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Deep, golden orbs stared back at her from within the cave.

God, she couldn't breathe.

He was monstrous. The ground trembled under her feet as his rippling, massive body exited the cave. Thunderous footsteps left cracks in the dirt, his breath sent waves of heat creeping over her skin. The transformation was slow, but it looked like something from a nightmare with the way his long teeth were bared.

A great and terrible roar sounded from his gaping maw.

She needed to run. Now.

Academy 218 Roleplay <3

We have a RPer Appreciation thread!?!?!
Beautiful people, beautiful words

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@Andre Valias Thank you! I'd love to be informed on the changes within Ravenfell. I'll see if I can track ya down on Discord or FB sometime this week. ;)
Will try to write for you as soon as I can. <3

32 Hours Before...

Rosemaple Lake, Roseview_

Dim lights emitted a red glow on the halls as shadows moved between rooms. CID's back-up generators were on their last reserves as it took a large amount of energy to maintain their servers. A meeting had been called and all personnel were required to attend. Within the main conference room, extra chairs were brought in as spies, couriers, security and techs alike crowded the mahogany table. Those unable to attend in person - like Rhea - stared out from iPads and tablets at one end of the table.

Hallmark, sitting calm and collected at the table's head, began the meeting. "As you're all aware, the Founding Family went public recently under the pretense of good intentions. What's remained privy to only a select few of you, is that they're all but benevolent.

"The Family was involved with a number if disasters, including the Beast of Prague. They have a substantial hold on North America, and still look to expand their spheres of influence through intimidation. A third party - Polaris - is also working with them. We have reason to believe the Family's motive for wanting RAVEN's incarcerated people is to speed up their big project - a 'Machine'."

He leaned back in his seat, gesturing to his loyal employees. "Now, where do you come in with all of this? I've decided to change CID's tactics, in light of recent events. We, as an HQ, will retract from Baybridge and relocate to a suburb a half hour out."

Aislin, sitting near the left of Hallmark, raised her hand.

"Yes, CT."

"Are we retreating from the city's Family situation?" Aislin said plainly, cocking an eyebrow.

"No, I wish to cover my assets. We need power to run the servers, by which we're running low. I've already arranged for several copies of our databases to be made, and these will be transported to a temporary HQ. CID's task force will remain active, especially in Baybridge."

Aislin considered his words before she nodded, and Hallmark continued. "Those of you abroad, I would like a portion to go under cover in Asia - see what you can uncover about Polaris. To the agents stationed around the US, keep vigil. I may call you home to help. And to those in Baybridge,"—he looked around the table—"maintain low profiles, and please refrain from engaging the enemy. We are a secrets enterprise, not a military operation. Any more questions?"

"No, boss." Was the consensus.

"Good. You'll find further details in your personal briefs. To all of you, good luck. We move out within the week."

As the conference dispersed, a single technician tugged at his tie as he paced down the hall. Turning the corner, he waited until it was silent. Pulling out a disposable cellphone, he tapped methodically on the keys.

They know. Planning on moving HQ out of the city.

The text was sent to the Foundation Woman.

Seraphine Campbell & Aislin Rose
Written in collaboration with @Nosuchthing

Location unknown_

Seraphine had heard of the Founding Family, probably before a great deal of RAVEN. It was not uncommon, the Society dealt in sex and services yes, but their most lucrative trade was, and had always been, information. Men, and women, were too loose with information when sharing a bed with someone, and even the knowledge that they were doing that was an expensive commodity. It was how the Society survived, it had influential members, and control over people in even more influential positions in society.

Seraphine wanted power, and wealth, and above all, influence. She wanted to rule her own life, and control that and those which sought to control her. She was a popular girl in the Society, but that didn't equate to power. If anything, she had less control over her life than many of the other girls she worked with. Most days she was engaged, and it paid well, but it wasn't her choice, it wasn't her decision.

This... this was...

She knew that people tended to talk when they were in her company, but she hadn't thought that they might spill something so big so easily. He wasn't a regular of hers, though she had seen him in the halls of the Society before, usually in the company of the cheaper girls. He wasn't bad looking, if a little chubby, but had a bloated sense of entitlement that had probably led to him betraying his employer. He liked to complain that he was under-appreciated, under paid. She'd heard it all from the other girls. Which was why it was such a surprise that he had managed to afford her services.

He had been more concerned with her body and her less savoury skills than her company, but her carefully shaped questions and feigned interest, along with several bottles of champagne, had eventually led to the revelation that he was informing on the CID. He'd earned a bonus, and blown it all on a night with her.

Present Time...

Hailey Boulevard, Silver Hills_

Aislin was surprised when Hallmark called her about a delicate matter. Evidently, a young employee within the White Spider Society held information critical to CID's security. The less people who knew, the better — that was the reason given on why she approached CID on an individual level.

"Seraphine Campbell, a Caucasian woman with auburn hair, green eyes," Hallmark said. "I've arranged a meeting at the Roasted Bean in Hailey Boulevard, one of the few places with working power."

So, Aislin found herself in the back of a taxi and soon walking up to the coffee shop. With her leather jacket zipped up and a scarf wrapped around her neck to stave off the autumn chill, Aislin stepped into the warm and aromatic Roasted Bean.

The pale redhead resisted the urge to stand anxiously as the person she was to meet walked into the coffee shop. It had been difficult to organise this meeting without the help of the Society, but she didn't want them to control this exchange. If she'd told her superiors what she now knew, then one of them would be sitting here - not her.

The woman who entered was older than her, though from the youthful cast of her face Seraphine guessed that she was older than she looked. The scar on her chin drew the eye however, it looked like someone had gone for her throat with a knife. Seraphine looked away, she already sat in the spot they had agreed, if this was her contact, then she would know to come over.

As Aislin walked past the 'Please Seat Yourself' sign, she grinned. Out of all the people enjoying their hot drinks, Seraphine was the most beautiful. Very easy to pick out from the crowd. Sitting across from the young lady, Aislin folded her aviators and set them on the table by her purse.

"Ah, Seraphine, right?" Aislin asked. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm CT. I was told you'd be here."

The redhead looked up, smiling, clearly this was her contact. It would have been easy to appear nervous, but she'd long since moved past being concerned about the impression she made on people. After all, it was how she made her living, and the Society had ensured she knew how to mask her nerves when meeting a new client, this was hardly any different.

"I am... it's lovely to meet you..."

A blonde waiter walked up to their table, notebook in hand. "Can I get you ladies anything to drink?" Evidently no one taught him the art of being subtle with the way he gawked at Seraphine.

"A London Fog for me, thanks." Aislin said, snickering. She nodded to Seraphine, "Get whatever you like - I'll foot the bill today."

It was not uncommon for people to react in such a way, particularly young men, Seraphine normally enjoyed the attention, but had no time for it now. She ordered an espresso, then ignored the waiter until he realised he was still staring and left sheepishly. She waited a moment, then turned back to CT.

"Sorry, that happens a lot, I wonder if his eyes would pop if I told him what I can do."

She smirked, displaying a far dirtier smile than her otherwise innocent appearance would suggest. Aislin mirrored the smile, knowing more-or-less what Seraphine was referring to.

"I thought secret meetings in coffee shops only happened in movies, won't people be able to hear us?"

"Not necessarily," Aislin said, glancing at the cafe around them. It was a quaint, hand-crafted place. Dark wood table sets lined a portion of the floor, with mismatched sofas on a raised platform to the side. Glass partitions ran through the cafe, giving the tables more of an 'island' feel.

"Notice how everyone here is so engrossed with their own conversations?" Aislin nodded to the couple two tables down. "It takes a certain intent to eavesdrop, one that's not hard to detect in a cafe. As far I can tell, no one but that waiter cares we're here."

She chuckled, resting her arms on the table. "Besides, as I'm sure you're well aware - it's hard to find a discreet, comfortable area since there's been a lack of power in Baybridge."

The waiter returned, flourishing a metal tray with two china cups. With a delicate grip on the saucer, he set out the steaming drinks in front of them. Evidently, he was attempting to show off for Seraphine.

"Is there anything else I can get for you two lovely ladies?"

Aislin's eyes squinted in amusement. "Mm, nothing for now, thanks."

The escort smiled innocently at the waiter, "Thank you, that's all, we'll let you know if we need you."

At the same time her eyes flicked up and down his form, as though she were making her own private judgement, and she turned away before he could gather his own thoughts and begin to walk away.

Blowing on the foam of her drink, Aislin paused a couple moments before fixing her gaze on Seraphine. "What was it you wished to discuss?"

Leaning forward, Seraphine resisted the urge to whisper conspiratorially. Judging by Aislin's response it would only look as if she were trying to have a secret conversation.

"CID... has a mole..."

She sat back, trying her best not to look smug, "and I know who it is."

"Mhmm, that's quite a bold claim," Aislin said, eyes twinkling.

In the back of her mind, she didn't feel so good. A mole in CID? With the tireless labour Hallmark took to know his team, Aislin's concern about their internal security was very low on the list. Knowing her boss, he had a plan for such a case, but if this claim was true... they were in trouble . And not only that, but who did the mole report to? How bad of a security issue was on the table? If that French gang from New Raygate was stirring trouble again, she'd have to tear their leader a new one - maybe pull out some blackmail files. Or... Maybe it was the Society itself that the mole took orders from — that would explain why Seraphine came on her own. But that would also denote some amount of generosity, which was rare in their line of work.

"Would you, by chance, have any evidence to back up such a claim?"

Seraphine almost answered immediately, but caught herself, she couldn't simply blurt it out, if she did that, then she had no bargaining chip, no way to negotiate. She sipped from her espresso, taking advantage of the pause to gather her thoughts. She took a moment to examine Aislin, though if the news had truly worried the CID agent she hadn't let anything show upon her face.

"I thought this was a negotiation. This information is not free..."

Aislin snorted. Well, then. May as well cut to the chase, eh? She leaned forward, resting her chin on overlapped hands. “Very well, what was it you wanted in return?"

Here the redhead seemed lost. She hadn't planned this far ahead, or rather she had, but now that she was here she wasn't sure if she could go through with it. She was playing a game that she didn't fully understand and for the first time she realised just how out of her depth she was now. For a moment, just a brief fraction of a second, the facade that she normally maintained slipped, and a frightened, confused girl shone through.

"I want out..."

Aislin’s brow furrowed. “Mm, if it’s the Society you refer to, I wasn’t aware they had policies against employees leaving.”

"I cost more per night than most people earn in a year. The Society spent a lot of money training me, and they won't want to let their investment go so easily..."

"Understandable," Aislin said, bobbing her head. She unzipped her purse and fished out a tablet. Setting it up so they could both see the screen, Aislin found a PDF with client service packages. As it was, CID had a knack for almost any kind of falsified work. Passports, work visas, birth certificates - you name it.

“We do offer options in such cases, and I’d be willing to exchange some for your intel. We got disappearance acts, new identities, fabricated documents. Even 24 hour security watch in case your past catches up with you.” Aislin said, keeping a calm, even tone in her voice. Seraphine appeared a little over her head, but Aislin had to commend her. This kind of situation required no small amount of courage.

Disappearance, a new identity, new documents. Seraphine hadn't thought what this would entail, she wouldn't just be leaving the Society, she would be hiding from them. The Croquetaigne sisters terrified her, in truth, and she didn't want to cross them, or to earn their enmity. She was tired of this though, perhaps it hadn't been very long, three years wasn't that much time, but she couldn't keep it up. The thoughts of those difficulties were hard enough to shake off, but she still wanted to do, she wanted, needed to escape the control they had over her life. She wanted to ask this woman for her advice, to ask anyone for help, but this was the most she could do, she had to bargain from a position of power here, at least for as long as she could hold onto it.

"That... could be acceptable, but I would need more than just a description, I need assurances."

Aislin scoffed, flicking over to a testimonial page filled with five stars. "Then you must not know CID too well - of course, no one really does. We have a 95% success rate in our client relocation services, and have 20 years experience behind us."

She took a sip of her latte, admiring the china cup. "Hm, I could quote the facts for you all day," Aislin tilted her head thoughtfully. "But I wonder, what kind of assurance do you need? I can take point in your safety myself, if you'd like. Introduce you to our finest security chap - Brucie. Or..."

Aislin leaned in close, lowering her voice. "It's not for the faint of heart, but if you wanted a place within CID akin to that of your aptitude... I may have an opportunity for you."

Of her aptitude? Seraphine wasn't entirely sure what that meant, nor was she entirely happy with the potential implications, but it was a concrete offer. Right now she didn't really have many other options. She could accept this offer, or she could go back to the Society and hope they didn't find out about the deal she had tried to make behind their back. She swallowed uncomfortably, then nodded, "I'm listening."

"Gee, it's really not as horrible as you're imagining." Aislin said, giggling. "I'm merely suggesting CID could use an extra pair of hands, and you could use a steady job. We need those who are subtle, who can ask the right questions, uncover information. Along with the protection of a new identity and and new place to call home, you could also become a Private Investigator. Well, in-training, of course. The professional training would have to wait until this Family bullshit is done and over with."

She waved her hands in a dismissive manner. "Of course, I'm only suggesting this."

"Now, I believe I've been more than fair in regards to my part of the deal. What I offer is easily in the hundreds of thousands - but don't worry about that." Aislin said, her voice light. Money seems to be her language; if I must, I'll push that again. She thought, keeping a smile on her face. She must tell me what she knows...

With a nod, Seraphine expressed her continued interest, "How do I know I can trust you to uphold your side of the bargain?"

She must sound paranoid, but she was afraid that if she didn't get assurances now, then she might be hung out to dry when she handed over what she knew. She was afraid enough that any moment the twins might walk in, she dreaded to think what they might do if they caught her after the fact, let alone red handed.

"C'mon, sweet pea." Aislin winked. "We didn't become a multi-million dollar company by going back on our promises or throwing potential clients to the dogs. What I've laid on the table, I'm 100% serious."

Seraphine smiled faintly, then leaned forward, "One of your techs, I don't have pictures, but I can identify him. Early thirties, 6 feet tall, about 200 pounds, brunette."

Here she frowned, "Proof is a little harder, he went from the standard rate girls to me in one night, that's not something a normal bonus covers, and he bragged to me that he was informing. You could check his phone but I'm willing to bet it's a burner, he doesn't seem thaaat stupid..."

Aislin bit her lip, scanning through the gallery on her tablet before pulling up a photo. Standing in front of a black curtain was Miss Admin, radiant and focused — a smile was absent from her face. Surrounding her was the tech team, dressed in the usual white shirt and tie. Most were photogenic; some gave the impression they wished to be elsewhere.

"Do you see him here?" she asked.

Seraphine nodded, laying a slender finger on a figure a little to the left of the apparent boss. He actually seemed to be the most photogenic of the group, if a little bored.

Aislin nodded, clicking her tongue. "Well, you've made this much easier. Did you happen to catch who the traitor was informing?"

Seraphine looked even more uncomfortable here, this was her last chance, once she told, there was no going back. They'd only just gone public now, and their first appearance had shown they were not to be trifled with, "The Founding Family..."

The... Family? Aislin stared wordlessly, eyes wide. How long? How much did they know? Who was at risk: the company itself, or the individuals? From her knowledge, they had almost total control of the West, but she had no idea they were so damn close. A listening ear in her home, in CID. And with the recent events... Aislin gasped. The meeting! Hallmark went public in the company about the Family's existence. And the mole likely told the very same about their plan of getting CID's assets out of dodge. Their illusion of an advantage against the terrorists was promptly shattered.

"Goddamn it..." Aislin swore in a low voice. She tossed back the remainder of her drink, thankful it was cooled. She needed to report this 20 minutes ago. But as soon as possible would work too.

A number was speed-dialed as Aislin brought a phone to her ear. "... Mel? It's CT; this is a high priority request. I need Brucie to chauffeur a bit - I'm at the Roasted Bean with a client. Schedule out a safe house, text me the address. And I need a meeting with Hallmark in 40 minutes. Also, lock-down the technology division."

"Lock-down, miss?" Mel said, confusion in her voice. "Under who's authority?"

"Mine." Aislin said, chin up. "Don't worry, I'll deal with the boss.~☆"

"...Very well. I'll pass it along."

"Thanks." Aislin said, and ended the call. Seraphine was looking at her with an amount of concern. "And now for my end of the deal, Seraphine. We're going to stop by your house, you'll pack a suitcase, and we'll bring you to a temporary safe house until a more permanent residence is organized. In the next 32 hours, you'll have a new identity, and perhaps, a new career."

Aislin waved over the waiter and pulled out her debit. He almost seemed sad to have them leave as he swiped it, and was bold enough to ask what Seraphine was doing after his shift.

Five minutes later, a black Audi rolled up to the cafe. Slinging her purse over her shoulder, Aislin led them out of the Roasted Bean. Brucie, a well-dressed man with narrow shades over his eyes, rolled down the passenger window. "Hey gals, need a lift?"

Aislin smirked, opening the back door for Seraphine, "After you, sweet pea."

Rhea Harlow

Lower South Royer Town, Prince Ed-Field_

Rhea found herself surprisingly comfortable in her new establishments. Along with fresh clothes and a gifted arsenal of batteries and batons, almost everyone - especially Aislin - stayed out of her hair. Not bad, seeing as she’d hit a rough patch with the whole ‘laying low’ deal.

Aislin’s luxury suite became the ‘wild card’ group’s base — which started looking like a shared home rather quick. In the themes of modern and chic with a few threads of futurist, the suite was certainly of pleasant design. In light of recent events, however, the bathroom had been converted into a water storage area. The tubs were to the brim with clean water with filled dispenser bottles lining the wall.

As for resting spaces, Aislin opened the spare room and den to her company. Sofas were laid with blankets and sleeping bags set out on the living room carpet. A battery-powered heat generator stood in the centre of the room and a propane camp stove sat on the kitchen counter. In the effort of sanitation, the city had set up portable washrooms in the tower’s lobby - so that was a relief.

Aislin usually spent hours brooding over the maps and diagrams laid out on the dining room table, but was currently out on business. Urgent call from Hallmark, apparently, so she missed the shenanigans involving Holly, Shizu and Ryu.

After Rhea attended CID’s emergency meeting via video chat, she found herself on the tower’s rooftop. From this height it was easy to feel the stronger winds - perfect for her practices. After a light body workout Rhea rolled into a perfect handstand, eyes closed and breath slow. Eventually she shifted to one hand, taking care to keep herself perfectly poised against the breeze.

There appeared to be a great contrast between her stillness and the sounds of the city. Every few minutes a siren would move around in the streets, or a chopper cut the sky overhead. And recently… the subtle rat-tat-tat of gunfire - far, far away.

Not far enough... Rhea’s brow furrowed, causing her stance to wobble. With a sigh, she cartwheeled back on her feet. From her view over the ledge, Rhea watched the growing storm in Baybridge.
I've re-vamped the first IC and OOC posts, filled out the characters tab, and added a bunch of writings to the IC. :)
Evelyn could only shake her head as Polaris and her departed from the warmth of camp. The crisp air of night settled in with speed, and the light of the moon did little against the thick canopy overhead.

"Seems to get unnaturally dark in this forest." The elf said, rubbing her hands together to produce a magic bolt. It spilled off her fingertips to hover in the air, lighting the area around them in a pale glow.

After minutes of collecting firewood, Evelyn froze. Her eyes scanned the dark web of foliage around them, gesturing for Polaris to be still.

"Did you... hear that?" she whispered.

Red eyes, several pairs of them, glinted in the shadows. A low, guttural growl. Then, silence... to be broken. A terrible rumble moved the ground as wolves sprang from the brush, bearing a snarl as they attacked the women.

Polaris was glad that she borrowed Shaftly, Wrensthav's shape-shifting axe. choosing the form of a halberd, Polaris was working her way to keep the large wolves away. Striking down one of their flanking members, a burst of lightning hit a nearby tree.

"They have mages as back up, Evelyn! Try not to be too occupied with the wolves." Polaris sliced a couple of legs off another wolf that lunged her way. another bolt of lightning shot near her causing her to move closer to Evelyn.

Over time the wolf party moved the two ladies off the trail they came from and into a different part of the forest. A cliffside was coming closer and closer to their backs.

"We are running out of room; have any ideas to get us out of this mess?"

"This isn't just a pack of wolves..." Evelyn said, delicately frowning. Ice shot from her hand and impaled a few of the beasts, forcing them to move back. Tribal mages from the back of the group continued their spells, creating a line of purple runes on one side.

Evelyn glanced back at the sheer drop behind them. "They're trying to force our move. If we stay pinned much longer we'll be forced to jump. Likely to our deaths."

She shot another bolt of ice, only to have it knocked aside by the mages. They were close enough that Evelyn swore she could make out the smirks under their bone masks.

"It's no good. Let's move, see if we can get back to camp," she said. "And close your eyes."

Firing off what looked like a firefly, it flew into the middle of the enemy group and exploded into a huge globe of light. A blinding spell meant to temporarily render vision useless. The wolves howled, heads thrashing around.

As Polaris and Evelyn made a dash into the only stretch of wood available for them, a strange sense of magic tingled through Evelyn. Running in the dark, they both failed to see a subtle rune placed under the brush. It lit up under their feet, and the world fell on its side.

Almost literally. One moment they were in the forest, the next they fell a short distance up, and into blackness. The ground met them with a thud, it being a smoky charcoal material. In fact, everything was dark except the sky. It was a shade of grey. This... purgatory place stretched on forever.

Evelyn moved to check on Polaris. "...Are you okay?"

In the forest, a small, black cube landed in the dirt. Its features were seamless, and the material it composed seemed to absorb nearby light. A painted hand reached down to pick up the cube, holding it to his wicked face. The werewolf tribe's lieutenant let out a low chuckle.

"Nothing will stand in our way now..."

Written in collaboration with @WrensthavAviovus
Polaris and Wrensthav lugged Mattien to his room and unceremoniously tossed him onto the mattress in his room that complained of the new sudden weight. After apologising to Roselyn about their party member and helping clean up a bit they headed to their own room.

"Did you enjoy your time playing no stage?" Wrensthav asked, taking off his trenchcoat and belts.

"Depends, did you enjoy your alone time with the Pretty Elf-lady?" Polaris retorted back.

"I was hoping you were too distracted to notice our absence."

"You know I look for you all the time." She grumbled. she changed into a lighter dress before heading to their bed.

"So I take it you are not so upset as to dissipate your form?"

"Get over here and keep me warm Ancient Sleeper." She replied a grin on her face and a flirtatious tone in her voice.

To be honest, Evelyn didn't get much sleep that night. Not that elves need a lot of sleep, but it wasn't a pleasant night regardless. She rested in bed, eyes studying the dark ceiling. Her discussion with Wrensthav began to sink in as she attempted to understand the implications of his 'profession'.

"He seeks relics." She murmured. "He has contracts. He takes them to be fixed and returned to the earth."

She rolled over, reaching a hand up to push the shutters open a crack. Cool air wisped along her fingertips.

"I'm on an expedition. We seek a magic relic." Her brows furrowed and a frustrated crinkle formed along her lips. "Was it... was it by chance he joined the expedition? Why would he need companions? Does he mean to take the relic once we obtain it?"

She slammed the shutters shut, stiffly getting out of bed to pace the room. For the next several hours she paced and muttered, but eventually came to the conclusion she needed him more than she could risk removing a potential threat to her success. She would put a pin in this thought until they got closer to Rubylust.

As the sun drew a blush in the sky, Evelyn washed down with a sponge, used magic to remove tangles and grease from her hair, and changed back into her travelling mage robes.

She packed her bags and headed downstairs, meeting Roselyn in the hall for breakfast. With a cheese quarter and bread roll to dine on, Evelyn asked Roselyn a quick request. "Could I buy some extra food for provisions?"

Mattien snoozed softly in his bedroom, having little to no memory of the night before. He didn't recall having gone overboard with the alcohol, or the singing. His mace, idly resting against the wall hummed and vibrated. It knew the day was starting.

"...." Mattien snorted, rolling to wave off the mace. "Let me sleep, I'm just so... Zzz..."

The mace suddenly jumped, stamping its spikes into the wooden floor, sending splinters across the room. Mattien's eyes flew open. "Okay, okay!"

He joined Evelyn downstairs shortly after, helping himself to a heaping breakfast.

Polaris awoke when she heard a thundering noise come from Mattien room along with a hint of divine power.   Sitting up with a groan followed by some stretching and a yawn, Polaris checked the barriers she had set up along the room.  As always, Roselyn kept a watchful eye and a firm grip on her staff and patrons in her inn so none of the safety measures were disturbed. 

Wrensthav was still sound asleep under the covers.  His hair a spiky mess about the pillow and one hand underneath, grasping a dagger no doubt.  So even if a burglar came in they would have to be extremely lucky to miss Wrens' thrown dagger, and even more skilled to leave with their lives after Polaris herself got to them.

The collection of items bid her a good morning as she changed into something more suitable for the public.

"I'll be back in ten minutes.  You best should be awake or I will have to take additional measures."  Polaris said in a cheerful tone, which got no response from her companion. She looked out their door to see Mattien wolfing down the breakfast spread.

"Either that or Strongman will have eaten all the food."

Wrens gave an audible grumble and stirred a bit.

"Pleasant Morrow, Strong-man, Pretty-elf.  Wrens should be with us soon.  A cooked meal is one of the few ways to peacefully get him roused." said Polaris.

Mattien looked up at Polaris, cheeks stuffed with food. He tried mumbling, but nothing coherent came out.

Evelyn gave him a disgusted look. "Seriously, Oaf. No one wants to see that."

He continued to eat, unfazed.

The elf rolled her pale eyes, glancing at Polaris. "You're late. I wanted to be on the road 15 minutes ago. Where's your friend?"

She cocked her head. "No wait, don't tell me. He's still sleeping, isn't he?"

Time passed. As Evelyn arranged some final provision packages with Rosalyn, leaving a pouch of coins with her, Wrensthav was able to find time for breakfast.

Refreshed and rejuvenated, they moved to continue their journey on the road. For hours they walked, traversing meadow, forest and hill ranges. Taking care to avoid large bodies of moving water, Evelyn led their group through a tight section of woods

A crunch of twigs behind them alerted the group to a pack of wolves. They looked hungry but didn't make a move. Sizing them up, Evelyn thought.

Using magic like a flash grenade, Evelyn told Mattien and Polaris to drive them off with their weapons. Disoriented and slashed up, the wolves dispersed and retreated quickly.

The day turned to dusk, and having not made it to the next town Evelyn decided they should set up camp for the night. In a stony alcove, sheltered by a woodland, they found a flat patch of ground that would suit them.

Wrensthav and Mattien began setting camp up, rolling out beds and creating a firepit. Evelyn and Polaris went to collect enough wood to last the night.

They finished moving about troublesome rocks that would prove to hamper their sleep and set up the bed mats. Mattienn and Wrensthav also dug a hole for a fire, tossing out the stray pebbles. Finding the hole adequate and searching the area for suitable stones, Wrensthav started up a conversation with the burly party member.

"Mattien, I have been wondering this for some time now... How did you come about possessing a possessed weapon?"

"This old thing?" Mattien grasped the mace on his back, pulling it free of its straps. He twisted it in his hand, watching the razored edges gleam.

"It was years and years ago. I wandered into a cave armed with a limp sword, my eyes on the treasure. After almost getting myself killed many times, I defeated the ghouls within and found this mace on an altar.

"The god within it was sick of the cave and demanded my services. How could I refuse?" Mattien chuckled, placing the mace back in its holster.

"Not much for patience, or kindness. But without that mace and the being within, I would be dead long ago."

Wrensthav Pondered this short tale for a while before continuing the conversation.

"Do you have any inquiries about myself or my items?"

In a brief pause, Mattien considered telling Wrensthav about all the deeds Ra-Shin had him commit over the years. All of them shameful when you considered it in a certain perspective.

Mm, nah.

"You?" Mattien snorted. "Well, that's surprising, coming from someone as tight-lipped as yourself, Mr. Mysterious-Traveller-With-Strange- Ass-Gizmos. Like that disc you brought out the other day. I'd never seen anything like it."

Wrensthav noticeably grimaced about Mattien's evaluation. True he was often one who did more talking through his fists and blades than through actual conversation. Not that he hadn't tried to dissolve a brawl by talking in the past. Envy or other motives generally disregarded such attempts when people saw a lone traveller who looked genuinely lost and was carrying enough weapons for a small band of warriors.

"I regret the actions that followed after, but those circumstances demanded it. I will say that with Polaris and Evelyn in our party I will have very little reason to bring out that item again."

Mattien did little to hide his relief. It was a like a weight had been taken off him. "Well, that's good to know."

After laying his mace and pack against the alcove wall, Mattien relaxed on his bed mat.

"What a day, eh?"

Evelyn shifted the stack of dry branches in her arms. Polaris was ahead of her, prying at a dead tree's thick branches.

She watched the struggle patiently. "... Polaris, you might have better luck hacking it with your sword."

They had collected nearly enough firewood for half the night. Evelyn considered they would need two trips to get wood as the night progressed.

"When we get back, I have a hot meal planned with Rosalyn's provisions. Have you ever tried meat and peas over steamed rice?"

Polaris and Evelyn returned with several bundles of dried twigs and branches in tow. Mattien looked relaxed, poking around with the fire pit. Wrensthav, however, looked very tired and frustrated by a pile of pebbles.

"I See that the ladies have been more successful at their gathering than we have with the preparation work," Wrensthav grumbled.

Evelyn seemed to be holding back some laughter while Polaris moved the majority of the lumber gathered.

"I have found out why we have a hard time preparing our fires," Polaris replied sheepishly.

"You still can't tell the different between hard woods and green woods?"

"Well, you are unable to find head sized rocks for a hearth."

After some heated glaring at each other, that seemed to crackle the air between them. The long time companions finally called a truce to their stationary battle.

Wrensthav splintered the green wood into kindling while Polaris pulled suitable stones from the surrounding area for the hearth.

Evelyn sniffed. "Squabbles like that only take place between married folk."

Mattien chuckled. He leaned up against the rock, staring up at a clear night sky. The moon was a sliver, but the stars offered their own light.

With the firepit prepared, flint was struck and a fire was lit. Evelyn Conjured a cooking pot and set it hovering over the flames. Rice and water were added first to steam, then meat and peas. Evelyn watched the brew carefully, ensuring nothing burned.

Mattien's tummy made an audible growl. He clutched his stomach, grimacing at Wrensthav. "Have you any devices that create edible snacks?"

"Quit that, Mattien," Evelyn mumbled. "Dinner needs another 5 minutes."

Wrensthav and Polaris also hovered over the pot as the aroma from the soup permeated the alcove. They had to hurry back as both of them nearly got their hair in the actual fire.

"Sorry, neither one of us is that much of a cook."

"Wrens tends to burn things."

Evelyn clicked her tongue. "If there's one skill in life you should have, it's to cook. You need to eat every day, yes?"

Mattien shrugged. "With the payload of this job, I'll just buy my meals from now on. Never have to cook again."

The elf scowled, but said nothing. She stirred the brew a final time and tapped the wooden spoon on the magical rim. Pulling out several wood bowls, she offered them to the group.

"Serve yourself however much you'll eat."

Mattien proceeded to take half the pot. Evelyn took his bowl and poured some back, ignoring his puppy-dog eyes.

"Wrens sometimes forgets to eat when he is on a particularly tight schedule," Polaris said as she served up Wrensthav's bowl along with her own.

"Out of his more frequent travelling partners, there are only two who are known for their cooking. Wrensthav is known to make an extremely airy loaf of bread when he doesn't end up burning it."

"Polaris can make a very soothing cup of tea from time to time. Or so I hear. I don't find the appeal of drinking hot leaf juice." Wrensthav said, looking a little disappointed at his bowl.

The tall companions set their utensils on their bowls. Wrensthav pointed his to true south and Polaris had hers to magnetic north. They bowed their heads whilst grasping their opposing wrists before reciting a mantra in a foreign tongue. Their accents became more pronounced for this brief period. One reminiscent of a whistling wind and the other a delicate ring of chimes. Wrensthav still looked at his meal in an odd manner which led to a swift elbow to the ribs from Polaris.

"Normal people would be thankful to have burnt food absent from their meal." Polaris hissed through her teeth. She let her shoulders fall and snatched a small coal from the fire and tossed it into Wrensthav's bowl.

Wrensthav eagerly started to devour his soup. "You should know by now that I am not normal people."

"You make it very hard to forget, but I still try to." Polaris finally done tending to her companion partook in the soup. "Oh! This is wonderfully seasoned! What did you add to this when I was preparing the ingredients, Pretty-Elf-Lady?"

Evelyn watched Wrensthav and Polaris pray, her mouth a little slack.

What language is that? The dialect isn't anything I know. Her mind skimmed her mnemonic archives. Too delicate to be Dragon, certainly not Elvish. Not any animal language she knew of, or of any spirit.

Her lips pursed. Another mystery to add to the growing list, along with the 'Wrensthav Enigma'.

The sizzle of a hot coal drew her attention to Wrensthav's bowl. An eyebrow arched.

"You prefer the taste of charred food?"

Polaris tried the brew and gave praise. "What did you add to this when I was preparing the ingredients, Pretty-Elf-Lady?"

Evelyn rooted through her bag, procuring a corked phial. She offered it to Polaris. "Take a whiff. It's a tincture made from the lifeblood of certain herbs."

A log cracked over the fire. Mattien stoked it absent-mindedly.

"Truely wondrous spices in this land. Too bad this one prefers them to be ashed." Polaris lamented.

"I do believe that we will be needing some more firewood for the morning cooking. More of that wood that Polaris put in my soup would be great." Wrensthav said wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

"We did appease the correct warden of this territory right? I would be very upset if we ended up handicapped during our next venture."

Polaris rolled her eyes and got up. "Looks like it's the ladies doing the heavy lifting again. Strongman, please try to keep Wrensthav from finishing off the rest of the coals before we return."

"Also would you mind fetching and blessing some water when you return?" Wrensthav asked before stuffing his face again.

Polaris rummaged through her companions weaponry and pulled out a large axe. "Borrowing Shaftly for a spell. Let's get going Pretty-Elf-Lady."

Written in collaboration with @WrensthavAviovus
Wrensthav saw the excitement in Polaris' eyes when they mentioned the open stage for performers. Despite her melodic speaking voice, her singing voice made the howling of cats and the squeaking of rusted hinges sound like a pleasant melody. The last time she sang the entire public house deserted for the evening, staff and owner included. This, however, did not curb her enjoyment one bit.

"Polaris, I know you want to go up there and sing, but I would like to keep Roselyn in business for the rest of our stay," Wrensthav warned. Her composure slumped a little., but quickly returned a moment later.

"Well, she said musicians and singers." Polaris grinned broadly.


"How about pretty-elf sings and we accompany with music?"

"Who said I could sing?" Said a mildly cross Evelyn, ear twitching at the sound of 'pretty elf'. "I may or may not have a talent for it, but we're here on business. No singing, dancing or music-making."

Mattien, having slugged back several mugs of ale, spoke with a slurred speech. "Ah, that sounds like no fun at all there, Evelyn. Where I come from, where... it's — when! When it's happy hour, it's happy hour~"

He sluggishly got up from his seat, swaying on his feet before stumbling to the stage. He clambered on, waving at the audience with a silly grin on his face.

"Hi, everybody... Heh, I'd like to dedicate this one to the host for her excellent, uh, ale!" He said, before singing a song from his homeland about drinking, naked woman, and more ale. His voice wasn't bad, but the lyrics were atrocious.

Evelyn facepalmed. "Ugh, we have to stop him. He's too drunk." She gestured to Wrensthav and Polaris, and they walked up on stage together, tugging Mattien down.

"Shut up and sit here," Evelyn said, making him sit in the first row. Mattien pouted, but happily accepted ale from Roselyn and sipped at his seat quietly. The audience breathed a sigh of relief.

Evelyn, Polaris and Wrensthav found themselves on stage. She looked at him, pausing before subtly rolling her eyes. "Okay, one song. But I'm not to blame for whatever happens. They've likely never been exposed to Elvish before."

She took a stool and sat it in the middle of the stage, lowering her hood and giving her silver hair a ruffle. The audience was quiet, curious. Her eyes turned to Wrensthav, sparkling with anticipation.

After making sure Mattien was good and settled in the front row Wrensthav and Polaris joined Evelyn on the stage. It intrigued him as to why she hid her face from the world most of the time but he figured that something would eventually come about on their own.

He procured a long carved horn from the air. This was one of the two weapons that his Dietic alter ego would actually use and it had one of the most mystifying notes out of all the instruments he ever came across. "Summer Stormwind's Flute" was the name it was rarely recorded as. The only thing about the Venswrath persona that didn't have a negative connotation to it.

Polaris jumped on stage quite enthusiastically after going outside to build her instrument of choice. A ceramic xylophone floated on stage. she wrapped her hair into a high ponytail and stuck her second pair of felt hammers into it.

"Upbeat, or slow Miss Elf-lady?" Polaris replied checking to see if she tuned the ceramic bricks right.

"Slow. I want them to feel." Evelyn said, noting their two instruments. A flute and a xylophone would make a lovely harmony to aetheric elvish. "Let's see what happens here." She whispered, winking.

"Thank you for your patience. We will begin now." Evelyn gazed across the audience, smiling before taking a deep breath. Her eyes closed, and her ears tuned to the musicians beside her. The melody would shift in time with their notes.

She lifted her hands as if caressing the air. She sang, but it was in such a foreign dialect, her words sounded nonsensical. Sounds, however, fit perfectly together, and it seemed the language wrote the melody. As Evelyn sang in a silvery soprano, the air grew thick with raw magic. It permeated the air with static and sparkles.

Some members of the audience jaw dropped. Some could feel the story being woven. Evelyn sang exclusively with truth, and she spoke of love and heartache.

It began out as a solo, but Wrensthav and Polaris got a feel for the song, and they began to play. The three tunes mixed together with astounding perfection despite there being no sheet music.

That's when the magic in the air set alight. The whole hall glittered with tangible emotion and energy. The audience was held captive, all, including Mattien, sitting with smiles on their faces. The notes changed, and they burst into tears.

The initial melody and chords set by Evelyn, Wrensthav joined in. The flutes low and reverberating tones tuning even with the benches and chairs echoed and hummed with the song. Polaris joined in a measure behind Wrensthav. the two instrument players trading forth the melody and harmonies between each other. Sometimes harmonizing with each other or with Evelyn. the song ended with the two of them giving musical support the peak of Evelyn's story with Wrensthav cueing Polaris when to join in.

The whole inn and several people from around the building filled the seats and even stood to listen to the musical entertainment. When Evelyn finished the crowd was shoulder to shoulder clapping enthusiastically and calling for an encore. Evelyn merely replaced her hood onto her head and politely walked off stage. Wrensthav followed suit, vanishing the flute after his bow and leaving the stage. Polaris, however, went into the crowd and gathered a few surprised guests to start a new song.

"That was a heartbreaking song you sang there, Miss Evelyn," Wrensthav said after they found an empty seat as the crowd was slowly thinning as the performances went on.

"Did you happen to choose to sing that knowing that most of those here tonight wouldn't know the subject of the song?"

The interesting part of the Elvish language was that an individual could never lie while speaking it. The words wouldn't come. So Evelyn couldn't speak of a lover's love, but she wanted them to feel. And they felt. Though none of them truly understood the emotions filling their hearts. At least, that's what she assumed.

As she left the stage and found a seat near the back, she watched Mattien silently nursing his ale as the hall cleared out of extra people. He seemed bothered, but it was probably due to the song. She did evoke very powerful emotion, after all.

Wrensthav followed quietly after her, sitting by her. He stared casually as a different song began to play on stage, mentioning to Evelyn if she sang because no one would understand the lyrics.

Her eyes widened. "I did. I mean, I — what?" She pinched the bridge of her nose in a flustered manner, shaking her head.

"Let's speak in private. Follow me." She said, carefully eyeing Wrensthav before stepping past him to walk up a staircase that led to doors upon doors. She opened her rented room and stepped in, greeted by orbs of magelight. They hovered in tiny containers in bookshelves and along the windowsill, lighting the small-sized room with a single bed and chair.

Evelyn sat on the bed, gesturing with a hand. A magelight fell into her grasp, which she fiddled with anxiously. "Can we keep this conversation between us, Wrensthav? I'm usually a very private person." She said, eyes down.

"I guess you know Elvish. Question is, how?" She looked up at him inquisitively. "It's a special language, full of old world magic. It was an unconscious part of me that yearned to sing of my late mother, and I obliged as I wanted to speak my truth. It was a very difficult part of my childhood, losing her the way I did. You never stop missing them. Never.

"I said earlier I didn't want to confuse work with personal matters. You're all here on a business venture with me, and that means there are certain barriers that have to remain to keep this professional. I'd rather keep my personal life out of this, but... Well." Evelyn trailed off.

"I mean, it was a beautiful mix of music. Did you see the looks on their faces? Beautiful... Your instrument has some magical properties, no?"

"The Summerwind's Flute is considered a treasure where I am from. and has had very few players." Wrensthav mused with his hair a bit before speaking again.

"As for how I know Elvish, I have a talent for picking up spoken languages. I do not know how to read Elvish, though." He spoke to her in the dialect that she sang in though a bit of his accent still permeated through.

"I do not like speaking in the true languages though it's better in most cases to use the lower languages. You can hide more without directly lying."

Evelyn nodded, absent-mindedly tugging at the magelight in her hands. His 'talent' was likely more of an Omni-linguistic ability; no one just 'picked up' Elvish. However, she couldn't be sure. "Wrensthav... you're not really from here, are you?" She said slowly.

Evelyn almost chuckled. "I'd almost like it if you spoke exclusive Elvish with me. I'd learn a hell of a lot more about you. Your accent is a little strong and your words are choppy, but you understand the gist of it."

Bouncing the magelight in the centre of her palm, Evelyn paused before tossing it in an arc to Wrensthav. It was her inquisitive side again — if he didn't know how to 'catch and hold' the magic, it would slip from his fingers onto the floor. It was no easy feat as it required a mental discipline and magic aptitude.

It was also to catch him off guard, subtly so. "You've been in this area before," Evelyn began, eyes glinting from within her hood. "There was a certain gift you asked for, something very prized. Why did you want it?"

Wrensthav caught the ball and tossed it around a bit while gathering his thoughts for a response.

"I travel often and act as a middle man for powerful characters. They usually need me as the last resort though and people have a tenancy to hold themselves up and get prickly when you try to take away their special trinkets."

He set the ball to float in the air and gathered three more to rotate around the first one lazily.

"I don't have any interest in them at all really unless I am tasked with keeping them on my person for an extended period of time. I gather items that are usually near a point of irreversible damage and get them to a proper craftsman who repairs them before that happens. Depending on what the item was and its recovery time I either return it or find an abandoned dungeon and...." he paused searching for a word the spheres of magelight almost dropping and colliding with each other. "Renovate the obstructions."

The several magelights rotating in the air demonstrated Wrensthav could hold his awareness on several things at once. The speed, magic-holding, trajectories, and his ability to still speak. It was quite amazing to count. Evelyn couldn't help but raise her eyebrows in surprise.

"So, let me see if I understand this." She said, "You have contracts to find and fix certain objects, and you hide them away? While I understand if you would want to keep it out of the wrong hands, wouldn't it be better to have it, whatever it is, above soil so the world can enjoy and learn from it?"

She chewed her lip, watching the slightly wobbling magelights. "I can see we have a philosophical difference there. But I will say, you have quite the... Hm, intriguing profession."

A loud crash sounded downstairs. Mattien's distinctive slurred voice rose up from the hall. Evelyn sighed, giving Wrensthav a shrug.

"Who knows what it is now. Could you check on that and bring Mattien to his room? I'm turning in for the night. We'll be up early tomorrow and on the road." said the Elf, moving the magelights from the centre of the room to their respective containers.

"And... good chat." She said, a look of intrigue still evident on her face. "Goodnight, Wrensthav."

Written in collaboration with @WrensthavAviovus
Evelyn closed her eyes, not wishing to see the in-between of teleporting. It was the rush of wind and that slow, drawing-momentum drop that caused her eyes to flash open, and she beheld a land splayed out with tiny trees, glistening river, a town in the distance and a shroud of mist.

We're high up... Raced through Evelyn's mind. Really high. I have no magic for heights. No magic...

Her mind calculated, but adrenaline and panic began to set in despite her inner self trying to stay calm enough for a solution to hit her.


They were really starting to fall at this point. The wind whipped past them as she saw the team in her peripherals, all with anxious looks. Well, except for Mattien. His bewitchment still held.

So much for staying calculative. Adrenaline and panic set her heart racing. Her body took over and a shrill cry escaped her lips. She wouldn't survive this fall, not like this. Shit.

A hand wrapped around her waist and their momentum slowed as Wrensthav waved his other hand about. The wind rushed below them. The ground was coming in a bit quick; Evelyn stumbled as they landed.

She was breathless, silver hair rustled and pointed ears exposed. "...Wow... I didn't quite expect that." Her gaze focused on Wrensthav with narrowed eyes. "That was some quick thinking. I guess... I should thank you."

She walked to Mattien, touching him. He snapped to, shaking his head.

"What the, where's the river? What happened?" Mattien grunted.

"You don't remember? We walked for four hours to the other bridge. Polaris was kind enough to carry you when that blond head of yours caught too much sun." Evelyn said straight-faced, winking to Wrensthav and Polaris.

"...What?" Mattien squinted. "Polaris is too tiny to carry me. "

"It seems his vision has yet to fully return to him." Polaris held the back of her hand to Mattien's forehead. A concerned look was followed by her shaking her head, her shoulders up and her arms forming a 'w' shape. "Yep, he still has a bit of heat fever it seems. What do you think, Pretty-elf? Should I shoulder him till the town's gate when we can find a respectable apothecary?"

She loved seeing the various expressions of the strongman's face as her conversation continued.

"Either way, we are in dire need of supplies if our host is in the same category of healing practices as we are," Wrensthav interjected shuffling his load.

"A sleeping rag, lavender incense, and laughing phials are not cure-alls, Wrens."

"I always found that death was the final answer to all ailments. It's not my fault that people are opposed to that option."

"The entire point is to keep them alive."

"Bahh, minor complication."

Mattien grumbled, batting Polaris' hand away. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Just a little..." His brows furrowed. "We've reached the next town?"

Evelyn nodded. As Wrenthav and Polaris spoke of supplies, she shouldered her travel bag. "Well, I'm not even going to as what a 'sleeping rag' is. I'm well-versed in the arts of arcane healing, but just one look at Mattien tells me he'll clear up real soon."

Mattien snorted, turning a bit to hide himself checking his forehead. His face betrayed confusion.

"... Shall we head to town, then?" Evelyn said eventually, blowing a gust of air through her lips. Flipping her hood up over her head, she Conjured a translucent walking stick and began the final trek of the day. Town was only ten minutes away.

And it was a fine town. Old and homey with homes and businesses made of wood and stone. By their time of arrival, it was nearing evening. The sun was setting, colouring the sky and underbelly of clouds. Lanterns were lit in buildings and along the heavy-trodden dirt streets.

Evelyn made way for an Inn, pushing aside a heavy door.

The Inn was a decent sized establishment boasting of a dozen small rooms and a long dining table big enough to seat about 20 people. There were a few patrons there; starting their evening meals. The majority of the staff bustling about with wooden dishes and mugs of ale, beer, and local wine. The hostess nodded to Evelyn as she entered and started walking their way. Her smile brightened when she heard the jangle that followed Wrensthav's every step.

"Is that the wandering armoury, Wrensthav I hear? Good evening, good evening, my you all smell of pine! Did he trick you all into believing he knew where he was going?"

She gasped excitedly as Polaris walked in behind Mattien. "Lady Polaris! I wouldn't have guessed that you were an acquaintance of the bumbling storm cloud."

Polaris returned the innkeeper hostess enthusiasm and gave her a quick embrace.

"Someone had to make sure we got here before the darkest hour, Roselyn. What is for supper tonight?"

"Fish stew, and sourdough rolls. So, party of four and how many rooms?"

"Wandering armoury, eh?" Evelyn said, giving Wrensthav a sideways look. "Seems it's a small world after all."

At the mention of stew Mattien's stomach growled audibly. He put a hand on his leather chest armour, looking around. "Uhm. I think my stomach would like fish stew." On cue, it gurgled again.

Evelyn cracked a smile, elbowing Polaris playfully. "Heh, must be all that sun Mattien got, right?"

At the mention of rooms, Evelyn stopped, taking in their group. Her brows furrowed a moment before she spoke. "Three rooms, I believe. That and the bill is on me, seeing as it's my expedition." She rolled her eyes, pulling out a small pouch.

Idly picking at a few coins, Evelyn lowered her voice a tone to the hostess. "So, I'm curious... How do you know Wrensthav?"

Polaris giggled a bit and led the men to the tables. The other staff greeted Polaris with great enthusiasm and were noticeably weary of Wrensthav more than Mattien. Roselyn sighed a bit at the cowish side her staff was still showing to Wrensthav.

"He visited our town a moon or so back and subjugated a band of highway bandits that have been raiding our eastern route for years. He said they attacked him and he dealt with them appropriately." She laughed audibly. "Apparently his idea of appropriate was breaking their gear and armour and marching all fifty them into the lords front yard. Nothing but a large stone-sheathed blade across his shoulders as he walked behind them and made them issue an apology as well as offer their services to compensate for the trouble they gave the people."

Roselyn gave a sympathetic glance towards the rest of Evelyn's party before continuing. "It seems like the bandit leader had a powerful item that helped him evade our searches for them. When the lord of our town asked for it in return Wrensthav said that it was the reason he was here to begin with, and that he would be taking it as his payment. Sadly it was an heirloom of the lord; he didn't take too kindly to that. So, with the townsfolk afraid of him and the inns pressured by the lord we were the only place that would let him in."

Evelyn listened quietly, picturing the story in her head. From what she imagined, Wrensthav was more of an enigma with a strong sense of justice. Very powerful persuasion tactics as well. Most bandits wouldn't have the capacity for such generosity. They must have been scared for their lives.

Her curiosity piqued at the heirloom. "Wrensthav took only a magical trinket? Nothing else, like gold or a title? I know he doesn't have that on him now. I wonder what he did with it..."

She gave Roselyn payment for the night, plus a few extra coins. "Keep this conversation between you and me, mm?"

The group sat together at a table close to the stage. Musicians played on their wood and string instruments, creating a peaceful ambience to the evening. Mattien eyed his meal, tossing aside the spoon. He picked up his bowl of fish stew and tipped it down his throat, downing the entire thing in 20 seconds.

"Another bowl, *burp*, please." He said, waving one of the staff over.

Evelyn wrinkled her nose at the Breton. "Were you never taught table manners?"

"What can I say, I'm hungry. I could eat at least two more of these." Mattien said casually, picking his teeth.

The elf made a noise of disgust, looking away from Mattien to inspect her own bowl. She meticulously began removing chunks of fish meat out of her stew, placing them in Mattien's empty bowl. When the staff member brought more fish stew, she asked if they had any salad in house. The answer was no.

Evelyn sipped her mug of ale, displeasure evident on her face.

As the musicians finished their last song and walked off the stage, Roselyn got onto the elevated platform. "I want to thank the travellers' band for their music this evening. We're going to give them a break and open the stage to the audience.

"We love karaoke at Stone Hedge Inn, so for the next hour, if you come play or sing, you'll receive a whole pitcher of ale for free!"

Written in collaboration with @WrensthavAviovus

"Did you enjoy yourself?" Wrensthav asked Polaris after Evelyn straightened her clothes out.

"That was more enjoyable than I was expecting," Polaris replied cheerfully. "She shan't be slowing us down at all; that is for certain. But are we leaving right now, right now?"

"Seems so, I take it you didn't bring your sack of clothes with you then?" Wrensthav replied in kind. Polaris grumbled a bit before mumbling the inorganic summon that wrens used in his fight earlier to retrieve her change of clothes.

"All done and ready to go," Polaris replied after slinging the strap around her shoulder.

Mattien snorted. "Forget your other dress, shorty?" He eyed Polaris.

Evelyn gave him a look. Taking a deep breath, she looked down the mountain path. It circled the rock a while before levelling out. It was down there the road split four ways.

Her eyes passed over each of them one more time. She wondered if there was anything left to do, anything she missed... I managed to find the strangest band of warriors, to be sure. She thought. Her eyes hovered over Wrensthav the longest. Her magic still couldn`t read him. Polaris felt strange too. Two strange elements, a normal Breton with a magical artefact, and an elf.

It was hard not to laugh at the absurdity.

"May we be blessed in our travels. Let's go." She said, leaving the shrine.

They travelled for a solid few hours, coming across nothing much of note down the dirt path. Trees, blue sky and large plains of rolling grass. It wasn't until they came across a river that they were forced to stop. The river was lengthy, deep and wide across. Rapids left the surface white and frothing. All that remained to get across was a broken, fractured wood bridge. Entire pieces were missing, making the bridge useless.

Polaris noticed that Wrensthav was doing his best no to seem nervous the closer they came to the river. Sadly for his nerves, it was a fast moving river of massive girth. The damaged bridge didn't look promising either with its gaping holes that looked as if someone or something tore them out.

"Evelyn," Wrensthav said, trying to keep his voice steady as he eyed the current prospects. "Is there a way for us to ford this river at a more calm area? or are there any other structures that would allow us to pass in a relatively dry manner?"

"Wrensthav can't swim." Polaris said quite bluntly. "and has a fear of being in small vessels on bodies of wa-- ow!" Wrensthav flicked the jewel on Polaris' swords crossguard.

"What? It's true." Polaris said rubbing her shoulder.

"Ahem." Wrensthav re-settled the collection of blades on his back with a shrug. "Again are there other options to cross nearby?"

"Hm," Evelyn betrayed no emotion except for her lips being slightly pursed. "I wasn't counting on the river's bridge to be... torn away."

She turned to the group. "I'd suggest we swim across, but Wrensthav..." Evelyn played grey eyes over him before gazing across the river.

She raised a sparkling hand, lights glinting in her palm. The magic shot off in a couple direction. Evelyn paused before speaking. "It would be an extra four hours of walking, but there is another bridge down the way. I'd rather not set us back, so unless there are any other ideas?"

Mattien tossed his blonde hair back, ho-humming. "It looks like there are parts of the bridge still intact. If we had some solid material we could plank our way across. But we risk toppling the whole structure with our weight. And who knows what's in the water."

"Aren't you forgetting something, my dear Wrens?" Polaris asked. Her arms were crossed and an annoyed pout was currently occupying her face.

"You know she is longsighted. Short jumps are almost suicidal." Wrensthav replied back.

"Well with the both of us I think we can grant our party a reasonable amount of safety if things go south." Polaris retorted back getting fed up with Wrensthav's arguments.

"Fine! We'll use Silvi." Wrensthav mumbled a bit while digging through the inner pocket of his cloak. A minute passed and a silver disc with a mother-of-pearl finish attached to a chain was in his grasp. A slight glow emanated from the item before the surface swirled about and a melodic voice permeated the air.

"Good morrow Evelyn party, Multi organic transportation service requested. Please choose your approximate destination from the areas provided. Be advised, all spacial jumps have up to a mile radius of error."

"Whoa, whoa-- hang on a second." Mattien pushed his way to the centre of the group, leering at the device in Wrensthav's hand. "What did I hear about 'suicidal'? Just hold on--"

Evelyn blinked, eyes distant. Her thoughts hung onto the fact that Silvi somehow knew her name. Would Wrensthav notice if she scryed it with magic? Well, probably, but would he care? As a mage, magical items were not a thing to pass up documenting and studying...

Mattien was still talking. "--And I've never seen anything like it before, and I for one, don't trust black magic whatever-it-is. There's no way you're convincing me to trust that... that thing with my life," He tossed his hair with a 'humph'.

"I'd rather swim." He said.

Evelyn scryed the item called Silvi. Its innards were dimensionally voluminous compared to its outside appearance. Having plunged in, Evelyn felt a little lost. It was a totally alien artifact, but she could detect a few thing. It shaped space from within, moving it in a way that massive distances (she couldn't see the end of its reach) were somehow nullified, essentially making it a teleporting thing.

Evelyn snapped back, having lost the scry. "..." She felt a little woozy. All that space. "What was that?"

"Evelyn?" Mattien said, moving to support her. He followed her stare to Silvi. "What... What did you do to her?"

Polaris knew that look. She saw it often when appraisers took a glimpse into Wrensthav's more potent items such as Silvi and the Cloak of Nemarsis. it would often fry machines and bewilder magical scryers.

"She looked into something that she could not comprehend," Polaris answered.

"I would strongly advise against any further attempts to look into my inner workings. This universe is large and I hold a record of several others." Silvi added.

"Well, it looks like our only other choice is to head straight into bandits. Mattien may take the lead." Wrensthav said putting the disc back into the confines of his cloak. "Evelyn, would you need some assistance for a while?"

"I may consider that advice," Evelyn said to Silvi, standing upright and brushing Mattien's hand off. "Thank you, Mattien. I'm fine."

Mattien shrugged. After Wrensthav mentioned bandits he raised an eyebrow. "Bandits? This is a safe area. Bandits wouldn't think to lurk around here."

At Wrensthav's offer Evelyn narrowed grey eyes. "I'm fine." Her knees felt weak, but she wasn't about to admit that.

"I wasn't looking for people down at the other bridge. Did you sense bandits?" Evelyn said. Her thin brows furrowed as she weighed her options.

"No. I don't want to risk it." The elf said, touching Mattien with two fingers. His eyes glazed over and he went slack-jaw. Evelyn waved a hand in front of his face with no respond from the colossal Breton.

"Let's use your disk, Wrensthav. Quick, while this oaf is still bewitched."

"All Parties please touch my perimeter for teleportation sequencing!"

Wrens held onto the chain as Evelyn touched the disc. Polaris held up Mattien's hand to the item while touching it with the pommel of the sword.

"All parties accounted for? Teleportation initiating. Have a nice flight!"

In a flash of brilliant blue, the group vanished from the riverside and appeared ten minutes walk from the town but also a hundred feet above the tree line. Wrensthav quickly grabbed ahold of Evelyn's waist with his left hand whilst letting a torrent of wind flow from his other hand helping to slow the fall. The trees below them parted and swayed from the force of the breeze.

Polaris had mattien slumped over her shoulder and her sword was drawn and pointed towards the ground as well. she made a flurry of sweeping motions pulling the iron out of the ground and created a spiralling slide to help ease her descent with mattien in tow.

When they landed, Polaris let go of her grip on her partner and glared at Wrensthav and Evelyn as they touched down a couple seconds after with a clatter.

"At least she gives us a bit of a hint these days as to how far in the air we are. You can let go of the elf-lady now Wrens."

Written in collaboration with @WrensthavAviovus

"Dance?" Evelyn turned her head slightly, hand resting on her undrawn sword as she stepped onto the circular stone slab. "For that we need music, don't we?"

She waved her fingers dramatically, creating sparks in the air. "Music, maestro!"

Ghostly violins and cellos Conjured out of thin air, setting their bows against the string. The air crackled with tension. They appraised each other, Evelyn staring with blank, focused eyes. The moment held for an eternity. Then, Evelyn released her blade with a click.

With the first clash, the music began. It sang in time with the strike of steel, complimenting furious swords with staccato notes. Evelyn drew back, coating her ornate weapon in fractal ice. Spinning 360 degrees, she swung at the ground, creating a wave of frost to spike the stone. Her aim was to trap Polaris' feet in ice just a moment.

Now! Evelyn bared her teeth, moving with as quick of momentum as she could as she leapt up for an aerial strike directly over Polaris's head.

Polaris was glad that the pretty elf-lady was playing along. The frost attack did surprise her, but it would just make her particular fighting style. What got her really smiling was how her opponent chose to land her first melee range attack.

Polaris jumped from the ice to grab the backside of the elf's sword as it came down. she pulled herself up along the length of the blade to bring herself close to the shocked face of her opponent. Her other arm lightly grasped the elf's shoulder. By the time they both landed on the now icy ground and twisted her hips to fling the elf using the area of the blade she was still grasping as the pivot point to slide across the ice.

"You need something a tiny bit more clever to really bring me out," Polaris said returning to her beginning pose.

Evelyn twisted through the air, landing gracefully on all fours and immediately launching herself back at Polaris as she quipped about clever-ness. A burst of flame erupted from her elvish sword, melting away the ice and breathing a ring of fire around the two. This limited the available space considerably.

With a glowing hot blade, Evelyn struck Polaris so hard the swords created a shockwave before reeling from each other. A quick twist and spin -- Evelyn struck cross-wise with a ferocity. She continued combining her moves in faster and faster chains, trying to push Polaris in a corner if she could just pin her down...

Polaris neared the flame's edge. Finally. Evelyn hooked her opponent's ankle with a well-placed leg and yanked, aiming to lurch Polaris off-balance backwards toward the flame wall. She also swung out with hot steel, diagonally swiping.

Seeing herself put in this much of a bind made her wonder why the elf didn't fight this fierce with the men. Maybe the two losses left the elf with something more to prove against the only other female of the group. But that was all the more reason the Polaris was enjoying this exchange of blows. Sadly with her opponents blades on fire, she was unable to grapple an arm between the onslaught of swings that caused her to bring out her own weapon.

She finally saw her chance when she felt her leg get hooked from behind. it was very rare for her to fight an opponent who would also use their legs as a set up for an attack. But for her, this was a welcoming opportunity.

Polaris twisted along with the low swipe. she used the momentum of her fall to hit the back of the elf's striking knee. A pillar of iron rose from the ground so she could use her free hand to push off of so as not to land into the flaming ring. The end result was Polaris landing on her side and rolled enough to have her opponents shin and thigh hinged shut. Her legs locked on a face-down Evelyn and her breathing heavy.

"That's one way. To sweep each other. Off our feet. I do compliment you. On keeping up with me."

"I told you you should have worn a different dress!" Wrensthav shouted from the sidelines.

The wind whistled through her silver hair, blowing off her hood as Polaris launched them over the flame wall. I'm stuck. She grimaced, eyeing the joint where she was hooked.

They landed with a thud, fire dispersing to wisps behind them. Evelyn landed rather abruptly on her nose, which she rubbed tenderly while propped on elbows. Polaris sat atop her, probably feeling a little smug.

She coughed, signalling Polaris to get off. Rolling to her feet, her sword was sheathed rather quick. "Well, that was dashing. You managed to get me covered in dust." Despite herself, she had to smirk. Again, defeated. But that meant everyone here was skilled enough.

Brushing dust out of her hair and off her shoulders, Evelyn shook out her mage hood and placed it atop her head. There, that felt normal.

"Now then... Are we ready to begin?" She looked up at the sun right above their heads. "We want to start travelling east. It will be dark by the time we reach the next town."

"East?" Mattien said.

"Yes. The Rubylust is in uncharted ruins lying far in the east. I did mention on that poster somewhere this was going to be an epic journey. People don't throw around the word 'epic' for no reason." Evelyn said smoothly, tapping the hilt of her sword.

Written in collaboration with @WrensthavAviovus
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