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2 yrs ago
Current Welcome to Lemons' fourth year on RPGuild. PRAISE BE!
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2 yrs ago
They will look for him from the white tower...but he will not return, from mountains or from sea...
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2 yrs ago
RIDE WITH ME, MY FRIENDS! WE DO NOT STOP 'TIL VALHALLA!
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3 yrs ago
Thirty four.
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3 yrs ago
Never eat the lemons alone. My friend? He at the lemons alone. I had to put him down once he started to salivate.

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Etoile


---


"Bah, if only you were all trained soldiers. I suppose I have to lay it out for you." She began pacing, hands held behind her back as she spoke. Her voice, while of course slightly vexed as usual, was calm, collected. She was in her element here, and almost wanted someone to interrupt so she could put them in their place.

"Our main advantage in this situation, such as it is, is that we know this mysterious magi's motivations. Twisting birds and krovar like that and using them to attack a land barge is a fairly clear-cut message: "I don't care about morality." And once we determine that morality is out the window, the motive presents itself." She stopped pacing and paused (perhaps for dramatic effect, though she would never admit it). "Power. Whatever this magi wants--vengeance somehow, sacrifices, solitude--all of it circles back around to them wanting to acquire power. Power over other life forms, power to attack the Imperium, power to kill a lot more people than are on a single land barge. And the great thing about knowing someone is motivated by power and only power is that they start to add predictably: acquire. More. Power. And so, my suggestion is simple: we give them what they want."

She pointed her sheathed sabre at Pythia's sword. "Whatever enchantments are on that thing, there are a lot of them. It's by far the most powerful thing that we have on us, and lest we forget," she motioned off in the vague direction of the barge, "we're running out of time. So, in plain terms: we put your sword down in the forest. We let the insane magi or a servant thereof take the sword. Then, depending on whether the magi or a servant, we either do a basic ambush or tail them until they lead us straight to their master." As she continued speaking, her voice began to grow louder, a touch less under control. As much as she wanted to project the air of being the calm strategist, this magi had made it personal once she'd ripped Etoile's thigh up. There was a grudge there now, and she relished the thought of popping an insane magi's head straight off.

"And then, once we have them where we want them, we go in for the kill, break the nexus of the circle, end the enchantment, and the Eoldysseus starts to move again. No matter how powerful they are, an ambush will catch them off guard, and there are enough of us that it would very difficult to mount an immediate counterattack as long as we're all operating under a relatively similar time frame. Simple." She thrust the sheathed sword down to the ground point-first with a sharp clacking sound, first directing an armor-piercing look at Pythia, then panning her head around to take in all of the different magi that she'd found herself working with. "Any questions?"

Etoile


---


Etoile took a deeeeep breath as Zestasia continued...being Zestasia, and Pythia went off on him. She rolled her eyes. "Sparky, settle down. If he wants to eat it, let him. It can't make him any dumber. Maybe he'll die, but I mean...that's probably going to make him smarter, honestly." She stabbed her finger down on the center of the diagram. "I was never very good at finding magic other than mine; I used to have other people to do that for me. I'm a bit too rigid with magic to let it flow right. I rather like the idea of drawing the magi out, but we need something valuable and important."

She started looking around the group, looking for something that would be important enough: Nothing on Clara, mostly just clothes and traveling supplies. Same goes for Zestasia. I don't know enough about Lazulin to say if he has anything...and I don't know how much I actually trust him. Pagonia and Sparky have those swords. That's something. I wonder...

She stood up, walking over to Pagonia and poking at the sword. She wasn't particularly good at tracking magic, but she could still generally feel it. There was a spark from the sword as the touched it, but not a big one. There was some magic, to be sure, but she didn't know if the sword itself was magic, or rather if there had been enough magic used on the sword to give it some ambient stuff on its own.

Then she touched Pythia's sword, and swore a bit. There was...a lot of magic in the sword. She couldn't quite tell what kind of magic--she sighed at her lack of knowledge in this kind of stuff, despite how learned she was in magical structure and theory--but it was absolutely LAYERED with enchantments. She stepped back, giving Pythia a look. "Hey, Sparky. How willing are you to put that sword up for a minute?"

Etoile


---


"Really now?" bit out Etoile caustically. "What on Vitae might have given you that idea, Sparky? Was it the murderous krovar? Or the murderous birds? Or perhaps the very specifically-aligned antimagic zone positioned along the tracks we were running on? An insane magi! What a novel idea!"

Now that she'd gotten that out of the way--honestly, do these people ever think before they speak?--she wore a more serious frown than the mocking one on her face a moment before. "Now then, if we're done spitting obvious truths, let's see if we can't find this magi. I've much to pay them back for. This whole land-barge thing was already uncomfortable enough. Making it even more so deserves a special kind of punishment."

She picked a stick up, carving a furrow in the ground with it in the shape of a heptagon, with a large circle inscribed at each angle thereof. "Now, I know this might be difficult for the less...scholastically inclined of you--" she shot a look at Zestasia, "--but ether has a tendency to like the number seven a lot. If I had to guess, for something this elaborate, there would be seven different foci forming the incantation." She used the stick as a makeshift pointer to indicate the seven points at the angles of the shape. "We break the foci, we break the incantation, and the Eoldysseus starts moving again." She chewed her lip for a moment. "Still, even in that best-case situation, we still have a maleficarum on the loose. I'd love to know where to find them, but they could be anywhere out here." She cast her hands out to the wood, then turned back to the group. "So, any suggestions?"
The Snake And The Dragon

Lemons, Morty
---
Nighttime, 17th of Sun’s Height

Gaius was sweating and red in the face from dancing by the time he finally broke away from the dense crowd in the town square, walking with a tipsy weave away from the press of people. Looking up at the stars, he realized suddenly that with all that had been going on, he’d neglected to worship (and it wasn’t like there were shrines scattered across the Alik’r and the Druadach) for quite a while. If memory served, there was a shrine to Arkay just outside the city, and he wasn’t drunk enough that he would trip over the gravestones. And so he walked through the dark, quiet lanes of Falkreath, the quiet calling of nightbirds accompanying him as he tried to remember the direction to the temple.

It had been rather easy for Jaraleet to spot Gaius as he broke away from the dense crowd that had gathered in his tipsy state. A frown settled on his face as he saw that the Imperial was heading in the direction that led outside of the city, he might not know the man personally but, seeing him interacting with the others in the group, made it clear that he was no stranger to the others. “It’ll probably be for the best to follow him and make sure everything is ok.” The Argonian thought. Given their current predicament, it was a rather foolish thing to go out of the -relative- safety of the town in the assassin’s opinion.

Given the man’s inebriated state, and Jaraleet’s own rather fast walking pace, it didn’t take too long for the Argonian to catch up to the Imperial. “Going somewhere...Gaius, was it, no?” He asked, unable to hide the note of skepticism in his voice. It was, all things considered, rather odd for someone to leave the festivities when they were in full swing as it stood and, in truth, while the other members of the group, those that had been there since the Jerall Mountains expedition, seemed to be familiar with the man, he was still an enigma as far as the Argonian assassin was concerned. “You’ll have to forgive me if I seem overly suspicious but, well, it is rather strange for someone to leave a feast in the middle of it, especially to go outside the city itself, wouldn’t you agree?”

Despite his intoxicated state, Gaius was still a soldier, and so when he heard a voice from behind him in the middle of the night, he whirled around, arms reaching to where his weapons would ordinarily be. A moment passed before he realized that he had no weapons with him at the moment--he would need to see the blacksmith--and that the person behind him wasn’t a danger to him, at least not now. With a sigh, he relaxed, squinting at Jaraleet and chuckling a little bit. “Never been to Falkreath, have you? Come on then, I’ll show you where I’m going.”

He beckoned, and--drawn by the light of candles--he arrived at the graveyard. Even the keeper of the graveyard was at the town square. Though the sounds of the party could still be heard in the distance, he felt isolated, contained in a bubble of quiet tranquility that was sorely lacking in his recent life. He stepped up upon the threshold of the Hall Of The Dead, and knelt down. Before him was the ever-familiar interlocking squares and sphere of Arkay, backed by candles that silhouetted it with a gentle light. Closing his eyes, he began to pray.

The reaction speed from Gaius had surprised him but, even so, Jaraleet hadn’t been worried, having already noticed that the man was unarmed. “No, can’t say that I have been. This is my first time on Skyrim, as a matter of fact.” The Argonian replied, nodding when Gaius offered to show him where he was going.

The assassin followed the Imperial in silence, but the presence of the tombstones and the candles clued him in soon enough to where Gaius had been heading before he had interrupted him. When Gaius entered the Hall of the Dead, Jaraleet remained a respectful distance from the man as he prayed to Arkay waiting until he was done before he spoke again. “I must admit, I didn’t figure you as a religious man.” He said, before pausing for a second. “Although, admittedly, I don’t know you all that well...and my people are ather different from yours when it comes to worshipping, so that might have played a part as well.”

Gaius stood, eyes still lightly closed, and sighed out a heavy breath. It felt good to be so close to a Divine again after so long. “The Oblivion Crisis nearly destroyed my home. It was only Akatosh that saved us. What sort of Imperial would I be if I didn’t pay my dues to the gods?”

Then he turned--still stumbling slightly--and stared at Jaraleet. The candles behind him cast his face into darkness, leaving him almost entirely a shadow. “What do you worship in Argonia? All I really know is that you come from a tree called the Hist, at least...somehow. What is your name for Akatosh?”

“To your first question, what kind of Imperial you’d be if you didn’t worship your gods, I believe it is something that you already know the answer to. Or at least I think so, I doubt that anything I’d say would have too profound an impact on what you think. But I can see why you’d have such a reference towards your gods, the sacrifice of Martin Septim was a great one and, unlike the Thalmor, I don’t believe such a sacrifice should be erased...even if we Argonians were holding against the forces of Oblivion.”

He paused for a second as he pondered on the next question that Gaius had made to him, thinking on how to answer it. “It is….complicated to say.” Jaraleet finally began, crossing his arms over his chest. “What you call Akatosh we, or at least so says the myths passed down by the Adzi-Kostleel tribe of Murkmire, call Atak, or the Great Root if you’d prefer. We believe the growth of Atak, and from it’s confrontation with the serpent Kota, and subsequent fusion into the being known as Atakota, that Nirn sprang forth.” He continued on, pausing for a second to allow Gaius to process the information that had been relayed to him.
“Along with this there’s the presence of the Shadow, which devoured the roots and gave us the knowledge of mortality, but leading to the division of Atakota into its original components.” He paused again, realizing that the Imperial probably wouldn’t understand some of the terms that he was saying. “To clarify, the serpent Kota is the being that is usually associated with the name of Lorkahn, as for the Shadow, it is none other than Sithis itself. Are you following me so far? As I said, it is a complicated tale.”

Gaius blinked for a moment, eyelids drawing together in something like confusion. “So...Akatosh and Lorkhan fused together and created Nirn. And then Sithis ate them, which created mortality and divided Akatosh and Lorkhan again?” He sighed, knuckling his eyes. “Maybe it’s the mead, but I think I get it. For the most part. Do go on.”

Jaraleet couldn't help but let out a soft chuckle, a smile forming on his face. “That is the gist of it. The myth ends with the Shadow re-awakening due to the confrontation between Atak and Kota, consuming them both and shedding the skin that was Atakota. In this way, the Shadow covered all roots and promised to keep them safe.” He finished, stepping closer to the Imperial soldier and patting him on the shoulder. “That's it, how we Saxhleel see the creation of the world.” Jaraleet said, pausing for a second as he pondered whether or not to say what was in his mind before, in the end, deciding to give voice to his thoughts. “I am surprised that you didn't so much as flinch when I mentioned Sithis, giving what people usually know of it.”

“Probably the drink,” chuckled Gaius. “But, seriously. Maybe if you killed for Sithis like the Dark Brotherhood used to, then we’d have a problem. But as it is? It’s Sithis. It exists. I mean,” he laughed again, “it’s not like you murder in its name. Death’s always there, watching over our shoulders.” He nodded respectfully at Arkay’s shrine. “And as long as death is there, so is Sithis.”

“You’re very eloquent, by the way,” he added suddenly. “I’m impressed.”

“Well put. Though I should clarify that Sithis isn’t just death itself. I can’t deny that groups like the Dark Brotherhood existed, that Death isn’t a part of Sithis, but it’s more than that. Sithis is change, and all that entails. It is life and death, it is the tree that grows, changes, and dies, in that Sithis is also present.”

He paused for a second when he registered that Gaius had called him eloquent, causing the assassin to let out a sheepish chuckle. “Thank you, I’ve been called many things but never eloquent.”

Gaius raised his eyebrows. “‘It is life and death, it is the tree that grows, changes and dies, in that Sithis is also present?’” He smirked. “And you say you’ve never been called eloquent.” The world swam lightly around him as he stepped heavily forward and laid a hand on Jaraleet’s shoulder. “When we liberate the Empire from these Dwemer dogs, I’ll see to it personally that you get a powerful position in the Legion.” He didn’t usually toss promises about so liberally, but communing with a Divine (and drinking) had put him in a fantastic mood.

“That is, if you want it,” he added as an afterthought.

The offer from Gaius caught him by surprise. Him, a member of the Imperial Legion? If he had been the same Jaraleet who had set off from the Imperial City he’d have laughed, said something about how the Empire had nothing for his people so why would he want to be part of the army that had made it? But he wasn’t the same Argonian, and the offer gave him pause.

“I’ll...think about it, Gaius.” He finally said, still processing the offer. “It is true that I’m a fighter, but I am not sure if I’d be a good leader of soldiers. Or a good soldier for that matter.” He said, letting out a soft chuckle. “But I thank you, truly. Never in my life has someone made an offer, a promise, to me of that sort.” Jaraleet said, smiling at the Imperial man.

One last warm smile came to Gaius’ face. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my service in the legion, Jaraleet, it’s that the leaders who think they’re the best are often the worst, and that the reverse is also true.” He stepped back, giving a sort of casual, offhand salute. “Just remember that if you’re ever in the Imperial City, the Guard is always open to you.” The smile turned to a kind of lopsided grin. “Now, I’m going to see about getting some more mead.”

“Thank you Gaius.” The Argonian said, before grinning at the imperial soldier. “And you best hurry, otherwise I think you’ll have trouble getting some more mead.” Jaraleet said, letting out a soft chuckle. “As for me, I think I’ll abstain from the festivities. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

With that, Gaius wove away, back towards the festival. The Argonian followed in his wake shortly afterwards, albeit heading further away from the festival rather than back towards it like the Imperial had done.


Etoile


---


Etoile sighed in relief as the krovar was slaughtered, and limped up to the rest of them as they collected, wincing as she went. She felt a distinct wetness in her leg and grit her teeth as the adrenaline of combat leeched out of her. Her leg wound was starting to bleed through the bandage. "I'm going to go with Clara here. I don't know about the rest of you, but..." she tilted her leg to the side, revealing the tear in her trousers and, more important, the blood seeping out from behind the somewhat makeshift bandage around it, "I think I need a minute to get this patched up better now that my arm is working."

And, resolving to ignore any protests that might come her way, she sat herself down on the forest floor, making sure her arm was in full working order before taking out her sabre and gingerly cutting the bandage away from her leg, hissing as some of the crusty blood on the fabric pulled at the open wound. Working grimly and quickly, she took out her canteen and splashed water over the wound, washing off the dried blood and sluicing it clean. She closed her eyes for a moment, breathing deeply through her teeth, before continuing.

"So," she forced herself to speak through a clenched jaw, "we have twisted birds and a twisted krovar. Anybody want to place bets on what horror we're going to need to deal with next?"

She paused to inspect the now-cleaned wound as best she could through the blood that was flowing more liberally now that she'd washed it out, though not as much as it had before. Heaving out a breath, she gave a silent prayer of thanks. The bird had just barely missed her femoral artery. A quarter of an inch further back and she would have bled out on the land barge's deck. As it was, it was definitely painful and frustrating, but it wasn't overly dangerous. The blood flow was already slowing to less of a pour and more of a seep. She wrapped the bandage tightly around the wound and tied it off with a few quick motions before standing up and testing it, giving a mirthless little smile. Much better.
Saffron Merganset


It took Saffron a few seconds to realize why the girl was typing on her scroll instead of just answering with her voice. Then, after a moment, she understood: ohhhh, she's mute, isn't she? Okay. In light of that, she waited patiently for the message to be typed out and shown to her. As she read it, she smiled even harder, briefly looking down at herself.

"Thank you! Thank you so much! I tried really hard to look good today!"

Her eyes were, inevitably, drawn back to that guitar that was now on the girl's back. "That's a super cool guitar! Why are you carrying it around on your back right now?"

Immediately, though, her attention was distracted by something else about the girl: namely, the fact that she'd had to show the message directly to Saffron, instead of sending it. This was a problem, Saffron decided, that must be rectified posthaste! She quickly pulled out a scroll and, tapping a few buttons, shoved it in front of the girl's face, showing her Scroll ID and beckoning for her to do the same.

"I'm Saffron Merganset, from Atlas. Nice to meet you!"
Old Souls


Before the storm...
14th of Sun’s Height, 4E208
Southern Druadach Mountains, West of Falkreath Hold


Several weeks had passed since the other Imperial man in the party had advocated for Gregor’s execution. The two had avoided each other ever since, Gregor steering clear of Gaius with a wide berth, but now that his business with Zaveed had been settled the lich felt that it was time to try and break through the hostility that Gaius felt for him. He wasn’t sure if it was a good idea and he was pretty sure that Gaius wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to speak with him, and yet… something told Gregor that he should try, at least.

Many of the others had left camp to forage for supplies, leaving the small village of tents mostly deserted and unusually quiet for this time of day, and it didn’t take long for Gregor to find Gaius in front of his tent. He approached but stopped a respectful distance away and inclined his helmet in the other Imperial’s direction. “Hello Gaius,” Gregor said. “Let me guess: the capital?”

Gaius was tired. Exceedingly. It had been nearly a month, he thought, since he’d been sprung from Kthrakz, but the bone-weariness that had been following him since hadn’t quite lifted. He sat quietly before his tent, leaning back gently against a rock as he whittled idly at a small piece of firewood with an artfully-worked knife that he’d managed to barter away from a merchant back in the Alik’r before they’d left.

He jolted upright, nicking his thumb slightly with the knife, as his spoken name surprised him. Then, after a moment, he realized who’d spoke it, and his eyes narrowed as he shook his cut hand out. His voice, when he spoke, was distant and cold. “Talos Plaza district. What do you want.” Though it was phrased as a question, the flat voice didn’t seem very particularly so. “Or are you just here to ruin my day?” He tossed the knife up and down in his hand, wondering whether or not he could put it through the visor in Gregor’s helmet at this range. Probably not, he reasoned, sighing quietly to himself.

“Ah, yes,” Gregor said in remembrance as he sat himself down opposite Gaius -- still at a distance. “I know the Plaza. Beautiful area. I used to come to the city with my wife to visit… hmm, this antique bookstore, what was it called? Vivaldi’s? Does that ring a bell?” He deliberately ignored Gaius’ other comment. He had not come to trade insults.

“Mhmm.” The reply was rather sullen, as befit Gaius’ dour look. Despite the fact that Gregor was at quite a respectable distance, he shifted away slightly, not out of an actual desire to shift away, but rather to send a message. “I know Vivaldi’s. Knew. Whatever. I am familiar.” He heaved a heavy sigh, finally looking Gregor dead-on in the eyes and ceasing the veneer of courtesy. “I don’t like you, Gregor. I rather hate you. What do you want?”

“We are going to be working together for the foreseeable future,” Gregor replied, surrendering to the fact that making pleasantries with Gaius was a fruitless endeavor. “I am not asking that you like me. I don’t deserve that much. But it will not do well to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in battle with so much hostility between us. I don’t resent you for hating me, Gaius. I understand how you feel. I rather admire you. My father served as well. We have to find a middle ground, where we can at least depend on one another to do our duties.” His voice was even and calm in the confines of his helmet and his eyes shimmered in the gloom, betraying no emotion whatsoever. “Agreed?”

A loud snort followed Gregor’s statement as Gaius let out a short, scornful laugh. “If nothing else, you’re at least well-spoken.” A moment, and his jagged smile faded. He dropped his head and sighed, the barely-restrained anger leaking away from his voice. “At the minimum, you can count on me to put myself in front of a blow,” he plucked at his haphazard set of armor, “though I don’t know how effective this will be against something like Zaveed or Sevari’s guns. I don’t know how much I trust you, and I don’t think that will change anytime soon. But I’m a long way from home, and infighting is something that won’t make it any easier to get back.”

He stood up, walking over to Gregor. And though the distaste was evident on his face, he stuck out his hand. “Agreed.”

They shook on it. Gregor relaxed a little and nodded to himself. “Good, good,” he said and sat back down, gesturing for the other Imperial to do the same. “Feel free to send me away if you have no further desire to speak with me. That said, I’m curious to learn more about your time in the Legions. My father never talked about it much. What was it like?”

“Tiring and dangerous,” sighed Gaius, taking Gregor’s motion to sit down, resuming idly whittling as he spoke. “Long marches in the sun wearing full plate, slogging through marshes in the foulest of weather only to find that the Stormcloaks set up an ambush for your platoon, and though you might win, it’s only a pyrrhic victory because so many of you die and so few of them do.” He looked up at the clouds. “But with that comes the fulfilment. Hard, tiring, dangerous. It’s all of those. But knowing that because of it, a war ended? People can sleep more safely in their beds, because you’re there? It makes it all worth it.”

He let out a low, contented hum, trying not to display how disturbed he was at how…normal Gregor was. He’d built him up as some terribly evil being, and perhaps he was, at least in a sense. But with all of the anticipation that he’d had for the lich, this surprised him more than anything else he could have thrown at Gaius.

Gregor nodded. “Sounds about right. I was in Skyrim during the Rebellion. I did my best to stay out of the path of the armies but I saw the aftermath they left in their wake sometimes. All those graves, broken men…. I suppose you could argue that me and my allies were waging a war of our own, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like on the battlefield.” He paused and cocked his head. “Did you make it out okay?”

A laugh escaped Gaius, one that was perhaps just a touch bitter. “I did, for almost the whole war. Of course, I have plenty of scars, but none give me trouble but those from Windhelm.” He stripped off pieces of his armor; gauntlets first, then after some trouble, the cuirass. Removing the gambeson, or rather the thick coat that was acting in place of one, he half-turned, enough for Gregor to see the livid red scar that ran ropelike down his back, all the way from his left shoulder to the opposite hip. “After the battle, there were those that weren’t all too keen on the Empire’s victory. This is a token from one.” He shrugged, pulling the coat back on. “This one’s the worst, though.” He stuck out his left arm a bit, tracing the needle-thin scar that ran across the belly of his bicep.

“I lost a gauntlet at some point during the battle,” he began, “and someone came at me with a long elven-metal sabre. All I could do was catch it on my arm.” He pantomimed holding his arm over his face, almost as though he was trying to hide his eyes from the light. “And my arm never fully recovered.” He shoved the arm out as far as he could, and winced as it locked long before it fully straightened. Holding it for a moment, he sighed as he let it fall. “But far be it for me to complain. I still made it out better than most.”

The lich whistled appreciatively. “You’re made of tough stuff, Gaius. My father was at Red Ring but he made it out practically unscathed. This is something else.” He paused for a few seconds before he placed his index finger to the temple of his helmet. “He came home with scars in here. I don’t mean to pry…” Gregor stopped and chuckled. “Well, I am prying. Did you have any demons that followed you home?”

Gaius’ eyes widened fractionally. “Red Ring, was it? They still teach that when they go over battle strategy. It’s a legend.” Another moment, and he dropped his head. “I think we all have some demons in us, the Legionnaires. Skyrim...well, you’ve been there. It’s a dark, cold place in the winter. Inhospitable, hard to deal with. I was in Whiterun, watching the snow blow over the mountains in the north, when we were called out double-time to mount an assault on Ivarstead, try to establish a foothill in Riften Hold. Dead of night. The commander underestimated just how harsh Skyrim can get.” He drew in a shuddering breath. “We weren’t even halfway when frostbite and hypothermia started setting in. A few of us managed to find shelter in an old ruin called Valtheim. Fifty men set out from Whiterun; only seventeen made it back. Of course, there are more demons, but that one sticks in my mind. I’ve seen people being cruel often enough for it to be commonplace for me, but when nature itself slaughters you wholesale...there’s a different feeling to that.”

He rubbed a finger into his aching temple. “What about you, Gregor? Anything left in that skull of yours that still resembles something a human would feel?”

It was a harrowing story in and of itself, but Gregor’s eyebrows raised as it was told in full. “Valtheim, you say? There were necromancers in that area in the spring, I remember tracking them down…” He sighed and shook his head, incredulous at the coincidence, and at how Gaius’ story turned out to have an even sadder end than he himself had thought. “I think I may have found some of your friends’ bodies when we put them to the sword.”

His question was rudely phrased but Gregor did not blame him. He was silent for a bit while he thought of the best way to answer that question. “I still feel love,” he said at length. His voice was soft. “That’s enough for me.”

Upon hearing the fate of his fellow Legionnaires--some of whom he’d been good friends with--Gaius trembled briefly. He covered it as best he could with a scornful snort at Gregor’s next statement, but it wasn’t hard to hear the quaver in his voice, nor to see his hands shaking as he tried and failed to resume whittling.

“...Better a good death under the sword than more years of unlife,” his eyes hardened momentarily, “like you would give them now.” But there was no bite in the insult, and a moment later, he dropped his head into a heavy sigh. His voice, when it resumed, was quiet, almost a whisper. “I’m tired, Gregor. I’m so tired of anger. If you don’t give me a reason to, I won’t try to stand against you.”

Gregor understood Gaius’ reaction. He was only a necromancer out of necessity, after all, not from some misplaced lust for power or lack of empathy. “They’re at rest now,” he said softly. “I won’t give you a reason. I swear it on my family’s honor. Theirs is worth more than mine at this point. I just…” He trailed off and sighed. “I just wanted to live. I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore.”

Another quiet laugh--this one lacking in all malice, or at least most malice--and Gaius rose to his feet, cracking his back. “I’m getting too old for this,” he muttered before holding his hand out to Gregor again, this time not shying away from the lich. “I know we just shook on it, but…” he smiled lamely, “once more wouldn’t hurt. For your family, and for mine.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Gregor rose to Gaius’ height again. His hands moved up, however, and he removed his helmet so that his fellow Imperial could look him in the eyes. Gregor knew what he looked like, but he wanted Gaius to see the sincerity on his face. Cradling the helmet under his left arm, he took Gaius’ hand with his right one, and then his left as well. Auroras swirled lazily in the light of his eyes. He nodded. “For our families. Gods preserve them.”

Gaius flinched as Gregor removed his helmet, but fighting the revulsion back in his throat, he locked his eyes against the other man’s. Because, he realized...whatever else he might be, whatever he might have become, a man he remained. “For our families,” he echoed, privately grieving. And then, after a moment’s trepidation--he knew full well what the gods thought of undeath--he gave an extra squeeze on Gregor’s hand. “And may the nine Divines smile upon you,” he added, voice quiet, but filled with conviction.

Laughing softly, Gregor shook his head. “Let them smile on you. I have other powers watching over me now.” He appreciated the sentiment, however -- immensely, in fact. He had not expected anything like this from Gaius and it spoke to the man’s character that he had managed to put his beliefs aside to let them become true allies. It was a form of self-sacrifice, Gregor knew. “Thank you,” he replied, dropping his voice to match Gaius’, and spoke the words with feeling.

“And thank you too, Gregor,” replied Gaius. “I wish…” I wish I could’ve known you before all of this. But he let it go unsaid. What had happened, had happened. What was, was. Gregor could no more return to a normal life than Gaius could forget his own family. Instead, with a heavy sigh, he sat back down against the tent and looked pensively at the model of the White-Gold Tower that he’d been whittling. He closed his eyes for a moment and leaned back against the tent frame, letting the wind brush over him as he fondled the miniature between his rough, calloused fingers. “I wish I was home.”
I will forever be diggity down my dude.
Tori Rauðrgant, Malachite Aventureand Onyx Harkin


I like this person, Tori thought immediately, as the tall, well-built, hooded boy--a bit younger than she was, she thought, despite his height--walked straight up to her, mincing no words and speaking straightforward. His language was a bit strange--who in the Maidens' names says 'perchance' unironically...? but the fact remained that he wasn't one of the verbal dancers that Tori found so aggravating. The fact that he wore a pair of strong-looking gauntlets, even if they weren't nearly as heavy as hers, didn't hurt either. She flashed a smile, dropping her still-stretching arms down in front of her and giving him a closer look at Sigyn, turning it a few times so he could appreciate its bulky (and admittedly asymmetrical) glory. She took a great deal of pride in showing it off: she hadn't exactly had easy access to a weapons-forge in Atlas. Working out was something that she could do without a facility. Weaponmaking? Not so much. So as mismatched as her gauntlets were, she loved them like a proud parent.

"What, Sigyn? Yeah. Took a while and," she tapped a few mismatched plates with one of the massive metal fingers, "the whole thing is mostly cobbled together from scrap, but it works." She shucked the right gauntlet off, revealing a hand that was surprisingly fine-boned and delicate, and held it out. "Tori Rauðrgant. I'd usually be a little more physical in a greeting than a handshake, but it's a little hot here for me." She chuckled, but remained visibly uncomfortable in the heat.

Onyx stared quite intently at Sigyn, despite their roughness compared to the gloves he had, he had to admire the craftsmanship even so. ”Where you see scrap, I see perfection.” He said, not really smiling, though there was a slight bit of excitement in his voice. ”You made your weapon to fit you and you alone, perfectly.” He said, now seeing Tori offering her hand to shake. He raised a brow at that gesture. He rarely ever removed his Lion’s Claws from his hands, especially for such rather meaningless gesture.

However, in the end, he did remove one of the gloves and shook her hand. Compared to hers, his was quite rough, as one would expect of someone living in the harsh lands of Vacuo and a smith on top of that. ”If you wish, I can perhaps teach you a few tricks and help you improve on perfection, if you wish, that is.” He said, nodding towards her, opening his mouth to say something else, however, he saw a young man telling them to move on and rather rudely called them meat-heads.


”What did you just call us, stranger?” He asked, his eyes narrowing and his fists clenching as the stranger walked past them.
For a moment, the young man let the silence build, until he was likely at the edge of their range of hearing, as they were far enough from him that he would barely hear their speaking voices.
You’d think meatloaves like you two would have better spatial awareness. Get out of the jet-wash, dorks. Engine intakes are no place for sucking face,” he berated with a mildly projected voice, not even giving them the courtesy of looking in their direction.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you are intentionally looking for a fight, stranger.” Onyx said to the young man, slowly approaching him, intending to look as menacing as possible to this rude new acquaintance.

The blond’s heart sank a bit: but on with the show, “You really don’t want to do that, lover-boy. But you never know when someone else’s Semblance could hit the breaks before you get going. I’d advise not doing anything foolish,” remarked the boy in green coldly.

Tori cracked her knuckles vigorously and glared at the frustration that had presented itself to them. “Onyx? Perhaps I’ll take you up on that offer later. As of now, I want to tell him something.

She stood up to her full, impressive height and stalked up to the boy. However, as she approached, she could see a violent green nimbus of energy surrounding him. It snapped and crackled, only becoming more turbulent as time went on. As Sigyn drew near, it seemed the Aura was keen to lash out at the metal of the weapon. The boy stiffened as he felt her proximity. She stopped her hand short, surprise and caution crossing her face for a moment before she dropped her hand back to her side. Her voice, when she spoke, was calm and soft, but low, almost a rumble.

I’ll admit, you have a point; it’s kinda dangerous to stand there. But if, in future, you have something to say to me, it’s rude of you to do it with your back turned like a rat. Say it to my face.” Then, lips turning up with a mischievous grin, she whispered to him, “I don’t know what’s going on with your Aura, but I could still snap you in half.

The boy in question’s face was now a slate of distance. Being that he had the chance, though, he ran. Without thinking, he just ran, leaving a static electric popping and flashing against Sygyn as he skirted the crowd and disappeared into the haze of heat and shadow under Shade’s grand entrance.

Onyx, much like Tori, felt like he wanted to snap the young man in half. He was sure that he could use his Semblance to absorb the heat around him to give him the strength to do so and the resistance to not get too harmed by his own Semblance. Before he could do anything however, the young man just ran away like most people did when faced with people with overwhelming power.

”I say we just go the entrance as well.” He said, dropping his intimidating posture and relaxing a bit. ”That way we can still continue our talk without being interrupted by anyone else.”

Tori’s face turned pensive, more than anything else. Of course, the young man had very much frustrated her. But...when he’d run, there’d been something in his face that she’d recognized. She frowned, her thoughts rapidly snowballing down a hill as she tried to figure out what had just happened. “...Sure, that’s fine. I get the feeling we’ll be seeing him again anyway.” Heaving in a heavy breath, she began to walk forward, trying to ignore the little seed of doubt and guilt in the back of her mind.
PRETEND THIS DIDN'T HAPPEN
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