Hidden 2 mos ago Post by VitaVitaAR
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The sky was painted orange. The light played across the clouds, and cast that splash of color along the landscape beneath it. This light stretched the shadows of trees and other objects across the ground, making them seem almost jagged. Quite a large number of these shadows were moving.

The horses' hooves clacked as the hit the ground on a steady rhythm. Due to the large number of them, this created almost a chorus of clopping hooves. At the head of the group was a white mare, a young and sturdy horse clearly well-cared for. On her back was a girl, no older then sixteen, wearing armor with a flowing white and gold cape. Her armor was pristine, cared for with exceptional attention, shining in the light of the sunset. Though she had never been in any serious combat before now, the level of care to her armor would not falter even after doing so. It was a symbol of her office. To do any less would be to disrespect that office. Her hair was blonde, eyes purple-blue, and skin pale. Her features bore a grim expression as her gaze was fixed ahead on the darkness of the forest.

Bandit King Jeremiah. That was the name that the man they rode out against today had taken for himself. He led a band of thieves and criminals, vicious bandits who had pillaged even small villages by this point. They had preyed upon the innocent. They had killed the defenseless to claim their belongings. And their leader had the gall to claim himself a "King". Reports told of how he had cut down soldiers sent to destroy his band. Of how he had sent dying men to their villages just to mock them shortly before his attacks.

But the simple fact was that these weren't just mere bandits.

Jeremiah, regardless of what he called himself now, wasn't just the 'Bandit King'.

The rebellion of five years ago had fallen. Anzel Cazt lay dead and buried. But still fragments of his forces remained. Some had been wiped out, imprisoned or killed. But this Jeremiah, and no small number of his bandits, were reportedly one of the remaining shards of the shattered rebellion. Their banditry was not simply their means to accrue wealth and supplies, but a deliberate spit in the face towards the people of Thaln.

So, it had been decided it was time to put this to the test. To destroy these vicious and cruel men before they could take more innocent lives. Thaln's soldiers were unable to eliminate Jeremiah, but the legendary Iron Rose Knights...

Fanilly gripped the leather in her hands tightly. They had to win. She had to prove she could do this, and they had to destroy such cruel, wicked bandits. There was no question of it. The bandit's camp was not far off, not even too distant from the road. The Bandit King's brazen attitude had grown, leading to little fear from his band of criminals at remaining so close.

The smallish knight looked back over her shoulder.

"It won't be much longer that we will need to proceed on-foot," she said. Indeed, horses could only go so far off the road. Tangled roots and stones were certainly not the ideal terrain to navigate on horseback, there was no reason to risk losing one of the loyal animals to a broken leg.

The strategy was a simple one. To position themselves around the camp, advance inward, and destroy it. While the bandits were unusually powerful and no small amount were veterans of the War of the Red Flag, an attack by the famed Iron Rose Knights when they unprepared could surely eliminate them. But Fanilly was unsure of her ability to lead them to that victory. It was undeniably the outcome that should occur, but a thousand outcomes for failure had already played and replayed within her head. No matter how unlikely they may have been, the anxiety was still gnawing at her heart like persistent vermin.

But she didn't only feel doubts, even if it was a struggle to reassure herself.

Even though she doubted herself, deep down, Fanilly felt that the Bandit King was more of a braggart then a powerful warrior. He had likely exploited whatever advantage he could to take down the soldiers sent to eliminate his band of thieves. Even knowing they had been part of the rebel forces, the fact remained they were still bandits all the same.

Her knights were prepared.

Fanilly could only hope she was as well.

@Raineh Daze@Rune_Alchemist@Psyker Landshark@Pyromania99@HereComesTheSnow@Saiyan@The Otter@Crimson Paladin@ERode@Psychic Loser@Richard Horthy@Aeolian
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Raineh Daze
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In a way, it was quite annoying that this last major holdout hadn't stayed in one place until after the new captain had been instated. After all, hunting down the fragments of the rebellion for the past few years had been one way to make up for the mistake of letting a captain get killed... even though it didn't make much sense to shoulder blame for poison. Tyaethe was a warrior, after all, not a grand healer.

It left the feeling of shoving an unfinished job off onto someone that wasn't necessarily prepared for it. Looking on the bright side, at least it would be a good test of Fanilly's abilities, rather than being thrown from years of peace straight to a war.

Amongst the various knights in their armour and all the horses, the small girl couldn't help but looking out of place. Although her clothes suited her role as a paladin, there was no avoiding that she was distinctly underdressed for battle in comparison. And, of course, her mount was a rather unimpressive pony, dwarfed by everything nearby. At least she had her sword, lest anyone get the idea that she had wound up in a battlefield entirely by accident.

A cursory glance would suggest she was angry at the treeline for making her dismount. Really, she was just trying to see it properly.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Richard Horthy
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She took a long drag from her cigarette, finishing it up as the Captain made her order to continue on foot. Jeremiah -- the name rolled around in Katerina's head. It felt familiar, like she should know it from somewhere, but as her muse dragged on with puffs of her smoke, everything to connect those dots of acquaintance called up short, and Katerina sighed it all out in a big puff of herbaceous tobacco fumes. The butt end of her little muse-maker had finally burnt itself out, the little orange nub burning itself to a charcoal ash-clump along her lips. As the mage flicked the burnt, exhausted tobacco paper out of her mouth, she reached into a pouch just to the back of her belt, and retrieved her cigarette case -- a small, unfurnished metal case, barely larger than a deck of playing cards, only decorated with an engraved vine-like patter that had long faded. She popped it open with a light click. Three cigarettes left to get her through the evening, plus however long it would take to get back.

"Tch." Katerina flipped the case closed, sliding it back to its nestled nook in the belt pouch.

"Awl'right cap'n, who dae you ken tae go about for the flanking party in the auld akelarre?" No matter how hard she tried to the contrary, Katerina could never shake that Northern accent. Not that she usually tried very hard.

"You ken, if we're awl up in honour real proper-like about the occasion, I can think of'a few ways tae make this a wee bit more chivalrous. I think right about half of us could just about stae behind, make this a fair fight. Aye, infact -- I proper ken the lot of the scunners will take yin proper look at Hope and Tyae and run the fuck awae. Or, maybe -- should'ae go a wee bit up the road and blow some smoke signals up intae the air reading, 'Aye lads there's a four-and-ten strong posse up the way ready tae kill the whole lot of yae'?" As she made her jesting remarks, Katerina held a wide-eyed gaze with her eyebrows raised and her cheeks posed -- this was the closest most people had ever seen to her "smiling".
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Saiyan
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This is it, he thought to himself. This is what I've been training for.

The current situation sat strangely surreal in Sir Storm's mind. Even the fact he was a 'Sir' was an odd thing in of itself. But here he was, amidst a band of more than two hundred knights, about to fight it out to the death with bandits. Up until this point, it had been a concept - an idea - something far off to prepare for. For the few months he'd been a knight, he'd trained, ate and slept with his new comrades. He'd gone out into the city, looking for wealthy, lackadaisical lords and ladies that might 'make a donation' to his fundraising campaigns that would supplement his armour purchases. He'd purchased his incomplete armour, one piece at a time - a single pauldron here, a set of greaves there - and posed in the mirror when no one was around. Not to say that Lucas hadn't been taking the whole knight-thing seriously. He had. But there was a sense of fun to it.

Not anymore.

He was positioned near the front of the vanguard after forcing his way forward before they set out. 'The tip of the spear' as Gerard Segremors would say. Gerard was in fact the reason Lucas was determined to be here - both at the front and in the Order all together. He looked over to make sure he could still see his idol. There Gerard was, a row in front over to his left. It was reassuring for the younger knight.

As everyone began to dismount, Lucas did the same, swapping his lance out for the sword fastened to his saddle. His blood was already running fast.

"Awl'right cap'n, who dae you ken tae go about for the flanking party in the auld akelarre?"

Katerina, Lucas remembered. The colourful wizard was difficult to forget. And just as difficult to understand, at times. As the woman went on, offering up her advice, Lucas did his best to follow along. At least he would only have to fully understand Captain Fanilly.

Follow orders. Don't die. If he could manage these two things, he'd consider today a good day.
Hidden 2 mos ago 1 mo ago Post by HereComesTheSnow
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Gerard Segremors


Dusk brought the colors of flame to a sky of light, whispy clouds, each painted an ethereal rosé by Reon's final light and Mayon's heraldry announcing her approach. Beneath them, unmistakable and undeterred by the long, blackened shadows of the approaching brush, rolled the thunder of war. It rode over the countryside of Cental Thaln in a single wave, announcing along the road a tight collection of warhorses, surging across its length in a diamond tipped by points of caught sunset— Cavalry. Armor.

Knights.

Within the mass of riders, a pair of eyes continued to track the blurring trees and tawny scenery as it rolled past, their amber hues focused and alert, as though checking each shadow for the gleam of a steely edge, or latched bolt. Close to the front of the line, and off on the left side, their owner was theoretically, in one of the more dangerous spots within the riding formation they'd taken, doubtless— but save for those darting eyes, his face remained set in its hard, stoic lines.

It was, so far, hardly new— only four months ago, the knight had rode much the same way, for much the same task. The sword on his back hadn't changed, nor had the piecemeal armoring upon his torso and limbs, nor had the constant thudding of hooves against ground, drowning away all noise save for the rushing wind that tossed his short black hair behind him. All that had really changed was the comrades, and their station, and the time. Dawn for Dusk. Sellsword for Knight of the Realm. Familiar and faceless for unmistakable strangers. There may have been a poetry to it, Gerard could guess at that much, but whatever it may have been, whatever omen he could have pulled from it, was beyond him and his ken.

He was a farm boy, not the highborn nobility that lead this troop and comprised the vast majority of the Iron Rose Order, a collection of knights that had been the stuff of legends since long before his ignoble birth. His time under Reon's harsh light had served him well as a soldier in many way— it granted a strong back, integrity, and no fear for the odea of hard work. Days on end of striking and plowing the earth had given him many a knightly strength— but none of them that sort of drama. He hadn't the education, hadn't the right way of understanding. Trying to find some meaning where he hadn't the tools to forge any could prove disastrous. What if he'd fallen to disquiet? Cast fear, the jailer of action, into his mind? It would do nothing to serve him. Not in battle.

So by the time the thunder slowed and softened to a canter, Segremors had the werewithal to discard it, leaving only a single conclusion in its stead: All this meant was that his experience wasn't for nothing. For every last day he'd thought of giving up on the dream, that he would fall into an early grave toiling away as a mercenary... He'd find moments like this. Familiarity, from which stemmed confidence, stifler of fear. He'd run through his share of raids upon enemy camps in the six years prior.

This really was nothing he hadn't already faced— the only difference was that now he was more prepared, better trained, and among comrades of unquestionable caliber and skill.

They say Jeremiah's a veteran of the Red Flag war, on Cazt's side, so we'll need to assume some military discipline compared to common brigands, the freshly-minted knight told himself, now once again looking ahead to the Captain, and that it's not through any strokes of luck that he managed to rout crown soldiers so thoroughly. We're a storied unit. Elites. If he's earned a response that marshals us at all, he's got more than a bandit's tricks up his sleeve. For all it speaks of him...

Within the depths of his blood, black tar began to leak in, burning pitch that spread out from the heart with each recalled atrocity.

Sending the mortally wounded back to their homes as strickened doomsayers, managing barely three wheezing breaths warning of his approach before they succumbed.

Pillaging defenseless villages for food, coin, women, children. Places so like his home, far to the north. Anyone they didn't feel like holding for ransom, for labor, for Goddesses knew what, they gleefully cut down.

Spitting bitterly in the face of the realm they'd lost, trampling on the backs of those that simply tried to keep the wart off their doorstep. Using innocent lives to issue the challenge they were answering.

Justice. Justice. Even if Her light burns low, they would bring these men to swift Justice.

The smallish knight looked back over her shoulder. Momentarily, her eyes caught his— finding a knotted brow and fiery aurum. Then they slid on to the next night, then the next, then finally cascading down to the ranks behind. This'd be their first time working together. It remained to be seen what she was like.

"It won't be much longer that we will need to proceed on foot," she said.

Tack another new thing to the board.

Her voice, high and clear, managed to carry out to the line even over the racket of transportation. Fine by him. He was a footsoldier often, before all of this. If nothing else, hearing her speak told him he at least wouldn't have too much trouble catching her among the clamor of travel or melee— a young girl's voice tended to cut through the dull roar sharply enough. This situation ran counter to all he'd known prior in that regard, so used was he to the deeper, gruffer, and just as uncompromisingly loud bellowing of grown men.

To speak further on being an erstwhile sellsword... he held his certain quiet misgivings about the storied traditions of selecting for captaincy among maidens born under the full moon. He couldn't claim to begin to understand how it would affect their leaderly merit, for all his faith in the Celestial Goddesses. Even knowing she had two hundred years of the First and Youngest's experience guiding her hand, it couldn't be denied that Knight-Captain Fanilly Danbalion as both new and young in the role— barely older than he, when he'd first met his Quartermaster.

With a rough grunt of assent, he kicked off the stirrups as he dismounted his brown, nameless Rouncey, gripping tight the reins as his gaze continued to bore straight ahead. Where he on his, he'd probably have drawn his blade by now. It was good to be checked by others here, if only via presence.

But this was a matter of Knighthood, not Mercenary Companies. It was still yet his place to comment, for it was barely his place to begin to know. The Order of the Iron Rose had held its prestige through this method of selecting its new leader for far longer than any of them, save the aforementioned Paladin, had been alive. He could not ignore that, not as easily as he could ignore his misgivings. Already he'd learned well that a background of nobility and focused, hard training could begin to account for such a gulf in age and raw battlefield experience— Dame Serenity Arceeden, somewhere nearby, had seen to that over the span of multiple bouts together.

The young woman, scion of a great house in Thaln, was barely a year older than their Captain; yet pretty much already Gerard's height, deceptively strong, and polished in her technique as you could ask of any fighter he'd ever met. Moreover, while his physicality and relentless pressure had kept things more or less square in each exchange, none of his grab bag of mercenary tricks had fazed her remotely— she'd already prepared for how unclean and unkind war could be (thanks to a sporting competitive history with one Sir Renar Hagen, a ruthless poleaxe wielder further back) in spite of her youth. If anything, Gerard had to admit he came away the student of the two of them, quietly taking notes from her noble bearing on the things they both knew he was weak.

Perhaps the moon did have a way of so choosing people like them. He certainly had made no shortage of prayers to Reon and the Sun for victory, after all.

So, while Dame Katerina, one of their fellows focused on the mysteries of the arcane, jested mirthfully and loudly in that nigh-impenetrable dialect (amazingly, not its own language) of hers, Gerard kept his tongue. While the crowing jokes of signaling for fair fights, leaving half their retinue behind, and banking on the appeals of Dame Sir Hope and Paladin Tyaethe rained down overhead of the throng, Gerard's mouth remained a resolute line as he patted down his fittings, tested the pull of his knife from its bandolier, and his sword from its scabbard.

"Good. Ready."

The report, a tight and low almost-growl lost in the murmurs of his fellows, seemed destined only to ever reach his own ears— and such would be all he needed.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Aeolian
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Hope's Theme
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Hope's Japanese Voice
🌹 "This magic was given to me by my mother. I cannot waste it." 🌹

🌹 Time: Late Evening 🌹 Location: Outskirts of a forest 🌹 Interaction: Katerina @Richard Horthy 🌹


It was a lovely late evening, night was setlling in, and the brilliance of the moonlight licking Hope's fair skin gave him a certain glow. There was a dark wind that carried his hair and the veil that sat upon his crown. If it had not been for the current task at hand, one could of thought they were simply going for a starry stroll. But the armoured calvary, of which he was a part of, painted a different image.

Hope was a new recruit to the Iron Roses, an unusual figure who presence seemed to draw equal parts intrigue and admiration, as it did disdain and loathing from some of his fellow knights. Perhaps it was his beauty, that was the most obvious assumption. Or perhaps his inclination for magic rather than the sword, like most of his comrades preferred. It was in these moments of revelry that he appreciated Katerina, one of the other few mages in the Iron Roses that understood his plight. She had warned him early on that his magic and beauty might draw attention, for better or for worse. Most had not seen his magic, so it must of been the latter.

In many ways, Hope found it to be a burden he could not shake. In any case, he would not let his inner thoughts cloud his current purpose. This Bandit King he had heard about brought a fair bit of concern to his quivering heart. If his defeat required the throngs of the Iron Roses to be placed upon his doorstep, then the man must be a formidable adversary. But Hope understood his role. He may not be the one to lay down the sword onto this King of Bandits, but he would certainly provide whatever support was necessary.

Dismounting from his horse in one graceful swoop, he took his place beside Katerina as she jested about his beauty. A never-ending joke, heard time and time again from within the Candaeln halls. Whenever he walked by, some of the knights would whistle or try to pull him in for a kiss. He'd resisted, of course, each and every time, but eventually he feared that he might snap. Hope just wasn't sure when. Luckily, Katerina's teasing meant no harm, so a soft smile graced his supple lips, clearly amused.

"I possess no inhuman wiles, none more formidable than yours at least." He chuckled, hiding a humble grin behind his small hand like a demure princess. Eventually, a silence fell over him and he looked around to glean who was in his immediate presence. Of course, captain at the front. Then there was Lucas, a pleasant young man Hope was quite fond of; he often doted on the younger lad, giving him encouragement whenever he needed it. And then, curiously, Hope's gaze fell on Gerard, lingering over the man's frame for a short while. The look Hope gave was unclear, perhaps, some type of interest burned in his optics. In any case, he eventually looked away and back to the forest ahead. He surveyed the shadows of the forest that loomed, the canopies so thick that very little moonlight filtered through.

Hope put his hands together as though praying and then closed his eyes. This would be the first time many of the knights would see his rare summoning magic. An aura of magical energy surrounded his lithe silhouette, rippling the air with iridescence. When he began the incantation, his voice seemed to echo.

"O' angel whose brilliance lightens even the darkest of skies, favor this ground for the fulfillment of thy eternal journey. Yahoel!"


There was no way around it. Summoning magic was a spectacle, sharing in the same lack of subtly that Hope's renowned beauty seemed to possess. A crack in the space above his head opened, glittering particles of iridescent light filtered through and feathers as white as snow began to fall. Within the gleam, an angelic multi-winged spirit slowly began to descend. It was a beautiful creature, female in shape and firm like an athlete. Juxtaposing with the darkened night sky was truly magical.

Yahoel.

The angel-like spirit hovered near Hope, and he looked up at her with grateful eyes, "Thank you, Yahoel."

"It is an honor, my lord. How may I assist?" The spirit's voice was sensual and womanly.

Hope gestured toward the forest peak, "Do you see that canopy over there?"

Yahoel took a look at the forest, then the stars, and then nodded knowingly. "For now, keep watch from the skies. Darkness falls quickly, so please alert me of any incoming threats. I shall call for you if I am in danger." He and the angelic spirit reached out to eachother and held their right hands together, affection everpresent and tactile in their touch. They gave eachother a warm and familiar smile, "It shall be as you wish, my lord."

"Right then, be careful."

Once their hands fell away from one another, Yahoel flapped her many wings, dispersing glittering specks of witchlight and glowing feathers in her wake. And then, she gazed towards the moon and took off, hovering high above the Iron Roses so she could get a fair survey of the area. Eventually, Hope looked back toward Katerina and placed a gentle hand on her arm. The night was always scary and full of mystery.

"You be careful as well."
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by ERode
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Surrounding the camp and then advancing was a pedestrian strategy, made only tolerable under the presumption that the bandits could not organise themselves before their numbers were culled too heavily. But the Iron Rose Knights was a company armoured for war, riding upon roads of worsening quality as they approached the camp of the bandits. Those rebels, those experienced veterans ought to have noticed the signs by now, if they hadn’t become drunken off their string of successes.

Bandit King Jeremiah. Was his title a manifestation of his arrogance, or was it a lie to misguide his enemies’ judgement of him?

It didn’t matter, in truth. No matter how many of the Iron Rose Knights perished here, the Captain herself would survive this, if only on the merit of having the undivided attention of a centuries-old dragon slayer. The elven Dame would enjoy this too, as would the glory-seeking mercs amongst them. The healers would be busy after this, wouldn’t they? Picking up the bits and pieces if this extermination went sideways. Perhaps she was looking forward to that though. Looking forward to see whether or not a disastrous first battle would be enough to send little Fanilly crawling back into her room, perhaps this time nursing a habit of the liver-damaging kind to help her move past this.

That, too, wasn’t going to happen though.

Serenity slid the visor down her helm. Her preparations have been made. Her arrows were straight, her blades were sharpened, and her mace was a comforting weight on her hips. Cerulean eyes speckled with the last rays of the evening, the lady knight let out a long, low breath, emptying out everything bottled within. An angel flew skywards, shedding light against the magenta skies. The bandits would definitely know, now.

Good. She had no intent on the Iron Roses being known only for butchering a handful of incompetents.

“Sir Renar,” Serenity spoke without turning to her fellow knight, her voice echoing through her own helmet. “Will you be making the bandit king’s crown your next trophy? Or shall that honour be bestowed upon our Captain?”
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Psychic Loser
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Morianne


Despite the Captain's orders likely demanding the upmost respect, Morianne couldn't help but let out an audible yawn. It was nearly dark dammit! Most people would likely marching off to the land of nod. Despite being a knight herself for quite some time now, Morianne's chivalrous duty was never her top priority. Something always came first. In this case: sleep. Sure, the troubadour did have to admit that being proactive in this instance did make some sense. Jeremiah was a veteran, not some wannabe chump whose rise to power could be ended as swiftly as it had began. This "Bandit King" was serious business. It sure would have been nice to get an extra nod or two though. Beauty sleep is always important.

"Fucking finally!" Morianne groaned. "Horseback always gives me the worst wedgie."

As she shook off the calls of sleep, Morianne looked around the crowd of knights. Tension was undeniably high. Bodies shrouded in plate armor danced the dances of war that the troubadour was all too familiar with.

Morianne couldn't help but feel out of place among them all. Unlike the others, she not plate armor nor sword and shield. She had no formal combat training beyond what she had deemed necessary for her self-defense. Only a red lute sat in her lap. It may have been decorated with the brutal image of a skull, but it was still just an instrument and nothing could change that. It was honestly a wonder how she even managed to get this far. She was no knight. She was no soldier. She just a musician.

Even the actual fighters don't look ready for this. she thought. I might want to take this a bit more seriously...

Katarina's unmistakable twang brought Morianne back from any potential introspection.

"Awl'right cap'n, who dae you ken tae go about for the flanking party in the auld akelarre?"

"Do you want to repeat that for the people who don't speak hick?" Morianne chuckled to herself. Still, Katarina's comments, while in jest, did bring Morianne to question her own value to this little quest. If this was a stealth mission, the troubadour might just find herself as little better than a liability. Her magic was loud and not exactly subtle... She sighed and began to idly tune her lute, patiently waiting for Fanilly—or anyone—to continue. "Thrash wouldn't believe what I've gotten myself into..."
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Psyker Landshark
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Renar Hagen


This was a rare day indeed, for an otherwise peaceful era. The Iron Rose, assembled in force over a hundred strong. All this, for some admittedly-competent remnant forces. How Renar wished he'd actually been on the field to help crush their original armies but five years ago. Damn his old master for refusing to abandon his post to join the fight. Still, it served him little to dwell on that grudge overlong. Renar had won glory regardless, and now he stood as a knight of the Iron Rose.

The strategy their new captain had devised was certainly simple, to be sure. But that in itself wasn't a sin. Years of experience in the field had taught Renar that complex strategems were all well and good until the plan didn't survive contact with the enemy. Then everyone's time was outright wasted. It was still too early to judge their incumbent commander, and would be for some time. One battle alone wouldn't be enough to tell whether or not Knight-Captain Fanilly lived up to the expectations placed upon her, or crumbled under the weight. So for now, he'd support her and follow orders as best as he could.

After all, it was in his best interest that she turned out to be successful. Perhaps the girl would require a bit of prodding and assistance, given the truth behind some of Serenity's derisive comments about her in private company, but that was acceptable. Though Renar had his own doubts about selecting an otherwise untested maid as the leader of the greatest knightly order in the realm, she was at least given the finest training, education, and armament they had available. The order had survived this long with the tradition in place, so something had to be going right with the process. Or at least not catastrophically wrong.

Renar easily dismounted his steed when the order was given, slipping his helmet on before brushing his trophy cloak behind him. The Iron Roses' resident summoner made his presence known while the Bastard of Brias made some final checks on his equipment, making sure his armor and weapons were fit for battle. The straps on his plate were tight, and his armament was sharp and oiled. Perfect.

With his preparations done, he hefted his trusty poleaxe onto his shoulder and awaited further orders when suddenly the knight next to him spoke. Hah. Speaking of judging the Knight-Captain...

"Well, Dame Serenity," Renar responded in turn, not facing his conversation partner either. "A crown would be somewhat more presumptuous towards our sovereign than an orc's cloak. Should I manage to slay our quarry tonight, I suppose I'll have to settle for public acknowledgement of the deed from dozens upon dozens of hardened soldiers. That being said," His voice directed towards the knight opposite Serenity at his side in the line.

"What of you, Sir Fionn? Care to try for a war trophy of your own? Should you not care for a crown either, there's always the man's weapon."
Hidden 2 mos ago 1 mo ago Post by The Otter
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Fionn MacKerracher




Fionn had nearly leapt from the back of his horse, as soon as the order had come that they would advance on foot. As even tempered and well trained as the rouncey was, the saddle remained a place where he wasn't nearly as comfortable as he might otherwise be; no, his entire experience thus far had been as either a brawler or infantry, and carrying a lance or swinging a sword at the masses below in the charge still felt undeniably strange to him. He was far more comfortable facing his opponents on his own feet, rather than that of an animal, lording over them.

One of the changes to get used to, now that he'd received his accolade and been invested as a Knight of the Iron Rose.

Instead of leaping as he wished, however, he slid from the horse's back gently, patting it lightly on the side. "Rest, lad," he bid the animal. "Weight's off your shoulders for now, and it's us who have to worry about keeping each other safe, not you." Of course, he didn't carry quite the bulk of some of the others. A hauberk cinched tightly around the waist, longsword at his hip, dagger across the kidneys, and a cloak about his shoulders; lacking the weight in rolled and hammered steel that the others had, he could almost pass for one of the common soldiery along with them.

Almost; the clever joint work of his gauntlets and the few articles of plate he did have on his extremities clearly set him slightly apart, though not nearly to the extent of Sir Renar and Dame Serenity.

No matter, he thought to himself suddenly. It had served him well in the war, fighting against Jeremiah and his ilk. It would serve him just as well now. He wasn't left with long to contemplate the chance that he might recognize this "Bandit King" or any of his band from past fields, however, before he was addressed by one of his comrades. He glanced up quickly, over to the two standing next to him.

He stood thoughtfully for a moment, pondering what Renar had asked, before giving a noncommittal shrug. "If it isn't too tainted by the hand that wields it, aye, perhaps." He was rarely the type to keep trophies, unless it served a more utilitarian purpose. Armour was expensive; stripping it from the slain of both sides was an economical choice. Weapons as well. No use letting it rust if it might be put to use, to a better purpose than it had been. A brigand's blade, however, might be worth little more than smelting back down and recycling, to ensure that it carried no tainted legacy to the next to wield it.

He slipped one thumb into his sword belt, the other hand resting atop his pommel, as he fully turned to the pair next to him. He'd been dimly aware of Renar's answer and Serenity's query, and that which had come his way had brought the overheard, half-registered conversation squarely to the front of his mind.

And he paused for a single breath again.

Sir Renar, to some extent, he understood; more than a hand his superior in height, and with far more schooling in the knightly arts rather than simply in that of killing on forsaken dirt, the "Bastard of Brias" yet remained a kindred spirit, in a way. Physical, eager, with a similar mind for strength of skill and body, and a similar proclivity for footwork over hoofwork. The scion of House Arcedeen was herself not entirely dissimilar, but where Sir Renar's skill and training seemed to embody what a knight was, Dame Serenity's, so far as he noticed, embodied what a knight was ideally meant to be, and she remained no less skilled than any of the others for it.

But beyond that, he could not entirely put his finger on her. Her words and tone always seemed to place her in the nebulous point between what is and what was meant to be, and in that, she confounded him—but, perhaps now he would start to forge that confusion into understanding.

"What of yourself, Dame Serenity?" he asked, true curiosity in his voice. "It seems we're all in the van today, so there's plenty chance, like. Just depends if you're looking to take it."
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Crimson Paladin
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Fleuri Jodeau


Despite being neither at the very front or at the flanks, Fleuri was not difficult to discern among the procession of knights. He rode a few paces behind Lucas upon a caparisoned stallion, holding his lance upward. Both the caparison on his horse and the pennant upon his lance bore the colors and symbol of the Jodeau family- a black fleur-de-lis on a white background. This was not a mission where mounted combat would likely come into play, but he always preferred to be prepared. Perhaps it was also due to his diminished but lingering desire to stand out.

From what he knew about this mission, it was a worthwhile cause to put these bandits and their "king" down. They were more than just brigands, they were remnants of a traitor's army who refused to lay down their weapons when their cause was crushed. Now they prowled the woods, preying upon innocent people. Whether it was retribution against the people of Thaln for not supporting their traitorous cause, or simply ruthless acquisition of wealth and provisions, their predation upon the good people Thaln was evidence that their cause was just as unjust and twisted as it was five years ago.

"It won't be much longer that we will need to proceed on-foot," the Knight-Captain ordered.

Fleuri didn't envy Captain Fanilly and the burden of command she bore. To accept command at such a young age, especially after the impression left by her heroic predecessor, was a daunting task. Sixteen years seemed like quite a young age for someone to win their spurs commanding knights in a battle, but it wasn't Fleuri's place to question the Iron Roses' customs even if he didn't understand them. There were already many nobles that wanted the Iron Roses' traditions to be done away with, and in the face of such political opposition, the captain would to be supported by her knights.

As the brush got thicker, Fleuri did as the others did and dismounted, then drove his lance into the ground as a makeshift stake that could be used for tying his horse. He drew his greatsword and hefted it over his shoulder. It was a bit ironic, that only after he had let go of his lingering resentment and anger at not being able to participate in the war, after he made amends and set himself on the straight and narrow, that it'd all lead to him fighting the traitorous Cazt forces. This would be a mere mop-up compared to the decisive battles of the War of the Red Flag, but it was nonetheless important that these holdouts be stamped out.

The sorceress-knight Katerina wasted no time speaking up to Fanilly, offering suggestions on how to proceed. Fleuri hoped that the captain wouldn't be too overwhelmed with all the people telling her what to do and how to do it. For his part, he kept back, not wanting to make a scene or make things more difficult for Fanilly. Still, her boisterous talking was downright subtle compared to what came next- another one of the order's magic specialists, a feminine man named Hope, cast a spell and summoned a radiant, winged being.

If the bandits were nearby, they'd definitely notice that. At the same time, a 200-plus procession of knights wouldn't exactly be stealthy in any way. More concerning to Fleuri was whether the captain had ordered that- the notion of the mages using flashy magic without any input or go-ahead from the captain didn't sit well with him. It was their duty to follow Fanilly's orders, the last thing she needed at the precipice of a battle was for her own knights to undermine her authority. Still, he saw the logic of that summon. These woods were a prime spot for an ambush, and the bandits were probably familiar with the terrain, meaning it'd be imperative that the knights not go into this blind.

Fleuri walked up besides, Lucas, a young mercenary-turned knight. He and Gerard, another knight nearby, had originally been part of a mercenary band whose deeds of heroism earned them the opportunity to become Reonite knights. It was good, he thought, to see people of humble origin rise to become knights through valorous deeds. The nobility, diminished as it was and often grappling with the vices of entitlement and decadence, needed some fresh blood from time to time.

Lucas wasn't the only knight here of age similar to Fanilly. Serenity, another knight of an old noble bloodline, was also only 17. In fact, from what Fleuri had heard in the circles of high society, Serenity had been born under a full moon, which means she may have been a candidate for knight-captain. She was certainly far more confident in herself that Fanilly, and if Fleuri had to guess, her confidence and skill at her age suggested that she may have been raised to be a potential candidate. It wasn't unheard of for noble girls born under a full moon to be raised in hopes of becoming captain of the Iron Roses.

As curious as the other knights were, and as engaging as conversation might be, Fleuri kept silent and focused on the situation at hand. He did not want to be caught off-guard, and besides, actions spoke louder than words, thus it would be during battle that the knights would truly get to know each other. And that time was rapidly approaching.
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This was it.

Her first real 'test' as a member of the Iron Roses, if you will.

Amidst the company of knights, Cecilia had decided to remain near the back of the procession for both practical and other personal reasons. Mostly, to gather her own thoughts. It was rare she wasn't chatting up one of the other knights, trying to talk their ears off or getting up to some small mischief, but as the sun would slowly start dipping over the horizon, long shadows creating familiar tones of twilight a feeling of slight melancholy would fall over the typically amicable archers features. She still couldn't quite believe she was here, among some of the best knights in the kingdom. It was a good thing then, the only one who knew anything about her past was herself.

Anyone else well...they hadn't a clue to her whereabouts and the rest of her family was likely deceased anyways.

"When I asked you to stop being so cavalier all the time, I didn't mean for you to suddenly start wearing a scowl uglier than that elf lady."

"Sorry your majesty. I'll try to be depressed a little quieter."

"Oh will you? Well, good. I'm trying to sleep before I have to save your lazy butt from whatever these bandits are and its awfully noisy. I don't need you being loud enough for me to hear either." Cecil sighed as Seshaeal fell quiet, though she couldn't help but to smile faintly as she'd turned her eyes back towards the knights in front of her. Harsh words aside, the wind spirit meant well, at least, in the what...eight years they had been together she had a pretty good grasp of how the impertinent and slightly whimsical wind spirit worked.

At least she felt good enough to focus a bit more on the mission at hand.

Bandit King Jeremiah. A traitor, just like her parents. It made her just a bit agitated, all things considered though not for reasons most would likely realize, and here she was riding with a company of prestigious knights to put him to rest. It was surreal really, that she'd ever have a chance to do something like this after her life of what she'd consider constantly fucking up as they say. It was a chance she couldn't squander, and one she intended to at least put in as much effort that she could into.

"It won't be much longer that we will need to proceed on-foot,"

The voice of knight captain Fanilly pulled her from her thoughts. Almost time to get serious, then. Cecilia slowed her mount as the roads became much less smooth, underbrush and hard to traverse wild land became their foot path. Just as well for her. She was never a fan of horses and even in battle she much preferred the wind spirits blessing and her own agility then riding some beast of burden. She'd dismount with expected agility others likely came to expect of her, hitting the ground with barely a noise as she'd take a moment to make sure her companion was strapped firmly to her side. Arrows. Backup dagger. More arrows. A spare apple or two to snack on mid battle because a quick pick me up did wonders for the spirit at times.

Katerina's boisterous voice was the first to speak as they dismounted. Perhaps it was her own noble upbringing, but even during her mercenary days she could never quite grasp that accent or any similar to it. Serenity and Renar caught her attention next, talking about trophies and bragging rights for whoever would be taking Jeremiah's head. Well, now that wouldn't do at all. They were forgetting the one clearly with the best chance here to effortlessly take out the bandit king.

"Heeeey, don't you guys forget little ol' me!" Cecilia laughed as she'd run up, making a valiant effort to put a friendly arm around Serenity's shoulders. "If anyones gonna be taking that bandit guys head, its gonna be me! I got ten arrows with his name on 'em and they're gonna turn his skull into a pin cushion."
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As far as her allies were concerned, there was a quiet intensity exuding from Shanil's person. Anyone could notice fairly easily the elf's reaction as her understanding of their targets changed from bandits to veteran rebels. All anyone really knew about the woman's past is that she was heavily engaged with the elimination of rebel forces before the official end and after the end of the war and that if she had a cheerful personality at any point, it was long gone by now.

Her biggest regret since learning from her teacher, was that she wasn't able to end the life of the rebellion's leader herself. Still, it was a small consolation that even five years after that dreadful conflict, she was able to cleanse the world of such filth yet again. Regardless, they were closing in on their target. If there were less of their adversaries, she'd ask to slip in under the cover of darkness and personally end every enemy, though she of course knew this wasn't quite as feasible as she would like to think it were. Most of the times during the war that she took action was while the armies fought each other. Silencing a commander here or there. Making a patrol go missing. Realistically though, she was only the muscle of the duo. Her master had planned everything meticulously and she needed only trust his words.

Things were vastly different now. Though he had never mentioned anything specific about the Order he had once belong to, he was an old and wise man. If she didn't know better, Shanil'd have thought him to be the leader of his Order back in the day before it all came crumbling down. Now, however, in her service to the Iron Rose, she was lead by an unproven youth even by human standards. She knew of the tradition of the order, however, it felt all too odd to her. Perhaps it was her upbringing in elven society that gave her a different common sense but she had pondered for a time how could one as young as Fanilly truly lead a Knightage. Time would tell, at least. The plan for the day was simple enough to work.

"It won't be much longer that we will need to proceed on-foot." Fanilly mentioned. It wasn't much longer before the force was dismounting from their horses. She moved forward, steering clear of that annoyance of a girl, Cecilia. In her attempt to distance from Cecilia, Shanil accidently bumped into someone's shoulder. She took a look to make sure whoever it was didn't fall over, but after making sure they were fine Shanil just kept moving.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by PigeonOfAstora
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Lein



Location: Roadside, Bandit Camp Approach
Interactions: Cecilia @Rune_Alchemist, Serenity @ERode
Mentions: Fionn @The Otter, Renar @Psyker Landshark



Among the advancing silver was a pair of orange-furred ears that drifted lazily among the ranks, accompanied by a whistling tune that pranced along the sounds of horse cantering. Its owner, barely taller than the shortest members of the procession, absent-mindedly spun a metal dart across a set of ossific fingers, clinking slightly as each digit weft the it back and forth in an odd display of dexterity. With one final spin into the air, 'Sir' Lein caught the dart with his other, living hand, before slotting it back across the belt-quiver that stretched across his breastplate.

Lein rode in the same manner as he usually went about on foot - skulking out the formation whenever the road allowed him to and occasionally taking the detour to jump over the occasional fallen lumber just to see if he could. He had never been too big of a fan of these long marches, even less since they had to travel in formation for most of the time due to the procession behind them. But he took the opportunity to catch his first few glances at the full cabal of knights that had assembled for the march. From veterans like Dame Morianne whom Lein only needed one scolding to learn to avoid, to new faces such as Dame Cecilia with her temptingly fancy bow, and even the lonesome Dame Serenity, this was a war-march, and anyone who was anything under the Iron Banner were here.

At the head of this band was of course, the illustrious leader of the Roses, Dame Fanilly. Knight Captain Fanilly. It felt strange to attribute that title to the tiny blond figure riding in front of him, as even the horse looked so giant and the armour seemed strangely ill-fitting upon the shoulders of Knight-Captain (though to be fair, these horses were too large for Lein too). Strange would be putting it politely - Lein would bet coin on whether the blond haired girl was even old enough to go through a Teething by Hundi standards. He would also bet twice that someone, somewhere, had paid a hefty sum to place this Knight-Captain right at the heels of the 'Bandit King'.

Not that Lein bothered to voice his concerns. Anyone who had the guts to call themselves the 'Bandit King' outside of a drunken bar fight would have at least some meat behind their claims, and anytime 'bandits' dropped the pretence of being the underdog meant that they were pretty confident about not being the underdogs anymore. Still, it was hard not to look back over the forces that marched up dust behind the Knights' procession and not feel like this whole process was going to be decided by their sheer numbers alone. And if the King managed to pull a fast one on them, or if that small figure at the front couldn't keep it together: well, Lein would probably find a way.

As the procession dismounted one by one, Lein took a moment to have one last glance at the darkening road ahead before he, himself, landed on the road with his own two feet. Ahh, finally. No offence, but two legs are better. Lein thought as he tied the horse. He could see the other knights start to declare their intentions of glory and fame. Sir Fionn, Sir Renar and Dame Serenity. Those three, as Lein recognized early into his induction into the Roses, were the thoroughly chivalry-blooded, - training and glory and all. It wasn't much of a surprise to Lein that this 'knightliness' would include staking their claims on the trophies to be won. The trophy on Lein's mind was simple as always: his head on his shoulders, and maybe loose change. But that would make for a terrible drinking story, won't it?

Lein put on his usual mischievous grin as he spotted Cecilia dash up to Serenity and attempting to lock her with an arm around her shoulders. "Great, I was starting to think we came all this way to have some moonlit tea with the King." He said, slinging his prosthetic arm around Serenity's shoulders from the other side, and pointing to Cecilia's bow. "Though I reckon I only need one arrow to put knock him out."
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Rin
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Alodia

It was a little overwhelming, really, riding alongside so many people for the first time. Sure, she'd talked to a lot of people since she started leaving the forest, and she'd seen a bunch of them around the castle a few times already, but this was her first time actually out on assignment with them. Admittedly she was riding at the back, supposedly because she was inexperienced in actual combat and due to her not being as physically capable as the actual knights (although with how trigger happy she was that was probably partially just an excuse), but still... Not only that but she'd never rode a horse for this long either! Honestly, she was starting to get a little bit twitchy by this point.

"Then again I guess Granny always said life's all about new experiences!"

Like bandits. Bandits! Back home in the forest you rarely ever saw actual bandits, and when you did they were usually being victimized by wolves or boars or trolls or the angry trees with vine tentacles. Thinking about it, she should probably go back to her cottage at some point in the near future. The trees were probably getting hungry again, and that was never a good thing.

Although really, when she stopped to think about it she wasn't entirely sure what was going on with the bandits. Fanilly (she looked so young and cute! Was she really the leader of these knights?) had mentioned something about one of them being a king or something, and something about a rebellion. Honestly, trying to remember everything the captain had said made her head hurt. Politics and current affairs were definitely not her area of expertise, after all.

Speaking of Fanilly, she seemed to be about to give the order to dismount. At least that was something she could understand. After all, if she forced her horse to cross rough terrain and ended up getting it hurt, the horse spirit would probably be disappointed in her at best.

Now, if only she could remember how to actually dismount this thing.

"Ah, um... Wah!" She slipped, she tumbled, she somehow managed to still land on her feet. Definitely all due to natural acrobatic skill, definitely not because she'd cast a minor air spell to correct her fall. Nope, definitely not that at all.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by VitaVitaAR
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Now dismounted, Fanilly took a deep breath as she surveyed her knights.

Hopefully, the bandits were not fully aware of their approach, though Sir Hope's deployment of some form of familiar or summoned spirit could have notified them it would also be useful for sighting any potential threats. She just wished he would have waited for her to order its deployment, first...

The petite blonde knight inhaled deeply, once more.

She had to calm herself. To organize her forces. To begin to dismantle the problem ahead step by step. The Bandit King and his wicked brigands had to be slain or brought to justice. That was Fanilly's duty as Knight-Captain of the Iron Rose knights.

She had to calm her hammering heart and begin.

"Dame Celica, once we have neared the enemy, I would ask that you scout the road ahead, with support from Sir Hope's summoned spirit," she began, "Once you have reached the bandit camp, return here at once and inform us of the state of their encampment. Their forces, their fortifications, gather as much information as you can."

The archer-knight with the keen eye and a summoned spirit. Surely, they were the ideal scouts in this situation, weren't they?

"Once you have returned, we shall advance and split into three groups to encircle the camp. Archers and magi will remain behind and offer support to those in front," she continued, "Do not loose arrow or spell wildly into the encampment. They have prisoners, and we cannot injure any innocents who may be out in the open."

Fanilly hesitated a moment. What if the bandits used their prisoners as hostages? She couldn't bear the idea of hurting anyone who had been dragged from their homes to some terrible camp in the woods, to be forced into servitude or sold.

But she was Knight-Captain. She had to keep going onward. She had to fulfill her duty.

They had to save the prisoners and exterminate the bandits.

"Once they have been encircled, we will move in, rescue the prisoners, and crush the bandits in the name of Mayon's justice."

It was a standard strategy, but one that served well in a situation like this. They would leave openings to give the illusion of escape, but slay any bandits who refused to surrender.

Now, they would simply get in position, Celica would count ahead and it would be time.

Time for Fanilly's first taste of combat as Knight-Captain.

As they advanced around a thick grove of trees, something caught the young knight girl's sight.

She stopped dead. Ahead, wheels smashed, caught up against a tree, was a cart. A horse lay dead in front of it, arrows sticking from its side and neck. A man lay on the ground. He wasn't moving.

The Order's duty came to the forefront of Fanilly's mind immediately as she moved forward. There was the sound of metal on leather as she drew her longsword in one hand, the blade flashing in the light of the setting sun. Even if this was foolish... if that man was alive...!

The Captain of the Iron Rose Knights sprinted forward without a second thought. Soon she was upon the cart, coming to a halt and kneeling beside the downed man. He was an older man, in his late fifties perhaps, with greying black, short hair and simple clothing. His side was soaked in blood, and there was a gash in his flesh. And yet, he was still breathing, even if he was pale an unconscious.

"... He's still alive!" Fanilly called to the others, looking back over her shoulder, "But he needs aid immediately!"

@Raineh Daze@Rune_Alchemist@Psyker Landshark@Pyromania99@HereComesTheSnow@Saiyan@The Otter@Crimson Paladin@ERode@Psychic Loser@Richard Horthy@Aeolian
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Dismounted, Tyaethe's position was most easily marked by the much longer sword resting against her shoulder, sticking up over the heads of the assembled throng inc ase anyone thought they might make the mistake of walking into her. Aside from that reminder of her presence, the paladin might as well have been a ghost, walking quietly alongside the captain and looking a little livelier at the prospect of combat. Surround and go in? Not perfect, not if your aim was an easy battle but allowing for escapees would defeat the entire point. Even with military training and Jeremiah, the entire force should be no issue.

The vampire tilted her head with curiosity as the cart came into view. Dead horse, broken cart, and the smell of blood--plus a weak heartbeat. How curious, that there would be a single injured man this close to the bandit's camp, at this time of day as the knights were closing in on their prey. Obviously, it was an ambush.

That her senses betrayed their would-be killers lying in wait was an unnecessary level of information.

But... what would the captain do? If it was up to Tyaethe, she would spring the ambush on her own and let them try their luck. It wasn't like she was going to die to a handful of bandits after so many years. It would even conveniently allow her to fulfill her other duty and protect the innocent, although her first aid skills weren't anything to write home about, and healing magic... well, it had never seemed a good time to learn.

Hm, either the captain had the same thought, or she hadn't spotted what was going on. She had a good heart, though, they'd just have to make sure she kept it. Picking a knight at random, the vampire nudged them with an elbow. "Go on, make sure she doesn't get surrounded," Tyaethe muttered.
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“Soldiers don’t sing so well,” Serenity said, tilting her head in the direction of their one-woman warband. “Best to save some coin for Dame Morianne if you wish to cement a claim without a trophy.”

A scoff sounded within her helmet as Fionn’s question hung in the air. “Alas, unless the Bandit King’s worth a hundred men, claiming his head for House Arcedeen would do little to raise our prestige. It is another story, of course, if he would be so kind as to offer his neck to me, but…” She allowed her smile to bleed into her tone. “...in matters of martial capability, I’d fear more the Bandit Knights than a Bandit King.”

Cecilia and Lien, the two charming archers of the Iron Rose Knights, were happy to toss their bows into the bracket too, each of them trying their best to get an arm around Serenity’s shoulder. In this case, with her hair bundled up inside her helmet and her plate armour enough that she couldn’t even feel them through it, she didn’t mind at all, simply taking a quick step to shed off their friendly gesture and leave them holding each others’ arms.

“If Jeremiah’s fool enough to come into battle without a helmet, please, be my guest.” She tapped her own helmet. “And if he comes in with a helmet?” Through the slits in her visor, it was impossible to tell, but the young lady was most certainly smirking at them now. “Please. Be my guest.”

Whatever jabs were to be exchanged after such statements, however, would have to wait, as the Knight-Captain issued her orders. Functional, once more, but lacking still, owing to the compounding effects of poor decisions made before they reached this point. And, to expect restraint from Adolia...in this case, it would have been better to not have brought that witch along. The taller ask, regardless, would be to rescue the prisoners before crushing the bandits. Delay too much with the former, and the morality of this iteration of the Iron Rose Knights would be put to the test indeed.

Considering who stood around her, it would be better if such a test was no-

“Tch.” A cart that struck a tree. An injured man beneath. A test already. “Sir Lien, Dame Cecilia, check the trees.”

Where arrows were, arrows could be, and while Fanilly drew her sword, Serenity hoisted up her shield, advancing in lockstep with the young Knight-Captain. Injury in his side. Maybe his guts. Serenity interposed herself in front of both Fanilly and the man, angling her shield at an angle in case enemies were higher up, and motioned with her other hand for the younger knight to make a retreat.

“Drag him back, Captain. This one’s new.”
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Gerard Segremors


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He chuffed, a low snort that left from mouth and nostril alike as a white luminescence shone overhead, stemmed from a figure spun from aether—and out of nothing, save for a single airy voice. Summoning magic, then, by one of his fellows— Sir Hope, he wagered. A spectacle like this, however awe-inspiring, would be impossible to conceal from all but the dullest-eyed lookouts. They'd effectively just strolled up and presented arms—

behind you.

And a voice, soundless and wordless, rang in his head. Instincts, he realized, latching onto aggression. Catching the sound of footsteps approaching too close to where he stood, he began to turn—

THMP.

"Hey, the hell's your problem—"

Only for his pauldron to crash into that of a billowing, towering stormcloud, her eyes burning as she stalked forward. As she stopped and glanced his way, barely registering the collision, he stuffed the snapping retort down; insults still feeling far too familiar on his lips all the same for knighthood. He wasn't among sellswords anymore— pointless roughhousing was out of character.

Beneath his brow, still tight, his eyes narrowed when he took a step back both mental and physical. The culprit was Dame Shanil, whose piecemeal history Gerard had little knowledge of on the best days...

But everything I have learned points to the Rebellion. So if you have to guess, Gerard...

And here, the brief flash of a grievance died quietly.

Personal grudge. Something real big, too, if she had tunneled in that hard. Frosty as he'd grown to realize the raven-haired elf to be, he was pretty sure he could trust his instincts on this, at least— she kept to herself far too much to shoulder-check for the juvenile thrill of it. She'd been distant thunder ever since the Order had realized these to be rebels, and not the bandits they claimed to be. Not one word spoken before or during the ride out here— just seemed to center her gaze somewhere dead ahead of them all.

He knew this well.

It all added up.

Felt like he had another piece to the puzzle she was, honestly.

And so, that rising anger in his chest probably couldn't even come close to whatever drove her straight through him. He had no right to complain, either— how many times had he done similarly in his life? All he knew was that single-minded march towards slaying his enemy for years now. Already, she was moving on— unbothered by whatever wasn't immediately pressing. If he'd gotten mad, he'd have gotten mad at the wind in her wake.

"We'll have his head by midnight." Gerard instead spoke again, in a tone tightly controlled and sharp as a sword's tip this time, as he fell in line with her. They both had bigger fish to fry— and their only difference was that their foes hadn't personally wronged him. He might have been uneducated, comparatively, but he wasn't an idiot.

He'd already made sure everything was ready to go. Gear checked out. He himself went without question. Handed his horse off with a gruff word of thanks. Why stand around with his thumb up his ass, when the Captain had already gotten the plan up and running?

...

The knights began to move as a unit, splitting off from their mounts and venturing further into the thicket, still keeping to the road— for now. The plan was simple, as far as they went— simple and standard. He certainly didn't mind that. Easy to follow for anyone, easy to carry out beneath anyone. This type of assault on enemy encampments— encircling, enclosing, and then eradicating— it was like putting on an old glove.

It didn't tell him much about her, save for maybe that she didn't mind the classics. And there was something to be said for not overcomplicating things earl—

A flash of red caught his eyes and pulled him in full to the world, gleaming in the dull light and unmistakable for its crimson hue. Blood, fresh. It seemed to cascade down the side of the man, stemming from a massive and ragged gash in his flank, impossibly bright against the pallor of his skin and the wood of the busted cart he was slumped against. Not long for the world at all. Too much lost. But fresh. That bright meant the wound couldn't be older than—

Steel slid free from leather, and a burst of motion came from the front, further ahead than even he and Shanil. Their leader, surging forth at the sight of a life nearing its last. He didn't need to guess why, but...

His eyes darted around them, flicking between the tall, jagged, and ever-darkening trees and shadows that lay beneath. Those same animal instincts were screaming at him, just as they were at every knight who could match or exceed his tenure in war.

"Knight-Captain, that's—"

His mind flashed to what they'd learned of their quarry before riding here. His habits, his mode of announcing himself... how he sent the half dead to their home villages, to scream warnings of his arrival. Every single time, it had already been too late. A deep breath pulled into his lungs.

They knew.

"—bait, dammit!" he growled, kicking off his toes as his sabatons tore through the soil of the road, only a stride and a half behind Dame Serenity. His longsword found its way into his hands on its own accord as he'd made the connection, and settled into an ox guard as he skidded to a halt behind the pair of blondes. The elder's read of the scene before them, naturally, mirrored his own— and though he lacked any shield, he instinctively reflected her in turn, interposing himself between the opposite line of trees and the Knight-Captain.

The perpetrators could come from goddamn anywhere— but he was certain they would. Seeing it up close, the wound was fresh enough that he was convinced they'd likely heard the Knights' mounted approach— and definitely seen the angel's light. It was his job to meet'em halfway, whenever they showed themselves.

He had nothing to add to the exchange of words— Dame Serenity was right already. Instead, he kept his eyes moving between shadow to shadow, and ears straining to hear each shift in the woods.
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Lein



Location: Roadside, Bandit Camp Approach
Interactions: Cecilia @Rune_Alchemist, Tyaethe @Raineh Daze, Alodia @Rin
Mentions: Serenity @ERode



Lein's smile didn't falter as Serenity shrugged him off, and instead grew wider at Serenity's retort, entertained at her challenge. "I certainly would like to see a helmet, it would be far too easy otherwise." And if not, let's see that scrap iron try to stop a dart to the head. He thought.

He turned to Cecilia, tapping the side of his eyes. "If our man's wearing a helmet, I'll give you my next ration if you can shoot through the visor. If I can, let me try out that bow of yours." Ever since he had lain his sights on the sparkling green limbs of Cecilia's bow, Lein had always longed for a chance at handling it. His shortbow was good enough at what it did, of fine Hundi make, but surely such an expensive looking bow would fly differently? Though as Lein recalled watching her arrows adjust themselves in flight back at the shooting ranges, he pondered if he just tossed down a weighted gauntlet.

As he was about move, however, he felt a movement at his side. When he spied Tyaethe's telltale orange scarf next to him, shivers ran up his tail and Lein instinctively covered his neck with his prosthetic arm, his body remembering far faster than his conscious mind can react. "Wait, I haven't even pawned it off ye -" Lein interrupted himself with a cough as he processed what the vampiric paladin actually instructed and regained his poise, though his tail failed to return to its usual bushiness. Right. Lein just didn't have to have a repeat of *that* incident, and he would be fine. He regarded the sight of the cart in front of them and the oncoming darkness.

"Stop me if you've heard this one - dead horse, broken cart, at dusk, right in the middle of the path of the conquering force they know that's coming, then they don't bother to sic the one man who can tell us where they went? Sloppy." Lein gave the air a sniff. Fresh blood. Even if it wasn't planned, these thugs would have surely heard the procession moving through and looped back. "Or they know exactly what we're gonna do."

And the bandits would probably be correct. Whether or not Lein was the one to jump unto the baited trap, the bait would be far too tempting for the more chivalric types to not take. Plus, the honourable Knights would have no choice but to act their part, in front of all the procession that was watching them from the back. Lein would just have to be the one to try and spot the trap before it closed fully. As he heard Serenity call him out to check their surroundings, he gave an undertone of a grumble and a nervous sideways look at Tyaethe. "Alright, already on it." And thought to himself, "'Sir'. Urgh."

He looked back toward Dame Alodia, who gracefully toppled over from her mount. Though her strengths over basic athletic skills was questionable, her lack of restraint at not obliterating her target unsuitable for anything approximating stealth, Lein had spied her command over fire back in the castle. If she decided to not burn down the forest, she would be perfect at lighting the place up. "If you can send out a light or something, more than appreciated."

As Lein moved out toward the brush to scout out any dangers that would jump on them, his gait shifted to one of a stalker's, tail lowered and ears perked up, his body low to the ground and all movement with the purpose of silencing his steps. With a muted clack his prosthetic arm reached back and drew his trusted shortbow. His real hand slipped on a thumb ring and a fletched arrow, holding it knocked and ready to fly at a moment's notice. Lein carefully surveyed the branches and the foilage for any movements and the air for sweat. The darkness would make it more difficult, but Lein had hunted elusive game in the dark before.
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