Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Brand
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Brand

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__________Somewhere in the Valarian wilderness__________

Edessa and Emil


A dense fog blanketed the forest and the feint sounds of horses and people reverberated off the trees; A caravan was on the move. They followed a weathered dirt path which stretched through the Valarian Forrest, at times the path disappeared completely before reemerging sometime later, making it too easy for travelers to lose themselves. Leading on horseback was a woman, or rather a ranger, hired to guide the caravan through the dangerous wood, and behind her a small group of men dressed in chainmail and leather. With drawn weapons they scanned the area around them, their faces dirtied and sweating from nerves. They were mercenaries, mostly, and they had been ambushed already by thieves, and the encounter had cost some of their number. Behind the mercenaries were the merchants and travelers they were hired to protect. Towards the rear of the column was an ambassador of one of the Valarian lords, traveling to the Ferronian capital to seek an audience with the queen. He too was accompanied by a pack of hired swords in addition to his Valarian guard.

"pick up the pace!" one of the guards hollered from the rear of the column, and the caravan complied without objection. All eyes were fixed upon the forest which surrounded them, expecting the unseen foe to reveal themselves at any moment in a frenzied attack. After the guards repelled the first ambush many of the thieves escaped back into the forest, but the cutthroats had wizened up and rather then another all out attack they had taken to following the convoy and picking off the guards one at a time, or wounding one of them to slow their pace. The men were utterly frustrated that they could not defend themselves against the harassment
.
A bird sounded from the forest, and on the other side of the road another bird returned the call; the thieves were communicating something. One of the mercenaries lost his patience and turned his horse to face the forest. At the top of his lungs he yelled, "Come out you cowards!" but he was answered only by silence.

Suddenly an arrow broke through the fog and flew towards the mercenary. With a loud "Umph!" he caught it with his shield, nearly falling from his horse as he jerked his body away from the projectile. He was quick to regain balance and snapped the arrow from his shield, yelling curses in frustration. There was another bird call and the rustling of plants, but the fog concealed their movements.

One of the mercenaries hired to guard the ambassador turned to his comrades and spoke, "We're almost at the outpost. If they're going to do something it'll happen soon. Be ready."

__________Snowhearth, capital city of Ferros__________

Skye


Soft light poured in from two large windows which stretched from floor to ceiling, a sophisticated gold and red Kaininite rug sprawled across the polished stone floor. Maps of various regions and provinces were framed on the walls and all over the room various items of antiquity were put on display. Stacks of paper and books were sprawled across a dark wooden desk at the center of it all and on either side of the desk sat two men.

"Are you sure it should be him?" one of them spoke, the more plainly dressed of the two.

He wore a dark brown, wool tunic, with his long black hair partially braided and falling over his shoulders, the other man was dressed far finer with an intricately patterned golden and black doublet, pinned on the right side of the chest with an iron sunburst fashioned around a citrate gemstone, the official pin of the Ferronian court. He leaned back in his chair and ran his hand over his short blonde hair as he loosed an exhausted sigh, a look of annoyance on his face.

"Why shouldn't it be him?" his tone plainly irate as he tapped his fingers on his desk. The man was big, bigger than any mage ought to be. If his status as Archmage wasn't intimidating enough, his sheer size was. Indeed he was the Archmage of Ferros, Oswald Blaumond, and squirming under his icy gaze was Lateus Erren, head of his research division.

"It's... a dangerous job," Lateus replied with an uneasy smile. The man was brilliant in his scholarly pursuits, but he was a rather underwhelming mage with a meek personality.

"I'm more than confident in my sons ability," Archmage Blaumond replied plainly. He was growing short with Lateus. "Besides, it'll be a good opportunity for him."

"When will you tell him?

"Now. I've already sent for him; Skye should be here soon."

__________Vespar, captial city of Valaria__________

Nyirr and Genshal


Dark clouds lumbered forward from the coast. The weather was calm now but soon a storm would be upon them. Outfitted in his brigandine and chainmail chausses, Sir Elric Grey stood on the city walls of Vespar, and tiresomely looked over the great city with brown eyes. It was nearly only soldiers which roamed the streets, the civilians themselves were mostly boarded up in their own homes, praying to Euros for a chance to see the sunrise at the end of the siege, for before nightfall the army of Lord Theron begin their siege.

Elric twisted his hand nervously back and forth across the hilt of his blade. Behind him some soldiers were making last minute efforts to strengthen the defenses, others were enjoying themselves the hours before the siege. It was humorous that before a siege there were some playing cards or dice and gambling their savings away, because no one expected to live through the night. A familiar voice caught his attention.

"Elric, there you are!" the voice belonged to Sir Doyle, one of his companions and long time friend. The old man had been through some dangerous times with Elric, and had earned his place as one of his advisers.

"I've been thinking. If there's one thing we've got going for us it's that Theron won't try to starve us out," Sir Elric said as he turned from the city and looked out over the grassy field which stretched before the walls, it was lush and green from the spring rains, it disturbed Elric to think what it might look like by morning. Far in the distance the camp of"Theron is pressed for time. As he marches to us he has a Valean army marching towards his homeland. He'll need a quick victory here if he hopes to intercept the Valeans, and with his numbers he probably thinks it's possible."

Sir Elric smiled and looked at his friend, "Which means he's going to commit to an all out assault. Maybe a night or two of bombardment, but he's going to be anxious to get his men over these walls."

"Why is that a good thing?" Sir Doyle inquired.

"If we die, at least it won't be of starvation," Elric replied with a hollow chuckle.

"Elric, there are still some ships in port. Board as many men as you can and evacuate the city. As your friend and adviser, we won't win this. Even if we do how long can we hold Vespar against the Valeans or the next army? Save your men to fight another day."

Elric scoffed, "The city isn't important. Right now every Valarian who wants independence has three sides to choose from. Our army is underfunded and undermanned. Let me tell you something Doyle, Valarians want a republic, I know they do! But there are few men willing to die in vain for one. We need to prove that all of this isn't in vain and that we have a chance. All we need is a victory, a big one and people will flock under our banner."

Elric smiled warmly at his friend and then proceeded down the walkway, descending the wall. He continued as Doyle followed, "My goal is to have Therons head on a pike and one less competitor for the sons of Valaria. Besides, if Theron is allowed to claim Vespar he will entrench himself in this city and Valaria might as well be his."

Sir Doyle sighed heavily and shrugged his shoulders, "You're going to get me killed."

"Probably," Sir Elric replied with a hearty laugh as he looked over his shoulder back at his friend. It was at great surprise he turned to see a face he had never expected to see again

"Nyirr?" Elric said in disbelief. "Nyirr of the Tower?" he said again, furrowing his eyebrows as if he was unsure of his vision.

__________Somewhere in the Valean countryside_________

Tegan, Alaric and Kotori


A pillar of smoke rose above the Valean countryside. Tegan, Alaric and Kotori had been sent by the tower to investigate the acquisitions of a small town. Apparently there was a feral mage loose among them, and the sight of the rising smoke did not bode well. Anxious of what could of happened, the trio kicked their horses into motion.

They raced along the dirt road, surrounded on each side by far stretching farmland. As they grew closer to the village they could hear yelling and screaming. The dirt road gave way to cobblestone as they entered the village. The homes were quaint and the scene would of been picturesque if not for the ever loudening sound of screams and clamor. At this distance however, they could make out yelling, and the voices did not sound distressed but rather they sounded angered.

It was when they rounded the final corner did the reality of the scenario become apparent. Lined in a row were five stakes, and tied to the first three were small, charred bodies. Two adults were tied to the remaining stakes, their skin being consumed by fire. The skin of their waists was beginning to melt away, and violently they jerked their bodies as much as they could against the rope, desperate to escape the hell. As the flames inched up their bodies they let loose horrifying screams, chilling to the bone, but over their agony the crowd yelled in a frenzy.

"Witch!"

"Demon!"

"Monster!"

There was no shortage of names, and as the crowd howled for blood a group of armed men stood before them, near the burning stakes. They were armored in chain mail and leather, and the bore stripped red and white tunics with the silhouette of a rose in the center. They were of the Order, eight or nine in total, and they looked upon their actions with smug content. One of the men spoke to the crowd, egging them on and encouraging their hatred.

"This is the cure!" He said as he motioned his arm to the burning stake. The townsfolk bellowed in approval, "Mages and their kind are a blight upon our nation! It takes one, ONE mage to destroy a village. One mage can unleash havoc upon you that you dare not have a nightmare of. You know the fear well! With but a thought they can extinguish your life!"

The man full of adrenaline paced back and forth in front of the crowd, who in this bloodthirsty state were eager to hear more! Hear him speak of the atrocities mages were, hear him instill fear, hear him justify what they had done.

"There is no place in this world for a mage, and the world would be all the safer without them. But I tell you friends, neighbors, that it is not enough to deal with the mage, but you must deal with the source!" He continued as he pointed an accusing finger at the couple burning, by now the flames had consumed their faces and their bodies were lumps of burning meat.

"A women who gives birth to a mage will birth more mages. A man whose seed yields a mage will father more monsters. It is not enough to rid the mage, but you must rid their lineage! When one person wield such control over the lives of others the world is a dangerous place! By this purification we secure a safer future!"

The trio from the Tower had not yet been noticed, but a feint whisper from the window of a nearby house caught their attention. It was an elderly man, his eyes glazed from sorrow and his face contorted with fear, "Run!" he whispered louder, "The world has turned to madness."
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Rayn Night
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The terrors of war had not changed; the effects could still be felt in the air. Valaria, formally part of Valeal from a few years back, now wanted their independence. The war to keep their territory was known to most, but they were also fighting within their own nation. Two noble armies were at each other’s necks for control of this nation as rulers. The third, much smaller army was the one of Sir Elric Grey. He was the one who desired a republic over the monarchy. Rightfully so, Nyirr was one of his supporters although he was not directly involved with this mess. He couldn’t do much until the Tower would allow him to do so or that he would do it against the rules. It was a decision he pondered for years now, and maybe this day was when he would turn and take a stand for what he believes.

The small group of four had been in Vespar for just over a week, responding to the Tower’s demand to rid Valaria’s capital of the feral mages making trouble for the near lawless place. They accomplished what was asked with swift efficiency, although it seems that the numbers were going down ever so lightly. It was clear that these places where war was springing, these people took pleasure in getting away with whatever they could. Now, they had to leave the place as it seemed too dangerous to stay there with their presence being known in the city. Nyirr had gathered near the exit, horseless. He had asked for his friends to show up ready to leave as soon as the sun rose on the horizon.

The Behemoth of a man was waiting for their arrival; stand right near the gates of Vespar. He bared his weaponry and his armor of the Tower, yet had not taken up his traveling pack or brought his horse. As soon as the three came in sight, Nyirr smiled lightly, approaching with a light foot. He could already tell that they were confused on why he wasn’t ready to leave. He came forth before them as they waited to hear what Nyirr had to say.

“Well, my friends, I believe this is where our roads will now separate. I will be staying here to aid Sir Elric Grey.” He said with a calm, deep voice. Saying those words meant many things and not all good ones. “I would request something of you all. I would ask if you would stay and do the same. I do not expect you to accept this as I know the consequences of this act.” He didn’t give off that he was forcing them to. It would be a shame for Nyirr to go into this without having his friends of the Tower by his side. Yet, he knew that they would probably depart.

"Excommunication," Sir Lazerous responded near instantly while Nitia and Vednusdi shot each other a confused glance. Nyirr kept his head high as Lazerous spoke of the fate that awaited him. There was a pause of silence before Sir Lazerous leaned forward in his saddle and gave Nyirr a somber look, "Nyirr, I know you've been troubled by this, I could see it in your eyes at the mentioning of Valaria, and since we've crossed the border your anguish has become more apparent, but the Tower is your home. You're a great guardian and a better man, but the Archmage's won't show leniency: You will be excommunicated. Don't throw it all away for another war."

He pondered the thought a second, let his words sink in. “The Tower will always be my home… But I can’t watch this nation fall. My family is in a constant threat and something needs to be done.” He responded to him. “I have my duties with the Magi and will carry them through even if they decide to excommunicate me. They might give up on me for doing this, but I will not give up on them. I wish the Tower was more open to these cases, but those are the rules.”

"I wish they were more open as well son," Sir Lazerous acknowledged as he leaned forward. He gave Nyirr a firm shake of the hand and a small nod, "You stay safe," were his farewell words. The smile on Nyirrs face grew a little wider to the answer of Sir Lazerous. “You too.” Nyirr answered back. Sir Lazerous beckoned Nitia and Vednusdi to the gate. "Come on, we've got a ways to go yet before we're home." Vednusdi kicked his horse into motion and began to follow Sir Lazerous out

Nyirr glanced over to Ved who followed up behind the old mage, but Nitia had not moved from her position. Was she considering his offer? Her voice halted the men’s movement. "I'm staying as well," Nitia declared, meeting a stern look from Sir Lazerous as she dismounted.

"War is not a trifling thing child; get back on your horse."

Nitia only proceeded to remove her saddlebags from her mount, "As far as I know this is the first time in history people have been given a chance to rule themselves. No king, no nobles... just equals," Nitia locked eyes with Nyirr who nodded to her, then looked back to Sir Lazerous," that's something I'll fight for, and I'll regret this forever if I leave. It's a genuine chance to serve people in a greater way." Nyirr understood exactly how she felt. Sir Lazerous looked to Nyirr for his reaction.

He turned and faced Sir Lazerous as he spoke “I was but a child when they sent me to war with Malfear. If she has the will and determination, she will push through.” He said softly, adding a few comforting notes. “I will take care of her. It is, after all, my duty as a Warden of the Magi to protect the mage I tutor.” His eyes shifted over to the young man he had trained for the past few years. “Continue your training as usual Vednusdi. Have Rendal Terzeroth take over my role. He is another veteran of the war that will train you like I do. You will become a great Guardian, I am sure of it.”

The young man smiled lightly and nodded to his former mentor. Sir Lazerous too had nothing but a smile to answer back to the two who were staying behind. And so, with those final words, they left. Nyirr waved as the two men left for the road back to the Tower. Although he felt a little disapointment in their departure, it was for the best of those two that they were leaving. Vednusdi was still young and had a lot to learn from the mages of the Tower. Nitia, on the otherhand, needed to put her knowledge to practice. What better way to do this than to assist Sir Elric Grey in securing the capital. And so, as they left view, he turned to Nitia and approached her.''I am happy you have decided to stay... I have to say that I am sorry if the Tower excommunicates you, but I believe this situation demands our help.''

"I believe the same as well, otherwise I wouldn't have stayed," she replied with a playful smile. Nyirr started marching forth; back towards the Inn they had stayed. He took the reins of Nitia's horse and signaled her to follow. She followed up behind, not too far.

''We get my equipment and then we are going to meet Sir Elric. I hope you are ready for what is to come Nitia.'' Nyirr said. When he spoke of what was to come, a more unsettled look crossed Nitia’s face. "I think so, but I'm nervous." Nyirr turned his head back to answer back to her. “Being nervous is a good sign.”

"I can't believe i've left the tower," she finished with a small laugh, as if the reality of what she had done was slowly sinking in. That reality had hit Nyirr in a different way. He didn’t think they had left, but simply become independent from them. He would still honor their rules outside of those walls. His smile stayed as they marched forth. “You decided to follow what your soul tells you Nitia. Even if the towers expulses us from their walls, we shall continue following their doctrine.” It may be complicated to do so, but Valaria was a nation in need of stability. Hopefully, Sir Elric will be bolstered to have a Guardian and a Mage by his side, encourage him to push as far as he could.

The duo walked over to Inn and Nyirr made quick work in gathering his supplies and gear. He considered meeting Sir Elric with robes, but arriving in his Warden armor would carry a stronger message. And so, he attached the scabbard of his blade and the holster for Dawn Breaker to his belt. Sheating the blade away, he also attached his shield to the strap on his back and made sure he had everything he needed.

He came back out, Nitia having put the horse away for the time being. If they needed any, they could procure themselves other ones. The two then set of to go meet Sir Elric. Nyirr had asked around the soldiers still walking the grounds to know where he was. Some were surprised to see him, the Great Guardian of the Tower back in his lands… And most had been thrilled to see it being so. One of them pointed towards the walls, suggesting he was probably overseeing the forces outside the walls. Thanking them for their help, he walked off to go see the man.

It was remarkably easy to find the noble man as he was coming down the stairs of the wall. It had been a long time… Last he’s seen him was probably a little after the war against Malfear. He was a great man, courageous at that. He knew what he was doing, he knew what the people wanted. Their funding and numbers were low, but that’s because of the nobles fighting over for the place did not want a republic to be formed.

Nyirr expression grew warm a gentle as he heard his name. He strode over casually towards him. ‘’Yes, Sir Elric. But I am not of the tower for the time being. My comrade Nitia and I are here to reinforce the People’s army.’’ He came forward and stopped in front of the main, his hand coming up to exchange a firm handshake. ‘’I worried about this nation that is collapsing under this war… And your measures are the most reasonable there are.’’

He turned and lifted his arm towards the young woman with him. ‘’This is lady Nitia, a Mage that has been under my protection and tutoring the past few years. She too wishes to see change in these grim lands.’’ He beckoned Lady Nitia to come forward and present herself formally with him. ‘’I personally thought that our mere presence would be enough to inspire your soldiers to rise and fight and make those beyond the walls rethink their game.’’
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Gelgarin
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The column moved quickly through the night. People look at an army and assume that something so big, with so many moving parts, must spread slowly across the land. They are wrong. An army has thousands of moving parts, but each of those parts is a man; a man who knows he will taste nothing but military rations and not feel the inside of a woman until he reaches his destination. Armies move fast.

As befitting his rank, Genshal marched with the vanguard. A vanguard is a mass of irregular soldiers, typically the least trained and most expendable warriors. One mage is worth a few hundred untrained soldiers in a war, but a few hundred farmers with pitchforks will defeat a lone mage every time. The role of the vanguard is to charge head first into the opposing vanguard so that they can violently butcher one another, whilst the generals and the important troops practice the artistry of warfare. Being a soldier in the vanguard is not a job with long term survival prospects, but Genshal favoured it. Surviving was just a matter of practice, and the company was less intolerable.

The vanguard travels at the rear of an army on manoeuvres, only advancing to the front when it is time to get killed. Genshal had always suspected that this was so that the commanding officers don't have to look upon it as they ride. The presence of irregulars was taken as something of an affront by many of the generals. They had watched some extremely impressive wars from the backs of their horses, and probably felt they knew what I good army should look like.

Travelling in the rear suited Genshal's purpose. The front columns were always lined by scouts and sentries, surveying the terrain and guarding against surprise attack. Nobody cared much about surprise attacks on the vanguard. Similarly, nobody cared much if members of the vanguard fucked off into the night. They hadn't been paid yet, and there were plenty more men where those came from. A strong vanguard was essential in any conflict, but they weren't important in the way that cavalry or mages were important.

This particular vanguard was being overseen by Lord Kensal, a bannerman of the pretender King Theron – formerly Lord Theron before the country fell apart. Genshal had marched under Kensal's command before – the man was an oaf who resented being tasked with commanding the irregulars, and as such he typically paid late or not at all. This time Genshal had no intention of waiting to find out. As the columns finally slowed for the night, Genshal kept moving. He'd stayed with the column up till now since war had picked this country clean, and a man could no longer live off the land, but he had no intention of being smashed against the walls of Vespar.

To the south was a different army. No better commanded, no better equipped and just as doomed to failure as the one he was deserting. Genshal wasn't a strategist. He'd never read books or studied campaign maps, but half a decade of real soldiering had taught him a few simple truths. Valial was bigger than Valeria, therefore the Valien armies would be victorious in the end. 'King' Theron was the best tactician, 'King' Myres had the best positions across the country, and Elric Grey (who apparently was not a king yet) had the worthiest cause and loyalist men. Positioning, strategy and morale were wonderful things, but tended to pale in comparison to 'having a lot more soldiers than the other guys'.

No, Valial would win this foolish war in the end, but until that day came, Genshal's loyalty was to the man who would pay him the best. You can judge the strength of a master by how tightly he holds on to his purse strings. A strong man will offer you little, as you are of little value to him. A man who fears his sunrises are running out, he'll pay you whatever is asked. Elric Grey was going to die a painful death, but until that time, his stronghold of Vespar was the best place for a sellsword to ply his trade.

An army moves fast, but Genshal moved faster. An army has to march around obstacles, Genshal passed straight through. Considering what was approaching from the rear, Theron was doubtless keen to reach the stronghold of Vespar, but Genshal was still able to arrive at the gate a full day ahead of the attackers. He was dirty, hungry, tired and in a foul mood, but this represented little change from the past seven years. Grey had posted sentries around the outside of the city, but passing them was no challenge. When you're watching for an impending army, one filthy peasant doesn't merit a raise of the eyebrows, let alone an interrogation. And so it was that dawn found Genshal pounding on the gates of Vespar with the hilt of his bastard sword.

“Who goes there?”

“No one of consequence.”

“Are you of the People's Army?”

“Which people?”

“Excuse me?”

The dawn shift was evidently not given to guards possessing a great deal of imagination. Genshal elected to start again.

“I'm a mercenary, I seek employment and I have information on the army that will be arriving tomorrow.”

That got their attention. Genshal was ushered inside the gatehouse. The hapless gate guard was replaced by a hapless captain who, once Genshal determined did not have access to the army's coffers, was replaced by the mildly less hapless Sir Doyle. Doyle was a known quantity. If you have 'Sir' before your name then soldiers of fortune soon learn who you are – word travels freely around those who barter their blades. The man sitting across the table from Genshal was less idiotic than most, and also a true believer in his cause – both of these things made him dangerous.

“So you want to join the people's army?”, Doyle's tone was weary, and the bags under his eyes suggested that the man had received even less sleep than Genshal.

“I do.”

“You support Sir Grey?”

Genshal shrugged.

“I rather though not.” Doyle sighed, “So why join up? You may not have noticed, but we're all liable to die tonight. Most of our sellswords have been struggling to find a way out of the city. Why go the other way?”

'Because I'm not a fucking idiot' would have been the honest reply, but Genshal bit down on his tongue.

“You'll make it through the night.”, he said instead.

“You seem awfully sure.”

“I marched here with Theron's army. If your defences are good then he doesn't have the men to take the city - yet. Theron's a fool, but not a stupid fool. He needs the city, but he knows the Valean army to he rear is the real threat. Most of his magic and men and up north, protecting his rear. He's still got more men than you, but as long as the walls hold, you have a fighting chance.”

“You think we can win?”, asked Doyle.

“Win?” Genshal scoffed, “No. But you can keep from losing for a while.”

“So I ask again, why join us. If you think we're all doomed, why help?”

“Because you need me, and you can pay. I'm not going to die on your walls, but I'll help you hold them as long as you can meet my price.”

Once again Sir Doyle sighed, a look of resigned distaste visible across his face.

“I see. Mercenary though and through. I don't like mercenaries.”

“And yet you pay them anyway.”

“Normally, no. You people aren't worth spit. You take more than your give, and turn tale or turncoat and a moment's notice. Your kind aren't welcome under my banner...”

wait for it...

“But,” Doyle continued, “you've got this one right. We need every man we can get if we're going to hold the city. If you can fight, we can pay. Maybe you'll find something inside these walls worth fighting for.”

The old knight fumbled at his belt and tossed a small bag of coins across the table with a reassurance that, should they see another sunrise, there would be more. It would do for now – Genshal was sure that there was more to be picked up in the city itself. Refugees coming and going, trade backlogs and every armed man being summoned to the walls, a man could make a tidy living here, even without salary.

“Now,” continued Doyle, “I suggest you go and get some sleep. We'll need you on the east wall at sundown, and it would help if you're awake. There's an inn on the other side of the gatehouse – the People's Army sleep free... you will pay. But first... tell me about Lord Theron's army.”
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Saltwater Thief
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It always felt odd to travel by land for Alaric. His family was a seafaring one, which meant he had primarily used the ocean to travel for most of his life. Where most people were prone to nausea or losing their balance on a ship, he’d possessed a solid pair of sea legs since he was four years old. The trade off, however, was that he was very out of his element on horseback. The way the animal jostled him up and down with every step if it went any faster than a leisurely walk was unnerving even on the best days, and he was half certain something in his supplies would break as a result of it. Perhaps, at the end of the day it was simply because he didn’t like not having his own legs under him. And the fact that Kotori, his childhood friend turned Guardian, had a penchant for things such as leaning halfway off of her steed to snatch something off the ground before righting herself as though it were nothing did not help. Still, it was something he would have to live with; the town they had been dispatched to in Valeal was too far away for simple walking. And this way, he would save his own strength; Feral Mages were always regarded as dangerous entities, and while Kotori and Tegan would be immune to much of his or her arsenal, he would have to outfox or overpower the mage with his own magic. He reached down to his belt and gently patted one of the ceramic gourds that hung there. They were filled with water that he could call upon with his magic to do battle, and if push came to shove… He shook his head to clear it of such thoughts. He had enough to busy himself with without adding dread of the possible future to the list.

As they neared the town itself, one of his companions called out as they indicated a plume of smoke rising in the distance. As Alaric snapped his head around to look at it, his ears picked up a growing sound of a great group of people, all shouting in near unison. Something was very, very wrong. With a nod exchanged between the three of them, they kicked their horses into a faster pace to reach the town sooner and see what was happening. Once they made it to the town square, what greeted Alaric’s eyes was something he could not have predicted. And it disgusted him to his core.

Disgust is a powerful emotion. Most would hesitate to equate it with the likes of joy, sorrow, or rage, but only because they have yet to experience disgust in its purest form. It is not as trivial as decreeing something as less than pleasant to observe, nor is it as simple as expressing a desire to vomit. True disgust, pure disgust, manifests only when a person witnesses something that sickens them by the second, something that defies everything they love, know, and live for by its very existence; something that they would give anything to halt, to undo, to see it never happen again, but can do nothing about. That is antipathy, revulsion, disgust. And that is the emotion that rang through Alaric’s fibers and bones as he beheld the Order of the Rose’s men and what they had done.

They had expected hostility to some degree when they planned the journey. Valeal was, after all, a nest of ever growing discontent with the magically inclined. They had expected it, and they had planned for it. Nondescript clothing, nothing showing the mark of the Circle openly, and he had even taken to drinking from the gourds tied at his waist every now and then. But something like this… it far exceeded anything he could have possibly prepared himself for. He’d heard tell and tale of the Order ’s extremism, but to see it firsthand was another matter entirely. Not only had they set people, innocent people he was prepared to bet, to the flame, but they had also taken it upon themselves to sentence the parents, a mother and father who had done nothing wrong, to the same punishment. Moreover, he noted, they had saved them for last, forced them to watch their family perish. And they reveled in it.

That was when he particularly noticed the still smoldering corpses next to them. Something had seemed off about them since he first laid eyes on them, but he hadn’t been able to place it. Then it struck him like a thunderbolt on a clear day at sea.

“Children…” he hissed vehemently just barely above his breath, so that only Kotori and Tegan could hear, “They burned children at the stake.”

The rage in his voice was almost palpable. Alaric’s teeth ground together as his eyes narrowed and his breath came out in a snarl. It was no longer a matter of the Order of the Rose, or even whether or not the victims had truly been mages. These people, these monsters had slaughtered little kids, forced them to endure the unimaginable pain of being burned alive, all while their parents had been no more than ten feet away, helpless to do anything but watch. One of the gourds at his side began to tremble as the water inside, influenced by his magic, reacted to his emotional state. A few moments more and he might have lashed out, had a firm grip on his right forearm not accosted his attention. A look to his right showed that the grip belonged to Kotori, ever the faithful Guardian, as she reached out to steady him with her flesh and blood hand. He couldn’t make out her expression behind the mask she wore, but he could see her eyes through it. There was pain and sadness present in her gaze, but there was also resolve and caution. She abhorred the sight just as much as he did, but she still had a duty to perform and a responsibility to uphold. As did he, he remembered, as he closed his eyes for a moment.

With a great, deep intake of air he forced his emotions to quiet themselves and willed his magic to settle once again. When he opened his eyes again, he was calm and collected once more. And he was watching the spectacle before him unfold. He wished he could turn away, but the memory of a conversation he had held with his uncle Vardos prevented him from doing so. It had been just after they had witnessed a merchant ship fall prey to a gang of pirates as they were escorting his father to a meeting with Thomas Briar. The pirates dared not attack the Vastille fleet, but the merchant ship had not been so lucky.

“Uncle,” Alaric had asked, “Why did you not help them?”

“Sometimes, there are people beyond your help” had been his response.

“But you could’ve saved them easily!”

“Possibly. But remember what we are doing out here. My brother- your father- is on board, and if I had gone to fight those pirates his life would have been in danger. Listen carefully, Alaric- it may be our House’s policy to protect and save those in need, but we must take care that we do not forsake our responsibilities to do so. Right now, my responsibility is to make sure Ouren Vastille gets to his meeting safely. Much as I would I could have intervened, I would have done so with my duty and my charge at risk.”

“Isn’t there anything we can do for them?”

“There is one thing; we can watch. We can bear witness to their end when all other men turn away. We can burn their final moments into our memories when all others would forget. We can watch, and hope that when they reach Meros, they will know that more than just their enemies bore witness to their end, and that they are not forgotten.”

Alaric had watched the burning of the merchant ship as his uncle said. And he watched the burning of these innocent people just the same. A squeeze on his arm gave him further reassurance as Kotori withdrew her hand. A voice from nearby then called his attention to a frightened and hiding old man. He nodded to his compatriots, signaling to keep their eyes open, and pulled his horse over closer to the house. He kept his eyes on the burning spectacle, but made as if to get to the shade- the less attention he attracted the better- and soft as he dared spoke to the old man.

“What happened here? How did it become like this? Who was it that these… men have just executed?”
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Feisty-Pants
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Kotori - The Songbird (Tee-hee!)

Trudging along on horseback had always been a pleasant route to travel, for the sweetness of springtime on the air, the kiss of a cool breeze on her cheek were a far cry of the scent and salt of the sea. Catching a glance of a wildflower on the side of the road, with its fragile petals of cyan waving gently in the wind, the Guardian smoothly slid down alongside the flank of her steed, extended her mechanical arm and easily plucked it away to inspect it.

Casually returning to a proper stance upon her mount and meticulously inspecting the blossoms, she caught a briefly disdainfully envious gaze from Alaric as he awkwardly bounced and bumbled along on his own ride. Unable to help a small bout of laughter at his expense and tucking the plant into a side satchel for later, she simply smiled warmly beneath the ivory guise of her mask. Surely they were bound towards a hazardous task, but with her, Tegan, and her dear charge, the Guardian did not think that in the least that anyone in their little troupe would come to any harm.

And she would see to it personally.

Even if they were wandering into a prominently more hostile land.

Checking to insure her weapons, explosives and even her arm had continued to work properly or were intact, the Guardian noticed then too what the others had seen. A long pillar of smoke that rose into the sky from the center of a distant town; no less the very town that they had been sent to investigate! Digging her heels into the side of her horse simultaneously with the other two, the inconspicuous and easygoing ride quickly transferred to one of credible haste. With the wind whipping through her hair, and her stance lowered, she took the lead first so that she could be on point for any conflict that might arise.

The scene they arrived upon however, was simply horrific.

Sitting upon her mount at Alaric's side, her onyx eyes carefully took in the scene as screams found her ears and burning flesh found her sense of smell. Cursing beneath her breadth at the situation, her worriment first came in their proclamation to destroy and burn all Magi. Which meant that even if he used his talents to help, Alaric would be subject to such a rule. It was more than clear however, that the mind of the mob was the literal opposite of that, especially when it came to inhumane cruelty towards the innocent.

As Alaric hissed beneath his breadth, she quickly came to understand just why his gourd of water was trembling. A pair of small charred bodies, still tied to the stake, smoldered and spat smoke from eternally burnt and screaming lips into the midday sun. It made her sick, yet she still had a task to perform; quickly, Kotori reached out with her regular arm and seized her childhood friend's tightly. He spun to look at her, and though her mask may have had hidden the tear that streamed down her cheek, he could still see her sorrow.

But it was not the only emotion that was there. Deep within those pools of black were a sense of purpose and distinction. They were here for a reason, those bastards would receive their due comeuppance in good time.

Thankfully, Alaric eased up from his tension as her touch calmed his storm, and Kotori relinquished his arm. What came next was an additional surprise as out of nowhere, an Elderly man whispered them over to him. Quickly moving along and watching on silently as Alaric followed him, the Magi gave the signal for her and Tegan, the veteran of their party, to keep an eye out for any trouble.

Glancing at Tegan then, Kotori eyes then flickered towards the rooftop of the house. Her message was simple, she was going on top to get a bird's eye view. If there was any adversaries or threats about to arrive, both Tegan and Alaric would hear her mimicry of a Sparrow's call as always. Dismounting and reining in her horse, it did not take but a moment for the Guardian to disappear towards the side of the house, and with a slight running start, she literally ran up the height of the wall to land quietly upon the roof.

Slipping into a low crawl, she slowly and stealthily made her way across the rooftop so that she could keep an inconspicuous eye on the monsters in the town center from on high.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Reaper
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3 Months Ago, Vespa

Morana was watching upon the scene before her with great interest. A gang of thugs had been rounded up by the guards, tied and sitting in a circle on the ground out in the street while the rest watched on. She was invisible, hidden in the basement of the tavern. She had made her lodging there, unknown to anyone but the tavern keeper. She had been using it to observe and infiltrate the smuggling ring for weeks, establishing their operations and gathering enough intelligence to get them arrested. The gruff, burly man who owned the place had offered to let her stay indefinitely as long as she needed it, as repayment for saving his daughter from a pair of slavers.

It had happened by pure chance, she was in a brothel, on the pretext of being a patron to eavesdrop on the loose tongues that gathered in such places. She noticed a pair of men disappearing into the back room and followed suit, after bribing the madame of the place. She found the poor girl there, and rescued her after putting the slavers down. In exchange, she was given free room and board in the basement, since there was nowhere else in the tavern that was as discreet or inaccessible to other guests. The small slit opened up into the street and let air in was her vantage point from which she spotted the smugglers.

It was easy enough gathering the information she needed - those men were smart enough to use an apothecary to cover their real operations, but also left the place unguarded so as to avoid drawing attention. It meant the Raven could simply fly in and roost without anyone thinking to put an arrow in the unwelcome bird. She left the job of rounding them up to the guards, but they bore the colours of the People's Army - and they were different in that they were offering water and treating the smugglers with respect, albeit extremely strict and ready to draw their swords if the criminals tried anything.

One of the smugglers spat at the guard, and the young man in armour raised a steel-encased fist to smack the thug, but was stopped by the man beside him. There was no way she could hear what he said, but the shake of his head and careful reading of his lips told Morana the gist of the man's words. "They're criminals, but they're still citizens in our charge. Spit can't hurt you. Let it go."

Soldiers who treated common folk - criminals - with respect? Morana had always heard of this Republic they wanted to form, but she was skeptical. They were inferior in arms and influence, plus a woman in her line of work didn't have the luxury of believing everything she was told. The tempting feast is served with cups of poison, the saying went in her world. If something sounded too good to be true, it probably was. She'd need to look into this Sir Grey a little more.
Two Months Ago, Sir Grey's Bedchamber

Morana was reclined in Sir Grey's bed, reading a book from his personal collection when he walked in the door. Surprised crossed his face and he was ready to yell for the guards, but the spy gestured at his feet, where she had laid her daggers, bow, and quiver. "If I wanted you dead, I would have shot you through the doors on your way up the stairs and be gone before your body hit the landing below." She remarked, sighing and putting the book aside. "I'm here with an offer."
A Month Ago, Vespar

"I don't trust this Raven." Some commander barked, with a few voices of agreement behind him. "She is a woman who claims to be able to get information our best scouts and rangers themselves are unable to verify, who suggests we resort to dishonourable means and fight our battles!"

Morana was already in the room, well behind these men, but they had failed to notice her because she moved without noise Well, there was the fact that she wasn't encased in steel that clinked and made a din with each step. She slowly proceeded to the front of the room and silence fell when the men who objected her efforts in their war noticed her walking right past them. She seated herself on the war table, where their precious maps and charts were laid out, crossing one leg over the other and leaning back, as if she were reclining on her own lawn.

"If you men are silenced by a mere woman just because she heard your complaints about her, I doubt you have the mettle to face your enemies." Raven retorted softly, gently, as if she wasn't delivering a barbed insult to their pride. "If you men are so proud that you will not face the facts, then I am afraid your war is already lost." She turned her head around to glance at the map on the table and waved an arm over it.

"I see a lot more pieces denoting the enemy troops than our own. I see them in better positions than our own." It was a simple statement of fact, and to prove her point, she pointed at the pin that marked Vespar. "You might be able to hold one city if the walls hold... for how long? How long before the food and medicine runs out? How long before dead - soldiers and civilians - pile up in the streets and spread a plague?"

"We have loyal men with strong conviction, they're worth ten enemy soldiers!" Someone argued. Morana sighed. It would take some time to prove her point.

"They might be, in a straight fight with the right conditions. How long does conviction fill a man's stomach, I wonder? They need only surround the city and starve us out." She refuted. Zealots were harder to convince than fools. "That's only considering the Valarians we're fighting. After this country is done tearing itself apart, how will you stop Valeal from marching in and finishing what we started ourselves? This isn't a war for the right to rule, this is war for survival. You can crush the enemies of Lord Theron and Myres, but will the remaining scraps be enough to hold Valeal back?"

"You think we're not-"

"Oh, I know you are aware of this, which is why I must ask the obvious - if you'll end up losing anyway in a fair fight, what other choice do you have?" She met the gaze of the commander who was adamantly protesting her involvement earlier. "What is your honour and pride worth if it damns the people you're fighting for? I am not asking you do raze cities or blackmail the enemy into submission, though those are fairly easy ways to break the enemy spirit. I am proposing you use the strength of your enemy against him."

She picked up the piece that represented Lord Theron. "Theron's troops are either regulars fighting under his bannermen, or mercenaries and peasants who are fighting in the vanguard. The former will likely remain a threat, but the latter is a fickle weapon. They are expected to die for no reward, treated with no respect and fight for three reasons - coin, food, and because they had no other choice. If one can convince these men they would be better served fighting for you - that if they picked the right moment, they could join you and be welcomed as equals or at the very least, leave the battle, Theron's strength will be much weaker when he fights you. He has a Valeal at his back to worry about, and diminishing his force's ability to fight will force him to decide who is the bigger threat."
Two weeks ago

Morana had finished her preparations and left Vespar to start her work. She had convinced the commanders who disagreed with her methods that they need her for the moment, even if they just thought her a necessary evil. It wasn't difficult to blend in with Lord Theron's army - there was one sure place a woman with her beauty and skills would never be noticed, and that was travelling with the "camp followers", women who accompanied the army for the sake of providing "morale" for the men. They traveled with the supply caravan, which was in the center of the formation. That meant it was lightly guarded once she avoided the main fighting force around it. That was simple enough, under the cover of night and waiting for the men to get busy whoring, gambling, drinking or some combination of the three.
A week ago

There was an outrage among the vanguard when they heard there would be less food for them. Their food stores had been greatly compromised by vermin and mold. Morana would not have been able to hide her smug grin were she not a spy by profession. All she really had to do was to bat a few eyelashes at the quartermaster and he let her sneak some food away from the stores every night. She used the opportunity to douse them in water to get rid of the salt they used to preserve the food. All there was left to do was wait for nature to do its work for her.
Four days ago

She actually played the part of camp follower tonight. She was tipping more ale into the glass of a man who belonged in the vanguard while he raged on about how poorly the vanguard were treated. "They expect us to die for them, but they don't feed us properly and those blasted regulars think they can get first pick of wine and women because they ride under some fancy colours! Well, who do they think is going to die for them if we up and leave eh? Only their blasted coin and food keeping us here."

Her dress was half open from the top and she leaned closer to run a finger across the man's cheek. "I heard Sir Grey's men get treated better, some of the other vanguard are going to join them behind the walls once they get close enough." She whispered innocently, seeding ideas in the man's head. "I heard there's going to be some feast for the regulars in a couple of nights, and they'll be leaving the supplies to the vanguard to guard."

Common sense would see through the lie straightaway, but funny things happened to man while he was drunk. Morana had repeated the same thing to a different man every night, and as long as enough people started whispering, the rumour would become truth soon enough.
Two days ago

Morana walked up to the regulars guarding the tent where the coin chests were held. She was dressed like a camp follower again, with her breasts almost spilling out and the hemline barely covering her thighs. "Go away, woman, we're on watch." The first guard snapped gruffly.

"Oh, but one of the girls made a wager with me, you see." Morana leaned in closer acting shy and worried she might get caught whispering her next words. "She didn't believe me when I said I could take two men at once. She said if I managed to convince you boys to help me prove it, she'd join in herself. I mean to make her eat her words."

It was such an obvious lie she half-expected them to point their spears at her, but they shared a glance as she lifted up the hem of her dress ever so slightly to tease them. That momentary distraction was all she needed. From a concealed pocket in her dress she fished out a fistful of sleeping powder in each hand and threw it in their faces, making them cough as they inhaled it. They cursed and advanced on her, but were knocked out before they could even take a second step.

"Sweet dreams." She giggled, as she watched the vanguard approaching. Well, they'd soon be raiding the treasury and she no reason be in the vicinity for them to identify her. Her red hair and facial features were hidden by a layer of dry mud and some rouge. The woman they'd be accusing of knocking them out would look very different from the real Morana.

Now came the hardest part. She was technically only here to spread dissent and sabotage Lord Theron's forces enough to encourage desertion from the vanguard and hopefully steer them towards Vespar's aid, but since she was here, she decided she might as well seek a greater challenge for herself.
One Night Ago

If there was one thing Morana learned about men in power, it was that they were willing to believe two things - people were obligated to obey them, and that women were interested in them. The latter was true for most men, but it was so much easier to convince nobles of the same. All it took was to plot her route around the camp each night to ensure she ran into one of Lord Theron's bannermen, and giggle as she passed them, playing the shy maiden.

It didn't take her long to gauge who among them were most easily swayed - she made sure that her routes all lead to the river, and whichever bannerman followed her there was her target. To his credit, he waited to be rid of his personal guard before wandering towards the river hoping to see her. She purposed came around a tethered horse and bumped into him, dropping a bucket of water and wetting both their clothes before feigning worry that she had offended him and pleading for him to be understanding. At least he tried to muster up the manners to try and charm her. She had anticipated the more aggressive, demanding approach, but he played the gentleman, asking her name and offering to let her dry off in his tent.

That had been three nights ago, and she rejected his advances that night and every day after, pretending to be tempted but afraid of "tarnishing his name", or being attacked by the other girls because she dared to move on a noble. She had finally caved earlier that day, agreeing to meet him at night in his tent in exchange for his discretion.

Things were fairly easy once they were in his tent, she acted nervous and he offered her wine, pouring some for himself. It wasn't difficult to gradually act bolder, as if the wine was removing her inhibitions, while discreetly ensuring he drank more than she did. Once he was sufficiently intoxicated and distracted by her sitting in his lap, she started spiking his wine with a potion that herbalists used to help the sick sleep. His idea of a seduction was to cover her neck breasts in honey and slowly lick it off her, which made it easier when his vision was blocked.

The only real complication was getting him to the bed to ensure he lay down and fell asleep. She didn't have any qualms about sleeping with her marks after seducing them, but she was covered in the sticky residue of dried honey and his drunkenness did little to put her in the mood. She straddled his hips as he lay back, pretending to tease and draw out the evening, but when his breathing slowed and evened out and she was sure he was asleep, she got off the bedding and went to search through the tent for information. She copied down the information on a separate parchment, securing it in a leather band around her thigh when she done.

The stolen information hidden under her skirt, Morana ran out of the tent, still giggling and acting as if she was leaving hurriedly to hide the fact that she had just been in the tent of a nobleman. The soldiers around her didn't even give her a second look. She skirted around to the outer edge of the camp, where the horses were tethered, and ran towards one of the younger squires, acting terrified.

"Please, help me! Some of the men in the vanguard were talking about some gold they had stolen from the treasury and they spotted me, they mean to kill me to cover up their crime! Please, you must tell Lord Theron!" The squire was so taken in by her fear and the news regarding the thieves that he rushed off without a word. That would cause enough of a commotion within the camp that she could get away.

It took her fifteen minutes to get to the small clearing where she had hidden her gear in the hollow of a dead tree, and get back in her leather armour. Riders would be patrolling the woods soon looking for deserters and thieves, she would have to make haste before they caught up with her. Hopefully, Doyle didn't forget to send one of his scouts out to the arranged rendezvous point with a fresh horse.
Present day

Morana rode through the gates of Vespar leisurely, as if there wasn't an army marching up to the city. The scout who had provided her with the horse had returned once his job was done, but she had insisted to wait a day to ensure her efforts bore fruit. She spotted some deserters breaking rank throughout the day, circling away from the main force and heading towards Vespar (she hoped, at least)

She arrived at where Doyle was speaking to some sellsword. From the caked mud on his boots and the dirt on him, she guessed he was one of the deserters. She caught the tail-end of the conversation and had to admire the guy's bravado. She had to make the same speech to them herself, albeit with a different goal in mind. He seemed capable enough to back his boasts, at least.

"So, tell me about Lord Theron's army." Doyle inquired of the mercenary, as Morana stopped beside the stranger, half-sitting and half-leaning on the table, smirking.

"I can do better, I can show you Lord Theron's army." She fished out her stolen intelligence and passed it to Doyle, who sighed and took it with look of resignation in his face. "Sorry to steal your thunder, but you can feel free to corroborate my information and fill in the gaps if I left any... or got the wrong information." She was confident neither would happen.

"I appreciate the work, Raven, but your job was to spread dissent among Lord Theron's troops and convince them to join us, not risk getting caught stealing information." Doyle protested irritably, clearly impressed by her work but frustrated it was her who managed it.

"I like delivering more than I promised." The redhead teased, pressing two fingers to her lips and blowing a teasing kiss in the sour soldier's face. "Gives you idiots more reason to keep me around."

She turned back to the mercenary. "Go on, say your piece, I want to see if my intelligence was solid. It'd be waste to endure that fool's humiliating attempt at seduction only to be fed bad information."
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Nib
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Gorgon, The Swamp of Sorrows
They were tired and weary; they just wanted out of this damn swamp. They longed to get to the city gates and get home to their own beds. Patrolling the swamps was the worse placement a guard could get; it meant going out for days at a time to patrol and try to find the group of guerrilla fighters that were fighting back against King Thomas Briar. A lot of patrols came back damaged and missing men, men who died at the end of the swords and arrows of the rebels. Sometimes, the patrols would come back with a few heads of the rebels to put on the pikes next to Arthur Blackwater’s head.

It all depended on if the rebels could get the drop on them, if they had enough cover, and if they had Lucien Blackwater or the heavily armored fighter with the green feather on his helmet. Those two usually turned the tide of the fight, especially when they used their magic against them. Lucien could sway their minds with illusions, and his armored friend could use curses on them.

A guard near the back of the procession turned his tired gaze to the left slightly and saw a stump halfway sunk into the ground with the carcass of a deer rotting next to it in the swamp. He turned back to the right, his gaze more alert and spoke to the man marching, more like sleepwalking, next to him.

“Am I crazy, or have we passed that same stump before?”

“Don’t be stup-,” the guard broke off due to the arrow protruding from his neck and went down gurgling and spurting blood. The guard who had noticed the stump stopped and yelled out the word none of them wanted to hear.

“AMBUSH!”

As if his voice were a signal cry, arrows suddenly began raining down on the procession from the trees flanking the path they walked; they had been going in circles, but how? They knew the swamps, they lived here all their lives and trained to know these swamps. There was a break in the arrows as the surviving guards formed a tight circle with raised shield on all sides to fend off the storm from the rebels’ bows. The guard captain was in the circle trying to not show that he was as terrified as his men around him.

Out of the swamps on either side of the king’s men suddenly came the ranks of rebels, some were charging, others seemed to be limping their way toward the guards. The rebels met the guards on the path with swords and spears drawn, the two sides of the rebels’ forces slamming into the guards’ defensive circle. The guards broke rank and began fighting the rebels one-on-one or at times two-on-one or vice versa. Among the rebels fought their leader, Lucien Blackwater. He took down two guardsmen as he made his way to their captain; his own men had made sure he had an opening.

Lucien charged at the man, swinging his sword down at his neck. The man dodged the blow and pulled a small whistled from under his tunic and blew a sharp note from it. A moment later and there came a storm of arrows down on the skirmish between rebels and guardsmen.

“Move,” Lucien yelled as he managed to dive into the cover of the trees as arrows fell upon both rebels and guardsmen, completely uncaring whom they pierced and took from this life. Some of his men had been able to raise a shield or duck under the trees, but a lot of them fell to the ground with arrows jutting from their necks and chests; some of them, oddly enough, stayed standing completely oblivious to the arrows sticking in them. Some of the guardsmen stopped in their tracks, hesitant to go near the undying rebels.

“Don’t be fooled, they’re just more of his illusions!”

The yell came from the guard captain, but his yell only fell on less than half of his men now. This didn’t seem to be a problem, and a moment later Lucien knew why; Gorgon Rangers came charging from their previous firing position to attack the rebels that fought against their king. Lucien stood from he had dove and charged once more into the battle, crying for his men to follow. The rebels now met the blades of the elite of Gorgon’s military force. The whole thing was an ambush for him; the captain had waited to see if he was among the rebels before making the call for support from the Gorgon Rangers, who must have been following them nearby. Lucien had ex-rangers among his rebel force, but not nearly as many as the actual military force had.

The outcome of this battle looked bleak for the rebels, but they fought on for the rightful heir to the throne of Gorgon. Lucien crossed blades with one of the rangers. It pained him to fight the Gorgon Rangers; he had led them after all and fought alongside them, but many them felt as if he had betrayed them. He may have, but the fact remained that he had come back with power they couldn’t imagine, power he intended to turn upon his uncle for the slaughter of his family.

Lucien ducked a slash from the ranger before him and made a simple gestured with his left hand, a slight glow about it. The man’s vision blurred for a moment and then there were two Lucien Blackwaters coming at him with a sword. He chose to block the left’s sword. He chose wrong, and because of this got a sword caught in the side of his neck. Lucien pulled the sword free with some effort, noticeably panting now from the effort of the large illusion he had used against the guard force, the strain of battle, the strain of keeping the reanimated soldiers going, and the illusion he had just used. One of the Gorgon guards noticed this and charged at him from behind. Lucien turned at the man’s yelling, but the man never made it to him as a rebel fighter jumped in front of Lucien and crossed blades with the guardsman.

With a glance, Lucien assessed the battle; they were losing thanks to the appearance of the Gorgon Rangers. His living men were being cut down, as where his undead soldiers. He couldn’t risk them finding out he was using Necromancy, so he broke the connection with the soldiers in positions of death and let them fall and stay dead this time. He continued doing this as more and more were struck down. The Gorgon Rangers were just too much for his forces.

“Retreat,” he called out to his forces, waving his sword toward the treeline. Lucien brought up the rear as his men made for the trees and the wilderness beyond; many of them were caught and struck down by the Gorgon Rangers. Lucien followed his men into the swamps, knowing full well that the Gorgon Rangers were pursuing them. All they had to do was make it to the checkpoint where he had men lying in wait to prevent a retreat from being followed back to their camp.

Arrows flew from behind the retreating rebels, catching a few in the back or legs; one lucky arrow found its place in Lucien’s calf, sending him to the ground. He slid forward in the mud, covering himself in the black goo. Those who saw him go down stopped to fight the Gorgon Rangers getting closer and to lift him up and carry him.

“No. Just run!”

“Can’t do that, your grace. Get him out of here, you two.”

The two men hoisted him up from under his arms and started making their way back toward the camp. The Gorgon Rangers met the rebels who stayed behind with drawn blades and arrows. Two Rangers managed to slip by them and continued their pursuit of the rebels, firing more arrows at the two rebels carrying Lucien through the swamp. One of the two went down with an arrow in his back, and the other fell to the ground from the sudden weight of Lucien being entirely up to him to carry; the arrow snapped as Lucien hit the ground, digging the arrow further into his calf. The two rangers fell upon them, killing the rebel next to Lucien and casually walking up to Lucien as he tried his best to drag himself away.

"Look how the mighty have fallen," one of them said as he brandished his sword.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Gowi
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Edessa Thorne & Emil Errant


“We’re almost at the outpost. If they’re going to do something it’ll happen soon. Be ready.”

For Edessa Thorne the entire scenario smelled of rot from the beginning, so much she was surprised she continued to allow herself to travel through the wood when this could’ve very well been the end of the road, figuratively speaking. The individuals that trudged in the trees and brush were not normal thinking bandits—normal bandits would have kept quiet until the caravan was off guard and there was an ample opportunity for that when they started this journey in the first place. There were many stops before the outpost and for a moment she guessed they were idiot bandits who had no idea what they were doing… until the fog set in. The fog came out of nowhere on an especially dry day with little humidity, almost like there were other forces at work with the bandits.

The raven-haired ranger took a heavy breath on her mare as she tried to look through the fog but it was to no avail. She knew how close they were to the outpost and its walls—but it was still at the most an hour until they were that fortunate and with the way things were beginning to look it certainly appeared that luck was amongst those who wished the caravan harm for their own gain. She did really hate bandits, but she understood why they were becoming more common given the state of the economy of the Valealian provinces. Despite all of the politics she still found herself not recognizing that this was Valaria now or at least it was for the moment. It wasn’t too important once they were out of the forest anyway—rural Ferros was on the horizon.

Why did she even take this contract in the first place?

Perhaps it was the idea that she needed to feed two mouths instead of one like she had become used to? It was so hard and she had been so hungry that all of the prospective gold in her face made her blind to the level of danger that would be involved in escorting and leading a merchant caravan through the woodland-entrenched wilderness; even as well-guarded as this caravan was. In fact, she had never seen so many mercenaries sticking with a caravan. What exactly were they hauling to sell to Ferros in the first place?

It must have been special to garner this kind of attention.

“Damn it all.” She groaned under her breath, “This fog is going to be the end of us.”

Her concerns were not kept to herself, not after seeing one of the mercenary men taken down by an arrow not too long ago. She had not known the man’s name but she knew he was barely old enough to hold a sword less alone tasked to deal with bandit hordes of this number. She had assumed he was a farmhand’s son who wanted a taste for adventure—it was a shame his first taste was his last. It all sent Edessa’s nerves on edge; that much could’ve been seen by anyone, especially Emil who had traveled with the ranger for at least a year now and knew her expressions well. Her comment made notice of one of the traveling mercenaries beside the two before Emil could make a comment to cool the woman's nerves.

The mercenary adjacent to the two shook his head, “Not if I can help it.”

“What good is your help when we cannot see those who seek harm? By the gods, I can barely hear them over the stomping of your mercenaries or the noise of the caravan’s horses and carriages!”

The mercenary frowned, “I’m not going to lie, this is a terrible situation we are in, but we shan’t just sit down and give up either.”

She sighed, at least he was honest as if he had spoken optimistically of how there was nothing to worry about she would’ve had to smacked him upside the head. Optimism was all well and dandy as long as it wasn’t naïve and foolhardy—or at least that’s how the Gorgonite girl felt about it. His words were right though: they shouldn’t give up just because of their rotten luck. But Edessa was not planning to give up in the first place, either. She would’ve given up long ago if their bleak scenario scared her that much.

Edessa nodded, “I’m not giving up, at any rate. If I had given up I would’ve left you for the wolves.”

“So why haven’t you?”

Why haven’t you?

It was a legitimate question, but she wasn’t sure what to say to it. She easily could’ve left them all to die when the bandits struck them next whenever that would be, but nothing in her gut or mind suggested that was an option. Many of the merchants were unarmed and some of them apprenticing children in the mercantile arts. The images flashing of the consequences of leaving the mercenaries and the caravan to fend on their own were dreadful and very disturbing. Knowing the nature of bandits was terrible and she had to wonder if the times were going to get better at all given the political revolt of Valaria, the tyranny of the ‘King’ of Gorgon, the anarchic life that many men and woman pursued as the economy fell, and of course the presence of the Order of the Rose eluding all mages to potential necromancers. How could anyone comfortably live in this world?

She broke from her pause after a half-a-minute, “I shan’t be responsible for the deaths of innocents. I guess my morality is a curse of sorts, a curse that my mentor bestowed on me when I was learning the ways of a Ranger.”

“If morality is a fool’s gambit, then paint me a jester as well.” The mercenary replied happily.

A white knight mercenary, huh? The thought made Edessa nearly chuckle even though they were not worlds apart. The Gorgonite girl took coin just as much as the mercenary did; she just held a different priority in her profession. Though she had to wonder how many of the mercenaries were like him and valued morals over coin? Surely not all of them, as that would be quite illogical given the odds. In fact, she was sure some survivors during the most recent strike by the bandits had booked it with the pretense that it was no longer their problem.

She smiled at the sentiment. “I just hope our foolishness will be enough to live through this.”

“Indeed.”

Edessa paused, perhaps it would be good to know the man’s name beside her rather than he be just another faceless sword in the wood. It oddly brought her ease to know such things when other rangers or mercenaries would liken it to naming a pig before a roast—‘Don’t add an attachment to someone that will die.’ – She remembered the mantra well enough but honestly didn’t care about it now or ever really.

“So, what’s your name ser?”

The mercenary chuckled at her ‘noble’ reference as he was certainly not knighted, and if he had been he was no longer in the service of Kings and Queens but rather any soul with coin to their name. Less bound by chivalry and more bound by currency. Regardless, he still replied with an answer. “Gaarth.”

“That’s a Valealian name, correct?”

He nodded, “And yours, ranger?”

“It’s Valealian as well.” She replied, unintentionally coyly at that.

Since her retreat to the Valealian countryside those many years ago, Edessa had become quite decent at identifying cultural benchmarks such as naming conventions, cultural nuances, and other such things. Despite herself using an Valealian name she did still sport the look of a Gorgonite—though people wrote that off often as her parents being of two different worlds. She wondered if she ever slipped up in the past and caused one to be suspicious of who she was though; but her guardian and mentor had trained her to be careful and she had been. But sooner or later she feared her past would catch up to her somehow.

“Very funny, lass.” The mercenary half-laughed as he caught another smile grace the girl's lips.

“It’s Edessa.” The ranger spoke with a smile. “Edessa Thorne.”

The full name shot some weight at the mercenary, as it was one of the names that traveled amongst the townsfolk of the countryside. For those that she had helped, people had remembered and where they remembered they spoke fondly of when divulging in their taverns. It had its benefits having a reputation, however small it in reality was, of course. Either way, the mercenary nodded as if he recognized it but not enough to comment on, it wouldn’t have surprised her if he was new to this neck of Valaria after all given how the caravan picked an awful route to travel. Edessa had suggested the longer route that held less outposts, but there seemed to be an immediacy by whoever was in charge so they took the route most likely scouted by bandits.

She wondered if they would’ve lost this many men had they followed her advice?

In spite of such thoughts, the raven-haired Gorgonite took her eyes to scanning the fog and the woodlands around her with bow in hand. She had a job to do.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Free Faller
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It’s said that nothing is more memorable than a smell. That the act of smelling something, anything really, was remarkably like the act of thinking. As Tegan galloped towards the distant plume of twisting smoke alongside her young compatriots, a rogue, faint wisp of it rode the winds towards her. When it reached her nose, she could feel her mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, polling one part of her brain after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection. It was almost immediate; she knew that smell. It was a smell that still clung to the back of her throat for more than a decade despite her feeble attempts to wash it away with time and alcohol. She smelt burning flesh.

Tegan clenched her reins a little tighter, fighting off the memories bought to the forefront of her mind. She couldn’t help but to feel like she’d been snapped back into the war against Malfear, if only for a split second, with huge pyres of her dead comrades and torched undead toddling all around her. She shook her head slightly to center herself again and glanced at Alaric and Kotori. They didn’t seem to have realized what she had yet, but perhaps that was just their youth or own inexperience. But she watched their faces as they approached the little village and became aware of the entirety of the situation, and took some small comfort in their shows of humanity; it was very grounding for her. In contrast, Tegan had schooled herself into a pointed stoicism upon seeing members of the Rose, unwilling to allow any emotion to escape lest she want to barrel down on her partner’s murderers in a blind rage.

She nodded to her fellow Guardian as Kotori began to dismount her horse, indicating her consent to the plan as well as expressing an unspoken message that the young warrior be careful and that Tegan would care for Alaric as her own charge even in Kotori’s short absence. Indeed, she immediately moved her dabbled gelding closer to the mage and put herself and the horse’s bulk between Alaric and the Order of the Rose. She kept one ear on her charge as he spoke to the old man, and both eyes on the thronging mass of angry people in front of them.

Tegan did not want to shed blood here. Not only would the three of them not be able to hold out against an entire town and Rose warriors, but the fight would only solidify the lies the Order was spreading about the Tower in the eyes of the villagers. These people were not evil, or even bad, the Order was just manipulating their fear of the unknown to perpetuate their agenda. If anything, Tegan would be more than happy to lure off the members of the Order and then dispatch them so they could no longer hunt down and endanger the brethren she had sworn to protect.

As the crowd continued being lathered into a rage by the Order of the Rose members standing at their head, Tegan adjusted her seat to ensure that both her leather armor allowed proper movement for a fight and that she had easy access to her blade. They couldn’t afford to linger in the town much longer, and she doubted they’d get away unscathed as it was. Already some of the villagers on the fringes of the mob had turned to look at the two horsemen in their midst, though she and Alaric didn’t seem to have been made yet.

Tegan pulled straight back on her reins, causing her mount to back up several steps towards Alaric so that she could speak without their words being overheard. “We need to hurry,” she urged the young mage as her horse began to dance beneath her, “If you’re up to the challenge, we can lead the Order away from these villagers and fight them on the hoof.” Fighting on horseback at a gallop was incredibly dangerous at best for her, but for mages who need to concentrate on their spells she imagined it far worse. However, doing so would allow them to spare the villagers, reduce their enemy’s number advantage by spreading them thin, and let Kotori ride up on their flank and attack from the rear.

But, before any of that there was something very pressing that Tegan needed to know from the old man which would alter any plans she had in mind. “Grandfather,” she started, addressing him in a common honorific for an unknown elder, “Are there any more people in this village that are in danger of being killed? We could take them to safety.” As much as she itched to do battle, she would gladly suppress the urge and attempt to run if it meant saving innocents.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Headphones
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For those who roamed the plains and hills, men and beasts alike, the dawn would come in the early hours of the day, if one were to judge by those circular trinkets that were said to tell time accurately. But the world was different in its parts, so were the times, the stars, the land and the people. The rise of the golden disk symbolised the beginning for some, yet for others - it was long past their dreamland wanders.



A canvas painted in the soft hues of pink and orange on a light blue background, over which was cast a silver veil, resembling the icy surface of a lake in midwinter. Such was the welkin above the mountains that belittled the mortals that dwelled within them, and with their height and peaks stood tall, like the pines that grew in their highlands, and attempted to pierce the sky. A few stars shone dimly far in the west, where the darker tones still lingered, for the sun had not yet risen to throw them in its shadow by bringing its light upon the earth. It was the midpoint between night and day, when the bridge between the two sides appeared and magic was rumored to fall from the sky into the dew that shined like gems from the far seas and blessed the children that would one day become the pillars of their world. Alas, it was a mere folk tale and there was not a moment to spare for such idle talks when the first cocks crow. Time and tide wait for no man.

Up and about were they, even before lady night clapped her hands and took her leave, the people of Ferros. Between their legs would crawl the mist whilst they marched through the stone paved streets, as if it were not time of peace but of war, each on their daily routine.
Wives washed and swept their porches, opened the windows and smacked their clothes clean, their once gleaming bright hair now dulled and replaced by the strong hands of a housekeeper. Stews bubbled in the cauldrons, which were snuggled nicely above the flames, like a curled up cat beside the fireplace. The mistresses hustled and bustled around them, ofttimes with a curious child or two or three poking their nose to see if it was done and then getting a red ear or neck. Many youngsters, however, were out even before their meal was served. Waving their wooden sticks in the air or clashing them against each other, the lads and lassies roared like little bear cubs playfighting as they ran through the alleys and sounded the city with their joyous laughter. The adults payed them no mind, unless something got broken, and hurried on their own way.



The bakeries were already letting out large fumes from their chimneys. Pastries had to be ready before everything else, for man could live without every luxury except the bread. Black or white, spicy or plain, it would not take long for the warm pieces to make their way into someone’s bag or stomach, because even in spring the air was chilly and stung the flesh and lungs. Bless the One God, the snow had retreated shortly before the equinox and all was right for the birth of new life from the mother earth, but the giants that towered above remained capped with dense white hats as they had throughout the years. Yet it was nothing to celebrate for the farmers, who shivered not from the cold but from the fear of hoarfrost. Their lives were dependant on the vegetation they grew and the few livestock they owned, unlike the merchants, who called all year around in the markets, as if they were chanting priests out to send the gods’ words. Even that day their clear beckonings could be heard from far and wide, urging the passers by to stop by their stalls and bare witness to the goods they had brought from the foreign countries beyond the Lowlands. Several of the passes had opened with the coming of warmer winds and melting of the icy blockades, thus the witty and clever had made haste to rush down and gather all they could with bargaining, only to bring it back up and sell it at a high price. Such was the way of the ones, who chased after good coin. There was not much to be found on the other side of the border, since the trees had not bore their fruit, nor had the sheep been sheared and the wool processed, but the first strawberries had been born and brought from the south, so were new thinner clothing and jewelry. Despite not having a wide variety to offer, the merchants boasted with the pride of a crow mother over her newly hatched chick and it was not rare for them to be given a harsh remark or a scolding by a soldier or even by a woman from the townsfolk, who happened to be out in the market buying whatnot for daily needs.

In a society where both genders wore steel and carried the sword, men and women held the same amount of authority and rights. Unlike the other kingdoms, this mountain country’s women were bred with the spirit of victory and conquest. To guard their families and homes, to stand up and answer the call for their Queen. If men had to stand on the front lines, they would be the back and flanks, observing and waiting patiently as the skillful lionesses they were, whilst the males roared and clashed directly. Many had not succumbed to the role of a simple obedient wife or daughter and continued polishing their skills, albeit the unsheathing of their claws only occurred against mischievous children, pushy salesmen and perhaps even a meek husband in those days of concord and harmony.

The simple life went onwards on the current of the everflowing river, not a wave hitting the banks on its way. Bickering, chores, games and work, the commoners toiled relentlessly in their own sweat between the giggling and cries of youngsters and their own laughter and curses. An everyday life of a nation, whose fists were iron, but heart not without warmth. It was the same in both villages and towns nestled high and low in the rocky titans. Regardless of the distance, the people were of one blood, the icy blood of survivors, the red and blue of which combined and created solid ties, as eternal as the snow-capped motionless dragons in which they were birthed, lived and died. This merged them together and formed one being, one warrior spirit, ready to stand their ground for what they deem right. It was no different in the capital, in the crown’s city within the dragon’s nest, accordingly dubbed Snowheart.

Whilst being the center of the kingdom, the bright jewel within the dark coves, the morning came without delay for the the core and its innumerable citizens. No one leaned against the status of the capital, not a soul dared to waste their time in senseless bragging about its greatness, for their mentality demanded progress, movement and success. Why flatter yourself with your creation, when you could make it better? That was the subconscious reminder each of them received and thus strived to achieve something better in each and every day. Blacksmiths would bang with their hammers, carpenters would chunk away wood and the markets would ring with daily production all in the outer walls. In the mid-walls tailors would measure, scholars would teach, students would study, soldiers would train. And within the innermost walls politicians would argue, reports would be read, decisions - made and the treasury - managed. A well-structured organizations with defined lines and strict order. Such was the mannerism of Ferros, a country where the seed of civil uprising could never be sown.

“Uh, this is so boring.”


A couple of ravens flew off into the morning, letting out loud caws to welcome the guardian of light, which had lifted itself above the peaks and sent down glimmering rays of sunshine. The giant gears of the arrows were nearing 7 o'clock, namely those of the Raven clock tower, named such because of the avians which favored it as a resting and sometimes even nesting area. It was built directly by the innermost wall, beside it being one of the few gates that lead into the cradle of the city. Standing tall, made of white stone that shimmered to the sunny touch, its highest level was an open terrace with three pillars on every side to keep the black roof atop it. There was nothing to be seen there, a wide and empty space, but from there could the seen the entirety of it all. The boulevards, the forest of rooftops, the smoking chimneys, the bridges and the little people, who crawled about like ants on an anthill, each on its own way, yet somehow moving in synch with the others.
This wonderful view, which resembled the mechanism below, was being observed by a young man, whose bright blue eyes were as sharp as the icy spears that formed on the eaves of houses in winter. Leaning forwards against the parapet, on which he had laid and folded his arms to rest his head, he was dressed in a black shirt, unbuttoned twice on the upper end, over which he had draped on a dark blue coat that reached to a point a bit below his knees and on the same level his black pants went inside his boots. On the youngster’s face was an expression of apathy and utter boredom. The orderly fashion of the Ferronians was unbearably monotone and uninteresting to him, who loved unpredictability and chaos, which offered the most astounding and unexpected results. Yet there was nothing of the like in this city, the capital of the iron people, who stood firmly on the ground. His spiritual situation was so dire that he even lacked enthusiasm to blow something up. It was odd for such an individual to be loitering around in a place that obviously could not offer much, but if one were to consider the strictness of the lower levels, it was no wonder the boy had escaped to the terrace. He knew something would come up eventually, but until then he was considering at least breaking some windows, but even that seemed like a waste of effort.

Thankfully, the troubled soul did not have to wait long, for he spotted a group of four soldiers approaching the gate. This piqued his interest instantly, since the change of shifts was not due in a few hours. Keeping himself in the same position, he untucked one hand and twirled his fingers in a strange manner in the air. This was, in truth, a magic spell, a simple one which created a tube-like air current around the guards by the gate and used the small drops of water of the moisture in the air to carry the vibrations of their voices, all of which were unnoticeable for those simple folk. Thus a sound-carrier was created and the young man could listen in precisely to what would be said.

“The Valarian ambassador has passed Schuyler post.” the lead of the arrivals spoke. “Tell lord Finbar his guest will be arriving on schedule.”
“Understood.” one of the guards said and passed the gates.
“Schuyler post, huh. All they have to do is get to Azarel post and they’re straight on their way here.” another soldier by the gate said.
“Unless their independent asses get whipped by the thieves.” a younger one from the other group laughed. This caused most of them to smile at the joke, but the greenhorn was given a quick hit on the neck by his superior.
“Watch you mouth! Speaking such words in front of the Queen’s gates is unforgivable.” he told him.

‘Like she cares.’ the magician atop the clock tower thought. ‘This is sooo not what I had in mind. Boring~ The moment someone tries to have some fun, they smack him. Sheesh. What a bunch of rocks… Hmm.’ The mage dismissed his spell and took a moment to think. ‘How did that song go again?’ He then used his pointer finger and waved it in the air like a conductor of an orchestra.

“~Tom he was a piper’s son~”


“How has the scene been today? Is any route lacking in patrol?” the senior asked.
“Not today. Although I must say-” the guard at the gate answered and the two conversed on.
In the mean time, that same young soldier took a few steps away to stand at the back of the group. He put his hand in front of his mouth, but rather than the expected quiet one, he let out a loud soundful belch. It was enough to halt the two older men from speaking and startle a couple of pedestrians, some of which stopped to look at the direction of the unmannerly exhale. The lad was still in the exact same position, but this time he was gripping his mouth and had his eyes wide open. It was no less a surprise to him than it was to everyone else. The superior and leader of the group quickly reddened in appearance and his eyes became those of a best.
“Why you… Shameless scoundrel!” he roared and leapt towards the “criminal”.
“I’m sorry!”

“~He learnt to play when he was young~”


“I really don’t know what-” the soldier spoke frantically as he dodged the attack. “came over me?”
The more the senior attempted to deliver the justly punishment, the more the junior avoided it. Ducking and turning left and right, he danced across the entire square as the bigger older man tried to hit him. It was as if a magical force was aiding him and, while he firstly wanted to swallow the bitterness of it, his natural instincts got into rhythm and got the better of him. But he could be sympathised with, for the general was certainly in one of his bloodthirsty moods and it seemed that he could rip the poor boy right open, if he got a hold of him.
“Dishonorable, disrespectful brat! Avoiding punishment will only increase the beating I’ll give you!”

“~And all the tune that he could play~”


“This sure is fancy for a cargo transport, Lord Eadberht.” a young woman said with a snicker as she held the reins of the two horses, which lead forward a large carriage decorated with silver and purple veils and golden lining.
“Fancy? Do not describe something of mine with such simplicity, woman. I have brought my most treasured of cups and silverware for the ambassador’s dinner. I have dug in my inns and underground chambers to find the oldest of wines and perfectly cultivated seasoning, so that my liege, Lord Finbar, maybe be pleased and so that I can smile at the Valarian’s swine face full of delight as he drinks my wine and eats from my dishes. My items are always of high class, thus do not-”
“Yah, yah, I got it.” the driver cut his rant off. “Pipe down and tell me where to go.”
“Hmph, Raven gate.” he answered with displease.
“The one by the clock tower? Good. It’s right around the corner.”

Yet just when the carriage entered the square, the two soldiers were in the heat of their waltz. Many of the passers by had taken refuge to the sides by the buildings and watched it unfold. It was like two dragonflies fighting in the air. The horses were instantly spooked and neighed restlessly. The woman pulled the reins back, but the lord urged her on:
“You, go forward! I have no time to waste here. Hurry it up or I’ll deduct your pay.”
“...As you say, m’lord.”
She slapped the reins and shouted several times. The two animals stomped their feet, moved several steps forward, but then went back as the men neared. The superior soldier was now roaring like a lion and the youngster was at the brink of tripping over himself. This was quite the frightening sight for the horses. Then the wind suddenly howled by them and some sort of unpleasant moist feeling started bothering the insides of their ears. It was the final straw. Both of the horses went out of control and ran frantically in any direction they saw fit. Ahead, turn, in a circle, they desperately tried to get away from the invisible monster that was after them. The two passengers were barely holding on to their seats, the woman gripping the reins and the lord - holding the wood under him. This was enough to make the men stop, but the senior saw his chance and tried to land a sneak attack. While not even looking the youngster ducked, compelled to do so by the wind, a force he could not understand. The square became utterly chaotic. People were shouting and screaming. Some were trying to get the horses to calm down, whilst others were simply escaping. A complete mess so early in the morning.

“~Was over the hills and far away~”


The horses finally broke free from their restraints after bumping many times against each other. They ran lose and sent the carriage sideways and it crashed into a house. Fortunately, there were no casualties or major injuries, except Lord Eadberth’s silverware and goods, which perished without a sound.
The young soldier had stopped running away from his superior and risked his life to save a person, who almost got run over by the horses. The sight enlightened the older warrior on the reality of the situation and his rage ceased. He directed his energy to helping the remaining onlookers and divert the horses’ attention. In the end, he still smacked the youngster on the head, but it wasn’t a full-on beating.
The square in front of Raven tower would smell of wine and seasoning for awhile.

“Darn it, I forgot how it continued.” the magician said to himself on the terrace. He had lost concentration on his spells while trying to remember the tune. “Over the hills… and a good day off? Nah. A ground lay off? No. A great… A great wa-”

“Ryan Rakesh Blaumond!”
a loud voice shouted from beyond the inner walls.


“For the last time, IT’S SKYE!” the mage answered back in the same manner, turned towards the way the voice came from.

Beyond the innermost walls the atmosphere was quite different. Unlike the hive of busy bees that buzzed in all directions in the other parts of the city, Snowheart’s “heart” was a serene island, where people walked in a slower pace with their heads held high and pride shining from every fiber of their being. The one who dared to disturb the tranquility that thrived at this early hour was Brandon Blaumond, the first son of the Archmage of Ferros. As a guardian of age twenty seven, one would think it was discourteous for a man of his years to yell in the morning, when some were still asleep, yet this action was not without reason.
Albeit lacking in magical abilities, he took on from his father the mountain-like size of his body and only his voice alone could travel far enough to reach his adopted brother, Skye, and intimidate him enough to bring him back. Brandon and Ryan were a clear example of the saying “wine does not become blood”. One was a guardian, the other - a magi; the first was massive, the second - slim; the prior was hardened like stone, the latter - as flexible as water. They were opposites in all accounts, both outwards and inwards, and even their eyes, blue in each, had a different hue to them. Brandon’s possessed a green tone, which expressed how down to earth he was, whilst Skye’s were icy and sharp, just the eyes for a trickster. But rather than find harmony together, like the sun and the moon, they despised each other and made sure not to come in contact. However, when their father came into the picture, both were forced to make amends for the time being.

“What do you want, Brutedon?” Skye asked as he finally flew over to where the soldier was. Using air magic to fly wherever he wished was his favorite ability, not to mention it irritated his brother, who thought of it as a lazy and unnecessary method of transportation. “You ready to apologize to yours truly?” he asked as he lay carelessly in midair.
“As if. I wouldn’t apologize to you in a million years.” Brandon told him harshly. “The reason why-”
“You’re going bald.” Skye cut him off.
“What?!”
“Yep. I can see it from up here. Might as well call you Baldon from now on.” the mage laughed.
“Why you! The only reason I’m going bald is because of you!”
“Or cuz you can’t get a woman.” he flung a comment that hit home. “A bald hard stone~ Left all alone~ Hey, it rhymes!”
The guardian put his hand on his sword and was about to unsheath it when one of the servants accompanying Brandon spoke with a meek voice:
“L-Lord Skye, please, put something else on and button up your coat. You’ll-”
“Shut up!” both brothers struck at the same time.
Thankfully, this short distraction was enough to get Brandon back to his senses. He broke his stance and spoke:
“The Archmage is calling you in the meeting room.” Turning around, he continued as he left. “Better hurry up or you’ll miss whatever it is they have to say.”
“Yah, yah, too bad you missed your ship long ago.” Skye smirked and flew away before his sibling had the chance to make a comeback.

Flying over to the building where his destination was, the young man took a moment to look himself up in one of the windows. His hair was a bit messy and his overall appearance was by no standards acceptable, except by his. He was clean and fresh and only fixed his coat up a bit, dusting it off here and there, before entering through the said window. The rest of the distance he walked, his boots making a tapping sound every time they hit solid stone.

“Alright, I’m here. Lets get down to business.” he said as he opened the double door with a devilish grin, without so much as a knock or “good morning”, and went over to the table, where innumerable books and papers were spread out like a dinner table for those hungry for knowledge.

With a nod to commence from Archmage Blaumond, Lateus pulled a small wooden chest from under his seat and placed it in his lap. He turned his body to Skye and began his explanation regarding a spell the team had created, yet could not stabilise. The speech was interjected and finished by the High Magician, who pointed out that their court required a specific foreign magician to complete the spell.

"Weeks ago we discovered such a mage, and some of my men were dispatched to bring him in for study.” Oswald told him. “However, only one of my men returned empty handed, and the mage escaped across the Valarian border. They were loyal and strong men, and with their deaths a problem arose. I need someone strong enough to handle themselves against whatever might be thrown at them, but also someone I can trust. I think you're ready Skye... besides, if you are to succeed me as Archmage, this is a fine opportunity to test yourself."

Subtly, Lateus winced at the last remark. The position of Archmage was to be given to the most worthy mage of the nation, and it was no secret that Blaumond had been grooming his adoptive son for the position, and the Queen herself favored the boy mage. This blatant favoritism, and Blaumonds apparent desire for the position to be passed to his own lineage, caused a great deal unrest among Ferronian mages who thought more highly of themselves, but Lateus kept his silence, instead looking down at the gold and copper coins with a rather empty expression.

“Heh, a coward mage who ran away? Fine, I have no objections.” Skye agreed without hesitation. “I’ll bring him back alive, though you should know, I can’t guarantee how “alive” he’ll be. But, let me guess, some puppies will come along to drag me down for “protection”, right? Sheesh, what an annoyance.” he sighed and paused before he continued. “I’m ready to go whenever those metal-heads are ready.”
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by vietmyke
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“We’re almost at the outpost. If they’re going to do something it’ll happen soon. Be ready.”

Emil heard the voice and nodded to himself, uneasily shifting in the seat of his saddle. His eyes squinted into the fog, as he tried to make out shapes in the distance. It was next to impossible, despite his above average eyesight, he could barely make out shapes a more than a few score meters ahead of him, much less identify the silhouettes of humans- bandits who were hounding them, nipping at their heels whenever possible. Even Edessa, with her well trained ranger eyes- almost tailored for tracking foes through the wilderness, had difficulty peering into the dark forest filled with fog.

After their first surprise attack had failed, the bandits had retreated into the fog, contenting themselves with shooting arrows into their midst, occasionally injuring or killing one of their number. Their original party had numbered around twenty five, mercenaries, sellswords, a farmhand or two with a blade, himself, and Edessa. They were now only a few men over a dozen. The others either killed during the attack, or killed during subsequent sneak attacks, with several wounded in the back or center of the column, no longer able to keep up or properly fight.

Emil snuck a glance at the carriage and sighed, longing to be in the comfort and warmth of the ambassador's cart, instead of atop a horse, cold, sore, and uncomfortable. He shivered, and pulled his dark cloak closer to him, his armor clinking lightly as he adjusted himself. Emil had, at Edessa's suggestion, put on a shirt of chain mail supported by a stiff chestpiece of leather, paired with his leather vambraces and boots. This was to appear more competent, as Edessa had noted that he looked less like a respectable mercenary and more like an over-adventurous farmhand when he wore just his tunic and sword. Not only that, but Emil was incapable of constantly maintaining protective wards, and as Edessa had also pointed out, the fewer people that knew he was a mage, the better.

“Damn it all.” Edessa groaned, “This fog is going to be the end of us.”

Emil immediately understood her sentiments, and agreed with them whole heartedly. Emil listened as another mercenary riding at the front with them made his own sentiments known. The mercenary had eventually identified himself as Gaarth, and seemed to be a man of good moral compass, which was more than could be said about a lot of the other mercenaries here. The man was confident, but realistic, and knew just how bad of a situation they were in. The mercenary named Gaarth was a large, bear of a man. Bulky pounds of muscle bristled beneath his rough armor, a large sword in his hand, a bow across his back, and an axe at his belt, the man definitely had the appearance of a seasoned and veteran fighter.

Edessa gave the mercenary her name, and he nodded affirmatively, his eyes lingering on her for a moment before they shifted to her quieter companion.

"And what about you child?" Gaarth asked, nodding his head at Emil.

Emil's brow furrowed. "My name is Emil." he said quietly. "I am no child."

Even in the gloom and dark atmosphere of the forest, the mercenary managed a single guffaw of laughter. "Of course you're not, and I'm the King of Valeal." The man straightened himself in his seat and continued to stare Emil down. "By the look of you, I'd say you're no older than my son- Barely a season older than 18."

"You would be correct, ser." Emil replied plainly, without emotion.

Gaarth blinked, then furrowed his brow. "What are you doing in the company of a Ranger then?" he asked, bemusedly, "You should be at home, helping your father tend the fields. Unless you're like one of those other boys back there with a taste for adventure. Come on then, tell me. What manner of brave, battle hardened killer are you?"

"I am no killer." Emil replied in an even tone. "I am... a protector." He refrained from saying more, lest he reveal himself as a practitioner of magic. The opinions of Valeal on magicians were quite split down the middle. Some, such as Edessa, were welcoming of him and his magical abilities, others, like the Order of the Rose hunted his kind down like game. For the most part, people were uneasy around mages because of their supernatural powers and abilities, and Emil had no idea which category Gaarth would fall into. As Edessa had taught him, in most cases, it was best to air on the side of caution.

"A protector?" Gaarth said, clearly amused. "Do you protect this Ranger? It sure seems like the other way around to me. Tell me child, how many men have you killed?"

For a moment, Emil did not answer. Gaarth, seemingly satisfied in making his point, straightened in his seat to fall back in line with the rest of the column.

"Twelve." Emil finally answered."I've killed twelve."

Now it was Gaarth's turn to fall silent. He glanced at Emil, then at Edessa, and at Emil once more. He breathed out and nodded. "Thats... thats quite the number, for someone so young." He managed to say, his face growing more solemn and serious.

"You see ghosts, kid?" the large mercenary asked. "Its normal if you do."

Emil didn't answer, instead, he urged his horse forward, indicating that he was done talking. Falling back next to Edessa, he sighed. He didn't like closed, stuffy locations, and a forest filled with fog fit the bill. Edessa wasn't the only one on edge, and Emil felt a nagging sensation as he tried to listen to the sounds of the forest, but only heard the clatter of hooves and armor behind him.

"Edessa." Emil murmured quietly, a small degree of urgency in his voice. His left hand, hidden within his cloak began to cup a small orb of white light as he prepared to channel magic.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by TaliPaendrag
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Itzli

The early afternoon sun filtered down through the canopy of trees around them, leaving a few bright spots here and there, but far more shadows. Itzli and the others that followed Lucien were scattered among the trees in strategic locations. A few of the men were fidgeting with gear, checking and rechecking to ensure that they were ready, while some of the others kept a vigilant watch of their surroundings.

Itzli, standing in shadows to keep the sun from gleaming on her armor and therefore giving away her position, remained motionless, contemplating Lucien’s plan again. It was fairly straightforward, with the group she was with serving only to stop the Gorgon force from following if Lucien and his men were forced to retreat. Her only concern would be that Lucien would get himself killed in his quest for revenge against the one who usurped his father and took the throne. He had a tendency to be rather brave, and therefore stupid, when it came to that throne.

Almost as if thinking of him had been a summons, the sound of men crashing through the forest could be heard from down the path, if such an overgrown stretch of ground could be called a path accurately. Before too much longer, the first of Lucien’s force passed through the checkpoint, heading back to the hidden camp to lick their wounds, both literal and figurative. Lucien himself, as usual, took up the rear, though it appeared that he was injured, as two of his men were holding him up, at least until one was taken in the back with an arrow.

As two of the Rangers walked up to Lucien’s prone form, Itzli smacked her arm against her leg, the sharp sound of steel clanging on steel serving as the signal for the men to begin their counterattack. She stepped out of the shadows to intercept the Ranger whose sword was being held over Lucien’s body while an arrow took the second. A few more Rangers stepped carelessly forward before they realized that it was an ambush and were shot down, but Itzli was only vaguely aware of that, as her focus was on the Ranger with the sword.

The sound of steel striking steel echoed throughout the forest as her sword, Wolf-Fang, intercepted that of the Ranger. He snarled with frustration as he realized that he had been stopped from killing the leader of the rebels. Incidentally, the man was very skilled in the use of a sword, and Itzli found herself enjoying the challenge of facing him over the uneven ground while a few of the other rebels came out of the shadows to grab Lucien and carry him to safety.

Once she was sure that Lucien was safe, having stalled for quite some time with the tiring Ranger, Itzli cursed the man by fusing his foot to the ground, interrupting his movement and allowing her to slide her sword into his chest. His death was quick, and Itzli pulled her sword from his body, taking the time to wipe it with his cloak before leaving to follow the rest of the force, cursing the ground to create a trap for any who wished to follow her. Most of them had fled once it was discovered that there was a counter-ambush, but a few might have been brave enough to try and follow.

As usual, a few of the rebels were to stay behind just in case, but the majority of them went with her back towards the camp, slapping one another on the back and otherwise celebrating the fact that they were still alive. From what Itzli could understand, it was a very uncertain life that they lived following whom they believed to be the rightful king.
The camp wasn’t really all that far from the point of the ambush, though the route was quite twisty and covered with illusions to prevent people from chancing upon it by accident. The sight was a welcome one to the men who were with her, as they saw their friends and, in a way, family again, everyone going off to recover and relax after another harrowing day. Several fires dotted the camp for just such a purpose it seemed, as groups of rebels gathered around them to warm their spirits as well as their bodies.

As for Lucien, he should have been taken to the medical tent, a large, dark green thing off to one side of the camp to avoid disheartening the other rebels of the camp, and so that’s where Itzli went, bending her head down to fit through the narrow opening and into the dimly lit interior of the tent. The smell of sickness filled the air of the tent, men suffering a variety of conditions, from an injury gained while fighting for their king to a simple disease caught from being out in the woods in cold air. Though spring was upon them, the nights still had a tendency to grow chilly.

The “doctor,” a short, stocky man with thinning black hair, was muttering over how careless Lucien had been this time, pouring his liege a mug of ale to dull the pain while he prepared to pull the arrow from his leg. The doctor took a deep breath to steady himself and then yanked the arrow from the leg. Then he held his hands over the wound and concentrated, his magic accelerating the healing and causing the tissue to knit itself together, first at the deepest level and then moving to shallower and shallower tissue. After a moment, he relaxed, sweat beading his brow.

“My apologies, my Lord,” he began, “but I am unable to heal it further than that with my level of skill. I’m afraid that the wound will scar, though it won’t take your life.” Itzli stepped forward and clapped the doctor on the shoulder to let him know that he had done a good job, pouring him a glass of ale. The man seemed to greatly appreciate the offer, but turned it down.

“Sorry, m’Lord,” he replied, “but I’ve got others to attend to besides the King here.” Itzli nodded her understanding and set the mug aside, letting the man get to his work elsewhere in the tent, the sound of moaning serving as a good reminder that not everyone was lucky enough to get away with nothing in the service of their king. As for her, she stepped over to Lucien’s side to see if he was still conscious. It wouldn’t hurt for her to remind him that he couldn’t always go risking his life like he had a penchant for doing if he wanted to actually sit on the throne someday.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Brand
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__________Vespar__________
Nyirr


A wide grin crossed Sir Elric's face, perhaps the first genuine smile in some time. "Word that Nyirr of the Tower has joined our cause will no doubt boost the men's confidence," Sir Elric started as he motioned for Nyirr and Nitia to follow him as he spoke on, "and a mage is certainly welcomed."

"It's been a long time since I've seen you Nyirr, since just after the great war I believe," Sir Elcric stated as he went on to reminisce about battles waged against Malfear. He recounted a few stories of great victory or great defeat and spoke of a few battles Nyirr himself had participated in, some of which the two had shared each others company. As he spoke of the campaign long past the two twisted and turned through the streets of Vespar until they arrived to the inner wall. Perched on a small hill with the coast to it's back, the lower walls extended in a small proximity around a rudimentary keep. Large portions of the wall where worn from recent sieges, and indeed the keep itself was in no better condition. Vespar was never designed as a fortress, it was a city first and foremost with the keep and walls to act as a home and protection for whichever family governed the city. For as small as it was however, the keep was placed in a key strategic location. With the coast guarding it's back, two of the remaining sides were cliffs with steep rocky faces. The only path which allowed acsess to the keep twisted and turned along the remaining face of the hill, any approaching army would be funneled onto a narrow ramp and subject to arrow fire during the entire ascent.

Guards were posted everywhere, most of them wielding either cheap crossbows, hunting bows or makeshift spears. Very few of Sir Elrics men could afford the protection of iron or steel armor and so most were dressed in simple clothes or linen Gambesons in a ragtag assortment of colors, indeed Sir Elrics army looked very much like an outfit of misfits, but they smiled and a few cheered at the sight of Sir Elric and Nyirr making the ascent. It appeared Nyirr, perhaps even more than Sir Elric, had the favor of common men who infatuated themselves with the heroes of wars past.

Inside the keep Sir Elric led the duo into a private hearth, roomy but cluttered with miscellaneous things. Bits and peices to crossbows, maps and letters. The very room they stood in had served as the headquarters for the Republics army for some time, with it's great general, Sir Elric working tirelessly in the confines of a room not a fraction the size of the throne rooms of other lords. Sir Elric spoke to Nyirr again, changing from the plain conversations of earler to a more serious tone now that they were alone.

"Honestly Nyirr, I wished you hadn't come," Sir Elric sighed as he walked to a large table in the center of the room with a great map of contested Valaria sprawled across its surface. Sir Elric then began to explain his sentiment as he moved his finger about and around various pieces atop the map, "The truth is i've been cornered. The Valeans are pushing in from the east, Theron from the north all while Myres sits waiting to the west. Our only way out is through the ocean, but we haven't enough ships for us all, and worse still I fear if I surrender Vespar I won't be able to gain another foothold in Valaria."

Sir Elric's seemed to lose himself in though upon looking at the map and his voice trailed off. He stood for some time in silence before he spoke, but his eyes never left the pieces, "Do you know the great thing about fighting for a republic? If Theron dies his cause dies with him. If Myres dies his does as well," Sir Elric then turned to look squarely at Nyirr.

"If I die, anyone can raise another banner. Nyirr, i've been cornered and my only goal now is to take Theron's head. This is going to be a fight to the death."

__________Raven, Genshal and Nyirr__________


Sir Doyle had heard reports of desertion running rampant among Lord Theron's army, and while that had been some measure of reassurance what information he was learning now was infinitely more welcomed. The news that the bulk of Theron's army has been redirected to deal with the Valean's to the north was a great weight lifted off Doyle's chest, now they had a fighting chance. The information Raven had brought forth caused some deal of distress however. It was a map of the city, an accurate one at that, furthermore it listed and numbered important buildings sprawled throughout the city. Doyles face flustered with frustration, for a map this detailed and recent to be in Kensal's camp meant one thing, there was a spy in the city other than Raven and in the service of the enemy. Another peice of paper had a drawing of the east wall scribbled upon it, in high detail and showing it's construction with intimate line work with seven names written on the sides. Doyle once again looked at the map of the city. The east wall was as structurally sound as the other but it was also the closest to the Keep, making it a favorable target. It wasn't any new information as they had expected the majority of any assault would come through the East Wall, what concerned him however was how detailed the creator had made the wall's construction.

Sir Doyles eyes lit up with revelation and he turned from the stolen documents to face the mercenary and spy both. "You two come with me, Sir Elric may be interested in seeing you," Sir Doyle concluded simply as they were guided out of the gatehouse and towards the keep. On the way to the keep Raven suddenly realized something curious about the maps she recovered. Frist, the map of the city was highly detailed with a legend listing the names of the buildings as well as a number on the map corresponding to the name. She remembered noticing that for some reason the number two was circled. While it may not have been anything, it was important in her line of work to notice such small oddities. Similarly, she remembered the names scrawled across the second map of the wall. An odd mix of names she attributed to perhaps a mercenary team hired for the particular operation Lord Kensal had planned, but now she began to wonder if there was perhaps some correlation between the circled number two and the odd mix of names.

She recalled the names in her head:

Avuan Laesan
Ingfal Remest
Usnari Elsinn
Agronn Avreus
Uptairi Stiix
Akit Errakpuh
Aism Linn

As they maneuvered through the town, Raven appeared consumed in thought and strolling just behind Sir Doyle. Doyle himself seemed lost in thought. It was for this reason Genshal noticed something queit curious as they walked along. They had crossed a small bridge going over a stream running through a part of the city, and as they did so Genshal saw a man with a bow searching the creek bed for something, and it was only when the man realized Genshal was watching as they passed did he stop and lock eyes with the mercenary, his eyes were wide with anxiety and even from this distance Genshal noticed his rapid breathing. When the man caught sight of Raven he left the creek bed in quiet rush.

It was not long after that they entered the keep and left waiting outside one of the rooms as Doyle proceeded in. After a moment or so, they were allowed entry where they saw Sir Doyle folding papers and putting them away and out of sight from the mercenary and spy, but seated at the table were two new faces, Sir Elric and Nyirr.

__________Snowheart, Capital of Ferros_________
Skye


Awaiting Skye was a small accompaniment of soldiers, five exactly, one of which was a guardian whom Skye recognized. It appeared guardian's were too scarce to be spared, even for the Archmage's son, but the guardian tasked with watching the boy was competent enough. His name was Joran and he bowed at Skye's approach with a soft spoken, "Welcome my young lord, we'll be leaving immediately."

The soldiers wore armor of blackened steel laid over chainmail, cuts and scrapes scattered over their plate was a testament to their experience. Over some of their armor was thick cloth padding with fur sewn in around the neck and they towered mightily over everyone as they sat atop their steeds, one of them carrying the banner of Ferros at his side as it flapped wildly in the mountain wind. Just as the Guardian had done they all acknowledged the boy by lowering their heads in a bow. Among their number was a spearman wearing a kettle helm, A crossbowman outfitted in boiled leather opposed to the heavy plate of his companions, the banner man with a shield on his back and a sword at his side and the fourth soldier was a woman with sword and shield as well.

When the young lord had settled himself on his horse they began their journey through the city catching the eyes of all as they passed. They left the city and traveled up a wide path climbing the face of a nearby mountain, and on the top of the path a section of the mountain had been cut away to act as a passageway over the mountain range. Up here the air was wild and ever more chilling then back home, and Snowheart, the grand jewel of Ferros could be covered with a thumb. Snow was falling gently and the sky and the morning mist of the valley was beginning to recede. From this height the valley could be veiwed in all it's splendor. The Ferronians used terrace farming on the sides of the mountain, their main crop being a purple leafed vegetable which thrived the mountainous climate. It was for this reason the valley was sometimes called the Violet Valley. Indeed as the mist retreated the sun climbed into the morning sky and basked the valley in light. The clouds above them swirled in vivid reds and yellows of the sunrise and at their feet the valley illuminated and glistened in a brilliant violet as it's namesake implied.

As some of the soldiers looked upon their country in awe one of them joked to the others, "You won't be gone forever, we'll be back in a few months." They bid farewell as they turned and led themselves down the path, putting their home behind them. The mountain pass was guarded by great towers of stone and not a moment passed were they not watched by a hundred eyes.

During this time Joran spoke again to Syke, "There's another soldier waiting for us at Schuyler post, he'll be our guide through the Valarian wilderness."

__________Somewhere in the Valarian Wilderness__________
Emil and Edessa


There was no warcry, no signal and no warning. The first man was killed when a theif, unseen, dropped from above having hidden himself on a thicker branch. He landed on one of the mercenaries and pulled him off his horse as they both fell. The wrestled in the mud for but a moment before the thief brought a dagger up and plunged into the mercenaries shoulder, in return the man screamed in agony but quickly drew his own blade and sunk it into the assailants neck, releasing a torrent of blood as he removed the blade and the theif fell to his side clasping his throat trying in vain to keep from bleeding out.

In the fraction of a moment this happened the thieves poured out from the forest and a flurry of bolts and arrows flew at the caravan. One of the men rode out to meet his foes but was struck down by a bolt through the armpit as he raised his blade, his body fell limp and was dragged by the stirrup as his horse ran in fright into the fog. The sound of steel striking steel clanged through the forest as the theives and guard's crossed blades. A few of the unprotected merchants were quickly cut down and butchered, but the carriage of the ambassador was swarmed by soldiers giving their lives to protect a single man. A crazed axeman raced towards Gaarth but was struck down by a mighty swing. Gaarth brought his blade crashing into the side of the theif's face with a loud crack of a breaking skull. The thief collapsed with half of his face cleaved and blood and brains seeping out the wound, Gaarth went to position his horse to face the oncoming attackers but his horse was struck through the eye by an arrow and cried as it went down. Gaarth was lucky to avoid the weight of the horse from crushing his leg, but he met the ground with a violent crash. As he was beginning to stand a thief was bull rushing him from the rear, spear in hand and ready to skewer the mercenary, Emil was close enough that he may be able save the man.

Arrows continued to fly in, and although the under armed thieves were being cut down in greater numbers than the falling guards, they would quickly be overwhelmed if the archers weren't dealt with. Edessa could now see the feint shapes of the bowmen through the fog, there weren't many but they were able to fire upon the caravan unmolested.

________Somewhere in the Gorgon Swamplands________
Lucien and Itzil


"The Blackwater son escaped," One of the Gorgonite soldiers explained as a cloaked figure carefully stepped over the bodies, examining the faces of each of the fallen.

"From the Gorgon Rangers as well? What a surprise," said the cloaked individual, his voice bearing the tone of a man. He stopped over one body, the corpse of one of
Lucien's men and pondered over the sight of it. He drew back his hood for a clearer look, revealing a middle-aged man with his long black hair kept tied off neatly in the rear of his head. his name was Lorian but some called him the Huntsman. Over the years him and others like him had been given the task rooting out those conspiring against the crown. In some cases it was a more covert affair, dealing with the inner workings of a particular lord's court, but in other cases such as this it was a more direct affair. Finally he remarked, "Was it necessary to waste so many arrows on a single man?"

The soldier squirmed in place, "Some of them just refused to die."

Lorian was silent and circled the corpse in examination, but quickly brushed the comment off his mind. He turned to the soldier and inquired, "Anything else?"
"We found their camp, they retreated and led us straight to it."

"Good, we can finally end this nuisance. The last of the Blackwaters, what a thrilling feeling it'll be when he lays dead."

****

The scouts guarding the camp were disposed of easily enough, as common folk, even trained by Lucien Blackwater lack the abilities of a true Gorgon Ranger. A mass of men had trekked tirelessly through the swamp to encircle the small camp and they waited patiently as they observed their target the way a leopard might watch its prey. Then with a little fire a signal was lit and shot into the air, and with that the rangers and soldiers of Gorgon drew their bows and unleashed a torrent of arrows upon the fringes of the camp.

The rebels themselves were quick to return fire however, and as some of the Gorgon troops waded through the murky water they were shot down and claimed by the swamp. Rebels rushed out to meet the attackers and as a rebel soldier rushed a ranger, the ranger ducked and sent his shoulder into the rebels knee and lifted, causing the rebel flip wildly over the ranger. Another rebel ran wildly with an axe raised in the air but tumbled forward violently as an arrow pierced his chest. Another two men were fighting each other before a burning tent when the victor plunged his blade into the other's leg and kicked him into the flames. Swords clashed and slowly but methodically the Gorgon soldiers began to cut their way into the camp. They torched the tents they passed, paying no mind who might still be inside. The camp while home to the rebels was also a place for refuge for families struck by the plight of the Brair's kingship, but the oncoming soldiers showed no remorse as they struck people down indiscriminately.

"Find him!" one of the Gorgon's shouted, "Find Lucien!"

_________Somewhere in the Valean Countryside__________
Kotori, Tegan and Alaric


“What happened here? How did it become like this? Who was it that these… men have just executed?”

"Madness has happened!" the old man exclaimed in a hushed whisper. He downcast his eyes and shifted uncomfortably as he explained what had happened, "Rumor had spread that the youngest child of the family had been practicing magic, the girl. It was only ever a rumor but it spread like wildfire! Some of us with more sense tried to talk reason into people, we thought Mages of the Tower should be called to investigate, but the others were more fearful."

The old man then looked Alaric in the eyes, "There was already hate and mistrust towards the family, but no one thought to resort to violence they just wanted them run out of town, but one of them sent word to the Order and everything changed when those damned men came into the town! They stirred up the people, made us all fearful! They didn't have to drag that family from their home, the townsfolk did it for them. My own neighbors, people I know are decent people turned to dogs when there was word of a mage. So the Order asked where the little girl was but the parents had hidden her away out of fear. When they refused to tell where she was, the Order persecuted the family and riled up the people!"

The old man frowned, his eyes teared with disbelief and horror, he looked out to the stakes and the crowd and began to cry," I never thought it would turn to this. I know those people, they are decent people but they're fearful, and the Order his perpetuating their fears."

Tegan spoke up, "Are there any more people in this village that are in danger of being killed? We could take them to safety."

The old man was silent for a moment, unsure if he should involve himself any further, but finally he gave in to morality, "They never found the little girl. I don't know where she is if she's even still here at all, but the Order is turning this town inside out looking for her. They lived on the west side of town, but the home is in ruin after they've burnt it," his eyes caught a few of the crowd turning to note the strange horsemen who had just ridden in, then fear struck his face, "Really, you need to go now. They shouldn't see me with you," he finished as he closed the door.

From her rooftop position, Kotori could nine soldiers of the Order. Seven of which were gathered around the crowd, the one who was giving his sermon of hate was still speaking and the crowd was still howling. A few streets down Kotori noticed two other soldiers of the Order going door to door and inspecting the homes. The homes which refused them had thier doors smashed and the occupants thrown out until the search was complete. There was a smaller number of townsfolk following the pair and watching them search the homes, some of them were the blood thirsty sort from the stake burnings, but most were watching with fear or contempt that their homes were being invaded in such a manner.

Whatever action the group might decide to take, it was apparent they would need to handle the situation with tact.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Gowi
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Edessa Thorne & Emil Errant


Edessa knew it was going to happen as soon as the first attack came in the forest and that was before the cover of fog gave the bandits an advantage they did not previously hold against the caravan. She hated that they had what should’ve been her home field advantage, one of the villages where she had grown up after her fleeing of Gorgon was not too far from here and she remembered fondly of the training that she experienced here all those years ago. Edessa should have had the advantage due to the familiarity of the wood.

Damn the fog.

That’s when the first casualty of this attempt at wiping them out came, as a man was tossed to the ground as the cold steel dived into the mercenary’s shoulder, of course this was to the rear flank of the archer so she only could hear the tumble of the strike. She had to make sure the front was safe for the caravan to follow through. The safety of the unarmed was an important precedent even though every nerve in her body screamed at her, trying to tell her to make a hasty retreat and call it done. The raven-haired girl frowned as she let loose her first arrow once the first person in her sights became visible—the raining field of arrows from the bandits not causing a careless reaction from her.

“Don’t choke.” She muttered under her breath. “Hit the target.”

For a moment it was like she was transported back to when she was much younger, when her guardian had bestowed to her the first bow that she would hold and one she had given away a little before she met Emil. The day was as clouded as the present, as fog had settled in whilst Ser Edwic had set up a target beyond the fog that she could barely make out.

“It’s too far.” She had complained, “It’s impossible to hit it.”

“With that mindset you won’t hit any target, especially when they are firing back at you.” He had lectured as he nocked an arrow in his own bow and released it—the target hitting with a resounding thud.

“You must be resilient and doing so you will realize having a destination will remove all frustration by your short term failings. You have talent and genius in your affinity, do not abandon them because it seems hard—life will plague you with struggles and difficulty, and you will never succeed if you believe in absolute impossibility.”

She remembered the long-winded saying, and she remembered an old Gorgon phrase as the arrow crawled through the air: ‘Remove all doubt, as to succeed you first must release the arrow from thine bow.’

THUNK!


The arrow collided through the mass of fog into the first bandit—travelling through the man’s forehead as he dropped. The other bandits around him stopped for a moment as Edessa began to nock another arrow to release at another of their ilk. It was understandable that they were dumbfounded that this girl had pierced their fog and killed one of their best archers in their troupe and rightly so as of course, Edessa was no ordinary ranger—she was from a bloodline that produced some of the best archers in the world.

“What?! Impossible!” She could hear them shout through the fog. “How did that whore kill Ilias, how did she even—?!”

Edessa couldn’t help but smirk at their flabbergasted remarks. To succeed you first must release the arrow, indeed.

“Even though I walk in the shadow of death’s gaze, I will fear no soul as I embrace the raven’s burden.” She muttered as she released the second and dropped another bandit as arrows from the others rained down at her direction to which were sloppy given the immediacy they felt they needed to do.

“Gods damn us, Jhavek too?! You idiots go get her before she shoots again!”

Through the fog a group of bandits armed with axes and iron blades barreled down on the ranger, the girl had done much damage already to their flanking forces of archers—some of which were the best marksmen they had—though given their sloppiness and lack of battle intelligence they were likely not as skilled as they perceived themselves as. But they were still dangerous and an idiot could still murder a genius.

Edessa’s cold sapphire eyes kept firm and narrowed as she kicked off her mare as a crude sword swung inches above where her head was seconds prior—taking some hair along with it as the ranger’s feet planted in the ground as she slammed one of her hands against the horse’s body—sending it bucking forward into the forest. Edessa preferred being on her own two feet to on a horse, as odd as it was. Like many Gorgonites she felt in tune with the physical world and nature itself when she wasn’t hoisted above ground—but horses were faster than walking.

The group of bandits then began to surround the ranger as she put down her bow.

“You sure know how to make a lady feel welcome.”

Edessa gave them no fear even though she was actually quite taken back that she might die in the middle of this fog-entrenched wood.

Moving her hand to her sword’s sheath she pulled out a steel long sword which she held in her left hand. In all honesty it had been awhile since she had been in melee combat, but that was the thing about Gorgonite swordplay—it was designed for multiple enemies and relied more on dexterity than sheer physical prowess, or at least the variant she was taught anyway which her guardian had told her was named ‘The Raven’.

“Gods guide me.”
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Reaper
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Raven committed the map to memory, reminding herself to make a copy of it when they arrived at their destination. It wasn't difficult to figure out what the legends meant, though why Lord Theron and his men were so interested in these individuals and buildings, she had no idea. Well, she would find out soon enough. "I'm guessing the numbers of these buildings correspond to a name on this list. Are they targets to be silenced, or agents to be evacuated? Well, it doesn't matter. If the enemy wants them, we best make sure nothing happens to them." She mused, more for her own benefit than that of the two men beside her. "As for the person who got this information... I'll need to keep an eye out for them."

Raven doubted regular soldiers would pose much of a challenge for an assassin or spy to slip past them. Still, it was better than nothing. Raven had no other agents helping her, and anyone who would be interested in doing so couldn't be trusted to keep it quiet. She sighed, speaking her mind again. "I'd suggest posting some men to keep an eye on these buildings. If the names on this list are in them... We need to keep those people out of the enemy's hands. I'd recommend you tell your men not to wear their armor and hide their weapons nearby, but I suppose soldiers don't like being out of their metal shell."

She spotted a young boy, dirty and dressed in rags. One of the city's many street rats and orphans. She walked over and tossed a couple of gold coins in his hand. His face lit up and she smiled kindly. "Get yourself and your friends a hot meal, and do something for me." She showed the child the building marked on the map. "Go to these places and see what you can observe. Don't go inside or get too close, but if you boys see anything interesting, come to the keep and tell me, alright? Tell the guards that Raven asked you to do something for her and if they still don't let you pass..."

She fished out a small tag, which granted her permission to move in and out of the keep at will. The guards mostly recognized her by now, she didn't really need it. "Show them this and tell them they can let you in or I'll be very very cross and they might end up with something in their soup that will give them a really bad rash between their legs." She giggled and sent him on his way. It wasn't the first time the homeless or orphans did favours for her - they knew that she was a friend to them and they could go to her if they needed food or shelter. It was an investment, for they would then serve as her eyes and ears within the city. They were kind of folk people normally paid no mind to, and they were thus the kind of people who would overhear secrets without anyone being the wiser.

She disliked risking the children like that, but they were smart and nobody would suspect their presence was more than them looking for scraps. She returned her attention to the two men. "The sooner I can get to finding Theron's spy, the better. Let us make haste." She continued studying the maps, trying to figure out the strange code. It wasn't anything she had seen before, and the key to cracking it lay out of reach. She knew there had to be a connection between the circled number and the name it corresponded to on the list, but she couldn't for the life or her work out what that connection was.

"Ingfal Remest... Ingfal Remest... Is that supposed to sound familiar?" She pondered out loud. "Gledyj? It doesn't sound like a real name, so I don't think it's a Caesar cipher... Hmm. Anagram? Remest could be meters... Ingfal?" The more she tried to break the code, the more frustrated she got. If there weren't any lives riding on her breaking the code, she would have just let Doyle handle it and forget about the code.

Morana tried organizing her thoughts, having burned the images in her mind. Seven names, marked buildings, the circled number two, and two separate maps. She tried figuring out if there was some rearrangement of the order of the names would make sense, and repeated different ways in her head. The rhythm was off, since the names sounded so strange and counter-intuitive to pronounce on some of them. Wait.

The spy was struck by an epiphany. Parents often named their children after ideals and virtues, or something that had a nice sound to it when paired with the family name. Some of these names didn't quite fit or would be considered unusual regard. Why seven names, and why did most of them sound strange? The odds were against such an occurrence. Maybe they aren't names.

She took out a pen, and circled the second letter of each word. She looked at the order: VANESLGVPTKRIL. It didn't make any sense, so she tried every circling second letter.

VALEAN
FLEET
SAILIN
GONVES
PARSIX
KTRAPH
IMIN

There was a pit in her stomach the moment she saw the words "Valean fleet", but the rest of the message, once she figured out where the spaces were, spelt out a more dire situation. VALEAN FLEET SAILING ON VESPAR. SIX K. TRAP HIM IN. The message itself was pretty plain once the code was broken - Lord Theron planned on using the Valean fleet as an anvil, while his own forces played the hammer. Sir Elric Grey would be trapped between two armies and there was no way they could hold back the tide even with their preparations, even if the walls held back the onslaught.

"Sir Doyle, you need to see this." Morana spoke up, passing the soldier the map again and showing him the circled letters and the transcribed message.
When they finally arrived at the strategy room, Raven let Sir Doyle proceed first, before entering behind the mercenary. The reason for their presence was announced, Raven strode up to the table, quite aware of the fact that there were other guests. The man could get angry at her for being rude later. "Sorry to intrude, Sir Grey, but I recovered this from one of Lord Theron's bannermen... and the situation is not good." She placed the maps and the spy's message on the table, facing the noble.

"Lord Theron intends to use six thousand Valeans as his anvil while his army hammers us." She explained. "I do not know if these reports were deciphered and delivered to Lord Theron yet, but it doesn't make our situation any less dire."
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Rayn Night
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Nyirr was quite happy hearing Sir Elric being grateful for their presence. All he wished to do was to make Valaria a place for the people to live within without this war going on and the nobles doing as they pleased with it. Nitia had shared the same sentiment for the situation and the Guardian knew that she would put everything she could into making this nation a better place. He joined the noble man in his walk, making sure Nitita was also near so she could hear and participate in their discussions. She would be an important key in this event, even if she didn’t actively in the battles that were to come.

As they marched forth, Sir Elric brought the war of their past. Yes, he remembered fighting alongside Elric… They were dark times. Yet, those times had forged Nyirr and Sir Elric into the men they were now. They were now stronger and more determined than ever. Even death wasn’t something that Nyirr feared as he had seen far worst in the hands of Malfear and how death could so easily be manipulated by the human beings of this world. It was almost disgusting to imagine someone toying with the natural cycle of life and using it for their own gain. Nyirr commented on the stories, simply saying that it was their duty to make sure that Malfear never completed his tasks and that they had done so with success… They were so much younger during those times too.

They continued along and Nyirr had taken into account the men that were going to fight for the cause. They were obviously not trained soldiers, but these were men and women willing to die for the cause of Valaria. They were not soldiers ordered to accomplish a task by their Lord, they were there of their own accord for a purpose that went over what most nobles saw. They had many things these other soldiers didn’t. A smile grew on his lips, looking at the cheering men and those smiles. They would be honorable and noble men to fight for something like this. Nyirr would not let any of them down. This was a new war with a great purpose and he would push through as he pushed through with the Malfear war.

They arrived in the strategy room which didn’t seem to be its original purpose. Not that the room wouldn’t be great for planning, it was something at least. The words Sir Elric spoke were worrying as it seemed he arrived at the wrong time. It does seem that it was a bit of a bad position they were in, but they were not out. They moved towards a map which he demonstrated what was happening… Cornered by all front but the sea, but lacks ships. That was a predicament… but this could be used to their advantage. He looked over the map with its details, learning the points of interest quickly and look over what resources they had. Sir Elric then presented something of value… The cause. The dream of a republic would never die until one man held the banner up. “ You are right…”

Nyirr raised his eyes to him, considering his words and the battle… His hand gentle rub on his chin, viewing the possibilities. Something came to mind, both for the sake of the people within these walls and could be used in a tactical advantage. “Elric. We could buy some time and get more people out than you think. If we send a messenger to Lord Theron’s asking for us to meet with him outside the walls. We offer them to have the non-combatants be removed from the battle that is to come and should be brought out safely, without harm being done. Either way he chooses, it is going to work for us. If he accepts, the people can freely get out, which will take some time. While they are doing that, the rest of us can set up the city so that it is a death trap for anyone coming in and reduce their numbers drastically before they reach melee…” He then puts his hand on the table, thinking his other part through.

“If he refuses… Imagine the uproar in his own ranks. They are all fighting for independence from Valeal… Most of the soldiers will not take lightly to killing non-combatants and might give us the edge we need. It would tarnish his reputation and most likely ruin him. In both cases, we are gaining something…”

It was then that Sir Doyle came in, Nyirr looking over at him. He did not remember him, but he seemed familiar enough to know that he had probably seen him from the war or in Valaria somewhere. He presented a few things that were quite interesting… He wasn’t sure how Sir Grey would want to handle it. In any case, he said that two people had some very good information, one being a spy of Sir Grey. It was an interesting set of information indeed and they would have to further discuss it with whoever they were. As the two presented themselves to the room, he would let Sir Grey speak first… Meanwhile, he turned to Lady Nitia. “Nitia. How far do you want to extend your magical prowess if the battle comes?”
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by Feisty-Pants
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Kotori Namashiya - The Songbird

Snaking smoothly across the rooftop and staying low to prevent herself from being seen, her eyes took in every detail of the events that were ongoing while Alaric and Tegan spoke in hushed tones with the elderly man. Movements were made by the Order with obviously murderous intention, and from behind her mask, her lips curled into a well-earned scowl of bitter disgust. Watching the villagers as occasional glances strayed from the gruesome entertainment of their heinous main event, she realized that it would be sooner than later that even the Rose, with all their ill-placed fervor, would notice the two who lingered below.

Through all the screams of rage and zealotry, she heard something in another direction and upon her slinking forward to observe it, her gaze caught another small crowd that was moving from door to door. With little more than needless persecution and violence on their minds, she could see that after two houses that they were obviously searching for someone or something. Judging by the pattern by which they moved however, no stone would go unturned until they found that which they sought.

Not only that, but they were soon headed for where Alaric and Tegan were speaking with the elder!

Needing to act quickly but subtly with due haste, she made the slightest of sounds. The whimsical sound of a song bird's tune, the delicate dance of musical notes that would be familiar to Alaric's ears alone. Such a noise could be easily dismissed as background noise by those who would hear it, but for her charge, it would be a grievous tune. Such a sound came from their childhood, when she was warning him of imminent danger in retaliation for whatever mischief they had brewed.

All the while, she continued to watch between both the group in the town center and those still kicking in doors. Silently, her short sword came unbound from its sheath, the black stained blade not reflecting sunlight in the least as she waited for his response, and with it, his command.

Her ambush was at the ready, and he would know such all too well.
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by vietmyke
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Emil heard the first scream pierce the silent air, followed by the slump of a body hitting the mud, and knew that the bandits were upon them. Edessa moved forward to meet the bandits from the front with her bow. Atop her horse, she began firing with her bow. The air around them quickly grew loud with the sound of battle, steel clashing against steel, and the grunts of men as they fought against one another. Figures seemed to rush out of the fog with reckless abandon, too difficult to spot or make out until they were within melee range.

Time seemed to slow, and the noise became a single dull ring as Emil took in the sudden scene of battle. His heart began racing as his hand clenched around the grip of the sword strapped to his side. For a moment, Emil was motionless, as the battle began to surge around him. An arrow flew by his face and he snapped out of it. His mind finally caught up with his racing heart, and his eyes sharpened. He sunk lower in his saddle, his eyes rapidly darting around the field, scanning for foes, all the while the orb of light hidden within his cloak became brighter and brighter. Emil heard the pained call of a nearby horse as it fell to the ground and quickly located it. It was Gaarth's horse, and the large man had fallen to the ground, and was struggling to get up as a bandit with a spear rushed him.

Nimbly rolling off his horse, Emil deftly fell to the ground on one knee, and pushed off the ground in the direction of Gaarth, easily crossing the distance in a few bounds. Planting himself firmly on the ground in front of the charging bandit, Emil whipped his hand out from within his cloak, pushing the orb of light in front of him with an open palm. The orb exploded into a wide circle around his palm, inscribed with various shifting runes and emitting bright light as it met with the point of the bandit's spear and stopped it in its tracks. There was a stunned silence. Both the bandit and Gaarth stared at Emil in awe, as the glow of the circle caught his facial features from underneath his cloak hook.

"Mage." Gaarth said breathlessly. The bandit took a step back, surprised.

Pressing his advantage, Emil deftly drew his own sword from its sheath, a well balanced arming sword, its polished blade glistening as the moisture from the fog stuck to it. Emil stepped forward as his glowing barrier disappeared, deliver a low cut to the bandit's stomach, his blade cutting easily through the flesh and leather the bandit wore. As the bandit buckled forward, Emil delivered a second, backhand cut diagonally upwards across the Bandit's upper chest. The bandit fell back without a word. Emil turned to see Gaarth, who had at this point recovered, and stood with his weapon at the ready. The large mercenary stared at Emil suspiciously before finally cracking a uneasy smile.

"So, I suppose this is what you meant by 'Protector'..?"

Emil didn't answer, instead he pulled his hood off, giving him a better view of his surroundings. Quickly scanning around, Emil located Edessa, dismounted and with her sword drawn. Around her, near half a dozen bandits advanced on her, hefting their rusty axes and blades as they moved to surround her. Emil frowned, Edessa was competent in both ranged and melee combat, and her style of swordplay was developed specifically for taking on multiple foes, unlike Emil, who grew up learning how to face single foes or small groups of foes. Rangers in general were well suited to and skilled in most fields of combat, and Edessa was likely superior to most of these bandits, however it was still possible for her to be overwhelmed, especially as she began to tire and make mistakes.

On her own, it was only a matter of time before Edessa fell to overwhelming numbers. However, Edessa was not on her own, she had with her the powers of a Tower-trained Mage. Emil held his hands in front of him, a silver band around his finger serving as a focus for him as he began channeling magical energy. His vision became blurred, the noise around him faded into nothingness, Emil's senses drifted away from him as most of his mental resources became devoted to concentrating on his magic. A glowing sphere around his hands grew to the size of a man's head before the light within began to increase in intensity.

Breathing out sharply, Emil's eyes regained focus as from the ball of light in his hands sprung a series of smaller orbs, streaking light behind them as they soared towards Edessa. Small orbs of light impacted various parts of Edessa's body, leaving glowing circles of various sizes hovering just over her skin and clothes. Larger circles covered her chest and back while smaller ones guarded her arms and legs, as she was encased in a protective shell of magic wards, runes shifting across the circles as the circles slowly spun in place. Emil stepped to Edessa's side, his movements considerably more deliberate as he focused on maintaining his spell. While not helpless, and still able to defend himself, the complexity of Edessa's guard meant he could no longer fight to his full potential.

"Its ready Edessa. As long as I stand, you shall not fall." He said quietly.

Gaarth stepped up behind him, his own blade at the ready. "Aye, and I'll make sure he doesn't fall."
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Rali Corcaleo


The dark storm clouds overhead were indicative of a coming rainstorm, and Rali didn’t need her magic to see that, which was a good thing, as the pink metal bracelets on her wrist kept her from accessing her magic at all. They and the dirty, woolen tunic she was wearing were painful reminders of what had happened to her, and she couldn’t wait to be rid of both of them. A nice warm bed and a set of clean clothes, in addition to a key that would remove the bracelets, were essentially her idea of paradise at the moment.

Sir Julius had done an excellent job of teaching her how to observe weather conditions from the shape, color, and altitude of the clouds alone, though there were numerous other methods he had imparted to her before his death a little over a year ago. It had taken several months, but she had eventually gotten over her grief, both for the loss of her mentor and for the loss of her homeland, though she wasn't sure which had hurt the worst. One thing was certain, however: the sinking of the pirate ship and her resulting freedom were without a doubt the best things that had happened to her since the war, certainly ended by now, had started.

Apart from that, she didn’t really have all that much time to think about what had happened to her homeland, or the people she had loved the most. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other took up enough of her attention, especially as her stomach growled in protest over lack of food and her lips and mouth dried up from lack of water. It had been quite some time since she had left the forest that had started a short distance from the beach she had landed on, with its fresh water streams that she could just get a mouthful of water from when she needed one.

As she crested the little hill that she was on, the first she had seen since emerging from the forest several miles behind her, she saw the large grey walls of Vespar. The knowledge that she was only about two miles away, to the best of her approximation anyway, from a place of civilization gave her a new energy that allowed her to keep going. There had to be somewhere in the city where she would be able to get a bite to eat, something to drink, and a comfortable place to sleep.

From the top of the hill, it was also evident that the city was a port city, as the coast line angled to touch the city’s boundaries. Though it didn’t spur her on as seeing the city itself had, it was something of a comfort to her homesickness to see that not everything about this land was entirely foreign. In fact, the smell of the sea was distinct on the breeze that blew over the plains, bringing with it memories of home.

Shaking her head slightly in dismissal of such memories, she continued on her way, if a little faster now that the end of her journey was in sight. On the way, Rali saw a few armored individuals on horseback, some of the only people she had seen on the road the entire way. They paid her little mind, no doubt because of her appearance. Few things were as non-threatening as a small woman covered in dirt after all.

Upon approaching the walls of the city itself, Rali noticed that there were similarly armored men atop the wall, each one holding a large bow and a quiver full of arrows. In addition to that, the solid wooden gates were closed. While Rali was entirely unfamiliar with the customs of the strange land she had found herself in, she had a strange feeling that what she was seeing wasn’t the norm. In short, it gave the city a somber feel, which certainly couldn’t be a great thing.

Before Rali could contemplate turning back, one of the guards atop the wall called out to her. “Who goes there?” he shouted, his deep, gravelly voice reaching her ears perfectly. Unfortunately, the language wasn’t one that Rali recognized. In fact, it didn’t sound even remotely close to any of the languages that she had been exposed to back in Aerian.

“Do you speak Aerian, sir?” she responded, trying to project politeness in her voice. There was no telling what the guard would think she was saying if he didn’t know her language, which could lead to a variety of unpleasant, though admittedly interesting, results. The guard scratched his head as if unsure of what she had said, though he didn’t respond. Instead, he turned and talked to someone else on the wall that Rali couldn’t see from where she was.

A few moments of silence later, the gate was being opened, albeit rather slowly, and a pair of guards emerged. “What did you say that your name was, lass?” the one on the left, a slightly overweight individual with a beard of dark brown hair, said. The guard on the right, a tall, lean man with a clean-shaven, freckled face seemed rather uninterested in the whole scenario, indicating that he had probably been selected for the task without having much choice in the matter.

“I take it that you don’t speak Aerian then?” Rali replied, still keeping her tone and mannerism polite, though expecting that they would just look at her. Her prediction, however, turned out to be correct, as the guards looked first at each other and then at her as if trying to comprehend what she had said.

“So Rickon wasn’t hearing wrong then,” the overweight guard said, “you really don’t speak Common. Am I right?” Rali didn’t answer, blinking at the guard and waiting to see what he would do. Nodding, he turned to the other guard and started whispering, presumably about what should be done about her.

After a few moments, the tall, lean guard motioned for her to follow, and the pair led her into the city, the gates closing behind them. As expected of a city, there were certainly a lot of people out and about, but the strange thing was that almost all of them had a look of despondency about them, which Rali supposed should have been expected considering the feel she had gotten from seeing the city all walled up.

The guards wasted no time in leading her through the streets towards the inner areas of the city. Considering the fact that there weren’t a ton of people on that road, and that they moved out of the way for the guards, they moved at a rather quick pace, which prevented Rali from really being able to observe her surroundings. She noticed several things that looked like shops or inns, but specific details eluded her.

As they got closer to the inner city, which involved ascending a fairly steep hill, it became apparent that they were taking her to what appeared to be a manor of sorts, with large stone walls that loomed over the city itself surrounding it. At first, the walls gave the impression of strength and resilience, but, upon closer inspection, it became apparent that they were beginning to fall into disrepair, with several sections of the wall worn down.

They paused at the gates while the two guards who had lead her this far explained the situation to the guards on duty there. Once everything was explained, they were permitted through the gates, which lead to a twisting path up another section of the hill to the keep itself. Rali was rather curious to know why they were taking her there, but contented herself with the hope of a warm bed and fresh clothes.

Once they arrived at the entrance to the keep, they were subjected to the same procedure as what had occurred at the gates of the inner wall. The guards at the door were a little quicker to understand the situation, probably due to the credibility imparted by the fact that the trio had made it through the gates of the inner wall. After being given what seemed to be directions, the guards were allowed to lead her into the keep.

The interior of the keep was, in short, lackluster. There were few tapestries still hanging and faded spots where others had hung before, the flowers and such that decorated niches every so often were wilting, and there was barely an ounce of gold, or silver for that matter, that she could see. It matched the outer appearance of the keep perfectly, so Rali supposed that she shouldn’t have been surprised, but she was curious as to what was going on in the city to result in such conditions.

After numerous twists and turns through the halls of the keep, the trio arrived at a door that stood out from the ones that Rali had seen before. Clearly, it lead to a particularly important room, though Rali wasn’t entirely sure what purpose it had. Odds were that it was a throne room or something along those lines, but Rali wasn’t familiar with the customs of the land she found herself in at all, so her guess was as good as anyone’s.

The guards knocked on the door a little hesitantly, clearly hoping that they weren’t interrupting anything, as muffled voices could be heard on the other side of the door. “Sir Elric?” the tall guard asked. “We were told that you were going to be in here? We have a bit of an issue on our hands and were hoping you could help.”
Hidden 7 yrs ago Post by TaliPaendrag
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EDIT: Sorry. Accidental double post.
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