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Aemma sunk into herself. To this point, she hadn't known her form could shrink any lower as she had against the table. Sacha had the temperament of Raanidus and his war hounds. The elf often wondered to herself if involving the noble was worth the trouble. She was horrified, then, to hear that yet another youngling had taken up their cause. While she'd only meant to ensure he would not report their musings to anyone of authority- she supposed another mage could prove useful to her studies. She certainly had little choice now. At the very least, the Astorian seemed the sort for discretion. And, despite his tendency for theatrics, Sacha was soft of heart and noble in his intent. The young Vicellan looked between the pair of mages, as giddy as a pup, content with their new arrangement.

In response Aemma stood upright from her post. You should both get some rest. I will gather you come sunrise for the examination, Karlus, she said as she motioned towards the doorway of the room. I doubt Arlo appreciates our dithering. She shuffled towards a few vials that sat at a small counter beside the cot before carefully collecting them.

Aemma could feel Sacha walk closer to her. He offered a firm hand upon her shoulder. As her gaze fell back to meet him he smiled. It almost brought her back to another time, another life...another boy. Her hand met his as her fingers caressed his with a maternal embrace. She returned his smile with one of her own. Thank you, doctor, Sacha said as he made his way towards the room's exit. He looked back towards the Astorian mage. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Aemma's gaze met Karlus' one last time as Sacha retreated from Arlo's quarters. She nodded him off before returning to her own vials. When she was both of the boys had left she retrieved notes from one of her pockets. The papyrus was ripped and crumpled, but on its page the diagrams and scribblings remained legible. The notes detailed a number of victims taken by the fog taint, their names and their symptoms. Towards the end of the page, emphasized by bolded lines, was one word. "Mute?"

The dark-elf folded the notes away again before looking towards the door and then back towards Arlo. Snuffing out the torch that had kept the room only barely lit, Aemma let the doorway's tarp fall behind her as she stepped out into the hallway. Her shuffles echoed through the corridors of the infirmary.

Sacha's eyes trailed to Arlo as Karlus' fingers stretched out towards his bed. Anyone would have. Should have, he coughed out meekly. As Karlus' hand fumbled along the edge of one of Arlo's bandages a sleeve rolled upward along his arm. Before Sacha could think his hand extended outwards to grasp at Karlus' arm. He could feel the mage's hand shrink away from his touch instinctively. I...sorry... He took a step back as he gestured towards the mess of pealing red skin. He could feel Aemma's eyes studying the pair. He figured he'd caught Karlus' glare too, but he could hardly dare to return it.

He'll be healed before long. Sacha instead looked back at the doctor as she fiddled with supplies at a table in the room. They've done some of the others.

How much worse.

The clattering of vials and the scratching of papyrus stopped replaced by the dancing sounds of flame to torch. Aemma stood for a minute more. It was good that you intervened when you did. She soon went back to adjusting her supplies. She muttered to herself, as she usually did whenever Sacha visited her. He wasn't sure if she was taking some kind of inventory when she did it, or if it was some kind of ritual. The physiker had all manner of incense, powders and potions, and Sacha was hardly an expert in anything magic. Quite often it made him weary. After all, wasn't magic what had brought ruin to so much in Vicelles. He was lucky to be born without it. Lucky to be a mute. Just like the Goddess Minerva herself.

Shaking off the thought Sacha pinched the bridge of his nose. There is another matter, doctor. Sacha turned again towards Aemma who shifted her body. She now faced the three men. Father Marrow, Sacha said. Aemma sighed before turning back to her work.

Ah, not fond of your visits to the infirmary is he? She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth a few times as she scribbled a few notes onto the papyrus with a small powdered chalk material.

Nor the catacombs. His voice went up in pitch, and with it some sound between a sigh and winging. Are we not meant to find a cure for the taint? The Father is stumbling in the dark writing letters to orphans and widows.

Aemma's eyes widened and darted towards the door suggestively as she shushed Sacha. Your tongue moves before your head, nekat. I will continue my research regarding your people's sickness. You will not anger the Father further, understood, she asked like a scolding mother. Her accent was even more pronounced when she spoke sternly. Sacha nodded in compliance.

I suppose it matters little now, Ser Charles has already passed.

He...hasn't, Aemma winced. It was clear she hadn't meant to let that slip to Sacha. Father Marrow's doing no doubt.

What? Sacha's brows furrowed as he looked to the doctor.

I'll be studying his sickness at dawn, as per the Father's request.

You must share your findings with me, doctor Sacha asked.

Must I, Aemma returned with an eyebrow raised. She huffed out a small chuckle at Sacha's exuberance. The two had come to a lucrative arrangement. Sacha would harvest supplies, and use what resources he could to assist Aemma as she researched the taint. Aemma would keep Sacha in-the-know regarding her progress. Unfortunately, Sacha was hardly known for his subtlety.

Sacha briefly looked back towards Karlus before returning his gaze to match Aemma's. Please Aemma, you know what this means to me, he begged.

What I can do, I will she said as her eyes shifted from Sacha to Karlus, and then back to Sacha.So long as our new recruit has no objections. The doctor was being curt, and perhaps Sacha deserved it. He was never one for secrets and whispers. Certainly every one in the Order would see the blighted taint gone if they'd the means? It hardly felt an endeavor worth hiding. Still, her cagey tone was enough to make Sacha look away sheepishly.

He'd be gone again, by morning.

Sacha quickened his pace towards the stables that sat towards the eastern gates of the fortress. It was darker now than before, and the humming of torches and crickets played about the air. From where he was walking Sacha could already see him. His uncle, by honor, ready once more to journey beyond the walls of Fort Stag.

Elias Black was a bastard, a man born to no-name peasants in some fog-consumed town. That's what little Sacha could gather in his time in the Order. To the young noble though Ward Black was a war hero, a tactician, and the best friend of his father. When the fog had only just taken the Duke's mind, Black visited as often as he could. It seems the war took something from them both.

Shaking the thought of lifetimes passed, Sacha made his way towards Elias. The soldier was loading small tonics and scrolls into a sack attached to the satchel of his horse. You're off again, Sacha said. He wasn't really sure if he was asking.

Aye, I've business at the capital. Elias hardly turned his attention to the boy, but instead moved towards a small pile of crates. He let out an exaggerated groan as he knelt to pick one of the crates up before loading it into the cart. Ye shouldn't have stepped the pit. Elias winced as he spoke. For a moment he almost buried his body in the cart as he placed the crate inside.

Sacha quickly motioned to help Black, picking up another crate to hand to the Ward. He let Elias' words hang for a moment. The two shared a short glance as Sacha handed Elias the crate. In return the man offered a small huff as thanks. ...If I hadn't, they'd have killed him. Sacha was surprised to feel the weight of the man's fat hand pat his shoulder a few times.

I'm glad ye did.

Sacha could feel the corners of his mouth perk up, but quickly turned downwards towards the final crate. He passed it to Elias. I'm certainly glad you stepped in, old man.

Elias fasted the ropes that held the crates affixed in the back of the carriage. There was a loud cacophony of clanking and creaking as he fiddled with the luggage.

I hadn't loaded the powder. Without turning from his position Elias let out a small belly laugh which in turn made Sacha chuckle too. Amidst the orange-lit camp in the dead of night, they laughed together.


Ye intend to visit him? Elias pulled the curtain down over the luggage before turning towards Sacha who looked to him with a brow raised. Arlo.


I wouldn't blame or don't.

The things they've said about him. What he's done...

Terrible things. Unforgivable. Still, it might do that wandering head of yours some good to speak with the dark-elf. Can't cripple yourself with the crimes of another man. Leaving him to die in the mud was never going to unmake what he's wrought. Elias made his way towards the front of the carriage before mounting the small seat atop the cart's front.

When will you be back? Sacha walked towards the front of the cart too. He placed a hand on the steed meant to steer the carriage. He was dark brown in color, and warm to touch. The horse grunted under the weight of the nobleman's hand petting at his mane.

A fortnight, abouts.

When you return, I'd like to speak of my father. Before the taint took him. Sacha looked towards the Ward with a hint of desperation. Elias seemed almost taken aback by the request.

Surely, my Lord, Elias said mockingly. He met Sacha's gaze with a half-baked grin of his own before realizing the boy was entirely serious. He cleared his throat, clearly lost in thought for a moment. He looked away from Sacha while he thought. He took the breath of a man about to conquer his fear. He sat resolute as he answered again. When I return I'll answer any question that curious tongue can think to ask. With that the Ward hit the reins against the back of his horse as the carriage jerked forward.

Until then, uncle. Sacha watched as Black rode off into the darkness.

Aemma wrapped a final bandage snuggly against the forehead. Chunks of the recruits hair had been ripped out from the scalp. Her withering fingers traced the tearing along the head. The young mage had done well in closing most of the wounds. She could feel where his magic webbed the skin together. Turning to Karlus she could sense the boy was lost in his thoughts. I would like to gather some incense if-

Before Aemma could finish, the sound of footsteps approaching the room filled the hallway outside. A figure pushed back the covering that hung at the doorway.

I apologize for disturbing you doctor, the nobleboy, Sacha came into the torchlight. I...hoped I might... Aemma gave the boy a small nod and smile. Sacha gave a half-hearted smile before cautiously making his way towards the bed. He nearly let out a gasp at the sight of the bruising lining Arlo's body.

I spoke with the Knight Captain. Thank you, Sacha. Sacha couldn't give an answer. His glance stayed on Arlo. He studied the man. Where cuts and gashes should be were scars. Had the boy never seen magic?

This is incredible, he said, mystified. He only looked back towards Aemma for a moment.

Aemma's glance shifted towards Karlus and then back to Sacha. This is another of the new recruits, Aemma motioned to Karlus. The credit is his, mostly, she said with a huff of laughter.

Of course, Sacha noted with some semblance of surprise. Apologies, he offered with another semi-smile.

Sacha intervened in the initiation.

Elias was huddled in some dank corner of Fort Stag's tavern. His arm rested lazily on the table sat against a window that gave him view of the barracks and training area. A sizeable crowd had already taken form around a small pit there. Word traveled fast, it seemed. His thick digits pressed into the hood of his eyelids as he took one last swig from his canteen before getting to his feet. The clanking and rattling of armor and leather filled the nearly empty tavern. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out two silver livre before pushing them along the bar to the barkeep. Despite the barkeep's thanks Elias never even paid him a glance.

Let's see this over with.

By now the daytime clouds had all but evaporated into a haze of deep blues and greys. Only a few stars had managed to worm their way through the ever present overcast. Tucked away towards the western skies was a pocket of waning orange. From within the walls of the fortress though, alight with torches, the orange had never left. There was a heavy chatter stirring throughout the fortress as a good number of the fort's occupants had gathered around the expanse. They were eager, restless. As Warden Black made his way towards the barracks he could see the Knight Captain escorting one of the new recruits towards the crowd. He made haste for the pair.

Driskell soon noticed the older man make his way towards them, and signaled for him to approach.

I-I don't think I can do this,Arlo whimpered as he slowed his step. Ignoring his plea the Knight Captain turned his attention towards Black.

Cristo, are you drunk? Before the Ward could respond, Driskell brushed off any response with a simple flick of his hand before continuing forward, using the other hand to guide Arlo closer to the circle.

I see you've told him. Driskell was always shy to the traditions of the Order. Not that Elias could blame him. Still, they served a function.

Please m'lord, th-they'll have my head!

He's not a Lord, and you aren't one of us. Not yet, Elias took control of the situation by position himself between Driskell and Arlo. Elias' hand was much less gentle in shoving Arlo forward. The recruit stumbled forward, barreling into a few spectators as they neared the center. Make way! Elias managed to continue to shove Arlo through the throngs of bodies as he himself pushed passed a number of onlookers. Most of them were so caught up in drinking and banter that they hardly noticed the three push their way through the crowd. They and Captain Driskell neared the edge of the small makeshift pit. A large circle had been carved into the dirt.

We are here tonight, Driskell tried to bring the crowd to a hush, but his voice went unheard. To wash away the sins of our new brother, Still the crowd proved too loud for the Captain.

Enough of this.

Quiet! Elias had managed to cut through some of the noise, but still some of the crowd remained unswayed. Before Elias could yell again the sound of a rifle being fired rippled through the air. The crowd quickly quieted save for a few murmurs among them trying to find the source of the shot. I said quiet, ye damn fools! Smoke billowed out from a nearby wall of the barracks. From the smoke stood a towering mass of man, his face obscured by a large witch's hat. Elias could see the figure from his vantage point, and could feel the corners of his mouth perk up in a smile. Old man Lurch Realizing the crowd had fallen silent, Elias gathered himself quickly. Without so much as a word Elias shoved the recruit face first into the mud of the pit. The crowd erupted in a brief cheer.

Elias lazily lifted a hand in the air to quiet them again.I know I don't need to tell you crazy bastards why we're here, Elias' breath turned to mist from his mouth against the crisp night air. He quickly rubbed his hands together for some warmth.When you take the Oath of Blood you are born new men. A number of people gathered in the crowd voiced agreement with the sentiment. But there are those whose blood- it don't wash off that easy. Are we not slayers to monsters?! Protectors of kin?! The warden's rallying cry stirred another cheer amongst the crowd.

Arlo was already covered from head-to-toe in mud. His typical blonde hair dirtied and messy. He picked himself up as Elias spoke before reaching out for the Ward's hand. Please, by the Ten! Show mercy! Whatever price there is to be paid, I will pay it. Please m'lord. You can't let them kill me. Before Arlo could continue his begging he could make out something flying towards his eye. His hand quickly moved to meet whatever had hit his face only to feel the slime of spit and snot dripping from his brow. He wiped away at it in disgust. Much of the crowd began laughing, one soldier in particular was suggestively shoving another of his comrades as he let out a belly laugh.

F*cking coward c*nt. The soldier managed to yell out towards Arlo through gritted teeth before laughing again.

Elias' gaze shifted to the soldier. Do it again, and I'll carve you a fresh new c*nt for prickin'. The soldier's smile quickly soured as his brow furrowed and he looked away from the ward. He knew Elias Black could make good on that threat. The ward knelt down to meet Arlo's gaze. They already know what ye done Arlo, better this than a shiv in your sleep. Ye won't have their respect without atonement.

Oh gods, please. Arlo was crying by now as he collapsed back into the mud with a whimper. A bit of rain had begun to pick up. The smell of sulfur returned as raindrops pelted down from the night sky.

Arlo, son to Astoria, ye have committed crimes unforgivable to the Order. For those crimes there is no reprieve. So, let the man that committed them die here, in the muck and dirt.

Before Elias could say anything more the soldier from before jumped down into the pit. Arlo rose to meet the challenge only for a hard right fist to send the recruit back down to the dirt. Arlo sat there on his hands and knees for a moment. His hair was completely wet now, and he was bleeding from the eye. He wiped what blood he could away before standing up again. This time when his opponent went to swing Arlo blocked it before pivoting backwards and landing a blow himself. The soldier quickly shook off the blow and smirked back to Arlo before delivering another bunch towards the forehead. As the recruit fell back towards one of the walls of the pit another soldier from the ledge kicked into the back of his head.

Soon after another soldier jumped down into the pit, and lifted Arlo back to his feet. He held him in place as the first soldier delivered a number of blows into his gut. At this point Arlo had begun to cough up a bit of blood onto his shirt. The soldier holding him in place shoved him towards another edge of the pit. The albino brith that was in the courtyard when Elias arrived, Fiske, reached out and bore his claws into the roof and cheek of Arlo's mouth. It was only when Arlo propelled himself forward did Fiske let go. The brith was satisfied enough with the rip he heard as his claws released the human. As Arlo lay on the ground another of the Order began kicking him in the gut, and pushing mud into his face with his boot. Another soldier spit on him from atop the edge of the pit.

Arlo had quickly been reduced to a bloody mess, whimpering as he laid in the mud and accepted death. The rain had turned to a downpour. It was clear that some in the crowd were displeased. A few clergyman and healers dispersed, and a few still stayed to express that it was enough. Still neither Elias or Driskell stepped forward.

Arlo's jaw was swollen, and he could hardly speak. An eye was swollen shut. His blood mixed with mud and rain in a puddle around his head. Through a raspy whimper he could only manage a prayer.

Holy Father, I pray you tear from me the burden of men. Make me anew, so that I may live in your light unhindered. Blessed be thy will, and the name of the Ten above and below. Hollowed is thy ground, and present is your name. I follow you Lord of Light, into forever and into nothing. For yours is the path...

This is madness. Will no one stop them?

Sacha pushed his way passed a swarm of bodies all looking towards the center of the circle. The rain and the constant thudding of boot against flesh hit against Sacha's consciousness as he tried to snake his way through the crowd. Stop this! You're going to kill him, He shouted as he desperately continued forward. A few in the crowd stared back at the noble though none tried to stand in his way. Finally cutting through the crowd, Sacha jumped down into the pit.

Still, Arlo was limp on the ground muttering to himself as a few men still eagerly pummeled him. Sacha quickly pulled at the ornate wheellock pistol fastened to his belt before aiming it at the soldiers. So distracted in their delights were they that nary any of the men even noticed Sacha aiming at them. That's enough, Sacha commanded.

What the fuck are you doing? The first soldier to strike at Arlo turned his attention to Sacha. There was a sort of animalistic bewilderment on his face. As if Sacha were the brute of the two.

You've all made your point, Sacha tried his best to keep his hand from shaking. His brows were furrowed as his stared with intent towards the soldiers.

Apparently not, he said inching closer. Must be as sick as this one to wave that thing at me in his name. This is the way of the Order.

Then your way is wrong, Sacha stood firm against the rain and building wind. His wet hair collected on his forehead, and his clothes were nearly soaked. I won't tell you to step away from him again.

Stop, Black called out from atop the pit. The boy's nearly at the plunge. Get yourselves cleaned up. You smell like dog. The Ward's eyes met with Sacha's for a moment. Elias remedied that fact by walking off back towards the tavern without so much as another word.

Let's get him up, Captain Driskell said through a groan as he pulled Arlo's body from the fighting pit. The recruit cried in pain as he did so. Arlo laid motionless in the Captain's arms. Compared to Driskell, Arlo was quite small. Driskell looked to the men in the pit.You have killed what was. See to it that this, he continued as his eyes moved from Sacha to the soldiers. Died with it.

Sacha stood in disbelief. He shook with a quiet fury. His pistol rested loosely in his right hand, and his eyes met the dirt and mud beneath him. His hair now completely obscured his eyes. The soldiers pushed passed him, and Sacha made no attempts to resist. He simply stood. Even as the crowd began to disperse.


Content Warning: This RP/Post may contain uncomfortable or violent themes.

Captain Driskell stood opposite of Sacha with his back resting against his desk. The room was mostly lit by the fire place on the right hand side. The wooden furniture was far from ornate, but still leagues better than what one might find in other places throughout the keep. Driskell's arms were folded. Since Sacha arrived, Driskell had always tried to play the part of older brother...or mentor...or something. Sacha could never really understand why aside from shared noble peerage. Though Driskell didn't seem the sort for such considerations.

You can't keep going down to the catacombs, Sacha. The Captain had took his time cutting through the silence as he shifted to a more comfortable position. Father Marrow certainly hadn't wasted his time in running off to tattle to Knight Captain Driskell.

My family is responsible for what is happening to him. Despite his passion, Sacha couldn't return the older noble's eye contact.

Sacha, Driskell lifted himself from off the desk before sighing. Your anger is righteous, but as the leaders of this kingdom we are not afforded the luxury of mercy. To act in one's own interest is to betray one's countrymen. Driskell inched closer to Sacha. If the Crows or the Silvered Sons were to launch an attack- how many lives would be lost because a soldier abandoned his post?

But what's the point of fighting, of dying- if the act of living is punishable by death.

The sentiment was enough to make Driskell break his eye contact. He thought for a moment before responding. You've the heart of a philosopher. In Cambridge or Redcliffe, that might serve you well. But you are a child of Vicelles. You know what it means to serve her, what she asks of us. He paused for another moment before walking back over towards his desk. Sitting at the chair rested behind it he reached for parchment and a quill. Dipping the quill in a small cylindrical bottle he looked back up at Sacha. I will see to it that Charles' title of Ser is returned to him, and that his family is compensated.

Before Sacha could protest, the Captain was already motioning him to keep quiet. Of course I know it isn't perfect Sacha, but it is something.

Yes, Captain.

Driskell's gaze returned to the parchment as he began writing. You should speak with your Uncle. I imagine you'll have much to catch up on.

I could smell the stench of booze on him from the catacombs. He's likely drowned in the stream by now. He'd hardly looked in any condition to reminisce- not that there'd be much to reminisce about. Sacha mumbled a soft chuckle to himself. The last time he'd seen Elias Black had been four months ago before his trip to Astoria to gather the new recruits. At the time Sacha was still coming to grips with life in the Order. Black had proven himself to be quite illusive in the first month. In the second, Sacha came to learn he was hardly the man he thought he remembered. The warden was stand-offish, as if Sacha had personally wronged him.

It was no wonder then that Driskell met Sacha's chuckle with a stifled laugh of his own. Have you always been this uncharitable. I remember a time when you could sing nothing but praises for Uncle Black protector of the realm. Sacha could very vaguely remember seeing Lucian Driskell at court as a child. The man was around fifteen years his senior. Still, he would remember his father and Lord Driskell bantering about their war stories. That was before the sickness had really gripped his father's mind. Divorcing from thoughts of the past Sacha looked to the Captain with a smile. That was another life. Another Sacha.

I'll speak with him soon, he said with a feigned smile.

It seems this one's avoided the taint, an elderly woman groaned. Her voice was coarse and low-register, no doubt grated by time. She spoke with an accent foreign to most anyone in Carthus. A sort of magnifying spyglass fixed upon a lens rested on her left eye as her old and withered hands poked and pulled at Lambert's lower lid. Her hand moved to the other eye for similar inspection.

Excellent, Sister Angelique exclaimed from behind her. Her, Karlus and Arlo sat in a makeshift examination room towards the back of the infirmary. The wailing of the injured and sickly hung just outside the door to the room.

The elder woman sighed to herself as she tried her best to stand upright. She was a bit hobbled, forced to hunch over slightly as she walked. Blackroot...Swampseed...Two Cups of Blight Milk The dark-elf began to murmur to herself. As she did so she paced for a few moments back and forth all the while compulsively pilfering the many pockets of her longcoat.

Father Marrow wants to ensure there are no signs of blood magic as well, Angelique interjected again.

Aemma stood a bit more upright, sighing one last time through her nose. She looked back towards Sister Angelique. Would you mind stepping out of the room, Sister.

The sister was taken aback by the request. I-I hardly see that as necess-

It is my responsibility to make sure our new recruits are safe. Meaning they must also be willing to trust that I mean them no harm. They are not our prisoners. Let me do my work, sister.

Conceding her defeat on the issue, Angelique took a protracted sigh. I'll be right outside, She offered flusteredly.

As the door closed behind the sister, Aemma murmured to herself again. Blackroot...Swampseed...Two Cups of Blight Milk. The doctor composed herself as she continued examining Lambert. She was much darker than the relatively fair-skinned city-elf. Her hands moved up to his ears. Her fingers traced where once must have been the pointed ears common to all elves regardless of their race. They'd been shaven down, likely at birth. She paused there feeling them for a moment. She cleared her throat and blew hot air upwards to keep calmed. She then moved towards the mage's arm. Lambert instinctively flinched at her touch.

You're alright, Aemma said. She helped firmly onto his hand before she motioned towards her own arm, raising a sleeve to her elbow. Lining up the entirety of her forearm was a series of fresh cuts, the mark of a any blood mage. May I? Lambert offered his arm in compliance. As she lifted the sleeve to his robes she found that there was minimal scarring save for one. The way the scar scaled the arm was clearly not an attempt at blood magic. Her eyes wandered to his for a moment in silent recognition. She turned rolled the mage's sleeve back down.

They allow you to use blood-magic, Lambert finally asked.

They do, Aemma grabbed two small vials from a shelf before handing one to Lambert and another to Karlus. Caster's milk, drink up. I imagine the journey here was unkind. Lambert complied with the doctor's orders. He was good and bright. Not many like that in Vicelles. A small pop erupted from the cork nestled into the bottle as Lambert inched it out. He gulped it down quickly. Typically Caster's Milk took a half hour to take hold, and the taste had always felt off to Aemma. Like milk that didn't quite know how to settle in the gut.

May I ask something, Lambert looked to the mage doctor waiting for a nod. She was quick to comply, and offered a smile. Why was Arlo not taken for examination with us if you're checking for more than just blood magic. Aemma's smile quickly evaporated at the question.

Then they haven't told you, Aemma paused for a moment retrieving the now empty bottle from Lambert. Arlo will likely be under my care soon enough.

I'm not sure I follow.

There is a...ritual of a sort. When new recruits come to the Order for some crime of brutality, Aemma looked back towards the door for a moment. Said recruit is forced to fight, or not fight really. They must withstand a fight against some of the men of the Order. A sort of repentance, they call it. To let things outside the Order die at its gates. It's barbaric if you ask me Aemma placed the empty bottle on a table behind her. She shifted her attention towards Karlus. If it is alright by you, I must perform the same examination for you.

Thud... Thud... Thud... "Ser"," Thud ... "Ser," Thud "Ser Charles, you must eat." Sacha's eyes peered forward into the darkness that consumed the cell separating himself and the shadowed sack of man laying limp on the floors of the catacombs. Thud...Thud...Thud... "Charles," Sacha begged with exasperation. With eyes closed he tried to temper his shaking hand. Before he could implore further the hulking mass of the man behind the cage rushed towards the steel bars. In a panic the younger man dropped the tray full of rations he'd been carrying. The smacking of cutlery and glass against stone echoed throughout the dank and serpentine corridors that rested below Fort Stag. "Mierde," he said as he cupped his hand over his nose and mouth trying to wipe away his frustration through muffled sighs. He quickly bent down to clean his mess, but lost his balance as a pair of sickly jaundiced eyes bore into his own. Charles' eyes were covered with a thick black crust that squished and dripped like tart from his eyelid to the sunken bags below them. Sacha's body dropped backwards as he rested along the wall opposite the cell. Before he could catch his breath a door opened towards the end of the hallway. The sounds of shuffling crept in as a figure emerged bathed in the candle light affixed upon a wall.

The Father, Gavan Marrow, was dressed in his ordained black robes, typical of high priests of Minerva. His slippers dragged like hushed whispers across the floor as he approached Sacha. He looked to the young noble for a second, and then to the cell that housed Ser Charles. It took only a moment for him to nod lightly in silent understanding. He moved over towards Charles as he began picking up what food and utensils he could. His back creaked, and he let out a small groan as he lifted himself back upright. Sacha followed his lead, using the wall to pick himself up. The Father parsed his thin lips as he handed Sacha back the rations and tray with another nod of contentment. "It is good of you to come, my child." His eyes wandered back to the cell. "Charles would have--"

"Charles didn't know me, nor I him. Even here, we'd never even spoken a word to one another," Sacha rebutted almost choked up as his stare fell towards the floor and his brows furrowed. "Father," Sacha added before clearing his throat. Marrow's head recoiled momentarily as his eyes narrowed. He cocked his head for a moment.

"Help me understand then Sacha." He'd regained his composure by now, resting a hand on Sacha's shoulder.

Sacha's eyes stung as he bit back a rush of tears. He almost laughed for a minute. A nobleman brought nearly to tears because a soldier was sick. He sucked his teeth before continuing. 'Charles served at Fort Westier, Father."

Marrow removed his hand from Sacha's shoulder. He rested his fingers in palms as his thumb danced about the knuckles. He sighed, "I've told you about speaking with Aemma regarding the sickly, Sacha. You know the good doctor's a tendency for the theatrics. It does you no good," his gaze returned once more to Charles who had returned to smacking his head against the bricks of his prison. "It does nothing for them either."

"Y-you're not hearing me, Father Marrow! ...Charles served at Fort Westier. He disobeyed an order and Commander Rolan requested his discharge. Without stepping a foot outside Moonshire Keep, my brother sentenced him to serve here."

"To rule with closed fist is grave a crime, but graver is it to rule with open hands. Charles knew what he was doing when he disobeyed that order, my child."

"He returned to Mornier to see his newborn child," Sacha retorted." And for it, my brother sentenced him to death. Aemma told me that scouts found him a stones toss away from Glenmont, near death. His escort abandoned him there." Sacha stepped closer to the Father, uncomfortably so. His eyes met Marrow's greyed blues, wrinkled and withered by time.

Marrow stepped away clearing his throat. This was enough to make Sacha retreat making himself smaller before the clergyman. Marrow studied the young man for a moment as the tension still sat between them. "I shall draft a letter to his family," he replied coldly. "I will make note of your...displeasure, my Lord".

Sacha looked defiantly back at the Father. Was he being toyed with? He rubbed the bridge of his nose before making his way passed Marrow and down the hallway.

"And Sacha," Marrow called again. "I won't be seeing you cavort with the doctor again."

Thud Thud Thud

"Of course not...Father Marrow."

It wasn't long after his encounter with the priest that Sacha found his way outside. The morning sky hung with the thick grey overcast typical in much of Vicelles. The air carried the smell of sulfur throughout the fortress. Undeterred, the soldiers of the camp hummed with life. A few men were nestled near the lower stables towards the eastern gate. One of them was practicing his aim with a bow. Sacha could almost hear the ranger plucking at the string as he notched another arrow.

Blacksmiths labored away at their crafts, and with their tinkering came a cacophony of clanking metal and hissing steam. There was audible arguing coming from above Sacha. Two soldiers were yelling back and forth along one of the battlements that lined the fortress walls. Sacha was sure he heard the faintest sound of a lute eclipsed by the pitter patter of horses hooves trotting about. Sacha let the tower door slam behind him. The resulting smack of its large frame was nearly muted by the ambience. Taking a deep breath and dusting off the lower part of his tunic Sacha moved quickly through the busy courtyard at the base of the fort.

His eyes were the same as father's. A sickening black lining about the bottom lid, and vacant pupils. Ser Charles must have been out there for days and...

Sacha only just noticed the lumbering brith ahead of him. Fiske, Sacha remembered. He was carrying two large pieces of lumber which Sacha nearly knocked from his hands. Fiske turned towards the human noble and hissed.

Damned wormskins, he muttered as he continued towards the eastern gate.

Apologies, Sacha said futilely. He sheepishly continued towards the central keep, but paused as he heard the ringing of the fortresses' bell.

"Open the gates!" By command from the ramparts did the gears and chains begin to rattle as the main gates to the fortress began to peal open. The loud creaking and dragging of metal and wood competed with the ringing bell. From his vantage point Sacha could see a familiar carriage. It seemed Elias Black had returned. Sacha watched as the Ward made his way through the gates as a handful of stable boys ran over to greet the man. One immediately began attending to the horses, one to the carriage and another to the cargo. Elias made his way towards the back of the carriage, and from its tent came three figures. From where he was standing Sacha could hardly make out there faces. He knew better than to approach. Sacha was hardly in any mood to greet the Ward, and Elias was hardly ever in any mood at all. Sacha rested on a wall as he studied the group.

More lambs to this slaughter

"Out ye come," Elias' voice was stern and his Astorian accent was thick with a northerner's dialect. Most anyone could likely smell the ale on his breath, but Elias was a man of fortitude. He guided the three men out of the carriage with little trouble. First was Lambert, next Karlus and then Arlo.

"Welcome," he said with exasperated breath. His hands moved towards the dagger nestled in his belt. Flipping it 'round in his hand he moved towards each of the men, now abreast from each other, and cut at the hemp binding their wrists. "To Fort Stag." Elias whistled to one of the stable boys who quickly rose from his work to meet his command. "Boy, send for a priest." He reached into his pocket and retrieved a small tattered piece of parchment. Elias could feel the humming of power in the rune affixed to it. He pushed it against the boy's chest. "Oh, and have them burn this."

He left the rest of the workers to attend to the carriage and horses as he motioned for the three recruits to follow behind him.

"Doubt ye'll find much comfort with the priests. 'Spose they're better than the college...or the rope." He could feel Arlo physically squirm from behind him as he mentioned the latter. Black never figured himself a conversationalist. Much of the trip to Vicelles was silent save for the random bouts of pissin', shittin' and bleedin'. What little conversation there was remained fairly curt. Black had little in the way of tact, but enough in spirits for any who would have some to dull the pain of the experience.

The four of them moved through the courtyard as the eyes of soldiers, medics and servants fixed on them. As they made their way passed, the doors of the main keep swung open.

"Ward Black," a daunting figure called out from across the yard. He was clad in a tourniquet of silver armor, adorned with the blue markings that denoted the Order's soldiers. Flowing from his back was a large fur cape that bellowed out as he hastened his step. Knight Captain Lucian Driskell was a rather large man cut from some of the finest cloth in Vicelles. Like his cape, a mess of black curls were pulled back and draped down to his shoulders. The two men embraced, each holding firmly onto the other's right forarm with the left hand.

"Knight Captain," Elias greeted.

The Captain's eyes trained on the group of three behind Elias. He furrowed his brows, and was nearly pouting when Elias returned his gaze. The Ward sighed under his breath.

"Bloats," Elias said through a cough.

The Knight Captain nodded before looking back to Elias, he feigned a smile. "Well, I see three fit and capable young men before me. You've done us a great service Ward Black." His gaze focused to the three once more. "I look forward to welcoming you to the Order."

'As do I,' a middle-aged woman noted as she made her way towards the group. Another of Minerva's damned priests. "Minerva bless you brothers. I am Sister Angelique." Her accent was the thickest Vicellan accent that Elias had ever heard.

What a terrible language.

"And you sister," Lucian greeted. Lucian, ye blighted liar.

Elias was stirred from his thoughts as he realized both Lucian and Angelique were looking at him. He cleared his throat. "Sister, Karlus and Lambert. Both ready to dedicate their talents to the Order."

"Excellent, you two must be tired. I'll show you to your quarters." She motioned for the pair to follow her.

As the three walked off towards the temple Lucian's gaze met Arlo's and then Elias'. The two veterans shared a knowing look for a moment.

"Come on, boy." Elias’ hand stretched out over Arlo’s back as he corralled the young man away from the courtyard. As they left Elias looked back.

His eyes studied the Knight Captain who turned his stride back towards the keep. From there he saw him. Sacha. Driskell beckoned the young noble to follow him.
You are correct. This is just a country map because I thought a continent map might be a bit overkill, plus I felt kinda lazy about it lol
Yeah, I figured it could use an update. Now with some better names closer to what I'd imagine for the region, lol. I should have that post up relatively soon just working on some other stuff too

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