Status

Recent Statuses

8 mos ago
Current "So curious, Draugr! To make me monologue about my evil plan, that is your strategy?"
1 like

Bio

User has no bio, yet

Most Recent Posts


[Stoneworks - Interior]

[A Chaotix14 / XianaEvermor collaboration]



Yue's eyes snapped to the table as Raudd captured one of the cards beneath his hand, watching the ripple of displaced air spread slowly from his palm, lifting the edges of the adjacent cards. For a while, nothing... and then a sound. Her eyes widened as she focused on Raudd's hand, resisting the urge to save the card from the agonizing torture it was experiencing, seeing as there technically was no rule preventing outside interference, and Archer hadn't moved to stop the man... just watched her with that irksome grin.

Flecks of silver manifested at the corners of her eyes, and her irises began to burn amber as she focused intently on Raudd's hand. Wisps of smoke and angry mottled red curled up from under his palm, and Yue's expression turned vaguely horrified as... something... wailed at her in agony. Despite the time dilation, it hit her like a drawn out cry, and she couldn't suppress the shudder as ripples of white pulsed through markings in the table she hadn't noticed before.


"It's... screaming," she muttered in a haunted tone as Raudd held up the blank card victoriously. His smile was quickly wiped off his face by this announcement as he fumbled with the card trying to figure out how to deal with it. Zolya noticing this swiped the card out of his hand and procured a fountain pen from her cloak.

Yue flinched as Zolya's fingers slammed dramatically against the card. The force rippled through it, shaking the decaying residue of the original markings from the back of the card. As the light faded from the dust it gasped in distraught tones, and then was scattered as Zolya pulled it away. Yue's brow furrowed with concern.

Mending type spells weren't really her forte, in the first-place nature didn't lend itself well to restoring anything dead... Then just make it not dead. Drawing up the nature aspected mana latent in the environment through the pen the black ink flowed across the paper as the runes laden with mana took to the paper.

Yue's eyes followed the pen tip as it slammed into the card backing; it resonated throughout the room like a cannon shot.

"Ah...," she croaked involuntarily, mouth agape.

As time progressed the formation came together nature and rejuvenation runes, among others, tied together by the Web of Wyrd at the center of the card, the runes around having been placed symbolically like the branches of a tree.

The pen tip scraped savagely against the corpse of the card's markings, sending up plumes of desiccated [White] which seemed to dissolve slowly into the residual glow of the room. Yue cringed against audial assault, and squinted her eyes against the brilliant [Green] with which Zolya wrote.

Having finished the formation Zolya imbued the card with mana activating the magic formed onto it's surface. The ink burning away as the paper of the card first yellowed, then formed a grain as bark and a wreath of tiny leaves formed around the edge of the card. "I think that's the best I can do, it's still blank though." She said as she handed the card over to Archer. Though she doubted it would be used for this game, much easier to detect the cheating when the one unique card switches faces.

Zolya's [Light] slithered, and the processed cardstock protested as it was mulched, consumed, repurposed, and hardened into bark. The groaning and snapping of rapid growth grated against her time dilated senses as the leaves sprouted. Her eyes followed the card as Zolya handed it to Archer, who held an expression of endless amusement. Yue exhaled, and her eyes returned to normal as the world slipped back into Realtime.

"I don't... want to play anymore," she croaked, with an expression of pale horror. "I'm gonna...," she trailed off as she curled up in her seat, cradling her knees against her chest. Yue held her cup of coffee against her lips as though it were the last warmth in this cold, cold world and stared out into space past everyone with a furrowed brow.

"Well would you look at that! You've disturbed our little Fang so much that she's lost interest in a game," quipped Archer, with the biggest smile. "That's one hell of an accomplishment you should be proud of, Raudd."
ID paused as something entered her sphere of influence, and her face settled stoically as she collected herself. Being caught out in the open without her mask and gear wasn't ideal, particularly not by a magician that could move so swiftly underground. She sucked in a deep breath as the signature approached, and then continued to inhale slowly through her nostrils as the presence popped up behind her. ID had stopped moving a long moment before he arrived, her eyes flitting back and forth as though scrolling through text while she waited.

She suppressed a flinch at feeling his [Eyes] on her back, and let him approach. Even if he couldn't fully perceive Astralforms, it was impossible for Dual Natured beings to hide theirs. Hers hugged her skin like a tight fitting aura in Dean's vision, glowing like the soft light of a yellow star, and writhing and moving like a flame burning in slow motion. She waited until he felt his [Eyes] close, and then pulled in her sphere of influence.

Did it get warmer? Probably just nerves.

ID turned around when he addressed her, keeping a relaxed pose, though she could not hide the stern way in which her gaze flicked over him, his pockets, and then to the ground beneath his feet.

Did she get taller?

She did her best to suppress the [Deadly Dragon's Gaze], but meeting her eyes directly was still like being slapped with a hammer. She held his eyes, tilting her head a little as she processed his words.

"Statistically probable," she replied, using a circular breathing technique to speak while continuing to fill her lungs with air. "Everyone has a genetic look alike."

It was the Magician that owned the wards and seals scattered around town, no doubt by his introduction. She'd always been very careful not to disturb them when passing through in the past: no need to spook the local Hedge. However, given his array of enchanted charms, and the spirit he had lurking under his feet... she doubted the man was an ordinary Hedge Mage. Even more reason to tread lightly, so to speak. Hedge Mages lacked advanced training, but that did not mean they weren't dangerous. It was probably his house she tried to peek into.

Stuuuuupiiiiiiid...

"Since you were so kind... I recognize your [Sanctum]. I [See] you, and you are standing in my [Domain]," she answered calmly.

[ShieldTown - Interior]



"S-Stranger?!" Wolf stammered. She flinched, inhaling a sharp breath as the tea stopped on its journey to the ground... no, it was just moving slowly as HK's processes jumped into overdrive.

HK rewound the video from the eye feed, grabbing the overhead view from the drone in a separate window.

[Appropriating additional resources]
[Checking for additional surveillance] . . .

[Query Drone_Bay]
[Units on Operational Standby]
[Albatross_02][Lockdown_Protocol_Suite]
[Manta_01][Interceptor]

[Time to launch] [02:46]

[Analyzing Video Feeds] . . .

[Run GAIT_WATCH.EXE]
[Run Facial Recognition]
[Considering new parameters. Processing] . . .

[Subject Identity - ShieldTown-SpecialGuest-Aegis01 - 96% VISUAL match]
[Gait Mismatch - Advise further study]
[Run PATH_TO_VICTORY.SIM] . . .


[Thermal Warning]
[Rerouting Albatross_01]
[Retasking Drones: Stranger Protocol Initiated.]

[Objectives Updated. Waypoints Updated]
[Returning Host Processes] . . . |


The teacup smashed against the ground, splashing Wolf's boots, and she slowly raised a hand to the stinging heat behind her right eye, too stunned to say anything as Dean closed the door. Her face had become flushed, and beads of sweat began forming on the right side of her brow. HK apparently took the insinuation that they'd made a mistake personally. Wolf took a breath to collect herself, watching the view from the Albatross overhead in a sub-window as it winged over into a new flight pattern and began scanning the settlement.

The [Launching Albatross_02] countdown timer was disconcerting. She guessed HK wanted the additional viewpoint but... the "Lockdown Suite" had some serious hardware on it too. Hopefully it wouldn't be coming to that. Wolf started towards the first waypoint when something new caught her attention. She inhaled... was... was Dean making Bacon?!


[Elsewhere...]



Stupid!

ID admonished herself as she huddled in the darkness under an awning several blocks away from the tall central house. It didn't happen very often, but she'd had a strange dream which jolted her out of her sleep. She never could get back to bed if she woke up in the middle of the night either, so she decided to get some air and walk around the settlement instead. Some sort of seismic disturbance caught her attention, though whoever caused it was long gone by the time she found the origin point.

What HAD been left behind was a faint trail of [Crimson] that had been... admittedly very expertly scrubbed. Whoever disguised that signature was a pro, she almost didn't catch it, which had piqued her curiosity even further. Getting caught trying to peek in the window wasn't ideal, and whoever was on the other side of that weapon had some serious mental fortitude to fire so accurately under the [Deadly Dragon's Gaze]. ID mentally flagged the wolf-eared soldier as a high risk engagement.

Thankfully, she never wandered the town unmasked during daylight, so there was basically no risk of being recognized even though she was in casual dress...

There was a waft of [Suspicion] and [Alarm] coming from the tall house, but as long as she didn't draw attention to herself she should be able to make it back to the hostel without further incident. ID pushed herself off the wall once she was sure it was clear, and walked down the street casually. She exhaled a sigh, planning a circuitous route back to the Hostel just in case.

Got a little greedy on that one... technically she was off duty, so... that definitely wouldn't be making its way into her next report.

[The Stoneworks - Interior]



Yue accepted the coffee with a nod of thanks, eyeing the "unicorn" cookies for a long time before a rumble from her stomach prompted her to snatch two off the plate. They were both gone in the next instant with no regards to taste, flavor, texture, or ingredients as she chewed ravenously. She exhaled heavily, reaching for a third at a more relaxed pace while she listened to Zolya speak. Her gaze flicked down to Zolya's rings involuntarily, she froze for a solid moment as she raised an eyebrow, before she took a long sip of too-hot coffee without flinching. She squinted, her eyes flicking back and forth between Zolya and Archer.

"Let me get this straight," she replied curtly. "I got dragged all the way back out here to ass-nowhere, to be told by my friend of eight years... and two weirdos I met this morning... that what- I'm the protagonist in a badly written young adult urban fantasy fanfiction?"

"Next you're gonna say: 'Our star is unique in that it's saturated with Aether: a semi-cognizant primordial force sustained by the presence of life. Aether is both intangible and invisible to the 'Mundane' and those that can see and manipulate it are known as 'The Exalted,'" she quoted, squinting at Archer.

"That... is more or less what I was going to say, yes. Listen, none of these concepts are incorrect," he sighed as Yue's eyes narrowed at him over the rim of her coffee cup. They squinted at one another for a long time before either of them moved, though Archer did hold up a hand when he sensed Zolya about to fill the silence... probably with a lewd comment.

"Let's play a game," he suggested, pulling the coffee table closer to them without breaking eye contact. Yue raised an eyebrow but didn't decline the challenge. He produced his deck of tarot cards from the pouch on his belt and shuffled them expertly. "The game is Memory. Find the matching cards. You may use your super-advanced perception in order to observe me and prevent me from cheating."

"Any other rules?"

"You may choose the pairs at any time as soon as you see them, once the cards are on the table I'm not allowed to touch them," he explained, pausing his shuffle to lay his hand on the table. "I must deal the cards as quickly as I am able, and I'm not allowed to look at them. I may shuffle the deck at any time. If you misidentify a pair, all collected cards are re-shuffled into the deck. The game continues until you collect all the pairs, give up, or figure out how I'm manipulating the deck."

"Fine," agreed Yue curtly, setting her coffee down. Archer smirked.

"When she first came to the templar, I played this game with her a lot in order to help her learn how to control her powers," he explained to Zolya. "Those moments you noticed, where it seems like she's off in her own little world? She is: she's experiencing seconds as minutes and can hyper-analyze the smallest detail. Facial expressions, minute involuntary movements, a single droplet of rain falling in a storm. She can come up with complex plans seemingly instantaneously and process information at an incredibly rapid pace. In spite of all this, I've never lost."

"He cheats," she muttered.

"That was never in question. I told you ahead of time I was manipulating the deck, the question is how?" he smirked. Yue set her cup down and leaned forward. Her gaze widened, the [Crimson] pulsed through her eyes, and her pupils stretched, becoming slitted. The temperature and weight of the air seemed to increase as Archer began to rapidly deal cards while looking directly at Yue.

"The drawback to her ability is the advantage it gives: she can no longer process my speech because it's happening too slow," he explained. Often the cards never reached the table, as Yue snatched them out of the air, and sometimes out of Archer's fingers. Occasionally several cards would vanish off the table into her hand all at once.

"Her affinity is Fortification, which would normally classify her as an Adept... or someone that generally uses magic to enhance their personal physical attributes," he grinned at Raudd, dealing a card which Yue snatched up in flight along with another card that had nearly reached the table. Yue flinched and slid her hand across the table towards him, and he scooped up the cards in a fluid motion, shuffled, and began dealing again. Yue squinted at Archer, and they held eye contact for a long moment before her focus shifted back to the cards.

"That would technically be an incorrect classification though. Part of the reason she's able to use her abilities to the extent she can, through pure intuition is that she experiences resonance through items, it's how she can match the cards before looking at them," he said, as Yue picked a card out of the air, and then off the top of his deck between deals. "We call this 'Spathí Tragoúdi'... Sword Song."

Yue picked up a card from the table, and then slid her hand back to Archer with a huff. He scooped them up, and Yue's hand darted into the stack during the shuffle as she reclaimed several pairs. Archer smiled as he continued.

"The part she hasn't been able to figure out is, that the cards are blank. If I do nothing, the image on the face is a reflection of the enchantment on the card... but as long as I deal the card in my Territory it can be whatever I choose. For the purpose of this game, my Territory is the array I placed on the table when I touched it, which is under the effect of the Suppression Seal that hides my Signature."

Archer paused to do a mid-deal shuffle, and Yue pulled a card near the bottom of the pile fast enough for it to catch fire from the friction. She pressed a finger to the top of the deck as the last card fell, pausing the game. He grinned, watching her eyes flick from the card, to the table, to the deck, to him as the card burned.

"Oop. She's formulating a hypothesis," he explained, as Yue's laser-like gaze bored into him. "While she's like this she's experiencing a phenomenon called Hyperthymesia. She can perfectly recall events in vivid detail while under the influence of this spell. Right now, I imagine she's re-watching the entire game, or pieces of it at least. When she's satisfied she'll either announce her theory, or continue the game," he explained as they stared at one another unblinking for a long time.

"The suppression seal isn't perfect. Every time I manipulate a card, a pulse of mana could be caught before the Seal disguises it... assuming she's paying close enough attention, I've never disguised that, though I could... because if she comes to the conclusion that magic is real on her own, then technically I never violated my station," he smirked.

[The Den]



The soft glow of the topographical holo-map in the center of the darkened Command room flickered blue against Wolf's skin. She lay reclined in one of the chairs next to a terminal underneath what used to be a window. The openings sealed with bulkheads and covered with screens and monitors to prevent any light escaping to the outside. Wolf lay still with one eye closed, her cyber-eye open and occasionally flicking this way and that. A Nuero-Optic cable was spooled out of the base of her neck and into the console.

She was asleep, or part of her was at least: the organic part. Her neural net was alive and awake, operating the drones with support from The Den's considerable array of servers and Virtual Intelligence agents. Scans, topographical readings, information information information... though that part of her brain had been partitioned so it could work autonomously. It was like living with an alternate personality that thought in Radar pings and Firing Solutions, fuel, ammunition levels, and threat assessment.

The Den was always on vigil. The Den never slept.

Hunter-Killer, or HK was on watch, soaring lazily far above the settlement in a wide pattern like a wraith in the dark. Its insulated thrusters made nary a sound, or at least not one that would register on the ground from this height. The occasional stray bit of light from the ground glinted off the payload of Maverick anti-tank missiles nestled against HK's belly.

A seismic ping caught HK's attention, and the nose-mounted targeting pod swiveled to find the source: apparently a group of people standing on the Den / ShieldTown barrier wall... suspiciously. One of the figures flew away after being spoken to... the reaction was played back and analyzed in a separate window while HK observed. The fleeing entity was identified as [ShieldTown-Guest02], and was logged as helping during the unscheduled Hunt event. Judging by her reaction HK logged the well-dressed male as [Suspicious-HotGuy01], and flagged him as Threatening as evidenced by the fact he was poised to attack as [ShieldTown-Guest02] was fleeing.

[Suspicious-HotGuy01] and a trio of others HK didn't have the angle to identify shepherded a woman off the barrier wall and...

[GIMBAL LIMIT]

HK lost the scene and banked sharply, reorienting to restore surveillance but the group was gone. The camera flicked back and forth, scanning the surrounding area before HK rewound the video.

[Processing] . . .

[Identifying. Gait analysis] . . .

[Insufficient Data.]
[Facial recognition scan. Processing] . . .

[Match Found. Subject identified - ShieldTown-SpecialGuest-Aegis01. Status: UNCONSCIOUS. ACTIVE.]
[Analysis: SpecialGuest Abducted.]
[Running PATH_TO_VICTORY.SIM] . . .

[Wake Host.] . . . |


Wolf jolted awake, flinching as the Neuro-Optic cable disconnected from the terminal and swiftly spooled into the back of her neck, snagging a strand of hair as it went. HK had posted a list of objectives and waypoints in her HUD. She skimmed the summary on the way to the armory, briefly poking her head into the infirmary where that majority of The Den's other residents and ShieldTown's physician lay sprawled out in various states of exhaustion. It had been a rough day. It wasn't over yet.

She swung herself down to the wall lithely from the repulsor sled, adjusting her tactical harness and shouldering her silenced submachine gun as she approached HK's waypoint cautiously. The sim played back in her HUD, and she chewed her lower lip in thought.

"Trace to origin," she muttered, deciding that uncovering what happened might give her a clue to where they went with Aegis' guest. He would not be pleased if someone absconded with her in the middle of the night while Wolf was on watch.

[Processing] . . .
[Waypoint Updated] - |


Wolf slid down the wall to street level, following HK's rooftop path simulation from the ground and darting quietly through the intersections. The path led her towards the center of town where Alex's house was, and she recognized the three story building looming over its shorter neighbors as she ducked into a dark alley nearby. She crouched to the corner, peeking silently and looking through the holographic sight towards the house. Broken glass on the ground glinted under a street lamp, and the remains of a demolished night stand lay crumpled underneath the broken window.

She was about to step out and investigate closer when a lithe figure tore away from the darkness of an adjacent intersection and ran silently straight up the wall, hooking fingers on the window frame and pulling themselves up slowly to peek inside. Wolf held her breath, leaning out from cover to train her weapon on the intruder. The figure turned suddenly towards her as though alerted by a noise. Wolf flinched as a pair of gleaming, slitted amber eyes locked with her own, her muscles locking up involuntarily for a fraction of a second before she squeezed the trigger twice.

The figure became a blur, launching across the street and out of sight as the rhythmic SLAP of supersonic rounds flattening against the building's reinforced side echoed into the night. Wolf threw herself around the corner, bracing against the wall to protect her back and swiftly checking first the alley behind her, and then the surrounding rooftops.

"Identify," she whispered, quieting her breathing as the black furred, wolf cyber-ears of her namesake perked up, flicking this way and that to zero in on any sounds of movement.

[Processing] . . .
[Enhancing Image] . . .
[Running Low Light Filter]
[Subject Identity - ShieldTown-SpecialGuest-Aegis01 - 96% match.] - |


Wolf exhaled, relaxing against the wall and letting her heart pound out of her chest for a bit. Good thing she didn't land any hits. Alex would be much less furious about her shooting up the side of his house than he would be if she riddled his guest with bullets thinking she was a creeper. Wolf allowed her weapon to fall to her side on its sling as she approached the front door, and rapped her reinforced steel knuckles on it. The light under the door suggested Dean was still awake, and she was rewarded after a couple impatient minutes of waiting when he answered the door, sipping a freshly made cup of tea.

"Hey uh, your guest- *snrk*," she snorted, the corners of her mouth coiling into an amused smile at the state of his dress: warm flannel pajamas, signature beanie and oversized fuzzy slippers. "Cute slippers," she grinned.

"Anyway, your guest is out and about," she explained, tilting her head back towards the shattered glass and ruined nightstand behind her. "I think she was trying to get back in? But... I maybe uh... kinda-sorta spooked her?" she admitted sheepishly. "I spotted her with some suspicious looking folk and came to investigate; caught her trying to climb back into that broken window. You know, you should tell your guests to use the front door like civilized folk," she chided, clucking her tongue and rocking back and forth on her feet awkwardly, hoping he wouldn't bring up the gunfire.
Archer's gaze narrowed at the retreating creature, and his arm cocked back as if he were preparing to throw the card. A faint glimmer ran through the array on the top of his hand. After a moment he seemed to reconsider, and with a flick, the card disappeared. The corners of his lips twisted into a frown as he gazed off at the departing creature in quiet contemplation. Such a visceral reaction. Could mean that it had experienced some kind of trauma from someone whose name or aspect carried similar weight. It vastly narrowed his list of suspects. He sighed and turned back towards the group, rolling his eyes as he caught Zolya's expression. Yue just watched with a haunted look.

"Don't get too attached, it's very likely I'll get called upon to put it down," he muttered. "She's a special case," he quipped vaguely, addressing Zolya. "I do more than just hide her, though admittedly it's been increasingly difficult to keep a lid on that crazy signature of hers. No solution is perfect, but thankfully it's not up to me to choose anymore," he sighed, with a small air of relief.

"I agree with Raudd, actually."

"No!! Someone needs to tell me what the fuck is going on right. NOW!" Yue punctuated her statement with a stomp. The thud resonated through the wall, and the ripple of force shook dust off the barrier's surface nearly clear around the settlement. Archer narrowed a hard look at her.

"It's not safe to speak about this in the open. We've said too much already, and if necessary I will move you," Archer replied in that tone of voice he only used when telling someone that no: It was, in fact, NOT OK to take the final pastry unless they wanted to lose a limb, because he was saving it for her. Yue deflated, swallowing the lump in her throat. Oh. It's that kind of serious.

Yue took the talisman numbly without further complaint. The ride back to Stoneworks was quiet. Nobody spoke, and though her head was full of thoughts and questions, Yue just rested her head against Archer's back and closed her eyes against the nagging feeling that she was forgetting something. Archer was always so soft with her. He always seemed to be exactly where she needed him, and she felt instantly guilty for shutting him out to wallow in her own depression, in spite of the cheerful indifference with which he always insisted that he was fine.

"Oh stop," quipped Archer softly as they trotted towards the Stoneworks, lagging a bit behind the others. "I can feel that guilt eating you up from the inside and there's no need for that. Listen... your whole world is about to get flipped topsy-turvy. Some stuff is gonna come out and you might feel a lot of things, you might even feel betrayed and I'm sorry. Just...," he sighed, searching for words as they passed through the barrier. "I chose this. Us. I'm here to shield you from all the stuff you can't see... so you can keep doing the wonderful things you do for the people who need you. I'll keep doing that even if you hate me for it," he trailed off.

The rest of the ride to the manor was done in silence, and Yue spent the long minutes processing his words as they caught up with the others and got settled. She couldn't block out the anxiety she felt, like she was arriving to an intervention and everyone was about to whip out heartfelt letters and teary eyes. Listen... Final Odyssey isn't an addiction... Yue snapped back to the present as Archer began talking.

"Listen, before I start I want to emphasize that the knowledge we're about to impart on you is dangerous. There are reasons we don't share it with the uninitiated, and just knowing of its existence is enough to put you in peril."

Wait...

"Many will seek you out claiming to have a gift in one hand, but hold-"

Wait! I've heard this before!

"-A curse behind their back," Yue blurted out. "The nature of Aether is shaped by the thoughts and desires of those that wield it; your actions and feelings color it for those that follow. Only you know the path that is true and right, and asyouwalkthelinebetweentwoworldsasoneofthe- ARE YOU QUOTING FINAL ODYSSEY'S 'THE PERILS OF AETHER' QUESTLINE TO ME?!"

"Wh-what?!" Archer flustered uncharacteristically.

"Unbelievable," quipped Yue as she threw her hands up in the air.

"Figures that bastard would steal one of my best speeches," he muttered, regaining his composure. "Maybe Zolya is better equipped for this after all."
Yue's eyes snapped open at the question. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled upright and she dropped Archer abruptly. He puffed dramatically and smoothed out his jacket while Yue gazed absently at her hands.

"Oh shit, I'm so sorry!" She exclaimed, blinking rapidly as she snapped back to her senses and started to fawn over Archer.

"Sssh," he smiled, silencing her with a finger. "Hold this," he instructed, pressing the keychain into her hand. She flustered for a moment but her fingers closed around it involuntarily, and she stared off into space with a concerned expression as he spun her around and pressed his hand between her shoulder blades.

The array hidden in her tattoo sparkled to life for a few moments before the [Crimson] seemed to dissipate, calming from the lively and angry coils to a thin and tranquil aura close to her skin, now scarcely noticeable. He sighed, waving a hand dismissively at the words of Zolya and the others.

"Okay what the fuck?!" Yue blurted out. "Is this real?! Am I dreaming? Is that what's happening here?!"

"Things are gonna get weird from here on, hon," he muttered as she turned around to face him. Archer took a breath and huffed, blowing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. "I'll have you know, the request to keep her in the dark came from her family. I shan't be taking the blame for them wanting her to live a life free of the perils of our world. You put me in a difficult position, Freyja," he explained curtly, turning his head back towards Zolya.

"Not that I agree with the policy or anything, it's just not my place to say anything about it," he said with a sigh, his expression and posture relaxing. "Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag so to speak (through no fault of my own I might add), however, it's probably better if the explanation comes from me," he admitted. "Why don't we find a place where we can chat comfortably and I'll explain everything... I just have something to take care of first, hon."

Archer stepped past Yue, and between Jemma and Raudd without explanation, the card Raudd had placed on the ground popped into the air and he caught it between two fingers. He stopped an arm's length away and held it out to Jemma casually, one hand in his pocket, his blue eyes gleaming with interest and amusement. Archer slid his fingers apart slightly to reveal two cards: the one Raudd had left, and a Tarot card labeled "7 - The Archer."

"I want to talk to you," he informed, bluntly. "Later. When you're feeling less... 'assaulty.' These people can be trusted," he explained, tilting his head towards Zolya and the others. "When you're ready, I'll come find you. My name is Artemis," he revealed. The name carried a different weight as he said it, resonating through the Astral Sea almost as though it invoked power just by utterance.
The sizzle of burning tobacco preceded his presence, and though the space next to Zolya was vacant moments previously, Archer now occupied it. His breath billowed in a cloud of smoke and he flicked ash off the end of his cigarette with a dismissive gesture.

"Ayo... Would'ja look at that: all the people I'm looking for in a nice little bundle, what a coincidence," he noted, observing the scene developing at the top of the wall with a distinct lack of urgency. "You came all this way and didn't even stop to say 'hello.' I'm wounded, Freyja," he smirked at Zolya. "Merllwyn," he acknowledged.

"Y'all aren't planning to do anything silly now... are you?" He asked, his smirk widening into a grin as he stepped past her onto the brambles. He took a final drag on his cigarette and put it out between his fingers, stashing the stub with the others in his foil pouch. He made eye contact with the feathered woman as he exhaled, allowing a flash of Mana to escape his Suppression Seal and flicker through the eleven spell arrays tattooed on his person. Besides that momentary flicker, he didn't seem to disturb the Manascape at all, and his expression took a predatory air as he climbed the brambles towards the wall.

"Raudd?" Yue seemed to relax a little, though she didn't turn her head towards him. She seemed transfixed by the void in front of her... or terrified of what she might see if she turned her head. "I had a bad dream. I didn't remember where I was. I get night terrors so... I don't like to sleep," she explained, while flexing her fingers at her side. For a moment it looked like she might say more, but she just slowly exhaled instead.

"Hey, Babydoll," Archer called up softly. He stood at the edge of the ramp of brambles with his hands in his pockets, letting the growth carry him slowly across the last couple meters to the wall. Yue inhaled sharply, and for a moment it looked like she might break down on the spot.

"If I turn around and you're not r-real...," Yue stammered.

"It's safe, I promise."

There was a tangible pause before Yue swiveled on her heels and jumped the gap towards him. She embraced him in a bear hug and lifted him off the ground, burying her face in his chest, her muscles coiling as she squeezed him. He continued to smile, however, after a moment a strained groan began to escape him and the arrays on his body began to flicker with Mana in spite of the suppression as his barriers worked overtime against the pressure.
The void yawned underneath her. Yue's breath came heavy in clouds of condensation. Beyond the brilliantly lit wall of the settlement was pitch darkness, save the faint glimmer of another settlement in the distance, and the thrust glow of drones patrolling. She'd run across the rooftops clear to the edge of ShieldTown. Her heart thumped in her chest, and all she could hear in the unnatural silence was her breathing.

Her fists clenched and unclenched rhythmically against the pins and needles sensation she'd come to associate with pain. She was banged up, particularly her head and her left side. Fingers ran across the rough texture of of an old(?) scrape on her cheek, and her skin protested as she prodded a tender spot beneath her eye.

Right. She fell.

Yue took a deep breath and tried to relax, though the coiled tension wouldn't release her bones. [Crimson] coiled itself angrily around her limbs, and she tried to brush it off her skin reflexively. Her hands wouldn't stop shaking.

Tragedy. She encountered the masked killer. A teleporter. She'd been translocated beneath the plate surface and she fell.

Yue's heartrate slowed.

Something had happened after she fell... that part was still fuzzy. She met Sir Viking, Runepriest... no, Raudd and Zolya. Murder-Bot... she couldn't remember his name but that probably wasn't it... and Meathead.

Call me Alex while out of costume. Jabbing and banter aside, I’ll make sure you get back topside.

They split up. She went with him. Met his Super-Groupie... Dean. Drove to the Ignis Citidel, or a replica of it at least.

Did my favorite angry kitty ever get that 0.5% epic sword drop?

No. She didn't. Because you were the one that kept us all together... and you Ď̵̪͉͉̈́̈́Ǐ̴͕̦͈͌͝E̶̖̝͆D̴͔̀̃ left.

The Scream.

Yue flinched as she recalled the sound and that feeling like she'd been torn free of her body and left to fall in an endless void. That part she remembered vividly, as well as the dream that had accompanied the sensation. Was it a dream? Dragons weren't real. Or were they? We don't talk about the second moon, her psychiatrist changed her meds last time she tried.

I̶̘͆'̷̙̎m̸̹̐ ̷͓̿n̷͕͑o̴͔̾ť̷̹ ̸̤͆š̵̮ḯ̴͍c̴̗͐k̵͊ͅ

Deep breath. Exhale. š̵̮ḯ̴͍c̴̗͐k̵͊ͅ Count to ten.

Does it kill Kaiju?

Oh, enthusiastically so.

n̷͕͑o̴͔̾ť̷̹ ̸̤͆š̵̮ḯ̴͍c̴̗͐k̵͊ͅ

Right. They fought the Hydra. And then...

"You’re… Panicking. Do you want help?"

Yue flinched, and her eyes flicked towards the source of the voice involuntarily, but her head didn't turn. Every muscle in her body was coiled.

Don't look. You won't like what you [ş̶͝ē̸͉e̶̗̚].

She pressed her palms to her eyes and tried to collect herself, though that just made the threads of [Crimson] coiling around her bones stand out against the black. Coming undone. Yue inhaled and blew a long shuddering sigh as she tried to hold herself together.

"I'll be okay. I just need... a minute," croaked Yue after an uncomfortably long silence.

[ShieldTown - Interior]



"DEEEANNN~!" Wolf called after the man as he slammed the door to his house. There was a short moment where it looked like she might pursue him further; instead she broke into a peal of laughter followed by a snort.

She'd fully intended to fetch the physician herself, but trying to get Dean to do things for her was always entertaining. Harassing the lay about was her second favorite pastime; shooting things that didn't belong in the area was her first.

"Speaking of...," she muttered, as a border alert caught her attention. She blew a sigh as she flipped the view of her cybernetic eye over to the Hunter-Killer drone as it swooped overhead from the rear of the settlement. Being the only conscious member of The Den that could operate the drones was taxing her neural net, and she was going to have a hell of a headache in a few hours. It was better than not having the support at all though.

An object was approaching the settlement at high speed, and though the drone's optics didn't have visual, she had radar lock. Wolf rocked her head back and forth in indecision. The Hunter-Killer climbed to get a better angle, and the targeting pod locked onto the object's thermal signature. She very nearly gave the command to launch a Maverick before the Drone's VI identified the object as "The Tumbler." Wolf exhaled and commanded it to Chase instead, causing the drone to perform a Wingover and follow Alex and the Tumbler.

"Oi... coming in hot?" Wolf clicked over to Aegis' radio channel. "Gonna check that speed? Start braking, or you're gonna-" It was too late, the Tumbler slammed into the settlement wall causing Wolf to breathe an exasperated sigh before cutting off the channel. The Tumbler was a sturdy vehicle but... it was gonna need a visit to her Frame Straightener after that impact.

"Big man's bringing in a wounded," she chirped over the settlement frequency. "Nobody's critical at The Den, send the physician to Aegis' guest first, and then shoot me a heads up so I can cover his crossing..."

Aegis crashing the tumbler following a monster attack while the "Spooky Nature Siblings" casually vault the settlement wall with a road of brambles while riding stags made out of dark matter and stars?

Just another day in Shieldtown...


[Meanwhile, elsewhere in the settlement]



"What to do, what to do...," Archer muttered, exhaling a plume of smoke from his second cigarette of the day. Dawn was going to give him a talking to for sure. The disturbance at the wall had caught his attention long enough for him to notice the arrival of some principal members of the Black Moon Society in signature fashion.

He held his elbow with one hand while tapping his cheek with his fingers in indecision. It probably wasn't a coincidence that their arrival so quickly followed his own, and it was likely that Yue had made contact with them in some capacity, since he had been following her trail in that direction. On the other hand there was the Amalgam Soul: a gross and deliberate manipulation of forbidden dark arts. Levin would have his head if he just turned a blind eye...

Archer had been following the creature deeper into the settlement before BMS arrived. It was fast, and inquisitive and it hadn't presented itself as a danger... so far. His eyes flicked back and forth as he took a long drag on his cigarette and exhaled it from his nose. He turned his eyes back towards the wall.

It would be rude of him to not say 'Hello' after they came all this way... Losing track of the creature now might cause some problems later though.

He flicked a tarot card into his hand after a long moment of thought and etched an improvised spell into the array on the back. [Mark] was an innocuous cantrip that would allow him to track a target that he had touched over long distances. Physical contact was the limiting factor, but by combining it with a 'Null" array that would just hold Mana and not do anything, and a Transference circuit he fashioned himself a little lure that would Mark whatever had the mind to take a bite.

"Now it's just time to do a little fishing..."


[Elsewhere...]



She knew she was dreaming at first.
The fuzz of the world had faded, and the cold grip of oblivion was holding her lungs still.
It hurt, to dream like this.
She remembered how it always felt too real.
But then her mind forgot itself.


The dream was all there was.

First was the hole. The pit in the earth. Cavernous and filled with static-hissing-dark-sadness. Cold lavender light poured out from it, but only reached the edges of the pit. A broken city surrounded it.

The sky was visible, for just a moment, as a scream poured forth. The light flashed, and then there was the body.

The skin was… Cold.
Pulling at the bone. Cold.
Cracking the lips and face. Cold.
Sucking air out of the lungs. Cold.


The body was cold. It stared up, making eye contact. Pupils blown wide, iris pale gray, sclera so blood filled it was black.

Metallic taste on the tongue; like copper being fused to taste buds.

The body? It was familiar. But the name kept slipping away, like an old memory in disuse. Female. Definitely female.

Was it actually remembered? Or … Maybe from a picture? A long time in the past.

Round nose. Almost button-like. Slightly upturned.
Soft face, no harsh lines or angles. Just barely on the cusp of ‘full’.
Cheek bones unassuming.
Ears, unassuming.
Brows raised, like perpetually somewhat surprised.
Full lips. Naturally dark? Painted a light, almost cheerful red. Smile lines in the corners.

But her mouth hung open, now. A perpetual scream.

The skin-tone was sun warmed, tawny brown in the gray light. Alopecia all over, with a dermal spike just under the left eye. Barely an inch high. Black like a porcupine quill-tip.

Full, thick, hair; black. Silver highlights, almost natural.

Is she old?

Then. Something… a spider? An insect crawls out from under a thick mane.
Marble white carapace, glossy— Made of stone? Or actual marble?
Eight limbs, pushing on cold skin, claws digging in, as it crawls down… And down.
Settles over the body’s mouth, like a shield.

No peeking, no talking.

The body vanishes, and she becomes aware of herself again. She screams against a howling void, hugs her knees to her chest, wailing. A crimson light, oil-smeared with silvers and grays, hovers just out of reach. It’s cacophonous, but safe. Safety guaranteed. If she… could just… reach it!

It lies too far.

The world shifts, filled abruptly with cackling and cooing. Hysterical static snaps over her eyesight; turns everything muddy and fuzzy and out of focus.

Shifts again.

One clear image, like a snapshot of clarity in a corrupted film of confusion.
Looking into one. Great. Eye. Staring into it, as its’ four pointed star of a pupil contracts in agonizing slowness.

Time warps, slows and speeds up in equal measure.

A familiar sensation.

It drinks her in, absorbs her every detail. A scream begins at her throat, presses down around her like the weight of the tides.

Fire ROARS to life, crackling around a sky-blue shield. A blade whistles, cuts through a twisted face.
The eye blinks, taking a thought/eternity to complete.

Abrupt silence. Powdered glass under her feet makes itself known. Lavender-gray light suffuses her. Turns the whole world pale and unsettling. The air does not stir. There is no air! And…

There is no sound.
No Sun.
No Moon.
No fire or strength.
No life.
No death.
No tide.
No stone.
No weight pulling her down.
No shade blinding her sight.
No color. No COLOR.


In the far distance, a scream builds… And builds… And builds and builds and rushes and whorls and slams into her mind. It pierces like a blade through butter, deafens her and blinds her.

Locks her in eternity, frees her from oblivion, loathes that she will not come to it. Follow its source. Find it.
It wails for her.

Cries for no one.

It rises in its volume, intensity growing. Rising like a tidal wave, crushing, all encompassing. The sun formed directly before her, seeking to immolate her! Like the wrath of an old forgotten lover, scornful and hating.
It crawls under her skin, tearing at her, loathing her! She is hated and she knows it, she screams and it screams and it all twists and coils and hurts and hurts until—!

It shifts again.

She watches as a woman’s shape, warped and filled to bursting with ethereal light, twists a sphere of silvery-gold-green-blue-white light. The sphere ripples, warps, and the woman turns to look at her.

Her dream says ‘Mother…?’

Her dream wakes up in a bed, cold and vulnerable. Memories dance and fade, and fire coils everywhere. The sun, in a room.

There’s a brief pain, a spider bite in the palm of her hand. She looks down and witnesses a truer fear than she’s felt.

Her mind slips off of it, like trying to associate it to anything if impossible. It shifts on her skin, prickle crawling like spiders and ants and centipedes and bugs and weakness and—

It looks at her. It loves her.

Yue woke up.


[1:18am]



Yue bolted upright, clutching at her breast and gasping for air as though she'd been holding her breath for far too long. It was dark. She was drenched in sweat. Her heart pounded, and she couldn't shake the FEAR. Yue was in her street clothes, in a room that wasn't hers. She looked around frantically, unable to find her things.

Door!

She stumbled towards it, trying the handle and rattling the door loudly though it didn't come free. She turned around, swallowed by her anxiety. She spotted a window and bolted to it, scattering a bunch of small slips of paper that had been loosely adhered to... the wall probably.

The unfamiliar urban crush of lights and structures of a foreign settlement greeted her. What was the last thing she remembered... falling?!

Something shot up over the horizon, like a shooting star that fell upward. Shining, pulsing hypnotic [WHITE]. Yue held her breath against the dread that something might happen, and just as she was beginning to relax, an inhuman mass of color and swirling ink streaked up from the darkness and swallowed the star. For a split second all she could see was the eye with the pupil in the shape of a four pointed star. She couldn't breathe.

Air. She needed air.

Yue scrabbled at the window lamely for a moment, and when it didn't immediately open she grasped the nearest object with her shaking hands. Wood, or maybe bone cracked, as her fingers crushed down. The muscles in her arm coiled, and she sent the night stand and its contents crashing through the glass. She rushed to the edge, leaning out in time to see the night stand swallowed by the darkness below. How high up was she??

She reached up, gaining purchase on the lip of the roof. Yue swung herself up, flipping herself up to the roof... foreign lands in every direction. Buildings made of bone, leather, and steel. Was she still dreaming?? She turned away from where she had seen the star get swallowed, running to the edge of the roof and the building and jumped.

The chill air bit her face as she soared across a gap, and she rolled gracefully as she landed on the be adjacent roof and kept running...

On the floor of her room lay scattered the slips of paper, illuminated by the door opening.

Kasha,
Don't panic, you are with friends.
-TT

Kasha,
This room is safe.
Come downstairs when you wake up.
-TT

Kasha,
This door sticks.
-TT
© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet