To Heal a Murderer (PeregrineXTShara)

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by T'Shara, Feb 2, 2014.

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  1. “We handled the dragon scare, ten seasons ago,”Thane Locutus had commented calmly, looking at her almost condescendingly from his throne.

    “I understand that, great Thane, but Warlords kill dragons with ease. They are cruel, bloodthirsty, evil creatures. I have seen them in action. And like it or not, they are coming. This city is exactly the kind of settlement they prefer to target. Your men should be ready. Please.”

    “Madam Zaiabel, thank you for your concern, but my men have this entirely under control.”

    “At the very least, post more men around the walls and raise the militia.”

    “Thane, that would be unnecessary at best, and most likely paranoia. The last Warlord that attacked was killed by a joint effort of only ten of our men. We only lost two with five injured.” Captain Xintus interjected calmly.

    “Yes, that was one. And he was weak compared to many others of the Warlords. They occasionally attack in groups, and they grow more powerful every cycle!” Zaia retorted angrily. Lives were at stake, and even this idiot's attempts to trivialize the matter were a reminder of the danger. There were murmurs of agreement among the lords and ladies of the court, but none with enough strength to openly support the outsider's position.

    “Madam, you have been shown great respect in our city, and you are welcome as a guest. But you are no military strategist. Leave the defenses of this city to those who know them best,” Thane Locutus answered calmly. It was clear that was the end of the discussion, and any more argument would result in Zaia being “escorted” out.

    Zaiabel's plum-colored skin shone in the light as she left the mid-sized city of Wenari for the Asuria wilderness. The people had been kind to her, but they seemed to greatly underestimate the danger of a Warlord attack and she knew it would be their downfall. Her stormy gray eyes glared up at a beautiful blue sky and she wondered if there had been anything she could have said to change the Thane's mind. Probably not. Some people, especially humans, were just stubborn after all.

    She grasped her expertly crafted bow that she had inherited from her former teacher, and adjusted her pack, which held a couple of daggers, some magic books, and even a sword that she was still working on using. For some reason Master Kilan had not seen fit to train her to master the hand-to-hand arts. No, she had been trained as a creature of stealth, to encounter her enemy and have him shot down before he even recognized her presence. It all went well, she would not even need to see her enemies long enough to engage in hand to hand.

    The warlord huntress wandered along the road, deciding to try the next city and see if its Thane would be more receptive to her pleas. Ideally, she needed allies, to find other hunters and work in teams to find the dreaded Warlords. She only wished that Master Kilan had taught her a Warlord locater spell before she died... but he had claimed there was no such thing. One simply had to wander and wait, and hope that you did not mistake an every day citizen for being one of these Gods of Death.
  2. It was quiet this time of morning. The sun had yet to even begin to crest the horizon leaving the sky an inky black spattered with a handful of stars. Nico allowed his fast stride to slowly slightly, and he tipped his head back, staring up at the sky. He saw no reason to prevent the sigh of admiration that naturally slipped from between his lips, or the small smile that slowly curved his lips.

    If he hadn't known with every fiber of his being that this place wasn't real, that it was nothing but a seemingly infinite layer of programming, stacked together until it formed into a perfect world, he never would have believed it. But it wasn't real, and he quickly turned his gaze away from the heavens. There was no real point in staring at it, even though in his world, in the real world, the sky was so polluted that it was almost impossible to see the moon, let alone anything as faint as stars. Yet here they scattered their way across the sky like salt, so dense in some places that it looked like a river. And there was no doubt it was beautiful. But it was also nothing other than fancy. Nico, or, as he was known in this world, Vanhaelsin, had other matters to devote his attention to. He hadn't come here for the scenery.

    This contest only came around once every two years, and he had been preparing for it almost continuously for the whole time. There were one hundred players in the field right now, all of them looking to be the last man standing. And looking to take out as many of everything else as they could in the mean time. Because it was possible to be the last man standing and not win. If someone got more kills, kills worth more value than survival, that person would become the champion.

    Nico was young, all things considered. And it had been almost pure luck that he had made it into the finals the last time running. He had thought himself prepared, thought he had seen the fiercest competition out there, but it was nothing compared to the rivalry he had faced here, in this strange little world that faced decimation. Elsewhere, there was always an echo of the game, the knowledge that, in the end, nothing really mattered. But not here. Because this did matter, to anyone who spent any time in the game world. There was no greater prize than coming out on top of the final battle of the Warlord competition.
    Nico had been obliterated that first time around within a couple weeks of game time, less than two full days in the real world.

    The reigning champion had held the position for the last ten years, and most considered him unbeatable. They said he knew the game inside and out, knew everything that could ever be done, and knew a few loopholes on top of that as well. Some said he was a hacker, that there was no other way for him to hold the position for so long, considering that every player was reset once they participated in this tournament, and had to build a whole new character from scratch each time. Of course, two years in real time was twenty four years of game time, and that was plenty of time to build a new character, and prepare it for the final tournament. And Nico had prepared. He had come up with a strategy that had never been attempted before, a strategy that, if it worked, might skyrocket him to the very top. And, if it failed, well, he was only fourteen. He had many more chances to try again.

    Every player got the option to bring one non-regulation item along with them when the game began. Everything else would be supplied, and it would be up to the player to build it up to an acceptable level, using whatever resources were available. Almost everyone brought along some form of weapon or armor, something they had spent the years working on to build to a level where it was almost untouchable. But around here, untouchable was meaningless. An armor that increased your health by hundreds of points was meaningless against a weapon that did hundreds of points of damage. You had to be more clever than that to win.

    It had taken Nico almost the whole two years to procure the item he needed, two years of careful bargaining and hunting and endless crafting. But he had gotten it, and he had brought it along with him. A soul gem, capable of binding an NPC to a character, and then forcing them to aid that character however the player saw fit. It was a valuable object, there was no doubt of that. It was like bringing along a whole extra person, able to aid the player in an almost infinite number of ways. NPC's were, in many ways, indistinguishable from players. They leveled up just the same, and were capable of doing many of the same things, even if not as strong as the players. But that could be worked on as well.

    All he needed to do was find the right NPC, the one who would compliment him perfectly, and make him near unbeatable. Vanhaelsin was DPS, and deadly in that respect, no matter what weapon he used. He was a smith, capable of quickly improving armor to high levels even with the most basic of tools. What he was not able to do was heal himself, or even bring his, albeit high, health up a little bit in combat. There were always sacrifices in specialization, and that was the one he had made. But he had been in this world once before, and he knew there were healers in here. Stealthy characters, able to hide and quietly heal allies without observation. That was who he needed. A character to counter his brute force tactics with subtlety and magic. He was not particularly fond of tanking, but he had no doubt that it would work. Perhaps it would work well enough that he could win, although he wasn't really expecting it. But this time, this time the reigning champions might be in for a surprising fight.

    All he had to do was find the right character to aid him, willingly or not.
    #2 Peregrine, Feb 7, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2014
  3. Zaiabel was still fuming over the less-than-favorable response that her warnings had received in Wenari as she left the city in search of allies elsewhere. It was still midmorning, meaning she had time to make it to the inn in the small town of Denir.

    The adventurer traveled light, with only a single pack slung over her shoulder and across her chest. It held a couple of books for entertainment and study, some extra arrows, a reasonable amount of food, a single change of clothing, and a decent amount of gold. Zaia had little use for wealth or profit, and usually had no need to carry an adventurer's spoils. Normally, she had little interest in killing anything more dangerous than a wild animal, though she had seen her fair share of monsters.

    But the Time of the Warlords was different. This was what she had trained for for the past twenty-three years. She would somehow track down and kill the powerful, merciless, evil “gods” who dared to haphazardly wield their powers and destroy innocent lives.

    No one, not even Master Kilan, knew why or now these Warlords came into existence or why they attacked the people. Once every twenty-four years, they simply “blinked” into existence and began their murdering spree. Then, a year later, they would be gone as quickly as they came. Asuria was a gigantic place, with millions of inhabitants, and the Death Lords never slaughtered all of it. There simply was not enough time. But may the True Gods watch over you and yours if your town was chosen for the slaughter.

    Some settlements in the more wild mountain areas had even tried offering tribute to the Death Warlords. Offerings of food, wine, potions, and sometimes even human sacrifices, were prepared in case a Death Lord found its way to their doorstep. There had never been much word on the effectiveness of these tributes.

    The last rays of the sun were peeping out from behind the mountains, and the moon was taking its rightful position in the night sky, when Zaiabel finally made it to Denir. This was a small town, only about twenty families made this place their home. It was not well-guarded in case of a Warlord attack, as there were no walls and few real guards. But it would be a fine place to spend the night, and considerably safer than sleeping alone under the stars. It was difficult to say whether a town like this was more vulnerable than a larger city, or less so. On the one hand, there were less defenses, but on the other hand, Warlords often liked to go for more “challenging” targets, areas with more people to kill, more skilled warriors and sorcerers, that sort of thing.

    In any case, no Death Lords had even been spotted yet, according to the Denir Inn gossip, so it seemed tonight would be a peaceful night. Zaiabel paid her fee for the evening and made her way to her room. There would be plenty of time in the morning to speak with Denir's Thane and work on this small town's defenses. For now, she merely wanted to review her book on pyromancy, a difficult form of magic in which she only dabbled at best, and then to have a peaceful night's sleep in a warm bed for once.
  4. The village was small, less than thirty buildings gathered together into rings, with a large well at the center. Nico studied it carefully from a distance, head tilted critically to the side. It was unlikely that any of the other players would come this far away from the larger cities, since there were hardly any people of value sequestered in the hut-like homes. But the place was near priceless for his purposes.

    Besides the fact that there were not likely to be any players drawing in close to the village, it was also located near a stream, a forest, and a rocky field. Vanhaelsin was a master at improving weapons and armor with objects that were seemingly valueless, and the village's location combined with the forge he could see in one of the buildings were just what he needed to get his character up to par with some of the other players out there in the fields.

    Nico had traveled all night to find this place, and now it was fast approaching morning. The sun would crest the mountains in less than an hour, and people were starting to stir. If he wanted to take the village cleanly, now was the moment. Vanhaelsin was not built for stealth, despite his lean, muscular form. In fact, his opponent's eyes were often unnaturally drawn to his dark form. The lack of stealth was one of the prices Nico had paid to make Vanhaelsin an efficient, deadly warrior. So be it. He did not need to take the characters in this village by surprise to eliminate them all.

    But surprise did not hurt. There were some early risers in the town, but most of the people were still asleep. In terms of the competition, there was little value to killing a sleeping person. That wasn't what those who ran it wanted to see. They wanted a fight, the more drawn out the better. Quietly slitting the characters' throats was of no entertainment value, and was therefore discouraged in the only way that players could be discouraged. An NPC that was not awake to witness his or her demise would not award any points to the player.

    But Nico had not come tot his village to earn points, and as nice as it would have been to get a bit of a start, it was more important right now to ensure that no one got away. The Warlords had yet to make their presence known, and Nico would rather keep it that way. Until he was satisfied, he wanted to stay hidden. A character escaping and announcing his presence to whatever town was nearest was certainly not a part of that plan.

    The first four buildings he broke his way into were quiet, the occupants slaughtered before they could even stir. He met someone awake in the fifth house, and the woman's scream was enough to wake up the people in her house. But the woman, her husband, mother, and two children were silenced before they could raise an alarm. The people in the next house had been roused by the echoes of her scream, but they were unconcerned. This was a peaceful town, and had most likely not seen a real Warlord for fifty or more years.

    By the time the alarm was raised, the surviving population was small enough that he would almost certainly be able to track down anyone who fled. Nico stepped boldly out into the center of the village, his arms held wide and two sharp daggers in his hands. A young man flung himself at Nico, desperately trying to slow him down while his wife fled with a young child in her arms. He dispatched the character with one clean blow, before turning to pursue the young woman and her child.
  5. Zaiabel awoke with a start to the sounds of screaming and crying. Her eyes flashed shot open, she took only her bag and bow, and threw on her boots before running out of her room.

    “What's going on?!” she demanded to the first person that she passed, a middle-aged woman. “Warlord!” was the only reply as the woman sprinted away. Ma'da! How could I have been so careless! the adventurer thought angrily. Thankfully the innkeeper was already awake... hiding behind the counter.

    “Get up man! Prepare this place to take wounded. I'll compensate you later if we survive this,” she ordered, pulling the terrified man up by his arm.

    By now, the Denir guards had risen and were also running out of their barracks to meet the Warlord. It was fairly easy to find the man whose hands were stained with blood even as he chased down a woman and child. Despicable. Zaia drew an arrow and shot it directly where the man's back should be. Six guards did the same, though with less precision than Zaia herself.

    Meanwhile, the Thane of Denir came out and Zaia ran to her. “Thane, your guards and I are battling the creature. Take your bodyguard and then find anyone still alive and keep them in your home for now. We need to make sure the people don't panic, and that they aren't easy for the Warlord to reach.” For a moment, Thane Saeia looked at the plum-skinned woman like she was insane. Who was this outsider to tell her how to run her city? Then her face softened and she realized the wisdom of the other woman's words. She nodded and began following the adventurer's instructions.

    Without even taking a breath, Zaiabel ran back towards the fight, ready to attack the Warlord again, but she found a recent corpse at her feet. The young father whom the enemy had so heartlessly dispatched. It was not too late to save him, but it would be soon. She looked up at the guards, who seemed to be staying out of reach of the Warlord's daggers... for the most part. There was time for her to save this man. Quickly, she sheathed her bow and knelt down at the body, placing her heads over the wound. Under her breath she chanted an incantation to Raise the Recently Deceased, and slowly his fatal wounds began to heal themselves. The whole process took about a minute, but the young man would be fairly winded and tired for several days.

    “Make your way to the inn. Explain to the innkeeper what happened and tell him to give you a bed. You are in no shape to help the fight right now,” she called back to the stunned, but very much alive, man as she stood and ran back towards the action.
  6. Had this been real life, had he been a human, even an exceptional human, one of those seven arrows launched at him probably would have made contact. As it was, it took all his dexterity to escape the shots with nothing more than a deep cut on one shoulder. Yet that one cut enraged Nico, because it proved the fallacy in his current plan. Even the most elementary of Warlords present in this competition had some way to heal such a minor wound. Everyone, that was, except him. His rate of healing was accelerated compared to the NPCs, but it would still take time to vanish.

    His whole plan hinged upon his ability to find a healer. A healer who was powerful enough to bring him back even from the brink of death. Nico shouted out his frustration, violently hurling one of his daggers into the back of the fleeing woman. She barely had a chance to make a sound before she fell to the ground, smothering her young child under her own weight. He raced up to her, yanking the bloody weapon out of her back and hurtling after the next fleeing target.

    People were starting to organize and come together, preparing for an attack. Nico was heaving breaths, more out of frustration and mental strain than from any physical exhaustion. People were mostly fleeing in the direction of a large fort, which he greeted with a small smile. Trap themselves, that worked for him. So long as they weren't trying to run away from the village, he was satisfied. They couldn't stay in there forever.

    Guards were surrounding him, but were staying at a distance. They feared him, with good reason. They were all walking deadmen, not that they knew it. And their deaths would actually be of some value to him. Soldiers, swordsmen, those who relied on direct confrontational tactics were always the most valuable. These soldiers were probably the most valuable characters on the field, except for the Thane.

    He was barely even paying attention to the swordsmen, just enough to notice if one of them suddenly decided it was time to attack. In fact, his attention right now was mostly on his plan, and on how difficult he suddenly realized it was going to be to complete. He took a deep breath, and took a step towards one of the guards. The circle shuffled around him.

    And then, suddenly, his eyes were drawn towards something that he should not have found in this village. Something... something impossible. High level, healing magic. His eyes went wide, before a vicious grin split his face. Had this not been a game, he would have called it fate. But this was simply pure, perfect chance. Chance he was not going to waste.

    There was no more time to worry about the guards. He wasn't even concerned with the characters who may be leaving this village at the moment to try and warn others that the Warlords were here. That it was time to prepare for the attack. His order was off, he had intended to get his weapons and armor ready before finding his healer. But that hardly mattered. His most crucial element had just fallen into the palm of his hands.

    He ripped through the guards suddenly, moving so quickly that the man he leaped at didn't even have a chance to scream before Nico's dagger embedded itself in his neck. The guards flinched and lunged at him, order lost to surprise and fury. But this was Vanhaelsin's element. He was quick and incredibly deadly, and even though they all came at him, they staggered their attacks enough that he could dispatch them, one by one. He did not go for anything fancy, did not try and maximize the number of points he would get for their deaths. His focus was one one thing, and one thing alone.

    He broke from his circle and charged at a woman, her purple skin less noticeable than the stats that practically glowed around her. In anyone else's eyes, she would be useless. No one would seek her out for death, as her value was small, even though she had skill. She would simply be one more person who was killed in a large raid, simply because she was there. No one would ever single her out, no one except Nico. But he needed her more than he had ever needed anyone.

    He was panting with eagerness as he lunged at her, daggers clasped firmly in his hands. He wasn't going to kill her. He didn't even plan on wounding her. All he needed was to get her trapped.

    "You are going to be mine," he told her flatly, the smile still stretching across his face belying his emotionless words.
  7. Zaiabel was only one person. How was she supposed to organize a bunch of untrained civilians and still find time to fight against a Warlord? The adventurer would not allow despair to cripple her as she ran back towards the fight and watched the guards, little more than a reserve militia, fall one by one. Her warnings had saved some of the citizens, however, as they made their way to the Thane's small fort.

    “You will not destroy this city,” the archer called out as in rapid succession, she launched several arrows directly at the Death God's chest and quickly rolled out of the way of his lunge. All she had to do was stay out of the reach of his daggers and she would be fine.

    Admittedly, she was confused by his sudden interest in her, just a random traveler passing through this village, at least in the eyes of most. Had she had time to think about it, she might have wondered if his words were merely a figure of speech intending the whole village. But they seemed far more personal. In any case, Zaia did not have time to ponder the words as she was slightly busy fighting for her life. She was desperate to avoid a direct, close-range hand-to-hand confrontation, for she knew full well she would lose against this man and his absurd daggers. Zaia was no novice with swords and daggers, but she could not hold a candle to a Warlord, especially this one.
  8. She was well programmed, he had to give her that. Had she drawn even remotely close to his range of attack she would have never been able to stand against him. The guards, apparently, had not been written to realize that they stood a greatly increased chance of wounding him if they were out of range. That was why they all lay on the ground, staining the soil red. She on the other hand flitted out of range, loosing arrows in his direction with annoying regularity. But that didn't deter him. In fact, it made Nico want to possess her all the more.

    He didn't want a character following him if that character might mess things up for him. He was going to be busy, and the woman would need to be able to look out for herself. But this one was so perfect that, for one brief moment, Nico allowed himself the fancy to imagine that the programmers had known his plan all along and had written her in, just for him, to see what he would do with her. The chances of them twisting the competition to favor one player for good television was not odd, but it was doubtful that they would have chosen his plan to grant favor.

    He diverted another one of her arrows, quickly growing tired if her antics. He slid one dagger back into its holster, before pulling out the small gem he had bound to a cord around his neck. It was unobtrusive, shaped like a drop of water and black as obsidian, but when he crushed it in his hand it began to glow a deep shade of purple. She may be out of reach of his blades, but she was not out of reach of a spell. It only took him a few seconds to target her, and then he opened his hand. The gem rose in a cloud of dust, spreading out between her and Nico in an instant. It began to gather around her, growing denser around her neck, at the same time it swirled around Vanhaelsin's forearm.

    The dust separating the two of them bound together into a cord that grew thinner and thinner as more of the black dust swirled around them both. And then, suddenly, it dove towards Nico and the healer, burrowing into the skin, through muscle, and engraving itself right into the bone in one quick flash of pain. Nico let out a gasp of surprise, but it was quickly covered over by a burst of laughter.

    He had never used one of these gems before, and had only ever briefly spoken to someone who had. And no word could ever have prepared him for it. He could feel her, could sense her the same way he could sense Vanhaelsin. He knew exactly what she was capable of, when the attacks were coming, where they would be going, how she was about to move. And, should he want to, he could control it as well.

    "Sit," he ordered, a command echoed through the invisible rope that bound them together. "Stay." He had some clean-up to finish.
  9. Zaiabel continually flitted out of the way, taking care not to let the Warlord close the all-too-short distance between them. She had seen what those daggers could do, and there would be no amount of healing that could help her if she was killed in one shot. Besides, the longer she kept this fight going on, the more people could take refuge in the fort. The town of Denir was wide awake and finally acting on the attack, but mostly to escape. The most trained men around, the members of the militia, were arming themselves to fight while Zaia kept the Warlord occupied.

    Unfortunately, she would be unable to keep him for longer than a few minutes. The man before her certainly did not look like a mage, and did not fight like one, but he cast a powerful spell. It was some sort of binding spell, that much occurred to Zaia as the dust formed around her neck...

    No... no... Ma'da zulan kardai! she thought, but was unable to speak, as is dawned on her what was happening. Even with the little she knew about binding magic, it was quite clear from the way the dust patterns were moving that she was being bound to this …. monster. She wanted to scream, to cry out for assistance, but there was no one to help her, and even if there had been, the spell seemed to make her temporarily mute.

    The pain was excruciating, as the binding spell seemed to burn her flesh, and then seep like lava into her very soul. She knew in her heart that she had to obey this Warlord's commands, whether she liked it or not. She could not feel him, however, just his presence, and what he wished upon her. There was no anticipation of his attacks, no special connection, except the aching need to serve his whims, despite the hatred she still felt for his kind. It was like a new voice, no... not a voice, just a presence, a will, was directly inside her head. The control he exerted upon her, the knowledge of her that Vanhaelsin had gained, was completely one sided, the link only working in his favor.... at least for now.

    For the moment, Zaia was completely caught in the newly cast (and completely unexpected) spell, and her body made no resistance as she suddenly stopped fighting and sat in the grass like a perfectly trained puppy. It was only then that she realized what she was doing, and a combination of the spell's power and her own magical understanding dawned on her, and it was not lost on the adventurer that she had just been ordered around like a pet. Not that that was exactly her largest concern at the moment. She glared at the Warlord as he sprinted back to the fight, and she realized that whatever spell he had cast on her, had effectively made her his slave. She tried to stand, and it was like a great force, combined with an increasing level of pain, stopped her from moving, even to save innocent lives.

    Though Zaia could not see them, and was far too distraught by the implications of this, not to mention the carnage she was forced to watch, to particularly care had she known, there was now a new tattoo that encircled the woman's neck. In great contrast to her purple Vor'Teksi skin, the ancient pattern, a combination of art and ancient Sansaen magic text, glowed in bright oranges and golds around her neck. It contrasted sharply with the rest of her appearance; dark purple skin, gray eyes, and jet-black hair with dark brown traveling clothes and a slight build.

    Meanwhile, most of the villagers were safely inside the Thane's fort, and only ten strong men, armed with crossbows and daggers, threatened the Death God.
  10. Nico turned his back on the healer, Zaiabel, with complete and utter confidence that she would not be able to leave her seated position unless he so willed it. Because of that, he completely dismissed her from his mind. There were still ten guards left outside the walls of the fort; ten people who were either brave or foolish enough to believe that they would be able to keep him at bay. He practically danced his way towards them as they began to retreat, seven of them shooting arrows at him to the best of their ability (with significantly less success than Zaia, he couldn't help but note) while the other three clutched great swords in sweaty hands.

    He dispatched them with a small amount of pleasure, careful to do everything in his power to maximize the number of points he earned for each death. He had the luxury now to do such a thing, after all the key piece that his entire plan hinged on had just fallen into place. His desire for showmanship earned his several nasty cuts, but the knowledge that he had a healer at his beck and call kept the lunatic grin from slipping off his face.

    He was about to plunge his dagger into the heart of the last guard when he hesitated. The others were dead by now, strewn across the field like broken scarecrows, and this last soldier had stood to face him bravely, preparing to meet his fate and join his brethren. But Nico diverted this last attack, changing the blade from heart to leg in a split second. He slid the sharp edge across the back of the man's thigh and he let out a scream and toppled to the ground as the blade cut through his hamstrings. The guard stared up at Nico, his eyes wide with panic, but he met no sympathy in his attacker's cold, dark eyes.

    With surgical precision Nico cut the man's other leg, severed the tendon's in his hands, and removed any weapons the man had on him. When the man was laying helpless on the ground, sprawled out and unable to move despite being fully conscious, Nico called out to his new companion.

    "Come," he ordered, giving her only a few moments to get up and move on her own before shoving her towards him by his own power. Nico turned his eyes back to the man lying before him. He ran his tongue around the edges of his lips, thinking. There was logic and rules in this game, but there was also no way to know for sure what she was capable of until he saw it for himself. He didn't want to find out what she couldn't do only after sustaining the wound for himself.

    He studied her skills carefully, quickly sorting through her impressive range of healing abilities. Finally, with a shrug, he plunged his dagger directly into the man's head, cutting the brain in such a way that it would take just under a minute for him to die. It was doubtful that he would receive such a precise cut in the middle of combat, but so be it.

    "Heal him," he ordered her, eyes cold. He knew full well that she had just completed a major healing, and that made it all the more improbable that she would be able to succeed. But that was exactly what he wanted to know. He also wanted to know just how far he could push her before she gave out. Could he force her to heal until she fainted? Until she killed herself? He wasn't about to do that yet, but it would be good to know. Better to haul her limp form about now, when there was no one of any real danger who could attack them, than later, when he might have to leave her behind.
  11. Zaiabel could only watch helplessly as Vanhaelsin slaughtered almost every single guard that dared attack him. And she hated being helpless. But she attempted to shoot her bow, only to see that things were moving so fast and at such a great range that even she, a master archer, would likely only hit one of the victims. It occurred to her to try a fire spell, but only a master pyrokinectic could have guided a powerful flame to a target like that, and Zaia was little more than a novice at the art.

    So she sat. And stayed. And fumed. And wept for the people whom she could not save, and who were obviously helpless to save themselves. It surprised her greatly when the Warlord strode back to her and ordered her up. She tried to refuse, but he was in a hurry, and simply used his connection to “pull” her to his side with maddening ease.

    Zaia had no choice but to follow her captor as he led her to a mangled body, moments from death. Her first instinct, in any other situation, would have been to heal his fatal wound and then move on to trying to save others. But now upon the order to heal him, she looked at Vanhaelsin incredulously.

    “Just so that you can kill him again? Let -” but almost involuntarily, she dropped to her knees and placed her hands on the nearly fatal wound. With a small chant under her breath, she stitched the brain tissue back together, repairing every single broken capillary. It was a complex wound, but it was not beyond her abilities. Her initial complaints of “Let the man die in peace, rather than just torturing him like this” were not forgotten, but her body and even her mind seemed to act against her protests, bowing to the will of her captor.

    When she was finished with the fatal wound, Zaiabel tried to stand. Triage dictated that she work on saving someone else since the leg wounds were not fatal. However, her master's will would not be denied. She understood from the connection that his order had been to heal this man completely, and she fell back to her knees, unable to resist it.

    “I need to help the others!” she muttered, even as her hands glowed and stitched the broken flesh whole. When she was finished, the man would be tired, as her healing pulled from the patient's own life force as well as her own, but he would be otherwise fine. Zaia was rather tired and dizzy herself. Resurrecting a man, and healing another from the brink of death, was very energy consuming. But the practiced healer was excellent at expending as little energy as possible to heal, so that she could help more people, and could have taken care of a couple more injuries like this before actually passing out.

    The healer made a move to stand and walk towards some of the others, with the intention of trying to save them. But she was almost sure she would be stopped, by the one man that she could now not even attempt to attack.
  12. A wide, cruel grin spread over Vanhaelsin's face as Zaia quickly and efficiently healed the man. She truly was an expert in her craft, and even when the wound to the head was completely repaired he pushed her onwards, until the cut muscles were pulled together, the tendons healed, and the man was entirely functional. And still she was not unconscious. He was practically laughing, and only his complete focus kept him from making a sound.

    She got up, and he knew exactly where she was going. She was going to try and help the people he had already dispatched. Most of them were completely, utterly beyond help, but there might still be some who were well enough for her to pull back from the brink. He knew she was expecting him to stop her, that she was doing everything in her power to try and find a way to fight the order that she still knew she would not be able to resist, but she was wrong. He had been planning to wound the man before him once more, force her to heal him again, but there was no reason. If she wanted to go to one of the others, so be it. He had already answered the first question he wanted to know. He could force her to do anything, no matter how detestable it might be to her programmed "brain". There was only one more thing he wanted to know. How far could she go before she was done? Before she could no longer even function, and collapsed to the ground unconscious.

    As she stumbled away he turned his gaze back to the healed man. He hadn't even tried to move, despite the fact that every part of his brain must be screaming at him to run. He was frozen like a deer in headlights, his eyes wide, panting in short, sharp breaths. Nico studied him, his head tilting to the side. To his surprise his torture of the man had actually raised his value. It was doubtful that the game programmers wanted to encourage torture, but apparently what he had forced his new slave to do was amusing enough that they considered it worth rewarding, at least for this time. He leered down at the cowering figure, before quietly slitting his throat. He bled out in only a couple heartbeats, and there would be no coming back this time.

    That task completed, the small tally-board that Nico could check updated with the new deaths, Nico turned his attention back to his woman.
  13. Zaiabel stumbled around the group, trying to sense a victim who could be returned to life, someone who's life force still clung to their bodies. Finally, she found one. Another one of the guards, killed by a simple stab wound to the chest. She glanced at his darker skin, with red hair and a beard around his face, sensing the force within him. The healer laid her hands upon the man and began to chant the resurrection ritual.

    Then, something stopped her, not an outside force, but a command from within. For she felt something within her, an impulse which could only be described as a certainty, without even looking behind her, that her captor had murdered the man she had just saved. She stopped the chant and stood, turning to walk back to her captor.

    “There's no point in trying to heal them if you will only murder them again. Are you really going to force me to help you torture them?! I won't do it."

    Every fiber of her being told her that this was wrong.... but she also knew that she would have no choice if forced. How long could she resist this cruel bond?
  14. A flicker of irritation passed through Nico, but none of that emotion touched Vanhaelsin's face. And even that brief taste of annoyance was quickly quelled. There was reason to get annoyed at other players, they, after all, were making there own choices, and there was someone behind the face of the character who might actually understand that what they were doing was very annoying to some people. But there was no reason to get mad at an NPC. They were programmed, their responses were set to a number of reactions, which could then be extrapolated upon for things that didn't fit into exact parameters.

    He didn't even bother to answer her comment, didn't even really acknowledge it. There was no point in explaining to her that he wasn't actually interested in torturing the characters, that he was only interested in seeing how far he could push her before she completely collapsed so that he could factor that into his calculations. It wouldn't make any difference.

    Still, Nico did not like begin questioned, especially not by someone who could not begin to fathom the complexity of his plan, and how much of it hinged upon her, this mess of code and high-rendered animation. "I'm not interested in torture," he scolded her. "Now heal him."

    Once more, he gave her a chance. One brief moment where she would be able to begin the task of her own free will. And then his will would once more press her into service.
  15. Zaiabel just glared at him for a moment. What he was doing certainly looked like torture from her end, as she was too “stupid” to understand a plan in a game where neither had been explained to her. For a moment, she pondered refusing. A healer was to “do no harm.” But then she felt the pull of the bond again, pushing her down to her knees to perform the incantation over the body. She trembled as she resisted... for all of two seconds.

    “Stiran dera croaln,” she chanted. Most spells did not require actual words to be used, but resurrection was difficult. One had to use the ancient language to call the spirit of the other person back into their corpse. She could feel the spirit returning, however, using the remnants of his own life force, and her own mind, as a beacon to find his way back to his body. Just as she felt the animus becoming closer, she healed the fatal wound that had led to his death in the first place. It was only another moment before his eyes moved and his fingers twitched. “I know you're tired, but you must run now. There's a Warlord,” she warned, whispering in the man's ear.

    Then she stood as quickly as she could as she felt the Warlord order her to find another body. It took a few moments, but she found one whom she thought she could heal, and repeated the process. Each resurrection spell took her a crucial three or four minutes, plus another minute or two in between to sense out a potential life that could be saved.

    The force of the Warlord's bond forced her to continue the healing and resurrections, continually weakening her more and more until she could hardly move from one corpse to the next. And then it kept pushing. Until finally, on the eighth body, she collapsed and fell unconscious in the middle of the spell, silently cursing her new slave-driver.
  16. By the time she finally collapsed, Nico was laughing. He couldn't help it, for his joy was absolute. He had never dreamed that her healing ability would be as profound as it was, yet, with every new corpse she moved to, she proved him wrong, over and over again. By the eighth body, her tenth work of major healing in only a few hours, Nico would have hugged her. Of course, he had to push her, push her fairly hard, all things considered. NPC's were not supposed to be controlled by players, and it took a bit of effort to work his way around her own code and push her past the boundaries that she would never otherwise cross. But not too much effort.

    He moved along behind her as she healed, quietly dispatching each person that she resurrected as soon as she was finished. By the end of it their second-deaths had no value, but at this point Nico wasn't killing them for the points. It was clean-up, as plain and simple as that. The only people still alive were locked away in the fort, and as long as they stayed there he would leave them alone. At least for now. He had come to this village for a reason, and as distracted as he might have become by his delicious find he wasn't about to forget that purpose. And for that he needed time. He couldn't have anyone go running off and alerting the nearby villages. Or worse, another one of the warlords, who might wonder what he was doing so far away from the best prizes. Until his healer awoke he was essentially alone.

    He picked up her limp form gently, cradling her small form in his massive arms. One of his hands gently stroked the side of her head, and a tender smile flickered across his face, like one looking down at a beloved family pet. She was the most treasured possession he had, and he would take care of her. He brought her to one of the houses that had become recently vacated and deposited her in the double bed in one of the rooms. He stoked the fire, bringing the room back to a comfortable temperature, and tucked the blankets around her.

    He would keep an eye on her as she healed, waiting to see when she was about to awaken. She would need to be fed, watered, and cleaned in the meantime if she did not awaken soon. He didn't want her growing ill from lack of attention while she recovered. But there were certain things that he was going to have to take care of first, that took priority over almost everything. He needed to adjust the spell that bonded them, to account for the things he had just learned.

    Usually the spell that bonded them broke upon the binders death. But after what he had just seen, that was no longer and option. Not when she could resurrect him. The spell was not easily altered, but Nico had been expecting new pieces of information to come after the initial bonding. He had to completely re-carve the binding spell on his arm using one of his sharp daggers, but he cut off the pain portion of Vanhaelsin that reported to him and kept him from wounding his own character and set to work. Now, if, or perhaps when, he died, from the hands of an NPC or another player, the spell would instantly take hold of her. As soon as approaching would not give her away she was to come to him, wherever he was, and bring him to a place of relative safety. And at that point she was to heal him, heal him until she drove herself to unconsciousness, just as she had done today. If he hadn't awoken by that point, then, and only then, would the spell binding them break.

    He made a couple other small changes, changes that he hoped would be unnecessary, but would make a good precaution either way. He made sure that she would always use her most efficient healing, especially when she was healing him. He didn't want her, forced to heal him, to do it poorly so as to quickly drive herself to unconsciousness and leave him to die. He also made sure that, should a Warlord ever become detected by him, or anyone else who wished him harm, she would instantly go into stealth mode. He didn't want her dying before he was done with her. The spell was inclined to be a little bit touchy, but he would rather be safe than sorry. He also improved the suicide section just a bit, and while he would probably always catch her attempts to harm herself, he wanted to make sure, if it came in the middle of a battle, the spell would not let her succeed in taking her own life.

    There was a pool of residue around his arm now, a sticky black substance that quickly closed up the wounds he had made and rewrote the spell as it healed. The marks on her own collar would change to match the new additions he had made. He turned on the pain receptors once more, and nearly doubled over in shock. He had received many wounds, but the deep ache that seemed to spread from his forearm all the way through his body was nearly overwhelming. He dialed it down a bit, not willing to leave himself without any sensation, and took a few deep breaths, clenching his teeth.

    A few moments later, only a few hours since she had fallen unconscious, his healer began to stir. This brought another smile to his face, one that was almost enough to obliterate the pain in his arm. She truly was a remarkable creature. He stayed where he was, watching the goo slowly get absorbed into the ground. A part of him was curious what she would do, waking up and maybe believing herself alone, unaware that he could track her every movement.
  17. Zaiabel awoke feeling nauseous, weak, and immensely like she only wanted to fall back asleep. Surely the innkeeper would not mind if she stayed around for another day... Then she shot out of bed and looked around, remembering exactly where she was, and trembling as she remembered what had happened yesterday. She looked at a conveniently placed mirror and noticed the orange and gold marks in the ancient language still encircling her neck. There was also a strange magical ache that coursed from her neck through the rest of her body. But without knowing the intricacies of this binding spell, and since she had not gotten a look at her markings the day before, she had no idea that they had changed.

    She arose and looked around warily, wondering what the hell she could do now.

    “I can sense you,” she muttered, feeling that her new master was near like the pull of a magical leash. “There's no point in hiding.” Zaia shakily stood up from the bed, and took a few steps towards the restroom before crashing to the floor. “You used me too much yesterday, and for nothing. You just killed them again, you ma'da warlen” Not that Zaia knew this, but the game would translate her use of the native Vor'Teksi language for his ears, and her phrase would accurately translate to “damn sadist.”

    Grunting with effort, she picked herself up from the floor and stumbled back to the bed, which surely belonged to a family that had been slaughtered or was now under siege in the fort. She hated being weak like this, but that's why she had never pushed herself into unconsciousness before. There had never been a need to, and she had always known that she would be relatively weak for several hours afterwards.

    The bag she had carried sat beside the bed, and she reached over and pulled out a flask of water and some bread. She had to regain her strength if she was ever going to escape this tyranny.
  18. The forge glowed brightly in the evening light, but Nico's attention was elsewhere. His final piece of equipment was almost together, and he could not allow a moment of inattention. It was always these last moments when things got risky, when he had to choose between making that last improvement that would make the piece flawless and risk destroying the whole thing and having to start over, or leaving it as it was.

    But with Vanhaelsin's skills, the choice was never anything but "make that last improvement". And he executed it flawlessly, leaving the second of his two daggers practically burning with potential. It was a gorgeous piece, in many ways even more flawless than its companion. But the best piece of the night award undoubtedly went to the new set of armor that was hanging in the corner, nearly hiding in the shadow of a much larger counterpart that he would be wearing into battle.

    Nico had pulled all of Vanhaelsin's skill and his own intrinsic creativity to make the piece. It was shaped precisely to fit Zaia, and even followed many of the stylistic elements she had chosen for herself. It was shaped somewhat like the robe she already wore, but was a much closer, sleeker fit. It would obstruct none of her movement, but was scaled to protect every square inch. Long sleeves, a hood, tall, sturdy boots, made entirely from dark colors that would blend in easily with almost any environment except for the city in the middle of the day. He stared at it with pride, practically glowing from the inside. Even the knowledge that Zaia would not appreciate the superbly crafted armor did not dampen his mood.

    His unwilling companion, after a brief spat of irritation, had the sense to return to bed after her awakening. He had left her alone at that point, gathering the materials that he needed and heading to the forge that he had scouted out before attacking the town. Of course, he always kept her in mind, making sure that she didn't suddenly decide to flee, but he also trusted in her common sense. She was not yet ready to travel, and he knew exactly where she was. If she tried to run, he would simply force her back as soon as he was at a pausing point.

    Vanhaelsin had slaved over the forge for nearly twelve hours now, but neither he nor Nico showed any signs of tiring. In fact, if anything, Nico was more awake now than he had been when he had first entered this village, intending to butcher everyone in it. Now he was so close to victory he could nearly taste it. Everything was falling perfectly into place.

    His own armor was also well done, although the fact that he had worked with the armor that had been provided for him at the beginning of the competition rather than making something from scratch left a slightly bitter taste in his mouth. He was not as good at improving upon other's designs as he was making something himself. Which was, of course, why the new robes for Zaia brought such pride from him.

    He put his own armor on, the heavy plate and harsh, bright angles contrasting violently with the subtle, graceful piece from which he still could barely tear his eyes away. He slid his blades home in their new sheathes, scooped up the armor with nearly the same reverence he had used to carry Zaia, and walked back to her temporary home.

    He didn't even bother to knock before entering her room, shoving his way brashly through the door. He deposited her new armor onto the edge of the bed and stepped away.

    "Get changed," he told her.
  19. Throughout the twelve hours, Zaia was awake only for long enough to feed, water, and relieve herself. Otherwise she slept. In the short time she was awake, it occurred to her once more just how horrible of a position she was in. If this captor, whose name she did not even yet know, could force her to heal pointlessly, to the point of causing herself this severe illness, what else could he do to her? She had began her journey out here to hunt Warlords, not to become one's slave. She was completely and utterly at his mercy, and that more than anything else, scared the living daylights out of her.

    She was sitting up in bed, physically feeling much better, though no less apprehensive of her new role aiding and abetting the enemy. She looked up at her captor as he came in, glaring at him angrily, and then glancing down at the armor that was supposedly intended for her.

    “I don't need any-” was all she had time to angrily say before the force of the connection pushed her out of the bed, to pick up the new armor and take it to the bathroom. It was made of a beautiful ebony leather, tanned to be both strong and flexible. In design, it was not dissimilar to the brown burlap robes that Zaiabel already wore, except that it was far more elegant in its finely-crafted black leather rather than her own rough fabric. In all honesty, Zaia would have adored the piece, had it been given to her in any other circumstances. But right now, she looked at it with disdain, even as she disrobed her dirty outfit, gave herself a short spongebath, and then donned the new set of robes.

    She glared at herself in the mirror, both loving and hating the armor that was so beautiful and perfectly fitted to her style of fighting, but was also yet another symbol of her slavery. She clasped the collar around her neck, covering the marks of the magical bond that she could never forget. Then she straightened the hood behind her and walked out of the bathroom, feeling almost dirty for secretly admiring the fine outfit.

    “What I was trying to say before I was so rudely interrupted, was that I don't need new armor! Or anything from you, for that matter!” she scolded, even as she folded and packed away her old robes.
  20. Nico couldn't help but raise an appreciative mental eyebrow when Zaia stepped back out of the bathroom, although nothing of that pleasure crossed Vanhaelsin's expression. Briefly he pondered why it mattered to him that she not see what he was thinking, and then dismissed the idea as mostly irrelevant. Yes, she was an NPC, not even human, but she would still react to stimuli. And there was no way she would be accepting of anything that she might even vaguely be able to define as lewd. Better to come across perfectly emotionless.

    But the armor was just as perfect as he had hoped it would be. It moved gracefully along her form, something that he could only have done without taking any measurements because of the bond between them. Now she would be protected from stray attacks, and while it might still wound her it wouldn't kill her unless there was an attack directed right at her. And by that point it was likely that Nico's plan would have failed, and armor or no wouldn't make any difference.

    "Are you capable of travel," he asked, ignoring her comment about not needing any armor. She needed it, and she would wear it, as long as there was any risk of her being attacked. He had gotten everything he needed from this village, and there were more valuable and less troublesome prizes than the few people cowering in the fort. He would leave them be, to go back to whatever lives they would go back to.

    The Warlords were starting to roll into action all over the territory, and the scoreboard was in constant flux as small numbers rapidly shifted. Nico was falling further and further behind with every passing hour, and it was very hard to make up that much of a difference. But it was also not a good idea to establish yourself as a strong competitor, unless you wanted to bring the other high ranking warlords swarming to your presence.

    His plan was set up; it was time to see just how far he could get.
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