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Matthias Llywelyn - The Facility

@wolverbells@HecateProxy@RumikoOhara@pinkowl




"Ah, fellow inmates! Let's see what we're about then."

The thought of others being imprisoned alongside them was not a pleasant one but it was still shined some relief upon their situation; from the many books Matthias had torn his way through in his youth he knew that two people stuck together with no peace from each other rarely did wonders for their relationship. Not until they freed themselves from their predicament and usually ended up as lifelong friends. Or married. Or one of them died. The thought of freedom was something he dared not linger on, lest it shatter his carefully constructed mental outlook which was protecting his psyche from utter panic.

With more enthusiasm than he felt, Matthias strode after the much shorter brunette but managed to half trip over one of the legs of the bench she had been sitting on, delaying his arrival to the scene. After cursing softly under his breath and extricating himself from a near blunder, Matthias jogged after Natalie and soon found her talking to a group of others of a similar age. The keenly academic portion of his brain instantly started analysing the issue, perusing any common theme the group posed but other than their age they seemed relatively varied.

He shoved those thoughts aside - intellectual investigation could wait until they knew something about their predicament - and stepped toward the man who seemed on the edge of totally losing it. Considering the strict rules they had already been educated with it seemed a terrible idea to insult or bait their forceful hosts. Trying to force a pleasant smile, the expression a difficult one to make under the circumstances, and holding his hands up in a gesture of peace he spoke in what he hoped was a calming, but not patronising, tone.

"I don't think any of us really believe any of this but it won't do any good to insult the people keeping us here. As Natalie just pointed out," he gestured toward her, "we're going to be getting a briefing about all this soon. Whether you choose to believe any of this is up to you but you'll just wear yourself out raging at cameras. For all we know that's what they mean to happen so just... keep calm and carry on, right?" He knew he was not terribly convincing, it certainly did not feel that to him but it was the best he could do when under stress himself. To change the topic, and move to something that felt familiar and therefore comfortable and safe, he turned to the rest of the group.

"Why don't we just start with introducing ourselves? Whatever situation we're in, it can't harm to get to know each other a bit. I'm Matthias and, if it wasn't obvious, I'm from the UK but I've been studying in the US the past few months." He forced another uncomfortable smile before noticing that a woman, an outlier of the group, was leaning against the wall with a mildly pained expression.

Without really thinking, the legitimately paranoid element of his mind warning him not to get involved with anyone or expose himself, he moved past the others toward the woman. A quick glance and he could see that one of her ankles was swollen and she was favouring the other leg, an injury he was familiar with after years playing contact sports.

"You look hurt. Your ankle - did you twist it? It's looking rather swollen. There's a cafeteria a bit further that way," he pointedly vaguely down the way he thought he and Natalie had come from, "and I'm sure we could find something cold to put over it?" He frowned, trying to remember if he had seen anything resembling freezers or cold storage in the room but he had been so focused on seeing another person that he had quite forgotten to take stock of his surroundings. A bag of frozen peas or, better yet, an actual ice pack would do the trick for the swelling but his first aid experience beyond that was rather rusty. The usual response from teammates after a moment's rest with a cold pack would be 'walk it off'.

"Well, in any case you shouldn't stand on it too much. I can definitely promise you a bench on which to prop your leg, take the weight off that ankle." He proffered his arm for her to lean on, trying to ignore the panicked feeling that perhaps he had just misread the situation and rather insulted this young lady.
Dalious Durendail

and

Laurel Mith


Sooner then later, Dalious' wound began to bother him again. It felt like it had reopened with every bounce of the horse, so he slowed them down to a trot and gave Laurel the reigns. He rebandaged it while they continued to move along, the afternoon sun shining brightly overhead. "We have to slow down," he told her. "Less I bleed out before we get there. Worry not, I'm still in my prime."

Laurel said nothing as Dalious saw to his wound, taking the reigns without much of a response. She had a sense that the man had little care for his own life, less so than before when his jovial attitude had at least had a feeling of something more behind it, and her policy was to not interfere with the feelings of an acquaintance. They dismounted after a short time in the trees, the sounds of the forest familiar to her although this was not one she had visited before.

The trees they passed were thicker and more dense, as they moved from the main roads to the dirt paths spread across the valley. Dalious followed the directions he was given by the store clerk back in the city, so far without a hitch. He checked his weapons again briefly and hitched his horse up loosely. "From here we go on foot, it's still a ways ahead but we should use the cover of the trees. Do you have trees like these in Earthica?"

"Aye, we do. I've spent most of my life out in woods like these." She could feel tension she had not realised was there fading from her mind as the scents and strange coolness of the forest welcomed her."They're more home to me than any city."

They journeyed on foot deeper into the forest, light filtering down from above in a dappled pattern as it passed through the leaves illuminating their path. Her sharp ears could already isolated the sounds of life around them, creatures scurrying through the undergrowth and birds navigating the maze of treetop branches above them, as she fell into her natural state of alertness. She even began to move more lithely, instinctively stepping in such a way as to not leave marks of her passing while searching their surroundings for any unusual signs. Dalious seemed less used to woods like these; he certainly did not have the bearing of a hunter as he trooped along the path leaving dozens of indications of his recent presence.


"I've only camped and hiked the woods of Luthra, miserable cold and many things that want to eat you," he started. "Though none of it would be a problem for you, seemingly. With your bow, I mean. I knew you wouldn't miss. When I first saw you in the arena, even in the healer's room afterward, you had this unquestionable confidence about you. It may have been hidden with everyone that was there, but I noticed. You'll need that confidence again here shortly. These are ruthless cutthroats and trained mercenaries, show them no mercy for they will show you none."

"I know what I'm about, that's all. Being in that tournament... it was the wrong decision as a guard but being there in the arena at least felt natural. All of this politicking in a foreign city sits wrongly with me. Some may say that the nature of a warrior is no different to that of a guard but such people are fools." She stopped for a moment, turning to Dalious as he picked his way through bracken she had slipped expertly through. "You understand, I'm sure. Not all fighters can be tarred with same brush. I know my business but others' is as foreign to me as this city of the snake-eyes."

"Right, my hair requires a special kind of brush," he joked while moving through, combing his hair from his face with a hand. "I understand, and I thank you for joining me."

As they drew closer they went higher, up through the hillside overlooking the valley. The lumbermill would be just beyond the ridge now, but there were no sounds coming from the direction. Only the wind could be heard as it whistled through the trees, everything else was silent. They reached a vantage point of the mill, where Dalious pulled out a spyglass from his satchel and peered below. He looked for awhile at the site, just a bunch of lumber piled up in certain areas. There were shacks and cabins forming a half circle around the yard at the base, with the tall trees surrounding all else. A long dirt path led uphill from the base to a flattened surface on top."Seems no one's home. I'll take a closer look, maybe you should hang back."

Dalious made his way down the hill and into the yard. He could see signs of horses trampling about the dirt, their trail led off and away toward the hills. Upon reaching the shacks, the next thing he noticed was the blood stains in the dried grass. The trail of blood led around the cabin, where Dalious stopped in his tracks at what he saw. There were body parts littered everywhere, all of them hacked and slashed to pieces and spread out. A few of the bodies had arrows in them, while some of the heads were scalped. From their clothes Dalious instantly knew that the corpses were the gang, many still wearing red flags at their belts. He took a few steps around, taking in the carnage.

Bo, the man that led the gang, was in three halves right before him. His severed head stared up blankly at Dalious, the cuts clean and smooth. Dalious whistled for Laurel to hear, indicating for her to join him. Whoever or whatever killed them, they weren't after the bounty. "Well, easiest coin I've ever made."

They reached the lumber mill and immediately the land felt wrong. Wildlife reacted to the presence of humans in predictable ways, often skirting its way around inhabited sites while learning to what extent it could encroach upon the occupied land. It pulled back but was never absent, the more brazen creatures quickly returning to live alongside humans and there were signs here that that was the case but she could not sense anything. Silence reigned nearby, the cawing of avians behind them distinct against the utter absence of the sounds of life before her. There was a stillness which felt wrong, too extreme even when a new settlement was established and shocked age-long ecosystems into change.

Working on instinct, she dropped lower to the ground, reading her bow but not yet noching an arrow as she circled around the lumberyard while staying in the shadows of the trees. Dalious was clearly visible walking into the shacks, clearly intent on something she could not see from her vantage point so she moved further around, listening out for anything that contravened her every instinct warning her of imminent danger but animals were steering clear of the settlement in a way which unnerved her.


Dalious heard a grunt somewhere in the slew of bodies. Then once more, the sound aching of agony. Dalious quickly tossed torsos aside until he found the source, one of the gang members was still alive though with fatal wounds. The man coughed out a spit of blood as he eyed Dalious helplessly.

"Who did this to you?" he wondered, though showed little care beyond curiosity.

The man opened his mouth in an attempt to speak, only more blood came out, then tried again. "Sti- Still..." he coughed again.

"Still what?"

"Still...still here!" the dying man said and pointed outward.

Before the pirate could think again he heard the object fly from beyond the trees. Just by reaction, Dalious pulled out one of his swords and swiped in its way just in time. His blade clanged and deflected the thrown object and it fell to the ground, a throwing star forged like he had never seen before. Arrows and more throwing stars soon followed, so he dropped to the ground and slid in between the bodies as cover. They struck the already wounded gang member numerous times, though he died from the first that made contact. A few seconds longer and everything stopped. From his position he had no clue where Laurel was, or who was attacking him.

There were at least three of them, one stayed in the shadow of the tall trees while the other two simply walked out in the open and toward Dalious' position. They wore completely black garbs that covered their entire body and face, save for slits opened for breathing and seeing. The two rushed in quickly while the third continued to fire arrows toward him. His options were limited as he used the gang members bodies as human meat shields, staying lying down to avoid the onslaught from the trees. The faster of the two ran up with a raised katana, standing just above Dalious and heading in for the killing blow.

After circling round far enough, momentarily she lost the pirate when a long shack obscured her view but soon found him again, she could see clearly the signs which he had been following. The remnants of a slaughter, brutal and exaggerated in every manner, was strewn around in a space between the buildings nearly on the far side of the yard from where they had entered. Dalious whistled but Laurel stayed put, slowing noching an arrow on her bow while scanning the shadows below the trees in front of the pirate. Death often unnerved animals but it never took them long to start scavenging which meant this was either fresh or something else was keeping creatures away.

That something made itself very apparent by attacking Dalious, missiles she could not properly make out spinning out toward her companion but he managed to scramble for cover without injury. The assailants left the cover of the forest, dressed in strange garb, before two of them charged toward the concealed pirate while the third watched. They were skilled, their presence concealed from Laurel until their attack, but they had also not noticed her, leaving their flank open to attack.

Her first arrow took the one who had remained behind in the neck, the deep twang of her warbow vibrating through the lumberyard even as the second arrow took the man standing above Dalious, weapon raised, in the shoulder. She forced the final assailant to dive for cover with a close miss, the arrow punching part way through the wall of a wooden shack with a dull thud less than foot from their head, before slipping back into the forest and circling toward where the attackers had come from.

It was darker in this part of the forest, the trees closer together, but she could still clearly make out the lumber mill and hopefully Dalious would be able to make use of her distraction while she set up in a new position. Three attackers had shown themselves and she had killed, wounded another but there was no telling how many there really were. She intended to surprise any hiding in the cover of the trees before they could do the same to the pirate and if there were none then she would cut the remaining two down from behind before they could locate her.


The one charging fell backwards and onto their back when Laurel's arrow struck him. He fell a few feet from Dalious, while they both rose to their feet simultaneously."Now we're both wounded, fair is fair," Dalious said and unsheathed a dagger while the one across from him did the same, the arrow still stuck in his shoulder."Who are you?" Before Dalious could even finish the sentence the man rushed forward in attack, but the pirate tossed the dirt he held quickly and direct into their eyes. While they were distracted, Dalious drove a hard elbow into their head and knocked them down again. "You've got some explaining to do, mate. How 'bout-" Within a split second the ninja flipped a pill from his hand into his mouth. He started to choke, and thirteen seconds later the poison had burned through their insides and out the mouth and eyes. "Well, nevermind then." Dalious reached down and took off the mask, from what he could make out it looked like a young boy.

North of the mill, upon the green hillside, a few horseback riders could be seen. Then more and more, most of them wearing the same garbs. The top of the hill would soon be littered with them. Dalious was just on his way toward his partner when they blew a soft horn, catching him still in his walk. They were probably close enough for Laurel to hit, though there were far too many if they were to give chase. Most had bows themselves, the archers being held back by one man's hand.

In the center of them all was a white colored stallion, and atop sat the leader of this clan. The leader wore differently, he was cloaked in a black and blue samurai armor. His head was helmeted with a mask that bore a smiling dragon as design. A few others wore similar armour to him, though of different colors. The leader held out his hand to still his men, and then they stayed there for awhile. Dalious counted in the twenties before they moved again. He was a long ways from them, Laurel even farther, but he did not need to be within hearing distance to know what the leader said as he pointed at them. "Kill them!" The entirety of the clan rode forth.

Dalious winced, then started to limp-run in what he hoped was Laurel's direction. "This is not exactly what we had in mind, but only the enemy has changed," he spoke as if she could hear him. "Fuck me, I'm gonna die here!"

The riders reached the yard with arrows at the ready, Dalious had altered his direction though. Instead of the forest, he went upward and through the mill. Every time he peaked his head out from cover an arrow came flying near to him. He continued, hiding and maneuvering through the large stacks of lumber. The higher up he went, the dirt started to feel like mud.

He reached the top of the mill yard in good time, immediately rushing over and hacking off the straps that held a lot of the wood together. With the katana they cut like butter, though there were many that held it in place. The wood began to creak from just losing a few, but it all still held together for the moment. Dalious lit up a smoke while he sat and waited behind the bundle stacks, quickly taking a few hits while the horseriders came up the muddy path. "And here...we...go." Dalious slashed the next strap and they all went thereafter, rolling down the hill in great speed and number. A few of the horseriders froze dead in their tracks, then were crumpled and broken under the branches. Those still at the base circled around and ran for the trees, a thick cloud of dust obscuring the yard as each piece of lumber smashed into things near the bottom.

Just as Laurel rounded to the far side of the lumberyard she caught sight of the assailants massing on the hill. They were on horseback and she could make out at least two dozen of them. A leader arrived at their head, his position clear from the distinctive blue armour he wore, and they held for a time. She used that brief respite to pull a dozen arrows from her bag and rammed them point first into the ground before her. As she readied the first on her string the enemy charged forwards. Dalious had the sense to flee although being separated was probably not a good idea.

Tossing aside her anxiety she let herself go to work. The bow thrummed deeply, a sound which when massed was referred to as the Devil's Harp for the destruction it inevitably hailed, as she ploughed arrow after arrow into the charging mass. She aimed for horses in the front row, lessons from long ago resurfacing; when facing a cavalry charge make obstacles between you and them. Ditches, low walls, streams. Where that wasn't possible then turn their fallen into obstructions, dying horses screaming and flailing had a habit of disrupting a cavalry charge and often killed their riders in their panic.

Her position became compromised as the riders who made it through her volleys surged into the small settlement, some dismounting to better navigate between the buildings. Laurel picked up the final arrow she had plunged into the ground and shifted back into the foliage before heading round to near where she had seen Dalious disappear to.

A tremendous crash sounded from the battlefield and she wondered what on earth the pirate had managed to do but shook aside the questions; she could ask them later if they both managed to survive this. She could not hear any fighting but it was clear that neither she nor Dalious had been yet caught, frustrated yells from their pursuers resounding back and forth as they tried to locate their quarry.

Sounds up ahead made her pause, dropping down into the bracken and freezing in place just as a pair of the assassins crept past. Their garb seemed well suited to hiding in dark places but in the woods on a sunny day they were less hidden than they might normally have been and, although careful, they did not move silently. Laurel carefully placed her bow down, drawing the hunting dagger from her waist carefully before pursuing the two, quickly catching up to them without either noticing her presence.

She smiled grimly as she rammed her dagger through the back of the rear's skull, dropping them with barely a sound and slicing through the second's throat as they turned to see what had was the source of the noise behind them. She paused for a moment, hearing something from above, and barely moved out of the way in time for a third assailant swept down with a long bladed sword. They were quick and alert to her presence now, taking no chances as they pressed against her bad footing. She retreated, narrowly avoiding the knife but she was no match when it come to this kind of close quarters combat and it wasn't long before she was hit shallowly on the arm.

Knowing that she had no chance if this continued, Laurel growled, letting them inside her guard before slamming bodily into the man. They rolled in the undergrowth, Laurel managing to climb on top and pinning him to the ground but not before he managed to stab her in the side. It was not a deep wound, not life threatening but painful. Before they could attack again she grabbed the assailant by the head, pinning it back and ramming her dagger through their eye up to the hilt. They struggled for a moment longer and then were still, allowing Laurel to rise unsteadily and retrieve her weapon.

Wiping her blade on the latter's clothing and returning it to its sheath, she returned to where she had left her bow and continued on without encountering any more entering her domain. For that was what the woods were and while she was in them these would-be assassins were at a severe disadvantage, as long as she didn't let them get the drop on her again. Blood oozed down her side, wetting her leather jerkin and trousers red but not impeding her movement any.

Finally she located Dalious, at the highest point of the mill with a scene of bloody havoc below him. She left the woods, loosing an arrow at a man charging on horseback at her before taking up her dagger and finishing off the few dazed warriors extricating themselves from Dalious' trap. From one of them she retrieved a quivers of arrows still in useable condition and slung it over her shoulder. Temporarily free of opponents she joined Dalious at the high ground and noched an arrow, gazing at the still numerous enemy readying themselves more cautiously down below.

"What's the next move? I've got maybe half a dozen good arrows left and then this poor excuse of a fletcher's work. There are some in the woods so we can't escape that way. Well, you couldn't anyway and I'd leave a lovely trail for them to follow with this wound."


Dalious kicked at the corpse he had just sent to the afterlife when Laurel found him again. He took off the mask and showed her, then looked down at the ones running up the hill after them. "These are boys, not fighters," he informed, taking out the last of his bandages and handing them to her. "The weapons are expertly crafted, but the skill is novice at best. They kill themselves when defeated, probably brainwashed by that one." He pointed to the leader below. "I'm going to go have a little chat with him, keep them off me."

"A boy with a dagger is just as deadly as a grown man. The suicide is a bit unnerving though." She accepted the bandages gratefully although it was hardly the time or place to start patching herself up, not will the enemy still lurked at least, so she slipped them into a pouch at her waist for later.

Nodding to Dalious, she emptied the quiver she had looted and rammed the arrows head first into the ground before her, the whole sheaf of them, and noched one of her own arrows on the string. The difference between them was like between a toy and a sword, hers made of tempered steel and almost half a foot longer than the ones these assassins used but a shortbow would struggle to release the heavy-hitting arrows she preferred.

The pirate engaged a group at the foot of the hill and she watched as he danced death amongst them, despite his injury. Despite his rough exterior and inability to emotionally engage with near enough anything, the man was a skilled warrior and she could only admire the technique with which he dispatched his enemies. Seeing one of the assassins raise a bow at the man she dropped them calmly, the force of her arrow jerking the whole corpse back down the hill. Dalious turned and gestured to her and she shook her head with a wry smile; there was something oddly charming about a man who seemed so carefree on the battlefield.


Dalious used the high ground to his advantage. While they struggled to climb toward him, he swiftly moved from side to side striking and defending. His wound flared up again and he hesitated mid fight, barely avoiding a lethal stab. He was able to knock away the weapon, then struck the attacker down. Three more ran up quickly behind him and three more just as quickly were shot down by Laurel's bow. The horseriders formed a half circle at the base of the hill in wait for him to reach the bottom.

Body after body slid back down the mud, so they took to the shacks and fired arrows. Dalious cut down two more on the hill before taking one of the corpses and holding it up as a shield. By the time he reached the horseriders the human shield was covered in arrows and Laurel was picking off the last of their archers.

Focusing, she noched another arrow, this time from the poorer stock, and began to take out assassins who had crowded onto the precarious rooftops of the shacks. The others facing Dalious seemed to have stopped and the pirate clearly gestured for her to do so too although she completed her sweep of the bow armed attackers before lowering her bow. Truth be told, she was glad for the break as her arms and shoulders were aching at the constant pull and release of her great warbow; the wound in her side was beginning to make itself felt a little more as well.

"Here I am," Dalious spoke to the leader, holding both his daggers high. "We came here to kill the men you already killed, so what's the bloody issue? Why are you fighting us?" There was a pause in the chaos and then the leader rode forward and dismounted his stallion. The others stood in watch as he then unsheathed his katana and made a stance. "Alright, you can get it too." He held his hand up to still Laurel, if she were planning on attacking.

Dalious crossed his blades and nodded from his stance, taking note of the weaknesses in the armor. "Say when." The samurai rushed in and attacked, keeping Dalious on his heels in defense. He was able to block a few strikes, but this one was more skilled then the others. The leader knocked one of his daggers away quickly and cut in with the other, mildly slicing the pirate across the waist and then reseting. Then Dalious pushed forward, but the samurai quickly read his attack and deflected his blade, while simultaneously tripping him to the ground. Raising his katana high, the samurai went for the kill but was caught by surprise when Dalious kicked him hard in the genitals. In a swift movement, the pirate picked up his fallen dagger and stuck it into the leader's throat while he hunched over. Dalious picked up the katana and looked toward the others as the armor'd man slowly died. "Your leader is dead, go home."

Another samurai with a lighter blue armor rode forward and removed his mask. His face was older and scarred, his hair dark black and tied up into a knot. His face looked expressionless as he gazed on Dalious, then upward the hill to whoever was helping him. "You and your men fight well," he spoke, his voice relaxed but commanding.

"I have no men."

"And you did not kill our leader," he continued. "Our God leads us."

"Like I said before, we came to kill the men that stayed here. There's a bounty..."

"Those men are irrelevant to our cause. They thought they would be able to join us, but their sin was too heavy. You are also irrelevant, though your skills have earned our respect. You may leave here alive, we will not pursue you further." The man put his mask back on and started to part away.

"Which kingdom do you serve?" Dalious asked.

"Death to all kingdoms," the man said, then they all rode off back into the trees beyond the hills.

Dalious watched them until they were gone from sight, then turned and looted the dead samurai. Inside one of his belt pouches he found a letter, and upon opening it up he saw that it was an invitation to the Exodus festival. Keeping the sword, he made his way back up the hill to where Laurel was.

She watched the pirate fight the supposed leader whose skill posed a challenge but Dalious had a few tricks up his sleeve, suited to a battlefield like this and certainly not accepted under duel etiquette. A brief exchange followed between the actual leader and the victorious pirate and the assailants departed, leaving behind their dead and their victims alike. She watched them go cautiously, waiting until the last of them had disappeared amongst the trees before relaxing fully, just as her partner joined her at the top of the hill.

"They're leaving us alone, but I dare say we'll see them again." He showed the invitation to her. "I think they're going to the festival, bunch of madmen. He said 'Death to all kingdoms'. All kingdoms just happen to be there, though it is no concern of mine anymore."

"Surely they can't expect a repeat of this when surrounded by skilled and prepared guards?" She gestured at the remnants of the lumberyard works below as she read the invitation Dalious had shared with her. Her immediate thoughts were for Eve's safety but she calmed herself, remembering that at least Ultfic would still be present should the strange attackers beat them back to Exodus.

"Who knows, maybe we set them straight. You gave them quite the scare, I've never fought alongside anyone with such talent. I've only one question left to ask of you...will you marry me?" He smiled in jest, which faded when he remembered that she was hurt. "Are you okay?"

She pulled up her leather jerkin, struggling to bandage herself without fully removing it, as the pirate talked. The joke took her by surprise and she threw her head back and laughed.

"Oh, pirate, we'd have some strange adventures as a married couple! I'm fine but I've been better. If we're going to run into them again I need to be in full health, maybe actually wear my damned armour as well." She struggled with the bandages for a little longer before sighing with exasperation. Holding them out toward him she grinned devilishly, an amused glint in her eye. "Care to fix me up a little?"


"My lady," he said with a nod. He began to wrap the bandage around her wound, being as careful as he could not to mess it all up. He tried to reenact what he witnessed Thyrri the healer do for him, though she probably would have yelled at him for doing it wrong.

"Final kill count, I believe I downed nine of them," he told her proudly as he finished up.

"Couldn't tell you. More than a dozen I can tell you are definitely dead. Maybe half again wounded? With an arrow in them most tend to die off anyway." She glanced down as Dalious tied the bandage up, gently amused at how careful the otherwise free spirited pirate was being. "You need to tie it tighter, no point if it doesn't put pressure on." She winced as he followed her advice but it felt more secure once he was done; she moved around a bit to make sure the bandages did not slip and that the wound itself would not impede her too much.

"Well, I only counted the lumber log spill as one but that was at least four..." he had to add in. His hand rested on her warm skin for a bit to long so he turned his attention toward one of the horses that had survived the small battle. Dalious took its reigns and offered them over to Laurel.

"At least we have two horses now, you'd make it back quicker on your own," he told her, knowing that she had duties in the city. She had people that needed her, unlike himself of which he just realized he was again homeless. "I'll only slow you down, besides, I have some heads to collect before I follow. I will find you again to give you your proper coin, I may be a pirate but I always pay my debts." Truth was, if he were with anyone else he would have ditched them and kept it all for himself. There was something about this one though, something that made him want to see her again. "Maybe I'll even join you Earthicans in rank, I am after all a free agent now. Lord knows I don't belong to Luthra anymore."

Gratefully accepting the reins of the horse, she stroke its mane and spoke to it in a low voice to calm the creature. The horses the assassins had used were clearly used to the battlefield but a sudden change in ownership often had a detrimental effect on a steed. Luckily, she had always had a deft touch with the creatures, probably in large part due to her general affiliation with the non-urbanised parts of the world and the wildlife which lived within in.

"Just be careful you don't get jumped by any they left behind. They strike me like a lot to abandon their wounded." The coin was of little importance to Laurel, even if she had forced the pirate to concede to an equal split between them; the principle of the matter and her own reputation were more serious to her. "I can't say the king would be overly welcoming of you but I'm sure I could persuade Eve to provide a place for you. The way the old man's drinking it won't be long before she's sitting on the throne as it is." Accepting help, she heaved herself up into the saddle and wrapped the reins around her hand, leaving one free to grab her dagger should anyone try to surprise her on the way back through the forest.

"Take care of yourself, Dalious. I'd like to take you for a drink some time so don't go and give any more people an excuse to kill you, aye?" She gently pressed her heels into the horse's flanks and it obeyed her happily enough, setting off at a slow pace. Laurel directed it to go around the lumberyard, lest the carnage in the centre panic the already nervous creature, and raised a hand in farewell to Dalious until she entered the treeline and could no longer make the man out.


"No amount of them could stop me from that drink, I'll give my word to that" he said and waved as she left. Then he went back down to collect some heads.
Matthias Llywelyn - Unknown

@wolverbells




Context. Something which Matthias knew from his academic career was emminently important to all things, both past, future and present. Without it, the things Natalie spoke about he would have dismissed as the ravings of a madwoman. With the facility around them, the discrete but forceful manner of his transportation here and the ever strong rumours circling in the outside world about empowered people; the madness from Natalie’s mouth was easy to accept. A natural conclusion, almost, which drew all the pieces of the weird jigsaw into place.

He sat down opposite her, clasping his hands together and sorting through it all like he might when constructing an essay or thesis. Organising the facts, aligning the contrasting arguments until a clear picture was made and he could, with certainty, decide on what be believed to be the truth and how he should act on it. That exercise helped keep him calm, it was familiar unlike everything else and kept the boiling anxiety bubbling away in his chest firmly at bay.

”I’m sorry, it seems that your stay has already been somewhat tragic. I’m regretting coming here without a fight but then, I had no way of knowing what was waiting here for me. I’m not exactly a fighter, you see.” He gestured at himself, an athletic build but not from any kind of exercise which might be useful in a combat situation, with a self-deprecating smile. ”I couldn’t tell you precisely, they drugged me before I was brought here you seee. I woke up about twenty minutes ago, I suppose? I had to leave my watch and everything else behind so it’s hard to tell for sure.”

He looked around them again, seeing the lack of any form of natural light or even hope of a window. Nor were there any clocks to be seen. The useless, pub trivia, side of his brain dredged up the facts that removal of timekeeping methods, natural light and routine management tools were all effective forms of torture. Not something that he wanted to dwell on and certainly not the sort of thing that would be useful to vocalise, especially to this already demoralised young woman.

”This thing about powers and the like, it all seems rather mad, don’t you think? I’m not suggesting you’re wrong,” he added quickly, realising that he was accidentally insuating such a thing, ”it’s just so... strange. You said Mark could read minds, like a telepath sort of thing? Have you noticed anything about yourself, then? Something that warrants bringing you here? I can’t think of anything for myself.” He bit his lip, thinking but nothing came to mind at all. They would surely be told, at some point. Possibly at this briefing they had mentioned? Otherwise there was no point bringing them all to this facility in such an extreme manner. Questions whose answers they could only find later were only like to frustrate them so Matthias moved on.

”Maybe we should talk about... other things. From your accent I’d say your American, right? I’ve been studying over here, at Yale, but I can’t say I’ve caught all the nuances between the states just yet.”
Laurel Mith


Morning came late to Laurel, overtaxed as her body was. Sunlight long past the rays of dawn she would normally wake up to streamed through the thin curtains of the room, a small breeze moving the fabric as it entered through from the slightly ajar balcony window. She felt groggy and slow, her mind dulled with every thought having to fight through a thick fog to be fully formed, and her muscles were heavy with sleep although that sensation began to lessen as she pulled herself out of bed and tottered around the room on unsteady feet.

The constant pounding that had so taxed her the day before had receded somewhat leaving a dull ache, nothing she could not deal with once she could properly awaken and that happened with a start when she realised that she was alone in the room. She strode across the room, barefoot, and swung the door in sharply, startling the two guards standing outside.

"The Princess?" She demanded, the miasma clogging her mind beginning to dissipate but still slowing her down. Sleeping too long, even with a head wound which demanded plenty of rest, had been a mistake and it would take her some time to catch up to her usual alertness.


"She was invited for a walk with Princess Valeri and accepted the offer." One of the guards spoke, glancing at Laurel's tousled hair and the clothes she had been wearing the day before, and had slept in, although he had the sense to keep his thoughts to himself. "She has two guards with her." The second man added hurriedly as Laurel glowered at the two. She stared them down for a moment although her mind was distinctly elsewhere so she did not notice their nervous shuffling. Technically they were veteran to her, Laurel's position having been an invented one for the sake of this visit but there was no denying that in terms of skill, and therefore regard, she was far above them.

"She is still in the palace, then?" Laurel asked, relaxing a little as they nodded. If Eve was still in the palace grounds then she would be safe, especially if she had guards in attendance although it was unlikely they could keep up with her if the tomboyish Princess decided she wanted to be alone. That thought made her uneasy so Laurel retreated back into the room and quickly prepared herself to leave, bathing quickly in cold water for she had no time to call for heated, and changed into fresh hunting leathers. With her bow in its rightful place strapped to her back, she swung the door back open and made to head out but the two men blocked her path, a little more resolute than they had been earlier.


"The Princess ordered us to keep you here. You'll have to wait for her return."

Sensing that the guards were more scared of the Princess', and therefore the king's, wrath, Laurel did not contest the point and headed back in with the door shut firmly behind her. She, however, had no intention of being kept locked up and crossed to the balcony window, swinging it open and looking over the edge to the ground. It was a long, possibly fatal drop, if one were to topple over the edge but easily manageable if taken carefully.

Filled with purpose, and freed from the chains of guard duty which had so unnaturally bound her, Laurel felt familiar strength returning to her body and swung herself over the balcony, dropping down so that she was hanging on by her fingertips before letting go and falling the safe distance to the ground. She naturally fell into a crouch, as if she were back in the forest hunting game, and scuttled across the long gardens to a path and, when no one was watching, leapt over it before standing tall and walking normally.

First she doubled back on herself to the gardens within the palace, giving Eve's room a wide berth lest the guards supposed to be guarding the room caught sight of her, and observed the two Princesses talking for a short while. Eve's choice of clothing surprised her, surprisingly formal for the woman and even fashionable to the extent that she did not look under dressed next to the rather seductively clothed Primfiran Princess. They seemed oddly close, having never met before to Laurel's knowledge, but she supposed that they were women in the same position and that had formed an instant bond between the two; the trials of a Princess an area which Laurel was of no use to her friend in and she was pleased to see Eve finding someone who understood those pressures. Content that Eve was safe with the other woman, Laurel left before catching much of their interaction and headed out into the city; intent on finding what had happened with the monster. It had not escaped her notice that most of those she passed wore black or some other kind of funereal clothing and there was a heavy atmosphere that pressed down on Exodus.

The site of the battle, or at least where it ended, bore few of the signs she had been expecting for the rain had washed away the detritus death inevitably left. The beast's corpse had been moved, as had the wounded and dead who had been its victims, but there were signs she could see clearly with her tracker's eye on the cobbled ground and on the walls of the buildings nearby. Claw marks, chips and shards of metal weapons, scraps of clothing that had been missed by those cleaning up the aftermath. She was not alone in travelling to the area, many coming to gaze upon the scene of so much death the previous night with those who had lost someone to the beast easy to spot out amongst the mourners.

Having seen enough, she retreated from the battle site and slipped into a tavern on the road toward the palace. Despite the early hour of the day there were plenty of patrons losing themselves in ale and wine and she did not need to spend long weaving between tables before finding what she had been looking for: a group of Earthican warriors she recognised as from the king's retinue. They spotted her and moved up to make space on a bench for her to join them before turning back to gaze into the tankards.

"That many?" She asked, waving down a passing barmaid for a drink, as she joined them. There was a nodding of heads but no one spoke. Laurel knew most of the guards who had come to Exodus, all of them having trained together at one time or another as fellow warriors, so she shared their sense of defeat despite the beast's death.


"Aye. Wasn't even one of us warriors who killed it. Some merchant." There was a general muttering until one of the others piped up. "At least it was of ours. Couldn't stomach it if one of those Primfiran lot finished it off. Prancing around it, prodding it with spears to wear it down. A coward's way to fight!" Agreement was grunted around the table although Laurel stayed quiet, sipping at her ale. Her experience told her that the Primfiran's had been right, the brave and the stupid would try to finish off such a creature in some kind of idiotic honour-bound glory hunting but to admit to such would go against all sense of an Earthican warrior's code.

"Can't believe it got Solveig." Laurel started, looking up from her drink as the others shot warning looks to the man who had spoken but he was staring into his own tankard and did not notice the glares being cast his way at the mention of Laurel's mentor. "Rammed his damned axe hard and fast into it and the monster just shook it off like it was nothing and tore his throat out. I can still hear it..." Silence descended on the table, the man looking up at the faces of those around him and realisation dawned as he met Laurel's gaze. No one spoke for a while, the natural patterns of the wooden table suddenly becoming the most interesting thing which they had ever seen.

Dead? Solveig?

An emptiness opened up in her chest, a void created by shock and loss which she was not yet ready to face. Eventually it would implode, pulling in all of those emotions and exponentially enhancing them out of her control but for now she simply could not face them so she threw back her head and downed the whole tankard of ale before flagging down a barmaid and calling for something stronger.

It was time to toast the dead, just as Solveig would have wanted.
Matthias Llywelyn - Unknown

@wolverbells




"Thank you for co-operating Mr Luwellin, it has been noted. You will find clothes in the bathroom under the sink and a set of rules to follow inside the envelope on the counter."

Whatever intercom had been used to send the brief message shut off, or they stopped listening, for no one answered Matthias' questions about where, why and what. Somewhat dejected by what his 'cooperation' had rewarded him with, he trudged to the bathroom and found the plain white scrubs under the basin and changed into them with reluctance. "It's Llywelyn, by the way. Bloody Yanks." He muttered to himself as he changed. Something told him that in this clinical, monochrome room of his that the old clothing he had been wearing would soon disappear leaving him with the characterless clothing he had been assigned. Anything of value or use had been removed from his pockets as it was, even the book that had been in his coat, leaving him with nothing of worth.

Tossing the old clothes on the bed he flicked the envelope open, removing the rules and scanned down them. They were fairly authoritarian and boiled down to 'behave and you will be rewarded' and 'more rules to follow'. A click announced that, now that he had followed the instruction given to him, he had been 'rewarded' with the freedom to leave his boxlike room. Before he did so, though, he could not help but fold the clothes he had discarded on the bed carelessly. A rebellious part of him wanted to just leave them strewn everywhere, seeing as whoever had incarcerated him would be taking them away anyway, but the heavily ingrained neat freak trait overrode this quickly and left the room more or less as he had woken to.

The facility corridors had about as much character as his room, gleaming white everywhere in an unholy state of cleanliness. Silence ruled besides the very low hum of an air conditioning unit somewhere, life apparently absent from the facility besides his own presence. For some reason he felt the need to move slowly, carefully, as if expecting traps to be sprung on him at any point although all logic told him that was foolish to expect.

Without anything to distract him, his mind inevitably turned to the thoughts he had been aggressively trying to ignore; Rhiannon and his parents. Surely there would be some message sent to them, about this whole affair? What even was all this, in the first place, he wondered. While a potentially more dangerous subject it seemed less painful to think about than the effect his disappearance might have on his close ones so he applied his mind to it fervently.

He had no real wealth, no useful or dangerous information and he was a history student so anything regarding his academic or wealth status was out. A brief memory of that morning, the one he had been abducted on, if it were even a different day for who could tell time in such a place, sprung forward and he recalled the newsreader waking him up with stories about the latest conspiracy theory. People disappearing, supposed hoax videos about empowered individuals, links to the gene testing. Pieces began to fit into place, one strange and disturbing jigsaw manifesting itself albeit with glaring holes in its composition and of a heavily blurred image to boot.

So successfully had he distracted himself that Matthias had not even noticed his surroundings changing as he entered a wider, open area filled with tables that looked like they would belong in a school. Or a prison. Strange, his wandering mind thought, how there were so many similarities between institutions for education and for the imprisonment of criminals, albeit to varying degrees of extremity. Of greater interest to him, though, was the presence of the first person he had seen in the facility beside his own image in the small mirror of his shower room.

"So I'm not alone here. Are you... staff?" He asked, approaching somewhat hesitantly. The woman looked too... imprisoned to be a worker. Her scrubs were like his and she had an air of defeat hanging over her; presumably at her confinement here. Matthias supposed he had the same aura around himself. "I guess not, sorry. I'm Matthias. Do you, per chance, happen to know what on earth is going on here?"
About a week later...
Matthias Llywelyn - New Haven, Connecticut




"...This new theory seems to be dwarfing all those other conspiracies before it. Crop circles, alien landings in the Nevada desert, 9/11 not being a terrorist attack. Unusually this new theory seems to be gaining traction from different groups and not just the usual hardcore fanatics and some are claiming they know people who were 'Gifted' and disappeared..."

It was one of Matthias' habits to lie in bed and listen to the morning news for a while before getting out, the alarm always timed for a good twenty minutes before he needed to truly think about starting the day. Of course he was used to the British Broadcasting Corporation's Radio 2 Breakfast Show with Chris Evans but ever since he had moved to the states the timing had been wrong. Someone had once set up his laptop so that it would play the catch-up version via a VPN so he could still keep that routine but then daylight saving had kicked in and thrown everything out the window. Now he ended up getting one of the really early morning shows which was usually pre-recorded or hosted by a DJ who had never quite made it. The news was still the same, though, although the reader always sounded a little dejected at doing the early shift.

"...police say that the 'sources' often cited are merely missing persons reports and that the theorists are taking advantage of unhappy events to spread wild speculation unhelpful to peacekeeping activities. They urge the public to ignore the 'wild' stories circling online and only call the emergency line in extreme circumstances. And now the weather..."

His second alarm, an incessant beeping from his phone on the other side of his small bedroom and seconded moments later by the FitBit vibrating aggressively on his wrist, called an end to this particular news cycle and Matthias pulled himself up and out of bed. After showering he sat down to a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal while cycling through news sites on tablet propped up against the fruit bowl in the middle of his small table. It was a bad habit for him, Matthias knew, to be so plugged into current affairs all the time as it often made him feel stressed and anxious, what with every story on the front page shades away from being apocalyptic, but he told himself it was important to know what was going on in the world, especially as a historian who was experiencing contemporary events.

A message from Rhian popped up on his phone, delayed so that it would not send in the middle of his night, drawing his attention away from the depressing reel of tragedies journalists were compelled to report on. It was just a short, standard 'good morning', the type she would send without fail every day to him along with a corresponding one just before he went to sleep. The woman never missed anything and once she had a habit she would stick it to like no one else could.

He smiled gratefully, sending a reply back which would not disturb her sleep despite the early hour back in the UK for she also had her phone switched off at night so as not to disturb her REM cycles, at least according to she had told him. Those small communications, along with their regular catch-ups via video chat, were key to calming those voices in the back of his head screaming that a long distance relationship was impossible. Had those of his friends not all failed, even if with varying timescales involved? Sure, one or two had been down to his friends' own discretions and he had promptly severed ties with such foolish people but such reasoning was useless in the face of paranoia.

The morning rolled on in usual fashion and he left his small apartment, heading to his usual morning haunt for another cup of tea with a fresh book in his coat pocket.


~~~~~~


"Morning Matt."

"Good morning, Brian. Just my usual please." Brian nodded and set about brewing Matthias' tea, humming something to himself. The cafe was empty except for the two of them, the tables freshly cleaned and there was no sign of the usual morning crowd who found their way to the venue in the early hours. Matthias enquired about the oddity but Brian merely shrugged and said he would bring the drink over when it was ready.

The news that morning began to run through Matthias' head and he had to shake himself mentally to be freed of the suspicions weighing down on him. What would Rhian say if he were to fall prey to this newest of conspiracy theories? Without proof she believed in nothing and would dismiss it all as qualitative nonsense.


"Eve's not here, didn't want none of it she said."

Matthias looked up, startled from his reverie as Brian placed the tray on the table and carefully moved the small teapot, jug with milk and teacup in turn onto the surface before tucking the tray under his arm and heading back to the counter.

"None of..." Matthias started but Brian was already back at the counter, putting the tray down, and then walked out through the staff door behind it leaving the research student alone in the cafe, steam rising steadily from the teapot in front of him. The paranoia was beginning to feel more justified by the second and flared rapidly as a small team of men in matching suits pushed their way into the tearoom, the final one turning the 'open' side round as the door shut.

"I... don't suppose I can have my tea first?"


An unknown location




The room came into focus slowly, his mind feeling slow and groggy similar to the most intense hangover he had ever felt the day after his Master's degree graduation ceremony. Except that he had had no alcohol this time and the feeling passed quickly, memories speeding back to him and bringing him back to alertness rapidly.

Sitting up he looked around the room. It was spartan to say the least, no apparent furniture beyond the semi-comfortable bed upon which he had been asleep and two doors leading out. He soon found out that one of them did not open while the other led into a small shower room, just big enough for him to stand in either at the basin or under shower head but with every wall in touching distance from the centre. Everything was a clinical white colour and looked plastic or metal, like the most extreme of hospitals but at least the lighting was dimmer than one might have expected; the stereotypical facility of this apparent type usually possessing unbearably bright overhead lights which only accentuated the whiteness of the surroundings.

He returned to the bed, sorting through his memories. Brian being a little distant, the empty cafe, the men crowding in and closing the shop. They had, indeed, allowed him to have his tea before commanding him to consume a small pill with the ultimatum that either he eat it and, in doing so, incapacitate himself or else the men would see to it that the same effect was reached far less comfortably. Matthias was hardly a fighter, he had barely been in a pub brawl, and so has consumed the pill without any other available way out apparent.

Did they know that he was British, he wondered? Should he mention it, demand to be taken to an embassy? Such a line was unlikely to change the actions of these people, he sensed, but perhaps it would be worth a go. Without any other plan of action coming to mind he strode across the room and tried to open the door but it was still locked. Somewhat dejected, with fear rising steadily at his incarceration without explanation, he retreated to the bed and lay down and lost himself in staring at the unbearably white ceiling for what else was there to do? The last thing he wanted to do was think about his family, friends, Rhiannon or his life; that way lay a spiral of true panic and so he proceeded to try and find intense interest in the most bland thing he had ever seen.
Matthias Llywelyn - New Haven, Connecticut




With a satisfied sigh, Matthias closed Siege of Heaven and placed it on the table, mulling over the experience. A favourite, final stage, of reading historical novels for him was to read through the historical notes at the rear and then pursue the sources used. Of course, not all such fiction contained such a section but he spurned them; if the writer could not be bothered to list their research then obviously they had not done enough and might as well be placed into the fantasy section, for all the accuracy it purported to claim.

A glance at his watch, an old and simple thing with an analogue face which he had picked up from a small store in Salisbury just before starting sixth form, told him that it was already early afternoon. Quite without realising it, he had been drawn into the respectable and academic prose of Harper and lost much of his day. It was unusual for him to lose track in such a way but also a pleasant surprise. How long had it been since he had been so preoccupied with a tale?

A server wandered between the tables, collecting the leftovers of customers' visits. Clearly she spotted Matthias preparing to leave as he stood up, slipping the book into the large inside pocket of his coat, and so steered toward him. After a moment he recalled her name, having frequented the cafe often enough to know all of the staff to a reasonable extent, certainly to the point that he would be politely expected to know their names and exchange small talk.

"Good afternoon, Eve. I'm sorry, I got somewhat caught up in my book." He tapped the pocket his book was in. "You should have told me get another drink or kick me out." He smiled and she laughed politely at his poor joke, piling his crockery onto her tray.


"S'alright Matt. You know it's only just gone eleven though, right?"

Matt glanced again at his watch, wondering whether he had just misread it but the hands definitely declared it was past two in the afternoon. He tapped it, not really knowing why other than that he had seen those far more knowledgeable than himself on the inner workings of the device do so, and held it up to his ear but the cogs instead were audibly ticking and the hands both moving in response. After a quick check of his phone, to see if Eve was just pulling his leg, he saw a discrepancy with the digital side favouring the waitress.

"Strange, looks like my watch is out. In that case, good morning to you and goodbye. Are you in tomorrow?" She nodded as he moved past her toward the door. "I'll see you in the morning as usual then!" He waved, both to her and Brian behind the counter who returned the gesture, and headed outside into the much brisker weather. It was refreshing after the ever so slightly muggy warmth of the cafe, heated as it was by central heating, bodies and vaporising hot beverages, and he set off toward the campus.

As he began to walk he fiddled with his watch, turning the hands back carefully to match the display on his phone, automatically set to adjust to daylight savings and keep time perfectly with its ever present connection to the internet. The strange thing was he sure that the watch had been working earlier, certainly after the much earlier two o'clock in the morning. Assuming that he had knocked it, Matthias thought nothing more of it, his mind already turning back to the book and looking forward to poring over the historical notes and any suggested reading therein.
@Clever Hans

Looks great, we're both happy with it.

Just one note: no one is aware of the Gifted just yet (beyond really vague rumours/conspiracy theories) so that small bit needs editing but otherwise it's all good and ready to go.
Gifted Tempest



"Behind me you can see people leaving the clinic. These are the first patients to have undergone genetic testing for the relaunched Human Genome Project. We will catch up with some of them later on their thoughts on this mandatory testing, possibly the first ever international collaboration of its type."

As the reporter continues, hood pulled up against the blustery Autumn weather, the line entering the clinic grows ever longer with those trying to get this legally required task out of the way before they must head to work. Most are dressed in suits or carry briefcases and are by themselves, expensive watches on their wrists a source of frequent but brief moments of attention as the queue moves forward slowly. Some have come prepared with books or newspapers in their hands although many more scroll through their much more portable phones, idling the wait away.

Few seem much interested in the reasoning behind the requirement for them to be tested, shrugging and muttering about the inconvenience of it. A minority express equally informed and uninformed opinions but they are apart from the small protesting groups who have formed up outside near every medicinal outlet, trying to shout each other down over whether the testing is a scientific boon or an intrusive and unproven authoritarian move by the government. The queue ignores the passionate argument, shuffling forwards slowly into the clinic.





Matthias Llywelyn - New Haven, Connecticut




It was late morning by the time Matthias finally made his way down to his nearest clinic, following instructions on the email he had been sent. A letter had arrived the day before as well, reminding him of his requirement to attend with the same information on the digital version he was now reading; that had arrived early in the morning, 07:00 sharp which probably contravened some data protection laws but the governments of the world seem little concerned about such a thing. All that mattered was this genome mapping.

Science of any kind was not Matthias' strong suit, being a Master of Arts, that art specifically being medieval history; still, he had read around a little and asked Rhiannon to fill in the blanks for him. She had a way of explaining the complex theory to an amateur like him which made it understandable, if somewhat simplistic. What he had taken from it, at least, was that this whole testing could help make most any treatment that much more accurate, specifically with regards to cancers, and that it was all built on the basis of an old project which had ended in 2003. Beyond that it had become too complex for him to follow, not that he had much interest in the first place so he hardly applied his academic prowess to the matter; Rhian had said it was a good thing so he had just gone with it.

The queue had gone down considerably since the morning news report he had watched although it still took him nearly half an hour to get inside. There were mostly other students from Yale around him although plenty of locals from New Haven had come too, sole parents with their children in tow while their partner was at work and the elderly. He had come prepared for a long wait, his latest novel on the go open in his hand as he shuffled forwards with the rest of the queue. Siege of Heaven by Tom Harper, an interesting and somewhat heavy read in the historical fiction genre. Matthias liked to read such books in his downtime, testing his own knowledge and the interpretation of the author and enjoying successful identification of inaccuracies although Harper, being an Oxford graduate, was proving a tough challenger. So much so that Matthias was reading this book, the second in the series, and finding few enough problematic alterations that he could properly immerse himself in the tale.

His turn came and he marked his page with a bookmark, a leather one Rhian had sent him from a gift store in Cardiff dyed blue with a gold design of the waterfront on it, before stuffing it into one of the near-bottomless pockets of his winter coat. One of the buttons was looking a little lose on the front and he made a mental note to re-sew it when he got back, lest it pop off and he lose it altogether. It had been his grandfather's, probably an antique if clothing could truly be called such a thing, and he had yet to find anything of its kind that fit him so well without an excessive price tag attached.

He was invited into a small room, nothing particularly different to a General Practitioner's office from back home in Wales, which housed a bed, desk and office chair and two guest chairs with a sink in one corner and plenty of informative posters plastered to the walls. It was supposed to appear homely and it was certainly more welcoming than a clinical hospital environment, with its bright lights and constant underlying scent of bleach, but there was no getting away from the fact that the room had a certain businesslike aura to it. The nurse, a young clean-shaven man in plain blue scrubs who named himself as Carl, efficiently took some blood from Matthias' right arm all the while engaging him in friendly conversation.

"I read they preferred sperm to blood from men for this test." It was a bad habit of his, to spout often strange and uncomfortable information, but medical procedures always made him nervous and it helped to keep him calm. Carl laughed, explaining that the tests had come on along way in the nearly two decades since the end of the original project and it was the white blood cells they were really after so blood was the easiest to use. After a few standard questions Matthias was dismissed and he left the clinic quickly, not wanting to dally in a place that made him feel awkward at the best of times, and headed for his favourite cafe shop a few blocks down. It was one of the few in New Haven which served tea, brewed in the British fashion, and so it had become somewhat of a third home, outside of the university library and his actual abode.

He settled down with his drink and a small slice of chocolate cake, Carl's recommendation of a caffeinated drink and something sugary to make up for the small blood loss something Matthias was all too keen to take advantage of.
Erasmi Andora

@Raylah@Aamaya@Haeo


It was with his usual coldness that Erasmi watched eventual defeat of the monster with. Although he had no intention of Primfira being the ones to take the beast's head, such a goal would have resulted in the same casualties the other kingdoms had suffered, it still irked a less cautious and more prideful part of his heart that an Earthican was the one to take the glory. That was what being a king was, though; personal or even national glory was of no import if the path to its attainment was littered with the corpses of his people.

He forced a cool smile as he approached the Earthican warrior who had dealt the final blow while his men set about tending to the wounded and arranging the dead more respectfully. While their king had given no order these men and women knew what to do; at no time should they be simply standing and waiting for him to direct them for there was always a task to be done and those who stood and watched the world go by were not survivors. The Andorian people were the ultimate survivors and they had learned their craft the hard way.

"Congratulations, warrior. You have gained yourself great honour today." He looked the man up and down, noting his attire to be different to that of the other Earthican warriors he had seen earlier in the day. For that matter, this man was unknown to him and Erasmi had made a habit of memorising every face he saw, no matter how fleetingly; there was no way the victor had been in the royal entourage. "Alas, that it be at the cost of so many lives. It would seem that the Exodus warriors were ill-prepared to deal with such a threat. They are far from the places these creatures dwell, after all." He was gazing down at the headless corpse of the beast, the blood oozing from its stump of a neck slowing to a trickle even with the rain pouring down upon them.

Turning away from the unknown man, Erasmi spotted the other, more important, Freyjan Princess heading their way with guards positioned on either side of her. She was dressed as if for bed and, despite himself, the Primfiran king found her resolve admirable as she stepped forwards to take in the source of so much death. With barely a pause she ordered the Earthican to be brought to her, presumably for a suitable favour, and then swept away with commands for healers and others to deal with the scene. She was, if nothing else, a natural born ruler, more so than her parents in Erasmi's mind.

"If you find yourself without patronage, come and visit me. I make it my habit to employ useful people, regardless of their origin." With those final words to the the Earthican, Erasmi swept away, ordering two of his men to accompany him while the rest remained to sort out the carnage; he would not let it be said the Primfirans left as soon as the battle was done.

He returned to his rooms without further incident, his mind churning with ideas and questions. The latter were things that bothered him, he did not like not knowing the answers but time would soon tell; by daybreak word would have spread about the battle in the night and of the Earthican who had slain the beast, soon to be presented to the Princess. At that time he would find out who the man was and if there were anything more to him than what Erasmi had already seen.

With no further matters pressing, the king turned in for the night. He was pleased with the first day's events but it would be the days ahead which would truly entertain him.
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