Discussion in 'GROUP RP IN CHARACTER' started by Effervescent, Aug 13, 2016.

  1. Exodus It was the end of an era. The once glorious Haven of the Dragon Wardens was attacked by the surrounding kingdoms and burned to the ground. All Wardens and their dragons were hunted down and slaughtered as humanity feared their power. Any survivors had no choice but to run and hide.

    Dragon Wardens were once the peace keepers of the land, often called in to mediate disputes or prevent entire wars. Those who refused their council gave up the right to their protection, and thus the accepting side would have their aid in the war. Few would ever give up that right. Through the Dragon Wardens' help, the lands have created a prosperous trade route.

    But humanity began to question the validity of the Dragon Wardens after countless accounts of Warden attacks were reported. The dragons feasted upon villages and the Wardens would plunder and murder innocents. It was very out of the norm for what everyone had known of these peace keepers.

    It has been a season since the Haven fell, calling in Autumn in the Middle Lands and colder temperatures in the mountains. The Dragon Wardens are still being hunted down and killed, making it difficult for them to find people they can trust. Their numbers are scattered throughout the land. Hiding and protecting the dragons takes effort. In some lands, those who aid the Wardens commit treason. Dragon nests are hunted down and eradicated.
    The remaining Dragon Wardens must rally together to right this wrong, and refute the horrid allegations against them. They must bring back peace to the land.

    The Woodlands Beyond Edlenfeld
    Idhrenan watched the old man, her savior, climb back aboard his dragon companion as though age were never an issue. She thought she had caught a glimpse of something beneath the fabric of his cloak; a myth of a symbol only spoken in bedtime stories. But he was gone before she could fully assess what may have been there, and her eyes moved over to the remaining Dragon Warden with her. Her brows knit together in thought before recognition hit her.

    "Cinder," she said softly. She felt a sense of comfort wash over her as not only did she come to find another Dragon Warden, but one of her former peers as an Emasari. She tried to recall the dragon's name the woman had bonded with. As she turned to follow the lumbering Earth Dragon, her gaze scanned over the arcane dragon in thought. Her past was all merging together after all that had happened as though her mind was unable to splice out the timeline effectively. Recounting recent events since the incident in the Mouth of the Mountain had become a chore, and one she often set aside to focus on the path ahead. And right now, the more important task was to find the rider to the dragon and maybe some possible supplies.

    She hadn't checked to see if Cinder and Voarex followed behind her. Her attention was to the earth in which she stepped as she roamed over toppled trees and flattened brush. The indentations of Plainswalker's footprints were deep indicating the dragon's heft. It was enough of a dip within the dampened dirt to cause injury to the unsuspecting.

    There felt a hole in her heart, like a void she could never fill. Idhrenan had never felt the crushing pain of separation from her dragon until this point. It was a feeling not many Dragon Wardens experienced, for it was often their dragons outlived them. Was Eosphelon feeling the same? It was akin to feeling lost; a longing in physical hurt emanating from her very soul. But being amongst her kin helped in numbing the pain, and in her diplomatic fashion, she pushed aside her emotions at the sight of a Sur hut.
    A smile brightened her features as she saw the dirty Dragon Warden. "It was all very unexpected," she responded to the girl casually. There was no time to dwell upon Edlenfeld or saturate the encounter with her negativity. The Earth Caster looked very young, and judging by the state of things around the Sur home, she had managed to stay free from harm after what happened in the Haven. If there were wards, they were very well placed.

    "We were just on our way North to Usolath," she continued as she approached. Idhrenan had no idea just how weathered she looked. Her red hair was matted with drying mud from the grasslands and tangled in a mess around her frame. What skin was exposed was dusted with either dirt or caked with blood both from her own wounds and from her former opponents. It was even difficult to discern what color her attire used to be. "Do you happen to have any supplies or food you could spare? We have a long journey ahead."

    Above the Woodlands of Valnahar
    Flying within the Sur lands would be met with little event. The elves did not wish to disrespect the peacekeepers, partly because those that still remained good would continue to protect the lands. There was only a small knowledge of the existence of Shadow Wardens in the land. Their current aggressors were mostly in the form of humans and elves who had lost their way conjuring horrific creatures and tainting their lands and forests. And so, Waethren and Ancalagon were left to fly swiftly through the skies, the fog and darkened mist over the lands to the South behind him slowly fading on the horizon. The chill of Winter grew colder and colder until finally they flew into snowfall and over the blankets of white. Within a few hours he would make his destination.

    The orcs lingered outside in conversation as they waited, their conversation quiet as they planned their next steps in their native tongue. It seemed like the cold did not bother them even as their thick furs parted in their wide gestures and thoughtful pointing. At one point the male laughed at something Drau had said, and there was a brief moment of a stern look before she cracked a smile of her own and clapped the orc's back with the strength of her hand.

    Prince Asal had ordered Nrem to gather a portion of their best hunters in Usolath to prepare to accompany him with the orcs. There was a reserved hesitancy in the way he carried himself, and before it could be questioned, he excused himself to his quarters to gather what he needed.

    A bestial cry pierced through the village from the skies, and all those outside turned their heads in time to watch the dragon dive downward. Those within the vicinity scattered to give the dragons a wide birth, many of them clamoring to their homes within the trees as they screamed. The orcs looked to each other in a silent exchange within their glances, their lips upturning once again as their fear turned into a sense of lively adventure. Their hands moved to their weapons as they readied themselves to jump into the fray, their eyes roaming through the tension as they both began to reel through strategies and methodologies.

    Thannel found their eagerness to take on such a beast rather strange. If every dragon present became involved in a fight, it felt unwise to be close to anything around them. The Vuaturi looked around the clearing at the surrounding homes, his ears soaking in the cries of fear. He turned to the Dragon Wardens with concern etched in his features.

    "They can't fight here," he said to them. "The damage they could do... Don't let them fight here."

    It was a plea on behalf of the Sur, and it was quite unlike a Vuaturi to care so much of others. Having been through event after event of destruction starting with his capture to this very moment in time, all he could see were the mistakes in passivity and dismissal of blatant violence before him. He remembered the Dragon Wardens that fell in attempts to save him from the Shadow Caster hunter. Or the rubble of the Silver Lance as Granny Phillis cried over the loss of her friend. Or the way the Taint etched across the white of Liola in the dragon's suffering. Hale's final breath in the aftermath of turmoil...

    "Is there something that can be done to diffuse this situation?" he asked.

    #1 Effervescent, Aug 13, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
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  2. Waethrin
    The Woodlands Above Valnahar

    He'd known the old drake for decades, through long years of intimate war and abject loneliness. Often they would simply act without thought or discourse, relying upon their experience with one another to accomplish their goals. It had seemed to Waethrin that he knew completely the things his friend was capable of to the fullest extent, and that nothing the old drake did could surprise him.

    He was wrong.

    Anacalgon was pushing himself hard, far and away more than he'd ever done before. The old Warden didn't need to touch his friend's feelings to know why: the things they'd witnesses in Edlenfeld were unreal, hellish. The dragon was desperate to bring this information to the conference being held in Usolath, for he felt as his Warden did: if the Shadow's forces reached Rosenfell at the same time the Dragon Wardens' northern allies did, there would be death and destruction not seen for ages. It was odd, really, that it'd taken such a horrible circumstance to spur then to action. Even Haven's destruction hadn't spurred him thus, but instead only to be involved as was minimally necessary.

    The air chilled about him, despite the lower altitude Ancalagon flew to make better speed, and Waethrin shivered as he pulled his cloak tighter. Closing his eye, he focused on his and Ancalagon's body temperatures. The dragon's core would stay well elevated due to the effort, but his wings were relatively thin and not well insulated. Placing a withered hand upon the scaly shoulder, the old man channeled waves of heat across the dragonish skin, evaporating condensation, replacing the heat that such evaporation caused, and relaxing overtaxed muscles. Such a thing was far from easy, however, and Waethrin closed his eye to better concentrate.

    A deep inhale. Feel the pull of strong shoulder sinews.

    A deep exhale. Feel the push of the same.

    A gentle warm wave pulsed from his hand, loosening a knot of muscle that Ancalagon had begun to complain about. It felt good, falling into this rhythm, and slowly the old man fell into mediation.

    Thirty-three Years Ago

    It was raining. Of course it was raining. Booted feet stomped through puddles of of water and filth, and the cloaked and hooded man they bore stopped to glance around. A naked blade sat openly in his hand, dripping diluted blood; five dead men and elves lay upon the road a quarter mile back, two slashed, two stabbed, and one a smoking husk of his form. They'd been relieved of the bit of coin they themselves had likely relived from others. Presumably it had only been those five, but who was to say for sure? Bandits were by nature unpredictable, and it did any potential victim of theirs well to be aware, particularly when that victim fought back.

    But this man was not accosted again, and he continued unabated down the road. The trees of the Faledrin wilderness, close and oppressive thus far, opened at last to reveal a small building: old, of an architectural design no longer seen in newer constructions, but well cared for. Every window of its two stories was lit invitingly, and an exotic, spicy scent danced out of the open front door. Above that portal was a wooden sign, hanging from a vertical post, bearing a badly drawn image of a face whose eye winked and whose red painted lips curled upwards coyly. If the sign wasn't plain enough to communicate the purpose of such a place, then the noises from within were: raucous laughter, the clink of bottles of spirits, and most notably, the rustle of bed sheets and the moans and groans from the second story. The Lovely Gaze was a place of ill-repute among the morally upright and of high regard among the lascivious and hedonistic. The traveler looked upon the building with a mixture of hunger and weariness, his one good eye peering out from under the hood and from behind stringy, hanging red locks of hair. Grunting to himself, he stepped toward the brothal.
    #2 Red Thunder, Aug 16, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2016
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  3. After Aurea took a good look at Idhrenan, the younger realized she probably needed more than supplies. It looked like she took quite a tumble, perhaps while roaming the forest. At least, that was what Aurea hoped. She wanted to believe that the arrival of another warden meant that the world had calmed. She hoped that the fall of the Haven was isolated, with the surviving wardens using their skills as peacemakers to prevent a larger scale war. The young warden wanted to hear such a story, but such a tale couldn’t be shared over an exchange of goods.

    “Please, stay,” Aurea insisted. “You won’t do anyone good running yourself ragged. We have room and plenty of food. Let me just let Alfwin know you’re here.”

    While Aurea called out for Alfwin, Plainswalker stood over Idhrenan. Using his lips, the dragon managed to pull a stray piece of grass out of her hair. He thought he would be getting a delicacy: PW hadn’t had grass outside the woodlands in quite some time. Unfortunately, it was far too dry to be tasty. The dragon gave a low moan in disappointment.

    “Plainswalker, don’t pick at our guest!” Aurea scolded the dragon. “There’s plenty for you to eat all over.”

    The teen’s gaze returned to Idhrenan, as did a smile. She was eager to hear the details of her guest’s adventures and how the dragon wardens made their dramatic recovery.

    “It must be a hard journey, trying to find us all. That’s why you’re here, right? To find the other wardens and bring us back to the Haven?”
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  4. Cinder watched Waethrin go and for some reason couldn't fight a sinking feeling in her gut as he went away. Was it worry? For someone his age? So ornery and rash? Pish posh, the old man would be fine what with his ability to char whatever stood in his way. It would go without saying that Orcs were much more susceptible to fire than shadowcasters were. Before long, dragon and rider were lost to the tree line and Cinder hoped beyond what was reasonable that Valos and Ras would take their place. But they did not come, and Idhrenan called her name softly to bring her back. When she turned, it felt like she'd seen an old friend again. "Id....almost didn't recognize you." She muttered with a weak as they shared in their mutual recognition. The emasari who had once been a fierce rival of hers during their time in training who had since earned her respect. It seemed clear now, but just coming from battle and missing one of their own had her mind abuzz. As much as she wanted to catch up with an old acquaintance, they still had another warden to find. And so, she set off cautiously behind the pair on the back of Voa. Both were still wary for threats, if not exhausted to a degree. She didn't want to be caught off guard again.

    Eventually they would come across a young Sur warden who claimed ownership of the Earth dragon, who didn't look to object in the slightest. Cinder smiled at the reunion and elected to remain mum on the subject and let Id to the talking. She watched, entertained and leaned up against the back of Voa's neck as the young girl and her dragon went about trying to convince them to stay. It was refreshing to see another on so young to have survived what had happened in Haven. But her refreshment did not last long as she queried them about their purpose and if they were to bring her back to Haven. Her brow furrowed and she wondered just where the young girl had been at the time. With a sigh she slid from off of Voa's back and landed with an audible thud beside her.

    "I hate to say it hun, but there's no Haven to go back to. Not one we can live in." She spoke up finally, voice cold an factual. With a pat of Voa's leg, she continued forward to stand beside Id. "Our home has been razed by Thallas. We're travelling to Usolath to meet up with what dragon wardens are left. There are still many pieces to be picked up..." It didn't feel good at all for the words to finally come out of her mouth in such a sure way. The majority of her people were dead, all in the course of one night. "It would be unwise for any of us to stay in one spot for too long. And who is this Alfwin you speak of?"
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  5. Ifer could smell the dragon as soon as it neared, and he could tell there were no friendly intentions. If the dragon had been tense before, it was no comparison to what he was now, the spikes of ice on his back raising like hairs on a frightened cat, standing in a position ready to fight, teeth bared. There wasn't really any possible way Ifer could win a fight against such a large dragon, especially without the help of his warden, but that certainly didn't stop him from wanting to try. No, Ifer did not even consider the possibility of fleeing, returning Negloth's cry with a high-pitched screech of his own. It, of course, did not compare to the large earth dragon's, but it shook the earth in an entirely different way.


    Just when things couldn't get any -- no. No, Feria always knew that things could get worse. She was not the type to lie to herself. It was worse, and her it was, still getting even worse. It didn't matter if that dragon was shadow or not, Ifer was going to do something either way. Feria cringed at the shrill cry that pierced the quiet town. Thannel was shaking in his boots beside her, and she very well might have scoffed, but instead gritted her teeth angrily. He would be of no help to her. The female warden's dragon descended, but they looked terrified for the wrong reasons. She couldn't see the dragon quite yet, but she knew. No, this wasn't shadow.The cry was not deranged, not sick. Sharp. Angry.

    This, this was plain stupidity. Unfortunately, on both parts.

    Ifer, no. Ifer, please. Don't.

    Her pleas were empty because she knew he would not listen.


    Ifer opened his mouth to let out a blast icy cold at the dragon's lower body, hoping to freeze or at least numb for a little while. And when Ifer felt satisfied with the amount of ice, The ice dragon lunged onto the earth dragon, clinging onto Negloth's right side, digging in his claws. Though he paled in comparison in terms of size, Ifer lacked not one drop of ferocity to match his opponent's. It was clear that whatever Negloth retaliated, Ifer would not back down.


    Turning to Raleia and Winnock, a look of determination with only a hint of nervousness, Feria opened her mouth. "You must allow me to ride with you on your dragon to reach Ifer without injury. If I can get close, maybe I can talk him down." Because the damn foolish, headstrong idiot wouldn't listen to his warden. "We must act quickly. Please," Feria begged. It was not a word she used often but she could see no other solution. To run up right up to him in the chaos of battle would not help anyone.
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  6. [​IMG]

    Winnock wasn't exactly a champion in nobility. Where dragons were concerned, he was stubborn, defiant and jealous, particularly where Raleia was a factor and on more than one occasion, proved effectively lazy... But he had his moments where he surprised even his warden. This... this was certainly no exception. He continued to watch the sky, his eyes unmoving, just marginally edged out front of the smaller dragons, tail curled protectively around Raleia.

    Unfortunately, for all of Winnock's good intentions, his sudden crisis of conscience, Thannel was right. A fight in the village, between four full grown dragons... at least two of whom possessed a disposition towards flames... would be disastrous, at best... What they needed - what they desperately needed was to get the three dragons away, and fast, particularly if her fears were confirmed and it was in fact the work of Shadow... "Trouble is... I'm not entirely sure what the actual situation is. With these clouds, I can't tell what we're up against."

    On one hand, a fight would be a mess, devastation that would entirely negate their negotiations for the safety of the village, but on the other hand, leaving, if it was a Shadow Warden, leaving could be so much worse. There were still villagers there, innocent lives to consider. But with no real way to know what was coming, she wasn't entirely convinced there was a perfectly safe or sound option.

    "I think I can keep Winnock at bay, if we get the others out of harms way. Whatever the stubborn goat is trying to do, he's got it in his head to be a savior all the sudden, and he isn't going to budge until the others are out of danger. If... if I could just see what's up there..." Frowning softly, she moved towards Winnock, who snapped back at her with a tight jawed snarl, "Alright! Enough out of you! We’re running out of--”

    A shrill shriek pierced the air and Raleia turned to see Ifer taking off. It was easily a worst case scenario, and there was little to be done to stop it. Their plan was tentative enough without having to worry about a cock fight over the village, but what was done was done, set into motion. Feria turned to Raleia, called for aid, bringing a frown to the young warden’s face. There simply wasn’t time…

    Spinning, Raleia looked around. The Orc wouldn’t wait… She knew well enough that however the negotiations went, they were hardly sold on the idea of working with the elves. If there was any delay, any reason at all to lose faith in the plan…

    “Olsten…” Turning to the boy, Raleia shrouded her grim expression in what she hoped was an encouraging smile, “Go with Feria. Take Grybil and try to break things up as swiftly as you can. Winnock won’t be any use up there… He’ll only make matters worse and it is the uttermost importance that we move with haste. I’ll fly ahead to scout the ruins… When you’ve got the situation under control here, follow after. It is imperative that we don’t lose support of the Orcs.” Taking Olsten’s hand for a moment, she nodded, “I know you can do this. I have faith in you. And I’ll see you soon…” Pulling him into a quick, but tight hug, she released him, then twisting round, turned to Thannel.

    “If you’re up for the ride, I could use the help…” Thannel gave a nod, and without wasting anymore time, she’d climbed aboard Winnock, helped the elf up behind her. With a little nudging and quite a bit more than encouraging words, the small behemoth of a mount took off, heading low, away from the village leaving the fight in his wake. She hated to leave any of them behind, but losing the Orc’s cooperation… losing control of the situation was too risky.

    Away from the chaos, Winnock sank into a smooth glide, just below the cloud line and running her hand across his neck, Raleia purred a soft thank you, before glancing over her shoulder to Thannel.

    “It’ll be a few hours to the ruins… You alright back there?”
    #6 Elle Joyner, Aug 29, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
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  7. *****
    Thirty-three years ago

    She was a lovely thing; a port in his storm. Her eyes of green beheld his battered form without judgement, and locks of golden brown flowed across her shoulders. His rage bled away, drained from his spirit as his body received ministrations from gentle, expert hands. He, too, returned those ministrations, her sweetness bringing out from him a sweetness he never guessed he still had. It was like a lovely, simple melody, the things this unnamed woman showed him, things he could never repay. And it soothed the eponymous savage beast within him.

    But such things do not last, by design, by simple fate, or both. And so it was with the exiled Fire Warden; Waethrin paid what was due the Thall woman of ill repute, thanked her with an uncharacteristic gratitude for a night of remembrance, and left the brothal behind him, its form fading in the early morning fog as he strode heavily down the rut-filled road.


    The old man opened his eye. Usolath was drawing near, as Anacalgon was conveying through his relief. His poor friend was exhausted from the flight, and from the need that drove them, and the Drake was ready for a rest. A camp came into view, and Waethrin smiled in empathetic relief for his friend.

    A commotion below drew the old man's attention. Dragons. But fighting. As should not be. Placing his hand on Ancalagon's shoulders, he muttered, "Get your rest; you deserve it."

    Kicking off, Waethrin caught open air. The wind, suddenly harsh and bitterly cold, ripped at him with ferocity. He angled himself so that he began to fall head first. As before in Rosenfall, fire erupted from the soles on his feet, and he shot through the air with increasing speed.

    The Ice one blasted the Wyrm with shards. It was impossible at this point to determine which had began the confrontation. But that was of little concern at the moment. Kicking out, Waethrin spun around and cut the flames from his feet. The ground was close now, perhaps 200 feet. Clasping his hands downward, the Warden released a fireball of fair size to impact the earth beneath him. The resulting expansion of hot air would catch his fall, and too would hopefully catch the behemoth's attention.

    And so Waethrin landed, squarely and perhaps foolheartedly between the giants. His hands to either side, he raised them toward the sky. A ring of blazing flames about him sprang to life, rising high into the air. He raised his voice, and spoke commandingly.

    "Cease this nonsense! You should be allies, yet you fight like wyrmlings! Shame is yours, you fools! Save the fury for our true enemies, legions of which now gather at Edlenfeld! I've just come thence, and were your childish behavior not so ruinous, I should call it the greatest threat we now face! The Shadow comes, you fools, and it will leave none alive in its wake!"
    #7 Red Thunder, Aug 29, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
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  8. Feria seemed to tense in the embrace, but the brief touch that followed broadcasted a different message entirely. Certainly, fire had a way of melting even the most hardened ice. Satisfied with the results, Olsten was just getting his hopes up that things might turn out well for once when a deafening rumble pierced the sky. It had been perhaps ten minutes of relative peace before trouble came violently knocking once again.

    Out of the entire party, he was the slowest to reply. Whereas others seized their arms and rushed out to face the danger, Olsten lingered. He wondered why trouble followed him so. Was there not one piece of land that wasn’t cold, hostile, or trying to imprison him?

    Alerted by Grybil’s sense of alarm, he cast the thought aside and burst out of the meeting hall and onto the clearing. Even from down below the sheer size of the dragon that circled above impressed. While Ifer attacked with great determination, Grybil remained grounded. His claws kneaded the soil, but he stayed put, waiting for his rider to join him.

    But before Olsten could get even one step closer to Grybil, Raleia’s voice pulled him aside. Now it was his turn to be pulled into a sudden embrace, though he was given little time to contemplate its meaning. He sensed Grybil’s impatience scratching at the edge of his mind, he saw the despair on Feria’s face, and the eagerness of the Orcs to draw blood. The sooner this would end, the better.

    “Come,” he waved Feria over to Grybil. If she followed, he would help her into the saddle while Grybil assessed her scent. There were but few circumstances under which the proud Dragon would accept any other rider, and this was no exception. But within the blink of an eye, Olsten had Feria strapped in, and Grybil could no longer toss her off. Not least of all because he sensed how important Olsten deemed it for Feria to get into the fight. When and if Feria was ready, Olsten would give a small nod before Grybil took off and soared skywards.

    The nimble Fire Dragon was not gentle with his passenger. His path upward was steep and the beating of his wings was far more careless than usual. But it was also the fastest way up and towards the aerial battle. Smoke puffed from his nostrils as he leveled himself as close to Ifer as he could get without engaging in the fight. Should the massive earth dragon make a direct attack however...

    His stomach tied into a knot at the sight of his Dragon departing with another on his back. That small red dot, going up against a far larger, far angrier dot in the sky. Tearing his gaze away from the commencing battle, he turned to face the Orcs instead, looking over their weaponry and their apparent keenness for battle.

    He arched a sly eyebrow at the pair. “I wouldn’t be so eager to fight a Dragon. I wouldn’t want to fight anything larger than myself unless I really have t-“

    The first he noticed was the light. Yellow, orange and red colors danced across the many stems of the surrounding trees. Second was the big, whooshing sound. As if some meteor had come crashing down from the sky. Last, but most palpable of all, was the sense of heat washing over him, tossing up his hair and forcing him to spin around on his heels.

    Instantly his sword found its way out of its scabbard. He feared there would be a Shadow Warden standing in the clearing, but instead his eyes found something far worse.

    Something far more terrifying.

    That decaying, wrinkled old thing had come creeping back out of some foul hole. But it was not bent over with old age. It stood tall and spoke with a booming voice, rivaling that of the heat wave that had preceded him. When the initial shock had faded -and it faded rather rapidly with Olsten (who had little inclination to take anything Waethrin said seriously)- he shot a quick glance over his shoulder at Drau and muttered: “he just really likes to shout…”
    #8 Mactomaton, Aug 30, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
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  9. Aurea saw a second figure behind Idhrenan, a woman of similar age, but much shorter hair. Once there was one, now there were three. Aurea’s optimism about the future of the dragon wardens went up as well. She dreamed of this moment: a warden would find her and tell her that everything was OK now. Things could go back to normal, or as normal as they could go back to. Even as Cinder recounted the state of Haven, Aurea fought to keep her dream alive.

    “But Haven can be rebuilt,” Aurea argued, insisting that her ideal future was coming to fruition. “Surely our top peacemakers have negotiated some sort of peace, and those responsible have been put to justice? All that’s left is gather those in hiding and start recovering. I know many were killed that night, but there are thousands of wardens. Surely it’s enough to build Haven.”

    While Aurea was remaining optimistic, Plainswalker suspected a less sunny output. There were two wardens, but only one dragon. Long Hair wasn’t dirty from camping but from battle, as evidenced by the blood upon her. He had seen the finality of those who resided in Haven that night. He looked to the dragon Voa to ask if there were truly others left.
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  10. Rosenfall
    It was quiet in Lisella’s bed chambers where she was placed to recover. The curtains were draped over the canopy of her bed blocking out all daylight. She slowly stirred as she woke, her legs bumping into weight at her bedside. Her eyes shot open, and as if predicting the question of identity, a hand drew open the curtains to allow light to filter into the darkened spaces.

    It was Queen Malan who sat at Lisella’s side, her aged features studying the injured woman where she lay. This was an unexpected presence, to be sure, even considering their friendship and history. But it did not look like the queen was there in concern for her well being. She had always been regal and stoic in appearance, and it had only been magnified with age. Queen Malan stared down at Lisella with a cold gaze, her arm maneuvering the curtain to fall behind her so that she was present in the light.

    “How long have we been friends?” she asked. Lisella’s lips parted, but a sharp pain coursed through her as she inhaled. Her breath hitched and turned to a grimace. The queen did not wait for her to recover before continuing. “Decades. We were there for each other in our darkest hours. We've shared all our secrets. Well, apparently not all.”

    Queen Malan paused, her stare never wavering from Lisella. On the other end, Lisella felt her insides squirm, and she pushed herself to a sit. It was painful, whatever afflicted her. Parts of her body were bandaged and dressed and restricted her movements further. She felt weak in more ways than one, and the queen’s demeanor did not help calm a growing anxiety.

    How long have I been out?” Lisella asked.

    “Long enough,” Queen Malan stated calmly. “Eighty-three of my people are dead. Eighty-three men, women, and children. I'm being told they are still dragging bodies out from the rubble.

    "Had I known-“

    “You knew,” the queen interjected bitterly. Lisella frowned as genuine tears began to blur her vision. “You knew he would come. And you brainwashed me into thinking they were the problem. Did you do that to get back at him? Is that what all of this is for? Petty revenge?”

    No, Vivian!” Lisella protested, her voice cracking with emotions she had long suppressed. “No, this is to save your people. I am doing all that I do to save the world!”

    A look of disgust flashed upon the queen's porcelain features. “You've turned it to darkness,” she said. “You turned yourself to darkness. How could you betray us like this? You've thrown my people into a needless war. You've sided yourself with the very man that massacred Edlenfeld.”

    "No, my queen,” Lisella said quietly. “He sided with me.”

    Queen Malan couldn't find the words to express the multitude of emotions surging within her. Anger was the first to bubble to the surface. But it was ultimately betrayal and shame that lingered in the afterlight. Her best friend had used her for nefarious purposes, and now she faced a war she did not even wish to take part in. Her people even believed the nonsense without question, as though a veil of ignorance had been placed over their vision. She wanted to cry. She wanted to strangle Lisella where she lay. She wanted to lash out with angry words laced with all the hatred she felt for what had transpired. But instead her voice rang calm and smooth and diplomatic.

    “I gave you a home when you had nowhere else to go,” she said. “I gave you food and work and sanctuary. This friendship is no more. I will give you the rest of the day to gather your things and leave. Never return to Thallas.”

    As she rose, Lisella shot out her arm to halt her, her bony hand clinging to the fabric of Queen Malan’s sleeve. “Please,” she begged, and clasped Malan’s wrist pleadingly. She paused and looked down at Lisella with a cold gaze. “Please.” The stern expression slowly melted away into neutrality as dark lines etched into her skin where they touched. “One day you'll understand. I'm doing this to save us all.”

    The Woodlands Beyond Edlenfeld
    Idhrenan shook her head somewhat. She looked so young and so far removed from the tribulations they had so recently faced. Aurea and Plainswalker had managed to find a generous host with an open home. Even as close to the fog past the treelines of the Woodlands it seemed content. There was a part of her that wanted to keep the young Dragon Warden in the dark so that she would remain safe and happy and ignorant of the darkness. Idhrenan cast a glance over to Cinder, flashing a hesitant expression to subtly display her uncertainty to the other former Emasari.

    Her head was pulled upwards with the force of Plainswalker’s lips, albeit as gentle as could be managed. They gingerly slurped up grass from her hair, taking a lock and darkening it heavily in spit. It slapped against her head as it fell and snapped her thoughts back to the present. Cinder took the more direct approach in summarizing the situation. Aurea’s innocence was apparent in her response and only made the task more difficult. Cinder couldn't have made it more clear as to how things have been the past season.

    “So far we only know that Councilman Wuld has made it,” Idhrenan explained. “Any attempts at diplomacy have resulted in death… Queen Malan has made us the enemy, and some of our own have strayed into Shadow. We need to stop the corruption so that we actually can begin to rebuild. We can't stay for long. We just need supplies before we head northward. Anything you can spare is appreciated.”

    @Toogee @SpaceCowboyEin

    The orcs quickly became bored as the fight only continued far overhead. The male rolled his eyes and sheathed his weapons with a grunt of disappointment. Drau huffed, and they continued their trek through the snow down the small incline of the hill. She looked back to Olsten as he gave warning against fighting a dragon. Laughter billowed from the two orcs even as Waethrin made his booming entrance. Heat rose through the village as trees and homes caught fire with the ball of flames that collided with the earth. Screams filled the air as the Sur frantically rushed to collect what snow hadn't melted to use in snuffing out the fires.

    More laughter came from the orcs. Prince Asal quickly rushed to the clearing as he called out commands to his archers to aim towards the fire menace. He spoke briefly with Nrem before he descended the stairs and marched right up to Waethrin. Steam hissed and rose as the flames were smothered with ease, but despite the minimal damage, the village was still marked with visible and audible fear.

    "How dare you," he spat angrily. "Look what you've done, you fool of a fire caster. Explain yourself!"

    Nrem gathered a small party of Sur hunters that eyed the clearing with both concern and disappointment. They were donned in furs and bows, their quivers hanging at their hips along with a set of skinning knives. As they passed, they exchanged glances to each other, some even whispering quietly as they looked at the Dragon Wardens remaining. Nrem turned his gaze to the sky to observe the fight above them briefly before turning down the path where the orcs had vanished.

    This was only third time he had flown upon a dragon's back, and each time felt more and more like he would fall off at any moment. Thannel found a suitable place to keep his head away from the wrath of Raleia's red locks. They assaulted his face with chaotic abandon in the first minutes of the flight. And it was always in those first minutes he hoped the afterlife was acceptable.

    Winnock's flight smoothed out in the bitter chill below the clouds. It was far colder in the wind, and he couldn't help but keep his form close to Raleia, his arms wrapped tightly around her waist. Had he been in any other situation he would consider it quite inappropriate. But he had nothing more solid to hold onto and his furs kept flapping in the wind from time to time releasing his body heat.

    He nodded to her and huffed a small laugh. "I'll be fine once we land!" he jokingly said. This was far higher than what Vuaturi constructs could manage, and much faster. The view was striking, still. White blanketed any open spaces and dusted the barren trees and evergreens where only hints of color could escape. He could barely make out a few of the more isolated homes further from Usolath, but there was still the distinct glow of Everfire. He had always enjoyed etching the proper runes into the crystals for Everfire. They were distinct and calculated, yet not as complex as a lot of their other inventions. It was almost a mindless task, yet far more rewarding in the end. For they could give a home warmth and a method of cooking without the fear of losing their homes to a rampant fire. It also gave Sur Fire Casters work within their societies.

    A few hours to the ruins. They quickly passed the orc campsite where likely Drau and her comrade had come from. The orcs torches carried real fire that blistered an orange glow far more vibrantly than Everfire. Winnock's pace was quick to leave the scene behind to head towards rolling hills and snowy fields.

    "I knew Valnir," he said. "Did he..." He stopped himself from asking the question. Knowing the Haven had fallen and with it so many of their kind, it was almost a silly question to ask if he had survived. If he had, would she know given they are not together? And if he didn't, it would only bring up bad memories. Thannel grimaced at his idiocy and ineptitude in such matters. His people's isolation and strict business relations made it difficult to learn tact on a personal level. "I watched him save a lot of lives once."

    @Elle Joyner
    #10 Effervescent, Sep 4, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
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  11. “So few,” Aurea replied in a low tone. She took a moment to realize that her greatest fear had come true: thousands perished that night. Their future was still dire. Yet, that was still three more wardens than Aurea had thought existed. There was still a glimmer of hope. Aurea was determined to keep that hope alive. She swallowed her sadness and assessed what she could give them.

    “OK…I’ve had luck with growing crops this season. We should have enough to spare for the three of us,” Aurea spoke with a faint smile. Despite her feelings, she had a job now. She found it easier to bury her emotions in a task. Aurea had casually slipped herself into their company. She had no intention of staying behind while other wardens remained. Focusing in on her work, the young warden had only just noticed Alfwin had arrived behind her.

    “Before we give up any supplies,” Alfwin began, “perhaps introductions are in order?”

    Aurea was surprised at her own manners. Talking with other wardens remained familiar, so she spoke as if they were fellow students back at the Haven. For all she knew, these visitors could have been emasari!

    “Oh, sorry, my name is Aurea. This is Alfwin. He allowed us to stay here.”

    The elder Sur put his hand on Aurea’s shoulder as he stood by her side. He looked upon Idhrenan and Cinder with some skepticism. He was not naive enough to believe their state of appearance was from hiking through the woods. These were warriors. Wardens or not, Alfwin had to know what kind of people these women were. He knew full well that it was not just food he’d be giving up, but Aurea as well.

    “Aurea has told me of the war against your people. Tell me, did you bring the war with you?”

    Alfwin was very much concerned that whatever the visitors were fighting had followed them here. He hoped they had the foresight to evade those enemies.
    #11 Toogee, Sep 12, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2016
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  12. [​IMG]

    How long had it been since she'd really stopped to appreciate the feel of it? The frosty air, like a cascade of water, rushing against her face, pulling invisible fingertips through her hair, the tension of muscle beneath her legs, as Winnock arced higher against the pale grey clouds, the sound... all wind and leathery wing, and nothing more. Thannel's arms hooked around her narrow waist, gripping tightly and she had to smile at his apprehensive words as she patted Winnock's long, willowy neck with her palm.

    "It takes a bit of getting used to. You're lucky... Usually he's not this cooperative. I'll warn you, if he suddenly becomes inclined to do a barrel roll." The words were a tease, effervescent and warm, but only a tease. For all of his faults, Winnock was brilliantly focused when he needed to be, and there was little question now that it was of the uttermost importance that they all afford their fullest concentrated efforts to the task at hand. He might take a snap at Thannel later, but for now, he was as good as an extension of Raleia, herself.

    Winnock dropped a few feet and the tone of the conversation shifted just as swiftly, Raleia's expression falling, furrowing into a soft frown. The truncated question hung in the air for a moment, and she ran her fingertips along Winnock's spine with a thoughtful pause, before curling them around Valnir's amulet.

    "...Sometimes, I forget what he was like..." She murmured, her voice barely rising above the roar of the wind, "It's hard, not to see him like he was at the end, all broken and grey... like a flame, extinguished. He came back for me. I... I was in our home when the West gate crumbled. The stones, they... they blocked the exit and I couldn't move them. Val, he'd gotten out... but he came back for me. Together, we made it through the city, but when we reached the stairs that would lead down to the crypts, the balustrade gave and the steps collapsed. He was crushed beneath the rubble. I tried, but... but I could get him out. Not even after he..." Swallowing, Raleia leaned forward and with her shift in weight, Winnock dropped a little lower again, "He would have made it, if he hadn't come back. He would have survived... I'm not sure that's something I'll ever be able to reconcile. I'm not sure I want to. As much as it hurts, it reminds me what my life was worth to him. It reminds me what was given so I could get out. I can't give up... No matter how difficult it gets, because I won't diminish his sacrifice like that."

    Releasing the amulet, she forced a small, weary smile, "Tell me about it? It... it would do well to remember him for the good he did."

    He was thankful he was attuned to Ice Magic, to be sure. It gave him a bit of a resilience against colder weather. This still took some getting used to, just as Raleia had stated. His broken wrist started to ache from holding onto Raleia too tightly, and he hesitantly loosened his embrace. Her words were solemn and sad as she recounted his final moments. The weight she must feel was unimaginable for Thannel, for he had never endured such hardships. Valnir was a good man through and through, and it was losses like his that made the light in the world a bit dimmer.

    "It was some seasons ago," he began, "before Edlenfeld but during Savere's rise. Zealots were taking people from a Thall village were my people had been contracted to set up Glow lanterns for added protection at night. The Dragon Wardens weren't assigned to the village so much as were on the hunt for Savere, I believe. They came through just as the village was being overrun by Shadow Casters. Valnir ended up locating where the citizens were being held and freed all the living." His gaze lowered down to look at the beating wings of the dragon they rode as he let the rest of the memory go. It was a wonder to him now how anyone appreciated the Vuaturi when they took such a passive and uncaring route.

    Her smile warmed as Thannel spoke and nodded, she chuckled gently, "That sounds very much like Val. He never felt content unless he'd done everything possible to save as many lives as he could. When Haven fell, it took everything I had just to convince him we needed to get out. He was an impossible man and painfully stubborn, but I imagine that's what made it so easy to love him. I wonder sometimes if I'd be half as strong as I am if it weren't for his influence, but at the same time, it's hard not to feel lost without him."

    Tipping her head to the side so she could him better, she bit the edge of her lip, "I'll be honest, Thannel... If I hadn't been taken by Malan, I'm not sure where I'd be right now. I... I had no intention of trying to find the others, of trying to help. It's not something I'm proud of, but I just... I didn't know how to keep going, after... Some days, I still don't. But I know what we're doing is important. This isn't about the Thalls, or Malan or any of it. This is about stopping the Shadow. For all of us. It has to be."

    "I wouldn't blame any of you for wanting to seek solace after what happened," he said, "but it is admirable that you are so selfless in this trying time. I can't imagine your loss and suffering. Our efforts combined will grant you time to properly grieve in the end. We will find a way to bring peace from the Shadow." His words were meant for comfort both to himself and to her, but he hoped it didn't feel hollow coming from a simple Vuaturi. He still felt a form of loss and hopelessness in his own way. He was now an exile from his own people, left without a home to return to once the dust settled. That is, if he survives. Did his trials even compare? He, too, would need time to grieve, albeit in a different light. To grieve for the loss of the Dragon Wardens he watched die or the life he left behind to help them. He didn't regret his decision in the slightest. For once, he felt like he was making a difference in the world.

    Shifting, she rested a palm against his hands, clasped across her middle, "Thank you. I'm not sure it's entirely selfless, but... but well, one does one's best, I suppose." Releasing him, she returned her hand to Winnock's neck, giving the dragon a pat.

    "And ours are not the only efforts being made that are greatly appreciated. Tell me, how did you come to be involved in all of this? All due respect, but yours are not generally a people who often concern themselves in the matters of others..."

    "I saw an injured Dragon Warden," he explained over the roar of the wind. "At the time, we had only just heard the news of the Haven falling and I thought to myself, 'What would I do if my people were attacked?' It had been weighing on my heart. I've always admired the Dragon Wardens and personally felt it an injustice considering all the good your people had done for the Allied Kingdoms. So I knew the answer when I saw the injured Dragon Warden. I knew the best way to act was to act how a Dragon Warden would, for you are what has always brought peace to these lands and made it better. My journey to aid that Dragon Warden and find her proper care ended with a bounty hunter who captured us due to being a Shadow Caster." His head shook somewhat in the memories. "On our way to wherever we were headed, the two Dragon Wardens were given away and he stopped at a tavern on the Thallas and Baladur border. That's where Olsten and Feria and the rest with them saved me, and I continued on with them until we came into the Woodlands of Valnahar."

    "That is immensely admirable, Thannel. It would certainly have been more than understandable for anyone to look the other way, but to offer aid, when the easier choice is so obviously to turn aside? It's a nobility most will never know..." Her smile was kind, without apprehension, but sad. It was noble, but not without apparent sacrifice. One that never should have been required in the first place, "Ollie has a funny way of being exactly where he needs to be, doesn't he? I worry about him... gravely. He's so young. So eager to prove himself... so desperate to fight. I don't know how long I can keep him safe."

    He remembered the fires in the Silver Lance and how easily the boy conjured an inferno. There was something in that boy that both impressed Thannel and frightened him. He was brave and did what he must to achieve his goal, and for that Thannel owed his life and his freedom to Olsten. "He is older in mind than he appears in body, from what I have witnessed," he said. "He has a different way of thinking. But you have to remember that he is his own person, too. You can help him all you can, but he also has to want it. Besides, by the sound of your negotiating there may very well be a fight coming."

    "It's hard... seeing him as anything but a boy put in a situation no child ever ought to be put in. I know I can't protect him, but I suppose it's instinct, to want to try. Val was fond of him... He used to tell me if he were ever allowed a son, he'd want him to be like Olsten." Chuckling softly, Raleia shook her head, "I suspect it had something to do with Ollie's stubborness."

    The smile faded as she turned her eyes forward again, frownign softly, "But you're right... I can't hold him back, even if I wanted to. It's his choice, no matter what I think is best for him. And whatever's coming, I fear we'll need all the help we can get. We've all lost so much already..."

    His head nodded, and a chill ran through him and up his spine. He brought the furs instinctively closer, his stomach lurching as he held onto Raleia with just one arm. "We may need to resort to more violent needs," he said," as much as I am against it. I've never used my own magic offensively until recently. It's terrifying what we can do, but I am tired of being so passive myself. I can empathize with his drive."

    "I'm afraid to say I can as well..." A soft sigh escaped, as Raleia drew her own cloak tighter around her, "When... when he suggested acting out of vengeance for Val, I wasn't angry because I disagreed... but because he's right. I hate to think that way, but we can't continue to look at the world the same way, anymore. It's... it's vastly different, darker, and holding on to a version of it that just isn't realistic anymore is dangerous, beyond reason. I'm afraid, Thannel, we'll all need to rethink our ideals, soon enough."

    "I don't know why it all went wrong," he said. "It doesn't make since why Queen Malan would rally against your kind when all you've done is kept us all in balance. We know it was Shadow to blame for the transgressions against her people... against all humans." There was a jolt in his nerves as he felt like he was falling off of Winnock's back, his arms rushing back to grasp Raleia's waist tightly. He missed the comfort of his construct and the slow pace in which it would hover. It also did not undulate with the wind, and he did not have to shout to keep a conversation. But her company felt refreshing compared to the previous group. Raleia reminded him of a younger Idhrenan, willing to make conversation and receiving with open arms to strangers.

    "Do you think the orcs will uphold their end after the march on Rosenfall?"

    "I can only imagine she's been greatly decieved. In a way, I think we all have. We expected too much of the world, and no one stopped to think what might happen if things changed." He tensed, tightened his grip on her waist and Raleia smirked, shaking her head as she gave his arms a pat, "Easy. Winnock's making good time. It won't be long, yet."

    The smile twitched away at his question and with a sigh, she shrugged, "Honestly, I have no idea. They're unpredictable. Stubborn... defiant... and there's something to be said about their hubris. But in the end I think it's pretty clear the best, possibly the only way, we'll get through this is together. Still, everything feels so fragile... like it might shatter apart at any moment. And I still worry that taking on Rosenfall is a mistake. What she did? It's unforgiveable, and she should answer for it, but... but the more allies we have against the Shadow, the better. Fighting amongst each other seems like such a waste of time and energy... of resources."

    "My people once tried to connect with the orcs," Thannel said. "It was before my time, so I have only heard stories. Our encounter, while we suffered losses, drove us to learn more of what we could do with warding and protecting. They were very hostile, though. Quick to fight and dismiss rather than ask questions. And judging by our encounter today, they don't care what they have to do to achieve their goal. I was amused with their courtesy to a degree. I hope we can convince Queen Malan to join forces. Otherwise we may be aiding the orcs to bringing down that entire empire."

    "I don't imagine the trouble will be so much convincing Queen Malan at this point, but convincing the other Wardens. There's such an anger towards the Thalls. I... I understand it, probably more than most, but it won't do anyone any good. Not when it's only making things easier for the Shadow." Smiling faintly, Raleia glanced back at him, best she could, "For what it's worth, I'm glad you're here with us. You are... refreshingly... even tempered. That will help."

    "I'm not so sure," he admitted. "I do not seem to have much of a voice comparatively. I am, after all, just a Vuaturi. The influence, even in this time, lies with the Dragon Wardens. I doubt your people would be inclined to listen to anyone but your own in these times. All I can do is lend my aid where I can, and I am well with that."

    "Perhaps it's my experience, having spent so long with dear Olsten... but I've learned well enough that no man is just anything. Even the smallest voice can make a difference. And if nothing else, your aid is most welcome on my part..."

    Thannel smiled at that. Raleia still represented the values he associated with the Dragon Wardens before the fall of Haven. It was true, most of the others grew bitter and further from their former practices in peace in order to survive, but somehow Raleia still clung to hope and believed in it. It was a hope in others and a belief in the existence of good people, and it felt relieving to a degree.

    "I am glad you are accepting of me," he said. "I've felt more of a burden as of late. The Dragon Wardens saved me but they continued to carry me through the skies towards their goals, and I am but an Ice Caster with a broken wrist. I still desire to help how I can."

    He paused in the thought before continuing. "Your pendant. Was that Valnir's?"

    "It hasn't been easy for any of us... Before we came here, the divide between Wardens was so obvious. And no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, I can't seem to convince anyone that sticking together is our best option for survival. I think they're afraid, honestly... After Haven. Afraid to trust..." Her fingers looped around her amulet and she nodded softly, "It was... He gave it to me before he..."

    Clearing her throat, she glanced back at him, "I wasn't aware of your wrist. You aren't in pain, are you?"

    He shook his head somewhat. There was pain, but the brace and wrappings the Sur had fashioned helped limit his hand's movements enough to where it was really his own fault if he had any sharp pains. This was manageable for Thannel. "I'm fine, thank you," he said. He fell silent as hesitancy took him over. It was apparent Raleia struggled to converse about anything regarding Valnir, and continuing the discussion of his pendent could be quite rude. Never the less, it was an important piece of jewelry in more ways than sentimental value.

    "That necklace," he continued with caution. "It's good that you have it. Never take it off. It will protect you from the Shadow."

    "I... What?" Frowning, she turned back again, one hand braced on Winnock's neck as she looked to Thannel fully, "Val never told me that. I just... I just assumed it was something he wanted me to have." Her free hand curled around it and glancing down at it, she shook her head, "...But then, that was his way, wasn't it? He knew I hated it, the way he coddled me. Thank you, for telling me..."

    "It was a wise move for a man in love," he said in return. "It isn't well known, that protective spell. My people collaborated with your people to craft the runes precisely. It is incredibly experimental, and very time consuming to make. We handed over the plans to your council before the fall. It is likely they were unable to craft more. Every Dragon Warden was eventually supposed to receive one."

    Fingers unraveling from the amulet, she turned her eyes to Thannel again and nodded, "...Just a Vuaturi, indeed. It's quite a breakthrough, even if you weren't able to make more. Knowing what it's intended for, it changes things. What we might be capable of doing. It's incredible, really."

    His head shook as he sheepishly laughed at her compliment. "I only aided in a fraction of its design," Thannel admitted. "We were going to change the world. It is what your council wanted to achieve in the end. During our travels through the lands we were commissioned to try to create the ward on a grander scale like our shields and then present our findings the next time we came back in the area. But... That project has been canceled."

    "Why would it be canceled? Because of Haven?" Frowning softly, her gaze lowered, "Or because of Edlenfeld? It used to surprise me how many out there still think we're responsible... but maybe in a way we are. Arrogance, even when it's not entirely seen or understood, can blind so easily. Maybe we missed something... maybe we didn't want to see it."

    "My people..." Thannel began hesitantly, "are not exactly personal. It was business. Once the Haven fell, we knew the pay would stop." He ran his uninjured hand through his silver hair, and his fingers caught in the tangled mess the wind created. "My people didn't care about Edlenfeld or if the Dragon Wardens were responsible for it. Vuaturi have a strange moral compass. But that didn't seem to suit me any longer. I think it was Edlenfeld that moved me. I have always been partial to your people and couldn't imagine the Dragon Wardens would be capable of such betrayal. Something was amiss there, and I believe it was by design that your people were framed for it."

    "I imagine you're right. A lot of what's been happening seems too coincidental not to have been someone's plan. The trouble is, I have a bad feeling we're all just playing right into that someone's hands. It's never been this difficult... knowing the right move to make, the right thing to do." A sigh escaped, but with a weary smile, she glanced back at him again, "...It's a shame you're not a red-head, Thannel. You would've made a fine Warden. Though I suppose you wouldn't have cared much for the flying..."

    A sheepish laugh escaped him at the concept of being a Dragon Warden. It was a compliment, and he had found himself daydreaming of being one from time to time. But his downfall was the dragon flight. It was fast and the wind was harsh, and were it not for Raleia's body as a shield he would be struggling to even see.

    "Not much for the flying bit, for sure," he agreed. "But I have to admit it is rather thrilling. Likely not for the dragons. They seem to only tolerate me!"

    Laughing softly, Raleia gave Winnock a pat, "Don't take offense. I'm almost certain they barely tolerate us. At any rate, I'm glad you're on our side. At this rate, we'll need all the help we can get."

    "I'm happy to help," he said in return, "and happy we can work together to right this wrong. Let us hope what we find at the ruins will be good news to bring back."

    "I think we could all use some good news..." Returning her eyes to the sky, she ran her fingers along Winnock's neck again, "...But perhaps we'd be better off simply hoping it won't be bad news."
    collab with @Effervescent
    #12 Elle Joyner, Sep 16, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
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  13. Cinder was relieved to hear that the young warden regained her grasp on their situation. The last thing they needed was to have their own lost not only to those that hunted them, but also the fantasy in which Haven had a chance at being rebuilt. The promise of supplies was good, and the addition that she would be coming with them. With any luck they could make haste north and get Id back to her dragon. "Good, we'll take an inventory then.." Cinder was stopped by the appearance of a male Sure behind the young warden and begged introductions. She was ashamed that she hadn't asked in the first place. Still, the was an air about the man, Alfwin as it was, that made her uncomfortable. She had to wonder how he came upon Aurea in the first place.

    Her brow furrowed as he asked if the pair of wardens brought the 'war' with them. "You're asking if we were followed? No. Granted, the last foes we engaged were not Thalls. At Edlendfeld rests a dark nest of Shadow magic. We've just escaped from there and are heading north. If we were followed...I would have sensed them." And despite the confidence in her voice, she knew that she couldn't be entirely sure of the statement. Dragons were hard to hide at such a low altitude, anyone in a tower above the treeline likely could have seen them from a distance away. "That doesn't mean I wish to stay in one spot for long either."

    Behind her, Voa settled cautiously into the ground and let out a low grumble as her wings relaxed. Cinder looked back towards her and raised an amused brow. "At least until we get our second wind." She shook her head and looked back to the Sure male. "My name is Cinder. Former Emasari. I appreciate your taking Aurea in, and I understand your concern, but it would be dangerous for both of you to stay this close to Edlenfeld. I fear the darkness there will grow before we're in a position to deal with it. And you'll have to excuse me when I say that I don't think you can protect or hide her from that threat."
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  14. “Olsten…” Raleia murmured, and Feria's expression softened. I didn't ask for Olsten. She thought to herself, already knowing where Raleia was going with this. “Go with Feria. Take Grybil and try to break things up as swiftly as you can. Winnock won’t be any use up there… He’ll only make matters worse and it is the uttermost importance that we move with haste. I’ll fly ahead to scout the ruins… When you’ve got the situation under control here, follow after. It is imperative that we don’t lose support of the Orcs.”

    Feria gritted her teeth, putting a hand to her forehead for a moment. Alright. She'd feared for Olsten's life. They'd hugged. But did she want to ride Grybil into Ifer's battlefield? No. She didn't. Why? She didn't think he could handle it, he was just a kid, -- no, no. None of the above. But she didn't quite care to think why she didn't want him. Feria just knew she didn't.

    Did she have a choice?

    Feria swallowed, pushing down her distaste of the situation, and followed Olsten to Grybil, whom she knew would not be happy for the extra rider. But she was strapped in quick, and he had no chance to show his distaste of the situation either. Olsten nodded and up they went -- and Grybil was not kind in the way he flew.

    Feria held on tight as Grybil went higher and higher, faster and faster, but the dragon fight just couldn't be the end of their problems, now could it? An angry old man. An angry old fire warden, nonetheless. Feria glanced over her shoulder as he began to rant, fire circling his feet, no doubt waiting to cause more wreckage. Her stomach tightened at his mention of the shadow coming. If she couldn't get Ifer under control, the battle would be lost before it even begun.

    "Ifer, why must we do this every where we go." She mouthed the words, but spoke them stronger within their bond. "I don't want it anymore." She murmured. "I don't want this chaos to arise every place we touch. I know you don't want it either." She wished to move closer to him, to hold his head in her hands like she used to be able to do when they first met. She couldn't ask Grybil to go any closer, she could only dream of it.

    Remember that, Ifer? When you used to be my height. Tears watered in her eyes and she shook them away. Stop this, Ifer. Stop.

    And stop he did. It only took so long.

    Ifer had hardly paid attention to the elderly man who deemed it fit to start a fire. Alright, he was showing off, fine. But the fire did nothing to bother his fight with the larger dragon so he cared not, except for letting out an agitated huff when the man would simply not stop shouting. Some humans were so annoying.

    But Feria began to speak, between their bond, and Ifer had not felt her feel pain like this.. since the fall of Haven. Since Zachary. Ifer paused in his ferocious attack, loosening his talons from however deep he had managed to embedded them in Negloth, and hovered above the ground, flapping wings lazily, considering his next move as his gaze once again landed on the wrinkly old two-legs.

    The ice dragon opened his maw and let forth his icy breath, though much more precise then one could compare to another time in a certain tavern, dampening what was left of the fire in front of Waetrhin. He then stopped the beating of his wings, allowing himself to fall in front of Waethrin, bright blue eyes and frosted breath heaving onto the elder warden, and then Ifer let out a screech. No doubt would Waethrin's nose would have at least some bits of ice clung on. It was an angry, bothered screech, and at a high frequency, high enough to make one cringe.


    Feria cringed too, but more from embarrassment.

    "Grybil, I think you should put me down now." She murmured.

    @Effervescent @Mactomaton @Elle Joyner @Red Thunder @Nivi
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  15. Waethrin looked down from gazing angrily at the dragons to return the Prince's stare. He gestured upwards with a pointed finger.

    "My pardon, elfling; I failed to realize you desired that the tantrums of dragons destroy your homes. Myself, I decided that a few burned roofs would be preferable." He sneered and bowed in exaggerated fashion. "Apologies.

    "Not that either result matters ultimately. Did you not hear me? Do you fail to comprehend the enomormity of the threat I have just described to you? Houses? Hells, you, me, and all things that breath the damned gods' stale air will be as much fodder for the crows in a month."

    Fifty yards away, Ancalagon came to a heavy landing upon the snow covered ground and collapsed. The descent had taken longer than he'd have liked, and besides being out of breath, his wings were absolutely spent. They spread out across the snow, extended to full length, and the heat of the Drake's body began began melting the snow into a gathering puddle about him. The tussle above him, and indeed the offense and anger Waethrin now spat at the elf before him didn't bother Anacalgon in the least.

    But the situation clearly bothered Waethrin. Eye narrowing, he shoved his finger into Prince's chest.

    "Your lot have always failed to see the larger picture, too concerned as you always are about your minute, immediate worries. Open your eyes, princeling, if the richness of your robes means anything."

    Satisfied with the chiding he'd given, Waethrin looked back up at the dragons above. Well, at the one. The ice dragon landed within spitting distance, having already extinguished the last sparks of flame about his feet. It was followed by a blast of chill air, and when it met the heated atmosphere that continuously streamed off the Inferno, it passed harmlessly past him. Waethrin eyed the dragon just before it opened its maw to scream, and though he tensed involuntarily against it, he didn't budge. Instead he regarded Ifer a moment longer before turning back to the prince. But not before muttering Damn Birds, just loud enough for others to hear the slur.

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  16. Alfwin took Cinder’s words to heart. He wasn’t terribly familiar of “the Shadow”, but he knew enough to stay out of the way. Granted, that was his policy with much of society, but it especially applied to villains. Despite the advance warning, Alfwin was not appreciative of Cinder’s declaration that he could no longer protect Aurea, despite having done just that for months. One of his pet peeves was strangers telling him what he couldn’t do or should do. Naturally, he responded with a grumpy demeanor

    “And I don’t think she’s safer with you,” Alfwin replied back. “With me, she would be running away from that threat. But you run to it.”

    Aurea was quick to see the confrontation brewing and stepped in to interject.

    “Alfwin,” Aurea said, diverting Alfwin’s attention to her, “This isn’t a task I chose. I was born into it. We all were. My family is alive and they need me. I can’t turn away now.”

    Alfwin could not deny her this. Long had the girl lamented of her lost kin. Now, they miraculously show up on his front doorstep. Her heritage called out to her, but he was still frustrated that that path would not be a happy one.

    “…Go get ready,” Alfwin said with a sigh. “I’ll take care of things out here.”

    Aurea headed back to the house while Alfwin began picking crops for their journey. All the while, he addressed the wardens. If this was truly destiny, then destiny would get a stern talking.

    “I have no right to tell her not to go. She is not my blood. Yet, she doesn’t deserve this fate she was born into. I can give her a chance to have a peaceful life. Yet with you, Aurea would charge into her duty as a warden, to whatever end that brings her. Can you guarantee she won’t meet the fate of her kin?”
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  17. The Woodlands Beyond Edlenfeld

    Despite the urgency of their situation, it was in Idhrenan's nature to be cordial to hosts. Alfwin prompted introduction between them, and as he was the one to provide them aid before departure, the Dragon Warden did not protest. A warm smile crested her lips as Aurea spoke, and in kind she inclined her head in greeting before presenting herself.

    "It is a pleasure," she said. "My name is Idhenan."

    Alfwin's unease was understandable. They looked a mess, and she felt quite weary. Fatigue begged for attention in her mind, but she pushed past the sensations with focus on more pressing matters. She cast her gaze over to the rugged looking woman next to her, the signs of battle long past etched across her hardened features. Idhrenan had no such markings so visible and apparent from her endeavors, but it was likely due to having not been in the throes of violence so often enticed among the people they once dearly fought to protect. Cinder laid hesitancy to rest with her concise response far better delivered than anything she felt she could come up with.

    It took the girl on her own to convince the Sur she could journey with the two former Emasari. It was important that Aurea display that it was her choice, at least in Idhrenan's mind. It reminded her of the little ones she cared for back home and all the life lessons she tried to instill in their hearts and minds. Aurea showed she has grown up to be a strong young woman, and while she may be inexperienced, she at least had the drive to do what she felt was right.

    Idhrenan helped Alfwin gather the supplies, her expression never wavering from its solemn state. "None of us can tell her what to do," she said to the Sur. "She is her own, and if she desires to come or stay I will not sway her. We cannot guarantee her fate, but we will do everything in our power to protect her. Those of us left are strong. We're survivors. But we need to fight for true peace so that everyone within the Allied Kingdoms can finally rest in safety and comfort. You must learn to come to terms with what Aurea feels in her heart. If you are to let her be her own person, you must make peace with all that it may entail. Treasure each moment as if it were your last."

    They were not words of comfort, but the honesty of it all was important. It was a difficult lesson for Idhrenan to learn in her early years of training. She was prone to lying in favor of bringing comfort in terrible odds. But in the end, the sting of honesty would give way to better solace in the end, and whether or not Alfwin took hold of it now or later would be up to him. They had a mission no matter where Aurea decided to go.

    @Toogee @SpaceCowboyEin


    Whatever conflict that transpired in the sky was soon rendered to nothing as Ifer stood down. Prince Asal was not amused in the slightest, but ordered his archers to stand down as he stared at the infamous Inferno. He recognized the insignia upon the old Dragon Warden's armor that flashed from under his cloak. Waethrin talked down to him like a child and it plucked at his nerves like a bard to his lute. The irritated tune played on as a bony finger shoved into his chest. Asal wanted to swat the hand away, but instead clenched his jaw and bit back the venom frothing in his mind.

    "There is no time for bickering, Inferno," Prince Asal stated calmly. "Either you Dragon Wardens learn to coexist or we will partake in this endeavor alone. I leave it to your kin to brief you before departure, but I, myself, shall take my leave."

    With that, the Sur prince and his party rushed down the path where Nrem had left earlier. The Dragon Wardens were left in the clearing with hesitant civilians staring with fear and uncertainty etched in their features. It seemed their welcome had run out, and it was time to move on.

    @Nivi @Cloudily @Red Thunder @Mactomaton

    The Ruins of Sol'Davur

    The miles that stretched between the border of Sur and Orcish lands was coated in the white of winter. The Ruins of Sol’davur were nestled within a canyon where all the snow had been melted back and frozen over once again from a recent blast of what was likely Shadow Magic on a grand scale. There was a strange purple sheen to the char that coated the delapidated stonework and muddied ground like an iridescent film that pulsed with the signs of taint. The canyon looked abandoned, though upon closer inspection one could denote the signs of struggle in bloodied battle. There were bodies and bones strewn about comprised mostly of Sur and Orc. It was clear the Shadow attacked, but it looked as though there was no champion. Were there even survivors?

    Flying westward would lead to the trail of the orcish march into the thick of the Woodlands. Another bloodied battle had taken place upon the open snowy tundra where more blood and bodies dotted the white in grim darkness. A lone dragon circled above a section of clean glassy white where it looked as though a crater had been created no bigger than forty feet in diameter and ten feet deep. A mournful moan escaped the dragon and echoed mutedly through the chilly air.

    "That's Eosphelon,” Thannel said with confusion. He began to search the area frantically for his lost friends. Had they all been slain? There were no recognizable bodies he could discern at their height and speed, but more importantly there were no slain dragons to join the pantheon of corpses. All that was left in this sea of death was Idhrenan’s dragon.

    At first, Eosphelon avoided Winnock, but he spotted Thannel and chirped at the sign of a friendly face and began to follow. Thannel watched curiously, unable to understand the dragon’s behavior. Kraeg had taken to the loss of Hale in a much different fashion, but perhaps the Earth Dragon was more introverted. The peppy Arcane Dragon had always been a little social.

    “I don't know what's going on, but the dragon following us is friendly,” Thannel explained to Raleia. “I don't see his rider or any survivors here. We should head back to find Drau and Prince Asal to report our findings.

    Feria and Ifer would recognize this scene as the place where the portal had opened up by the Shadow. The crater was where it had opened. They would not find anyone they recognized save for the only dragon. Eosphelon trilled as soon as he spotted the pair and swooped close to Ifer and followed like a lost puppy.

    There appeared to be no threats, and those that had survived marched a weary path into the jagged scar produced by the orcish advance into the Woodlands of Valnahar. Smoke plumed distantly, and deep tracks from thick wheels lined through the muddy terrain. Where once stood ancient trees were now stumps and roots without home. The trail led further and further into the snow covered forest, and as the Dragon Wardens passed over they would see the source of the smoke. Orcs down below fed fresh lumber into strange furnaces that hissed and puffed upon giant moving contraptions made of steel. Soldiers whirred and buzzed like insects swarming around trees until they fell. It was an efficient operation, but it was clear there was no care for their surroundings and what they disturbed.

    They would continue their journey Southwestward for another half hour before reaching the orcish campsite.

    @Elle Joyner @Nivi @Cloudily @Red Thunder @Mactomaton

    The Orcish Camp

    Within the Woodlands of Valnahar, the orcish scouting camp aglow with naturally made campfires. They pitched tents in a clearing quite narrow for all the oncoming dragons, but the trees were wide enough apart to let them through with ease. The once-split group would find themselves all culminating upon this location where Orcs and Sur conversed and planned.

    Those that had traveled from Alfwin’s cottage would have come upon Usolath only to be redirected and pointed towards this very campsite. The advance from the North was set to converge on this location based on trajectory, and so Drau kept it as a temporary base until the rest of the army came. Prince Asal still did not look happy even as the Dragon Wardens began to trickle in. To him, there was likely to be no good news, and it showed upon his face with downturned lips.

    None of the orcs seemed to care about the presence of elves or Dragon Wardens. A few would look up from their tasks to gander at the beastly dragons, for in their lands there were none. But it was brief and passive in nature. Nrem was the one to approach the Dragon Wardens, his hands readjusting his furs closer to his neck and pointed ears.

    “What news have you to report?” he asked.

    @Elle Joyner @Nivi @Cloudily @Red Thunder @Mactomaton @Toogee @SpaceCowboyEin
    #17 Effervescent, Oct 6, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2016
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  18. [​IMG]

    There was no way, mentally, to prepare for it. She had seen death… she had felt it, personally, but to see the stark white scenery painted in the rusts and browns, to see the mingling of bodies, of empty shells scattered about, broken and alone, it was all she could do to hold herself together. Her fingers balled into fists, her nails cutting grooves into her palms, indentations deep and red against raw, frozen skin.

    Thannel broke the silence and with a small start, Raleia turned, glancing back over her shoulder. She frowned at the sight of the riderless dragon, her mind revolving back to the scene at Haven, at the image of so many dragons, spinning above the shattered city, wailing desperately for their fallen Wardens. Beneath her, she could feel Winnock tense as the lone creature drew closer and running her fingers along his neck, she shook her head, “It's horrible. So much death and destruction. I can't understand…”

    But she did understand, at least to some degree. This was what the Shadow wanted. To rip them all apart from the inside out. To destroy whatever allegiances they might have, whatever prayer they had of working together. And they had to fight... they had to resist the desire to turn against one another. They had to stand together if they had any chance...

    A sigh escaped, as Winnock angled away from the devastation. They weren't far from their final destination, but it was with a somber mood and near silence that they began the descent down towards the camp. After touching ground, Raleia shifted, sliding down from Winnock’s back. She hit the ground with a heavy weight upon her shoulders, waiting for Thannel to dismount before giving her dragon a gentle pat, “Good boy. That's my good boy.”

    Her eyes trained upwards to find the other dragon circling over head. The shadow spread wider until with a gust of dirt and frigid air, he touched down beside the fire dragon. Gaze twisting to Winnie, she managed a weary smile as he gave an irritable huff through his nostrils, “Be kind… His Warden is missing.” With a low growl, he bowed his head and with a gentle stroke across his muzzle, Raleia turned to Thannel and nodded, then made for the path that led towards the others.

    There, she gave a solemn greeting to the crowd that had gathered, before glancing to Nrem and the prince. When she spoke, she wasn't all too surprised to find how emotion added a quiver to her voice, “It appears as bad as we imagined. There was no apparent threat lingering, but the death toll seems catastrophic. There... there were so many. We also appear to have picked up a stray dragon. No idea if his warden was among the dead. It would be impossible to tell from the air, and it would take days to search the bodies. As far as I could tell, there wouldn't be much point..."
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  19. ~Waethrin~
    ~the Journey to the Orcish Camp~
    The coward. Prince Fool of the fools. The old man ground his teeth as he rocked back and forth on Ancalagon's back. His Drake was soldiering on despite his extreme exhaustion.

    Not that his effort proved to be worth a damn.

    The prince, if that's what he actually was, had brushed off his warning like so much inconcvenient snow, choosing instead to be offended by the relatively small amount of damage Waethrin had inadvertently created. Ancalagon rumbled beneath him as he shouldered his way through the powder-covered trail. He agreed with his Warden, but there was no point in raising a fuss in the old lizard's mind. People would do as they wished regardless. Waethrin glared down at the back of Anacalgon's horned head; if he could have shot fire from his eye, he would have. But the Drake was less likely to budge on his perspective that the Warden himself was. So Waethrin bit back a strong remark, choosing instead to pull at his beard thoughtfully as the Drake plodded on, both utterly uncaring as to whether any other Dragon Warden accompanied them.

    ~the Orcish Camp~​

    Orcs. He'd never quite gotten used to them, even if he was perhaps more alike them in philosophy and personality than he'd like to admit. Or perhaps, because of it. At any rate, they seemed to pay him and his lot little mind, so he merely returned the favor. His friend lay at the edge of the camp, utterly spent. Waethrin could still hear his snores, even this far in. His jaw set, he cast his eye about, seeking for someone in charge who might have arranged this whole alliance.

    The Inferno stopped, having seen something he'd seen not too long ago: it was the dragon from the portal, back in Edlenfeld. With...ah. With that poor excuse for the Fire Warden and her dragon. She was speaking to an elf of perhaps some note; it was hard to tell. Eye narrowing, he turned and approached them, joining them in time to hear Raleia's remark about the riderless dragon.

    "I saw his Warden. She's with Cinder right now, looking into a report of another Dragon Warden. We found her as we were attacked by the Shadow in Edlenfeld." He turned his head, seeking the Prince. Nothing. "I have already spoken of this to that self righteous prince of yours. But he cared nothing for it."

    Waethrin turned his head and spat, the spittle catching on his beard as it left his mouth. Scowling, he brushed it away with a hand before looking Nrem hard in the eye.

    "Perhaps you'll do more with this information than bitch at the messenger for bringing it to you."

    @Effervescent @Elle Joyner @Mactomaton @SpaceCowboyEin @Toogee @Cloudily @fyrelily @Doctor Jax @
    #19 Red Thunder, Oct 18, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
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  20. No Winter Lasts Forever (open)
    Back inside, Aurea took a look at herself in a tall mirror. She had once again donned the tunic last worn in the halls of the Haven. Indeed, they were the same clothes she had worn in her escape, one of the few belongings she had from her former life. Though she had it cleaned, Aurea had kept that attire hidden: it was too much of a reminder of what was lost.

    Just like her old tunic, Aurea had made an effort to bury much of her past. She kept her hair at shoulder length, for making a ponytail reminded her of the Denmother. When she was a young child, Aurea was raised with other young future Wardens under the wing of a caretaker. They called her the Denmother. She was charged with teaching the young life skills. For Aurea, she remembered the Denmother showing her how to make a ponytail. Her hands in her hair gave the warden a warm feeling. She had always meant to visit her, but her chance had gone the way the Haven. Such regrets were buried in her work on Alfwin’s land.

    And yet, her past came rushing back in the form of two emasari outside. She had always dreamed of the moment when the wardens would return to take her back to the Haven, as if nothing had changed. Did her dream come true? No, and yet, maybe? It would not be a straight trip home. The journey could be long and almost certainly dangerous. But Aurea was still convinced that the Haven stood strong at the end of that road. She no longer had any excuses to stay hidden. Her kin lived on. It was time to join them.

    With the Heart of a Dragon (open)
    Aurea had come outside to see Alfwin and Idhrenan gathering crops for the journey ahead. Alfwin was loading the burlap bags of supplies while Plainswalker took notice of Aurea. His eyes met Aurea’s: he knew they would be leaving.

    “Plainswalker can carry those,” Aurea announced as she began to hook the bags onto PW’s saddle. Once everything was packed away, Alfwin took Aurea to the side.

    “I packed you a wool blanket and raw pumpkin seeds. I assure you, they taste better roasted, but whatever suits you.”

    Aurea smiled, admiring the elf’s stoic face one last time before she departed. She felt he was doing the same thing, though his stare was more somber.

    “Hey,” Aurea broke the silence, “when we’re done, I’ll come find you. Maybe show you the Haven one day.”

    “Just…” Alfwin could not find the words to speak his displeasure of her decision. “…this should not be a world where the young die while the old linger on.”

    “Alfwin…” Aurea rushed to hug the elder, her head buried into his chest. Alfwin wrapped his arms around her, wondering if he should have fought harder for her. No, this was where she belonged. They eventually let go and Alfwin watched as Aurea walked to the emasari and Plainswalker.

    “So, I heard we have a world to save?”

    Once they were ready, Aurea climbed upon Plainswalker. She donned a leather harness that wrapped around her stomach. A leather rope clipped one end to the harness while the other attached to PW’s saddle. It was a nice safeguard when she did mid-air target practice, though soon she never thought she would need it for a real battle. She reached into one of the saddle bags and grabbed a pair of goggles. The rushing air always bothered her eyes, but the goggles made those problems disappear, even if none of her fellow student wardens wore them. With that, she was ready for takeoff.

    “Alright, Plainswalker. Lead the way.”

    The dragon roared, announcing his departure. He charged back down the worn path. Deer dodged out of the dragon’s path as he raced for the field. Once the forest opened up, Plainswalker stretched his massive wingspan and leaped into the air. Once the others joined him, PW would follow them north…and to war.

    Aurea had followed Idhrenan and Cinder to the orc camp. It was quite a journey to get here: they had stopped at Usolath before being redirected. The girl hadn’t moved this far since leaving the Haven. This was also the first time she had seen orcs in person. Aurea had heard of them, even seen pictures. Neither description was terribly flattering. Now she could see why. With that lower jaw jutting out, she wondered how orc couples kissed.

    She would have asked if she wasn’t so cold. Aurea had gotten so used to the warmer southern climate that she had forgotten it was winter in the rest of the world. Luckily, Alfwin had the foresight to pack a wool blanket for her. She immediately pulled it out and wrapped it around herself like a shawl. Plainswalker stayed close behind while Aurea joined with Idhrenan and Cinder. Though she had seen some other wardens, Aurea didn’t recognize any of them. Yet, it took all her will power not to go up to every single one of them and hug them, thanking them for living. Especially that poor old man, who looked like he would drop dead at any moment.
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