PatchWorld: Vanguard

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Aero Blue

he hears his master's voice
Original poster
Posting Speed
One post per week
Online Availability
5-11 EST weekdays, anytime weekends.
Writing Levels
Give-No-Fucks, Adept, Advanced, Douche, Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
, Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Superhero, urban fantasy, space opera, crime thriller, supernatural

They will, inevitably, pay the price for their new world.

Altera was only a game. An infinite machine of crunched numbers, an ever-unfurling scroll of binary and hexadecimal mantra turned into something greater than the sum of its parts - but still a game. A world unto itself, vibrant and multi-colored, but a false world. Not life, but faux-life. The Remnants, imitation mountains to marvel at; the Deadwaste, a macabre horror of our own creation, our own sadistic indulgence. Simulations, microcosms… macrocosms, at best, highly sophisticated trophies of our vanity, at worst.

But, for one instance in our long history, we were perhaps as good, as smart, as brilliant as we thought we were; if, indeed, it is to believed that Altera is real. Nonetheless, we are stranded, and for the first time in this faux-world, I feel thirst, and hunger, and fear. Some of our number are missing, felled by constructs of the world, vanished into wisps of nothing.

So if, on your journey, you should come across gods...

We are surrounded, on all fronts, by terrible beasts of our own creation, behemoths, colossi, and leviathans. To our West are the warring clans of the Remnants, to our North the treacherous forests of the Xo, and to our East, the rotting earth of the Deadwaste. Beyond all that, the winds howl, and thunder sounds as if death sentences - wrath of gods we created and instilled with our own programming.

The best and brightest among us set forth to carve a way out of our self-made predicament. Men and women from all walks of life, donning false faces and false armor to fight for our survival. They are the thousand yard spear into darkness, our shield against the predators, and our Vanguard.

... strike them down.

 

Aero Blue

he hears his master's voice
Original poster
Posting Speed
One post per week
Online Availability
5-11 EST weekdays, anytime weekends.
Writing Levels
Give-No-Fucks, Adept, Advanced, Douche, Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
, Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Superhero, urban fantasy, space opera, crime thriller, supernatural
The Shield-Tower overlooked the entirety of Thyrvald, the ivory perch of the King that shadowed those below. There was a towering sort of vanity to that, but intelligent design as well - from north to south, and east to west, the Queen could gleam the state of her people, feel the pulse of her lands. Those were the typical subtexts that came attached with the symbol of the ‘High-Tower’, a man in red noted, regarding Queen Waneya as she stood upon the balcony.

The kingdom of Thyrvald bustled, the cries and yells of children and merchants alike bestowing a certain vibrato. The city pulsated - throbbed - louder and quieter at some spots, flickering and waning. Hunters and fishermen, sculptors and painters, purveyors of trinkets and herbal remedies jostled for position in the mercantile hub, desperate for a place to sell their wares. All along the streets of Bedlamville, mists of poultices, shattered and thrown, interspersed with bolts of stray spells; the rivalries of the Mage Guilds never ceased.

The Rose District was always quieter, as the nobles went about their day, haughty and graceful in equal measure. Quieter still were the various pauper streets - one could make out the various specks scurrying and disappearing into the sewerways, the so-called ‘Kingdom-Below’.

“Before you leave, Red One. Tell me again,” The Queen wistfully spoke, “about your homeland.”

“It’s a far-off land, my Queen, far beyond the Sea, and the Kingdoms before it, hidden behind yet another ocean still.” the man in red replied, slight smile upon his face, “Men and women walk beneath the shadows of giants made from glass and steel. Birds and eagles of iron-make soar over top of them, the size of dragons, with their own thunderous roar. And the food is cooked with far more butter.”

The Queen’s laughter was just another intoxicating reason to stay, gentle and sweet.

“It sounds wondrous, Red One.”

“It is, though few of my kind see the wonder in it, I’m afraid. Always sensing something greater on the far sides of the world. A common trait, I’m afraid.”

The man in red leaning over the edge of the Shield-Tower and looked upon the Kingdom of Thyrvald. He remained silent, for a time.

“When will I see you again, old friend?”

He offered a simple shrug, before hurtling over the balcony. His form disappeared immediately, replaced by a shimmering humanoid mass of clashing winds, diving towards the Kingdom.

===

He reconstituted into red linens and flesh, the rending winds of the shifting maelstrom folding back into place and form. Boots of dark feather were the last to reconstruct, completing as he finished his descent with practised timing. The scent of horse manure and shoe leather permeated the air, and that brought a smile to his face. Men and women, lithe and lean, tended to mares and stallions of the inner-city stable. They were the Couriers, and ‘no one within this good world could deliver a message as fast as they could’. Wrong, strictly speaking, although the confidence was an endearing touch.

“Celes,” He intoned, “I come bearing gifts.”

The courier that answered his call was a tallish lady of wispy, golden hair, features more handsome than fair - square jawed, and with a patch of grey linen concealing the ruin of her left eye. She looked up quizzically, her hands absent-mindedly tending to her cobbling work. “You again, Red One. We seldom see fancy-nancy folk of your ilk even the once, let alone twice.”

The game of Altera had foregone the typical friends-list, direct chat application, believing it to be heavily immersion-breaking. Certain magics and abilities existed that allowed for uncanny degrees of long-range communication, able to pick out a single figure from a crowd miles away; long-range motes of light that burst into flashing letters, messenger birds of otherworldly speed sent from the hands of Shamans, or sets of brooches that would point at one another and pulse, inexpensive purchases for bands of friends and burgeoning raid parties.

“Just doing my part to fuel the Thyrvald economy,” He offered a wry smile, allowing it to linger. He extended a gloved hand, and clicked thumb and index finger against one another. A letter of pristine papyrus appeared, caught firmly between each digit. Another click - and it vanished. A third one, and a veritable stack of them came into existence. “Expediency, please. Same rate as before.”

That brought a smile to her face, as Celes accepted the stack of parchment. “Wonderful. Everyone!; we’ve a job!”

Celes leapt to, unleashing a mightily shrill whistle, grinning as she was answered by the hollerings of fellow couriers, and the neighing of steeds and stallions. She unfurled the stack into a fan-like arrangement, pantomiming as if a fair lady in the summer heat desperate for reprieve. Her arm thrust suddenly towards the sky, launching the slivers of papyrus.

The stack dispersed as they reached their zenith and remained, floating sheets of white that rearranged themselves into snowflake fractals.

Celes brought her arm downwards, and each letter shot out as if an arrow, searching for a courier. The men and women of the stables hopped to, deftly catching each papyrus projectile with a certain aplomb, a panache, with hands, with feet, with teeth.

They dashed outwards into the streets, leather boots bounding off the side of walls in showy feats of athleticism, and galloping horses that navigated crowds of street-goers with unerring coordination.

“This vanguard of yours must be of some mighty importance, Red One.”

Worldly importance.
 

Eon

Third Rate Duelist With a Fourth Rate Deck
Invitation Status
Look for groups, Looking for partners
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Multiple posts per day, One post per day
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What is time? How can time be real, if our eyes aren't real?
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Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
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Male, Female, Transgender, Futanari, Primarily Prefer Male
Genres
I can't say. It's like picking a favorite child.
David Gallant and his friends had decided that it was time for a change a few months before Altera was released, having bought into the hype surrounding the fantasy game like so many others. They'd said their goodbyes to the people who didn't feel like switching over, and together, him and a mere handful of the massive group set out to take a stab at a brand new environment. Plus, it wasn't like they couldn't switch back if they didn't like it. Somewhere in the vast cosmos, David was sure that something had laughed when he'd said those very same words out loud. Okay, he wasn't that sure, but he liked to think that he there was some sort of entity capable of appreciating the irony of that, setting aside the greater questions that such an existence would force him to think about. Not now, not when he had other, more important things to occupy his thoughts.

They'd all been so happy just a few short days ago. Everyone getting together and enjoying the thrill of discovering all the secrets that were hidden in a world like this. Shouting and cursing at each other in that way that people did when they were surrounded by kindred spirits. Unspoken, unacknowledged, the Spellbinders were friends in the way that people rarely were in the real world. They'd all felt that same pull, to experience something beyond the monotony of everyday life and seek out something more thrilling. While he hadn't seen anyone outside of his crew since the game became real, he doubted that most people took it as well as his group did. That wasn't to say that he and his friends weren't shaken by what happened. The suddenness of watching someone you knew get murdered mere hours after arguing with them about something as inconsequential as a faction name in a video game wasn't the sort of thing that one just shrugged off. Some of them were haunted by the experience, miserable at the thought that the last thing they'd said to a close friend was an insult, regardless of how little they might have meant it. Not all of them were willing to let circumstances get the better of them. In fact, few gave in to fear, realizing that the only hope they had in this world was to grow stronger, if they wanted to live long enough to find a way out. Even still, everyone was shaken to at least some degree.

Everyone except for one.

David had thought that this would bother him more, the idea that he lived or died by the rules of such a dangerous place as Altera should have freaked him out. But it didn't. He'd watched a man get torn in half by a giant with his own two eyes, and after it was all over, he didn't feel much of anything more than the appropriate amount of sadness that one would feel knowing that an acquaintance had met a bitter end. Had he truly become so desensitized, or had he always been this way, and never been provided with the opportunity to find out? Perhaps his mother had been right. All those years playing "inappropriate" video games as a teenager might have really done some damage. But even if they had, shouldn't he at least be afraid? Most people would be terrified of a world where giant worm-monsters could burrow up out of the ground and swallow you whole, right? But, in truth, this was the sort of life he'd always wanted. He hated the monotony of day to day life in the real world. The grey haze that blurred one day into the next in a repeating cycle of sameness wasn't present here. Each day was different, presenting new challenges to be overcome and new experiences to...experience. If the cost of that life meant that he might die, it was a price that David Gallant would happily pay.

But, looking over at his Spellbinders from where he sat, some distance away on one of their fortress's many benches, he knew that they didn't feel the same way. They'd been scared, and turned to him as the de facto source of leadership in this crisis. His relieved acceptance of this new reality had rubbed off on those who had chosen to follow him to some extent, but it wasn't their real feelings. Surely, something must have been wrong with him if this was the world he wanted to live in, that terrified others so. But, pushing himself to his feet, he knew that he didn't care. It's not like he was hurting anyone, right? It was just that, when everyone else left Altera (assuming it was possible to do so) David would rather stay behind, if he could.

He stretched out his arms, pushing them to the furthest lengths they could reach before leaning backwards, hands on his lower spine with the intent of stretching it. It crackled with the motion, and David gave the satisfied moan that people made when they stretched out.

Or, Byron made it. That was the name that he'd given this body when he'd made it.

Byron made his way to the outer wall in long-legged strides. He'd been such a clutz his first day in the game, his real life body had been much different from this one. This one was built like a mountain, strong and tall and heavy, as opposed to his more normal other body. He'd gotten used to the difference quickly, and now he moved with the same natural grace as he did in normal life, though perhaps with a bit of stiffness that could be caught by those with sharper eyes. His footsteps clanged audibly against the stone, ringing in his ears with an unmistakable sound. His strides, long though they were, didn't seem to be carrying him as quickly as they should. Byron still had his Mountain Waltz on from his earlier time outside, helping to grind low-level creatures with a few of his weaker guildmates. Stopping, he brought a fist down in front of his face, taking in a deep breath before flicking his hand to his side with his exhale, deactivating the ability with a combination of will and physical motion. Now, his steps moved him at the expected pace, allowing him to move briskly to the outer wall of the rather appropriately named Fort Spellbinder.

A proper castle, with a fat tower growing up out of each of the four corners, and a large central one that rose up out of an even larger keep, it was square and sturdy, set upon a veritable island of stone and metal. Just yesterday, it had walked around on eight great legs made from rune-covered bronze, but that was no more. After the game had been made real, none of the Spellbinders could figure out how to activate the premium account rewards that allowed them to animate the castle, allowed it to walk like a spider across the land. Climbing up a set of stairs to reach the top of the battlements, Byron looked down at the blasted landscape that he and his followers had made their home. On the border of the game's most dangerous zone, it had seemed like a great place when the game was just that. It would have allowed them easy access to the high-level content, where the really exciting stuff normally was. Now though, it just meant that they had to constantly worry about the ultra-lethal monsters that were less than a day's walk away coming and killing them all during the night.

One of his guild members shouted down from a corner tower. "Hey, boss! Somebody's coming to visit us on horseback!" The rough tones of an orcish voice called out from the guard tower. Byron was pretty sure that they had a different name here in Altera, something more unique to this world, but he didn't remember it. They'd be orcs in any other fantasy setting, they were orcs in Spellbound Online (the last MMO he got really into, where the Spellbinders had taken their name from) and they were orcs in his head. Byron gave a thumbs-up to the man on the tower before turning to call down to a few of his comrades in the courtyard, "One of you lazy bums earn your keep and open up that main gate, yeah?!" He yelled, laughter coloring his voice with a bright friendliness. Two voices answered him in unison, with a third slightly off-timed as they went to go and open the gate, "You don't pay us at all, you cheapskate!" The response was accompanied by shaking fists, even from those who couldn't be bothered to yell back at him. Byron himself hopped over the back end of the battlements, landing in the courtyard with a powerful thud. The fall-damage hurt, but nowhere near what having dropped off that height in real life would have. More just a dull ache in his legs that would soon fade.

In some ways, this world really was still just a game. Byron moved to the main gate of the castle, waiting patiently as two Spellbinders wound the impressive hand-crank, raising the great portcullis. "You guys don't need a hand with that, right?" He asked, sending his hands towards pockets that weren't there. Plate mail didn't usually have pockets.

"No, we've got it. You think somebody's getting back from scouting?" One of the gate-raisers asked, prompting Byron to shake his head.

"No, it looks like a courier," Byron said as the portcullis locked open, and the messenger stepped through the gate.

"I've got a message for you. Someone paid good money for me to give you this letter, sir," she said, pulling a letter out from a small pouch at the waste that was clearly too small to hold it. Byron nodded in response to the canned dialogue line, taking the letter and opening it. He frowned, glancing over at the courier who delivered the letter, but she was already leaving.

"Well, this is suspicious as all hell," Byron said crumpling up the letter and tossing it over his shoulder and into his inventory. "Does anybody have any idea where 'Bedlamville' even is?" Byron turned to the sparse handful of Spellbinders that were in the castle courtyard, most of which who shrugged, except for the orc on the tower who'd told him of the coming rider.

"Where what is?" The watchman yelled, prompting his leader to respond.

"Bedlamville!" Byron yelled back, cupping his hands around his mouth.

The response came down from the tower, shouted over the battlements. "That's somewhere near Thryvald, I think!"

Byron groaned slightly. That was quite the trip to make. He should have hitched a ride on the back of the courier, since their horses were so much faster than normal PC mounts. "I'm going to go ring the big bell," he grumbled, marching towards the keep in the center of the castle, cutting across the courtyard grass. He couldn't remember anything about a "Man in Red." Admittedly, he'd always been a bit forgetful, but still. If this was about Vanguard, why couldn't the letter say so?

How hard could it have been to write "Hello, members of vanguard. Please come to this spot so we can talk in person," and just send that out with a marked map? Byron's thoughts rushed through his head as he made his way to a large bronze bell, intending to call a meeting among his guild so that he could inform them all that he'd be leaving for a while. Long, likely uncomfortable journey or no, he'd promised to contribute to this "vanguard" deal, and he'd always been a man of his word. His group took the news as well as could be expected. They'd be losing their biggest gun, and the reassuring presence that Byron had on the group in exchange for more information as to what was happening. Where they were now, they were too far from any of the major player groups to get the news as it came in, and were almost completely reliant on what they could glean for themselves, which wasn't nearly enough to go on. There was talk of sending a group along of Spellbinders along with their leader, but Byron shot it down. He was the only one who had made the trek out here without dying when it was just a game, and to ask anyone else to risk their lives for his promises was wrong. Besides, if there was one thing that a high-level conjurer would never be, it was alone.

He would set out first thing in the morning. There was a pretty easy straight line between here and where they found Bedlamville on the map. Byron remembered it a little now. He'd passed through it when he first spawned, and hadn't really bothered to look around. He brought scarce rations for the trip, as the sash he wore seemed to provide the lion's share of his bodily needs. A simple rag of cheesecloth contained two links of sausage, a small cut from a cheese wheel, and a handful of raisins would be enough to sustain him along his journey. He rode on a custom mount, a skeletal horse that was as dead as the creatures he summoned to aid him in battle. Together, they road ceaselessly, neither of them needing to stop to eat, drink, or sleep along their journey. The horse was an undead monster, and Byron received many of the benefits of being one through his sash.

On his skeletal horse, Byron made it to Bedlamville in just under two days. The night was black as pitch, clinging to the guild master like ink in water. Heavy footsteps sounded out against the chill air as Byron made his way into town and away from the stables, where his horse stood, still as a statue. Cold blue flames burned in empty eye sockets, and all the other animals gave it a wide berth. It was pretty spooky, but it fit the aesthetic he'd been going for at the time. Now, he wished he'd had something that didn't make the stable boy scream. Too late to worry about that now, he supposed. Dark as it was, he could scarcely see where he was supposed to be going. Clenching a fist out in front of him, he slowly expanded his fingers as a dark purple sphere grew to the size of a baseball in his hand, then tossed it underhandedly onto the ground in front of him, "Rise, Dead Praecantor," Byron muttered. The ball hit the ground with a maddening cackle and an electric screech, a skeleton appeared. It was accompanied by a puff of deep purple smoke, which quickly dissipated.

Legless, it floated several feet off the ground, clad in rotten robes and so much rusted jewelry that it clinked and clattered like keys wherever it moved, drifting through the air like a balloon. "Make me some light, will you?" Byron's words rumbled out of his mouth, and the undead mage responded to his will, holding out one decrepit hand out before it and causing it's fingertips to alight in five cold blue candles. They shed enough light to see by, so Byron could read the signs on the buildings even in the inky darkness. The guildmaster blew air between his lips, making them flutter in a vaguely flatulent sound. Under his breath, he read aloud the names of the signs he passed. "Hunter's Retreat, okay. No idea what that is. Let's see...oh, Barkley's Blacksmithing, alright. Merchants. Gotta go that way." Heavy footfalls were the only sound that the necromancer made for a while, keeping out an open eye for the Golden Retreat, where he was meant to be.

He found it eventually, dispelling his summoned light-bearer with a snap of his fingers. Pushing open the door to the inn, he knew that he was not the first to arrive.
 

firejay1

The Phoenix
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Multiple posts per day, 1-3 posts per day, One post per day, 1-3 posts per week, One post per week
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My times are pretty erratic, but it's only really rare to see me PST 3-11am. I'm on most of the time.
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Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
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Genres
Fantasy, Slice-of-Life, Modern.
If a leaf falls in a forest and it doesn't technically exist, did it actually fall?

The rustling of the trees was like the furious whispering of teenagers in class - indistinct, but obnoxiously loud. Though they ran swiftly, the large Lionards padded almost silently against the ground, their large, fuzzy paws spreading their weight. The strange beasts with their green fur, kept growling to each other, seeming wary of something, as if they were running towards something. Or away from something. A branch above gave an especially harsh twang, though by the time anyone looked, the foot that had alighted on it was already long gone. The Lionards burst out into a clearing and there, in the middle, was most of the pack, congregated around an enormous creature. Like the smaller ones around it, it looked like a soft, male lion, with a poofy mane and camouflage green fur, but unlike them, its mane was framed by long yellow feathers, something like peacock feathers. Its eyes were also a piercing blood red.

Suddenly, a slender female elf appeared in their midst, dropping in from above. With absolutely no warning, she swung her weapon in a swath through the closest of the monsters, the plain blade extending to a horrific length as she swung it with both hands. Five of the Lionards were dead before the attack was noticed, and two more went down almost immediately after. With nothing more than some grunts of effort, Spider cut her way through monster after monster, extending her blade suddenly to stab into one, only to shorten it and swing it around to reach one closer. Jab, swing, extend, shrink. She caused the handle to lengthen suddenly, using it as a pole to vault over one creature and found herself stabbing through the last of the small ones. The last of this pack, anyways.

She turned to face the Alpha head on. The elf had managed to dodge most of its attacks, thus far, confusing it with her illusions and focusing on getting rid of the rest of them precisely so she'd have less to worry about in this moment. She gave the Alpha a sort of morose look, attempting to pause for a moment to catch her breath. It didn't give her that. A large paw came smashing down, accompanied with a very unhappy roar. It had been thrashing at her a lot while she killed its offspring or underlings or whatever the rest of those were to it. The Alpha lunged for her again and she cast a dark web in front of her, just long enough to startle it and slow it down so she could take a large leap back up into the trees. It was not much safer up there with such a large creature, but she was a little less accessible at least.

A figure appeared in the tree below her, astride a horse. How the hell-? The lone head of the pack saw the easier target and roared at it, forcing the horse to dance backwards as it took an agitated swipe at the new intruder. "The hell you doing, man?" Spider called, hopping off the tree and going to join the stranger who had just tried to ruin her hunt. Her voice and face were slightly disdainful at most, but the irritation was starting to bubble up underneath the calm exterior. "Are you one of the Hunters?" She asked, coldly. The Hunter's Guild did not like her. When they weren't trying to get her to join them, they were accusing her of taking their rightful work.

The courier didn't seem surprised to see her, nor did he seem interested in her suspicious gaze. "You are Spider, correct? I have a correspondence for you. The villagers told me they weren't sure when to expect you back at your lodgings, so I thought it would be prudent to find you directly." The Alpha Lionard was stalking forwards, seeming a little perplexed, perhaps even wary of this calm conversation they were having. It wouldn't stay unsure for long. It was a miniboss. It was gonna be the hardest to kill. A few stabs or slices wouldn't have much impact. Spider had to get this distraction out of the way.

"Yes, I'm Spider. Hand it over and leave." She snapped, bluntly.

The courier shrugged. "As you wish. Please read it soon. I understood it was a matter of some urgency." He pulled the letter from a pouch and handed it to her.

"Yeah, yeah." The beautiful elf said with a sigh, snatching it and leaping out of the way as the curious miniboss grew bolder. When she had settled again, the courier was completely gone. Fucking NPC had just messed with her and disappeared like that. She shoved the letter into her belt and readied her sword again. The next cut showed her that the Alpha wasn't going to be easy to slice into. This was going to be a long fight...

What felt like ages later, Spider stood above the carcass of the Alpha, breathing hard. There were advantages to being an Advanced level Hashashin. Her real body would never have been able to handle this kind of strain of speed and endurance. She wiped a little sweat from her brow and sat in the grass with a soft whump. She turned her face to the sky. It would be dark, soon; she couldn't rest for long. Standing again, she barely bothered brushing herself off as she yanked one of the yellow feathers from the Alpha's mane, taking it as her only trophy back to the village.

The monsters had been acting weird in the week since being unable to exit. An entire pack of Lionards this close to the border of any Kingdom was unheard of. That was why she'd been bouncing from border city to border city. It wasn't like she had anything better to do. She stuck the slightly bloody feather in her belt, taking out the letter, in its place. She read it and a little sparkle entered her grey-green eyes. It looked like she was going to have to find a horse.
 

Starlighter

Consider this the hint of the century
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Male, Female
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Fantasy, Sci-Fi




I would miss this.

Soft wind hummed gently through the air, warm and cold mixing together in a steady flow that drifted by to flutter through the wings of a pair of owls gliding slowly in circles around each other. The ground below them was open and baren, the lonely remains of what was once a family's livelihood in the form of a lush crop. Bits of chaff and stubble occasionally stirred from the ground with the push of a brief gust before resettling to the earth, tossed, raised, dropped - all by a force beyond insentient comprehension, powerful by immeasurable degree.

When he first realized there was no getting out that was how Isaac had felt. Trapped, yet transient in the flow of forces he could neither see nor control, let alone even begin to comprehend. His panic had been as chaotic and unpredictable as swirling dust, directionless and purposeless. That had lasted less than a day, in truth only the span of the time it took to wear himself down into exhaustion that was beaten only by rest his body - or rather, the body he indwelt at the time - was unable to refuse. When he regained consciousness lying alone and cold under unfamiliar stars, his mind had wandered and run with the same level of panic that had manifested in more physical responses the previous day. Then, reason and reality had slowly begun to sink in, dampening and silencing the voices of fear and worry.

Only moving forward could take him home, and only the thought of going home could move him forward.

Although the precise mechanics of how to maximize his newfound skillset's usefulness was initially comparable to an infant being handed a dictionary, he was at least afforded the minimal luxury of Caitlyn having given him a rundown on the bare-boned basics. Building from that with his knowledge of the intricacies involved in how she might think, plan, and structure, combined with hours of grueling, treacherous practice, he was beginning to adjust. Sadly, however, to say his progress had advanced to an extent significant enough to be honestly described as ought but elementary would be an untruth. Familiarity was not equal to expertise.

For that reason, he felt some guilt over his impulse decision to ascribe talents not entirely his own to an endeavor in pursuit of a strength he possessed, yet did not own with confidence. Nevertheless, to serve in the Vanguard would lead him towards the homeward road with a more likely chance of success than flailing like a lone fish out of water. He would, inevitably, with practice and experience, come to master his skills, for to believe otherwise was, in a world of monsters and magic, the same as to walk into the embrace of death wholeheartedly.

To that end, he circled the companion owl that had been his only constant since arrival in a form that mirrored it, taking time to grow comfortable and relax into motions and skills engrained in habits and training cultivated by Caitlyn's efforts, tried, true, and ready to be his own once he could find the right touch. Perhaps the strangest part of the entire immersive experience was the disconnect between the commands of his mind and the vessel that carried them out. To have wings in place of legs, talon for toe, and beak for nose was utterly foreign, and truth be told he likely looked the part of an ill-coordinated duckling each time he shifted forms, like a newborn attempting to master the necessity of balance and failing tragically. Shifting forms at it's most basic level he had been successful in mastering to a functional level thus far, though true control and finesse was still a promise held in the future tense.

There was, however, one distinct advantage to his lack of familiarity. Thrust into the thick of shapeshifting to sink or swim afforded further practice becoming accustomed to the base form that was his own body, in a sense. At first it was merely the reduction in stature, the margin of weight, the reach of limbs, and above such things the idea of being a thing, an entity, perhaps even a person that he, Isaac, was not.

Then, there was the matter of gender, wherein lay the true struggle to accept unwanted and irreversible changes.

Preferable not to think much too hard on that matter. Best to immerse himself in the identity that this body and these skills were beholden to, and forget he who once was for she who was now, until such a time as he lived again in a world his own. This was Castrys' world, not Isaac's, and it would be best for them both if shewere to be the one in charge. The best he could hope for was to come out of it and not find himself in the throes of an identity crisis.

Castrys arced upwards, building speed and altitude at a steady incline, pushing limits to their furthest point of capability. When the air grew thinner, she leveled off and hung for a moment, not gliding, not really moving. Then, she let loose, and prayed to whatever gods governed a world made by men that practice didn't turn into a deathly plummet. With a hoot and a flurry of feathers puffing out in an owl sized cloud, she started dropping, falling like a tiny raindrop in a storm.

The timing would be the hardest part - not so soon as to complete the transition early and have to contend with a rough landing in an unsuited form, not so late as to end with a gooey splat. Relying on instinct and estimation of time equal to the desired distance, she began to shift. The transformation crawled through her veins as a strangely tangible sensation, tingling with a sense of weight and pull moving in different directions, textures morphing and twisting, liquifying and solidifying in the space of seconds.

If there had been any watching eyes, the end result they would have been privileged to witness would be a bobcat writhing through ten feet of air to flop haphazardly onto the sharp stubble of a dead crop with a small thwump. Castrys groaned out a muted meowl of disgust, lying still with her furry cheek against the ground to breathe and relax a moment before struggling to pick herself up. By the time she was steady on all four feet, her permanent owl companion had alighted beside her, looking fine as a juicy summer peach.

Although too short to see it coming, she could feel the tremors in the earth through her small paws, and ears keener than any human's swiveled automatically towards the rapid thud-thump of a swiftly approaching horse. The bobcat grew and stretched, morphing upwards into the stubby outline of a cloaked gnome. Castrys' wavered on her reduced number of feet for a moment until she braced herself. Not far off, she could see the horse and rider drawing closer.

Her focus never wavered as she cocked her arm outwards, inviting her owl to flutter up and perch on her guarded forearm. The horse slowed as it drew nearer, and she found herself able to make out enough to tell that the rider approaching was a Courier. She strode forward to meet him halfway, feeling all the shorter overshadowed by the stature of the steed itself in addition to that of the rider atop it.

When they were abreast of each other, they halted. The Courier dismounted, keeping the reigns of his mount in one hand while extending a letter to her with the other. "With compliments," he said pleasantly. She reached out with her non-fowl burdened hand to snatch the parchment.

"My thanks." With no more than a nod, the man was mounted again and cantering off from whence he came. She watched his retreating form for a moment, then nudged the owl up to her shoulder to better use both hands while unfolding the parchment. She skimmed over it quickly, unease twisting in her gut. This marked the true beginning, a test to which her learning thus far would be put that could make or break her.

Castrys shrugged off her owl and closed her eyes. It would take time to reach Thyrvald, and the fastest way was by flight. She hadn't the faintest idea where her ultimate destination was, which meant acquiring a flock would be in order. There wasn't time to fiddle with the difficulties of summoning one, so it would be easiest to pick one up along the way and take it with her to use for scouting the city. The shape of an owl replaced her gnomish form, and with a few hefty flaps of her wings, she slowly took flight.

Yes, I'll miss this. Flying is..... almost worth it.
 
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Joan

"You'll never be alone."
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1-3 posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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Anytime I have internet access, honestly.
Writing Levels
Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
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Male, Female, No Preferences
Genres
Science fiction
Modern
Fantasy
Horror
Survival
Naturally developed romance
OC Fandom (ask about my fandoms!)
Marva
While Spider was in one forest slaying Lionards, another player was killing monsters in a different forest.

A green figure moved silently through the trees, crouched low with an arrow at the ready. In front of her, a pack of large bear-like creatures with brown and grey fur moved about on all fours. One was about twice the size of the others, had purple streaks in its fur, and kept rearing up on its hind legs to sniff the air. A couple times, it turned its head in Marva's direction, and she froze, holding her breath until it turned away again. They kept this up until Marva was only a few feet from the creatures, and the Alpha lingered a bit too long in looking her way.

A pillar of rock shot out of the ground, the Orsi crouched on top of it. She loosed an arrow into the chest of the Alpha as she rose, and it roared. Wincing at the volume, she shot another arrow before moving her now empty hand sharply downward. The creatures that had begun to rush her way stumbled as the ground sank below them. It wasn't much, but it was enough to cause them to stumble, and she took the moment of respite to pull more pillars from the ground. Leaping to the next pillar, she pulled her axe from her belt and threw it directly at the enemies in front of her. It cut through a pair before returning to her hand, and she threw it again and again, firing arrows in between throws at the ones she missed.

Before too long, the pack was cleared out, and only the Alpha still stood. Its pelt was full of arrows and cuts, but it was still alive, and it was angry. With another roar that caused Marva to cringe, it charged forward, attempting to knock her pillar down. She waited until the last moment before leaping to another pillar, barely avoiding the tumbling rock as the Alpha crashed into her pillar and knocked it down. It lay there in a daze for a moment, and she swung her bow over her back in favor of her sword. As the Alpha got up again, her sword broke apart and rearranged itself into a sharp-edged whip, and she flicked her wrist, slashing the beast's side and causing it to roar again.

After a while of leaping from pillar to pillar and attacking the Alpha with thrown axe and whip-sword, it finally collapsed, and she jumped down from the pillar, landing in a crouch beside it. The pillars sank back into the ground as she stood back up and reholstered her sword and axe, the sword rearranging itself again. It was only then that she noticed the dark-haired woman standing just outside the fighting area, one hand on her hip with a very obviously patient expression on her face. Almost as if she had been waiting while Marva had fought the beasts.

"Yes?" Marva narrowed her eyes slightly as she dusted herself off. This stranger could be a number of things, and not all of them were pleasant. Her fears were soon relieved, however, as the Courier held out a letter.

"A message for you, madam. I was told it was urgent."

"Ah. Thank you, then." Marva stepped forward and took the letter, nodding to the Courier. She nodded back and turned around, moving to a horse and jumping on. Marva looked down at the letter as the Courier rode off, slicing it open semi-neatly with her fingernail. It only took her a few moments to read and tuck into her backpack. Bedlamville shouldn't be terribly far from where she was now, even on foot.
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sun.

What good is just one wing?
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Primarily Prefer Female
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Anime-esque, sci-fantasy, adventure, cyberpunk, high-fantasy, Victorian fantasy. comedic slice of life

The night was swallowing and regurgitating beast and woman alike, their bodies disappearing within the shadows and the sparse light of laterns, as they approached the Golden Retreat. It had been an uncomfortable journey, so unlike the territory they had become so accustomed to.

Yet, this is what she signed up, wasn't it? Morríghan felt her midsection twist and turn, as her every fiber yearned to return to the friendly greens of the beginner forests she had made her personal hunting grounds for longer than she cared to admit. It wasn't that the environment was any more demanding than her beloved outskirts--in fact, she made the trip backwards to the hub, and as such, felt even less challenged than usual--but the increasing flow of people soon to begin made her skin crawl. She hadn't chosen to travel amidst the darkness for nothing after all. Easing into the unavoidable socializing was not a decision, not truly, it was a necessity. Though, admittedly, the Golden Retreat had the potential to become an exception to her preference for isolation, given the surely peculiar demographic the invitation would attract.

A hand, clad in a glove made of plain leather, and still carrying the wet scent of recent rain, burrowed into the spectral fur of her companion, as Ghazal's tireless careering were underlined by his eager, ghostly snarls.

That invitation...

"And done..."

The halfling had just finished clearing the grove of yet another sounder of boars, when the small woman had approached, her hands clutching onto the crumpled envelope. The guilt and anticipation of danger were carved into her features, but fled her face with each passing second Morríghan stared at her. "Can I help you?" she had asked, fastening the cloth around her staff to serve as an improvised sheath. The human girl had much too reddened skin for the mild sun, flushed for some reason. "I-I have a message for Morríghan, a-and it's urgent."

The nervous type. Though her eyes failed to move, the Enthraller forced herself to muster a weak smile, if only out of sympathy. It didn't last long, however, once the realization of the letter's source set in. It was time, then. "That would be me," Morríghan replied without any further attempts to set the courier at ease. She hadn't bothered to thank the NPC, her mind already racing. She had spent so much around these parts, not bothering to advance further for the majority of her visit... er... well, now-residency in Altera, but she also had no desire to travel back to the kingdom. The courier had scurried off with a relieved expression. Morríghan could imagine that delivering her invitation was a comparatively mundane task, compared to some of the Vanguard's members. Surely, many had to travel far out, into beast-infested hellholes.

It's funny, how these things work out, isn't it? As Ghazal's body billowed and disappeared into nothing but a glowing wall of smoke underneath the half-elf's own frame, the Enthraller stared at the door of the Golden Retreat. This was her beast-infested hellhole, wasn't it? Taking a deep breath, and feeling the tight leather restrain her yearning lungs just enough to make her notice it, Morríghan stepped into the inn.

Surely, the time would mean not everyone had arrived yet...

Hopefully.
 

Jorick

Magnificent Bastard
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One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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Adept, Advanced, Prestige, Douche, Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
Male, Female
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Fantasy is my #1; I will give almost anything a chance if it has strong fantasy elements. Post apocalyptic, superhero, alternate history, science fantasy, some supernatural, romance, and a few fandoms (especially Game of Thrones) are also likely to catch my eye.
Orndacil sat with his back propped up against a tree as he watched the others looting the bodies of a dozen dead goblin-like creatures, the last of a small horde that had been plaguing travelers near the borders of Thyrvald for the last few days. They were far too weak to possess anything of value for him, and he had been paid to accompany this band of unskilled warriors on their excursion in the first place. He hadn't requested payment, but the leader, a female elf who had seemed amusingly lovestruck upon catching sight of Orndacil's face, had insisted on it. He helped such groups just to give himself something to do between more challenging pursuits, but there hadn't been any graceful way to decline. He figured letting others take his hypothetical share of the loot was a good way to balance things out.

The downtime was always unpleasant. When moving and fighting he could easily disregard the painful and intrusive thoughts of the real world, but while sitting there it took effort to maintain the mental wall. Even so, bits and pieces inevitably leaked through. Sorrow and loss, depression and loneliness. Unlike most now stuck in Altera, Orndacil had been seeking a true escape from reality and had been more relieved than anything else to discover the entrapment. Sometimes he felt guilty and thought that somehow his own desire to escape reality had somehow caused everyone to get stuck in Altera with him. Most of the time, however, he was glad for it and sought to fully escape in his own mind as well. It was difficult, but throwing himself into combat and adventure seemed to help a lot.

"Rider approaching!" One of the folks who'd been sent up into tall trees to keep an eye out for danger called down to the group. "Very fast, be careful!"

Orndacil stood and rolled his shoulders, casually sheathing his sword and hooking his shield onto a leather strap on the back of his armor. Many of the others noticed his total calm but did not quite follow suit. He did not blame them. They were still relatively new to Altera, at least in the sense of time actually spent outside of the safety of the city, whereas Orndacil had been contacted via Courier more than once before and had become accustomed to their unnatural speed.

The mounted rider burst through the trees at a pace that would have been recklessly unsafe for a normal person, then wove deftly between the wary adventurers before any of them had time to react. They stopped in front of him, standing in the stirrups to lean forward and offer a piece of papyrus. "Letter for Orndacil Lightborn." This one was a human male, not one of the few Couriers he had seen before. He still wasn't sure if there were actually a discrete number of these messenger NPCs or if they were randomly generated as needed, but the fleeting curiosity was not strong enough to drive him to find an answer. He took the offered letter and gave a nod. "Good day, sir." The Courier flicked the reins in his hands and off he went into the trees, heading further out away from Thyrvald, presumably to deliver more correspondence.

The letter proved to be one he had been waiting for for the better part of a week. This little project by the enigmatic Man in Red had seemed like exactly the sort of venture Orndacil wanted to be a part of, and now it seemed it was time to get it started. He looked to the group all standing around watching him curiously and gave them a little smile. "I must return to Thyrvald for important business. Let's be quick about it." They seemed relieved that he wouldn't be leaving them to their own devices, which he supposed was understandable given their relative inexperience and the new dangers this world posed to such vulnerable people. The trip would be an easy and likely uncontested one, but seeing them back to safety mattered more than haste for the time being. They finished up the looting and they were all on their way less than a quarter hour after the departure of the Courier.

~~~

The Golden Retreat was a quaint establishment, like something right out of a medieval tale of adventure. The sun was still high in the sky on the same day as Orndacil had received the letter, and he presumed he would be one of the first to arrive. That was a bit irksome, and he wished the trip back to the city had met with some kind of danger to pass more time, but there was no helping it now. The inexperienced group had gone off to their shared lodgings in the city, apparently to celebrate a successful adventure, and he had declined to join them (to the disappointment of more than a few of them). It wasn't that Orndacil was opposed to socializing with them, he simply did not want to miss this important meeting.

Unfortunately, that meant he would likely be alone with his thoughts until said meeting started. That would prove bothersome indeed, and the unwanted thoughts were sure to make an assault on Orndacil's mental wall all the while. Normally he would run off to find a fight, but not today. It was good that this meeting was set to take place at an inn, though a tavern would have been even better. Orndacil had found previously that alcohol proved to make a find mortar for sealing cracks in the wall, and he intended to drink his fill while waiting for others to arrive.
 

Pahn

Bubblegum Bitch
DONATING MEMBER
Invitation Status
Posting Speed
1-3 posts per week, One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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Anytime, I have no life.
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Adept, Advanced, Douche, Adaptable
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Male, Female, Transgender,
Genres
Fantasy, romance, slice of life, anti-hero stories, "you're our only hope", fandom non-canons, soft scifi, transhumanism, magical girls, horror, suspense / mystery, monster girls, fractured fairytales

[Location] | | Xo, Nohki Jungle
[Status] | | Alive, low mana
[Time] | [/color]|[/b] Early morning, just before dawn [/font] The details of this world were absolutely stunning and left the young woman surprised every time. She could [i]feel[/i] the wind blowing through her loose hair, yet they never got in her face or in the way when she fought. The air smelled like it was supposed to in a rain forest: thick, humid, and earthy. Feather could feel it fill her lungs, could feel the wet earth stick at the bottom of her feet, and the branches whip her bare arms. She felt [i]alive[/i]. The region known as Xo was rarely frequented by players. Most of her interactions lately had been with NPCs, and as much as they fascinated her with their wisdom and teachings, she was missing talking with people on her level of experience. They lived in temple-like homes, practised some kind of tai chi chuan that allowed them to restore mana within seconds. The jungles surrounding them were filled with the most dangerous beasts in Altera, and Feather did not spend a single day without seeing a dragon's shadow through the clouds. She figured the game mechanics made it so it was always cloudy whenever one passed over the central village, but it ignited her imagination like wild fire. Today's run through the Southern-est jungle of Xo proved to be quite exerting. She had landed in a particular spot where the plants and trees were actively draining her mana, one drop at a time, and regardless of her high level she was growing tired much faster. The lizards looked like mini dragons and their drops were quite lucrative, so she suffered through the haze to kill as many as possible. The punches and kicks were on point, touching all the pressure points on the little beasts, and soon enough she had a dozen of them down. They were among the easiest creatures to tame or kill in the Nohki jungle, but they still proved to be a challenge. A fun one, at the very least. The precious drops collected and a few extra reptile skins saved in her inventory, Feather wiped the sweat off her brow and staggered out of the forest. The thumping of her heart echoed in her ears, a very strange sensation considering this meat suit had no heart in it. The game would generate one of it was necessary, but otherwise she could not normally feel her pulse like this. [color=#0a9]"Simulated exertion. Heh."[/color] The elf smiled to herself and headed back to the village. She hadn't made it far out of the mana-draining zone when she heard a courier behind her. The heavy footfalls of the horse seemed to shake the ground beneath her, resonating right into the heel of her feet. Feather took the sensation in fully and waited for the newcomer to stop. "Feather?" The voice was deep, and the stocky man on the horse sported a thick and braided red beard. "Got mail for you. Urgent." Arching an eyebrow, Feather accepted the letter - and the courier immediately took off. Plopping down on the ground and positioning herself for some meditation, she opened the letter and a wide grin spread across her face. [color=#0a9]"Yes! Man in Red, it was about damn time."[/color] Dropping the letter to the side, Feather breathed in and closed her eyes, sealing herself off the world for a few moments. Her mana began its restoration process and her abilities reset. [center][img]https://i.imgur.com/fybPXg2.png[/img][/center] She knew for a fact that using her abilities to give her additional momentum while she ran would prove to be faster than any mount, save for the couriers', available in Altera. Thus Feather ran the entire way from Xo to Bedlamville. She took a few rests to recharge, but thanks to her newly learned skills from the Warrior-Monks in Xo she could meditate for an hour or less and restore energy thrice as fast. Her feet had been covered in delicate silk slippers, and despite being covered in mud once she arrived to Bedlamville, her feet had been extremely well protected. It was one of the disadvantages of running everywhere: those got filthy pretty quickly. The letter had only arrived yesterday morning, but Xo was miles away from Bedlamville. It had taken her at least three quarters of a day to get here, and the sun was already at its highest point. Seeing as there was still some time before the meeting, Feather ventured around the merchants near the Golden Retreat. While her drops from the lizards in the Nohki forest fared for a high price in the Xo villages, they were extravagantly sought after here. Her initial plan had been to scout the different merchants until she found the one with the best offer, but since their price ran so high, the merchants could only afford one or two drops. By the time she had sold all of them, the amount of coins in her purse were enough to pay for a year's worth of lodgings in shitty inns. Pleased with herself, Feather finally headed to the Golden Retreat. Sitting around were a few familiar faces, other players she had raided with before or had partied with for some particular difficult boss. [color=#0a9]"Byron! Orndacil! How good to see you!"[/color] Her cheerful voice boomed across the bar area, and without waiting for a sign that they recognized her, she threw a few gold pieces at the man behind the bar and ordered a drink. Alcohol in this world just as wonderful as the one back home. ([USER=12153]@Jorick[/USER] [USER=12524]@Eon[/USER])[/Time]
 
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Aero Blue

he hears his master's voice
Original poster
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One post per week
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5-11 EST weekdays, anytime weekends.
Writing Levels
Give-No-Fucks, Adept, Advanced, Douche, Adaptable
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, Primarily Prefer Female
Genres
Superhero, urban fantasy, space opera, crime thriller, supernatural
The first proprietor of the Golden Retreat had made a moderate name for himself amongst the player-base - in death, unfortunately. The NPC had grown a penchant for offering fair sums of gold for the retrieval and deliverance of trivial items and menial tasks, only to renege on the agreement upon completion. Within the first few hours of Altera, words of warning were spoken about this troublesome individual. On the second, some beleaguered player had taken to removing him from the proverbial mortal coil; one of the first notable NPC deaths of the gameworld.

The current owner had been the bartender then, and still plied his craft as such, readily providing ales and meads as a steady stream of Player-Characters flowed inwards. Morrighan had been one of the first, and the names and faces that followed after her belonged to the amongst the most notable luminaries of the player-base. ‘Zachariah’, a dark-haired elf in an armor of glassy jade, fast on healing, a tad slow when it came to providing defense. ‘Shadowmaw’, a half-elf, features shrouded in a robe that shimmered ephemerally, quick with the blade, with a penchant for speaking needlessly cryptic. ‘Lewyn’, a Shaman with a disturbing penchant for dressing his various assortment of hounds, the largest of which yelped from within the confines of its hyacinth-embroidered dress. Others still, until the bulk of the invitees had arrived - though the Man in Red himself was not yet present - each with their own names and stories.

Stories to share, or withhold, as they waited, sat, and drank, if that was their inclination. Sharing tales of their latest kill, their biggest score, of adventures, of fears, of home.

And amidst the stories, one could hear the shrill scream of a blade sliding out against its scabbard.

“Walk back out, now.” A curt voice, a blunt voice, without malice, without disdain, but with pointed focus. An Orsi avatar, skin tinged a drowned-blue, garbed in pieces of armor that screamed out abrasively in their incongruence; greaves of solid bronze, Samurai-era styled pauldrons of riveted leather, and a cuirass of flea-like chitin. His blade, a jagged edge of obsidian, pointed itself at the latest newcomer; a blonde-haired girl in a set of white robes, her face paling as she stared down the thin sliver of black.

She had been one of the higher-tier Lux Talisman from a Mages’ Guild. A healer of some skill who had made a mistake, sometime after the stranding. Too slow, perhaps, or a stroke of poor fortune.

In either case, it seemed to matter little. Voices raised in protest, or in attempts to pacify, though none made to move; there were higher stakes, nowadays, moving against an armed man.
 
Last edited:

Jorick

Magnificent Bastard
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One post per week, Slow As Molasses
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Adept, Advanced, Prestige, Douche, Adaptable
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Fantasy is my #1; I will give almost anything a chance if it has strong fantasy elements. Post apocalyptic, superhero, alternate history, science fantasy, some supernatural, romance, and a few fandoms (especially Game of Thrones) are also likely to catch my eye.
Orndacil got deep into his cups as he waited in the Golden Retreat and watched others arrive. Some he recognized from seeing them around town or working with them previously, but others were new to him. Most left him alone in his chosen corner of the room with his tankard of ale, frequently refilled by a barmaid. He'd never really been fond of alcohol in the real world, never got drunk at all, just some social drinking now and then, but he could certainly understand the appeal if this was how it worked in reality. It was hard to be distracted by unpleasant thoughts when your mind was turned into an incoherent jumble, after all.

Someone calling his name pulled Orndacil's mind to the present time and place. By the time he finished draining his drink and looked up, Feather was already to the bar and ordering something. He would have raised an arm or called out in response, but something else caught his attention before he could, the sound of a blade being drawn. In his time in this world that sound had already become quite familiar, but it had no place in a tavern. He rose slowly and carefully from his seat, getting a better look at the source through alcohol-blurred eyes. Orndacil wasn't sure what exactly was going on, wasn't sure if he knew these people or not, and some part of his mind suggested staying out of it, but he was already moving before the thought was fully formed.

His steel boots struck a wavering beat on the floor of the tavern as he walked over to the Orsi causing the commotion. Another ring of steel on leather filled the air, followed buy the metal-on-metal clank of a shield being set into place. When Orndacil reached the white-robed girl's side, he held his shield out to guard her more than himself. That cautious part of his mind said he was being stupid, but hazy and boozy thoughts proffered words like heroic and manly and gallant, and those ones sounded much better.

"There's no need for that here, friend." Orndacil's words came out slurred, but there was no uncertainty in them. "She's got as much a right to be here as you do. Put it away."
 

firejay1

The Phoenix
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Multiple posts per day, 1-3 posts per day, One post per day, 1-3 posts per week, One post per week
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My times are pretty erratic, but it's only really rare to see me PST 3-11am. I'm on most of the time.
Writing Levels
Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
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Male, Female
Genres
Fantasy, Slice-of-Life, Modern.
It had taken some time, but Spider had managed to procure both a horse and something to make it go a little faster. The journey itself hadn't taken that much time, all things considered, but she assumed others part of this "Vanguard" would already be there. Who knew who else had signed up for this and how close or far away they'd been when the message had come? By the time Spider arrived, she fully expected to find some other Player Characters and possibly the Man in Red himself there waiting. The main problem was that she had spent most of her time in this entire game hunting, and therefore knew very few Player Characters. She could probably recognize the Man in Red, but she had no idea who else to look for. Oh well. Player Characters had a way of making themselves… known.

She was not wrong about that. Before she could walk into the Golden Retreat, letter tucked away in her bag, she was stopped by a ruckus at the door. A very unhappy Orsi was picking a fight, it seemed. More importantly, a very unhappy Orsi was blocking the door. The tall, willowy elf had no idea what his problem was, but he was kind of making it her problem. Her face twisted in an expression of some disdain. Picking a fight with a small girl in a very inconvenient location was rather low on the list of clever things to do when stuck in a game.

She was about to open her mouth to tell the Orsi to get his damn issues out of the way, when a very, VERY drunk elf male stumbled up to them. He had a shield up, and spoke in a very self-assured manner, but he wasn't exactly being convincing with that bleary look in his eyes. This was turning into something very annoying.

With a sigh, Spider pulled her sword from her back, shrinking it to the size of a knife in her hand. Long-range weapons would not be an advantage in a crowded place like this, and she could always extend it if things got really dangerous. She managed to plant herself slightly in between them, to the side. "Hey, uh." Deflating situations was not a specialty of hers. If her high school hadn't been crowded with a bunch of weak nerds, she was sure she would've gotten beat up a lot as a teen, and this Orsi was clearly not a weak nerd. Thankfully, he didn't seem as mad as she had originally thought, either. "Could we just all back up or something?" She asked, gently pressing on the other elf's shield. She appealed to the Orsi. "Nobody wants a fight, dude. He's really drunk," she pointed at the elf, "and that kid is just minding her own business. I don't know what your beef with her is, but like, nobody benefits by fighting out here. I mean, it's crowded and we only die once so let's not up the percentage of people dying as it is. Come on, man. We can all just peacefully walk away from this." She'd gotten to rambling a bit, but her rather bored eyes were clear as she stared at the Orsi. Hopefully the action figure behind her was not drunk enough to fall on top of her with his shield or anything.
 

Eon

Third Rate Duelist With a Fourth Rate Deck
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Look for groups, Looking for partners
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Multiple posts per day, One post per day
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What is time? How can time be real, if our eyes aren't real?
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Intermediate, Adept, Advanced, Adaptable
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Male, Female, Transgender, Futanari, Primarily Prefer Male
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I can't say. It's like picking a favorite child.
Byron had just sat himself down when Feather called to him, a brilliant smile lighting up his gaunt face with a cheer that didn't quite suit it. One example of the great discordance between the body that he'd made for himself, and who he actually was. He stood, his arms going out wide in a welcome gesture, "Feather!" He exclaimed, "It's been too long!" Each footstep made him jingle like a ring of keys as the plates of his armor clanked together. He approached Feather with a wide and genuine smile, going to clap one hand on her shoulder in a manner that could have been threatening, had it come from someone without Byron's infallible good nature.

The very same nature that prompted him to turn towards the door, where a fight was on the verge of breaking out. "Hey now, we wouldn't want to cause trouble in such a fine establishment, would we?" He asked, "Why don't we all just gather around and let me pay for drinks instead?" Byron offered, reaching for the coinpurse on his belt and tossing it onto the counter. It hit the wood with a heavy metallic thud, not unlike the sound his boots had made against the floor.

The necromancer could feel his sword's disapproval as it grew heavier in its sheath. He could rarely entertained the idea of using a different weapon, but every so often, he thought about switching out his sword for one that wasn't cursed to be so...creepy. Like a ghost whispering in his ear, Byron's sword spoke to him. "Just string him up by his entrails. It's fine, nobody's even using them for anything. Other than him, I guess." The voice was raspy, like old pages sliding together, and always sent a chill down Byron's spine.

He ignored the weapon, focusing his attention elsewhere as he clapped one hand on the shoulder of a drunken elf, "Except for you. You look more like you need a glass of cold water," he said with a hearty laugh, "high-level guys like us shouldn't go around picking fights with strangers," he advised, his voice carrying no malice, merely a level of cheer and a desire to help.
 

Pahn

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[Location] | | The Golden Retreat
[Status] | | Alive, not quite tipsy
[Time] | [/color]|[/b] Evening, almost sunset [/font] Once Feather had her drink in hand, something exotic and colourful that surely wasn't available in real life, she sipped it and groaned at the sensation of warmth spreading across her chest. The elf was glad she had swallowed all of it when the large man slapped her across the back. Such a gesture in real life would have sent her tumbling down, but here her armour absorbed most of the shock. [color=#0A9]"Long time indeed. Care for a..."[/color] Following Byron's movement, Feather turned towards the sudden ruckus. They'd been stuck here a week and some players were already getting... dangerous. There was something quite terrifying about a fellow player character who was ready to kill another person with the full knowledge of the possible consequences. Grimacing and grinding her teeth, Feather leaned back against the counter and watched the events unfold, and while she agreed that intervening to protect the elf girl was courageous, it had its part of stupidity. She loved this game more than life itself, but that didn't meant she'd throw it away to save a stranger. Byron and especially Orndacil were being foolish for stepping so close to the altercation, and the woman she recognized at some high-level huntress wasn't much better. [color=#0A9]"Come on, boys - let's all put our weapons away."[/color] Easy for her to say - her fists were just as dangerous as their swords. In a second, she could be halfway across the room and pinning down the Orsi before they could think of stabbing and slashing each other. Her control of gravity could also allow her to make the violent Orsi drop to the ground under the weight of his own armor. Despite her peaceful request, Feather prepared herself to step in if it came to blows. No one needed to die tonight, not even that stupid son of a bitch Orsi.[/Time]
 

sun.

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"I know, I know..."

The brittle murmur of the halfling was aimed towards a dark corner of the Golden Retreat, where nobody and nothing were occupying any seats. With her back hunched, and both hands flat on the counter, Morríghan looked into her mug, seeing her dreary reflection stare back at her, jittering within the small waves that moved her drink. From the same corner the half-elf had whispered towards, a sudden and loud growl sounded, causing the ripples in Morríghan's mead to swell, and draw a few nervous gazes of the nearby patrons to shift from the ruckus surrounding the antagonistic Orsi.

Quickly grabbing her jug, Morríghan emptied out her drink with a gulp, and whisked the droplets of the spirit away, drying the corners of her mouth with her leather gloves. She turned around, her face distorted in discomfort. Wasn't there enough misery in this trap of a world already? She could feel the anger rise within her chest, unable and unwilling to sympathize with the Orsi's antics, as the snarls radiated out of the darkness louder and louder, causing a few of the present guests to move further away, towards the illuminated tables.

"You don't run into a tavern and make demands," Morríghan noted, her eyes fixed upon the ground, one hand stroking the opposite arm with rapid, jittery motions. "Maybe you're the one who should leave this place..." the halfling thought out aloud, daring to let her gaze drift towards the darkness in the corner, where the ever present snarls hummed and sang whenever Morríghan paused. The public speaking thing was draining, soaking her forehead in cold sweat.

"Or order and shut up. You don't turn down a free drink, afterall. It's bad manners."

With this remark, she sank down onto her stool, gesturing for the barkeeper to refill her mug with a nervous nod towards the friendly man with the dark mane.


 

Starlighter

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Scattered along the ridgepole of the shop opposite the Golden Retreat, a small flock of sparrows perched, chittering crisply to one another. Indistinguishable from the mass surrounding her, Castrys sat stock still with her talons wrapped tightly around her foothold, watching a wavering blur of patrons flow into the establishment sober and ebb out inebriated. She let her eyes close, allowed a few deep breaths, and waited for her focus to return. Searching out the fastest way to reach the Inn using the eyes of the flock surrounding her had left a mark of disorientation that her brief experience informed her would pass shortly.

After several minutes had passed, she was able to observe her surroundings with singular clarity, now able to distinguish one individual from another. A trio of whooping and hollering Orsi could be heard approaching from the head of the street, clearing a path for themselves to the door of the Golden Retreat. Upon collapsing onto the threshold, the rowdy three proceeded to drunkenly shout and fumble with the basic mechanism until they at last burst through, leaving the entry gaping open.

Silent as a leaf drifting to the ground on a breath of wind, Castrys dove from her spot on the opposite roof and darted through. She aimed upwards on the opposite side of the upper door frame, fluttering quietly above the heads of the patrons towards the rafters. She alighted on a beam just above the bar that afforded a clear view of the happenings below, both behind the counter and throughout the room.

From her perch, she eyed the array of available options by way of beverages but soon turned to silently observing the patrons. It was tempting to indulge in a little bit of liquid courage before the meeting began, yet upon further consideration, it seemed ill-advised to enter into such arrangements while lacking in full mental faculty.

She eyed the mass of bodies filling the room carefully in search of the Man in Red, but a brief inspection revealed that he had not yet arrived. Among the crowd below her there was the odd face or two that piqued familiarity in passing, but ultimately, it was a tide of strangers.

What if Caitlyn knew these people? She cursed mentally. At this level, it was a near guarantee that the persona of Castrys Versayn had at least some friends or relative acquaintances, but such certainty was useless as confirmation that any such persons might currently be present. The prospect of an awkward meeting with a person that she should know yet who remained a perfect stranger brought a shuffle and a shiver to the small frame of the bird form she currently occupied. Unfortunately, there was nothing in her power that could be done about it.

Barely two minutes had passed before the altercation erupted. Castrys hopped nimbly over to a beam that afforded a slightly clearer view, watching with growing angst as weapons were drawn and bystanders began to intervene - a veritable army of them, in fact. The display of chivalry was…. unanticipated, but heartwarming all the same.

Certain that any involvement on her part would either serve to exacerbate the situation or be entirely ineffectual, Castrys remained where she was, albeit ready to take flight at a moment’s notice. It was abundantly clear that more than one of the knights in shining armor already involved were of a level significant enough to diffuse any violence - especially with their strength combined, although the usefulness of the tipsy elf may have been arguable. Nevertheless, in a moment’s notice, she could jump from the beam to the floor and be transformed in time to land in front of the white-clad subject of aggression as a shield. Ideally, it would be unnecessary.
 
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Joan

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Marva
Marva had reached the Golden Retreat in very little time, but by the time she got there, it was already decently full. A quick scan of the room revealed that the Man in Red was nowhere to be found yet, which was somewhat to be expected given they were early. She made her way up to the bar and ordered a drink, though it was mostly for appearance's sake--she had never been much of a drinker in or out of the game, but some players seemed to become much more willing to listen to her if they thought she drank. It was odd and somewhat dumb, in her opinion at least, but it didn't require much from her. Of course, there were those who thought it good reason to assume she was a stereotypical dumb Orsi, but those assumptions were easy enough to prove wrong.

She was still on that first drink when she heard a sword being drawn. Her head turned, but before she could make a move, several others did. A drunken paladin type and a new arrival, both elves, drew their own weapons and placed themselves in between the blue Orsi and the Lux NPC. A large human in the style of a necromancer also moved over there, although he hadn't pulled any weapons out yet. Yet another elf stayed seated but encouraged them to put their weapons away, along with a half-elf with something dangerous concealed in the shadows. All in all, a formidable force, one that would hopefully cause the troublemaker to back down.

Still, better safe than sorry.

Marva got to her feet and placed her hands firmly on her hips. One rested above her sword hilt, while the other sat over her enchanted axe. Her voice joined the others, loud and firm.

"I believe I echo most of the people here when I say back off. The kid may have messed up, but that's no reason to threaten her, especially in these times."

Hopefully, she wouldn't need to use any weapons. If the Orsi didn't back down, her current plan was to sink the ground beneath him and tug him back with a vine--he seemed heavy enough for such a strategy to work well, especially with the armor he was wearing. An earth wall between him and the healer didn't seem like a bad idea, either.
 
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Eon

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The necromancer clapped an armored hand on Feather's shoulder with a bit more force than he'd intended. A friendly gesture, had it been gentler. "No need to Jackie Chan the fuck out of anyone just yet, Feather," he said with a wide smile and an honest laugh. Byron swore a lot. He'd been trying to stop for years now, but it was such an automatic, deeply ingrained habit that it was tough. As such, it didn't carry the aggressive quality that other people's cursing did, to the point where it often went unnoticed by listeners. He passed by her, swinging one leg, long and thick like a tree trunk, over the barstool, then the other. A hand larger than his old body's face clenched into a fist and knocked twice on the bar to get the attention of the man behind it. "A big mug of your best shit, if you'd be kind enough," he requested.

"Don't worry, you do," Byron said with a low, humorless chuckle, grasping a wooden mug of ale with cold, thick fingers that felt like they could crush the cup if he clenched them shut. His body in this world was so vastly different from his old one that sometimes he'd get scared by his own reflection. Not scared in the way that someone might get when they saw a spider, or even the deep, pit-of-his stomach fear that he got from looking over too high of a ledge. It was a small fear that nibbled and bit at him, an itching feeling somewhere deep inside his chest. A part of that was from the magic of the game world, so there was something he could do to minimize it. Taking off his armor would free him from it's benefits, letting his skin feel the bite of cold, his stomach the stabs of hunger, and his throat the burn of thirst, but only so much of the feeling came from such an easily dealt with source. He felt it each time he looked down at his hands, each time he saw his face. His current body had different needs, different positions it found comfortable, it even had different taste buds. And a much different tolerance for alcohol. Byron thought as he downed a mug of mead in a single, prolonged swig. Surely, there was some amount of drunk he could get that would prevent such intrusive thoughts from appearing in response to even the gentlest of reminders of his situation.

Byron's eyes traced the room as he turned himself around on the bar stool to watch the filling tavern. He supposed that everyone here felt how he did, at least to some extent. Most people were scared of never being able to leave Altera, of being trapped in their new and different bodies forever, none of that was uncommon. That, was, in a way, why they were all here. To try and figure out a way to return home. Which, was exactly what Byron was so afraid of. To go back home, after all this, and just be another nameless, faceless cog in an endless social machine?

He knew he couldn't handle that.

He coughed once to clear his throat, but didn't bother getting up. In Altera, his voice got people's attention well enough on it's own."Something tells me we all have the same date tonight," he said, reaching a hand out across the bar so that the bartender could give him another drink, which he downed in a similar fashion to the first. "Though, if he couldn't get here before me, he might not be all that much of a keeper," he said with a smirk, setting his mug on the bar with a punctuating thud.
 
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