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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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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.
Tracking on all that. I might have questions later but for now it sounds good :)
Josephine rubbed her temples before the mirror of her inn. Vale was such a huge kingdom and, once she had arrived, it had seemed even larger. Truth be told, her sense of direction was not her strong suit and she had very few ideas of where to go to begin with. After leaving her master's home, most of her time was spent rooting out places vulnerable to Grimm or that had seen spikes in activity. Vacuo was a rather easy job - they were everywhere, the towns were more disorganized, but their vulnerability had built a hardiness among her people. Vale had a different problem - everywhere she tried to look, it seemed the Church had its fingers in the affair of hunting. It was present in Vacuo, but not nearly so pervasive as it was here.

She found herself in a ramshackle town, only distinguishable from the slums of Vacuo for its hospitality and greener landscapes. Vale was gorgeous, Josephine knew, but traveling it alone was strange. She had never left Vacuo without her mentor, and even then it was usually by cover of night. The people here seemed rather content, even cheerful. Did they know that their lack of reinforced fences and security was endangering them all? Were they unbothered by it? Did they resign to accept their fate and enjoy their days, or were they simply ignorant? It didn't feel natural, but hardly mattered seeing as Josephine wasn't here to shatter anybody's confidence or happiness by doomsaying about the Grimm. They were just beasts, and they could be slain. True, they had a tendency to appear more often in places of evil or unrest, but it was already evident to her that the Church closely monitored those kinds of places.

The moon shone brightly over the inn as she fastened her light blue cloak over her shoulders and pulled her hood over her head. One hand resting on the hilt of her sword, Orphan's Rancor, as she departed. There would be time for sleeping later, she rested earlier in the day. The woman passed her horse at the stables and decided to leave him fastened there. It drew a lot of attention, galloping around in the dead of night, and she wasn't looking to cause a ruckus if it wasn't necessary. She just wanted to see if there really were any signs of Grimm in this area. Since leaving Vacuo, she hadn't had a chance to really sink her teeth into one, so to speak. She strode with purpose, leaving her hood over her head as she wove through the streets of the small town, wanting to be sure that the night life was as quiet as the day was peaceful. It seemed to be, though the number of guards even at night was nothing impressive. It wasn't until she was approaching one of the roads out that a rather tired-looking man looked her over and furrowed his brow.

"Ay, where d'ya think you're going?" He asked groggily, crossing his arms, "'S dangerous out there this time o' night. Could have all sorts of shady characters walking about. Y'know, like you?" The man gave a small chuckle, waving his hand, "No, but seriously, can't have you leaving without a real good reason, for your own safety, yeah?"

Josephine sighed. My own safety? Get some perspective... She thought to herself, rolling her eyes under her hood, "I understand. But I can handle myself well enough, sir, if you could just move."

The man staggered for a moment, "Oh, miss," He seemed to realize suddenly, despite the effeminate color of her clothing. "I'm sorry. It's kinda dark and it's just been a long day." His attempt at covering his surprise left Josephine feeling less than impressed and a little red.

She shrugged and opened her cloak slightly to reveal her blade on her hip, "Again, I think I'll be okay, sir. Now, please move?" She requested one more time, remaining as polite as she could.

He shook his head, "Can't do it. There's Grimms and thieves and all the bad stuff comes out; I'm sure you're just fine with a sword, but unless you're a proper Huntsman, I can't let ya through." She rolled her eyes, 'proper Huntsman.' What a stupid concept. Really, and such an inconvenience too. Muttering something unintelligible under her breath, Josephine snapped her fingers.

"Of course, sir, sorry for bothering you. Have a safe night," She said as she passed him, apparently unseen, and left the city. He watched as her figure walked away, defeated. Once she was certain he wouldn't see her anymore, Josephine broke the illusion and her knee gently hit the grass. "Really, not energy I was looking to expend tonight..." She muttered under her breath, shaking her head as she caught her breath. At least it wasn't anything too complex - the man was tired and she didn't need to make a detailed version of herself to fool him. Drawing Orphan's Rancor from its sheath at her hip, she headed for the woods nearby, pointless though it felt.
Name: Josephine of the Sand
Age: 23
Gender: Female
Race: Dimuran

Weapon: "Orphan's Rancor." A medium-length cutlass with a mechanism that allows a specially-made dagger to lock into place beneath the hilt.

Magic: Distortion - primarily good with illusions, not a poor teleporter

Appearance:
Josephine's irises, as with all Dimuran, are a deep crimson red. Black scales stretch along her pale, slender calves and shins to behind her knees, intricately wrapping around to just below her thighs. A similar pattern runs from the center of the palm of her hand to her forearm and around to her elbow, just below her biceps. Along her neck, the black scales form a patten much like an impressive necklace or choker, covering the patch of flesh entirely and stretching about halfway over her collarbone and up along her jaw.


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