It looks like I haven't posted in a while. I don't know exactly what I should be expecting on the evacuation route, so maybe I should wait for the weekend update.
|They were never ready. One Flux did the job, eliminating the thug on the spot. For a brief moment Artemisia bore a dry smile, but it vanished as she breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed, straightening up. Behind her, Trace dispensed with the other marauder. The whole fight lasted mere seconds, and by all accounts it seemed a decisive success. “Should have known better,” she muttered in memoriam before turning away. War would engulf this town in no time, so little effort could be spared for the dead. |
Instead, she focused on the guardsman, wholly impressed by the others' efforts. “Not bad. Had my father warriors like you, ours would already be a household name.”
Artemisia gave him a confused look. “What?” Before she could get any closer, Trace accosted her, telling her to do what she'd already planned on. He offered her a vulnerary, at which point she opened her mouth to say 'I've already got one' before realizing that he meant it for the guard. “Uh, okay,” she replied instead. She moved away to offer the guardsman her shoulder to help him back into the thinning crowd bound for the castle. He resumed speaking, but Artemisia cut him off, knowing that could come later. “Let's just get out of here, mister.” She offered him the vulnerary given by Trace, and he accepted the medicine gladly. The two couldn't dally long given the spreading fire, and the dark mage doubted the city's attackers would stop at just one Resonant Flames.
Before pulling away, however, the Artemisia cast another look at her other new acquaintance, that obliging but lead-tongued spearman. His voice contained no inflection, but his face bore an offputting expression. She knew he knew about her vocation now. True, she didn't exactly bother keeping it a secret when the situation called for violence, but dark mages typically kept their status secret for a reason. What did he intend to do, she wondered. When he did speak, he voiced a desire to meet and talk with her again. Artemisia really didn't think she wanted to, since he didn't have much else to offer her, but what she said was, “I guess,” before disappearing into the flow of people heading to safety.
Inv: Vulnerary, Book of Secrets
Where is Merchant Row relative to the Western Street and the Castle?
The rush of battle got Artemisia's blood pumping, and things began to feel very clear. Her bow-wielding foe spotted her spell taking shape and called in backup before knowing another arrow. Neither seemed especially composed, talented, or well-equipped. Bandits, then. Not even the advance wave of the enemy force. In a way she felt disappointed, insulted even. At least this would be easy.
All the same, she did not feel comfortable taking the initiative, but it came in the form of a new arrival to the fight. Oh, he's here too. Followed me I'll bet. Trace appeared from behind Artemisia and her new knight friend, which made her realize that a third bandit could have stolen up on her with a back-stabber in hand just as easily. The spearman, however, was a welcome arrival, and he charged to clash with the axefighter head-on.
Their bout could be decided in a split second; if Trace thrust just right, he could pierce the vagabond's heart before he got close enough to swing. If he missed that pivotal chance, however, the brute power of the axe could easily split his lance's shaft in twain, followed shortly by the boring man's head. Artemisia, who knew none of these weapon-based intricacies, at the very least wished that Trace fought more adeptly than he conversed. Primarily, she wished that the both of them would get out of her way. Unlike arrows, weightless magic projectiles arced barely if at all, which meant she needed a clear shot at the archer to take him out. With the melee in the middle there wasn't much of a chance of that, and it would reflect poorly on her if she went with her first instinct to hurl her Flux at Trace and the bandit both.
Just a moment passed before the answer came to her. Artemisia thrust her hand outward, throwing the Flux at the ground to the left of the melee fighters. With a deep tone followed by caustic sputters, it burst into purple waves and large black particles. Into the haze Artemisia rushed, using it as cover while she prepared a second. When in position she raised her hand above her head and hurled the Flux at the archer, crying, “To pieces!” She aimed for the ground between his feet to catch him in the blast. Such a target made hitting almost guaranteed, though it'd be a miracle if it did lethal damage. With a little luck, though, it could cripple his ability to fight, and Artemisia liked the odds.
Inv: Vulnerary, Book of Secrets
True to Artemisia's prediction, Trace took her up on her offer, and within short order the pair embedded themselves in a local eatery to pass some time. In the period that followed, they broached a number of subjects, but seldom got deeper than the surface. While at the dark mage's prompting Trace gave up a couple stories about his mercenary past, which seemed fairly standard fair as far as Artemisia was concerned, he did not open up about anything further back or more interesting. That was fair, though, since neither did Artemisia. Whenever asked, she demonstrated a decisive refusal to share any details of her origins or goals, though that only seemed to pique Trace's curiosity. She did, however, opt to tell him that she sought someone with an incurable sickness and pink eyes. That reveal gradually led to Trace making a new offer, which Artemisia understood as a futile attempt to convince her to rethink mercenary work with him, but one that she accepted nonetheless: to spend the remainder of the evening among the armed forces, with Trace as her guide, to look for and inquire about her VIP.
That led to a less-than-pleasant romp through the army's turf over the course of the whole afternoon. While not always threatened, Artemisia managed to feel out of place the whole time, and even with Trace helping progress came slowly. Nobody seemed to know who she sought, nor did any soldier or squire bear the characteristics she watched for. She ended up in the castle barracks by the time Prince Alnard himself opted to give the recruits a rousing speech, thanks to Trace, who as an independent mercenary answered to that noble alone. The prince's word's rolled off her back like water across duck feathers. She harbored no intention whatsoever of fighting alongside him, let along dying with him. Important things remained for her to attend to—besides, she rather liked being alive, her comrades within the Coven, and most of all her dear father. As the mercenaries were dismissed, Artemisia found herself wondering where Solomon was now. The Wyvern Courier traveled far and wide, the breadth and beauty of the whole continent beneath him. With a smile, the dark mage remembered the last time he'd taken her up with him on that surly old drake of his. Flight was a glorious thing. If she'd been born in a city rather than the swamp, Artemisia wondered if she might have followed in his footsteps as a pegasus rider. Things would have been so much less complicated.
A short time later, as Artemisia put the finishing touches on a new entry in her Book of Secrets, the hairs on the back of her neck began to tingle. The air felt...charged. As in moments before a thunderstorm burst. Galvanized into action, she jotted down another line, snapped the diary shut, and stood up from where she sat against the outside of Trace's tent. Her baby blues scanned the night sky. Two seconds passed. Three. Four. The silver-haired woman furrowed her brow. Had she been imagining things...?
Then the starry heavens lit up with flame, and the entirety of Garleton shuddered like a stuck pig. “Whoa.” Artemisia steadied herself, watching as her vision filled with brilliant, hungry orange. The town was burning. She thought of jostling the tent and telling Trace to come out, but surely he heard and felt the blast for himself. The same thought scalded itself onto everyone's minds: they were under attack. All around, chaos had erupted. There weren't many citizens in this particular area to flat-out panic, but not all the soldiers kept their heads. For her part, Artemisia surveyed the tempest coolly, looking for an exit. “Resonant flames,” she explained to Trace with nonchalance. “The work of a large mage circle. I must confess myself impressed, though not so much that I shall hesitate in my withdrawal. Thank you for your help, Mr. Trace, but I believe it is time to depart.”
That proved easier said than done, however. Orders came in, as best she could tell, for the soldiers to help evacuate the citizens via the castle. Since evacuation sounded pretty good to Artemisia, and running willy-nilly through the city could very well lead her into the enemy force responsible for the fire strike, she allowed herself to be swept up by the current. That, however, turned out to be a bad idea. With her lack of size and athleticism, as well as her robes, keeping up with the stampeding civilians ended up being both difficult and hazardous. As the stream of humans rounded a corner to head up the main thoroughfare to the castle, Artemisia took a hard shove, tripped over the edge of her gown, and stumbled out of the crowd. She hit an abandoned horse cart head-on and dropped like a sack of flour. After rolling a couple times, she came to a stop, clutching her head as unbidden tears filled her eyes. “Ow ow ow, Gwyn damn it.” Despite her arching noggin she struggled to her feet, lurching in the wrong direction a short way before falling to her knees.
One of the soldiers tasked with evacuating noticed and left the crowd to jog her way down Merchant Row. “Miss? You alright? You're going the wrong way.” The man, with long blonde hair in a ponytail, wielded gauntlets and wore a concerned expression. With his green eyes on Artemisia he didn't notice the arrow sailing his way until it was too late. “Gah!” It sunk into his right thigh, provoking an agonized grunt. He staggered but avoided falling over as a few marauders came into view. Gritting his teeth, he raised his gauntlets into a ready stance, only to wince again as Artemisia used him for support to stand up again. In grim silence the woman held up her hands, surrounding them in purple energy and black particles. Whether he appreciated it or not, this fistfighter would be backed up by a practitioner of the dark arts. Whoever these aggressors were, they had no idea what they were in for.
Status: Dazed, small, and ready to brawl
Inv: Vulnerary, Book of Secrets
This afternoon I spent perusing the area's armed forces. I expect ordinary soldiers would be loathe to have someone such as I in their midst, but I had the fortune of being vouched for and guided around by my new acquaintance, Trace. While our conversation at lunch did precious little to endear himself to me in terms of intrigue, the fellow is certainly proving himself obliging and useful. All the same, I fear today's end will mark the termination of our cooperation. I did manage to behold the prince himself, whose striking features have inspired me to learn more about his exploits come the next opportunity. Perhaps it is construable as indulgent, but I am sure time spent learning the tale of the royal family is not time misspent.
As I write now, I find certain sensations gnawing at me. A lick of magic haunts the air, tingling the mind and body. I am sure that something interesting is soon to happen.
As the stranger leaped into his response, more than making up for his silence before, Artemisia listened with her brow furrowed and mouth just slightly open. All of a sudden, the man -Trace, it seemed- just wouldn't stop rambling on, and was he ever forthright. Not only did he appear unduly concerned with her wellbeing, but he made no bones about a potential arrangement being for his benefit, too. Artemisa appreciated honesty, but this Trace wasn't making a good case for himself. Of course the roads and towns would be perilous with a war brewing, but Wayfarers could handle themselves, even one not long down the path. In fact, Trace offered exactly the opposite of what the dark mage wanted—she needed to keep her distance from armies and battlefields, sticking to the shadows as she hunted her quarry in safety. Sure, travel meant new places, and the one she sought could be among the ranks of the Prince's army, but sticking with a company meant losing her agency. They would decide where she went, and if her target did not serve in the corps, leaving to continue her search would mean branding as a traitor. That was, if her status as dark mage or witch didn't get her stoned first.
Running over these considerations in her head, Artemisia came to a decision. As much as she wanted to pay back Trace's kindness, not a single definitive positive swam among the murky sea of negatives. The dark mage, now with something to build off of, gave her answer with confidence and finality. “I am unable to acquiesce. My prerogative is to remain as far from the armed forces as I'm able while I pursue my own endeavors. To be certain there are risks, but I assure you I am more than capable.” She reached up to remove her monocle, which she slipped into a discreet pocket. An opportunity lay before her, and a subtle air of mischief entered her eyes. “However, since we seem to be very forward today, I would not mind joining you for lunch as recompense for your aid.”
She looked at him sideways, a smile on her face. “Having labored in the medical ward for a while, I am less-than-ideally informed about recent happenings, and could use some conversation as well as sustenance. Furthermore, this plaza...” she eyed the crowd, watching a few interesting figures near the dancer, “Is fit to burst. If you remain eager to offer me protection, you can save me another round of bustling brutes and thieving fingers with a meal in a nearby tavern.” Surely this fellow harbored experiences more interesting than his looks, and while she took her mind off the melancholy of the clinic with someone's story, she could also comb him for potential leads. As a loner herself, she figured that this Trace, quite possibly attention-starved given his nervousness and obvious discomfort talking to a woman, wouldn't possibly decline.
Inv: Vulnerary, Book of Secrets
I was planning on waiting for Flood to post before posting again. But, I have this feeling that I might not get the chance to escape the awkward moment... or even make it worse, if I don't post in the next day or so.