Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Stitches
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Ardonne seemed moody, reticent and standoffish. In reality she was absolutely terrified.

For one, she wasn’t expecting to be delayed. She wasn’t throwing furtive glances towards the border of the woods but rather the village she had come from, faint lantern lights in the windows and goodness knows how many searching eyes staring back in her direction. All it would take is one curious soul or one concerned maid for the town bell to start ringing and search parties to spread out and look for her. She sat with her knees drawn to her chest, looking away from the group and burying her nose and mouth in the crook of her elbow as she idly flipped the pages of her field guide resting on the grass near her hip. Her bow was propped against one of the rocks within arm’s reach.

She hadn’t said a word since her companions foiled her suicide mission. At the moment, she was coming off as a belligerent little girl compared to the seasoned fighters flanking her.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Lugubrious
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While Mort inwardly questioned the wisdom of allotting the group's youngest and most foolhardy member watch duty, it was neither his business to control Ardonne's affairs nor inquire as to what inner turmoil seemed to render her insomniac. Instead he allowed himself to drift off, uncommonly comfortable in and accustomed to the meager accommodations the wilderness provided. It would hardly be the first time he made the earth his bed and the night his sheets, and with any luck, he reflected as he dozed, it would not be his last.

A little rest did not render him oblivious to the world, however. After some time passed, Mort stirred from his light sleep. Whether by chance, reaction, or some sort of instinct, he awoke to stare across the darkened landscape and into the pitch black of the Cullis Woods, where not even the faint, dreamy moonlight reached. A feeling in his gut told Mort that something or another was amiss. That sort of impulse didn't always tell him straight, not even most of the time, but long years and a good few scars taught Mort that he shouldn't let the rule mask the rare -and dangerous- exceptions. Besides, if ever there was a time to be cautious, it would be on the brink of the domain of the infamous Beast.

Slowly, Mort slid up with his back to a rock, and focused. He narrowed his eyes as he scanned the treeline, trying to make out every little variation in shape or color. He strove to tune out the wind and the rhythmic rustle of leaves in the canopy, listening instead for anything abnormal. A shuffling-aside of the underbrush, the creak of a branch that a weight settled upon, even the classic snap of a twig. Mort even took a few discreet sniffs, trying to parse the air itself for any hint of the extraordinary. A creature monstrous enough to tear apart entire squads of soldiers must surely be large and powerful, but he could not put aside the possibility of a silent killer, terrifying in the subtlety of its slaughter. Mort breathed deep, taking in the night.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Fetzen
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Talic felt tired, but he certainly would have wished for the opposite to be the case or for never having to rest at all anymore. For him there were not one, but two monsters out there: An unknown in front of them, and one he knew all too well behind them -- or rather behind him alone. The overall situation allowed to question once more the wisdom behind remaining silent about his true story: What if any silent killers came at night, but because they were only behind him none of the others would recognize them as a threat until it was too late ? It was a gamble, but on the other hand a gamble no greater than it had been all those previous nights.

He would have wished for a tree. Something high to climb on as it would not only offer additional protection, but also allow to see much further in the morning. Despite the fact that Talic looked as if him climbing up a tree would rather tear down the latter instead of himself going upwards he actually was quite adept at that kind of stuff. One of the few hobbies he had been able to choose out of his own preference alone and therefore all the more precious.

Talic chose to rest on the grass. If he was going to sleep then he would do so with as much comfort as possible, everything else would be a contradiction. He pulled out the large piece of fur and cloth he had taken with him for that kind of purpose, put it on the ground and warpped himself into it subsequently. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep and it even seemed to be a deep one.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Stitches
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Ardonne gingerly flipped a page, regarding the culinary and medicinal uses of nettles as one of the party was abruptly awoken from his slumber. Initially she just watched Mort. Her eyes were full of questions - out of everyone assembled, it was starting to become apparent that he was the object of her fascination. She was dismissive towards the rest but curious towards Mort. Whatever it was that held her attention would remain unspoken for now; there were more pressing matters at hand.

"What is it," Ardonne hissed as Mort looked to and fro. "Are you frightened?" Even now she spoke with a goading sneer but...it didn't seem intentional. There was a reason, after all, that she had come to be known as a generally unpleasant little shit by the people who knew her. There was no way she was looking for a fight at this time in the morning, surrounded by capable and level headed veterans who'd pummel some sense into her if that's what it'd take. She just seemed to still be ruffled the wrong way by their meeting and a lack of sleep.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Rina Daltis
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Zahir Rahel


All things considered, they could be in a far worse way on their first night and a far worse position. It was a nice thought, one that comforted Zahir as he pondered on the events of the day as well as the task to come. Their group was certainly one of missfits, strung together in this odd task, but at least they seemed competant.

... Well most of them at least.

The addition of a moody, half suicidal it seemed girl did complicate things, in fact it complicated things a lot. Still it was one more reason why he couldn't back out, now was not the time to begin valuing his own neck over that promise ... or his own concience.

Whatever was in the woods was staying there at the moment, which meant quite a few things, some of which deeply worried the old man, not that anyone would see it behind the mask. If it wasing coming closer, it was worried ... probably about a straight fight over open ground against a bow. However it also meant that whatever it was smart enough to realise that, or was just waiting for an opportunity. Whatever it was, it meant this thing was intelligent.

Gently he moved a hand closer towards his blade, trying to appear as non-hostile as possible while bring prepared enough should a move be made.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Zoey Boey
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Galia Guardstrike


Galia could hardly sleep. She had stayed silent, happy to let some of the others take charge for now. For the first time in a long time, she was nervous. Those woods, perhaps, were getting to her. They beckoned to her. Whatever happened in there, it was her destiny. After a bit of silent introspection, the brunette realised the cause of her newfound discomfort. When she was on her own as merc, she didn't care whether she lived or died. She could fight without fear and damn the consequences. Death by sword was all she deserved. When she found Elly, she would happily throw herself on a blade to save her lover's life. Death had never, in her life, mattered. But now, it did.

Because for the first time, she had found a cause worth dying for, but one she couldn't. Death equaled failure. The only way to truly be victorious was to slay the beast, find the cure, and return home. Fail any one of those objectives and it would be a miserable disaster. Either way, Galia and Eleanor die. Without Galia, Elly has no hope of survival. Without Eleanor, Galia has no hope of a future. At least, that's what it felt like. Eleanor would probably say something different, but the last thing she needed was for Elly's last words to be about how Galia is strong enough to find love and be happy. The very thought brought a scowl to her features and she glared even harder at the forest. Were someone to spark a match at that moment, the entire wood would burn to the ground.

Now there was this girl, a teenager, who was the black sheep of the group of black sheep. Eleanor had cursed Galia long ago with an instinct of protecting human life, and perhaps she reminded Galia of herself, when she was younger. Angry, stupid, and hungry for more.

Now, what? It would be strategically beneficial to bond with this group of strangers. Already she had learned some of their names, but if they were going to be fighting together it would only make sense for them to be acquainted.

Galia could hardly sleep, but she was good at it. Very good. If she closed her eyes, she could fall asleep upside down with an orchestra playing two feet away, and wake up with the sunrise. It was a skill she had picked up long ago, and one that could hardly be explained to people who hadn't lived the soldiers life for an extended period of time. So if she wanted too, she could stop staring up at the stars and go to sleep. It would be wise. The others wanted to camp, so she would, too. It would be foolish to charge in on the first night and hope for the best, even though that was her plan when she first arrived. Thankfully she wasn't as impulsive as she used to be. And once again...failure of any kind, was not an option.

So she did just that. Galia, with her armor laying beside her, quickly found a light, restful sleep that could be broken at a moment's notice should the need arrive.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by goodmode
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As the quiet of the night drew on, whatever was haunting the treeline had made no further sounds. Those who slept would find their rest uninterrupted, at least as far as it normally was. One could be forgiven for relaxing.

Those who were awake, however, might notice the breeze going dead.

A dark shape moved by the treeline - still in the shadows, but very much within their line of sight as they watched the trees. And then it stepped out into the moonlight, silent as the grave.

A black stag took a few slow, steady paces out of the trees, its hooves practically ghosting through the wild grass. Its tall, skeletal antlers were faintly silvered with cobwebs, as though the branches and foliage of the woods hadn't so much as touched them. The lack of proper lighting against its dark hide cast the stag's face in shadow.

Although its eyes could not be seen, Ardonne would feel it staring directly at her even while she was looking at her old mentor.

In a way nature definitely never intended, the stag's mouth peeled back into an unsettling grin. Its blunt, white teeth gleamed in the moonlight.
Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Lugubrious
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Mort's tense examination of the treeline did not go uninterrupted. Instead he found his senses, so attuned for the slightest disturbance amidst the silence, assailed by the voice and visage of Ardonne. She asked if he was scared, an asinine and tactically unsound course of action. He wanted nothing more than for her to be quiet and let him reconstruct his alertness, but what would get her to shut up faster? If he didn't say anything -his preferred choice of action- she might press the matter, but if he replied the foolish girl might assume that he condoned a conversation and say more.

After a couple moments of internal deliberation, he muttered, "I am no idiot. Fear keeps you alive." He did not take his eyes off the trees, convinced that something lurked in those shadows, seeking the faintest hint of monstrosity in the moonlight.

Some more time passed. Mort couldn't tell how much. He did notice, however, when the gentle, whispering breeze fell silent. With it, the world lapsed into deafness. There were no owl hoots, no opossum hisses, no crickets chirps. Only heavy, oppressive silence.

Until something moved.

The hairs on the back of Mort's neck rose, and a chill crept down his spine. He sat up straight, eyes fixed on the fragment of shadow that pulled away from the amorphous mass. Swallowing, Mort blinked twice to make sure he wasn't imagining things, but the shape did not disappear. "Something's coming," he uttered in a strangled hiss, almost as quiet as the night itself. He couldn't make out its features, but it was larger than a man, and it walked on four gangly legs. Some sort of crownlike adornment sat upon its head, atop a slender, long neck that trended upward. A deer? Not a threatening creature typically, but deer did not act like this. It moved slowly with purpose through the open, straight for the gathering of humans. Could this...could this be?

Mort's hand already lay on his bow. Now he drew an arrow, moving almost imperceptibly slowly, careful to make no sudden moves. This can't be it, this can't be it, he thought again and again, but he could not shake that deadly question: what if it was?
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Stitches
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"I am no idiot," Mort chastised Ardonne. "Fear keeps you alive."

Ardonne cocked her head slightly, chewing on the inside of her cheek in thought. She got the distinct impression that Mort wasn't too keen on having a conversation but...she had plenty to ask. Her gaze flickered away from him and back to her book. Her brow furrowed. She clenched her jaw and said nothing, and for a while left him to crane this way and that anxiously. Her fingers gently pressed into the smaller prints of her younger self left in the corners of the pages of her field guide. Her mouth formed the syllables of a two hundred page prayer that she knew cover to cover, bound tight, kept safe. For now, she settled into her comforting routine.

"Something's coming," Mort hissed.

Ardonne lacked the keenness of her companions but she felt it before she saw it. A peculiar wrongness that plucked at her nerves, made her alert. She raised her gaze beyond the scruff of a man to scan the horizon, not quite catching the shadow due to her own foolhardiness. She didn't want to come off as jumpy and...in a way, even she couldn't deny the superiority of everyone else gathered around her. When her eyes did adjust to the gloom she calmed somewhat. A goat or, more likely, a deer coming out to nibble the grasses. It had what appeared to be lace lichen across its antlers. Strange though, since that herb didn't grow anywhere near the province. "It's just a deer," Ardonne dismissed it but never took her eyes off it as it approached.

It grinned at her. She grinned back.

A whole cacophony of emotions hit Ardonne at once with such severity that her breath caught and released in a breathy chuckle of incredulity. She was elated to finally meet the murderer of her father, eager to get close, excited to toy with him long enough to be a memorable way to go...but fear overwhelmed her. She had a stubbornly powerful survival instinct and, to her credit, a sliver of common sense that she often chose to ignore unless something triggered her fight or flight response. Several theories ran through her head in tandem, a thundering mass of noise that occupied her consciousness enough to prevent her from running headlong into the beast and getting gored across the grass.

First, Ardonne didn't want to die here. In fact, it had to be somewhere beautiful and far away from the province so they can't recover her body. Second, the beast didn't attack beyond the borders of his domain - at least, she thought he didn't. He must be incredibly bored and lonely in his woods. He probably wants to play with his food. Scaring it back into the valley would be counterintuitive. But then again... maybe he didn't care. Maybe he'd go so far as to attack in the night and drag everyone into the treeline. She just didn't know - it frightened her. It made her grin. This was going to be an exciting way out of a very boring decade of imprisonment!

Ardonne carefully chose to ignore the smaller, more genuine voice - her own, rattling in the back of her head - telling her she was a fool and a hotheaded little brat trying to make a statement that nobody would care about when she passed. She was mesmerized by the beast but didn't make any move for her weapon. All she did was put away her field guide so it would rest comfortably next to her thigh when the beast decided to make a move.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Fetzen
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Talic's sleep went on surprisingly well, but that only was until something seemed to cause general alarm to those still awake and watching. It probably was more the disturbance in the night's remaining ambient light, caused by Mort's movements, then Ardonne's humble attempt to drag the man into some kind of conversation that triggered Talic's attention. With a groan that he let go while his consciousness still lacked the power to prevent him from doing so, he woke up.

The first thing he saw were the stars, then the thin and black line between him and them that was the shaft of an arrow. As he was still lying on the ground, Talic's eyes rotated sideways in order to see more of its owner. It was Mort, but assuming that he wasn't the kind of guy to exercise his archery in the middle of the night the immediate question was obvious even to a drowsy mind: What was the threat ? He backtracked the arrow to its intented target which seemed to be some kind of animal at the rim of the forest. However it took several acts of blinking in order to get enough of the blurriness out of Talic's view to actually recognize it: a stag.

"You aren't trying to hunt a stag while everyone's asleep, are you ?" Talic asked, sounding a little disgruntled. Only then he detected the webs between the stag's antlers and the general fact that something seemed quite strange about it. Could that be the beast ? Maybe, but even if it wasn't and there was only the potential that it could be it... wasn't it a little foolish to engage it while most of the party wasn't even conscious ?

"Do you really think that's a clever move ?"
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Galia Guardstrike


As Mort warned the group something was coming, Galia came to her senses quickly. Her heart began to race. Could it be helped that she only imagined the Beast itself making it's appearence? What a joy it would be to have this over early, instead of having it drag on for days, weeks, months. Though she knew in her heart that this would be going on for a while. Nonetheless, she quietly removed her covers and came into a crouching position, looking over the shoulders of her comrades to see the creature that had materialized out of the treeline.

It's leering sneer caused Galia to tighten her jaw and raise her brow. Some unfortunate herbivore of nature twisted by the evil forest, no doubt. This wasn't the Beast. It couldn't be. Galia felt she would know it when she saw it. That there wouldn't be uncertainty. This was some corrupted minion of evil, it must be. A liason of despair. It was watching them. Here to intimidate. She wondered of it's intelligence, of it's sapience, whether it was possible for it to be malicious or if it was just an empty-headed construction of muscle and flesh piloted by insticts far beyond it's own limited comprehension. It was impossible to know.

"It won't come out here. We're still in Fero." Galia reassured her companions. Her minds eye flashed to the stacks of superstitious stones the villagers had piled alongside the road to mark their border and stave off sinister forces. They must be doing something, yes? Or, at least, they are correlated to the end of the Beast's territory, if not the causation itself. The Beast, for all her desire to destroy it, had never left it's forest. It's territory was clearly marked. It had drawn a line in the sand, and had never crossed it in Galia's ten years here in Feros Province. So what was this? A scout? A messenger? There was no way to know! How could this damned forest get inside her head when she hadn't even entered it yet?

Cursed creature. Galia slowly gripped the sheathe of her sword and wrapped her strong fingers around it's polished wooden handle, preparing to summon it's steel at a moment's notice.
Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Rina Daltis
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Zahir Rahel


Well ... he'd be damned. After all these years, after everything he'd seen, Zahir had long since stopped contemplating if things could surprise him and yet ... as that stag stood there watching, everything about it's ghostly movements screaming of something not of his world, he couldn't help but feel the slightest twinge of surprise.

Deep down within the old man something stirred, an old beast long since tamed and forgotten, the part which training had mostly helped settle. It was faint and he would never admit this to someone else, but the sight excited him, ever so slightly, but the sensation was still there. Damn! How long had it been since he'd felt like this? The feeling of standing on the edge of something far bigger than oneself, facing something wholy inchomprehensable?

Yet just as it was stirring, the voices beside him spoke up. They weren't directed at him in paticular and nor was it any certain phrase ... It was just their presence that broke down the barrier. Once again he was an old guard, sitting on watch with a small group of travellers. People he'd promised himself he'd do his best to protect.

So for the moment he set down his desire, pushing the beast back into it's cage. Zahir needed to be ready for whatever this thing was ... whatever it was planning. If it was going to take the time to study them, then he was going to use that time too.

So the old man just continued to sit there, watching the stag, listening for anything else in the forest moving closer. Was this really the limit of the beasts territory? Could it not go further or did it choose to stay within it's limits? There was a clear inteligence behind the thing and that was good. Intelligent creatures tended to have plans ... he just needed to figure out what it's was before it could eliminate them.

After all ... how hard could that be?
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“It’s a strange creature.” Heddwyn muttered, as his eyes looked to the night sky. “It defies all expectations, it seems.”

Were their minds playing tricks on them?

It was a question that Heddwyn asked himself as he tried to keep at attention, the creature skulking in the shadows of the forest. He wondered when it would cut its games, but he knew that these sort of mind games were sensible. If it had a human intelligence it would know it outnumbered and want to keep its targets exhausted should they choose to pursue it. His eyes had caught its visage from the woods and while it sent a chill down his spine it also confounded a cleric’s curiosity. He was in disbelief that a stag was the creature that had imposed itself upon Fero for all these years, but here it was, being just that. Either that or it was a trick of the mind. A trick that had fooled the entire group.

“Don’t exhaust yourself. Panic results in foolish impulses. This animal is a predator, not prey.”

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