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A Clash of Kings



They were gathered in a single room: the leaders and colossal figures of many of the world’s greatest nations. Among them were various zenos and arch-zenos of the academy. If yesterday’s negotiations had been utter futility, today’s represented only a marginal improvement. “…and yet Rouis is too craven to even show his face!” barked Silke of Kerremand. For a moment, other speech died down, and the voice that replied to her dripped with the patience of a learned elder addressing the concerns of a very small child. Ironically, it was the prince, Arcel. “I have said it twice already and say it now a third: my father does not believe his presence would be conducive to a peaceful settlement. I am empowered to speak with his voice and act in his stead.”

“More like your pop wants war, kid!” It was Prince John of Enth, brother to the king. “‘S a calculated insult.” He sat with his arm draped over the back of his chair, two empty bottles on the table in front of him and smoke slowly curling from the pipe that hung from the corner of his mouth.

“You assume much and know little,” snapped Salman Gahari, Vizier of World Affairs to his Magnificence Osman of Virang. “Who can know, beyond certainty, another man’s mind?” He rose and shook his head. “And, if it was, has not Perrence earned such a right after the disgraceful fiasco that was the conclave?”

“Hear hear!” roared a handful of voices. They hammered raucously on the tabletop and Salman was emboldened to continue. “We know it for an absurdity and injustice that Virang remains still outside the halls of power, and now Perrence, while minnows such as Joru and Kerremand occupy their rightful places!”

Atundo Yibozo, who had mostly been reading, looked up at those words. “A minnow that, if I remember correctly, you were not eager to tangle with last time around. I only pray that you recall that restraint and cooler heads prevail.”

“If much was slander, then the last bit was at least truly spoken,” interjected Arcel. Towards the back of the room sat the hulking figure of Horik. He had refused to speak among “imbeciles, vipers, and weaklings,” and contributed mostly the occasional glower. It was Namiri of Belzagg who spoke next, instead. “I share the concerns of my colleagues from Perrence and Joru,” she began. “Is not the idea of this conference to avoid a ruinous conflict, or am I yet young and missing some vital piece?”

Prince John leaned over, then, and whispered in the ear of one of his attendants, smirking. The attendant stifled a laugh. Namiri knit her fingers before her. “My Enthish colleague says that the piece in question is a ‘penis’.” She stood tall and stoic, expression regal and unamused, and a dozen sets of eyes found John. He glanced about and cleared his throat. “You mishear, my lady. I would never -”

“That is ‘your majesty’ to you, prince.” She looked down her nose at him before pointedly shifting her attention elsewhere. “Now,” she resolved, “Is this a council for peace or is the goal here to justify a war? Tell me, for this is my first such performance.”

“And a stirring one it is,” interjected a voice. Its bearer was a man in robes of state, his silver hair swept back. A signet ring on one finger. “And I shall answer your question in the spirit that it was asked.” Much in contrast to his customary approach, Prospero Malatesta had spoken little thus far. It had served as a source of great speculation. “Perrence desires war and Revidia, peace.” He clasped his hands at his back, pacing forward like a lecturer before a room of pupils. “The former is a declining power and unwilling to accept their changed status, while the latter shall make no apologies for its rise. Is it not natural that the one should seek to overcome the other? The results of the conclave are a referendum on Perrence’s place in the world. The only blow struck was to King Rouis’ pride. His fields are still green, his borders secure, and his people fat and happy.” The doge rapped his knuckles on the table. “We have done them no violence. I have said it before and will say so again: we are not desirous of war. It is in the best interests of no nation here and most especially of the common people under our care. The decision lies solely with my Perrench counterpart or, since he lays bare his contempt by his refusal to attend, his young son.” Prospero turned to face Arcel.

There were shouts of affirmation. People hammered on the table. From a far corner of the room, where a screen hid its occupant, attendants rushed in and out. Then, it was the prince’s turn, and Arcel stood. “I present to you the Revidian lie.” He was met with both vociferous denials and cheers alike as he gestured in his opponent’s direction. “They will frame this as a natural process. They will employ knowingly flawed logic and reductive reasoning to hold up a simplified picture where all of us, versed in statecraft, know it is not so. Nations do not rise and fall on their own. They do so as a result of greater processes and the machinations of their fellow nations. If Perrence is to decline, as the Revidian party so eagerly proposes, then it is because they would act to make it so. Was not the farcical removal of Perrence from the conclave just such an act? Is not the fact that we now conduct this meeting under the umbrella of the Revidian navy’s guns further evidence?” His voice had risen. “This man,” he gestured, open-handed, at the doge, “has made no secret of his enmity towards us Perrench. Is it not then our right - nay, our prerogative - nay once more, our duty to resist him?” He leaned forward, fists upon the table, and scanned the room slowly. “Were it your nation thusly attacked, would you not seek to take action? I do not believe that any of you would stand quietly by and allow what you have built, what it is your divine right and responsibility to protect, to wither on the vine, courtesy of a thousand small cuts.” Arcel shook his head, golden curls swaying as he did so. “It is a less obvious attack than the fire and brimstone of war, but one every bit as dangerous. Perrence will not bow to it. We come with demands and they must be met.”

“Belzagg stands with her allies,” confirmed the empress.

“I speak with the sultan’s voice in lending my support to our allies.” It was the Virangish vizier.

A Nikanese man in fine but simple clothes stepped forward. “His Divinity, the Emperor, recognizes Perrence’s right to act in its best interests.”

Johann the Pious stood, making the Sign of the Pentad. “I shall speak for all of Eskand, as Horik and myself are of one mind on this matter: the overreach of Revidia is unacceptable. We demand our nation’s reinstatement and make common cause with Perrence and our further allies.” He was quickly seated. Horik crossed his arms.

Further affirmations of Perrence’s position streamed in, from the quarters that one might expect. Queen Anne of Huulendam made clear her objection to Kerremand’s ‘aggressive actions and bald-faced self-promotion to the detriment of a great many others.’ Representatives of the other Darhannic nations followed that of the vizier. As Inipor and Virang went, so did they.

Then, it was the doge’s turn. “And who shall stand against war for the sake of pride?” he asked, rising. He scanned the room. “Revidia is committed to peace but stands ready to defend itself and its allies against the military aggression of hostile parties. Segona stands equally prepared. The interests of each serve the other.”

“Joru stands similarly resolved. We ask Perrence, respectfully, to cease this dangerous brinkmanship.” Atundo Yibozo was brief in his statement.

“Kerremand will not see the well-deserved and peacefully-earned fruits of its labour stolen away. We make common cause with Revidia.”

A colourfully-dressed Retanese gentleman stood, another having spoken in his ear moments earlier. “His Vigorous Majesty affirms Revidia’s right to peacefully advance its interests.”

Prince John scowled. “Aye, you’ve got Enth,” he spat. “This is no time for a war, but we’ll fight it if it comes to us.”

All eyes turned to King Sancho of Torragon - called ‘El Alacrán’ - for he was the linchpin on which this hinge swung. He let a brief silence build before getting to his feet. He removed his feathered hat and bowed gracefully in the direction of his royal counterparts. “Your majesties,” he began. “I lower myself before you now so that you may know that the words that I speak next are no insult but come in the spirit of honesty.” Murmurs rose. A few looked at him hopefully. Others glared. Sancho seemed unmoved. He returned his hat to his head.

“I have seen, this day and the one before it, the kings or… something like that of the world’s greatest nations gathered at one table. I have listened to their words. I have watched, with great interest, their actions.” He gazed upon them all, expression grave. “What I have witnessed fills me with shame that we call ourselves leaders.” He shook his head quietly as voices rose in protest. Prospero knit his hands over his midsection, face intense and pensive. The King of Torragon continued, however. “All of you stand here and puff out your chests, playing games with the lives of your people for the sake of your personal pride or ambition, for meaningless symbols of status and power.” He tilted his head. “You want to see true power? Look around this city. Look at the wealth, at the safety and prosperity! Much comes from magia, but much does not, and that is power! While you are busy fighting because you cannot accept that you are not what you once were -” he gestured towards the Eskandish, “Or because you still pursue an old grudge and wish to claim a piece of land -” it was the Darhannics this time, “Because many have spoken down to you and you need to be seen as strong and relevant -” Kerremand, “You fear that your bold new experiment will be sabotaged by others -” Joru, “You must maintain your power or else you fear they will feed upon your nation’s carcass -” Perrence, “You are threatened by a more powerful neighbour -” Enth, “Or you know that your country must have a friendly port on the ocean as trade booms with Callanasta -” He addressed the Doge last. “Ersand’Enise grows stronger through guarded peace and wisdom.” He paced slightly, now. “You are windows, all of you,” he decided, finger wagging about the room, taking a moment to sniff. “But what I have seen is that all of you are so afraid to lose that you don’t take the time to look.” He shook his head. “We Torragonese are known as conquerors, and it is true that we took the land that is now ours from another people, but that did not make us a country. That did not make us great. We were founded by war, but built by good policy, by wise action, by recognizing what it seems none of you care to: your goals, they do not need to be in such conflict. It is all of your weaknesses - the ones you will not share - that lead you to lie.” He shook his head. “It is these lies that fester and cut you off from understanding. Why do we believe that one nation’s rise must mean the fall of another? Why can Perrence and Revidia not both be strong? Why can’t the ships of Retan call at both sets of ports? There is no reason except the people here at this table saying it cannot be.”

Sancho clenched his jaw. He could feel the hostility in many of the expressions around him, but he hardened his resolve. “I do not say these things to insult you. I do not think that you are estupido. Perhaps you have entertained thoughts like mine yourselves, but you did not want to be the first one to say them. It was a risk and risks do not always pay off.” He nodded. “I understand, for I feel it too. In this moment, I feel it, but I must speak, for I will live in shame if I do not: the shame of failing my people, of failing in my duty as king, of failing all people!” He pursed his lips. “Why do we rule?” He spread his arms. “Are we not supposed to be a better sort of person? Are we not supposed to be above petty conflicts and squabbles?” He took a final look around the room. “Today, I speak for Torragon, and Torragon stands for the good of its people and, I hope, the good of all people. We have no quarrel with any of you and we will play this game no longer.” His courtiers rose. As one, the Torragonese turned. “Let the chips fall where they may.” They marched out, then: a single, purposeful unit. The remaining leaders were left to sort their issues out or else fail to. It was no longer a concern of Sancho’s or his subjects’.

The precise details of what took place next were known to none but those in the room and, perhaps, not even fully to them. The three arch-zenos of Ersand’Enise who were present had the next word. The Paradigm, Hugo Hunghorasz, scarcely raised his ancient head, though he could be heard muttering under his breath. Yet, that day, by methods unknown, the bickering monarchs turned reasonable. War was averted, and peace preserved. The great wizened wizard was the last to leave, visibly drained yet triumphant in his manner.



Apocalypse Now



He emerged from his bubble into a hellscape. He had known of the Zenith’s coming announcement. She had not been able to keep that from him. He knew, also, that many found it a threat and that there were others who would use the attention given to the opening of the portal to launch their own attacks for their own reasons.

Thousands of aberrations had been scattered across Ersand’Enise and Hugo knew who had done it. He had, after all, occupied a room with one of them for hours. He would likely meet them again this very night, in combat and he would succeed, for success was his only option. The world would fall to chaos if he did not.

So it was that the paradigm himself wandered the city of the bells as those bells tolled in urgency, meeting with those maddened by the gaps in reality. He handled them as people instead of problems to the extent that he could. He cleansed aberration after aberration. He reconstituted buildings. Then, his age caught up with him and the old man needed to rest. There were other arch-zenos who took up the banner, though not so effectively as he had. Zenos, students, and citizens rushed about. Many hid. Some did not. At least a few purposely absorbed the dangerous things. They had either figured out the first - encouraging- part of the secret but not the second, or they were agents of the Traveler. He could not stop all of the young and the foolish, however.

Hugo Hunghorasz sat on a bench for some time longer and watched Ersand’Enise burn. He could feel each fire and each explosion, each collapsing wall. There were flashes of temporal magic and even dark magic, but he was tired and would need his strength soon, he knew.

After his rest, he returned to his work and, soon enough, the city was set right. Soon enough, he placed himself in Balthazar hall and drew from space and time. He drew to set most everything right: to undo a thousand or more deaths, to reconstruct the devastated buildings, and to spare people’s minds the most painful parts of it all. He could not fix everything, however: not even Hugo Hunghorasz.

The aberration that formed as a result of his efforts was not one of the usual types. It was, in fact, of a kind that he had seen only a handful of times in his storied life. The first had been during his days as a student. The first had been with Benedict, Leluun, Vander, and …Enna. So the students, some twenty or so in all, proved worthy of the puzzle. Nobody else intervened. They stepped into the strange plane that existed outside of space or time as they knew it, and they emerged much as he had one hundred years ago: empowered.



Darkness Triumphant



It was that night when the titans clashed, just as he who stood at their head had anticipated. There had been the day’s other events, chief among them the opportunistic theft of the much-sought-after music box said to be able to pacify a Fiery Mountain Dragon. Moli’s Emporium had gone up in flames, its performers homeless, merchants jobless, and dozens of exotic animals released, pell-mell, into the local environment. That was not to mention the dozen or so people maimed and killed or the persistent stories that would soon spread of great flying insects, snakelike people, and a vast conspiracy involving wave upon wave of colossal sanguinaires and the Revidian Navy. To some, it seemed as if Velles the Ninth, DZ54 would be the end of the world. Those stories, however, are theirs to tell at length should they wish to share them.

Yet, this day of all five hells had saved its worst for last. As the Hours of Eshiran gave way to those of Dami, its final and most consequential act commenced.










There Will Come Soft Rains



They were awoken by the soft, moody rumble of thunder. Whether it was nature or the Zenos of the academy mourning the death of one great man - and, if people suspected the latter, they were loath to say so - the clouds cast a deep grey pall over Taldes, Velles the 10th.

In the short term, it was a victory of sorts. A ruinous war had been averted or at least put on hold. The Illustrious Navy departed, as did most of the quasi-military forces that had temporarily occupied the city. How Pyrrhic it all was, though. Many did not realize quite how badly so, and still, they had some inkling. The portal, opened with great ceremony the day before, remained closed, for the time being - its structure repaired, but not the magic that had animated it. Flags flew at half-mast and stores remained closed. Students who showed up to classes found them canceled for the day and for the next on top of it. For Trypano Somia, her long-awaited appointment with the Paradigm, scheduled for thai afternoon, sat there, pinned to her corkboard, a reminder of… something.

He had run a fever and died in his sleep that night, or so it was said, and few had reason to suspect otherwise. He was very elderly and had missed the morning’s event. The combat that had seen him felled had been assiduously kept from the senses of all but the most eminent of mages. And so the rain came and people huddled indoors in their small clusters, huddling around their fireplaces and discussing just what the passing of one man would mean for the world. It seemed somehow a bit of a colder place now, a little less certain.

In silent teams of five, Zenos swept the remote corners of the city, searching for remaining aberrations and either absorbing or cordoning them off for removal. Bells tolled at each hour and the rain did not subside. Yet, this was Ersand’Enise: a place where there was always a show to be taken and where it would need to go on. There flickered stubborn signs of life amid the lingering pall of death.

In a small tavern, a girl who lived under a false name leapt into her father’s arms. They held each other tightly for a moment before exchanging stories. He was worried. He was angry at others, but he placed that aside, for the girl was nearly a woman grown now and she had a full and bustling life of her own to share with him. A man used to talking stopped to listen. A girl used to listening had learned to be heard.

In a kitchen, a young couple, each half with brilliant blonde hair, moved about, endeavouring to cook a meal for friends and family to celebrate a bold and unexpected step in their lives. The young man spun his bride-to-be around and she used the Gift to lift a half-dozen implements and stir, heat, and knead ingredients.

Some of those who she found herself sitting among shortly after were also those who she left with. The mumbling groan of thunder and the spattering of rain accompanied them as they made their way across the city. The welcome was perhaps not quite so grand as it might have been under different circumstances, but the six youths found themselves passing through the threshold and into the Violet Enclave, led by the lone figure of Karan Harrachora. Before them lay the Forked Tower - an odd, ancient, and storied structure that evoked endless mystery and promises of fruitful learning. The week was theirs and it began now.

Of course, there were those left behind, but they found their own purpose. After bidding farewell to her friend, the younger of a pair of young business owners locked up and headed out in a different direction. It was… eerily peaceful as she splashed, idly childlike, through puddles. During the course of her walk, however, she came upon a cloaked man. He regarded her hopefully for a moment before turning away. There had been something of a rapprochement between them the day before, but it felt hollow now, given the context in which it had happened. They began to pass each other awkwardly until the weight in her heart grew to a point where she could bear it no longer. “...Hello, brother.”

“Hello, sister.” He turned eagerly and their eyes met. “Are you holding up alright?”

She nodded and shrugged. “As good as one can be, I suppose.” Marceline paused. “How about you?” she asked.

Manfred was about to answer a simple affirmative, as he always had but, this time, he caught himself. He paused and considered. “I’ve… been better”, he admitted, hesitating to meet her eyes. “I… failed my girlfriend. I failed my compatriot during that… aberration episode.”

“It was terrifying,” Marci commiserated.

Manfred swallowed tightly. “I… I wasn’t strong enough,” he squeaked. “She had to save me. Dory had to save me. I… died.”

Wordlessly, Marceline reached out and enfolded him in an embrace. “I’ve… failed some people too,” she admitted, patting his back. “Now, why don’t you go talk to her, hmm?”

He did not let go of his sister. “I… couldn’t burden her. I can’t let her see me like this.”

The girl rolled her eyes just a bit. “Silly brother,” she chided. “If you feel this way, do you not think she can sense it? Do you not think she is also worried?” Marceline pulled back to arms’ length.

“I did not think -”

“No, you did not, silly brother.” She shook her head. “Go to her. You need each other.”

They parted and Manfred took a few steps back before hesitating. “And you, silly sister: do you need anyone? Anything?”

The girl let out a snort. “Maybe,” she admitted, “but I have my stacks of money for now. They don’t make half-bad tissues in a pinch.”

He shrugged and managed a tight, knowing smile. “Well, I know we don’t have so much in common, but you always have me, for what it’s worth. I… love you… kid. Okay?”

Marci blushed. “Ahem… Iloveyoutoo,” she replied quickly, almost under her breath. “Thank you.”

He was walking backwards, smiling out at her from under the hood of his cloak. “No, thank you.

The girl shook her head, also backing away. “No, thank you, she insisted.

He shook his head. “Unacceptable. I am the more thankful party.”

“Nuh-uh, she retorted I am and I’m the younger one, so you must concede.”

“I think not!”

“I think so! They were quite some distance from each other now, shouting to be heard over the rain.

“Over my dead body,” Manfred warned.

“Ah, so then it is war between us, brother.

He nodded in response. “Indeed, he called. I shall meet you on the field of battle!” Then, they were parted and Manfred found that he had strength enough for another conversation that was perhaps well overdue.

Indeed, across the city, there were myriad moments such as these, glimmering like stars amid a vast dark canvas. Sometimes, when we are pushed to our utmost, strained against the very limits of our endurance, we unlock doors, we progress. We find things within and without ourselves. Perspective is a powerful tool and it was, perhaps, Hugo’s final gift to the world.



Epilogue: The Scorpion’s Last Sting



“And you are certain there can be no rapprochement between us?” It was Sancho. “No compromise for the good of the nation?”

The man who sat across from him was Huarcan Frannemas. They were in a hunting lodge at the northwest tip of Lake Albadòn. A fireplace roared behind them and, above it, the mounted head of a froabas surmounting a coat of arms and a pair of crossed swords. The duque shook his head. “It is past that,” he stated evenly, if not quite smugly. “Though you would make things easier for the both of us and for our country if you surrendered and made this peaceful.”

“I have a great many supporters,” the king remarked. He reached for a decanter of wine. “It will be ruinous for you.” He rose to pour himself a glass and Huarcan watched him closely. “It will be ruinous for Torragon.”

“Which is why I know that you will propose something else.”

“Wine?” offered Sancho.

His great enemy snorted. The soon-to-be-deposed king poured it anyhow. “It is a very good Vintage: Casa Soledad AI51.”

He served the duque before seating himself and crossing one leg over the other. “My proposal is this, and I will toast on it: we duel, you and I.” He pursed his lips and shrugged. “Oh, there is little chance that I can win, but I must at least say that I tried. I owe this to my family and my honour. Surely, you can understand that. Can you not?”

Huarcan glanced down at the deep crimson wine in the glass. Sancho was a simple enough man. He had always been, and yet -

“What?” the king interjected with a smile. “You believe that I would win with poison?” He shook his head. There was no hint of magic being used as he took a hearty sip. “You are too suspicious, my friend. Let me give you that advice: it does not make for a good king. I would know. I have held the job for some time now, though I see I was merely keeping your seat warm.”

“Honour, I find, is a quaint concept, but there is only power, so far as I see it, in all of its various forms: social, monetary, military, magical. Why would I take even the slightest risk in dueling you?”

Sancho sighed and took another sip. Huarcan followed, though, out of habit, he cast a small chemical spell upon the drink to neutralize the taste-removing torzophine that it would contain if it were a deadly poison. That way, he might know.

“Well, for one, I will first give you the document you seek, written in my hand and sealed in wax.” The king shrugged. “The second is because it’s always been personal. Hasn’t it? You are so much better than me, and yet I have always stood above you. I will do so once again. You will see.”

It was all rather pathetic, Huarcan mused to himself, an obvious attempt to goad him. Likely, Sancho had some gambit. He was half-inclined to accept just to see what it was, and yet… one should always beware a cornered animal, even one so weak as this. “You will give it to me regardless, or your entire family will follow you swiftly to Echerran’s embrace.”

Sancho’s grip on the armrests of his chair tightened. “You are a wicked man,” he growled, “but you do not scare me. You would kill them anyhow.”

Huarcan took another sip and smiled. “Yes, I suppose I would. They are too great a political threat to be left alive.” He shrugged. “It’s… nothing personal.”

The outgoing monarch glared at him, then. “Fight me, you carriage-riding coward,” he snapped. “I know you are curious, what trick I have up my sleeve. I know you want to see it! Why don’t you see it!?” he taunted, rising from his seat. The duque merely sipped and watched. “Or are you scared?” tried the angry little man. There was panic on his face now. He had come to the realization that it was all about to end. Huarcan was unmoved. “Sign the document and I will let your daughters live, at least. I will even marry Radolfo to the one with the eight-point-ten.”

“She will own him,” hissed Sancho, “utterly.”

Huarcan downed the rest of his glass and rose. “Oh, I know, but I have another one anyhow: a better one, and I suppose you can consider this your revenge from beyond the grave.”

They stood across from each other now and the ‘king’ glowered helplessly. He clenched his fists and his jaw alike and then he broke. “I will do it,” he grated, looking quickly away. He strode stiffly to the small table nearby and pulled a sheet of parchment. The duque stood in front of the fire, holding his empty glass dispassionately.

“Tendremos nuestra venganza,” Sancho muttered beneath his breath. “Tendremos nuestra venganza.” Huarcan could see that his hands were shaking. He dipped the quill in its ink and began to write.

“I, Sancho Afraval, eighth of his name,” the duque dictated, “do hereby declare that, upon this tenth day of Viela, Dami-Septo cincuenta y cuatro, I release in perpetuity all of my duties and titles…”

“This ink,” complained the king, “is bad. It has sat for too long.” He straightened in frustration and then, he dropped the ruse. In one smooth motion, he drew his sword.

Huarcan tilted his head to one side. “You realize that, by doing this, you doom your entire -” Then, Sancho was upon him, with a lunging strike aimed for the duque’s midsection. He just barely leapt out of the way.

The greater of the two men did not normally carry a sword, for he had no use for one. Instead, he called upon the deep and ample strength that was his Gift. he called upon it and…

Dread congealed into an icy ball in the pit of his stomach. It… wasn’t there. Sancho swept in again and Huarcan pulled for everything - anything. His manas would not respond. He could not feel them! He managed a weak kinetic shove: enough to push the king’s blade out of line. “Let’s see what sort of man you are now,” Sancho snarled, relentless. Huarcan stumbled back. “Guards!” he called. “Guards!” But they were out of earshot, as he, himself, had earlier requested.

“If you are wondering,” taunted the king, “it was plushtail oil. Your little spell to remove the taste-maskers is what activates it.” Thinking quickly, the duque snatched one of the crossed swords from the mantle and parried Sancho’s thrust. He was by no means a poor swordsman, but he had learned with the Gift.

“Your paranoia,” grunted the king, “is as predictable as your arrogance.” Huarcan could not beat him in a swordfight, not without the Gift. He began circling, throwing out feints, until his back was to the hallway that he knew led outside. He swung in a great big feint from long distance and shouted and that would have to be enough. He turned and ran with everything that he had. “And your cowardice,” hissed the king, rushing after him. Plushtail oil! How could he have been so stupid! Hadn’t he checked for poisons? He always did so but, this time, he had not! Sancho had strategically interrupted him just as he’d been about to, and demonstratively taken a sip to reassure him! He’d purified his glass, just to be sure, and tasted nothing out of the ordinary. Then, a few sips from the king, to lead him on out of passive habit. He’d been led to this juncture like a steer by the nose, every step of the way!

Huarcan Frannemas was about ten paces from the door when the sword impaled him in the trailing leg. He screamed and stumbled and instinctively called upon the Gift to heal and empower him. Only, it wasn’t there. Sancho, the man who they called ‘Alacrán’, loomed behind him, and a mighty slash, barely blocked, dropped the duque to his knees. “You will be reviled!” Huarcan roared. “Your other banners: what will they think that you murdered a duque?”

“They may not all love me,” Sancho replied, grim intensity giving way - for a moment - to sadistic pleasure, “but they hate you even more.” It was a quick combination and it slashed the would-be usurper across the shoulder and down the forearm of his sword hand. True fear filled him now. This was not real. It was inconceivable! That he would die this way! For one stupid mistake, at the hands of this… weakling! All that he had worked towards! All that he achieved and had yet planned to achieve! His children! Dear Augusto and precious Avril! He would never see them again. They would have no father. He was sorry! Truly, he was! “Please,” he begged. “Please, your majesty! I repent! I will join the Sages! I will live as a hermit.”

“You are a bad man and a worse liar, cousin.”

There was a flash of cold pain. Then, he was falling and the world was spinning. For a moment, Huarcan looked up and thought that he saw a headless body.




King Sancho, the Scorpion, strode through the doors of Villa San Miguel. His white clothes were stained in blood and his gloves soaked in it. He held a sword in one hand. In the other was the head of the would-be-king: Huarcan Frannemas. Half of the guards were his men. The rest were the now-deceased duque’s. “I claim, once more, my throne by right of conquista del guerrero,” he shouted into the blustery wind of the lakeside steppe. “This man tried to kill me. He tried to take my throne.” He tossed the head on the ground at the guard captain’s feet. “I have handled the challenge as a Torragonese should.” His men formed up around him. “Your traitorous lord is dead. I am here for you to challenge should you dispute my justice.”

The Frannemas men exchanged glances. The king waited. Then, one by one, they sank to one knee and bowed their heads. He gazed upon them from above. “Lay down your swords and depart in peace. I am a man of honour when I deal with honourable men. You are free to go.”

He had little enough time for them. Stalking up to Vencedor, he mounted the great warhorse. It would now be known that Sancho was no fool. He was under no illusion that there would be repercussions. He had not acted without a plan in place, however. “Scribe!” he shouted, tossing his bloody gloves on the ground and pulling on his riding gauntlets. “Scribe!” he repeated impatiently, as one hurried up. “You are to send a message to his majesty Prospero of Revidia and Segona.” The man fumbled with his quill and papers. “Tell him that he may act with full confidence. Whatever action he takes, Torragon stands ready.”


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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by BlackRoseSiren
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BlackRoseSiren

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Esmi'nesta'tawaar





Location:Ersand'Enise. Esmi'nesta'tawaar dorm room.



Night falls on the forest moonlight barely breaking through the trees. Inside one of the Yasoi dorms, shared by her friend. Esmi'nesta'tawaar lies on her bed, trying to go to sleep, but getting nowhere. Tossing and turning, lying on her side looking at her two pets that she got during the night's events at Mori's emporium. A dormouse that she bought from the exotic pet shop, she later called Sage. The other is a grape dragon that she managed to tame during the time she released the animals from their cages, in an attempt to free them from their poor conditions as well as a distraction to help the people she was with at that time. Both animals are sound asleep. Staring at the ceiling, unable to forget what happened to her that was only a few hours ago.

"Tonight was not the greatest of ways to start my adventures." feeling a chill run down her spine, she decides to slowly get out of bed, trying her hardest not to wake both of her pets slumber. While up she slowly walks up to the closest window to look outside of it. Looking out, all she can see are the other Yasoi dorms as well as the treeline in the distance, their branches swaying in the night. She folds her arms, gripping them hard. Her face frowns with saddeness, thinking about her family and how worried they must be. "I wonder how my family is doing, I haven't written to them since I've arrived here. Perhaps I should write to them to let them know I'm doing ok. If so, maybe leave out the part where I almost died." Thinking about the people that she met during her time. She met Silas, Nazih, Fiske and Margo. The only reason she met this group of talented individuals completely by accident was because she got lost while looking for the other Yasoi. However, they were nice to her. I honestly thought that I was going to be nothing but a burden and get in the way. But I somehow managed to pull my weight and helped them get out of a difficult situation with my healing magic. Not to mention seeing those giant snake people, that was pretty cool, but also scary.

Looking back to her bed, watching Sage twitch in her sleep, this gives Esmi a faint smile across her face, she walks back to her bed to kneel in front of it. Giving Sage a little pet to help it sleep better. At the end of the day, Esmi is happy with the choice that she has made. She left home to try to help cure her people from their aberration addiction. No doubt in her mind, her parents will eventually come looking for her in an attempt to take her back to Mycormi. She shakes her head,"No, I can't give up now, even if they take back. I will come back here eventually, this is where I need to be." Thinking about it, she just left home without even saying anything. With the help of her friend Casii, she just got up and left her family. Hopefully they'll understand…eventually. but she knows they won't. Wondering what will happen tomorrow, she climbs back into bed and lies there once again. However after a few moments hugging her two pets, fatigue eventually catches up with her and she falls asleep.
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Velles 5th

Location: Ersand'Enise
Time: Later hours of Eshiran
Characters: Ingrid, Zarina@YummyYummy, Frédérique, Étienne, Idun, Thorinn, Maura @Ti




Ingrid was preparing her food as Zarina next door impressed the judges, and it wasn’t a moment too late as the Virangish girl came with the meat for the next part of the meal. It also meant that the judges were making their appearance too, as part two of the food wars commence!

First is Idun from the RAS Guardians. With Thorinn getting the token, the troop were one step closer to sealing the deal. Armed with Brandæbles and Snepebbers the nature loving Eskand moved swiftly to create three speciality dishes. What is very important in a dish isn’t simply the best cuts, but the worst cuts too, and getting the best from that Snowsweeper would definitely be getting your money’s worth.

Étienne watches on as Idun seems to be swaying that figure of hers in a seductive manner, her face rising as she smiles sweetly towards him before turning away with a blush as she prepares the treat. She offers a plate adorned with Köttbullar with a dollop of Brandæble jam on the side, very flirtatious towards the Perrench Noble. “Would sir like to taste of what I have to offer~?”, and before he could have a chance to respond, Frédérique interrupts as she takes one of the meat balls with a fork, dipping it into the jam before sampling it for herself, “These appear to be light and sweet, is this what you intend to serve his majesty?”. The twins shared a look between them, Étienne bemused as his sister decided to take the lead on this section of the competition. It seems that mere sex appeal would not get the contenders through the round now. “My appetite is rather sated currently, my Lady de Perpignan will be judging this round.”

Idun flushed red as her early gamble appeared to have backfired, catching the ire of the one actually making the decision. “This is the hors d'oeuvres, a treat which would consist of the Snow sweeper to wet the appetite”. She moved over to another dish, something called Kjøttboller which is larger and more like a meat patty. “This is another treat, perhaps for the servants. Its heat is said to put hairs on your chest.”

Frédérique certainly raises a questioning eye-brow at this comment as it is being served to her, much to Étienne amusement. She clapped her hand as a servant came for the testing, though whilst he didn’t grow any hairs on his chest, his tongue tasted as if it is on fire. “That is the Snepebber, very valuable.”

The main course was cuts of Biffribbe which were cooked with steaming water then finished with a roast to produce a tender treat which melts within the mouth, simply dripping from the bone. To accompany it seems to be a sauce of some kind, søtkrydderglasur, as Idun pastes that upon the meat. The brownish colour seems somewhat familiar, though out of place. “This is Eskandish speciality saus, created it myself.”. Frédérique gives a surprised look as she tastes it, offering it to Étienne to taste. He gives a surprised look, as he tastes it. The sweet, spicy, smokey texture, it seems to complement the ribs perfectly.

“Write her the ticket. She passes.”, Frédérique turns around as she moves to another table. Whatever that sauce was, it just made the nobles completely change their decision.

That hussy! Ingrid exclaimed in her head, Using a premade sauce to win them over. Have you no shame? Absolutely atrocious she is. It doesn't matter, I can overcome this! Ingrid cracked her hand and got back to the cooking

The meat had to be perfect. Undercooked and the meat would be tough and gummy. Overcooked would be stringy and dry. Controlling the temperature of the meat to slowly rise it to the temperature to gelatinize the fibers, turning them juicy and succulent. A beautiful color is maintained in the meat to be revealed when cut into. Tender enough that a knife isn't needed.

Vegetables are prepared ahead of time to give the stew a dynamic look, building some height on the plate, seasoned perfectly with the cooking. Pearl onions are delicately peeled and slightly browned to bring out their subtle sweetness.

The sauce enrichened by the wine and meat that had been stewed in it. Complexity multiplied by the vegetables within. The sauce is strained, the bits to be eaten are set to the side. Ingrid freezes the fat to separate it from the sauce. Then the sauce is reduced into a thick sauce, this sauce could never hold the beef fat. It would split and become greasy. Ingrid cut the heat and started to mount the sauce with arcane chilled butter, stirring constantly to emulsify the butter. This sauce was now rich and complex. It's time to put it together.

A deep set plate was set, made of high quality ceramic and blazed to a brilliant white. A spoonful of sauce is set at the bottom then the meat is placed center. Pearls were placed on the side and carrots crossed to give some height to the dish. Then more sauce is layered on top, not enough to smother it, and instead, leave the colors on the plates. Finished off with some fresh herbs on top for color and smell. A basic dish elevated to something to blow those nobles away. I will best your cheating with unmatched skill. Plus some slide remarks to undermine their dish.

The competition is high within the room, many of the competitors look towards the Eskand team going above and beyond in their unique foray and posing a challenge that Ingrid rises to meet. The music within the hall changes as the pair approaches the table, adopting a similar more West Severan tone reminiscent of Zarina’s performance.

Instead of something unique, Ingrid goes for a Perrench fine dining staple of boeuf bourguignon with the aim of using her knowledge of the meat itself. It is no big secret that Snowsweeper meat is tough, and it needs the right kind of preparation to allow it to drip from the bone.

She displays clear use of advance cooking techniques using magic to enhance the flavour to remove the gristle, leaving behind rich meat that is so tender, a knife is not even required. The sauce rich and thick, the smell was absolutely divine in that ‘I cannot believe it is not chemical magic’ way, a clearly well done and superior to a normal dish.

Étienne looked up towards Ingrid, as all non-Yasoi do towards her imposing frame, and, due to the cooking, into those steamed glasses which were periodically wiped clean. There was always something with talking to a woman taller than you which makes you feel… “Your imposing stature belies your clear refinement. Clearly a book who shouldn’t be judged by their cover”, Frédérique cut in as she makes her initial impression as she breathes in the rich aroma surrounding the table, very impressed. Étienne remarked on the presentation, “Une etiquette impéccable, art de la table suited for a King.”

Frédérique seated herself as began to taste, she felt the knife slice through the beef like as if were hot butter. She placed it within her mouth as she took the time to savour the texture and flavour of the dish before her as she nods appreciatively, “Merci.”. Étienne as per the rules provides Ingrid with the token of approval.

The pair however now come to a difficult decision, out of those who got through, there were only two pairings. It is clear that having both roles working as a team would yield the best results, leading to a difficult choice between “RASgardians”, a foreign team, or the Sovereign Pact aligned Noble Students from “Haute Cuisson”.

“Eskandish creature being served by their native chefs would be authentic.” Étienne remarked when trying to come to a decision.
Frédérique sighed, “However, there is a reason the best chefs tend to be Perrench, though both here are Eskandish.”

Ingrid had kept quiet until now on Idun's 'choice' of ingredients but now it seemed the twins were trying to decide between us. Great, Ingrid thought as she weighed the idea that she could be beaten by some cheap woman. I won't let myself be done in by some cheater.

Ingrid coyly raised her hand to the twins, "I would rather not bring this up but I believe you should know. Although I enjoy Brandæble jam as many Eskandish do, it is something that can produce a mild psychedelic effect..." Ingrid plays up her worry, "It has me wondering what she may serve the lord if she would serve a psychedelic to you without even a courteous warning." Ingrid looked over to Idun with some shame and worry. Ingrid's gaze returned to the twins, "There is another thing I worry about but your health should come first."

The twins find themselves interrupted during their exchange as they see Ingrid approach, the RASgardians also take note of these as they come near to listen.

“This certainly explained that afterglow." Étienne gave a wide smile in response to the point raised by Ingrid. “The point is true, we should be adequately warned when our senses are to be dulled." as Frédérique offered a thankful nod towards Ingrid's contribution.

Idun comes into the conversation to object, "Brandæble's are a delicacy which our highest Jarls come to savour in their favourite dishes, søster. Do you think your paltry offering of beef in stewed onions is fit for nobles of high station?" the Eskandish woman smiles up sweetly towards Étienne as she adjusts position to allow the Brandæble's within her blouse to bounce joyously.

Thorrin spat towards the ground in the direction of the rival pair. as he glared towards Zarina. "This girl doesn't even know how to carve meat. She dance all pretty in skimpy outfit waving swords around. If she did this in a real kitchen, the cooks would lose all their limbs. Pitiful."

Frédérique gave a polite cough as she drew attention back towards herself before readdressing the pair. “You mentioned something about health risks?"

Ingrid knew that simply mentioning the hallucinogenic properties of brandæble. Ingrid heard Idun's retort but it didn't matter much."I understand that our people make enjoy the fruit and the effects that come with it. However, you are there cook. if you are so loose to not even give them a heeding of the effects of the fruit. What if you served that at the feast and someone ate too much? At best they would be tranced for a few hours and at worst they could need healing to save their life. There are so many dangerous ingredients that entice the pallet. You need to trust that your chef isn't going to harm you through negligence." Ingrid felt confident in what she said. The effects were slightly exaggerated but still, this wasn't the end of Ingrid's information.

She sent a gaze at Idun, Back down now before I bring up that your sauce claim is fraudulent! resign with some dignity you hussy.

Idun moved closer towards Étienne as she squeezed his arm against her brandæbles. "We are here to impress, there is nothing wrong with showing a lord the delights Eskand has to offer, not that you would know." Étienne simply stood bemused as the ladies fought it out between themselves. Frédérique just glared towards him, and simply sighed when he shrugged. "I am sure it was an oversight, but it was an important point to bring to our attention." Idun noded, "Big misunderstanding, we simply wanted to impress by offering such forbidden exotic goods for you to savour." those doe eyes gazing up towards Étienne.

“Cry about it.” Zarina scoffs with a smirk, arms crossed as she briefly pondered an impromptu acquisition of a recipe. She is reminded, however, of the stakes and foregoes any risky play. For now.

Ingrid has had enough of Idun's brazen attempts to seduce the man. It was shameful. Ingrid sighed and crossed her arms. Her attitude changed and she gave a sharper look at Idun. "And what of that sauce you used? Could you describe its origins? Some process of how you made it? It seems pretty similar to another sauce I have had..." Ingrid insinuated that Idun is using a premade sauce.

Étienne was impressed at how Zarina shutdown the objection with three words, the Eskand raging with his frustration. However, it was Idun upon the offensive now as she moved over to her table to pull out what appeared to be a homemade recipe book, waving it towards Ingrid as she showed it towards Frédérique. "The Søtkrydderglasur is my original recipe. Brandæbles, Snepebber, mixed with some honey, vinegar, and..." politely shut the book as she removed it from the noble woman's' hand after her point was made. "... not shared with you, søster"

Frédérique rubbed her temples as the only thing Idun seemed to say was Brandæbles after every other word. "If you can get that fruit, we will take you. You seem to have more to offer, more substance than this... Sale Putain.". She walked off as she led the pair away, with Étienne giving a polite nod to both of the ladies and a wave, and perhaps even a wink towards Zarina. "We will send the instructions to your sponsor, Madame Rose Bleue in due course."

Marquis Blaise Beauregard eyed the twins suspicious upon their return, people have started to clear out of the hall. “I imagine you have narrowed down the finalists. I shall be the final judge.” He started to heft his bulk as he begins to start down.

“You don’t need to concern yourself, we have already selected.” Étienne smiled proudly toward him. “I personally dealt with that little misunderstanding where a Huulendam boy tried to put a pouch of money within my hand too. He looked rather shocked at my refusal.” “The gall of trying to buy his way through, did he think we were Enth?” replied Frédérique most sternly.

The Marquis sat himself back down as he brought out a handkerchief to pat down his forehead. “Good, good, we don’t need those kind at our esteemed dining table.”, he looked toward as he muttered under his breath, meddlesome kids. After a brief moment of respite, he turned to the matter at hand, “I assume the ones you have chosen can cook at least?”.

Frédérique nodded, “The Eskandish girl was a hidden talent, you may want to consider taking her for further guidance. I will allow my brother to comment upon our butcher.” as she gazed toward him. Étienne simply shrugged his shoulders, “While my sister suggests I was merely charmed by her beauty, the Virangish girl certainly had a way with blades, and she was able to provide the requested cuts of meat. She was able to prepare the meat for cooking as well. It happened to be that our chosen picks came together, so they are most suited for the task of preparing a meal worthy of his majesty.”
Marquis looked toward them both in a cold manner, “If my lord and lady take full responsibility for the choice, then there is no issue on my part.”, “and rob you of your good fortune? There may be accusations of us of trying to usurp your lavish banquet. The honour is all yours.” Étienne simply bent in a formal gesture as he bids the Marquis farewell, followed by his sister, who soon departed as well. The Marquis squeezes an orange within his hand as the pulp oozes out. Perpignans.




Maura clapped her hands as Zarina and Ingrid exited from the building, calling them over towards her, “We love it when a plan comes together”. She leads them along a scenic route as they continue their conversation. “Our sponsor is very satisfied with your performance, it seemed you were both chosen on merit. That helps to create a plausible alibi for what we will be doing next.”

As if anticipating questions, especially from the spicy Virangish girl, she hands them both passes to a local ship going to Vaen. “Your role in this plan is to get yourself to the estate. You need to find a way to release the Snowsweeper. We got the help, we even got the escape craft. Though, you might have thought that was a job well done. Thankfully, your sponsor in her wisdom has added an important condition, for your own sake, a reminder that you both are not to get caught. Your involvement would risk your lives.”

Maura pulled out a vial of a mysterious substance, “This should help thicken any meat you use and make it tough. It is unlikely anyone in there has actually tasted Snowsweeper before, so it is your job to make them think they have done it. You are going to give them the best thing since Kaempe Ko steak.” She paused for a moment as tilted her head toward Ingrid, “What is with your people eating everything that moves?”.

She returned to the task, “Any questions or requests till you board the boat?”

Ingrid looks at the vial and swirls it as she inspects it, "I think I understand the job. I've had Snowsweeper before, maybe 6 to 8 years ago. I should be able to get it close to the taste." Ingrid said to Maura, hiding away the vial for later. Ingrid looked at Maura at her comment on Eskand's diet, "Our land doesn't host many things that won't eat us and it isn't like we can grow things year round. You eat what you can or die. Besides, we don't eat dragons."

“Bullshit you don't eat dragon.” Zarina crosses her arms and cocks a brow, “I saw a Monsigneus, fully grown, the other day over there. Guaranteed you lot eat some of that. All that exalted meat!” she chuckles to herself before shaking her head, “No I don't have- Actually, maybe one.” a single finger sticks out of her coiled arms as she seems to mull over something in her Virangish little head, “What are we using to move it? Aaaaand-” she wags that same finger to keep everyone's attention, “How do we stop it from just being poached again? Gotta, you know, think aftercare here.”

Ingrid laughed at Zarina's joke. She won't mention that people have definitely eaten dragon meat but it just tastes too bad to eat. Ingrid didn't think about the aftermath of rescuing the snowsweeper. But Zarina had a good point, "I didn't consider that to be honest. I can try to pull some connection in Eskand to find a place that will hold it up but that can take some time to get everything right." Ingrid put her hand to her chin, and started to poke her fingers at the air, "I think Sven's land is near-ish to their natural habitat. Maybe he can put them up, he is a really big animal lover."

Maura nodded at the questions, "It is simple. The plan is to return the Snowsweeper home! It was stolen from the reserve, illegally. The Fauna society is very interested in its return and pledged a donation to help improve things there..." "And we from Eskand will let no Perrench King eat one of our national treasures." The tall blonde Eskandish male, Thorinn, looked down toward Zarina and Ingrid, as his companion appeared from behind. "You didn't have to be so critical of my sauce, søster" Idun chimed as she winked toward Ingrid. Maura smirked as she examined the looks on both of their faces, "We would like to present to you, the RASgardians."

Thorinn swung his hammer and puffed his chest as he looked toward Zarina, "We were going to rescue the Snowsweeper ourselves... "...though your Blue Rose was quite persuasive in that we should work together instead." as Idun shook her head in defeat. Maura smiled towards the pair, her finger tapping the blue rose attached to her dress, "See? It is a convincing argument. These two lovely friends of mine provide the perfect cover, distracting the Marquise and his guests, whilst brawn and boobs here drag the Snowsweeper off to our smuggling ship." The pair glare down towards the girl in the wheelchair as she offered them an innocent smile, "Think of all the baby Snowsweepers who will have their Daddy back home for Nox Arcanum. Do it for them” She gave a fist pump as she turned her attention back to Zarina and Ingrid.

"So get on board that boat, and we will see you on the other side. Take these Blue Roses. When things are ready, leave the rose out as a signal, and we will move in on the Snowsweeper.”
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jasbraq The Youngest Elder

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Baffling



“Imbeciel, Dummkopf, Fjols!” Fiske was rather annoyed with himself, walking in circles. To think he’d be that brave… or rather idiotic enough to try and jump into almost certain death! “Perhaps I’ve gone mad. What in the world made me want to help those bastards out? They could’ve died for all I care!” The kid pulled on his hair. “Am I growing soft?...”

Remembering the feeling of Martina and Moli drawing was enough to make him feel sickness to a similar degree. The fear of knowing both of them could have turned him into a past-tense made him tremble once more. “Martina…. If that is your real name… I will have to thank you for being so merciful…”

The boy smirked. “And I still have to cash in for that dance.”
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Evander Fino Synesti



Abberation Apocalypse: 
Lost in Time



The Silk Portal was announced. Ersand'Enise cheered. Evander stood still.

His thoughts rattled, high above on a balcony directly across from the Silk Portal. Imbeciles, they do not even know what they just did. Ersand'Enise revolutionized trade, politics, and travel all in one swoop. The implications of this would shock the very pillars keeping the world stabilized at this point. He settled his emotions stirring around the idea of how the world would change over night when most were not prepared, I guess, this was inevitable

His eyes drifted upward into the sky. What next? He asked the gods. Bringing down his bright blues, he continued to watch over the teams of the Trials as they waved, bid their farewell, and left through the multiple lesser portals in the square.

He made his way down the steps of the building. Crowds of students and pedestrians were standing in droves. As Evander passed through the crowds of people, he came passing by familiar faces of Team Mozaru; Trypano, Yalen, and Jocasta. It did not take more than three whole steps before a feeling of terror loomed over the square.

Out of thin air, a massive aberration materialized, followed by another, followed by a dozen... no... a hundred... no... a legion. Immediately in response to the growing fear of the invasion, Team Mozaru made their way North out of the square.

It was not long before making their way to Balthazar that Team Mozaru began to feel something a miss in the aether. Jocasta felt as if she was tickled and Yalen too. The two turned to Evander as if to say, are you messing with us? Evander had this look on his face that offered no reconciliation. It was someone else... TRYPANO! But, she too was as perplexed as the others until they felt it again. It was not until Jocasta felt it deeply, sensed it, and commanded the group to cleanse themselves. Something ephemeral, something otherwordly was snatching at their fabric. Until Jocasta and Yalen simply disappeared.

Evander having a gut reaction to see what had happened launched forward to where Jocasta and Yalen were standing until he too...

Vanished.


Abberation Apocalypse: 
Stranger Places



Black. White. Red. Green. Yellow. Blue. All the primary and analogus colors ripped by as Evander arrived on loose ground covered in sand. On his hands and knees, his gut shifted with nausea. He felt as if he had been launched by a trebeuchet. Feeling disoriented, a bit of spit tossed up and immediately dried on impact beneath the scolding hot sun.

His eyes fluttered. Rolling over, reality felt hazy at best with white and black fireflies dancing in his eyes. What happened? It's so hard to breath. His breath was shallow, the air thin and dry. If it were not for his Fireblood, he'd be cooking. Where is Ersand'Enise? Where are the others? Evander thought about Yalen, Jocasta, and Trypano. All four were walking toward Balthazaar Square before he witnessed Yalen and Jocasta simply disappear What was that feeling? Evander recollecting the tickling and poking sensation before they cleansed their body, Was this the work of whoever was behind the invasion? His sense of urgency pressurized, How in Pentad am I going to get back? Where am I!

Trying to take a deep breath which turned shallow, Evander settled his mind. I won't answer that question laying here. He rolled over to his chest, shoved his hands down into the sand, pulled himself up to one knee, and stood up. He coughed... again and again. In a small fit of finding his breath, he spotted water off in the distance, sand in all directions, clear skies, a hot sun, and five moons. Was I brought to a desert? His sense of direction eluded him. His first instinct was to move toward the water, but there was some other energy he was sensing in a different direction.

Raising one foot after the other, he decided to walk toward the energy he was sensing. Desperately fighting some vertigo to maintain a standing posture and trudging through shifting sand it was a less than optimal scenario to say the least. Sand started to creep into his shoes which rubbed against his skin, That's annoying... The energy grew closer as he confronted a dune. Before crossing over Evander checked the otherside by enhancing his senses to detect heat signatures.

There were ambigous forms moving about with a large radiance from a large interestingly shaped object behind them. Unable to tell exactly what these things were, he cautiously made his way to the ridge of the dune to observe. The shapes were revealed to be something akin to a snake, yet they were tall, and coordinating their behavior. What in Oraff is that? He whispered under his breath. The group of snakes slithered across the sand with the lead holding a device.

The lead snake placed the device down and the others followed to join in line. Their attention appeared to be at the moons. Ok? Friendly, maybe not... Evander felt hesitant to go down as a stranger and outnumbered. He looked back at the water scanning the endless miles of sand, Damn. Concluding, there was no other way to get back to Ersand'Enise except forward, these "things" may be the only life for miles, a distance Evander wasn't certain he'd live through if left to his own devices in a place he did not know.

Standing up, Evander made his way down to the snakes. His hands held high to show he came as no threat. The snakes broke into a frenzy, nerves rose.

Thump. Thump.

Thump Thump. Thump Thump.

Thump Thump! Thump Thump!


Evander's heart beat harder and faster as he approached. Swallowing each vibration back down to keep calm. He could hear his mother's voice Mihaela in the back of his head,

"Remain poised in the fretting of strangers, hold on to your judgement, listen to their expressions, sit with their angst, give them time to reveal if they are friend or foe."

Steps away, Evander introduces himself.


Abberation Apocalypse: 
Friends Over Time



Something swelled inside of Evander. Something in him felt different. It wasn't the vision of the gods, or the massive abberation he ate along with the others, no...

This feeling had everything to do with them. The Doge, legacy, Avince... it all seemed small. He held out his palm visualizing the grains of sand in a time before his. Evander's weight leaned onto his desk. He got up to touch three eggs that seemed to reduce his anxiety as they rested close to his burning fireplace. These eggs were of the Black Devil, and two Firetails. Enclosed in an iron heat chamber, each were preparing to enter the world under Evander's guidance.

The comfort of their touch was not enough. Evander's thoughts and concerns returned.

Sipenta. Sireena. Sirrahi. First, the Traveler, now a war over time. Time. Where to even begin.

Dipping his quill into his cup, Evander penned ink to parchment beginning with,

Dear Father,

Our family's legacy rides on the balance of something greater than the upcoming war between Parrence and Revidia. I'll say, the Doge's plan to attack with his experiments are trivial at best. Not in terms of challenging Parrence and their order, but in terms of a grander order there is a matter that has and will last longer than Revidia, Parrence, and all of Sipenta.

There are events that I need to share with you in person. Events tied to the recent disturbances at Ersand'Enise that I am sure you have been made aware of before I could pen this letter to you. Let us meet where night never sleeps.

The sooner, the better.

Your rising flame,
Evander Fino Synesti


He folded the parchment into an envelope and sealed it with his personal mark. Sliding the envelope to the side, he gently placed his index and middle finger on another sheet of paper of different quality. Casually sliding the sheet in front of him, Evander examined with focus, a map revealing his next objective, "Thank you Sireena Diska." He praised under his breath, a bit of gratitude, sadness, and excitement bubbled all at once in the pot of his belly.

Evander's head turned to gaze at the stack of books he could find relating to the history of Sipenta, Time, Myths and Legends, and rudimentary books on theories and applications of temporal magic.

"I'll see you again."
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Ti Memento mori.

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Event: Prior to Madness | Location: Ersand'Enise




It was the morning after Chamber of Greed, the prize selection, and the auction. For the first time in a week, Jocasta simply lay there in bed, letting the sun’s rays warm her face and reel her unhurriedly into the land of wakefulness. She let out a small, satisfied yawn and stretched languidly, still laying in bed, revelling in that once-per-day feeling of muscles, ligaments, and tendons popping and loosening for the hours ahead. Then, there was a knock.

This was when Ayla came to disturb the tranquillity of the morning by knocking upon Jocasta’s door in a musical manner. If the blonde had any doubts, the sweet sounding “Hola soy Ayla” drifted through the air towards the bed. It had been a busy week and the events had left her feeling emotionally and physically drained, though there was someone at this moment she wanted to see, and had missed during the excitement of the last week.

“Bruja!” came the response, but there was a tired puckishness about it that softened any real vitriol it could have held. “Give me twenty-nine seconds,” she promised, oddly specific. “I’m in my nightgown.” Jocasta rolled over, summoned the Gift to lift herself as she did when she was lazy, and changed into a half-decent dress while scarcely moving a muscle. With a smirk, she wondered if Ayla was actually counting out the seconds.

Ayla waited patiently as she had brought a tea set with her, adorned with a colourful display of macarons. A peace offering, or just a friendly gesture? Either way, the homemade luxury delights were going to be offered freely. She had half-wondered if wearing her hair within a cushioning hair net would be appropriate given their last encounters, but that would be too much. “You have twenty-five seconds,” she called back in a tease, though in no hurry to enforce the new deadline as she idly stirred the tea, and adjusted her new cloak, so it sat upon her shoulders comfortably and made herself look very presentable.

The door swung open on the twenty-seventh. “I shall expect something in return for this concession,” Jocasta rejoined, presentable enough. Then, her eyes widened at both the tea and the cloak. “Acceptable.” She blinked and smiled warmly. “Do come in. Let me take that tray for you.” That was the right offer, wasn’t it? That’s what a friend would say, right?

Ayla greeted Jocasta with a beaming smile, and greeted her friend warmly with a light hug upon her presentation. “Very well, you bring the tray, and we will make ourselves at home.”, she made her way into the room as she found a suitable location, and tidied it up to make it very presentable for two good friends to enjoy a nice occasion together. She was certainly chirpy and smiles as she pecked at making things look perfect by the time Jocasta brought the tray across, “Place it down, and we’ll get pouring.”. Her hands moved to the pot as she began to pour into Jocasta’s cup first, then herself, and after she placed them down, lifted the delicious looking plate as she served the first choices to her friend.

Jocasta was not ladylike except when she was forced to play the part. She simply stuffed her face. “You know, I was hoping for some breakfast,” she admitted, “And these are really good.” She glanced out the window. They had perhaps half an hour before everybody would be gathering in Market Square - Why not Balthazar? she wondered to herself - for the closing ceremony of The Trials. In truth, she was glad of their end. She had found it a strain to maintain her friendships while competing with people. She hadn’t intended to have any, but she was glad of them nonetheless. “We should go together to the square,” the blonde recommended. “Maybe meet up with a few others we know and put all the silliness behind us.” She knit her hands in her lap, glancing downward. “I fear I’ve been ever so ghastly to you, Ayla. You have my apologies.” And my warning, she knew. This is what I’m capable of. Please don’t push me. She looked up.

The cup clicked upon the saucer as Ayla placed it down. She took a moment to look towards Jocasta as she tilted her head to the side. “Is this ‘lo siento’ from Jocasta? Perhaps this moment should be framed.” She smiled widely as she offered the plate of Macarons toward the blonde, encouraging her to take another. “You are my amiga, and that means we are there for each other, no matter the circumstance. Especially, if it is saying the other is in the wrong, then supporting them on the right path.” She leaned forward as she took the other by her hand. “So you are forgiven.” she squeezed upon the fingers, then released her hold. “It would be nice to meet up with Yalen, Zarina, Kaspar, Marci and the others. It isn’t easy to forge such a firm friendship in a short span of time, and like a garden, friendships must be tended and watered for them to grow into a beautiful blossom.”

Ugh. You’re so… good. Too good, Jocasta found herself thinking. Still, everyone needed at least one Ayla in their life. After finishing one more of the treats, she swallowed and allowed herself to speak. “Good. It’s settled. I don’t need to hypnotize you.” Restless, Jocasta set hands to wheels, backing up a half-foot before making her way around the table. “Now, tell me all about this cloak,” she entreated, [color=ffdead][i]“while we walk, though, hmm? Let’s not be lost in the crowd. Besides, I want to surprise Yalen. I’m going to take some of your cookies and say that I baked them.”[/color] She grinned devilishly.

Ayla smiled softly in response as she whispered, “We knew you liked him.” she winked toward Jocasta as she gathered an adorable looking cloth then wrapped the macarons within it, and tied it with a bow-like knot. It certainly looked as if homemade with love and care now for a special someone. She placed the wrapped package upon Jocasta’s lap as they began to journey together. “Is that where showmen make people bark like puppies on command?” she mused when hypnotism was mentioned, soon being brought to the attention of the cloak. “This is a reward from The Trials, it creates beautiful pictures and patterns out of the constellations adorning it when you talk. Would have been handy for telling that story in the refuge, wasn’t easy cleaning all the ink up after that display.” She giggled as she recalled that event in the desert. “Let me show you. Asier eating breakfast.”, she stretched the cloak to show the constellations forming a pattern before Jocasta of the puff-lion cub adorably eating breakfast.

”Oh, right!” Jocasta exclaimed, “I remember August was all salty over not having it for himself.” She shook her head. “You are bolder than I thought, Ayla Arslan. Very bold indeed. Though I do suppose you’ve got quite the menagerie to act as protection now…”

In truth, Augusto had been something of a suitor before, but Jocasta could not have countenanced a life of noble snobbery. She had played the part enough and found it tiresome in the extreme. In many ways, he was different. In others, he was beholden to his father, his family, and his way of life, and she wasn’t so certain that he was as eager to break away as he occasionally claimed. Were there to be any romance in her future, Ipte willing, she was settled that it would be with Yalen and his gentle strength - so different as it was from the boastful nature of too many men. ”You know…” she began, “I’ve heard he’s taken a bit of a fancy to Yuliya…” Jocasta trailed off. “Any truth to what the little birdie tells me?”

The Torragonese girl smiled at the thought of it, “The world was spared the secrets of his soul for another day.” She mused the thought as she listened along, though found it rather surprising Jo seemed to take an interest in him. When she encountered Augusto Frannemas, it was the same as any other time she encountered a Frannemas, someone scheming to always come out ahead and even cheating within children’s games. The fact Augusto appeared to be on occasions pleasant reminded her of a delightful expression that Maura once used, mierda con azucar. She knew the talk Jo referred to, and had seen the pair together on a number of occasions, where it was clear that they were more friendly than working as a team, “The talk is true, he had taken a liking to her temporary company at least.”. Ayla did feel very conflicted when talking about the man, especially as he had not been particularly rude to herself. “There… is a reputation, but as the saying goes. If you don’t have anything kind to say, it is best not said at all.”

“Babe, you don’t have to remind me of the Frannemas’ reputation,” Jocasta joked. “It precedes them. Anyhow, enough about Augusto and where our Vossoriyian friend chooses to venture.” She hurried out ahead in her excitement. “I think there’s something big in the pipeline today. Why else would they be calling us to Market Square?” Jocasta did not let herself drift. She twisted back and glanced at Ayla. “I just wish I could figure out what it’ll be and if it’ll affect my bottom line. I need to become as rich as Ingrid,” she scoffed, “someday.”

Ayla smiled as she saw the happiness and excitement that her friend displayed, “Anything would be a better distraction than listening to Maura attempt to make a trip to and from Callanst be profitable in a submersible. The only way she’ll turn a profit is if war breaks out, and that won’t be any time soon.” the pair headed towards the Square to witness the great unveiling that awaited them there.



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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Ti Memento mori.

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Location: Château de Maisons Gourmandise.
Event: The Rescue.
Characters: Ingrid @dragonpiece, Zarina@YummyYummy, NPCs @Ti.







The champagne glasses clash during the party of Marquis Blaise Beauregard. Hosted at the magnificent Château de Maisons Gourmandise, where the Marquis hosts the most gloutonnerie of intrigues. The building is large as the monumental architecture exhibits arches, vaults, columns, and balustrades on such angular perspectives. The vanishing points make the space appear deeper, conveying the ambience of a theatrical scene. As the nobles are shown through the door, the majestic hall makes them appear like small figures before the sumptuous banquet that tempted their senses.

Amidst the lavish decor, there were a multitude of showcase pieces such as live animals jumping out of dishes for the court’s amusement. Many of the usual decadent offerings served à la perrençaise, such as the soft-boiled Fricassee and Ragout for the nobles who dined richly at the expense of their oral healthcare. There were plenty of serviettes made available for their fingers and mouths, so one may keep their appearance to a high standard, with toothpicks, stems of fennel, and mint confections to freshen one's breath. The prize of tonight on the menu is the fabled beast from Eskand territories, the Snowsweeper, known for its rich marbled meat which caters for thick chewy bites which oozes flavour with every mouth full. The meat has cultural significance following the events of Oriflamme as King Arcel dined upon its flesh in triumph over the Eskand.

The tables followed a clear hierarchy, each seat was reserved to the name and station of the one who occupied it, as politically difficult task as many of the Perrench High Nobility are in attendance, along with their supplicants, and those who may like to be seen as equals bend the knee to Perrench supremacy. Rumours of Royal Attendance are abounded, how that King Rouis will deign his favour upon this gathering, as those who aim to gather favour with House de Perrence have come bearing gifts. The noticeable presence of House de Perpignan in this gathering has already made this meeting auspicious, as all the major players of Perrench politics are going to be dining together at the same table.

The old noble is sweating as he tried to keep the powder from streaming down his face as he approached the noble boy, “The King will be making his appearance.”, the statement more of a statement than a question. “My father shall be here any moment, and soon shall every noble man worth their Couronne from Vaen, Kressia and Solenne shall be here.”, the sweet sister came up along the Marquis as she took him by the arm, “King Rouis wouldn’t want a gathering of every house of Perrence occurring without his attendance.” Étienne moved in front of the Marquis as he appeared to straighten his suit, “Refresh your powder, for tonight you will earn the favour of the two most powerful men in Perrence.” The Marquis stared at them both, shaking his arm free as he moved toward the back, cursing under his breath. Frédérique tutted as she gazed within her brother's eyes, “Brother...”, he smiled in return, “Not all flowers can be as sweet as you”, she raised an eyebrow toward him, “Save that for the Virangish girl.” as she playfully scolds him.



The work in the kitchen was rough, despite what they may have thought, they didn’t expect they would have to cater for a hundred or more guests. The preheating ovens around the hall were routinely heated to help the offerings to be served at least lukewarm instead of cold. Ingrid’s and Zarina’s suggestions of adding some further herbs and spices appeared to work well, compensating the bland cold taste with tingling warmth. Thankfully, they were not the only two on duty, as the well-prepared experienced team at the Château essentially ran everything for them as they experienced an overwhelming crash course of life within a royal kitchen.

Yet this was not the task they set out to do. It is in the hastily constructed stable at the back they were allowed to witness the rumoured and magnificent creature itself, the last surviving and known Snowsweeper bull. As one may imagine during such an ornate and grand event, security was a high priority as many of the Maison militaire du roi de Perrence were present. There was no room for imagination that the presence of the Gardes Perrençaises signalled that King Rouis de Perrence was soon expected to make his arrival.



The pair entered the shelter as they faced the creature they were faced to butcher and serve the pompous Perrench nobles. They were met with large dark sorrowed eyes as the beast was restrained within the walls with no room for manoeuvre and a pile of sweet smelling putrid dung piled up behind it. As they interacted with it, they saw how docile, not seeming to recognize or contest their presence, enabling further insight into the stark and terrible conditions it is being housed under. The pair are freely able to interact with it, as the assigned executioners.

It was during their walk through the ornate gardens as the sounds of trumpets blew to sound the arrival of King Rouis as the royal carriage pulled toward the entrance of the Château. The literal greenfield carpet being rolled down before his feet as the royal family are escorted toward the door with many paid well-wishers to announce their devout loyalty to his majesty. They also become aware of the awaited signal as they crossed a rose bush coloured blue, and through simple deduction, they passed through the row of hedges nearby, as a familiar face awaited them.

“This is bad, it really looks that King Rouis is making an appearance.” The girl in the wheelchair looked up toward them both with a very uncertain expression, “We have a shipment of Tourrare cattle beef with us but we don’t have a way to bring it here from the lake undetected by these patrols. There doesn’t appear to be any sign of the Snowsweeper either.”

As the pair filled Maura in on the details, they start to craft a basic outline together. “You are the ones who will need to bring the Snowsweeper to us, or at least close enough for the exchange. You will need to create an opening, a distraction, in order to enable this.”

With their shared understanding, the pair return back to the Château to prepare for what is to come next.



After the arrival of the King, the hall the doors were opened for the High Duc, Charles de Perpignan, the second most powerful man to the King of Perrench himself. Their dynasty is entwined as thick as the blood of the royal family themselves, and it is unspoken that if House de Perrence were to ever falter, House de Perpignan would step in as the rightful heirs of the crown. The loyalty of the man presented before the crown has been questioned multiple times, often the constant source of gossip and intrigue of the multitude of ways he has sought to undermine the reign of King Rouis, and far too powerful for him to act. However, these rumours have taken an unusual and silent turn as King Rouis have stepped into the role of the saviour of Perrence as the Duc being one of his devout supporters. This has led to even more dangerous rumours that the Duc had been a pawn of King Rouis these years, using the seeds of ferment to root out those disloyal to the crown. It is wise for one in court to never speak either of these rumours aloud, as Duc Charles de Perpignan is a fearsome man.

It was to no surprise that he was afforded the honour of making the keynote speech for those in attendance, and the choice of topics cut to the core of the societies problems.

“Men are not born equal. This fact is how those like the Traveller and those that support him fail to understand. Some men are born swift, some men are strong, some are born more handsome, some were granted great intellect, and some men the wisdom of the gift by the gods. Some like our King, have all these apply.”, he made the expected deference to King Rouis, with much support and laughter from the audience

“Others are born in poverty, others born sick and feeble. Both in birth and upbringing, men are inherently different. This is why men discriminate against one another, this is why there is struggle and competition, it represents the unwavering march toward strength that we must continually overcome. Inequality is not wrong, it is essential." His eyes cast the room as he looked upon the men of note and worth, they knew their merits, their privileges, but they know they're right in where they stand in the grand order of things.

“We in Perrench see this in the surrounding nations. We see Revidians, clinging on tales of a long dead empire, as they allow a rabble to try to decide their future and entrust it to an Eel. The nation of Joru? They are a nation of lazy dullards as they squander their former Kingdom's wealth. The Torragonese are envious sand vipers, always fighting amongst themselves over their piles of sand. But not our beloved Perrence, we thrive, we compete, our supremacy is continuous. With our allies in the Sovereign alliance, Perrence moves forward, always advancing perpetual into the future.”

It was on this final note, that Green Perrence began to play.



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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by jasbraq
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jasbraq The Youngest Elder

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Dorothea Hohnstein
von Albesatz-Danzau



Catastrophic events


Dorothea’s feelings were quite turbulent. Anger, fear, sadness… guilt. Everything about that day was wrong. Not only did she fail to keep her mind on the mission, she also yelled at people she shouldn’t have and Manfred… Manfred… if not for Vedil, would’ve died.. However the price… the thought of it was enough to truly terrify her. No matter what she tried to do to keep those thoughts at bay, nothing helped, even her books weren’t enough to calm her.

The feeling of her body moving outside of her own control, the magic coming from her… terrifying magic she does not know coming from her fingertips. The feeling she felt when She beat those things… even if it wasn’t her own doing… it felt invigorating. ‘Was that my doing? Was that me?..’

“Well, if I don’t have much left. I guess I’ll have to make my life worth something before..” She gulped. “..I’m gone..” A warm feeling came over her as she realized that at the very least she could use her life to help someone that deserves it more.




Looking through her mail. “A suitor’s letter, another one, another… Oh, this one is transparent about it. No Heinrich, my family isn’t interested in an alliance with your house.” Then a letter with not just one familial seal on it… but one of the combined houses... “Are the Benrath organizing a party, having every other house’s blessing? Maybe the Rheinsburg thought it would be important enough that every other house would put the national seal on it?.. ”

Tears dripped off the girl’s cheek as she read the letter. “You’re kidding, right?... Me?.. This must be a prank letter, haha! Annalie can be a bit of a prankster!” Dorothea’s laughter did not last long, being replaced by silence. Placing the letter on the table, taking a seat and resting her head onto her arms all that could escape her mouth was a soft: “Why?..”

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by BlackRoseSiren
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BlackRoseSiren

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Esmi'nesta'taware and Sven Bjørnsson



The Yasoi and the Eskandish.


In the early rays of the morning a young Yasoi sits under a tree in the Arboretum. The breeze is nice and cool, her hair is nice and braided hanging over her left shoulder. In her left hand, she has a grape, while in her right, sitting perfectly in the palm of her hand, is her pet Grapedragon. It bobs its head in anticipation for the grape, little embers erupting from its mouth. If it could talk, it would have properly said ‘feed me.’

"Here you go sweetie. Just take your time eating it." the grapedragon takes a bite of the grape that Esmi is holding, he even does a little happy dance while he's chewing. This makes Esmi giggle a little bit followed by a warm smile. Not wanting to leave Sage out she grabs another grape, she makes a subtle whistle. Sage pops her head out her top, sniffing the grape then taking it with its tiny hands.

Sven’s path often takes him through the Arboretum. It’s early and he’s more than a bit tired after too late a night up reading by candlelight. Then, he hears the distinct fluttering of a Grape Dragon’s wings. There is a girl under a tree. Sven blinks and looks her way, but he doesn’t recognize her. He’s been on campus long enough that most of the faces he sees are at least semi-familiar. With no class to be in this morning, he decides to wander over. “Cool Grape Dragon,” he opens.

Startled at first, Esmi lifts her head to the direction of where that voice came from. A tall human walked towards her, questions raced through her head. Who is this person? What race is he? But from a quick scan of him, he didn't seem threatening to her, so she relaxed herself. "Thank you. I've just got him. I haven't decided on a name for him yet." Looking at her Grape Dragon with a big smile, she looks back to the stranger. "You must really know your stuff. You were able to get what type of dragon he was just from a glance. Impressive. I'm Esmi'nesta'taware. I've just started. What's yours?" she says with a polite tone and a warm smile.

She has an odd way of speaking but, then again, so does he. Sven notices, after a moment, that the girl is yasoi - though unusually small for one. “Oh, ahem. I’m Shven! Good to meet you.” He grins. “Dragonsh are my favourite thing in the world, to be honesht. Really, I like all animalsh, though.”

From the moment he said his name, or more how he pronounced it, she could tell that he had a speech impediment. Doing the polite thing and not bringing it up, she was able to understand him at least. "Sven, that's a nice name." She smiles. She scoots over to one side, offering Sven to sit next to her. "I really like animals too. But you said you really like dragons, do you have a favourite one in particular?" The grape dragon looked at Sven with its little eyes, unsure what to make of this person stealing his owner's attention.

Sven scratched at the back of his head. “Well to be honesht, I know it’sh a weak answer, but I kinda like them all.” He sat beside her and made a specific motion with his fingers that mimicked the basic command for ‘feeding time’ that all of these store-sold dragons were taught. Then, he reached out with the Gift for Esmi’s grapes and, with an intense wash of magic, there were more: small and partially formed at first, and then bigger and complete. “Really,” he remarked, blushing slightly, “I shouldn’t be feeding them. They won’t shtop eating on their own. A grape dragon will eat itshelf to death if you let it.” He shook his head. “About fifteen to twenty-five grapesh should be enough, depending on how active it ish.”

Then, he wondered something of his own. “Sho, you’re ash far from home ash me,” he observed. “Think it’sh worth shticking around? The food any good for a yashoi palate?”

Esmi looked at Sven based on the answer that he gave about his favourite dragon."It's a really difficult choice, isn't it? Still you did give me an answer." from watching Sven use his magic to alter the grape size, she was completely amazed by how he did it. "Wow, that was amazing. You’re very talented."She says with a joyful smile. Esmi listened to the advice that Sven gave about feeding the right amount of food towards a Grape Dragon. Just as well she only gave him one so far. She blushes a little "Thank you for that knowledge, I'll make a note of it. Do you have any other advice that you could give? I'd appreciate It.

Sitting next to Sven thinking about what he asked, being far from home. "Yes. We are far away from our homes. The food isn't bad here. However, I think I'm doing the right thing. I'm looking for a solution to help cure aberration addiction in yasoi. I know it seems like a next to impossible task." she has such a determination in her tone, Apart from that, I want to try and be a doctor, or a vet and open my own clinic. she pets her Grape Dragon by scratching it under its chin, from his expression he seems to like it. She turns to face Sven asking, "What about you Sven?

“I don’t know, to be honesht,” he admitted. “I jusht like learning new shtuff and this sheemed like the besht place to do it, but people are sho… shelfish here, jusht like in the resht of the world.” He shrugged. “Maybe I wanna change that, I guessh. If people were more honesht, kinda like animalsh, I think thingsh would be better.”

Esmi looked in awe based on Sven's response. It seemed so noble, so pure hearted. She gently smiles at him "I think that too. There are people who only look out for themselves, hiding behind a mask that has a fake smile on it. Holding out a hand in friendship, while holding a knife with the other…well that's what I've been told. But I believe that there are more people like you out there, who want to make a difference. A little light of empathy for the whole world." a little frown comes across her face. Immediately after, she apologises to Sven thinking that she was rambling on.

Sven blushed deeply. “I uh…” He swallowed. “Hehe. I’ve never heard it deshcribed like that.” He scratched behind one ear. “Thanksh. Don’t apologishe.” Time was, however, wasting, and he still had classes to get to. “But I do have to go. Can’t shave the world if I’m too dumb to shave it!” He smirked, mimicking the act of shaving and not saving. He bounded to his feet. “Your firsht classh in Arc-en-Ciel, Gardiner’sh, or Balthazar? I’m walking that way. You should come,” he teased, “unlessh being late ish jusht a yashoi cultural thing.”

Esmi blushes from his sweet expression. From looking at him she gets a strange feeling in her chest. Which immediately goes when he mentions classes, which cause her to scream in alarm. she leaps to her feet, almost in a panic, barely giving her Grape Dragon to crawl up her arm to her shoulders. Oh no! I completely forgot about classes. she tries to remember her classes and which she was in, she draws a blank then she immediately gets flustered and frustrated [Colour=#b08cc9"I can't remember where I am. Do you think that you can help me, please?[/colour]

Sven rolled his eyes. “Typical tree people. Here,” he offered with a melodramatic sigh, “let me shee your schedule.”

Esmi felt a little embarrassed that she forgot where she was for her classes. She reaches into a side pocket and pulls out a folded parchment that had the list of her classes. She opens it up, handing it over to Sven to see if he'll be able to help her find her classes. "Thank you." she says to him with a warm smile blushing at this kind gesture.

From reading it Sven was able to help her find her class, luckily it wasn't too far from his. He handed back the paper and offered to walk with him. Esmi decided to walk with Sven to class. The discussion they had along the way was sweet, both of them were smiling and having fun. Sven had escorted Esmi to her class; he had just enough time to make it to his. Before walking in, Esmi looked back at Sven leaving. She plucked up a little bit to ask. "I… I had fun meeting you, we can hang out together some more if you want? Maybe after classes." blushing from what she said in case it was taken the wrong way. Sven turned to look back at her and it seemed he blushed a little from her question. He gave a smile and said, "Of course." Then kept walking to his class. Esmi smiles, feeling relieved by his humble response. She readies herself to enter her class. She takes a deep breath, "Here we go. You can do this." taking a step forward she enters the class.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Lifting of the Shroud 𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥𝅯 𝅘𝅥𝅰



The City of the Bells had endured one massive blow after another, and it was reeling. Bloody Victendes had claimed its victims and, while magic had restored much, it could not bring back the dead without consequences the Zenos in charge of the city had deemed too steep. It could not repeal the less physical harms Ersand'Enise's people had endured. A fractured mind is not so easily mended as similarly wounded stone. Little to nothing was said of the violence at Moli's Emporium. Nothing was spoken of the hurricane that had lashed the coast and the bloody fight that had taken place under its cover. As for the stolen auction items, the incident was passed off as a mere misplacement, sellers paid off, and the lost items pointedly forgotten. In any event, there were greater matters to contend with.

Some twenty-thousand people attended the funeral of Hugo Hunghorasz, greatest hero of his age, dignitaries appearing from as far afield as Vossoriya, Retan, Eskand, and Sawand. Thousands more lined the streets as his funerary procession passed from the Cathedral of the Redeemer to Balthazar Hall, where he was entombed beneath the central rotunda, as were all former Zeniths. With little fanfare, Karan Harrachora assumed many of his former responsibilities, for the Zenith had bought peace with his faction by offering him those. The bells chimed for an hour straight on that final day of his. Prayers were spoken, condolences offered to his closest relatives, including a boy of some thirteen years who was said to resemble him perfectly, and all were assured that he would reside in Shune's light for eternity.

Life quieted after that. Days passed, and then weeks. The former grounds of Moli's Emporium were quietly purchased by a consortium of interests from the school and Vossoriya and construction began on... something. Things returned to normal or, at least, a new sort of normal, with the portal to Hogh Munkhelad and the bounties of the Hegelans and Callanast open and war between Perrence and Revidia seemingly averted. Ships sailed eagerly into and out of the great port. Wagons bustled through the portal along with both wide and shrewd-eyed Hegelan visitors.

And as for the students? Why, they returned to their routines, and found themselves fairly inundated with textbooks and theses and practice, for an entire week had been lost to the various tragedies that had befallen the city and that wasted time needed to be repaid! Now that the strong hand of Hugo Hunghorasz had been replaced with the strong hand of another, there was business to be conducted, magic and science to be learned, and pleasure to be had. If the healing was to leave scars, it at least appeared to be well underway.

Beneath the surface, however, next to nothing had been resolved, and even new problems created. Though some steam had been vented, tensions still bubbled. The people of the Workman's Quarter still demanded accountability of the academy, the Zenos, and the nobles and, still, these demands were met with payouts in cash, hollow promises, and subtle threats. The people of Mudville, also wronged, petitioned more urgently than ever to be officially incorporated as a territory under the administration of the government of Ersand'Enise. They would be willing to pay taxes and be bound by the city's laws in exchange for some investment in infrastructure, policing, and trade, and for a voice in the governing of their shared nation.

To the south, in Perrence, green Perrence, some two hundred unusually large men found work in odd jobs, made their livings, and laid low, waiting. Green grew ever greener, before turning yellow, then orange, red, and gold. In the cooler southern reaches of the vast kingdom, leaves fell from trees. In the warmer subtropical north, the nights cooled and the rains came. The fruits of summer grew ripe and heavy on tree branches. the fruits of fields swayed in the rezain breeze. Days began to shorten and nights grow deeper and darker. Dies Arcanum, halfway through the season, approached. First, however, came Nox Arcanum, and that was an entirely different animal.



Night of the Masquerade 𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥𝅯 𝅘𝅥𝅰



Their first full semester at the school had concluded, successfully for most, and the students of Ersand'Enise's 105th cohort were two weeks into their second. The blazing heat of Dorrad had finally seemed to slacken over the past week, and they could now consider themselves well-settled into their courses. Introductions and basic theory had concluded and piles of books and papers now lay on many desks. In some dormitories, of course, lay other treasures, for the calamities of a few months earlier had not come without their adventures and misadventures and these, in turn, had not come without their benefits. A multitude of widely varied eggs were prepared to hatch any day now. Would the small animals within choose such an auspicious day to come into the world?

The morning dawned cool and rainy, and students went about their classes in anxious anticipation of the evening. Were their plans to be spoiled by mother Oraff or would they play witness to a displayer similar to the one that had greeted them upon their first arrival? Thunder rumbled softly and rain pattered against the flagstones as they went about their classes. Zenos smirked and teased and ultimately assigned them little work to take home.

As the Hours of Oraff gave way to those of Eshiran, so too did the clouds give way to late afternoon sun. Two of the moons were already up: full and visible in the deep blue sky. Banners, strings of pennants, and paper lanterns had been hung from lampposts, balconies, and businesses, the last of those ready to be set free to float through the air once the sun disappeared behind the horizon. Dozens of masked figures traipsed merrily about campus and the northern half of the city, breathing jets of flame, simulating fireworks, and forming spectral dragons that danced and twisted with their magic. They handed out gaily-decorated apples, whimsical paper ghosts, angels, and demons, and pamphlets inviting people to various celebrations and events. How eager the nascent apple harvest had been! How many hours the paint-makers and printers had worked and how much money had they made!

The grandest events available to the hundreds of youths, however, were the masquerade parties organized by the student guilds. The Society of the Gift stood atop the others and, appropriately, had been granted the East Arboretum for their event. Dozens of tables were already laid out on the grass and hundreds of paper lanterns ready to rise like ghosts. The large semi-enclosed pavilion there was packed with chefs and musicians, and bottles of wine and spirits were lined up and ready. The music began wafting out into the night: waltzes and more genteel numbers at first, and then cheekier ones before long. Drawn to it like bears to honey, brightly dressed students bounced and bounded over in little packs, some rushing onto the grass or claiming tables, while others peeled off earlier, into Balthazar Square.

This space, and the rotunda of the Hall from which it derived its name, had been claimed by the Magicians' Guild, and the two masquerades were separate in name only. It was a tradition stretching back over two centuries that the members of the one would mingle, masked and unrecognized - in theory - with those of the other. Besides, there was always an apple decorating contest and a bob in the fountain and they usually had delicacies like Brandæbles, Rango Sours, and Candied Apples, plus Torragonese Hollows for carving and painting. Pigs roasted on spits and the Eskandish Students' Union had already slaughtered the ceremonial Kæmpe Ko the day before and been slow-roasting and smoking it ever since.

The Enchanters' Union, however, was not invited, and this was cause for misgiving among some in the Magician's Guild. Their peace with the Society was tenuous enough, however, that nobody raised too much of a fuss. Instead, the commons and artisans had rented out one of the largest of the pleasure villas in Bath House, and there, they had a real party. If those inside the city walls were Zeno-approved, truly anything went out here. Cheap alcohol and good music flowed freely. A thresher and a bull had been brought in to buck and leap and kick and, fueled by drink, dozens of people tried to ride them. They went out into the surf in rowboats, too, and tried to topple each other from them. They dived into the water and dared each other to climb the banana trees to pick the fruits - no magic! The courtesans of the Vermilion Swirl were everywhere among them, some plying their trade but most simply joining in the celebration. In one particular corner, however, a dastardly plan was hatching, ready to bear fruit all too soon.

This, then, was Nox Arcanum.



Action Opportunities



For this, our final chapter before the timeskip, a number of things are on tap:
1) A few members of the moderating team will be running independent storylines. Feel free to join those. There's a daring caper, a dragon ride, and a wildblood gone rogue!
2) You can summarize the mini timeskip, including any Forked Tower activities, fallout from the calamities, new classes, and the funeral of Hugo.
3) If you have eggs, they will have either already hatched or will soon do so!
4) How'd the party go?

Questions, ideas, or general feedback? Let's talk on discord. Also, keep in mind that the conclusion of this cycle will bring us to the end of the arc and missions are on tap after we move nearly a year ahead. We'll be returning to a more regular forum-first posting schedule and I encorage you to reacclimate to that and to reset from feeling obliged to post longer summaries to feeling comfortable with short ones. On that note, Happy posting! I can't wait to see what you come out with!
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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coGM
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Ti Memento mori.

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Event: Love and Learn | Location: Ersand'Enise | Characters: Maura, Abdel @yummyyummy




”Make that two Ayla’s with churros, gracias, the girl had a warm smile as she ordered the drinks and treats, everything today had to be perfect. She had made sure to get plenty of beauty sleep, assistance with her hair, make-up and clothing. The girl was adorned in a beautiful black dress, certainly dressed to rival nobility and something normally selected for special formal occasions. The dress was gorgeous, following the recent Perrench style with a frilled skirt and hems, accompanied by a pair of white tights. She wore ribbons upon the sides of her head to compliment the hair that was straightened then cut short, which bounced with every movement of her head.

The girl stood, waiting, as she leaned against the wall beside her. It was exhausting, but she wanted to be at her best. The braces upon her legs felt very heavy and burdensome, but they helped keep her standing. She ran a hand through her hair as she looked out hopefully and patiently through the crowds of students to spot the one she was waiting for.

The boy, on the other hand, wasn’t thinking ahead too much. He woke up a good twenty minutes later than usual and had only bathed the night prior. Still, he did have the forethought of dressing decently, going beyond his usual getup or the average peasant vestments. He looked like a lower merchant boy with the garments a certain tailor he worked for made for him, being made of a sky-blue silk and decorated with golden patterns that were reminiscent of his lost home. His medium-length hair wasn’t stylized, but he could easily blame it on the gust of wind that came strong this morning.

Then, he arrived. He didn’t see her right away, for she could not be what was standing just a few metres away. Clueless, he looked around, only for it to hit him like a Kaempe Ko.

“Maura?” Abdel asked, himself standing comfortably without even the need for ankle braces, “W-wow.” he blushed at the sight and at a loss for words.

Maura smiled wide like a Cheshire-cat at his reaction, “We got you coffee whilst we waited.” The illusion somewhat broken with her very stilted movements as she bent over slightly pat the space for the seat next to her, whilst keeping her feet absolutely still. Maura managed to shuffle herself in front of her own chair as she held upon the table, though looking somewhat perplexed at the lack of arms upon the dining chair. She paused for a moment, before flashing Abdel a warm smile, “You may assist the lady to her seat.”

Naturally, he complied, rushing over behind the lady like a new servant undergoing a trial period. The chair was slid back with an unpleasant creek, and then pushed forward a tad more elegantly as Maura took her seat. Everything about his movements was stiff and awkward, along with somehow seeming rushed despite the gestures being anything but. He paced his way to his seat and gazed upon his ‘date’ with a look of pure admiration, “You … Look very nice, Maura.” he flashed an innocent smile, hands peeking out the edge of the table and his digits nervously drumming.

Her blush reddened as she gently moved her hand across to his and squeezed upon it as she gave him a playful wink, “You are guapo yourself”. She tapped upon his hand as if to signal something as she moved it down to start tugging her dress up, baring her ankle and shin toward the boy. However suggestive this may have looked became more clear when it revealed she was wearing Abdel’s old braces. “We have been putting the practice exercises you spoke about from the refuge”, as he lowered his head to look, she placed a quick peck upon his cheek, “Gracias. Now drink and eat up before they grow cold.” She distracted the focus away from her gesture as her cheeks flushed a rosy red.

Abdel rubbed the back of his head when complimented, trying to hide his rosy cheeks and stressed facial features. He really couldn’t hide that smile of his, especially when she touched his hand like that. “So that’s where I put them!” he jokingly remarked as he saw his ankle braces, “Snagged them when I was helping you up the other Victendes?” he too winked, although he was clumsy and ended with a silly blink instead. But then she posed a kiss on his cheek, and he could feel his heart race. His hand gently posed itself on his kissed cheek, “Care for a walk after our meal?”



As they walked, Abdel hooked Maura’s arm with his own in a gentleman-like fashion. It wasn’t just for show and proper manners; he was helping her, “Would you like to see the Arboretum? I hear more Blueberry dragons gather in the hotter months, around this time.” he suggested, his gait elegant and pronounced, like he was calculating every step.

Maura continued to walk awkwardly around the café area, with her arm intertwined with Abdel’s own. He has been very kind in helping her learn how to make some steps as she went on the brief walk with him, easily finding herself becoming tired. As they came by the chair, she pressed herself against him as she gazed into his eyes, “Yes, let’s enjoy.”. She gave a big smile as she held upon the top of his arms, running her hands down them as she used them as support to lower herself into the chair as she rested into place. She held upon his hand as she used her magic to make the chair seem weightless, seamlessly gliding alongside him as they went toward the Arboretum together.

They got to the Arboretum, and Abdel sought out a bench they could sit upon. He’d offer to lift his date to sit by him as they were positioned to have a great view on the pond, “I’m in this, uhm, study class with Zarina and Evander.” he mentioned as he peered toward Maura, “It’s on this Magnetic spell I think would help you, actually.”

She shivered, even Abdel sat behind her would have been able to feel it as she heard his name again, el cabrón. The reason she has been putting this effort into walking was because of that helpless situation, she found herself stuck and held hostage by him. It wasn’t hard to imagine that she would have been nothing more than a casualty statistic if she didn’t pull through, given his family's influence. She took a deep breath and sighed, not looking best pleased at hearing the name, but he did seem like he had something to tell her. “Magnetic spell, huh?”, she pondered for a moment, “We were thinking about Levitate. Is it that one?”.

Abdel shook his head, “It has something to do with blood and the metal in it.” he answered plainly, “... I could just bring the book with me after the next session and study with you.” he lit up, offering an alternative to the problem he had already caught on.

Maura raised an eyebrow up toward him at the idea of metal in blood, though, it is true that it does taste metallic. She moved her hand against Abdel’s own as she interlocked her fingers with his, smiling a little brighter as the boy was trying to find reasons to spend time with her, and she liked this a lot. “Alright then, you come to mine? We will make sure we have some nice treats.” She was already mentally selecting the options in her mind, as she pondered what his favourites are.

Abdel tightened his grip onto Maura’s hand. Eventually, after a few laughs and cute exchanges, they would be walking into Ersand’Enise’s streets again, “It was very nice to spend the afternoon with you, Maura.” he turned to look at her as they arrived at the Merchant dormitory, “... Same time tomorrow, but we study instead?” he scratched the back of his head.

She stopped by the door as she gazed back toward the boy, smiling warmly at him. “Never knew you were so diligent in your studies.” She bit upon her lower lip as she tried to suppress how big her grin was getting. “We will see you at the hour tomorrow?”



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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Wolfieh
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Wolfieh eternally terrified / he/they

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Yet, as the night of Nox Arcanum drew closer, so did many other things…



Three shadows shifted in the soft, dancing firelight on the stable floor as gentle rain beat against the roof. One belonged to a girl of perhaps sixteen; the other, who bore some resemblance to her, was a few years older. The third was a horse, half-saddled.

“Adala…”

The older figure stopped her movements around the horse and fixed the younger with a glare. Swallowing, the girl continued, “...You have everything you need?”

Securing the flap of a saddle bag, the intended rider nodded once, sharp and determined. “It’s not much. The journey won’t be long, if I ride as fast as I intend to,” she supplied, pulling a few small bundles out of the folds of her coat and slipping them into a second pouch on the saddle.

The younger girl was quiet for several long moments, biting her lip and twisting her fingers in nervousness. Finally, despite her quiet voice she all but blurted out, “Are you sure about this?”

Adala sighed, resting her forehead against the saddle as she paused for a moment. “Liese…” she whispered, hesitating for a moment. “It… It’s the right thing to do. I owe Willa this much.”

Liese’s face twisted in sympathy. “And the boy?”

Adala chuckled, smiling a little. “That’s up to Willa. But he deserves to know,” she added softly.

“You’ve got a soft spot for that boy,” Liese teased, blush barely noticeable in the soft torchlight.

Adala grinned, stepping closer. “Half the estate does. And how could I not, when my baby sister has been sweet on him since the first day she saw him?” she teased, wrapping Liese in a hug as the younger girl’s blush became suddenly much more visible. “But what they’re going to ask… It’s not right, that he doesn’t already know,” she added, voice sadder as she stepped away from her sister. “I’m glad you told me what you heard.”

She put a foot in the stirrup and pushed up, swinging a leg over as the horse shifted minutely beneath her, nickering softly. “Keep yourself out of trouble while I’m gone, you hear? If you need anything, you come down to the stable and talk to Emmeline, she’ll look after you like I would. I left her a note saying our aunt is sick and I’ve gone to take care of her. If anyone asks, that’s all you know, got it?” Her voice was stricter now, and Liese nodded sharply.

“Good,” Adala replied, taking the reigns in hand, hood of her coat drawn up over her head now. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

“You better be,” Liese whispered, voice thick with worry and nearly drowned out by the worsening rain. “Be safe, Addy. And... Gods’ speed.”

With one nudge of the heels, Adala’s horse was moving forward and out of shelter, hooves splashing up water on the paved stone as they trotted away, towards the Estate Entrance. Liese watched until she saw their shadows at the distant gate, stopping to speak with the guards before being waved through. She watched until their shapes disappeared into the darkness beyond, and then watched a while longer.



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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by pantothenic
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pantothenic bored part-timer

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𝕐𝕒𝕝𝕖𝕟 & 𝔻𝕠𝕣𝕪





Month: Velles
Day: Lepdes 23
Time: Early morning
Place: Proving Grounds




Yalen raised his training sword over his head and charged at his opponent with a valorous shout. Colette saw through his amateurish feint and lazily deflected the strike aimed at her hip. He deftly recovered and twisted around to swing at the side of her temple, only to be foiled by a well timed head-slip. The two siblings clashed swords again and again, feeling out each other’s defenses without committing to a heavy blow. Yalen was giving it everything he had, straining his muscles to their limit in the vain hope that he could overwhelm her via sheer speed. Colette on the other hand, was defending herself one-handed with her dominant arm tied behind her back.

”Here!” Yalen batted her guard away and attempted to thrust his wooden sword into her ribcage. Colette twisted on her heels like a ballerina and avoided it with ease. Then, faster than he could follow with his eyes, she whacked him on the back of the head with her weapon.

”Ow!”He lurched forward and dropped to one knee, rubbing his bruised skull with a tear in his eye. Colette rested her sword on her shoulder and clicked her tongue.

”You’re getting impatient, Yalen. Even a novice could see through your attacks. You need to calm down and focus.”

Yalen grit his teeth and nodded. Rising to his feet once more, he put up his guard and began circling around Colette. He probed her with a couple of weak strikes, watching out for any flaw in her defenses. He struck high, then low. Low, then high. He swung. He thrust. He chained his blows. The master swordswoman was able to parry him without breaking a sweat. Though he tried to be patient, Yalen’s assault eventually grew more frenzied, and when his frustration reached its peak, he found it deflated when Colette knocked him flat on his ass.

”What the hells has gotten into you Yalen?” Colette stabbed her sword into the ground.

”It’s not enough.” He replied.

”Pardon?”

”It’s not enough! My strength, my magic. It’s not enough.” Yalen kicked at the sand childishly. ”The Traveller has already made her move. If this is as fast as I can improve, then I might as well give up.”

Colette sighed and leaned forward on her sword hilt. She silently watched as her kid brother healed the lump on his head with magic. There was a knowing look in her eye. Whether it was her siblings or her subordinates, Captain D’aureville was fairly good at reading people’s emotions.

”What happened to that boy wasn’t your fault.” She chastised him. Yalen’s eyes widened slightly, but his face remained neutral.

”You’re right, it wasn’t my fault. But I could have been there for him. I could have been there for all of them. But no matter what, in the end all I’m able to do is call for help like a frightened child.”

”Yalen, I know what it’s like to be angry at your own weakness. I do.” Colette’s eyes softened. ”But everyone walks at a different pace, including you. You can’t force yourself to change overnight.” She tossed her sword aside and disintegrated it into a pile of ash, doing the same to Yalen’s as well.

”Let’s take a break. If you focus on one task for too long your brain will become fatigued.” Colette reached out and forcibly pulled Yalen to his feet with kinetic magic.

”Whoa!”

”You should go see one of your friends, it will help you relax. Didn’t you mention that one of them was celebrating their birthday today?”

Yalen rubbed his arm nervously. ”I… wouldn’t call her my friend. She’s more of an acquaintance. Besides, things are a bit awkward between us right now…”

”Great! This will be a good chance to deepen your friendship then. Let’s bake her a pie. You can help me peel the apples and bring it to her yourself.”




After asking some mutual relations, Yalen was able to locate Dorothea’s dormitory easily enough. He was a noble by adoption, and as a servant of the church he was entitled to walk anywhere he pleased. Despite having this privilege, he still felt the teeniest bit out of place when he walked past the haughty residents of the Noble’s Quarter. The dorms were as garishly decorated as their occupants, each multi-story building as colorful and elegant as the last. It was as if each individual structure was built by a different architect. It made the mass housing in the common dorms look like Mudville in comparison. Even the streets were cleaner on this side of town.

When he finally reached Dory’s room, Yalen closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When his heart was finished beating out of his chest, he steeled himself and knocked on the door.

”I’ll be there in a bit!” After a short while with all sorts of noises coming from the other side of the door before the Feskan opened the door, looking quite surprised at the person standing in frame. ”Brother Yalen, it is quite a surprise to see you. What brings you here today?” Dory offered a warm smile.

Yalen smiled back and offered her a steaming parcel wrapped in cheesecloth. The smell of fresh apples and syrup was mouthwatering. ”I just wanted to come by and offer my well wishes. It’s your birthday today right? My sister and I baked you a pie.”

Dorothea looked down at the steaming parcel, the smell of it alone got her to gleeful. ”You and your sister made this? It smells delectable!” The girl stepped back and invited the other in. ”Come in, come in. Make yourself at home.”

”I really…” Yalen looked like he wanted to say something, but eventually he shrugged and stepped inside. Perhaps he was hoping to hand over the gift and leave before things got awkward, but Dory looked happy enough, and it would be rude to refuse a polite offer.

”So this is what the noble dormitories are like.” Yalen poked at what looked like a rather expensive vase, admiring the hand painted floral pattern. He looked around the common room, noting how large it was compared to the ones in the merchant dorms. This single room was larger than his whole apartment combined, as nice as his own residence was.

”So? Anything planned for your special day? It looks like I’m the only one here right now.” Yalen turned his head to look back at Dory.

”Not really, today isn’t really anything special.” Dory chuckled at the other’s question. ”Do people usually come by on your birthday?” The girl went over to a counter and grabbed some spices, put them in a teapot and warmed it through a little of her own magic. ”Can I interest you in some tea, or would another drink be preferred?”

”Tea is fine, thank you.” Yalen sat down on what he assumed was a free chair and took a breather. Today’s training was hard. He could remove the aches and pains with magic, but it took time for a body to make the energy needed to sustain itself. He was quite tired.

”To answer your question, I would say yes. I never had a huge party to celebrate, but I always had family close by to spend my birthday with. My big sister is a pretty good cook, so she makes me a big cake every year.”

The girl went silent for a bit before smiling.”Ah, right. Family. I guess I do not have any family close by.” Dory chuckled, grabbing two cups and filling them with the tea. ”You think pretty highly of your big sister, huh?” She handed him one of the cups before sitting. ”Tell me a bit about her.. Ah, if you don’t mind.”

”Well, since you asked then I suppose I should share. Colette is a soldier. She is a captain in the Century, the elite army of the Holy See. When they were summoned to the city, she was one of the squad leaders assigned a permanent post. She lives in the Cathedral District right now.” Yalen quenched his thirst with a sip of hot tea. It was an excellent tea, not bland at all like the cheap blends tended to be. He closed his eyes and focused on the smell wafting up from his cup.

”A soldier from the Holy See? Is serving the church something you picked up from your family?” Dory let out a sigh of relief as her guest seemed to enjoy the tea. Taking a sip of her own cup. ”I’ve never been too knowledgeable on the goings-on with the inner workings, but I was always prepared to join one of the orders if my baby brother ever took over my title as heir.”
”Hmmmm. Maybe? When I was living at the orphanage I had already discovered my own passion for worshiping the Pentad. Colette may have been a great influence on me to properly join the clergy however, as well as my adoptive father Charles.” Yalen paused. ”I have spoken at length about myself, but I’d like to know more about you too. Is there anything you’d be comfortable sharing about your family?”

”My family?” The girl waited to say anything further, as if she had something in her throat. Smiling soon after ”Sure, what would you like to know about them?” Dory took a hefty sip from her cup.

”Have you been apart from them awhile? Are you getting along?”

”I have been apart from them for about as long as I’ve attended the school and I can’t say I don’t get along with them. All except my mutti of course.”

”Mutti? What does that mean? I’m afraid I don’t speak any of the Drudgunzean tongues.”

”Ah, I meant to say mother.”

”Oh, your mother! Yes, your mother…” Yalen twiddled his thumbs a bit. ”I was told that the one who brought me to the monastery was my mother. I wish I had gotten a chance to know her. Is there a reason you don’t get along with yours?” Yalen gasped. ”I apologize, maybe I shouldn’t pry that deeply. Surely that much is none of my business. Shall we talk about something else?”

”No, no, it’s more than fine to ask about it. My mother is not the caring type. She only truly cared about my brother, seeing as my greatness was. . . too low for her standards.” The girl had a look of clear disdain on her face.”My mother is nothing more than a greedy devil.” Her expression tried to form a smile once more. ”I am sure that your mother might have been a kind woman.”

”Well whoever she was, I am sure she was dealing with circumstances that made it difficult to raise me even if she wanted to. She cared enough to give me a name before she left after all.” Despite talking about being abandoned, Yalen looked happy when talking about the woman who brought him into the world. For a minute there was silence as the two teens searched their thoughts for a new thread of conversation to latch onto. Then, there was a loud gurgling sound. The heat rose to the young priest’s face as his stomach broke the silence for him.

”...Sorry.”

Dory gasped as realization hit. ”Ah! I haven’t offered anything to eat, have I?” Quickly standing up and looking through the cupboards, sighing soon after. ”Seems like my last stock of baked goods have run empty. I can try and make something or if you don’t mind we could share that pie you and your big sister made.”

”Haha, I apologize. I should have eaten before I came here. Since you’re offering though, I would love some pie. I know exactly how delicious it is after all.”

”I’ll get some plates then.” After grabbing the plates and forks to enjoy the pie, she stopped. ”Are we going to be able to finish the whole pie with the two of us?”

”It is a rather large pie… Do you have anyone you want to call to help us eat this thing?”

Yalen spoke too soon, for as soon as he said that there was a knock on the door.

[TBC?]
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by dragonpiece
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dragonpiece

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Dory's Birthday



It was Dory’s birthday and Ingrid was a little nervous. She was bringing a humble gift, a few stories from her personal collection. She had a fancy box made for them with intricate designs of some of the characters in it. It had 3 books but could fit 20 roughly. There was room left if Dory wanted to have more added to the box. It felt a little childish but that’s fine.

Ingrid dressed slightly up, putting on light makeup. She wore good perfume and headed out the door. Dory wasn’t far from her own dorm, so she just carried the box. A few minutes later she was just outside her dorm room and she could hear the conversation and the heartwarming smell of baked apples. "Knock knock," Ingrid said as she entered the room.

"Happy Birthday Dory!" Ingrid exclaimed with joy. When her eyes landed on Yalen, “It’s good to see you as well, brother Yalen. I hope your day is going well,” Ingrid said in a more respectful but still familiar tone.

Ingrid gave Dory a hug, "I brought you something," Ingrid tapped on the box, "I know you like stories and have a collection going on so I brought some from my own collection to give you. I read them as a child and thought they might be fun to read." Ingrid pulled attention to the box, "I had the box made to hold some of the stories, I thought you could add your own designs as you filled it up with your favorites. I put mine on, ‘Kol the Dragon Slayer.’ I hope you like it, Dory."

Ingrid glanced at the rather large pie, "Mind if I have a slice?"
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by A Lowly Wretch
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A Lowly Wretch The Listless Loiterer

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Returning to her domicile she moved to her seat and simply sat down. The last several weeks had been a blur of activity, not even considering the events of The Trials themselves. Having only narrowly achieved her aim of accessing the tower seemed so minor after getting flung into the distant future only to witness what she could only assume was this world's demise, exposed to a wealth of different races as she was judged by a sort of time regulation service, returned to her own time, entering the tower and managing to summon forth three of the Pentad, deities in the flesh. She was made aware of a great number of truths about the world, that their world was embroiled in a sort of shadowy conflict with a race of cephalopods and a being older than even the gods. She studied much, taking that many more steps towards her breakthrough.

Sitting forward at her desk she crossed her fingers, dwelling on her plans for the coming days. Hugo's death highlighted a definite imminent pressure on her timeline. If even the most eminent mages of their time wasn't safe then no-one was. For all the time she could have spent in the tower the amount of time she was given felt as though mere seconds comparatively. Alas, it would have to suffice. In the meanwhile she needed to set herself up a lab, somewhere outside the tower that would let her practice her more advanced work in peace. Ingrid had mentioned a suitable location in the catacombs.

_
Reaching into the stone wall behind her desk, the wall's solid surface giving as though it were loose mud as she altered it's structure, she produced another vial of Yulia's blood. The time authorities had robbed her of her sample before she had the opportunity to utilize it, leaving her to believe all the more that it held significant potential. The woman had to expose some of her secrets before the gods during their meeting as well, giving more illumination regarding what it could hold.

Trypano poured a portion of the blood sample into a spare vial, marking it with another preservation mark and replenishing both samples with simple binding before returning the original sample back into it's earthen vault. She then returned the bricks to their prior state, sliding the new vial into her purse. It was foolhardy to keep the original blood samples on her person. What if she got hit by a spell and was sent to the ground, her belongings clashing with the surroundings? That would be disastrous were she so foolish as to not keep spares.

Producing a block of stone she got to work shaping a model of her workshop, a design which will see use in the near future over in her underground lair. After all, she really needed a place to keep her new mana slime acquisitions, the grounds-keeping definitely didn't appreciate having something of a mobile high-yield explosive up on campus grounds.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Echotech71
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Echotech71

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Niallus Saberhagen












Big thank you to @dragonpiece I had a lot of fun with these Collabs
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 mo ago Post by Ti
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Ti Memento mori.

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Location: Château de Maisons Gourmandise.
Event: The Rescue.
Characters: Ingrid @dragonpiece, Zarina@YummyYummy, NPCs @Ti.





The foul mountain of dung behind the neglected and weakened snowsweeper was like seeing how the soup was actually made. Any sort of appetizing aromas that came from the kitchens were quickly turned into stomach churning thoughts to Zarina. Wordlessly, she approached the tired and vulnerable beast, hesitant and careful at first, only to notice its lack of reaction. It was so easy for Zazzy to just rest her hand on the animal's dry snout and begin petting. Even with her chemical magic and direct contact, she could only muster a little moo from the beast. It really wasn't well.

“It'll be hard to get it to move.” she pursed her lips and then inspected the shelter. It was large and the doors were adapted like barn doors to be able to let such an animal in and out, so access wasn't the biggest problem. Then, she snapped her fingers, “I might have something to help, however.” in her bag was a sealed vial of what looked to be a yellow-ish fluid, “Oraff bless that boring class.” it was posed on a nearby surface for now, “I'm going to open this when we leave,” she addressed Ingrid, “make sure the chains are loosened and the shelter's doors jammed until we get back in. Don't want stay visitors here until then.”

When they were done, the vial was opened and left that way. In contact with air, it began to unleash a steam that smelled of dandelions and garlic.

Maura then informed them of their predicament, prompting Zarina to cross her arms and ponder the issue, “They're gonna sing that anthem they can't help doing.” she remarked as men and women lined themselves for what was going to be Green Perrence's usual fanfare, “How about we have our smallest teammate do a thing?” she peered over at her shoulder, and Nibbler emerged! He awkwardly raised his front right paw, trying to mimic a wave, although it would mostly be little up and down jerking motions, “We need a route, however. And be fast, that way we can still serve them our "Snowsweeper at home" ploy.”

Ingrid felt her head pulsing with anxiousness. This wasn't what she signed up for. She thought that there might be a the marquis and a few other midsized or small nobles. Not all of the high nobility Perrence had to offer. Even the King was here. And here I am. The one to cook for them and put a vial of something unknown in their food. What if this is just a ploy? God damnit it would all fall on me. Ingrid couldn't tell if this was all by design to put the heat on her but she sure wasn't risking it

Ingrid put a hand on Maura's shoulder, "Maura?" Ingrid squeezed her shoulder, "I hate having to be so forceful but," Ingrid glared down at Maura, "What is in the vial you gave me and who is our sponsor." This was a demand, not a question. "If they find out, I'm the one with the most to loose. I could be serving the king poison for all I know." Ingrid stated bluntly. She wasn't a fan threatening others but this was insane to do without all the details.

Maura flinched as she felt Ingrid grab a hold of that sore shoulder. Even though it was repaired, it was still sensitive and tender. She felt how she held tight upon it as she gave a howl of pain, pushing herself backwards to dislodge herself. She looked up toward her as she met that gaze, she saw him there again at that moment. Another noble who saw her as a tool to mistreat, threaten, and to see her as nothing but an invalid stuck to their shoe like muck. The urge to go ¡Al carajo con esto! was almost overwhelming as her eyes looked up to see Zarina’s to gauge to see if this was something shared.

She took a moment to breathe, closing her eyes. She has got this, she has worked so hard to get to this point and not going to allow it to fall down at the last hurdle. Her eyes looked back up to Ingrid, “There’s a difference between fear and losing your nerve.”. Her tone was cool as her eyes flicked between the pair. “It was the both of you who asked for this, and we have made it possible. We have the support, the contacts, everything to see this through. Our backers request discretion, and that vial has been in your possession all week if you had any concerns, so the only poisoning that would occur would be your terrible cooking.”. She took in a deep breath, then finishes off, "We don't all have the luxury of deciding when and where we want to care about something."

Maura looked Ingrid up and down as she started considering Plan B, she examined the dress she was wearing, clearly not for her, but maybe... “If you want out of this, take off your dress and glasses. Idun can replace you, we doubt they would be looking at her face.” She followed up with a statement of contempt, “If you’re a coward, just say so. Don’t take it out on me.”

Ingrid didn't squeeze Maura's shoulder terribly hard. Enough to make Ingrid seem firm but definitely not enough to hurt her. Ingrid jumped a bit at the howl. The gave Maura gave Ingrid made her hesitate. She wasn't looking at Ingrid. More like what she represented. It was a stare she got used to, one that she learned to fear after her time with the Traveller.

Ingrid let Maura say her peace before responding. Ingrid's expression went cold, deathly even, "If you want to view me as a noble trying to trample you, go ahead. I know my intentions and if you want to misconstrue them than so be it." Ingrid took another breath, she was insulted 3 times by Maura. "Maura. Whether you care or not, do not insult me," Ingrid said clearly, "If I'm going to risk my life. I want to know more. I'm the one cooking for them. I'm the one who could be putting poison in their food."

The way things were going did not leave Zarina with a pleased expression. Her facial features became more pronounced as her muscles tensed up and her jaw locked. Although Zarina was going to abstain and let this issue peter out on its own, the look Maura had given her and Ingrid's sudden flip-flopping when royalty officially entered the picture, “The notion of poisoning someone did not seem to be of concern until royals came into the picture,” a half-lidded gaze reeking of judgement was shot at Ingrid, “Leads one to question why one would assist in such an altruistic endeavor when oddly specific on who may die and how it affects one's reputation.” she too stood tall and straight, with steam practically erupting from her nostrils, “Besides, the De Perpignan may as well be considered royalty. I don't know what's changed other than a more glamorous name appearing.”

Her attention briefly returned to the Snowsweeper's shelter outside, prompting Zazzy to purse her lips and clench one of fists, “You also forget Maura, a Torragonese, is publicly sponsoring us.” she took a step closer to Ingrid, peering up slightly as the Eskandish was a few centimeters taller, “If you fall, she falls, and so do I as a Virangish AND Darhannic. So, obviously, this isn't some ploy to poison anybody.” but was this convincing enough? They didn't have time to discuss, and so Zarina pulled out her hand flat before Ingrid, “Give me the vial, I'll take a raw sip from it to ease everyone's worries. If I fall dead, at least you have an opening to get this done.”

Ingrid felt cornered. She felt, no knew, her concerns were reasonable. Instead she was called a bad cook, a coward, and told to strip. Then Zarina with her argument of poisoning one a marquis over a king. Yes, Ingrid worried about poisoning the person who warned her own king of an assassination. Was that hard to believe?

When Zarina got closer, Ingrid drew, "I ask you to stay back at the moment." How was Ingrid suppose to trust them. She had half a mind to sell them out to get escape this. Her basic worry and concern were being treated as cowardice. She hated the way they treated her. She tossed the vial at Zarina. Ingrid was close to tipping over the edge.

Maura just stared in amazement at Ingrid, now she is jeopardizing the mission and nothing short of a liability. Drawing magic when surrounded by the Gardes Perrençaises was tantamount to suicide. The plan was simple: escort the beast to the lake, cook some beef and pretend it is Snowsweeper. The difficulty of the task was relatively low and the survivability with little consequence was high, and yet these were reversed within moments due to a noble losing their nerve when it came to following through.

She looked toward Zarina, “Cannot say for the taste, but there is enough to cook a Snowsweeper’s worth of beef. Salt isn’t poisonous, though if you eat a cup of it raw…”, she indicated only a sip for obvious reasons.

Maura turned to Ingrid. “At no point have we ever discussed poisoning the King. Is it because we are Torragonese? Is it because we are a Merchant class girl thinking of nothing but money? Is it your own guilty conscience?”. She rubbed her temples with the stress as she tried her best to dumb court intrigue for the Eskandish girl. “Just… think. Use that imagination of yours. Who would be powerful enough to bring us here for this opportunity to allow us to steal a Snowsweeper at the King’s Banquet, right underneath their noses.”, giving her the most hopeful look at this supposed intellectual heavyweight could piece together something so simple. She looked toward Zarina, as if posing the question to her in order for it to be answered if Ingrid happened to fail.

Zarina did not show any hesitation in taking that sip. It was followed with a gag, but she swallowed, “Fucking nasty,” she brushed her lips with her sleeve, “but harmless.” the vial was once again sealed and tossed back at the Eskandish protestor, “Now that this issue is settled, may we proceed?” she inquired, clearly frustrated and looking at both the tall and the short.

“Whether we have powerful people on our side or not, I'm going to cover my ass.” claimed Zarina, still chewing nothing in her mouth to try and get over the rancid taste, “Now, enough pussy-footing when things get slightly more intimidating. I want to get this animal out tonight.” a half-hearted attempt to diffuse the situation, “Bitch away when we're done. Your prides come third to our goal and my ringed fist up your asses.”

Ingrid had enough of this. The insults, the disregard of her worries. All of it was wrong. Ingrid looked at Maura. "I have tried to remain civil. I have tried to not insult you even when you take every opportunity to do so. If I treated you the way you like the person you think I am, then you would long be dead," Ingrid stated it clearly, "But I'm not. I let you insult me, belittle me, mock me for having a thought." Ingrid was seething, she was angry that she was treated this way. "The Eskandish are mocked for who they are all the time and you think that you can't be corrupted, that I won't ask questions? You think I don't want to safe the animal of my homeland? Maura I swear to you that I am here for the beast." Ingrid thoughts were hazy at this point. She was restraining herself from action. Was Ingrid so unthreatening, so weak, so stupid for the both of them to make fun of her.

She was no longer to be messed with. Ingrid looked to Zarina, "The fact that you think this being the King's banquet only slightly raises the stakes is absolutely absurd. The fact that you didn't question it is preposterous." Ingrid rubbed her temples, she was done with this, "Enough," Ingrid said, she was tired of this. All the fighting had been enough, "I will do my part." Ingrid started to head off. Her expression was cold and she didn't give the most confidence to them.

Maura looked toward Zarina as she raised an eyebrow toward her as Ingrid stormed off by herself “Saving the Snowsweeper, mi culo. Her indolence is transparent. As soon as she faces any hardship, she crumbles.”. She sighed out in an almost defeated manner, “Our sponsors wanted our little rescue to go unnoticed for obvious reasons. If they find out there is even an attempt, it would be disastrous for all parties.”

She looked toward Zarina, “You are now in charge, we will send in Idun to assist you.¡Buena suerte! Zazzy ¡Suerte en tu nuevo trabajo!. She handed the Virangish girl a pouch containing five six-sided dice within it, another gift.

Zarina dismissively gestured at Maura's complaint, “Let her get worried, she'll be twice as careful doing her job.” she said with clear indifference to the situation, as it had been resolved and the main goal could be properly focused on. A nod was conferred to Maura as the good lucks were given and Idun joined the process. The dice made Zarina chuckle, now reminded of who was truly involved here.

The two would meet just outside the kitchens as Zarina prepped her knives for the coming carving slaughter and butchering. By then the animal should've been reinvigorated and at least standing, “When they start singing and the King makes his entry for the aperitif, I will cause a distraction. It'll be your signal to open the gate and escort the beast through the pathing we've established, okay?” Zarina briefed without a single pause in her speaking, and she did not repeat herself.

When came the time, Zarina pretended to make her way to the shed for the slaughter, but in truth she found herself stopping half-way in order to pilot Nibbler. The little critter had hopped onto the roof of a nearby building and eyed the patrol of Perrench guards that were in the way of of their planned trajectory. Using the dormouse's intense chemical magic and decent prowess in arcane, a powerful illusion was conjured to trick the guards. One of their commanders called for them, warning of an imminent threat at the entry ceremony. The ruse wouldn't last long, but the group was banking on Idun's chemical abilities and overall capabilities as an animal lover. Nibbler remained on standby to help too, ready to go as far as to create a difficult illusion to hide the snowsweeper, and then the cart with the meat.

Ingrid was pissed but it didn't matter, let that anger move her forward. She headed into the kitchen again, pretending that she had to step out to cool down and she started to work with the rest of the crew. I need to keep them busy when the time comes. Ingrid thought that trying to take over the kitchen should be the last response. The chefs were respectable so the best thing to do was to smash them with responsibilities when the operations.

From the speed of her chopping, to blocking them slightly as she moved them about Ingrid was creating a backlog of duties that will occupy even the most talented crew for a few minutes. Each action was made purposeful. She refrained using magic but readied herself to use it when the backlog hit to slow it down further.

The chaos of the kitchen gave her mind no time to wander but something did come to her mind. The image of Maura and the way she was offended. Her nose wrinkled as she wiped it away with her arm. She whispered, "fuck," as she realized fully what she did as the stress was fading giving way to focus. All she could do is complete her part perfectly right now.

Idun had never worn platform shoes before, and the concept was rather alien to her, but here she was, making do as she dressed up like a terrible cosplay of Ingrid. With makeshift glasses and similar coloured dress. Her mind was unclear on the details, but Madame Rose Bleue had instructed her to join the others in the Château, seeing the pair by the rose bush as instructed. She started to walk alongside Zarina as they started making their way toward the Shed. Her bountiful chest kept attention focused elsewhere than her cooking skill.

She had been given her instructions from the Virangish girl. The Snowsweeper has been made docile through unknown means, and an expert chemical mage was required. Her task was rather simple, to make sure the beast is able to make it toward the lake whilst the others do their part. She laid her hand upon the best's head as she began to pet upon it, sensing that the garlic and dandylion elixir were starting to rouse the creature from its deep slumber as she coaxed it to life as she sung her call beside its ear.

”Now for that whistle…”

As Green Perrence finally echoed through the whole establishment, signaling the arrival of the King, Zarina whistled a pleasant little tune as she made her way to the shed. This was the warning for Idun to execute her part of the plan. Zarina opened one side of the shed, while they were to improvise a door on the back, courtesy of Idun too with her specialty in binding, preventing any potential witnessing from being a problem.

As Zarina stepped in, she'd actually sit nearby and begin to pilot Nibbler so he could follow-up with the next part of the plan. Thorin was the backup, using his Thunderchild capabilities to knock hostiles out if the plan was found out prematurely.

The Ingrid-cosplayer gave a giggle as she opened up the back of the shed as a big Snowsweeper shaped bush started to walk out. It is not the best disguise, but such a make-shift cover is the best she could do in these circumstances. The beast looked more alive and well, having an aroma of garlic to it as it paid Nibbler a curious glance. It watched as the dormouse climbed upon it, as it proceeded to move forward. Idun holds her hand out in front of it's eyes to instruct it to stop, she turned toward Zarina for the next instruction.

Nibbler on behalf of Zarina started to point out the direction when the hedges started to move as if responding to the increased presence of magic. They stayed still after the magic energies have failed, but they appeared to completely obscure the exit. The Snowsweeper groaned softly at the situation, as the outside sides were patrolled by the Gardes Perrençaises. They would need to travel through successfully to get there safely.

With Nibbler taking the bushy Snowsweeper as his steed, he could get a good vantage point and better place himself on the metaphysical map budding in his head. Of course, it wasn't Nibbler but Zarina piloting him with her slightly longer range than normal. For now, she was given peace by the establishment's staff to do her slaughtering and carving without interruption. Hopefully the exchange could be made swiftly enough to avoid arousing any suspicion. Ingrid was the cover to prevent them from being made.

There were three entry points to choose from, with Thorin indicating that the furthest North was the best bet. They did so, taking alleyways big enough for the animal to pass through to avoid detection whilst Nibbler sniffed out potential threats and concealed them. Eventually, they meet a fork that left Nibbler confused. As to why he was could be anyone's guess, but the reality was that Zarina was distracted from a call by the Perrench chef.

"Ca va mademoiselle? Il est éteint?"

“Uhhh, oui. Il mort.” answered Zarina with broken Perrench, “Bougez de ici, très sale!” she warned of the hazards that came with butchering, and so the chef simply stepped back. She eventually returned to piloting the Dormouse, having lost them some time but they were on the right track again.

The Real-Ingrid, despite her misgivings, decided to cooperate with the others as she has begun to start a backlog in the kitchen for the other staff members to manage, which appeared to be going perfectly. She looked out of the window as she noticed what appeared to be a large-chested doppelgänger seeming to lead a Snowsweeper sized bush toward the hedge maze, which appeared to move and distort as if responding to something. They were going to take forever.

It is as if the gods at that moment came to test Ingrid and her speaktrout. “Putain, c'est dégueulasse! Oh, viens ici toi! Tu te torches le cul à chaque fois ou une fois par semaine? Alors pourquoi ce n'est pas propre?!” t's disgusting! Oh, come here you! Do you wipe your ass each time, or just once per week? Then why is this not clean?!.
A very angry, short chef appeared to be walking up and down the kitchen looking at the mess that had been made. "Aller, bougez-vous le cul, bordel!" Come on, move your asses!

He cussed and cursed as he got a towel and whipped one of the servant girls with it across her hind quarters as he swore vulgarly at them as he clutched upon his chest. "Les chats ont neuf vies. J'en ai eu déjà douze dans cette cuisine et je ne sais pas combien j'en ai en réserve." They say cats have nine lives. I've had 12 already in this kitchen and I don't know how many more I'll have.

The man’s attention turned toward Ingrid as he sees her looking out of the window. Thankfully, the girls tall frame blocked sight of the display going on behind them. "Le Snowsweeper sera tellement cru, il va meugler au Roi!" That Snowsweeper is going to be so raw, it will moo at the King. The pressure is on. They are wanting that Snowsweeper cooked.

Ingrid's cascade was in effect but oh god they were slow. It didn't matter though, Ingrid said she would hold them up and she will make sure of that. The real problem was the short chef, he was bound to try to make his way outside.

Ingrid devised many ways to deal with him and most of them originated from the overwhelming desire to slap him across the face. He treated his staff so harshly. Maybe she could use that to her advantage.

Ingrid looked at the short chef, obviously looking down at him, the visibly got startled, "Åh, ursäkta kära kock! Du ser att jag är ganska ny i köket och alla skrik gör mig lite nervös. Men jag försäkrar er att vår slaktare är fantastisk. Hon hade slaktat alla möjliga djur över tvillingkontinenterna. Jag har haft snösvejare tidigare och instruerat hur man klipper den också, med hennes skicklighet kommer hon att kunna skicka slaget om några minuter och sedan bryta ner det," Ingrid said in Eskandish, drawing on her thick accent. Then she smiled expecting him to understand, giving him a thumbs up! All part of the plan to to confuse him and get him to stay.

The short-chef just peered toward Ingrid with a look, a look that symbolized someone waltzing in from the garden after treading dog muck through his beloved kitchen. “Mon dieu! ça me saoûle” My gods, this makes me get drunk

The chef now really frustrated is starting to take over the kitchen himself as he writes Ingrid off as an incompetent fool. He started to micromanage things, beginning to re-order to things as they prepare for the Snowsweeper meat coming through the doors. ”Oh la vache!” Oh the cow!, he sent a maid to see what is taking Zarina so long.

Idun follows the direction of the Dormouse as it led the Snowsweeper by the nose, literally. The big beast stumbling along in the direction, only momentarily stopping as and when they spot the Perrench patrols. Idun had to use chemical magic to help the beast recognize them as friends rather than foes, which kept making the maze more challenging as it responded to the use of magic. One point the motley crew getting temporarily trapped and even poor Nibbler getting confused.

Still, they eventually managed to make their way through to the exit as they waited upon the banks of the open lake. It was a beautiful scenery which stretched for miles. Nibbler started to grow rather anxious as it appeared they were waiting for nothing until he noticed the ripples from the water.



The Schwarze Alice pulls itself out of the depths as water runs along the side of it, the clockwork-powered submersible pulled itself upon the bank as the cargo bay doors start to open up as the girl in the wheelchair pulled off the ramp. “Surprise!” As she rolls out, expecting Zarina, Ingrid, or anyone with her showy display, only to be met by Idun who travelled here on it, Nibbler the rodent, and the Snowsweeper rather nonplussed. She looked upon them in disappointment, “My entrance wasn’t that terrible”, she moved herself to the side as the Torragonese Beef was unloaded, already prepared in advance by Thorinn and frozen to keep fresh. Room on the Alice was made for the Snowsweeper’s arrival with some delicious hay to lay upon and oats for it to eat, “Thorinn, deliver the beef and get back here, so we can depart. The other two can get their own ride back. Tell them to meet the Dock Foreman, he has destination in Eskand for them.”

The Snowsweeper reluctantly is brought on board, persuaded by Idun with a fair use of magic. Thorinn with his pint-sized new rodent friend will have to deliver the beef and get out of there safely to avoid anyone getting suspicious.

Well Ingrid felt she did good at frustrating the little chef and buying some time. Ingrid knew that he would take some control over the kitchen so she made herself more of a nuisance by speaking very broken perrench. Nothing made the proud Perrence angrier than a barbarian speaking their language so ugly.

And a barbarian Ingrid was, she got in the way of people by "helping out." She apologized profusely as she got in the way of the people doing there best. she ended it with accidently spilling some oil on an open fire right as he was sending the maid. Ingrid apologized profusely and said it might be best for her to get the snowsweeper, since she was making such a mess. Ingrid walked out in what seemed like a hurried pace but was actually moving to her plan to give them as much time as possible. Surely no one would want to go with the walking tornado that Ingrid was. Especially if she might be dispatching the beast with that backward virangish girl.

Nibbler suddenly became more like himself, as Zarina was not only quite far but her 'husk' was awakened by knocking at the shed. Panicked, she began shouting, “Oi, OI! What is it?!” her blades were brushing against one another, making loud sharpening noises, “Don't open the door! I'm in the middle of curing the meat. If you need anything, I'll slip it through the small opening.” she spoke of the boarded window that barely gave line of sight to anything. The smell of the shed reeked of garlic, making it maybe a bit more convincing to the maid that she was indeed working the meat in some capacity.

Meanwhile, Nibbler didn't have Zarina's mind guiding him, but he was still the dutiful Nibbler. Standing on top of the carriage that held the meat, he stood guard and used his range to potentially detect threats. When he did, he squeaked loudly for Thorinn to react. Admittedly, there was little suspicion when meat was being carried around unlike a Snowsweeper, but it was still good to avoid attention.

Thorinn grunted as he was being led around by a rat, of all things. The creature perched upon the tip of the wheelbarrow stacked up with the Torragonese beef. The warm weather was defrosting the meat as it was transported in order for it to arrive at a suitable temperature. Without needing to keep the Snowsweeper docile, the bushes remained rather stationary, making it easier to transverse through the maze set before them. Thankfully, everything was being kept busy in the kitchen to avoid needing to explain away the muscled blonde Eskand man, and the interruptions orchestrated by Ingrid involved her missing out on a sight for her eyes as well.

The knocking at the door grew insistent that Zarina thought they were going to try to force themselves inside. As she opened the door, the brutish hands of the short-chef grabbed upon the handle and tried to pry the door past the Virangish girl to see what was going inside. A sudden jolt was shot through the handle, causing the chef to curse out repeatedly as he released the handle. “Branleuse!”.

Zarina turned her head to see Thorinn standing there with the beef and a squeaking Nibbler as she took a hold of the first slab of meat, bringing it out to slap it down upon one of the kitchen maids. She turned toward the chef with a wink, “Le Snowsweeper est prêt à péparer!”. The chef turned toward her with a disgusted look, “Tu parles prennçais comme une vache Tourrare”

As the meat is coming into the kitchen, Ingrid moves to take charge of the shipment. She gets to work with her preparations as she starts to slice, dice, and get things in order. As the short chef comes storming in, he is bowled over by the size of the Eskandish girl as he ends up falling out of the door again, and starts to strut around to the other entrance.

Zarina and Ingrid have some time for the home run whilst Thorinn makes his way back. Are they able to prepare the ‘Snowsweeper’ to the satisfaction of a king?

It seems things worked out. The Snowsweeper had been saved and now Ingrid was tasked with cooking the beef. Ingrid cooked a piece of the beef on a hot pan. Only a little bit of salt to draw it out. She was comparing it to her memories of Snowsweeper. The fat was luxurious and coated the mouth with that signature beefy flavor that. Not as gamey or grassy notes as snowsweeper but in turn had a mellow, nuttier flavor. It was more tender and lacked a certain chew that Snow sweeper had. A beautiful meat for sure but not snowsweeper.

She cut a piece of the meat off and tried it raw and it had more or the grassy notes and that nuttiness was nowhere to be found, it must be more pronounced with the intense searing. That gamey funk could be added in with a few simple ingredients to add to the braise. She knew what she needed to modify on the side of the beef.

She tried some meads and ales along with some wine to find what she would braise it in. Tasting it after boiling made it more apparent what it will taste like after. Ales might be traditional but the king would definitely prefer wine. A sweet wine would almost be overpowering so she chose a drier red wine to pair with it.

There was a 100 ways to cook torragonese beef, it was versatile and more tender. Ingrid would have loved to serve it in a way that let it shine brightly but this was "Snowsweeper" and it needed to be braised. The stock was made of good beef bones, carrots, celery, onions, parsley and many spice berries. Along with some pig skin and chicken wings to give that thick glossiness to the sauce later. From her sleeve outcomes a small vial to give the meat that toughness. After doing only a light sear to start to get the needed color. Separate vegetables were prepped to make it pretty and they would be browned by themselves. Ingrid finished making the butter, it was cultured and had a tang to it that made it addicting to eat.

Normally you would only serve up to 10 people but with this being a feast, multiple cuts had to be used and their minerality, fat, and sweetness varied so would the cooking time of each bit. Ingrid had to sense each one and do small pushes and gentle control with Arcane to make every piece as good as it needed to be. Frankly fighting the Aberration crazed Royal Sand Wyrm was less taxing and significantly less stressful than trying to trick the upper end of Perrench nobility.

But Ingrid had this. She needed to. She made a blunder and let the increased stakes get to her and lashed out at Maura. She could have got them caught right there. She needed to perform well. Plating was something she practiced all week before hand. She knew she was good but this was the King. It needed to be phenomenal. Ingrid was solely focused as when it was finished, she wiped away the sweat and let the maids take it. All she could do now was hope that her skills were up to the challenge.

The Bourguignon is being served out towards the lord and ladies of Perrench. The rich aroma filled the air as the notoriously tough meat was made tender and appeared to be the closest to how it could be, falling apart upon the plate. Some of the tougher pieces were being served to those with the teeth to bite through the tough flesh. As the pigeons flew out of the pies, the main dish arrived before many a still wet appetite.

The short-chef belatedly moved to take one of the dishes, taking it from the serving girl. His fingers dived upon the plate as he took a chunk of the meat, chewing upon it repeatedly. ”Pouffiasse!”, he swore and spat out the chunk of fakesweeper as he headed over to the Marquis urgently as he pushed over another one of the maids.

“The taste of the Snowsweeper is truly the most exquisite…”, the attention of the Marquis was taken away whilst his staff happened to start interrupting his serenading of the King. He turned as he made his apologies, moving back the chair as he went toward the man to usher angrily toward him, “Salaud, you are embarrassing me in front of the King, what could be so important?”

“Perhaps we have the opportunity to eat before it gets cold.” Étienne dipped his fingers into the stew as he plucked out a tender piece of beef, throwing it into his mouth as he chewed upon it. “Mh, delicious”. The Duc turned his gaze as he glared toward his son, “Do you dare to dishonour yourself in front of the King?”. King Rouis glanced between them both, “The meal is best served warm. Help yourselves before we are waylaid further by discourse.”

The Marquis hurried toward the King, “My King, the Snowsweeper…”, “... is as good as you claimed.”. King Rouis wiped his fingers upon the Napkin. “We were concerned about your choice of chef, we must put greater faith into your judgement.”. The Marquis mouth dropped agape, unclear on how to respond. “The Marquis is most humble, he wanted the honour…”, the Marquis grimaced at the Perpignan brat and interrupted him promptly. “.. all the staff that have made it possible here at Château de Maisons Gourmandise…”

The things in the Kitchen did not go as well, as Ingrid and Zarina are almost hauled outside to the shed, but the Marquis. Evidence of their deception was laid bare as clear as a shining summers' day, the lack of anything related to the butchering of the creature being absent. “Putain de bordel de merde, you two thought you would be the death of me. You Garces forced my hand to the king.”

He raised his hand sharply to strike down the girls as they stood in shock as a scream is suddenly heard behind him, he turned sharply as he witnesses Frédérique looking on, “Monster! You deceive the King and you try to cover for your crimes!”. The Marquis’s eyes bulged as he charged toward her like a bull, his fat fingers grasping her by the neck. “You pute! You are in on this as well!”. The pair looked on as he was going to choke the noble girl in front of them.

Before they had chance to act, the door next to them flew inwards as a very angry Étienne has his rapier drawn as he pointed it toward the Marquis, the tip slicing through his shirt as blood is drawn from the red welt. The pudgy noble moving back away from the boy, squealing like a pig. “Help! Help! They are trying to kill me!”.

The Gardes Perrençaises entered through the door as they looked toward Ingrid and Zarina menacingly, then toward the two nobles. They raised their muskets toward the pair. The Marquis started to laugh as he grinned evilly toward him. “You thought you can treat me here like this? You shall learn the true meaning of humility, de Perpignan.”, and spat toward him. The Gardes firm in their position, clocking their muskets ready to fire.

It was Frédérique who moved first as she got her handcloth, and wiped away the spittle from Étienne’s features. The Marquis looked toward her puzzled as the boy started to smile as le commandant came in and moved toward the Marquis, roughly pushing the man against a supporting pillar, and bound him together. “What is this? Wait until King Rouis hears about this! He will be most…” “... Pleased. I am sure Johann the Pious and King Horik will share those sentiments as well. Criminal.” He withdrew the rapier as he took the hand cloth, moving toward the former Marquis as he stuffed it into his mouth like he was a pig with an apple. The Gardes Perrençaises dragged him out as he squealed fruitlessly.

Étienne turned to look toward Ingrid and Zarina, “Payment has already been delivered. I hope I don’t need to state your discretion in this matter.”. He raised an eyebrow toward Ingrid, and Zarina, then provides the Virangish girl a warm smile as he hands her a blue rose. “There is a carriage at the entrance when you are both ready to depart.”

Elsewhere…

La vaca, moo
La vaca, moo
La vaca, moo
La nieve vaca, moo

La vaca, moo
La vaca, moo
La vaca, moo
La nieve vaca, moo


Maura sways side to side in her chair, clapping as Idun dances excitedly in a seductive Eskandish style of dance. Even the Snowsweeper is bobbing his head to the side, joining in on the chorus with an almighty Moooooo!

Thorin turned toward the woman, "You held your end of the bargain. We will hold onto ours. The Snowsweeper reservation will be under the protection of the King Horik directly, Madame Rose Bleue”. ”Blue Rose, and please, it is thanks to their hard work.”, she smiled widely toward him.


Location: Eskandish Snowsweeper Reservation



It was sometime when the opportunity for everyone to assemble together at the Snowsweeper Reservation came. Some came via Dragon flight, and others through other means.

Maura smiled as she saw Ingrid and Zarina approach, “Welcome to our Big Furry Friends home!”. She held her hands out for them to take in the scenery. A wide open space with mountains that provided a natural enclosure. Plenty of snowgrass and other wild vegetation for the Snowsweepers to eat here. After their eyes have looked around, she adopted a more serious expression. “If you are here for the money. Here it is. 50 Magus each, as promised payment from the Marqius.”, she looked toward the pair as two hefty bags were sat upon her lap, ”... or if you are willing to forgo payment, there is an alternative you may be interested in. What do you choose?”

Zarina, wearing a bulky coat in anticipation for Eskand, was pleasantly surprised to find a more mild climate. Witnessing the beautiful landscape and the growing herd of Snowsweepers safely indulging in their new safe haven, she was briefly distracted from what Maura was saying.

Then, she shook her head back to reality as Maura beckoned her attention with a query, “Oh.” she blinked, peering at her wheelchair-bound friend, “I'm all ears.” her eyes, though, were mostly dedicated to the sights.

The dragon ride was fun. Riding with Zarina not so much. But as they got closer to her homeland, Ingrid grew more energetic and much more talkative as they flew over places she has been to or read up on.

Ingrid was dressed in a summer dress for the time, the cold breeze breathing life into her. She looked at the payment of 50. It was such a small some that even a sweater might as well be worth it, "I'm open to alternative options."



Maura gave them both a wink as she beckoned them after her as she led them toward the barn where the Snowsweepers sleep for the night. It was a large, impressive looking structure which appeared to be recently renovated with extension work still in progress. ”You have both come at a good time. The reservation are looking for ways to continuously raise revenue, and they have just started an adoption programme. It turns out, for 50 Magus each, you would be allowed to ‘adopt’ a Snowsweeper. These adoptions include a personalized certificate, letters updating you on the progress, and even a cuddly toy made of your Snowsweeper to take home with you. As you are both the first… you get to name your chosen one.”

As they opened the door and walked inside, five little Snowsweepers start scurrying over them to them excitedly. Two boys and two girls, and a little runt of a Snowsweeper trying to catch up behind them. Maura smiled widely at the precious side of them as they run over toward them. “Oh, we are so adopting that little one and calling it Ayla!”, as pair of male and female made their way to Ingrid and Zarina, Maura leaned over as she pulled the little runt upon her lap to cuddle it. ”These are so cute!”



ngrid squealed as she saw the tiny little babies. Ingrid goes to her knees."Hi there little one," Ingrid petted the boy, "Aren't you so handsome!" They were adorable.

"A name," Ingrid pondered, then she lit up, "How about Elskr?" Ingrid looked around to them to see how they felt.

Zazzy listened and nodded, remaining silent as she was really just waiting for the big moment: The Snowsweepers! And when they get to the barn, the whole family was there with the five little ones rushing in curiously to see the humans. It looked as though they were used to humans and enjoyed the pets and scritches. Zarina did not hesitate and got on her knees, dirtying her attire, and let a couple of them gang up on her. A male and a female, with the male eagerly licking her face while the female rested comfortably on her lap, “Ohhhh, you're good little moo's, huh? Yes, yes~” she lowered her head to give them kisses on their snouts.

It took a while before the Virangish lass eventually turned over to Maura, “I'm game.” the bag of coins was so easily discarded, as if it had never really existed, as her focus remained on the little bundles of joy. The male, in his eagerness, releases a bit of his bowels on her thigh, “Uh-oh, someone's had to go!” she giggled, clearly experienced with this. A bit of kinetic magic here, and chemical magic there and it was clean, “I'll name you ...” she squinted and mused for a moment, “Adnan.”

As they have picked out their chosen Snowsweepers, the two mothers and the rescued ‘Daddy’ came over to greet them. His snout brushed against the three of them, as he hunted for garlic, however he was happy to see them both.

“We guess you picked the better alternative after all. Going to pay them and hide this one in my bag.”, she winked toward them as she allowed them to continue playing and greeting the happily reunited Snowsweeper family.

Fin.




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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
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Manfred Hohenfelter von Meckelin-Thandau



She was not the woman he loved.

And that was a problem.

On the surface, Manfred was smiling, for it was Dorothea Hohnstein's birthday and he was her beloved. It was an impeccable performance - Manfred had been an actor for much of his life - yet, that was all that it was. In another plane of reality, he knew that the real Dory - his Dory - was alone and afraid and bereaved, blaming herself for his death. In truth, he had not died. He had been stolen, by this... bastardization of his dearest, and substituted for the headless body of the Manfred who had died in this reality. To think of it! His heart burned with rage. It howled for justice for Dorothea, left broken and alone and wondering how she had gone wrong when, in truth, she had not! Certain that nobody was watching, he clenched and unclenched his fists in ice-cold silence and took some of his drink.

The first few minutes had been a blur. He might not have even known had not those around him expressed their shock and joy at his seeming 'resurrection'. gradually, however, Manfred had begun to notice other things - little things - that were slightly different: for one, there was no Eun-ji. She had been called back to distant Tan-Keoul at the behest of the Lotus. Yalen and Jocasta were engaged and the tethered sorceress a far more confident person than he remembered. Niallus was noticeably stronger, and Evander less of a nationalist. Small matters, to be sure, but they had confirmed his suspicions.

Somehow, the Manfred of this realm had failed Dorothea: this other him and another her. She had gone wrong and become a thing of evil. He drank some more, but only sipped, lest he lose control of himself. When people called on him to join int he celebrations, he merrily did so. There was no magic required for this illusion, merely a lifetime spent within the pit of snakes that was Kerreman high society.

It was that bastard crown, he decided. It was with her every waking moment, save when she bathed or undertook the... most strenuous of activities. Somehow, it was the source of her unholy powers. It was... magic such as that yasoi witch, Ismet, had called upon, and it controlled her utterly or soon would. Whatever it then did with her would unleash only evil on this world and perhaps on others - on his.

There was a part of him that longed to confess what he knew - not to the witch, for she was surely lost to that black item, even if she did not yet know it - but to... Marceline, perhaps? His precious sister and closest friend. Then, maybe to Jocasta, from there, or even make a devil's bargain with this realm's Ismet? He could return to where he belonged. He could live and love again. Yet, he knew it could not be so, for Manfred Hohenfelter von meckelin-Thandau was a man of duty. He had never been the strongest, nor the wealthiest, nor the quickest to learn, but he was a man of duty.

Under the guise of studying for his classes, he had spent hours poring over what scant resources the Grand Library contained on demons, demonic items, and dark magic that weren't the discreditable ravings of halfwits, drunkards, and snake-oil salesmen. Already, he had begun to hatch a plan. It would require all that he had, and patience, and a meticulous, unswerving attention to detail.

Manfred would cultivate within himself a ruthless strength and resolve. On the morrow, he would visit those to whom he had allied, and he would sell himself into their service in exchange for the raw power that he had always lacked. Then, he would better himself, through relentless work and study. Finally, he would strike and, hopefully, when it was all finished, he would find his way back. To you, my Schmetterling. His eyes hovered over the false Dorothea for a moment, and he flashed a quick smile when she met them. To the real you, somehow, I promise.



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YummyYummy Ayyyyy

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A Velles night had never felt this cold before. After sharing an evening of drinks and laughs with Yuliya, both she and Zarina ended up lying on the large island-bed amidst a sea of various things the Vossoriyan Princess had left lying around. The girls were on their separate sides, one asleep and the other awake, cold despite the covers and being fully clothed. It was all in her mind, of course, for the world would always feel colder than it really is without the warmth one desperately covets.

Zarina couldn’t sleep. She feigned being a lightweight to avoid losing herself to the stupor that came with such strong drinks. There was no way she’d slip. And yet here she was, so close to something precious - that warmth she denied herself for at least three years now. On her back, she turned her head to look toward the lovely blonde that had confided so much into her. Hesitantly, her hand reached out, stopping a few inches from Yuliya’s face before retreating back in complete silence after balling into a sturdy fist.

She sighed, and quietly rose from her side of the bed. The decision to leave had been made, but she took her time. The lights from the clear skies and the moon of Ipte shone bright over half of the sleeping girl’s face. Zarina lingered a while longer, watching, before reaching out again, content with only pulling up the covers a little more to cover her friend.

The little gesture made her smile. And so, she made another thoughtful one. A slip of her index had her use the gift to telekinetically lift the mess of clothes and other junk lying about, and had them fold in mid air. All in complete silence. Piles were made, neat and tidy, for Yuliya to find the next day, although without her friend to greet her.




In her dorm, the candles lit the moment Zarina stepped in, revealing a somewhat ordered home with a bit of Dormouse Hair spread on the furniture. The teen paced around, her thoughts diving into things she couldn’t simply forget or distract herself from anymore, and in that pacing she entered her small study room. Her recent winning from the Chamber of Greed awaited her, opened and readable only by her, apparently.

These Zenos are fucking crazy, I swear …

She shook her head and chuckled to herself as she peered into the Hierophant’s Secrets. A treasure trove of knowledge on Temporal magic, a lot of which allowed Zaz to grasp notions Jocasta couldn’t properly articulate without in-depth illustrations. It was … A particularly generous reward for a trial, especially compared to the list of goods for the final prizes. Although then again, three Kaempe Ko were perhaps worth more to someone like Zarina, but she had long accepted her preferences were not too common or to be flaunted. How she already regretted leaving Yuliya’s side.

There was no studying to be done tonight, she merely passed by to keep her legs active before heading to her bedroom where she’d find some remedy to her solitude. In a suspended cage opposite of her bed was Arlo, sleeping in his wooden home. Like clockwork, he never missed out on bed time with potential screeching if he was disturbed.

There were the eggs, or rather two sets of eggs. One was a pair, with an egg bigger than the other, all placed on a sort of incubator-like transparent box made to keep them safe and warm. They were Zarina’s precious Froabas eggs, made to take in sunlight every day while being shielded from the elements. The other set was on a small, potted tree she had brought in with a colourful nest she had gotten with the clutch of five eggs inside. They were Monkeybirds, almost ripe for hatching. All were visited by Zarina to ensure they were fine, before she headed to bed.

Finally, there was Nibbler on that very bed, curled up with his tail curved up to his head in an adorable ball. She did her best to not wake him, lying on her side to take less territory. Her mind never stopped racing, however. The mysteries behind this unusually strong and intelligent rodent made her drift to more unpleasant realms, fuelled by the recent revelation of Hugo’s death.

Jocasta.

The time in Djamant vividly came back to her. All the deaths, the murderous intentions and the horrible screeches. How could things get so bad? Who can be this detested to be hunted by a legion of people willing to die just to kill you?

Zarina reached out to hold her cat-sized Dormouse, prompting the little creature to open its eyes slightly and its ears to perk up. It didn’t move, and just nestled into her.

What the hell did you do?

She held her animal just a little tighter, as the screams of death from both the envoys of the Church and the screams of the Thresher resonated in her troubled head.

Oh Gods.

Like Nibbler, she curled up into a ball, fully into foetal position. It had gotten so cold and dark in this lit room on a Velles night.

I got a person killed. she mouthed these words in her head but only uttered exhales, I got an innocent creature killed for nothing. she held Nibbler tighter. The scene of that sea-creature dying an atrocious death kept playing over and over.

Never again. She forced these things in unnatural situations for her own gain. They needed to be protected. It was the least they deserved for giving their bodies to her will and exact goals that benefitted them not. No corners would be cut for her animals from this point forward. Obscene amounts of money were to be poured in protecting them, and a firm stance would be made to not use those in the wild as mere tools. It was a promise to herself and those creatures that trusted her. A promise to protect.






An unpleasantly sleepless night passed, with the sun promising nothing but a terrible day to come after Blood Victendes. Pessimism was at its most, even with Nibbler by her side.

And yet, the rays of light came with some warmth to Zarina. With all this death she had seen and the realisations hitting her all at once, it all felt hopeless, until the singing of new life loudly called out for her attention.

No way.



She darted out of her bed, only to find three of the five Monkeybird eggs hatched with the naked chicks crying out for attention, warmth and food. Zarina couldn’t hold back her tears anymore - after refusing to let all the darkness break her - and succumbed to the beauty she just witnessed. Sniffles, laughter and a stream of tears. These adorable little critters were carefully tended to with Nibbler watching with great interest on top of a branch.

All five were up and about, incessantly chirping for their mother. Zarina did her best to tend to their needs for food, and provided them with a warm ball of wool for them to press against while they huddled up together to stay warm.

Things weren’t so bad after all.








Penny’s guidance led Zarina here, the Forked Tower, in the hopes of finding answers to her ailment. One was to hope it’d be a quick find too, as the moons were to gather the coming Victendes. One bad Victendes was bad enough.

Arch-Zeno Harrachora leads the group of five towards the Forked Tower. The Violet Enclave is almost - if not quite - eerily somber and silent. "Sorry for the lack of reception," he apologizes. "This is usually a bigger affair. I remember when I made it in," he sighs. "It was a very warm welcome. We're... currently dealing with a loss, as you'd imagine."

It is rainy and so very overcast that it feels almost like that strange species of night when all five moons are out. Thunder mumbles softly from within the clouds. Puddles grow, but the magic users are safe from the rogue water, of course. Then, they're there. The tower looms before them and just craning one's neck up to look at it is utterly vertigo-inducing. The upper reaches remain ghostlike, shrouded in translucent fog and mist. Barely visible, a beam of pure red light leaps from its top, knifing into the low-hanging clouds and disappearing somewhere beyond them.

The five students - Trypano, Ingrid, Zarina, Kaspar, and Yuliya - are led up a curving staircase and found themselves at the door. The rest of the world seemed muted and distant somehow, now. No matter. The Arch-Zeno knocked in a particular pattern. There was an immense surge of energy.

Then, the door opened and they're inside. Waiting for them was a receptionist who bore a strong resemblance to the Zenith and... is that Jocasta? "Welcome to the Forked Tower," said the woman. They casted about for Harrachora, but he was nowhere to be found. "Your time begins now," she advised with a smile. "Enjoy yourselves!"

“Eyyy, Jojo.” Zarina's dull expression betrayed the forced enthusiasm in her voice, “The Tower AND our Spratzfield. You truly are blessed.” Zazzy being Sassy, as always, “Well, at least I'll have decent company.” the sass was redirected at her peers with a smirk on her face and her hand on her hip. Nibbler hopped on her shoulder and performed his trademarked wave that looked as clumsy as ever. Just a few raises of his paw without any real waving. Cute, of course.

It was time to do what she was here to do. So, she plainly asked, “Thank you, Zenith Upta,” she politely nodded before getting to the point with a hushed voice, “I'd like to know where your records on the Wildbloods are.” there was a little bit of temporal magic, allowing only those versed in the magic, or those close enough (like Jocasta) to hear her.

"I found my own way in," Jocasta answered with the hint of a smile. "I'll tell you about it sometime."

Then, the woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to the Zenith smiled and stifled a snort of laughter, pausing from her sorting of some interestingly-labeled books. "It's Madame Esseralc," she replied with a warm accent that sounded... well, nothing quite like anything Zarina had ever heard. There was perhaps a hint of Weggosi to it. "You'll find what you're looking for on the third floor, sugar. Head on into the study room on the right side of the hall and then right on through. First collection you'll see."

“Oh.” Zarina blinked with the slightest hint of a blush on her cheeks. What a dunce, “T-thank you, Madame Esseralc.” another nod, this one looking almost like a bow. She attempted to regain her composure and half-succeeded and forming a confident smile, “I'll see you around, nerds. Let's have dinner at an agreed time, yeah? Yeah.” with that, she headed toward the stairs.

Before reaching the third, she made a quick stop at the second to take notice of the nearest rooms. The singular book of Ahn-Shune definitely captured her attention, although she merely made a mental note before pursuing her initial goal: The Wildblood collection in the third floor. To the right and through the study room, she reached the shelves, “Okay ...” she mumbled, “First time I'm actually excited in studying.”

Soft, diffused light trickles in through the window, grey and somber, illuminating the swirling dust in the air and a large comfortable-looking red sofa. Closer by, however, are at least a few hundred books on the subject of Wildbloods. A smaller, single-person easy chair lies to Zarina's right as she enters and, in the midst of the collection, is an endtable with intricate woodwork that reminds her of a large puzzle box. On top is a candle in a holder, producing an amount of light that seems... almost unnatural.

Taking a moment to peruse the shelves, she notices that there are five subsections:
1) Wildblood Transformations
2) Wildblood Types
3) Wildblood Histories
4) Wildblood Hunting
5) Wildblood Records







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