Viridos, Chapter 5

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  1. Chapter 5

    Consequences
    “My family, I come to you now with events I never wished to bare. Listen and know my voice.”



    When Ironblood was younger, before she donned the Cinnabar…before she’d proven her name, one of the Kindly had led her through the Barrowhall. Any who would rise must first see where they may fall. Once a burial chamber, the Barrowhall became a sepulcher of things best left forgotten. Few of the Cinnabar to fall was guilty enough to face the labyrinth, but with the secrets of the order in their minds they were deemed too dangerous to walk free. Here they remained in indefinite solitude.

    The alchemist ran a finger along the alien iron bars that separated her from freedom. Iron had no soul, it did not feel. None of the Clad could coax the iron to bend, not as easily as wood. The trial was distant now. All memories seemed to scuttle from her in the darkness. Her past was her present and her future was a dark silence. Within her, an evil struggled at similar barriers. Till the council knew how to truly handle the Grievous, she would be locked away.


    But the Grievous had been galvanized during the trial. Although Ash had successfully held the thing in check, it had awoken. She could feel it pushing in her soul, a light tap-tapping on the precipice of her virtue. Here she was useless, here she was trapped. Here it only grew stronger.



    “Once we were mighty. In the service of Ilium we looked to our Prophet and the Clad. Once that was all we needed, all we desired. But our prophet has not yet returned, and the clad arein disarray. The War Criminal Amaltas has escaped confinement and the High Alchemist has been found guilty of endangering the realm. The Aerie has fallen from the sky and the smell of smoldering branches still clings to the air. We are no longer safe, Viridos. We are no longer strong.”



    Wyrm Rock


    “Damn!” Malachai hissed the curse at the warped table beneath a clenched fist. Ayanne flinched instinctively, clutching a clay cup with both hands and swiftly drinking the water inside to mask her movements. They had been left on Wyrm’s rock while the Malachai’s new ship was being repaired. Originally the plan was to sail back into Viridos, but no captain was bound for its shores. The navy patrolled the waters of the port and the secret hide-aways dotting the coast. It seemed as though no profiteer wanted to risk their hides dropping the half-nocturne and his companion near Hosia. Days had passed, ships putting out to the Dreadcove or Kaustir but never Viridos.

    It was as though the nation had ceased to exist.

    “What…do we do now?” Ayanne asked quietly. Malachai looked up at her and shrugged helplessly, leaning back in his seat.

    “What do you suggest? We’ve spoken to every captain in port. The coin is too high for us to pay the few crazy enough to challenge the blockade.” Sullenly he took his own mug and toasted the empty air, “Here’s to thee, father.” Ayanne wisely chose not to toast in return, pulling the mug against her chest. “A nearly sinking ship and exile on this Illium-forsaken rock. Fitting birthrights.”

    He tipped the remainder of the dark brew into his mouth and smacked the bottom of the cup onto the table. “I know the riverways. I know the jungle. Don’t need a big ship, just one small enough to slip between patrols. Damned if these pirates are more coward than cutthroat.”

    “A bit of caution goes a long way to save skins.” Malachai turned to the voice, glaring at the man who spoke in the table besides theirs. His skin was dark, scorched by the Kaustirian sun, and his companion was a lithe draken with a lustrous shine to her scales. “No profit in safe skins though,” the foreigner went on to say, “The real prize is in the gamble.” The pirate said nothing, kicking Ayanne lightly under the table. She might have yelped, but after spending so much time with Malachai she knew it was a comforting tap. “What I mean to say is, friend,” the stranger continued “We seem in a unique position. I have a ship but no way past the blockades. You have a way past with no ship.”


    The draken hissed a light approval and nodded. “Don’t mind my partner’s tone,” She said “We aren’t the sort to take the navy lightly. You’re a man with a way to get past.” She folded her scaled hands and tapped the claws against the hardened scales, “Well. We’re the people with the boat to do it with.”

    “What’s your name?” Ayanne asked quietly

    “Nassad,” the Kaustrian said, “Nassad and Tamaa.”



    “It is with a heavy heart that I admit I haven’t the experience for this situation. Our enemies are powerful and manifold and we need a leader who can safeguard our way of life, our people till the prophet returns or Ilium speaks once again. But through this time of darkness there will be light. No blade will not go untempered with wisdom. I ask you now, Viridos, to put your faith in me as you have for so many long years.”



    The lesser merchants were moving. The scampering of their tiny operations still seemed unheard by the Greater merchant family of Hosia, but Shekar wasn’t optimistic. Twenty years ago the High House had come down on a few ambitious swindlers carving out a smuggling trail outside the main routes. Their blood fed the Hydra plants growing along the Grand House’s perimeter and their bones were left to peer balefully through thick underbrush at any who would dare cross those in control. She didn’t turn when the bell on her door rang. She could smell the heavy blood lingering on the air, like a stamp.

    “Zovalias.”

    “Most Honorable Shekar.” His voice was so regally composed, not at all what one might expect from his ruin of a mouth. The floorboards creaked under his weight. “I had hoped to engage your time regarding our arrangement.”

    “I’m surprised you came, Nocturne,” She turned with a dry smile, as easy a grin as a draken could manage, “Amaltas still runs wild. Do you not fear for your health?”

    Zovalias towered over Shekar, devouring her with his blazing eyes. From behind him, the emaciated child aux watched with undisguised starvation. Holding up both hands, Zovalias clacked the long claws off the ends of his fingers together, “A calculated business risk,” he explained, “The horse will come whether I hunker and hide or walk free.” He grinned and Shekar grounded her feet, choking a shudder, “Bad for business to hide, after all.”


    “Where is it then?” Shekar asked, looking the blood gorger up and down, “Small enough to hide in your clothes? Not exactly an optimistic size.”


    “No,” Zovalias admitted, turning back to the door, “Much larger. Come, Shekar, let me show you something you have not seen before.”


    Sighing, the draken hung the closed sign in her door and followed the Nocturne. Most would have cringed from following the beast to anywhere of import. But Shekar knew what most seemed to have forgotten. Monster or not, Zovalias was a man of business


    And killing her was bad business.



    “I give you Tattersal, general in the defense of Viridos. The Clad and the Council will defer to his judgment in matters both domestic and foreign till peace can be guaranteed for all who seek Ilium’s blessing in the Forest. Expect a number of new laws to be enacted by the general for the safety of the realm and those within it. I ask, no, beg your forgiveness for being wholly unprepared for the turn of events we have suffered. It is my hope the General will lead us from these troubles to a peace, as he has before. Trust in the Prophet. Trust in Ilium. Trust in Viridos. Together we grow strong.”

    Om the Invader answered no questions, silently stepping behind the impassive Tattersal. The General looked out over the crowd with neither approval nor derision. As before, he would guide them. As before he would lead them.

    Sheep never learned.

    But he would save them from the wolves.



    Deep within the BarrowHall


    The metal sizzled. Surprised, Lady Ironblood snatched her hands away from the bars. Where she had clutched them, corrosive liquid tore into the iron with startling speed. The Grievous…it had learned to work through her now, already unsatisfied with its prison.

    She debated. It wanted her out there…among new hosts, new victims. But here it would only grow stronger. Slowly, she reached out and touched the bars again. They sizzled and melted at her coaxing.

    Greater horrors stalked than the Council knew. Her path was clear now, clearer than it ever had been.

    The wilds of Viridos called…and somewhere beyond, the Earthspeaker waited. Ironblood left without looking back, without seeking Ash. By Ilium they would meet again, she was sure of it. And of the unicorn who had slipped its shackles?


    She would find him too. Debts needed to be settled.


     
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  2. Ideals ...


    [​IMG]

    "Wow." Medwick stretched his arms high into the open, open, the blissfully open sky blue sky. He sneezed once, the pollen from the poisoned jungle still carried on the sea winds.

    "I'm truly impressed." Aerie continued climbing the ladder, apparently ignoring him.

    "I am amazed that the Avians know how to build ships and sail the Prosperos." The Avian might have twitched, perhaps slipped on the next rung of the ladder, but continued her ascent to the top deck of the ship. Perhaps there was the faintest aura of woops coming from the broken wings. It was hard to tell.

    He gave a brief nod to the Valkrie guards, noting but not pausing to think why they saluted in return. The Pegulis scholar ascended the ladder and moved to speak with the captain.

    "Captain."

    "Aye Sir."

    "This is not an Avian ship, is it?"

    "Ahahahohoho! No Sir, this is a house Sundel ship that was chartered by a private firm in Hosia to ship timber. They sometimes do business with the Aviary, and through the firm we were approached and asked to wait upshore for a shipment of ... human cargo to transport due south." The Captain twisted his mustache. "We normally do not go much further south than Hosia, I'm afraid."

    Hosia. ... Teadoir. They could not afford to set foot on Viridos for a while. The Captain was much more experienced at reading people than Medwick was at hiding emotions. "We will have to drop you off at ---"

    "How much is dye worth to you?"

    "In Viridos? I can go into the jungle and squeeze green juice out of anything that crawls."

    "What about this?" Medwick held up a finger stained a most brilliant iridescence of purple-blue. The Captain paused, and squinted at his finger for a long time. Medwick was poor at hiding his emotions, but he was also passable at reading them. He could tell the Captain was considering his options.

    "Tell you what. Drop us off two day's south --"

    "Impossible." The Captain raised an eyebrow and Medwick knew he had blundered severely.

    "Ah, yes. The deadlands." The scholar's recovery was smooth enough. "Just a day, then. You can have the jar," he patted the earthenware pot, wrapped in protecting cotton, "and perhaps I can leave a message through the Avians when I have more."

    The Captain extended a hand.

    "On delivery, Sir." That earned a laugh from the merchant-sailor.

    "Alright, fine! And as a bonus, I will give you the deed to a small shipment of Dorgrad steel we have in our merchant house in Hosia." He did not mention that the steel would only last a month in Hosia's humid environment.

    .. and ideologues.

    On the first night after the trial, Hosia stirred to the hammer of a hundred hooves. The stables were left wrecked and empty in the morning. Chewed up saddles littered the streets, along with the trampled bodies of the night guard. Hosia started the day with horses, and ended it with none.

    On the second night after the trial, A little green kinchild at the edge of the Riven tree met a new friend. The marsh pony came trotting along, all swamp coloured and small and inquisitive. The child approached cautiously, then reached out to pat it, and the pony responded warmly to that gesture.

    In that he ripped off the child's fingers with a vicious snap, knocked him over, and tried to gore him with a non-existent horn.

    On the third night after the trial, Gryphon corpses began washing onto the banks of the Properos, whole and uneaten, nary even a scavenger's nibble. The same wounds in the same place, inflicted by either a giant crab or something that hadn't been a common sight in a long, long time. If one were fluent in the older fey dialect, they would note that the wounds spelled out, quite neatly all bloody things considered, a little message:

    Are we not the Drinker's folly? Are we not the Drowner's herald? Ride, laugh once and only, and be at peace.

    On the fourth night after the trial, a ship sailing down the serpetine Properos river simply vanished.

    On the fifth night past the trial, a black unicorn the size of a tiger elephant climbed upon a great rock in Northern Viridos, in sight of the Aviary, and called to the skies.

    With a flap of wings, the skies did answer.

    Three pegasi, two grown and a foal, their coats sleek and black. A hippogriff, reluctant and resistant, for the beast was as much eagle as it was horse. All refugees from the Aviary's fall, their flocks and herds scattered to the Viridosi skies. Their avian masters would surely work to reclaim them when the Aviary was fully settled.

    Unless Amaltas got to them first.

    [​IMG]

    "I bid you all greetings," The Unicorn said with his mouth, not with his horn. "Do the Gryphons still hunt you and yours?"

    "No longer, my lord." The Stallion said with a bow of his head. He was tiny next to the Unicorn, barely reaching up to his withers. "They dwindle from the green skies. They dip beneath the foliage, down to the river to drink, and never rise from it."

    "Hooves in all places, friend. Sky, land, and sea. But not all I can reach. I need to deliver a message to Wyrm Rock."

    "I am at your servic-"

    "Not you. Your child. He blends with the cover of night, and in it, they will dismiss him as a large gull."

    "My lord, he is barely weaned."

    "But weaned nonetheless. Perhaps I should ask him. Child," The great head loomed low, and the foal hid behind his mother. "Would you do this service for me? Will you play your part?"

    "I w-wou-"

    "LOUDER." And everyone jumped, even the hippogriff. "You are a stallion, not some fading Edelon quim."

    "I...Yes."

    "Then stay still and bear it."

    Amaltas's head came closer then, lowered, his horn scoring lines and patterns across the foal's right flank, blood dripping and the foal trying hard not to moan, and the parents uneasy and the hippogriff looking on with utter disinterest. When he was done, there was a stylized sigil upon it.

    "Fly with your right flank to the sea. They will find you, and you tell them that their horse lord has returned, and that their orders still stand. I would send one of their kin from the Prosperos, but between General one-eye's tantrum and their reluctance towards the poisoned water..." Amaltas trailed off. "Go. Fly strong. Don't let your sire down." And as the foal flew off, he turned to the parents.

    "How many more of the sky herd remains in the Aviary?"

    "Dozens, my lord. Most of us fled the descent, but a small number remain."

    "The message is the same, then: Stay strong. Spread my word. Wait for the signal. Hippogriff, the skies still bear the gryphon taint. The cleansing is not quick enough. They still hunt my pegasi. "

    "What do you ask of me?"

    "I would ask that you aid in their extinction. My horses are doing their utmost, perhaps you should do the same."

    "They are stronger than us, faster than us, their talons are lar-"

    "And they hunt alone. Do you need mobbing lessons from a wingless horse?"

    Silence. The grumbling was implied. "No, my lord."

    "Go then." The unicorn said with an air of dismissal. "We all have so much work to them." Flap, flap, flap, flap, and they were gone. Then he was gone back into the jungle.

    Soon, even that distinction would be moot. Viridos would return to its roots.

    (But whose?)
     
    #2 unanun, Jul 16, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2014
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  3. CHELENA-HOSIA, cyan The naval fort was in complete disarray. It had been battered into oblivion by the Aviary, but was not a first priority for repair. It was strong enough to withstand a basic attack, but they may as well have laid out a welcome mat for Chelena. She scurried over the wall, slipping through the darkest spaces of color where the attentions of the various posted soldiers failed to penetrate.

    Theft was just like dancing, except that the goals were the opposite. In dancing, her goal was to attract eyes, to move with the colors in a way that drew attention and created pleasure. In theft, she moved in a way to avoid attention. But it was still a rhythm, still a delicate waltz where one wrong move could throw off the whole endeavor. It was a good thing that Chelena was the best dancer she had ever met.

    The young nocturne had not questioned Belphebe's information. It was unnecessary. The draken was a businesswoman, and would not waste time on unnecessary actions. Chelena wasn’t one for politics, but even she knew she was a stroke of luck for the Mistress. There was no way to connect Chelena back to Belphebe, should she fail. Which she wouldn't.

    She came to rest behind a small shrub, waiting for a break in the soldiers who passed by. She had time to wait for the perfect opportunity. Eyes missed that for which they were not looking. Finally there was a moment of silence, and before the heel of the last boot had fully passed out of sight Chelena was moving. She sprang upwards, latched onto the sill of the window and writhed her way in through the small gap that someone had left to tempt in a stray breeze.

    The Captain’s office was neat and tidy, everything in place. The desk glowed warmly in the sunlight, and shelves of books lined the wall. Chelena moved quickly, finding the stack of reports that lay on the corner of the Captain's desk. She fished through them efficiently, looking for the report that Belphebe had carefully described to her, but she made it all the way through the pile and had still not come across the correct document.

    The routes of the Hosian military that were going to be used to set up the blockade were not the most confidential document in the place, but someone had apparently decided that it should not be left on a desk. After all, if that kind of information got in the hands of smugglers... Well, that was exactly why Belphebe wanted it. Chelena growled slightly in frustration. It could have been moved only minutes ago, and she would have no way of knowing where it was going, or when it would get there.

    What should she do? She could always go back to Belphebe, and tell the Mistress what had happened. There would be some way for the draken to get new information, and then Chelena could sneak in again.

    ... No. She couldn’t do that. That was not the deal she had made with Belphebe. Her job was to find the naval routes, and if they were not where they were supposed to be, well, she would just have to make something up. Chelena was good. She knew her game, and she could still get out of it at any point.

    There was someone coming. Chelena lowered the papers back into place, before bolting towards the door. She grabbed onto the wooden lip that was at the top of the door, and pushed her way up towards the ceiling using the pattern that had been carefully carved or grown into the door. Her toes spread wide, she lifted her hands, pressed against the ceiling, and wedged herself in above the door, Vethe coiled about her shoulders.

    The door opened beneath her, and the Captain’s assistant wandered into the room. She was a lithe little thing, and Chelena felt a small smile cross over her face. What luck, to find a uniform that would fit her.

    She dropped from the ceiling like a striking viper, her legs curling around the girl’s neck, and used her own weight to bring her to the ground. The human was unconscious before she had a chance to resist. Chelena dragged her over to the desk, quickly stripped her of her uniform, before shoving her into the footwell of the desk. Sadly, Chelena used her last scarf to gag and bind the girl. That should give hr enough time to get the papers she needed.

    Of course, if someone found her and Chelena didn’t have the papers, it might make it that much harder the next time. So be it. She was up for the challenge.

    Donning the uniform, Chelena straightened her shoulders and tossed her hair back over her neck. The door opened easily under her fingers. It was time to go find those papers.


    VALYRIN-HOSIA, green Written by @Seth Bloodmoon

    With all that had happened in Hosia since the Aviary had fallen, Valyrin's plans of seeking out more information on the pirates, Ozzimus and Requiem, had become secondary. Every single lead he had come across so far had led to dead ends. Well, there was still the known fact Ozzimus was a White Claudia addict, but the half-kin captain lacked the resources at the moment to scour Hosia for those who might sell the drug. The entire situation was... most vexing.

    Swirling the remaining absence in his glass, he exhaled a quiet sigh then drained it. Setting the empty glass aside on his desk, he pushed his chair back and rose to his feet. Once things were a bit more stable in Hosia, and his men had a chance to get some much needed rest, he would resume his hunt. Unless, of course, something else went horribly wrong in Viridos. Which, given how things have been going, wouldn't exactly surprise him.

    Valyrin stretched a bit and popped his neck once to each side to work the kinks out before stepping out from behind his desk. He started for the door of his office, but paused in mid-stride. Turning about he reached out and plucked up a small stack of papers. It contained various unimportant documents ranging from requisition forms to minor reports about the recovery efforts in Hosia. With luck he would find one of his assistants to hand them off to for delivery to their proper destinations.

    With the papers in hand, he moved towards the door of his office once more and exited it. Shutting it quietly behind him, he moved down the hall keeping an eye out for one of his assistants. Maybe he would attempt to grab a bit of sleep once he was finished here. It sounded like a wonderful idea and he definitely needed it. One could only push themselves so far before their body took matters into its own hands, after all.

    Luck proved to be on Valyrin's side when he turned a corner moment's later and spotted a uniformed woman, "Seaman Recruit, I've got a task for you," calling out in a commanding tone as he strode in her direction.


    HOSIAN MILITARY BASE, #00b359 Cowritten.

    It took Chelena an unfortunate amount of time to realize that Valrin was talking to her. She walked tall and purposeful, her shoulders back and her head held high. It was amazing how much you could get away with if it looked like you knew what you were doing. But there were times, no matter how busy you looked, that you got recruited anyways.

    Valrin was forced to reach out and tap her on the shoulder before Chelena realized that he was actually talking to her. Her gut churned slightly, pisoned by panicked thoughts about what would happen if she was discovered. She would certainly lose any place she had at Belphebe's, if not wind up in a naval prison. If she wasn't careful, she might actually get stuck there.

    "Sir," she responded promptly, trying to cover for any mistake she may have made. Her hand snapped up to her forehead in a perfect imitation of the military salute, and she held her breath as she waited for acknowledgement.

    Valyrin, luckily, was far more interested in getting his paperwork done than worrying about the oddities of some new recruit. Saluting her back mildly, he handed her the small stack of papers he was carrying, before adding "Follow me."

    Chelena did not want to stand out. She had no idea what was going on, but she did know that if she tried to go against this Captain, questions would be asked. As long as she was patient, she would find her way out of this mess. Who knew. Maybe it would even prove to be an opportunity. After all, she had no idea where the papers she wanted had wound up. Maybe, if she played this right, he would tell her.

    The two walked back down the corridor to Valyrin's office, where he held open the door for Chelena to enter. She blinked in surprise, fairly certain that wasn't exactly protocol, but was more than willing to go with it.

    "I have some more papers I will need you to deliver," Valyrin began, turning his back to Chelena. "The most important ones are the reports I have already handed to you, but once you have finished those I have a whole stack that will need to be addressed.

    "The supply requisition form needs to go to Ensign Tammerlane. He works with Commander Hershal."
    The names continued to fly as the stack of papers near Valyrin began to grow. Chelena stopped listening almost immediately, desperate to find a way out of this situation. Finally, she glanced down at the papers in her hands.

    A slow smile spread over her face when she saw the one that was on top of the stack. It was a paperwork requisition form. Chelena sidled her way over to the desk, moving as quietly as she knew how. She set the papers down with nary a rustle, certainly nothing detectable over the hurricane of noise Valyrin was making, and grabbed the nearby quill.

    "You get all that?"

    "Sir, I think there has been some kind of mistake. I was sent here by Admiral Donsiris." She proffered the recently filled out form, desperately hoping that the ink was dry enough to escape scrutiny.

    Valyrin accepted the form. The slightest hint of a frown tugged at the corners of his mouth as his eyes skimmed over the writing. Were he less fatigued he might have noticed the fact the ink wasn't dry, but fortune favored the woman as he returned the form to her. "I see," he said, extending a hand to take back the initial paperwork he had handed her.

    Readily handing over those papers once more, Chelena suppressed the urge smirk before tucking away the orders she had hastily falsified, just in case. No reason to give the Captain a chance to scrutinize them further, after all. Unsure of the exact protocol for the situation she waited quietly, hoping the half-kin would simply dismiss her to carry out her 'errand'.

    Valyrin turned aside for a moment, setting the rest of the paperwork on his desk. "What exactly did the Admiral send you here for, if I might inquire?" He turned his attention back to her as he arched a curious brow.

    The woman's initial reaction was to say it was classified. However, before she opened her mouth she had a second thought. Perhaps the Captain could be of use in her search for the documents she was seeking. It was a gamble, but one that would cost her little with him believing she was there under the orders of a higher ranking officer, "Admiral Donsiris is looking copies of the papers detailing the naval routes for the blockade, Sir."

    Valyrin's brow furrowed for a moment, "He doesn't have that information already?"

    Without missing a step, Chelena shook her head, "I'm afraid not, sir. With the chaos brought about by the Aviary's fall, they must have either been lost or someone simply forgot to send them to the Admiral." Glancing towards the doorway of his office, she continued "Sir, may I be on my way? I do not wish to earn the Admiral's ire for taking too long."

    Another frown tugged at the corners of Valyrin's mouth as he mulled over what the woman had said. Finally he gave a slight nod, accepting her words as truth. It was easily believable after all. Things were still a mess in Hosia after the recent events, "Hold on, Seaman Recruit, I can help you find the papers you seek. There's no need for you to get in trouble for my mistake." Moving to the doorway of his office, he motioned for her to step out.

    Once more Chelena had to resist the urge to smile with how things were turning out. Despite the earlier setback things were going much better than could have imagined. She offered a smart salute, "Yes, Sir!" before stepping out of the Captain's office and falling into step behind him after he shut the door.

    The longer it took them to find the papers, the more antsy both Chelena and Valyrin become. He had asked a nearby clerk, who had attempted to guide them towards the office that Chelena had already searched. Panicking slightly at the memory of the real recruit hidden away under the desk, she told them both that she had already checked that office, before the Captain had waylaid her.

    Shrugging slightly, the clerk directed them to a small number of people, most of them Captains like Valyrin. Chelena politely declined talking to them, claiming that they would respect Valyrin more, and would therefore be quicker to respond. Valyrin accepted her need to hurry easily, and Chelena felt a wash of relief. The fewer people who saw her the better. The list was already growing, and if she wasn't careful someone might figure out that Admiral Donsiris was a figment of her imagination.

    They had to make three more stops until they finally tracked the routes down to a massive chamber, filled to the brim with old military reports. Both of them were highly irritated, as this was a place that only records no longer in active use should have been filed. As if they hadn't wasted enough time, the place was an absolute mess, with papers piled every which way on every available surface.

    Over the course of their hunt Chelena managed to spill a bottle of old ink over herself, staining the uniform and covering some of her blue runes. Valyrin found himself trapped briefly under an unexpected cascade of papers, which Chelena was forced to admit she had accidentally triggered.

    A couple of times, Chelena seriously considered activating her advent, and using it to sort through the colors of the paper to find which one had been most recently written. She ultimately decided not to because she wasn't out of the base yet, and there was no telling what challenges she might come across on her way out.

    But that method of thinking was what eventually allowed her to find the report. She called Valyrin over as soon as she located the paper, surprised to find that she had grown somewhat fond of the solder in the time they had been hunting together.

    "Oh, thank Ilium."

    "Are you sure it is the right one?"

    He studied the paper for a moment. "Yeah," he replied. "It was dated less than a week ago, so that has to be the right one."

    "Thank you," Chelena replied, efficiently rolling up the report and shoving it into a pocket of the stained uniform. "I'm sorry to have taken up so much of your day."

    "It's... fine," he answered, more than willing to be done with the impromptu adventure. Chelena turned to go, but he called to her a moment before she walked out the door. "Seaman." Chelena paused, turning around with a forced smile on her face. "Perhaps we will meet again?"

    "Perhaps," Chelena replied, then darted away before he could think of another reason to call her back or question her.

    She would take the papers to Belphebe immediately. Hopefully the Mistress would be pleased enough to allow Chelena free reign at her scarves.
     
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  4. Boats, how she despised stinking swaying boats. Under the watchful gaze of the Avian guard Caoimhe boarded the ship just behind Aerie her head down as she tried to keep her mind away from the swirling water that lurked only a few feet away. Her back pack was once more clutched at her chest a protective gesture directed at the sailors and the guards. Thankfully the guards seemed to be more interested in what Aerie was doing, and not for the first time the wilding wondered what her friend had been up to since she had left the boat. Quite a bit if a busted wing and a full guard was anything to go by.

    As soon as she had ascended the ladder Caoimhe had darted around Medwick and Aerie ending up near the mast of the boat, leaning heavily against the solid tower of wood as she tried to get a feel for the boats movement. At the moment it did not seem very bad, just a gentle swaying like the breath of a large animal. But she remembered how her stomach had pitched and twisted in on itself as though she had eaten a flesh rot. And now there was no Glyph to make her a special tea to sooth her stomach. No Glyph to offer advice to the new mother. No Glyph.

    As Medwick and the Captain finished their dealings Caoimhe drew close her eyes watching the man's reaching back, making sure that he was out of ear shot before she spoke.

    "What are these dead lands?" She asked. Her brow furrowed as she tried to picture what kind of place the Captain was so eager to avoid. They are crossed a forest that had been slowly killing them with each step, before that they had crossed a sea which was considered dangerous enough that only a rare few left the established paths, and before that they had crossed frozen mountain peaks where a Sage and his golems had tried to knock them from existence. She was having a very hard time trying to picture what kind of land would so oppose travelers. For a second she again clasped her bag to her chest, she was not entirely sure that she wanted to know anymore.
     
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  5. "The 'Dead Lands' are considered the End-of-the-World, in that if you go there you do not come back." The cat girl's ears flattened to her head then swiveled to a sad half mast as she added, "My parents were traveling towards them searching for a piece of Gods-know-what, rumored by someone or other. I thought it was just another hunt like all the others..." A sad shrug and she moved past the wolf girl clutching her bag.

    One of the sailors seemed to be staring at her, she took note of it but moved on past to the other side of the ship and looked over the rail at the sun reflecting in the water. She was getting fed up with water, nothing good ever seemed to come of it in large quantities like rivers or seas. Pirates, monsters and the weather its self all seemed to be out to get them on-large-bodies-of-water! They couldn't be headed home soon enough for her, and this was the reason for her sadness as she stared at the fluid liquid that sparkled so innocently off the port side.

    "Did you find what you were lookin' for sir?" A slightly timid voice came from her right. Shardis looked around with a puzzled "Wha..?" and the sailor from before was standing there "Oh! Beg yer pardon mam you look like, I mean err I mistoke ye fer an passenger we had on on the Grail a few year back... I mean, you have the same look about ye. The fur...sorry I wont be botherin' ye no mo..."

    "Wait!" Shar grabbed the man's arm to stop him from leaving, "Tell me what you mean please," She let her hand drop for fear of scaring the man away, "I am sorry, I meant no harm but you know of someone with my ...uh fur type?" Snow Leopard Anima were a rare breed and that was in the North, down here they must be close to nonexistence. Could it be...? Did she dare think that... it brought new life into her eyes. They may not be alive but to know that they were here abouts...

    The old sailor smiled nervously as he leaned a bit on the rail beside her. "Aye, I do, there was two of ye type on the Grail when I served aboard her a few year back. I took note o' it cause of the fur and cause the man seamed to be of a high class but yet he wer kind to us and liked to speak of things wit any who would stop n' listen to em. An' the lady, cause it was sure she was one, would helps the cook an was the best food ever I had, it wer! We missed em sorely when they left the ship..." His head lowered and he shook it as he added, "Twas a shame they left. I says they had no business being here in the first place! They was headed fer the Dead Lands I'm sure o' it! I tells you here now don't ye go there too!" His voice had risen and some of the others looked their way and Shardis noticed the trepidation in there manor as the sailor scurried off before she could stop him.

    So Father had made it this far... at least. Images of their dried corpses laying on an endless desert came to her mind's eye and a tear fell silently. "I will find you..."
     
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  6. Proseperos Sea (again), darkred Aerie stood at the prow, listening to idle chat behind her, fighting the chill sense of déjà vu creeping over her bones. The spray from warm salt water misted her wings and made them heavier, but the air thrown up by the surf was far kinder, ruffling feathers, giving the closest illusion of flying she had been allowed since coming away from the Spire. Save for when she'd been plummeting through the air en route to the Alate cage, but that was, quite literally, neither here nor there.

    There was a strange pang in her chest, alarmingly close to guilt, or even concern as she peered through the hazy green canopy to where the highest points of the Aviary could still be seen, broken fingers poking up from the tears to wave goodbye. Or simply to warn away.

    Aerie scowled and turned back to the water.

    How she had ended up on yet another ship heading south was beyond her.

    "So, the snake thief intends to kill us with...dullness, then?" she said, boredom clear in her tone, though she wore intrigue on her face. She refused to give Kal, or the Ghoul Sage, or whatever moniker he was parading about with now anymore power than what he'd already stolen from them. And he had stolen from them, even Aerie could see that, though she'd stopped trying after Ethel had left them, and she'd stopped caring, or tried to, after Kana.

    She had seen Memple trade hid dye -- which she was almost certain hadn't been on his person the last time she'd seen him -- for the merchant's claim of steel, and she didn't pretend to understand his methods, though some admittedly made more sense now than others.

    The mage was not amused. "He has used ice and pine so far with some success. I wouldn't put it past him to turn the color beige against us, too."

    Aerie raised a brow. "Fortunately, we've got the deed to a store of Dorgad steel?"

    "Fortunately indeed," he said drily before striding away.

    The Avian sighed and squinted up the mast to the crow's nest. "You speak in riddles just to get women, don't you?" she muttered, though the mage was gone by then. She looked at Caoimhe and Shardis and then down at herself and scowled. "Idiots, all of us."
     
    #6 DotCom, Jul 19, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
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  7. So the Smuggling Begins.

    Nassad and Tamaa asked to recover for a day, as the trip over the Prosperos Sea was taxing for the both of them. Supplies were garnered through various shady merchants, mostly food, water, and alcohol. (Tamaa may have partaken of the exotic forest kin prostitutes, but to each their own). Some tense words were exchanged between merchants and party members, but the duo kept their word about the ship. At night, with the moon high in the sky to light their way, the draken led them to the breached ship and hidden in an alcove was their sailing vessel, intact and ready to leave for the seas.

    Except.

    "There are four of us right?"

    She glanced over her shoulder and clucked her tongue. Their boat was a fishing vessel, and even for two people it was not roomy whatsoever.

    "It's going to be a tight fit. I hope none of you intend to move around too much, least you capsize us." Her violet eyes glittered dangerously. "So who is the lucky one taking us to the mainland?"
     
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  8. Hosia - Shekar Ma'alin, saddlebrown It had been an interesting venture, Dealing with Zovalias, Shekar mused as she walked behind him, tail draped over one arm artfully. She was more than ready to fulfill her end of the bargain, but the fact that the man had her following him to who knew where did not look promising.
    "I said to bring me something I have not seen." She stated pointedly as they walked, "So far I'm disappointed." She wasn't worried about annoying him. Not this time. he had approached her for the bargain. He had requested the use of her basement. He needed her, not the other way around. Currently it was Shekar that held all the cards, and they both knew it. She waited for him to set the next piece, to change the board.
    "I expect to be impressed."

    Still, her curiosity had been piqued. This thing he would show her, this meeting he wanted her to host, what would be said there . . . She was half inclined to humor his request just for the knowledge she would gain. Knowledge was power, especially with the barricade in place on the port. She had people, contacts she could trust to move the goods, contacts who had the means, but currently every single one of them were laying low. At the moment it was safer that way. Yes, she had the people on stand by, but it was the routes through that posed a problem, the how to get past the navy that made them hesitant, and there they must tread with caution. Shekar didn't trust Zovalias, but it was entirely possible he was about to hand her the key to solving that little puzzle. At the moment it was better not to move and retain one's current footing than it was to misstep and lose it all, but she hoped to learn what she needed to become a contender. By the end of this Shekar might be considered late to the game, but when she entered she would be standing on solid ground.

    Nox remained silent as he floated over her shoulder. It was the first time in a long time that her aux had seen the wisdom in keeping his smart mouthed comments to himself.


    Wyrm's Rock- Ayanne Marshden, green "Get me close enough and I can navigate the jungle," Ayanne answered softly not quite meeting Tamaa's eyes, "at least the area around Hosia, But I'm a healer not a sailor." She was painfully aware how small she was compared to the others at the moment, how useless she'd be in a fight. She couldn't help but glance between Malachi and the man called Nassad, gauging them, feeling the mood. All it would take was one tiny little thing and the whole trip could go terribly wrong. Not for the first time she wondered what she'd gotten herself into. "I should be able to squeeze into a corner and stay out of the way though."
     
  9. Requiem The Pirate, darkgreen Requiem shifted in his place, listening to the offer that the newcomers made. Kaustirians judging from their accents. Still, they had a ship, and they wanted in. That was enough for him. It was better than what they'd had to work with before, so they'd have to make it work. "I can get us where we need to go. There's a ground site where I used to unload cargo, should be just outside of the blockade." He said, looking them over. "From there, it's a hike through the forest to Hosia. It won't be an easy trip, but we'll get there."

    Requiem looked over the boat carefully, inspecting it for any weaknesses. Finally, once he was satisfied, he turned back towards the others. "No point in wasting time, let's get moving" He said. As soon as everybody was aboard, he cast the ship off. He was back in his element, and they were well on their way to accomplish their respective missions.
     
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  10. Decided interest, that seemed to be the only emotions that Belphebe could display as she looked over Chelena a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth at the sight of the wild nocturne in the crisp military uniform. But her true interest lay in the scroll clutched in her little thief's hand. And while her face held that perfect mask of political neutrality her eyes were filled with eagerness that could have almost been called greed.

    Silently she held out her hand and accepted the scroll from Chelena. She could almost feel the girl's impatience but the draken took her time examining the document. For a few long moments she read without any hint that she was going to indulge Chelena in anything. But with relief Chelena heard the rasp of scales upon wood and Belphebe's long tail weaved around her desk. With surprising strength and dexterity she used her tail to push a large chest in front of the girl, brushing it open with the very tip of her tail. Inside was the reward that the nocturne so craved, a few hundred scarves dyed with every color imaginable and a few that you would not have recognized. Some were plainly color with perhaps only a small bit of embroidery at either end, some were so richly pattern that you could have looked at it for hours and still spot something new in every minute. Belphebe might be a business woman but she knew better than to let difficult tasks unrewarded.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "Send the offer to the listed merchants. Avoid spreading the news to far, we have to measure whether these plans will even work." Belphebe said her pipe held to her lips with one clawed hand. Basking in the after glow of her advent she looked down almost lovingly in the map she had constructed over the past hour. Being made for the military the plans were clear enough and in the glow of her advent they arranged themselves neatly onto the map that she now had spread before her. Ferret stood across the large wood desk, clutching a small piece of papers that bore the names of some smaller merchants. In the interest of her own profit Belphebe had not included the major merchant houses in her little invitation. That would be provoking a nest of vipers by trying to snatch their egg, those that had nothing to loose and everything to gain were her principal targets.

    With a quick nod Ferret disappeared to carry out the task. Spreading word as quietly as possible, subtle letters distributed to those who might be interested in getting things either to or from Kaustir. As it was she was organizing the first trip herself. Of course she had to be the first to test if the route worked or not and she already had some "lighter" cargo that was being organized and readied for shipment. It would be shipping that night, a little short notice but as many merchants seemed fond of saying, time is money.

    Her one concern were the rumors that surrounded the escaped Amaltas. Even her own homelands were becoming unsafe, the upside was that it would perhaps limit those that were willing to venture out. On the downside she had to calculate this new and dangerous factor into her equation. The chance that she would lose a ship or cargo meant that she would have to send more ships out to make up for the difference and more ships meant that she had a greater chance of being caught. Was it not for the fact that the beast had disappeared into the jungle Belphebe might have sought some sort of accordance. With every horse disappearing over night and rumors of horses of the sea and sky following suit, Belphebe had found herself impressed and almost a bit envious. That kind of influence and man, well horse, power was something that she could have used. Ah well she would work with what she had, just as she had always done.

    Stuck by a sudden rush of energy Belphebe rose from her desk and wandered down to the main house. The familiar sights, smells, and sounds of love making greeted her like an old friend as she got close, traveling down a narrow corridor with rice paper screens to one side and the wood panel walls on the other. However about two thirds of the way down she stopped and turned to face the wall. It was were the boat had crashed through the wall, the hole sealed unattractively with mismatched boards and clumsily handed nails.

    "Gern!" Belphebe said her voice hardly carrying and yet the attendant appeared as though her had dropped from the rafters, although looking at the fit nocturne that was entirely possible. "Commission an artist to make a piece to go over this. A local one will do, just something to cover this."

    The attendant bowed and moved off, leaving Belphebe to stare at the wall for a while. Her thought neither here nor there, simply drifting, calculating, and trying to predict at least some of what was to come.
     
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  11. To be quite honest, the journey down the coast was boring and uneventful. That fact was actually a blessed thing. As the boat was hugging the Viridos coast, the bale-whales, giant sea serpents, and king seals stayed to the deeper parts of the Prosperos. The leg of the journey was mostly spent by Medwick pouring over the notes that Ethel had left him, the marine biologist that had closely studied the shards of metal in the whale bellies. At times, he would get too absorbed in his readings and spend the next few hours seasick.

    "You're reading the migration routes wrong."

    "And I suppose you know how to do it?"

    "Look." Shardis traced her paw over the map, following the complex, if not vague symbols, down the coast. "Yes, thanks for showing where the line is."

    "Look at the thickness." She sounded exasperated, for once, with Medwick. Perhaps the rocking of the smaller merchant boat was getting to them. "Ethel's habit is to go from thin to thick, showing the direction of the migration patterns." A pause, a short pause. "You're right."

    Their journey had been long and difficult. Through the Pegulis tundra, they were assaulted in mind by towers and traitors, in body by disease and golems, and strained in trust by the departing and rearrival of friends, allies, truces, and enemies. Here, on the clear skies and slightly free of the pollen, with a salty sea breeze at their back, Medwick and Shardis almost acted like family, for once in months. It was cathartic release.

    The haul of timber was lashed to the bottom of the Sundel caravel. The culling of trees in Viridos was a sacred rite, and only the 'simpler' ones that took root on the coast, or the stunted ones deep in the forest, could be felled. Sometimes a great Riven sprout was taken down. For a Riven tree architect, the clearing of the old so that the new could flourish was a deep and nearly unquestionable mantra. In any case, some of the logs were loosely held, and magnified the rocking of the ship, quickly souring their moods again. They snapped at each other over the map before retreating to their quiet corners.

    "PORT!"

    Port?

    The three (four) of them gathered and stared in various expressions of dread, fear and surprise (one seemed confused and somewhat nonchalant) ...

    At the Hosia harbor. The Sundel ship passed through the blockades and docked at a ramp where it could open a hull door and disgorge its belly of timber.

    Etc, tan

    [​IMG]
    Naya hammered at another golden block of steel. The soot and runoff from her smithing ran down the the barrel of water into the Prosperos river, a line of black sludge that curled and twisted in the turbulence of the rushing waters, lost in the foam of the rapids as it meandered its way to the sea.

    The sun dropped below the horizon, but from the way the waning rays were scattered through the canopy of the jungle, it was hard to tell the position of the sun, and by extension, the part of the day. Naya mostly kept time by following the colour. At high noon, the sun was the clearest, and she could smith the metal at her best. As the sun grew red, the light blended with the coals, making it harder to tell their temperature, and the saber blades still came out finished but sooty and dull.

    She closed the shop, smothered the forge, and moved deeper into the forest.

    "Acolyte Lanaya, heading back to the quarters?"

    Eep. Her hair bent at odd angles in surprise.

    "Y-y ... yes, Yalpin." Naya smoothed the folds of her Shansheng, taking care to groom the soot off her body. Perhaps a little late for that, but Yalpin seemed to appreciate the gesture anyways, like brushing one's foot or shoes before entering a house.

    "Dinner at the hall tonight?"

    "Oh! Oh .. No, Kindly Yalpin." Naya remembered her honorifics. "I will be doing self study tonight."

    "All is fair."

    "All is just." She signed a mudra of salutations and moved in the direction of the forest .. then ducked a sharp left behind an old tree. She sighed, and closed her eyes, arms crossed over her chest. Her hair grew long, long, overflowing over the ground ... and merged with the roots of the tree. Her hair grew tangible, stiff yet flexible like wood, and she was sucked into the roots of the tree.

    Ash moved through the forest, placing his hand over the trees, feeling for their health. Soon, the tree singers would be combing through the Edelon area, seeking old trees, or even young ones, that had to be removed to ensure the health of the canopy. Some of the wood would go to Golden Steel. The majority would be floated down the Prosperos to Hosia. But with Tattersal's new policy, the lumber was better off being used to grow fungus.

    "Hey .. Hey .. ASH! Over here!"

    A hand wriggled at the undertaker from a nearby tree. An improperly buried body?! Ash grabbed the hand and yanked, and out popped the Acolyte.

    "Hey! OW! You want to leave the rest of me in the tree, hoping to grow a Naya tree?" She rolled her shoulders. "Why are you wandering around so far from our meeting spot, anyways? I almost got stuck in the roots for a whole day! ... Again ..."
     
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  12. Collab between @Eternalfire61 @Requiem @Falcon​
    Through the Blockade
    The transition of summer to fall brought with it golden and orange leaves, mild weather, and with it fog. So when the sun set, and the air began to cool, billowy clouds of fog formed from the forests and drifted into the sea. It engulfed the ships moored in the water, and any light source grew faint until it was altogether gobbled up by the vapors.

    For the smugglers, this was the perfect time to cast off, and hopefully they would not be found out by the military ships that hovered so close to port.

    Nassad gripped the side of the boat, looking out into the sea. There was hate growing within Nassad for how many people that had joined their company. Nassad wished it was only Tamaa who accompanied him to Hosia.

    The annoyed slaver turned and faced his party, letting out a sigh. "I assume all of us are going to stay together for some time, so let's introduce ourselves."

    Nassad didn't introduce himself first. He instead waited for one of the new members to induct themselves into this group of misfits.

    Ayanne hesitated and glanced over at Requiem. It wasn't necessarily that she was afraid to explain who she was to these people, just that she was unsure of the wisdom of doing so. She actually wasn't sure if Requiem even knew, though if he was acquainted with Hosia he probably would have recognized her last name and the family she hailed from.

    Requiem had been kind to her, had saved her life when he had no clear reason to. That still bothered her a little bit, not knowing his motives, but these people . . . she knew nothing about these people or what they were capable of. So Ayanne remained silent and looked at the pirate, hoping he'd get the message that she would abide by whatever story he chose to give them.

    Requiem looked up from what he was doing upon hearing the question. He caught Ayanne's glance and faced the one who had asked the question. He knew the man. A slaver named Nassad. He didn't know him personally, but he'd seen him during the many times he'd docked in Kaustir.

    "Asking but not answering is not very polite, Slaver" He said, barely disguising any hint of his contempt for the trade. "For what it's worth, I'm the owner of The Blackjack, the floating Casino. I got... Separated from my ship, and I'd like to get it back. This," He said, gesturing towards Ayanne "Is a friend of mine who in a bit of bad luck got swept up in my misadventure. We're just trying to get back home."

    "I'm Tamaa. Tax collector of Avarath."

    Her eyes glared into the fog, looking for the large silhouettes of the military vessels.

    "And now that we've gotten acquainted, let's focus on what's ahead. I'd hate to - "

    Something thudded against the left side of their boat, tipping it ever so slightly. Tamaa glanced over at Nassad and Ayanne, who manned that side of the vessel.

    "What was that?"

    "It's the waves."

    Nassad was then answered by another knock on the right side of the boat.

    The slaver paused for a moment, then shot a glare at Tamaa. He moved over to the small quarters in the back and pulled out a large wooden rod. Nassad moved toward the edge of the boat where the first thud was heard.

    "Keep quiet."

    Ayanne nodded and tried to squeeze back out of the way, but her eyes were tracking everything, every move, every motion.

    "I don't think it's the waves," she whispered leaning forward just a bit to see.

    There were a number of clues, the shadow beneath the water, the way it rippled moving in and back again, even the way the thuds sounded against the hull. her brain began to click the pieces into place. Calla had always be harsh on that, putting things together as quickly as possible. She'd never seen one before, had never expected to, but the stories . . . the stories said . . .

    "Kelpie . . ." she murmured to herself, hoping she was wrong.

    [​IMG]

    Requiem recognized the movements. This wasn't the first time he'd had to face off with their kind. "I wouldn't advise looking over the edge." He remarked, pulling Ayanne away from the edge. "If either of you can fight, I'd recommend taking up your weapons." He said, pulling out his throwing cards. He didn't want to get close enough to have to use his wire with them.

    Without another word, he took up the high point on the ship and began whipping cards into the water, at the shadows that were darker and nearer the surface. With any luck, the card would cut into them and they'd scatter. He somehow doubted it would work.

    The draken blinked at the sailor.

    "You must be joking," she hissed. "You honestly think cards are going to - "

    A thrashing of limbs and water on the side of the boat caused Tamaa to hold onto the vessel for dear life.

    "Nassad, get my spear! It's under the - "

    And then the sight of dark silhouettes in the distance made her pause, and gulp.

    "On second thought, running might be the best idea."

    Nassad moved from the side of the boat till his back hit the mast. "Grab a weapon and fight!" The dark silhouettes became full figures as they rose from the depths. Each creature kept knocking the boat back and forth making Nassad fall back into Tamaa.

    "Get these animals off my ship!"

    The company hopped to each side, fending off the kelpies that were destroying the only thing keeping them safe.

    Ayanne was not a fighter. She'd learned that the hard way the last time she'd been on a ship under attack, and with only her grandmother's tales to work of of . . .

    She shrank and far from the edges of the little boat she she could, placing herself an the center of the other three, and readied herself to perform any number of spells she knew if they were needed.

    She refrained from cursing though, Nassad had asked for silence and the last thing she wanted to do was distract the man when he had a weapon in his hand.

    "Someone steer the ship," hissed Tamaa. "We're coming up on the military vessels."

    An idea formed in her head, and she looked over to her partner.

    "Lead the kelpies over to them. The distraction will help us get through."

    Nassad turned to the pirate and yelled. "Get your ass on the wheel! We can deal with these bastards!"

    Requiem immediately stashed the rest of his throwing cards into his jacket, dropped off the mast and took the wheel. This would be a terribly risky run, but if they could pull it off, they might be able to skip the forest trek entirely. It certainly had a higher success rate than trying to simply outrun the things. The fishing boat was taking too much damage.

    Turning the wheel hard, Requiem pushed the group directly into the path of the blockade. He grabbed a paddle and jammed it against the wheel, locking it in place, and picked up a staff, wielding it as a weapon against any Kelpies that he could reasonably hit.

    A splatter of water, and Tamaa's entire body was being pulled towards edge of the boat. Held in the mouth of a particularly viscous kelpie was her wrist, which snapped with a loud crack. Rivulets of blood ran down her arm.

    It took sheer will to keep the draken from screaming.

    With her spear in the other hand, Tamaa smacked the monster repeatedly on its head until it let go.

    "How much further until we get past the military?" she hissed, cradling her broken wrist.

    Ayanne moved instantly the moment Tamma was injured. The little boat was small enough that it was relatively easy to reach the Draken woman's side and stretch out a hand for the broken wrist.

    "I'm a healer," she stated bluntly at the first sign of protest. "This will hurt."

    A moment later she set the bone expertly and light poured from her hands into the injured arm as she worked on the wound, muttering in some strange language under her breath the entire time, and positioning herself that both her own body and Tamaa's would shield the spell from the sight of the outside world. It was fortunate the Draken woman was so much larger than her. It was fortunate Malachi had picked up a weapon to help fight.

    She worked quickly, her energy drained with every second she took, sweat breaking out on her forehead. Her advent she saved in case things grew worse. Thirty second later she had released the Draken and backed away. "That should be good enough for now," she panted. "If we make it through I'll heal the rest."

    It was then that she looked around at the battle against the Kelpies and the blockade drawing ever nearer.

    "Patah!"

    Unless . . .

    "If we get close enough to the blockade will the Kelpies attack them instead?"


    "Thank you," she mumbled.

    The draken hissed in surprise and anger as a kelpie slammed against the boat, leaving behind a fist sized hole in the hull. Water began gushing in and the draken plugged it with a strip of her tunic.

    "Maybe. We can only hope," grunted Tamaa towards the healer.

    Ayanne looked up, noting the large growing silhouettes of the military ships looming over them.

    "We're getting close," said Nassad, hitting another kelpie on its head.

    Movement caught the slaver's eyes. Several feet from their boat, and gaining on them in a V-shape, were more kelpies. Their fins cut through the water like sharp knives, leaving ripples in their wake.

    "HEY! MORE ARE COMING!"

    Several of the monsters dove under the ship, and for a brief gut wrenching second, all was calm. Then the boat - and its occupants - lurched upwards into the air, courtesy of four kelpies. As the vessel came crashing down, spewing water everywhere, a powerful wind picked up.

    It was a stroke of luck. The sails bulged from the gust and sped forward. It narrowly missed crashing into two military war ships, and the kelpies that were terrorizing the vessel either broke away or crashed into the massive hulls of the warships.

    Lookouts from the blockade noticed the swirling bodies in the water, and flung harpoons. Shrill whinnies filled the air, and suddenly the fishing vessel was no longer a target worth fighting for. Some began attacking the ship, destroying the rudders and the hull, and others - notably the smaller ones - fled the scene.

    And the smugglers? Well, thanks to the fog and the kelpies, they made it through the blockade in one piece. Unfortunately their ship was taking water, and when they made it to shore, they swam a fair distance. All evidence of their passage through the blockade was sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

    The smugglers shared relieved grins; everyone couldn't believe their luck.

    "So... What now?"
     
    #12 Zen, Jul 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
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  13. As she had predicted within the first day Caoimhe's stomach started to roll in time with the ship and even though for the others it was a calm uneventful trip she had to spend the majority of it huddled in the brig, her arms wrapped around her bag. Unmoving save for when she would roll over to empty her stomach into a bucket that the crew had most graciously provided. By the second day she no longer needed the bucket but then again there was little left for her stomach to expel aside from the watery tea that Aerie brought her and some dry flavorless bread that Shardis snuck her from the table.

    "Ah, let the moon claim me." She cursed softly to herself when waves of nausea rocked her into an uneasy rest. When the third day came she finally left her snug little nest at the call for port. With staggering steps she made it above, face pale and legs stiff but firm. The healthy look that had slowly been returning to her after their encounter with the village was replaced by a waxy pallor and sharply squinting eyes and while her stomach grumbled for food she had no appetite by which to convince herself to eat. Not to mention that what she saw once her eyes adjusted after being in the dark of the cabin made her stomach drop right out of her abdomen. They were back, right back where they started, right back in the territory of that Man that had tried to pry whatever shred of news he could from them before he would have most likely killed them.

    "We should stay by boat, hopefully he will not know we are here." She said walking close to Medwick. A worried look pulling her drawn skin even tighter. Honestly she was not sure that they would survive another encounter, considering how the last one had gone and how their situation, in her opinion had not changed all that much.

    Distracted as she was with her sense over powered by the bustling market she missed the soft chirp that sounded from her backpack. The sound of life just beginning its endless struggle.
     
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  14. Requiem And Aleria, darkgreen "Now we prepare ourselves for the hard part. I've only a few experiences with the forests, and they weren't pleasant ones." Requiem looked over the forest line. "For now, we should get off of this beach." He remarked sombrely as he pulled himself up from the sand. He wasn't looking forward to the next part of their journey. They still had another few days of travel ahead of them, and the forests of Viridos were not kind to newcomers.

    He turned to face Ayanne, "Your part's up next, I hope you're ready" He told her through a weary smile. If they could make it a few miles into the forest, they could set up camp, and with any luck, they'd be safe. They could start a fire and warm up properly even. Of course, there were risks to that. There were always risks. His biggest hope was that they might be able to find his old cargo trail, and that it hadn't been overrun by the forest. It had only been a few years since it'd been used, and they had salted the trail, but that didn't mean much there.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________
    It took nearly a day for Miria to hear about the request for an artist for Belphebe's place. Of course, when she got the offer, she jumped at the opportunity. She needed the money, and it'd been a while since she'd been able to ply her trade, and it certainly paid better than picking up the city did. Immediately she took to the air, heading towards Belphebe's place. She didn't care who was hiring her as long as she was allowed to work. She didn't care if she was painting grand landscapes, or naked men and women.

    When she arrived at the place, she made her intentions of finding Belphebe quite clear. Of course, that didn't stop her from eyeing some of the girls there. She didn't allow herself too much distraction though, nor could she have, considering she was pretty much broke. She searched high and low before hearing that Belphebe was likely in her office, and a Hishian girl offered to lead the way. Finally, they arrived at her destination. Miria smiled, offered her thanks, and knocked on the door.
     
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  15. Ayanne Marshden, green Ayanne shivered as she led the way through the jungle deeper in towards Hosia. She knew the way, mostly. She had traversed these jungles a thousand times as a child. The way this flower tipped, where that moss was growing, how the shading of those leaves shifted, it all told her her direction. She tried to hurry, but at the same time made sure the others could keep up. She was cold, she was wet, she was tired, and she was scared, though not to the extent she had been when Lady Ironblood had that cursed thing aboard the other ship. She had been terrified then. Still they needed to find a place to camp.

    Ordinarily Ayanne would say to find a greattree and climb up into its highest branches, but while she suspected Malachi would be fine with such arrangements the other two were from Kaustir. Odds were they would fall out and besides the Draken woman's wrist wasn't healed enough for climbing. Ayanne would have to finish the job when she found a place. Then there was the added fact that because they were traveling with a Draken they would need to get the woman warmed up and the meant fire, which was another reason sleeping in the trees was out. They were a few miles in when she found it.

    "There!" Ayanne pointed, and in the distance created by the roots of one of the great trees was a nice hollow with enough room for all of them. It might be a bit cozy if they added a fire, but they'd be sheltered from any weather, it didn't look like any animals currently lived there, there was no poisons vegetation around that she could see, and compared to the area around it the spot was on the high ground.

    A short time later they had grabbed enough dead wood for a fire, Ayanne had been very insistent that any wood they did use was dead, and that there was no chance of anything catching light from the flames, and she had settled in to take another look at Tamaa's wrist and finish the job.

    "Welcome to Viridos," she stated, a hint of a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.

     
  16. "Gods curse us! I feel as if we are being led in circles by our noses tied to a tether!" Shardis fumed.

    "Knock off the pacing and for fuck's sake lower your voice." Galain hissed as he glared at her. Passers by had hesitated at the intimidating sight of a large feline bellowing with claws fully extended, grabbed their attention.

    "Awwe fuck Kessel and the ship he rode in on! I'm tired of hiding and ready to wring his scrawny blood-sucking neck if he ever dares show himself to me again."
    She hissed back, only her hiss was just as loud as his talk and Medwick face-palmed out of frustration with his sister's ways.

    A hand grabbed the cat-girl's arm and a bundle of cloth was thrust into them,
    " Here, put this on and shut it now or so help me I will silence you myself!" Shardis turned to face a very angry wolf girl with crossed arms waiting impatiently for Shar to don the thin cloak she had found.

    With a growl of frustration Shar did so and sat down on a piling a short ways away. "Her temper is getting harder for her to control with every passing day." Caoimhe remarked in a low whisper meant for Medwick's ears alone. He nodded and returned with a whisper equally low, "I know, I can't blame her, can you? But we all have to control ourselves or all will be lost. Hopefully it wont be long now, provided I can get us passage on a certain ship, but it hasn't arrived at port yet so we must wait until it does. I am told by the port master it should arrive with in the next two weeks or sooner if all goes well. I know it's not what we would like but hopefully it will arrive sooner rather than later. For now though we should look to securing lodging."

    Once their meager baggage was unloaded the three made their way to the nearest Inn to rent out a room for a few days and the evening found them in the main room of the place sitting with there backs to a wall eating a meal of soup, bread and a bit of cheese. Shardis had refused to talk to ether of them since the blow out earlier in the day and still had no words to speak. Medwick feared she would loose her temper for real soon and possibly do something that would finish them all. He shook his head and tore a piece of bread off the loaf and dunked it in his bowl then tossed it in his mouth. His eyes met Caoimhe's and he realized she felt the same way.
     
  17. The first thing Tamaa noticed when she entered the forest was the humidity. She could practically taste the water vapors in the air with her forked tongue, and while she was thankful that her sense of smell was functioning perfectly, she wasn't thankful for the stifling climate she was in.

    With a small merry fire crackling before them, Tamaa just had to relieve herself of her complaints about this dreaded country--even if Ayanne was mere inches from her, mending her broken wrist.

    "Stars above, how in the blazes can you handle this climate? I know I'm a draken, but this is absolute madness. I never know if I'm going to trip, get a leaf in my face, or step in shit."

    She slapped at a mosquito buzzing around her face, killing it on the side of her neck.

    "Yeah, bite me again you little shit. I dare you to try." More insects buzzed around her, instigating a slap and swatting fest which ended with small welts on Tamaa's face, and mosquitoes with full bellies. The draken managed to get rid of them by waving a lit stick and barring her teeth.

    "Nassad, for fuck's sake, this transaction better be worth it," she spat viciously. "I'm getting eaten alive here. How am I supposed to get a wink of rest when there are things eating me?!"
     
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  18. The inn that would become their graveyard, green Stupid.

    Stupid.

    There wasn't even a point in telling the rest of them they were being stupid anymore. Medwick sat in the tin, glaring at the soup. He glared at the soup because he didn't want to glare at the rest of them.

    He didn't want to tell them that they had just narrowly escaped death at the jaws of a giant piranha, to be washed up a reverse-river, and had managed to get to the coast ... only for his team members to lead them back into the maw. Of course, the drug-lord-kingpin-white-claudia's purveyor wasn't here, nor was his vast network of contacts, scoundrels, and merchants with gigantic ears, eyes, and noses. Lucky them.

    No. Medwick stared at his soup, and the soup stared back. Fatalism, the soup whispered.

    You're fucked. Doomed to be fucked, doomed to be fucked, doomed to be fucked, doomed to be fucked, doomed to be

    He took a mouthful of his soup.

    And at the door of the inn, a curious creature peaked, a small little, ominous furball .. and darted away. No doubt to deliver the news to a certain Minister of Drugs.
    A long time ago when I was just a pony ... Can horses feel fear? It's hard to say. When they buck their hips and froth at the mouth and their eyes roll back into their heads, are they scared, or just putting on a show? After all, a horse is the supreme escape artist; with a kick of their powerful hind legs, they gallop into the horizon. On a flat plain, they will even play with predators, jumping just beyond their claws, dancing around them until even the predator collapses from exhaustion.

    Amaltas was on the beach. But it felt like he was in the tangled undergrowth of the jungle. His hooves were rooted .. no .. fused to the ground, fused with the sand that was now glass. His aux stuttered, trembled. Why was he so terrified?

    A dead body, drifting on the shore. A dead body, transfixed in the most horrible pose. All the leopard's claws were extended, the paws frozen outstretched. The tail bent in a queer angle at the root. The front legs were articulated beyond its back, and the back legs were broken and twisted outwards at right angles. The face .. the face. And on the nape of the neck ...

    Something was there. Amaltas would forget what it looked like, as he finally found the strength to tear himself away and fly, fly, fly ...

    [​IMG]

    Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux. Forsake your aux.Forsake ake Foux. aux. Foursaux. Foux. ake aur yorsake ake youx. youx. Forsaur yorsake ake aux. yoursaux. youx. yor Forsaux. ake ake aux. youx. Foursaur yorsake aursaux. For Four yorsaur Foux. Foursaur youx. yorsaur Foursake your Forsake Forsake aux. Forsake yor ake aux. youx. yoursaursake ake youx. aux. Foux. Foux. Foursaur Four your yor yor For Forsake your Forsake Foux. aux. yor yorsaur ake aur yor ake Forsaursaursaur youx. For youx. aux. ake Foux. yorsake yoursaursake ake aur Foursake yoursaurFuuoyao ykrrr ur uuyFyeuuauau ayuFe .xuxuaexsa so.rru.ooaersarxooaeoouu eFeuxaeoxxykoou eu eakaaok..ro xro.kus rasoe ou rko.Faooa.kxaakrxuo k oues rsaux Fk o oxosuroykuaa r.o a.aaauaak ra.oueeFaF euarxoao.rorFFka o k rxF xxruas.ae ukkakyay. oarryaok.urs y.sayuueFFrarxxasssxuaeur.oka u rrokeauoo aruFsoyuFka serr o rsors aaysuauyxaxFuru r ukurae.youoouuu x kraeo aFFuu saraxFyor okr xrrsa o uy rx ker aooouFk a.er.a ykuxrrourr a.ysauFous.axey.yea. aoy aouakkaexrokokukos u.oa oF r Fy o srFxy

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamaltaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas ...........................................

    A short time ago, tan
    He was older now.

    Wiser.

    A little more courageous.

    [​IMG]

    Just a little.

    The old, scarred, and dark unicorn arrived at the southern borders of Viridos, from poisoned forest, to dense orchard, to bushland, to scrubland, to plains, and finally, to the beach. The peaceful Hosian shore.

    The body was still there. Even though it was only skeletal, its agony was still clear. And around the neck, around the spine ... the parasite was still there. A decade's worth of tidal lapping bleached the bones a blinding white, but did nothing to the blackness.

    This time, though, he had plans.
     
    #18 unanun, Jul 30, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
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  19. "Ash of the Heartwood"

    Sleep...Surely this must be sleep Ash though to himself as he walked through a forest that was unlike any he had ever seen. The trunks of the trees were purples, their leaves danced in the night sky and glowed in rainbows of colors. Ash stepped closer to observe the beautiful hues when he realized that there wasn't a single leaf on the tree. Each miniature star was a forest kin, their tiny plant like faces smiling at him as they waved in a breeze he could not feel.

    "Who are they?" Cora asked him, she was suddenly at his side and he was unsure of when she had gotten there. "They are children of Ilium," Ash replied watching the tiny Kin dance around the branches. Their strange ritual caused the tree to uproot itself, it's ancient branches carrying the children to some place Ash did not know. Ash looked down at Cora, her body and branches were all white just as they were the day they had become one. The undertaker looked down at his own hands to see that his skin as a deep black, again mirroring the day that he was created.

    He would have cried if he could but his Aux looked at him peacefully, this was not the time for sadness but instead the time for clarity. Ash looked up to watch the forest leave him, vanishing in the distance and leaving only shadows in their wake.

    The shadows did not sit idle while the light danced away, they began to move and Ash learned that shadows moved slowly. They dripped and slithered, poured and rolled, splatted and regrouped, it was almost sickening to watch. They landed all around Crux and Aux alike but they never touched them, instead they formed a ring around them...and then a path before them.

    The path was thick and bubbled, it burped out green gases and any light that fluttered near it was quickly devoured into it's body. Cora tapped him gently on the shoulder to get his attention, Ash turned out of reaction but his eyes widened as he realized that Cora could actually touch him.

    "We must go," she said and began to walk on the path, with every step the shadows departed away from her white hooves. When Ash saw there was no danger he began to canter in order to catch up with her but as soon as he touched the path the shadows wrapped around his legs. They were trying to pull him under and so he struggled against their power, with every step he pulled his hoof free from the muck. With every release from the tendrils the shadows screamed but he pressed on to catch up to Cora.

    "Wait... I can't make it on my own!" he screamed at her but the voice was not his own, Cora turned back and smiled.

    "Alone?" she said as he began to sink into the muck, his body was waist deep but she simply watched him. He clawed at the shadows but he couldn't grasp them...they began mist in the palms of his hands.

    "You are never alone Ash...can't you hear them? Just listen..." He tried to believe her, Cora loved him after all, but it was so hard to listen as he was pulled down to his neck. The undertaker couldn't move...couldn't think...and then he started to hear the words.



    "I am sorry..." Ash replied as he stared at her with a sense of bewilderment. "I got lost trying to find my way to Ilium." The acolyte stared at him with confusion but before she could respond Cora was stepping out from behind Ash with a smile.

    "Do we have a story to tell..." and so they did.
     
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  20. Nassad was pissed. He knew that there was going to be money in this transaction, but he didn't know how much he would benefit. That bastard Trask had made him his lackey. This letter was the one thing keeping him here, other than Tamaa. Nassad swatted at mosquitoes as they tried to penetrate his tanned skin. The flailing of Tamaa only angered Nassad more as he flicked the bugs that ate away at him.

    "Do you think I don't feel it too?" Nassad slapped his skin "These insects grow larger than the vultures in Kaustir. I'm sure that these transactions within Hosia will be worth it. As long as we aren't eaten alive by these bugs!"

    Nassad scooted himself closer to the fire, trying to rid of the insects.

    "Try your best to sleep Tamaa. We have a long path ahead of us."

    Nassad wished he knew what he was carrying. Where this path would lead him, and especially if it was worth coming to Viridos. This forest would be only a small challenge compared to the challenges to come. Nassad breathed in and out so he could calm himself. If he didn't let the bugs bother him, then he wouldn't be bothered. The slaver sat still trying to lull himself to sleep.







     
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