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Isaac jolted awake, looking up at the sun. It was pretty high in the sky, and a little more west than he would've liked. "Shit, what time is it?" he asked himself as he twisted his wristwatch back the correct way around and read it. "Shit."

He'd meant to nap for an hour or two of the morning, just to get his head right. It had been a long and tiring night. Unfortunately the alarm clock on his watch hadn't been loud enough, and somehow his instincts had told him that he'd been asleep too long.

His instincts were right. It was 3pm.

He climbed down the tower of the broken bridge, where he'd decided to take his nap, jumping down the last 12 feet and landing cleanly. He stretched, feeling a little refreshed and started heading in the direction of Grasscroft.

***

Outside the town, there were a few bodies - a merchant and his bodyguards, a town shopkeeper and the gate guards. Isaac asked the guards about Zara, but they told him that they hadn't seen anyone come in as they'd just got on their shift. He'd have to inquire at the barracks if he needed more information. Inside the town, he headed to the barracks, but ended up passing by the gun store to grab some ammunition.

"50 caliber rounds ain't cheap, young fella," the shopkeep said, eyeing Isaac suspiciously. "You got the caps?"

Isaac was scanning the shelves behind the man, looking at the guns on display. He didn't look at the old man, but he smiled. "Probably not," was his reply. "How much for two cartons...? and that .38 snub nose, right there?"

The old man turned around to spy his product, then turned back to look at Isaac, a little confused. "Well, if you ain't got the caps, what's the point of all this? I ain't taking scrap or goods for trade, right now. Caps only."

Isaac pulled out a fat roll of pre-war money, held it up next to his smiling face. The shopkeeper's eyes lit up, which made Isaac smile turn into a full, teethy grin. "Two cartons of 50 cal. And the 38."

Isaac left the store with replenished ammo for his gun, aswell as his new .38 pistol complete with its own ammo and holster. He;d put it all in his rucksack, for now. If he found Zara, then it would be better if she had a gun on her, but even if he couldn't find her, having a backup weapon was always nice. Against Tasha and her crew, he ended the chase low on ammo. If things had gone another way and he'd ran empty, things could've got very ugly.

At the barracks, a man not much older than Isaac himself, named Paul, told him that a girl had come through just this morning. Apparently she'd gotten some work at a local tavern. When Isaac asked for a description and got 'skinny, brown hair, green eyes,' Isaac was overjoyed, thanked Paul for his time and headed to The Three Legged Dog.

Pushing through the batwing doors, Isaac strolled into the tavern...


When The Flower of the North appeared, Lucas was filled with even more confidence. He was now looking at two of the most skilled knights the Iron Roses had to offer, and the young lad - even with his average abilities - was ready to prove himself alongside them. Knight-Captain Fanilly or Paladin Tyaethe might even thank him for his impetuous adherence to their commands. Such desires burned like embers within him, even in the chaotic intensity of the action.

"I say we do as much damage as possible before he appears," Fleuri interjected. "If you need someone to cover you on your way to to cage, Lucas, I'm with you."

"Then let's do this," the junior knight replied, a cheeky one-sided grin on his face.

And with that, he moved.

It was strange a thing: Fear was completely absent. Fear of death, at least. Fear of failure, perhaps. He wanted so badly to grasp this opportunity life had presented him. To make his parents proud, if they were watching over him. But even that fear - fear of failure - was barely present. He simply wanted to be successful. Wanted it more than anything. But he didn't worry about failure. He didn't worry that everyone around him, friend and foe alike, was a superior combatant. He didn't worry about anything. He'd been that way his whole life. It was this strange quirk that allowed him to be so successful so quickly as a trapeze artist. To fly through the air at dizzying heights, swinging from one trapeze bar into the grasp of a fellow artist... fear was an obstacle that most human beings would have to conquer in order to execute. Usually by extensive practice over safety nets. But fear was never something Lucas had to conquer. And here, in the midst of battle, it was the same. The righteousness, the prospect of glory, the ideals that the Order of the Iron Rose stood for... it was these things that filled his mind and glowed under his battle-rage of nerves and emotion.

Lucas swayed left to slip a swordsman's attack, then swiped at the back of his knees as the bandit went past him into the capable attack range of Sir Fleuri's greatsword.

The cage was in sight, but Lucas' vision was soon blocked by more bandits advancing on them. "Come and pay the price for your crimes!" Lucas' advance did not falter. He didn't care about his mortality and thus felt invincible. He was a sword of justice. He was not a boy but the law itself. Righteous indignation and conviction in human form.

In the loudness of shouting, screaming and steel clashing with steel, it was almost too difficult to hear the charging footsteps of a flanking bandit. Lucas looked right, just in time to throw up a parry and sidestep. It was now at least a quartet of bandits on the three knights, Lucas, Fleuri and Renar. Lucas struggled with one, but with enough space on the battlefield to move around, he managed to draw his opponent into overreaching and countered with a savage charge, running his sword right through the bandits neck and following through until he'd run the bandit into the ground.

They were close, but then...

The dead tree at one side of the camp was suddenly engulfed in roaring flames... "By Reon." ...before it tilted, looming, creaking and finally plummeting to the ground. Its immense trunk slammed down across the camp's center, cutting the battlefield in two. The reverberating blast on impact forced Lucas to turn away from the heat and pressure - his free arm up and covering his head.

Captain Fanilly, was his first thought as everyone recovered from the impact. He was sure her team had come from the east side, across the camp where the flaming, fallen tree trunk now barred. The flames distorted all vision. Lucas didn't have time to look for a way around when the cage finally broke open and out emerged a beast that Lucas had only read about in books. But he knew it as soon as he saw it. That massive eagle-like head was unmistakable. It spread it's wings majestically and some bandits were knocked away, but Lucas' focus was not on the bandits, but the beautiful, mythical creature in his sights.

"Wow," he whispered, right before it shrieked so loudly, it drowned out even the din of battle.

And then he was back in reality, the sequence of events from tree falling to beast unveiling lasting mere moments. So this was the trump card of King Jeremiah. A griffin. How in the world could they deal with that!? The felled tree must have been part of the bandits' plan too. An elaborate trap was expected, but it's execution was successful and now the Knight-Captain was nowhere to be seen.

And to add to the difficulty, an altogether different squad of bandits set upon Paladin Tyaethe's team. No mere brigands but finely armoured warriors - the difference measurable, even by sight. And Lucas would quickly find out that they were far superior in skill too.

A halberdier engaged him. Lucas backpedalled as he parried away the strikes, then tried to advance and strike back, but couldn't get close. The halberdier countered easily, and Lucas might've been dealt a mortal blow had he not disengaged with quickness. And yet he didn't get away without feeling the sharp slice of metal cut through cuirass and graze his skin. "Ha! An amateur," the rebel realised. "You're in trouble boy. I'm gonna gut you like a fish." Lucas was outclassed. He did his best to fend off blows but his armour kept getting nicked and his body taking lacerations. It was only credit to his agility that he wasn't yet bleeding to death.

"Ha!" The rebel thrust his blade to sever the boy's leg and cut out all the dancing, but Lucas jumped (an awful habit) one foot gently but firmly pushing off the end of the halberd, propelling him toward his opponent, inside his guard!

"Arrgh!"

His progress was stopped easily by a quick push-kick to the chest. The mid-air collision with a steel toe-capped boot knocked the wind out of Lucas and he was sent tumbling and crumbling to the ground. He'd lost his bearings. He didn't know where his allies were, at this point. All he knew was that the halberdier was walking up to finish him off and the young knight was in arms reach of long, heavy steel chain with manacle attachments. His enemy got within reach and Lucas let go of his sword to grasp the chain in his two hands, got to his knees and spun with all his might.

"Arrgh!"

The chain: Long enough to negate the halberdiers reach advantage. Heavy enough to do some damage - whipped around with force and Jeremiah's elite warrior - thinking his victory was assured - turned his face just in time to get slapped with the force of a battering ram across his jaw. The halberdier spun 180 as he fell to the ground, his finely crafted helmet just-about managing to allow him his consciousness. His jaw was broken, his disposition groggy and furious and he tried shakily to get up, much like a downed pugilist. Lucas, wide eyed, was surprised his resourcefulness had turned out so well, but he quickly snapped out of it, grabbed his sword and went to take advantage.

The sword of the Storm pierced the back of the halberdier's neck. The superior fighter's life ended for naught more than overconfidence. Lucas drove it downward, then poured his weight on top to drive him further into the ground. The young knight ignored his lacerations, his bloody nose, his maybe-broken ribs. But for a second he caught his breath, looked up and saw Griffin engaged with Serenity. The way it could just fly around whenever it suited itself, had to be negated. Lucas looked back at the chain on the floor.

Without even knowing what his plan was, he hauled up the chain and threw it over his shoulder, then wrapped it like bandoleer around his chest and threw it once more over the shoulder. And then he ran towards the biggest threat on the battlefield without a clue of what he was doing............
Dante's eyebrow quirked, one eye squinting as he mentally fought off the whispers. The air felt ominous and he was concerned about what would happen next. When Talia went past him and closer to the light, the level of concern rose. The whispers grew, feeling like they were all around them, so much so that Dante looked around around with suspicion. Then Talia lifted a hand to the light.

"Talia, wait!" he called urgently.

But she'd already done it. The light practically exploded, prompting Dante to burst forward, diving in front of Talia and into a fighting stance. He wasn't sure what use fists would be against this thing, but he wasn't willing to let his friend be hurt without going down testing the prospect first. Right after Dante's rapid reactions, Gunthar jumped in front of him, ready to protect both of them. The presence of the big ogre gave Dante confidence and he gritted his teeth, sidestepping to get a better view, his hands up ready to fight.

“Kalinia!”

The gale of energy was intense, the whispers loud and getting louder still. Dante didn't falter, his knuckles white on his fists. But his eyes were almost closed from the blinding light. His muscles were tense, coiled like springs, ready to explode him into action, the moment he saw a threat. But what he finally saw was not a threat. It was another demon. A female - a satir like his friend. He wanted to lower his guard but for the glowing weapons in the unidentified demon's hands. Her eyes locked onto Talia behind them and the glow left her axes as she stepped forward.

"Stay back!" Dante commanded, ready to strike her.

“Kali! Good, you’re safe. We need… to… get… …”

Dante was left as speechless as Gunthar, unable to react quick enough when the stranger lost consciousness and fell to the ground - he only managed a step. What the hell was going on? It seemed Talia was just as flabbergasted as him, Dante turning about to look at her shocked face when she finally spoke. Gunthar went over and hauled the stranger into his arms and brought her over.

"Take care."

Dante suddenly burst into a chuckle. "Lilith, Gunther, don't you just have the most interesting job," he joked, running a hand through his hair. "This an everyday thing for you, big guy? Then Dante said to Talia. "I think she thought she knew you. What do you make of that?"


When Knight-Captain Fanilly ordered everyone into three groups, Lucas Storm did what he usually did these last few months... try to see what Sir Gerard was doing. As the young man looked about for his hero, knights crissing and crossing his gaze, he finally put eyes on Gerard who was lining up with the Captain herself. Heading that way, a turn of the shoulder here, a gentle push there, he suddenly found himself in close proximity to Paladin Tyaethe. In fact, he'd stumbled right in front of her, and whether she was looking directly at him or not, he didn't want to chance disrespecting her. He had already heard a few grumblings from other knights who questioned his presence in the Order of the Iron Roses. If he angered any of the senior knights and was kicked out, he would have nowhere to go. His boyhood fantasy (the fantasy of most-all boys who'd read books or been told stories) that'd now turned into an actually achievable goal within the blink of an eye, would turn to dust. And he would be on the streets with no family or purpose. And so he quarter-turned towards her, using the exposed tunic on his bicep to wipe the worst of the blood from his face before standing to attention.

The orders were clear and concise, (Lucas repeated them a few times to himself to burn them into his mind,) but it was hard not to be distracted by the Paladin who was giving them. There was something very different about looking into the eyes of a vampire, Lucas couldn't place it. His mind flashed him a wild image of his parents as zombies when he considered if it was because he was looking at what was essentially a dead girl. Or maybe it was the idea that his commanding officer had witnessed more than two centuries of time. He'd never had much interaction with Tyaethe and her demeanour didn't exactly invite random questions, but by Reon did he have a list for her.

And that to add to that long list of inquries, the Paladin - just moments before it was time to advance into camp - transformed into a full grown person dressed head to toe in the finest armour.

"Fucking blimey," was the breathless reaction of the young man. Lucas, in spite of being raised around some of the foulest mouthed circus folk, had never actually cursed so hard in his life. But then, he'd never actually taken a life ere tonight either. Yes, there were plenty of 'firsts' for the boy this night. He only hoped he didn't have his first death too.

Just as he'd imagined earlier; the fort would indeed be a significantly harder beast to contend with, in comparison to the skirmish with ambushers. Under command of Paladin Tyaethe, the group charged the patchwork palisade walls and a mass of glinting metal was right there to meet them. That same rush of emotion accosted him as noise level began to rise. He roared alongside his comrades as they neared, and instead of letting the rushing river of nerves and emotion take him away, he stood in the riverbed, feet planted, and let those currents rise around him into a spinning helix of power that reached the clouds. Yes it would be bloody! Yes it would be downright savage! But such was the retribution that these lawless, dishonourable vagabonds deserved!

"JUSTIIIICE!"

As the line crashed against the defenders, Lucas whacked away a spear thrusting towards him, spinning within his enemy's guard and two-hand crashing his blade where neck meets shoulder. He withdrew immediately to fend off other threats, taking two steps back as he did, then closed the space vehemently when the enemy weapons drew back for another strike. His poorly placed strikes did nought but glance off sturdy armour but he stayed determined as he backpedalled to block and parry more blows. An unidentified knight next to him took advantage of the bandit in front of Lucas, smashing his huge mace into the bandits head and crushing his helmet along with half of his skull. Lucas pressed forward again in the rhythmic back-n-forth waves of the fight, copying his comrade and taking advantage of the bandit in front of him, stabbing the waist and turning the momentum of pulling out into an overhand strike to the neck, then quickly moving on from the payback to engage another.

With so many capable knights around him, Lucas was not in any danger of being overwhelmed. His comrades more than held their own, making the young man's life much easier. In fact, the man to his right was none other than Sir Renar - easily recognisable with the distinct fur mantle he wore on top of his armour - was making mince meat of the enemy. Perhaps it was the attention (and fear) the older knight was garnering from the bandits that was giving Lucas the easy looks he was getting. Another bandit fell to the sword of the Storm.

In his short time with the Order, Lucas had gotten the impression that Renar didn't like him. It wasn't anything overt, just a feeling. But right now, as comrades in arms, in the heat of battle, he didn't let that stop him from replying to the man's observation.

"It's gotta be another trap," Lucas answered, a quick pause as his eyes darted left and right to decide his next move. That's when he saw a little ways down the line, the shining knight that was Paladin Tyaethe causing absolute chaos, a teethy grin spread across his face. "He better do something soon, or they be no anvil left to smash his hammer against." A bandit came at him and he sidestepped the attack and hacked at his enemy's knee, before spinning into a slash that wasn't strong enough to take the head clean off, but killed his adversary all the same. "Carve a path to the cage?" he offered to Sir Renar. He wouldn't be confident enough to do it alone, but having the man who'd famously killed an orc warlord at his side, in addition to his raging adrenaline, would be another matter entirely.


As if it wasn't embarrassing enough that Lucas had briefly found himself appraising the physical appearance of his comrade, whilst on the battlefield of all places, Cecilia made it ten times worse by calling him out.

"!"

How on earth she'd noticed his inappropriacy in the darkened forest was beyond him, but if what before was a blush, then what was now was a face as red as a tomato. It was a good job he was caked in drying blood, not that that made the situation any less embarrassing for the young knight. Elite scouts indeed, he thought exasperatedly. He almost missed the information the bandit had spilled.

"...there's palisades set up around the camp, but it's not a complete wall... a watch tower, too... hehe... I've never seen anyone as beautiful as you, y'know..."

The pre-death flirtations along with Sir Gerard's quip at Dame Morianne just made things worse and Lucas couldn't have been more happy when Paladin Tyaethe ordered him to join in gathering the bodies.

"Err, at once, Paladin Tyaethe," was the response, and he quickly wiped his sword clean on the tattered threads of a bandit corpse, then sheathed it before getting to work.

Dead weight was ridiculously heavy, and Lucas found himself struggling with his orders. The smell was back in the forefront of his mind too. He tried and failed his first approach before finding some success by sitting the corpses up, before wrapping his arms around the torsos and dragging from there. It was slightly disheartening to see a little girl making light work of it all, even if that little girl was in fact a centuries-old veteran warrior with likely double the strength of even Sir Fionn MacKerracher. As he hauled his second body onto the pile, he glanced at Sir Gerard, who was casually getting on with his job, as if piling up firewood on a quaint evening. He took no note of his talking with Sir Renard, only wondering that this was the life of a hero knight. It was all such a rude awakening.

He leaned over to get a good grip over another dead bandit, trying his best to ignore the corpse's stomach was falling out of it's bloody stomach.

And the night was young - there was plenty more to do. Plenty more killing. Plenty more corpses to pile up. This was a short battle, he knew that much. Not enough of a fight for such a large regiment of knights. The bandit camp would likely be a much more taxing affair. This was simply a warm up. Lucas steeled himself, gritting his teeth and forcing a burst of willpower from within. He would do what was asked of him. He had to. He had to live on, not just for himself but for his parents, for the rest of the people he once called family. And here was an opportunity to be a hero of the people - a sword of justice for the crown. Here, tonight, was the possibility of rescuing innocents from captivity - to be like Sir Gerard himself. He just had to keep his chin up, his jaw clenched and kill the criminals who opposed honour and righteousness. And of course... Follow orders. And don't die.

And so he followed his orders, ever-wary of vomiting and embarrassing himself further. He found his way over to Sir Fleuri and reached for a dead body near him.

"Sir Fleuri, you have my apologies," he started, wanting to be quiet enough that no one else would hear, but needing to be clear enough that the older knight would hear the sincerity of his words. "I don't know what came over me, rushing out from the flank like that, but I will do better in the future. Thank you for pulling me out of that mess."
"Up you get, sleepy head," Pete said, gentle but firm. He took a step back waited for her to rise. "I've found you some work at the local tavern, The Three Legged Dog. The owner, Pinocchio, is a nice enough guy. I'm sure he won't work you too hard. There's a washroom through that door there." He pointed at the bathroom. "Get yourself cleaned up, I'll be waiting outside."

The veteran town guard watched the roads, down the hill, below. Grasscroft was steady bustling with lunchtime activity. He imagined circle merchants would be outside over the next few hours. Heading to and from places like New Brooklyn and Liberty Heights, Uptown and Sycamore Grove. There might even be some distant runners from the Commonwealth settlements. Grasscroft sat fairly close to the border of Boston, East New York and West New York, making it a sort of centre-point of commerce in the wasteland. Over the decades, it had grown from a small settlement, to about as big a city as one might see in New York. Only Liberty Heights could compare. And with that size, and good leadership over the generations, it was prosperous and safe, with well trained militia to withstand raider attacks and the weekly waves of feral ghouls.

When the young woman appeared, he flicked his head pointedly down the hill and then lead the way.

"Grasscroft is a nice enough place," he told her. "It's safe too, as you can probably tell." As if on queue, half a dozen guards armed with assault rifles went past them, heading up the hill. "Pinocchio will pay you decently - enough to get yourself some food and another bed. If he likes you, he might offer you more work. Who knows, maybe you'll settle down here."

They walked through the streets, having to watch themselves as crossed right through a soccer game. Dodging the children as he laughed, the ball came toward him.

"Pistol Pete! Pistol Pete, here!"

He kicked it towards the kid that called him.

"Hey that's not fair!" shouted another.

The got onto Main Street - the big road through the town, and from there they shortly found the tavern, The Three Legged Dog. Pete stopped in front of it and gave her a dry grin. "It used to have four legs, but umm... a few too many bar fights."

He went through the saloon-style batwing doors and raised a hand to Pinocchio, who was behind the bar. "You're back," he greeted with a smile. Pinocchio was tall, slender man. He had slick black hair, warm brown eyes and an equally warm smile. "And I suppose that this is my helper for today. My name is Pinocchio, how do you do?"

He held out his hand to shake.
"And he has cheek to tell me get off phone!?" Yusuf exclaimed wildly. Archer snorted. "I said, Ateeq... you no pay no bloodeh bills in this house..."

Archer liked Yusuf's rants. He barely listened to the details, but he enjoyed the man's foreign brand of extravagence. Yusuf was wagging his finger at the young agent - who was sat at a table in the kebab shop - as if it was Archer who was his son.

"...you no pay no bloodeh rent. You no pay no bloodeh water. Gas. Electricity. You no pay bloodeh phone bill!" This time, Archer laughed out loud. Yusuf went on. "His girlfriend laughing on the line. He embaress. I don't care."

For a long time now, Archer had been coming to this same kebab shop. It was hardly healthy, but there wasn't many places a creature of the night could get something hot to eat, and the young man never did much cooking. And Yusuf wasn't about to complain at the regular custom. At first, Archer was just another customer, but after regular visits, the chatty shop-keeper had begun to make conversation with him. Upon early inquiries, Archer had told him that he was a night-shift street-sweeper, which wasn't an outright lie, Archer thought. But Yusuf wasn't stupid. Luckily, he wasn't that intrusive or indiscreet either, so the two of them got along fine.

"Kick him out," Archer offered casually. Then, as an after-thought, "Why on earth have you still got a house phone, in this day and age? Doesn't he have a cell?"

Just then, a drunk couple wandered into the shop and Archer went back to looking through the Lightning Corp case file on the mysterious Aurora. Aside from the locations of the murder scenes, the file was complete garbage. Compared to the information that The Wizard doled out, most Lightning Corp case files were complete garbage. It made him wonder how other assassins did their jobs so effectively. I guess everyone has informants, he thought. A shadow came over his table and he looked up to see the woman eyeing his papers, and promptly covered them with his arm. If Daniels or anyone else found out that he was reading his case files out in public like this, all hell would break loose, but Archer didn't care much for the regulations of his workplace. As a general rule, he didn't care for much of anything. The woman took the hint and swayed back to her boyfriend's side at the counter. Archer watched her with a degree of contempt, but his face changed when he saw the shop television, and the headline that was scrolling across the CNN news segment.

As the couple took their kebabs and left, Archer pointed at the TV. "Yusuf, turn that up a bit, mate."

<"...and the wolf that escaped from the zoo in Central Park, Manhattan, is still on it's rampage. Police Authorities are asking citizens to stay indoors, after dark, until the beast is caught...">

"Crazy shit," Yusuf remarked.

"Yeah," Archer agreed. "Who the hell goes to the Zoo to see a wolf, anyway?"

Yusuf grunted. He started muttering to himself as he went into the back of the shop. Just then, Archer's phone started vibrating.

<"I won't deny it, am a straight rider, you don't wanna fuck with me...">

"What's up?" It was Titus Hart, from Field Support; one of the few people Archer considered a friend. He was looking for a 4th teammate for an online videogame tournament. "I'm busy with that one thing, but I'll let you know if I'm done early............ Alright."

"Your boss?" Yusuf asked as he came back to the front of the shop.

"Yeah," Archer lied. He shoved the last of his kebab in his mouth and licked all his fingers, then grabbed a napkin. Yusuf watched him curiously, as if he wanted to pry. Archer gathered up his papers and got up before shoving the case file back into his waistband, behind the gun-holsters at the small of his back. "I'm off, mate. I'll see you, yeah."

"Take care, Archer."

Archer blindly threw up a hand in leui of a wave as he walked to the door, and went out into the night, Yusuf watching him as he did.

Using some of the skills he'd accrued in his life back in England, Archer broke into the oldest looking car he could find, on the street, hotwired it and drove it home. When he got inside, he threw the case file in the bin and grabbed his police scanner. He double-checked his guns. Full clips of sliver hollow points, blessed with holy water for added zing. One already in each chamber, as he'd been taught.

Stay ready so you don't have to get ready.

Out on the streets again, driving around, scanner on the dash, he listened to the police calls coming through as he thought about the clues he'd managed to collect from The Wizard. It wasn't much, this time around - The Wizard had beaten him soundly in the chess match, before he could trade down all his pieces.

She was the head of powerful noble family.
She doesn't need the moon to transform.
She likes dogs.
She's learning the new world around her.
She likes to play act.
She feeds on both flesh and soul, gaining both sustanence and knowledge from meals.
She likes to be rocked to sleep. Underground.

Archer pulled up at some red lights. A few people crossed as he stared, one hand on the wheel. She likes to be rocked to sleep, he thought. Underground. That clue stood out to him. It wasn't for another hour, that he heard a police call on the scanner that would give him his lead.

<We got a 10-20 in Lafayette Subway, please respond.>

"The subway," he said aloud to himself.

The subway. Where else can you be rocked to sleep, underground. It kinda made sense. And it was the best answer he had. Pulling out his iPhone, he brought up a map of the local area and figured out the closest subway, then promptly executed a tire screeching U-turn and hit the gas.

Ninth Avenue Subway. It was a location burned into his memory - the place where he'd found himself being toyed with by a gang of vampire teens. He'd almost become food that night. But then MacKensie Trydant showed up.

After his life of petty crime in London, England had gone too far... After he'd messed with the wrong gang members and found himself, life in danger - a bounty on his head - his mother had put him on a plane to New York, to live with her brother, his Uncle Eric. His life of petty crime in England was over. While his Uncle Eric tried to sort out a work visa for the 19 yr old, Archer made some friends on the streets and managed to start a new life of petty crime in New York. But that life hadn't lasted long. He walked into Ninth Avenue subway station, that fated night, as a petty criminal and come out of the station with his true 'new life.' A career came shortly after. Hell; a US citizenship too. Everything had changed. His mother called him Bran. His friends in England called him 'A-Dog.' Now he was Archer; an assassin - agent of Lightning Corp. A prefect behind the veil. A keeper of the peace between humans and non-humans.

Archer parked in the carpark next to the station. He figured that if he went down into the subway and just checked all of the trains on the circular routes of the northbound and southbound lines, he might find his target. Homeless people had been known to try and steal a nap on trains before. Usually they'd be found by train inspectors and thrown off, but Archer guessed it would take a different kind of authority to make Aurora do anything she didn't want to do.

The car engine died, and Archer scanned the streets habitually, before getting out. It would likely be a long and boring night.
@Horton

Hi mate, do you want me to wait for you, bro?
Hi mate. No worries, I'm glad you feel better. I'm doing alright, thanks for asking.


Follow orders. Don't die.

He'd failed. As he lay there staring up at the bandit who would deliver the young knight's death, he did not think he might be able to kick his attacker and put him off balance. He didn't think that he could draw one of the throwing knives strapped around his person. He didn't even think to try and move. He'd resigned himself to failure and death, and wondered what his mother and father would think of his efforts. Would they be proud he at least tried to continue on and make something of his life?

As fast as this thought process was, he didn't get a chance to ponder his question.

"For Reon! For the Roses!"

A blur of glinting metal crossed his vision and suddenly, the bandit who was about to kill him was but a headless corpse collapsing in a heap. Lucas could only gasp in a mix of both wonder and horror. It was Sir Fleuri.

"I trust you'll be more careful in the future, Sir Lucas," Fleuri remarked as he glanced around looking for any other bandits that might be nearby. Lucas blinked twice, trying to find his voice. He'd almost forgotten that he was stood right next to the black-armoured knight ere the battle had begun. Ironically, Sir Fleuri had in fact been one of the many things that'd filled Lucas' head with the idea of romantic valour and knightly deeds. As a young lad, his circus troupe had come to a city, name long forgotten, on the same day as an annual tourney event. Lucas remembered, if nothing else, the black knight - The Flower of the North, they called him at the time - besting the competition. Harold Storm, Lucas' father had said to his son that the black knight was fast to act and nearly always put his opponents on their back foot, thus commanding the pace of the fight and never allowing his opponent to employ their own strategy. That's why he won. Lucas, a mere child, could only marvel at the skill. It was indeed ironic, that Sir Fleuri: Flower of the North, had showed him how beautiful melee combat could be... and now he was showing him just how ugly it could be - the headless corpse, gushing blood from the neck, beside him. "Are you wounded?"

Lucas dragged his eyes away from the corpse and finally found his voice. "Y-y-yes," he assured the older knight. "I mean no, I-I'm fine. I'm not hurt."

He got to his feet, about to declare his gratitude when the massive explosion of light and sound made him recoil and put his hands to his ears. His eyes went to the site of Alodia's Thunderstrike and saw the unfortunate bandits who'd took the full brunt of the magical attack. Then he saw his sword on the forest floor, not far away from his own position.

"Thanks," he said to Fleuri. A piss-poor response, Lucas felt, for someone who'd just saved his life at the last possible second, but there was a battle to complete. "I owe you one."

And with that, he went after his sword. Fortunately, between Morianne's song sowing dismay and discord among the enemy, and the absolute superiority of the knights in the order, his path was unhindered. His blood was still raging, his heartbeat threatening to burst his eardrums as he swiped up his weapon and ran toward the feeble positions of the remaining bandits. There were few left, and the full weight of the Iron Rose regiment had smashed into them. A memory flashed through Lucas' mind as he advanced on the fighting; an off-the-cuff remark from Senior Knight Tyaethe Radistirin she made in passing, one time.

'Hit them where they're not looking,' she'd said.

Lucas ran in a direction past one knight engaging a bandit, then turned into the flank of the duel and ran his sword into the armpit of the bandit, who howled in pain for a split-moment before being dispatched by the Iron Rose knight in front. He slashed the legs of another shield-bearing bandit already engaged, resulting in another quick loss of life. His movements were unmolested as the numbers advantage snowballed, and Lucas forced himself to enjoy the fact that they were winning, even if his vision was filled with an untold number of brutal deaths. There was no chance for the enemy to flee, but one in Lucas' sights did try.

"Don't let any of them flee!" he recited the Knight-Captain's orders to himself, although much too loud that it might have been mistaken for the young man trying to give orders.

His armour was light in comparison to most of his allies, and Lucas was already incredibly nimble and fleet of foot. He chased down the fleeing bandit easily, and kicked his trailing leg across, forcing his enemy to trip himself. The bandit tumbled to the floor and the raging young knight dove upon him, driving his sword with all his weight, straight through the back of the cuirass belonging to his enemy. Another cry of agony was released into the din, quickly lost in the air. Gritted teeth, all but growling, Lucas rose up, planted a foot on the bandit and yanked his sword free. Yet another cry. But the last sword thrust was the killing blow and his enemy was silenced.

He looked around for any more foes and realised that the battle was over. There were a scant few ambushers being promptly overwhelmed. None had managed to get away that the junior knight could see. Nevertheless, Lucas rushed back to the bulk of the Iron Roses, close enough to Captain Fanilly that he could hear her next orders.

"Ease the suffering of the dying," she ordered. Ease the suffering of the dying? Did she mean...? "Bind any survivors and take them prisoner. If they have any information, do your best to extract it from them."

The last part, he understood. But he didn't quite understand how he, with little knowledge of the healing arts, could help the dying...

"Right, ma'am."

Lucas' head turned sharply to that familiar voice. He watched Sir Gerard intently as the man roamed among the dead. It was starting to dawn on him what his orders actually were, and perhaps, if it was just denial that was keeping him in the dark, the knight he idolised was about to make it clear.

"To whatever rest you've earned. Reon'll show you."

Gerard delivered a solemn killing blow to the wounded bandit. Lucas shuddered. His battle-rage had gone, his heart calmed down, and he began to take it all in. The results of their work. A mass loss of life. The smell. By Reon, the taste! The sight. He didn't know how to feel, but he'd gotten his orders. He knew what he had to do. Many were doing the same as Gerard, scouring the battlefield. With the blood of another man all over his face - and in his ears, he could feel it - all over his arms and hands, Lucas steeled himself and joined in. Walking about the dead-strewn forest floor was like a something out of a nightmare. A knight beside him stabbed a corpse just to make sure it was indeed dead. It was sickening, but Lucas now sought to do the same. He thrust his blade into corpse after corpse, all of them already dead. The smell was as revolting as the act of stabbing a corpse. It felt wrong, somehow, and he didn't have the wit - in this current environment - to see why it was necessary. He didn't have the wit for anything right now. It was all he could do to simply carry out his orders and not vomit while doing so.

He and the rest of the corpse checkers seemed finished after a spell, and Lucas, (who originally thought to make his way to Sir Fleuri, in order to give a real thank you plus an apology for running out of formation and requiring rescue,) followed the loud and positively obnoxious voice of the troubadour, Morianne. Her colourful language was doing some really heavy lifting to lighten the mood, and Lucas felt like listening to her musical voice would stop him from emptying his dinner onto the ground. He arrived in close proximity as her song ended, and watched as she interrogated the bandit.

"Now," Morianne grabbed the bandit by the chin, "would you be a darling and help a fine lady like me out? I just want to know what Jeremiah has planned for the Iron Rose Knights. If you tell me, I just might give you a kiss."

Lucas felt blood rush to his cheeks. He knew she was simply playing a role to get the information but he couldn't help but think that her charm would probably (definitely) work on him. Quite a few of the female knights in the Order were attractive - even some of the more butch ones like Serenity, certainly could not be called ugly, however manly they acted - but Morianne was perhaps the easiest on the eyes. In spite of her bitchiness at times, she had that quality that all good bards had: An inexorable amount of charm. And she'd turned it on for the bandit, who, judging by his face, was like putty in her hands.

Lucas looked around to take note of the Cecilia and Hope's position as they started on their scouting mission, hoping to reorient himself and remember the direction of the bandit camp. Then his attention was firmly back on the interrogation, with an ear out for any further orders Knight-Captain Fanilly might give.
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