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Byron Cauna


"If we are to fall here, then you must live on. I have the utmost faith that you should carry on our legacy, should it all be destroyed by the time you awaken."

The last words of the leader of the Tiarden Alliance were still stuck in Byron's mind as he watched the doors to the chamber close. The humming of the room itself—a byproduct of the thousands of layered magical circles starting up—was somewhat unnerving, but at this point it was far too late to have second thoughts. All of the 'heroes'—himself included—had already been placed into their own stone coffin. The structure he found himself in, etched from top to bottom in complex markings both inside and out, soon began to glow with a dim white light as the lid slowly closed over him.

With one last sigh, the beastfolk closed his eyes and waited. At this point, there was nothing left to do but that, anyhow.



Waking up from being sealed away felt like waking up from a short nap to Byron, if anything. The beastfolk had expected something as dramatic as being 'sealed away for the future' to have had a more substantial impact on his body, but given how he felt exactly the same as he had when the lid to the coffin had been closed, well...

Needless to say, it was a tad underwhelming.

"Well, at least those old men didn't skimp on what it took to make this thing work, huh?" he asked himself, slowly shifting his arms as he pushed the stone block on top of him. It took a few moments for it to budge, but once it opened even the slightest bit, the rest of the work was done automatically. The smell of stale air was not the most enticing thing to return to, but given that he didn't look like a piece of jerky after getting out, the only thing that the beastfolk could assume was that the magic had, in fact, worked.

Probably.

As far as he knew, the mechanism to open the double doors leading outside had to be operated by all of those present within. Hopefully, none of the other coffins had suffered a malfunction in the years that they had spent... Sleeping? Was that the right word for it?

"Hey, if anyone else is up, now's the time to get out of bed. Pretty sure sleeping on stone isn't very good for your backs," Byron called out, stretching his limbs as he waited for a response. A lack of responses would be worrisome, but ideally there wouldn't be any corpses in here to have to discover.

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The next response was not a vocal one.

There was a dull thud. And then, another. And then one more.

She was feeling impatient. She'd already been contained here all this time, so by this point... it felt like she'd taken a nap. But she knew it had been far longer than that. She didn't want to be there any longer.

With a final thud, the lid of the coffin hissed open.

Slowly, she sat up. one hand rose, flicking her black hair out of her eyes, before they opened. One, deep crimson red, and the other gleaming gold, almost seeming to glow. She appeared to be a child, but everyone here would know that wasn't the case.

For this was Death Angel Sylphie, Left Seat of the Goddess of Righteous Victory and the Slaughter of the Wicked.

Casting her eyes around the room, she noticed that it seemed only one of the other coffins had opened, only the beastman Cauna seeming to have awakened already. With a smirk, Sylphie gave a mock yawn as she rose to her feet.

"My my," she began, "Am I one of the first to awaken? I certainly hope that the others aren't trying to sleep in~"

Her tone was light and playful, as she stepped from the coffin and stretched. The dress she wore was in no worse condition then it had been when she first put it on, the frilly skirt bouncing slightly with her movements. In all honesty, the demigod didn't feel too inclined to wait until the others awakened. She wanted to be out there, to be doing exactly what her position as the Left Seat indicated.

To slay the wicked and claim victory.

But, given the way that the doors functioned, she didn't have much of a choice. At least... for a bit. Would the doors withstand a direct blow from her sword...?

Well, there was some time before she resorted to testing that out.

Sylphie stretched again. There were many, certainly, who needed to be sent for Aphei's judgement, then to the mercy of the God of the Underworld. There had to be. The longer she stayed here, the more time they had to be alive...

For now, she could entertain herself by teasing the others as they awakened, supposed the demigod. And Cauna was already awake... she flashed him a smirk.

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A pair of eyes opened in the dark, followed shortly by a furrowed brow. Malachi felt neither stiff, nor groggy, nor particularly well rested. “...Did it work?” If not, he didn't mind one bit. Jumping in on the whole 'being sealed away' ordeal had been a rushed and, now that he'd had a few more peaceful moments to mull it over, pretty bad idea. Sure, the idea of being locked away to escape an inevitable demise harbored a certain appeal, but did it really matter? Sooner or later, no matter how vividly he lived, he'd die anyway. Better to do it in defense of those he loved than alone and unknown in some vague future. A death like that at least would have some meaning, for once in his life. The more he shifted about in his cramped casket, the more Malachi felt sure that no time at all had passed. “Alright,” he murmured. “Time to get outta here. Hold tight, loves. I'm comin'.”

A little force prompted the coffin lid to slide open, and Malachi pulled himself free, reveling in his freedom of movement. “Aaah!” He stretched luxuriously, twisting about to crack his neck and back. Even a short rest, it seemed, could settle the bones. A couple others were up too, both fresh-faced and ready to greet the day: a suave-looking beastman and a tiny girl in grandiose attire. In the brief time before his uncomfortable entrapment, Malachi caught wind of the seal's subjects being great heroes meant to save the day in a coming age. The memory coaxed a chuckle out of him, more wry than amused. That damned status brought him nothing but trouble. Always messing up people's expectations, setting up rash assumptions, and all in all, getting in the way of a good life. And now it'd almost cost him his life—the only life he knew worth living, that is. If they hadn't been singing his praises as they corralled him into a casket, he might've put up more resistance. But no matter. That was then, and this is now.

“G'morning,” he greeted the others. Paying them no further mind, he stood up from his temporary resting place and made to head for the double doors. The moment he took a step, he felt a twinge from behind him, a subtle pull like the feeling of forgetting something. Turning about, he rested his eyes on a pair of ugly black mitts, their uneven, assymetrical stone surfaces drinking in the low light. Those who wasted their time assigning him a 'legacy' or 'mythos' called them the Dregs of the Planet, the Deep Dark Fists, the Hands of the Abyss. To him they were the Heavies, and while he could life them easily enough, they made for quite the burden. “...Right.” Couldn't forget those, even if he wanted to. With a sigh, the huge man bent down and retrieved them, fitting them over his hands. They slid right on, almost eagerly, a perfect fit, a flawless and natural extension of his body. Malachi shook his head, and turned back to face the door.
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~Izel~


Sleeping, was difficult for Izel. Always had been, since that day. Whenever she 'slept' her mind had a tendency to...wander. Detach itself. Return to that nightmarish underground labyrinth. To the mines. To the source. Sometimes even further. Were they just dreams? She couldn't say. Dreams were sometimes more real than reality. The deeper you went the more real it came. Either way, when the marvel of magical engineering finally shut off, unlike the others, Izel was less than pleased. She snapped back to 'this' reality. This dull, languid dream.

"So....cramped." The lid to her coffin slid open with a single wave of her hand, announcing another 'hero' that had been sealed had awoken. Izel climbed out of her resting place, feet lightly hitting the dusty, now ancient seeming floor. "Mhm...I forgot how restrictive this body is." She began stretching, raising her arms high into the air, interlocking her fingers. Slowly, she lowered her arms, sliding her hands down her body until one rest on her hips, the other slowly extending outwards until it was fully in front of her.

A small silvery white orb appeared in the palm of her hand before splitting into several smaller ones, dancing in the air briefly before being snuffed out. Seemingly satisfied, she ran a hand through her hair, observing the others that had awoken. Malachi...she eyed Malachi carefully. Those weapons he had understandably made her wary, but she had no reason to fear him. She turned her attention back to the present...specifically Sylphie.

"Hello, my little demi-god." She smirked at the small human. "Mind helping me loosen up a bit? My body is awfully stiff and I'm certain yours is too, so we could help each other~"
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Efander Amdel


Really, it was a pain that they had been sealed away in stone coffins, with no sort of padding or the like. Surely with all the effort that had gone into arranging magic circle upon magic circle to create a proper stasis (and not just the three truly magical of their group sitting and playing cards until the time came) it would have been possible to get some cushioning in these things? Efander was an old man, even if remarkably spry and supposedly sealed unchanging, and waking up with a stiff back...

The good news was that waking up felt better than ever: no aches or pains, a back without any sign of stiffness whatsoever... ready and raring to go. Even the coffin seemed a lot roomier, who knew such a long nap would do such wonders for the body? Ah, everyone was starting to be noisy, it was definitely time to wake up.

With a heave, yet another of the heavy stone lids was pushed out of the way, and as expected a head of snowy white hair sat up from it with a yawn, giving a morose look at Izel. "We just woke up and you're already starting on the young lady..."

This, of course, really drew Efander's attention to her little incident. Her voice was too high, the hair was much silkier, there was none of the muscle she had worked hard to keep... and her robes, extravagant as they were, were starting to slip down her much smaller shoulders quite noticeably. Aaaah, this would call for some emergency tailoring...
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Crimson Paladin
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Aerarius

Aerarius slowly regained consciousness as the sealing spell wore off. As mana coursed through his body, his auditory sensors were filled with the soft humming of his internal mechanisms as they started back up. For a minute he lay there as clarity slowly returned to his mind and his body regained its strength. He wasn't sure if it was by design that the sensation of waking up as an automaton would be so similar to that of when he was human, but he was grateful for it all the same.

Why can't I see anything? This isn't a charging station. Oh yes, that's why, he thought to himself as his mind became clearer. He extended his hand and felt the coffin's stone lid, as he recalled the events that led to this.

They sealed us away. Wanted us to strike a blow at the enemy when they became complacent and believed themselves victorious. We must have awakened, he concluded. He had clearly been shut down for a while- his joints had an uncharacteristic amount of friction within them, and a few were even entirely stuck, his half-awakened body unable to produce the force to move them.

Above the ambient noise of his own body, Aerarius discerned sounds from outside the coffin. The most likely conclusion was that the others had awakened as well. He waited another minute or two, patiently allowing his body to regain its strength. He exercised his joints in his arms and dislodged those that had become stuck, at least as far as he could inside the cramped coffin. When he was satisfied with the lack of resistance in his joints and the strength in his arms, he opted to emerge. He put his hands on the lid and pushed, flinging it open, completely ignoring that it was meant to open on its own.

Did I force it took hard? It's no matter. We're never using these things again, he thought as he climbed out. His legs were still stiff, but they possessed enough power to push through the resistance. He glanced around, looking at the others that had awakened. So far, the young beast-man, the petite demigoddess, the Grand Magus, and the towering half-elf had emerged.

"It appears the sealing spell was successful," he vocally noted, producing a human but slightly distorted voice. He couldn't be sure what sort of side effects the spell could yield. Such was not uncommon when dealing with untested magics.

In fact, he didn't need to look far to find an unforeseen "side effect". Emerging from Efander's coffin, and draped in his clothing, was what appeared to be a young girl. She appeared to possess the Great Sage's unique mana absorption, leading Aerarius to conclude that she must be Efander, somehow shifted into another form. Taking into account his own mana absorption ability, which he assumed was deactivated while he was sealed, he instinctively glanced down at his own body. To his relief, his brass frame was the same size and shape as it had been when he had been sealed.

"It looks like the spell has had some unforeseen effects, however."
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Oh? The huge half-elf had been next to awaken? And then...

The magus. The one who felt wrong. Not evil, no. It wasn't malevolence that Sylphie sensed from her, or else she would have struck her down where she stood without the slightest hesitation. But there was something inhuman, something strange. Something distinctly other, that the small girl's nature as a demigod allowed her to perceive. It was not something she would attack, no. But it was something she would be aware of.

Her words, however...

Smirking, the black-haired girl placed one hand to her cheek.

"Oh, you'd like to loosen up?" she asked, letting out a light chuckle as she did, "Fine then. I'm already trembling with anticipation~"

There was a low humming sound as she stretched out one arm, then a flash of golden light. A circle of magical energy spread from her palm, and began to move away. In its wake, it left... first the hilt, then the thick, heavy blade. Sylphie's arm jostled slightly from the sudden weight in her grip.

The Left Seat, Pillar of the East, licked her lips. Getting to fight, even non-lethally, it would still be victory for her. But what she really wanted was to hunt down the first evil presence she could find after leaving the chamber.

Oh, that... wait. Who was the child, suddenly protesting? Calling her young lady? Was she-

...

The chamber she had come out of... that was...!

Sylphie's smirk spread into a grin. The tip of her blade hit the floor with a dull, metallic thunk and a shower of sparks as she bent forward, clutching at her belly. Oh that was too good, that was hilarious! That was far too hilarious! Soon enough, she was laughing hysterically, raising her free hand to point at the other little girl.

It was a few moments before Sylphie could calm herself, wiping a tear from her eye.

"Young lady? Are you sure you should be calling anyone that?" she asked, teasingly, "Oh Great Sage Amdel?"

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Byron Cauna

Almost as if in response to his own remarks, one of the coffins (after a bit of 'encouragement' from the one inside) slid open to reveal the demigod lying inside. There was but a slight smirk on Byron's face as he watched her get up and look at him, as the young man was well aware that all of those present were many decades his senior, at minimum. If anything, though, this meant that his own awakening was both not a fluke and not the only success. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

One by one, the others woke up, and Byron gave each a passing nod—save Aerarius, whose own awakening was immediately proceeded by a flying plate of stone barely missing the beastman's body by a few inches. He had moved out of the way the second it had gone flying, of course, and the lid crashing into the wall opposite the coffin and shattering apart caused Byron to give a nervous laugh in return.

"Might want to dial the strength down a bit, buddy," he remarked, crossing his arms as he looked at the rest of the room. Though he had failed to process it at first, the distinct lack of one old man and the existence of a small girl in his place had finally caught up to him, and Byron could only hold back a snicker. It seemed that the others were handling the job of mocking the sage, which left him to walk up to the half-elf who was already getting ready to leave.

"One hell of a thing to wake up to, huh?" he asked, quietly placing his hand on the magic circle in front of the double doors blocking their exit. With a deep breath, Byron activated the magic therein, causing each of the coffins (opened as they now were) to light up. A few moments later, though, and that light had disappeared; in exchange, the doors slowly swung open, revealing the long cavern that they had walked down to get here in the first place. It seemed completely untouched, which was probably a good thing; given that they were tucked away in a mountain, there probably wasn't much else that they could hope for.

"Doesn't seem like there's even been any signs of life down here for the past few decades, at least; we should be in the clear."

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~Izel~


"Heh." Izel chuckled quietly. "Indeed. The stars must be lit from their rest." She was already prepping her magic. While she wasn't exactly 'battle hungry' as this demi-god was, she certainly did need to see how well her magic performed on large scale after such a rest. For all she knew, she had lost some ability after this body slept for so long. As Sylphie prepared her blade, Izel had began casting several spells.

"I do hope you haven't lost your edge." She grinned. "T'would make the sea weep and the moon quite displeased should you have done so." but before their 'loosening up' could commence, something caught Izel's attention just had it caught Sylphies. A familiar presence of Magic caught her attention.

She was far too mature to burst into laughter like Sylphie, of course, but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy this unexpected outcome. Her spells audibly fizzled, bursting into a comical shower of sparks.

"Snrrrkr." A badly suppressed chuckle came from Izel's lips. "Amdel! Did the memory eaters get to me? I could have sworn you were much older." The mage held a hand to the side of her face, holding her the other against her stomach. "You...you took the moons blessing? Perhaps?" She shifted her hand to cover her mouth as another horribly suppressed laugh escaped. "Ai, ai, You've certainly never looked better. Perhaps you're jealous this one is not playing with you instead?"
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Despite his fondness for the idea of a decisive, immediate departure, Malachi found his exit attempt short-lived. The sealing chamber's only doors sported a seal of their own, magical in nature. As he drew close to the sorcery, the Heavies hummed, almost hungrily. Malachi considered walloping the door with them, but if they simply devoured the magic without actually opening anything, he could very well be stuck in here depending on how much stone surrounded them. With an exasperated groan, the brawler turned about to see the others. Surely one of the 'heroes' got proper instructions on how thing whole thing was supposed to go down.

When he looked, however, he didn't see many heroes. Another girl, not quite as little as the last, had awoken and begun to unwind. More perceptive than his brutish look might suggest, Malachi caught the wary glance she gave him, though caring about it didn't even occur to him. To such great and mighty heroes as these, surely his appearance didn't intimidate. One well acquainted with the magical arts, however, could probably feel the Heavies' aura, like someone constantly breathing in. Apprehension from someone like that was understandable -mutual, even- but anyone who stood for peace and the innocent had nothing to fear from Malachi Ghundrach. Still, hearing suggestive words from the child set him on edge.

Next, yet another little girl, also white-haired, earned from him a curious glance. This one, at least, didn't lead with improper speech, instead commencing the other girl's chiding. Her criticism died in her throat, however, as she turned to sudden, somewhat astonished introspection. For his part, Malachi looked incredulous. This was a gathering of the Alliance's most legendary figures, right? Not a children's academy? Not that he knew any of them. Celebrities and rumors never occupied him, after all. In short order he rerouted his attention to the slab of stone hurtling through the air. After a narrow miss with Byron it exploded against a wall, hurting nobody but coming too close to making the catman to catpaste. Malachi snorted. “Gonna squash a little girl pullin' stuff like that.” Only after saying that, however, did he see the near-accident's perpetrator. A living statue of gleaming metal appeared from the sarcophagus, moving with such poise as to render the brawler impressed. “Whoa, that's somethin' ya don't see everyday.” Forgetting the lid incident, as it hurt nobody, he gave the automaton an approving nod.

Then, the teeniest mite summoned a sword, preparing to throw down, and so earned Malachi's express disapproval. Before he could properly express it, however, she completely lost focus thanks to whatever was going on with the third girl. He guessed he could thank her childishly short attention span for the moment, though there was no guarantee that she wouldn't haul off and start fighting any moment. Malachi liked a good throwdown as much as anyone, but here...?

An escape from his quandary presented itself in the form of the catman, who'd approached the door with an expression Malachi couldn't quite place, but nevertheless related to. Out of everyone so far, the fuzzy-eared one seemed to be most sensible, remarking on how weird everything was. Malachi heartily concurred, telling him, “You can say that again.” He watched, hopeful, as Byron began to work at the door. Not wanting to interfere, he took a step back and pulled his hands behind his back to keep the Heavies away. A few moments later, the exit came open, revealing the same stark mined-out mountain corridor he'd strolled down maybe an hour before. Byron, who Malachi already internalized as a comrade, let out a puzzling, subtly disturbing statement before he proceeded forward. Leaving the children to their bizarre conversation and potential infighting, Malachi hustled after him.

Catching up after a moment, the huge man gave vent to his thoughts. Whatever his conclusions, he was far from stupid, and evidence was piling up. In a low, heavy voice, he said, “You...think it worked, do ya? I thought it didn't, but it makes sense. There'd still be people here if not.” He took a deep breath, fixing his eyes on the passing rock wall. “Maybe I didn't want to think so.” For now, he said nothing more, mulling over worrisome thoughts. Before he could come to any conclusions, he needed some real proof. He couldn't just accept as it was that his rashness had propelled him into making a terrible mistake.
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Esfander Amdel


The look on the martial artist's face was a pretty deadpan one, golden eyes staring at the other two, then back down at the robe to make sure that this wasn't a temporary mistake. Esfander took one deep breath, sighing, "Good grief.

"Well, I should have known something like this was inevitable," she said, recovering adeptly and standing up... annoyingly coming to the conclusion that Sylphie was slightly taller. What a frustrating reversal of their previous meetings, and more importantly a limitation on her martial capabilities until she had fully adjusted to the shorter reach. Though most individuals would probably fail at even cutting her should they hit, as it wasn't like her magical capacity felt in any way diminished. Not that she wanted to test this by taking the magus on her offer. "True, I should perhaps avoid calling anyone young lady now... but the habits of a lifetime die hard."

Stroking a beard that no longer existed, the robe-wearing girl looked at the open door, then at the others, "Mr. Cauna, Mr. Aerarius, Mr. Ghundrach... I feel I may need to undress and fix my clothing somewhat. 'Twould be much appreciated if you leave first?"
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Sylphie simply shrugged, cocking her head to one side. Amdel's situation was a hilarious one, but at the same time lingering here was the last thing that she wanted to do. The black-haired girl allowed her sword to dissipate, dispelling it, the shape of the weapon fading into golden motes of light and drifted into the air before vanishing entirely. It was a bit of a shame the old sage hadn't had a more amusing reaction to her situation, but oh well. There would be plenty of other things to focus on after she left this place.

"I suppose I should wait to 'loosen up' until we're out of here," she commented. Really, Sylphie hoped there were some bandits nearby, the really nasty kind... that would be a good warmup, wouldn't it? "I can't imagine the rest of you are eager to remain in this place much longer, after all."

Sylphie approached the doorway, pausing only a moment. Part of her almost wanted to linger a little longer, for the opportunity to tease the sage a little more, to see if she could garner a more amusing reaction. But she also wanted to see what was in store for them outside...

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Aerarius

Aerarius turned to Esfander. "Of course, Great Sage. Take all the time you need, can be difficult adjusting to a new body." Truth be told, Aerarius was eager to get out of there as soon as possible. There was so much that he wanted to find out- what the world looked like now, what magical advancements have been made, and just how many years they had been flung ahead. And if the Volstanian Empire still existed, it was their duty to cut out its black heart.

I'm almost starting to sound like Sylphie. Maybe I did absorb some of her mana in the coffin after all, he jested to himself, glancing at the goddess who was now rambling about fighting bandits. While he didn't worship her, instead being a devotee of the deity of knowledge, Aerarius felt that Sylphie's bloodthirst and moral compass would both be a boon in the coming days.

He looked over the rest of his companions. He knew little of the Great Sage's past other than that she was formerly an elderly man with a reputation for being a disaster magnet, yet wise and charitable. Unable to cast spells in a conventional sense, but able to manipulate mana to an incredible degree. Aerarius wasn't sure of the exact mechanism by which a centuries-old man had gained the body of a little girl, but might be worth looking into, if only for curiosity's sake.

The mage named Izel was an enigma to him. She was well known as the "Grand Magus of Unira" before the war, centuries old and the founder of a once great academy and library, one one of Unira's greatest patrons of the advancement and collection of magical knowledge. Until, of course, the Volstanians destroyed it, just like they destroyed the Royal Institute of Magical Technology of Aerarius' own homeland. She might be a kindred spirit, but perhaps she was simply too alien to Aerarius to be considered such. Not just due to her age, but because something was off about her. She looked outwardly human, but when viewed through the automaton's mana sensors, it became clear that not only was she not human, she was unlike anything living, artificial, or supernatural that he had ever seen. Were her thoughts equally incomprehensible to human understanding? Or was she simply a human who, like Aerarius, had given up her humanity for power?

The beastman was the youngest of the group, but even in his youth he was an experienced veteran of the war. He was a shapeshifter, capable of taking the form of a massive cat, and like Aerarius, he had lost his home to the Volstanians' aggression. The last companion, Malachi, was mostly unknown to the automaton. He knew that the half-elf was a foreigner haling from somewhere outside of the Alliance, but knew little else, other than that he had proven himself fighting against the Volstanians.

For now, Aerarius' concerns would be focused on more immediate matters. The automaton strode up to the exit, behind the demigoddess, half-elf, and beastman, and looked into the dark cavern before them. "I don't suppose any of you have a light?" he asked. "I doubt there could be anything in here that could threaten us, but I would rather not stumble around in the darkness."

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Byron Cauna

With the preliminary scouting done, Byron turned towards the (considerably younger) sage and nodded before starting down the cavern. There was no desire on part of the young man to watch what was essentially an old geezer in a young girl's body (implications be damned) figure out a change of clothing, and he had as much a desire as the others to see how the world had changed in the time he had been gone.

"If you want a light, I'd be happy to provide," he remarked in response to the automaton's request, spinning his left hand in the air as he created a glowing orb of light right above it. "We'll be going on ahead, then; I just hope there isn't an ambush waiting for us outside."

Leading the way forward, Byron turned his head towards Malachi and nodded in assent. If the spell had been a failure, then there would at least be a few guards standing by, or possibly some other sign that people had been there in the few hours' time that he felt like he had been asleep. But his nose did not lie, and the scent of life was definitely nonexistent all the way down here.

"I am fairly certain that the spell itself worked, but that only brings up further questions. For example, what became of those that remained in the Alliance after we were sealed away here? For the leaders, death is a certainty, but the people..."

There was a tinge of worry in the young man's voice as he trailed off, but Byron soon shook his head, as if to brush away the worries in his mind.

"No, there's no way they simply killed everyone inside. There would be no point in a conquest without people to rule over, after all. But... Thirty years, they said? My siblings must be older than I am by now," he remarked, a halfhearted smile on his face as the group neared the stairwell out of the cavern. The light filtering in through the exit made his own unnecessary, and the spell was thus dispelled as he began to climb out.

Exiting that long passage would reward them with the sight of a land that had long since been free of war, with their vantage point providing a clear view of the plains and a forest closer to the base of the mountain. The blue sky and bright sun caused the beastman to pause for a moment as his eyes adjusted, but the landscape that he had returned to was tranquil, if not mostly unfamiliar to him. That went double, of course, for the small village that could he could barely make out by the edge of the river that flowed down from the mountain and through the aforementioned plain. As much of a breath of fresh air that the view in front of him was, though, they still had a job to do.

"You know, I don't recall a forest being here when we went in..." Byron said, a hint of unease in his voice as he glanced behind him to make sure that the others were close behind. "And you'd think that there would be someone waiting here to get us up to date on what had happened in the last few years. Should we assume the worst-case scenario?"

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After doing a little bit of stumbling around in darkness himself, Malachi thought the world of the automaton's suggestion, but it was Byron who made their wish a reality. For a moment the brawler almost wondered aloud why the catman didn't do that sooner, but it occurred to him just before he started talking that Byron could probably seen in the dark a whole lot better than he. With that settled, he put aside the distraction and, walking close behind, absorbed what Byron had to say.

Unfortunately his words provided little in the way of comfort. Malachi frowned deeply, thinking about just what it would mean if the sealing procedure went as planned. Thirty...years? The thought made his head swim. If his family was still alive, his beloved daughter wouldn't be much younger than himself, and his wife would be twice her age easily. That by itself didn't matter too much, but a few problems existed that filled him with guilt and needled him with sorrow.

Neither of them knew what happened to him...no, what he'd done. They would have waited for him for weeks, then months, then years, until they had no choice but to conclude he'd either died or abandoned him. What could have happened in those thirty years...? Malachi's mind raced. His wife might have remarried. He would have missed his daughter growing up. Hell, he could unwittingly have grandchildren by now.

He couldn't deny the dire possibility, however, that his family had died in the Empire's vicious war. They might have perished as merciless soldiers set their home ablaze, or ran them down from horseback as they fled. Even if the Volstiniens let them live, this could be a cruel world. Famine, disease, bandits...any number of tragedy could have befallen them, alone and unprotected, abandoned by the man who loved them most. As the light at the tunnel's exit drew near, Malachi buried his face in his hands. What had he done?

Emerging into the sunlight made him feel a little better, compared to the claustrophobic mountain corridors, but it did little to settle the turmoil within him. Malachi wore an utterly distraught look as he swept his gaze over the horizon, beholding a changed world. Granted, when he came here, he hadn't exactly been committing the environs to memory, but nothing about this view struck him as familiar. When Byron spoke, Malachi glanced his way, aghast. “What's this about a forest? 'Worst case scenario'? What the hell are you talking about?” He zeroed in on the village relatively nearby, not recognizing the implications of the new forest, and without waiting for an answer began to hustle in its direction. “C'mon, let's find someone to talk to.”
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~Izel~


"Mhm...I would offer to help, but..." Izel turned towards the exit. Stale, dust-tinged air. New, but old. A faint smell of a sun-drenched leaf. "Ah ah, something is making this frail flesh of mine shudder." Twirling on her heels, the mage turned to follow the others out. What became of the others, the beastman asked? Such a silly question. They were old or dead. Sometimes the capacity for the human mind to be so terribly misunderstanding made her laugh. Perhaps she should be infuriated, but such was the way they were, and such as the way it should be. The only thing that would truly make her angry is the destruction of knowledge.

"Ah..." Inhaling sharply, Izel scanned the forest. "...trees. Old. Could it...? The sun-smell should have been obvious..." Izel stood on a single foot, eyes closed as she inhaled once more. "The moon has been eclipsed by the baleful sun, hasn't it? Or am I wrong?" As she questioned the reality before them, Malachi seemed to make a hasty decision.

"Well off we are then...Word of advice, Malachi." She skipped past Malachi, spinning around and giving him a playful smirk as she walked in front of him. "The populace may not be loyal to our cause. We may wish to handle things with a hand of delicacy...perhaps you should let someone else do the talking?"
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Scarcely had Malachi announced his intentions and marched off in the direction of the unknown hamlet than one of the little ones from earlier confronted him. His long, industrious strides forced her to exert some effort to not just keep up with him but stay ahead of him, though she remained merely in front rather than in the way. Given what had issued from Izel's mouth so far, Malachi expected from her more harmless but ultimately less-than-useful, abstract ramblings, but this time she spoke intelligibly. For all the impact they had, however, she have just as well not.

He looked at her askew. "I've got no 'cause', and there's no 'our'. You can handle things however you want. I got my own business t'take care of." For a moment he looked stern, surly even, but after a second or two his hard expression mellowed out into a halfhearted grin. "'Sides, big doesn't mean stupid. If I needed t'walk on eggshells, I wouldn't break a single one. Never been someone I needed to do my talkin' for me." The girl brought up a good point, and it got him thinking as he walked. Given the situation at the time of his burial, the Empire most likely overran the whole continent. He could expect its influence no matter where he went. Still, that didn't really matter to a man like him. Unlike some of these others, maybe, as well as the desires of those who sealed him away, Malachi wasn't here to wipe the Empire off the planet in some grand crusade. Since the beginning of time, men fought and died for whatever they wanted, justifying it however they needed. The hunger for a better life filled every soul. He didn't see himself as an enemy of the Empire.

With that in mind, he offered Izel some clarification. "Look, I don't wanna be part of this mess. Gettin' mixed up in it was a mistake. I just wanna find my family, or...or what happened to 'em." Closing his eyes for a moment, the huge man exhaled, then picked up the pace.
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Efander Amdel


With the men now cleared out--which was a strange thing to care about, and as a lifelong traveller, Efander normally wouldn't have cared for who was around... albeit that would no doubt be more problematic going fourth--the sage wasted no time in completely removing her oversized robes. The material was good, and if there had been one unnecessary thing sealed away with him, it was extra materials. The need for clothing repairs was almost constant, after all...

Heedless of whether Sylphie had in fact left or not, Efander's hands blurred into action, pleased at least by one change: some of the fine needlework seemed a lot easier now, and her eyes were better at focusing on the close stitching. Ah, to be able to enjoy youth once again--though hopefully not this much youth for too long; it would be terrible if she didn't grow properly into adulthood once again.

With her modifications complete, Efander turned her attention to the all important last step: self-observation. It was all well and good speed-tailoring and demonstrating some capability as a cobbler, too, but what good was it if you couldn't check how good it was? Fortunately, this was a good opportunity to check that her abilities hadn't been damaged in some way. Focus on water, colour the mana... and start rubbing a wall really fast.

The stone now gleaming a mirrored shine, the white-haired sage inspected herself in its damp surface as much as possible. A bit more adjustment to the sizes once she had a proper mirror on hand, perhaps? The sleeves were quite loose. But the outfit was, dare she say it, cute, and calling back on the last time she had allowed her hair to grow to such a length, tied it out of the way. Which left...

Ah, those eyes. Of course, Sylphie was to blame.

Dodging the rock that had chosen that moment to fall from the season, the sage turned and ran after the others, wanting to catch up. What was the sense in splitting up and going it alone so soon after waking?
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"My my, as Eviandre been busy here, or something like that?" commented Sylphie, cocking her head as she was greeted with the sight of the forest unfolding ahead of them. Certainly, the only explanation for such a vast swath of trees growing in their absence was surely the goddess of nature, or one of her demigods, choosing to lay it down for whatever reason. Not that it made any particular sense. She, and by extension those who became her branches, were rather pacifistic unless directly threatened. Raising a forest right here didn't stand to reason.

"If they did slaughter those who lived here, then the answer is simple," continued Sylphie, gesturing with one hand idly as she did, a smile coming to her lips, "To butcher them all. To pay evil unto evil. It's not as if we're not already planning on such things, however."

It was a natural conclusion to the East Pillar. They had been sealed away to return and massacre the villains responsible for this situation in the first place. The Volstanian Empire... Ah, the memories were all coming back to her. Their warm blade splattering on her face, spraying across her sword, as she cut them down again and again and again. Slaughtering those who would commit evil deeds, those who would hurt others for their own gain. The sinners were tasting the fruit of their sins. Victory with the death of the wicked.

That was why she was here.

"But I suppose there's no reason to rush blindly..."

The petite girl stepped forwards, towards the forest.

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Aerarius

"I do not remember this area being this heavily wooded either," Aerarius replied to Byron. "I am not too alarmed by the appearance of a village, or the absence of anyone to greet us, but trees do not spring up overnight. At least not naturally. I wouldn't assume a worst-case scenario, though. We weren't discovered and destroyed while slumbering nor ambushed upon emerging, thus we have evaded the worst possible outcomes."

His face didn't show it- indeed it really couldn't show it- but Aerarius was a little concerned. Judging by the growth of this forest, they could have been in there for over a century. Was the Empire still around? Was it still a threat? Did anything remain of the Alliance and the civilizations that they meant to preserve, or have they changed so much as to be unrecognizable? If the enemy they fought against and the cause they once fought for no longer existed, perhaps he be better off just settling down and starting up a magitech workshop for as long as his automaton body continued to function.

The half-elf was having regrets over being sealed away. Unlike most of the group, he was a mercenary by Aerarius' understanding, a foreign refugee that had gotten caught up in the war and had evidently gotten far more involved than would be reasonable for a hired sword. Aerarius did not know what the lifespan for half-elves were, but judging by the growth of these trees, it was quite possible that if Malachi had any loved ones, they'd be long dead by now.

Izel was concerned about making first contact with the village, and it was a sentiment that Aerarius shared. None of the party was exactly inconspicuous, and some were downright alien. Until they knew more of the situation, they needed to keep a low profile

"I would suggest Byron be the one to enter the village," he spoke to Izel, his head swiveling like that of an owl to meet her eyes. "You and I are not exactly human anymore. The demigoddess and the sage have the appearance of children. And the half-elf is a foreigner. Assuming his race was not wiped out in the war, the beastman ought to draw the least attention."
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