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4 mos ago
*Lies in a gravestone reading 0.21*
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4 mos ago
AND I'M BACK FROM THE DEAD, posts will be coming out by the end of the week
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5 mos ago
Been a rough week, but will get my replies out by the end of the weekend
7 mos ago
My body has been awake for 24+ hours and I'm probably going to be awake for another 24; let's get posting
4 likes
7 mos ago
Finals are almost halfway done but oh well - slower posting due to that, back on scheduel next week
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[ O P E N ]

The Doors of Janus
[Fantasy] / [Steampunk] / [Political]

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Hi, I'm back





"... Epodyni Philia!"

A brief shimmer hovered over both Kori and Obenn, before the latter was swallowed in a torrential sea of grime and mud spewed forth by the giant lizard. Though nothing impacted the cat girl physically, the magic caused all her nerve ends to flare as the magic shared the crushing impact of the attack, her body being assaulted in every direction. The phantom pain wasn't anything she wasn't used to, however, though admittedly her previous uses of the spell had been in situations that were much less dire and life-threatening. At the very least it wouldn't cripple her, evidenced by how she immediately leaped back into the fray after Penn opened a wound in the beast's skin.

Kori raised her long, heavy blade, driving her blade into the fresh opening between the lizard's layers. Obenn would have to be helped later; the advantage the party had now could not be given up.




Kori let out an exasperated exclamation of complaint as the beast seemed to ignore her completely, instead choosing to fill and distend it's belly in an uncomfortable manner with an even more uncomfortable amount of dirt. Varan remained comfortably above away from it's attacks it seemed like and Castor was skulking out of it's sight. That left only Oben as it's only clear target, especially after his blade seemingly got stuck in its gullet.

Protective instincts immediately flared seeing him standing alone in front of the giant lizard, but as nimble and motherly as she may be, she liked to think she wasn't too self-sacrificial or stupid. There was no telling how wide the lizard's attack would be nor how soon it would release its move, so there was no telling whether she'd run fast enough to either push to drag him with her away from the attack. She could very well save him, but she could just as easily get them both caught in the attack.

Instead, the best course of action that she possible was to use to the falna granted to her by Hecate while moving into a spot that should be relatively safe from the lizard's attack, which seemed to be behind the lizard itself. Her legs automatically moved into action once she had decided her course, all the meanwhile extending her hand out to Oben, her mouth chanting the arcane words that would grant him her divine protection.

"By the fate that binds us, by the chains that weigh us, join me in this sacred ritual. Share me your burdens and I in turn will share in your wounds..."

@spooner@Hero
Party Boat
Party Time


Put it between your lips softly, breathe it in slowly, and give it not an ounce of attention. Feel it in your mouth, let your tongue play and roll around with it, savor its taste. Hold it until you can't breathe, then hold it on longer until finally, release it with one, last, pleasurable blow.

Remi watched the smoke roil away and disappear above her, watching as it was whipped away by the rushing winds as the sounds of those young, drunk, and in love with life seized every moment they could around her. She let ashes fall down the side of the ferry as she turned her eyes to the waves and the horizon, allowing her last cigarette to burn its last moments away brightly and quietly alone. She held onto it even after it had died out and stood a statue on the rolling railings, a still painting amidst the frenetic motions of ecstatic energy that surrounded her. And then she got tired of being all mysterious and pulled a nearby handsome boy that had caught her eye. He was stumbling, laughing, and could barely even register any surprise before realizing that she had put his arm around her waist, her hand trailing down his outer thigh. Chocolate brown eyes stared up into his own, soft lips slightly parted. The moment lingered between their gazes, her face gravitating steadily closer before twirling away out of his grasp, a hand leading him towards somewhere a little more private.

She needed something to wash out the taste anyway.

Welcome to Paradise
Evening


With Rachel, it was always amusing to see what sort of ostentatious display of wealth she would present to those around her, whether it be in friendships, favors, or just plain old money, and with the Krakens' welcome, Remi felt that the girl had certainly outdone herself this time. It almost seemed as if the entire uni was present to listen to Rachel's speech, to hear that the entire island had been reserved exclusively for them, and to see just how big that playground was.

Overall, a solid performance.

It didn't take long for Remi to settle in to her new cabin, mostly because she just left her suitcases on top of an empty bed still packed and unopened, having already changed into her beach attire back on the ferry; it seemed only appropriate. Dressed in a loose white blouse, a pair of booty shorts, and a yellow bikini for modesty, Remi was ready to continue the party. She debated on bringing some sort of jacket or sweater, but considering that it was five-thirty in the evening and still hot and the fact that she wanted to be hot, she decided against. Even if the weather would turn a bit more nippy later as the night dragged on, either she'd be too tired to care or already in someone's cabin. Besides, worst comes to worst she's sure she could just borrow someone's and return it back maybe, if she would remember who they were.

That aside, there was still some time until the bonfire would actually start. She had no plans to spend it cooped inside, of course. Immediately venturing out onto the beach where the bonfire was going to be held, the first thing that caught her eye was the beach bar with all the empty stools, the second being the impressive display of alcohol arrayed behind the model stunner of a bartender, and then the chiseled man currently sitting there. Remi didn't think she knew him, but she never had the best memory of people in the first place. Not like that would have mattered to her anyway as best case scenario, she would make a new friend as she glided over to the bar. Worst case scenario, it becomes a bit awkward, then it won't, and then she'll have re-made a new friend.

As Remi settled down onto the seat right next to the man, catching most of his comment. "How many do you think it'll take before she pretends to be impressed," she snarked with a smile, sliding herself into the conversation. "Gin fizz," she ordered as she lazed down into her seat.

Relevant NPCs
Rat, Liam



While Rat had kept his word of not bringing any immediate ills to the church save for his presence, he failed in making more of a mess inside the ruin, as inexplicable as that may have seemed to Candle initially. She also had a feeling that whenever he would come back, the first promise would be broken as well if the brief snippet she had into his person was of any indication.

Still, the blood was cleaned as ordered, only for Rat to leave on some errand or another. He had been gone for nearly an hour by Candle’s own reading of the sun, but it at least let her finally make some headway on the dust that plagued her new home.

A wet munch sounded from the doorless entryway, and in it stood rat. His leather bundle was tucked under his arm, a sack held in that same arm’s hand. In his other, a strange fuzzy fruit was held to his mouth. It dripped sweetly and held a golden flesh covered in a rine the color of dawn -- it was a peach. Rat’s small, bright eyes seemed intent on Candle as he chewed, his lips curling into a smile.

Candle stared at the fuzzy orb he held in his hands, her eyes unconsciously tracking the juices that ran from it and his mouth. Her mouth opened, both to ask where he had managed to find such a thing and to hopefully sink her own teeth into its flesh despite the great distance between them. Saliva started to pool in her mouth. Realizing what he was trying to do and attempting to curb her own desires, Candle snapped her mouth shut and forcibly turned her gaze towards the broom in her hand and the dust on the floor, staring so intently as if the dust would burn and clean the rest of the chapel for her while it was at it.

Her curiosity could not be sated, however, and she had to at least know where he had attained such a delicacy. ”I hope whatever you were up to, you didn’t bring any trouble back here.”

“Only if you call this trouble,” Rat said before taking another large bite of the fruit, his other hand swinging the sack to and fro as if making a suggestion. He gulped and closed his eyes, clearly enjoying his meal, “You ever have a peach?”

She hadn’t. The only fruit she was ever regularly exposed to were the wildberries that grew all over Pertovia; small, sour little things that only ever so rarely had one perfect jewel among a field of many that were soft, succulent, and often savored and reminisced about all too quickly. Apples and their ilk less so, but common enough among markets and regular rations. Their tartness never seemed to agree with her, however, much less the texture they often had if not picked and eaten in the same week. She had seen peaches only a handful of times before and touched one only one. She could only imagine what they would taste like, and so silence and a hungering look at Rat’s bag were her only answers.

“How about a different question,” Rat flicked the bare pit of his fruit out of the chapel and reached into the sack for another. He slowly pulled out a plump yellow-orange peach, tinged with a deep red that promised a sweetness not often found in Pertovia. He rubbed a thumb over the fuzz and appraised it, “Are there blacksmiths where you are from?” His eyes changing as quickly as the topic, darting to where she had placed her dagger.

Eyes colored with longing watched the pit fall outside of the chapel. ”Aye,” she replied, attempting to tear away her eyes from the bag now that she knew it contained a veritable sack of riches. ”My convent used to have a small number of Brothers and Sisters dedicated to crafting the tools we needed to carry out Parrel’s will. Most of the time the lay people that followed us would have a blacksmith among their number, and they would handle the more common mundanities.”

Rat listened with an understanding nod, keeping the peach near his face without taking a bite. Finally he held it away from himself and cleared his throat, “That’s mighty convenient... barring the limit of resources... I’d say you almost have an endless, er...” He thumped his head with the back of his hand as he figured out the word, “faucet... able to acquire new metal goods when you need them. I say coincidence because I myself have a similar arrangement where I can get these little fruits whenever I damn well please.” He made an almost surprised face, “So naturally, I’d say we are in a unique position where I just give you some!” He laughed, “It’s not the Kend way, I know, but it’s the least I can do since you’re offering your dagger for the whole sack anyways.”

Visible pain flashed across Candle’s face before she recomposed herself. ”Unlike your… produce… our tools cannot be given away so freely. And I have never offered you my dagger. Each tool is made specifically for a certain member of our parish and we are often involved in its own making. They are our vital instruments, just as we are Parrel’s. In any case, I have seen many winters since the last time I was in contact with my convent, and they have likely moved somewhere new. I came to Kendles to offer my own services, and what I can do does not extend to blacksmithing,” she explained, her eyes suddenly darting to her pack that still lay in the lean-to sat against the sanctuary wall and, inadvertently, to the room where the crown was hidden.

“Oh no, I understand, oh yes,” Rat’s salesman like tone seemed to finally drop, “It’s just that this sack of peaches weights much more than you dagger as it is, it’s not like I was buying your sword... it is rare to find a stable source of metal in this town, you know.” He finally bit into the peach, it bursting with juice. He smiled and chewed quickly, swallowing with a gulp, “Not to say there is a stable source of anything -- like food.”

Candle pursed her lips, then finally looked down and away. Parrel guides those who have the will to first guide themselves,” she recited. ”If you wish to deal with my convent, you are more than welcome to search for them yourself. Besides,” she started to counter, staring directly where the nail formerly lay embedded inside him, then at Rat’s face. ”I’ve still yet to ask for payment of services rendered.”

“And that’s why I like you,” Rat sneered, “In Kendles, me asking for a trade rather than swiping right from you is respect enough, you know.” He laughed once, “Oh yes, fuckin’ Kendles... I bet you couldn’t tell, but...” He looked over his shoulder then back at Candle, “I can be a wee... cautious -- but you... I can smell your niavity; could fuckin’ cut it with a knife. This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been, and that doesn’t bode well for you -- can’t be relaxing people around here.”

Annoyance. Aggravation. Righteous purpose. All of it and more began to bleed into Candle’s speech. ”And it is for that exact reason that I have decided to establish a new church. If I was like you, would we be having this conversation I wonder? Or would you still be wandering around this Filth-ridden town, bleeding a trail for whoever harmed you to follow?”

Rat squinted his eyes in an almost patronizing way and smiled, “Sure, yes, you can play the same hand in the same game twice -- but what I’m telling you is none the less true. You’re out of your element here. You can’t just skip on in fuckin’ full of piss and holy cree’ and expect everyone you meet to suddenly go-” He tucked his hand under his chin and put on a wondering face, “Oh shit and Oorick’s nips, I never saw it that fuckin’ way ‘fore.” He bit into his peach aggressively and quickly chewed and swallowed, “Ye think you’re the first?” He jutted his chin at the wall next to him, “I knew the last fucker who holed up here, you know.”

”Why do you think I chose this ruin in the first place?!” Her voice began to rise, fluctuating in tone as she attempted to keep calm. This was not the first Candle had heard these remarks, it would not be the last, but it still stung to hear nonetheless.

“I bet to fuckin’ the sky and back it wasn’t because you heard about this-” Rat dropped his leather bundle and the sack of peaches, his voice a squeel of anger as he tossed the peach lazily in the air. With impressive speed he ripped his metal shank out of his pants and zipped it through the air. With a wet slunk the knife caught the peach and sent it into a wooden beam, pinning it.

“--Cuz that’s about where Derick put the head of the last one.” He spat, the peach sliding off its mark and hitting the floor with a splat as if to punctuate.

She knew about the gangs. About the turf wars, the sudden rise to power of the Filth eaters. Not an insignificant number of her patients who came under her care were victims of his ascension. Liam and a countless score of others had warned her about the inherent dangers and most of all, the stupidity in chasing her lofty goal. She still didn’t care. ”And what were you hoping to have me do by trying to scare me? Have me leave? Run? Enter under your ‘care and protection’?” Her throat became tight, her lips a thin line as she tried to keep tight control of herself.

“Bah,” Rat snarled, but his snarl was half hearted as he walked over to his shank. With a tug he yanked it from the wood, his eyes not meeting Candles, “I’ve already said my peace -- you’re a fuckin’ idiot, and I wouldn’t have said any of this if I didn’t think your life was worth keeping around.” He turned to her, “Don’t ask me why, but a kid like you should at least try to be a little fuckin’ smarter.”

Of all his words, it was his look that infuriated her the most, like she was something to be pitied. Her eyes burned itself onto his face, daring him to meet her challenge. In response, however, she only had one thing to say. ”Should you ever require my services, my church and my skills will always be open to you and to any others that might come seeking refuge under my roof.”

“And for that, I’ll make sure to urinate away from your grave,” Rat kept his stare, his eyes narrowing with pride the longer Candle looked, “But I’m afraid I still need to stick around a wee longer.” He slid his shank into his pants and walked over to his discarded bag and bundle.

With nothing left to be said, a heavy silence descended between them, awkward and long. It took a while for Candle to regain her composure, but her mantras and prayers served her well in doing so, as they always had. She resumed what she had been doing before Rat had waltzed in and continued sweeping the floor, trying to ignore the fact that presently, there was a distinct lack of a roof above her in the first place.

At some point another pair of footsteps began to plop merrily closer to the church. ”Ho there!” A familiar voice sounded, the rich tenor belonging to Candle’s most recent traveling companion. ”Still ‘live and in one piece girlie? Haven’t had yourself shanked now have you?” Laughter sounded off in response to a joke seemingly only Liam understood as he walked inside.

“Teid’s tits,” Rat remarked, “I suppose now I understand where all your fuckin’ anger is coming from.” His hand was on his shank and eyes on Liam.

”Ho!” Liam greeted warmly as his eyes fell upon Rat, a stark contrast to the gruff persona Candle received on their first meeting. Still, his eyes remained sharp as his still-functioning hand rested easily on the pommel of his mace. ”I didn’t speak too early did I girl? This gutter rat hasn’t done anything a lady wouldn’t ‘ppreciate now did he?”

“Wait just a hole shittin’ minute,” Rat closed his eyes and tilted his head, his shank slowly coming out of its resting spot, “Did you just fuckin’ call me a gutter rat?” He opened his bright eyes and stared daggers at Liam.

”The only stabbing and bashing to be done will be by my own hands and no one else’s in this holy house,” Candle warned, turning her face pointedly to the two others, to which Liam raised his hand and lowered his face in mock apology. ”Rat, this is Liam, the dead merchant’s guard.”

”So you are a rat!”

“Not a rat; just Rat,” The thief hissed, “If you have trouble with the accent, I can do some quick work on your tongue so it better fits your swollen head, free of charge.” He sucked in a breath and stood in front of his bundle, his eyes flickering with thought, “So you knew Lauriel?”

”Rat, Wolf, Fox,” Liam laughed. ”Get a few more characters and you can start your own weird little farm! As for Lauriel,” he paused, his wide smile turning into a cold and practiced grin as he sized up the lanky rat-man before him. ”I knew her as much as a guard hired by her could be. I am sorry to say however that it seems my skills were not up to par,” he said with an indifferent shrug. ”However, --

“Holy Teid!” Rat interjected, “The next Kendles has already been torn down and built -- just fuckin’ answer yes or no to the simple ones. Listen half-pint,” He pointed at the clearly taller man, “Do you have Lauriel’s package or not.”

Liam’s stanced shifted ever so slightly, danger and caution sewn into his aura. The same, cold grin remained on his face. ”And what package would that be?”

Rat squeezed his eyes shut and looked to the open sky as if praying. He mouthed a silent word and cracked a smile as he turned back to Liam, “Of fuckin’ course you don’t have it. I shoulda known any shit for brains merc like you would go for the shiny bits and baubles first -- probably tossed them away for a stroke -- possible a choke if that’s what you’re into-- but no. Fuck!” He swore loudly, “You bloated sword pushers always miss the important bits.” He turned away and swore again, “This ain’t some sort of fuckin’ thing you’d ask about, you’d know if you fuckin’ had it and I can tell by the way your pants aren’t pissed right now that you don’t fuckin’ have it.”

And just like that, Liam’s posture relaxed, a bit more personality injecting itself back into his expression. ”What can I say,” he apologetically shrugged, ”I was only hired to do a single job. But it was dear Lauriel’s poor, dying wish to resolve whatever worldly affairs she had left unfinished here in Kendles, and who am I to deny a dying woman’s will? So, perhaps I can help you find this package.”

What Candle remembered of the merchant’s last moments were ones of pleading and gore, but she decided to remain silent on this point.

“Oh yeah?” Rat fluttered his eyelashes. “You’re a real fuckin saint,” He scowled, “And who am I to deny a saint -- you can start by telling me how far away from here she fuckin’ croaked.”

”Two days walk north of here,” Candle offered, showing she was still making sure that no bloodshed would happen in her new home.

”Right, right, bit off the road. Poor girl here wouldn’t rest until she gave Lauriel and the others a proper burial despite guttin’ a score of grunts that day! I’m sure she’s too busy here fixin’ up this place and whatnot, so if you’d like I could lead you there, maybe see if there are still any good bits left that haven’t been taken.”

“You know,” Rat wagged a finger thoughtfully as he scooped up his bundle and bag in one arm, “I think you may be a very smart man, oh yeah.” He tapped his head, “You head on out, and I’ll meet you there you fuckin’ halfwit.” His voice dropped, “What kind of bastard of Oorick do you take me for, I oughta...” His voice trailed into a snarl, cutting off the threat as he eyed Candle.

Liam laughed. ”No need for the harsh words, Rat. I know how you Kendies are, all paranoid and the like, but I’m an Illistair man, bred and born! Ain’t got a single bad bone in my body, though if I do make it out there first, who’s to say I won’t accidentally take your package? After all, I’ve no idear what it is, but I do live by a very firm code of ‘finder’s keepers’.” His face turned solemn as if uttering an oath before cracking back into his amused face. ”And since you’ve no idear where it is, it’d be better if we went together, right?”

“Oh, I get it,” Rat nodded his head, “You see a Kendie.” He shook his head, “Oh no, I understand, I do.. Before you, you see a short man, kinda lanky... long hair -- name’s Rat. What a fool, yeah? He is from Kendles to boot-- but do you know how old I am?” Rat gave a funny look, “Thirty-nine. I am Thirty-nine years old, mint is on my breath, my teeth are white and I have peaches in this here bag.” He jumbled the bag, “Oh but you know Kendies, so you already knew that -- so you probably know how I did it as well.” Rat looked at the man with a stone cold stare, “By gutting cocky shits like you and turning them into sausage before their mother could even think about farting out another disappointment--”

”Enough!” Candle threw up her hands in exasperation. ”You two could threaten to gut each other all day and never be done with it. What if I went with the both of you and make sure you both don’t kill each other on the way there or back, aye? And if either of you try anything, I will cut whoever it is where they stand, then drag them back here and fix them up again. Does that sound fair?”

“I’m not stepping a foot with this sorry mound of puss until he learns some fuckin’ manners,” Rat spat, “I appreciate all you do, I really do, but even my boundless appreciation has trouble keeping me from opening Wallie fool’s throats while they sleep.”

”Fine! Then how about only I go with you, while Liam stays here and tells me whatever bobs and bits he wants me to plunder from whatever items may yet remain. Agreeable now, yes?”

A smug look overturned Rat’s snarl as he gave a bemused look towards Liam, “I think that’s quite the deal. How ‘bout a peach to keep it in stone?”

”You try to bribe me anymore than you have and I will gut you and eat all those peaches myself.”

At that, Liam broke his silence with laughter once more, this time turning it into a full, gut-bending roar. ”Well, what can I say to that but aye? Fine girl, have it your way, but don’t expect me to find another healer so quick for you if you come back with several new holes in your back. People like you aren’t exactly common ‘round these parts.”

Candle glared at both men, then set aside her broom and went about packing all her things that she had so carefully unpacked just hours before.

“Hold on, swift,” Rat held up a hand, “We can’t exactly just up and leave right now. Give it four days, we are going to want to be more prepared than Lauriel was if we expect to survive up to four nights on the road.”

Candle sighed, re-unpacking her belongings. Liam, meanwhile, smiled and stared at Rat. ”As newly made friends, I hope to see you come back alive now.”

Rat chewed his cheek as he simply stared at Liam for a bit. He rubbed his chin and shook his head, suddenly turning to Candle, “Be ready in four days, sleep behind the chapel not in it, and have Liam here do all the talking (far fuckin’ away from you) -- especially if to Derick’s goons. Peachy?” He held his belongings tight against him.

Candle looked at him then nodded, figuring it was easier to agree than talk anymore than she already had to. The road to her new church still stretched far off into the distance yet.
“I’ll cut your ears off, I’ll cut your stomach open, by Tied, Parrel, Ligdon and Fuckin’ Oorick, I’ll feed you your own damn fingers!”

A short man with long brown hair waved a crudely hammered together shard of metal. While lacking in elegance, much like it’s owner, it was long and sharp. Across a turnt over table stood a burly man with two stud wrapped fists and a hunk of metal tied around his chest, a stiff club in his hands. The large man wore disinterested eyes and a curled snarl.

“I already told you, Rat! I’m not here for you!” The brute growled, but the small man just snickered loudly.

“Ooh! Think you can pull a tricky on me do ya? I know exactly why you are here.” Rat spat while stabbing the air a few times. His other hand was curled around a roll of leather tied off with a cut of string.

“I shoulda known the twins would fuckin’ try and double cross me, yes” Rat chattered his teeth, “But too bad for you!” The man suddenly leapt into the air, one foot expertly landing on the edge of the turned over table and launching him forward in a deadly thrust.

CRACK!

The club came down reflexively, smashing Rat in the side and sending him into the wall. The squirrelly man quickly scrambled to his feet, a pained laugh on his breath.

“Now you’ll get yours.. Oh yes, I’ll pop your eyes and--”

“Oorick’s boiled ass!” The brute swore and charged the small man. Rat yelped and suddenly retreated, slipping by the man and out the shack’s door. The brute groaned and shook his head.

Morning dew soaked Rat’s feet as he darted between the shacks of Kendles, a laboured breath in his mouth and a sharp pain in his side. He clutched the leather tightly against him, pumping his run with only his knife wielding hand.

“I’ll kill him, I’ll fuckin’ kill him,” Rat hissed between breaths, “I’ll go back there, damn right. I’m not runnin’, I’m just thinkin’, and when I’m done thinkin’, I’ll be stabbin’, Oh he is going to feel my edge, nobody messes with me, NONE!” He groaned loudly through the pain growing in his side, “Fuck that bitch, fuck her brother, fuck Kendles, fuck grrr--ah!” He shook his head in anger.

A warm trickle began to drip from his shirt and the man looked down. Scarlet mixed with dirt was dribbling from under his clothes. His swiveled on his feet, heading towards a different direction before.

“I’m just thinkin’” He muttered, heading right for a rumored chapel.






Candle settled quickly into her new, humble little abode. The reality however, was that her current situation hadn’t changed too much from when she still camped in the wilds. During her travels, she had made her home in the scattered ruins of Pertovia many a time. The one she had tented in now was merely another, albeit one that would not remain that way for long. What needed to be done before any work may begin, however, was to ensure the safety and security of a most curious object that plagued her almost as much as it intrigued her: the rusted iron crown tucked away in her rucksack.

She had dared not remove it from its cushioned place in her bag while in Liam’s company. It is rumored that the Filth comes after those who grow too great in their ambition or power, and what greater ambition was there than to unite people under one banner, one cause? What great power would they hold? What greater symbol would there be of that fantasy than a crown, a terrible artifact worn and wielded by the kings and queens of eld? Perhaps it was just superstition, a convenient tale spun by those who wished to guard against such hunger and the Filth just a mindless force of destruction, a phenomena as natural to the world as earthquakes and storms. Or perhaps the Filth was crafted with a purpose, a vengeful weapon meant to strike at those who dared to rise above their station. Whatever the truth may be, there were power in stories, and it would not benefit anyone if rumors of a priestess of Parrel holding a crown was to circulate.

Calling upon her knowledge of similarly built chapels in the past, Candle made her way towards the back of the church and into a room where the vicar would have slept. Like the rest of the building, it was bereft of any furnishings, all of them likely already destroyed or repurposed long ago. What she searched for however would be hidden in the stones themselves and after a thorough investigation of the room she had found what she had been searching for: a small hidden alcove hidden underneath a loose flagstone. She was pleasantly surprised to see the remains of a holy text still embedded within, long rotted with age. Whether it was left because the alcove had continued to remain hidden all this time or because those who had found it thought it not worth pilfering, it still bade well for the job she would require of it.

Placing the iron crown gingerly into the hidden hole, she covered what bits of it she could with the crumbled paper then replaced the flagstone back into the floor, taking care that it blended well amongst its other kin. Done with her surreptitious task, Candle dusted off her tabard and made her way back towards the main sanctuary. And now, she only had the immediate task of cleaning a stone ruin that had lay abandoned for years yet weathered the constant ravages of a town regularly plagued by Filth. A daunting task for many, perhaps, but not to a Sister of Quiet Vigil.

The first order of business and the first step towards rebuilding the church: finding a broom.

“Oi!” A voice suddenly pulled her from her task, it echoed from the still doorless entryway and bounced off the stone.

Candle jumped, caught off-guard and more than a little embarrassed at having been so, immediately dropped her hand down towards the handle of her sword as she turned to face the voice. What she was met with was a ratty looking man holding a long shiv in one hand. What was more worrying, however, was the growing band of red from his chest. ”You’re bleeding,” she stated, still in a crouched and readied position.

“Fancy that,” He pointed his shiv at Candle, face paling from his wound, “Are you the new gobble who has been mucking around the past year giving old men paste for their rumps?”

Candle’s eyes narrowed. ”Only to those who don’t threaten me with sharpened metal.”

“Can’t blame a man,” He didn’t lower his weapon, “In a world like this, who knows what sort of harpy might try and take advantage of a man like myself, and when. I can meet you in the middle, yes, I’ll stop pointing -- but I’m keeping it, and you do your good deed for the day, yeah?”

She didn’t like the man. Nor could she ignore the fact that he was currently bleeding on the floor of her new home. Yet ultimately, she had dealt with similar characters (or worse) during her many brief sojourns in Kendles. She could hardly blame them either, considering the environment they lived in. Mentally shrugging, she allowed herself to rise and nod at the rat-man and walked quickly toward her rucksack, but she did not allow the man to leave her eyesight.

Rummaging inside, Candle produced a lengthy piece of linen that she had appropriated from the dead merchant’s stock as well as several other sundries that she would need. A dagger appeared in her other hand and she walked back towards the man, keeping a good pace away as she indicated for him to come closer. ”I’ll need you to remove your shirt.”

The man cocked his head, oddly bright eyes that betrayed a certain intelligence flickering over her dagger. He swallowed hard as if thinking over his options and then suddenly let the leather bundle under his arm drop to the floor with a thud, “Don’t move.” He hissed as he slide his shiv under the rope of his pants. With a painful jerk, he tossed his shirt over his head as quickly as he could. Immediately his eyes jumped back to her dagger, relaxing when he realized that it had not moved in the split second. He lifted his arm, peeking at his own wound for the first time.

Purple bruises scattered all around his ribs, with a crude nail stuck right into him, it’s protrusion running alongside his bone and peppered with splinters. The man seemed to lose a lot more color at the sight.

The sight of the wound made Candle purse her lips. The object didn’t look as if it had penetrated too deep nor hit anything too vital else he likely wouldn’t have been able to walk here in the first place. There was the risk of broken ribs, but there was nothing she could do about that. ”Sit,” she ordered, handing him the linen. ”And hold this.”

The man quietly complied, his eyes still stuck on the nail.

Candle kneeled next to him, her free hand exploring his chest as she poked and prodded in various places. Luckily, it seemed as if most of the bruising was superficial and would heal given time. The nail remained a problem.

Taking her dagger to the linen, she cut out a small square, followed by a long strip and then a rougher patch of cloth. She dug out a bottle of alcohol and began wetting the linens with it save for the rough patch, of which she offered to the man. ”In case you want to bite down on something,” she explained.

The man sucked in a breath and snatched the rough fabric and stuffed it into his mouth, his cheek puffing as he grumbled.

Preparations done, Candle placed a steadying hand on the man’s shoulder as she first cleaned the site of the wound with the alcohol, washing away whatever blood and grime she could with as little liquid as possible. Once satisfied, she began her impromptu surgery by using the small, cleaned square as a makeshift glove, wrapping it around the nail head. ”One,” she counted.

Then she pulled.

“Ligdon’s chapped ass!” The man spat out the cloth as he swore loudly, “Holy Teid’s titties and fuck-- OW!”

Immediately she placed the tail end of the long linen onto the open wound. ”You’ll live,” was all the consolation she offered as she wrapped and tied his bandage.

“I fuckin’ better -- after all this, and I still have a traitor to-” He cut himself off, “Business.”

”It’s none of my concern, as long as you’re aware that I treat anyone who comes under my care equally and fairly.”

The man stared at Candle for an uncomfortable amount of time before exhaling a short breath, “I don’t know you, but I can tell your experienced... if not a little too welcoming. Just look out for a woman by the name of Lauriel and her brother, if they come in here bloody and gagged, don’t help them -- they’ll cut your throat, I swear this.” He shifted his shiv around in his rope belt, “Damned merchants.”

Candle raised an eyebrow. Liam had mentioned at some point in their travels that the merchant who had hired him was named Lauriel. ”And if this merchant already happened to be dead?”

“Then I’ll give Teid a big kiss,” The man spat, “One of her goons came at me this mornin’. Oh yes, tried to fool me with a big speech about being there for the room next door -- but I could see those beady eyes staring at me, oh yes.” The man stood up and swiveled his shoulders, testing his bandage as he continued to mutter, “Remember the name Rat, it won’t be so obscure for too much longer, oh no.”

With his own beady eyes and long, unruly mane, Candle doubted she would be able to forget a rat-like man named Rat. Perhaps he came from some strange convent of his own. ”So what will happen to you if her people realize she’s dead and that the last person to have a spat with them was you?”

The man’s eyes snapped back to Candle, “You said it again!” They narrowed, “Why do you think she is dead?”

Candle shrugged. ”Because I saw a female merchant named Lauriel have her life taken by the Filth.”

Rat stared for a while, slowly backing up to his discarded leather bundle, “Oh yeah?” His voice was suspicious, “So you know Lauriel, eh? And she is dead, yeah? And you’re saying she has goons, no?” He slowly scooped up his bundle, eyes never leaving Candle, “I-- uh, don’t suppose you have her end of the bargain with you?”

A hand casually came to rest itself on Candle’s pommel once more. ”I saw someone die who I later learned was named Lauriel and was informed that she has ‘goons’ by you. As for whatever bargain you may be searching for, unless she was truthful in dealing only with selling construction supplies, of which I have plenty of her tools if you desire them, I doubt I do. The only other person to survive the attack was one of her guards, Liam, and he had plundered much of her cargo. I believe he’s out trying to sell a good amount of her stock right now, if you’d like to catch him.”

Rat was rubbing his chin as Candle spoke, “No...” His voice was quiet, conspiring, “No, no fool would try and sell what I’m looking for in Kendles.” He slowly widened his eyes, and secretly he knew he had misjudged the goon from earlier, but neither his ego nor paranoia would admit that openly. He looked up at Candle and gave his best smile, unfortunately, “What if I were to stay, I’d like to linger around here -- wait for your friend. You helped me, I promise I won’t make a mess or bring any ill into your abode.”

Candle blinked. ”You can stay if you clean your blood up from the floor. The dust will be hard enough to clear as it is.”
@Bee aw shiet it's like a lil reunion

Somewhere
Dawn


In all the old stories, it is said that crowns lie heavy on the head of those who wear them.

The stories failed to mention how heavy they would be while lying in the floundering pack of one lone nun.

Candle didn't know how long she had been running for. All she knew was that they had crept up on her while the world still lay dark and dead. Now, the faintest tendrils of Teid's warm sun began trailing across the sky, guided by Parrel's careful touch. Her legs ached. Her lungs burned. All she wanted to do was to lie down and rest and take a drink of her stale water. Luckily her marathon would soon be at an end, either by the death of her assailants or her own. The stiffening of the hairs on the back of Candle's neck was all the warning that she received of something lunging at her. It was all she needed.

In one smooth motion, her next step turned into a pivot as she turned to face her enemy, using the extra weight of her backpack to help complete her half turn as she gripped her ashwood spear in both hands, bracing it on the forested ground. Iron, hardened by faith, met flesh covered in Filth as the short, stubby creature impaled itself onto the tip of her weapon, momentum and gravity forcing it yet further down onto the haft. The feel of it reminded her of a knife sliding through fat, not at all like the tough shuddering of meat and bone. Grimy, pustulous claws swung just mere inches from the nun's grim and impassive face, her ears assaulted by the grunt's death throes as it gurgled into nothing, the creature melting back into the Filth from which it was made.

Her victory was short lived as another grunt quickly made its presence known as it burst from the brush, characteristically and unnervingly silent compared to its bubbling companion.

Candle dropped her spear, mired as it was in Filthy tar, drawing instead the longsword at her hip with a dull hiss of metal on leather. Individually, however, the Filth's grunts posed little threat to a properly trained warrior, much less a Sister who survived and thrived under the harsh hands of Mistress Blade at the Convent of Quiet Vigil. It was dispatched easily and quickly with several brutal cuts. Still, Candle remained alert as she knew there were more that were chasing after her, even if she had dispatched a few others similar to the first by catching them on various risky and dangerous maneuvers. The sounds of the pack that had been chasing after her from before were far too loud and numerous to account for those she had slain, no matter how groggy and addled she may have been while hurriedly awoken in the middle of the night.

She waited one count.

Two more.

Several long moments passed by in stark silence. There were no animal cries in the distance, no alarm of singing birds nor cricks of endless insects, yet neither were there crashing of Filthy limbs through the underbrush, of unwavering pursuers peering through the green cover of the surrounding forest. Eventually she allowed her muscles to relax, if only a bit.

It was as Candle went over to her spear, lifting it to allow whatever Filth that still clung to it to slough off did she hear the answer to her worries in the form of pained screams. They were bloody, human, and uncomfortable close. Contrary to how she believed she would have acted in such a situation, she hesitated. Her legs ached. Her lungs burned. And, if she allowed herself to realize it, her hands were shaking. Still, despite her hesitation, she knew what she had to do. What she must do. The nun uttered a soft prayer as she scraped off the final bits of Filth with dirt. Afterwards, she allowed herself the small luxury of letting her muscles rest for just a single second more, then shifted into a jog towards the screams that had continued to echo all the meanwhile.

The source of the raucous noise soon became abundantly clear as the trees started to thin out in deference to a nearby road: a single merchant, surrounded by corpses and puddles of Filth alike. The peddler's eyes met Candles, a plea, a cry forming on her lips before her skull caved inward with a sickening crunch, the offending grunt's hands coming away sticky with blood. The only figure left standing that wasn’t covered in Filth was a single man holding a mace tight in one hand and a shield hanging limply from the other. Surrounding him were two grunts, held back only by the pained thrashings of a ten-limbed beast. Several of its pointed legs moved in erratic spasms or already lay dead and still. One of them shot like an arrow toward the man, though the force of it was like a ballista bolt by the way it flung him aside like a rag doll as it splintered his shield. A similar blow was likely the reason why the man had such a weak grip on it in the first place.

Candle's body instinctively snapped into action, giving herself no time to take in the full severity of the situation as she dropped her backpack. The haft of her spear briefly grazed the side of her cheek as she drew back her right arm and turned herself into a siege engine with her body the machine, the spear her devastating load. A pained cry tore itself from her throat as it held the raw grief of seeing the broken bodies of Parrel's flock before her, the cold anger of having to suffer the ignominy of allowing the Filth before her to do so, and the terrified exhaustion of a scared, lonely girl that had to live in such a world. Her spear shot forth with divine fury, the missile striking true, skewering the crawling beast right in the center of its flailing mass. It died with a piercing screech in concert with Candle's own warcry as she drew her sword, daring the rest of the disgusting Filth before her to face her.

But these beasts knew no fear. They knew not what the terror in facing a holy Instrument of Parrel was, had no concept of what it should be like. The Filth had a divine will of its own, its creatures driven and filled with its unholy purpose. The pustulous lumps that sat atop the bodies of the three grunts all turned to snap at her, their bodies moving as if under a single puppeteer's commands as they began ambling towards her.

Despite her body's protest, Candle turned and ran slightly deeper into the trees. After a short while she turned around, sighting the silent beasts that chased after her, running at her as one unit. The density of the trees forced them to stagger their approach, however. The first one that reached the lone nun lunged at her, its hands slavering for the chance to crush her bones under its grip. She crouched under its grasp, her blade already positioned in a low stance as she used her legs to burst forward and score a deep slice through its midsection, metal coming away from Filth with a sickening squelch. The grunt showed no reaction to being cut by a murderous slice that would have been fatal to any mortal man, though it at least waddled and wavered like a drunken lout as its top half flailed about, unsteadying the legs that had to carry its newly unsecured weight. A swift kick was all the persuasion the grunt's body needed in order to finally separate and return to Filth.

The second grunt came at her left side, its right arm moving in a wild swing that threatened to pulverize her entire rib cage. Candle danced and dodged around a tree, using it as brief cover and came up behind the beast. She sliced at the back of its knees, forcing it into a slump as she brought her blade around to hack at it from above. With a cry, she brought furious retribution down upon the Filthy stain that kneeled before her.

As she moved to tug out her blade however, she found it stuck deep and fast in the creature's body. She panicked and froze for only a single moment, but it was all the third grunt needed to tackle Candle onto the floor. The worst of the impact was softened by her breastplate, but the grunt now lay above her, straddling and pinning her down to the ground. Death stared at her in the form of two meaty hands raised above her head. She wanted to close her eyes and look away. She couldn't.

But the hands never came down, Out of nowhere, a mace swung hard and fast from its side. There was only a dense thump as the weapon impacted into the creature, enough to throw it off Candle to somewhere she couldn't see. A man walked briefly into her vision before disappearing toward where the grunt had flown. She could only imagine what happened next as several more thumps quickly turned into a heavy string of sickening squelches. Eventually it stopped, followed only by the sound of heavy breathing, then crunching footsteps disappearing into the distance. Candle lay there for what felt like a lifetime afterward.

Once she felt like she could stand and take a step without crumpling onto the forest floor, she made her slow journey back toward where she had dropped her backpack, moving in the same direction as the earlier footsteps. Luckily she found it undisturbed. The same could have been said about the scene of carnage that lay before it, save for the absence of the Filth's walking blasphemies. The man who flew through the air sat at a small, freshly made fire in the center of it all, seemingly unperturbed by the blood and bodies that lay all around him. His mace lay comfortably across his knees as it dripped with Filth, his single working hand never far from it. His head rose as he heard her approach and raised an arm in a nonchalant greeting, then pointed to her spear which lay on the ground covered in Filth for the second time that morning.

Without a second thought Candle strode forward to join the man next to his little fire, collecting her spear along the way. She watched him nurse the flame brighter and brighter, then settle a pot into its heart. He wandered over to the cart that supported the now dead merchant, idly picking through it before coming back with a pack of what looked to be freshly skinned and gutted rabbit. It wasn't until he sat back down did Candle finally speak. "May I look at your arm?"

The man turned to look at her, ice-blue eyes piercing into her own. She met his challenge, unwavering, unflinching. He was the first to break contact as he turned aside to put down his breakfast. "Do what you will, girl."

Candle laid aside her pack and spear and came up beside the man's hanging arm. A brief inspection and a string of creative curses told her that it was at least fractured, if not outright broken near his shoulder. It also gave her a chance to actually take a proper look at her savior. His weapon and the ease of which he carried it told her that he was clearly well trained, with his corded muscle and rough, leathery skin confirming a life used to hard labour, a prominent scar running from cheek to chin. The rest of his face was hard and angular, but not unkind. His age was hard to properly guess at however, as it felt like he could have been anywhere from his late 30's to his early 60's, old enough to be her father, at least. The skull cap protecting his head hid whatever hair may have taking refuge under it, though she doubted he had any to reveal anyway if the rest of his clean-shaven features were of any indication. "Do you have any cloth or linens I may use?"

The man shrugged and pointed a thumb back towards the cart. "You're free to look."

Candle did so, coming back with a suitable piece of linen cut to size with a knife. She took the cloth back to the man's side and moved to treat him before she hesitated and gave him a last look. "May I?"

"Do what you will."

She worked quickly, setting his arm into a comfortable sling. Once she finished, she asked him, "What is your name?"

"Liam."

"... That's not your real name, is it?"

He shrugged. "And?" A pause. "Yours?"

"Candle."

He turned to stare at her unmoving expression, an eyebrow slowly creeping its way upward. It hung at its zenith for a second, two, then a wide smile cracked open on his face and he let out a guffaw that felt as if it could split the world. "Well Candle, 'least join me for a meal. Can't promise anything good, but it'll 'least be edible."

With his immediate care now done, however, her attention had shifted to the various bodies that lay around them. One lay rigid, his face locked in fear. Another was crumpled and broken, her face slack without worry. The last laid against the cart as if dozing, her expression unreadable for she no longer had a face at all. "Nothing left to do for them but pray, girl."

Candle now turned to face him and nodded. "That is what I will do."

As he made his meal, Sister Candle went about collecting the corpses of Liam's fellows, digging them graves with a shovel found inside the cart. Her screaming muscles forbid her from giving them final resting places that were too deep, but it was enough to preserve their dignity as their bodies and spirits returned back to the Cycle of Creation. She prayed for them to find contentment and joy wherever they resided next.
Kendles Outskirts
Several days later


After Candle's impromptu funeral service, Liam divulged that he was one of three guards the lone merchant had hired in Illistair as escorts to Kendles. Ostensibly, the reason why she decided to strike out alone instead of traveling with a caravan was to rush to Kendles and sell off her stock of construction supplies first, then resupplying with some new hot product that had come into the ramshackle settlement. A derisive snort was his only follow-up to that. When asked why he went along with it anyway, he shrugged and said that he knew and trusted the skills of the two other guards. More importantly, however, was the fact that the pay was extremely ludicrous, enough to ensure his silence, but not his death. The reason why he had told Candle any of this was because he was bored and that it likely wouldn’t have mattered anymore anyways.

So now, with no prospect of being paid, yet really having nowhere else to go, Liam plundered the dead merchant’s cart with whatever seemed profitable and that he could comfortably carry, leaving the rest for Candle to take or the Filth to claim as he continued down the long road toward Kendles. Since had already planned to revisit the tumultuous town anyways, Candle decided to accompany him.

The rest of the journey to Kendles was uneventful, their entrance even more so as they blended into the throng of humanity that hovered in and around it like flies. Candle had come to sprawling town a handful of time as she wandered all over Pertovia, preaching the good word of Parrel. Of the three Stalwart Cities, she had always felt the most at ease in Kendles. As contradictory as that statement may have seemed on the surface, the Kendies at least made no attempt to hide the danger that was inherent in living there; the same couldn’t be said for Illistair, Jornorston least of all.

Once they arrived, Liam inquired as to where she would stay, whereupon she revealed her plans to build her own church to Parrel in the town by taking and renovating one of the many abandoned buildings that lay in the town’s outskirts. She had planned to ply her trade as an alchemist, healer, and priestess in order to slowly gather the labor and materials she would have needed for such an endeavor, so it was with some tainted luck then that she had found Liam and his little convoy. Liam on his part did at least offer to house her with one of his friends, but she politely refused and was adamant in the fact that she had wanted to start her first great work as soon as possible. Still, he felt uncomfortable leaving her alone as not only was she a woman wandering the urban wilds of the outskirts, but a holy woman no less while the city was held tight in the Filth Eaters' grip.

So he did not part with her yet and assisted her in at least choosing a building that at the very least lay far from the reach of the fanatical gang, though admittedly his knowledge of their territory was cobbled together from memories that ranged, at their latest, of only a few months back. Much could have changed in that time, but Candle left him little choice in the matter.

Eventually, they found a serviceable ruin that fit both their criterias: a crumbling stone building that may have once been a church in its scarred past, the only signs of which being the symbol of Parrel being carved into one of its bricks. Now it stood with only three walls, the fourth barely a collection of pebbles, the roof long since caved in. Perhaps it was an ill-advised venture to rebuild a church of Parrel in the same place where it had already fallen at least once before, but Sister Candle chose to take it as a sign of divine providence. Liam cared little whether it was one or the other, save that he did enough to ease his conscience. They parted ways soon afterward.

As she surveyed her new home, however, Candle knew that it wouldn’t be the last time she would see the errant mercenary.


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