Pegulis, Chapter 7

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  1. Chapter 7
    Desperation




    Barvelle Temporary Prisons
    The dungeons of Barvelle were normally far underground, but a strange fungus contamination crawling up from the sewers made it impossibe to keep people in the area safely. All prisoners had been relegated to temporary holding cells, only a couple of levels below the populated area of Barvelle. The "cells" were just rooms, the doors reinforced with steel and magic. Only the vigilance of the guards made them secure holding chambers. Wolfsin lay in one such cell, clothed in nothing but a tattered shirt and ragged pair of pants. He had not woken since his potion had failed him and the beast had emerged to attack the Archon. His body and mind healed from the wounds they had received in sleep, and the guards left him to do just that.

    Wolfsin barely stirred at the sound of the heavy wood door that guarded the temporary prison opening, and slept unnoticing through the sound of gold changing hands. Then the prison door closed, and a masked figure stepped up to his cell. The door unlocked quietly at the turn of the key, and it hinged open. Still Wolfsin slept. And sleep was all he would ever do from this point on.

    A dagger emerged suddenly from within the folds of the stranger’s robes, and he kneeled down next to Wolfisn. It took him a moment to roll the sleeping man onto his back, but soon the warrior was in position, and the dagger was being raised over his heart.

    It plunged in quickly, burying the sharp blade up to the hilt. Wolfsin’s eyes flew open, and he barely had a chance to let out a suprised and pained gasp before he collapsed back to the ground. The stranger extracted the dagger and wiped it clean on Wolfsin’s tunic, before exiting the cell.

    Wolfsin lay, surrounded by a pool of blood. It would be hours before the guard on duty found him dead. But the report would never make its way to the ears of the Archon.


    The Towers Eirene was in something very similar to a state of shock. Not that she would ever let anyone know that.

    After Wolfsin’s sudden transformation, the near death of Ethelwen, and his subsequent astonishing recovery, Eirene had been quickly escorted from the room by a horde of guards, who had escorted her safely to her rooms in a high tower of Barvelle. There she had found her Steward. The old woman had been worried out of her mind, and quickly tended to Eirene, brought her a bowl of hot soup, and tucked her into bed. It had felt like the ministrations of a mother, and for once Eirene had allowed herself to accept it.

    She had slept long and deep, unknowingly helped by the drugging tincture slipped into the soup. But when Eirene woke she was all business again. She had to consult with the merchants, make sure that the relief caravan was still being sent out, and figure out what to do about the report that Kaustir was moving into the Cheronese. And Ethelwen. She had to talk to Ethelwen, even if it was just briefly. The anima, or whatever he was, had saved her life, and she owed him a deep debt of gratitude. There was no time for her to be in her room.

    But when Eirene tried to get through the door, she found it locked. It only took her a moment to realize that the door had been sealed from the outside by some sort of arcane lock. She was trapped in here. Her advents were useless for escape, and there was no way for her to force through the magic that kept the door sealed.

    One thorough search of her room later, and Eirene was forced to admit the truth. She had been imprisoned. It was a lavish prison, one fit for a goddess, but a prison nonetheless. And there was nothing that Eirene could do to get herself out.


    Barvelle Proper ”The Archon cannot be disturbed at the moment.”

    Coul had been standing at the bottom of the tower for almost half an hour, desperately trying to see Eirene, but for every move he made the guards at the bottom of the stairs blocked her own safety.

    “This is absurd!” Coul was a calm man, but even he was starting to lose his patience. “I am the General of Pegulis, and I must consult the Archon. Do you not understand what I am trying to tell you? Kaustir is invading the Chersonese, and I need to discuss with the Archon what we are going to do about the potentially imminent invasion.”

    “For the safety of the Archon,” the guard repeated for what must have been the hundredth time, “She is allowed no visitors.”

    “Allowed,” Coul spat. “Is she your prisoner?”

    “For the safety of the Archon, she shall remain in her room.”

    “Gah,” Coul whirled on the guard, nearly striking him, but staid the blow at the last second. The way things were looking right now, these men would arrest him for such an action and throw him down into the dungeons. Barvelle was no longer the place he had once known. Without another word, he turned and walked away.

    Right now, he was the only one who could protect Pegulis. He would have to make his choices without the Archon. “I’ll keep Pegulis safe, Eirene,” he whispered to the air. “I promise.”

    Ilium help him. Ilium help them all.
     
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  2. [ooc: volume dooooown for sound links]

    Apparitions visit, #4169e1

    [​IMG]

    The Archon of Pegulis stamped once on the hatch, and sat down heavily when no reply came. She was used to the gentle murmur of her city. Up here, in between gusts of frozen wind whistling through the portholes, there was absolute silence. Her ears ringed loudly, and she did not feel the presence of another until it sat down next to her.

    She started, and rapidly drew a white pentagram in the air. The other placed a finger at each point and twisted it away into nothingness.

    "YOU SEEM SURPRISED."

    "A little. Usually, I am the one who seeks you." Eirene gazed at the trapdoor, imploring her eyes to look through it and into her city below. She could not see, but she felt the chaos in Pegulis. Her heart ached to be among her citizens.

    "DON'T DESPAIR. YOU'RE DOING RELATIVELY WELL. A LEADER-RETURNED-WARLORD, A MAD MAN, DRAGON FOLLOWERS, AND CONSPIRATORS ARE ATTEMPTING TO DESTROY YOUR NATION FROM THE INSIDE. YOUR IDEOLOGY OF TOLERANCE AND FREEDOM IS AN INSPIRING ONE."

    "Dry as always, Mordakar." The room that the Archon was being ... held in was cleverly chosen to avoid giving the impression of imprisonment. It was situated at the top of one of the few towers that stealthily poked above the Barvelle mountains. Originally an observation deck, it was not well insulated, and Skadi curled around its crux, but provided no warmth, only comfort.

    "I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HOW YOU HANDLE THE EASTERN NOCTURNE'S INEVITABLE INVASION."

    "You leave the politics of Sunne to me." Eirene was smirking. "Coul will parlay with the Burning Czar. He will delay them, bluff against them, until I am free from this .. this .. quarantine, and we can fortify ourselves. And I have my own eyes and ears in Pegulis, trapped up here I may be."

    "NATURALLY. THAT WAS WHAT WE AGREED ON."

    "Then you will keep the thermic gems charged?"

    "THAT IS MY END OF THE BARGAIN." The Ghoul Sage stood and walked - floated - around the deck, pausing to take the outside into the endless hood. "BUT YOU SEEM TO BE FALTERING ON YOUR SIDE."

    "YOU PROMISED ME, A DECADE AND SOME AGO, THAT YOU COULD BRING ENLIGHTENMENT TO SUNNE."
    The Ghoul Sage's fingers creaked, as if he was ticking off points from their old verbal agreement. "YOU CONVINCED ME THAT YOU NEED THE THERMIC GEMS SO YOU COULD UNITE THE WIZARDS IN THE NORTH. IT TURNS OUT THAT NOT ALL MEN ARE INTERESTED IN WARMTH, COMMUNITY, AND EDUCATION, EIRENE."

    "YOUR SECRETS CONTINUE TO REMAIN SECRETS. MOST ON SUNNE ARE NONE THE WISER. THE MAD NOCTURNE BREEDS HIS NATION TO THE POINT OF IMPLOSION."
    Was it possible for the Ghoul Sage to seem angry? He turned and walked towards the Archon, each thump of the staff driving his point home.

    "AND WITH EVERY ADDITIONAL BIRTH, SUNNE IS STRAINED. MAGIC IS A FINITE RESOURCE, EIRENE. WHEN ONE TAKES, SOMETHING ELSE GIVES. THERE WAS LEEWAY BEFORE. BUT NOW, WITH THE WAY SUNNE GROWS, SOON IF SOMEONE WANTS TO LIGHT A FIRE WITH MAGIC, SOMEONE'S AUX WILL BE SIPHONED TO FEED HIS PARLOR TRICK."

    "OR WORSE."


    "Mordakar, change will not happen so quick." The Archon was quietly desperate. "The birth rates in Pegulis have already fallen to acceptable levels. They are the lowest on recorded census since I united the tribes. We are barely at over two children per married couple. All mages in Pegulis have a profound respect for their craft. The forest-kin steward their nation. I only need to speak to the Czar. ("DO YOU NEED TEN DAYS AND TEN NIGHTS FOR THAT TOO?") ... I can convince him. We only need more time."

    "SO YOU NEED TIME."

    No. Eirene's eyes shot wide open, but her cry was frozen in her throat as the Ghoul Sage reached into the air, snagging his forefinger on an invisible string. And he pulled.

    Fifty workers in Dorgrad dropped dead, their aux rejoining the aether. He pulled a second one.

    Please.

    A hundred flowering kin on the Riven tree wilted, their leaves shriveling black and falling to the ground. Mordakar pulled a third one.

    Stop.

    Two hundred citizens of Aldus fell, although the city was too lost in madness to care.

    Eirene bit her lip until she drew blood. She clasped her hands until she bruised herself, and refused to cry out even as her heart was twisted by the numb shock of what she had, in effect, asked for.

    "THERE. YOU HAVE TIME. MAYBE ANOTHER YEAR."

    They stood in silence for some time.

    "YOUR DEBT IS NOT YET PAID." The Ghoul Sage stepped through the trapdoor, leaving Eirene to her own thoughts.
     
    #2 unanun, Oct 15, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2014
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  3. (Thanks to @Ayla Reinhart for dialogue collab)
    Ilsa Lisbon — Discovery, Indigo
    Barely a week ago, the Lisbon home bustled with Avians seeking refuge there, with Ilsa's mother cooking and cleaning, and with Karissa talking and chatting with the Avians, who were eager to share and recount all their tales to this human child who held such an eagerness to learn. The Avians appreciated Karissa's attitude of valuing all life - almost akin to Viridosi beliefs, and took an immediate liking to her. That, in addition to the family's offer of food and shelter, ensured that they would return. Since the Aviary fell, the Avians had become frequent guests.

    Now, the home was bathed in silence.

    The chimney bore no smoke from the fires of the stove, windows no longer glowed in the night with the dance of candlelight and thermic gems. The most movement anyone would notice was just an occasional glimpse of Ilsa's mother out to purchase groceries, only to come straight home. She would cook small meals now, many of which Ilsa had not the appetite to eat.

    Ilsa herself remained in the home, eyes reddened and dry from sleepless nights and teary afternoons. Her normally prim and kept blonde hair was disheveled and unkempt, creases on her face beginning to form from the despair. She stood by Karissa's bed, staring blankly into the empty sheets as her hands idly caressed Karissa's rag-doll bear, Callie.

    A gentle, but swift succession of raps against the front door stirred her attention, though she did not move. From inside the room she could hear her mother answer the door, before the footsteps approached the shut door of Karissa's bedroom, where they hesitated. Eventually, a knock came, followed by her mother's voice.

    "Ilsie?"

    Her mother's voice caused the Guard Captain's face to wrinkle as her brows furrowed together. She hadn't been called by that name in at least twenty winters. Her mother was trying to be gentle; Ilsa was not a child. "There's someone here to see you, dear."

    Ilsa swallowed to mask her faltering voice before speaking. "I'm not interested in guests right now, mother."

    "It's Nuria, the Avian Ambassador. She asked to speak with you."

    The grieving Guard Captain looked towards the door.

    From outside Karissa's bedroom, Nuria waited with a sense of hurried calm. Her information was urgent, but she understood that she was intruding on Ilsa's need for privacy and would not rush any more than she needed to. Ilsa took some time to recompose herself, then unlocked the door and left it ajar as she returned to the bedside of Karissa's empty bed.

    Nuria entered slowly, lowering her head out of respect as she crossed the threshold into the child's room. Ilsa, even in grief, still did her best to accommodate, though her gaze remained affixed to the pillow on the bed. "How can I help you?"

    The Avian shook her head politely, voice kept barely above a whisper so as not to disturb the room. "You can't. But I may be able to help you. You have few friends left in this city and I am one of them, if you will trust me."

    The Captain tried to chuckle at that notion, but what escaped her instead was barely that. Indeed, it was a cruel twist of fate that there were few left in Aldus whom she could trust. Idly, Ilsa's hand caressed at the filigree on the pendant around her neck that Vrein had smithed for her. She longed for his embrace, for a place where she could take sanctuary and be taken care of, rather than having to clean up the messes created by others.

    Ilsa responded after several moments of quiet, turning her gaze to meet the Avian's. "I see no reason to distrust you. I-- I'm not sure I ever thanked you properly for bringing her down, so... thank you." An audible sigh left her lips as she returned her stare to the bedsheets. "What news do you have?"

    "A seed has sprouted and the darkness laughs at your return. The shadows murmur tales of tainted men that wander like ants upon the crust of the earth believing that justice has been served as a child looks down upon us from the stars, crying. She loved you."

    The cryptic statement summoned a storm of emotions. Ilsa remained silent for several long moments, waiting for the flash of anger to subside lest she snap at one of the few remaining people in the city she could trust. Nonetheless she found the Ambassador's flowery imagery offensive. Karissa had died, and no amount of over-embellished rhetoric would soothe that ache. A mother does not need to be reminded that she was loved by her child.

    After allowing her emotions to settle, Ilsa responded, gaze unturning. "And what do you know of this 'seed'? What has caused the darkness?"

    "The man with three eyes - the man with the mask; from the shadows of the Council Building he weaves webs of lies, catching his prey within so that he may string them along like puppets. Darkness surrounds him."

    Now, Ilsa had information she could use. "How do you know this?"

    Nuria smiled sweetly as she reached for the door, pleased that she had gotten through to the Guard Captain. However, her sources of information were hers, and hers alone. "Shadows linger on the corner of every city, Mother of the Free Child. They mutter soft words that most refuse to hear. All it takes is for one to listen."
     
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  4. A robed figure trekked through the snow, the sound of crunching snow and chattering teeth were all that followed him. He seemed to go in a completely nonsensical direction, one moment he would head straight north only to go back the way he had came and go west. He followed no map, no trail, and if anyone had to guess he was completely lost. Eventually he made it too a clearing before looking around and completely collapsing to the ground in defeat.

    After a few moments of sitting there he pulled out a flask and drank a large gulp and a few seconds later he began to violently convulse and flail about on the ground. Once the convulsions had stopped the body laid there for a short while before getting up. He then quickly picked up a heart shaped thermic gem that he had dropped during his convulsions and began to briskly walk westward, the only evidence left behind were his footprints and the blood he had coughed up during his convulsions.
     
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  5. With respects to @unanun
    Barvelle Ethelwen was carried out of the meeting room on a stretcher, covered in a blanket quickly soaking through with blood. He had watched wild eyed as the medics approached, but the Archon coolly instructed them to get him out of there as quickly and as quietly as possible, and get him somewhere safe, where he could rest and relax until someone had a chance to talk to him.

    At first Ethelwen wondered if he would be allowed to leave once they got to this "safe place", and more than once he almost jumped off the stretcher and vanished into the tunnels of Barvelle, never to be seen again. But he kept himself in place out of fear.

    Once they placed him in the room and left, Ethelwen immediately rose and checked the door. To his surprise, it opened easily under his fingers, and there was no angry looking individual outside with orders to keep him inside by any means necessary. His fears at least somewhat assuaged, Ethelwen laid back down. He would wait. There was nothing to say that the revelation of his nature as a skinwalker would ruin everything.

    [​IMG]

    "THAT WAS AN IMPRESSIVE DISPLAY OF MAGIC, CAT." Ethelwen was well practiced in his assumed skin, so his hackles raised from instinct. The tendons in his neck jutted, and despite how his eyes swivelled frantically around the room, the voice remained disembodied. He forced the sound of his hammering heart out of his ears. His aux thrummed, ready for advent. If this was somehow, in some way, a trap, he could always run.

    "Who's there?" Despite the situation, his voice was surprisingly calm and measured.

    "DO YOU THINK YOU STILL HAVE THE ARCHON FOOLED?"

    The echoes moved around him in a circle, the edges of his vision going black. "I don't know what you mean, stranger." He took a couple of deep breaths, and his hands balled into fists, claws digging into his palm. The darkness briefly retreated as pain shot up his arm.

    "YOU SHOULD CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS MOVING FORWARD. SKADI REFLECTS WELL THE ARCHON'S GUILE." Taps sounded in the distance, light, urgent footfalls that belonged to only one man.

    "AFTER ALL", and the steps drew closer,

    "SHE TAKES AFTER ME." The voice drifted away as Arktus slowly pushed the door open. He found Ethelwen sitting bolt upright, every hair on his body on end, and his Aux swirling like it was caught in a typhoon. Blood dripped from the small puncture wounds in his hands.

    "I heard about the Archon." Arktus squinted in the dim light. "You used your magic." There was no reprimand in his tone. "How was it?"

    "It saved the Archon's life," Ethelwen replied numbly, his attention trapped in a maze with words from a dark voice. A dark voice that sounded undoubtedly familiar. "I couldn't reach her in time, so I hit the beast in the head with... something. I didn't hurt it, but it slowed it down."

    "You visualized an effect and bent the aether to your will." The Calm Sage took a seat next to the bed. "I heard ... that you were wounded." His eyes searched, but before he could even briefly scan the cat's body Ethelwen's aux wrapped tightly around his form, covering every line. It might not have been tangible, but it could at least block the eye.

    "When your aux reacts like that, your condition becomes even more obvious."

    "I cannot help the way my aux reacts," Ethelwen eventually replied, feeling both childish and mulish. He decided, after the Wolf and the strange voice, he had the right.

    "That may be true," Arktus smiled gently, "But you did not answer the question. You are hurt." He withdrew a piece of lamp black and began to sketch a circle around the anima's bed. "Let me take a look, and then we can decide whether or not you need a healer." The lines on the circle straightened themselves from his crudely drawn pattern, and he read the subtle shifts in their language.

    Ethelwen sat up, watching Arktus, before he finally sighed. His aux retreated to settle, scarf-like around his neck. "I'm fine, Arktus."

    "You have also been hiding your true nature from me." The Calm Sage broke the spell line with his foot. "There is residue of a massive reconstruction incantation lingering on you."

    And there it was. No more hiding. No more point in pretending. "Yes. Your point being?"

    "I did not realize that you were already talented at magicka." Arktus hid behind his hands. "I feel so condescending now! All those lessons, all the basics, all the warnings .. you must have known already. How silly I must have looked!"

    A startled laugh slipped from Ethelwen before he could stop it, and his ears laid back in embarrassment. "But I don't know magic. I couldn't even hit the wolf properly!"

    "Magic is not only violence. It is so much more. We should talk more when you have recovered. Until then, Master Ethelwen ..." The Calm Sage retreated to the door, excusing himself.

    Ethelwen sat for a moment, stunned and confused. He lay down, thoughts swirling through his head, and almost all of them were unintelligible. He would have sworn, at that moment, that he would never fall asleep again. But moments later he was proven wrong, and the shock caught up with him. His eyes fluttered closed, and he slept.
     
    #5 Peregrine, Oct 17, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
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  6. Collab @unanun
    Aimee
    The secretive secret of the secret dracling did not remain as such for long. Word passed to the populace of a baby dragon and her very human mother, of noble guardian rats who sought to save Barvelle from the dragon scourge, only to perish in their valiant, foolhardy attempt. In these cynical times, how could one imagine that a paladin's honor was found in the lowest of vermin, oh how the land weeps for this loss.

    Regardless, these tales crawled their way up to the assembly, all the way to the highest sages of the land. They were verified, and these tales became fact.

    Something had to be done.

    "Might I take this opportunity, Master Sergeant, to mention that I greatly respect your -" Helena was cut off by a cough from Michel, who gave Aimee the Watch salute.

    Aimee returned the salute halfheartedly. "I will be frank. You called me here for counsel, but the role I see is pest control. The whelp must die while young."

    "That may not be entirely necessary, Master Aimee. A dragon, by nature, is not necessarily an aggressive animal." Helena pursed her lips.

    "All due respect, Helena," Aimee said, without much respect due. "But you have not faced these circumpolar pollywobbers out in the cold. They are not wolves. They are not frostbears. They are not ice trolls. Those things can be hunted, can be brought to yield - and they know it. But a dragon...A dragon is king where it flies, and it demands patronage like a whore demands man's coin." She respected them, it was clear in her words and her voice. She had fought them for what felt like forever, and, in a way, were we not defined by our greatest enemies?

    The Fierce Sage bristled. "There is no difference whether you put it down it now or when it begins to show signs of disobedience, then?"

    "None at all. Kill it now and be done, I say." Aimee said, in a tone that suggested this was just dumb, obvious chatter. "A dragon is not a child's toy."

    "Aimee." Michel leaned forward. "Magic is not a child's toy either. Despite the obvious risks, we shoulder the burden of teaching its responsible use to our young, and so do all on Sunne. This is a rare opportunity."

    "A rare opportunity to die, you mean." Aimee sniffed. She was sitting in a stable apparently, because it stank of manure. "Michel, old friend, have the years left you addled? You cannot teach a dragon as you teach a child sorcery! I have seen their whelps, emerging from their shells, their first instinct hunger and rage. I have seen dozens of drakes, larger than any horse, hungering after the great, thundering mammoths. I have seen the greatest wyrms, and their like would make a morsel of Eimund's so-called warbeast. No, no, this is a pollywobber's endeavor. You risk Barvelle to tame the untamable."

    For all his childish habits, Michel was the one that had to push Helena down, whose pale face was blossoming with rage. "And with enough preparation, any mage could decimate Sunne."

    And I could decimate you, she thought. But she couldn't' say it. Even the insolence her unique position afforded her had its limits, and she was careful not to make an open threat to the inner council.

    Arktus finally spoke. "Is it not reasonable to observe and learn from the whelp? It may turn out as you say, Master Aimee, and it may not. However, while we can still easily control it, there is truth to be gained and perspective to be seen. You yourself bear the mark of our greatest sorcery, invented to combat creatures that we have regarded until now as our dire enemies."

    "Extinction, Arktus. The 'until now' was because of their near-extinction, not some half-witted attempt at a draconic circus."

    "Which the sundering played the a major role thereof. Stay a while. You have not yet graced us in Barvelle with an extended presence. Follow the dragon mother; as a Sage, your learning is never complete. And if the dragon proves impossible to control ..."

    "Stab. Stab. Stab." Aimee sniffed again. "However, Aldus needs me-"

    "A while, not forever. There are no dragons in Aldus that need to be slain."

    "Did you hear what the fuck they did to Lisbon's girl? Aldus is in-"

    "A while. The perpetrators are not dragons. There is no exceptional task for you."

    There was a moment of silence, and in it, a thousand ways to continue the argument. A thousand ways to drag it on.

    "I haven't had dragon stew in quite a bit." Aimee shrugged, the closest she would admit to defeat. "Couldn't hurt."

    "Well met, Master Aimee." Arktus stood, with the other two.
     
    #6 Pastor ćhoi, Oct 17, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 17, 2014
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  7. "AH CHOO!" Medwick dug around in a backpack.

    "Medwick, we aren't in the jungle anymore. Why are you still sneezing?" Shardis covered her snout. "You know there have been rumours that they closed the lower levels due to some outbreak."

    "Sick." Caoimhe muttered from the fire, holding the dracling as it ate the flames.

    "I'm not sick," Medwick snapped, "Just having trouble adjusting. I might also be allergic to idiots." He continued to shuffle around, shaking the heavier instruments to the bottom, hooking picks to straps on the outside. "I need to see the Archon. There is something about the Libras sphere that I must confirm."

    "They have her shut in an observation tower. How are you going to get an audience with her?"

    "Simple. I'll just climb up there." That was when they knew that their journey had erased any respect for authority in Medwick, when he flippantly dismissed protocol and procedure for just doing things. Long ago he discarded notions of regularity and habit, the tolls of the water clocks in Barvelle, supper time and bed time, meetings and votes. He ate when hungry, slept until he was rested, and used the tables as he pleased (fortunately, the ink blocks and tables were for public use).

    "Dangerous." The dracling sneezed out some of the flame it ate, blue and twice as voluminous.

    "I'm not expecting you to tag along. You should probably sit tight - no idea what the guards around here are up to anyways." The backpack made no sound as he shrugged it on, a good sign that he had packed it well. He pulled on leather climbing gloves and dusted chalk on them.


    Medwick gulped. The hemp rope was very heavy on shoulders, and the sharp point of the ice pick prodded his side. He looked around him, then up again. How long had he been away, that such a sight filled him with trepidation?

    ...

    [​IMG]

    At the end of a snow bank that would have challenged the most talented Ursani was the real obstacle, a sheer cliff face. Perhaps, long ago, the celestial bears had used this mountain face for their scratching post, carving jagged vertical striations into the face.

    "This is more like it." Carval flew ahead of him, and he felt the sudden pain in the head when his aux nearly passed the aux-crux tether. It seemed that he had longed for the mountains more than he remembered.

    Deep breath. He pulled the balaclava over his face.

    The thermic gem thrummed against his skin. The vibrations were a sign that it was running low. Medwick had pioneered an ingenious use for them, using a harness to hold the heat sources over his heart. The heat from the gem warmed up the blood, and the heart pumped it to his fingers and toes. It was not without its own risks - prolonged climbing often resulted in mild burns to the chest, and the climber was often susceptible to fever or delirium.

    He balanced himself against the vertical rock, pushing his feet deeper into the foot jam. One hand grasped a nail, the other an enchanted hammer. Holding the nail in place, he tapped it with the hammer, and braced against the recoil as the magic drove the spike deep into the rock. He affixed his safety rope to the nail, cinched it around the ratcheted belay device, and with a grunt moved upwards.

    "Watch."

    The sound of a crumbling nub underneath his boots. Suddenly the cold whistled in his ears and he was falling, desperately twisting himself away from the rope to avoid the friction burn. It snagged on the freshly driven nail, and he spun gently in mid air, the breath gone from his lungs.

    Hand by hand he dragged himself back up to the ledge, and examined the nail. The rock around it was cracked. He would have to put another one in, higher up. He spotted several buckets to his left, and reached out for them.

    "We've still got it." Carval flew up higher, urging him on.
     
    #7 unanun, Oct 17, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014
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  8. Artorius Cale - Barvelle, burlywood
    "Did you hear, lad?"

    "About the attack, yes? Hard not to when more than half the tavern's dialogue is about beastly assassins"

    "I hear it's got somethin' to do with a disease what's spread down in the sewers, that it's driven folks mad and the attacker was one of 'em what escaped quarantine."

    "Normally I'd question the validity of these rumors", Artorius said as he leaned on his elbow, offering a smirk and a wave to a short haired young woman at a table a ways from the bar he sat at, "But in light of recent events, I'm only wondering why a horde of these maddened civilians have yet to devestate the whole of the city."

    "Hrnh, yeah. Troubling times to be sure, can see why a man might expect worse to come of these rumors", the fellow at the other side of the bar nodded, filling a mug and placing it in front of Art, "Stayin' another a night?"

    "May as well. If I head back now I'm sure I'll find Aldus is in shambles and my father has helped murder a slew of children", the councilman's son half-joked, an amused expression present on his face but wavering somewhat with the realization that the notion might not be quite so far-fetched. The young man glanced down at the floor briefly, then placed a few coins on the bartop and got up off of his stool, pulling his coat from the top the seat to his left on his way out, "I'm going out for a bit. If any lovelies ask after me, tell them I'll be back later tonight. If they insist on waiting in my room, check them for blades and poison before giving them the go-ahead."

    Stepping outside and not being able to see the sky was an odd change, something simple that Artorius never would have thought might feel so unusual to him. He'd heard plenty about the secret city, read about her caverns and tunnels and secret places, but all his time in Aldus still made it seem strange to him. Wandering around here felt awkward, foreign, the way that it should feel to a first time visitor, it made him feel vulnerable. That and, though he'd never admit to it, the fact that his father and anyone who might bail him out of trouble were all back in Aldus. He wondered if that guardswoman, Bridgette was still here. She was at least a little familiar and not so hard on the eyes, he could do worse in seeking out a guide.

    For now though the thief would wander about the streets and take in his more immediate surroundings, maybe ask directions to some local shops. Before he could get far from the tavern however, a fellow draped in dark chocolate furs grabbed hold of Art's arm as he passed. He shifted fluidly to face the half-obscured man, a hand hovering just over the hilt of his dagger.

    "You, you're Cale's boy, right?"
    Artorius eyed the stranger suspiciously, curious to how he might recognize him. "I am", the councilman's son answered calmly, though his unmoving hand and serious expression told he was a bit on edge, as was natural for one in a strange place, "And you are?"

    The other man, taking note of Art's readiness to unstheathe his weapon, raised a pair of empty open hands and answered quickly. "Old friend of yer father's. Was wondering if you'd gotten word from 'im recently."

    "No. I've only just arrived, I don't expect my father would send a message after me so soon", Artorius told him, relaxing visibly but not quite dropping his guard completely.

    "You must worry for yer father, yes? Now that.." The man was silent for a brief moment, tilting his head as he examined Art's face. Though half shadowed, his expression was clearly somewhat troubled. "You've not heard, have you? Aldus has fallen into madness."

    "I was there through the storm, I'm aware of the happenings in the towers and the mass of refugees filling the streets", he answered, crossing his arms against his chest, "I was at the heart of it, destroyed a handful of golems in the eye of the storm myself."

    Whether this man believed Artorius capable of the feat he claimed or not, he didn't comment on that. Instead he shook his head. "No no, not that. Though mayhaps the magicks from the storm had some part in it.. I can't think why else they would commit such a horrid deed. Poor little Lisbon girl.."

    "Karrissa? Are you suggesting my father had a hand in.. What? Out with it", the young man's voice raised somewhat in offense, despite an effort to restrain it.

    "I'm not suggesting anything, only retelling what I've heard. The council in Aldus, your father included, voted unanimously in favor of the Lisbon girl's execution."

    Artorius froze, any response he might have prepared falling apart the moment the last word passed the stranger's lips. He was sure of what he heard him say, didn't detect any hint toward lying either. Maybe he heard wrong, he thought, but then something like that wasn't often mistaken. He believed him. He hated that he did, but he couldn't convince himself that it was a lie, even from the original source. He believed that she was dead and.. That his father allowed her to meet that fate.

    "Why?..", he asked plainly, clearly at a loss for words.

    "They're saying the council decided her mother, the guard captain deserved punishment, that she was somehow behind the city's recent troubles. One would have to be insane to believe that.."

    The fur-garbed man started to go on, but Artorius had already turned and was on his way back from where he came. Something foul must have been at work in Aldus, without a doubt.. Without much doubt.. The council was run by reasonable people, his father was a reasonable man. Surely this wasn't something they did of their own free will. That aside.. Karissa Lisbon, dead. He couldn't say he was exactly close to the girl, but he didn't have to be. She was a little girl, an innocent, and now she was dead.

    The rest of his day was like to be spent drinking until he forgot what he'd just been told or more likely until he passed out.
     
    #8 LVL1337N00B, Oct 17, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
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  9. Barvelle
    [​IMG]
    Coul found Michel and Helena sequestered in a small room, pouring over a stack of scrolls. He knocked politely before entering, and Helena looked up from the papers, eyes blurry and a frustrated expression on her face. She opened her mouth to scold whoever was here to interrupt her, before recognizing Coul. Quickly she straightened up, elbowing Michel.

    “What?” the Tome Sage snapped, looking over at his colleague. She gestured to Coul, who was watching the exchange with a trace of amusement, but the serious lines of his face had not wavered one inch.

    “How can we help you, General?” Helena asked.

    “A delegation needs to be sent to the Cheronese. We cannot ignore Kaustir, and with the Archon... indisposed this duty falls to me. But I cannot make decisions for the whole of Pegulis. For that, I need one of the members of the Inner Council to accompany me.”

    There was a moment of silence before Helena let out a faint sigh. “Very well. I’ll pack my bags.”

    “Now, one moment,” Michel said, and Coul closed his eyes in a grimace. He had been desperately hoping to find Arktus here with the other two Sages. He was the only one that could be reliably counted upon to keep the other two from falling into argument. “What makes you think...”

    “This is not the moment for argument, Michel,” Helena said, her voice cold as ice. Both Coul and Michel looked at her in surprise. “Kaustir is invading, and Pegulis will not remained unscathed for long. Our nation needs a diplomat, but it also needs a warrior, and that means me.” She slapped her fist hard against her chest, but there was no pride on her face, only steel-hard determination. “So shut up and let me do my job.”

    Michel said nothing, and Helena turned to face Coul. “If you have anyone you wish to accompany us, ready them now. We leave tomorrow morning.” She nodded respectfully to both of them, before rushing out of the room.

    There was a moment of silence between the two men. “She’ll serve you well.”

    “She will serve all of Pegulis well,” Coul replied briefly, before turning away and leaving the room nearly as quickly as Helena. He had many preparations to make, and a retinue to gather, and he did not have much time to do it.
     
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  10. Arrangements

    ”Is she in here?” Orden asked the guard who nodded while inserting the key. Glancing in trough the opening door money then quickly changed hands and the guard walked of whistling. The man called Orden then proceeded to step into the cell closing the door behind him.

    “Dad?” Eydis stood up from her bed and looked at him openly surprised at her own father standing on front of her with an annoying smirk on his face. But then her surprise turned to anger “Oh you are just here because this coincides with one of your businesses aren’t you?”

    Orden raised his arms “whatever made you come to that conclusion?” He asked his daughter in an amused tone.

    “I remember what you said so often when I was small” she retorted and clenched her fists.
    “You take care of your own mistakes.”

    Her father shook his head. “You know I was never good with this part. Dragging a conversation out and slowly venting the emotions. Im no woman, I prefer things short and sweet.” He said and walked up to his child. Grabbing her chin as she tried to avoid eye contact. “Me and your mother are both okay. And your sister in Aldus made it to.” He noticed how her shoulders slopped as if heavy weight was lifted from them. Eydis was about to speak when he stepped in and embraced her “And you gave us quite a worry to, with your own adventures furball.”

    “Stop calling me that”

    “Well you still sleep curled up embracing your own tail don’t you?” He noticed a small flinch from her and chuckled. “I also heard your brother managed to get you into a dress.” This time his chuckle was halted by a light cough as she gave him a punch in the side.

    “He talks too much and you ask too many questions” She muttered and stepped back. Though now it was with a more vigorous glimmer in her eyes. But also a tone of seriousness came over her. “You wanted something didn’t you?”

    Orden sighed. She was much like himself. In some parts maybe a bit too much like him.
    “Very well” he said and signalled with his hand. The door opened and in the opening a hooded person appeared almost as if materialized on the spot.

    “A mage?” Eydis looked at her father who had stepped aside.

    “Yes and quite a skilled one at that. You problems with magic keeps you in here and I have a quick fix for it.” He stopped and hesitated for a moment. “And with it an offer for a little side job down in the chersonese”

    “So this little fix will be given if I take the offer. . .”
    Eydis looked at the hooded person again with a frown and crossed her arms.

    “Yes if not you will be offered a similar thing by the people responsible for dealing with mages officially but it will most likely take some time.” Her father walked over to the mage and talked in a low voice for a moment before turning back to his daughter. “So how about it? My friend can’t stay for too long”

    Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and then nodded. “Yes it’s a deal though I hope it does not include me getting busted out.”

    The mage to her surprise answered. “No child, trough other arrangements you will soon get an opportunity for an arranged journey down too where you need to go. However remember what happens here is secret and cannot be told to those you travel with or anyone else. But do not worry it is not something that will endanger you or your to be companions.” And with that said the mage grabbed her arm.


     
  11. Tavark "'Mara?" The huntress barely heard the soft call of her name, the memories being chased away by something so fragile. She blinked to clear the haze from her mind and glanced down at the ten-year-old (or was he eleven?) hugging close to her side. Another child, a girl seven or eight, replaced her bow and quiver on her back. She had to run an errand and thought some fresh air would to them both some good only to find themselves standing in front of the slaughterhouse. Not much has been done to repair it with more pressing projects on their hands - house repairs, fixing up the grain stores, getting businesses up and running again - though some of the debris has been cleared and even reused. "Tha's where they kept the dragon." Amara hummed in agreement. She could remember the feel the over powering energy in the room as the dragon made his escape like it had only happened moments ago. How long ago was it? A few days? Weeks? Time was lost on her honestly.

    "
    How'd it get loose?" It was the little girl's turn to speak.

    "
    Who knows? Somethings just aren't meant to be tamed, I guess," the brunette mused. "Come along, we can't be too long or else your Faibel might send out a search party." Her attempt to lighten the mood was lost on the children as the boy allowed himself to be ushered away and the little girl buried her face in the teen's neck opposite of Tang's perch. While the children's aux had been restored all thanks to Darin and Raige, it wasn't hard to tell something was lost in the process. They just weren't complete. Amara first thought she was just being paranoid but even the people around the children - parents, guardians, friends - acted differently around them; they knew something was off but couldn't place their finger on it. Some wounds time could only reveal the extent of the damage, not heal.

    Most of the children with busy parents or no parents at all were being housed in one of the bigger homes in Tavark owned by a woman by the name of Faibel, who lost her son and husband during the war with Eimund. It was the best they could do for the children, she supposed, keeping them around others who have been through the same ordeal. A minority of the children hadn't said a single word since they were saved and others... weren't quite themselves. Despite the difference in aftermath of their psyche they all shared one thing: nightmares. Even the adults were not without demons tearing at their minds. Oh yes, Tavark was scarred through and through. She pushed open the heavy oak door and announced their arrival, crouching so the little girl piggybacking could climb off with ease. Faibel soon appeared and greeted them warmly before urging the children to clean themselves up. The house was quite for one holding more then twenty kids within its walls save for some sounds of the younger ones playing with toys. By the smell of things, the older ones were preparing a meal.

    "
    Here, I got you the roots you asked for," Amara stated. Aforementioned roots were dug out of a pouch on her belt and were then handed off to the pale, dainty hands expecting them. Faibel smiled brightly.

    "
    Thanks lass. Why don' you stay awhile? You could use some food and drink in ye." The huntress declined politely. There were other things she had to, she would always tell the tall, lean women. Other errands to run, things to help fix up-- Tavark was not without something needing to be done these days. Faibel would respond with her own worries and concerns over Amara's diet, constant activity, lack of sleep... The huntress was convinced she was making up excuses just to get her to stay.

    "
    I'll try to come back tonight," she decided to say instead, on her way out into the shadow of the city that remained.
     
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  12. "Do you need help? What's the purpose of coming out here if your going to fall?" Shardis yelled half in hysterics while leaning half out the window. "Hang on I'm coming with you. I swear, he is getting feeble..." The last little bit was said in a mumble so as to not be heard by Medwick. She started to crawl out the window and heard Caoi yowl in anger. "Gods ravage my Aux! Now what?!" Shar dove back in the window and ran off in the direction of the yowl, this time she had the presence of mind to have her sword on her person and she drew it with a snarl.


    Paranoia, it was not something that was entirely new to Caoimhe, only that the last time she had had such an intense feeling of dread she had been alone, skittish and she had the option to run. Disappear into the woods until she felt she could emerge again when the uncertainty passed. But now, now there were restrictions, loyalties, and the suffocating realization that she could no longer just be a child of the frozen woods. An uncomfortable heat at her wrist caught her off guard, her attention diverted towards Medwick as he left through the window off to scale a sheer cliff. Glancing down she saw that a bit of stray flame from the plumes that her child blew back into the air had settled on her sleeve and was now threatening to spread up her arm. Quickly depositing the dracling into her lap she patted her arm out rolling it across the cold floor to suppress the flames. The energetic youngster in her lap seemed to find the whole thing very funny and let out delighted chirps as his mother made the flame dance.

    With that crisis adverted Caoimhe rose and proceeded to the door, if nothing else she would try and get a nap. Sleep had been hard to come by over the last few days. When the news had spread of the dracling there were many who were not pleased and in light of that she had long since abandoned her room choosing to sleep instead in little alcoves far from where most trod, switching from spot to spot almost every day. Disappointed that the game was over, the child took a running start and leapt up onto its mother's shoulders settling uneasily on its perch. The last few days he had been more skittish than usual, more prone to wandering off too, as though tracking something down the halls, generally driving Caoimhe even more crazy during these trying times.

    Quickly she snaked down some of the quieter hallways, pausing every time she thought she heard the step of a foot, waiting until she was sure that there was no one approaching from one of the intersecting paths. By the sun she was tired, her eyes were drooping and her steps were beginning to drag. So tired that she missed the gentle crunch of ice, and the subtle whiff of foul smoke until the dracling was ripped from her shoulders.

    "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" The screech shattered the quiet of the hall as Caoimhe whipped around, the dogged tiredness giving way to frantic fury. In front of her stood three masked men, dressed in layered furs wielding weapons that had been carved from some strange metallic material. The cry ended sharply as one lurched forward with a grunt, his blade slicing down into her shoulder forcing her back, away from the cries of her child as he thrashed in his captors grasp.

    Picking up the pace to almost a run dodging and dashing through the corridors, Shardis frantically searched for her friend. Although Caoi's scent was strong, as if the wolf-girl had just been there, there was no sign of her. The snow leopard anime rounded another corner and came face-to-face with the reason why. She found signs of a fight and blood had been spilled, by the smell of it...it was human and Shar flattened her ears as her hair stood on end and a cold chill ran down the length of her back to the tip of her tail. A deep growl formed in her throat as her anger grew, if 'they' had harmed Caoi... she had no idea who 'they' could be yet the scents she was picking up, three of them, were new to her.

    There was a trail of fresh blood leading deeper into the corridors, down into the depths where the sewers ran, she could smell them faintly in the distance. Now she needed to make a choice between going after Caoi alone or going back for Medwick. Her brother had always been the brains of the group and she had always followed him without question in all their adventures. Shardis had always been the heavy, the tank that fought the battles, not the thinker that planned and plotted but, if she went back for Medwick now the odds of finding the wolf-girl dropped dramatically and they might never see her again.

    With a chuff the cat-girl made her choice and continued following the trail of blood deeper into the depths.


    Again she sneezed, there was something terribly wrong with the smell coming for the sewers up ahead. Shardis had to find the group very soon, not only because Caoi was obviously bleeding out (she assumed it was her friend) but because the cat girl did not trust what could be down there after the R.O.U.S. incident.

    Shardis didn't bother to creep silently, she checked signs like the good tracker she was but kept pushing forward at a good clip and because of this she ran face first into the back of one of Caoi's assailants who had stopped to check an adjoining tunnel. There was a startled yep (just who did the yelping no one will ever know or tell) followed by a roar and the sound of a sword slashing flesh and then all hell broke out.


    With a snarl Caoimhe drew back from another downward slash of the blade. One hand was pressed against her shoulder, trying to stop the blood that flowed around her fingers and dripped onto the cold floor. This deadly dance had become almost poetic the three kidnappers retreating back to their sewer home, their snapping fire spewing charge taking up the complete attention of one of the men. The other two had their attention taken up by the furious mother that blocked their progress through the hallways. Between their grabs and the slash of their blades she couldn't get near, couldn't close the distance without receiving another vicious slash leaving another line of blade cross the floor. As the passages narrowed the three rearranged themselves, it was two narrow for them to keep walking abreast so one of them moved behind the one holding the dragon while the largest continued his assault on Caoimhe driving her back. Their escape only a few yards to her back.

    Thump. The sound of flesh upon flesh could be heard from the back and for a brief moment they halted. A flash of white speckled fur could be seen at their back and in the space of a blink the draken that had lead the group found the dragon mother at his throat, her teeth only barely missing his neck and instead burying themselves into his collar. The giant of a man let out a cry that was more of a grunt his hands pressing outwards trying to fling the girl from him. The air was filled with a flurry of feathers as Caoimhe pumped her wings violently trying desperately to keep her hold. Out of the corner of her eye she could see one scaly arm pull back and come speeding towards her, the flash of a knife filling her vision, that is until the glow of her own advent light completely clouded her vision.

    In such a confined space the battle was more of a child's game of marbles and columns. Shardis slammed into the first assailant in an attempt to have a go at the second while Caoi was in a tussle with the third. No 1 lost his grip on the dracling who in turn attacked the nearest one to him, No 3, who swung his sword wildly and hit No 2 in the leg by accident setting that assailant tumbling into a wall. Shardis dispatched the second man and found the dracling on her shoulder rooting her on with hysterical screams that assailed her ears so badly that she layed them flat and hissed at the excited lizard who quickly quelled its petulant voice.

    ~

    The bite of the knife into her side felt like nothing more than a gentle jab in the side by someone's finger, even the sudden warmth that kept down to her hip barely registered as anything aside from a distraction. When she should have been feeling her jaw weakening, all she felt was that surging need to crush, to break, she would not stop until she had felt bones splinter and shred their way through fresh. She wanted to taste blood as it was forced through splitting skin. A roar of pain came in tandem with a sharp snap as the man's collar finally gave in under the pressure from her jaws and with a great effort the draken threw Caoimhe from him but not without her taking a chunk of flesh as a trophy.

    She hit the opposite wall hard but it did little to phase her. Picking herself up she seemed deaf to the cries of the dracling as she stalked towards the draken who had just thrown her. The chunk of shredded flesh still hanging from her mouth. They eyed each other, the draken wary, Caoimhe hardly registering any emotion her eyes blank and glassy. During the tussle Caoimhe and her attacker had become turned around so that she had her back to Shardis and the man had the open tunnel to his back. In those moments of stillness he seemed to realize that he had already lost the advantage and as quickly he had appeared he disappeared again, down into the black of the rarely used tunnels. Caoimhe made as though to follow, her attention devoted to the tracking and hunting of the chosen target.

    With one assailant dead and the other one fled the last man had terrible odds and he knew it by the look on his face. Shardis wasn't about to let this one flee, Medwick could use him for questioning later. The fellow took something out of a pocket and shoved it in his mouth and swallowed hard with a look of conviction. With in seconds of doing so he started convulsing. Shardis swore an oath as she watched helplessly while the man died in front of them.

    "That is real dead-ication... That leaves us nowhere nearer to who is behind this." Shar kicked a loose rock down the corridor. Noticing that there was no response she turned around to see why. Caoi was slumped against the wall caressing the dracling mumbling soothingly to it calming it while she was bleeding out from her wounds.

    Acting quickly, Shardis ripped strips of cloth from one of the dead assailant's cloths and began binding the wounds. Caoi grimaced with the pain and thanked her with a look and a nod. "I will go for help now I guess" Shar turned to see her aux sitting, looking board, on the dead body she had just ripped the cloth from. In that moment Tandra flew off.
     
    #12 E.T., Nov 3, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 3, 2014
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  13. Ilsa Lisbon — Confrontation, Indigo
    Over the days since Nuria had dropped by to deliver the information, Ilsa busied herself tracking down Azareth.

    The Guard Captain buried her sorrows beneath thoughts of vengeance, dedicating days and nights to the pursuit of the "masked man" responsible for her daughter's death. Clothed in plain, hooded garb rather than her Watch armor, Ilsa obsessed over Azareth. She observed him for days, studying his movements, noting the times he would arrive to the council building and when he would leave, how often, for how long. She made note of where he would go, where he stayed, where he slept. A bit of coin helped to buy information about him, though few townsfolk were willing to talk about him.

    Where just days earlier Ilsa couldn't even cry herself to sleep, now she remained awake to plan. She began to eat again, and even helped her mother to prepare meals on occasion. Gradually, color found its way back into Ilsa's face as she regained her health, much to her mother's relief.

    But Ilsa's mother did not know of her plans. One morning, Ilsa donned her armor and left the home without a word. Purposeful, heavy footsteps carried her towards the Council building, and she pushed through the front doors. At the precise moment she crossed the threshold into the building, the door slammed shut behind her; Ilsa could hear it lock.

    The grand halls of the normally bustling Council Building were empty. Bodies of hanged children, in various states of decay, swung idly from the ceiling. The initial pang of the stench of flesh singed at her nostrils, but she did not flinch. She stood in front of the door, unmoving.

    "Ah, the one from the outside... who escaped it all. I wondered when you would show up." Azareth's voice mocked her from space unseen.

    The Guard Captain did not offer a response.

    "Do you think I haven't noticed you? Following me around like some kind of pathetic dog."

    Thoughts swirled in Ilsa's head before finding their way into words. "Why did you do it?"

    She fought off the urge to gag from the noxious scent, willing herself to remain in control. Azareth's chuckle resonated through emptiness as he watched her struggle.

    "Do you like what I've done with the place? I thought you'd find it... familiar. I wanted you to be comfortable."

    "Cur," Ilsa cursed. "Answer the question. Why did you do it?"

    Azareth took in a sharp, audible intake of breath, feigning offense. "Oh, that's no way to treat your gracious host, is it? Perhaps I should introduce you to our other guests."

    A door across the hall swung open, and out stepped the five members of the Aldus Council, their blank stares covered by a glassy sheen; they had become puppets, driven so far from their wits by Azareth's touch of madness that their minds were no longer their own. Their presence gave Ilsa pause.

    "Your illusions mean nothing to me," she warned, hoping to call a bluff.

    "Ha." Azareth chuckled as he stepped into view behind the councilmen, who continued to enclose on Ilsa. "These are not illusions; they are very real."

    The council members approached, each with a sword clutched tightly in hand. Rather than reaching for sword and shield, Ilsa reached her hands out in front of her, palms face up to plead with the council. "Mayor Valeckis! Council! Stop - it's me, Ilsa!"

    "Ilsa." They echoed the name in unison, their voices droning. "The enemy of Aldus."

    Her heart plummeted. Slowly, she backed away to create space as they enclosed on her, before the back of her chestplate thudded against the heavy wooden doors. "What have you done with them?!"

    Azareth's shoulders shook with his laughter, smirk hidden by the cloth mask around his face. "They are mine, now."

    Outnumbered and with her back literally and metaphorically against the wall, she made one last plea. Calling each council member name, she begged for them to come to their senses. As if in response, Mayor Valeckis raised his blade above his head to strike.

    "STOP, Mayor Valeckis!" He did not hear. Or he did not care.

    Ilsa waited until the last moment, hoping in vain that he might come to his senses, but he swung the sword down. Before the blade could make impact, Valeckis and the rest of the Council were forcefully flung away by a translucent spherical barrier that burst out from within Ilsa. The council members crashed into the walls and bookshelves, sending papers and books flying. They crumpled to the ground, only to stand right back up again.

    "Oh, you've made them angry now."

    Ilsa readied her sword and shield. These were friends, colleagues, in some cases mentors - people she had known her entire life in Aldus, turned against her. They advanced with intensity now, mindlessly throwing themselves upon the woman whose job it was to specifically keep them safe. Tears welled in Ilsa's eyes as she came to terms with the fact that they would have to die at her hand.

    She rushed forth to meet them, and steel clashed against steel. Their numerical advantage was easily overcome by Ilsa's sense of tactics and superior swordsmanship; the council members had little time to refine their swordplay, after all, and their madness only served to make them reckless. Their exchanges were fluid, almost effortless, like a routine training exercise. Her survival instinct kicked in and she no longer thought; she simply did.

    Ilsa kept her opponents in front of her, meeting their flurry of blows with a mixture of dodges, shield blocks and ripostes. One at a time, she slayed them, and as each next colleague fell, the flow of tears streaming from Ilsa's eyes intensified. The last council member to fall was Councilman Cale. Ilsa stood over the bodies, out of breath and out of will, staring miserably down at her massacre of friends.

    Azareth clapped. "Ah, what a splendid show. You've done all I could've asked for and more."

    It was then that Ilsa pieced the confrontation together. By killing the council, she had become the exact same public enemy that Azareth had led the townsfolk to believe. She had done Aldus a favor by purging the council of its madness, liberating the city from what would have been the council's inevitably twisted reign. The city could reelect a new council, free from Azareth's grip, and eventually life would return to normal. Yet the townsfolk would never know that Ilsa had freed them; they would only know what they were told, what they could see.

    Ilsa had become the villain.

    Her sword and shield slid out of her hands as they clanged to the floor, the sound accompanied only by Azareth's mocking laughter.

    Infuriated and out of options, she charged at Azareth, grabbing him by the robes and throwing him to the floor. He did not struggle. Ilsa threw a relentless series of punches, creating crimson stains in Azareth's cloth facemask. Lifting him by the collar, she slammed him back down, causing the back of his head to loudly make impact against the stone floors of the council building before pulling a dagger from a small scabbard at her waist and pressing the blade against his neck.

    "Go on, do it! You're a murderer now, after all."

    Torment continued to roll from Ilsa's eyes as she applied pressure with the sharp of the blade against his neck, slowly shearing apart the fabric of the cloth surrounding his face. Eventually, it broke skin and drew blood, but Ilsa withdrew the blade.

    "Death..." she hissed, "Is too good for you. Get out of Aldus, and never come back." She ripped the facemask off of him, revealing a badly bruised, bleeding, three-eyed Azareth.

    "I have no use left for this city. I have all I need."

    Azareth cracked a bloody smile. "It has no use for you anymore, either."
     
    #13 fatalrendezvous, Nov 4, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
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  14. Barvelle mountains, teal


    Medwick lay suspended in thin air, a thermic gem in the hilt of his sword glowing with fierce light. He lay on top of a green, translucent square projected from the cliff face.

    That was the third gem gone. Of the five he had, one burned over his heart so he could reduce the amount of clothing he wore. He would only have one more for the climb up - and the climb down, should his impromptu audience be received wrongly.

    "Clumsy." Carval perched on his shoulder, as if his subconscious was challenging him to test his rusty mountaineering, refusing to give him any hints.

    Normally, he would have worried. Perhaps he would not have even attempted it in the first place. But no doubts remained in his mind as he tied the safety rope again around his harness and reached for another hold higher up. Their journey for the Libras Sphere erased such second-guessings from his mind. The gem grew dark in the sword hilt, and the barrier faded as he pushed off.

    Night came, and so did the cold. In the roar of the blizzard a hammer ticked away at the stone, driving in two nails for a hammock and four to drape a leather windbreak. Wrapped in the animal skin, Medwick tried to sleep in the complete dark as the tent furiously flapped. He thought back to the first time he arrived in Shardis' adobe. Her parents. How they grew up together, and how she assisted him in climbing, taking up the sword for foes while he dug. Were they bound together forever, or would Shardis eventually split from him? He blinked away the frost. The wind howled in his ears. In between blinks, he flitted between memories.

    An avalanche buried him into the mountainside. His body was trapped in snow, one hand frozen to the outside. Hours passed, and he could feel his fingers slowly turning to ice.

    "Brother!" A warm furry paw ripped the glove from his hand and grasped it.

    They were deep in an unexplored cavern in the Barvelle mountains, lost in the twisting and branching passages. "Brother!" A paw pointed at a point of light in the distance. Rescue lights.

    He was climbing the Aldus wall with special tools that could adhere to the smooth metal wall. At the top of one of the incantation towers there was a platform that he was supposed to use to get inside, and hopefully open the tower from within.

    He slipped and hung by one hand. "Brother!" Medwick planted his other hand on the ledge and pulled himself up.

    "Brother!!"


    ...

    "We've faced colder."

    [​IMG]

    Dawn. Medwick spent half an hour breaking camp, a piece of jerky clamped in between his teeth. He debated using a thermic gem to warm some water. Instead, he replaced it over his heart, sucked the freezing, slushy water from his skin, and resumed the climb.

    "Zmeya?"

    "Ach yes, the zmeya. Have you no writings of them in your books?" The Pegulian scholar coughed behind the noxious smoke coming out from Glyph's pipe. White Claudia was a smooth high, a serene white smoke that entered the mouth sweet and left a bitter taste on the tongue. The bitter taste stung the mind and sharpened it, adding a rainbow edge to the vision for about an hour. Whatever came out of Glyph's pipe was just nasty, though.

    As the Pegulian was unaccustomed to Glyph's herbs, so the bard was not used to iced Barvelle wine. Kresnick was a powerful drink, more truth serum than any whimsical brew a soothsayer could distill from their pots. But it was a rough concoction, and it had to be imbibed in copious quantity. The frozen, concentrated juice produced clear liquor that went straight to the head, and Glyph was already a glass too much in.

    "Let me tell you ..."

    Half an hour later, the scholar stood, thanked him for his time, and left.

    "Ay ..."

    Good news travels slowly; bad news has wings. Caoimhe was summoned from the hospital cavern to the General Assembly by armed guards within the hour. Everyone along the way wore cotton face masks.
     
    #14 unanun, Nov 5, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2014
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  15. News might have wings but it spread like water, trickling down through the cracks until even the sewers were saturated with rumors. But what was there to do when rumors strayed close fact, and the facts had been twisted to decisions? Pegulis had pulled away from it's base to avoid the poison that filled the lower levels. The citizens grew wary, cloth masks becoming common place in the markets, and all avoided traveling down to those levels that were filled with the noxious fumes. Well, not quite all.

    "Oye, Yuld! Why 'ave you not taken those there sacks to Mes' Derltan?" The market was quieter than most days and the shop keepers booming voice, for once, felt out of place within the echoing halls.

    "She said not ta come by. People be worried about them mushrooms, 'bout the water." Yuld said his higher pitched voice ringing sharply off the walls when it usually sang above the noise of the crowds. The men shared grim looks and after a few moments of contemplation the burly men moved the unclaimed products to the cellar of the shop. Business was not so good. Many tried to avoid those areas that could be counted on to be most crowded. People were jumpy, a simple cough would earn you fearful, defensive looks and a very wide berth.

    The dead were treated with caution, the customary burial in the permafrost halls of their kin was denied these newly infected. The festering corpses were taken away. Down the mountain to a large pit outside of the city, dumped until a discrete method for getting rid of the bodies without reveling the city could be found. For now the main concern was getting rid of the root of the problem. This could be tricky when the source of the trouble knew the workings of the city better than its own inhabitants.

    But now there were rumblings amongst the Zmeya, their child god was still in the hands of the egg snatcher. They would track the dragon for as long as he lived but the thief was no stranger to the wild. This false mother would run and run unless caught. Run until she was made to stop, and they would be waiting, with arms wide and claws ready. They would have their god back.
     
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  16. Tavark The slaughterhouse was probably one of the most damaged buildings in Tavark, seeing it was completely leveled by a rampaging dragon, and in the middle of it all laid the unscathed huntress, a seventeen-year-old girl who stood no chance against Tavark's previously revered and respected warlord and his accomplice, a mad mage who was at one point a squire for Darin's order.

    When asked what happened, Amara merely told how she was scared and fled to the only safe place she saw, startling the dragon in the process and snapping him out of whatever spell Severus tempted to cast. It wasn't a complete lie but not the whole truth either. It was uninteresting enough for people to not further question and simple enough for them to accept. Besides, there were larger accomplishments to celebrate like Ture drop kicking aforementioned dragon, the death of Eimund by the hands Horrikson's own daughter, and Darin returning a hero after saving the children from an uncertain demise.

    "'
    Scuse me, lass," a large, gruff man said, passing her to collect some materials piled just outside the remnants of the dragon's keep. Amara murmured something along the lines of an apology and stepped aside. Lately she found herself standing in front of the slaughterhouse more often like she was drawn to it. If she was honest with herself it was the only place she felt at peace. Rarely did she use her empathy advent and the few people who knew of it were in the ground, but experiencing a dragon's emotions for herself was something else entirely. Amazing didn't scratch the surface.

    Pulling herself from her thoughts, she forced herself away from the slaughterhouse and toward the nearest tavern. The taverns of Tavark saw a rise in business not only from those seeking to drown their sorrows but for those seeking company, work, or a place to stay for various reasons. Wondrous stories of loss and triumph were told within their walls and there was a point in time Amara indulged in them over a hot plate of freshly hunted elk. Those days were over it seemed.

    Her mind drifted to one of her father's closest friends, the tavern keeper who died defending his family, and nearly changed her mind, but her list of things she avoided was getting too long for her liking. Some back streets she didn't dare traverse and opted for needlessly long routes instead. It was pathetic really. The heavy door thunked against the mounted bell as she pushed passed it and immediately she was greeted by the aromas of roasting meats and various soups mixing with mead to create an intoxicating atmosphere for weary wanderers and heavy souls. A fire crackled on the large hearth, further warming the spacious room, and men and women alike sat around chatting over meals while nursing tankards of mead.

    She occupied a seat at the bar and ordered a small bowl of beef stew and a cup of tea. Nearby, men were speaking of Pegulis' Ice, whatever that was supposed to mean. Tang's ears perked in interest but Amara dismissed the chatter. She was done with living legends and myths, with magical storms and mages and undead warlords. Insanity, that what is was, and insanity was another thing she so happened to be done with. Her requested meal was soon in front of her and she picked at it but showed no interest in actually eating. It was probably her first actual meal since the Siege of Tavark yet her stomach protested against anything heavier than breads and anything else she found to snack on through out the day.

    "
    Cas's leadin' it," one of the men gossiped. "
    A ragtag bunch they are."

    "
    Dou' they'll find anythin'," the other added.

    What do they even hope to achieve? Amara mused before catching herself. No, she absolutely refused to get involved. Yet she continued to listen in and she swore they were talking louder deliberately until finally, she rolled her eyes and pushed away from the bar. "
    Alright, what's this about Pegulis' Ice?" she demanded, taking a seat at the table.

    "
    Ah, Amara, see ye decided to join us," one of the men noted a little too gleefully, plopping a tankard of mead in front of her. The huntress crinkled her noes and pushed the oversized mug off to the side.

    "
    Yeah..." she began. "What's this I hear of a quest?"

    "
    Cas'igarian's came back with a fellow from Aldus and a lass talking of heading out to find Arcwain's tomb." Tang unraveled his tail from around his Crux's neck and scampered down from his perch, ears perked and swiveling with interest. "They say somethin's down there that could aid all of Pegulis, Pegulian Ice." Amara remembered a story her father told her quite a few times of Arcwain, the Shield of the North. She loved the story but as she grew older the more of a myth it seemed.

    "
    Why?"

    "
    Dunno."

    Amara frowned. Hasn't Tavark seem enough of fairy tails? Granted what had happened the passed month wasn't in the realm of logic but to go chasing after a story seemed way out there. She shook her head and stood. "
    Thanks for your time," she murmured. As she walked away, Tang climbed back up her arm and perched himself on her shoulder, tail proceeding to wrap around her neck like some gaudy scarf, sporting an air if disappointment. The huntress took the time to pay for her barely touched meal and walked out of the tavern feeling a tad bit lost. Nothing made sense anymore.
     
    #16 Noctis the Devious, Nov 12, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2014
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  17. Tribunal, blue
    The guards brought her not deeper, but closer, to the city's entrance. At least the faint, persistent smell of burning sewage grew lighter. Before Caoimhe sat the city council of Barvelle, arranged around a stone tablet hastily dragged from some miner's refuse and balanced on top of a few large rocks.

    "Ridiculous." Helena stood up and slammed her palms into the table. Fittingly, the heavy stone slab damped the slap and muted her gesture of objection. "This is a farce."

    "Should have just killed the dracling," a bored voice piped in from the side. Captain Aimee leaned against the cavern side with her arms crossed.

    Over the past few days, the entire sewage system was overrun. The skittish creatures, clad in dragon-skin molt, darted constantly through the brown tunnels, lighting their smouldering fires wherever they went. All the entrances to the dug out latrines had to be sealed. Teams of janitors worked around the clock to bucket the waste out the mountain side. Food was becoming scarce - the fungus farms grew toxic. "And if we had listened to you, Captain," Helena ineffectually slammed her fists again into the table, "These so-called khasidim might have just taken the entire city down. But you didn't factor that into your decision, did you, you -"

    "Sit down, Helena." Aimee did not even twitch, flicking something from underneath her fingernails. "Do you really think I am unfamiliar with dragon followers? Slay the dracling and they will disperse. Done it a million times."

    "Millions of times, or maybe once?! Maybe these are the followers of the dragons you killed, you ignor-"

    "Sage Helena," the sharp voice of the city council cut in, "We respect your opinions and those of Slayer Aimee. But my duty is to the city and the utmost upkeep of its secrecy. For the greater good, we have to expel this avian, citizen she is."

    "Miss Caoimhe, you are to be deported from City Barvelle, effective immediately." Three quick thumps of ink seals onto the executive order, and it was done. "We hope you can return soon, under more favourable circumstances." The battle-mages closed in on her.
     
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  18. Back whence he came
    Aldus loomed behind the Mad Sage, but its shadow was not menacing, the Watch on the parapets harmless snow kittens. Without the Starspeaker's sigil, the six looming towers were inert pillars of metal that reached into the clouds. The strange left the Wall of Ghosts on a piece of paper swathed in the bandages around Azareth's broken face.

    A single line of footsteps steadily lead out for days from the Aldus gates. Where the Mad Sage walked, no snow would fall for a month, the permafrost eventually churned into mud slush by various wandering animals. The sigil cleared the paths in front of him, pulses from the invocation tower blasting away the weather.

    Blessed by the angels and stars, the Mad one arrived at the Prosperos shores. At the border of the Blue Republic, the chill winds sweeping from the north partially froze the water at times. Waves stilled mid crash then crumbled down lazily. Sea foam fell as algae-smelling snow. The Prosperos spat out icicles where water dervishes should have been. Maybe it was the sigil.

    "Take me ..." The waves on the Prosperos shore quivered, uncertain, not quite remembering. "Take me back. I have what you want. Take me!!"

    The sluggish water took shape around a tentacle. It stabbed from the waters and impaled Azareth, slowly dragging the emanciated body into the ocean.
     
    #18 unanun, Nov 15, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
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  19. Lost.

    Torn between a lifetime friend and her newest one.

    Which path to take?

    Guilt.

    It hounded her footsteps no matter which way she chose to go, or if she chose to do nothing...

    Shar had always... always been the follower. Knowing her place was beside her brother and doing whatever it took to make his wishes come true.

    It was so much simpler when she was younger or even when they were on the quest for that dam orb. Hectic, yes, scary, sure, but as she remembered it, it was all clear cut for her. Follow.

    Caoimhe and her son...

    Shardis felt their need of her like a strong pull. Stronger even than the current in that fucking river that tried to suck her under and out to sea.

    Which way should she go? Which path to walk?

    Medwick?

    Caoimhe?

    Or go with no one and just find her own path... That thought, for some reason, terrified her the most.
     
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  20. He'd spent the last several weeks smuggling himself and what little he owned across the border and into Pegulis. The trip itself had taken weeks to get to Aldus, from there it had taken another week and a half to get into Tavark. Meric learned that he didn't much like the cold. The entire trip Meric perfected his persona, a hardworking boy from a town south looking for work. Never asked too many questions, accepting the work he was given in exchange for some coin. Not terribly bright, with a clueless attitude.

    He didn't have a set time to get things done, only that he needed to learn about what the Pegulis people were up to and report back. So he decided to get himself set up as a blacksmith's apprentice, he looked young enough to not raise suspicions, and old enough to get the heavy lifting done. The trouble was finding someone willing to take him on, and Meric had just as much trouble finding work and not freezing to death in the process.

    Sitting himself in a small tavern, Meric rested his head against the wooden table. "Why did I decide this was a good place to go?" Or rather, why did he agree to go to the coldest place in the continent? The pay when he returned better be worth the trouble. Most people ignored him, which was exactly what he wanted. He'd rather be just glanced over, in the background, unremarkable. Meric figured he was going alright, except this would probably be his only meal until he finds somewhere to work, and he'd better find it quickly. His reputation would be ruined if he was forced to return to Viridos with no information and half his fingers gone because he couldn't get himself immersed and get his job done. But if that were to happen, Meric would rather just end his own life than return had get killed because he couldn't do the job he was trained to do over half his life.

    If only he could get into the capital, then he'd have his work cut out for him. But there would be few people willing to guide a skinny boy with hardly any supplies and nothing to his name to a place few outsiders have been before. That is, if he could even get them to even talk about the capital.

    Stupid country and it's stupid cold weather. Meric knew he should have gone elsewhere. But no use in complaining now. He has a job to do.
     
    #20 LeVen, Nov 15, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2014
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