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Arthur Howell


I stare at the woman for longer than I probably should, trying to piece together everything she keeps talking about. From 'Holy Grail War' to talking about classes like this was some role playing game. I'm still not sure I haven't found myself caught up in some elaborate LARP, for the record. It was at least less worrying to imagine that was the case than to stick with the assumption that this girl before me was completely insane. But, on the bright side, she was at least willing to find something different to wear.

"Hold on."

Something else in bothering me much more. I get up, walking over to her side of the short table and kneeling down. "Don't stab your food. Look, hold them like this—" I take her hand in mine, arranging the chopsticks between her fingers the right way. "You saw the way I was doing it, right? You're supposed to grab things with the chopsticks, not skewer them."

Rather than remain too close, I back away as soon as I'm sure she's holding the chopsticks right, returning to my spot. Getting her more normal clothing would at least help keep her from standing out too much until I could figure out how beast to deal with her, sure...although who knows what she'll try and do once we're out and about.

But she keeps calling me her master. And she took direction earlier. Maybe that'll be the ticket to keep her from causing trouble outside?

"So. Kimonos, you were saying? Not a bad idea, but they aren't the most practical clothes in the world. We probably ought to find you some more typical wear, too, especially if you're going to be staying undercover. Unless you do want to borrow some of my spares." I look her up and down more appraisingly than I did before. I already know we're basically the same height, and she's not much thinner than me either.

"Fit should work. You're not too far off from me, shouldn't even be too tight in the..."

My metaphorical train of thought runs off track as one half of my brain catches up to the other. I look back down at the food quickly, not bothering to finish that thought.

"Anyways. Tonight?"
Esben Mathiassen

@Ithradine@Click This

Éliane’s own intrusion was unexpected, but not unwelcome—especially as it seemed to get the shinobi to relax somewhat herself. Pushing aside the slight disappointment at not getting to play much longer, he shifted aside a small amount to actually let Éliane into the conversation. "Well, making me the impolite one?" he chided playfully after their introductions were done. "And here I was hoping to introduce myself over a drink, instead. Esben Mathiassen—it's a pleasure, miss Chisaki."

With Éliane’s joining the fray, he felt he could safely let her deal with the shinobi—no doubt Chisaki's easiest target was the one with the least to really offer her, after all, and Éliane could keep her well away if need be—but there was precious little else to occupy his time, and likely no better source of information than to stick beside the shinobi himself.

"You say you have some things that will pique my interest, ja? Perhaps we should invite miss Laruelle along, especially if there's any good coffee to be found."
Esben Mathiassen

@Ithradine@VitaVitaAR@HereComesTheSnow@Raineh Daze

Esben nodded once in response to the Viera calling him clever, maintaining his silence for the rest of the short trip to the inn. While he never focused much on her, he made sure that the shinobi never left his sight either; however Éliane had been recruited into the Garden's service away from her normal position, that still didn't mean she was the most familiar with their particular method of conduct, including what to watch out for in others. He knew all the plans and tactics by heart, and knew that the shinobi would know much the same.

He knew her eyes were remaining on him as much as his were on her, as well.

Ah, I haven't had this much fun since I left home. Or is this forelsket?

He quickly stepped aside from the others to put down his pack and check on his things; even without his eyes directly on any of the rest of the group, he could recognize the Viera's soft tread as she walked near the group, and shortly afterwards heard Robin's crisp footfalls as she made her way over to introduce herself. He glanced back up, making note of where the others were.

Rudolf, watching the introduction with what Esben could only imagine was growing dread.

Izayoi, further away securing their rooms; most of the others doing much as he was currently with their own belongings. A short flash of red hair bobbing in and out of his peripheral vision made it clear where Miina was off to his left. Good, all accounted for.

The shinobi's voice dropped to a nearly-inaudible hiss before she stepped away from Robin with her eyes drawn elsewhere, Rudolf's urgent steps filling in the gap. He looked back down at his pack, listening more closely—one step, two, three...

Esben stepped backwards, arching his back to stretch, and collided directly with the Viera as she made to continue along. His rear foot tangled between her own set them both nearly stumbling to the floor before he quickly caught a chair with one hand, the other steadying the shinobi with a light hold on her arm.

"Ah, sorry about that!" he apologised, a mildly sheepish smile on his face. As obvious as a trick as it would rapidly prove to the shinobi, and even some of his companions, any normal visitor to the inn would see nothing more than a sudden small accident.

And of course, only the shinobi was close enough to see how the smile didn't quite reach his eyes.

I know your game. Don't think I'll let you play with my companions that easily.

He released his light grasp on her arm, offering his own to her instead. Ever the gentleman, and not bothering to hide it, unlike some others in the present company. "I was hoping to get your attention after I finished checking my things, though, so this works nicely! Care to show me some of the local delicacies?"
Esben Mathiassen

Before Éliane could reply, the others followed suit with their own introductions. Esben's gaze shifted slightly, following each in turn. Rudolf's came as a matter of course after Esben had already partially introduced him; nothing particularly new was said on that front, barring the sudden recognition of Duke Caradoc's son. He raised an eyebrow at the way Rudolf addressed the man, but didn't say anything about it. Miina Malina the Mumbling Mystrel came next, though whether it was entirely from nervousness around the group, nervousness around the one to accost them in particular, or the features of that one which drew her eyes, he wasn't willing to guess yet.

Best to keep that brother in mind, though.

The other small girl introduced herself, revealing that she wasn't entirely human in the process, and with a grudge against Valheim to match the oddity of her looks. Then, the boyish girl in her military jacket declared herself with a husky voice and magical sparkles in the air. No doubt now that she had a penchant for theatrics—far be it from Esben to interfere if she wanted to play the part of the daring, duplicitous lady-at-arms, so long as it didn't risk otherwise-easily-avoidable problems.

Galahad and Izayoi he knew by reputation; Arton he'd been waiting for after hearing the man nearly choke after his own introduction, though he seemed to have recovered fairly quickly—only to immediately leave as soon as he had the chance. His eyes followed the man's retreating form, a curious wonder starting to rise to the front of his mind—

—His eyes shifted away again, however, at the barest twitch of fingers in his peripheral vision. Back to Miina.


He smirked, following where the mumbling Mystrel's gaze had landed next. It was nearly entertaining enough for him to miss Éliane's response; while he had as much clue as to what she'd come out for as she had of him, he hadn't expected her to come alone. That the confirmation came with such obvious bad news neither surprising nor entirely welcome.

"Well. I trust you've already written home for them."

Given the manner of his and Rudolf's arrival to the group, he didn't feel it necessary whatsoever to answer the question about chocobos.

The travel passed uneventfully after their introductions; Esben kept to himself for most of it, keen more to watch and learn the others as he was to teach them about himself for the moment. Everything important he had to share had already been covered, anyways; best to let those with louder personalities carve out their places in the new group while he determined where his could fit, and otherwise, travel in relaxed contentment. As best as he could before they came across the farmlands surrounding the nearby village, at least.

While the peasantry had never enjoyed the greatest of lives before, they at least still maintained some level of respect and due in most places; under Valheim's occupation, however, these farmers they passed appeared to have been reduced to nearly a caricature of serfdom. In the face of that and the rapidly-approaching feeling that he was being watched, he almost expected to be accosted more for coin than for anything else; one hand rested near a dagger, as they came up to the loftily-seated Viera, though with a practice nonchalantness he kept his eyes scanning their surroundings, never lingering long enough to make it obvious he knew where she was.

Not that the caution seemed entirely necessary, as she shortly dropped to speak with them. He found Eve next to him within moments, requesting his own input on the situation...at which he gave a small smirk.

"You just want to see me at work that badly, do you?"

Could it be done? Undoubtedly, it could, though whether or not by him it was too early to say. The smirk dropped, a small shrug making up where his expression went blank.

"My knowledge on their occupation of Kugane could easily be out of date. It would depend on their patrols, what the gaps in them were, where we could quickly find to hide. Things would need scouted out ahead of time, and given that the good captain just retreated there less than a week ago—and that there are already reports of at least a few of us circulating the area—I doubt we have time to spend leaving the group waiting outside the city while those of us with the capability play thieves in the night. People are hard to move as quickly as necessary."

Thus it always went—weapons were easier to smuggle than bodies. Resistances were easier to build out of those inside the walls; arm them and you could nearly point them in all directions. They could stand to be larger, assuming they were quiet enough in the early stages. Scouts and assassins rarely traveled in such large groups as theirs, as the difficulty for their job only increased exponentially with each extra body added to the plan, and distractions and diversions could easily cause more harm than good.

He looked back to the Viera with a heavy-lidded stare. It was entirely too public for this sort of thing, he felt, even with the village reduced to a disadvantaged backwater. But at least she spoke well, and Izayoi's reaction was enough of a reply to cement his own thoughts on the matter.

"Her code's too obvious to be a complete fabrication. You said it yourself—she ought have had better to base it on if it was entirely a deception. Humor her for now—bury her if anything stops making sense. We can afford to waste time with her less than we can afford that spent to find our own ingress."
Esben Mathiassen

Nearly the second he called out to Izayoi, the surprised Valheimr troops fully recognized his presence and rounded on him. He could see Rudolf off on the other side of their captain hewing his own way through their forces, and content enough with that, let himself fall into the familiar rhythms of fighting. A sword swung his way was slapped aside with his buckler, and as the rest of his body followed the small shield's movement, the soldier that attacked him fell to the ground with intestines slipping out the new opening in his torso.

A second aimed, fired at him—the shot flew past his ear. He rushed the fusilier, stabbing him through the heart as he reloaded. The unmistakable thumping sound of a boot meeting flesh hit his ears a moment before that of flesh meeting hard ground, and he turned as some small boy—

No, no, not with that voice.

—some small woman issued forth her personal challenge to the enemy soldiers, distracting some that were moments away from trying to swarm him. He glanced back at their captain, eyes narrowing at the crystal she held. "Not happening!" he muttered, dropping his sword and quickly pulling out a dagger—and, in a single smooth, well-practiced motion, sending it spinning end-over-end underhand straight for the crystal. The moment before it would have knocked it clean from her hand, she disappeared instead, the knife sinking instead into the intestines of a soldier further behind her.

He frowned as the man dropped with a groan, his usually serene expression breaking at last into one of displeasure. "Well. Dra til helvete," he muttered, kicking his sword back up into his hand as the short skirmish rapidly turned into a rout.

Later that evening, as they all gathered around a communal fire, he expectedly found himself and his companion the partial subjects of a fresh interrogation. Having long since returned to his peacefully neutral expression, he let a small, relaxed smile come through. "This is Rudolf," he said, pointing off to his side at the seated swordsman. "He's a monster hunter, came up here to fight the Blight and do a little rebelling against Valheim while he's at it." His hand came back, placed on his own chest as he gave a small bow of his head.

"And I'm Esben Mathiassen, graduate of the Garden, here to gather intelligence for the Skaeller government. We figured we'd hold out in that village for a day or two to rest before I planned to continue on to Kugane. Rudi even found the cellar that we were able to hide in when those Valheimr grunts searched the house we were in!" He clapped the shorter man on the back soundly, his tone as congratulatory as it could be under the sing-song accent. "After we heard the rest of you fighting them, I thought about escaping, but I recognized your name and another voice in the group, so I decided we should help instead."

Content enough with his introduction, he turned his face from Izayoi, his eyes falling on Éliane instead, the small smile still on his face. "Commander Laruelle, ja?"
Cazt Gardens

"Perhaps they did not know the exact limits of their gift. Or perhaps this is simply more amusing to them," Erich ventured--obviously, whilst he might be able to discern the origins of this particular magic... it was hardly like he knew Fiadh, although the overall logic of the fey was quite consistent.

The trek took them out of the gardens and back up to the very same building that Fionn had previously visited... and he seemed overall less concerned about the courtyard here being damaged or magicked in some way. The same butler had been sent away to gather wood, flowers--anything that seemed marginally relevant to Fionn's experimentation.

Fionn MacKerracher

@Raineh Daze

Over their walk back, Fionn fell silent, striving to remember each instance he'd witnessed of Fiadh's magic being used. Given that he hadn't been given any direct instruction from her before Merilia decided to steal him away, and given that Fiadh's own contribution seemed to have overwritten any memory he had of what little else he'd learned, this seemed as good a method as any to try and piece through what new knowledge he did have. From there he would at least know where his new skill floor was and plan out how to work from it.

Better that than waste the time he might be able to work with Erich on simple discovery of his new collection of spells.

What Lilia had managed to show him so far, and what he'd seen from Tyaethe and Amy, seemed to lie in a more esoteric direction; summoning forth a sourceless light, creating a barrier to render a blade nonlethal for a time, generating illusions, things of that nature—even including Tyaethe's own manipulation of her body to take on the appearance of what she would've become as a full-grown woman. While he doubted that such effects and others were outside of the realm of fey capabilities—he was sure he'd seen some make illusions to rival Amy's own at the least—what he had most directly witnessed tended more towards the real, direct, and elemental.

Something that many other mages had access to, as Lilia herself had shown multiple times, but coming from a nature spirit like Fiadh it seemed somehow more primal.

"Aodh, aodh...how did she say it? Aidu. So...no, that won't work..." Just finding random words and saying them wouldn't work, after all; a spell was inherently a command, pulling from one's own energy and issued forth into the world to generate an effect. Or something of that nature...he'd barely had time to skim the book of magical theory he'd found in the library. At the same time, hoping for random bursts of inspiration as memories hit him to pass on into a spell was far from a workable solution, especially in battle.

"Daw...dau...no, that's not it either." He'd figured that as soon as all the materials were gathered Erich would have some sort of a method to follow, but as they waited for his manservant to assemble everything—and as Erich likely worked out what his own plan was going to be—Fionn had contented himself with his own quiet experimentation. Sword set aside, an unlit torch in hand. "How did she light it?"

Of course, the more one struggled to remember something, it often was the more it tried to slip away, though Fionn wasn't inclined to give up in frustration. "Indaw...no. Indetou!" He felt a small jolt as the energy flowed through his hand into the torch he held, before the pitch-soaked burlap wrapped around the head suddenly came alight. And with what still felt like less effort than what he'd done earlier out in the garden, despite the amount of thinking he'd had to do to find his way to this end result.

One simple spell down.

He twisted, lit torch still in hand, turning his head back to where Erich was standing. "Not waiting on me, I hope?"
Esben Mathiassen

@HereComesTheSnow@Psyker Landshark

The hovel wasn't terrible, as far as hovels went. The walls were still standing, though a little scorched. The roof had even managed to avoid caving in. The door was missing, and alongside the way the timbers and covers making the walls of the house were shrunk and punctured beneath their lattices, meant that it was left somewhat open to the elements—but that also meant that it was much harder to be taken surprise of while residing in it. A factor that had proven quite influential in choosing it as a temporary residence rather than any of the other ruined buildings in the village; keeping the rain off his head, sturdy enough not to worry about it falling on him, and still open enough that he could keep his ears open made it leagues better than any other choice.

Of course, it helped that it was large enough to fit two.

"Kom, kom," he urged, peering through the latticed wall at the retreating backs of the troops as they hurried away from the ruined home. Behind him, he could hear his current travelling partner hoisting himself back up to the ground floor. Lucky for them, the house had a surprise trap-door cellar; neither had expected, after stopping over in the village, that a division of Valheimr troops would decide to occupy and search it. But with the cellar and some clever rearranging of the mess over its entrance, they'd been able to hide while the hovel was searched. A search that had just ended moments before the taller of the pair, crouched near the open exit, sprung up as quietly as possible to observe the goings-on—and, if necessary, plan an escape.

Shameful, Esben. I haven't even gotten around to warning him that I may need him to die for me. He's likely to view it as a betrayal if I have to use him as bait.

And yet—

Clashing blades. Voices raised, some in anger, some in surprise. Issuing commands. The unmistakable crack of gunfire. His eyes narrowed. "We may be able to get out of this—"

His eyes widened again as two voices made themselves clearly heard over the din, at the name one of them called out, their voice unmistakably mocking even with the sound of combat. "Ranbu no Izayoi, here? Not alone. This could be..." He turned, catching sight of a flash of red moving in off to one side, before disappearing from his view, well past the occupying soldiers. Off to another side, a small bundle of black and grey rushing in, one hand stretching out already.

"Follow close and watch my back, Rudolf!" he commanded. "This is an opportunity we can't pass up." Hopefully the younger wanderer wouldn't question his specific word choice. He seemed too potentially-useful to let him go thinking he could run off at any minute.

As the small black-and-grey clothed mage let loose with a powerful elemental blast, the tall man dove out from his cover—narrowly avoiding stray fire and debris that came flying towards the hovel he had just vacated from the blast and the dying men—rolling over his shoulder and coming up on his feet in a single smooth movement, his sword and his buckler already off his belt and in his hands. He rushed ahead to the rear of the Valheimr line, to a pair of gunners that had narrowly avoided a cleaving razor of wind sent their way. The first fell to a sharp blow to the back of his skull, cranium cracking and brain hemorrhaging as they met the rim of his buckler. The second twisted on one heel, raising his carbine to attack, only to open his own throat against the blade held out just for him to lacerate himself with.

The carbine was kicked up and out of his suddenly clammy hands, and Esben stepped along, the blood spraying past him against the wall of another ruined home. He clamped his left arm down against the blade of his sword to keep it held up, catching the carbine as it tried to fall back to the ground; holding it out with one hand he turned, another nearby gunner falling limply as a fired bullet tore his brainstem asunder. The carbine flew back, Esben releasing it to its own recoil, and taking his blade in hand again.

"Have your duel, samurai!" he called to Izayoi, with a small salute. "I'll keep these others off your back!"
Fionn MacKerracher

@Raineh Daze

Fionn nodded as Erich suggested leaving to practice somewhere else. "Likely for the best, aye, but..." He frowned, looking back down at the ground around them. The damage hadn't spread far beyond either of them, but damage had been done; the earth they stood on, previously level and clean, was now an uneven mess that looked like a cross between poor tilling and a pack of moles run amok. It was unsightly, to say the least.

Moreover, it was something he couldn't well leave for Erich to fix himself later on. If he'd made it that way, surely he'd be able to fix it. He just had to try and remember how he'd seen it done.

"Fiadh, Fiadh, you really should have explained some of this to me when we were riding," he muttered, shaking his head. Having whatever knowledge of spellcasting she'd decided to give him was a benefit compared to the amount of studying and practice he'd have to do if he was learning it the normal way, certainly, but it left him in the uniquely difficult position of not actually knowing what he knew. The knowledge was there with only a hazy path to it through the memories of what he'd seen and heard her doing in the past.

He focused again, this time purposefully at the ground beneath his feet. The Niyar's words started to run through his mind again, singing lightly to herself as she danced around the minor devastation she could cause, putting it all back to order. He wouldn't do that, but he could at least fix the soil beneath him and hide the plant roots back under it where they were supposed to be.

"Es glanos."

Without the accompanying violent shaking, it felt like recognizably less of a drain as his energy flowed out, the ground shifting and leveling itself out once again. Within a few moments things were mostly right as rain—it still wasn't perfectly even like it had been, but it had all been restored to a more-or-less natural state. He nodded, satisfied with himself. "Right. I'll follow where you lead, then!"

@Fish of Oblivion

After slipping away from Beatrice, Lancer had quickly found himself a secluded place in which to hide and watch for any others approaching the church. Inasmuch as he could watch in his intangible form; useful as it was, it was still much more limiting than having his actual physical senses to rely on.

But it was useful nonetheless.

Even without actual vision to use, he could still sense the flows of power, and any spirit on approach would be as obvious as the sun at noon. From there he could decide to alert Beatrice immediately or shift back to gather any physical description. In the meantime, he was perfectly concealed from sight, as evidenced by the officer that had completely failed to notice Lancer's presence mere feet away as he patrolled outside the church grounds.

Good for them that they do not have the threats we had to deal with. Indeed, the modern world seemed to have far less to worry about in terms of roving hostile spirits than in his day.

Once he was sure that the patrolman had left completely, he shifted back to his physical form, sinking deeper into the shadowed hedges at the edge of the church grounds. Scanning over the path leading to the church he quickly made note of some that were making their way up—one of whom he'd been sure he had already witnessed coming and leaving not long before. If any of them were Servants, they'd no doubt sense the strength of his own presence soon; that he couldn't sense any of theirs did nothing to reassure him that they might be masters or mere bystanders.

"Be ready, Beatrice. It looks like you may have other visitors incoming."
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