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Spleen x Shiteagle x Isocrap

City of Sanc Valatir, Southern Border

As far as taverns went the Lying Willow was pleasant, if unmemorable. The stench of ale and vomit that so often marked a tavern had yet to mar the relatively new establishment. It was still daytime, though the sun’s light was beginning to wane, thus few occupied the tavern yet. A few merchants occupied one corner of the room, feasting on a small dinner before turning their attention to business. Across the room, a group of men held a hushed discussion over tankards of ale.

Loudly Cannae burst through the entrance doors, nearly knocking one of the thin wooden portals clear of its cast iron hinge. The hulk of a man swaggered over to the serving bar, ignoring the glares he summoned from his entry and plopped down into one of the stools, the cotton stuffed seat, a grand insignia of a well of establishment, flattened and threatened to burst through the seams under the weight of the muscular man atop it.

A white smile flashed from the man towards the wide eyed bartender. The son of Iao pointed a finger at a spherical bottle with a long neck that lingered on the polished shelf, “all of it,” Cannae ordered.

The bartender squinted at the bottle, and a dubious looked formed on his visage, “w...water? That’s for the g-”

“ALL!” Cannae reiterated, nearly laughing at the bewildered man as he slammed down enough coin for two actual drinks rather than fetched water.

“Interesting drink choice.” A man said as he sat next to Cannae. His accent hinted that he hailed from Lonassa or Hellara, especially the way he emphasized the ‘k’ in drink. “Lord Cannae?” It was as much a statement as a question.

“Ever have it?” Cannae looked over at the man as the bottle was begrudgingly shuffled over to Cannae’s grasp, “makes ya piss though.”

“As for who I am, I am Lieutenant General Partial Rotation Twenty Six Cycle four Cannae of The North, begatten by-” Cannae started to snicker as he studied the man’s face. He snorted, “ye, I’m Cannae.”

“This old soldier never could make sense of your northern ranks.” The man said with a shake. He didn’t look that old, thirty perhaps, but the scars visible on his hands and neck certainly indicated that he had seen more than his fair share of battles. “I’m Xanthus, from Hellaras” He lowered his voice slightly. “I serve Our Fair Lady of Change in battle.” A kopis, the sword favored by soldiers serving Soraya, was partially visible under his cloak. “I… hate to ask, but I could use some assistance.”

Before Cannae could voice so much as a word in reply a rather haggard looking drunk stumbled up to the mountain of a man and slapped a calloused hand onto his shoulder. Pulling himself closer the inebriated fellow introduced himself, “Cannae is it? Now excuse a man fer listening but I er… I heard some speak about yous being a lord eh? Figure you could help me out yer lordship? Me names Mar.. Uh… Markos!”

Markos, breath stinking of liquor a great deal stronger than simple beer, pointed a grimy finger at the bartender and went on, “If you’d believe it that… That scoundrel there! He gone went and told me I can’t buy any more of this fine establishments swill! Now if you’d go outta yer way and help me out, well, I’d make it worth your while. Come on now, show some charity! Those snakes in the corner wouldn’t, but yer a lord ain’t ya? Gotta show up them peasant folk with yer generosity eh?”

“I’m.. not a lord,” Cannae leaned backwards to avoid the spittle that seemed to be summoned after every hard “p”, “but yeah sure, knock yourself out.”

The mighty man swung over his bottle and placed it roughly into Markos hand with an accompanying bright smile, “have all you want.”

The moment the bottle touched his hands Markos raised it to his lips, it’s contents being gone long before the forced smile on his drunk lips shifted to a grimace. With a curse Markos hefted the bottle and hurled it backwards, where it collided with the head of a robed man coincidentally named Rob. Unaware of his transgression, Markos looked to Cannae and shouted, “Yer a damn cruel bastard ya know that! How do ya think I’ll keep my present shine now? Eh? Eh?”

Cannae wildly gestured with his hands, “you! YOU! What about me? That was ALL the water, M-Markos!”

He started counting off his fingers, “you come up to me, take my drinks, interrupt my friends, force me to try new flavors of spit that I never thought existed, and to top it all off… wait no that’s all of it.”

Cannae crossed his tree trunk arms, “dick.”

“You’d best walk away Markos” Xanthus spoke up, his hand drifting towards the hilt of his kopis.

Markos, quite ignorant of the substance behind the threat, simply continued ranting at Cannae, “Why in all the gods names would ya be drinking water in a tavern anyway! I swear! Ya’d be better served lying in the street and waitin for rain!”

Briefly acknowledging Xanthus Markos added, “And as if I could walk! Ha!”
“How about a midday flight session then?” Cannae rose to his feet, towering over both the sitting men as he menacingly cracked his knuckles. A long dark shadow was cast over Markos as he tried to stare the drunk in the eye, if the drunk’s eyes wouldn’t stop lazing off slowly to one side or the other.

Markos squinted and replied slowly, “I don’t think I know how to fly a griffin.”

“Let’s trying flying something else then,” Cannae grinned wickedly as he grabbed Markos’ collar and yanked him upwards. Before a protest could be muttered, Cannae hefted his mighty shoulders and flung the drunk backwards, straight into the robed man who had just been helped to his feet after his encounter with the stray water bottle.

“So much for not drawing their attention” Xanthus grimaced as the robed man’s minions each drew a dagger. The look in more than one of their eyes showed recognition as they looked at Xanthus. “Please try to keep one of them alive.” The old soldier said as he drew his kopis.

Cannae raised his fists up to his chin and shuffled his feet into a fighting stance, “this isn’t my first awkward fight out of the blue,” he assured his recent companion.

Pointing a finger at the armed gang he taunted loudly, “little sensitive to be hanging around bars don’t ya think?”

The group of men simply grunted as they moved towards Cannae and Xanthus. Two moved towards Xanthus as the other four men seemed intent on Cannae. Meanwhile Markos was left completely unmolested, whether that was due to the men believing him to not be a threat or simply because they didn’t care about the man none could say.

“You shouldn’t have stuck your nose where it wasn’t wanted.” One of the men said as he lunged at Xanthus. The old soldier backed away from the man’s knife, only to curse as he bumped into the bar behind him. He grunted in pain as his second opponent also lunged at him, sinking his dagger into Xanthus’ arm. Xanthus yelled as he planted his fist on the man’s face with more than enough force to break his nose.

One of the men hesitated to join in the attack, eyes darting to and fro frantically searching for an opportunity to strike. One would never com, given a Harpe was swung into crown of his head with sickening thwack before he had the chance to move. An unseen and disregarded Markos pulled the bloodied blade from the man's skull with a disgusting squelch, clumsily letting the body crumple to the ground. Another step forward saw Markos stumble, following the corpse to the floor in his tumble.

The first man to reach Cannae shot forward with his dagger. The hulking Cannae managed to grab the surprised man’s wrist before the dagger plunged into his throat. As the next assaulter got in fighting range, Cannae aggressively jabbed the captive hand and ultimately the dagger towards the other man. Cannae’s crushing fingers wrapped around the fist of the man, keeping the dagger in his hand as he forced him to stab the other in the larynx, a spurt of blood washing the horrified first attacker.

Cannae kicked the man away, sending both the dying man and the first attacker to the ground in shock. The remaining two rushed Cannae, looks of fury on their faces. The Son of Iao rapidly took a fighting stance and as quick as lightening two thunderous cracks sounded out as he rapped two terrible punches on each man, a brief flash of light blinking as his Stromist powered fists connected. The two men crumpled to the floor, each with unrecognizable pulpy faces.

By that point Xanthus’ second attack was on the ground, his blood dripping from Xanthus’ kopis. The old soldier grimaced as he placed the bloody weapon on the bar, giving the tavern owner an apologetic look. He then reached over to the dagger still embedded in his arm and, with a grunt, yanked the weapon out.

“As I was saying earlier,” He said as he tore the sleeve off of one of their assailants to make a makeshift bandage, “I could very much use your assistance.”

“I’ll say,” Cannae wiped his knuckles on his rough linen pants, “especially if this is a common occurrence for you.”

“Well…” Xanthus was applying his makeshift bandage by this point. “I had remained undetected to those men until that Maria guy got involved.” He picked his kopis off of the bar and wiped its blade clean on one of the men’s shirts. “I might be thankful towards the man if these were all that were involved.”

Cannae looked down at the sole surviving attacker, now passed out from shock exhaustion on the floor. Slowly he looked over at Xanthus, his curiosity piqued, “what kind of problem requires both help from myself, and the death of a bunch of thugs?”

“The kind that involves my archon.” Xanthus answered as he nudged the surviving thug with his foot. When the man didn’t respond Xanthus let out a long sigh. “You’ve heard those rumors claiming Our Fair Lady of Change has surely had a kid or two, right?”

Cannae smirked and crossed his arms, “no disrespect coming from a son of Iao, but there are some tales that number well more than two, and not all of them human.”

“Yes” Xanthus agreed, “but no man of intelligence actually believes those rumors. And yet these guys seem pretty damned sure that’s the case. They’re so sure that,” Xanthus shrugged, “I’m beginning to believe there may be something to those rumors.”

Cannae raised a brow, “they? What does a silly rumor have to do with you, or them for that matter.” He jutted his chin at the bloodied corpses, the fact that the authorities have yet to arrive made Cannae wonder a few other things.

“Think about it.” Xanthus lowered his voice slightly. “If they actually do know of a child of Archon Soraya they could use this child to blackmail her.”

“To be honest, the thought of Soraya caring about anything seems alien,” Cannae casually commented, “but I suppose the bodies speak for themselves.”

“And yet,” Xanthus scowled at Cannae, “she’s the only one amongst the archons that I’ve heard goes into the slums to heal the sick and wounded. She cares, she’s just… flighty.”

Behind the pair Markos picked himself up off the floor and took in the gruesome scene. Scratching his head he looked down at his blood stained clothing and swore, his liquor addled mind more concerned about the condition of his dress than the probability of the city guard finding him covered head to toe in a stranger's blood. Not fully connecting the dots, Markos asked as politely as he was able, “You folks wouldn’t happen to have more o that water eh? Seems I made a right mess of myself.”

Cannae snarled, “oh now you want the water!”

He waved a finger at both of them, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting out of here before too many questions start getting shot around by angry officials with shiny badges. You wanna talk, follow me, but I can’t say any of this has put me in a talking mood.”

“Can’t say I blame you” Xanthus said as he picked the unconscious thug up and pulled him over his shoulder. “You!” He pointed at Markos. “Search their bodies for any notes or anything and come with us.” Turning back to Cannae he asked “Do you have some specific hiding place in mind?”

Cannae looked out through the Inn window, the cobblestone street having turned blue from the growing dusk. He thought for a moment, “well I’m walking home, er, to my lodgings.”

“I guess it’s no secret I’m in town anyway,” he shrugged. Suddenly the man bit his lip as his eyes widen, “might not be a good idea to bring him though,” he pointed at the man Xanthus had lugged over his shoulder, “especially not with that.” He pointed lower at the red seeping through Xanthus’ makeshift bandage.

Markos shrugged and began rifling through the dead men’s pockets. Still rather disoriented, he mostly prioritized extracting spare coins, though he remembered to grab whatever else he found. By the time he was done there was a small pile; and looking around he found a coat without too much blood on it to fashion a makeshift sack for carrying the small hoard. With his vision beginning to clear he looked to the others, “Have ya thought of putting a bag over his head or something?”

“Give me a bag and I’ll be more than happy to.” Xanthus answered. He shifted the thug on his shoulder before nodding at Cannae. “Lead the way milord.”

Cannae stood silent for a moment before stuttered back into the conversation, “o-oh! You mean me!”

“Yes.” Xanthus raised an eyebrow. “I do mean you. Unless you’d rather we follow him.” He gestured towards Markos. “Hey….” He had to think on what the drunk’s name was for a moment. “Markos… Know of any good holes to hide in nearby?”

Rubbing his temples and beginning to wake up to the situation, the pitcher of water doing its work, Markos replied deliberately, “In the city? Bah, I’d not spend the night here with the threat of being eaten by a griffin over my head. There’s an overhang I’ve been camping under a few hours walk from the wall, and I’ll be hurrying there. Maybe our friend over there will get away with this, but the Exarch’s going ta be out for my head for certain.”

“Normally I wouldn’t even get involved in this, but if it will help Soraya out, just follow me and shut up until I say otherwise,” Cannae grunted, “and if you insist on a prisoner, let’s at least find a cart to hide him in until we get there.”
Sanc Valatir

Blood flowed through his fingers as he vainly pressed his hands against his stomach. Why did he feel so cold? Why was this happening to him? Why here and now? He had survived numerous fields of battle, yet one day in this city and a run in with a thief was to be his end? And he had such a bright future ahead!

The sound of footsteps drew his gaze up, and the through the encroaching darkness he saw the forms of a decidedly plain woman and nervous looking man standing in front of him. With the last of his strength he managed to beg “Please… help.”

The plain woman knelt next to him, seeming to not notice the dirt and grime now marring her dress. She observed him for a moment before reaching towards his wounds with one hand. “Rest now child” The woman said, something he found odd given his somewhat advanced age. Warmth spread through his entire body as she continued “And wake up to a brighter tomorrow.”

The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was the woman rising to her feet, not a speck of blood or dirt on her. She looked at him, a warm smile on her face, as the sweet embrace of sleep took him.

“To think we would see such a sight here” The woman’s nervous companion muttered.

“Just remember that even the brightest lights cast shadows James.” The woman said with a snort.

“Wait… are we talking about the Night Mother now?” The man, James asked.

“Sometimes…” The woman said with a raised eyebrow, “I forget that you don’t get metaphors. Let us be off.”

“I.. uh… Yes milady.” James said as he hurried to follow the woman, casting one last glance at the man she had healed. “How did you heal him? I didn’t see you cast any magic.”

“How indeed.” The woman said with a laugh. “Just remember this: a skilled sorceress knows how to hide when she is casting magic. But a master sorceress can bend, even break, all the rules.”

By this point the pair had stepped onto a busy street. James struggled to keep up with the woman who, for her part, showed evidence of trouble navigating the street whatsoever. His gaze traced the apparent path she was taking to the palace.

“I’ve been wondering” James said after a moment, “why we’ve been on this trip to the south in the first place.”

“Would you believe me if I said that attending this council had been part of my plan all along?”

“Um… yes.”

The woman looked over her shoulder at him with a raised eyebrow. “Really? Sometimes I can’t tell if you are being serious or putting on an act.” Given that they had journeyed to the south months before the council had been announced and had only heard of it by pure chance the likelihood that she had had any plan seemed unlikely at best. The pair had actually arrived in Sanc Valatir a tenday ago, though this was the first time the woman had so much as glanced at the palace since arriving.

“I’m not sure what to say.” James commented.

“I’m sure you are.” The woman said. By this point they had arrived at the front entrance.

“Identify yourselves!” One of the guards challenged.

“I’ve got this” James quietly said. He took a few steps forward as he began “Before you stands- UWAH!” His little speech turned into a startled cry as he tripped over his own feet and tumbled to the ground. All present stared at James for a moment before the guards turned their attention to the plain woman. The woman, with a look of amusement still pastured on her face, shifted her gaze to the guards.

“Tell your lord” The woman’s form changed as she spoke. Her dress, suited for a peasant, turned into the luxurious gown of a queen. She grew in height, her figure becoming more lithe as he hair turned blonde. “That his Archon has arrived.”
That avatar though... lol
@Legion02 Feel free to join us in the south. If you have any questions I'm usually available on discord.
I forgot to mention this ealier but I'll be out of town till Sunday night or monday. If you need to ask me something feel free to shoot me a pm and I'll answer when I can.

Here's what I have thus far for my archon. Obviously still a work in progress, but there's definitely enough done to see what direction I'm going in.

If at first you don't succeed try try again!
@LordZell I see you laughing but this is a real and legitimate goal of mine. ROAD OR BUST!
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