Viridos, Chapter 3

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  1. CHAPTER 3

    State of Emergency



    The Great Hall

    He was adrift in an ocean of pain and noise.

    Ash opened his eyes, once his vision cleared, he was staring up at a cavernous stone ceiling. He was lying on his back on a makeshift futon. Gingerly, the Forest Kin sat up right, winced and brought a hand up to the source of pain at the back of his head. The flesh had been adhered shut with fossilized amber.


    “Practically had to put your brains back in.” He beheld that smooth, moon face again. The Kindly One from before. “Thank Ilium that her finest healers are here. You were one of the lucky ones.” The great hall of Ilium’s temple had been converted into a healer’s ward. All around them the injured Crux and Aux thrashed, cried out for their loved ones, for death. “You’re an Undertaker. You were carrying a dead Avian child.”


    The nocturne’s Aux, a lantern caging a blaze, flickered from her side. “I took her to the crypts below, there’s scores like her in there. More still to be retrieved. You’ll have your work cut out for you, once your strength returns.”




    The Council Chamber

    “--and when will the next storm be? We must remain in Ilium’s temple until the storms surrounding the Aviary guide it to the sea.”

    Carus stood at the center of the gathering of red mantles. He stood as auxiliary for the Duke of the Aviary until they could find his father’s body. “Are the Cinnabar Clad so callous?” He could not conceal the bitterness in his voice.

    Om the Invader answered him. “This is the way of nature. The will of Ilium.” The Invader was crowned by elephant ears growing from his skull. Wherever he stood, hydraroot and kuzu tendriled forth, overtaking the stone.

    “Forgive me, Elder Kin, but I could not help but notice the voice of Ilium is not among us.”

    Stryx the Endless broke his thoughtful silence. “In the Jade Prophet’s absence, this council rules in his stead. Our words are his.” His body was rotting wood devoured by a rainbow of fungi.

    It was Kama the Beloved who took pity on Carus. “The Forest Kin grieve for the loss of your home and people, Carus. But we must tend to our own.” Her hair was a canopy of venus fly traps and pitcher plants, her body a slow red curve. Everything about her beckoned intimacy.

    “Then tend to your own.” Carus raised his voice so that it would echo through the chamber. “The one who has the Alate is a Forest Kin.”

    The Cinnabar Clad murmured amongst themselves. “Do you have proof of this claim?”

    “I do indeed. I believe she’s quite well-known in the Green Realm; The Chimera. She’s still in Viridos, I know it.”

    “We are familiar with The Chimera and her methods.” Kama smiled knowingly at Carus, who found his face flushing.

    “Very well. We will raise the bounty on The Chimera’s head, dispatch our finest hunters to bring her here to receive Ilium’s justice.”


    The Lagoon

    It was on a moonless night when her Kaustiran finally came to her.

    Rasfien kept her distance from the cloaked man as they regarded one another in the darkness.

    “The Alate. Show it to me.” His voice was ragged, as if his lungs were filled with sand.

    Rasfien placed her hands on her hips, unwilling to make such a rookie mistake. “It’s safe. Show me my payment, first.” Her skin broke out in goosebumps and that was her only warning.

    Shadow strings laced around her limbs, her throat, lifted her up, pulled her taut. The thief’s struggles ceased when a slight vibration through the Kaustiran’s strings sent liquid fire through her nerve endings. Rasfien screamed, went limp in her bonds, before her body contorted into agonizing positions.

    “I can do this all night, my dear.” The Kaustiran whispered, he manipulated the strings around him, controlling her like a puppet. “Might as well tell me and afford yourself a quick death.”

    Tears streamed down Rasfien’s face as her arm nearly twisted from its shoulder socket. “M-My bag!” Rasfien shrieked. “The tree! Please!” The Kaustiran kept a casual hold on her strings, not ceasing her torment, as he knelt before a hollowed tree. With one hand, he drew out a parcel wrapped in black cloth. He drew the cloth back, the glow of the crystal illuminating his dark eyes.

    “Thank you my little cut purse.” He stood again, long fingers sending another vibration through his strings. “Let’s play a while longer—“A ghostly ferret emerged from within Rasfien’s clothes, baring it’s small, sharp teeth at him.

    Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

    He turned back to the hollowed tree.

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!

    A swarm of massive hornets flew at the Kaustiran, attracted by the glow of the Alate. He screamed, thrashed, lost control of the strings.

    Rasfien fled into the forest before her feet could even touch the ground.

    +++​

    The Forest Kin was in the trees high above, leaping from branch to branch.

    Rasfien runs through the forest, jumps on a branch high above, trying to catch her breath. Branch cuts out from underneath and she falls to the forest floor below. She paused for a moment to catch her breath. Surely he hadn’t caught up to her after all this way...

    “--!!”

    In the dark, she almost didn’t see the string wrap around the branch, cutting it from under her. Rasfien screamed again as she fell to the forest floor.

    +++​



    She tried to stifle her whimpers as she limped through the undergrowth. At last, she emerged onto open terrain, but her relief did not last. Rasfien stood on the edge of a sheer cliff, the waves crashing into jagged rocks far below. The Kaustiran had led her here. She was trapped.

    Chimera hissed at something over her shoulder and Rasfien turned, sobbing at the sight of the robed man emerging from the forest. He raised his hands, summoning his strings once more.

    Without another thought, Rasfien threw herself from the cliff into the waters below.

    [​IMG]

     
    #1 Tegan, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  2. They would have you believe many things of Viridos. Those propagandists and atheists; even the sages of Barvelle. We are the oldest nation, and like the monsoon rain their taunts have abided. Tree fuckers. Gardeners. Peace-lovers. They would have you believe we are wild ones, drunk on the forest, too soft to know the sweeter thrill of ambition and conquest.

    But a tree is not the tempting flowers, nor the bending branch. A river is not teardrops. In the deeper forest there are monsters, and fouler darkness beneath the green. In the Verdant Realm is evil that a Czar would shudder at; and knowledge deeper than the ice.

    There are creatures in Viridos who would tear the world asunder. And places where even Unicorns are criminals.



    Beneath the temple of Ilium, in the long depths behind the waterfalls, the Shartan Labyrinth slept. As big as Edelon above, the twisting maze knew not the holler sound of crashing water. For it was silence, deadened numb by magic. Even the air was still. And for as long as Viridos had stood this labyrinth had held its secrets, the darkest stowed in the subterranean depths, where sun would never shine.

    Here walked madmen and poisoners, the darkest fey and vilest elders. Those who had wished abomination on the world beyond, or murdered fellow elders. Those who had wedded with corruption and made embrace with pestilence. Those who had cursed the word of Ilium and forsaken all that was holy.

    Here they walked, for year upon year, lost in madness and living hell. Some had grown into stone or folded into air, to haunt the tunnels like ghosts. Others still had found delirium and pranced from path to path seeing paradise and orgy. Each soul preyed upon the next, their only release in busy cruelty. And those who whispered prayers, who filled the narrows with pleas to Ilium, were soon found out and silenced.

    In the middle of this hell, where moss grew thick and thorns bled sickness, the Unicorn Amaltas waited... and suffered for his crime.
     
    #2 Asmodeus, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  3. Buhn woke in one of the healing wards of the Riven tree. She was somewhat glad to know that the tree was still standing, but how much of it was still there she didn't know. She felt hot and sweaty. She could hear thundering in the distance. She coughed, she felt so weak, had the tree speak really taken that much energy that she felt completely drained? Or was it a combination of things? "My Buhnwanah! You are awake!" Buhn smiled, her favorite voice coming to her in the buzz of the ward. Her eyes had finally adjusted to the light, so she decided to look around. She didn't like what she saw. So many injured and or dying? Had her dome failed so badly? Or were these outsiders.

    "Excuse me... miss. But which ward is this?" Buhn had rasped as one of the nurses was running around frantically trying to get people comfortable. "Why it's the Root Ward, deary, now I shall get you something to drink my dear, you have been out cold for three day's, you must be parched. Shall I tell your visitors that you are okay and ready to see them?" Buhn looked confused, who would be visiting her? Though she just nodded, her head pounding. She wasn't sure she was going to be able to stay laying down much more, she could feel the prickly sensation of blood rushing through her legs and arms after they had fallen asleep, it was astounding to think that she had been out that long. Slowly she sat up, panting as she did so, she felt so tired, yet so awake, was it the noise around her? Or was it this new energy that she was feeling around her? Whatever it was she could figure it out later.

    Bunh smiled as she heard familiar voices heading her way.
    "She is quite strong, even though she fainted, she was still able to put in as much as she did." "I know Dilche, but part of me fears that it was too much for her at one time. Though she may have woken up this time, it took her three days to recover. I fear she never unlinked herself from the tree's energies." "It's not her fault Nardunil, it is not something that can be taught like drawing or writing. Becoming a tree singer, an Architect, takes a lot more than what we could have ever taught her." Buhn listened to the conversation slightly confused, weren't they talking about her? Had she done something wrong? She wanted to speak up but she feared it would be out of turn. Dilche was on Nardunil's shoulder which made Buhn smile, those two always got along. When they looked to her she waved.

    Buhn's eye widened as the large water kin wrapped his arms around her. "Thank Ilium! Buhn, we thought.. I thought..." Buhn blushed, Nardunil rarely showed affection in this manner. Normally a pat on the head was the most he would do. She must have really scared them. "I'm sorry Nardunil." She whispered. She couldn't think of any other way to respond but to hug him back. It was still so weird being this close to him. "I'm just glad that you woke up. None of us are really sure why you fainted." Dilche seemed less concerned and more like she was confused. Buhn could understand why. "To be honest, I hadn't been able to get much sleep for a while, and I haven't been eating right. So that might have contributed to the problem" She felt Nardunil's arms tighten. She could tell that he wanted to scold her. He had never been afraid of doing it either.

    But Dilche must have made a motion of some sort, because he loosened up.
    "Thank you for coming back to us. We'll need you to help with the small repairs that need to be done." Nardunil pulled away and looked away from Buhn, apparently uncomfortable with what he'd just done. She smiled, he always had been a fatherly figure. She nodded, once she got back on her feet, she definitely would love the distractions of work. She watched as Nardunil walked away and felt Dilche's touch on one of her fingers. "Be more careful young one, next time you may not be so lucky. Nardunil was the most worried about you, he didn't sleep for two days and kept vigil over you, making sure you were still breathing. You think you'll be able to go back to work soon?" Buhn looked at Dilche shocked and then looked at the vanishing Nardunil and smiled. He was growing too soft for his own good. "I'll most definately be able to work by mid day tomorrow." Dilche left it at that and Buhn sipped on the water the nurse had brought her.
     

  4. Unless one looks closely, it would be easy to assume that the gates of Edelon are defended by the dead. The guards stationed here lean heavily against their spears or lie slumped with their bows near to hand. Many still carry injuries and wounds from the chaos and upheaval of the last few days, and every one of them is running on fumes.

    So as the column of riders emerges from the misty forests before them, many of them initially assume that it's just the trick of an exhausted mind.

    When the call goes out, however, they are all ready to jump to their positions. Spears are set against the ground, bows are notched, swords are drawn. Tired and drained though they are, the defence of Viridos' capitol is not a task any present takes lightly. The column of horse-riders does not slow in it's advance, but at it's head a banner is raised. Even from this distance the wear and tear is apparent; this is a banner that has been raised many times, on many fields, at many battles. It bears the mark of history, a history that has been forgotten in the years since it vanished.

    It bears a sigil.

    Black cloth, marked with a white spear and a single eye. A sigil that has not been seen in the settled lands of Viridos for well over a decade.

    Uncertain glances are being shared amidst the guards now, those once unwavering spears are starting to shake. The officer on duty swallows heavily and after casting a nervous look around his fellows steps forwards. Up ahead, the column comes to a halt before the gates. There are only a few dozen in all, mostly humans and forest kin with a spattering of animas. Hard faces, worn by time, scarred by combat, all of them clad in the same dark green cloaks. Old war dogs, finally returning home.

    A single rider continues forwards, similarly clad to the rest yet even from a distance distinguished. He stops twenty metres ahead of the officer, swinging down from the horse with the ease of a being who has been doing this for a long time before striding forwards. Across his back is a longspear, under his cloak a battered set of leather armour. Though his thin, tall build and alien facial features mark him as forest kin, he is unlike his kindred in many ways; not slender and elfin but wiry and hardy, like the gnarled branch of an old tree that has stood the test of time.

    And as he comes to a halt before the guard, there is no question as to who he is.

    “I...” the officer stammers before continuing, “Welcome back to Edelon, General Tattersal. We had thought you dead--”
    “No,” Tattersal interjects, “You had hoped me dead. A crucial distinction.” He has a voice like the rumblings of an old oak, deep and sombre, the final syllable of each word leading into the next. “Never trust to hope. It is a fickle and obfuscated thing, that abandons it's promises at the first sign of trouble.” Behind him, Tattersal's loyalists have dismounted and are leading their horses forwards to the gates.
    “Forgive me, sir. It's just that no-one's heard word from you in... years.”

    The general sighs. His face is a patchwork of weather-beaten skin and wrinkles, faded traditional war tattoos only just visible beneath the scar tissue. His left eye is hidden beneath a makeshift bandage likely torn from one of the cloaks he and his men wear.
    “You are correct, and I did not return from exile to swap pleasantries with the doorman.” Suddenly Tattersal is inches from the officer, looming over him like some disapproving father figure.

    “You will take me to the Cinnabar Clad. Or you will find me someone who can.”

    It isn't a question. It isn't even a suggestion.

    It is an order, given with utter conviction.
     
  5. Somewhere in Riven, Darkgrey Still mounted on the wall of a mostly ruined study was a rather large artifact of sentimental importance. Some said it was a shield, others a clock. Regardless of its shape the thing was nothing more or less than the record of one old woman’s immediate family, enchanted shortly after the birth of her first child. Of the eighteen names around the edge only six still glowed. Of eighteen, only six still lived. Calla Marshden. One son. A granddaughter, the granddaughter’s husband, and the child born to them hours before the Aviary had fallen apart. Ayanne Marshden. Of the six of them, Ayanne was nowhere to be found. The glowing name was the only indication she still lived.

    The elders of the other branches of the Marshden family called for a meeting. Their families too had suffered great loss. Scattered over Viridos there had still been time for messages and travel. Now they convened. Though their grief was great, there were more important things to conceder. Their family would grow again. It was the will of Ilium. As in nature the saplings that survived the forest fire grew stronger for the flames.

    Ayanne Marshden, green It seemed like forever, her days spent in the brig. She had no way to keep track. Her sleep schedule had been thrown off as she put herself into drugged sleep in an effort to ignore her pain as her injuries healed. Her meals, little more than gruel, were brought to her sporadically by the Pirate named Biscuit. Other than that she was ignored.

    Ayanne supposed she should be grateful for that. She could have faced much worse. She had expected to face much worse considering the lustful threats of the pirate who had grabbed her as she ran from the decks of the Sea Wraith. She still regretted that, leaving them behind. But endless silence was the worst she faced.

    There had been a commotion some days before, and when biscuit appeared with her meal he had informed her, grudgingly, that her presence had cause some sort of captain’s duel and then pointedly refused to tell her the outcome. She still didn’t know, only that whoever it was had seen fit to leave her alone for a while.

    Shekar Ma'alin, saddlebrown The city was a mess Shekar mused as she traipsed the steps to the port and back, tail curled over one arm like a fine lady’s shawl, Nox floating behind like a ghost. She should not have expected otherwise. People crawled over the roads and ruined buildings looking for lost loves ones and belongings. Families bunched together to provide room to those who had lost their homes. The undertakers were busy, far too busy.

    Shekar praised Ilium for whatever great fortune had led her to purchase the shop at the roots of a great tree. Architect sung wood was strong, and with a tree protecting it very little debris had fallen near enough her home to give her trouble. Her store had served as shelter for those near enough to get to it. And those who had the ability had helped to use their advents to protect it further from harm. Her bandaged tail declared the truth of her own efforts. She had once had such a lovely tail. Now she feared it would bare scars. But as the refugees had protected her shop so she would shelter them and theirs. Her store now served as a camp for those who needed a place while they rebuilt. Once merchandise had been moved out of the way, and the extremely valuable locked away, they had managed to make sleeping room for 15 different families in its floor space. More had found places to camp outside under the shelter of the tree’s branches. Only the back office was reserved for business. No one objected. Her continued business, small and shady as it might be, helped keep them well supplied with food. Well there was still the lower vault, but as it wasn’t supposed to exist . . .

    Trade had all but come to a standstill as the land reeled and tried to recover from disaster. Ships arrived in port to find no home for their goods as the merchants who would have bought them were either dead, or had to put the promised payment towards rebuilding instead.

    Shekar was an exception. The goods so many had thought to profit from she could now buy for a quarter of the price. Many of the merchant vassals were desperate to leave for safer waters and many were loathed to do so without turning some profit, if they were carrying anything that would spoil at least. Some things could be kept until the prices rose but others . . . Food had to be sold before it rotted, else it had no value at all. She had mouths to feed, and they would feast on foreign delicacies leaving easier obtained foodstuffs for those who needed them. Besides, she could afford it and in the end she’d be the one to come out ahead. These people would remember her generosity and repay it later.

    Like all things with her, Shekar’s hospitality came with a price. First claim to any items of interest those she sheltered found in the debris.
     
    #5 - Falcon -, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  6. Ash of the Heartwood
    Blackness.

    The world was night, no sun could be found in this place, only peace. But even in the dark he could see shadows of a forest, it's branches waving gently in a wind he could not feel.

    “You’ll never make it to the forest, brother!”

    Ash could sense his body floating through the mysterious forest, his eyes too heavy to open but somehow he could still see everything around him. This place was majestic, beautiful in it's purity and clarity.

    “Follow the holler!”
    Small eyes of moonlight opened and closed, watching him curiously as he floated on by. Every time the eyes closed they reopened closer to him, Ash could not escape the eyes though they never got so close as to allow him to see what they were.

    “Don’t be a fool, brother!”

    It wasn't so bad being in the darkness Ash thought to himself. This was the place the world had brought him to, away from the pain and suffering.
    "You’ll have your work cut out for you, once your strength returns.”
    Pain shot through his mind and he gripped his head in defense. The eyes began to close one by one, never opening once they shut. The tree's began to lose their shape becoming pools of shadow in the area before being cut in half by a light so bright it only brought Ash misery.

    Please...don't take me back...

    *"The woods are lovely dark and deep...but I have promises to keep...and miles to go before I sleep...and miles to go before I sleep,"*
    Ash could hear his voice in those words even though he had not said them. Reality struck him and he visibly winced in pain as his eyes slowly opened.
    Ash stared at the new creature who saved him and gave Crux and Aux alike an agreeable nod as the nocturne spoke with him.
    "Thank you for taking care of the child, that's all that matters." The undertaker went to move but struggled to even sit up, his hand instinctively going for the wound but the will of his Aux stopped him.

    "Ash you need to rest, this one is right," Cora said gently as she gazed at the nocturne. Her hands shaking nervously as she stood next to Ash, it seemed like his physical pain hurt her some how. Ash stared at her for long moments before laying back in mild frustration, one can not take care of the dead if they are dead themselves.

    "Why did you save me?" he asked curiously as he tried to recall the events that lead to his blackout. The sky was falling, the avian child, the roof crashing down, the waves of people coming from all sides it was madness. But it was the Iron child that came rushing through his memories, her eyes black like coals and right as her lips opened he shouted "GET AWAY FROM ME BEAST!"

    Cora stared at him confused and concerned but in seconds Ash's eyes were focused on the nocturne.

    "We need to help the Iron Child, she has caged a monster inside of her, one that is not so easily restrained."

    *Quote from Robert Frost's "Stopping by the woods on a Snowy Evening"*
     
    #6 Saphen, May 20, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2014
  7. CHELENA-EDELON, cyan Colors flooded from the Temple of Ilium like a torrent, wild and unquenchable. They scattered into the air, a maelstrom of shades, before slowly fading from existence. Chelena studied them from a distance, body carefully folded into the shadow of a nearby building.

    Three days ago, giant pieces of the Aviary had started to fall from the sky. Chelena had been one of the few to completely escape damage, as no block had fallen on her, although there had been a couple of close calls, and all of her valuable possessions had been with her at the time, or sheltered in an underground bunkhouse where even the crushing weight of stone couldn’t reach them. However, many had not been so fortunate, and now they traveled to the Temple of Ilium as refugees, desperately looking for shelter. Chelena did not need shelter. What she did long for, though, was to finally get a chance to see what secrets the Temple held. It would be a small matter to slip in among the refugees, and then, when no one was looking at her, go plumb for its deeper treasures.

    Now she studied the distance between herself and the Temple, hesitating at a combination of things that she knew was probably going to lead to a rather uncomfortable situation for herself. Even with the blue misting of the Holler that followed her around everywhere within this city, and the occasional sudden spurts of violently bright color as more things fell from the sky to collide with the ground, the inside of the temple was much brighter. She could make out the distinct color-patterns of voices, the various shades of yellow as people twisted from side to side, dragging their feet across the stone floor.

    But she had been in louder, and she would adjust to it. No, the real problem was the pure white powder that floated through the air, faint as the path of a butterfly wing. It was the residue of her eternal enemy, and it burned her when she stepped into it. She narrowed her eyes and glowered at the sun, even though its blinding-white radiance was blocked by the earth toned shades of the building. The light came in through the temple, designed to collect sunlight. But she would be able to make it deeper in before the sudden increase in colors disoriented her too much, she was sure. And, if she could not make it, hopefully some generous soul would cover her, before the sun finally won their eternal battle.

    Chelena stood there for a moment longer, Vethe slowly coiling around her feet. The snake was a strange thing, sparking cyan, but giving none of the other usual colors that were associated with the movement of life. Still, he coiled up around her shoulders, resting his massive head on her upper arm. And then, with no obvious sign that she was walking into battle, Chelena stepped out from the shadow. She walked calmly and complacently across the opening, making for the door of the sanctuary, the only place where the tangible colors would allow her entry into the temple. But that was also the place where the intangible colors spilled out the most enthusiastically, and she wished again that the tangible colors would not prevent her body from passing through. In her backpack, small objects emitted occasional shadows of grey, where they rustled together against each other and the material of the backpack. When she pulled them out, however, they would spit out all kinds of colors, red and green and blue. It was what had attracted her to them in the first place.

    But some of these pretties would remain behind, taking the place of the things she took from within the Temple. By the time she left the colors would be balanced out. It was such a shame that most people did not value the colors the same way she did. They were attracted to the blunt colors of gold, copper, and silver, although she could somewhat understand the attractions to the gems, which held separate colors in their hearts. But Chelena wanted more life than that, wanted the things that spoke of life. If she could steal the Holler, she would, although leaving enough behind to compensate for its blue would be hard.

    Finally she made it into the shelter of the temple, neck stiff and prickling in the sunlight, many colored scarves dancing and twirling around her waist. She danced gracefully through the crowds of people. Here, at least, they were mostly not wounded. This was the place for those who had nowhere left to go, not those who were unable to go anywhere else.

    Finally she collapsed into a corner, burying her face in her hands. Some of the colors faded, and it gave her a moment to adjust. She sat there breathing, waiting for the tightness of the skin on the back of her neck to fade a bit. She had survived another battle with the sun. But her enemy was so far away that she never got a chance to strike back against it. But maybe, maybe one day they could reach a point where neither of them could touch the other, instead of their strange one-way war of the present.

    She lifted her head out of her hands once more, and breathed through the colors. And then she was on her feet, darting from shadowed point to shadowed point, making sure that no one was tracking her progress. It was time to see what the depths of the Temple of Ilium held for her.
     
  8. CLINK! CLINK! CLINK! CLINK! CLINK! CLINK!

    Every predator, insect and self-discerning tree on the northern bank of Hosia could hear the sound of metal rattling in glass. It was the noise of a perfect meal. An easy kill. However, the voice that accompanied it was indisputably fey. And most creatures knew better than to munch on creatures of the Sivgild Curse.

    "Twiglet! Twiglet! We're rich! Ah got treasure from me adventshahs! Ah battled pirates, ah did! And killed a sea serpent! And this posh slag wot talked funny gave me a kiss and loadsa mula--"

    WHUMP!

    The jingling stopped. Lying in the mud, having tripped on his cloak, Sprig the hobbler was in perfect pose, his face buried, legs splayed.... and a jar of pennies held safely above his head.

    Slowly, he got up again, keeping the jar raised high, looking left and right, untangling his foot from his mother's cloak. There was a moment of total silence.

    Then he dashed forward again.

    "We did it, Twiglet! We're millionaires! We can buy a new tree an' fancy clothes like wot they 'ave in Edelon. And Cap'n Valium says ah can be official 'obbler for the Sea Wraith, once they fix all thah bloody 'oles in it! Ah'm joinin' thah Navy, ah am! Like mam always said ah cud!"

    With uninterrupted babbling, the fairy plunged into the water around the cypress tree where he and his brother lived, the jar held high. Twiglet was no doubt still asleep, as were most in Hosia this early morning. When he and the other survivors from the sea voyage had parted ways, they had done so in a swamp-grey silence, the silhouette of the ruined Sea Wraith behind them, dark and jagged like the rocks that littered the city streets. Each had woken from a restless night. Some had dreamed of the Monolith; some had been disturbed by the street-song of priests and wailing prayers. Some had simply been too exhausted to shut their eyes.

    Ironblood was the first to go, barely looking at Sprig as she passed him the penny jar. Urgency attended her, as it did Captain Valyrin. And with the pair swift-departing there was little left to say. The group seemed to drift apart after that. Sprig had said goodbye to Khanaan and Kozoul, but as was the lot of fairies, he was overlooked by most. The goodbye was stilted, half-complete. He had trudged in silence across the rope bridges to the northern shore, and then distracted himself by counting the pennies.

    And it was then that he had realised that the coins were Maples... not Birches. Ironblood had given him TRIPLE what he was expecting.

    Sprig had run the rest of the way home.

    With a grunt, the hobbler pushed the penny jar up into the hollow of the cypress tree, rolling it across a warm bed of leaves. Then, with a beaming grin, he hoisted himself up and looked to his brother's bed. If the fat gobshite wasn't awake then Sprig would soon see to that. It was a morning for rejoicing. They would have Purple Mushrooms for breakfast and one - no, TWO - bottles of berry wine. Then it would be off Silk Street to buy the dandiest of duds, suits befitting a pair of modern gentlemen. It would be the start of a new life. And he would buy a shiny hairbrush for Molly Magpie, that Brownie girl who always winked at him from the guildmaster's hou--

    "..."

    Sprig blinked at the empty, made-up bed at the far side of the hollow.

    "...Twiglet?"

    Something fluttered against Sprig's face. He looked up and saw a sheet of paper, stuck with a sap to the top of the doorway. He pulled it down and stared at it. His brother had taught him most of the alphabet, so it only took a few minutes to decipher the message.

    S9R1G

    1 HAV GON ON A ADVENSURE

    TUK MUMS BOOTS & BAKPAK

    WILL NOT CUM BAK TIL 1 AM FAMUS

    ~ TWIGLIT

    A drop of water splashed the ink. It was starting to rain. Sprig slowly put the note aside and crawled up into the hollow.

    He sat down in the space between the two beds, pulled his cloak around him, and hugged the penny jar tight.

    The fairy's eyes stared through the doorway, out into the dark swamp, as the rain came down.

    He was alone.
     
    #8 Asmodeus, May 20, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2014
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Begis In the distant past, Begis took pride in the order of his cabin. It was a lovely little home whittled into a thin, outer branch of the great Riven tree, and saw decent traffic from the median branches. On his busy days, Begis lodged a new patient weekly. His own cottage only had room for himself, a patient, and a conjoined kitchen. Now he was lucky not to trip or step on an injured farmer or vomiting traveler. If Begis wasn't mending bones broken from battle and travel, a different sod lumbered in with a strange fungus they swore was eating their flesh. The excitement died quickly inside Begis after he lost count of how many orphans looking for food had to be shooed away, or how many times he ailed a sufferer of the pox, only to see them march to war. The rising tensions between the three nations fueled many other rivalries inside Riven.

    A small disagreement or difference in opinion before now meant feuds, duels, and townsmen chasing others off of larger branches. The forest kin in charge largely ignored any notion of human violence, as long as it didn't harm any other creature or harm the tree. Begis knew the in-fighting would only get worse as people emulated the political conflict. The increase in patients all suffered from various degrees of burns, lacerations, depression, and malnutrition. Each one complained of neighbors attacking them for goods or acting out of paranoia. Begis noted, after discussion with an alchemist friend living further south, that paranoia seemed to be running rampant in the western branches. Reports of agoraphobia and Normally the forest kin seemed keen on such happenings, but some recent event kept them fairly occupied. Begis could pay no mind to current events and rarely got the chance to leave his cabin. When the occasional need of making a trip to friendly herbalists arose, his mind could only take note of the herbs that needed restocking.

    This particular evening, Begis was tending to an elderly widower who was discovered trapped in his root cellar. Widower Grace Jameson lost his home when rocks rained through his cottage nearly a fortnight past. The falling debris splintered one of the cellar's pillars and crushed his legs. Widower Jameson's legs could not be mended, as the bone was shattered as porcelain from a high drop. Begis' elder was too frail to live through amputation, nor did he have the strength to carry himself with crutches. Widower Jameson was a kind man, even through his pain, and did his best to help. Jameson talked with other patients as they came and went. He sat in the corner, eying the house like a vigil. Begis treated the elder kindly, but sometimes failed to hide his shame. Even with his potent Healing Aura, Begis could do nothing to help the elder. No herbs could mend what little was left of his legs, no power could ease the pain of losing his home. Begis merely waited for the end.

    As the night dragged on, visitors stopped coming and Jameson grew quieter. The normally talkative elder merely stared blankly as a messenger knocked at the front door. Begis called the messenger in from the kitchen, brewing a new tonic in preparation for the coming wave of sick. The messenger came in softly, stood hunched in the tall door frame, and announced an invitation with a high-branch accent. "Merry Eventide, Begis the Healer. I come to your home as by request of Wysteria the Mystic. The good lady notes urgency of an undisclosed kind, and recommends haste in your arrival towards her home int the high, eastern branches of the great Riven Tree."

    Begis stumbled at the name Wysteria. That old codger... oblivious to the sick, as always... "Does she reveal anything other than that, my good gentlemen?" The tall, stately forest kin looked taken aback by the display of manners, in a low branch home of all places. His words sounded less refined as he replied on his exit. "No, my gentleman. Wysteria, as I'm sure you know, only tells me to invite you for the evening tomorrow. My apologies for leaving so abruptly, but I must announce other things in other places. Good evening!" The door shut just as quietly as it opened. Begis could not even to suspect what mad reason Wysteria would have for calling him. She lived high in the tree, working as an adviser inside the governing body. The two were closer at once, both studying Alchemy under Herald the Alchemist. Once gone their separate ways, Begis barely kept in touch with her.

    The question of going wasn't the problem. To ignore the summons of an adviser was rude, unsettling, and foolish. Whatever her reasons, it must be of dire events occurring. Her summons were sent by highborn forest kin, meaning it was sent within the hour. What Begis found troubling was the widower staring into the void the night continued. Leaving him alone was out of the question. Even though Jameson still retained control of his mind, it may deteriorate alongside his body. No hope seemed present with Jameson, as death slowly crept on him. As a healer, Begis was sworn to do his best to help the man. However, with no hope for recovery, Jameson was a lost cause. Jameson won't be Begis' last death, but the pain of watching him die so slowly shamed Begis more than any other blunder. Begis approached his elder, both hands glowing a gentle blue. The connection immediately eased Jameson's weary body. His face changed from blank to serene, with a toothy grin emerging. "I... apologize," Begis stammered, "My job was to help you. All I could do was prolong your suffering. Now I see the best course for you is rest." Begis stood over the elder, his hands glowing while it soothed the pain of the elder's last few years. Jameson closed his eyes and fell back from the chair. Begis now embraced the elder as he died. Between stinging tears of failure, Begis whispered to no one, "I'm so sorry... please forgive my transgressions..."
     


  10. Kozoul, Riven witch & bee keeper
    In Viridos

    When the Sea Wraith bobbed into Hosian waters, Kozoul shook off the sight of the Viridosi horizon painted orange from the fires of the Aviary's destruction and summoned a zephyr sprite to carry her to port, barely hearing the hobbler's goodbye in the rush of wind upon take off. Urgency welled up in the half kin near to bursting, the last few chunks of the Aviary sinking out of the sky over Viridos now within hearing distance, the echoing thunder of the once floating kingdom falling into the earth and setting it ablaze a sombre bass line to the frantic, rhythmic chanting blaring all over Hosia.

    Selfish half elf, you have left the forest... now in your absence the forest is destroyed, your faulty vigilance has cost all of our lives-- foolish little witch! Kin are not meant to leave the forest!

    The Hagmother Drala's voice resounded in Kozoul's mind, drowning it in guilt and frustration. The witchling's eyes darted back and forth, recalling each trauma Ironblood's party withstood on their journey to recover the relic. The zephyr sprite took her as far into Viridos as it could without stranding itself in the breezeless trees. Still gnawing on her choice of actions, the willowy half kin hurried further in until she picked up the pheromone trail of one of the Riven hive's bees. She didn't register the amount of time it took before a worker bee the size of the now broken Sea Wrath came and took her the rest of the way to Riven. She just had to get there. The bee's erratic trajectory as it approached was a chilling indicator of the effect the Aviary's destruction had on Viridos as a whole.

    *****

    The last few ounces of waking powder sifted to the side of the bottle as Kozoul tipped it out onto her palm before blowing it into a cloud, sticking her face in it as she muttered an incantation to lengthen its affects. The ride through the sooty sky was barely registered to the witchling, the vagrant specks of blackened vegetation whirling through the air and smearing her face and clothes. The giant bee touched back down on a landing parapet of the hive, no worse for wear other than spattered with black and gray spots from the ash traveling from the crash sites of the fallen Aviary. The air was still soaked in the smell of burning wood, had no news of the Aviary reached Riven it could be assumed someone was having a rather large barbecue party out in the forest. The hive, despite remaining intact was quiet save for the soft buzzing of the smaller bees carrying in pollen and bringing royal jelly to the queen, restored to her proper throne.

    "Sister Kozoul, you've returned..." a sluggish voice murmured, the half kin looked down from the bee and saw Felonne, an oaken Forest Kin. The tears tentatively skittered down her cheeks, Kozoul taking Felonne's helping hand off the bee and embraced in soft susurrus of loose leaves and billowy cloth. The sadness between them bonded and for a few moments both kin felt the deeper anguish spreading through Viridos for the fall of the Aviary. "... Come little sister, the queen will want to know you've come back to us whole and alive."

    Greeting the Riven Hivequeen sank Kozoul back into comfortable familiarity; the thoughts of the pirate fight, sea serpent, Hagmother Drala, and the sense of disquiet while they transported the monolith blurred and faded as she helped reestablish hive operations, the only break in the being her duties suspended once again for another sabbatical to check her home before journeying to Edelon to collect on Ironblood's offer for participating in the mission.

    Her home was completely unscathed being so far and so hidden deep in Riven's forest, however the projected voice of Hagmother Drala grew louder once she landed. The humungous bee she flew in on tittered away to poke around in the large bush of monk's belt flowers while the witchling packed doing her best to brush aside all the ifs, buts, and should haves in the voice of her mentor. The thorax of the enormous bee was bobbing happily in the bushes of the monk's belt flowers as Kozoul stepped out of her hovel, once again looking very much like the pack mules merchants used down in Hosia

    "Brother Brrz, I'm ready to depart." the witchling said politely, the huge bee's bopping thorax stopped stone cold and slowly moved as the insect reoriented itself to face the half kin, tightly fastening the mask made of increasingly fine bramble and moss to filter the air as she traveled, Kozoul looked down at her home as she ascended and hummed off towards Edelon's extensive herbalogical and alchemic library.

    The first pilgrimage to Edelon for any Kin, half or otherwise is usually highly treasured. For the little Riven bee keeper it would become something that she would not forget... if not treasure.






     
    #10 Kooriryu, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  11. Sixty Years Ago

    A russet-haired girl knelt over a fallen tree that was covered in a toxic black fungus. Carefully, so as not to damage the sample, she scraped the spores into a vial with her bare finger. Mistress Marshden had cautioned her against venturing so far into the poisoned forest without an escort, but her apprentice was young and half human. They both knew that the warning fell on deaf ears.

    A noise from above startled her and she gasped at the sight of a Forest Kin crouching on the fallen tree. He held one long finger to his lips, beckoning her to be silent. His wrists were raw and burnt from the broken iron shackles around them. He was an escaped prisoner.



    “You’re with the ‘Clad, right?”He whispered, motioning to the cinnabar sash around her waist, signifying her neophyte statues. “You gotta help me. He’s going to kill me—“Something flew past the girl’s head—a spear—which missed the Forest Kin by inches.

    Ironblood turned.




    Ash saw something glimmer in the nocturne’s eyes at the mention of the Iron Child, perhaps recognition. It was gone as soon as it had appeared. Her face was a moonscape of emotional features, desolate and pure. “You’re not making any sense, brother. You must rest.” Her hand, clothed in black, pressed against his broad chest, urging him back onto his bed. The nocturne was stronger than she looked.

    She was hiding something. Or perhaps too afraid to talk about it here.

    “I am Lapin of the Kindly Ones.” Lapin straightened, her right foot sliding up to her left thigh. She pressed both palms together, bowed her head. It was a mudra he had never seen before. He could not readily discern its meaning, a feeling he would become accustomed to during his stay in Edelon. The capital was different from his forest home. The language was one of silence and subtleties, the language of politicians. “I saved your life because it is the will of Ilium, Ash of the Heartwood.”

    Lapin left him in the great hall amongst the rows of the suffering.













    “What is the meaning of this?"

    The riders parted to allow the Lady Ironblood past as she ascended the ruined steps of the temple. Her right hand was tightly bound, though the reek of medicinal herbs still permeated—Kozoul’s handiwork. Her cinnabar robes had been hastily donned, she smelled of sweat and the sea, her hair held the lingering scent of gunpowder. Wherever it was the Lady had gone to, she had returned quickly.

    There was a palpable tension between the High Alchemist and Fallen General. Ironblood concealed her fear of him, though it was a pointless gesture. He knew he frightened her. Though she saw no reason to conceal her contempt and nor did Tattersal.




    Sixty Years Ago

    Ironblood stood between the emaciated Kin and the General, arms stretched out as if her slight body could prevent the impending attack.

    “Stand down, General.” The neophyte demanded, her voice a quavering pitch, on the verge of womanhood. “This fugitive has pleaded asylum with the Cinnabar Clad.” General Tattersal’s poison-blue eyes were not on her, though. They had never left the criminal standing behind her. “He will not come to harm until I hear his case.” The General’s Aux, a fearsome wolverine, snarled at the two, eliciting a high-pitched hum from her pendulum.

    “You’re not one of the ‘Clad, yet.” Tattersal growled. “I don’t take orders from snot-nosed half’kins.” He didn’t need to use his Advent to foresee what was going to happen next. The desperate Forest Kin would take her hostage, use her body as a shield. He was already poised to spring on her, snatch her up by her scrawny neck. The General would see this girl dead before he allowed her finer sensibilities get between him and his quarry.

    Before the neophyte or the quarry could react, Tattersal rushed forward, drawing a long mean knife from his belt. He sent the girl sprawling with a vicious slap before proceeding on.

    It took a few seconds for her vision to return to her, and there was a ringing in her ears. Her lip bled freely and a bruise was already forming on her cheek. Ironblood regained herself in time to witness the General slice the Forest Kin from navel to throat. The hot sap that was his blood sprayed out from the wound and spattered against her face.

    “NO!”




    “Remain at your post.” The Lady ordered the guard at the door. “I will escort former General Tattersal to the Council Hall.” The alchemist stepped past Tattersal, into the stone halls of Ilium’s temple.
     
    #11 Tegan, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: May 24, 2014
  12. There's an amused glint to the General's eye as Lady Ironblood moves to the front of the column.

    An amused glint... but no warmth to it.

    “You've grown, girl,” he remarks, an almost flippant note to his otherwise sombre, slow voice. In front of him the officer lets out a hiss of breath; talking in such a way to a ranking member of the Clad is a serious faux-pas, but the gaze of Tattersal turning onto him quickly silences any further action. There's a fearful quality to his eyes, buried deep in their lined and scarred sockets, an unspoken threat melded seamlessly with an unquestioned authority.

    Tattersal turns back to Ironblood as he slings part of his cloak back over one shoulder. “They made you High Alchemist, did they? I would offer congratulations... but I would imagine they would be belated.” Whatever history these two have between each other it's raw enough that it almost seems to be manifesting before those watching, be they the silent, stoic faces of Tattersal's loyalists or the pale, exhausted guards.

    The moment hangs, almost menacingly, for a good few seconds.

    Then finally it is broken, as the General grunts and rounds on the officer again. “Very well, you heard the Lady Ironblood. Get back to your post.” It is an order that is obeyed immediately, the officer only to happy to retreat back to the safety of his fellows away from the boogeyman who's decided to show up at the front door on today of all days. “If you would wait but a moment, I must speak with my men,” he says to Ironblood. It's a courtesy of a statement, and a half-hearted one at that; without waiting for a reply, Tattersal spins about to stride back over to his soldiers.

    The loyalists have dismounted now, ready to lead their mounts through the gates. Tattersal makes for his bannerman, a massive bear Anima with an axe and shield slung across his back.
    “Into the vipers' nest then, sir?”
    he remarks as the general approaches. This, finally, breaks the stoic frown that Tattersal has worn since he arrived at the gates, as a slight smirk etches itself across his face.
    “Try not to get bitten now, Ásbjorn. When you get inside I want you to take a few of the others and try to lose the Kindly Ones we shall inevitably have following. See if you cannot touch bases with some of our old comrades.” Ásbjorn grunts in approval.
    “Some of the soldiers will surely remember their old general.”
    “We can only hope. Each and every one of you has earned my trust ten times over, but for what is coming we need numbers.”
    “I will see it done, sir.”
    “Good man. Then I shall see you on the other side.”

    Tattersal steps back and gives the Viridos military salute, both of his wiry arms crossing to form an X across his chest. His followers do the same, a long-practised tradition before the gates of what once was their home. Without another word, the general marches back to stand next to Lady Ironblood. “After you then, High Alchemist.”


    His eyes bore into her as they begin to enter Edelon.
     
  13. The Aviary
    [​IMG]

    She staggered, her gait uncertain, head down to watch her feet and ensure they planted squarely, one before the other. It was slow progress. She moved as if drunk and used either wall for support, treading lines across red velvet.

    But it wasn't because the world was tilting. Indeed the very opposite. She staggered because the world had stopped. Gravity and gradient had become concrete things again and from this permanence she drew heaviness and bewilderment. First Valkyrie Faina Alkev had resigned herself to the Aviary's annihilation, with that certain calm that comes amid peril. And as she had dived and spun through a gauntlet of destruction she had thought this world her new one - forever whirling, forever unsound. The world beyond the Aviary.

    But now the ground had righted itself, and as she stumbled through the Palace of the First Choir, it was with that chaos drawn inside her. Adrenal calm gave way to emotions: grief, loss, terror that the sky was falling. Her thighs trembled. Her wings twitched. Glass had cut her face from where she crashed into the guardhouse, and now each laceration stung with urgency.

    At last the line of red gave way to white. The arched doors of the First Sanctum. She threw both arms against them, and spilled through into indigo and black.

    "Valkyrie Faina!" A man with owl-feathered wings turned from a circle of peers. Rushing forward, he caught the woman by the elbows as she slumped. "Why are you still here? The upper wings were told to evacuate."

    She had no answer, only shudders and as her legs gave out two more elders came to aid. A Nocturne spellcaster and an Avian of the First Choir brought her to a bench. The latter was quick to fetch a seed bag from the pillar and hold it out for her. Faina cupped her hands, a prayerful thanks, and watched the Ronaman Seeds spill out.

    "The Second Choir? The twelve Matriarchs? The rooks of the tower? Did they get out?"

    Faina nodded and scooped a handful of seeds into her mouth. The oil tasted hot and sweetness stung her tongue. "Orator, I don't... I don't understand. I feel..." She swallowed. "I feel the descent slowing, and the floors... the floors are level."

    The old Avian peered over his shoulder, at the circle of sages watching them. It seemed they had all been discussing the very same thing when the Valkyrie burst in. "We can't explain it either, Faina."

    "A storm song," insisted the Nocturne wizard. "The Riven elders must have cast a spell."

    Some murmured concurrence; others hissed denial. Then among them a Forest Elder spoke. He was moonlight skinned, hairless and oval faced. His body froze in slender arch, head tipped back, rear leg extended, arms held out with palms upturned. A mudra - the pose of questioning.

    "No. This did not come from Riven." The pose shifted, his straight leg bending to lower him. On one foot he balanced and pressed hands to his temple, a tunnel vision through which he fixed the other elders. "It is geomancy. From within."

    "He's right." An Anima tracker crouched across the chamber, one fox paw pressed to the marble floor. "There are vibrations again. Not from the Alate Staircase, though."

    "Another gravity stone?" Faina squinted through the theorizing murmurs. Her head was pounding.

    "We have none," answered the Orator. "The Alate is unique."

    "As is our mysterious benefactor," the Forest Kin chuckled.

    In the upper rafters of the Sanctum, another voice spoke. An ancient Avian, with bat wings hung like wrinkled shrouds, squinted to the chamber dome, where storm clouds mauled the sunlight. "The East Wind draws near. We are bound for the Prosperos."

    Faina breathed deep to keep her heart from thumping. Crashing in the jungle had been a terror of its own, but at least with that there was chance of salvage, of picking through the ruins and retrieving what was lost. But should they plunge into the Prosperos... should chilling water flood the towers and swallow the rookeries. Should the city of the sky regents sink into deep darkness... it was annihilation too final to imagine.

    "Ancestors watch over us..."

    The winged woman prayed for angels, and whispered thanks to the phantom who was keeping her city stable.
     
    #13 Asmodeus, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
  14. Memento - Three Days Past
    Part One - Reunion
    [​IMG]
    She found him on the old bench outside of his workshop, like he'd been waiting for her. Once she was close enough, he stood and went inside, and she followed without a word, the two of them dancing through the chaos like they'd been practicing for years.

    Inside, the room was cold and quiet and smelled of dust. A welcome change, she supposed, to the smoky cacophony the rest of the city had become.

    He did not look up as she entered, but she could hear the wry smile in his voice.

    "I knew they would send you."

    "No one sent me." She scowled. "Strange greeting for a decade past." He seemed not to hear her. There was no answer save for another crash outside. The floor tilted abruptly to the left. A broom leaning against the wall clattered to the floor. She flared her wings to keep her balance, wincing at sore muscles. It had been a long time since she'd left her companions retching on the sea.

    When still he gave no indication of even turning around, she exhaled shortly. Fear masked as irritation.

    "You mean to die here?"

    "Eventually, yes."

    "You know what I mean."

    "Precisely, my dear. I'd rather hoped you'd meant to join me."

    "Here I am."

    "I'd meant in death, sweet daughter. You can die here, too."


    Aerie - The Aviary, darkred She woke to his lullaby, though not in his voice.

    She was not sure if that made it better or worse.

    Aerie opened her eyes to fire, smoke, and glass -- chaos...though not, perhaps, as it had been. Inches over her head, a pair of wide eyes peered through the dark.

    "Make a lot of friends that way, do you?" Her voice was hoarse, unrecognizable. Then again, her hearing was muffled. She coughed and winced at the sensation. The child stepped closer, apparently undaunted by the hapless threat Aerie represented.

    Aerie scowled and sat up. She'd never liked children. They were entirely too naive for her taste. What was the point of a ribald riposte if your counter was only going to wail at you?

    "...right, then. Well, don't mind me, I'm only off to save the -- of all the bloody -- "

    She did, however, have the sense to sensor herself, if a bit late, quickly shoving the ball of her palm into her mouth to keep from screaming, though there was nothing she could do about the way her eyes suddenly watered. She gasped, winced, exhaled, then winced again as she tried to move her wings once more, a bit more slowly this time.

    Now the child spoke.

    "You fell a long time," said the little Avian, very matter-of-factly, lifting one tiny hand to point. Aerie looked over her shoulder where one dual-toned wing hung at a grotesque angle, careful to keep the sudden trill of terror from her face. She wasn't sure at first whether to be fascinated or nauseated.

    Her stomach quickly made the decision for her.

    When she sat back up again, her throat burning, she found the child staring at her, having come another step closer, as if watching someone vomit was the most magical thing she'd seen in her life.

    Aerie's scowl deepened.

    "What?" Her head hurt. Her back hurt. Her side hurt. Her left wing really hurt. She was in no mood for babysitting. And, if memory served her, there were quite a few more pressing things going on...

    Suddenly panicked, she began to search around her, pain momentarily forgotten as her heart slowly crept into her throat to join her stomach. It was a long, terrifying moment before Aerie looked up to see the child holding the box out to her. Aerie stared a moment, suspicious, hopeful, then snatched it away.

    "Do you do everything this slowly?" The child said nothing. Aerie sighed and tried to sound friendlier. "What if I say you're not as silly as you look?" A beat of silence. A bottom lip quivering, a quick inhale --

    "Oh, alright," Aerie ceded. "Thank you. Okay?"

    The child hesitated, as if weighing the relative benefits of tears to acquiescence. Finally, she nodded, sniffing. Aerie sighed again, relieved, still holding the -- box in her lap. Slowly, she shifted, once more trying to move her broken wing. Once more, she emptied her stomach on the cold stone floor beneath her.

    "Wonderful," she muttered. "Where's Merrick when you need him?"

    The question had been meant in jest -- as if anyone could want the uptight mage anywhere nearby at any time, ever -- but it did raise other, more serious queries. Where were the rest of their star-crossed convoy? Were they faring better than Aerie? When would they meet up again, and just what exactly would she tell them? After all, she'd done a well enough job keeping her secret from everyone else...

    She turned to the child who still stared silently, small dove wings peeking over her shoulders, ruffled but whole. Lucky brat.

    "Where are we?" A shrug. "Where did you come from?" She pointed, somewhere off into the darkness behind her that meant nothing without context. Aerie struggled to keep her temper in check. "Where are your parents?" No answer, save for another wave of tears, and these, Aerie suspected, would not be waylaid so easily.

    Bracing herself, Aerie stood, and without so much as looking at the child, put a hand out to the girl, dragging a wing painfully, pathetically behind her.

    When the girl child didn't follow immediately, Aerie turned around, impatient. "Well? Are you coming?" No answer. Further hesitation, but tears had been replaced with curiosity.

    "I'm going to leave you."

    That did it. When Aerie turned back toward the low flight of stairs hiding in the dusky darkness, it was with one small hand clasped in hers.

    The other clutched the remains of their civilization.
     
    #14 DotCom, May 22, 2014
    Last edited: May 24, 2014
    • Love Love x 1

  15. Hey Charlie, silver
    The sky is falling, the sounds tried to say.

    The sky is falling, pity the shartan has its way.

    But if Amaltas had somehow heard the crash and the fire and the wails through the silencing power of the infinite labyrinth...

    He would have prayed.

    For it to kill them all.

    ...
    Hammering hooves, like raw steel upon stone. Although the thunder remained unheard, the reverberations were still very much felt.

    The rabble who still had their wits about them scattered.

    And the Unicorn turned the corner, a huge stallion of a fey that dwarfed even the largest of the great draft horses. He had clearly seen better days; his black-white coat had lost its luster, his horn cultivating a bit of rot along the edges. His glowing white eyes staring into the darkness ahead as he trotted slowly along.

    He hated it. He hated it all.

    And that was what made it work.

    Spite kept him moving. Spite kept him strong and moving when the hunt gave him no joy in this place. Spite kept him from the stone, and spite kept him from joining the shades. Spite kept him whole even as his body hadn't touched sunlight in what could have been a month or a year or forever. Spite kept him breathing in the stale air. Spite kept him sane, perhaps dangerously so, but sane nonetheless. Spite kept him focused on the expansion of his hunting grounds, of his little corner in this very, very big maze.

    Spite kept him alive in every sense of the word.

    And alive meant he had to keep moving, and kept hunting.

    On parchment, Amaltas had simply traded one jungle for another: lots of dangerous things, territorial disputes, the singular quest for survival. So when he thrashed and fought and was laid low and shackled in greatvines and black thorns and awakening in the Labyrinth, he thought, after a brief moment of panic: Oh, alright.

    In
    practice, however...

    There were alphas in the jungle. Here? Everyone lost.

    Even the winners.

    They were each other's executioners. Didn't really need to kill each other, even. Injuries stacked. Damage culminated. But the worst part? When there was nothing left to kill, when the focus shifted away from foe to emptiness, where the
    labyrinth could root its way into you, where you descend into greater acts of depravity to fend it off. And then, nothing.

    How long before that happened to him?

    How long before he succumbed?

    His aux, Nadia, had been resting on his back for some time now. She hadn't moved in awhile. She stopped flying a few days ago. She was usually the chirpy sort, and to see her dwindle like this...

    That wasn't a good sign.

    That wasn't a good sign at all.

     
    #15 Pastor ćhoi, May 22, 2014
    Last edited: May 22, 2014
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 2
    • Love Love x 1
  16. Hosia – 'The Institute of Herbal Medicines', limegreen


    "Feh! Hurry! Hurry!!!" Teadoir screechs at his pupils. Masked faces dressed in the purple and gold robes haste back and forth. The cellar to the main house of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Hosia is about to be filled with plants, bags, barrels and jugs holding herbal powder, and piles of books containing remedial recipes. To be kept hidden from the infernal destructions.

    One pupil stops in his rythm of carrying valuables up and down the stairs to cover his mouth as he coughs.

    "Fercockt..." Hakim* Teadoir curses, Herbal Minister of Hosia, Chief Herbal Master of the Institute, meets the troubled student, holding him the way a worried mother holds her child. "You have to go..."

    "I'll be fine, I want to help..." His voice has a raspy tone.

    Teadoir does not answer him directly, but addresses everyone in the cellar.

    "STUDENTS! I ORDER YOU TO LEAVE! Hakim Neala and I will make the final preparations..."

    There are but twenty students plus Hakim Teadoir and Hakim Neala left on the school grounds now. The majority of the faculty have spread over Hosia and neighboring settlements to aid in the rescue of Viridos.

    ***

    "Quickly! We don't have much time!" Hakim Neala spreads a grayish powder on the soil. Teadoir follows in her footsteps carrying a large barrel containing said powder. Around the main house, around the sleeping quarters, the faculty hall, now the entire school's turf has been secured with a herbal powder that should fend of any fire that comes this way.

    "That should do it!" The nocturne Hakim Neala said facing up to Teadoir.

    "Let us hope nothing comes crushing from up above..." Teadoir says before Neala shoots in with surprising calmness in her voice "It is the will of Ilium."

    "The will of Ilium." Teadoir replies, they both smile honestly. He slings his personal herbal collection over his back.

    "I have to see to my estate! I will meet the rest of you here tomorrow!"

    They depart one another in different directions.


    *Hakim is a formal title.
     
  17. CHELENA-EDELON, cyan The inside of the temple was the color of smoke. The air was slow moving, and at many places the only interruption was the occasional echoes of the crowd that had built out front, or the white dust that spilled from the torches. Chelena moved slowly and carefully, intent upon the colors that came from her own body. It was impossible for her to turn completely invisible, but she could do much to heighten it, enough so that an unobservant passerby might overlook her. The colors that emerged when her feet struck the ground were only the faintest whispers. Most of it was a deep blue that settled into her own foot, a color Chelena had never seen anywhere else but in her own body, and only then when she was in contact with stone, ice, or something similar. But there was still fairy dust that arose when her foot brushed the ground, her hair touched against her shoulders, the scarves wrapped around her waist rubbed against each other or her own leg. The only one she had ever known who could move without leaving a trace of color was Vethe and his like. But that was one secret that Vethe could not share with her, although he would if he could.

    It had not been hard to leave the room of refugees undetected. Misery made people self centered. They were far too concerned with tending to their depressions to notice what anyone else was doing. Then again, she could not blame them. She had found few who were as observant as her. Those she had to be more cautious around were the ones who circled the refugees, the lines of their faces almost completely hid behind masks. The Kindly Ones had never been so kindly in Chelena’s experience. They never took kindly to her trades, that was for sure. But she longed to see what secrets the temple held, and, if they caught her, she could always flee.

    The first few corridors of the temple were rather empty. There was a golden pot, one that she had run her fingers over with some pleasure. She had considered taking it, but has quickly rejected the idea. She had equally fine things in her pack, and if she was going to take something from the temple, it had to be special.

    And so she wound her way deeper into the temple, working to be nothing more than a memory on the floors and walls. Chelena was drawn on inexorably, certain that the thing towards which she traveled was going to be marvelous, beautiful. It was going to be something that would change her life forever.

    She couldn’t wait.
     
  18. Ash of the Heartwood Ash's eyes lit up at the mention of the Kindly Ones. Lapin was one of the protectors of the Prophet himself and yet even with this knowledge he knew so little about her. The mudra she performed was confusing at best, her stance was perfect and practiced and so he knew it was one of importance. Ash and Cora trusted the Prophet with all their heart but Ash was not so easily persuaded by others.

    Ash was not a shrewd politician of any sort but he could sense a shroud of forced silence in her and so he let the matter go, allowing her to gently push him into a laying position. His eyes focused on her with great intensity, if anything could be said of Ash it was his instincts were strong and his weariness of others even stronger.

    Cora in her jealousy mistook his gaze for that of desire flashing a look of frustration at the undertaker before vanishing into his body. Ash would have calmed her down but there was too much danger to seem divided around strangers. Once the Nocturne left Ash thought to Cora
    We need to be weary of this place and it's people.

    Oh I am sorry were you talking to me? Why not talk to your new friend Lap- her words got cut off as a small glimmer floated past them. An Avian male had expired, his aux was returning to Ilium and both of them looked upon the fading shimmer with sadness. The Aux was a strange creature, it's body was human but it's wings were insect like. It's gaze turned to Ash, nodding in understanding as it returned home...the little creature knew it was time.

    Ash stood up slowly and suddenly all jealous thoughts faded from Cora as she felt his pain piercing through him.
    You are not well she thought to him but Ash slowly got on his feet, hooves clacking gently against the stone ground before he walked over to dead Avian. The man was handsome, dark brown hair flowing down his back and a strong muscular frame. His age was young, maybe twenty cycles at best, and his skin was as fair as the day he was born.

    The undertaker's grey skin was a dark and foreboding contrast as he picked up the man, making sure his wings rested gently in his arms before he began to walk towards the crypts.

    For many it may have been difficult to find the Crypts but Ash could understand the symbols on the walls, wards and protections from death itself were a clear indicator of such a place. To most the temple itself would be the sight of beauty and wonderment but it was the steep descending steps of the Crypts that held the undertaker's attention.

    Cora slid out beside him and stared at the architecture, walls of grey smooth marble spiraled with the staircase as they descended deeper. Statues of famous Kin stood in their immortal glory every thirty two steps, Cora had counted, their gaze followed them in a haunting fashion before they finally reached the bottom. It wasn't until they past the last statue that Cora realized they were all created by living tree's, their grey color easily mistaken with that of the marble walls.

    Two living tree's guarded the lower entrance, their branches were sharp and covered in thorns that shook as they approached. These tree's were bathed in pure sunlight, two openings above them allowed it to shine through and both green leaf and brown trunk appeared vibrant and strong.

    Ash held the body before them, his right hand moving to the Avian's forehead and in a single motion closed his eyes. The trees suddenly retreated, their roots never moving but their branches lifting high to allow them passage. The mudra for death was a common one in many crypts and was a universal sign of putting the creatures of Ilium to rest.

    Ash continued to walk forward, Cora staring curiously at the living guards before one shook a branch in anger at the Aux, causing her to scamper closer to Ash. Ash could only smile, she always forgot that nothing of this world could harm her.

    The resting place was indeed full of the dead, just as Lapin had said, their bodies lined up in rows awaiting their proper burial. There must have been twenty or so undertakers working around the clock to give them their final comforts.

    Each undertaker wore a black robe, a large hood over their heads to hide their face but that was not all. Their faces were also covered in black masks, made of a unique stone that was called obsidian. The mask had no features on it, it's creators simply smoothed the stone into a flat surface. It gave them the appearance of having no face at all and when one tried to look closer to see past the barrier the only person they saw was their reflection. Obsidian was the sap of death Ash had once read, it spoke of the void and the peace that everyone would enjoy. Death was the great gift given to us all the writer continued and Obsidian was it's vessel.

    Ash walked closer to them as a couple of undertakers took the Avian from him with an agreeable nod, this was not the first time he had been to this crypt but it had been a while since his last visit. They took the young avian and Ash followed closely behind, Cora stayed close to him in the Crypt itself. This was holy ground and Crux and Aux alike knew it's purpose and it's importance.

    Once they were past the main hall they turned down a side hall, which even though it wasn't the main pathway it was just as large as the first. Ash and Cora could see tree's on either side of the hall, they were all lined up in long rows and the sunlight that gave them life was a strange silver hue. Cora looked up to see that obsidian windows covered the ceiling, each one shaped like a diamond. This allowed the dead their beautiful darkness but also allowed the trees their nourishment.

    Only Forest Kin really knew that the colors of the trees changed because of the type of sunlight they fed upon. Those that fed on the light forged from obsidian grew up with white trunks and leaves black as night. Many believed this was the living expression of life and death. Black leaves constantly withered and fell around the tree, creating a black blanket around it's base. The leaves grew back just as quickly, this was the ceremony that married Spring and Fall eternally.

    Ash watched them pull out large obsidian scythes, their blades attached to the top of black heart wood staffs. The blade stretched out in a long curve that quickly vanished as they pierced the trunk of a tree. Even before they had cut into the tree their appeared to be a unique door shape on the trunk, this was because they opened and sealed these trees to tend to those that rested here.

    Once the door was recreated they opened the tree, a young child was already resting in this tree, it was the Avian child from before. Lapin had once again done what she said and it occurred to Ash that they only placed multiple bodies in the same tree if they were family. The avian man might well have been her father or older brother but there was no visible signs of a struggle on his body...he had died of internal bleeding. Ash could only surmise that he was killed by falling debris well before the child. The child must have managed to make it to the ground before she was crushed by the structure.


    Both Avian...Ash realized as he watched the undertakers place the child in the adult's embrace.

    Did something happen to the great Avian city above?

    Ash decided he had more questions for Lapin as he turned away from the tree to find her.
     
  19. The White Empress three days prior
    Have you heard of lel primúta zmeya?
    I didn't think you would have. It is a dead language.

    Dragon's Revenge.
    The Zmeya are more than fearsome beasts. There are those who venerate them as gods, givers of life.
    They live their entire lives as carrion nomads, entire generations following the migratory paths of a single line of dragons,
    Defending her nest,
    Fashioning weapons and tools from her shed scales and claws,
    Making everlasting fuel from her shit,
    Looting the ashen remains of her meal of civilizations,
    Protecting her and her clutch.
    They have known no other life, and if Zmeya and her clutch are slain, they are nothing.
    They will stop at nothing to avenge the death of their god,
    Simply killing the offender will not be enough.
    They will work to destroy everything the slayer has ever built,
    Ever loved.
    And they cannot die until their revenge is complete.

    Let us hope that your Blue Republic is prepared for the consequences.




    The bard found Medwick on the deck of the White Empress, staring at the column of black smoke on the horizon. They did not speak right away. The Pegulian Sage had said little since his Avian companion had flown the coop without so much as a goodbye. Perhaps the void of a man could still feel sentiments of betrayal and remorse, after all.
    "Dark times ahead for you, Northmensch."
    "Hn..."
    "You are no longer among your men of reason. Tread quietly, avoid large sticks, and find a Hosian guide." The last piece of advice was said with a kind of desperate fervor Medwick had yet to hear from the bard. "Otherwise, you will not last one night in the Poisoned Land."

    There was no sound between them once more, save for the crashing of the waves and the shouts of the sailors. Ahead, the coast of Viridos slowly began to materialize.
    "We started this expedition with fifty good men."

    "And now we are three."


    "I had thought three was a sacred number to you sages."
     
    #19 Tegan, May 22, 2014
    Last edited: May 22, 2014
  20. Approaching Viridos
    [​IMG]

    Three Nations. Three centuries since the Cataclysm. Three injuries suffered by Medwick. Three messengers sent to warn of the Ghoul Sage. Three weeks since they had begun.

    Three travellers left on the Prosperos Quest.

    That sacred number had turned profane.

    By the second day they accepted that Aerie was not coming back. They had looked for her body in the waves and for predators in the air. But there was none. And when Medwick spoke with the first mate of spores and arcane storms, he learned nothing that would be of danger to the Avian. In the end, the answer was simple. Aerie had always said that she was with them till a better offer came along. It was the way of Avians, as the stories told. They were finite. They always flew away in the end.

    And yet... it was a death more wounding than those before. When Kana fell in the mountains; when Ethel turned back to Barvelle; when Tegol, Resmic and Arcantos rode off with their messages - they had done so with the fellowship sacrosanct. They had died or departed with the quest in their blood. In duty's name.

    For Aerie to desert them at the midpoint of their journey... it was a deed that blackened all before it. The words shared, the comfort given, the struggle through mountain, snow and moorland - it lost all meaning now. They had saved each others lives. Yet it was not enough to keep her.

    "Glyph..."

    The mage's words were heavy mourning. Allergies had swollen his airways; his breaths were shallow. "If I can't..." He wheezed. "If I can't bring the Weapons home..." Another breath. "...should I destroy them?"

    The context lay ahead. Through purple mists, cloaking morning, the northwest stretch of the Prosperos gave way to jungle. The Poisoned Land was before them, an unknown shore where colours more vivid than any Pegulian palette glimmered. Greens, blues, red and yellows - a child's painting of sprawling propagation. They were headed for a cliffside cove, where weird houses smoked and streets echoed with the babble of foreign tongues.

    An alien shore... where gods still ruled. A jungle soaked in reverence to the greater cosmos. Here they would need to find a deep-sea vessel, and navigate to the uncharted southern Prosperos, to dive for the armoury of the Cataclysm. And they would not prevail without the aid of these worshipers, these followers of the fates.

    Medwick asked his question for all of Viridos. For all who depended on the ruins of the divine.

    "If you deny men means to kill each other, they will only seek elsewhere," Glyph watched his hedgehog Aux crawl tentatively along the deck railing, to where Medwick's crow was perched. "When the time comes, Northmentsh, it will not be a question of how you use the armoury, but of how it uses you. You are playing a game where choices are taken from you. That is the shtick of quests."

    The hedgehog sniffed at the crow, which gave a single, flapping squawk.

    "So shalom, my friend. You will do what you will do."

    Glyph's smile teased a mirror in Medwick. "One day, old man, you will give me a straight answer."

    The crow pecked the hedgehog and the two Aux sat to stare at one another. The old man put his hand on the mage's shoulder and watched the nearing shoreline.

    "And on that day, we shall reach the end of all our journeys."
     
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