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About Wade

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    E for Idiot
  • Birthday 08/27/1996

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    Spicy Boi
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    Government mook

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  1. Looks good, I’ll make the canonization post after Gilaen posts 👍
  2. 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.
  3. “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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. All good, still enjoyed reading it 👍
  7. Post is up! If I forgot to address anything, let me know and I'll patch in a quick fix.
  8. 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.”
  9. Run along now, monstrous creb I’ll try to have my post up by Monday!
  10. @Aleksei “Well, you see,” Crowley said as he drank the last of his champagne. “Sulking in dark corners is kind of my thing. No one does it better than me.” He set the glass down on another passing tray—there seemed to be a lot of those, lately—and regarded her hand with an expression caught somewhere between amusement and reluctance. “But I suppose,” he continued, shooting a glance at the rest of the ballroom. “That a dance couldn’t hurt. Unless we’re still talking about your reputation.” He took her hand into his, calloused fingers brushing against soft leather. “Just don’t step on the shoes. Took me a whole minute to get them this polished.” She led him deeper into the venue, and he graciously allowed himself to be led. Heads swiveled as they wove their way through the crowd. It was almost comical how the two of them left a trail. The dance floor, already brimming with people, swallowed them in a wave of music and swaying bodies. Crowley surveyed the sea of masks, the colourful ball gowns and jewelry, the way everything came together in a portrait of glaring extravagance. And there they were, dressed in black. It was odd, but he remained silent. There was something to be said about embracing your own strangeness. If people were going to talk, regardless of what he did, he might as well give them something to talk about. Crowley placed his free hand on the small of her back, while the Grand Seeker returned the gesture by cupping his shoulder. Together, they started to turn, first slowly and then steadily, always facing each other with eyes locked. He wondered why she hadn’t bothered to wear a mask. “So, Delaney,” he said quietly, foregoing the use of her title. “What’s it like being the king’s new bodyguard? Can’t be too stressful, I imagine.” A lazy smile creased his face, small enough that it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Or maybe it is. Keeping an eye on me, keeping me within arm’s reach…” He twirled her around and brought her back. “I can understand how that might fall under your job description.” Step, step, step. The sound of her own breathing. A rush of anticipation, building in her chest. Adrya followed the dark tunnel, listening to each of these things in turn. The sounds of the party were far away, smothered into nonexistence by layers of ancient stone. She found herself all alone—something that didn’t bother her as much as it had once before. The silence wasn’t comforting, but it was familiar in a way that made it feel inconsequential. No, what worried her the most was what lay up ahead: one last hurdle she’d have to leap. A moment worth years in the making. She couldn't screw it up. Reaching a bend, she heard voices drifting from the other end of the tunnel. Tinny and warbled, suggesting guards armoured in full sets of plate. A steady, continuous light emanated from a room just up ahead. Adrya slowed, hugged the wall, and fetched a metal cylinder from inside her jacket. Step, step, step. The sound of her own breathing. A rush of anticipation, but now it was all afire in her veins. One of the guards, which she could see clearly now, was leaning against a pillar. True to her suspicions, he was dressed in plate, balancing his halberd in one hand like an unruly burden. “…and I’m telling you, it doesn’t make a lick of sense,” he said. “Why does Sylvain get the night off? Man’s the biggest loon of us all, couldn’t even polish his own armour if his life depended on it.” Another voice chimed in. “So you should be the one getting knackered, is that right?” Adrya continued to inch forward. She didn’t have an angle on the source of the second voice. He was around the corner by the sound of it; there were probably more inside than just the talkative pair. “Naturally,” the first guard said. “Thanks to a little something I like to call seniority.” “Rubbish. I’ve got two years on you, you janky little swine.“ “Shut it, you daft tits.” This voice belonged to someone else. It had slightly more paunch than the other two, sounding older and gruffer. “Sylvain’s not on duty because his wife went in labour this afternoon. Now quit slouching and-“ The voice stopped. Adrya saw the first guard look over to his right. “And what? Gonna tell me to readjust my knickers? Should I maybe put on some makeup for you, dear?” “Quiet, you idiot!” Surprisingly, the man listened. “Do you hear that?” Everyone paused. “Yeah. Sounds like…hissing?” As if on cue, Adrya tossed the bomb she’d lit into the room. She didn’t see it bounce and roll to a stop because she was crouching and holding her hands to her- THWOMP! Thunder shook air, cracking stone and raining dust. Gouts of bulimic fire—igniting packets of wyvern oil tucked within the bomb—swallowed the guards, consuming the entire room in a blinding flash powered by arcane glyphs. Adrya felt the heat reach into the corridor, clammy and oppressive against her skin. Several seconds passed before the eruption relented—a few more before the screams of the dying ceased. Unclenching her teeth, Adrya stood up and entered the room. The blast had scorched nearly everything in sight. Adrya felt her chest tighten at the destruction as she walked through it all. Banners and tapestries, gone and reduced to silent piles of ash; stone pillars blackened to a char, glassed in a few areas around the point of detonation; soldiers bent at all the wrong angles, encased in suits of still-bubbling metal. Adrya didn’t check to see if they were dead. There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt in her mind. She counted five bodies in total, three of which likely belonged to the men she’d overheard earlier- “Bitch!” The blow caught her along the arm as the halberd swung out from around a pillar. She barely managed to dance away, staggering back into a semblance of a guard. The remaining soldier—a towering bear of a man, quickly joined by a hidden second—pushed forward, warding her away with another jab of his weapon. Shit. Adrya was pressed back against the wall, blood leaking from her shoulder. The pain made it hard to think; he’d nearly sliced her all the way to the bone. She drew the stiletto from her sleeve, flipped the blade open with a snap of her wrist. It almost felt like a toy in comparison, pitted against something as far-reaching as a poleaxe. The Bear stepped up, glaring at Adrya through the blackened wreck of his helmet. Must’ve survived by hiding behind the pillars. Him and his equally burnt companion. He swung at her face, scything the blow down from a steep diagonal drop, then at her chest as she spun away, moments before she threw herself into his space. The sudden momentum saw him attempt to rear back, to put as much space as between the two of them as he could. But then Adrya latched onto his collar and rammed her blade into the narrow slit of his helmet. Chunk. A familiar sound. The sound of metal snapping like a pencil. The sound of the guard whipping his head back, reacting to a knife lodged firmly between the eyes. Adrya’s stiletto broke at the hilt, something she didn’t realize until she’d leapt away from the second guardsman. Looking around, she replaced it with a nearby halberd, severed in half so as to make a crude sort of axe. The guard thrusted forward, aiming to spear her clean through the stomach. Adrya sidestepped, then again, while he cautiously pressed the offensive. He never strayed too close where she could surprise him in the split-second it took to make a mistake. Irritation swelled within her breast. She had to end this quickly, before anyone else came to investigate. There. That was her opening. Fatigue and overextension. The guard had gotten tired, then impatient, and he threw too much of himself into his swing. Ducking low, Adrya pounced. Her legs propelled her in a breathless surge of adrenaline. She swung wide, cleaving his midsection. He toppled over in a dying heap. Adrya bent over, suddenly exhausted. Her lungs burned. Her hands shook. She took a moment to look around, glad for the opportunity to catch her breath, and when she didn’t hear reinforcements coming from the hallway, she made her way to the far end of the room. A large, singular door drew her to a stop. Unlike the other doors she’d opened so far, this one had a clear sense of finality to it. A dial at the centre, split into five rings inlaid with varying symbols, barred her from entry. The code was supposed to change at least once every month. She pulled out another canister from her jacket. This one was different from the last one. No fire, no wyvern oil; just raw, concussive force. She removed a band wrapped around its width, exposing an adhesive that held it firmly against the door. She lit the cannister’s fuse before hiding behind a pillar, covering both ears with her hands. CRACK! Like a thunderclap, the explosion shook the very earth. Adrya felt the shockwave run through her chest, deep and resonant as a punch. She glanced around the pillar, squinting, first spotting the dust floating in the air. Behind it, the door hung open. She rushed into the vault.
  11. Firearms in the 15th century were incredibly primitive. The Ottomans used matchlock rifles, whereas The Welrod (invented in 1942) is beyond that by several hundreds of years. Flintlock succeeded matchlock in the 17th century. An 1861 rifled musket is still leagues behind a pistol of that caliber. The Welrod doesn't have to worry about gunpowder, cleaning its bore, or the many other difficulties inherent to prior technology - instead, you've got a (somewhat) suppressed, semi-automatic pistol that is quick to reload and generally more reliable, regardless of the one-shot feature you've mentioned. That said, the Welrod remains a no-go. I've had a look at its design and it falls outside of UM's tech and historical parameters. I could see a flintlock at the most, without any deliberate modifications.
  12. Zero until I say otherwise. It's worth noting that Ursa Madeum is a medieval fantasy setting with a loci that renders modern technology useless. Realistically, your characters shouldn't have been able to drop in through a plane, but we'll give you a pass on this one so you don't have to go and rewrite your post. The guns and radio, however, are going to have to go.
  13. @Aleksei Crowley slipped into the crowd, making his way towards the feast as people stumbled past, sloshing drinks and swaying to a rhythm he didn’t feel. The air was filled with music, warmth, wine, and laughter, and all the other necessities of a crowning celebration. He’d forced himself to come, with the argument that he needed to make an appearance, to show that, yes, he was alive and had officially returned to the court. Now, that same court eyed him with thinly veiled suspicion. Every now and then he caught a glimpse of disgust or outright hostility. Whispers followed at his back like the faint buzzing of flies—some people even pointed. Rude, but more than well-deserved. Swornbreaker. It wasn’t a title he’d come to terms with yet. His life wasn’t something he’d come to terms with yet. To the callow gladiator he’d been all those years ago—when all that mattered was coin, glory, and the fight right in front of him—it would’ve seemed like a wicked, cosmic joke with no punchline in sight. He’d drawn the magic sword. He’d gone on a quest to gather the chosen few. He’d been named a hero by the people. He’d become a mass murderer and a traitor to his friends. And now I’m here, he thought. One wrong turn down the road too deep. Trying to get back on the right path, or at least one that wasn’t paved on good intentions alone. Maybe he’d still find hell waiting for him at the end, retribution for what he’d done. Until then, he’d have no choice but to find a way to live with himself. “You look like you need a drink,” Orenmir said, a cold presence whispering in his mind. It preferred to hide when there were other people around, and not always in his shadow alone. “An excellent suggestion,” Crowley said. He brushed past a few partygoers at a table, then picked out a champagne flute and went to go sip it in a quiet little corner. A handful of people glanced as he leaned against the wall, recognizing him by the way lights seemed to dim around his person. Some decided to leave, but surprisingly one person stayed. “Well,” she said idly. “One of us is going to have to go home and change.” Crowley glanced at the woman, raising an eyebrow. She had white hair and pale skin. Full lips painted in black and deep eyes ringed in kohl. She wasn’t wearing a mask, nor even a dress to match the hundreds of others in the room. Just a crisp black uniform that reminded him all too much of his own. “Well,” he said, matching her lilt. “I’m obviously the prettier one, so it’ll have to be you.” He snatched a wine glass from a passing servant, then held it over to the woman. “That was a joke, by the way. I’m only mildly cuter. Why don’t you keep me company here instead? We can talk about boys and how much they suck.” Adrya managed to bluff and walk her way through the majority of the castle’s defenses. The uniform did wonders to avoid suspicion. Barely anyone had the wit to question her as she passed. Prior knowledge of the guard’s inner workings also had a hand in getting her this far, but she was growing rather fond of the jacket—not only did it look good, but it did most of the work for her. Once she made it past the servants’ quarters, down a set of stairs, and into the basement cellar, it was easier to sneak around. Much easier, she found. Fewer eyes, dimmer lights. Patrols who didn’t take their jobs as seriously as the ones upstairs; people who needed watching were in the ballroom, indulging in the pleasures of wine, song and dance. Moving swiftly, Adrya ducked around a corner at the sound of slow-approaching footsteps. She’d been listening more intently since bumping into Crowley. She couldn’t afford another surprise like that again. A servant holding a bottle of gemwine passed, accompanied by an officer dressed in navy blue. They were chatting about getting together for a picnic, apparently having known each other well. Adrya waited until they were out of sight, breathing in the scent of crumbling brick and dried oak. She checked her surroundings before stepping out again. Better to avoid confrontation if possible. She reached the crypt not much later, its vaulted ceiling held aloft by squat stone pillars. Coffins decorated the occasional platform, illuminated by the amber glow of lightstone sconces. Adrya remembered coming down here with her father—a single visit had been enough to satisfy her curiosity—less for the sake of historical ambiance and more for the purpose of pleasing a King who liked to flaunt his own possessions. Damien always had a morbid sense of humour. At least some good had come out of exploring the tomb. Had Adrya never accompanied the King, she would have never discovered the location of the royal vault. There. A wrought-iron door nestled away in an innocuous little passage, no different than the many others she’d passed on her way throughout the basement. Adrya shot a look over her shoulder. No one had followed her so far. Hopefully this would only take a minute but knowing her- “Fuck,” she hissed. The lockpick snapped like a pencil. Twist, click, chunk, of course it would. It was in situations like these that she wished she’d invested more time in the art. Breathe. Try again. Adrya looked around a second time, checking to make sure she was still, in fact, alone. With a deep breath, she tried another pick. Twist, click, unlock. The door swung open on well-oiled hinges, revealing yet another set of descending stairs. Adrya silently cheered at her own success. Down she went deeper into the castle.
  14. On the night of the masquerade, Crowley wore black. Not because it was a special occasion, but because it was all he ever wore. Colours, people insisted, didn’t look good on him. There was always a comment about his complexion being too pale. Something about it that just seemed off. Crowley didn’t know if he agreed with all that—nothing jumped out at him when he’d tried looking in the mirror—but fashion had never been his game. He was more comfortable in plate than he ever would be in silk. He’d grown up wearing boiled leather, patchwork cloth, breastplates of gladiatorial steel. Dressing up like some fop made him feel about as confident as a jester at a funeral. Yawning, he tugged at his collar, begrudging his choice of attire: a tailored suit, silver buttons, shoes so polished he could glimpse his own reflection. It made him look slimmer than he really was, trimming his six-foot-six frame down to the bare essential. All that was missing was a handkerchief for his breast pocket. He’d thrown it out earlier after using it to blow his nose. He slipped through the castle’s hallways, each corridor darker with him in it. The shadow at his feet trailed dutifully behind him, mirroring him step for step—though not quite, but no one would notice. He moved quietly, silently. Subtle as a whisper in a breeze. His thoughts were the exception. They’d grown louder since the summit. “No one’s going to want to dance with you if you keep frowning like that,” a voice said somewhere below him. Crowley glanced at the shadow stretching before him. It wasn’t supposed to bend that way. “I’m not really in a dancing mood, if you haven’t noticed.” “Not even if that witch shows her face?” “She’s not a witch.” “I know. I was just trying to be polite.” His eyes roamed the lightstone sconces decorating the stone walls. The rising moon peering through the castle’s gold-trimmed windows. He looked to the Greywood in the distance, Ravenell Manor hiding beyond the carrot-topped trees. He still thought it strange, that the Hildebrands should set themselves apart from the rest of the Kingdom, going against the tide of unification the islands so desperately needed. He thought about Himei and Sunscar, Oathblades that now fell under their house’s dominion. Marrow, locked in the royal vault. The dreaded Willbreaker, still missing. Windsong. Abettor. Stormreaver and its unnamed wielder. Cometfall. An elven king who had pardoned his sins. “You’re doing it again.” Crowley sighed, softening his brow. “There’s just a lot to think about-“ Turning the corner, a tall brunette in an officer’s uniform abruptly slammed into him. She bowed, releasing a flutter of apology, voice dignified despite her embarrassment. Their eyes met, just for a moment. Something peculiar flitted across her face. She was gone before Crowley could figure out what it was; he forgot about it entirely when he noticed the darkness creeping along the walls. “Relax.” Orenmir hesitated, hackles raised and ready to defend. A moment passed before it retreated, no longer preying on the light of the nearest sconce. “Thank you.” “She recognized you.” “Is that really so odd?” Crowley asked. “Considering recent history, I’m not exactly the most forgettable face in the country.” “I suppose not,” the shadow mused. “But there was something about her…” Crowley wondered. “You think she’s cute?” “Impossible. I haven’t eyes to look upon her with.” Crowley chuckled, continuing down the hall until he eventually reached the ballroom. Or rather the ballroom reached him, with delicate strings notes wafting on a breeze of drunken merriment. He brought a hand up to his face, coiling wisps of shadow loosely around his fingers. They wove themselves into a simple black mask, darker than the night itself, merely stretching across the eyes while leaving the rest of his face exposed. “Shall we?” “Let’s.” Together, they stepped into the room. Getting into the castle had been a relatively simple affair. A knife, paired with light feet, could accomplish wonderful things. Adrya adjusted her ponytail and slipped through the window of a private study in the west wing. There was no one inside waiting for her, so she hid her stiletto in the sleeve of her navy-blue jacket. The officer she’d borrowed it from, before coming in, had been just the right size: tall, lean, charmingly straight-backed; oblivious when Adrya snapped his neck with a savage sweep of her hands. Sorry, love, she thought idly, listening at the door for a passing patrol. When she heard nothing, she creaked the door open. A peak at both sides indicated the coast was clear. Down. That was where she needed to go. Past the cellars and into the crypt. It had been a long time since she’d been inside the royal castle; since the fall of Tyrant King, to be exact. But if memory served her well—and she was confident it would, for hers was long and sharp as a blade—then navigating its halls would be the least of her concerns. There were- “Oof.” Peering around a corner, she bumped into a man walking by himself: tall, pale, dark-haired, dressed in all black. A part of her mind reeled at the sudden contact. She hadn’t even heard an echo of a footstep. Regardless, she tilted her head to apologize, resisting the adrenaline swelling in her chest. “That’s alright,” the man said, flashing her a preoccupied smile. And then she saw it. The shadow at his feet. Moving. Reaching. Adrya stepped away, returning a stiff smile. Everywhere she looked, the shadows were watching. She could tell they wanted to tear into her, like a wolf teared into a newborn rabbit, and as soon as she escaped through an adjacent corridor, she nearly sagged against the wall. Crowley. He’d been right in front of her. What were the odds? The man who killed her father and the rest of the Oathsworn. A heartbeat away from a knife between ribs. If only she’d been quicker- … No. His shadow was with him. It was always with him. No matter what she tried, no matter what she did, it would stop her the moment she dared lift a finger. Powerless. Adrya gritted her teeth. Turned her head towards the nearest staircase. Down. That was where she needed to go. But not for much longer.
  15. Eli knew what to watch out for. He’d been looking for the signs since entering the cave. Hewn stone, trails in the sand, a steady stream of bubbles in a pond. Ground shifting underfoot. A flash of gold before- “Move!” Eli broke formation as the claw erupted from the earth like a geyser, circling around to the right while Halisera lunged forward to attack. He dropped his torch on a flat rock, quickly swapping it out for the spear on his back. The arcane glyph continued to power the torch, providing enough light to illuminate the barest features of the cave. Spacious, he thought. Wide enough to accommodate the creature’s massive bulk. The ceiling was so high that he could only make out the end points of a few gleaming stalactites. There was little on the ground save for a few oddly placed rocks—shelves that he could climb, a lone pillar he could potentially use to hide. The Brumak shook itself free, sending rocks tumbling to his feet. It hissed at the lot of them, a bubbling, clicking sound that reminded Eli of a wood floor creaking. He charged for its hind legs, each one almost as thick as a man’s torso. If he could pop one of its joints, retreat, then hit its flank again, he could whittle away at its mobility until it could barely stand to support its own weight. Whipping around, much too quickly for a creature of its size, the greatshell turned to face him. It raised a claw and Eli brought up his shield. Crack. The blow sent him staggering, as if he’d been brushed by the weight a charging horse. Pain lanced up his arm, his shoulder, working its way into to his chest. “Shit,” he growled, reorienting himself a few steps away. His shield hadn’t splintered—Brumak shell was nothing if not tough—but he could feel the long of swath of bruises, swiftly purpling against his arm, pounding his nerves like hammer blows and making it difficult to focus. The Brumak hissed again. The strange, clicking sound echoed in the dark. When it set its beady eyes on Eli, he bent his knees, ready to dodge to the side. I’m going to have to drop the shield. As expected, the Brumak charged and Eli rolled to where his torch sat. It was enough time for him to undo the straps of his shield and toss it someplace where it wouldn’t get in the way. With his right hand free, he dug around in the pouch cinched to his waist. It came back out holding a ceramic ball, cracked but still mostly intact. “Stand back!” he shouted, lighting the ball’s fuse against the torch. It caught, sparking wildly, and he lobbed the alchemical device at the creature’s chest. Come on… The bomb exploded, a violent flash of light that left spots in his vision. Bits of rock rained down from the ceiling, showering him in dust and pebbles. The Brumak roared, suddenly frightened. A tiny section of its shell had shattered to expose flesh—raw and milky white, tensing at the center of a hole crusted over with char. “That could be our opening,” he announced, hefting up his spear with both hands. He only had one more bomb, so he’d have to spend it wisely.
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