Prosperos & New Kaustir (formerly Chersonese), Chapter 9

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  1. Chapter 9
    THALASSOPHOBIA



    The splash of water at the surface was never a welcoming feeling. It reminded the divers of being unceremoniously inserted back into their mother. To those that escaped from the bottom of the sea, they would eschew the pleasure bathhouses for a long, long time.

    "Your fish stink."

    The Lord of Sea bowed ingratiatingly. "Apologies, General. Our harvest has been poor as of late. The weather has made drying the fish particularly difficult."

    "Surely you will not ask full price for such a limp delivery."

    The merman stroked his keratinous skin. "Ah, but General ... your soldiers seem quite hungry."

    "That is for me to decide." With a machete, the human parted the pile of thermic gems in half.

    When the Lord of Sea reached forward to tip a few more in his favour, the Kaustrian did not lop off his finger. Inside his lips, the layers of shark teeth curled upwards in a knowing smile.


    [​IMG]

    "What ya got there?"

    "Junk. More junk."

    "Why is there a chair at the bottom of the sea?"

    "Don't you think Gods needed to sit too?"

    "Should we haul it up?" The second diver ran a brass gauntlet over the chair. In the corner of his eyes, as the thermic lamp arced over the floor, he imagined that he saw a denizen of the deep sitting in it. Around him, more life than he expected swirled; luminescent lampreys, a section of a giant sea-snake that started and ended from the darkness, and fish with more teeth than scales.

    "Ilium's sake, are you stupid? Or are is your airtank running low? Just keep going."

    "It has metal."

    "..." The diver unhooked one of a hundred steel lines fastened around his hip, and tied it around a leg of the chair, pressing on. He had already tagged fifty-eight pieces. Only fourty-one to go, and he could get out off this god-littered bed.

    [​IMG]
     
    #1 unanun, May 9, 2015
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
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  2. AVARATH - OLD KAUSTIR

    "Babushka. Why you not have?" Nu waved a leaf in front of the spice grandma's face - one of the few they had left. The leaf was drying in front of their eyes, and Nu squirreled it back into its pouch, leaving the myopic old lady frustrated.

    "Silly child. Let me have a closer look." The grandma leaned over the counter and the leaf was back in the her hands, her dry, folded skin delicately probing its veins and colour. Chelena's hand preemptively found Nu's for the ninth time that day. There was no romance in her gesture. Her hands kept Nu from drawing a dagger out of her inner pockets, a trained reflex to anyone violating personal space.

    Did she also try to stab Lut every time?

    No, each time Lut block, then whip. Nu and Chelena exchanged gazes, and the Nocturne broke away with hot cheeks.

    The grandma shuffled into the backroom. The two girls leaned around the corner.

    [​IMG]

    "Aaaaah ..." Nu sounded disappointed, and the first real sign of frustration, of any tangible emotion, perked Chelena up. Her vulture aux remained stoic. "Old spice lady crazy." She slapped her face with her palm. "Not even know room full of sand. Come on ... "

    Everything was being eroded by the sand, it seemed.

    @Peregrine
     
    #2 unanun, May 12, 2015
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
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  3. [​IMG]

    The Face Off

    Amalia and Matil
    Face other in the Prosperos sand, standing still.
    One tainted, the other a struggle,
    Lut/Lukesh and Rakar wonder, can you juggle?

    Months have passed since you left the fiery sands,
    And you’ve yet to slay someone with your bare hands.
    What soldier are you?
    If not Healer, then what will you turn into?


    The war drums sound,
    Battle is abound.
    Soldiers sharpen their swords and shields
    To lay bleeding bodies on the fields.

    You lie in wake,
    Too timid for decisions to make.
    Matil and Amalia standing in the sand,
    The fires have you brand.

    Make a choice,
    The time is now.
    Will Matil have a Voice
    Or continue to meow?


    [​IMG]
     
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  4. The Ykloid

    [​IMG]

    Governor Orvak, the one who slayed his own son long ago. K'Jol did not even know what to feel, being summoned by a man of his caliber, but he did not want to stay in the rocky hell forever. It would be best for him to speak to the masked mad man and get whatever he wanted over with so that he could leave and continue his own venture. Orange eyes moved up and down, examining the Ipari before him. The Draken flexed his wrists stretching his jaw from the left, then to the right. He had been pretty battered up in whatever happened to him before his arrival in the infirmary, but he still believed that he had some strength to take on the one before him, if the situation needed to come to that.

    "Take me to him. I'll see what he has to say, but if it be anything idiotic I will slay him on the spot."

    Words like those had not left his mouth for a while. The last time he could remember saying anything like that was during the tournament to see who the next general would be. He looked up to the rocky ceiling of the cave they were currently in before daydreaming about what it would have been like if it were HE who was general. 'Blood and bones everywhere. The bones of my foes would be crushed beneath my feet, and women would be crowding all around me, giving me love for victories in battle and beg me for my seed in the hopes that they would be able to bear a son as strong and righteous as me.... it is a good thing that I did not become general before meeting Amalia and the others. I would have been corrupt just like any other damned man in this military.' When the sound of footsteps began to slowly fade, he followed. There was no more time for bullshit or for sulking. Things happened with actions, and not words alone.

     
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  5. Olle: Fever Fading
    The sun.
    [​IMG]
    Olle squints and covers his face, inhaling deeply. The air smelt different- much cleaner, headier. There was a heat to the air. The ground shook and rattled beneath him. Another fever-dream?
    "Up," rasps Fetthund, licking at his face. "Get up."
    Olle groans, opening his eyes. The sky lay blue above him, dotted with picturesque clouds. A drastic change from his last waking memory: endless roaring, crashing, the sky black and red while columns of fire rose from the Black City. Olle sits up, and looks around. He lays with Fetthund in the back of a cart, between a crate and several deflated canvas bags. Beyond its edges of aged wood, between them and dark snowy hills behind, the cart trundled across a pristine valley of green. The Chersonese. Olle coughs loudly, his chest still irritated from the passing ailment.
    "You're awake?" croaks an elderly voice. Olle turns, to meet the gaze of a wizened man. Wearing ragged clothes, his skin leathery from years of weather, the Pegulian guides a donkey across the moor. Olle nods.
    "I was making a delivery to the Black City, but arrived to find it burned to the ground. Tracks of an army led north beyond it, and there were Kaustir flags laying about. When searching through their abandoned camp I came across you, wandering around in a stupor, mumbling to yourself. Looked half-dead, but not quite there. It's been two days now; we're heading south now to Prosperos."
    "Prosperos?" Olle asked, still collecting himself. "Why there?"
    "Weren't you listening, boy?" cries the man. "Kaustir marches north! Pegulis isn't safe for our kind. And Kaustir proper is out of the question for the same reason. Prosperos is much closer than Viridos. And besides, maybe I can sell this cargo off there."
    He nods at the crate- a long, rectangular box not unlike a crude coffin.
    "What's the cargo?" asks Olle, a fellow tradesman.
    "Some delivery from a dig site up north. Archaeological notes, some rock, the like, I'd say. Heavy, it is, but not too- too-"
    The man hunches over, coughing violently. A spatter of green and red hits the edge of the bench he was perched on.
    "Excuse me. Must have gotten a cough from that blasted Pegulian cold, eh?" The old man gives a raspy laugh, before coughing again.

    Olle didn't so much as smile.
     
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  6. DORGRAD - OLD KAUSTIR

    On and on they stomped, pulling their feet from the guano, at times wet and at times crumbly, and emerged from the ancient door to the caverns. Around them the ykloid boiled, a scar cut into Sunne's flesh. Likely, as an old god fell screaming from the sky, an errant swing of his sword, as long as the Prosperos river, cut into the wet earth in Kaustir. The water exploded from the soil with such vigor that only sand was left behind, and the sword itself dissolved once it left his grip to leave a pool of ever burning lava.

    [​IMG]

    "Or that is what my grandma told me, anyways."

    The Ipari guard hitched a fire scarab and beckoned K'Jol onto its back. The Draken basked in the rolling heat, tasting the dry air with his tongue.

    "And why do I care what your grandma says?" His neck snapped back as the scarab took off. Up and down they swerved, following the molten glass bridges that slithered up between the floating stone prisms. They would solidify only briefly, and K'Jol looked at the scarab's red hot feet with some worry (it did not seem to mind) as it skittered across the already melting glass.

    Such was the heat in the scarab's foot that it hissed when it touched the sand, and both the Draken and Ipari almost seemed to enjoy the fresh heat, tilting their heads into the scorching sun for a few minutes before urging on their mount. Their journey would be short: Dorgrad loomed ahead, a conical, man-made crater in Sunne out of which belched black smoke, night and day.
     
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  7. Small town girl
    The vast sea of tents was not like anything the girl had ever experienced. Just running this one errand and the poor fox girl’s senses where overwhelmed by the heavy presence of food and perfumes in the air mixed with bartering buyers. Loud shop owners called to possible customers in the scuffling mass of smelly bodies slowly making its way through the streets.

    [​IMG]

    The pockets of building constructions acted like sanctuaries on the way, the open area let in a refreshing breeze of clear air and the space allowed the crowd to spread out leaving Eydis more room to relax compared to the rest of the streets closed in between thick veils of tent walls and oily fumes.
    Although overcome by this chaos, the trained ears of the girl could not help but pick up the gossip regarding the latest news. Learning that the Kaustir forces had reached and set the black city on fire to prevent a crude plague that choked it’s victims to death in grotesque figures. The gossip was filled with worry casting a shadow over the crowd not before noticed by the anthro.


    Even she succumbed to this atmosphere of paranoia, pulling away in shock from a coughing stranger. Was this the future, serving a woman in a brothel seen as nothing but an object to lay one’s eyes upon? And before that raped and tossed aside like nothing. Those painful thoughts still lingered in the back of her mind questioning every move, every consideration. There was little left of that drive that had been in the girl’s heart only a week ago.

    Yet even though knowing that the army of this people was marching on her own home, knowledge which pressed like a heavy stone on her chest. It also created a desperate longing to return back home to the cold north.

     
    #7 Silvir, May 13, 2015
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
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  8. The Path to Dorgrad

    [​IMG]

    As the two went on and on through the desert, K'Jol thought that something was off. He couldn't put his finger on it, but everything that happened lately had just seemed... off, especially the Ipari that he was riding with. The masked warrior seemed to be the most vulnerable Ipari he has ever met, shutting up after the Draken showed his disinterest in the topic of his grandmother. While the two rode through the desert landscape, a thought came into his mind. What exactly did happen within the whole time that he was out, or even after he left the capitol? Some odd feeling made his heart beat faster, and it began to even drown out the sound of the scarabs scuttling. Even thinking about what could have happened to his allies destroyed him on the inside.

    "Hey, Ipari, what exactly did happen during the time that I was not awake? Some odd feeling was giving me the urge to ask you and I believe that you may have the answers that I am looking for. Since we have a little bit before we reach Dorgrad, I am just inkling to hear a story."

     
  9. THE CHERSONESE COAST - NEW KAUSTIR
    EULOGY FOR THE ALIVE

    The night was cool, but Lut Sar was sweating. Despite Lukesh's body's brutish strength, he had been pulling the giant wooden casket behind him since dusk. None of the Nocturne patrols saw fit to question his motives, and the Czar's guard left him alone.

    The casket was made from the trunk of a redwood, the same one that formed the base of the charred war table in the Czar's yurt. It was cut in half and hollowed to allow room for the shriveled remains resting inside. Lut Sar was taking the occupant on a tour of New Zirako. They passed through a bustling night market, lit by nine-hundred and eighty fireflies, and also walked through the barracks, where the soldiers never slept. The trolls were still trying to find the water table, and followed their curious divining sticks with drills and shovels, searching for the clay layer. For now, the rivers nourished them enough.

    "You see?" Lut Sar huffed as he arrived at the coast. "Your nation is doing well."

    Twice, the tides returned the casket to him.

    [​IMG]



    "Ahem."

    Lut Sar's stomach felt strange, but he had to continue. Pulling a long scroll of paper from his cloak, he unfurled it to read. "Here I stand to witness the formal burial of Lukesh, the Czar of all Kaustir. As there are no court histocrats from the grey tower in attendance, I will deliver his eulogy."

    He read out the list of the Czar's achievements to the salt sea wind, and his innumerable conquests.

    "... and most impressive of all, how was this Nocturne able to settle the desert in only one-hundred and score years? He came from nothing and sculpted a nation from the sand. This stubborn sandtrout, who spoke little of the Cataclysm but must have been a survivor, followed his hidden purpose to the letter and allowed none of his subjects to deviate."

    "He was undoubtedly a messiah, as much as Ilium herself." Lut Sar gave his final salute to the casket, now floating towards the horizon.

    "A messiah of what .. will fall upon us to discover."

    There was something geomagnetic about the Czar, whose inscrutable drive pulled everyone to his will. No one in his service, Lut included, ever needed to question his motives. They borrowed his absolute confidence. Under it, they committed noble crimes and horrible charity for the sake of his vision. The Czar drove them into the desert, to dig up the wells in Zirako, to erect the mountain of iron, and tease gunpowder from the volcanoes. His actions hinted at the most grand of designs, and everyone under his wing was enchanted.

    Now, everything was lost. The days came and went, and it was all Lut Sar could do to keep Kaustir from folding in on itself. His wraiths killed for stability and poisoned for unity. No more did they act for the greater good. They killed and killed so that the first who saw the loss of the dream wouldn't sound the alarm, and slowly Kaustir was transforming from a visionary nation into a disgusting band of brutes that lived through violence.

    And slowly, Lut Sar was also changing. The self-righteous dignity that infected his actions, which empowered him to kill with impunity, faded from his frame. He was in front of an unstoppable boulder, and all he could do was dig the path upon which it would roll.

    "Lukesh..."

    "What were you thinking?"

    "How am I supposed to follow you?"

    Lut-Lukesh cried for Lukesh, and for himself.

    He painted the sand red until the tide began to lap at his hands. Then he squeezed two fistfuls and vigorously rubbed his face. His sacrifice, discarding his body to become Lukesh, was still not enough. He would have to give up even more for his people.

    Lut could never lead Kaustir to what Lukesh wanted. That vision was gone with his death, and even if Lut had known his plans, nothing would have changed. Thus Kaustir would need a new future. It would not be Lukesh's, but at least they could have peace. Prosperity. Solidarity, in the wake of the Cataclysm. The renewed duty to Kaustir filled him with strength that was lost with Lukesh.

    He thought back, among his old comrades, back when he was just a retired officer, managing the warehouses under Avarath. Who among them would be fit to lead Kaustir to a new age?
     
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  10. Waves knocked against the Lionfish as it cut through the water. Strong winds pushed the vermilion sails, driving the iron-plated ship forward. Crew members walked across the deck, performing their various duties, checking lines and securing cargo.

    Leo stood atop the captain's deck at the stern, looking out over the ocean. The winds passed over him, bringing a light mist of ocean water, providing a welcome temporary release from the heat of the sun bearing down overhead. There were no clouds to give refuge today. There had been no clouds since the black plumes seen as the crew left the Chersonese on their last shipment. The memory of what he saw was burned in his mind. He was reminded of the curious cargo he found days later floating in the open waters, a long redwood box. Leo ordered that none of the men were to look inside, only to store it in the private smuggling hold. They were told to forget it was there, and that had been the last time any of the crew spoke of it.

    "Cap'n" A voice came from behind him, bringing him out of his trance. He turned to see a short, round man with a white beard standing at the top of the steps that led to the captain's deck.

    "Tomand, what news do you bring?"

    "We'll be landing in Prosperos soon, sir."

    "Excellent, thank you."

    "I hate that place." A high pitched feminine voice called out. Beside Leo was a fist-sized ball of light, his aux Zure. Though she was faceless, only a blue flame in its place, her crossed arms and legs were more than enough to show her scowl.

    "That place is our home now."

    "If that place is our home, I'm a mammoth shark."

    "Thank the Gods you aren't, or I would be eaten."

    "The Gods, Captain?" Tomand let out a with a chuckle. "In all our years together Leo, I never thought you would be the one to forget that as merchants, the only God we serve is the coin." He cracked a wide smile, revealing a mouth full of metal-replaced teeth.

    "I never said anything about serving the Gods, did I Tomand? It's true, we only serve the coin, but to deny the existence of the Gods would be foolish. The proof is right here in these waters." He grasped the golden artifact around his neck. "In fact, you and I have been using the proof as a means to the coin for years now." The men shared a boisterous laugh. The fairy was not so pleased.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Lionfish was tied up at Prosperos, and Leo stepped out the ship-city's iron docks. After giving orders to Tomand to prepare for the next shipment, he announced he had some matters to attend to, and ventured into the merchant city with his cutlass in scabbard at his side and Aux flying just over his shoulder. He arrived at K'larr's office and found a guard outside.

    "You there. Tell K'larr that Leo Brakish has arrived and would like to discuss some very important matters with him."
     
    #10 Chexmix, May 15, 2015
    Last edited: May 16, 2015
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  11. DORGRAD

    "Nothing has changed, warrior." The Ipari kicked the side of the fire scarab and it ignored him, continuing its slow glide over the sand dunes. "We still mine and ship the metal, as we always have."

    "Although .. the Czar requested a very large shipment of Ipari Masks from us, a month or so ago. That was a very difficult order for us to fulfill. And he is also taking much more from us than the merchants, where the opposite has historically occurred."

    [​IMG]

    "Your visit will have to be brrrrrief, Famed K'Jol." The Governor remained unperturbed as always, although it was a strange wonder why he was not poisoned by the fumes. "We would not want you to be ... hurt by our industry."

    The smoke did not mean much to the warrior. Smoke was smoke, whether it rose above Zirako or fled from the chimneys in Avarath. But Governor Orvak's tone suddenly made him acutely aware of it ... and his throat itched.

    They were at a lower level of the conical mine. Near the opening the fumes mixed and were the deadliest. Vapour from boiling metal, slag from reactive flux, and refinery waste mixed into a potent cocktail that had doomed Korsch, the first general of Kaustir. Down here, the only thing they had to worry about was dust from the ore and the stink of unwashed comrades.

    "Although, really, I did not take you for one to poke around artillery proving grounds."

    "Or unlisted .. brrrreeding pens."

    GUILD SHIPS

    "Leo-who?"

    The guard squinted at Leo Brakish. "Lord Merchant, K'Larr is very busy with handling matters of the diving expedition. Please seek a quartermaster or another ship governor if you have important matters to report."

    Indeed the particular city that Leo alighted on was a hive of activity. At the deck edge sat hundreds of reels in various states of winding. Some furiously spun, powered by motive magic or thermic gems in primitive steam boilers. It was clear that some of steel wires were attached to heavy things, for the friction of winding heated them red hot. Each reel contained exactly one hundred steel cables. Further down the deck, one of them had just finished hauling and a surface crew was examining the find.

    Fifty eight chairs. Thirty pieces of metal. Two artifacts of unknown origin, and ten pieces of junk. The quartermaster pressed a few coins into the diver's hand and set him to the decompression chamber.

    There was a commotion at another reel. Apparently, all one hundred wires had been connected to the same large piece of junk, and the deckhands were trying to subdue the diver, thrashing around in his bronze armour. Someone was hauling away a stiff, bloody body.

    "I'M NOT GOING BACK DOWN!"

    A Draken seven feet tall tripped the diver, and he fell backwards into the sea with a large splash. With a certain satisfaction, as when a cruel parent whips an uncooperative brat of a child, the deckhands watched the panicked grasping of the bronze hands as they faded into the dark.
     
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  12. Dorgrad

    [​IMG]

    A very large shipment of Ipari Masks? That sentence made him quite suspicious, and a low growl emanated from his maw as he stared into the crystalline eyes of the governor's mask. Those of the Scrila were not to be toyed with, but that did not mean that they were not ever put on edge.

    "I do not intend to make it long. I do not wish to speak with someone like you for an extended amount of time. My sentence shall be simple. I want to know why the Czar ordered the Ipari Masks, the location of Amalia, Takeda, and Rakar. I would also like to know where my items are, especially my halberd and my coat."

    There was no guarantee that the governor would even have these items in the first place, but there would be no gain if he did not ask. At this moment, U'Sil slithered out from around his shoulder, and hissed at the masked man before the two. She was on edge, and he understood her concern. He put on the persona of being a strong and bold warrior, but at this moment he felt less. He did not have anything that he could even use to fight. The gases made him cough every few minutes, and there were Ipari that were patrolling the area for obvious reasons. He was alone, and now realized that he didn't appreciate those who were around him as much as he should have.
    The Ipari that he rode into Dorgrad was gone, and behind him at the door of the meeting room stood another, his only gesture was a slight chuckle at K'Jol's words.

    "You should not try to act tough in front of the one who rules this domain. You are not protected here like you always have been by your always."

    K'Jol stayed quiet, ignoring the comment and only waiting for an answer from the Governor.

     
  13. "What's this?" Amalia asked when Rakar handed her a small wooden box at dinner.

    "You bought it in the markets. Do you remember?"

    She did, and hoped that the draken would have forgotten about it. Amalia did not bother to ask him where he found it; lately the draken had been brooding, intent on returning the healer back to her old self. Seeing it again and remembering what she had placed inside of the box made Amalia's stomach churn. Seiyr's pebble was in it, jostled this way and that on their way over the sands of Kaustir.

    "What do you want me to do with it?"

    Rakar's amber eyes bore into her, stare laced with an action that Amalia was reluctant to take. Delicate hands took the box and set it on the table. She did not look at it again until she finished eating at which point Rakar got ready for bed (or so it appeared). A bag of polished pebbles were retrieved from Amalia's packs, along with a sharpened dagger and the wooden box.

    "I'm going out," and both Aux and Crux left the yurt.

    Outside, where the stars and moon bathed the Prosperos with light, Amalia drank in the crisp, cold air. And then she walked. She walked away from the camp, bribed the sentries with smoked deer, salmon, and herbal tea, then crept into the dark, musty woods. Under the cover of trees, but close enough to keep an eye on the encampment, Amalia built a fire.

    As she opened the box, she wondered if this was treasonous, if the Czar would have her head for doing something so... Ritualistic. She wondered if Lut's Wraiths were around, peering at her through the trees. What would he think once they reported on her? He would probably laugh, call her naive.

    "Let them see," she rasped, hissed when she nicked her palm with the dagger.

    Each pebble -- chosen for how well they represented the person being remembered -- clattered heavily into the wooden box, each painstakingly inscribed with a name.

    Theo. Trystan.

    She paused, third pebble in hand. A choked laugh broke through; it was accompanied with tears. It had been almost a month and still no sign of the others in her band. Just Rakar and Takeda. Matil glanced at the box, hackles on end. It must be done, they both thought.

    K'jol.

    The box was closed. It was heavier this time, louder also. The madness from the pits could be conquered, would be conquered. But Amalia refused to lose sight of her humanity. There would be others placed in this box but she would remember them, always.
     
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  14. Dorgrad

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    "Where there's a dirty fire, masks are needed. Also, they are, I presume, in the Chersonese, helping the Czar invade Pegulis."

    The general kept his mouth shut to the other question that K'Jol had asked. It seemed that he would have to find the answers for that himself.

    "An attack on Pegulis?! What for? Do we not already have more than enough land within the desert?"

    Orvak scoffed at his comment, shaking his head before speaking in a low tone.

    "Sometimes I wonder if you were ever raised in the deserrrrrt."

    A low hiss left his maw, and U'Sil copied the gesture. He wanted to make a ugly retort so badly to the Governor, but he knew that the Ipari behind him would have nothing to do with that.

    "I understand that we are Kaustirians, people of the sun and rulers of the desert, but why would we take over a frozen wasteland?"

    "Because that is the Czar's desire." Governor Orvak was genuinely shocked. "Is that not obvious? We can't live in the desert forever. It was only ever a temporary home. Did you ever think about if the water in Zirako?"

    He was right. Sooner or later they would not be able to live in the desert. The lands of Pegulis would at least be able to grow more crops and provide better living conditions for their animals. Gaining new land was not such a bad idea. Asking too many questions would get him nowhere. It would be better if he just left and went to the man himself. He took in a deep breath, and puffed it out before coughing up some bile. K'Jol wanted to leave these mines as soon as he could. Not only were the gases harming him, but they brought about awful memories as well.

    "Well, if it is the Czar's desire, then it must be done. Is there any way that you can send me to the Prosperos region to regroup with the others of my party? I would greatly appreciate it, O great Governor of the Dorgradian Mines." His tone was harshly sarcastic.

    "Transport has already been arranged." Orvak shook the requisition orders, ignoring the Draken's bait. "Lut Sarrrrrrr.... has requested you."

    Lut Sar had requested him. He was the last person that he spoke to before leaving the city and riding to the Ykloid. He found it odd to be requested but him, but he would not question it. The sooner that he could get back to his allies and regroup with them, the better.

    "I shall be on my way then."

    He nodded to the General before turning back to the entrance. The door had already been opened, and the Ipari peeked out from the corner. The Draken gritted his teeth together before leaving the room, slamming the door shut behind him and walking up a flight of steps. The Ipari followed closely behind. Words were not exchanged between the two until he passed the door of the armory close to the entrance into the upper world.

    "Wait."

    K'Jol shook his head before following the signal that the Ipari had given him. He entered the armory, finding his beloved halberd, water like robe, tooth necklace, belt, and mantis claw all upon the table. He stared at his belongings in awe before looking to the corner, seeing a flash of red fabric. 'Kasindel...?' He closed his eyes, trying hard to remember the events that unfolded before his meeting with the Governor, but he just couldn't.

    "Where is Kasindel?"

    "Kasindel? We just found these items along with you down in the Ykloid. I don't know about any Kasindel."

    The Ykloid. He knew he was there for a major reason, but he could not put his mind to it. A melancholy look came upon his face as before he awkwardly picked up his items, refitting them to his body. The blue fabric almost had a cooling effect, giving him a slightly calm feeling. So did the tooth necklace. When he reached the rendezvous area and met with Lut Sar, he would ask of his old friend. Sheaths went back upon his back, and so did the mantis scythe and halberd. The weight was slightly heavier than it felt to have been before. He had not been working as hard as he used to. A nod to the Ipari signaled of him leaving, and he received one back. He shut the door to the armory slowly, only getting a glance of the masked soldier writing on a piece of parchment. The title looked like the word "Ykloid" to him, but he could not make it out. He would ponder no further.



    [​IMG]

    The famed warrior took the earthy steps back to the overworld, having his sea like robe dance in the desert winds. An enormous animal he had never seen before was mounted with provisions and drink, probably for him to make the long journey. A slight rush of nervousness came through him as he looked to the distance. U'Sil appeared and ran herself against in shoulder in an attempt to comfort him, but it was not working. This wasn't going to be any ordinary battle. He mounted the beast, and a loud roar emanated from its mouth as it shook its head about. The head gestures seemed similar to a ritualistic dance, but that may have just been from his perspective. From the shadows, another Ipari guard appeared.

    "You will be going to Pegulis to meet up with the rest of your party. I suggest stopping by Zirako to pick up better wear, but they will probably have some for you at the camps."

    He was going to be involved in a war against another great nation. An Ipari guard slapped the beast on the bottom, and it sped off in the direction of the Pegulis.

    [​IMG]


     
    #14 UltimaCircuit, May 18, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
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  15. Olle: Omens
    Olle grunted, hefting up the large stone, and continued to grunt as he took laboured steps with it hanging in his arms.
    "Leave," whimpered Fetthund. "Go leave it."
    Olle shakes his head, coming to a halt above the old man. He lay shivering and unresponsive on the peat underfoot, coughing from time to time.
    "It's best to off him now. We've already seen how they suffer."
    He did his best to sound confident before his simple-minded aux, but Olle's voice still shook in apprehension. He clenches his jaw and shuts his eyes, releasing the stone.
    Krock!
    Olle winces at the sickening sound, and backs away to reluctantly examine his handiwork.
    The man's head lay flattened beneath the stone; the pale rock and luch ground painted evil colours by his fouled humours. Olle clutches his stomach and doubles over, retching. He coughs bile onto the ground, hands growing pale and shaking.
    Is this really mercy? he asks, appalled.
    Rubbing his head, Olle unties the mule from the cart and pats its rear, sending it trotting off into the wild. With that, he steps into the creek they'd stopped to camp near, washing off his legs and feet.
    He rested there, in the cool water, for a moment before sighing. Olle stood with resignation and empties one of the burlap sacks, walking towards the corpse of the man who saved him. It was humid in the Chersonese, and he'd like to have a grave dug before the air warmed to misery.
     
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  16. "Busy with handling matters of the diving expedition" Leo scoffed at the comments made to him earlier as he observed the scene on the deck. He didn't see K'larr handling anything outside, just a crew of men to pull divers out, and a huge Draken to push them back in. A rail separated the deck he was on from the bottom deck where the men were working for the dive and Leo leaned against it, with one hand stroking the scruff beneath his chin and the other tapping at the iron rail. His aux whirred around his head giggling at his visible frustration.

    "Well, what now?" she asked in her usual high, upbeat voice.

    "K'larr was only plan A" He gripped the rail with both hands now and cracked a mischievous smile. "I thought of all the one's here, he would understand my message best and be willing to make the first move. But since the overgrown lizard is 'busy' we'll just have to find someone else."

    "Someone else? Who?"

    "There are five main Merchant Lords on these guild ships, each of them masters of trade, controlling their product and everyone who sells it like a governor rules a town. Lord of Fish, Lord of Steel, Lord of War, Lord of Timber, and Lord of Precious Metals."

    "Oh." The fairy sat on his shoulder and crossed her fiery legs. "You'll talk to the Lord of War then right? Doesn't that fit the plan?"

    "One would think so. His trade only requires craftsmanship though. He can bring in all the materials he needs from somewhere else, turn them into weapons for war, and sell them back for high profit. He's doing too well here, especially with the campaign the Kaustir are putting on. He's also not very sensible to reason anyway. Think, who do you think is most desperate out of the five?" Leo was staring out into the ocean now, as if looking at something. He was painting a picture of his grand vision, and it was as real to him as the sun.

    "Uuumm.. Probably the Lords of Timber and Steel!"

    Leo nodded. "And as it happens, a little scuffle between parties ended in the Lord of Timber's untimely death. The new Lord of Timber will be looking to make some friends, and to prove to the others he is worthy of his title. That's our guy." Leo stood up straight and gave the rail one last slap with his open hand.

    "Are you going to tell him about the cas-" Leo gave her a sharp glare before she could finish. "cargo..." She remembered it was a secret. She was never very good with secrets, but being the manifest of Leo's soul, it was hard to keep any secrets from her.

    "I'm not sure. We'll just keep that in our back pocket for now. A little trick we learned from a friend in Viridos should keep it... fresh.. for now. Well, as fresh as it can be." The two of them left, taking one last glance at the dive platform before heading for the Lord of Timber. On their way, Leo stopped to chat with a few sailors and merchants, catching up on the latest news and goings-on of the guild ships.

    ~~~
    Leo stood in what looked like a giant wooden mansion- a fitting place for the Lord of Timber's operations, no doubt. They had been taken up a large wooden staircase into a tower of sorts, a room with eight sides. The first wall was the entrance, which was unusually wide. A beautifully carved wooden arch made the doorway, and a double door of solid oak closed the room. The side walls were completely glass, and the back wall was taken up by a large stone fireplace. A desk sat in front of the fireplace facing the entrance, a round trunk of tree converted to a table, species unknown to Leo. It had surely come from a forest in Viridos. Upon it sat a pile of parchments, a quill and ink, a scale, and an abacus for handling numbers. Above the fire place, two crossed golden woodcutting axes were mounted. The ceiling had eight large wooden beams, all meeting in the center. An ornate chandelier was hanging, and two cushioned chairs were set in front of the "desk" for guests. A woodcutter himself couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect office.

    Behind the desk was a massive man sitting in his wooden throne. It was a wonder the throne held him up at all, Leo thought. Leo was no small man, but felt like an ant in his presence. The Lord of Timber seemed to be as wide as he was tall, and the his gut indicated it had probably been years since the man had actually used a woodcutting axe, though Leo had no doubt he could split a tree right in half. He had a round, chubby face that was slightly masked by a burly red beard, with curly red hair atop his head. He was holding a parchment close to his face so he could read it, and seemed to be sweating even though he was sitting still. Leo sat quietly in his guest chair for a bit, waiting for the Timber Lord to address him.

    Finally, breaking the silence was the Timber Lord. "Merchant Sailor and Cargo Runner Leo Brakish. What can I do for you today?"

    "Most gracious and brilliant Lord of Timber, may I say that you are exactly as formidable as the rumors have told?" The Timber Lord let out a deep, booming laugh that seemed to shake the whole room.

    "You're a funny man, Brakish. Unfortunately you're flattery will only get you so far here. I assume you've come to ask for a shipment to carry for me?"

    "Actually, sir, I have some very important matters to discu-"

    "I have no time for discussing 'matters' with you." The Timber Lords tone changed quickly. "I need to be finding a way to make a profit out here on this godforsaken iron hell."

    "I can help you make a profit."

    "Can you? And what will make your scheme any different from the hundreds of others I've heard from every know-everything merchant who was graced themselves in this room? I have no time for this."

    "It's not a scheme, it-"

    "I've heard enough." The Timber Lord stood from his wooden throne, his chair scraping the wooden floor. Two men opened the large wooden doors, it was time for Leo to leave. "I'll tell let you go with this. If you can bring me something of great value from the ocean depths, I'll listen to your scheme. I've been told you have some experience in the waters?" His eyes were drawn to the pendant around Leo's neck. Leo nodded. "Good. I trust you can find K'larr's dive site. Bring the artifact to me, and not to K'larr's pile, and then we'll talk."

    "Thank you, Lord of Timber, for your precious time." Leo turned and was escorted out by the two men, large wooden doors closing loudly behind him. Outside the wooden mansion and back in the ocean breeze, Leo brought his hands to his hips and drew in a large breathe.

    "Well.. That could have gone better!" Zure teased.

    "I think it went perfectly. I was right to choose him, he's exactly where we need him to be. Let's go prepare for a swim, shall we?"
     
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  17. The Odd Couple
    Light was nearly a foreign concept to Taggart. He had spent far too long in that cramped cell in the brig. While the head jailer had promised him something different than the hanging blocks, he had gotten a small insulated corner of the Prosperos ships. So when he was finally set free, there was a lot of squinting and cursing. One of the jailer’s assistants led him towards what would be his new punishment. His eyes managed to clear and settle on a small girl.

    Taggart had to look like some sort of drunken brawler. His pale, freckled face was plastered with a nasty bruise that rose underneath his gray eyes. His nose looked as if it had been permanently dislocated. When he huffed outwards a slight whistle was heard. The jailer had not realigned his nose, and it was too late to do so. The delicate scholar now suffered the same syndrome as many vagabonds and low lifes did. It did not suit him, and he was more than angry about that. Fortunately he was still overly conceited, and could hold himself up by his shoulders to seem more important that he was.While his caprine legs clip-clopped on the decks of the ship, his eyes were steady and unsettling.

    “Apparently I am your new dive partner,” Taggart said. “I am the new dive partner of a child. What does K’Larr actually think he is doing, sending children to the bottom of the sea?” A whistle-like snort left his nose. He became more aggravated at the noise. “What is your name, child,” he demanded. “I am Taggart Blacklaw, an ex-scholar of Pegulius and probably the most intelligent being upon these ships.”


    The girl looked up from her hands, which she’d been wringing fervently. Her dark, probing eyes traced his figure, giving him the once-over typical of any beggar, urchin, or thief. She looked distant, a bit dazed, but the hardly-subtle pomposity of his words seemed to register just beneath the surface. “Say whatcha will ‘bout my bein’ a kid n’all, Master Teggart, but I’s wasn’t the one who bit the dus’ down there,” the girl said bitterly. She spoke with a strange but distinctly urban accent, something akin to Cockney. Though there was a certain street-smart wit and slyness to her, the odd pattern in which she spoke gave away her lack of an education. “But if you’s so smart n’all, maybe you’s gonna make it. I’s called Tem, and I’s don’t think I’s can’t competes with none a’ what you’s just said. But I’s been livin’ fer a good ten years, and I’s thinks that’s sumthin’.”

    And Tem extended a hand which had already begun to accumulate calluses and gritty street dust. She wasn’t much to look at - if she was ten, she was certainly short for her age, and thin. Her clothes looked almost as if she’d made them herself out of brown scrap cloth, her shirt cut roughly and her trousers bound at the waist with a length of rope. Naturally, she’d been unable to make shoes with anything she could have found abandoned, and thus her feet were bare. Unwashed hair, brown almost to the point of being black, hung in her face and down her back. When she smiled, she exposed a prominent gap between her front teeth. “Pleasure makin’ yer acquaintance, Master Teggart.”

    Taggart looked at the girl as if she was some black, oil spot on his perfect ivory horizon. “Charmed,” he said somewhat in a knee-jerk fashion. “I am sure you are quite capable.” He eyeballed her hand with a bit of trepidation and gave it a brisker shake than he would have any other individual. He then proceeded to rub that hand harshly on his pants leg.

    “Apparently K’Larr believes I am not.” That comment’s real meaning Taggart left up in the air. The girl before him was not the sort that he would hinge an important mission upon, and so he had to assume that he was not thought highly of either. Still, he was trying to be pleasant, and that involved a lot more than passive aggressive jabs about being lumped in with a ten year old.

    So, he took her in one more time--the greasy stick of a girl. “If you need shoes, I have plenty. Apparently folk believe that hooves need covering. All I need is a particularly good file, and something to work out the grit.” He waved that way. “I accumulated them with a few sets of clothes, and they are just taking up space in my domicile.” If his quaint little corner on the massive city-ship still existed, that is. “So maybe you’ll take that as a payment to keep your speaking down to a minimum. I don’t know how much of Master Teggart I can take.” Well, that politeness lasted all of a few seconds.

    For a moment, Tem’s face crinkled in a look of contempt. Then she gave a little snort of half-laughter, and it vanished like a puff of smoke. “Well, if I’s ever worn shoes, I’s sure don’t remembers it, and I’s been gettin’ along jus’ fine without em’, thankya much,” she said. “But if your highness would likes to make ‘imself useful, keep yer nose nice n’high, jus’ like that. Maybe you’s could smells a storm comin’.” Then, she gave the hand she’d used to shake his a good, long look, then wiped it vigorously on her own trousers, pointedly maintaining eye contact with Taggart as she did so.

    And the girl flashed him another gap-toothed smile, a challenge in itself. This sort of thing probably worked on the laborers and city folk she was used to, the little remarks that went over their hollow heads. But where she’d come from, she probably never had the chance to smart-mouth anyone with more than a rudimentary education. If she knew the consequences of getting snippy with an intellectual like himself, she would have shown him a little more respect. Maybe taken him up on his offer, as well. That would have been the smart thing to do, but if her grammar had anything to say about it, this girl was hardly smart.

    “Your fine words convey quite earnestly why you don’t need shoes.” Taggart’s arms crossed. He could have said more on the matter, but she was apparently both stubborn and stupid. Well, maybe stupid was too harsh a word. There was a glint of cunning in her eyes, and it was apparent that she had survived as long as she had through some means of guile and bewitchery. She was on a Prosperos ship without the proper papers, and that spoke volumes. Well, he didn’t know if she didn’t have the proper papers, but Taggart assumed because she didn’t seem the sort to understand that there were proper papers. So, she wasn’t entirely a lost cause--just an annoying one.


    He sighed. “If you ever wish to, I don’t know, find a better way to exacerbate on your qualms. I would be more than happy to teach you how to speak properly.” It would give him less of a headache, anyway, given that they would trapped together in the briny depths of the sea.”Either way, K’Larr would probably appreciate us not bickering like hens and tending to, whatever it is that you did last time. Unearth horrible beasties from the bottom of the sea? Imperil yourself? Nearly get crushed under the weight of a titan?” His jailer had spared Taggart no story about how the last crew had fared. One of them had been swept away by the pull of the ocean as easy as a sigh escapes the lips. Many more had died at the hand of things unknown and unfathomable. The goat anthro let a chill shoot down his spine and across his little caprine tail.

    As Taggart spoke, there was a buzz of activity behind Tem which she seemed to both subconsciously notice and purposely ignore. A small team of sailors had begun to assemble a small dive suit, no doubt her own. They bolted parts together, attached this hose to that nozzle, and performed myriad tasks that would make about as much sense to an outside observer as a forgotten language. The result was a hollow shell of stiff fabric and metal that maintained its shape when held erect by one of the sailors. The helmet waited by the heels of the suit’s clunky metal boots, its rim still grimy with mud from her last seabed walk.

    “Speak properly?” Tem exclaimed, largely ignoring Taggart’s last question, not to mention the sailor coming up behind her. “What’s you’s trying ‘ta say bout my speech?” she demanded, directly before the sailor grabbed her just under the arms and lifted her up. He clearly wasn’t handling her roughly, but the moment he took her up, Tem’s face contorted. “Dammit!” She was struggling against him, but it was only to the amusement of both the man and his crewmates as he stuck her in the suit. The men began adjusting the suit once again, and Tem, being of no help at all, turned her attention back to Taggart. “We’s founds a titan, but we’s hardly had to do bugger-all before we’s was two minutes from dead down there! Bugs the size of dogs, comin’ from the bloody ground! An’ that wasn’ before our breavin’ tubes went an’ broke. I’s was ‘ardly suckin’ air by the time we came up!” One of the men had picked up the helmet, and Tem seemed to register that her time was running short - as if she wasn’t already urgent enough. “You’s don’t knows what’s comin’ to ya, ya know! You’s better watch yer pretty little goat’s arse, Master Teggart, ‘cause down there, proper speech in’t worth jack shi-”


    The helmet was bolted down over Tem’s head, cutting off what few choice words remained of her sentence. Taggart hardly needed but wonder what they were. Neither did the sailors. They were having a good laugh over it as they secured the last facets of her suit. A second team had already begun assembling a larger diving setup, which he assumed was for him. So much for getting the last word in. If they both survived the dive, maybe he’d be able to get through to her. This Tem was certainly lucky Taggart wanted to speak to her in a dignified manner. If it came down to it, he might find himself motivated to prevent her from dying young. But then again, he wasn’t exactly old, either. And if whatever awaited them lived up to Tem’s claims, he might not even be able to save himself.

     
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  18. "Nice to meet you."

    "Leo."

    "Lemuel."

    The trader-cum-appraiser walked with Leo along the edges of the ship. He stopped at the winches that were fully winded, and peered at the junk that came up at the end of the braided metal ropes. Scrap metal, shattered artifacts, seashells with strange inscriptions. Lemuel gave a brief nod to the dive master before moving on. It was a hive of activity, filled with the smell of burning metal and gear smoke.

    "I'm unfit for diving. Doctor said it has something to do with hysteria." He gestured at legs; walking seemed to give great pain to Lemuel and he had difficulty bending his knees. "Anyway, they had another bloke look me over, and they figured I was more use looking at what they hauled up."

    "I'll give you some advice." Leo was getting heavier by the moment. The suit was hauled around him, bolted and welded shut - a tiny bronze prison made to order. As the heavy gloves slipped over his hand, Leo tried to see if he could grip a screw and loosen it. Nope.

    "The easiest, quickest way to get off the bottom is to tag anything strange."

    Around his back was a forest of one-hundred thin wires.

    "The stranger, the better." The welder smacked Leo's helmet and the echoing din nearly burst his ears.

    "One more thing." Each step was a hundred pounds, and he teetered at the edge of the ship. "If you see a child down there .. keep her safe."

    "Hey, where's my strings?"

    Tem and Taggart's dive master held up the fist full of wire. "This stuff weights more than you, brat. I'll let the goat take it down. You go into the nooks and crannies, tag the the stuff that's harder to get at."

    "You's treatin' me like a kid aga-" Taggart's observation of the child was cut off as his hip was unceremoniously dragged to the floor. He crumpled with the weight to find one hundred limp wires attached to a bar at the back of his suit.

    "Each piece you find down there will make you lighter, Molly." Outside the water, it was actually quite hard to move around with the lines, so standard practice was to trip them into the water. Which their dive master did.

    [​IMG]

    As they floated down, they looked up and all they could see was whatever light the surface let through, refracting off a spider's web of steel.
     
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  19. Clean up from Black City had been hell for the second army, debris had to carefully moved in order to keep the rail line moving. "Alright men just one more quadrant to clean, and we will be out of the forsaken place!" Takeda spurred his troops on not afraid to get his own hands dirty.

    "Captain Shingen sir!" a messenger run up behind Takeda.
    "Yes?" he turned.
    "Master Sar has summoned you to the vanguard, you are to leave immediately."
    "Thank you soldier, dismissed." Takeda saluted, and the messenger took his leave."

    The swordsman got on top of his mount "Men it has been a pleasure serving with you, I look forward to when we can meet again." he saluted one more time time to the army and road off towards the vanguard.
     
  20. As Leo made contact with the sea floor, the thud of his heavy, metal exo-skeleton sent a cloud of sand out around him. A small thermic gem powered lamp was welded into the left forearm of the suit, one of the few adaptations actually designed to help the occupant it seemed. The suit was considerably easier to move around in the water, but that was more of a credit to how difficult it was to move on land, as his motion was still quite limited. Leo held his arm out into the darkness, but it provided him little visibility in the intense darkness of the underground wastes. Remembering the warnings of the man Lemuel about the lamp's limited power supply, Leo decided to get right to work. For a moment he wondered what happened to the divers who failed to fill their quota before draining their meager supply of thermic gems, but he had a feeling he knew. There would likely be no early departure. He thought he could see some sort of structure in the distance, so he headed in that direction.

    He trudged sluggishly across the ocean floor, tagging a few things here and there: a few clay pots, a metal chair, what may have been a metal door handle, and a wooden barrel that had already rotted away so much that only the metal rings would survive the trip upward. Leo knew none of it had any real value other than the raw materials that made them up, but it was easier to move free of a few wires. Though he had experience on the ocean floor, it was still as breathtaking as the first time he saw it. He had chartered his ship to a Pegulian scholar, a man particularly interested in ancient archaeology and was lying on the ocean floor. The scholar has constructed a large container that could be deployed from a ship, sound enough to withstand the pressure at the bottom and with windows for observing the ocean floor, and then lifted back to the ship using cranks. It was essentially an underwater lab, and Leo accompanied the scholar to floor multiple times, learning everything he could about the treasures that lie below. When the scholar developed his own dive-suit in order to retrieve certain artifacts, Leo was quick to volunteer. Many dives and artifacts recovered later, and the scholar brought his research to a close. Leo did not, however, and here he was now volunteering to dive again. From the looks of things above, he was probably the only one on the guild ships actually volunteering for this job.

    A few whispers were still going on about the incident on the ship with Taggart and his research, and he had inferred from Lemuel minor details about his and Tem's journey below. They were forcing prisoners and stowaways to do the dangerous work, and now Leo was in the thick of it with them. Good company to keep, he thought.

    "These depths are no place for a little girl and a goat." His words were muffled and echoing inside the suit.

    "They're no place for a man, either." Zure was floating close beside him, moving through the water as if it wasn't there at all. Leo sighed.

    "I thought you liked coming down here?"

    "I do, but I'm not a man. It's dangerous for you, you know."

    Leo needed no reminder. A large fish swam directly overhead, blocking out what little light was coming from the top for a brief moment. Leo stepped forward, finally at the large shadow he has seen in the distance. Along the way he had used approximately half of his wires.

    "Zure, I could use a little light, what are we looking at here?" The fairy aux flew forward, close to the shadow and shone bright, revealing a large white archway with a bronze gate. Beyond the gate were a few other structures. Buildings? It seemed like an underwater city. "This place is..." Leo pulled the large bronze gate open, "Exactly what we're looking for.."
     
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