Hidden 5 mos ago Post by pantothenic
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pantothenic bored part-timer

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Location: Meldheim - The Green Temple
Time: Late morning to early midday

Gerard walked quietly through Meldheim, his wool cloak flapping vigorously in the icy southern wind. The Rezaindian was feeling much more comfortable now than he was when the expedition first landed at Rigevand. With his new disguise he could now hide his face under a hood, and he could also speak with the locals more freely using his pilgrim’s alibi as an excuse. Those whose lands bordered the northern kingdoms tended to have a more noticeable accent compared to the core Eskandr cultures.

Using the directions given to him by Trygve, Gerard found his way to the foothill atop which the Grontempel had been built. As despicable as the Eskandr were as a people, their skill in woodworking could not be denied. Every inch of every plank used in the temple’s construction had been decorated with patterns ranging from knots and diamonds to trees and longships. As he stepped closer to the towering structure, he noticed the faint tool marks left behind by the craftsmen’s carving knives. The roofs were slanted to prevent snow buildup, and wood carved dragons peeked out from where any two corners met. The draconic reliefs were studded with jewels of all colors, a detail Gerard took note of. They would be worth tearing apart before the church was destroyed.

Gerard made sure to prostrate himself in front of the temple doors before entering. He felt none of the euphoria experienced by the genuine believers who made their way here, but right now he was playing a role. There were many residents and pilgrims going in and out of the Grontempel and he needed them to believe he was a sincere worshiper of the Five Wardens. When he was finished making a fool of himself the Quentic priest stepped up to the Grontemple’s massive double doors. It was difficult to tell due to the wood’s color but one could make out Eskandish script cut into the door at various elevations. Gerard spotted familiar words like ‘Father’ and ‘Home’ and ‘Afterlife’, but most of the text was indecipherable.

This dialect is so old. I can’t read it at all. Were these doors brought in from somewhere else? Just then the doors groaned open as a congregation exited the temple, causing a wave of air to hit Gerard in the face. Despite wearing a thick double tunic, he still shivered involuntarily. The sooner they returned to the green hills of Perrence the better. He pulled his hood up tighter and slipped past the crowd to enter the Grontemple proper.

It was not as dark inside the temple as Gerard expected. Circular glass portals allowed slivers of light to cut through the shadowy inner sanctum, and a large number of torch sconces had been bolted to the walls. The scent of smoke was strong here. Keeping the Grontemple insulated against the freezing conditions outside must have required them to give up on proper ventilation. Thankfully the fiery priest was unbothered, for the smell of ash was well known to him.

Gerard confidently strode down the aisle while scanning his eyes around the sanctuary. Unlike the Quentic churches he was used to, there was a distinct lack of seating available. With the exception of a few long benches for the elderly and infirm, all of those who came to worship did so on their feet. Guessing by the subtle differences in their clothing, Gerard saw a diverse mix of Drudgunzeans standing in prayer among the Eskandr, mainly those from Kressland and Lindermetz.
The Grontemple was just as richly decorated inside as it was outside. There was plenty of expert woodcrafting on display, but on top of that Gerard saw more jewel encrusted statues as well as neskals being used as ornaments. Even the candelabras and braziers appeared to be made of valuable silver. The Eskandr apparently dedicated a sizable share of their wealth towards making their gods comfortable.

Good. If this was just any old chapel then razing it to the ground would serve no purpose. Under his hood, Gerard was smirking. His feet had finally carried him to the end of the aisle. This far into the temple the light had become scarce. The disguised Parrenchman could only see a couple feet in front of him now. He had to stop now, as there were two other congregants lined up ahead. The one in front, a woman, was kneeling in front of an unfathomably deep basin which had been carved into the stone floor. The basin was filled to the brim with water. At least, it was a liquid that had the same visual appearance as water. She scooped some of the liquid into her hands and drank while Gerard watched her intently. He felt alarmed when the woman suddenly collapsed backwards and stared at the ceiling.

The red Rezaindian leaned forward and whispered to the man in front of him. ”What’s happening to her?” The Eskandr turned his head to look at Gerard.

“Is it your first time standing in the hall of the Family, traveler? In that case, Brother’s blessings upon you. What you see here is the holy well of the Grontemple. When a true son of Eskand drinks the hallowed elixir, their spirit is partially freed from its mortal shell. The things you are able to experience in that state between life and death… it is indescribable. Some have claimed to see the dead, while others hear the voice of the gods themselves. If you'd like then you can go ahead of me. Be warned though: your first experience may frighten you.” The amicable stranger stepped aside to make way for Gerard. The latter was hesitant to proceed after seeing the effects the water had on the woman, who was still in a semi-catatonic state. Still, he couldn’t back out after coming this far. It would be too suspicious. Gerard steeled himself for the worst and knelt in front of the pool.

See the dead eh? What a load of horse shit. Did they put drugs in here or something? The priest thought to himself. He formed a cup with his hands and dipped them into the water just as the lady had done. If he was going to do this he saw no reason to hesitate. Gerard drank quickly before his nerves could fail him. The moment the liquid reached his stomach, he could feel something happening to him. A throbbing migraine crawled up his neck and into his head, and colors were randomly flashing before his eyes. As the seconds crawled by, an alien presence began to make itself known to Gerard. It was hard to put the sensation into words. It was as if the very air he breathed had attained sapience and was now silently moving through him, examining him, and judging him. His eyesight gradually failed, and when only the darkness remained he felt a thousand invisible eyes gaze into his very being. It was hard to breathe, like he’d fallen to the bottom of the sea.

Gerard didn’t know how long he was paralyzed for. When he finally regained his senses, the Grontemple looked the same as it always did. There were more people inside the temple now, and a line was building in front of the well. The two pilgrims he had met were nowhere to be found.

”This is dangerous…” Gerard shakily got up off the stone floor and hobbled away. He resolved to make sure none of his allies touched this stuff when they came to plunder the temple. The intoxicated priest mingled with the gathering crowd so that he was close to the entrance, but still hiding in plain sight amongst the throng of people. There was a very low chance of him being watched, but he remained cautious. He meditated inside the Grontemple for some time, though he was undoubtedly the only man in the building praying to Echeran. If the Eskandr gods could read minds they surely would have smote him on the spot for his contempt.

Scut! Gerard felt a sharp pinch on his ears and nearly let out his voice. His first instinct was to turn around, but he knew the touch of Force and recognized it as the signal. It was time to head back to Rigevand.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Atalanta
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Atalanta lsfables.com

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Interacting with Svend, Queen Astrid, Inga, and Snorri @Force and Fury

What an odd turn my life has taken.

I thought, at first, that slipping into Eskand on behalf of the king would be no different than any other mission I have taken, but I was wrong. This is one of the strangest endeavors I have ever agreed to complete, and though I am young, that’s still worth something. I have stolen into many a keep and castle, both in Parrence and in our nearest neighbors.

My life has, for the most part, been solitary. There were friends in my youngest years, before the nuns gave me to the Black order, and after, I had my teachers. In the half-decade since I began to take contracts in earnest, I have had fewer connections still— bright, lightning touches that go as fast as they arrive. The weeks spent with the army were welcome, but this is something entirely different. How is a party of two dozen foreigners supposed to be stealthy? Our mere existence attracts far too much attention, and while I have been silent in front of my companions, I am afraid of what might happen should we be noticed by the wrong people.

I think I will feel better tomorrow. Svend’s is a good plan, and while I will live closer to our enemies in the coming days, I will rest easier alone than in this group. I trust myself more than these strangers, Echeran bless them, even though they are faithful Quentists all.

This journal won’t be following me, of course. It is proof positive of my true purpose. If I don’t make it home, perhaps one of the others will survive long enough to pass this off to a Rezaindian convent. Or better yet, a Parrench loyalist who likes a strange tale and has an eye for ciphers.

Echeran keep me and all the other fools.

“Osanna, girl, are you coming?”

Osanna looked up from her journal and tossed it carelessly on the top of the pile of things that wouldn’t follow her into the capital of Eskand. It was morning still, the wan light barely penetrating the Parrench cave base. She stretched and pulled on her cloak, leaving her sheathed sword on the ground behind her.

“You’d better get used to calling me Ositha now. Wouldn’t want to mess up before the Queen.”

“I take no enjoyment in this pageantry,” Queen Astrid assured Jarl Bjørn of Alsfard, “but these little medallions mean much to the Quentists and one cannot be too careful these days.”

“Yes, of course,” he replied easily, though one very close to him might sense the tenseness in his bearing. “Your majesty is wise to take such precautions. Our enemy is insidious, and his false gods are wicked.” Svend - for that was his name in truth - had not yet stepped on the symbol of his faith, much as he had sneered at it. To do so was the act of an apostate.

“Step on it,” commanded Princess Inga, high-handedly. “Spit on it and step on it.” Her squeaky, girlish voice was even and distant, with properly royal airs, but it could not help but betray a hint of dark amusement.

“Truly, to cast doubt upon a Jarl who offers you a tribute in metals, a servant girl-” he gestured in Osanna’s direction “-and three knarrs filled with warriors for the glory of Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, and Visitor.” He scowled. “This is more, even, than unnecessary.”

Astrid shifted on her throne, then, somewhat intrigued for the first time. “No aspersions have been cast as to your loyalty, Jarl Alsfard. Please, do as my daughter requests before we continue.”

For a moment, Svend’s hand rested on the pommel of his sword, and one close enough may have been able to see the tightening of the muscles in the arm and shoulder attached to it. Then, he stepped forward nonchalantly and horked up a wad of spit. He let it fall onto the sacred hourglass of the Pentad. With an unbothered look, he stepped on his handiwork, adding a little twist in at the end and meeting the Queen’s eyes. “Now, may we talk business?”

“But of course,” replied the Queen, rising and stepping down to clasp his right hand between the both of hers. Her eyes passed briefly over Osanna. “Will this one be accompanying us?” she inquired.

Svend shook his head. “Ositha?” he remarked. “Only if your majesty wishes. This poor girl is yours to do with what you see fit, as a token of my loyalty and regard. She is Drudgunzean - Lindermen, I believe. One of my men rescued her from that vile place when they threatened her with death for keeping the true gods.” He shook his head. “She proved herself useful: an able cook and cleaner, particularly good with the older children, but I have too many servant girls already and too many men with wandering eyes.” He paused and met the Queen’s, something passing between them. “Besides, I am preparing to take my entire household with me to Parrence anyhow, for when we claim it. Don’t need more mouths to feed. I swear she is useful, though. I’d not insult your majesty with less.”

“I see,” replied Astrid, looking ‘Ositha’ over once more. “Girl,” she said, “Do you speak our tongue?”

“Yes, your majesty,” Osanna said in poorer Eskandr than Svend had heard her use before— stumbling, perhaps, to hide her Parrench accent. “I understand you.”

The moment that the Black Rezaindian had replied, however, Inga piped up, for Snorri had mostly been bored, fiddling with his chess set in a corner, playing against himself and stealing the occasional keen glance the way of the others. “Mother,” the girl said, “should not she also complete the ritual if she is to be ours?”

Before the Queen could agree with her daughter, Osanna stomped over the symbol. She hawked a wad of spit and scuffed the heels of her boots on the hourglass that represented everything she’d dedicated her life to. Svend thought she looked like she was enjoying herself.

“That will do,” the Queen said dryly, and Osanna bowed again, standing behind Svend with due servitude.

"You must really hate them," sympathized Inga, trying to keep the slight skip from her step as she came up beside her mother. "For what they did to you." She shook her head. "I bet you wanted to—"

She was cut off abruptly as her mother clapped a hand shut. With a slightly resentful glance the Queen's way, Inga curtsied and forced a smile. "I would've killed them," she murmured under her breath, prompting a sharp look.

"The fires of youth are not easily quenched," observed Svend, for want of something more meaningful to say, but he pivoted quickly. "And so it is with my men, your majesty. Many are young. They were kept back from the first wave by doting mothers and grandfathers. They are eager to win glory for their names and for our people."

"Yes," Astrid replied, "yes, I imagine they are." Her smile was very much like her daughter's. "This is, of course, a matter that we should speak of." She brought her hands together twice in a clap. "Inga," she called and, then, craning her neck, "Snorri!"

The girl stood at attention; fear of Mother drummed into her. The boy made one last move on the chessboard and stood as well. "Yes, mother?"

"Please show our new servant to the servants' quarters. Find an unused room for her and have the maids clean it." She turned to Svend. "Jarl Alsfard, what did you say were her skills again? I cannot recall."

"She is capable of anything you ask, my lady, but she was the children’s tutor in Avincian, Parrench, and some basic arithmetic. They were very fond of her."

Astrid switched to fluent Avincian without warning. “Ubi discis has linguas loqui?” She directed the question at Osanna, and Svend blinked, trying to hide his alarm at being left out of the conversation.

“Parentes mei mercatores fuerunt, Majestas Tua. Negotiaverunt Yasoi inter alios.”

“Ils devaient être des gens intéressants,” replied the queen, switching seamlessly to Parrench. “Peut-être vous révélerez-vous aussi intéressant qu'eux.”

Osanna’s shoulders slumped, and she allowed herself to stumble over the words. “J'espère que je serai à la hauteur, Votre Majesté. Mais j'aurais préféré les garder ici plus longtemps.”

“But of course,” replied Astrid, smiling in commiseration. “It is something that we all wish, but it is not our job to know the gods. We merely join the Visitor when he calls us to his table. Someday, we shall all be there and reunited with those that made the journey before. For now,” she concluded, changing pace and tone, “I bid you follow Inga and Snorri. They may or may not lead you to some interesting places.” She finished with the hint of a cheeky smile.

Osanna bowed again and followed after them. Svend felt a twinge of unease as his ally disappeared into the bowels of the keep, but then the Queen turned her attention back to him, and he gathered himself to speak.

Osanna followed the two royal children deeper into the Hall of Kings, her eyes on the tapestries lining the halls. They were all made of wool, many brightly dyed in rich reds, greens, and purples, though the oldest had faded. The subject was unerringly of war. Men and women raised weapons above their heads, their mouths open to scream war cries. Some called lightning to their grasp while others stood atop mounds of broken bodies.

What would it be like, she wondered, to grow up beneath the eyes of these figures? Would it be harder than dreaming of the Red Sisters or Parrench Knights? Inga was certainly bloodthirsty enough, though Snorri was harder to judge. Maybe they all felt the weight of their people’s giants.

“Are these your Æresvaktr?” she asked the children.

“Yes!” squealed Inga eagerly. “Well, some of them anyways. They have been around since the days of Fradje Ironshaper, you know.” The girl skipped ahead. “This one was Brynhild of the Mountain!” she exclaimed. “She was a princess like I am, but of a much smaller kingdom: Sturmreef. When the sea people ravaged it, she took her people that remained and brought them to Meldheim. There, she married the king and began a great dynasty, but she did not forget the blood that they owed her, and she returned, many years later, with a great army and ten legendary warriors in particular, and crushed the sea people.” Inga’s eyes glowed reverently. “Thus, our dynasty was founded, Sturmreef was joined as an under-kingdom, and our oldest enemies crushed. They have never risen up since.”

Snorri, for his part, was quiet. While his sister regaled the new adult with sagas, he all-but rolled his eyes, careful to do so when Inga wasn’t looking.

Osanna cocked her head, watching them both. Inga was an easy mark— it did not take a sage to know the duties of a princess in any kingdom, and she seemed more interested in battle than suitors. Osanna thought she’d befriend Inga by encouraging her passions, maybe by telling tales of other warrior women. She could teach the girl a little bit of fighting, but that likely wouldn’t ingratiate her with the Queen. Just stories for now then, and if Inga asked, she’d show her how to hold a knife. Even the daughter of a merchant clan might know that much.

As for the boy… well he certainly wasn’t as enthralled by the heroes as his sister. She’d need a different approach, but perhaps not while his sister might overhear. He seemed to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Is Brynhild of the Mountain your favorite story?” They turned down a dimmer, less decorated hallway— the way to the servant’s quarters, Osanna assumed. She updated her growing mental map of the Hall of Kings accordingly. “Or are there many brave princesses in your history?”

“She is so grand because she is the first, and many are her exploits,” exclaimed Inga, eager to share. “But she was more than just a warrior. Father says that anybody who excels in life must be more than just one thing.”

Snorri perked up and interjected with something almost like interest. “The wearing of many hats, it is called.”

“Yes, yes that,” replied Inga, one part thankful and two dismissive. “She was victorious not only in battle but in marriage as well and at the negotiation table. Those victories are less glorious, perhaps, but every bit as important.” She paused. “That’s what father and mother both say.”

“Which father and mother?” inquired Snorri, tilting his head, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes. “Ours, or the Gods?”

“Oughtn’t it be both? Father tells us to be dutiful, and Mother loves homebuilders. And, of course, your parents wish for a strong kingdom for you and your descendants.”

Snorri grinned, somewhat ruefully, but with a hidden eagerness, like he’d found a new playmate.

“See, Snorri, she just handled one of your ‘clever’ questions,” crowed Inga. They were a good ways down the hall now, and the children stopped to ask an older maid where the free rooms were. Surprisingly casual around the royals, she directed them to a couple near the end of the hallway and offered to lead them there. “That won’t be necessary,” Inga replied. “I’m certain you have much else to attend to.”

So it was that they showed ‘Ositha’ to her room. Inga seemed much occupied with getting her settled in. She commanded Snorri to ‘wait aside’ as this was ‘a woman’s room’. His expression could best be described as long-suffering, and he kicked at a ball of lint on the floor idly, brow furrowed after a few moments, as it often seemed to be. “I suspect we’ll be seeing more of you,” he said after a few moments had passed, and Inga was busy complaining about the state of the cobwebs in the rafters and batting at them with her nascent Force magic. “Mother probably has it in mind that you’re to tutor us in Parrench and Avincian.”

Inga’s face screwed up in a sneer. “Why should we have to learn that vile tongue?” she growled. “I do not understand it.”

Snorri looked like he had more to say, but he shrugged. “If mother commands it, we do it.”

Osanna glanced between them. “It can only aid you to know your enemies. We think and speak and act through language. Knowing how they use it can teach you something of what they are.”

“Yes,” huffed Inga, her face perfunctorily pensive for a second, “I suppose so. Anyhow…” she gave Osanna her attention more fully and, with a slight inclination of her head, started moving. “I have much to attend to. Be well here. I look forward to meeting again soon.” She paused in the doorway. “Come, Snorri.”

The boy, however, was staring up at the rafters, where shafts of golden light filtered through a couple of drafty windows and dust sparkled in their grasp. He only twisted briefly to glance his sister’s way. “I think I shall remain for a bit so that I may learn some before our lessons.”

Inga rolled her eyes and was gone. For a moment, Snorri was more or less still, but then he was a nine-year-old for once, scampering over to a small step-ladder and hopping up on it. “So,” he chirped, perched there. “Tell me all you know of Parrence.” He was curious, grinning in anticipation. “You have been there, correct?” He held up a hand to forestall anything. “And their gods, what do you know of them? Why do they believe in false gods so forcefully?” The boy lowered his hand and blinked, waiting for an answer.

“I’ve been there,” Osanna said, and to give herself time to think, she looked around the room. It was a simple space, furnished with a bed, stool, chamberpot, and chest. A small table opposite the bed held a wash basin, but no pitcher— they hadn’t been expecting her after all. She opened the chest and began to shake out bed clothes to make the bed, her mind whirling.

It would be easy to accidentally give too much information. Osanna knew Parrence more than most people who lived there, thanks to years of work in many of its cities and holdings. If she failed in her mission, she didn’t want to leave the young royal with too much information on her people, and even more than that, she did not want to give herself away. A merchant’s daughter would only know so much.

“I know that their land is lush and warm,”she said. “Acres and acres of it are full of crops—wheat and barley and vegetables. What livestock I saw was fat and the city of Solenne was stuffed with people who had money to spend. As for their gods, I don’t know. We all believe in gods, don’t we? Even the Yasoi. I think, perhaps, the Parrench’s wealth has given them the idea that they are more blessed than the rest of us and can so take what they please.”

“In truth,” admitted Snorri, “I am somewhat intrigued by their gods - to study, of course, as one might study an enemy to learn his weaknesses. It is truly ten that they have, but they make as if the ten are five.”

Osanna scrunched up her nose as though she did not know that much about them, and did not particularly want to know more. “How do you mean?”

“Oh, nothing,” replied Snorri, hopping down from his perch. “I just feel like their whole way of doing things is based on lying really convincingly. Father says that’s a skill too: one that Eskandr aren’t very good at.”

“I’d like to hear—” Osanna breathed in sharply at the sudden invisible pinch behind her ear, worry coiling in her gut like poison. She had not experienced one of Maud’s summons before, though she had been warned ahead of time of what the sensation might be like. Something was happening to the others back in the fishing village below, and the words she’d written in her journal that morning came rushing back to her with no small amount of anxiety.

Of course, Osanna could not leave her position. To do so now would only risk Svend and everything they had planned. She would continue as though nothing had changed for now, and try to take some comfort in knowing that so long as Queen Astrid believed their ruse, she was safe.

It did not, in truth, make her feel any better. There was so much at stake here, and not least among them were the lives of Osanna’s allies. Echeran would take them when he pleased, this much she knew and accepted, but she hoped that time had not yet come.

Osanna looked down to see Snorri’s eyes upon her, and she gave him a secret sort of smile like they were co-conspirators—two quiet, thoughtful people in a big loud world. He smiled back almost reflexively but tilted his head quizzically after a moment. “Are you alright?” he inquired. “You started just now.”

“I’m fine. It must have been a draft.” She dusted off the front of her borrowed dress and hung her cloak on a hook placed near the door, likely for that purpose. “I’d like to hear your thoughts on those liars, but let me get settled in first. I’m sure I’ll see you soon for lessons.”

Snorri seemed to have a bit of antsy energy now, as one might expect from a child his age. He rocked back and forth from the balls of his feet to the heels. “It is a bit drafty in here,” he replied noncommittally. “I suppose I should let you see to that.” He scowled thoughtfully for a moment, but it evaporated, and he managed a final smile. “I look forward to our lessons.” With little else in the way of formality or pleasantries, he scampered out of the room, remembering to close the door behind himself.

After he left, Osanna took a breath to settle herself and rebraided her hair back from her face so she’d look neat and clean. She was a servant in a new household, after all, and it wouldn’t do to make a bad impression with the rest of the help. There was plenty to learn from gossiping maids.

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by A Lowly Wretch
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A Lowly Wretch The Listless Loiterer

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It had been a strange voyage. It had been a strange time. She knew little of who she was with or what they truly had in mind. From what little she was able to gather from them they were here to save friends that had been abducted away from their home. There was talk of burning, always with the burning. Was fire the only means to an end with man-beasts? It truly left her to wonder if her purpose here was truly necessary or if they were just using her for her mysteries to achieve more death to their fellow man-beasts.

The grim, distrustful faces were no new sight to her. No matter where she traveled she earned curious yet wary stares, Eyes trained on her whenever her presence was known to them. Gone were the days where it was her eyes looking in on the wayward travelers lost in her lands. Now she was a stranger no matter the land. Despite the blood that was shed that day she missed the woods they tried to burn and the rain she brought down upon them. This air was not fresh, it reeked of old fish, salt and filth. The man-beasts were filthy with this muck, not even the one they sent along with her was exempt from this.

As she walked, head low and hood high as she shied from the gazes of those around, she twisted and bound fresh twigs in her hands. The wood still green in these slim picks made it quite pliable, ripe for her purpose. She was crafting charms, wooden icons enchanted with power as taught unto her by the Mother-Father. Part of what made her swamp so dangerous were these charms, some built to sunder and leech those nearby them and others crafted to curse those that would break them, traps for the foolhardy who thought they could outsmart them and simply break the charms on their way through.

These charms of hers were designed to leech warmth from nearby flames and convert it into rust upon any nearby metal. As she was taught the nature of flame came in two aspects: the ephemeral light of air made hot and the consuming darkness of flame's hunger. She was taught the essential nature to both of these and that while the dark hunger could consume without casting light there could be no light without food to feed it with, be it wood, flesh or even air itself. The spell she bound to the charm was to drain the light and spread the hunger's blackening touch upon their metal in what these man-beasts call rust.

The charm would work much slower than a spell directed from her of course but that way she could hide them and let them continue to work even while she is not present. Just one of the many strange magics of the swamp witches.

She walked alongside the man-beast they had her go with. They were to find where their friends were kept and to find a way to set them free without getting caught themselves. While she was not able to travel in complete anonymity the man-beasts around them did not seem bothered by their approach to the region her current guide was leading her to. They did not find fault in her eyes watching, seeing. She would watch and she would see.

And in the meanwhile she'd look for an opportunity to step out of sight, long enough to bury some of her charms near their precious metal tools and structures.

Soon she would steal their precious fires and change them blue with her witchcraft. A weak light that offers no warmth, only rust.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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Act Two: Scattered to the Winds____ __ _ _

Chapter Two: Smoke and Fire______ __ _ _

The Nashorn was both in a foul temper and paradoxically placated. He set the gold–haired woman on a bed of straw in a stable that the Eskandr had claimed. Near to all of the village’s residents were dead, off to either join their strange gods in the afterlife or else beg of the Visitor’s mercy for being non-believers. The Nashorn did not know too much of the Gods and there was little point in trying to decipher the unknowable. What he knew was fighting and gold and, normally, that was enough.

He looked at the small woman for a time, remembering how she had felt slung across his shoulder, thinking of how her voice had sounded. He remembered her words too, however, and her dire warnings. He furrowed his brow, now ensconced firmly beneath his helm once more. Turning and leaving – she was lame and would not go anywhere - he set off to find Ulfhild, who might know what to do or, more appropriately, what to say to the captive.

Ulfhild was tired, truly. Of what? She had not grasped yet. Perhaps the constant purging of Parrench was starting to lose the flair it once had. Or maybe the tides of war were more of a match than a village full of civilians on the verge of senescence. Either way, she found herself sat on a bed of furs and hay thinking of the wounds Eleanor had left as a mercy. There was no treasure anywhere, just useless cutlery and ragged clothes.

The sand began to collect in her eyes, her eyelids slowly tugging shut. For a newly anointed Æresvaktr, this felt somewhat beneath her. Yet the king trusted her, the Nashorn…and Hildr. She wondered how she was faring until the crunch of dirt that could only be from the hulk known as the Nashorn echoed near the small hut. She stood up with a surge of adrenaline wet with fear and exited the hut.

“Ah there you are, find the gold yet?”

The Nashorn simply shook his head. He had not found gold. It angered him. Ulfhild did not know this. Nor could she see that he was scowling deeply beneath his helm. He placed a heavy hand on her shoulder, gripping it at the verge of ungentleness, and motioned with his free hand for her to follow.

A sigh left her lungs, she had expected as much. The Parrench were tedious with how well they hid their gold, something akin to squirrels or other rodents. The weight of his hand tore through her flesh like an axe. Her shoulder gave out immediately as she was not nearly prepared for his ironclad grip. She felt the urgency run across her body with a clear message. Straightening back up, she followed him closely, while massaging her arm. It was kind of strange how everyone kind of just spoke Nashorn’s language despite him being almost completely mute.

The Nashorn said nothing. He could feel Ulfhild flinch. He would try harder to be gentle. Women were small: breakable. He did not want to break them, though… unless they forced him to. Making his way through the remains of the village, it still bothered him how intact it all was, aside from a few ruined walls and roofs. It was supposed to be burnt. That was what you did to villages like this one. It was supposed to inspire fear and make the place unreclaimable. Sweyn had ordered it, though, and Sweyn was a better Æresvaktr than he was. They reached the place and the Nashorn pointed inside where the girl was. Reaching out with the Gift, he could sense that she was not sleeping anymore, though she was pretending to be. He strode over to the bucket of water that he had left her, grabbed it, and threw its contents across her. She bolted upright with a yelp and her eyes fluttered rudely open. He pointed to Ulfhild, he pointed to the girl, and he moved to plant himself in the doorway.

It was strange, but Ulfhild’s sense of smell teetered on the edge of the supernatural. She was confident she could smell the emotions evaporating off the skin. As much as Nashorn could disguise his discontent under helm and armor, she could smell it. That or she was just excellent at fabricating another gift. She would hold her tongue for the time being, keeping a watchful eye. Another instruction led the two into a stable devoid of any horses. What was left was a girl with hair that rivaled the sun in terms of gold, perhaps the treasure was on her scalp instead of a chest. Her eyes’ search was halted by the Nashorn’s deluge of water on the young girl. Still dry as a bone she was just as surprised as the girl.

“Uh..well” she moved over to the girl and knelt down, “What’s your name?”

Adelaide coughed and spat, sweeping sopping wet locks of hair from eyes. “It’s Fuck Off, Eskandr Cunt!” She grinned toothily, seeming to relish the chance to do any sort of harm - even this meagre - to her enemies. She tilted her head and the smile became poisonously sweet. “How about yours?” she chirped.

The smile eroded from her face, leaving nothing but slits for eyes and furrowed brows. A fake laugh left her lips at the cute insult. She unhooked a rabbit pelt she had skinned just earlier in the day that was drying on her belt. “How rude of me, you can dry off with this” tossing the pelt at the girls sopping wet hair. She turned to the Nashorn, silently communicating her wishes for him to do it again. “I’m Ulfhild Ulven. So how about you tell us where the gold is and we can make this as painless as possible.”

It took the Nashorn only a moment to grasp Ulfhild’s meaning. He grinned. It was fun and Fuck You Eskandr Cunt was being difficult, just like everyone else. Besides, it was only water. Using Force, he gathered the water back into the bucket and emptied it on her head once again. Only, this time, the bucket was wrenched free of his loosened grip and hurtled straight for Ulfhild’s head from only a foot or two away. It was easily dealt with.

The patience in her snapped like a skinny twig. Why had she even tried to be diplomatic with these people, they were awful. She reverted back to the pride of Eskand which was somewhat or mostly feral. A backhand flew across the face of the peasant girl. Before she could snap her neck back, Ulfhild was already to her feet picking her up by the neck of her dress. Her hand opened to reveal a flame growing in size. She held it up to her face, “this will warm you up. Now speak or I’ll invite our friend over there to help.”

The girl's eyes went to the fire and then back to Ulfhild and she did something strange: she laughed. It was tinged with the unmistakable notes of madness and, for it, the Nashorn stepped forward once again and punched her in the stomach. “Your true colours!” she coughed, spitting up blood. “How wonderful they are! How much more ‘you’, Eskandr vermin! What are you gonna do? Burn me? Gouge out my eyes? It’s nothing compared to what he will do, and to all of us: Every. Single. One.” she spat.

“Kindness is wasted on you and your people. You rather talk in circles than protect yourself or the others” the girl did however give up one interesting kernel of knowledge that the Nashorn was unable to express to her. “Who is he? Bring us to him and we’ll see who compares to who” almost certain that is where the gold lies.

“There is no protection, you idiot! There is no survival! We were the only thing stopping him. The only thing he might listen to. Oh the poetic justice! In your bloodthirst for elders and children,” she spat, “You’ve called doom down upon us all!” Again, she began with the maddened laughter.

Her patience was gone at this point, the laughter was a grate on her ears. She found a cloth in her satchel and shoved it in the girl’s mouth as a temporary gag. “Whoever *he* is, he's going to listen to you or us as your audience. Now tell us where he is!” She removed the gag waiting for her response.

The prisoner grinned mirthlessly. “You’re a shitty interrogator,” she sneered. “So I’ll have some sympathy. You’ll find him soon enough, or he’ll find you. All that precious gold is up on the mountain, though, in a nice little cave where we hid it!” She giggled, head lolling to one side and her eyes staring almost blankly up at the ceiling.

Finally, she spoke something of worth. The mountain seemed a strange place to safeguard gold against Eskand or other raiders, but perhaps it worked. “Now go be with your gods” Ulfhild commanded, retrieving her sword from her sheathe and quickly passing it across her exposed neck. It was a surprise her blood wasn’t black with the madness that possessed her. Her body fell limp, her blood pooling with the water that doused her earlier. Ulfhild turned to the Nashorn and nodded. “Looks like we’re going up that mountain. We best not daly and find Hildr, there’s gold to be won.”

The Nashorn merely nodded and uncrossed his arms. The gold woman lay there: red, white, and gold now, and the way she lay was beautiful too, in a strange sort of way. Outside, he had felt the energies of people listening in, but it was no matter. He would go and get his gold. If someone got there before him, he would kill them.

There was a faint difference between the smoke and sky at night. While both were dark, the former had an unpredictable quality to it. Sweyn had burnt five villages now and butchered their people and he felt not a shred of pride or glory. Yet, it was necessity and it was inescapable. His king had ordered it and all others followed the king. So, he too must. What would happen to him were he to turn away? Surely, it would be the end of him. They would send that animal Thorunn after him and she would destroy him and take not only his head but his place as first among the Aeresvaktr. With it would go any semblance of honour or dignity that the storied group had left.

Yet, the lifeless body of a little girl lay on the ground before him, staring blankly at a world that her soul had left. She spat on his notions of honour and made a mockery of them. Sweyn stumbled back and had to avert his eyes for a moment. An innocent child, his conscience cried out. It had been gaining ground as of late. She was no more than nine or ten: in the final throes of girlhood, but he just stared at her tiny body, unnerved in a way that he hadn’t thought possible. You bloody murderer! his inner voice screamed. You ended this child’s life without a thought. She will never grow up. This tiny person who had never hurt you, never even seen you before: the one time that she did, she ran and screamed and died. He thought, then, of his students over the years, how he had loved some of them almost as a father loves his child, how he had watched them grow from these luminous little things into men and women of poise and power and how wondrous it had been. This one, though: she will never laugh or smile again. She will not know the satisfaction of watching herself grow into a woman, of contributing to her village or excelling in a pursuit. She will never experience adventure, loss, or wonder. She will have no late nights under the stars, no tender moments with friends, family, or lovers. This girl will rot in the ground while others born on the same day as her will know all of these things, and it will happen this way because of you, Sweyn. It did not matter that these people were Parrench. It was such an arbitrary distinction of men. Did not they have the same feelings as Eskandr? Did not they sleep and wake under the same sun? Breathe the same air? Hold many of the same hopes and dreams?

Nobody was watching him. He was alone, as he’d insisted on being for reasons that had been, at the time, unclear to him. The Thunderspear called forth some fire and he let the mound of bodies burn and blacken. There were no living people here to see his face, but the girl stared back at him to the very end, until her bones came apart and were indistinguishable from the mass. I’m sorry, he promised. So sorry. Gods, I am!

Nobody was watching him, or so he thought, so they could not see Sweyn Thunderspear, first among the Aeresvaktr, take his face in his hands and weep bitter tears.

In truth, of course, Sweyn was far from alone. A small but well-armed scouting force, led by the Drudgunzean Arsene, had been approaching for some time, following the trail of burned villages that he’d left. Their goal had been to either discover the main Eskandr force and report its position back to Queen Eleanor’s substantial army or to pounce upon and rout a smaller party of raiders opportunistically. It was, of course, a surprise when they found that they could sense only a single figure by a fire. A cascade of further surprises followed. Firstly, that the figure did not sense them back, secondly, that it did not flee or take some sort of action, and thirdly that, when that figure came into view, it was none other than Sweyn Thunderspear, by his lonesome. Arsene, as leader of the group, found himself faced with a decision: how to approach what was perhaps a major opportunity, perhaps a trap, or perhaps something else entirely.

For the Parrench force, some ways away, there was a similar figurative darkness to contend with alongside its literal peer. Thankfully, it was joined by a degree of light as well. The efforts of Sirs Maerec and Caelum made the heroic knights heroes yet again. The maiden Camille saved a great many from the fire, though seeming undeniably distraught towards the end of her efforts. Arsene of Avalona, a Drudgunzean passionate in his faith and cause, had given chase to the Eskandr raiders with a scoutiing force of perhaps two dozen men, not giving the enemy any breathing room. Most importantly of all, however, a great majority of the people of Port Morilles had been saved. More than half of the town had proven salvageable as well and, should the Eskandr be defeated and banished from these lands once and for all time, the settlement would almost certainly recover. There were losses, however. Many of the brave knights and frontline defenders of Port Morilles had gone into Aun-Echeran’s cold embrace. Still others had been eagerly captured by the raiders for use as slaves, chattel, or ransom. Among these were many known to members of the Queen’s army, including Dame Camille herself. Still more were left maimed, crippled, or destitute. Truly, the Eskandr scourge knew no limits of normal human empathy or decency. They struck viciously and wantonly, and the scars might take generations to heal.

Yet, sometimes, an imperfect strike from a merciless enemy - one at least partially defended - can serve not to weaken but to strengthen the resolve of the struck. So Parrence remained unbroken, unbowed, and unbent. That same night, in the shadow of the ruined roof of the Cathédrale des Cinq Flammes, the bishop of Port Morilles delivered a sermon under the stars. There had been no golden Pentact or chalice after the raiders had come, so Eleanor de Perpignan, Queen of the Parrench, had led by example, giving up her jewellery so that it might be melted to make new ones. She was joined eagerly by much of the town’s nobility. Great and common alike, they knelt before the Bishop and their gods and received the blessed sacrament of communion with the Pentad. Fervent prayers rang out to Oraphe and Echeran. Roofs were repaired, orders for grain stores made to the capital and dispatched, and healing hands laid upon the wounded.

The moons hung high and low in their colours. By their light, the dead were given proper burials. Work continued on shoring up the cliffs until they were judged stable. Swords were sharpened as the sun rose. A final blessing was provided by the bishop and Queen Eleanor mounted her horse, hair rippling down her shoulders, back and chest, stirring in the brisk coastal wind. “People of Parrence!” she called, cantering before the now fully-gathered army in the morning’s light on her white stallion, Fidèle.

“Yesterday, we suffered a blow at the hands of the Eskandr scourge. Many of you lost homes, friends, and loved ones. I know that the wound is deep and that it may be hard to imagine ever healing from, but I promise that there is a future. I promise that the Gods are ever at our backs.”

“Yesterday, my subjects and my friends, we took back Port Morilles from their vile grasp. We prized the lives of innocent children and elders from them. See how they flew and scattered before us as vermin might before a noble wolf. Were not the flames they had set quelled by our endeavours? Were not the stones of this very cliff secured through our ingenuity and our might?”

“Yesterday should have been a resounding victory for the heathens, yet it was not! So this is why I say to you, today, my friends and allies, that the Gods yet smile upon the people of Green Parrence, and I know, by Chune’s light, that I speak with irrevocable truth!”

She reached across her shoulder and, pulling upon the Gift of Force, grasped the handle of her mighty warhammer. “So let us set forth beneath our banners and our shields and the strength of our faith. Let us sharpen our resolve as we do our swords and senses and, tomorrow, my people, we shall crush the vile invaders who would make a pyre of our houses and fields. We shall cut them down with fire and steel where they stand, and we shall make this land ever safe and green for ourselves and our kin.” With that, Queen Eleanor drew forth her weapon and thrust it into the air. “Vive la Parrence!”
“Vive la Parrence!”
they thundered as one, and then “Vive la Parrence!” three more times. The Grande Armée gathered its might and set off in pursuit of its enemy.

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Wolfieh
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Wolfieh eternally terrified / he/they

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L O C A T I O N | Road to Rigevand
I N T E R A C T I O N | Ulf @Force and Fury

Ulf was quite correct to assume Vali would hold little interest in overturning his decisions. The ranger was well-blooded and held little interest in the politics of power and status; he yearned for respect and admiration, not armies. His mind was drifting to the memories of what he had seen while scouting, plotting already the best manners of approach; men were but beasts, and he knew the minds of beasts well.

While those in Rigevand were unlikely to be as prepared for assault as Relouse had been, the company was being sent to look for pirates or smugglers. Both would be cautious, and near-assuredly expecting trouble of some kind. Some of them might run if escape seems viable, but Vali felt a number would fight. Bloodier than many of the villages he’d raided over the years, but wholly different than his most recent battle.

He stayed near Ulf as they journeyed, though the ranger was within his own thoughts for quite some time. “A subtle approach with thirty men would be difficult,” he spoke quite suddenly, green-blue eyes turned to focus on the youth who was leading them. “Any outlaws who notice our approach may try to run and avoid us altogether. If we cut off the main roads out of Rigevand, we’ll be able to snare our fleeing prey.” His tone was cool, and the way Vali spoke truly seemed to evoke the image of a hunter preparing their trap outside a warren of rabbits.

The Twice-Born did not bother to soften his words, though the suggestions were merely that. He’d been sent with Hrothgar’s eldest son because of the information he held, and because of his experience. It would be useless to dull any of that, and the boy would have to learn how to take advice if he hadn’t already. This was likely a test for the heir, a trial to overcome on the journey of proving himself, but it held some stock for Vali too. Success or failure alike would sit themselves upon his shoulders, and he much preferred the weight of victory.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Pirouette
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Pirouette Ghoul

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Camille de la Saumure

Interaction: None
3.1 A Bittersweet Arrival

The Eskandr had withdrawn by the time Camille, the Queen, and the company of knights had reached the city. They could have given chase, but it hadn't crossed the young paragon's mind as she charged into the city, racing Perrin through the rough remains of the tightly packed streets, she reached what would have been the front door to the keep first.

The great wooden doors that she had remembered had been splintered and broken, replaced the mound of rubble from the keep. Camille had stood aghast. She thought the worst had befallen those that she knew. Had the keep fallen before they got here? The weight caught her chest, threatening to topple her from the back of Perrin. It had only been a familiar voice that called to her that caught her attention, stealing her away from the dread she was feeling.

"Dame Camille! Dame Camille!"

A hand waving had in the pile of stones had caught her attention. She dismounted and rushed over, climbing the few chunks of rubble to reach the small window created in the debris. She peered in, catching the tired face of a man bearing patchy dark facial hair. "Chevalier Henri?" Camille couldn't believe the knight captain had made it. She looked past him, seeing others hurrying over to witness their salvation after three days from the bitter siege. Camille had heard them muttering, passing the word along.

"Dame Camille!"
"The Grand Armee has arrived!"
"Oh bless the Pentach for this mercy!"
"We are saved!"

Camille muttered a prayer to Dami to give her strength, throwing herself at the rubble to create a larger opening. She had managed to do just that, expanding the window Henri had been peering out of by using her enhanced strength to lift a partial pillar out of the way. Many of those inside had gathered to witness the great Dame Camille stand at the threshold, light of the sun illuminating her from behind.

Their faces… She could remember the awe in them… but she didn’t deserve it. She was far too late to save most of them. She would have looked away but she was looking for people in particular. They were all faces she recognized at some point but…


Her eyes went wide as she witnessed two of the people she was looking for. Marc was there in front, waving at her. Behind him, Marion, who looked a bit shaken and the stain of blood down along the front of her dress were signs she didn’t make it out entirely whole.

Camille slid down the crumpled stone, nearly losing her footing in her haste. She wanted to see them! Ask them about what happened.

”Marc! Marion!” Camille’s lips actually curled into a timid smile as came to a stop before them. ”You are alive.. I-” She lunged for Marc, wrapping her arms around him. She couldn’t help it. For three long days, she rode alone without her friends. It was nice to see a friendly face. ”I’m so glad you both made it.”

Camille tucked her head into his chest. He had a tight, warm hug. Just like his father. Marion slipped in and the dame made room for the three to embrace in a tender moment. She’d pull away quick enough as curiosity got to her.

”Where’s your dad?” She held her smile like she was expecting a quip to come from behind her at any moment. Yet all she was given was a pair of disappointed looks. They couldn’t even look at her. Her smile faded.

”Where-?” Camille managed to get out, but never found the strength to continue.

”The Eskandr broke through. Papa threw everything he had into closing it and he was trapped on the other side.” Marion heaved a sigh, like she had long since processed the reality. Camille focused on the cloth wrapped around her eye. She had taken a cut that had been healed, but the crust of blood was still there. ”He sealed us in, protected us. If you didn’t see him out there then I fear the Eskandr might have taken him.”

Camille felt her heart drop. Claude being taken by the Eskandr… What would they do with them? She heard they weren’t kind.

The dame swallowed, feeling a lump in her throat as she finally approached another conflict. This wasn’t everyone that had been saved inside the keep, surely her parents were inside just waiting to hear about her return. ”What about my papa and mama?” She had a bad feeling.

”I’m sorry, Camille. I don’t remember seeing them come in here before we shut the doors.” Marion stated plainly. Camille turned to Marc, who shamefully shook his head as if he felt responsible.

That wasn’t fair to him. It was on her for failing.

Interaction: None
3.2 Fields of Fire || The Lament of a Saint

Camille had spent the rest of the day helping her hometown. She pulled survivors from wreckage and fires and laid healing hands on those wounded enough to need tending. The people she helped all uttered their desperate thanks and each time, it sank the dame low. She had failed them. If she were truly worth it, then she’d have stopped the Eskandr on the beach. Slain the wicked fire witch. Routed the enemy army off their land for good…

Yet each person thanked her and praised Dami for sending them a saint. A few, Camille had even outright refused but they only claimed her to be humble. It was exhausting and by the time the bishop began his sermon, Camille collapsed in a slumber only to be awaken by Marc with a snicker after discovery.

The next day, Camille had set out early for the beach. It had meant so much to her, the white sands of Port Morilles that she had carried a bag with her. That bag still sat tied to Perrin’s saddle, believing she’d never see it again. Yet here she sat not in relief, but in loss.

It was so easy for her to recall the time before when she sat on this beach. Armand, Claude, and her parents, Pierre and Berenice, were still alive waiting for her back in the town. Waiting to say their goodbyes together.

Her fingers curled, buried in the sand she strangled the clumps of sand she clung to. Her faith was being tested in her head. Why had Dami judged the good of her loved ones to be not worth it?

”I’m really trying but am I not good enough?” Camille muttered looking up to the dawn sky, expecting a sign. The rhythm of the waves rolling had been her only answer.

For a time.

”I knew you’d be out here.”

Camille jumped, knowing who it was and turning to face her father. She froze, not believing this was real at first. In fact, not even recognizing her father. He looked older, like the past four days had advanced his age by ten years. Dirt and grime covered his face and the lack of sleep had worn his features to look like they sagged with advanced age. The dim light of the rising sun didn’t help either.

”Bastards damn near chased me to Torragon.” He limped over to her side and collapsed onto his bum next to her. ”But when I heard you were here, I told them you’d be out here. Heh.” He forced a single chuckle before grunting as he leaned back on his hands. He looked exhausted.

He looked at her, his face unwavering in a steadiness but even Camille could tell, there was so much he wanted to say. She couldn’t figure out what to say either. Instead she quietly slid over to his side and leaned against him, tucking herself in a ball and making her as small as possible as one of his arms came around to her shoulder.

Her father had been pursued by the Eskandr ever since they broke into the city. Berenice and him had ran for the keep, having both volunteered to fight the fires during the siege. They were cut off from getting to the keep and tried to escape to the caves. The invaders pursued them, chasing them both into the countryside where they were separated. Pierre had spent the night searching for her. He never found her. He hadn’t slept in nearly two days and hardly had the strength to stay awake.

Yet that arm around Camille flexed enough to hold her tight as the two watched the sunrise and the waves crashed in.

No words were exchanged but it was enough.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by jdh97
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jdh97 Hopeful

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Tall Trees, Long Shadows II
Interactions: Lyen @Tackytaff and Dyric

Murder. It fell into their laps, a Parrence-allied Yasoi caught with blood-red on their hands, except…

The mette'stiroi, Loriindton itself even, hit Calitan with a brick of emotions. They were mostly positive.

Calitan drank, he gambled, bartered with what little he had. He gave stories of the fighting to those who he thought might value it (surprisingly few), and for the story about the frog who jumped into the water to get back his voice that the fish stole, but ended up tearing it in half, which is why the frog talks without moving its mouth and the fish moves it mouth without words, he got a nice meal.

But even Calitan knew where’d he end up. Everything else was just him circling it, flirting. Mez’Qadurat, an old love.

He hadn’t meant to fight. He was here with another purpose, or two, depending on who you asked. Yet somehow he had found himself in the ring that climbed all the way skywards, soft dust and hard rock underfoot. This was the trouble when you had such an ugly face: people tended to recognise you as an old champion.

Blood was iron on his tongue, sweat salt. He added an ear to his collection. And then another. Perhaps there would have been another again, if not for the hornmaster, singalling the mockery. Mockeries were always fun, and two of the Vyshta possibilities would be there.

Then… murder, it fell into their laps, a Parrence-allied Yasoi caught with blood-red on their hands, except she was innocent.

Calitan had been paying attention. Adrenaline still rushed, his senses read the mess of magic around him almost instinctively. So when the woman from the rhyming game the night previous, a non-ally, spoke, he sensed, focussed on this not-stranger. When she touched Merit he didn’t notice anything. It took him a second to process: that was wrong. There should have been some draw, some trace. There was nothing.

What a golden opportunity this was for Eskandr.

But she was innocent.

“It was not her,” Calitan shouted, as much to Dyric as the crowd, essence amplifying his words, as he shoved through to her side, “she did not draw, did you not notice?”

He had no idea if his words were useful, but maybe the support of an opposed Yasoi would stop the crowd becoming a mob. Those had a way of resolving things rather suddenly. Not that this worried Calitan; he had probably just earned himself a knife in the back anyway.

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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Suicharte
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Interaction: Dyric, Merit
Scene: Tall Trees & Long Shadows
Location: Loriindton - Merit's Home + The Mette'stiroi

Eliis had accustomed herself to her vacation rather quickly. Between the fireside chat with the spider and her accomplices, and the vastly different climate of this strange town, she’d gotten sucked in a vortex. She thought that Eudes would have quite liked this place, aside from the fact that there were seldom Quentists to be found, but those thoughts quickly left her brain and made space for a new friend, Jyluun. Whether the younger girl wanted her around or not, Eliis had taken quite a liking to her and spent much of the trip walking and talking with her. It somewhat felt like the sibling bonding time she never quite got to experience growing up. Still, even if she wasn’t conscious about her work, she still found herself completing her routines and habits of new areas. Finding escapes, tunnels, plants and good vantage points to use. All the while, spending time with a new friend.

“It’s you, right? Eliis?” The hooded figure who had just brushed her was male, young, and a couple of inches shorter. He had a forceful voice, though. He didn’t even wait for her confirmation. “Per our correspondence, Lady Merit has been waiting for you.”

A jolt of surprise filled her as the brush and voice assaulted her senses in unison. She was no stranger to sudden contact, especially in her line of work, but perhaps she had gotten too comfortable in Loriindton. Regardless, she swallowed. She had an idea of who this might be, and the mention of Merit brought her back to the harsh reality of her daily work. It had been nice to forget about it, just for a moment. She stretched and turned towards the cloaked man, and nodded in approval.

“And I have been looking forward to speaking to her. Let us not waste time” she said with a friendly smile. Her truths and falsehoods were difficult to discern but there was genuine enthusiasm in her voice as she readied herself for a surely interesting meeting.

He smiled from under his hood. “Well, then I’m the guy you’ll want to follow.” An almost mischievous quality nestled among his words, but there was something else underlying it as well: something harder to place. “Dyric, by the way: Dyric’antiil’osmax.”

They wound their way through the platforms and bridges of Loriindton and the town was a-bustle as far as even keen yasoi senses could discern: sounds of work and laughter, swirling lights and colours, rushin bodies, smells sweet and sour alike. Tonight was to be a mete’stiroi in honour of both Lady Merit’s birthday and that of her three-times-great grandchildren: the twins Dyric and Talit. They were not all that far past a scaffolding in the town square when Dyric turned abruptly and leapt up onto the end of a steep hanging staircase. Hanging onto a rope railing with one hand, he twisted back and lowered his voice. “When we’re in there, don’t be too formal - she’s not that sort - but remember to speak loudly and clearly. Her hearing isn’t what it used to be.” He paused for a moment before swinging back, starting to ascend. “A lot of things aren’t.”

Eliis was never a good judge of character, but she found that this one liked to talk. And most notably, didn’t carry the same presence as his twin sister, nor did he move as well among the trees which surprised her. Even still, she listened and saw the sights of the trail before speaking up once more.

“What do you mean by that, Dyric?” she uttered, in the same low tone, perhaps without even realizing it. She had always been one to follow the tone of a conversation.

He paused. “Her age has caught up to her. She’s soon to become one with Exiran, and she knows it,” he related glumly, “as do I. Her body and mind alike have begun their final decline.”

She paused for a moment. Perhaps she had expected a different sort of answer, or that he was subtly hinting at the state of affairs in Loriindton as of present, but she found it both heartbreaking and endearing that he cared so much about his elder. She almost wanted to reach out and pat his shoulder and tell him something reassuring, but Eliis held no such privilege, nor did she think the gesture would be appreciated. Regardless, she solemnly spoke once more.

“To fall victim to aging is a great shame. Alas, I hear she has lived a long, proud and fulfilling life. That even she should fall victim to the effects of time is proof that we will all meet Him some day.”

“Truly spoken, suunei,” he agreed, “would only more of my people here in Loriindton still remembered that.” They were nearly at the top now. The stair-ladder rose through a hole in the landing and there was a pleasant-looking residence above. “In truth, it is not only her who has changed. Grasping Parrench hands are everywhere here, trying to draw our people in and smother them. You will find Lady Merit no friend to the Parrench.”

“I do find the Parrench’s eagerness to send our people to fight for them particularly detestable. Still, I pray she finds no friend amongst the huusoi. The best of them are dead or dying, and the worst seek to tear our people out of our homes, root and stem” Eliis spoke, her voice filled with contempt as she craned her head slightly towards Dyric, giving a nod of approval at his thoughts and moving on. She found it odd how different these siblings seemed to be, and it made her only more excited to meet the legendary Merit.

“It is a truth I well recognize,” he admitted, as they paused before the door. “But I pray you go easy on the old lady. She is of another generation and much enamoured with rose-tinted memories at this stage. In her time, she took us somewhat closer to the truth, at least.” With that, he pushed the door open and stepped through.

It was a surprisingly simple space: wooden walls and floors, a handful of platforms and tables displaying some of Merit’s treasures from life, dating all the way back to the days of the Avincians, and a small but well-appointed kitchen that was more than a simple hearth. In a comfortable-looking chair in the middle of a large sitting area was Merit’entasp’osmax herself, in repose. Ancient and wrinkled, the points on her ears gnarled and drooping, eyes half-hidden behind folds of skin, she started as the two of them entered. “Tali?” she inquired hopefully, twisting round. It took a moment for her to peer over and appraise the new arrivals and a ripe pause took hold of the room for a moment. “Ah, no, Dyric, dear.” She looked to Eliis. “And you must be Eliis!” Her eyes lit up. “It is so very good that you answered my call.” The elder began shifting, then. It seemed that her aim was to rise to her feet and come greet her visitors.

How good it was to see her and her place of residence. So many years of experience, of knowledge, of service to her people. She looked at her trove not with envy but with admiration, before her eyes darted across the room to the woman she’d been so looking forward to meeting. In the same way that falling leaves in autumn are picturesque, she found herself for a moment feeling the same experience looking at the Meled. Every wrinkle on her face, a story or experience, 173 years of living. It was only when she was addressed that she snapped back to reality, realizing that Merit had meant to stand up to greet her. She strode across the room once she realized and began to help her to her feet.

“I would never refuse a request from someone who has given so much to our people.” she cheerfully extended her arm to help Merit up.

“Oh, what a good girl you are.” Merit patted her arm and rose, though Eliis could feel a little bump of Force magic at work as well. “Too good, perhaps,” she joked. Then, the former baroness turned to face her. “Now, my dear girl, as you may have gathered, I had Dyric bring you here regarding a rather serious matter.” Her hands still held some strength as she reached out and gripped those of the much younger woman. “I can feel, as a tree does in the cold after harvest, that my leaves have been falling fast and the last are about to leave me.” She sighed. “I am not truly content. One should never be, but Vyshta has smiled upon me more than most and I’d be quite an old bitch to complain.” She chuckled raspily. “I want my final act to be brilliant, though: memorable, and that’s where you come in, my dear.” She wore the same mischievous expression as Talit the other night. A century and a half of age and a limb apart, they were startlingly alike in their mannerisms.

Eliis knew what the woman meant, and it made her want to cry, though she buried that feeling as quickly as it came. She would not have them see her tears, lest they think her incapable of the job she would be doing, nor would she dwell on her sadness. Tar’ithan d””id not weep, nor did they remain bitter when faced with a difficult job. Eliis forced herself to smile, and after a second, it became natural. She squeezed Merit’s hands softly, before looking into her eyes once more.

“You amaze me, meled. Even in your final hours, you still wish to give to the world. I will see to it that you have the finale you seek, whatever it is that you wish it to be.” she spoke, quivering slightly at the beginning, though it quickly faded. For how could she not be grateful to be able to help such a woman.

Merit nodded. “Dyric was right in contacting you.” She smiled briefly, craning her aged neck to look Eliis in the eyes. The old woman’s quickly flicked over to her kin’s however and a look passed between them. She went still for a moment, and turned back. A shadow of confusion passed over her face, before it resolved into certainty. “Now, my dear girl, as you may have gathered, I had Dyric bring you here regarding a rather serious matter.” They were the exact same words she had used a minute earlier. She squeezed Eliis’ hands. “I can feel, as a tree does in the cold after harvest, that my leaves have-”

“‘Old Nan,” interjected Dyric softly, and she stopped. “I’ve been repeating myself?”

“Yes, Old Nan.”

“Hah!” she barked. “See? This old brain’s gone! Mush!” She laughed somewhere between mirthfully and bitterly. “Further proof that I need to get out of the life business.” She smirked, or at least it appeared so, for her movements were quite feeble. “Now, you know of the ven’silmuu, correct?”

“I do.” she solemnly uttered. The mixed feelings she had were beginning to fade, but she couldn’t help being surprised that she wanted poison to be used. She bent down slightly to be at a better level with the elder.

“I imagined you might.” Merit reached up and inspected a tuft of Eliis’ long red hair. “Such pretty hair,” she murmured. “So well-dyed. Anyhow, you’re probably wondering why.” Merit nodded sagely. “I want to make it look like I was murdered.” Her elderly face hardened. “Let my last breath be poison to those Parrench creatures who seek to encircle our people here and make us like them.” She shook her head, or something like it, stopping to cough softly, but it did not fade, instead going on for a good twenty seconds while Eliis had to steady her. Dyric watched from nearby, concerned but coming no closer. Merit blinked. “Blast it! What that I was young again, like you.” She scowled and furrowed her brow, lost. “Dyric, what was I saying?”

“Poison to the Parrench,” he reminded her, like a coach of some sort, and she collected her thoughts. “Yes,” Merit continued, “Those creatures are ever seeking to encircle our people here and make us like them!” Her elderly face hardened and she said it with just as much vigour as she had a minute earlier. “But I am no lover of the Eskandr either. At least they do not make a mockery of our gods, but they are savages,” she spat. “So I will drink the essence and then, at an opportune moment, when some well-known Parrench ally of poor, misguided Talit’s is near me, you will change that essence, hm?” She grinned toothily and perhaps a bit of the fire that had made her such a force for over a century was in it. “A poisoned chalice,” she crowed, “not just for me, but for the girl’s fool ideas and the probes of those huusoi.”

And just as the fire returned to Merit, Eliis’ eyes lit up and she gave the elder a hug, just tight enough to not choke the previously coughing woman. She couldn’t help it. How noble her heart was. The conviction her words held ran true, and she found herself agreeing with every word she was saying. Even if Merit repeated herself, she found herself listening intently, all words the elder speaking ringing true to her heart. How glad she was that Merit understood, and now, so did she the nobility of the cause.

“Thank you, Lady Merit. I will endeavour that this not only saves this beautiful city, but also your great(is there a better term?) granddaughter from the lies they whisper in her ear.” joyfully she uttered as she pulled away and bowed her head in respect.

“Good!” Merit exclaimed, “good.” She released Eliis, then, standing somewhat unsteadily before calling a cane into one of her hands with the Gift of Force. “Now, I shall drink when they are busy with their playful mocking, and you shall know the moment. Dyric will give you a signal.” Eliis felt a sudden pinch behind her ear. “Like this,” he said. “Just so,” the elder agreed. “I shall die on the day I was born,” she remarked. “Poetic, I think, and how it shall set the world alight.” She took a couple of steps. “I thank you for being the one to do it.”

Just then, below, they could hear the music starting up. “Ah! That’s our cue!” chirped Merit, suddenly a good bit lighter in her bearing. “Walk ever in Vyshta’s fortune,” she wished the woman who would kill her. The elder smiled faintly and gestured toward her door, hobbling a few steps in its direction to show Eliis out.

“And I am thankful that you chose me to do the job. I hope I will make you proud.” she spoke contentedly as she moved to the entrance once more.

Once they were outside, Dyric took the lead. “You’ll be able to go through with it, then? Sorry if my ‘signal’ nipped a bit, by the way. I figure you’ve faced much worse…”

“Absolutely. It pains me to kill a fellow yasoi, but she wills it and it is for a noble cause. And your signal was fine, have no such worries, though I appreciate the sentiment,” she nodded at Dyric and patted him on the shoulder as she wanted to do before. It felt appropriate. She spoke once more.

“It cannot be easy to lose such a person, even after such a grand life. If your mind grows heavy after the deed is done, you are welcome to share your thoughts with me. I will listen, for I believe I understand.”

Dyric smiled tightly and appreciatively, as if it was already weighing on him and he wished to be along. “Thank you for your concern. “I know I am doing the right thing. Perhaps we shall speak before long.” At the bottom of the ladder, they parted ways. And not long after, they both found themselves at the mette’stiroi, though at far different stations. While Dyric was beside his elder, Eliis was enamoured with the snail derby, and for good reason. She’d assassinated many people before, and the best way to remain guiltless was to focus on something else. Every so often, she’d steal glances at the birthday trio, until she was to feel that pinching behind her ear.

It was so easy. Even if she wasn’t a master of essence, all it took was a slight change and it turned the ven’silmuu into a deadly agent. Seconds later, Merit was dead, and Eliis shed a tear as Dyric placed the blame on a girl she’d met the night before. By all accounts, she held no ill will against the woman, but so strong was Merit’s will that Eliis could not bring herself to interfere now, as the deed was done. She looked up at the sky for just a second and thought to herself:

“I hope I made you proud, Meled.”

Interaction: Snorri
Scene: Served Cold
Location: The Kongesalan

Truth be told, Dietrich did not expect much from the young boy at chess. He was clearly intelligent for his age and possessed an all too familiar sense of cunning, but he was but a child. Alas, he was being entertained in the match regardless, Many young people give in to anger, pride, impatience, caution, but the prince did not have these faults. Perhaps his biggest ‘flaw’ was his abundant curiosity, but that did not lend itself to a weakness at this particular game. Snorri was measured in his approach, and every move had intent. Should he become king, Dietrich thought, he would make a fine ruler. Perhaps finer still if he shared some of his experience with the lad.

Alas, he found himself thrown off by a barrage of questions while thinking about his next move, and found himself drifting in his memories for just a moment. The Grontempel and the waters he drank, and the experience he felt. Even when the effects of the water had dulled, he had felt the god's message so strongly in his brain. He had received many messages, maybe from them, maybe from his subconscious, maybe from the sheer adrenaline of the experience, and many of them he was not so willing to share. Still, the one thing that lingered in his mind was this: he would have a crucial role to play soon. Whether it was this, or in the near future, he was not so certain, but he was sure in his belief that it was coming. He centred his thoughts once more to find that Snorri had made his move, and a good one at that. So he'd buy some time by answering the boys questions.

"It was something I've never felt before. We have temples to the gods in Kressia, and Sturmfeld too, though we also have many Quentics clouding their guidance. Here, it is clear as day. And when I drank the water, it became clearer still. You can feel their presence. I do not know if the experience will be the same for you, having grown up here, but it was eye opening." he sighed and pinched his nose slightly as he hovered a hand over a pawn, and waited for a moment.

"I'm not sure if it was necessary, but it brought me closer to the truth, to understanding the world you and your kin inhabit. We share gods, but our practices differ and so does our language, customs, traditions. It helped me. And no wise man refuses help when it is put in front of him. You would do well to remember that. It's a philosophy that has served me well so far." he smiled, and moved a knight. He could see Snorri's impatience flaring slightly when he took his time to move, and he would use this to capitalize on the next move. The two exchanged blows on the board a couple more times, before he would speak once more.

"I used to believe in the false gods when I was your age, you know. I had a teacher who taught me how to use my Gift in the ways of old Avince. To my young brain, it seemed logical, as a man I respected followed them so should I. You have the benefit of a loving mother who has guided you well in the ways of old, but not all men are so lucky. Many of the desperate flock to the Pentad because it's easy." he paused for a moment after his brief lecture, just to measure the boys thoughts, before continuing after moving another piece. It wouldn't be long now before the game would be over, but he wanted to impart some knowledge on the boy before the busy day ahead.

"But, Snorri, the easy way is usually not the right way. I'm sure you see how weak the Greenlanders are, how their armies melt like butter before yours. If you fight no battles yourself, you will grow soft and content, and fall like the Avinceans did, and like the Parrench will soon." he gestured to the board as he spoke, and knocked down a rook, before smiling genuinely at the young lad, and it was hard not to, as he saw much of himself in the lad. He wondered, if their positions were switched, would they live the same lives they had so far? Who knows. He thought he might be boring the boy, so he finished up the remainder of the match before dusting himself off, and preparing himself for the evening ahead. Still, he had enjoyed the game, and the conversation.

The rest of the day was not as eventful. He was beginning to get a feel for Eskandr politic, and court etiquette, and he wasn't as far from home as he previously thought. Still, there was something oddly curious. A meeting between the queen and a certain Jarl Bjorn, and a servant girl from Lindermetz. They seemed particularly interesting, and there was something he found interesting as he observed. Whilst they did not hesitate to stomp on the idols of the Pentad, the way they spoke was.. curious? He knew many languages, and he knew many important people who spoke many languages, and as he observed the switch from Eskandr, to Avincian, to Parrench, he couldn't help but notice a slight accent there. Not one that seemed particularly familiar, or Drudgunzean for that matter. He thought he may be reading too much into it, but he would find out soon enough when he spoke to the girl. He did also find it odd that this Jarl did not know any of the other tongues being spoken. To not speak at least some Avincean raised concern for him. Was this normal? He had much to reflect on.

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Th3King0fChaos
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A Familiar Sight

Mentions/Interaction: Sweyn, Thunder Spear @Force and Fury

Arsène's task was one he chose himself and it was one he knew well, to hunt. The Barbarians had been razing villages and carving death and destruction in their paths. Arsène hoped to quell this carnage, this death that had found its way to his home many years ago has now found itself back in lands he knew. The smoke that filled the air was not one of smoke smelt in burning fire wood or coal. It was rough on the lungs, a deep dark black, and had a pungent sickeningly sweet smell that stuck to the throat and made you nearly gag, as the body knew this was the same smell as a persons body burning.

Arsène knew this smell very well, it was one that had stuck in his mind from when he was a child. As they moved through the many villages that had been burned this same smoke that has been from his childhood, it was a smoke that made even the hardiest men gag. As for Arsène, his blood boiled, he could not bear to keep his distain hidden, however he was among goo9d company that seemed to also agree the same. Yet soon they saw another village burn, but they were to find something they would have never expected.

Arsène was the first among the group, so for him he sensed a man within the village before the others, as he prepared for an ambush, yet then it was only one man. Arsène worried as soon they spotted one of the strongest of the Barbarians, Sweyn Thunder Spear. Within that moment almost all of them prepared for a fight, yet Arsene saw something strange. He could not tell what he saw around Sweyn, however it called to him to hold. Arsène rose his hand and stopped the volley of spells and arrows from raining down onto Sweyn, as when called to answer, Arsène spoke and said, "I'm unsure, yet I have a feeling. I'm going to go speak with him. Prepare to assist me in case the Old man decides to piss himself". Arsene chuckled slightly as he began to shift in the saddle.

As the other knights looked to Arsène dumbfounded, Arsène dismounted off of his horse and started to make his way towards the lone man. He seemed all too distracted, and for Arsène it almost felt like he saw a ghost while looking at Sweyn. Possibly of a man long dead, or of one that is still alive, for Arsène, he looked as if he had lost his way. All he could do was what he could, and now, he has done things he could not atone for. Arsène made his way over as once he had made it towards the man he was greeted with a sight he was not prepared for. From the many descriptions Arsène was given, he assumed a powerful man such as Sweyn would have been something akin to a man larger than life, he expected a man wizened by his years, full of body and mind with power to spare. Yet now he was nothing more than an old man groveling at the body of a child who had died before him.

Arsène sighed heavily as he saw the child and all he could do was pray that she would be given a kind after life to any god she prayed to. Arsène prepared for anything as he finally neared and looked down upon the older man and spoke out to hi with a strong and solid voice, "Old man, why are you here?"
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by RezonanceV
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Returning to Port Morilles with Hope

Interaction: @dao ma, @pirouette
Time: Afternoon, Location: Port Morilles
Current Event: Fields of Fire

The sea fought against each high stone, forming the wall that kept every survivor exiting the caves from being washed away. When Maerec exited the cave, Caelum looked at him and acknowledged the great feat they had accomplished, “We did it!” Thousands of Parrench souls would live to love, laugh, and play another day. The next challenge was organizing the survivors, mostly women, children, the elderly, and the injured. It would take them hours before they could travel the collective mass of Port Morilles citizens to return home.

Caelum walked to Maerec, slapping his hand down on Maerec’s pauldron, “Would you like to take the front guard with me?” Caelum intended for Dieudonne and Mathieos to take the rear guard and form a line to get everyone safely to Port Morilles without losing anyone in the hike.

The fruits of their labor hadn’t settled in Maerec’s mind until Caelum seemed to snap him back. He smiled at his friend, a bit of exhaustion in his demeanor, but he nodded at the other regardless. His limitations with his Gift seemed to reveal themselves while he had aided in filling the caverns with rock. He did, though, exceed his own expectations; in that, he could breathe freely and meet eyes with Caelum.

“You’ve surely tested my capabilities, brother.” He chuckled. “Your plan worked.” He clapped a hand on the back of Caelum’s neck and jostled him teasingly. “I was starting to doubt there would ever be an end to moving those rocks.”

Maerec headed towards the front of the group with Caelum, instructing Parrench soldiers to gather the townspeople and guide them into an orderly line to make their way back to Port Morilles. The slow pace was welcomed, but the knight felt somewhat impatient. He’d never voice it though. He understood the limitations of those they saved.

“It may take us thrice as long to return to Port Morilles.” Maerec mused, looking to the direction that they had once come to get to the caverns. They had been moving at feverish speeds to reach the caves. Returning wouldn’t be nearly the same. “We should prepare for frequent stops along the way.”

“The plan would not have worked had you not been here.” His lips lifted into a smile easily visible to Maerec since Caelum’s helmet hung off the side of his horse. The amount of work they had forced out of themselves was enough to tire a legion, but they managed, and Maerec was right; the road to Port Morilles would take them a while. Over the hills, Maerec and Caelum led by example, stopping when an injured fell or when the elderly needed rest. It was near sun fall before the gates of Port Morilles were in sight of the long line of survivors.

“There!” Caelum pointed as his hips swayed with the horse beneath him, “Port Morilles, we made it.” They would be reuniting families, lovers, and their soldiers back to what appeared to be a place that was no longer under threat. Momentary peace, what a gift from Pentad.

Maerec and Caelum were greeted with vocalizing cheers and heartfelt applause. The people of Port Morilles were both relieved and surprised to see the faces of all those they sent to the caves for safety. The Queen’s forces were already underway in their repairs, and as Maerec and Caelum reached the town square, they dismounted their horses to see that all the people they led were either tended to or reunited with their kin.

The rescue work had been completed about midday, and while they had saved many lives, Camille could only hang her head in defeat for the few others who did not make it. Each body she found under a pile of rubble was another face she’d recognized from her youth. Another neighbor. Another friend.

By the time evening had arrived, Camille had felt the fatigue and guilt weighing down on her. Her eyelids fluttered, and her head drooped while she lounged on a derelict support beam by the seaside entrance. It wasn’t a spot of comfort but one that Camille had stationed by to catch the beach cave refugees. She had hoped to find her parents, who had still not turned up among them.

The commotion had snapped Camille’s attention, her head whipping up to glance around after she had dozed off for another few minutes. The refugees had returned, and she perched herself on top of the beam, looking around for the faces she wanted to see.

So many others, and not one were her parents. The flicker of doubt she had for her parents' wellbeing, fanned into a flame of despair as she sank back down. If not in the caves then where?

A face caught her attention. Not one she had expected but certainly one she had recognized. Sir Caelum, the Paladin of the Pentach, and certainly more meaningful to Camille, her savior. Were it not for him; she would have surely perished by the Eskandr fire witch. A fact that only came to light after she awoke several days later and was told to her by Claude.

She hurried over, armor chiming with her steps as she faced the man who saved her. ”Pardon, Sir Caelum?” She called bashfully, shrinking as she caught his attention. ”I wanted to express my gratitude for saving my life. I didn’t see it but my friend told me.”

Caelum heard the timid voice of a familiar friend approaching him; as she faced him, Caelum could not help but notice her shrink, “Camille De la Saumure, Dami’s Chosen, stand tall for if I remember correctly, it is you who protected me during our battle against Thorunn.” He brought his hands over Camille’s shoulders to prop her up at the full five feet and six inches she was. He then turned to look at Maerec and introduced the two with his left hand open toward Maerec to give them both a clear line of sight on each other, “Maerec, meet Camille De la Saumure, do not be fooled by her size for there is a deep strength in this one, she protected me at Relouse during the burning of the camp. If not for her, Thorunn would have cooked us all.” Caelum paused, “And, Camille, this is Maerec De Solenne, a knight deserving of his station on more than a few accounts, with more courage and tenacity than I might dream of having in this lifetime. He too protected me when I needed it, except he used a stick.” Caelum looked back to Maerec with a smile ready to break into a laugh.

Seeing so many people that he and Caelum had returned to Port Morilles to reunite with their families was a rejuvenating wave of relief. It humbled him and made him just watch in silence for a time. A satisfied smile rested on his lips as he took in the sights. Even with all of the pain and sacrifice of battle, at least moments like these kept him in the light. Even more of a spark of light was to see a familiar face. One that he hadn’t seen since the Defense of Relouse.

Maerec stood there, watching Caelum and Camille interact for a moment. A swirl of emotion crossed paths with Maerec, hearing that both Caelum and Camille had saved each other from the likes of Thorunn. There was brief worry but then overwhelming gratitude. Arnaud had seen something in Camille too. So had Maerec when meeting her at the edge of the beaches.

“Sorry to burst your enthusiasm, Caelum. I’m afraid we’ve already met once before.” He grinned and extended a hand to Camille. “On the beaches at Relouse. Though, I regret to say we didn’t have much time to talk. Good to see you alive. And I hope mostly well.” His eyes returned to Caelum, and he chuckled. “I swear by it; I would be a better knight if I still had that stick.”

Caelum burst into laughter and found space to breathe, “I don’t doubt it,” and he continued to laugh. Gaining some composure, he looked to Camille, “I am too grateful to see you alive, Camille; how have you been managing yourself here?” Caelum asked curiously, their safe return did not mean there was not a lot of work still yet to be done, and he was unsure of the Queen’s status and the morale of the troops who came to Port Morilles before Maerec and Caelum.

They were so jovial. Undeterred from their righteous path.

Camille may have been embraced as an equal, but she felt she couldn’t stack up in her mind. Her mood and motivation had remained grim, hardly worth the praise as she certainly wasn’t inspiring. Not unlike these two. It had been Caelum who had wounded the witch. It had been Caelum who saved her. He was just being noble about it, yet in youthful frustration, Camille could not sense any wavering in his words. The true paladin’s tone was the same in both recounting her acts as Sir Maerec.

She gave a silent bow of her head to the other knight and then quietly took his offered hand. Maerec had probably spoken true, but she did not remember the battle at Relouse well. The whole battle had been a blur, especially following the comatose state she had been following the conclusion. It seemed like a distant memory, made years ago. If only, she lamented.

A forced smile was Camille’s reaction to Caelum’s laugh, her crude attempt at trying to belong. The conversation shifted, thankfully, to the rescue efforts here, at least as she understood him. ”The fires have been put out, and the ruins searched. We believe everyone has been found, and efforts are being put into repairing the city while the Queen’s forces are here to assist.”

Camille quickly realized that while work was being done, she had fallen asleep while waiting to see if her parents would return. ”I… was waiting to see if my parents would return if they were at the caves, but I fear they were not there.” She swiftly put, fearing her efforts at helping her hometown were being put to question but turned regretful, believing she had revealed too much.

Caelum sensed the young girl’s hopelessness drifting over her like the thin cloudy veil of fog over a morning field. He understood Camille’s worry and the demons that clawed at her spirit, “Camille, if you have not found your parents among the dead, then until proven otherwise, they walk among the living.” The uselessness of thinking the worst without evidence to support it helped no one except the enemy and their demons.

Before the three could continue, Dieudonne interrupted with news of the evening sermon to be serviced at the Cathédrale des Cinq Flammes by the bishop of Port Morilles. Caelum turned to Camille and Maerec, “will you two be joining me?”

Camille nodded. She was tired, but if there were one thing that could comfort her, it would be prayer. However, her mind would search the divine for an answer to her parents. If they do indeed, still walk among them.

The sermon brought forth a sliver of hope that one day Port Morilles would become the grand place it once was. All wounds the people have suffered would be mended, healed, and never forgotten. From the ashes, the people were able to rise back up and continue to choose life. Followed up by the Queen’s inspiring call to arms the following morning, the Parrench found a new vigor as they readied to rendezvous with Arsene’s small force.

Eye of the Storm:
A Night Before Flames

Interaction: @dao ma, @pirouette
Time: Evening, Location: Perrench camp outside of Port Morilles, heading to burning villages
Current Event: Fields of Fire

Despite everything, the pace was good, and they made a good time. Nightfall came, though, and they were forced to camp. Quick work was completed to set up and light campfires. Each one had groups of people around them, some resting to prevent further fatigue while others remained up to keep watch.

“Another calm before the storm. The stars always seem to shine brighter, as if knowing the outcomes.” Maerec lamented. He’d been sitting around one of the fires, finally getting a good moment’s rest. “Though what the storm entails has yet to be determined.” Would they meet the Eskandr on the field before reaching Arsene and his men? Maerec couldn’t put his finger on it, but something unsettling rested in the pit of his stomach. He idly brushed his thumb over the pendants he wore around his neck.

Caelum heard his friend, Maerec. He was right. There were these ever-fading moments of brief reprieve before the souls of men and women were tested. A test he and his brethren wished had never happened. Why couldn’t everyone see the same light? Why did it have to end in the loss of lives before common sense broke through the skulls of stubborn men?, “May we see these stars ‘til the end.” Caelum replied to Maerec; the stars always seemed to bring one’s heart and mind back to center, even if only in the calm moments before the storm. The stars remained consistent, bright, and clear.

Caelum felt hopeful; his friend, new companion, the sermon, and Queen’s speech all massaged his soul with purpose. However, he sensed Camille might not be feeling the same. The internal battle between family and duty weighs heavily on those living souls stuck in the middle.

He leaned forward on the edge of a log that was makeshift into a bench upon setting camp, his hands clasped over each other, chin resting on the back of one, staring into the crackling flames. He turned to Camille, “I am curious, Camille, what do you hope to gain at the end of this road?” For Maerec, it was his duty as a knight, and potentially his success would leverage him into a Lord. For Caelum, he was of The Unconquered Sun, his duty to the Brotherhood guided his direction and would until he died. But, for Camille, the question seemed unanswered, at least in Caelum’s mind.

Camille had been private, mulling over the events from the past twenty-four hours in her mind. There was a light, Dami’s Light, but it was so faint that still, she was unsure what her role was. Reading the visions and answers to her prayers was frustrating to no end. Why couldn’t the answers be straight and easy? She never was smart…

”Hm?” Camille had heard Caelum’s question, though her brain had been distracted, so it took her the length of a pause to recall. ”I had a vision over a year ago.” She watched the fire, not turning to the paladin out of a recollection habit of hers. She never looked at someone when reciting memories, like looking away helped her remember better. ”A year ago when the Eskandr first attacked my hometown. It was Dami picking up a hammer in one hand and holding the king's banner with the other. I thought that meant I had to lead, and I did, but…”

She hung on that word letting the comfort of the fire crackling soothe her nerves to reveal her struggle. ”...I didn’t think I would still be leading. I’m not as brave nor as strong as people say.” She wasn’t sure why she felt comfortable enough to share this with Caelum. Maybe it was her respect as an elevated man of faith. He seemed like he was experienced with interpreting the Pentach’s will.

”Often I just think I want to go home. Lay on the beach like I would do almost every morning. Help my father tan the hides.. I always hated the smell.” A faint smile turned on Camille’s lips as memories flushed in. ”Mama would have fresh bread for us after….” She sounded pained on this point, dropping her gaze to her feet. ”... Then the rest of the day was free and every day was different. Helping people and sharing meals. We all knew each other.” Tears welled in the corner of her eyes and she swiftly drew her sleeve across to wipe at them, flustered she was so helpless to her emotion.

She sniffled, managing to compose herself long enough to conclude. ”I never know what Dami wants, but I think he wants me out here. To sacrifice what was my life to save others' lives who should have it just as good as mine was.”

Caelum watched as gems rolled from Camille’s eyes. Her vision of faith and memories of love was apparent to him. He saw what she did not, but maybe he could communicate her strength, something she seemed to feel without. Caelum leaned in ever so slightly, “I do not think I see it the same as you, Ms. Camille De la Saumure; your bravery and strength rest in your love and faith,” Caelum extended his right hand to her to catch her attention, and then forced it back to his chest, pounding at the spot where his heart beat the loudest, “these two forces burn and cool your heart,” he opened his hand to grip his shirt tightly to emphasize his point, “to quench your mind and spirit like hot steel dipped in ice.” Caelum paused, drew out a small blade from his boot, raised it flat side up to his eyes, and scoped down to the end that now pointed at Camille, “a quenched mind and spirit are like this blade drawn out of the forge, you see it’s strength does not depend on in its size or its name, but in its integrity to stay true and straight in one direction.”

The knife’s ornamented circular guard and short gold crested arch to protect the hand of the wielder would catch the eyes of most. Black strands of individually woven leather braided up from the Unconquered Sun’s symbol on the butt of the hilt to the gold horizon at the guard. An acute bevel carved down the blade's center to take away weight without compromising its integrity, providing easier thrusts and ejection. Crafted by the Brotherhood's finest, a motto etched on its blade, “May Oraphe Keep You.” A sign of mercy to those lives that might be taken with its edge. Caelum flipped the blade toward him, showing the handle end to Camille, “the way I see it, you are strong because your heart’s integrity is true, and it points in one direction, a strength rarer than a dragon’s head, Dami’s Chosen.” He offers the young saint his knife, a token of a new friendship and a symbol of hope, love, and faith found on the battlefield.

Camille sat, unblinking for a moment. In the young lady’s mind, Caelum's words were worth their weight. He was, after all, a true and inspired hero of the faith. Yet still, she searched, eyes darting around his facial features as if expecting some tell that the man was lying only to make her feel better. None were noticed, not that she had that skill, to begin with.

She reached out and grabbed the knife, gripping it with the softest touch and gently withdrawing it to her person to study. Lord Gabriel had armor her size made, but it was plain, nothing more impressive than the standard knight of Perrance. Her two-handed sword had been a choice by accident, yet the armory’s sword was gifted in light of Camille’s surprising ability to carry it like nothing with Dami’s assistance. Caelum’s knife, however, was uniquely forged. Crafted, might have been a better word as it was made finely.

The most important feature, however, was the Unconquered Sun symbol. It had been a sun that led Camille down her path, sunlight drawing her attention a year ago. Now here, she sat running a caressing thumb over the symbol of Caelum’s order, feeling a strong draw to the iconography.

”Would you teach me, Sir Caelum?” Camille had finally replied, glancing up from the knife to meet the paladin’s gaze. More than a touch of sorrow had left her expression; now, she looked unmoving, at least in the slightest sense. ”Teach me that I might better be what Dami wants me to be?”

Teach her? Caelum was no teacher; at least, he had never fashioned himself as one. It was an unexpected request. The Brotherhood obliged him to take on recent graduates of the Order, hence, Dieudonne and Mathieos. But to be requested outside of the Order was new; he sensed protecting her was important, even if he did not yet understand exactly why.May it be Oraphe’s Will? Caelum thought to himself and then answered, ”If you wish, I will show you what I know; I do not know how helpful it will be, but if you feel this is important, then stay close.”

It was all Caelum could offer, “in the meantime, let’s enjoy our time under the sta-” Caelum was interrupted by a massive eruption off in the distance on top of Mount Errant. Fire burst from the top as if a dragon tried scorching the sky. The three broke all thought and communication as they stood to turn toward Mount Errant, another massive fire spewed up at the stars, and Caelum turned toward Maerec, “Something tells me this was not the calm before the storm, but the eye of it.” Caelum felt something bigger than the events of Vitroux, Relouse, and Port Morilles were about to reveal themselves in their path.

Maerec: ””
Caelum: ””
Camille: ””
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Tackytaff
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Act Two: Scattered to the Winds____ __ _ _

Chapter Three: Loyalties______ __ _ _

It was a sight to behold. Lorridton’s people were in an uproar over their dead matriarch. Confusion and disbelief sent a panic through the ever gathering crowd. Even the Tar’ithan woman had played her part to perfection, tears shining on her face when Dyric chanced a look her way. Talit had flown herself, crutches and all, across the field to meet at the accused’s side, vehemently defending the stranger from the encroaching mob, the matching brands of the Perrench lilly on their shoulders in clear view to all. In the midst of it all Merit’s body lay peacefully still, untouched in its seat.

“She did not draw, did you not notice?”

It was a surprising outburst,and true enough to quiet a frenzying group that looked to Dyric to justify his accusation. His face remained a penetrating glare, one that moved from the struggling Lyen and his sister to find the dissenter.

"Do you not recognize her for a Maledict, stranger?” He called out to Calitan. “Their magics are those of deceit and trickery." The mob hissed as one, enthralled by Dyric's distraught fury.

"Our brother is right to question." Came another voice, in an attempt to draw their attention. Chad the elder that had taken Merit's place when her decline became impossible to hide. He was standing at his seat, only a few places down from those of the guests of honour.

“Let us not make this night a tragedy twice over. Take the maledict away to be sentenced.”

“I will not-”

Talit cut Lyen off, pulling her back to face her brother. “She is innocent! I can vouch for her character.”

“Then she has you fooled. Her hands fell on Merit and she died. We all saw; where were you sister?”

Talit glared at her brother only to look past him to the chief elder. “Let the gods prove her if my word isn’t good enough. A trail by combat; with me as her champion.”

“You want me dead too now? You’ve fallen too deeply into her ploys Talit.”

“I want to prove the truth!” She cried in horror, “You would go against me?”

“No one else would!” He gestured to the people around them. The reasoning didn’t need to be said aloud to be stated; Talit’s own people feared her. “I want justice for our Nan if you don’t -”

“Enough!” Chad moved between the twins, using the Gift to amplify his voice enough to drown out the riled chattering. “Shame on both of you; so eager to spill more blood when Merit’s is not yet cold.” It was enough to quiet the entire city as the enormity of their figurehead’s death claimed them.

The Maledict was taken away, and only when the crowd had dispersed did Dyric dare look in the direction of the tall redheaded woman. Their look communicated all that needed to be said as they each turned to convene with their respective groups.

The tables and bleachers from the mete’stiroi were repurposed for the trial. The platform that had been used as a dais for Merit and the others the night before was still used in that capacity, but for a much changed reason. In the background continued the snail race, with perhaps only a handful of observers, and most of the other festivities had been tastefully set aside. Cleanup was well underway, but it was a physical thing only. There was no cleaning the wound that had been dealt to this community until it was determined, beyond reasonable doubt, who had dealt it, and hopefully why.

The baroness’ body had been prepared the night before and now lay in state before her people, surrounded by fragrant herbs and flowers. Perhaps the sun’s light fell naturally upon her through a small break in the branches or perhaps someone had used the Gift to make it so. It did not greatly matter. Lady Merit was present at her own murder trial. Her treasures had been arranged around the table where she lay, wrapped in a banner with her personal sigil. Her eyes were covered with gold coins, and it was a certainty that, in the five days before she rose to meet the Bringers, she would see and hear all.

It was into this scene that Talit and Lyen emerged. There were not hundreds present; there were thousands. They spread out across the forest clearing, some sitting on the bleachers from the mete’stiroi, others occupying nearby tree platforms, staircases, and hanging bridges. The two of them, feeling rather an island unto themselves, passed beneath a small girl idly kicking her feet back and forth from one of the bridges, and a couple of boys who had run eagerly up beside her hurled insults at Lyen, or perhaps both of them. “Taiv’op!” one sneered. “Cuul’op!” accused the other, horking up a wad of spit, but an older woman came and grabbed both by the ears and hustled them away. Her scolding could not be heard against the backdrop of such a great mass of people, each with their own words to speak. Their voices had risen when they noticed the pair’s entrance. Now, however, as Baron Chad’orast’ilan’chiis rose, he made a gesture and, after a handful of seconds, the noise gave way to a silence that was eerie and unnatural to yasoi: ovaya’zesh – the ritual act of complete quiet.

Dyric had already taken his place, strategically close to his three-times-great grandmother, facing the three elders. He twisted only briefly to look at his sister and she was forced to part with Lyen, leaving the maledict alone in the center, surrounded by guards, as she took her place opposite Dyric and flanking the body of ‘old nan’, who it was clear she struggled to look at.

She instead looked to her twin, trying to discern his always unreadable expression. He'd gone to great effort in avoiding her, spending most of the night with the time-walker. The one place Talit wouldn't go. It was a cowardly act, but it instilled fear within her in turn. What lies did he think he learned and how could she disprove them as such?

Eventually the silence of the bloodthirsty crowd teetered, and Chad put an end to it before disrespect could be done. Those that had seats took them, others leaned or pushed themselves to the outskirts, until only the elder and two blind women remained standing near the body. Recognition of the one standing by Merit's head sent a shiver down Talit's spine, all the way down to her stump of a right leg. The time-walker that had deceived her so long ago. That would make the other a powergazer. Two arbiters of truth, only summoned for the most extraordinary trials.

"I will not waste time with ceremony. We all know why we are here: This woman," Chad gestured to Lyen, still flanked by guards behind the elders, out of view of the corpse. It was enough to cause an uproar from the spectators. Talit watched her friend's face harden as hurled insults reached her ears.. It was some time until they were quiet enough for the trail to continue. "Lyen'Ivhere'Zulc stands accused of murdering our Merit’entasp’osmax, by her own descendant; Dyric’antiil’osmax."

The two women instilled one final prayer to Damy to watch over their proceedings before walking to either end of the elder's table.

It was to the accused to speak first. So it was Dyric that stood, whispering something unheard to his dead grandmother as he turned to face the crowd, bowing to them first, then the Elders.

"None want to be here less today than I. But as Merit's descendant it is my duty to bring justice for her murder. Half those here gave witness to the same events I did last night; the maledict's touch of death. I believe it is no stretch to maintain that an unambiguous observation shared by at least dozens of individuals - if not hundreds - need not be called into question.” He paused, clasping his hands behind his back, and turned on the spot so that he addressed everyone present. “I am grieving, as I know many of us are, as I trust my sister is as well.” He swallowed. “That does not mean, however, that I shall let my emotions rule me.” He began pacing again, commanding the stage as only a politician could. “I intend to deal in only known facts this day and it is a fact that that woman, Lyen’ivhere’zulc, a known maledict, laid hands upon Lady Merit mere moments before she expired.”

Murmurs rippled through the crowd, mostly of approval. “And what do we know of this alleged murderer who stands before us?” Dyric’s intonation made clear his thoughts on the use of the word ‘alleged’. He spread his arms as he continued. “The truth is: precious little.” He returned to pacing, building his case. “For, you see, she was not born among our people, nor has she much deigned to live among us either.” He shook his head sadly. “Her loyalties, you can see written plainly upon her skin.” He was referring to the fleur-de-lis tetsoi that she had gotten, but it was not currently visible. He paused and amended. “If you cannot see, I invite you to look at Lady Talit’s shoulder instead.” Dyric shook his head and continued. “And what, might you ask, would someone whose first loyalty is to Parrence want with the baroness?” He laughed bitterly, not even bothering to state what everybody knew: Lady Merit was renowned as no friend to the great human nation that surrounded them. “All of us who were alive then know very well what the Parrench crown’s approach is to the slightest hint of independence or, as they term it, ‘dissent’, from our people.” His eyes lingered, briefly, on those of the elder Yrii’antiil’enjuun. “And now, we find yet another huusoi bloodshed brought to our doorstep: one that we all know my great grandmother would want us to stay away from.”

He paused close to the body and both blind women nearby tilted their heads in an eerie synchronicity. “We have a means and a motive, moilar, suuneir, yaluur. Yet, there are those who refuse to believe it. While some may be our enemies, I do not believe that most are. The bounties offered by huusoi nations are tempting, and those of Parrece chief among them. One need look only as far as my sister: truly among the best of us. She is a loyal woman, with a good heart, and I would not question that. When the crown prince, Arcel, came to us as a boy and she was ever at his side, I did not question it. When she would make her regular trips to visit him in Solenne, I harboured no doubts as to where her loyalties lay.” He glanced Talit’s way, beatific. “Earlier this year, when she took some four hundred of our people to fight alongside her huusoi friend at Relouse, I knew that our people’s interests remained foremost in her heart. If the Eskandr could be stopped on the beaches, so much the better.” He left it unsaid that, of course, they hadn’t. An army of them was known to be on its way into the region, though all believed that it would bypass the yasoi town so long as it remained nominally neutral. “Yet, not all are so strong as Talit’yrash’osmax. It is a simple matter for one’s reason to become corrupted, for one not to be willing to see the facts laid out cleanly before them, to not be able to make a picture from the pieces.” Dyric stood, center stage, and clasped his hands in polite deference to the elders. “That is what I intend to help our people do this day, whatever their beliefs may be, so that my great grandmother and our people alike may walk in everlasting peace.”

It took Talit a moment to stand in time for her turn. To observers, she struggled with maneuvering her crutches around the body. In truth, her head was reeling, searching for any probable reason her brother would have to voice such vitriol against her. But there was no time to consider motives, he'd riled the people of Loriindton well, and if they'd hated Lyen before, they were only waiting to tear her limb from limb now.

"I agree with my brother on two matters at least. The first being that my great-great-great grandmother's assassination has been one of our greatest tragedies in recent memory." She paused for silence, as keen spectators hushed others to hear Talit speak. "Though I fear we carry different memories of the woman she was. Her bitterness and resentment towards Parrence is well documented - but did we not also come to witness her to temper and resolve that hatred?" She began walking parallel to the elder's table, pacing the length of the clearing with hobbled steps. "In her lifetime to have witnessed such cruelty and still accept her declared enemy's son into her home. To have taught and raised a human child alongside her own grandchildren; you think this a woman with indifference to her neighbors? Let us not forget this Parrence is not that of Rouis, but of Arcel - the boy who lived among us, as one of us." She stopped herself before too much emotion could bleed into her voice. Dyric had stressed that particular relationship enough already without her adding more speculation. "Would any here that knew him dare accuse him of sending assassins to those that cared for him? The Parrench have made their errors and are different, but we know what they are, we know their king. Meanwhile violent southern strangers pass through our land without sending a single word of notice or warning." She stopped her pacing to look directly at Dyric at the mention of the Eskand, searching for some reaction and finding none. "Is our resentment toward the Parrench so great we can no longer recognize a trusted friend?"

"The second matter we agree on is that Dyric knows precious little of Lyen; our friend and sister." A lone voice far off shouted a curse at her in disagreement, but was quickly silenced. "He does not know of her bravery shown towards defending her people - the Yasoi people even when it was not her burden to share. How many of those that had come with me might have been lost had she not stood tall against Eskandr's golden hand and hand of death in the Witch Wood? Ask them yourselves - they live to tell the story because of her actions."

Reaching the end of the Elder's table, Talit shifted her crutches and began her pacing in the other direction, stopping to make eye contact with the panel's eyes as she moved. "Her duty to the Yasoi can be found even in her name, Ivhere, for she spent so long with her teachers absorbing our ways they though she might never grown into her own!" Some feet away, Lyen's face was darkening an even motlier grey than usual. "We can see now she has, though she still seeks knowledge from new places - yes including those among human lands. But we are Yasoi, and our people have wandered for as long as we've had limbs." There was a slight chuckle at that as Talit flexed her hands on her crutches.

"But Lyen has always returned to her people. Who that spoke to her last evening could say she is anything but Yasoi? Even her magic, which Dyric seems intent on vilifying, is that of our own people, blending together different areas of the gift. Maledicts can be as much healers as curse-makers, which the name does little credit for. It is humans that fear and separate magic by types and morality, categorizing what is and isn't allowed." She sighed as she reached her original place "Most importantly, maledict magic is similar to any other in one respect at least; it requires energy. As many witnesses as my brother claims, I do too; any with the slightest bit of the gift could have seen that Lyen did not draw. What spell could have been commanded without trace? The answer is none, gentle people of Loriindton. Merit's death deserves justice, yes. Precise, direct, and harsh retribution towards the right parties is called for, once they can be found." She finally faced Lyen and gave a weak smile. "I ask we all heard the words Chad spoke last night again, let us not repay one needless and unjust death with another. Let it fuel our determination to find the truth and the guilty party."

Their opening pieces said, the twin descendants of Merit took their seats again while the Elders huddled and whispered for a moment, before motioning to the guards on either side of Lyen. The younger of the two blind women present laid her hands on Lyen before she took her place to be interrogated. The powergazer asked innocuous questions in a calm, low voice that easily traveled to Talit's ears, the clearing was so silenced with anticipation. With a nod, Talit was given leave to begin her questions. Shuffling her crutches to one side, she leaned on her seat casually.

"Have I been speaking the truth when it comes to your character and actions?"

Lyen's face twisted into a grimace of a smile. "You have."

"Please explain the events of last night."

Talit stood in silence as Lyen gave her story. Moving only to shuffle her weight on and off her foot as needed. She listened as her friend told her events; their arrival, the beginning of the Mette. She detailed the many people she'd tried to engage about the human war, and the few that humored her enough to hang around. About her snail's disappointing start in its race and the near fight that had broken out from it. The one part of the story left vague was her time spent with Talit. She mentioned only their drinking and acquisition of tetsoi, and nothing of the words they'd exchanged. Finally she told of the moment itself, her drunken excitement, a brush against Merit "... and then..." The hands Lyen had been anxiously wringing together towards the climax of her story fell away, finally still. "She was dead." She finished.

"I have only one question left." Talit finally said after she felt enough time had passed for Lyen's story to settle, "Did you, Lyen'Ivhere'Zulc, kill my kin, Merit’entasp’osmax, by magic, poison, deceit ,or trickery?"

Lyen let out a sigh, "No."

Talit could feel the crowd's eyes move as one to the power-gazer. The shrouded woman only reacted with a short nod, which sent whispers rippling throughout the clearing, enough so that it took some time before Dyric was able to approach with his own interrogation. Not that Talit cared for whatever else he had to say. She winked at her friend, and for a moment they shared hopeful smiles as Dyric made his way to her.

"You are a trained Maledict? Could you explain what that means?"

"I think we all heard you mention it enough times." Lyen rolled her eyes before giving an answer. "It isn't dissimilar to the witchcraft any priestess uses, we just train to have a more direct command and control over our manas, using them as triggers for more delicate uses of the Gift."

Dyric nodded, turning from Lyen to face his sister for a brief moment before continuing. "So would it be possible for a trained Maledict to use their magic to trigger reactions within their own body with little need to draw." Talit sucked in a breath sharply enough to catch the attention of the handful of people seated closest.

"Yes," Lyen responded with some hesitation "it could be done if-"

"A sort of spell that could be used to suppress any involuntary chemical reactions produced by lying?"

Lyen scowled and folded her arms, refusing to answer as the muttering picked up again. "Did you understand the question, Lyen?"

"Yes but-"

"Yes what?"

Lyen and Dyric were glaring at each-other so intensely, Talit felt herself forgotten with the rest of the witnesses.

”It could be possible. Yes."

Dyric spun, not bothering to dismiss himself as the spectators erupted into a hysterical combination of hissing insults, and calls for blood. Talit felt Lyen's eyes looking to her for assurance or comfort, but she found herself unable to meet them.

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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Salsa Verde
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Interacting with: The Nashorn@Force and Fury | Hildr @Jasbraq
Opportunity: Eskand-aligned Players - Slay the Dragon

Event: Fields of Fire | Looking for Gold Location: Between Relouse and Chamonix | Wandering Mountain

The prisoner exchange had left a bad taste in her mouth, her interrogation skills needed work. It was easier with animals, they didn’t talk, just relied on instinct. Ulfhild had felt the same eeriness that she expected the Nashorn to have already felt, they weren’t alone in this journey. Taking a page from his book, she extended her hand and motioned him to follow, with her fist shooting a finger out in the direction of the other house where she last saw Hildr. It wasn’t too long before she could smell the scent of her. “Over here” ensuring that she had found the house.

Hildr’s despair grew as the amount of survivors found became more grim by the house. It truly already was a miracle these people survived… Yet there must be more, there must be. Her hearing was being cluttered with the sounds of burning fields and houses, it was enough to cause a damned headache. “This is not combat, this is slaughter… savagery” How could she have been so blind before?

The Nashorn pushed open the door and, inside, he beheld weakness. The pretty drudgunzean, Hildr, looked like she was having a breakdown. He crossed his arms and waited in the doorway. Ulfhild would explain matters. Hildr would come or she would not. Regardless, he would leave after two minutes. Already, he could see a small party racing ahead and it occurred to him that he should stop them, but it would be better to let them do the work first.

The Nashorn always went first, which alleviated much of the jump scares and ambushes Ulfhild would otherwise be susceptible to. The relief was short lived when she saw how shaken Hildr had been from the bodies laid waste around her. It could not have been easy for her to be torn between two fealties. While Ulfhild didn’t understand it, she said nothing. Instead she walked over and rested her arm on her shoulder. “The outcome of war, nothing more” she said, perhaps a bit harsh and reductive, but they hadn’t time to dawdle. It had been years since the two had proper time to sit and catch up, the festivities after the war was the closest they had been. “It’s time to go now, there’s a party ahead.”

“This isn’t war…. This is nothing but senseless slaughter!” The tone of Ulfhild’s voice ticked her off, although hearing it from an old acquaintance made it hit a little less hard. “A party ahead? Isn’t the main force still raiding the village?” The Drudgunzean was rather confused before getting her mind ready for potential combat. “If I can be of assistance to an old friend, I will do what I can.”

Hildr wasn’t wrong, it was provisional genocide, but nothing she could say would make the bitter taste easier to digest. Her hand tightened its grip on her shoulder in accordance. “We..I don’t know who they are and of their loyalty. All we know is the gold from this village is up there and a malevolent force that threatens to kill us, with it” Ulfhild sighed as Hildr acquiesced, “Thank you, I hope they sing of our victory here today.”

The Nashorn merely snorted. Nobody would sing of this part. It would be the battles to come when they snuck past this Parrench army, met up with the king, and took Chamonix. This was merely the lead-up: the preparation. It was almost as if Hildr had thought that war was glorious. Only the big victories and the stories about them made it seem so. It looked as if the two women were ready to leave, so he turned and began walking, down a road that became a trail, long and winding, and up the dark, hulking shape of a small mountain that had ominously started to trickle smoke.

Ulfhild had grown accustomed to the Nashorn’s ways and she wasn’t about to be left behind by the massive brute. She grabbed Hildr’s hand and pulled her forward, out of the rut that the bodies had cast upon her. A hulk of a woman truly, being pulled by a girl slightly smaller than her, a bit odd. The disturbed woman’s words began to ring true, with all ominous smoke descending upon them. During this time Ulfhild relayed the information they had acquired from the blond Parrenchwoman.

"A malevolent force threatens to kill us? What nonsense! If they had such a beast, why not use it before?" Hildr felt somewhat insulted, not understanding the full tale. "And the word of a little girl is trustworthy? Girls that age are prone to lie, you know?" The taller woman still let herself be dragged along by the other. Moments later Hildr stood completely still, showing a rather serious look. "Ulfhild, I don't know if we could stop it."

For his part, the Nashorn ignored Hildr’s blathering. She had supposedly slain a mighty dragon once, alongside his king. She was supposedly a great warrior. She was supposedly strong in deed and faith. He continued walking. Perhaps he would stop the beast and perhaps he would die a glorious death and take his seat in Gronhalle. Did it really matter? There would be much gold there, at least.

They were making little in the way of progress, constantly having to stop to reassure Hildr. It was a hesitation she had never known from the mighty heroine. Parrence’s alliance had been sapping her of her savagery. Having traveled with the Nashorn enough she could sense his impatience despite his very stoic bravado or was it simply constant rage. “This girl wasn’t begging for her life, there was no reason for her to lie” For his part, the giant of a man added a tight nod and continued, pointing ahead with borderline impatience. Ulfhild’s cheeks pulled the sides of her mouth into a puzzled position, “We will stop it, besides when has a little skirmish stopped you. Or the Æresvaktr before? Dragonslayer.”

To think she was so blind. Now was not the time to worry whether she could or not defeat it. “To think a lil pup is the one encouraging me, It’s absurd!” The weak willed Drudgunzean used her own force to slap some sense into herself, soon recovering from her self-inflicted trauma with a confident smile on her face. “To think I am still known as Dragonslayer after all these years, hearing it pumped some life into my heart.” The dragonslayer hit Ulfhild’s back roughly. “But you’re right. A skirmish is but child’s play compared to back then.”

The Nashorn, some length ahead of the two women, stopped in his tracks, then. They were a good ways up the mountain and the late afternoon sun burned golden in their eyes. Faintly, amplifying the sound by use of the Gift, he could hear it: shouting. If he heard, then Ulfhild surely did as well. He reached out with his senses and could feel them, then: a small party of three barreling towards them from around the mountain. Looking up through the slit in his visor he saw a massive lance of flame shoot out from around the bend. Three young fools rushed towards him, only slowing somewhat in his presence, for whatever lay behind them they believed even more terrifying than the Nashorn. For that offense, he called upon Force magic to lift them from the ground, thrashing and protesting. Forcefully, he pointed in the direction from whence they’d come and answers came pouring out. “A dragon!” screamed one. “Volcanic one!” added another. “It’s enormous!”

With no time for cowards, he simply let them fall to the ground as he stalked forward. Then, the ground beneath him shook and the mountain itself burst open. He could feel it now: the colossal heat, the size, the motion of the beast. His heart pounded with the challenge and, perhaps, even more.

What was it with Eskandr’s walloping her like a rag doll. The wind nearly knocked out of her lungs from Hildr’s slap to the back had caught her off guard. “There’s the Hildr I remember. Maybe when we get back we can tell Kol-” her sentence was cut short. Heat unlike any other felt hot on her back. She turned to see what was making such noise and heat, but was met with a band of three running for their lives. The Nashorn pacified them quickly with his magic, demanding answers with no more than a digit. Unlike the Parrenchwoman, these men had loose tongues. “A fucking dragon? That’s what she was on about? Looks like you’re going to be a two time slayer today, Hild”

“Two time slayer, eh? Guess I do have something to brag to Hrothgar then!” She smacked her chest out of hubris, spitting on the ground with a sly grin. “That bastard was way too cocky when he got the killing blow.” The Drudgunzean unsheathed her blades, holding them loosely to measure the weight of them. “I still prefer my own pair, but these are better than the brittle ones I had to use during the last battle.” It does seem like the woman’s old warrior spirit has rekindled to an extent.

The three warriors - two men and a woman in their teens and twenties - scrambled to their feet. “You had best run,” advised the woman, hurrying past Ulfhild and Hildr. “You are mighty,” added the younger of the men, “but it is mightier.”

Again, the mountain shuddered, and the Nashorn disappeared around the corner. They could feel the colossal amount of energy that he was drawing but, as they drew nearer, the sheer power of the dragon was overwhelming, pressing down on them, making them want to hurl the contents of their last meals into the dirt. No sooner had they started to recover from the sheer shock of the sensation than the air was split by a blood curdling howl. The top of the mountain erupted in a shower of stone and half-cooled magma. Thick dark smoke poured out as if from a wound gouged out of the very earth itself. Grand black wings spread over two hundred feet and a pillar of fire leapt into the heavens.

Their advice was welcomed, but Ulfhild had no intention of tucking tail and running. This would be the greatest hunt of them all and she could be put heads and shoulders above the rest of the hunters including Vali. Instead she draped an arrow from her quiver onto her bow and ran up that hill. Turning the corner her legs immediately turned into cement. The presence of the dragon tethered her to the corner right behind the Nashorn. The shower of fiery rock and magma littered the sky. “Move damn it!” she shouted, punching her thighs. They finally gave way to her command at the last second possible. She managed to dodge magma, but a hot stone grazed her leg, she cursed at the sky.

The massive Æresvaktr raised his shield and sheltered under it as a sizable boulder slammed into him. Still, so strong was The Nashorn that his response was little more than a grunt. Further rubble and boulders cascaded down the mountainside, and the lead pair quickly lost sight of Hildr. They could only trust that someone so capable would not fall prey to mere rocks. They were - at least temporarily - on their own, not that it seemed to bother The Nashorn. With a barely-human roar, he lifted three mighty boulders using Force magic and hurled them at the beast.

One missed, It leapt aside from the second, and the third was melted by the dragon’s breath as it flew. Then, with a few beats of its colossal wings, the beast lifted into the sunset sky, preparing to unleash again.

There was setting a standard and then there was an Æresvaktr setting a standard. Ulfhild wasn’t nearly as grotesquely strong as The Nashorn and so she would not be demonstrating any feats of strength such as he with the boulders. She kind of felt lame in comparison seeing as she only had her bow. Arcane arrows wouldn’t be much use at the moment since heat would probably help the dragon. Instead she condensed as much force into the tip of an arrow and shot it towards the dragon, hoping to loosen some of its scaling.

A mere arrow seemed inconsequential enough for the massive Monsigneus to ignore, and it did not even attempt to evade or block. Perhaps it hadn’t noticed or perhaps it simply didn’t care. Whatever the cause, Ulfhild’s arrow struck true, hammering into scales harder than the hardest of steels. Were it a normal arrow, this would’ve been a moral victory at best, the pointed tip bouncing harmlessly off but, empowered as it was, it skidded along the dragonskin, embedding its tip between a pair of scales. The tremendous reptile roared in annoyance and contorted, brushing the projectile free. Then, it turned its ire on Ulfhild and plunged for her.

Ulfhild puffed her chest out with a mix of adrenaline and fear. She wanted the brute to charge her, this was no beast to prod lightly. Biding her time for the perfect moment she skidded to the side of the beast. The quaking of the earth from the flap of its wings was enough to unbalance her and keep her body shackled by gravity. Once it passed she jumped up and shot another arrow, this time a bit corrosive in nature in hopes it might eat away at the formidable scales.

The Monsigneus had not grown to be so great and ancient by being stupid, however, and it recognized the threat this time, blasting the arrows out of the sky and forcing both Æresvaktr to take cover. For his part, The Nashorn had drawn a tremendous amount from the flames and he put this into a two-handed swing that aimed to cut one of the dragon’s wings off. Instead, he was forced to hurl himself aside as its serpentine neck snaked around and tried to snap him up like a morsel. His blow took it only glancingly in the side of the head, and it roared, snapped in displeasure and circled off into the sky, coming about after a moment for more.

Meanwhile, Hildlr had been fighting in isolation, having to contend with the dragon every time that it reached the end of one of its arcs and swooped back.

The Drudgunzean grunted faintly from the gust of wind hitting her back, even blowing off her helmet. Now isolated from the others, a smile would appear on the knight. Being able to have some alone time with the beast was not something she had hoped for but better to make the best of a bad situation.

The Dragon let out an ear-piercing roar as it breathed a massive amount of fyre her way. The flames scorched her cloth as the woman tried her hardest to draw the power from it, periodically boosting her speed and strength. An opportunity opened itself for her as the beast swooped in. The attack targets a point often left exposed and it strikes true. The Monsigneus reared back, letting out a yelping roar of discomfort as the empowered blade struck it close to an exposed finger, punching through its wing membrane.

Swooping in, the creature grabs Hildr in its massive jaws. However, she is able to blunt the crushing force and resist the dagger like teeth by use of powerful force and essence magic, drawing from the power of its bite. Unable to do any severe damage, it settles for dropping her.... from a great height. The woman fell from a great height as the beast let go of her, landing on some of the branches from a scraggly tree. Yelling out in pain as the fall caused her wrist and shoulder to give way.

Now fully unleashed, the colossal animal decides to seek out easier prey. Grand black wings blot out a patch of the remaining light and it circles in the dusky sky, letting out a guttural roar. The Nashorn pulls at it with Force. Ulfhild fires off more arrows, and Hildr rises painfully to her feet, but they cannot dissuade it from its course. The dragon begins moving south, towards the village, towards the large force of Eskandr raiders and, unbeknownst to the southmen, the approaching army of Queen Eleanor.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Act Two: Scattered to the Winds____ __ _ _

Chapter Three: Pillar of Death______ __ _ _

North of Relouse, Parrence 𝅗𝅥 𝅘𝅥 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥𝅯 𝅘𝅥𝅰

An old man sat by a fire. He could feel the bodies approaching them, for that was all they were: living bodies while his business these days seemed the making of dead ones. The essences inside of them burned with caution, and he paid them no notice. Perhaps they would try to kill him. He neither knew nor cared.

"Old man, why are you here?" Sweyn did not move. Perhaps, had he mind enough, he would've noted that the questioner's Eskandr, while good, was not perfect.

"Bringing glory to my king and my people," he responded after a long moment. "Can't you see?" He was working a twig over in his hands, breaking it up and plucking bits off. "So-" he twisted and glanced up. The man was young, fair, and looked like a fighter. "-have you come to bring glory to yours?"

Arsene was the newcomer's name, unbeknownst to Sweyn, and he listened to the older man as he spoke in a somber tone. It seemed to hold a deep sadness, as he spoke to his hands before raising his head to look towards Arsene and questioning his purpose here.

The Drudgunzean scoffed and glanced towards the fires before looking back down at the wizard who seemed to almost wait for something, "Myself? I'm here to protect. To do some good..." Arsene threw a light gesture across the village and turned as he lightly kicked a rock as he seemed to think a moment before turning back to the older man and continuing, "...obviously doing a crack up job on that".

As Arsene sighed, he looked down towards Sweyn and said, "So with that glory you are bringing, have you found it yet?". He made a gesture towards the village that still lay softly burning.

Sweyn Thunderspear knew the plan, of course, but he could not simply spill it out to one whom the gods had ordained his enemy. Its execution would bring him yet another line in the sagas. He was not elderly, but old enough that he had a good deal more life behind him than ahead. Would the retellings fashion him as clever or wise? Would he be simply a magician who was loyal to his king? A mentor to heroes? A hero himself? A footnote? If the Parrench were to win and their culture consume the continent, he would be painted a murderer, and he found himself fighting, these days, simply to avoid that infamy in death. Yet, here I am, a murderer anyhow, and I know it truly. He did not raise his eyes toward the village. Instead, he shrugged weakly. “Perhaps I might, someday.” He glanced the young man’s way. “But why do you fight for a foreign country that looks down on you? That occupies good land your people could use? That, as recently as the year of your birth, would’ve named you barbarian?”

Arsene looked towards the plains of Parrence as he spoke about why he chose to fight, "Myself? I fight not for the country that looks down on me. I fight for those who cry out to find peace-". Arsene shifted on his feet as he looked towards the men who’d followed him here. Many seemed almost ready to charge at any moment, wishing to either find glory or to kill the great Sweyn Thunderspear before he decided to wipe them all out. Arsene sighed as he continued, "I am here wishing to give those who I can a life better than I. For I lost my home to raiding, my mentor to injustice, and my mother to my negligence". Arsene sighed as he shifted once more on his feet, now to face the old man before him. He considered why he was even talking to this man: a murderer who killed innocent people in the name of glory, yet even that was an excuse to maybe give himself some absolution. Arsene thought of what more to say as he sighed and spoke out, "What of you, why do you do such things for your king? Is it to give a better life to your people? Or is it to please the greed of a King?"

Sweyn rose, then, and was now a bit more like the legends said he was. At the very least he was tall. “For the greed of a king?” he remarked. “Perhaps the Black King is greedy.” He shrugged, calling his mighty spear to hand, and continued. “It is not my place to judge anyhow. What I know is that his greed pales in comparison to that of Parrence. How much of the richest, greenest land do they keep for themselves? How much more do they covet?” He rolled his neck back and forth, as if limbering up, and took notice of the thirty or so other men at the edge of the forest. He could kill them all within seconds, should he have so desired. Yet, he currently did not. “When the Avincians, who had uplifted those people, would not cede control of the empire to them, did Avince not burn for daring to refuse?” He hardened his mouth, switching to Parrench so that all could understand. “When they came to found a new town on the coast not so far from here, they named it Relouse and built it right beside the nest of a mother Silverscale. Did not a monk named Defrois kill that creature as it defended its young and receive a sainthood for it?” Sweyn rapped the ground with his staff, voice rising. “When the yasoi of Loriindton established for themselves an independent spirit some twenty years ago and wished to uplift their own people instead of paying tribute to us humans, pray tell did not Loriindton - that thousand-year city - burn for daring to defy good Parrence?”

Sweyn began to gather energy to himself and the power of thunder fizzed and snapped in the air about him. “You do not know it, boy, for though your people were once mine, you were raised in a garden that the Parrench have cultivated and that they will continue to grow. Oh,” he relented, “they will usually try some method other than the sword first.” He smiled bitterly. “Their herbs and spices are legendary, their trinkets and wares quite pretty, their cloth the envy of every foreign woman, and these, they pair with their false gods, their language, and their way of life as if what they replace is lesser or does not matter.” He had found himself again: his resolve. “Make no mistake, though-” Sweyn Thunderspear’s eyes narrowed. “-in the end, it all comes down to force of arms. Those who resist the Parrench have always died for it, and everything they stood for with them. In truth,” he concluded, stepping forward, “Parrence is a blight upon this land and we are your last, best hope for rooting it out.”

Arsene witnessed the old man rise to his feet to stand and face him, looking more like someone befitting the legend that preceded him. However, the Drudgunzean was not one to fold to anything, be it man or beast. As Sweyn spoke, Arsene checked himself, lightly rolling his wrists and ankles as if in preparation for what was to come. He knew when a fight was coming, and he knew why he had come here.

Sweyn spoke very clearly of things that Arsene would have never known in his life. The Parrench were greedy, they were the ones who trampled those they cared not for, it was them versus everyone. They would destroy and dominate everything they saw fit so that they might rule over it. This was something he’d had to deal with as had his mentor before him, yet as much as Sweyn spoke some sense, Arsene cared not for it.

He looked the Eskandr in the face as he spoke his last bit, "They are a blight, you are correct; the people who rule are quite often terrible". Arsene lightly tossed his hand to the side as he continued, "They trample on those under them to make themselves richer or more powerful. They will play nice, using tricks so that they may later do what they wish, yet they hide things to allow them to fulfill agendas."

As Arsene continued to look Sweyn dead in the eyes, his message evolved, "Yet I am not here for them. I am here for the men and women who are trampled upon by your people. I am here to stop this from happening." Arsene gestured at the girl who lay upon the ground next to the burgeoning confrontation, before continuing, "So you may be the ones to destroy Parrence. Yet, with that, you will destroy many more lives, all in the hope of maybe ‘rooting out’ this blight. And so what if you succeed? Wouldn't it come back? After all, to destroy a nation and its pride and sense of self, you need to destroy its people. Will you do that?"

The die was cast and Sweyn knew it. His heart still heavy with regret, but also buoyed by a grim and worthy purpose, he glanced at the small corpse before looking back at the Drudgunzean. “Every last one,” he replied unflinchingly, and his body now surged and sparked with energy. His eyes began to glow with Father’s chosen power and thunder crackled in the bellies of storm clouds that had drawn in overhead. “Now, boy, it is time for you to either live up to those lofty ideals you lay claim to or go to your gods having tried.”

In the very moment before he unleashed his wrath, however, before Arsene of Avalona could either go bravely to Eschiran or commence a legend of his own, there echoed in the distance a phenomenal sound. Great and low, it seemed to shake the very ground that they stood upon. It rose into a bone-shuddering shriek that lingered and reverberated through the near-night sky.

Vast black wings beat over the forests and fields of green Parrence and the petty fires of human war seemed a small thing in comparison to the brilliant pillar of death that spilled from the dragon’s throat. With its baleful breath, it tore furrows in the land and left roaring walls of flame where had been whispering seas of wheat and gently chirping crickets. That the inferno was yet distant only made it more terrifying. One could perhaps countenance flight and escape. One could understand the great and desolate scale of it. Like black blood pouring from wounded earth, smoke billowed into the sky, first seizing the stars in a hazy grasp and then blotting them out entirely.

More than one soldier made the sign of the Pentad. Others cried out for Echeran’s mercy or strength, and their choices said much about them. After a moment, some made the unenviable choice of turning their attention back to the far lesser but far more immediate threat of Sweyn Thunderspear. Yet, when they searched for him, they found that he was gone.

Far closer to the epicentre were Ulfhild of Ulven, Hildr the Red, and the Nashorn. A Fiery Mountain Dragon - a Tyrannus Monsigneus - had arisen from Mont Errant in a towering rage and it now circled above the plains spewing doom in the twilight. They had tried to blunt the beast’s attack but even the efforts of dragonslayer and Æresvaktr alike had done precious little against its impossible power. Again and again, the maddened beast made passes over the region, breathing death upon what little remained alive.

Hundreds of brave Eskandr fled before it, for there was no honour in death as prey. Crying out to their heathen gods, they scattered as vermin at the appearance of a boot. Like the panicked creatures that they were, most failed to take heed of the approaching army of Queen Eleanor de Parrence. They ran up against it, in full flight, either waves to be broken upon the shore, people to be shown mercy, or allies of convenience in an unexpected struggle for survival against an enemy far more fearsome.

Whatever the state of given individuals, the arrival on the Fields of Fire of Sweyn Thunderspear rallied them to a man. Massive black clouds rolled in with terrifying speed and brought lightning that writhed, snaked, and shook the very earth. Beside them, even the dragon was not so great, and it disappeared into their depths, consumed for the time being. From within echoed roars and howls and thunder. Brilliant flashes illuminated a vast draconic shape and running figures slowed and craned their necks in awe and terror.

The sorcerer himself seemed more a personification, an avatar of human hope, pain, and rage. Tangles of long white hair and beard whipping behind him, he charged in on an ivory-white stallion, glowing incandescent. Unto the Fiery Mountain he called forth a colossal bolt of lightning, and then a second, then a third, then a fourth that split the sky in sheets. Common soldiers staggered and blinked. The sheer energy was so intense that some dropped to their knees. Eyes wild and bloodshot, veins pulsing and bulging, Sweyn Thunderspear drove a fifth thunderous lance into the creature’s back and, illuminated momentarily within its shroud of black, it shrieked and contorted in pain. Wings flapping erratically, it fell out the bottom of the clouds and they cheered. How great a noise went up, from Parrench and Eskandr alike, from human and yasoi, from enemies and allies of the man who had delivered them from this demon of myth made flesh!

Queen Eleanor, racing in to provide either aid or else capture the terror known as Sweyn in his weakened state, witnessed a man who had devastated entire armies collapse to the ground, utterly drained and defeated in victory. A decision now fell to her. Here was arguably her greatest enemy laid low before her and a fresh, powerful army at her command. She knew well Eskandr practice: the prisoners of war would be sealed safely in one of the mountainside caves, unharmed and potentially hers to ransom back. Yet, the Thunderspear had given his all to save her people as well as his. She could sense the staggering, inhuman levels of power that had coursed through him and how close to death he had pushed himself. He lay helpless before her and one who could singlehandedly slay a Tyrannus Monsigneus… she still struggled to fathom it. Could she really let this opportunity -

“What is that!?”

“My Queen!”


“Oh my Gods!

“How is it possible!?

“Echeran have mercy!”

“My Queen!”

“Gods no!

A cold dark roar raised tremors from the earth and hairs on the back of Eleanor’s neck. Gargantuan black wings beat with a vengeance and the beast hurtled towards them. It opened its mouth and fire glowed in the back of its throat. All at once, the Queen of Parrence both called upon her gods and made peace with them.

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Act Two: Scattered to the Winds____ __ _ _

Chapter Three: A Scent on the Wind_________ __ __ _ _

If the news of Asier’s escape had not spread quickly, it had not been slow to make its way to relevant ears either. By night, they began searching, but the fundamental flaw in their plan was that there were not so many of them - for they did not want to alarm the populace - and that they made the assumption he would head immediately for the hills.

The Tourrare’s goal, however, was not to leave Meldheim, but to strike at it. To that end, he had spent the night where they were least likely to look for him: right under their noses, by the holding cells in the dockyards.

It was a place of foul smells and filthy water. Oversized insects, crabs, and small, oily fish skittered and slipped between pillars. Three moons hung in the sky in various phases and the tides ebbed and flowed with them in that very complex pattern that they did in Meldheim, but Asier, a horseman from the arid steppes, did not know much of tides. He could only hope that they would rise high enough soon, that his subtle sabotage of the locks would bear fruit. The hours of Dami gave way to those of Ipte and occasional noises that punctuated the nighttime silence seemed disproportionately loud when they came. Perhaps he found a fitful sleep by then and perhaps he did not. Tourrare are hardy people anyhow, or so it is said.

Morning dawned cool and windy, a fresh, slick dew laying across rooftops, piers, and netting. There was something missing, and it might've taken him a moment to place it, for it was The Gift and he had never relied on it so much as others did.

The same could be said for one of the two figures who had made their way over in the early hours from Rigevand. The streets had filled, the prisoners prodded from their cells for another day of backbreaking labour, and the fish market - not so far away - a hustle and bustle, even as the first ship of the day hove into port. It was not like many other places Nettle had seen, though she had at least seen a port before. Not everything may have been as new to her as it had a month or more ago, when she had first been set upon by the Kang’s soldiers. Yet, that was not a thought that occupied much of her mind. For a moment, she thought she had sensed something, beneath a great pier that stretched well into the bay that Meldheim was built around. Then, the sensation had vanished, along with, well… everything. Try as she might, she could not call upon the Gift and neither could her chaperone, the old pirate-turned-king’s man, Jacques. He scowled. “Child,” he whispered in Drudgunzean, which he knew she at least somewhat understood, “have you lost the Gift too? Your magic?”

Whatever her reply was, he did his best to listen and understand it. Oraphe only knew where she’d been raised, and she was perhaps half-yasoi as well. Overwhelmed. He’d been there before as a boy, and though the years had hardened him and made him rich, he was not without sympathy. “Could you feel something?” he asked, his voice remaining low. “Just before our magic left?” He tried to keep his words simple. “A big animal?”

Out in the bay, people were back to hacking away at the berg from yesterday for scarce few had truly made an escape. Their little boats were moored to pegs driven into its flanks, a small shelter with a cauldron coughed out billows of steam into the cool morning air, and ropes and rickety ladders rambled about its surface. Dressed as he was, Asier should’ve been there, but he had yet more work to do and the sudden cutting of his connection to the Gift - a boon that had never been explicitly acknowledged but always present - was beginning to unnerve him. Before he could make any definitive moves, however, whether they involved fire, water, or something subtler, a pair of figures caught his eye: a tall man, thick around the middle with a short greying beard, and a small slight girl with hair tinged green in the colour of moss. The first could have been any old sea captain, for he gave off that air, but the second was distinctive and he had seen her somewhere, in passing.

Jacques and Nettle separated before long,forcing a choice upon the curious Asier who, despite his Eskandr garb, still stood apart as stockier and more tanned upon closer inspection. The first inquired innocently about oil and, separately, about manure while the second had gotten to snooping dangerously close to the prison area, a small nonthreatening girl as she was. She could not understand the main language used most often by these people she had come with, but she had grown familiar with its general sound, at least, and more than one of the prisoners was speaking it. Yet, the bigger mystery, to her mind, was the absence of the Gift, and the thing that she had sensed just before its disappearance. Scarce little grew here though, with at least some existing water plants and seeds, she might yet make much.

The small girl was out on one of the breakwaters, trying to understand the area better so that she might find the wrongness and repair it and her song might take effect, when there came a thump from below and a long wailing moan, perhaps meant to be loud but only faintly heard. There was someone or - more likely - some creature… inside the breakwater!?

Meanwhile, the Kongesalan was another world entirely. Queen Astrid was finished holding court for some hours, and had much else to do, but these were matters that Dietrich was assured he need not be concerned with, and so he was given free rein to wander, question, and learn at his leisure. In the morning, he had witnessed an honorary ‘duel’ between the Sturmish underking, Kol, and one of the new Æresvaktr: the yasoi Arne’altan’jaros, to induct the latter. The fourth–ranked Æresvaktr was now headed, or so he understood, to similarly induct a sorceress known only as the Skygge, who was near-universally held to be a vile and wretched creature.

‘Ositha’, too, found herself given a few hours of downtime, in which she was to further familiarize herself with her surroundings, her peers, and her duties before - surprisingly - commencing the children’s instruction this very afternoon. Already, her practiced Black Rezaindian senses had noted the presence of one supposedly ‘secret’ passage in the pantry beneath a stairwell, and the servants and slaves had proven a source of endless gossip.

Both she and Dietrich had encountered the precocious pipsqueak that was Snorri and the whirlwind that was Inga, and both were about the rounds of the Kongesalan, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before they met each other.

Svend, meanwhile, in his guise as Jarl Alsfard, found himself in the midst of negotiating percentages on his raiding party’s take with the Queen’s chamberlain. He felt the pinch, from Maud, that was meant to raise an alarm and started. “What is it, Jarl Bjorn?” the tall, lean man commented, taking notice of his momentary discomfort. “Is my offer not to your liking?”

Covering quickly, Svend shook his head. “No, no,” assured his opposite. “It is merely that I had promised the harbourmaster at Rigevand his pay today and forgotten to settle up. I should hope he hasn’t tried to unmoor my ships.”

The chamberlain paused. “Rigevand,” he repeated, furrowing his brow. “Your men: are many large, rough, and foreign?”

A warning prickled through the Quentist’s insides and he answered cautiously. “Oh, a good many are from Kressia and Enthal. There is a Parrench lordling cast out of his lands as well, seeking vengeance.” He scowled. “Have the ungrateful miscreants caused trouble? I will have them whipped!”

“I fear their appearance has caused some worry,” the chamberlain replied. “Though I can see it is a misunderstanding, Prince Ulf set off some twenty minutes prior with Vali the Twice–Born and some thirty soldiers in case they were pirates.”

“Gods-dammit!” Svend cursed through his teeth. “We shall conclude this tomorrow, then?” he added hastily. “I must make haste before somebody does something stupid.”

“By all means, Jarl. That would be regrettable.” Svend was already headed for the door. “You may borrow a horse if you need,” the chamberlain allowed. There was a quick thanks and then the ersatz Jarl was beyond the door.

It was a job that Kol was given much thanks for but, as a king, he had never wanted for fawning and paeans. Instead, the near–sole highlight of his stay in Meldheim had been his morning combat with the yasoi who was to join the Æresvaktr. Without much in the way of lunar help, though the five moons would thankfully be arriving imminently, he’d found himself on the back foot virtually the entire time. The sheer reach and agility of the ‘mage-hunter’ was astounding and he used magics that Kol knew were of the yasoi and had only seen, in brief, from Talit’yrash when they had fought. To skip through space and time… it was an impressive skillset and its wielder a decent and honorable man, inasmuch as any yasoi could be. In truth, the king had won only through tactics and psychology, reading his opponent’s moves once they’d established a pattern. Had young Arne been trying to assassinate him in earnest, he might very well be headed to Gestur’s table right now.

Now, however, Kol found himself at a large property, some ways removed from the city proper, in the shadow of the Eldfjall and its black soil and faint scent of sulfur. The sun passed into and out of a quickly moving bank of clouds as he approached the lone building: a modest farmhouse of fieldstone and thatched roofing. A sea of sparse, yellow-green grass poked up through the gravelly soil to rippled in a blustery wind and a woman tended to a pair of large, scraggly brandæble bushes.

He passed a gate pieced together of driftwood and a set of chimes - bone and rusted metal - clattered in the grip of a gust. He stood and waited. The woman turned. This, then, was The Skygge. He’d heard of but never seen her. Supposedly, she was some sort of udødelig who feasted upon the flesh of others, but he saw only a tall, pale woman in a hooded cloak, whitish-blonde hair spilling over her shoulders and chest to either side of her face. She looked youthful and seemed somehow ancient at the same time, and she brought her hands together in front of herself, clasping one of the rare apples between them. “A gift for you, King Kol, should you so desire it.” She held the fruit out, smiling. “Worry not. It isn’t poisoned.” She raised it to her mouth and took a bite.

Prince Ulf, for all of his youthful pride and bravado, trusted the word of one such as Vali, and stationed four soldiers along the Mountain Road to Rigevand, sending another quartet down towards the Sea Road. “I should not like to leave any doubt about my intentions once I arrive, as two dozen of us surely send message enough. I shall show mercy to those who surrender immediately to the king’s justice and I shall announce this,” he concluded, voice squeaking a bit towards the end in a most un–kingly manner.

As they walked, a faint breeze carried through the foothills to stir the long grass, and crows and a couple of wolves glanced up from the nearby carcass of an Elk, watching the humans warily.”It is said that there are some Quentics in that village,” Ulf announced, his voice nearly carried away in the blustery breeze. “If it turns out there are no pirates, then we should make an example of the apostates. You have been away for a long time, Onkel, but you should see how bold they got. Father had to carve the Blood Eagle on some. Now they merely hide.” He sniffed and gazed out at the path ahead. “We shall find them, though. They will not force us to change our ways like they did the Drudgunzeans.”

They continued on for a few more minutes, their only accompaniment the whispering of the grass and the crunch and soft clatter of two dozen men on the march, but it did not last. “If they should fight back,” Ulf decided for himself and Vali, “It will be down to you and I, who can use the Gift, and we shall send the wretches to Rødhalle. Be ready for this.” He paused. “Though I know you are. You are always ready, Onkel Vali.” For a moment, some younger version of the boy who was trying so badly to be a man twisted and flashed him a smile. Then, ahead, they could see Rigevand: pathetic collection of huts, hovels, and a single great decaying longhouse that it was. Three knarrs occupied one of its two docks, looking as if they had arrived from another planet entirely. Down by the shore, a great many people seemed to be moving about and quite quickly. “There they are!” shouted Ulf, hand going for his sword and then thinking better of it. He, Vali, and their party were still some four hundred yards or more distant.

Trygve had been closest to Maud when she gave the signal and it was two minutes before he had found her. “What is it?” he demanded. “What is wrong!?”

“A force - some thirty-two men - is headed for Rigevand from the Kongesalan. I am certain that is where they are headed. Don’t ask. We need the others and we need a plan!”

Indeed, they were not long in coming. Svend arrived on horseback, dressed in a Jarl’s finery, and Gerard and Jacques only minutes after. Many followed the latter, both expected and unexpected, for some appeared to be prisoners that he or Nettle had set free. These were relegated to the edges and alleys so as not to draw attention to the group. “We do need a plan,” announced Trygve, “but we need a location. May we yet catch them?”

The girl glanced about the adults surrounding her, feeling small and uncertain and stammered when she spoke. “I… I’m not certain.” She closed her eyes and reached out with her senses, not wasting time. “If you go at a run, those who use the Gift may.” She opened her eyes. “You should leave me behind. I will send warning to our people in Rigevand, but you needs tell me if they should try to hide or fight.” She glanced up at all of the bigger people, leaning on her crutches. “What should I do? What should we do.”

Ulf, prince of all Eskand, had descended upon the village of Rigevand with his men. It had emptied out quickly and only a small party was left to greet him. “Goddag, undersåtter,” he greeted them, wind flicking his hair to one side of his face and an odd sort of smile creasing his lips as he approached. “I have some business in your village, it appears.” He stopped in front of them and extricated a Pentact, fresh from the raids near Relouse, from the pouch at his hip. “But first,” he announced, dropping it upon the sandy mud, “I will require proof that I am speaking to men and not worms.” Hooking his thumbs into his belt, he horked up some spit, leaned forward, and let it fall upon the holy symbol. Looking up, he placed his foot atop it and regarded them challengingly, but they looked at him only for a moment before their eyes turned elsewhere. Alarm pricked Ulf's stomach and he could hear the thunder of hooves approaching from behind. Vali’s bow was already drawn and arrow nocked.

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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by A Lowly Wretch
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A Lowly Wretch The Listless Loiterer

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Gently patting a small pile of dirt behind a stall she buried yet another of the fetishes she had created, slinking back out from out of sight into the general paths leading up to the prisons. Nettle could feel it weigh heavily in the air, the wrongness that stifled her more mystical senses. Was this how the man-beasts felt under the curses we left for them back in the swamp? she silently wondered. Peeking through a grate she witnessed the creature within. It struck her that perhaps it was the source of the curse that hung over this place. The corrupt hearts that trapped such a thing here for no clear reason must have provoked a mystery into cursing this place.

In her pondering as she looked over the great structure that barred the waters of the bay from spilling out into the sea proper she failed to notice Asier’s approach, not really recognizing him quite as readily as he might have recognized her.

Asier has been scouting around the prison though with no success. He doesn’t even have much of a plan at this point either, kind of this point just going rogue and causing what mayhem he can to keep the Eskand upon their toes. The fact the prison seems to have some natural defenses towards the use of the gift is making any chance of a stealthy approach obsolete. It wasn’t too long as he notices a strange creature peering through a grate towards an animal. Though on a closer inspection, it seems to be the girl from the Drudgunzean detachment. “Vel, hva har vi her? - well what do we have here? Asier couldn’t resist approaching in a manner that had a resemblance of a prison guard, if a guard looked like a hobo with a stolen axe, speaking pigeon-Eskand. He probably looks frightening, but thankfully the gift is repressed as he grabs upon the girl and gives her a hug… a choice he quickly regrets. “You smell as bad as this one.” He gives a big beaming smile, as he pushes her away arm distance, “Another survivor, did you escape your captors too? Glad not to be the only one.”

When a strange voice announced itself near her she whipped around to see a figure that looked like a guard approaching. She attempted to turn and scurry off but suddenly found herself wrapped in arms. Though her arms were bound she managed to slip her hand into her satchel and was already producing her dagger when she noticed the figure wasn’t speaking like the man-beasts here but more like the ones back at that other beach.

Pushed away she still clutched her dagger but was not on the attack, not yet at least. Being devoid of gift had spared this one an immediate retaliation. Instead of speaking back to the large one who spoke to her in words she was not familiar with she instead turned her attention over to the captain.

”Hhhey! Hnothheer Fhrend!“

Asier looks up to see that Nettle was not alone and with another, waving towards him. “Well, looks like we might have had the same idea. Didn’t see you both on the prisoner ship, did you manage to escape from another?”

The captain shakes his head, “No, we followed up right behind you. We have come as a raiding party for some payback”. Asier nods, “How does Parrence fair? Did the King survive? All that was said is that we lost.”. The captain laughed, “Not that easily! The Eskandr are on the run, flooding the fields with fire. Pyrrhic victory but we are far from over.”

The captain indicates to Nettle, pointing towards Aiser. “Friend. Now to free other friends”, pointing towards the grate.

Asier went about carrying his part of the plan, leaving Nettle to play with her new friend. He grabbed the axe as he used it to pry the grate from the wall. “Let’s do our parts, you deal with that thing, then its rescue time.”

She did not understand what he meant but the metal bars were pried loose, the opening to the waters now available for entry. She climbed inside, slipping out of sight.

Asier continues to move threw the dank corridors, given the set-up here, it seems there is little need for guards with the thick walls, thick bars, and thicker heads at the entrances. Coming through the grate was a good catch, as it allowed him to evade easily into the stink pit as rats go cell to cell to eat the scraps of stale bread offered as nourishment to the prisoners. There is nothing he could actually do at this point with the locks bolted shut, encrusted with rust due to being so close to the sea. There are some disturbing sights as there are those far past malnourishment, let to literally rot in the unsanitary conditions, as others deemed worth to be kept alive forced to endure endless misery.

He moves his axe against the bars of the cell, trying to gather what life is here to stir, and is surprised by the weariness and lack of enthusiasm. “We are working to free you. Make sure to gather anything of worth as you make your escape out of here. Bring any brother and sister who still breathes.”, there is light stirring but many do stay where they lie, appearing to be others from perhaps even Eskandr lands. “flytt, flytt!”, more started to stir now. One of the Parrench prisoners clarified, ”Converts. They be Rounding ‘em up too.” drawing his thumb across the neck. It seems even their own people are not spared from the barbaric treatment. ”So wot is the plan? How be gettin’ out?” as he turns his eyes to Asier. It does take a moment to parse the speech, perhaps this one is a peasant farmer caught up in fields far larger than the ones by his farmstead, “Got a girl on the inside dealing with our gift problem, once she has dealt with it, we will use the opportunity to strike out of here. We got to be ready.”

All at once they could feel the gift slowly return to them.

Asier uses the gift to draw upon the metal, causing the bars to bend suddenly to create a path for them to escape. The others start to come out, others with the gift making a wider pathway and supporting others who were less able in getting out. The alarm went up almost instantly, the Eskandr shouting furiously. Fengselet!. He covers the rear as he pulls all the bars inwards to obstruct the way as he follows them out. “Up ahead and to the right, go for the grate. If you see a lost looking girl, she is on our side.”. The Eskandr continue to be hot on their heels as Asier draws upon the force, then applies with the axe, the support beam snapping and collapsing, as he moves to the next, and the next, as the roof starts to collapse behind the path. He thanks the heavens that the Nashorn isn’t here, or this wouldn’t have slowed him down in the slightest. That would provide them with enough opportunity to escape, reuniting with nettle to find out their next destination.

Those involved: @Ti.
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Atalanta
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Atalanta lsfables.com

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Interacting with Dietrich, Inga, and Snorri @Suicharte @Force and Fury

Of all the roles Osanna had played, teacher had never been one of them. Mercenary, guard, cook, lady’s maid, servant more times than she could count. Never had anyone put her in charge of children. Osanna had been a strange child herself and largely alone in the halls of the convent where she had grown up, so children were new and strange to her now, but she’d be lying if she didn’t admit to feeling some empathy for them both.

Osanna had wanted more than anything to be a Red Sister before she was given to the Black Order. Inga’s idolization of her people’s warriors reminded her of her own obsession with the red-cloaked women in their convent. As for Snorri, well, hadn’t Osanna called herself a strange child too? She didn’t think she was as clever as the Eskandr prince, but she certainly knew what it felt like to be other.

This empathy wouldn’t get in the way of her duty, of course. As much as Osanna liked people in general, the word of her god would always be a stronger pull.

In the end, Osanna had to ask a servant for directions to the children’s study— the keep was a large one and she had not yet walked its halls long enough to get a feel for the layout. She took a deep breath at the door, pinpointing the nerves in her belly, and stepped through. Osanna could admit that teaching frightened her a little—the discomfort of the unknown. There was so much riding on her doing this well, and she had no idea where to begin.

Osanna pushed open the door. Neither Inga nor Snorri were in yet, but the room had the open, well-aired feeling of a space often used. Books and scrolls filled shelves around the edges, and a wide, circular table took up most of the space in the middle. A game set had been left unfinished in its center, along with a haphazard pile of books, and two of the chairs had fallen over as though the children had run past them. She leaned down to pick them up and cleared away the things left on the table just as the door opened.

Snorri was ushered in by a nanny, and an idle-faced guard could be seen just outside the door. Inga followed, rolling her eyes at something but allowing it to fade from the fore. “So, what are we going to learn first?” the boy prodded, “Avincian or Parrench?”

Inga crossed her arms. “Why should we have to learn either? If I am ever alone with a Parrench, then she is my enemy. Why would I want to speak with her? If we are not alone, then there will be translators.”

“It’s a good thing you will never be queen,” Snorri grumbled, sliding into a seat.

“Just as you will never be king,” she chirped, pulling her chair out in such a way that its legs groaned and squeaked across the wooden planks of the floor. She plopped herself into it. Both children looked towards ‘Ositha’ with different flavors of expectation.

Osanna looked between the two of them for a moment and took a deep breath. “The Avincian language existed before Parrench, and your enemies borrowed heavily from it. Best to learn the original language first. Besides, Drudgunzean nobles and people of means will also likely speak it, so it will be useful in speaking to potential allies as well.”

Not to mention, Osanna’s native ease with Parrench might bring up more questions that she didn’t want to answer. She’d be long gone before the children mastered Avincian well enough to move on. Hopefully, with them in tow.

She walked to one of the bookshelves and removed a couple of titles in the language, taking her time. Among dusty historical, political, and clerical tomes, there were a few more manageable. She picked up a treatise of Avincian swordplay and a collection of parables meant to teach the young to lead.

“To start, though, I need to know how much you know.” That’s how her weapons master had started more than a decade ago, after all. And she liked to think of swordplay as a language of sorts. “Can you greet me in Avincian? Do you know their letters?”

“Salve!” they shouted near simultaneously.

“And that would be ‘salvete’ for a group,” added Inga primly.

“But ‘ave’ is just as common,” corrected Snorri.

“A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X,” Inga recited rapid-fire. Snorri looked like he was going to interject, but he merely suppressed a grin and held back, bouncing up and down a couple of times in his seat. “Is my sister correct, magister?” he inquired sweetly.

The honorific surprised Osanna, but she didn’t let it show. Instead, she grinned at him. “The Avincian Alphabet has gone through several incarnations since its inception, and that was once in use. Now though, it's a little different. Care to tell me how, Snorri?”

The boy shot a superior look at his older sister. “They added Y and Z from the Thalaks once they conquered them.”

“The Avincians didn’t conquer Thalakos!” Inga protested. “It was Iona of Epharos! Then, she joined the Avincians freely, from a place of strength.”

“Whatever,” the younger sibling replied dismissively. “The alphabet got Y and Z.”

“That it did,” Osanna said, struggling to remember her history lessons on the topic and coming up woefully blank. Speaking the language was far more useful in her day-to-day life than knowing why or how it had ended up the way it was. “I’m sure you have teachers for the history of the nations, so I’m going to focus on practical vocabulary.”

“Ulf should be here,” huffed Inga.

“Ulf is out playing soldier,” Snorri reminded her.

“Yes, but language is important,” she insisted, and Osanna couldn’t quite tell whether she was being ironic or not.


Dietrich whistled to himself as he walked down a corridor. The halls of the Kongesalan had let him hear much of the class that had taken place, and he had wanted to see how the young royals were coming along, so he decided he’d stop by for a visit, only to find them bickering. It made him smile to himself, but he wiped it off his face as he walked into the room and interrupted the argument. ”Language is important, but so is live combat experience. I’m sure he had the same classes as you when he was your age.” he mused as he cut in between the two youths. He’d gotten lost in the memories of his youth. Sibling rivalry brought back both fun and sad memories, but he couldn’t help his interjecture here.

“That being said, you were both right and wrong on the matter of Iona. Make sure you read up on that before you have your history classes; details are very important in matters of state. Apologies for the interruption, Ositha. Please continue.”

“Thank you, sir.” The new tutor looked a little out of her depth, but she seemed to draw herself up readily enough. “How about we play a game? I’ll point to an object, and you give me Avincian words to describe it—name, color, size, shape, use… Anything you can think of. Are you ready?”

She looked at the two children, and seemingly happy with their attention, and tapped the table. “We’ll start with this.”




“Vetus!” The first few came out in a flurried exchange.

Snorri furrowed his brow. “...ligneus?” he tried.

Inga blinked. “Ah! Brunus!”

They’d slowed down now. Snorri took his time. “Comedere,” he ventured. “Somnum?” Inga added uncertainly, but her brother snorted and shook his head. “You don’t sleep on a table.”

“A raised bed is very much like a table,” she retorted defensively, “and Ositha didn’t say ‘no’, now did she?”

“Regardless, your vocabulary is certainly impressive. I believe, if I’ve counted right, that came out fairly even.” Ositha tapped her chin as if thinking. “Let’s make it a little harder. This time, give me your answers in sentences. Mensa est brunneis.”

She looked to Dietrich, still watching the proceedings, and gave him a somewhat shy smile. “Perhaps you’d like to pick the next object, sir…” He hadn’t given her his name.

Dietrich gave a curious look at Ositha before involving himself once more. Something about these lessons struck him as unfamiliar. He knew she wasn’t a formally trained teacher, but it was a far cry from the lessons he’d had as a child. These kids were particularly rowdy as well, so he figured he’d cut her some slack in that regard.

”Quic hoc est?” he announced with more authority as he pointed at a chair that was unoccupied. He looked at Snorri, then at Inga, and then at Ositha, expecting answers from all three.

Ositha grinned at him, evidently delighted by his use of Avincian. She didn’t answer his question, but this did seem to be an exercise in testing their knowledge. “Gratias tibi! Inga? Snorri?”

“Sella parva est,” replied Inga, the glance that she’d saved for her brother a polite but challenging one.

“Sella… angusta est pro Inga.” Snorri grinned wickedly, and his sister shot him a dirty look. Even if she didn’t know the word, she could piece it together. “Inga nimis crassus est!” he giggled.

Ositha froze for a long moment, standing still at the other side of the table. She might have been testing the royal children, but it seemed as though they were determined to test her as well. Finally, she raised an eyebrow. “It seems negotiations have broken down, Prince Snorri. However, will you secure Princess Inga’s allegiance?”

“The loyalty of some must be earned,” the boy replied, “but it should be a given for family. I shall treat her how I, myself am treated.”

“You always treat Ulf better,” Inga complained.

“That is because he will one day be king.”

“A king or queen still must earn respect through great exploits, as mother and father do.”

“Is that not what Ulf seeks to do right now? Attacking the pirates that Uncle Vali suspects are in Rigevand?”

Inga scrunched up her nose. “He is going about it all wrong. He should not be skulking about behind mother’s back. He should…” It may have occurred to the girl that she had overspoken, for her eyes turned uneasily to Ositha and Dietrich, who both were adults and consulted with her mother. “What would you do?” she put to them, and, for once, Snorri nodded, either agreeing with his sister or hoping to deflect.

“I would complete my mission to the best of my abilities,” Ositha said easily, the truth quick to her lips. “As E— as the Father bids us all.”

She… fumbled. She hadn’t been about to say the Father at all, though Dietrich had watched her spit on the symbol of the Quentic faith. As he watched, Ositha paled as though realizing her mistake had been seen.

“Do forgive me,” she said finally, “I was forced to pretend to act as a Quentic for years before they found that my people kept the true Gods.”

“And in what city did they find you, Ositha” Dietrich asked in Drudgunzean, switching seamlessly from the Avincean he’d spoken earlier. There was something terribly wrong. He had to be sure before he acted, though.

“Meckelen, my lord. Though my mother was a convert, and we traveled often. Both my parents were merchants.”

”And who is the liege lord of Meckelen, Ositha? A daughter of merchants of stature enough to know good Avincean would have certainly met him once or twice.”

“I think you may be overestimating my reach, my lord. My father only wanted me to know the language so that we could trade outside of our homeland. I know only what I’ve heard from rumor, and that’s quite old now. Is it still Lord Apsel Derichs?

That was the moment Dietrich was certain. His suspicion was first pricked by her accent, which was not a fluent one from Lindermetz. The second had been her near referencing of Echeran, and the third had been her not knowing her liege lord's name. He thought for a moment that he might be crazy, or exaggerating, or that he might need more proof, but he was certain that he wouldn’t make a mistake like this. He was him, after all. When had he ever made a crucial error, one of this magnitude? As his mind raced, he looked at the kids. He couldn’t cause a scene here. Should he get them to safety? No. He would just hold his suspicion until after. There, she could better be dealt with. Here, there were vulnerabilities. He forced his face to move to a friendly smile and spoke once more.

“Not anymore. Forgive my intrusion; I’ve not been gone for long, but I miss my homeland, and I find all of it beautiful, even if Lindermetz is particularly infested with Quentics.”he laughed slightly and smiled as friendly as he could fake, switching back to Eskandish as he addressed the kids once more.

”Adults must carve their own path, Inga. You cannot stay under your mother's wing forever and report to her every movement that you make, especially someone who will one day rule this vast empire. But you should treat each other better. Family is the only people who you can always count on to have your back. You are bound by blood. Don’t let it fall apart because of silly squabbles.” he reminisced about his brothers, sisters, father, and mother. If he was right, then they would need each other more than ever soon. He would stay with them for now and make sure they were safe, and then he would make his move.


The first thing any decent sneak does in a new environment isn’t to spy or kill or steal. That all comes quite a bit later, after a tedious amount of planning or else a decent dose of good luck. And one can’t even begin planning until establishing one’s cover and creating what necessary relationships one might require.

No. The first thing any decent sneak does is find a way out.

Osanna waited until the keep was silent before rising from her bed. At this hour, even the servants would be sleeping, and if a guard happened to wander through the halls, well, they wouldn’t see Osanna. She needed to be doubly careful, though. That lordling who had interrupted her teaching earlier was onto her, thanks to a spectacularly novice slip-up. Osanna cursed to herself. She was an assassin, not a godsdamned kidnapper!

She half wanted to run now, to disappear down the nearest bolt hole and head back to Parrence, but she had been ordered by her faith to do what she could for this cause, and Svend had risked much to get her in.

If nothing else, she would have to see it through for now.

Osanna pulled on the pair of trousers she’d worn under her dress that first day, as well as a dark green blouse and boots. She didn’t have her sword, but she slipped a dagger into her waistband and covered herself with her cloak. It would be easier to hide magically if she was already difficult to see in the dark.

The secret tunnel Osanna had sensed earlier that day lay in the kitchens, hidden in the far back of one of the keep’s tremendous pantries. She found her way down to it easily, despite the dark of the halls. Moonlight pierced the gloom at regular intervals, and the long wait in her rooms had accustomed her eyes to the lack of light.

Besides, this was what she’d been made for.

Osanna cloaked herself in shadow as she stepped into the kitchen just in case there were prying eyes about, up for a late-night morsel or prowling the halls. It was strange to see the cavernous room so empty—during the day, it was so filled with cooks and servants that there never seemed to be enough room. Now, hanging vegetables threw strange shadows, lit slightly by the fire’s low embers. In a keep of this size, the kitchen’s heart never quite went out.

A young boy slept near the hearth, his mouth slightly open and his young face slack. He must be one of the servant’s get, but he didn’t worry Osanna. He was still young and untroubled enough for the deep, limp sleep of a child. She stepped past and into the pantries, leaving him to his dreams. The servant boy was the same age as Snorri, but somehow she didn’t think the prince would lie so easy, and they would not have much in common in play.

The hidden door was made of stone, inlaid so perfectly within the floor as to be invisible to the naked eye. It was half-covered with storage crates that Osanna moved, careful not to disturb their layer of dust.

It took too long—and a small amount of borrowed lard— to get the hinges moving, but really, that was perfectly fine with Osanna. It meant that this particular entrance hadn’t been used in some time. Beneath the cover, a rickety wooden ladder fell away into darkness so thick not even the assassin’s sharp eyes could pierce the mire.

For a moment, Osanna just listened, breathing softly through her mouth until she could make out the gentle snores and occasional pop of coals from the kitchen. From below, she heard nothing. It smelled dry despite the wetness of this damnable climate. The air that filtered up was cold.

Osanna reached for her reserves of power, calling on Arcane to give her sight in this darkness. It was not a spell she used often since it was inefficient to use it and her cloaking spell at the same time, but she doubted she would need shadow in the pit that awaited her. With Arcane strengthening her sight, the ladder lit up beneath her, thick with empty spiderwebs and dust. Osanna pushed past them, closing the door over her head and descending until stone reached her feet once more. Around her, the narrow stone passages branched off in either direction, and she padded off to explore the near-endless stretch.

In the morning, Osanna woke to an insistent knock on her door. It was early, the light coming through her window pale and wan, and her head pounded from too little sleep and water. She had only returned to her bed a few hours ago. The tunnels beneath Meldheim were more extensive than she could have possibly imagined.

Osanna dragged herself out of bed, splashed her face with water, and pulled a dress over her head before answering the door. Two maids stood there, similar enough to be sisters. Both towered over her, and one wore an unpleasant frown. “Did you think you were going to sleep all day? Got the cushy tutor job, so you don’t have to do any real work?”

Osanna started, shocked by the early morning assault. “No, of course not! Whatever you need done!”

The other servant, a thinner girl with big eyes, smiled. Her name was Ada, if Osanna remembered correctly. “See! I told you she would. I knew she was a good sort when we talked yesterday.”

The first woman sniffed. “Lina is sick today, so you’ll take her chores.”

Two hours later, Osanna pushed herself up from a hearth on the second highest floor of the keep. Her back ached. She was coated in ash up to her elbows and more dusted the front of her gown. There were probably streaks across her face and in her hair. Osanna rarely, if ever, regretted a late night, but this was starting to look like one of those times.

She pushed herself to her feet like an old woman and hefted her bucket of ash. She could carry another fireplace load, easy. And there were only two more on this floor as far as she could tell.

The hallway outside was just as empty as it had been all morning, aside from the occasional guard passing by, and Osanna was careful to wipe off her hands before reaching for the next door handle. It didn’t budge.

Osanna went still. There was still no one in the hallway around her. There hadn’t been for some time. There were a few pins in her hair, keeping the black mass out of her face as she worked. If she got caught picking the lock, she was dead. It was a long way down to the secret passage she’d discovered the night before. On the other hand, the Eskandr had something in here that they didn’t want people stumbling in and finding, something that might aid her people. The archbishop’s words came back to her. She was to treat this mission like it had come from the highest echelons of her church.

Osanna pulled the pins from her hair and inserted them into the lock, feeling for the mechanisms that would allow her to click open the door. Seconds passed. The tumblers began to fall into place. Boots sounded on the stair.

When the door swung open, Osanna slipped inside and closed it behind her, greeted by a sudden rush of animal smells. It was damp and hot inside, dark except for the light of a smoldering fire still going in the hearth. Tables lay strewn with strange tools, the walls draped in thick, dark wool, unpatterned and stained by soot. Outside, the soldiers on watch tramped by, and Osanna cloaked herself more out of habit than need. Her heart was pounding.

That had been too close.

On the mantle above the fire sat rich boxes of fine, oiled wood. Osanna set down her ash bucket and opened the nearest one, only to hold her breath in wonder. Inside, swaddled in thick velvet wrappings, sat two gleaming eggs. She opened the next box and the next, each holding a different collection of strangely-colored embryonic creatures. Most of the eggs were quite large, but there were a few that might fit comfortably in her bucket.

Osanna closed all the boxes from the first and lifted the two melon-sized eggs it held carefully into her bucket, burying them in warm ash. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do with them—not yet— but if the Eskandr royals kept them so carefully then they must be of some use.

When the room was put back in order, Osanna eased the door closed behind her and slipped off with her prize.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Th3King0fChaos
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Th3King0fChaos The Weird

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Wrath Incarnate

Mentions/Interaction: Queen Eleanor, Sweyn Thunderspear @Force and Fury Caelum @RezonanceV, Maerec @Dao Ma, and Camille @Pirouette

Arsène stared the older man down as if he was not going to move, Sweyn Thunderspear, for every legend he was, he was also a rather imposing man. From one moment Sweyn went from wallowing in a pit of his own despair, to then spewing words slicked with poison and then a provocation for battle. Arsène was never showing a sign of backing down however, he looked Sweyn dead in the eyes as the moment Arsène was to take hold of the blade to his side, Hell broke loose.

A thunderous thoom shook the very earth, the sky, and the very hearts of men. Arsène looked to the direction of the sound and al that could leave his mouth was, "Bloody hell". It was a sight that seemed as if hell had let loose their gate keeper, a large dark beast cut through the night, darker than the night it self, and spewed fire that was brighter than the day. It was a beast that incinerated all in it's path, smoke never appeared from the initial fires, no, it was as if the fires themselves burned the air, smoke, nothing was left. As the beasts wings flapped, the wound within the earthen mound spewed smoke that seems to mask the sky and blot out the stars, as now the dragon above was the only thing producing light, that and the fires it creates.

Arsène looked to the creature and all he could do is watch in awe. It was as if hell played a sick joke on them all, as they wanted to turn the table upside down. Yet it seemed Heaven had other plans, as rolling thunders came in, as if the Heavens came to punish the Hells. Streaks of light punched through the darkness, illuminating the beast held within the blackness the sky has became. Arsène noticed the rider of pure white riding with such tremendous force that every step his horse took it seemed to crackle the ground with power, as that was when his feet began moving.

Arsène ran forward as he put his fingers to his mouth as he whistled, as he made the sound become loud enough to even pierce the thunderous sounds of the gods. Arsène continued to run until he noticed from the corner of his eye his trusty steed, Blackthorn, made his appearance. Arsène took hold of the rein and leaped up and landed into the saddle as he began riding off, using Essence and Force to give his steed and increased speed. Blackthorn made great strides forward, charging into hell, as with every lightning strike and roar Arsène could feel his steed become nervous, so he filled Blackthorn with Essance to calm him and allowed him to charge forward without worry.

Arsène quickly broke through the lines of fleeing people, as he knew 1 of 2 things, this dragon dies or they do. As Arsène strode forward he witnessed every Lance of Lightning rip it's way through the sky as it smashed against the Hellish beast above them. Lance after Lance, as Arsène did his hardest to just close the distance, yet as he neared Sweyn and his explosive power, he felt his body begin to fill with such energy and he felt as if he was to puke, which after the fourth lance of lightning was let loose Arsène did as he tilted his head to the side and let it out as he was riding. Yet once the final one fell, Arsène heard the roar of armies, cheers erupted from behind him as Arsène saw for a moment the Devil fell from the sky, and so too did Sweyn.

Arsène was much slower at the moment, the release of energy was enough to affect him, especially from how close he was to the sorce of this maelstrom of energy. Arsène was overtaken by Queen Eleanor as she charged forward to Sweyn, as the moment Arsène made it to Sweyn, Arsène saw the terrible state Sweyn was in. Thoughts ran through his head, Gods what should we do? We have this monster in our hands. Maybe we can use this for our benefit. Maybe we could even force the Eskandr to- Arsène was cut off from his thoughts as a roar silenced everything. Arsène turned his head and all that could leave his mouth was, "Good Fucking Gods".

Arsène watched as the Hell Beast ripped itself from the earth and came to bear down upon Arsene, Queen Eleanor, and the small army that followed their Queen. Arsène watched the inferno coming down onto them and was surprised they were spared. Brimstone and Hellfire seemed to have only scorched them in slight measure, but it almost seemed unintended to kill. Arsène felt the heat, is was close, yet far with all things considered, as the radiant heat seemed to burn the skin, yet Arsène did not falter. Arsène watched the Beast fly off, and a thought of leaving crossed his mind, yet he remebered who they had in their grasp.

Council was called, Arsène rose up and gave his piece, "Queen Eleanor, that Demon is right now sleeping in a lake, I believe hitting it now would be our only time to hit it and stop this beast from rampaging more". Arsène looked to Sweyn as he took a moment, "It did take quite a powerful Sorcerer to injure it on his own, yet now it is wounded and on the ground-". Arsène then looked back to the council as he then continued, "To bring a beast like that to the ground is a feat, and one we can use. If not as an actual weapon, a tool. The Eskandr will want one of their greatest warriors back, so we can at least force them to negotiate terms for their Prisoners, and if more so, we could even strong arm them to…". Arsène stopped for a moment as if he remembered something as he sighed, Arsène looked to Sweyn once more as he remembered what the man said.

Arsène sighed as he looked back to Eleanor with some more clearity, "I don't think we can find any aid in our enemy, for them they will not find this any threat to them and their own. As they are not here just to claim land, they wish to destroy Parrence-". As Arsène winced, he looked to Sweyn as he continued, "-To the very soil, to the very last bone. No matter the cost, to them or their Humanity. I believe the best we can do with Sweyn is use him as a bartering tool, other than that, I believe we should take on the beast".

Arsène seemed to have changed in demenor, less like a worried man and more to a hunter as he began to speak on how they would try t deal with it, "If we were to hit it soon, with it sleeping in the lake and the beast seeming to be steaming the water, that would mean that it must be unable to regulate it's own heat, like when you are unable to sweat and you start to over heat. We might be able to either take it down, or at least force it to leave if we use fire and heat to our advanatge to fight it.". Arsène then realized he had taken up much of the 3 minutes as many are looking at him like he is some kind of bug, so once Arsène gave this piece, he cleared his throat as he began to take a step back to allow others to give their onw ideas. He did feel like he did overstep slightly as he hogged a good bit of the talk, yet he had quite a bit of things he wanted to say. Even now he was building a plan in his mind as he spoke for that bit of time.

Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Th3King0fChaos
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Th3King0fChaos The Weird

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Mentions/Interaction:Queen Astrid, Inga, Arne'altan'jaros, The Skygge @Force and Fury

The Sun began reaching over the roofs and walls of Meldheim, as it began to warm the roads and homes as it seemed to almost create a thin mist. Yet within the training grounds of the King of King's estate, a thick mist seemed to almost envelop the area Kol and his opponent Arne'altan'jaros were dueling in. As the moments of crashing blade versus metal made enough force to blast small holes in the mist. Kol was methodical in his fighting, he shifted and moved to anticipate how Arne would move, yet the skills of the yasoi 'Mage-Hunter' make even any movement unpredictable. Kol's attacks seemed almost to supernaturally find themselves always moments too fast or slow as his attacks missed, yet his senses were quick and sharp enough where when attacks were to also be thrown at Kol he shifted, swayed, and moved out of the way of attacks. Inches of distance Kol originally gave himself turned to centimeters, as Kol constantly dodge the same way when he was getting attacked by the same attack, a teleporting slash to the back left side. Kol always dodged by swaying his body forward and twisting, showing his back to the Yasoi as he passed by.

Kol decided to start taunting the man, doing moves that are quite showy and showing little care, as he shifted and moved just outside of the 'Mage-Hunters' reach. Kol used this to almost say that even if he was to show Arne his back, he'd be unable to even touch Kol. As that was the moment Arne did his same jump, pouncing forward and about to run into a hit before he leaped through space and time, as Kol dodged the same way he always did when Arne lept through time and did a backslash from the left, bending forwards and tilting his body away from the blade. Yet this time Arne had teleported and now was prepared, as Kol would show his back to the yasoi, as instead of a left-handed slash, it was a slash coming down onto Kol's back. Kol was not one to have gotten predictable, not this easily, as he planned from the beginning that this was going to be the finish, as from his position, Kol had few options, without the gift. Kol twisted his body and used force energy to fling him into the air as his body twisted around the arc of the blade before his body twisted in the air and grabbed onto the shoulders of the 'Mage-Hunter' and pulled him along in his swing as Kol and Arne would land on the ground with Kol shifting Arne into a grapple with both of Kol's arms underneath the yasoi's arms and behind his head to force the younger man to submit.

Once Kol and Arne rose from the floor, Kol patted the younger man on the back as he gave thanks for the spar that Arne had given to Kol as Kol gave a few tips and pointers to make Arne a better duelist, it was not something he needed to focus on with his actual skill sets, however, if he ever found himself in a dueling scenario, he should at least remember some of this. As once Kol gave the proper seal of approval for Arne'altan'jaros the 'Mage-Hunter' to be the ninth member of the Æresvaktr, Kol put back on his clothing and before giving a farewell to Queen Astrid, Arne, and his favorite Niece, Inga. As Kol traveled the city once more, he was crowded by countless men and women who are coming to him to either take them with him when he is to return to the war front or to take them. Kol's later morning was almost identical to his early morning he had to walk through the city and he was constantly crowded and never given some time to himself. Yet this time he was looking forward to it, it took his mind off of where he was to go next.

Kol had walked maybe a half hour to a large property removed from the city proper. There he found a modest farmhouse of fieldstone and thatched roofing that reminded him of some of the homes he knew from his own homeland. Yet what pulled him away from his thoughts was meeting the farmer who lived on this land, The Skygge. She seemed both youthful and yet ancient, she seemed strange, as her scent was odd to Kol, like something familiar yet very different. Apparently, she was some immortal, one who feasted upon others, yet she seemed calm and cordial, as she seemed to have offered him a gift, a simple one, yet he was not one to turn down a gift, he was here for a reason.

Kol came closer as he gave a light nod as he said, "Ah, thank you kindly". As Kol took the Brandæble, he took a bite from the fruit, it was small in his hands, as it was quite easy to take a bite bigger than one expected, yet Kol was much prepared for the many feelings it was to give. Kol was often given brandæbles when he was younger to assist his learning of the Gift, while using the minor visions could have within them may help some, by this point he finds them to be more entertainment rather than to assist him in his training, as his depths with the gift is much greater where he can create visions much stronger than the ones the little brandæbles give.

Kol finished his bite as he looked to the Skygge as and said with a calm voice, ”Would you like to speak here or would you prefer somewhere else?"

“We are here now,” replied the woman, the hint of an enigmatic smile lifting one corner of her lips. “Though I sense you would rather not be.” Her eyes bore into him for a moment, evaluative. “I sense you have done a great many things recently that you’d have rather not.” Brandæbles often took some time to work their magic, especially for one as large as Kol, and it had done nothing for him yet aside from filling his mouth and insides with a warm, sweet, spiciness. “So you may speak, and I may speak in turn if you allow me,” she concluded.

Kol gave a light nod as heard the woman speak her mind of his question and seemed to pry further into him. It was not something Kol was new to, Kol normally wore his emotions on his sleeve, yet the way this woman did it, it felt almost as if she could see something else, it was lightly disturbing to Kol as he let out a sigh. Kol looked to the woman as he spoke, ”Very well. As you know I am here to evaluate, approve, and bring two new members into the Æresvaktr. As with my presence here, you should know you were one of the chosen. I will be quite honest, I dislike the idea, you joining the Æresvaktr fills me with much distaste. So if you will, give me a reason why I should approve of your joining”. Kol was calm and watchful at the same time, he was wary and at ease, as he watched and waited for what could be anything. A cordial talk or a possible death match, with this woman, Kol was not sure.

The Skygge smiled faintly, turning her back momentarily to bend down and pluck another ripe-looking apple. “You are more honest than most,” she admitted, seizing the fruit. “They always fear what I will do if I don’t like what they have to say.” She twisted and shook her head, coming up with the Brandæble. “The truth is that I would rather not go.” She shrugged easily. “I live peacefully here and feed upon the bandits and the vagabonds who would make these hills their home and menace travelers.” She took a handful of her skirts and began polishing the fruit. “But I must do what I don’t want to, just as you must, and we must lose this foolish war together that our king has called.”

A war that is a loss before the next battle has been set, how easily could this have been predicted Kol wondered. He was uneasy, yet he also could feel it himself, the first battle was one very different, it was one where many Eskandr lost their lives, and they barely took anything other than to the land t wage war there. Kol could only think of why they were there, the many who are to die in this losing war. Kol thought of his people and the much they sacrificed for this war.

Kol sighed as he brought himself back to the moment as he spoke, ”Maybe, maybe this is a war that was lost”. Kol sighed as he lightly rubbed his eyes before he continued, ”Yet I believe in this case, there are some things I can do. Firstly, keeping some dignity, you may keep your peaceful life here, it is not one I wish to disturb”. Kol waved his hand lightly as he then made it known to the woman across from him, ” I, Kol, King of Strumreef, 4th seat of the Æresvaktr will not approve of your induction. As that is my right as Underking”. Kol gave a light nod as he awaited her response, if good or bad.

“Good,” she replied. “Now, I am free to travel as a private individual, away from the notoriety such a position would bring.” Her eyes narrowed. “My people need me,” she said quietly but firmly. “But I serve best far from the spotlight. Surely, you would not try to stop me?”

Kol heard the woman as she spoke as one who wished to protect something of hers. Kol has a smirk come to his face, something familiar was found within the Shadow. Something Kol could not deny as something similar to himself. Kol began to turn as he waved with a chuckle, ”Do as you please, for at this point you are a private individual. I am not one to deny one’s wishes, especially when they will do it even without my consent”.

“There is one small thing,” she added. “I may be many things, but a boat, I am not, nor do I have one in my possession. Might I travel with you when you depart, incognito?”

Kol heard the woman as she asked for him to allow her to travel with him upon his departure, and all he did was chuckle as he said, ”I suppose you may, Please do keep your presence little felt among some of the crew. Many would find me mad even thinking of allowing you”.

She bowed quite gracefully. “You are a wise king as they say, but be aware. There are wolves among your flock. I have sensed them at work”. The blustery wind had picked up again and both were forced to shield their eyes for a moment. When Kol looked up, she was gone without a trace. Leaving Kol to wonder as he made his way back to the city proper, what she means.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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Event: Tall trees and long shadows
Location: Loriindton
Interacting with: Lady Talit @Force and Fury

Otios' scheme

A single candle had been lit, flooding the room with the late evening's darkness as the small flame was hardly enough to reach the wooden walls of Otios' den with any significant intensity. The giant tree's soft bark pleased the Yasoi's sense of touch as he let his elbows rest on the rim of his 'balcony', transferring the weight of his chest onto them so to make it easier for him to look down at the vastness of Loriindton below. He had to be careful not to stumble backwards against his bed in the process for everything was quite cramped, but if one considered that this was not an ordinary house, but rather a pit carved into an humongous treetop so to give a single person not only the view of the city below, but also the heavens above, it all became a matter of relativity.

It had been Otios' first choice for his stay here: not only for the magnificent sight, but also for the gentle swinging of the tree that had a somewhat calming effect when lying in bed and for the naturally restricted access to this tiny hideout. Yet a mere couple of moments after having brought himself into position, Otios already stepped away from the pit's rim and dropped himself onto the bed so he no longer had to see the city. What had been an ocean of light on the ground underneath another ocean of light in the skies had somewhat turned into a dark abyss. Otios had spent the first couple of hours after the event down there, then decided not to go there again until the next morning. There was nothing but suffering and anger to be found and he certainly didn't need to drown his head in that seething cauldron. He needed to remain clear and calm.

At this moment, the single candle added itself to the countless lights in Loriindton that were no longer lit, even though in this case it was certainly not in order to avoid any seem of still celebrating anything. The flame had simply exhausted its fuel supply -- a very foreseeable issue.

Had Merit's death been foreseeable, too? He had hardly known her, but eliminating any kind of guiding figure had always been a good measure to cause trouble. The thought of failure struck Otios' mind for he had not helped or even just brought up the idea of locking the old lady away in a metaphorical vault until the whole Eskandr affair had been over. A mette'stiroi of this magnitude and rolled out in full publicity had been an open invitation for such a thing to happen, hadn't it ? At this point he could not even entirely rule out the possibility of Lyen indeed being the culprit or at least the helping hand even though he firmly refused to believe it. Dyric had fed on nothing but superficial matters at his initial presentation, but the vision of his audience also seemed to have narrowed down to the point where this sufficed…

Then, the face of a woman appeared perhaps a foot from his own, materializing as if out of thin air. “Keep quiet!” she hissed immediately.

Otios’ blood seemed to adopt the consistency of a bitter cold, viscous goo instead of a watery liquid for a brief moment, and while his heartbeat still accelerated his mind was already calming down again. At least a bit. Keep quiet ? An assassin wouldn’t ask this, but just do the job, right?

After a moment, as his nerves settled, the face resolved itself into a familiar one: Talit’yrash, straddling the branch right in front of his dugout. “Sorry to come to you like this, but it was the only way I could slip out without being noticed. I am supposed to be bathing right now, or so they think.”
Otios’ eyes widened for both the surprise and the fact that it was Talit herself who had come to him. He had expected something to happen after the debacle that had been the day prior, but the Lady herself still was an unexpected guest to say the least. “Talit ? You ?” he asked, half wonderingly, half admiringly. “What is the matter? I mean… not the obvious matter.”

“You look surprised to see me,” she replied with a smirk, perhaps able to leave the weight of the past day’s troubles behind her momentarily. “It’s a spatial spell.” Her smile waned weak. “Lady Merit taught it to me when I was fourteen. Anyhow, time is of the essence and you’ve fortunately managed to stay out of the worst of everything. You’re clean, Otios, and that’s why I need you.” She paused, adjusting her position subtly. “It’s why Lyen needs you, truly.”

The corners of the male Yasoi’s lips moved upwards slightly, even though the severity of the situation at hand was so obvious it did not go unnoticed by him either. “Since you stated my cleanliness so explicitly, I suppose it is time to get my hands dirty ?” He let his head sway to both sides repeatedly a little as if weighing his options, only to reveal the gesture’s purely rhetorical nature immediately afterwards: “I am certainly not opposed to that idea. But… we’re not talking about murder, are we?”

Just how little did he know about Talit’yrash! The first day of trial had somewhat served as an introductory lecture for him in terms of how the societal pinnacle of Loriindton looked like, but both logic and his bare gut feeling indicated that he, of course, was oblivious to most of its internals. The sheer sketchiness of his picture about Talit made his stomach cramp slightly as he awaited her response, for he could not entirely rule out her straightforwardly presenting him with a list of lives to steal. With the prosecutor gone, who else would be left to push Lyen’s case?

“No,” she assured him after a long moment. “I won’t rule it out, but that’s a last resort. There’s been enough murder.” She shook her head. “It’s… more about lies, and money changing hands. That Timewalker’s dirty.” Tali’s eyes flicked, ever so quickly, to the couple of inches that remained of her right leg. “She only cares about personal gain, but she’s going to be called to the stand and her word treated as unimpeachable truth. Dyric’s dirty too. He had all his ducks lined up way too easily and public and obvious Parrench supported murdering a known opponent serves his agenda very well. I think he’s going to try bribing her. We need proof, or we need a counter-bribe.” She grimaced for a second. “If it comes down to it and there’s no other recourse, then killing her might have to be back on the table. The Eskandr army is no more than a day’s walk away and, if we time it right, we can pin it on them.” Her eyes darted about for a moment in either justified wariness or paranoia. “Still a last resort, but she’s vile and has it coming to her. You know, actually, that army…” She trailed off, peering down into the abyss below. “It’s an opportunity if we’re willing to… do our duty as members of the Grande Armee.”

Otios traced Talit’s eyes as they traveled down towards the stump that was her leg, and a gut feeling told him that it probably was not something down there itching coincidentally right at that time. “You know what’s been shocking me ?” it burst out of him. “Just how the entire town hung on Dyric’s lips when he gave everyone a small scratch of the skin of what should have been the whole apple. I’d have to think for a while to figure out whether I’ve ever seen such a lack of imagination before! You probably know him a lot better than me, so: Do you think he’s a clever person? Because if so, then we know he’s doing foul play. Only dumb people would only see the superficial unintentionally or because they couldn’t do better.”

He looked down on Loriindton again, which by now even seemed to have turned a little darker than before. His focus got briefly stuck on the sight of a tight, elongated formation of colorful lights that seemed to move just barely above the threshold of perception. If these were the tiims’archa still in the race, then he was in a good position as the red light was making serious progress. Or was the track the other way round actually? Hard to spot from up here.

“It seems people believe him, that they want to see someone being punished, and if they already refuse to think more profoundly there, then I’m indeed worried about the Eskandr. Not because they might attack us, but because we might have hopes for them sparing us altogether should that army march around Loriindton harmlessly. I don’t trust those Southerners as far as I can spit and you know why ? Because I’m a thief myself! I know that once you start basing your whole income on taking other people’s property, you gotta do it again and again. So guess what will happen should the Eskandr have exhausted their spoils from the Parrench one day. The difference between an army of myself and an army of Eskandr however is that the former wouldn’t massacre everyone’s wife and burn down every place it comes across.”

“Maybe you’ve lived around humans too long,” Tali replied a bit shortly. “We’re not all that different from them, truth be told.” She shook her head. “From outside, I have to admit that it looks pretty damning, even if it’s circumstantial, but when people are emotional, and particularly in large groups.” She shrugged. “You know how it is: only takes one idiot to start baying for blood.”

She shifted position slightly, glancing about with renewed paranoia, or perhaps it was justified suspicion. “For what it’s worth, our people here would never willingly join the Eskandr, but I share your suspicions about the Southmen. They may hold themselves back this time but, overall, they make our self-appointed Parrench overlords look restrained and predictable by comparison. To hold ourselves back from taking a position is, in a sense, taking one.” Gazing down at the mix of forest and city below, she became still. “Unless there was some way to have one thrust upon us…” She trailed off, glancing over at Otios, gauging him, perhaps.

A slight trace of scowling flashed over Otios’ face as he listened to Talit’s words. He did not like it to be called out for the fact that most of his life so far had taken place outside of Yasoi heartland, but given the severity of the overall situation he was not going to start a debate about it –- at this point. Also her next couple of words, combined with her scrutinizing gaze upon him, made him focus on other things entirely again anyway.

“I hope that what you’re saying about the Eskandr is right, Lady Talit. I am a bit too young to have witnessed Parrench cruelties myself in a way I could remember, but would have hated it to learn that I’ve thrown my life into the balance for protecting the city of people who have been as evil or even worse than what those Southerners are doing now.”
He half-inadvertently returned the favor and glanced at her briefly in a gauging manner, too. After a deep breath and a sigh, the large Yasoi let his view return down towards Loriindton and continued:

“There is no real, long-lasting peace to be expected from Eskand. Anybody who’s going to argue that they’d be good, long-term neighbours or even allies because they don’t seem to harass our settlements in this war will try to sell you a military matter of course. Why fight two people at the same time if you can do so one after another, with an arbitrary period of rest and reinforcing in between ? The only thing their current stance towards us really says is that their leaders aren’t stupid, while at the same time they prove that they can be at least as reckless as the Parrench, if not even a lot worse.”

Huusoi… Otios could feel a surge of anger rising about them, one he had not felt in quite a while. Maybe Lady Talit was right about him having lived too long among them after all, but maybe not for the reason she had tried to point out, but because now the majority of all Huusoi nations had proven to be very bothersome for the Yasoi ? He could simply not remember having heard anything about his own kind having dominated Sipenta in such a vicious manner.

A thought blasted through his mind like one of his own lightning strikes. Lady Talit could probably guess it just by how suddenly he twisted his head around to face her again. “You want something that leads us out of this stalemate ?” He sat down onto the bed in order to extend his long arm down into the space beneath it, only to pull a large leather bag. “I should still have this map around I used on our journey to this place… I’ve got an idea!”

At this moment, with the parchment already halfway in his hand, he realized that the candle was no longer lit in order to properly illuminate it. “Oh…”

How garrulous you are. Tali had wanted to roll her eyes more than once despite the overall serious tone of the conversation, but then he got an idea. It was plainly written on his face even before he stated it verbatim, and she set any other judgement aside. “Here,” she offered simply, creating a glow over the map with a simple arcane spell. “Now, what did you have in mind? We should hurry. I will be missed before long.”

Otios unfolded the map on what could only be considered a petty excuse for a table, but it was sufficient to provide a flat surface for Loriindton and its surroundings. “So…” he started, presenting Tali with a grin. “As far as I am informed, much of the Eskandr fleet has been destroyed, right? And while their armies are ravaging whatever they come across, there seems to be little effort to establish a more sustainable foothold with peasants, cattle, and all the other things that would be required for that, am I correct ? So basically their armies live from whatever they can loot from the settlements they encounter. And now please tell me what you don’t see on this part of the map.”

“Those weird sea monsters, demons, and fantastical forest creatures that huusoi are so fond of drawing?” she teased.
“No.” Otios replied, his intonation of the word forming a slight crescendo as he felt like having Tali taken by surprise. “It’s Parrench settlements. Sure, there are a few, but not many. So in order to keep supplied, the Eskandr army will have to move over much longer distances around Loriindton. So what would happen if, let’s say, some unfortunate event, destroyed a significant portion of their current food stock or rendered it unusable ? It would be something they just cannot ignore, and it would reduce the distance they can march until reaching something new to loot that’s big enough.”

She was about to tease him some more for brushing right past her attempt at levity, but then his idea was a good one. She pursed her lips for a moment and let out a low whistle, eyes darting about the parchment. “What. If.” she agreed, as they flicked hisi way. “I take it you have some method of achieving this?”

“Hm.” Otios mumbled, noticing that her eyes were focused on him and feeling slightly uneasy because of it. “That is the good question about it. It would be perfect if one could make it look like a natural occurrence, a disastrous case of bad luck so to speak. A thunderstorm hitting the wagons they store all the corn and bread it, for example ? Or some nasty fungus that colonizes the whole heap rapidly and makes it inedible ? Nature’s different here!” Part of him really hoped that Tali would understand that this had been a quite spontaneous idea of his.

“You’ve put some thought into this, haven’t you?” she asked, but it was really more of a statement. He likely had something in mind already and was merely asking after her rinput to show some deference to a superior. The thing was that Tali wasn’t a superior at all. She had turned twenty-four only yesterday, and this man was a veteran of much, who had been practicing magic and thievery, and combining the two since before she’d been born. “Personally, I’d say that the fungus is our best option, if you can find the right variety. I have seen how gifted you are with Thunder, but the Thunderspear’s magic use from Relouse is too fresh in people’s minds and they will turn to speculate about sabotage.” Tali threw in a shrug so as to guard against the possibility that she’d guessed wrong and allow him to state his true preference. She blinked and glanced over, onboard with the idea in principle, at least.

“It was a sudden inspiration.” Otios felt like he’d have to admit it openly as he noticed what he interpreted as skepticism in her question. “However over the years I think I’ve learned to distinguish the unusable from what can be practically implemented.” Did he just feel the first, subtle signs of sweat forming on his skin ? For the most part of his life, he had not had anyone to get orders from or report back to, but since the whole invasion began, he was working together with the Lady herself, and now this had turned into a very concrete instead of abstract affair. The Yasoi who didn’t know about her and her prowess first had to be found.

“So, erm… fungus it is. I can remember a species that might fit the bill for this. I actually used it once to ruin the day of some innkeeper I really disliked, but… I don’t know if it can be found in Loriindton, even though I wouldn’t be surprised if it can. We still have Lyen locked up in the prison, though.”

“Cognitive dissonance,” Tali chirped, smirking wickedly. “If people are busy fighting off Eskandr, they’re not going to also want to look poorly upon the Parrench. Their minds won’t be able to make sense of it.” She shook her head. “I know it well. Worse comes to worst, and it’s a distraction, at least. Allows us to reset the trial and start again without such a frothing mob having decided she’s guilty until proven innocent.”

Tali’s facial expression did not slip past Otios’ attention. It went beyond approval in some way, but the thief could not find pure joy in this fact. With some serious concern, he looked up to her and asked straightforwardly: “Is Loriindton ready for this? The Eskandr attacking this city is the ultimate goal of the idea and I think it’s merely preponing the inevitable, but still: people could die. In fact we will have to prevent any peaceful negotiation about sharing our resources with them, for that could destroy our current alliance with the Parrench and leave us standing between all chairs in the end.”

“How can you ever be ready?” Tali shot back. “But it’s either fewer die now or more die later.” She shrugged and looked a bit uneasy. “Now, I’m going to be missed, and you don’t look like I do and get to slip away unmolested. We need someone to look into the Timewalker still, and Dyric, but take the course of action you think is best. For now…” There was a moment where Ootios could, perhaps, feel a semi-familiar sort of energy collected in the air around him in sudden and massive quantity. Then, mid-wave of her hand, Talit’yrash was gone.

At first, it was only Otios' foot that escaped the grip of his unstable slumber and hit the unforgiving wooden ground toes first. Then the inevitable pain from the latter caused the rest of him to ascend from his resting state somewhat unwillingly. Moaning, he opened his eyes and could only barely see the upcoming sunlight trough the thick pillow he had buried his head in. So it already was the next morning indeed ?

Lady Talit's disappearance had just been the beginning of things for there were plenty of preparations to be made if anything was to be pulled through. No less than three 'where'-s had to be solved: Where was the Eskandr army ? Where was the timewalkers' dwelling place and where could he find that fancy fungus he intended to use ? The army would make locating it only easier as long as it was still on the approaching leg of its journey around Loriindton, but the other two were much tougher nuts to crack. Or rather: had been. It dawned upon Otios that his distorted feeling of time was simply the result of too much nocturnal activity in order to make progress.

Hyco'tar'thuum simply translated to 'small red fungus' in husoi language, but another commonly used term for it among yasoi was 'the red pest'. The innocent looking, very ground-dwelling plant fed on decaying wood like most of its cousins and produced rather heavy spores that didn't fly through the air for long, but instead were covered in a natural adhesive that made them stick to whatever animal had popped open the fruit body in the first place. Some time later they'd simply dry and fall off onto the ground again to grow into a new colony. Problems started however when these spores came into contact with things like bread or meat that wasn't thoroughly dried and salted, for then the fungus would switch its diet and send its mycelium on a feasting rampage. The plant was not highly toxic, but its vile taste was quite unbearable. There was no reason for anyone to sell or buy Hyco'tar'thuum, hence its alternative name.

Finding fungi around Loriindton was easy, but the people here had firmly eradicated all occurrences of the red pest in the city and its most immediate surroundings a long time ago in order to avoid accidental contamination. It had therefore been a few hours worth of riding and searching in the middle of the night in order to obtain a large jar full of plants. A couple of tiims'archa had helped -- both against the darkness and the lonelyness. Even they crept their way around Otios' special cargo though.

The time walker was a bit of a different matter though. First of all, the fact that Yasoi as a whole did not exactly pledge allegiance to the flag of 'private land ownership' made any question about the time walker's residence a bit invalid to begin with, but even more importantly Otios simply could not allow himself to ask too much, let alone in the middle of the night. The city was on alert and being too nosy in the public could stir up unwanted attention. There was a solution Otios deemed rather simple however: His would-be victim would have to show up at the trial, and with everyone else staring at that person's nonexistent magnificence and what he was doing with it, there'd be plenty of time to backtrack the footsteps and find their source.

Could there be anything more exciting than taking out a judge's house while said judge was doing his job ? The problem Otios saw however was that, by the time he'd have finished his double-job, the lack of sleep would have degradated him into a miscreant with sixth-wheel social incompatibility.
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Fields of Fire:
Deal or no Deal

Location: Outside of the Village, close to Mount Errant
Mood: ”So Say We All” by Audiomachine
Current Event: Fields of Fire
Interactions: Queen Eleanor, Sweyn Thunderspear, Nashorn@Force and Fury, Maerec @Dao Ma, and Camille @Pirouette, Arsene @Th3King0fChaos, Hildr @Jasbraq

“Stand ready!” A commander of the Queen’s army shouted. The echoes of a thousand bloodlines stood roared back as if there stood on the field of battle, a legion of lions. Shield walls for both sides were anchored into tight to each line of brother and sister holding firm to their handles. Blades at the ready, sweat dripping from the unruly brows of determined faces, on the Parrench side, they were ready to die today. Two forces of enormous weight pinned against one another before the throes of Mount Errant, under the pressure to decide if they would unite against the threat that lurks in the lake, or cut each other down before the Dragon could intervene.

Caelum stood firm with his sword still sheathed but a hand wrapped around the hilt ready for the Eskandr savages to declare an act of aggression. He did not have faith in their ability to speak to others without spilling bloodshed first. It appeared…he’d be right. A large Eskandr brute towering over most who dashed to his side to get out of the way emerged from the Eskandr frontline. Carrying a hammer and set of shoulders the size of Caelum’s upper body, the brute raised his hammer and pointed it at Sweyn who remained tucked away next to the Queen. The brutes speed began to increase as did his position between the Eskandr and Parrench lines. If someone did not step up to declare a negotiation, then the battle would begin now.

Caelum saw what was about to happen, he is not going to stop. Caelum took a step forward, now or never . He drew his sword and shouted at the hulking mass attempting to instigate a fight before reason could intervene, “Stand down and let’s negotiate or Sweyn’s neck is the first to drop on the battlefield.” Caelum needed to see if there was leverage or if Eskandr cared little of their own. Fortunately for Parrench, the Eskandr did care about Sweyn and the brute stopped, but not without laughing and shrugging as if to say, then let’s go!

Caelum looked to his Queen, “What say you?” Arsene added, “Where should we begin?” The two could not make any moves without Eleanor’s consent. She was the authority power, it was for her to decide how things would play out and her response was nothing short of clear, “Sirs Caeum and Arsene will speak as my representatives,” she announced, “Know that we will be retaining custody of Sweyn until we may come to an agreement regarding that beast over there.” She raised her hammer and ambiguously pointed it toward the brute and the dragon.

Caelum and Arsene acknowledged their Queen’s orders, and then each other. The two began to walk into no-man’s land, a space where neither line held advantage. The two approached the brute, a brute known as the ‘Nashorn’. This Nashorn stood firm, raising one fist in the air and clasped his other around it. a sign? or was he mute? did the Eskandr send a mute to negotiate?” There was a female Eskandr who had grabbed the Nashorn’s shoulder earlier Caelum’s and Arsene’s arrival, but she now shrunk away after the Nashorn’s hand was raised. interesting, what are they up too? Caelum noted as he witnessed another female Eskandr make her debut into no-man’s land. She threw herself at the Parrench, dropping her weapons and asking for peace. Arsene acknowledged her difference in relation to the attitudes of her side, Drudgunzean . She was not like the rest, yet she was with them no doubt.

Before Caelum and Arsene could ask terms, the Queen shouted behind them having realized what the Nashorn had done, “Sir Maerec!” she shouted, “Lord Perceval!” Take a detachment and follow those Eskandr! Secure the prisoners!” She turned back to face the brute and Drudgunzean, “This is what you call negotiating in good faith and honour?”

The alarm bells for Caelum went off. His hand clinching his sheathed blade in caution of what was to come next. The Drudgunzean attempted to de-escalate a rising tide of tension by declaring she had no intentions of deceiving them, and her last words that Caelum hung on were, “I wish to end this peacefully.”

Caelum’s bells went off again, peacefully? under what conditions, and who’s definition? Caelum’s gaze focused on the Drudgunzean woman known as Hildr, “How do you plan on ending this peacefully?” He wanted to know what Hildr was willing to exchange in terms of Sweyn’s safety. Instead, Hildr failed to understand Caelum and thus he repeated only for the same question to fall on deaf ears once again, except Hilder snapped at Caelum and Nashorn claiming they were barking like dogs. Arsene attempted to clarify, yet again, Hildr could not seem to grasp what was being asked and her forces began pressuring her to make a decision.

Typical, they cannot even agree on what they want. Eskandr began calling for blood, Hildr cried for peace, and the Nashorn began to reveal his impatience. As tension was about to break…Hildr called for a duel, “I showed you a sign of my trust, my patience, even my honor as a knight. If I need to duel for the senile fool, I will propose that.”

Caelum was confused, Her trust, when was this shown? They sent Eskandr to secure innocent civilians for leverage not even moments ago, did she forget? Her patience, when did she show patience when asked the same question several times only to deflect and insult her own side and the Parrench by comparing them to dogs? Her honor, what honor was there in burning villages and slaughtering innocent women and children? If this is what she truly believed then she was lying to herself. Caelum realized that the Eskandr never wanted to negotiate, if they had, they would not have sent out a mute brute and a bad liar.

To answer Hildr’s request for a duel, Caelum raised his foot to step forward. He would accept her challenge regardless of her excuse to do so. She would be reminded of how she chose the wrong side, to be crushed beneath the boot of an Unconquered Sun would be the greatest honor Caelum could ever give her…maybe…he could restore that last line of her’s…honor.

Suddenly Camille’s voice struck Caelum’s cord, “I will duel!” Caelum dropped his foot back. hmm…maybe it’s for the best. Caelum felt good about Camille taking this challenge. He believed her will and gift was stronger than this Drudgunzean. If he had not, he would have already engaged Hildr. But, Caelum had witnessed Camille’s abilities first hand and so long as the Nashorn stayed out of it, she would be able to handle it. He had faith in the Saint, Dami’s Chosen.

Camille stepped forward, “Let our duel be Dami’s scale and judge the outcome!”

Camille and the Drudgunzean clashed steel to steel. The two seemed to gain little ground on each other until Camille landed some minor blows forcing Hildr into a disadvantage. Alright, Camille, take what she gives you. Caelum said to himself as Camille’s sword penetrated Hildr deeply into the shoulder. Camille then drew her blade back, no, quarter her, do not kill her! Caelum shouted in his mind to the idea that Camille would show no mercy as a lady of faith. The opponent was down, the option to imprison her is supposed to be given before taking the life unless your life is in immediate danger. Camille decided that Dami would be the judge, not conventional rules of engagement for the faithful. Caelum wanted to step in, but it was done…Camille’s blade sundered down.

Caelum expected to witness the death of Hildr, but instead, she rolled out of the way and retaliated stabbing Camille in a similar location as Camille did to her. Both collapsed to the floor, without a conclusive victor, Eskandr and Parrench were held in suspense…who would find the strength to finish? Caelum internally battled between interfering and protecting Camille, he chose to hang in time, as long as the Eskandr continued to do so with him. Camille found her legs, relieving Caelum slightly that she was strong enough to get up on her own. A second time for the final blow, Camille raised, and she missed…not because of her own doing or Hildr’s. The Nashorn intervened.

No longer was this to be decided on a duel. Queen Eleanor rushed off her horse faster than Caelum could get to the brute. She engaged the brute with fierce force while the Parrench charged the lines behind her. The Eskandr pushed forward and the battle before Mount Errant transformed into utter chaos. The Nashorn struck Eleanor down, then Caelum, followed by Arsene, but both times Dieudonne saved his Parrenchmen from being killed by the Nashorn for good. While Dieudonne kept the Nashorn’s attention, Mathieos recovered the Queen using his gift of blood magic and then worked on Caelum while Eleanor aided Camille.

The Nashorn set his sights on Caelum. The two came to blows once again, yet this time Caelum was not overwhelmed by the brute’s strength. The two went steel to steel without either giving up their guard, the brute tried to lean against Caelum, and feeling his weight drop back, he sparked his blade which snapped Nashorn’s weapon back. The spark burned Nashorn’s cheek, but it was not significant enough to derail the fight. The most it would do is maybe leave a burn mark and add an upgraded feature to the ugly face.

When the blades were separated, the Nashorn and Caelum planned to re-engage, but both were cut short by the roar of the Dragon. The ferocious winged tyrant reminded everyone that they had spent too much time fighting each other, and not enough time preparing for the dragon. As soon as the Dragon came onto the scene, Sweyn escaped. Now, Parrench and Eskandr alike were ceasing their clashes and introduced to the new battle space set by larger threat. If they could not band strong together, they would all be sent to Pentad.
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