Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Echotech71
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Niallus Saberhagen

Event: Metropolis | Location:ReTan

With Ingrid storming off, Niallus thought it would be best to let her be for the time, Rikard little remark, caused Niallus to stick his middle finger up at the little perv. Turning to the path he wanted to take, he take a couple of seconds for him to get ready to head out. He did hope that he was able to come back in one piece.

Niallus traveled quickly on his own, with nobody else to worry about except himself, and no burdens to slow him down. When he was thirsty, he melted some of the snow and drank it. When he was hungry, he... well, went hungry, but it would only be for a few more hours and he'd gone longer without food before.

But there were other types of slimes on the far side of Bailong Shan, and other types of plants and animals too. It was colder and more remote, with a whistling wind whipping by his ears. In the distance, Niallus could see a large road, full of wagons, horses, and people, winding northwest through a valley, towards the other great cities of Retan. The northeast was comparatively empty, with some other lesser mountains and perhaps a couple of farming villages closer to the coast. Otherwise it was all forest and alpine tundra.

After a while, even with the use of magic, Niallus' caloric intake was just too much. He found himself casting about for something edible, but he was not much of a forager or hunter, truth be told. He passed on a berry bush with unknown fruits and on a Crown Tundra Thumper, a considerable distance away from its usual habitat. Finally, he came upon a yellowish-orange mana slime, draped over a cloudberry bush. These, he recognized from home, wondering briefly if they actually had this sort of ranger or were invasive in one of the two places. After plucking a couple of berries and running a chemical sweep and detecting nothing bad about the slime, he fried it up with a simple heat spell and...

It was, simply put, FUCKING HEAVENLY. It was ambrosia. It was nectar of the gods: soft and sweet and just a bit tangy. Not only that, but he felt... instantly restored and... more than that. A brief headrush caused him to stagger, but then... his energy sense! It was like nothing he had ever felt before! He could sense with incredible precision, and he could sense for... more or less a mile! It briefly occurred to Niallus that maybe he should bring some back to share, but it was just so good that he couldn't do it. He scarfed the rest down with only a tiny shred of guilt. It probably wouldn't have kept that well anyhow.

Thus satisfied, he found himself moving much quicker and much slower at the same time, reveling in his newfound range and keen perception. It was... a magnificent feeling and it would not be long until this new ability would be put to the test. There, in the distance, he could sense energies: Three appeared to be human. A fourth seemed human as well, but... huge. A second scan cast doubt upon the latter assertion. What was that figure!? It... wasn't human at all, though it was close, and its power was huge. Regardless, all four were drawing and casting and it was not the friendly sort. Niallus had a decision to make: to try to get closer and gain more information, or strike decisively from afar. Who to strike, though, if anyone?

Then, as if just to make things even more complicated, he noticed a fifth energy signature, headed at high velocity towards the other four, and it was... weird. It seemed to be one person, but two separate mana colonies, each drawing and casting their own energies. Was this one friend, foe, or something else entirely?

Niallus struggled to adjust to his new found range in sensing magic. Holding his head in his hands in pain from this sudden increase. "This is ridiculous. How can I sense so far away?" he mumbles to himself. It seems that the head spinning effect had passed for the moment and he could focus his ability to sense again. At the end of his range he senses some figures in one direction. "Odd, I didn't think anyone would be up here. Still some are obviously human but that other one could be troublesome." his voice to low whispers. Wanting to investigate, it would be best to stay hidden, with a quick cast of Arcane to make himself invisible, he slowly moves up. Luckily from their mana's acting and drawing they seem to be more preoccupied in other things. In each other or something else he wouldn't know unless he took a look, hopefully they might not take notice of him at first, if they do, he'll have to improvise a way out of this mess.

Getting closer, another person comes into his range, this one had Two mana colonies. What the...Two colonies! he thought to himself. He needs to be more careful now with these strange events.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by YummyYummy
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YummyYummy Ayyyyy

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Assani 17th

Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan
Day of the week: Pandes
Time: Day
Characters: Ming, Qadira, Abdel, The Traveller @Force And Fury

Ming and Abdel were the pair sent to follow-up with one of the trails captured by Qadira the Skuggvar, and brought her along too. By having such an imposing beast in their disposition, the group thought it best that the trio would go to the more back alley location they had sniffed out. It was a warehouse of sorts, near the Foreign Quarter, with a few other larger buildings neighbouring it.

A garage for older carriages was selected to stake out the place. Two heads popped out of the wooden railing of the roof, with Qadira curiously pushing on her hind legs to get a look as well, nearly breaking the structure! Luckily Abdel had a hold of her. Ming could count four guards from sight, and the young Tethered could confirm it with his sensory capabilities.

“We must go quiet. We gain nothing from raising alarms everywhere and cause more collateral damage.” said Ming, ever the steadfast worker.

“We can try to sneak, but that’ll be hard with Qadira.” Abdel looked at his Skuggvar. “I don’t want to leave her unattended either. Maybe we knock one out?”

Qadira grunted.

“The beast is big.” Ming shook his head. “It is too dangerous. I will go in, and you will cover me. Understood?”

Abdel wanted to say something. He really wanted to prove his worth and actually do things. But alas, this was objectively the best way to go about it. Ming was to go alone, attempt to sneak, while Abdel watched from a block away. From there, he had Qadira ready to attack if things went awry.

And they did, sort of. As Ming employed the gift to try and slip in unnoticed, three of the guards dressed in plain clothes were none the wiser. Except for one. He was walking toward Ming with clear intent and off his initial patrol path. Abdel had half a mind to try and attack to knock out, but his intuition told him this was far too risky. They had to act like they had been made.

Just as Ming was going to be intercepted, Abdel and his guard dragon walked up to the man. A man slightly taller than him, which wasn’t common in ReTan. “NinHao!” greeted Abdel with a very forced smile. “我是政府。我需要检查地方 (I’m government. I need to inspect place)” he uttered with minimal charisma which mattered little when Qadira had sublime timing with her burping of her recent meal. It was enough to get the guard’s attention, if he hadn’t noticed the hulking beast already that served as very obvious intimidation.

The guard just smiled as he saw the beast, and even seemed like he wanted to approach it. “政府?但一切都井井有条,长官。(Government? But everything is in order, sir.)” his expression dulled once he addressed Abdel’s approach with a very distinct accent. To which the teen replied. “我们很仓促。也许我们快点? (We are hasty. Maybe we make quick?)” he took out a pack of rolled cigarettes that were in a red box, clearly made to be of high quality. It was a box he had gotten during his classes, and said to be a typical means of ‘acceptable’ bribery among everyday men. Added to this, he had a few incantors to go with it and Qadira’s loud breathing as incentive. Ming exhaled in exasperation from his hidden corner.

The man just chuckled, only looking at the offering once before addressing Abdel again. “先生,我们遵守所有规定。(We are complying with all regulations, sir.)” again, such an odd accent. And this time Abdel picked up on it. “... هل انت من هنا؟ (... Are you from here?)” he inquired in Virangish, much to the enjoyment of the guard. “أرى أن لديك أذن جيدة! أنا أكون. لكنني لست كذلك. (I see you’ve got a good ear! I am. But I’m not as well.)” he beamed at Abdel and shot an even happier smile at the Skuggvar. “من المحتمل أن يكون المستمع الجيد مثلك قد استنتج أن هذه قاعدة ثورية من نوع ما. (A good listener like you has probably deduced this is a revolutionary base of sorts.)”

Abdel gulped. He felt like he had just landed in the lion’s den. His hand reached out for Qadira’s snout. “لا تقلق ، لن أؤذيك. لكن يجب أن أسأل ، لماذا تساعد حكومة مثل هذه الحكومة؟ هل أنت خائف حقًا من عالم يتساوى فيه جميع الرجال والنساء؟ (Do not worry, I will not hurt you. But I must ask, why would you help a government like this one? Are you truly afraid of a world where all men and women are equal?)” Abdel began to draw while the guard enthusiastically began his speech. “هناك حاجة إلى رجال طيبين مثلك إذا كنا سنفوز بهذا! ماذا لو ذكرت لصديقك أن هذا مجرد شيء مضطرب للغاية. عموما لا يهتمون.(Good men like you are needed if we’re ever going to win this! How about you just mention to your friend that this is just a very turbulent enclave thing. They generally don’t care.)” shrugged the man, to which Abdel replied sternly. “لن أفعل. (I will not.)”

Just as the Tethered was ready to use his Magnetic magic in tandem with Qadira’s might, the guard had one final thing to say. “Then, you need to know a few things before you take any step further, Abdel Varga.” Abdel’s ice turned cold as the world around him distorted.

The Rettanese man fell to his knees and nearly hit his head on the stone pavement, only to be caught by Abdel at the last second. Everything was back to normal and not a second was lost in the present. To Ming, the guard had simply fallen over after telling something he couldn’t hear to Abdel. Sceptical of what happened, he emerged from his hiding spot and joined his foreign partner. He wanted to say something about Abdel’s methods, but he ended up just nodding. It got the job done and they had more to do.

“Bring the body inside, we won’t have much time until they suspect something.” whispered Ming as he opened the door to the innards of the warehouse, letting Qadira in first while Abdel started to drag the unconscious ‘Traveller’. The boy could still not believe this was, in some form anyway, the ‘great menace’. He could end this whole shebang right now, potentially. Or not. Chances were the traveller was too strong, that it’d have no effect. But in truth, he had massive reservations over doing it even if there were guarantees of it being permanent.

Once inside and the doors closed behind them, they would be greeted with a few stacks of crates. Near the centre was one crate in particular. It was smaller than the others and placed on a table as if it had recently been filled. Ming nudged his chin toward the box, and Abdel nodded. There were no signs of traps, not in this crate or the others. They began to gut them, starting with this one, though Ming was keen on opening a few nearby ones while Abdel examined the contents.

“Anything beyond clothes and a gun?” he asked, and Abdel had indeed removed both a rifle and a whole set of clothes. A Black Rezaindian set to be exact. “Yeah. You don’t have many Quentics around here, right?” to which Ming denied, it was definitely a rarity and always foreigners.

“Hui - Ash …” mumbled Abdel to himself. “Church clothes and a gun.” he blinked, recalling something from about a year ago. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, and yet it felt vivid. Like he had known someone that had all these pieces fit nicely together. But these weren’t the only things inside. There were also stacks of correspondences, mostly in Perrench.

Good thing Abdel had taken Perrench, and liked it more than Rettanese.

It was a back and forth between two authors: Ash and the one dubbed ‘Sifu’ by the former. Sifu - Teacher. Abdel could deduce that much. And in turn, recalling his trippy exchange earlier, he could already piece together a relationship with the traveller. They were the Sifu. And as he skimmed through the letters, he’d come to discover a breakage in the relationship near the end, shortly after being told of his moniker of ‘Ash’ translating to ‘Hui’ in Rettanese.

“Je regrette cette séparation, Sifu, mais je n’ai pas le coeur de me dévouer aux masses comme vous le faites.” read Abdel out loud. The falling out ultimately came down to Hui’s lack of drive to prop up all the masses and considered himself far more than the master did. Ming perked up, not nearly as proficient in Perrench as Abdel was. “Which means this isn’t about the traveller … The people are being used by Hui!” concluded Abdel, discreet but not enough to not get Ming’s attention. “What isn’t about the traveller?” to which Abdel simply passed the letters to Ming. “I don’t think the head of your problems is the Traveller.”

There was a final piece to consider. An old scroll, worn by age and the ink faded. It was in old Perrench, stuff that Abdel definitely couldn’t read. But he recognized some words. By the date written it was about eight hundred years old, at the time of the Great Heathen War - a piece of History the teen wasn’t too familiar with. Not that he knew much of History in general.


He could deduce these big terms among the faded words, the obsolete formulations and old spellings. That, and the seal of Arcel the Victorious.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Ti Inactive

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Event: Cold Comfort | Location: Kirimansk, Vossoriya

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Suicharte
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Location: Kirimansk, Vossoriya // Characters: Yuliya, Sven@Force and Fury, Khaliun@YummyYummy

Nazih did not enjoy the cold. It wasn't because of any personal, specific distaste. He was just a person from a radically different environment and he didn't fare well in it.

Nazih did not enjoy drinking. It wasn't because of any personal, specific distaste. He was just a person of a different religion and he wasn't accustomed to it.

Nazih did not enjoy being tired. It wasn't because of any personal, specific distaste. Does anyone actually enjoy being tired, after all?

What this all meant was that he skipped the night of raucous drinking in a small Vossoriyan bar in order to get some more sleep. Ideas and suspicions and theories swirled through his exhaustion-addled mind as he undressed only partially and slid beneath the warm fur blankets of his bed. The other two whom he shared the room with were out losing themselves to alcohol, and the only sounds to be heard were the creaking of the walls and the occasional passing wagon or howl of a stray dog in the distant night. It was naught but ten minutes before he was overtaken by a deep and peaceful slumber.

And so it was that for the most part, the house was empty. The two Vossoriyan girls had talked at great length about their plans for the mission, and how they could accomplish it, but Nazih was not part of those discussions. All but the three had gone drinking, and it was a surprise to Yuliya herself that she did not also give in to a night of fun and festivities in her home country for once. Instead, she chose to slate her thirst whilst all were busy, her target predetermined. There she sat, in a bedroom with Khaliun, kicking her legs back and forth as she waited for the time in which she could finally feast.

Nazih however, had gone to an inn within the bubble, so it would have to be a fast thing in order to not come under the sickness that would afflict her within this place.

"Is it time?" she uttered softly, as the hours of Dami were upon them in earnest.

“Better be quick.” warned Khaliun, sitting tranquil on her bed. Her legs could just barely be raised after the Tethering's progress to her thighs, but she managed to rest them straight in front of her while she leaned back against her set of pillows. Her eyes were focused on a wooden tube that could likely fit a pan flute she had been carving until the sun had fully set. “They won't be drinking for too long. The taverns don't stay open as late nowadays in Kirimansk.”

"Then I will be off." Yuliya nodded to Khaliun as she smiled and left the room swiftly, putting her hood up as she proceeded to venture into Kirimansk. These streets were part of her nation, but not familiar to her in the way the capital was and although the architecture was familiar, she still found herself second guessing her turns through the darkened streets. Before long however, she had found the locale that the others had headed to, but there was still the issue of getting where she needed to be, and not being swamped with drunk patrons, or worse, her comrades on the mission who also happened to be drunk patrons. A few possibilities entered her mind, perhaps scaling the wall and entering through a window, or simply walking in like she already had a room, but the smartest in her mind seemed to be just pretending to be another Vossoriyan citizen looking for a room. She wouldn't stand out so much in this place, after all. Her hood remained up, and a scarf was wrapped around her face as she walked into the place, and spoke to the innkeep in a hushed tone, lest her friends hear.

"Привет, одну комнату, пожалуйста.(Greetings, one room please.)"

The innkeeper barely offered Yuliya a second glance. She was some wealthy merchant's daughter looking for an incognito night and he'd seen dozens like her over the course of his twenty-five years at the reception desk. [color=848484]"Односпальная кровать или двуспальная?" (Single bed or double?) he asked.

It was right about then that an extremely tall young man stumbled up behind her, a mug of something alcoholic in hand. Yuliya did a double take, ready to deal with the intrusion in one of her many ways, but then she noticed something. He was... Sven. "Oh hey there Blondie," he slurred, sounding somehow better than he normally did. "Fancy seeing you here!"

"Одинокий(Single)" she barely managed to utter, before some drunk asshole was behind her. For a moment, she thought it must have been Sven, only that he didn't speak like him. Low and behold, she turned around to find the lad she thought it was initially. It was truly baffling, that he had been lisping this entire trip, and for however long she'd known him, but there he was, his words clear as day through the drunken slurring.

[color=pink]"Возьми лишнее и принеси моему другу еще выпить. Самый сильный у тебя"(Take the extra and get my friend another drink. Your strongest) she spoke once more to the innkeep, as she slapped down a nartsis. She missed the feel of them in her hand at school, but they were also the subject of much joking in her nation. She cracked a smile and turned back to the Eskandish lad. "Say Sven, you know what call this coin?" she spoke, holding up one more of the coins she'd paid with, as she thought of a way to get rid of the lad quickly. "Is called Nartsis, but we have special name for it. засранец(zasranets). Means good pal! You want make friend, walk to someone and say 'ты похож на заранца(You look like an asshole)'! Go try!" she spoke to Sven with an earnest smile on her face, and how she wished she could watch the carnage go down, but she had to be somewhere and this would provide a more than suitable distraction.

"You know what, Yuli?" Sven slurred. "That sounds like a really good idea!" He grabbed her with such sudden force that she was taken by surprised, and lifted her off of the ground in a mighty bearhug. Yuliya gave him a slap on the back hard enough to nearly knock the wind out of him and Sven let her go almost immediately. "Wow!" he exclaimed. "You really got some muscles for such a little thing!" He smiled drunkenly. "You and I should really spend more time together, you know." With that, he staggered away, looking for someone to call a asshole good pal.

"Totally! See you soon, with friend Sven!" she smiled politely as she was let down onto the ground. He was a strong lad, but she wasn't shy of such advances, and she watched him leave on his merry way. He was a nice lad, and she might have felt guilty if the fucker didn't delay her so long getting here, but that was swept under the rug as she turned back to the man working behind the counter.

"У меня есть несколько друзей, которые остановились здесь. Темноволосая, гегеланка, одноногая девушка и высокий светловолосый парень. Знаешь их номера комнат"(I have some friends staying here. Darker skinned one, hegelan, girl with one leg and a tall blonde lad. Know their room numbers?)" she spoke sweetly, placing a venok on the counter and taking the drink she'd planned on giving to Sven. but who'd left before he could be the recipient of it. The innkeeper looked at her skeptically, but he took the money, shrugged, and smiled. "Они находятся в комнатах пять, шесть и восемь. Веселиться." (They're in rooms five, six, and eight. Have fun."

"Спасибо! Я доверяю вашему усмотрению(Thanks! I trust I'll have your discretion)" she spoke with a wink as she put yet another coin on the counter and headed upstairs as she began to hear the fruits of her labour erupting. And so she skipped up the steps and began looking for Nazih's room out of the 3 numbers listed. She started from the lowest, glancing through the keyhole to see which one had a person within. It took her about twenty seconds. The others were all downstairs and one room clearly had a bed with a person in it. A couple of hairpins were produced from her coat pocket, and she got to work. She was no stranger to lockpicking, though it was notedly more difficult without the use of her gift. In fact, she'd done it in Gandakar when she was at Zarina's house. She did not wish to linger, lest she was caught though.

With or without the Gift, Yuli seemed to have a talent, and one most unbecoming of and unexpected for a royal. Nonetheless, the lock popped open and the door along with it, issuing a soft crrrreeeeak as it did so. Beyond lay Nazih, sleeping under some fur blankets. Presently, he stirred at the noise and rolled over so that his eyes were not facing the intruding sanguinaire. It was effortless. She slipped up to him, her hunger growing, her anticipation building, the darkness of the room seeming to mount as the sanguinaire loomed above her sleeping prey. Yuliya went for the neck.

This was all so easy, so natural to her, that it felt like taking candy from a baby. The blood was just enough, and boy was she fast. Barely 2 minutes had passed before her stomach had been filled with the blood of another, and the manas to boot, She trusted the damages would be repaired by Khaliun, as within moments, she had made her exit. The door had been left as she found it, shut and locked with Nazih soundly asleep, and she left as the ruckus within the tavern was at its height. Again, she bounded through the darkened streets of Kirimansk in the hours of Dami approaching Ipte, Before long, she was tucked into her bed snug as a bug, with a room at that inn to boot. She'd avoided the sickness for the most part, but she knew if she'd stayed there the night, it would have been much worse.

As she returned however, she felt the sickness of the town creeping in. It felt.. revolting, as if she had the worst fever of her life. Only when she made it back did she find the solace of sleep, the safety of the inn at home far outside the bubble did her well. She thought that they must remove this, or it could destroy all she held dear. She thought that tomorrow, she might search with one of her 'allies'. Even if Khaliun didn't trust the Perrench girl, or her cousin, she did somewhat. She had plenty of chances to destroy her already, and only showed her kindness.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

Member Seen 3 days ago

Present: Esmii @BlackRoseSiren, Oksana @Ti, Yuliya [@Arte], Marz @Th3King0fChaos, Yvain @jasbraq, Roslyn @Fallenreaper, and Khaliun @YummyYummy

Desperate Camaraderie

Night came upon Kirimansk, and it was a cold, silent thing. The streets were somber and largely empty, save for the occasional howl of a dog or clatter of loose rubble skittering down a ravine that had once been scenic but now seemed threatening. The lone exception to this was in the immediate vicinity of the гостиница золотая река - the Golden River Inn - where light spilled out in warped yellow triangles from a handful of windows and the sounds of drinking, laughter, and revelry reached into the darkness.

Many of these were locals. Six were students of Ersand’Enise and their semi-local guide. Strictly speaking, all might’ve been better served by serious discussion on what had happened so far and what was to come. However, what had happened before and what was to come were subjects of overwhelming stress, and so they were here drinking, instead. When they drank, things happened…

A small, scraggly Vossoriyan man was swinging at Sven. Penny blinked and sat stalk-straight as she witnessed the giant Eskandr block it with ease. The attacker was shouting angrily in his native tongue and Sven was responding in a confused and jarringly non-lisping tone. Her alcohol-addled mind told her to jump in and try to defuse matters, but within less than thirty seconds, Marz and three more locals had joined in and she was seated astride one of them, pounding the woman to a pulp.

Then, Yvain was there, along with a giant of a woman, and it was an out and out brawl. For the next five minutes, they pounded each other, taking out all of the frustrations they must’ve felt at the recent calamities they had faced. In the end, Penny sat on the ground, chest heaving and someone else’s blood spattering her pretty dress. She brushed a few strands of sweaty, disheveled hair from her face and pawed gingerly at a nose that felt… Is it broken!?

Then the boys were flexing and complimenting each other and - to be fair - her as well. It was a desperate sort of laughter and camaraderie that followed: something they were in sore need of following the disaster that had been Tagayungri. Yvain paid for any damage to the tavern and they filled the next half-hour with armwrestling. Of course, Penny didn’t legitimately beat any of the men and, once the adrenaline started to wear off, she quickly realized just how many injuries she had picked up: a broken nose and pinkie finger, three split knuckles, a tender rib, and a badly bruised stump.

The little group of four brawlers plus Esmii ended the night staggering outside through the empty streets, their breath coming out in crystalline puffs and lingering in the cold Stresian air. When they reached the cutoff point where magic started to return, they wasted little time in healing their wounds and trudging back towards the Golden River, the spirit that had animated them through the raucous night having faded somewhere in the intervening time. All of the others were abed by that unholy hour, and they were not long in following.

Yet, for one more member of their group, the night was not something to be slept through. Having been sent along late after her peers, Roslyn Wicke, a brewer’s daughter and unlikely heiress to a rather humble fief in southwest Hendland, had spent the past night and day on a rickety river barge that rocked and groaned with the current. Four cages full of chickens clucked softly under the light of two full moons, old man Boris snored like one of the foghorns out by Morcester on the coast, and Andrei and Natasha were thumping, sighing, and giggling as they did… The motion of the ship had churned her stomach, stirring Roslyn awake and out onto the deck. Her chattering teeth spilled warm breath into the frosty air. She raised a palm, pressing it into the dark rings around her eyes. Feeling the grit dug away, she rested against the chilly rail to gaze at the stars. Gradually her gaze drifted down to observe the looming cliffside. Shortly, the Belykuska entered a gorge. Recalling her knowledge, this marked the final approach to Kirimansk.

A Rude Awakening || ||

They were awoken by the ringing of church bells. It was Victendes and the Veterite Church was not so very different from the mainline Avincian Quentic one in that regard. They rose from various beds in various states of wretchedness, yawning, stretching, and blinking. A couple buried their heads under pillows. One or two were somehow bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Nazih looked particularly rough, however: lethargic, cold, and repeatedly rolling his neck as he tried to work a kink out of it.

They gathered in the downstairs tavern where they had caused such a ruckus the day before, braving a handful of sour looks and narrowed eyes. Breakfast was nearly over and many others, for all that they might’ve seemed a rough-hewn people, were attending mass at St. Artyom’s Cathedral or one of the two smaller outlying churches. It was in one of these - Ahn-Dami the Shrewd - that the larger group had planned to meet up with Yuliya and Khaliun.

First, however, they had to make their way through the town, and this was chaos, what with the ongoing rescue and reconstruction efforts - sans magic - the normal Victendes traffic, and their unfamiliarity with Kirimansk, save Oksana, who was only passingly familiar. It was during this winding journey, complete with at least two wrong turns, that Esmii shared the harrowing story of her journey into a sealed-off cave the evening before and what she had learned. Gravity itself seemed to be askew, and it did not take long before people were already proposing this as a cause of the quake that had so devastated the town recently.

They did not have long to speak, however.

Wandering about the port, a flutter of butterflies raced within Roslyn's midriff. She had stepped off the boat onto the sparsely crowded dock. Her hand clutched her bag close, comforting and anchoring in her in the moment. She frowned as frustration and worry built in her chest.

Her head turned from one direction to another, seeking any sign of other students here. Roslyn worried she had gotten lost upon arrival. She paused as she debated on her next actions and a small sigh escaped from her lips. The young woman had started back to retrace her steps when a voice called her name: “Roslyn!? Roslyn Wicke?” It was Penny’s voice, but she was addressing a confused-looking woman who was wandering about near the docks, in distinctly foreign dress. “I know her from conversion class with Jocasta!” she assured the rest of her party.

Rolsyn turned about to face the source. A familiar face brought her anxiety down as she recognized her classmate. With a quick step, she made short work of the distance between her and the group. "I thought I had gotten lost for a moment there."

Thus, the party’s final member joined them, resulting in a delay of a further twenty minutes while she rushed over to the Golden River to deposit her belongings, and then back, where she was filled in on their earlier discussions.

By the time that the group of now eight arrived at the doors of Dami the Shrewd, the church was busy disgorging its worshippers back onto the muddy streets. Presently, a decade of monks in dark robes shuffled past in the direction of the near-distant cliffside monastery they had seen on their way in. Eight wore blue kamilavkas and the remaining two, red. For half of the students, this was the first tingle of magic they had felt since arriving, though it was fuzzy and hard to grasp, as if their manas remained agitated. They found Yuliya and Khaliun soon after, seated in the rearmost pews, engaged in idle - and mostly one-sided - conversation. After slightly confused introductions were made, for nobody had expected Roslyn, it was quickly down to business. Sven, surprisingly, took the lead and laid out their objectives as succinctly as one could with their limited information:

One: find the crate that they had been sent to retrieve.
Two: discern the extent of the anti-magic field and try to use this to find its origin.
Three: learn more about the recent quake and see if it might be connected to the other two.
Four: investigate the strange phenomena in the caverns.

To this end, their local guides offered the following:

One: the monks were members of the Druzdyan Order of St. Artyom, dedicated to the care of the sacred springs that existed in the caves and caverns that peppered the cliffs beneath the town.
Two: The caves had once been a minor holy site and subject to some pilgrimage, but were now sealed off to visitors and had been for some years.
Three: Kirimansk was one of the last places conquered by the invading Vossoriyans and many of the residents were of mixed blood or even descended from its original inhabitants. Khaliun, though not from the city itself, was one of these people.
Four: A good deal of trade from Hoch Dorumvir and even Hagh Ramorghand passed through the town, and hegelans were not a rare sight, though they had become so lately.

With these ideas squarely in mind, it was decided that the group would split into pairs and work to cover as much ground as they could, with Nazih eagerly volunteering to investigate the caverns and the strange phenomena there. It was up to the others to decide who they would pair with and where they would go.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
Avatar of Force and Fury

Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Tyrel could recall, as if she were still there, the satisfying creak of the floorboards underfoot: so well-worn by the thousands of feet that must’ve come and gone over the years. The scent of pine needles in the burgeoning stresia remained as vivid as if she were nine years old again, pacing about, talking anxiously and excitedly with the other girls, swinging her lone foot back and forth when she’d forced herself to sit. She could picture it perfectly: the smoothed and ancient nail that she’d rested the toe of her boot against. It had stuck up just enough to act as focus for her racing mind. The warm sun and the faint songs of dowsingjays had visited her from the large, curved windows, and dust motes had swirled and sparkled in the golden air, ethereal.

There had been five of them, at first, remembered as colours, sounds, and feelings: Ailette, mousy brown, spectacles, and a rigorous, factual energy that flirted with the edge of aloofness; Ynorii, black-haired, Nikanese, foreign and shy but, when she opened up, warm, goofy, and… perhaps more mature than the others; Pluurii, white hair, pale, cynical, and awkward, fingers contorting themselves, foot tapping incessantly, glances stolen at a limb too recently lost; Thantra, red-orange, laughter, a best friend for a day, bright and energetic, hands held, games played, and circles upon circles danced. They were supposed to have kept in touch.

Five girls, they had been, all of an age, all with a burgeoning gift for magic, and made one-legged through birth, calamity, or illness. Then, there had arrived the woman with the bird-eyes. Tyrel did not remember her name, but she remembered her bearing. It was that of a bird, and not the friendly dowsingjays that her people so often kept as companions. She had walked like a gastornis: tall among the children and seated parents, with measured steps and eyes that flicked about, seeking either predators or prey. She had smiled like the other adults and spoken similar kinds of words in her lilting Constantian accent, but Tyrel had not liked her. Some animal part of the girl's mind had instinctively avoided the woman, but she had not been able to avoid the little shadow that pooled behind her legs, dark and clumsy and desperately wishing not to be noticed: Juulette.

There had been something in Tyrel that day, and she had shared it with Thantra. She had wanted to kick Juulette. The tiny girl had looked at them with these huge, dark, fearful eyes, flinching when they’d taken so much as a step toward her. She’d thumped and clunked about awkwardly on her crutches, bumping into the bird-woman more than once and recoiling in apologetic horror, but never too far away. Instead, she’d just lurked, leg drawn up, gripping her elbows with her hands, eyes burning into their backs as they’d played but then fleeing whenever Tyrel or Thantra had returned their gaze. Were the bird-woman not there, they might’ve talked to her, maybe in the cruel fashion of children or maybe out of sympathy. She was like a wounded rabbit in rezain: either something to be nursed back to health or put out of its misery.

When the priestesses had asked their questions, she had mumbled and stuttered and lisped and Tyrel had flushed with both revulsion and shame for looking down on someone so clearly less fortunate. It was hard to recall, now, a time when she had not been the Avatar of Vyshta, but a fear had nestled inside of her, just as she assumed it had in all six of the girls present, that she would not be the one. She would just be an unremarkable girl with a missing leg. Only, she had passed the church’s battery of tests. She had been chosen and consigned the others to that fate. Only Pluurii had seemed unbothered. Tyrel remembered the sight of small girls burrowing their faces into the folds of their mothers’ clothing. She remembered Juulette silently running away and she had followed her.

“It isn’t me. It isn’t me,” the tiny girl had repeated with rhythmic obsession, sitting on a tree branch, hugging her knee to her chest and crying. Tyrel was unsure, to this day, whether those had been tears of failure or tears of joy. Juulette had shaken, but her back had been turned and the sight of her had been unnerving. Whether it was anxiety, relief, or madness' silent laughter, one could not say. A nine-year-old Tyrel had stood there, in the shadows where the floor above loomed over the balcony, for a good long time, her stomach squeezing itself weak and hazy. She hadn’t known what to say. She’d only known that she needed to say something. Then, a door had opened, the bird-woman had arrived, and the Avatar of Vyshta had fled like a small animal.

It was but a speedbump. An entire two years early, she'd been granted the honour of a cognomen. Some had pushed for her to take ‘Vyshta’, as was her right, and she might’ve been Tyrel’vyshta’dichora, but her family had already been calling her Tyrel’yrash for years, to differentiate her from her mother, so she’d kept the humbler name and was glad of it. Damy would not like arrogance. Every night, she knelt by her bedside and prayed to him that she and he might be reconciled when she ascended. Fate and Fortune did not need to be enemies, so she would tell anyone in her official role as a living goddess. Yet, if she was lauded and beloved, heralded as a prodigy, a centre of attention, so had been a hundred other Avatars before her. They had all died by their twenty-fifth year and, every so often, when she did not have Chad for sex or Miret for comfort, when she was alone, Tyrel wished some other girl had been chosen. Let it have been Juulette, or… It felt wrong to place the burden on anyone else.

Of the other five, she’d seen only Ailette, in passing, as she was some sort of chemist at the academy now, speaking in incomprehensible mathematics, using instruments of science to create and destroy and eschewing magic as an end unto itself. They had never had much in common. The Avatar shifted in bed, the space too big for her. Miret was out late… being what she was. Chad was absent. There had been too many whispers that he was more than a luush’elar - that they were exclusively wedded in the fashion of humans and other lesser peoples - and so he attended to others, as one of his status was expected to. Sweet Chad and the genuine person behind his put-on arrogance and winking jokes. He consumed her. Tyrel lay there and stared at the swirling patterns of the ceiling, where branches had been woven together to form it. Virtuous. The Avatar of Vyshta must be virtuous and seen as such, or she would not live. A tear weighed on the lashes at the corner of her eye and she let it slide away into her pillow.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
Avatar of Force and Fury

Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Present: Yalen Castel @pantothenic, Valerian Remi Leclere @yoshua171, Maura Mercador @Ti, Trypano Somia @A Lowly Wretch, Ingrid Penderson @dragonpiece, Niallus Saberhagen @McKennaJ71, and Abdel Varga @YummyYummy

Kaureerah had not walked close to the skuggvar. Every instinct that she had screamed at her to run from it. She’d seen those things eat people with her own eyes before, and every moment within its senses sent burning anxiety and instinctual dread coursing through her body. Yet, the others had been so eager to go on their own investigations and she’d been so damned agreeable that she had been placed with one of the animals and an old man who… could sort of handle it?

She’d been trying to get lost - ‘accidentally’ separated - and then, after hiding in some safe place for a little while, she could just call the entire thing off and apologize and be done with it. Maura or Abdel or Yalen would find something and her failure would be quickly forgotten. It was better to be forgotten sometimes. You could disappear and reappear somewhere else and the danger would be gone. Guilt clenched at Kaureerah’s stomach, for she knew that she was no hero. She was a musician, an entertainer, and a whore and she did not belong among these people. The coast was within sight and she spared a quick glance at the waves before returning her senses to the big threat: that beast. It plodded along, sniffing and snorting, its great toothy head swaying back and forth, and that was how they moved: on one of those swings it would lunge and Xiang would be unable to control it and it would try to rip her limb from limb. In the water, the eeaiko might outpace it. She used kinetic and chemical magics to force her heartbeat to slow, to stop the juices of her mind that screamed fear into her veins.

She and Xiang had not exchanged more than a handful of words the entire time and it was awkward, because he seemed to want to talk. He even seemed friendly. “Eye weell goo scaut een te wauter,” she offered, forcing a rather pathetic smile. Then, the animal raised its head and looked at her and she jumped back. “Okay, girl. Okay. You no be scare. No scare. She nice. No hurt you.” One of those ‘nice’ things had eaten her sister. Its tail swayed from side to side and its tongue shot out to lick its lips and Kaureerah just… couldn’t. “E-eye weell goo,” She squeaked, as the old Retanese man grimaced and shook his head. “Eye weell jaust bee een te wauter.” She peeled out of the bulkier of her human-style garments and managed not to outright run for the shore.

Seven people reconvened at the guardian station after a day’s worth of investigation, knowing more and sure of less. Xiulan was among them, bitterly quiet, her professional veneer threatening to crumble once more following the unrecoverable loss of her life’s ambition. “It is because I am a Jiang,” she had cryptically told Yalen during the return walk, hiding her words as much as possible from Zihan, who walked uncomfortably and pensively behind, catching the Somnian’s eyes when he glanced back at her. “No Jiang ever passes the test.”

Abdel returned with his own story to tell, and Ming in tow. How much he said, however, and how much evidence he presented, was entirely up to him. Certainly, Maura, his rather significant other, returned on something of a high, Yawen in tow, with much to report should she see fit to. Indeed, the biggest question at first seemed to be what they would share or whether they would share at all...

…But then Kaureerah didn’t show up. She had been dispatched to the coast, to a fishing village, tracking both Mr. Bao’s and the black cloaked woman’s scents, and she had gone with Mr. Xiang’s and Dayanara’s help. Abdel searched in that direction for the distinctive energy signature of his skuggvar, hoping that they had merely taken a wrong turn or been held up by something perfectly innocent, and both Yalen and Yawen joined him. They located the animal still in the village, or just north of it. And, as afternoon began its march toward evening, Abdel and Yawen were insistent. “Something is badly wrong,” the latter warned. “We need to gather our forces and go there now.”

The water was cold, as all ocean water was but, once she had spent a minute or so beneath its surface, Kaureerah’s body made the adjustment and magic helped with the rest. Her eyes adjusted to the light and her ears to the different way in which sound traveled. At last, she took a cautious breath, mouth and throat warming as her manas set about breaking the water down and extracting from it the air that she needed to breathe. The rest, she snorted out through her nose.

So, the eeaiko just… swam, as she had not for some time. It wasn’t exercise. It wasn’t just to be wet. It was to go somewhere and do something and it felt nice to swim with purpose. She soon - and maybe purposely - forgot all about her unwanted escort. She was in her element, quite literally, and had no wish to return to the land.

The coast of Retan outside of the capital was deep greenish-blue place where algae grew on every surface. Crustaceans picked their way through the jumbled rocks and slow, wide-mouthed bottom-dwelling fish burrowed in the thick mud. Fishing nets, caught or abandoned, hung everywhere in the water in various states of decomposition. Some still had active floats and she was forced to swim around them. All manner of detritus and garbage and a great multitude of planks were strewn about, small fish darting among or sheltering under them. She passed a couple of sunken boats as she carried on.

Then, some ways away, she could hear and feel movement in the water that was not that of an animal. It had the imperious feel of a human ship that rode above the waves, pushing them away from itself and the fragile sapients within. Reaching out with her magic senses, she found it out of her range, along with Mr. Xiang and the skuggvar, who she tried to tell herself she was chagrined for having forgotten.

Five minutes later, Kaureerah was in range, but if she could detect others, then they could detect her. A shark. I am a shark. Picturing the illusion in her mind’s eye - its shape to the naked eye and its energy to one’s manas - she crafted a shark around herself. She did not waste energy or effort on its scent or sounds. Humans neglected those senses, particularly the former. So it was that a shark’s dorsal fin - or perhaps a girl’s head - broke the surface of the water right outside of the village, where people rushed back and forth unloading a black ship. Nikanese, Kaureerah recognized. Human cultures had once seemed an incomprehensible mishmash to her, all too similar to each other to be truly distinguishable. Now, however, she was quite certain. It looked Retanese, but a few of the details were different: the shape of the bow, the rigging of the sails and, most of all, the languages being spoken that she could just make out if she used some sonic enhancement.

But that involved using magic. Sharks did not use magic in that way and the enemy was not stupid. Someone was shouting in Nikanese - pointing at her - and Kaureerah dived desperately beneath the surface, for she was no fighter. Arrows and harpoons plunged in after her and one grazed the girl and drew blood. She should not have separated herself from Mr. Xiang and… just thinking of the beast proved a distraction, and enough of one that Kaureerah lost her focus. Something incorporeal grabbed her with irresistible force, and she felt herself lifted clear of the water. When she looked for the source, fighting with all of her magic to break free, she found it: a man in a hooded black robe.

The efficiency with which the Guardians worked when there was the prospect of a genuine threat was breathtaking. It was naught but fifteen minutes later when Whispering Dragon Squad of the Bái Qíshì set out in force, accompanied by the four students. The mighty Captain Zhao rode at its head in full regalia, with lieutenants Ming and Zihan marshalling twin columns of Guards old and new. Yawen and the second Watchful Eye, Meng, occupied the middle, along with two Red Menders. The first was a graceful older woman named Ai-Xue, with brilliant white hair well past her waist. The second, Nuan, was young and plump-faced, with a sparkle in her eye. The Speaker, Shuyuan, rode immediately behind her Captain, ever attentive to his needs and orders.

It was none of these who gained the group’s attention most, however, for there were two new members they had not seen before. At the very rear came an enormous hairy man of few words riding a small mammoth. Across his back waited two swords in ancient and ornate sheaths, their design marking them as distinct from Retanese tradition and promising violence. Upon Abdel’s questioning, Shuyuan referred to him only as ‘Yěmán’, or ‘Savage’.

Gallivanting about on a quick and ugly horse and making the poor Speaker’s life difficult with his constant needling of the others, however, was the final member of the group: Tai-Heng. A small man, balding, with long oily hair and a bristly, unkempt mustache, he carried an assortment of oddly-shaped knives and a bandoleer packed with pistols and ammunition. By their body language and tone, it was clear both that he was very powerful and that the others looked upon him with contempt.

Turning off the main trunk road, Whispering Dragon Squad and its foreign escorts found themselves in the open countryside of Retan during golden hour, where farmers worked for as long as daylight would allow to bring in their rezain harvest. Most all of them paused and looked up, some bowing respectfully, others waving, and a handful seeming to shrink away. The small road that they occupied became too narrow as it passed through some hilly country, a lone village perched on a nearby hill glowing with the orange sun.

Finally, they reached a fork in the road, with an old wooden signpost. One direction pointed towards a place simply called ‘Shan’ or ‘Mountain’ and the other towards ‘Chuánwèi’. “Hah!” barked Captain Zhao. “They’ve reversed the signs!” He reached out with his magic and set them right again. “We are entering the domain of the enemy,” he warned, and Xiulan translated for the students. “Stay alert. Cover each other.” Then, he spurred his horse forward into the setting sun.

The sun had set and the village of ‘Chuánwèi’ was startlingly empty when they reached it. A handful of people retreated inside hastily as Whispering Dragon Squad approached, and Zihan and her captain exchanged a wary look. Perhaps it was merely that its many fishermen were already asleep, for they would have to wake up well before dawn to sail out to the best fishing waters. However, the concentration of human-shaped energies that Yawen and Meng picked up to the immediate north, behind a forested ridge, hinted that there was more at play. Abdel and Yalen confirmed as much for those who were further from the pair of Watchful Eyes. The energies of a sleeping skuggvar were very much present as well, but there was more: something else, skulking about unseen.

The Captain raised a fist and those behind him came to a halt, save for Tai-Heng, who scampered on his mangy mount into the middle of the village, cupped his hands around his mouth and called out, “骑兵来了!” (the cavalry is here!) He grinned wickedly. “出来,出来,无论你在哪里!” (come out, come out, wherever you aaaarrrre!)

Horses snorted and stamped. The wind whispered and distant waves crashed. A sign on a post creaked and eyes darted about. Then, from around a rocky headland, appeared a black ship. Its gun ports opened and thirty cannon pointed at the group and the village. It opened fire.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
Avatar of Force and Fury

Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Present: Yalen Castel @pantothenic, Valerian Remi Leclere @yoshua171, Maura Mercador @Ti, Trypano Somia @A Lowly Wretch, Ingrid Penderson @dragonpiece, Niallus Saberhagen @McKennaJ71, and Abdel Varga @YummyYummy

Bailong Shan had become a can of worms for those who had braved it and, as afternoon took hold, the four biros found themselves in difficult or intriguing situations of varying composition. While Ingrid was faced with an immediate and sticky conundrum, Rikard was set upon by a colossal and aggressive mana slime, hard-pressed to hold it off. While Vel and Niallus rushed towards each other and a trio of guards locked in a feud with a mysterious giant, it was perhaps Ingrid whose exploration held the most potential promise and danger as she approached the much-adorned entrance to a sacred cave

Whatever curiosity the bloodchild had felt about the floating stone with the blue aura, she had placed it aside in favour of the shrine in the cavern and the colossal energy beyond. It seemed… diffused over the entire mountain, as if the ground itself was living, though that could not necessarily be so… or could it? Perhaps, inside, lay the answers to some of her deeper questions.

Sweeping carefully for energies, she struggled to pick them out with her preferred precision, such was the overwhelming nature of the energy of this place. It was thermal, potential, chemical, magnetic, and even subtly kinetic. Yet, with a redoubled application of focus, she could pick out the burning of the torches on the wall and the incense on sticks. There was… a human shape inside and she entered, full of drawn energy and ready to retreat should it prove warranted.

Words wrote themselves into her mind from without. “You are here to solve a mystery, are you not?” The chamber that she entered was not a natural cave, even if it had perhaps been so once upon a time, and it was vast, the ceiling disappearing into dusky murk, supported with towering pillars of crystalline rock. “The mana jellies used to kill those men were gathered upon this mountain. I assisted in that measure so that a misguided friend might remove himself from a contest he has no business being in. Soon, I believe, my efforts shall remove a second as well. Magic flows through nearly all things in Retan and animates them in ways that these people do not understand - in ways that the current regime does not understand. The twins and their bloodsucking ilk stifle the people’s birthright to be connected to this great web of magic, to use it, to experiment, be curious, and grow.”

She could sense an enormous serpentine form in the depths and, given the name of this place, what the three boys who’d gone on an adventure last night had related to her in the morning, and occam’s razor, it was not a stretch for Trypano to posit that it was the Great White Dragon of Bailong Shan speaking with her. Only… that would support the existence of sentient dragons. “Crows circle their imperium. Oh, they have various names: the Traveler, the emperor of Nikan, Hui, but all have a common goal of toppling the regime and establishing their own new order, but I say now that there is an ancient order to this place, and it should be restored.”

There was a sudden flash of energy and the human shape she had detected earlier stepped from the shadows and resolved itself into that of Wu Long. “And come now: you know me.”

If, indeed, Trypano did, then there were two members of the group who definitively did not know that they were getting into. These were Niallus and the newly and secretly arrived Valerian, who were hard pressed just to recognize each other. Both sped towards the small but ferocious conflagration between three humans in the livery of patrolmen and… some sort of giant. The former were quite noisy, shouting in coordination and alarm alike as they tried to surround the latter, who was eerily silent, but for the sounds of heavy breathing and exertion.

It was the speed, though, in particular, that was impressive. The giant both reacted and moved with startling grace, repeatedly dodging, cutting off, and countering repeated attacks that held clear deadly intent. Niallus closed in, hoping to learn more before engaging. Vel raced forward, already preparing his solution. The giant and the humans noticed them at around the same time, each radiating fear, but the humans clearly panicked to an alarming degree. Then, something strange happened: Images. Images and… scenes played themselves rapidly through the minds of both young men, imposed from without.

They were somewhere far up north, on the open tundra. There was a large tent of skin and bone, a woman of the giant’s species, and three children as well. There was a meeting at a large stone temple, hidden in a great valley by the sea. Dozens of giants - Ogauraq - were there. The air filled with pictures and images above them: the twin emperors, great cities, a sanguinaire from the east, a traveling man, armies coming and butchering their people, and finally, a great dragon, calling them. There were more of these thought-pictures: tallies of food and resources, quick, scratchy writing in an unknown language, families. Finally, dozens of thought-images floated in the air that matched the giant that stood before Niallus and Vel, fighting for his life.

Then, the scene ended. A montage of travels took over the boys’ minds: oddly-designed campfires by night, hunting and foraging, climbing mountains and crossing plains, wary encounters with humans and avoidance of roads, fish stolen from a boat hauled ashore and a gift of mammoth ivory as recompense. A view of the great road leading to Wanggang from somewhere elevated and distant, a sighting of Bailong Shan, and the scene of the soaring dragon from the night before.

It concluded with the giant standing before the dragon in the same cave shrine where Vel had stood a couple of hours earlier, and they knew his name as ‘Blue Warmth’. The patrolmen were in a panic, though. “你们这些外国人,帮帮我们吧!” (You, foreigners, help us!) one shouted desperately. “它会吃掉我们!” (It’s going to eat us!) added another.

Whatever might’ve happened next, however, was interrupted by what did happen. From far away, sounded a gigantic crackling BOOM and streaks of lightning split open the sky somewhere on the far side. Guards and Ogauraq alike turned, momentarily distracted, to witness the event, and all four were left wide open.

Ingrid, too, had been left wide open, in a sense. Rocks had fallen and people had not died. Normally, this would be cause for celebration, but it was Yin who had stopped the calamity and not Captain Zhu, who was clutching a bluish crystal and glancing warily at his surroundings and, in particular, the two women who had accompanied him.

The innkeeper’s redirection of the boulder had been clumsy, narrowly avoiding another group who’d dove for the ground and nearly been hit. A dozen eyes were on her now and, by extension, on Captain Zhu. Then, came the shouts:

“她有权使用魔法吗?” (Is she authorized to use magic?)
“你在那里看到我们了吗!?” (Did you even see us there!?)
“你差点杀了我们!” (You almost killed us!)
“她不是监护人!” (She isn’t a Guardian!)

For the first time that Ingrid had ever seen, the normally-decisive Zhu Kai seemed frozen. He opened his mouth to speak, but then there came another, more vicious shout. “巫婆!巫婆!她使用魔法!” (Witch! Witch! She uses magic!)
“做点什么,船长!” (Do something, captain!)
“或者你,外国人!” (Or you, foreigner!)

Yin stumbled a step back, stammering for an answer. “我 - 我这么做是为了救她。对不起!” (I - I did it to save her. I’m sorry!)
OOC Note: From this point onwards, dialogue will be auto-translated.

Captain Zhu turned towards Yin, face full of regret. “You should not have used it, Yin. I could’ve handled things.”

Yin shook her head regretfully. “You were distracted. You could not have.”

Then there was a wail: “She admits it! Do your job and arrest her, Captain!” A middle-aged woman pointed an accusatory finger at Yin. “My husband was killed by someone like her: someone who didn’t obey the rules! Who thought she could use magic! They are a menace to everyone." She seemed genuinely shaken and scared. There were tears at the corner of her eyes.

“But she has harmed nobody, protested a man in the crowd.
“She saved the foreign girl! added another.
“Oh, today she gets to play hero, but how about next time when she goes messing with magic again and it doesn’t go so well? If that rock had landed two feet to the side, at least two of us would be dead.”
“She won’t be punished,” said the angry woman bitterly. “Look at those bright eyes and full lips. She is a favourite of the Captain. Those people never have to follow the rules and the rest of us suffer for it.”
“Those rules exist for a reason,” added another in agreement.
The blue crystalline ‘slime’ in Zhu Kai’s hands began to crackle and he took a few deep breaths. He looked to Ingrid and settled his face, turning to address the small mob. He seemed to have decided what to say.

It was at that moment that the heavens tore themselves open and the mountain fell.

Rikard’s search went well, at first. He picked up a couple of the strange mana slimes, eager to figure out what made them tick when he had a moment later, or maybe he could just sell them. Money regularly seemed to be in short supply. Employing a simple arcane spell, he warmed himself as he walked. The sun shone down, sparkling off of the snow and a gentle breeze carried the sounds of distant excavation and conversation his way. Still, he continued higher, here at the roof of the world and felt on top of it, in a sense. Perhaps he would get lucky. Perhaps he would see the dragon up close. It was said that the great arrows of Retan and Nikan were among the most intelligent of all creatures, and the boy’s constant curiosity drove his desire to find out for himself.

It was around an hour into his search of the seam where part of the glacier had broken loose that he noticed the large crevasse and the substantial reddish glow pouring forth from it. He could not help himself. He slinked up and peered inside and an enormous… slime-beast, the size of a small elephant, hurled itself at him.

It was all that Rikard could do to avoid the attack. He pulled from its momentum and pushed himself free, rising into the air, but it lashed at him with shapeless tendrils and he felt himself being reeled in towards it. He beheld its horror maw. The massive jelly was filled with bones and weapons and scraps in various states of decay, but what stood out most was the crown at its heart: pristine, as if it somehow… understood the power that it had as a symbol. A Slime King, he wondered, but then he needed to avoid death. He surrounded himself with an inferno and it flinched and withered.

Then, there were explosions as it hurled bits of itself and he was hard-pressed to deflect them all. A tendril smacked him from the air and pounded him into the mountainside and the boy could feel two of his ribs snap. He bit back a scream as the monstrosity advanced. He hit it with a thunderbolt, and again, but it seemed to just absorb the attacks with little pause. Panic began to set in. He was going to die here! At a mad scramble, he took off from the mountainside in full flight, drawing and expelling energy with everything that the Gods had given him.

A gargantuan undulating wail escaped the Slime King and he clutched at his head, temples pounding and vision swimming. Finding the wherewithal to remember his sonic magic lessons, he twisted the sonic waves to be anything but what they were and, in a stroke of sudden inspiration, turned them on the slime.

Nothing happened. Eshiran help me! A tentacle reached up and grabbed him and Rikard was a doll being tossed about and drawn into its vast yawning maw. His parents, his friends, his family, the sight of the dragon from last night. They all appeared in his mind’s eye. No! Not yet! Not like this! Fuck you, you terrifying piece of shit. If I go down, you’re going with me. Waves of fear so intense that they physically hurt coursed through him, but there was a sort of wicked resigned calm there as well. Only once or twice before in his short life had Rikard experienced something similar, as if it were not his hands on the wheel of his being. He drew as if in a fugue state and the mountaintop crackled with thunder. The sky turned black and he ripped himself free, feeling the power of both lightning and… something else coursing through him. He was easily twice as strong as he should’ve been.

Rikard landed on the glacier, eyes wild and incandescent as his senses returned. He laughed desperately, maniacally, eagerly. “One of us dies!” he hollered, “Maybe both, but what a show! What a display! Enormous bluish-white arms of lightning leapt and spidered across the mountainside, pulsing and cracking, surrounding the great mana slime. Rikard fairly glowed with energy, levitating in the air. A huge, wicked grin spread across the boy's face and he made a little pistol with his fingers. "Boom," he whispered and, all at once, the charge he’d drawn switched. A hundred towering thunderbolts erupted from the blackened sky and converged upon the hulking slime, obliterating any trace of it in a blinding flash and a crackling boom that echoed across the surrounding highlands to be heard as far away as the great city of Wanggang.

He had ignited the King of the Red Killers, however: one of the most volatile and explosive living things in existence, and that action did not go without consequence. It was two seconds before the shockwave reached him. It had already reached the glacier and an entire side of the mountain was falling.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

Member Seen 3 days ago

E N E M Y A T T H E G A T E S ||

Present: Ayla Arslan @Ti, Evander Fino Synesti @RezonanceV, Tku Pictor @dragonpiece, Fiske Flachstrauch @jasbraq, and Zarina Al-Nader @YummyYummy, Desmond Catulus @Th3King0fChaos

It was cooler in the wake of the sandstorm but, as morning had swelled to midday, midday was now fading towards evening. Tku was out in the wastes, tending to the folded-up dewsails with Zox. For the most part, all that was needed was ample cleaning and some careful resetting of a few of the spouts on the cacti. A handful of snapped spars were easily dealt with, and repairs to the sails themselves minimal. “Thank you for the assistance,” the big construct rumbled. “It’s usually Samaxi who does the elevated things, being so small and light…” He trailed off. “But town’s taking longer than usual, I guess.” His rocky shoulders shrugged.

In the distance lurked the kite tusker that Tku had encountered earlier, not attempting much in the way of flight anymore as thermals fell in the late afternoon. It had been sneaking about the fringes of the sweetwater farm the entire day and been shooed off of a sail once earlier. “Away!” shouted Zox now, rising to his full height and squaring up towards it. “INTRUDER! INTRUDER!” His entire demeanour seemed to change and he charged towards the alarmed creature.

For a moment, the clearing before the wall went utterly still. Distant sounds could be heard. The slow and muddy river still flowed. Insects hummed in the air and a second hum - that of magic - was in evidence as well. Eyes turned to the king. Some foreign guest who would not acknowledge his rule: this was something spicy, for the cazenax were not stupid. They knew a challenge when they saw one, no matter the pretty words it was wrapped in. This… human was publicly demanding that Stazen justify his rule before he would bow, not that these people viewed the act of doing so in the same light.

The pause stretched like lengthening shadows in the afternoon heat. Eyes flicked about to accompany it and hands to swat at the ever-present flies. Sneakily, the boy known as Potés-Palix squeezed through a sea of legs and waists until he was near the very front, a mere handful of feet from the king. Then… “Hah!” The silence broke. “Aha! Haha!” It was Stazen himself laughing. He released Fiske’s hand and bowed his head and shoulders quickly in the direction of Desmond and Marceline, arms flourishing out to his sides. “And you believe the job of educating you, making up for your self-professed ignorance is one fit for a king?” He arched a brow as he straightened and seemed to be holding back some further degree of mirth. “Especially at this moment? Do you not see that I am currently in the midst of reassuring my beloved people following the calamity of a sandstorm?” He turned on the spot, gesturing to take them in, and Potés-Palix gazed up at him with reverence in his eyes. “Your party is now both late and rude.” He tilted his head and grinned almost… wickedly, eyes flicking over to Cazelui, who had still not budged from her spot atop the trapdoor. “I shall forgive one.”

Old man Jascuan leaned back, seeming to consider Ayla’s and Zarina’s words. He took a sip of his drink, hand trembling slightly as he did so, and let out a low, rueful chuckle. “Oh, there is a cost, alright.” He set it back on the end table. “But it is a very human thing, I think, to assume that one must exchange a concrete thing for another.” He shook his head. “The cost of the Vozas is unpredictability.” At quizzical looks from Classa and his guests, he continued, though he had - of course - not seen them in the literal sense.

“The Vozas manifests that which you desire, bringing it forth from the darkness beyond reality and into the light. It is free, it asks nothing, and it is bountiful, but it is not… easy.” He shook his head. “One must control his mind with absolute purpose and precision. One mistake, and what is produced is often useless.” He pursed his lips and then licked them briefly. “Our people abhor waste or, at least, we used to.” He shook his head again, and Naxos hopped nervously from one foot to the other. Classa sat on the ground and hugged herself, large brown eyes searching the faces of the others present. “But the waste is something that we can live with, and we often find uses for the seemingly useless. No, lapses can be more than inconveniences. Sometimes, one who allows his heart to be coloured by dark feelings can bring forth the physical manifestations of these from the Vozas. It does not judge. It only produces.” He tilted his wizened head to the side and knit his fingers. “Even beings that may seem useful or ones not meant to be alive that know life nonetheless may become dangerous. They may turn on you.” He gestured towards Naxos, as the imp translated. “This one, for example, derives pleasure from the work that I give him and feels only loyalty and regard for me so long as I am not cruel.”

The eyes of both young women flicked over to Naxos, then, studying his face carefully, and he seemed… pensive for a moment. “But had there been a flaw in his creation, he might’ve known suffering and dissatisfaction with his existence. It would not have been good for him or I. He’d have fled or turned on me at some juncture.” Jascuan reached out blindly to rest a fond hand on his… slave’s shoulder. “Some demons try to run, Classa added solemnly. “Others even try to hurt their masters,” She shook her head. “They’re bad demons.”

The old man pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “There are bad masters too, though.”

“But not you!” Classa insisted, scrambling to her feet, “And I’d never run away!

“Come here, little one.” He waved her over and she settled onto the couch beside him. He reached out blindly with one arm and hugged the child.She leaned into him and returned the embrace. “Make no mistake. There are vile things that come from the Vozas, just as there are wondrous ones, but they are so often the product of vile people, or at least careless ones who have no business calling upon such powers.”

“There’s a whole big system of traps!” Classa cut in. “And a maze that every cazenax learns when they’re small.” She regarded Jascuan hopefully, then, for just a moment, before sliding off the couch and clattering across the floor with excess noise and restless energy, or perhaps it was something more. She shot a concerned look back his way, and Naxos followed suit.

The old man sighed, heaving himself from the sofa. “But sometimes, there are accidents.” His face closed up and he grabbed his cane and began shuffling away. “I think our dessert should be very near finished. I shall go check on it, and Maxi should be home soon anyhow.”

Classa and Naxos glanced at each other, but the girl excused herself outside awkwardly, galloping away with the sort of energy one would only expect from a child of her age. It was the imp who spoke up, once both she and Jascuan were gone. “He used to have another son: Zanomo-Cazan, Maxi’s twin, but…” He grimaced. “They were playing a stupid game and a demon went rogue and they tried losing it in the traps and…” He trailed off for a moment. “I wasn’t there, and neither was Zox. Maxi tried to save him, but she, um…” He hung his head. “Good, stupid, brave girl.”

The imp looked up, opening his mouth to continue, but then a ringing interrupted him: a loud, persistent ringing. His eyes widened almost comically. “They’re coming!” he shouted, dashing for the kitchen. “That’s the perimeter alarm!” They were bells on little strings and it was unclear as to exactly how they functioned. “Master Jascuan! Are you alright!? We need to lock down!”

The old man shouted back in his native tongue and neither Zarina or Ayla could understand him, but there was one word that they recognized: “Classa!” The girl was still outside, along with Zox and Tku.

Zox was on the warpath, barreling towards the Kite Tusker, brimming with energy and fury, and the animal scrambled to make its escape. It seemed to Tku a fool’s errand to try talking such a mighty creation down from what appeared to be the singular purpose of its existence, much as he did not want to see the adorable little pest come to any harm. That, however, was when he noticed a small dust trail coming from the direction of the ranch house and, straining his eyes, he deduced that it was none other than Classa, excitedly making her way over. Her tiny voice began to echo faintly as she closed in on his sensing range. “Zox!” she shouted. “Zox, you big dummy! Stop! It’s cute!”

To both the centaur’s and Tku’s surprise, he did stop, grinding to a very sudden halt, his crudely-featured ‘face’ pointed in a very specific direction. When Tku inquired as to what he was so focused on, and Classa echoed his questions, drawing nearer, the huge construct held up a hand for silence. In the distance, on the horizon, there was a glimmer. Then, there were a few. “Zox, what is it?” the child inquired with soft wonder, as dust trails began to form. The rapidly cooling air was whipping up winds, once again, and the Kite Tusker had taken off and begun to drift away. Square and triangular shapes began cutting holes out of the sky on the horizon, and they were quickly growing larger.

“Raiders!” Zox roared, drawing copious amounts of energy from his surroundings - enough to start inducing a queasiness in the stomachs of the other two. He grew not only in energy, but in size as well, as stones hidden beneath the sands shot up towards him and became part of his increasingly massive body. For all of his unassuming nature, Zox was built for war and appeared able to call upon titanic strength. “RUN!!!”

It was at that very moment, as this situation was just about ready to devolve into a disaster, that Fiske noticed it: Cazelui and the boy with no legs made eye contact. It was for the briefest moment but it was a meaningful one. The sirrahi seemed to nod with her eyes and the boy was bumped from behind. He sprawled out loudly and dramatically at the king’s feet, impossible to ignore. “Owww!” he yelped, casting about suspiciously. “Who kicked me!? Someone…” He trailed off as he noticed just how close he was to Stazen, swallowing and shuffling back on his hands. “Y-your majesty…” He bowed deeply, and the king bowed in return, though less deeply. The boy swallowed. He reached into his satchel and three plain-clothed guards started forward, revealing themselves. “Please, take some sweetwater, compliments of the Shimmering Sails Sweetwater Stead, or 4S.” Thrusting it out before him with both hands, he kept his head bowed and expression even, as the guards relaxed and faded back into the crowd. He could all but physically feel the king’s eyes boring into him.

Stazen snorted. “Well then, it seems today is to be a day full of surprises.” Accepting the offering, he was about to hand it to one of his guards to test, now that they’d been outed anyhow. Instead, his eyes found Cazelui once again. “You, stuzé, forgive me, for I do not know your name.” The young woman visibly paled. “Uh, umm.. Cazelui, your majesty.” She bowed deeply again as he held the bottle out in her direction. “You honour this humble servant.” The people in the crowd seemed riveted, and murmurs rose excitedly. “Here, Cazelui. It looks like you’ve been working long and hard. Have this drink and do tell me how it tastes.”

His smiling eyes flicked back to Potés-Palix for a split second and the sirrahi was frozen on the spot. To move would be to betray the location of the trap door, which was normally covered in sand and only attended to by the stuzéts anyhow. She was not one of the rebels, in truth. She was a loyal subject who believed in the king’s vision. She was also a stuzé-upé, and it was no simple thing to turn upon her people, even the misguided ones. She had also willingly placed herself on the door and was well aware of how it would look should she move and reveal it. Hence, Cazelui could not budge. A stillness built. A silence built. The eyes of a finely-attired older woman who stood beside the king narrowed and he tilted his head inquisitively. “Is something wrong, Cazelui?” asked the woman. Her gaze settled upon the four humans as well. Quietly, below everyone’s eye level, Potés-Palix shuffled back into the crowd.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Ti Inactive

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Event: Retrospective Catch-Up | Location: Farmstead, An Zenui

Ayla turned her attention to Zarina, who had just returned riding her horse, Riesco. As she looked closer, she noticed that Zarina was accompanied by a strange creature that appeared to be a hybrid of a girl and a horse. Ayla was taken aback by the sight and couldn't help but ask, “Did you just... have a kid?”

Zarina looked puzzled by Ayla's question, “Wut?”

It was then that the girl-horse hybrid, who had been prancing excitedly around them, approached Ayla and exclaimed, “Are you a kid like me? You look so small!”

Ayla was momentarily stunned by the creature's appearance and enthusiastic behaviour, but she quickly composed herself and responded, “Hola soy Ayla, actually we are older.” She then turned back to Zarina, still somewhat bewildered by the bizarre creature standing before her.

“I'm Classa!” The little filly continued, introducing herself as a centaur. She jumped around Ayla as she examined her, “Did you sleep in the oven? You are looking rather crispy!”

Ayla couldn't help but feel self-conscious about her current appearance, still looking bedraggled compared to the rest. “Well, we've been through three death-defying incidents and not even had a siesta yet,” she sighed softly. “We would kill for a bath and to wash my hair.”

Classa's excitement was contagious, “Well, here’s the right place, we are a Sweetwater farm! It will make you look as good as new.” She has an idea as she dropped next to Ayla, “Climb on, I’ll show you!”

Ayla couldn't resist the idea of what the girl advertised and getting cleaned up. “Sweetwater? Pretty name.” She climbed onto the back of the Centaur girl, wondering where to place her hands, and settled on wrapping her arms around Classa's waist. She's holding on tight as Classa pranced around excitedly. As she circled around Zarina and Riesco, Classa proudly declared, “Look at me, I have a rider too!”

As Classa mimicked Riesco's movements, Ayla held on tight as they took off to show off to the others. Zarina and Riesco followed closely behind as they made their way towards the Sweetwater farm. Ayla couldn't help but smile and giggle with the energetic girl, feeling the wind in her hair, the sun on her skin, and the prospect of a bath and clean clothes made her feel hopeful again. “This is fun!” she shouted over the sound of the galloping hooves. It was a welcome break from the constant danger and chaos they had been facing, and she was grateful for the moment of pure joy.

Classa became agitated and uncomfortable with Ayla riding on her. “Okay, that's enough! We're almost there!” She impatiently stood up on her hind legs, causing Ayla to slide off. “Come on, little legs, it's time to clippity-clop.”

“We’re almost there!” chirped Classa, still casting about for the tusker. Sure enough, it had stopped towards the perimeter of the farm, not daring to come any closer to an inhabited area. She noticed Tku glance back in its direction as well. “Trust me. It’s a good thing. If it came too close, Zox would have to cwush it.” She shook her head. “He doesn’t like cwushing things, but it’s his job..”

The house was low, squat, and sprawling, made of sandstone and streamlined in the direction of the prevailing winds so that they might be channeled around it. A large patio wrapped around the other three sides and, on it, they could see a stone golem, easily eight feet tall, rumbling about with an oversized broom, sweeping sand away. An imp of some sort hung from the spandrels, huffing out massive breaths that sent the sand swirling off and away into the desert wind. Finally, in a rocking chair on the patio, was an old man with a wide-brimmed hat. At the sound of approaching hooves, he perked up. Grabbing the armrests, he heaved himself to his feet and felt about for the cane he’d left leaning against a small table nearby. “Classa? Né lix?” (Classa, is that you?) he called, grasping hold of it. He paused, making his way slowly there, cane held out in front. “...ni sen,” (and more,) he decided.

“Sol Jascuan!” she exclaimed, breaking into a light gallop. “Cé lix! Cé’x paté. Ax zobar.” (It’s me. I’m safe. Don’t worry.) After that, they spoke rapidly and none of the three biros could understand any of it as they approached. The huge golem placed its broom delicately aside and began to head their way somewhat threateningly until Mr. Jascuan raised his cane and called out some instructions in a tremulous old voice. With that, the construct bowed and back up a couple of steps. “Oh, ah… ahem. My apologies. I’m Zox and I umm… certainly didn’t mean to make you… uncomfortable,” it apologized, “Or anything of… of the sort.” It tapped its head with a large stony finger. “It’s my programming, you know, haha. I um… I’m built to crush things, though… sometimes I wonder if there’s more to life than -”

“Aaaaaahahahaaa!” came a laugh, high-pitched and mocking from the imp. “You’re a golem, rockhead! Your whole job is to scare people. Sheeeeeesh. Wouldya look at this palooka? Not even twenty seconds after meeting people - and high types to boot - and he’s already waxing philosophical.” The imp snorted and leapt down from the roof. “Naxos,” he said, his black, beady little eyes darting between the group’s members.

Last was Mr. Jascuan. He was clearly not human, and not of a race any of them had seen before. His skin was tanned and reddish along the back, though not in a sunburnt way. His ears were large - larger than those of a yasoi - and his nose great and pointed. He was… somewhere in the height range of a hegelan, though not nearly as stout. His eyes, quite clearly, were blind, whether by age or some other ravage, they could not quite be sure. After shaking their hands, he spoke in a voice gravelly and aged, and Naxos translated… somewhat reliably. “The boss says thank you for bringin’ Classa back to him. She’s always gettin’ lost and he worries about her.” The imp hopped from foot to foot, as if pathologically unable to keep still. “He offers yuh his hospitality, though don’t you go freeloading or I’m gonna have something to say about that.”

“He didn’t say that!” Classa protested, and Naxos waved her off. Meanwhile, Zox returned to sweeping, his big stony head turning curiously in the direction of the new arrivals every so often.

“Yeah yeah, I know. It’s called paraphrasing, yuh stupid ‘orse!” He seemed to soften after a moment, especially when Classa started to pout. He sighed. “You ain’t stupid, Classa. Just… you don’t know everything. Let the grownups talk, alright?” He turned to face the three visitors. “Listen, that was my addition. I’m gonna be honest with youse guys. We don’t refuse anyone here, but we’re a small operation. Just old man Jas, his kid Maxi - who’s in town right now - and the three of us demons.” He scratched at the back of his neck. “Not much uh… overhead, y’know?”

The old blind cazenax sniffed the wind. He smiled in the three humans’ direction and spoke some more, gesturing them into the sprawling house. It certainly looked rather large, though those perceptive enough would see signs of disrepair, neglect, and hasty, low-quality patch jobs all about the place. For all of his blindness, though, Mr. Jascuan navigated the space effortlessly, explaining things as he went. This time, Classa translated, seeming quite proud of herself. “This farm has been in the family for almost five hundred years - since even before the Vozas was found - and is one of the cwosest big sweetwater fawms to An Zenui. That makes it cheap and easy to sell there, and lots of people have offewed to buy it, but Mr. Jascuan isn’t selling. When he walks into the darkness, it’s gonna go to his owdest son, Wazuo.”

He kept speaking and she kept translating. All about the ceiling were four-leafed fans, creaking and squeaking as they turned. An elaborate series of ropes seemed to connect them all and connect them to some sort of power source. Classa saw them looking. “Oh, the fans are all connected to a great big windmill outside. Mr. Jascuan’s great-great grandfather built it, but it didn’t work for a long time until Maxi fixed it. Anyways,” she continued, “There are four types of sweetwater we fawm here, and each uses a diffewent type of cactus and a diffewent size of dewsail. Some’s for sauces, some’s for drinking, some’s for cleaning, and some’s for healing. People even have baths in it!” She turned on the spot, smiling nervously, her hooves very loud on the floor. “You’re welcome to twy it!” She paused. “All except the sauce. We save that for the evening cook, when Samaxi’s back.” She couldn’t resist stamping with happy hooves “It’s sooooo good! I pwomise!”

Ayla's face brightened as Classa mentioned the Sweetwater baths. “Oh, we call dibs on being the first to have a bath!” she exclaimed, grinning widely. However, her expression soon turned slightly hesitant. “Um, do you happen to have spare clothes? Maybe even a hat? We can't really walk around the desert in these torn rags.”

As she recalled Naxos’s words, she rooted in her pockets, as she only had Ersand’Enise currency. “We would be happy to pay with these coins, or help assist in other ways. We can perform with song and music.”

"Eh, you know, the old man might appreciate that," Naxos replied, somewhat thoughtfully. "But as long as you don't go guzzling our whole supply, I don't think we'll fault you. Truth is..." he paused and scratched at the back of his head awkwardly. "It'll probably go to waste if you don't use it. Sweetwater has a shelf life." He shrugged. "And we don't have a distributor.... 'side from Maxi." For a moment, as he went still, the small demon seemed to grow almost threatening. "Nobody wants to take us on. They either just move that cheap swill that comes from the Vozas because it's close and easy, or they only do big shipments if they have to go outside the city." He shook his head and seemed to clear it. "Anyway -" He waved dismissively. "We're neither big nor in the city. Hehe. Sorry. Not really what you asked for. That was a sweetwater bath, and a sweetwater bath you shall have!"

With that, Naxos skittered around the edges of the pool, pulling various levers, turning wheels, and breathing fire into some coals. He looked Ayla up and down and seemed to consider. "Looking to stimulate healing, I'm guessing. Right?" He didn't wait for her answer. "Hmm... also dirty as a sandbat." He paused to breathe more fire into the coals. "I'll say a 40-40-20." The little imp disappeared into a closet for a moment, still talking. "That means forty percent cleaning, forty percent healing, twenty percent water." He came out with a luxurious robe on a hanger, along with a pair of sandals. "I think maybe... hmm... the Seventeen-Year Sapphire. Oh yeah, change room's that way. Put these on, and I'll be scarce." Water began filling the tub, then, from a handful of spouts, and then also something else, waterlike, but a sparkling, lustrous very light green. She took the offered clothes, and the imp turned and began moving. "Oh yeah, and don't track dirt on the floors! You dirty it, you clean it!"

Ayla's mind raced as the imp spoke, impressed by his knowledge of the Sweetwater. “If this stuff is as good as you say, people back home would be fighting over it, and we deal in speciality items.” She giggled a little before turning serious. “But for now, we don't even know where home is. Let's focus on the present and park that conversation for an opportune time.”

She gratefully accepted the bathrobe and headed towards the changing rooms. “Thank you for your generosity, it's much appreciated.”

Tku had felt bad that all of Ayla's cloth and adornments were ruined. So when she was heading to the bath he went into his bag and handed some of the ones he has used, shifting them with blood and binding to make them more fit for someone like Ayla. "Ayla," Tku called out, "I have these hairpieces, if you like." He held out an assortment of them in his hand.

Ayla's face lit up with hope as Tku offered his help. Initially, she had planned to politely decline, but then had a sudden idea. “Tku, as a binder, could you do something about my hair?” she asked him, turning her back towards him. “Can you make it longer again, at least back to my waist?”

"Ah, of course, Ayla. That much is simple," Tku reassured her with a smile. He went and placed his hands on her hair. As he worked his magic, Ayla felt her hair growing rapidly. The mousy brown colour extending and light red hair forming at the roots. It was immediately clear that Ayla had dyed her hair.

Feeling a little self-conscious, Ayla looked over her shoulder to Tku. “It's not natural, but it makes me feel more like myself,” she explained apologetically. “Don't worry, can fix myself in the bath.”

"If dyeing your hair makes one more comfortable, than I see no reason not to, I would even encourage it," Tku openly stated as he started to stand up. He thought for but a moment, "I shouldn't just tell you my beliefs like that so easily, I do not know why you dye it. But I promise I won't tell people and will be there to help again, Ipte forbid that I have to." Tku headed outside to get back to work.

Ayla emerged from the changing room in her robe, finding the imp absent as she made her way to the bath. She disrobed and sank into the warm, foamy, light-green Sweetwater, but found the temperature tepid for her liking. Using her gift, she heated the water to a scalding temperature, perfect for her. The Sweetwater lived up to its reputation, refreshing her skin and making her feel rejuvenated.

With her fingers, she snipped away the burnt ends of her hair, as the foam gave it a glossy shine. She used some chemical magic to restore its usual mousey brown colour. Once she was finished, she stepped out of the bath and found new clothes and a hat waiting for her. The poncho was a beautiful rainbow colour, and she couldn't resist trying it on. She dressed herself in the Cazenax clothing, making herself blend in with the locals. She also picked out some ornaments and artefacts to wear. Her own cleaned piled neatly as she makes a note to clean and repair it in a spare moment.

Feeling refreshed and energized, she returned to the others with a wide smile. She searched for Naxos and thanked him for the refreshing bath. “It would be my honour to sing for you all later,” she added with a flourish. “We do have a question, though. What is this Vozas that you keep mentioning?”

"And as for the Vozas..." He let out a low whistle. "No kidding you guys are foreign." He shook his head. "Though I guess that should be obvious. You don't look very Xochi."

Naxos seemed to consider. "The Vozas is everything. It's... the place where most of what we own and what we are comes from. Heck" he admitted. "I'm from there." He sniffed and scratched at his nose. "I guess I've heard outsiders call it the VOID, but it's so much more than that. They don't get it. The Vozas is the endless well from which our imaginations and skill in magic craft and pull things into being."

Ayla listened attentively as she pondered the imp's words. “We've had some experiences with the VOID before, but isn't it a gateway to other worlds and dimensions? The beings that emerge from it are often called demons, but they seem to be reflections of ourselves, like worlds with multiple versions of me. Sometimes during the crossing, they transform and become distorted,” she shared her knowledge on the subject. “There is also another place, where an egg-shaped entity came from, which seemed to ascend to a higher plane after it protected us from a dragon,” she added thoughtfully. “We once knew a girl with a dagger who appeared to cut through into the VOID, and creatures of imagination emerged. The nature of these things is not well understood in our land.”

Ayla added to the discussion, and definitely satisfied the talkative imp. More time for Zarina to sit and drink, as she captured the smaller details of the farm. The old man was the most intriguing, as he owned everything here and yet despite his appearance did not get the qualification of demon. Was that a Cazenax, then?

“That is a long time to be working dewsails and water.” remarked Zarina, “Doing the same thing. Serving the same family. Is this due to a debt?” she inquired as her metal-clad legs crossed and her gold hues trained themselves on the short creature, “Or is it the condition for you to live? Life-long servitude?”

Naxos glanced about. He had two people addressing him, looking to him as if he were an authority on anything, and this was rare. He cleared his throat, about to speak, when another voice interrupted. "Naxos? Are you regaling our visitors with more tales without first offering food?"

It was Jascuan, shaking his head disapprovingly as he slowly made his way over. The elderly cazenax held a narrow cane out in front of himself, using it to feel around. His other hand was gripped around an odd sort of... fish!? Only, it wasn't a real fish. "Too much talk from this one, I'm afraid," he declared, setting himself down on one of the deep, soft cushions in front of his two impromptu guests. "Too little action." Naxos hurried off to go and prepare some food. "The flatbread and cheese!" the old man croaked. "And the gutzas. I think our visitors can handle a little spice." He winked blindly in their general direction, offering a soft smile. Then, he cleared his throat.

"So, you have many questions," the old man rumbled, his wispy gray hair stirring in the light breeze that came from the ceiling fans and the open archway alike. "You must be from far indeed, for you do not speak Xochi, as has every other human I've ever met." He shook his head. "How I wish I could have my vision back for but one more day, so that I might lay eyes upon you." There was a long sigh that lingered in the hot desert air. "Anyhow, you wish to know about the Vozas?" He seemed to settle in. "And the nature of Naxos' servitude. Very well."

A gust whistled outside of the entranceway and a swirl of sand danced and sparkled in the harsh desert light. "My people, who I assume you are unfamiliar with, are called the cazenax. We have lived here, in this harsh but beautiful land, since long before the humans came with their dragons and their weapons and their big showy magics. It was a hard existence, but some would say a noble one." He reached for an endtable, where a tall glass of sweetwater sat, and took a sip, setting it back down with a light 'clap'. "I do not say, however, whether I am one of these individuals, you must note." His sightless eyes regarded them steadily. "Some two hundred years previous, the great prophet Nalozuin traveled to distant lands, for he was a prince exiled by his jealous uncle, who had usurped his father and put his many brothers and sisters to the sword." Jascuan shook his head at that. "He traveled the lands of the nightwalkers: both those of the warm sun and those of the cold moon and there, his clever counsel and inventive way with devices helped them to defeat their great enemies of the inner plain. They bestowed upon him, as a gift, knowledge both that was theirs and that they had taken from the enemies whom they had defeated together. This was the first knowledge - imperfect though it was - of how to commune with the Vozas."

Before he could speak further, however, Naxos returned with four platters, deftly maneuvering them onto the low table in the middle of the sitting area with some magical assistance. "Naxos, my old friend, thank you," rumbled Jascaun. "Why don't you sit and sup with us? Maxi should be home soon, one would hope, hale and hearty." With that, the old man motioned to his guests and to the food, and even to Classa, who had been hovering behind a nearby wall, stealing glances and listening in. "Come now. We should not speak on empty stomachs. We are not wealthy here, but we have enough, thanks to these gifts of the Vozas. Food is meant to be shared and then we might discuss further."

"Thank you, Valcuo." the imp replied.

A new people, land extremely foreign and demon-like beings made to be slaves. It was a lot to take in, but nothing that Zarina couldn't normally handle. The issue was not the information capacity, but what took priority in her mind. Slaves, and the promise she had made with the Ice King - Her God, apparently, made flesh and she definitely believed it with how powerful he was. Which made her fear the consequences all the more.

Zazzy joined Mr. Jascuan in his invitation to dine. From what she could tell, Naxos was content with what he was doing, even if he could use more social stimulation. The golem was a mystery to her. And Classa appeared to be a happy child, but that made her the hardest to assess. Zarina indulged in some cheese over flatbread, only taking a few bites before giving her input. “Thanks again for the hospitality, Mr. Jascuan, Naxos, Classa.” she looked at each one as she mentioned them. “We have indeed come from very far. And I can't help but be intrigued at how you've brought along such-” she smiled over at Classa. “delightful beings into your family thanks to the Vozas. I'm actually pretty interested how this great,” the grin turned into a smirk. “an extremely agile little bundle of life came to be. A girl-horse, being a big horse-goer myself, I'm actually super-duper interested. Because that's very cool.”

Ayla savored the flavors of the food, noting the similarities between the Cazenax cuisine and that of the high desert. The smoked meats and spices added a familiar touch, although there was a distinct lack of authenticity that she couldn't ignore. The meticulously crafted dishes lacked the natural imperfections that made food feel genuine, leaving an uncanny sensation. A part of her couldn't help but wonder if it had something to do with the Vozas and its influence on her perception.

As Zazzy inquired about demons, Ayla's curiosity piqued. The concept of the Vozas, however, seemed almost too perfect, and a nagging doubt gnawed at her from within. She decided to let them continue their conversation before posing her own question.

"The Vozas sounds magnificent, the ability to manifest one's desires," Ayla began, her voice laced with intrigue. She paused for a moment, contemplating her words. "But how does it work? Is there a cost involved, a give-and-take dynamic? Like nurturing a plant to yield food, what must be given in return for the Vozas to work?" Anticipating further clarification, she added, "And is there a limit to its usage, either in frequency or quantity?"

Old man Jascuan leaned back, seeming to consider Ayla’s and Zarina’s words. He took a sip of his drink, hand trembling slightly as he did so, and let out a low, rueful chuckle. “Oh, there is a cost, alright.” He set it back on the end table. “But it is a very human thing, I think, to assume that one must exchange a concrete thing for another.” He shook his head. “The cost of the Vozas is unpredictability.” At quizzical looks from Classa and his guests, he continued, though he had - of course - not seen them in the literal sense.

“The Vozas manifests that which you desire, bringing it forth from the darkness beyond reality and into the light. It is free, it asks nothing, and it is bountiful, but it is not… easy.” He shook his head. “One must control his mind with absolute purpose and precision. One mistake, and what is produced is often useless.” He pursed his lips and then licked them briefly. “Our people abhor waste or, at least, we used to.” He shook his head again, and Naxos hopped nervously from one foot to the other. Classa sat on the ground and hugged herself, large brown eyes searching the faces of the others present. “But the waste is something that we can live with, and we often find uses for the seemingly useless. No, lapses can be more than inconveniences. Sometimes, one who allows his heart to be coloured by dark feelings can bring forth the physical manifestations of these from the Vozas. It does not judge. It only produces.” He tilted his wizened head to the side and knit his fingers. “Even beings that may seem useful or ones not meant to be alive that know life nonetheless may become dangerous. They may turn on you.” He gestured towards Naxos, as the imp translated. “This one, for example, derives pleasure from the work that I give him and feels only loyalty and regard for me so long as I am not cruel.”

The eyes of both young women flicked over to Naxos, then, studying his face carefully, and he seemed… pensive for a moment. “But had there been a flaw in his creation, he might’ve known suffering and dissatisfaction with his existence. It would not have been good for him or I. He’d have fled or turned on me at some juncture.” Jascuan reached out blindly to rest a fond hand on his… slave’s shoulder. “Some demons try to run, Classa added solemnly. “Others even try to hurt their masters,” She shook her head. “They’re bad demons.”

The old man pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “There are bad masters too, though.”

“But not you!” Classa insisted, scrambling to her feet, “And I’d never run away!

“Come here, little one.” He waved her over and she settled onto the couch beside him. He reached out blindly with one arm and hugged the child.She leaned into him and returned the embrace. “Make no mistake. There are vile things that come from the Vozas, just as there are wondrous ones, but they are so often the product of vile people, or at least careless ones who have no business calling upon such powers.”

“There’s a whole big system of traps!” Classa cut in. “And a maze that every cazenax learns when they’re small.” She regarded Jascuan hopefully, then, for just a moment, before sliding off the couch and clattering across the floor with excess noise and restless energy, or perhaps it was something more. She shot a concerned look back his way, and Naxos followed suit.

The old man sighed, heaving himself from the sofa. “But sometimes, there are accidents.” His face closed up and he grabbed his cane and began shuffling away. “I think our dessert should be very near finished. I shall go check on it, and Maxi should be home soon anyhow.”

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Event: The Raid, Primitive | Location: Farmstead, An Zenui

The imp looked up, opening his mouth to continue, but then a ringing interrupted him: a loud, persistent ringing. His eyes widened, almost comically. “They’re coming!” he shouted, dashing for the kitchen. “That’s the perimeter alarm!” They were bells on little strings, and it was unclear as to exactly how they functioned. “Master Jascuan! Are you alright!? We need to lock down!”

The old man shouted back in his native tongue and neither Zarina nor Ayla could understand him, but there was one word that they recognized: “Classa!” The girl was still outside, along with Zox and Tku.

The gracious dinner under Jascuan's roof was a pleasant one, even if Zarina remained content with eating the minimum required to not appear impolite. She still had many things to ask, but alas, the desert beckoned for more sweat and blood. One did not need to understand the elder to know danger was afoot, and so the steadfast Zarina sprang into action. Her deposited armours was pulled in via a quick use of the gift, and fitted on as she rushed to her steed, Riesco. It all fit like a satisfying puzzle, with the final click occurring as she hopped her horse's back.

“I'll go ahead.” she stated as her helm came on as the last, missing piece of the platinum armour. “Bring them back before it turns to shit. Ayla, are you coming?” Riesco neighed and was just about ready to enter an intense gallop.

Ayla's eyes widened with the sudden commotion and cries of raiders. "Are there Firrazi sand people here as well?" she asked, scanning the chaotic scene. In the midst of the turmoil, Zazzy adorned her shining armour as she transformed into a gallant knight, mounting her majestic white steed. Ayla wasted no time and swiftly climbed up behind her when beckoned, tightly wrapping her arms around Zazzy's waist. “We need to ensure everyone’s safety first.”

They took off at a gallop and soon caught sight of the danger: sand-skimmers in the distance, their massive sails cutting shapes out of the canvas of the horizon. There was also a colossal stone golem looming, and they weren't at first sure if it was friend or foe. Tku was rushing back towards them and Classa was with him, but it was clear that the little centaur was not making more than half the pace she was capable of out of fear of leaving him behind. Tku was waving his arms and shouting something, but the wind was blustery, the thunder of hooves overwhelming, and the colossal looming threat of both the titanic golem and the raiders near-panic inducing. Then, she registered that it was Zox... only, there was a lot more of him than there had been. "LEAVE OR DIE!!" He bellowed in the direction of the encroachers, and they were firing something at him: cables and hooks, but then also bolts of magic. As they watched, a ruinous black hole ripped itself through reality and demons began spilling out, leaping, slithering, and flying towards the farm's massive protector.

“Hey!” called out the armoured cavalier. Riesco's speed quickly caught up with the two running in their direction. “What are we dealing with here?” a brief pause was taken to figure out what was going on. “I see many sudden attackers. Demons?” she shot a concerned glance at Classa. “If they break through the big guy, they'll come to the farm. Now's the time to act.”

“Ayla. Tku. Do you think you can get on the big guy? Keep him supported and in one piece while being in the high ground.” Riesco neight, ready to charge in with Zarina's command. “I'll circle these assholes and burn them down.” a loud sound of metal shifting had her shield expand and the maw pointing out at the direction of her hand opened, revealing a cannon with a singular, blue flame ignited at the tip.

Tku was more than okay with running, but it seemed the knight had other plans. "Are you crazy?!" Tku yelled. There were Demons and raiders. They could just be here for the Sweetwater and cactus. Why not just run and live. What is worth throwing your life away for. But Zox was going to fight. It was his job, his role, that he took pride in. His warning scared Tku, he didn't want to die. But Zarina had made her decision to fight when she donned her armour.

"Fine then," Tku knew Ayla would go with her no matter what, he had seen it earlier in the day. He was anxious and found himself in another deadly situation. It was his job right now to keep those 2 alive the best he can. His hand were shakey as he turned to the enemy. He couldn't help but think about the odd wand he had. Could it help in this situation?

Ayla's eyes focused on the golem under attack, her mind quickly formulating a plan. "Such a large audience, I'll get on top of it," she suggested, rising to her feet on Riesco's back and steadying herself by holding onto Zazzy. As they rode closer, Ayla utilized her kinetic magic, gracefully leaping through the air and landing atop the golem's head. With her flute in hand, she began playing a melodic tune, summoning sonic magic to create a protective barrier around the golem, deflecting incoming attacks.

Her long hair spread out behind her like a majestic peacock's tail underneath her hat, ready to strike back at any physical assaults aimed at them. Like sharp stingers, her hair lashed out, attacking and detangling any hooks or ropes attempting to ensnare the golem.

Their main objective was clear—to neutralize the black hole and prevent the void spawn from further infiltrating their realm.

Ayla's agile footsteps danced across the golem's sturdy frame, her movements calculated and precise. With each step, she unleashed her sonic magic, creating powerful vibrations that repelled the incoming attacks aimed at Zox. Her hair, a flowing cascade of swift and accurate strikes, intercepted and disarmed the barbed hooks effortlessly. The golem remained relatively unscathed by the ferocity of the assault.

With a mighty roar, the golem retaliated against its assailants. Ayla seized the opportunity, leaping gracefully from the golem's shoulders to the desert sand below. In a spectacular display of power, the golem shattered into numerous colossal boulders, hurtling them in all directions. The raiders, displaying impressive teamwork and coordination, skilfully evaded or defended against the onslaught, proving themselves to be more than just a ragtag band of desperadoes.

As the raiders regrouped, they summoned forth menacing demons from the depths of the Vozas. One particular portal expanded in size, belching out a small creature that seemed to engulf all light with its musou black colouring. Despite its diminutive size, it moved with astonishing speed, appearing as a blur as it focused its sights on Ayla. Reacting swiftly, Ayla leaped at the last moment, managing in evading the creature's attempt to strike her face, as it narrowly succeeded in striking her as it sank its teeth into the defensively coiled hair.

Ayla's gaze locked onto the approaching demon, unmistakably the Yolk Demon. She urgently called out to Tku, her voice filled with recognition, "Just block it. It is a Good Egg." Tku, puzzled by the peculiar term, responded with confusion, "WHAT IS A GOOD EGG?!" Ayla shook her head, a hint of amusement in her eyes, "No, no. Who's a Good Egg! Think of it like a Puppy!" Tku, determined to protect without causing harm, skilfully defended against the Yolk Demon's advances.

But then, in a heart-warming twist, the Yolk Demon's attention shifted upon catching sight of the innocent and vulnerable Classa under attack. With a swift change of heart, it redirected its assault, positioning itself as a shield in front of the young girl. Tku's eyes widened in a sudden realization, his voice filled with awe, "IT IS A GOOD EGG!"

Ayla embraced her offensive stance, seizing the initiative. "If you're so fond of my hair, feast on this!" she exclaimed. In a swift motion, her hair lashed out towards the speed demon, attempting to evade. But Ayla had a trick up her sleeve. She employed her illusion magic, creating an illusion of numerous hair tendrils striking at the demon. Confused and disoriented, the creature fell victim to the actual strikes from Ayla's hair. A wide grin spread across Ayla's face, revealing her own nimbleness and agility in these treacherous lands.

With grace and finesse, Ayla danced across the shifting sands, her body moving in perfect harmony to evade the raiders' attacks. She conjured sand and smoke, shrouding herself and obscuring her location. The speed demon patiently awaited the opportune moment to strike. Ayla's smile grew wider, taking on an almost menacing quality, as her body seemed to move with an otherworldly instinct, effortlessly eluding the speed demon and neutralizing its special abilities. She had tapped into an extraordinary state of heightened awareness and ultra instinct.

As the speed demon retreated towards three raiders, poised to unleash a storm of elemental attacks of storm, earth, and fire. Tku bestowed his power upon Zox. To everyone's surprise, the golem seemed to retreat into a cocoon-like state. Facing the adversaries alone, Ayla deflected the attacks, redirecting lightning bolts and nullifying the fire with her swift movements. The speed demon, sensing the danger, attempted to flee the confrontation.

"Classa! Cut it off and make your escape!" Ayla shouted urgently. The centaur girl, struggling to maintain her composure, nodded and stepped in to intercept the creature. The demon slowed its pace, changing its course, giving Ayla the opportunity to close in. She immobilized the demon with explosive projectiles of glue, hindering its movements and setting it up for a decisive blow.

At that very moment, the mist demon that Zazzy had been battling met its demise. In a final act of defiance, it condensed into a boiling orb that exploded, spraying Ayla and those nearby. The scorching heat left her skin red and tender, a testament to the intense battle.

Now hot and drenched, Ayla's gaze turned towards her primary target, the Speed Demon. The alignment of the moons signalled the time for her ultimate attack. She became engulfed in blue flames, her aura emanating power. "Ayla, you must stop the Elephant!" Zazzy's voice reached her, caught in her own battle with the demonic creature. Ayla grumbled and cursed under her breath as she reluctantly switched her focus to the monstrous beast. With her charged strike already prepared, she pounced upon the creature's side, her hair digging into its flesh like searing skewers, driving the blue flames deep into its body. Yet, the demonic elephant drew upon its inner strength, managing to withstand the brunt of the attack to remain standing.

Having achieved its triumph, the Yolk Demon started to retract into its protective shell. This left the raiders with even fewer targets, their sinister gazes fixated on the party. Ayla bore the brunt of their assault, but she swiftly devised a strategy. Utilizing the cocoon as a shield, she deftly manoeuvred around it, skilfully evading the most devastating blows.

A tremendous upheaval ensued as Zox, encased in the cocoon, stirred with immense power. The shell fractured, unleashing a tempestuous gust that swept across the desolate dunes. The sky darkened ominously, and an ethereal green glow radiated from the colossal chasm. Then, with a resounding crack, the cocoon burst open, shedding colossal fragments in its wake. A behemoth of unfathomable proportions emerged, billowing smoke and irradiation into the air. Its eyes blazed like incandescent beacons, and a vast, steel-toothed maw opened wide.

In a desperate charge, the elephant demon lunged forward. But Zox, without flinching, effortlessly seized it with a single hand and hurled it with astonishing force, sending it hurtling into the distance. The raiders, gripped by terror at the monstrous entity born from their own actions, scattered and fled. "I am IGNITED!" Its resounding voice echoed across the wasteland, its sheer magnitude compelling people to their knees. The raiders pleaded for mercy, but Zox showed none. With ruthless determination, it reached down and tore their feeble machines asunder, crushing them beneath its colossal feet.

With an earth-shattering metallic groan, Zox advanced, each step causing the sand beneath to transform into molten glass due to the searing atomic heat. Standing over three hundred feet tall, the titan pressed forward. Then, from the distance, came a thunderous trumpet-like roar, shaking the ground to its core. Charging across the dunes, a gargantuan elephant emerged—the returning elephant demon. The clash of these titanic beings reverberated through the land, their mighty blows causing earthquakes that shattered the very earth beneath them.

Zazzy's sharp eyes caught sight of the Speed Demon's desperate attempt to break free from its confinement. A spark of determination ignited within her as she locked eyes with Ayla. Their souls aligned, and with a shared understanding, they prepared to unleash a truly epic duet of power.

Drawing in a breath that seemed to contain the very essence of the storm, Zazzy unleashed a resounding scream, her voice reverberating through the battlefield. Sonic waves surged forth, a tempest of sound that crashed against the Speed Demon, rattling its very core. But this was only the beginning.

Ayla, the masterful songstress, stepped forward, her presence radiating with ethereal energy. She focused her essence, summoning all her inner strength, and with a voice that carried the weight of worlds, she joined Zazzy in harmony. The combined force of their songs shook the very fabric of reality.

Vibrations of unparalleled intensity cascaded through the air, intertwining and merging into a maelstrom of sonic fury. The Speed Demon, unable to withstand the sheer might of their combined assault, began to crumble, its form disintegrating under the overwhelming onslaught. It was a futile struggle, a feeble resistance against the overwhelming power of their united voices.

In an instant, the once formidable entity vanished, utterly obliterated from existence. Nothing remained but a smear of black dust on the sands.

With a surge of indomitable strength, Zox unleashed a devastating barrage of punches, pounding the elephant demon with unrelenting force. The ground trembled beneath the weight of their clash, cracks forming in the desert floor. The elephant demon fought back fiercely, trumpeting with fury as it unleashed powerful energy blasts from its trunk.

But Zox, fuelled by atomic might, refused to yield. With an earth-shaking stomp, it immobilized the elephant demon, rendering it momentarily defenseless. Taking advantage of this crucial opening, Zox summoned the full extent of its power.

Radiant green energy engulfed Zox's colossal form, illuminating the battlefield with a blazing intensity. With a thunderous roar that echoed across the wasteland, it unleashed a devastating energy beam, piercing through the very fabric of reality. The beam collided with the elephant demon, tearing through its formidable defences.

A cataclysmic explosion erupted, engulfing the battlefield in a blinding inferno. The blast nearly obliterated the elephant demon as it was previously wounded.

The wounded demonic elephant thrashed and roared in a desperate attempt to free itself from the clutches of Ayla's relentless grip. Its colossal form trembled with resistance as it fought back, summoning dark energies to counter her grasp. But Ayla, fuelled by an insatiable hunger for power, held on tenaciously, determined to absorb the essence of this formidable creature.

As the demonic elephant writhed beneath her, Ayla felt an overwhelming surge of energy coursing through her veins. She could sense the beast's essence, its demonic power, flowing into her being. The pain was excruciating, threatening to overwhelm her, but she pushed through, embracing the immense power that surged within.

Just as the Ayla's strength began to wane, Zox, the colossal golem, rumbled forward. "I will hold it down." With a resounding thud, it pinned down the thrashing beast, its massive weight immobilizing the creature and providing Ayla with the opportunity she needed to finish the job.

With an unwavering determination, Ayla focused her newfound power, channelling it into a final onslaught. The demonic elephant, weakened and battered, trembled and shrunk before her eyes. Its form faded, its strength diminishing until it became nothing more than a small, skeletal husk.

The creature's eyes glowed with an eerie red, hollow and empty, as if whispering a final word, "...vengeance." Then, with a gust of wind, it disintegrated, its essence scattered into the ethereal currents.

But Ayla scarcely noticed. The power she had absorbed consumed her being. It surged through her, causing unimaginable pain, yet fuelling her transformation. She grew, expanding in size beyond comprehension. First, she reached the size of Zarina, then Trypano, and Ashon. She surpassed Zox's original stature, continuing to grow.

Ayla towered over the battlefield, her form exceeding 200 feet in height. She stood as a living titan, radiating an aura of immense power. Thankfully, Tku was on hand with his binding, so her modesty was preserved throughout.

Zox, his massive frame still towering over the others, gently wrapped his colossal arms around Ayla in a careful embrace, ensuring not to crush her under his immense strength. "Good job, little one. I'm glad you're safe," he rumbled with a deep voice that resonated through the air.

Ayla returned the gesture, her smaller form embraced within the monumental hug of Zox. "It is like what they say, there is always someone taller," she replied, a hint of humour in her voice.

Tku, observing the scene, couldn't help but comment, "Life is wonderful. Seeing everything worked out."

Taking off her helmet, Zazzy brushed back her sweaty hair, a mix of exhaustion and satisfaction etched across her face. "That turned out better than I was expecting. Fuck," she muttered, her words expressing a blend of surprise and triumph. Riesco, her loyal companion, remained restless, but a few comforting pats eased the creature's unease.

Tku, ever the caring healer, directed his attention to Zarina. "How is your armour holding up?" he asked, concerned for her well-being.

"In one piece, I think," Zarina replied, quickly checking her armour. She glanced back at Tku and asked, "You?"

Tku shrugged, a touch of humour in his voice, "I guess my makeup is messed up, but I think it's okay." He revealed his exposed face, acknowledging that sometimes appearances didn't matter as much in the face of victory.

Zarina blinked, her confusion evident. "Weren't you black?" she inquired, perplexed by the sudden change in Tku's appearance.

Tku's discomfort was palpable as he responded, "I was, at some point." His answer hung in the air, leaving Zarina momentarily stunned.

"Uhhhh," Zarina stumbled for words, then offered, "Do you need help?"

Zox, now standing tall once again, scratched his head, a question lingering in his eyes. "Do I have to stay this big forever?" he pondered aloud, looking at Ayla for guidance. "Do you?"

Ayla shook her head, “We hope not, don’t fancy being as tall as Ingrid forever."

Tku interjected, his mind working on a solution. "Maybe... Have you tried shrinking or splitting into more of yourself?" he suggested, searching for an alternative.

Zarina grimaced at the idea, considering the possibilities. "If you're made of metal, maybe draw from yourself until you're fun-sized?" she proposed, her concern evident.

Zox closed his eyes tightly, clenching his fists, as if exerting great effort. "I think I can. I believe I can!" he declared, the determination resonating in his words. However, his attempts proved unsuccessful, and he opened one eye to glance at Ayla. "Any luck?" he asked, his hope flickering.

Ayla awkwardly stroked her finger through her hair, “Cannot draw upon myself like you can. Perhaps it will disappear by itself?”

"Um..." Tku looked around, searching for a solution. "Maybe with some time?" he suggested, hoping for a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, Zarina felt a lingering responsibility towards a loose end. She approached the familiar egg-entity that had caught her attention before.

Searching through the aftermath of the battle, Zarina's determination led her to an area where the conflict had buried the entity. Suddenly, a faint glow emanated from beneath the shifting sands, beckoning her to dig deeper. As she unearthed the source, the glow intensified until a radiant millennium egg burst forth, soaring into the sky and hovering above, surrounded by a celestial aura.

Tku, in awe of the spectacle, voiced his thoughts. "An angelic egg? It is a good egg," he remarked, finding solace in its presence.

Zarina couldn't contain her amazement, her face blushing with reverence for the majestic sight before her. Meanwhile, Tku's sense of pride swelled as he realized he had played a part in aiding this extraordinary being.

The magnificent white wings of the primordial egg gently flapped under the scorching desert sun, casting a vast and peaceful shadow. Brilliant pure white feathers cascaded from above, creating a serene atmosphere around them. The primordial egg, wearing a serene smile, turned its head and spoke with gratitude. "You have my never-ending gratitude for aiding me in my ascension. I was summoned by wicked people, my chance at redemption tarnished from the start, but you fought with honour and decency, and I am born anew in the light of the Pentad."

Zarina stood in awe, her heart touched by the words of the celestial entity. Meanwhile, Tku, captivated by its presence, found himself moved to tears. The egg extended its hands, offering gifts as tokens of gratitude. Three glowing black and green orbs, egg-shaped and radiant, gently descended, coming to rest on the sand, warm and inviting. One orb, however, landed atop the great olive tree, causing the tree to pulsate with newfound energy.

Tku, seizing the opportunity, asked the egg, "Mister Egg, are you able to help my friend Zox?" His curiosity about the egg's abilities and nature spurred him on.

"It is already done," the egg replied, a playful wink in its ethereal gaze. "Enjoy six more hours as titans. Then, you shall both be returned." It clasped its hands before itself, as if sealing its promise.

Ayla smiled happily to the angelic egg, “Glad we were able to help you. Maybe we will see you later when we join you in the future!"

"And now I must go," said the egg, "but I first bestow upon you these gifts as a token of my gratitude." Three glowing black and green orbs - egg-shaped - appeared before the angelic being, and they wafted slowly down towards the sand, where they lay, warm and waiting.

With those words, the egg bid it farewells, leaving the companions in a state of awe and anticipation. The sand settled, and the gifts left behind glowed with an otherworldly essence.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by YummyYummy
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YummyYummy Ayyyyy

Member Seen 22 hrs ago

Assani 15th

Location: Xochiyeiteteo
Day of the week: Taldes
Time: Day
Present: Zarina, Ayla @Ti, Classa @Force and Fury, Tku @dragonpiece,
Riesco, Zox, Raiders, Demons, Yolk Demon, The Olive Tree and Dragon.

The heat of battle was something Zarina had almost forgotten and a taste she never wished to genuinely acquire. Despite being prepared - some would even say over prepared - it did not make the ordeal any more appealing or easy. But she accepted this mission knowing full-well the inevitabilities it engendered. And so she charged in with her trusted steed, circling the horde of enemies with Classa not too far behind and her allies riding the Zox.

Fucking demons. Fucking Void-lovers.

Facial features twitched under her platinum helm. Malefic beings from another realm had been called upon to bolster the raider forces, and one had taken particular interest to her.

I am so sick of these foggy shitters.

But try as she might, her armour and raw might did little to repulse the corrosive blob of intangible darkness. It burned so much, invoking furies that only emerged after incredibly acute pains - like stubbing one’s toe. Taken by frustration over her situation and the pain, Zarina acted out in pure impulse. Her dragonhead greatshield, an item she had used to protect, opened its wicked maw to reveal a small cannon.

Now you burn.

There was a moment of hesitation. The remorseful Zarina that knew she was going to hate this tried to stop her. Had it just been the burns, she’d have held back. But there was more to it - there was fear too. And fear made people do many things. The flames were vomited out on a group of raiders, scorching at least two and injuring two more. The screams and the smell were atrocious, but she did not linger. There were demons and over fifty attackers.

The battle raged on with Zox clearing many of the pack. Tku eventually became the author of the mist’s second demise, Classa covered her new friend Riesco, and Ayla neutered the speed demon. They were going to win this if they held strong. The platinum warrior had to ensure the titan did not fall, and she did just that as the team’s immovable temporal shield.

Then came the finale. A duet with Ayla and the birth of a shining God-like giant. The enemies knew nothing but terror at their end, and the final titanesque demon met its match with the golem of pristine metal. They had won, and their first prize was a massive Ayla.

“We’ll need to revisit living arrangements, Ayla.”

Although she spoke, there was little chance the giantess could hear Zarina without some sort of sonic enhancement. There was one thing missing. Zarina, realising there was still a loose end, approached the familiar egg-entity she had seen once before.

It was not easy to find, for the conflict seemed to have buried it. Then, from within the shifting sands, came a faint glow, and Zarina dug. The glow expanded and then, bursting from the ground, came a glowing millennium egg. It shot into the sky and hovered there, a halo about its form, face beatific and arms outstretched.

A PRIMORDIAL EGG had ascended.

"An angelic Egg? It is a good Egg" Tku decided to move focus onto it.

“A Promordial egg, destined to be eaten.” Zazzy added.

The egg turned its magnificent head and blinked. "You have my neverending gratitude for aiding me in my ascension. I was summoned by wicked people, my chance at redemption tarnished from the start, but you fought with honour and decency and I am born anew in the light of the Pentad."

Zarina blushed in awe. So majestic.

Tku was in awe. He was so proud to have helped.

Its great white wings flapped softly under the burning desert sun, casting a vast and peaceful shadow. Brilliant pure white feathers drifted and fluttered down from above.


"Mister Egg, are you able to help my friend Zox?" Tku asked, unsure of the nature of the egg.

"It is already done." It... winked. "Enjoy six more hours as titans. Then, you shall both be returned." It clasped its hands before itself.

"And now I must go," said the egg, "but I first bestow upon you these gifts as a token of my gratitude." Three glowing black and green orbs - egg-shaped - appeared before the angelic being, and they wafted slowly down towards the sand, where they lay, warm and waiting.

One, however, landed elsewhere, coming to rest atop the great olive tree.

The tree pulsed. The egg disappeared.

arina nodded sagely at the egg. No more words needed to be said. This was a good ending.

The armoured girl approached the landing site of one of the eggs.

In his head, Tku heard a voice.

"Step forward, child," said the mystical tree of the desert.

In the distance came the echo of hooves and, with them, a dust trail.

"Eat of my fruit and you shall be nourished."

Classa could feel its words as well. "You too, young one."

Classa looked up at Zarina and leaned in. "But I don't really like olives..." she whined, scrunching up her face. "Do I gotta?"

Zarina cackled at that answer. Oh kids. “It's a special olive.” she said before tapping the centaur's back. “Only the best of us can even get a lick.”

From within the great tree's branches came a mist, in the midst of the desert, and they were filled with gentle clouds and a soft light. A small serpentine dragon rested within it contentedly, eyes half-closed. Then, in Tku's mind: "What do you wish for?" Classa trotted up and took an olive as well.

Riesco also approached. His simple horse mind was attracted to the tree for some reason. Zarina just watched him do so. He leaned toward Classa, lips flapping. Ready to suck in her winnings.

Classa held it out in her hand, looking at it and working up the courage.

Frightened by the horse coming up to take her prize, the girl swallowed it. She, too, heard what Tku had moments earlier. Riesco began to nod heavily, frustrated but excited!

"I wish..." The girl trailed off, suddenly and perhaps for the first time, lost for words. She regarded Zox, then Tku, and then the giant Ayla. Last, she looked to Zarina. "I wish to... be free." She paused. "And the others like me: them too."

Classa took a few steps back toward the others. "So is this like a trick question or something?" she asked, "'cause I'm totally just gonna ask the tree to grant it."

Zarina did not know what to feel. Relief? Her job felt just a tad easier now. But, without Zox or Classa, this farm would have been good as gone, and Jascuan very dead. She exhaled from her nose, and then chuckled. “No trick. If that's what you really want, then so be it. No wrong answer, Classa.”

Classa stepped forward. "Are you a tree or a dragon?" she asked with childlike curiosity. The dragon's eyes slid open and it seemed to smile, floating languidly through the air as it descended, looping and twirling about her shoulders. "Why can I not be both?" It chuckled and the tree's leaves seemed to tremble.

lassa's face scrunched up inquisitively. "How can you be a tree and a dragon?" She pawed at the ground. "Sounds like something Mr. Jascuan would say when he's trying to sound all wise and stuff."

The dragon stilled and tilted its head. Then, there was a small surge of energy of a type that none of them had felt before and the child's eyes widened. "Ooooohhh," she exclaimed, nodding knowingly after a moment. "I get it!" She paused to consider, sticking a lock of hair in the corner of her mouth and nibbling on it. "I think I actually undewstand a lot of things now. Give us what we need and we will free ourselves." She looked up and smiled uncertainly.

Classa stamped her feet happily. Nobody was quite sure what she'd received, but she seemed to know. The little girl twisted and cracked a shit-eating grin. "Wait 'til you see what I got!" she boasted. Then, momentarily, she turned back to face the tree and bowed her head. "Thank you Mr. Dragon-Tree."

With that, the dragon settled back upon the branches and the rolling mists took it away from that place. The tree stood still and silent in the desert.

Then, it crackled and bent. Its branches groaned. Its fruits withered.

The ground seemed to open and it disappeared as if it had never been there in the first place.

A single millennium egg sat there in the sand. The other was in Zarina's hand.

Classa perked up. "Oh, I want it!" she exclaimed, hurrying forward. Then, she looked up at the massive figure of Zox. "So I can save it for him, of course." She blinked, smiled, and looked up, holding her hands out towards Tku.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Fallenreaper
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Fallenreaper ღ~Lil' Emotional Cocktail~ღ

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Cold Comfort

Location: Kirimansk, Vossoriya
Present: Rosyln, Penny @Force and Fury, and Khaliun @YummyYummy

The small group had gathered at the small church in the blue quarter.

Among them, Roslyn watched as the students divided into smaller groups. Already, each one had their own tasks in mind, leaving her uncertain. Her hazel eyes darted about and watched them depart, noticing their general direction. The whole time she kept near the first student who’d recognized her. She pondered her options, her head held down and in thought. Movement caught her attention from the corner of her vision, causing her head to raise.

Penny started moving south. She glanced behind herself. "You come or you don't, but I think we're near the edge," she announced.

Meanwhile Khaliun shadowed the one-legged teen, keen on not actually entering the field. This forced Roslyn's hand as she followed them with a quick step to catch up. She pulled out the map of the area she had received and a chiseled down piece of coal. She hoped to note down the state of magic in each area.

As they continued along the eastern side of the church, their magic seemed to grow in strength. Khaliun no longer strained to keep aloft, causing Roslyn to jot down notes. The last of the haziness faded as they moved down to the southeast corner. There a wall loomed in their path and blocked them from progress.

Penny glanced up at the wall, feeling magic surging through her again. "I say we jump it," she recommended, glancing at the other two.

Roslyn's gaze rose to measure the wall in her mind. Securing the map and her coal piece in her dress pocket, she nodded in agreement. She readied to follow Penny despite the hesitation in her core. As they managed to scale the wall, Roslyn's shoe slipped. She reeled back just when Penny's arm snapped out and grasped her. The one legged student gritted then jerked her the rest of the way onto the wall.

"Thanks," Roslyn panted as she caught her breath.

Little did she know, this was only one of a number of obstacles they had to overcome during their mission. Their path took them across the river, another cliff side, and onto the terrain outside the walls, following the edge of the anti-magic zone. Once they reached the corner of the city walls on the opposite side, the familiar gently circular pattern ended abruptly. It curved outward rather than in, creating a sharp corner rather than a continuation of the expected gentle curve.

From here, the students split. Roslyn walked closely to the wall and followed it, casting a small bit of magic to gauge where the fade began and where it extinguished. After a bit of travel, she couldn't cast anything.

Penny, juggling the map and coal with her crutch, continued to map out the border. Behind her, Khaliun rose into the air and got a sense of how high the effect went. Seeing the speck of the student high above them, Roslyn decided to regroup with Penny. She suspected trying to match Khaliun's height would've churned her stomach. No one needed to see her last meal again.

Their new course led them to yet another steep cliff. As they considered their options, Roslyn glanced downward. She noted the building jutting out and a stairwell carved into the rocks. Below them, numerous bodies milled around the ground. Based on what her map showed, they had stumbled upon the monastery where the monks of St. Artyom dwelled. It only took a brief glance when both girls decided what to do. With the magic still null, they started their descent.

With decent grace, Roslyn trailed down the rocky terrain and dipped into the building. None of the monks below seemed to notice her. Her mousy form peeked out as she watched Penny follow after. Everything seemed to move smoothly until Roslyn spotted her classmate slip. As Penny began to slide downward, her arm shot out and grabbed the girl’s malformed hand. Using her vice-like grip, Roslyn pulled back. She jerked her partner inside. Both students collapsed into a heap, panting heavily.

Penny thanked her, rattled by the misfortune. "That was too close for comfort. Let’s try to be more careful, okay?"

Their eyes spotted the pathway leading deeper into the cliff.

Roslyn inhaled, pulling upright, and dusted herself off. She moved toward it and saw stairs leading down a faintly lit hallway. Gradually, they both followed it down. Shadows of figures darted across the walls as they jumped from one hiding spot to another, their eyes watchful and paranoid, managing to stay out of sight. The tunnel twisted into a labyrinth the deeper they went.

Strangely, the magic here flexed between present and absent despite what they had learned. Finally, the pair came across five odd doors. Each had certain features that stuck out to Roslyn as her eyes shifted from each one.

The first door had red stained words carved into it, but neither girl knew what it said. The second door was smaller than the first. The third one was large, with grooves in the floor. The fourth one was old and worn, with religious inscriptions on a plague. Finally, the fifth door held words in blue.

Roslyn had reached for the first and cautiously cracked it open. Words shouted from farther down causing her to shut it. In a panic, she slipped into the second one just as the first opened. Scared they might follow her inside, the girl ducked farther down the hallway. Her eyes watched it for several moments, but nothing came. It was then that Roslyn realized she had lost Penny. With held breath, she carefully edged back the way she came. Her hand reached out to touch the door knob that suddenly began to jiggle. The girl froze on the spot, her eyes wide with horror.

A muffled sound echoed behind causing it to stop. Footsteps moved away and down the hallway. Breathing in relief, Roslyn exited and vanished into the darkness.

Both Penny and Roslyn wandered around for quite a while after that. Magic reappeared, disappeared, and reappeared again and they somehow managed to evade capture. The deeper areas remained very much off-limits, however, being quite heavily occupied. Finally, the two girls ran into each other.

"Oh thank Shune!" Penny breathed. "Where did you go? I thought they'd nabbed you!" She was quite out of breath.

"I'm sorry, I thought you were right behind me," Roslyn said, her voice squeaking slightly. Taking a moment to calm her racing heart, she continued. "I fled into one of the doors. I nearly thought I was going to get caught once as magic seemed to come back, and then disappear. I don't know what is going on."

Penny nodded. "Merde. Me too. Big door. It was... some sort of... natural cave. There were people in there. When the magic came back on, I sensed them." She furrowed her brow. "Hegelans, I think." She cast about. The magic was currently back, but Penny did not like this uncertainty. "We get to the bottom of this now or come back later? If we can sense them, then..." she trailed off, leaving the rest implied.

Roslyn's inner curiosity warred with her common sense. Naturally, the prior won in the end. With a deep breath, she spoke with all the strength she could muster. "We leave now, we might never find out what is going on. The fact magic can stop working is rather frightening. I don't know about you, but I couldn't sleep knowing there's something here like that. Let's go, and I promise I won't leave you behind this time."

Penny inhaled, held it, clenching and unclenching her fists nervously around the grips of her crutches, and let it out. "Okay. Illusion all the way, hide ourselves, but let's try to be stealthy, even without." She started moving, but paused and twisted halfway around. "Wait - which door?"

Roslyn paused, thinking a bit. She gestured for Penny to follow, "I think I recall the way. Come on."

As she walked, she whispered what she knew. "I came to a hallway with five doors. I originally tried to go through the one with blue words, but someone shouted and I hid in the smaller one. I haven't investigated far though."

As the girls continued along, silence swirled uncomfortably around them. Penny had been the first to break it. She shot a glance back in her acquaintance/friend's direction, not strictly speaking seeing her. "So," she whispered. "I'll admit to being a bit surprised. What... brings you here? Was it the Zenith or Arch-Zeno Harrachora?"

Roslyn gave a slight smile. "After you all left, Jocasta came to me and mentioned something about misinformation. Something about a crate and it needs to be opened. I will admit, I'm rather surprised to be sent."

Penny fell strangely silent for a moment. She'd received... unique instructions of her own. "We all have something to offer," the one-legged girl responded with a shrug.

"It doesn't feel like it in my case," Roslyn admitted, her voice telling more than she wanted. She didn't see herself being much use especially with the magic not being consistent.

Then, they were upon the doors. As people walked by, they remained cloaked in the interior dimness, bending light around themselves to keep unseen.

"Which door?" Penny whispered when there was a small gap, and Roslyn discreetly pointed to the smallest. "That one.

"They'll notice if we don't time this just right, unless..." Penny hmmed. "Leave the illusion to me."

Catching what Penny said, Roslyn looked toward her ally and narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What are you planning?"

"I'll need every bit of my focus," said Penny determinedly. "I'm gonna make it look like that door never opened at all while we go through." She smiled ruefully, but there was some mischief to it. "Of course, if I screw this up..."

"That might work. I can try to help. If they do spot me... I can always take off. If they are chasing me, you can sneak in there. I might be able to lose them and I can try to follow afterwards." Roslyn tried to hide the slight waver in her voice over the idea. She wasn't keen on getting caught, but they had to learn what was happening.

Penny blinked. "Right. Let's go."

They waited until there was a break. Roslyn rushed forward and pushed the door open, gesturing for Penny to follow. The door clicked closed behind them and they found themselves back in the hallway. It was… normal sized, but most of the doorknobs… That was it! Each door’s knob was lower than normal.

It was a strange thing to notice, and Penny almost missed it, but she glanced at her partner in crime. "Why are they so low?" she whispered.

Catching what was said, Roslyn turned her head to examine the knobs. Her eyes narrowed in confusion, "I don't know... Can we try and open one? Just a crack to see what's beyond them."

Penny reached out with her energetic sense, scanning beyond. She could not be sure of the exact positions of all the walls and doors, but there were people close to the nearest one, and all that needed to happen in order for she and Roslyn to be found was for someone to open it. Down the hallway was one that seemed empty. She emerged from the shadows for a moment and silently pointed at it, setting words to action and starting to make her way over.

It was at that moment that a hand seized the doorknob they had just stood in front of moments earlier and turned it.

Roslyn caught the gist of Penny's meaning as she nodded, rushing in her friend's wake. Her breath held in her chest until her lungs stung. She caught the sound of the door clicking open just when the door closed behind them. Roslyn jerked when she heard the soft thump echo, betraying their presence. She hadn't been able to stop as the last person inside.

Foreign voices spoke in the hallway, rattling on fluently and rapidly. It didn't sound like Vossoriyan. This fact didn't bring Roslyn any comfort. Her eyes scanned the room for a place to hide. It appeared to be a pantry, full of simple cooking supplies. Roslyn's beating heart drowned out nearly all sound. Her fear over being discovered stifled her common sense.

"I am a bag of flour," Penny whispered. "Be the flour. Channel the flour."

Despite her better judgment, Roslyn closed her eyes and a barrel popped into her mind.

"Behind me!" the Perrenchwoman hissed, as footsteps drew near.

Roslyn struggled to make her body obey.

"Move, barrel!"

The door opened and the golden-orange spread of a lantern's light wavered across the contents inside. A voice spoke in a harsh accent, but they did not understand a shred of it. Penny pulled her knee to her chest and remained as still and silent as humanly possible. Roslyn just froze like a deer caught in the lights. There was a second voice and the light continued to shine down on them. A few of the unfamiliar words repeated themselves.

Penny blinked and tried to focus on them.

One of the voices spoke in words they could understand. "You, girl."

'I'm caught...' Roslyn thought and braced for whatever came next. A subtle tremble rippled across her form, dreading the worst. The pair started to chatter between themselves, amusement filling their tones.

"You very bad hide."

"One girl very bad."

"Two girl little bad."

Penny started. She looked up. Roslyn remained frozen like a deer in a hunter's sights.

The best speaker of the two continued. "You lucky we see you. No Vossoriyan."

Penny began to gather her energy, and she shielded her eyes. The speakers were hegelan.

"Calm, girl. Okay. We no tell." One reassured them.

Roslyn's mind fell out of its petrified state. She blinked and then crunched her eyes at the pair standing in front of her. She was speechless for a moment. She didn't know what to say to the drastically different scene happening from what she expected. Mustering up the courage, her form relaxed and she faced the two. "Uhh, w-why?" Roslyn managed to spit her words out, though rather softly. She couldn't believe their luck.

The pair had strange bindings around their wrists and ankles. They looked at Roslyn when she spoke. "Why? Hah!" barked the one who spoke a language that they knew.

"Fuck Vossoriyan." He shook his head. "Now... why you here?"

Penny glanced at her friend who'd had the courage to speak.

"I wandered down here. I got curious." Roslyn's eyes finally noticed the strange bindings on their wrists and ankles, "Why are you here? And what are those?" Her finger pointed to the strange things.

"V...vander?" questioned the hegelan. The two of them glanced between each other and conferred in quick, low voices. "You want know what here?" he asked.

Penny nodded vigorously. She spoke slowly and simply. "Yes. We want to know. We think it stops the magic."

The one hegelan translated for the other. Then, there were further footsteps down the hall, and a voice addressed someone in Vossoriyan and not the hegelans' strange language. Roslyn tensed, her calm now gone again, when she heard it. Her eyes widened and glanced wearisomely at Penny.

"It bad. We work. We do bad. This..." he struggled for a word, unable to find it, and then rapidly closed the door in their faces.

A tense few seconds passed. Then, there was an exchange outside. It was mostly in what sounded like Vossoriyan, but some seemed to be in the hegelans' language. It ended with some barked words from the unfamiliar voice, and subservient ones from the hegelans. Penny held her breath. Roslyn bit her lip, her fingers clenching her dress in anticipation for whatever came next. Her eyes pinned on the door with dread. The doorknob rattled for a moment.There were more words.They could practically feel the hand resting on it.

Then, Penny snapped.

In one smooth motion, she rose, grabbed the door handle, and pushed it open.

"Don't-" Roslyn's voice squeaked, but it was too late. The man on the other side was half-dressed as one of those monks, but he did not have either the look or the demeanour of a religious man.

Penny heard Roslyn, but it was too late to turn back now. She'd never been much of a healer anyhow. Some were Eshiran's promised. She slammed the door into him and he stumbled back. The first thing that she did was warp the sound itself, forming an anti-sonic bubble. She leapt out wordlessly as he staggered back, falling on his rear.

"Roslyn," she said with surprising calm, "get out of here now. Make your escape." She turned back to face the monk. "I'll handle this."

Roslyn's hands leapt to cover her mouth. She was surprised at Penny's reaction as she heard the woman's statement. Worry, fear, and adrenaline surged through her veins, causing her feet to move. Deep down, she knew in a fight she was dead weight.

"Okay... don't get hurt, please." Her voice cracked with shame as she darted past and back down the same path they had come from.

Penny faced the man. The two hegelans rushed in towards her. "No hurt!" said the one who could speak some Avincian. "No hurt!" he insisted, and she whirled.

"Is... is he your friend?" He hadn't seemed like a friend to these people.

The hegelan shook his head as the monk rose, rubbing at his head. He began to draw energy.

"No. Not friend. You hurt he, we hurt. Under stand?"

Penny stalked forward, drawing and casting. "Roslyn!" she called. "Roslyn, I need you."

Hearing Penny's holler behind her, Roslyn's heels dug in. She skidded to a stop and glanced back. Ignoring the slight sting budding in her legs, she flipped about and rushed to her ally's side.

Penny's telekinetic shove hurled the monk into the stone wall opposite with significant violence, and the man crumpled to the ground, leaving a bloody streak behind him.

"You're a chemical mage," she said matter-of-factly, as she began binding the head wound. "He's only unconscious." She worked on him some more. "I think."

Struggling to keep her calm, Roslyn nodded. She focused on the blood, turning its chemical make up into pure water. The clear liquid dripped from the wall and vanished into the floor. Upon hearing the questionable statement about the man's condition, she stepped closer and leaned down. Her fingers pressed to the area of the pulse. A bit faint, but gradually getting stronger. "He'll be alright. I've seen workers who got heavier bashes than him." She reassured her friend.

"Broke a bit more than I meant to," Penny admitted. "I panicked. Dammit." She shook her head and focused. "But yes, I can fix him." It took the better part of a minute until her work was done, and it fell to Roslyn to placate the two panicking hegelans.

Roslyn immediately turned to them, noticing their rapid and uneased chatter. It didn't take a genius to know they were upset. "It is okay. Did any of you get hurt?" Her eyes shot over their forms, looking for any injuries between them.

"No we!" one of the hegelans practically shouted, voice high and strained. They both pointed. "He! He hurt. They hurt we!"

"Okay, we are not going to hurt him. We will figure this out." Her hands rose in front of her and gave a lowering gesture, hoping to get them to calm down. Even if it didn’t work for them, it helped her own nerves.

Penny was finished with the healing, meanwhile, and she flagged Roslyn over, glancing as much evaluatively as apologetically at the pair who'd helped them. The Hendlishwoman started to pull away, departing with one last instruction: “Keep an eye out for more people.” Roslyn hoped that giving them a task might help distract them as she came over.

"Now here's the tricky part," the Perrenchwoman advised, as her partner arrived. "You're better with Chem than I am. I need you to go into his head and...rearrange a few things with Gaze of Confusion. We need him to forget we were ever here." She paused as an idea seemed to come to her. "And... can you fake the chemical symptoms of drunkenness?"

Roslyn’s eyes narrowed, recalling the lessons. A wily smirk crossed her lips, "So how hard? Something light like ale or something harder? Firetail Whisky tends to be an ass kicker."

"Vodka," said Penny, "So yes. That sounds about right." She propped the monk against the wall and let her partner in crime work.

Roslyn inhaled then focused on her drawing and casting. She knew the finer details of what caused a drunken state as she boosted certain chemistry in the man’s body. Once finished, Roslyn turned to the men. "You mentioned if he hurt, you hurt. How does that work? What causes it?"

They blinked, confused. "Yes. He hurt. We hurt. They hurt we." They did not seem to understand some of the words she had used.

"We have to move him," Penny advised, "now."

"Yes!" one of the hegelans replied. "Move him now!"

Roslyn bit her lip, trying to figure out a better way to ask. However, before she could, Penny interrupted her thoughts. All questions escaped her as she nodded. She moved and opened the door to the supply room. With a beckoning wave, she indicated to the hegelans to put the monk inside. "If we put him in here, it keeps him out of sight and might be more convincing."

The hegelans looked at her skeptically.

"In there?" the one who spoke Avincian asked.

They glanced towards the other room they had come from. "He drink." It was accompanied by a gesture.

The second one nodded and pointed towards that room's door. "He drink there!"

"Yes." She frowned, not fully understanding.

"We can't take him there," Penny said. She flexed and was actually kind of muscular. "Not strong," she clarified. "Can't lift." She mimicked the act of it.

The hegelans glanced at each other. "This," they insisted, pointing at the door down the hallway. "Big room. All people drink there."

Roslyn sighed, shaking her head. Realizing this wasn't working, she moved from the door. "Penny, can you hold the door open? This isn't working and we're wasting time."

Penny arched an eyebrow. She drew a bit of energy and telekinetically lifted the man from the ground. "Forgot we could do this?" she teased, voice still just above a whisper.

The hegelans looked uneasy. They shook their heads. "No," said the one who did not speak Avincian. "No. This is bad. They know." He pointed again at the other room. "This better."

Regardless, the unconscious monk was lifted and dumped into the closet. The door was closed behind him.

"To be fair, I just started to learn most of my magic last year... I tend to mainly use it for the brewery." Roslyn countered quietly back.

The two small men spoke rapidly in their strange language and their eyes darted warily up and down the hall. Somewhere around a distant bend, a door closed. "You go!" one insisted. "You go now!" They pointed urgently up the way that the women had come from.

Whatever Penny might've said back was cut off by the sudden urgency. Pulling from the heat somewhere deep behind and beneath her, further into this complex, she boosted her movement speed, almost gliding as she ran-hopped. "Rose, unless you wanna help me bust more heads..."

"I'm afraid to say, I can't fight at all. I'm more likely to freeze up again..." Roslyn already felt her fear coming to choke her again, her feet slowly backing up and her form twisting.

She took off like a thunderbolt, plenty fast but loud. Her illusion abruptly dropped in her wake. It was up to Penny, who'd been party to at least a few such scrapes previously, to cover for the both of them. Unsurprisingly, the one-legged woman lagged behind, but the two hegelans were still in the hallway. When the red-capped monk noticed them, he began issuing orders and they scrambled to carry those out.

There were cheek-clenching moments along the way, but they made it through the door they had entered from, and then the hallway that led towards the exit. During their escape, the entire complex seemed a hive of activity. As they looked upon the scene below, two escape options stood out to the girls: the particular structure of a long and winding staircase down the cliff face, or a magically-enhanced leap.

Penny glanced behind her. "We jump. Come on."

"Okay, though I don't like this idea..." Roslyn piped up as she readied her magic.

Penny had to glance the other way to roll her eyes, out of politeness. No time to sync up their jumps, they launched off the edge and into the ground below. Penny hit first, followed by Roslyn. A sound of rushing footsteps drew the latter student's attention. Her hazel eyes darted to the narrow staircase. She spotted a cluster of monks rushing up it.The idea of their near discovery caused her to shudder before she quickly caught up to Penny.

The Perrenchwoman had made it to a tree and hid behind there, sitting on a low hanging branch and letting her illusions fall for a moment. "See?" she chirped, "I told you we could do it!"

Roslyn gave a smile, her skin a paler color."I'm glad, but that was a close one."

From out here, aside from the unusually high number of monks, it looked like a fairly normal monastery. They shuffled about on their daily errands, and some made time for their devotions. There was not much of note to see... and that only pricked Penny's sense of danger even more. She reached for the energies around her, of which there were clearly many and then...

She couldn't feel them.

The magic, once more, was gone, and they were stranded inside this place's walls without it. Also no longer sensing anything, Roslyn's concern returned. Their situation looked more dire than before. Before she could speak, however, sounds of a fight rose in the distance, and then rushing footsteps.

"Roslyn!" called Penny, peering out from cover, "It's now or never!"

Roslyn cursed in Hendlish beneath her breath.

All the monks seemed too distracted to notice them as they skulked forward. Their forms remained low to the ground while they moved. They wove through the trees and around the outbuildings for what seemed like forever. In reality, it was only ten minutes. When the moment came, Roslyn's legs curled beneath and then snapped herself forward. Feet slammed hard into the ground sending her sprinting into a flat out run. All her thoughts focused on getting away as the two fled from the monastery.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Event: The Assault on the Smuggler ship, Castle Mandelein | Location: Mandelein, Kerremand

The earth shook beneath their feet as the Cannoneer Gorillas unleashed their rampage, their ferocity unmatched. The Alpha, a towering force of nature, seized the cage and propelled it with astounding speed, hurtling it into a crowd of captors like a meteor, leaving chaos and bodies in its wake. Aghast and trembling, one captor stared wide-eyed at the unfolding chaos, stammering towards Jamboi. “What have y-y-y-you done?!”

But Jamboi, stood tall, his eyes gleaming with defiance. With a mischievous toothy grin, he proclaimed, "I am Jamboi'Ismax, and I'm here to liberate my people." His words reverberated with a resolute power that resonated through the air. In a swift and calculated motion, he unleashed his rope dart, a lethal extension of his will, disarming the captor who dared to raise a weapon against the monkeys. In the blink of an eye, a wild monkey pounced upon another captor, screeching triumphantly.

Undeterred, another assailant lurked in the shadows, attempting to take advantage of the chaos. But nature itself came to Jamboi's aid through Casii. Vines erupted from the ground, ensnaring the unsuspecting foe in a merciless grip. With lightning reflexes, Jamboi whirled his staff, delivering a decisive blow that sent his foe into unconsciousness. Grateful, Jamboi blew a kiss towards the hills, a silent tribute Casii watching over him.

The smugglers, caught in a storm of fire and destruction, had no chance against the wrath of the gorillas. One of the primates seized handfuls of black gunpowder, hurling them with precision, igniting explosions that sent shockwaves through the air. The Alpha Gorilla, a force of untamed power, tore through a smuggler, rending flesh as easily as a hot knife through butter. Meanwhile, Laura, the sharpshooter, expertly picked off another assailant who dared to raise his gun.

The remaining smugglers were hounded by the relentless onslaught of the wild monkeys, spreading chaos and devastation in their wake. Yet amidst the frenzy, a voice pierced through the turmoil. [color=6ecff6]"Jambii!"[/colour] It was Casii, calling out with urgency. The gorillas, unchecked in their fury, needed Jamboi's guiding hand. Beating his chest with primal might, Jamboi issued a challenge, commanding their attention. Using his rope darts, he directed the monkeys towards him, buying their loyalty with Mandelein's purple bananas.

But within the chaos, a lone figure stood defiant. The Gorilla Alpha, a formidable adversary, locked eyes with Jamboi, issuing a challenge that resonated with raw power and dominance. The stage was set.

The apes gathered around, creating a ring of anticipation as the two mighty males clashed for dominance. The Alpha, his primal fury radiating from every pore, pounded his chest in a thunderous challenge. With a fearsome display of strength, he seized a nearby piece of wood and hurled it towards Jamboi. But the agile warrior was no ordinary opponent. The planks phased through him as if he were a spectre, and with a swift motion, he drew upon the metallic nails embedded within, launching them back towards the Alpha. The nails splintered through the air, only to be caught effortlessly in the Alpha's grasp. With a menacing smirk, he transformed them into a formidable ball of projectiles and hurled them back towards Jamboi, striking him with brutal force. However, Jamboi's mastery of gravity magic allowed him to maintain his balance, turning the impact into a deceptive dance of resilience.

With relentless determination, the Alpha charged towards Jamboi, his sheer size and power propelling him forward. But as he lunged, he passed through Jamboi, who had deftly evaded the attack, reappearing behind his opponent in a display of cunning agility. Drawing upon the forces of ionic and chemical magics, Jamboi unleashed a torrent of acidic energy upon the Alpha. Yet, to his surprise, the creature's tough hide seemed impervious to the corrosive assault. Undeterred, the Alpha beat his chest in a primal display of dominance, a futile attempt to bolster his might.

Seizing the opportunity, Jamboi unleashed his arsenal of rope-daggers, swinging with astonishing speed and precision towards the Alpha. Manipulating time itself, he accelerated his movements, striking the Alpha with bone-crushing force as his staff collided with the creature's chest. Ribs crunched under the impact, leaving a bloodied imprint upon the Alpha's powerful frame. The creature lay limply, a testament to the Monkey King's lethal blow. But the battle was far from over. Enraged and determined, the Alpha summoned the last reserves of its strength, shaking with fury as it rose once more.

With a primal roar, the Alpha grabbed a large rock, crushing it within its massive hands, creating a deadly pile of pebbles. With a mighty fling, the pebbles rained down upon Jamboi. Swiftly, Jamboi retaliated, picking up pebbles from his surroundings and launching them towards the incoming cascade of projectiles, attempting to disrupt their force. Each blow was met with equal ferocity, an intense exchange that left both combatants locked in a seemingly impenetrable deadlock.

But suddenly, the Alpha's primal instincts took over. Straining every muscle, he retreated momentarily, beating his chest once more to further stoke his rage, channelling an unparalleled surge of power. The Great Ape, now unmatched in strength, returned to the fray, a force to be reckoned with. It seemed the tide had turned, as Jamboi found himself facing an opponent who surpassed him in raw power.

Yet, in the face of overwhelming odds, Jamboi found a glimmer of opportunity. With calculated precision, he exploited a moment of vulnerability in the Alpha's relentless assault. Teleporting behind the towering beast, he unleashed a devastating suplex, slamming the Alpha's head against the unforgiving ground. The impact reverberated through the battleground, rendering the Alpha unconscious and sealing Jamboi's victory. The crowd of apes falls silent, their collective roar replaced by an eerie stillness as the Monkey King emerged triumphant from his fierce encounter.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Ti
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Event: Showdown at Chuanwei, Metropolis | Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan

The Obake Maru has appeared as if out of nowhere around a corner. From some 300 yards away, its thirty guns have launched a devastating barrage of cannon fire at the force of White Knights and students, including Yalen, Maura, Abdel, and Xiulan.

Without warning, Thirty guns roared to life, unleashing their destructive payload.

Ten bronze cannons belched stone shot, while another ten regular cannons fired metal balls. The air was filled with the thunderous booms of five carronades launching grapeshot. Adding to the chaos, four Great Bombards fired depleted uranium chain shot, leaving trails of destruction in their wake.

Miraculously, the party managed to survive the onslaught, their magical defences protecting them from the deadly projectiles. Amidst the chaos, Shuyuan urgently implored the villagers to seek help, urging them to run to the city and carry the seal of the Whispering Dragon Squad, beseeching the navy for aid.

The village, unfortunately, fell victim to the merciless bombardment of the Obake Maru. Buildings crumbled under the relentless assault, reducing the once-thriving settlement to ruins. Thankfully, most of the villagers had managed to escape, but two unfortunate souls were caught in the maelstrom. One met a swift and grisly fate, decapitated by a cannonball, while the other was trapped beneath rubble, suffering severe injuries.

Amidst the carnage, Yalen, hidden in the background, began quietly chanting a blessing, channelling his power to empower his comrades. His first target was Captain Zhao, who felt a surge of newfound strength coursing through his veins. Rising into the sky, the Captain drew upon an immense well of energy, causing a wave of unease to wash over everyone nearby. With his power amplified, Zhao began charging a spell of his own. Qadira, the Skuggvar was also amplified by Yalen’s blessing.

In the midst of the chaos, Zihan swiftly reacted, using his magic to grab three cannonballs and hurl them back at the Obake Maru. The ship, relentless in its assault, unleashed another round of cannon fire.

A fearsome weapon known as the Dragon's Mouth fired a continuous barrage of blue-white fire, threatening to engulf the party. Undeterred, they rallied their defences, doing their best to withstand the onslaught. In a surprising turn of events, one of the cannonballs launched by the party found its mark, smashing into the ship and causing significant damage.

The strain of the battle took its toll on Yawen, who collapsed to the ground, no longer able to float. However, Abdel swiftly intervened, allowing Captain Zhao to maintain his focus on the spell he was charging.

As the smoke cleared, the protagonists had miraculously survived the second barrage. Yalen unleashed a massive fireball from igniting the gunpowder that soared over the Obake Maru, setting its sails ablaze. Frantic sailors rushed about, employing their own magic and water to combat the raging flames.

Then, in a moment of sheer power, Captain Zhao unleashed his mightiest attack. A colossal nuclear fireball hurtled toward the Obake Maru, engulfing the ship in an inferno. The explosion triggered the ignition of the ship's powder stores, unleashing a cataclysmic blast that sent shockwaves rippling through the surrounding area. A colossal mushroom cloud billowed into the night sky, its terrifying spectacle visible for miles around.

The force of the explosion was unparalleled, throwing people like rag dolls and shattering the landscape. Even Captain Zhao, caught off guard by the immense power, was sent tumbling, crashing into a stone overhang and leaving him dazed. Amidst the devastation, only two individuals remained steadfast: Maura, somehow defying the destructive forces, and Xiulan.

Somewhere amidst the chaotic maelstrom of power, something else of immense magnitude erupted, adding another layer of uncertainty and danger to an already volatile situation.

A cloaked figure, draped in black, materializes in front of Qadira. Behind the figure, her master lies unconscious, while her sister remains motionless before her. Fueled by determination, Qadira lunges forward, attempting to push the intruder aside. To her dismay, her snout passes right through the figure, revealing its illusory nature. Undeterred, Qadira continues her relentless pursuit of her objective.

Despite facing an internal chemical attack, Maura bursts onto the scene, riding atop Qadira. Together, they confront the unfolding situation. Lady Matsuhara, using her mastery of kinetic magic, levitates the unconscious form of Kaureerah, who had been hidden away. With a malicious smirk, Lady Matsuhara dangles five razor-sharp blades threateningly over Kaureerah's vulnerable head.

"A pity," she taunts, her voice dripping with contempt. "You lack the power of kinetic magic. Make one move towards me, and her life ends here and now."

Maura paused as tugged upon Qadira indicating her to stop, her mind raced as she found herself in a tense hostage situation.

This stranger presumed to know her, expressing a distorted sense of familiarity, claiming to know her and underestimating her knowledge of kinetic magic. It was a strange concept, since she had been using it since she arrived in ReTan to move in her wheelchair in that graceful handsfree manner. What made it even weirder was floating metallic projectiles and weapons were her speciality. Whoever this unhinged individual was, they were clearly dangerous. With confusion and concern flooded her thoughts, especially as she witnessed the distressing sight of her friend, Kaureerah, in danger. She knew Xiulan would be coming up from behind, perhaps the both of them can do something, but if there was anyone who could make a 10-second conversation last for 10 minutes, it was her.

She patted the dragon, stroking upon it in a soothing manner as she asks it gently to hold. Furthermore, she remembered the words Abdel used to make it pause before it dived in for its meal, repeating them gently with her gesture. Determination coursed through her veins as she resolved to protect her friends from harm.

Drawing upon her strength, Maura confronted the stranger with unwavering confidence. Her voice echoed with authority as she addressed them. “You have earned an audience with the Shāngyè Nǚwáng (商业女王) of Lóngwān. You have in your hands someone precious and dear to me, and we can assure you, that following through with your threat will result in swift and immediate retribution in the form of your destruction. Your only choice is to cooperate.” It was if on cue, Qahira let out a grumbling growl toward the woman.
Maura recognized the implied willingness to negotiate in the stranger's demands and seized the opportunity with a composed yet firm tone. “Given that you are stating terms implies you are open to an alternative to your untimely demise. Since you have now my attention, state your name, your purpose, and the terms and conditions for the swift surrendering of my friend into my care.” She was leveraging her position and resolve to assert control over the unfolding events.

When Xiulan was able to support, she would act. This woman will find out what happens to those who underestimate her and her friends.
Qadira growled but stayed for now. Its dark, beedy eyes glared at the menacing figure. The tone and the disposition of the enemy, along with simply not knowing them, were enough for Qadira to deem them a threat.

Kaureerah's eyes flashed open, but she tried to keep herself still.

Lady Matsuhara noticed nothing as she winked in Maura's direction.

"Negotiate?" She let out a laugh. "Girl, I'd much prefer to gloat." She shook her head and stalked forward, the convincingly limp form of Kaureerah floating beside her, along with the wicked blades. "My people might be down, but so are all of yours except for a translator with no magic, yourself, and your... creature."

Suddenly, she dropped the blades surrounding Kaureerah. "Thing is, I'm not your enemy. The twin emperors and their guard dogs who accompany you everywhere are, and the great big dragon in Bailong Shan who you know better as Wu Long." She shook her head and smiled knowingly. "One of them wins, and you can kiss your little trade goal's goodbye. One will maintain an iron grip. The other will return this place to a state of atavistic isolationism. If Nikan wins, a weak and divided Retan - a country that has terrorized both its own citizens and our nation for centuries - is ripe for the picking. Someone with intelligence and ambition like yourself could make all of the advantageous deals that she wanted. Could even carve out a sphere of influence so much more impressive than one mere island..." Then, suddenly, she flung Kaureerah in Maura's direction. The Eeaiko sailed almost gracefully through the air.
Qadira kept on glaring with those abysses one called eyes. She talked a lot, like Maura. Maybe she'd taste good, like the incessantly chirping birds outside of Ersand'Enise.

Maura's gaze shifted towards Kaureerah, relief flooding her as she witnessed her friend's safe delivery. Her attention then turned back to the woman before her, recognizing an opportunity amidst the tension. Though Qadira could easily be a threat to the woman, Maura sensed something in her words that piqued her curiosity. The pieces of her investigation fell into place, connecting the dots between the revolution, the Nikanese, and the hidden agendas at play.

A mischievous glint sparkled in Maura's eyes as she revelled in the chance to turn the tables. She couldn't resist the temptation to make the woman squirm. "So, you prefer to gloat?" Maura's voice carried a playful tone. "Well, we can play that game too. Whilst you have your… rumours. Intelligence and ambition go hand in hand with the belief that knowledge is power."

She leaned forward slightly, a sly smile forming on her face. "We are well aware of the revolution's past connections with the Traveller, the dealings with Mr. Bao, the collaboration with Wu Long and the exemplars. Oh, and let's not forget your Mr. Hui, or should we call him... Ash." Maura's smile widened, relishing the discomfort her words might evoke. "But here's the kicker. We also know about your Himitsu no Riten (秘密の利点), and the purpose behind why that room is prepared in your Consulate. It seems my reputation for thorough homework at the Academy is well deserved."

Crossing her arms confidently, Maura continued, her voice dripping with a mix of self-assurance and challenge. "A skilled merchant doesn't settle for empty promises and hollow rhetoric. If Nikan wishes to make a generous offer, we might just be willing to consider it." She playfully twirled a finger through her hair. "As a warm-up, why not grant my Trade Company a monopoly on Nikanese Spratz to the Twin-Continents as an appetizer? Imagine the allure of Wu Long's isolationist agenda when he grants us sole exclusive rights to Retannese trade across all continents. And remember, my governorship is authorized by the Twin-Emperors themselves. They could offer substantial rewards in exchange for my services rendered in this matter."

Maura leaned back, intertwining her fingers thoughtfully. "You see, all the revolutionary factions share a common belief that ReTan needs change, but no single faction can achieve it alone. You need allies, the right allies, to make this revolution succeed. And the grip of the Twin-Emperors is unyielding. You need me." Her words carried a sense of confidence and persuasion, subtly conveying the value she held as a potential ally.

Lady Matsuhara narrowed her eyes. "As I said, this is not a negotiation. You need to work on your listening skills, girl." She gathered a great amount of energy. "We keep Retan weak, you trade without tariffs. Take it or leave it." With that, she stepped away from the unconscious Dayanara, clearing the path for Qadira to do what she had wanted for so long and make a dash for her sister.

Qadira perked up and began to trot toward the accessible Dayanara. However, Maura managed to reel the beast back before it moved too close. It let out a low gurgling sound, tongue lashing out a little. Xiulan, meanwhile, had come within auditory range, but lurked behind cover, listening, and she did not like what she heard.

Nikanese sailors began scrambling ashore, then. They closed in on those still downed and on Maura, nearly a dozen and ready for war.
As the tension thickened, Maura could feel the energy of impending conflict crackling in the air. Negotiation seemed utterly futile at this point. The countdown to those critical 10 minutes drew near, and Qadira, filled with anticipation, was poised for action. Maura's mind raced, hoping that Xiulan had assumed her position and that Kaureerah was prepared. Drawing upon her own unique abilities, she harnessed her magic, utilizing gift to attempt to seize control of the suspended daggers using a combination of her magnetic, and very importantly, her kinetic magic.

"So... your offer amounts to nothing but empty words, a shattered vessel, and the promise of suffering for the ReTannese people?" Maura arched an eyebrow, a mix of scepticism and disdain colouring her tone. "Well, we must say, you've truly convinced us. Can see why you aren't assigned to diplomatic duty."

With a swift kick of her heels against Qadira's sides, she urged the magnificent creature into motion, simultaneously launching her own assault. The convergence of her calculated attack and Qadira's raw power would soon be unleashed upon their adversaries, leaving no doubt about their readiness to defend themselves and fight for the cause.

For all of Maura's effort, the daggers began floating, with minimal effort, towards the black-cloaked woman's hands. Then, she disappeared and reappeared well out of Qadira's charging path. Kaureerah whirled on the spot, drawing with all of her might, and.... The combined effort of both was not enough, for such was Lady Matsuhara's power.

Qadira, sensing the imminent danger, releases a ball of highly flammable mucus towards Lady Matsuhara. The fiery projectile erupts mid-air, exploding upon impact. However, to everyone's surprise, it dissipates harmlessly, having no effect.

Lady Matsuhara swiftly vanishes, only to reappear behind Kaureerah. Reacting swiftly, Qadira interposes herself between Lady Matsuhara and her vulnerable companion. Once again, Lady Matsuhara disappears from sight, leaving the group on guard.

In a surprise move, a new attack materializes out of thin air, with Kaureerah as the target once more. However, the attempt is thwarted, leaving Lady Matsuhara frustrated and enraged, "WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE!?!?!?!?!?"

Determined to strike back, Dayanara hurls a barrage of quills towards the Dark Lady. While most miss their mark, one manages to skewer Lady Matsuhara in the shoulder. With a grimace, she disintegrates the quill using blood magic.

Lady Matsuhara initiates her assault, targeting Kaureerah's hands. Kaureerah's palms tear open, causing her immense pain as she drops to her knees, screaming. Xiulan, fuelled by desperation, gathers whatever kinetic energy she can grasp and attempts to knock the Dark Lady away. However, Lady Matsuhara dismisses the sophomoric attempt with a laugh, underestimating Xiulan's determination.

Lady Matsuhara retaliates by unleashing a fiery assault towards Xiulan, but her attack is clumsily absorbed, leaving Xiulan relatively unharmed. Xiulan defiantly shouts, "You get out of Retan's land, Nikan bitch!"

Lady Matsuhara, intent on her mission to harm Kaureerah, launches a kinetic blast that strikes her abdomen and breaks a rib. Kaureerah collapses to the ground, while Maura watches in horror, determined not to let her friend be killed. With a resolute shout, Maura exclaims, "Again?! No, you cannot turn her into sushi!" The Dark Lady savours the anticipation of further harm as she licked her lips.

However, the combined efforts of everyone present rally to protect Kaureerah. Despite being in a fetal position on the ground, she cries out for help, "Help mee. Plees. Help mee, fauther."

Power surges within Xiulan as she shouts defiantly, "I. SAID. LEAVE. HER. ALONE!!!" Unleashing a surge of unimaginable power, Xiulan overwhelms Lady Matsuhara momentarily, but the attack ultimately wanes, leaving the dark lady still standing, albeit shaken.

Standing before them is a man. He is Rettandic of some variety, dressed in simple dark clothes, and otherwise unremarkable but for... something. There is something about him that is not normal.

He plucks the Dark Lady up into an invisible fist and squeezes. She screams. "Has this been troubling you?" he says in cool, calm Avincian. It sounds like a question, but it is not.

There is a small surge of energy and he erases her from existence. "You have done well," he says quietly to the others. "I am sorry that you had to go through that." He begins to approach the badly wounded Kaureerah. Maura began to heal Kaureerah. It isn't easy. The damage is localized, but extensive.

Then, the man is there. He kneels beside her. "Be calm, girl. Be serene and peaceful, for all the damage shall be undone." He lays a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You are safe now." He binds her wounds and pulls a kerchief from his pocket for her to dry her tears. He looks to Maura. "You did well to protect your friend: to deny them their prize." A good number of the others arrive now, in various states of bedragglement: Abdel, Zhao, Yalen, Zihan, Ming, Meng, and Yawen.

Qadira sniffs the strange man. She also tries to lick.

He seems utterly unthreatened by the massive beast, but its tongue does not meet with skin but rather a gentle kinetic shield.
Qadira flinches and takes a step back. She stares at the man curiously. Not quite sure what to make of him. Half-inclined to bite this time, but she smells Abdel and perks up.

Maura brought Kaureerah against her and hugged her warmly. She stroked her hand through her friend's hair and help in comforting her. "We don't think that is the last of the Nikanese. They are planning something very big, though it seems this resulted in a set-back for them."

The man shook his head ruefully. "They are ever the agents of chaos: manipulative, self-concerned, and needlessly cruel. Thank you for holding them back. I have friends who I will speak to about this." He rises.

"If you don't mind us asking. Who are you?" Her eyes followed him as he rose.

He smiled beatifically. "I am the first of my kind, sworn to protect order and well-being in this world. You may call me the Progenitor." More than one of those around them exchanged glances. A palpable nervousness took hold of the clearing.

Maura nodded and offered her hand out toward him, then switched to doing a bow of her head in Retannese style correcting herself, "Thank you for your help, my name is Maura, Maura Mercador."

"It is a pleasure to meet you, and I am certain we will meet again." He returned her bow and smiled warmly. "Now, I must be on my way." The Progenitor nodded at the others present and all bowed before him. He returned their gestures. Yawen seemed to be concentrating, however. She concentrated so hard, in fact, that she fainted.

Abdel was rushing as fast as he could. Something was completely wrong, close to his three girls. He knew he was totally powerless to such a thing, and even questioned if it was at all real, but he still tried. Very untethered-like of him, but he had to be there.

The Progenitor seemed startled, and he quickly moved to be at her side.

"Are you well, my child?" She did not answer.

"That my friend, Yawen. She has had a very active day today."

He placed his hands upon her temples and powerful magics filled her. "Open your eyes," his voice chimed, and she did.

Yawen smiled shyly back up at him. "I-I... thank you. I'm... sorry for having been so much trouble." Her eyes found Maura. "Oh thank the balance you're well."

With that, the mysterious stranger rose once more. "Stay safe and happy," he wished, "until we meet again." Then, he was gone.

A wind whispered through the midnight leaves, and the moons shone full on the water. Waves lapped against the shoreline and smoke curled through the air from the Obake Maru's smouldering wreckage.

The White Knight Squad had rounded up the straggling Nikanese sailors for questioning, and Yalen had been put in charge of a couple himself.
Kaureerah breathed in and out, grateful to be alive but... shaken: shaken to the very core of her being that people could be both so wicked and so kind. Nervously, she flexed her hands open and closed and nodded in Abdel's direction. Then, she leaned in towards Maura to embrace her from the side. "Thenk yoo, my freend. Thenk yoo faur seveng mee." Maura returned the hug tightly.

Dayanara was nearby and eyed the fishgirl. Then approached for a sniff. Out of instinct, Kaureerah jumped back, going into a near panic. Then, she caught herself. "Thenk yoo too," she gulped, eyes darting between Abdel and the skuggvar. Abdel was a little pale there, fearing the worst and ready to get them to stop. Dayanara went for a lick. A long and slimy brush of the tongue. The tongue was... maybe a little too much. "Eh ehehe. Ermmmm... good skaugver. Good!" she managed, reaching well around and giving it a very brief and gentle pat. Abdel reeled the critter in by calling out her name and using a little magic. "Sorry! They're ... Excited! To see you again." Kaureerah's nervous laugh came back. She sat down on the grass and shook her head, smiling. "Well, Eye'd bee lyeng eef eye sed eye feelt te seme wey, baut thenk yoo. Thenk yoo fer seveng me, you beeg slobberee thengs. Eye em frends, naut food, aukay?" She could feel a song coming on. Sadly, she could not find her lute.

The Skuggs were suddenly attracted to something: The traces of blood left from the lady that had been stabbed by the quill. Did they have a scent?! Qadira and Dayanara seemed to bicker over who would get to taste the traces of blood they had found. It did not come to fighting but instead a brief competition of shoves and low growls.

Qadira easily won the tug of war, having twice the might of her sister courtesy of Yalen's immense boon. A big brush of her tongue had the animal memorize and get a lock on the scent of the sack of flesh containing the blood. Well, so long as they weren't continents apart, but there was no hiding from a Skuggvar, only outrunning it. Qadira came out dry, and for all that Abdel knew, the assailant was definitely unalive.

In the background, the conversation between Xiulan, Captain Zhao, and Zihan seemed to be getting more heated. Presently, Yawen made her way over, and it appeared that she had been called there to give some sort of testimony. "我应该怎么办?当我能做点什么时,我应该让人们死吗!?" (What should I do? Should I just let people die when I could do something!?) the translator could be heard protesting. She shook her head vigorously. "Zis is crazy!" she added in Avincian.

Maura swiftly made her way toward the unfolding confrontation, sensing the escalating tension in the air. As she approached the scene, it became evident that Xiulan was caught in the middle, being involved in a heated exchange related to her assistance against the Nikanese woman. As Maura gathered from the snippets of protest she overheard, the gravity of the situation became even more apparent considering Yalen's earlier discussion of her failing the magic exam. It was clear that Xiulan needed support, and Maura was determined to provide it.

Approaching the guards with purpose, Maura guided the Skuggvar toward them, projecting an air of authority. "We don't recall granting permission for a private audience with the personal translator of the Governor of Lóngwán," she asserted, positioning herself between the white-clad guards and Xiulan. "All matters concerning the conduct of my translator fall under the jurisdiction of Lóngwán. Any grievances must be addressed through a formal petition to me."

Turning her gaze toward Xiulan, Maura offered a private reassuring smile and a nod. "Translator Xiulan, please convey my words clearly in Rettanese to avoid any misunderstanding. Kindly inform them that you have accepted my offer and you are currently employed in my service."

Qadira snorted and raised her head to gather the scents in the air when Maura approached them both to the agitated crowd. It could easily be interpreted as a show of aggression, but in reality it was just taking in the odors in the increasingly heated exchange. Abdel soon joined his beast and Maura, although he didn't add anything other than his hand onto the animal's flank. They did not need a beefed up Skuggvar to trample their hosts.

"对不起,但你期望什么?你叫蒋," (I'm genuinely sorry, but what do you expect? Your name is Jiang.)

Then, Maura was there, on her high horse skuggvar and reactions to her commands were perhaps... different than she'd hoped. Yawen blushed and looked away. Zihan and the nearby Ming seemed to be struggling to hold their composure, almost as if there was... mirth. Captain Zhao, alone, kept it together. He called for Shuyuan, and she scampered over.

"第一,小姐,翻译不在您的麾下。她被政府分配到你的小组。" He clasped his hands behind his back, unperturbed by her large animal and the snorting and straining of its sister, and waited as Shuyuan translated. "Firstly, young lady, the interpreter is not yours to command. She was assigned to your group by the government." He continued matter-of-factly. "我知道你们人民的许多习俗,我知道你们不是他们的领袖。我听取了简报。" He shook his head. Shuyuan looked as if she wanted to disappear into the ground, but she translated. "I know many of the customs of your people and I know you are not their leader. I was briefed." His tone, stern but friendly and almost... fatherly when they had traveled with him had now changed. It was cold and implacable. "此外,州长,你不在你的管辖范围内。这是事关国家安全的问题。我在这里有优先权。" Xiulan seemed to shrink a bit, and Yawen cowered anxiously, but there was the same hint of mirth that Ming and Zihan had tried to suppress as the captain delivered the first part of his address. "Furthermore, governor, you are out of your jurisdiction. This is a matter of national security. I have precedence here."

Xiulan bled anxiety. "我...我也一直在和她一起工作。她雇用了我。" (I... I've been working with her as well. She hired me,) she tried, weakly. "请允许我与她私下交谈。" (Please allow me to speak with her privately.) She bowed deeply and beseechingly before the captain. He glanced in the direction of Ming and then Zihan. Turning back to Xiulan, he nodded curtly, giving his leave.

Remaining seated atop the Skuggvar, Maura maintained a composed expression as she attentively listened to Shuyuan's translation. Her gaze then shifted toward Xiulan, silently seeking confirmation of the conveyed message. With a measured tone, she addressed the situation at hand.

"It has come to our attention that upon our arrival, there was a preference to consult my religious advisor instead of addressing me directly. We advise that future briefings be recorded accurately to avoid such repeated errors," Maura stated, her expression neutral but conveying a subtle hint of dissatisfaction. Her gaze shifted to Captain Zhao, the seriousness in her eyes apparent. "We are well aware that there is a matter of national security at stake. It was me who personally confronted the leader of the Nikanese forces on behalf of this great nation, as all those present here can attest. Unless you are insinuating that my personal translator is of Nikanese origin, this should not be a matter of national security."

Turning her attention sharply toward Xiulan, Maura's tone became stern. "It is being implied that serious accusations have been made, Xiulan. A servant's misbehaviour reflects poorly on the house of their Master. You will promptly explain yourself to me, or else we shall be greatly displeased when we address your punishment. We do not wish to waste the esteemed Captain Zhao's valuable time on trivial matters. He has more pressing duties in preventing further incursions by the Nikanese, who consider themselves at liberty to destroy the homes of the loyal subjects of the Emperors under his watch."

Maura then motioned for the Skuggvar to move away and gestured for Xiulan to follow her, signalling the need for a private conversation away from the immediate vicinity.

"Nonetheless, as a subject of this country, she is answerable to its laws, not your whims," said the captain through Shuyuan. He did not deign to answer the rest of the girl's self-aggrandizing excuses.

Xiulan led Maura a little ways away and there they spoke. "Maura, I afear I have not been ze complete honesty wiss you. My family, ze Jiang, we sharing a last name wiss ze former emperors. I am not some royal person, but zey not want to taking a chance." She shook her head sadly. "It is not fair and it to make me angry, but zey are on ze right side of ze law here and zey are doing zere job. Zey cannot let me go." She paused, clasping the girl's hands. "You has been ze good friend to me here, but I do not want you risk yourself, okay?"

Her voice lowered again. "And ziss laughing you see when you say 'Governor of Longwan': it is because ziss is a joke to many peoples." She shook her head. "Ze prize you receive is a fake one. Nobody can to govern Longwan. Its people cannot to speak Retanese and zey have ze agreement wiss ze old government but not wiss ze new one. Ziss island has no good port and many disease to make ze Retanese and ozer foreigners sick. We have an expression here. To call someone ze governor of Longwan is to make ze joke, like ze mockery. It means like, 'someone who sinks he is more important zan he really is.'" She looked sad. "Ziss was why they all to laugh. I did not say anysing before because you seem so happy about it. I did not want to ruin ziss and I sink it won't to matter."

Maura's smile widened as she gently held Xiulan's hand. "You acted to save not only my life but also that of my friend. You are more than just a translator to me; you are my friend. Abandoning you would be the true crime," she reassured.

Listening attentively to the words spoken, Maura remained undisturbed by them, responding with unwavering confidence. Her smile grew even broader as she looked directly into Xiulan's eyes. "To think that a ‘disabled’ foreign girl would become the Governor of Longwan is poetic justice."

"Xiulan, you've witnessed the looks we receive even before we speak a word. People believe that we should never have been allowed to survive past childhood, that we are the mistakes of Oraff or cursed by Dami's judgment as unworthy beings," Maura explained, gesturing with her hands to emphasize her point. "But here we are, riding atop a Skuggvar, me, the director of a profitable Trade Company at the age of 15, and now the Governor of my own island in the world's most powerful nation. So, Tell me, Xiulan, who is the joke?”

“Let them laugh, let them jeer, let them think that my island and me are some sort of joke. Because we are far from it. They cannot see past their own narrow perspectives nor their noses," she added, crossing her eyes playfully for emphasis.
Maura's voice grew more determined as she continued, "And that, my dear Xiulan, is brilliant. They will never see us coming or recognize the threat we represent. By the time they stop laughing, it will be too late. So, Xiulan, will you embrace this humiliation with me? Will you join me in making Longwan the shining Dragon jewel of ReTan?" The girls words gave birth to new thoughts in her mind, whether knowingly or not.

Maura shifted her focus to the White Guard before returning her gaze to Xiulan. With a serious expression, she spoke softly, "Tell me what needs to be done to free you from this situation, no matter how humiliating it may be. We will find a way out together."

Xiulan blinked. She was immeasurably grateful to Maura, but the foreign girl still didn't quite seem to 'get' it: being 'governor' of Longwan was not an achievement to be proud of. It was a poisoned chalice and worth nothing unless she somehow made something of it. That would be sweet irony. That would be something worthwhile. She still wasn't quite sure what was genuine plural and what was that odd 'singular plural' that Maura liked to use, but she could do with sticking it to the twins and their wretched government. A whole life of service and dedication and she had passed that exam. She knew it. She had only 'failed' because she was a Jiang.

Xiulan could do with some change, but... "Maura, I cannot. The law might be unjust, but I have breaked it." She shook her head. "I have a family, too: my brothers, my parents, my sister, and her family. If I cause the trouble right now..." She trailed off. "You are not nobody like they say you are, but you and your friends are... not enough strong to challenge this government, or even these guardians. I sink I must to beg."

That was when Kaureerah spoke up. "Deedn't wee aull coom heere weth te saim meessioon? Deedn't wee faight toogether?" She shook her head and she was addressing the captain and his lieutenants. "Deedn't yoo aull seve my laife?" She stalked forward and prostrated herself before them. "Thenk yoo faur thees. Nauw, Eye esk yoo waun moor theng: foorget whaut yoo sauw heere. Yoo heve yoor lauws end rooles end Eye well naut questioon them. They woork faur yoor soociety, baut Eye'm aulsoo soore peepel laike yoo, whoo enfoorce them every dey, knoow thet they aur naut poorfect. Xioolen deed naut braik them laightly. Shee hed too braik them too seve a laife: my laife... and Maurau's laife. When ees thet a bed theeng? Eye beg auf yoo thees: foorget whaut yoo sauw end yoo weell never see et augain. Eye knoow shee well naut yoose megic. She ees naut a bed persoon end Maurau ees naut eether."

For a moment, the eeaiko looked up, trying to meet Captain Zhao's eyes. Then, she continued. "Shee es joost e gerl whoo ees prootecteeng her freend, whoo hes been toold 'noo' her whoole laife end waunts too meke her oown 'yes'. Booth auf them aur, een fect. Soo em Eye." With that, she rose to her knees and remained there, waiting for a response. The wind stirred her bluish-dyed hair and a tear left a wet track down one of her cheeks. "Thet ees why wee aur frends."

Shuyuan was quietly translating the entire time, putting much of the same emotion into it that Kaureerah had. She appeared quite good at her job. Once she stopped, there was a silence. Then, Captain Zhao walked over to Kaureerah to stand not a few yards away, but perhaps a foot or two from her. He spared a long, sad look for Maura and Xiulan.

"Ocean girl," he said, in heavily-accented Avincian. He knelt to be at her level. Kaureerah was crying. "I am not angry with your friend. She tell many lies and half-lies, but I understand why she do this thing. People also lie to her. That is not the good thing." His smile was both rueful and appreciative at once. "I do not want to make pain for people." The captain reached out and took her hands. "When I was a boy, I dream to become the guardian. I want to save the life. I want to make the world better. If I work hard and help people, it will to work." He chuckled ruefully and shook his head slowly and sadly. "But when I get older, I learn this is not so simple." Zhao's face became pained. "I see the people in Severa and Constantia. I see the people with much magic: how they to treat the people with little magic. I see how they not care who they hurt. I see some old guardian who let the people go for use small magics. 'It is nothing' they say. 'Just some small things. Worry about the big things.' But then, I see those people do it again. They do it to help himself and he's friends. They stop to think the law has any power. I see how this can make Retan like these other places."

Captain Zhao shook his head adamantly. "This is not the perfect country," he admitted, "but Retan is peaceful and safe. It is peaceful two hundred years now. The government has much powers but not the greedy people. We can to walk in the city at night. We have enough the food to eat. We work together do things, not ask some important people with strong magic. I do not hate your country, but I not to want my country - my home - be like it."

He gestured in Xiulan's direction. "I want, in my heart, say 'okay, you can go'." He addressed everyone around him, kneeling as he was. Then, he tapped one of his temples with a finger. "But I know in my head this is the bad idea. I know the chemical magic and I see the angry in her. Very much." He shook his head regretfully and twisted to regard the translator. "I am sorry, Jiang Xiulan. I am sorry that they do not to let you use the magic. You are a true Jiang, though." There was a strange sort of respect in the captain's voice as he spoke. "I can feel the power you have: so much." He attempted to address everyone around him. "Her grandfathers were the tyrants. Retan bleeding when they were the emperor. Maybe she is not them. Maybe this is why the twin emperors let her to live, and her family." He released Kaureerah's hands and rose. "But now she is use the magic and she is angry. It is my job to protect this country and these people. If you am I, would you to take this risk?"

Maura paused, carefully listening to Xiulan, Kaureerah, and Captain Zhao. As she absorbed the information, she couldn't help but feel the weight of the situation. She pondered for a moment, searching for a solution. ‘Simplifying things would be ideal,’ she thought, momentarily wishing she possessed the wisdom of Ayla. ‘What would she do?’ But she knew she had to rely on her own judgment.

Addressing Captain Zhao, she spoke with a determined tone, "It is evident that this crime cannot go unpunished. However, it is crucial that the punishment is proportionate. We can find common ground in this matter." She turned her gaze towards the gathered individuals. "Xiulan has acted unlawfully to prevent a greater injustice and to save the lives of others, a crime to be sure. Your concerns revolve around Xiulan's lineage and the potential risks she poses to national security due to this. Without this connection, her punishment would be significantly less severe.”

“We propose a solution: Maura Mercador petitions for Jiang Xiulan to be placed under my care. My friends here will vouch in testimony to support this. Once she completes her translation duties here, she will be removed to the Island of Longwan and serve under my guidance. We are in need of skilled personnel, and Xiulan's translation expertise would greatly benefit my island." Maura nodded, affirming her proposal. "In this way, Xiulan will face punishment for her crime, order on the mainland will be maintained, and justice will be served, and far removed from concern."

Abdel wanted to say something. The more he heard Zhao speak and Xiulan resign herself to her fate, the more the Traveler's words reverberated in his mind. They were all at the mercy of two inhuman beings. Their 'safety' was no more than carefully selected guard dogs and the ranchers' rifles protecting their livestock. One couldn't help but draw parallels to one's own experiences, and Abdel only saw the Refuge in ReTan, a strong people confined within invisible walls and an illusiary ceiling of power.

He strategically kept most of his being hidden behind Qadira, stroking her oily scales to pacify the beast. He sighed.

“Xiulan has grown familiar to my beasts.” he began, voice strong and more confident than usual. “It is best she works with us at least until our work is done. It isn't always easy to introduce new faces to their routines.” he was greatly stretching the reality of things, his Skuggvars were not nearly as aggressive with provocation, but he banked on the immense power they had recently displayed to at least put some credence to his words. If anything, Xiualan would be seen as at least a help to a very tangible asset they had seen in action.

With a the right taps and subtle use of blood warping, he had Qadira sniffle at Xiulan's direction before releasing a happy gurgling sound.

There was something almost... dismissive about how the students delivered their counter: as if the law was negotiable, or merely an obstacle and some problem to be solved. They did not truly see or believe in the harms that Zhao Gang had earnestly advised them of. Their way - the Eastern Way - coloured their thinking and they had no desire to understand that of he or his country.

Still, he could sense that they felt just as strongly as he did, and there was the risk of an international incident at play here. He had no desire to be an ogre. They were so young and earnest. A wise leader was one who made use of his counsel, he had been told more than once before, and so he decided to follow that wisdom. Turning on a heel, he called them all together: Ming, Zihan, Meng, Yawen, Shuyuan, even Tai-Heng and Yeman. He advised the foreigners that they would hold a fair and private discussion to consider the offer. To say nothing - to leave the Jiang girl's actions out of the report - would be a gross dereliction of duty and could have disastrous consequences in the future. To indict her now, he could sense, would inevitably lead to a showdown at Chuanwei: one that could have far-reaching consequences... unless there was a way to subvert this entire process... Meng dropped a sonic dampening bubble over the senior members of Whispering Dragon Squadron and whatever they said after that was lost to those outside of it.

Two of the Old Guard and six New Guards were spread over the area surrounding Xiulan, but they were not particularly intrusive. They allowed the young woman her space, and she needed it, even from Kaureerah. Even from Yalen, from Maura, and from Abdel. The waves washed in and out, the tide slowly rolling up the gravel beach. It was dark, now, and the stars had come out. Silently, while nobody was watching, she reached under her dress and pulled a tiny pentact on a chain to her lips. She kissed it, released it, and made the sign of the Pentad.

"Ipte, Queen of Beauty and Lord of Love, I thank thee for blessing my life with the love of these people and my heart with the capacity for friendship and loyalty. I pray that you continue to do so." She touched her left shoulder with her right hand. "Shune, Keeper and Seeker of Knowledge, I thank thee for my level head during this trying time and ask for your continued guidance and wisdom in choosing the right course." She touched her right shoulder with her left hand. "Oraff, Giver and Preserver of Life, I thank you for working through my hands. I will never regret saving a life, no matter the personal cost. I ask, if possible, that you continue to bless me so that I may carry out your work." Her left hand now touched her right hip. "Eshiran, Hand of Death and Bringer of War, I thank you for your strength and resoluteness, for granting me this power that I did not know I possessed. Steady these hands and let calamity come to those who have earned it." The fingertips of her right hand brushed her left hip. "Dami, Giver of Choice and Arbiter of Justice, I pray that I have used my free will to act justly and fairly to my fellow people. I beseech of you that they may see this and spare my life if it is what you deem just." She brought her hands silently together, beneath the wind and the crashing waves, sitting for a good minute longer before rising and walking back to the others. Had she damned them all?

Then, Whispering Dragon Squadron had finished their deliberations. The sonic bubble receded and Captain Zhao stepped forward, hands clasped behind his back. "We have spoken at length," he said through Shuyuan, "And we have reached a conclusion. Many viewpoints were offered and our decision was not unanimous." His eyes flicked in the direction of either Zihan or Yawen. "Nonetheless, we have reached one."

"It is with considerable regret," he began, his voice ringing before and beneath Shuyuan's, "and not without sympathy that I must inform you that Jiang Xiulan cannot be tried here, on this beach." A loud, dark wind whistled through those gathered. "She will be tried before a court of law and I will, myself, advocate for -"

There was a man among them who had not been there before. He was short and broad and motionless. He had small dark eyes, a bald head, and a great set of whiskers framing a broad thick-lipped mouth. He stood and waited and the only thing that moved were his eyelids. They seemed to open and close with an unnatural slowness. Captain Zhao stopped speaking immediately in his presence. The other members of Whispering Dragon Squad fell quickly in line. Even the wind seemed to slow as it stirred the man's sash, and the fishlike scales of the tunic that covered his chest and great gut shimmered a dull bronze under the light of the moons.

They began prostrating themselves before him, but still, he did not move.

There was a woman as well. She was small and pale and had a patch over one eye. "I don't believe that will be necessary, Captain." Somehow, all could understand her in the language most familiar to them.

Zhao stiffened. "Lady Evil Eye."

She clasped her hands before herself and there was something almost dainty and lighthearted about her walk. "A keen eye, Captain, as always." Her nails were long... and sharp.

The strange man had still not moved, except to breathe, but his eyes were on her now. When had that happened?

"Now, as I was saying, there is no need to trouble the courts." The woman gestured in the direction of Maura, Kaureerah, and the others, taking a few steps their way. "Our foreign friends have made a perfectly reasonable offer, don't you think?" She smiled at them.

The captain hesitated. "So the offender will not see the court's justice?"

That single eye flashed, and Captain Zhao bowed his head, but he did not give the impression of being afraid per se. "Does this... displease you, squad captain?"

"You are the Black Guard. My opinion is irrelevant. You speak with the emperors' voice."

She glanced down at her nails and then back his way. "Mmm... yes. Yes, we do and, on that note..." She twisted to regard the others and giggled softly. "I would be so honoured - so very honoured - if our esteemed foreign guests would come dine with us tomorrow."

The stout man was sitting now. He had not been before. He rested great hands on his knees.

She pranced up to Maura, who was clearly in charge, and reached for her hands. "It is high time we all properly met in person, governor, don't you think?" She tilted her head to one side and winked. "And we have much to discuss, perhaps even a beneficial ✨alliance?✨"

Of course, the Torragonese was not given a chance to actually answer. Lady Evil Eye continued. "You know what? In fact, I insist! Three o'clock, on the morrow, and Xiulan simply must come as well." She skipped up to the interpreter and leaned in until they were a handful of inches apart. "Ten-Re, in his wisdom, has decided that your great-grandfathers' sins are not your own. He and Ten-Jiu would like to meet you and put the issue to rest. Dare I say, they see a great and beneficial purpose for those manas of yours!" She hopped back, grinning, and pivoted on a heel. "Tomorrow, three o'clock, she called over her shoulder. "Mark the date." Then, she and her partner were gone. He had said nothing the entire time.
Maura was taken aback by the sudden turn of events, leaving her with a mix of emotions. What seemed like an imminent but narrow defeat had transformed into a resounding victory, albeit with certain conditions, and an eerie invitation from the Twin-Emperors themselves, embodied by the life-sized replica of her action figure, 'Evil Eye.' She took a moment to gather her thoughts, realizing that she hadn't had much time to process everything. The duo departed as swiftly as they had arrived.

Maura approached the White Guards, this time dismounting from the Skuggvar before Captain Zhao. It was a somewhat clumsy manoeuvre as she slid down the creature's side, using it as support as she approached the captain, standing. "Captain Zhao," she addressed him respectfully, bowing her head. "Though we held differing opinions and both believed we were doing what was right, we wanted to express my gratitude for considering my proposal seriously and carefully weighing your decision. It was truly appreciated." With a friendly gesture, she extended her hand for a handshake, following the eastern custom.

Pausing for a moment, Maura spoke up once again, "Captain Zhao, if it is not improper, I would like to make a request." She cleared her throat and continued, now assuming an air of authority as she fit into character. "The Governor of Lóngwán requires an escort for her upcoming meeting with the Twin-Emperors. We kindly request permission for Yawen to be relieved of her other duties, so she may accompany me." Maura offered a warm smile to Yawen before returning to her composed demeanour.

Maura joined Abdel, Kaureerah, and Xiulan, gathering them together after the previous exchanges had concluded. She received support as she carried a small box, and with a smile, she opened it to reveal its contents. "We're about to face even greater challenges, and we've already been through so much," she said, her gaze resting on Kaureerah and Xiulan in particular. "But through it all, I consider you three my dear friends. We work together, watch out for one another, and provide support when needed."

She playfully shook the box, accompanied by a giggle. "And maybe, just maybe, a box of broken Mooncakes can help convince you?" Maura extended the offer of a genuine alliance between the four of them, a united front in the face of the trials ahead.
What a surreal scene that unfolded before them. The Black Guard finally took an interest in them, and invited them over for luncheon, or dinner. Again, the Traveler's warnings echoed in Abdel's mind. Sanguinaires - Xiulan's unique manas. He did not truly understand how this sort of biology worked, but he knew these bloodsuckers were just that, bloodsuckers, and feasted on the essence of man to take their strength. If what the Traveler said was true, then the young investigator had more than enough to be suspicious.

He kept his mouth closed, at least until Maura had finished her part and the Mooncake was eaten. A wheelchair was carefully constructed for her, so they could break off from the group briefly. A light tap of his ear made his want for a sonic bubble to his girlfriend clear. “There was something else I found in the warehouse. Ming doesn't know.” he said, eyes and head shifting about in slight paranoia. He did not do a great job keeping his cool. “I met the Traveller.”

Maura's expression shifted to one of concern as she focused her attention on Abdel. Despite her worry, she erected a sonic bubble around them to ensure privacy as they spoke. The revelation that Abdel had encountered the Traveller intrigued her. Could he be a Traveller agent? Thoughts raced through her mind, but there was a burning question she needed to ask.

"Did the Traveller appear in a roller chair and resemble Jocasta?" she inquired, her voice filled with curiosity, drawing upon Ingrid's previous words. "And what was her purpose in approaching you?" Maura was eager to unravel the mystery and gain a deeper understanding.

“Uh, no?” Abdel blinked, unsure what to make of Maura's peculiar priorities. “It was at the Refuge. He looked like various people from there.” he explained, as if he had to convince his girlfriend of anything. “I think he wanted us to know it wasn't his operation but Hui's. And the nature of the rulers here.” he scratched his cheek, eyes peeking over his shoulder. “I don't know who to trust, but with how Yalen reacted, I think the stuff I found is genuine.”

Maura carefully processed Abdel's account of the Traveller's appearance as multiple tethered beings, finding that could be a possible connection between them, though she focused on more important parts of his report. As she absorbed the information, she realized the Traveller’s strategic use of truth as a persuasive tool. The Traveller would likely employ a mixture of truth and carefully crafted messages to sway others to their cause.

"It appears that the Traveller understands the power of truth and how it can influence perception," Maura mused, contemplating the implications. "By blending truth with their intentions, they could make their message more palatable and believable for you to swallow. However, if they have already suffered a defeat, it raises questions about their motives for seeking an 'in-road' with you. What exactly did they want from you, or what hints did they drop?"

“Or they don't want these rulers to go down, and not some new tyrant to take over.” added Abdel. “But, maybe you're right. Maybe they have an angle.” Qadira let out a low purring sound. She smelled something nice nearby, prompting Abdel to tug at her bridle. “From what I could gather, they mostly had a problem with this regime - the oppression of magic use. I don't think they were out to recruit me. It's more like they wanted this whole dynasty to come to an end. And they're not the only one.” he paused for a moment, index over his lips as if he was mulling over his words. “He mentioned that Exemplar. Wu Long. Spoke of him as the lesser of evils, with a vision closest to theirs. Or, at least, they were nudging me toward them.”

Maura nodded in agreement with Abdel's thoughts as her word's sparked them. She couldn't help but smile as she leaned in and planted a gentle kiss on his cheek.

"It seems that the Traveller is attempting to steer us towards supporting Wu Long," she said, her voice tinged with a mix of intrigue and concern. "There are several potential explanations for this, and not all of them bode well..."

She paused for a moment, considering the significance of what she was about to share. "In return, we should divulge something we learned from the Nikanese woman and her poor attempt to bribe me. She proposed a disturbing notion: to let the Nikanese destroy ReTan and fragment it into smaller states, with the possibility of me profiting from the chaos.” Maura continued, rolling her eyes in disdain. “She also mentioned Wu Long's desire to impose what she called 'atavistic isolationism,' effectively snuffing out any hope of progress through the free exchange of goods, people, and ideas."

Letting out a sigh, Maura conveyed her thoughts on the matter. "What you said is the best way to put it, it seems we must consider the lesser of evils as we navigate our path forward."

With everything concluded, there is only one loose end. The meeting with Mr Bao, or perhaps even the elusive Mr Hui himself by the docks, if anyone bothered to show.

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A Lowly Wretch The Listless Loiterer

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"On that, we are in agreement. They will need saving." The dragon's human form rushed forward and Trypano was already on the move herself. "We are in broad agreement and can table this for later." They emerged into the blinding light of the afternoon sun reflecting off of the stark white snow. Already, a massive chunk had broken off of the mountain's glacier and was sliding downwards.

So it was they set forth, Trypano the binder and Wu the Lung, to save the people trapped atop the perilous mountain.
As a result of the explosion much of core foundation was shaking, From the high up peaks much of the ice and rocks were now breaking.
It was decided that Trypano would catch any rubble that would slip through the barrier Wu Long would maintain.

She ran to and fro, saving many people on the extreme ends of the path.
From the old and weak to the young and strong Trypano saved many with great help from Wu Long.
They were well on their way to sparing these people the mountain's wrath.

One soul laid in the smoldering snow, crumpled in a heap with a smoking hole in his chest.
The young mage named Rikard was burnt from head to toe but that wasn't even the worst hit as his bones were crushed, his organs bled and his chest had a crown imbedded in it.
Trypano had a lot of work in store to save this one and little time to rest.

Examining his condition it appeared the heat that the crown underwent left it hot enough to cauterize the wound it left. He wouldn't bleed out, at least not from there. It was his insides that needed more luck as the force of the shockwave had ruptured a fair amount of the softer tissued organs. It was a miracle he was still alive really.

She began reconstruction of the cell walls while breaking down blockages and administering anesthetics directly into his system. Even if his manas wanted to stop her from doing what she wanted to him in the state he was in it would be struggle for them to even try. once his circulatory track was patched she considered defibrillation but figured he'd had enough electrocution and decided to inject him with adrenaline instead. With that kick to his system his heart got to beating again but there was another issue: The crown had punctured a lung.

Acting fast to make sure he didn't drown in his own blood she opened a pathway for his lung to drain. One functioning lung was better than two so long as the other one didn't start spitting blood back up into the respiratory system. The mountain was continuing to scatter forth rocks however so this would have to do. Her help might not of fixed what was wrong completely but he was now flush with enough opioids to make a poppy farmer's jaw drop.

What came after was little more than the tail-end of the avalanche, fewer rocks rolling at fewer people as most others were plucked from the snow by her hand and sent off while all others had fled. Once she was finished she had to return and finish the work she had started on Rikard. Finally removing the dented crown which was most surprisingly intact from the steaming hole in his chest she was able to seal the wound, getting to work returning his lung to working order. After that it was a simple matter of knitting his bones back together and running cleanup to make sure no embolisms start making their way up the stream.

Within a few minutes he was able to return to his feet, fueled largely with painkillers and adrenaline to make up for the overall battered condition of his body. She wrought crutches from some local branches together using her binding and continued on with Wu Long to go see what had become of the main dispatch crew that had accompanied them up here.

It appeared Ingrid and those in her company were alright, although they still appeared to be in something of an argument even though the mood wasn't terribly sour towards the focus of their topic.

Meanwhile in her purse a neat old trinket now sat, far from pristine, along with a couple of slimes of varying color and quality.

Involved - @dragonpiece,@Force and Fury,@YummyYummy,@pantothenic,@McKennaJ71,@Ti.
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Hidden 1 yr ago 10 mos ago Post by BlackRoseSiren
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Event: Cold Comfort

The group of Esmii, Sven and Oksana. They travelled into the farm areas looking for more of the caves that Esmii found before. The group found a farmer who they asked about the caves. The farmer said That the caves were off limits to anyone. Esmii tried to ask for the reason why, but that discussion went rather poorly. Luckily, Oksana was able to defuse the suspicion of the farmer. With it, he said that if they want to know more about the caves, they would have to go to the mausoleum.

While doing some backtracking. They wanted to wave down a boat to help get there a bit faster. The girls had no idea what to do about it. Sven did, and pretended to fall into the ice cold water. His acting skills were a little poor. Somehow it worked, and they fished him out of the water, at took them part of the way. Esmii gave him a big hug, she kind of regretted it since she was hugging an Eskand icicle.

As the Three got off the boat and made it a bit way forward. Esmii didn't want Sven to get sick from wearing freezing wet clothes. She gestured Oksana to wait here for a few moments while she dried Sven down. Looking around, it looked like the coast was clear, so Esmii took Svens arm into some bushes, she helped him out of his wet clothes, however there was a lot of playful giggling from both of them with Oksana being deaf she didn't know what was happening. What Esmii and Sven got up to during that time in the bushes (You can use your imagination you perv.)

Several minutes passed, and the couple emerged from the bushes with smiles on their faces. Sven was almost fully dry, just bits of his hair was still damp. They got to the front gate. Esmii asked if they were allowed inside thinking it would be more of a place open to the public. They were denied entry. So they had to think of another plan to get inside and that was getting in with stealth.

Once inside, the three tried to get around undetected. Oksana and Esmii were fine but Sven got spotted. He didn't say anything about the others being here, so he gave up without a fight and was escorted back outside. Esmii felt horrible, she wanted to help Sven but he made a subtle shake of his head meaning "Don't." She put trust in her boyfriend and continued to follow Oksana.

There were a few doors to pick from. Esmii and Oksana went through the big door that had drag marks on the floor. They managed to open the door without making a sound, then closed it behind them. Inside the room was a rail for a minecart. As the two went to make their way down it, Esmii got the same feeling that she had from the cave that went in on her own. Fear was setting in on Esmii once again making her tremble. She wanted to go back, she wanted to run away, Oksana managed to calm Esmii down. Esmii hated herself, she apologised to Oksana for being so afraid of that strange force she felt. Oksana suggested that we try another door, when Esmii opened it a monk was right in front of her as she opened the door. Esmii was spotted, not giving him a chance to spot Oksana Esmii shoved past him and ran down a corridor. The monk called for help and several were in hot pursuit of the Yasoi. They were shouting something at her but she didn't understand their language so she kept running.

With her time running. Hopefully she managed to not get Oksana spotted and she was able to escape. Esmii felt angry at herself, thinking that she's weak, if she was more stronger, she wouldn't have had to turn back because of her being afraid to got down that cave because of that mystical force, she'd have been able to not leave Sven behind she had no idea what happened to him, she prayed that he was alright. Her thoughts came to an end as some of the Monks were hot on her heels. One Monk fired a Kinetic force spell, in an attempt to make her fall. Esmii was grazed by it and she stumbled, but kept going. As a counter attack, using Binding magic, she made a tripwire in an attempt to slow them down, she caught a few with but some were catching up with her almost able to grab her. Esmii wondered what was up with these monks; their cardio must be insane.

Another monk fired a Kinetic spell at Esmii, she managed to dodge it, only just. She tried again with another tripwire, it worked getting a few more, now only two were left chasing her. Straight ahead of her was the exit, as well as five monks blocking it. Esmii panicked a bit, and casted a giant barrier of ice to keep the five monks at bay, but she blocked her only exit. Now trapped she didn't have a moment to think before a monk used a kinetic spell to shove Esmii into her own ice wall, Esmii was able to stop most of the impact, but she banged her shoulder. She tried to fight back a bit but these monks were strong, they were able to defend themselves against her attacks, another monk tried to break Esmii's wrists so she'd stop casting, luckily she was able to defend herself against that.

Coming up from the corridor that Esmii ran up, it was Oksana with some monks after her too. There was a bit of a fight, a fight that the two girls were never going to win. They had an escape plan to warp the top of the ice barrier so they could climb out over the monks waiting outside. The two ladies started climbing as the ice barrier started to warp but both couldn't climb fast enough and were almost caught. Something was taking up the Monk's attention in the courtyard. They were being thrown around like ragdolls, the person behind it was Sven he shouted "You lay a hand on my girlfriend and you'll lose it." Seeing him safe but missing a shirt, Esmii was filled with a mixture of happiness and lust, but now wasn't the time to drool over him, they needed to escape now.

As Esmii got closer to Sven, something was off, he was just enraged, Esmii tried to get him to stop, begged even, but her voice couldn't reach him. Distracted by Sven, a monk tried to ambush Esmii, but Sven sent them flying through the wall of the gate screaming "Don't you dare touch her." While outside the gate a new person made an appearance, this was different. It was the Abbot of the mausoleum. Esmii and Oksana put a barrier up in the hole that was made, but the Abbot destroyed it effortlessly, Sven charged at the Abbot, Esmii tried to stop him but she couldn't get through once again. Watching Sven and this Abbot match power for power, Esmii wanted to help him, but the mana of this Abbot was terrifying, she was paralysed with fear. Then something happened, no idea what happened but somehow Sven was back to his senses and the Abbot backed off, with this opportunity they made a break for it back to somewhere safe.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by YummyYummy
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YummyYummy Ayyyyy

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Qadira arrived in Chuanwei with the rest of the group. She could sense the imminent threat approaching, her snout flaring at the smell of smoke and gunpowder. The Nikanese vessel took notice of them as well and fired barrages of projectiles over the coast and the settlement. Qadira stood ready, blubber giggling and tail beating the ground.

In the face of imminent peril, I beseech you, dear frail mortals, to release the tendrils of fear that seek to constrict your hearts. Be comforted, for I shall rise as your guardian, steadfast and resolute, warding off the impending onslaught launched by this vessel. Fear not, for I shall muster my formidable might and tenacity to repulse the audacious assault, ensuring your safety amidst this turbulent encounter. Trust in my unwavering resolve, and witness as I unleash my unwavering power to thwart this boat's belligerent advance, shielding you from harm's insidious grasp.

The beast gurgled and stomped its thick feet onto the dry dirt. Where many humans had failed to deflect the incoming projectiles, Qadira had repulsed all those in her vicinity with aggressive drawing and swift smacks of her tail. Her black, beady eyes glared at the incoming ship, her claws dragging against the ground like an angry bull’s hooves.

Then, the beast felt a warmth within - a great strength surged through her! The doings of a human named Yalen.

In the presence of your esteemed wisdom and benevolence, oh revered monk, I humbly offer my profound appreciation for the precious boon you have bestowed upon me. With deep gratitude, I pledge to wield this bestowed gift as a formidable weapon against the forces that stand in opposition to our noble cause. Rest assured, dear clergyman, that I shall strive unwaveringly to emerge victorious in our shared struggle against our adversaries.

When the largest cannon fired, Qadira syphoned the entirety of the projectile and fired back with an even larger blast mixed with flammable mucus to accelerate a chain reaction. The boat was struck, but did not fall. Not until Zhao’s cataclysmic charged attack after a second rain of projectiles. Many were knocked out by the blast, but neither Maura nor Qadira were out of it.

As the olfactory senses awaken within me, permeating my very being, I am graced with the unmistakable fragrance that belongs solely to my beloved sister. Forsooth! In this pivotal moment, I implore you, immobile human, to muster your courage and embark upon a swift and resolute advance, for the time has come to surge forth with unwavering determination in pursuit of our shared objective with alacrity.

Qadira unleashed a loud sound that nearly came off as a ‘moo’ and dashed into the ruins of the settlement with Maura on her back. An entity attempted to get in their way, but Maura picked up on the interference and guided Qadira appropriately. They would eventually arrive at an impasse: A human with a delicious fish-person. Qadira growled at the woman.

In the depths of my innermost sentiments, I find myself harbouring a profound aversion towards the individual in question, for their presence evokes within me a palpable sense of disfavour and discontent.

The talks between Maura and the Nikanese envoy didn’t work out, and conflict erupted with the unconscious Kaureerah freed. There were also Dayanara and Jiang. But in order to save them, this interloper had to be dealt with. Qadira was not easy to control and would find herself particularly aggressive toward the woman, frequently charging at her, and yet there was another presence that consistently interfered and threatened Kaureerah in particular. Qadira unleashed a massive roar, prompting Dayanara’s slow awakening.

Hark! In order to staunch the insidious advance of this enigmatic and imperceptible force that has left us consistently flummoxed, it is imperative that we remain steadfastly resolute in our collective endeavour, persistently launching a relentless series of attacks with unwavering determination and unyielding resolve!

With the help of a hidden Xiualan and Dayanara, the group of four were able to not only wound the assailant but also repulse her until the appearance of a strange individual. One that deleted the woman entirely. Qadira flinched, and curiously sniffed about. But the man was swiftly gone, leaving them with … A happy ending? Her attention was immediately on the drops of blood left by the supposedly dead Nikanese.

Following the act of savouring the flavours bestowed upon me by indulging in the gustatory delights of this culinary experience, I shall proceed to convey my deep-seated appreciation through a lighthearted gesture of affection, namely by engaging in the act of playfully caressing my limber muscle specialised in gustatory functions against the personification of piscine characteristics, thereby giving rise to a whimsical and comical interlude wherein the very entity that initially posed as a potential menace now assumes the role of an unexpected companion, epitomising the ironic twist that has manifested within this unique and memorable juncture.

Qadira licked Kaureerah and let out happy little grunts. Although the atmosphere in the air wasn’t perfect. A confrontation between Zhao and Maura occurred, tackling the subject of Xiulan. Qadira was still Maura’s ride, and kept on uttering grunts that could easily be seen as threatening to others.

My fellow chaps of good breeding and social stature, pray tell, how fare thee in the realm of existence?

The moment was cut short when a witch appeared among them, along with a slow and peculiar figure that remained silent. Qadira perked up, her body language suggesting she wasn’t all too comfortable with this person. She felt Abdel hand by her ear. Her eyes briefly peered at his direction.

In light of the bond that intertwines us within the realm of instruction and guidance, I feel compelled to impart upon you a word of caution, dear fatherly figure, urging you to exercise utmost vigilance and prudence in your dealings with this mysterious and enigmatic figure, who assumes the guise of a witch. Given the circumstances that currently envelop us, with an awareness of the intricacies and potential challenges that lie ahead, it is imperative that we engage in a meticulous and thorough process of thoughtful readiness, leaving no stone unturned, as we lay the groundwork for our forthcoming endeavours with utmost precision and careful consideration.

She burped.
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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by jasbraq
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jasbraq The Youngest Elder

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Secrets of Kirimansk
(Yvain's POV)

After a decent night’s sleep and still feeling somewhat awkward without the use of magic Yvain set out with Yuliya, the girl that always seemed close to his cousin yet he knew very little of.

First they stumbled upon an old lady, a yasoi fisherman and a man who Yvain fondly remembers. The mere commoner that thought he could handle the greatness and perfection that is the pride of the Berbignons. Seeing Yuliya approach the woman let him trail after her. He did not speak the language so his understanding and participation around the conversation was next to none… Although his face was probably enough to get the woman to feel more comfortable around the two… As Yuliya finished the conversation and moved forward towards a warehouse the noble left with a shit eating grin on his face, staring Igor straight into his eyes.

Once arriving at the warehouse they assorted themselves as true nobles, even if one was of the merchant class supposedly. They were supposed to be here and what was this guard supposed to question them on it? After a small chase after a suspicious man with a box they stumbled upon some Nikanese swords and wielding it was truly natural for the two members of the Oath of the Blade. Once the box was acquired the two began to look for a locksmith and stumbled upon a tower. The two blondes climbed the stairs like it was their own house’s and soon enough came trouble peaking it’s head out. Four filthy commoners that do not know their place did not move out of the way for them. Their behavior was truly vile as they drew swords towards their betters.

The bout was glorious! Swords clashed as they focused on the Perrench man. Not like a pitiful four men could ever do anything against the utter peak of humanity that is Yvain de Berbignon. As beautiful as a butterfly, Yvain moved along the stairs, parrying most stabs and slashes from the man. gracefully trying to disarm them. However his hand got slashed once. His expression was no longer one of a smile. One of the four men tried to slash once more. The swords clashed, followed by a jab from the Perrench man and in one clean slice he was disarmed… quite literally. Yvain talked through the man’s screams of agony. ”A deserving punishment for spilling a noble’s blood.”

The other three were not finished yet after such a sight and one even tried to push the savage noble off the railing and to his fall yet the Vossoriyan woman made sure it was not Yvain to take that fall. His anger by this disrespect was starting to boil over and as if Eshiran himself wished for their demise he received a couple more cuts from one of the remaining men. Angrily clashing swords with the man, Yvain yelled and kicked. ”FILTH, FILTH, HOW DARE YOU!” After a barrage of sword hits the man lost his footing and without a second of doubt Yvain cut straight through the man’s neck.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" the final standing man insists. "I won't cause you no more trouble. Wasn't nothin' personal, milady." He nods toward Yvain. "Milord." The man hides his burning anger whilst groveling in front of the two. This act of acting his position caused Yvain to be of sound mind once more and the pair made it upstairs once more.

Entering inside the two were spotted, the guards glance among themselves in uncertainty and then one twists to look at Yuliya. He crosses his arms. "Little politeness goes a long way 'round here, rich girl." Yuliya stops, slashes the blood off her foreign sword and sheathes it, before giving a curtsy. "Sir, four ruffians have just accosted me and attempted to steal our chest here. Could you do us the favor of leading us to the locksmith?" with the sweetest smile she could muster, knowing that if this smartass commoner made one more remark she'd lose it.

Another man approached the two. He looked her up and down, stroking his bushy beard. He nodded. "Sorry you had to go through that." He nodded in Yvain's direction as well."Looks like you know how to handle yourself, though." He waved her forward. "Ivan, Vassily!" he shouted. "Take these two up top. Take 'em to the smith.” And before long they were led towards the balcony and they were told to wait for the smith. Yuliya however split off from Yvain to inspect the area further by going a floor up through a trapdoor.

Yuliya was taking quite a while… too long even. It caused concern in the noble's heart and forced him to feel uneasy. He decided to inspect the same area as Yuliya and what he found was rather something he did not want to see. An unconscious Yuliya and a group of men armed, pointing their rifles at him. In an act of defiance and sheer luck he managed to drag the girl away but his luck soon gave out as he was hit in his spleen by one of the bullets, slowing him down enough for the others to surround him.

As the others surrounded him a weird gas from the floor above began to fill the area as one of the men put on a mask. Then… like he was invigorated by divine means he got his magic back. pushing the gas away from him and into the assailants causing most to gasp for air. ”Be prepared to face true divine might!” Bullets were no longer a concern, they could not even get close to him and soon enough only one man stood defiantly against him. Clicking his tongue, he began to clench his hand as he attempted to stop the man’s heart. Before realizing the mistake that had been made everything went dark..

Yvain awakened to a woman’s screams, he was scared. What even happened before? He was winning and suddenly everything went dark. Thinking about it gave him a chill. He kept completely still as the feeling of these entities drawing were enough to even make him hesitate to act. He overheard the conversation between Yuliya and another woman as his restraints came off. Yvain’s thoughts ran in circles. The Vossoriyan was a Sanguinaire? Does Penelope know? If she does, why hasn't she told him yet? Is it a trust issue? Can he trust her around his cousin? He played along like nothing was plaguing his mind, not saying much.

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

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Showdown at Chaunwei - Afterwards

When it was discovered that Kaureerah had gone missing during her expedition to the coast, it was only natural that Yalen would volunteer to tag along. Ever since finding out the assignment was a political sham he felt completely out of touch with the things going on. Until everyone decided they had had enough and it was time to go home, the young priest would default to the duty of ensuring the safety of his comrades as best he could.

Fighting on an open battlefield was not something Yalen was accustomed to, and he was a bit shaken by the sight of the Obake Maru’s thirty gun broadside. He might have fled the field then, if he hadn’t already faced the horrors of the sanguinaires and the book demon. He did his best to empower their strongest pieces, boosting the RAS of Captain Zhao and the skuggvar with the art of Command so that they might quickly end the fight. When the battle reached its climax, he was able to remotely detonate a large portion of their gunpowder magazines and set the entire ship ablaze, leaving its crew confused and in disarray. They were easy pickings for the captain’s awesome might, which in that moment could easily dwarf that of his wife.

Yalen would not be fortunate enough to see what transpired after the Obake Maru was sent to the bottom of the ocean, as the resulting shockwave left him and many others out cold for some time. After the casualties were collected and the prisoners they’d taken were rounded up, he was offered the chance to speak to a pair of captives in order to pry whatever information he could from them.

Yalen squatted in front of one of his assigned captives and tilted his head. He really wished he knew more Commands so he could get these people to talk without coercion. Were these mercenaries? Hardliners? It was hard to decide whether to use the carrot or the stick here.

"I'm going to be honest with you guys. I came to this country thinking I was chasing someone who apparently isn't here. I don't really have the motivation to interrogate you now that your boss is gone. Can you just tell me one thing? Why did you destroy this village? Who were these innocent people to you?" Yalen spoke in a low tone so as to keep the conversation out of the ears of the white guards.

"In the way," said one, but the other shook his head. There was a rapid exchange in Nikanese between them that quickly became heated, but he persevered. "I do not want to do this things." He shook his head more adamantly. "But he was there. We must obey him."

"He did not tell us to do it!" roared the other.

"And then he was here why?"

"He only does action when need to!"

"And we should not hit our enemy when there is a chance?"

Yalen appeared to have gotten more than he bargained for. These men were arguing, mostly in broken Avincian, for his benefit. To what they actually referred was not necessarily easy to determine, however. Yalen clasped both men on the shoulder, interrupting their exchange.

"Gentlemen. Let's stay calm." He reached into one of his bag pockets and pulled his hand out, showing them a concealed letter opener. It wasn't exceedingly sharp, but it could easily cut through a rope with enough patience.

"This man you are arguing about... Who is he, and what can you tell me about him? If you can give me a satisfactory answer, I will let you have this little favor. Perhaps you can cut yourselves free when they aren't looking. Make a run for it when the chance presents itself? You are too low on the ladder for me to consider you worth keeping hostage. I want the people who are really responsible for all this trouble."

There was a sudden tug on the letter opener. It flew out of Yalen's hand and straight for one of the men's necks. It stopped perhaps a half-inch short, hovering in midair, and the one who'd seemed more willing to speak cried out in wordless terror, resisting with his magic. The knife plunged straight into his neck and sliced it open. His eyes widened in horror and he gurgled, about to die. The knife eventually disintegrated into dust as Yalen responded with his own magic, but he was too late to stop the damage. He threw his hand over the sailor's neck and squeezed as hard as he could without crushing his windpipe.

"This is the last time I handle a prisoner without checking for snipers..." He reprimanded himself. As a Somnian he was used to handling arrested suspects, not prisoners of war. His conduct had been sloppy and this was the result. It would be a good learning experience for the future.

"SUBMIT!" Without missing a beat, he prepared to save the man's life using the few methods he had at his disposal. "MEND!" It was a command he had been practicing on his own for some time now, and after struggling to refine the technique he could finally feel it working the way he intended. The dying man's manas moved under Yalen's directive, rushing to the site of the wound and plugging it up faster than his own immune system could react. He had medical tools at his disposal and some experience with Binding as well, but Yalen figured it would be faster if a professional Binder take over from here. "Hey! He called out to one of the Red Menders lurking nearby. "This one is dying! Come help!"

"Let me free! Let me free!" shouted the other man, panicking. "By the balance, please! I am sitting duck! They kill me!"

As he hollered, however, help was on the way. Ai-Xue, tall and graceful, with her laugh-lined face and long white hair, rushed over with unexpected speed, her footsteps light and long, clearly enhanced by kinetic magic. She did not need to be able to speak Avincian to understand what was wrong. She set to work immediately. It was far from a simple matter to save the mortally wounded man, but Ai-Xue was an old hand at this, and among the best healers within the White Knights. She worked with silence and diligence and he soon drew breath again.

"You're not going to die! Just... get down or something!" Yalen pushed the screaming man onto his stomach and covered him with his own body for protection. The priest ignored the captive’s feeble struggling and closed his eyes, trying to find the attacker's presence in the area while the medic did her work. If they didn't find the assassin now then they could take as many chances as he wanted to kill these two on the way back to the city. Yet, try as he might, Yalen sensed nothing out of the ordinary within normal casting range: only the intense binding magic of Ai-Xue, others going about their interrogations - some quite brutally - and the fear and panic of the other prisoner.

"Captain Zhao!" Yalen yelled. "We're being attacked! I can't find the assailant! We need to protect these men before they are silenced!"

The captain was not so very far away. He did not speak fluent Avincian but, after a brief check-in with Shuyuan, he sprung into action, dropping a massive kinetic barrier over them and maintaining it as well as an arcane one. The man's skill and power were clearly immense.
No further attacks seemed to come. The wounded man was healed, though clearly shaken. He went silent, saying nothing further. His formerly-panicked partner still radiated anxiety, but he shot the newly-healed man a look and he shrunk back into himself.

"Please just let us go. We tell you everything we know." The first said.

"That, I think, is out of the question now. If someone is after your life, I doubt you would last ten seconds outside of the good captain's protection." Yalen answered regretfully. Working outside of his home turf was proving to be more difficult than he imagined. This hadn't gone at all the way he'd hoped.

And why am I trying so hard? We have Kaureerah and our skuggvar back. The Traveler isn't here. I should just go back to the inn. Yalen argued with himself as he let the guards take custody of the prisoners. What was he supposed to do now? Find out who these sailors were and who they worked for? Who cared? They weren't his target. Sure they had tried to harm his companions but war was an impersonal thing, and as sad as this battle’s aftermath was, it was only a drop in a bucket. Once Rettan got even with the Nikanese, the damage inflicted as a result would make this village’s destruction look like a celebration.

Maybe it was time to take a step back and let the others take the initiative. He could simply do his best to keep them safe and wait until this whole mission blew over. Feeling unsure of what to do with himself for the time being, Yalen kicked at some sand and looked around listlessly for his allies. Were they all okay? He went to check on Xiulan first since she was a civilian, but the only response he could get from her was a fragile smile that did little to reassure him.

“Yalen.” Abdel casually approached Yalen from behind, his cheap leather bag turned to his stomach and opened to reveal its contents. It was the Black Rezaindian getup. It wasn't any more distinct than any other set of clothing from that specific order. At least until Abdel added some context.

“It belonged to that powerful attacker - Hui - that fought with Wu Long. He goes by Ash too.” Abdel whispered, but tried his best to make it seem like an average conversation between comrades, fake smiles and all. “Sounds familiar to you? I could swear I heard that name before, and it had something to do with the Church.”

For a split second, Yalen's face might have looked like he wanted to choke the life out of Abdel. It was a fleeting moment, for he appeared as calm as ever as he fingered the black robes in Abdel's possession. He put an arm around his companion's shoulder and showed a casual smile while leading him a few paces away from Xiulan and Captain Zhao. When they had some personal space, he spoke to the other tethered in a low voice.

"You said you discovered a man who calls himself Ash. Maura said the same thing, but I thought nothing of it... until you brought me this robe." Yalen deeply inhaled. Though the fighting was long over, his forehead was beaded with sweat.

"The owner of that robe tried to kill my wife. He tried to kill me too, as well as some of our school mates. He is a Rezaindian, like Sister Laska. Their kind only knows how to solve problems by offering blood to Eshiran. His presence here presents a great danger to us all."

Abdel gulped. “H-he tried to kill Jo'?” cold sweats accumulated on his forehead. The fact that Hui was supposedly that strong scared him, even after what he had faced on this day alone. “... What do we do, then? It's definitely not some Traveller plot. I feel totally out of my depth, man.”

"I don't know." Yalen threw his hands up. He sounded as lost as Abdel did. "I don't know anything about him besides his name. Not even my cardinal can touch him. It is almost as if someone in the church is protecting his identity. The only authority presiding over the cardinals would be... the optimates themselves."

Yalen shivered involuntarily. He looked over his shoulder conspiratorially, as if he were about to be arrested on the spot for uttering such words.

"You are not of the Quentic Church. Do not put yourself in harm's way. You bear no responsibility here except to keep yourself safe. If he makes his presence known again, I will do what I can to learn his secrets. If there is anything that can be used to incriminate him, my superiors can make him answer to a tribunal."

In his own mind, Yalen was not so sure. There were rumors that Brother Ash had not been seen in the holy city for some time. Had he come to Rettan under orders, or was he pursuing his own goals? Was this even a matter that could be resolved with the church's authority? Too many questions presented themselves that could not be answered without confronting Ash himself.

“Damn.” Abdel scratched his cheek, clearly nervous over this whole ordeal. Now the Church was potentially in on this too? He shot a look behind him, toward Maura who likely remained on Qadira due to a lack of wheelchair, and his beasts. Was this worth risking his raisons d'être?

“There's something else.” he decidedly confessed, ruffling through his bag to reveal a rolled up set of correspondences between Hui/Ash and what was dubbed as 'Sifu'. “I think he's been in contact with the Traveler. What they say fits the MO, I think.” he looked around, about as paranoid as Yalen at this point.

“They've had a falling out. But he seems to using the Traveler's message to get his way. So, we still technically have a Traveler problem.” There was another document, one old and faded that dated back to the Great Heathen War. Very little could be read of the dulled ink, but there was the undeniable seal of Arcel, and commendations for someone that was apparently a great and honourable Knight, all written in old Perrench.

Yalen's hand hovered over the time worn document, but he pulled back for fear of tarnishing it. He locked eyes with Abdel. "Who did this belong to? Was this found with the robe?"

“It was in that seedy warehouse we had a lead on.” he explained, her attention shifting more and more to the increasingly loud argument happening nearby. “Ming knows all about this, so assume the whole Rettanese set does too.”

Abdel departed after saying those final words, as he was soon compelled to return to his skuggvar’s side and calm it, as a heated debate had broken out between the Rettanese. Yalen wasn’t thinking about them at all however, as his mind was laser focused on the existence of Brother Ash. The priest had finally found his true purpose for being here, and what a joyous feeling it was. As soon as the two of them could be alone again, he planned to rendezvous with Abdel and expand upon the discovery they had just made. According to the evidence, Ash might have a link to the Traveler as well. The chance to catch the tail of two of his enemies could not be missed.
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