Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Omni5876
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Curiously enough, the chaos and rustic feeling with shady characters and boisterous noise he had experienced as he had walked into the tavern and his senses had been bombarded with noise, smell and visuals, actually made him feel at home. There was a slightly different atmosphere though, there was laughter and comradery rather than suppression and a need for release as it had on the drunken nights the young soldiers of the rebel rag tag group he had been a part of in his old world. Here it seemed there was a celebration of life while the gatherings after a hard fight were more of remembering those had had been lost. The realization brought a sadness that washed over his body making him shiver slightly. He had fought battles for a cause he did not fully believe in for people who used him as expendable. Now, here he was again in a war not his own.

He heard the greeting of the person he assumed they were here to see and made his way towards the table. The young Shield Hero made a mental search and the name Marcino came up. As he made his way to the table and his eyes fell on Marcino, Cole and Auriel, there was a sense of purpose to him fighting this war. He thought that at first it was his need to get back to his sister but his mind quickly rebutted that this excuse was not the only reason. These people, Cole at the very least, had also been placed in this situation and had willingly continued out of their own accord and not due to some forced pressure. He had passed many people on the way here, some human and some not, but all were unknowing dependent on the actions and victory of those assembled around the rough wooden table. He wondered as he quickly looked around to the bustle of people in the tavern, if they knew that near them, plans were made that would very much impact their survival. He turned to his companions and again his gaze rested on their winged companion.

Fer had notice something slightly off when Auriel had addressed him as he had come into the tavern. His mood was quickly altered as his mind put together the scenery, the mug in Auriel’s hand and the flush of her cheeks. A slow smile spread through his face as he walked forward and instinctively positioned his hands close to Auriel’s back as she seemed shaky on her legs. He placed a hand on her upper back as she took a swig with two hands causing her head backwards and her body followed.

Fer smiled as he helped her to her seat to prevent her from being embarrassed in case her legs betrayed her. He reached for his own mug and nodding a greeting or respect and acknowledgement he raised it in a toast to their health. He was not about to let Auriel drink alone. There seemed to be an unspoken rule in regards to drinking with comrades that sealed their relationship and he was dammed if he would not show his party members that he valued them as such. The beer that touched his lips was surprisingly good. It was true that maybe it was the company but he took a good gulp and let the liquid run down his throat. The taste left a sort of earthy after taste in his mouth perhaps from the cask that had housed the beer.

His tone was warm as he spoke to Auriel low enough to not disturb the other two. “You might want to slow down on those sips. The beer does taste good but if you keep on drinking it that fast the beer will come right back up and believe me it does not taste as good as it did on the way down.” He flashed her a playful smile not sure if the poor warrior would even remember their interchange or care about it in the morning with a splitting headache that was fated for her come morning. He settled himself in his chair and turned his attention to Marcino and Cole. He extended a hand towards the sniper.

“I apologize for not introducing myself before. I am Fernando Gutierrez but you can call me Fer. I look forward to your training and hope to live up to your teachings.”

Of course if I don’t do well in training I wont live to get chewed out the young Shield Hero thought but the only thing that betrayed that line of thinking was a slight pull of his right cheek as he suppressed a smile. He sat back down and eagerly awaited their conversation turning ever now and then towards Auriel and taking a mental note of how much she had drunk. It would not do to have one of their party deceased due to alcohol poisoning. He made a note to secretly pour from her mug into his if she left hers unattended to more directly reduce her intake without embarrassing her by directly telling her to stop drinking.

Marcino however, seemed to have no qualm about speaking his mind concerning Auriel’s state of drunkenness. He felt a protective feeling rise in his stomach and would have retorted to the man but logic suppressed that feeling. The holy warrior was more than capable in fending for herself. His “recue” could be construed as a lack of trust in this capability and he knew the older man was speaking more out of observance than actual mean to disrespect. So instead, he settled to listed to Marcino’s almost cliché speech that all hardened and experienced soldiers seem to develop. Fer had heard it many times from veterans teaching the young rebels trying to enhance their chances of survival. Death, the young hero knew, was a likely event in battle and was glad that the older man did not try to hide that fact. He instinctively touched his shield as the old adventurer mentioned his limitations. As much as the comment stung, there was no fault in it. Fer had harbored the same doubts regarding his usefulness in this fight. While he was handy with a hunting knife at close quarters, even if he had been allowed a weapon, he would not know how to wield a sword or spear effectively. His experience was limited to rifles and small arms.

He heard Marcino’s blunt words and was not surprised when Cole stood and valiantly expressed his commitment to the mission and his fervor in being the hero these people needed. Fer smiled understanding, from what he knew of the young man, he could guess that Cole had some inner moral code which caused him to act. The smile faded when remembered the saying one of his sergeants had always used to say

“the best laid plans and beliefs often do not survive once the battle starts”.

Still he felt he must back up his companion, not as defense but as an assurance to all about his commitment to the cause. When Cole sat back down, Fer leaned forward in his seat and placed his mug on the table looking at the older man.

“I agree with you both. Cole is correct in that we are here for some reason chosen from amongst many.” He continued quickly and firmly as he noticed a retort formulating behind the eyes of the ex-adventurer. “However, even if that is not the case, our chances of survival will be increased by following your teachings. You are right to assume I don’t know anything of this world. I also share your observation of how much this….” And he raised his hand to reveal the shield “…will be useful in battle when I can’t be an offensive fighter. But I must remind you that these weapons have been used in the past, and used effectively. You are correct that despite them being Legendary it we….” And he swept his hand to include his companions “…who must increase our skills in their use. I thank you for sharing your knowledge and I welcome any challenge you may have. If I fail, then you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you were right. If I don’t fail, then this world will have a chance of surviving these waves. “

He leaned back giving Cole a knowing nod indicating that he was ready to take any action that the sword had in mind. While he was not giving full control of their adventures to the other young hero, Fer felt that Cole had the right mindset and temperance to be the spokesperson for the team. He knew that Auriel would defer as much as she could to the Hero’s and Fer felt, perhaps selfishly, that Cole was perhaps the best suited for that responsibility. He took his mug in his hand again and took a swig showing solidarity with Auriel. Curiously enough, despite already having finished three mugs, Fer was not feeling buzzed at all. He stared down the empty bottom of the mug as if he would find the culprit. Not finding one there, he poured himself another one and settled to drink waiting what the group was going to do. He felt it would be best to sleep the night and set out in the morning to hunt these balloons Marcino spoke of.




Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by vancexentan
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"Kid if I wanted to throw you to the wolves I would've shuttled you three off to Zeltoble, and let the old man's goons deal with you. The Colosseum has a way of weeding out the weak, and training the strong. In my life I nothing more than a naive kid when I entered by the end of my first week I'd killed a slave for the enjoyment of the people, and had puked out my guts because of the rotten food I was given by one of their friends as a way to get back at me. Of course the healers stopped any real poison from getting into my system. Point being this shit here ain't my cup of tea. I prefer actual fight for survival training." Marcino informed them as Cole looked scared for a moment. Marcino raised an eyebrow as he ran a hand through his hair to brush off some sweat.

"Slaves?" Cole asked as the older mercenary nodded, "Slavery ain't legal from where you're from? Whatever most nations use slaves here for one reason or another. Ain't no bleeding hearts here kid its been a tradition for awhile. Its usually a way to keep the beast people contained, or for use in extracting information from a prisoner. Though it is formed upon depending on who you ask. Doubt anyone here but the shield would get screamed at for the practice. And that's because people think you're useless kid. No offense just means you gotta prove'em wrong." Marcino gripped the table, and pulled himself up cracked his neck. "I can bring you 'heroes' to the balls now if you want. If not then you can sleep and try tomorrow. But remember that's one whole less night of limited time training you're blowing off and you already down one whole day sword." The older mercenary explained as he scratched his arm pit, and sat back down. "I suppose you're right I don't have much in the way of exhaustion working against me. It is just the afternoon after all. And these balloons don't sound that big of threat." Cole said as Marcino turned to the shield to speak to him directly. "You though. I hope you're ready to party up with Miss All Glory to the Church over there, or sucking up to the sword. You can't kill'em if my hunch is correct. Because of that shield is not meant to be a weapon. You'll get experience by proxy of the others killing them so work on trying to fend off the attacks, and let the party do their work. If you can try to beat'em up with your hands fine but that's not the point of that legendary weapon on your arm there." Marcino said with a grin almost smug. It was probably him trying to see if the Shield Hero would bite back at him. Cole however responded quickly, and placed his sword on the table. 'I'll carry that weight if I have to. I never asked to be a legendary hero but here I am in armor, and a magical sword in my hand that I can't even let go of. If I need to be the offense I will be. Auriel, if what she says is true, can lead the front until I become more reliable."
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Omni5876
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Fer listened as the rough voice of the adventurer delivered sharp words in his blunt manner. He could very well assume that the man’s sword was just as sharp and that the observations behind his words was due to past experiences with people who had probably not been strong enough to survive. He surveyed the old adventurer over the rim of his cup and wondered about all the stories and experiences that had shaped him into the person that was now sitting in front of the three would be world saviors. The young hero swallowed his beer, the nutty taste starting to find favor in his mouth. Marcino must really be somebody of considerable skill if the king placed so much trust in him to train the heroes that would protect the world. Fer had no doubt the old gladiator could very well take on most enemies that they may face but he wondered how much stronger these monsters would be that a man of his skill would still have to grudgingly depend on such young people as them.

He was still silently measuring his own strength against imaginary monsters stronger that the man before them when the mentioned of slaves made him almost choke. His ancestors had been enslaved and many of the countries of Central America and the Caribbean of his world had flourished under the blood and tears of enslaved people. The young hero put his drink down. The mention of this topic left a bad taste in his mouth. He knew that despite the fact that slavery was not politically backed or common place in his time and in his world, oppression still ruled. It saddened him to know that the feral looking people he had seen on the streets of the city were considered less than humans. He sighed for he knew that even in this world, differences were not accepted.

The young hero almost rose when Marcino did and shrugged off his comment about his usefulness. One way or another, he would do his part regardless of how glorious or mundane it may be. Marcino’s logic regarding putting in as much practice as possible was sound. Fer was not tired and he would sleep better if his mind was at ease regarding his skills and his usefulness. It was always easier to move forward with a plan and guidelines than winging it. So he turned to Cole and nodded to signify he was also ready to do battle. Then his eyes fell on Auriel, though he had ben siphoning most of the drink she was stubbornly refilling. He wondered if it would be best if they waited but he figured that her being incapacitated would actually prove better training for the two new comers as it was quite possible any ally could fall or be injured in battle.

He turned back to Marcino as the man yet again expressed his views on the defensive type weapon. Fer had no doubt that the older man was more used to attack than defense and could see why in his eyes the shield was little more than a coward’s tool. His mind quickly drew the conclusion that the weapon was actually suited to his type of fighting. As a scout, his tactics were more hit and run or miss direction. He had drawn on his youthful days when he played soccer. There again, he had been a defender but had also assisted the offense in probing the other team’s defenses and incrasing their numbers during a forward push. He knew that each team member had a role no matter how small. A team won or lost together. Before he could speak up to say that he would protect and serve as best as he could Cole fervently spoke up.

Fer let his companion finish his speech before he nodded to Cole in appreciation of the lad’s feelings and added his own voice to the proclamation. “All I can promise is that I will serve my purpose in whatever way possible. You are right that I would be useless in killing things but I can very much bet that my responsibility is defense.” His voice had been firm but not defensive. He knew his role and he would play it. He looked at Marcino, his eyes even with the man’s. He too had seen much blood and pain like the old adventurer which is why despite the older man’s best tries he would never explode on the man. Fer needed Marcino, his experiences and all the skill the man could provide. He knew better than anyone the benefit of a teacher is does not sugar coat it. This was not some glorious war that would bring renown or status to him. This was survival. You had to fight dirty to survive. You had to be ok with doing things that was morally questionable. People who needed to survive did not have the luxury of worrying about what was proper.

His voice was again clear as he addressed the old adventurer again. “You say you are not suited for this teaching work but I say that you are exactly what we need. Here we are, two kids who know nothing of this world. We are about to be plunged head first into this battle. We will need all the help we can get. You will help us survive. All I ask is that you hold nothing back. Time will tell if we were a waste of your time. Now…” he said with a grunt as he stood up. “I would like to start on this training. Also, is there a place I can find out more about the old Shield heroes?”



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Figuring Things Out

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Auriel was grateful for Fernando when it came to catching her and getting her back in balance. She sat back down and eyed the beer. Fer's advice to slow down provoked some thought. Maybe she should slow down? She was already slowed down to any regular drinker's standard! Still, Auriel agreed that she should take less sips than what she had been taking. It was strange, as she drank, she could've sworn there was more beer in her mug. Was she slowing her sips and taking bigger gulps? Auriel blushed a bit, she had a feeling she was going to facing the fabled hangover the next day.

Auriel was once again taking a backseat on the conversation. But a lot of what Marcino had to say didn't sit right with her. He was condescending them all, and while he had plenty of experience under his belt, it wasn't entirely necessary. Auriel was never a fan of gloating, it showed a lack of professionalism which was something Auriel held in rather high regard. When her ability to fight was once again brought up, Auriel grew a little frustrated. Perhaps it was the beer weakening her restraint, but Auriel felt it was time to set things straight. "Have any of you fought the enemy? The REAL enemy?" Auriel's face hardened a bit, and her gaze rested on Marcino, "Have you even encountered the creatures we're charged with defeating?"

Auriel took another sip of her drink, this time it was a proper swig like she belonged in the tavern. "Doubt me all you want. But I've fought them. Slain them. They raid even now, in large enough forces to warrant a military response rather than sending the town guard. I've no doubt that you're a capable fighter, Marcino. But I've seen men like you cut down, and they were usually the first in battle to fall because of their bravado. Your experience in combat is against people and creatures of this world, but the enemy isn't of this world, and it requires a different approach."

She looks between Cole and Fer, "That's why you were summoned. You bear the weapons mean to defeat these creatures. The only wielders of those weapons are gone, thus you must ultimately learn the unique ways of your equipment yourselves. I've trained my whole life to help the heroes, so I can make that learning easier. But saving this world is your destiny, not mine, nor his." she glances at Marcino.

Auriel suddenly felt less drunk, like her hardened attitude and shortened temperament had sobered her up. She pushed the mug away from herself, done with drinking. She wasn't glad that it had made her speak harshly to Marcino, but a part deep down inside of her felt good that she was able to tell him off. She stood from her seat and looked to the two Cardinal Heroes, "We've been in the capital for longer than we really should have been. I suggest we leave the city bright and early tomorrow, and start getting you two up to speed with your equipment. And it's not entirely about learning how to fight. You both are in an alien world, and if you want to be seen as the heroes of legend, you'll need to learn and understand the people you're fighting to protect."
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Fer's perception of the winged warrior rose after her passionate speech. There was no doubt in his mind that it came from her experiences as a holy warrior and defender of the weak. The young Shield hero had seen battle and death too and knew that no one spoke like that if they had not suffered defeat as much as victory. Marcino must have struck a cord and he could not faulth her for wanting to prove the gladiator wrong. He himself had not spoke against the older adventurer's words only because he knew his limitations and he knew he needed his help. Auriel however, had already proven herself in battle. At least more battle than he or Cole had seen against creatures he could not even imagine with weapons that brought you close and personal into their space.

He placed a supportive hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. "Auriel, we depend on you as much if not more as we depend on Marcino. You are absolutely right that knowledge of a weapon comes from more than just their use in battle." His mind took him to the many times he had to clean his side arm and clean the rifles of older men who felt it was the younger lad's place to do their dirty work. He had come to familiarize himself with the weapons to such extent that he could build up or tear one down in his sleep. This knowledge had saved him plenty of times during malfunctions where others had been left weaponless and as such, sitting ducks in a very dangerous time.

His hand was still on her shoulder an ever so slightly squeezed as he spoke. "For what it's worth, I have no doubt of your abilities and just as Marcino explained..." His tone took on a semblance of the older mans tone "...I am completely useless in offense." He turned to the older man.

"Marcino, is hunting these balloon something that can be done right now? If so, I will gladly go with Cole to get as much practice as we can in." He then turned to Auriel. "No offense Auriel but you do not seem to be at your full potential. However, I am not one to order around so if you wish to also come with us I suggest you observe how me and Cole fight and provide pointers. I am sure if we need rescuing Marcino will not let us die such lowly a death. Either way, we will rely on your knowledge of our weapons. I am more than glad to spend any down time learning the history of this world, this weapon a..and yours." He remembered his hand was still on her shoulder and flushed a bit as he hurriedly took it off. He wondered how easily it had been to talk to her. None in his previous life had even seen him show emotion. He cleared his throat and nodded towards Cole. "If you don't mind Cole, I will have to lean on your willingness to be the point man and I will provide support as much as I can. I am ready when you are."

He turned to Marcino again. "Please lead on..."
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by vancexentan
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"The waves? If I did we wouldn't be having this conversation now would we miss? No one has in this life time. Kinda the point of the whole legendary hero thing. What I have faced are monsters feral enough that they'd gnaw their own paws off, and arguably the greatest warrior of my generation. Think I'm qualified on what I'm speaking on." Marcino says to Auriel completely disregarding her. As he runs a hand through his hair. "What you've fought is monsters from this realm. Beasts, and demons that have no right existing. Whatever is coming through the waves are similar to ours probably. But not completely the same." he comments further downing a pint of ale from his stash.

"Oh yeah, and you've never seen warriors like me unless you've been to Zeltoble girl. A cataclysmic shock wave curses the world. The end of existence is caused by a single shot. One shot is all it takes to change the tide in the other direction. Blackshot." Marcino says as he closes his eyes as he casually tosses a knife into the air back handed and it suddenly starts spinning around the room as if being powered by a engine. The knife goes around half the patrons weaving itself in between them narrowly missing them and finds its way all the way back to him finding its knife impaled on the table in front of him. He finally opens his eyes. "Sorry people. Needed to make a point. Next round on me. Now then I did that with my eyes closed using a kitchen knife. Imagine what I can do with my bow. Point being that people out there are just as scary as me. And the waves probably are going to have bosses like me as they get stronger. Like the Shield said I got your back. But I'm not doing your job for you. At least not here in Melromarc. This place sucks." comments Marcino as he stands up cracking his knuckles.

"WELL that's all it takes to convince me for certain...let's get going to kill some balloons I guess." Cole said as Marcino nods at him, and he grips his sword's hilt. He manages to form a firm face as he waits for the mercenary to lead the way. "Oh yeah and shield if she starts getting tipsy please help her out. That's your thing you help people with debuffs." Marcino says as he leads the way out. As Cole starts to focus on Marcino he suddenly feels his guts twist. His statistics are insanely high....what kind of man was he?

As Marcino leads the group to the end of the city he pulls out his bow and leads them out to the open pastures. Marcino then has them all assigned to a team under Cole before he starts. He takes an arrow and prepares to shoot it. "All eyes on the bird. I call out to the beasts a challenge. I fly ever higher. Test yourselves against me. Challenge the Beast" Marcino says as he shoots a arrow into the open air and then when the arrow travels far enough it cracks and sends a magical wave of energy over the area. Suddenly a large amount of orange ballon like creatures with faces come bouncing over the hills and roll over to face them. Cole pulls out his sword and charges at them holding his sword awkwardly he tries to cut them down. And he does the creatures are handily dispatched with a few swings of his sword. They're hp must be low. Still it was nice practice. As he swings his blade against them a few bite his ankles and he cries out in pain stabbing at them. "Keep the little buggers off my ankles!" Cole calls out as he swings his blade at the things biting him. "Sword swing with your stomach, and waist not your wrist. Shield be quick on your feet, and use your forearms well."
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The young Shield hero frowned at the Gladiator's biting words towards Auriel. The young woman had been nothing but accommodating and even a man used to death and pain had no right to be so rude. He turned towards the angelic girl and saw anger in her eyes. Yet again he reached a hand towards her shoulder an empathetic look on his face and a slight sake of his head hopefully communicated to her that any words would be lost in the deeply set, if not necessary, ego that the man had built around himself. He also gave her a slight smile of encouragement.

Their quick interchange was cut short, literally, as Marcino let his knife fly. A spectacular display to be sure and it certainly drove in the point that the three of them would need much practice to rise to the level of the older man. The one thing that made that bitter pill easier to swallow was the knowledge that like Auriel had said, Cole and he were not normal people and as such might rise above the skill he had just seen. This redoubled his conviction and sparked in him a hunger to test his limits as nothing in his previous life had before. While his yearning to return to his sister was still very much alive, a similar goal now inhabited his mind of seeing just how much this weapon on his arm might grow and what powers would it hold.

Fer followed both the young sword and the older sharpshooter. He deliberately lagged a bit behind wanting to chat with the holy warrior. "Hey Auriel, you said that you had trained to be our companion from very young and knew all the stories of those who were heroes before. Can you tell me some? Like, what sort of powers do these weapons have? Is there any sort of process or training to get those powers?" He stopped himself just before his next question. He was being insensitive. He wanted to dispel the sour air but had instead made it seemed like he cared not for the emotional state of the girl.

To salvage some face he added with a slight smile "I may not look it but I am not as smart as I look". He waited a few seconds that extended awkwardly. He was rescued by an arrow summoning what seemed like a swarm of balloon creatures. Fer saw Cole charge in and watched as the things seemed to pop from the strikes in very balloon like fashion. It was not until Cole called out for help that he remembered he was not there as an spectator. He rushed forward to occupy a space on the left of Cole. Before he got there he suddenly remembered that his hunting knife was not in its usual place on his thigh. He panicked a little as he saw a orange creature leap at his face, mouth open to bite. He instinctively raised his left arm to protect himself.

Some voice in his mind and translucent words appeared in his line of sight that read

Morph Shield Unlocked. Ability Activated.

A greenish light inside the gem on his left arm glowed and suddenly there was bright light. Just before the orange balloon impacted Fer, a round shield materialized between them. At the moment of impact, the Shield hero felt the weight of the creature that was no stronger than a ball of about five or ten pounds. The creature ricocheted off the shield, landed a few feet away and resumed its attack. Having no time to admire this thing that had materialized on his forearm, Fer proceeded to fend off the attacks of the incoming balloons.

Awkwardly at first as he bumped and got in the way of Cole as he slashed. Pretty soon though, he got the rhythm of their dance. Fer would move with the young Sword’s swing, covering Cole’s exposed side away from the swing. The balloons seemed to always target this side with what seemed like limited intelligence but showed no sign of learning the simple methods Fer was using to keep them at bay until Cole’s sword eventually put an end to their single minded attacks.

The round shield that had first manifested on his arm did not seem to be the most optimal for his purposes. If a balloon hit the outer circumference of it, it would make his forearm spin and made him loose balance, preventing him from reacting quickly and keeping time with Cole’s attacks. He wanted something that had a point. Suddenly with a glimmer, his shield morphed into what he would later know to be heater shield. He filed the phenomenon in his mind for later research. At the moment, the worked on his tactics. Depending on their trajectory of attack, he would bounce some of the balloons against another attacking creature effectively making them ricochet against each other and foiling multiple foe’s attacks. Any monsters travelling too high would receive an angled shield that would diver the trajectory over both the young heroes. He mainly deflected, trying to conserve energy and only putting enough force to his swing for the ones that would impact other attackers. To any onlooker he would not be distinguishable from someone who had practiced the sport of Tennis.

He got so good at timing Cole’s swings that he would reduce traveling distance by going just under the other’s horizontal swings and also protecting his partner’s face. His breathing was even and his muscles worked in a coordinated process. Even if had not had the added resiliency and constitution that his shield passively enhanced, Fer was used to strenuous hikes on unforgiving terrain. It was this pre disposition to physical prowess that allowed him to continue his dance until the last of the Balloons was dispatched by the sword. The ground around them littered with cloth like bits that had once been the attacking creatures. His breath came in deep breaths and his forehead moist with his exercise but his spirit was lifted and he was almost sad when no other attack came.

He straightened himself up and no sooner had the last attack been deflected that his shield dissolved into thin air and all that was left over was the bracer with the jewel swirling with a greenish gleam.


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Cole swung his blade as best he could be his steps were still clumsy, and his wrists were starting to hurt. He certainly didn't feel like a legendary hero as he kicked a balloon away from him, and let the shield hero do his job. He slashed for the most part leaving the remnants of the balloons on the ground as he made his way through the small horde. "You know when I heard I was a legendary hero. The first thing I was expecting was a bandit, maybe a few wolves. Not some balloons with sharp teeth." Cole grumbled as he started to miss a few of his sword swings and resorted to something he was more comfortable with, kicking those away the he missed. "I feel like a fucking loser these things hurt but I can still barely hit them with this thing." Cole sighed as he went back to work. The horde started to lower in numbers drastically as the small things started to growl and bite at the shield hero. "What you WANT more dangerous tasks as a new adventurer sword?" Marcino questioned as Cole shook his head, "No I just don't feel like I'm a 'legendary hero is all'." he replied as Marcino shrugged, "You're going to grow into it." Cole didn't necessarily like that answer but he felt it is was the correct one. As Cole went to swing his sword once more large group his foot got stuck into a hole into the group tripping him up and allowing a group of the orange balloons to start gnawing at his arm. Cole grunted in pain and tried to pull the things off his sword arm which wasn't working. "Fucking holes...OW! Hey shield sorry but a little help?"
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First Blood

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In the tavern, Auriel was appreciative of Fer's calmness and support. It helped to settle her a little bit when it came to Marcino. When he showed off his signature ability, Blackshot, as he called it, Auriel wasn't all that impressed. Sure, it seemed like a potent spell. Her lack of wonder was more so caused by more of his showboating and boasting of his skill. It was like he completely disregarded the past exploits of her order, and the sheer amount of training they go through from a young age. Auriel knew her fair share of devastating abilities as well, but she wasn't about to recklessly show them off in a populated tavern. Beyond that, she was raised to be humble, and she didn't really see the need to show off in general. She remembered her mentor's words, the Holy Warrior that came before her who was just one generation short of fulfilling his destiny. "It is not our place to inspire awe. We do what we must, when we must." Those words had been stuck in her head since she first learned the offensive side of holy magic.

When Cole got up form his seat to fight some balloons, Auriel followed. Despite her opinions of Marcino, the decision to train with balloons was sound. They posed very little threat to their lives, and allowed for the heroes to learn more about the equipment they carried. Auriel would try to take a backseat on this fight, opting to instill lessons and wisdom upon them as they fought the mostly harmless creatures. As they walked, Auriel felt less tipsy. Realistically, she hadn't drank all that much, so it wasn't hard for her body to sober up after the drinking had stopped. She smiled when Fer decided to walk along with her while Cole and Marcino led the way. He asked about the previous cardinal heroes before him. She could tell many stories, they were practically what she went to bed to every night when she was young. She could tell the story of the Bow Hero Leon, who ended a wave single-handedly by firing an explosive arrow into the eye's of the wave's arch demon. Or perhaps she could tell him something he could relate a bit more to, and talk about Aluxes the Shield Hero. The man had lost his other arm during the first wave, but didn't stop fighting until the world was safe.

Auriel thought for a while, but decided that these stories were more appropriate around a campfire instead of being half told on their way to a fight. "Your weapons grow in experience much like you do. As you defeat monsters, you can feed their remains to the gem resting in your weapon." she points at the green gem in Fer's shield, then ahead to the blue gem in Cole's sword.

"Certain creatures will provide different forms for your weapons, while others will just increase your weapon's capacity to improve. I've never seen it done, of course, you're the first heroes to appear in hundreds of years. But the texts I studied while I trained were rich in detail and illustrations. They were written by a cardinal heroes many centuries ago. The texts aren't allowed outside the archive, but I'm sure there would be little fuss about letting you in to study them for yourself."

Auriel neglected to mention the church's stance on the shield hero. She had never agreed with their prejudice, and she was confident that with her help the monks in the archive would begrudgingly allow him access to their ancient texts. Then Auriel heard Fer's self-harming comment about he may not be as smart as he looks. Auriel blinked and shrugged, "You seem to have a fair bit of sense and maturity, Fernando. Don't be so quick to paint yourself with a bad brush."

She smiled again. Her attention quickly shifted when she heard Cole charge. "Seems the time has come. Don't worry, Balloons are hardly a threat. Focus more on your form than fighting to survive. I can provide healing so you're in no real danger."

Auriel's gaze flicked between both Fer and Cole. They both certainly needed refinement, but it was to be expected. Auriel heard Marcino give pointers to Cole, so she figured it'd be easier to leave him under his tutelage while she focused on Fer. The shield was never made for offense, so it would for Fer to dispatch his enemies on his own. Auriel jabbed her spear tip into the ground and circled around him to watch his progress from all angles. "Try using the sharper and more angular edges of your shield to deliver a blow. It's no blade, but the impact will be focused more on one point and inflict more damage."

Auriel glanced over her shoulder to see a Balloon leaping right at her for a bite. She simple swatted it away with a backhand and proceeded to instruct Fer, "Be sure to pay attention to your flanks when you aren't covered by your companions. If you focus too much on one opponent, you expose yourself to easy outmaneuvering."
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Fer must have lost track of how many were really left over. He had stood up to listen to Auriel's advice and neglected to watch Cole's back. He had heard the interchange between the sword and the old sharpshooter. He understood Cole's feelings, however. He felt somewhat like that himself. They were supposed to be great heroes. People who would surpass the skill and power of the angelic warrior and the grizzled adventurer and yet here they stood barely overcoming the onslaught of balloon beings. But as Marcino had pointed out, at this point taking on bigger prey would just result in their demise.

The young hero had been too preoccupied with his musings that he forgot Auriel's advice to try make sure that the flanks were always taken care of. He heard Cole's yelp and turned around. He saw his companion's foot stuck and the three or four balloons gnawing on the other's arm. As if he had done this his entire life and not just discovered it by accident, Fer jumped towards Cole saying, "MORPH SHIELD!"and imagining in his mind the heater shield he had used earlier. He swung at the little buggers in Cole's arm. Following Auriel’s advice, Cole used the sharp edge of the rounded point with all his might. He managed to put enough strength into the balloon to make it explode and the remaining force sent a second balloon into orbit about five feet away.

He was reaching for another when the creature suddenly latched onto his arm. He instinctively reached his hand back expecting to feel a pain in his forearm that never came. It took his brain a couple of seconds until he realized that there was only pressure where the little monster’s teeth were. Puzzled but still moved to action, Fer grabbed unto the one that had latched onto Cole.

“Ok, I’m gonna try to pull him off you ok? Sorry if it hurts.” Cole Gave a couple experimental tugs. Then remembering his experience with seeing a dog bit on a man’s leg decided to instead help Cole get his leg out of the hole. He again imagined an even pointier shield and managed to materialize what looked like a mini version of a Kite shield. Using the point, he started to dig around Cole’s foot to make the opening wider.

By this time, the other balloon monster had made its way back and jumped at Cole. Fer placed his body in between the attacker and its intended victim. The orange creature latched greedily onto the young hero’s side. Again, he could feel the pressure but felt no pain. He must have looked silly to any onlooker with a balloon sprouting from right hip and right forearm as his left kept on digging.

Finally, the hole was wide enough to wiggle the sword hero’s foot out the hole. Instinctively, Fer prodded and felt with his fingers to ensure there was no sprain or snap that would signify broken bones. The ankle felt fine, there was no swelling or obvious cracking noises. When he realized that he was taking too much time he let go and brought his hands back. He turned to Auriel and spoke in an apologetic voice. “I guess it would be better to leave the healing to a trained professional huh?”

He then turned to Marcino. “I like learning about my shield’s talents on the go, but is there a way to learn before a battle? Also, how come these things don’t seem to hurt me as much as they seemed to be bothering Cole?” A this he remembered the little monster still in Cole’s arm. “Oh man we better get that thing off you before his teeth leave scars.”
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"I don't know too much about your legendary weapons Shield. I'm a soldier not an historian and not even the records the old heroes left behind is completely intact. Suffice to say things are blurry. Your church girlfriend over there seems to know more or at least has more than me. But battle is learned on the fly not just through normal practice. If you wanna learn the pure basics you can spar I suppose never figured it was more useful than real battle." Marcino told the shield as he pointed out there were still a few left in the clearing. Cole felt ridiculous but he couldn't help but look at his bruised arm in annoyance and then went back to the large group and finally managed to clear the way through the rest of them. As Cole finished the last of them he noticed his, and the shield hero's level progressed to three while Auriel remained at her same level. He then knelt down and for some reason was instinctively felt to try something with the sword in his hand. He absorbed the remnants of a couple of the balloons into his sword, and noticed they were stored like some sort of bag of holding. "Hey shield! Looks like we got a couple of levels, and the balloons remains can be stored in our weapons. Doesn't seem to do much but its something." Cole said to the shield as Marcino shrugged, "Alright do that then. But you can also sell those remains for some cheap coin to a merchant. Not that you'll need it probably. Even the shield has to have some respect despite the negativity to a hero who can only defend."
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Fer listened to the explanation the old gladiator gave. There was truth to what he said of course but still the young hero felt there was some way to learn more than in survival mode. He agreed that Auriel was probably the best suited to recall stories. He remembered the mountain tribes of his homeland had passed verbal history down for thousands of years. Of course it was hard to distinguish reality from myth but any information could be helpful.

At this time Cole excitedly proclaimed his discovery. Fer could see some numbers blinking on the edge of his vision. It was suddenly at this time he remembered that there was aspects of this world that did not make sense and there were very game like. His experience was limited on this matter as his life had been spent in the wild and alone.

He turned to Cole and almost embarrassed asked. “uh Cole so how do I work this thing? It seems like a game to me but I guess I did not understand much of the explanation when I first arrived.” He said this as he was absent minded putting leftover balloon fragments into his shield. They really did seem to disappear into the green gem. This was indeed interesting to Fer.

He would turn to Marcino, “Ok so I am sure that you did not just have us fight these creatures for our benefit. Can you please let us know what we should be working on to get stronger?” He would also look in the direction of Auriel “Of course, your input is much sought and appreciated.”
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"I'm not sure if you noticed kid but you just got stronger by killing those shitty little balloons. The higher you level up the more skills you get, the more skills you get, the more useful you can be. This is a precursor. Start your way small, make a foundation, and then work on it. You're still raw, and untested in true dangers using those legendary weapons. The balloons stick but real wolves bite and make people bleed for real. Not everything has a necessary back side. Somethings are at face value." Marcino said as he lit a cigar from his pouch and breathed out heavily. "If I had to guess it was also to show us how bad we are with our movements. You did we but me? I tripped over myself a few times. I'm going to spend the next few days training on these little shits. I'm not sure what you're going to do Shield. If you want to join me go ahead but we shouldn't throw ourselves at dangerous monsters just yet just to actually feel like heroes." Cole said as he raised up his sword, and read a description of one of the basic new skills he had. "Look at this I'll show you..."Meteor Slash!" Cole said loudly as he made a sweeping motion with his sword and left a sizable slash mark some distance away from him using some sort of energy ejected from his sword. "I think if we want to succeed in full we gotta learn the bare basics first. After we got a solid idea of what our minor stuff can do then we can learn more advanced stuff." Cole told Fer as he wiped some sweat off his belt and drank from a canteen he had bought. "I don't think you're weak Shield. I just think you're too excited to get hurt that you're not looking and noticing your shoes aren't tied so to speak."
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The old adventurer was right. Fer could not really explain it but he did feel stronger. Again, his mind turned to the tab just out of his vision and it opened up detailing many numbers and titles. It was not hard figuring out the ones that meant level and health etc. The ones that was still a mystery to him was the ones that seemed to be the ones showing what sort of skills his shield would have. At least he assumed that is what they were. The matrix was blank except for two slots. One was named MORPH SHIELD and the other had appeared after he had followed Cole’s example and fed the balloon remains to his shield. This one was named ORANGE SHIELD and apparently gave some sort of +1 bonus to his shield. Fer figured that because the enemies themselves were not that strong, that the benefits they would give their weapon was proportional.

The young hero minimized the screen again and turned to Cole and said in an embarrassed voice “I don’t think I was much better than you. I was literally only useful in bumping the little buggers out of the way. However, as I said before, even if my role is just to be a barrier for you and Auriel that is what I will be.” He then looked at both of his companions and stated firmly as if never speak of this again. “Where you go I will go. My place is with both of you and until my death or the day that we succeed I will stand beside you.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I agree with you Cole that we should not take any unnecessary risks but just like Marcino said, eventually we will have to face stronger monsters. I think we have to rely on his advice and fight stronger and stronger monsters.”

He turned to Auriel with a slight smile. “If we mess up too bad, I am sure that Auriel could patch us up.” Fer returned his gaze towards Cole as the other hero showed off his newly acquired power. Fer nodded his appreciation and chuckled. “I doubt my shield could do anything as flashy but if it can acquire powers similar for defense I have nothing to complain about.

Marcino made a comment that did not seem to sit well with the shield hero. He had a questioning look and his tone was also uncertain. “I am sorry Marcino but I did not once say that I wanted to willingly throw myself into a fight. I will say that there may be times that we will be thrown in such a fight and it may be out of our control. There are times when you have to drink from the fire hose so to speak. However, I do believe that the faster we learn the better. But I am not as foolish as to think that I will grasp the basics as quickly as I should or past shield heroes. However, that is on me. All I ask of you Marcino is a hones appraisal of how best to train those skills. I am certain you will hold nothing back and be brutally blunt.” His face turned into a smirk. “and I would not have it any other way.”
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"We'll get better Fer we just need to make sure we make the effort. I'm in the boat of training as hard as possible. I want to make a difference. I don't know about how 'legendary' I am but you know it won't hurt to at least make a real honest effort. I don't know what big man Marcino here has planned but he's the guy who's teaching us so I'll listen." Cole said as he flung his sword around flourishing it and then putting it back in its sheath. "I'd personally not lean too much on Auriel she's strong but she's only one person. Besides the pretty girls always like it when the 'hero' shows up to save the day not the other way around." Cole jokes as he nudges Fer and walks up to Marcino who yawns. "Ha! This is the first time anyone ever asked me to definitely not take it easy on them. I'll tell you what I know shield. But you know what? I'm an archer whatever I teach you will be from what I know about other styles by extension. My aim is my pride. Maybe if you learn some air techniques with that shield I can maybe give you a few pointers!" Marcino said shoving the shield roughly and then laughing. "Until then new hero boy you're gonna have to pick up some stuff on your own. No one likes a guy who just copies someone else's style."
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Silly Thoughts

(Mood Music)


Auriel watched quietly as the heroes fought off the balloons. She admitted that they most certainly needed work, but she was at least glad that they were quick learners. Despite her opinions of Marcino, she had to concede that he was at least a good instructor. There were a few instances where Auriel spoke to make small corrections to their stances and attacks. Too much over swing. No edge alignment. Stance not wide enough. Small things that could be ironed out through trial and error during training sessions like these. On the occasion when the balloons turned their attention to Auriel, she wielded her spear with precision. She swung in wide, accurate arcs, connecting the bladed tip of her spear with the balloons and popping them easily. It wasn't a good show like the ones she put on in the monastery court yards, but it was at least good enough to show the others that she knew how to handle the holy weapon of her predecessors.

When Fer pointed out that she could heal them should a balloon actually manage to injure them, she nodded assuredly. "Indeed. You're in no real danger here. But don't be reckless in knowing that. My healing abilities are either weak and fast, or strong and slow. My powers shouldn't be used as a crutch to supplement a poor strategy."

After some time, it seemed the balloons were thinning out, and the heroes had leveled up to a point where they posed too great a threat for the simple minded animals. At least they were capable of knowing when something was too big for them to chew, if only some of the time. With the fighting coming to an end, Auriel looked them over closely just in case to make sure they weren't hurt. They looked fine, despite the sword hero having a few red bite marks. She didn't bother to apply the minimal healing to get rid of them, since she saw it as a learning device for the sword hero. When Cole unleashed a flaming wave from a swing of his sword, Auriel smiled and clapped her hands. "Nicely done, Cole! That will certainly come in handy for hitting things outside of your reach. Be careful not to use it too early though, the commitment to the skill could expose you to an easy counter attack."

Then Cole mentioned how it was the pretty women that liked being saved by valiant heroes. She blinked. Was he referencing something about her? Auriel took some strands of her blonde hair and looked at it in her hand for a second, a slight blush crossing her cheeks. She had been so committed to her role that she had never really considered the idea of romance. There were curiosities of course, as any girl growing up would have. But being the Holy Warrior had molded her perception of romance quite a bit, she felt that maybe others might be intimidated by the title. Or maybe her wings were too strange. As always, Auriel was worried about what others thought of her. It was the same kind of insecurity she had had when she waited for the heroes to come from the Temple of Summoning to the throne room the day they arrived.

Now that she thought about it, there was certainly some charm to being saved by a valiant hero. She let her mind wander into a silly, overly dramatic scenario with rain and a fiery backdrop. The blush only deepened when she realized her reverie and shook herself out of her. "Ehm... What were we talking about?" she paused, "Ah yes! Making camp! There's a nice spot along the river bank not far from here!" They most certainly weren't talking about making camp, but Auriel was just trying to evade her childish thoughts.
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Fer smiled at the Sword Hero and nodded his head. He completely agreed with Cole that just because they had been dubbed Legendary did not mean that their skills were that just yet. No doubt the weapons and their locked abilities (for that is what the symbol in the many empty slots of his shield abilities must mean) had the capability of becoming legendary but right now with only a day’s worth of work, both the Heroes were far from that tittle. The next comment robbed Fer of his smile as and a slight blush started to rise. He opened his mind to start a stammering reply how that is not what he had meant when Marcino broke the awkward pause with his comment and a shove.

The young hero took a step or two to regain his balance and turned to Marcino thankful for the distraction. There was a quick amazement at the strength of the old gladiator. He had meant for the shove to be playful but if indeed that is all it had been, the shove had been stronger than some of the actual fights Fer had been on. “I agree with Cole that your training, unorthodox as it may be, will help us on our path towards helping this world”.

He smiled slightly at the warrior. “I don’t think you have to worry about me copying you. You have both stated and shown that I am far below your level. However, I think he principles still apply. Your knowledge of this world will also be particularly useful in how to defeat enemies. Also, if needed, I would indeed copy someone’s style. I think being liked is trumped by being victorious.” He smiled sideways at the older adventurer daring him to challenge that statement. Fer knew that to survive one would have to do what they must. He knew that in some form or fashion all victors learn and copy winning strategies.

To his surprise, a higher pitch that normal and rambling escaped from Auriel’s mouth. She seemed to have been lost in thought and suddenly engaged them. He furrowed his brows at this outburst and looked quizzically at her wondering what had made her react so. In his short time knowing the girl he had seen her calm and also drunk but neither time has she looked flustered as she did now. Something was obviously making her unsettled so Fer attempted to help by redirecting everyone’s attention.

“I don’t mind camping. I think that rest will do us good. Please lead the way Auriel” he nodded and smiled encouragingly at her. Despite having said that to change the atmosphere, the young hero did feel the touch of exhaustion. He had been enhanced by the shield but even his natural ranging ability was starting to be taxed. He looked in Cole’s and Marcino’s direction to see if they would object.
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"I was talking about you being cute Auriel! Come on no need to be modest you're a pretty lady and you can kick my ass. Quite the combination but idly flattery probably won't get me anywhere." Cole teased as he looked back at Fer. As him, and Auriel prepared to set out for camping he very much considered turning them down. However given the circumstances he didn't want to create more of a void. No matter where, and when the Spear, and Bow showed up again they'd probably have their own tales of adventure to tell. He needed a more solid base with what he could use to build a team around himself if he had any intention of returning home. And with the waves approaching..."Alright well I can't knock Fer's points either. He makes quite a few good ones. And while not a big fan of camping I'll humor you if that's what you want." Cole said as Marcino grunted and looked at the sky. "Yeah well kiddos I'll join ya too just to be nice. I'm not your dad so you do what you want just understand that the woods are dangerous wolves, and the like you know. So if we're going to camp let's do it out in the open." Marcino said as he popped out a pipe and lighting it to smoke whatever herb that was inside. As the group followed Auriel Cole couldn't help but wonder what was next?

====
2 Days later
As Cole wandered through the streets back to their usual meeting location he couldn't help but feel worried despite the fact that they had been training rather hard Fer, and himself had barely made it to level 9 by the time they were done with all the low level mobs. The two of them had gained some more coin but it just seemed like it was unnecessary as the king as generously supplied them with plenty the day of their arrival. As Cole arrived back at the tavern he sat down at a seat, and prepared to eat his lunch waving hello to some regulars he had gotten the names of and was about to start eating as suddenly a person appeared right in front of him as if from thin air. "Sir Sword. The King has an official request for you, and the shield. I assume he is nearby?" Cole looked at the woman dressed in black and shrugged after catching his breath. "Ok sure yeah....ummm he should be around here I think? I didn't ask him what he was doing today?" Cole said as he calmed himself. "I'm sorry for causing you distress Sir Sword." the woman said bluntly.
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Fer’s mouth almost hanged open at the bluntness of Cole’s flattery towards the girl. In his culture and time, flattery was something covert, something to hint at but never truly say. It was a game of cat and mouse that the players never really won. The young hero clamped his mouth shut a bit harder than he thought. He examined his feelings at a slight twinge in his stomach. Was it jealousy? He shook his head as if the motion would rid him of this emotion. He felt ashamed of it. Neither in the party had known the other very long but he could feel the seeds of friendship and comradely starting to build. He swallowed and it left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Cole was right in pointing out the physical beauty of the holy warrior. Only a fool would try to argue that. But Auriel was more than just a pretty face. There was something in the way she treated people, the way she cared and even her loyalty to people she did not even know. This is what was most attractive to him. However, he would be selfish and wrong to think about her in a possessive manner. She was not his. He cleared his throat.

Following the older man’s advice on location, the young Shield Hero, started to unpack. He had not bought much in the store but the owner had suggested strongly that he should have a bedroll and other adventuring items in a backpack he had purchased. He was thankful for the other man’s willingness to make him spend money. At least, the stuff he had purchased was in good condition and seemed to be appropriate.

They made a fire and ate some rations from their respective sacks. Fer was willing to share his story with them regarding his time in the rebel guerrilla and the reason he needed to go back. When the moon was high in the sky and it was finally time to turn in. The young hero looked at both of his companions. He did not know them, but he knew that would have to develop some sort of relationship with them. He laid down on his travel roll and was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was despite its look. Just before his eyes closed he wondered if this was all a dream and he would wake up to a much harsher reality…..

2 days Later:
Fer thanked the fur merchant as he slipped the coins into his belt pouch. Cole had pointed out that the King had been generous, perhaps too much so, and they probably did not need to sell their loot dropped by the monsters they killed. The young hero agreed with the sword but he somehow felt that by selling their loot it benefited the merchants who bought the items that would otherwise require expenditure of time and resources. The interactions also helped Fer get acquainted with not only the merchants but the lay out of the city as not every merchant was centrally located in the market district.

Cole and he had been training hard under the tutelage of Marcino who had taken Fer’s request to hold nothing back very much to heart. He smiled as he walked back to the tavern where they had first met Marcino and had now become their meeting spot after practice. While they were mainly together. The three of them would separate ever now and then and seek their own endeavors.

According to Cole, them reaching level 9 was not as great an accomplishment as Fer had thought. Knowing nothing of stats and skills, the young hero had felt that was a good number. While it is true that even Marcino pointed out they were still much to weak to try any real challenge. The past two days had helped the trio of would be saviors smooth out their roles in the party. The damage came from Cole and Auriel while he would support them and cover their backs so they could concentrate. They had killed wolves and lesser monsters.

He reached the tavern door and stepped inside. The place was as lively as ever and the clientele as rough as ever. He nodded to a few people as he passed and one of the ruffians nodded in the direction of their table. Fer followed the man’s gaze and he noticed that a black dressed figure was talking to Cole who had a slight look of surprise. He made his way towards the table trying to judge as much as he could of the standing person. Their posture was easy and relaxed as if confident on their abilities and not at all concerned about the local environment.

Before reaching the table Fer called out to Cole. “Hey, everything alright?” He said as he moved over to stand next to Cole and finally catching a glimpse of the delicate features that could only belong to a female. However, the look in her eyes told him that she was anything but delicate.
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Auriel felt the raindrops patter at her face as she looked up to the gray clouds. The metallic ping of rain on steel armor filled the silence around her. The rain was light, but rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning in the distance told of a harsher storm ahead, and it was approaching her. Auriel could hear troops behind her marching and calling out commands. But her golden eyes remained on the storm as it came closer. She could hear the loud war cries and screeches of the fiendish horde as it marched beneath the dark, twisting clouds. Auriel had encountered them five times before, with each force stronger and larger in number than the last. This was no different. Auriel gripped her spear tight and looked over her shoulder to call one of the captains, "Captain Balthazar."

When she looked back, she saw the troops massacred. Spears broken, shields splintered, and banners torn as bodies strewn the field. It was a gruesome sight which made Auriel's heart sink and her breath catch in her throat. She quickly snapped her head back toward the storm, only to see herself surrounded by the horde. Auriel raised her guard, only to find her spear had disappeared from her hands. The creatures all stared at her with murderous intent in their eyes. Auriel spread her great white wings and thrusted up into the air. She was well above the horde before she looked back down to see cities burning in the distance and chaos running rampant. Anxiety filled her heart, how could this have happened? The waves hadn't begun yet, why was everything in ruin?! There was another flash of lightning, followed immediately by the roar of thunder. She looked back to the blackened clouds and saw chains swirling down from the tainted heavens. They were coming for her. Auriel tried to fly away from them, but they caught her before she could make any significant distance. Auriel felt a chain wrap around her ankle, then around her neck. She struggled to catch her breath while staying airborne, but when more chains wrapped themselves around her wings, she cried in pain. She knew to stop moving her wings, but she was too afraid of falling back into the horde below to follow her own advice. The chains tightened like snakes around their prey, and she felt the bones in her wings snap. More lightning flashed as she let out a loud cry of pain. The chains continued to tighten, uncaring of the pain she was enduring. There was another snap, a crack, and a pop as her wings were crushed in the chains hold.

Auriel began plummeting to the ground, and before she made solid impact with the surface, she awoke. Auriel gasped and reached out to grab at something real. She found her spear laying next to her. Auriel's breathing was heavy and rapid as the shock of the nightmare of the lingered. Her eyes darted around to take in her surrounding, seeing her companions fast asleep and the fire smoldering. A gentle breeze passed through the leaves of the surrounding trees and the night's creatures called in the distance. Tears ran down her Auriel's cheeks, but she wasn't crying. Her wings throbbed with pain, and she felt like her stomach was replaced with a bottomless pit. She rubbed her eyes and took a moment to collect herself, then she quietly slipped out of her bedroll carefully to not wake the others. Auriel took her spear and made her way out of the camp. She needed to clear her head. It wasn't the first time she had experienced that nightmare, a twisted and exaggerated recounting of her lowest point.



Auriel emerged from the trees to a short ridge. It was only a few meters high, but the was still nice. Below her was the field they had trained in the day before with a river snaking its way through. She could see the glow of Melromarc's lights across the field, and the traveled road leading into the city with weary travelers moving through the night on it. Auriel felt that breeze again, but this one was a little stronger than before without the trees surrounding her. Her feathers caught some of the air which made her stretch them out a bit. Auriel wiped some of the drying tears from her cheeks and brought her hands together in prayer. "Holy Ones of legend... Grant me the strength for the road ahead, protect me from the horrors I will encounter and shield my friends from harm... Let no pain overcome them. Please."

Auriel raised a hand into the air, and immediately the space around it began to glow with white light. The lights swirling around her hand before eventually resting in the palm of her hand in a small orb. She waved her hand to the side, releasing the holy energy over herself. Auriel felt invigorated as the healing magic rushed over her body. She shivered a bit and felt a tingling sensation in her wings. Auriel spread her wings some more and tried to push them against the air, but she was greeted with a lance of pain. She clenched her jaw and kept moving her wings, trying to fight past the pain. She eventually stopped when the pain became too great, and used more healing magic on herself. Auriel let the magic pass over her before trying again, flapping the angelic wings in the wings hoping she'd take flight. No luck. "Why wont you heal?!" she said desperately to herself, "I want to fly again!"

She healed herself again and again, finding no progress each and every time. The more she tried, the more agitated and pained her wings became. She knew she should stop, that this wasn't helping her heal if she was even healing at all. But that rationality was replaced with a deeply seeded desire to return to her former glory. "Come on... Come on! Work!"

Auriel took a deep breath and used the last of her energy to cast a more powerful healing spell. Her body radiated with holy energy as the spell passed over her. Auriel could still feel the intense pain burning in her wings, nothing was working. She sniffled a bit, trying not to cry. She stepped up to the ledge of the shallow ridge and let the wind move through her wings. "Please let me fly..." she said in a defeated tone as she looked up to the stars.

Auriel wiggled her bare toes over the edge. She was tempted to jump and force herself into a scenario where she would either fly or wipe out indignantly at the bottom. But she didn't want to crash and hurt her wings further. Auriel considered it for a moment before sighing and stepping away from the ledge. She turned her back to the field and took her spear from a tree she had leaned it against. She could see the sky beginning to brighten on the horizon, which she knew was the time to carry out her daily routine. Auriel looked over the golden spear and keen blade, running her fingers over the contours of the elaborate, ornate weapon. She wrapped her fingers around the defined hand grip on the shaft and spun it while adopting a ready stance. Auriel swung the blade of the spear around into the first move of her training pattern. Her eyebrows furrowed in frustration and anger while she did. As she moved through the routine, Auriel's anger passed. As always, the morning training did well to center her and sharpen her mind.
_____________
Two Days Later

(Mood Music)

Auriel was at the common district of the city in search of people who needed help. She figured that helping the common folk of Melromarc out would break the monotony of fighting balloons in the field, and help to bolster the heroes' reputation some more. She wasn't all that successful. Most of the tasks the people needed help with seemed to revolve around gathering simple items or talking to people for them, all things that could be solved by person with the problem if they weren't so damn lazy. Auriel wanted a challenge for the heroes, something they could sink their teeth into and come out better for it. Eventually she came across something that was worth it. She had come across a distressed farmer who's crops fell away into a sinkhole, leading into a cave with aggressive Giant Moles. It'd be perfect! Auriel agreed to help the man with his problem, and promised the issue would be resolved once the heroes had an open schedule. The farmer was grateful, and went back to his business within the district.

Auriel made her way back to the tavern that had become their unofficial base of operations. When she pushed open the door, she saw both Cole and Fer had already congregated. She smiled and waved her scroll, "Good news! I got us a quest!"

She stopped herself when she felt the general mood among the heroes. Something seemed rather serious. She tilted her head and stepped closer to them, pocketing the scroll and looking between the two. "Is everything alright?"
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