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I'm out of town for a few weeks. Feel free to shoot me a pm, I'll answer it when I get back!
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First tattoo! Whoo!
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Absolutely astounded... Blown away. Received the best feedback on any writing piece I've ever done and I honestly have no words to express how good it feels to see the work pay off.
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Huh... I never realized I never used this. Maybe I should start... Okay, first status! C'MON SCOUT, DON'T LET THE PEOPLE DOWN! They're expecting a great status!
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The Frontier, Aboard the Sword of Dawn


Viveca stood at the bow of The Sword of Dawn, staring out into the expanse of ice and shelves before them. Her hands were clasped behind her back as she held a strong stance, gazing inquisitively forward. Ragnar had been stewing the whole day, she noticed, but his Aegis held up with incredible strength against the elements. It barely seemed to be wearing on him at all, as a matter of fact. A sense of foreboding overcame her in that moment, and she reached silently to the book at her right hip – she had used leather straps to affix it to the belt around her coat. It belonged to her; she could not leave it in her stateroom. It had too much power and she had too little understanding of it to risk another person finding it.

Dusk without the clouding of Varya’s Aegis was sublime, though, she noticed. The gold and orange hues of the sky stretched on endlessly, reflected in her eyes. The Narrow Gates before them were intimidating in their naturally awe-inspiring splendor. She despised the privilege that allowed Ilya to personally own such a fine craft, but even she had to admit that it was pure serendipity they could use it. Her thoughts drifted once more to Hassan’s sleuthing about Ilya’s chambers, and still she had not yet informed Father Galahad of it, but perhaps she should before they return, while Hassan could not interrupt or intervene. These thoughts, from Hassan to Ashe-rahn and the Azure Circle, had been plaguing her mind for a week now, and only Tatiana and Oren could share in her existential sorrow. She wanted to tell Galahad, truly, but he had so much work before him, she wanted more substantial information before adding it to his pile of responsibility.

Her eyes glazing over as she receded into her mind, Viveca did not notice the incoming projectile until Ziotea warned them all. Suddenly thrown back into the real world, she whipped around to see Ragnar, already prepared to stave off the attack. Banou’s alarm did not end there as the walls of ice came crumbling down around them. The Inquisitor, now returned to the moment, heeded the call and immediately gripped a nearby railing with both hands, holding her tongue in the back of her mouth so she wouldn’t bite it, and angling her body to maintain a firm stance as the ship reared up. Nearly losing her footing as the vessel heaved directly upward, Viveca engaged her arms and abdomen, twisting to now accommodate the shift of gravity and locking her feet against the railing as well. Where the hell did that come from?! She cursed silently as Banou expertly righted the racer.

Banou had joined them as the pilot upon their departure and Viveca knew almost nothing about the woman except that she was probably Omestrian, at least mostly, by blood, yet wholly devoted to the Ravenous Lord and eager to prove it. She was born to be a soldier, and her military bearing and resiliency were clear to Viveca. This was a woman who had seen much and, while not very expressive, had been entirely shaped by her own experiences, whatever they may be. Port, starboard, up down… the entire scouting party was left to hold themselves in place as this woman remained steadfast, dedicated to the helm.

And then it happened – as everybody gripped their respective braces and held themselves in place, Viveca watched Banou steer them resolutely, activating the seal as the hull was breached. The hole that had opened in the side of the vessel was no laughing matter, and as they lurched forward and down to dodge the incoming glacier from the sky, seal began to close over it. But one other thing went nearly unnoticed – Banou, silently as though in either shock or pure dedication, fell from her post forward, and right through the hull into the water with a splash. Her body whipped to the side as the racer passed her and a deluge of water was sucked inside, just in time to be closed off.

And that was it… Banou was just… gone. Nowhere to be seen, and Viveca thought she might be the only one who actually saw it happen.

“Hit the brakes!! Man overboard!” She cried as soon as she could get her footing, even on the wet floor. There was no hesitation as she bolted toward Oren, releasing the straps that held her tome at her side. Are you insane?! The pragmatic portion of her brain screamed, She’s already dead – hypothermia will kill her in moments! Viveca shook her head and began expending as much ether as she dared on her Brilliance – the warming glow of light she could produce and place on surfaces. She covered her vital areas, particularly her heart and head. Finally, she placed her hand on the book, whispering just loud enough for Oren, and perhaps Ziotea to hear her.

“Ashe-rahn, I know what you’ve done… and what you did to me, I beg you now… grant me the protection from the very cold you’ve once tried to use against me… As Mother Indira told me, deep within me, there is a flame, the same is true of you… help. Me.” She prayed quietly; her eyes closed. She hoped that would help… perhaps it would backfire, but she was already consigning herself to death – there were only moments before Banou would be left for dead in a lifeless sea, she had to act before Galahad could pull her away. She thrust the book into Oren’s arms, “Keep this safe… If I don’t return, you and Tatiana have to figure this out… Tell Galahad,” The woman requested, her golden eyes meeting his before she began to pull away. A hand closed around her wrist and jerked her back around, once again looking to Oren.

His eyes were searching, and filled with concern. “Viveca.”

Words unspoken passed between them. And seemingly convinced, the pale-haired man released his grip on her.

“Ragnar! I’m going to need help from your Aegis,” She called out. True, Viveca was no Galahad nor Ragnar for leadership, but she was a person of action. Just as she had called for this mission, the pilot assigned to them was as much her responsibility as theirs. If this mission was Banbou’s death, the return of her body would be Viveca’s.

“What the-” Was all Galahad managed to get out before his brain started kicking into overdrive. His eyes shot back and forth for a moment before they rested on Ragnar’s. He nodded to the shorter inquisitor. Despite their arguments, the two were always in tune enough that Ragnar didn’t need to hear him speak to know what he was saying.

Go.

Without another word Galahad made a sprint for the control cabin, boots slamming across the deck.

The woman grabbed and hefted the bar keeping the watertight door of the pressurized compartment between the inside of the ship and the outside and leapt inside, shutting it quickly behind her. The very same was true of the second door, but as soon as she opened it, she took a massive breath of air. Then, she was in the water… untethered by gravity or The Sword of Dawn; light penetrated the water from the setting sun, but reflected from the ice, too. The water was a shimmering, glittery blue of frozen temperatures. It was awesome and horrifying… and empty, all at the same time. She began swimming aft of the racer – hoping to spot Banou still just within Ragnar’s Aegis; that was her best hope for life.

Viveca focused her ether as cold began penetrating her body. It was shocking and immediate; if her lungs weren’t full of air, she would have gasped and inhaled the liquid. She had to strengthen her paling, she only had so much time, but her ether felt inaccessible. There had only ever been one time in her life that she felt so disconnected from that pool inside of her as cold crept along her extremities. She couldn’t move her arms as she was thrown out the side of the vessel, everything began to stiffen; the woman was already numb, and the peripherals of her limited vision were turning purple and black. She was going to die before she even spotted Banou’s body, wasn’t she?

Darkness filled her gaze all the way through. It was dense and inky, she felt more than cold poking and prodding her nerves. It felt like it was holding her ether at bay, fighting her spirit as well as her body. It was like her very soul was freezing solid. In the darkness of her vision, she saw one tiny light. As it began to grow, she saw that it was a mixture of red and orange, flickering. She felt it, deep within her, as the cold began to dissipate from around her. The inquisitor’s vision was returned to her, and she felt the warmth spread throughout her body, for just long enough to summon a paling. Was that him..? Does Ashe-rahn show mercy? She wondered silently, kicking her legs as she pushed the water before her back.

The paling helped to dry her and kept the cold from the water away, at least so far. But it was doing a lot of work, the faint shade of dark blue around her pulsed as inky black tendrils of powerful, accursed cold assaulted her shielding. The Sword of Dawn actually continued onward, she realized, as it’s momentum was taking too long to reverse. But she pushed on, even as she felt her paling begin to give way once out of Ragnar’s Aegis. Redoubling her efforts to push back with her paling, she felt her ether take a heavy hit fighting back the shock and cold.

And finally, after what felt like minutes of swimming, Viveca saw her – Banbou was drifting lazily downward, though she was only maybe ten feet from the surface still and did not seem to be sinking quickly. The woman reached out and grabbed the scouting party’s pilot, extending her paling to protect her from the cold, once again adding to the drain on her ether. As she turned around to pull her back to the ship, it was gone… It was too dark, or the vessel was too deep and far; she could not see it. No, no… No, no, no… Viveca whipped around, but the only direction she could see was up. They needed to get out of this water, first and foremost, so she began dragging up… and up… Her arms and legs screaming against the cold, even through her paling. He lungs began to ache in warning; they really had moments before both of them would be pulled into the depths, never to be seen again.

Since The Sword of Dawn had been submerged, the water’s surface had become unperturbed. That is, until Viveca’s head broke through it and she gasped for fresh air, her teeth held back from chattering only by the sheer layer of will she had remaining. Where could they go? There was so much broken ice… There! A shelf, only about a foot out of the water. She could make sure Banou was still alive and decide their next step from there. Dragging the woman alongside her, Viveca side-stroked all the way to the shelf she spotted before reaching up with one arm and heaving Banou’s unmoving body on it, sliding her until she was completely out of the water. After that, Viveca climbed out of the water herself and let her paling soften slightly, just to absorb the cold around them, but no longer needed to stave off the water too. She pulled her own jacket off, removing her falchion from the belt, and placed it over Banou, using some of her remaining ether to create a small area of gentle warm, significantly less powerful than an Aegis, around them.

As she was trained, Viveca began checking vitals and for signs of life, rubbing her own arms when the cold attempted to cut through her paling. I swear to Omestris if you’re dead, I’ll hunt down your soul and reap it myself for letting me throw my life away… They were outside Varya’s Aegis – this woman likely had no right to be alive, unless Viveca was faster than she thought. Based on the readings and teachings of Father Antonin, there was little chance of survival outside of the Aegis. Banou’s eyes appeared slightly sunken and Viveca noticed a certain firmness in the woman’s veins, but… based on everything she was taught, it hadn’t progressed as quickly as she had heard. Keeping one hand on the woman to cover her in paling, Viveca checked for injuries – bruises, to be sure, but… nothing mortal, thankfully. Upon touching Banou’s shoulder, the woman sharply inhaled, but still appeared to be fluttering in and out of consciousness. It had to be dislocated, based on what Viveca knew of first aid. This wasn’t going to be pretty…

“Hang in there, this is gonna hurt…” She muttered, though there was no telling if Banou would hear her as she braced herself and then, in one quick, powerful move, popped the socket back into place.
@Mercenary Lord It's good to see that you're still around, buddy :)
Hotel Kupol, T’sarae, Day of Departure



Five more minutes… Just let me enjoy the warmth for five more minutes…

The only thought drifting through Viveca’s mind dawn first began to break over the horizon was that of a simple wish to stay in bed. It was warm here… and safe… Free from the discussions, planning, and ceremonies of the last few days. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and very gradually began to sit up, suddenly struck with a cotton-filled mouth and a spinning room. Before the Inquisitor could even reach for her timepiece, she felt a violent twist in her stomach. Wrenching herself from the sheets, Viveca darted for the attached washroom.

Through bleary eyes, she looked up from the porcelain bowl and blinked in surprise, gathering her bearings, and only had one question come to her mind: How much did I spend on this room? It was far more opulent than anything she was used to… She could remember as far as stumbling into the hotel, but most of the night after a couple rounds of shots with a group of SA soldiers was little more than a blur. While gently rubbing her temple, Viveca leaned back over the bowl, catching her breath, when she felt a hand on her shoulder. In a moment of shock, she wrenched away and fell on her ass, leaning against a bathtub, her gaze met by the visage of a very tired-looking woman. Should she recognize this person..?

“Viv? Are you… okay? It’s so early…” The unknown person spoke with naught but concern.

“I… Uh… Y-yeah…” Came her rather shaky reply before she wipe the edge of her mouth and climb out of her vulnerable position, holding her head with a free hand to keep the growing pressure at bay. “I mean. Yes. I’m fine, just under the weather. What are you doing…” That was when she remembered – a cheery girl, probably only a year or two her own junior from the ceremony. One of the older SA soldiers’ daughters, though at this point, Viveca wouldn’t be able to tell which one if her life depended on it. She had long black hair, a mess from a night in the bed. “Up… so early,” She finally finished her sentence as the pieces fell into place. This girl was an odd choice, she realized as the antics of the evening caught up to her.

“You leapt out of bed so fast, I’d have to be a hibernating bear not to wake up. Now come, you need more sleep…” The soft-voiced woman proposed, reaching out to help Viveca to her feet.

The Inquisitor shook her head and used the edge of the tub as a support. “I’m fine.” What was this woman’s name, anyway? Too late to ask, maybe it would come back to her later. “I need to get dressed, we’re getting underway later.” In another world, on a better day, the previous night would be more than a few glimpses of moments, but in this moment Viveca only knew she had to leave… and hopefully find her coinpurse with a little heft to it still. Maybe they gave her a discount?

In a stumbling rush, Viveca began to collect her affairs. While putting on her uniform, she felt like her brain was expanding, pressing against the sides of her skull. Never again, she lied to herself. Struggling to pull a boot over her foot, the other woman reappeared, lending a hand. Why was she so pushy about being helpful? Had she any idea with whom she was dealing? With a reserved sigh, Viveca allowed her to help and pulled her coat over her shoulders.

“You can’t stay for just a little bit?” The woman asked quietly, a small smirk on her face. Lucky her, she clearly hadn’t had half as much to drink as the Inquisitor. “Your folk really can’t stop working, can they?”

“No. And I pray you’ll never have the displeasure of realizing it a second time.” Finally, Viveca rose and checked her equipment one more time. It seemed she had packed very little. She tied her hair back in her signature ribbon and headed for the door. Halfway over the threshold, she froze and looked back.

For the first time in that short morning, she saw that the girl wore a pained frown. “I…” Viveca sighed and averted her gaze, “Thank you for making my last night in T’sarae a memorable one…” It was a white lie, for now, but she was certain that a little water and a nap on the ark might help jog her memory. “I’ll see you around.”

Her name was Rebecca, Viveca later remembered. She spared only a few minutes ruminating on the exact implications of the night they’d shared, but with the festivities at a close, there were only two things on her mind, as there had been all the way here.

Vai’roth and the elusive Ashe-rahn

The Frontier, Day 3



Viveca sat in her stateroom, pouring over the journal that she had found under Indira’s instruction. It felt like so long ago now, and yet she hadn’t discovered anything new in its pages. The past three days had been nothing but a monotonous dredge of meetings, briefings, and only a shred of time to sleep or think about anything but the present. An ironic twist, considering the future was where Warbands Phoenix’s and Leviathan’s fates lie. She hadn’t had time to contact Oren or Tatiana about their plans for Vai’roth or their thoughts on this gods-forsaken book in days. What she would give to have all of the Inquisitors gathered without prying eyes for just a single meeting… maybe somebody else had insights they could all use.

Her eyes scanned every page, but she couldn’t make out any more words than she had when Ashe-rahn, or some figment of him, had attacked her in the catacombs. She also had no new information on the shapes or sketchings outside of the possible depiction of the mysterious man’s shield.

“I can’t go on like this. Somebody has to know something!” She cried out in frustration, “I’m obsessed with this stupid thing, which might be a dead end anyway! I’m just toying with my own curse, waiting until I uncover my death…” The Inquisitor mused aloud to herself, flipping several pages over in the hopes that she would land on one she hadn’t seen a dozen times before. Finally, in a moment of desperation and frustration, she slammed it shut, picked it up by the spine, and rose from her seat.

”FUCK!” She shouted, hurling the tome at one of her room’s walls. Immediately, she crumpled to the ground with cry of anguish, clutching the back of her neck as needles and swords pierced her repeatedly. It felt like ages, but in mere seconds it subsided, and she remained on the floor, taking deep breaths. A quiet sound rang out from all around her before it began to crescendo. Laughter filled her ears from every direction, sounding like it was closing in on her with every moment. That, too, subsided mere seconds later and she pulled herself, shaking, to a seated position on the floor. Her eyes stared daggers at the book she’d thrown… Why was it taunting her like this?

“What do you want from me..? Why did Mother Indira tell me to find you? You’ve been nothing but a pestilence!” She shouted, finally getting to her feet and striding to the book. As she reached down to pick it up from the ground, she saw that it had fallen open to the page with the burning azure ring, the word Ashe-rahn staring back at her menacingly. Did the book feel pain? Perhaps a very real part of Ashe-rahn was inside of it, and he felt it when abused… But where could he, or it, or… whatever it was get the power to harm her back? She checked her timepiece – this would have to wait… That wretched book, if nothing else, knew how to reel her back in as soon as she was ready to burn it.

Viveca closed the door to her stateroom and checked that she had everything with her. Her ribbon held her hair back in a conservative ponytail while her falchion rested in its scabbard at her side. She placed a gloved hand upon its hilt and the other upon the leather satchel strapped over her shoulder, containing the tome and a few odds and ends for the day. Mayhaps she would find time to discuss getting together a meeting of the warband so that they could all make sure they were on the same page.

She entered the warroom rather early, giving her enough time to find a seat and take her place before the gaggle of last-minute arrivals came rushing in. Truth be told, she felt a rush of satisfaction as Ilya was called inside, lightly chastised for his tardiness. Then, finally, Ragnar arrived and they could begin. It was the song and dance of upper-echelon militants, Viveca observed – tell the troops that things are going to be smooth-sailing and easy so they don’t panic, then let the decision-makers know that they could be utterly screwed if anybody makes a mistake. She maintained her silence and composure – anybody who thought that this trip wasn’t going to be massive obstacle after massive obstacle was kidding themselves. If they were going to shudder at the thought of the Narrow Gates, then any mention of the impending doom would induce absolute mutiny. The thought of it alone could break some of the officers on the ark, based on their reactions to this news. However, the mention of malfeasant undesirables being noted to board and attack arks did pique her interest.

Viveca glanced to Astraea as the floor was opened to any wishing to put forward a plan. Silence cut the room for several tense moments as everybody rolled the words around in their heads. Finally, she stood up and felt several pairs of eyes immediately fall on her. Clearing her throat, Viveca spoke.

“So, with only rumours to work from, we’re left with a few possibilities – and please, join in if I miss any. I’m a warrior and I don’t have Father Galahad’s skill with strategy. Right now, as far as the walls go, I don’t have a lot to put forward. Engineering is more Father Rodion’s wheelhouse. I will say as far as this mysterious creature goes, though, that we could be dealing with at least two options: firstly, an insurmountable number of relatively small cretins throwing themselves at the hulls and paling until they find a weak point they can push through as a group. I’d say that seems plausible, since it would make it easier for them to flood an ark or overwhelm any individual soldier. Conversely, it could be a handful of larger creatures and, if the alleged fallen Inquisitor made a misstep, they got lucky in one-on-one combat. If we have an option for reconnaissance, it needs to be taken. Maybe a small contingent of Inquisitors could investigate – catch one, even.” She looked around the room for reactions and saw a few uneasy stares from the officers of the ark. “Look, I don’t want to risk any of my Brothers or Sisters, but this kind of business is our intended purpose. We may be valuable, but we’re useless if we aren’t doing everything we can to prevent harm to the ark before it comes to our doorstep.” With that, she sat back down, turning the floor back over with a wave of her hand. Hopefully it was as obvious to everybody else as it was to her that this was also her volunteering for the perilous mission as much as it was her suggesting it.
Phoenix Compound, The Red Seminary, Magnagrad


Hassan had noticed her scar... Of course somebody had, Viveca hadn't done much to hide it, but considering the scars of her comrades, she didn't think any of them would take much interest. He had looked right at it though, and he had asked - Ragnar was her saving grace, pressing on for details about the story. She let them tell their tale, it was amazing... They went out and had a real day of Inquisitorial work. Envy welled inside her momentarily, but she just lightly smiled at them. The topic wasn't brought back to light.

So, they'd managed to accidentally fall head-first into the investigation on Father Dara, and she had... scoured an archive for days only to narrowly escape death at the last minute... Alone and cold beside the rotten corpses of a family to only come back with a single tome that she was terrified to open. There was some small talk after Hassan left, but Viveca did not stay long. She finished her hot drink and took her leave; talking to her warsiblings was more draining than expected and she wanted to walk the halls one final time before they took their leave on the morrow.

Phoenix Warband had lived in a compound nearly identical to her own, the memories were harsh, yet surprisingly pleasant. The nostalgia washed over her, giving her a brief reprieve from the thoughts that had been plaguing her mind all day. That was when she came upon the residential hall and there, at the end, was Hassan. She furrowed her brow - his room wasn't that far down, but whose was it? She watched as he unlocked the door and stepped inside. As she approached, the familiar blue moon and star on the door told her what she needed to know: it was Father Ilya's room. She sneered - what could Hassan have to be doing in there? She peered through the door that Hassan left ajar and tilted her head as he rummaged through the man's belongings and moved along, not taking anything.

What does he think he's doing? Ilya would have nothing they could want, certainly... She thought. Something scampered past her feet and she jumped away from the door as a small wolf pup ran awkwardly inside. Son of a bitch, She cursed silently, ducking around a corner just in time for Hassan to step out of the room with the pup in his arms. Bewildered, but still of sound mind, Viveca returned to her room and locked the door behind her. She abhored Ilya, sure, but Hassan's invasion of his privacy seemed unprovoked.

***

The Plains of T'sarae, Train to Cero


The train rumbled along the tracks, almost entirely unaffected by the weather outside. The station to board had been nearly empty in the hour they had left and there were few passengers. Viveca absently wondered whether the train would have even made the trip were it not for the four Inquisitors boarding. As most of them were, the model was a little older, but it would get the job done. They were warm, safe, and comfortable for the most part. That morning, she had donned her coat and packed the remainder of her gear, keeping a satchel at her side for the book and other odds-and-ends.

The first leg of the ride was easy enough, mostly silent. There was some discussion about when they would arrive and the events of the night before, but it wasn't long before Viveca excused herself and found an empty compartment a short distance up the passageway. She locked the door behind her and pulled the book from her bag once more, taking a deep breath.

It's safer here, if something happens, somebody will find you quickly... I can't just carry it around if I'm not going to do anything with it... She thought, steeling herself against the hesitation as she pulled back the cover and began flipping through pages once more. When she found the azure circle once more, her eyes moved right passed it and she turned another page. More archaic Omestrian... Gods, what was this? The book was a phenomenon in and of itself - did it have its own storage of ether? Was it bestowed power from an ancient art? She'd never seen or heard of anything like it - at least not in the way it acted... She felt a presence in the pages.

Page after page of runes and symbols, artistry that she didn't recognize or couldn't call to mind. That is, until she found a page that contained one large illustration - not a single word. A brilliant white sphere hovered, as though suspended or falling, over a massive city. The architecture was vibrant and beautiful, but this was no photograph; details and uniquities were missing, it felt like any cityscape, really. However... If this was an Omestrian book, it had to be Iddin-Mar, the Ruined City and former capital of her homeland. Furrowing her brow, Viveca readjusted her seating and looked more closely.

That sphere... Was it a star? It looked vaguely familiar, buffeted by a brilliant azure dome as it attempted to crush the city under its weight. Omestris had another ruin, Syddon-Mar, far to the north of the city. It was a sphere, allegedly, buried halfway into the snow. They were too far apart - this couldn't possibly be a drawing of Syddon-Mar clashing with Iddin-Mar, could it? Not to mention, she'd never heard of any protective shield around Iddin-Mar, keeping disasters and the cold at bay.

She spent what felt like hours, though probably only minutes, studying every detail of the drawing when she heard a click. Snapping back to reality, Viveca looked up and slammed the book shut, trying to nonchalantly return it to her satchel.

"Oh, Hassan, it's just you. Everything okay?" She asked quizzically, leaning back in her seat as she watched him enter. Did he really unlock the door and come in without any kind of greeting? Why was he like this?

"Yeah... What are you reading?" He shot back, leaning against the doorframe of the compartment.

"Something I found in the archives - it has some old script in it. Looked Omestrian, I didn't want to leave it behind and never find it again. But seriously, can I help you? What are you doing here?"

He sighed and shook his head, "Look, I noticed yesterday that you had some scarring on your neck. It's still there - did you get into any trouble back at the Seminary? Anything we should be worried about?"

Viveca pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head, giving a small chuckle to brush him off. "With the state you guys were in, I'm surprised it was even worth noting. I'm fine. In fact, I couldn't help but notice you leaving Father Ilya's room... Care to... elaborate?" She requested carefully, deciding not to show her whole hand at once.

He blinked, a bit confused at first before just shrugging. "Curiosity, mostly. It was quiet, peaceful in there... Just one last walkabout for nostalgia's sake." He was so quick to answer and confident that at first Viveca almost let him go.

"No, Hassan. You were trespassing; it's no secret I... don't take kindly... to Father Ilya, but unless you have reason to believe he's doing something wrong, you shouldn't be rifling through his things," She scolded.

"And you shouldn't be stealing books from the archive and not telling us when you get into a spot of trouble," He spat back, pulling himself from the wall. "I guess we all have our secrets, don't we, Sister?"

As he closed the compartment door and walked away, Viveca let out a sigh... Tensions were high, that's all. It was just nerves, she reminded herself, everyone was going to calm down once they were underway. Besides, she was relieved that he left without much more digging. Taking a few more minutes to peruse the book, she packed it away again and returned to the group's compartment. Ragnar was jabbering away about his excitement for T'sarae and Hassan seemed to pretend nothing had happened, mostly trying to deflect or keep Ragnar from going off the rails.

Viveca decided her best course of action was going to be a nap - the night before had held less sleep than she had hoped. However, being able to open and close the book without the same experience was decidedly calming. She closed her eyes and her warsiblings drifted away from her mind, soon to be replaced by Azure circles and whispers of Ashe-rahn... The most her siblings would get from her would be similar mutterings and a loose shake of her head, but nothing panicked or frightened.

***

Cero


As the four Inquisitors disembarked the train, Ragnar's excitement was rekindled. Viveca felt rather rejuvinated.

"Hey, could you guys keep an eye out for Father Oren and Mother Tatiana? I have something to talk to them about, for Mother Indira. Just, if you see them or anything - I'm going to the Karamzina to get settled in," The woman asked quickly, before apologizing to Ragnar for separating. Mother Indira, what have you got us into..?

Cero was a more beautiful city than she could have ever imagined. Walking through the streets, she marveled at the gorgeous architecture - something of a niche fascination for her - and the seemingly artificial foliage that dotted the wide streets. Men and women of all ages walked with their eyes forward, so intent on reaching their destination that sometimes one might think they couldn't see anything else. The sight of massive hailstones striking an unwavering dome was cathartic in its own right. Something about the idea of the Varyan winter being kept so easily at bay was amusing to her.

She stopped in her tracks and looked back up at the dome once more... Wait... and azure dome? Large, white stones falling atop it... Viveca's stomach fell and she shook her head - this book was ancient. She hadn't found an omen of Cero's demise, hopefully, but she may have found an explanation for the azure shield in the book. If the illustration was the once-great Iddin-Mar, then perhaps it once had protection for its capital just as Cero does. The legend said that the T'sarae itself had crafted this beautiful dome in the first place, who's to say that Omestris hadn't done so as well? Regardless, she needed to speak to Oren and Tatiana. Oren had been in Omestris this week, if she wasn't mistaken; maybe he'd learned something. Not to mention, they needed to hear Mother Indira's story.

Viveca decided not to make any more stops, apart from snagging a quick bite to eat from some non-descript restaurant before boarding the Karamzina. She was greeted with exceptionally polite professionalism and even an escort to her room. They explained some of the parts of the vessel while they went. Walking by one room, the man stopped, as did Viveca, while somebody else called out.

"Oi, sir!" A mechanic, covered in splotches of grey and black poked his head out, "Don't mean t'bother ya, but uhh... Well, seems we're missing some tools, y'aven't seen nothin', 'ave ya?" He asked, his accently thick and rustic.

"No, 'fraid not... You guys misplaced them?" The escort asked with a small laugh, ribbing a curious Viveca as though sharing some kind of inside joke. It didn't really register until she realized that he probably wanted her to join him in chuckling about the Engineering Corps.

"No, no, nothin' like that... We put 'em right back, but when I went t'get summin' off the table, I noticed a few were missin' is all. Somebody probably nicked 'em and took 'em to another department. We'll hunt 'em down, thanks!" The engineer replied cheerily, tipping his head to Viveca before disappearing into the room once more.

After what seemed like an impossible number of twists and turns, Viveca had arrived to her state-room. To be honest, she was absolutely floored with how comfortable it looked. Considering the kind of deployment this was, she had assumed even the higher ranking SA officers would be left with little space, but... She was wrong. There were ammenities to spare; it was better than her old room at the Seminary. Maybe not the one she got as a senior student and Inquisitor, but certainly nicer than when they had to live in the barracks for most of their 'studies.' SHe could get used to this - Tatiana and Oren would probably be around soon enough, she'd go looking once she'd unpacked what little she had brought.
<Snipped quote by Lovejoy>

a slow pace is much better than 1 month of frantic posting before everyone abandons the thing.


This. All of this. Seriously.
@Lovejoy We need a Last Embers Discord channel :O also, I don't have anybody's Discord here.
Hey, I'm just popping in to say I'm still here! Been a crappy couple of weeks, so I wanted you to know my silence isn't absence!
@vietmyke Oh I know, this thread has always involved monster posts!
Come on prologue!! I wanna plaaayyyy XD this is like a Dragon Age tutorial!
CRACK! Crack... crack... The sound bounced gently from tree to tree, echoing only a few feet into the forest. Josephine heard it. She stopped dead in her tracks, eyes forward as her hand moved from its resting spot on her hip sheath calmly to the blade. Her free hand removed her hood as she peered through the moonlit woods before her. The sound came from a tree, some paces forward and to the right. The woman waited a few moments, listening closely for another sound, rustle, or motion; the twig's impact with the ground was the final noise. She let out a slow, calming breath. Nobody would have followed her - they hadn't all through town and the guard didn't see her leave. So she was left with a small handful of options: something was watching her from the trees, human or otherwise, or she was as paranoid as her master. The latter was certainly more likely, but she had to be sure. Her gaze moved to the source of the original sound.

A split second later, she was brandishing her blade as her eyes met the shadowed man in the tree. There was no mistaking that silhouette, even if she couldn't see their features. He wore a bow with arrows on his back - was he going to try to attack her from above?

"Get down here, coward. High ground is hardly an advantage if you're dealing with me," She spat venomously. As the moonlight struck her face, he might have been able to spot the glint of black scales on pale skin around her neck and the red in her eyes. Her glare spoke for her at this point, only four words, Give me a reason.

From farther down the road, the sound of a rattling cart could be faintly heard rumbling closer. Josephine's eyes narrowed as she slowly side-stepped more into the trees, though her gaze remained fixed on the bowman in the tree. She would have let him speak if the sound of splintering wood and the baying of terrified horses hadn't split the night air more forcefully than any broken twig. The wagon would be turned over, Josephine wondered if the drivers had the wherewithal to unhook their steeds or if they would make a failed attempt at their own escape. They wouldn't last more than a few moments, and it would take more than that for her to arrive. A blood-curdling screech assaulted her ear drum for an extended moment - the unmistakable cry of a Grimm.

"I hope you've got a good reason for watching me, because you're about to find out how well you can stand up against Grimm," She said quickly, turning on the ball of her foot and taking off toward the sound. These beasts always had a way of showing up at the worst times - she supposed an arrow to the back would be one way of finding out the man's loyalties. It wasn't ideal, but maybe he was as bad a shot as he was a sneak.
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