Hidden 7 mos ago Post by dragonpiece
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A Day Trip to the Silk Road

Tku read the letter with some glee. Any reason to go into the Hegelan cities was good enough reason. He hung around Esmii eating a Mcboller, before having some light say in whatever that blonde boy was saying. He was harsh as hell, to say the least, to the point that he should be called a heckler instead of a noble.

Whatever the case they were soon distracted by a yellow bird and like the simple minded students they were. Following and following all led to a blank space that eventually revealed itself to be the prime example of a man who defended a woman's honor, the scary mage who was quite interesting. And finally but certainly not least, the Vossoriyan beauty. All interesting characters, all from places Tku hasn’t been. He did his utmost to help and make a good impression.

Solving the cart problem with Manfred, and explaining the block puzzle to Yuliya. All these were attempts to build some rapport. But what opened was a beautiful room with mountain tops. There were so many people in here and he frankly couldn’t pay them all mind but eventually, they all found their seats. He had hoped things to stay calm but as Silas was slightly rude, the Arch-Zeno made him disappear.

Harrachora was the one to save them from the monsters with something similar in Tku’s ignorant mind. Fear took over and he sat silently even after he let people know he was still alive. He calmed himself sketching the map he presented, hopefully adding the details to his own map. The missions were sent out but it seemed Tku and a few others had different people.

The mission seemed unreal. Prevent the death of a Tan-Zeno, world balance, Snake people possibly, and even more that could be expected. Evander was curious about how much he seemed to know. Bennedetto was worrisome, there was some evil in his heart, and might run against the goal of our mission. Harrachora wanted us to promise him some trust and Tku agreed as he was indebted to him from his night at the Swirl. With that the portal was open and Tku headed off.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by pantothenic
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pantothenic bored part-timer

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Yalen stepped out of the rip in space and, for the first time in ages, was able to hit the ground running. He could feel the hot sand on top of his feet as his weight sank him into the earth. Lack of sure footing used to be his worst enemy, but now those days were over. As long as he didn’t take these sandals off he wouldn’t be a hindrance to the team. It was not like his first time coming to Torragon, when the best he had to compensate for his lack of stability was a walking cane and a prayer.

”Oh my.“ Yalen craned his head towards the sky, his heart involuntarily skipping a beat at the sight of a pack of Froabases. Although he knew these ones were tame, he still had dreams about their near fatal encounter with the dragons out in the wasteland. When Laila finally hatched he was still too scared to feed her by hand. He slightly regretted not bringing the little monster along to meet some of her wild born kin, but knowing how dangerous these missions tended to be he chose to leave his dragon behind. Maybe she could be of use when she was able to properly breathe fire.

Yalen could feel the curious probing of others as he and the others infiltrated through the Red Tower. It wasn’t just in the metaphorical sense; he could literally feel them scanning him, just as one would be able to sense a mage drawing energy into their body. The unsolicited ‘gift’ he received in Eskand along with training from the church had made his sixth sense painfully aware of mana in general. It was not a special talent. He didn’t gain a new power that the others did not possess. Rather, he was forcibly made aware of a sensation most people just unconsciously ignored. It was like being blind to the natural act of breathing, only to become hyper focused on it when someone else reminded you that you were doing it.

After stepping off the lift Yalen leaned over the side of the colonnade to get a view of the refuge from above. There appeared to be even less torchlight than before now that the “caretakers” were out of the equation. It was unlikely that the refuge had received many more immigrants since regaining its independence. He could not detect anyone wandering outside of their homes at this late hour, but as Jocasta said, it was easy to tell that they were all on high alert. It was impressive how vigilant they had become in the short time they were allowed to take control of their own affairs. He was glad that the effort they spent protecting and training them all was not wasted.

At the end of the dimly lit path was the former overseer’s office, now occupied by Manuel Escarra. Or at least, it should have been. Yalen was as surprised as anybody to see Amanda sitting in his chair looking healthier than ever. However, he had seen enough of the world now to comprehend her survival. He and Jocasta had both tasted the restorative effects of a white aberration on Bloody Victendes. They were an even stranger anomaly than the black ones everyone at school was familiar with. Since that day he had become oddly resistant to the temptations of aberrations. He did not hear their voices anymore. The cardinal’s ring was in Jocasta’s possession now, and as far as he knew it wasn’t supposed to provide a permanent benefit to its wearer. The white aberration had changed him somehow, but up until now he was unable to determine how.

Maybe I can get more information from Amanda when this errand is over. Yalen thought as he listened intently to her briefing. He wondered who would be relegated to guard duty this time. He hated to assume Isabella would be one of them. Although she had learned some new tricks, she was no Jocasta when it came to flight. Wheelchairs and sand didn’t exactly mix well. Yalen himself couldn’t decide whether to stay behind or go with the investigation team. He couldn’t shake this bad feeling that something was about to go terribly wrong the moment they split up. He wished he could teleport anywhere he liked the way Jocasta did, but his present training was occupying all the time he could have possibly spared to study Temporal magic.

”Use me where you think I am needed most. I won’t let my personal feelings get in the way of the mission. I want to help any way I can.“
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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They started to appear - out of nowhere, and in the oddest places - invitations to a meeting with the Zenith. Some students received them, but many received something… different. Just as their peers gathered by the Forked Tower at the requested hour, as Ipte slid towards Shune, so did they: all of them through the Silk Gate. If their counterparts had been... eclectic, then this bunch was outright mismatched.

It had been more or less a year since the last time that some had found themselves called in such a way and perhaps their appearances were the clearest evidence that each had grown - or regressed - by various metrics. Others were new faces, at least to varying degrees. They counted, among their number, twenty-two in all: Ashon’amar’loiyang, Benedetto Corvi, Cal’tuuro’jaros, Casii’fyret’alan, Desmond Catulus, Dorothea Hohnstein, Edyta Laska, Esmii’nesta’tawaar, Evander Synesti, Fiske Flachstrauch, Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora, Manfred Hohenfelter, Marz Mohfolk, Nazih Iqbal, Penny Pellegrin, Qasem Laghmani, Silas Reiger, Sven Bjornsson, Tku, Ymiico’luun’yoru, Yuliya Vasilieva, and Yvain de Berbignon, along with a handful of beasts. They congregated within Capital Square, around the foot of a great obelisk commemorating Olkhad the Hammer, a legendary king of yore. Conversations, teasing, and a growing murmur of questioning filled the rather quiet plaza. It was the wee hours of the morning in the City of Water, and only a handful of tired-looking hegelans were in evidence nearby.

However, it took precious little time for the first conflicts to erupt and, before long, Manfred and Evander were on the ground, wrestling and fighting before being separated under threat of death with a smile by Benedetto. Ersand’Enise’s most notorious thug seemed unusually jolly for reasons as-yet unknown, and more than one of his peers was left on edge by the sudden personality jackknife. At the opposite end of the mood spectrum fell Marz, the prickly hegelan craftsman erupting into histrionics over a ruined item owned by Yuliya - a former client of his.

Then, just as they began to grow restless, a little birdie - and very much a glowing illusory one - swept in to guide them on a winding route through the city and into a dark alley. Was it smart to follow? Perhaps not, had at least some among them not known what this truly meant. Hence, and in short, they did, disappearing into what was not so much an alleyway as it was a portal.

Upon stepping through, the youths found themselves divided into a quintet of quartets, staring out into a vast and darkened chamber. This, then, was the Arch-Zeno’s test. Those who had been called upon last year remembered something very similar from the late Paradigm. Initial blunders aside, most had proven themselves competent people before, and those who had not had the earlier opportunity proved themselves now. By various means, all five groups made it through the initial gauntlet, only to find themselves presented with the queerest of locks and the insistence that they utter not a word before a pair of great exit doors. Not a single one tried to blast through. Instead, they did what they had reliably done best, and solved the tactile riddle. Only then was the room beyond revealed...

P E R I L . . . A N D O P P O R T U N I T Y

All five of the groups witnessed the same thing: the doors slid apart and the space beyond was revealed. It was... an immense open area in the mountains. A dark-skinned man stood there alone before a table appeared seemingly out of nowhere. He was Karan Harrachora, and he was playing fetch with Henry. All of the other animals were about nearby. He stopped and took a seat, beckoning the students over.

Tku walked in, stunned by the scenery. "Very nice," he remarked as he looked around.

Evander saw Karan Harrachora, walked toward the table that he'd motioned them over to, and pulled his seat out before sitting down.

Desmond chuckled as he took in the sight of Henry playing fetch. He entered and began looking around and checking on Billium who was currently trying to find his owner, and Ani who was moving about, slightly nudging a few to play and bullying them. Once he made sure they were okay he made his way to Harrachora.

Esmii remembered Harrachora, and seeing all the animals seemed to make her smile. She bowed in the direction of the man who she mistakenly believed was the Zenith.

Ashon made his way forward and bowed his head toward the man as well. He reached out to push the back of Evander's head forward too, discretely so it looked sincere and not forced, so he may bow in respect. He looked around to notice Penny, naturally moving toward her as he took a nearby seat.

Evander snapped back at Ashon's hand before he could even touch him, "Don't," he warned.

Penny scowled a little bit at Ashon's presumptuousness. Evander could be an arrogant prat at times, but she got the sense that Ashon had been nothing but a pest to him the entire time. He smiled widely toward her: the sweetest and most innocent of smiles. "He took good care of me."

"This was quite fun, thank you Arch-Zeno." Tku said, having enjoyed the experience.

Qasem leaned against his spear as he surveyed their teacher in the unexpected surroundings and smiled. "Was it a test? Or just a novelty to deter visitors?" Silas, still sour from being forcibly put through the whole ordeal sat on the ground and resumed his cross-limbed stance and glare.

"Mostly the second," Harrachora admitted, "though it served the first purpose this time too."

Dory let out a sigh, is it over? "I can finally see well again."

Fiske just relaxed, no need to get too excited over a small test. Marz comes in as he began looking around as he noticed the man beckoning them to the table and plopped down. Desmond slipped by next to him to cut one of the spots off from someone annoying sitting next to himself.

Yvain, for one, looked rather annoyed. "This whole test took way too long. Perhaps this coming message will be worth it." Penny rolled her eyes grandly and went to take a seat. Truth be told, she was rather fond of Evander in a different sort of way and she did not have the energy to deal with these two sniping at each other. Instead, she seated herself right between Yuliya and... metaphorically holding her nose: Yvain. "Do stop complaining, cousin," she whispered. "One might think you were ungrateful for the privilege of jumping through so many hoops."

"Fine, fine, if that is what my dearest cousin wishes." Yvain whispered back.

"You are truly a gentleman," Penny teased.

The gentleman chuckled. "I try to be for the ones deserving."

"Gods, Yvain," she giggled. "You're tiresome at times, but how I've missed you."

Evander noticed as Penny placed herself between the blondes as he smiled toward them. Meanwhile, Ashon was not done being an utter pest. He looked around for his “Luush'elar,” waving and beckoning Cal'tuuro over toward him.

"So are we done with tests now?" Esmi asked.

Yuli pretended to be absentminded as Penny sat between her and this other blonde boy, but she was definitely listening to the conversation intently, although could not help being distracted by the man she saw help slay the former paradigm. What was his gameplan, bringing all these people here?

While the others talked, Qasem nodded to the Zeno and accepted a seat at the table. "I'm sure we are as eager to listen as you-"

"Whadya want?" Silas cut him off, abruptly bringing them to the point of the gathering.

It flew in the face of every other respectful interaction to this juncture. Karan Harrachora turned to the boy and regarded him almost... mechanically. There was no expression on his face. But there was a monumental surge of magic. Silas... disappeared.

"In case any of you are wondering,” the Arch-Zeno offered, “no. He isn't dead. He's merely... proven himself unworthy by his conduct. That was the truest test here: one of patience and good graces. I trust the rest of you will not let yourselves down. Correct?"
Tku remained very quiet after that.

Esmii nodded in fear. "Sven, he's scary," she whispered, and she received a small squeeze for her troubles.

Desmond saw Silas instantly disappear as he stood up, his hands were set down onto the table and he looked to the Arch Zeno. Yet, before Desmond could speak the eminent master spoke. Desmond let out a sigh as he sat back down, now slightly more upset.

Cal shrugged. Why did Jamboi like him so? He had barely tried to make this happen. He went and sat next to the monkey king, not saying much of anything. He had been relatively unimpressed with the puzzle but moreso the people solving the offered puzzles.

Ashon found the drink cannister and started to pour water for Cal and himself. Upon Harrachora's words, he ended up providing everyone with refreshment, before seating himself back down next to his unwilling 'friend'.

Tku just breathed out and shook his head, frankly disappointed by both of them. He just finished a sketch to keep himself busy... very silently.

Qasem blinked, staring at the spot where the small blind boy should have been. "Certainly." He finally said, bringing his eyes back to the Arch. "Though I think you'll understand our eagerness given all the build-up."

"Most certainly," Karan allowed. "That is understandable. You were placed in stressful, trying, and perhaps even tedious situations. Tempers flared, personalities clashed and, one way or another, you managed. It is perfectly ordinary for people to be a bit on edge, to forget themselves." His eyes flicked almost imperceptibly quickly to Evander, Ashon, and Manfred and he clasped his hands at the small of his back as the last of them sat. They may have noticed that Sister Laska had appeared silently among them at some point. "The thing is," the Arch-Zeno continued. "I am not looking for ‘ordinary’. These situations demand more than ordinary. That is why I've called you. It is why I've tested you."

"What would have happened if we failed to meet your expectations, Arch-Zeno?" Esmii asked politely.

Ashon gently pointed at the spot where Silas had been sitting.

"You'd enjoy a pleasant luncheon with me and receive some academic commendation. That would be all." Harrachora replied with a smirk, "Or that, if you failed by being a jerk." His eyes went to where Ashon was looking.

Esmii looked to where Silas had been before he'd disappeared, still holding onto the benny that he’d thrown at her. She put it in her pocket for now.

Then, the Arch-Zeno rapped the table twice with his fist and it became... a world map: An unusually detailed map and there were things on it - putative continents and landforms - that none had previously seen.

However, it appeared to focus in on one place in particular. "This is Kerremand," he said. It continued to magnify one particular region. "This is the small town of Mandelein, in the far west of the country, right by the Tripartite Border with Mycormi and Hypari."

Desmond began to inspect the map, curious of the supreme detail this map gave while listening to the man speak. Esmii found herself doing much the same.

Tku pulled out his own map, instantly noticing the similarities/ "Very Intriguing!" His voice rose enthusiastically before he tamped down on it.

Manfred, Kaspar, and a couple of the other Kerreman speakers glanced at each other. Ashon was, after all, from Hypari, just over the border. Then, like clockwork, the following people had papers appear before them, reading: The Beast of Mandelein: Dory, Manfred, Kaspar, Ymiico, Casii, Ashon, Cal, Qasem, Ismette, and Sister Laska. "Take a moment to read these," the Arch-Zeno advised.

Qasem stared blankly at the unfamiliar mapped region on the table, then the papers placed before him. Ashon looked at the others who'd gotten the pieces of paper, and one, in particular, who hadn't. His eyes moved to Penny as he looked toward her, and lingered for a moment, before they turned to the parchment.

"There is something very wrong in this town," Harrachora continued, "and it almost certainly crosses the border. If we send official personnel, we fear they'll clear out. Many of you will notice that you have experience in the language, with the region and its unique challenges, or at least with handling... monsters."

Ashon looked at some of the details. Why Kerremand of all places, and why was he being sent there!? The location on the map was suspiciously close near another place he was familiar with: the place where his parents had passed away. "Not all monsters are covered in fur..." he murmured.

Dory looked at the map before waddling towards Manfred. "Mandelein isn't too far from your family's lands, no? Know anything about it?"

"Not so far," Manfred allowed. "Not so near either. It is a backward place, though it wasn't always. Once the yasoi cloistered, it stopped being a trade town. The House Kapperstel, who oversee the lands, are notoriously aloof and removed." He scowled. "And the queen has done nothing?" Dory looked quite annoyed with the information. "A Noble who forsakes his lands does not deserve to rule over it." A rather triumphant smirk appeared on her face. "I would do a much better job than them!"

Manfred shrugged. "Apparently, it runs reasonably well. Circumstances beyond their control and all."

"I see..." The smirk quickly turned to a more neutral expression. "Then I guess my greatness isn't needed to rule there."

"Well, you never know." Manfred winked.

Beasts. Qasem watched as the scythe-wielding sister of the Pentad took one of the papers. It was to be cleansing then. Part of him wanted to protest, his role was neither judge nor executioner. Instead, he examined the briefing and listened closely to what else the Arch had to say.

"Finally," the Arch-Zeno added, eyes taking in Qasem for a second, "there is the matter of truths. Expect a very tangled web in that town. Very tangled indeed. There is a reason why half of you could pass for locals there while half are very pointedly outsiders."

Ashon nudged Cal in the side, speaking to him discreetly. "Make sure those two don't share the same room together or none of us will get any rest. Bad enough with her." His eyes moved to Isii and Casii, but particularly the former.

Ismette saw him looking at her. She waved and smiled sweetly. Casii scowled and spat. She had not liked the hegelan hole in the ground. She had not liked it one bit, and the wide open mountains, not much better. Ashon smiled sweetly in return at the first of the pair, and waved back.

Cal added two and two together once more. Were all continental yasoi this loopy and depraved? He waved and did not let his thoughts show, as always. He would have to work with them all in the near future. "Tell me Ashon,” he inquired, “why are there so many couples at this school so quickly? Is this part of the twin continents' culture?"

That seemed to have concluded their briefing, however. They were to complete a task and were - quite tantalizingly - free to take advantage of any opportunities for self-advancement they might find along the way. "Should you require more than what is in the folders, you may speak with me after," the Arch-Zeno decided. "Your goal is relatively simple, however: kill the Beast of Mandelein, menace that it is, and uncover any illegal or hidden activities the town is caught up in. Now…” He pivoted. “There are quite a few more of you present."

With this, a second set of papers appeared in front of a second set of people: Yuliya, Nazih, Esmii, Yvain, Marz, Penny, and Sven. The map shifted and they were now looking at Vossoriya.

Yuli excitedly jumped in her seat a little. Her homeland! And it seemed she was going with Penny and MarkMarz to boot. What a wonderful day this had been, outside of annoying puzzles. "Penny, I can be your tour guide!" she exclaimed unabashedly.

Penny all-but squealed in excitement. "Oh mah Shune! I've always wanted to see Vossoriya!"

"My first mission, I'm kind of nervous." Esmii stuttered, hugging herself. Beside her, Sven gulped. "Don't worry. Mine too. I'm shure they know what they're doing." She smiled only somewhat nervously. "At least we'll be together." It was enough to make him smile back, and he wrapped a comforting arm around her, though who it benefited more was difficult to say.

Yvain smugly leaned against Penny. "It seems we get to spend some precious time in this Callanasti Winter 'Wonderland." His eyes moved towards the Vossoriyan. "Seems you have a friendly guide as well."

"Yuli will make everything better," Penny assured her cousin. "She may even outdo you for sheer positivity!"

Marz began to read through the paper presented and scoffed, "Gods, it'll be cold!"

"Your mission here is a simple one, though made more difficult by certain local... circumstances," continued the Arch-Zeno.

"Aren't Hegelans supposed to be cold-resistant?" teased Penny. She winked to make it clear that she was joking. He seemed like the high-strung sort.

"I might be. Don't mean I like it! Much more used to the heat meself," Marz replied.

Yuli grinned along, singing her national anthem to herself. She was thinking about the clothes she'd probably have to lend Penny to make sure the poor girl wouldn't freeze down south.

"This," said Harrachora, pointing to a spot on the map where two major rivers met - Yuliya and Marz may have recognized them as the Kuska and Belykuska - "is the trading town of Kirimansk. There is supposed to be a shipment of something very secret, valuable, and - if opened - very dangerous passing through it. Problem is that it's been stalled there for... quite some time: the whole Hundri, in fact. Whatever you do, please don't open it. The less you know, the less you can be liable for." He was walking around the table now, peering over their shoulders. He stopped for a moment, between Penny and Yuliya, reaching out and then... something seemed different. It was so quick and minor that it would've scarce been noticed by any but the most alert. "Your job, however, is to retrieve it and bring it, intact, back to the Hegelan City of Hoch Dorumvir, and its portal, from which it can be moved quickly and safely to Hogh Munkhelad and then, in the hands of Zenos, to the academy."

Marz nodded his head and said, "A'kay, I can deal with that. Sounds interesting enough"

"I am intrigued by what would be so important that we shouldn't open it." Yvain rubbed his chin. "What do you think?" He looked towards his cousin, but something about Penny’s demeanour had changed. She was quiet and pensive, unusually so for her.

Not open? Would Yuliya be able to stop people from doing that? Also, what exactly was being taken through here? Her mind raced with questions, so much so that she almost missed Harrachora stopping behind them for a moment, but she just let it happen. Whatever it was, it wasn't something she could do anything about. Regardless, she simply listened until the man was done, before turning to the rest. "The less we know, the less problem. Your tour guide still ready to help!" she spoke, trying not to hide the inkling of fear that the current Paradigm put in her.

"Does it, as a Vossoriyan yourself, not make you incredibly intrigued to what this might truly be?" Yvain looked rather interested in the reasons as to why they’d been advised not to look into what the cargo would be.

"It probably way more boring than you think. Nothing interesting happen in Kirimansk. Not while I live there," she assured him, telling a half truth. Yuliya just needed them to shut up for now, to avoid antagonizing the Arch-Zeno.

"Fine fine, have it your way. I won't ponder on it any longer." Yvain still looked somewhat frustrated by the potential fact that someone of his standing could be sent on such an unimportant mission.

"Excellent!" decided Harrachora, clasping his hands in a businesslike manner. "I do apologize for the rather opaque manner in which you've been received, but some discretion is necessary here and not knowing what is in those three crates allows you to be genuinely ignorant should anything go askew, though I have faith in all of you that it will not.” He applied some verbal balm to their worries. “Rest assured that there are immense opportunities as well and that you will have a local guide aside from your very gracious Vossoriyan classmate." He nodded in thanks towards Yuliya. At that, there was another massive surge of energy - massive enough to nearly make some sick.

Twin portals opened. Through one, they could see trees and a road running through a deep forest. Through the other was a frosty plateau in the mountains and, in the near distance, an enormous stone and steel gateway to a city.

"да направит нас ветер!" Yuli exclaimed as she bolted through the portal, ushering the rest to follow. The exodus happened with surprising speed. They had their supplies and their briefings and, unlike the groups that the Zenith had brought together, there weren’t all that many ties between the two cohorts.

Everybody else was gone within a minute, and the twin portals closed behind them. There were only five remaining: Evander, Desmond, Tku, Fiske, and Benedetto. Karan Harrachora, Arch-Zeno of Ersand'Enise, turned to give them his full attention. "You have been kept back for a reason," he assured the five young men before him.

"I would hope so, would be a shame to come all this way to only be turned away," Desmond chided.

"Well, I hope so, though the experience was nice enough," Tku chuckled.

"Is this something special?" Fiske looked questioning.

The Arch-Zeno smiled at the quips, but there was no light in his eyes. "Trust that I have no such intention." He regarded Fiske as well. "You have been held back because some of your peers - those who do not believe themselves to be on any sort of 'mission' and have gone to Torragon for personal reasons - are headed for certain death. It is this fate that I hope you can save them from."

Desmond heard what was said and felt the weight of the room increase. He broke the silence and was the first to speak. "I see… Do we know what might cause this 'certain death'?"

Fiske sighed upon hearing the task for them at hand. Part of him got rather annoyed by the fact he had to save people who’d gotten themselves caught up in a ‘certain death’ situation.... certain death? "Save them from their own fate? That sounds rather complicated..."

Tku wondered what he could possibly do to help with this. It seemed above and beyond his powers but maybe they needed a healer. "If I can be of assistance, I will." He bowed his head. "I do owe you after all," the Obenjan added.

"From my experience, fate is evanescent," advised the Arch-Zeno. "Though this opportunity may be complicated," he conceded. "It should also be quite lucrative for you."

Evander looked at Harrachora, "Who are the peers you want us to save?"

"Isabella Lowell, Zarina Al-Nader, Marceline Hohenfelter, Ayla Arslan... and the Tan-Zeno Jocasta Re." The Arch-Zeno replied evenly.

None of those were people Tku knew. Not that it mattered, but to be responsible for saving a Tan-Zeno seemed a bit much.

Desmond nodded as he thought about who could be aiming for all of these individuals. He knew Zarina, Ayla, and Jocasta should be close. Marceline is a business partner to Zarina, but Isabella: that was the one that was odd. He pursed his lips for a moment. "Okay I think I'm getting the picture"

"I have reason to believe that a grave danger lurks out in the deserts of Torragon - just beyond the Refuge of San Agustin de las Arenas - and that they are headed, potentially, into the very mouth of it."

Fiske frowned. The Hohenfelter girl had gotten involved with this mess? He'd expected the Arslan girl but the Hohenfelter girl usually seemed to be of the smarter variety. Gods, she'll have to reward me if I save their asses, and she’s loaded. "If a Tan-Zeno is on that mission they should genuinely be pretty safe, no?"

"Beings," Harrachora revealed, "snakelike beings that are said to live in the desert, but I think there's more to it. I don't think they're the danger... at least not directly. Your friends are about to get wrapped up in something much larger than themselves. Whatever you find there, I have a sense that it could be world-shattering: something that you must report back to me and only to me." He shook his head. "We have hidden enemies among us, and I'm not referring to agents of the Traveler."

Snakelike beings... Fiske remembered something akin to that. They came from great metal birds. If they were involved, it might be more dangerous than what had happened at Moli's. The thought of seeing those snakelike beings both intrigued and terrified him to no end.

Tku had heard of Snakelike people in folklore but never anyone truly believing they were real. Yet…if this was the Arch-Zeno and there was indeed a hidden continent, then it could definitely be true. Why he’d chosen Tku, the boy had no idea but… "I will do my best."

Desmond thought to himself as he he heard the man speak. He began to piece together thoughts and ideas that he knew in the area, as the moment Harrachora spoke of snakelike people, Desmond snapped his fingers as it showed him what he needed. He nodded, businesslike, mind racing. "Okay, I think I got it now. I've dealt with these beings before. Okay. I understand sir". He continued to nod, resisting the urge to rise and pace. "So our job is to stop this event from happening, or the more likely thing is to make sure the others you sent us to save is to survive."

Evander leaned in when he heard Harrachora reveal the description fitting what he knew as Sirrahi. He knew what the Arch-Zeno meant by hidden enemies. Evander understood all too well what was introduced at this briefing table. Harrachora felt similarly as Evander about the greater war afoot. The Revidian listened to Desmond, "Sounds like the latter, the event is happening and our peers don't know what they are walking into, therefore we are going to make sure they survive."

Tku made note of Evander and Desmond's reactions to the news. Perhaps they knew more information. He came to the conclusion that he should ask them later for safety’s sake.

Karan Harrachora's gaze was heavy. Serious. It drifted about the table, taking in the other five men there. "This is the final question, then: can I rely on you for this?" He paused, hands clenching and unclenching behind his back. "If you have any serious doubts or reservations, now is the time to step back from the precipice. I assure you that the rewards will be truly incredible should we succeed, both for yourself and our society at large, but there is risk here, and I would never order you to move forward into danger were I not entirely certain of your willingness."

Tku made it known multiple times that he was ready, and who better to see how the world might change than an artist to draw the story? "You have my word Arch-Zeno."

Desmond took in a breath and sighed. It was a dangerous thought, yet what was he if not a man who’d lived his life perched on just such an edge? "You can," he replied simply.

The Arch-Zeno inclined his head in thanks.

Fiske was sweating, this was a serious situation... but if the rewards were as incredible as Harrachora was saying, it might be worth tagging along with Benedetto and Desmond. "I will do my best."

Benedetto hadn't said much so far. In fact, when this fucking Zeno had disappeared Silas, he'd been ready to throw hands. He scowled and considered. Jocasta, he thought. In grave danger, he thought. Hmmmmm. An idea occurred to him, then: an awful idea, a wonderful idea, A wonderfully awful idea. "Oi I'll help save your lil' world," he answered with a toothy grin. "I'm in."

With that, Karan Harrachora bid them good luck and godspeed and opened a portal. The burning heat of the dune sea was already rolling through it. The sand was whipping and the dragons were circling above by the time they stepped through.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Present: Yalen Castel @pantothenic, Maura Mercador @Ti, Trypano Somia @A Lowly Wretch, Ingrid Penderson @dragonpiece, Niallus Saberhagen @McKennaJ71, and Abdel Varga @YummyYummy

They were not traveling only through space, it seemed, but through time as well. It was afternoon in Wánggǎng and Yalen was among them. The arrival of the group from Ersand'Enise was no secret, either. The portal dropped them in a cordoned-off area in the centre of a large plaza. Seagulls screeched and wheeled overhead and a crowd of curious onlookers began to gather almost instantly. A young boy, holding his mother's hand, jumped up and down excitedly and pointed in their direction, shouting something in ReTanese. Others gathered to gawk and a couple even began to move forward until halted by barked orders and raised weapons from two dozen sharply-uniformed guards. Nearby vendors glanced in the direction of the new arrivals out of momentary curiosity, but their eyes fast became calculating and, within seconds, they seemed to have adjusted their messaging, gesturing at the Lǎowài and promising discounts to cater to the growing audience. Wide flagstone roads stretched off in each of the cardinal directions, and an endless sea of buildings in that distinctive ReTanese construction that most had only seen drawn on canvas, parchment, or fresco surrounded them. Paper lanterns swayed in a light seaside breeze, some thumping against wooden posts of the structures that they hung from, and it was - in general - an absolute carnival of sights, scents, and sounds.

A greeting party of a dozen stood before them: Eleven men and a woman, all dressed in gorgeous formal robes that marked them as government officials. All but two of the outfits had a similar cut and colour, differentiated only by some unique highlights and a distinct symbol. The most illustrious of the group stepped forward and offered a very small bow. A short and thin man of middle age, his long, sharp beard was shot through with a handful of grey streaks and he wore a particularly ornate hat. "我向来自巫师城的旅人问好。我希望您在协助我们解决这个问题的同时,在我们国家度过愉快而富有成效的时光。我们感谢你," he began, and the lone woman in the group scampered up beside him, quite young and quite awkward in her fine clothing. She bowed quickly and deeply and began to translate. "My greetings to travelers from the wizard city. I hope you have a pleasant and productive time in our country while assist us with zis problem. We sank you!"

Then, the man in the ornate hat continued, addressing them all but seeming to pick Yalen out as the figure of authority within the group. "我是本市洋人区副区长侯建红。很高兴见到你。" He offered a quick smile and gestured towards the others, waiting for a moment. "I'm Hou Jianhong," the woman translated for him, pausing for a split second, "the governor of foreigner's district in this city. Pleasure to meet you." Her eyes did not meet his, nor did they meet the party's for more than a brief, curious moment.

"这就是文志豪,逻辑与激情的典范," continued Governor Hou, and one of the men bowed. "This is Wen Zhihao, a model of logic and passion." The translator further explained that they were to introduce themselves to Wen Zhihao.

"这就是杜阳,接受和行动的典范," came the next, and the second man bowed as well. "This is Du Yang, a model of acceptance and action." The ritual repeated itself.

The governor gestured at another. "这就是谢军,信任与怀疑的典范," he announced, and there was another bow. "This is Xie Jun, a model of trust and doubt." It became clear that each of these men would receive an introduction and they would be expected to do the same. In the background, the crowd milled and discussed excitedly. There were hundreds now, and particularly curious glances were stolen at Ingrid, Trypano, Maura, and Kaureerah. Young preteens with trinkets and sticks of skewered meat raced through the fringes of the crowd, hawking their wares.

"这就是武龙,创造与毁灭的典范," came the next in an increasingly tedious lineup of men in fine robes and hats, but this one was different. "I am Wu Long," he introduced himself, stepping in front of the translator, who backed away with a start. "Funny name, I know. Maybe I was destined for greatness or shame with it." he shrugged. "We will see which one, I guess." He reached out to shake hands in the twin continents style. "I hope you can forgive our long ceremonies here in ReTan. They are part of our culture and important to us." He spoke as he shook, addressing all in turn as well as all at once. "I also hope you can help us catch this evil from your homeland that has come to our country. I have been told you are experts." His enthusiasm was palpable. He burned with it. His Avincian, while accented and perhaps a touch formal, was nearly as good as some of theirs. Then, he bowed again, retreated, and they were introduced to Wang Chao (exemplar of obedience and initiative), Huang Min (exemplar of truthfulness and 'something like lying'), Xiao Da (exemplar of community and individuality whose name, the translator cheerily related, was rather an oxymoron), Chen Jiahao (exemplar of self-preservation and bravery), Guan Heng (tradition and reform), and Hu He (nature and human creation). All the while, the guards stood at attention, occasionally shouting at passerby who got too close though, by and large, the people kept a respectful distance.

Finally, it was finished, and the sun was a good deal lower: golden over the concave rooftops of the vast city. There was a brief but long-lasting moment where nobody seemed quite sure what to do. Then, Governor Hou began barking orders in rapid fire ReTanese, too fast and complex for the likes of mere learners of the language to catch more than the odd word. He spoke, in particular, to a guard with a slightly embellished uniform and the woman translator. Both answered crisply in the affirmative. The governor smiled widely and nodded in the direction of the students before he had his horse brought up. The guards pushed the crowd back, clearing the way for him, and some of the people began to call out with various entreaties, prostrating themselves on the ground. No matter. This was no place for that sort of business. It was to be handled by official avenues. Then, he was mounted, and the ten other men followed, the colourful Wu Long clearly employing some magic to leap atop his horse with barely an effort. Other than that, magic had seemed... strangely absent from the cityscape and crowd, at least compared to the more familiar environs of Ersand'Enise.

The translator fixed her hair for a moment and turned to them, glancing back at the retreating governor and exemplars a couple of times. She knit and unknit her fingers and bowed again. "Nice to meet you!" she exclaimed. "My name is Jiang Xiulan. In ReTan, ze second name is actually ze given name: opposite wiss your countries, I sink. You can call me Blossom, zough." She seemed to be stifling a giggle. "I have been choosed to your local guide of ReTan while you live here."

There were nine guards remaining and one, in an embellished uniform, stood at their head. Tall and muscular, he was clean-shaven, short-haired, and definitely not unattractive, with an upright posture and martial bearing. "This is guard captain Zhu!" Xiulan explained, gesturing rather grandly in his direction. He bowed stiffly at the waist. Then, to their surprise, he spoke. "Nice to meet you," he said in heavily-accented Avincian. "I am Zhu Kai. Sorry I Afince not good."

"He make the speech by his self," Xiulan explained. "He has many practicing." She tried not to giggle. "I sink maybe he's Avince not so good, but maybe mine not so good also, hmm?"

"I understand you," the guard captain said, deadpan, and Xiulan blushed fiercely. "See!" she exclaimed, "He improve already!" Turning his way for a moment, she spoke in rapid-fire ReTanese, and it was clear that she was just translating for him and then asking him to prepare the guards to start moving. They carried on a brief conversation before she turned back to the group. "He would like me introduce he's gauds." She gestured to them in turn and they all gave slight bows or nods or salutes. "Guad-man Peng, Wang, Dai, Chen, Huang, Zhang, Zheng, Xie, and Zhou." Xiulan scampered out to the front of the group, twisting on her heel. "Zey will with us for all of time we're here, but we will go ze inn where you live first." She smiled broadly and her voice dropped conspiratorially as she began to lead them. "I sink you were very lucky, actually. This place is usually so expensive, but offered you stay free."

Captain Zhu marched out front, four of his men flanked them to each side, and one brought up the rear. Beyond the human walls of their escort, curious onlookers either glanced their way or followed them, some chattering rapidly among themselves in ReTanese or something that sounded similar but was definitely different. Many waved or smiled, and children zipped and weaved among the crowds. It was near to sunset and at least a handful of bedraggled looking mothers, aunts, or grandmothers tried to corral the excited little people. "We take you zere tonight and you rest and settle in," Xiulan was saying. "No talk about traveler yet. Your real work should begin tomorrow."

So, they followed. What choice did they have? They contented themselves in conversation with each other or their guide and caught little glimpses of life in this place that was so strange and yet so familiar as well. Vendors were busy closing up shop for the day. The last couple finished haggling and the doors of many of the large tenements were constantly opening and shutting as their residents arrived home from their daily responsibilities. The wide street that they were on became a smaller one, and then a smaller one still after a few turns, and they could catch glimpses of the ocean and the strange sails of ReTanese ships in the near distance, just beyond a couple more rows of houses, shops, and warehouses. It smelled very much like fish for a bit, but then they were past it and turning onto a slightly larger road. It was late Rezain up here in the northern hemisphere, it struck them, and the trees burned gold, orange, and red with fast-shifting leaves.

Kaureerah, for one, was happy to be done with the onerous introductions, and was now feeling inspired by the scenery. She walked along towards the rear of the pack, giving the two couples their space, and pulled out her lute. She began strumming chords and humming and this served only to further entrance the groups of people who seemed to loosely follow along. "Hell-lo!" came the odd shout, as the locals employed the only Avincian that they knew. "Welcome ReTan!" said one who was particularly good. Smoke from cooking fires began to fill the air as the sun dipped below the rooftops, and a little boy and girl sat on the edge of one of these, dangling their feet over and munching on some sort of steamed bread. Mouths full, feet kicking idly back and forth, they both started at the sight of the foreigners and waved. "Almost zere," Xiulan assured them cheerfully, "And I sink dinner will be ready! Do you ever try ReTanese cooking before?" She seemed excited.

They hadn't gotten very deep into the subject when the guards came to an abrupt stop, forcing the rest of them to. Captain Zhu barked out orders rapidly and four of his men - Wang, Xie, Zhou, and Chen - split from the formation and rushed off down a sidestreet.

"Wha... what just happened!? Rikard demanded, and Kaureerah ceased her soft strumming. They had sensed the use of some kinetic magic in that general direction. Some people retreated indoors, though others seemed largely unbothered.

Xiulan's hands bunched up the folds of her dress and she glanced about in thin reassurance. "Oh, nossing to worry about, friend! Just some silly guy probably tries steal a chicken or somesing. Not your traveler agent, haha! It is guad's job go stop small sings like zis. No worry, I sink. We can keep walking. We can meet them there at ze inn." She pointed to a large building with a little manicured garden out front and waved them forward. Guard Captain Zhu, after a quick, wary glance in the direction his men had gone, nodded and seemed to relax. He managed a reassuring smile. "Okay," he declared for their benefit. "Okay, we go."

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by YummyYummy
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YummyYummy Ayyyyy

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Afternoon of Assani 15th - 3:00 HE

6 Days Remain

Present: Ashon’amar’loiyang @Ti, Cal’tuuro’jaros @Suicharte, Casii’fyret’alan @Pirouette, Dorothea Hohnstein @Jasbraq, Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora @Force and Fury, Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft @Wolfieh, Edyta Łaska, Manfred Hohenfelter, Qasem Laghmani @Tackytaff, Ymiico’luun’yoru @Salsa Verde

Mandelein's Location

Altogether, they stepped into a faraway land most had never seen, but a few have, and even some could find familiarity in. The smell of wet soil predominated over the bright, grey glare of light coming from the covered skies. Then their feet felt cold, wet and bogged down by the mud beneath. A drizzle greeted the group in what was once a dirt path passing through thick wood, now an accumulation of puddles that didn’t properly empty into the gutters, although they also seemed quite full too. The winds were, surprisingly, not too strong.

The common yew trees did little to help against the downpour, if anything the dangling parasitic vines and plants added to the wet hazards the group had to deal with, but the frequent birch trees offered some solace to those unequipped. The group could choose to deal with the abundantly wet path, or stick to the trees for better cover, although puddles and mud traps were to be expected regardless.

The Stresian months and the first major rainfalls ushered in the awakening of new or slumbering life. There were many plants that began their life cycles during this season, with some of the most notable being pitcher plants of various sizes, and even more notable among them were considerably larger carnivorous flora - big enough that one could believe it’d downright swallow an infant if it could. Most had vivid colours and a pleasant scent, likely as lures for prey. What was even more noticeable than flowers, however, were mushrooms. Yes, with such a damp environment, it’d be no surprise that the group could come by many, with quite a couple of large ones standing out: A flat, gold-brown with white sides that grew in patches near trees with some getting as big as dinner plates, and then were were beautiful, red fungi with white-gold sunburst patterns on them. The latter type wasn’t nearly as big as the first one, but certainly outdid all the more commonly seen plants.

Clinging to a birch tree’s bark was a squirrel with its cheeks filled with something, rapidly shifting its attention in multiple directions as it heard the approaching travellers coming. Its big, fluffy tail inflated a little and its cheeks tightened. Then, a few stirs from a nearby puddle had it quickly rush up to the tree. The thunder didn’t instil its flight response as much as what emerged from the puddle: A salamander! It lazily emerged from the puddle, still covered in a thick coat of mud and mucus and just floated there, staring at the visitors with its wide, black eyes. They didn’t just emerge from water, as Qasem, the man likely the least in his element, would find out. Right by his foot emerged a young one, very much harmless attempting to slap his ankle with its underdeveloped tail while keeping its mouth agape as if it was shouting. Some of the Yasoi could maybe feel a little more at home here.

It was, overall, a peaceful trip through a path leading ever so slowly toward Mandelein. About an hour in, and they could see through the rain-induced fog signs of civilization on the horizon. They were getting close! And with such good news came a bellowing, distorted roar that reverberated through the trees, best described as inhuman and almost even unnatural. There was nothing of note in their drawing range, however, and nothing else like it occurred afterwards.

They would also encounter a very familiar animal at the distance: A human. A mere shadow at this current distance and out of drawing range for non-tethered. Just as they would notice it, the figure waved at them in what looked to be a friendly manner. They knew the group was there. And behind that figure were two more silhouettes. As they came closer, their features were more distinguishable, with all of them wearing rain cloaks, although one seemed content with a simple tricorn hat.

Hast du dich Verlaufen, alter?

The voice of a woman called for them as she waved once more. She was close enough for them to notice her face through the rainfall. She stopped about thirty metres away from them, one hand on her hip and the other rubbing her chin. The dark haired woman was studying them, taking particular interest in the Yasoi and the Darhannic. She grinned. The other two, one man and one woman, looked toward her, as if waiting for her to say something.

“You lost, friend?” she inquired with a thick Kerreman accent.

And at that moment, they could sense presences entering their ranges: Three from where these strangers came from, three behind the group, and one closing in from each side. They were all running into position, while the three that showed themselves stood in the way, Fünf Affen, ein Wüstenaffe, eine Nonne und drei andere. she tilted her head to address the man behind her with a scarf over his mouth and nose, Was denkst du? the man took no more than a few seconds to size up the group, Nicht von hier. Auch nicht mit ihnen. he answered, to which the ringleader chuckled.

The group could see the converging individuals ready themselves, some at range with what were likely rifles, some others were closing in still, “Gut, gut.” she nodded and drew her sabre - quite the beauty, definitely beyond her birth right, especially compared to the flintlock on her off-hand or the muddied and ratty clothing all of them were wearing - and waved the tip toward the Dorothea's direction, paying particular attention to that illustrious crown of her's, “Welcome to Kerremand! Welcome to Mandelein, where there is only one rule ...” she articulated that one well, as if she had rehearsed it many times before. The tricorn-wearing man drew his own, shoddy rifle and the girl a rusted cleaver. If it wasn’t obvious already, this was an ambush.

“Hand over your shit, or we will fuck you up.”

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Tackytaff
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Silas Rieger@Tackytaff, Yuliya Ilyanovich Vasilieva @Suicharte, Nazih Iqbal@Ziegenkonig, Esmi’nesta’tawaar@BlackRoseSiren, Yvain de Berbignon@jasbraq, Penelope 'Penny' Pellegrin@Force and Fury, Sven Bjørnsson

The city the Biros appeared in wasn’t all that different from the one they’d arrived in to chase Harrachora’s flying messenger. Even the portal they had emerged from was nearly identical to that in Hogh Munkhelad, save the missing colossal statue they had waited at. The buildings were just as small, the sky remained a dark stoney ceiling, and the people milling around them were the short and stocky beings they’d come to know as Hegelans.

Two in particular stood ready at attention not five feet away- waiting for them.

“Welcome to Hoch Dorumvir!” The first greeted, in a voice that revealed her to be a woman despite the magnificently dark beard that was broken only by a wide smile of white teeth. Both her hands shot upwards upwards in greeting. Her right reached to Yuliya and her left towards Penny; the first pair to have stepped through. The second of their welcoming party remained silent, arms and brow crossed as they regarded the single Yasoi in the group warily.

“I am Chorily MochMurdo,” Their first continued, vigorously shaking the arrivals hands in a surprisingly strong grip. “My partner Moira and I have been directed to welcome and guide you to our city.”

“Missing one,” Moira finally chimed in, tugging upon the reddish mutton chops that framed her wide jaw. “Meant to be eight of yous.” Her penetrating gaze fell upon Marz next, and the sight of him seemed to give her pause.

“It’s no matter,” Chorily hurriedly continued, bringing her hands together in a loud clap. “There is much to do and-”

The portal flickered to life for a brief second; spitting out a single smallish figure before vanishing again. Silas staggered forward, running into Nazih, and beginning a domino effect within the group that nearly sent them all to the ground.

“-Damned condescending stuck-up prick He muttered, kicking loose gravel and spitting in the place the portal had been before spinning to face the group. “What’d I miss?”

The Hegelan ambassadors lead the Biros through the mercantile district of the city. Vendors of all sorts shouted out to the foreigners, promising goods at exorbitant prices. Chorily headed them to pay no mind, and went so far as to point out the shops that would offer them good quality Hegelan brews and artifacts for their Constantian coins at decent cost between her other chattering comments on the city: Its great history, the unfortunate separation of the Hegelans, and most importantly how Hoch Dorumvir was truly the pinnacle of Hegelan society in culture, craft, and knowledge.

Their final destination proved to be a bunkhouse clearly designed for travelers. The ceilings and doorways were higher, so that all save for Sven and Nazih were able to move about comfortably without crouching. Even the beds indicated to them at the far end of the long hall were larger than the rest. Only the smell; something damp and musky that permeated the entire building, tempered the hospitable atmosphere. Even Moira’s stoney countenance was shaken after being in its presence for more than a few moments

Irkned Margukh.” She grumbled, making a show of covering her nose with a sleeve. “I’ll be outside once you’re done.” Without waiting for confirmation, she spun and walked out the door.

Chorily’s polite smile increased doubly as if to make up for her partner's manners. “Many find the smell uncomfortable, but it cannot be helped,”[/colour] She motioned for the group to move towards a second door, opposite the entrance. Past it was a stable; or something that resembled one. Everything was made of stone, from the pens to the trough, even the floors had no hay to soften them.

There was only one sort of animal housed inside - though there were dozens, kicking and bleating in stalls. Goats - the Constantians would recognize first, thought not like any others they had seen before. These were larger beasts, with impossibly thin legs and narrow hooves supporting a mass of hair and horns; the latter of which curled ornately in perplexing twists so they reached far behind the creatures’ heads.

“Marguhk.” Chorily explained, “They’ll take you as far as Tagayungri. A safe journey this time of year, doubly so with these friends taking you.” The Hegelan woman reached towards the closest stall, where a muzzle appeared in front of strange eyes with cubed pupils. The Marguhk regarded the hand, and failing to find a treat there, began to make for the woman’s beard.

Chied! Chied Remok! A small pair of hands from some unseen person reached from within the stall to pull the Marguhk back by the horns. It relinquished the woman gently, causing Chorily to giggle excitedly. “Not to worry! They’re sweet creatures, well mannered and trained - Will even find their own way home after taking you where you need to go.” She gave the animal a final pat on the nose before ushering the Biros out back the way they’d entered. “Best speak to Moira,” she urged, pointing to the door leading outside, in case they had somehow forgotten. Then she too left, back into the stables where faint sounds of shouting in a foreign language could just barely be heard.

Moira was waiting for them outside, leaning against a stone wall and licking a stone that appeared to be made of amber, which she quickly stored away in a pocket upon seeing them.

“Harrachora told me what you’re to do.” She began, already hurried to be done with the group. “In ten hours you’ll take the Marguhk through the southwest corner of Kyrguz towards Tagayungri - there’ll be a boat to take you from there to Kirimansk. Bring the cargo back upstream again and we’ll have transport to bring you back up the mountain as well. Questions?” The final word came out more as a challenge than an offer of help.

“Why all this traveling?” Penny spoke up, “What was the point of using teleportation magic to take us only part way?”

Moira sighed, and rolled her eyes before looking towards the one-legged girl. “Outsiders don’t use that magic in Vossoriya.”

Penny frowned at the non-answer, “What about the cargo then? Will you at least tell us about that?”

The Hegelan glared at her, produced the amber again, and popped the entire stone in her mouth. “Strange words from down south,” She muttered around the object, her words even harder to understand than usual. “Don’t know and ain’t my problem. Less we have to do with outsiders the better.” And, apparently deciding that was the end of the discussion, Moira left, leaving the Biros to their own devices for the few hours they had remaining before setting off.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ti
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Ti Per Aspera Ad Astra.

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Event: Primitive | Location: Tethered Refuge, High Desert, Torragon

After separated from her new friends, she found herself returning with some old friends to the place they first met. The desert. Despite all the perils, returning here since forever has brought some excitement, as she wondered how life has changed for those who remained behind. She was almost tempted to make a Sand Angel before realizing how embarrassing that would look.

“Remember when we first came here. All those hungry Halassa were chasing us? Jo went pow, one flipped and it cartwheeled away. Then we tricked that big grumpy sand wyrm? It was an adventure.”

It was when they had to be quiet they entered the refugee, she put her game face on, despite the temptation to announce Hola soy Ayla~! in happy reunion.

The biggest surprise was how Amanda, the tethered leader, look so spiritedly and fresh. Even her friend Marci, Amanda’s daughter, was overjoyed at the sight. Though, news from her grandfather drew concern.

The mention of the Ruins of Zaqhoria though… was different. No excitement or adventure there. Only death. Ayla nodded, as with Zarina, but the three of them were not enough. “We barely escaped when it was six of us and a royal sand wyrm…” This is definitely not a good omen.

However, there was something she could do.

“As for the other problem. We have the solution for this.”

Ayla went into her satchel, as she pulled out a bunch of papers, including an old paper which is approximately 300 years old from when she was last here, with an additional letter. Adorning her cloak, she started to display her thoughts for others to watch.

“King Sancho is interested as the refuge has a very important position. One that has long been unused and unexploited.” She patted upon the bundle of papers as she pushed it forward to Amanda. “The Refuge is in a prime location between the Northern Coast and the Merapora. This could become a very valuable trade route, especially if trade from ReTan were to avoid the monopoly of Malabash and Virang, and come through Torragon.”

She decided to go fully into the pitch, “This is a plan we have drawn up for the Refuge, yourselves, to become a major trade hub. This would resolve the funding issue, you will no longer rely on others for income, they will be petitioning you for funding. You would experience trade and prosperity, and access to exotic goods. The Refuge will no longer be a remote plan hidden in the desert, the Tethered Refuge will become a gateway to the Merapora.”

“The papers are a petition, and a proposal to King Sancho. It would be a mutual relation in terms of protection, establishing a Suzerainty. In return, you have full internal autonomy, including profiting from the trade travel from the network.” She beams widely, “As fortune happens, my business partner is in ReTan as we speak. She offers her full upport as well, she has a... invested interest with Abdel." Her cheeks blushed as her meaning could be rather evident and clear without the accompanying cute mage of the pair together. My proposal to you is allow our trading company to be the ones to work with you in this, offering an unrivalled partnership as a gesture of continued goodwill towards everyone here.” She spread her arms out.

Though, she knew what was coming next, what was her stake in this, and she aimed to nipped it in the bud. “My ancestor, Alizée Arslan, made a promise to the people here, and as her descendant, it is my responsibility to fulfil it to the best of my ability. This place is home to some of my dearest friends.” She looked around the room, indicating toward Jocasta, Marci and Isabella, including images being displayed of Laella, the children in the classroom, and the many others she encountered here. “So please, take a look through what is there, and it should contain the answers you need. We will do our best to help Escarra in the meantime.”

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ti
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Ti Per Aspera Ad Astra.

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Event: Metropolis | Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan

Maura raised an eyebrow as they seemed to appoint Yalen as the leader of this little troupe, especially as the blonde boy appeared out of his depth. Maura rolled up beside him with a smile beamed toward the deputy Governor Hou Jianhong, the translator Jiang Xiulan, and the others assembled to greet them.

She leant forward in a bow-like gesture as she spoke up to put her Retannese classes to use. “你好。我的名字是商人莫拉。龙湾岛岛主。” Whilst the speech is a little stilted, hopefully it will increase the likelihood of there being positive opinions of the group, and her especially.

She started to follow suit with the others in the company, greeting them one-by-one, allowing for them to introduce themselves whilst providing a suitable name and title in Retannese.

Yalen: “五人信仰的亚伦弟兄”
Trypano: “炼金术士特里帕诺”
Niallius: “光辉之剑的尼亚鲁斯”
Abdel: “调查官阿卜杜勒”
Ingrid: “海巨人英格丽”
Rikard: "雷霆天空的里卡德"
Kaureerah: "海科雷拉之声"

After the official introductions, she allowed the translator to continue her work. She smiled and nodded, “We think your Avincian is good. Hope to learn Retannese as well as you speak it.”

Maura smiled and greeted Wu Long warmly, taking his hand. “Culture and Respect are important. We are honoured to be introduced in such a respectful and hospitable way. We aim to use the opportunity here to learn more about it, and perhaps share our own.”. Whilst it was easy to do pleasantries, the idea of a group of students being expert traveller hunters was rather concerning, also the pang of ‘from your homeland’ felt like it was subtly accusatory. “Evil does not concern itself with boundaries. We will assist the best we can.”

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by McKennaJ71
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Niallus Saberhagen

Event: Metropolis | Location: Wanggang, ReTan

As Niallus and the others came out of the other side of the portal, somehow Yalen arrived at the same time as everyone else. He greeted his friend. A crowd of people seemed to look at the group with their sudden arrival. Others shortly arrived, not doubt the people who the group are supposed to meet with. Didn't expect this many to meet us.

The people that greeted them seemed to be guards and one of them other people seemed to be a translator. The guards bowed in a greeting matter, Niallus smiled and leaned forward, returning the bow to them."A pleasure to meet you.". He didn't seem to mind the assuming that Yalen is the leader of their group. Listening to the translator introduce themselves and the others. Maura was already on that by introducing the party to the translator and their company.
The one thing that did interest him was why all the soldiers have to be introduced, I wonder if it's a tradition for them to introduce themselves, but still it seems over the top. no matter, he kept that though in case someone else picked up on it. With all the introductions it was already starting to get dark, so the party was escorted to the inn that they were staying. That's another thing that Niallus kept to himself for now, Why are we staying in an expensive inn as she explained it completely free of charge?

As the group walked through the streets. The residents seemed to just look at the students, it seems they are all the centre of attention. But that could mostly be because of Kaureerah. He could hear people speaking in Retannese. Hearing Kaureerah play her music seemed to put people into high spirits. Rikard was even joing in with her little musical moment. The couples of the group walked together. Abdel and Maura holding hands. Niallus offered his to Ingrid. The culture and the scenery here is amazing. Hopefully we'll get some time to do some exploring around, trying some the food. Maybe the couples can spend time just with each other

His thoughts came to abrupt end, as the party stops to a small disturbance. whatever it was, it put the guards on alert with them mobilising to respond with Captain Zhu taking charge. Somethings going on, probably best for us to not get involved just yet. Xiulain explains that it is just a petty theft and we shouldn't worry about it. In front of the group, was the inn. Given how quick the day went by, seems that everyone wants to get settled in first before we start with our task.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 9 hrs ago Post by BlackRoseSiren


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Event: Cold Comfort. Location: Hoch Dorumviri.

Stepping through the portal, Esmii got mixed feelings about the two that greeted the group. A nice welcome from Chorily, while the other one just gave her a cautioned look. Esmii didn't say anything, instead she just smiled and waved at them. As the portal closed, it came to life once more, spitting Silas out. Esmii managed to move out of the to avoid Silas collision with the others. "Oh Silas, there you are."

She kept close to the others as the Hegelan lead them through the city. Esmii was in awe by all the stuff that she was seeing for the first time. "Oh wow. Look at the place." she says with glee. She wants to stop to look at some of the stuff that some of the merchants were selling, but she behaved, since Sven was holding her hand.

Once getting to the bunkhouse, it seemed Nazih and Sven were a bit relieved since they had more space for them, since they were so tall. For people like Esmii it didn't matter much. Sitting on the bed a little bit to get herself sorted, the smell didn't really seem to bother her much, since the swamps from her homeland smelled a lot worse, especially in the summer. "It doesn't smell that bad"She mumbled to herself. Wanting to share her bed with her boyfriend, but she didn't want to make him feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, so she offered him the bed next to hers.

Once sorted, the group set out again with more travelling. Penny even mentioned it being such a pain since we could of just teleported there. when Moira explained why, it kinda made sense. Esmii was also interested in the cargo too. But Moira was very little help in explaining the details about it
"Dont worry Penny, I'm sure we'll be fine." she says, reassuring her friend with a smile.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by pantothenic
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pantothenic bored part-timer

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Event: Metropolis

From the outset the Rettanese ambassadors seemed intent on treating Yalen as the leader. Some of his fellow Biros were okay with that, some appeared to silently take issue, and some didn’t seem to care. In his case, he was glad to have such a role fall into his lap with no effort on his part. The more these strangers trusted his authority the easier it would be to make himself heard when necessary. This whole mission would go smoothly as long as they could keep the local government on their side.

Being courteous in a foreign country was not that hard. Yalen copied what the political officers did: when they saluted, he saluted, and when they bowed he bowed back. These people knew he was a foreigner and had brought in the appropriate translators, so he was not embarrassed by his lack of understanding of the language. If anything bothered him at all it was the sheer amount of time they were wasting on mere greetings, when they could be working on catching the Traveler’s spy within the city. Anything related to the topic of that man instantly put him on edge.

”Hello. Yes, hello there. Nice to meet you.“ Yalen politely droned on as each civil servant stepped forward to introduce themself. Everyone had similar things to say about themselves and the hour was quite boring, broken up by the sudden Constantian style greeting offered by the man named Wu Long.

I better remember this fellow for later. He thought to himself.

Once the ceremony was over it was finally time to move on, and Yalen was glad for it. As the team walked around the densely packed city he carefully observed the common folk. Did they appear underfed? Was anyone sick? Were there obvious signs of poverty in the area? His eyes searched for clues regarding things of this nature, as these were factors that were commonly exploited by the Traveler to incite revolts. There had to be a reason for this city to be targeted in all of Rettan.

Yalen’s hand went straight for the scepter strung at his waist when he felt the kinetic disturbance. He was on a very light trigger right now. Their guide was not bothered by this, or at least was trying to look that way, and he didn’t want to press the issue when they were still fresh off the boat in an unknown land. Yalen wouldn’t try to assert himself until he had gotten a better feel for their Rettanese companions.

”Lead the way Blossom. It would be nice to discuss our future moves over a meal.”
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by YummyYummy
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YummyYummy Ayyyyy

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Assani 15th

Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Early Evening
Characters: Abdel, Maura @Ti, Ingrid @dragonpiece, Niallus @McKennaJ71,
Yalen @Pantothenic, Trypano @A Lowly Wretch, Rikard @Force and Fury, Kaureerah,
Loads of ReTanese folks, Jianhong, Xiulan, Wu Long, Captain Khu, Dayanara, Qadira, Zorayas

Their arrival in the gargantuan nation went without a hitch, if the eerie appearance of Yalen freaking out Abdel a little didn’t constitute a hitch, anyway. He didn’t overreact, just a long, rude stare as he wondered if he was seeing things. Perhaps this staring was one of the causes for Yalen being designated as the de facto leader of the group, much to Abdel’s girlfriend’s disappointment. And boy did she make her disappointment known in her own way.

The tedium that was introduction customs were made known quickly to them, prompting the younger Tethered boy to shift his attention to the lavishly clothed entourage of the deputy head governor. Abdel formed a fist with his right hand and rested his flat left hand over it, offering brief bows as he saluted each with the gesture. “Investigator?” he sheepishly asked with a smile, “我只是找人.” he clarified, shaking his head in light embarrassment.

The nearby guards took Dayanara and Qadira by the bridles they wore, much to their complaining, although Abdel made sure to sedate them. Still, he didn’t feel alright letting these non-native creatures be handled by beastmasters that don’t even know what they are. He made sure to keep track of them with his range, if only to temper their moods. Meanwhile, Zorayas was dormant inside his tunic, its presence reduced to almost nothing and its body flattened enough to make it seem like there was just a bend in his tunic. The critter was a bit scared in this new environment, probably.

Colourful individuals passed and they were left with an armed entourage and a guide to keep them leashed for the time being, “Hey,” he whispered to Maura “Isn’t governor something like 省长, kind of like your title on that island?” he kept his eyes on his guide, careful to not blurt out his very accented ReTanese too loudly, “And that Wu Long guy, his titles sounded like some Pentad names we learned in our fir-” then an interruption.

Abdel reached out with the gift in an attempt to find out what was going on without really thinking of the consequences of being a little too inquisitive. Not that any of them knew he was Tethered. The young Virangish smiled at captain Zhu, “望岗,” he hummed a moment as he tried to form a somewhat coherent sentence, “就像街上的大动物?” he spoke with as much of an accent as the guard did in Avincian - an attempt to show as much effort as he did toward them. Locals liked that, he had learned.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Penny normally would not have been the sort to ask a question of a clearly hostile host, but she could tell that everyone had wanted to ask and none had the courage to do so. What do I care if Miss 'Stay Away From Muh Home' doesn't like me? Not like I'll ever see her again. Truth be told, it irked Penny. It shouldn't have, but it did, and the bearded lady had said just enough to make her uneasy about the mission because she knew that there was a lot more being left unsaid. If you're going to throw us into mortal danger, the least you can do is tell us what's really going on. It didn't sit right, on top of what the Arch-Zeno had told her: it really didn't, and the eighteen-year-old found herself wondering why she'd even agreed to this whole thing. This is not something a future ruler of Perrence does. You're not a tool, Nel. Fuck! It was her need to do something 'useful', she knew: a thirst for some sort of ill-defined 'adventure' after seventeen years of being confined to the palace grounds. Rash decisions from a stupid girl with insecurities. She had half a mind to kick the partially open door, but restraint was a good thing to practice, and she didn't.

Really, she wanted to vent, or at least express her worries, but she had nobody here except Yuliya and Yvain who she really knew or trusted, and... they were both dubious for different reasons. Esmii had tried to be nice and Penny had thanked her, but she'd already learned that the yasoi was like that with everyone. 'Helpful' was her default setting, and I don't know you well enough to confide, anyhow. Besides, she'd been giving that big Eskandish boy goo-goo eyes the entire time. They were an item and... Ugh. Maybe that's why Penny had found herself falling into a 'mood': Jammy wasn't here and she already missed him and she worried. He was in West Kerremand, Eshi-damned cesspool that it was, and they couldn't look out for each other. A metaphorical vise tightened around her stomach. If anything happens...

She shook her head and she... walked. She had the day here, in this place she'd never visited before, she had a satchel, and she had some money to spend. If the one-legged woman was an object of curiosity here, it was just as much because she was a human as anything else. The familiar ambient sounds of a city echoed back towards her in an unfamiliar way. It was weirdly claustrophobic: no sky above, save the ever-lingering haze towards the top of the vast cavern, and the all-encroaching dimness. Even with the gas torches, the mirrors, and the skylights carved into the stone, it was like moving about in the later moments of dusk. Her eyes adjusted well enough, though. They were yasoi eyes and she was the only one in her family who had managed to inherit them from an ancestor some four generations back. It was enough of a sensory smorgasbord for her worries to start fading. Her crutches clicked and her foot thumped and she lost herself in the familiar ritual of just moving: moving nowhere in particular.

First, she picked up some traveling clothes: just as anyone might expect of a foreign girl in a strange place, but then Penny decided to go for something else. She worked her way to where the firearm vendors were and put down ten magi on an imbued pistol. Knowing what she knew, she moved to where they sold explosives. "Uz chlud" she assured the confused seller, having looked the words up in her little book of translations beforehand. "U... ligha...ich... muhl." She mimicked an explosion, even providing sound effects. The flinty-eyed Hegelan on the other side regarded her intently for a moment. Then, his facade broke. He reared back and laughed. Penny blushed and laughed nervously herself. "Iiiid... lugh? U dolris...tiss muhl... she flipped furiously through the little guidebook. "Vadu!"

There was another pause as the laughter died down. The small man on the other side smiled thoughtfully. He let out a sigh, held out his hand expectantly, and Penny promptly placed the two magi in his palm. He pocketed them and then moved about his stall, procuring and packaging just what she'd asked for. He handed her three little bundles and she slipped them into her satchel with a small bow of gratitude and an overpracticed "Tim Unkh!" Then, she was off, so pleased with herself that she was practically skipping. Just wait 'til I tell you all about it, Jammy! She hoped that he was having as much fun as she was but, first, it was time to put in an appearance with Yuliya and go shopping!

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by dragonpiece
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Ingrid Penderson

Event: Metropolis

Upon arrival, Ingrid subtly looked around to see the buildings and people. She had heard so much of it in her Retanese class and finally being there was quite the experience. However, they were not here as tourists but as hired mages to snuff out the traveler agents. They met with the officials as Ingrid expected until Maura decided to give her a name. Ingrid let off a small laugh, ”我更喜欢贵族学者英格丽," bowing and making no other note of it for now.

Wu Long intrigued Ingrid, he was the only one to break the set etiquette. Maybe it related to his title as Model of Creation and Destruction? It didn’t matter too much at the moment but he definitely made himself known with his introduction, publicly saying it was our evil that is causing them harm, and the only model to openly use magic. Strange indeed.

Soon the official left and Jiang Xiulan, their translator and guide, remained. She called over the guard captain, Zhu Kai, and some quick introductions were made. It was quite impressive that he spoke any Avincian at all. Ingrid made note of the guards that were accompanying them since Kai took the time to introduce them she gave a smile and light thanks to them.

Ingrid was originally going to address Maura during the walk about the stunt she pulled in front of the officials but resigned herself to doing it at the inn they were provided as it seemed that the locals enjoyed seeing foreigners. Instead, she waved to people and said hello back in Avincian. Taking in how the people were toward the hours of Eshiran. Keeping Niallus’s hand away until Ingrid understood Wánggǎng’s take on such matters. When Blossom brought up Retanese food Ingrid perked up, "I’ve had the luxury of trying it a few times but the chefs always told me that it would be better in Retan," she excitedly said.

The guards ran off and Ingrid wasn’t sure why at first, she wasn’t sensing anything so she must have missed it. Either way, it wasn’t something extreme Ingrid assumed. If it was, she would have sensed it without needing to actively search. Odd to say the least. Blossom’s and Kai’s attempts to reassure were not very effective for Ingrid. She has seen how the Traveler’s followers create small disturbances that lead to larger traps. One time against a century and her friend, and one time against her. Ingrid kept on edge for the time being, respecting their attempts to seem to reassure us. Looking to guard captain, "如果能从您的角度快速处理这个问题,那就太好了."

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Tackytaff
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Qasem Laghmani

Castle Mandelein I

The rain reminded Qasem of home. Unfortunately, that was where the familiarity stopped. Kerrimand smelled of mud and moss, and the water only served to seep into their clothes and leech out what little heat they still had. Curiosity alone kept his spirits from falling completely. Qasem made no hurry to keep up with the others; for all the discomforts of their journey, there was novelty and discovery to be had. He plucked the sun-burst fungi, cutting small pieces into vials for later examination. Moss from the sides of yew trees made it into his sack as well- as did the carnivorous plant’s leaves.

He almost regretted not having the time or ability to sketch the origins of the collected samples. Not that there would have been time to do so, he had fallen behind already, but before he could move to catch up, another distraction came. A small salamander approached his foot in an attempt to debilitate him with his tail, and devour with his toothless maw.

“Hello small one,” He cooed, reaching down to scoop the creature up. The sticky coating intrigued as much as it disgusted him. Qasem rubbed the substance between his fingers before smelling it, and eventually putting it to his tongue, hoping either the taste or interaction with his own body chemistry would help identify its properties.

Once finished his analysis of the animal, he reached out, so that the infant salamander hung over the large pitcher plant- a sort of offering, in an attempt to discover its reaction to a potential meal.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by A Lowly Wretch
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A Lowly Wretch The Listless Loiterer

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So. This was her mission...

To be sent off to yet another foreign place who's language and customs were presently unknown to her. If Zenith Upta had given them a few days to study at least a rudimentary understanding of this locale it would have given them enough to work with. As it stood she was basically dependent on the few among them who actually studied this locale. While the Zenith had sold them on the idea that the country might be seeking to deepen trade relations what this really meant was it would benefit the Academy's relations. Ultimately, securing any kind of trade benefit from this was grim.

Ugh. Here she was absorbed with thoughts of trade and commercial progress again. It all reminded her of those gods-awful family dinners where her father would talk her ear off about the one thing that stayed at the forefront of his mind: Business.

Going through the motions one could mistake her for a statue. She moved as they moved but that was about it. Her eyes maintained a forward focus, leading towards the destinations they were shepherded to and fro, blinking infrequently. If she was breathing it was not overtly evident, virtually no rise or fall to her chest. Her other senses were the ones taking in the information she needed. Her ears searched not for words for there were few she could really use. No, they searched through the noise, picking out each element to add to the model of her surroundings she was mentally constructing. Her manas were the ones doing the real observations however. Taking in the density and geometry of surrounding materials, evaluating their compositions, tallying both in count and in overall mass.

She stood and went through the motions as they introduced what these people probably felt were important individuals. They might of held important social roles but the only measure she was making of them was of their magical potential and equipment. Picking out the magicians of their government would likely prove important in their task in rooting out the agent of the Traveler. The chances of their target hiding in plain sight was not zero.

Still mechanical as ever she moved with stony gravitas, their guide making chatter with the chattier of her group-members. Such was not the case with her however. She was neither interested in what the others were saying nor in the rough Avincian of their guide as they rattled on regarding tertiary matters. The first thing to visibly grab Trypano's attention thus far however was the fact that guards had separated from their group. This seemed to be non-standard behavior. Their guide tried to write it off but in these matters it was better to assume the worst and be wrong than to do otherwise.

Nonetheless she did not act, outside of continuing on the path laid out by their guide. She was the least suitable person to pursue the answer here, both because of how little depth she had in their culture and due to the fact she was a virtual giant in these lands. She was taller than even Ingrid and most of these people barely came up past her bust. If ordinary Revidians were short by comparison to them then these people were tiny.

Needless to say there wasn't a single thing she'd be doing that would go unnoticed in this city. Better to let the others get involved and standby to aid them when necessary.

Involved - @dragonpiece,@Force and Fury,@YummyYummy,@pantothenic,@McKennaJ71,@Ti.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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All who have been to Inner Torragon know it well: the place may pretend to be Avincian, but it is not. From the buildings to the language, to the people, its soul is that of old Zaqhoria and, when the sun rises over the desert, it knows no mercy. After promising to discuss matters at length with Ayla later on, Amanda led them down to the stables. It was still early morning, the rooftops of San Agustin silhouettes bathed in dawn's harsh light. The handful of people about inclined their heads respectfully towards her and her guests as they passed. "Madre," murmured more than one. Coasting smoothly down the smooth old stones, she greeted them in kind but did not stop. Jocasta and Isabella followed in her wake, all three pairs of arms moving in almost perfect synchronization. Then, they turned off of the main path and were there. There were two stablehands about, feeding and preparing the animals. They bowed. "Madre."

"Luisito." Amanda returned his gesture. "Mauro."

She eased herself onto the hay-covered floor, rolling up to one of the horses and and patting the side of its head. "As I explained upstairs, we are a bit short on horses just now," she advised, twisting to face the others as she adjusted one of the animals' bridles. "But I suppose you have other ways of getting where you're going now. Am I wrong?"

Glancing Zarina's way, Jocasta turned back to face the woman who had been the closest thing to a mother she had ever known. "You are not," she admitted. "I may save us a day's venturing out into the desert by means of magic."

Finished with the horse, Amanda gave it a final pat. She smiled, businesslike. "Just as well," she admitted with a shrug. "We did not have enough for you anyhow." With that, she rolled over to the horse's saddle and, from a long pouch, procured a rolled-up map. "Over my shoulders. Come." She unrolled it and held it across her lap as a few of them leaned in. "He left two days ago, for the ruins of Zarfan, down La Boca." Amanda pointed it out on the map and shook her head. "He's out of our sensing range, but he should be well set up there by now." Her eyes flicked between the members of the group. "If you can teleport, then you can get there and relieve our rangers. We need them for defense."

"And I'll send them back?" Jocasta inquired, though it was more statement than question.

Amanda nodded. "I don't imagine it should take long," she decided. "So I'll only keep one of you behind." She smiled softly and some colour rose in her cheeks. "You wouldn't begrudge a mother some time spent with her child, would you?"

Marci started. "I um... I don't wanna be deadweight I can -

"Stop acting tough," chirped Isabella, "and go see your mom while you still can. Besides, you'll be guarding San Agustin, right?" Was she suppressing an ironic smirk or was she not?

"You're mine, little calabaza."

"Seriously!? Are you trying to make me die of embarrassment, mom?

Amanda grinned. "Never, precious!"

"You're making me wanna fight a sand wyrm."

In short, she stayed.

It was early in the morning when a portal glowed bright and rippling in the courtyard of the refuge. Amanda sat in silhouette, with Marceline at her side, hair whipping like black snakes in the wind coming off of it. They waved and then, with a little salute from the last of the five, Ayla, Zarina, Yalen, Isabella, and Jocasta were through.

It was always as if she had blinked, so sudden was the change in reality. Reddish-beige cliffs rose to either side of Jocasta and she was on the hard, gravelly dirt beside a small watering hole. In the near distance rose the weathered ruins of Cervan - or Zarfan, to its original inhabitants - carved partially into the cliffside. She could see anyone here, so she reached out with her magic senses for Escarra and his rangers, only to find...


They weren't there and, in fact, neither was anyone. A pinch of worry invading her insides, Jocasta twisted to look up at Yalen and over at Isabella. "You guys drawing a blank too?" she prodded, and their answers were affirmative. It was time to reach further, and so she spread her senses out, sweeping the region at ranges only her fellow tethered could come close to reaching. There were the usual energies: arcane from the sun, kinetic from the wind and the shifting sands, and the agglomerations of both combined with chemical that denoted living things. Yet, as she searched further still, an invisible mass settled itself atop her stomach and she felt her pulse quicken.

She found a group seven people about three kilometers to the northwest, close to where they'd found the aberration a year ago. Only, they seemed to be on top of some kind of rock promontory, or so the kinetic energy of the wind lashing against it told her. However, they were not alone. Jocasta's gut wrenched itself further and her hands tightened around her wheels. "It's a sand wyrm," she rasped, voice barely above a whisper. She twisted to take in the others. It was... at least... "A fucking alpha." damned near three hundred feet in length. It was circling them. This didn't make sense. Sand Wyrms were supposed to be rare, and they rarely went after something so insignificant as a human unless it was opportune. In her entire life up until last year, she had seen precisely one: breaching the sand about half a mile distant, from the refuge walls. That was the day that monsters had become real to a twelve-year-old Jocasta. But she was a monster too, she remembered.

"It has them trapped on some kind of rocky outcropping, two miles north-northwest!" she shouted, already drinking a massive amount of energy in from her surroundings. The winds went still, the sky darkened, and the air grew colder. If it was clear that they were trapped and could not harm it, the Wyrm would emerge from the sand and pursue them overland. She had no idea how long it would be until that happened: it could yet be hours; they could be mere moments from death. "We need to go right now!" she screamed. "Right now!" A portal tore apart the air before them. Dimly, she could feel the leviathan in the distance as it broke the sand and belched white-hot fire. One of the little human energy signatures, too slow to react, was consumed. "Wait! Yalen and Isabella: keep your range!" she commanded, "I'm only going there to port them out." She suited words to action, barrelling through.

She emerged right into the eye of the storm: a maelstrom of 2700°F fire.

The portal swirled and warped and then, as if they'd just been thrust from a popped bubble, five young men emerged into the burgeoning late morning heat of Torragon's Dune Sea. They were Evander, Desmond, Fiske, Benedetto, and Tku. Not all of them stuck the landing but, when they looked up, there was a man and a woman waiting for them, looking more than a little bit anxious. Their eyes, seeming unfocused at first, quickly snapped to the group. They were Yalen and Isabella and they didn't waste any time upon recognizing who the five. "It's a Sand Wyrm."

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by dragonpiece
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Into the Fire

Tku ungracefully popped out of the portal, creating a sponge beneath him to absorb the fall. "Not my finest entrance but I'm alive," he stood up and shook off the sand. The scorching sun of the Torragonese desert set in quickly. He loved the sun but being placed in it after quite literally being under a giant rock was jarring. They were not alone, it seemed, a girl Tku knew as Isabella and a boy: Yalen.

"Sand Wyrm? Is Tan-Zeno Re confronting it?" He asked. He looked around and couldn't spot it. He clicked his tongue, "Do you have a way of getting us there?" Tku asked, posing it to the rest of his compatriots.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Benedetto was spat out of the portal with velocity, and he hit the ground, rolled, and sprung nimbly to his feet, taking a whiff of that dusty desert air. This fucking place. His face immediately screwed itself up in a scowl and he spat, scanning his surroundings, before his eyes seized on... discount Jocasta and Jocasta's manwife. Where was the bitch herself? He did a second sweep and couldn't pick up her distinctive magical stench anywhere. Not in range.

Then, Tku landed with all the grace of an ocean sunfish trying to fly and, after a bit of self-narrative, launched straight into a pair of questions, the answers to each of which were obviously 'yes'. The Revidian let out a snort, crossed his arms, and sat on a rock. He could take it or leave it. The ruins were right here. They could ditch the others, leave them to fight a sand wyrm, and go take the glory and riches for themselves. Benny certainly didn't need Jocasta's help, but... it might be fun to punch a sand wyrm, and he knew that slimy Inipori who'd sent them - the one who'd just disappeared Silas - didn't like her and probably wanted to see her dead. Benny didn't really want to give that scumbag what he wanted...

He didn't wait for the tethered to respond to Tku. "How 'bout the others? They chopped liver or something?" He shook his head, standing and starting to search for a less familiar type of energy. "If they're not here, they're fighting it, but I got a way we can get there, I guess." He tilted his head to one side and grinned.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by YummyYummy
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Assani 15th

Location: Torragon, Refuge of St. Agustin - The Desert.
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Morning
Characters: Zarina, Ayla @Ti, Jocasta @Force and Fury,
Yalen @Pantothenic, Isabella, Amanda, Marceline, Rangers,
Riesco, Nibbler.

Dawn arrived with Amanda briefing the group. The platinum warrior prepared Riesco and her gear for an inevitable life or death situation that these missions seemed to entail.

Then, they set off. This time without any dromedaries as portals were all the rage. Except, of course, for Zarina herself and her heavily armoured steed she seated herself over. And there was Nibbler, wearing his thermal sweater levitating seamlessly over Zarina’s head. Marceline was left behind, leaving them with a squad of five, soo to be four meant to meet up with the rangers.

But they were gone. Nowhere to be found by their Tethered duo within the ruins. However, Jocasta was quick to warn the group of a familiar foe, albeit this time an alpha, “Starting with a callback for this sequel, huh?” she remarked as she slid her silver helmet over her head, completing her set, “We did this once before. We’ll do this even better.” Nibbler braced himself onto her helm while Riesco neighed as he charged into Jocasta’s portal.

A scorching storm greeted them with the almighty blonde taking in the bulk of it before it could incinerate all within the massive area. It wasn’t enough, and soon they would all die. Zarina’s left arm appeared to expand, taking the form of a large greatshield resembling the head of a dragon with a cannon within its maw. Riesco stomped the sands, grounding himself thanks to his magical horseshoes in front of Jocasta, allowing Zarina to lift her shield and taking in the descending shower of pure, white death. The shape of the shield expanded as if it were melting, covering them as much as possible.

“C’mon you bitch.” Zarina growled inside her helm, “Take. It. ALL!” her idle hand pressed to her forearm to add some stability to her shield, but it would be thanks sand, crag-like formation adding to the shield’s scales and an invigorating warmth filling Zaz that she could eventually deflect the remained of the wain of death with a mighty roar of exertion.

“Nibbler!” she called out to the critter that remained on her head as Ayla seized her opportunity. She too felt empowered, potentially strong enough to even influence an alpha Royal Sand Wyrm.

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