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Magdalene did her best to shrink and remain quiet for the duration of the audience. She stood towards the back of the group, as if hoping to hide from the view of the queen; Not at all difficult, given her lacking height. She felt that if she were called upon the best she could manage was a choking stutter. She did not like standing before officials; Especially not the queen of a magical nation who could and wouldn't hesitate to toss anyone who made a scene plummeting to their deaths. As everyone else listed off their own reasons for undertaking this mission -- One that, they still hadn't actually heard of, Magdalene dreaded and worked up courage to state her own goal.

"I want-- To live here. Away from... Dead-- The 'Lower Realms', you said," Magdalene somehow managed to murmur out, letting the conversation quickly eject her afterwards.

Once the group stated their purpose, the Queen finally relayed their quest. At first it sounded simple enough; She wanted them as explorers of sorts, finding ancient information and lore of the world below, hopefully dredging up it's long forgotten history. Their journey would require them to travel across the breadth of Deadwood, but should they succeed, then their desire's would be satisfied. Except, Magdalene knew to read the fine print when it came to accepting a job. The whole deal sounded a bit unfair to them, and nobody else seemed to question the actual job itself. Finding herself inching closer towards the large stone golem for security, Magdalene mustered up the courage to actually talk back to the queen.

"N-Now, hang on, hang on... I uh... That... This mission sounds... a bit fixed against us. We're just-- You want us to travel all across Deadwood, including... New Kaimeria," Magdalene felt a bit too much malice slip into her voice, "and the Desolation? So we can look around for old books and information which might actually exist... Until we find whatever you call to be enough? Wh-Wh-W-What actual insurance can you give that we won't just be wandering around until we fall dead?"

Once she finished voicing her concerns, Magdalene felt dread coil up and rest in the bottom of her stomach, as she called the full attention of the queen to herself.

Magdalene did her best to keep her composure as the losing battlefield quickly devolved into hell. No matter how hard they fought, regardless of the she managed to fire, everything just got worse. More of the Bone Clansmen swarmed in, the tent became more and more tattered, the sandstorm worsened on them... It took more effort just keeping calm than actually fighting these damned raiders...

The whole experience was painfully familiar to the Band of Wolves' final night; Superior armed opponents pouring through the camp, cutting down anyone and everyone. Their own bows and clubs laughably useless compared to seasoned warriors. Only this time it was much worse; The sandstorm threatened to rip the skin off their bones at this point, and they could call themselves lucky if a single one of them survived.

Then, suddenly, a ring of fire roared as it surrounded the group. Shortly after, the tent fell over, the full brunt of the sandstorm now flooding into the tent. Following her old trusted survival tactic, Magdalene hit the ground, pulling up her hood over her head and closing her eyes. Between acting like a corpse and hiding behind a small flipped over group of furniture, she'd be completely overlooked. Her best hope at the moment was that the Clansmen would finally flee and let the sandstorm finish off their group of travelers. She didn't actually expect making it out of this situation alive.

She didn't see the light that enveloped the group, and mistook it's warmth as the desert. She did, however, feel the coarse sand and dirt give way to smooth and cool stone, and heard the cacophonic carnage grind to a halt. Magdalene raised herself up on her knees, her entire body still quivering, and looked around. They'd left the ruined and ravaged tent of the camp below, and were now in a courtyard, surrounded by knights and robed figures of various sizes and build. The air was no longer blistering and full of dust particles, but instead clean and refreshing, allowing Magdalene some fresh air.

Upon registering that they were now safe and still alive in Exusia, Magdalene fell backwards, collapsing back onto the courtyard's expertly-cut tiles, letting out a long and rough groan of relief as she gazed up at the blue cloudless sky above. She could've even started to cry in joy at the sheer miracle that rescued them. But, they had a job at hand. One of the knights stood forward and, repeating the same terms as the now-dead delegate below, ordered them to drop their weapons and magical tools, before their audience with the Queen.

Despite her initial protest the first time, Magdalene had no arguments this time. After the ordeal she just endured, she had no privilege of withholding her weapons, especially not when the hospitality of Exusia was the only thing saving them from the savage raid of the Bone Clans below. Sitting herself up, she realized she was still clutching her crossbow, even after dropping to the ground and being teleported leagues into the sky. One of the knights walked towards her, and she handed it over to him. Reaching into her pouch, she handed over her knife as well. Confused for a moment, she looked down at Poe;

"I Don't... suppose my bird counts as a weapon?" Magdalene asked the knight as she stood up properly, her voice still hoarse and shaky. She held up Poe on her palm. The black bird flapped their wings and pecked at their feathers, flinging off what remained of the sand.

Acting on pure reflex, Magdalene immediately stood up as the clansmen tore into the tent and barged in, immediately cutting down the delegate, even as she unleashed impressive sorcery to inflict death and rot upon one of them. Although muffled, she could hear the sounds of carnage outside, the entire camp apparently being assaulted. The warriors in the meeting immediately retaliated, drawing steel and engaging with the desert raiders. She'd created a decent 'nest' of sorts, one where she could duck her head down and avoid any attention. Her hands shaking, she quickly drew out her crossbow. She pulled a bolt for it from her quiver, yet dropped it attempting to load it in. Not made better was her hand fidgeting and twitching, barely managing to pick it back up.

Calm down, Maggie, just calm down, she repeated to herself over and over in her head.

What the hell was she even doing here? They were already dead, there's no way this camp can fight off an entire raid. She saw another girl lift up one of the flaps and roll outside. For a moment Magdalene was tempted to follow her, then remembered that not only was the entire camp being attacked, which would've only exposed her to the rest of the clansmen, but they were right in the middle of a sandstorm. Even if she didn't get her gut cut open she'd have to survive the elements. No, her best chance was to dig in and weather it out. Who knows, maybe Exusia would've lent some aid?

Finally steeling her nerves, Magdalene picked up her arrow, managing to notch it in properly this time, and raised her crossbow. The fight in the tent was pure chaos, friend and foe alike dancing about, slashing and dodging, making it difficult for her already-shaking hands to steady a shot on one of the Clansmen.

Artur, the aged mercenary who yelled the call to arms when the battle began, yelped as they were knocked to the ground and dropped their weapon. Though they managed to knock down and gut their opponent, a few other raiders closed in, hoping for a few free kicks to him. Thankfully, Artur's own misfortune made Magdalene's own job much easier, as the congregation of clansmen gave Magdalene an easier shot; Even if the bolt missed, it could still find a home in one of the other opponents, now that they got into a large bunch together.

Magdalene took a deep breath, before letting loose her shot. Pulling the lever, her crossbow flung the arrow through the air, soaring a short distance. As her crossbow released the loud twang! sound, one of the raiders started turning their head up to look at the source. In that split second, however, the arrow landed right in his eye, or at the very least his tearduct. They screamed and clutched at their face, dropping their weapon and stumbling backwards, knocking over another Clansman behind him. Once the high of a remarkable shot wore off of Magdalene, she quickly fiddled out another bolt, and began hastily reloading her crossbow for another go.

Magdalene snapped out of her hateful glaring as the delegate shouted, finally calling order and attention to the room. Magdalene blinked a few times as she returned to the rest of the tent, seeing as everyone else finally simmered down and started listening. As she regained her senses, she realized the horse had walked off of her, giving her some breathing room, and their handler-- Sjalvolki, she think he said? Was holding a bag out to her. Magdalene picked up the scent of apricots and sugars coming from it. She would've politely declined or questioned his altruism, but she was focused on listening to the delegate. So she accepted his gift, taking the bag and quickly muttering out "Thanks" as she leaned to the side to get a better look at the delegate past the elf.

"She wants to meet all of you in person to discuss the terms of the deal... which means that you will be teleported up into Exusia. However, when you get up there, we will relinquish any weaponry or any materials you can use to cast a spell until your time there is up. Is everyone okay with that? These terms cannot be negotiated."

The rest of the tent muttered among themselves, mostly shrugging and nodding as they accepted their terms. But nothing sat right about this whole situation to her; Surrender your weapons, let yourself get teleported to an island leagues above the ground? Nothing about that sat right with Magdalene. Obviously Exusia wasn't quite the place people came back to talk about; What if the whole "mission" they were summoned for was a sham, and they just wanted a fresh batch of slaves to toss into chains, or worse? At the same time, she couldn't just easily up and leave either. She'd come too far out here and was hitching too much on this expedition. At the very least, she could voice her own concerns.

Struggling for some courage, Magdalene stood herself up and began clearing her throat, which sounded more like coughing.

"H-Hang on. Excuse me? 'Tisa' you said? I got a question; What evidence do we have that we can trust you, going straight into a city in the sky, unarmed, and surrounded by sorcerers?" She asked, her voice sounding unsteady and shaky at having to make a scene for herself to be properly heard.

Magdalene thought the most difficult part of her journey into the Bone Sea was walking through the sands. Now she saw that the greatest trial was actually sitting and waiting in the most comfortable room in the entire damned desert. As more and more people filled in, the meeting tent gradually grew louder and more rowdy. At first she was able to tolerate the redheaded woman who bickered about every minor and irrelevant adjustment to a map they planned their route on, that was acceptable planning. Then a man, creeping around the room ever so slowly, finally seated himself behind her, only to begin quietly singing,

"I don't want no Orthosi shilling, I don't want to be cut down. I'd sooner be willing to make me'self a killing, living off the the Ladies of the Town...", The man sang, bordering on practically muttering. His quiet, half-effort words buzzed against her ears, irritating Magdalene as she sat in silence.

Then, making matters even more difficult, another man came, bringing in a goddamn horse with him, deciding the best of all places was right where Magdalene was sitting. She leaned over in her seat as the beast was led practically right over her table, concerned that the beast of burden might absently try to start munching on Poe.

“Hope you don’t mind my friend here," The horse's guide began, "I just have some trust-issues with people coming near my horse...So, what’s your name?”

They had extremely fidgety motions as they stood over Magdalene, a nervousness that betrayed the calm and articulate tone of their voice. An elf, probably? Magdalene had few encounters with elvenkind, but his tall grace and loose motions gave her hint to the rumors they heard. Quickly glancing at the horseback stranger, she managed to spot elongated ears on either side of his head, confirming her prediction. Seeing as she already made a short gaze with the stranger, she saw had no choice but to answer his question.

"Just... Call me Maggie, I guess," she answered, before turning her head back forward, averting further eye contact. Though he kept a stoic face, his eyes were just as anxious as the rest of his body language. Something else about his face got her the wrong way, too. Almost too wooden and forced.

Then, as if the meeting couldn't get any less formal, a goddamned bug-person walked in. Maggie heard even less of the... Gee-Sin-Yee? Than elves, let alone that one would be willing to go on such a dangerous expedition. As soon as they entered, they started making a dreadful noise, almost like it was... Chuckling? It's strange, mad chuckles continued as they pulled out a book and started scribbling down in it, gazing about the room. Soon after another man came in, towering beneath his robes and wide-brimmed hat, wielding a massive axe. Once they got seated, they looked over to the bugman, and, strangely enough, began to join them. Great, now there was a horse in her face and two laughing idiots. Making things even worse, a giant made of stone ducked their head under the doorway as they entered the tent, and then the room felt so much smaller, as their awkward walking knocked aside several pieces of furniture in their way. At this point in time, Magdalene felt outright uneasy, burrowed on all sides by stress of the situation. She shrank herself down even further, practically hiding behind her neatly folded arms, desperately hoping that the delegate would get everyone to sit down and shut up already.

Already drained of any energy before their expedition even began, Magdalene hit a breaking point when a gods-be-damned Kaimerian had the unholy gall to walk right in the tent. Despite trying not to make eye contact with anyone or anything, she immediately recognized when they entered the tent, despite being practically buried in furs and wearing a skull-helmet. Perhaps it was the iconic pair of horns, or it may have been Magdalene's own tug of an ancient yet warmly familiar terror rooting itself into a knot in her stomach. The room started to get hot and humid, even moreso than the desert she just crossed. Magdalene could just barely taste the scent of burning wood in the air. She clenched her hands into impenetrable fists, yet her instinct to get up and make a scene was dulled after years of living as a woodswoman and robber. Instead, she just sat there, glaring directly at the Kaimerian the entire time, growing deaf to the rest of the chaos in the circus tent.

Magdalene hated the Bone Sea.

The sun constantly stabbed you in the eyes, The sandstorms raked you in the eyes, the Bone Clans were hostile and probably wanted to do something with your eyes. It's hotter than the bowels of hell, water becomes an even more precious resource thanks to how dry it is; It's no small wonder the place is filled with so many dried bones. Magdalene didn't understand how the hell anyone made a living out there. She'd only ventured into the region twice in her whole life; Once out of bored curiosity, which she quickly regretted. The second time she traveled to Alphos searching for work; Again, quickly regretted. The whole place seemed like the Gods were determined to one-up the utter shithole the rest of the land was. Hopefully they're right about the third time being the charm.

Magdalene followed along the open road as well as she could, using her burlap hood to provide decent protection against the oppression of the sun above. She walked awkwardly, her head angled down to barely see a few feet in front of her, lest she go blind from the sands shining sunlight right back into her eyes. She had to trust entirely in Poe to start squawking if any beasts or opportunistic clansmen rose over the horizon.

Before Magdalene even realized it, she'd ended up joining a band of travelers along the same path as her. She panicked for a moment, then identified most of them as northerners like herself, wielding steel weapons, some of them riding horsebacks. At the very least, she was still on schedule. She walked towards the center of the caravan, yet remained a safe distance from any of them. Just in case some beast burst out of the sands and took a pick out of them, she wouldn't be the first to go. Among the travelers she noticed a giant of a woman using a spear as a walking stick, and a well-armored man atop horseback. At the very least, their group wouldn't be easy pickings.

Eventually, the sunlight began to dim. Magdalene turned up her head, only to turn it back down as a flurry of dust blew by, her relief turning into a worse ordeal as the minor dust storm flew by. If anything, the whole ordeal only steeled her resolve for the journey ahead. Once it was all said and done she'd get passage into Exusia, and never have to deal with days of travel and discomfort like this again.

She noticed a camp out on the horizon, just beneath the fabled flying city, which she barely managed to catch a glimpse of through her hood. Honestly expected it to be bigger, but the obscured sight alone was mesmerizing and brought her to a brief stop, before pulling herself together and continuing.

As their loose little caravan reached the encampment, they gradually squeezed together into a line. The Guards weren't just letting anyone in, it seemed. Once Magdalene reached the front, the guards once again crossed their spears just after letting the last traveler in. After fumbling through her bag for a moment, she pulled out the poster that summoned adventurers in the first place, crumpled and slightly wet. The soldiers parted, letting her through and instructing her to head straight to the camp center. Magdalene felt nervous as she walked through the center of the camp, practically a military base, well-armed soldiers glancing at her as she kept her head down, the sight of armored men being far too uncomfortable a memory for her.

She entered the center of the camp, her eyes finally readjusting to the dim light of the interior structure. The building was circular in shape, in the center of the room stood two women, one pointing at a map and practically lecturing the other on various landmarks. Magdalene glanced around the room, seeing several others already gathered and seated. Worldlessly, Magdalene seated herself in one of the further corners of the building, shrinking down in her seat as the room began to fill before the meeting eventually got started.
Fuck it, take two humans.

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