Pegulis, Chapter 10

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    There was a gentle knock at the door to General Coul Idanian's office. The ex-retired General of Pegulis looked up from his work, rubbed a bleary hand across tired eyes, before bidding entry from the knocker.

    On the other side of the door waited Ethelwen, with a stack of papers in his arms. The former sewer worker had left that job far behind after he had returned from deep under Barvelle with the demiurge Libras, then still only known as the Sage Medwick. Since the invasion of Kaustir and their rebuff by Libras, Ethelwen had worked directly under the Archon, aiding in the restoration of Barvelle.

    In those first few days after the attack, when the scars of the battle were still plain for everyone to see, all thoughts had been turned towards the one who had betrayed Barvelle's secrets to the Red Nation. But there had been so much work to do, in order to recover from the attack. People had been in desperate need of aid. There had been no time to conduct a search.

    Not that it mattered much. As soon as it was clear that every Kaustirian soldier had been driven from within the tunnels of Barvelle, the very mountain itself had come alive under the will of Libras. Every entrance and exit had been sealed, some with rock, others with iron and steel, in massive doors that impeded all progress. The spy wasn't going anywhere. No one was going anywhere until Libras deemed it would be so once more.

    And so it was that many months had passed. The bodies had been properly buried and mourned, the ruined buildings had been restored, those who had needed support had been lifted back up on their feet. Barvelle had been returned to some semblance of order.

    Ethelwen set the papers down and turned to go, but was brought to a halt by a word from Coul.


    The snow leopard anima paused. “Yes, general? Is there something else you'd like me to do?”

    “Of a sort. I've been thinking about that spy.”

    Ethelwen tensed slightly, before turning back towards the old general, a worried look on his face. He sat down in front of him. “What have you been thinking?”

    “It's been almost half a year since that traitor managed to betray Barvelle, and we are no closer to locating him and her than we were on the day we were betrayed. Barvelle is stable once more. All that remains is paperwork and basic maintenance. It is time to properly begin our hunt.”

    Ethelwen considered this for a moment. “Would you like me to assemble a group of people to begin the hunt?” he asked.

    Coul smiled slightly, but affectionately. “You are getting better at this,” he praised. “Yes, that is exactly what I would like. Deliver an invoice to Ilsa, Vrein, and any others you know and can completely trust. Those who ventured with you and Medwi... Libras into the depths, perhaps?”

    Ethelwen nodded, stood, turned to go, before pausing, seeming to remember something. “Anything else?” he asked, politely.

    Coul grinned again. “If you could avoid bringing me anymore of these papers in the future, that would be much appreciated.” he teased.

    Ethelwen smiled back. “I fear that is the one thing beyond my power, general.”

    “Ah,” he sighed, gently rubbing the bags under his eyes. “Very well. Then no, nothing else. Send out those missives as soon as possible, please.”

    Ethelwen nodded, and closed the door on the weary General. Coul looked at the new stack of papers Ethelwen had brought, before sighing again. Hopefully this hunt would prove more rewarding than the seemingly endless flow of papers.

    Chapter 10

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  2. Barvelle Market Wait!" Amara called, sprinting down the busy streets of Barvelle and mustering up any all grace and discipline she could from whatever huntress remained in her to dodge the market traffic. "Hey! I said wait!" Very little consistency remained in her life but if there was one thing she did on schedule, it was meeting up with the Tavark trader every third day of the week on the eighth hour of morning. Unfortunately, the inn she chose to room in a fortnight ago wasn't exactly close to their usual meeting spot. "Dammit, Raignald, if you don't stop I'm shooting the wheels off your cart!" That man stopped and turned, looking not all amused with the ex-Tavarkian huntress. She huffed as she caught up to the trader and handed off the bundle of meats and goods. "This is for Fabel."

    The gruff man grunted and accepted the bundle. "
    You know, if you actually took the alleys you would get to where you were going a lot quicker."

    Amara ignored him and counted off the agreed upon from her coin pouch and handed that to him as well. "I better not be hearing you're trading that off either," she warned, eyes narrowing. The trader waved her off and stuffed the coin in the folds of his furs. Not once did the trader double cross the huntress, and yet it nagged at her that she wasn't the one delivering the care package. She watched the other Tavarkian depart until he was lost in the bustling crowd and sighed. She made the effort to get in touch with Fabel after the assault on Barvelle. Once the doors were upon again, a young man who had family back in Tavark tried to flee, only for the brunette to stop him long enough to deliver the letter. Since then the two had found ways to keep the letters flowing between them.

    So far what she heard were good things. Fabel's kindness towards the children left scarred from the seige eventually turned into a full blown orphanage in the span of half a year. They children seemed well physically, but most of their mental and emotional states were left questionable. Other Tavarkians did what they could to pitch in, but with their own familys to look after it wasn't much, which lead to Amara scrounging up some kills for them. It wasn't much, and she still needed to support herself, yet it was something. Overall, her home city's recovery was slow but at least they were getting somewhere, though she highly doubted the new godlike being in power had anything to do with it. He didn't seem much interested in mortal affairs. If not for the more human part of Barvelle's government she doubted Barvelle would look the way it did now.

    Even if it was because Medwick did what he did for the good of Barvelle and maybe for all of Pegulis, Amara still couldn't bring herself to call him a hero. Who's to say he's any better than the self proclaimed god they left bound to the bowels of the mountain? She shook her head, not wanting her thoughts to take an unwanted turn. At least Medwick didn't resign Pegulis to its fate.
    #2 Noctis the Devious, Jan 4, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
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  3. The woods sung with gentle rainfall and the occasional grunts of creatures hidden by the dark. Moonlight managed to slip through the canopy here and there, droplets of rain glistening like diamonds as they fell through the silver beams. Underbrush, heavy with rain, shined in the light. A beauty perhaps inspiring to poets or others taken to whimsy, but when the thunder roared and sky lit in a flash, the sight changed. What little light seemed precious now appeared waning. Something beautiful dying before one's eyes. Whimsy would not serve Simeon for now.

    Creeping along a mossy branch, the leather clad wood-elf narrowed his eyes. He knew something rustled below the way one hears, yet cannot remember the sound. Like an owl perched high above, the elf scanned the forest, unaware of the orange hue rings blossoming in his eyes. The pitter-patter of rain against his sturdy, leather hood quieted. He focused his attention on a deep darkness meters from a fruiting bush. His breath slowed and his arms bent toward the bow slung across his chest. Practiced hands notched the arrow without a sound. Crouched upon a branch high above, the elf with the fiery eyes loosed the arrow. His fingers drew another as the whistling missile soared. The dark mass began to leap before falling flat at the edge of the light. Simeon returned the second arrow to its quiver and nodded.

    Simeon slung the bow and made his descent. The rough leather palms of his gloves paired with nimble fingers found purchase easily, despite the falling rain. He lowered himself from one branch to the next below, at times swinging to make a more promising landing, at others simply falling only to catch the next passing branch. For a few moments he was but a shadow falling elegantly. Finally, the wood elf landed upon a hearty branch a few meters from the ground. He dug his fingers into the coiling, knotted wood, and lowered himself. Yet, as his legs stretched, then came a crackling and hungry growl. The weight of his body had already begun to swing. He loosed his grip and fell a little too slow.

    A musky smelling body met him before the earth. Growling, the tangled haired wolf snapped as Simeon fell back-first. The wood elf attempted a roll, but landed hard. He took a knee, mind still spinning. Meanwhile, the wolf tumbled, then righted itself in a turn facing him. They met eyes a moment before the wolf glanced aside. Simeon saw a second, dark haired beast lying still, the feathers of an arrow rising out from the side of its brow. Another wolf. First-blood.

    Stories of war often lead to a spectacular climax. The hero is slow to kill, quick to think. Remorseful and confidently cold. They slaughter the enemy, until their actions are so horrourific, that a villain twice as sinister must be thought up to paint the 'hero' a shade or two lighter. That climax is slow and carefully built. The ending is satisfying, if predictable. Simeon tried to recount the whole of one such story. A decent distraction as his knife freed wolf's pelt. He never could remember the length of a verse, but the work passed quickly. Cleaning the knife against a patch of grass, he continued to roll the furs. The night was still young by the time he collected fur and meat his cart, hidden nearby, and made his way back to Tavark.

    The lanterns outside the Blue Hearth still burned strong by the time Simeon returned. He rolled the cart behind the inn, waving to the butcher's boy standing at a window. A bellowing voice escaped the inn as the boy stumbled out and began toward the cart. The boy's eyes widened at the sight of the furs. A young lad, barely an apprentice to the butcher, but sweet hearted.

    Simeon pushed his hood back and watched as the boy reached for a fur. "No!" the elf exclaimed, dropping into a crouch. The boy yelped, nearly falling backward in shock. "Only joking," Simeon laughed, a warm smile stretched across his face then. "Devilish beasts, but quite dead. Not to be disrespected, though. Best not offend the spirits."

    "Course, s'ah!" the boy chirped, righting himself. "Shall I bring the furs to your shop?"

    "I'd appreciate it. Don't go peaking about, your gift is nearly finished and I'd hate for the surprise to be spoiled so late."

    Like that, the boy took the furs and made his way around the inn to Simeon's workshop. He waited a moment until assuming the meat safe. Simeon loosed the top laces of his armour as he entered the Blue Hearth. By then the hour was growing late and the labours of the day were visible. The inn smelled of fresh spices and a wood-fire, undoubtedly from inn's namesake at the center of the inn. A sizable hearth, but nobody spoke of the size or heat. They spoke of the colour. Years of marriage and success and failure, and still, Reila refused to tell him just why the hearth burned blue. He found a smile on his face as he passed the hearth and neared the bar. Despite dozens finishing their drinks and meals, he felt her eyes on him.

    Reila grabbed a blue-glass bottle and filled two glasses. As he sat, she gently slid a glass over. They lifted their glasses, met eyes above the glistening rims, and drank. He was home.
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  4. We should give it a name
    Six months, it felt longer.
    After the breach the Rangers had found themselves harassing the enemy troops along the way. Destroying supply lines, raids against the resting troops both night and day to lower the enemy morale. Not that anything of it had made a big impact. There were simply to many of them, but they had learned, developed. And thanks to that miracle at the mountain they lived to bring that knowledge onwards.
    yet it was tough for his men, they had been cut of outside, unable to get inside and help. That had caused a bit of a rift between them and the people and many of his own felt guilt for it as well.

    But in the aftermath his men and Brandon’s where there to help and restore when most others where either injured or dead. When things calmed down Torwal had in anger and frustration pushed the debate on Pegulis slack in keeping a military. He probably angered a few when he questioned the skills and capabilities of the guards and the previous forces. But he was a dedicated and had passion for his nation and its continued survival. In the end they would relent to his arguments knowing he had a point. So they gave him the task of making it happen.

    Torwal sighed and looked up from the parchments at the desk, staring at the door across the dark room silently willing it to open with news that would pull him into doing something more active.
    The invasion half a year ago woke pacifist minds into reality and now resources were pulled in to raise a better defence force. Although they were still awfully cheap with those resources, and they loved paperwork. Oh how he envied the non-literal people.

    But things where finally put into action. Him and his company of men where now responsible for the equipping and training of a defence force that could move and act in the name of Pegulis. And it all started at the destroyed fortress down at the border. It was to be rebuilt and used as a training post for the soldiers.
    On a whim the large man stood up and rounded the table, heading out the door. Leaving the finished letter report to the general in Barvelle to dry its ink. Outside a breeze welcomed him along with the sound of stone work and practice. The rubble among the fortress ruins was transported away so that the masons could get a better look at the damage. Most of the walls expanding outwards to the sides were still standing, worn but stable and manned by lookouts scouring the open plains beneath with their bored eyes. It was near the centre of the wall that the worst damage was visible. Cracked stone and rubble was all that remained of front of the fortress, for now.

    “We are going to need a name for this place” he muttered to himself.
    “sir?” a young guard outside his door asked unsure of what the Captain had said. Confused Torwal looked at the young man or was it a woman? “Just trying to figure out a name for the place, after all we are going to spend a lot of time here” He then said with a smile, making a mental note to tell the officers he didn’t need a guard. They were short staffed as it was.

    Making his way down towards the training fields Torwal spotted men moving in formations and officers shouting orders. It was good training, and they learned to do more than fight with the restoration of the fortress. Though there were other skills they would have to look into as well. Thanks to the war, resources had been thinned out and this place needed to become self-sustained to some degree.
    hopefully the soil around here could sustain some kind of plant that was edible. If they could get rid of more of that artificial ice.
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  5. In the weeks after her meeting up with Medwick, Shardis had not only resumed her 'normal' duties of protecting her brother but she was faced with the daunting task of protecting him from himself. The man didn't know how to quit when tired or in need of food, he was obsessed beyond belief. Mulling over dust musty books and papers, mumbling at writing boards with marks and erasures over and over then yelling at staff and visitors alike. She was often called upon to make amends for his behavior and explain the rudeness when all they wanted to do was help. She even found herself barking orders at the staff on occasion when he frustrated her past limits.

    "Marcus! Where is that boy? Can never find him...ah there you are, come here please!" Shardis handed the young man the tray of untouched food as she said, "Bring up another tray in an hour, make sure its his favorite foods this time, perhaps that might work, I don't know any more. Oh and have Tom bring in some new bedding these have been, well, never mind just do it OK? Thanks."

    No one should see him out of sorts for any reason. He was a 'God' now and had to maintain that appearance no matter what. He didn't seem like a God to her, but eh (she shrugged). They had said other creatures were Gods in other times in the past and the present and she understood them no better.

    It wasn't for her to understand, Shar scolded herself. The cat anima new she wasn't book smart, oh sure she was good with numbers but not with reading things of importance or even working people with words to do her bidding. Shar had never been good at it, that required patience and that was something that had always eluded her. No, she was a warrior and this business with Galain was hard for her. She just wanted to slam him against the wall, shake him or smack him until he came out of it. Sometimes it came very close to that for her and she would have to leave him in Marc's hands for a moment or two while she would go in the hall for some 'air'.

    In the end she came back. Shardis swore that she would never leave him again when Shar came back from her journey and saw the mess he was from the thermic gem poisoning. That never would have happened on her watch. Her hands had curled into fists at the thought and she had to open them and then wrap a rag around her palms where the claws had dug in a bit. Sighing she went back to the business at had of trying to get Medwick to take a bath before he met with the Archon today. He really did need one.
    #5 lynzy, Jan 23, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 24, 2016
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  6. Tavark, Blue Hearth Inn

    "The Blue Hearth never wanes, do not chase it's end," Simeon whispered. He gazed warmly into Reila's eyes, a little smile breaking through the nostalgia. "And I said?"

    Reila raised herself onto an elbow. The furs upon their bed slid off her as she laughed, in a voice entirely too deep, "Then I shall chase you!"

    They remembered the wit of their youth and laughed awhile longer. The roosters had not yet begun their alarm, in fact from their flat above the hearth there was little sound of activity. Yet, as the reminiscing drew to an end and the two found pleasure with one another, a look appeared in their eyes. Even while Reila straddled her husband, evening her breath after their bout, Simeon saw another kind of hunger in her eye. He felt the same, of course. Something about dawn roused a drive to fly -- to explore. He thought himself little different than a beast whom he might hunt. Prey to a hunter patient enough to notice their habit. To feel their need. Reila dismounted and promptly stood to dress. He did too, once more smiling at their strange routine.

    "Would you chase me from afar?" Reila asked, watching as Simeon slipped on his tunic.

    He looked to her with an eyebrow raised. "You know I would," he began while looking for a second, thicker layer. "Planning some far off venture?"

    Reila tightened a simple black belt around her waist and stepped toward the window. From across the room, Simeon could see over her shoulder, and followed her gaze as he might look the shaft of a readied arrow. Her eye gazed to the northwest. Perhaps she felt his eye too, before long she turned and grabbed a letter from the nightstand beside their bed. She unfolded the paper gently, holding it high so that the faint imprint upon the back was quite plain. Simeon walked closer at the sight of the mark.

    "That's an official letter from Barvelle. Not your brother," Simeon gasped, eyes wide with a pale green colour upon them. She shook her head and read the letter.

    Dearest Reila,

    Please accept my deepest apologies for not writing you sooner. As you can imagine, Barvelle required much to stand strong again after the events months ago. I am well, if weary, and hope you are in good health.

    Alas, I do not write you simply to offer well wishes. The traitor responsible for opening the gates of Barvelle has yet to be found. Orders are underway to surface this traitor, who you should know is responsible for the death of a great many. Indeed, all of Pegulis has suffered as a result of their dissent. In saying this, I come to the request I must make to you now. Sister, I need your help.

    In six months the focus of the city has been repair and a return to the status-quo. We must now deliever retribution for the one(s) responsible for this great crime against our people. A hunt of sorts is being assembled. I would like to request your husband, Simeon Curumo, lend his expertise. I remember his tales of war with the wood elves and his great display of skill on our last hunt together. I know what I ask of you is a great sacrifice and I assure you that I would do not make this request lightly. Please, dear sister, pass this request to Simeon.

    Two fortnights have passed since my last order of armour. I have sent this letter ahead of its delivery so that you both might ride into Barvelle alongside his goods. Along with this letter is a note of the Blue Republic that shall ease the trip should any trouble arise along the way. Finally, as I understand the weight of my request, worry not about the expense of staying in Barvelle. I have arranged for an apartment to be readied ahead of your arrival.

    I thank you for your kind words in these trying times, dear sister. They warm my heart and when you arrive to Barvelle I look forward to returning your kindness.

    With love,

    Lord Renley Kyrthran

    Simeon met eyes with Reila. He understood the letter and her decision to reveal it now as well. They did not have riches or treasuries to support them. Both Reila and Renley were born twins, identical from their oak coloured skin to the way they asked others to make great sacrifices. Gods forgive him, but when Simeon met their parents he understood well that for every tender moment there was a great request soon to follow. Fortunately, Reila wished for a life of love and success. She created the Blue Hearth and asked only for Simeon to support her business. He'd left behind soldiering, hunting was not new to him either, their personal desires intertwined well. Still, Renley hungered for another life. A lad young at heart with an taste for glory and fame and power. Where Simeon might wield a blade or bow in confidence, Renley preferred rhetoric and politics. He took a deep breath and nodded his head toward the window.

    "Renley's shipment is to leave tonight. I can make arrangements for the shop, can you for the inn?" Simeon asked in a quiet voice. He saw the warmth in Reila's eye once more as she nodded in reply.
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  7. Ophanim Hayyoth

    They said that time healed. Unfortunately that didn’t include to forget. After six months Ophanim could still feel the phantom of the scabies biting into his skin. Half a year later and the Avian could swear that the foul stench of the sewers hasn’t been washed out of his hair completely yet. Mental trauma they called it, but did nothing to help him patch up these unseen scars. Which was understandable, seeing how the city was still in ruins.

    Not a moment of rest he had as of late. First the adventures with the Ghoul Sage, then the attack of Barvelle. The clockmaker seemed to have ended up in turbulence, as he was shaken from side to side, rambled and forced into one breeze after another. Immediately after the return of the group the city was plunged into an attack from Kaustir, leaving a devastating mark. And while their wounds were still fresh and their tasks still undone they got the next load dropped on their shoulders. It was no wonder that Ophanim forgot what his original job was, but he reminded himself from time to time, whenever he slipped away from the chaos that was now Barvelle.

    With a brush in hands the male drew his lines. By now he knew the details from memory, able to make every curve and draw out every end without having to break his concentration to check the original marks. Even more intricate than the clockworks he used to create were the lines that he dragged along with the paint he left. More detailed, but also much more important.

    No, despite his previous thoughts about the golem research he was put on the Avian thought now differently. After the little trip down the sewers to the Ghoul Sage the clockmaker had learnt much, however one thing stuck out particularly. They were failed gods. The statement stuck inside of him, especially when Medwick ascended to godhood. The only barrier was their own fear and ignorance. He was going to try it, to attempt it, and he was going to do so big.

    Finishing up the mark Ophanim took a few steps back as he checked out his work. There in front of him was the exposed body of Artorius. The man had died at the hands of the Ghoul Sage, to show them what their aux were. Ophanim had always regretted the way it all went, for the man was dragged into this adventure because of him. He had been the reason why this person was involved in the first place and had to die. So Ophanim looked for ways, he search and found after a long while his answers. At least, the theory, but practise had proven him something else.

    He had failed many times. Since Barvelle was recently attacked there were many casualties, which also meant test objects. In the time that he wasn’t working, helping out with rebuilding the city, or looking for a traitor, the Avian had been drawing the golem marks on the bodies of the death. None reacted, or worked. At least not in the way he wanted. Some never responded, others combusted, or rotted instantly after finishing the marks. However, Ophanim was confident he made no mistakes in drawing out the seals.

    He tried to reason, tried to find out why it didn’t work, but he barely grasped a clue. In the end he decided to try out this theory on Artorius corpse anyway. The rotting corpse was nearing its end, no matter how much Ophanim tried to preserve it. It was a good thing that the body had been brought back with them after their adventure, for the Avian wouldn’t be able to test out his experiment.

    With a pensive look he stared at the marks he had left on the body, hoping that it would work this time. There was no reaction, relieving the clockmaker a little. At least the body didn’t explode, or it would have done so already. Now the only question that remained was; would it react? Would it stand up and move? Had he finally succeeded in binding a soul?
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  8. Northwest of Tavark

    Greenery gave way to white and a nip on the wind grew to a bitter chill. Little more than half a day north of Tavark and the world looked a proper image of Pegulis. Treacherous slopes made by long frozen ice rolled all about in place of rolling hills. Where the land dipped the light glistened differently from the snow, likely ponds hardened by the cold. The condition of the road resembled those in the outskirts of Tavark. Sudden dips improved only a little by the layers of fresh powder, deep edges along the side of the road, and a sudden transition from created path and untended earth. Not so far ahead the land appeared cruel. Blinding spires of ice with rigid outlines lay on the horizon with great white pillars scattered along the way. The road was long and scarcely populated and still to some, beautiful.

    Simeon looked upon the frozen lands. He sat upon the bench of their covered wagon beside Reila. While she commanded the two hearty horses propelling them forward, the half-elf kept watch for threats. Although their haul was quite covered, first by the treated canvas stretched upon the wagon and second by a great many furs, bandits and highwaymen had a special eye for opportunity. Luckily, Simeon had special eyes as well.

    As if special eyes mattered. The half-elf looked upon the frozen fields more in awe than vigilance. He gawked, stricken by wonderment, as his north-born wife grinned in amusement. With each passing feature, Simeon seemed to perplexed. Eyes a little too wide, stare a little too long, his right brow peaked. He held his bow in hand and the woolen scarf wrapped about his neck with the other. Without his face wrap any curious stalker might note such plain features. Still, the world around them changed some hours ago and no such villains manifested. Reila was bright and attentive. If her husband's mind reveled, it was because she allowed him the respite. Her pensive warrior of a husband, now at least for a little, childlike in disbelief.

    "Surely you've seen a true northern winter," Reila declared, his tone maybe a touch serious. She wore her cloak looser than his and squared her shoulders. He might have noticed, if not for the snow.

    His gaze into the white haze beyond did not waver. "Well," Simeon said. She chuckled at the pause. "Not so far as this, actually."

    "Never wandered northward into war? Not even once on a hunt?"

    Simeon's body bounced up and down. His laugh was deep and his eyes, a deep blue, met hers. "Marching from Riven to cross the Wall of Ghosts? I might not be well to tell the tale. No, I haven't told you before?"

    "I don't think so. Tell me of your glory days. P'haps you'll feel inspired."

    "I was born to a tribe of wood elves near Riven. My father was a hunter of beasts and men, as was I. Only, in my time I have slain few beasts. As for places, I fought so far as the forests south of Hosia. We'd suffered mercenaries sent by merchants and industrials collecting resources," Simeon huffed the two words. "They think of what little cleansed lands Viridos has as a means for coin. It's not uncommon for villages to be built high above within the trees. So you see, where a merchant may say 'collecting lumber', we'd say 'destroying our homes'. For this I fought. I fought long and I fought hard and I fought until I came upon this camp enforced heavily. We came in the night dressed like phantoms. But we did not come by surprise.

    "A lad young like our little butcher boy stepped in snare trap and shot straight into the air. His scream roused the guards and the guards the camp. A mid-night prod turned to all-out battle. I hadn't even brought my sword, mind you. Ended up grabbing the lad's in time to defend myself. They surrounded us very quick with spears and fell one or two with arrows."

    Reila sat back, his shoulders slouched. "I had no idea. Is that how you got that scar on your stomach?"

    "That was the boar for our first anniversary. Quick one, him. And sharp tusks, " Simeon said, his voice ponderous. "The scar on my left thigh, the big one, that was Hosia. I was shooting from a branch above the camp when an arrow found me. My spaulder spared me arrow, but the blow knocked me down. I landed upon a rather unfortunate branch that pierced my leg. Then I found the lad's sword, of course, and we fought until the camp was cleared. Thought I'd lose my leg, but the healers in Riven are skilled. I left the tribe after that wound."

    "Your left thigh? Lucky to've kept your life."

    "I am. You're from Barvelle, of course. I remember your family's home. Quite luxurious."

    Reila handed the reigns over to Simeon and stretched her legs out ahead. "Our second home, actually. We stayed in Barvelle when my father's duties required him. Mostly in fall to ensure the harvests would last the winter, and then too as the cold turned deadlier. Once the storms let down we'd return to our town south near Lake Kaikas. There Renley helped on the farm and I in our inn. That's why I love the Blue Hearth."

    "You don't prefer posh halls and chambers like Lord Kyrthran, then? Don't miss it a little?" He suggested. His grip was tight on the reigns, perhaps a fear of driving? Or was he afraid of her wanting more?

    "Not really, no. I love meeting the travelers. It wasn't until we were older that father became a lord. That's when we sold the inn, because lords have enemies and an inn too vulnerable a place. I didn't realize how much I'd miss the stories. The cliché tales of men travelling to north for glory and the northbound wizards seeking wisdom in solitude. I love to hear them and I love to offer a little respite. I'll leave the politics to Renley."

    "Perhaps when we're older and ready for softer robes and pillows."

    "P'haps," she mused aloud.

    Conversation gave way to reflection. Reila wondered about Barvelle since the attack, while Simeon thought mostly of the cold. They made camp shortly before nightfall and sat about a small fire with tea and bread. Both knew of travel and the trials along the way. However, Reila was particularly concerned with rationing their supplies. She seemed almost certain of some great delay, despite her husband. Simeon too respected caution, but as he looked to the faint grey clouds he felt little fear.

    They slept inside the wagon, which rested beneath a tilted glacier so that only one side was exposed. Simeon volunteered for the first watch. He sat behind the bench where the shadows strengthened, but his visibility was spared. His quiver lay within reach with extra arrows too. If an attack came the half-elf would be prepared. Yet, as the moon drifted and little stirred aside from the wind his watch passed and Reila's began. Where her husband ran through imagined enemies lurking in the shadows, her mind fixed upon howling wind. The canvas upon the wagon shook with every burst. She loosened her grip upon the bow and instead watched the flurries of snow.

    Simeon awoke to find Reila's back firmly against his chest. He squirmed from beneath their furs and found them both completely exposed. His body trembled as he turned to find their shipment untouched. Stranger, the canvas upon the wagon was shut on both sides too.

    "Reila," he exclaimed, shaking the carriage a little as he searched for his clothes. "What did you get up to last night?"

    Without so much as turning over, Reila about the wagon. On the third try her hand found the half-elf's face and half covered his mouth. "Shh," Reila groaned.

    "Shh? You stripped us naked in the dead of winter!"

    "Do you know nothing?" she snapped, her tone dulled by the sleep lingering in her voice. Reila turned to Simeon without a glimpse of discomfort as the furs fell from her breast. She met his eyes straight on. "That cold bite in the air? That's from last night's blizzard. I tended to our horses so we'd some way to travel after the storm. After, I stripped us so we might survive the night by sharing our warmth. Now, I mean to recover from saving our lives last night. Since you're so awake, p'haps you can clear the snow and get us on the road again?"

    The half-elf furrowed his brow before peaking beneath the canvas flap. Outside the carriage the horses stirred beneath thick furs, quite alive, and seemingly warm enough. Outside the protection of the tilted glacier the snow piled as high as a wheel. He grimaced at the sight before collecting his clothes and a shovel.
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  9. Struggle.

    Medwick could remember all his past struggles. They played back in perfect clarity in his mind, from a small crystal ball that he knew was the sphere, floating somewhere in his head. He wandered through his past, from his first broken bone, falling off a sheer cliff without having a properly secured safety line, to the diarrhea in Viridos, and scaling the mountains to the Archon's turret prison. The nails fell from his fingers, scraped away by the rock, ice, and the cold. Although mangled, they were hot, so hot, fed by the burning thermic gem strapped over his heart. He could feel the energy from it piercing his body, a relentless force that, at the end of his days, helped him over barriers he had never thought surmountable.

    At a great distance, from the stars, he watched Shardis shake his body. Her voice came as a deep, echoing rumble, faintly reaching through the mountain to his ears in the sky. He, one of the greatest mountaineers of Pegulis, could now effortlessly astral-project to the stars.


    His life was full of struggle. Was it the struggle that made it worth while? Medwick did not know - he only knew that struggle was an inseperable part of his life, academic and physical. A man's purpose in life was to struggle, to overcome the barriers in his life, no matter how great or small. A man was defined by his struggle. Without struggle, there was no man.

    He thought back to Kaustir, flooding Barvelle. A literal flood of Nocturnes, a fluid made of their bloodstained faces and teeth, as they surged into the tunnels crawling and scrambling over one another to devour his comrades alive. Yet this tide of flesh, as unstoppable as the waves that sometimes crashed from the Prosperos, gave away like paper to his lightest breath. He waved his arms and they turned to dust. He blew and scattered their windships like dandelions, throwing them far south and back home. Where was the struggle?

    So he was not a man anymore. As Libras, he could see perfectly into the future, and knew how this entire play would finish. In the future, he saw himself seated with his three colleagues from the East, West, and the Prosperos, as well as with the Ghoul Sage and Ilium. They would have a conference, and nothing would change. Sunne would sunder again. All of knowledge was at his fingertips. He had become perfectly omniscient. No struggle lay in his future, and therefore, he had no future left. He watched Shardis drag him to a small bathing cistern.
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  10. Ethelwen knew he was on time, was even technically a little early, but by the time he arrived at the designated meeting room Medwick, Coul, and another snow leopard animal were already there. Waiting.

    The room was swimming in silence. It pooled in corners and smothered the only window, holding the air stagnant and heavy. It was certainly to heavy to speak through, clogging the mouth and throat as it did, and Ethelwen didn't even try. He simply sat himself in one of the available chairs, his Aux wrapping protectively around his chest and knees. He waited.

    Inevitably, his eyes were drawn towards Medwick. Libras. He no longer knew what the distinction was, where the line was drawn, and the relentless Sage searching for knowledge ended and the God began. He dreamed of Medwick, of their endless crawl through the never-ending tunnels below Barvelle, and their final confrontation with the Ghoul Sage. Medwick's impassioned cries would echo through his dreams, followed by the mocking laughter of the Ghoul Sage. He remembered little more than that laughter, although he was certain that it had been framed with revelations that would shatter his mind could he recall them without struggle. Maybe his mind had shattered, and this was all that was left.

    Maybe that was what had happened to Medwick, too. Maybe his mind had been shattered, and then subsequently rebuilt by Libras. Maybe that was why he sat there so vacant and listless now. The god had no need to use its puppet body.

    The silence stretched on.

    When it was finally broken, there was only enough room for seven words.

    "Who all is coming?" Coul asked, turning to look at Ethelwen.

    Perhaps silence added weight to words. Maybe so many words had built up in the back of Coul's throat that when he finally spoke others came out with it, not vocalized but still present. Who did you ask? Can we trust them all? When are they coming?

    When can we start?

    Ethelwen shook his head. "I don't know."
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  11. "Erhem," Shardis cleared her throat to catch the attention of Coul and Ethelwen. "There is food and drink on the sideboard over here." She gestured to a long, ornate dresser laden with a fare of small sandwiches, salads, fruit and an assortment of carafes filled with liquors, a keg that had ale in it and for the persons that didn't wish to imbibe there was some refreshing cooled juices as well.

    It had taken most of the week preparing for the evening, the snow leopard had overseen acquiring the ingredients, the cleaning, choosing fabrics for curtains and the furnishings and chased servants about growling and yelling the whole time. Shar wasn't about to see this meeting go bad because someone was hungry or uncomfortable.

    The time of day for the meeting was also deliberate. It fell in between the two possible evening meals so as to not deprive people attending of those meals or their regular evening business. Shardis felt it her duty to ensure things go well with what seemed like minor things but she had seen how small things like these could make or break and she was doing her best to give this meeting a good start and hopefully a good ending.

    It seemed to her that the evil spirits were working over-time tonight though. There had been a bout of stomach sickness that in it self was not life-threatening but had managed to short her of almost half her staff and so everyone had to work twice as hard and they were all exhausted AND if that wasn't bad enough, they found mice in the bread room nibbling on the loaves of freshly made bread for the evening and they had to make more.

    Surprisingly the hardest part of making sure things went well wasn't the refreshments or the room preparations. It was Medwick himself, he had wondered off while she had been speaking to the cook about the broken spit in the kitchen. Shardis was amazed at how fast Galain had disappeared. It seemed like only a moment ago he had been staring into the fireplace watching the small flames lick the logs, popping and crackling in a merry way.... then poof! He was gone.

    Panic had ensued, people were running left and right with Shardis screaming at the top of her lungs every swear word she knew, in all the languages she knew. He had finally been found by a small duck pond mumbling to the fishes! Oddly enough, they seemed to be listening to him....she shook her head and herded him off to his apartments to have his cloths changed and his hands washed, they smelled fishy.

    "He didn't do anything wrong..." a familiar voice said in a near by tree. The voice could be heard chuckling softly.

    That was all she had needed, "I don't need your input right now, go flap about or whatever it is you do." Shar had stomped off to her aux's laughter ringing in her ears.

    Her nerves were just about shot when people started arriving. Shardis wouldn't be able to relax until it was all over. Shar smiled at Coul warmly, she thought, and said, "The list of invited persons to this evenings affair is on the table." She waved her left hand at the paper with its list of names. "You are welcome to look it over if you like."
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  12. "What do you see?" Reila whispered, her back flattened against the snow-packed earth. She lay before the crest of a white hill with loose bit of ice dusting off in the wind. Her husband's boots dug deep into the snow as he stole a peak of what lay beyond. After another moment of waiting, Reila slapped the back of his calf.

    Simeon straightened his feet and slid down beside Reila. As he dusted off the thick layer of snow from atop his hood, what he had referred to as camouflage to his wife, he took a deep breath. "An obstacle," he replied. The elf looked down past his feet to the southern face of the hill. Ten meters below sat their wagon, which suddenly earned the entirety of his attention. Reila grunted, this time slapping his leather cuirass. He shook his head, his eyes taking on a red hue, and continued, "Down the hill about six meters is a camp. Drabby thing with tattered leather tents surrounding a piss-poor fire. Three horses, three men. One less man, more lion." Simeon scowled describing the anima. "I saw weapons scattered about. A sword, a large axe, and a bow. A rough looking bunch."

    "And you look a picture of refinement?" Reila challenged. She glanced up to the top of the hill and slowly sat up. "A soldier sees obstacles. Who's to say these men are not travelers come to sell their wares in the once-secret city? I will admit merchants who know the road well were few before, p'haps knowledge was shared after the siege. And say they are obstacles, what then?"

    "Merchants have wares and wares require wagons no different from our own. Big lumbering things fat with supplies to heal the siege. And these men sat in armour, packed light, each with a weapon close at hand --"

    Reila pursed her lips and interrupted, "Do not speak to me like a child. You think them brigands watching for passersby. You think these sensibly armed bandits shall see our wagon with gluttonous eyes and attack. You think too of anima with an ignorance I thought you better than."

    Seeing the stunned expression upon her husband, Reila slid further down the hill and stood. She knew her words bore an edge. These were Kyrthran words and they had a power not unlike the bow her husband carried. Further, a Kyrthran knew to use such power sparingly and with an accuracy comparable only to a master archer hunting their prey. She felt no sympathy for Simeon either. Pegulis stood for democracy, to be spoken to as an inferior was simply unacceptable. Still, Reila noticed a change in him. She understood as his blood red eyes began to cool that the soldier was giving in to the man.

    "And yet I cannot argue the risk is not real. You've your weapons. S'pose I take the wagon around the hill along the road. They will see me and if they be brigands you will shoot them down as they give chase and if they do not I will wait as you catch up. What say you, dear husband?"

    Simeon agreed and found a hidden spot atop the hill beside a boulder. The grey-white of his fur cloak vaguely resembled the snow-flecked stone. Below the three failed to notice the patient archer watching atop the hill as they warmed themselves around a dying fire to the north unaware of the wagon rolling along from the south. By the time the wagon pulled around the hill a light snow began to fall. The haze of white reminded Simeon of the twilight rains in the forests of Tavark that seemed to delight in obscuring his view. He felt no fear. Finally, the wagon cleared the hillside.

    The lithe man sat with his back to the hill saw the wagon first. Simeon notched an arrow and drew, the deadly tip of the arrow pointing directly to the lion-man. What Reila took for prejudice he thought a warrior's sensibility. Even sitting and seen from afar the beast loomed at least a head taller than his comrades and with a build to match. He watched the lithe man point to the road and the whole lot grab for their weapons. None too surprising, the lion hefted the axe, the lithe man the bow, and the third least remarkable the sword. The whistle of his arrow disappeared in the breeze. In an instant the lion fell backward and Simeon readied another arrow. Before he could fire once more the lithe man turned to him and raised a glowing hand.

    "Shit," Simeon whispered, diving aside moments before a green orb burst upon the boulder sending bits of ice and stone flying. He landed on his chest with a shoulder exposed to the north and the other to the south. In the corner of his eye a green blur appeared. "Godsdamned witches."

    Simeon rolled down the northern face of the hill as the ground above him burst. His ears rung like the dying tune of a bell and for a moment he thought himself at the gates of death. When the moment passed he managed to roll himself back onto his feet and into a run. The hill had already begun to level and the brigands waited a few meters below. Once more, the lithe man outstretched his hand, but this time Simeon was ready.

    The smell of burnt leather filled Simeon's nose as he fell into a straight-leg slide. He passed the lithe man first, and with a swing of his bow, knocked them off their feet. Simeon wasted no time sending an arrow for the third brigand. Once they fell, however, the lithe man leaped to his feet with a dagger in one hand and a ball of flame in the other. Simeon responded with an arrow aimed directly for the man's heart. Neither dared to move. Only then did Simeon recognize the man's eerily pale skin, like one who'd never felt sunlight. He'd heard stories of the nocturne. Drinkers of blood gifted with senses beyond the natural and perhaps the most likely of any to dodge an arrow from but a few meters away. Still, despite his doubts the nocturne remained still.

    Simeon spun around at the sound of crunching snow. Arrow protruding from his chest, the anima charged into the elf with his long axe raised. Fear came slow to the hunter's fortune, and as the lion approached, Simeon fired his arrow first. The elf flew several meters before colliding into the packed snow. He found himself sprawled out upon his back with his bow out of reach where he must have landed first. The lion had fallen to their knees, hands uselessly groping at the arrow deep inside his neck. Simeon laid still and watched as the beast slumped forward into the red snow.

    "I smell you, Wood Elf," came a ghostly voice. Simeon shut his eyes and took a deep breath. "Your kind smells of trees. Pines. Best drunk fresh. Did my friend kill you?" He could hear the nocturne approach by the crunch of the snow. Tauntingly, they struck Simeon with a firm kick that took all his will to ignore. "You'd taste better alive. Pity."

    The nocturne lowered himself into a crouch and leaned in close. Simeon opened his eyes to the bared yellow teeth, then struck. His hands rose to the nocturne's thin neck and took a tight grip. Though they struggled with unprepared arms flailing, the element of surprise served Simeon all too well. In a second the wood elf rolled himself atop the gasping nocturne, their arms reaching up toward his face, gnarled nails seeking purchase as to loosen his hold. His grip did not relent. His leather-bound hands tightened and twisted, thumbs pressing hard into the pale flesh until he felt a pop. The nocturne began to tremor and their eyes flicked to his own. Simeon held the nocturne's gaze until their eyes grew cold like the snows beneath them.

    Southeast of Barvelle

    Reila held the reigns tighter than usual. The horses did not enjoy the torchlight of the caves, and while she could not blame them, she thought the growing warmth might calm their nerves. Evidently not. Truth be told, after spending days with only the road as company she too felt a touch uneasy. She glanced to her bruised husband beside her. Only now they were approaching the city gates and already the trip had wounded him. The caver grew warmer. The sounds of merchants and wagons and horses grew louder as well. In such trying times and with so many people, Reila could not help but wonder how much this trip would take. Simeon caught her gaze.

    "You've a little blood. Here," Reila said, puckering her lower lip. "Are you sure this was the right decision?"

    Simeon began to turn and winced. "Don't worry about all this. A bruised rib at worst. If it'll calm your nerves I will seek out a healer, undoubted Lord Renly has one or two in his employ." His eyes cooled to a pale blue as the elf took on a flat expression. "I expect greater threats will arise here."

    "We shall face them together."
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  13. Coul and Ethelwen did both end up moving over to the table, neither of them seeming completely comfortable with simply remaining still. Of course, being near the table did little to ease the tension that still filled the room. Coul grabbed at the list Shardis had pointed out and quickly scanned the list of names before passing it to Ethelwen. The snow leopard anima nodded his head in turn. Yes, he had hand delivered a missive to every one of the people who’s names were on the list, but he had gotten definitive answers from none of them. Ilsa had still been in the hospital after her harrowing ordeal as a prisoner of war in Kaustir’s camp in the Cheronese. What little time the blacksmith Vrein had left over after working for the day on Barvelle’s repairs and general maintenance was spent at his lover’s bedside. Amara had simply glanced at the invitation before leaving without another word, joining in with the line of people who were queuing to leave Barvelle on a hunting expedition. He had not even been allowed in to see the clockmaker Ophanim, instead having to hand off the missive to an impassive door guard who had been given orders that no one was to disturb the Avian’s delicate research into golems. As for the other names that Coul had given him, all had their own tasks to complete even six months after the invasion, and gave no reaction to Ethelwen’s arrival beyond a vaguely courteous smile before hurrying on. Somehow, even though the nature of this gathering had been kept somewhat secret to ensure that no word of the hunt would reach the traitor’s ears, everyone knew that this gathering represented nothing but a wild goose chase. It had been six months since someone had betrayed Barvelle’s inner workings to the Kaustirian forces. After so long, what hope did such a search have?

    Of course, Ethelwen understood the necessity of it. It was as much a matter of morale as anything else. After being so drastically betrayed, finding the person responsible would give the entire city a trace of closure, and internal strength. They would be gathered together against a common enemy, and it would prove that they were no longer at the mercy of outside forces. One way or another, someone had to be found.

    Everyone’s head swung towards the far side of the room when the door swung open. Ilsa and Vrein entered through the narrow portal together, one less than half a step behind the other. Ilsa’s face was pale, and there were circles under her eyes, but some of the strength seemed to have returned to her face. That did not stop the trace of worry that seemed to have set up permanent residence upon Vrein’s face, and he spent as much time looking at the former captain of the Aldus Watch as he did seeing who else was in the room.

    Ilsa ended up seating herself on the very chair that Ethelwen had vacated to move over to the table of refreshments with Coul. A moment later, Vrein walked over to her with a cup of juice from the table in his hands. Ilsa took it with a sigh, a look halfway between endearment and frustration crossing her face. It was clear, after having been an independent soldier for so long, she was not used to being doted on by another individual.

    Ilsa took a sip from the water, before nodding in greeting to Coul. Coul’s smile was warm and affectionate. “I’m glad to see you are doing better,” he said fondly. “And were able to join us.”

    “It’s been six months,” Ilsa replied, still friendly but also sounding a little bit care-worn. “I think it is about time for me to get out of bed and actually do something useful.”

    Vrein opened his mouth, obviously intending to either console or rebuke Ilsa for her words, but a glance in his direction from the resolute woman quickly quieted him. He grabbed a small piece of bread, and ate it listlessly.

    “What is the plan?” Ilsa continued.

    Coul shook his head slightly. “I was hoping to wait until everyone else arrived so that we can have everyone together.”

    “Who else are we waiting for?”

    “That depends on who else is actually coming,” Ethelwen unexpectedly inserted. Coul grimaced at this blatant honesty, but had no choice but to agree with a short nod.

    Vrein and Ilsa also grimaced, but for different reasons. “We can’t wait forever,” Vrein said. His eyes darted between Ilsa and the door, and it seemed for a moment as though he was already ready to leave.

    “We won’t,” Coul replied, shortly.

    And then the room was quiet again, except for Medwick, who stirred impatiently on the other side of the room and tilted his head to the side as though he was listening to something. Ethelwen returned to a seat, sitting right to Ilsa’s side. He smiled at the former Captain of the Guard, and she gave him a return smile after a moment’s thought to figure out if she knew him. They had only met once before, it wouldn’t be surprising if she didn’t remember him.

    After that, Ethelwen’s eyes turned back to the door. He wondered who else was coming.
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  14. Dane Myros — Whispers of the Future
    Time is a strange thing.

    Allow enough time to pass, and fervors wane and fade. Wounds close and scab and scar. People move on; they forget, even if they don't always forgive.

    Aldus was still coming to terms with how to deal with its lack of leadership, but now instead of bickering about wars and betrayals and traitors, the citizens clashed over policy, economics, and government. The Mad Sage Azareth's hold on the city was all but gone now, and from his grasp the people were able to emerge and return to the mundane nature of their lives. The re-election of the Aldus Council was all the townsfolk cared about now.

    Yet despite the madness that had gripped them, they learned nothing from their failures.

    But Dane... Dane knew there was something there. Something right under their feet, so obvious that anyone smarter than he ought to have picked it up already, but they didn't know - couldn't know - the things that he knew.

    Becoming one with the city, becoming something greater than himself, greater than human, even if it was only for bare moments, had left him with a riddle. It plagued his simple mind, torturing his thoughts at the most inopportune moments, causing him to lose sentences partway through. It became an obsession; he even dreamt about it, when he didn't even know what it was.

    What comes next? What does it become? What do we become? What did we become? What were we before? All precursor questions that seemed to lead to the big one. Dane wasn't even sure he would comprehend the answer, much less the question, but it didn't lessen his resolve to find it.

    So the simpleton from a small Pegulian town buried himself in books and research texts; Karissa would have been proud. From the Council Library to old trinkets stores like A Way's Away, no written document escaped his hands. History, lectures, ramblings, spell books, arcane texts and scrolls; Dane read, read, read, and re-read until he understood something, and if he didn't understand it (he often didn't, frankly) he'd find the answer somewhere else and repeat the process all over again.

    A lifetime of learning, condensed into the span of several months. Six months, seven months, eight months passed, and the circles under Dane's normally bright eyes grew dark and sullen. He had read, educated himself, just like Karissa always told him he ought to. He had learned so much, yet it couldn't lift the weight of the question.

    He felt closer, but only in the sense that taking a step forward is closer to a mile than standing still. He needed time. More time.


    #14 fatalrendezvous, Oct 11, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
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  15. Dreams Collab with @unanun
    Coul gazed at the crowd of people in the small chamber. The ad-hoc nature of their gathering spoke to the disorganized state that Barvelle was in. When Medwick conjured the winds of the sun that swept away the Nocturnes as dust, the caverns of their city-in-the-mountains were polished smooth. Every door was blasted from its hinges, and the main gates to Barvelle were thrown off their massive rails. They lay flat against the tundra, and a gaping hole, littered with corpses that formed a crumb trail all the way to the (once) Chersonese, laid bare the secret of their capital for anyone to see. Under Medwick's tenuous protection, they were still trying to pick up the pieces, half a year later.

    So he was a bit incredulous when the Assembly insisted on hunting down the traitor, and he was even a bit offended when Medwick joined them, his silent omniscience mocking them all. The sage mostly took his human form, but whispers travelled through the hallways of a great luminous figure that strode between mountains, with a head of glass and arms twice as long as its legs. Right now, Medwick had a relaxed tension to his eyes that suggested he was deep in thought.

    In fact, the asshole was daydreaming! Coul threw a pencil at him.

    Medwick walked under arches made of twisted white. Each piece was made of bone split down the middle, to show the airy structure so characteristic of birds. This landscape was one he traveled frequently when Coul's nagging grew unbearable. Once sharp, and colder than any Peulian storm the landscape bent to his presence, the irisdescent air forming the stairs to guide his strides, and when he reached the top Caoimhe was there, all curled up and drawing circles in the sand with a pale feather.

    "So this is what you're preoccupied with. Can't say I'm surprised."

    "Can you be surprised?" the she that was Aerie taunted back, bored with the balancing and the barren towns of her mind. They conversed in fractals, a language of the mind and of dreams. For all of Caoimhe's knife's edge balance, standing at the drop of her own mind she made a surprisingly quick learner when it came to this dream speech. Not entirely surprising Medwick mused, he had seen her talk with dogs, and mutter to birds, and with a little assitance from the Libras thread that marred her mindscape this became just another tool.

    How he just wished that each time she woke she was not left with just slivers of what they accomplished during the night. "But this setting is so blatant. I certainly hope you don't mope this much when you're awake."

    Her mouth opened in reply, but closed without finding a biting enough answer. Turning she decisively showed her back to Medwick. Sand swept in a molten stream and rose as a snake to twine up her legs.

    "Sulking are we?" Medwick watched as the structure reached to engulf her. Silence was her reply, but thoughts rustled her feathers. For all the snide remarks and bickering that was traded Caoimhe enjoyed these times, they lifted a heavy weight off of her mind. In the beginning the symptoms of their interactions had been slight, but lately for many hours after she awoke the buzing in her skull was quieted, and only towards late afternoon did her skin crawl with need of relief again.

    "Have you ever been to Kaustir?"

    "Only as far as your dreams let me explore. Only Kaustrians can leave by Avarath's east gate. Beyond that is a land of secrecy and kresnick."

    "Feels like the mountains at night." She said, something almost akin to a laugh coloring her voice. "Who decided that the endless burning sand would be so cold?"

    "The merchants told me of an ocean of sand. They almost worship it, but it is more like a deep reverence. The Waters Below." The sage's eyes twinkled with something close to excitement. "Most of my nights in Avarath I never slept. I dreamed of the things buried in the sand, with a pipe full of their finest white claudia."

    The mention of white claudia sent a shiver down Caoimhe's spine. The shine in the air dulled and began to stir, and the sand at her feet turned to dust and rose as smoke. White lotus, a close cousin of the Pegulis mages's favorite drug, but where claudia lifted and sharpened, lotus dulled and confined.

    "Speaking of the white sisters." Medwick sneered, hunching down from the sky to peer deeply into Caoimhe's eyes, "You have the dulled look of a habitual user. What are you trying to escape from? Does it have anything to do with your dreams here?" Rhetorical question. Of course it did.

    "I did not have the luxary of losing my body." Caoihme snapped, unable to quite meet Medwick's gaze. "I can feel it gnawing."

    She raised a hand to her temple, clawing at the spot as though plagued by a headache. How much more white lotus did she have? A weeks worth? Four days? Two days? One? The gnawing at her mind was only made worse by the creeping withdrawel that filled her mouth with a bitter bile and drove ice picks through her skull.

    "You're not stupid, Caoimhe." Medwick sat next to her, a curiously nostalgic smile on his face. "Boil them. Extract the essence. Concentrate it. Meter the dose. You will grow tolerant to it, in time, but the purity matters. Don't just ... " he slapped his temple, "hammer it and expect it to work forever. You need more finesse."

    Something tender haunted the edges of Caoimhe's mouth and she cast a sideways glance at Medwick before returning her gaze to a none existant spot of dirt that she was determined to pick away. "You would know my skill at finessing." A laugh prickled her throat.

    The sage opened his mouth, but for once, closed it. It was as close to a compliment as Caoimhe would get. "Well, it seems like Coul has caught on to me." Medwick's eyes traced, in slow motion, the arc of an object that came closer and closer to his head. "See you ... soon." His form partially unraveled before remembered, stopping to draw a single long thread from his coat and wrapping the string around her middle finger.

    "You aren't supposed to dream on white lotus, but you aren't exactly a typical user. And I have heard this helps in remembering."

    Medwick allowed the pencil to bounce off his face. He deserved that much.
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  16. [​IMG]
    How long had it been sense the blast that day? Days? Weeks? Months? Time had become one big blur in the icy wilderness, and one man, one survivor, had been clinging to life. That day he had been ordered to ride back to Lut for further instruction, but it would be a journey he would never complete. The surge of power from, what seemed like, Pegulis itself toppled the mans horse crushing one of his legs underneath. He would lay there in the snow for two days ready for death to take him, but it would never come. Consciousness came in and out like waves, but the pleas of a soft familiar voice would always bring him back. "You have to move father, please!" she called to him.

    At the end of the second day the man mustered enough strength to free his leg, but the hardship did not end there. With what little knowledge he had he braced his leg as best he could, but the hardship did not end there. Rations was used up quickly, despite eat as little as he could, and hunting proved near impossible. He ate what every he could tare off the trees, whatever grasses he could find, anything to keep him going just a bit longer.

    He continued walking the frozen wastes for six months, forging, stealing what he could from small camps, trying not to go insane. The last part was becoming increasingly harder to do, the soft voice that once kept him going became the screams of those he had watch burn in the plagued village. They tore at his mind, cursing him for what he had help do that day. He begged for forgiveness, but it would never come.

    He is lost, cursed to wonder the wasteland he was so keen to conquer. Surely it will be his grave if death were so kind.


    Night had fallen on the frozen wastes, and so did Takeda's hope for finding salvation. The howling wind tore and his flesh, the only thing protecting him was a few furs he had stolen from various camps. His hands and feet started to going numb from exposure, and his mind dulled from the cold. The only thing keeping him going were the screams, the damn screams that spurned him onward. He wanted them to stop "ENOUGH! I BEG OF YOU ENOUGH!" he roared against them.

    The man continued through the dark falling and stumbling with no sense of direction. Eventually his resolve came to an end, falling to his knees in the snow. He sobbed quietly to himself, tears freezing to his face, before pulling out his sword. He held it with quivering hands, before bringing the tip to his chest. Everything could be over in one felts swoop, who would miss a failed soldier... who would miss a murderer? He pulled the blade inward and felt in just penetrate his armor, the cold tip now pressed against his skin. He tense ready for what was to come next... but it didn't. "AHHHHH!" he through the sword to the ground in a fit of rage and weakness. Then he just sat there letting the icy wind wash over his body, listening to it as if it held some kind of comforting words. Then came a sound one, and then many... a bell?

    Takeda listened for a moment, surely this was his mind playing a cruel joke on him. The chimes came over and over again. He got to his feet, sheathing his weapon, and followed after the sweet tone. Soon the sounds of animals came into his ear, then came the faint glow of a small house. There right next to the cabin was a small herd of Elk. All the swordsman saw was food, his eyes growing large at the size of the creatures. He clumsily hopped the fens of the pen, scaring a few of the Elk, and he drew his blade.

    "Hands off!" a voice yelled from behind him. Takeda turned but all that came next was a shooting pain in his head, and the blackness of sleep. ​
    #16 Tone 6th, Oct 18, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2016
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  17. Kerrick Aenlass — Facing Demons

    That voice felt almost unrecognizable now. How long had it been since he'd heard the sound of that enchanting voice? It sounded so, so much like Ilsa, except... it had a different timber; an innocence - a sort of... child-like sweetness.

    Kerrick groaned as the voice called him back to consciousness, eyes still closed. His eyebrows furrowed down in pain as he became increasingly aware of an incessant ringing plaguing his ears. Awareness of the aches and soreness followed, surging another grunt of complaint surged from his chest. What in Ilium's name was causing this?

    He froze, all the features on his face squeezing together as the sudden jolt of memory surged back to him. They had been in the rear guard - him, Amalia and Rakar. The crunch of snow under the weight of boots welcomed him home, and even though he was fighting for the wrong side he was in good spirits, practically embracing the cold. Amalia was right in that judgment she'd made of him so many nights prior; he wore the Kaustrian heat like a cloak, trying to wrap himself in it moreso than letting himself be wrapped by it.

    Kerrick hadn't quite understood her meaning until finally getting to return to his homeland, when he could shed that cloak and let himself actually be cold again. But it was shortlived; not long into their march upon Pegulis, the roar came. He didn't remember what was louder: the agonized screams that echoed back from the vanguard and from the throngs of people caught by the blast, or the actual thundering of the wave itself.

    His lungs sucked in a gasp as he regained consciousness, shaken from the dreamlike memory as his eyes finally opened. Vague, blurred shapes and colors gradually came into focus as he sat up in his home.

    The Lisbon home. And before him, his daughter, her bright blonde pigtails disheveled and beautiful blue eyes wrought with disdain and distrust.

    Kerrick Callen's heart leapt into his throat. ...How? Ilsa said-- Ilsa said she was dead...!

    Karissa's lower lip quivered as she clutched her tattered rag-doll to her chest, betrayal watering at her eyes as she glowered at her father.

    "Daddy, how could you!? You're fighting for them!?"

    Callen's breaths fell ragged, air squeezing out from his lungs and stubbornly refusing to come back. The weight and the shame of his burdens turned to anguish. He shook his head fervently, so hard the pain nagging at the back of his head throbbed in protest. "Kari, it's not what you think!" Hand outstretched, the man attempted to walk towards his estranged daughter, only for her to quickly shuffle back, shrinking into herself to cower away from him.

    "This is why you left? So- so y-you could..." Her lips pressed together in pain as she whimpered, nostrils flaring just as the first tears broke free and cascaded down her ivory cheeks. "So you could chase some desert girl!?"

    "No! Please, Kari," the distraught father pleaded. "You don't understand-- please, let me explain!"

    Karissa backed away once more, a whine of protest already bubbling in her throat. "Nnnn!" She couldn't even properly express her grief, shaking her head so fiercely that her pigtails restlessly flung about - as if shaking her head might somehow stop her father's voice from reaching her ears. "No, I understand just fine! YOU'RE the one who's confused!"

    The crying amplified as her little legs bolted into movement, carrying her past Kerrick and out the door. He called after her, chasing her out the door of their home and back into consciousness.

    Another hard gasp for air came in warm, not like the Aldus cold. Instead of the dark, rich wooden lines of his home, he was greeted with the drab gray of canvas. Of yurts.

    And instead of his deceased daughter, the faces of Amalia and Rakar loomed over him. Amalia's features were wrinkled with concern, though they seemed to lighten as Kerrick came to.

    Rakar, on the other hand, was unenthused.

    "Who is 'Kari' - and what were you going to explain?"
    #17 fatalrendezvous, Feb 10, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
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  18. Inconspicuous Change Council-member Turin of Belfast walked into his home office and took a seat at his desk. He eyed the neat piles of files awaiting him and pursed his lips. His hand lazily lifted reaching into the air, and then fell down onto the first page with a quill in hand. A few minutes passed and the man reached for a warm mug that had not been there before. He sipped the tea pensively as he leaned back on the fur-lined chair. The dry tip of the quill tapped rhythmically on the desk, and Turin's raised fingers closed onto his already lit pipe. Turin cleared his throat and then breathed in the smoke.

    "Take the day," his voice echoed slightly through the seemingly empty room, a voice pleased with itself for its magnanimity.

    And then the room was truly empty but for the councilman.

    He was still not at the level of skill he'd once reached, but during the past half year Viule had closed the gap. Long before the Czar's dark cloud of windfish closed in on the fortress between the east-west Kaikas mountain range, Viule had aimed to be ordinary. As he'd cast off his past, he'd allowed his once honed senses and experienced body to give into complacency. It had taken the murder of a blind old lady, a stranger, to make him realize the error of his ways. Even now, he walked through the house of Belfast with a leather pouch in hand and upon its leather surface the name "Eldrida" was engraved. The contents had been long spent, now replaced with a thermic gem, but it's symbolic meaning remained just as strong as it had taken on that day. It had allowed him to steal a thermic gem from his master and make way towards the Pegulis-Viridos border while Kaustir continued it's military advance. The journey had given him a painful reminder of how weak he had let himself become.

    For nearly half a year Viridos became his new teacher and trainer, one so merciless it almost made Viule think fondly of his childhood. With only Vanu's quiet company, he reached as far as the old Aviary where he finally made contact with Viridosians willing to talk. During his stay in the area he met a drug dealer named Hakim Teadoir Eherndil who introduced him to an array of natural toxins that ranked from harmless fun to induced insanity, not to mention the discussion of much darker natural creations and synthetic manipulations. However, the rise of the lesser demiurges brought everyone and everything to a halt. Retreat followed, and Viule Vanukar too traveled back to his new home.

    Now Turin's steward was back in his role as if the half year's journey had not been. Only crux and aux knew better. Together they walked the snow, Vanu looking inconspicuously darker, better fed, and stronger.
    "A year ago I would have starved to death by now. Pathetic," he observed. Vanu's eyes shone bright red with disgust. From the beginning the aux had never approved of discarding their old way of life.

    They reached the city limits without stopping. Aldus no longer provided cover while the cold wind howled about the nocturne. He clutched the thermic gem and raised the collar of his coat, eyes locking onto a far off elk. His killing intent strengthened, by his thirst, alerted the elk who soon ran off. Vanu shivered with the thrill for a hunt and Viule lamented, "Not in Pegulis... here we drink it from a container."

    The herdsmen's house lay ahead, atop a raised landscape from which they kept an eye on their elk. The old couple were nice, too nice for their own good Viule thought, allowing him to enter the house while they gathered his order. They'd been too polite when he'd visited after his return. Vanu had unnerved them, making them question Viule as a customer and wondering too late why they'd never seen his aux before. Now they new, particularly given Vanu's restlessness. Viule had smelled the human blood as soon as the house door had opened. Healed wounds, he figured given the faintness and the lack of freshness of it.

    "How peculiar," he told the patient from behind the parted curtain, "you must be new to Aldus... only the truly desperate end up in the outskirts." Vanu's 12 hungry red eyes fixed on the man.

    "I admonish against causing these people trouble, it would inconvenience me..." it was said in an easygoing yet earnest way, though Vanu's eager grimace gave more of Viule away.
    #18 Mglo, Feb 27, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
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  19. Close Encounter The once great samurai didn't jump at the sudden voice from behind the curtain, too preoccupied to care. He stared, sitting in his bed, at the black katana he once coveted. His other sword was lost to the cold wasteland this place was. This sword was now witness to another mass killing, a blood stain he could never wipe from his soul. "Stranger" he spoke up, "have you witnessed a sight so horrible it made you question your ideals, your country, your very being?"

    Viule let the question hang, the weight of it increasing in his mind the more he considered answering it honestly. He glanced down at his aux who now stood still, its hungry grin no longer there. "Questioning such things is not something that comes naturally to me," he hinted and evaded simultaneously, "and I'm not sure how similar are our definitions of what horrible is. What I can say is, that you've probably come very close to death and when someone gets that close, they're more willing to reject all while they cry for life... or so I've read." Viule stepped forward under the curtain and into the room, knowing a man who spoke thus couldn't be normal. Even so, he lithely closed in on the bed and cordially extended his hand, "Viule Vanukar, steward." If Aldus had taught him anything about normalcy, it was that polite niceties got you places.

    "Tekeda Shingen," he shook Viule's hand only to cringe in pain afterword, lightly pressing on his bandaged ribs. With a grimace he shakily got to his feet and limped over to the sword, every little movement paining him. He sheathed the weapon, missing the opening a few times, and put it back up against the wall. He shuffled back to the bed and sat down with a thud, the action seeming to take all of his strength. "Forgive my current condition, I have been out in the cold for quite sometime." This was easy to tell by the man's appearance. His hair long and unkempt, beard thick, eyes tired. "Was there something you needed of me?"

    Viule recalled Takeda's first question and his mind flew towards the sword. His heightened senses focused on Takeda's every move, suspicion crawling imperceptibly as Viule chose his words carefully, "only that you count on me should you need help beyond what the elk farmers here can offer you. We're living in hard times aren't we? Horrors after horrors showing up in every nation... or so the rumors go. What horror were you pulled into, if you don't mind me asking?" Despite the man's pained movements Viule could pick up signs of a fighter in him, and a certain familiarity had Viule take care to hide his own. "The Kaustir nocturne attack on the Kaikan Mountain Pass made things difficult for me here for example," he watched for any detail in Takeda's reaction, "people didn't like nocturnes much after that, not that we're a terribly popular people to begin with."

    The samurai tensed at the mention of the mountain pass. He paused for a while. "I was one of the leaders in that attack, but I had no idea that Lut would... would kill in that sort of fashion." Takeda seemed to be back into his own little world, as if confessing to an invisible presence. "There was no honor in it, there was no regard for the life he took, but all I could do was watch and listen to the screams of those poor people." His grip tightened. "I should be dead for the sins I have committed, and for the lives I helped take." Every part of his body was tensed and angry. "Lut and all of Kaustir will pay for what they have done!" he yelled. His frenzy only ended when he caught site of Viule's eyes, his body relaxed. "I am sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused because of my nation's poor actions. I will take Lut's life by my own hand."

    Viule turned away, as if to pretend to examine the room in solemnity. At the moment Takeda had no way of knowing Viule was everything Takeda was condemning. Nor was he aware that by confirming the nocturne’s suspicions, he’d essentially hired the ex-assassin to take on one more job - his life. A righteous Kaustrain soldier was a potential threat to Viule’s current way of life, and plans.
    “You’ll need your health for that,” he turned with the sympathetic tone he’d once seen on one of the household maids. “Mr. Shingen, you seem fit enough for a walk. It would do you good. If you don’t mind, I could show you part of the elk farm while I wait for my order?”
    If Vanu had been at all visible since his first look into the room, he was visible no more. The hellhound’s eager and greedy eyes were wisely kept away from Takeda’s view.

    "Yes my health... I have the fine people of this farm to thank for my life. Yes a walk would do me some good at this point. These people were kind enough to lend me what little clothes they had that would fit." he pointed to some warmer clothes that were left at the side of his bed. "I will meet you outside, if you don't mind." the samurai smiled.

    A few minutes later and Takeda was outside in much warmer clothes. He faced the open snow wastes and took a deep breath of cool air "This place is much nicer than that blasted desert, one could get used to this." he spoke to Viule.

    “Indeed,” he replied, his voice dark and ominous, and though his fist was already cutting through the cold air Viule knew he’d made a mistake. Crux and Aux’s eagerness to kill had bled through the single word and the ex-assassin’s precise aim to break the back of Takeda’s skull had been forewarned.

    The hair of the swordsman's neck stood up, he turned to block the block the punch knocking it to the left. He grabbed hold of Viule's shoulder and pushed his away. "What is this! Have you gone mad? I mean you no harm boy!" Takeda called out. He wouldn't draw his blade on an unarmed opponent, he had some honor left.
    Without reply or delay a hidden kitchen knife blurred through Viule’s hand as it flew, once more aimed at Takeda’s skull. The nocturnes movements were too calculated and efficient for thought, they revealed the muscle memory of a specialized type of soldier. Almost as soon as the knife had left his fingers, Viule’s feet too sped forward for the continued attack.
    The knife was big and heavy, mostly used to hack Elk apart, this allowed the swordsman enough time to quickly draw his blade and slash the knife out of the air. CLANG! When sword met the rusted metal of the knife it nearly cut it in two, would have if not for Takeda's injuries. He ran at the boy and swung at him, straight down the middle.
    The darkness of the blade’s metal caught the nocturne’s interest and his aim to sidestep into a side attack was delayed. He was forced to evade at an awkward angle as Takeda’s swing fell down Viule’s shoulder. A few drops of blood splattered the white snow, a few others clung to the dark blade. From some distance Vanu’s hateful judgement was mirrored in its twelve red eyes. So many mistakes. It was embarrassing. He could not see his present skill because he kept comparing himself to his Kaustir days. The old him would have finished the job in the first attack. The old him wouldn’t have been cut. The old him would have manipulated his own blood to perfection, no drop of blood would now stain snow or metal. In his mind he was failing, and yet no ordinary soldier could have escaped Takeda’s blade while distracted and with only a minor cut to show for it. The nocturne began to circle his prey, his steps light and full of intent.

    The samurai was careful to watch his attacker. "The way you move, the way you disregard pain... Kaustir soldier?... No... your steps are too light... assassin." He charged Viule with a vertical slice downward. "I will not be taken back to that dead country!"

    Viule flinched with something like emotion, but not strong enough to distract from Takeda’s words and swordsmanship. Now he’d been discovered he no longer tried to hide his fighting style, more easily evading the dark sword like a soundless mannequin flying out of the way. He recalled Takeda’s earlier words and an idea began to take shape. “Would you go back to it, if it meant destroying it?”

    "Empty words!" the samurai reset his stance. "The war, the Czar, my so called friends, all of it can burn!" he charged again.

    Like a wolf, Viule evaded and circled watching for the prey to tire. “It will be poisoned, in ways it hasn’t poisoned itself. Let that knowledge make your death easier if you’re unwilling to poison it yourself.” Knees bent for a split second and Viule straightened now holding the old kitchen knife. He sped forward, throwing knife as he evaded whilst aiming a kick to Takeda’s ribs.

    The kick landed. "Agh!" Takeda yelled. He managed to bring his sword up in time to deflect the knife though. The samurai jumped back, "This blasted snow is keeping me sluggish!" the thought to himself. "Fine you want to talk, let's talk. First how do I know you really aren't here to kill me on the Czar's behalf?"

    “I fled Kaustir years ago. Only man that orders me around now is Pegulis councilman Turin of Belfast. I serve him tea, and clean his smoking pipe,” Viule paused, his patience waning as hunger urged him to be done with this business. “If I’m here to kill you, it’s because a Kaustrian loyalist would get in the way of my plans. If I haven’t killed you, it’s because you’re turning out to be the opposite… and that could be use- helpful.”

    "Very well..." the samurai sheathed his sword. "Show me your loyalist brand to this land. That's how it works around here right? You serve them and you’re branded, especially an outsider?"

    Viule imagined himself ripping Takeda’s lips off and somewhere in the distance Vanu snarled, “I’m not that straightforward, I chose the backdoor. One branding’s been enough for my lifetime, this time I chose to be loyal not forced.” Viule’s fingers itched with the need to touch the scar, but resisted. If anything could make him feel with intensity, it was the thought of his early years.

    “Come on, I need to eat and you need to rest,”
    Viule turned to walk back to the Elk farm though his muscles still tensed ready to defend, “if you’re not going to die today, you better get yourself ready for travel.”
    Collab @Tone 6th

    End of Chapter 10.​
    #19 Mglo, Jun 20, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2017
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