Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Hexaflexagon
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Hexaflexagon Gone?

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Prologue: Before and After

1128 Titans’ Rest
30th Year of the Undying’s Reign
Centurion Keep, Avless
24 Hours After the Taking of Aveless

Smoke from the still burning Hollow Quarter lazily climbed the battlements that lead to the keep. A corrosive mixture of burning flesh, tar, and salt carried from the sea. The breeze took the 2nd’s standard by the hand and danced with it a slow waltz, heavy fabric cutting through the air with a resounding snap like the taskmaster's whip. Not too long ago a different flag flew over what was extensively the heart of Avless, a banner of dark oranges and azure blues which now lay trampled stained by blood and dirt.

The city that lay stretched blow the keep was all too similar to the flag that once represented it: broken and torn. The sky above filled with clouds heavy with ashen soot from the dozens of unchecked fires that raged below. A keen ear picking up the distant sounds of conflict as fighting continued reduced to common brawls and slaughter as the last of the defiant fought being pushed back street by street, building by building. The somber scene was periodically broken by a sudden eruption of flame from somewhere within the city as another oil cache detonated leveling another few buildings with it.

Verse stood at the edge of the battlements draped in hardened leathers dyed in the muted tones customary of the Legion. Gold emblem of the Seeing Hand held fast a tattered and bloodstained cloak of burgundy that marked her as a Fossor within the Legion. The entire ensemble reeked of blood and gore like it hadn’t been washed in weeks. An air of tension surrounded her invisible strands vibrated and twitched threatening to snap at any moment. The soft clatter of footsteps sounding against the stone as she paced back and forth back and forth. Waiting. She hated the waiting.

Eventually a boy maybe twelve or so years of age, short cropped black hair, and soil toned skin emerged from the keep. Feet slowly as the gingerly stepped over the iron doors that lay as a twisted and contorted shard on the courtyard floor. The pitter-patter slowed to a halt, just out of reach of the woman’s hands. World traveled fast around the workers and this boy didn’t want to end up like the last one, could still hear the screams in his head. Rolling her eyes Verse stretched out her hand and a small slip was placed gingerly and in the blank of an eye the boy had vanished back into the crowd.

She rolled the parchment between two fingers stopping at the wax seal that held it closed: the same Seeing Hand as above but with a blade plunged through the iris, that sign of the Voice of War. The seal broke easily and she held it down carefully against the battlements least to not let it go in the wind. To the untrained eye the runes which appeared on the page would seem possessed with unseen life flickering and blurring, reshaping and restructuring themselves mid-sentence. The Red Tongue, a language of barbarism and death dating long before even the Old Gods themselves. A language almost entirely lost save for the high courts of the Endless.

The orders were typical of those received from the Voice of War, blunt. Her and her new ‘team’ would be heading into the Hollow Quarter to help the Anthem drive out the last of the rebels. Team of course being a rough definition for the ramshackled band that had somehow come together. It was certainly a more agre-

Somewhere above and behind her she heard a faint whistle followed quickly by a thunderous explosion as part of the mountain erupted in a magical cataclysm. It was better than dealing with that. The sorcerers that claimed Dominion over Aveless had been pushed from the city proper but they still held a fortified position within the twisting halls of the Mountain. The teams sent in to root them out found that the sorcerers seemed to really enjoy their traps. The progress through clearing room to room having now slowed to an almost unbearable crawl. At least in the city she could swing a sword at something even if it meant having to deal with her former brethren and their opinions on bloodtraitors like her.

She tossed the orders aside, the parchment catching flame as soon as it left her hands, and made her way back towards the Keep. Stepping inside of the entrance hall the smell of smoke was soon overpowered by the smell of death. Cots and beds lined the walls as physicians moved about shouting back and forth to one another over the sounds of dying soldiers. The combination was almost intoxicating. It was one of the things that Verse never truly understood these creatures insistence upon burial, a waste of valuable resources, and trying to save those who without them would obvious of die, a different kind of waste but a waste none the same, civility they called it.

The sounds of the dying began to fade away as she made her way through the hallways of the keep; walls stained with blood and floor covered in scattered remnant splinters of destroyed barricades being the only sign of the former occupants. She came to another less crowded hallway as soldiers mostly flowed outward from a pair of open doors. What had once been the great hall had been transformed into the sleeping, eating, and whatever else was needed for the general mass of the Legion. It was easy enough to find the ones she was looking for given that most of the functioning body of the Legion was already on their appointed tasks, the general lack of manpower being rest was something few and far between. They were gathered around one of the many small fires built on the stone floor, some talking, others preparing, others still off by themselves.

She nodded to them, arms crossed. A woman of short words and a shorter patience the command came thusly.

“Let’s move.”

1128 Titans’ Rest
30th Year of the Undying’s Reign
Legion Camp
24 Hours Prior to the Taking of Avless

Eyes cracked open from somewhere the waking world and the sleeping one. Small globs of dawn-bathed sun filtered in through the holes in her tent. Slowly she rose disentangled herself from cloth and the limbs of the naked forms that occupied the bed with her. She didn’t know names or faces, hell at this point even their smells had become intermixed but that didn’t matter. Not like it was for an emotional connection anyway, more to keep the Beast in control. Uniform was pulled from a pile in the corner where it gathered another layer of dust and dirt. If she could have it her way she would go into battle without anything but preference didn’t fly in the legion, you did it their way or you got the whip or worse. So she pulled the clothing on the pain as it rubbed against skin, a constant hum in the background .

As she finished lacing a boot her vision clouded red as she nearly doubled over in pain. The world seemed to pull away from her as a voice boomed in her head, echoing about the skull as a singular consuming thought. “You are to report in Fossor.”

And then it was gone, her head was clear again and the world slammed back into focus. She cursed in a guttural growl. She hated when they did that.

Figuring it was best to not keep them waiting she finished lacing her boot and stepped out of the threshold of her tent. Squinting in the light of the dawn, the Camp came into focus. Set atop a hill out of distance from a longer range assault of either magic or sorcery, the towering crimson walls of Avless still found a way to dominating the western horizon. Stretched out below them without fear of retribution from the city stretched the Anthem seemingly without end in either direction, smoke curling upward from cooking fires, the sounds of heavy drums and shouting cutting through the comparative silence of the Legion.

Her footsteps carried her towards the center of camp near the large black obelisk that had risen from the ground topped by a churning ball of fire the color of night. The ground around the obelisk already beginning to morph and distort as the Undying asserted their influence. She walked past the two fully armed guards planted on either side of the entrance without breaking stride and disappeared into the darkness.Inside she was met almost immediately by a small clustering of bodies as the rest of the Fossors had been gathered together as well. At the head of the crowd hands perched atop a large map was the man himself. Tarkus, The Voice of War.

If the stories from the few surviving Legionaries from Caesius’ time are to be believed Tarkus was once a man. Witnessing the man today that was something that was hard to believe. The gift of the Undying, that which handed him their power and the freedom from death had bound flesh to the armor that it had resided in. Heavy plate armor forged from handcrafted Dark Aurum plate. The voice which came outward from within the suite was impossibly deep and distorted filling whatever space it was in, as flames the same dark color that mounted the obelisk flickered outward from spaces were flesh was supposed to be exposed. He talked for some time about the plans for the coming assualt. Finally a heavy glove gestured to the map on the table.

“That being the case we’ve run into a setback. Avless bastards have forced our sappers from one of their tunnels. The cowards have already been executed, but if those walls are to come down on schedule, a team has to be sent in to clear the tunnel and escort a new team to insert the dragonfire cache. Any volunteers?”

You can sense the apprehension in the air. Over the course of the siege it was quickly learned the tunnel duty was usually a death sentence at the best of times. The ‘Tunnels’ were in fact more like streets and highways, researchers had found the map of the ruins that Avless was built atop of long ago which had collapsed in the Breaking long ago. As a more practical siegecraft was out of the questions using their knowledge of the tunnels, the Legion had devised a plan to plant caches of dragonfire beneath the great walls of Avless and blowing them causing the ground to crumble beneath them. The only problem was whatever information they had received had been outdated as when the Sapper Teams went underground they found Avless forces already entrenched and ready to face them. It was a brutal close-quarter slog through the dark and cramped spaces, claiming only a few meters could take days at a time. Yet they had managed to hold most of these underground battlefields up until now at the coast of basically everything they had.

A distinct snort of disgust and grumbling was heard as Verse pushed her way to the front of the group, alone. “I’ll do it.”

If the old man wasn’t encased in metal Verse could've sworn he was smiling. “And they said I should of crucified you on the spot.” He waved his hand. “Rest of you are dismissed. Orders will come soon.”

As the last of the Fossors exited the room Tarkus handed over a small collection of papers. “Hmh?”

“Rest of your team."

“And here I thought you just wanted to get rid of me. They aware of that?”

He clapped his heavy gloves together and Verse could feel the spark of energy leave the room. “Now they are.”

And just like Verse had experienced earlier that morning, the members of her newly formed gaggle of walking corpses mind’s would suddenly be invaded by red. The command simple. Job to be done. Voice’s orders. Meet at the Weeping Gate within the Hour. Pack Light.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Virgil
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Virgil Genuine Novice

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Prologue: Before&After

One Sun Post Aveless-Fall:

The crackling flames danced to-and-fro before Sul's heavy, wandering eyes, reflecting within them the fire that burned over the loss of his tent-mates. Gone, one and all...all but one gone. Silence illuminated the Kobold's face in somber mourning, with the patches of dried, darkened blood serving as make-shift funeral attire.

Throughout the ambient groans of the wounded, passed and passing, the skirmisher --now, one of fewer than a couple dozen-- remained isolated from the strangers sat still beside him. Soldiers came and went, yes...but he'd never expected the utter slaughter engaged *after* the fall of the wall...not even counting the chain reaction that occurred atop it.

Who knew what caused it -- Anthem pride could've easily crushed the one who's concussive force surged through the many, or an enemy blow delivered unawares towards that vital weak-spot. "Voice of War"..."Shrill of Lunacy", more like; The orders to send that regiment packed in full-kit up the wall couldn't have been given by anything other than a deranged beast...though --as his beady gaze drifted upwards, glaring through the flames-- the Kobold could see now that many of those surrounding him were, perhaps, far more enthusiastic about the night-mare that issued the orders to spend lives like Sul pissed into a chamber-pot. Best not to tempt them with talks of treason, no.

The knuckles held firm in his right would remind him of those lost in this literal "tooth-and-nail" struggle (he ought to know, given the throbbing, bandaged stump of his exterior-most two toes on the left)....but it couldn't do anything to revive them. Especially not after the state they'd be in from a blast like that. "They knew how to throw a party, that his old-mates did..." He forced a titter from himself at his mumbled attempt at lightning his over-cast mood, but immediately regretted it. His eyes...wandered, staring hollowly out of the round holes cast out of his helm.

Seemed he'd be getting used to this lot; Well, at least some of them weren't too bad...hmm.

One Sun Prior Aveless-Fall:

Job to be done. Voice's orders. Meet at the Weeping-Gate within the hour. Pack light.
Sul continued to rest head in hand even minutes after the strange voice had declared its message within the confines of his skull. The intense throbbing that'd accompanied it earlier had --thankfully-- since moved on to greener pastures, but the residual pain seemed satisfied in plaguing him all the same. To this, the clatter of knuckle-bones aided somewhat as a method of soothing respite, bouncing along as they did across the inner-backing of the lamellar cuirass that served as their game-board. A playful slap and a cheek-stretching tug by an aged, calloused hand averted the Myaenthar from his musings, however -- with the latter being immediately followed up by the firm rallying cry of Ozran: "Kobold, in or out?"

"Ai, ai -- in!" Pulling away, the Kobold chucked the sheep-knuckles forward with relative disinterest, instead finding his eyes straying upwards as he rubbed at his stinging cheek. Liz and Ezraîy sat opposite him, attempting to snatch the various knuckles away for themselves while simultaneously accusing the other of having weighted the toss; To their right lay a more relaxed Trexil, dressed in full kit besides the lamellar he'd so generously donated to the cause of a game or three -- and finally, Ozran, firm but none-the-less forgiving 'mother' of their lot; She sat left of Sul, and seemed to have a habit of touching things that weren't hers.

The grey cretin grinned, exposing the entirety of a canine in the process -- not so much at having lost the toss, no, but...*this*. The sound an tediously idle camp surrounding him, smoke wafting about on light-footed winds and the sight of that magnificent ruby wall silhouetted by the the morning sun's splendour. Gaia could be such a pretty thing at times...at least, when she wasn't coughing up giants or swallowing the ground from underneath you. She had issues, evidently, but nothing worse than any of the other quirks the legionaries toted in excess. The ones he'd met, anyway.

The glint of sun striking against metal caught the Kobold's frantic eye, and he found his attention yet again shifted, though this time to the metal latches, string-hooks, bow and trigger apart of the Kobold-sized cross-bow at his right. Tooth-like grooves lined the sides of its wooden stock, proceeding just shy of the butt, where the rope&pulley system would be cut into the shaft and operate the draw-mechanism. The same draw that --as proven by its power and the particular type of ammo it loosed-- would inevitably out-range and punish those that dared show face in its mechanical presence. A mechanical beast, it was....a beast of war.

Silence in the midst of this admiration hooked the Kobold's interest, reeling his face upwards to the sight of his comrades. It would seem that a stranger had wandered into their game, as evidenced by the way they were all looking over him in that trade-mark Kobold look of perplexity. He had his money on whoever this was being Human -- and turning round with a spin, he found himself right on the money. The first thing to be noticed about *her* was her form...the second, her complete lack of hair of any sort (he assumed, it seemed a pity that he couldn't fully confirm his suspicions) and the third being...that stench. "The baths are back-a-ways with the wagons, if she's looking to wash off the scent of dags'-balls she's rolled 'round in." His suggestion, for all intents and purposes, went unnoticed. "Come, equipped." Her voice reeked of indifference -- as did her posture, come to think of it...arms crossed like that of a pouting child just 'too busy' to deal with babe-squatting a sibling. Whatever the reason for her mood, Sul rose in tandem, partially brushing the dirt off his kit as he replied: "An' what-for would that be, oh tall one?" Her hazel eyes nearly rolled out of her skull at that remark, and she soon countered in kind: "Orders are orders, right, or did you just happen to stumble into camp for the fresh grub?" He winced at that one, and it wouldn't take long for his thick skull to *fully* understand the meaning behind the insult...


"Yeah, me, let's move." And with that, she was off, marching back through the maze of sun-bleached tents surrounding them -- giving Sul little time to don his helmet, pick up his cross-bow and wheel about to retrieve his knuckles before he doing a double-take, briskly following behind her. From behind him, he could hear the snickering remarks of his comrades, though Trexil rose above the rest with "Hey-ey Sul, he mustn't let her make a martyr of him yet, ai? Trexil could always use a cooler!" The Kobold smirked, spinning round with a final "Trexil shouldn't dissuade himself of his natural charm -- he need only believe it to see the light!", before disappearing after the woman. The cackling laughter accompanying him soon faded away into the idle racket of their regiment's particular 'ghetto' in the encampment.

He had to wonder how she'd found him, or how she'd even managed to pick *him* in the first place...

...Meh, work first, questions later. Although, maybe he should've asked *what* he was being called away for...

Whatever it was, it couldn't be that terrible for a day like this.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Drunken Conquistador
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Drunken Conquistador

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1128 Titans’s Rest
30th Year of the Undying’s Reign
Legion Camp
24 Hours Before the Taking of Aveless

Hanir opened his eyes to the call of the seagulls, the smell of sea water and the scorching sun on his face. He blinked, dazed and somewhat weary. Suddenly aware of the hard surface beneath him and how it swayed. Carefully raising himself to a sitting position, Hanir was shocked to see himself drifting amidst an endless expanse of ocean atop a piece of driftwood.

Before he could even start trying to comprehend the situation, the sight of a ship in the horizon caught his sight. And not just any ship, but a galley bearing the Saga Black Sun. What a fortunate happening. The gods must truly be watching over him! Rescue was at hand.

Now all he needed to do was to catch the sailors' attention...which presented another problem now that he was thinking about it. All Hanir had were the rags-Wait, rags? Why am I wearing rags?-on his back and he dared not to try to break a piece of wood to use it as paddle.

The impasse lasted until Hanir realized that the ship was actually sailing away. Uncertainty was replaced by desperation and he threw himself into the cold, dark waters-They were clear as crystal just a moment ago, I could swear.- while behind him, the flimsy piece of wood was finally consumed by the waves.

Hanir swam, his movements fueled by desperation and fear. There was no turning back now. Either he reached the ship or he would die. And so he swam and prayed, throwing all of his strength behind every stroke of arm while his panicked mind was overwhelmed by a stream of semi-coherent prayers, the cold seeping through his bones and into his throat and the salt stinging his eyes.

A larger wave engulfed Hanir, the water pulled him down despite his struggles. His lungs burned at the exertion and he couldn't even keep his eyes open anymore. The cold and exhaustion made him feel like his limbs had turned to lead but still he pressed on. Pawing blindly and desperately as he tried to swim upwards.

He eventually broke the water line, gasping for air as relief flooded his being and his arms struggled to keep himself from going under again. But the relief was short lived, the galley was nowhere in sight and a storm had materialized out of the blue. The last thing Hanir saw was a colossal wave about to crash down upon him.

Then he woke up.

Hanir sighed dejectedly. It had been months since he last had this dream, he was already beginning to think he was over it. Still, maybe it was for the best. Who knew what his weak mind would conjure after it got tired of this particular dream.

Hanir opened his eyes, staring at the burgundy ceiling of his tent, held upwards by a thick oaken beam engraved with the Seeing Hand and the Black Sun. He had done the engravings himself. After a couple of seconds he raised himself from his cot-It has been so long, I'm starting to forget what a feather bed feels like-adjusting his creased purple tunic Hanir made his bed. After almost 20 years he could do it with closed eyes. Though he still missed having servants to do the job for him, as any proper noble should.

After finishing with the bed, Hanir took off his tunic. Folding it neatly and placing it above his cot. It still had a couple more nights in it before it needed to be washed.

Outside the sun was just starting to rise and Hanir was relieved to see that he hadn't missed his usual wake up hour. Hanir could hear the faint, chaotic noise in the distance. No doubt coming from these cursed Anthem scum. Marmuleth willing, they would be butchered in the coming battle.

He walked over to his varnished trunk, a red and black thing, decorated with gold and precious stones along the lid-half of it already stolen, may the thieves rot in Tar-Phurezh forever.-and a large Black Sun emblazoned on the top. Hanir took his golden pendant and used it to unlock the chest. Carefully opening it he retrieved a smaller box lacquered in red.

Inside was the holy incense, acquired at a great cost from Ilanid. He retrieved a few sticks before carefully closing the box and gingerly placing it back within the trunk.

Hanir moved to the other side of the tent-An officer's tent should be bigger, but alas, this is the best I could get. Another stain upon my honor.- where the altar sat. Upon it, a meager collection of statuettes and figurines sat. Hanir wasn't even able to field the whole Golden Pantheon. Another shame to bear.

Still, he did what he could. And every day at camp he would light the incenses and make his prayers to the gods. Like he was doing at the moment. Prostrated before the images, his forehead to the ground. The recently lit incense resting in a delicate golden cup engraved with the sacred runes.

"Zaal Zimpharel." He intoned softly in Ilanish. "King of the Gods, Radiant Sovereign of the Universe, The All Conquering. I am, and always will be, your humble servant. Before you I am as small as an insect with no honor. And yet despite my insignificance before your awesome radiance, I offer myself to you in body and soul. The whole world lives and dies by your sufferance and I am no different." Hanir took a deep breath, enjoying the sweet smell of the incense before shifting slightly to face another figurine.

"Zaal Marmuleth. Warlord of the Heavenly Hosts, Warrior Saint. Grant me your blessing so that I may continue to honor your holy name. Guide my blows so that I may strike down those who stand in my path. Keep my armor strong and my shield arm fast so that I may ward off the blows of the scum that you send out to test me. Grant me victory so that I may honor myself and mine. But if you see fit to humble me on the battlefield, then grant me the wisdom to survive and accept it with grace. So that I may win tomorrow." Hanir swallowed dry and shifted to face a third statuette.

"Zaal Kefreni, Protector of the Lost and Wayward Souls, Guide and Mother to all who wander, hear my plea. I am but a humble mortal and yet I dare to ask for you divine help. Please, bestow upon me your blessings. Let this be the day that I will earn the right to stand among my clan again. Let this be the day when I make myself worthy of the Saga name again. Let this be the day that I shall finally return to the warm bosom of my kin. And if I fall, then allow me entrance into the halls of my ancestors. So that I may achieve in death what I wasn't worthy of in life."

Hanir was about to start another prayer when the order came:

"Job to be done. Voice's orders. Meet at the Weeping-Gate within the hour. Pack light."

The intense throbbing was something that would never stop bothering Hanir. But after 20 years, he had learned to live with it. Raising himself to sitting upon his haunches, the nobleman bowed again to the incomplete pantheon before him.

"Forgive me, oh great and wise masters of Creation." He begged to the statues, raising his clasped hands above his head. "For this humble servant has earthly duties to attend to."

With that he rose up, leaving the incense burning in the cup as a meager attempt to make up for his indiscretion. The gods did not appreciate being ignored, but what was he to do? The Voice called for him and what else could he do but obey? He had said the oaths after all.

Hanir moved quickly to dresser near the bed, where his prized make up and other beauty products were stored. Mood fouling as he was forced to hurry in his preparations. A man of his station needed more than one hour to properly prepare himself for the day. Or at least more servants. He clamped down on the growing anger. -Think of home, think of father. When he took you aside and taught you how to do this. Remember how proud he was when you learned how to this by yourself. He kept fostering the sentiment as he applied the black eyeliner. Followed by the fine powder to hide the below his left eye and the one on his right cheek. A sweet tasting balm to make his lips reddish and shiny and finally the oils that would make his hair soft and strong.

He looked himself at the mirror, frowning at the sloppy work. The scar on his cheek was still faint while the one below the eye had gotten too much powder, a blotch of it was just about visible. He stopped himself before he could notice anything else. He didn't had the time for that.

He jumped to his feet and rushed to the stands where he kept his armor and weapons and the trunk with his clothes. Hurriedly putting on the underclothes that went between his skin and the plate before moving to the armor himself. Grumbling loudly as he worked the straps and locks of the suit into place. -Servants! I need servants!- But then again, it had always been hard to secure steady help for that. Specially now that the Legion was so direly understaffed. Maybe he could secure some slaves in Avless? He would talk with Arthur about it later. Now, he mused as he finally placed his helmet on, he had duties to fulfill.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Dark Wind
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Dark Wind Summon The Bitches

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Just beyond the darkened veil of future's hold
A storm comes near bearing winter's cold
Sharpened and steeled, a frostborne bite
Hued in snow and deathly night.

- Anonymous

1128 Titans' Rest
30th Year of the Undying's Reign
Centurion Keep, Avless
24 Hours After the Taking of Avless

The smog of death blackened her bloodstained feathers.

Tristanya, in raven form, soared with pale wings spread above conquered Avless, the once proud city defiant behind its supposedly impenetrable walls cried with blood and fire coming from its eyes. The filth of smoky ruin billowing upwards only further covered her in the soaked uniform of murder.

She circled over a barricade formed by the city's last remnants of defense where defeated soldiers held on to a feeble thread of hope. They raised their swords and shields, and pointed their spears towards the ravaging, pillaging, and raping Anthem. The wave of murderers and killers fell on them like the covering of night, engulfing them whole. Their line broke, and screams thickened the air with the plunging of knives into wet flesh.

The city's defense was strong, and their mages were deeply skilled. But, against unholy magic and a seemingly endless army, talent proved a fickle ally. And through it all, Tristanya was here. Flying above the destruction, still alive despite the certain death that had awaited her in the tunnels beneath the walls. This was the victory of her company. This was her victory.

Blood tasted bitter on her tongue.

She turned away. The ashen haired raven changed its course, returning to the heart of Avless, returning to the keep. Her avian shadow casted her movements over the battlements, getting larger, closer, and then morphing into a hooded figure. Tristanya walked in a fluid, gliding motion, drifting past soldiers like a ghost as she made her way inside to be met again by woeful death throes wrenching any sort of happiness out of the air.

The reek of death was pungent. Rotting flesh and shit should make a lady pale and faint but Trist coolly surveyed the scene. A soldier who recognized her came running to meet her.

"Lady Sorcerer, it's my brother, he- the physicians don't know- they aren't helping you see. They say he's gonna' die but that ain't true, he's fine I swear my life on it. Magic can save him, I said. Please-"

Trist raised her hand. She spoke gently. "Take me to him."

"You mean it? Oh, bless ye woman. You're a right savior and I'll never forget this. Come on, he's over here!" The soldier was animated in his thanks before rushing over to his brother's bedside.

The man's brother was laying on a make-shift cot marred by rot, and blood. He was dying. From Trist's judgment, the soldier couldn't have been a boy any older than sixteen. Clean shaven, it looked like he hadn't even been able to grow a beard on his childish face. His eyelids opened weakly, and he tried to speak through dry, cracked lips.

"Water." A broken murmur. "Water..." He repeated his heart-rending request.

First, she studied the bowl by his bedside filled with water and a wet cloth inside. The water had rusted from the grime of his wounds. Trist glanced at the boy's older brother, judging by the age around his eyes.

"Do you have any water?"

His look told her all she needed to know.

"Give me a moment." Trist took the bowl and poured it out. There was plenty of blood around her to work with, and so she did, casting a spell and making a pool of clean water appear within the basin.

"That's amazing, that's a real miracle! I told them you could save him!"

Trist ignored him and found a physician's bag that was left behind. She searched its contents quickly, eventually pulling out a bag of powder. A simple tear and she poured it into the water, letting the dust mix within. Slowly, she lifted the bowl.

"Get his head for me."

The soldier did so, placing his hand beneath the boy's neck. "You're gonna' be alright, Ben, I promise. We'll get you outta' 'ere, go back home and see mom and dad. Would ya' like that?"

Gently, Trist brought the bowl to the boy's mouth, tipping it with a slight tilt until the powdered water poured into his mouth for him to swallow. "Easy now, don't choke." She continued as he took to her directions well. Enough had gone down, and Trist placed the bowl back down. She nodded to the elder brother, and he released his hold, choosing now to brush his hand through the boy's dirt-matted hair. The boy closed his eyes, falling into a deep sleep.

"What did ye do for him?"

"Charmed water, mixed with medicinal powder. He'll be asleep for a long while."

"Will he be alright?"

"Yes." Trist stood.

"Thank ye, m'lady. You don't know what ye've done for me, ye don't. May the Old Gods bring you nothing but good fortune." The soldier said to her, nearly at the brink of tears.

But she did know what she'd done. Trist turned away and made her way out of the entrance hall with quickening steps. She knew the boy was dead the moment she'd seen his wound. Blood magic could work miracles, but not the sort that belonged to the divine.

The boy named Ben would be dead in an hour.

Time had passed by, and the sounds of the city burning became a hum of white noise. Trist stared into the makeshift fire set up on the stone floor in the great hall. Others talked, and perhaps some of them talked to her, but the words never reached her.

It wasn't until Verse appeared that the sorcerer returned. Of all their strange cast, Verse was the only one there that didn't have a visible soul-aura emanating from her. Nothing. Was that what it was like for the Tainted? To have no soul? Regardless of Trist's thoughts, her sharp and quick words were welcome.

Trist rose with her staff. "Where is the killing to be done next?" She asked, feeling no reason to soften the question.

1128 Titans' Rest
30th Year of the Undying's Reign
Legion Camp
24 Hours Prior to the Taking of Avless

Her morning began as it often did: alone. Pale light kissed her naked flesh where the tent permitted, and wherever dawn’s touch was denied there was shadow that ruled. She dipped her hand into the reaching warmth with meditative thought etched on her face while she rolled her wrist and hand, fingers dancing fluidly across light and dark. It was a long time ago when she was a young girl Tristanya discovered she could not feel the sun’s warmth, or the cold of winter. Even now, years later, the sensation still eluded her.

Outside the relatively safe confines of her tent, the white witch could hear the distant rumble of battle. Drums, swords, war chants; they all swirled together as one sadistic melody laid over the cacophonous rhythm of dying screams. Tristanya did not flinch at the sounds, nor did she even bother looking up from her contemplations. She breathed deeply before standing up. Wintery eyes met in glass reflection. Being a noblewoman retained certain luxuries even in war, and this mirror was one of them. It was, truthfully, a useless trinket. However, her feminine nature won out, preferring to have the knowledge of whether she looked utterly hideous in the aftermath of battle.

Trist studied herself in quiet isolation. No marks marred her flesh, lightly tanned as it always was no matter the season. Her moon-touched hair fell just slightly past her shoulders, a length she'd consistently kept it maintained. Miraculous, one might say, that she had the time to do so. Never underestimate a sorcerer, and that counts doubly so for a woman sorcerer.

Exhaustion flickered in her gaze, and something else too. As quick as the emotions appeared they were snuffed out like a quarantined disease, frozen over by Trist's customary expression of imperious indifference. She steeled herself for the long day still waiting in front of her, but first there were other matters to attend to while there was still time. Trist approached another indulgence afforded by her station; a dresser. It was ebony in color, and finely crafted. Heavy too, as a few resentful soldier's might attest. The noble lady did not bring servants with her. There was no need. Convincing eager men to do her bidding wasn't a difficult task, that burden came from spurning their advances. Luckily, the threat of blood magic cools a man's baser urges quicker than an icy bath.

Tristanya opened one of its topmost drawers on the far right. Inside there laid a dagger with a curved obsidian blade stretching out from a bone-white handle. She grasped the hilt, tenderly clutching it with feather-soft fingers. Underneath the knife was a leather bound journal that Trist picked up and placed flat on the dresser's surface. She carefully opened the journal to the correct point, a hundred pages in what looked to be a five hundred page volume. There were no words written, just like there had been none on the other pages as she flipped through them. Trist parted her lips and whispered, and the sound carried unnaturally within her tent like a thousand voices murmured together. Shortly thereafter, crimson ink bled through the page and strange writing appeared.

A deep breath. With calculated purpose, Trist placed the sharpened edge to her palm.

"Job to be done. Voice’s orders. Meet at the Weeping Gate within the Hour. Pack Light."

Trist screamed. The Red Voice burned harshly inside of her head, booming with pain that was multiplied by the deep gash on her hand. She'd cut too deep, and the bright crimson streamed over her skin, trickling onto the dresser. After a few short breaths, Trist spoke out an incantation writing the words in the air. Almost immediately the pain in both her head and hand withered from a touch of cold. Moments passed, and the sorcerer refocused. The mage swore the Voice spoke at the most inopportune times on purpose just to play with her head and because of that, her orders could wait just a little longer.

She didn't need this much blood, but it'd do nonetheless. A new series of incantations, and her blood spiraled into the air, dancing around her. Her other hand opened. Trist concentrated on her unclosed hand, never blinking, not breaking the carefully emphasized words of her spell. Then, a glowing light came into being from nonexistence. It grew.

Curious, she thought.

With each elegantly structured phrase the light grew larger, molding into a shape; a sphere. She felt something strange, something different from her usual blood magic. But, she could also feel herself growing weak as this particular spell took more from her than expected.

No, no stopping now. She willed herself forward. What was it?

A soldier rushed through the opening of her tent, ripping the flap to the side. "My lady- oh!"

The sphere blinked out.

The soldier stuttered. "M'lady, I didn't mean to... I didn't know you were-" He acted embarrassed, appearing genuinely stunned, though the deviance in his eyes could never go unhidden.

Trist hammered her fist into the dresser in frustration. She spoke calmly, and slowly. "Did it ever occur to you, soldier, that you might want to knock first before entering?"

"We heard screams. Thought you was hurt," he explained, "there's also, uh, no door to your tent, m'lady."

She whipped her head around to look at him with a dark expression. "Oh, truly? I shall thank you for that enlightening piece of information then, soldier. Perhaps you're due for a reward, is it money you want, or maybe you desire a place in my bed like the rest of them out there. Oh no, we can do better..." Trist placed a finger on her chin in contemplation. "Ah! I've got it, an early death it shall be. What is your preferred method of death; hanging, drowning, or burning alive?"

The man trembled. "No offense was meant, Tri-"

Trist shook her head.

He paused. "M'lady. I-I apologize for offending ye."

"See now. That wasn't so difficult, was it? I advise you to keep it in mind that when I say to 'knock', I'm not being literal in meaning. Shout your approach, announce your arrival, you might even have the courtesy to clap your hands together before I permit you inside my tent. With those boots I may even command you to dance outside the entranceway. Wouldn't be hard to hear, would it, all that metal clattering around."

He held his head low. "I understand."

"Good, your life has been spared for this day, soldier." Trist turned back to the dresser, and uttered a spell that began sealing the wound on her palm. "Now, carry on."

"Might I stay to make things up to ye? I can keep a lookout, just in case."

She thought on it. "That is kind. You may, but do turn around. I have to change, it's unseemly for a stranger to see a lady unclothed for this long." Trist bent down to open another drawer.

The soldier turned around, facing the camp outside. "As you wish." Then, he turned his head, watching her intently, a smile on his face.

Trist smirked as she grabbed a black corset and began fastening it around her body. "Do you know much about blood magic, soldier?"

"No, can't say I do." He watched still, taking pleasure in the view. It was on his voice, the pleasure.

"No, I thought not." She finished tightening the strings. Next came undergarments that she slipped on over her legs. Following that came both jet black trousers and a light leather-armor jacket of the same color. "You see, soldier, a blood mage has a long list of powers."

"Yes, very long I bet."

"Quite so. One of my personal favorites is that when someone, say a man for instance, is within a certain distance of me I know what he's doing without even having looking at him."

The soldier blanched.

"Fascinating, isn't it?"


Trist put on the last part of her outfit, her cloak that was black as the ocean's nighttime depths with the exception of a silver edge at the cuffs by her wrists and the front of her hood. She armed herself with the dagger, and then re-bound her journal before tying it to her waist inside the cloak. "There truly are endless things one might do with the magic." She wandered to the far corner of the tent and grabbed her moon-white staff. "I'm considering many of its uses I could conjure right now, actually."

The soldier pondered, opening his mouth in hesitation. "Like what?"

When she turned, he came face to face with the gaze of an endless winter beyond man's simple comprehension. Trist slowly moved forward with measured steps. "I'm thinking about setting your eyes alight with flame inside of your skull. You won't go blind, and you won't lose your eyes, but it will burn. It'd be the worst pain you've ever imagined, most likely. I could keep them burning for as long as I please. You could beg, you could cry, you could get on all fours like a dog and I still wouldn't grant you mercy. I'd enjoy every last drawn out second of your suffering, only stopping when there's nothing left inside of you."

His face was heavy with sweat, face pale and hands shaking. He stained his trousers.

"I never want to see your face around me again, soldier. If you should fail in this, I will hold true to my word." She paused to temporarily straighten out her robes. "You may leave."

The soldier turned and went on shaky legs, but once he'd steadied himself he ran faster than he'd ever have in his whole entire life.

Trist watched him run with the faintest amusement on her face. After he was out of sight, she lifted her hood. It was time to go.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Tancuras

Tancuras Pain the Universe

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1128 Titans’ Rest
30th Year of the Undying’s Reign
Centurion Keep, Avless
24 Hours After the Taking of Aveless

The wind was asleep that day. There was not the smallest breath to expunge the decay from the surrounding air.

Sleep was a strange curse. Reika could not find the words to explain exactly what it was. The elders spoke of the life after death, and of dreams, and of how they were connected. Dreams could be visions into the next world, or something beyond visions, like a fraction of the soul passing through the misty veil of the mind and acting on behalf of the original.

That was how it was described to him, anyway. He did not believe he had ever dreamt in his life. What he once thought were dreams as a tribal youth were actually spells of sleepwalking and wisps of memory like fading smoke. The content of the wisps were truly terrifying, and Reika could only wish they had been dreams. Not possessing full faculty of his mind was his greatest fear.

Regardless of the ponderings on dreams, they were simply the consequence of sleep, and sleep was perhaps even more difficult to explain. It was a curse in its necessity, a flagrant waste of time. Why was not simply remaining immobile just as restive? Why could the conscious mind not invoke the same healing powers? How is the mind capable of blocking the memory of an entire stretch of hours, and to what end does this occur?

These were simply the rambling thoughts of a very tired man, for Reika had not slept in four days.

The swordsman sat atop a parapet above Avless' Keep, legs dangling over a sheer drop. He rested one hand between his thighs to support himself and the other on Sanmeogan's hilt. He had been there for quite some time. He was not counting the hours, but he might have been counting the frequency of the explosions occurring on the mountain before him, if he could even remember them. The arcane bursts seemed to be growing further apart.

Reika looked down between his feet. In his weariness, a single fractured moment of losing consciousness would send him toppling over a hundred feet to the stones below. Death would await him if he was lucky, shattered bones if he was not. Testing the necessity of sleep against certain peril was at least keeping him occupied.

The Keep offered quite a view: the trampled and burning Ruby Citadel and murky sea beyond on one end, and on the other, the abutting mountain - a great steely slab cutting into the clouds like a broad fang. Reika enjoyed the latter. Even in the falling ash, it was a spot of nature, and reminded him of his home. At the very least it was a place to breathe after those urfe'as tunnels!

The memory of those grueling battles, still fresh in his arms and legs, set his mind on edge, willing him to scrub the blood from his skin once again. He was never hesitant to kill when it furthered a cause, but Sanmeogan's hunger took hold at times, changing him. After so much bloodletting, the walls of the tunnels had been painted red, each one snaking out like a vein clogged with lifeless meat. The blood permeated his skin, such that he did not think he could ever rid himself of it.

Reika spun off the parapet and took the stone stairs down into the Keep. The sharp stench of charr faded somewhat, replaced with the odour of sweat and sickness and wood-fire as he entered the Great Hall. He quickly found a water barrel and turned the tap, washing the clamminess from his hands with a vigorous scrub. It sated the blood-feeling, at least for a time.

Time moved strangely when one did not sleep, much like being inebriated. Only the moment existed, the past soon forgotten, the future ignored. He soon found himself sliding onto a bench with the rest of his strange unit. Some of them he would be glad to work with - some of them he would not. Regardless, he did not speak. It was not a time for speaking. He pulled a piece of bread from his sack and ate mechanically before leaning forward and resting his eyes.

Time moved strangely. Perhaps he slept, perhaps he did not. A lead voice dragged him out of the waters of his mind.

"Let's move," said Verse, the latest in the line of his commanding officers. He had seen too many to see her as anything more than a messenger from the Second Legion's masters. Duty called, and Reika answered, standing wordlessly on aching legs.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Iuniper
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Member Seen 20 days ago

At Least 24 Hours Before the Fall of Aveless

Her deft fingers slid under the woolen underclothes as she buckled in the small cot that held her, legs tangled in the soft sheets. Back arched, the silken tendrils of hair bobbed underneath her as she pushed herself into a more comfortable position. A small cry of relief erupted from her lips as her fingers slid into place in the deep crease in her back, drawing the blood into her shoulderblades.

The discomfort of the quarters provided by the Legion did not bother her as much as it did others, but it did nothing for the knots and aches that developed from pulling the longbow day after day. The exercise in blood magic had the side benefit of soothing her mind - quite a serene state to arise in, probably. In a fluid movement, her legs bent over the edge of the cot, and her torso twisted until her entire body stood erect in the Legion’s tent.

She pulled on the leather thing and the gambeson as well as some linen pants, which lay at a puddle at the end of the cot. Surely, no one really gave two aces about what she wore underneath the heavy, padded jacket, but Legion had their own dumb rules that Aeudla was in no position to question or disobey. Easily, she set about her usual tasks - the longbow was set against a corner of the huge, linen tent, a slice of morning sunlight warming it, making the wood soft and pliable. Her tentmates were mostly still asleep, or gone for a morning meal, maybe a meditative piss in the woods. The shaft of wood easily moved in her hands, now, the end-loop easily fitting into the horny nock as she strung the bow. In doing so, the light caught her eyes and she swatted a hand across her face to shade herself.

The order forced its way into her brain: Job to be done. Voice's orders. Meet at the Weeping-Gate within the hour. Pack light.

She nearly keeled over, her hand now ripping hair out of her scalp with the unwelcome invasion. Aeudla shivered a moment, pausing in the soft light afforded by the tent. Thankfully, everyone - regardless of rank - was subject to such creepy and unwanted behavior, and this was oddly reassuring.

It must have been Tarkus.

One foot crossed the other as she hobbled out of the tent, one hand reaching out to part the linen fold of the tent’s opening, the other fastened around her bow. The quiver full of freshly-spined arrows was flush to her back, though she could not feel it through the thick padding of the gambeson. They were beautiful arrows, with hawk’s feathers she’d threaded onto the shafts of wood. They rustled together pleasantly alongside some of the Legion’s arrows.

The puddle of mud right under - around - her foot yielded a curse. One of her stupid bedmates probably got drunk and pissed right outside of the tent. Aeudla very, very briefly wished she was an officer of some sort, with her own tent. Archers weren’t really leaders, given that they stood back all safe and rained hell while the real warriors did all the work, out of honor and glory. She was a competent blood mage, sure, but she didn’t really care about turning water into wine or whatever other stupid hound tricks the others did to curry favor. Blood magic was ethereal and sacred. Or so she imagined.

Aeudla went.

At Least 24 Hours After the Fall of Aveless

Soft plumes of smoke meandered through the battlements and did little to temper the harsh smells of blood, ichor, and salt carried in by open air. The smell of smoke persisted deeper and deeper into the Keep, throwing a sedative shroud over the throngs of people scattered through the tower. It eased itself into the lungs, as a beloved cat does, pressing into the crevices of the brain and inducing an artificial sense of calm. The immediacy of the tang of blood in the mouth was lost, momentarily, in the cloying odor of smoke.

It felt calm in here - safe, even - as if the last day or so had ceased to exist. As if the Keep had never been sundered, as if they were not in the torn-open heart of Aveless. As if the sharp, metallic tang of blood didn't bite at the fringes of smoke, as if there were no dead and dying scattered between smashed doors and crumbling walls. All in a moment, one could simply close their eyes and choose to ignore it if they wished, let smoke tease the oxygen from their lungs and feel some sense of safety after all that had transpired.

The sound of soul reverberating through the hall was truly deafening, as bodies wavered between dead and dying. Some persisted. One's own heartbeat was the only consistent meter in the mess of things, and only so in this moment. Silence melded into soft murmuring, into shouting, into cries of pain and sorrow. Explosions in the distance punctuated the mess of sounds, echoing across the Black Mountains. The ebb of sounds echoed in the massive, stone hallways, in the barren parapets.

The sounds hurt her head, already wracked with fatigue accumulated over the last few days. An incredible amount of raw soul permeated the air around her head, and the sharp edge of burning flesh among the scent of smoke kept her from drifting into sleep. The sense of euphoria from using blood magic was mixed up in all of the noise, still lingering in the back of her head, like warm tendrils of smoke. She was somewhere in between conscious and asleep, an easy medium, and the rustling of activity around her seemed to suddenly awaken her. Her brain was numb, overwhelmed by the sounds around her, by the smells, and the pains that bit at parts of her body, places where gambeson and leather did not hold against iron or blood-shards. She had managed, through it all, to stop the bleeding, to clot the blood. But she was no magician, and there were still open gashes which stung with each and every movement.

Aeudla vaguely recognized that her hands were still a deep crimson with dried blood, likely her own. Drowsily, she unfastened the dark-colored gambeson now decorated in deep patches of oil, blood, and flesh. The gambeson opened, revealing the hardened leather worn underneath, and her woolen underclothes, now stained with sweat. Unthinking, she absentmindedly began to unwrap her right index, middle, and ring fingers. The linen wraps had been necessary in the close quarters they had been in, as in such tight quarters, longer pause had to be given with each arrow. And longer pause with her longbow meant more direct strain on her ruined fingertips, which were similarly strained through use of blood magic. While the bow at three-fourths draw was enough to kill or incapacitate most that came her way, it was not a close-range weapon, so blood magic was necessary. And exceedingly easy, in the small quarters where there seemed an endless amount of it.

She remembered, dimly, that the longbow must still be drawn, and that was not good for it, to be open so long. That it must be unstrung, that the leather stringer was in a pants pocket, and that the warmth of the space around her would make the task easy. She reached around for the longbow, which sat besides her, lain across the barren stone floor.

The wood disintegrated in her hands. The natural light that streamed in through a high window contorted around the wood grain, reflecting the silvery hues of the yew into her hands and she stared at this for a moment. Everyone around stared at her, gazes boring through their heads like water through a leak in a boat, and the light reflected back into their eyes. A brief moment passed as a breeze rolled lazily through the hall, chasing away the prowling plumes of smoke.

She blinked, and the yew moved under her fingers as she tested the string, which hugged the edges of the bow. Her fingertips still dribbled blood, which stained the yew a deep shade of red, and the blotches of blood spread as ink does in water, wrapping around the wood. A line of glossy, delectable cherries, then a mound of cherries with curled, leatherwhite stems. Untasted and sweet-looking, gladdened by the light streaming in. The group around her seemed to draw closer though she dare not draw her gaze away from the sight in front of her, which was - in that moment - completely and utterly perfect. The light of their gazes seemed to penetrate her in a way that was somehow physical, as if the brightness of their eyes could contort her form as the sun did.

A thought entered her brain - she still needed to unstring the bow. It was too warm in the room and the voyeuristic gazes of her companions had drawn her thoughts back to the perfect mound of cherries. Which had, for no reason at all, suddenly become discrete drupes: that one had a deep purplish bruise, another was dried up around its stone, one was completely hard and unripe. Another thought entered her brain as quickly as the other had left and she swiped madly at the image until it disintegrated into a small mass of pits and folded back into the light which now shone bare across the stones.

The bow was already unstrung, with a leather hood secured over the string nock, Aeudla discovered, as her eyelids stretched. This satisfied her, though a chill still ran across the back of her head at the thought of the eyes around her. There was a small group around her indeed, though perhaps not really around her, but around the small fire that separated them. Resting, hobbling to one side or another as if they might tip over, or murmuring to each other. Minutes passed, and she stared intently at the flames which licked the small pile of tinder, turning brown into black into white into grey into the smoke which rose into the depths of the hall.

There was no bow in her hands to steady her brain amidst the rolling fog that obscured any sort of cognizant, coherent, conceivable thought, the words muddling together and chattering endlessly away in her brain as the soul seemed to - and there was soul everywhere, especially with the Undying who were veritable walking battlefields, different shards of soul cobbled together nonsensically, unending and impenetrable, like the smoothstones that made up the huge Keep which was now crumbling around them, crumbling as Aveless was, as the mountains were, as her thoughts were.

Only one voice cut through.

“Let’s move.”
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by neogreggory
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neogreggory Blade of the Boros Legion

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26 Hours Prior to the fall of Aveless

Darkness. As far as the eye could see was shadow, a murky void, a deep soup that threatened to swallow everything. Then, a light, dim and weak. Above, far above. Swimming, but the waves of darkness were too strong. And then, the small candles light above, disappeared.

Arthur shot up. A dream, it was a dream. Curious, it had been a long time since Arthur had to face one of those. Perhaps he should have gotten more sleep, it was to be a busy day. It hardly mattered, he was now and thus his work began. Pulling away from the bed Arthur stretched before stepping over to the wooden dresser that sat in the corner of his private tent. Parting the wooden doors Arthur gazed over his meager collection of dressings. Much of it was plain and simple, though well made, just the way Arthur liked it.

Replacing his sleeping ware with linen shirt and sturdy pants Arthur felt a sudden pain as he pulled one of his legs through. It passed quickly enough, but it was there and Arthur knew what it was. He was getting too old for such a life, but nothing that could be done for that. Layering more cloth and then over that a thin layer of leather Arthur began the slow task of dressing his body in metal. It took the better part of an hour, but once it was done Arthur was a walking tower, an inspiration to the men around him. That mattered, because this siege would cost them all dearly and it was important that the soldiers had a figure to look to when all seemed lost. Arthur silently wished that he still had such a figure as he slid his horned helmet onto his head.

Now armored Arthur quickly departed his tent and across the avenue into a much larger tent. Within lived many crates, which housed weapons, rations, and the other supplies that kept the Legion alive. Marching though the stacks of crates to a paper laden table in the back that served as Arthur's desk. Diligently looking the top few pieces of paper Arthur nodded to himself, everything seemed to be in order. Of course, the odds of something going awry in the four hours since he last stood at the desk. Content with the reports Arthur took up his spear again and began to leave the storehouse when he felt a sudden redness ringing in his skull.

"Job to be done. Voice's orders. Meet at the Weeping-Gate within the hour. Pack light."

Arthur felt he would never get used to Tarkus' voice booming into his mind. At the very least over the years Arthur learned to at least outwardly appear unfazed, and after hearing the orders Arthur continued his exit from the supply tent. Planning for the hour ahead Arthur decided that he could managed to eat a morning meal, do some more basic stretches, and, with travel time, be at the gate with exactly five minutes to spare.

Returning to his tent Arthur went to the chest set against his bed. Taking a large sack held within it he carried it over to the table and chair in the corner and sitting down began to pull items from the bag. Setting on the table a meal of dried meat and fruit and a biscuit he silently pondered if that chef kid found the bag of sugared plums Arthur had left under his shield. Stifling a chuckle Arthur considered how Hanir would respond if he learned that Arthur had been secreting food items often reserved for officers and nobles to the common masses. It was important that the grunts on the front line ate well, no army survived long with poor morale.

Tearing through his food with haste Arthur save a shred of the meat, tossing it into a nearby brazer as he grumbled, "Honor in battle, always." As Arthur finished both his meal and his short prayer he stood and left his tent. The walk through the camp with simple enough, the Legion was an efficient machine and Arthur had little to concern him. Though from the hill below the sound of the Anthem was as ever an annoyance. Stopping for a moment Arthur looked into the distance, past the war camp of the Anthem and to the ruby red walls of the city of Aveless. The siege had so far been harsh, and it would only get worse. Many men would die taking those walls, men that would not be easily replaced. Hopefully they would be Anthem warriors, but Arthur knew better. Now nearing the Weeping-Gate Arthur wondered how many others would be working on this 'job' and if they would be able to work as an effective team.

23 Hours Post the Fall of Aveless

Arthur was standing in the gutted remains of what was once an armory built into the red walls of Centurion Keep. Stepping over broken weapon racks Arthur gave a sigh, the Anthem had yet again created a mess that the Legion would have to clean. The store room was barren, every weapon and piece of armor that once surely lined the room looted and gone. Arthur could understand a bit of looting, it kept morale up but there was a great difference between taking treasures and stealing weapons that the fighting men of the Legion required. "It could be worse." Arthur muttered to himself as he hefted up a discarded table in his way.

Meanwhile, still flush with the excitement of battle, Hanir strode through the ransacked halls of the keep. A large sack under his arm as he passed by the occasional Legionnaire securing the halls. Pickings had been terribly slim so far. The Anthem dogs had not only proved themselves cowards by hanging back during the assault but also opportunistic vermin. The Legion had done the lion's share of the fighting, as such the lion's share of the loot should be theirs. -And yet here I am, scrounging through the leftovers of those animals. Cursed be the day the Anthem was born! A man of my breeding should not be forced to sink to such lows-. That's not even starting on just how bloody the battle had been, if only the Anthem had done its job and acted as the cannon fodder they were created to be, the already thin ranks of the Legion wouldn't have been bled even whiter.

Hanir shook himself. There was no point in distracting himself now, there was loot to be found, glory to win and servants to find. Surely one or two peasants in this admittedly magnificent city would be willing to clean his clothes and polish his armor if the alternative is the Anthem. The nobleman then smiled as he saw a closed door on the red wall. Stepping over a gutted corpse he advanced, maybe the bastards had forgotten a room?

Arthur found nothing. If the Anthem was good at one thing, taking the spoils seemed to be it. No matter, Arthur wasn't here for loot at any rate. Before his line of thought could continue though the knight heard the sound of metal on stonework, it seemed to be coming from past the closed door behind him. Hefting up his spear Arthur moved to stand in the corner of the room away from the door, placing his free hand on the stonework as if examining it. The oncoming noise could be friend or foe, the city below was still in turmoil but it would be unseemly to be aggressing a friend if that was the fast coming noise. Arthur quietly waited.

Hanir opened the door with a kick, gingerly leaning inside with his shield at the ready. Cursing internally at the sight before him, he was about to leave the room to look for better prospects when he noticed the unmistakable armored form in the corner.

"Already hiding, Wick?" He chuckled. "I don't suppose the Anthem left anything worth taking here, did they?" "Seems not, intriguing how they were behind us most of the battle but still managed to get here first when it came time to loot." Arthur said as he stood again and took a step towards his friend.
"Rats and scum, the whole lot of them." Hanir spat. "The Undying have given them too much freedom already. They have forgotten their place."Setting his spear down against a table again Arthur removed his helmet and placed it alongside his weapon, "Even still, it seems you managed to find some items of value to be had. Anything interesting?"
Hanir held the sack open to Arthur: "A couple books I took from a dead scribe, an ankle collar from a bloodied leg, no idea where the rest of the body was, a couple purses filled with copper coins and a fake ruby. All in all, completely disappointing results. But the true disgrace is that a man of my station and breeding has been reduced to this low.""At least the defenders put up a good fight." Arthur said with a slight grin, "It would be a great pity if Zanthalia was a land of weaklings." Hanir grunted. "Strange times are these when our enemies are worthier than our supposed allies." He sighed. "How many do you think we lost today?" "Too many." Arthur said plainly. "It will only become harder to take the rest of the Old Continent now."
"Well..." Hanir replied, with a bit too much forced cheer. "It wouldn't be fair otherwise. Besides, I figure taking one of the Jeweled Cities by myself ought to be enough to convince my family to forget the little misunderstanding we had."
"With open arms no doubt. I wish you luck with that Saga-Hanir." Arthur said as he slowly returned his helm to his head, "Perhaps we should return to the rest of the troops, I've a feeling that this battle isn't quite done yet."

Hanir smiled beneath his helmet. "Yes, I doubt the Anthem will decide to take the initiative today. And who knows? Maybe I will finally find myself a couple slaves to do all that menial work that is below us." He turned his head to Arthur. "You should probably be looking into that too. A man of your rank and worth should have attendants and servants."
Stepping towards the door Arthur remarked, "Attendants perhaps, slaves no. The Saga clan may be content to reduce men to such things but I am not." Arthur stopped to hold the door open for his fellow, turning his helmeted head to his friend to see his response.
"Slaves, servants. What matters is that they know their place." Hanir shrugged. "But suit yourself, I'm making another sweep before returning to the main hall. There are supposed to be some stragglers close to the dungeons. Are you in?""It wouldn't hurt to get a closer look at the dungeon's layout, lead the way." Arthur said, still holding the door for Hanir. Hanir stepped out of the room without a word, awaiting for his fellow warrior outside as he tied the sack in his belt. Arthur, once Hanir was out, followed, closing the battered door behind them.

"Do you think they might send us into the Head?" Hanir asked as he took the morning star from its place in his belt. "I've no idea. It seems like a quite the kill box the native mages set up, frankly I've seen Aveless traps enough already getting through those tunnels." Arthur grumbled as he trailed behind, spear in hand.
"I'm never one to back down from honorable combat." Hanir replied as they walked. "But I doubt we will find much of that there. Besides, I also think it's time for the Anthem to bleed." He sneered. "It's not like they have a problem replacing their losses."
In reply Arthur spat at the ground, "Accepting broken enemies into their ranks. I wouldn't be surprised to see Aveless curs swelling their ranks come tomorrow. Damned animals."
"Still, as much as it may disgust me..." Hanir started. "It's surprisingly effective. At least compared to us." He sighed. "It was already hard replacing our losses when we fought on our own continent. How do you think we will do it now a world away from home?"
Stepping over a broken corpse Arthur said, "A fair question. One I haven't an answer for. Even after this battle though it's clear we're better than the Anthem, our newest counting for at least a hundred of theirs. We'll make it work somehow.""It won't matter much if there are a thousand of them for each one of us." Hanir replied, dejectedly. "That's not even considering the kind of opposition we will end up facing in the rest of the continent." "There is little to be done for it." Arthur stated, "Unless you've any ideas on how to solve our manpower issue?"
"Conscript the locals." Hanir suggested. "We won't go as far as the Anthem, of course. But I'm sure we could get some fresh blood out of it. Send them first every battle and the survivors get additional training and weapons."
"It is a worthy idea. We'll see where it goes at least. I think this an entrance to the dungeons here." Arthur said as he pointed out a gate leading below the fortress.

A few Legionnaires were milling around the area, standing guard. A pile of bodies, limbs and discarded equipment lay on the corner. Bloodstains and other fluids still stained the stone floor. The Avelessi banners had been torn down the walls and thrown carelessly on the ground.
The soldiers saluted once they saw Arthur approaching.
"Some stragglers still holding out down there, m'lord." One of them spoke up. "Nothing we can't handle. The Anthem still got a few men down there, though." Turning to Hanir Arthur asked, "What do you think? Should we go yet again show those savages how to fight?"
"I suppose." Hanir turned to Arthur. "If only to stop the vermin from getting their hands on anything down there." He turned back and motioned for the soldiers to open the dungeon's gate. As the doors opened Arthur stepped through the passageway, turning to one of the soldiers as he did so to say, "Keep watch." Before descending down into the dungeon.
The pair walked down the stone steps into the depths beneath the keep. Blood and gore painted the walls even redder, and soon it became an effort to wade past the corpses. Clearly this group of resistance fighters had some skill, as many of the bodies belonged to the Anthem, not that there was anything uniform about the bodies aside from their lack of life.
Soon, the sound of battle could be heard clearly, and as Arthur and Hanir stepped through a doorway the source was clear, as they entered a large open room, where on the far end a small horde of Anthem warriors were combating several Aveless warriors, one of which wore long flowing robes and, from the lighning coursing across their arms was clearly a mage.

Hanir shifted into a battle stance. Shield raised and morning star at the ready.
"I say we charge the mage first." "That one on the mages left seems to be guarding the mage, I'll keep him busy." Arthur shot back before taking his spear in both hands and rushing forwards.
Hanir advanced behind him, advancing slowly and gradually picking up speed as he chanted Ilanish war cries and prayers.
As the warrior Arthur advanced towards cut down another anthem soldier the tip of Arthur's weapon flew across the shield of the Avelessi before Arthur pulled his weapon back and shouted to his foe,
"Ho there, don't think all your foes will be so easy. It would be simpler to surrender now and live."

Meanwhile, Hanir charged at the mage. Shoving away several of the Anthem scum that got in his way. The mage, distracted by several closer enemies, took a while to meet the new threat. Sending another bolt of lighting aimed at Hanir, who by then was too close. The nobleman threw himself at his foe. Tackling the mage and sending both tumbling towards the ground.
Meanwhile Arthur and his foe, who wielded a shield and sword and was armored almost as well as Arthur was, began a small back and forth, sending quick blows at one another to test each other's reactions and armor, and nearby Anthem forces either stepping back or moved to dogpile the second armored foe.

The dazed mage proved to be no match for Hanir once both had landed. Moving quickly, especially for a man of his size, the nobleman straddled the mage and used the rim of his shield to bash his foe's head until it was reduced to a pulp. As the mage died, the two remaining Avelessi turned to look, which was time enough for Arthur to jab forward, sending his spear into the neck of his distracted foe.
"I told you it would be easier to surrender fool." Arthur said as he pulled out his spear and began to clean it on the dead man's clothes.
Turning to Hanir Arthur said,
"Now wasn't that good for a few moments fun?"
"It was worth the walk." Hanir shrugged as he stood up from the mage's dead body. "My kill, my loot!" He called out as he picked up his morning star from the floor.

However it seemed the Anthem warriors were not listening, as they hefted up the final and still breathing Avelessi and, patting the warrior on the back led him up out of the dungeon.

"Well, seems they aren't so much interested in the spoils as new friends. Curious, but I guess that means you get your loot." Arthur pondered as he stared at the passage leading out of the dungeon. "I'm just starting here. These dungeons still go for a few levels lower." Hanir replied, eyeing the stairs on the opposite side of the room greedily. "And I'm pretty sure I can hear fighting further down." He turned towards Arthur. "Feel free to go back if you want, Arthur. I know you must have more pressing duties to attend to. I'm going to try my luck for a while more." Hanir patted the sack on his belt. "Meet you in the main hall in a couple hours?" With a nod Arthur replied, "Very well, good fortunes on you friend." Before making his way back up the stairs and towards the great hall of the keep where most of the Legion was staying.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Virgil
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Virgil Genuine Novice

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Prologue: Belly Of The Tormented Beast

~~Renovated Slum~~
Half-While Post A Bad Decision:

The sun must've had a boorish afternoon, given how long it'd sat staring, idle in prolonged anticipation as to the outcome of the aged building's renovations; At the very least, it's collapse allowed for a better view of the stark stillness -- a state of inactivity made all the more apparent by the background ambiance of the odd screams or --further still-- the occasional explosion followed by the heavy crumbling of yet another mount-crag. For a moment, it even seemed that that hazy heavenly being grew weary of the assumed tease, allowing its attention to drift elsewhere with the present interruption of a migratory group of clouds...

A brief rustle stirred whatever stones could be, and with steady effort, the rest of a small, less burdened pile eventually jostled upwards. The remaining resistance crumbled and fell back, giving way to the secondary star of the scene -- that oblique, hairy, crooked-toothed visage which one would only ever find one's-self staring at out of perplexed curiosity --or absolute horror-- and which, assuredly, had since birth remained ungraced by any semblance of love or affection. The oval eye that'd previously been browsing elsewhere for entertainment now found its attention drawn back to the spot...however, it's dimmed rays marked an air of disappointment at the unremarkable --and certainly quite dusty-- display. In response to this, the troll-kin brute grunted, stretching its muscles briefly before delving back into its pit. The delay was momentary, but as for the reception...?

Out rumbled the hairy monstrosity, dragging upwards with it the star attraction of the scenario. The great blue above burst out in a momentary weeping fit, showering the limp Kobold and his significantly less dashing chauffeur with pitter-pattering tears. The sun now shined its full attention on this sudden drama, illuminating the pair in a dazzlingly scintillating aura. With the audience properly garnered, and the stage set, Actor Two barfed out its lines with phenomenal power for something that'd just been buried under a couple stories of rubble. "YOU'RE coming with ME..." There was absolutely no vocal reply from the limp Kobold...but, if one looked closely enough, one could clearly discern that raw, renegade response of body-language. "...AND I'LL HAVE THAT ANSWER YET!" The sun went bright, another showering display of emotion pelted the actors in their poses -- PHENOMENAL, TRULY PHENOMENAL!!!

Looking quite satisfied with that masterful use of brevity, the beast proceeded to slump the rag-doll over its bulky shoulder, before --hoisting itself out of that muddy patch of earth and dust, wood and stone-- thudding off to greater spoils. It might not have gained the answer it'd so despairingly been seeking earlier (yet), but it seemed as the old adage went: "Waste not, want not...and honestly, who wouldn't mind a temporary flail made from the broken body of your loathsome foe?"

The beast wondered briefly whether or not there were any repercussions for such a course of action...but it was best not to think of such trivial things. Instead, it really was best to "Grab life by the shoulder-straps and give it a good whirl." Another good adage, that one.

~~Troubled Slum~~
Tune's-Worth Prior Lunch-Break:

As the fluttering of a bird's wings did upon breaking from the nest, or that of a prey-animal lunging forth with all the muscular confidence of a great Shrieker giving chase -- would he GLADLY give up any of his newfound 'comrades' for a chance to B R E A T H; The rapid acceleration of his heart clawing its way out of his chest at every other foot-beat cast a constant threat of exhaustion, but he couldn't afford to stop now -- NOT...NOW! Tearing out of the narrow alley, the Kobold only barely managed to latch onto the corner-stones with his finger-tips, arcing his path around the acute bend with a furious scattering of dirt and dust from atop the paved street. His momentum seemed unwavered by his strategy, however, and continued onwards despite all efforts on the contrary, bludgeoning the wall with Sul's shoulder...to the delighted hiss and crude, layman's prayers to all that was unholy. Something felt heavy in his near-limp left, and --quite to the midget's surprise-- he looked down to find his long-knife *still clutched tightly within the unresponsive ball of his four-fingered hand*. It seemed an almost uncanny coincidence that he'd only just *now* remembered it was there...but come to think of it, where even was he? A quick glance around confirmed the injured auxiliary's suspicions that he was, indeed, quite lost...for both breath AND sense, at that. But hush, but wait...the snorting, sniffing, growling sounds accompanying the shadows of the alley didn't have to do much to gain their audience's attention; With creeping, heavy, measured steps, the beast's snarls drew ever louder, ever closer, paralyzing the Kobold in a trembling fit. If he hadn't gotten the chance to drink earlier...well...he didn't know a soul in this world that wouldn't have forgiven him for what came next...

...obviously it had nothing to do with hygiene, that'd just be ridiculous.

Raising his arm to his mouth, Sul muffled a harrowing, guttural peep with his forearm, suckling the saltine sweat in nervous anticipation of what would seem to be the dawning hour of his misfortune. That whore, Lady Luck -- and where was SHE, now that he most needed her?!? Off caressing some other ungrateful sod, no doubt...although now that he thought about it, Father Time wasn't exactly doing him any favors either. How in their absence did they torment him so!

But now, the trembling in his staggered and bleeding left seemed dissatisfied with its host's winging, and in complete defiance of the little master's desperate attempts to avoid drawing the attention of their pursuer, it *dropped* the long-knife to the cobblestones below...with all the clamor of a factory at full volume.

The period of time following this tremendously unfortunate incident flew by faster than...well...the moments leading up to it. Still, before he knew what was happening, the rat found himself flattened onto his ass by the *wall itself*...or rather, the bricks maintaining the structure of the wall; All the same, the fanged terror lurched out from behind the debris it'd just sent flying, grabbing hold of its prey with two, beefy mittens of fur and claws. It raaaaiiised the winded rag-doll up to standing position, and peering close enough to trigger several dazed flinches from the Kobold, opened its gaping, jagged-toothed mouth to scream: "WHERE IS IT, WHERE IS IT!?! GIVE IT BACK, YOU SNIVELING VERMIN -- YOU WRETCH, YOU PUSILLANIMOUS, RED-HANDED BASTARD OF THE BROKEN-FLAG!" A solid "WHUMP" of frail lamellar and flesh and bone momentarily roused the rat, if only long enough to allow his eyes to wander down to the obsidian edge lying stiff on the stones adjacent them. How they pleaded with the inanimate object for some measure of salvation, some impossible relief of miracles...and how silent was the response they were given. Cold, apathetic, isolated silence. Another solid crash of his bruised back against the ruined hearth-stones sufficed to divert the sock-puppet's attention back towards his loosely allied aggressor. Eyes WIDE with greed and fury stared back at him with merciless conviction...the tang of blood lingered on Sul's tongue as he lowered his jaw in reply...

...He gulped, swallowing the tangy iron down his aching throat; the first attempt to speak had gone far below measure, and so too did the second...and the third, leaving the battered grey corpse only to mouth empty pleas. Suffice to say, this answer wasn't taken well by the furry, troll-kin brute. With another slamming of that limp, weary form against the giving stones, he attempted to beat the response out of the small-one; Again and again, he screamed and raved in hoarse frustration, constantly pummeling his victim into the wall in an unyielding rage: "THE ANSWER, THE ANSWER -- GIVE ME THE ANSWER!!!"

Were it not for this raw exercise in futility, that oppressor might've considered the force of his raw strength in the matter, as well as the fact that this particular ruin happened to be two stories tall...and already unstable of footing.
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