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I'm Pollen, hope you're not allergic. I like writing a myriad of characters in all kinds of genres, so I'm pretty much down for anything roleplay-wise.

Come talk with me if you want! I'm friendly.

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Anne Mayer
On the Road

Long journeys like this one weren't wholly unfamiliar to Anne, though she'd rarely ever taken so long to cover such a short distance. It left the Knight with all too much time to ponder, her mind swirling with old regrets and fresh pangs of anxiety. She still worried about what might happen to the village, and especially the young siblings, whom she'd promised to come and see again once her business in the capital was done. She kept glancing back down the road every few minutes, as though half-expecting to see a fresh column of smoke rising in the distance.

...There are children in the capital, too, aren't there? Families, parents, people with loved ones they cherished more than their own lives. Back in Aventon Anne had arrived too late to make much of a difference, but this time, if she could only get there soon enough, she would protect everyone. That desire burned in her like a hidden flame, and for much of the time her eyes remained fixed on the path ahead, as though she could will the whole caravan to travel faster.

"I can go with you, since I have diplomatic training." When Remilia piped up, the Knight was the first to answer, having already considered the problem over the past few days. "I'm not sure the authorities will let us see the monarch directly, but if we lead with information about the attack on Aventon, they'll have to at least hear us out. A kingdom can't ignore raids from beyond its borders, especially not from a threat as big as the Heralds."

More importantly, the destruction of the village was easy to verify: both the merchants and the mercenaries had seen the aftermath and could vouch for Anne's group if necessary. "First we show that our word is reliable, then we leverage interest in our exoticism. Build connections, and use it to gain access and support." With luck, they'd be able to secure aid for Aventon, as well as the cooperation of the local military in dealing with whatever threat Lavielle had warned them about.

This sounds fun! Might play a fae if that's allowed.
Anne Mayer
Aventon - Southern Gate

Goddesses. Shrines. Frogs. Summonings. At this point Anne decided it was best to just go along with things, and not ask too many questions until this whole matter was over and done with. I should focus on the essentials. What do I need to be able to protect everyone? What potential problems should I be looking out for?

"Options, yes. If the process that brought us here can be reproduced without Lavielle, then figuring out how should be enough to solve our major problems." What even qualified someone as a goddess, though? The only person from the Cosmic Century who might fit the bill would be Mother Knight, and Anne was skeptical that she'd be willing to help even if she could. "We also have to keep in mind the surrounding circumstances, though. If Sanae was able to summon someone here on her own, isn't that evidence of Lavielle's warnings being true?"

The weakening of barriers between worlds. A great danger soon to arise in the capital. In Anne's mind, the likelihood of those two phenomena being linked was extremely high.

But where do the Heralds come into all this...?

"We need to head to the capital soon." She looked to Sanae, who'd supposedly just been bolstered by her frog-goddess. "If most of us are going to leave, then we should do what we can to keep the village safe in the meantime. Can you set up barriers, something like back at the church, but more long-lasting?" It probably wouldn't be enough to fend off another full assault, even with Lily and Saria around, but in the worst-case scenario any extra layers of protection could buy the townspeople critical minutes to escape.


When Svanhild called for order, for information, it was the black-clad witch who answered first. Perhaps not so deranged as she seems, that one. A shame that she couldn't have brought better news: her first few words confirmed all of the frost giant's direst fears. Damn it all! Not ten minutes in and we're already discovered—did that abomination drop us here on purpose, knowing this would happen?

It didn't matter. She had to keep her head in the moment, and navigate through this as she always did. The forest would offer us cover and slow their pursuit, but there's no guarantee they wouldn't run us down before we reached the treeline. What's more, if word of our presence gets back to Sulfrey, we'll be hunted all the way to the capital...

"...We stand our ground," the giantess finally declared. It helped that the pyromancer had raised up some form of cover, enough to guard against archers and buy the group a little time. "Ogre, you're with me. We'll break their advance, trap them together—the rest of you can flank them then, and unleash Hell upon them all. Do not let any of them escape." Routing the enemy would not be enough: they had to end this immediately, and with overwhelming force. If anyone on her side showed mercy, if any of them even hesitated long enough to let an enemy slip through their fingers, it could end up spelling doom for them all.

With this lot, though? That may be the one thing I'll never have to worry about.

No time for further thought. A rallying cry tore through the air, accompanied by a flash of light that forced Svanhild to shield her face with one hand. Even as she squinted against the light, however, her other arm moved with unerring precision, turning her sword-point earthward her lips muttered words in a long-forgotten language.

Blue ice erupted outward from either side of her blade, and within heartbeats crystallized into the form of a massive tower shield. Taller than Svanhild herself, wide enough for three grown humans to hide behind side-by-side, and with long spikes on its lower edge that the frost giant now drove into the earth with all her formidable strength.


And then the enemy was upon them. A roiling mass of flesh and steel and noise and death, led by a mountainous mass of teeth and scales that failed to swerve at the last moment as its rider took a dagger to the eye, that failed to stop itself before it crashed head-on into Svanhild's frozen barricade and sent cracks spiderwebbing across the shield, as the giantess roared her lungs out and dug powerful toes deep into the soil and held, held her ground for all that she was worth, held just long and hard enough to bring the wyvern to a full halt and leave it momentarily stunned while the horses behind it stumbled or reared away from a massive and unexpected obstacle, and she wanted to scream out NOW, to tell all those mad bastards she'd been stuck with that this was their chance, before the damn beast recovered and tore into them all. But her breath was all spent, her efforts wholly focused on checking the monster's advance, and in that moment she could only pray to all her ancestors that they would somehow manage not to fuck this up.
Anne Mayer
Aventon - Southern Gate

"Hi, do mind if I join the supervising?"

Anne glanced up, and greeted the Knight Witch with a small smile. "I wouldn't object to it. An extra pair of eyes would actually be very handy for something like this." She trusted the small woman well enough, and the fact that she'd worked with Frankenstein before was a point in her favor... Disregarding whatever it was that had happened with the cows. If we're talking about going overboard, that would be the number-one example, wouldn't it?

Together with Lewa (provided he agreed to come along), they made their way down to the battlefield at the south end of the village, and positioned themselves at the front of the watching crowds. Once the combatants were in position, the duels began—and Anne's prior assumptions were abruptly bowled over by the events that actually transpired.

For one thing, these mercenaries were absolute chumps. As she watched the brawler struggle against Mokou's attacks, it was all she could do not to clutch her own head in frustration. Right there. An obvious gap in her attacks. Come on, what's with that footwork? Are you trying to get hit? You're too predictable, she's leading you straight into a trap—and there it is. Damnit, were you even paying attention during basic training?? She felt a tug at her coat, and turned her head to find Alvin and Millie looking up at her expectantly. Was she going to fight too, they wondered? Anne could only muster up a shaky laugh. "Er, I think that might be considered bullying at this point..."

Frankenstein's match was proof enough of that. To Anne's surprise, the construct girl exhibited an admirable amount of restraint, using only the bare minimum of force to finish off her opponent. Guess there's no need to worry about her for now... Her gaze drifted over to Joker, who was actually struggling for a little bit before he brought out his Paranormal Power. Some basic combat training, but he relies too much on his abilities. At least he seemed to have decent control: she could tell that he'd held himself back from inflicting any serious injuries.

Out of everyone, Youmu impressed her the most. Honed movements, accurate predictions, and perfect discipline even with a wooden blade. Back where Anne came from, she'd already qualify as a Knight, and probably make quite a name for herself taking down high-rank Beasts. Sanae, though... She was elusive, but her attacks seemed more showy than effective. At least until she held up her stick, and conjured up—another strange young woman?

...Just how many of these people were there??

Unfortunately, she had no time to stand there and deal with the massive implications of what had just happened. Murderous intent radiated out from the newcomer, darker and heavier than even the miasma she summoned around her. Everyone's eyes were fixed on the escalating crisis, and the enormous snakes that reared up out of the ground—but anyone paying close attention might see Anne subtly lean forward, and hear the earth crack open beneath her feet.

<Suppressor off. Limiter release, level one.>

A gust of wind. The Knight vanished from mortal sight.

At the same moment Sanae threw herself in the serpents' path, something blew past behind her, sweeping up the mercenary caster before any harm could befall her. A cloud of dust kicked up to one side, and there was Anne, skidding to a halt with the young mage held tightly in her arms.

"I've got you." She'd had to restrict her acceleration to avoid hurting anyone along the way, but Sanae's intervention had bought her enough time to safely grab her target. Even so, she was breathing heavily, her veins bulging out against the side of her neck from the blood pressure forced through them. Slowly, carefully, she set the mercenary down, positioned so that Anne stood between her and any further attacks.

"If you don't mind... I think we'd better call this one a draw."

Thankfully, Sanae seemed to have things handled by now. Rather than ask any questions or try to intervene further, Anne waited and watched, happy with any outcome that didn't demand more exertion on her part.

Nomads, wanderers, people of the plains. Looking at them, Svanhild could only remember her own clan of giants, the friends and allies long lost to her now. Primitive on the surface, yes, but with a rich, deep culture all to their own, and a way of life dating back all the way to the time of myths. If she had only met these Easterlings under better circumstances, had only been able to sit around a fire and speak peacefully with them, just what sort of stories might they have shared? What sort of tales, to delight the soul and enrich one's view of the world?

Chances were she would never know. The scum of the Westerlands, her supposed companions, could only think in terms of crude stereotypes and their own selfish desires. Barbarians, savages, animals to be slain. Threats to be removed, and rewards to be claimed. No sooner had Svanhild laid eyes upon the approaching party than a horrifying shriek split her ears, and she stumbled to the side with hands clutched tight to her head.

The vile tricks of a monster—but they're not directed at you. The giantess clenched her teeth, and forced herself to stand straight despite the ringing in her ears. By the time she managed to refocus her eyes, she saw the Easterling party decimated, heads blown apart and flesh stripped away from naked bones. A cold fury filled her then, and she cast her arm out to one side.


Blue ice materialized in her open hand, a massive broadsword as long as she was tall. She held it out before the Warden's misfits like a barrier, before any of them could go thoughtlessly charging off and get themselves killed. "Hold, you dolts! Look around and think for once in your sorry lives!"

The Reavers were scattered, their front lines entirely broken apart by the one-two punch of the magical assault. Some had curled up on the ground, still clutching at bleeding ears, while others cowered behind shields or tried to play dead among the corpses of their former comrades. They weren't berserkers, nor rabid animals: even with half of them still alive they couldn't yet muster the will to renew their forward charge.

No, what concerned Svanhild more was why they'd been charging in the first place. She spoke urgently, loud enough that even the half-deaf would be able to catch her drift. "Why come at us out in the open? They can't have seen us from below that ridge. And if their scouts had found us ahead of time, they could have waited to ambush us after we entered the woods." She couldn't quite put her finger on what was wrong—she thought she might've glimpsed something up in the sky, but the scream had destroyed her concentration before she could pin it down. All she knew was that if her side kept up this haphazard retaliation, they'd be sitting ducks for anything else lurking out there.

"Someone wake up that plague-ridden wretch. And if anyone knows magic for observing distant terrain, use it."

The creature explained her intentions, and Svanhild listened in absolute silence. Unflinching, unyielding, even when wild visions flooded her mind and some new thing gazed back at her through them. To feel fear was natural and inevitable, but to express it—to show any sign of weakness before so many watching eyes—would be fatal. The giantess's discipline held firm as an iron wall, her terrors confined to a tiny black room in the very depths of her consciousness.

In contrast, her jailers had revealed their own fragility. The White Tiger, the mighty king, turns to his monstrous pet rather than face the threat directly. And our captor, for all her wicked power, passes the task down unto us. To Svanhild the reason was clear: they were scared of this gold-masked god. They dreaded a war against him, and chose to poke and prod with spies and pawns, hoping to find a hidden flaw that would shatter his empire from within. She knew all about the way they operated: the kingdom had used the very same strategy to defeat her in the past.

Ironic, that she should be the one to carry it out now.

The chamber abruptly shook, and began to unravel itself all around her. Blinking in surprise, the giantess subtly shifted her feet, though a quick glance showed her nowhere was safe from the effect. Logically she knew that their captor would not try to kill them now, but even so it took all her willpower to stand firm and embrace the oncoming wave of magic and madness. She had to stay focused, had to remember the plan—not the one spelled out for her by that smiling abomination, but the one that she'd tucked away in her hidden thoughts the moment she'd understood the situation.

Locate the spies. Infiltrate the god-king's court. Find Ael-Gol...

...And help him burn the Westerlands to the ground.

Cradling this deadly spark, this desperate hope for revenge, she plunged headfirst towards her fate.

...How long had it been, since she'd last seen a sky so bright?

Her eyes cracked open, and a sharp breath filled up her lungs. Warm, sweet, fresh in the way that only untainted air could be. After all these years, it felt like a miracle, like something impossible. She wanted to weep, to cry out, to fall down on her knees and plunge her fingers into the rich and beautiful soil. The only things that stopped her were a habit of self control and her awareness of the silhouettes around her—shadows that resolved themselves into familiar shapes as her vision adjusted to the light.

It seemed the wretches had come with her, all eight of them. The majority maintained their composure better than she'd have expected—which only made the lone exception stand out all the more. Her eyes narrowed with irritation as she watched the pyromaniac dance and flaunt his power, almost as if he was trying to draw unwanted attention down upon them. A madman and a fool, better disposed of now before he could cause any further trouble...

...Or so she'd have thought, if he hadn't immediately followed up with critical information about the region. It was enough to make Svanhild raise an eyebrow, and unclench the half-formed fist she'd planned to bury halfway through his skull.

"Your word's as good as any." With a languid roll of her shoulders, she started off in the same direction as the man and the ogre. "Best we cover as much ground as we can before nightfall. Fill us in about the roads along the way."
Anne Mayer

"...Best of luck, then." Anne sighed and lowered her head, though not without a faintly nostalgic smile. Back in her younger days she might have joined in the sparring herself, but the current her was too old and battered for this sort of thing. Maybe she'd come along and watch—Alvin and Millie would doubtless want to go, given how keen they seemed on people who were 'super strong.' A lot of the other villagers as well, who'd stayed hidden away in the lodge during the battle before. This might be the last chance they'd get to see their heroes in action, an occasion not to be missed.

All the more reason for the Knight to keep an eye on things.

While the mercenaries wandered off to gather their weapons, Anne made her way over to the towering green robot who'd seemed most concerned about this turn of events. "I appreciate the effort, Lewa. Though I don't think we can stop them now, and they don't intend on doing real harm in any case." Even as she said it, however, she couldn't quite hide her concern. A brief glance confirmed that Frankenstein was heading southwards, and her eyes quietly narrowed at the Otherworlder's retreating back.

"The best thing we can do is look out for them, and be ready to step in if anything gets out of control. It'd be good to have someone besides me around to oversee the fight, even if there might not end up being any need for it."


She dreamed of a distant land, of thin grasses dusted with a light brush of snow.

The frigid air clenched around her like a fist, every bit as heavy as the dead beast she carried slung over one shoulder. No sound could be heard for miles around outside of the steady pant of her own breath, and the weighty crunch of her footsteps as she forced her way uphill. A vast and merciless figure loomed above, and sneered down at her struggles with eyes bereft of all compassion.

"Still so frail, Svanhild. You march like a wounded wolf hastening to its own death."

The girl did not look up. Her advance proceeded unfaltering, even as pain gnawed deep into her muscles and tore at the inner skin of her lungs. She could not slow down, could never slow down, not when one missed step would earn her a beating or lose her a precious meal. In a way this was lucky for her: once she was grown there would be no such merciful punishments for her mistakes.

"I am yet alive, mother," she said, between one ragged breath and the next. The top of the hill seemed so distant, further away with every passing moment, and she knew countless more lay beyond it. She spoke for her own sake, to summon up strength where none remained. "The cold and the beasts could not end me, and not once have I ever faltered. When I fall, my journey will live on in hallowed tales, and in the scars I leave upon the world. They will weep for my passing; they will sing my name to the endless heavens."

She truly believed it, even after all this time. Wanted to believe, enough that it burned her inside.

Her only answer was a laugh like the cracking of ice. "And who will weep for you, daughter? Who will sing?" The giant's gaze was unrelenting, a pitiless light that glared through to her very soul. "There is no one left to follow you, and you have nowhere left to go. You live in the dark, broken and lost, and you are alone." That laughter again, echoing from everywhere at once. Svanhild's mother was gone, and in her place stood a black and bloodied spear, its tip stabbed through a maimed and blue-skinned head that cackled ceaselessly at the girl as a fresh wind stained the landscape red.

"You are alone!"

Awareness returned to her by degrees, a slow and grinding inevitability. Corrupt and fetid air, that lapped against her skin with a sickly warmth incomparable to the chill of her homeland. Voices, hateful voices, speaking a language foreign and foul. Even before she opened her eyes she could guess at the truth of her surroundings, and only with great reluctance did she finally pry her lids apart to greet the sorry sight that awaited.

The woman. Svanhild would not grace her with her title, though even calling her a living thing felt somehow wrong. Regent of this accursed pit, architect of perpetual despair, slave to the crown and enslaver of all who fell into this abyss: the giantess had every reason to want this creature dead, and now she stood no more than a stride or two before her. In that moment Svanhild wanted nothing more than to lunge forward and snap that monster in half, break her like a twig and dash her brains out across the hard stone floor. Only honed instincts stayed her hand, informing her that if she were to try, she would be dead before she made it a single step.

Instead she lifted her muscular arms, and folded them across her chest. Let her attention turn to some of the others in the chamber, without ever taking her eyes off her despised foe.

She hadn't met all of them before, but rumors had a way of traveling through the Maw, and she could identify most of these people by reputation alone. The savage ogre, a crass brute even taller than Svanhild herself, though she wagered the beast had barely half of her brains. A rotting corpse of a human, who had well earned his evocative nickname. A vile elven witch and a reckless pyromaniac, each seeking to outdo the other in the field of insanity. Not a one of them was worth more than the filth that lined their cells, but their collective presence told her much about the nature of this meeting. Dangerous prisoners, all potential flight risks... Only a fool would gather them together like this for a common execution.

No, this was something special. They were needed for something.

Svanhild did not waste her breath on pointless words. Unlike many in this room, she could exhibit actual patience, a quality she proved by waiting in silence without moving a millimeter further. Her gaze remained fixed upon her ghastly captor, an unflinching blue glare filled with all the bitter defiance of a monarch trapped in hell.
Anne Mayer

It still felt odd to hear terms like 'magical goods' brought up so casually in conversation, but Anne did her best to play along with the local superstitions. Unfortunately, the merchants didn't know much that could help her identify the contents of her 'gift box,' and she could only glean a little from their vague answers to her inquiries. At least she now knew that such items could be created with some degree of reliability, a tidbit that immediately filled up her mind with fresh questions and ideas. The moment she found someone more knowledgeable to ask about all this, she was going to drag them aside and either bribe or browbeat them into spilling every detail they knew, until she discovered a way to replicate the process herself.

In the meantime, she quietly set her professional curiosity aside and moved on to the rest of the items. A careful survey found no signs of advanced engineering, but the quantity of food available and the presence of luxuries such as toys indicated that this kingdom was doing pretty well for itself regardless. In fact, the rich variety in local fauna hinted at a thriving biosphere unlike any she'd seen before. The idea of a planet this lush, this peaceful, wholly untouched by the interstellar scourge of the Beasts—Anne could only describe such a place as paradise itself.

Why would humans ever wage war, living in a place like this? She cast her eyes back towards the freshly repaired village, caught for a moment between wonder and despair. None of them know. None of them understand just how lucky they are. Even the other strangers, plucked from faraway worlds, seemed to take this peace for granted, as though it were the natural state of things.

For Anne, it had been the ruined and broken village that felt most familiar. These mercenaries, too, who clung to their weapons and inflated martial pride. She wanted to ask about the books, maybe even barter for a couple of them, but her attention soon drifted back to the guards, and the escalating tensions surrounding them.

"Don't mind those girls too much. They like to joke around." With her hands in her coat pockets, the Knight ambled right up to the group of sellswords and addressed them directly. "But you've made me curious now: for your employer to speak of you so highly, you all must have quite the credentials." Maybe they were even strong enough to protect a certain village for a few weeks, while someone else took up their duties guarding the caravan. Already Anne could see the outline of a mutually beneficial exchange—but first she needed to verify that these soldiers of fortune were more than paper tigers.
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