Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Aristo
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Aristo The Hobgoblin in the Cupboard

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“Many centuries ago, far before the dark ages of ash and brimstone, long before the birth of the Cradle, an ancient people dwelled in the shadow of a great mountain. This civilization manipulated the magic that dwelled within it, and used it to achieve unsurpassed feats of technology and engineering. With their knowledge of the unknown, they created what some might have once called a utopia. They wanted for nothing - yet yearned for everything. Such was their hubris, they believed their kind to be gods. With the mountain’s sorceries at their disposal, life had become trivial. Basic needs an afterthought, they turned to the arts, to scholarly pursuits, pastimes and excesses. In the last of their days they sought utter perfection, and crafted a great device to grant them the only thing they truly lacked - immortality. However, the mountain relented at their decadence. This was the Omega: a cataclysm of a scale never before seen. The inferno eradicated the guilty, and in its last gasp, the mountain collapsed, burying all with it. The death of the mountain birthed the Cradle as we know it.”

“We are not true descendants of these ancients, but we bear their curse. A dark heir of this hubris, a sorcerer, lingers in our midst. While the nations battle - not even a stone’s throw away from this very town - this fiend attempts to harness the divinity of the ancients. I can only assume this to be an attempt at succeeding where they failed. If the Omega has taught us anything, it is that immortality was never meant to be. As children of the Cradle, it is our duty to bring a stop to this scheme before it sees the light of day. Should this sorcerer succeed, I fear he will doom us all in a second, worse, Omega. A humble scholar I might be, but I have journeyed far and wide to gather this information, and trust me when I say I have found a way to thwart this attempt at divinity. In the catacombs buried beneath the Brimlands near Baccum, I have charted the location of the very device the ancients hoped would grant them divine power. It must be found without delay - before the sorcerer does.”


- - -


Farrin the Elder eased himself back into his chair with the feeble strength of a man past his years. His barren head reflected the midday light, a golden halo from one temple to the other. The air was filled with dust, screams and the rattling of metal as men flying banners of Mennon and Kathor killed and died a few kilometers away. Farrin’s wrinkled face paid no heed to the battle, and instead the once-legendary Mennonite patted his scuffed lamellar armor in search of an old leather pouch.

He stared at the adventurers gathered before him, seated outside the only tavern in town, in which the locals had barricaded themselves for refuge. Slowly the bearded hero pulled a strange gemstone from the pouch. It was the shape of an egg, but the size of a fist, with strange colors changing as light danced off its surface. Its was unlike any stone those assembled had ever seen.

“This is but one piece of the device,” Farrin explained, “There are four more like it, each required to power the ancient device. I plan to gather all five, and destroy them - and then destroy the sorcerer himself. From my studies, I have determined that the Omega scattered these stones across the Cradle, one in each corner of the land and into the hands of each nation. I managed to capture this particular gem from a ruin deep under Mennon… but not without cost.”

The old man raised his bandaged arm, gesturing to the stump where his right hand ought to have been. “The quest to gather the remaining gems will not be easy, and I cannot do it alone. But great fame and glory awaits those who try, and should we be successful, we shall preserve the balance of the Cradle for generations to come. Great peril, great reward and great duty.”

“Will you join me?” Farrin asked, scanning the group with wise yet, hungry eyes.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Dr Catfish
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A Few Days Ago

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The man grumbled, wiping off blood from his skin and spears. It wasn't uncommon for him to be covered in bodily fluids. Be it sweat, blood or even puke from over-exertion. Such things were all a part of his daily life now. At one point it was only during spars and hunts where this happened. He was at least cleaned and schooled during his younger days. One might even call him decent. Of course 'decent' in Baccum meant a hell of a lot of difference to other races... That became apparent very, very soon after his exile. He paused to be more gentle over a light scar across his lower abdomen. A new war-wound it would seem.

Perhaps being alone for so long was finally getting to him, by Kalpii did he miss human interaction. Yet he more or less forced it all upon himself. He made it a strict policy on his own behalf not to speak to the people he saved. Sure he often gave looks of sadness, pity, happiness or whatever emotion he was feeling at the time - but nothing else. He made the mistake of doing so his first 'rescue'.
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She was a small girl, only about nine winters. She had dropped the basket of mushrooms she once held out of terror. Ahead of her, three rather hungry gorrak. Of course they had come, she had been singing and humming as children did; cluelessly ambling into a well known section of natural caves for spontaneous gorrak attacks. Obviously she wouldn't know that - but her parents would. The noise drew them out to an easy meal. Meager but easy, no gorrak would complain. Cical had heard her too, singing a song in his tongue which even his own mother had all those years ago. It spoke of Kalpii, the figure of protection and health. Something well known which would grant safe-passage or good bounty. Whether or not it failed was up to debate. It drew in both the beasts and the man who would save her. He had been watching her forage for some time, leaping in between the two sides with his long spear already drawn. Each one of the beasts and their heads hissed menacingly, legs and heads spreading outwards into an aggressive stance, preparing to attack.

While they were simply beasts, they had limited intelligence in what were and what were not threats. A man wielding a spear - filed into the latter section. With one hand on the middle grip, the spear rested with the shoe of the weapon near his opposite shoulder. Cool blue eyes flickered between nine snake heads, all eighteen fangs. Without waiting for the animals to strike first, the wild man lunged forwards. The tip of his weapon was a blur as it sliced through one thin knee of the right-most gorrak. The sheer suddenness of a lack in support toppled the creature to its now weak side. For the moment; it would be incapacitated. At the end of his strike, his elbow snapped upwards and the whole motion was reversed. The shoe - the bottom - of the spear struck outwards into the still agape maw of a gorrak head. The top half snapped backwards like a badly constructed hinge, falling limp off the side of the beast's body. It was only one of three, but that was better than none. With the bottom so far from his center of mass, he placed his second hand in a grip opposite to his first, curling his body with the motion of a downwards slash back to the right. The middle beast - one to the left of his legless pack member - had already begun reacting with its two remaining heads, beginning to coil so they could snap outwards only to be halted as the spear embedded itself in its body. The strike was far from enough to continue straight through, so it was stuck in the gorrak's ribs. One lung was totaled however, so it would quickly perish unable to do much more than drown in its own fluids.

The third of the pack had already started looping around the spear-man's back, hissing sharply at its dead mate. Being halfway bent down to one side, he simply crumpled up further, rolling along the ground and pushing off with his arms to reset himself on his feet. Before he was exiled, he had been given an attachment of sorts to affix on his loincloth. On the back, were two small leather holsters which perfectly held the spears he used. One weapon was too short to see from the front, the other would casually stick out above his right shoulder when inside. That spear specifically was embedded within a gorrak however, so when one hand reached back and tugged up to retrieve the shorter spear, the holster was left empty.

In his left hand now was a much shorter weapon. In one quick incomplete turn he inhaled sharply as the remaining gorrak charged in full force. "Sonofa-" He scowled. He leaned backwards to avoid the strike of a snake head. With the awkward angle, he tried to pull the spear upwards to try and attack the beast's midsection. It was incredibly misjudged, as it hardly struck just near the hind quarters. It was a superficial blow and did nothing beyond piss the gorrak off. By now, the still alive - but disabled - one had managed to clambered to something that could be called standing. It was more a sentry, as it couldn't move but could strike with its heads. It left retrieving the long spear an impossibility.

The stable gorrak had reversed its charge, letting Cical move into a better striking position. His knees bent, body lowering to appear more like the feral animal some would believe him to be. When the gorrak moved within ten feet in its charge, Cical moved into action. Like a human sized guided missile, his legs shot out and propelled him into the beast's chest. The spear also shot forwards, striking the creature in the chest just above the large V shaped bone segment. This part was soft, and allowed the weapon to embed itself fully into the soft flesh and vital organs within. The full weight of the muscle-bound man was enough to actually lift and push back the gorrak. Blood coated the entire top of him, spurting out from the large wound freely as the now deceased beast crumpled almost on top of Cical.

Saving himself from a faceplant - only barely - he got back up and took some time in trying to pull the short spear from its kill. It actually got caught on the segment of bone along the gorrak's chest, and he had to reposition the blade and pull several times until it got free. Cursing the ridiculous craft of the blade, he returned to face the last remaining gorrak who no doubt viewed the spear-man with sheer anger. It tried to hop forwards into attacking range, yet could only move an inch or two at a time and decided that was costing too much energy. With a sigh, he decided to look for the girl.

"Hey girly, you're safe to come out now. This last beasty isn't going to hurt you any more so long as you don't get close." He explained, using as soft a tone as he could. Blood and sweat covered the majority of his upper body. Crimson marred the ivory blade of his held spear. From a bush near to where she had dropped her goodies a shuffling noise originated. Without really looking, he strode towards the last gorrak and gave its chest a poke with an outstretched weapon. He was confident but he was far from careless. One bite would probably kill him - he didn't know of an antidote. A trickle of blood gently began staining the feathers of the creature. Futilely, it struck out only to be inches short of his flesh. Pulling back, moving closer and placing the spear in his right hand he quickly slashed horizontally and removed all three heads in one swing. Three bodies now sat on the ground.

"M-m-mister... Did you kill the baddies?" She asked in an adorable innocent voice. He almost felt bad that she had seen everything he had done.
"Yeah, they're all dead sweetheart. You can pick up your basket and run along home." He explained, moving to his long spear while he replaced the short one on his back.
"Y-you're the Prince, aren't you?" She said, causing him to freeze up. It had only been a week since his exile. Even so, that name seemed so foreign to him. He wished he could go back, to see his love once more, to continue his training, to defend his home. Regardless of what they did to him, or what had happened, he still loved Baccum. It was why he stuck around the badlands of his home.
"Ah.." He paused, unsure of what he was saying anymore. "Y-yeah, that's right girly. Prince of War." He verified, returning to the task at hand and grasping the long spear with both bloodied hands.
"Mummy said you weren't allowed to be with your family anymore because you did a bad thing." The girl rambled, crouching to pick up the basket and replace its spilled contents.
"Something like that.." He mumbled, tugging and withdrawing the spear from his kill with a quick tug.
"I can't imagine not coming home to see mum and dad... But you don't seem like a bad man." She carried on. "I think you're good... I hope they let you come back home again sometime." She finished her own task, eyes widening as he slowly moved towards her and crouched down.
Then he smiled. "I hope so too sweetheart. Now run on home, let your parents know your safe and that you brought some mushrooms home. She'll be very happy." He explained, reaching up to her face with one bloodied hand. Along her cheek, he lightly ran his thumb along her face to leave a long blood smear. In her hair, she also placed a tail feather of one of the dead gorraks. It was considerably longer than the other feathers. At least six inches in mottled gray-black.
Her eyes looked into his with such purity, he'd never forget that look of gratitude. She opened her mouth to say something, but seemed uncertain and simply took off and ran back the way she had came without looking back. When she had left, he took a moment to look himself over. "Mess" would describe him perfectly. Blood across his upper body and in his hair, spears dirtied as well... He'd need to clean.
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Oh boy how the stories about the "Twin-Speared Savior" exploded. It was so rampant, those he saved recognized him instantly. He could see it in their eyes when he verified their safety each time. A glint, that faint smolder of recognition. "I know you, you've done so much" it said. For him, it was gratitude and recognition enough. The fact that people recognized him wasn't needed, all he needed was to save his people: It had been his job. After his nineteenth winter he had been instructed by the Shaman. Secure food, protect the people of Baccum. He swore an oath as a soldier to do both to the best of his ability. While he couldn't provide food without breaking his exile (a stronger rule imposed by the Shaman) he could at least protect its people.
At this point, it was unlikely any tribe hadn't had a story or rumor of some savior who rescued an individual from certain death. While he couldn't hear the stories or rumors themselves, he knew by the simple way people began changing. They started mouthing his name, they started recognizing him, they even started to gape in awe like he was some sort of divine beast or rare occurrence. He still routinely avoided the hunting parties - they were capable of defending themselves - but he heard their conversations and they indeed spoke of him. Half the stories told of him, weren't even true. Without knowing and to his displeasure, his tale expanded greatly. Before he left Baccum's realm of exploration, he even heard the aforementioned hunting parties comment on how: Should they get into trouble, "the savior would come to their aid". What made it all worse, and finalized his departure was the simple fact that people from his tribe made poems and rhymes of him. It was the last straw, he was no martyr or prophet. He did no good, he was greedy and selfish, took advantage of an innocent woman and almost got her killed. It was his actions that orchestrated it all. He was merely attempting to reconcile for his deeds by keeping his oath to the people.

It was all for naught. In his mind he was still guilty. Nothing would fix what he had done - but he preferred it that way. On travels he went, exploring north, east, south and west. He got lost the first time. He had no maps or cartography experience. A blind man sailing the sea he simply moved where the wind and weather took him. Eventually he learned that would simply get him killed and opted to sit down and actually learn something besides combat. He would admit to stealing a mapping set from a poor traveler. He would also admit said traveler was a rather wealthy looking merchant - so it was doubtful they would miss such common supplies. He would also admit to dedicated a whole week to learning what he stole was even used for.

He did it all though and would admit if ever questioned. He shoddily marked Baccum (which could be off by about a mile or two) and set off to the west to see what would be. Eventually he found something, which was far from the greatest first impression. The woman - after her first horrified glance at the man - explained she was from a place called 'Roshad'. Little more was exchanged beyond that, since she fled as he turned his back and called him a wild beast. Nothing he hadn't heard before.

A man from Mennon was similar, as were a couple from Silesia. The only difference in interaction was from an unknown band of men, or they hit like men at least. They actually attacked him on sight. They were strange, draped in heavy cloaks that concealed most of themselves, wrapped tight however to reveal the shapes of their bodies at least. They spoke, claiming he had gone feral before he could even explain anything. Regardless of what he said, they still claimed it was an honour to be put down by them. Whoever they were, they didn't fall easily. The few strikes they landed hurt intensely. Blocking and countering their blows shook his arms to their very core and hardly did more than stalemate. In fact, some even carried through his blocks and almost ended up nicking him.

They all died, and he carried on. He never stopped travelling, it simply served to exercise his body even further than what he normally did. It left his legs unnaturally toned and actually opened up another avenue in his fighting style... If only he had a sparring partner to test it out with.

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Now

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With sheer rage he crumpled the parchment within his hands.

Heroes. They wanted Uiyo damned heroes. Heroes didn't exist. Heroes weren't possible, he knew of that first hand. Some - if they knew of his exploits -
might call him that blasted name but to himself, he would always be a blight. Heroes were only from story books, they were perfect and without fault. People were unable to be perfect. It was simple fact.

Great warriors would be a better word for it. At least that was being honest. Pah, he was being cynical again wasn't he? Oh, now he was talking to himself about himself. Gods, he was a mess now wasn't h- He caught himself, ending the thoughts before they could be continued. The parchment he crumpled was as he thought: A call to arms for everyone from everywhere that was anywhere. He had merely happened upon it, which lead him to believe they were truly everywhere. Through a scowl he viciously tore up the crumpled bit of paper. Fuming, he looked over his own maps and marked out where the meet up would take place. Even angry, he would still go.

Don't get him wrong, it wasn't to follow the leader and become some 'grand hero' or something idiotic. His reasoning was much, much more simplistic. In the end, it was: "Kill everyone who claimed to be a hero", but after some time he reconsidered that heavily. Not only was it stupid, ignorant and selfish, it was just plain impossible. If even a dozen strong men signed up, he'd probably find himself on the bad end of several weapons and die in a bloody heap. Cical was strong, tactical and skilled. But a dozen decent men at once would more often than not slay any man. It was just too much to handle at once. Weak, clueless buffoons or children would be easy. But if they were alleged 'heroes'...

It would take a day of travel. That was if he wasn't caught up in something on the way. According to the date, he'd make it in time. After much self-contemplation, he finally decided on a course of action. He'd get there, listen to whoever gathered them all spout quallin-shit, then challenge those selected to a spar. It wouldn't be to death, but they would be using very real weapons. In his mind he considered it a... "Trial of Heroes" as one would say. Something to define their right to a claim at a hero title.

With a large sigh, he shut his eyes tight. He was no hero, there was no reason for him to be, he reminded himself. Looping in circles like he was, really wouldn't change a thing about any of it. He had a destination in mind and the task for his arrival, that was all. At the moment, he'd finish cleaning his weapons and body. Glancing over his shoulder and reopening his eyes, he scanned over the pile of bodies he made, smoldering embers of flame flickering in those sapphire eyes. At least ten men lie in various stages of mutilation and dismemberment. Sure a dozen men would kill a normal man, if they were expecting the attack. Those same dozen men if taken advantage of had the effectiveness of six should one move quickly. The few bodies which had large gaping holes in their backs were indication enough. A large jagged smile split across his face. He didn't mind killing monsters and creatures that preyed on innocent people. But putting down actual humans who strove to make their brethren suffer? That was a different story. The rush, the pure satisfaction from slaughtering evil men and women was almost intoxicating.

With a flourish, the white spear became a white disk, dancing in his hand and between his fingers in spins before finding itself nestled in his back. The display with the longer spear was more elaborate, albeit more labored with extra spins using his entire body as an axis. At the end of the dexterous display, the weapon made a low 'bonk' as it flatted across his shoulders. His wrists pressed down on the staff behind his head, giving him a relaxed appearance as he started walking. A body of water would suit to clean his body eventually whenever it was found.

"Who knows, maybe this'll turn out alright." He spoke to himself, voice a smooth tone. Even from such a slight sentence fragment it was evident, a short chuckle followed. "In the end it will at least be interesting."

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It took him a little over a day to make it to the outskirts of the village. He had taken periodic rests along the way so that he could be well prepared for the 'heroes' later. Before the noon hour, he stepped into the village itself and noticed something off immediately. Everywhere he looked, there was a distinct lack of life. That wasn't saying dead bodies piled the streets or blood rained from the heavens. It was just... Distinctly empty. No sounds spilled from the houses, nor the streets. Scant garbage littered the streets, nobody avidly walked the town. It was eerie and Cical himself was unnerved. Why it was, he had no clue. He wasn't up to date with the various 'wars'. Cical returned his mind to his original plan: The tavern.

If he was honest, the entire gathering was a joke. He had everyone with the courage to court a woman to arrive, to try and throw their hat into the ring and venture for glory.

Boy was he mistaken.

Some old armless bastard gathered them outside a measly tavern and ran through his story. It was simple, identical to the order to come here to begin with. But apparently that simplicity was well rewarded. Only a handful of people arrived, not a swarming crowd like he expected. They seemed capable if rather dull. The only interesting thing was the large egg-shaped gem that seemed to attract even Cical's eyes. Without turning his head he glanced down to the two significantly smaller jewels on his hip. The power disparity between that gem, and his own two was impossible to comprehend. Like comparing a wooden raft to an aircraft carrier.

There was nobody but rugged, hardened indi- Wait a minute, was that woman even wearing clothes? Besides the fact he was near naked himself, that level of indecency was disturbing to him. He tried to repress the fact they existed from his mind. To split the silence after the old bat's speech, Cical made a simple noise.

"Tsk" He flinched, arms crossing over his scar and tattoo lacerated chest. He paused then, shaking his head like the entire thing seemed ridiculous to him.
"Joinyou. Gramps you're asking us to do the work for you. The only thing you can help us with is the knowledge of whatever the hell's in your hand. Besides that, you just solved your own problem. That egg is one of five, if this device needs all five to power it, just destroy that egg and be done with it." He paused, looking upwards and tilting his head to one side like he was thinking. "Even if you could manage without one, then all we'd need to do is get another one that's easier than the rest and destroy that." He mumbled to himself, stirring from his thoughts with a shrug. "Better than travelling across the Cradle from Roshad, Baccum, Kothar, Silesia and wasting time."

All Cical's voicing came from the back of the gathering, over top of the others. He preferred being in the background, but obviously did not shy away from bringing up topics he found faults in. His presence would come as a surprise, as he had wandered in behind the rest of the crowd once the movement died down just previous to the start of his speech. When people turned to look, they'd find a bronzed near-nude man with the tip of a spear peaking out over his right shoulder. He fit the 'Baccum male' mold extremely well. Scars, tattoos and all. His face and eyebrows were scrunched in a blend of curiosity, irritation and inquisition. The earring off his left lobe fluttered in a barely there breeze, dancing beside his neck like they were chasing and swirling an invisible target. Sun glinted off the polishes surface giving his eyes a soft glow.

"You're leaving details out old man, othe'wise this'd only need a blacksmith with two arms to swing a hammer at ... No offense." He shrugged, leaning back slightly into a cocked hip. His words weren't very well put but the point still stood. If five objects were required then they could break one and leave it be. The senile man made a story out of Swiss cheese. The wizard was either much more powerful than he lead on, the objects didn't really have much bearing on the object, or their place could be filled in with something else. If the last one was true, then only the sorcerer would need to be killed. Or so Cical argued in his head.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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Farrin grinned wide, holding the gem up before suddenly tossing it to Cical, "By the Ancestors of Mennon, I'd like to see you try and crack it, Sky gods of Roshad and the Hubris of Kothar know's I've tried."

The great old man suddenly stood up, his legs shaking not out of weakness, but something akin to a great giant waking up after a long sleep. The old Mennonite stood tall and broad despite his age. He stared intently at Cical, his remaining hand tight on the pommel of a curved Silesian blade, "if things were as easy as you suspected, there would be no use in this gathering, boy."

"But go ahead," Farrin nudged his chin at Cical, "it is only fitting we end the sin of the ancients hubris by starting with an act of our own."

Before waiting to see if Cical would attempt to break the gem, Farrin continued, "but of course, that leaves question on what we shall do when we do have all the gems. An old Roshad tale tells of the great hallow of the cradle, a dire hellscape deep underground. I believe with all five gems we can access such a terrible place, and at its center, we offer the power of the old mountain back to the cradle, and then we seal this place..."

"But of course," Farrin swallowed drly, "we have plenty of task to do before such a grande endeavor."
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Briza
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Briza Boo-Peep

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E f r a y i m W a r a q a t e a d a '
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S E V E R A L W E E K S A G O || B A C C U M || A P E L I T R I B E


It would be another long journey for Efrayim, and tonight, his tribe was celebrating his deployment. The tribute of who would be chosen for this mission had been discussed with much thought and diligence before being given to Efrayim. No strings were pulled and no favors were placed upon the wooden table when the elders took their spiritual flights to discover who would be elected from the tribe. It had been a tough decision, even for Efrayim, who willingly accepted the request. The journey would be longer than usual, and his return was expected but not necessarily a passage he would be granted. This expectation was unspoken, as always, but this time, he took it much more seriously.

A ceremony was being held in his name -- for honor and vitality. The main excitement of recognition had already happened, and Efrayim was relaxing and sitting next to his fiance Esteral, in front of the great bonfire. She was looking at the stars in the evening sky, reading them perhaps. Efrayim was outwardly paying more mind to the others from the tribe, who were dressed in lavish head-garb and dancing like serpents with their shadows. The penumbra of their bodies touched and folded, weaving in and out as they circled around the fire with sparks and smoke. Their feet thumped against the dry ground in rhythm with the drums and horns playing festive music. He thought this celebration was too much for his journey but said nothing of it against his tribe's whims and prayers -- all respected by the blessings of his father, who was the Shaman of the Apeli.

Esteral was taking this journey much more seriously than she usually did. Her thoughts were inline with Efrayim's, and if he had his way tonight, he would have spent it alone with her instead of with the rest of his family and tribe. He knew she was bothered by his leaving, more so than usual, and he thought it to be his own fault. There was comfort in knowing she would miss him. A piece of her would be noticeably missing, as some kind of longing that only he could fill, but to know she was suffering all the same was another matter in itself. They could have very well have been wed together and had their union consummated before his leaving, but the stars never aligned correctly when he was home.

She was a strong woman, he believed, and her outside appearance spoke nothing of her emotions. He admired this stoic quality in her triumphantly, and he appreciated her all the more for promising to devote herself to him, in honor of the gods. He took a swig from his drinking vessel by tipping it nearly upside down and emptying its last contents from the bowl. The mug was sqiftly clipped to the side of his leather belt, and his attention turned towards Esteral. Her dark hair was braided into a long ponytail and twisted into a floral looking bun. He thought her to be lovely like this, and he lifted a hand and gently brushed several dark strands that were too small to be tied from the nape of her neck, "We should dance." His hand clasped the back of her neck, fanning his fingers and drawing her attention with heated palms.

She shrugged her bare shoulder, feeling his hand command down her back, "Just because everyone else is dancing?" She gave him a petty smile, knowing already she would comply. Her body turned to face him more after seconds of feinting. Her inked skin tensed as she prepared herself to begin joining the festivities.

"Always, Habib. Tell me if you see me chewing khat," his brown eyes wandered, "like the elder men with no beautiful women to fulfill their wishes tonight," he held her more tightly and shook his head, "We shall not be seeing each other for a long time and ought to spend it in conviviality rather than moping like the feeble and old," he chuckled, and a knowing grin spread on his face as he turned his head upwards and confidently towards the dancing. The drum beats were beginning to sound in faster and louder tempos. His hand slipped over her shoulder and down arm, and cupped around her wrist. He felt the weight of her body trust his command. It was a good feeling, and he finished his pull by sliding his palm under hers and linking their fingers as he lead her to dance.

Instantly, Efrayim and Esteral were dancing together, no longer resting on wooden thrones. Efayim clapped his hands together, slowly moving his body to one knee, while Esteral, snaked her arms into the air, pretending to pick spiritual grapes from the gods as her lower torso swayed back-and-forth. Variations of the dance retold itself throughout the night, and sometime during their merrymaking, when the two danced more closely together, Esteral told him she had a special gift for him, as a good charm to keep him safe while he went to Mennon and to expect it in the morning, before his father blessed his departure.

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T H R E E D A Y S A G O || M E N N O N || D E S E R T E D T O W N


Due to her enormous size, Efrayim's elephant, Charu, was too large for any stables, unlike the fancy ones they both knew in Apeli. Her large body and wild looking tusks may have caused much alarm in Mennon, but due to the war and her behavior, she was seen as something protective to anyone that might be on her owner's good side. It was true. She was a loyal companion and would not deal any harm unless under command or pressure. Efrayim knew this full well, but he was also not too eager to break the masquerade of the Baccumese. For such, this resulted in the evening's cleaning, a thin layer of olive oil rubbed upon the bloodied blades of his knife and swords. Extra precaution was being taken as he sat next to Charu. She was tired from the journey, which was surprisingly more outstanding than he had expected. He himself, was fairly wide awake.

This town was only a days worth of travelling away from where he truly wanted to stop, and there were hardly any shops open, not that Efrayim had been planning on spending much time in them. Perhaps, small talk of sorts, but the small kill he had found along the way was sufficient for the night's meal. Anything else he needed could be acquired without the use of petty merchants. The display prior to his sword cleaning was beheading a snake and skinning it. He fired it and ate it quite quickly and as grotesquely as he could. This feat was anything but hard considering his artificial habits were easy to maneuver, especially when unacquainted by any of his tribe. He had also not eaten for some days, retaining mostly on water and a suppressed appetite of the tea from the evergreen leaves of khat. He thought it amusing without Esteral he was one of the elder men, so reliant on herbal remedies to keep his body from tiring without a woman to persuade him.

This was not entirely true, though. The previous thought was all in jest. These things were done for Baccum. Efrayim was obligated to follow certain instructions, and he too much enjoyed the the weary traveling spirits that guided him from town-to-town as he basked in the dream state, still alert, confident, and able to keep Charu's weariness better company. It also made the first gluttonous meal more disgusting in appearance when reaching a new town. This time, it was complete with cobra blood, which he found fortunate a find as he could pray, even if the bleak surroundings were not much of an audience for the lewdness displayed in his consumption. It was nothing short of a mess, smeared on his face and torso, and now he was cleaning his steel, humming a small lullaby to the elephant so near to him.

His own muscular body rested sideways against the large stench of a gray mammal beside him. His feet were popped upwards, one over the other, resting on the sandy outskirts of the town. His oil lamp was lit in front of him. The skies were looking lively tonight. He was feeling full from his meal and satisfied with the glide of his sword, quickly and carefully being covered by their sheaths, again. The rest of his mess was well staged, and there was not any likelihood of surprise attack. The beastly garb outfitting Charu was dangerous enough in appearance, and angering an elephant had never been wise for an inexperienced being. Efrayim's own knowledge allowed him to most if not all of the few still lingering in the town fell into such a wimpy category.

The stars were beautiful. He noted this every night, imagining Esteral looking at them, as well. He hoped she was long asleep by now, though. The night before his departure she had given him a small heirloom, a pendant. He denied her request to wear it, and instead, he tucked it into his pouch. He enjoyed looking at it, not necessarily remarked by the materialism of the object, even if he enjoyed the fine gold embossed mold of the medallion. She had tucked something away in it, and there was a puzzle to open it. While, Efrayim had already learned the proper pieces to pull. Tonight, he was wearing it around his neck, a relaxing gesture close to the beat of his heart.

The Baccumese man leaned his body forward, letting the chamber of his pipe heat from the lamp. His lips inhaled delicately as if to play a woodwind instrument, careful not to affront the gods in beginning another verse to the ballad of his journey. The irritant displeasure he had been feeling earlier disappeared, and a rush of euphoric wind combed through his mind as he settled back into Charu's stomach, as the smoke took flight and arose from his nostrils and mouth. He silently recited a small prayer to Kalpii as the ashen clouds arose and dispersed, Wabla, as did Kalpii, the Secretary of Bodiless Powers. His eyes took lazy flutters as they closed and his breathing depressed into a musing trance. 'Amin.

____________________________________________________________________________
P R E S E N T || M E N N O N || T A V E R N


There were only few outside the tavern that caused much alarm in Efrayim, and most of those who warranted any such mindfulness from him were gathered around the Elder. He took several notes of them all, fancying ways to relay what he had seen when he retired to Apeli after the mission was completed. He was a fairly firm believer that first impressions made for good plot twists in the telling of stories, but even then, his guard was still searching beyond the covers that were presenting themselves at the gathering.

However, as the Elder spoke, Efrayim listened intently to the words of the old man, not paying the other too much attention. His eyes watched as the man's wrinkles moved with less elasticity as he made his movements and gestures. He was an intriguing figure, no less. The Baccumese man found himself sizing up the elder several times, inquiring in his mind about Farrin but not saying anything, with his right arm, extended and bent and having his palm rested on his muscular thigh. He was in a relaxed state of mind, but it might as well been understood that he was alert with all intents and purposes. He was quite attracted to what the Elder was saying, and his tongue slid from his mouth, swiping his bottom lip with interest.

His large body leaned forward as the Elder was questioned. A slight nod motioned with him, as he looked to the other Baccumese man. He was a strong looking fellow, all too familiar in his attire and appearance. He had empathy for the man and decided to tip him more reverence than he would the usual guest on the street. They were related through nationalities, and it was only right to honor the Code of Baccum, "Allow me the privledge of seeing and holding the gem, as well," he quipped, arching his large body back, stretching out the strength of his chest as he motioned towards the other Baccumese man. His resting arm moved, as well, and after quickly looking over the other Baccumese, his eyes darted towards Farrin's direction, "Of all my years surviving in Baccum, I've never heard anything similar," a wiry grin twisted on his face, unsure of what the Elder knew of Baccum. He was eager to know and eager to see how the man would respond.

The Elder seemed a man of many words with different insights on different cultures. Efrayim scoffed at the thought of himself misreading the man. There was reason to be weary of the man, but Efrayim was hoping the words held the highest of truths. If not, he would go home and attend to the matrimonial celebration between Esteral and himself. While the latter seemed to have taken much to his mind, he was very much concerned with the sorcerer. It was his homeland at stake.

His head tilted, leaning his jawline against the fur of his gorget. He let out a confident pout of hot air as his eyebrows knitted in concentration, ready to accept and decipher any messages the Elder had to relay to him as he waited for the other Baccumese to try his way with the gem. It was impossible for the old man to be making up such stories. The gods had chosen him to help protect Baccum, but he honestly had no real way of knowing what the other Baccumese was thinking. It was not every journey that he had to rope conversation with a foreign Baccumese amongst outsiders. He would let the rhinoceros of a man take the first strikes.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Monkeypants
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It was mid-day in the village of Sorase. The sound of children's laughter echoed through the fields where the men tired away pulling weeds. Wives and mates, who's rugged, hardworking feet were tired from a long day of planting were finally at rest. It wasn't a particularly hot day, and many were merely content with how life was going. No disappearances in nearly three months. It was quite nice for everyone.

Nice for most.

Inside Cita's Inn, the Ale-house portion had her personal table, the table she used to sell her wares. She stood there faithfully, knowing tomorrow was the day her most common clients would return. She had here items fixed, cleaned, and well arranged. For her, this order was necessary, everything squared off. Shiniest and smallest in front, to catch her preys eyes. Then lead their view into the grand view of armors and arms that were behind her on mannequins. And it worked every time.

This though was the slow hours. It was growing dark quickly and the children were finally wearing themselves out. Cita however, was coming to grasp with something that wasn't wearing themselves down. A new customer actually, who had his eye on a new weapon. Cita stood on her side of a counter, with the table next to her. Opposite the counter stood a short, portly male who smelled of cabbage. She wasn't fond of the smell. But he had coins and she enjoyed spending them.

"So I says to the wench, You better not take my strings off of that!" He bellowed, a deep laugh rattling her to the core. She stood there, lazily slumped into the counter. Her left arm propping her up, with her right arm placed on top of an incredibly ornate bow. She was gently strumming the string with her index finger. It was calming to her, hearing the twang. But that serene tune was once again interrupted by this braggart.

"So I'm out hunting boars.. right? And yeah, the thing comes charging and I merely side step. The thing tears past me, and get stuck in a tree!" He chuckled, "So I leap into the air, and down upon him with two knives! slicing it in two!"

Cita brought her right hand up to her have, resting it into her palm. She sighed heavily, "That is." It hurt to sigh again, "Amazing."

The Braggart chuckled, staring her in the eyes silently. Cita was afraid of his next words. Is he.. going to propose to me? she thought. Or worse.. The lightning was right for romance. Flickering flames cast swirling shadows around the room. The crackling of the fireplace and the soothing sounds of wind gently beating against the walls. Her fears were realized soon enough. "So the bow. You say it was brought from Tunnel-wind Barrow?" He asked, now gazing upon the bow.

"Yes." Cita said plainly, frustrated that she had now mentioned this eight times. As her frustration continued, she found herself gently drumming her fingers along the grip of the bow.

He began reaching for what she thought was her hand, forcing her to recoil. He smiled at her and continued forward. His hand finally reached its target. His finger tips running the length of the bow. "Oh yes." He said, closing his eyes gently.

Cita's face had disgust pained across it, the thoughts this man must've had were beyond her reasoning. "Uh. Guy. So are you going to buy?"

The man nodded and leaned away from her, reaching into his pockets. "Ha, this reminds me of the time I fought the-"

Cita sighed, and muttered under her breath. "Here we go again."

"What?" He said, "No matter, So yes, There I was. You know those little shits, the desert ones. Those three foot lizards with the pointy claws? There had to be fifteen of them. They were all around."

Cita's eyes began to glaze over as he continued. His motions, forcing his hands to resemble claws and mashing it down upon the table as if he was striking a foe. Behind him though, butterflies began to gather. The colors were idyllic.. and then the bird songs and neighing of unicorns as they pranced around his head. It was the first real smile she shown all day. A deep thunderous, monotone voice caved in her dream though, but at least the voice was on her side. Geart had made his way behind the Braggart and tapped his shoulders rather hard, nearly knocking him off balance. "You buying or not."

Cita shook off those thoughts then stood upright, and forced a smile. "We will be closing Soon. And I do Believe you need This for..." She sighed, "hunting three foot lizards."

"Ah yes! you're right! I'll purchase this. Now, Please.. tell me of those arrows behind you. I had an issue before. It was when I was fighting in the battle of Kohldar." His words quickly turned to blahs.

A few hours passed and she was finishing locking up her goods. Geart was ushering our the last few patrons of the Ale house while Sheska washed the now empty display table. The Brutish male made his way towards her after closing the main doors. "Madam. the Ale House is now closed."

"Thank you." Cita replied. Geart never smiled, never nodded.. it wasn't his way, but she knew he was thankful as well.

"Madam, this came for you." Geart said, stretching out his hand. An envelope nearly crushed by his massive fingers. She took it from him and he promptly turned away, retreating into the inn portion of her establishment. Cita left her counter and walked towards a small round table, sitting lazily into one of the four chairs. After a few moments of getting comfortable, she pried open the envelope, revealing a map along with note inside. She withdrew both and placed them before her.

--
"Citalli Nahuatl,

You Like do not remember me, but I am master Zanthee Coatl IV. Your quick actions saved me, my wife, and three children from that pack of Harsnaan Wolves. I will still forever be in your debt or your actions, however I have found a way to try and begin repaying that. A strange man appeared at my doors asking about you. He must've heard the tales I had told and wanted to know more. He was very frail, possibly a messenger from someone else.

I did not tell him where you reside, but did promise I would inform you of the situation. Apparently this person is gathering people to combat that wizard that has arisen. Though many still doubt this wizard exists, it might be worthwhile to see what this Is about.

Stay safe Cita.

-ZCei

--

She pushed the note back into the envelope and examined the map "Mannon, haven't been there in a while. Even if this is some lie, it does give me an opportunity to get some new things to sell." She turned her gaze to her counter, "Definitely time to increase my stock.". "I wonder if this is even real. Maybe though

The next day, She arose, still pondering if what-if of this journey. It bugged her long into the day, all through the sales it burned her thoughts. That evening, she walked to Geart who was dutifully ushering people out of the Ale-House. "Geart I am going to be leaving for a while. I need you to take over while I'm gone." Geart merely glanced at Cita as she left the room, before turning back to the growing crowd inside the Ale-House.

---

Cita felt so tired, as if her legs were going to give out. It had been three straight days of walking, A vein attempt to outpace a thunderstorm. Perhaps it was luck though, it gave her reason to setup a camp and get some sleep. Luck swung her way once more, as right as she began to drift into sleep, a familiar sound rung out. Gentle clopping and that of wheels crushing grass and small rocks below it. "Hey!" she shouted, rising quickly from her near slumber. At first the carriage didn't stop, so she quickly grabbed what she could, leaving most of her camping gear behind as she ran for the carriage.

"Woaaah" the driver said, drawing various neighs from the horses. When it finally stopped, The driver turned his head to see Cita running for his carriage. He slowly leaned over, gazing over his broad shoulders where a young girl sat. Behind him was a large enclosed carriage. It was mostly bare inside save a few boxes. "Nat, do not speak to strangers. Just let me handle this." The driver said, standing to face Cita. "That's plenty of weapons for a petite gal such as you." he said, showing a toothy grin.

Cita finally reached the Carriage, breathing heavily at this point. "One can never be too careful." she said between huffs. "I would like to pay for passage to Mannon." The driver nodded and pointed to the door. "We are actually heading there, a small town. War torn from what I've heard. Some sort of big gathering there and I figure I can sell some wares there."

"Oh is that so?" Cita replied piquing a brow. "How much for the trip?"

"We can discuss your fare once we arrive." The driver said, noticing her lack of possessions. No pack, no cloak. Nothing to protect her from the weather except that thin outfit she wore. With that, she climbed in and the Carriage started off.

weeks later Cita was laying across a bench seat staring out of the back port. The gentle swaying of an unlit lantern was helping her to fall asleep. This all changed in a hurry as the Driver shouted to Nat to jump. As Cita Rose quickly, only to feel a massive jolt from the horses breaking free, sent her to the floor. Creaking wood and a splintering floor forced her onto her side. She heard heavy breathing and a yelp from the driver as the front wheels broke off and the Carriage itself rolled onto its side, down into a ditch. Cita held still for a few moments as the carriage had finally stopped. Her heart was racing, hands mildly trembling as confusion was still dominant on her mind. A grim reality hit when the body of the Driver slumped over through the floor. His eyes wide open as he lay dangling. She reached out for him, thinking to save him but then the blood began to flow from his lips, and as his body slowly swayed, she could see the many pieces of wood jutting from his back.

She closed her eyes hard but quickly recovered, only to hear a scream from Nat nearby. She grabbed her spear and kicked open the door, freeing herself from the inside. As Cita stood upright, the all too familiar sound of bones crunching crossed her mind as ahead was a huge snake, coiled around Nat's now lifeless body. Her face had became deformed as cracks in her face spewed various fluids and gore. A scowl crossed Cita's lips and her brow furrowed.

There was no furious yell, no thunderous charge, Only the sound of a spear cutting through the wind with intense speed. The weapon pierced the creatures face right through the middle, bursting its skull in half and pinning it to a nearby tree. Cita slowly rose from her fighting pose, and began walking towards the now dead snake. As she pulled the spear from the creatures head, Cita noticed the mangled body of Nat and shook her head.

The burial didn't take Cita long. Piling large rocks atop bodies in a ditch seemed like a poor way to be remembered, so in their name she carved Nat into the back of her pendant. As she didn't ever catch the drivers name, she merely placed her hand over her heart. "Rest easy." Cita softly said, before turning to the carriage remains. "Guess i'll be walking from here."

Daylight broke through the clouds when Cita finally arrived into the village. She sighed in relief before walking to the sage who was busy talking to a large, brute of a man. Cita wasn't impressed and continued towards them. She became even more distraught as she heard the man speak. "Othe'wise" he said, prompting Cita to remark under her breath, "Brutish, and dumb. Please don't let this be the entourage." Though she did admit to herself that his question was a valid one.

So she just merely took her place behind the slowly growing crowd of warriors. She knew this was the right group, as other men nearby seemed to show cowardice before Farrin's commanding figure. Though their fear could've been from the two behemoth Buccanese males that seemed to tower over most. Made worse for Cita as she wasn't particularly tall for a female. She placed her hand upon her forehead, and gently wiped the sweat from it before approaching the men. "Hello, so is this the sorcerer removal team?"
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"Rejoice, my sisters, for the time of our lord's arrival is finally within our grasp!" The elder called out, fires illuminating the dark night sky. A nicety lost on the majority of the cultists there, all rendered blind by their pact. Nekarta sat at the head, the celebration was in her name. It was rare for Marra to take such direct action, commanding a Sister on a quest. Especially it's importance could not be underestimated. A chance to bring their lord into this world was what every Cultist strove towards.

"It is a shame that we cannot join you on this journey." The elder continued, sitting down next to Nekarta as the lobotomized servants went about the crowd filling the cups with the dark crimson nectar the cult was so well known for. "But this was a task given to you by your lord for you alone to accomplish. We cant bring more people, as it would draw the attention of the surrounding tribes who already view us with a wary eye." The elderly woman, who was Marra knows how old, sighed as she relaxed in the seat; overlooking the crowd slowly growing into a heated frenzy. "It is no wonder Marra chose you, you were always our most accomplished Sister."

"Thank you, Elder." Nekarta said respectfully. "I will be sure to do Marra proud."

---

The Cult had provided Nekarta with everything she'd need for the perilous journey; from food and shelter to charms to ward off the wild animals. The journey itself would first take her through the Baccum lands, a treacherous journey as dangerous as any wild animal. While over the years some tribes had opened up warily to the Cult of Marra, the majority were openly hostile; failing to see the folly in their ways. Still, being just one person made it easy to avoid the major tribes, while the smaller ones knew better than to try and do something.

It wasn't long before Nekarta found herself wandering into the lands of the horsemasters, a strange, singular pull guiding her towards some unknown destiny. Battlefields littered the lands, tearing the once fertile lands to sunder and drenching the ground in the blood of warriors. While some would look upon the once green fields with a sense of awe; Nekarta couldnt help but view the old battlefields as such. The pact with Marra had torn away her vision, leaving the world a dimmed, colorless world... But the battlefields, they shone with an ethereal beauty. A beauty Nekarta knew her lord would gift to the entire world.

The woman navigated the battlefields carefully, not wanting to get caught up in any skirmishes or disturb the no doubt many looters waiting for a piece of the pie. The few people she encountered on the roads were wary of her, obviously not trusting a Baccumese... There was one pair that seemed more open to Nekarta though, offering her a ride along their carriage. Grateful, Nekarta rode along and listened to their stories. The couple was fleeing from the south, as the Kothar army pushed up aggressively.

Arriving at a town at the edge of a battlefield, Nekarta thanked the people as they quickly scurried off; unnerved by the days they had spend together. There's Nekarta found herself drawn towards the tavern. This was it. The building in her dream, the start of her quest! With her heart beating in the back of her throat, the woman made her way towards the building and pushed her way towards the group gathered at the front.

Nekarta had been unaware of the quest put out by Farrin, but upon hearing his words she simply knew that this was her task. The quest Marra had put her on. This device, whatever it might be, was the key to bringing her lord into this world and ushering in a new era of peace!

Even blind, the gem shone with a brilliance Nekarta had never seen before. Whatever it was made of, it was powerful beyond anybody's comprehension. Nekarta listened with rapt attention, keeping herself far away from the boisterous man who seemed to challenge the elder.

"Breaking a gem of such power would be a bad idea, if you were to ask me... Who knows what it might unleash if it did break?" She added to the conversation, a smile splayed across her face as she made her way up to the group in the front.

Plucking the gem from the towering man's hands, Nekarta held the brilliant stone up to the sky; admiring it's otherworldly beauty, before turning towards Farrin. "Elder, if this device is truly as powerful as you say it is, how did you acquire this key? Surely the sorcerer, in all his wisdom, would protect the very devices that can cause his undoing with his life?"
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Romero
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Alcello Bas had been in the town for hours. He had arrived at dawn, before the fighting at the edge of the town had erupted into the crescendo that it had by now become. The town was all but deserted, and Alcello had even helped the remaining inhabitants to barricade the tavern, keeping the hood over his face as he did, despite there being few who would know his face. Once the people of the town had taken refuge, Alcello had found himself a seat opposite the tavern, and pulled his pipe from his cloak, lighting it and sedately smoking it as he watched the sun climb higher in the sky.

The noise of the battle had only increased as the hours had passed, but if Alcello was phased by the screams of dying men, and the cacophony of war, he did not show it. He had watched the deserters skulk into the town, nursing their wounds and hiding in the abandoned houses like the rats they were. Most of them had wisely ignored the hooded man smoking his pipe, and the two that hadn’t lay dead in the street, looks of shock and confusion frozen across their faces.

Alcello had watched Farrin walk slowly into the town and take his own seat, in the shadow of the tavern. He recognised the man almost at once, for his very name had been etched into the legends of the kestaphos. Farrin had faded since his time as a hero, his hair gone, and his legendary sword arm cut away. But Alcello had heard the songs of how Farrin had lost his arm, of how it had been lost in a titanic struggle with some unspeakable monster, and that Farrin had made it pay with it’s life. To Alcello, seeing the old man evoked his youth, his times studying the legends of the kestaphos, of Farrin, of his father, of the long line of great warriors that had taken on the name and defended their people against whatever horrors the Cradle threw at them.

A twinge of regret tweaked Alcello’s hardened heart, and his hand subconsciously gripped the handle of his pipe as he remembered the bloodshed of his people, carnage and slaughter flashing before his eyes until he drove his memories down again, squaring his jaw as he allowed himself to be distracted by the strange figures that began to gather around Farrin.

He was surprised to see two men clearly from Baccum join Farrin outside the tavern. Alcello had travelled across the length and width of Baccum over his years of hunting, and he knew the culture that existed behind the façade of savagery, but both men matched that façade. One stood tall, heavily muscled despite his thin figure, with straggled blonde hair and barely clothed, his tanned skin covered with arching tattoos. What was most curious were the two spears that the man carried, and Alcello frowned slightly as he took a long drag on his pipe.

The other Baccum man was nearly just as tall, tattoos also covering his body, the scars crossing the bands of muscle beneath the hardened skin. Lightly armoured, the man seemed constantly ready to move, almost like some predator waiting to pounce, and Alcello couldn’t help but be put on edge, glancing at the large swords the man carried.

The gem that Farrin pulled from his pouch caught Alcello’s eyes, but he still didn’t move, preferring to watch how events unfolded from his seat across the street. It was clear that it was not just his eye that the gem caught, as the taller of the two Baccum men challenged Farrin’s story, although despite himself Alcello found himself agreeing with the questions.

Smiling slightly as Farrin rose to his feet and rebuked the Baccum spearman, but at the mention of the great harrow, Alcello’s blood ran cold. He had seen creatures and monsters that could only have been dragged from the deepest and darkest depths of hell, and he had slain them, driving his blade through their twisted and corrupted flesh until they had finally stopped their writhing. There were few alive who better knew the horrors that could drag themselves into the cradle, and at the sound of Farrin’s suggestion of sealing the hellscape, Alcello’s mind was made up. He would join this quest, and lend his sword to whatever missions that Farrin gave the obscure group.

As Alcello went to move, he hesitated as he saw another figure join the group, even as the other Baccum male jibed at Farrin. The newcomer was lithe, and her female form looked fragile next to the two towering warriors that she moved to stand beside, but one glance at the wickedly bladed Naginata she carried gave Alcello an idea that the young woman was able to fend for herself. Glad that he wouldn’t be dealing with the butting of heads of the two headstrong Baccum warriors for the whole journey, Alcello was about to move to join the group when a fourth figure moved into his field of vision, and his blood froze in his veins.

Stunningly beautiful with fiery red hair highlighting her amazing body, the woman looked like she had stepped out of any man’s dreams, but for Alcello she was straight out of his nightmares. The mark of the Cult of Marra, carved into her stomach, had been burnt into his mind ever since he had slain the shaman that had butchered his people. He watched as the woman all but slithered her way into the group, and a chill ran down his spine as he watched her take the gem from the taller Baccum's grasp, just moments after Farrin had passed it to him.

Hand moving into his sleeve to grasp the handle of one of his chakram’s, Alcello extinguished his pipe and tucked it into his cloak, rising to his feet and moving to join the group, his face still mostly shrouded by his hood. He glared at the blood cultist for a moment, having to hold himself back from pulling his blade free and lunging at her, before he spoke, raising his voice slightly to be heard.

“This is a ragtag group of adventurers if ever I saw one. Perhaps it is best we let our wise friend here tell us more of his quest, rather than bicker like children.”

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The river trickled off to his left, flowing its way onward as it always had and always would until an outside force acted upon it. He had to be like the river and continue moving forward despite what he had done. Why had he done it though? Why had he killed the other Hands? How did that old man break through the careful yet sturdy walls the Leader had erected in his mind? It was though he had hypnotized and entranced Hakim during that fateful meeting. The chain dangled from his fingers, decorated with a symbol of each god worshipped across the Cradle. With a growl, he threw the chain from him suddenly. It arced into the air and caught a ray of sunlight before tumbling into the dirt on the embankment. The soft earth beneath slid away, and it tumbled down the bank toward the flowing river. Hakim shot his bandage-wrapped hand out and caught the chain before it touched the water, and with a sigh placed it back around his neck. How ridiculous, snatching the necklace back after tossing it away. How did such a silly trinket have such a sway on him?

Shaking his head, Hakim moved onward. He was still in the heart of Silesia but had managed to cover a fair amount of ground away from his tribe. In that time, his crimes may still not have been discovered. It may be some time yet before the Leader knew he had lost five Hands from his service. For the time being, he followed the rivers away from his home. No, not from his home. He had no home. The place he fled was a prison; a prison he never really knew he was in. These strange thoughts persisted through his journey, but the swords at his waist were a comforting weight. As he traveled, he saw the beauty his country had to offer. Great vegetation growing along the plentiful rivers and the people cultivating such greatness. At times, he would have to either cross the river or divert his path to wrap around it. These obstacles slowed his speed but didn’t impede him too much.

Days laters, Hakim found himself snaking along a winding river on the edge of Silesia and branching off from it to make his way around another that ran a ways to the east. He followed toward the east for days. It was during this leg of his travel that he ran into another obstacle. Along a lonely road, he glanced a figure in the distance. As he neared, he noticed other figures flanking it. They shuffled and moved to meet him in the road, spanning across the dirt path so as to block his way. They carried curved swords and kept their faces obscured behind head wraps much like Hakim. From behind the three blocking the way, he heard brush rustling and turned to see another holding a shortbow with an arrow nocked and aimed toward him. He stopped in his tracks a few feet from them and could now see the two women. One looked to be in her middle years, and the other looked as though she were barely old enough to birth children. Near them, on the side of the path, lay the body of a man with his throat cut open and spilling red all across the dirt. His face still showed his last moments of horror.

Without a word, the three surged forward, no doubt eager for another kill and to eliminate any witness to their crime. As they moved, their archer let loose, and an arrow flew over their heads straight at Hakim. He dropped his satchel and bedroll to the ground as he moved to the side and out of the way of the arrow. In the same movement, his swords were free, and he was rushing forward. One sword was shorter than the other, but both blades were curved and thin. The thinner was held in his offhand in a reverse grip. This was used to block the first blow from the highwaymen and push it from him and he spun around the blow of another. They continued to swing their blades, but their attacks only struck open air as Hakim spun amongst them and eventually positioned himself between them and the women. The wraps up his right arm fell away as he came to a stop; apparently one of the blades had just barely caught the wraps. As it fell away, his attackers saw the intricate tattoos covering his right hand, and their eyes grew wide with shock. They knew what the markings meant and just who, or rather what, they were dealing with. The bandits looked hesitant now, on the verge of dropping their blades, but it was too late now. The archer had waited for a clear shot and let loose with another arrow, having not seen the tattoo.

In a surge, Hakim launched himself at the bandits, out stripping the arrow with his speed. The arrow struck the dirt behind his foot as he moved. In a flurry, he spun amongst the bandits again, but this time he was on the attack. His blades bit into flesh and cut deep, staining the dirt beneath the bandits as well as their clothing red. Each of the three fell with multiple slash across their chest and neck, leaving only the archer. Blood pooled at his feet and dripped from the tips of both his blades as he turned to face the remaining bandit. His hands shook as he pulled the bow up again and nocked an arrow with difficulty before letting it fly. Hakim knocked it from the air with his shorter sword easily before moving into the brush in a burst of speed. Another arrow flew at him, but he avoided it and closed the gap before another could be fired. In a flash, Hakim brought the longer sword down across the archer’s chest and left a deep gash in its wake.

The women watched as one by one the bandits all fell to this stranger’s blade and as he bent over the archer’s body for a moment before turning and walking toward them.

”Take what you can and move on from this place.”

That was all he said before moving onward down the path and away from them.

___________

He had lost track of time along the way, but he had finally rounded the river some days ago. Until now, he had done what he could to avoid major settlements, but he was outside of Silesia. Between that and his noticeably dwindling supplies, Hakim decided to make his way into a settlement. This town, however, was an unfortunate choice, as it was only a short distance from a mounting skirmish between Mennon and Kothar soldiers. Men fought and died, each one fighting for their homeland and each believing they fought for what was right and were killing enemies of that right. The town itself was mostly deserted. Each building he passed appeared empty, but as he ventured deeper he came across a small gathering of people. An elderly man sat before them with his remaining arm. He spoke of a sorcerer seeking out keys to unlock the power of the ancients.

Hakim stopped and listened, leaning into a nearby wall and found himself agreeing the Baccumese man’s idea. If this sorcerer needed all of the keys, why could they not simply destroy one of them? Though, when the old man handed the gem over and challenged the man to destroy it, he could see it would not be so simple. If it couldn’t be destroyed then couldn’t they at least hide one of these gems away and protect it from the sorcerer? How quickly Hakim had found himself wrapped up in this plot after having just wandered into their midst. He caught himself toying with the chain around his neck. What strange circumstances and strange company he had already found himself in after leaving Silesia behind. He glanced around the gathering, taking in the three barely clad Baccumese, the Roshad female toting her own weapon, the scarred Kothar man, and the older Mennon sitting at the back of the group. He drew Hakim’s attention currently as he watched his hand disappear up his sleeve. His own hand found the hilt of his longer sword out of instinct.
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With a quirk of his head, Cical watched the elder hold up the gem, before suddenly snapping to attention as it was hurled his direction. Only reactions and good hand-eye coordination saved that poor stone from meeting the ground. The first reaction, was the fact that this egg was significantly heavier than it appeared. The gem was incredibly dense. Surrounding it with both hands, Cical's head made takes between the egg and the old one-armed man. If such a thing was really so powerful, was it that wise to trust a random stranger with it? Still, he wouldn't complain. This egg - in his hands - was probably safer than it had ever been in its life so far. At the comment of destroying it himself, Cical narrowed his eyes before squeezing both hands against its surface as if to test his words.

        "No.." He paused, opening his hands slightly to gaze at the egg within. "No I believe you. I don't know why I do, but I do." He mumbled the last bit, face scrunching like he couldn't quite comprehend something. The spearman was briefly tempted to use the gems on his hip. A dying old fellow who had given them to him had mumbled something about gauging magical strength and further incoherent ramblings. Cical didn't believe it, but you couldn't deny a dying man's gift. He tested them out on his spears... But they never did anything, so if that proved the validity of the dying man's claim or not he couldn't be sure. From what Cical knew, magic sucked - so trying anything on it here now, without experience, was a bad idea. His head lifted slightly, enough for him to glower apprehensively towards the old coot. Even without a great big Roshad education he could see a test to embarrass him. He wasn't lying, but he still seemed to be withholding information. The sight of a one armed man challenging him was both amusing and slightly aggravating. Regardless of who he was or who he thought he was, two was always better than one. But… Something deep in his mind went against that train of thought. Be it the crowd of capable people who’d most likely be mad at him or the one-armed geezer himself.

        His attention and train of thought was broken by another man, one similar to him, albeit with more clothes, fewer tattoos and wilder hair. Dull brown met cold blue and an invisible clash occurred briefly. Both men were stoic and hard-willed, both determined and stubborn. Besides these simple traits of battle-hardened men Cical noticed something else... Something deeper than was almost a sense of familiarity. If he were honest with himself, it was mildly disconcerting. Not many could harbor as much as the spear man did, which made this similarity quite upsetting. The lancer was first to break their war of eyes, flickering across his ‘opponents’ frame and getting a rough estimate of his body language and discernible features. He was certainly a fighter, which was ideal for what Farrin requested. Years of experience and countless battles plagued even his sitting formation. He was no rookie who quivered in fear or tensed in anticipation. Nor was he an old man like the one-armed elder, who challenged everyone who dare speak against him. Inadvertently, Cical had tightened his grasp and held the egg tight to his midriff while he performed these mental gymnastics. Only a second had passed, but it was unlikely the other Baccumese was ignorant to it. Someone behind him asked a question, it was a female but his ears couldn't comprehend precisely what was asked. With face stuck in a rigid state of curiosity, the Prince of War’s features suddenly softened.
       
        His knuckles were white, but ceased in an instant. The pressure off the gleaming stone was gone and his arms pressed forwards to hand it to the similar Bac-

        It was gone, but not by who he intended to take it. The jewel was plucked from his hand like an egg from a coop by a pack of coyotes. Anger, bewilderment spread through him. Who dared take such a precious object from another's hand with such carelessness? What sort of twisted, idioti- He paused, body having already tensed and muscles coiled to strike. Unconsciously both hands were clenched into fists as his eyes snapped and examined their soon-to-be target. The pause derived from her clothing. He actually had to take a second affirming glance to verify she had any on at all. There holding the egg he once held aloft, was a… She was a freak of nature.

        Nothing else could describe exactly what that thing was. It was inhuman, so much so that it appeared human. Every feature, every curve, every aspect was perfect, so much so that it was just wrong. Nothing born from a woman and man could ever be so flawless. The fact that she was so sublime actually did nothing but sicken Cical. With only the cursory glance he gave her while locating what was his, he had rooted within his mind that this woman was unnatural and her following actions should be gauged heavily. His body had, while his mind worked, moved of its own volition. His body was tall, his muscles were considerable, but he was in no way slow. Cical planned his exercises. He traded strength and bulk in muscle weight, for pure development and toning. He would never be as strong as someone who simply performed manual labor their whole life. yet he would be significantly faster and more mobile. While he'd be unable to overpower the aforementioned individual, by the time one of their strikes was about to connect - Cical would have performed two.

        All that, and this girl was unprotected in the slightest. One hand - the left, snapped up to wrap around the egg with his fingers locked between her own and pried the object downwards. His right hand, to certify the point of her releasing his egg, jammed two rigid fingers into her soft skin along the side of her abdomen - halfway between the hip and lowest rib. This was a common soft pressure point abused by school children and by men who wished to affectionately tease their significant other. Although he was being much much rougher. Two fingers jammed themselves in and upwards, forcefully trying to jar her as best he could. With the sharpest of yanks, the egg was freed and back in- actually no it wasn't. His grip couldn't quite wrap around the whole thing, and instead it sort of shot directly from her hand into the ground. In mid bounce, the hand which jabbed her abdomen had bent down with his body to snatch it into his possession once more. It was quite a display of dexterity, so fast in his strike into a much slower and controlled spin to deal with the momentum of reaching for the grounded egg.

        All this happened by the time a larger, hooded man finished his sentence. With a spin on calloused bare feet, Cical distanced himself and then took large steps towards and behind Farrin. This spot was between the one armed man, and this new hooded man and it left Cical with his back to the Tavern. As if he didn't just jab a woman with his bare hands, he leaned back against the wall and glowered at everyone there with the egg clutched like a baseball all in a casual fashion. Nobody was getting the gem now, and nobody would be able to force it out unless they cut off his fingers. The egg, rested in his left hand. His right was nowhere to be seen. A quick glance would reveal it to be behind his back.

        The spear man had wanted to draw his weapon. To scare everyone off, and force them to keep their distance with the threat. In the time it took to move where he was now however he quashed that plan. Showing hostility in that way would only escalate the situation beyond what was necessary. The hand behind his back meant he would be ready, but wouldn't initiate anything.

        "The old man didn't say it was only for killing the sorcerer, only that they powered a device and the sorcerer wanted them. We're supposed to get more eggs, destroy them and then we destroy the sorcerer. All the blood must have been diverted to your giant water balloons there rather than your ears. Before you snatched it from my hand like a harpy would a child… Or if you paid a scant moment of attention, you’d notice I never intended to try breaking it." He nodded, motioning to the old man in question. After what just happened, he could actually understand where the senior was coming from. This is why he just killed the bad guys and left the innocents without talking.
        "You've got a bit of my respect for not lying, old-timer. And I'll side with the hooded bandit over there." He closed his eyes for a moment, huffing in slight agitation. “Now kindly explain what you mean by 'tasks' and hopefully we won’t be interrupted again.” He paused, blinking and stumbling on his words. “M-me included.” He coughed, placing his left hand underneath the bicep of his right. With the right holding onto his spear, this was the best he could get to having his arms crossed.
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Only during the onset of the Altercation between Cical and Nekarta, did Cita back away. She was caught off guard by the Buccanese males feeble attempt at catching a bouncing object. Though she did attribute some of it to his high stature, bending so low must've been rough. But her views quickly turned skeptical as he jumped to the defensive, and motioning as if to draw at a moments notice. A smirk crossed her lips, such a defense of what she deemed a useless object. She heard just enough of Farrin's speech to know its importance, but it still didn't impress. Not to say it didn't intrigue her, Cita hadn't seen anything like it before. She did conclude it would likely catch a hearty price should the right story be spun behind it.

Cita took Alcello's last words to heart prompting her to turn about, gazing at the other individuals that were also witnessing the scene. She Noticed Alcello seemingly reach for a weapon, prompting Hakim to go on the defensive. She cocked her head, fearing the quest ahead. Doubts filled her mind as to who would slit the others throat first. Cita did her best to take subtle steps back from the group. Still staying close enough to listen, but back enough that should a brawl erupt, she had her easy out.

Cita was perplexed though, as to how the strange and voluptuous woman could even see the egg. Cita cocked her head and focused on Nekarta's face, or rather what was visible. Confusion swept her mind, ideas of strange vision, or maybe it was a ploy. A thin fabric that was one way. Ah yes, that's got to be it. She thought confidently. Her concluded mind was interrupted by an frustrated soldier. A large imposing male, brandishing a long sword approached her slowly. His lumbering form didn't impress her, She thought he might even be a bit impaired from his wide swaying stride. Cita scoffed as he swore at her, "This dull knife can't cut an apple! you said it was worth a lot!". Cita turned her back more towards the man a he drew closer. The man moved to the left and right, trying to get a view of her but she denied it at every turn by adjusting her pose to only show him the cold shoulder.

"Listen you bitch, you sold me this useless knife." He said angrily, pointing and waving around a small dagger.

She turned to him, trying not to make a scene, "It was pried from a dying man, a legendary traveler to parts unknown." Her thoughts flashed to snatching it from the Carriage drivers belt not too long ago. She gazed about it, "It's an Heirloom. You can probably get a lot for it in Roshad, it has all the markings." She was counting on him not knowing those were merely rust stains.

"Oh?" The man said. He slowly backed off and began examining the blade, taking the bait flawlessly. "Roshad huh. I've never been there."

Of course you haven't. She smiled, "Yes, its most certainly a family heirloom and would fetch a pretty coin for who ever returned it."

His anger sated, turned his attention from the blade and on to her. "Heh, Maybe when I sell this, I'll give you a profit." he snickered, "In the form of me laughing in your face."

Cita's disappointment in the man was made manifest on her face, but she didn't force it into words, instead merely turning away from the dullard and back to the group. She gazed about her belongings, making sure her dagger was in her belt. She didn't need to check for her Naginata, as its heavy weight was proof enough. Though what was in a satchel she snatched from that young girl, Nat's mangled body held her prize. Various Bottles and sacks of strange ingredients, a mortar and pestle and her prize, two still moist snake glands wrapped in loose canvas. She smiled and looked around at the group, "Any of these fools tries anything, they'll regret it."

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Farrin let his eyes bounce from each face as they poised their questions, and flexed their confidence upon each other; To him, in all his years, this was a familiar sight. The young and the ambitious had always bickered like hyena when presented with opportunity, each having relied on their own natural abilities so long they have yet to learn the many paths to the same goal. Farrin's thoughts were wise enough to separate a few from this category, as some bore the cracked voice of experience, the wrinkled eye of conflict, and in one case, the jade of an old soldier.

Farrin nodded to himself as he pondered their questions, knowing in his heart that either the young will grow old in the quest before them, or remain young for eternity. He sucked in a thoughtful breath and first addressed the calmer and more collected of the Baccumese, the young man who had wondered if a gem truly rests in Baccum," Baccum is not alone in being unaware of such a object being hidden in her own earth and skies, a good four out of five of the nations are unaware of their existence completely."

He looked over at the Woman of Marra, her beauty falling mute on old eyes that had seen the price paid for her existance, "As fr how I myself acquired it, I had used the knowledge of the books in that ancient temple I had found in the Brimlands, and delved into a great chasm between two plains. The Sorcerer had taken notice of me, but only too late, and his monstrous ghouls were well taken care of. I fear next time we may not be so lucky to be there first."

"As per our task," He turned to the larger, boisterous Baccumese man and held out his hand, his empty palm open to Cical, awaiting the return of the gem.
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        Watching possible opponents like a hawk, Cical was still able to pick a choice section from the man's words. Four of five? Was the fifth who knew of the egg Mennon? He certainly hoped so. If Kothar knew of such a powerful thing their quest might as well be over before it began. From experience he knew those bastards were unyielding.
        In fact, at one point Cical was ambushed by Kothar bandits. After cutting off the arm of one and slaying his friends, the recently dismembered actually picked up his severed limb and rejoined the fight using himself as a makeshift club! What made it worse, is he continually claimed it was "just a flesh wound" and he could still win!

        The lancer repressed the thought through a shiver. He believed the geezers words now, for the moment he couldn't find any flaws or create any questions. Not like this was the moment for such anyway. With a stern, set face he gently pushed his back off the wall and untucked his arm from the other. Wordlessly and with one easy, telegraphed move he tossed the egg back to its original owner. Unlike how it was thrown at him, the toss was gentle and easily foretold.

        The tale of ghouls slightly unnerved Cical. Beasts and humans, albeit sometimes difficult to differentiate, were one thing. Monsters of magic and creatures of the dark... Held by the Brimlands and Dark Lands... They were stories of their own. In his time venturing, he only fought four obscure creatures of death. Each was a tale worthy of several drinks on their own. Each left him with scars both mentally and physically. If anyone cared to examine him closer they would see four large claw marks on his midsection that still had yet to fully heal. That had been months ago, which was curious on it's own. Cical was confident in a lot of things, surviving, dueling.... Drinking. But surviving battles with those types of monsters? He wouldn't bet on himself in a fight, leave it there.
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Nekarta had been too preoccupied observing the curious stone to really sense Cical making his move. As his hand wrapped around her wrist and the other jabbed at her side, it probably didnt quite evoke the reaction the man was gunning for. While not immune to having her sides jabbed at, years upon years of horrendous torture at the hands of the Fleshmasters slowly altering her body; the pain of a finger in her side was hardly anything to get her attention.

"Hnng... Mmm, you could've just asked it back." She cooed with a soft moan, releasing her grip on the stone; expecting the man to just grab it from her hands, only for the bungling idiot to drop it, further cementing in Nekarta's mind that the man truly was just an all brawn-no-brains meathead. On the upside, it meant the man was easy to predict.

Righting herself, she simply smiled; and would Cical actually look back at her, he'd probably notice she was flashing him a hidden throwing dagger in the palm of the hand he left free. A simple statement even he would no doubt understand: I could've stabbed you, but didn't. It would hopefully make the man think twice before trying such trick again. Slipping the dagger out of sight again, Nekarta focused her attention back onto Farrin.

While blind to the man's features, Nekarta could tell simply from his lifeforce that he was old. "I take it you've been at this task for a long time, haven't you, elder?" She asked. It was hard to imagine an old man, even if a veteran of war, would survive long against the creatures that had spawned from the Omega. Nekarta only had some experience with them, as her cult had a pretty strong interest in the occult creatures... Their blood had an arcane potency no other creature held and as such were highly sought after.
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“I have, for better or worse,” Farrin answered the blind woman. “Time is the one blade that is impossible to parry, and it kills slowly. Fortunately, the gods have seen fit to give me plenty of it.” Cical’s underhand landed the gem neatly into Farrin’s hand, and he pocketed the gem with a satisfied grin. He was about to speak again, when a handful of peasants bolted towards their direction, screaming.

“Kothar has broken through! We’re doomed!” They hurled themselves against the tavern door, banging their fists against the wood. Farrin’s hand went to his sword, old instincts kicking in. From his position, he could make out the plumed helmets and banners of Kothar soldiers down the street.

“Seems the Mennonites have lost,” Farrin grumbled. “Everyone - we must make for the stables and make good our escape. As comptent as I’m sure you believe yourselves to be, we cannot fight an entire company off.” He stepped away from the tavern, gave the villagers a sad look and shook his head. “Follow me!” he commanded, and took off down the street in the opposite direction. Farrin waved his sword - a beacon for the assembled to rally to.

The sound of battle was growing louder now as the Mennonites put up last-ditch struggles in pockets of the town. Several fires blazed in adjacent streets, the smell of woodsmoke thick in the air. The shouting of Kotharan soldiers was growing ever closer, and so too were the screams of the dying.

- - -


The group had navigated several blocks before Farrin finally announced their arrival. The stables were still intact, it seemed, and the horses were still penned, if their frenzied neighing was any indication. Farrin made for one of the doors before he froze - a unit of Kotharan hoplites had appeared just around the corner. The bronzed soldiers exchanged a surprised look at the cosmopolitan band of adventurers, but snapped to when they recognized Farrin’s Mennonite armor.

“No choice but to fight! Let’s see if you’re fit for the job,” Farrin bellowed over his shoulder, and readied his weapon.
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____________________________________________________________________________
E f r a y i m W a r a q a t e a d a '
____________________________________________________________________________

Baccum was truly the most disorganized organized civilization. It allowed for a more synchronized style of attributes to become a confusing mess of incoherence for outsiders to try and decipher. Efrayim took much pride in this philosophy of his home, even when the internal feeling of sick disgust of the Cult of Marra follower snatched the egg right from his fellow brother's hand. There was something so repulsive about lies that exuded silently from another's being, and hers smelt stronger than what he was used to putting up with; and her body and slithered through the group, gently coiling her footsteps as ladylike as possible. She was just nimble and pliant enough to steal the the gem without as much of a shadow's notice. If the other Baccumese had not done something, Efrayim would have most certainly been the first to concern himself with her actions. There was too little respect for her in his book of obligations for her well-being, and he was more than willing to extend any blood lust and torture legends about the Baccumese upon her.

Civility had stopped him or rather the quickness of other Baccumese, who had already swooped the egg and made his way towards the tavern wall, behind the Elder. With all reviling measures, he was thankful after her strange display of comfort in pain. There was endurance for pain, and then there was an addiction for it. She was a vile creature, and all the same, scoffed at her behavior, outwardly snarling at her. A hefty hand quickly found itself around the hilt of his dagger, as he re-positioned himself, back-glancing several of the newer arrivals for charlatan intimidation. There were several of them. Some were more noticeable than others, one in particular being a lithe man. He was unassuming in many ways, and Efrayim suddenly took his eyes from him to watch the Elder's response, as if for this moment his eyes had ears, as well.

"The Elder is right!" He spoke in calling with authority and a mock in his voice. His body was ready for action, although holding itself taller now. "We're wasting time by all these needless questions," his body shifted towards the blind woman as he imagined the unruliness of the group mob -- especially hers, "like a disobedient bride," his lips pressed together as he finished speaking and then slowly parted and grinned, again, to reveal gritted teeth -- hungry for something, perhaps. He had wanted to hold the egg for himself and was unashamedly annoyed with the disturbance. He let the anger roll onto the culprit of his disdain. His tongue swiped over his bottom lip, followed by teeth that scraped over his skin, a warning for his own to control any want to destroy the heretic on sight.

And as fate had it, the gods decided to spare Efrayim's wrath. There was not much time for him to stew in his anger, when a handful of peasants came running to the tavern, breaking through the speech. He let his spirits simmer and float to the sky, as he looked towards the beginning of the small town. Soldiers were already hurtling through the streets, upon them, and Farrin was certain they could not fight them off. The Baccumese, in his glory, was certain there was more this group could do. He knew certainly his own fighting capabilities and was unwilling to believe the ones around him were so much weaker than he was after such a childish display. As well, he had Charu.

____________________________________________________________________________


The elephant had been near the stables, unable to be in them due to her size. She was a bit away, not to accidentally bully or draw so much attention from the horses. Her size made it easy for scare, like a good Baccumese, which meant she was made for much more than just aesthetics. She had found a jade succulent plant to munch, and as Efrayim veered from the stables to unhinge her, Charu's trunk was sniffing at the ground where the plant had been and now was not. Her trunk immediately perked and raised in the air to the sounds of her master's footsteps. She was in line with his attention before he even whistled to her. His lips perched over his two fingers and made a quick blow, steady with the swift pounding of his feet against the sandy ground, "Charu!" Her body conditioned itself, readying her stance before Efrayim's body took a quick leap of a step, that turned him into a panther of a man, climbing upon her tapestry and tassels, as if a tree.

Efrayim tugged on her, pressing his leather boots into the wear of her armor, as his body stood, with flexed and bent legs atop of her for balance. A sharp whistle budded from his lips, a slightly different sound from the sharp one made earlier followed by the quip, "Yalla!" and Charu began moving forward. Her body was paced briskly with clinking armor and dust arousing from her rapid march. Efrayim motioned his body, grabbing hold of her tempo and pulled out one of his tulwar. It was held out front, with his arm bent in defense, bracing for the impact of the damage that Charu was about to ensue. A sharp whistle came from his lips, again, and Charu made a triumphant blow from her horn as her sworded tusks struck from a house and her body crumpled the architecture forward -- walls cracked and broke in various directions with a thunderous roar that shook the ground nearby. He kept her charging, having gnashed the body of a Kothar soldier with her heel.

Efrayim gave her another whistle, and without much thought, slid from the elephant, who sounded from her trunk again, and using a similar feline agility, he landed close to the broken down rubbish, still stirring dust in the air. His body continued to stay low to the ground, carefully maintaining his balance, as he spotted an injured Kothar spwarled and lying near the debris. His arm was twisted in an odd manner, with the bone of his wrist was trying to protrude through his un-gloved, yellowing skin. With several quick steps, his footing was upon the man's healthy wrist, crunching the bones of his hands from their joints, "You're wrists," his sword thrust through the slit of the man's armor and into his throat and twisted his own wrist, "are weak," he jested. The action was deep and committed as a common task, before being raised and on guard for it's next victim. Like magic, the head of the solider appeared to have been decapitated -- sallow and bloodied next to the Baccumese's own footing, now dismissed from atop the corpse.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Dr Catfish
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The spear man had little to add, simply serving to observe and listen. His clans mate piped up, in favor of 'his' side against that corrupted anomaly called a woman. Cical knew something was shared between the two of them, perhaps it was just their taste in women. The Prince of War appeared rather casual for what was going on around him, cool blue eyes panning over each member of the haphazard assembly. The ones he deemed more notorious he lingered over longer, taking in as fine of details as he could before all concentration was broken - again.

It seems they would never get a true explanation. At least not now, perhaps not ever if the elder were to fall to some pitiful marauders. All he seen spewing from the mono-limbed man was cockiness. Be it rightfully earned or not it didn't matter. Either way it paved the way for mistakes and those mistakes happened to be what ended lives.
"I've never been a follower, but I'll humor you old timer." The lancer noted through a peculiar smirk. With the ever encroaching sound of battle, Cical's entire form seemed to alight with energy. His muscles tensed, veins made themselves apparent. Even his eyes seemed to glow with anticipation. In one fluid movement, his right arm snapped back and slightly up to dislodge the black spear peaking over that same shoulder. The weapon would have been pleasant to see, had it not been swiftly involved in spins around Cical's hand to end up tucked beneath his arm. Not an instance afterwards was wasted. Calloused feet leaving imprints in the ground as he launched from the wall into a jog, he moved beside the older gentleman so he was at least could speak without yelling.
"Maybe you can show me how a guy fights properly with only one arm, eh?" He chuckled, soon afterwards spacing himself a good two lunges worth behind the 'leader'. If he were ambushed, they could respond and Cical wouldn't have to worry about accidentally striking him with his weapon due to proximity. With a brief glance over his shoulder, he was looking for the other Baccumese man specifically. Even if he didn't have the egg to offer, he still desired to exchange a brief bout of words. Unfortunately it looked as if he were a coward. Grumbling in slight annoyance he focused forwards, easily keeping up with the elder.

.

.

.

Cical had kept watch of the one armed man's back as he opened the doors. It was common courtesy, one never wished a backstabbing upon the other! As such, he spotted the small group of men and already began moving while the shock of said men to their own group was still settling in. Halfway through the distance, everything went full reverse. Something was about to blow straight through that hou-

What he had been expecting, was definitely not the coward Baccumese on a Uiyo-damned war elephant. Where he got the beast, how it was trained or what idiotic spirit possessed him to bring it here, were all questions for another time. At this moment however, the searing pain in his left wrist was of main concern. As was not being crushed by a stampeding elephant. He was struck in the wrist by a piece of wood which became a projectile during the collapse of the building. Little pinpricks of blood and splinters littered the one side but posed little issue. Thankfully even the blunt pain was subsiding rapidly. With a squint, he watched what was once believed to be a coward, stand on a broken limb and decapitate an injured soldier. Dust still clouded the ground and head level. It would rise in the next few moments but for now it provided an adequate smoke screen for Cical to flank around the right side - near where the building had fallen itself.
What was once a rather open battlefield he could exploit, became a land of loose footing and jagged edges. Trying to hold back a shield if he were imprecise with his strikes would be impossible now. It wouldn't matter. Acting like a mountain goat, Cical in bare feet strode confidently over broken wood and timbers, spotted a target who was getting up from being knocked down. He had to collect his weapons and himself after such an unforeseen occurrence. Cical would be in the same situation were their roles reversed. Using a felled timber and the strength of his legs, Cical leapt high above the dust and with a spin of his right arm; brought the tip of the spear into the stumbling man's chest. With the impact of the landing softened by the now heartless man, Cical rose and roughly yanked his weapon free.

There was no yelling, screaming or grunts of exertion or energy. What he had done, what he would continue to do, was silent and with a sort of elegance. Blood drops flew through the air off the tip of his weapon in a wide arc. The bottom of his spear struck his back, arm extended to keep the blade tip out to his side. Bent legs snapped forwards towards to send the lancer at the rear of another target. With seamless efficiency, Cical roughly kicked hard at the back of his targets leg, just at the knee. In a cry of pain, he dropped onto the injured joint, just enough downwards so that Cical could position the staff of his spear beneath his neck and sharply jolt upwards. A gristly crack could audibly be heard.

The Kothar ranks were disorganized to say the least. The elephant storming through the home had caused confusion and panic. It slaughtered a good portion of their forces and left them scrambling to recover. This was a perfect scenario for someone like Cical. With two to his name, the lancer moved to take on a third, stopping and contorting his body to narrowly avoid a spear thrust at his midsection.
Be it because the fool twisted it in his hand, or because he was simply that inexperienced, the blade ran vertical. His ribs would have stopped the tip even if he had struck. But since the hoplite missed his target, his spear fell - onto Cical's bare leg. It left a nasty cut from the top of his thigh down about mid-way but such a thing would only require minor stitching. His right arm shot down and grabbed onto his enemies weapon. Only now did he realize the enemy had lost his shield at some point in the confusion. Tugging him forwards and turning with the momentum of the pull, Cical planted his foot into his chest in a simple side kick. With some force, the hoplite flew back weaponless into some rubble. Releasing a held breath, the wild Baccum stood tall and panned over the battle zone for what remained.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Cleverbird
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Nεкαятα


Nekarta released a tired sigh as yet another brawn-for-brains decided to speak up. Did no one but her understand the value in information? Sadly, it seemed even the world was conspiring against Nekarta, as the onslaught of terrified villagers preceded the invasion of the Kothar soldiers.

"My, my, my, now there's something you don't see every day." Nekarta cooed with audible glee as the towering war-elephant barreled through a house, leveling the shoddily constructed building. Using the chaos that ensued as Charu made her grand appearance, Nekarta silently slithered away from the main group. She was no front-line fighter, preferring to pick off more isolated targets...

Demetrius coughed and wheezed as he pushed himself back up to his shaking feet through the help of his shield. He had only just barely managed to jump out of the way as that monster burst through the building, hot on the heels of a thundering war drum. "Euripides! Icintus! Cough Is anybody out there?" He shouted as the dust of the crumbling building obscured his vision.

Disoriented, the man stumbled through the remaining rubble as the sounds of battle erupted all around him; making it impossible to orient himself. No one had warned any of them the Mennonites had access to such war-beasts! Still coughing up dust, the soldier suddenly came to a halt. From the plumes of dust washing the urban battlefield, he saw a figure approach; it's shape but a silhouette in the smoke. "Halt! Who cough goes there?" He shouted as loud as he could as he leveled his spear and shield, preparing himself to lunge at the person.

Yet not even his wildest dreams, or perhaps in only his wildest dreams, had he been prepared for the sight emerging from the dust. It was a woman, that much was blatantly obvious. Nearly naked, she strode up towards him; her blood red hair swaying softly in the wind. Thinking she was merely a mirage or something, Demetrius stood silent and simply stared at the ethereal figure; until a loud crack suddenly filled the air. Shaking his head, he winced as he could feel warm blood running down his arm. Only now did he noticed that the woman was holding what appeared to be a whip in her hand.

Like a viper, she struck again; the tip cracking the air. Only this time Demetrius was prepared, raising his shield to take the blow. A whip was hardly considered a weapon of war, it was a tool designed to inflict pain, not death. Yet it had one property no other weapon had...

As Demetrius marched forwards, he suddenly cried out as a searing pain tore through his shoulder. The whip had struck the edge of his shield and curved around it; striking him in his shoulder. His instinct of a soldier kicked in, warning him to use his shield to block for the blows. Yet at the same time, his more basic instinct kicked in; his brain urging him to turn away from the pain.

Determined and gritting his teeth, he carefully marched forwards; wincing as the blows kept angling around the shield, some striking armor, others striking flesh. He had barely crossed half the distance between them and his arms and legs were already red with crimson, adrenaline dulling some, but not all, of the pain. A sudden crack filled the air as the world went black, the weighted tip of the whip striking through the slit of his helmet.

Crying out in pain, Demetrius grabbed for his face; dropping his spear in the process. A nasty gash ran diagonally across his face, taking out his left eye entirely while the blood gushing from the wound poured into his remaining good eye. He barely even had time to register the wound as a sudden weight collided with him, knocking the shield out of his hand and sending him tumbling backwards into the ground. Another cry escaped his mouth as his hands were wrenched from his face and pinned to the ground as searing pins were driving through his wrists, anchoring his arms to the ground.

"Hnngg... Ah! Please! Ah! Hngg..." He cried out, squirming around as he felt the woman straddle his stomach. He desperately tried to tear his arms free, but the pins cut into his flesh, quickly halting his attempts. Panting and gritting his teeth, he awaited the inevitable blade to slit his throat.

"Shh, shh, it's going to be okay." The woman swooned in a calming tone. He felt the woman leaning forwards, her smell filling his nostrils. No matter how gorgeous she looked, all he could smell was death. A whimper escaped his mouth as he felt something warm and wet running up his cheek... Was... Was this woman licking him?

"Mmnn... Oh, I can taste your fear." The woman crooned, practically gyrating her hips in his lap. "Ah... Hah... P-please.. Please don- Mmn!" He stammered, before the woman pressed a finger to his lips. "May Marra grant you wisdom in the afterlife." Like a coiled viper, she struck; digging her teeth into his exposed neck. His cries quickly turning into wet gurgles as blood filled his throat...

Nekarta pulled away with a wet tear, a chunk of the man's neck sliding down her throat. Licking her crimson lips, she shuddered as the man's thoughts assaulted her senses. Anger, fear and a deep-seated contempt towards her swelled within her chest as the last chaotic thoughts of the man she just killed whirled around inside her mind, before just as quickly a cold darkness once again draped over her. Letting out a satisfied sigh, she looked down at her quarry; the poor man laying in the bloodied mud, his one good eye staring up at her. "Marra be praised."

Satisfied, Nekarta pulled her throwing daggers from the man's wrists and stood up; curious to see how the rest of the team was doing.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Romero
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Alcello’s bow was in his hand at the first screams, and by the time the first fleeing peasant reached the tavern, he already had an arrow notched. Looking past the panicked townsfolk as they streamed past the small group of adventurers, Alcello looked back across the town, and grimaced as he saw the banners of Kothar quickly moving nearer. He had already begun to pull back the string of his bow when Farrin spoke, and he couldn’t help but see the wisdom in the other kestaphos’ words, lowering his bow.

Fighting was already consuming the town, the Mennonite survivors fighting desperate last-ditch battles against the Kothar army, but Alcello could tell that it was all futile. He couldn’t tell if the fires that were already starting to spread across the town had been started by the invading Kotharan’s, by the Mennonites in their attempted defence, or by the town people themselves, seeking to deny anyone from claiming their homes. Alcello moved beside Farrin and he could hear from the noise behind him that the others followed, but he still carried his bow, the arrow still notched as they ran through the streets, his eyes darting around every corner, ready for whatever might come at them.

Surprisingly, they made it to the stables safely, even as the town was consumed by the battle, but as they moved to free the horses, and secure their escape, their safety was quickly put in jeopardy. Alcello saw the hoplites an instant before Farrin did, and he already had his bow up by the time Farrin had stopped in his tracks.

He put the arrow through the first man’s throat, before he even had time to register the unusual group, or to raise his shield. Staggering back, the hoplite desperately clutched at his neck, his shield and spear dropped to the floor, long forgotten as he desperately clutched at the grievous wound. He struggled for a moment, and then he was dead, falling to the ground, blood already pooling in the churned mud of the village streets. Alcello was already reaching to pull another arrow from his quiver when he hesitated, cocking his head slightly. A distant thundering echoed above the cacophony of battle that surrounded them, a strange trumpeting that Alcello could swear he recognised, and then a house exploded.




Alcello had only seen an elephant a handful of times, and they were wild creatures, not the war elephant that burst through the house, crashing through the side of the Kothar soldiers as they struggled to form up. One man was crushed outright, and several others knocked off their feet as dust filled the air. Alcello had fought beasts larger and wilder than the animal that charged past him, but it was still an awe-inspiring sight, and for a moment he was transfixed by it, catching sight of a dark figure slipping from his saddle upon the beast. But the sudden charging of the Baccum man pulled him back to reality, and he quickly slung his bow away again.

He could hear the horses screaming and neighing wildly in the stables, panicked by the roar of noise outside of their housings, the smell of burning, and the stench of death in the air. If the group were to ever dream of achieving Farrin’s quest, then they would need to get out of the town alive, and if they were to do that, then Alcello knew that they needed the horses. He doubted any other members of the group had elephants that they could ride in on. But the kestaphos had only made it a few strides towards the stables when a figure stepped out of the dust. Clearly the Kothar soldiers were well-trained, not the type of men to fall apart even in the face of wild elephants, but that did not surprise Alcello. When he had been a younger man, before his calling had become a hunter of nightmarish creatures, he had fought roaming soldiers that threatened his people, and he knew that Kothar bred them tough.

The hoplite glared at the hooded man, his shield raised, and his spear levelled towards the stranger’s chest. Before Alcello could react, another figure stepped from the dust. Another hoplite. The two stood side by side, their shields coming together to create a miniature version of the phalanx’s that had made the Kothar forces notorious. Miniature, but still deadly. Alcello cursed under his breath. He did not know if his new companions would come to his aid, but he knew if he was to die here, slain by the foul Kothar, then he would die as a kestaphos, not some cloaked stranger. With a shrug of his shoulders, Alcello let his cloak fall to the ground, his batter lamellar armour catching the midday sun as he pulled his sword from it’s sheath across his back. He gave a nod of respect to his two opponents, but neither of them acknowledged him, moving towards him as a unit, their spears levelled.

The first thrust came from his right, and Alcello’s sword flashed as he knocked it aside. He was already moving to evade the second, and it glanced off his armour as it was driven towards him from the left. Catching the shaft of the second spear with his free hand, Alcello pulled on it with a sharp movement, slamming his shoulder against the onrushing shield of the hoplite and sending the man staggering back a pace. A pace was all Alcello needed. Their formation broken for an instant, he turned sharply to face the soldier to his right. He barely managed to knock aside the spear thrust, feeling it tear through the lamellar just beneath his left shoulder, a sudden searing pain as the point scratched across the skin beneath, but he ignored it, he was where he wanted to be.

The hoplite’s greatest strength is their ability to keep their foes at range, using their spears in great numbers to present an unassailable wall of sharpened metal. But now that Alcello was less than a pace from the hoplite, the spear was suddenly useless, the reach of it too long to be brought to bear. But for Alcello, he had a chakram in his hand, pulled from his sleeve, and it revelled in the desperate struggle of close quarters.

Realising the danger, the hoplite pushed forward with his shield, attempting to knock Alcello back with the heavy force of it, but the Mennon warrior twisted his body, letting it roll past him, and giving him the fraction of a chance that he needed. The chakram flashed in the air, and it cut deeply into the neck of the hoplite, the sharpened steel biting into the exposed flesh between the man’s helmet and his cuirass. To the soldier’s credit, he didn’t scream, nor did he fall. Gritting his teeth against the pain, the adrenaline flooding his veins dulling the pain, the Kothar man staggered back, raising his shield again even as his companion moved to his aid.

All this happened in an instant, and Alcello had almost forgotten the second hoplite, so focussed was he on his own assault, and it can only have been by the grace of Alkon that Alcello wasn’t killed outright where he stood. But the spear thrust that would have ended his life glanced off a plate of his lamellar armour, driving Alcello back a pace, the impact like being struck by a hammer rather than punching through his chest. The breath was driven from Alcello’s lungs, and he desperately gasped for breath as he staggered back, his vision suddenly too bright, the noise around him muffled, and the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. He raised his sword as best he could, glaring at the two hoplites as they formed up again, spears levelled. The injured soldier was bleeding heavily from the wound on his neck, but he did not falter, and the two hoplites closed in on the injured Alcello.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Monkeypants
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--Cita--


Cita was behind the party as they traversed the streets to the stables. She may not have been the first person to see the Hoplites, but she was for sure one of the front runners when it came to hearing them. She heard the ordered stomps as the soldiers moved closer to them, cornering and making their forms finally visible. “No choice but to fight! Let’s see if you’re fit for the job,” Shouted Farrin, bringing all things into perspective. She began gazing about the team, wondering who all would die first.

The brutes leading the charge? maybe the one armed man? The archer seemed rather wimpy, Most likely though it'd be the blind gal. Unless that mesh was see-through. It had to be, she thought. Nonetheless, she wasn't worried for them, but rather she started taking mental bets. She thought for sure that ordered lines would be difficult for an unlikely band of fools as she considered it, herself included. Luck had their back though when the teams resident leopard, Efrayim, called his war beast and mounted it with an unnatural grace. Cita was for once impressed, how did she not know there was such a rare creature in town. "Must be well trained." she said under her breath, following with a smirk as the creature tore into their lines, removing any chance of the Kotharans' reforming. Especially now that the barbarians had locked on and were moving in quick.

Cita joined the battle promptly thereafter, but found herself out of place quickly. She effortlessly dodged the random swipes the Hoplites sent her way, though mainly due to the initial confusion of the battlefield. To her left, Cical had just brutally planted a Kotharan into a pile of debris, and to her right, the first victim of Alcello's bow flailed about, grasping at his throat as the arrow stick out flawlessly through the middle of his now burst open neck.

After seeing the initial success by her compatriots, Cita began ponder if she would even need to help. That fantasy broke as she felt the tug of a spear, and the tearing of fabric along her back. She took a deep breath and admired her luck that the Hoplite missed with his thrust. Unfortunately cita hadn't brought any of her weapons to bear yet, rather trying to remain nimble to find a good vantage point. She was now seemingly defenseless against the Kotharan warrior. Cita turned towards him, preparing to take the initiative as he recoiled from his first blow, but the Hoplite struck quickly, pushing his spear right towards her face.

Shock overtook Cita's eyes as her body snapped to the side, narrowly missing the strike, and then back a few paces to try and gain some distance. This soldier wasn't toying with her though, and pushed forward, thrusting over and over, missing narrowly each time. Until the last hit, the very point of his weapon grazed her shoulder, tearing away at yet another pieces of her garb. Reality had finally hit her, this was real, and with the chaos around, she would have to do this herself. She would lie about it, but some fear did cross her mind at first, but then focus set in.

Her eyes narrowed as the Hoplite thrust his weapon towards her, she dipped and dodged from his strikes, moving closer to him with each blow. He had become frustrated and reared back, then with all his might tried to sweep out her legs with his spear. She nimbly hopped above the swipe and rushed for his face, punching it as hard as she could. The clang was loud, echoing in the soldiers head as he dropped his weapon and began stumbling about. Cita on the other hand, was taking a few awkward steps back, cursing loudly and waving her hand to shake off the pain.

The soldier missed his chance, instead of pressing the attack he began taking off his helmet as his ears were still ringing. Cita rushed him, drawing her dagger from its leg strap and plunging it first into his chest, then rapidly stabbed it again and again into his neck and face, her attacks unnervingly rapid and accurate. His mutilated remains slumped onto the ground, there was no exhale of breath, no epic finale', just a simple dead victim with a violently dismembered face splattered on the ground.

A devious smile crossed her lips as she reached for the Hoplites spear. She held out one arm, and held the spear up in a pose to throw it with the other. She gazed down the length of the spear, with one eye closed to further focus her field of view. She could see the fighting, and quickly switched from target to target, trying to wade through the carnage. Cita's first shift was towards Alcello whom was parrying a Hoplites strike. "He has this." She shifted again and watched in disbelief as Nekarta began eating a man "That's nasty.", then to Efrayim breaking a mans wrists. "Ouch." She said aloud.

But her gaze went back to Alcello, who was now seemingly in peril as two soldiers were encroaching on him. All this seemed to happen within an instant, and this next move could buy him the seconds he needs to survive. Cita with all her might, let loose the spear at the closest Hoplite to Alcello. It hit him with such force to tear him from where he stood, flinging his body far from Alcello. The man shook violently as he looked down to see the spear sticking from his body. Cita didn't get a chance to see if he had died before another Hoplite moved in on her.

"You there!" He shouted, as if to challenge her in the old ways. Cita nodded to him and brought her Naginata to bear. She spun it around her head, and sides, then torso in a beautifully intimidating display of skill and grace. The man started towards her but kept his guard high, expecting a hard blow from the pole-arm. She however, had a different idea and quickly planted her foot against his shield, kicking him to the ground and into the path of the now rampaging elephant.

She had endured many gruesome sights and sounds in her life, enough to break many common men. But the high pitched scream of that man right as the elephants foot stamped it along with his helmet, flat like a common coin, could never be unheard.

Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Nib
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Hakim listened as the others gathered chatted on about this wizard and the gems they were to gather. All the while, though, he kept his eye on the cloaked man near the back. This was his nature, to spot threats and keep an eye on them; supposed threats anyway. The cloaked man had simply put his hand up his sleeve, but Hakim knew of the Mennon and their practice of hiding chakram up their loose hanging sleeves. His eyes darted from the man at the sound of the disturbance between the barely clothed woman and one of the Baccumese men. They were bickering over the gem it seemed. It ended with the Baccumese man backing after jabbing at the woman’s side and putting his back to the wall of the tavern. As he reached his hand behind his back, Hakim repositioned himself so as to be able to keep both the cloaked man and the Baccumese on the wall in his view.

What a strange situation he had wandered into. The tension in this group was almost palpable. It only got worse when the sounds of battle reached them on the inner streets of the town. It would seem the Kotharan forces had broken through. The one-armed man led them through the town toward the stables. Hakim followed near the back, his hand still firmly gripping his sword and his eyes darting from side to side. The streets around them were clear for the most part, but the sounds of chaos erupted from behind the group. They reached the stables safely, but just as they arrived a group of Kotharan hoplites rounded the corner of the building. The old veteran at the lead shouted back to them about having no choice but to fight. Taking in the opposition and the area they stood, Hakim dashed to the side toward the stables. A moment later, there was a sound like thunder, and a building across the way burst apart as an elephant rushed through the street. Wood splinters flew, a hoplite was crushed beneath its massive foot, and their formation was destroyed.

Clouds of dust kicked up from the charge hung over the field, and Hakim used them to move about. From the dust came the head of a spear, but Hakim was just able to spin away from the attack. Following the spearhead, a hoplite in bronze armor emerged from the dust cloud. He fell into a defensive stance with his shield forward and his spear leveled. The two stared each other down for a moment, and then in an instant the hoplite struck with his spear. Hakim ducked out of the way and rushed forward. He got in close and swung his sword down at the hoplite’s weapon hand. As his sword sank into the exposed flesh near the wrist, the Kotharan dropped his spear to the dirt. Hakim kicked it away and surged forward again, and just as he would have collided with the shield he spun and brought his shorter sword from his its sheath. The smaller blade slashed across back of the hoplite’s leg. With a shout of pain he fell to the ground at Hakim’s feet. In the next instant, Hakim’s longer blade flashed across the area of exposed neck just under the warrior’s helmet, and his life was no more.

With his foe dealt with Hakim spun around and watched as the others he found himself with engaged the hoplites. They seemed to hold their own well for the most part, but the cloaked man from before was staring down two on his own. Hakim moved to help him in the midst of the fray, but as he did he watched the Roshad woman launch a full-sized spear at one of the hoplites. It struck him and sent him sprawling across the dirt, but he didn’t stay down. Slowly, he clambered back to his feet and began looking for his dropped weapon and shield. Before he could find either, Hakim was upon him with a slash from his sword. The long, thin curved blade sunk into the warrior’s throat and left a gaping wound there. Blood splashed across the dirt as Hakim kicked the body over and swung his sword to clear the excess blood from its blade.
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