Viridos, Chapter 4

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  1. Chapter 3 Epilogue

    Gravity’s Rainbow

    Three Days Later

    It was the Northern Architects who shaped the secret passageways of Barvelle. It is they who can save the avian city. The price of their commission is steep, my eldest.

    There was no way of knowing how deep he had gone, guided by Ilium’s delirium. He had not felt the sun in days. Kairos’ communion with the Architects passed in and out of dreamtime and waking. In this place, the border between the two was blurred, practically nonexistent.

    They bled him dry into a stone mortar and fed the life fluids into their stone heart which began to beat for the first time in a century as they chanted.


    The Prisma Strata lay twenty miles west of the border of Aldus and the Poison Forest. Until now, it had served as a landmark of the borders of the Green Realm and Blue Republic. But on this day, its staggering beauty was eclipsed by the careening Aviary and the storms that raged around it. Within the Alate Staircase, the Key to the Sky, the stone Aerie’s father had created, shattered. Their time was up.

    Somewhere, in the jungle, a tiger stopped in its tracks.

    The earth shook, then quaked, and from the Prisma Strata, a dozen titan hands rose to meet the city. The embrace of stone signaled thunder clash and castrophany heard all the way in space. When the dust and storm clouds at last cleared, all was still and silent again.

    In the center of the Prisma Strata, the Aviary perched upon the titan mountain.
    #1 Tegan, Jun 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
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  2. Chapter 4

    A Murder of Merchants


    Captain Valyrin sat in the officer’s barracks, nursing a tumbler of absence; a milky green spirit distilled from common herbs. A rare moment of repose since the calamity. Every able soldier had been on full alert for seven days. Every waking moment was spent patrolling the now closed borders, dredging bodies from the Prosperos, clearing debris, rescuing the wounded... His men were worn thin and Valyrin himself had not slept in days.

    But in these brief, precious moments of rest, it was not sleep that occupied his mind. It was Ozzimus.

    The information given to him by the three captains was troubling. The pirates who had sabotaged and attacked his crew were none other than Requiem and Ozzimus Lorados. For why and whom they had stolen the Grieve Mask was still a mystery. From the tormented lips of his prisoners, Valyrin had learned that Ozzimus was often contracted by Hosian merchants to sabotage the efforts of their competitors in Avarath. He laundered his profits through unnamed contacts in the Merchant’s Guild and his own investments. But, whomever was aiding the privateer in his endeavors was covering their tracks well. Valyrin had not been able to identify a single suspect. Yet.

    Ozzimus had been a known White Claudia addict; a drug known for increasing the mental dexterity and concentration in its users. It was often favored by captains and sages. Though long term use resulted in madness and delusions of grandeur. That had explained his volatile behavior as of late.

    Valyrin blinked, forcing himself awake when he felt his eyelids begin to droop.

    There was no rest for the wicked or the righteous who dogged their steps.


    Edelonian’s clamored for a standing space in Ilium’s round hall to witness the trial of the High Alchemist, the Kindly One, the Undertaker and the Forest Guardian. The accused stood in the center, surrounded by arcane wards and armed Kindly Ones, while the Cinnabar Clad and the General Tattersal held the proceedings. It was Om the Invader who acted as magistrate in the absence of the Prophet. The invasive forest kin’s hydraroot tendrils rooted into the ground he stood upon.

    “High Alchemist Ironblood, you stand accused of aiding the criminal Amaltas' escape the Shartan Labyrinth. How do you plead?”


    “According to your testimony, you did so in the hopes that his skills as a Darkbanist would rid you of the Grievous sealed within your Crux.”


    “And was he successful?”


    “No one appreciates your brevity more than I, Lady Ironblood, but for the sake of clarity, elaborate.”

    “Amaltas’s magics were enough to balm my immunity against the Grievous’ influence, but despite his best efforts, he was not able to purify it. He has given me time.”

    “You immediately enlisted the aid of an Undertaker and a Kindly One to traverse the labyrinth, but you did not alert the Clad.”

    “The situation was urgent and the Clad could not spare the resources. They were stretched thin enough with the destruction dealt by the Aviary and of the sudden appearance of General Tattersal and his armed men at the Temple steps.”

    “We are not here to discuss the General’s actions. We are here to discuss yours.”

    “Forgive me if my words seem impertinent. I was merely relaying my thought process at the time.”

    “And your ‘thought process’ allowed you to reason that because the Jade Prophet bid you recruit specialists to retrieve the Monolith that you could act with impunity?”

    “Respectfully, I reasoned that it would be easier for both parties were I to beg forgiveness than permission.”

    Ironblood’s expression remained impassive as a murmur swept over the round hall, even when she heard the words ‘typical half’kin logic.’

    “This is indeed a disturbing turn of events, Lady Ironblood.”

    “Ash of the Heartwood. According to your testimony, you were the last to see the Jade Prophet before his disappearance and he tasked you with aiding the Lady. Have you any proof of this claim?”
    #2 Tegan, Jun 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
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  3. [​IMG]

    "Sap sucker!" The curse slid through her lips unbidden. A bead of sweat had fallen from her nose upon a blade she was polishing. She did not know that the salts in the liquid were what ruined the finish, but she did know that she would have to start all over again. Her hair-aux curled in frustration.

    Naya reached for a bottle of grey liquid. The finest silt, dredged from the surface of mud that lay in the stillest of ponds. The particles were ultra-fine, and combined with a small amount of baked limestone and soda ash, produced a dissolving polish that could take off the thinnest layer of metal. Ten minutes later, and she had a clean slate to work from. Again.

    She sighed, and placed the edge of the blade against a giant whetstone. The honing of such a large blade was an awkward process, her entire body swaying in motion as she ground metal off the saber. Back and forth. Back and forth.

    There, done.



    "Yes. Bear the heat." The bar of metal glowed in the golden-yellow fire of Cinnabar heartwood, red and purple sparks flying from the coals. Impurities in the wood wormed their way into the metal, imbuing it with other-worldly hardness, yet flex. Only the finest, purest Dorgrad iron could be used in the production of Kindly Sabers.

    "Hammer with courage." The weight of the hammer was almost too much for one arm, but she swung it down, each blow ringing through her joints, the other arm struggling with the tongs that held it over the anvil.

    "Back to the heat." She hefted it onto the coals once again. "Pump the bellows, watch it until the iron is white hot!"

    "Plunge it into the oil, quick!" The oil hissed and spat tongues of flame. The sparks singed her apron.

    "Now .. temper it." The now golden steel glowed a dull red.

    She held it in front of her, her hair-aux shrinking to a boy's cut, scraggy and waif-like. She cringed against the heat, but peaked out of one eye. At that time, she swore she saw herself reflected from the blade, and the metal became her became the metal became her became one, a single entity forged in the furnace.

    Khanaan stood behind her, nodding with approval.


    "S-SAP SUCKER!" Her hair swiffed forward, trying to block her eyes, but the tear fell through the ethereal strands onto the tip of the blade. She would have to polish that part, again.
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  4. Aviary
    The first day was lost to wonder. The survivors of the Aviary crawled to cliffside edges, peered from porticos and leant from towers. They gazed in wonder at the mountain which had caught them. A tower of twisting arms and hands, carved of living rock. And beyond it the mineral rainbow of the Prisma Strata, the rocklands north of the poisoned forest. It was a day of dizziness. The avians had known only weightless rock and its shroud of air. Now they were still. Now they were situated. In this new geography it took a day to accept - to not go mad or void the stomach.

    On the second day the relief effort began. Most of the city wings had been decimated, temples cracked in two and roadways shattered. One half of a cathedral would be found a mile below on a different bedrock. Ruptured sewage systems had turned to waterfalls and rivers. Great breaches would be found where towers skewered upwards through the chambers on landing. It was an alien world; a transformed world. And it was full of bodies. It took till nightfall for scouts to draw a map.

    On the third day an expedition of valkyries set out. They spiralled for the valley floor and came to fearful landing on the titan spire. It was as they suspected - solid rock carved like one colossal statue. As wide and twisting as the Riven Tree, its hands were splayed to hold the underbelly of the Aviary. And where it touched the rock was fused. Plants were already growing, birds making nests, and osmosis drawing water to the city above.

    It was perfect providence. Some among the valkyries dropped to their knees and kissed the stone, knowing in their hearts that it was the work of the Jade Prophet. The will of Ilium.

    On the fourth day government was restored in the Chapel of the First Choir, and dictates given to focus on the relief effort. It was ruled that scouts would not be sent to fetch the refugees until all the dead were buried. No avian could be spared in these troubled times.

    And by the fifth morning, on the balconies of the Clerestory Wing, they gave thanks to their more mortal saviours.


    "Aerie Vunrii. For services beneath the bearing wind; for valour close unto the sun. For sparing this city from the ocean and from collision with its sisters. For bleeding and enduring when all else fled. You have our eternal thanks. May your legacy be written in the halls of angels, your children be strong, your memory eternal. Ancestors' blessing upon you."

    From the balconies and balustrades rang thunderous applause. The Orator placed the laurel crown on Aerie's head. It slipped slightly and tangled in her hair. She wore it with a scowl and a twitch of disbelief. The Legacy Laurel was a cherished artifact to avians, a wreath of knitted twigs that signified great deeds. When a second was added it would fuse with the first and take on subtle variations. Many heroes wore them in the Aviary, and those with the most honours bore the most intricate and beautiful of laurels.

    To either side of Aerie, her fellow saviours were likewise crowned. Adelita, Nyashi, Kozoul and Begis. Five bewildered heroes at the centre of attention, hailed and applauded for their deeds.

    "Where's that annoying girl?" Aerie hissed through the side of her mouth at Begis.


    "Yeah, Bunnywalker. Whatever."

    "She left last night," the healer hissed back. "Said she didn't want to get involved."

    "I should have thought of that." Aerie tugged at the laurel as it snagged her curls.

    Having placed the last crown upon Adelita, the owl-winged Orator moved to edge of the balcony and raised his arms for quiet. "We owe these five the freedom of our city and the thanks of our people. But moreover, we owe it to ourselves now, to rebuild what we have lost. The towers must be raised anew and the streets re-paved. And more than this we must rebuild our bloodlines and ensure the survival of our dynasties. Now is the time for love. The time for marriage and the birth of children."

    He pointed across the gorge, to the opposite promenade where Master Elias stood. "For his courage and his ingenuity, we hail Master Elias Vunrii, and welcome him to the First Choir. To him will go the honour of the first marriage. May his bloodline prosper, and his sons be strong!"

    The crowd roared and the old inventor winked across the gorge at Aerie. Then he reached out and took the hand of Faina, the valkyrie. She was stood beside him, armour covered by a white bridal robe. Whether it was terror or duty on her face, none would know. She bore it stoically, and raised her hand in time with Elias.

    "Great!" Aerie muttered. "A mother who's five years older than me."

    Further down the line, Kozoul sniggered, and her laurel dropped down over her eyes.

    "The first of many unions. We shall make our families strong." The Orator smiled to Nyashi's mother, who sat with the Avian child, Keeva at the edge of balcony, close to where the Great Bees hovered. They were framed by the mountainous borders of Viridos, where the wall of Aldus was a distant glint.

    "So many have many been lost. But we shall replace those numbers and be strong again. My esteemed heroes..." He bowed to Adelita, Nyashi and Aerie. "...Your choice is next." The Orator waved his arm to the balconies around them, where lean-muscled men with fresh-groomed wings were jostling to be seen. "You may have your pick of the finest males. Choose a husband and make a dynasty of your own. The honour is yours."

    Nyashi and Adelita widened their eyes.

    And Aerie scowled harder.

    "That's our cue to leave."
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  5. Fuck knows where
    If there is one thing that unites the people of Sunne, one condition that is universal to the races, one state that must be embraced with grace and humility by all who suffer it... is the condition of being lost.


    "You mean to tell me NEITHER of you has an ability that allows you to detect True North?" Medwick spun as he walked and waved his arms at his two companions.

    "I use the sun." Shardis shrugged. Even now, her fur seemed wet, as if she had only pulled them from the river a moment ago. But in truth she was becoming slick with sweat and the sap of strange spores that filled in the air.

    "A wonderful epistemology!" Medwick retorted. "Were it not that there are TWO FUCKING SUNS IN THIS COUNTRY!" He pointed his falchion to the tangled canopy, where two orbs of sunlight shone at opposite ends of the horizon.

    "A trick." Caoimhe murmured. She had been walking like a nervous animal, head twitching at every bird call and tree rustle. She was on edge, and rightly so. "Fey magic. They make two suns to trick us."

    "Nonsense. It must be swamp gases, causing a reflection." Medwick squinted at the treetops.

    Shardis folded her arms. "You don't know what you're talking about, and you don't know where we are. We're lost, Medwick."

    "Oh, I don't know." Medwick suddenly started dancing. "We're probably stepping on the capital city of the Green Nation right now! A little hobbit town in the grass, invisible to the naked eye and filled with great and ancient pixies! All hail the glorious midgets of -- ATCHOO!" He stopped dancing as a fit of sneezing commenced.

    Caoimhe peered at him. "You hit your head?"

    They were exhausted and hungry. The river had washed them up in the middle of nowhere, and with the flow reversing and ever-shifting they could not tell which way to backtrack. The tributaries branched in all directions and at times went stagnant. And with the twin-sun effect in the canopy all sense of direction was doomed. They had headed for the high ground, and now moved amid spore-laden, poisoned scapes of fungi and thorns. The fruits they ate made them vomit, and Shardis had not dared to wander far on her hunts. For seven days they had lived on the rations in Caoimhe's pack, and the odd fish that had beached on the river banks. Their stomachs were raw, their skin rash-stricken from their sodden clothes.

    And after another night of sleeping on mossy rocks, the trio were vexed.

    "The forest is working against us. I read about this. The trees trick your senses." Shardis sniffed around the bark of a giant willow and pawed its hanging branches. More spores took flight and shimmered blue and purple.

    "This was supposed to be easy," Medwick ranted as he cut through the undergrowth with his falchion. "Arrive in Hosia. Find a sea-faring vessel. Sail out to the Southern Margin. Dive for the Divine Armoury. Go home. But instead we end up talking to drug dealers and lost in a poisoned fo-- WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?" He pointed his falchion at a strange animal - half-dear, half-badger - which promptly bolted into the foliage. It made a strangled bleat, like a goat attempting opera.

    "You need to calm down, Brother. Panicking is the best way to die in the jungle."

    "Oh! So suddenly you're the native expert?! Silly me! I thought the whole reason we were in this mess was because of our vain attempts to get one of these tree-hugging pickpocket half-breeds to HELP US!"

    "We'll find someone eventually." Caoimhe watched her two bickering companions warily as she guarded the rear. With every ten steps she checked the straps of her backpack, where the dragon egg lay.

    "Fine! Carry on screaming. Waste all your energy. Maybe then me and Caoimhe can eat your corpse."

    Medwick went suddenly berserk on a patch of undergrowth, hacking great swathes away with his sword. And all the while he yelled back at the anima. "I AM NOT. WASTING. MY ENERGY. I AM TRYING. TO SHOW YOU. WHAT I SAW."

    With a final lunge he kicked the base of a shrub before him, and as it uprooted the remaining leaves collapsed. A partial space was cleared at the crest of the rise, and beyond it a tunnel in the woodland gave visibility to the north. There, through the lattice of the canopy, they saw a distant sign of life, little larger than a pinprick.


    "There. Those stones we found in the forest - the ones that were polarized in the wrong direction? It was a debris trail. Dropped by that."

    Shardis peered over his shoulder.

    "So that truly was a flying city we saw through the clouds? I thought I was hallucinating."

    "Evidently so. Of course, I was being dangled in the jaws of a sea monster at the time, so it may not be the soundest hypothesis. But no matter. That..." He pointed his sword at the Aviary. " a city. Which means there are people there who know where they are. Which means they can tell us where we are. Assuming the mud-caked cavemen have learned the basics of literacy."

    "Aerie spoke of flying cities." Caoimhe voiced her thoughts aloud.

    Medwick pushed onwards through the poisoned foliage. "Let's not talk about Aerie. This whole thing would have been a lot easier if she had stuck around."
    #5 Asmodeus, Jun 11, 2014
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  6. Ash of the Heartwood Ash listened to the proceedings, his hands behind his back and Cora tucked away in his heart. He soon started to hear whispers from his Aux, whispers he had been ignoring until this point but he finally let her in with an inward sigh.

    I am sorry...Cora whispered, her hidden eyes welling with tears, her hidden hands reaching out to him. Cora was the one he loved above all else and she had wounded him with the truth. He forgave her with a nod, and to the rest of the trial it would appear like he was agreeing with Ironblood in her defense. The warmth of her joy flooded his emotions and in that moment he was at peace. Ash wanted to reach out to Cora, embrace her in the ways he couldn't, and tell her that he would never block her out again...but it would have to wait.

    “Ash of the Heartwood. According to your testimony, you were the last to see the Jade Prophet before his disappearance and he tasked you with aiding the Lady. Have you any proof of this claim?”

    Ash hung his head down slightly, he could feel the weight of his antlers, the burden of his task was weighing him down. In that moment he felt that all hope was lost until a sudden warmth wrapped around his chest. Looking down he saw small branch like fingers holding on to him, it was Cora, and even though she couldn't actually touch him he felt it. Their heart was glowing but no one else could see, nor could they see his Aux giving him comfort. A tear rolled down his face, the same face he used to look at the Ironchild, who nodded at him. The same face he used to look at The Kindly One, who also nodded at him. He then lifted his gaze to stare at all those who ran the proceedings, opening his arms before he began to speak.

    "I saw the giant stag," he said and the crowd gasped, followed by murmurs that grew to a point where where Om had to stomp a tendril covered foot to quiet the room.

    "I was taken to the Plane where only the prophet may traverse, he was a stag because in this place Aux and Crux are one," Ash signed the Mudra for unity, two hands pressed together at the bottom of the palms before lacing his fingers together, several others in the crowd did as well. "He showed me the Iron one as a child. He showed me a great battle of ships. Cannons firing back and forth and a beast of great size covered one of the ships in illusion. I am not sure if these events are those of the future, the past, or both but I know them to be real."

    Ash raised his voice louder as he became more confident with his words, armored in the faith he had for his Prophet that they would not come back to him void.

    "I say to you the Prophet's words, I will not taint them I promise you for what I say is exactly as he said. "

    “But there is still much suffering in store for you, Child of Ilium. For you are the only one who has seen his face and lived...I am afraid she will not be so lucky.”

    Ash pointed to the Iron Child as he spoke the last part which pertained to her fate with the beast inside of her. "I will be forthcoming and honest, I did not agree with her using this monster," he waved at Amaltas

    "To try and purify her but I will also say I didn't have a solution either and we are running out of time. But this woman should not be the one on trial here. For all the crimes of Amaltas there are no victims to speak against him. When he wounds the dead do not find solace in Ilium but are twisted into a half life no better than the one the beast curses others with. But we are in desperate times where we await a sign from the Prophet and he asks us to not be idle in our endeavors. If we have faith he will show our path to be true."

    Ash suddenly realized that everyone had gone silent, he was unsure if that was a good sign or not but everyone was staring at him. They murmured amongst themselves and even Om stared at the undertaker for long moments before he stomped his foot once more to silence the room.

    "But where is your proof? And to speak out against Amaltas and yet here you stand with him and defending Ironblood's actions no less."

    "My proof is my unwavering faith in the Prophet," he said emphasizing the word as he stared directly at Om. "I am an undertaker, truth is all you have left in the end. Strike me down now if you wish and it would not change the truth. Merely silence it."

    Om considered this carefully before turning his gaze to Amaltas.

    "So you say undertaker. But this is only the second part of the story. Tell us why you are here Amaltas. Are their claims true? Did you try and help them? And why would you help them if one amongst them despises you so?"

    #6 Saphen, Jun 12, 2014
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  7. CHELENA-OUTSIDE HOSIA, cyan She was far from the colors of civilization now, but that certainly did not mean that the world was colorless.

    Chelena had settled in the fallen remains of one of the buildings from the Aviary. It had crashed into the ground and mostly shattered, but there was still room within it for one lithe figure to crawl its way into. The broken structure kept off the water and the sun, and that was all Chelena needed.

    The memories tormented her violently, and she battled with them the way she battled with all of her foes. Her weapons were dedication and perseverance, even in the face of what seemed to be insurmountable pain. She feasted savagely on any animal that drew too close to her little shelter and the surrounding wilderness, desperate for the hot blood to help heal the wounds of her mind as effectively as it did the wounds of the body. She fought violently with the sun, only retreating into her small shelter when it seemed that she must turn into an ember if she remained under the sunlight for one further moment. And all that time she waited for the strange emotions that flooded through her to fade.

    All of the bodies had been carried away by the Prosperous so fast that Chelena had barely even had a chance to see them vanish. She had run along the river desperately, dodging first through the crowds of people, then through the debris of the fallen Avian city, and finally past the roots and vines of the forest, which reached out greedily to halt her progress forward. She lost her first scarf to an old tree without even knowing it had been stolen from her. Several fairies grabbed it immediately and joyfully ripped it apart, their laughter floating after her as she ran. A thorny bush grabbed the next, ripping it apart even as it clung to her waist. She did not care. Her feet were soaked in the waters of the Prosperous, slowly stealing their faint pink and staining it blue.

    She only stopped running when she finally caught a trace of the coppery shade of blood staining the air. She raced to a pool, the water in it eddying slightly from the raging current of the back-flooding river. The blood swirled in it loosely, slowly settling and dissipating. Chelena welcomed blood as nutrition. But when it spilled heedless to the ground, wasted and sucking the life out of its source, she hated it. She hated the way its presence meant death, and she hated the deep-seated desire she still felt for it. The blood told her all she needed to know. Those she knew who had fallen into the river were dead. Their bodies would be ravaged by fish, insects and plants, and what was left of it when it finally did wash ashore would be carried away by the mammals, the bones splintered open under powerful jaws to expose the tender marrow inside. Their Aux may be with Ilium, but their Crux would never be given the dignity of a final resting place. They were gone. Just like the Alate.

    Despite the death of those people Chelena had dared to wonder if she might someday call friend, she could not bring herself to believe that the Kaustirian had perished with them. Somehow she knew that he had survived, that he had fled from this land, the Alate almost certainly safe with him. And Chelena could not stand it.

    That was the moment she knew it was going to be too much. She collapsed to the ground in a small shivering pile, even as the Aviary finally passed from above, allowing the rays of the sun to touch her shoulders. Chelena’s head tipped back, and her broken cry reverberated through the forest. But her pain was far, far more than physical. Even as her cry was still echoing through the forest she was back on her feet and fleeing, the last of her scarves falling untended in the muck. She dodged wildly through the trees, tumbling over fallen logs that might have otherwise blocked her path, the echoes of her own heartbeat staining the colors of the forest. She could not tell if she was mad. She no longer cared. Chelena fled to the simplicity of the forest, and she fled from the truth of the situation; the truth of her own failure.

    In the forest she could live a feral half-life, unconcerned with anything except the physical needs of the body. But sleep was torment, and it always returned her to the desperate cries of the mind.

    Eventually, Chelena was forced to flee the solitude of the forest as well. She had found out that she could not escape her own mind there. The only other option was to face what was waiting for her inside, and that was not an option at all.

    Maybe Hosia would now be able to bring her something new. Maybe it would guide her away from all of this. She was half-bloated with the blood of beasts and severely burned, but both would fade soon enough. Maybe that night she would dance again. It might be a relief. Maybe in the past she would find some comfort.

    Assuming she could find some new scarves.
    #7 Peregrine, Jun 12, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2014
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  8. Realizing there was no point in arguing with the man, Shar stepped back and let her brother's rage and fear run its course and for once something good came of it.

    "Huh, would you look at that! Salvation is at hand," Shardis said sarcastically. She glanced at the falchion dripping sticky sap and added, "That blade has to be dull by now, better get it seen to at the city then."
    Ignoring her, Medwick lead the way down a game trail they found that went in the general direction of the city. Caoimhe went next, as ever she was leery and over attentive of her backpack. Not for the first time Shardis frowned at the thought of it and wondered just what was in the damn thing that was so important. She almost asked but then shrugged, if the wolf-girl hadn't told her by now then she obviously didn't trust her enough or something. Besides, it really wasn't her business. Sighing Shar took up the rear keeping a look out for trouble from behind as they trudged through mud and bog occasionally and back on land, then mud again.

    The sound of Medwick's falchion drowned out other noises as they moved on through the jungle slowly, methodically. Her fur once again was a disgusting mess. This time it was the ever present sap from gods-new-where, to her it just seemed to come from out of the air, it was gooey and itchy and if you scratched the itches the skin would puff up and itch even worse. Some spots had already turned into sores from moving around and were oozing blood and some kind of puss, this was driving her crazy! They had to get out of here soon before she went mad.

    Another bug the size of a tree landed on her nose, Shar sneezed it off and shook by instinct, then she lost her balance slightly and stopped momentarily to get it back.
    "Gods be merciful! I HATE this &$#@ing place!" Shardis vented while the ears dropped back tight to her head and the Anima snarled as she resumed her muddy march behind the now freaked out Caoimhe.

    A small voice laughed at her misery as wings could be heard coming in for a landing on her shoulder. "It's sights like you that make me glad I am incorporeal." Tandra preened her wings then smiled as she looked forward. "If you are heading for the sinking city its to your left somewhat, on this course you are going to go deeper into the jungle, you know."
    Shar growled, Caoimhe jumped and Medwick turned around wiping his forehead with his sleeve. "No one asked you and I know, it's just that we can't fly like you, we have to go around obstacles." Galain glared at Shardis and in her mood, she glared right back at him. "Fine, we will take a break." He limped over to a gnarled tree root and sat while catching his breath and taking a small sip of water.

    Shardis squatted down near by and asked,
    "How much longer do you think before we get there?"
  9. Adelita Junodn


    What the fuck, was literally all that was going through her head. Marriage?! Dynasties?! What the hell was wrong with them?! She was fucking thirteen! "Maybe I can explain to them I don't feel comfortable-"

    "They make children fly up a big ass staircase knowing quite well that they might die. I don't think you really have a choice here," Feran said, which didn't help Adelita's current situation.

    "Well, what the heck am I going to do then?! I still have to find whoever or wherever Barvelle is" Adelita inwardly flinched. Even after all this time, which maybe wasn't a lot, she was still grief-stricken. Every time she closed her eyes, she could still picture his body, crushed by those pillars, and blood ever so slightly leaking out from under him. His lifeless eyes stuck with his final wish. Find Baravelle...

    She shook herself out of her thoughts, and tried to focus on the current situation at hand. Just how the heck was she going to get out of this one? Like Feren had said, negotiating wasn't going to work, and sadly her soothing song only made people calm down, not persuasive. Mighty situation indeed. She looked to Aerie and Nyashi, one plastered with disgust, the other one ironically unreadable.

    "Think Adelita, think! What makes someone able to get abruptly excused?!" Then, miraculously, an idea popped into her head that wasn't as crazy as usual.

    "Are you sure?" Feren asked. "Sounds stupid and crazy. What if they don't fall for it?"

    "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it"
    "Which knowing you, might be very soon" he sighed. She shook him off though. There was some truth to his statement however, if this failed to fool them, things would go very, very badly. It was now or never though. She took a deep breath, and then staggered forward, falling to her knees earning a few gasps from the crowd.
    Which was good.

    "S-sorry," she said, as she feigned shock. She then started to rise to her feet again, but no sooner than she started, she fell backwards. And stayed there, her eyes closed.
    #9 Aschu, Jun 12, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2014
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  10. Fuck knows where
    Medwick lifted his leg with both hands, easing the knee-joint, resting the calf upon a rock... which promptly sprouted legs and skittered away. He sighed and twisted, then supported the leg on another rock. This one didn't move. And it was still toasty warm from where it had plummeted from the burning heights of the Aviary.

    "Oh, I think the length of at least TWELVE more stupid comments. So no need to panic."


    Clutching her backpack, Caoimhe squatted opposite Shardis and together they formed a huddled trio in the canopy shadow. Strange birds made caterwaul in the treetops and every moment was punctuated by the buzzing slash of insects and the drip-drop of plant sap. There was no telling how many spores and infections were in their systems. Yet it was felt in the liquid rasping of their breaths, the inflammation of their skin, the weeping of their eyes and noses.

    The forest was killing them, as slowly as any Kaustiran torturer.

    "You're drinking too much."

    Medwick lowered his waterskin and glared at his step-sister. "I want to be a well-hydrated corpse. Thank you."

    "You two need to stop arguing. Too much noise."

    While Caoimhe's murmur barely disturbed the two, what followed a few seconds after did. There was a rustling north of the game trail. Shardis sprang up with weapon drawn and Caoimhe twisted in low guard, her backpack slung in case she had to bolt.

    They turned as one towards the treeline, and as they tensed Medwick relaxed. He took another sip, and peered at the shape coming out of the trees. It was humanoid, emaciated, with skin the colour of dying pine needles. Two antlers sprouted from the creature's brow and were horribly mangled, broken and jutting. Wounds on its chest and arms were scabbed and sealed with amber. It was in no shape to be any kind of threat. It staggered, barely coherent, with head tipped back. It seemed as lost as they were.

    "Well well," Medwick said to his companions. "A man who doesn't have quite as much shit on him as others. And he only looks HALF-deranged. This could be the LORD of Viridos, right here!"

    His sarcasm ended, he yelled out to the ragged forest vagrant. "I say there! You! Boy!" He snapped his fingers for attention. The creature turned and lowered glazed, bewildered eyes to stare at them.


    Kairos blinked, mid-head lull. His ultramarine pupils dilated, making a wet sound, then focused on the motion of the human's fingers. Such a strange mudra this human performed. Gingerly, the forest kin aligned his body into a mudra of questioning: balanced on one hoof in tree repose, a gnarled hand cupped to his savaged ear.

    "I hate to interrupt...whatever the hell it is you're doing."

    The Jade Prophet held the mudra.

    "But my companions and I are lost."
    "Not all who are lost, wander."

    "...So, we're trying to get back to the coast. We need to find a boat."

    "A boat is a difficult thing to lose, and there's no hobbler to light the way."

    "THE. OC-EA-N. WA-TER. DO. YOU. KNOW. WHERE. IS?" Flustered, Medwick made wavy miming motions.

    Kairos mimicked this strange human's alien mudras, doing his best to commune with the poor creature.

    The great forest kin stepped forward and bent, his gory locks brushing Medwick's face. The Jade Prophet brushed his fingers against Medwick's right shoulder, where the Ghoul Sage had dislocated the joint. "You need iron in your blood."

    Then, without another word, Kairos was on his way, leaving Medwick in stunned silence.

    The pain in his shoulder was gone.

    #10 Tegan, Jun 12, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
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  11. Nyashi ║ Avian ║ Courier, #692F16

    She didn't know what to do. For once in her life she couldn't just take off laughing over her shoulder like a maniac. Because if she did that now, she was sure that her sudden 'reputation' would be tarnished forever. Not to mention the very real possibility that she might just get tackled out of the air before she could get a mile away. And even if she did manage to wing it out of there where would she go? She wouldn't be able to return to her temporary home in Hosia, with her mother. The woman would beat her to the after life and back for bailing on such an important ceremony.

    The avian sighed inwardly. Hitching it up with some handsome face was enticing. Really it was. Who wouldn't want to have a trophy husband who was perfect in every way shape or form, save for his intentions and possibly his brain. None of those guys were really interested in her. In fact a few of them weren't even looking at her. Their gazes were locked on her forehead. The laurel to be exact. She couldn't bear having to spend the rest of her life with a man who didn't even care about her or want her! And to have chil-children with him too? Ugh!

    There was no way that she could marry one of these guys. No matter how fucking gorgeous they looked. She needed an out. A polite way of saying 'Are you insane?' But it's not like she was an expert on etiquette. She had been so nervous that the entire time she had just stared at the Orator's ear the whole time they were standing there.

    Damn it, what the hell could she do? Feign illness? Pretend to be allergic to the laurel? What? WHAT?!

    A commotion beside her brought her out of her frantic thoughts and she turned to see that Adelita had collapsed.

    My out! This is my out! Holy shit, I need to grab this girl before somebody else does. Dropping down quickly, Nyashi slipped her arm under the unconscious girl's head, and glanced up at the Orator. "It seems that the large quantity of spectacularly attractive men have overwhelmed my friend. She probably needs some time to gather her self, I'll aid her."
    #11 Cosmic Penguin, Jun 12, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
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  12. Hosia

    The dining hall felt like a prison. Shadows collected in corners and across tables. Candles were deliberately kept in a waning half-life, struggling to exist on the end of a fluttering wick. The table was stained with a twisted design of splotches and stains. The smell of blood hung in the air like a languid warning, caressing the captain’s nostrils, irritating his taste buds. His plate sat untouched beneath angled elbows and clasped hands. In the gloom he could only barely see his host, a massive nebulous shadow at the other end of the long table. It was feasting, and the sound of bones crunching, marrow sucked, and hot blood spattering the wood almost made him cringe. But he had captained the Dawn Sun for twenty years and Captain Nevyrs did not flinch so easily. Still, he could not help but feel bile rise in the back of his throat. It was worse, not seeing. His mind imagined what it might look like, what the nocturne was doing to the animal he’d been provided for his dinner.

    When he started, it had been alive.

    “Allow me to repeat what you’ve told me,” The shadow said around a mouthful of something juicy, “You may correct my understanding if ever it errs.”

    “Of course, Lord Merchant.” He answered. He’d repeated himself three times now, but the nocturne refused to understand.

    “The port of Hosia is closed to all incoming and outgoing ships,”

    “Save the Hosian Navy,” Nevyrs corrected, tapping his index fingers together, “Military patrols will remain in place to deter smugglers.”

    “Of course, of course,” the nocturne agreed, spitting bone and gristle onto the table, “And this military closure will remain indefinitely till…”

    “The safety of Viridos can be assured.”

    “Yes, of course. Safety of the realm. Jolly good.” He slavered on something, it sounded like a ribcage. Nevyrs could hear the slithering of Zovalias’ tongue slipping between the bones, hungrily lapping up the blood remaining there. “However, Lord Captain-“

    “Just Captain will do.”

    “Suit yourself. Captain. As I was extrapolating, I have a shipment of fine Virdosi paints and fabrics bound for the market of Avarath. You will understand, of course, my livelihood rests upon the trading of such wares. We cannot all make our coin in dead pirates, after all.”

    “The Council has authorized a stipend to be supplied for merchants who may suffer during this isolation. You and those you employ will be compensated till trade can resume.”

    Zovalias made a sound, something between a roar and a belch. Honestly it was impossible to tell. A fleck of something hot dashed Nevyrs’ cheek. He wiped it away with the napkin that had been provided for his meal, dropping it on the plate and pushing it away. “Amenable,” the merchant rumbled, “But can I expect the same price that would be paid to me if my goods went to market?”

    “Unfortunately, that would be unrealistic. The Council is prepared to divert resources enough to provide necessities to those who may be hurt by the isolation. You are hardly the only merchant with concerns, Zovalias.”

    “Necessities.” The nocturne sounded displeased, “Dictated by the Council, I presume?”

    “Resources of Green Nation will be decided by those who represent it.”

    The mechant was indignant, “Who do you think represents the Green Nation on the docks of Avarath? It is I and my crews who-“

    Nevyrs shook his head and then bowed it apologetically, “In the land of Viridos itself, the Council is recognized in all organizational matters relating to our resources. Please do not misunderstand the nature of our-“ The nocturne spat something from his mouth. Something wet that landed just a few inches shy of the captain’s visions…thank Ilium for that. “-meeting.” He brushed imaginary flecks of blood from his uniform, clearing his throat before continuing, “This is not a negotiation, nor is it a pre-emptive prediction. The Council will be ruling on the specifics of the allocation fund after certain matters are taken care of. You are the most successful merchant shipping fabrics and dyes according to our records. We determined you and other merchants of your caliber should be approached in person to explain the specifics of the blockade.”

    “And what of my returning ships, Captain? Will you turn them away at the port? Do you expect to make pirates of them?”

    “Hardly.” Nevyrs straightened himself on the chair, pushing down a flare of annoyance “All ships approaching the dock with registration papers belonging to Virdosi merchants or of ships dispatched on official business prior to the blockade will submit to a mandatory boarding and inspection by the Navy. Provided they pass, they will be allowed entry to port.”

    “At least there is some leniency to your draconian procedures.”

    “This is a matter for the safety of the realm.”

    “You insist on repetition, but I fail to see which part of the realm was in danger.”

    Nevyrs tried to stay his temper. “Lady Ironwood of the Cinnabar clad and one of our own Captains was attacked-“

    “By Pirates! If the navy is so frightened of profiteers that they close their borders, perhaps I can offer-”

    “And I apologize to sound crass, but did you not see the Aviary falling from the FUCKING sky?” Nevyrs stood swiftly, his chair shrieking out behind him, “I care not for your loss of profits, Zovalias! Fires ravage Hosia, bodies are STILL being dragged from the Prosperos. The Avians have lost a home! You WILL comply with these new mandates or you will be arrested and taken for judgment! Any ships of yours I find leaving port without authorization from the entire council I will PERSONALLY see to the bottom of the bay. Do I make myself clear?”

    The moment of silence between them was broken when Zovalias stood. The nocturne moved swiftly, almost too fast for his lumbering size. Bounding around the table he leaped into the guttering light and loomed over Captain Nevyrs. Instinctively, he reached for his sabre, thankfully sheathed at his side. Zovalias was unlike any Nocturne the Captain had the misfortune of seeing. Unlike the more beautiful specimens of his kind like Kessel, Zovalias was a disgusting perversion of the Nocturne paradigm. Almost seven feet tall, Zovalias was strange bulging grey skin, hideously huge bat-like ears, and luminescent yellow eyes. They were always opened so wide, impossibly wide gleaming on the ruin of a face he had below. There was no nose, only two holes in the pallid flesh. Beneath that, a bloody abyss of layered, jagged fangs, constantly moving, twisting, slavering. It was a wonder the nocturne could speak so well with his mouth in such a state. Nevyrs imagined it must have taken decades of practice. The merchant’s nails were black and long, serrated like knives, clicking against each other in some obscene rhythm. Although the garb he wore was fine silk and satin, it did nothing to hide what he really was…a monster. Nevyrs almost drew his blade, prepared to sink it to the hilt into the underside of the beast’s jaw, but no attack came.

    “Perfectly clear, Captain,” Zovalias hissed amiably, “I apologize for antagonizing you.”

    Nevyrs couldn’t read the nocturne. It was impossible. Something felt wrong about how he said it, about how he looked at the captain. Nevyrs was not frightened, but he was uneasy here in the creature’s grotto. “Forgiven, Lord Merchant,” He said finally, “Spread the word to your associates. We cannot afford personal meetings for everyone with a ship in Hosia.”

    “Certainly not,” Zovalias nodded, “I will do just that. Please thank the council for their generosity.”

    Nevyrs nodded and departed up the stairs, never looking back to the loathsome nocturne. Perhaps it was for the best. He did not see the emaciated child aux step from behind the lumbering nocturne and look up.


    “Yes, yes. I know.” Zovalias passed a loving hand through the immaterial aux before picking up the napkin the captain had used to clean blood from his face and devouring it. “Patience wins the tastiest meals.”

    He returned to his chair, sitting and sweeping a massive arm across the wood, knocking the remains of the monkey he’d devoured to the ground. “Decisions, decisions…” he mused, writing in the blood, “Which of my friends do I tell first?”

    Wyrm's Rock-Three days ago

    The Silver Shadow barely limped into the port at Wyrm Rock. Surrounded by treacherous reefs, it was a favorite nest of smugglers and pirates native to the Virdosi soil. Few could navigate the rocks without first being taught. In a sense there was honor among the cutthroats. Each man was in it for himself, but it was easier to hate the law than each other. Four unspoken laws of piracy for the curs on Wyrm Rock. Do not steal what is stolen; A pirate’s loot is his own. Do not leave a man to drift at sea; Kinder to kill them than let thirst take their soul, Do Not Betray your crew; They are your only friends, and finally, To Swear by One’s Name is an oath; Break the latter when the former has no value.

    Kessel had committed these rules to heart years ago. Although he flew the Hosian flag more oft than the black flag of cutthroats, he considered himself as applicable to the rules now as ever before. He reflected on them as he looked across the scarred hull of the Silver Shadow, reaching out to trace a crack that ended but half a foot from the waterline. The ship had been lucky, certainly. Any lower and he would have had to fish his prize from the sea. By now the Naval Commander would be reading Kessel’s impassioned declaration to track down the pirates responsible for the damage to the Sea Wraith. The deception would give him time to move freely in the seas…for a time. Turning back to the burly Draken Kova, Kessel nodded his head at the gangplank to the ship. Word on the Rock was that Ozzimus had only just arrived and had yet to commission a shipwright for repairs. Slung across the Draken’s shoulder was a burlap sack that sagged with the weight of the prize it carried. The plank groaned under Kova’s passage while Kessel strode lightly up and onto the deck.

    Five men drew their blades, menacing the arrival of the Nocturne with wary distrust. There was haggardness to them, the long stare of men who had made peace with death only to find it swept from their fingers. “I didn’t expect you to come in person, old man,” Malachi leaned against one of the spent water barrels, “Not like you to take the risk.”

    “Are you inferring cowardice or caution?” Kessel asked, raising an eyebrow beneath his wide-brimmed hat. Malachi shrugged his shoulders without elaboration. The nocturne grinned. “I understand a congratulations is in order for you all,” he brought his hands together with a sharp sound and then held them out, palm forward, to the wary crew, “Those of you still breathing have earned quite the compensation for your time.”

    “The Navy attacking the Navy, now this is a rich twist.” Ozzimus stepped from the Captain’s quarters with a broad smile, offering Kessel a bow. “Welcome to Wyrm Rock, Admiral.” The nocturne returned it, snapping his fingers as he rose. The Draken behind him swung the sack off his shoulder and onto the ground. A cascade of gems and gold spilled out over the deck, drawing the eyes of nearly every man and woman on board. Kessel didn’t bother to look having meticulously counted it out before disembarking the White Empress.

    “You’ll find the reward more than compensates the damages to your ship. Perhaps you can purchase another few vessels to compliment your fleet.” Ozzimus’ grin did not falter, but some of the mirth went out of it. “Now, I believe you have a delivery to make?” Without breaking eye contact, Ozzimus waved to Volok, his powder-scarred draken. More of the crew had joined the deck by now, watching Kessel warily. The beast approached slowly, holding out a small object wrapped in silk. Kessel took it gently, pulling back the fabric to see the glass face etched in agony. But his smile froze as his fingers caressed the exquisite craftsmanship, darkening to a scowl. “Where is it?”


    “Where is the prize I paid you to seize?”

    “In your hands,” Ozzimus smirked, “Ugly thing. A lot of trouble to get one little mask.”

    Kessel’s face contorted in fury for a single moment before settling and he smiled. “Of course. You had no knowledge of what you were looking for. I should only blame myself. Please, tell me how you acquired the mask.” Malachi straightened, stepping away from the barrel and five strides from Kessel. He’d seen that calm before, that smile.

    “Lady Ironblood swam from the Wraith to the Shadow to visit me,” Ozzimus shrugged, elongating the word ‘lady’ as though tasting it, “We came to an accord and I let the Wraith limp home.” He grimaced for a moment, “Bitch had a hobbler or something, threaded Fisherman’s bane to my ship. I had no choice but to release them.”

    Sighing, the nocturne laid a hand on Ozzimus’ shoulder. “The Virdosi Cinnabar clad are clever, especially the halfkin. You could not be held responsible.”

    Instinctively, the illusionist shrugged away from Kessel and cleared his throat, reaching into his coat and pulling out a crimson vial. “Ah, but here we have another treasure to rival the first. A vial of the halfkin’s blood, fairly bartered.”

    “You surprise me, Captain,” He admitted, reaching for the vial “I did not think you ruthless enough to bloodlet a diplomat. I believe I could use a man of your cunning, provided you dream of more than smuggling and theft.” Ozzimus closed his hand over the vial and returned it to his coat before Kessel could touch it.

    “Ah! This was not part of the bargain, Admiral. It will cost you a pretty penny more than you’ve brought. Cost me my ships in the Hosian port!” He chuckled, shaking his head, “I imagine they’re being interrogated now. Poor fools, fortunate they did not know our arrangement, yes?”

    “You betrayed your crew?”

    “Easily replaceable with what you’ve paid me,” Ozzimus mused, “And I think, Admiral, I’ll politely refuse your earlier offer. I only want to be a pirate.”

    “Only a pirate?”

    “Only a pirate.”

    Ozzimus grinned at Kessel.

    Kessel blinked, than slowly grinned at Ozzimus.

    Hosia- Shekar's Shop

    After news of the blockade reached her ears, Shekar was unsurprised to see Ryza slither into her shop and swiftly shut the door. The snake anima was nervous. As a draken, Shekar had learned the fine art of reading a reptile’s expressions. To any of the soft-skin, he might have seemed hungry…as she was sure he always seemed, but his posture spoke volumes. “Ryza,” she greeted with a short wave, “Welcome.”

    “Ssssshekar,” the anima greeted, coiling his body into a bow, “It isss ssso good to ssssssee you. Essssspecially in thesssse troubling timessss.” Shekar waited patiently, almost positive he deliberately chose words with s’s just to annoy people. “The blockade threatenssss all our livelihoodssss.”

    “I heard the Council was going to compensate some of the business lost to merchants while the borders remained closed.”

    Ryza spat, coaxing a smile from the crafty draken. It was a deliberate bait. “A paltry recompenssssse. Attempting to buy our sssssubmisssssssion would have cossssst far more than they’re offering.”

    “What do you want me to do about it?”

    Ryza paused, slithering back to the window and drawing the curtain, locking the door. “Zzzzovaliasssss issss gathering hissss alliessss.” Shekar winced. Zovalias was a merchant she had no desire to deal with. The nocturne would just as soon eat someone as make a deal with them. It was miraculous he’d remained successful for so long. The inside joke was that he’d eaten the competition. Shekar never laughed at that one. She always assumed it was true. Ryza was watching her now, nervously running his hands up and down his scales. Shekar was no ally of Zovalias so Ryza wasn’t here as a messenger.

    “What does the nocturne want, Ryza?”

    “To ussssse your basssssement for hissss meeting,” Ryza answered flatly, “We are all a part of thissss and your merchants contactssss are more than welcome to attend.”

    “Harboring dissidents could get my shop shut down. How do you propose to all fit?”

    “No one elssssse has a sssssssecret basssssssement,” Ryza hissed, “Zovaliasssss isssss willing to make it worth your while.”

    Shekar considered her options. Refusing the Nocturne would tip the precious balance she had maintained neither being a friend nor enemy. Accepting his request meant opening herself up for illegal activity. Not that she hadn’t dabbled in the area before, but it was always on her terms. Zovalias was not an easy variable to account for. “Give me…a day to make preparations,” she told Ryza finally, “And tell Zovalias I won’t take his money.” She lifted both hands back to the shelves of unusual items around the store, “Tell him to bring something I haven’t seen before and the basement is his for the evening.”

    Ryza nodded once and slithered back out of the shop. Shekar massaged her temples, slumping back behind the counter. The Aviary falling, strange smuggled guests, blockade, and now merchant rebellions. The entire world seemed to be shaking apart and she was caught in the middle of it. Sighing, she took a piece of parchment from beneath the counter and began to draft a letter. Zovalias may be trouble, but even the devouring nocturne wouldn’t risk a turf war with Teadoir. Although not strictly a merchant, the blockade would put a stranglehold on his foreign investments…enough to make Teadoir interested in profitable alternatives. His presence would at least keep the fat blood-sucker on his toes.

    Just where Shekar wanted him. Cautious men had a habit of conducting peaceful negotiations.

    Wyrm's Rock-3 days ago

    Kessel stood beneath the figurehead of the Silver Shadow as the last nails were driven into place. Malachi stood behind him but waited for the Admiral to turn around before speaking.

    “What now?”

    “Now?” Kessel asked, “I suppose we create a new name for her. The navy will be looking for the Silver Shadow. She won’t be ready to sail again till she’s different than before.”

    “Concerning me.” The Admiral sighed and laid a hand around Malachi’s shoulder. The pirate would have shuddered at the touch, but had enough wherewithal to hold it in.

    “I imagine you’ll be returning to your ship in Hosia,” Kessel smiled, “I’ll be needing to call on you with more frequency in the future. Preparations are progressing swifter than anticipated. The Czar must have done something grand to piss off so many Kaustiri merchants.”

    “What of the girl?” The Draken Volok peered down from above them, wiping blood from his axe absently. Behind him his aux dipped and weaved, still drunk on the adrenaline.


    “A prisoner from the Wraith,” Malachi explained, glaring at the Arms Master above, “She was my take of the plunder.”

    “Oh?” the nocturne seemed to consider it before shouting up to the draken, “See that she is blind-folded, Master Volok. We shall not stain her eyes with the aftermath of our negotiation.” Volok nodded once and disappeared over the edge. Kessel was grinning, “How much you’ve grown, Malachi. What are her talents?”

    “Medic,” he grunted, shrugging off the nocturne’s arm, “But there’s more to it, I think.”

    “Splendid. Just splendid. Already seeing the bigger picture.”

    Malachi sighed, shrugging off the compliment. “They might recognize me in Hosia. I don’t know how long I can stay docked.

    “Unfortunate,” the nocturne nodded, “But not hopeless.” Reaching into in his coat he pulled forth a scroll sealed in wax, handing it to Malachi. “The coordinates for our settlement in the Fang Isles, come when you are ready to take your earned position.”

    “How many do you have?” Malachi asked, but Kessel shook his head.

    “You shall have to see for yourself my dear boy, when you’re ready.”

    Volok appeared, walking Ayanne down the gangplank. Her hands were tied and her eyes were bound in cloth, but she seemed unharmed. The Draken sat her down by the gangplank, whispering something into her ear before stomping over to Kessel and Malachi.

    “Master Volok,” Kessel greeted with a bow, “I’m appointing you captain of the Silver Shadow…pending its new name of course. You’ll oversee its repair and recruit competent men to replace the crew we’ve lost."

    “Yes, Cap’n,” the draken rumbled, “Just as soon as we clean up the deck.”

    “Can you really trust them?” Malachi asked quietly, crossing his arms, “They’ve betrayed their crew.”

    “Nonsense, they were never Captain Ozzimus’ crew to begin with.”

    Malachi frowned, “Volok has served with Ozzimus for almost ten years.”

    “And?” Kessel looked surprised, “A nocturne is not burdened with the same perspective of the shorter lived races. Ozzimus had potential, once…I invested some of my crew in his future, our future. I suppose I didn’t realize what sort of an investment I’d made till now, but apparently it’s in your new ship and…” he pulled the vial of half-kin blood from his pocket and held it up to the light, admiring it, “This.”

    “My ship?”

    “Your ship.” He said, twirling the worn compass aux around his finger. “It’s high time you started assuming command for more than just your floating casino.” Malachi scowled, “You have Bolivar blood in you, boy. With that legacy comes an expectation of accomplishment. When the Silver Shadow is repaired, Volok will act as Captain. He knows the guns and that’s all the Silver Shadow really is. When you depart Hosia, come by Wyrm rock and give Volok new instructions.” He rubbed his palms together, “I wash my hands of the matter.” Volok bowed deeply to the half-nocturne.

    “The ship is yours, Captain.”

    “Thank you, father,” He said at last, “I’ll do far better with her than Ozzimus.”

    “Of course.” Kessel dipped his hat towards his son and started back towards the White Empress.

    “Where is your heading?”

    Kessel paused and turned on his heel, drawing a worn piece of parchment from his jacket and waving it at Malachi, “An invitation to a Nocturne gala, a most splendid affair.” Returning the letter, he bowed with a flourish. “May the winds be ever in your sails, Captain Requiem.”

    “And in yours.”

    As Kessel departed, Volok left to find a charter ship to Hosia. Malachi was left looking up at the figurehead of the Silver Shadow. By now the blood had reached the water, a crimson stripe along the prow of the ship. Each nail had been lovingly hammered, each detail almost obsessively prepared. His eyes begged for release, for mercy, transfixed on Malachi desperately. Briefly the pirate debated granting his wish, but Kessel was still in port and even the gambler dared not test his odds. Instead he averted his eyes, murmuring a simple eulogy he afforded to all those of the sea he’d lost before. “Go with the tide, and be free.”

    For two hours the grisly specter clung to life, stubbornly refusing to relent. His cloak aux wrapped around him, unable to stem the blood. As the sun climbed to its zenith, Ozzimus hissed one last breath and was silent.

    Some time later, when the horizon was bleeding to dusk a mud-haired boy tugged on the sleeve of his father as they walked the docks. “Pa,” he asked, pointing up at the dead creature, “What's that?”

    Kneeling down, he lay a heavy hand on the boy’s head and smiled. This was no place to raise his son, but the hard men sighed that harsher times were coming. His boy would need to be strong. “Just a pirate, Sebastian,” he said, “Just a pirate and nothing more.”
    #12 Jack Shade, Jun 13, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2014
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  13. Hosia



    Sprig blinked and looked at the frog on his knee. The fat creature was shooting its tongue out and snatching flies from the Hobbler's forehead.

    How long had he been sitting here, against the wall of his cypress den, staring at the empty bed where his brother Twiglet once laid? His penny jar bobbed in five inches of flood water. His little home was inundated.

    Or was it tears? Had he been crying?


    "Leave it out, Dempsey. I ain't in tha mood." His throat rasped. The fairy hadn't eaten or drunk for seven days. His skin was shriveled like a prune, and his eyes spoke of sickness. With his brother gone, there was no reason to do the things he had done before. To eat or sleep or even track the motions of the world. Sun had risen and dipped. Insects and flood waters had come and gone. Aviary shadows had passed. And he had noticed nothing but his emptiness.

    "Thuuurr omring iiiiide ou-a-eee!" croaked the frog.

    Sprig hated things that couldn't talk properly.

    "You wot? There ain't naffin outside tha ah wanna see. Clear off, ye li'l twat."

    "Uhrrr eeee! Ou orrha eeeis." The frog was insistent. It shot its tongue out again and slapped Sprig's eyeball. There wasn't even a fly there.

    "Ow, ye knob! Alright, alright, ah'm comin'! Bleedin' 'ell!" The fairy's body ached as he stirred from where he had lain the better part of a week. Sores and open wounds adorned his legs. With his mother's cloak dragging through the flood waters, he followed Dempsey as he hopped from driftwood to driftwood and into the open. Sprig made sure to snatch up the penny jar and carry it in both hands. Then he stepped out onto the sodden banks of the Prosperos River, and was dazzled by sunlight.

    "Aagh! Cripes..."

    Then he stopped and stared. The penny jar fell from his hands and splooshed in the mud.

    "Oh cripes..."

    Bodies. Seven of them. Mud-caked and still, some washed upon the far bank, some tangled in closer reeds. They clung upon an alien shore, where timber, canvas rags and masonry were deposited. The debris of a swelling river. The dead of Hosia.

    Sprig screamed and ran back into his house.

    Splut Splut!

    Splut! Splut!


    Sprig pulled the blankets tight and cried into his pillow. There were frogs jumping on him, and their tiny weights poked his back and legs.

    "Lea' me alone would ye?!"

    The floodwaters were as high as the mattress. He could hear other things there - fish and ducklings paddling around. They had all come to harass him, as if they had nothing better to do. River creatures were sadistic bastards and liked a good drama.

    One of the frogs found Sprig's ear peeking from the covers.


    "Oi!" He twisted suddenly and threw the cover off, tipping the frogs into the water. One of them promptly jumped back and landed on his chest.

    "Ouhraf aurum ow oorayayer, Ig!"

    "Tha's easy fer you ta say, Dempsey. But you ain't gotta deal with a bunch o' muddy dead blokes on yer doorstep!"

    A mallard shrieked at him from the opposite bed. "Auw, nu-nu-nu, mon Obbleh petite! Zis is nu guud for anyone. Zere bodees mus' be laid to rest, as La Mere La Ilium teaches, nu?"

    (Ducks had terrible accents. And were always quacking on about religion.)

    "Alright! Fine!" Sprig kicked the covers away and rolled into the water, a great splash that sent ducks and otters squawking. "Ah should levy a bloody thumb tax on you buggers!" He paddled through the flood water and out of the entrance again, hauling himself onto the mud banks.

    "Oh goddess..."

    For a moment he stood there, doubled over and trying not to vomit, while the frogs peered from behind his legs. Then, with slow and terrified steps, the Hobbler approached the wreckage. The bodies were round shapes, curves swollen and distinguished from the hard line of wood and stone. Through brown mud peered violent red. They had been wounded as they died, and savaged thereafter, food for fish and crustaceans. A marker cloud of flies attended each site.

    He would have to bury them.

    Sprig broke down in tears. He wished Twiglet were here. Or Lady Ironblood and her friends. They knew how to deal with these things. He wished he had stayed with Captain Valium and never cut loose with his penny jar.

    The penny jar!

    More ducks scattered as the fairy turned and scrambled through the mud. The jar was found by its glimmer, half-submerged. He yanked it free and clutched it to his chest, rocking back and forth with little clinks. For long hours he remained there, simply holding the jar and staring at the bodies while his frog friends moved among them. And in time... like a tongue to the eye... his resolve was found.

    He had earned these pennies for being a hero. And now he would have to be a hero of a different kind.

    Sprig rose, took a few more steps, held his breath, then clambered down the river bank to a thicket of reeds. There he gripped the arm of the first body, finding it muscular and tiger-clawed. He pulled and fell flat on his back as the mud slipped under him. Then he lay there a while, blinking up at the morning sun, and the clouds now pleasant and parted in the wake of the Aviary. Finally he rolled onto his front and yelled.

    "Oi! Dempsey! Yew remember thah beaver lodge by thah lake?"

    "Earers aricks!"

    "Yeah, ah know beavers are dicks. But weren't you mates wi' one?"

    The frog read between the lines, scowled, ate another fly, then turned and hopped away into the treeline.




    Sprig buried his face in the chest of the last corpse, shuddering with tears, arm rising and falling to strike the body with sodden thuds. Perhaps to wake it, by some miracle, or simply to despair.

    It was Khanaan.

    The bull anima's body had snagged between the river rapids and formed a dam of filth and rotting fruit. It had taken all the strength of the hobbler and his allies to reclaim the corpse. Now it lay on the riverbank, with Sprig clinging to it.

    A distance off, a band of rowdy beavers at last stood silent, staring at the fairy's grief. There were holes beside them dug in the soil. The second to last grave was being filled - by a slender Avian with golden hair and shattered spine. The beavers waited to take the blacksmith too. Waited until Sprig was finished.

    "I almost 'ad a friend..." His fingers clung to Khanaan's shirt. Wide and weeping eyes beheld a face of calm. Beneath the maulings and the mud the blacksmith was at peace. It somehow made it worse. Like Twiglet, Khanaan had gone forth, on a journey Sprig could not follow.

    The fairy's collapsed on Khanaan's chest again, and stayed there shuddering while the duck began a eulogy. The river was reversing, flowing back towards the sea and correcting its chaos.

    Like time restarting.

    Sprig's hand reached out, and gripped the leather strap of the blacksmith's hammer.


    It was time to be a Hobbler again. To guide those who needed help.

    It was time to return to Hosia.

    #13 Asmodeus, Jun 13, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
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  14. Before the trial of Ironblood

    The Golden Steel rang sharply in the stifling, dusty forge. She tapped it again, eyes closed with delight, and listened to the lingering pure tone that resonated in the room, shrill enough to cause the dust in the air to vibrate in tune. Her hair danced in delight. All that was left was to bind the tang, which was what she precisely didn't want to do. Her hair fluttered long, mischievous and hiding lazy nature as she laid the blade against a rack of its siblings to be finished later.

    The outskirts of Eidolon poured black coal smoke into the air, the thick clouds absorbed and digested by the fungi and canopy of the jungle. The river between Eidolon and Hosia was home to smiths that passed on the art of metalworking from generation to generation as a ritual. Metal went into Ilium's belly and emerged golden. Branches from Ilium's limbs were cut with the correct rites and burned with the Mad Nocturne's iron to produce the Golden Steel, and then tempered by plunging into Ilium's tears and blood. As the Priests of Metal fell to time and intrigue, such as creatures like Khanaan who lived and breathed metal, the rituals began to fade and lose their potency. Naya was only an amateur, a little cat who had stumbled upon a great tradition and had absorbed some of it in whimsical fancy. Their ranks grew thin, and Naya found that more and more she was being pressed into service. The very last shipment of Dorgrad iron had arrived on a monstrous barge that floated down the river, and they were working to forge it before the oily coating disappeared and the iron fell to rust in the damp jungle air, an unrecoverable state alluded to in the rituals as 'metal rot'.

    Her new found occupation sparked tension between the divine smiths, Kindly Ones, and the forest kin. Long ago, the forest kin were fond of growing weapons: razor sharp chitinous blades and fire-impervious bark armour that could carve a screeching path through metal. But even they were begrudgingly forced to acknowledge steel diplomacy when they clashed with the explorers first, merchants second of Hosia, newly armed with Kaustir scimitars. Thereafter the forest-kin turned their disciples to the production of metal, the only time Priests were allowed to explore natural philosophy and empiricism. Once the proper protocols were found, they were recast under the voice of Ilium, and their original methods and logic were lost to rote. Now, the sapling and budding forest-kin had no memory of the old history, and the conflict between steel and root grew anew. Her friends from young times expressed doubt on her new devotion, and as an acolyte in the Kindly Ones she did not feel a sense of belonging. Khanaan had been missing long enough and she assumed the worst. Her tears had ruined many blades today.

    Steel was the only thing that nourished her. The heat of flames, of life, emanated from the hot metal and breathed confidence, belonging into her. A young one, her curiosity was not sated by following the ritual dance, and many times she experimented with different powders, carelessly recording their effects in mind (and losing much progress to absentmindedness in the process).

    The gleam of the Golden blades pleased her. Her hair curled itself into a luxurious pattern, fit for a night party. Speaking of parties ...

    Naya locked up the small forge and began her trek to Eidolon. A Kindly One was on trial, and she was instructed to be there to witness the outcome. Rumours of a lost general, returned, flitted around the forest.
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  15. BEFORE, green The sparring circle is minimalist at best. Rough earth, it's borders marked by chalk, a heavy wooden post jutting out of the centre acting as the target. There are many training fields in Edelon, well-maintained arenas that the Viridosi military makes use of, but after spending the last decade living it rough in the wilds making the adjustment back to the comparative luxuries of civilisation is a slow process for General Tattersal.

    Stripped down to his waist, one can see the marks of a lifetime spent in the defence of the nation carved across the general's body. Scars and burn tissue, old wounds and mementos from battles long forgotten. A gnarled and battered old oak that has weathered many a storm and now stands all the stronger for it. In his hands he clutches a simple rattan staff as long as he is tall, cradling it loosely as he steps into the ring.

    As he advances on the wooden post, however, the staff raises up and begins to move in an arc before him, muscle memory and rhythm perfected over decades driving it. Within seconds its a propeller blade whirling in front of the general as he moves, a blur that moves faster than the eye can register. Without warning it arcs out of this spin to slam against the side of the training post, a rattling series of strikes that moves from the bottom of the post to it's tip.

    The sound of wood striking against wood echoes throughout the clearing as the general continues his barrage of strikes against the target. The staff never remains stationary, a perpetual whirl of movement that hammers home with a single twitch of movement by Tattersal. The momentum builds and grows over time, momentum which he is capable of utilising; with the next spin of the staff the general turns as well, the force of the swing carries him into the air in a jacknife that puts several feet of distance between him and the training post.

    Silence hangs finally, a stark contrast to the ringing blows a few seconds ago.

    A heavy breath escapes the general's lips, and the staff returns to it's relaxed original hold.

    NOW, green

    The Invader holds court over the trial of Lady Ironblood, tendril'd roots and gnarled plant-life slithering out between the stonework he stands upon. A few feet away Tattersal watches the proceedings with a sombre curiosity, his gaze lingering on each of the accused in turn as Om turns his questions on them. His expression is armour, locked in place and concealing any feelings or intentions that lurks beneath it, though this armour does shift on a few occasions.

    At Ironblood's last sentence, as the mutter of discord emanates through the crowd, the general's lips curl slightly. His gaze remains on her even as the rest turn their attention to the Undertaker, and for a moment their eyes meet. It's Ironblood who breaks away, staring down at the ground. Next his attention turns to Ash and though his face remains stoic throughout, as the undertaker offers his final words of defiance that curling smile returns again.

    Amusement, perhaps.

    Or possibly respect.
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  16. They needed to get out of the forest.

    All of them could feel the discomfort that this forest was causing them; the spores that filled their lungs and clouded their vision, the constant moisture that left their skin raw, the horrid fruit that forced them to throw up whatever they had been trying to keep in their stomach. But for Caoimhe this place was pure hell. She had spent her life in the wild, slept under the stars and hunted amongst the wolves, she did not fear forests but this one, this was something she had never encountered. Everything was too green, to bright, to overgrown, to clustered together. In the forests she was familiar with you had to search, and sometimes search hard, to find life. Here you couldn't open your eyes without something new assaulting the senses. She felt like she was walking through the decaying carcass of a massive creature, from the pus like mud that oozed up around her feet with every step to the putrid clouds of spores to the peat moss that hung from the trees; warm and spongy like the caress of rotting flesh.

    Within a few days of the trip down the river her shoulders and her lower back were chaffed from the steady rubbing from her backpack. And not long after that the upper edge of her ear where the rest had been lost frostbite started to blister and ooze. It felt as though the jungle was attacking them, as repulsed at their presense as they were. Bug bites that used to be no more than pin pricks were now welts almost the size of her palm, swollen and irritated by Caoimhe's itching. Anywhere there was the chance for abrasion or the prensence if a wound, new or old, elements converged to make their life that much more unpleasant.

    But it wasn't just the physical assault that was wearing on her, uncertainty was prevalent and spread her thin. The fact that she was useless in foraging something edible from the surrounding green was a hard thing to accept even if she did feel a bit better about the fact that they were living off the provisions that she had stockpiled. Then there was the egg. A mental weight as well as a physical one. Each of them was betting their life, she might not really like the fact but she was not foolish enough to deny it. And what could she do aside from plow on until their path finally ended. However she remembered Glyph's words, how there were many that were more than willing to claim her egg as their own. It wasn't that she feared Medwick killing her over the egg, no she was worried that if the situation arose he would readily use the egg to bargain with. She had vouched her life she didn't know if she was ready to volunteer the egg's as well. So she kept quiet, pretending that she didn't see Shardis's question glances, constantly checking and rechecking the straps of her back pack as she felt the pull of an imaginary hand.

    Prehaps the worst was Shardis and Medwick's bickering. That was mostly an over statement, at this point Caoimhe would have been very worried if they were not at eachothers' necks. Even so as they paused to rest she felt as though the trees were glaring down at them.

    "You two need to stop arguing. To much noise." If she believed she could spare the energy she would have snapped at them. But each day their rations were divided into smaller and smaller portions and while she was able to greet hunger with only a small grimace she was not about to needlessly waste energy. Beside it wasn't like they were even listening to her. At least they were able to work together when the time called for it. Whether predator or prey Caoimhe moved in time with Shardis to guard against any attack and to be ready to pounce if it was something worth killing. She was almost disappointed when the figure came into view.

    What looked like a deer, walked like a man, and smelled like a tree? Apparently the person that had stumbled into their line of sight. Hunger and instincts told her that it was far game, her human mind told her that trees usually were not good to eat and that he might know a way out of this hell hole, and her heart twitched with a bit of compassion as the person's injuries became clear. Instincts also told her that those injuries would also making chasing him down a lot easier if necessary. Unfortunately Medwick seemed more intent on talking. With slow tense steps she circled around the stranger her Aux, which had maintained a stony silence since they had pulled themselves from the swollen river, rustled and made low chattering sounds in interest. She almost pounced when the man suddenly drew close to Medwick, even if the man was injured Medwick was sitting relaxed and had a bad knee so the chances of him making any kind of quick escape were slim at best.

    As the man began to wander off she followed after him for two steps until she saw the look on Medwick's face. Something about that mix of shock, astonishment, disbelief, made her pause and by the time she looked around again the man had disappeared into the thick foliage. A part of her wanted to follow after the stranger but she could tell that he was much more at home in this jungle than they world and the chances that she would be able to find him were close to zero. For a few moments she looked from the place where the stranger had disappeared to Medwick to Shardis and then back again.

    "We should keep moving?" She said her voice caught between a question and a statement. With the city on the horizon they had a destination and with scant food there was all the more reason to make haste.
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  17. "yup, no point in staying here." Shardis stood up and waved them all onward as her Aux took off to keep watch above. Not that it helped any, Tandra was not much for co-operation since Medwick had opened his mouth in a sarcastic tone towards her. The little blue dragon just stayed out of sight as they continued trudging onward, hopefully getting closer to their goal.

    There was definitely more debris from the falling/floating Aviary. During their trek they saw a rough path of sorts made from it with what must have been dead bodies mixed in here and there. They rested on an outcropping for a bit, Gods only knew when they would be so comfortable again. There was a small breeze and it jutted out over the river by a couple of feet and as Shardis looked down she saw a very large dark shape slowly swim by. Odds were the thing would love to eat them if it had the chance, the feline decided not to do any swimming around here....ever.

    The Aviary did look larger than it had when they saw the strange treelike creature and you could see some of the spires were broken down and even as they watched some rather large chunks of earth still crumbled away.

    Once again her stomach rumbled and she sighed, the food was gone and she hadn't eaten much of it anyways. Shar hadn't eaten the fruit ether thankfully, being a carnivore, Shardis didn't eat vegetation even on a bad day. Well, the occasional grasses for upset tummy or the like but not as a meal.

    After a while Shar noticed that Medwick wasn't swinging his falchion as well as he had been and decided it was her turn to take the lead. He didn't even put up a fuss, just nodded while breathing heavily and wiping his forehead. Shardis frowned as she noticed the raw rash he was developing all over his face where he had been wiping himself with the sleeve. There were welts and his eyes were exceedingly red and puffy. She wondered just how well he could see. They needed to get out of here before they dissolved alive!
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  18. Amaltas, silver The stag of the hatewood called him monster. The Invader called him criminal. The crowds murmured things, and he heard them all. but Amaltas stood silent and still, perhaps uncharacteristically so, as the trial went on it's merry way. The Unicorn was kept apart from his esteemed accomplices, and the positioning of the kindly ones made it quite clear who they thought most likely to invite violence into this house of law.

    If appearances were anything to go by, they needn't have bothered.

    He looked like he had just barely escaped being mauled by a very, very vindictive forest fire.

    Burns trailed down his neck all the way to his withers, a smattering of red and missing patches of mane. A portion of his face was seared, one white eye was sealed half shut, and the horn...The Horn bore the brunt of the damage. From tip to root it was a sorry, charred thing, and it looked so fragile, as if a little gust of wind could just brush along and sweep it away.

    "Tell us why you are here Amaltas. Are their claims true? Did you try and help them? And why would you help them if one amongst them despises you so?"

    Amaltas grunted, turned his head to one side of the crowd, then issued a series of short, brief nickers. He repeated it again, louder this time.

    "Unicorn, if this is some sick jest, the shartan is always ope-"

    "Uh, sir, magistrate sir, begging your pardon," A stout horse anima pushed her way to the front of the crowd. "I think he wants me to translate. He says his horn is damaged in the fight with the Grievous, that he lost his true voice in service to his nation, and that he may never speak again."

    Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lapin trying hard not to roll hers.

    "He asks for permission for continued translation."

    More murmurs from the crowd.

    Om glared at the unicorn.

    "Granted." he said irritably.

    Another series of nickers, punctuated by by a loud neigh that shook the anima, and then a low grunt.

    "The undertaker forgets himself. He has a loose mouth and virtue like the dung of dung and...and his mother is the lame catfish that other catfishes call low. He is welcome to place his opinion where it is dark and full of woodworm. His low opinion of me is wretched but it bounces off me and back to him, and it will not hinder me in my duties to my beloved nati-"

    A sharp, dangerous sound.

    "My nation. The claims of lady ironblood-"

    Again. That sound: your tack irks me. We are very, very close, and I have been accused of cannibalism before.

    "The claims of diminutive female mongrel ironblood are true. The claims of the hollow undertaker with a broken soul I cannot verify, but honesty is one of his few virtues." The anima looked more and more uneasy with the translations. "I helped them because she is of the clad, and though her pedigree is like soggy meat that even vultures depise, she wears the cinnabar, and I have great respect for The eternal Prophet of many tongues. I saw a threat to a land that has forsaken, and it is grave. How does the sun continue shining?"

    He met Ironblood's eyes for the briefest of moments; no mention of oaths.

    More sounds, and finally, the first whinney. The translation, and the continued unease of the anima, continued:

    "I have purified the foulest things that only the undertaker can match, but the grevious is like meat that cannot be eaten. She is like the general of foul things; a general grievous. She has four arms where other fouls have two. I touch and it burn me with swords of searing odd light. Tiny clad ironblood, for all her addled halfkin brain, was not-dumb to seek me. She would be like trampled children, and the grevious would be free to swing blades."

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  19. CHELENA-HOSIA, cyan
    Several times on her journey back to Hosia, Chelena nearly turned around. There was some comfort, some sense of security in that little rock shelter that she had found, and the further she walked away from it the more she felt that comfort slipping away. Thoughts of Carus, Khanaan, and Z’tir were flooding through her mind at an ever increasing rate, and all she wanted to do was crouch down and clamp her head between her hands until the color of pressure drove away all of the lingering thoughts of the golden touch of feathers and the copper and scarlet of blood.

    But she kept moving. She kept moving because forward was the only direction Chelena knew. She was not a creature to linger in the past or drift through on the present. It was not in the nature of her species. If she dwelt too long on what had been, she would go mad. Yet still the foreign pain lingered.

    Chelena stumbled absentmindedly through the crowd on the outskirts of Hosia, not caring when she bumped into other people. She had nothing left for them to take except the ratty, dirty, and blood-spattered clothes she wore now. The sun beat down on her bare shoulders, further aggravating her burns, but she ignored the pain. The path back to Hosia had been almost entirely shaded, and she could tolerate the rays until she got to where she was going.

    It wasn’t until she came to a halt before an old, dilapidated building that Chelena understood exactly where she had been going. It was the Kaustirian hovel where everything had gone so wrong. It was the third time she had found herself here. The first was with Carus and the animals, the second, only hours after their deaths. She had come back before fleeing, hoping that seeing the place would provide some sort of resolution, an answer to the pain inside her. She had sat in the thief's room, staring at everything on the walls until the sun dropped below the line of the horizon, and she had finally been forced to acknowledge that this place held no answers for her. Then she had closed off, and fled.

    The place was empty now. With the borders closed and suspicion falling heavily on any Kaustirian immigrants, the people who had once inhabited it had been relegated to other places. Where the government could keep a closer eye on them. Chelena slid down into the shade of one wall, waiting for the pain from the sun to fade from her night-black skin. Vethe curled around her bent form, silent and unable to offer any true comfort to his broken Crux.

    She wished she had even one of her scarves back now. They had been the result of years of gathering, trading or taking however was necessary to allow her to keep those colors close to her forever. She couldn’t even remember where she lost them now. It had seemed so unimportant at the time.

    She didn’t even know where she could go to replace them at this point. Hosia was closed off, the merchants stilled until the borders reopened. Those supplies that had survived the damage of the Aviary were being closely guarded, hidden away so that Chelena would not even know where to begin her search.

    Slowly an idea began to build in her mind, something that would offer, if she played it right, not only her scarves but also something infinitely more valuable. Distraction. The colors of lust and passion drifted through her mind, all wrapped within the coils of a draken.

    It was not something Chelena would ever do in the long term. She was not a working girl. But Belphebe was a businesswoman, and she had implied that she would not object to Chelena’s presence, even if she wasn’t working for the draken.

    It was far from a perfect solution, but right now Chelena was lost. Until she got in a place where her head was back under her own control, being guaranteed shelter and blood would not be a disastrous thing.

    Besides, the constant contact would be a novelty with which she was not familiar in the least.

    Satisfied enough with her solution, Chelena stood from the shadow, walking back out into the daylight with only a small tremor of hesitation. She could remember the boat ride from The Silver Wings to here. Reversing it would not be hard.
  20. Hosia - Shekar Ma'alin, saddlebrown Her basement, Shekar frowned watching Ryza leave. Had the request come a day sooner, or the flood waters flowed a block closer, she would have had no choice but to refuse. Her secret basement, her vault, the place she kept the most valuable of her goods. Her shop had survived, barely, and so now she was hostess for the only intact location they could use. She knew better than to think it was anything other than that.

    "Something You've never seen before?"
    Nox questioned as he floated above the counter.
    "I deal in unusual items and antiquities." she answered leaning back over the counter to finish her letter to Teadoir. "There are very few things I have not seen, even in the pages of a book. Consider it a test. Whatever he brings me will be worth something, and if it is truly something unfamiliar to me then perhaps this whole thing will not be such a waste of my space and time."

    The letter was done, her signature scrawled across the bottom. It was carefully folded and then sealed with wax. She opened the front door to her shop and raised the parchment in one hand. A moment later a lemur snatched it out of her grasp and swung away through the branches. This was her usual means of communication with her associates, the messenger she trusted more than any sentient being.

    Wyrm's Rock- Ayanne Marshden, green Ayanne settled into a chair next to the window. Not that it did her any good. The curtains were drawn, the shutters were, if there were any, closed and barred. She made no move to check. She had promised. A book was open in her lap, pulled from the shelf near the door. This was the seventh she had picked up. She turned the pages not really enjoying the contents, but reading and committing the words to memory anyway. They were log books. Not Malachi's though perhaps she might learn more about the man if they were. She read not because she enjoyed it, and certainly not because she had nothing else to do (which was true) but because they contained information she worried she might need. She was no sailor, and no fighter, but perhaps if she understood the terms she might understand what she heard going on around her.

    She was forbidden to look outside, but no one had bothered to tell her not to listen. As her grandmother had often told her, not everything came down to what you could see.
    Three Days Ago, grey It was the Draken Volok that came down to take her out of the brig. He had a kerchief in one hand and a length of rope. He was going to bind and blindfold her.
    "What for?" Ayanne had demanded trying to keep the panic from her voice.
    "You want a bit of fresh air?" he'd retorted.
    "Yes . . ."
    "Something to eat besides gruel?"
    " . . . Yes . . ."
    "Then cooperate."
    Ayanne hesitated, her mind ticking to something else she wanted more. It was worth a shot. "Perhaps a - a bath and something not soaked in blood to wear?"
    He looked at her. "Hold out your hands." She did as she was told.

    She was led across wood flooring, and up a set of steps before they reached the outside air. She could smell blood in it, along with fish, wet wood, and the other scents that were usually present on the docks of any port. She could hear sea birds and men working, the water on the shore, and hushed voices. Wherever she was they either did not want her to see her location, or someone at her location. Probably the latter considering the only port she'd ever been in was Hosia and she'd been more than forthcoming about that information when they'd sailed to find the monolith. She cursed the monolith. As far as she was concerned that thing was the source of all her problems at the moment.

    She kept her ears open as she was lead across the deck and down what felt like the gangplank.
    "I'll see what can be done." Volok's voice promised as she was pushed into a seated position, "behave."

    Apparently pirates could keep their word, Ayanne decided as some time later she was led, still blindfolded, through a crowded street to a door where she heard coin change hands and instructions were whispered to whoever received her. She had no idea who had done the leading this time, they kept their voice low and seemed content to only tug on the rope around her wrists to guide her.

    Once inside the door closed and the blindfold was removed. She was in brothel. She knew it on sight, there were enough similarities between it and Belphebe's place. She had been in Belphebe's place enough times when a patron got out of hand and one of the girls had to be patched up. It made sense on some level. Surrounded by women who's lively hood depended on keeping the men happy there was probably not a girl in the place who would help her run. They would also have everything required to make her presentable.

    They led her to a long room filled with bathtubs and bathing materials and helped her strip. (She was apparently not to be left alone for any length of time.) Crimson and golden curtains lined the room, candles and hanging lanterns gave off plenty of light, and scented oils filled the air. A snore caught her attention and Ayanne turned to find a male patron dozing in a tub while a copper scaled Draken rubbed oil into his skin. Ayanne quickly turned her back to the pair and the girls around her grinned.

    They found her apparent innocence amusing, and while they were willing to humor her and lead her to the far end of the room where they could shield the last tub with a screen, they also filled her ears with all sorts of advice. The sort of advice that left her ears burning and her face flushed as she scrubbed the blood of battle and days of grime from the brig from her skin. For them her blushes were another source of amusement. What was worse, Ayanne feared trying to correct their misconceptions might result in the appearance of her making an attempt to escape. Malachi had not once said he would take her home, but he had been adamant about not seeing her hurt. Ayanne was fairly sure that she was not going to be able to find a better deal in . . . wherever she was. Besides, she had promised to help them get that thing away from Viridos.

    Eventually cloths were found and while they didn't exactly fit, (the neck of the blouse they brought her kept slipping over one shoulder and she refused to wear the thing properly so it exposed the tops of her breasts,) they were clean and untorn. Of her previous outfit only her boots remained. Only when she was returned, again blindfolded, to the man at the door were her belt-knife and healer's pack returned to her.

    The pages of the book turned in a steady rhythm as Ayanne pored over them, shifting to keep her unbound aubern hair from catching between her back and the chair. Sometimes she stopped to study a chart or diagram. The neck of her shirt slipped down over one shoulder again, but she ignored it. Finally she had found something in these pages she was halfway interested in. Her fingers traced the drawing of the flower and her nose dropped a little bit closer to the page.

    Hosia - Shekar Ma'alin, saddlebrown Shekar's basement. Her vault, the place she kept the most valuable of her goods. When the letter had been sent she had closed her shop for lunch and headed back into the little room she called an office. There wasn't much there. A desk a chair, a bookcase that held her ledgers. In one wall was set a little door that lead up a staircase to her personal apartments above the shop. If she was going to prepare for a meeting, possibly made up of her competitors, then the items stored below would have to be moved up there instead.

    She crossed to the bookcase.
    She ran her hand along the top.
    The hidden latch clicked and the Bookcase swung open revealing a hidden set of stone steps behind.

    The stairs led down to a long low ceilinged room lined with stone and the roots of the tree above. The floor was little more than soft dry sand. At set intervals were small square glass boxes filled with glowing maggots that Shekar cared for regularly. She almost considered them pets. Almost. They filled the room with a warm golden light as they squirmed over each other.

    It took a little over an hour to clear the space, moving everything into the various secret cupboards of her living quarters up above. She made certain her shutters were barred and locked before she started. No need to be seen. When she was finished she returned to her basement, checking it over for any missed detail.

    All that remained was bare sand and the glowing maggot boxes. "If you don't reopen soon people will wonder what's going on." Nox murmured as he floated behind her.
    "I know."
    "Some of our earlier "friends" are returning to the tree now that things have dried out a little more. I wish they'd stayed inland, but many miss the sound of the sea."
    "I know." She surveyed her handiwork one last time before turning to return back to the main shop.


    "What if he brings you something you're already familiar with?"
    Then I keep it for my trouble and send him away."
    "And, what if he does find something you've never seen?"
    "Then I uphold my end of the bargain. Zovalias knows the rules of making a deal with me."
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