Hidden 13 days ago Post by EmmaZ
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Palen Mine

@Saiyan@BleakBlueJay@Sanity43217@Restalaan

In the southwestern corner of the Empire of Eden stands the town of Palen. It sits on the only road connecting humanity to the wasteland that was once the home of demons. The people there live humble lives, raising livestock and crops, gathering for sermons twice a week, and teaching their children their craft. It’s a peaceful town, all thanks to the Heroes for ending the threat of demonic invasion those decades ago.

The town’s main export, at least according to the tax collector’s report, is iron. It isn’t produced in the town, or even worked there. No, it just happens that a rich vein of ore was found in the nearby mountains and Palen, as the nearest township, laid claim to the space. And rather than make its upright citizens toil in the underground, Palen requested a portion of the enslaved criminals be made to dig the mine.

These criminals were, of course, those same demons from the other side of the mountain, enslaved after the war. And their children, and their childrens’ children.

“That’s what you kids are: free labor! Well, not exactly free; the Emperor receives a portion of the ore at no cost as compensation. But you aren’t getting paid for it! I’m not getting paid for it!” the old kobold grumbled. The small children gathered around him giggled. One of them dared to raise a paw.

“You don’t dig up any of the iron anyway, mister Draconhouser!”

“Pah! Taking care of you lot is three times more work than swinging a little pickaxe around all day! And don’t go callin’ me a mister; I don’t need no human title. I’m Draconhouser the thirteenth, thirteenth-in-line for assistant to the regent of the Brazen Burrow!”

That made all the kids break out in fits of laughter. The Brazen Burrow was one of his best stories–a secret home the Demon Lord would visit just a few times a year. The kobold insisted he was near the top of the line for inheriting an honorable position of service. Even still too young to be put to work digging, these kids all knew how to count to thirteen; there were a whole fifteen of them being looked after. Thirteenth in line was practically last place.

An older demon, a young lady just blooming into adulthood, smiled as she heard the laughter. It was only a few years ago she’d been among those kids, though it felt half a lifetime. Now she was a miner. Her pink skin was perpetually caked with dust and her white hair was smothered until it looked light brown. The part of her she kept cleanest were the horns atop her head, the dirt never finding purchase.

Dressed in her working outfit for the day–a pair of half-pants that let her hooves swing freely and a big, baggy shirt that had been sized for a gnoll originally and hung clear down to her thighs–she stopped to greet the old caretaker.

“Draconhouser the thirteenth! What are you teaching the young ones? They pay us in food!”

“Pah!” he snorted again. “Talia sin Meritia, food isn’t pay. Pay is money! Gold! Something you can take and have, or spend to get something else you want to have!”

“Hmm… But I think I’d rather have the food. What would I do with gold?”

“What would you-!? Pah! PAH! You would polish it so it shone and shape it into statues and use it to frame portraits! Why, when I was a boy working in the scullery at the Brazen Burrow-!”

A loud shout for roll call interrupted the kobold before he could once more enthrall her with tales of the grandeur of his childhood workplace. Talia frowned, but quickly said her farewells to him and the kids, then hurried out to the square.

All the workers were gathering–the miners in the center, the carters to the right, the packagers on the left. At the front of their assembly stood Overseer Timms, Headman Adams’s right hand man. Timms was a stern fellow, but a reasonable master. So long as the workers met quota, he didn’t care what they were doing with their spare time. He’d even appointed a captain for each group from among the workers themselves. Head of the miners was Virgil Stonespeak, a short, green-skinned demon with wiry limbs that could heave a rock half as big as he was. If all goblins were like him, Talia mused, those human adventure stories would all end in the first chapter.

Virgil ran a quick sweep of his people before turning back to Overseer Timms. “All present for mining duty!” he reported with a lazy salute. The other leaders likewise reported all heads accounted for.

“Good. No news today!” the overseer shouted over the crowd. “Daily quota is still one cart per head! One hundred eighty-two total. Dismissed.”

As Timms walked off, the captains began hustling their people into the tunnels. A few of the carters rushed ahead, anxious to get to the bottom and start breaking the next wall before the miners came close. Packagers turned off toward the warehouse, making ready the week’s offering for pickup next Moonday.

Talia moved along with the flow of traffic, her head darting left and right as she sought out a friendly face. Not an easy task when everyone around her was six feet tall. Even if her horns stood half a foot higher than them, that didn’t help her eye-level from being five nine.

'If Gnash would stand up straight, I'd never miss her,' she silently mused, a light smile on her lips.
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Hidden 13 days ago 13 days ago Post by Restalaan
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Gunthar

Heavy thuds followed as a large shadow fell onto a few enslaved people, making them look upwards briefly at one of the few largest that stayed in the prison camp.

Far too large for one that was supposed to belong in a slave camp, alongside the large gut that looked way too unhealthy if it were on a human. A rotund demon gathered at the end of the square where they've been roll called for the day, joining the carters on the right-hand side.

His job was simple, go in, smash the walls, expand the route for the miners and pull the carts for transport. A work that he can do alone which will take multiple demons to do so as he followed his group and the captain assigned to direct them.

Momentarily, he halted in his tracks and looked upwards to the skies. Taking it in and wondered just how far it stretched.

Then just as quickly, that thought left him as he headed inwards to the mines. Not even bothering with an upper shirt since his own skin was probably tougher than most protection, and it'll get extremely hot inside anyways. The only thing that he did wore was the worker trousers and a gut plate strapped around his waist. Protecting his gut and also serves as a belt for him to hold his tools. Utilitarian and bare bones. The only note-worthy thing was his long hair, braided into a singular one with a large metal ring at the end of it.

@EmmaZ

Just for a moment, he spotted another demon looking around. Locking eyes, he remembers this one. Not the name but face, seen her a number of times during his work of carting. Giving a singular grunt, he nodded his head as was taught to him roughly and painfully before moving on.

Gunthar turned his focus and gave himself a meaty thwack across his fist, he shall get more than a cart and obtain more food for himself. That watered his mouth and stimulated his appetite, further driving his motivation as he tromped with much more gusto and speed that was unexpected for one of his size.
Hidden 13 days ago Post by Saiyan
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Dante stood high up above the mining camp, on a precipice of the foothills that lined the mountain range - the border of the human empire and the land his people once called home. He wasn't even supposed to be here and he knew it, having received a strict punishment a previous time when he was caught. Now, he just didn't get caught. This was the furthest he'd ever been away from the mining camp on his own two legs. Ironic that his homeland felt so close... yet so very far away.

As dawn's first rays of light crept over the eastern horizon, Dante's eyes squinted slightly. A long shadow grew behind him, hitting the tall, tall mountains at his back. In his peripheral vision, below him, the mining camp was starting to bustle. To his right, in the distance, he could see the town of Palen. Not that any of it mattered. He was staring sightlessly. Angrily.

"Well done, Dante, keep going now, and don't stop," Hagrid encouraged as Dante fired a mean combo of kicks and punches at the open air.

The early hours of the morning, in the darkness, Uncle Hagrid had been training him, as usual. It was the only regular free time that both of them shared, so it became their schedule most days. Every now and then it would end in an argument between teacher and student. Today was one of the those days. But this time it was different.

Dante ran, jumped, blasting the ground with air magic to launch high into the air... "Uuurrraaghh!" ...and landed with a furious power fist punch downward, his knuckles but an inch from the ground.

"That's enough," Hagrid signalled. "You trained hard today. Your style is so instinctively different from the family's 'Diablos Fist,' once you get going in shadow sparring. But you look so much like your mother, that all I can see is a proud Valeron."

"And what about my father?" Dante asked. Hagrid hated when this topic came up. "Don't I look at all like him? Or maybe I fight like him?"

"Dante, not this again..."

The older Dante got, the more frequently they would argue about the subject of his father. Everytime, Dante saw the pain and anger in his Great Uncle's eyes. Everytime, Hagrid refused to speak on the demon, only blaming him for getting Dante's mother, Lucille, killed. This morning though, things had changed. Hagrid finally spoke more on the subject and told Dante all he knew, all he'd managed to spy from the Overseers.

"...and so, with dreams of freedom, you a babe, Lucille and your father fled into our homeland. And within two nights, they were caught by the border patrol and slaughtered on the spot for their crimes and left for the crows to feast on. You were brought back here." The story was shocking to say the least, Dante could only fight back his tears as he listened. "But a few days later, I overheard two overseers talking. They said the patrol had doubled back over the ground where they killed your parents. And when they did, they only found your mother's body in a shallow grave. Your father was missing, replaced by a trail of purple blood that led to a river, where the trail went cold."

So many emotions to sort through. To deal with. But he'd ran out of time - The shouts for roll call could be heard below him. He closed his eyes and mentally steeled himself, before starting the easy but treacherous descent back to camp...............

..........He caught his friend, Fenn Talismon, by surprise and could feel him bristle with a start as Dante grabbed his shoulder from behind. "Morning buddy," he whispered with a grin.

"For fucking Lilith's sake, Dante, you scared the pants off me, you did," Fenn exclaimed, somehow keeping his voice in a loud whisper, and escaping trouble.

"Just in time, I see." Dante took a place at Fenn's side and nodded a hello to Virgil as the captain's eyes passed over him. "Lilith, I'm starving."

"That'll happen when you miss breakfast," Fenn shot back, eyes faced forward. "Where'd you get off to?"

"To see the morning properly."

Fenn knew what that meant. "You could've come n got me, sheesh, I had to listen to Arndolf talk about his bloody back pain all breakfast. Lilith, I was about about to shank him in it."

Dante snorted a chuckle.

“Good. No news today!” the overseer shouted over the crowd. “Daily quota is still one cart per head! One hundred eighty-two total. Dismissed.”

"Another day, another ingot," was Dante's final comment as the miners started filing into the tunnels.
Hidden 9 days ago Post by EmmaZ
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The mines grew deeper every year as the miners chased after winding veins. Talia often wondered if, should they keep mining, they could break out the other side of the mountains–back to their ancestral homeland. It was a frivolous wish; they were as likely to dig too deep and fall through the bottom of the world, as they were to dig clear through the mountains. But she let herself wish all the same.

Virgil started calling out at the head of the column. “Separate into your squads! As a reminder, torches are only for emergencies; we don’t want to make more work for the carters in charge of ventilation. Pair off, and trade who’s acting as Light BEFORE you run out of Aura. I’M TALKING TO YOU, TAGG! That happens again, I might not send a team after you next time!”

The crowd chuckled quietly. It was all bluster and they knew it; if anyone needed help, they would get it. They hadn’t lived for this long in a mining camp by abandoning a friend to a collapse; everyone had each other's back.

Talia shuffled her way toward a side where she could see Dante. And Fenn.

She shook her head, trying to ward that thought away. Fenn wasn’t a bad person, she repeated to herself. She just felt… a little uncomfortable around him, sometimes. Probably just part of him being slightly older than her. The three of them had been grouped together since they were too young to maintain a Light long enough as a pair.

‘And I’ve got their backs,’ Talia told herself again. That was how they all succeeded: together.

“Dante! F-Fenn!” she called out, only fumbling his name a little bit. “Want me to be first Light today? I’ve been practicing a technique to help me last longer.”
Hidden 8 days ago Post by Saiyan
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"Hey, bro," Dante said absently to Fenn by his side. Fenn cast a sidelong look at the taller demon as they walked. Dante had his eyes fixed on the ogre named Gunthar who was disappearing down the tunnels, way ahead of them. "What do you think of that guy, Gunthar?"

"Oh, the big man," Fenn answered. "I dunno, he's cool. Doesn't talk much."

"I sometimes catch him looking up at the sky, almost wistfully, ye know..." Dante explained. "I just wonder what's going through that head of his. Like maybe he wants out."

"Out? Of this place...? Lilith." Fenn shook his head bemusedly, then waved off the thought. "I wouldn't talk like that if I were you, Dante. That's just asking for trouble."

"I'm just saying... could anyone even stop him?" Dante went on, much to the visible discomfort of his friend. "My uncle says that the Ogre tribes fought off the humans for ages. Even after the Demon Lord was defeated. They were the last to fall. Stronger, tougher than anyone."

"I can't hear you," Fenn pretended, half joking - as was his way - but deadly serious that Dante should just stop wherever he was going with his musings.

"Alright bro, I get it," Dante finally relented. He knew that if anyone heard him talking like this, there'd be major punishment to pay. But his mind could only think of his earlier argument with his uncle. And one line in particular.

"...Your father was missing, replaced by a trail of purple blood that led to a river, where the trail went cold."

He's still out there, Dante thought.

Virgil started calling out at the head of the column. “Separate into your squads! As a reminder, torches are only for emergencies; we don’t want to make more work for the carters in charge of ventilation. Pair off, and trade who’s acting as Light BEFORE you run out of Aura. I’M TALKING TO YOU, TAGG! That happens again, I might not send a team after you next time!”

Dante grinned along with the chuckling crowd. He was close enough to lean over and give Tagg a friendly shove. The demon in question scratched the back of his head sheepishly, a grin on his face.

“Dante! F-Fenn!” Dante turned to see Talia approaching them. Talia was good people, with a big heart. Being of similar age, they were both in Old Draconhouser's care at the same time and grew up together. Dante had always liked Talia. “Want me to be first Light today? I’ve been practicing a technique to help me last longer.”

Fenn practically jumped on the Satir, putting an arm around her. "Oh, make you 'last longer,' huh?" Fenn goaded, putting a sexual spin on her phrasing. "Sounds wild."

Dante was caught between wanting to laugh and feeling uncomfortable for Talia. Had it been anyone else instead of the bookworm, classic Fenn would've gotten a laugh out of Dante, but instead he shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "Lilith, cut it out, you creep."

The three of them made a good team in the mines, and once they were at their spots, Dante was soon whacking rock with his pickaxe. "So Talia," he started, maintaining a steady pace of work. "What did you do with your day off?"

He picked up some ore, brushed a bit of soil off it with his hands as he took it over to the cart and dumped it in. Then he went back to gather more. He could hear some of the groans from older demons as they bent over, hauled themselves up, threw ore into carts. Each movement of the body seemed tough on some of the workers. Dante was still young and hale as ever, but it scared him to think that he'd be doing this the rest of his life. It wasn't something he really thought about often. But now...

"Your father was missing, replaced by a trail of purple blood that led to a river, where the trail went cold."

Hidden 7 days ago Post by Restalaan
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Gunthar

Moving his shoulder, Gunthar moved forward as he picked the specially made hammer for him. One end blunt and the other sharpened like a pick. A normal human would've struggled to lift it alone by himself, Gunthar picked it up like it weighed nothing as he pulled the cart behind him, with no else needed as he headed deep into the mines.

Reaching his area, Gunthar hefted his tool and struck into the rocks. Not to mine but to tear and gouge. Easily cracking stones in his path as he continued a steady rhythm, break the stones, dig through with the other and shovel the rest into the cart. Barely half an hour before he was already moving back out with cart in hand to dispose of the earth and obtain a new one.

So on and on it goes. Strike at the wall, break the large ones into smaller pieces, shovel them into the cart, move them at the end, repeat and repeat.

Gunthar felt his blood boil at times, he wasn't the smartest and there's food but it wasn't enough.

He wanted to see more, the fabled mountains of where the ogres once came from. Outside of this camp, anywhere besides this place.

So with that, he swung and worked his frustration out at the mountain. Carving stones, earth and even sometimes the precious mineral as he bore down with his hammer relentlessly. It reached a point where he had to stopped as he found the debris at shin length, forcing him to stop and shovel all of it while taking multiple carts.

@Saiyan@EmmaZ

On his way out, covered in dust and dirt, his eyes met with the trio again and nodded out of habit to them as he carried the cart loaded with soil and dirt behind to dispose off. Only grunting deeply as he focused on his job.
Hidden 14 hrs ago Post by EmmaZ
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The echoing boom of Gunthar creating their next tunnel traveled back over the trio as they worked. True to her promise (despite feeling awkward after Fenn hugging her for it), Talia was acting as first Light. Rather than trying to manifest her Aura as a torch, hovering over her shoulder as the older demons did, she channeled her Aura up to her horns. The two tips glowed, more than enough to light the tunnel around them out to thirty feet, with dim vision that far again.

"What did you do with your day off?" Dante asked his favorite Sunday question. It gave Talia pause for a moment, as today wasn’t Sunday, or even Moonday, but Tidesday; then again, her answer never really changed, either. And it looked like he had something on his mind. His swings weren’t as enthusiastic as usual.

“I spent Sitterday with Draconhouser, mostly helping Brom with his letters. He’s determined to catch up to Sophrena.” The sibling rivalry the twins had was cute, but at their age Brom was at a definite disadvantage. He never stopped trying, though, and Talia could encourage that.

Just having a sibling to compete with looked fun.

The mining continued, Dante semi-distracted but trying to keep some conversation up and Fenn semi-distracted by default; he never did a good job of staying focused on work, even with Talia’s polite nudging. Gunthar passed on his way out, pushing two carts full of rock and towing a third behind him. He’d definitely earned his moniker, “Big Fracking Gun.” As he came back through, an idea occurred to Talia.

“Why don’t we go with Gunthar? He’s making fresh tunnels, so there should be more ores right on the surface. He might even be knocking some loose that we could add to the carts.” She turned her gaze up, and up some more, to see what the ogre thought of the idea. “Would you mind, Gun? We’ll stay far enough back you won’t have to worry about hitting us.”
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