Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Dark Jack
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Dark Jack The Jack of Darkness

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The Wyrmslayer
The brave little protector of the forest did not respond to the mercenary's suggestion to avoid the two of them clashing in words, but as the giant of man peeked out from behind the stalwart barrier of his shield he could see the other standing there, weapons raised but not attacking. He arched one thick, iron-gray eyebrow and cocked his head slightly to the right, his grin fading into a slightly bothered mien. What did this man intend, he wondered? If he meant to truly avoid fighting against the Wyrmslayer - one who, he estimated, was the far superior warrior of the two - surely the other would have moved away and clear of his path. He could not blame the little one for being cautious and keeping his weapons in hand and ready, but just standing there like that... the little defender was obviously waiting, and from the way his gaze focused on the mercenary, it seemed logical that he was waiting for him to make the first move. How unpleasant. But at least that meant that the Wyrmslayer was in control of the situation for now, that he had the next move, and that for the moment the game was on hold.
He decided to make use of this graciously granted occasion to shoot another glance in the direction of the black-clad mage-fellow and his rather dangerous axe-wielding defender to see what they were up to, but in the time since he had looked that way last, he had moved and changed the angle of his view. Positioned further to the left compared to them now, the barbarian had come to partially hide the old man, but it now revealed the caster of that quite magnificently flashy spell he had witnessed just a minute earlier. What he saw brought the smile back to his lips and ignited a hungry spark in his eye. Ah, splendid! I do love myself a redhead, and there's a fire in that one's eyes that suits her. And what is she wearing? Why, it almost looks as though that curious outfit could come loose any second... He had to remind himself that he was in the midst of combat to stop himself from chuckling, which would have been demeaning to both the situation itself - disgraceful as was even without that - and to his apparent adversary, which would be just plain wrong. He had seen some fighters who would taunt their opponents, who would mock and humiliate them even after they had been defeated, but such was not the way of his family.

Still, as his attention returned to the sword-and-dagger wielding combatant before him fully, he hesitated a moment as he pondered how he should react to this. Although he was sure of his own skill and his mind was free from the shroud of fear, the mercenary still acknowledged now, as he had done since his uncle had taught him that lesson, that every opponent he faced, however insignificant they seemed, might be his last. Anyone he met on the field of battle could be the one fated to be his bane; his lack of fear came not from certainty that he would survive, but acceptance that he might not. This was another thing their family had been taught since even before the days when they took upon themselves the mantle of the dragon hunters, from before they came to Rodoria and slew the first dragon of their family, and earned themselves a barony and a name. Acceptance of either outcome of a struggle was a lesson they had taken with them from their ancestral homeland of Kátimit, where his family had been barbarian warriors and hunters until they had migrated to the north and where those who were still true to the old way of actually hunting dragons of the family still went from time to time, bringing back barbarian spouses and recruits for their band of hunters.
And although he was not one of those who aimed to slay dragons, but only the disowned son of the Baron Wyrmslayer, he - Lord Corbin Wyrmslayer - was still trained in the old way. He felt no fear facing a worthy adversary... only regret that the coin was not any sweeter.

Although the one who spoke through the wind had apparently chosen not to shy away from combat and had refused Corbin's offer of peace, he would not be the one to sign this brave champion's death sentence or his own; a death here - any death - would be a needless one. He looked at the little one, thinking, measuring, planning. He turned the mace between his fingers, held low and passive as it was. He grinned.
The mercenary did not attack; he was paid to move towards the center of the forest, and unless he was actively prevented from doing so, that was all he would do. Instead he just kept his shield up and, making sure to keep facing the man as he circled around him clockwise, moving slowly and cautiously and, if he managed to get to the other side of him, he would start moving backwards to the north, as were his orders, while keeping his shield up and facing the man all the while. If the man moved, Corbin would simply turn to keep facing him, wherever he went, and keep his shield up to protect his throat and face. And if the man attacked... well, he would have to fight back then, would he not?

Her spell could hit us, too? It will be raining death? the necromancer thought, performing a quick dissection of Jillian's words to figure out what kind of spell she had in mind and intended to cast once they were in the air. It did not take much; she obviously meant some kind of projectile-based invocation that was difficult enough to control that she could not guarantee that they would emerge unscathed themselves, and would manifest enough projectiles to hit as many wyverns as he could lure to him. Personally he did not like the idea at all; projectiles could be blocked, and unless the ones Jillian had in mind had piercing qualities to them somehow, wyverns that were closer to them might easily shield the ones further away, greatly reducing the number of the winged beasts they could eliminate with this maneuver. Inversely if the projectiles were indeed capable of piercing the wyverns and continuing their deadly trajectory on the other side, this would mean that an unknown mass of lethal bolts of magic would be raining down on the forest below, potentially killing or injuring what few defenders they had left on their side. It could also kill a large number of crusaders, that was true, but the crusaders - although by now weakened by the onslaught of the lohks and trolls - could afford the losses; the Anaximites could not.
He, too, turned his gaze skyward, like Jillian thinking about the spells he was going to cast, but unlike her he felt no eagerness or excitement at the thought, and instead felt only uncertainty and dread. Could I create the Shadow Image further away, maybe? Perhaps beyond the edge of the valley, where we and the others would not be put at risk? By increasing the distance between any bystanders and the origin of her spell, the effect of it should at least be more dispersed by the time it reaches this range and less likely to hit us. He considered this for a moment, then discarded the idea as he realized that it would never work. I need to be able to visualize where I want the Shadow Image to appear in my mind, and for that I need a landmark to place it in relation to, and since I can't see the landscape from above from where I'm standing and no landmarks at all in the air... He frowned. No, it seems like the only way this could work is if I use myself as the landmark, which means that the Shadow Image will appear directly above our physical bodies.

He sighed. "I had hoped for something with a more compact area of effect - an explosion, for instance - but it will have to do. We don't have time to memorize new spells, so we will have to make do with what we have." He turned and looked to the north, where an empty area stretched out about a hundred and thirty feet from them before the landscape was overtaken by the many great trees of the Anaxim Forest. If he ran as fast as his fragile body would reliably allow him he could probably cover the distance in less than twenty seconds, yet he could not shake the feeling that every second counted by now, and that deciding whether they were going to do it here or there could determine everything.
In the end the need for his own survival won out, though, and he began jogging northward with a humble speed of less than seven miles per hour, but which was enough for each footfall to send painful jolts up his feeble bony legs, and the exhaustion was enough to cause his lungs to burn and his breathing to turn ragged. "Let's go."

Jaelnec could not decide whether to be relieved or horrified to hear that the voice of this Mother Tigress had spoken the truth, and that Aemoten and the others did indeed know the creature. There was really no conflict in his mind to learn that when she had appeared, she had done so using his body! For a moment he continued to be afraid that he might simply have split personalities and really be crazy after all, until the Sekalyn mentioned that the 'protector' felt magically powerful, which to Jaelnec proved that it had to be a separate soul that took residence in him at the time, since he himself was rather insignificant in that regard. That was one worry off his mind, at least.
It did seem like it would be unwise to invest any trust in Mother Tigress, though, with it being as unpredictable as Aemoten claimed it was and apparently downright aggressive even towards his allies. Even if what the entity had claimed was true and it really did mean to help and protect Jaelnec, he would not risk putting his friends in further danger. The risk outweighed the gain, in his eyes, and so he resolved to keep his distance from whatever it was.

He did draw his sword, though, and readied himself, but although the three yths down there - adolescents, judging by their size, and mercifully not full-grown five-foot long beasts as they could grow to become - were looking up at them menacingly, they seemed highly reluctant to move any further. It took a couple of seconds of them just sitting down there at the bottom of the stairs looking up at them, occasionally shooting worried glances behind them, presumably at the barrier keeping in whatever was still trying to get out of the pantry, before the squire realized what was happening.
"They're scared," he mumbled, seeing the six-armed reptilian creatures just sit there undecidedly, unwilling to climb the stairs and face them, but also frightened of fleeing back to whence they came to hide, as he knew the yths' instincts would be demanding by now. It was an interesting experience, actually; he had never had a chance to just watch yths while they were alive, because their kind were usually always either hiding or trying to kill someone.

While he stood there beside the stairs, a third halberdier had joined the first two at the top of the stairs, and all three of them now stood side by side, halberds in hand and obviously ready to attack the creatures if any of them attempted to approach the upper floor. The guardsmen looked nervous, but combat-ready, and should in Jaelnec's experience be able to keep a few yths at bay...
At least that was what he thought until he heard a particularly loud crash downstairs - one that sounded more like a battering ram smashing straight through a carpenter's shop and everything in it than a creature pummeling its way through a barricade - that sent bits of wood and cheap mattresses flying through the air down there and clattering across the floor, followed by a furious roar that did not sound like any kind of monster the young Nightwalker had ever heard before. At this moment, presumably motivated to move by the emergence of this new threat, one of the yths abruptly drew the frontmost part of its body backwards, and while its arms and head remained raised the hindmost and snakelike part of its body coiled up, all in barely a heartbeat. It lowered its hands to the floor in front of it, its fingers clenching as its talons dug into the wooden boards when finally, with a brief growl, it pulled itself forward with all six arms at the same time as its tail uncoiled, launching it up the stairs at astonishing speeds.
Jaelnec found himself to be momentarily stunned, having never seen an yth make a maneuver of full body coordination like that, only to let out a surprised cry as the creature reached the top of the stairs in a split-second, and immediately plunged its fangs into the left side of the neck of the middle halberdier. Simultaneously with this its arms rapidly twisted around, recovering from having been used to launch it up the stairs, and struck at the guardsmen on either side of the middle one. The topmost pair of hands went for the guards' throats, causing bubble-filled blood to flow abundantly down their chests, where the second pair of hands went and stabbed between their ribs, anchoring itself deep in the unfortunate humans' flesh. The third and last pair of hands gripped their halberds - something Jaelnec felt somewhat sure that yths were not supposed to be smart enough to do - and stopped them from moving and attacking the yth.
All of this was so surprising and happened so quickly that Jaelnec could not seem to push past the shock and do anything to stop it, and even after the yth had effectively eliminated the three guardsmen and the Nightwalker actually found it in himself to start moving to intercept the creature, the yth used its hold in the halberdiers as an anchor for its entire body as it drew up its tail and, once more surprisingly quickly, lashed it at anyone within range, knocking back Jaelnec a few steps and momentarily staggering him.

And while this happened upstairs, the two other adolescent yths started climbing the stairs on their bellies, dragging themselves forward with their arms as their kind usually does... but before it could put distance between itself and whatever else had been in the pantry, something seemed to grab the tail of one of the yths and brutally yank it out of sight. It shrieked briefly, and then went silent.

Back off, you vultures! the dread Blood God thought with rising ire, momentarily turning his attention from what was happening at the barracks on the mortal level of existence and instead focusing his awareness on what was happening in the realm of the divine. Not only did these puny mortals suffer the delusion that they could possibly challenge him in all of his gruesome glory and still stand a chance of surviving, but since a few minutes ago he could also feel that this pathetic little scene of their impending demise was attracting the eyes of other gods. He could feel at least several of them, ephemeral for the moment and simply spectating, but concentrating in a way that deities rarely had the time for. Deities usually only devoted their full attention to a single thing when that thing was of enormous importance to all of the Planes... he could only assume that they were drawn here by the fact that he was concentrating on this, and they wanted to see what he had discovered of such importance.
Stand back, he issued an unheard command, one the other deities would not hear, but feel as an emanation of his power and wrath. The girl is mine and mine alone, and no matter what plans these lowly creatures had or have made, none of you will as much as put a finger on my Black Thorn! I will see Reniam reduced to rubble before I allow that!

Things within the barracks seemed to be going well for the moment, so in light of the increasing levels of threat outside Rilon decided to withdraw from there and focus his attention on the area in the immediate vicinity of Black Thorn, which also meant the battle between his angelic agent and the dekkun. He did hear a stray address from Thaler apologizing to him for some reason, but since she did not elaborate he simply presumed that she was desperately begging for mercy, which was naturally in vain anyway; it was far too late to beg for forgiveness. He could only mentally sneer at her and her pathetic weakness, and that of her friends (how he loathed that despicable word), while he focused on the marginally less pathetic beast that battled his minion.
The angel was badly damaged, weakened and positively crippled by then, though, with one arm disabled by the shield that had folded around it and the other incapable of moving much due to the shards of metal in the pauldron that dug into its softer core whenever the arm moved too far forward. Despite the Blood God's commands, which would cause the angel searing agony to disobey, Vigilance just stood there, slivers of white smoke rising from various cracks and dents in its armor. Rilon knew that if the angel chose the punishment for disobedience over continuing the fight, it had to be in very bad condition, and practically incapable of serving him any further.
This was confirmed when the dekkun flung another boulder at the borderline defenseless immortal, which the angel made no attempt to evade or block; it just stood there, looking at the lump of stone trailing through the air impassively, only to be instantly swept off its feet and smashed into the ground as it hit. The angel, lying on its back, squirmed briefly before it ceased struggling, too weak to stand back up, let alone fight the powerful southern creature. Rilon inflicted it pain, but the angel ignored it; it had accepted defeat.

Emanating rage and displeasure in his incorporeal form, Rilon briefly pondered how to deal with this detestable situation. On one hand he obviously could not leave things the way they were, since the Angel of Vigilance was too weak to fight on and the dekkun was, aside from having earned his hatred and vengeance, too dangerous to leave unoccupied. If this creature went to assist the ones inside... he did not want that. No, he had to keep it engaged even if his servants could not destroy it, lest it ruin everything. On the other hand he could still feel the interest of other deities on this place, and he knew that this kind of attention from them severely limited his freedom in acting. He could not manifest himself, obviously, since this would be interpreted by the other gods as a crime against the mortal realm, possibly prompting them to act together to thwart his efforts... no, he could not do that. Manifesting himself physically was only an option if another god did so first, so that he had a valid excuse for doing so that would leave him as the defender, not the aggressor. Nor could he simply summon more minions; a moment ago that would have been fine, no consequences would be likely to occur, but now that he was being observed calling more minions here would turn what had so far been relatively minor meddling into an invasion of Reniam, which would allow the other gods to rightfully summon minions of their own to intercept his plans.
The air filled with Rilon's frustration over the painfully careful maneuvering that was made necessary by the puny politics and laws of immortals. Usually he was free to do almost whatever he wanted as long as he did not affect the world on too large a scale, but now that they were watching... one god he could easily brush aside, life-blessed as he was, but several of them were a problem. All of them, and despite his overwhelming power he would be chanceless. Luckily Rilon had been coping with these restrictions for millennia, and quickly located a cunning loophole to abuse.

A short wail escaped the badly wounded Angel of Vigilance, its body convulsing and writhing on the ground briefly as its evil master's soul wrapped around it, seeping into the angel's form like an invisible miasma, filling it and replacing the feeble soul that had occupied it until then. As Rilon slipped into the angel's body as a mortal would slip a glove onto their hand, the flow of white mist from the angel's wounds ceased, and instead black smoke began pouring from every crack and crevice in its armor. The white flares of its eyes faded before they flickered and died, only to be replaced by a pair of new frighteningly intense lights that burned red as blood. Rilon could feel his own energy coursing through the angel's veins, burning like fire but filling it with strength that was far beyond the scope of lesser immortals. He was limited in this form, but still far beyond the limits of mortals.
Letting out a grunt of annoyance Rilon extended his left arm, and with a nasty, ear-splitting screech of tearing metal the shield folded around it was rent to pieces by his sheer raw power, falling to the ground in lumps that immediately began to dissipate into white smoke, part of the angel's true form as they were. He rolled his right shoulder, feeling the sharp metal of the pauldron cut into flesh but ignoring it as his power swiftly and easily mended the damage. He clutched the mace in his right hand, testing his strength, so hard that his fingers bent the metal of the handle. Black smoke rose from every one of his joints.
Dark, menacing and sadistic laughter filled the air as Rilon stood up in the angel's twisted body, facing the dekkun anew. Twirling the mace easily in his hand he began to move forward, truly running, his strength so far beyond that of the angel he possessed that he could move in this heavy armor almost as easily as if naked. Each footfall made loud thuds and left deep footprints into the soil, and his armor continued to shriek from time to time as it bent and broke to accommodate his movements rather than restrict them. He went straight at his adversary; he was going to enjoy tearing this creature apart.
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Dark Jack
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Dark Jack The Jack of Darkness

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"'Tool: a noun that denotes a piece of equipment or device that are used to make tasks easier than it would otherwise have been, often made with a specific purpose in mind, although it can also be used about a creature, most commonly a person or group of persons, that is being controlled by another. By this it can be derived that the original meaning of the word must have been simply an entity which functions as an extension of the will of another without exerting any control itself.'"
Her voice was monotone and dispassionate as she read aloud from the paper in her hand, her eyes slanted slightly inwards, russet in color and void of any signs of emotion, as even her auburn eyebrows, which matched her short hair, remained perfectly still, and the corners of her full, slightly pouting lips never strayed the least upwards or downwards. Her narrow nose was eternally unwrinkled, and overall not only her face, with her pronounced cheekbones and slightly jutting jaw, but also her body language betrayed nothing but utmost apathy. She was motionless, as well, the only movement one could see about her being that of her eyes moving over the sheet in her delicate yet rough-skinned hand, her lips forming the words she read, and the flutter of her long indigo coat in the wind.
"'Master: a noun that denotes a person who controls or owns something or someone, or alternatively simply employs another in its service. Being a master can also refer to one being highly proficient in one or several areas of expertise or a person who teaches apprentices in its trade. Also a verb, which can mean to learn a skill to perfection or to own something.'"
Why did she read this? She had already read these exact words countless times, over and over again, and had for some reason kept doing so whenever she was not otherwise engaged ever since the day her master had borrowed her that Rodorian dictionary many years ago. There were many words in that dictionary, and she had read about them all, but only copied the ones she had felt like she needed to copy, the ones she had to read again, the ones that felt important. The letters in the Human Cipher on the paper were written with exaggerated care, as she had sometimes spent as much as several minutes perfecting just a single one of them, but was in no way artful or decorative - in fact she could say with absolute certainty that they were perfect replicas of the same letters in the dictionary. If one compared the passages she had written to the ones in there, they would be all but identical. Why? Why was not important. Why was none of her business. She just did.
"'Blue: the color most commonly associated with that of a clear sky or the ocean. It is often used as a symbol for melancholy or cold and of infinity and distance, but is also often associated with positive traits such as sympathy, harmony, faithfulness, friendship and confidence. It is also frequently interpreted to represent excellence and superiority.'"
She did not understand all that she read, despite how many times she had read it and having read through the entire Rodorian dictionary from cover to cover, but she felt no need to understand; the words were simply important, and although she did not know why, she wanted to remind herself over and over again of their definitions. Master... yes, her master, her owner, the one whose will she enforced, the only will she enforced. Blue, like her clothes, the woolen coat hanging from her lithe and athletic form, the tunic underneath it, the trousers that hugged the shape of her slender legs. And a tool was many things, from hammers and saws to the thirty-inch long straight sword she kept in the scabbard at her left hip with its crystalline hilt, or the strange weapon by her right hip, its braided dual blades extending seventeen inches from the hilt, which was fashioned in the likeness of a demonic-looking head with glittering eyes of glass, spewing forth a handle of wood that ended in a claw-like protrusion from its pommel. Magic, too, was a tool... as was she. Her master's tool.
There had once been one toolbox with thirteen tools... each tool with a specific purpose, one area in which they performed better than the others, but all capable servants of their masters. Now there were nine toolboxes with one tool in each, and one box with three. She was alone now, and served her master in all things, as she should, as she had done for all the thirty-two years that had passed of her life.

There was a tug at the edge of her consciousness and she immediately put away her paper, stowing it away in a pocket in her coat, and turned her head to look at Zerul City, locating where the tug had come from. Someone had triggered one of the wards she had spread across the city in an effort to do her master's bidding; wards that did nothing to the one who triggered them, but simply let their maker know that they had been triggered. They were special wards; soul wards, her master had called them when he had taught her the art of their creation, triggered only by the presence of a specific kind of magical energy. There was an equivalent kind for the physical realm, blood wards, which were triggered by the blood in a person's veins, but of the one she was hunting she knew not the blood, but she knew the energy.
Pulling her boot-clad feet beneath her to stand up, the wind truly caught her coat and blew it fiercely, unobstructed as it was at her level, perched atop the highest tower of Castle Zerul as she was. The entire city stretched out beneath her from there, on her bluish-gray stone nest that extended downwards into the keep of the ducal stronghold, and although it was cold it was also the best place for her to keep her vigil. Now it was time to move. Her quarry had revealed its location.
Her knees hurt, but she ignored it. She could still serve her purpose. She was not yet broken.
"Dweneth jhoon raithla peigein grumert," she chanted as she stepped towards the ledge past which awaited a fall of more than a hundred and thirty feet, her hands tracing arcane sigils in the air before her. "Tuagar jhoon sonedth brega menrirl," she finished and then, bursting into a sprint the last bit of the way, leaped off the tower... and as she continuously siphoned energy into her spell she slowly descended, her downward movement diminished by magic while her forward momentum remained constant. Gracefully she glided over the city, legs extended beneath her and her coat fluttering behind her, as she approached the area where the ward had been triggered - near the Church of Reina - where she intended to land. As she approached that place she began decreasing and increasing the energy she fed the spell, thereby controlling the speed of her fall and letting her control just how far she would glide. The wind had pushed her a little out of course, but not that much; she would end up where she wanted to be.

She landed, unharmed, in an alley not far from the Church of Reina, but two and a half thousand feet from Castle Zerul. She ended the spell the instant her feet touched the ground, and immediately went into a pocket in her coat and produced a vial of piaan, which she drank without hesitation; the spell had taken a lot of energy, and she needed her strength. She remained still while she endured the head-splitting, mind-wrecking pain that came with the imbibing of piaan, and then shook off the successive euphoria with practiced ease. And then she waited.
Not for long. Not a minute had gone by before another ward was triggered, and she ran, keeping to the unused alleys and barely noticeable passageways, until she got to the site of the other triggered ward, and then kept running in the direction the two would suggest was being traveled. She ran swiftly and lightly, her breath even and relaxed as her highly trained body carried her through the city...
And then she saw him, his back turned towards her, clad in ornate armor, crimson occasionally lined with gold, and wearing a crimson hood. He was moving as if weakened, wounded or ill, but driven to distance himself from something. Was it him? Perhaps.
"Stop," she called, quickly slowing to a halt herself, finally allowing her breath to deepen a little to sate the desire of the rapid beat of her heart for air. The authority behind the word was implied, but lacked the conviction and urgency one might expect in such an order. Her expression and body language likewise betrayed only indifference.
Whether the man stopped or not, she would proceed to ask, loudly enough to be heard over the fifty or so feet that still separated them, "Are you the Fixer?"
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Rhaevnn Xeno
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Rhaevnn Xeno Caster of Shadows

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The life of a vampire is simple really. Five steps are required: hunt, feast, hide, sleep, repeat. Naturally, a vampire can do this where ever, whenever, providing that mentioned vampire is willing to obey certain rules and ready to avoid or face any threats or entanglements posed by that those who wish not to be drained of their blood. Whatever life lead before needed to be, and often was, forgotten. All that mattered was blood. The blood calls, the vampire answers - simple as that. Maybe that's why Morgan Thrainsson jolted awake from his place of hiding when blood presented itself. He had found this concealed place during the previous night: a carved stone ledge, covered by an eave of sorts made from the same carved stone. By his estimation, it would provide the necessary protection from the accursed sun and any set of eyes casually looking upward. His sanctuary would be close to the Church of Reina, the latest hunting ground. Places of worship often lured the weak and feeble, the desperate and the wanting; the type of people who were weak enough to prey upon and the type of people that do not matter in such a large city large as Zerul City. No one would care about the impoverished girl he had left bleeding on the dusty alley floor, her left jugular vein cut cleanly by Morgan's dagger blade. He had drank his fill, satisfied and more than likely to remain so for at least a few days.

Yet, he could not help but wake when a sole vessel of blood suddenly appeared from thin air. In the depths of his deep, brown hood and behind the face covering mask, the vampire's red eyes snapped open with the sudden shock of the waking world. However, he quickly assessed his position and remained leaned against the rough surface of crevice, looking about slowly for potential prey. Yes, the craving of blood would be satisfied briefly but an easy bonus was always welcome. Taking heed to any immediate danger from the sun, the mask was slowly lifted, the metal shutters stifling his searching eyes. Ah. There you are. From his perch, some odd thirty-seven feet above the alley's dirty path, a woman in a long, bluish coat was finishing the last of the contents of vial she had produced. At least, the vampire assumed it was a woman - her height, her general shape, and the tinges of a sweet smell that female blood seemed to hold.

For a moment, she held perfectly still. In this brief pause, Morgan could not help but sense a purpose of some sort, gaining his immediate attention and causing his loosely garbed, green body to shift from a lazy, almost lounging position to one of attentiveness. While it was being masked behind some mist, a glimpse of an emotion of conviction, of searching, expelled from her person. This was no normal passerby - she had a reason for being here at this exact moment. Suddenly, the stranger bolted, sprinting down the alley, under Morgan's point of view and quickly out of sight. Normally, the vampire would have more than likely returned to sleep - anyone who offered even a mild threat at this time of day would not be worth the energy or possible entanglement, but something was different about this woman. The emotion that she had radiated, even for a passing moment, was strange, bizarre even. She was no mere civilian with an errand, nor was she someone of the law, progressing in her duties to protect and defend. No, this women had a touch of destiny surrounding her; destiny beckoned.

Grunting quietly as he attempted to rise, Morgan pulled himself upward with the aid of his staff, carefully wedged into the corner of his ledge he had called home only moments before. He had to follow her. Whether it be destiny or just plain curiosity, the vampire felt compelled to know where she had rushed off to in such haste. Gathering himself, Morgan began to follow her, using his natural agility to climb and leap among the three story heights of Zerul City. He shadowed her, keeping a safe distance behind and staying close to the stone walls in attempt to be made hidden. With a little luck, the vampire could go undetected.

After what seemed like an eternity, she suddenly stopped at the sight of a lone figure. The armored person was moving with an obvious impairment - if he were wounded or ill, Morgan would not be able tell, but her voice pierced the silence that was ever present in these forgotten city passages. "Stop." Her voice rang true, though it seemed to be lacking. The vampire could not help but smirk. Did she really think that she would be able to stop such an imposing figure with such a simple command? Judging by his garb, he had to be a sword-for-hire at the least - a profession that always seemed to demand respect and would not listen to such an obvious order, unless it was received from the owner of a heavy coin purse. However, any other thought was brushed away as he concentrated on her voice, as she was not yet done speaking, "Are you the Fixer?" Morgan's curiosity intensified, though his face would be not echo this emotion, as a firm line formed across his bearded face. However, his hooded eyes shifted from woman to the crimson hooded figure, wondering how the ongoing event before him would play out...
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Ashgan
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Ashgan

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One sigil after another appeared, burning red hot on pitch black parchment in Jillian’s thoughts. The runes were clearly defined, each curvature and line in perfect accordance to how the dwellers below first conceived their wicked language. With each rune that was etched into the canvas of darkness, a voice that only Jillian knew – how she heard herself – read the symbols aloud, pronouncing them with the same degree of certainty and precision as any demon would. She was so invested in her focus on Hail of Ruin’s incantation that she did not take notice of Gerald’s dismissive sigh, and only when he spoke up did her viridian eyes shoot open, the scorched writing all but gone, like ashes in the wind.

“You were wishing for an explosion?” she incredulously asked, somewhat upset by his lack of confidence in her choice and ability, “Do you realize you’ll have more explosions on your hands than you can count? I said trust me, why can’t you for once?”

He didn’t think her capable, was that it? He looked down on her just like the teachers at the academy did, presumptuous and prejudiced as they were. They had done the same things, in the end; reprimand her for not using a more appropriate spell, belittle her for not diligently writing down every piece of wisdom she had picked up. They had failed to see her true potential. They had failed to understand the sheer power contained within but a single, scornful word. Gerald made the same mistake, and she was all the more determined to show him what it meant to be a witch. If Hail of Ruin did not kill all the wyverns on the first attempt, she would cast it again, and again if need be. She would not be satisfied until the skies were shrouded in clouds of ashes and fire, and a rain of blood would pour down onto the earth. He would learn not to doubt her, she broodingly thought while revealing little of her thoughts to him; her expression was stern and serious, but not too affected by emotion.

Whether or not Gerald chose to continue this discussion, they were hard pressed for time either way, and deciding that he did not want to expose his other allies to collateral damage from Jillian’s spells, he began jogging northwards to a different tree line from where it would become less likely, but not impossible for stray bolts to hit the defenders.

“Let’s go,” he rasped, clearly uncomfortable with physical activity even though his speed was nothing too impressive. Jillian put one hand on her silver sword to prevent it from moving too much while she ran, while using the other to grasp at her excuse for a skirt, pulling it to just about her knees so she would not trip over it, and then followed the necromancer with little effort. Jillian was far from being in a perfect bodily condition; she was weak, short, lacked endurance and was almost sickly thin, but compared to Gerald her woes seemed insignificant. In fact, she had not even realized that they were similarly aged, for Gerald seemed almost elderly in his stature, even if his face betrayed a certain youth.

As they paced towards the north, Jillian cast a glance towards the battlefield, immediately spotting the broad-shouldered wyrmslayer as this one circled around Salas, displaying a surprising amount of tactical wit and intelligence for someone as brutish as he. Perhaps he wasn’t as stupid as she had first assumed? Well, it didn’t matter. The creep of a wind elementalist had to deal with it, not her; she had bigger fish to fry, such as a sky full of wyverns. A pair of worried, green eyes gazed at the scaled beasts soaring above, screeching and threatening to descend upon their prey. It sent a shiver down her delicate spine, but she tore her eyes from the hideous sight and clenched her fist around the silver sword’s hilt. As unlikely as it had seemed, the outcome of this battle ultimately depended upon her; there was no room for fear.

I have to kill them.

She sighed through her teeth, building up fury to replace dread.

I will murder every single one of them. You’ll see, Gerald!

Her poisonous eyes stared at the black-clad magician.
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It seemed like a long time for the assassin to reach around just two corners of the alleyways away from the Church of Reina, but Ixion knew he had to leave the vicinity in case the guards started to gather and block off the entire area while they go on to search for him. Each passing minute he was slowly regaining the use of his sore legs and arms, but still too slow for him to be able to disappear with haste should he be sighted. For now, he carried on with his limping, occasionally stopping to cough up the last remnants of blood that remained in his throat that the scars didn’t retrieve. Despite the alleys being quiet, therefore helping him in his escape, he thought that something was off. As if he was being watched by some distant being. The sounds of distant patters of feet coming and going of children as they played in the streets were the only thing that he could hear. It’s too quiet here, he thought, his left hand brushing the wall as he moved about while his right was placed on the hilt of his weapon.

It was then he just noticed it, though he remained still while he concentrated to make sure that his assumptions were correct. Footsteps. They were extremely light that they could have been disguised as the footsteps of the children he was listening to before. They were slowly getting louder, meaning that the being was heading in his direction. The first assumption he had was that it was a lone ducal guard trying to scout out ahead and might inadvertently run into his location. Alerting those nearby that the assassin was here. And that he was weakened. Ixion knew he had to disappear from the alleyway as soon as possible. He saw another junction to an alleyway, not too far from him. He took the opportunity to move towards it so he can ‘disappear from view’ before this figure was upon him. Slowly, he began to walk, stumbling over the parts of the ground that were jutting out. He didn’t have far to go before he could reach…

”Stop.”

It was too late as the person, whose voice indicated that the figure behind him was a woman. Ixion analysed the voice, taking in each letter, to determine who was behind him without turning around. The voice had authority behind it, possibly leading to them being a ducal guard. But… there was a sense of… no… a lack of confidence. Especially for such a simple, yet effective command as ‘stop’. So they might not be a ducal guard after all. He considered ignoring the command since it didn’t concern him at all since the guards were the only thing that he was worrying about. The only problem was that he hasn’t seen the person, which could mean that they are armed and could chase him down and confront him in the case that he was wrong about his assumptions. With his strength, he knew that confrontation would be quick and decisive. No, he had to think of another way to get to safety. Just then, his eyes scanned the rooftops, possibly looking for a way to escape that way. Ranged weapons would then be the issue, but that’s something that he could tend to in the case that he was hit with an arrow. Spotting an overhanding beam that is used to lift heavy things up into the storage door two storeys above a quiet shop, he grabbed the visual in his mind. In another moment later, he vanished, reappearing moments later on it. Just before he teleported, he heard a question from the woman behind him.

"Are you the Fixer?"

He turned around on the beam, his eyes scanning the area for another escape route should he need it later. As he looked around, he noticed another figure that was on the rooftops. Another assassin? he thought to himself before dismissing the figure to concentrate on the person below. Reaching behind with his concealed left hand, he turned to face the woman. The first thing he dismissed was that she was a ducal guard, at least not visually. The blue attire might relate to something but he dismissed it as he pondered on the question that was at hand. “Fixer,” he croaked, his voice still raw from previous events. He had to remain careful with his vocal tract from now on should he be able to speak again. “No meaning to me.” With such a question, eh began to ponder why the woman was looking for him in the first place. While he was thinking about it, he was also wondering why the lone figure on the rooftop was here was well. Adding a little bit more of an authorative tone, he called out to both of them. “And your purpose?”
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He is capable of instant travel? she thought, surprised but not startled by her possible target's sudden disappearance and subsequent reappearance - although it took a couple of seconds for her to confirm that the latter had occurred, since she had to scan the area a bit to spot him, suddenly located some way above street-level. Moving anywhere from the wooden beam he was on top of now would be difficult, she reasoned... but that would naturally not be a factor if he was capable of teleporting instantaneously. That would explain some of the reports of the Fixer's activities, if he can do that. And in such a state... he must be able to perform teleportation at a cost far below what others pay for such, perhaps even effortlessly. If so, it can be presumed that he can also do it repeatedly.
Her right arm twitched a little when the other vanished, her hand starting and them immediately stopping moving towards the hilt of the crystal-hilted sword at her hip. She held it in place for a second, debating with herself whether she should draw her weapon or not. Being armed in itself was often viewed as intimidating, she had observed, and having a weapon in hand was considered something that conveyed violent intent. If she drew her sword that might cause this man to attack her immediately, before she could confirm whether he was indeed her target, in which case she would be in an unfortunate dilemma, since her instructions were not to harm anyone at the moment aside from the Fixer and his associates. She was more vulnerable without her sword in hand, though, and with an opponent capable of instantaneous transportation even a momentary delay could prove fatal; if it really was the Fixer, her chances of winning even a battle she was prepared for were slim. There were better tools for this job. She was not suited for direct confrontation with an opponent of the type the Fixer reputedly was... or the one Grim once was.
In the end her hand fell back down her side, away from her sword. Her muscles remained taut and ready, though, and her thumbs moved upward just slightly so that their tips rested just behind the first phalanges of her index fingers, barely touching, ready to move downward quickly and rub along the skin in such a way that it would erase the small arcane glyphs she had drawn there.

The man turned on his perch, only to reveal to her that the lower half of his face was concealed behind a mask and the top by a crimson hood, making facial recognition - especially from this far away and this angle - unreliable at best. When he spoke his voice was distorted by some kind of hoarseness, which real or faked still served the purpose of rendering her incapable of telling whether it was the voice of the Fixer. His choice of words, though... "No meaning to me." That did not sound like something the Fixer would say, nor how anyone trying to hide the opposite of what they were saying would express themselves. An atypical response was not a reliable indicator of honesty, and since she could not read his expression or tone of voice, there was really no way for her to confirm whether or not this was the Fixer.
Was it the Fixer, though? Her soul wards had detected the presence of the Grand Master's energy in this one, just as the Fixer was supposed to have, so that much fit, and although it was possible that this was not the man who had triggered the wards but had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time, he also wore an outfit with heraldry that was in accordance with the Fixer's supposed allegiance to the Crimson Dawn. If she sensed another ward being triggered she would accept that this was not the man, but as it was she had only felt the two near here giving off their signal. His size was about right for the man she had once known as Grim, although with his current posture it was too hard to determine the resemblance accurately. Then there was his reaction to her calling to him: he had used an ability that could have been utilized to eliminate her immediately to escape out of harm's way, thus giving up the advantage keeping such an ability would have represented when she had been unaware of it. Had it been Grim he would have moved behind her instead and killed her in a heartbeat the second she had spoken up. Unless his ability only allowed movement to locations within his field of vision? No, that was guesswork, no point in thinking along those lines. Besides, it was not Grim she was hunting, it was the Fixer, and as such she could not rely on him acting as Grim would have.
All in all she found that she had no way of telling whether this man was or was not the Fixer at the moment... not from this distance. If she got closer and got to inspect his eyes, however - to check for illusionary magic and the like and confirm their true appearance - then she could be sure. It was impossible to mistake Grim's eyes for anyone else's. So although that logically was the course most likely to get her killed, she had to get this man within arm's reach while he was still alive. She had to know for certain. Such were her orders.

To a Sniffer observing her, this woman would seem even stranger than she did to ordinary people, as the way her soul moved and coursed through her body was abnormally regular. Whereas common creatures of all kinds had their energy twist and writhe within them, flowing in ever-changing directions controlled by the eddies and blockades of emotion, this woman's energy flowed evenly and practically undisturbed, running through her with unobstructed ease, barely ever straying even the slightest from its natural path. Similarly she did not project emotion at all, aside perhaps from a dull constant hum of obedience. To a Sniffer more than anyone else it would be painfully and maybe unnervingly evident what she was: a person without emotions and opinions. A person who is not a person. She knew this, and she thought nothing of it; it was what her master wanted, so it was what she had to be. She did not recall being different than this, nor did she have any desire to. She had no desire at all, aside from the one to serve her master.
Her knees hurt worse now, sore from the run here. She would have to return to safety and apply heat to them, as her master had prescribed, once this was over. It would dull the pain. She had to continue functioning so that she could serve her master. For now, though, she had to stay here. She ignored her knees, and focused her attention on the man who might be the Fixer.

"I serve my master," she replied to the other's question as to her purpose, her voice and expression dispassionate as ever. Her purpose? Another anomalous phrasing, yet a question that was simpler for her to answer than the others people were likely to ask her in such a situation. "I have been ordered to find the assassin known as the Fixer." She paused briefly, then added: "Approach me and let me examine your eyes so that I can ascertain whether you are him."
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The wind played with a strand of wispy white hair in front of Gerald's eyes as he stared at Jillian incredulously for a second at her response to his comment on her choice of spell. More explosions than I can count? Does she mean... Rilon's thirst, the girl is insane. So not only did she intend to cast a spell that was projectile-based and difficult or impossible to aim with - so much so that she feared that she might not be able to avoid even hitting themselves - and for which the projectiles could basically shoot and hit anywhere, including among their own allies, but these projectiles were also explosive? And while he still did not know the properties or even the name of the spell in question, the witch's confidence in her choice seemed to suggest that the explosions would be rather significant, too. It was certainly a spell of impressive destructive power, possibly more so than any of the ones recorded in Gerald's spell book, but had she completely forgotten that they were supposed to be helping people at the moment? Were meant to protect something? This spell seemed like it was more likely to kill the Anaximite defenders and tear apart - and if it was fire-based, probably also burn down - most of the forest than to actually help turn the tide of the battle.
Trust you? he thought as he turned his gaze onto the trees before him, where they would perform their magic. I have known you for less than an hour, woman, and while you admittedly have demonstrated a notable affinity for magic and destruction in that time, you've also proven that you lack good judgment and have a disturbing disregard for others. The irony of him - a person that only days ago sacrificed most of the population of Shrubnest to save himself and his research - thinking that about another person was not lost on Gerald, but there was a difference between being willing to sacrifice others and not caring about sacrificing others.
So no, the warlock thought that it would probably be an extremely unwise decision for the time being to place any quantity of trust in Jillian until she had proven herself a little more reliable than that. Unfortunately he had no choice at the moment; they still did not have time to memorize a new spell, and if this was the best she could do, it would have to suffice. Maybe he could use Electric Surge? No, its range was too short... Kreshtaat.

And speaking of unfathomably powerful demons fated to wreck havoc and take countless of lives across the Planes, Gerald was startled just then by the sound of small pieces of clattering metal only several yards away, and which he turned his head to discover had come from a familiar-looking heavy iron chain, its links appearing half-melted and corroded, that had just fallen from the sky. Looking upward, he was rewarded with the sight of Diego trying desperately to escape from three wyverns and wyvern-riders at once, performing some impressive aerial acrobatics and employing his outstanding maneuverability to its very limit, yet apparently struggling. The winged demonspawn flew much more slowly now, he noticed, and his movements were getting clumsier by the second... and when he looked really hard, he could see that the other's right arm was practically drenched in (surprisingly) red blood from the shoulder and down. And as Gerald continued moving towards the tree line and looking up at the scene, another several wyverns joined the hunt, and it was not long before the deo'iel was completely swarmed... and then, once surrounded, he was shrouded by a greenish mist of wyvern-toxin.
The wyverns pulled away to save their riders from the deadly gas, but before it could get away, a pale hand burst forth from the mist and seized one of the wyverns' hindmost tail-spike so that as it flew away, it pulled Diego - now too weak to even beat his wings anymore - with it. He must have clutched at the spike with the very last of his strength, being able to hold on like that, but even that feat was nothing compared to what came next. Before the wyvern could shake off its unwelcome passenger its entire body seemed to start convulsing spasmodically, and so did its rider. A finger of lightning suddenly sprang between the vicious predator and the ground, accompanied by a clap of thunder.
And just like that the wyvern and its rider fell lifelessly to the ground... and the demonspawn, having relinquished his old on the creature, followed close behind it. Good, Gerald thought, aware of how macabre it was to think such a thing in that situation. It would have been harder to get their attention to focus on me if something else was attacking them. Me being the only threat will make it easier.
He also shot a look behind him, at the hulking giant of a mercenary from earlier, but he did not seem to be doing much, having left behind the wind-speaker and now being headed in much the same direction as him and Jillian. Their axe-wielding protector had broken off their course and had gone to intercept the dangerous crusader, so there was probably nothing to worry about.

Once they entered the inadequate shelter of the Anaxim trees, their thick boughs crisscrossing over their heads even as their leaves blotted out the sky, Gerald seized a mental image of himself in his mind and focused on it, picturing his viewpoint as being far above himself, using the entire visible surrounding area to reinforce the scene. He imagined the horizon, not in detail but simply as a line to indicate height, and hoped that the two pictures together would allow him to create his Shadow Image high up in the air despite of not being able to see or picture the destination of the spell.
"I am going to cast the spell now," he told Jillian quickly, turning to face her even as he continued panting from the run there. He began to repeat the incantation and gestures needed for the spell, and prepared his energy for spending. "When I do my body will go limp, but that is only because my consciousness will no longer be concentrated here. I won't be able to move or speak while I'm up there, so when it is time you will have to take my hand yourself..." He paused, thinking. "And if there is anything you want to say before this, now is the time; I can't guarantee that I will hear it once I cast the spell, and I definitely won't be able to reply."
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The startling rattle of the skyfallen chains also drew Jillian’s attention to the heavens above where Diego fought to the bitter end against overwhelming odds. The Zerulic observed the spectacle with a mix of fascination and fear – fear because she was not used to seeing creatures as numerous and dreadful as wyverns, as well as Demonspawn, let alone one as vicious and powerful such as Diego. More than just awed by the sheer forces at work, she was confused by the airborne berserker’s motivations. If he was a Demonspawn, why was he fighting against the crusaders in the first place? Weren’t they supposed to be creatures of evil, ruled by primitive lusts and instinct? Moreover, the crusaders – sightless sheep that they were – fought and died here so that they could return their demon lord to the material plane. Should he not rejoice at the return of his kin? Yet, against all expectations, he fought harder than even the rangers and druids, he bled until there was nothing left to shed and filled his lungs and veins with the wyverns’ deadly poison, all the while not stopping to kill whatever he could get his hands on. Why? What kind of selflessness or hatred (or both?) could lead even a Demonspawn to make this sacrifice?

Of course, Hazzergash could not be allowed to be unleashed upon Reniam, certainly, but still... were she in his place, would she have done the same?

Jillian shook her head and picked up the pace, having momentarily stopped as she watched Diego fall from the sky, together with a wyvern and it’s rider’s corpses. I guess even those born from a demon’s womb have a form of free will. Another lie they told me.

Moments later, the two magicians slowed down underneath a thicket of branches and leaves, an almost idyllic place were it not for the bloodshed, violence, fire and poison that threatened to engulf and consume the entire forest. Gerald was exhausted, but wasted no time to recover his breath.

“I am going to cast the spell now,” he hastily explained, followed by a description of what would happen next. Jillian swallowed and banished all distracting thoughts from her mind, as a mage always should, and as she has many times neglected to; but there was no room for leniency here. Her breath left her lips slow and steady, her senses becoming dull to the world around her. She was fully focused on Gerald and herself, and she felt a distantly familiar tingling in her stomach, that nervous sensation that one gets before an important test, or just before saying hello to the person one has a crush on. What am I doing?! I’ve cast Hail of Ruin a couple times before, it’s not a new spell. Why am I so flustered? She chided herself in thoughts, but could not get rid of that unnerving feeling. Was she afraid of failure? That she would not kill all the wyverns, or that she would kill some of her own people? Maybe even herself and Gerald? Or was it the opposite, the fear of success – that she would be consumed wholly by the powers of abyssal magic? Whatever it was, it gnawed at her like a starved wolf pup would at a fresh body.

“And if there is anything you want to say before this, now is the time; I can't guarantee that I will hear it once I cast the spell, and I definitely won't be able to reply,” Gerald offered as a final exchange before they would ascend into the skies.

Jillian’s mouth opened, but then stood agape. She didn’t know what to say. Good luck? Words of confidence? A warning? Or perhaps...

“Just promise me that we’ll leave this stupid forest alive,” she said, unnerved and agitated as she was, her green eyes fixed on the necromancer’s amber globes. She exhaled another controlled breath between thin, parted lips and readied herself for whatever fate had in store for her. She felt almost nauseous, and the wyverns screeched above like hellish tormentors from the pits below.

Whatever Gerald’s reply, he would soon enter a trance-like state upon casting, his limp body dropping harmlessly in the lumpy grass beneath his feet. Jillian could not see his shadow image appearing past the lush boughs above her head, but hesitated for a few moments to give the necromancer some time to attract the wyvern’s attention however he saw fit. That’s what they had agreed to after all; once they homed in on him, she would grasp his hand, hopefully appear next to him and send the wyverns on a journey back to the infernal holes they first crawled out from. She sat next to him while her eyes were glued on Gerald’s lifeless form as it lay next to her. He looked so helpless, practically dead. Seeing him like that, she felt the inexplicable desire to protect him until he came to, but alas she had her mission to fulfill.

That’s enough time, girl. I have to act now. Her pulse was beating like a war drum, and she felt the heat rising to her temples.

“Trust me,” she whispered, trying to sound as calm and controlled as possible, but betraying a hint of her exhilaration in her tone. Then her meek, bony fingers reached for Gerald’s similarly malnourished hand, and she found their similarities to be striking. When their skin touched, she wrapped her grasp around his hand as tightly as she could before her consciousness left her body and ascended into the sky, unchained like a bird from the burden of earthly life.

Above in the wyvern-filled skies, a blurry shape manifested next to Gerald’s black form; an avatar reminiscent of the woman he had met less than an hour ago, yet had shared so much with already. Although her silhouette was black and shadowy like his own likeness, there was an uncanny glow within the dark, like embers sparkling amidst ashes and burnt-up coal. No words were exchanged between the pair of phantasmal ghosts, and without hesitation, Jillian’s ethereal shape began to draw symbols in the air that few arcane mages have ever seen, and that most in Rodoria would find blasphemous. Wicked runes traced in the fiendish Devil’s Tongue, the language of demons and Demonspawn. The poisoned air carried Jillian’s voice, sounding unusually harsh and hate-filled as it pronounced syllable after syllable of the accursed incantation. With almost the same bravado and passion as she had cast her composite, fire-lance spell earlier, she now completed the evocation of the greater Hail of Ruin, her palms extended to her left and right, facing away, and her arms horizontally aligned

The deed is done, she thought, it is all in your hands now.

The wyverns, meanwhile still oblivious to the fact that they were clawing and biting at incorporeal illusions, began to notice the manifestation of great heat from Jillian’s spectral form. The little sparkles in the smoke of her shape began to glow brighter, filled with lusting intentions of violence and gratification, pleasure and pain. An orb of dark red fire amassed in her ghost, about the size of small boulder, and merely a blink of an eye after its conception, was ejected from her like a shot from a gun. It blundered into a nearby wyvern’s open mouth and detonated with a fearsome, crimson explosion that obliterated the wyvern’s head, tore apart its throat, and scorched its shoulders. The rider lost balance and fell from his mount before that one followed after him, descending in a column of blood, meat and bones. Two nearby wyverns were also hit, one of them losing half of its face, the other lamenting the burning of one half of its left wing. Before they could either retreat or press the attack, more such projectiles blasted out of Jillian’s phantom body. Each of them caused a great, dark red explosion in the sky that sent fragments of shattered bodies and equipment raining down upon the forest and the battlefield, and each detonation was loud enough to be heard across the entire meadow. One blast succeeded the other, each more violent than the last; ribcages shattered, jaws dislodged, eyes burnt out or ejected from their sockets, wing membranes burned and the bones crippled, acidic blood burnt up by a flame hotter than they. It was a gruesome, glorious fireworks for all revelers of wanton destruction and bloodshed. The wyverns, once feared enemies of man, screeched helplessly as their ranks were thinned by the merciless barrage of fiery death.

The witch floated carelessly amidst the carnage, entranced by the disastrous fruit of her labor. Here in this ghostly shape, the world seemed so small, insignificant and distant. The lives she extinguished felt fake, as if she were merely putting her childhood dolls to the torch in a sacrifice to her infantile curiosity, and just like a child, she watched the catastrophe with a gleeful smile that was oblivious to the deeper consequences of her feelings. Each burst of energy that left her body and was thus burnt up sent chills of excitement down her spine, and her lifeless husk lying next to Gerald’s – far below – occasionally moaned or cackled without restraint or shame. She was a goddess; a flying deity that administered death and destruction upon all those who defied her. When the last wyvern fell, its body reduced to a torso whose hind parts have disappeared, and whose mouth and open ribcage puked and leaked blood all the way down to the ground, she was almost disappointed to find no more targets to kill, for her spell, greedy as it was... was not yet appeased. Amidst the rain of dead and dying wyverns and men, the hail of bone fragments, meat slabs and blood torrents, boulders of crimson fire now descended upon the earth, painting trails of unholy flames and dark smoke in the sky. They struck the puny world beneath Jillian’s disdainful eyes with impunity, obliterating trees and igniting entire patches of forest, striking the body of the crusader army and killing dozens of men in a single strike, and one missile even struck about four hundred yards from where the two sorcerers’ husks lay dreaming of death and destruction.

It was like a dream, and it might have been, given how surreal it was. And like with any dream, Jillian felt tired, her eyelids felt heavy, her breath became sporadic and strained. Here in the sky she could not see how her body in the forest below lost all color, nor could she see the trickles of blood that ran from her small nose and out from between her pressed lips. She did not even realize the crystalline tears that formed underneath her tightly shut eyes. Yet, she could feel how, of all those that had been ruined that day, she was one of them. The skies were clear, but the price had been paid. She lost her sense of sight, and could no longer control her body. The last thing Gerald saw was her inky apparition about to fall, her fingers slipping loose from his, before it vanished entirely.

Jillian did not open her eyes and her breath was irregular. All around her, the world was bloodied and burning brightly while her own flame merely smoldered, like a bonfire about to go out for the night.
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Morgan had witnessed such scenes before - it was common for such things to occur in the darkest or secluded places of any major living area. All "low lives" were bound to conduct such a meeting, whether it be purely accidental and actively pursued. Someone would always want something from someone, whether it be information, riches, or an individual's life.

However, this broad idea of such a meeting was causing a moment of deja vu, the actions that had unfolded before his crimson eyes caused them to widen in concealed surprise, shock even. Stories of such magic had been passed around fire and ale, but to actually witness it? It was an entirely different matter.

At first, the vampire had no idea where the crimson hooded figure had gone. One moment he was there and then next moment there was nothing - empty air. His eyes darted this way and that, trying to find where the vanishing figure had gone, while trying to persuade himself that he was not in danger. 'He couldn't have seen me - I was too far back for him to see me.' Mentally, the vampire quickly tried to estimate the distance between his hiding place and where the man had been. However, his calculations were interrupted as something caught his eye and caused his head to snap in the direction of a two story building, an opening plainly exposing itself - the man had reappeared.

Morgan's eyes squinted in disbelief and curiosity at the act before him. 'Was it magic? Or a trick?' Either way, it did not matter. While he could not be too sure, a sixth sense urged him to move his location. Immediately, Morgan followed his instincts with quiet haste, not trusting his humanity at this point - more than once, his more beastal side had saved his life. As he began to climb in a different direction, still clinging to the side of the building, he continued to listen as the conversation between sword-for-hire and the woman-in-blue, though it was more silence than the actual few lines of words passed between the pair:

"Fixer - no meaning to me… And your purpose?"
"I serve my master - I have been ordered to find the assassin known as the Fixer."

At this moment, the vampire had moved to a less revealing position - with any luck, he would be able to hide in a window's natural crevice, sliding to a sitting position against the rough stone's surface and glanced down at the woman over his left shoulder. His back to the now assumed assassin, but Morgan could only assume that he was out of sight and arrow's reach. Concentrating back on the one who had drawn his curiosity in the first place, Morgan could not help but notice something once more.

She was different.

But she was more than that, 'She is strange…' . This caused a rare display of emotions on the sniffer's face; his eye furrowed as he continued to observe her. Her soul, her energy - it moved as if it were a calm stream, smoothly running its course through out her body without any turmoil or chaos. Morgan had only seen this once, and even then, if memory served him well, the sniffer he had accidentally sensed had more chaos than this woman. 'She is one without emotion.' The observation was simple, but was extremely unnerving. 'What could have cause such a person to become so void, empty? However, while was mainly control over her emotions, or even lacking them, she was indeed feeling tense. As much as her soul remained smooth and even, he could not help but feel a rigidness, a tension rising in her soul's energy. 'She's nervous.'

Morgan's eyes shifted from her to the wall on the other side of the alley. Yes, it seemed close, but such distances could be deceiving. Also, there was another factor in such a discussion - he wished to remain unseen, quiet. Maybe he could make the distance, but even so - could he do it quietly? He looked from the woman and back to the beckoning wall - the vampire needed a better angle to see both parties...
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Mercinus3
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Ixion looked down at the woman in the street. The figure on the rooftops had moved to another location that he was not sure of. Not that it matters as he, despite his weakened state, was able to escape both without any problems. He saw that her hand rested not too far away from the weapon on her waist, a sword of unknown quality. The one thing he could do now was to disappear, leaving her without anyone to confront. He had a gut feeling that if a fight was to be instigated, he would have his hands full and if the figure on the rooftop decided to join the fray and side with her, his chances of a victory were slim. And that was including the possibility of him being at full fitness. Yet, despite the easy option of flight from the scene, he remained. She had intrigued him with an as-of-yet unknown entity that was only known as the Fixer. Who was he? he wondered as he carried on listening to the woman.

"I serve my master. I have been ordered to find the assassin known as the Fixer. Approach me and let me examine your eyes so that I can ascertain whether you are him."

So she serves someone who is searching this being, he concluded, despite there not being much to go on. There were some of the pieces of the puzzle being fit into place. The way she remains calm, despite the frightening prospect of fighting someone with abilities that he has, made him suspect that she wasn’t here to recruit his services. And with the way she appeared when he had exposed a seemingly powerful form of magic with little effort supports this. It’s as if she is informed about the Fixer’s skills so she can be prepared to fight them. It was then, while he was musing about the woman, that he noticed the figure that had been on the rooftop, sitting in an ideal hiding spot to keep tabs on the conversation that was at hand. Yet, despite that, the stranger has his concentration on the woman, from being close to her. Perhaps they aren’t an enemy? he thought as he continued to run through the possible strategy that would make things more ideal to him. In the case that the figure is an ally, he wouldn’t make any form of indication that a third member was at this location. A use of an ally would improve the odds.

It was then, a few seconds later, that he decided on a tactic that was in mind. “Kalreth dreth haav rwethw pleed,” he started to chant, keeping his voice to the minimum. ”Menrirl idrith cabr saadrai." With any hope, the illusion magic he cast upon the woman would create a shadowy apparition in front of her, in his identical form. Then, without any word, he disappeared again, teleporting into the shadows of an alleyway that was behind her. Then, creeping almost silently and with a malicious demeanour, he walked up behind her, hand on his handmade kusarigama in case she reacts. “What if I’m the Fixer,” he whispered into her right ear, teleporting again in front of her, craning his head towards her. “Will you try to kill me?” His slate grey eyes glared at her with hostility, attempting to enhance the intimidation tactic that he is assuming. With that, he disappeared again, turning as he had done so. Moments later, he reappeared at the supposed location as to where his illusion might have been. While he was in no state to fight this woman, he had his main weapon in hand. His final conclusion was that even if he was going to flee, she would follow him to confront him at another location, perhaps with fatal consequences. He had decided that he would give a reason to not follow him. Yet, there was still a few questions on his mind, those that he would follow up in the case that he was victorious in a possible battle. “Tell me… who is your master? What would he want with the Fixer?”
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Jillian's last words to him before he would cast Shadow Image were enough to actually break the careful focus he had built up in preparation for wielding this particularly difficult magic. Again with the promises, and this time she even had the nerve to request a promise that may well not be possible to keep, should he give it. He was a scholar and a mage, not a tactician or a fortune-teller; he was a chess-player of average prowess at best because while he logically knew the rules of the game and could see all possible outcomes several moves ahead, he could never anticipate what the other player would actually do. It was the same now, here, in the midst of true battle that was far from as orderly and even less predictable than the battlefield of a chessboard; he could logically see all the possible moves of the pieces before him, but he had no true way of knowing which of the moves would be made and in what sequence. He could not possibly be prepared for all futures... he knew that if all else should fail he at least had to escape the forest, but although this ranked at the top of his priorities he could not even say with absolute certainty that this was possible. It may well be that he would have to leave behind Jillian to save himself, which he would do, or that he would simply be incapable of keeping her safe. His power was not great enough to ensure success in all things. Someday it would be grand enough, according to his plans; one day he would attain true immortality greater than the false one stolen by liches, and gain such immense arcane potency that he would command the very aspect of life and death, but now?
Any promise was worthless in Gerald's eyes, as they were ultimately just words spoken by flawed beings that did not understand their own inability to prevent the breaking of that promise if circumstances were against them, but this promise bore so low probability of being possible to keep that the thought of giving it was almost laughable. And yet he found that strangely, condescension was not the emotion that was foremost in his mind. He found that he actually wanted to make that promise, to feel bound by his word and inflicted with a duty to bring this woman out of this accursed forest. He wanted to, but he knew that he could not, as he was already inflicted with a duty even more dire than the responsibility for a human life.
"I'll do what I can," was the best he could do to fulfill her request. He recalled her having asked for a similar promise just minutes ago - but then, they had only known each other for minutes - and that he had given a similar response, but this time he actually felt somewhat regretful that it was all he could do.

Shadow Image was in itself spell of very high difficulty to use, to the point where many of the Zerulic greatest wizards and most powerful magi had been incapable of using it at all, and even those who naturally had shadow-attuned souls could not master it; the ability to use Shadow Image was rare indeed, especially since it required such extremely delicate mastery of energy-manipulation that only a necromancer could ever hope to master it. Even when using it normally it required incredible concentration for Gerald to cast and maintain it, to the point where he could not move while projecting the spell - with his body or the projection - because doing so might desynchronize his two selves and disrupt the flow of energy, undoing the Shadow Image prematurely. He had mastered casting spells through the Shadow Image only by training long and hard, yet now he expected himself to be able to immediately obtain not one, but two abilities to expand upon the capacity of the Shadow Image. It was unlikely to succeed, he knew... yet he had to try.
It took several tries to even manage to cast Shadow Image successfully at all, and when his first one did appear it did just two feet away directly in front of his body, at ground-level as always; projecting his Shadow Image into the air was even more difficult than he had expected, and it took all of his restraint not to let frustration overcome him, as he knew that this would only make succeeding at this even harder, and succeed he had to. The next Shadow Image appeared only inches from his actual location, actually, but this time it was above his body, not in front of him, so he accepted this as a small victory; for the first time ever he had managed to create a hovering Shadow Image, proving that it was indeed possible.
Finally the third Shadow Image was a massive success, as Gerald abruptly found his awareness floating in mid-air above a sea of green and the colors of autumn, stretching out before him like a true ocean, the sheer enormity of the Anaxim Forest spanning past the horizon as he gazed to the north, where a profound peace and stillness seemed to dominate everything in view; everything in that direction was quiet, and nothing moved but the gentle waves that passed through the sea of leaves beneath him. And there, off in the distance, was the visage of what they were trying to prevent the Crusader's Guild from reaching; a single entity that reached up even further than the already abnormally large trees of the Anaxim Forest, a tree that towered above the rest as the mountainous behemoth it was, its branches stretching far to the sides as its leaves formed a massive cloud of all the colors of the rainbow: the Tree of Life of the Anaxim Forest.
Turning his Shadow Image around to look sound, Gerald was stricken by the harsh contrast between what he had just seen and what he saw now. Before him was Gariel Downs, cast into chaos as the crusaders surged against the desperate defenders with relentless force, even as wyverns swarmed in the sky, screaming like evil spirits when they were not diving at the ground and unleashing greenish clouds of lethal toxin, making it even harder for the few surviving druids to keep their dwindling number of champions standing. It was even worse further to the south, where the trolls - the main distraction that had kept the crusaders from bringing their full might to bear on the Anaximite defenders - were all but eliminated, with only a couple of them still weakly struggling against their human assailants, vainly fighting the wyvern's breath that was inexorably killing them from within. Very soon the crusaders would have nothing to distract them anymore and would once more drive their full strength northward, and when this happened there was little doubt that the defenders, impressive as their survival thus far had been, would be crushed. They needed the dragons to weaken the crusader forces, and quickly, or all would truly be lost.

I need to get their attention, Gerald reminded himself, tearing his gaze from the multitude of corpses that riddled the bloody ground beneath him, many of which had risen anew under the vile influence of Hazzergash's power. Had they had time Gerald might have used his necromancy to neutralize these animated corpses or even turn them against the crusaders, but as it was there were more important things to worry about. It was a problem, though; Shadow Image was far from a spell that could be cast effortlessly, and he could feel within himself that this and all those previous castings of the spell had taken a dreadful toll on his magical reserves. He would have to do this with just a few spells, at most, or chances were that he would not have the strength to return to the battle afterwards... or escape from it, should Jillian fail.
So he began to weave magic, uttering words of the arcane in his shadowy form, and soon the black contour of his right arm was enveloped in white lightning, which was held there only briefly before Gerald commanded it to leap forward in a form reminiscent of that of a spear, which managed to strike a wyvern and knock it out of the sky, pass through it and successfully hit a second one, which was momentarily stunned but caught itself before it would have fallen. A few wyverns turned towards him, but not all. A bolt whirred through his incorporeal torso from one of the wyvern-riders' arbalests, and it struck Gerald that he actually felt an echo of pain when that happened. Interesting.
Another spell was cast, and another Spark Javelin picked a wyvern out of the sky, and most of the wyverns now turned to him, approaching him quickly, and another bolt tore through the upper left arm of the Shadow Image, doing no damage but providing an unhelpful distraction. A spell he had not memorized but only looked over quickly came to mind, and the warlock decided to take the risk; the next moment a thundering boom emerged from his form, rolling across the open plains around him and effectively making everyone on the battlefield aware of his presence, and drawing the attention of every remaining wyvern. The wyverns flew in close and swarmed around him, filling the air around him with their breath and tearing at his misty form with their wicked talons. He felt softness and warmth around the hand of his body. Now was the time.

It turned out that he did have to use the Withering, at least for this to succeed in this very instant, but once he had awoken the plague within him it seemed that Jillian's energy and awareness flowed surprisingly easily and naturally through him and into the spell, and he found that it was nowhere as hard to maintain her Shadow Image as he had feared. Her form appeared next to his immediately, and Gerald felt a surge of joy at the realization that he had just effortlessly accomplished something that logically should have extremely difficult. And with Jillian up there, she was free to invoke the spell that she had -
Gerald had to stop himself from starting in surprise, as he knew that doing so might still disrupt the Shadow Image. The words Jillian spoke were not arcane. Black magic? he thought, now realizing why she had been so uncertain that she could prevent the spell from hitting their own bodies, but also stricken with a sense of fear, because with black magic physical injury was rarely the most significant danger. And sure enough it was not long until she completed the spell and Gerald, acting as the conduit between Jillian's body and Shadow Image, felt how torrents of her magical energy were siphoned through his own soul and fed to her spell to fuel it. There was nothing he could do, though, but maintain their Shadow Images and watch with horror and greedy desire as the witch's magic absolutely decimated the wyverns, obliterating them all in but a few moments, and then continuing to spew fireballs around them, doing great damage to the forest below - although looking closely he knew that the damage could have been much worse, had the trees surrounding those that caught fire not uprooted themselves and crawled away from the fiery doom that threatened them - and also sending one towards the crusader army, slaying another chunk of misguided minions; and all the while he kept feeling more and more energy passing through him and into the spell. It truly had amazing destructive power, but...
It stopped, and as it did, the Shadow Image beside Gerald's dispersed, and he felt the hand that had held his relinquish its grip.

The transition between being in his Shadow Image and sitting up straight in his real body was so abrupt and so hurried that he was inflicted with vertigo, even as he felt a spike of white-hot pain searing through his brain as it struggled to adapt to the instant change. He inhaled deeply and coarsely, his eyes wide with terror, before he turned to Jillian's motionless form beside him. Her breathing was shallow and irregular, she was bleeding from her nose and another tickle of blood escaped from between her lips. She was unconscious.
Phase three magical exhaustion, he thought, feeling suddenly angry even as fear and desperation gripped him, pushing him to move despite his own weakness, pain and dizziness. He had to move quickly, do... something. She had used far too much energy on that spell of hers, and unless he did something immediately her chances of surviving were probably slim to nonexistent.
"Veldaine!" he barked at her furiously, leaning over her and seizing her shoulders - almost as thin as his own - with her hands and shaking her in a way that was less than gentle. "You stupid, selfish girl! Why would you ask me to promise to keep you alive and then kill yourself in such a stupid way? How in the Planes did you expect me to be able to keep that promise? Fool!"
And yet he stood up, leaving his precious staff on the ground where he had lain to use both of his hands to hold on to Jillian's shoulders, and began dragging her across the forest floor as quickly as his body could manage. He gasped and panted with exertion, but kept dragging her northward, toward the trees that surrounded them.
"You will wake up from this," he hissed at her, struggling to move her the scant few feet to the nearest tree trunk even as he heard the roars of dragons above him and cries of fear from the battlefield to the south. "You hear, Veldaine? You'll wake up and take responsibility for your actions! You trust me on that, you thoughtless, reckless little witch!"
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Illusion, the woman thought dispassionately, eyeing the form reminiscent of that of her quarry that appeared before her. She cocked her head slightly to the left, examining it, trying to figure out the purpose of its deployment. Maybe if she had not been a magus herself this sort of trick could actually have tricked her to some degree, and maybe if she had not been one of the thirteen that were now twelve it would even have worked to distract her. She was not sure. What was it supposed to do? Due to its shadowy nature it was fairly easy to tell that this was not simply the result of the caster teleporting there, and one would have to be a highly illogical being not to realize that the caster itself was more dangerous than this.
Was it a distraction, then? That did seem like the most probable conclusion, although if this man really was Grim he would know that such a trick was a waste of time to use against one of the thirteen, the people who were not people. Another hint that this was not the Fixer. But if it was the Fixer, surely he would also understand that doing things that she would not expect the Fixer to do would convince her that the Fixer was in fact not the Fixer... Grim was cunning enough to think that far, to be sure. No, she could not say for certain yet, it still might be the Fixer. She had to examine the eyes to be sure.
Now, with the illusionary distraction placed where in was, she thought that she could safely presume that the man had either teleported away from here and had opted to flee the scene, which would be a logical and natural reaction to being faced with an obvious threat... or he would teleport to somewhere behind her, away from where her attention was focused, and try to kill her to remove the threat, which was also a logical and natural reaction to this situation. If that was the case and this really was the Fixer, she might not get the chance to defend herself. Should she draw her weapon? No, not yet. The magically charged glyphs on her hands would suffice to allow her to defend herself for a second until she could brandish her sword. She would have to listen very intently, though, and be able to sense her opponent's approach without hinting that she suspected he was coming. And if a few seconds passed without anything further happening, she would have to assume that he had fled, and chase him.

That much time did not pass, however, nor did the other actually attempt to attack her from behind; instead the man simply whispered in her ear, then spontaneously appeared in front of her, his stance and expression obviously hostile, but not taking offensive action. What was he doing, wasting what logically must have been an obvious chance to kill or decisively wound her just to ask pointless questions? Was this another distraction? Was he trying to confuse her? Grim would know that all of this would be no use against her, a person who was not a person; a woman who could not feel fear or anger, or anything, but was only ever driven by loyalty to her orders. Could this maneuver serve a purpose to Grim? Could he still be trying to convince her that he was not himself? Perhaps... and this man's eyes - she finally got a look at them when he appeared in front of her - were gray. Not Grim's eyes. But he had just proven capable of invoking illusions, so she would have to examine them more closely to ensure that they were not a glamour.

The other moved once again, this time to where his illusion had been uselessly waiting, and the woman simply looked to him expressionlessly; at no point during all of his sneaking around, muttering and scowling had she flinched in the slightest, her eyes following him attentively but without emotion. It had been a long time since her emotions had last stirred. It was a requirement to being one of the thirteen that were now twelve that one's emotions were erased, that the person was eradicated so that they could serve their masters' will to perfection. She recalled that the process of doing so had been highly uncomfortable and that she had been opposed to it, and that it had taken years for her to become like this, but she also knew that she no longer cared about it; she did not care about anything but her master's will now.
She realized that the man before her had apparently brandished a weapon sometime during his maneuvering - a strange little weapon, she noted, but most likely dangerous nonetheless - and decided that this was one display of hostility that could not go unanswered. Thus far she had remained still and unimposing as to not provoke the other into attacking her, but now that this man showed blatant aggressive intent it was within acceptable conduct to demonstrate intention and ability to defend oneself. She reached to her left hip with her right hand without taking her eyes off her possible opponent, and swiftly pulled the slim sword with the crystal handle from its scabbard, only to point its tip towards the ground at her right side. A pale golden luminance filled the crystal as her energy quickly established a natural flow through it. All the spells she had memorized were utility-type ones and unsuited for combat, but her unique rune-sword - one that did not have a Unity-rune - had eighteen runes with potentially combat-oriented effects engraved into the blade, nine on either side. She left her other sword in its scabbard; she was only allowed to draw that if extraordinary circumstances occurred, and was expected to die before she used it unless such circumstances arose. This did not qualify.

Her face remained expressionless as the man asked even more questions, pointless questions, questions she had no obligation to answer. Her gaze did grow momentarily distant at the mention of her master, though, as she mentally recited the entry she had taken from the dictionary about the word. There had been a time when she had felt compelled to speak it out loud, but she had learned to satisfy her compulsion by just thinking it.
How much should she indulge this man? If it was the Fixer, revealing her master's identity would paint him as a target... but then again if this really was Grim, he would already know who she served. Is he really not the Fixer, or is this all a trick? My orders are clear, I must be certain. I must act as though either eventuality is equally possible until I can ascertain one or the other to be true.
"I serve the Duke of Zerul," she said in an almost disinterested tone. "And he wants the Fixer to stop disrupting our efforts to prevent the Crimson Dawn from acting within Zerul." Simple. True. Acceptable.
"Let me examine your eyes so I can ascertain whether you are him," she demanded again, but this time she added, "or I will have to examine them against your will."
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Mercinus3
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Much to the assassin’s chagrin, the woman standing before him hadn’t even flinched. Either that or she was very good at supressing her emotions for him to exploit, he could not tell. This certainly unnerved him if intimidation didn’t work on her. If she was a mage, that meant that she would be able to cast spells without any sort of problem at all, compared with the novice Rune-Mage that he encountered before in this city. He knew he should have gotten to his previous client, gotten the money and got out before anyone picked him out. Now, he has to deal with this woman. Seeing the events rolled out as they have now, he knew he should have scarpered off when he had the chance. Still, he had the other person to rely on in the case she went for him, now that she has her weapon drawn. Ixion mentally noted the runes that were on the sword. The pale glow that came from the crystal indicated, at least to him, that she was a Rune Mage, but if she was able to find him thus far in Zerul. Despite his weakened state, he still held on to his weapon, throwing caution into the wind. She knew of two of his magical abilities, least of all his ability to teleport though he hasn’t revealed the limitations to the spell as far as he was aware of. He still had one more trick up his sleeve just in case she does attack.

"I serve the Duke of Zerul. And he wants the Fixer to stop disrupting out efforts to prevent the Crimson Dawn from acting within Zerul. Let me examine your eyes so I can ascertain whether you are him, or I will have to examine them against your will."

So, she works for the master of this region, he thought, keeping the mental note for a future reference. He wasn’t sure if the merchant he had killed previously for his client was important for the Duke, but he knew that he can’t give that life back. The laws of magic were certain of that, but also for another reason if that law wasn’t in existence. As soon as she finished, he laughed at her, as if something she had said was a joke. When he finished a moment later, he glared at her with the same piercing stare he always had. “You think I’m with those fools…” he started, his throat burning. “While I do serve the Grand Master, which I could gather that you already know otherwise you wouldn’t be confronting me on this matter, I am not a part of the Dawn. While the majority of those fools decided to sell their souls for whatever they want, I still have mine. I am… a steel-for-hire, if that’s what they call it in Zerul.” The statements he were saying were technically true, despite him signing one of the contracts automatically guarantee him a part in said group. The details of that contract were different from any other and he was not going to give a single detail of that away, lest he turn the person up above away for it.

While he tried to state that he was not a part of the Crimson Dawn, Ixion thought about the latter part of what this woman had said to him. Despite everything he has seen, or the lack of, from her, he knew that she would not be intimidated by him at all. He also knew that she didn’t draw her weapon until he drew his, despite the close call she indicated earlier when her hand almost reached for it when he revealed the teleportation magic. Since she hadn’t attacked him yet, even with the intimidation that he failed to give her, the assassin concluded that she was only brandishing her weapon to show that she was ready to defend herself. This was certainly a natural reaction to give to someone when they were wielding a weapon themselves. No, he concluded that, despite all of this, he wasn’t going to provoke her to attack him directly through fear mongering. He had to think of another way to get out of this or for her to start attacking him first.

“Despite your threats against me just so you can examine your eyes,” he started, responding to her demands. “I do not have to obey them. As I have said, I am a steel-for-hire, so I am not obliged to grant those requests. The only people I take orders from are my deity, through his infernal contract, or those who paid for my services.” He dropped the weight of his weapon, the metal landing on the ground in a dull thud. The chains that were around his hand uncoiled as it followed. He didn’t fancy his arm tiring from holding the weight for a long time, not in this condition. If things break down, he needed every bit of his strength to react. Moreso in his physical state. “So unless you do not have any valid reason as to why you need to examine my eyes besides forcing me, I am obliged to depart from this street.”
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Rhaevnn Xeno
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A split second decision was made: Morgan prepared to jump, his frame tense as he did a double take on the woman. Unfortunately, the second looked caused him to catch his already moving frame, slamming his body back against the stone wall. The glint of her blade reflected to his red eyes as he slowly returned to a squatting position, watching the scene unfold once more and waiting for an opportunity to present itself. The vampire looked at the woman once more, and then back to the wall with an annoyed glare. The opposite alley wall taunted him, beckoning him to a different angle of the conversation, but danger was present. Despite himself being void of some basic emotions, a twinge of his soul caused him to be almost startled. 'I almost forgot what it feels like this - fearful.'

It had been a long time since he had felt this way, at least when he wasn't desperately hungry. The fear of dying or completely losing control was always imminent when he had gone too long without feasting, but when he was completely satiated? This was an all together new experience.

One thing was clear, however, amidst his realization of forgotten emotions: the tension between both parties was rising, although slowly. It hung in the air like a heavy rain cloud, though the woman's even flow remained constant as always. Morgan frowned as he attempted to peek around the building's carved stone wall. He hated the waiting for before battle, whether it be on grand scale or just a scuffle between a miscreant and soldier. It was always a mix of emotions that bundled together like tangled string and only became more twisted as the fight ran its course. Only when a clear victor started emerging did energy become more normal and streamlined. At least for the victor - the loser's energy would become impossibly tangled and then suddenly end. Death was always so quiet for the soul.

A stifled sigh of frustration issued from his mouth as he returned to his previous position. Morgan could see nothing of the red cloaked man and it worried him. Not knowing where his possible enemy was could prove to be a terrible (and perhaps even fatal) disadvantage.

"I serve the Duke of Zerul. And he wants the Fixer to stop disrupting out efforts to prevent the Crimson Dawn from acting within Zerul. Let me examine your eyes so I can ascertain whether you are him, or I will have to examine them against your will."

Again, curiosity plagued the sniffer, but it could not be dealt with, at least not yet. Slowly ascending to a standing position, Morgan's eyes hardened as he prepared to make a leap of faith. 'Silent. Strong.' With that thought, he took a quick one, two step and leapt to the opposite wall…

He would easily make jump, but he had used too much of his supernatural strength once more - this was unfortunately a common occurrence. Even though he had been a vampire for a few years, every once in a while, he would understate his abilities. With a surprised grunt, the sniffer would slam against the wall, scrabbling for any hand hold to avoid falling backward and falling to his possible death. Without looking down to see if he had been heard, the vampire quickly began to climb to the rooftop. With any luck, he would not have been seen, but he almost could guarantee that he had been heard. Cursing under his breath, he moved quickly upward, ears still listening:

"… I am a steel-for-hire, so I am not obliged to grant those requests. The only people I take orders from are my deity, through his infernal contract, or those who paid for my services.”

Morgan would reach the rooftop with ease, quickly casting about his eyes to find the man - but he would see nothing. Also to Morgan's unfortunate situation of not knowing where the sword-for-hire was, the vampire had missed a part of the conversation between both woman and man, something that could mean life or death in some cases. Keeping low, the vampire's eyes squinted as he attempted to find the previous speaker. Luckily, the man had not finished speaking, but what Morgan saw was not comforting: the man's weapons were also exposed.

'Tension is indeed rising' Morgan would mentally comment as the steel-for-hire finished his sentence:

"So unless you do not have any valid reason as to why you need to examine my eyes besides forcing me, I am obliged to depart from this street.”

Morgan's body tensed as he awaited action - a definitive answer had been given and the vampire was sure that it was not the one the woman was looking for - battle was almost positively imminent...
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It took some work, dragging Jillian over to the nearest tree while panting heavily and occasionally even gasping for air, but eventually Gerald managed to maneuver the woman so that she had her back against the trunk of the tree in a sort of slumped seated position. It was not much; it was just stable enough that she would not fall down unless she had any spasms during her unconsciousness, and it seemed a relatively comfortable place to leave her until he figured out how to help her. He figured that they probably had a little time at their disposal thanks to their gambit, with the dragon sisters making a loud spectacle out of decimating the crusader forces beyond the trees to the south. They were not so far into the thick of the forest that he could not see the battlefield, either, although his view was partially obstructed by tree trunks; the bigger of the two, the Red, bathed the entirety of Gariel Downs in an ominous glow as her breath incinerated dozens and dozens of crusaders in a single overflight, all while the air glimmered in its fiery luminance as it was filled with a rain of ice at the behest of the Green. The defenders, few as they were, seemed to manage the battle slightly better now, but not much; there were simply not enough of them left to form a line across Gariel Downs anymore, and the enemy was starting to slip past them. They had time now, but not for long.

Thoughts racing ahead many times faster than his feet could carry him Gerald shuffled back to where they had projected their combined Shadow Image from to fetch his staff, all the while trying to analyze the situation and evaluate how he could make this situation turn out the most beneficial for all the parts he actually wanted things to turn out well for. Jillian was suffering the adverse effects of severe magical exhaustion at the moment, so the obvious thing to do would be to restore her magical energy as quickly as possible, such as through piaan or by siphoning energy into her by using the Withering. There was no piaan nearby, though, and using the Withering would be... difficult. For one thing there were no crusaders in their immediate vicinity for him to draw the energy from, and even if there had been any he still had not memorized any spells capable of eliminating a target without killing it.
The possibility of attempting to simply channel his own energy into Jillian did cross his mind, but it did not take more than to crouch down to retrieve his staff for him to feel the soreness of his abdomen, back and chest, which in turn made him aware of how his throat felt even coarser than usual; his own magical reserves were dwindling, and even if they had not been he was not sure it would even be possible. His unique spell for this worked by him feeding his own energy to the Withering intentionally, after all, creating a current that ran into his own soul and could be used to pull energy from elsewhere and into his; that he could lead energy he took from elsewhere through himself and continue the current into another soul was amazing in and by itself, but for him to control a current existing only in himself so that his own energy was lead elsewhere? Highly unlikely. Even if he was successful in attempting it he would lose twice as much energy as the witch would receive, simply because the flow into her could only ever be the same as the flow into the Withering. It would kill him long before it revived her.
No, he concluded as he straightened back up, his joints aching at the exertion, the energy would have to come from elsewhere... but there was no sources of energy nearby, making his little conundrum go full circle. There was nothing he could do.

As he was making his way back to Jillian, still thinking in circles and trying to find a way to break free by discovering a third option, an unfelt wind blew through the leaves of the trees around them, and their rattling produced the by-now familiar voice of Anaxim.
"Two crusaders are coming towards you," it reported as sharply as its manner of speaking allowed. "We recommend that you move immediately. A hundred feet west of where you are should be safe; no crusaders are approaching that area."
Gerald looked up at the canopy above, scowling less at the faceless speaker than at himself, because even before thinking things through he knew that he would ultimately be unable to make the logical decision here. If the crusaders had gotten past the defenders and were coming this way from there he had only seconds to get away, which would be sufficient for someone moving with just one's own weight, but impossible for a frail wreck of a man carrying a quiescent woman. Of course he had said several times already that he had to ensure his own survival first and foremost, and he had even told it to Jillian specifically several times, but... but he had promised to do what he could to ensure her safety.
Frowning, the necromancer turned his gaze south, where he knew the crusaders would come from even if he could not yet see them approaching. There were only two of them, and Anaxim had not mentioned that either of them were Favored Ones, which was an oversight he very much doubted that the ancient forest would have made. One experienced magus against two regular cultists was not an impossible situation; he could probably cast a spell to discourage them from approaching this specific area or even kill both of them before they could reach him. Magic was a force of incredible power, as his very own black magician had just proven by singlehandedly doing what an entire forest had failed to do, and in his hands it was a potent weapon of precision. If he left Jillian he would ensure his own survival, but at the same time guarantee her death, if the crusaders were even merciful enough to just kill her immediately. If he stayed there was a possibility that he could die, but he would stand a good chance of saving the witch's life; if he was lucky he might even be able to kill only one crusader and somehow pacify the other, and use that crusader's soul to recharge Jillian and his own energy and enable them to wield their magic anew. Surely such a thing was worth the risk, was it not? How hard could it be?

The decision made long before an acceptable reasoning behind the decision had been established, Gerald took up position between the inert Jillian and the battlefield, using the seconds of warning he had been given to calm his anxious mind and focus his thoughts on his magic, picking a spell and preparing the incantation in his thoughts. When he saw movement he began weaving his sorcery immediately, and even as he saw the first crusader's face - his expression wide-eyed with surprise - the fine mists that permeated all air was already rapidly condensating between his hands in front of his chest, forming a glob of viscous fluid hovering there, awaiting his command. The crusader had just enough time to raise his spear, then Gerald's will propelled the sphere forward. His opponent never really stood a chance, but stumbled backwards two steps and then started screaming in agony as the acid had already burned through his armor and was now dissolving his body. One dead.
The other appeared between the trees, a sword raised and ready, alarmed by his comrade's scream as he was, but still too far from Gerald to stop him; the warlock was sure of this, and grinned wickedly in his confidence. If he weakened Spark Javelin enough it should only stun this man, and he could use him to revitalize himself and Jillian. The evocation was already on his tongue and fingertips, and the energy was already being collected from his soul...
Gerald's eyes widened with mind-numbing horror that instantly rendered him incapable of using magic, which would have been regretful, had his dread not stemmed from a realization that would have stopped him from using spells anyways. As he tried to draw the energy from himself to fuel this final spell, ignoring the metallic taste on his tongue, the feeling of blood running from his left nostril and the pain that burned in his chest and throat, he had felt it; it was a sensation that was hard to describe, but felt somehow like standing over a black, bottomless abyss, feeling the eyes of an ancient, ravenous force upon you, and feeling a strong draft trying to push you over the ledge to fall into oblivion. The sensation aside, though, Gerald knew very well what he was feeling, for it was something he had sensed before; that he was weakening himself so much that he would no longer have the strength to resist the draw of the Withering. Even now he could literally feel the sickly gray skin that was the corporeal sign of the plague spreading up his bicep and crawling onto his shoulder; he had to stop casting spells immediately, or external threats would no longer matter, as the Withering would swallow him whole and erase his existence in a matter of seconds.
Breathing hurt, he could not use magic, and a vengeful crusader was charging straight at him as fast as his well-trained legs could carry him; circumstances could certainly have been better, Gerald estimated grimly as he raised his staff in front of himself, all the while backing away from his opponent fearfully. There was no time, no time at all. The crusader was upon him in what felt like an instant, and all Gerald could do was to move his staff to block the other's sword, upon the collision with which he discovered that blocking a fast-moving object like that was actually a pretty difficult thing to do. The staff was shoved aside by the crusader's blow, and the mage only barely managed to even maintain his grip on it with his left hand as he staggered backwards, right arm extended behind him in search of support. He found the trunk of a tree. The crusader stabbed at Gerald's chest, and all he could do was to drop himself sideways as fast as he could, throwing himself on the ground while the crusader's blade narrowly missed and instead embedded itself into the tree.
No time to think. Panic. Gerald was scared, horrified; he had been so close to dying that he could scarcely even believe that he was still alive at all. And then the crusader was on top of him, strong, calloused hands closing around his feeble throat. A sensible course of action to take against a mage, all things considered, but since Gerald was already beyond casting spells all it served to do was to kill him... which was plenty, really. No time. No air. Fear. No strength. Could feel his necklace cutting into his skin, tightened by the crusader's hands as it was. The pendant rubbed against his chest and made a small bulge through his robe. Live. He had to live. Do something, Gerald! Do anything! Now!
Energy. He had no magic, but he still had energy. Could not use the Withering; panicked and weakened as he was, lowering his guard against the plague would doubtlessly kill him. Send out energy, then. Into the staff. The emerald was filled with light, as always... but he did not need light. He did not need a staff. No air... quick. Feel. Control. Narrow, elongated, sharp. Imagine and command. Make it real, Gerald. No air. Quick!
And suddenly the pressure released from Gerald's throat and air rushed down to his lungs anew, all while the crusader astride his stomach groaned in pain and clutched the bleeding wound on his left right side. The staff remained in Gerald's hand, although now the emerald was covered in blood... and its form had changed to that of a spear-blade. And then even more blood coated it, as Gerald desperately stabbed at the crusader again and again, until this one slumped lifelessly to the side.

Sitting up with a jolt, trembling with every fiber in his body and into the deepest recesses of his soul, Gerald pushed himself backwards with his hands and feet, dragging his butt across the ground as he did so and dirtying the behind of his robe. He stared at the bleeding crusader with wide, terrified eyes - and then, as the realization that he was not going to die after all finally penetrated the fog of fear that clouded his mind, those very same amber eyes narrowed, burning with fearsome intensity even as a furious scowl replaced his mask of horror. His emotions were in turmoil, and he knew it - as a mage one had to know one's own emotions, after all, or one could never hope to accomplish true mastery of magic - but right then he did not care particularly. This... this uncouth, puny little insect had nearly killed him! He had not been this close to death since back when he was still Gerald Remdal, the Academy instructor and widower, before he became Gerald Glass the exile. Back then he had been at the mercy of his fear and had not fought back, even as the man who had called himself Gerald's father for years destroyed a large part of the Academy to erase all trace of Gerald's necromantic experiments and flames roared all around them.
But not this time. He was stronger now, and even if he could not control his panicking mind at the time he had still had the presence of mind to do what he had had to. He had cast aside his humanity, as he knew he someday had to do more permanently, and brutally murdered the one who would be his bane.
Gerald coughed violently and painfully; the strain was too much for him. He had to calm down, start thinking rationally again. He tried to breathe deeply, but it was difficult at such advanced stages of magical exhaustion as he was getting to. His robe was stained with blood from the man he had just killed, and the top of his staff and nearly half of its length was practically coated with blood. The glow had left the emerald as Gerald's energy no longer coursed through it, but it retained its new form, and would continue to do so until he changed it again. Altering its shape was something Gerald reluctant to do under any circumstance, at least as long as there was someone present to witness the change occur, for several reasons, one of the most prominent being that in situations such as the one he had just narrowly survived it was a good trick to keep up one's sleeve. Changing the staff also inadvertently revealed the fact that he was a necromancer, and even if an observer was at peace with this... what were the chances that word would not spread once someone knew that he, a weak little man inflicted with plague, was the current bearer of the legendary Omni?

This was bad, of course... by killing that crusader he had wasted a source of energy he could have used to help himself and Jillian, and by exhausting himself to this degree he had effectively crippled himself and his efforts of pacifying an acceptable victim even further.
Gerald thrust the butt of his staff into the soil to lean on it, cursing under his breath all the while as he closed his eyes and concentrated on sensing his surroundings, hoping that he might sense the presence of other crusaders slipping through the forest that he might manage to ambush or set a trap for, but alas, he could not sense anyone. As a matter of fact he could barely even sense Jillian, and it was not just because her presence had grown weak with her exhaustion; the accursed static of the forest effectively limited the range of his magical senses to just several yards. There could be crusaders standing behind every tree around them right now and he would not be able to sense their presence - not with anything but the conventional five senses, anyway. And so he was back where he started, with Jillian unconscious, himself weak, and the ambient -
He covered his face with his left hand, groaning with annoyance. Spirits, how stupid was he allowed to be, really? There he was, halfway planning a suicidal attempt at trying to capture one of the physically far superior crusader troops alive while he himself was weakened to the point of worthlessness, all to get a supply of magical energy to rejuvenate the two of them with... and all the while he was letting himself be irritated by the fact that he could not sense these crusaders past the enormous amount of ambient magical energy in the forest. He did not need a crusader; he could tap into the soul of Anaxim itself!

An inhuman scream abruptly tore through the air, accompanied by a booming explosion, and as the warlock opened his eyes to look to the south - where the sound had come from - he was met by the sight of the Red of the dragon sisters plummeting to the ground, leaving a trail of thick black smoke as she fell. The crash from the Red hitting the ground was by far drowned out by the shrill cry of sorrow and fury from the Green sister.
It was then Gerald saw what had caused this disturbing turn of events, for on the ground - only several dozen feet from where the red dragon now lay, motionless and smoldering - was a large area that had been charred even more thoroughly than the other trails of earth scorched by dragon breath, in the center of which stood a lone bearded figure in white robes, his gilded chariot behind him burned to a molten heap but the man himself seemingly unharmed. Raising his left hand casually, Kevalorn conjured forth another curiously elongated form wrapped in black fire, like an unholy lance of flame, which he sent darting through the air at blinding speed with but a turn of his wrist. The Green only barely had time to create a hasty magical barrier to protect herself, but even then the awesome power of the Avatar of Hazzergash shattered the translucent shield and knocked the second sister out of the sky as well.
Backing away from the scene he was witnessing from afar, Gerald watched with horror as this abomination - this mockery of a human man with the power of a demonic lord - called forth masses of black flame that rushed across the battlefield and immediately set the remaining trolls ablaze, and then turned his attention towards the dwindling number of Anaximite defenders. Gerald forgot to breathe altogether for several seconds, just watching this one man singlehandedly thwart even their last desperate attempt at halting the crusaders' advance. Thanks to the dragons' great destructive power the surviving crusader forces had been reduced to a few scattered groups - two thousand men reduced to just a few dozen, with all their wyverns dead, all surviving horses having fled and only a couple of belagons left - but it all meant nothing as long as Kevalorn was still there, still uninjured and still guarded by a small army of his abominable animated corpses. They had done well, Jillian and he; he was certain of that, all things considered... but it was just not enough. Jillian was unconscious and his own strength was broken, and they had not even begun to face the greatest threat of this battle yet.

"Anaxim," Gerald said out loud, suddenly tearing his gaze from the slaughter taking place at the hands of Kevalorn the Holy and going to kneel by Jillian. He lowered Omni to the ground beside him, taking a moment to transform the emerald back into its original shape before letting it go. "Do you hear me?"
"We hear all this within our domain," the trees replied promptly, and not as arrogantly as the choice of words could make it seem; to it, it was simply stating the facts.
"I am sorry, but the battle is lost, Anaxim. I need to escape."
"We have reached the same conclusion, Gerald Glass." This time there was emotion in the voice of the forest, but its tone was far from conceited. If Gerald was to guess, he would say that Anaxim sounded regretful and... frightened? "We have told this to the first and second Guardians as well; the rest We fear we cannot save. The outsiders are too strong."
"I know," he nodded, gently reaching forward and taking Jillian's right hand in his own. Her fingers were cold, but then again, so were his. "Have Crone and Renold gotten out yet?"
"The first and second Guardians are still at Our heart; Elder Crone is trying to erect wards to protect Our heart against the demon, and Elder Renold has elected to stay with her and protect her for as long as possible."
"That won't be enough," the necromancer shook his head sadly, even as he raised his left arm above his head and let the spacious sleeve of his robe fall back, revealing the gray and plague-ridden arm to the chill autumn air anew. "Tell Renold that I can't escape on my own, and that I need his help. Tell him my location and that he needs to come here immediately. Can you do that?"
There was but a brief pause. "We already have," Anaxim reported, sounding even more anxious than before. "He will be here shortly. But... what are you doing, Gerald Glass?"
Still holding Jillian's hand with his right one, Gerald placed the palm of his left hand on the tree trunk she was leaning against, feeling the rough bark against his sickly skin and, past that, a massive flow of magical energy coursing through the plant. "I need some of your energy, Anaxim. To restore Jillian's strength, and my own."
"That... is inadvisable." Now there was no doubt: the forest definitely was afraid.
"I'm sorry, but we desperately need the energy. And..." He paused, considering whether he should really say this last part or leave it unspoken, but ultimately decided that it was a too weighty argument to leave unused. "And the battle is lost, Anaxim. We can't stop the Guild, much less Hazzergash, and once he realizes what has happened he will most likely burn you to the ground."
"We know this," the voice reluctantly admitted, sounding less scared now, and more just boundlessly saddened; it was, after all, the only participant of this battle who was actually incapable of fleeing. "But Our energy is not solely sapient, and far from human; We are plants, and we are ancient. We cannot foresee what effect Our energy may have on you."
"I know," Gerald muttered, staring intently at Jillian's face as he did so, and clutching her hand more tightly. "But I have to try. Cowath usth Unim."

Just like that Gerald fed his energy to the Withering, and used the current to suck energy from the tree, and through that tree the entire forest, and by doing so he was granted a moment's oneness with the forest that would doubtlessly be branded into his mind forever. The thing that Anaxim had always thought impossible for mortals to understand because of them being a different kind of existence altogether... in this moment Gerald understood. Just then the veil that concealed all energy in the forest lifted from his senses, and his magical awareness spread its feelers through the tree and felt everything in the forest through its soul, and saw the world as the forest did. He saw the Gariel Downs, shrouded in an entire mist of residue energy from the several thousand lives that had ended there, still rising from magical contours that grew ever fainter as the energy drained from the corpses and was released into the air, where it became one with the forest's energy. He saw the agony of the wounded, their life gradually slipping between their fingers as their outline before the eyes of the forest weakened... and he saw Kevalorn, surrounded by puppets of flesh and steel, wrapped in fiery darkness, with a power at his heart that outshone even the colossal being that was Anaxim.
He saw the web of energy that spread throughout the forest, faint towards the outer fringes and stronger the further towards the center one got, ever growing in intensity until it reached the heart, where the Tree of Life stood as a humongous beacon of life and power, the nexus of all the energy of the forest. A pillar of light amidst blackness, as the area immediately around it was all tainted and warped by the evil presence of Hazzergash's Demon Prison. An extremely powerful force stood before the heart, weaving magic, and another, lesser being sped across the forest above its boughs, rushing southward with amazing velocity.
But most of all, past the overwhelmingly immense flow of energy that came rushing into himself, Gerald saw the emptiness of the forest through the forest's own awareness. The Anaxim Forest, once a stronghold of nature that had been filled with life and freedom unlike anywhere else in Rodoria, was now void of movement, still and dead; the forest itself lived on, but the creatures that lived there - the animals, insects, the rangers and druids, the Guardians - were all gone. Nothing moved in the shade of Anaxim's leaves except human forms that were permeated with hatred and bloodthirst. The Crusader's Guild; their sin already polluted the very air of the forest, and they would do even worse before their rampage was done. The scent of evil carried on the breeze... the deo'iel would doubtlessly send more of their people here soon, not to hunt down those who had done this, but to cleanse the area lest Shards of Sin arise from this disaster.
The energy itself felt surprisingly pleasant; pure and cool like water, light like the air, but also raw and fickle. The first thing the necromancer did was to feed Anaxim's energy into the Withering instead of his own, to preserve his own energy and not let the forest's energy overwhelm him, and then he quickly directed the flow through himself and into Jillian. Anaxim's being was so tremendous that he felt that he could have restored the witch's energy a hundred times over without ever even notably weakening the ancient trees, and had he gained the energy from somewhere else he might have done just that, and boosted her and his own power to many times its original limits, but since he did not know the consequences of infusing living creatures with natural energy he felt that it was probably wiser to only restore her to her usual full strength. This was accomplished in but a moment; her soul was mended with the energy of the forest, but her body would still need time to heal. She would recover, in time.
Another dose of energy was stolen, this time for himself, and Gerald broke the connection, tumbling backwards in the grass as he practically threw himself away from the tree, his senses suddenly seeming to collapse upon him as his awareness abruptly shrank from encompassing the entirety of the Anaxim Forest to just himself. He felt tiny and insignificant... but otherwise fine. He could feel the strength of a fully charged soul coursing through himself, and noticed no ill-effects of having absorbed natural energy; it seemed to have worked even better than expected.

Twigs behind him broke, and Gerald turned in his sitting position to see dozens of blood-soaked, dismembered and mutilated corpses stalking through the trees from the south, having made their way across the now-cleared Gariel Downs and continuing on their way towards the forest's heart. Anger filled the mage, unexpectedly; these mindless husks, guided only by the will of Hazzergash, were bound to kill not only Jillian and him, but to destroy the magnificence of the forest that he had just experienced firsthand. He was at full strength right now, which meant he was even stronger than before the battle; the Withering made him weak, and the injection of energy he had just given himself had temporarily remedied that weakness. He felt power surging through his very being, like his very essence was charged with lightning, explosive and ready to leap forth and rend the world asunder. He had power, and he was not going to waste it!
Gerald crawled back towards the trees on his hands and butt until he felt his staff, which he seized. He stood, raised his arms before him and, with eyes positively glowing with infernal intensity, spoke the first syllable of a spell...
Only to find the arcane words abruptly chased from his mind as a distraction he could not ignore emerged, for just then the ground trembled so violently under his feet that he lost his balance and fell. A thunderous crash deafened him to the loud creaking of the trees behind him as their boughs snapped and broke off, and entire towering plants fell over, leaning against those still embedded into the soil to keep themselves from dropping completely.
The warlock looked up just in time to see the gigantic form that loomed over Jillian and himself, having overturned several trees to reach this place and now lying on top of them, before the elder dragon threw upon its jaws and unleashed an inferno that enveloped all the walking dead approaching them. The scales of the Elder Green shone in the light of his breath like polished gemstones, and his great claws dug deep into the trunks of the trees he was sitting atop, splintering the wood as he tightened his grip to keep himself steady. The stream of fire lasted about five seconds before it ended, leaving nothing behind of Hazzergash's puppets but ash and cinders.

"We have to get out of here!" Gerald shouted to Renold, the second highest ranking Guardian of Anaxim, the two thousand year old dragon who now loomed over the tiny humans. "Right now!"
"I know!" Renold growled, keeping his gaze on Gariel Downs as he bent his body down between the overthrown trees and reached a huge clawed hand, palm upturned, toward the warlock. "Climb up!"
"Take the woman, too!" the human demanded, even as he crawled onto the other's paw.
Crooning impatiently the Green tore its eyes from the battlefield to look down, spot Jillian and quickly - but not ungently - scoop her up in his free left hand, closing his fingers around her body carefully not to crush her. He clutched both her and Gerald close to his chest, which radiated warmth like a furnace, and began stretching his body upwards, digging the talons of his feet even deeper into the trees he was sitting on as his wings spread wide.
"Hold on!" he warned Gerald, and then his wings came down with a force that flattened every leaf and blade of grass within several dozen yards against the ground and blew up clouds of ash and cinders into the air where his breath had just incinerated their enemies. His enormous body lifted off the trees several feet until a second beat of his wings raised him above the trees of Anaxim anew, and a third propelled him forward, briefly skirting Gariel Downs before banking to the left, making a sharp turn, beating his wings again and darting to the east with speed that grew only more intimidating with each mighty beat of his wings.
A ball of black fire emerged from Gariel Downs and chased them across the sky for a little while, but it soon enough dissipated as it failed to connect with its target, and as the wind blew in Gerald's face with crushing might, blowing back his hood and making his hair whip about wildly, he appreciated the heat radiated by the Green's glimmering yellow-scaled chest. They flew on, and soon the trees beneath them gave way to open lands, and they flew straight over Anaxim City, hiding behind its walls while its namesake suffered.
And they kept flying east, away from the Anaxim Forest... toward the darkness looming in the sky ahead that marked the Land of Eternal Night, and even farther ahead the jagged horizon that gave name to the Ashen Jags. They survived... but the battle was lost.
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Dark Jack The Jack of Darkness

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Already know? Oh no, she knew nothing of this man's allegiances for certain just yet aside from what he himself revealed, and even beyond that this situation promoted strong skepticism towards the very concept of thinking that one knew anything, with this man being apparently capable of effortless teleportation. The masked one presumed that she knew that he served the Grand Master, but she had no such knowledge; she knew that he dressed himself in the colors of the Crimson Dawn, and she knew that he had made a deal with the Grand Master that changed himself, most likely to obtain his unusual mode of transportation. The colors alone were a vague indicator at best, and she only knew that he had made a bargain because the wards he had triggered were attuned to the energy of the Grand Master. She did not know if the Fixer was a member of the Crimson Dawn either, for that matter, only that the Fixer's actions had invariably aided this cult in one way or another.
The rune mage could care less about what her suspect thought about anything, what bargain he had made, what his profession was or even what other crimes he had committed; her orders were not to track down all members of the Crimson Dawn or to hunt for assorted outlaws that might see fit to enter the city, but only to find the Fixer and bring him before her master by any means necessary. None of what the other said disproved that he was the Fixer, as all of it could be true about the Fixer as well for all she knew... not to mention that there was still no guarantee that he was telling the truth. There was no evidence of the validity of any of his claims.

There as an abrupt noise behind her, a loud thud of something hitting stone, and for the first time since the other's vain attempt at intimidating the person who was not a person the woman's eyes left her possible target for a split-second and flicked to the side, then immediately returned. She could not see the source of the noise, but she knew that it had not come from nothing; this alley had been rather quiet up until then aside from the sounds made by herself and the one who might be the Fixer, and although they could still hear the muffled clamor of a city going about its everyday business from a distance, this had been closer. Much closer. And did not sound like common noise at all. There was someone else here in the alley with them.
That explains much, she thought, suddenly feeling increasingly certain that this man must be the Fixer after all, despite of nearly all clues she had identified up until then suggesting otherwise. None of the man's actions had made sense for the Fixer to take, and his choice of action and words was different from what Grim would have picked... and Grim, likewise, would have known who she was and what she was, and that she could not be intimidated. But right from the beginning she had thought that one possible explanation for these things could be that he tried to distract her, and if the other had an ally nearby getting into position... well, it all made sense then. It could even be that this had all been a trap for her from the very beginning, that the Fixer and his unseen ally had triggered her wards on purpose to lead her here alone so that they could preemptively eliminate a major threat against the Fixer's activities.

The other continued speaking, but said nothing to alleviate her growing wariness of him and this entire situation; in fact he only deepened it, and increased the certainty that he really was the Fixer. Why would he refuse a simple examination of his eyes unless he had something to hide, after all? Grim's eyes were violet and easily recognizable, and he knew this, so obviously he would do everything in his power to stop her from detecting and undoing the illusion that hid them behind a more common gray color. And now this man was going to leave. She could not allow that. It seemed that despite her best efforts to resolve this situation peacefully, at least until she knew for certain that he was the Fixer, it now seemed that violence was inevitable.
The man dropped his curious weapon, holding on to a chain attached to it, providing a helpful hint for her as to how it was used and consequently how one might react to attacks made with it. That weapon, though, combined with the man's effortless teleportation... and with another likely opponent behind her that she knew nothing about? The odds were stacking up against her. If she was to stand a chance of fulfilling her master's orders, she would need to create an advantage for herself somehow. If only some of the others were here, this would be a simple matter. Yellow would have been a better pick for this situation, maybe together with Red and supported by Green. The King's Three might even have been able to handle this on their own. But just me? I'm not the best tool for this job. I will have to do, though.
How could she even the odds a little, though? The main threat at the moment was that an attack against her could come from any direction at any time, with her quarry's instant travel and his possible unseen ally. What could be done about that? She did not know where the ally was, so dealing what that one would have to wait until an opportunity presented itself. And the teleportation... she did not know whether there were any limits to that ability, a delay to how frequently it could be done, a maximum or minimum range, some kind of price associated with using doing it, anything. Her only guess had been that the destination the other wanted to teleport to had to be in view of him, and even that was only conjecture. Still, it was the only thing she had to go on, and even if she was wrong, it might still turn out in her favor if she...

She took a deep breath, consciously moving the focus of her senses trying to find both of her adversaries by the sounds they made or their magical signature, but for the moment she only managed to sense the masked one's aura; the other must be capable of hiding its soul somehow. That did not bode well for her.
Preparing herself mentally and physically for battle, her every muscle growing tense, she closed her eyes - really squeezed them shut - and muttered, "Brijhal tergrim, harteor."
For just a split-second one would be able to see a single of the runes on her specially made rune-sword awaken as energy flowed into it, but then the faint glow of its activity would be completely erased by the sheer intensity of the blinding white light that burst from the blade, painting the entire world uniform white with its searing luminance. Almost no matter who you where, this light would blind you; even the woman's eyes stung painfully from the light, despite of her eyelids being squeezed shut as tightly as she could manage. If she was right about her opponent's ability to teleport being tied to his eyesight, this would effectively stop him from using it... and even if she was wrong, at least this meant that her enemies would not be able to actually see her past the brilliant light in her hand.
That is, unless they were able to locate her without their eyes... a possibility she had to take into account. She would be ready. For now she just began jogging forward at a cautious pace, towards the masked one. She needed to examine his eyes. No matter what.
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by cthulu
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Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Ashgan
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First, there was darkness; a wayward soul in a nameless land, oblivious to itself and the phantasmal world around it, which shifted and obscured like the cresting waves of the ocean did churn in a storm. It was only a temporary guest, for every derelict ship would, sooner or later, either sink and be forgotten in the bottomless abyss, or wash up on distant, unfamiliar shores.

Then, there was lighting, and a howling gale whipped the red sails of this aimlessly drifting vessel, urging it onwards across the unresting seas of black ink. No rest or respite was given to the small, battered caravel whose hull was covered in leaks, the wood having all but corroded as if having sailed in acid. The masts creaked and moaned in the witching tempest, looking just about ready to snap – but they were not allowed to, for their work was not yet done. Some unseen force of will held the rotten wood together, for their goal was in sight: the moon, wrapped in black tendrils, as it was dragged into the briny depths. It was the last lighthouse before oblivion, and all one had to do was to catch up to the horizon. Ever onwards…

It seemed not enough; only a tiny piece of the moon was left reaching out of the black tides, its pristine surface tainted with ebon, ropy fingers. As the light waned, so did the horrid storm, and the vessel became slower and slower. Yet, then, a miracle occurred, and the last bit of surface of the moon did crack like an eggshell. Dark waters poured into the hollow cocoon while ethereal roots sprouted from within, tall into the sky. Within moments, an enormous tree had grown, formed of pure energy. Its translucent, ghostly surface shimmered with a thousand twinkling lights as if it were a liquid gemstone. The tallest branches reached into the dooming clouds, while the roots dug into the seas, and all the world lit up with impossible incandescence. The oceans and the clouds disappeared, leaving the broken vessel drifting weightlessly in a labyrinth of coiling, shimmering roots.

These roots were living things with a will of their own, and they writhed and moved like serpents did, growing and reaching towards the ship until one of them touched the scabbed underside of it. Immediately, the decaying wood began to creak and malform and grow a forest of its own as thousands of little trees and branches sprouted from the moldy wreck. Before long, one could not tell it was a ship at all anymore, as one only saw an island of rampant, untouched nature in a sea of innocent energy.

A castaway washed up on the distant, unfamiliar shore, naked and covered in sand. She rose to her hands and knees, her head hung low and her face was obscured by a curtain of hair the color of a long forgotten caravel’s sails. Thirst and hunger drove the fugitive onwards, into the emerald forest beyond the coastline, where she disappeared in the green thicket. The weird forest whispered in her ears, and its songs mended her ailing mind. She became tranquil and relaxed, and decided to lie down on an empty patch of grass. As she did, branches with enormous leaves sprouted from the ground, blanketing her in their warm embrace.

The forest sang in many voices which harkened back to days of yore, most of them were unfamiliar, but some were not, and amongst them she recognized not just her own, but also that of others she knew. The voices that once soothed her soul became quieter and quieter, to be replaced by those that would fill her with guilt and regret, those that would point fingers and cast accusations and blame. The exile felt vulnerable and frightened, and wanted to leave but could not, for the blanket of leaves held her tightly in its dubious embrace.

“I’m sick of it, Vincent!” an angry woman’s voice hissed, and a nearby tree suddenly combusted into flame, burning brightly.

“I hate you, Jillian! You’re a whore!” another, girlish voice yelled from yonder, and another once magnificent tree burst up in flame.

“…Of course not. I couldn’t love a bad person, could I?”

“She’s a witch! Seize her before it’s too late!”

“How in the Planes did you expect me to be able to keep that promise? Fool!”

The voices became louder and more frequent with each sentence, and soon the exile could no longer make out individual phrases amongst the cacophony of damning cries. She struggled in her natural restraints while the entire forest caught fire around her, burning like dried wood covered in oil. The air became foul with black smoke and myriad floating, swirling embers of glowing orange. The fire slowly crept towards the woman, its fiery roar mixed with the hateful and desperate thoughts of the past. Eventually, the flame carpet engulfed even her, reducing her bonds to ash, but leaving her skin strangely unmarred. She stood up, her body smeared with black dust, and looked about herself with a look of panic and fright on her tearful face. All directions looked the same, and so the castaway stumbled in a random direction, hoping to escape the deafening screams and the cleansing fire. Along the way, she found many dying creatures that were consumed by flame; animals of the forest big and small, from hares, rats and badgers, to wolves, bears, and even lohks and trolls. None were spared. She also found men, indistinguishable from one another as their bodies were little more than charred, humanoid silhouettes.

“Jillian,” one of the men called out, lying on his back. Wrapped around his burnt-out husk were the remains of a black robe, and even that was falling to pieces, tattered fragments falling off his extended, outwards reaching arm as it grasped for the exile. Just when her hand met his, glowing cracks erupted all over his dark brown flesh, and a mere blink of an eye later his form was torn apart by primal forces, exploding in fire and burning blood. The woman collapsed into the crater where once the man had lain, her fists hammering the scorched earth and her mouth torn open as if she were screaming, but no sound was heard from her; instead, an inhuman scream thundered from the bloodred skies above, which could now be seen as the once thick boughs of the forest had been burnt up. An enormous form of a winged quadruped plummeted from the bleeding heavens, its once green scaled hide blackened by fire not of this world. It crashed onto the earth not far from the fugitive, flattening the torched woodlands beneath its enormous body with a loud, sickening crunch. It lifted its head, weak but defiant of death, and opened its viciously toothed maw as if wanting to speak, but instead her jaws limply opened and closed while a few gurgling screeches came out shortly before the beast vomited a thick torrent of blood in front of itself. As it did so, its scales and skin receded, drying up, burning and evaporating in seconds until only a reddened skeleton remained. Only the blood remained, evenly spreading like a blanket across the ground from where the beast had died.

The exile, grasped by sheer horror, crawled backwards on her behind, staring madly at the decayed dragon. The expanding blood pool eventually caught up with her and washed past her body, so that her hands, feet and rear were all drenched utterly in the fluid that was strangely reflective, like a mirror. Trees snapped and broke behind her, as if a large creature were barreling through what was once a forest. Underneath the sound of cracking wood she recognized a deep, threatening breath, more fearsome even than the panting of a dragon. Her entire frame was shaking uncontrollably, and when she turned around she beheld a silhouette in the distance, impossibly large and bulky. Its colorless horns were crowned by the black clouds, and its eyes glimmered like the heart of a blacksmith’s furnace. With its massive, clawed paw it pointed at the woman, and unleashed a roar that caused the earth to shake and tremble even more fearsomely than her body did. The exile collapsed entirely onto the blood-soaked, slippery ground and curled up in a fetal position while the world around her too collapsed, decayed and died under the demonic titan’s scornful gaze.
While Jillian slept throughout the remainder of the battle of Anaxim, as well as the entirety of her flight across Rodoria, her body had been restless ever since Gerald had infused her with the forest’s natural energy. She would have constantly been moving an arm or a leg, changing sides, and occasionally letting out a woeful moan. When Elder Renold deposited her where their campsite was to be on the outskirts of Pelgaid City, her body was drenched in sweat, too much to have been due to the dragon’s internal heat. Even after having been laid down in the camp, she continued to sweat, much like she were suffering from a severe fever. A handful of hours had passed since Gerald and the dragon established their camp, and the sun was setting on the western horizon, casting its last rays of light in between the tall rocks that littered the lands surrounding the small lake and the campfire.

Jillian’s body rocked with a violent coughing attack that woke the witch from her nightmarish slumber. As she did, she rolled over onto her elbows, coughing towards the ground; mere moments after which she threw up what little sustenance she had had in her stomach. There wasn’t much, and her original upheaval was followed by a few dry heaves before she calmed down again, panting heavily. Exhausted, she dropped to her side again with a weary sigh, and the tips of her hair were dragged through the small puddle of vomit and dried blood next to her. Everything hurt; every square inch of skin that touched the blankets or whichever clothing remained on her body (if any?) felt as if it were being scraped with iron thorns. There was also the unnatural cold, causing her to shiver and feel even more miserable. She felt even weaker than usual; the mere thought of lifting her hand to remove the hair from her vision was a strain and felt like too much effort. In the end, she simply peered through the crimson veil, sluggishly trying to take in her surroundings. The first thing she spotted was the campfire, bright and warm nearby. Not far from it, a black silhouette was illuminated by the flame, a figure sitting on a rock, relatively motionless. It seemed familiar somehow, but she could not quite piece it all together so quickly.

“Vince?” she weakly murmured, squinting her eyes to see more sharply through the haze left by old, half-formed tears. After a handful of seconds, she realized her folly without even having to look Gerald in the face.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered, followed by another cough. Of course it wasn’t Vincent – Vincent was dead, and she knew bloody well why. Gerald was probably responsible for her life right now, and she didn’t even call him by his name, let alone thank him. Wasn’t that typical of her? Naturally it was! More than that, she could not even help but selfishly think about wanting to drink something. For some strange reason she felt incredibly thirsty, her tongue was all sticky inside her mouth, on top of tasting after her refuse from a few moments ago.

“Gerald,” she hissed, finding it exhausting just to speak, “you don’t know… don’t know how terrible I feel – right now.” That came out wrong, didn’t it? “I need something to – to drink.”

As her mind came back into gear, more and more questions rational began forming. What happened in Anaxim? Where were they right now? What of the defenders, of the dragons, of the crusaders? How long was she asleep?

She wanted to ask Gerald all of these things, but for the moment she could not. Her mouth was too dry, her senses still too much in a blur. All in due time. Jillian stayed motionless, lying sideways and curled up, staring at Gerald through her messy hair that lay across her entire face and stuck to it because of the sweat.
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Dark Jack
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She is so close, so powerful... I wonder if she can sense us all the way out here, even though we are miles and miles away? I would not be surprised; there has not been a single necromancer since the founding of Rodoria that could even begin to compete with her mastery and power. Maybe she could even contain the Withering indefinitely, or cure it altogether? I'm a lesser necromancer compared to her, and I have managed quite well. How would she fare against Hazzergash's unleashed self? Maybe she would be our only chance... there are no magi in Rodoria who could challenge her.
Interesting as they were the real reason Gerald pondered such things was mainly to keep his anxiety at bay, because even now he could not seem to erase the image that had been etched into his mind; the sight of the distant Tower of Night, the heart of the Black Tribunal's domain, hidden past the rooftops and walls of Pelgaid City, standing in the center of the great swirling darkness that spread upward and outward from it, turning the sky black and shrouding the land in perpetual shadow. No matter how much Gerald tried to look at things rationally, that sight still filled him with an unfounded dread. In there was Delian Gilmah, the most powerful sorceress and lich Rodoria had ever known, along with her league of necromancers and horde of undead minions, surrounded by some of the people in the world who hated necromancy the most... Even now as it had been hidden from sight past the formations of rock that surrounded them he could still see where it was, as the rays of the setting sun drew a neat outline of its dark aura.
Luckily Renold said that this was not where they had to go, or even the warlock might have lost heart before he went there. The dragon had suggested that someone he had once known was apparently an expert on all things dark and sinister, and that if anyone knew of the Withering and how to end it, it would be this acquaintance. He would like to speak with Jillian before they ventured any further, though, and for them to have a chance to recover their strength, and Renold said that they should wait here for a while anyway in case Crone managed to escape the Anaxim Forest and caught up with them.

He did not look up from where he had been staring all of this time - the ground directly between himself and their campfire, where unusually black shadows danced mesmerizingly with the flickering of the flames - before the witch started coughing violently, which was the most reaction they had managed to get out of her since their flight from the forest. Even then he only raise his gaze slowly, his face cast in shadow by his hood, as he turned his attention to her in time to witness her roll over and vomit, and then continue to struggle with herself. He remained where he was and said nothing, and simply left her to it; there was nothing he could do for her anyway, and the way she had reacted to things thus far suggested that she was a prideful woman who would probably not appreciate him paying too much attention to her current somewhat humiliating state. Besides, she had brought this onto herself.
It took a little while of waiting before Jillian recovered enough to become aware of her surroundings and notice him, at which point she spoke a name with which he was not familiar, likely momentarily mistaking him for this 'Vince'. Gerald did not find this particularly insulting, though; it was quite common to be disoriented after having been as magically exhausted as she had been, and it was really a miracle that she was able to speak at all... although Gerald somewhat doubted that deities had anything to do with this particular miracle. He had also observed that the deterioration of his own body had reversed significantly faster this time than any time in the past during which he had drained himself so much, and when he had taken a moment to restore the illusion that concealed his Withering he had been shocked to see that the graying skin was actually peeling off around the edges of the contaminated area, revealing healthy skin underneath. He did not have any definite evidence yet, but his main theory was that it was an effect of the natural energy of Anaxim, causing their bodies to heal faster than they ordinarily would. He had no idea how long it would last, but he could not imagine it would be long; in time the energy would adapt to their souls and lose any unusual properties, but for now it seemed like a rather useful and unexpected benefit.
Jillian proceeded to apologize for mistaking his identity - that she realized her error so quickly was a good sign - and corrected herself, and then assured him that she felt worse than he could possibly comprehend. He could not help but to smile grimly at this, curious as to whether she gave any thought to who she was talking to when she made that declaration. Not only was he a magus, one who had also been young, impulsive and reckless once, before his life had shown him how dangerous the world really was, but he was also a bearer of the Withering, a plague that continuously sapped his soul. In the months immediately after he had contracted the plague he had been constantly on the verge of death from magical exhaustion as he had just barely managed to contain the Withering, and with it constantly weakening him it had taken immensely long time before his energy had somewhat recovered. He knew very well how terrible she felt right now, and he sympathized; she may have brought this onto herself, but she had still done so with good intentions... considering the circumstances, at least.

Which was why he was expecting her request for something to drink, nodded his head in silent confirmation when it was voiced and turned to his left, where a pewter cup stood on the rock beside him. It was already full of water with little brownish dried leaves floating around in it, and if one looked into it from directly above one would notice an arcane glyph etched into the bottom of it. He did not have a pot or kettle to boil the water in, and since he could not very well just hold his cup into the fire to heat it, he had to resort to magic. He only reached his hand forward so that his fingertips touched the edge of the cup, let his magic flow and spoke the word "Dregoth," and a faint red glow appeared in the depths of the cup, heating the water to the point of boiling in a matter of seconds. Immediately its acrid smell filled the air, but Gerald was used to it and simply abstained from breathing through his nose as he picked it up and went to his ailing ally.
"It tastes bad, but drink it anyway," he told her as he knelt besides her, carefully handing her the cup, handle turned towards her. "It lubricates your throat, clears your airways and calms your stomach; I keep it with me specifically for times like this."
His gaze wandered briefly, checking that the Green was still fast asleep on the opposite side of the lake - his posture oddly tense for someone sleeping, his head still raised to just above chest-level, with a general posture that someone from Earth would have recognized from the Egyptian sphinxes - then his amber eyes returned to her, staring at her intently. "You are safe; you can relax. We are in Pelgaid. We lost the battle."
Hidden 10 yrs ago Post by Mercinus3
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Ixion, while he trained his eyes on the woman that was in front of him to await the possible, kept note of the being that was above them. While he had the certainty that this person was not with them, he still had his doubts that the person was there to be antagonistic for her in case things didn’t go according to plan. There were too many variables in this vicinity. There was the woman, a rune blade in her hands. There was the person that kept their eyes and ears on the conversation. There was the possibility that the Ducal guards would be just around the corner in the case that a fight broke out. There was also a possibility of a mob fight that would break out because of the thrill and chance that people in this mob could get back at their bitter rivals. While the latter was a highly-unlikely case, it was one of the many variables that he had to take into account.

The one variable that he didn’t take into account was the figure’s next action. Due to unknown reasons, the figure, now having been identified as a male, had jumped from one side of the street to another, slamming against the wall of the building before scrambling up to the rooftop. What is that idiot doing? he thought, knowing that this man’s foolish actions had cost him the element of surprise in the case that he was, indeed, on his side. Now, his cards had been left bare and, with him rejecting the proposal that the woman had offered him, he was left to deal with the consequences. He kept the weight at the end of the chain on the ground, in the case that he needed it, but he knew that it would be helpful in any move that he might do to counteract hers. At least if the Ducal guards came that the unknown man above would bear witness to her making the first move.

She didn’t make any retort to his statement, which troubled him. He had noticed that she closed her eyes, though the inaudible mutter that he could see from her lips allowed him to know that she was about to cast a spell. This was verified a moment later when one of the runes flickered. During that time, he kept an image of everything that was around him. This had certainly been beneficial as his eyes burned with the abrupt light that shone out. The instance that the light had blinded him, he disappeared from the street, retreating to a higher location. The light still burned into the back of his eye socket, but at least he was out of harm’s way in case she was able to see him and was charging towards him. More importantly, he was somewhere close to where the man was. His mind was racing with what to do. This woman, he concluded, must have a way of detecting him. That was why she was able to find him in this city. This left with retreating being an unviable option. This left him with two options. One of those options was to disable her of her weapon. This would benefit everyone in the vicinity who was blinded by, hopefully, disrupt the flow that ebbed through the weapon. Not only that, but it would have disarmed her of one, possibly two if the blade also had all of her attacking arsenal on there, turning the entire fray into his favour. However, this would only work in the case that she remained still. She was more than likely trying to get to him to achieve what she wanted to do. This left only one other option.

He remained motionless, keeping the image of the area in his mind to be his eyes, as he whispered to the man. “Flee from this place and tell the Ducal guards that I had defended myself from her brash actions.” He drew a breath and whispered something else, though more for himself and whoever he has in mind.

“Please forgive me for what I am about to do.”

Before the man could retort to what he had said, he disappeared. He emerged in a rough position behind where the woman had stood. Whether she had remained where she was or if she moved to where he had been, she would have travelled in a straight line. Drawing one of his daggers, he turned around, throwing it with deadly accuracy in the general direction that she was in. Perhaps… just perhaps, she would survive this so that he wouldn’t have a bounty on his head.
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