Pegulis, Chapter 6

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  1. Chapter 6
    Interlude: Tired Denouement

    Medwick and his party arrived at the front gates to Barvelle. He did not expect any fanfare, but during the long journey back, the uneventful days as the ground underneath them changed from green to frozen white, the daydream of accolades, women (actually, scratch that), praise, and recognition had grown in him to something he could almost believe. So he felt slightly disappointed when he had to hail at the secret gates, and show his passport to the guard.

    His confusion mounted as he was taken by a page through the tunnels, clutching the waterskin with the Libras inside close to his chest. In his head, he imagined reporting to his council, announcing his return, telling of his journeys, unwrapping the Sphere and triumphantly showing it before the General Assembly. He would be vindicated, and single-handedly secure the future of Pegulis.


    When Medwick entered the chamber, he found the inner council in plain dress, sitting in chairs dragged into the chamber, on the other side of a simple table. He had never seen them in their cloak and masks, so did not find it strange.

    "Welcome home, Sage Medwick."

    Between Shardis and Medwick, they recounted their journey to the council; the golems, the ghoul sage, the plague, the Chersonese, Viridos, Teadoir ("Worst part of the journey"), and finally the relic.

    "The Ghoul Sage intercepted your letter."
    "He paid us a visit."
    "Cautioned us against Divine Weapons."
    "Nearly half of the Assembly wanted to pull you back."

    Medwick's answer startled them.

    "I am not surprised." He opened the waterbag to show the Libras Sphere. It had turned the water blood red, filling it with microscopic particles of rust.

    Each member assumed their own personal expression of pensiveness. Michel pushed a finger deep into his forehead, Helena leaned back in her chair, and Arktus folded his arms into his hanfu.

    "A Divine Weapon."
    Helena and Michel leaned closer. Arktus gazed at it with a certain disinterest.
    "A Divine object."
    "An old god's tool." The Calm Sage leaned forward and peered into the sphere with its mixing concentric colours. "Don't give it any more credit than it is due."

    "Libras' tool." Michel pinched his nose bridge. He seemed to like poking parts of his face when he was deep in thought ("To massage out the old age.").


    "The Cataclysm is just far enough for our records to be unreliable. We know that prior to it, the inhabitants of Sunne were largely the same as they are now. In some of the texts that esteemed archaeologists like yourself have excavated from deep caverns, or far north where the Ursani dwell, we can deduce that Libras was -"

    "That doesn't make any sense." Helena flicked Michel on the forehead. "The creation myth says that Libras is the God responsible for filling up the Prosperos Sea. They say that he was in possession of the Allsource. In fact, the Allsource is Libras, and Libras is the Allsource. His human form was only an avatar given to him by the sphere. When he died, he filled us with knowledge just as he filled up our world with water."

    "Ridiculous. You can't rely on oral tradition. Relics that survived the Cataclysm are the only records we should rely on."

    "And how can you even be sure of that? Oral tradition is strong when unblemished. We are not that far from the sundering. Look."

    The bag overflowed gently, blood-red water tracing rivulets around the floor.

    Arktus gave Medwick an apologetic smile. They would go on for hours.


    In the end, they did not come to an agreement about the god Libras. Medwick left with little more than he entered. He stood up and reached for the bag, but froze when all three pairs of eyes set upon him. Water still trickled from the top. A minute - or more - passed in silence. He awkwardly released his hand, gave them a Pegulian salute, and walked from the chamber. They resumed arguing even before the doors completely shut.

    Later, he sat around a table with 'Caoimhe' ("...") and Shardis. He picked uncomfortably at the fresh robes, battered red sash sitting on his shoulders in stark contrast.

    "When we left Barvelle, it was a pretty auspicious day. Our caravan was large - we had all the supplies we needed, we had all the experts and security we wanted, and I even had a letter from the Archon in my pocket! I was supposed to use it if we ran into trouble crossing the borders - documentation with the official Aldus [n.b. Aldus and Pegulis are synonymous to outsiders] seal." He showed it to them - nothing more than a tattered, sun-bleached piece of parchment now, the writing long leached away.

    "We're back now. We did our job. Did we get all we wanted to? No! I'm back with what I started with. Nothing I've done out there will help me in Pegulis. Dressing and roasting wild rabbits, evading rogues, suffering from some ilium-forsaken disease, and nearly having my throat ripped out by a giant predatory goldfish - how have we grown or gained from any of those experiences? We retrieved a Divine Weapon for Pegulis - so what? They took it away, squirreled away - probably to throw it into a vault, locked down by portents spoken from a wrinkled mouth older than age."

    "The founding ideals of Pegulis are - supposedly - democracy and passing on knowledge. Neither of those helped us out there. I had to force us to take directions many times. I had to impose my decisions on the rest of you. There was no time to explain what I wanted to do - I knew what was best and had to act fast for our sake. Sitting down to talk about it like educated adults wouldn't have accomplished anything. No one likes foreign diggers sifting through their own history. We couldn't even tell them we were pursuing a Divine Weapon - they would have flayed the blood from our bones. Democracy wouldn't have saved us from Teadoir."

    Medwick slumped onto the table. Life outside the ivory tower had changed him. A nascent idea swirled in the back of his mind.

    An idea ...

    ... that perhaps he knew better than most people around him.

    Whump. His bench jostled. Medwick could never forget that smell, that faint scent of herbs, soured kresnik, and donkey musk.

    "What," he began, "are you..."

    "GLYPH!" 'Caiomhe' leaped over the table, arms outstretched. She did not quite make it, but still managed to wrap her arms around the grizzly bard.

    "Ay-yay-yay, feygela!" Yellow nails and taut, browned skin combed her hair. "If I had a daughter like you, perhaps I could finally die happy!"

    "Glyph?" Shardis' tail nervously swished to and fro. "Glyph, you can't be here without the papers! The guards will come! Glyph ... !"

    "Yes, of course, that is the problem, dear sister." For the time being, Medwick was re-infused with his sense of duty, and he stood up with both palms on the table, pulling 'Caoimhe' away. "You are a Kaustrian. You are not supposed to be here."

    "Lucky me!" Glyph withdrew an authentic, if not worn, passport from his robes. "A ganif sold me a new face." The colour drained from Medwick's face as the bard tamped his pipe. "There are many maps at the border, Medwick. Many maps. The klots spreading them around has been sent on ... vacation. All expenses paid by Lut Sar ("Lut Who?"), I hear. But many remain who are eager to book travel, for a heavy enough pursesack. I had an easy time, yes, but then again, I like to travel ..."

    "Tell me ..."
    He inhaled deeply from his pipe.

    "Can you smell the kresnik?"
    #1 unanun, Sep 23, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
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  2. " book us travel..."

    Her ears drooped and her tail slapped an empty chair so hard it threatened to fall over and ended up wobbling to a stop against the small table by the fire. Shardis was still enjoying the idea of being home again, the real food, hunting, snow bathing etc. The thought of traveling again, especially like what they had just been through... well, lets just say she wasn't ready. "Travel?! Where? Why?"

    Caoimhe frowned at her and tried to kick her under the table but Shar quickly dodged the attempt and returned the frown with a mild snarl. Hadn't they done enough? They had brought that dam sphere here for what? The council had barely acknowledged the act. For all the hell they had gone through and ...nothing! Shit! She had lost her coat at least twice, 'it still hadn't grown completely back in some areas'. Now the old man shows up (she hadn't missed him at all) and telling about a possible invasion, oh Gods! She missed the simple life.

    "Oww! God dam that lizard!" She made a kicking motion under the table that missed its target and the little dragon skittered back behind Caoimhe's chair and this time the wolf girl's kick did connect which brought a bigger yowl of pain from the snow leopard anima as she fought to save her dignity and balance at the same time in a hasty retreat. Shardis walked over to the fire and picked up the poker, stabbed the logs and growled at the same time as she watched out of the corner of her eye as the little dragon snuck a peek out between it's mother's legs. It hissed petulantly at her and Shardis chuffed and sat in the arm chair by the fireplace, still keeping a firm grip on the poker... just in-case.

    Stabbing at the coals Shardis began to let her mind wonder over the past few months. At least the trip home had been easier, sort of. The melding of Caoimhe and Aerie had been very...disconcerting, to say the least. Medwick had been almost happy until they had gotten here too. Why couldn't things just be simple even just once in a while? Shar sighed.

    Movement on the floor caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. "Dam it Caoimhe can't you put a leash on that creature or something?! Infernal thing thinks my ankles are food, I'd swear it!" The cat girl began swearing under her breath as she slapped the poker on the floor loud enough to make a ringing sound in the direction of the dragonette. There was a squeal of terror as the little fellow dashed back under Caoimhe's chair.
    #2 lynzy, Sep 23, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2014
  3. The sound of metal smashing against metal could be heard coming from a small and unremarkable cavern located in one of the more isolated parts of Barvelle. The warm glow of burning fires and the plume of thick smoke crawling over the top of the cave and out the exit could be seen from far around. Ferri, the resident blacksmith, prefered it that way; not many people enjoyed the repetitive clanging sound and he didn't enjoy the company of people. So it was a win-win. Still though, even as isolated as he was, rumours made it to his ears. Rumours of great, but terrible things happening in his frozen little nation. The more of those whispers made it to his doorstep, the more blades he began to forge, as though they would somehow ward off any bad news. Perhaps they could, perhaps they couldn't, who knew? The swords were flying out the door almost as fast as he could make them. It would appear other people had similar ideas.

    Ferri removed any notions of the outside world from his head, he had to focus after all, the steel wouldn't shape itself. Again and again he dropped the hammer down on the red hot metal, several strokes, before it cooled too much for it to be worked on again. One of the downsides of working in a frozen nation. He jammed the unfinished blade back in the coals and worked the bellows; every push lit the coals more and more until the coals, and the blade, were hot enough to work with again. He would keep this up for the rest of the day, it was tedious, but necessary. There were dozens of blacksmiths in the city, how would he stand out if not with quantity and quality?
    #3 caligari, Sep 24, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Barvelle, teal Life did not seem to stand still for the three of the Inner Council.


    Arktus peered closely at the spell circle. It had been delivered to them by Artorius, a Watch guard from Aldus. The Calm Sage had caught the young man at a table, staring intently at the scroll. The line work was among the most intricate he had seen, and it prompted him to sit down next to the guard from Aldus. Yet, on closer examination, the circle was revealed to be hastily drawn, using complicated conditions and loop formula.

    It was an impressive feint. To those unaware, it would have turned them into ash. The treasure it concealed underneath, however, was far more beautiful, powerful in its simplicity. A thousand circles within a circle, spiraling ever smaller into the center.

    The other two Sages stood back, and Arktus extended his hand, his marmot aux leaping forth into the center of the circle. As the circles activated one by one, the marmot was slowly transformed into a glowing mote, the same mote that the Ghoul Sage had extracted from the poor Nocturne, so long ago, to power the golem that stole the dragon eggs from Eirene. Ice from the cavern liquefied, geomantically drawn into the spell circle.

    A golem began to form, thin and deadly.

    Arktus' aux leaped out of the golem, the nascent golem splashing back into the ground.

    "We will need artificers. Smiths."
    "And something else to power the spell circle. The only thing it responds to is aux."

    The Calm Sage said nothing, rubbing his chin and staring at the circle with a blank look on his face.
    #4 unanun, Sep 25, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2014
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  5. Tough luck

    In the coming days along the frozen shores, the Anthro focused on getting into the rhythm of being in the wilds again, getting bearings in lands she was not too familiar with. The south lacked the mystical ruins and artefacts that the north held, which made exploring prosperous business. Instead, the vague maps and untouched landscape instilled her with boredom.

    It was truly the wilds of Pegulis. Being down at the lake and flatlands she noticed it had a different weather pattern, with the open plains the icy winds forced her to seek refuge in something that seemed to have been an old observation tower. The young ranger made the fatal mistake of lowering her guard, settling behind the covering walls unaware of her intrusion into a beast’s lair. Had it not been for the old buildings failed attempts to stand against her unstable powers she would probably have died that evening. Its sudden and explosive emergence from her arm hitting the walls crumbling them around her and the beast. For once the girl regretted leaving home.

    In the days of travel over the open snowy plains and patches of forest that covered the flatlands to the Chersonese border the young girl had to struggle with stamina as she did her best to make sure that beast didn't find or catch up to her, forcing her to recklessly push through territories of other predators. Hunting on the go with only small prey to pick of. She often dug herself down into small pits in the snow to sleep relying on her Anthro attributes and the thermal crystals instead of campfires and similar time wasting procedures.

    Although beaten and very tired she reached the Chersonese. Eydis could only admire these open lands. The mixture of vegetation and animals with such a forgiving climate was incredible compared to the cold north of Pegulis and its mountains. The first days were heaven for the young Anthro as she travelled over the border. But that morning the horizon held a strange tone with streaks of smoke. The ground trembled and the forest was silent. It was frightening; instinct screamed for escape. And when Eydis finally found a place to observe the lands ahead she saw armies marching.

    Holding the red banner of Kaustir.

    After all that travel she was faced with something that she had to return and tell Pegulis about. After all her mistakes she could not forsake this. It was simply too big. The witch hunter struck not long after she had begun heading back towards the border again. Surprising her on the road before she could react to what seemed like a magic incantation the connection to her aux was suddenly filled with shock sending her to the ground weakened. What followed was a haze and the feeling of colder air. The cold feeling of home.

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  6. [On route to Barvelle]

    He had made his move out of Aldus as soon as he had received words that he had been summoned, packing in the necessities that he needed, packing himself in warm clothes as to prevent for himself to fall ill and finally set out on the long way to the mysterious capital city. It was fortunate for him that the messenger who had come to see him was also to lead the way, Ophanim himself never having seen the capital city or ever been there and with that several days had passed and they were soon to reach his destination.

    His luggage was too heavy for him to fly and in courtesy of his travelling companion Ophanim wouldn’t go up into the air either to leave him alone on the grounds. The silence between them sealed ever since the last word of his summoning had been spoken. The only sound that would accompany them was the slight ticking of the few watches he had quickly packed with him, hoping to sell them in the capital as to make a little money. After all as a small business man Ophanim had to think a little about his income, with his summoning he had to close up his shop and with that a lot of business would be lost. He needed and worried himself on how to catch up on that, but went on the way without much complaint anyway. After all the news of the circle sounded greatly curious, the many opportunities rising through his head as how he might be of service.

    A good week had passed when they had finally reached the city itself, a good while for the locksmith and clockmaker to think of something that might help out. He imagined the golems to be sensitive instruments that had to be summoned by magic and sensitive instruments were his specialty. No matter the size his greatest wonder was how far their limits was to be set, the ideas spurring inside of his head, but these were all before he had seen the actual thing into work. Ophanim realized that he lacked greatly in knowledge to work on actual ideas and could thus far only come up with concepts. He was no mage, or a highly educated scholar, just a simple man who had studied the studies of crafting and then specialised himself in locks and clocks, with a noted ability to forge. It made the young man think, the reason that he had been one of these summoned to the secret capital city, what it might be.

    He dismissed the thought soon enough though, already glad that he could get out of his dull little shop and escape his routine for a while. His heart had been yearning for an adventure, but he couldn’t find himself to be involved in one. At least now he didn’t have to deal with the rising tension between the refugees and the citizens of Aldus, him considered to be standing at the side lines watching. He had long since left the Aviary and settled himself in Aldus, but the unfortunate happening that it crashed had even impacted him a little, feeling as if part of him had crashed as well. However he was fast to dismiss these feelings as well, not wanting to have anything interfere in whatever was ahead of him. He didn't need a distracted or a clouded mind as his instincts told him that something great was ahead of him. Something bigger than only the golem blueprints, or being summoned, but he wasn't too sure if he was liking this development. Perhaps the recent turmoil had made him wary of dark clouds, or maybe made him imagine them to surround him everywhere. In any case he felt restless, watching how the city was dooming up in front of him an odd form of excitement spreading through him and warming up his inner being.
  7. Then, grey
    "Damned fools." the sound of her own voice surprised Caoimhe, once dismissed from the council chamber her mind had been in disarray. Only part of her had really understood the gravity of the actual discussion the other part of her had been merely reading the body language of those involved. By the end of the meeting both halves were in general agreement about the meeting. And still the voice that come out of her mouth was not the one Caoimhe was familiar with, it was harsher, more biting, more akin to that of a bird that now shared her skin. A solitary scholar, hearing the outburst, shot her a reproachful glare as he made his way down the passage heading to whatever dark hole he inhabited in this dreadful, homely mountain.

    "Gah." In frustration Caoimhe threw up her hands, cupping them firmly around her ears. When they had been traveling these contradictions had not been so bad, survival came first and gave her something to concentrate on and work for, but now with more time to think her mind was flooded with thoughts, half of which were not her own. Here secure and warm from the world around the chores that had kept her sane were not needed, her only real concerns being the life of her child. Yes, this was a dreadful mountain, a tomb of ice and rock where you would either die of boredom or of the cold. But it was also a den, warm and snug, buried out of reach of the killing wind. But it was a prison, it was protected, it was a trap, warm, freezing cold, life, death. Thoughts swirled in an angry storm neither side willing to give any ground on the matter, both fearing the consequences of giving up control.

    "Aurrr." The growl jerked her back in reality. She hadn't been aware that her speed had been steadily increasing until she was almost running, twisting through the endless passages with no destination and no path, the need for movement driving her on. Slowing back down to a steady walk she turned and began tracking her way towards the living quarters area. They had said their rooms would remain untouched and she wanted to see if that held true. The feeling of the dracling moving against her back provided some kind of urgency, she couldn't very well have him wake and start calling out for food. The only reason that he had been content to sleep so long was due to the large meal that she had fed him before they had entered the city which had left him sleepy and docile, especially after such a long ride through the cold.

    Over the past few weeks the child's appetite had been steadily increasing and as they had entered the frozen lands Caoimhe had found that she had been hard put to get enough to satisfy the dracling. There was food to be had but at the end of the day she might have spent hours simply running from one location to the next trying to scare up game. And even now she knew that she would be sending many hours hunting as there was only so much she could take from the fresh kills that the hunting parties brought in without raising suspicion. As she made her way down the long frozen hallways she passed one of the larger themic gems that were embedded all along the passage ways. Walking by she could feel the waves of heat that rolled off the stone. This one particular was tilting off the side loosened by some force or another, it seemed almost loose enough that it would just fall out at any moment. Curiosity got the better of her and reaching out she gave the stone an experimental tug. The palm sized rock fell easily into her hand and without much thought Caoimhe slipped it into the side pocket of her bag, her dragon child would appreciate a bit of extra warmth.

    Her room she found as she had left it, window covered with a thick hide to bar the cold, a small sleeping area next to another thermic gem and fire place. There was not much of interest considering she had taken everything that she owned with her when she had left to began the quest, instead she turned her attention to the balcony instead from which she could feel a slight breeze entering the room.

    The balcony beckoned, a sheer drop down the side of the mountain with only wind rock hard ice covered in a deceptively thin layer of snow waiting below. Slowly she approached her wings flexing and stretching ready for a chance to catch the furtive wind and leave the earth behind for a short while. The air bit at her face but though she felt the shifting wind her wings only felt mildly cool. Almost in a daze she stepped towards the very edge of the railing, only a moments hesitation needed before she lifted herself up onto the railing and stood there peering down at the drop. Instincts guided her, whispered assurance that the wings that much of her had never used would be enough to hold her to the sky. Not even thinking she just started tipping forward, the movement so slow it took her brain far longer than it should have to register the shift in movement.

    NO. Her voice sounded strangled, only a short exclamation managing to force its way out of her throat. Ice coated the railing and so by the time she regretted the choice she had lost her footing. Her heart leapt desperately in her chest as she watched the world move by in slow motion the balcony moving up to eye level at an unhurried pace. She was falling, she was going to plummet off the side of the mountain, fall until she was embraced by ice below, becoming nothing more than a red streak breaking through the endless white. To slowly she reached out, and by chance her hand connected with one of the bars of the railing.

    With a snap she was pulled up short, feet dangling into oblivion one hand all that was keeping her from dropping to her death. Even in her panicked state she vaguely remembered the last time she had been hanging over a sheer drop with nothing but stakes watching below. Last time there had been two people there to save her, but now one was dead and the other was now a part of her. She had no one.

    "Chree" The soft call was more of a shock than the fall and gritting her teeth Caoimhe dug her fingers into the magic hardened ice. She did have someone. Hand over hand she pulled herself up to the level of the balcony. Her wings hung sorrowfully against her back useless, as though the mind that controlled them was feeling slightly guilty about the tumble. Eventually she managed to get her torso over the railing and then over the other side where she fell into a heap against the ice. After a few moments of just lying on her front she felt hot breath against her neck. At first the dracling only nuzzled at her thick hair, gently asking why his mother wasn't moving, when he got no response he switched tactics grabbing a mouth full of her hair and tugging. A soft growl gave him pause and with a delighted squeak he squirmed his way out of the backpack. Dropping down he pressed his nose under her chin as though trying to bury himself under her. Finally sitting up Caoimhe scooped the child into her arms and spent a few quiet moments cradling him.

    Guilt beat hotly in her chest, and after calming moments of nothing more than steady breathing she let her child wrestle free from her grasp. Faintly she could hear Shardis calling for her, picking herself up off the ground she walked towards the doorway. However almost sensing trouble dodging around her ankles she crouched and held out a hand preventing the scaled terror from running out into the hall. Peeking around the edge she looked out just in time to see a flash of white spotted fur disappear down an adjacent hall. A low grumble from her chest stopped the dracling in his efforts to gain access to the hallway and with a huff that could almost be described as frustrated he used nimble claws to scale Caoimhe's thick coat, and after some effort, bury himself into her rucksack.

    "Shardis I here."

    Now, grey

    Not all the cynicism in the world could have tempered her happiness in that moment when she had smelled that familiar waft of stale smoke and herbs. It had been a long, long time since Caoimhe had last had a parent of some kind. So it was not surprising that she nearly vaulted over the table in an effort to embrace the one that she had called Grandfather. Like a child she just tucked her face into his robes feeling like she could hide away from the world as long as she stayed there. Turns out that was a very foolish assumption as she felt Medwick's hand prying her away. At first she resisted with a low warning grumble but relented when she heard both Shardis and Medwick speak. For a brief moment she had forgotten that this land of ice was not kind to outsiders if they were discovered. Vaguely she remembered how she was looked upon with suspicion when she had first arrived only a short while before the dragon had appeared. Only a few days more and she would have been kicked out for refusing to pledge her allegiance.

    But as she listened to Glyph talk her face drew tighter and tighter in worry. As with the council meeting only part of her understood the gravity of the words being said while the majority could only watch the body language being displayed. Both parts told her something was very very wrong. Even so when Shardis made her exclamation she felt herself bristle defensively on behalf of Glyph. The kick that she aimed at Shardis was only a gentle warning all considered, however when Shardis aimed a blow at her child who was skittering under the table her retaliation was far less kind. Only marginally satisfied with the yelp that it drew from the leopard she gave her a harsh stare finishing the look off with a snort as the Anima got up and went to the fire, the faintest scent of sulfur drifting into the air.

    From the corner of her eye she could see Glyph glance at the scaled form that hid itself behind her legs. Sending another fire filled glare at Shardis telling her ally that the chances of her ever tying up her child were slim a very best and absolutely zero for the rest of the time she positioned her wings so that the dracling was hidden from view behind a veil of feathers. But as the child made a move to dodge around her legs Caoimhe reached down and lifted him up into her lap. Young, bright brown eyes framed in dark grey gazed up at the stranger seated next to his mother as the child let his mother wrap a protective arm around him.
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  8. Ilsa Lisbon — Arrival, Indigo
    Ilsa traveled by foot for days after sending Bridgette to accompany Artorius to Barvelle with their horses. Biting winds wore at her determination as she trudged through nearly knee-deep snow to reach her hometown of Aldus. Pleasant thoughts of home were all that she held onto; thoughts of being reunited with the Watch, of a hot bowl of her mother's elk stew, of her daughter Karissa's affectionate embrace.

    Ilsa knew of the arcane storm. She knew of the giant pillars of light that had incinerated one of the spires. These things, she could see from Barvelle.

    She knew naught of the Avians, Azareth, the activation of the spires, or of her daughter's fate.

    Within Aldus, Azareth had kept himself primarily in the company of the Council, and while he continued to hold them in his grasp, his grip on the townsfolk weakened. As it was now, the majority of the Aldeans' negative feelings towards Ilsa had settled into indifference. Suspicion that had begun as a spark and quickly exploded into a fiery blaze, had now been reduced to ashes, smoldering as the heat of the accusal passed. Ilsa's timing was fortunate - had she arrived several days earlier via horse, her return might have been short-lived.

    Ilsa approached the city, and finally the walls began to come into view, followed by the gates. Then, a body, hanging from the walls. Why? It was not typical protocol for Aldus to publicly display executions. A mixture of disgust and frustration swirled within Ilsa as she increased her pace, determined to give her interim guard captain, Marin, an earful for this.

    With a heavy sigh, Ilsa continued to approach. A child's body. They executed a child? Ilsa's frustration turned to anger. Footsteps crunched against the snow with urgency as she drew closer still.

    Then, she froze, eyes wide in horror.

    The blonde pigtails. The pale blue dress. That was her child.​

    Ilsa burst into a panicked sprint, heart pounding against her rib cage. Her legs pumped frantically through the snow as she reached the massive wooden front gates of Aldus, above which hung the limp, lifeless body of her daughter.

    Gloved, clenched fists pounded against the doors, sending a pounding rhythm that echoed across the snowfields and boomed within Ilsa's ears. "What is the meaning of this!? Let her down this instant!"

    Guards atop the banisters looked over the walls, down at their captain. They merely watched, and did nothing.

    Furious, Ilsa roared up at the guards. "I am Ilsa Lisbon, Guard Captain of the Aldus Watch! Open these doors and bring her down immediately!"

    Still, they stared. Some turned their backs and calmly returned to their posts.

    Despair sank into Ilsa's chest as her voice thundered up the walls, any sense of formality now lost. "OPEN THE FUCKING DOORS AND LET HER DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!"

    The rest of the guards turned away without a word, without an acknowledgment.

    Ilsa spiraled into a flurry of emotion, fists colliding repeatedly against the heavy wooden doors despite knowing she could never possibly break them down. Tears hovered at the edges of her eyes, held and restrained there by anger alone as she continued to pound against the doors.

    "Mother of the Free Child?" a voice interrupted Ilsa as she whipped around, hand immediately going to the hilt of her sword. Nuria was above her, wings beating a consistent rhythm to keep her in place. Clutched tightly in her hand was a small dagger.

    "Who are you?" Ilsa barked.

    "That is not important right now." Nuria motioned towards Karissa's lifeless body. "You are her mother. Yes?"

    Ilsa's eyes fixated upon Karissa's lifeless body. Fighting back tears, she offered no verbal response and merely nodded her head instead. Offering a solemn nod in response, Nuria circled back upward towards Karissa's body, simultaneously picking her up and cutting the rope free in one fluid motion, before circling back down and landing in the snow, handing the girl's lifeless body to her mother.

    Ilsa practically tore the chain gauntlets off her hands and sank to her knees, cradling Karissa's pale, limp figure. Hands trembling, she untied the noose around Karissa's neck, revealing the reddish-brown strangulation marks still evident in her skin. As Ilsa's fingertips traced the markings, her will shattered. For all the fearsome challenges they had come across - golems, abominations, the Ghoul Sage, no amount of courage could help her withstand the pain of the gaping hole ripped in her heart.

    The tears streamed almost endlessly down her cheeks as she sobbed. She leaned down, pressing her forehead against Karissa's as she wept, occasional teardrops falling free of her eyes and dripping down Karissa's cheeks as well. It was not so long ago that Ilsa had left Aldus, and she had promised her daughter that she would return. She failed; she had broken her promise. Ilsa whimpered her daughter's name, as if in the hopes that doing so might cause her to stir. She did not.

    Nuria stood quietly nearby, gently placing a hand on Ilsa's shoulder before taking off up the wall to speak with the guards. Moments later, the gates to Aldus finally began to crank open. Ilsa could finally go back to her hometown - except nothing about it felt like home anymore.
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  9. Barvelle, teal "Putting aside your imminent deportation," Medwick sat down again. He seemed to realize that making a fuss here would do not good, "You are going to have to come with me to testify in front of the Assembly."

    Glyph tapped the contents of his pipe onto the floor, Medwick's eye twitching in turn. He pinched a wad of another herb from his satchel and pressed it down with a blunt tool. "What am I, some common schmo? I dragged myself here across such cold lands, Medwick. My donkey was carrying double its weight in cloaks and furs. A horrible, frozen place, so different from the life-giving heat."

    "Thank you for the kibitz." Medwick nearly sneered out the last word. "But you will have to answer to the Assembly for the greater good of Pegulis. You can either come with me, or I can call -" Glyph's pipe flared with green sparks and purple smoke, cutting the archaeologist off.

    Glyph gazed at the the dracling's chest, avoiding its eyes. As soon as the baby was placed into Caoimhe's lap, it stood to attention, neck stiff and staring straight at the growing argument between Medwick and Glyph. It seemed to transmit its tension to its surrogate mother, although the avian-cum-wolf's affection for the old man smothered any nascent maternal feelings for the time being. Glyph's eyes were blurred behind wisps of White Lotus, and the dancing smoke seemed to have a soporific effect on the dracling, as it swayed in tune with the curling grey until its eyes grew glassy. Caoimhe in turn relaxed, as if she was the one that had been charmed by the lotus essence.

    "As I was saying," Glyph inhaled from the pipe, puffing smoke rings out with every syllable. He did not seem to be breathing the smoke in, instead puffing his cheeks out and gently filling the air around the dracling with a steady stream of the White Lotus. "I have heard many tales of your misfortunes in the verdant lands, Medwick. Such a klutz! You have not been subtle about your journeys, and all my introductions are worth bubkes now."

    "Archaeologists are seldom received warmly in foreign lands. We managed."

    "However, the stars must have aligned. A fair amount of gluck led me to your secret adobe in the mountains." The old bard gave a look of utmost respect to the glowing thermic gems embedded in the Barvelle's tunnels.

    "And what prophecy have you for us now?" Shardis had finished poking the fire and had rejoined them, keeping her distance from the dracling and Glyph - resulting in her sitting in between the two at the four-sided table.

    "Do you have an interest in birds, Medwick?" Glyph's eyes wandered over the group. "I can count three."

    "One." He took the pipe out of his mouth and pointed the chewed end at Caoimhe.

    "Two." Caoimhe's wings.

    "Three." The snorting dracling. Medwick's aux, Carval, hooted morosely from his shoulder.

    "I am most concerned with the third feygeleh." Glyph paused, voice suddenly heavy. "You might say I even came at great personal risk."

    "Not enough things for you to smoke? If you want White Claudia," Medwick piped in sarcastically, "We have plenty of that."

    "The zmeya is like a drug to its khasidim. The old ones, the matriarchs, are barely able to live on their own. They are attended to by their personal throng. The venerable mother yelps for its children and they always come, as far as I remember and as back as my tales sing."

    "Histories rise and fall with the zmeya. When one finally dies, the khasidim venerate the last clutch of eggs it lays. They hatch them, raise it on their own milk. The dragon grows, and many khasidim die to its adolescent rage, but with proper sacrifice a gestalt begins anew. The dragon lumbers through the lands, and the khasidim are restored their civilization, patiently waiting until the dragon is old enough to need them once again."

    "The cycle is fractured now. What will the khasidim do?"

    Glyph tapped his pipe out on the floor again, but Medwick did not notice this time around.

    "If the Burning Czar wanted to build his nation in half the time, he should have contracted a rogue band of khasidim, not Lut Sar. So what will they do to your home, Medwick? The khasidim understand cities better than anyone; a city is a patchwork quilt to them, with the seams done in gleaming gold. What lengths will they go to get their child-mother back?"

    The dracling sneezed, but the stench of sulfur was not entirely its fault. Deeper in Barvelle, where the sewer lines ran, and the latrines emptied, Ethelwen's friend Yorul plied the river of shit, clutching a long metal pole to dislodge the more solid parts in the canal. The water would flow back into Lake Kaikas, and the manure would be sterilized with caustic lye and washed back into the fungus farms.

    Days later, as the Assembly met to discuss the disease that was afflicting the sewer caretakers and fungus farmers, Yorul would report witnessing a furtive figure darting in and out of the tunnels. The only clue he could give them was the tell-tale gleam of Draken scales.
    #9 unanun, Sep 28, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
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  10. A nondescript cavern deep in Barvelle, teal Ophanim and Ferri sat opposite to the Inner Council of Pegulis. Ten years, even one year ago, the three Sages would have wiled the days away bickering about spells, philosophy, or teaching the children that wandered the tunnels or the pilgrims that came from the scattered tribes. They would have been called in to give anecdotes and testimony at the General Assembly. Now, more than ever, they were being holding secrets from Pegulis, and acting with their own agendas.

    Michel had informed the General Assembly about the state of Aldus. A throng of peacekeepers had been dispatched shortly afterward, one following closely behind Ilsa. But he forwent the relevations that the city itself was a Divine Weapon once used by the old god Aldus. Similarly, he did not inform the council that the body of another old god, Raveneen, laid decaying in the Lost Ocean.

    It was a controversial decision. Michel and Helena had argued about it endlessly. Eventually, they were forced to concede that the thermic gems were more important than the Divine Weapons. Arktus did not speak, because their decision was two-to-one. But in a way, this triumvirate subverted the democracy that Archon Eirene so treasured when she founded Pegulis thirty years ago. And yet, it seemed that their decision was tacitly in agreement with the Ghoul Sage. The thermic gems remained glowing in Barvelle, and they regularly mined them to be sent to the outlying villages. The Ghoul Sage was not a careless fellow. It was hard to believe that such a spell circle would have been carelessly left by a golem for all to see. The timing of this providence was too exact.

    Now, the finest clockmaker Aldus had to offer, and the best smith in Barvelle they could find sat in the off-the-map cavern with the three Sages. In between them was the spell circle, a fractal Apollonian gasket whose simplistic rules for construction belied the enormous precision with which it had been inscribed in the scroll Artorius brought to them.

    "No doubt you two have seen the Ghoul Sage's golems in Aldus and Barvelle." In Aldus, the golems had stood in front of the spires, slaying anyone in cold blood while the Ghoul Sage put the city back to sleep. In Barvelle, the golems were responsible for the assault on Eirene many months ago, knocking her unconscious and making off with an entire clutch of dragon eggs.

    "We have a task for you that you must carry out in the utmost secrecy."

    "Find a way to replicate the spell circle here."

    "Find a way to house the spell circle."

    "We will reconvene in one weeks time."

    "What is the spell circle for?" Ophanim the Avian screwed on a loupe and peered at it intently. "I can't even tell where the smallest circle ends. It is beyond intricate."

    "The spell circle is a secret development by a Vonsoon nocturne that will allow us to fight the Ghoul Sage's golems. We must find a way to reliably replicate the circle, and to place it within a vessel that we can use to deliver it to the golems should they attack us once again."

    "It won't be too hard to case it in an iron ball," quipped Ferri. "Sounds easy. You could even stamp it on the inside of the iron."

    "Iron is too soft."

    Their task was only beginning.
    #10 unanun, Sep 28, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
  11. Collaborated post with @caligari

    With that they were set off to work. Iron was already ruled out of the materials they could use, just like the many other materials known to be weaker and softer. In an instant Ophanim had recognized the arduous job that was in front of them. It was silly to think that he could do some jobs besides of this assignment, he already knew upon laying down his eyes on the spell circle that he was going to spend all of his time here, trying to figure it out.

    "I want to have a closer look to the spell circle." the Avian announced, even though he had been tracing his fingers over the circles earlier and got the chance to take a closer look on it. What he had meant was the idea of projecting and enlarging the spell circle onto a wall, hopefully with the help of some light, a mirror and glass. "I want a closer look to the details." he followed on, summing up his ideas without ever explaining them. Maybe he could forge them? Though that would be too easy of an idea, it surely would have been thought of before. At least it could show him a possibility of checking out the details, it would surely help him in some way or another even if this idea was failing.

    There was a long path ahead of them, but the Avian didn't mind. He had received the challenge he had been waiting for, the adventure that made both his heart and head beat in tune. He didn't care much if he succeeded, nor did he bother with being described as being the best in whatever he did. The now, the golem, the intricate symbol, the fact that he was soon allowed to make one of these and see them move around by the use of magic. He knew that if he was to calm himself down it was because he felt too excited.

    The Avian clearly seemed more excited about the prospect of creating such an intricate work than Ferri. In truth it all was beyond him, such detail, such fine work,... it was no wonder they hired a clockmaker or locksmith to do such a thing. After all they were used to it. To top it all off he had to create a casing for it from a material stronger than iron, not quite the easiest task ever.

    As his new partner Ophanim began to muse on how the details would be more visible, Ferri began to play with his aux, his old iron ring, turning it around his finger, the rust and cuts and dents of the old thing rubbing over his skin. "Iron is too soft..." He mumbled to himself. Then he had no choice but to create steel. But if toughness was what they wanted he'd have to clean the iron ore to no end, only then would the steel become durable and tough enough to withstand whatever they intend for it.

    Ferri gazed back up at the spell circle. "Does the circle need to be that size? I mean, if we enlarge it and carve the larger form out of stone or iron, could we not use that as a mold to cast the entire form time and time again?" He leaned in closer and reached out to touch it, only to stop right before it knowing his rough method of handling with objects would probably ruin most of their example.

    "We could try it," Ophanim mused as he looked up to the other man, Ferri, the blacksmith. The Avian assumed that the blacksmith's knowledge on materials would be of great help and with the promise of being the best there was undoubtfully a result to be produced that should satisfy.

    "However I want to make the golems smaller. To make the transport easier." the male followed as he looked down at the seal again. His fingers lightly tracing over its details as he was deep in thought. "I was thinking that after we enlarge the circle on a safer piece we could make use of a pantograph to create the sizes needed." he followed voicing his thoughts out loud as he stroke his chin with his hand. A habit he had more when he was trying to get to an idea, his eyes shifting over the fragile paper and towards the wall back to his new partner Ferri.

    The idea of the pantograph and copying it was so easy however, Ophanim wondered if the thought had been considered before by the council. He wondered if they had already tried it and perhaps failed, the thought that occupied him worried him, because that would mean they would be back to the drawing table. Something he would like to avoid. "Ophanim by the way, Ophanim Hayyoth." the dark haired male looked up to the blacksmith, extending his hand up to the other in his sitting position as in a way of a greeting.

    With a quick glance Ferri looked at the Avian's hand and back up before reaching out and giving him a firm handshake. Ferri had a strong grip, as did any blacksmith, but the shackle around his wrist provided extra weight to his shake. "Ferri Spurius, a pleasure..." As he released Ophanim's hand, Ferri got up and began turning his ring around his finger again. "I need to start cleansing the ore if I'm going to see if steel will do the trick as casing. If not... well, then this is a job for someone else. Come find me when you've properly enlarged the circle, then we'll see if our work bears fruit and if we can start mass producing these things." He began scratching the back of his neck with a look on his face that said disgust as well as curiosity. "After that, well... I'm sure there's always more work to be done."

    Ophanim wasn’t used to such a firm handgrip, slightly surprised at the rough skin that touched his lean ones as he nodded a little. It was clear that the man named Ferri wasn’t as excited as the Avian was, who had been doing most of the talk as well as offering up the ideas that might not work. It was disappointing as Ophanim liked it to involve himself with ambitious and passionate souls, they encouraged him to try harder. However he shouldn’t be judging too harshly as it could have been that this blacksmith was perhaps shy. “Sure.” The male answered as he watched his partner leave the room, his tune lowering slightly. In the end it didn’t matter anyway, as long as Ferri wasn’t going to stand in his way Ophanim supposed there wasn’t much to complain about and with that he turned around to the spell circle again.
    #11 Nemopedia, Oct 6, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2014

    This is a forlouis.

    Not all magic is glamorous. There was this one lesser sage not too long ago, who had dedicated one good decade of his very human, non-nocturnish life to the perfection of a biological pest control for barvellian households. Life thrives even in the blue, and so do pests of all sorts: Ice ticks, white-banded cockroaches, sage ants, hermitaurs, cold slugs, the list goes from antropod to rodent and beyond. The sage didn't find his work very rewarding, but he worked hard nonetheless. He was never going to get the acclaim of some great hypothetical re-discoverer of the lost golem craft, but he had his role to play. He wasn't very smart, but he could do that. Over the years, He tried and modified hundreds of species, and each one failed or fell short. Maybe he was just an unpleasable perfectionist. Maybe he beat his dog. Who knew?

    Then...then he found the lesser toothed mouse of aldus.

    Hard to find a sample of that one, he wrote, they were never much for the cold, and the constant winter keeps their numbers low, but vermin finds a way. And from what he could find, he bred out of them weakness; he bred out of them the first forlouis.

    And he let the test group run, and they ate of the vermin, and they grew. All was well.

    And then they ate of the birds, from the mynahs to the snowfowls. Nobody liked birds. They shat a lot. Acceptable loss.

    And then they found the cribs, and the sage knew he darn fucked up. The cycle is complete, and pest control turns to dangerous vermin once more.

    So the Forlouis were trapped and disposed, and that was the end of it...or was it? One of two pop up every now and then, suspiciously specific places. A pet trader peddles an exotic, mutated rat amongst his wares once in a blue moon, and both buyer and buyee are ignorant of what they have. Maybe someone's breeding them for kicks.

    One more detail:

    They also eat lizards.

    But nobody ever mentions that. Ever. It is, after all, a moot point, yes? For what self-respecting, warm-inclined lizard could survive out in the cold? What kind of hyper-adaptable marvel of reptilian kind could brave the ice and stand strong against the lowest of the elements? What could possibly implore something to ki-



    When the dracling next separated itself from its mother, chasing what could be a snowmite under the table, the first forlouis emerged from its hiding hole, the shadows hiding it. The dracling suddenly stood still. It was young, but its instincts were there. It was watched. It gave an inquisitive chirp, looked around, and then was suddenly very disinterested in the snowmite. The forlouis moved, and now the baby saw it, and it squawked and ran-

    Or it would, if the second forlouis hadn't taken it from its blind left, biting down on the infant's maw and muffling the baby's distress, while the front incisors scrapped dangerously at the upper snout, trying to pierce the eyes. It brought the baby low and to the ground, and The first forlouis joined in, aiming straight for the neck.
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  13. Sanctuary, #3EA99F
    Collab by jagajac, Ayla Reinhart, and ReaperOfFlames

    Snow, scattered with fallen pine needles, crunched beneath Blythe’s feet as she hastily walked at the front of her traveling group. Her fists were clenched tightly within the pockets of Vrein’s borrowed fur, and her knuckles had turned white from the effort of keeping them held together so firmly. A bitterly cold wind cut across her cheeks and caused her bright eyes to spill involuntary tears. The crystal amethyst pendant Vrein had crafted in Barvelle bounced wildly against the notch of her neck; she reached up one stiff hand to settle its movement. Her fingers, cramped with cold and anxiety, attempted to unfurl themselves around the jewel’s breadth.

    Peace, to follow you wherever you go.

    Blythe stopped suddenly and took a long inhale of the frigid air. A huff of white escaped her bluish lips and carried with the draft. Her neck craned upward to watch it disappear into a bright, cloudless sky. Castigarian and Vrein took this as their chance to eliminate the distance between themselves and the Anthro girl. The men had remained fairly silent, minus a brief conversation, while contemplating the group’s encounter with the Ursani elder. Their minds mixed with a concern for not only themselves, but also the safety of Blythe’s future. The hushed whispers of the Grintökkén carried upon the wind and sent shivers down the girl’s spine.

    Castigarian scratched the back of his neck, awkwardly searching for the right words to comfort the frightened girl. He looked toward Vrein, who shrugged his shoulders in reply. Neither could seem to formulate the words to alleviate the severity of their situation. Instead, Castigarian placed a large palm tentatively upon the fur padding her small shoulder. Blythe turned her face towards the giant and smiled weakly. He gently squeezed his hand, a gesture of reassurance, and nodded to the girl with apologetic eyes. Blythe returned the nod and looked back at the stretch of land before them. Small, dim lights scattered the horizon in the distance and the distinct smell of smoke and herbs lingered within her open nostrils.

    “Tavark. It’s no more than a day’s journey now.”

    Her words were dull and laced with a defeated tone. Vrein looked ahead at the city, grunted, and shifted his weight to each side. Castigarian stepped behind Blythe and placed himself between the girl and Vrein. Each, occupied in their own thoughts, stared vacantly at the pale sun pressed against the horizon. Blythe’s eyelids hung heavily and her chest rose in a slow, steady rhythm. Her bright eyes were accompanied by dark circles, and the color of her face had been drained from lack of nourishment and rest. Determination and fear were what kept her feet moving forward when her brain sent every signal it knew to convey a message of replenishment. Her head bobbed forward and caught itself in a sharp retreat. Castigarian raised a questioning eyebrow in Blythe’s direction as he spoke.

    “Ye ahlright, there, lass?”

    Blythe’s face wrinkled as her brows knitted together. She shook her head briskly in response and took a long, cold breath into her lungs. She held it there for some time before sighing rather loudly into the late afternoon.

    “How much worse can I get?”

    She tried to chuckle, but the attempt was not worthy of that title. Blythe looked from Castigarian to Vrein. The smith’s face was also lacking its youthful vigor, but he wore his normal demeanor. Before Vrein could comment on Blythe’s well-being, she took a step forward and situated his fur more tightly around her body. She turned her head slightly to the side and addressed them as firmly as she could muster, although her teeth chattered inside her lips.

    “Let’s go then.”

    Tavark, #3EA99F
    Their group shuffled across Tavark’s border in the prime of afternoon and were greeted cautiously by members of the broken Tavarkian Guard. Castigarian and Blythe’s unmistakable identities had granted the three passage into the heart of the city. Tavark no longer stood proudly against the Northern Ocean, but instead seemed more like a battered piece of driftwood lying against the crystalline shore. Citizens scrambled about, searching the left over wreckage for salvageable remains, while their children collected and placed an assortment of forest flora and fauna around the city’s fallen border. As Blythe took in the alarming scenes of what was once her home, many faces found her own and quickly turned away. Amelia, the miller’s daughter whom Blythe had often bartered with, turned white upon seeing her old associate. As Blythe lifted her hand in greeting, the girl vanished around a street corner without a passing glance. An eerie sense of dread clouded her thoughts. Vrein watched the terrible sadness slip over Blythe’s expression. Her face turned downward and she cast her eyes to the side. He stepped toward her and startled when she shot upwards without warning.

    “May we meet up tonight? At Tusk Tavern by the Northern Docks?”

    Vrein looked to Castigarian, who shook his head in understanding, and pulled his shoulders backward to create more space between himself and the girl. The feeling in her eyes was too puzzling for Vrein to interpret. He crossed his arms against his chest as he spoke.

    "Yeah, we'll be there." the smith answered settling his eyes on Blythe, deep in thought.
    "Hey, let me come-"

    Before Vrein could finish his sentence, Blythe interjected with a stone cold response.


    "You don't have a choice." he growled back at her, heeding Auzsalgzufen's warning not to leave her alone.

    Multiple argumentative responses came to Blythe's mind, but her lips pressed firmly together as she noted Vrein's unmistakably demanding body language. Her fierce eyes locked onto his own as she struggled to address his command politely.

    "How very fortunate for me."

    Blythe pivoted on her heels and strode purpoosefully toward the Northern Ocean without looking back. Castigarian shook his giant head as Vrein repositioned his pack against his shoulders and stifly followed behind the girl.

    Final Embrace, #3EA99F
    The salt of the ocean breeze covered Blythe’s body in an unmatchable sensation of calm, but her heart tightened inside her chest as she approached a familiar tavern along the docks. A set of large boar’s tusks hung from a weathered sign that swung loudly against the wooden frame of its door. Blythe stooped in front of the establishment and looked suspiciously to either side. No one in sight. Vrein tilted his head to the side questioningly at her overly cautious mannerisms. Blythe took no notice, or ignored the gesture, and instead took one last deep breath to settle the rhythm of her heart as her quilled hand pushed open the creaky door.

    The floor protested against each of Blythe and Vrein's steps. The walls were mostly bare, minus a few furs and rusty hunting tools. Blythe approached the stools that lined a small bar area, and swept her hand across a pair of initials carved into one of the seats. A boisterous voice invaded the silence of the tavern, and Blythe’s body startled.


    Vrein stepped closer to her, his instinctual need to protect driving the motion, but Blythe smiled happily at the familiarity of the voice and leaned her small torso over the width of the bar.

    “Seconds don’t make for happy customers, Marge.”

    A wooden bowl dropped to the floor and a large, red woman came bouncing in from a back room. Her blonde hair was pinned back into intricate curls, and she wore a white apron adorned in bright greens and reds. Her plump figure was packed tightly into her clothes, making her bosom look unnaturally large underneath the apron. Margery’s cheeks were flushed red, as always, and the gap between her front two teeth was clearly visible as she stared at Blythe with a look of shock.

    “Bless my sweet soul!”

    The words were barely a whisper as the woman extended her palm to caress the side of Blythe’s face. Blythe closed her eyes and leaned into the woman’s palm, placing her other hand against the back of Margery’s hand fondly.

    “I’ve missed you, Aunt Marge.”

    Blythe opened her eyes and grinned at her pseudo aunt. The woman had practically looked after Blythe and her father after the death of Blythe’s mother. Margery tilted her head to the side and returned Blythe’s kind smile.

    “I’ve missed ya most, luv’. What’s kept ya from us?”

    Vrein's expression remained blank as he stood gazing over at Blythe in quiet contemplation and took note of her cheer. Despite his desire to join the anima's optimism, his thoughts wandered to darker places. Looking to the sky Vrein thought of the woman he loved, wishing that they would soon be reunited only to be saddened by the knowing that he might never see her again. Despite his best efforts to be polite Blythe had not been the most welcoming source of company and although his bond with Castigarian was strong something was missing. Margery's eyes widened as she finally took notice of the handsome smith. The gap in her teeth was all too noticeable in her toothy grin.

    "You've braught a beau!"

    Blythe's face grew hot, and the quills along her collar bone trembled in anticipation of standing. She shook her head in protest, and instead changed the subject to what she had really come to find out. Her look intensified with her next words.

    “Where’s father, Marge?”

    The pleasant expression on Margery’s face darkened, and Blythe couldn't help but let a panicked whimper slip through her lips. The older woman lifted the entrance to the back of the bar and stood in front of the stool Blythe occupied. A heavy look clouded her face, and Blythe shook her head desperately. Margery watched as the girl’s quills began to stand erect and held up her hands cautiously.

    “Blythe, I need ya to settul’ down.”

    The woman’s voice was stern, but kind, as she stared intently into Blythe’s eyes. Blythe reached up to the pendant around her neck, closed her eyes tightly, and mumbled words under her breath. She thought of the ocean. Thought of the waves overtaking her body and pulling her out to sea in a salty embrace. Blythe’s heart slowed, and she slowly removed her hand from her neck as Margery recounted her father’s death at the hand of Eimund’s followers.

    “Ya know how stubborn he was, luv’.”

    How drunk. Blythe thought it angrily to herself as she tried her best to remain composed in the company of her aunt and Vrein. The words of Marge began to grow muffled and fade into the background as Blythe’s dream resurfaced.

    “I’m sorry, my Pearl. I couldn’t protect you.”

    The memories sent a shiver down Blythe’s spine and she shifted to a standing position from her seat. Margery pulled her body backwards, but Blythe held up her hand reassuringly before speaking.

    “Has he been put to rest, Marge?”

    The woman smiled painfully and looked out her tavern’s window towards the furthest shoreline.

    “He told me that he wanted you to do im’ right.”

    Blythe nodded at Marge in understanding and turned to leave without another word; Vrein followed with a furrowed brow.

    As the gritty sand smoothed the soles of Blythe’s bare feet, memories of a better time entered her mind. She saw her father, gruff, but smiling as he worked his carving knife into a thick piece of driftwood. A younger, less bitter Blythe sat wriggling at his feet, catching the wood shavings in her hand as they drifted to the floor.

    “Father, why do you draw on the wood?”

    The man’s leathery face crinkled into a smile, and he reached down to settle Blythe against his chest in a warm embrace. His body smelled of pine and tinder, Blythe distinctly remembered, and there was a long white scar across his left cheek.

    “Why does any man do the things he does, Pearl, if not for love?”

    Blythe approached a small, crudely crafted boat at the end of the Tavarkian shoreline. Her lip trembled against her chin, despite her efforts to contain the emotions threatening to surface. Her father’s body was blanketed in many of the furs she herself had fashioned over the years. Her fingers hovered above the space where his head rested peacefully. She pulled them back and turned away quickly, clenching her fists back into balls at her sides.

    She brushed her fingers through the wet sand repetitively and kept her eyes locked on the orange sun sinking in the horizon. From the gentle waves, her aux Moraleis appeared and walked lightly to the girl’s side. Blythe had sent her father’s casket into the ocean only a few moments earlier, but the tide had already carried it at least five hundred feet away. The wind swept Blythe’s ebony hair into her face, and the sound of the waves lapping on the shoreline resounded. The Anthro girl stood, placed her hand against the waters of Moraleis’ back, and began to walk forward atop the azure ocean water. Blythe’s advent allowed her body to stay suspended above the depths of the ocean as she walked forward toward her father. The boat rocked against the waves, but Blythe’s body remained still as she looked one last time upon her only remaining kin’s face.

    “Your protector has left you.”

    The words of the Shaman were now clear to Blythe. She rubbed two ridged shells collected from the beach together firmly to create a small spark. It jumped into her father’s casket and quickly started a small fire. The flames engulfed his body, and as her advent ended, the waves engulfed Blythe’s.

    Blythe emerged quietly from underneath the water as she walked back onto the beach. Her hair clung to her wet body, and she blinked away drops of salt water from her eyelashes. Castigarian and Vrein stood watching her no more than a few yards away. She was not surprised to see them there, she was not angry, she was not happy, she felt nothing more than a painful emptiness in the moment. She turned to look again at the now flaming boat, slowly riding towards the horizon. Blythe’s knees buckled beneath her, and she dropped heavily into the sand. Her palms pressed into it, and her arms began to shake along with her shoulders.

    Blythe claimed she wasn’t weak, but in this moment nothing but her weakness was apparent. She slid her legs in front of her and held her forehead against her palm. Her eyes were red from the salt water and crying fit, and her lips were pressed tightly together to contain her hiccupping cries.

    "Blythe" Vrein's voice carried like a whisper across the wind. Walking forward the smith knelt down next to her, folding his arms around her waist as he pulled her into a comforting embrace.

    "You're not alone"

    The three words caused Blythe’s features to scrunch together once more, but she leaned her face into Vrein’s shoulder instead of retreating within herself. She kept her arms crossed tightly against her chest, consciously protecting Vrein from the viciously sharp quills all standing at attention, but she let her tears stain the cloth on his shoulder. He smelled of pine, and the faint smell of smoke lingered in the air. The memories of her father and the life she had once known came surging to the front of her thoughts. Although her words came out in shaky intervals, Blythe was able to muster a weak response.

    "You... don't... have... to ... protect... me."

    Blythe pulled her face away from Vrein's body and turned to stare across the glassy ocean. Foamy residue from the relentless waves curled around the girl's small ankles. The ocean's sounds, smells, and textures usually calmed her nerves and softened her quilled skin, but Blythe's body still shook from the effort to contain another bout of sobs. She squeezed her eyelids tightly against her agitated eyes. The amethyst around her neck caught the waning sunlight, and small slivers of playful lilght danced across Blythe's cheeks. Her hands hung defeated at her sides as she choked back her tears.

    "No, but I will," he answered softly, still holding her.

    "We all will. We're in this t'gether lass."

    Their responses muddled in Blythe’s brain as she distracted herself with the environment surrounding her. Her small hands situated themselves atop his own calloused knuckles and pushed them off her sides with a trembling firmness. Blythe sighed and looked into his genuine eyes; he knelt solidly before her. The ocean breeze through his dark hair, and the steady rising of his chest were the only movements his body allowed. In this, her time of truest weakness, she loathed her outward and inward appearances. She could not keep her gaze aligned with Vrein’s, and so she turned to her father once more. The boat was merely a bright speck on the distant horizon as Blythe barely whispered a final melodic farewell.

    Far beyond our ocean blue
    Lies a place uncharted
    Weary souls are called to rest
    Deep within its gardens

    Gredihm Residence, #57FEFF
    They had lingered on the shore for some time as the boat wandered off into the distance, each letting their thoughts drift with the wind. Eventually though, the sun did rise as the boat finally vanished, as if Blythe's father had given her one final gift bathed in golden brilliance before taking his place among the stars in the heavens. The giant gave a final nod and offered a hand each to his companions, helping them up from the sands as a stray gust of wind whistled by, bringing with it the smells of Tavark as it began it's morning.

    "Best t'be off, 'd rather not be 'ere once t'tide winds come in. Come on, I'll be treatin' fer breakfast." he said with a kindly gesture as he began to walk, bidding the others to follow behind him. Vrein had little to say about the small hamlet; it seemed a nice enough place and all, but he'd rather be in his shop about now...hell, just shaping horseshoes sounded worlds better than all this madness he was stooped in now. Blythe was still wrapped too deeply in her thoughts to be any better, but having grown in Tavark, there wasn't much more she could say that she didn't already know. And Castigarian? Well, why would he spoil the surprise?

    Eventually, the smell of cooking potatoes and meats was enough to perk even Blythe up as they approached a large cottage towards the north end of Tavark. It stood imposingly against the treeline and someone with sharp eyes could notice the gouge marks in the wood, showing that each log had been meticulously dragged from the woods to this spot; whoever had made this home had done so with great skill and care, something Vrein could appreciate as a fellow craftsman.

    No sooner had the trio entered sight's range of the windows did a powerful voice whip across the air, causing Castigarian to stop in his tracks as though he'd been struck by a whip. "Ahn 'ow long were ye' plannin' on keepin' yer poor mo'her whetin' on ye?" the voice said as a rather dainty looking woman appeared on the front porch, looking far too fragile to posess a voice with that much force behind it; "Cast'garin Ahlexanda Gredihm, nearly gave me a roight 'eart attack ye did, jus' leavin' wit no'in bu' a let'er!" the woman shouted, pointing a finger rigidly at the giant as she strode across the lawn, the rolling pin in her other hand bouncing up and down as if it were a blade she was getting ready to brandish.

    "Ye could'a be'n 'urt! Ye could'a died! Ye could'a..." she stopped as she reached what could only be assumed was her son, her finger now firmly planted on his chest as she turned her gaze, it almost immediately softening as she saw Blythe standing to one side, looking somewhere between nervous and ready to laugh as Castigarian was being chastized. "Ye could' went an' got yerself a lass?" she said, her face beginning to brighten at the prospect of grandchildren; thankfully, Blythe was a little faster on the trigger than the flabbergasted giant, waving her arms in front of her with a small, awkward smile on her face. "O-oh, oh no! I'm not...we're not...together, no, we're just traveling companions!" she managed to get out, shooting daggers at Vrein who looked ready to fall over with laughter nearly choking the wind from his lungs.


    The sound of wood hitting bone rang throughout the yard as Castigarian was uncerimoniously hit upside the head with the rolling pin, causing him to recoil slightly as he rubbed the spot it had struck. "An' tha's fer runnin' off an' gettin m'hopes up ye fool son o'mine! Now get yer friend's in'er, they look 'alf starved!" she said as she turned hard on her heel and marched back into the house, leaving no word for argument as Castigarian turned a sharp gaze down at his friend, giving him a bit of a shove before heading towards his home. "Come off it y'damn fool, 'les get in a'fore I catch any more hell." he grumbled, still rubbing his head as he made his way inside with Blythe and Vrein in tow.

    The house itself seemed rather cozy despite it's size. There wasn't much to see apart from a myriad of hunting trophies that hung from the walls, a roaring fireplace just beyond a large oaken table, a set of stairs leading up to the second level of the house, an opening which presumably lead to the kitchen, and the giant of a man sitting at the aforementioned oaken table with a pipe in hand and a smile on his face as he raised a bear claw sized hand to his guests.

    "Ach, yer t'one's takin' care o'mah son, eh? Haha, good on ye' both!" he said with a booming laugh as he gestured towards the table which was already laden with food enough for 12 people, "Come! Sit, we've plenty o'food for all o'ye! Ah'm dyin' t'ear all 'bout yer travels wit Castigarian!"

    Grunting, Vrein wondered if he should tell the secrets of their quests to Castigarian's family. The less who knew about their journey the better yet had no doubt that they would find out one way or another. Sat next to Blythe he watched fondly over his companion who began to relax at the comfort of a warm hearth, but Vrein's thoughts still lingered upon Barvelle, upon Ilsa and upon their quest "Your son has spent the last few months taking care of my sorry arse," he replied with a sheepish grin directed toward Castigarian as he chewed on a piece of bread.

    Blythe’s eyes lingered on the expanse of foods before her, and her stomach growled with hunger. Reluctantly, at the urging of Mrs. Gredihm, she placed a bowl of warm broth to her lips and sipped at it slowly between her words.

    “He has been most helpful to me as well. Your family’s generosity is greatly appreciated.”

    Her cheeks dimpled sweetly as she smiled to Castigarian’s mother and father in turn. It was a genuine expression, but lacked luster and longevity. She quietly finished off the remaining bits of vegetables and meat within her soup.

    "Is tha' so?" the man said after having finished the mouthful of bacon and eggs he'd been eating while he listened to the two recount their tales. In the end, he smiled and clapped Castigarian on the shoulder with enough force to cause a few shelves to rattle, but the giant seemed no less unsettled by it than if Vrein had done it, "Ye've done t'Gredihm name proud son." he said, beaming brightly as the hunter gave a small nod, his red hair doing nothing to hide the flushing of his face, "Weren't nothin' da'..." he mumbled, wishing to the gods he had hood of his mantle up so he could hide in it.

    "Yer damn right it weren't nothin!" his mother said as she set a final plate on the table before placing her hands on her hips and let her eyes bore into him, "If it were up t'me, I'd lock yer up in yer damn room an' chain ye to yer bed! ...but..." Her voice finally deflated and her gaze softened as she put a hand on her sons shoulder, "I s'pose ye did go out an' do good by Pegulis...jus' ac'ually say g'bye next time?"

    Castigarian nodded and smiled up at his mother, finally feeling at home again and not fearing for the next time he'd be struck upside the head; his mother's fury was something that no monster or beast he'd seen so far could match and he had no desire to test it any farther than he had, "Dinnae worry, I won't up an' leave like tha' again. Promise." She seemed satisfied and smiled back, "I'll be holdin' ye to tha'. And t'tha both o'ye!" she said, turning and pointing her finger towards Vrein and Blythe, "Make sure ye'all get back 'ere safe 'an sound, ye'hear?"

    Unable to contain his laughter Vrein spluttered his drink, he'd never experienced such a heartfelt welcome before much less knowing how to deal with it, "Don't worry, we'll even say goodbye" he teased Castigarian averting his gaze toward Blythe for a brief moment before turning back to address the giant's mother "I'll try, if the women in my life decide they don't all want to kill me first."

    Castigarian's mother gave Vrein an appraising look as he finished his comment; normally she'd assume that he'd done something to deserve all those death attempts...but something about the look in his eye, the sheer amount of which he was absolutely tired of all the nonsense surrounding him, it was enough that she could get the jist of things. "Women can b'fickle sometimes, jus' 'member t'watch yerself." she said, giving the smith a knowing wink that only mother's seemed to be able to give as she finally let go of her son and started to make her way back to the kitchen.

    Blythe caught the tail end of Vrein’s scrupulous gaze and turned her head towards his end of the table at his comment to Castigarian’s mother. She listened to the woman’s words without changing the nonchalant look upon her face, but her blood grew warm beneath her skin. As Mrs. Gedihm winked at Vrein, Blythe narrowed her eyes ever so slightly. The words poked at the girl’s heedless pride, but she withheld the urge to retort. Her thoughts replayed Vrein and Castigarian’s words and actions towards her on the beach. One word hammered the sides of her temples and worsened the headache all her tears had brought forth earlier. Together. When Vrein looked at her, she averted him almost shamefully.

    Castigarian's father watched his wife go with fondness in his eyes and turned back to his guests with a hearty chuckle, "Tha's why ah married 'er. Strong as an ox, sharp as a hawk, don't hurt tha' she's lovelier 'an t'Archon 'erself too." he said with a sly nod, though an indignant sound came from the kitchen once he'd spoken, "Alex'nder! Y'll call do'n 'oly 'ell on us!" she shouted, clearly embarrassed by such praise. "Sorreh dove, y'know ah'm bias t'ye!"

    "Food's gonna get cold..." Castigarian mumbled practically into his fork, so thoroughly embarrassed by the whole ordeal as he tried his hardest to focus on his food. "More important though...Da', ye still 'ave tha' map? Ye know, Great Great Granda's Map?" he said, popping a piece of toast into his mouth as his father put a hand to his bald head and scratched it quizzically. "Great Granda's Map? What d'ya need tha'..." he stopped midsentence, quickly gauging the look in his sons eyes before his own gaze turned serious and he gave a small nod. "Marie? Could ye be a dear an' fetch tha' ches' from upstairs?" he called in towards his wife and was returned with the sound of silverware being placed upon a plate, "T'one un'er t'bed?"

    "Ya, tha's t'one." There was a short shuffling as Marie came into view once again, looking just as serious as her husband as she vanished up the steps, leaving the group alone once more as Alexander gave them all a serious and stern look. "Yer all plannin' on goin' tha' far up north? Afore I start pointin' ye's in t'right direction, how's 'bout ye all tell me wha's all goin' on tha' ye need t'go lookin' fer wha's there."

    "That's a secret by it's very nature. Ilsa..." he struggled to say her name "No, the captain of the Guard's watch of Aldus and I have been ordered to increase the defenses of Barvelle. I am Vrein Baelithar, a blacksmith of Aldus that was with your son when fissura pass collapsed. I was almost killed down in that pass but your son and the...guard captain saved me." he had trouble recounting it all "While I was wounded on a stretcher your son spoke of an ancient ore that lie in the north. That has properties that are rumoured to prevent even dragonfire and it is our quest to find it."

    Blythe noted the pain in Vrein's features as he spoke Ilsa's name aloud. He struggled to address the woman by her title several times, and Blythe wondered if it was worth asking about at a later date. She tucked it safely away before she added to her companion's explanation.

    "And I'm Blythe..."

    Her father's surname was known in Tavark for reasons that would not bring honor or goodness to her name; she decided to omit the information as she continued her story.

    "A Skinner from this region. I was on special assignment to Barvelle to deliver furs to the Archon's court during the Festival of Lights. Once I heard of Eimund's betrayal, I immediately sought journey home. Castigarian and Vrein have accompanied me since that day."

    She looked to each of them in turn and nodded respectfully before continuing.

    "Along the way we encountered..."

    Her mouth opened and closed several times before she could formulate the words to explain the Grintökkén.

    "The truth is, sir, I don't rightly know what they are. I just know that they're hunting me, and your son and Vrein have... They're fine men, and they refuse to believe I cannot be protected or saved."

    She shifted her weight uncomfortably from her heels to her toes in nervous anticipation of Alexander's reaction. Her eyes wandered from each wall to the other, refusing to settle on any of the men in the small room they occupied.

    Alexander listened silently as Vrein and Blythe spoke, nodding his head every so often until they were finished. "Aye, yer speakin' o'Pegulian Ice." he finally said with a nod as Marie came back down with a small chest in hand, easily ferrying it over to the table as she set it in front of her husband with a mildly concerned look on her face; she knew what this chest meant for her son and everyone involved with it, she had good reason to be concerned. "So, ah take it y'know t'risks yer takin' on 'ere?" the large man said, eyeing the three of them as he placed a hand atop the chest, "More than a fair share o'men have set out lookin' fer t'tomb o'mah Great Granda, ain't never seen a one o'em return. I ain't got no right stoppin' ye if the Archon 'erself set ye t'this, but..." he stopped, the fatherly concern in his voice finally getting the better of him as he looked at Castigarian, locking eyes with him for only a moment before it was replaced by a confidence only a father could have in his kin, "No. Ain't nothin' for it. This is yer birthright, jus' like tha' bow."

    He gave a small nod and opened the chest, reaching within to pull out an extremely weathered, but otherwise perfectly preserved scroll which he handed over to his son. "Ye come back, y'hear? All o'ya. Alive. I'll drag ye back through t'gate's o'death and beat you to within' an inch o'em otherwise, t'lot o'you." Castigarian knew that he meant those words, but could only give his father a small smile, returning that confidence as he laid a hand on the side of his shoulder, staring him firmly in the eyes. "We'll all see each other through, Da. That's a promise. Vrein...he's a damned fool, but he's got a will o'iron and I ain't never met anyone braver. Tha' goes fer Blythe too. IIf we're in this t'gether, then I know we'll be back safe an' sound."

    "Ah trust ye then." his father said, giving them all an approving nod, his face crinkling back to it's old, jolly self. "Then ye all'd better strengthen up fer t'journey ahead. Y'll need it."
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  14. Troubling news

    A mountain, nondescript among all other mountains in the Northern range, loomed above Eydis from her vantage point strapped to the dog sled. She had spent most of the journey back like this. Her face was covered with snow-blind goggles, and with only the white sky to keep her company and a weak connection to her aux, she focused on the bumps and hissing of the snow underneath the sleds, chewing on the dried meat that the masked loner sometimes fed her.

    The wolves howled. The sled turned sharply and made for a small sortie door into Barvelle. Apparently, the witch hunters had their own ways of ingress and egress.

    "Come on." Breath misted through the hunter's mask as he undid the straps. A cage shimmered around Thyrden, and the aux moved listlessly behind the Anthro as they entered Barvelle.

    Back where she needed to be. But in the wrong end of the city in a cell where she had no way of delivering the events of the Chersonese. And who knows how far that army had moved in the time it took just to get here.

    The Anthro paced the few steps she had to spare in the cell where they had put her. After a moment the girl stopped and slammed her frost covered arm into the wall with a curse.

    “Well, it sounds like you are alright at least,” a voice said from behind her. Eydis spun around and looked at the door and the observation hatch where the eyes of the Calm Sage looked at her.

    How to react when facing a person of high rank while at the same time wanting to smash something. The young girl was quite bewildered at the moment, unsure if to snap back or make a remark. Instead she looked right at him silently.

    “Why am I kept in here like this?” The girl finally answered.

    Arktus nodded and looked away for a second before he then answered. “Normally, we find children with latent talent in magic and instruct them in its use. Unfortunately.. There are some whose affinities only blossom when we cannot help, and they are hunted down by the witch hunters.” There was a sound of keys as the guard unlocked the door and opened it. Arktus stepped in and eyed the Anthro girl who had stepped back. “You don’t seem pleased with that.”

    Eydis crossed her arms “No .. but sadly it’s not my biggest problem right now compared to the Kaustir army marching through the Chersonese as we speak” She glared at him for a moment and then looked away, while Arktus now stood silent looking at Eydis.

    “That is quite a serious claim to make.”

    “Well ask your little mage hunting dog then he attacked me as I was about to cross the border back. I saw that army with my own eyes and within days you will get the reports too I'm sure.”

    Arktus nodded. “It is a very serious matter so I will have to do that. Meanwhile you will have to wait here.” He spoke and walked out the guard closing the door behind him.

    “I need to talk to the hunter who brought her in. And hurry. It would be very unfortunate if he left before we get a hold of him.” The guard nodded and trotted down the corridor. The Calm Sage followed him with his gaze while slipping into deep thought as he walked in the same direction.

    If what she said was true…

    The witch hunter had not planned to leave just yet and waited near the door to the cave for the hidden entrance. Arktus greeted him with a polite nod. “I have some questions regarding her capture.”

    The man changed his position slightly but otherwise remained still. “Then ask.”

    “Where did you capture her?”

    The hunter gave Arktus a strange look before answering. “She was quite an elusive fox. And fast. I didn’t catch up to her until the Chersonese border.”

    “I see. Thank you for your time.”

    Arktus turned and headed back towards the Anthro girl's cell. He told the guard to open the door and looked at the young Anthro as she looked up from her sitting position on the bed.

    "You had better come with me. We will need to testify in front of the General Assembly."
    #14 Silvir, Oct 7, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2014
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  15. Settling In, gold
    Darin looked over the other seven men that had joined him in restarting the order. These were men so impacted by what Darin had done for them that they wanted to repay him by becoming students of his in hopes of one day becoming paladins too. He had yet to determine if such a gesture was really help, or extra work.

    With everything that had transpired in Tavark recently, Raige had made himself scarce in his duties when they related to the Order, but it was not something Darin held against him. After all, Tavark was his home and it had taken quite a beating during Eimund's reign of terror. There was quite a bit of rebuilding and Raige saw that it was, in part, his responsibility. Darin respected him for that so long as Raige still accomplished his tasks in a timely fashion.

    "No," Darin was torn from his thoughts when we saw a bad block during the sparing session. He shook his head and approached the man, "Hellion, if you move like this," he showed by example, "you take less of the blow. Blocking isn't just stopping the blow, you must be able to make something of the block or that's all you will be doing."

    Hellion nodded and in doing so, Darin caught sight of his friend, "Raige!" he called out and gestured for he wolf to join him. Raige seemed unwilling at first, but obeyed. Darin met him halfway and steered him away from the men. Raige's shoulders loosened an Darin couldn't help but smile as he clasped hands with him.

    "Sir Darin," the wolf greeted with a slight bow of his head. It was more of a gesture of respect than necessity.

    "Raige," Darin repeated his name, "how's Tavark?" Darin had to admit, since restarting the order and becoming the new grandmaster, he had only left the new abbey twice for healing sessions. He had much to prepare for in order to facilitate a full restart. In a sense, he felt guilty but he hoped people understood.

    "It'll be slow, the recovery. They rebuilt more than I thought they would while we were gone, but they only scratched the surface, Darin," Raige spoke to his friend, not his grandmaster. Darin shifted to accommodate that, "So many still suffer. Eimund and his ilk did far worse than anyone could imagine. I can still hear the children crying during the night."

    Darin lowered his head. He too heard them. He too lay awake at night listening to their cries and those of the women who suffered. He nodded slightly as he thought about how he could reply, "What better place to start the order? These men," he gestured back at the men still sparing, "are Tavarkians just like you. In the middle of that darkness sparked a light that will not only aid Tavark and her people, but all of Sunne. Tavark will pull through."

    Raige nodded and seemed to lift his head up a bit more. Raige was a Tavarkian, but he was also part of that spark that Darin had spoke of. Out of a tattered town would shine a light so bright that darkness could not stand. Raige was part of that, "Thanks, Darin." Darin only smiled

    "Raige," a young man called from the road, "you coming?"

    Raige looked at the man and nodded. His lips parted in a smile as he turned back to Darin, "I've got to go. Someone blew a hole in the roof of the Great Hall and its time to patch it up."

    Darin couldn't help but chuckle. Darin had put that hole there, he remembered it vividly. Darin watched as Raige joined the man who had called for him. Just as Raige had a responsibility in rebuilding Tavark, Darin had the responsibility of rebuilding the Order. With a deep breath the Paladin turned Grandmaster turned to face his students.

    "No, Hellion," he sighed as he started back, "just like I showed you."

    The Order of Orden, gold
    One day...that's what it took for the books he had retrieved to be cataloged and available even to him. Sprawled across the desk in front of him were books about the beginning of the Order, the rules and regulations, how to's to be a Paladin and all manner of books containing information on the Shadows. Darin had fought both a mage commanding the darkness and the essence of a dead god in the form of a shadow squid of sorts. Whatever it was that was emboldening the darkness was something Darin felt obligated to pinpoint and the more he knew, the better he could prepare the men and women that had taken up their shields in the name of the Order.

    Darin had stumbled upon a very interesting portion in the Origin of the Order that spoke of an ancient shadow so powerful, so maleficent that mankind joined with a race of polar bears to subdue that same shadow being unable to destroy it from the face of Sunne. It was an interesting read and full of information the Paladin deemed completely necessary in his discovery of a way to ensure the shadow rested forever. A part of him feared the tale, however. He knew deep down that something wasn't right. In light of everything that had transpired within the borders of Pegulis as of late, perhaps someone, in their folly, had set this shadow free.

    Darin pinched the bridge of his nose and shifted in his uncomfortable chair. He had been sitting for far too long but he could not afford the luxury of a break. Not if he was right. His eyes returned to the book and he sighed. Orden had written within it the accounts of the founding of the order and circumstances that surrounded it. His fingers followed the text as he began to read again.

    That same shadow that threatened to snuff out every ray of light that blessed all of Sunne was driven back and subdued finally under the combined might of the newly founded order of Paladins and the Ursani Shamans. We were tasked with imprisoning it long enough for the Ursani to induce a deep slumber that would seal it away for all eternity. I am weary of such a claim, however, as who are we to say that we can guarantee that the light will not suffer from disbelief or that the Ursani magics will not wane with time? To do our best to ensure that our spells would not be broken, I, Orden Galvis Teldrinar, grandmaster of the order, chose seven men of like standing. These were men of valor, mighty men and men of pure hearts. We bound the spells to our blood and that of our descendants. So long as our bloodlines endure, so shall our magics. Head my words. If our bloodlines should be erased from the books of life then our magics will fail. I fear for the day that that should happen for once again, the Shadow will threaten, not just our home or our lands, but all of Sunne.

    Darin's body was littered with goose bumps as he slid his hand from the book and leaned back in his chair. Gone was his concern of comfort or his exhaustion from all his readings. If Orden's words were true then every Bloodline chosen to seal the prison had been erased the moment Eimund and Suvius butchered them. Darin was the last Paladin and he had been recruited not born into it.

    Darin slammed the book shut and snatched up his satchel. He slipped the book inside and any other materials he could bare. He passed the strap over his shoulder and gathered his sword and shield. As the new Grandmaster of the Order of Orden, it was his responsibility to ensure that prison was never opened. He sighed as stepped out of the building and into the Tavarkian streets. First things first, find Raige and leave him in charge of preparing the new recruits, not for healing and aid, but for war. Because if Darin failed, Sunne would need every Paladin available to help against the endless shadow.
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  16. After the meeting Shar decided to go back to the fireside chair and stare at the coals, debating in her head what they had discussed and finally giving up, she was never one for politics and this conversation, like many others of late, had been full of them. Definitely for her brother to decide what was best, she just hoped that there would be some heads to bash in this time.

    Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of the 'lizard' chasing something, probably a bug or white mouse, she ignored it for the moment, seeing as it hadn't seemed to notice her...or her ankles. It didn't dawn on Shar that the little fellow wasn't supposed to be here, he should have been with his mother back in their chamber. If it had come to mind, she probably still wouldn't have done anything, thinking where 'it' was, Caoimhe must be close by, as she never let the beast be alone in public places. No, how could Shardis know it had slipped away unseen? So, Shardis went back to staring at the coals and half dozing as the flames danced.

    "Scree..." (Scrabble scrabble) The sound of a fight or...this woke Shar up like a bolt of lightning. No sounds now... hmm ...perhaps she had dreamed it. (scrabble) the sound of a chair being shoved and a hint of rat along with the smell of fear...lizard the air, What the hell? Shar frowned as she got up to investigate the disturbance.

    Her instincts told her to draw her sword and she reached for it, but it wasn't there, she cursed under her breath, she had left it in her chamber, thinking it wouldn't be needed here. Shar wouldn't make that mistake again. She grabbed a torch out of its sconce and held it at the ready as she turned the corner.

    The pair of forlouis had Caoimhe's dracling in a vice grip and about to rip its throat out. Without uttering a syllable she leaped at them grabbing the one about to pounce and shoved the torch at the other. Now she roared as she bit down and her fangs sank deep into the hind quarters of the one she held. It screamed in a high pitched voice and lashed out at her ear.

    Shardis dropped the creature and kicked it across the room, it landed with a thud and slowly got to its feet. Meanwhile, the second forlouis had lost its grip on the baby who had begun alternately siren wailing, hissing, running and snapping at the rodent that was chasing it around the room. The little fellow was clearly out matched but bravely...or stupidly, depending on your outlook, fighting for its life.

    Shar dove for the rodent repeatedly coming up empty handed every time. She cursed out loud this time, then picked up a tankard that had been left behind by someone earlier, aimed and let fly...


    It bounced off the head of the beast, stopping it in its tracks. Shaking its head and growling the second forlouis joined up with its friend and they began circling Shardis... who found she had company on her shoulder, "Oh so now I'm your friend. Phfft!" The dracling chirped at her and then spat at one of the rodents of unusual size as it came a little too close for his comfort.

    Shar grabbed another sconce and swung it back and forth, doing her best to keep either of the R.O.U.S.s from getting behind her. Her style was cramped by the fact she couldn't just dive in like she would normally do, since the dracling was clinging to her neck and head (occasionally she had to loosen its tail from around her neck so she could breath).

    A flurry of blue wings and Shar's aux landed on her other shoulder. Tandra made a big deal of ignoring the squawk of anger from the Lizard for intruding on his space. "Doesn't he know better? This is my place! Hmmf!" She looked down her snout at the little fellow (who was approximately her size now). "Hey! I have enough to contend with without you two arguing over shoulder space right now! Go tell someone what's going on, preferably his mom or Medwick and hurry up!" Each word was enphasized by a swing of the torch.
    #16 lynzy, Oct 9, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2014
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  17. Barvelle Eirene's summons reached Ethelwen in between shifts, when, for the first time, he was actually clean. Surprised but flattered, he set aside the scroll he had been writing and quickly raced out of his little home and through the caverns. Eirene was not currently in her office, but was rather in a meeting chamber somewhat close to the Market. He had no idea what was going on, but the opportunity to be able to listen to another potentially interesting piece of information kept him fleet footed as he dodged around people on his way to meet the Archon.

    He slowed only when he knew he was drawing close, to give himself a chance to catch his breath before entering. He didn't really want her to know why he had run, it would be awkward to try and explain away his eagerness. A quick flash of the summons was enough to get him past the guard and into the chamber.

    Eirene stood on the opposite side of the room from him, and she barely acknowledged his presence as he entered. The rest of the people in the room, a few of which he recognized as influential merchants and suppliers for the city, did not notice his quiet entrance, and remained focused on the Archon.

    "I've impressed upon you the severity of our current situation," Eirene continued. "And the great needs of Aldus and Tavark for our support. Times have not been easy for any of us, but they are a part of our nation and it is our responsibility to care for those in need, no matter how far away they are."

    "We are well aware of that, Lady Archon," one merchant interrupted, the look on her face making it clear that she had waited as long as she was willing for the Archon to conclude her address. "But the wilds of Pegulis are not safe right now. The losses we would incur trying to cart such a large relief effort to the other cities would be astronomical, not to mention the massive number of guards that would need to be taken from the city defenses to guard the caravans."

    "Barvelle has the ability to be both self sustainable and well protected. Neither of our sister cities can claim this after the devastation of the arcane storm in Aldus and the siege of Tavark. Should we lose thousands of people to starvation and exposure from the elements, I suspect that would be a far greater loss to your profit margins than a few missing caravans and the price of extra protection."

    The merchant took the polite reprimand with grace, and did not question the Archon's decision again, despite the fact that she was not the only one in the room who appeared quietly unhappy with the need to risk their limited supplies for a rescue mission. But it seemed that they were more unwilling to try and justify their reluctance to the Archon's desire to support her nation.

    "What relief efforts exactly are you wanting from us, Archon?" another man asked, his hands tightly clasped in his lap.

    Ethelwen's attention was drifting, and while he was paying attention to what everyone else said he also found his eyes unconsciously straying to Wolfsin in the back of the room. The man's fists were balled, and he seemed to be slumped far more than usual. His eyes were vacant, and there was sweat beading on his forehead. Ethelwen's lips twitched in a concealed scowl, as Wolfsin tried to straighten back up, only to give up seconds later and go back to lean against the wall.

    Perhaps it was a good thing he had come to the Archon with what he had overheard. There had been a couple of times in the past days where he had wondered whether he should have left the whispered conversation as nothing more than a whispered conversation, but Wolfsin looked guilty of something. He was certainly worried, and stressed. Could he really be planning an attack? And if he did, who exactly would protect the Archon?

    Behind closed eyes, Wolfsin was seeing red. He was a warrior, well-trained in the arts of combat and self-control, yet every second that passed he could feel that self-control slipping away. He could feel a rage bubbling beneath the surface of his cool exterior, a rage that had been slipping out more and more frequently. And, although he would not admit it, even to himself, Wolfsin was starting to get worried. He was worried because he knew these states, and he knew what they signified.

    But he had managed to convince himself that what he was thinking was impossible. He had taken the potion again this morning, nearly tripling the recommended dose. He was under control. The beast would not emerge. He was certain.

    But he was wrong. Whisperers deep in the tunnels of Barvelle had seen to that. They had tampered with the potion, rendering its containing effect of the beast inside him impotent. Wolfsin was about to become an unwitting participant in an attack against the Archon's life.

    It was Ethelwen who first noticed that something wrong, really wrong, was happening to Wolfsin. Even if Ethelwen had never exactly gotten over his distaste for the solider after their initial and rather rude meeting, he still accepted the fact that Wolfsin was a good warrior. And he knew that no warrior who was supposed to be on duty would ever be acting the way Wolfsin was at that moment. The man clutched at his heart, nearly bent double, and there were tremors rippling all over his body.

    The merchants were focused on the Archon's speech, and Eirene was standing with her back to her guard. In that moment, Ethelwen realized that the attempt against the Archon was happening now, and that he was the only one who had any sort of forewarning. He froze, unable to move, unable to even think. The change was coming quicker and quicker to Wolfsin. The hunch in his back was becoming far more pronounced, his face was starting to distort and warp, his arms were lengthening, and massive claws were ripping out of his fingers.

    There was no more time.

    And then Ethelwen was moving, desperately pushing forward through the merchants, shoving them aside without heed. He didn't know why he was moving. He didn't know what exactly he expected to do. But he could not remain still. He could not.

    "Archon, look out!" he cried desperately, but everyone had their eyes on him now. Somehow, it still seemed that no one had noticed what was happening to the Archon's "guardian".

    The Wolf straitened slightly shaking its head in bewilderment. But one moment later its dark eyes locked onto the closest living being, Eirene. The growls coming from it were unmistakable, and finally people noticed what was going on.

    The first scream came from a middle aged woman who was in the front, as she suddenly found herself confronted with the slobbering face of the werewolf. She crumpled to the ground in a dead faint. But her scream, although the first, was not to be the last. Pandemonium erupted. But even though that, Ethelwen could hear Skadi's terrified barking. There was no way that Ethelwen was going to be able to reach her in time. The Wolf was drawing closer and closer every moment, and he was pinned behind a desperate crowd of merchants, who were doing their best to get as far away from the danger as possible.

    Desperately Ethelwen closed his eyes, shutting out all of the panic, the fear, the certainty that he was about to witness the death of the leader of Pegulis, and emptied his mind. He lifted a hand, concentrating harder than he had ever concentrated on the things that Arktus had been trying to teach him. Slowly a spiraling bolt of energy formed in his hand. He opened his eyes, locked onto the Wolf, and the bolt rocketed out of his hand, hitting the beast in the head with a shower of sparks.

    It did little to actually stop the Wolf, but it brought the beast to a pause. The mighty creature shook its head, looking around in confusion with blurred eyes. The merchants had made it to the far side of the room and were hammering against the door, and Ethelwen's way was clear. But the beast was righting itself, and its attention was still on Eirene.

    He knew what he needed to do. The Wolf was lunging at Eirene, one massive, clawed hand already moving. There was only one option, and there was no time to think.

    The claws struck Ethelwen's shoulder, sending him spinning, and they raked down along his chest, splitting open his abdomen in a shower of blood and intestines. His eyes went wide with surprise and shock, and his cloak turned a blood red. He dropped to the floor with a wet thud.

    Less than a second later the guards came bursting into the room, armed, angry, and dangerous. Brought by the sounds of the screams and the roaring of the Wolf, they were prepared for a long and vicious battle to protect their Archon from whatever threat had arisen. Only one soldier spared a glance for the anima that had crumpled to the ground, one spotted arm wrapping around his open abdomen. The rest turned to the Wolf.

    Ethelwen could hear them beating back the Wolf, and the sound of its claws scraping against heavy metal armor. It howled, long and loud, and for one moment everyone went still, but the sounds of fighting resumed moments later. Eventually the guards would succeed in subduing the beast, and they would drag its unconscious form deep into the dungeons. They would let some of the most vigorous and enthusiastic guards question Wolfsin. No mercy would be shown.

    But Ethelwen could see none of this. His vision had gone dark, and a ringing was filling his ears. All he knew was the feel of the cold floor against his back, and the warmth of his own blood coating his fur. Suddenly he felt the Archon's arms cradling his head, her small hands desperately trying to stem the flow of blood on his belly. Was she crying? Was she saying his name in shock and desperation, like she was losing a lover? It was a comforting thought, if a foolish one.

    But it was too late for her to do anything now. There was no magic in the world that could save him. None, that was, except his own. But for one lucid moment Ethelwen hesitated to shift out of the damage and save his own life. He hesitated because he had built his whole existence around hiding that secret. If he gave it away, what would happen? What else would he accidentally give away?

    But then the pain came rushing back in one massive wave and Ethelwen was screaming. His body began to knit together, using the massive reserves of energy he had stored away during his time in Barvelle. The blackness covering his vision began to recede as his body replaced the lost blood, closed the wound over his stomach, grew a new layer of fur to hide the fact that any damage had been done. He was lying on the floor, both he and the Archon were covered in his own blood, and once more he was perfectly hale.

    But who knew for how long?
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  18. (credit to @DotCom for most of the dream sequence)

    The days of travel and worry coupled with the smoke that Glyph had filled the air with finally caught up with Caoimhe. The meeting had left all of the group with much to think about and each retired to some quiet corner to think or to rest. For the tired mother this meant retreating to her room so that she could finally collapse onto her sleep mat, curling up under the piles of fur and woven fabrics. The dracling was a little less eager for a nap, being confined to a backpack for several hours tended to have that effect.

    As she lay starting to doze off Caoimhe could feel sharp teeth tug at her collar followed by sharp claws digging into her back as the child scrambled on top of her determined to engage its mother in some kind of game. Several minutes of frustrated huffs and warning growls when sharp fangs dug in a little to deep into exposed skin. Much to her relief the gentle movement of her breathing slowly rocked her child to sleep, being born upon a swaying boat and spending much of his early days riding in a rucksack sleep came more easily with steady movement instead of stillness. And with that comforting weight upon her back Caoimhe fell asleep surrendering her mind to dreams, completely unaware when the dragon roused himself and left her side in favor of chasing a stray snowmite.

    "AAAAHHHGGGG" Caoimhe's cry shattered the quiet of the mountain as she sprang up, her head ringing painfully. The dream that she had awoken from would normally have been enough to leave her heart beating fast and her brow slick but there was a fear, a panic that encircled her heart like iron bands and clenched tight. Her heart felt like it was going to explode with strain as it threw itself against her ribs the rush of blood making her already swirling brain go hazy. Dazed and confused she stumbled like a drunken man to the door of her room bursting out into the hallway and almost immediately dropping to her knees. The floor pitched under her but in a mad scramble she was forced upwards by the panicked pounding of her own heart, and then driven forward by a harrowing sense of desperation.

    Her already fractured mind felt the pressure of a third take hold, calling out until her head echoed with unrelenting screams. Her vision narrowed and her eyes were drawn towards the small scratches that had been left in the ice floor by tiny claw. As though guided by a rope she moved forward her pace increasing until it was almost an all out sprint. Several times she tripped and pitched forward and twice she collided with a wall as she rounded a corner far to quickly. A large intersection gave her pause. In a flurry she dodged from one entrance to the other, her brow deeply knit and beaded with sweat. Her head and heart were pounding to hard, she couldn't concentrate, couldn't tell which path was the one that she should take, they all looked the same, cold, monotonous, uninviting. A high whine wormed its way out of her throat as she spun from one tunnel to the next her senses straining for a sign of her child.

    Her ears were the ones that finally rewarded the effort, the sound of a roar echoed drearily through the mountain halls. Taking only a second to recognize the owner of that roar Caoimhe redoubled her speed her eyes red rimmed and wide as her mind played out a mother's worse nightmare. She could feel each second slipping away far more quickly that she would have believed possible and in the silence after the roar she could feel her desperation growing fueled by the echoed beating of a heart that was not her own. And then from around a bend she spotted a very familiar pair of blue wings, for the first time her own Aux almost did flips across her skin at the sight of Tandra knowing that were the Aux is the Crux would not be far away.

    When she finally rushed onto the scene the world stilled as she took in what was happening, the two rodent like creatures stalking closer, Shardis waving a burning torch as one then the other invaded closer and closer, the dracling perched upon Shardis's shoulder, her baby bleeding from his face...

    "NOOOOOO." The cry was closer kin to a screech or a roar and with eyes blazing with a maternal rage she charged towards the Forlouis, wolf instincts kicking in as she dived straight for the one with the injured hind leg. There was a squeal as the she targeted sprang back, trying to escape the hand that flashed forward trying to snatch the creature off the ground. Speed might had been its ally had it not been for the fact that its leg did not responded as quickly as it should have and in a second it felt a pair of jaws crunch down on its back. Twisting and writhing the Forlouis fought Caoimhe for its life leaving claw tracts across her face as it tried to get her to drop it. The image of her child's bloody snout still fresh in her mind she shook her head violently until she heard the snap of the thing's spinal column and felt it go limp in her jaws.

    A chirp from behind cause her to spin, ready to turn her attention to the other Forlouis only to find the small dracling racing towards her as fast as his legs could carry him. Letting the dead rodent slid out from between her teeth she stepped forward to meet the child, blood and gore still dripping off her chin from the fight, folding the dracling into her arms as soon as he was within reach. She could feel him shaking against her chest and as soon as she felt those tiny vibrations she felt her own body begin to rock desperate to provide comfort to the baby. Looking up she saw that without the other Forlouis and without the dracling Shardis had made quick work of the second rodent and had deposited the dead vermin on the ground.

    "Th-thanks." Caoimhe said her voice seizing momentarily in her throat before she turned her attention to the dracling huddled against her chest. Gentle fingers gently touched his muzzle unsure and still very concerned about stopping the bleeding. Her wings slowly folded themselves around her as though unconsciously she was trying to hide herself away, escape the ice and the danger for a den that only had warmth and protection. Something she was very sure that she would not have for a long, long time to come.
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  19. Barvelle
    "Do you smell that?"

    "The fungus?"

    "No. It smells like .. black. It smells hot."

    "It's the fungal stink."

    The Anima tending to the mushroom caves in Barvelle were struggling with a very unique problem. Barvelle had banned fires in the vast majority of its caverns. The accumulating soot dirtied the walls. There was one time where a giant bonfire in an enclosed cavern killed all hundred inside.

    Thus for the few who were born and raised in Barvelle, fire was an unknown. The hunters from Tavark may have spoken of it; but thermic gems glowed warm in the halls, and there was usually no cause to venture far enough outside the Secret City for the need to light a fire.

    Unfortunate for them that it was precisely the embers of a fire that smoldered beneath them. The river of sewage smoked, a slow burn that carried feculent smoke and steam up through the latrines.

    "I guess."





    ".... chois?"


    "Zzzzz.... Zzzzzmeyaaarcccch! (Guttural croaks) nyyyyeeeecccch .. nyeeeeccchoome! Nekome!"

    The farms went untended that day, and the day after, and the day after that, the mushrooms wilting under the assault of another virulent, sporing life form. There were two bodies, cleverly hidden in the deeper, more humid parts of the caves, that fueled their growth.

    Days later:

    The General Assembly "Kaustir is marching on the Chersonese." Every fidget, every twitch of the Anthro girl was magnified on the speaking platform. The illusion slab was quickly replaced after the Ghoul Sage had broken the last one, and several provisions had been incorporated to bleed off excess energy. There would be no repeat of the near disaster from months past.


    A governor coughed loudly in the silence; not the tickle of the throat that rises in silence or with thought, but a phlegmy hork. "We have reason to believe Kaustir is marching towards the Chersonese." Arktus stepped forward, placing a magnified arm on Eydis' shoulder. Murmurs, whispers, doubt rained down upon the girl.

    Someone spoke from the left, his rural accent enunciating every syllable. "What evidence has she?"

    "One week ago, I was trekking towards the Chersonese. At the border .. I saw .. I saw .. a million men .. " Eydis' eyes fluttered as she took her mind back to that day.

    "Elephants and other gigantic beasts. Leopards, horses, and lizards that leaped from hill to hill."

    "The rattle of their swords .. I could hear shouts .."

    "A banner .. of flowing red, swords and daggers and spears."

    Silence. Again, the phlegmy cough.

    "Very lyrical, but your case can't be made with words alone."

    Arktus drew two concentric circles on his throat, his voice booming in the Assembly hall. "Eydis was brought back to Barvelle by a hunter. He has confirmed that she was captured on the way back from the Chersonese."

    "On the way back to tell everyone."

    "A hunter?" The speaker finally stood up, making himself known. "How are we supposed to trust her? She is emotional. That is why she had to be brought back by a hunter in the first place. This entire story could be some wild fantasy."

    "White Claudia is growing scarce." A timid voice piped up in the chamber. The flower, whose pollen was known to focus the mind, bloomed on desert succulents ... that grew in the oases in Kaustir.

    "Even so," the skeptic continued, "What would you have Pegulis do? Captain Ilsa has already fortified Barvelle. We have been receiving reports of instability from Aldus and Tavark. Do you want us to meet them on the Chersonese?"

    Silence. More murmurs. A single marble rolled down the maze of chutes.

    Then, the same governor spat up blood and collapsed in his seat. The emergency Assembly was adjourned that day, and Pegulis was frozen from the inside.

    End of Chapter 6
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