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Hidden 12 days ago Post by ERode
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ERode Odd One Out

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Oratorio.

The Deepest Frontier.

The City of Opportunity.

The Guardian of the Abyss.

Here, more than anywhere else, were legends born. Where one could reach astronomical highs and then suffer an ignoble end that overwrites all prior deeds. Where one could seek their fortune, with nothing more than the strength in their arms and a mind quick enough to seize the moment. Through the wilderness, through dirt roads, you’ve travelled, bolstered by chance encounters of others who travelled in the same direction, those with hope in their eyes for a brighter future, for a chance to prove themselves worthy.

You’ve seen those who travel the opposite direction too, beaten down by all that they could not overcome. It was the fear for some, the fear of what descending into the cradle of the monsters truly meant. Others found their limits in their bodies instead, their careers cut short by one bad cut to their arm or leg. Still more shuffled away, crushed by the guilt of the survivor, unable to pick themselves up after that one meaningful defeat. For as many legends of Adventurers have left Oratorio, there were tenfold the amount of those had-been Adventurers, nothing more than sunken vessels who may not even make it home.

Perhaps you avert your gaze. Perhaps you offer some paltry kindness. Perhaps you don’t think about them at all. For others seek Oratorio for fortune, but you? You’re possessed by a higher calling. The Shard in you, that fragment of fallen divinity, sings within your soul, urging you onwards still. It is a pernicious desire, the call of the Abyss, but it is that desire that pulls you awake at daybreak, that causes you to stretch your aching legs, that brings you upon the road again, avoiding bandits and monsters alike to go ever onwards, to Oratorio.

And now?

On that morning?

Fields of grass become beaten dirt. The stench of humanity, rather than the smell of nature, is pulled along by the wind. The air itself becomes warmer, more fetid, while in the distance, you can see the glorious, gorgeous buildings of the Royal Road, standing proud upon the desiccated sprawl that continually expands outwards from the city proper. It does not take long for roadside paupers to appear. It doesn’t take long for flint-eyed thugs to start canvassing you either. Craftsmen and criminals work side-by-side upon paths that become ever-narrower, and soon enough you have to keep an eye overhead, ever-ready to step aside from someone emptying their washbasin or chamber pot from a room above.

It is overwhelming. It is disgusting. It is degrading.

But it too, is Oratorio.

And this too, must be endured.
@Izurich@Kero@Estylwen

//O11 - Deserted Backstreets
It was unsurprising that no one else looked like Vio.

White hair could be found on the elderly, and blue eyes were a bit of a rarity but didn’t look too out of place, but for someone with both features? And combine that with skin nearly as white as paper? All on someone who looked like they were either a prostitute or a prince, in the springtime of his youth? There were many eyes on him from the moment he entered Oratorio.

There were more eyes on how heavily his clothes seemed to be weighed down, ears pricked for the jangling of coin in his pockets and his purse. Garth had been kind, leaving behind so much for Voi to use, but the merchant hadn’t ever visited Oratorio himself either. City-states, towns, villages, they all had their methods of keeping order within their boundaries, but here? In the Outer Layer? There was no such thing.

And now, Voi found himself in some deserted alleyway, pressed against the wall by three small-time thugs. The biggest one, a burly brawler with a face like a potato, blocked off one side of the alleyway with broadness of his shoulders alone, while one of average mass but above average height (which only served to make him look like a string bean) slinked about the other side, one eye on the opening, the other eye on Voi himself. The third, short and pudgy even for a halfling, sneered up at Voi as he scraped his dagger against the surface of Voi’s shirt.

“Ey, buddy, lookin’ real fresh fer someone ‘round these parts, eh? Thought you’d do some slumming on the Outs?” There was a merciless calculation in the halfling’s eyes, which paradoxically was both hilarious and terrifying. Who knew what the small man had to do to earn the loyalty of his goons? “Thank me for giving you the whole ‘xperience then. I’ll take your gratitude in coin, ye? Do it nice n quiet, and we’ll let you keep your clothes too. As a treat. Fuck 'round though, and...”

The dagger trailed down from the shirt to the belt. Not like the halfling could reach Voi's throat, even with full extension.

"We'll take your balls too, buddy."

But as the threats went on, Voi sensed it too. The movement of six others nearby. Movement that stalled. More buddies of these thugs? Strangers who’d just ignore this? Or, perhaps the most unlikely of it all…

A chivalrous band of pirates, brought to land by their buxom boss?

The texture of one of those souls was strange.

Perhaps the latter wasn’t so unlikely after all.
@OwO@Theyra

//A7 - Ordo Benevolence
He had had time enough to put his bags down and that was all.

Afterwards?

It was time to work.

Cantor, alongside a handful of other acolytes of Ordo Benevolence, was busy with the work of embalming, of preserving bodies in the best possible shape they could be. It was work that he was accustomed to, work that he had become gifted with since a part of his soul had been irrevocably changed, but still...this work was wholly different from what he had to handle in the past. Back in the Monasteries of His Weeping Saints, it was disease or the occasional accident that took the life of a villager. The families paid well enough for the services, and the funerals helped recuperate the costs of the more expensive materials used in the process.

In Oratorio, however? It was easy to see at a glance that Ordo Benevolence existed on a knife's edge. The paint was faded, the doors were unhinged, the walls needed repairs, and the ceiling dripped. Adventurers were not faithful sorts, and there were no families who'd pay for them either. Yet, it was a duty divine, that still compelled the acolytes to restore the former liveliness of those corpses that they've received. A duty made difficult by the sheer number of creative ends that these adventurers suffered. Some were half-charred. Others were shattered in half. More were savaged in ways unimaginable. Those with bodily injuries could simply be covered up, but the face was so full of soft tissues, the traversal between each Layer of the Abyss so long, that by the time the dead made it to Ordo Benevolence, most were missing their ears and their noses, or were infested with the eggs of insects unnamed and unidentifiable.

It was work that shook the heart. Work that numbed the mind. It was little wonder that cremation services offered by other facilities were more popular. And pots of ash were easier to carry homewards too.

But that was their duty. Cantor had his own and so he worked and worked and worked.

Until at noon, his monotony was broken. Not by a bell for lunch and refreshment, but rather by the bang that the doors of the church made as a man well in his middle years strode in. Dark brown hair was slicked back with grease, while a hooked nose gave off the impression of a vulture. He wore gloves, black gloves, which matched well his polished walking stick. He tapped twice against the stone floor of the church, before raising a bushy brow in Cantor's direction.

"The ol' bastard can hire a new hand, I see. Must be making plenty then."

A smirk flickered. A cold smirk.

"You there!" The tip of the stick pointed towards Cantor. It was spiked. "Get the Priest, the Father, whatever they wanna be called, up and over here. If he's busy, well...tell him that Jamieson's here to collect. That'll get him running."
@Shovel

//O4 - Main Streets
“Aye, scram, you animals! No one up in the Royal Road’d give a single rat’s arse about some mage from a backwaters watering hole!”

With such abuse hurled at her by the guards, Sebi had no recourse but to give up her attempts to enter the elevated portion of Oratorio. This far away from her homeland, none of her reputation remained, while prejudices against beastfolk such as herself (not really though, because kitsune were all female while foxfolk could be both) only seemed to intensify around these parts. Certainly, she couldn’t have stank that bad, and yet, the guards that blocked her way up to the Royal Road nevertheless made three comments on three separate statements specifically targeting that!

Truly, there were only perverse ruffians and tasteless blockheads around these wretched parts. It was a putrid place, this Outer Layer, and the Underpass, the only path left that she could take, promised an even worse experience. Only Adventurers travelled back and forth through those subterranean passageways, after all, and all sorts of dastardly folks made those passageways their home too. If the stench of destitute civilization was already overbearing in the shit-stained streets of the Outer Layer, it was guaranteed that everything would be magnified there.

But the mother-and-daughter duo needed to reach the Adventurer’s District regardless. Such was the call of her latent Divinity, desiring what laid within the Abyss that the city safeguarded and exploited. If only there were another way. If only there was someone of note in this godless city who recognized her for what she was, a-

“Ah, fair madame, a moment of your time, please!”

A voice, bright and handsome, sounded behind her. It was a gentleman undoubtedly born of nobler stock than those around him. Wavy blond hair framed his slim yet gentle face, while his eyes, possessing both intellect and art, lit up as Sebi noticed him. A slender sword, both a sign of wealth and skill, hung from a belt of glossy leather, and his boots were expertly polished and shined, not a single bit of dirt staining them.

This certainly had to be the young master of a wealth household, one who knew a women worth pursuing when he saw one!

And indeed, he was.

An excited gait, almost puppy-like, drew him closer to Sebi. Then too close, perhaps the boldness of a man who knew what he truly wanted. And finally, right past her, the sign of lunacy itself, as the young master walked ten paces further to stop before a sprightly blonde elf’s…dark-haired assistant.

Placing a hand over his heart, he dipped his head down slightly, a lock of hair tumbling down across his eyes as he did so.

“Fair madame, I must profess: your visage is worthy of poetry, yet my cumbersome tongue can only proclaim you as ‘beautiful’. I am Camille des Moissan, a painter of some means. If you’ve no prior engagements on this day, might you do me the honor of allowing me to portray you in my atelier? Your companion, of course, is welcome to join as well.”

On that day, two Goddesses were present, and yet the lunatic artist had eyes for neither of them.
@Asuras@Click This
Hidden 11 days ago 11 days ago Post by Izurich
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Izurich 7/8 Weeb

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The oculii, the fragile organ that grants us the gift of sight, the ability to visualize the world around us. The windows of one's soul, they said, twas' no wonder the Sacred Spark housed itself within me through my eye. And while the blind ignorant masses can only see a one-eyed man, the truth is, I can now gaze far beyond any mortal and immortal alike. Through the Blessing of my Ichor, I had opened my third eye, the telescope to the infinite stars. After all...

If in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, therefore, the third-eyed man must be Divine.

But I'm not wholly divine, not yet, I need to ascend and to do so, I must journey to the Dead God's final resting place, at the center of the Fortress-City That Watches The Abyss. It'll be a perilous journey with countless trials and tribulations. Though I am Blessed, I'm no fool, I can't do this alone. I'll need allies, loyal followers who believe in my-... our cause, for I am a generous God. Once I ascend, all who have stood by my side will do so with me, we shall transcend beyond our fragile vessels and become one with the stars.

Amongst these followers, as abundant as the stars, I see twelve among them as my brightest and mightiest, twelve who will lead the flock by my side. Each of them a constellation in the celestial sphere, symbols of their divine power; Muridus, Bovinus, Pantherus, Leporidus, Draconus, Ophidius, Equidus, Caprinus, Simius, Gallus, Canus, and Suidus. Though as of now, only one had come under my embrace.

Indeed, I must gather them all, welcome them into my flock just as Draconus did, for I am Almagest-...

"-ter...!"

-...Master of the Domain of the Stars, and I-...

"-aster!"

...huh?

"MASTER!!"


--The Outer Layer - 11th District-

The one-eyed human man blinked his single remaining eye, his conscious mind returning to him as he instinctively gazed down at the petite, horned figure of a dragonkin girl standing in front of him, hands pressed against her hips in palpable frustration. "Geez, you're spacing out again, Master Klau-... Almagest," The silver-haired girl sighed, red eyes closing in tandem, "I know that it's your quirk and all, and I'd be fine with it had we're at home, however..." She spared a moment to sharply and deftly survey her surroundings in the peculiar way that only someone who grew up in the slums could do, "We're in Oratorio now, and this place - most especially the Outer Layers - aren't too keen on letting an 'easy prey' go, and you, Master, were the definition of one just now."

"I... see..." The old man murmured quietly, looking at the dragonkin three decades his junior, well, being street-smarts was one of the things that never changed from the former street orphan, "I understand, Frederika, my gratitude." Almagest made a small nod as he deigned himself to focus his mind down from the stars to ground level, an unideal place to be in, but ignoring his Paladin's wisdom could possibly end his journey early, especially in this merciless district of the Fortress-City.

"Heh~ where would you be without me, Master?" Probably slumped on his desk, dead, having succumbed to his fever, "Now then, we made it to the Fortress-City, though we don't have many coins left, enough to buy a bread or two maybe, but definitely not to get a night's say at the inn." The dragonkin mused as she rubbed her chin, though there was notably no sense of urgency in her tone, after all, she survived the cold unforgiving streets as a child, "That's not a big deal for me, but I don't think we can say the same for you, Master, despite your ehm... 'divinity'" Whatever that means.

"Hmm, that's fair," Almagest nodded solemnly, then gazed into Frederika's eyes, the windows of her soul, "What do you suggest?"

"Glad you asked~" Frederika allowed herself a few chuckles before flashing a smirk of the mischievous kind, "There should be plenty of lowlives around these parts that I can beat u-... percussively persuade to relinquish their ill-gotten coins for a better cause." Her smirk remained even as she finished.

Ah, the appropriation of dishonest wealth for honest pursuits, kill two birds with one meteorite, "That sounds wise, Rika, they're better off serving their betters, through coins or otherwise."

"Now we're talkin'! Okay, let's go, don't fall behind and watch out for the buckets, yeah?" After giving a solid thumbs up to her absent-minded mentor, the dragonkin continued her walk once more, leading Almagest through the dirty, shit-stained streets of Outer District 11. Almagest might be the 'Master of the Stars', but right here, right now, this was her lair and she the Dragon-Queen of the Streets.
..........
.....
...

Not too long after, as the duo were passing one of the many narrow backstreets of the Outer Layers, it was actually Almagest who turned his gaze first to the side as he felt an inexplicable throb in his very soul. "..."

"Hmm? What's up, Master?" Oh wait, he's not looking at the sky... Noticing this, Frederika's curiosity was piqued and she too followed suit as she shifted her scarlet gaze to the backstreet. And there, right before the Ichor-Blessed and Paladin of the Stars, was a rather... troubling sight. A young man of comely persuasion with mystical white hair and icy blue eyes being accosted by a trio of greedy, stinkin' scum of society. The latter abusing their sense of superiority in numbers as they attempted to bully the man for all of his coins. "Ohooo...~" Frederika curled a grin as ideas immediately came to her mind, "Pssst, hey, Master, whaddya say we help that lad over there and ask for well-deserved payment for our protection services? Better to give us a few coins than all of them to those thugs, am I right or am I right? And not to mention, we can help ourselves to whatever goodies those lowlives have too!"

However, Almagest's gaze had already shifted from the white-haired young man to the nearby merry band, most especially the violet-haired young woman among them. Though his eyes were directed toward her bountiful chest, he was gazing not at her curves, but deeper, beyond superficial skin, muscle, and bones, for he felt the same presence from her as the one he noticed earlier from the young man.

"Eeergh..." At this, Frederika rolled her eyes, not due to any perceived disgust of Almagest being a dirty old man, no, she knew him far too well to not know that her master had no carnal desires whatsoever, instead, the dragonkin was annoyed at the fact that he wasn't listening to her... again. Shucks, guess I'll just take that as a yes. She mentally shrugged as she readied her gauntlets, donning one on each forearm before flexing her fingers to test her newfound ‘dragon claws’, Yep, all good!

Without further ado, Frederika took three bold steps into the backstreet, "HEY, SHITFACE!" The dragon roared as her voice violently reverberated on the walls, "Why don't you pick someone your own size?!" Before getting into a combat stance, primal and untamed, the stance of someone who had to fend for herself before she even knew how to speak, read, and write.

@ERode @Theyra @OwO
Hidden 11 days ago Post by Asuras
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Asuras Into her woven halls, her children cover the walls

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//O4 - Main Streets

Was it really that bad?

Her own appearance, of course, not the city itself. That much was assuredly awful to behold, and downright torturous to smell -certainly by comparison to her home city, but by now Sebi had long come to grips with the reality of Oratorio and its surrounding legion of despondent hovels.

Tied up into a long, waving tail, Sebi's normally floor-and-then-some length hair was supposed to be protected from the elements, but even being spared from dragging directly across mud and muck it was still always teetering close to the edge, and every step taken along her and her daughter's journey meant a chance that something got kicked right up and into it. Her clothing, bright and soft, stood out against Oratorio's commonfolk, and much like the citizens themselves, dirt also stood out just as starkly... which also clung tenaciously to Sebi's attire.

She would admit -in her own head, anyways- that the journey did not treat her regal appearance well. The smell she would thoroughly reject, but she was just as tenacious as the dirt, and took it all in stride. Her daughter would object to such an assessment -at least towards the start of their trek.

For the time being, the two vulpine women took the guard's racist comments with little more than a blink of the eyes. They'd already heard it several times before on their approach to Oratorio, and until a time as their newness (and filthiness) no longer seemed the driving factor for mistreatment, they'd let them slide.

The two stepped away from the guards, even as Sebi continued mulling over responses and excuses in her head to try and convince the guards one more time. But her legs realized the defeat before her brain did, and carried her away anyways. Perhaps attuned precisely to the sound of windfall itself, Sebi's pricked ears turned unnaturally quickly towards the source of a young man's greeting, and she practically whipped her ponytail into her daughter beside her as she turned around. It took nary a millisecond before her assessment of the young noble sparked a glimmer of hope, and Sebi put on her brightest smile, and her proudest posture.

"Why cer-!"

He went right past me!

He went right past her.

Sebi's glittering expression soured immediately, once more dragged down by the wear and tear of harsh travel. Sumiye, ever-attentive to her mother's thoughts, allowed a giggle to escape her. Sebi leveled a sad, puppy-eyed look to her daughter, begging for sympathy, but received nothing but smug amusement. She wouldn't allow herself to be defeated twice in three minutes. Sebi began to approach the noble, but before she could speak, Sumiye grabbed her gently on the shoulder and shook her head -a gesture to give up. Sebi sighed petulantly.

Still, the blonde woman beside this noble's interest seemed a touch more... important, in some ways, and Sebi wondered to herself if the artist had made not one but two mistakes in so choosing the dark-haired girl. With crossed arms and a pouting face, she watched and waited, perhaps even somewhat hoping that the artist was reprimanded for his terrible taste.

@ERode@Click This
Hidden 11 days ago 11 days ago Post by OwO
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OwO what's this?

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🎕 Talia of Roses 🎕
//O11 - Deserted Backstreets

For Talia, Oratorio was a place of great opportunity. She didn't mind the smells of its pallid underbelly. They were certainly awful, but the smells didn't evoke the same memories that the stagnant salt sea did. Plus, a woman from a bordello always had a few tricks when it came to scents.

As a newcomer to the city, she didn't have anything to her name beyond her flesh, clothes, and the ephemeral companionship of recusants. She had enraptured the five of them with her words and dreams. It was hardly a noble dream. If anything, it could be distilled to sitting on a childish throne made of gold coins. Despite that, it was pure, simple, and achievable. It was a promise made from deep within her heart. One that they knew would never betray them.

When the opportunity came for coin, Talia wasn't one to pass it up. A man who smelled of gold was being shaken down by three thugs of descending height. Of course, their numbers were nothing compared to the merry band. The numbers became even more unbalanced when another group consisting of an old man and dragonkin child(?) arrived and declared their intention at the other end of the alley.

That cut off the thieves escape route. Unless they could run through walls, they had to either run through a dragon with gauntlets or a wall of merry men.

"The only one here that can take balls is me!" She exalted.

For a brief moment, the world was silent. The bluster of Oratorio had frozen for those that heard. Of course, it was only a moment; a strange and provocative statement could only freeze the city--even a deserted section--for a second.

Without a hint of embarrassment, shame, or fluster shown on her face, Talia turned and walked out of view. The merry men with her had mixed reactions. One raised an eyebrow. Another gave a deep sigh. One popped his lips as if to say "that just happened". Without missing a beat, Talia returned to the alley entrance as though she had just arrived.

"All thievery shall be done with my permission!" She iterated. "And if you don't play by my rules, then I suppose we'll need to enact some... aggressive taxation."

Her merry men were already ready to fight. Their weapons were questionable; they were entirely things you could find outside of the city for free. A buff, dark-skinned merry man who refused to close his jacket held a brick in hand. Two merry men of similar average builds--twins that were not blood-related--held wooden clubs. A jovial man who managed to remain chubby held a large stick that seemed half club and half staff. The smallest merry man had a simple sling (though it was closer to a discarded scrap of old cloth) and rocks in his pocket.

It was a strong provocation. Of course, she was ignoring the very real threat of the white-haired pretty boy being stabbed in the gnards by a man half his size. Talia wasn't going to care too much if he was stabbed or taken hostage. That just meant she could collect her protection fees postmortem.

But her greed was getting the better of her as she stood in front of her merry men. She saw that two others had something she deeply wanted. Something inside of them. Not their flesh, guts, or blood. She wanted something less material: something divine.

If it weren't so rancid out, she would have licked her lips.

@ERode@Izurich@Theyra
Hidden 10 days ago 10 days ago Post by Estylwen
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Estylwen The One Who Knocks

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Elys Adair

Location: Oratorio, //O3
@ERode



This nauseating, dizzying city.

It was nothing like the wide, open dirt roads she was used to, sparse of people.

No, this. This was too much.

Elys, against her better judgment, stood in the middle of the street in the edges of Oratorio, her weight bearing on her walking staff. She could see shapes of bodies passing by her at flurrying speeds, hear the rush of the city streets as people searched for bounty and weakness of their brethren. She could smell the stench of a heavily populated area, and a poor, or entirely lacking sewage system. She couldn't see it, but maybe that worked in her favour.

She could picture well enough the deplorable state of being this side of town brought.

Yet, despite its lackluster impression, she still felt heavily drawn to the center of the city. To the Abyss. A place praised and cursed by merchants and travelers on the road.

A change in the direction of the warm wind. A stench. A slight woosh above her. A grimace as Elys side stepped past the shapes of bodies, narrowly avoiding the plummet of something quite unsavory. She checked her hooded cloak, ensuring it didn't get wet with who knew what. Then, with a slight click of her tongue, she pressed on.

She desired the centre of the city, but a detour first. All cities had watering holes, and Oratorio was no exception, even in the roughest outskirts. She held her head up, smelling the air for telltale beer, listening for the jovial, or violet banter of voices surrounding a tavern. Eventually, she found a building that fit the description, and she could see it's shape and sides.

Just where was the door, though?

She tapped her staff along the foot of the wall, moving past shapes of bodies, until she tapped out an indent. A push gave way to her discovery - a door.

She entered what she assumed was a tavern, rough and torn at the edges, the scent of sweat and stale beer coating the air as she moved past the shapes of chairs and tables. There was a shape of a long block ahead, and another shape behind it. The owner?

Elys walked up, dropping one of her last coins on the table. Her covered eyes looked directly at the shape she could see, though it was doubtful she was looking directly at their eyes or face. They'd see her robes, her staff, and the sword hanging from her hip.

“A drink, please. And a lead for a monster-slayer. I'm looking for work.”

She was looking for so much more, of course. But, baby steps. These people didn't know who she was, after all. And for now, that was preferred.
Hidden 10 days ago 10 days ago Post by Kero
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Kero

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Ananta Aroa


//O8



Ananta had heard much of Oratorio, before her coming. A symptom of the location of her old home. With its relative close proximity, hardly a day would go by without at least a single outsider arriving and professing how it would be they who would conquer the depths. How it would be they who would become the next Sword of Varanasi, or whatever other great legend that the nobodies wrongly thought they had a chance to become. Those types are often the ones that you never hear about again.

But more than the fools who cannot comprehend the magnitude of the journey they are about to undertake, Kamal, alongside its status as a strong general hub for adventurers, can be called something of a retirement town for those who’ve had their fill of the Abyss that Oratorio imprisons. Be it those that have become too injured to continue their delving, those who have had their fill of the danger, or the lucky few who have lived to an old age, there is plenty of reliable and not so reliable tales one can collect from the folk of Kamal.

Much of the time, one does not even need to bother asking. So long as one hangs around the local taverns or the guild, you will surely overhear at least two separate tales of greatness or stories of embarrassment being spouted off by someone or other. Usually, the tales of greatness are epics of bravery and adventure, primarily about the trials they grappled with in the Abyss. The stories of embarrassment were much more often found to hold the setting of the city of Oratorio itself.

The way Oratorio was described varied in each and every tale. For every one that described it as some variation of glorious splendor, there were at least four or five others to counterbalance that called attention to a revolting underbelly of some sort. It was a contrast, many said. The further up you could pull your gaze, the more beautiful it would become, and the further down your eyes were dragged, the more horrid.

It was a contrast that, upon setting her sights on the city for the first time, Ananta found herself agreeing with.

But at the same time, it was not a sight that she could muster up any kind of special feeling for. How could Ananta, when she’d glimpsed and journeyed through cities of much the same states? Indeed, it was a clear, horrible showing of class divide, but that was the reality of any city. As was the smell, and as was the state of the homes. The truth of the matter was that Oratorio was nothing special… at least, outside of the Abyss it surrounded.

It did not take long for her to break into the slums of the city, from the hill she had glimpsed it on. The people of it were as standard as slum dwellers came. Their clothing was so unwashed that the environment they lived in had become one with it, and the stench as well. All who entered and passed by Ananta’s hooded gaze were some manner of sickly, clearly showing signs of illnesses that, in many other towns and villages, had long since been extinguished.

Some had eyed her cloaked form, sizing her up, but would turn their sight elsewhere upon glimpsing what she carried with her. Ananta could guess that they would try to find another, less equipped adventurer as their next mark, or a fellow slum dweller.

Her pace was steady, and filled with purpose. The slums, though familiar to her in many ways, were not her goal.

Like the legends and the fools both who had come before her, Ananta’s destination lay past the slums, below the road, and through the Underpass.

Her destination lay, instead, in the den of fools.

The Adventurer’s District, and the Abyss beyond it.

Approaching the Underpass, Ananta moved in time with the ticking of her heart.
Hidden 9 days ago 9 days ago Post by Theyra
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Theyra

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Voi Narum

O11


As he walked around the city, it was a strange feeling to notice that almost everyone was staring at him. Yes, Voi knows his appearance can be... considered a rare sight. Even back with Garth, it took time for people in that town to get used to him. The combination of his white skin, blue eyes, and white hair tended to make him stand out. Perhaps he should have worn some clothing to hide his appearance or something. He does have the money, thanks to Garth, so he can just buy something here, like a hood or something that can conceal his face.

Though as Voi was distracted by his thoughts and the people staring at him. Voi did not notice he was walking into a deserted back alleyway and where he made a mistake. He came there alone, and soon, he was pressed against a wall by three thugs.

Great, next time, pay attention, Voi. He thought as he listened to what the thugs wanted and before he could speak. Voi heard two voices, one from a dragonkin and another from a pirate? Either way, both seemed to want to help him from his situation. But he felt something about the pirate woman; she felt different from the rest and felt like nothing he had felt before. Voi did not know what this meant, and he was not in the situation to try and figure it out. The first thing was dealing with the thugs.

So, with a defiant look on his face despite the danger, Voi spoke to the thugs. "Perhaps backing out now is the best option right now for you three." He may not have a weapon but he has trained himself on how to fight. It's time to see what happens next.

@ERode@Izurich@OwO
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Click This Part-time Kaiserin

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Meisa Amorette




Oratario was just about everything that she expected. It passed for a civilization, perhaps even a successful, thriving one, at least in relative standards. Compared to the memories of her youth, though, Meisa did not doubt that even the monuments of the city’s so-called Royal Road would not compare to the civilizations and works of art of cities long gone, before the fall.

In those times, there might not have been magic to make things easier, but no amount of magic was a replacement for a healthy nation where unity reigned and the people worked together, not against each other, like this wretched shade of a city was quite an example of. Meisa had experienced the highs and lows of life. She had lived in a palace as the member of a royal family, sheltered in huts, and eventually, a more pedestrian experience living in a cottage for the better part of a hundred years. Humble she was experienced with.

The Outer Layers of this city were something else entirely, where filth, desolation, and desperation reigned. No doubt, they would be chronicled as the worst slums in history.

Perhaps it was a bit strange that the deeply segregated populations of Oratario mixed at all, even if only on the passageways. That little bit had proved a bit of a dilemma for Meisa and Firenze. Personal hygiene and good clothes were a matter of life and death for the elven people, and just as with humans, the higher up in the social strata you went, the more important it became. They had brought good clothing with them, although they had worn simple but quality garments when traveling to the city as to not soil the good stuff. When they couldn’t bathe, they would wipe down when they could. Firenze had some useful magic for personal hygiene.

That work had probably paid off, given what was happening.

After spending only a couple days in the Outer Layer, Meisa had already decided to make a play for the Royal Road and the Adventurer’s District. Donning their clean clothes, the pair of elves had made their way up to the main street to the passageway, where they’d witnessed a rather amusing exchange between the guards and surprisingly, a pair of kitsune. The guards shooing them off was… somewhat expected given their race in this era, even if they wore nicer clothes… if dirtied.

There was something interesting about the older of the pair, though. Something familiar, yet not, given Meisa had never felt such a sensation before a person before. Given her more recent inclination towards divinity, though, the golden-haired girl had her suspicions.

What was unexpected, though, was the sudden appearance of a nobleman from within the Royal Road. A dandy that looked to all involved was going to accost the taller of the kitsune with a flamboyant expression of love… until he walked right past the foxgirls and then towards Meisa. The two elves perked up accordingly. Meisa gave him her brightest, most flowery smile… and then she too was ignored, in favor of Firenze!

Meisa saw the way her paladin’s lips curved upwards until it was nothing other than a shit-eating grin in the brief moment that the purple-haired woman glanced at her. She gave her a blank eyed smile back, but rolled with it.

‘Don’t fuck this up, slut,’ she mouthed, before her own features morphed back to the perfect, prim image of a young noble elf that by all means was to be let in.

Firenze, for her part, preened, beaming at the slender dandy. She had been curious about the way that her charge had been glancing at the rejected kitsune, but they were dirty losers, and the thought of adding them to her party to get inside didn’t even cross her mind.

“My, you flatter me,” she smiled, aiming to please, although she was far too much of a personality herself to do anything demurely. “A pleasure, ser Moissan. I am Firenze of Despina. As it happens, I do not… and how could I say no to such a talented, handsome man as yourself? Me and my—” she turned to Meisa for a moment to throw her a smirk, “—Companion would love to sit for a painting.”

Firenze ignored the way Meisa briefly gawped at her.
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ERode Odd One Out

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//O11 - Deserted Backstreets
“B-boss, we’re surrounded!”

“Damn, who knew there’d be so many after this one mark!”

“Shut up, you oafs…”


The halfling’s eyes flashed dangerously.

“And you shut up too!”

Voi had kept calm under incredible stress. Certainly, his defiance was worthy of respect, the fair-faced youth possessing courage that others lacked in the same scenario. Perhaps it was a matter of his elevated soul. Perhaps he had already faced true death before, and was numb to lesser threats such as these. Perhaps, however, he had simply forgotten that just because the trio of thugs surrounding him were outnumbered didn’t mean that his own situation had improved all that much.

Which, perhaps, was why Voi didn’t realize that his balls were in jeopardy until the halfling’s fist had already finished an uppercut that sent stars flying up from his testes to his eyes. The Ichor-Blessed of Souls immediately felt the air expel from his lungs, felt the accompanying nausea that caused him to double over. Small hands slapped all over his body, before a triumphant cry sounded as the halfling’s fists closed over one of sewn pockets in Voi’s shirt. Snicker-snack went the blade, and with it, a part of Gareth’s bounty was ripped out from his clothes.

“Damn, yer loaded! Bob, send ‘im!”

“Aye!” Thick hands seized Voi next, the blob of a Bob grabbing him by neck and waistband, before summarily hurling him towards the scaly brawler who had a big voice and little of anything else. She had struck a more heroic adventurer-look compared to that gang of five. With any luck, the lizard-maid would be too busy fumbling with a hot new master to immediately pursue them, which meant…

“CHARGEEEEEEE!”

Oratorio was a rough-and-tumble kinda city, after all. The kind of city where you could never run forever. And in narrow alleyways like these? A gang of six didn’t necessarily all that much more compared to a triad of three! Slender-lad sprinted first in, hurling sachets of powder at the frontmost of Talia’s men, clouds of dust bursting out to obscure the surroundings, before Bob the Wrecking Ball would undoubtedly follow suit, ready to wreck at their boss’s behest.

Now it was just a question…

Between the trio, who had a bit of money stolen, and the dragon-girl, who had all the rest of the money (as well as Voi himself) tossed at her, how much would Talia’s crew invest in handling these ruffians, compared to handling two Ichor-Blessed?
@OwO@Theyra@Izurich

//O8 - Underpass
The Underpass was enough to get you drunk.

Spilled alcohol, rotting food, and the perfumed waste water of the Royal Road all settled in the Underpass, flowing off the pipes and the sides of walls before making it into sluggish ditches that gradually spilled into sewage grates. Canvas along the sides formed rudimentary tents for those forced to live down below, while the rattling of pans sounded like the falling of raindrops. Amidst that metallic ‘rain’ were other sounds too. Ramblings infused with delusion, the clattering of bone-dice against stone, and the occasional groan or rasping breath of ones not long for the world.

Adventurers passed on without notice. Merchants too, merchants who could not afford a pass through the Royal Road, held up perfumed handkerchiefs and rode on. It was the way of the world, after all. Everyone was out for themselves, and if they were not careful, if they were not diligent, they too would end up in the Underpass, sifting through refuse, licking the dirt off another’s boots for the chance at receiving a copper penny.

And sometimes, it wasn’t even a matter of laziness or ineptitude that landed one here.

Sometimes, it was just the misfortune of one’s birth.

There was a child. Couldn’t have been even ten years old, unless it was simply a cause of malnutrition. Her eyes were large, bloodshot with dark irises. A dress, ragged and dirtied, but showing a rare flash of color that implied it was once something prettier. Her hair, too-long for the Outer Layer, dragged against the ground as she walked back and forth, trying to draw the attention of those who passed by. There was a plea there, a plea from a throat too dry to do anything more than whisper it out.

But if one did not have the ability to scream, how could one hope to be heard?

A man with a weapon that was too brutish to be described as a sword knocked her aside with the back of his hand. He was accustomed to pickpockets who played at being helpless brats and strode on without remorse as the child felt her mouth and watched as a fragment of a tooth fell out.

It clattered like bone dice, settled.

She looked up, and her gaze met Ananta’s.

But she was just one child, out of many. It would be better to remain focused. Better not to take a detour.
@Kero

//O3 - The Pallid Mermaid
There was a girthiness that occupied the mass before her, a heft that reminded her of bears, but the musk in the tavern was more indicative of the clients and the owner than anything her blessed sense could tell her. Stale beer and gamey meat. Hard bread, cracking beneath teeth. Heavy wooden mugs, slapping against the ground. The stench of tobacco and other herbs, forming a hazy fog overhead. This was no place for women or children, and in the eyes of these men, she was both.

A mug slid towards her, the sound something that she could react to well enough. A sip to be courteous, or chugging to establish some credentials; no matter how Elys chose to drink, she’d find that it was neither beer, nor mead, nor wine, nor water.

It was milk. Lukewarm and slightly sour.

“Monster slayer, hm?” A gravelly voice from the bartender. She could hear something rustling. Perhaps the beard moving with the breath. There was no sense of judgment in his tone, no overt mockery, but a couple snickers from the other patrons could be heard nonetheless.

“Couple o’ rats in the cellar for ya, girlie. Ain’t no good end fer kiddos playin’ at heroes though. Run ‘long home ‘fore yer old man finds you took his sword.”

Elys could sense another approach, their center of gravity swaying, before a meaty hand slammed in the counter beside her.

“Aye, Crag, relax. She ain’t that young.” A burp, and then that fat hand pressed against her shoulder, squeezing possessively. “If the girl wants to learn how to handle a ‘sword’, well, I’ll be happy to oblige, hehehe..."
@Estylwen

//O4 - Main Streets
Ignorant of the divinities he had wronged within the span of but a few moments, Camille smiled guilelessly at Firenze. “I must confess, Firenze, that I’ve not heard of Despina before. Please, tell me of your homeland. The merchants, alas, are more predisposed to selling stories to better sell their wares, while the adventurers are of a rougher stock, either taciturn or prone to flights of fancy.”

The young master smiled at Meisa as well, but outside of simply noticing her clean clothes, her unblemished skin, her pointed ears peeking out from her blonde tresses, there were no words exchanged between them as he lead the two elven ladies (who were both older than Oratorio itself) across the streets and past the entranceway into the Royal Road.

Not past, of course, in that they passed through it, but rather past in that they passed by it.

The trio passed by the next possible entrance as well, the guards shooting a steely-eyed gaze towards Camille as he strode on, entirely or intentionally oblivious to the ill intent of those uniformed men. Rather, the destination that the young master brought them towards remained within the Outer Layer still. This close to the Royal Road, it couldn’t be said to be a place of abject poverty and despair, but the two story building, constructed of brick and wood with clay tiles for roofing, could only charitably be considered cozy.

“Please, come on in.” A twist of the key, and immediately, there was the smell of drying paint, a fresh stench made overbearing by concentration. He noticed their expressions, of course, and smiled apologetically. “I’ve few opportunities to air this place out, madams. One can’t trust an open window in these parts, even when one has nothing worth stealing.”

And indeed, there wasn’t much at all on the ground floor. It was the atelier of a painter, filled with stacked canvas upon a dirt floor. A stove holding embers laid in one corner, while easels of different sizes stood around the open space. The young artist (downgraded from master, because he was clearly no master of anything) gestured for the two to make themselves comfortable as he walked around the building, opening up windows to let in both air and light.

A ladder provided access to the second floor, but Camille did not climb up there.

“Would you two like some tea to refresh yourselves before I begin? Ah, and if your companion enjoys reading, Madame Firenze, I’ve a few books too for her to peruse, though honestly, they’re dusty tomes compared to what’s popular amongst those of the Road.”
@Asuras@Click This
Hidden 9 days ago Post by Izurich
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Izurich 7/8 Weeb

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--The Outer Layer - 11th District--

"The only one here that can take balls is me!" Exalted the violet-haired pirate captain(?).

"Oh, give me a fuckin' breaaaaak..." Frederika couldn't help but let a long, heavy groan escape her throat as the random lady not only distracted Almagest with something - not her curves definitely, but something - but she also had the gall to be stealing her thunder. What? Did everyone and their mother want to play vigilante today or something? Where were you guys two decades ago, huh?! The child her would surely appreciate Talia's presence a hell lot more than now. Although, judging by what the woman with the oversized chest said right after, it seemed that she fancied herself the head of some sort of thieves' guild? Guess that explains things... Still didn't make the situation any better though.

"Hey, back off, lady, we got here first!" The early bird gets the worm, they'd say, so in order to make true of that proverb, the horned brawler was already taking steps toward their 'mark', she had to admit though, pretty white boy had balls, respectable... too bad he wasn't prepared for the wrecking ball of a fist colliding against said balls of his. By the Dead God, that's gotta hurt... Now, Freddy might not have balls in the literal sense, but it wouldn't take being a man to notice how agonizing it looked. Well, all the more reason for Voi to be thankful when she finally tore his assailants with her claws!

Now, the dragongirl had expected for the three thugs to continue looting Voi's purse, try to fight her, or make a run for it. While she was right in a sense, she did not expect them to cut their profits short and literally toss their half-robbed victim at her! "Woah-? Wait- what-?!" Despite her bewildered expression and words, Rika's street-trained limbs instinctively moved to intercept the object being thrown at her, catching the snow-haired Ichor-Blessed with surprising deftness considering the size difference between Voi and herself, after all, though distantly related from their draconic ancestors, the average dragonkin was still a step above the common human in terms of raw strength, so surely a dragonkin brawler who had been forced to fight for survival since she was a child would be able to handle this simple feat of athleticism.

"Fuck-... oi!" Even as she somewhat gently laid the breathless Voi down on the ground, her reptilian pupils already noticed the fleeing muggers. Her maw snarled, revealing two pairs of thick sharp fangs as her limbs tensed, brawler muscles tensing in preparation for a full-blown sprint. "GET BACK H-" It was then that she felt a gentle pat on her shoulder, prompting her to swivel her gaze to find out Almagest's wrinkled hand placed there, "Master...?"

"Hmm." Almagest slowly shook his head, calm eyes shifting from his paladin to the blue-eyed stranger, "Our goal is to remove him from a dangerous situation, is it not? Considering that, tis' folly to give chase. It may not be as ideal as delivering well-due justice to those goons, but it has been achieved nonetheless." The senior astrologist paused for a moment, letting his words sink in, "Unless, of course, you wish to embark upon a new quest to chase them down...?"

"..." For a short tense moment, Frederika narrowed her eyes while her teeth gritted, then she took a deep breath before exhaling with her eyes closed, "Aaargh... I get it, you're right, Master..." The silver-haired brawler murmured, seeing the rational wisdom in Almagest's words despite a part of her still craving to rake her claws into those shitfaced assholes, "No, not now at least."

With an acknowledging nod, Almagest bent down on one knee toward Voi, offering his right hand to assist him in getting up, "Are you alright, stranger?" This... presence throbbing from within his soul... yes, I'm certain now, this man - and perhaps that woman too - are just like myself, blessed with a spark of divinity. Perhaps we're all gathered here for a reason, is the Dead God calling to us? Hmm...

Meanwhile, Frederika looked back toward the direction of the fleeing bandits, curious to see how the... uh... self-proclaimed thieves guild chieftess(?) and her band would handle the trio.

@ERode @OwO @Theyra
Hidden 8 days ago 8 days ago Post by Estylwen
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Estylwen The One Who Knocks

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Elys Adair

Oratorio, //O3 - The Pallid Mermaid
@ERode



The scrape of two flat surfaces as she heard an object slide across the bar. A hand shot out to catch it, but her neutral face broke the moment she tasted it.

Milk?

What was she, two? Her lips pressed in an irritated scowl. However, the atmosphere of this tavern wasn't… well, it wasn't welcoming, to say the least. So she swallowed her pride, set her staff against the counter, and downed the milk as the owner told her about his cellar rats, and then to ‘run along home’.

Why am I seen as a child? I'm near thirty, damn it…

A light went off in her head, and her scowl deepened.

It's the eyes, isn't it?

Her heart rate picked up as she felt heat in her bones. Not from embarrassment. No, from wounded pride, and righteous anger.

The swaying shape coming up from behind, she saw it coming a mile away. It prepped her for the slap on the counter, which she only half-flinched to.

From the tone of his voice, she could tell where this was going. Her hand subtly moved to her sword hilt, ready.

A way to vent her wounded pride was about to come up, she could feel it.

“I’ll be happy to oblige, hehehe…” A hand on her shoulder.

“You bastard.” She growled, baring her teeth.

In the next beat, one thumb flicked her sword a half-inch out from its sheath, while her other hand gripped the hilt. The pommel immediately found itself buried in the man's gut, aimed to knock the wind out of his wheezy little lungs.

In the next instant, her disgust did the talking for her as she swiped her blade upward. In one clean stroke, she had slit through the wrist of the hand the man dared to touch her with, severing the hand from the rest of the body. She side-stepped out of the way at the same time, keeping herself clear of the spray-zone she knew would shortly accompany.

If that didn't upset the relative peace of the tavern, she didn't know what would. With a resigned huff, she sheathed her sword, knowing she'd have to clean it later. Her staff found its way into her hands through muscle memory as she addressed the owner.

“As much as I fancy a bit of coin, I feel I've overstayed my welcome.”

She pressed her last coin on the counter in way of apology for the mess.

“As you were, gentlemen.” She said icily, adamant there would be no snickers thrown her way this time around. Did the men have tempers, though? Would they bar her leaving, now that she'd hurt their own?

Bastard deserved it anyway.

With a dissatisfied click of her tongue, turning down the offered work in an effort to avoid the aftermath of her little ‘outburst’, Elys turned and made her way towards the door.

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Asuras Into her woven halls, her children cover the walls

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//O4 - Main Streets

Sebi fully expected the young man to continue on between the guards which had denied her access with the two elves in tow. But as he instead ventured perpendicular, both she and her daughter's ears perked to some unspoken confusion, and exchanged one another knowing glances. Sebi offered Camille, Meisa, and Firenze a wide distance between as they tailed them. Why the young noble thought it best to continue inside the Outer Layer, rather than retreat into the relative safety of the Royal Road was beyond the both of them.

Of course, this was supposing this 'noble' was actually such, and the two kitsune had a mind that not all was what it seemed.

The thought was the briefest of brief, but with little else to go off of, Sebi found herself guided on by the minute chance that something beneficial might come out of this. She supposed -if but half-jokingly- that these two elves were about to be conned. The feeling grew as her quarry passed by the next gate. Seeing the actual atelier of the artist still firmly entrenched within the Outer Layer, it seemed all the more certainly odd.

She hummed to herself, standing at the corner of the street opposite the atelier, and Sumiye pried.

"What are you thinking?" she asked, hand on a leaning hip, "I suppose the poor guy could simply be pretending. That or his family had little inclination to entertain his hobby."

"Few people pretend without purpose," Sebi said sagely, nodding to herself, "But it is all too convenient, isn't it? A spritely young man, artistic, decorated... finding two pretty women hoping to land themselves in the better part of town, but himself having no key in? What promises might he make," she said. Her gaze opened, and drifted off behind her, down the ways they'd just come from.

"I wonder..." she hummed.

Sebi wordlessly doubled back, followed by her daughter, and went straight for one of the guards they'd passed. She approached them with a bright smile and a swagger to her step -one that she already knew failed, though this time employed for a different intent.

"Good day gentlemen," she greeted, her tail restlessly swaying, "I don't suppose either of you are familiar with that atelier just down the way? Used by the boy 'Moissan'?"

She herself was a sore thumb, but the young 'noble' must have been much more of a known face around these parts, she presumed. Surely the stoic eyes of the city would know a thing or two?

@ERode@Click This
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Acolyte Cantor Amentha

Location: A7 - Ordo Benevolence



Acolyte Cantor Amentha arrived at Ordo Benevolence early in the morning, bypassing the huddled mass and the pearly gates of the riches as he inched closer to the center of the gilded city, its gaping hole. The spark pulled grew stronger until suddenly reaching a grinding halt as he put his sack and gear down.

No flower nor incense oil wafted in the air. No early morning hymn thanking a new dawn, but the grievances of a market. The haggling for prices of material and ceremonies, the screaming pain, priests and healing mages running back and forth like bussers of some dining place.

An acolyte pulled him to his stall,
"You're the new one, right? Acolyte Cantor?" He asked. Cantor nodded. Words barely escaped his mouth as the acolyte practically pushed him to his table. "We got two teams of 6 that just got wiped, think you can handle one of them?"

"Sure..." A soft pat on his back, and he was alone with his table. The first one wasn't too bad of a cause of death. Must have lost too much blood. A quick inspection reveals something completely penetrated his abdomen, resulting in a dizzying death. Resolution? Stitch the abdomen then pass the fluid. The second one was a tad worse, half his face was already missing, perhaps from wild animals scavaging? Nevertheless, his nose was missing, and half of his left face was in a state of half-chewing. For this, the solution would probably be using clay to recreate the owner's nose while removing the owner's skin from the calf and reapplying on his face. Then the third ...

Death can indeed be a monotonous work. Men were not built to be emotionally stable with their kind dying on this level of scale. In the mortuary stall, there is no sound but the sound of a saw chewing through the bloated corpse. The sound of meat falls onto the bin as they remove an already rotten piece of flesh. The sound of water splashing on the cadavers. Then the dressing into the white shroud. The acolytes did with the silence of a factory and the product of death.

But still, to say this is a butcher shop would be a lie. For even in an area that is filled with death and suffering of all kinds, holiness still reigns supreme in this sacred place. Cantor said the praying words from the Rites of Death and Forgiveness, the rite he is most familiar with from his Monastery while at the next table, the half-elf read Masses for the Dead for her patient. There are about 13 acolytes in this place, Cantor wondered if they truly said 13 different versions of prayers for the dead. Through our prayer, God, your children will never die.

Had it not because of someone calling him out, Cantor would probably worked until he finished. But his work on the 4th person was cut short by Jamieson, a debt collector Cantor presumed. With a slight nod of acknowledgment, Cantor covers the person with a white shroud before leaving to find the Head Priest. That reminds him. He should have advised Jamieson to find a seat as Cantor was not introduced to the Ordo. Still, after some time, the acolyte was able to locate the Head Priest's room and give a few knocks on the flimsy wooden door. The frame tilted with each of his knocks.

"Father, a guest has come and requested to see you. Say he is here to collect."
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OwO what's this?

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🎕 Talia of Roses 🎕
//O11 - Deserted Backstreets

Talia and her men had naturally just stepped out of their way. Not out of the fear of being bulldozed, the fear of dust getting in one's eyes, or anything like that. It just wasn't worth the effort. What were they going to do if they won a fight? Steal their pants? Deal with a monetary hostage crisis? Give him back his money and beg for a share? Though, Talia had a strange look in her eyes. The scheme of someone about to do what they really shouldn't do.

The slender man had found himself sprinting through an easy gap made by the thieves stepping towards the sides of an alley. Talia began to spin around her arm in a windmill.

The bulldozer met nothing but dust. Her windmilling speed increased.

The halfling dashed through the blinding dust. His first sight upon cresting the cloud was Talia's smug grin and spinning arm. The second he ran past her—WHAM. His bottom cheek had been marked by a malformed five-pointed star. It was an old trick of the bordello—one that a customer usually paid for.

The band of merry thieves kept their eyes on the fleeing group, but they weren't going to do a thing to stop them. They didn't have an enforceable claim to this territory nor were they guardsmen. Talia and her men were thieves through and through. They weren't about to stop an unsuccessful theft. That'd be hypocrisy! Plus, honour among thieves and all that. Really, there was a half dozen reasons why they weren't going to punish them. The gold coins in front of them was another reason why.

"Well then," Talia said as she shook off her stinging hand, "I suppose we should talk about protection fees!"

With a brief nod to the other thieves, she approached the group of three on the other side of the alley with the muscular and ever-unbuttoned thief in tow. At where the white-haired merchant had been accosted by the halfling, she paused and turned to face the thief who had come with her.

"That nod was to watch the entrance of the alley."

"I thought we were-"

"No, that's what a brigand does. We aren't brigands. At least not right now."

"Oh. My bad."

The muscular thief returned to the other thieves. Talia turned back to the group of three with a smile and continued her walk towards the oldie, dragonkin, and accostee in a bouncy saunter, only to stop when she was within arm's reach of the white-haired boy.

"So, what do you think going to save your coin from thieves is worth?" She asked him as she ignored the dragonkin and old man. Their time would come. Plus, they didn't directly say anything to her so there was nothing to reply to; Talia felt it would be a little strange if she spoke to them first. It would kind of be like arriving to a ball and immediately making threats to a rival suitor. What was important right now is that they didn't get a leg up on her or screw her out of any possible protection fee!

"Of course, if you don't want to pay us coin, you could always repay our services in some other way~!"

Her tone was bouncy like the rest of her. While she was being playful, she wasn't making a threat. If it were, she would have brought some backup with her. Rather than looking at his coinage, she had looking directly at the white-haired boy. Her eyes, however, were looking at something deeper than his surface appearance.
Hidden 5 days ago 4 days ago Post by SilverPaw
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Theodore Valentin
//O3 - Entrance area

After long, arduous months, they finally made it.

The Promised City: Oratorio. Where men gambled with fortune and life alike for promises of riches and glory.

The Frontier before the Abyss. Theodore felt that persistent call, urging him further still, inviting him to delve deeper. A Song of Divinity he was long used to.

He had to ignore it, at least for the moment. There were many practical concerns to be addressed first. He and his companions were weary from the travel. Left with nothing but the clothes on their back. They would need lodgings, equipment, supplies–

“Bath.” That was Maris pitching in. She was holding a wrinkled, cloth tissue to her mouth, nose crinkling in obvious disgust. Theo’s lips quirked in amusement. “The river wasn’t good enough for you?” he teased. He, too, was unused to the poverty, the wilderness, the utterly squalid circumstances surrounding them at the moment. But with his higher calling buoying him, Theo was doing far better than the vampire princess.

There was an abrupt hacking, heaving noise. The doctor of the group, Jaxon, was leaning over by the walkway, on the verge of throwing up. “I – I n-need…” Unseeingly, his free hand grasped around for something. Theo sighed lightly. This man. If he weren’t useful, Theodore didn’t think he would tolerate him.

Sana felt a sort of kinship with him, however, and searched her inner pockets for something. She dragged out a badly worn, small pouch of herbs, and handed it over to the physician. Though it was surely stale by now, and nearly odorless, Jaxon breathed it in like it was his lifeline.

Ezra curled his lip, a belittling glare settling on the weakling. Theo intercepted the gaze, shrugging in a ‘what can you do’ manner, a glimmer of knowing amusement in his eyes. Ezra allowed himself to be distracted. “We need cash,” he stated the obvious.

Theo chuckled. “Shouldn’t you of all people know how to get by ‘round these parts, pretty boy?” Heated anger crept into the murderer’s cheeks, colouring them a faint hue of red. Yet there was a hint of something else there, too. Hunger, maybe. Anticipation. “I’m not like this filth,” he spat out. Theodore locked gazes with him, and felt a delicious sort of tension building, the thrill of what might be. But then, the man clicked his tongue, and dropped it.

Theodore hummed, only slightly disappointed. Then, his eyes swept the surroundings, assessing. Predatory. “Well, since we need money–”

“No.” That was Sana, giving him that annoying self-righteous look. “I haven’t said anything yet,” the dhampir pointed out, and got an eyeroll for it. “You don’t need to,” she scoffed. “Listen…let’s not immediately lower ourselves to the likes of common thugs, yeah?” She glanced at Arnfinn worriedly.

The cambion child was hovering near the dhampir, as was his wont. He’d stood there gaping at the City of Legends. He’d been drawn to the pretty, glamorous sight of The Royal Road. Now, however, he was worriedly turning from one adult to the other. He was a sensitive kid. “L-let’s not argue,” he mumbled quietly.

Theo smiled down at the boy fondly. “We weren’t.” Not yet. He reached out, ruffling the child’s hair. The adolescent startled, tensing for a moment, but relaxed almost immediately. Even after a year of accompanying him, Arnfinn still got startled easily, but he had shown remarkable progress in Theodore’s opinion. Now, the boy was shyly smiling up at him, embarrassed yet pleased at the attention.

The dhampir knew Sana thought they were bad company for the kid. Yet, Arnfinn had decided on his own to follow Theo, even when given the option to remain behind with Theodore’s mother. Besides, it’s not as if the cambion didn’t know what kind of a person he was. The kinds of people they all were.

Having come to a decision, Theodore beckoned to his rag-tag group. “Right, then. Let’s see if there’s any ‘honest work’ for our sensitive pals there,” he nodded at the witch and doctor. “Who knows? Maybe this city’s got more fair than you’d think by looking at it.” He laughed, a tad longer than he needed for.

Still, he didn’t mind indulging the two among them who weren’t really cut out for dirty work.

Yet.

As they proceeded onwards, however, he gave a signal to Ezra and Maris. Theodore and the two of them would be looking for marks. For targets.

Maybe they’d even be lucky enough for an opportunity to come across them without looking too hard. It was nothing if not a Wheel of Fortune, Oratorio.
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Meisa Amorette




Still paying no regard to Meisa, Firenze humored the painter to tell her about the long-lost homeland of her youth. “Despina is many leagues and a lifetime away. It wouldn’t be too surprising for even a scholar of history here to only know of the name,” she lamented, as if she were the unfortunate protagonist of an epic tragedy. “It was a beautiful, bountiful land of both great plains and breathtaking mountains. It was a place with works of art that you could never imagine in this this era, and fashioned by hands without magic…”

Meisa’s paladin spun a grand tale of the now ancient elven kingdom, extolling its virtues and artistry to the apparent artist, all while conveniently leaving out any mention of Meisa herself outside of token appearances. The golden-haired elf followed, with a very friendly smile on her face as she supplied additions to the story, promising bloody murder with her chipper face. However far the two of them went with their unspoken game, however, their passing of the two gates did not escape their notice. Even as Firenze regaled Camille at her charge’s expense, a hand continued to readjust the sword at her belt, sending a silent notice for the shorter elf to remain cautious. A glance behind her also gave way to the observation that the two kitsune women were following from a distance. Opportunists, or working together with the man? That look of outrage had been genuine, though.

Had they been had by a scammer dressed as a dandy, or far worse? Meisa thought that she was a good judge of character –or she would be dead a dozen times now at the hands of her own bodyguard—and Camille looked like nothing other than an overly enthusiastic womanizer. Her suspicions remained as he led them up to a small house at the edge of the district. Its condition wasn’t immediately concerning; as far as she was concerned, it was a luxury manse compared to the structures in the slums, but it was still odd.

At the very least, Meisa dismissed his concerns. “Understandable. Though, I am curious—for a man of your culture, why use a studio in such a dangerous area? Certainly, the savings in the Outer Layer are not worth the risk of owning property outside of the Royal Road or even the Adventurer’s District? I hope I'm not being too presumptuous, if it is a family issue.”

A second or third born son cast out by his family, or some sort of self-exile, perhaps? The two elves exchanged a glance as they entered behind him. It was not what they expected, but it was still something that Meisa could work with. Her nose wrinkled at the overwhelming smell of acrid paint as they looked around casually but carefully. As far as she could tell, the place was as the young artist had mentioned, although Firenze’s gaze was drawn towards the ladder, which Meisa followed.

“Ah…” The offer of tea was very tempting, but until they could ascertain the man’s true intentions, it was probably better if they avoided partaking in that sort of hospitality. Firenze shook her head. “No, thanks. Later, perhaps… So! In what style do you prefer to paint in? I’ll confess, I quite enjoy the classics as does my friend, but I’ve yet to have an opinion on newer methods and styles, truly. Of course, I know you’ll portray my visage in a truly stunning manner…”

Meisa for her part shrugged at Camille’s offer, and did a little probing of her own. “That is a shame. I am an avid reader, though, so I am curious enough... May I poke around your library? It is upstairs, I presume?”
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Voi Narum

O11


Voi, while still in pain up from being hit in the balls and being thrown at someone. He stayed on the ground for a moment as he listened to what the pirate said. Then he tried to stand, and slowly, he did despite the lingering pain. It did make him wish he had a staff or something to help him up, though.

He hated this, more so that now the pirate wants money from him. So far, so bad since coming to this city. But first, he responded to the old man who was with the Dragonkin girl. Speaking with lingering pain in his voice as he turned his head to them. "I will be fine, stranger, but first."

Voi turned his head again to the pirate, who he now noticed as staring right at him. But it felt like she was looking deeper at him somehow. He did not have the time to think about this since there are more pressing issues at the moment. Like someone else wanting his money.

Though Voi did not want to give anything to her and his face showed it. "Thieves already took my money. If you want gold, then you should have taken it from the ones that robbed me. Otherwise, you are getting nothing from me." Voi said with anger in his voice and with a cold stare.

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🎕 Talia of Roses 🎕
//O11 - Deserted Backstreets

"Well, it's your coins--not mine." Talia said with a shrug. Nonchalantly, she backed away from the merchant, old man, and dragonkin trio. She wasn't going to gain anything from sticking around nor did she care too much about restitution. After all, he didn't want to pay for her services.

She found him a bit daft, in all honesty. The world they lived in was not one of niceties and selfless action. Even the churches functioned off transactional relationships. To ignore this fact of the world was to be a hopeless optimist. Someone who was much too good for this world.

"I'll spare you the lectures about walking in the backstreets alone with pockets full of coins," Talia said, "but I do suggest you run after them now. A halfling with a bruised posterior is quite easy to chase, especially if two of you have double his stride.

Without much care, Talia went to rejoin her merry men and leave the trio to hunt down the man's missing coins.

Of course, she wasn't actually going to drop the matter immediately. A handful of coins was a handful of coins. She'd go looking for them herself, even if it was just to have a conversation. A conversation with thieves meant the chance of making three more merry men. Plus, maybe she'd take all of the coins for herself if absolutely everything went right.

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--The Outer Layer - 11th District--

As the thieving trio rapidly closed the distance to the so-called Queen of Thieves… then past them, Frederika yet again found herself in indignant disbelief, W-w-w-whaaat?! Did she just let them go?! Yes, yes she just did, even though she had no less than five lackeys at her beck and call. But, why? why? It didn't make sense, at all, they could've easily overpowered those three idiots, even if they had no intention of giving the stolen gold back, at least there'd be some schadenfreude at seeing those goons get their balls wrecked in well-deserved karma. As it stood, only one pair of balls was wrecked and the three stooges got away scot-free.

Thief Queen? More like Coward! Frederika snarled in her mind, then began snarling for real the moment Talia started approaching the other end of the alley. The dragonkin's slitted eyes never left the violet-haired wimp, and even if there was an iota of respect left in the horned girl, it crumbled into nothing the moment Talia had the gall to demand payment for doing jack-shit! "Y-y-y-you..." Freddy was so livid, her cheeks started to match her eyes and horns in hue, "You got some fucking nerve to be demanding something, ANYTHING, after what you just did! You brought five lackeys with you and for what?! Standing around looking ugly?!!" Freddy practically roared at the notably-taller woman, not caring if any of her bilge rats got provoked into attacking her, hell, she hoped they would, just so she'd have an excuse to crush their spineless spine in "self-defense".

Meanwhile, unlike his Paladin, the Master of Stars remained stoically aloof as ever, he even assisted the white-haired lad when he tried to stand back up, "Understood." There was no reason to deny his words, if Voi said he'd be fine, then he'd be fine. At his prompting though (and also because Rika was making a scene), the senior turned at the third Ichor-Blessed among them, the current focus of his Paladin's ire. Truth to be told, aside from the divine spark within her, Almagest had little to no business with her, thus, he let Voi and Talia settle things among themselves while he went over to his adoptive daughter instead, "Rika, save your strength for something more fruitful."

"B-b-but, Master! She-!" -just called me short! Frederika's jaws clenched hard, finding herself at a loss for words due to all the sheer rage and disbelief, but her mentor was right, she shouldn't waste anymore time, nor energy at this whore who was all curves and no brains, "Haaa..." After a harsh sigh, she turned toward the other end of the alley, the spot where she last saw the fleeing thieves, "Should we...?"

Almagest slowly shook his head, "The victim is safe, our goal was achieved, let us go."

"But what about the coins-?"

"We forfeited our right for coins when we failed to prevent him from losing his." Almagest said dispassionately, his interest in the whole matter rapidly dwindling down, then he spared a brief glance at Talia, "Appreciated, but we'll find other opportunities." The senior couldn't care less at this point, unlike his family, he never had any strong attachments to material wealth; coins are temporary, stars are eternal.

"..." Frederika frowned, her mind could immediately find ways to argue against Almagest's decision, but after the cathartic explosion of emotions, she erred on the side of not wanting to bother, especially when her mentor had no further business with this whole mess, And besides, not sure how much further can I tolerate this bitch's smug mug, Master's right, it's not worth it. Ergh... "Fine..."

With that, the pair of Human and Dragonkin left through the other end of the alley, opposite of Talia and her merry band, leaving Voi to decide on his next move by himself.

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//A7 - Ordo Benevolence
Head Priest Nathaniel was a warped tree, bent and weathered by the passage of time but made resilient by it. His hands could no longer do the bloodied labour that Ordo Benevolence demanded of the acolytes, but it did not prevent him from clasping them together in prayer or concocting the substances necessary for corpses to be preserved. Time had robbed him of much, but his soul remained bright despite his deteriorating surroundings.

Cantor’s call, however, drew a sigh from that wizened old priest.

“Thank you, Acolyte Cantor.” The man took his own staff as he pushed open the door. “You must have worked a fair while, no? Take your break while you’re here.”

There was no particular urging on the Priest’s part; he continued to shamble on, towards the the main hall. Whether the Ichor-Blessed acolyte would do as Nathaniel said or follow after was up to him alone. The walls of the church were thin anyhow, and the dead did not scream the way the living did in churches more accustomed to the preservation of the living.



“Master Jamieson,” Nathaniel said by way of greeting, staff clacking as he approached.

“Ol’ Nate,” was the vulture-faced man’s response, displeasure carved into his brow. “Thought you’d enlist that young’un to help your escape.”

“I would never. Ordo Benevolence can go on without me, but so long as there’s need for ceremony and memory, I sh-”

A sharp clack of the walking cane cut the Priest off. “The rent, friend.”

“Yes, yes…” He reached into his robes, pulling out a pouch. It wasn’t even half-full, and Jamieson’s eyes narrowed. “It’s all we've got, after accounting fo-”

A swift strike displaced the staff that the Priest relied upon and he immediately fell over, cushioning his fall with his elbow. That was a mistake; an audible snap sounded, old bones too fragile to make it. The pouch of coins struck the ground as well, a handful of silver and copper spilling out. Jamieson didn’t even bother to pick that up.

“Been like this for three months now,” the debt collector said. He glanced around him, meeting the glares, the indignation of the surrounding acolytes, smug in the fact that they could do nothing to him. “Did your prayers delude you into thinking that this land is yours?”

The Priest wheezed, holding back pained gasps. He couldn’t hold them back much longer, when the spiked end of Jamieson’s walking stick drove itself through his right hand.

“I’ve been kind,” he spoke unkindly, twisting his cane deeper. “I’ve given you and your group of butchers so much more time than I usually do. And yet, each time, you’ve got one excuse or another, while you still go off to the markets to barter for all those precious little potions in the dead of night. Nate, are you mocking me?”

“It’s, what’s neccess-”

“Oh shut the fuck up, old man. You are mocking me. I’ve got a boss too. They expect things outta me, and I’ve gotta deliver.”
The collector leaned down, grasping the fallen staff of the Head Priest. “Consider it my last kindness. You have one more week to pay off the rent. With interest. And if you don’t?”

He turned, moving to leave.

“Well, it’s the land that’s ours, so I suppose I’ll just have to burn clear what’s atop it.”
@Shovel

//O3 - The Pallid Mermaid
An expulsion of breath, and then the sensation of only a hint of resistance, as sharpened steel cleaved through flesh and bone.

A heartbeat later, the expected spraying of hot blood, pumping out of severed arteries, and the cry of agony from that putrid pig.

Amidst that, a sigh from the Crag.

“You BITCH!”

A howl, animalistic, from a man fuelled by adrenaline and a brain that was already suffering from the effects of blood loss. A stool clattered against the ground as he hurled himself bodily towards her, Elys’s cold exit disrupted by a dead man’s vengeance.

So there would be backlash after all.

The benefit of seeing in mass and gravity, instead of colors, was that Elys wasn't limited to a narrow scope of vision. And in this not-too-crowded tavern, it was child's play to see the mass coil for a moment before charging forward.

Elys scowled, spinning on her heel. Her staff smashed across the one-handed man's hand, before it twisted around and the heavier portion uppercutted his face. She wasn't sure of her accuracy, which was to her advantage. Even if the strike was a few inches far, the strike would collapse his throat, and that would be that.

She wasn't cruel, though. A calculated blow to the jaw would jarr the man, and give her time to consider her next move.

She was strong, however. Too strong, even. The blow had not just jarred him, but had knocked him out completely, the ground itself shaking as that mass collapsed. In a few moments, it would be a cold mass.

Yet, the rest of the occupants of the Pallid Mermaid, after a moment of stillness to observe this clash, simply moved on to continue their own conversations, indulge in their own food and drink. And from behind the Ichor-Blessed, she could sense the bartender move from around the corner, something cylindrical ‘floating’ below his hand. The sloshing of the water gave it away.

“Clean yer own mess, girlie.” The lethality of her strikes seemed not to have phased the man. “And I’ll tell ya where a naked blade can be best used.”

The bucket settled upon the floor. There'd be a rag there too, most likely.

Without any more words left for Elys, the bartender dragged the dying, unconscious man by his belt and threw him out of the tavern. There were plenty of scavengers in the Outer Layer. By the time Elys was done, who knew if there'd still be a body outside for her to step around?
@Estylwen

//O3 - Entrance area
What marks were there in the Outer Layer though, truly? Stealing from the impoverished would provide a pittance and spark a violent desperation. Stealing from the property owners would be cause for sparking a vendetta that could not be resolved so easily. Stealing from the adventurers was a questionable affair, when they were prone to swift violence even in the absence of justice.

Thievery was all risk with little reward; the golden sheep, as it were, had already been picked up by others.

But Oratorio was not known to be the City of Opportunity for no reason, and there were always work to be done, if one had the strength and will to do it. There were workshops that needed new hands, carpenters that needed able-bodied crew, and the occasional tavern that needed dishes to be washed or dishes to be served. Poverty did not speak entirely of destitution and famine. At times, it was simply a lowering of standards, and even then, perhaps it was a lifting of them for some of the vagrants that Oratorio consumed. There was fair work out there, for those willing to take it.

There was dangerous work too.

“Aye,” a call rang out from a place too cramped to be considered a plaza. “You lot know the deal! Half-day’s food and a fifth of what you mine from the Abyss! Ones I recognize get a third instead!”

It came from an unarmored man, though he was flanked by rough-looking types that definitely were armed and armoured. Adventurers, ostensibly. A company, certainly.

“We depart in five!”

It didn’t take long for others to gather and flock, most of them sporting some injury or the other, but all of them needing the money and food nonetheless. In absence of any skill, after all, one could always yield their flesh to partake of the Abyss’s bones.
@Silverpaw

//O4 - Main Streets
Perhaps Sebi was fortunate that not every guard was racist.

Perhaps it was because of the hypnotic allure of her womanly charms.

Or perhaps it was simply because no matter who you are, it was hard to resist the chance to talk shit.

The guard with sunken cheeks narrowed his eyes, then spat to one side. His companion, seeing this, sighed and said, “Imma take a piss while this one goes off.”

“Aye, fuckin’ Cam, that snot-faced bastard,”
Sunken Cheeks said. “You ladies best leave ‘im well alone. Lad’s proof that laws dun matter when looks are involved.”

A cursory glance upon both mother and daughter. A click of the tongue.

“He was one of us. Fellow guard n all, kicking away the rats scramblin’ round here and letting the good merchants in. Taught him myself, figured that, hey, babyface like that’s gonna have a hard time without someone like me.”

Whatever good times the guards shared were gone though.

“That goes on, as it does, ‘til the fuckwit goes and charms the knickers off some du Moissan lady and heads straight into the Royal Road! Woman was in her fifties! We all knew what he was doing!”

Sunken Cheeks scowled.

“And like fuckin’ clockwork? Three years later there’s a funeral for the lady and fuckin’ Cam walks out with a goddamn inheritance weighing more than I could earn in three lifetimes! Lad has the gall to go off on a whole ‘tour of the world’ while we’re itching to skewer his philandering ass.”

But clearly, Camille was not sporting holes in his body and dead in a ditch.

“Order never came for it though, and when the money ran out, fuckin’ Cam got back here, bought a house right before my eyes, and lives for fuckin’ free, scribbling away without a care in the world. There’s no justice out there, hear? No fuckin’ justice at all for working-class men like I.”

Sunken Cheeks was fuming at this point, and probably had another ten minutes of grievances to launch into, if Sebi would stick around. She got the gist of it though, regardless of how much of this 'truth' was genuine.

...

“Ahaha,” Camille laughed, waving away the concerns of the elven child. “It was simply what I could afford after settling my debts. A humbler place may have been obtainable still in the Adventurer’s District, but hm…”

There was a moment of quiet as he selected his painters’ tools, pulling out an easel and canvas. If nothing else, his movements looked real during his preparations. Nothing like the elven court painters of that lost kingdom, but not the movements of a charlatan playing a role either. Reverence, perhaps, was the term for it.

“...well, I’ve less interest in artifice and abundance, I profess. And I’m young enough still to do such silly things, so I’d rather not let my mind stagnate just yet.” Despite his lighthearted nature, his sword still hung from his waist, and the design of his atelier was such that access to the second floor was lost entirely if one were to raise up the ladder. There were movements made for security. “And please, feel free. A few of my older paintings are up there though; I’d appreciate it if you didn’t peek at them.”

As Meisa climbed up the stairs, she could hear Camille speak of his own impressions upon art, professing his appreciation of the contrast and attention given to light and shadow in the works of early Godfall artists, whom had nothing but charcoal and base pigments to display what they had seen in the aftermath of the Thousand-Faced God’s demise. Still too, did he approve of the fragments of religious works that remained after that initial cataclysm, the beauty and meaning behind spiritual patterns, as well as the crafts poured into turning mere glass into translucent gems. He, of course, being a portrayer, was trained in the Selectivist school of art, detailed and unfocused elements were placed together, as if showing a dream where only the most striking elements of an individual’s face were captured in obsessive detail.

The second floor that Meisa arrived upon was only slightly less cramped than the first. A basin of well-water stood in the corner, and she could spot a lidded chamberpot underneath a well-made bed. Light poured brightly from the many windows here; at night, starlight and moonlight must be just as intense. A bundle of somethings stayed in one corner, a blanket draped over them to hide their secrets, while teetering towers of thick, leather-bound books made up a forest for her to navigate through. They were plentiful, the sort that one would find in an aristocrat’s study, and they were well-used as well, dog-eared and worn. To call them dusty would be to do Camille a disservice, but their contents certainly made them tomes.

The histories of nations long-gone or just-born. The mythologies of the Thousand-Faced God, and the theories of the Perishing Star. The studies of mechanical and natural sciences, collected from the cottages of the workers. The observations of the heavens and the clouds, that interplay between weather and superstition. Books on cuisines no longer attainable, and books on crafts rendered obsolete. Philosophies and morality, studies on ethics realized through incidents imagined and real.

In a phrase, books on the world, plundered from the vaults of the rich.
@Asuras@Click This
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