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Ettamri, Oscar, Siwon, Katya
“Yeah, I did say that!” Katya crossed her arms and turned her head away from the steaming butt-skewers. “And we only had, like, two meals during the trip anyways, so that’s basically not even competition.” It looked as if she was adamant on winning this conversation. Before she could become a weakling like all those other butt-eaters, the small priest stood up and stomped over to the packs, rummaging for some deliciously dry hardtack to accompany her boiled snow with. With that meal in hand, she stomped back and started eating with ferocious gusto. Who cared how good the meat smelled? All meat smelled good, but not all meat was poop. Crunching the (painfully) crusty bread, Katya looked towards Oscar again, then towards Ettamri.

“Why even volunteer anyways? Not like there’s anything you can handle that Ettamri can’t.” Yes, that was the angle. “Go with the others. It’s a girl’s night out at the campfire now.”

Meanwhile, divorced from this masterful display of debate, Siwon’s religious ritual bore its fruit after a quiet minute of meditation and contemplation. Slowly, the crimson lines etched into the snow began to burn, an obsidian flame searing the mark deeper into the ground. Beside him, that yellow demon of his convulsed, its spindly limbs spasming as its potbelly inflated like a balloon. There was no longer any light in its eyes, just the fire of a predator-god’s gaze. The demon’s stomach burst open, a maw of razor-sharp fangs stretching out and collapsing upon the ritual circle. A crick, a crunch, and the task was done. Nothing remained of Siwon’s ceremony but the marks of the curved fangs against the snow.

The demon, its form and personality restored, let out an obnoxious burp. “Kekeke, good-quality meat for once, Wonsi~ Maybe you should change from Wolf to Vulture, picking up what scraps that warrior leaves behind, hmm?”

Argen, Renauld, Muu, Tithemal
As Argen and Renauld strode further up the hill, they too were wrapped in the warm, humid steam that emanated from the springs. Tithemal’s form could be seen cutting a powerful silhouette through the mist, and discretion got the better of the two: for all the mercy shown by the Dragon’s Dervish, it still wasn’t a comfortable proposition for them to bathe right beside the orc. They stripped by the weeping rocks instead, fabrics peeled off the skin for the first time in a long while. A bitter wind sliced through the springs, causing goosebumps to shoot up their arms, but any chill was soon alleviated; the bros eased themselves into the hot tub, and were immediately warmed. It was good fortune that Renauld, despite being a bookworm mage, still kept himself in relatively good shape. There was no body envy between the two: Argen was a beefy warrior with well-defined biceps and pecs, Renauld had a well-proportioned physique and abs that stood out due to a low body-fat percentage. Like that, they lounged. It was doubtful that any wild animal would attack them here. Tithemal’s deadly aura would thwart all but the most mad beasts.

Eventually, their gaze was drawn towards their other party member, Muu. Neck-deep in the waters, the Blade Dancer’s eyes were blissfully closed, enjoying the warmth that seeped from beneath the mountain. The heat of the springs had drawn color out of her pale complexion, a rosy red blooming on her cheeks. Even with the waters shrouding some of her form, it was still evident to both men that the raven-haired girl was incredibly enticing. Rest had removed the deathly gaze she usually held, while in the absence of heavy fabrics and hard leather, her graceful build showed off just how exotic and slender she was. Romance between party members usually didn’t end up well, but damn, was Muu objectively hot.



Well, up to the point where the two of them realized that, far from just enjoying the springs, Muu had simply fainted. Then it was just an ‘oh shit do we do something’ moment, while Tithemal, on his side of the springs, chewed on something bloody, his lower canines jutting out in amusement.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Searat
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The ranger chuckled lightly at the mild irritation of their little priestess. If anything, she was determined to stand by her choice of not eating her monkey butt skewers. Though the satisfaction of teasing the girl was quickly replaced by a strange sense of guilt as Oscar observed her eat the hardtack with an almost vicious gusto. The ranger returned the skewers back to their original places and lifted his hands in front of him to signify he was yielding to the little girl's will. "Ok. Ok. You win this round, kiddo. I won't tease you any longer. No poopy butt meat skewers for you." Oscar says with mock disappointment.

He then stood up and walked to his own pack and brought forth a sack containing dried blueberries before returning to where Katya was seated, still hellbent on eating the hardtack instead of the meal they had prepared from the abom meat. "Consider this your prize for winning." he plops the sack of dried fruit in front of her before plucking his wide-brimmed wizard-like hat from the girl's head and placed it on his own before proceeding to tousle her celestine colored hair slightly and sitting back down near the fire.

With a full belly and a relatively comfortable position near the warmth of the fire, Oz decides to rest his eyes a little. It had been a long day and the least he could do to help relieve the fatigue was to unwind and relax. To the outside perspective, the ranger simply sat near the campfire; but if one were to look underneath the wide-brimmed hat, one would notice the ranger had slipped into a shallow slumber. Deep enough to rest, but conscious enough to react to external stimulus at a drop of a hat.

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The familiar smell of sulfur and other minerals filled the air. The warmth emanating from the spring was humid. Despite this, it was still pleasant. The wet, biting cold of before had been replaced. Relaxation at last~! At least, until the safety of Tithemal's aura left them. Had he been more like Ettamri, he could have sat next to Tithemal and engaged in the rowdy conversation that warriors tended to have. He wasn't like her, though. He was a, as the champion put it, coward. The thought of calling himself a coward made him chuckle. He really was. They could relax for a little while, anyways. He finally removed his layers of wool. The biting cold became apparent once more as the protection from wind he once had been removed. He slowly lowered himself into the spring. The hot water warmed him to his bones.

It really was relaxing. Almost all of his worries vanished as the warmth spread. It was as if his brain encountered an error. He simply stopped thinking of any of his worries. He was living in the moment. Without so much as a deep thought, he lifted up his left hand, the cold wind biting into it once more. The ring finger was a bit bent, alongside that small scar. Really, why was it like that? He was certain he wasn't born with it. He couldn't remember how it happened. In fact, he couldn't remember anything before he woke up in that dank, cavernlike chamber. As though born a full grown adult, he came into the walls of the city and became a soldier.

He lowered his hand back into the water and glanced to his party members. Argen was also getting into the water, though Renauld waited until he fully submersed his lower half. No matter how much he told himself not to, private parts were often the target of accidental (and embarrassing) glances. No matter how much he didn't want to admit it, they were like magnets to the eyes. The forbidden fruit, if you would. Really, he was a warrior through and through.

Then he looked towards Muu. She was a svelte bladedancer and, even though her figure was hidden by the bubbling water, she was quite an attractive woman. The girl seemed oddly at peace. Maybe Ettamri just brought out the worst in her, whatever the reason for it was. She was just so relaxed as her head slowly sunk lower and lower towards the wa—

Oh lord, was Muu drowning in the hot springs?

Indeed, she had lost consciousness. The second he had realized, his nature as a supporter for the more efficacious members of the team began to shone. Uncaring about the water level and its relation to his private concealment, he (slowly) dashed towards Muu.

He yelled her name as he placed a hand on her shoulder. He certainly hoped she was okay.
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Argentum



Argen takes a deep breath in and sighs as he feels the air fill his lungs. Almost as if the air filling his lungs are fire, filling him with a warm sensation that seems to thaw through the ice-blocks the became of his lungs. He walks up the path with Renauld as they headed up to the hot springs. He did have excitement for this as it would be his first warm bath in a long time.

When they reached the spring it self it was strange Argen didn't really feel any danger from the man. Maybe it was because he saw them as no threat, yet this did leave Argen with some relief to not need to worry about this man. Beasts are easier to handle as they are simple minded, but that does not matter right now as he was here for a certain reason. As he found a nice spot that wasn't too hot, he began to strip down and head into the spring, not worrying about what the others see as he has no shame of his body. When he fully submerged he felt the tension melted as he slowly into the water.

He looked towards the others around him out of curiosity and to maybe find something to talk about. Renauld wasn't all too bad in physique, he definitely knew Renauld didn't focus on his body for being a caster but was no slouch in that regard. Their pilgrim friend has a body of a man who fought many battles and has gotten through them a tougher man. Then onto their Blade-dancer, who seems to be sinking into the water. Out of comfort? Nope she seems to have gone unconscious as he watches Renauld go to her and check on her. Argen stayed where he was and watched, if he didn't need to get up he wouldn't. But he was ready to go over and take her out but that would be if Muu was completely knocked out.
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With the sacrifice accepted and the ritual concluded, Siwon stood up once more as he continued to set up his own small camp. As usual, he had planned to sleep for a whole six hours with the intention of waking up early in the morning for both keeping watch for his group. Unlike before, Siwon did not have a visual reaction to his demon's smug comments, instead keeping that grim expression that he always had since he started the ritual.

"My allies think me weak. They wish not to listen to my warnings, and instead choose the path that would lead them to pleasure instead. This will change soon... With every sacrifice I make, I will get stronger."

Invigorated once more with resolve and contempt for his own weakness, Siwon once more set off, lighting a torch for himself as he looked near the campsite for any small animal to serve as a sacrifice for tomorrow morning. The first step of becoming stronger would be to obtain the good graces of the Jaws once more... otherwise, he'd be forced to fight with a fighting style that encouraged his usual opportunistic behavior. He did make sure to stay within a certain perimeter near the camp, in case he was ambushed by gods-know-what.
Hidden 12 mos ago 12 mos ago Post by Skyswimsky
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Muu


It should have been fine, right? Muu thought, as she closed her eyes, for just a second. As she truly felt the warm, gentle, water surrounding her body in complete opposition to the cold winter. Like snuggling in super comfy bed sheets while surrounded by icy winds. Just for a second, Muu could ease up. Just for a moment, she'd simply closed her eyes and...

...
...
...

'...u.'
Her shoulder was grabbed forcefully.
'Muu!'
Her name yelled, loudly.

"Huh!?"

The first reaction of the girl who sprung back to life would have been to burry her dagger somewhere deep into the assailant's flesh. Just, with the weapon likely having slipped from her hands, and her field of vision greeted by a pair of legs and what was in-between, the second reaction came so much more naturally. As if written by law.

'Huh? What's up?', or 'Uwu don't stare at me you perv~' might have been the start of a flourishing romance in an alterverse. But for the Muu of today, Renauld's goodwill would be met with a lot of pain. It was pure instinct, in the end, that made the brunette's leg go up in one short, but forceful, motion. Sure, the surrounding water cushioned her move somewhat, but ultimately it was not too different than jumping to relatively great heights from a simple standing position.

It was only a few seconds after that, that Muu truly realized who (hopefully still) stood in front of her.

"..." And a few more seconds for her to process what had just happened. A voice full of concern, a gentle tap on her shoulder. Her 'few seconds of sleep'. Of course. Burying herself deeper into water and avoiding eye contact, Muu asked. "My apologies, it was a habit. Are you alright?" Followed by a little bit more faint. "Thank you."
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Siwon
The only thing Siwon found was his own ineptitude in hunting for small animals and the lack of creativity his demon partner had when it came to insults. Romping around the perimeter kept his blood pumping, of course, and the Fiend Knight was about as warm as he could be without dipping into a blissfully warm bath. But that was basically it. Nothing more than a little jaunt in the woods before bedtime, for all that his attempt at hunting did for him. Maybe it'd be better if he bothered Oscar for this?

Maybe. Or maybe he should just try harder. Being a Fiend Knight was a life long vocation. He had lots of time to eventually gather up all the skills he needed to be forever respected by those who mock him. Whereas others bathed, he studied the blade. Every moment they relaxed, he would catch up to them, slowly, gradually closing the gap in skill between them. Look at Ettamri, standing stock still and doing absolutely nothing. Siwon will overcome the knightess's ability soon, by so merit of polishing his combat skills while she settled into braindead complacency.

Oh yes, in due time, they will all learn to respect him.

Oscar, Katya, Ettamri
It would have been a pyrrhic victory if Katya hadn't received the dried blueberries from Oscar, but because she had, it was just a victory, nothing more, nothing less. She made a silent oath to eat real, non-poop meat when she got back to Andeave, before scrunching her face in exaggerated annoyance when the ranger tousled her hair up. "Hmph!" was her only response to all that, but after a while, she did slow down her chewing a bit more. With mulched up blueberries atop of water-softened hardtack, the little priest could almost imagine that it was blueberry jam on bread, certainly a more pleasant meal than what was actually beside her. With Ettamri stoically just being there, Oscar half-sleeping by the fire, and the horses fed and cared for, there was nothing for Katya to do but to doze off as well, her arms folded as she enjoyed the peaceful solitude.

Peace, however, was never meant to last. Not in the wilderness, not in the night.

A strangled cry sounded in the distance, in the direction of the springs.

And then, only silence.

Muu, Renauld, Argen
As a Blade Dancer, Muu's leg muscles were certainly more developed than most girls, and even most warriors her age. Muscled and firm, yet also holding a whip-like flexibility that had broke the jaws of many an unfortunate foe when combined with her boots, there was literally no chance in hell that Renauld would be getting out of this unscathed.

Thankfully, even Blade Dancers were not immune to the effects of heat exhaustion, and not all of her strength was put in that kick. By Muu's standards, it was probably just a lovetap. If it had landed anywhere else, it would sting and leave a bruise, but it would certainly not be devastating in any way, shape, or form. But no matter the lessened force, Renauld's Little Renauld was still a point of extreme vulnerability, and with that singular blow, the mage's face turned bloodless, his teeth clenching to hold back the scream. Argen and Tithemal, bearing witness to it, could sympathize at once.

The worst, though, had yet to come.

Stumbling back, the mage slipped on a rock and fell flat on his tailbone, the nauseous shock shooting up his spine into his skull, impact thankfully dampened by resistance of water. Tragedy manifested itself, however, in the location where he had fallen: dangerously close to a subterranean geyser pumping hot water up into the spring. It took exactly 0.7 seconds for Renauld's bruised 'pride' to register the agony of being heated after being tenderized, and immediately afterwards, there was simply no recourse but to scream.

Now how will they explain THIS to their little priest?
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Oz dreamed of his home. Not the one from his previous life prior to his death, but the one he lived in the ranger's reserve. It was sunny and the sounds of nature filled the air to create a symphony that he could consider to be a masterpiece. He was wearing his casual attire, which consisted of his hunting attire sans the leather armor pieces and hunting cloak. He was filled with a sense of contentment as he cut an impossibly perfect apple. A familiar raven landed atop his hat and cawed and pecked the brim of his hat to call Oscar's attention. "Yes, Bird. I know you're there." Another caw and it flaps off his hat and in front of him, where the raven looked at both the ranger and the fruit expectantly. "Be patient. You'll get a treat soon. Promise." He replied to the rather large black bird. Once he finally cored and peeled the apple, he cut a sizable portion of it and handed it to his feathery visitor. Where in which the raven swallowed it in one gulp.

Content with the human's offering of fresh fruit, the raven returns to it's perch atop the ranger's hat. "Enjoying the view?" A singular caw. "Thought so." Oz promptly replies as he consumes the slices of fruit and occasionally raising a piece for Bird to eat.

This was the life.
=========================================================================================================
A scream from the springs roused the ranger from his slumber before it returned into a still silence.

It had barely been a moment since the end of the scream as the ranger leapt over the campfire, machete and scavenged goblin dagger drawn.

Conquer or Die.

The thought resounded in his mind, as his body feels his blood quickening and adrenaline flowing through his entire nervous system. Demanding his body to move faster to the point that his silhouette was akin to a blur moving past the trees at near inhuman speeds. Just as he lept through the veil of mist to where the others were taking a bath, he encountered...nothing. The damnable orc did not attack them, nor did any beast. The scene was simply his wizard friend in the water clutching his family jewels, with visible pain on his face, and a VERY naked Muu standing in front of said wizard friend. Oz's eyes widened and his cheeks burned red as his stare lingered longer than excusable. He realized this rather quickly and raised his cloak to break visual contact and save what decency the blade dancer had left...and hide the fact that a line of sanguine dripped down his nostril. "Jaws above, someone PLEASE explain what is happening?"

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Argentum


As Argen watched the mage get up to check on the blade dancer he thought for a moment, Hu, I wonder if she's gonna be alright. Then he heard a loud slap, as he turns back in expectation of Renauld being slapped, he was sorely mistaken. He found Renauld kicked right in his groin and holding in his pain. Argen winced at the mere thought as he started to get up to help Renauld, yet he watched him fall and crack his ass.

Argen watched in horror, as he saw Renauld scream bloody murder. Dear god, did he scream. He screamed loud enough to nearly turn Argen's hair the same shade as his eyes as he rushes over. Argen grabbed Renauld and bring him over to the edge so he could be in a better place to heal up.

As Argen finishes helping Renauld he begins going over to Muu to see how she is, "You ok? Other than being woken up thing you seem ok". As he looks at Muu and inspects her seeing if she was wounded or getting sick.

After a bit of time Argen notice a huffing man coming to them, and looks over to find their Ranger has came to them. Argen sighs out as he says, "He tried to wake her up from her sleep. And he paid the price of his bloodline".
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Muu


"Are you alright?"

No, he wasn't. Not. At. All. Muu likely couldn't even imagine the pain that little Renauld had to go through. One thing lead to another and the mage landed unconscious(?) in the water. Now it seemed like it was Muu's turn to help yet, the other male visitors to the spring had been faster. Both Oscar decided to stare while Argen dragged the not-yet-a-corpse out of the water.

Just how long had Muu been out for them to think it was okay to visit the hot spring already? Or was taking her time a luxury they couldn't afford? They were, after all, on a mission. Wannabe-professionals. "It was an accident." The girl explained to nobody in particular as the others were quite some distance away. Instead, she gathered her dagger and other belongings that were deposited on the edge of the hot spring. Getting out of the water and using the woolen garbs to make herself somewhat comfy while leaving the leather out for now.

"It was an accident. I thought he was an enemy." She now explained, closing in on the other two she explained. "I'll take him." With these words, Renauld (and his stuff) was but just another piece of luggage for Muu to carry to the campsite. Once there she gave the others a simple nod before making sure that the mage was sufficiently covered and close to the fire, too. Letting him rest on her lap while enjoying some buttmeat, too. Just usual things.
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Argentum



Argen takes a deep breath in as he says, "Alright, I'll be here for a bit longer". As Argen goes to sit back down and continues his relaxation.Just for a bit longer, then he will head back into the cold once more to regroup with his companions. He looks over to Oscar as he says, "Since you're here, take a bath. It's good for the body". As Argen finds a nice spot to sit and relax again as he looks towards the pilgrim, "Sorry about that". As he just heads back to his resting state, letting his worn body just rest for a while longer before heading back into the camp sight so he can prepare for the next day.
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It was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the worst pain of his life. The moment Muu's leg met Renauld's manhood, what felt like a bolt of lightning passed through his body. It struck his gut first. By some miracle, he managed to keep the ass-meat down. Then it moved to his lungs. He released a great exhalation as his spine crumpled and he fell towards the water. Next was his ears, which had their natural hearing replaced by a deafening ringing. Then his brain no word good.

There was no pride to be had to tough this one out. Any male would understand the pain he was in.

He screamed at the top of his lungs. The shriek of pain quickly vanished as his face slumped into the hot water. Muffled gargling rose from the bubbling water. His tears mixed with the hot spring's water. Once he had finally run out of breath, he had managed the willpower to surface.

Miraculously, he didn't become a eunuch. His balls managed to not fall out of his mouth when he screamed. Thankfully, Argen came along and dragged him to the edge of the hot spring to ensure he didn't drown from ball trauma related drowning.

After Muu offered her half-hearted apology, Renauld simply nodded to her. As much as he tried to say "It's okay, it was an accident", he couldn't muster out the words. 50% because it wasn't okay because he was now suffering from getting his gnards pushed into his body, 50% because he physically couldn't speak without screaming again.

His mood in the hot springs had instantly soured. Rest and relaxation had been turned into nut nursing as he managed to crawl out of the pool and dry in the cold air. Back went on his garments and to the camp he went. He would assume his position by the fire once more, trying to take his mind off of his aching groin as asking a healer to assist was incredibly uncomfortable. Though, having a lap pillow from Muu supporting his head helped considerably. He was feeling as though he was kicked in the gnards.

Well, he was kicked in the gnards.
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By the time the Boys and Muu returned, Katya was snickering to herself quietly at basically everything. Her eyes were sharp enough to note the smear of blood from Oscar's nose, as well as how Muu carried Renauld so romantically towards the campsite that the ice mage was literally at a loss for words. Argen stalked behind them as well, dour as ever. Oh, was the warrior man jealous? Kyaaa so cute! Back when she was at the Church, the older Sisters told her all about the scandalous relationships that popped up between men and men, men and women, and women and women in those Silver Moon soldier parties, and now that it was happening right before her, Katya couldn't say that she was disappointed at all. Giving herself a pat on the back, she did her best to repress her desire to interrogate Muu for all the juicy details, and instead opted to simply watch as the two new lovers had their cutesy moments together, cuddling by the firepit.

The night passed like that, peaceful and quiet. Nothing in the woods stirred, nothing in the night stalked. They slept, sheltered from the winds by the great pine trees around them, and the monkey butt that they ate gave their bodies extra fuel for keeping warm in the night. One more day, and then they'd be back in civilization. One more day...



By the time the sky turned blue again, everyone was awoken by the miserable cold. Their blankets had frozen stiff in the night, the snow that had been melted by the fire refreezing once the embers had waned. Anything that was exposed to the chilly air felt stiff and raw, and no matter how much one wormed and huddled themselves inside their blankets, it still felt as if their feet were going to fall off from the cold. Gods above, if only they had a fire mage. The pine trees that shielded them from the winds had now shaded them from the warmth of the rising sun as well, and once again, that blindingly white light, reflected off the snow, made it nigh impossible for anyone to snatch any more hours of sleep.

Siwon, his yellow demon berating him all the while, had gotten up first through sheer willpower (or fear of shirking his obligations towards the Jaws of Death?) alone, and was already mummified before the weak fire, doing what he could to cope with the weather. The skies above were clear again, another beautiful day on the frontier of human civilization, but that just meant more squinting and eye strain, really. Katya, in spite of the freezing temperatures, crawled out of her own blankets half-asleep still. Partway through her pleasant dream of watching the rest of her party having a romantic comedy, her dreams turned into a nightmare of constant cold water ablutions, and she woke up, heavily disappointed that the happier parts of her dream ended before she could see Argen and Oscar kiss.

With her fingers, the little priest did her best to comb the knots out of her frozen hair, as she huddled by the fire as well, too irritated to actually stoke it. Who was in charge of finding firewood last night? Not her, that's who. There was hardly enough now. Maybe she should just go skip off and take another hot springs bath instead...
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"Thanks for the offer, Argen. But the thought of bathing with an...orc...does not sit well enough with me." The word 'orc' practically dripped with venom as he lowered his cloak and sheathed his weapons. Justifiably so. Many of his fellow silver moon soldiers had met their ends at the hands of the vile green-skinned menace. Monsters are monsters, and the orcs are no exception to that fact, plain and simple. "Feel free to enjoy your downtime anyway, I'll accompany Muu and Renauld." Oz says with a small but polite nod to the phalanx before following the duo, leaning on the trees they passed a few times as the after-effects of Hunter's Rush kicked in.

===========================================================================================================================================

Oz was weirded out on how Katya eyed Muu and Renault as well as himself and Argen before she patted herself on the back. He would have dwelled on the subject if not for the second use of Hunter's Rush. He was just plain tired. He quietly heads to the cart and retrieves his sleeping roll and announces to the party present. "I'll take the last watch with whoever is my watch partner." The ranger then crawls into the tent and bundles up into a sleepy burrito with a wizard hat before being embraced by the gentle arms of sleep.

...

The rays of light, combined with the snow sapping his body heat made it impossible for the ranger to get even an extra hour of sleep. His sleeping roll was stiff and when he struggled out of his frozen cocoon he flopped out of the tent, body aching from the events of yesterday. One would easily confuse the groaning ranger dragging himself out of the tent as a recently risen undead. Jaws above...I hope I'm not late for my watch. He thinks as he drags his sore body across the cold snowy ground. He then notices that the rays of light and the sky were already too bright to warrant the time he had awoken for a watch. Shit. Did he oversleep? This rarely happened...but considering that he, along with his party, was still in the world of the living, it seemed that missing his watch was not that big of a deal. A rogue gust of wind caused the prone ranger to shiver and lift his head to locate the campfire, where he saw the sleepy and slightly irate priestess combing her frozen hair. "Fire...Warmth...Kat..." Oz muttered into the snow as he dragged his body towards the dying fire and the small priestess.

Perhaps she has a miracle to help alleviate the muscle fatigue?


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Argentum



Argen heard the words of Oscar and knew why he was less than tasteful towards the Pilgrim. He was an Orc, and a well known one for slaying Silver Moon Soldiers. Yet Argen didn't care, shit like that can be left with the city. All it does is get in the way and gets people hurt and killed. Argen knew this man wouldn't kill them, if he was he had a perfect time when their Priest was here with him and only one other person. If he didn't take it at that time, he wasn't really going to do anything to them. So Argen used this time to relax and rest this headache away.

----------------

When Argen made it back to camp Muu and Renauld were in, a more romantic position. Argen knew this was to probably alleviate the stress on Renauld's manhood, yet it could be seen as something more by others. As Argen looked to everyone else, Katya looked amused to say the least. Maybe from the fact they told her he had his nards wounded or the fact that he was laying in Muu's lap like a lover, who knows? She did however look at him funny which made Argen less than comfortable but that might also be the fact he spent some time alone with the Orc, so it could be seem as strange to them. But that doesn't matter as he began setting up for the night as he says, "I am willing to take first watch with whom ever is wanting to or forced to". Argen went and made a warmed seat from his bear fur for his watch.

-------

Argen's body was stiff and freezing and he knew it was time to wake up. He heaved himself up and awake, fuck it's cold as hell out here. The fire was all but dead and the warmth of their blankets is all but gone. Argen stood fully and thought about going to the hot springs but decided against it in favor of drying his clothing. So he began to collect fire wood to get a fire going once more. With a hopefully sufficient fire Argen would begin drying his socks, his coat, pretty much all of his fabrics in the hopes of making them comfortable once more. As Frostbite is the worst way to lose an appendage. Hopefully they can make it to their destination without anymore complications. Hopefully they can find another good meal. And hopefully they can get a good meal going with what they had still. Argen let out his famous sigh with a, "Damn it's cold". Argen knew better than to drink alcohol to warm up, it makes it easier to freeze to death, but damn did it made you comfortable while you did it.
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"Morning, Argen, Oscar," Katya waved as the former stoked the flames and the latter waddled around like a half-frozen penguin. As the fire got hotter and hotter, they could go boil water for a warming, if not filling, soup again. Katya skipped off for another bath, more for pleasure than for cleanliness, and gradually, the rest of the party woke up as well. Ettamri nursed a bit of a headache, Renauld's little Renauld was still sore, and Muu's scarf had frozen solid last night, forcing the Blade Dancer to squat by the fire and thaw it out. As usual, nothing was really said between the entire party, but the night hadn't been so miserable and everyone got enough sleep to tide them over for the rest of the day. If fortune smiled upon them and Ettamri's vague map was accurate in its approximations of distance, they would reach Fort Stalwart before nightfall. Would be free of their burden. Would even have a proper bed to sleep on. Maybe the soldiers there would throw them a party for delivering such precious goods in such dangerous times?

One could dream, at least.

When Katya returned to the rest of her party, most of the packing up was done. Snow was kicked over the firepit, blankets were patted clean of snow and folded up, the horses were roused from their own chilly slumber, and the party was off once more. With only two nights of experience, they had certainly grown efficient with their packing, or perhaps just stopped caring so much. Marching up the path towards the springs once more, they noted the absence of the orc champion that had been there last night, but other than perhaps a stray comment or observation, nothing else arose from the knowledge. The horses pulled the wagon up higher, and the adventurers' own breaths labored from the upward climb. The snow became more powdery as they got higher up the mountain, and every step they took caused them to slip backwards as well. At one point, the more physically-gifted members of the party had to push the wagon up from behind, just to make sure it didn't roll down backwards while ascending a particularly treacherous forest path. At another time, Muu and Oscar were both forced to scramble up on all fours, being the only members in the party not to have something that could double as a walking stick.

Yet for all those troubles, it was still rather peaceful. Birds, unseen but easily heard, sang their little songs. Snow melted from high branches and dropped like fat bits of birdshit. It was an unusually warm day, as far as winters went, and soon, even Oscar's soreness disappeared.

The mountain they climbed plateaued and, turning back, they could see all the territory that the Empire had managed to hold onto. Andeave, with its great walls, could be seen in the distance, the rough gem of civilization offset by the sheets of ice stretching out from the shore. The forests of the Ranger's reserve were pristine as always, great pines like white needles standing proud upon the mountain. Plumes of smoke rose up from the western quarters of the city as well, taverns in the process of roasting whatever meat would be the star of the night's dinner. Outside the city, flashes of color occasionally burst outwards, the arcane abilities of soldier-mages blooming upon the wintry fields.

And turning outwards upon the plateau, they could see too, the untamed wilderness of the frontier. Grand trees burst beyond the canopies. Great lakes shimmered like emerald in the sunlight. A bird, or perhaps a dragon, cavorted through wispy clouds in the distance. Magenta fumes exuded from plains of black rock. The wind carried with it screams, but of terror or jubilation, it was uncertain. The unknown called for them, and yet, approaching the edge, they could see that there was naught but a sheer drop ending in jagged, fang-like rocks.

The moment of reprieve ended. Their journey was not yet over.

Oscar ranged ahead and the others followed his footprints. Now that they were on flat trails, they all traveled much faster. It was difficult, of course, to gauge how wide the trails truly were when snow masked everything, but it was simple enough to just stick to the side. They passed behind frozen waterfalls, the sunlight turning turquoise within the icy pathways. They passed over streams of snowmelt, water torpidly gurgling down into oblivion. They passed by a herd of shaggy mountain goats ascending up the sheer face of the mountain with casual grace.

There were no monsters here. No monsters but the ones that lingered within the party.

The wagon party traveled on.

Well, at least they did, until they couldn't.

Oscar was waiting for them around the bend, and it was obvious why the Ranger had chosen to wait. Had there been an earthquake recently? Had there been a great battle? Or had Ettamri's map simply been inaccurately drawn?

Before them, as if carved by the deathblow of a war god, was a chasm where the road should have continued. A chasm that fell all the way down to the forest below. A chasm that separated one side from the other by an insurmountable ten meters.

Had they taken the wrong path?
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Ettamri Belarence


"Hmph. Another impasse." She took out the map before looking around. "Tch. Lets turn back and look for another way. There is no sense lingering here unless one of you can conjure up a bridge, or throw everyone across the chasm."

Grumbling to herself, she looked at the map again, looking for another way across, or if she read the thing wrong.

They could probably climb around and get across somehow, but the wagon wasn't. Without a proper, level bridge, road or path, a wagon wasn't going anywhere with its cargo intact.
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"Well...shit." Oz muttered in disbelief as he gazed upon the chasm. It was ten meters across and the snow-capped forest below seemed almost triple the distance it actually was. Either way, he nor the party would be able to cross this. The sounds of the cart and the party caused the ranger to turn to them and say the obvious. "Ain't no going through here." The ranger vaguely gestured to the whole chasm.

The knightess was first to speak, suggesting they find an alternative route. Possibly extending their trip by a whole day at least. Not a fun nor encouraging idea but a viable option. The other was to find a way for them and the cart to traverse. Renauld's magical prowess was nowhere near the power needed to conjure up an ice bridge, so it seemed that they'd have to make their own bridge if they wanted to pass. Oz noticed that there were a good number of trees at the start of the mountain that was at least ten meters tall, if they managed to chop down a couple of those trees and then vertically bisect them, they'd have a sturdy and wide enough bridge to carry them and the cart across. Though the twisting paths would make transporting the logs a difficult task and the weight would be a big issue, it was possible. "There were a number of very tall trees at the base of the mountain. If we manage to bring them here, we could make a bridge ourselves...but it would be very difficult and time-consuming." He admitted to the party.

Oz would then walk to the edge of the crevasse and investigate what could have caused this and see how recent it was made. It seemed impossible for it to be made recently, considering the other parties were able to make their deliveries for the past month, albeit in varying states of success, they would have mentioned the ten-meter wide chasm in the way to the outpost.

Maybe they did make a wrong turn at some point?


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After a good night's rest, Renauld's manhood was without doubt still working. Though, he wouldn't dare to peer inside his own trousers. The fear of what colour it might had been was too much for his mind. Some things were better left unseen. If the soreness of his nether regions was any indicator, he wouldn't like what he would see.

His morning preparations were as simple and easy as they always were. Wake up, try to become slightly more comfortable, and eat what he could stomach. Really, the only difference this morning was that he didn't wake up covered in snow. Whether or not his lumballgo was better or worse was a question he still had to dote on.

Leaving their camp and heading fortward was unpleasant, as always. Trawling through an eternity of snow uphill was painful, especially around his injury. Though, being met with a gaping chasm was the break his aching body needed. Kind of messed up, if you thought about it.

Renauld's ice bridge idea came to mind again. Thinking about it on a river was bad enough. Now on a longer distance with nothing but one misstep would end up in the entire group plummeting to their deaths?

Maybe not. If he was a talented, high level mage maybe. But a mage at that caliber would probably do more than just deliver grain to a fort.

"The chasm has to end somewhere, right?" He told the group. "It's not like the entire continent is split in two here. If this is the right way."
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As Ettamri looked over her map, the remaining options she could glean from the faded parchment wasn’t so pleasant. Backtracking was always an option, but it would require them to head back down the mountain, then head southwards along the mountain to enter a new route at the base, before travelling uphill once more. Optimistically, if no mishaps occurred while they headed downhill on the snow-laden terrain, they could perhaps reach Fort Stalwart in another two days of travel. The sky didn’t seem to be promising deadly weather for now, but another two days of hiking was a weight that bore especially upon the Warrior and her still-recovering stamina. The other option would require backtracking as well, but only up to the plateau. Rather than going down the mountain from there, they could ascend higher up instead, traversing the ridgeline. The chasm really did look like a cut, but it hadn’t split the entire mountain in half; if they reached the ridge, they could simply skirt around the chasm. The incline, as indicated by the map at least, didn’t look impossible to hike up on either, but the powdery nature of the snow may be troublesome. It would be a death sentence if they slipped and fell, but if they took this path, the group would be able to descend onto the main path towards the Fort, and perhaps even reach it by tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Katya had hopped off the wagon to take a look as well, crawling onto her stomach to peek over the edge. Wow they were high up! The void called for her, and for a moment, Katya wondered what it’d feel like to fall down the side of the mountain. Then, before she could just slide off, the priest pushed herself away, scrambling onto her feet again. Goosebumps bounced beneath her coat and she blinked a couple of times, brushing the snow off her front. Creepy, but cheap thrills were still nice.

“Uh, Renauld, can you like, make an ice bridge?” She tilted her head, considering Oscar’s thoughts as well. “How about an ice and wood bridge?”
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