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They will look for him from the white tower...but he will not return, from mountains or from sea...
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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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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.
Saffron yawned wide, covering her mouth out of pure reflex, as she pressed herself to the glass. The Atlas airbus was freezing, and she couldn't wait to get outside to what she saw ahead of her:


She really was tired; she'd stayed up all night last night, unable to sleep out of pure anticipation. And now it was happening! She'd never dreamed that she'd get to see a Huntress academy in person, much less attend one! Barely withholding a manic giggle, she pressed herself to the glass even harder. At long last, she'd escaped the crushing, stifling cold--both metaphorical and literal--of Atlas, and now she had a whole life spread out ahead of her. And Shade was the first stop on that life. She couldn't wait! It was all she could do to not jump up and down in the cabin as she left her sad old life behind her.

As the shuttle landed, she dashed over to the door, hopping in place a little bit as she waited mpatiently for the thing to open. And when it finally did, it wasn't even fully open before she couldn't take the suspense and waiting, and Flickered out. The heat of Vacuo rolled over her, and she smiled hugely as her feet touched the ground about ten feet from the shuttle, looking around at the myriad people disembarking from all walks of life and regions of Remnant. There were the Atlesians, of course: tall, cold, usually arrogant, ninety percent of them definitely had sticks up their asses. They really like big weapons, don't they? she thought, making sure that both pieces of Checkmate were safely tucked into the fancy orange sash around her waist. She'd worn her nicest clothes today, and she hoped that the short, sleeveless cheongsam, black with brilliant orange trim, would make a better impression than her usual sweatshirt. Not that I'll be wearing that much here, she thought, smiling even wider. She wasn't really even conscious of the fact that her tail was swishing back and forth excitedly until it nearly clipped a tall Mistralese.

"Sorry!" she exclaimed, spinning and skipping away from him before a response could be made. Speaking of the Mistralese, there were some of them unloading too, though it looked like fewer to her. Maybe it's too far away, she thought. She saw one or two more cheongsams among them--it was, after all, a Mistral fashion first and foremost. She threw the whole crowd a cheeky wave as they disembarked, all the while walking backwards towards the gate to Shade. There were the Vacuan natives, of course. They were usually distinguishable by how at-ease they seemed in the weather, and what kind of clothing they wore to deal with the harsh climate (to most people) of their homeland. Saffron laughed out loud. Harsh climate? This was great! She felt so alive!

And then there was the kingdom of Vale, and--

A guitar riff ripped through the air, and Saffron's mouth dropped open as she looked for the culprit. Standing halfway between the dock and the gate was a very brown-looking girl, a white tee and tan shorts clearly exposing her faunus tail as she hunched her shoulders, seeming very nervous. A massive smile split Saffron's face, and she darted over to the girl, grabbing her hands in her own.

"That was awesome!"
Tori Rauðrgant

Tori almost screamed when the doors on the airshuttle opened.

The interior had been kept exactly as she, and probably most of the Atlesians, liked it: cold. The air conditioner had been going full-blast since they'd let Atlas' airspace, and it had kept the place a delightful chilly temperature. So, when the doors opened and let in the blast of hot, dry desert air, Tori had to stop herself from screaming like a little girl, instead ramming her arms into Sigyn to make her feel more in control of the situation (a quirk that she often indulged in) and getting in line for escape. A line that seemed to take FOREVER, as she was blasted backwards by the hot wind. It was so much that she almost wanted to jack one of her vials of ice dust into the gauntlets, just to spray some out in front of her so she could walk through it.

Of course, that would freeze her solid, something that she wasn't quite in the mood for. So she simply sighed and waited until the front of the line was her, and then disembarked to Vacuo. She'd get used to the heat soon enough.

She hoped.

The second her feet touched the landing pad, she immediately bolted for the buildings of Shade Academy, praying to anything that would listen to her that they would be air-conditioned and that she wouldn't have to spend the rest of her life in the sweltering heat. She almost wanted to go back to Atlas, despite everything. Almost. But no, she admonished herself, she was here; she had waited to get here; and she would make the most of it, hellish climate or no. She took a deep breath of the scalding air and turned back to the crowd, diving in and preparing to mingle with the rest of the (mostly younger, she noticed) new arrivals as she could. Maybe the Vale shuttles would bring someone interesting. She'd always kind of liked the idea of Vale, but Beacon academy had given her a hard no, and a Huntress training was on top of her list. It was fairly disappointed to her: before she'd left Atlas, she'd voraciously read of the famous Hunters and Huntresses of the other kingdoms, and there seemed to be more from Beacon academy than anywhere else.

And so she found herself leaning against the side of the Vale airbus, watching as people disembarked. The sweltering, ever-present heat pressed down on her, and she pulled her arms, still clad in enormous metal gauntlets, over her head and stretched with a groan.
@Thundere While I'm not a GM in any capacity and I agree with what Tobiax said, he's still a hot piece of ass that I want on a team with Saffron.

"Glaring problem"

You cheeky little fuck
@KiwiTime I think it's still chillin', just kinda running in background mode.
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