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Sing for the lurker.
Sing for the one with horns.
We pity the feathers,
we devour the wing....
I sang for the swans.

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Lady Elay Mythricane; Marcher Lord Artyr III Mythricane; and Lord Erik Krast, Archduke of Westmarch

A collab between moi @Cohors and @sly13





Kays Maron was a bit like a mule: docile, submissive, reliable and, if appreciated's too strong of an adjective to describe his presence, then bearable better fits the bill. Elay's long-term predictions tend to unravel in unexpected twists but marrying Kays was a decision she hit the bullseye. The man's as loyal and enamored of the coveted Lily of Mythricane as he was when they first met years ago, in great part thanks to how well she manages to constantly woo him, his wealthy lineage is an excellent tool for legitimacy to House Mythricane, and his austere competence is a very welcome contrast to Artyr's unpredictability. So it was natural when the Marcher Lord and the Lady went to Coronation to pay respects in their lieges' funeral, there was an implicit but collective sigh of relief when they realized a stable temporary regency under Kays would reign, even if for a short while.

In Coronation, things were a bit less formal and jejune than Elay expected.

While Artyr prayed solemnly in behalf of the admirable Daymian, a warrior of valiance and fierceness he deemed surpassing even his own, and had a flame of zeal kindled with Anyamara's masterful expression of respect, Elay saw two people who seemed keen - far too keen - to garner attention and support. And with the throne vacant, she soon guessed their cause. The question she started to wonder about was... a king, or a queen?

A queen. That way, my claim can have a contemporaneous precedent.

Besides, Anyamara seemed to be fairly more eloquent and functional than Sharles, whose subtlety was left at the door with his fervorous speech.

Elay knew she had to make a move quickly. She saw from Artyr's gleaming eyes Anyamara had already won her brother's heart, so her next obvious step was to check on her liege, Erik. She had two plans in mind: should the Warden's choice converge with hers, they would form an alliance of some kind; should it not, she would quickly prompt Artyr to storm Edoras. Artyr's Partitavan levies could not hold a candle to the force of an entire Archduchy, but they were an elite squad and Elay had full faith they could capture Castle Drachenfel in a surprise blitzkrieg.

After the funeral, she explained her plans to Artyr, who simply replied,

"Yeah, I'm on it. Can't wait to see if Erik's really that good."

Artyr preferred the second choice of action, regardless of the possibilities. But he felt he should trust Elay on this one.

And like that, they set motion to Edoras, with a raven dispatched beforehand to let the Warden know of their visit.

Artyr arrived in Drachenfel two days earlier than Elay. Accompanied by four or so equally veteran horsemen, he rode his own horse, like a true son of the steppe. "I ain't a pompous, ratty bastard", he claimed, to be carried around in an escorted carriage. Her sister could barely swing a sword, so fair enough in her case, but a Westmarch Lord worrying about scrawny Eastern highwaymen? Certainly deserves to die for being a coward.

Erik stood leaning over the map sprawled across the large table. Various wooden pieces were placed around the board symbolizing the various keeps and troop locations around Adanion. His gaze first looked over the border to the great steppes before looking at the north of his lands. Just on the Northern side of the border stood a long line of keeps signaling the end of Eriks lands and the start of the Mistlands under Lord Engelhardt.

“I always did hate those damned keeps.”


The other attendants within the room nodded in agreement as they looked over the map. Regardless of the steel they wielded or the skill of their warriors, they were not well suited for a siege. That wasn't including the fact that in order to make up for that weakness he would need to pull men from the steppe. Something he refused to do for a variety of reasons.

The declaration of the Northern Alliance had the potential to be quite worrisome. Best case was they were simply trying to support Sharles and had no intention of actually doing anything more drastic. Of course letting the boy Sharles be in charge was definitely not what Erik had in mind. Anyarama on the other had what it took to become the queen that could keep Adanion together and orderly once again.

Erik's thoughts were cut short as the door swung open revealing a young boy who bowed quickly in both respect and apology for interrupting the meeting. “Apologies my lord, but lord Mythricane has arrived.”

“Very well then. Shouldn't keep him waiting should we? Ensure that he is brought to the throne room”.


As the boy left the room in a hurry Erik turned once more to the map and the several men in the room. “We’ll continue this later. For now keep your ears to the ground and see what other news comes out. But do nothing else, the steppes are still the first priority.” receiving a nod of acknowledgement from the men Erik left the room making his way to the Throne room.

Compared to the pale fortifications scattered in Western Westmarch, Edoras’ walls were a sight to behold. The scale of the bastion would always woo Artyr and this time it was no different. Still amazing this whole Drachenfel concept, he thought, with its castle inside a castle premise. Erik’s a fine host. Artyr was impressed by the courteous treatment he received from the Warden. Had a vassal of his visited him in Partitava, he certainly wouldn’t be so kind as to send a subject to escort them to the throne room. And my throne is not… this interesting. In fact, his was a dimly lit chamber with a few glittering trinkets here and there, and not a respectfully large hall with wondrous decorations enhanced by natural lightning and a two meters wide skull of a literal dragon staring right at the front door. I should put some horse skulls next to my throne as well. But they wouldn’t be as cool as this. No, they wouldn’t. Perhaps Erik would have some fossils lying around.

“The Archduke of Westmarch will arrive shortly”. The young escort made a hurried bow gesture before making his way outside the room.

Remember, Artyr: be subtle. I know you like to be straight to the point, I know you don’t care for talking, but these people do, and if you’re too crass in your ways, they won’t listen to you.

Artyr didn’t like his mission too much, but the possible outcome of having to assault Edoras was an exciting one. His speciality strayed far off sieges, let alone double sieges, so it would be quite a novel experience. He felt his tongue tingling to antagonize Erik and make it happen, but he felt if he was going to completely ignore Elay’s plans he should at least do it to her face. So, no matter how disappointingly, the better thing to do was feign diplomatic interest.

As he wondered about his course of action and was wondered by the mesmerizing gallery, he heard echoing footsteps growing closer. Until, soon enough, entered the gallant Archduke.

Etiquette. Please.

Ugh, fine.

Artyr begrudgingly reverenced Erik the moment he entered the room, muttering, “Milord.”

“Ah yes, lord Mythricane, welcome to Edoras.” Erik studied Artyr for a second as he took his seat on the throne. “So what is it you wanted to speak about? I assume it was something important given our face to face meeting.” Erik kept his eyes steady as he spoke, doing his best to gauge the lord before him. The last thing he needed now was more bad news coming to his ears.

“Thank you, Erik.” Artyr replied. Oh, shit, I’m not supposed to call him by his first name. He clearly broke etiquette. Eh, at this point, the hell with it. Not needed in a warrior-to-warrior chat.

“Straight to the point. Good. Well, my babbling sister ain’t around, so I’ll be short also. I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed the whole shtick during Daymian’s funeral. Y’now, the throne is vacant, and both Anyamara and Sharles want it.” Up to this point, his voice was serene and calm, but it suddenly changed to a graver, stark tone. Almost like it dropped an octave. “Who would you rather see on it?”.

Erik snorted a bit under his breath at the question. “Ah yes. The question on everyone's lips it seems. Who will sit on the throne and call themselves king?” Erik looked around the throne room for a moment. “I Still support Anyamara as I always have and have said so publicly.” Erik gave a pause before leaning forward a bit more. “Still though, we are called to defend the pass from raiders and that is what we shall do. The other lands are of no concern to us.” Erik returned to leaning back on his throne with a more relaxed posture. “We will not be involved in any squabble that does not affect us, should anyone deem it necessary to challenge us, then they will be met with the might of dragon steel.”

Artyr smirked shyly at the corner of his mouth. “Good sense, it seems. I don’t mind the petty Eastern problem either. My sister does, however. I’ll apologize in advance because she’ll still bother you… and me… about this.”

Still, Artyr had a fantasy he had to entertain. “Although I assume should a full blown war break lose, we shall ride in support of Anymara, correct?”. His smile turned into a grin. “There would be no point in protecting the East if the East has no legitimacy.”

“Should our ruler call us to march then we will have no choice. Until then we shall remain here and continue our job as our forefathers before us.” Erik stood from his seat and descended the steps towards Artyr. Reaching the older lord Erik placed a hand on his shoulder as his demeanor became more friendly. “But enough of this talk for now, you should rest after the journey.” Erik lifted his hand off the shoulder and stepped past him motioning for a servant to step forward. “Young Erwin here will show you to your room.”

“Aye”, Artyr replied, hastily adding, “... um, milord. … Thank you”.

On the corridor out, he whispered to the young boy, “Kid, where do you folks usually go for a hunt around these parts?”. Erwin remained silent before reluctantly muttering usually the northeast has plenty of antelopes. Since Erik seemed in no mood for war games, Artyr figured he should entertain himself. “Get me someone to accompany me there, yeah?”


Just checking you're okay with playing two characters. Also, Elay's current husband is just an NPC right?


Aye to both. I just assume most people beyond marrying age are already married (Artyr included), but they're by all means irrelevant.


I wanna go full black ops government agent with it. An absolute spook on that Cold War, regime toppling shit.


So basically a typical 60s CIA agent.

If this is still alive, I'm interested.

Still accepting, jolly good fellas?
A wind of change...

Whether of serene woods or the smothering man-made jungle, men are always embedded in a symphony of melodies they're perfectly acquainted with. The chirping birds, the blowing grass shrubs, the turbulent streams, the gentle murmur of TV characters at low volume, the humming of current transformers, the voice of casual passers-by, the distant white noise, mishmash of all sorts of anthropic sounds, there's always a sweet (and sometimes sour) sound. Sometimes there is too auditory blank - many enjoy stillness especially if they are creatures born or bred to appreciate deep introspection.

Yet there is no acquaintance or parallel that can prepare one for this damp new world. The silence is unforgiving, and the sounds, even more so. There are very very few of them. That of a faraway pulse. That of viscous flow. An almost pitch-black atmosphere. Every now and then, a deep growl of non-carbon based lifeforms. Shrieking freaks gargling whenever they see fit. Unintelligible wails of semi-sentient beings. Tormenting. Ambiance built to torment. A world built to torment.

But Eulalie felt it was cathartic.

At first she thought she had finally died and was thrown in limbo. But, after sighting the iconic New Atlantean Spire, it was clear this was no afterlife trial for the kingdom come. She was perhaps delirant, but definitely alive. Eventually, she recalled the truth-promising nymph and it all clicked - that entity had something to do with all this.

Provided this was no coma or maddened fever dream - and since she had a clear train of thought and sensorial capabilities, it was safe to assume she was experiencing neither of those - she was hand-picked by a semi-deity to unveil what now is clearly a supernatural mystery. And she was imbued with wicked eldritch magic. Her superiority, her potential, her true nature, finally someone, or something, acknowledged it all. No more judgement. No more vapid societal norms. No more medications, emotions, treatments, shackles from her true self. Alone, away from the scrutiny of men's ethics. Freedom? Did it take a voyage to hell for her to feel free?

The howls of sorrow… of those wretched things. Certainly they could disembowel her with ease, but she could do the same to them, and no one would bat an eye. Whether she died or whether she murdered she would have no one to answer but herself. Terrifying, yes, and also cathartic. Freedom to blaze a path as she seemed f-

... swept away.

Gunshots. Pow. Pow.

Pow.

Were the tar-sodden freaks capable of wielding firearms - better yet, from the timbre of the bang Eulalie could tell, handguns? That didn't matter. Even if they could - which they obviously couldn't, right? - why would them? Their bodies stray far beyond the biological constraints that make bullets effective. Handguns wouldn’t be useful. Shotguns or exploding projectiles, may’haps, but not pistols. That... that must mean one thing, then... only one thing... one goddamn thing.

I'm not... I'm not fucking alone.

Standing there, in the middle of the road, Eulalie sighed. Of course that bitch would call other people, what were you thinking, Eulalie? Not even in a surreal post-apocalypse could she be by herself. And if there's another individual, then most certainly there many others as well. Who knows - maybe dozens, maybe hundreds. A new society, perhaps? Mankind to, once again, populate a twisted realm a sadistic deity threw them into?

God, she wished she was in limbo instead.
~~Oopsie~~
Still open & possible to catch up?
A nauseous scent...


Since Eeltje's very first breath she felt her tongue go slightly numb. The stench in the air was hard to describe. Not disgusting as that of organic rot, instead, more akin to a chemically unpleasant compound, inherently yet inexplicably repulsive. Kinda like the awful combination of synthetic leather and cheap, aged car fresheners, or the strange cleaning products interstate bus companies use to drench their closed-circulation vehicles in an unshakable odour that no amount of foodstuff or bathroom flushes could overcome (perhaps for the best). Differently from those mundane situations though, Eeltje just couldn't acclimatize. It had an underlying... influence. Smells are associated with memories. And Eeltje's memories were mostly corrupted, disfigured, unstable, sombre and unsettling. Feelings she didn't even know she could feel were slowly blossoming. Despite her conscious effort, her uvula wouldn't be overpowered. It was prevailing. Her esophagus loosened. The peristaltic movements became more frequent. Her jaw tightened.

Oh god...

Her empty stomach didn't save her.

The cryptic sky...


Only then did she begin to inspect more minutely her surroundings with the dim lightning that the night sky provided. No, not night, because while the runic sky above her was mesmerizing and overwhelming like sidereal space, it was unnaturally oppressive, just like the scent in the "air". As she glanced around, she realized the surface was just as infernally whimsical as the skies. The "buildings" around her were littered with debris and encroached with pulsing (and fluorescent at times) vines. And rather bland too. Square, tar-drenched remnants. Two stores at best. They were honestly unrecognizable - much like one can't tell whether a deteriorated Paleolithic construction is a house or a shop, Eeltje couldn't make sense of the ruins.

She was quick to stand on her feet. Wherever she was, it was probably not the wisest idea to find shelter in the constructions, but it was better than lying in the open in the middle of the street like she was. Well, at least that was the procedure if a terrorist attack or an armed conflict took place (or so she heard; she was never caught in a crossfire). Carefully enough she creeped towards the street corner. Eeltje looked around. The brick wall behind her stretched for quite a while both east and west. (She just assumed her right meant east and her left, west). No street southwards, just northwards. Tar everywhere. Oozing from the floor. From the wall cracks. Defying physics, flowing freely, with colour eddies dancing on the pools much more swiftly than the substance's viscosity could allow. It was mesmerizing, too. The tar had its own strange, incomprehensible odour, so intense the sickening air paled in comparison. She felt strangely comfortable watching it. Hypnotized, even.

A deafening hiss...


You probably are familiar with this, a sensation that almost resembles a sixth sense. When the television is turned on, it emits a very high frequency pitch (well, at the very least, cathodic ray TVs used to). It is so subtle you can't quite distinguish it as television screen noise; instead, it's more of a pervasive emanation that your eardrums notice. You just feel it. Once it's turned off, the high frequency pitch - or, as we perceive it, this intuitive sensation - ceases as well.

Eeltje must've thought there is a huge television above her, then, because the sensation was overwhelmingly present. More like a tinnitus than a subtle pitch. But after that wet hiss she just heard - almost like someone was drooling and bubbling in their saliva - the sensation went from a television hum to a high frequency radar, perfectly snitching the hissing creature's position right behind the brick wall. It was certainly large - only an elephant could feasibly make a noise like that - and certainly a surreal aberration given her new abstract landscape and the... uncanny emanation its presence exhaled. Unless some unknown pheromone could transpire arcane malice, that creature was definitely a freaky thing.

Overwhelming might...


It's the adrenaline kicking in.

Yeah, it's most definitely the adrenaline. That's gotta be it.

The first time you feel a novel sensation, you can't quite put your finger on what's happening. Eeltje certainly couldn't. How would she? Her Monkey Mind ceased to wander in the sea of sensations and thoughts this new world triggered. She suddenly turned into a snake ready to pounce. Her reactivity increased tenfold.

It didn't make sense, though. How come her reaction to "some unknown creature is roaring its battlecry at me" is to activate fight mode? No, not even fight or flight mode. She was a hundred percent combative. Feral, in a certain way, although still in plain control of her mental facilities. How could Eeltje be so sure of herself?

I had no idea adrenaline felt like this.

It wasn't adrenaline. It was no human, or mortal even, feeling. No sort of biological or chemical reaction. It was something far more complex and incomprehensible, but which felt to Eeltje as familiar as the feeling of an adrenaline release. Well, perhaps it was a bit like adrenaline, except an unholy version of it. Nevermind that, though. Eeltje was not in a time to explore her newfound sensations. It was time to fight.

(But we, detached from her mind, and detached from her experience, can take a hunch. Lilith. The succubus' blessing. She must have infused or awakened something in Eeltje. She was self-confident and dangerous before her arrival in New Atlantis, no doubt, but she would never seek physical combat.)

And instinctively...


Just like a swordsman unsheathe his blade as his combat commences, or a soldier cocks his gun, Eeltje's hands started to fume. Thick, dancing, evil purplish black fog emanated voluminously from her hands. From the looks of it, it could as well be the gaseous version of this wicked world's tar looking fluid. Eeltje was aghast, as anyone would be if their body started to behave against their assumption of physiological normality. But the emanation felt so natural she realized there was no need for fear. Just like after a bath one finds peace watching their skin smoking water vapour, Eeltje accepted her smokey hands. And boy did they fume.

All of this - from the hissing to her hands' spontaneous reaction - took little less than ten seconds, but her exhalation already extended a few feet around her. She was quickly drowning herself in her own opaque gas.

Oh shit, oh shit, I'm blinding myself.

And right after her thought vanished the fog she created gently drifted to her sides. She was Moses with his staff and the gas Red Sea. By her sides it remained, behaved, as more and more of it was produced.

Huh? What the hell? That is... so neat.

Eeltje would probably toy around with her mist if the situation wasn't grave.

She took a few steps to the east, away from the northwestern intersecting street, with her gas accompanying her accordingly. It has probably been twenty seconds by now and the hisser remained quiet behind the wall. What was he, dumb? Does he think he's concealed, away from Eeltje's perception? Why would he even hiss, rather than simply pounce covertly?

Wait a minute...


What must have felt like a sharp whiz rocketed behind Eeltje. Her augmented state of perception was able to notice that sudden advance, and while she managed to turn backwards, she couldn't protect herself from the huge cannonball...ish object that struck her. Well, in retrospect the impact was nowhere near being hit by a cannonball, but at the time it felt like it. Eeltje was blasted some few meters away from where she stood.

Whatever hit her, it was hurting her elbows, badly.

Actually, it wasn't quite hurting her elbows... it was, in fact, pressing them.

Two hands, mummified in pulsing tar veins, pushing Eeltje against the floor. That thing was right over her, with its scrawny 150 centimeters of pure tar seeping glory, hissing at stunning decibels right at Eeltje's face.

What the fuck

what the fuck

what the fuck

what the fuck


If Eeltje hadn't puked a few minutes earlier, she would definitely have right then. The acid warmth of the creature's sludge dripping over arms, chest and legs, its nauseating breath - tenfold the horrible scent of the air - and the concept of something that vile mounted over you was beyond terrifying.

And if that thing wasn't the crux of her situation she would probably have spotted a second entity in the background, climbing right over the brick wall, this a much bulkier figure, the creature her sixth sense had originally located.

Will you shut the fuck UP????


One can only assume the purpose of the whistling, um, attack must have been to stagger and immobilize the prey. But it didn't work against Eeltje. The hissing ceased and the thing collapsed by her side, with a protuberant black spike puncturing through his occipital to its forehead. To be fair, it was more of a jousting lance than a spike: insanely long and as thick as a wrist. Eeltje crawled back on her fours, part flabbergasted, part disgusted (brain bits all around - ewww).

Funny. She had just imagined some sort of pike blowing through the hissing thing's skull, and just like that it happened. She noticed half of her "summoned" smoke was missing, too. The other half remained obediently still next to where she was standing.

Did I.... did I do... this?

There was no time for an after-action investigation, though. The bulky freak seemed a bit horrified by the situation but its craving for Eeltje was much too strong. It advanced graciously over the wall - seriously! Its movements were fluid and silent, almost like a cat despite its body type more akin to a bodybuilder - ready to spring over Eeltje.

It must've assumed to be an intelligent idea to charge at her before she could properly process the situation. Maybe, right after such an odd chain of events, she would be paralyzed in confusion, unable to adequately respond to yet another oncoming threat.

WRONG!

Eeltje, as a good empiricist, wanted to ascertain she - and not some ethereal event of common occurrence in this strange realm - had caused the first thing's timely demise. And, instinctively, the second freak was the perfect Petri dish to test her hypothesis. She thought of a few javelins darting at the monster, and the magic happened.

The remaining mist, up until that point devoid of motion, swiftly spiraled into sharp cylinders and bolted towards the sprinting creature. She watched in amazement as, in mid-air, the objects' spectral semblance converted into something firmer.

Deposition.

In total, some seven projectiles were launched. Six of them missed their target - it was a moving object, after all - but the seventh fulminantly impaled its chest and shoved it to the floor to the other side of the brick wall. The being started to grunt uncontrollably. Eeltje couldn't make sense whether those were howls of pain or a summoning call for its pack.

It doesn't matter. If more come, I'll kill them too.


Eeltje remained by the whereabouts for a few minutes, listening to the sweet symphony of death. Part sadism, part self-realization. After all, she had singlehandedly skewered two surreal entities that could quite possibly lacerate a human being with less qualms and difficulty than a lion, all thanks to her newfound gas-bending, depositional powers. The monster's pain meant, foremost, safety. No matter what plane of existence she was - whether purgatory, hell, or some scifiey earthly dominion - she was not a prey. To think she was a predator was a bit premature and arrogant, but Eeltje did nonetheless.

I'm the killer. Like it should be.

Eventually, the air went silent. Eeltje smiled shyly. Suddenly, the smell was no longer a problem.
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