he knew it was his. "WHO ARE YOU" he shouted "WHAT ARE YOU." The Draken pulled a book out of no where and began to walk towards him as smoke began to fill the room. Darius started to panic he tried to find the exit but it eluded him, he had been trapped. No matter where he ran the Draken got closer and closer, even Darius's aux seemed to be hiding from him. After a few minutes the room was filled with smoke and Darius could no longer breath, he fell to the floor and watched through hazy eyes as the Draken got closer and closer eventually being inches from his face, Darius was running out of energy, the Draken opened his mouth and smoke poured out clouding darius vision and bringing him into the void...

    Draegal woke up and started to cough "Smoke...SMOKE." he shouted before quickly running outside to see the fire, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw, the whole street was ablaze. Houses that held people he had known for several years were ablaze, and not a single person filled the streets. He stood there dumbfounded until he heard a scream emanate from one of the houses, the people were trapped inside. Draegal ran up to the house where the screams came from and knocked down the door. Smoke and flames filled the house but he could still hear the screams, he followed them up the stairs and came into a room where he saw a little girl and her mother in a room. "Please help my mommy." she cried. Her mother was trapped under a pile of burning debris. Draegal grabbed his aux and chugged a shot, feeling the strength surge to his legs, and kicked most of the debris off of the woman. Feeling his energy drain he grabbed the girl and the woman and rushed outside before promptly falling down. The last thing he saw before going unconscious was his home, the one of few not ablaze, and on his door was a large Draken scale.
     
    #6 Kriodine, May 20, 2014
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
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  7. They had been fighting in shifts for the past three days, trying to root out the last of the drones and eliminate the hive. The task was proving difficult, but at least they were winning. Rakar had sustained a few minor injuries, the most severe being a large gash across his chest. He had gotten careless on his last shift, and a drone managed to land a few blows, even managing to tear through his armor. Fortunately it wasn't too deep, and with Arania's aid and his natural healing ability, the wound quickly healed.

    He placed a hand on Arania's shoulder as he grunted while she removed the bandage. It was still tender under the skin. The hulking draken gave her a nod, thanking her for her assistance. Coros was sitting next to Rakar, looking between him and Arania, keeping an eye on what the young nocturn woman was doing with curiosity on his face. When it was done, Coros gave her a satisfied smile, and mimicked the nod that Rakar had given her.

    After standing, the General made her announcement. She intended to return to Avarath now? His expression was one of concern. However, he had not been asked for his opinion on the matter, and like a good soldier, did not question his superior's judgement. Instead, Coros leaped up onto Rakar's shoulder and gazed at Amalia as he spoke. The Aux's voice was much softer than Rakar's.

    "We were ordered to protect you, General. We will continue to do so until you say otherwise. The Wall remains at your command."

    There was a short pause, and both Coros and Rakar's gaze peeled away from Amalia.

    "And next time, we will not fail to keep you from harm..."

    The draken moved back towards his bunk, and began donning his armor. His breastplate had been repaired over night. He gave K'Jol a glance, wondering what the other draken would do. Perhaps Rakar wanted to see how K'Jol felt about the prospect of culling his own people.
     
    #7 Kino, May 20, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
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  8. The insect queen kept replying in the warriors mind. He would never forget what she looked like and her voice was ingrained into his ears "Petssss". His attention was called from the mental image and the General called the party to gather around her.

    Takeda read through the messages, the rebellion was most concerning to him. As an Imperial solider he swore to protect the citizens of Kaustir. "As your mentor and as an Imperial soldier I have an oath to uphold." he gripped his swords ready to leave right this moment. Then his stone face softened as he watched Amalia wince in pain when she tried to move. "No this won't due, in your current state you wouldn't survive the ride back to Avarath let a long a fight." Takeda protested. The swordsman snapped his fingers and Shibu flew in, landing on the General's right shoulder. "Ah Shibu have you come to wish the General well?" The Hawk put its head underneath Amalia's chin and nuzzled her. Takeda couldn't help but smile. Shibu raised her head to Amalia's ear and whispered "The master wishes one week before we depart to Avarath. It would give you time to recover and him time to teach you." her voice soft and kind. Takeda raised an eye brow to the bird as if saying "Do not get me in trouble." Shibu ignored him "The message from your mother.... Master says she is congratulating you because you are due to be wed." a happy tone in her voice. With lightening speed Takeda grabbed Shibu from the General and started for the barracks exit, blushing all the while. He stopped just before Rakar "Please meet me out side I have something I want to discuss with you." and kept on walking. Once outside he tossed Shibu into the air "Stupid bird!" he yelled as Shibu caught herself mid fall.
     
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  9. "Together. That's what has kept us strong, what's keeping us strong, and will keep us strong until the sun turns to ash." The elderly draken mixed the vials and crushed his herbs with mortar and pestle.

    The little draken sitting on the table looked with awe at the bigger one. "Uncle, what is the sun?"

    "The sun is what gives life. The sun gives light. The sun is what separates day from night, but we don't have that here. Everyone and thing is equal: even day and night are one and the same." Hak'tar poured the green powder into the vial, and a small puff of smoke floated up in the dank cave room.

    "Uncle, what are you making?"

    Hak'tar coughed and waved away the smoke. "This, H'kal," he turned and waved the vial to the young draken's face. "This is Drakefire. Our blood is of the dragon, and our breath is fire." H'kal puffed up and blew with all his might, but no fire came out. Hak'tar laughed. "No, no. In spirit, H'kal, in spirit. But with this, we can breathe as our blood did."

    "H'KAL!"

    The Enforcer turned, snapped out of his haze. He had taken a beating the past three days, and he was having trouble focusing. It was another Enforcer having trouble keeping the workers in line. They were angry and afraid, and the recent news of the rebellion only made it worse. They weren't supposed to know about it, but the messenger had told someone, and it spread like fire. He slithered to the unruly workers and whipped them.

    The mines were in havoc. Not only did some of the insects survived and raided their pantries, but some workers were causing riots. Small and manageable, but it could take a turn for the worse any moment. Together they had been strong, but soon they would divide, and strong they woukd no longer be.
     
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  10. DORGRAD MINER

    After the initial call from Amalia, Theo limped back from the group; shocked, as it seemed as though she was giving him a choice.

    Could he dare dream of traveling with these people somewhere? He'd never left the lower tunnels. He'd never seen the sun. He was born and raised underground.

    He tried to think of what it would be like to breathe fresh air into his lungs, to look up and see sky instead of rock, to feel the sun's warmth on his back and the heat from the sands under hoof and a sense of curious excitement grew alongside fear.

    Gaios flew up and hung upside down from one of his horns, looking him closely in the eye.

    "Poor Theo," Gaios whispered, "The one who always knows the way... doesn't. And this is why you follow."

    Theo swatted him away and sighed. Gaios was right. The reality was that regardless of what he might of wanted, he was a worker of Dorgrad - he still had to obey the rules of his superiors, unless someone instructed him specifically otherwise.

    And besides, they had only needed him for deciphering the tablet. Now it was established as a fake, what else could they need him for?

    He humbly limped forward as Takeda left, seeing it as his chance to get in, say his piece and leave without too much fuss. He faced the wounded General but did not meet her eye. "If you have no further need of me, ma'am, I will go and help rebuild below."
     
  11. North of Zirako
    And as Theo resigned himself to obscurity... two men planned his next adventure.

    In the bonescape north of Zirako, there were only corpses. The long dead giants of old - creatures not quite beyond imagining, for by the skeletons they left the mind could paint such pictures. Sand worms, dinosaurs, titans and kaiju. Their husks were all found here; and only here. As if they had come to this place to die while the Cataclysm raged. An animal graveyard. A mausoleum of myth.

    Not a place where a man should be whistling. Yet this is exactly what Gwendolyn did as he followed Nassad through the surreal terrain.

    They had not spoken, of course. Nassad hated Avians, and Gwendolyn hated slavers. But while the former had shown this in stoic silence, the latter was drawn to playfulness. He whistled his tune and pushed the cart behind Nassad, flat notes making music with the squeak of axles. It was a cage on wheels, large enough to contain the beast they were after. Right now it was packed with provisions and sleeping gear for the three day trek. Yet soon it would hold the minotaur Theo and bear him all the way back to the Grey Tower.

    The Anima was not their original target of course. They had been tasked to kidnap Khanaan Hardhoof of Hosia. But then the messenger had arrived with the Fake Tablet from Amalia's expedition, and everything had changed in the world of the Czar. Their list had doubled, along with the bounty. Now they had two bulls to tame.

    And they would spending twice as long in each others company.

    In his other hand, the whistling Avian toyed with one of Nassad's flay whips, twirling it in circles and dragging it on bones.

    "Why whips?"

    Nassad glanced at him while leading the way across a spine bridge. Below them, a massive canyon vanished into darkness. "Hmm?"

    "If we're kidnappers, why do we need whips?"

    "He's a Dorgrad miner. It's a language he'll understand." Nassad pulled the cart clear of the bridge and steered it on its way.

    "Sticks and carrots, my friend." Gwendolyn spread his wings and vaulted from the bridge to the canyon side, footsteps light on the jagged landscape. "If there's one thing I've learned from leading soldiers and mercenaries, it's this: Whips and chains soon grow old. Men get numb to it. But sweetness..." He gestured at Nassad with the whip, a wry small on his delicate features. "A warm bath, a roasted chicken and a whore's bosom..." He resumed his place pushing the cart. "...that breaks armies into double-time."

    Nassad swigged from his waterskin then checked his compass. The slaver's face was stone to his companions smile's. "Are you saying you'll dress up nice and lure Theo to the cage with kisses?"

    The Avian laughed it off, not rising to the jibe. Tossing the whip back inside the cart, he fished a bag of seeds from his belt and began eating. It was another quality that annoyed Nassad. Gwendolyn would not eat the meat they caught; not even the berries or cacti they found. Just those damned seeds. They stuck between his teeth when he smiled.

    "Those posters they put me on, after the Battle of Crayvik - remember those?" Nassad did not answer. Any man alive five years ago and living in the cities would remember this smug bastard's face on the victory banners. "They didn't put me on them because I was strong or magical or roooooared like a Draken..." His exaggerated vowels echoed through the boneyard. "They put me on them because I was subtle. I did things quietly, without people knowing that I did them, until I wanted them to know. That's what makes a real war hero."

    "And now you're the Czar's bitch and you betrayed your own people."

    Nassad's retort brought the Avian to silence. You could almost hear the Aviary falling on the other side of the world.

    Gwendolyn's stare burned into the slaver's back, but Nassad said simply: "See that? A blunt, unsubtle insult. Cracked like a whip, and left you in no doubt that you need to shut the fuck up."

    Nassad hauled the cart onwards, mounting the rise of the next bone pile. He could feel the Avian had given up pushing and lagged behind. The words had wounded. And Nassad was glad. The next few minutes passed in sweet, delightful silence until...

    "We're being played. You know that?"

    Nassad continued hauling the cart up the slope. "Oh really?"

    Gwendolyn landed on a boulder to his right, wings fluttering. He no longer smiled, but looked to his companion sternly. "You said it yourself, Nassad. Theo is a miner in Dorgrad. He is a citizen of Kaustir. If the Czar wanted him he could have just summoned him. Or had the army in Dorgrad deliver him." He vaulted to the next boulder. "Why the fuck is he sending two mercenaries to kidnap one of his own people?"

    The Avian had finally asked something worthwhile. And it was a question Nassad had no answer for.

    The slaver felt Gwendolyn's stare on him. He grunted, shifted the rope to his other shoulder, then forged ahead.

    "Get in the back and push, damn you. We need to make the Worm Caves by nightfall.
     
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  12. [​IMG]

    K'Jol was silent for a moment, not replying to anyone's words after hearing about the Draken rebellion happening in Kaustir. What would make his people suddenly break out and start a revolution in the merchant city? His hands balled into fists as he looked up and down Rakar. He did not even react to the statement about their people or even try to defend them. A loud sigh left his lips before he punched both fists into the wall, a grim expression coming over his facial features. U'Sil slithered across his back as he looked back to the group.

    "There is no way in hell that I am going to look for the Commissar. You think that you can just shrug me off when you hit me with news like that? Hear me again... no way in hell! I will find out why my people are doing this and stop the matter as soon as possible. Dragons have already left this plane and we don't need the armies of Kaustir expunging their descendants."

    K'Jol knew that no one else would understand him except Rakar. They were both men of the same race, and in his mind it would be up to them to fix the pending issue before it escalated any further.

     
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  13. ARANIA VELKA

    It had been a, mildly speaking, harsh three days for Arania. Soldier after soldier had come in injured, and since the inhabitants was not that familiar with war-related injuries, she had to take care of most of the healing. She had been scrambling from bed to bed for three days straight, and was now only good for changing bandages, giving medicin and applying a cold or warm towel here or there. When she was done with her daily round, she plopped onto her bed, trying to gather her energy.

    She had just been at Rakar's bed to change his bandages, and had been a bit anxious at Coros constantly staring down her neck, but it was fine. She had been able to keep her calm during it, and Coros had seemed satisfied.

    "I agree with Rakar. I'm planning to follow you, as well, General." Arania said as she changed a bandage around her own head, having not gotten together much to treat herself after the explosion in the mines. She hadn't been severely injured, and thought to not make too much of a deal out of her injuries.

    "But I doubt it will be easy for me to just walk around. Even if I am not part of the richer areas of Avarath that has been attacked, fact remains that I'm a Nocturne, and that seems their target, does it not?" Her gaze shifted to K'Jol, and she caught hold of her hair, pulling it behind her shoulders as she eyed the Draken.

    "Do you have any leads as to why the Drakens are doing this, well aware that it'll only be death in the end if they continue down this path?" She asked, only meaning to find a way to understand this situation. Maybe if they did that, they could do something to help it. She did not have anything in particular against Drakens, hell, she'd been saved time and time again by all kinds of different races. There was no reason for her to start hating someone now.

    Once again, she found herself wishing for peace. But as long as this went on and on, there would be none of such thing. Why did people have to fight each other like this? Even if she understood the grief, the greed and the anger, it was no reason for killing each other. There had to be a way to solve it..

    But it was not in her hands. For all she knew, Drakens probably hated her. In this case, there was no saying what side they'd be on, despite Amalia being the General of Kaustir. No, there seemed to be more factors in this, it couldn't just be black and white. Arania's fingers clenched around the sheets behind her, so no one saw. Her thoughts had taken over, but it took her mere moments to focus back on K'Jol, her gaze steady and unwavering. She was sure that this would not just be any kind of rebellion.
     

  14. As we made our way out into the busy streets of the upper districts I felt a large hand grip my arm and spin me on my heel. When I looked Up I saw Carlial giving me his signature look. It was the same look when I failed to comprehend one of his lessons, Or when I stayed out to late with friends and father had him track me down. This time howver, I wasn't sure why he was giving me that look. I opened my mouth to speak but he quickly raised his hand saying

    "Hush child. I do not know why, and you don't have to tell me. But you are traveling along distance with only me to protect you. If this matter is truly as dire as you say it is, then wouldn't it be wiser to inquire about some extra hands on this journey. Anyone skilled with a blade. I made an oath to always protect you, and I will do my best, But this will be a perilous journey and I alone can't ensure your safety." I looked up into those blue eyes of his and Now I realized he wasn't disappointed, no this was a far different Look. He was worried. My shoulders sank and let out a deep sigh before saying

    "I know that this will be a dangerous journey. But what Can I do? I know no one else beside you and the city guards who have actually killed people or left the city, and I can't just ask the city watch to escort me to Avarath!" I watched him chuckle silently to himself and for a moment I wanted to punch him in his stomach.

    "I believe I can come in handy there. I still have some old friends in the military. I might be able to get you the help we need. If Your willing to trust me on this one." Looking up at him I gave him a half hearted smile before saying reluctantly.

    "What Did you have in mind?"
     
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  15. Tensions were high in the barracks, with talk of the rebellion taking center stage. Rakar caught K'Jol looking him up and down as he glanced towards him. Then he got what he was looking for from his fellow draken. He listened to all that was said while putting on his armor, keeping his gaze on his task, though Coros had no problem with watching the conversation intently from his spot on the bed.

    It was clear that K'Jol had a fair amount of pride as a draken, the way he spoke of wanting to stop the rebellion and save "his people." Then he brought up their dragon lineage. It was enough to give Rakar pause. With those remarks, K'Jol had given Rakar all the information he could have wanted, and he was not pleased. At the moment, he was beginning to like the nocturn healer more than the famed draken warrior.

    And then came Arania's voice, addressing K'Jol. Why would they do this? He had no answer for that. It was peculiar that only draken seemed to be involved, at least for the moment. However, it didn't matter. Short of some kind of mind control, those who rebelled, draken or not, made their choice. Maybe they had good reasons, but the fact that he shared the same race as them made no difference. They alone were not "his people."

    Through all of the conversation, Rakar maintained a somber expression, and spoke not a word, nor did Coros. The sound of his heavy footsteps on the wooden floor of the barracks as he stepped to the door was the only reply he gave. Coros leaped onto his shoulder. Once outside, he closed the door behind him and gave a small sigh as he took a moment to clear his head. Then he looked to Takeda, and Coros spoke.

    "You wanted to see us?"


     


  16. recomposed himself, the last few nights were filled with less sleep then he would have liked. Rakar came out to greet him "You wanted to see us?" The swordsman turned "Yes, I fear that the General will move out to "save" her people." he said with a little disdain in his voice. He began pacing back and forth something was clearly wrong "I asked for one weeks time before we leave so that you and I could teach her the proper way to fight, but I don't think we will have that time." his speech quickened and grew more frantic. "She doesn't realize that if she doesn't know how to fight then she can't SAVE anyone!" Agitated and worried, this was so unlike Takeda? "She doesn't have the training nor does she have, let alone know how to use, a weapon!" Takeda roared. "Amalia is going to die and its going to be my fault because I wasn't there to protect her!" The swordsmen was ranting at this point "Akia died because I wasn't there to protect her!" he screamed anger burning in his eyes. It took him a few moments to realize what he had said, and when he did he turned his back to Rakar and gripped the bridge of his nose. *Deep breath in* *Deep breath out* "Forgive me Rakar, a lack of sleep has taken its toll." he said calmly. "We will have to teach the General when this mess is done with, until then we must protect her with our lives." he looked back at Rakar stoned faced. "In the mean time I look forward to getting to know you." he smiled. Takeda's attention was turned to one of the miners walking by "You there!" he commanded. The miner stopped and point to himself, Takeda nodded. The miner cautiously walked over to Takeda and gave a slight bow. "Tell me who is the finest black smith that you know?" his eyes pierced through the miner. The worker gave pause nervously fidgeting in place. "Out with it!" Takeda shouted. "Th that would be Vrein of Pegulis, s sir!" the miner belted out. The swordsman shot the miner a sharp glance and walked up to him "You think thats funny, maybe some sort of Dorgard miner humor? Well I'm not laughing." he spoke threw his teeth. The miner laughed as if it were joke "Only kidding sir... I will send word to one of our greatest smiths." Takeda backed off "See to it that you do." his voice low. "Pegulis eh?" Takeda stroked his mustache. "Messenger!" he called. A scribe quickly appeared behind him "Take this down 'Dear Vrein of Pegulis, if you are indeed a real person and not just some poor joke made up by one of the locals write me back I may have a job for you. TS of Kaustir.' Give this message priority 1 express delivery. Use as many army relays as you must, I want this letter delivered in a weeks time." with that he sent the messenger off.
     
    #16 Tone 6th, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 22, 2014
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  17. Now she was thoroughly confused and torn. A wedding? Amalia wasn't even with someone, why would there be a wedding? Perhaps her mother's condition was worsening and it was giving her delusions. Although that thought made Amalia cringe. Her mother would like to see Amalia settle down. Rhia always said her daughter worked too hard, and would like to see Amalia home every once in a while. Truth was Amalia was avoiding them, specifically her father.

    She looked up from her thoughts to see a forlorn and limping Theo.

    "You're welcome to come with us, if you'd like. I'll let your superiors know, even if they do disagree."

    Seeing the harshness of Dorgrad, and the way the workers were treated made Amalia's heart ache. She couldn't help all of the workers and slaves, but she could at least aid Theo. Thinking about him seeing and feeling the sun upon his back brought a small, timid smile to Amalia's face. Matil purred in approval.

    She listened intently to K'jol, hearing his passion and rage behind his words. Amalia clearly understood his anger, and she too wanted to know what the reason behind the rebellion was. She clenched the crystal in her hand, deciding between staying for the full week in Dorgrad, or heading to Avarath right away.

    Her thoughts were broken by the loud voice that was unmistakably Takeda behind the closed door. She smiled wistfully at Arania, wondering if the healer wanted her stay put as well. The general was truly touched at how much her party cared and were willing to follow her.

    "No I think we're all in the dark about this rebellion, although I have my hunches. All the more reason to leave though." She frowned, glancing at the door. "I won't stay for the full week he's asked for. More than likely three days is all I will accept."

    With that decided, Amalia's thoughts drifted back to her mother's message. It left tight knots in her stomach.

    "I'll have to leave for Zirako as soon as this rebellion is taken care of."



    IN AVARATH The rioters chased Tamaa away from her home three days ago when she was lounging in her gold covered bed. Surrounded by her takings over the past few years, and the gems she swiped from uncooperative citizens, Tamaa was in heaven. There were gold coins, gold flecks, gold bars, and even gold pieces, with smatterings of amethyst, amber, jade, and dragonstone. Like a bubble bath that a human would give themselves on occasion, this was the reward Tamaa gave herself when she had a long day. But unlike a bubble bath, she would lounge with her treasure until its intoxicating scent lulled her to a deep and restful slumber.

    "HOW DARE HER KIND BLOW UP MY SHOP!"

    "INNOCENT PEOPLE WERE HURT BECAUSE OF THEM!"

    "SHE'S RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR SUFFERING! With all the money she stole from us, she deserves a skinning!"

    The sound of loud, angry voices outside her home had Tamaa awake, bolting her door shut. The draken spent very little money to improve her home, preferring to have her gold instead of reinforced walls, or fine furniture. She heard of the draken rebellion that day, but figured the guards would have taken care of it.

    Yet the citizens were outside her door, proving her wrong. She didn't think her door was going to last under the incessant pounding, and at that moment she was actually filled with regret for taking so much from the poor. Not that she cared for their suffering, she was far more concerned with the fury she caused.

    She grabbed her trusty sack, shoveling in her gold bars and pieces into it. The coins and flecks smelled fine, but they weren't as pure or natural as the bars or chunks. She wanted to save those most of all.

    The door was cracking, allowing Tamaa a distressing view of the rioters. Now was the perfect time to escape.

    "I'll be on my way now," she said cheerfully, opening her window and jumping. She fed the mayor some of her earnings in recent years, maybe Gulzar would provide her with some protection from the rioters.
     
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  18. Avarath - The Mayor's Office, brown

    Three days had passed since the Draken Rebellion had spread like wildfire over Avarath. The first day was hell, but the frequency of conflict has decreased. The rebels keep attacking in small packs. Either by throwing ferocious fireballs or conducting sneak attacks. Nocturnes seem to be number one target, ethnic cleansing is on the agenda.

    ***

    "I would not be surprised if I were to be told you're in on this yourself, Mayor!" A lion anima roars.

    "Why?!" Gulzar Ganguly retorts. "Why would I go along with my own city being set on fire?! Have my citizens experience their worst nightmares!? Men, women and children burning alive, crying and screaming over their lost loved ones?!"

    The Mayor downs a shot glass of kreshnik.

    "I might be a calculative player – I'll give you that - but I am not that shrewd! I'm a merchant myself, remember? Why would I support an uprising that excludes so many?!"

    Chief General Kirtin of the Avarath Defence Army paces back and forth grumbling. He too takes a shot of kreshnik.

    "K'larr..."

    Gulzar interrupts.

    "Why would he possibly want this?! He has invested more money into this city than anyone else!" Gulzar turns around, he pours them both another round. "It just doesn't make any sense." They both drink up instantly, the recent events have been hard on the nerves.

    "K'Jol..."

    "Maybe..."

    Kirtin puts down his glass on the table. They are in the Mayor's office. Gulzar is a draken of great size, but this anima is greater. His figure commands respect.

    A hundred men are stationed outside the building. The city guards try their best to keep the streets under control. Civilians are either hiding in their homes or they have taken refuge in the desert or to the Prosperos Sea.

    "This would have never happened in Dorgrad or Zirako, Mayor. You and your merchant friends have let this farce go on for too long. This individual freedom that you have given the people...it's ludicrous! Society is at it's best when it serves its master. He Who Shines Upon Us All knows what is best. He will bring us to glory! I will not allow your rule to go on like this! I will recruit more guards....We will be making some changes. The Emperor will be pleased."

    Kirtin is a man of Zirako.

    "For fucks sake, Mayor! They burned a school full of kids, stabbed those who tried to get away."

    A school exclusive to nocturne children.

    They were cut off by a sudden knock on the door. A messenger bursts in.

    "We've got him, General! Zarathustra has been captured!"

    The General is about to leave without a word, but turns and looks at Gulzar in the doorway.

    "I would not want to be in your shoes when Zirako hears of this, Mayor!" He slams the door behind him.

    ***

    In another part of town, in the midst of a city square. A group of couriers disperse in different directions. They are distributing fliers to be hanged all over town.


    There is a bounty on a familiar head – "K'JOL - THE FAMOUS DRAKEN WARRIOR - WANTED ALIVE BY THE MAYOR OF AVARATH - UNDER SUSPICION OF BEING TREACHEROUS REBEL"
     
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  19. Carefully, for her ribs ached and her head pounded, Amalia slid from her bed and walked to the door. She knocked politely, opened it, and cleared her throat. Her back was as stiff as she could make it without puncturing her lungs, and her face as hard as the rock surrounding them.

    "I've decided to stay for three days, starting tomorrow. And no you cannot argue with me on this. I'm standing firm on this decision. Avarath is in trouble and as general I need to be there."

    Matil meowed loudly in agreement, hiding behind Amalia's legs.

    "That being said, I request that both of you teach me the art of sword fighting. If I'm going to be useful in this rebellion, I'll need to know how to defend myself. That is all. At ease."

    The general nodded rigidly, and without waiting for a response she closed the door on both Takeda and Rakar. The strict and calm composure evaporated as Amalia crawled back under the sheets. She looked guilty, glancing sidelong at Arania and Seiyr. Once again she cleared her throat.

    "... I wasn't too harsh on them was I?"
     
    #19 Zen, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014


  20. Takeda was just about to head back inside the barracks when Amalia stepped out, he straightened. He told them of her plan and her request to be taught the way of the sword. Takeda's eyes lit up "It would be an honor to teach you the art of the sword General." He bowed to her as she left the two of them. "Well my friend we have three days to teach swordsmanship to someone who has never even drawn a blade, with will be fun." he chuckled facing Rakar. A yawn found its way out of Takeda's throat "I am going to turn in for the night, we start early tomorrow I suggest you do the same." an odd happiness could be heard in his voice. He opened the door to the barracks and made his way to the resting quarters. He stopped just at the foot of Amalia's bed "These next three days will not be easy on you. Your body will be pushed to its breaking point and there will be pain, but endure it and like a lump of coal you will become a diamond." he said quietly. "I'm proud of you Amalia." he whispered so she would just be able to make out what he said. He moved a few beds down placed his armor near his bed, swords on the resting on the wall, and cloths folded nicely for the next day. The crawled into bed and waited for the sweet embrace of sleep.
     
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