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Wade

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About Wade

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    E for Idiot
  • Birthday 08/27/1996

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    Spicy Boi
  • Location
    Canada
  • Occupation
    Government mook

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  1. Vicious, by V. E. Schwab. The story's a dark, creative take on superpowers directed from a handful of perspectives, minus all the in-your-face extravagance you'd usually associate with superheroes. The characters are super (ha) interesting, I'm in love with the author's effortless style, and everything in the book just flows so damn well that it's easy to get sucked in for a whole evening. I ended up reading the sequel, Vengeful, a few months later. I'm desperately waiting for the next. Senlin Ascends, by Josiah Bancroft, along with the following two entries in the series. I'm actually surprised that I ended up liking these books so much; my attitude was pretty lukewarm coming in. I guess was accustomed to reading something with a little more action in it. The story follows a quirky old headmaster who goes on vacation to the Tower of Babel with his young wife. There's a balloon. Something goes wrong. You follow his journey throughout this strange and unconventional tower. The writing is pretty and elegant, while avoiding the pitfall of long, overdrawn purple prose. Senlin is an unusually likable character--not at all your conventional protagonist--and his character development is a bumbling, stumbling mishap that's an absolute delight to behold. Nevernight, by Jay Kristoff. I also didn't expect to fall in love with this series. It follows the very generic premise of a young girl who loses her parents to some very bad people, leading her to train to become an assassin so she can get her sweet, sweet vengeance. The writing is sharp and tastefully edgy, a perfect fit for the kind of story being told here. The dialogue is witty, the worldbuilding is snappy, the pace never gets too slow, and the story is a fun ride full of twists and turns that might or might not catch you by surprise. I realize I'm going to be here all day if I keep listing all the books I read in the last year that I consider "best". So, in a struggling attempt at brevity, I'm going to cut this short with a simple list of everything else I found (equally) entertaining: The Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin The Expanse, James S. A. Corey (I crushed books 5, 6 and 7 this year) The Stormlight Archives, Brandon Sanderson (books 2 and 3) Shades of Magic Trilogy, V. E. Schwab Red Rising Trilogy, Pierce Brown Starsight, Brandon Sanderson The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers Born a Crime, Trevor Noah I know I'm forgetting something.
  2. Teddy flicked open his umbrella and stepped out into the cold, evening rain. His shoes slapped the edge of a puddle, soaking the leather as he made his way through the city, scanning every back alley until he eventually found the one he was looking for. Syrah wasn’t with him. He’d taken the train and left her at the precinct. She was filling out paperwork for stolen police property, an ordeal he’d been mercifully spared from. They didn’t receive any funds, as expected, nor curried any favour with the police chief. She’d made it painfully, explicitly clear that they were both lucky to still have jobs. Quietly, he turned on his phone light and peered into the dark. Job or nob job, funds or no funds, it didn’t change the fact that there were lives riding on the success of this case. “A-ha,” he whispered softly, spotting thin grooves in a nearby wall. Barely noticeable unless you knew to look for them, like constellations in the night sky. He passed a steam vent as he stepped closer, fogging the clear plastic of his umbrella. The alley reeked of metal and ozone. But that was pretty much all of Martial Town in general. Here goes. Teddy knocked twice. The banging barely registered over the rain. Thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance, a low tremor indicative of the storm worsening over time. Knock knock knock. No answer. Knock knock knock. Come on. Knock knock. Knock knock knock. Knockknockknockknockknockknockknockknock- An audible hiss cut through the banging, followed by the familiar sound of mechanical whirring. A hatch in the wall suddenly decompressed, springing a bottle-sized turret pointed at his face. Teddy glanced up at the angry contraption, shifting uncomfortably in the dark. Long seconds stretched as the gun studied him. It eventually decided he wasn’t a threat and powered back down. “Howdy, cowboy,” a male voice said from a hidden speaker. It sounded exhausted yet oddly cheery. “Here to try and put a bullet up my ass again?” “Well, actually-“ “’Cause if you’re gonna start yapping about my prices for the third time,” it cut in. “I swear to god, you better fucking forget it. I don’t spend every day, all day, all night risking my neck to find out who fucked who, just to listen to some whiny little bitch who can’t pay fifty bucks or lower.” Teddy stood there in silence, anticipating the rest of the incoming verbal assault. He was almost confused when it never came. The sharp click of a mechanism unlocking followed instead. “Anyway, come inside!” the voice exclaimed. “You look like shit, you know that?” The grooves in the wall grew larger and larger until they unraveled completely to reveal a small entrance. A dim light radiated from deeper inside, soft and pink, like cotton candy. “I got a client here right now,” the voice continued, except this time it came from the hallway instead of a speaker. Teddy stowed his umbrella and slipped past the darkness and then the flossy pink LEDs. Something heavy slid and clicked shut behind him. The vault door repositioning to seal the grooves. A white-haired boy soon appeared before him—his hands were entirely stripped of flesh. “Hey, Ares.” “Hey yourself, cuck.” They both slowly broke into grins. “Always nice to see you.” Teddy glanced around. The walls were soundproof foam layered over stone walls. “Sorry about barging in like this. You said you had a client?” “Yeah, but we’re just about done.” Ares led him down a small set of stairs. More lights came from a room just up ahead. “No need to keep you waiting out there in the rain. Mind you, I’d be lying if I told you hadn’t thought about it. I usually don’t deal with cops-” “I’m not a cop.” “-or sell outs. Which you very much are.” Teddy shrugged. Money was money and the MTPD paid a pretty penny. Not to mention there weren’t any other official channels looking into the gun crisis. Teddy preferred to keep his nose clean lately when it came to who he worked for. “Just doing my civic duty as a Terran,” he said. “Civic duty my ass.” The ashen youth beckoned Teddy into a small room with an exaggerated flourish of his hand, with a low ceiling lit by the glow of several computer screens. A desk took up one wall, complimented by chair that looked like it belonged in an pre-AO office, while a couch and a few chairs surrounded a coffee table in the middle of the room. “Here,” Ares said, tossing him a blanket. “I don’t want you dripping all over my stuff.” Teddy caught the blanket and began to dry himself off. Then he got a good look at Ares’ aforementioned client sitting on the couch across from him. She was a young girl, maybe twelve, with creamsicle-flavoured hair. Tanned skin, violet eyes. The same raincoat that vanished in a cloud of lemon-scented smoke. “You.” He was suddenly aware that he was blocking the room’s only exit; all six-feet-four-inches of him. He wouldn’t even need to pull out his gun. “I believe,” Teddy started, unable to keep the sardonic grin from traipsing onto his lips. “That you owe me a shortwave transmitter.” He took a step. “You’re also under arrest.”
  3. Syrah decided to give Teddy a ride home. It was the nice thing to do but it also gave her another excuse to give him more shit about his umbrella. Teddy simply kept quiet as they stepped out, defeated. His pride was a doused match at this point. Yes, yes, how silly of him. He promised to go buy a raincoat first thing in the morning. They made their way across the street, passing under the holographic projection of a too-pink cherry blossom. There was rarely the need for streetlights when you had three-dimensional advertisements that could light entire city blocks for miles. Syrah’s car was parked on the left side of the road, near the vending machine he’d spotted from the restaurant window. It was a boxy Sojourner. Probably a holdover from the exodus days. Some of the paint was peeling off the chassis and the bulbar looked like it had seen plenty of action. “Neat,” Teddy said. Syrah glanced at him, fishing for her keys in her coat pocket. “You say that like it’s everything but neat.” “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that. I just expected something a little more…y’know.” For emphasis, he waved to their surroundings. The gesture practically screamed your car’s old. “I don’t get to pick what I drive,” Syrah explained calmly, though it sounded like he’d struck a nerve. “Government’s stingy with its money. Always has been and always will be. If it works and doesn’t need fixing, doesn’t need any major overhauls to stay current, then they’ll stick you with their shitty leftovers ‘till something either breaks or blows up in your face.” “So, we’re riding in a deathtrap.” “Potentially.” “Cool.” “Very cool.” Teddy smiled, just for a moment. Then he caught a flicker of movement behind the car window. “You’re not hauling any prisoners in the back, are you?” Syrah frowned. “No, why?” Before Teddy could answer, the car door swung open and out came a small, hooded figure. He caught a flash of orange hair, bright and curly. His first instinct was to immediately reach for his gun. “Don’t move!” The figure moved. They always moved but he was ready for it. Teddy dashed forward, pistol in hand now, reaching the cruiser in a few measured strides. The girl—he could tell it was a girl now, judging by her size, clothes, and the shape of her face—had managed to scramble all the way to the vending machine with the swiftness of a guilty conscience. She reached a hand inside of the dispenser, then promptly threw a soda can that missed Teddy by inches. It hit the car’s front window instead, crunching and hissing, spraying foam for nearly a metre in every direction. “I said-“ The girl was quick. She reared back and threw what looked like a balled-up gum wrapper into the fizzy mess. A strange-smelling cloud erupted, swallowing Teddy whole. He tried not to panic about the possibility that it could’ve been poison. By the time he ran out of it, clearing his lungs with a breath, he realized the girl had taken off and completely disappeared. “Shit.” Syrah emerged from behind him. She’d made sure to do the smart thing and go around the smoke. There was a gun in her hand and a tension in her step, but the moment she saw him, something in her faltered. “She got away?” Teddy nodded. He checked the street corners and alleys even thought he knew it was no use. Syrah went to inspect her car once the smoke cleared, and Teddy heard her swear loud and clear over the city rain. “What’s up?” he asked. “My shortwave transmitter,” she replied. “It’s fucking gone. The entire box, she just stole the whole thing” Teddy walked over and raised an eyebrow at the sight. Where there should’ve been a black box on the dash, there was only a mess of tangled wires. Syrah stared at them incredulously, like they’d somehow turned into snakes. Her face slowly resolved into a grim stare. “I’m going to have to file a report,” she said, almost to herself. “HQ’s going to have my ass for this when they find out.” Teddy swung into the seat beside her and slammed the door shut. “Any idea who she was? Teenage girl breaking and entering? Stealing police equipment? Flaming disco hair?” “No,” Syrah said. “None. I don’t even know what a girl her age could possibly want a transmitter for.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, pondering the question of their newfound culprit. The pitter patter of rain on the windshield was eventually all Teddy could bring himself to think about. “I think I should see a doctor,” he said suddenly. “What for?” Syrah shook her head. “Right. The lemon-scented smoke.” She took out her keys and turned on the ignition, stirring the old Sojourner from its idle slumber. It rumbled awake, blinking red and white lights on the dash. The tires didn’t so much screech against the wet pavement as they did squeak. “I don’t think,” Syrah began. “That we’re going to get those funds to pay for your friend once word gets out that some little girl robbed us.” “You mean you,” Teddy said. “A little girl robbed you. This is your car. I’m just your passenger.” Syrah shot him a withering glare. Teddy held up his hands. “Fine, fine. We’re in this together, and don’t you forget it. Partner.” They exited through another checkpoint, this one solely reserved for vehicular passage. The guards were appropriately notified to keep watch for anyone matching their thief’s description and to arrest them on sight. “I’ll talk to him later tonight,” Teddy said, returning to the subject of the broker. “Maybe I can persuade him. Wave a gun in his face or something.” “Might as well ask him about our mystery thief too. If he’s got any dirt on that little turd, I want it.” They got out in the precinct’s parking lot, then stopped short of the front doors. Beyond them lied discipline and ridicule. Possibly a toxicology exam in Teddy’s case. Neither of them were too thrilled about their prospects, but after a moment, Teddy held the door open. “After you.”
  4. There were a few ways to tell how long someone had lived in Martial Town. The most obvious one was by looking at how well-equipped they were for the rain. Those who’d stuck around for a few months tended to brave the outdoors in a poncho—bright, flimsy plastic, only marginally better than a garbage bag poked full of holes—while the vets knew better than to mess around with anything less than a half-decent raincoat. Teddy, being fairly new to the city, having arrived a couple of weeks ago, was still learning what it meant to settle for a shitty pop-up umbrella. Four officers in power armour stood watch over the market, tactical visors powered red, and kept a close eye on the line of people being processed through the checkpoint. They cradled heavy-looking rifles. More for show than out of necessity. If a fight ever broke out, they likely wouldn’t need more than a pair of fists to shut it down. Gotta get me one of those, Teddy thought, cutting his way closer to the front of the line. Mammoth strength, bulletproof plating, heated padding that kept you dry—what wasn’t to love? Especially that last part about heated padding that kept you dry. His pants were soaked, his shoes damp. The umbrella was practically only effective from the waist-up. Even then it didn’t count for much since the wind carried a constant mist with it. Neon light permeated the air like a veil, flickering to the tune of life-sized ads. Everywhere you looked, there was something to be sold, a product or service on the cheap. Food, booze, drugs. A cat café that doubled as a hostess club. What looked like a boutique for surgical implants. Martial Town didn’t shy away from any of it. The officer held up a hand. “Identification, please.” “Sure thing,” Teddy said, fishing out his license. “We’re also going to need you to drop your gun off in one of the bins.” He made a vague gesture to the side, then to the pistol on Teddy’s hip. “You can get it back on your way out. I assure you the area’s safe.” It was Teddy’s turn to hold up his hand, briefly. That got the officer’s attention right away. “Sir?” “Just a second. I swear, it’s somewhere in here...” Teddy dug around in his pocket some more, then produced another piece of identification. It was star-shaped and reflective, glinting silver in the downpour. The points were sharp enough to sting the flat of his palm. It also had MTPD written on it. “You’re with us?” the guard asked. There was something like skepticism in his voice. Even though Teddy couldn’t see beyond the man’s helmet, he could tell he was being sized up along with his little umbrella. “For now,” Teddy said. “One of your precincts thought they could use some help with an investigation.” “A bounty hunter, then.” The guard nodded. He visibly seemed to relax at the thought. Almost as if he was comforted—no, relieved—by the idea that the sad, soaked stranger in front of him couldn’t possibly be a police officer. “Can I go now?” “Yeah, you’re good.” The guard waved him past a body scanner that hummed aggressively as he walked through it. Teddy fancied he could feel the electromagnetic waves bouncing off of him. It was probably just the damp clinging to his skin. He made his way to a bar after that, leaving his umbrella at the entrance. It was just one level above the street floor and overlooked a vending machine full of pop and canned coffee. The counter was a wide, white ceramic slab that curved around a central shelf full of liquor. Billows of steam came from a nearby doorway, rich with the smells of fish and curry. The woman behind the counter nodded, greeted him with a local gesture he wasn’t yet familiar with. She didn’t comment on the state of his clothing. Teddy decided he liked her right away. “You look like shit.” Someone patted him on the shoulder, casually sliding onto the stool to his left. He didn’t have to look to know who it was, but some animal impulse overrode his better judgement. Dark, handsome eyes stared back at him, crimson from iris to sclera. Ashen skin, chin-length hair, a jawline so sharp he could’ve cut himself on it. “Nice to see you too, Officer Vale.” “Just dripping with sarcasm now, aren’t we?” The elf smiled at her own wordplay. Teddy tried not to let it show how much it got under his skin. She shrugged off her trench coat and wrapped it around her stool, then ordered herself a margarita. “You’re not drinking?” she asked. Teddy shook his head. “I’m thinking a hot meal is what I need.” He ordered stir fry with vat-grown rice, layered with thin slices of protein in black sauce. He chewed on a morsel, annoyed at the false, rubbery texture that was supposed to pass for beef, then glanced up at a monitor that spooled out the latest news on a bright yellow reel. Nineteen dead on Clarity Way. Eight in critical condition and five injured. Suspects still missing, likely armed. He stopped paying attention when the reel looped back to fifteen dead. “So, Syrah,” he said to the policewoman. “What are the odds you can get me one of those Ares suits?” Syrah snorted. And that was it. That was everything she had to say on the matter. “What about a pair of mag boots?” he insisted. “Nope.” “A dental plan.” “Negatory.” “Do I get any benefits working for you guys?” “I advise you take it up with HR.” Teddy tsked, like he was annoyed without actually being annoyed. Syrah smiled, sipping her own drink, before sobering into the clipped tone of a professional at work. “You get any leads?” she asked, motioning to the monitor with a subtle tilt of her head. Teddy made a face. Picked at his rice. A shameful gesture on a shameless man. Syrah hid her disappointment behind another sip, but he caught the way her grip tightened around the stem. The silenced stretched between them a moment longer until he felt the need to look away. His gaze fell back on the newsreel in the corner; the commentator was discussing other shootings from earlier that week. The camera panned to a wrecked storefront on a commercial street that had been closed off to the public, bullet-riddled and bloodstained but recently cleaned up of any casualties. Someone, somehow, had managed to smuggle weapons into the Core. And not just handguns for two-bit thugs. What played on the monitor could’ve passed for a warzone. It was the unprecedented type of horror that didn’t seem possible when the soldiers around you guaranteed your safety. The Core was meant to be a world apart from the Peripherals—Martial Town’s outer city limits—where gang violence was as common as college frat parties on a Friday and more than twice as loud. Yet here they were, two weeks since the first incident, caught in the middle of a full-blown turf war. “I might,” Teddy began. “Know someone who could get me a lead. Though I’d rather not talk to him if I don’t have to. Tends to be a shithead, even on his best days.” Syrah shot him a look over her shoulder. “Who?” she asked quietly. “A friend,” he said, pushing his bowl away. The leftover rice had gotten all soggy. “Runs a business. Tends to be in the know. Some of it’s illegal, some of it’s not.” Understanding lit the policewoman’s eyes. “An information broker?” Teddy nodded. “Unfortunately, he’s not in the habit of giving out discounts. Getting him to talk is going to cost me a fortune.” “Are you asking me for police funds?” “More like a solid shot in the dark at finding out who’s fucking up your city.” Syrah considered his response with a pointed look. “Aren’t you supposed to be one with a knack for finding people?” “I have a knack for killing people,” Teddy corrected. “Finding them is merely a prerequisite. Though right now, that might take more time than you and I have to spare.” His eyes drifted over to the liquor shelf. He let the weight of his words sink in for a moment. “You can take a cut of my paycheck if it turns out I’m wrong. But I’m telling you, this guy has never let me down.” Syrah chewed on the inside of her lip. “I’ll see what I can do.” @Csl @SweetCyanide
  5. Summary: Seeking to clear her property of hostile fauna, Halisera Dali requests the services of the Naho Raiders. A witch named Enid approaches Halisera and volunteers her aid in the process, believing the matriarch will help her find the object of her divinations. Together, with the help of Captain Elliot Kessler, they venture into the Dali caves to dispatch the Brumak nesting in its depths. A furious battle ensues, quick but not without peril, and the trio manage to drive away the Brumak after sufficiently wounding it. With the job completed, the group decides to return to the surface. Halisera grants Enid further access to the tunnels for future investigation. Opportunities and Consequences [C] - Driving away the brumak clears enough space for House Dali to begin mining operations [C] - Collecting brumak shells will make more armor available to the Raiders; Halisera takes enough for a shield [C] - Collecting spilled brumak blood Enid will work with Dali to create a monster repellent [O] - The caves are open to sanctioned exploration deeper in the network (aka Dali occupies it and randoms can't just stroll around) @Csl @supernal @Gil
  6. Yeah, sorry my man. I’ll have it up tomorrow morning 100%
  7. Looks good, I’ll make the canonization post after Gilaen posts 👍
  8. Sorry for the late reply. I believe it's in the spoiler of the first post! Also, I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to proceed with the thread, so I figured I'd ask you guys: what do you want to do? In my mind, I always pictured dealing with the Brumak would be the end goal or something close to it, but @supernal's post seems to hint that the journey might have something more in store(?). And in the interest of transparency, I don't think I have it in me to keep going for much longer, as you can probably already tell by all my sluggish activity lately. I definitely want to finish this thread, but I think I'm going to need an indefinite break soon to get my writing mojo back. If you guys are looking to push another few miles, it's likely I'll have to drop out before I can reach the finish line. Sorry if this puts a damper on everything! I just want to be honest with you guys instead of being a total flake. That said, I'd still like to hear your thoughts to see how I can contribute in the short-term.
  9. “Not terrible,” Eli said, measuring the truth of the statement by making a fist. His fingers closed maybe halfway before straining in protest. Something about the feel of his wrist didn’t sit right with him. “I think I’ll be fine until we get out. Though I will have some of… whatever it is you’ve got there.” He lifted his helmet and took a sniff, then let Enid administer the proper dosage. The tincture was pleasant to the nose, like a bouquet of fresh-plucked lilies, but he waited for the bitterness to sucker punch his throat. Everyone knew that medicine wasn’t medicine if it tasted good. “Battle in your blood, eh?” Eli nodded while he tossed over Halisera’s words in his head. That would do it, he supposed. The alternative seemed far-fetched now that he had time to think about it. For better or for worse, the Oathblades had been indiscriminately scattered across the land. Having witnessed firsthand what they were capable of, Eli wasn’t sure he wanted to believe that Halisera had such a frightening power at her disposal. With a silent wince, Eli got up and strapped his spear and shield to his back, then carefully grabbed as many shell fragments his wounded arm would allow. He didn’t bother reclaiming his torch. What was left of it was buried under a mound of rubble—a mound that might’ve utterly crushed him had it not been for Halisera’s rescue. He’d have to thank her later, once they were somewhere safe outside. “The blood should scare away other predators, yes, but I wouldn’t be too liberal with the repellant. Necrophages are attracted to the dead. The smell of blood is usually a good indicator that there’s a carcass to feed on nearby.” Eli waited for the two to bottle enough of the substance to make a potent concoction. Before he could suggest that they leave, however, he realized there was something they might’ve been forgetting. “Your divinations,” he said a little abruptly, addressing Enid now. “You said Halisera would help you find what it is you’re looking for. Do you think there’s anything here that could be related?” Without knowing what he was searching for, Eli swept an idle look around the cave. His eyes snagged on the other end of the tunnel, where the blood trail retreated in a slick, blueish line.
  10. Oh yeah, everything’s fine! Just a combination of being tired from work and juggling responsibilities / hobbies. I’m also a really slow writer, so RPing often ends up eating a lot of my free time when all I wanna do is relax. But I appreciate your concern!
  11. Hey guys, sorry for the delay. Just struggling a little bit with motivation and energy right now, and I've been taking something of a mental break. I'll 110% have something up by Sunday at the latest.
  12. All good, still enjoyed reading it 👍
  13. Post is up! If I forgot to address anything, let me know and I'll patch in a quick fix.
  14. Eli was surprised to feel a hand on his shoulder, suddenly yanking him aside, when a loosened hail of rock renewed its assault on his person with a vengeance. One particular stone, large and sturdy as a wine cask, came crashing down on his torch. Its light winked out in an instant. Eli looked at the figure who’d dragged him when they settled behind a crooked stalagmite. The darkness encroached on his vision, and in that moment of near blindness, he couldn’t tell who it was. He listened to them speak through the clamour, to the aged grit of her voice. His mind latched on to the image of Halisera while his eyes wandered the gloom in search of Enid. “Do they run in packs?” Halisera asked him, her tone a low, urgent whisper. “How big is their territory?” Eli shook his head at her first question. “Big,” he said simply. “It varies.” It was a frustrating answer. He knew that, but there wasn’t time to explain. Their safety was measured in the seconds, mere moments, before the Brumak would recover from its panicked thrashing. Eli glanced around the stalagmite, keenly aware of the bruises crawling along his arm. The pain had dulled to an irritating ache that made him deliberate on something as tenuous as tightening his grip. He palmed the second alchemical bomb, rolling it between the fingers of his uninjured hand. A soft light, like a firefly, tiny and dancing at the tip of a wand, drew his attention to Enid standing out in the open. She knelt down and started rummaging inside her bag. What is she doing? He thought, alarmed. His answer presented itself as a sheet of gleaming black marbles—which then sprouted legs and began crawling and hissing and… Eli shivered. Why did magic have to be so unsettling? He watched as the swarm converged on the Brumak, like beetles seeking retribution against an invader who’d kicked their nest. They scaled the crustacean’s mountainous girth—guided by a will Eli suspected wasn’t their own—and scurried inside the chink of its armour, burying themselves in a writhing mass of insectile limbs. The Brumak didn’t roar. Didn’t hiss. The sound wasn’t familiar like the ones that came before it. A shrill cry that wasn’t like a door creaking but rather a blade screaming itself hoarse against a grindstone. Eli winced. The Brumak flailed in agony, throwing itself against the walls of the cave, smashing against a pillar as if it could shake off whatever had infested its body. He abruptly remembered the bomb in his right hand. His spear in the other. They wouldn’t have another chance like this to take it down. He stepped out from- Halisera snatched the bomb from his hand, then dashed with a speed unbefitting of her age. Every step she took propelled her in a blur of motion that would’ve put a competitive athlete to shame. Eli thought he heard the ground crack beneath her feet when she pushed off to leap onto the Brumak. She twisted, landed, jumped again, flipped upside down and spun in the air, then threw the ceramic orb down its open wound. Eli could only gape at how effortlessly she moved. What in god’s name am I looking at? He remembered the way she batted aside the Brumak’s claw, the way she shifted its weight with a careful jab. He’d dismissed it as a figment of his imagination at the time, but now… Now, he wasn’t so sure. The detonation lit the cave with a resounding crack. Part of his mind was worried about the tunnel behind them collapsing. Fortunately, the only damage he saw—once the spots eventually faded from his vision—were chunks of golden shell scattered across the floor, and the Brumak teetering on its too many feet, bleeding profusely from the wreck of its abdomen. It wasn’t dead but it was close to it. In his eagerness to finish the job, the massive crustacean seemed to sense his ill intent; and judge that, after receiving such grievous injuries, the best course of action was to flee into the dark. “It’s gone,” Eli said to no one in particular, listening for any signs that he was wrong. Enid and Halisera shuffled nearby. Some of the beetles gave chase while the others idled, confused. He turned to face the Matriarch. “Brumak rarely flee. They only tend to do so when they’re fighting each other for territory. Considering the thrashing we gave it was just as violent—you gave it, I mean…” He rubbed his arm, feeling self-conscious. “Well, I don’t think it’ll be coming around anytime soon.” Eli found a rock to sit on. He felt drained in spite of the fight’s brevity. It was a curious thing, to be so vigorously energized in the heat of the moment, only to have the adrenaline leave you a leaden husk who’d seemingly forgotten how to hold a clear thought. “There shouldn’t be any more in the area,” he continued slowly, resting his spear against his shoulder. “At least, not anywhere near this cave. If the Brumak fled toward the coastline, the blood should deter any competitors from moving in.” His lips curled as a beetle came poking in vicinity. He sent it scurrying away with a casual shake of his boot. “Got to say," he said to Halisera. "Those are some pretty nice moves you’ve got there. Ever considered becoming a Raider?” Eli smiled to indicate it was a joke, then remembered he still had his helmet on. “Where’d you learn to fight? Or is that a Dali secret?” His eyes cautiously found her sword, though he decided to let her answer before he said anything else. He wasn’t about to let his suspicions run away with reason, nor was he going to say something he’d possibly regret. “Also, that’s some trick,” he said to Enid, shooing away another beetle with the butt of his spear. “Remind me to never piss you off. Or any mage, for that matter.”
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