Viridos, Chapter 7

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  1. “What…is this?”

    For a moment, Shekar lost her caution for the nocturne looming behind her. Almost compelled, she stepped toward the prism hanging inexplicably in the air, the vision of Riven, and reached for it. The reality of the nocturne’s menace crashed down almost instantly. A hand was on her shoulder, limp like a ripe corpse but chillingly powerful. Instinctively Shekar turned and slashed at the creature, nimbly escaping his pallid flesh. Zovalias retracted his hand from the empty air, licking the blood that beaded along the marks she had made. “My…” he purred, “Am I so frightening, Shekar? Truly, you’ve offended me.” His grin confirmed the lie. “I meant no harm, of course. But let us not get carried away. I have not truly shown you the potential of the Prism Door.”

    The Nocturne approached Shekar, holding out his hands, palm out, long clawed fingers splayed. Shekar was no fool, the gesture was as illusory as his smile. But rather than insult the Nocturne further, she relented and allowed his approach. Instead of touching her, the creature snaked towards the prism door, reaching up and twisting the floating prism with a swift jerk. Riven vanished, lush jungle replaced by crisp snow glaring under the light of a noonday sun. Somewhere far from them, a tower rose precariously from the frigid landscape. The breath caught in Shekar’s throat.

    “Now,” the Nocturne purred, “About the use of your vault?”



    Chapter 7
    War of Coins and Courage





    “Endgame?” Zovalias almost seemed surprised, crossing his mismatched arms across his chest, “You must be more clear, Shekar. One might almost presume you are accusing me.”

    “Nothing of the sort, Lord Merchant,” She swiftly countered, “I simply hesitate to think you would require so many of us for a simple smuggling operation.”

    “I share her concern,” Belphebe chimed, avoiding the nocturne’s eyes, “So many interests only complicates matters. A wiser merchant would not have gathered so many rivals.”

    “Rivals,” Zovalias said, testing the word on his tongue. Through his jagged teeth, it resounded with surprising clarity. “Entrepreneurs, merchants, traders, craftsman, silver tongued, quick fingered, thinkers.” His claws tap-tapped Belphebe’s maps. “My esteemed colleagues, I must admit to a breach of my usual etiquette. I have deceived you.” Shekar’s reptilian face showed nothing, but her heart hammered a few stuttered beats. By the tensing of the rest, she wasn’t the only one. Zovalias had a reputation for brutality. It followed him for the fifty years he had toiled beneath the High houses. There was a moment when she sickeningly considered that the Vault had no other exits. What better tomb could there be than a secret vault below her shop?

    But Zovalias chuckled, holding his hands out peacefully. “Be at peace, the deception is a matter of omission. Let us consider ourselves rivals for a moment, desperately clawing at opportunity.” Inspecting his claws, he pried out a piece of dried flesh and let it drop to the floor, “Let us now imagine how much energy, how much profit is squandered by these pretenses. The High merchant families maintain their position not from any divine mandate, but from their number of symbiotic allies. All we lack is cooperation…and in the spirit of that simple observation, allow me to introduce you to revolution.”

    Swaying, almost drunk with the glee of his presentation, Zovalias spread Belphebe’s maps wide and stabbed a finger at a small group of islands midway between Kaustir and Viridos. “For the last several years, profiteers have plundered the High family shipments and brought a cut of their take here…to the Tears. Likewise, certain merchants in Kaustir have been covertly moving population and startling amounts of provisions. I, myself, have shipped numerous cargos full of lumber…for the simple purpose of establishment. My clever merchant comrades, I give you Prosperos, the Fourth Nation.”

    There was silence in the wake of his words, one that held far more weight than any noise ever would. Zovalias was adamant, his fierce gaze returned by none within the assemblage. It was Shekar who spoke first, carefully weighing her words. Zovalias had never proven to be mad before, but his claim bordered on the delirious.
    “A fourth nation? The resources necessary for such an undertaking…”

    “Enormous,” Zovalias assured, “But the advantage is with us. Nearly every island between here and Kaustir contain reserves for our navy.”

    “You can’t be serious.”

    “Can I not?” the nocturne speared Shekar with his eyes, “Can we not? Our kind hold the marketplace in our jaws. Vast power resides in the claws of those who control the gateway of demand. We have a navy, we have weapons, and we have supplies. With the nations teetering on the brink of war, we will own the seas and every coast we land upon.”

    “The Viridos Navy?” Belphebe asked, “The Kaustir Navy?”

    “Infiltrated, outnumbered, outgunned, and obsolete. We are merchants. Do you not believe we do not understand our competition? Religious fervor and powerful tyranny. We offer a far more lucrative freedom. We neither ask you to bend a knee to a sovereign ruler nor a god. We hold council over profit and trade, our specialty and the lifeblood of all commerce. Cowardice is the prize of those too fearful to cast it aside. The High Houses will assimilate, Tattersal’s blockade will buckle, and the Czar will find his route by sea to be beyond grasp.”

    “What do you want?” Teador’s representative asked, She wasn’t smirking…not any longer.

    “Want?”

    “Even if what you say is true, there still wouldn’t be enough ground to match any of the current nations. Do you intend to take the Chersonese?”

    “Better. I intend to take Hosia.”

    A silence swept in the wake of his words, no soul brave enough to clear their throat. The nocturne suggested madness. Zovalias drank the silence and then spoke, “You doubt my means?”

    “With good reason,” Belphebe hissed as she reached towards her maps. At the last moment, she seemed to reconsider and withdrew. “Have you forgotten the General? The Clad?”

    “Far from it. I expect a swift retort. But we won’t be running a flag of our colors above the port, nothing so crass. We will simply ignore the blockade and once again tie the veins of trade to their rightful place. Hosia will be ours in all but name.”

    “Tattersal-“

    “Will be quick to respond regardless,” Zovalias finished sharply, “He has to. It would weaken his position if it seemed like the merchants went over his head. But the blockade starves the Virdosian economy and we’ve grown too large to remain self-sufficient as a people. Tattersal will come to Hosia and shortly thereafter, lift the blockade and seem a reasonable leader to the people.” Zovalias smiled hungrily, “That or risk riots. With the damage the bird’s city made falling from the sky, I doubt the General is eager to prolong the rebuilding process. The machine of Kaustir grows ever more threatening in the distant sky and Tattersal knows it. Without the support of the merchants, what are the Virdosi but savages swinging sticks?”

    Olanum growled, the first noise he’d made since joining the assembly. He controlled a modest silk trade with Kaustir and Pegulis, a business built on generations of modest merchants before him. “This is treason.”

    The nocturne turned sharply, almost as if to pounce, but held his ground and smiled, “Not to the nation of Prosperos, not to profit.” He turned to address them all, “Why did I call you here? I could have simply maintained my understanding with the Merchant houses and let you rot behind the blockade.”

    “You want our cooperation,” Shekar swiftly intuited, “You don’t trust the Four Houses.”

    “Should I? They’ve known nothing but market dominance for generations. Prosperos does not operate beneath a single sovereign ruler but a council of the most successful merchants. The Four Houses have enough resources to represent a large part of that council…perhaps too large.”

    “So you want to join our enterprises in a rival power to their influence.” Belphebe crossed her arms, but Teadoir’s representative had lost the edge of her displeasure.

    “How would it work?”

    “Not without a little bit of trust and some creative contracts,” the nocturne said, “Fortunately, you wouldn’t be here if I did not trust you, and I am rather…skilled in the written form.”

    “Trust us to act in our best interests, you mean.” Shekar murmured.

    “Is there any other kind of trust?”

    “And who would speak for us,” Belphebe countered, “You?”

    “Hardly,” The nocturne held out both hands defensively, “Shekar.”

    All eyes turned on her, but Shekar was watching Olanum who had grown much quieter, hands clenched into fists. She thought quickly. It was a maneuver, obviously, but she didn’t have the luxury of figuring out his motive. Of them all, Shekar held the best relations with all the merchants in attendance…perhaps with the exception of Teadoir.

    “I accept,” she said quietly, “But with the caveat that Belphebe write the contracts of merging.”

    Zovalias shrugged, “As you wish, Shekar. I’ll communicate our discussion with the Council of Prosperos. The rest of you, prepare to load your ships and continue trade. The proper hands have been greased and captains replaced. As of now, the blockade is broken for the select few who hold these sigils.” Reaching into his cloak, he pulled out stones engraved with silver wings and placed them on the table with the maps. “Welcome to the nation of Prosperos…may your ventures ever be profitable.” He turned, his gaze lingering briefly on Olanum before scuttling from the vault.

    The vine-haired merchant waited till the sound of the Nocturne’s passage had retreated and angrily snatched one of the sigils. “You may be content to be intimidated by that monster, but I won’t be party to this.” Storming up the stairs, Olanum left the rest of them looking to the tokens left behind. Shekar was the next to pick one up, turning it over in her hand.

    She remembered the door, the snow that wafted lazily into the jungle heat.

    “Shekar?” Belphebe asked hesitantly.

    The draken smiled. There was work to do.




    He wove a path down the winding streets of Hosia, choosing well lit routes to gloomy alleyways. Although he stepped with the nimble grace of a Forestkin, he betrayed that illusive confidence with every backward glance. At this hour, the streets were quiet with the distant din of taverns from the seafront. But the merchant had no business at the coast, instead making his way to Hosia's outer gate, and the guardhouse. Certainly Zovalias could not have bribed every guard on the watch, although most certainly there were soldiers in the barracks that might impede Olanum's warning to Tattersal. If he could secure passage from the city, perhaps to Riven, he could properly bring his findings before the General and the Clad. He dared to hope for reward. High Merchant Olanum, perhaps. Certainly the reward for thwarting treason of this magnitude had to be something impressive. But more importantly, Zovalias would be dead...left crumbling on the end of the General's spear.

    Everything about the grotesque nocturne offended the forest kin. Worse, the Merchant houses had deigned to leave him alive long enough to cook up this deception. His hand tightened over the sigil he'd left, white-knuckled and furious. Not for much longer, anyways.

    "Hungry."

    So quiet, almost like a breath of wind, but the pleading keen was unmistakable. Olanum turned on his heel, hand grasping for a blade to swing at the apparition. In the mouth of the open alley, the staved child watched the kin with hungry eyes. Ribs pressed painfully against his taut skin, and his skull-like face contorted as the boy smiled. Neat rows of filed teeth glinted in the pale moonlight and Olanum felt his heart leap into his throat.

    "Now, now, Olanum," Zovalias said, clawed hands clenching painfully against his arms, "Remember, an Aux is neither flesh nor blood. An honest mistake, I'm sure...but they're never quite so threatening as the Crux." His arms were pushed into his side with such force he opened his hands in reflex, spilling the blade and sigil to the cobblestone. "How clumsy," the nocturne tutted, "You must learn diligence, Lord merchant. Commitment is the bane of would be assailants." He leaned in. Olanum could feel the brush of his cold flesh against his jaw, "Do not draw your blade until you've resolved to use it. Not all of us are vulnerable to brandished threats."

    "Release me," Olanum hissed, struggling against the superior strength, "My disappearance will not go unnoticed."

    "Certainly not," Zovalias agreed, sounding almost shocked, "I'm apalled you'd suggest we'd forget you so easily. No, dear Olanum, you left this evening on your flagship, the Orchid, bound for the Dreadcove with a cargo of silk. You were the first to break the blockade. Truly, I'm surprised. I took you for a man of such smaller ideals. I suppose I will have to eat those words now...they'll talk of you for years to come."

    Olanum's mind raced. "That's..."

    "Impossible? I certainly thought so. But on the morn you will be the talk of the docks. I envy your courage, especially leaving so many witnesses. Richer witnesses, perhaps. Generous gossip always carries a price tag...but then that's the toll of good business."

    "No." Olanum twisted the ring on his finger which burned with a sudden brilliance as he activated an advent. At once his hair sprung out from his scalp, strong as thick branches, hurling Zovalias away from him and into the alley he'd slunk from. The kin didn't look to see how much damage he'd inflicted, sprinting down the winding streets toward the gate with adrenaline pumping his legs. Left. Right. Dancing around market stalls and avoiding the occasional debris, he raced with the hands of death clasping at his heels. Ahead of him he could see the shadow of the gate looming over the skyline, several blocks away...but easily reachable. He could hear the thunderous mismatched footfalls of the Nocturne behind him, but never with the staccato of his own frenzied pace. Ahead of him, the child loomed, Zovalias' Aux grinning wolfishly. He appeared too quickly for Olanum to dodge, but the Aux was not flesh and blood. Zovalias had foolishly reminded Olanum moments before. Besides, there was something satisfying about crashing through the dreadful apparition.

    Olanum didn't slow.

    So he was briefly surprised when the child leaped onto his chest, burying bony claws into his skin before burying his teeth in the merchant's throat.

    Surprise for an instant...the moment or two it took for the unearthly monster to gnaw through his throat and into his spine. He dropped, his legs pumping uselessly, twitching as the child continued to devour mouthful after mouthful of warm quivering flesh.

    Zovalias knelt beside the feasting Aux, dipping his finger lightly into Olanum before licking off the fresh blood.

    "Our Aux is truth, Olanum...in one fashion or another. You wore yours with pride, but never garish enough to draw attention. Mine? Well, sir..." taking hold of both feet, Zovalias dragged the corpse into a nearby alley, leaving his aux to lick the blood and gristle from the street. "He simply says what I'm thinking."

    Olanum said nothing, staring blankly at the night sky above them. Zovalias clicked his tongue and retrieved the blade and stone. His servants would dispose of the body before morning, long after the Orchid had passed beyond the grasp of Virdosi military. It would be a shame, such a noble hero's ship taken by pirates, but by the time word had reached Hosia, Olanum's bravery would have already launched a score or more of voyages.

    "At least you will be remembered," Zovalias said to the corpse, "A modest merchant brave enough to spurn the great General Tattersal. In death you will be greater than you ever were in life. A pity, perhaps, that you cannot appreciate that."

    Zovalias left him there, covered by his cloak, waiting for the swift arrival of his servants.

    Whistling he shambled towards the docks, counting the coins it would take to make Olanum a hero. Five a person perhaps?

    No. Three.

    These were trying times, after all.

    People wanted a hero anyways.
     
    #1 Jack Shade, Oct 16, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 16, 2014
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  2. Life Line, green
    Dawn cracked the empty horizon and cast the shadow of light upon the world. The predators of the night slunk away to their dens whilst the prey they feasted upon sprung up for their own game of cat and mouse. The cycle of life took one more turn and so did the Forest guide Mikael take one more step. The familiarity of this path rang a chilling note in the back of his consciousness. Though it had been so long since he had walked this route, it seemed as though he had just taken these very steps moments ago. Memories flashed in his mind as they approached the place he had sworn he would never return to. A soft terror rose in his chest. His experience deterred it from showing outwardly however, and thank the gods for that. He was not alone.

    Tattersal's men followed closely behind him, matching his pace and keeping their eyes glued to their surroundings. The two were experienced and it made the trip easier, well at least physically. Mikael shoved off the short feeling of cold feet as he broke from the canopy. They were here.

    And there was no turning back now.

    Show Spoiler
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    The back of a lone figure faced them. They bore a blood red cloak and a staff of strange, gnarled wood. Mikael new this individual for what they were, for he had been in their place once before. The jailor of the Shartan stood before them, and it would be the jailor who decided whether their journey would stop here, or continue forward.

    Mikael approached the figure first, and the others soon followed. As they neared, the forest guide began to notice something was amiss. He quickened his pace, reaching the figure in moments. Mikael rested a hand on the Jailor's left shoulder, the mans' body trembled at his touch but showed no other reaction. Mikael pressed slightly harder on the Jailor's shoulder, but the trembling neither worsened nor lessened. The forest guide signaled for the other two to stay back with an open palm as he stepped around to the Jailor's face.

    Show Spoiler
    [​IMG]


    A woman's face greeted him, no less then twenty, no more than thirty. Black, soulless eyes peered into the distance, as though she was searching for something out in the horizon. Her skin was dry and her lips chapped, as though she hadn't drank water for days. Her face was tainted with smudges of soil and filth. Mikael studied the woman for a moment, and swallowed the terror that crept up his throat. He noticed something, a soft whisper, and the trembling of lips. She was murmuring something. Almost inaudible, almost, but not quite. Mikael leaned his ear closer, still getting no reaction from the woman.

    "T.. W..er.. No... Wa..e.."

    He could not make it out. The sentence sat just out of the range of his hearing, teasing him with its elusiveness. Mikael followed the woman's gaze, She stared directly at a well to the left of a small wooden house, a house he had once lived in himself. Mikael looked to the other two. "Come, we will rest here for a short while. We must prepare well for this.. Even I know not what to expect from this place." His gaze drifted to the woman for a moment, the Forest kin followed.

    The elder of the Forest kin scratched on a loose twig. "This is a dark Omen. Something tells me that this may be a little more challenging than a walk in the woods."

    "You do not say?" The younger one spoke in a jesting manner. It had been the first time he had made even a pepe and both Mikael and Faern shot him a stern glance. The boy immediately tucked his head. Tattersal had taught him respect, and Mikael was impressed at how easily he bit his own tongue.

    "There will be supplies in the cabin, they should do for the first few nights." Mikael directed the one who had been called Zim to the well outside of the cabin. After charging him with drawing the water he entered the cabin with Faern. "Gather only as much as you can carry comfortably. We leave in an hour."

    Without another word the three set too work.

     
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  3. The Shartan I followed the noises to their final destination. This was a difficult task, moving through an ever-shifting maze, but I could hear the steps louder, which meant I was getting closer. I then began to hear words. "You know where we are, right?" I then caught sight of them,
    Grendel.jpg
    There lies my meal, and they have not seen me.


    "Umm, yeah, I know." said the big guy as he walked to one of the stone walls."Yeah! This is where I sank my axe head in to let us know where we've been!" The fish looking one then spoke "Okay? Well, where are we then?!" The dark, tall-eared one spoke last. "I believe we are in a bad situation right now, I feel uneasy, like someone's watching us." "This is The Shartan, everyone's watching, and no one's watching at the same time." " Oh, such wisdom. Shut up and start moving. Philosophy is the least of my worries at this time" They then moved again, and I stayed in the shadows behind them.

    "I still feel worried." "Why? You have me, and you have these" He then raised both axes up, and flexed with them. "Yeah, that's great, but don't you know of Mama-Killer?" This angered me greatly. I did not kill my mother, the humans did. I will kill him first. "Mama-Killer? Bah, he's just a myth. Stop your worrying boy, you've got much more pressing matters to worry about than myths, like me! I tell you one last time, shut up, or you get the hook like that last guy we met!" "Eh, I found something!"
    th7UTOP96H.jpg
    "Let's rest here! Get some fish and drink."

    They then sat there and took from the river, and after they were done, they rested nearby. I then moved for a kill...
     
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  4. Lifeline Pt 2, green

    Mikael rummaged through the dead Jailor's supply trunk. His eyes retreated to the interior of the room for a moment, perhaps he was stalling, perhaps he was reminiscing. Either way he looked, and with his gaze came the memories. He recalled the eight years he had spent in this cabin. The isolation, the inner strife. The simplistic nature of the cabin seemed to compound the complexity of the position. The jailor was forced into exile, made a hermit to keep him neutral. The jailor could only be trusted if he had no allegiance to the prisoner and that could only be made certain if he had no allegiances at all. For the jailor held the key to opening the Shartans' doors, and without that power none could be imprisoned.

    Mikael had judged many in his time here, but it was only after his departure that he had learned the true power of judgement. The ability to scrutinize an others flaw's was a common placed ability. However, the power to scrutinize one's self was something beyond the reaches of almost all of society.

    He had witnessed this first hand in so many of his experiences here, but he had said nothing, for he too had been blind to it at the time. A small part of him regretted some of his decision, his youth had kept him ignorant and he knew that now. He knew many things now. He knew that such thoughts were a waste of his time.

    The guide returned to his duties. He had gathered everything he would need for the moment. All he needed now was a particular item. At the bottom of the chest he found it, the rope. The only thing a jailor had that he could count on to keep him from falling prey to the Labyrinth. Mikael slung the looped mass on his shoulder and stood. He gestured to Faern, who nodded in acknowledgement. He was ready, The two exited the cabin to check on the third.

    The pair stepped out of the cabin to see the Disciple patiently awaiting their arrival. He had gathered his end of the supply list; five filled water skins had been hooked upon a protruding branch at his waist. Mikael stepped towards the now dead Jailor. Her trembling had stopped and, after a short check, he could tell her life had as well. The sight disturbed him, but he swallowed the feeling.

    Before the three was the entrance; its doors lay open and that too concerned Mikael quite a bit. The jailor was required to keep the doors closed whenever possible. If they were open.. He brushed the thought away. He had a job to do, and something in his gut told him he would have quite a bit of time to think on the matter later.

    At the top of the Door's Arching entryway sat a small cubbyhole. Within was a white flower that emitted a peculiar glow. The flower was fully bloomed and Mikael found himself cursing his luck. He gestured with his arm and the Forest kin followed with their eyes. "That is our keepsake. It is known as The Labryn Lilac and it is rumored to be the last of its kind. The Shartan is a shifting vessel, an ever changing labyrinth of endless rooms and hallways. Though I have not ventured deep enough to ascertain what sleeps within these halls, I can grant you this key piece of knowledge; The maze will shift every hour, and that flower will track the shifts." Mikael was not use to speaking in such an elongated fashion. He paused momentarily to catch his train of thought. "When that flower is at full bloom the maze is half way between shifts. When it is wilted a new shift has begun and an old shift has ended. Sleep is a dangerous thing in the maze for it does not take long for one to lose their way because of it.." Mikael drifted off and turned from his companions. He began to walk towards the maze's entrance and only gave the two a small look as he did so. They followed in course, and within moments, darkness consumed them all...
     
  5. Zoarjiradh stumbled through the jungle, hacking at branches blocking his way and vines tangling his feet. A small brown lizard, the color of mud, an animal that you'd think was uninteresting and boring was latched tightly onto his shoulder. Peeking out from a pouch in his harness was an ivory horn, which looked quite jagged and dangerous. He also carried a large flap of what appeared to be some sort of hide, but it looked rough.It was a kind of grayish-green, a very dull color, but not as much as the color of the small reptile on Zoarjiradh's shoulder. He carried the crudely cut piece of skin tied to his back with some string. He fingered a poppy tucked into yet another pouch, snuggled safely with some herbs. He was perspiring a great deal, perhaps too much. He was a Draken, and therefore he needed to be warm in order to survive. But, being cold-blooded meant he also couldn't get TOO hot, and at the same time not get TOO cold. Life as a reptile was hard.

    Finally, he stopped, untying the curious skin and leaving to drop to the ground. He sagged against the great tree that towered above him. He gasped for air as he caught his breath. To calm himself and lower his heart rate, he allowed himself to relax a bit, listening to the bustling world around him. Though it hadn't rained today, the ground was kind of soggy and the wood of the tree was wet and rotting. The birds cawed above him and snakes hissed. As he sat with his back to the tree, he spotted a big, juicy slug, lethargically moving across on the roots of the tree. Thoroughly repulsed, despite the fact that his aux was a parasitic leech attached to the back of his neck, he stood and stretched himself. He retied the hide, and proceeded along. As he walked, he sang a song about the great greenness of Viridos. After he finished, the lizard on his shoulder repeated it, mimicking him exactly, even capturing the sound of his voice. If someone else had been there, they'd have thought it was him singing, not the ugly thing on his shoulder.
    ~~~~~
    Most of a day later, he had reached the welcoming city of Hosia, the place he called home. Though he was tired, he needed to speak to some merchants about his findings. After talking around the taverns, he learned that Belphebe and Shekar, two Draken merchants, and one the madam if a brothel, would probably offer the best price for the fruits of his journey. With a thanks to the Avian who had given him the information, he set out to find them along the banks of the river, where the docks and the merchants were. He soon found out about Belphebe's brothel, and made his way there. As he stepped inside the building, girl crooned at him, calling out seductively. However much he wanted to lay with one of them, he had business to attend to. "Where can I find Belshebe?", He turned to ask one of the girls.
     
  6. Hosian outskirts; Viridos-Chersonese border, green

    One week ago ...​



    "W̸h͜y͟ w͏a͞s ̕I ͢n͝ot̢ i̛n҉f̨o̡rme̷d of thįs?͢"

    Tattersal bowed low, verging on obsequious. "Kindly One, the scouts on the border have only come back this morning. I came back as swiftly as possible to inform you of the news."

    Om the Invader hardly resembled a hydaroot kin. He had debased to a more primitive form, dripping tendrils and gnarly wood limbs swirling drunkenly in the beams of sun in the clearing. "We ha҉v̛e͜ n̛ear̢l̶y̨ ̢f̸in̡i͞s͝h̕ed̷ ̴mi͏gr̵ati҉n̨g our͡ ͏ki̵n̵ i҉n͜to̸ ͜I̷l҉íum's he̢art.͝ ͜N̶ego̢t̡iat̷e̶ ̸ẁi̧tḩ ͜th̨e Noct̛u͜r͞n̷e͠ ̧lor̛d ҉ơf̵ w̨aŕ. ͘Gìve҉ ͘u̴s ơn҉e̴ ͠mo̶r͝e ̢m̴ont͡h͘.͡"

    The Green General considered throw his spear right then, a bolt of wooden lightning that would have impaled Om and ended his corruption for good. But the centipede crawling into and out of the rotting hydraroot would live on, nourished by the network of all the others around it. Edelon bled corrupted ichor, black and thick streams flowing through the temples. The fluid was easily set alight. Kindly Ones gathered around deep holes filled with the stuff, basking in the white hot flame.

    [​IMG]

    "Ǫnc͏ȩ ̵y͏ou͝ re͞tưrn̵, ͟y̷ou͜ ̀wi̷ll ͘have ̡t͘o ̸a̢ccept͡ Il͠iu̡m'͜s g̶ìf̧t. Del̡ay͏ no҉ mơre,͘ T͞a͢t҉tèrsál͘."

    "My orders come from the highest of places, and I carry them out with flowing swiftness." Tattersal crossed his arms in rigid mudra and backed from the clearing.

    Now ...​

    "I asked for a battalian." Tattersal looks over the few that have met according to his summons. "At the very least, our Lost band alone accounts for two hundred kin. Where has everyone gone?"

    "Beg pardon, General." His lieutenant rapidly gestures with creole-mudra, an overly complex, layered form of sign language that only Tattersal's band can understand. "With the corruption reaching Riven, most of our band are in the forests, poaching the aux-eaters before they can reach the mother tree."

    "We must keep it safe at all costs. Without the tree, our nation is lost."

    "Send word to Amaltas. Say that Tattersal will be collecting on their partnership. A hundred pegasi will do."


    Tattersal surveys the border, just five hundred paces ahead of him. When the forest-kin still diligently purified the poisoned jungle, they managed to press the spores and green-yellow rot back from the edges, preventing the poison from being carried by the trade winds across the Prosperos. Killing clouds that plagued the merchants were actually rogue sprays of active spores that sometimes escaped from the forest canopy.

    With more and more of the kin drawing inwards, the vine and fungus creep again from Viridos' core. If the the poison is allowed to reach the coast, everything along the Prosperos will wither and die. Tattersal feels an acute sense of urgency, a sensation experienced only when he was banished from the Clad so long ago.


    (@Choi)
     
    #6 unanun, Oct 19, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  7. The Deadly Shartan, green

    [​IMG]

    They stood at the interstice between layers. The entry ring to the Shartan was lined with giant, petrified forest kin. Perhaps the Shartan was once a graveyard, and pre-Cataclysm forest kin, sensing their lives drawing to a close, joined the ranks of their forebears in the holy resting place. They looked vaguely humanoid, giant frozen skeletons and leathern skin, missing many features of modern forest-kin. Maybe, a long time ago, the kin were giants, their bodies forced to merge with and contain the poison in the jungle. If they inspired penitence in any criminals, it was to their detriment - it only made it easier for them to be consumed once they entered the Shartan proper.


    "Ugh ... " Disciple Zim whined as they walked down the endless ring. "This is not a pleasant place."

    "Courage, Zim." The Lieutenant did not have the gaudy trappings the Disciple wore, clothed in bark and moss. The Kindly Acolyte was covered in Shansheng bark, the golden steel saber rattling in its scabbard. More than once Zim fumbled with the bow string slung across his neck.

    "What now, Mikael?" Every entrance at the foot of the petrified god-kin was the same, every room beyond it was the same. The Lieutenant cocked his head, listening to some whispered rumours on the leaves. "We are running short on time."
     
  8. The Arrival
    The calm warm waters of Kaustir gave way to the icy shores of Pegulis. Till was kind enough to offer Takeda and Arania furs to keep themselves warm. The two stayed huddled in the small cabin of the ship while Till continued to navigate. It was a sight to behold as the forest kin's leaves, moss, and other greenery turned from oranges to browns in a matter of minuets. The dead foliage shed from Tills body "Worry not.... it happens when..... we forest kin go..... through the cold." he smiled and put a hand up to calm his passengers. Arania was half across Takeda's lap then sunk back when she heard the forest kin's easy.

    A day or two would pass before the waters would start to warm up again. Icebergs turned into small half frozen islands. Then on the fourth day something pink and soft landed on the deck just outside of the cabin. Takeda eyes focused on it, then they lit up with excitement "A Cherry Blossom petal?" he grabbed it, its smooth feel against his skin gave him hope. "Till are we?" he called out. "Yes.... we are almost.... to port." Till called back. Takeda looked down at Arania she had a slight smile on her face. That morning the Trio were greeting by dozens of lily pads, both Takeda and Arania were marveling at the wild vegetation Viridos boasted. Lush green forests all around, birds with brilliantly vibrant colors, and a climate that was much different then the hot arid deserts of Kaustir. They arrived in port that afternoon, though they were the only ones in port it all felt very eerie. The boat arrived to rather big wall, or gate rather. "Halt! The port is closed turn you're vessel around or you will be sunk!" a guard called from atop of the wall. Takeda took Arania by the hand and walked to the front of the ship. "Are we going to get in?" Arania whispered nervously. "I hope so." the swordsman replied. Takeda bowed "I am Takeda Shingen and this is Arania. We've traveled from Kaustir in dire need of your country's help!" Takeda called back up. "I will not tell you again leave now!" the soldier yelled. "Let's just go this was a stupid idea Takeda." Arania was flustered as she watched her dreams start to fall apart. "I will not." Takeda answered. Arania's stomach began to turn to knots. "Please sir, my friend is very sick! Your healers are the only ones who can help her, I beg of you!" The swordsman pleated. "Stop it Takeda this isn't going to work!" she pulled on his arm but he shook her off. Knots easy turned to anger, "why isn't he listen to me!" the healer screamed in her head. "She doesn't look sick to me! Archers!" the guard raised his hand. Bows lined the edges of the forest and the port gate "Leave now! Final warning!" the guard roared. "Please my lord! This girl has a darkness in her can only be cured here!" Takeda screamed. "He's not listening why isn't he listening why!" Arania's anger and nervousness gave way to rage and hatred. No body would listen there was just a bunch screaming and panic and in the center of it was Takeda. "If it weren't for this swordsman everything would be fine Seyir would still be here and I wouldn't have this stupid blood lust." Arania froze among the chaos "Blood lust?.... Blood? Blood. Blood!" her heart started racing, her pupils widened, and her mouth started to water. "Please don't shoot we-" Takeda stopped as he felt a pain in his neck. "Ahhh! AHHHH!" he cried out as the pain grew to be white hot. Archers recoiled just a little in disgust as they watched the Nocturne feast on her friend. The guard atop the wall just kind of stood in his spot. He had seen a Nocturne feed before but not a violently as Arania was. Her thirst seem unquenchable as she took heavy gulps of blood from Takeda's body. Takeda quickly collapsed to his knees and his skin grew pale. "Orders sir!" an Archer called. "S stand down. Let them through." the guard was a bit taken aback. Arania's eyes were wild and feral she clung to Takeda like a leach. Till moved to the front of the ship and tore the Nocturne from her meal. She struggled to free herself from his grip, but he had a firm grip on her. Vines crawled up Till's arm and bound Arania's body, then he set her down. "Are you... Alright?" he asked Takeda. The swordsman was covering the still bloodied bite marks on his neck "Fine... Lets just go." he was breathing heavily. The gate open only a little, just enough to let the boat through, then closed right after. They made it finally.

    A few hours past as both Arania and Takeda recovered. She was sobbing quietly in the ships cabin and he laid out on the bow as Till cared for his wounds. "Well swordsman it is here.... where we part was..... for now." he bandaged Takeda's neck and got him to his feet. "Thank you Till for all you have done." he paid the forest kin what he was owed and packed up. "Arania!" Takeda called. The guilty Nocturne dashed out of the cabin and quickly walked past the two, but not before saying thank you to the captain. After the dock it was new territory for the duo "Arania do you remember where your elders live?" Takeda said taking in the city. She nodded pointing to one of the forests "Just beyond that forest." Her eyes dimmed for a second "Though I should make the journey through it alone. I know how to survive in there, and I don't want you to get hurt." Takeda put his hand on her shoulder "Its alright Arania I understand, it's something you need to do on your own." he gave a trademark smile. "I will be here in town if you need me. Get a guide if you can, stay safe." he pulled her in and gave her a hug. "I shouldn't be more then a day." Arania smiled, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. With that the two parted ways.
     
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  9. "Where can you find Belphebe?" All of the girls within earshot dissolved into a chorus of giggles, hiding their smirks behind newly acquired silk fans. To her credit the one that Zoarjiradh had addressed directly did not laugh, but she did join her fellows in hiding all but her eyes behind a fan painted with the nude figure of a woman stretched out beneath billowing silks. Fans were not the only new items that the whores were sporting, brightly dyed silks in red, purple, navy, jewels that glistened atop sizable breast, a swirl of perfume in the air. Business had been good of late, very, very good.

    "The Mistress is busy." The sharp black eyes of the forest kin girl looked the large Draken up and down her eyes more proving to be more enticing than her soft croons. Nowadays Belphebe's guests had become more selective, but they had also become more frequent, ambassadors from Shekar sometimes making several trips within the course of a day. The days of a stranger directly seeking the owner of Silver Wings were becoming fewer, if not for her reputation but for the guards that had become more numerous in the last couple weeks. However Belphebe herself was not above receiving the stray guest or two, so long as they brought a gift for their hostess.

    "I've a gift for Belphebe." Zoarjiradh said retrieving a pouch from his waist, opening it for merely a second to give the girl the smallest glimpse of the flower that was nestled there. With wide hungry eyes the girl glanced from the flower to the Draken and after a few quick glances around she ushered Zoarjiradh into the brothel. With the birch bark skin Kin hanging off his arm they passed almost invisibly though the dark interior of the brothel, ignored until they reached the far stair case that leg away from the moaning women and groaning men. There they were given pause by two guards who were standing post there and for a second time Zoarjiradh was required to show off his prize. For a few tense moments the two guards stared him down, wondering if this stranger would get in the way of their next pay check or bring a raise. Eventually they relented and two other guards appeared from the shadows to escort the hunter to the upper levels allowing the girl that had brought him to the stairs to disappear back into the dark.

    With quick steps made faster by the marching guards that bordered either side of him Zoarjiradh found himself being led through a maze of hallways until at last he found himself before a pair of tall wooden doors, flanked by four stern faced guards. One of the guards who had escorted him up stepped forward to exchange a few words with his fellow guard, all the while the others kept a strict watch on the draken. Some consensus seemed to be reached and the guard turned and opened the office door.

    "-sixty as well as three person guards to protect each of you. Let Tattersal believe that he is in command, if we want our goals realized at the meeting you must first get there alive." Here Belphebe stopped, cool measured eyes look up to see who would be interrupting at such a time as this. Apparently she was none to impressed as she made a slight tsk sound under her breath before waving to the guard to give her a minute. With a nod the door closed and Zoarjiradh found himself staring at the wood door once again. Several minutes passed during which he could only here the muffled sound of voices bleeding out from the room. Until finally the door opened once again, only this time from the inside, and nine people exited the room. Five of those were dressed in long grey cloaks, hoods pulled up and heads down, the rest of the group consisted of guards only these men and women were bedecked in armor rather than the standard uniform. With the room empty save Belphebe Zoarjiradh found himself being ushered before the Draken mistress, his movements followed closely by four guards.

    "Strangers are so uncommon these days, friends even more so." Belphebe settled herself behind her large desk, moving some papers around before turning her gaze to the draken man clasping her hands under her chin. "Perhaps you wish to loose one status and gain another?"
     
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  10. The Room, Green The light on their backs faded into nothingness as they ventured further into the Shartan. They were not the first to walk this path, but they were one of the most prepared. They were professionals, all of them. Armed to the teeth with knowledge and practice. Tragically enough however, this journey could not be prepared for. This was a journey akin to stepping into hell itself, and no matter how well practiced or knowledgeable they were, it would not be enough to save them from the depths of this place.

    Horrors of unknown origin and unspeakable forms skittered about the many halls of the Labyrinth, leaving nothing but death and madness in their wake. Creatures unable to live under the sun had crept through the many cracks in the prison walls and taken to preying on those that called this place their home. Even the prisoners themselves were beasts of legend and terror, hunting all that crossed their path. This was a place of Predation, a place of feral decisions and instinct. Thought and morality had no place here, and those who kept it with them..

    They never survived the trials of this place.

    The Shartan was a graveyard, a prison and a testing ground. Darkness held reign over this place, and all who lived here were aware of her presence.

    Mikael, Zim, and Faern brought light into Darkness' Domain, and she was not one to welcome guests warmly.


    Before long they came to room, the absence of light made it almost impossible to make out, but after several moments their eyes began to adjust. It was small, the squish beneath their feet gave the floor away as wet soil and weeds. The walls were made of smoothed stone, and the far wall had a perfectly squared archway placed at its center. An old, rotted stump sat at the center of the room and a small pond of water lay beside it. Mikael squinted as he peered through the darkness, trying to make out more details. He looked to the others and nodded to them. They took the Que and began fanning out to search the room themselves.

    Disciple Zim had been resting on the far wall when it happened. He jumped suddenly as the it began to move. A powerful grinding sound filled the room as the maze shifted and the squared Archway disappeared only to be replaced by a small hole. After the shift had completed Mikael approached the new exit. "Any of us could fit, on our hands and knees that is." He took a swig from his water skin and shook off the suspicious feeling that struck him. He then retrieved the rope from his bag and continued. "This is known as 'The Life Line'. It is used by the jailor to travel into the maze and back out again without being lost within. We, however, want to be lost. So it will serve a different purpose. I will travel into the maze with this and scout the room that appears after each of the shifts. You two will watch this end of the line while I am gone. I will tug on the rope to communicate with you two. One tug will signal for you to pull me up. Two tugs will signal for one of you to come in after me. And three tugs will signal for you to cut the line and block the entrance to this room."

    The two nodded in acceptance until Mikael mentioned his final point. At which it was Zim who raised a notion of concern. Before he spoke however, Faern silenced him. "The Shartan is a dark place Zim, Tattersals' will would be for us to follow the Guide's advice. Whether we agree, or not." The younger Forest kin nodded silently and Mikael met eyes with the elder of the two. He could see the worry that lay behind Faern's calm demeanor but could not think of a way to settle it. Instead he simply turned and began to tie the rope about his waist.
     
  11. The Shartan I patiently waited for my prey to doze off, and surely enough, they did. The big and the fish fell to rest, and they kept the long ears to keep watch. This is perfect, He would be the first to die, like I wanted.

    I crept nearby, through the shadows, close enough for me to swipe at him. When I got close enough I let my presence known. I stood my tallest, stared through his soul, and cleaved through his face like razor blades. He didn't see it coming, and he screamed in his highest voice. I let him calm, and let him look at me. He then said..."MAMA KILLER!!!"

    My finger then slit his throat, and as he choked on his blood, I dragged him to leave a trail behind, to get the rest of my prey rearing for a hunt. No doubt they heard his screams, and I hear them coming now. The hunt has begun, and all of Shartan will hear it's glorious cries. Mama Killer... is on the prowl.
     
  12. Zoarjiradh was beginning to despair ever meeting Belphebe when the door opened. He sighed in relief, but then glared at one of the guards as he was jostled in to meet Belphebe. He turned, to see a woman sitting at a desk, arranging some papers. He was a bit surprised, I would've thought someone with so much secrecy and security would be...... more? No matter. I've a proposal to make. Just as Zoarjiradh was about to begin speaking, she spoke of strangers and friends, and if he wanted to gain a new status? He didn't know what she meant by that, it was a bit too cryptic for his liking. He didn't want to agree to something he wasn't sure about. So, he chose to ignore it.
    "Greetings, Belphebe. My name is Zoarjiradh, and I'm a hunter-trapper by trade. I've come to tell you about some of my findings, from out in the wild that I'd heard you would take an interest to." He paused for a second, and Belphebe gestured for him to go on. "I have found.." He paused and dug into his pouch and pulled out the flower. "This. Zoaris. Named after yours truly, the discoverer of it." Zoarjiradh smirked, and there was a flash of pride in his eyes as he spoke of his achievement. "I had tried it, and it was very relaxing, and made you sleepy. There could be many uses for it, who knows? Poison, drug, anything. One could make quite a large amount of money from selling it. " He carefully laid the flower on her desk as she stared at him, then her gaze swung to the flower. "I found fields.And they're humongous. Completely natural and wild." He thought for a second, and nodded to himself. "I also heard you might be interested in armor? I found a great big... I don't know, thing. Even dead, it looked pretty tough. I went up to it, after I made sure it was dead. It had this weird type of structure coming out of its head, and had horns with flowers on it's nose.
    Curious Animal (open)
    [​IMG]
    It was hard, but I cut some of the hide out, and brought it with me. You can feel it if you'd like. Its rough, and feels like bark, kind of. It would make for great armor, as it's not too heavy, contains warmth, and is great for protection. And, like I said, it is very difficult to cut. If we could retrieve a full hide, one would quite the formidable opponent." He quickly untied the tough skin from his back, and one of the guards took it, so Belphebe could feel it for herself. After she had touched it, he at her and finished his presentation. "So what i would like to propose is that we could work together, and I could get you more of this. We would both benefit, yes? And everyone is happy." Finally finished, Zoarjiradh stood silent and awaited Belphebe's verdict.
     
    #12 KoolaidKing, Oct 27, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
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  13. Deep in the 100 acre woods, silver

    [​IMG]

    Many thanks for receiving me, Amaltas, the unicorn said. His hollow, coming-from-everywhere voice never really had any real inflection to it, so it was pretty remarkable how much the intended sarcasm was coming through. Forgive me for interrupting your meal, horse, but my simian appendages have an aversion to basic manners. My ability to wield a spear and my ability to wield common courtesy are mutually exclusive endeavors. I fail to grasp both at once. Please heed me, for I come as the bed-warmer of my most radiant and supple master, General One-eye, the idealized kin that even the prophet Kairos aspires to.

    Lieutenant Lanyon didn't even blink. He couldn't afford to. As a veteran of the lost band and an officer under the Tattersal, he had served for many years in the forest, and he knew this: if you run from a predator, if you show weakness, you trigger their prey drive. But if you stand your ground and made yourself look big...well, the results were rarely optimistic either, but which of these evils would you have?

    The unicorn snarled, a gesture more wolf than horse, and then returned to his meal, burying his head back into the broken corpse of some great bull-like lizard with a hard frill. All around them, the forest shifted. Shapes sifted through the green, the sounds of hard hooves upon hard ground, screeches that had too much and too little of a neigh in it, and then something louder and much, much more heavier...lieutenant Lanyon knew he was in the heart of the beast. Amaltas's head emerged once again, his snout bloody, strips of meat dangling from his maw.

    State your business here, and then depart.

    "The General is calling in the deal. He wants a 100 pegas-"

    No, Amaltas spoke even before he finished. No.

    "The general would remind you of the deal struck."

    No deal exists to make a slave of a horse. I promised him assistance, not subservience. I promised him safe passage through my part of the woods, not the contents therein. I promised him purifiers to ail the lackluster state of your alleged purifier corps, not wings. I promised him to expand the forest towards the chersonese, against the tenets of Kairos himself, not expand his army. I promised him to make steps towards peace with the other kin, with my most ancient and most hated enemies, in the northern forest, and I have tried that. It was very unpleasant. Anything else is a sap sucker's malarkey.

    "Please be reminded-"

    You live only by the grace of Emissary rights and the name of Tattersal. So long as you speak with his will and intent, you walk safe among these trees. Speak with your own, and me and mine will descend upon you.

    "-The general would like to remind you of the red army moving towards our borders."

    We will kill them all. They will crash upon the forest, like the horse raiders of the chersonese once did who sought to steal our young, and their grass will drink of their blood. We will triumph. We will litter their bones for the tooth faeries.

    "The general admires your bravado, but he will have to call you out on your horsecrap."

    It happened so fast. One moment, Amaltas was dipping his head down for another chunk of flesh. The next, the lieutenant was backing up against a tree, a bloody great snout pressed against his chest. He had given up his spear before his audience with the unicorn, and he really, really wanted it right now. The unicorn's breath smelled of ammonia and burning wood, and when he opened his maw, there was too little herbivore inside it for his liking.

    The pun was unnecessary. The pun was very unnecessary

    "-H-how long do you think you'll last against them alone? A week? Two? The g-general knows you have sent your own scouts out. You know the numbers, and you know you are lacking. W-we -the forest- needs more time. You need more time. We need to show them our strength at the negotiations. We need the pegasi."

    The snout didn't move. Those dead, white eyes stared right into his soul.

    No pegasi, he removed his head from the lieutenants, and turned his back on him, returning to his meal.

    "The general," the lieutenant said, picking himself and his dignity up. "Will be very disappointed to hear that."

    More disappointed, I wager, when you tell him I am coming to these 'negotiations'
     
    #13 Pastor ćhoi, Oct 27, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
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  14. The company marched upon Tattersal's men. No flag bearer could be seen among their ranks their only identification being a pair of out spread wings painted upon the soldiers' left shoulder in a dully metallic paint. They marched in armor and with weapons funded by illegal goods and merchants willing to pay to bare the same sigil that they themselves wore. They marched with Twenty people at their head, five dressed in long plain cloaks with all the look of ambassadors while the rest appeared to be guards of sort, their armor decorated along the edges with twining vines. Their approach did not go unheralded, Tattersal was not so comfortable within his own homeland that he would forsake the use of a guard. By the time the force got within arrow range they were confronted by a small contingent with the old General leader the force himself.

    "Neta Sabha, General. We come representing Belphebe of the House Nazarahana. The Mistress heard of your mission and wished to offer her help." The mudra's of greeting were formal and complex, requiring better balance and strength than the average person was afforded. They were used mainly as a show, a demonstration of skill and sometimes as a way for different armed forces to identify one another. Here it showed an extent of training, perhaps not to the extent of a war conditioned veteran but not someone who was unfamiliar with battle either.

    "She also wished to send some of her own diplomats, to better secure the future of Hosia and Viridos." The five mentioned nodded in acknowledgement however of the three women and two men only one of the men greeted the opposing party verbally. The sixty odd hired soldiers stood at attention behind the lead party, they did not have quite the same discipline as the soldiers at Tattersal's back but at the very least none of them broke formation and none dared the relax their posture. Not after the briefing they had received in which their employer had expressed the-importance-that they make a good impression.
     
  15. Hosia port, green
    "No matter."

    Tattersal is rooted to the ground like the oak he shares his kinship with. He stares ahead into the grass, watches the patterns the Prosperos winds carves into the gold fields. In the patterns of the grass, he reads the vibrations of Kaustir's army as they shuffle around the Chersonese. He can smell the burning, clear cut wood. Time is short. He hopes Faern will return soon. While the Kindly Ones and Cinnabar Clad remain chained, Viridos is nothing more than a giant forest waiting to be burned down.

    His lieutenant has returned with very disturbing news. Even for a seasoned general, who guided his lost band around the poisoned borders for a decade, Tatteral is feeling the pressure as control slips through his fingers. The forest ... the forest is becoming plain. It is becoming a mere forest. When Kairos still guided Viridos, Tattersal could feel the life as he walked through the forest, a dense gossamer of insubstantial golden grey. He could pull on it, draw on the forest, ask of it to aid him. But now, when he looks at a tree he only sees a tree. Viridos is dying. If the Jade Prophet cannot return, perhaps ...

    Perhaps he will have to seek the Earthspeaker.

    Anyhow. He retreats back to the interior, and greets a curious delegation of men. Sellswords? Mercenaries? Pirates? His lieutenants give the band of soldiers a good, deep stare in the eye. The discipline is there, unblinking and never straying from looking forward, a willingness to obey orders - but only a few blades among them have tasted hard-earned blood.

    "I am curious ... will these soldiers still remain when we will need to water Viridos with Kaustrian blood?"

    "We are both of Viridos." The ambassador signs the mudra of allegience, dropping "Hosia" from his speech, but one mention is enough for Tattersal.

    "Indeed." The Green General snaps on formal dress; a trench coat made from a Great Boar's leather, plated with Shansheng bark. Instead of military decorations, the innumerable scars on the hardy Shansheng tell anyone with an experienced eye all they need to know.

    "Let us be off." An order spoken without volume. Of his Lost Band, only twenty can go; the other one-hundred-eighty are keeping the Riven Tree from being poisoned. He moves into the forest, and his men disappear into the leaves with him, flowing from branch to branch. The eighty-five from the whorehouse follow them into the green.
    , purple
    "Mama killer ..."

    "Mama killer!!!"

    "Mama killer!"


    Zim shivered, his hand tightening around the hilt of his Golden Saber.

    "Courage, Zim." Faern sat on the ground, spear laid across his lap. He was clad in nothing more than simple Shansheng. "The more you arm yourself, the more they will come. The Shartan seeks violence and outsiders. We can not avoid it, but at least we can be one of two."

    The flower grew and wilted three times. Each time, Faern pulled the forest guide back after a single tug on the rope bound around the forest-kin's wrist. And each time, the Mikael took a drink of water - a curious, silvery shade of water - before diving back into the opening.

    "What is he looking for? How will he find the Grendel that we seek?"

    "The jailers have their own system, Zim." Faern closed his eyes with ancestral memory. "When our verdant nation was birthed from Ilium and the prophet Kairos, the Shartan was not always a maze. But there were many entropists who wanted to spread the poison in our jungle through all of Sunne. The original jailers were three soothsayers - disciples of the Earthspeaker himself - who had the words and whispers to sing the maze into motion. Their machinations linger - the most subtle of influences, so slight that it is impossible to tell what controls the Shartan anymore."

    "The subtleties will be the death of us without a Jailer as a guide. We must be patient."

    "Although, perhaps, the Grendel is already on the move."


    "Mama killeeeeeeerrrrrrrr!"
     
    #15 unanun, Oct 27, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  16. Of the twenty and eighty-five that left on the expedition, one served a double master. Loyal to both and yet fearful the two may someday be at odds. The forest kin had trembled when Shekar had found him two nights prior. His hands had shook when she called in the favor, a favor earned so long ago he had nearly forgotten. He had been foolish in his youth. And yet, the price of failure would be worse.

    “To go myself would be to play my hand and I do not yet have all the cards I need to make that worth the risk. Yet I need to know what happens there,” the Draken female had explained.

    “So – so send an envoy like –“

    “Don’t be an idiot!” she snapped at him. “Sending an envoy would openly declare my interest, while at the same time stating I have other priorities. That would almost be worse. No you are going already are you not? You already have the training to spot the important details, the skill to keep yourself alive, and the ear of the general himself on occasion? I did not grant your request all those years ago because I believed you were a fool,” she sneered. “Don’t make me change my mind.”

    “Watch, listen, and report,” the little white ball of fire added in, “That is all we ask.”

    “That is all?”

    Shekar smiled. “That is all.” He did not like that smile, “I will send a lemur with you to pass messages.” He really didn’t like that smile. “And in return I will cut a full quarter of your debt to me.”

    “A full quarter!?”

    “A full quarter.” He felt like the ghostly ball had been mocking him.

    “And If I am caught?”

    “Then give the general this.” Shekar pressed an engraved silver amulet into the forest kin’s hands, “and tell him the child has grown. If you are lucky he will understand.”

    “And if he does not?”

    She raised one scaly, reptilian eyebrow. “What does he usually do?”

    It was then he knew fear.

    Shekar - Hosia, saddlebrown
    Shekar smiled to herself as she stood on the Hosian docks and watched the ships pulling out. Fortune had smiled on her. A well placed investment, a debtor in the right place to be used, people so desperate for business that they failed to look at the eventual cost, and a few bold allies. Favors called in meant eyes on all fronts, each thinking they were the only ones. Business deals meant friends willing to move her cargo. Keeping in touch with old friends meant the guarantee of a buyer (or two or three) on the other end. And she still had a few favorites here. Shekar was beginning to wonder if Ilium had blessed her, though she was far too intelligent to make the claim aloud. No use testing fate.

    A few more pieces gained, one more hand to deal. The biggest gamble of her life. She was eager to see which hedged bets would pay out, and which might make her pay instead.
     
  17. 10 minutes ago, silver
    "AMALTAS."

    The general has brought us a fine offering. Come out and play, boys.

    "STAND THE FUCK DOWN, AMALTAS."

    They are merchants and their enablers, general. Raising your voice for their care devalues it.

    "I promised them safe conduct."

    I did not. Kill every man. Leave the aesthetic ones. Mayhaps the entropists are in a mood for bartering.

    "I warn you, Amaltas. Drop him or I will gut you like the animal that you are."

    Threats and insults to your host? If there is no courtesy left in this age, mayhaps guest rights should follow with.

    "We are all Viridos. We are all in this together."

    Empty platitudes for their benefit, but don't speak coy with me. Open your eye, general. The sap sucking delegation proudly boasts nocturne and draken among their ranks. Nary a kin in sight. Viridos is for the greenfolk, not lizards and sparklelords.

    "I'm not here to indulge your prejudices, unicorn. One more time. Drop him."

    Not enough here to prepare a feast, but I'll make do.

    "You will die. Alone. Crushed by the red army-

    We had this conversation already, if only by proxy. I boast a 150, 000 sawhorses, a rampaging herd of destruction without peer-

    "Most of whom are bogged down by wars and old grudges you created, defending territory against what should be your brothers and sisters, purifying forest that shouldn't be THIS tainted to start, and protecting hostock that shouldn't need protection in the first place. How many left can you actually field? Against a burning army of over a million. So yes, unicorn, we are having this conversation again: your bravado is hollow. You need us."

    Rudeness of this caliber-

    "Should revoke guest right. Do it. Fuck you, do it. I dare you. I dare you twofold. I tire of your horsecrap. They'll be 86 less of us to see you die."

    Okay.

    "Hold your position. HOLD YOUR POSITION."
    Where christopher robin stays, silver
    "So we started this forum off on the wrong foot. I will be the first to apologize, for both delegations, with regards to any rudeness intended or perceived. The stress of battle makes beasts of us all."

    My heart is big. I forgive you, said the unicorn. His deep monotone alone, unaided by inflection, conveyed the sheer bitchiness in those six words.

    Tension was still heavy in the air. Both delegation and the lost band stood battle-ready, weapons in hand, waiting for the fight that they felt was postponed, rather than avoided. Except for that one draken; sprained his leg from being dangled around at a very awkward angle, only his natural armor saving him from giving up his career. On the other side, two unicorns stood behind and to the side of the larger Amaltas, and behind them, a small number of sawhorses, larger than destriers, more vicious than hydraroot.

    "I understand your insistence on providing manpower for the negotiations. I simply ask that you swear to me on Kairos, and on our Ilium, that you will follow a number of conditions I put forth."

    Amaltas didn't say anything, so the General continued.

    "You and your horses do not talk."

    We do not talk, the unicorn said. Unless requested to.

    "You and yours will regard all there with the same courtesy you would extend an honored guest. You will not resort to physical violence to any provocation intended or perceived."

    Not an unreasonable request.

    "You will let us ride you and yours."

    I do not swear. So heed this well: Go fuck yourself.

    "Amaltas, how will our enemies perceive the oddity of a us walking in on foot, when we have beasts of burden-"

    Moronically. Like the heathens that they are.

    "Solidarity, unicorn. You understand that. Family, herd, strength. The lone tree falls, the forest perseveres."

    We are not saddled animals.

    "Nor did I accuse you of such, but we all have parts to play. We need time, Amaltas. We need time."

    The unicorn just stared at for a long time, and he stared back.

    The merchantspawn are walking.

    Grandfather-, one of the unicorn starts, but Amaltas cuts him off.

    Don't test me, boy. Pick a soldier that doesn't sod you off too much.
     
    #17 Pastor ćhoi, Oct 29, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
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  18. THE DEADLANDS
    For days the Jade Prophet slowly peeled tar from his eyes. He used the sand in between the rocks to abrade his horns clean. When it rained, he collected the water in his hands and washed his hair. Bit by bit he freed himself from the boiling tar pool, washed the touch of the Moirgut from his body. His aux returned to him, the stave and bronze head shimmering in his hands.

    A week after his awakening, Kairos peeled his feet from the pit and surveyed his surroundings. Around him rose a thousand razor peaks. The illusion began to rebuild itself. Colours inverted, trees grew from the dead rock, and the land tried to turn green.

    [​IMG]

    "You will not hold me trapped for long." Kairos knew better than to look, and kept his eyes unseeing. "As you have failed to do in all your past attempts."

    "We have learned though, you see? As long as Ilium's hand is on your cock, we can keep you running in circles for months."

    Kairos knew better than to give, and his kept his face stoic, not rising to their provocation.

    "In your absence, we have been tirelessly working to undo Ilium's work. I am happy to tell you that Om the Invader is diligently bringing your precious disciples into our fold. Back to reality."

    They circled Kairos.

    "Go home. We don't need to keep you here anymore. Go home to what's left of your pathetic roleplay."

    Dreamtime undid itself, and Kairos was back among the volcanic rock. He walked, one foot in front of the other, the long way home.
     
  19. Dire news
    Naya's breathing was hoarse. She could feel her lungs wheezing, the air forced from them as she twisted her body and tried to dodge the scythe. The Kindly One handled his weapon expertly, like a whirling dervish from the eastern desert, keeping the momentum of his large weapon and attacking her in flowing circles. They maneuvered the ballet of death, sparks ringing out whenever the two blades of golden steel met.

    The Kindly One's lantern found them during the night, when they were using the cover of darkness to creep closer to the Viridos border. Lady Ironblood kept muttering kohle, kohle, kohle, snipping plant buds and shoveling various samples of dirt into her bag. A wink of gold and Naya pulled her back, strands of her hair cut where her neck was just instants ago.

    Around and around he spun. Each time the blade came down, Naya could only steady her aching arms just in time to take another impact. Ironblood, Chytrhea, and Ash had already fled deep into the West, along the Deadlands-Viridos border. The Kindly One's lantern illuminated their fight, throwing stretched shadows on the black grass.

    "S-stop!"

    "Wait!"

    "I'll .."

    "I'LL TAKE THE MOIRGUT!"


    The scythe embedded itself in the ground. The whirlwind of death stopped.

    She followed him back into the poisoned forest.

    "Wait."

    Naya spent days in the same holding cell Amaltas was once in. The great root bars were set far enough for her to slip through, but the centipedes crawling up and down them were deterrent enough. She was given food, she was not tortured or hurt. One by one, her cell mates were lead out the door. One by one, the centipedes on the prison doors disappeared. The last one skittered down the bars and approached her. Her hair, her aux, flared out across the entire floor and shrunk back, false bravado.

    She did not resist when they came for her. Her ears began to ring; each footstep thundered on the moss covered dirt. She realized her mind was searching at great speed through her life to find anything, anything that would help her escape. But nothing came. Her chest tightened. As they approached the clearing, butterflies stormed in her chest. One .. then two, racking sobs escaped her, choked gasps. Her breathing came in short hiccups, her vision went black ...

    "Wait. She is not ready to join the inner Ones yet."

    The clearest of voices pierced through her desolation.

    "She is needed for my delegation." Naya raised her head. Her aux had shriveled away from the centipede, leaving her head entirely bald except for a thin ponytail at the back. The Kindly One paused, and on some hidden instruction ... withdrew.

    A second wind blew through. Her hair whipped in the imaginary gusts as Tattersal extended his hand for her.

     
  20. Well if anything he was direct Belphebe mused thoughtfully. It was not something that she dealt with very often, the bluntest thing on more politicians was their pricks and even those fell limp most of the time. It seemed he was also a little bit arrogant, a condition that she was much more familiar with, as he produced the flower and laid it on her desk. Behind his back her guards had shifted their stances when they saw his hands traveling to his pouch however once they saw the little treasure they relaxed but only slightly. Belphebe on the other hand hardly even blinked, she could see that this man was interested grabbing his share of the profits while the market was young and tender. Again Zoarjiradh was treated to an extended silence as Belphebe slowly and carefully examined the flower, the skin interested her but it was more of a straightforward product. A little testing and a trip to the leather worker and it would be ready to ship within a few weeks. The flower on the other hand, well that required a bit more investigating. Zoarjiradh had said that he had tried the flower himself however Belphebe had certain-obligations-to her customers. Giving them something that ended up killing them quickly would prove unprofitable.

    "Yes I do suppose these could be of some worth." She said entwining her hands before her. "If you are willing to work for it I can assure you, fair, compensation. However there are a few things that shall have to be worked out before any receives anything." Her words were calm and reasonable and one of her hands reached up to brush a few tendrils out of her face as the other reached into her desk and pulled out a crisp sheet of parchment. With a flick of a deeply purple quill she began scrawling across the page.

    "I assume you have some way or at the very least a plan for finding creatures again? A single hide will not go very far these days. As for the flowers, two bushels should be sufficient until I determine the best use for this particular plant." For a few moments she went silent as the flicking of her pen increased.

    "You are invited to stay the night to rest, but the products are expected shortly. Men will be supplied to help you hunt and you will be paid for the supplies that you bring in." Here she stopped finally putting down her quill and rolling up the scroll and offering it to Zoarjiradh. "Here is the offer, I leave you the night to think it over."

    ____________________________________________________

    The cover of day was all that was needed now a days for the smugglers turned merchants. However for every container that made it to the market there were others that simply never arrived. Excuses were given to those who did not need to know and those who did know new better than to ask. Great lengths of timber that should have been bound for Pegulis, raw bars of iron that had been planned for the forges of Kaustir, and several months worth of preserved that had been intended for the waiting mouths at the Chersonese simply disappeared. Well perhaps disappeared was not entirely correct. You couldn't exactly call something disappeared when it was all heaped together safely in a un unused warehouse. What couldn't be stored in the warehouse was taken by a selective few Captains to a previously deserted island.

    The ship that approached the island now carried extra weight in timber. Long, straight beams culled from the Viridos forest, perfect for building in a rush. Especially when pared with the master carpenters that so populated the forest. A small wooden dock was there to greet the captain and men along with ten or so men all waiting to help unload the supplies. The boat would not stay long, its journey would take it to the very edge of the Chersonese where the army that stood there waited for the provisions it carried. A day or two up the coast and they would meet the Pegulis merchants who waited for the crates of White Claudia that lay safely within the ships hold. Then back once again, hold filled with all the supplies that it could trade for. The merchants of Hosia could smell the strife and in a frenzy they flocked. Unlike most predators they did not need the scent of blood, merely a promise or hint to bring them in. They would be there to supply the world as it collapsed in on itself.
     
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