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About Wade

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    E for Idiot
  • Birthday 08/27/1996

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    The Wild Wild West
  • Interests
    Lassos, herding cows, chewing tobacco, drunk harmonica
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    Yeeing my last haw

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  1. T’as la bonne idée, mon gars 👍
  2. Wade


    Adrya watched in silence as Olihen fell. Black smoke billowed into the sky, thick enough to choke a man to death. The wreck of the burning trireme shone like the embers of a dying sun, mirrored against the ocean’s glassy surface. Her men began to cheer. The kraken’s tentacles sagged ever lower until they disappeared beneath the waves. The creature’s blood was a muddled cloud stained grey by ash and soot. Adrya breathed the air, turned acrid, a ghost of a smile passing over her face. She reached out. Closed her eyes. Pierced the dark with sharpened focus, plunging it forward like a needle—deeper, then deeper still, searching for that thin, impossible thread. Life and death. The in-between. She just had to grasp it. Where is it? She dove deeper. I can’t see it, where is- The ground shook. For a moment, Adrya thought she’d succeeded. But then someone cried out, and she had to grab the balustrade to keep from falling. Out ahead of them, within the gap that separated her ship from the ones in front, the water erupted. An explosion of rain, and then a flurry of limbs towered high—bloodied, injured, charred, but still very much alive. They came down. Around her, the legionnaires stumbled back in awe, so surprised that some merely watched with fear-stricken expressions. Olihen battered the vessels out front, titanic whips that crushed and killed. Chunks of wood shot in every direction, scattering to the wind like barbed confetti. Panic flared in Adrya’s chest as bodies sprang into action all around her. She suddenly moved as if by another’s will, guided by instincts that screamed at her to run. She made her way over to a large crate that held a dozen or so extra spears, grabbed one, called on Marrow’s power, and felt an overwhelming strength take hold of her muscles. “Fire!” someone yelled, just as several scorpio bolts flew towards the monster. Adrya threw her spear with inhuman strength, nearly matching their velocities. Those that struck were too few; she counted two amid the thrashing tangle of screams. She launched another spear and was immediately rewarded as the closest tentacle spasmed in pain. It’s not enough, she thought urgently. The frontmost ships began to sink. She watched as sailors fought to stay aboard only to get plucked by swift, grasping tentacles. To the side, one of her ships unleashed a torrent of Novirian fire—great jets of liquid flame, warding off the kraken’s attacks while simultaneously drawing its ire. “ADRYA!” Marrow grabbed her, knocking her to the ground and the wind out of her lungs. A spray of debris shot overhead, thrown with such vicious force that those who were struck died on the spot. Adrya craned her head. Several corpses lay about her, wide-eyed and torn to pieces. Lanius wasn’t among them, thank the heavens. He wouldn’t die so easily. “Thanks,” she said, standing up. Marrow simply nodded in response. He cast his gaze to the waters below, and she followed it all the way to a pair of- Eyes. Two massive orbs, pale and milky white, stared at them from a long, pointed face host to a set of wicked-looking mandibles. The back of its torso was covered in a jagged shell the colour of an old, dying seabed. Countless tentacles writhed at its sides, lined with suckers and bleached hooks, in addition to a set of arms that were distinctly scythe-like in appearance. “My god…” Adrya whispered. She’d never seen anything like it. Olihen roared, a trumpeting sound loud enough to shake the very air. Marrow picked up a spear. “I’M GOING AFTER IT.” Adrya looked at him. “What?” “I DO NOT REQUIRE AIR TO BREATHE,” he replied, jabbing a thumb to his chest. “I’M ALSO NOT AFRAID OF LOSING THIS BODY.” As if to emphasize his point, some of the corpses littering the ground began to move, pushing themselves to a standing position. A familiar chill flooded her veins. “SO LONG AS YOU LIVE, I MAY NEVER DIE.” And with that, he slipped over the railing. The dead at her back stood motionless and silent. She saw Marrow behind each and every one of their stares. “Get to work then, you bastard,” she grinned. “UNDERSTOOD,” they said in unison.
  3. Wade


    It started raining just after they left Drasir. It wasn’t a hard rain, but it didn’t look like the clouds were going to let up anytime soon. Adrya shivered, folding her arms, standing on the aft deck of the ship. Legionnaires manned their stations nearby, suffering through the weather with grim determination. They seemed to draw strength from her presence—she could’ve been downstairs in her cabin. Warm. Dry. Yet she’d chosen to stand with her men. Fortuna Gallo lay before them. The vast trench was a dark scar along the water’s surface. Rippling waves made it difficult to tell where it ended and began. From Adrya’s point of view, the sea was little more than a stretch of near-infinite blackness. Even the air, damp against her skin, was obscured by a slight touch of mist. Two other ships flanked her own as they sailed into the abyss, armed with scorpios, bore leeches, and enough Novirian fire to burn down a church. Two more ships sailed ahead—a front guard dredged up from sailors in Drasir. Those eager to slay a legend or prove their worth to the Red Legion. It was a smaller gathering than she would’ve liked. The rest of her forces had remained back at camp. Rumours told of Olihen sinking entire fleets, but that was exactly why she’d elected not to bring her entire army with her. Too many lost ships and maybe she wouldn’t have a large enough force to retake Noviria. It wasn’t a risk she could willingly afford, even if the danger to her own life grew as a result. Never fear, a part of her whispered. Adrya’s hand went to the ring in her pocket. Plain gold, smooth and polished. A gift from Ophelia. Given to her for no apparent reason other than it was a kind thing to do. She’d never worn it once—jewellery was something she had no love for in the slightest—and even now, she refused to put it on. But it had always remained within reach. It was a reminder that there was someone out there, in a world that sought to take everything from her, who cared for her. Who needed her. Someone she couldn’t let down. Not now, not ever. This isn’t the end for you. “IT’S QUIET,” Marrow said beside her. Adrya hadn’t heard his approach. “HOW ARE YOU FARING?” “As well as I need to,” she said, withdrawing her hand from her pocket. “A FINE ANSWER. YOUR MEN FOLLOW BY EXAMPLE.” “Mine and my brother’s.” “OF COURSE.” A silence fell between them. “HE HASN’T MOVED.” “I know.” Adrya stepped forward, looking down at the prow. Lanius was leaning against the railing, eyes closed, focused. Since the trench had first come within view, he’d stood there channeling Willbreaker’s power, plunging his conscience into the ocean’s depths while he felt for any unnatural currents. “He’s the key to our victory,” Adrya said. “Without him, this plan fails. I’m afraid I’ll be useless by comparison.” “WARS ARE NOT WON WITHOUT GENERALS.” Adrya shrugged, brushing away a lock of damp, auburn hair. He was right. She just didn’t like the thought of fighting an enemy she couldn’t cut down with her own two hands. “Do you think it will work?” Marrow cocked his head. Adrya pointed with her chin, where a sixth and final ship sailed ahead of them in the distance. Its crew had emptied out about an hour ago, leaving it to the mercy of the wind. They’d made sure to lather its hull in gallons of shark blood before hastily departing. “AH YES. YOUR TRAP.” There was a smile underneath his cowl. “IT’S RATHER CLEVER, I’LL ADMIT.” “I’ll take that as a-“ “Your grace.” Adrya turned to face a legionnaire standing on the stairs leading to the main deck. “The Primus requests your presence,” the woman said. “He thinks it might be time.” Adrya’s pulse fluttered. She looked at Marrow, then back to the legionnaire. “Thank you. You’re dismissed.” The legionnaire saluted and stepped away. “Well then,” she breathed, steeling herself as she moved towards the staircase. “Coming?” Marrow nodded. “ALWAYS.”
  4. Wade


    Adrya didn’t bother to respond; it would only aggravate her further. Even after all these years spent apart, Lanius knew exactly what it took to get under her skin. Be it a smile or a glance, a clever word or a shrug, it was something only he of all people could manage. The fact that he knew it annoyed her more than it should have. She stopped by the edge of a wagon. A few legionnaires bowed their heads as they walked by. Marrow wasn’t far behind, keeping watch and giving the Creightonhounds a wide berth—Adrya had seen how they growled and pawed at the earth when he strayed too near. She’d often wondered if it had anything to do with his scent. He was a corpse, after all. Something about his power kept him from rotting, and so she didn’t think he smelled like one, but she also knew that a human’s senses were remarkably poor compared to those of an animal. “He’s a coward,” she finally spat, purging some of the vitriol in her system. Just enough to clear her head and loosen the tightness in her jaw. “I should have expected as much from a deserter. He doesn’t think we’ll have the numbers to succeed.” Her eyes glossed over the camp, briefly. A few thousand men and women, give or take. The remnants of those who’d lost the battle at Noviria when the Veluriyam Empire laid siege. Lanius had done well to lead them to Drasir, where they could recover their strength in secret. Adrya had no doubts they could reclaim their home with what they had now. But will it win the war? One of the hounds behind her began to growl. Adrya turned around to see Marrow stepping closer. “You mentioned something about a solution,” she said to him, remembering. He nodded, turning to the whitecapped waters of the fjord at the edge of camp. The ships they’d assembled were a curious mix of Drasirian and Novirian design, long hulls and wooden oars, tall sails and mounted scorpios, bannered by the red and white of House Arcos. Men called to each other across the clamour, loading supplies onto each and every vessel. The Red Legion had always been a superior force on the ground, but it also knew its way around naval combat well enough. “THERE ARE LEGENDS YOU SHOULD KNOW OF.” Adrya folded her arms, trying for patience. “Are any of these legends relevant to our current predicament?” “THERE IS ONE THAT COMES TO MIND.” She shared a glance with her brother. Unspoken curiosity hung between them like a thread. A lonely gull swung through the sky overhead, searching for scraps. “OLIHEN.” Adrya blinked at the unfamiliar word. “What is it?” “AN OLD SAILOR’S TALE. RATHER POPULAR DURING DRIDAK’S TIME.” Adrya’s fingers tightened around her arms at the sudden mention of her father. She’d never heard someone throw his name around so casually. It was easy to forget Marrow had once been his Oathblade, sometimes. “Give me the short of it,” she said stiffly. “VERY WELL,” the wraith replied. “THERE IS A BEAST TO THE FAR WEST THAT LAIRS DEEP BENEATH THE WAVES. IT IS KNOWN AS OLIHEN BY MANY, SEEN BY FEW AND SURVIVED BY FEWER STILL. “IT SERVES ONLY ITSELF. IT IS THE ENEMY OF EVERY OTHER LIVING CREATURE IN URSA MADEUM. ENTIRE FLEETS HAVE DISAPPEARED WHENEVER IT WAKES, DRAGGED TO THE DEPTHS OF THE FORTUNA GALLO—OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE ABYSS. A PLACE WHERE SOULS LOST AT SEA GO TO FIND ETERNAL REST.” Adrya regarded Marrow with narrowed eyes. “And you’re proposing that we go… tame this mythical creature?” “IN A WAY,” he said quietly, looking down at his own hands. “ALWAYS REMEMBER, LITTLE DOMINUS. POWER IN DEATH.”
  5. Wade


    “I’m sorry,” Dorian Finch said. “But I can’t help you.” Adrya Arcos looked at the pirate lord, seated in a plush chair at the other end of the table. He met her scowl with an unwavering stare of his own, albeit hidden from the cover of his mask. “And why not?” she asked, voice taut. “Because I don’t see any point in it,” he replied smoothly. “You’re a centurion.” “I used to be a centurion.” He almost seemed to say it with disdain. “Now I’m richest man in all of Thraece. Not that I try to advertise it, of course.” Bastard. Adrya cursed the man four ways to the nine hells while he leaned forward onto his elbows. There was something like laughter in the way he spoke. Cool and mocking, but also pitying. “Loyalty to a dead house isn’t what I’d call a healthy investment, my dear,” he said. “You threw us to the wolves, if I recall correctly.” “I did what I had to,” Adrya bit back. “I’m sure you did. But if we’re both being honest, I can’t exactly say it inspires much confidence.” A large figure stepped up from behind Adrya, bones creaking with every lumbering step. Marrow was dressed in a heavy cloak that obscured most of his features, save for a gloved hand perched on the pommel of his sword. “MIND YOUR TONGUE.” “I don’t have one.” Dorian didn’t so much as flinch as he regarded the wraith. “That’s a story for another time, however. Unless you’re done pitching to me this nonsense about a crusade against the entire bloody kingdom.” Adrya narrowed her eyes, clenching her teeth. “Name your price.” Dorian laughed. “I already told you. You don’t have anything I want.” “And what do you want?” Adrya said coldly. A small pause. “In exchange for an army? Well, for starters, a reason to believe in your cause.” Dorian adjusted his mask, tilting it to the side. Adrya briefly wondered if the rumours about his face were true—that the fey had stolen it, that he’d bartered it away. Part of her simply believed it was a gimmick to take advantage of superstitious sailors. “You’re afraid we can’t win,” she said after a moment. “You don’t think we stand a chance.” “Losing’s bad for business,” Dorian agreed. “What you’re proposing is far too great a risk. You, me, your brother, a handful of pirate lords, and a few dozen ships at our backs? It’s a tidy force, I’ll admit— but it won’t win a war, not by a long shot. Even with two Oathblades to tip the scales, it would only be a matter of time before we’d eventually lose.” Adrya sat back in her chair, silently fuming. He had a point but- “IF I MAY.” Marrow turned to face her, slow and pondering. Adrya glanced up at him, cocking an eyebrow. “What is it?” “PERHAPS WE SHOULD RETURN LATER,” he said. “THIS CRETIN WON’T AID US WITH THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE NOW.” Adrya considered the thought. “Do you have an alternative?” “OF A SORT,” he admitted. “Very well, then.” Adrya shifted her attention to Dorian, who was already making a shooing motion with his hand. “Yes, yes, you can leave,” he said. “Mind the rug on the way out.” @samo @ReachForStars
  6. Wade

    Power in Death

    Summary: Adrya Arcos stole the Oathblade Marrow from the royal castle in Andelusia. She then fled to Drasir with the intention of meeting Dorian Finch, one of the city's pirate lords. Once she arrives, she makes a violent commotion as a means of getting his attention, but instead attracts Lanius of Thraece, her long lost brother. @Csl
  7. My vote goes to whichever of the two candidates who can successfully perform a bottle flip first.
  8. ohmahlawrd thanks for all the likes 🤠

    1. ReachForStars


      you're welcome! love your writing and i'm looking forward to roleplaying with you! 😊

    2. Wade


      aw thanks, i'm definitely looking forward to playing with you too!

  9. It was subtle, a low rumble, barely noticeable were it not for the flickering chandeliers. Heads swivelled as the music came to a halt, though, as with any professional entertainers, the show was quick to resume. “. . . curious . . .” Crowley looked down, his shadow curled protectively around his feet. Its head seemed to move of its own volition, slowly tilting toward the ballroom’s entrance. “Didn’t think your dancing was bad enough to cause an earthquake,” Roz quipped, stepping back from him to survey the room, half-annoyed, half-concerned. Crowley wanted to reach out and grab her hands, to drag them back into his. A nagging instinct warned him against it. “Neither did I,” he said, sighing. The ballroom’s tide began anew. A sea of masques swaying about them, clusters of surefooted men and well-heeled women chatting and laughing and flirting. The song of crystal glasses ringing in the air. The perfume of wine and candied confections. Worries forgotten in an instant. It’s probably nothing. The thought dangled on the very tip of his tongue. He watched a pair of guards leave the room to investigate, and he felt his hands closing in on themselves anxiously. “I’ll be right back,” he declared, stepping away. Rozharon frowned. “I’ll go with you. I can’t help much in this form but… I know the castle well.” Together, they made their way for the exit, weaving through the party with hurried grace. The hallways outside were pleasantly quiet, save for a few passing guests holding conversations in private. Crowley looked out a window at the royal gardens, spying a handful of couples who’d snuck away for a moment of intimacy. Asked a handful of guards if they’d seen anything on their patrols, and was fed the same phrase: nothing to report. After a while, there was only one place left to check in the whole castle. They stopped by one of the hidden stairwells leading to the dungeons. Orenmir coalesced on the walls, sudden and swift. “. . . shall i scout ahead . . . ?” the shadow wolf asked. Crowley nodded and the daemon departed. He felt a twinge of discomfort, a pang of emptiness, as he watched it slip away, quiet as dead mice. Beside him, Rozharon fidgeted, rubbing her wrist like the skin was a shackle. “Just so you know, I’m not involving myself in the islands. Not anymore.” She glanced at him, then added, kindly, “Present company excluded.” Crowley smiled. “I didn’t realize I was such a big deal.” “Oh, no,” Rozharon said. “I meant I wasn’t meddling in the important affairs of Ursa Madeum anymore. Conquering, crowns, castles. You are…” She pressed two fingers to her lips as if in deep thought, half-hiding a smirk. “...quite a ways below that level of significance.” “I’m getting awfully mixed signals here.” “Just because you’re insignificant doesn’t mean I don’t like you.” Crowley cocked an eyebrow. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” She grinned. “Just being honest. The things the world considers important - crowns, gods, thrones -- they’re dull imitations of each other.” She met his gaze, once more, eyes burning dark even by torchlight. “I find you more interesting than every emperor I’ve met -- and I’ve met a fair number.” Crowley paused at that, wondering. Remembering the way they’d met. Considering himself and what he’d accomplished. I can’t imagine why. Orenmir waited for them at the bottom of the staircase. The not-wolf was no longer plastered to the wall, but rather a shadow made flesh, standing in the space between them and the basement. “. . . someone’s been down here . . .” it said, pretending to sniff the air. A stone dropped in Crowley’s gut. “You’re sure?” “. . . without a doubt . . .” Orenmir turned around. “. . . follow me . . .” They strode through quiet halls lit by the faint glow of alchemical torches. There was something acrid in the air, something sharp, layered by dust and years of neglect. Crowley summoned a black dagger to his hand, drawing from the shadows with a thoughtless strum of his fingers. He kept his eyes peeled, noting the lack of guardsmen. The worry in his chest grew with every step. “Shit.” They turned a corner and found a guardsman slumped against the far wall. He was sitting in a pool of blood, breastplate torn asunder to savage effect. Crowley looked beyond the corridor, further into the gloom. He knew exactly where it led to. What kind of prize awaited at the end. Shit. He started to run. Registering more corpses as he pushed on. The smell from earlier was growing stronger, more distinct, until he was able to figure out. Smoke. A thin haze of it, wafting from a dead-end room. Blasted to a crumbling heap by some kind of explosion powerful enough to glass stone at the point of impact. Crowley stepped inside, looking at the bodies half-buried amidst the rubble--broken, mangled, and charred, though it didn’t seem they’d all died in the explosion. There were signs of battle, streaks of blood, still fresh from oozing wounds. Someone had killed these men, but who? “. . . the royal vault . . .” Orenmir said. At the end of the room laid a steel door, tall and several inches thick. It swung crookedly on ruined hinges, blackened by soot and warped by heat. Inside was an array of exotic items collected by the kingdom’s past rulers. Tapestries, priceless jewels, but where there should’ve been an Oathblade- “. . . i’m sorry . . .” Crowley stared at the spot he’d hit Marrow. The pale blade was nowhere to be found. Gone. Stolen. It was stolen. But who?
  10. Wade

    Power in Death

    The Black Spot was already crowded, its long tables crammed with people who looked as violent as they were drunk, boisterously loud and well in their cups despite the fact that it was barely sundown. A single hearth burned in the far wall, a Naghu hound stretched in front. The space above it was adorned with a Rocktail trophy, seeming none too pleased by its current state of affairs. As the door closed behind her, Adrya couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose at the establishment’s scent. Silkweed. Smooth and sweet. A thin haze enveloping the entire room. Trying to breathe as little of it in as possible, she found an unoccupied seat at the edge of the bar. Marrow sat beside her, leaning forward, head craned a little well past his shoulder. “What’ll it be, lass?” the bartender asked. He was a large man with hard eyes and a chest like an iron-strapped keg. Well-suited to an unruly clientele though quick to smile as a first impression. “Do you have anything from Noviria?” Adrya asked. “As a matter of fact, I do.” He produced a single bottle of wine, rich and blue beneath the clear glass. “And what about your friend?” Adrya glanced at Marrow. “He doesn’t drink,” she said decidedly. The bartender didn’t seem to mind. “Can I get you water, then? Some stew?” “I’LL BE FINE,” the wraith replied, voice like a boulder being ground to dust. The bartender’s eyes widened a fraction—he set to pouring and left a moment later. Adrya picked up the glass, sloshing the liquid. Lifted it to her nose and smelled crushed lavender. Took a sip and tasted spring, clean and crisp and velvety smooth. Home. A small reminder of what she’d left behind on that fateful day. Of the great palace and its marble pillars, a pale jewel on the tallest of cliffs. It should’ve been a bitter memory, laden with anger, heavy with all the loss she’d suffered over the years. Here was a ruler who’d abandoned her people, who watched from a distance as her family and friends were slaughtered. Burning with shame and fear and regret. Loneliness. She was alone. And yet… “Well, would you look at what we have here.” Adrya turned. Two men stood beside her, dressed in leather vests over unlaced shirts. Both wore scars along their necks like a grisly badge of honour, jagged and identical. The mark of a crew. But not the one she was looking for in specific. “Haven’t seen you around here before,” the shorter one said. His breath was hot against her face with the stink of ale. He pointed at himself and his companion. “M’name’s Harry. This here’s Peter.” Peter placed a greasy hand along her shoulder. “Fancy a drink with us, poppet?” Marrow abruptly rose in one fluid motion. Silent. Angry. Looking down at the two men, he stood well over a full head taller than either one of them. “LEAVE.” Harry flinched. To his credit, Peter did not. “Easy, big guy,” the latter said. “Just having a play is all we’re doing.” As if signalled, a pair of heads turned. Then another and another after that. Jagged scars marred the flesh around each of their necks. The bartender glanced in their direction, jaw muscles tensing. Peter smiled. “Well? Wadd’ya think, love?” Adrya glanced at the hand still cupping her shoulder. “I think you’re about to lose a limb.” Peter’s eyes narrowed. A few chairs scraped the ground. “Is that a threat?” he asked, gripping tighter. Adrya met his gaze. “It’s a promise.” A blinding flash, liquid quick. Marrow’s blade connected with the pirate’s shoulder in a bloodless arc. Cold steel slicing clean through flesh, sinew, and bone, sending Peter staggering back, eyes wide as saucers. Adrya pried his severed arm off her shoulder. Threw it on the ground in front of his crew. Peter fell to the ground with a gutless moan. A woman lunged, stepping across the floorboards, aiming a thrust for Marrow’s chest. The giant turned, hulking and slow. She had more than enough time to skewer him between the ribs. The wraith didn’t fall. Didn’t even flinch. With lazy relish, he hefted his sword. Drove the blade deep into the woman’s stomach, further and further until she was lifted off the ground. A crossbow bolt struck. Someone else tried to stab him. Marrow dropped his sword and the corpse impaled upon it, still taking his time. He stepped forward and wrapped his fingers around Harry’s throat, then began to squeeze to the point of breaking. A wet snap licked the air. Slowly, he dropped Harry’s lifeless body before pulling out the sword lodged in his chest. The crowd around stared in mute horror, frozen in their seats, as the figure wheeled and spun among the pirates, cutting them to bloody chunks. Adrya was still seated by the time it was over. Not a single drop of blood had found her. She took a look at the carnage spread throughout the tavern, then Marrow standing in the middle of it all. Alone. Perhaps not. She slid a few coins to the bartender and politely excused herself. “Thanks for putting on a show,” she said as Marrow joined her. If Finch didn’t know about her now, he certainly would soon. She started making her way to the door, ignoring all the stares, and went for the handle when- She saw her brother, standing a few feet away. “Lanius?” she said.
  11. Wade

    Power in Death

    Adrya had heard tales about Drasir, but none of them could have prepared her for the real thing. The so-called free city was a shock to the senses the same a way a mouthful of shit was a shock to the stomach. The stink alone made her want to bathe: blood, piss, and alcohol and everything in between. It was like she’d stepped into an abattoir flooded with sewage—infested with a horde of half-deranged peasants. After casually witnessing a murder while passing an alley, she wasn’t inclined to change her mind anytime soon. But beneath the filth was something grand. A fat fuck you to the kingdom’s law. A sense of greatness born of defiance, the kind that scaled cliffs and built whole ships. Though Drasir was a hive of villainy, there was also a wealth of good to be found in its bones. None could have denied that it took a certain measure of ingenuity to keep a place like this afloat, and even Adrya, blue-blooded to the core and on the verge of tossing her lunch, had to admit- She was impressed. But merciful gods, she hated it all the same. Quietly, she wove through the streets, hood pulled all the way back behind her head. Unafraid to be seen. Unafraid of recognition. Not in a city where bounties were as common as fish in the sea. Marrow’s hulking figure strode behind her, silent as the grave on a moonless night. His hand was a permanent fixture to the pommel of his sword, bony fingers hidden by gloves the size of plates. “I LIKE THIS PLACE.” “Do you now?” Marrow swept his gaze, neck creaking softly beneath his cloak. “IF ONLY BECAUSE IT UNNERVES YOU.” “Is that so?” Adrya cocked an eyebrow. She hadn’t spoken a word since stepping off the ship. “And here I was under the impression that I’m hard to read.” “HAVING A BITCHY FACE DOES NOT MAKE YOU HARD TO READ.” Adrya felt her temper spike. “Excuse me?” “PIRATES CURSE. I’M SIMPLY BLENDING IN.” “Well, here’s to solidarity, you fucking wanker.” Adrya raised an irreverent gesture. “Abyss take you.” The wraith paused. “IT ALREADY HAS.” “Go plow your mother’s earhole.” “I DO NOT-“ “Kindly shut the fuck up, please.” She turned her eyes back to the cobblestones, keeping her thoughts to herself as they marched on. The longer they walked, the thicker the crowds grew, and the more she began to notice a pattern in the people around them. Inked arms and tattooed throats, separated into groups that kept their distance. Sharkskin coats gathered at the edge of a dock. Leather-clad men bearing the insignia of witch hunters. “TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS FRIEND OF YOURS.” Adrya kept searching their surroundings for other uniforms. “We’re not really friends, since we’ve never met. At least not in person. But he’s seen my face.” Scarred shoulders and purple handkerchiefs. Serrated blades and Scarak chitin. Jewelled necklaces and grey lizard hides. None of them what she was looking for. “Goes by the name of Dorian Finch. He’s what you’d call a pirate lord around these parts. Supposedly, he’s something of an information broker. Knows everything there is to know about what goes on in the city.” A hint of dubiousness crept into her companion’s rasp. “AND YOU’RE HOPING TO LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS… FINCH?” Adrya dodged a mob of shifters baring their fangs. “Not quite.” “THEN WHAT IS IT YOU WANT FROM HIM?” She stopped in front of a tavern, the rowdiest one she could find. A creaky place called The Black Spot. It smelled like smoke. “Loyalty,” she said, pushing the door open. “Also: be ready for a fight.”
  12. The sun hung high above Noviria, tracing an invisible path among the clouds. Below, a cheering crowd watched two half-naked men fight like dogs. The prisoners darted back and forth across the white marble ring. Spittle sprayed the ground as they fought and cursed, prayed and hoped. Wishing for the end. In the surrounding bleachers, the crowd roared their approval, shouting themselves crimson and pumping their fists. There was something brutal, bloody, beautiful about a good slaughter that spoke to the masses, and Crowley, once having been part of it, didn’t know whether to be delighted or simply disgusted. A grand balcony haloed the lower levels. It was split into separate boxes occupied almost exclusively by nobles. They peered down at the brawl, dressed in white togas and adorned in silk sashes, sipping from crystal flutes and eating berries fed to them by a multitude of indebted servants. Meanwhile, Crowley sat in his own box. A shadow wearing the shape of a wolf sat on the bench beside him. It was paper thin and black as pitch, colder than a soulless breeze on a winter night. Its tail flicked with disinterest as it observed the gruesome contest. One of the fighters had managed to pin the other beneath a hail of fists. “. . . enjoying yourself . . . ?” the not-wolf asked, its voice like oil in a pond. Crowley leaned forward and crossed his arms, a quiet frown forming on his face. “I feel like I’m wasting time.” “. . . because that’s exactly what you’re doing . . . ?” “You’re supposed to make me feel better by saying I’m not.” “. . . ah, but I’m rather fond of the truth . . .” Crowley sighed. “So, you’ve demonstrated.” “. . . such as your bootlaces are untied . . .” Crowley looked down to where he’d planted his feet. His bootlaces were, in fact, not untied. “Bastard.” “. . . oh, projecting now, are we . . . ?” He swatted at the not-wolf in a lazy swipe, only to feel his hand pass through it. A chilling numbness clung to his fingers as if he’d dunked them in a frigid lake. “. . . you wound me . . .” “I wish I could.” Crowley began to massage his hands together. The prisoner who’d been getting pummeled to death just a minute ago was on his feet now, choking his opponent. Orenmir affected a convincing yawn. “. . . lovely scenery for a date . . .” “It’s not a date.” “. . . don’t look now, but I think she’s right behind you . . .” Crowley chuckled. “Nice try.” “. . . she does not look pleased, my liege . . .” “Don’t call me that.” “. . . yes, your grace . . .” “Or that.” “Would you prefer your highness, then?” Crowley turned around, whipping in his seat, quicker than a frog dropped onto a skillet. She leaned against the wall, arms crossed, a smirk dancing on her lips. “We could arrange that,” the woman said, in a lazy, lilting voice that lay between song and laughter. “Though I expect my sons would give you trouble for it.” Perhaps here, a watcher would pause to squint, to perhaps blink hard. There was an obscurity to the figure who now strode towards Crowley. The eye struggled to fix itself on her form, the mind struggled to orient her in reality, as if she was a vivid memory, a waking dream -- until, that was, she lifted her hood, and the mask of illusion fled from her face. Black locks cascaded, freed from the cloak as she gave a slight toss of her head. The woman fixed her eyes on him. “Hello, Oathsworn,” Rozharon said. “I heard you were in town.” Orenmir had lied -- she looked exceptionally pleased with herself. She looked more stableboy than empress, garbed in the simple attire of a Novirian servant -- breeches, a short tunic, and a traveler’s cloak. They fit her ill now, with the illusion gone. She moved with the casual grace of a queen as she closed the distance between them, trailing a careless hand through his hair before slipping into the seat by his side, opposite the shadow wolf. There was a moment, when she sat, that she reclined in the seat like it was a throne. Despite the jarring contradiction of her garb and her title, there was still an imperiousness to the empress’ demeanor-- in the uptilt of her chin, the ice in her stare. Then the image broke, as had the illusion -- Rozharon pulled her feet up on the bench, crossing her legs. She set her elbow on Crowley’s shoulder, rested her chin on the back of her hand, then fixed her gaze on him. Rozharon snorted. “You look awful. Milorian been running you ragged?” Crowley smiled. It was true, he did look more tired in recent days. His already pale skin had whitened a shade, and the sun seemed harsher on his eyes now, more than usual. “Something like that,” he said, bowing his head. “My search hasn’t been going so well-” “. . . understatement of the century . . .” “-but I’m keeping a positive attitude, present company notwithstanding. I’ve always been rather partial to a difficult challenge.” Turning his attention back to the arena, he saw that the bout had ended just a few seconds prior. The man with the bruised-up face was performing a victory lap around the ring, while his opponent lay down on the ground, soaking in a puddle of his own blood and piss. The crowd bayed. Leapt to its feet, hollering and howling like a mob at the stake. Some cheered, some barked. Crowley listened to it all. Are you in there, Adrya? he wondered. Is this where you’ve run off to? The questions mounted in his head. He’d thought about them every day for every month. Sometimes absently, and sometimes with such dogged determination that he couldn’t stand to sit still. Marrow was gone. Stolen. And Adrya Arcos was alive. Willbreaker was missing. Windsong and Cometfall, too. Abettor and- Rozharon prodded his cheek with a finger. “Speak, my lord. I’m not a mind reader.” Crowley sighed. “Sorry. I’m just…” He reached for the words but none came. Rozharon studied him for a few moments, head tilting in that curious, birdlike manner of hers. She pulled her elbow back, slipping a hand up behind his neck to toy absently with a lock of his hair. Frustration was… an oddity, even now, even after so long with this mortal face and form. Once, there had only been the single-minded pursuit of the goals imposed on her, where all thought pointed forward to the completion of her tasks. There was no dissatisfaction with delays, no regrets, the past given not the courtesy of a single glance. Once, there had only been the present and ever-approaching future. Nothing more. She thought of Asterion, basking in resentment for millenia. How, she’d brushed off her son’s suffering like it was naught but a coat of dust. How, then, she’d disregarded how mortal minds grew worn and torn, could not so easily forgo the burdens they’d carried. Worry was no stranger to her now. Neither was helplessness. Footsteps echoed overhead as the crowd began to filter out of the colosseum. Rozharon frowned. “Your mind’s been on this for months, hasn’t it?" she mused, "Gnawing on the problem. It’s eating you up.” She stood. Offered him a hand. “Let’s go for a walk.” It wasn’t a request. They left the amphitheatre, her arm in his. It was a simple matter to fade into the crowd, with her close. Dark hair glimmered gold, brown eyes shone blue-- Janus Dove, the face she’d worn at the masquerade, smiled up at Crowley. “Care to pick up where we last left off?”
  13. Hey there, welcome to Val! Always glad to see a new face around these parts. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone for help if you have any questions—everyone here is super duper friendly and eager to make new friends 👍
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