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Malkev




Year 4256
3nd day of the month of Olfaccium
Afternoon

"Look Uncle! I figured it out!"

Malkev's head perked up. Pulled out of his contemplative trance by his nephew's call. He looked up at his nephew. Watching as the boy turned to the underground lake and tossed one of the many smooth, flat rocks which were generously provided by the Kharu-Natjer. The rock skipped across the water's surface twice before plopping into the depths beneath.

The water stirred oddly. It's surface rippling towards the disturbance in the water instead of away from it. It was one of the many unsettling affects caused by the Distortion. His nephew, however, seemed unperturbed by unnatural motion of the ripples. The boy spun happily on his heels, beaming proudly at his uncle.

"See!" The boy exclaimed. "I told you I could figure it out on my own!"

“Aye lad, so you did.” Malkev said, forcing a smile on his face. “But can you get it to skip even more?”

The boy, Taleb, frowned. He bent over, picking up another rock from the pile. "Maybe." He said. He proceeded to toss the the rock against the water's surface. It skipped once before plummeting beneath the surface.

Malkev smile softly. That will give me a few more minutes. He thought while idly swatting at a fly which landed upon his shoulder. It buzzed in protest. Zipping in circles, it's surface appearing to glint in the crystal jade's green light. Eventually it settled on a far wall. In a place where it wouldn't bother anyone.

Malkev sighed. Taleb was ignorant of his father's passage. Ignorant of the hatred he should hold against his uncle. Malkev's entire world had flipped on its head in the matter of a week. How did things ever go so wrong?

“What I am going to do?” Malkev muttered under his breath.

"Sir?" One of his nearby personal guard asked.

“It's nothing.” Malkev said, waving the guard aside. The guard eyed him. Was that concern he saw in the man's eyes. His worry must be rubbing off on them

Malkev shook his head. The girl, Karina, was a way out. A way to potentially save his people from having to fight off the nation of Touch's soldiers, but it was only a temporary reprieve. She expected loyalty out of him. For him to put his people back in harm's way in a moment's notice. It seemed simple, but what else would they ask from him? Furthermore, what might they do to ensure that Malkev makes good on his promise?

Malkev looked Taleb, watching the as the boy tossed yet another stone across the water's surface.

That boy... He would hate Malkev one day. The moment he learned the reason for his father's death. For the time being he knew not that his father was even dead. But once he did... how long could Malkev keep the reason behind his death a secret.

Malkev had failed his brother. Failed him in the worst way possible. One day, Malkev would pay for his crimes. For now, however, the least Malkev could do was ensure the safety of his brother's son... Even if it meant putting his people on the front lines to some future war he didn't agree to...

"I did it!" Taleb exclaimed. "That's three skips now!"

Malkev smiled to his nephew. His mind now made up. He would agree to help Ms. Frost. In exchange, he would ask that she assure his family's safety.
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Tayla




Year 4256
2nd through 4th days of the month of Olfaccium

Thirsty... Tayla thought. So Thirsty...

Tayla banged weakly against one of the walls to her 'prison'. "Let me out!" She croaked. "Please!"

I'm sorry! She thought... or did she speak those words? It was getting hard to tell. So so sorry... But what again was supposed to be sorry for?

Hungry. Dehydrated. Delirious. Tayla had been chained to the floor in some lone room in the cellar. They held her captive, much like her good for nothing father had imprisoned her as a child. Except this time, she had no means of escape.

They hadn't fed her since locking her in this room, nor had they given her any water to drink. The later was of more consequence to her. For the fight with the white haired princess had already dehydrated her significantly. She had barely had enough time to rehydrate at all before getting thrown in here. She would have escaped then were it not for them pumping her with deterrents. Now though, lacking the water her magic required, Tayla found herself at the mercy of the clan's good grace.

"Please..." She whimpered. Her eyes closing in the darkness. "Someone..."




"She really is pathetic, isn't she?" A familiar voice said, waking Tayla from her slumber

"Smit?" She croaked. Senses, she was thirsty! She could feel her tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth!

"Always depending on me yet never admitting to it."

"Smit... what?" Her mind fuzzy, Tayla creaked her eye open as much as she could muster. She felt so weak. So tired.

"Its worse than that." Another voice said. This one belonging to that white haired 'princess' "She refuses to let others in."

"You..." Tayla seemed growl. A bubble of hatred rising to the surface "Acting like you know me..."

"I think she does know you though." The voice of Smit said. His form seeming to materialize in the darkness. "Better than you know yourself."

"Shutup!" Tayla barked! Her cry seemed to grind at her vocal cords.

"Look at her coward in fear." The woman mocked. Her form materializing next to Smit's. "Always running, that girl is. She runs from me. She runs from you. Senses, she even runs from herself!"

"YOU DON'T KNOW ME!" Tayla screamed. She launched herself at the visions, stopping short due to the chain locked around her ankle.

The visions laughed. Not at Tayla, they seemed to be ignoring her. Rather they laughed among themselves.

"You know, I always knew she was a runner." Smit said. "Told her as much from the start."

"And look where all that running has got her." The white haired woman said. "Locked away, once again, in a closet. Chains wrapped around her ankles."

"I said shut up..." Her cry came out weak this time. She shut her eyes. Her body trembling.

"It seems you've come full circle."

That... that was her father's voice... She could help but take a look... Looming over her stood her father. He stared at her with those predatory eyes.

"No..." She whimpered. "Please no..." Her head was pounding. The world was spinning. In an instant her father vanished. His form replaced by Smit.

"You don't look so good." He said leaning over her form. "Here. Have some water."

Graciously. Tayla reached for the skin he held, but it was just out of reach. "Too far..." Her voice barely above a whisper. "Can't reach..."

The skin fell to the floor. It's contains spilling out red. Smit's form shimmered into the form of the white haired woman. The world bleeding black.

"Should have taken the water." The white haired women said. The darkness swooped in taking Tayla yet again.




Tayla awoke in coughing fit. She felt a cool liquid wetting her dirtied garments.

"Hush..." Said a dry sounding voice, trying its best to sound soothing. "Your punishment is over. Drink... You need the water..." Sightless Syella... She had come through for Tayla...

The Sightless held a cup of water in her hands. Slowly she brought it to Tayla's cracked lips. Tayla took the offering graciously. She drank the water faster than she probably should have.

"You came..." Tayla said having finished the offering. "I thought... you would leave me hear to rot."

"Course not." Syella said. "A mother does not leave her child to die."

Tayla nodded, taking the time to take in her surroundings. They were still in the cellar, but no longer in the room they locked her in. She hear the shuffling of feet towards the far wall. A group of Sightless had entered from a hidden passage built into the cellar wall. In their hands they carried rags with darkened stains.

Tayla furrowed her brow. "What... what's going on?"

"Nothing. Feeding time just finished is all." Sightless Syella said.

"Feeding... time?" Tayla repeating. Her mind still seemed muddled from her time in isolation.

"That's right." She said. "Come child. Let's go upstairs and get you some food."

"Food?" She asked, her stomach growled at the word.

"Yes." Syella say. "You're going to need it. Food and rest. We have battle coming our way and I'll need you at your best."

Tayla's mind struggled to keep up. "Where's Smit?" Tayla heard herself say

Syella almost seemed to frown. "He's... busy." She said hesitantly. "He been given a promotion actually. From now on Smit will be a squad leader. As for you? Well... Perhaps I was too hasty in stating that your punishment was over. From now on, Tayla, you will be taking orders from Smit."

The words hit Tayla like a rock. They had demoted her for her actions. Everything she worked for ruined in one fell swoop.
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Once he had gotten accustomed to the texture of high quality fabric, it was hard to go back to more common garments. He wasn't about to let anyone know that, of course, as he was sure this band of hardened warriors he was stuck with wasn't going to be sympathetic to his shirt being itchy. Still, every article of clothing had its uses. Pieces could be removed and replaced with more attainable ones to aim for a more humble image, and the opposite was true as well.

Octavio stared at the man in the mirror, and the man stared back with a lot less charm than ever before. His pleasing features had hardened in dozens of subtle ways he couldn't put to words. If he kept the pace of his current life, how would he look like in just a few more months? A year? It bothered him a lot less than he thought it would, and he wasn't sure what to make of that.

He wordlessly slid in and out of various garments, dissatisfied every time. At last, he reached for his trousers. They looked as if they'd been tossed around, and he wasn't the sort of person who treated his possessions like that. It was the sort of detail one wouldn't pay attention to outside of hindsight. With a groan aimed at nothing, he slid them on.



Years of experience in being as stealthy as possible collided head-on with the grim realization that there were insects interspersed throughout the entire bottom half of his body. The shriek that left him did so through clenched teeth, before being accompanied by line after line of language that could not be described morally or tastefully.

"Lyyyyyyyyyyyyynx!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Where are you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

There were many situations Octavio had prepared himself for after being coerced into fighting for the greater good. Finding spiders in his pants had not been one of them.
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DB, Ferris, and Týfurkh

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“Fine, fine. Just don’t keep us waiting too long.” He said as he defiantly refused to eat.

Time would pass as he waited for Týfurkh to finish.”So are we ready to go?” The man would say coolly. He was ready to explore these tunnels and see if there could be anything gained from this exercise. Truthfully he was hoping for yet another exit/entrance than the one they were shown.

”Yes I’d say so. So which direction do you want to go ?”

“Let’s scout the tunnels on the outer perimeter first,” Ferris suggested. Always taking the left or rightmost path meant reaching the wall of the Kharu’s domain at some point, and perhaps finding some paths out on the way. Looking down the tunnel to the door where he’d exited the dining room, he made a turn or split in the tunnel further down.

“Let’s go this way,” he said, turning towards the tunnel leading the other way from their sleeping quarters. If there were secrets in these tunnels, they’d be placed away from the guests.

“Sounds good to me. Either direction is fine as we’re trying to be through so it’ll all get explored eventually right?” The man would say to Ferris. It would be expedient to go with Ferris’s suggestion. Get to the outer area first and then move inwards. Hopefully they wouldn’t need to go too inwards as that would mean crossing paths with these dubious allies.

Ferris nodded, leading the way down the tunnels. With the crystal jade candle he’d gotten earlier, he was able to light their way through the darkness, refusing help from the slaves they passed. Down the hallway they went, the faintly-lit room up ahead revealing itself to be a kitchen. Slaves bustled around the room, tending to pots and fires as others prepared ingredients on the side. Their faces were rather devoid of emotion as they worked, making it difficult to tell what they were thinking, or if they were thinking at all.

“They’re treated better than most slaves,” Ferris commented as they paused by the doorway. “Better trained too.”

”They are still slaves though and I very much dislike the fact.” Týfurkh commented on the view, holding his voice low enough so only his companions could listen. ”What boggles me most is how they got all those resources here and, maybe even more importantly, why. Wouldn’t the surface be a nicer place overall ? I mean… the madmen there haven’t been around long enough for all of this to be built in order to get out of their way, have they ?”

Ferris nodded. The concept of a slave was a low one, and the stigmatisms that came with it made the situation seem worse than it was, though Ferris doubted they’d seen it all.

“Being underground offers secrecy and mobility,” he noted in a similarly low tone as they passed the kitchen. “They could come up from anywhere in the city, provided they dig the tunnel.”

The next room along the hallway appeared to be a storage room, with baskets, pots, and vases of varying sizes lining the floor and shelves. A few slaves were inside, poring over the supplies, though without any hint of meaning to keep a written record of their supplies. Were they looking for something, then, or were they counting and making mental note of the stock?

“Maybe this is easier for them,” Ferris suggested. “It seems like it’s their choice to stay underground. Theirs or the Kharu’s.”

“Truthfully I think there’s some sort of criminal operation operating here using these tunnels.
They can easily evade the notice of the authority figures here real easily. And no doubt with the Cult running around, that this is also helping them from having the Cult attack them.” The man would say to the two. He just wondered what exactly they were doing to make money now that the cult was controlling the town.

One of the nearby slaves passing by looked to the man as he spoke and frowned. “Freshlanders.” She said, walking away with the shake of the head.

Ferris watched the slave pass, noting the word she’d muttered. “Freshlanders.” It was clearly a label meant for the three of them, but perhaps it applied to all of Salencia’s residents. The word seemed to imply that the slave came from a place where the land or waters were not fresh, but there was little way to tell exactly what she’d meant.

“What do you mean, ‘Freshlanders’?” he asked, raising his voice a bit so that it’d reach the slave, but not so much that it’d echo too far down the halls. It wasn’t meant to be a rude question, and he didn’t think it rude, but he was interrupting the slave so he’d understand if she ignored him. At the same time, though, he was mostly expecting an answer, if only because he knew himself to be a guest and therefore somewhat more important than a slave’s time if his usual experiences with slaves applied here.

The women paid the mercenary little more than a shrug. “No manners.” She said as she turned a corner and disappeared from sight.

The words took Ferris aback for a second since he hadn’t expected the slave to answer back so brusquely, but he took it in stride, turning to DB and Týfurkh. “They retain more individuality than I’d expect of slaves treated poorly.” Then, focusing on DB, he nodded. “These tunnels are definitely well-suited for covert operations, and I wouldn’t be surprised if trafficking slaves is one of those. But, I’m glad that they’re the ones in control of these tunnels instead of the cult. Having to deal with an underground army would be difficult, if not impossible if you aren’t aware of the full extent of the tunnels.”

”If I were you I wouldn’t even dare to think about dealing with any kind of army in the first place, not even if this was my own home.” Týfurkh added with concern in his voice. He didn’t feel very comfortable with this whole underground thing as well, but wasn’t sure if Ferris’ expectancy in terms of the Pactmakers’ capabilities wasn’t an even more serious threat than that. He kept his voice low so as to deny any eavesdroppers to do their dirty work. ”If we stick to our original plan to go outwards I’d say this is the right tunnel to go.” and he pointed towards… Well towards what ? Just another entrance, basically. Speaking of ‘North’, ‘South’, ‘East’ and ‘West’ felt a little weird in this underground maze for Týfurkh. ”Does anybody have a candle and some means of lighting it ? I mean a real candle with a real flame, not a jade candle. Got an idea…”

Ferris nodded at Týfurkh’s comment about armies. As a mercenary, his scope of focus had mostly been individual or limited to a small party. He had not, however, forgotten about the might of armies and nations, and coming to the Nation of Sight had reminded him again. There’d been no shortage of the visible effects of war along his path through the Nation of Touch, and even the country folk enjoyed the novel conversation topic. While he felt out of touch listening to talks of drafts and militias, he’d paid attention to what snippets he’d heard of the war, if only because he’d be heading into a potential war zone. The machinations of nations worked on the larger scale, but their effects trickled down all the same.

“The right tunnel it is,” he said, noting Týfurkh’s confusion. The connection between Týfurkh’s pointing, looking confused, and asking for a candle didn’t click for Ferris, but he figured it wasn’t a big deal. Jade candles weren’t a great source of light, but they were a helpful and freely offered source that Ferris didn’t mind. Trying to navigate the dark by touch and smell alone was much harder, after all, and he’d done it enough to appreciate most sources of light.

“I’ve only got this jade candle and some scented oils. If either of you has something to burn and something to start the burning with, we could get a fire going for a bit.” he offered. Týfurkh didn’t strike him as the type to make meaningless suggestions, so he figured he’d trust the archer’s judgment.

“Would this work? ” The man broke his silence as he slyly produced an oil lamp with a manicured wick. Laying it on the floor, he’d kneel and light the lamp. The oil lamp would produce a warm light compared to the “cool” light of the Jade candle. “Lead the way.” He’d say passing the lamp to Ferris.

Týfurkh smiled a little. One could even argue if it was a slight smile of supremacy as apparently none had got the true reasoning behind his request. ”I’m not interested in the light or the warmth, the jade candle does enough of that. I’m interested in the movement of the open flame, so please hold still for a moment and don’t speak. I doubt it’s possible to perfectly seal such an extensive network of tunnels, so we might have a very slight draft of air around us without noticing. If it is present it will probably lead us to the nearest exit and guide our way.”

Týfurkh’s words prompted a nod from Ferris. It made sense, and his statement made Ferris wish he’d thought of it first. But, there was no use dwelling on that, and Ferris raised the candle as asked, waiting silently for the tip of the flame to settle. After another few seconds, its left and right flickers stilled into a steady tilt towards the tunnel on their left, and Ferris looked in the indicated direction, not making out much in the darkness.

“Left then,” he said, glancing between DB and Týfurkh before leading the way down the dark hallway, one candle in each hand.

The sound of echoing footsteps came from down the hall, behind the group. "Have I become your errand girl now?" A woman’s voice said. Her words sounding almost musical. "I find your requests growing increasingly dull."

“Insolent women. One would think you would be more respectful to the one who liberated you from servitude.” Remarked a peckish voice.

"Liberated?" The woman laughed. "Oh, Talon… I wonder are those your words or that of your master?”

“Mine, of-”

"You give him far too much credit." The woman continued, cutting Talon off. "Your master did not liberate me, he simply empowered me."

"It’s true, Talon." Pitched in a third voice. "I did merely empower the girl. Though, one would think she would still be grateful? Mayhaps I supported the wrong one then… It would be a shame if history had need of repeating itself."

Svephraey and the Kharu-Natjer, with Talon perched on his shoulder, turned the corner, entering the same corridor as DB, Ferris and Týfurkh. The Kharu-Natjer’s stare turned immediately towards the three explorers, almost as if he expected them to be there. Talon’s gaze followed soon after. Svephraey, however, seemed too caught up in the conversation to notice. It was only after the Kharu-Natjer came to a halt that she noticed their new company.

"While I do not restrict my guests from exploring these ancient tunnels, I do request that they not light any fires in areas without ventilation." The Kharu-Natjer said.

Svephraey looked from the group to the Kharu-Natjer, her eyes narrowing with a hint of annoyance. Both Talon and the Kharu-Natjer seemed to ignore the look.

“Foolishness.” Talon said while making a clicking sound with his beck.

"Foolishness?" The Kharu-Natjer repeated, his gaze wandering from the men to the flickering flame. "Perhaps… though also clever." His lips curved into that smile of his. The one which did not meet his eyes.

Ferris’ eyes narrowed slightly as the Kharu turned the corner with his familiar and Svephraey. He and the others had fallen silent when they heard voices, and judging by the way the Kharu immediately looked to them, the slave owner had known they’d be here. His knowing gaze, which was unafraid to admit that he’d known of their presence, was as unsettling as his smile. Though Ferris had seen many smiles in his years, it was the personal ones—the ones that said they knew something that he did not—that stood out to him. He was a hunter, and as such he tended to have the upper hand when it came to the flow of information. Under the Kharu’s gaze, though, he felt closer to prey.

With a quick breath, Ferris blew out the wax candle, lowering it in favor of the jade one. The Kharu-Natjer nodded in appreciation. “We were trying to figure out which way to head,” he said, though he had a sneaking suspicion that the Kharu already knew that. “You could guide us instead, though.”

It was a straightforward ask, and Ferris was aware that it could come off as rude, but it was the one he defaulted to. Mincing words was only helpful when he wasn’t caught in the act, so he stood firm, meeting the Kharu’s eyes solidly.

"A tour?" The Kharu-Natjer asked, brow raised with amusement. "Is that what you seek?"

”Why beat around the bush." Svephraey interjected, looking to the Kharu-Natjer. "You know just as well as I that these pups are sniffing around for answers. Is that not why you led us here?”

The Kharu-Natjer looked to Svephraey and smiled. Svephraey’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Well then, now seems like as good a time as ever to take my leave.” Svephraey continued. ”After all, I have gratitude to be showing, don’t I? Best I be getting started on gathering your requested sl-" -The Kharu-Natjer gave her a sharp look- "-ew of supplies." Svephraey continued, undeterred by the man’s menacing glare.

Svephraey eyed the Kharu-Natjer with delight, as the man quickly smothered the look. "Yes," The man agreed. "Best be off with you." Paying the group one last glance, Svephraey gave the Kharu-Natjer a nod and took her leave.

Talon hunched forward, his silvery feathers alternating back and forth from a ruffled and smooth state. Looking eager to follow, he trailed the woman with hungry eyes. A stern gaze from the Kharu-Natjer seemed to put an end to that, as the familiar quickly eased up on his perch.

The Kharu-Natjer then turned his attention back towards the group. "So," He said. "Where is it you would like to go?"

The man known as DB had stayed quiet during the meeting with these people. More importantly he succeeded into not rolling his eyes when referred to as “pups” by that woman. They would be asked what they were looking for. “The exit of course.”

"These tunnels have many exits leading all across the town. Is there any exit in particular that you would like to go?"

Ferris paused. “Is there one that leads to the clocktower?” He suspected that there likely was, just as there was probably an exit that led to or nearly to every important building or landmark near town.

"There is one nearby, yes," The Kharu-Natjer said, "but that is in an area closely monitored and controlled by the Cult. So it is an exit we tend to leave alone."

”How about showing us all the exits ?” Týfurkh, of course, was aware that the number he was talking about could be quite large, but so was his degree of disappointment when it came to certain statements. The word ‘pups’ had not slipped through his attention,and neither had the statement that lighting a fire was a clever move despite being against some rules. These, in themselves, seemed rather ridiculous and probably were nothing but a pretense. This was a stone tunnel, nothing could burn here, and if a flame was considered to be too oxygen-consuming then what about the growing number of persons walking around here ? ”If we are going to make a tour then I suggest we make it a big and thorough one.” he added, trying to remain calm.

The giant couldn’t resist to stare a little at Talon though. This creature might not be talking about metal men sitting on donkeys, but still Sil had already won the competition about his sympathy. If a stare had been capable of putting a nail into somebody, the feathered familiar would have found himself dead on the wall now. His conscience reminded him about having tried to convince DB to stay here just… half an hour earlier maybe ? If put into that same situation again he probably would be a bit less eager to do the same thing now despite his rational thinking giving confirmation that all arguments used were still valid.

"I’ll happily show you one or two," The Kharu-Natjer said, "but all of them? That is a tall order for someone such as I."

The Kharu-Natjer nodded for the three to follow as he led away from the direction they had initially been heading and around the passage from which he had appeared.

”This labyrinth isn't unique you know." The Kharu-Natjer said after a short period of silence. "Since coming to these lands of yours, I've identified several other locales which appear to have tunnels hidden under its structure. Sadly the entrances to many of these sister tunnels have been sealed away. Some have even collapsed. This town, however, was one of the unique few. Nearly all of its entrances were left intact.

"It was an odd thing to find such passages, let alone to find them unknown to the ones above. They had... a sort of protection on them. A ward which encouraged onlookers to turn a blind eye... This magic... It is a special kind. A magic only a rare few can use."
The Kharu-Natjer paused, looking to Talon. The familiar was to shift uncomfortably on the man’s shoulder. The bird paid the Kharu-Natjer a quick glance. Then with a snap of the beak and a quick ruffle and smoothing of his feathers, Talon seemed to settle down. The Kharu-Natjer continued speaking soon after.

"Such powers are not unknown to my kind. Though we tend to see more natural forms of this power rather than artificial. In my homeland, it tends to seep forth from the land and the creatures that dwell there. It is more rare in your land, however. The most you see of it here typically comes from The Being of Many Names and also... well..." The Kharu-Natjer looked to his shadow. Its shaded form reached unnaturally towards a nearby crystal jade candle. An effect caused by the Distortion.

"I had to disperse the ward in order for us to effectively use these tunnels. It wasn't easy, but I managed... However, this made the entrances, the ones more available to the public, a risk to keep around. Such entrances we decided to seal off. The rest of them, we do our best to keep hidden."

The Kharu-Natjer came to a halt at what appeared to be a spiralling stairwell guarded by two of his slaves. They looked to the three but did not make eye contact with the Kharu-Natjer.

”And here we are." The Kharu-Natjer said. ”This here is one of my favorite entrances. It is built into a well, you see. The stairs spiral around the well, opening up into a shed. The entrance is covered with a stone slab sealed by a lock. By sequentially sliding some of the stone bricks built into the well, you can unlock and open the stone slab. The stone bricks even have handles on the inside of the tunnel. It allows us to open and lock it from the inside as well. Clever, isn't it?"

Hearing that the Kharu hadn’t ordered the construction of the tunnels surprised Ferris, as did the Kharu’s mention of the Being and another form of magic not tied to a person. Such broke the laws of the world as he knew it, but it made sense; there were things he couldn’t explain, like the Being’s abilities and the shifting scent in the stairwell on Ferris’ first meeting with the Kharu, and thinking of those as other forms of magic helped them make sense again.

“How do you use this form of magic, then?” It was obvious that the Kharu knew how to use the magic he’d mentioned, but how did the magic work? Ferris wanted the answer to that, and to whether or not the shifting scents had been this strange magic, but without informing the Kharu of his abilities. Whether or not the Being already laid him bare to the Kharu, it was good form to conceal one’s hand, and Ferris saw no reason to help the Kharu acquaint himself with Ferris’ ability. As for whether the Kharu was telling the truth, Ferris saw no reason for the Kharu to lie. Bringing up the magic was necessary because the Sightless were using it, and pooling intel on a common enemy was as trustworthy a process as any.

”Oh?" He said, amused. ”Did my tour of this entrance not interest you? Well, no matter.

The Kharu-Natjer eyed the Crazed with a smile. ”How do you use this magic? Well… you can’t. At least not usually. It’s... hard to explain…”

The Kharu-Natjer led them away from the tunnel and motioned them to follow. ”In truth, my understanding of it is limited… It is an understanding wrapped in myth and personal experience. Some say it is the ultimate magic, and all other magics spawn from it. Others say it is another magic entirely. External to the world we know. Me though? I’m of the opinion this magic is of the world."

”This magic… it is world shaping. It alters that which should be. The distortion afflicting this town, that is the magic at work...

”This power… it is more like an entity than anything else. To use it requires one to be of such power. So, you either control it, or you connect to it in some fashion.

”Our legends tell of wars fought over the power long ago. Wars fought amongst gods. Wars where the people were used as pawns. I dare say these labyrinths are remnants of such wars… When traveling to this land I searched the libraries of Hearing for similar tales, but found little of use. I found it rather strange that your people seem to be ignorant of such stories.”

The Kharu’s explanation left something to be desired, and Ferris doubted his asserted lack of familiarity for a second, thinking it was possible that the Kharu was lying or misleading them in order to maintain his upper hand. The next second, however, had him realize that the Kharu wouldn’t have mentioned the novel form of magic if that were the case, and Ferris figured it wouldn’t hurt to take the man’s words at face value, at least for this conversation.

“Maybe the wars were not waged here then,” he suggested. The simplest conclusion was often the correct one, in his experience, and helping him reach this conclusion was his doubt in the Kharu’s stories. As far as he was concerned, religion was a means to an end for those in power. Believing that a higher power would right wrongs in the afterlife rendered subjects more docile, and purporting to be chosen by said higher power helped establish the authority to rule. The many Mistresses of Merchants had already shown that those in power had their choice of avenues to exploit, and the Kharu’s story made Ferris think that perhaps the man had already taken his pick. His hold over his slaves, for starters, seemed to be deeper than simply owning or training them, and Ferris didn’t think it a stretch for the Kharu to have convinced them of a false narrative to gain their loyalty.

Still, Ferris was reserving his opinions for now, so he pondered the Kharu’s question from a more neutral standpoint. “Or, if this town is under the thrall of this magic like you say, it’d be difficult to say how far its influence extends. We could all be under its thrall right now and be none the wiser, if what you say is true.”

What he’d just suggested was a conspiracy theory of sorts, ridiculous and all, but Ferris was entertaining the notion. After all, there was no explanation for the Sightless’ abilities in regards to the magic he was familiar with. Besides the possibility that this novel magic type might render his nose useless, there wasn’t much that would change how he approached the situation. After all, the Being’s magic had been too far out of his comprehension for him to try resisting it, so perhaps there was a large, all-encompassing nugget of truth to what the Kharu was saying, and perhaps his disbelief was more due to a desire to maintain control than due to ignorance. Considering everything that had happened so far, upending his worldview didn’t seem like such a drastic step, but he’d need more concrete proof first. Something to tie the types of magic, perhaps, or a better explanation of the Kharu’s type of magic. Without more foundational evidence, it was hard to imagine trusting a theory, much less a simple story from the Kharu.

The Kharu-Natjer smiled politely but said nothing. They spent most of the remainder of the tour in quite. The Kharu-Natjer, showed them two other exits, nowhere near as intricate as the first. He led them back to their rooms and bade them goodnight.
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Year 4256
5th day of the month Olfaccium
Mid-Summer
Nation of Sight
Shimmer Town

"Remember, the gate consists of three parts." The Kharu-Natjer said to a room full of Malkev's men, Svephraey's brutes and the pact makers. "In order to open the gate, we must take control of each part. Lose control of a single section, and we won't be able to open the gate for the Army of Touch. Without the army to distract the Cult, our attack on the seed risks failure."

Somehow the Kharu-Natjer had seemingly learned about the army's approach and Karina's newly assigned mission to open the gates. He had called everyone together the night prior to prepare a plan of attack.

All participated in the planning, even Malkev though his participation came grudgingly. The man had apparently approached Karina earlier in the day and came to some sort of agreement with her. The details of which had yet to be shared to the rest of the pact makers.

Svephraey was the only one who didn't have anything to add. Keeping to herself, the woman watched the group from the corner of the room. Her eyes seemed to twinkle with amusement. She was noticeably absent today, to the displeasure of the Kharu-Natjer. Her lack of appearance earned her a scornful comment from Talon.

"There is the inner and outer portcullis, and in-between them there is the actually door."

Malkev had been kind enough to provide a detailed description of the gate's workings the night prior. Each portcullis was opened by their own winch and pulley system. Once the gate's reached their apex the would lock into place to both the benefit and detriment of the pact makers.

On the one hand, it meant that the pact makers didn't need to hold the portcullis opened. On the other hand, each portcullis locked into a lever that would cause the locking mechanism to release when hit with a sludge hammer. It was a defensive measure built into many gates these days. The release mechanism allowed soldiers to quickly shut the gate on an invading foe, trapping them between to metal grates. It was kill zone of sorts. A trap allowing the defenders to pick off enclosed invaders with ease.

This was why it was important to maintain control of the opening mechanism for both of the portcullis. The outer portcullis had its winch exposed at the top of the gatehouse. The winch for the inner portcullis, however, was enclosed inside the gatehouse's guardroom. The pact makers would need to make it inside the gatehouse to open that winch.

The door between the two metal gates was held in place by a thick wooden bar. So not only would they need to open the inner and outer portcullis, but they would need to unbar the door as well. Fortunately unbarring the door was more trivial in comparison to taking control of the two opening mechanisms. That, however, didn't make the job any less important.

"You will each be given a bag of salt. It wasn't cheap. So do be careful not to lose it all before taking on the seed. And remember, don't forget what our friends told us. Rip out its hearts. Cut off its stem. Salt the stump. Only then can we kill the seed..."




The world changed within an instant. The sun turned green and shifted in the sky. The sky turned black, like night, just without casting the remainder of the world in darkness... though everything did seem gloomier, oddly. The sight stopped General Viktor Frost in his tracks. He could hear his men muttering with concern. The words 'Dark Magic' popped up more than once.

Colonel Raelar stepped up beside Viktor seeming strangely unperturbed. "Scouts weren't lying then." The colonel said in a flat tone.

General Frost exhaled softly. "So it would seem, Colonel." Viktor agreed.

"Point towards the Lieutenant's sanity then." Raelar said with a sniff. "But, do the rest of her words ring true or are they mere fancy?"

"With any luck, the Lieutenant will open the gate and we won't need to find out."

Raelar eyed Viktor with a frown. "Well then," He said. "Shall I have have one of our feathered familiars give us a look beyond those walls?"

General Frost nodded curtly. Frost's next move depended on whether or not the girl had received his message.

He was about to focus his attention on calming the troops when suddenly the gates stirred. They opened wide enough for a lone rider to exit.

"Ah." Raelar said. "That must be their envoy. Well General, I'll leave you to it."

Viktor drew his mouth in a line. He watched as the rider drew closer.



"Open the gate! Let us out! Open the gate! Let us out!"

A small crowd of angry citizens had gathered at the foot of the wall. Crowds like this had apparently started gathering sometime during Tayla's isolation. Apparently some lord named Malkev had rallied the people up, instigating them into protest.

"You don't own us!" She heard one of them shout. "You don't control us!"

Tayla ignored the shouting for the most part. They had people patrolling the foot of the wall making sure nobody got too close. According to Smit, who was now her boss, it was their job to assist in securing the wall and the gate's opening mechanisms.

Smit... She thought her grip on the hilt of her blades tightening. She could feel her nerves tumbling around like little pebbles inside her chest. Thinking about Smit made her feel... what? Anxious? Betrayed? Remorse? Jealousy?

Too many feelings circled around that man. Emotions which had only been stirred when she bumped into him the day prior.

"I hear you've taken my... old position." She had said to him that day, after breaking a long awkward silence.

"Someone has to keep the newbies in check." Smit had replied with shrug. "I didn't exactly ask for it... well... sort of..."

"Sort of?"

Smit cleared his throat uncomfortably. "You made it clear to me that my help was neither needed nor wanted."

"I-" Tayla started, but she was quickly cut off.

"You nearly killed me trying to smash that woman with the bell."

"I saved you!" Tayla retorted.

"And immediately after you put a sword to my throat."

"You were undermining my authority!"

"Tayla..." Smit sighed. "Look where your authority got you."

Tayla stiffened. His words catching her off guard. Since when did Smit argue back?

"Does it not even bother you that you nearly got me killed?"

Tayla's hands balled up into fists. Her gaze lowering towards the ground. His words hit at something. Something she didn't want to acknowledge.

"You... you sold me out..." She said at last. Her words had a tremble to them.

"I-"

"You sold me out!" She shouted. Her eyes meeting his with a look of pain. "You made me think I could trust you and then... then you sold me out..."

Smit gave Tayla a hard look. "I took your advice after that night." He said quietly. "I told Sightless Syella that I was ready to lead my own group of clan members. You know... just like you said I should." Tayla's heart skipped a beat. Smit in turn drew his mouth in a line. "She gave me your team... Like I said, I didn't ask for this."

Tayla shook her head. Tayla didn't have time to think about Smit right now. Right now her main concern was to hold the gate.

Standing atop the wall's fortifications she looked out towards the Army of Touch. Their rider had finished negotiations it seemed. He was on his way back.

Hold the gate. That is what the Sightless had told the Clan. The army of touch had no siege weapons or boats with them. They would need time to take the city, and that was something the Clan had on their side.

Every day the Distortion grew. Already its influence reached beyond the town's walls. Soon, it would reach further. Far enough to shroud any effective location for the army to make proper camp for a prolong siege. That alone played to the Clan's advantage... in more ways than one...

"Open the gate! Open the Gate! Open the gate!" The citizens cried. It appeared more people had joined the crowd. Tensions between the crowd and clansmen were rising.



Sightless Nieffar stood by the eastern gate. Behind him stood Sightless Syella and four other Sightless. The envoy had finished bringing them up to speed. The Army of Touch had ignored Nieffar's request to hold negotiations as expected. Instead, they demanded unconditional surrender. Open the gates to them, and they would handle things peacefully. Resist and there would be bloodshed.

"Bloodshed?" Sightless-to-be De'laire -no... Sightless De'laire- said. "Oh no no no... Wouldn't want that... or would we? Could rid us of those protesters, hm? They are quite noisy, yes..."

Sightless Nieffar gave De'laire a frown. She had been rubbing her eyes intensely the day prior, as one does when the itch spreads to the eyes. By night time, she had taken to clawing at her eyes. Her screams of agony mixed with cries of joy. Both had echoed throughout the once Inn as the woman made her transition to Sightless.

De'laire did not yet have the full look of a Sightless. Though her skin had already begun to harden, its hue was not quite black. Likewise her blood had yet to fully change to the sickly greenish yellow puss. Instead her newly scratched out eyes bled a light orange goop. It slowly gathered at her damaged eyes until it succumbed to gravity's weight and slid down her cheeks. The woman didn't seem to mind though. She let the goop do as it willed, all the while muttering to herself in typical De'laire fashion.

Sadly, turning Sightless had made the once Crazed woman no less crazy. It seemed her hopes to regain her lost sanity had proven fruitless. On the upside, she no longer would wield her magic against their new recruits. The ones who were unfortunate enough to not know better than to talk over her. Like all who go Sightless, De'laire's previous magics were now lost to her.

On the flip side, however, her new powers would make her even more dangerous. Though not at her full strength yet, she had already proven capable of strangling a poor clansman early today. His crime? Whistling.

Sightless Nieffar made a tisk with his tongue. The crowd of protesters were getting quite noisy indeed. What's more, the crowd was growing. A few people were even beginning to shove at the clansmen holding the crowd back.

Sightless Nieffar tilted his head quickly left and right, producing a loud pop from his neck. He found the people's cries irritating. The noise made the call of Insight stir within him. It beckoned to him. Urging him to dive into its depths. The desire to let it take him was strong now. It had been that way ever since that night at the tower. The night where he let himself slip.

“Syella, De'laire, with me. The rest of you, tend to your positions.” Nieffar said to the other Sightless. They nodded and spread out, Syella and De'laire falling in step with Nieffar.

"I don't like this." Sightless Syella said. "I don't like this one bit."

“You worry too much.” Nieffar said.

"And you worry too little." Nieffar's mouth twitched in annoyance at Syella's words. "Are you prepared to abandon this precious town of yours if the milk turns sour?"

"Everything is under control." Sightless Nieffar replied.

"Really?" Sightless Syella shot back. "And what of that one?"

Nieffar furrowed his brow, confused. He let the Insight guide him. Showing him the one Sightless Syella referred to. Within moment he found the man. He stood atop a crate at the center of the crowd of protesters. A crowd of protesters which had grown quite large...

It was Lord Malkev O'Kal. It seemed the man was addressing the crowd...



"This is our city! Our home!" Malkev shouted to the roaring crowd, his voice projected through use of one of his personal guard's magic abilities.

"And yet they take from us, acting as if they own this city. They take our food! They take our sky! They take our loved ones and twist them to their ways!" Malkev looked to the crowd meeting the gaze of individuals. "We cannot let this go on!"

The crowd roared. Raising sticks, poles, chisels and hammers. Malkev waited for the crowd to quiet. He then dramatically pointed to the eastern gate.

"Beyond that gate lies the Army of Touch. They've come to help us! Come to purge the cult from this town! Come to put an end to this Distortion! However... they cannot do this alone... It is up to us to help them! Up to us to open that gate!

"So I ask you all this one question. What do you say to taking back our own city?"


The people cheered. The people roared. The people rushed the cult for their lord...

And thus the Battle of Shimmer Town began.
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In the distance, Chres could make out an angry mob of people rushing at the well armed group protecting the gatehouse. It seemed, that once again Shimmer Town was going to be a town in chaos. Except this time, instead of people turning on their family and friends, the cult was in their sights.

Soon enough, the violence would spread through the streets. Ideally, Chres and the rest hoped to make it into the north side of the eastern wall before that happened.

Watching from behind the cover of an illusion they had Octavio hobble together the night before, Chres and the rest waited a decent distance away from the Northern tower of the eastern town wall. There a small faction of the wall guard waited, stationed by the door.

These guards, like the rest of the wall guard, had been turned by the cult. They stood watch, making sure no one infiltrated the wall from inside the town. A few guards wouldn't have posed much of a problem for the group. Problem was, Chres and the others didn't just have to worry about the guards on the ground, but also the guards atop wall as well.

"Shouldn't be much longer now." Chres said, sporting a newly found headband, said to the rest of the group. "They should take notice of the fighting soon enough. When they pull away, that will be our moment to strike."

Chres had picked up the headband the night before and promptly began storing his excess body heat into the head attire. With the head band, Chres now able to store the maximum amount of body heat his magic allowed. No longer could he afford to walk around with just enough stores of body heat to get by. From now on, he would need every bit available to him... especially for today's fight.

"How you holding up, Octavio?" Chres asked the ridiculously dressed man. Even on a day like today. Octavio had chosen clothes which appeared more stylish than practical.
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Karina knew that the barrel of powder that was the city was about to blow at any moment. Not only the cult seemed to be moving and more active than ever but the people of the city, those who weren't brainwashed by the cult yet, that is, were also tired of all that. The streets were brimming with noise, unlike any of the many days she was trapped inside it. Angry shouts from the population, mad ramblings from brainwashed cultists and more. Beyond the walls, beyond those gates, the army of touch waited. The first time Karina knew that they indeed came, she was a bit relieved. No matter the reason, they did come.

At the distance, the angry shouts could be heard as a mob of angry people charged at the guards who were defending the gatehouse. The confusion would be welcome for their group, which had their own important tasks to complete. Bloodshed was unavoidable and Karina knew that. The cult wouldn't simply stay put, watching the army of touch destroy their plans and they certainly didn't seem to be the type of people who had any qualms in killing innocent people... They did things far worse than that on a regular basis, after all...

Meanwhile, Karina, Chres and the rest of the group were finishing their preparations. Much like the first day when Karina had arrived on the city, she was wearing the same courier attire but with a few extra layers of cloth beneath it. Discreet and virtually impossible to notice, they would be very useful in the battle to come. After all, she knew that she would probably have to use a great deal of her ability and if she didn't take the necessary precautions, her bodily temperature could fall to dangerous levels.

"You guys are better to get ready. Things will get pretty chaotic from now on..." she said to Chres, Octavio and the others as she finished her preparations.
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Týfurkh still felt his body aching here and there, but the -- albeit relative -- comfort of staying underground for a while had helped to mend a few internal things here and there so all in all he felt ready to go again. Luckily none of his equipment had gone lost, but it had required some effort to restock on bolts for his crossbow. It was a big weapon and not just any bolt did justice to it. A projectile too small and light wasted a lot of energy and reduced its efficiency, others didn't fit into it in the first place and would snag or completely derail on their way out. What Týfurkh had ended up with were a few bolts freshly fabricated, a custom-made creation whose quality would hopefully keep up to the high standards of what he had brought with him into the city.

"I am ready!" Týfurkh called out, the thudding of his steps indicating that he was in full armor. A few new small scratches and dents here and there, but they only added to the others and didn't impair functionality. "If I may suggest something then it's that I could try to lure some of the guards away by making some noise that only they can hear. I could also try to kill a few of those standing on the wall with my weapon, but I'm not convinced that this would be the best idea."

The man looked at his companions, checking whether he had their full attention or not before continuing: "Maybe we should not take the direct route but use some of the other entraces this wall is bound to have ? I don't know this place, but at least in the Nation Of Hearing any big city fortification has inner tunnels and plenty of entries or exits towards the settlement it is protecting. We could take one of those further away from the gate and rush forward through these tunnels. If we're lucky we arrive as a surprise and could disable everybody before anyone can run away and tell the remainder that we're there. The moment they find out about our position we will likely be outnumbered quickly anyway, so better make this quick and hideous I think!"

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Octavio warped the features of an illusion of himself, starting with more practical adjustments such as adjusting the locations in which its many, many knives were kept to ruffling its hair to just the right amount. It was all in the details.

"Ehh," he groaned, an answer to Chres' question in of itself. "The problem with illusions is that it's far too easy to spread yourself thin and end up making a mess." He continued to make small changes to the figure, with care but none of the warmth the word implied. It was less like watching a person dress another one up and more like watching a sculptor working under a time limit. "But on the other hand, my newest acquisitions are working well enough for me to go that far." He didn't go into detail, assuming his illusion sheltering them provided enough of an explanation.

He had made the decision to purchase a disorganized mess of accessories meant for illusion magic. Some of them were from skeevier sources than others, and he still wasn't sure which ones were the ones working at the moment, but he felt their power easing his mind. When it came to illusions, it was less about being able to store large quantities of energy and more about having the stamina to create them both consistently and competently. The tangle of amulets under his clothing and rings under his gloves served to provide him with a sort of support system that relieved him of the discomfort he'd usually feel. A support system he wasn't going to think too hard about. Like the plan involving the familiars.

I can trust Syl. I can trust Syl. I can trust Sy-

A warcry rose above the rest for a second, snapping him out of his focused state.

"I think I can start on another one of... me, provided things don't crash and burn beforehand."

His previous self would have referred to them with a lot more flair, but it didn't feel appropriate anymore. The word illusion would be good enough, he supposed.

"Dividing the attention would work. If it's a numbers game, then that reduces their advantage over us," he told Týfurkh, pausing his efforts for a moment. "But you're right. It's not an elegant idea. They could catch wind of us pretty fast."
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Chres nodded in agreement. "Yes," He said to Týfurkh. "As soon as-"

The toll of a bell interrupted Chres'. It seemed the wall guard had raised the alarm at the eastern gate. All at once, the guards turned their head. After a few quick orders, a few of the guards at the top of the wall shifted their position, rushing to reinforce the East Gate.

The guards positioned at the foot of the wall, however, didn't budge. They held their position, guarding the entrance into the wall's fortifications. If anything, they looked more alert.

There were three guards in total. Nothing the Pact Makers couldn't handle. Taking them out without raising an alarm, however, well that might require more finesse.

"Do it." Chres said more urgently. "But, we'll need to sell this thing. especially if we plan the take them out before they notice our approach."

As he spoke, he called on his stores of body heat and Compressing it into a tiny ball in the palm of his hand. The tiny ball of unstable energy glow a dull red, barely noticeable in the daylight.

"So," Chres said, raising both his hands in front of to his lips, "I propose we add a touch of magical chaos into the mix."

More stored heat flowed into the palm of Chres's hands. As the energy pored out Chres Shaped the energy into the form of blowpipe with the Compressed ball of energy tucked neatly inside.

Quickly aiming his shot Chres blew into the blowpipe and launched the unstable orb into the distance. As he watched the orb go flying, Chres released the pipe-shaped heat construct, while making sure to reabsorb the remaining energy that had not already dissipated into the surrounding air.

It only took a moment before the orb impacted with a patch of earth south of the guards. There, the earth erupted, blowing pieces of dirt and stone into the air accompanied with a modestly audible boom.

The three guards jumped, weapons out. "What was that?!" One of them shouted.

Chres smiled to Octavio and Týfurkh confident they could handle the rest. Turning to his gaze to Karina, Ferris and DB... no... Jen, Chres motion his head towards the guards.

"Best hurry before they notice." He said walking out of the cover of Octavio's illusion at a brisk pace. A pace quick enough to close in on the guards, yet slow enough to avoid drawing the guard's attention. "Otherwise, we'll miss our chance."
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Karina heard to Týfurkh's words carefully as he started speaking. Indeed, they were heavily outnumbered and the second they got discovered, they would be surrounded. Just like the plan they had discussed earlier though, if everything was done correctly, they would have at least some time until the cultists realized what was happening. They had to capitalize and make the best use of that short amount of time.

"We should try to draw as little attention as possible. We will have at least some time until the sightless realize what is happening. We need to make the best use of this short time as we can." Karina said, turning to Týfurkh and the group with a confident expression. She knew that her plan wouldn't fail if everyone did their job or if by any huge stroke of bad luck, something unexpected happened. After all, she was a strategist and was confident in her intelligence.

"They will. Sooner or later they will discover what we are trying to do, Octavio. Our job is to have already done what we need to the second they discover." she said to him.

Unfortunately for them, the time was getting short and the toll of the bell, indicating that the guards had raised the alarm on the eastern gate meant that they had no time left for strategize.

With the guards already alarmed and an added distraction caused by Chres, the clock had began ticking. With the time until the sightless finally discovered what they were trying to do getting shorter, they had to move now and be quick about it.

"Remember, we are running against the clock. Be quick, quiet and efficient." Karina said to the group before they began their plan.

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Had Týfurkh ever expressed his admiration for Chres' illusions ? He could not remember any such occasion, so that was something to be added to his later to-do list. For now however there was no time for such things as time indeed was of the essence. With clanking armor that would not do good in any stealthy situation close to hostiles he stepped out and took cover behind a nearby arrangement of wooden crates, searching for a gap two stacks that was small enough not to be seen from further away, but large enough for him to do his magic.

"Guards! Over here!"

He, Chres, Karina and everyone else nearby would be able to hear a quite commanding, male voice that seemed to come from one of the embrasures of the wall. Týfurkh moved his mouth as if he was shouting, yet his own position emitted nothing but silence.

"Hurry! We got trouble!"

This time it came from one of the adjacent embrasures, a little less loudly as it already was further away from their current position and leading away from it. Týfurkh was not targeting the guards directly, but instead his magic hit the wall and caused an echo that concealed the voice's true origin, making it possible to believe that indeed a higher ranking soldier was running along one of the tunnels in the wall and giving orders to his subordinates who were standing outside whenever there was a slit in the wall to shout through.

"Let's see if this works. I could try to acoustically blow up something over there but maybe it will take some time for them to realize that this is a false alarm anyway."

The last words, of course, were in his normal voice and directed towards his companions.
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The men seemed hesitant. As if torn between their duty and helping their comrades. Two of the guards looked to the guard closest to where the voice came from. Blessedly, that was away from the direction in which Chres and the rest were approaching.

Chres quickened his pace.

"Who said that?" One of the men asked. "We under attack?"

The guard next to the first scoffed. "Are we under attack?! Are you thick of skull, Heb? Did you not hear the bell? Don't take a one of 'em scholarly Hearing folk to see we're under attack!"

Just keep on talking. Chres thought. As he quickly closed the distance with the first man, Heb.

"Just asking, is all." The first guard asked, looking a more than a little embarrassed. "We just gonna stay here, then?" He then ask to the thirds guard. A man who looked to be the one in charge.

The third guard had his hand on his weapon, his eye darting from the ground that just erupted to the direction from where the voice came from.

The guard's eyes wandered back to the place where the ground flew apart. "That was magic..." The third guard said, ignoring the question entirely. "Stay alert men! I don't like the smell of-" The third guard turned to face the other two- Shit!

Chres took off at a run, while quickly whipping out his 'procured' hatchet and holding it's handle both hands. Holding the hatchet above his head, he hurled it at the man in charge just in time to catch him before he could alert the other two.

The hatchet took the man in the chest, causing him keel over. The other men jumped, weapons out. The second man openned his mouth as if to alert the wall. However, Chres didn't have time to deal with him or the guard named Heb.

Though surely at death's door, the third guard still clung to life. Worse yet, the man had a horn which he was slowly raising to his lips.

Chres dove between the two other guards, dagger out.

Horn too his lips, the dying man took breath and-

A splash of crimson spray from the man's throat. His neck cut clean with Chres' blade. Unfortunately this had left his back open to the other two men.

"Bastard!" Heb yelled his sword plunging towards Chres' back.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by HokumPocus
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Octavio and his two illusions streaked through the ground like rabid dogs, making only the faintest traces of noise as they ran into the heat of battle. His second illusion, the one he had failed to give a complete form to, tailed its two allies, its features warped and its clothing lacking any of the finer details of its brethren. It was similar in appearance, albeit with features that could have been called distorted. It looked as if a foggy reflection were in motion.

The descent of his group onto their target was similar to the way pack animals ambushed and tore their prey apart. There was no definitive, single blow that signalled a beginning or end to their attack, rather an onslaught of flourished daggers against armor, probing one after the other in a frenzied hunt for bare skin. The second illusion had taken a supporting role, its weapon smudged and crude yet blunt enough to refuse being ignored. It fought harder than the rest, aiming for strikes to the head and legs, displaying no hesitation in hurting itself for the sake of hurting another. It hit the floor frequently, scrabbling and clawing its way up using whatever warm body was available, bruises spreading to every inch of its smudged shape in dark streaks.

The element of surprise was all a rogue needed to transform from a lowly scavenger into a far bigger menace as Heb would witness with his ally. Six pairs of lifeless eyes stared back at the other guard, three daggers each. A pair of throwing knives littered the ground around them in a smear of red and silver, like the metal bones of an animal they had devoured. A fight this unfair was when he was strongest, although Octavio took no pleasure in killing, so much so that it bled through into his illusions. It only took a stiff movement of the arm to break their hesitation, however, as the strongest of the two withdrew a stiletto knife and plunged it through sinew and flesh.

Clinging to the awareness of all his illusions amidst the sharp scent of blood and the plumes of dust that rose in the distance, it was hard for him to register what the pause in the remaining guard's movements meant. A change of plans now that he had three more opponents to deal with? Was he going to resume attacking Chres? Was it fear? Octavio couldn't quite tell through the haze of adrenaline and sensory information. He crouched and retrieved a throwing knife, which had missed its marked yet ended up splattered regardless.

"Surrounded by enemies, all by yourself," he uttered.

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Due to her magic being not exactly ideal for that type of misdirection and the fact that, due to her unique magic, it would be incredibly obvious to almost any cultists that she was behind it, she simply stood by in silence. Chres' previous distraction would already make things easier for them but thanks to Týfurkh, using his magic to further confuse the soldiers, which gave them enough time to approach them.

Following Chres closely, Karina carefully and slowly unsheathed her rapier, in order to not make any sound. The moment Chres jumped on the guards, Karina followed soon after, ready to dispatch of those guards in a swift manner. What they weren't expecting though was the fact that the guard Chres had already struck, would still try to sound the horn he had with him in his last moments. Thanks to Chres' quick thinking though, he slit the dying man's throat before he could sound the horn.

Their attack on the guards was swift and brutal, especially when aided by Octavio's illusions. The guard that was going to attack Chres after he finished the one that was going to sound the horn was now paralyzed due to Octavio's illusions. Confused and probably in fear after what he saw, he was an easy prey for Karina, who dashed towards his direction in a deadly lunge. No magic was necessary to finish him. Two quick and precise movements from Karina's rapier were enough. A single stab in the heart, followed by a slash to the throat in order to prevent the guard from screaming. Death came quickly as the remaining guard fell to the ground, dead.

It wasn't the first time Karina had seen Octavio's illusions but that didn't prevent her from being surprised by it. More than anyone else, Karina was familiar with how dangerous and effective illusions could be, since her father was one of the most famous users of that type of magic. Looking to Octavio, Karina nodded in a silence gesture of appreciation for his skills and help.
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Chres looked to Karina and Octavio nodding in thanks. Whether Chres deserved death or not, getting impaled by a guardsman in the back would have been a death most unideal. Cleaning the his dagger and hatchet on the dead man's clothes, he reached out to Sil.

Sil, Chres thought to his familar. What's your status?.

Status? Sil thought back. Utterly adorable, thank you very much!

That's not what I meant.

Well maybe that wasn't what I meant either, so there! Her thoughts had a feeling of conviction to them.

I-

Can't talk now! Sil interrupted. Playing tag.

Chres sighed. Knowing Sil, playing tag could mean any number of things. What he hoped it meant was that their distraction was proceeding just fine.

Shaking his head, he glanced down at the dead man beneath him, noticing a ring of keys at his side. Grabbing the keys, he then got to his feet and made his way to the entrance the now dead men had been guarding.

"Crystal Jade candles out." Chres called behind him. They each had been fitted with a satchel carrying salt and a crystal jade candle. Chres' and Octavio's candles, however had gone to their familiars.

Chres made to fit the first of the keys in the door's lock, but before he could test the key, the door swung open.

"Shift's up." Said the man opening the door. The man paused, looking from Chres to his dead companions. He opened his mouth to shout, in time to get a blade in the throat.

Chres charged the man, pushing his collapsing body back inside. Chres entered a room fill with 6 other men.

Well... Chres thought, hatchet out. So much for being stealthy.
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