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Present: Ashon’amar’loiyang @Ti, Cal’tuuro’jaros @Suicharte, Casii’fyret’alan @Pirouette, Dorothea Hohnstein @Jasbraq, “Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora” @Force and Fury, Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft @Wolfieh, Edyta Łaska, Manfred Hohenfelter, Qasem Laghmani @Tackytaff, Ymiico’luun’yoru @Salsa Verde, Jocasta Re, the Menacing Interloper, Lycans, Father Jacques Dubosque, Brother Baudile Dubosque, Constable Laura, Ines Baum, Viktor Strauss, Cristophe Wiliken, the Highwaymen

Dawn of Assani 20th

1 Day Remains

Life continued in Mandelein. The calamity of the day prior did not stop mouths from needing to be fed, brews to be concocted and materials to be worked. Despite the tragedy, not everything was glum. More people smiled when they saw our student group, Ines was particularly receptive to them and a couple of constables volunteered themselves to assist in the inevitable clash with the outside force that had been plaguing them for so long.

Now they had a chance. They had young foreigners who had fought off the monsters, and they were going to help now that they saw a reasonable out. Not that many trusted them - far too many were older and grew comfortable with their isolationist views.

“Sie brauchten Hilfe? Sie brauchen Zahlen, um eine Garnison niederzuschlagen, wissen Sie. (You needed help? You’ll need numbers to take down a garrison, you know.)” said Laura with a cheeky smile, accompanied by a middle aged man wearing a coat and carrying a rifle.. “Viktor machte sich auf die Suche nach diesem Blutsauger, aber er ließ uns mit einem guten Koppelman zurück. (Viktor went off to track that bloodsucker, but he left us with a good Koppelman.)” she held said Koppelman 49 with her two small hands. The thing was nearly as tall as her.

“Auch Sie werden unsere Unterstützung haben. (You will have our support too.)” it was none other than Cristophe and four of the highwaymen that remained loyal to him. “Ob Sie es wollen oder nicht, wir haben mit diesen Leuten noch eine Rechnung offen. (Whether you want it or not, we have a score to settle with these people.)”

Ashon’amar’loiyang @Ti, Taleja Drakenknecht, Cal’tuuro’jaros @Suicharte, Casii’fyret’alan @Pirouette,
Dorothea Hohnstein @Jasbraq, “Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora” @Force and Fury, Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft @Wolfieh,
Edyta Łaska, Manfred Hohenfelter, Qasem Laghmani @Tackytaff, Ymiico’luun’yoru @Salsa Verde, Jocasta Re,
Father Jacques Dubosque, Brother Baudile Dubosque, Constable Laura, The whole damn town

Dawn of Assani 19th - 1:00 HS

2 Days Remain

The evening prior, a small hunting team composed of Sister Edyta Laska, Dorothea Hohenstein, Casii’fyret’alan, Manfred Hohenfelter, Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora, Ymiico’luun’yoru and led by Viktor Strauss had hunted down and retrieved the corpse of what was later identified as a Wildblood “taken by the beast”. The corpse was kept in an unused barn South of town, with many villagers attempting to take a peek, if they weren’t gathering around the Inn for the latest gossip. The night remained quiet, and it made way to a morning that was bound to be agitated, to say the least.

Most of the town had gathered at the old Trade Guild under the directive of Fr. Dubosque.

“Ist das Biest wirklich tot? (Is the beast truly dead?)” asked an anxious baker named Sofia who had pushed through the crowd to be at the front of the town meeting.

“Unmöglich. Nach all diesen Generationen?! Von einigen Kindern?! (Impossible. After all these generations?! By some children?!)” yelled out an outraged Günter, the retired seamster.

“Warum sind sie noch hier? (Why are they still here?)” asked Bertha, the old seamster’s daughter, her vehemence palpable, “Das Biest wurde nur durch die Anwesenheit von Außenstehenden wütend. Unser PROTECTOR ist jetzt aufgrund eines von ihnen verursachten Problems verschwunden! (The beast only got enraged by the presence of outsiders. Our PROTECTOR is now gone because of a problem they created!)” many cheered in agreement, many also seemed to be reluctant to say anything.

“Sie haben Anna gerettet! Haben Sie etwas Anstand. (They saved Anna! Have some decency.)” retorted, ironically, another Anna, this one the wife of another farmer, “Unser Beschützer war schon lange nicht mehr da und sie halfen uns mit dem Monster, das ihn ersetzte. (Our protector was long gone and they helped us with the monster that replaced it.)” she nodded toward Dubosque, and the students she could see that participated in the meeting, “Thank you for helping mein friend.”

“Bußgeld. Sie halfen! (Fine. They helped!)” growled Bertha as she tossed her arms in the air, “Was jetzt? Sie sind fertig. Wir können das Problem jetzt lösen, da der Wald sicherer ist! (What now? They’re done. We can deal with the problem now that the forest is safer!)” again, the mob seemed to be quite split, though there was a clear majority for xenophobia.

“Bertha,” began the good Father, sitting on a chair in the centre of a long table that would accommodate a council. There were a few older villagers among him, and a few students were allowed to join as well, “Ich verstehe deine Ängste. Als wir uns das letzte Mal nach außen öffneten, waren wir verletzt. Andere wurden verletzt. (I understand your fears. The last time we opened ourselves to the outside, we were hurt. Others were hurt.)” his hands interlocked with one another, the man was not going to succumb to emotion and fan the flames of fear, “Vergessen wir nicht, dass sie sich selbst in große Gefahr begeben- (Let’s not forget that they put themselves in great peril for-)” then he was cut off, for the third or fourth time this morning, by emotionally driven villagers.

It continued on and on. For all the good the students could have brought, the aversion many of the villagers had for any outside interference was more than obvious at this point. Maybe they were right, there hadn’t been attacks until they appeared, and the beast held an important role in their culture. But it was without a doubt that a threat was slain, and many also saw that.

“Und was ist mit den Schmugglern? Und die anderen Monster? (And what of the smugglers? And the other monsters?)” a familiar voice with a broken Kerreman piped up from the back. The entire gathering of people turned to notice Father Dubosque’s own brother, Baudile, indulging in a smoke and with smug confidence on his face, “Es gibt noch viel zu tun, oder? Soweit ich weiß, sind diese besser als alle Halbheiten bisher! (There’s still a lot to do, no? From what I can see, these ones are better than any half-measures so far!)”

Father Dubosque shot a glare that could only convey disappointment and even resentment for his own brother. And, like clockwork, the people erupted into a rabble. The mention of more beasts and the outside threat of smugglers had them bicker on borderline nonsense. Even the more reasonable townsfolk appeared hostile at these notions, dismissing them as ‘beside the point’ and ‘divisive lies to pull Mandelein further down’.

"It appears to me," interjected Manfred, his voice frosty, "That you are doing a fine job of that yourselves." He removed the pipe from the corner of his mouth and exhaled, filling his immediate vicinity with a whitish haze. "Your fear is almost comical were it not so damaging. No wonder the town is withering. No wonder there is none of the trade that used to flow through here. He punctuated his gestures with his pipe. “You come to rely on some ‘beast’ to see to your interests instead of your fellow man.” He shook his head, letting his feet down from where they were crossed over another chair. They landed with an audible ‘clap’ on the wooden floor. “There is no more water in your fountain. There are scant few shoppes in your square. The hospitality of Mandelein used to be renowned and its name spoken with respect, at least in the lands that I come from, not so far from here.” He scowled deeply. “Yet you stay this ruinous course you have chosen, despite its clearly evident damage.” There was an extended pause. “You are fools,” he declared. “The lot of you. Outsiders come to help and you focus on them being outsiders, instead of being there to help." He gestured with the pipe, taking in the angry and disorganized mob. "So you tell lie upon lie, and to what end? How can one expect the desired result if those who are enacting it don’t know what it is?" He let out a snort. "Though that is a familiar story here, I see."

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, boy!” shouted Morritz, the carpenter.

“We never desired anything.” scoffed Melanie, constable Leonhardt’s wife. "Yasoi, outsiders, destroyed our trade. Smugglers, outsiders, plagued us for generations. We were FINE."

Dubosque shot a concerned look toward Manfred and then toward Sister Laska, but kept his piece for now.

The sister, as well, said nothing, her warm blue gaze sliding from one man to the other. Not so for Manfred. "Oh, hogwash!" he retorted, waving a hand dismissively in the villagers’ direction. "You really are in love with your little narrative." He shook his head tightly and rose, gesturing with his pipe. "If you were plagued by outsiders, you also benefited from them." He snorted. "How much trade flowed through here? Were your tariffs not the lowest in our entire nation at one point? What need would there be of smugglers when merchants paid mere frosch for the privilege of doing business here?” He began pacing. “And, before they closed themselves off, did you not once call these yasoi friends and neighbours? He scowled. "Before you, too, closed yourselves off?" He was doing his best to maintain an even tone, to defeat their emotional and backward arguments with reason, but their sheer…pigheadedness was beginning to get to him.

Manfred was not wrong. His reasoning was rational and grounded. And yet he was met with pushback. A lot of it. Most came from indignant villagers that couldn’t accept being told off by an outsider youth, one dressed so proper and smoking a pipe right before them. They had been living through hard times and this pampered kid was telling them they were fools for surviving the way they had to for fifty years? The uproar was overwhelming, counterarguments drowned into a sea of emotional outbursts. It wasn’t just Manfred that was antagonised but the villagers bickered among themselves too.

“Enough!” the priest’s voice boomed with the help of the gift, and the crowd ceased their yapping to pay mind to their leader figure, “We’ve enough burdens without imposing more onto our fellow men and women. These young envoys have come to help, and help they did.” he took a deep breath as his hand descended onto his aching leg. Moments like these were when it flared the most, that and when it rained. “They have our thanks. And when their near-finished mission is over, we will find our peace again.” the people were clearly not entirely pacified by these brief reassurances, and none of them were going to extend the same thank you, but whatever drove them to incessantly voice their frustrations had been quelled, if only slightly. The priest turned his attention to Manfred, “We are to understand that the final loose ends have been found and a plan is in motion, yes?” he asked with a faint smile forming under his thick moustache, “If anything, you have the Church’s support.”

Manfred had tried, but these people were obstinate, and they were hiding something: something that had nearly killed Dory and possibly himself. And what had they received for it but hostility, and since the very start, as well? It was a wall of lies, in truth, and the priest was in on it only, he was far better at placating than the townsfolk were. Ungrateful Schweinhunde he thought to himself, not quite succeeding in suppressing a scowl. He nodded, taking a moment to light his pipe again with some quick arcane magic. He took a gentle pull - people who did not know how to smoke often pulled hard and broke out in fits of coughing - and savoured the rich aromas and flavours of the imported tobacco. "That is comforting to hear, Father." He addressed the others with a pressed-lip smile. Fuck you. Fuck you all. I’ll save you from yourselves. “I cannot speak for my homeland in Meckelin-Thadau, but I know that the academy, as well, offers its assistance. It is clear that many here cannot bring themselves to trust the word of mere biros such as ourselves, so I promise that you shall have more.”

More? That single word resonated through the old trade guild. What was once a room full of fiery emotions was now growing agitated by the implication they quickly caught onto. The school already knew of this place, that much was for certain, but special interest that warranted more than biros? Many looked to Dubosque for reassurance, and all he could provide was a question, “Herr Hohenfelter,” he began, eyebrows furrowed and voice rasped from the previous strain he put into it in his previous words, “what are you saying?” he wasn’t the only one showing growing concern, Baudile was as well from way back.

Sister Laska’s eyes shot Manfred’s way too. "Merely that help is on his way," he concluded. It was not so very long a distance for her eyes to travel to Fr. Dubosque’s. They met.

Jacques Dubosque’s early walks were part of the town morning ritual, and a reassuring sight for the townsfolk. If the good father made his rounds, it meant things were going to go as usual. Only the worst of the Mandelein storms could keep the ageing chief in his abode, and even then he made it a point to visit his people.

“I prayed at every opportunity yesterday,” he confessed as he continued his walk with the aid of his hazel cane, “as my thoughts were with your friends, and you as well. It pleases me greatly to see both Oraff and Eshiran answer and bring both you and that young woman safely back among us.” he waved at the botanist who had been opening up her humble shop. In fact, he saluted every single villager that shot him a glance, “You have my thanks, sincerely. They are grateful too, in truth,” he said as they passed by more villagers that eyed the two, some more jovial than others, but few held a smile when they peered at the priest’s one up, “even if they wouldn’t ever say it. I’m sure, as a Rezaindian, thankless jobs aren’t foreign to you, Sister Laska.”

“Not at all, ksiądz.” Edyta Laska shook her head and managed a rueful smile, “But few so thankless as this,” she admitted. Her hands were knit before her as she walked. She pursed her lips as if something were bothering her. Then: “Tell me, father, with Dami’s candor, is it truly at an end? For I do not feel that it is.”

The good father didn’t answer right away, as they passed by a couple of masons eager to shake the priest’s hand. Pleasantries were shared, and Laska’s question was left to linger. Eventually, they were back on pace. “If it were just that one beast, sister, we would have long since recovered.” His attention was always at whatever was forward, with only a passing glance to his walking partner when she spoke. “There is an outside menace, as you’ve probably discovered, that has recently returned after decades. They made good work of profiting off our isolation and predicament.” a sonic bubble formed around them before he continued, “And they’ve made sure to keep us trapped in this isolation, knowing how vulnerable Mandelein had become since the fall of our Yasoi neighbours.”

The rezaindian was straight to the point.“These vile creatures are their doing, then?” Her fingers came apart and her fists clenched and unclenched a handful of times. “Tell me where they are and how many, and I shall once again employ my talents in the name of Eshiran.” Her eyes burned with righteous fire. “I swear it.”

“I cannot tell you the exact location. Their operation thrives on mobility.” he said plainly, “But I’m aware that my brother has spoken to one of yours. He has been seeking them out too.” They were approaching one of the exits of town, and so they continued through the outskirts as small droplets befell the two, “An astute investigator such as yourself would have seen the castle by now, and what its bowels may be hiding. The beasts are the fruit of an outsider, but not these ones.” He clenched his jaw; something hot was bubbling inside the older man, “They merely took advantage, and turned a tale of protection and community into a scourge. I will pray for you as you deliver Eshiran’s will onto these foul renegades.”

“But not these ones?” the nun prodded.

“Indeed.” he looked over at Laska and gave her a curt nod, “The story of the beast of Mandelein began many centuries ago, a time not too distant from the great heathen war. A lot of it has been, how would you say …” he gestured circles with his hands as he mused, “lost to time, I suppose? The story has been thinned down to be enjoyed by children before bed. Many elders don’t remember it either.” He liked to talk and, in truth, it was enjoyable for the man to have a fresh mind to exchange with, and so he made it last. “The first beast of Mandelein, and the first known Graf of the region, are one and the same. Cursed by an outsider wielding unspeakable power. However, rather than indulge in one’s impulses as would a beast, the Graf’s love for his land and people took precedence. And so began the story of the Beast of Mandelein. And a culture of fear of the outside … Until trade and profit superseded irrational fear, anyway.” he chuckled.

One could tell, simply by looking at her, that the wheels of Sister Laska’s mind were racing. “I…see,” she replied, after an extended pause. “I thank you for your candor.” Her brow was furrowed, face pensive. “It would seem that the Graf was… a man who held Ipté close in his heart. There are no others I have seen who can forestall the beast.” She glanced about her surroundings uneasily. “So then, do I have your word that there is nothing that remains of this vile affliction among the townspeople?”

“If I were to say no, Soeur, would you kill them right here, on the spot?” he kept on walking, his voice unperturbed just like his imperfect gait.

“I am an instrument of Eshiran’s will, and that of the most blessed Optimates.” If there was any uncertainty in her voice, she did well to hide it. “I would do my duty, ksiądz,” she replied immediately, “regardless of my personal feelings.”

“What help, Hohenfelter?” Dubosque raised his voice, demanding an answer.

Manfred’s eyes narrowed and there was something almost… smug about him. "Aaah, there we are, your true colours," he remarked. "No more false smiles and dodged queries, and insincere placating words. How wonderful they look on you. Of course…" he pulled out his pocketwatch and twirled it between his fingers. "A bit of truth would look even better."

Dubosque was singleminded, however: more agitated than they had ever witnessed him. “What. Help.” he grated, all-but glaring at Manfred.

"The help that I have deemed you need," the Graf answered. "Since people are dying under your watch, but it is a ‘help’ very much more than capable of erasing this little problem of yours." He narrowed his eyes and flipped the watch open, glancing down at it. "Of course, this doesn’t have to be unpleasant," he continued, snapping the cover shut. All at once, then, he rose. "All that you need to do is to stop protecting criminals he roared, ”And start telling the Gods-damned truth!!" He stopped, let out a breath, and straightened his collar, smiling with only his lips. "You have… five minutes."

Dubosque was pale, something about this sinister ultimatum had scared him more than the disappearance of Stigenroth or the arrival of outsiders. It wasn’t the look on Manfred’s satisfied face that got to him, but visible panic growing among his flock. Then the first insults came out, and before long, constables had to keep a few overeager men from trying to smack the grin off of the Hohenfelter’s face. Again, the priest shot a look at Laska, the one he believed to have at least had an understanding with. He felt betrayed. She shook her head tightly, expression, helpless, and glanced at Manfred with something less than anger but more than annoyance.

“Your words evoke help, but your voice and body say threats!” a loud, feminine voice from outside the crowded building challenged Manfred directly and did a good job in catching the attention of the mob. It was Laura, mostly recovered, although she still used a pair of crutches. “Why would we trust you? You come here, we have MORE problems! You come here, my BEST FRIEND gets attacked!” her blue eyes glared right into Manfred’s. She was no longer the little victim from before, or the subtle little watcher in the barracks. “What best way to solve a problem than to create one first? Hmmm? Very strange that they can kill the beast in a day. What is this new HELP, Graf Hohenfelter?” that title, it startled more than a few, but it kept them quiet too as they watched Manfred expectantly, Dubosque included.

If Manfred was cowed, he did an admirable job of repressing the outward signs. "I hear accusations," he replied, "when I asked for truths." He was sweeping the room with his senses, actively searching for threats. "The truth as I see it is that there is more than one beast, a fact which nobody volunteered." He ticked it off on his fingers. "There is no Graf here, which also was not shared." Finger two. "You hire brigands to waylay travelers en route here and complain that the town is dying!" Finger three. "Your livestock was disappearing before we arrived, despite whatever lies you’ll tell to the contrary and, what’s more: my associates have witnessed those killing them come from -"

A woman was there in the room. She had not been there a second earlier. She was small and young and pretty, with long blonde hair. She sat in a wheelchair, hands folded upon her lap, and her arrival cut Manfred’s rant off where it stood. She glanced around the room, immediately trying to take the temperature of it.

Everything was silent, all eyes on the newcomer who had formed out of nothing. None of the villagers had ever seen such magic before. It was a terrifying sight, even to Laura. Dubosque wasn’t intimidated, but he understood the implication of bringing temporal magic onto the table. For now, he could only watch and listen with little done to appease the fear in his people’s hearts.

She looked about uneasily. “I’ll confess to having no idea of what I’ve just walked into, but I see plenty of worried faces.” She offered an uncertain smile. “I’m here because Manfred called for me, though, because he is certain that there is a danger this town beyond what he - or you - can handle. ” She had already begun sweeping the town and its nearby environs for signs of danger. “I’m tethered, as you may have guessed - a Zeno of the academy. I’m looking for dangers in the town now. If you know anything, that might make things a lot easier.”

As expected, nobody in the crowd spoke up but the attitude had also been culled. That wasn’t to say they were content. No, quite a few, mostly those outside that had been listening, were gone. “We appreciate the help Zeno-” it didn’t feel right, she was far too young to be a Zeno, and yet how else could she display such power? Jocasta could feel it without even using an ounce of the gift: They were afraid of her, including the priest that awkwardly awaited a brief introduction out of politeness. What were once howls from the masses were now venomous whispers and secretive glares shot at the students, but with a particular focus on Manfred and the blonde arrival. That was until … “A Zeno? At that age? This a ploy, I tell ya’. A ploy.” a not-so-discreet handyman ‘whispered’ to his associates in Kerreman, but anybody with experience in Kinetic magic could eavesdrop. “I agree with Laura, there’s no way some dumb blonde kid with a little magic is from the School. It’s one of those Tethered mercs.” more and more people were evoking this conspiratorial narrative, and in turn conspired while some others began to overreact and unleash their fears and frustrations on loved ones. Jocasta could feel it all - the agitation her presence had brought and the potential unrest that was to come.

In truth, Jocasta knew a little bit of Kerreman - though it was only a little bit. It appeared to be enough to piece together the hostility that was clearly being directed her way, however. She shot Manfred a look, for just a flicker of time. Then, keeping up an increasingly strained smile for the people of the town, she conducted another sweep. More than one demanded her name as proof that she was truly a Zeno of Ersand’Enise, and that was the final straw. “Ich gebe meinen Namen nicht an Leute weiter, die mich beleidigen.” (I do not give my name to people who insult me.) she replied in awkward and heavily-accented but correct Kerreman. She cast out her senses once again.

The masses had mostly dispersed. Jocasta wouldn’t be in need of any long range sweep to detect the first inkling of a threat. Sudden, large energy signatures with much higher heat levels than normal humans suddenly appeared in town, and briefly following their emergence came screams. They came from the Western farms.

Then the barracks.

And again in the cluster of homes Northeast of the guild.

In just a matter of seconds, there were calls for help in almost every direction and the sound of homes being destroyed reverberating through town.

She acted almost immediately. She seized one of the beasts by the mind and those closest to it would see it collapse before their very eyes, enough tranquilizing agent in its bloodstream to knock out a skuggvar. Then, a second.

Realistically, Jocasta would have been about to continue in this vein indefinitely, dealing with every crisis at a speed that no mage could match. But then came the disturbance: one a couple of kilometres out of town, taunting anything that could smell the temporal stench it was leaving behind. Like it knew it would be found, and banked on it. By the amount of energy it had produced, it could not be ignored.

“What the hell have you idiots gotten into!?” the tethered muttered beneath her breath. Then, louder: “There is something upriver. Something… monstrous.” She shook her head and glanced between Manfred and the rezaindian whose name she could not quite recall. “I… if I don’t go deal with it, this town…” She trailed off, already gathering energy. “What in the five hells!? she cursed. “Fight them!” she ordered in frustration. Then, Jocasta was gone.

Jacques Dubosque wasted no time. When the screams begged for help, he seized his cane and “dashed” out with the help of the gift, shoving anyone in his way. “If you wish to help, now is the time!” he shouted in Avincian before heading to the Barracks, where he sensed a large concentration of these overheating entities.

All hands on deck! Arm yourselves! Ring the church bells! The enemy is in your homes! We are under attack!

Assani 15th

Location: The Desert, Somewhere
Day of the week: Victendes
Time: Unknown
Present: Zarina, Ayla @Ti, Jocasta @Force and Fury, Yalen @Pantothenic,
Benedetto, Desmond, Tku, Evander, Fiske, Silent Ranger, Riesco, Nibbler, Classa, Sand Bat.

Don’t go.

Zarina internally begged for Jocasta and Yalen to stay among them as she was being healed. Arms crossed, posture too cool for school and her expression hardened, one would never know what she was truly thinking.

We need you.

She looked at both of them, first to Jocasta, the almighty being she had grown so close to. And then to Yalen, the moral compass and ray of light of the group. Both of them were so integral to the first group she was in, and now they were leaving.

I can’t keep them alive all alone.

Zarina clenched her armoured bicep and nearly gritted her teeth. But just as she was about to say something, the pair was just about to leave. All she could muster up was a wave and a look that very briefly communicated the distress she tried hard to keep bottled up.

The Virangish sighed as the Silent Ranger spoke once more, announcing the departure of the group to lands yet unknown. Zarina took this time to look at her group. None, other than the brutish Benedetto, could use temporal magic that she knew of. The weight of responsibility, true responsibility, had never been more overwhelming as it was now. This wasn’t just financial decisions and risky expansion efforts, people she cared about now had their lives depend on her. She knew it would, at some point, come down to such magics for survival, as it had been against the Sand Wyrm. The helm was put back on - a means to feel safe and hidden amidst the agoraphobia she was starting to feel - and she readied herself for what was to come.

Assani 16th

Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan
Day of the week: Late Taldes
Time: Night
Characters: Abdel, Maura @Ti, Ingrid @dragonpiece, Niallus @McKennaJ71,
Yalen @Pantothenic, Trypano @A Lowly Wretch, Reekar @Force and Fury,
Kaureerah, Xiulan, Peng, Ming, Zihan

It was Abdel’s turn to be questioned. He felt his stomach sink when he realized the possibilities ahead if he or his Skuggvars were deemed a threat. His nervousness was palpable and his body language said it all. Ming had likely expected as much given the boy’s age and the intelligence he had on hand regarding Varga’s case. The interrogator gestured for the Virangish teen to sit, “Do not be worried, Abdel Varga.” he began, “No charges are being held against you. Our current testimonies clearly show an attempt to help diffuse the situation.” Ming looked Abdel right at the eyes, “The building was not secured, correct?”

Abdel swallowed and nodded, “Yes, there were peo- hostels that I could not sense initially.” he explained, and then quickly added another remark, “They did not hide all traces. My beasts found them.”

Ming took note of the details, especially regarding the beasts, before nodding, “I’ve been told you’re a -” he peered at the little bit of notes he had on Abdel, even if Ming fully knew it all already, he tried not make Abdel feel like he had been a thoroughly scrutinized special case, “Bounty hunter? Investigator?” to which Abdel nodded, “I see, and they caught you off-guard.” he concluded without a tone that could give away his true thoughts on the matter, much to Abdel’s anxiety.

“And your beasts - Skuggvars? - What use are they to you?” Abdel gulped and scratched his cheek at the question, feeling as though he and his girls’ fate could be hanging on this answer, “U-uhm. They’re excellent trackers. Especially if they taste the blood their prey.” Ming furrowed his eyebrows at that detail, nonverbally demanding an elaboration, “Anywhere. They can track someone almost anywhere with a few drops of blood. They, uh,” he knitted his hands together over his thighs, “used to hunt Skuggvars if someone got injured by them, because they’d always be found.”

Ming nodded, “Do you believe yourself capable of using these animals to find those responsible for this evening’s events?” Abdel nodded too with increased enthusiasm, “Yes! I’ve already given one of them a sample. Unless they’ve left the continent, there’s no running from the Skuggs.”

Ming smiled, “Good.”

Present: Ashon’amar’loiyang @Ti, Cal’tuuro’jaros @Suicharte, Casii’fyret’alan @Pirouette,
Dorothea Hohnstein @Jasbraq, “Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora” @Force and Fury, Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft @Wolfieh,
Edyta Łaska, Manfred Hohenfelter, Qasem Laghmani @Tackytaff
Father Jacques Dubosque, Brother Baudile Dubosque, Constable Laura, Constable Stigenroth, Ines Baum,
Viktor Strauss, the Highwaymen

It had been five hours since investigations had begun regarding the attack on Constables Stigenroth and Laura. The rescue team was still searching for the former while also hunting down the beast, hopefully for good. The investigators, Qasem and Ashon, had conducted their interview with Laura and picked up a lead in the nearby farms, where the Yasoi was able to gain simple yet telling insight on what had culled the great majority of livestock in the town. And yet, despite coming on hard times, famine was not a big concern in the humble town of Mandelein.

The castle also held a great deal of mysteries both Sister Laska and Dorothea would come to find out. However, as dusk was looming ever closer and the staff began to make rounds within the many rooms of the castle, it was high time to leave with what they had found. On their way back, they’d come to notice that the Highwaymen had since been released, some hanging in the Tavern, including Cristophe, while some loitered at the exit of town, giving the stink eye any student they crossed. Annette was nowhere to be found.

In the midst of this dark day, Father Jacques Dubosque visited every family in Mandelein to hear their grievances and provide comfort however he could. Every citizen hurriedly welcomed him out of the rain, as if they impatiently waited for his visit, and he was always greeted with embraces and laughter. Except, of course, when he met with Heinrich Stigenroth, Anna’s husband, who appeared more nervous than the average Mandelein inhabitant. Reluctant greetings turned into hostile shouting. The good father ended up leaving, distraught and with a potential widower unable to contain his anger as he punched the wall by the doorframe.

The priest painfully limped his way back to his church, hand grasping at his cane tightly, while denying sister Eberl’s assistance. He passed by the many closed commerces, all victims of growing panic for what was occurring. A déjà-vu they thought they were over with. For it had been a month since they’ve had the last human casualty.

Attempts to reach out to the people were met with avoidance and even hostility. From dismissive to resentful, the townsfolk were beginning to see the group of students as causes for this return to fear. Gossip quickly spread even as they rarely left their homes for the rainy exterior of Northern Kerremand. Some believed the presence of outsiders was the cause of the beast’s anger, others thought it more reasonable that the strangers were the ones that orchestrated this in order to justify their inquisition. Needless to say, the group’s return to the Inn would be met with leering and unwelcoming eyes without even a greeting from Ines.

Night was quickly approaching, and the forest expedition group still hadn’t returned. In a land where the people were increasingly wary of providing the minimum of hospitality to our group, how were they going to handle this hurdle? How could they reunite with their own in such foreign land? Who could even help them in this time of need?

Dawn of Assani 18th - 1:00 HS

3 Days Remain

Viktor withdrew his flintlock but his glare did not leave Ismette’s frame. Manfred was right, this was indeed a witch of the crazy-calibre. And yet, she seemed to be the one to get them out of the surreal mess with a red feather stuck to the Yasoi’s head as proof that the experience wasn’t just some fever dream. “Ich dachte, Sie meinten, sie wäre eine verrückte Ex-Freundin. (I thought you meant she was some crazy ex-girlfriend.)” he said as he turned to Manfred, fully uncloaked, “Verzeihung. Ich habe Sie als ein paar Kinder mit Kinderproblemen beurteilt. (Sorry. I judged you as just some kids with kid problems.)” he said as he offered his water canteen to the teen, “Aber ich sehe, du weißt, was du tust. (But I see you know what you’re doing.)” he nudged his chin toward Manfred’s rifle, “Du hast auch gekämpft? Du musst sehr jung gewesen sein. (You fought too? You must’ve been very young.)”

His brief exchange with Manfred then transitioned to him addressing the whole group, “If you haven’t noticed already,” he pointed at the sky, clearer than it ever was since they had arrived in Mandelein without a drop of rain to be found, “we’ve moved in time. I don’t know when, but the river will be a waypoint for us to return to town. I think it is time we regroup.”

As they approached the river, they could begin to sense two distinct energy signatures beyond the massive flow of energy that was the river itself. On the other side, there was something crouched over another something on top of the rocks that composed the riverbank, “Was zum Teufel?” mumbled Viktor as he squinted, activating a light amount of arcane magic to magnify what he was seeing. Without hesitation, he drew his rifle and pointed it right at the being.

He took aim at what looked to be a beige, featureless mass. A good look thanks to the gift allowed one to notice it was actually a large, beige sheet covering a crouching figure over a naked corpse. Well, it was assumed to be a corpse until a chemical and kinetic draw confirmed the person to be very much alive, but the individual above them was definitely doing something to their body.

Viktor grinned as he recognized the threat, “Da bist du ja. Endlich.” he whispered before addressing his colleagues, “Get ready. This is it. Do NOT let it escape.” there was little planning, and for good reason, as the discreet figure perked up and turned its head, revealing a bloodied mouth and a singular, brown eye looking at the group’s direction from under the bulky sheet of wool and leather. By the way it was covered, it seemed keen on having its entire body shielded with only its face barely peeking out. Its mouth, nose and eye were distinctly human too - no fur or scales - just pale and covered in congealed blood, “Go!” shouted Viktor, his body charged with energy as he leapt in the air to ready a shot. His first missed, but his second grazed the surprised entity.

This was the time for the group to strike. Although, as the cloaked, and somewhat short, being began to very swiftly retreat into the woods, they could get a better look at the unconscious being left behind. It was Anna Stigenroth! Covered in stains of blood but … Unharmed? There were light bite marks around her shoulder, arm and neck, but most appeared to have been healed.

Assani 16th

Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan
Day of the week: Taldes
Time: Evening
Characters: Abdel, Maura @Ti, Ingrid @dragonpiece, Niallus @McKennaJ71,
Yalen @Pantothenic, Trypano @A Lowly Wretch, Reekar @Force and Fury,
Kaureerah, Xiulan, Wu Long, Captain Zhu, Dayanara, Qadira, Zorayas, Traveller agents,
Grey Ghosts, Goldcloaks, Captain Zhao, the White Guard

Then, suddenly, the house was full of energies: over a dozen in the attic and the cellar, and they were strong.

The Skuggvars took exception to this show of power from the unseen forces. Both Qadira and Dayanara began to slam their tails onto the wooden flooring, ready to strike at anything that came nearby. Anyone, even Abdel, that got close to them ran the risk of not only grazing their rough skin but also getting a taste of their notorious tails.

Abdel, on the other hand, made himself scarce as quickly as possible. He found a corner in the building and built a quick wooden shelter for himself via Binding as his beasts were showing levels of aggression he hadn't seen yet. His heart was racing, his forehead drenched in sweat and of course his extremities felt very cold. Why did he go to this house alone?

They did not stay put for more than a few seconds and they certainly did not wait to be attacked. As the students rushed towards the house, twelve people burst outwards. Four leapt from the side windows, brimming with powerful magics, and arrowed straight for the Grey Ghosts. Two moved to intercept their unwelcome foreign visitors, propelling a dozen small vials towards the skuggvars and bursting them with kinetic magic. The remaining six, including a hooded figure in black, pulled on considerable abilities with both kinetic and chemical magics to escape through the back. With dizzying speed, they bolted in pairs down the labyrinth of side streets that made up the port district of Wanggang.

With the building aflame, Abdel had no desire to stick around. Matter behind him was drawn upon until it created an opening to the outside. From there, a little bit of kinetic and magnetic magic did the trick for an escape. They weren't after him, so there wouldn't be any real limitations.

The Skuggs, on the other hand, only grew more agitated by the flames and the audacious assault on them by the emerging rats. Their skin and blubber prevented any real damage to be dealt, although the flames and the shock left the two animals flailing about. Naturally, the moment they felt something nearby that wasn't their sibling Skuggvar, they whipped their tail towards it. Avoiding the tail was one thing, but the spines unleashed were another. They shattered like glass and caused a burst of the stuff that could hit friends and foes alike.

The skuggvars in the building were in an outright panicked rage, lashing out with their tails and limbs. One of the ambushers was caught in the midsection and thrown like a ragdoll, spine snapping as she hit the wall. She sprawled there, desperately trying to use binding magic to heal her grievous wounds. The other was caught by upwards of a half-dozen spines from the beasts' tails and cried out in agony, perfectly open for Ingrid and Niallus to act if they could overcome the pain themselves. Abdel, meanwhile, just outside, would have to regain control of his animals to take this any further and hopefully avoid any more friendly fire.

Ingrid broke into a fiery trap and that wasn't the worst of it. Abdel's Skugvars had seen her and Niallus as a threat and she fell victim to their stinging quails. The pain was intense but it wasn't enough to stop her. She took in the situation and decided it was best to absorb the fire. The fire could be burning away evidence at this very moment and with how intense it is, it could spread to other buildings. She started to freeze everything, the building, her enemies, Abdel's Skugvar's. "Help me out Niallus!" Ingrid asked for assistance knowing that Niallus was a talented arcanist as well

Inside the house itself, the situation had changed quite drastically. The Goldcloaks had put most of the fire out and Ingrid had done the rest. The problem was that she had flash frozen most everything in there, from the two wounded attackers to one of the two skuggvars, its draconic face contorted in pain and surprise. Abdel had been in the process of trying to calm the beasts, but that was now undone and the other, while rendered temporarily sluggish, was enraged by the attack and it lashed out at her. Its furious swipe was drawn away to nothing by Niallus, but now, with the enemy more or less pacified, there was an angry and panicked skuggvar on the loose and a whole new problem for the animal's tamer and its unexpected opponents to deal with.

Ingrid drew in quickly and covered the area in a thick layer of frost, skin blistering from the sudden freeze. The 2 traveler agents frozed over and were taken out of the fight while one of the Skugvars followed suit. The last was still enraged and fired at her obvious attacker. Luckily Niallus protects her. Ingrid was looking to knock it out quickly, a lot of things were happening outside and she couldn't afford to stay in here.

Rising, healed, Zhu Kai rolled his neck and cast about. Whatever monster had felled him, he knew was well beyond his ability to handle. He had not seen combat like this since...

A burst of flame emerged from the house's wreckage and now he had a pressing matter to attend to. He hurtled forward, into the breach once more!

Abdel's quick escape spared him too much smoke inhalation and his own Skuggvars' wrath. The chaos of the situation left him disoriented and unable to calm his animals in time, leading to a few people getting hurt - especially the enemies that had stayed close to the Skuggs in order to intercept the students. The young Tethered, empowered by the enchanted Brine Whale gloves, attempted to immobilize and pacify the beasts. Qadira went into a full-stop, while Dayanara remained agitated. Still, it was from aggression to defensiveness, and with Qadira's example, he was confident Dayanara would come around.

That was until Ingrid did her thing.

“What are you doing?!” Abdel called out from afar, “Stop! They're going to lash out!” unfortunately, he was a bit too far with his voice hoarse from the smoke.

Qadira regressed to dormancy with the frost, while Dayana's rage was only fueled. Its anger first went to Ingrid who could barely keep in one piece, let alone stop the animal. But then, as Abdel tried to calm it via the bridle it had on, it shook its head violently to free itself of the headgear before charging right at the energy signature it recognized, “Daya, stop!” he tried to jump out of the way, but he ended up taking the rough shoulder of the Skuggvar. Bruised and having trouble breathing, Abdel struggled to get back up. His vision was blurry, his limbs trembling. And the moment he regained some of his senses, he saw his beast charging at him once more. This was it, his hubris in trying to tame the cleverest of wild creatures was going to be his end.

That was until Captain Zhu intervened. A master kinetic mage, he got Abdel out of the way and deviated the animal's wild path. Then, he confused it with an advanced illusion-like ability that replicated his form sixfold. Dayanara was distracted long enough for Abdel to get a grip.

“Qadira! Wake up!” he called out as his binding magic converted the frost around her into energy, freeing the Skuggvar. Awakened and cold, the animal's frustration was immediately directed at her sister who had been causing a ruckus. Both were keeping eachother at bay, giving an opportunity for the Gold Captain to finally knock out the rampaging animal.

Abdel fell on his rear, panting in exhaustion but with a light smile on his face. His girls were alive, and as much as they caused him grief today, he was infinitely grateful. Qadira, still cold and shivering, trotted his way and began to sniff. She sort of stood there like a guard dog, while Dayanara slumbered further away.

But his work wasn't done. With the Skuggvar distraction gone, he could zone in on a nearby battle. One too far for his peers to detect minus the missing Yalen. While all seemed 'fine', one of Zhu's guard was fading quickly. With all his knowledge gathered as an Afortunado and teachings in Ersand'Enise, the young Varga used his considerable range to tend to the dying Zhou. By no means was the soldier restored, but the bare minimum was near-instantly applied to keep him alive long enough for a Trypano to get to work.

Abdel collapsed onto the ground, chest heaving as he had been unconsciously holding his breath a lot of the time. One could hope this desperate action could buy him and his animals some good will. If they could get the blood of one of those that fled, then even his girls could prove themselves.

Abdel, Ingrid, and Niallus were in for one more surprise, however. There came a fantastic pulse of magical energy, seemingly from above, and it lasted but a split second. When their attention returned to their two frozen attackers, however, both were dead in a most grisly fashion: eyes popped out of their heads and sockets filled with mangled brain matter as blood pooled around them. The two left alive in front of the ruined building suffered similar fates, as attested to by Xiulan's screams.

Perturbed by the screams of his guide, Abdel looked in horror as the captured foes were promptly executed from afar. It was there that he also noticed the bifurcated lady Yang and the wounded Exemplar. Things went from stressful to downright terrifying once the consequences of battle were evident to him. It was the Manfred decapitation scene all over again.

But, the situation was under control. The group reconvened. Yet, the eeaiko remained missing, and nobody else seemed to know very much. For one skilled enough, her familiar signature might've stood out among the humans. Eyes turned to the tethered until Xiulan formalized the request. "Yaren, Abder," Xiulan put it to voice, "Can you find her?"

"We can try." Yalen confirmed. He nodded to Abdel and began the search using his sixth sense. "She's moving around... that direction." Yalen pointed towards the general direction of the port. "She's moving kind of slowly. Something might be wrong with her."

Abdel crossed his arms, his torso still sore after a good heal, as he reached out with his range. He had more trouble than Yalen to pinpoint her location, “She's hurt.” he remarked, “Very agitated! Like the Skuggvars when they got angry.” worried, her looked toward Yalen, “Should we help her?” With Yalen's approval, Abdel attempted to heal the external wounds with some binding.

Abdel put pressure on his flank, still sore after the whole ordeal. Dayanara had a quick wave of binding to get her back to semi-consciousness, enough to have her absently follow her master. Qadira was fully obedient. He and his beasts approached Wu Long, “I know my Skuggvars caused a mess,” he admitted, apologetically with his head lowered, “but they can shine here. If we have blood from one of the escapees ...” he tapped the shoulder of his Skuggvar, “There's no hiding. Anywhere.”

Wu Long seemed little concerned with the mess that the skuggvars had made. After all, it had ended well enough. "This is worth a try," he allowed, "but it is also outside of my jurisdiction. You may search the area for a blood trail and you have my blessing." The Knights were near, however: twenty of them, led by a leathery stern-looking man. "It is them you will have to report your findings to, however... officially."

Abdel bowed and quickly got to work. Qadira was the more 'awake' of the two, as such she would be the one to get this scent. It didn't take long for Abdel to find the traces of blood left where Mr. Bao was 'interrogated'. The big beast approached its stout snout to the ground the moment it picked up the scent of blood. First, it aggressively sniffed about before licking the half-congealed fluids for a taste.

Qadira immediately started to sniff the air afterwards, her body vibrating in agitation as she zero'd in on a trail.

Meanwhile, the twenty riders came to a stop and their captain dismounted. Precisely half of the others - their uniforms slightly different from each other in ways that the students did not quite understand - dismounted as one. They formed up behind their captain, marched up to Wu Long, and bowed shallowly before him. He bowed back at the captain. "赵队长,不胜荣幸。" (It is an honour, Captain Zhao.)

"典范,荣誉属于我。首都三队随时为您服务。" (Exemplar, the honor is all mine. Captial squad three is always at your service.)

Xiulan came up among the students and began translating. "Very good, Captain. I leave this investigation in your capable hands, and I hope that you shall keep me abreast of matters as they develop." He motioned for Captain Zhao to follow. "If you come with me, I will brief you on the situation. As you can see, our foreign friends have become involved and, to be honest, we might've been lost without them." He gestured in Abdel's direction. "The beasts owned by this one are trackers. I have set them to look for scents. I recommend that you confer with the boy." After that, an antisonic bubble surrounded the pair, and they moved some moderate distance away to speak.

It was right about then that Qadira yanked Abdel precipitously forward and right up to the two young women who'd been standing and talking in hushed voices. Kaureerah was the first to turn, eyes widening in alarm. She appeared quite afraid of the skuggvar as it tried butting up against her, making eager whining noises and halfheartedly licking and snapping close to a spot of dried blood on her skirt. With an animal sort of fear, she began to backpedal.

The animal began to try and nip the skirt as if trying to eat it, though the Eeiako didn't seem keen on letting the Skuggvar do her thing. Still, Qadira would keep on insisting until Abdel intervened, “Did ...” he pointed at her blooded skirt, “you have a fight with him, by any chance?” he reached out to try and stop his beast from continuing its harassment, but it kept on going, albeit without anymore forcefulness than its initial curiosity. It wasn't a whole lot of blood, after all. Low droning noise came from its vibrating body.

Kaureerah nodded frantically. "Se sauk kewool!" she cried. "Se sauk kewooool!" She shook her head to clear it, hiding behind Marua out of some sort of instinct. "Yes! Yes! Eye faught hem! Hee keeked my ess!" She continued to avoid the animal and anyone skilled in internal Chemical magic who could scan her would sense absurd levels of cortisol and adrenaline coursing through the poor eeaiko girl. "Hee waus bleeden froom te beeten hee took befaur!" She let out a little yelp of terror as the eager animal pursued her around Maura, nearly knocking the Torragonese out of her wheelchair. "Plees!! Plees get eet auweey!!"

Abdel, mortified by the reaction of the fish-girl, blurted out a suggestion, “Throw the skirt!” very smooth, “And wash up!” extra smooth. Still, he reached out to tug onto Qadira's unseen leash via bloodwarping.

Kaureerah did not need to be told twice. She tore the skirt off, revealing stockings of a strange fabric beneath, and bolted for a nearby fountain, diving cleanly into the water, where she felt a good deal safer. "Eye em saurry! Eye cennaut!" She was hyperventilating. "Yoo cen trauck hem! Use te cloothes!" It was at roughly that point that Captain Zhu approached them. "You come wiss me, please. Meet Captain Zhao." He regarded them uncertainly for a moment, the look breaking through his normally authoritative bearing, as if unsure they would understand him, but not quite able to ask.

Qadira hastily scurried toward the ripped skirt and took a few, whiffs before licking it. Abdel hurried to stop her from eating the whole thing. With the Skuggvar now satisfied with its finding and the mark laced with its saliva, it could finally focus on the actual trail.

But before they could go adventuring, they had to meet the illustrious Captain Zhao!

Present: Ashon’amar’loiyang @Ti, Cal’tuuro’jaros @Suicharte, Casii’fyret’alan @Pirouette,
Dorothea Hohnstein @Jasbraq, Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora @Force and Fury, Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft @Wolfieh,
Edyta Łaska, Manfred Hohenfelter, Qasem Laghmani @Tackytaff, Ymiico’luun’yoru @Salsa Verde
Father Jacques Dubosque, Constable Stigenroth, Constable Laura, Constable Leonhardt, Ines Baum, Viktor Strauss

Anna Stigenroth

Graf Hohenfelter is already making a move?!

Constable Stigenroth, called as such as she was the 25th girl in town with the first name Anna, watched from afar as both Qasem and Manfred marched the rest of the way to the square. Beneath her hook was a face covered in cold sweats and a face sore from all the muscle tension she underwent during the ordeal back in the barracks. The poor young woman was overwhelmed with stress and thoughts that continuously pressed her. She needed to sit, and a convenient, wet bench by the baker’s was just what she needed. For a good ten minutes she gathered her breath, and eventually returned to the barracks to finish her shift.

“Hmmm? So what’s the matter?” asked Constable Laura as both women clocked in their shifts and headed out. Blasé as ever, she addressed Stigenroth’s growing number of nervous ticks.

“Sorry, uhm …” caught in another thought, Anna struggled to center her mind, “Do you not feel like something’s been wrong ever since the outsiders got here?”

Laura raised a brow, “No, why?” she answered as both women walked the path they did every day.

Stigenroth looked over her shoulder before explaining, “I feel like they’re watching me.” he uttered, again looking over her shoulder, “Especially that one with the moustache.”

“The Hohenfelter guy?” Laura flinched and grimaced as she was left perplexed, “If this is another boy-talk then just get over him al-”

“It’s not.” Anna’s tone aimed to strike and didn’t hesitate to cut off her colleague, “My instinct is telling me something is very off.” she began to scratch her neck intermittently.

Laura sighed and turned to give her “friend” a hug. It pacified Stigenroth’s nerves, for now, “It’s okay. We’ll talk to Leonhardt tomorrow about your gut feelings, okay?” she smiled that same, hollow grin she habitually shot.

And Anna somehow found comfort in it, “T-thanks. I just,” she squeezed her short friend for a moment before releasing, “I just feel like we finally caught a break and this happens …”

Laura nodded to indicate she understood. The two eventually parted ways as Anna’s house was the first stop. The younger constable sighed in frustration and rolled her eyes as she went off to her home, closer to the edge of town. The rain was getting stronger and the sun was setting. She did not want to be caught in the dark, even in the middle of town.

Morning of Assani 17th - 2:00 HI

4 Days Remain

It was the middle of the night that Laura’s little abode was met with frantic knocking at the door. Surprisingly, she was the only one to answer the door, rifle in hand and lantern floating over her shoulder, “Who is it?” she called out behind the wooden door, rifle readied.

“It’s Anna! Please open quickly …” she sounded panicked and desperate. Laura obliged and saw a drenched Stigenroth standing at the entrance. Parts of her attire had been torn and her neck was red, even bleeding a little bit. A wide-eyed yet groggy Laura gestured for her to come in and quickly looked outside to see if anybody had followed her.

“Did someone attack you, Anna? Are you hurt?” Laura asked the moment she closed the door. Her first instinct was to secure the windows while taking a peek outside, “I-I don’t know.” a terrified Stigenroth rapidly turned her head in different directions as if she was looking out for some predator, “But something is coming. I heard it. I saw it.” if it wasn’t for the fact that Laura knew this person and the clear signs of some sort of physical assault, she’d have believed Anna to be insane, “Okay. Stay here for now, we’ll get Vikt-” she couldn’t finish her sentence before Anna burst into a fit of fear.

“Did you hear that?! It’s behind that window!” her shaking hand pointed at a recently sealed window. Laura pointed her gun and slowly approached whilst drawing. There wasn’t anything, but that only made things more stressful. Again, Srigenroth screamed, “FUCK! It’s in! No!” horrified at what she may have seen, she quickly unlocked the front door to run off with her left hand still scratching her neck.

“Anna!” shouted Laura, “Shit.” no choice now, she had to pursue. She would find Stigenroth a few acres away, in the middle of a field of one of the farms. Arms wrapped around herself and broken down into tears, “It won’t stop …” she tried to reach out to her friend, but the cracking of a few branches nearby caught not only Anna’s, but Laura’s attention too. The latter aimed her gun right at the noise.

Then, came the most horrific, blood-curdling scream she had ever heard. A scream that echoed through Mandelein and sounded nearly identical to the one heard in the forest by the outsiders. Laura, with her blood running cold, heard a most gruesome set of goring sounds before she could even turn to see what had happened.

Three shots were fired that night. Two sounding like a Hermann 12’s, and the third being particularly loud, recognizable as something heavier.

It took just two minutes after the gunshots for the balls of light coming from the village to converge into the scene. Armed villagers and outsiders alike would find a scene veiled by darkness, but as their lights engulfed the area, one would inevitably find the massive puddles of blood in a spot not too far from dense foliage. Not too far from the many traces of blood were the ripped remains of Stigenroth’s nightgown. The rain hadn’t washed away the more minute clues yet and a fine sleuth could quickly notice that blood trailed towards the forest.

Just a few metres away was Laura, on her knees with a few clean cuts on her thigh, arm and cheek, looking completely dazed. Her rifle rested a few feet away, still warm. She looked completely catatonic.

“Laura!” a tired Leonhardt rushed to the girl and lifted her from the mud she rested upon. More and more people had arrived, including Sister Eberl and Father Dubosque. In just ten minutes, a good sixty or so people had gathered on the field with torches and pitchforks, scared and angry. Dubosque did her best to appease the masses while Sister Eberl tended to the wounded Laura.

“Herr Dubosque!” a deep voice called out for the priest. A tall, very well-built man with blonde hair and a large rifle on his back emerged from the thicket. He spoke again when he was at an arm’s reach of the priest, as to avoid disseminating what he was about to say too carelessly, “It’s the constable girl.” he confirmed in proper Kerreman whilst shaking his head, “It happened far too quickly. I’ve never seen it this bad before.” Dubosque pursed his lips and clenched his cane as he realised just how crowded the scene had become.

The clergyman whispered something to the blonde man before turning to the panicked citizens of Mandelein, “Es hat einen Angriff gegeben. Die Bestie durchstreift immer noch diese Felder. (There has been an attack. The Beast is still prowling these fields.)” he announced with enhancement to his voice via magic, “Bitte kehrt in eure Häuser zurück. Viktor, Constable Leonhardt und unser Freibeuter übernehmen ab hier. (Please, return to your homes. Viktor, Constable Leonhardt and our privateer will take it from here.)” he reassured, shooting a glance at Sister Eberl as she finished restoring the injured constable, “Am Morgen treffen wir uns in unserer Kirche. Die Leute von Mandelein werden wissen, was passiert ist. (In the morning, we shall have a gathering in our Church. The people of Mandelein will know what happened.)” he finished before nodding at the few constables the town had left to evacuate the populace.

“Young envoys,” he addressed the students that had also come out to acknowledge the noise and crime scene, “there’s been an incident. Constable Stigenroth has been …” he shot a look toward Viktor, the hunter-like man that had delivered him the news, “attacked. We do not know if she is dead.” he then gestured to the man he was looking at, “This is Viktor Strauss. He has been conducting the efforts to limit the beast’s activities. If you intend to help with the issue and travel into the Teufelssumpf, you go by him, understood?” solemn and clearly rattled by the events, Dubosque left it at that for now. Although he would remain until daybreak to supervise the investigation.

“I hear you’re from Ersand’Enise?” Viktor was quick to introduce himself. He had a noticeable Kerreman accent, but nothing close to a caricature, “Good. We need competence.” he reached for the Koppelman 49 on his back and checked the chamber, “With the rain and the darkness of night, we don’t have much time if we want to find her alive. Who’s in?”

Assani 16th

Location: Wánggǎng, ReTan
Day of the week: Taldes
Time: All Day
Characters: Abdel, Maura @Ti, Ingrid @dragonpiece, Niallus @McKennaJ71,
Yalen @Pantothenic, Trypano @A Lowly Wretch, Reekar @Force and Fury,
Kaureerah, Xiulan, Wu Long, Captain Zhu, townsfolk, Dayanara, Qadira, Zorayas

“Bu! Bu …”

Abdel waved his arm in dismissal, his coordination clearly diminished and his voice higher pitched than usual. He was at his fourth glass of local Baiju with no notion of temperance ever crossing his mind. “I’m a uh-” he snapped his fingers, although his movements were impaired enough that no sound came from it, “Dragon friend!” he blurted out just as Zorayas, the infant Trickster Wyrm that wrapped around his body, emerged from his shirt collar to say hi to the group. Yin clapped in amusement as the critter wiggled its little body to the rhythm of laughter and clapping. He was having a good time and did not once deny Maura the chance to have him eat some dumplings.

Then came the late hours, and the team’s lightweight could barely walk, let alone remember where his room was! Thankfully, Maura was here to the rescue. “Yer a guud person Mohra …” he mumbled, cheek on his pillow and drool leaking already, “Wuv yewwww!” his eyes stayed closed, and soon he was already asleep.

A disturbance woke Abdel up in the middle of the night. Was it a scream? Furniture moved? He couldn’t tell with his head still light. His eyes were resisting any attempt to awaken, but he could at least reach out with the gift. “Hnnng, Silas?” he muttered in his sleep. The signature he recognized resembled his mark in Ersand’Enise so much. An eye opened and he saw Maura missing. Where did she go? Too many questions for his still drunken mind. It got far too tiresome when energy signatures came into the mix as he spread himself thin to try and detect his girlfriend too. He fell back to sleep.

When he awoke, Abdel had a hard time distinguishing dream and reality from that brief experience. It felt like a moment of semi-consciousness where reality and dream were hardly distinguishable. Also, his head was killing him! Thankfully, Xiulan was more than willing to share the tea she took for her own hangover.

The day started with another tour, and eventually the group was allowed to visit the streets and commerces. Abdel stayed at the station, however, to address an issue that had been gnawing at him - other than the nightly experience that remained hazy. The stables were his first destination, where he’d find his Skuggvars: Qadira and Dayanara. Both were sedated, although still awake. A specialised beastmaster permitted to use magic had been summoned to appease them, although even then their foreign nature never guaranteed total safety.

When Abdel stepped into the stables, both animals perked up. The carers were delighted to see the “dragon master” arrive to relieve them of their burden and the beasts were growing excited at the scent of their provider. After a bit of walking out of their cages with their muzzles on, the animals found their initial vigour. Abdel wandered about with the Skuggvars close behind him, and he wasn’t oblivious to the stares of awe from the locals. Awe and fear of the unknown, even as adolescents these predators were considerably bulky and the same height as their master.

Still, some were more courageous than others. Some children asked for pets which the teen had to unfortunately deny. Others wanted to draw the animals! One woman, just a few years older than Abdel, came up to the boy with what looked to be an offering, “Prease take! For Lóng Mastah!” she then retreated as Abdel hesitantly accepted the gift wrapped bauble, flushed. What he’d find was … A figurine? A doll? Some called these action figures due to how resilient they were and popular among children.

“它是什麼?很漂亮!(What is it? It is very pretty!)” inquired Abdel with the best of ability. The child that really wanted to pet Dayanara spoke up excitement, “這是一個 風暴雲 可動人偶!真幸運!(It’s a Stormcloud action figure! So Lucky!)” exclaimed the young boy, with Abdel getting bits and pieces to more or less grasp the meaning.

“暴風雲來自黑騎士。學者. (Stormcloud is from the Black Knights/Guard. The Scholar.)” explained the girl. Abdel recognized the term “Black Guard”, however he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all. “她從許多瘟疫和枯萎病中拯救了我們的土地。並祝福有天賦的人在她的指導下獲得新的生命” (She saved our land from many plagues and blights. And blesses the gifted with a new life under her tutelage!) an elderly woman that joined the young woman’s side said as she slowly approached. By how gleeful she was to explain this phenomenon, Abdel could deduce that she may have gotten some sort of blessing from this person.

“Xièxiè.” Abdel bowed his head lightly and made the salutation sign with his hands. After showing his action figure to a few more kids, he departed to join his group and pursue whatever his guides had planned.

After a long day of touring and very little of doing the job they were sent to do, Abdel kicked back with another Baiju drink and watched his Skuggvars rest peacefully nearby. The two large animals were fed various meats from the locals that were fascinated, yet reasonably cautious, of the animals with Abdel approval. Many steaks were enjoyed by Qadira and Dayanara.

The addition of Exemplar Wu Long to their dinner, things would get more interesting even if Abdel did not dare to add much to the conversation. He also held back on the drinks out of concern for his potential behaviour toward the Life-and-Death man and his own ferocious animals. A quick glance was shot at the action figure he had sitting by his plate as he heard the children play. For such discreet legends, they were seen as quite the celebrities among the people.

Loving his country despite recognizing its flaws, even if they were quite glaring. Abdel mused, unable to help himself in comparing these words to his own experiences, I guess I feel the same about the Refuge, in some ways. I just hope the bads here aren’t as insidious as they were back home. he took a piece of caramel pork just as things started to get heated.

A man was arrested and questioned by a group known as the Grey Ghosts. The treatment of the man sparked a uniform reaction of displeasure from the foreigners, though the way they were expressed was different. Maura, in particular, favoured explaining a reasoning that could resonate with Wu Long’s experiences and perspective.

Abdel sat by and listened to Maura give his piece on the matter. He didn't expect anything less from the outspoken Torragonese, and envied her for her ability to do so in circumstances like these. ReTan was a different beast entirely and Abdel never felt more compelled to withdraw into silence than he did in this land. His girlfriend's words, however, motivated him to seize the initiative, especially after failing to utilise his investigation skills the other night due to his overindulgence.

“If I may,” his voice was stout and quite audible but his hand meekly rose up as if he needed permission to talk, “Maybe we can get some other leads that don't rely on witness statements.” he stood up, body straight and hands knitted together to make himself appear not all that imposing to Wu Long, “I work as an investigator, or more precisely, people finder, though some call it bounty hunter but that's ...” he scratched his cheek, “an exaggeration.” then he cleared his throat, going back to his point, “I'm experienced in tracking individuals affiliated with small militias, many associated with the Traveler. I could give the premises a scrub to see if I find any leads?”

To add to this proposition, he gestured to the two adolescent beasts that had been rested just outside the patio like guard dogs, “With them, there is no hiding if your culprit hasn't fled the region already.” he looked to Maura and smiled nervously, hoping his pitch could allow them to finally get the ball rolling when it came to their role here. And potentially uncover the truth regarding the situation unfolding before them.

"You are all welcome to exercise your skills in the service of what is right. I shall provide you with my utmost attention in observance." said Wu Long as he absently listened to Abdel’s offer.

Abdel nodded, first to the exemplar, then to Maura. They could figure out this enigma together. The young teen whistled, prompting the ears of his beasts to perk up, “Yip, yip!” he clapped his hand to motivate the animals to rise and get to work. They were to investigate the opulent home from which the older man was taken from.

With the hulking beasts in tow, Abdel entered the building that had supposedly been secured. The Skuggvars, now freed of their muzzles to allow their full detection potential to be realised, began to immediately sniff the premises. By how their blubber shook and their nostrils dilated, it seemed there were many scents, “Now if Maura can get me an item the so-called master valued and kept on their person, this can get easier.” he muttered to himself as he began the investigation.

It did not look like any home he had ever seen. Even if ReTan was as foreign as it got for Abdel, this made little sense. Beyond the clear signs of a fight and ransacking of the place, there was one massive detail anyone could notice: This was some sort of training facility. Weapon racks lined the walls, target dummies were spread out with some shattered and others upright, and the growing frustration of the animals made it clear to Abdel that far more than a few dozen had been here, “They only get this annoyed in very public places … Were there hundreds here?” he rubbed his chin in muse.

The sound of intense scratching disrupted Abdel thoughts. Qadira had started to frantically scratch and bag at the floorboards. Reaching out with the gift netted … Nothing? However, he did notice an odd discrepancy in airflow as he focused on the details. Was there a basement or cellar? As the young Virangish prepared to inspect the floor, Dayanara let out a low and intimidating growl. Her tail whipping even had Abdel show anxiety toward the animals he had thought he had tamed. This was never a good sign. The riled up animal was looking up at the ceiling, and so did the young Tethered.

Above and below, the beasts had found something. Abdel felt a wave of fear flow through him. But it wasn’t enough to stop him from pursuing his job as an investigator. With mild binding magic and kinetic magic, he sought out an opening to the ceiling. What was in there? He really hoped it was some animal Dayanara found alluring.

Present: Zarina, Ayla @Ti, Jocasta @Force and Fury, Yalen @Pantothenic, Benedetto, Desmond @Th3King0fChaos, Tku @dragonpiece, Evander @RezonanceV, Fiske @jasbraq, Isabella, Escarra, Rangers, Riesco, Nibbler, The Alpha Sand Wyrm.

Ayla had done it, the beast had been pacified - or at least its rampage had been put to an end. Then the little dance that followed left Zarina shaking her head in bewilderment. Was that thing actually performing a display of glee? This was completely surreal. Her greatshield lowered itself, steaming hot from the immense amount of energy it had to suck in and channel away, with the platinum-coated scales lingering orange.

“Shit, Ayla,” Zarina spoke behind her helm, distorting her voice, “Way to one-up me.” all the while Jocasta was evacuating the rangers, leaving the others to focus on the presumably calmed beast, “Well, if you tame it, anyway. You can follow my lead,” proposed Zazzy as her speciality in chemical magic began to reach out toward the towering beast, tracing its complex system in a more refined manner than she had with the Alpha Froabas she had tamed in this very desert the previous year. Now, with scholarly and practical experience, the Virangish beastmaster was confident she could do something grand.

However, as she began to prepare the rites of an animal handling, a temporal disturbance immediately caught her attention. Multiple signatures emerged, some familiar as she peered at their direction, others foreign. One in particular, however, was Benedetto and his destructive atomic magic. “Shit.” she sneered, “Keep the big guy happy.” she instructed Ayla before vanishing, leaving Riesco and Nibbler by her.

Right before Benny appeared the Platinum-clad warrior. The greatshield had morphed into a slightly larger mould around her arm, with a bucker-like dragon’s head on the pack of her hand. Zarina went to smack and disperse the charged energy with her transformed shield. It was swift with a powerful Kinetic shockwave following her movement to destabilize the blonde attacker, “It’s charmed,” she growled, “do not disturb it, lest you want to cause more casualties.” she stared down the shorter young man, drawing from the flow of time itself rather than the traditional energies surrounding them, “We’ve already lost one to its flames. So stand by.”

Present: Ashon’amar’loiyang @Ti, Cal’tuuro’jaros @Suicharte, Casii’fyret’alan @Pirouette, Dorothea Hohnstein @Jasbraq, Ismet’ych’lahiin’dichora @Force and Fury, Kaspar Elstrøm von Wentoft @Wolfieh, Edyta Łaska, Manfred Hohenfelter, Qasem Laghmani @Tackytaff, Ymiico’luun’yoru @Salsa Verde
Annette, Cristophe, Constable Leonhardt, Ines Baum, Viktor

Long was the trip through the seemingly endless path toward Mandelein. A walk would take them a good two hours at the very least, and going fast was risky without every party member knowing flight with the increased risk of Coal Toads locking in on stronger energy signatures. Needless to say, if they were smart, they wouldn’t rush things too much.

Jamboi was best fitted to scout things out using the environment with his monkey-like mannerisms and gravitational speciality, easily avoiding the parasitic vines on the trees he hanged from and withholding from making contact with more questionable looking plantlife. There wasn’t going to be any deadly ambush without him at least getting an inkling of what was wrong. And yet, when he tried to track that horrid sound they all heard, he drew a blank. The source was too far for him and the distortion that could be heard also applied to the soundwaves. It felt like it came from many places at once, but a general direction could be sensed: Straight ahead where they were going. It didn’t sound like anything Manfred had ever heard either despite coming from Kerremand and having been around himself.

Some were content with keeping their focus on what was straight ahead, others were easily distracted by the smaller encounters. Such was Qasem’s case with his experiment on the juvenile amphibian he had perturbed. When the plant was offered a potential, wiggling meal by the human, it seemed to lean ever so slightly toward the animal. However, the moment its thin mucus made contact with the critter’s own goo, it immediately closed and shrivelled up like it had experienced a gag reflex. It seemed as though it was a potent defence mechanism against threats. Qasem, having licked one, he’d find the taste to be mildly sour with a persisted aftertaste akin to hot beer, and he would have the runs in a few hours or so. Maybe it was worth it for the sake of science.

Others weren’t so lucky in their trek through the rain and mud - both Dorothea and Cal’tuuro’jaros ended up tangled in some vine-like weeds whilst taking a detour in the woods when they found a portion of their path flooded. These specific vines had a side-effect similar to poison ivy, with the skin irritation leaving after an hour but the redness would persist for a day or two.

Ymiico was unfortunate enough to end up in a similar position to Qasem, except it’d be an adult salamander emerging from its puddle and slapping her relentlessly with its tail. It packed a punch, but the ninja could get out of the mess fairly easily. Still, her rear would end with a few bruises from the tail whips.

Casii and Kaspar, the two botanists of the group, were taken by the variety of mushrooms that could be found in the damper seasons. One was a boomcap, a small, bright orange fungus with green specks spread around the cap. The young blood mage had little experience with that species as it rarely survived out of this biome, but Casii certainly did. When he came a little too close to it, the Yasoi intervened to try and stop him, only to accidentally cause the plant to pre-maturely burst and douse them with spores. Unless they were very quick at holding their breaths, they would end up with some nasty congestion tomorrow.

Then, came the ambush …

The encounter took no longer than twenty minutes, and by then the barely visible grey dusk turned into a darkened sky. Thunder became more frequent and the winds were picking up. Evidently, they couldn’t interrogate these people under these conditions and the decision to bring them to town was taken. Luckily for them, Mandelein was only a half-hour walk even with prisoners to drag along. They couldn’t arrive soon enough as the nocturnal fauna was beginning to make itself known.

The terrible weather obscured most of their view, though the (in)famous Castle Mandelein stood in slight elevation to the town, making it stand out to all voyagers approaching. Halos of light projected out of the windows and lanterns on the few towers were brightly lit to show activity. Mandelein itself was also illuminated, serving as a beacon to the group within the thick fog of rain as they drew near. And as they entered its border, three orbs of light came closer to them. They were three individuals wearing impermeable cloaks and they had likely seen the visitors coming.

The one leading the pack shouted a phrase that none would really recognize. It did sound like Kerreman, but it was far too quick and the winds were not making it easier to understand. The figure came closer, revealing a bearded man in his forties bearing a lantern with two younger people, a boy and a girl around the students’ ages, at his side. Noticing a lack of understanding from the group, he reiterated.

“Wer bist du? Bist du in den Sturm geraten?” he uttered in a heavily accented Kerreman. But then he noticed the people that were bound with the group. Cristophe looked back at him and shrugged, prompting the cloaked man to squint, “Oder vielleicht sind Sie den falschen Leuten über den Weg gelaufen ...” he sighed whilst the youths giggled behind him.

An ear-piercing thunderous clap interrupted the brief moment of reflection the man was having. He gestured for them to follow, “Hans, bring die in die kaserne.” he ordered the boy to escort the prisoners elsewhere whilst turning his attention back to the group, most notably Manfred, “Der sturm wird schlimmer, wir werden dir ein zimmer für heute nacht besorgen.”

An Inn-Tavern awaited the group, with the innkeeper, a forty-something woman that reasonably got upset with the constable. Again, they spoke incredibly quickly and in a dialect that only a fluent Kerreman speaker could grasp some portions of could understand. Eventually, the jaded Inn owner seized some keys and tossed them on the counter before retiring. “Tut mir leid, sie hat andere Besucher erwartet.”

The keys gave access to three rooms, and each had a total of two beds. The Inn was dusty and hadn’t been renovated in some time, though there was clear maintenance going on in the halls and tavern. The storm would rage for the whole night and their rest would go noticeably unperturbed. Were they not expected here?

Dawn of Assani 16th - 1:00 HS

5 Days Remain

No rooster voiced the arrival of dawn, and instead it’d be the same, moody innkeeper speaking obnoxiously loudly at another male voice - different from the constable’s they had met the previous evening. The woman was standing behind her bar, preparing meals and drinks for the scarce visitors of the tavern whilst discussing what sounded like grievances in her mother tongue to one of the patrons.

Among these patrons was a blonde man in his late thirties, a complete stranger to all except Ymiico. His voice was familiar as well as the rifle he had leaning against his table where he drank coffee - something that isn’t actually served in the inn - and scribbled notes on a piece of paper. It was hard to notice his features without approaching him, though he displayed a friendly demeanour when replying with passive affirmations to the innkeeper’s blathering.

Then, she noticed the first of her guests, “Ah! Vu are avake, kood.” she nodded, looking jollier than she did the previous night, “Are vu hungry? Zis zeazon pears many kood muschrooms. Maype try pefore vu are on your vay, ja?” one of the patrons called out the woman by her name, ‘Ines’, and that called seemed to be the trigger for her to remember something, “Oh, ja, Herr Dubosque has called for vu in zee Church.” she reached for a used envelope and wrote something upon it. Although, instead of anything helpful, it was a bill. 2 incantors worth to be precise, but with the currency of Kerremand, “Pay py zee hour of Dami, ja? Talk to Leonhardt at zee parracks if vu haffe ein broblem. He's zee man zat prought vu here.”

What a start! Instead of being greeted in this town they were meant to help, they were summoned to a Church with little help in terms of getting leads. Mandelein was no city, but it wasn’t some small village either, being home to 673 people, making it a potentially daunting task to get information without carefully considering where one’s efforts are put. The weather did improve, but rainfall persisted with only mild winds and precipitation being nowhere near as intense as the previous day.

By speaking with Ines (and maybe greasing her palms a little), she would inform those that ask nicely of places of interest to visit, as she does love to talk about Mandelein, the only place she’s even lived in.

The Church - Where some of you are summoned. It is big enough to hold two-thirds of the town without being a Cathedral.
The Castle - Little is known about it and is a decent walk away from the village. Its gates appear to be closed.
The old Trade Guild - Defunct trade guild serving as a gathering hall for the citizens and other activities that the Church cannot house. Also serves as an archive.
The Barracks - Where Constable Leonhardt and his subordinates keep their weapons, goods and prisoners. Near the entrance of town with a small tower connected to it. The Highwaymen are kept there.
Müder Baum - The inn they are staying in with a few interesting patrons and an innkeeper that knows quite a bit about the town beyond just the sights. One has been seen in Ersand’Enise before.
The Square - Many commerces and homes surround the spacious square. An inactive fountain rests at its centre with a nearby well being the main source of the town’s water.
Webers-Tappisserie - A dyeing business. The storefront looks new but the building is old. Overall unnoticeable to those without a need for tapestry weaving and dyeing.
Spice seller - Want some unique spices and plants from the region? You come to the right place.
Herbalist - Local healer that can help with niche problems native to this land.

The Farms - At the outskirts where the land is more manageable. Supposedly there’s a beast roaming this land. If so, how does livestock fare? Farmers may have seen things most wouldn’t and clues would be abundant in feeding grounds.
Teufelssumpf - The surrounding woods of Mandelein. Massive thicket that is the most likely prowling grounds of a ferocious beast. A LOT of ground to cover with plenty of hostile fauna along with questionable flora. Not to mention all the mud.

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