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daevablacc

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  1. (OOC: I apologize for the slow response)

    [B]Natalia Lancer[/B]

    Natalia kept a sharp eye out for the others, or anything else they might happen across. She noticed her comrades were noticing all the little animals they happened across a bit before her. [i]Well that’s unusual. But given Robert’s mysterious powers and Zyphia’s werewolf senses, I suppose I should expect to be the last to notice anything.[/i] The woman chuckled to herself. [i]Speaking of which[/i]

    Zyphia had apparently caught a scent and began sniffing the ground excitedly. Natalia kept her shotty pistol ready for trouble. There were a times Zyphia got so wrapped up in her tacking Nat had to shout, reminding her of the injured body attached to her.

    They were rounding a bend when Robert’s “friends” were finally revealed. All but one of the other party looked as rough as Nat felt, and probably looked. But one, an arrogant-looking man, seemed to have been spending his days indoors being pampered. At least, that was how he appeared. Natalia immediately decided she didn’t care for him. She hoped Robert didn’t like him either. Apparently his name was Rerum Pecu. At least, that is the name he was currently using. [i]Rerum Pecu? What kind of sissy name is that?[/i]

    Robert and Rerum conversed while Natalia and Zyphia watched them, and the men opposite the women. Nat did not like the look of the traveling companions of mister Pecu. She disliked his look even more, which was saying something. The six men looked like common thugs off the street; hired purely for numbers, rather than skill or ability. They had a subservient dullness to them. On the bright side, Nat and Zyphia would seem to have the upper hand on them. Natalia returned her attention to the two men meeting together

    ("Pecu. Good to see you. I trust you received my letter?" Robert asked.)

    [i]So this man is here by Robert’s request. Well, if not man, at least male,[/i] she sarcastically corrected herself.

    ("Of course I did, why would I be out here if I hadn't? Loosen up Rob, you might be handsome if you weren't so grim. Fred too.")

    Nat rolled her eyes. She did like how Robert did not react. [i]Stupid greeting. Now at least you know it sucked,[/i] she thought at the man with the fake smile.

    ("So, uh... I guess that's him, eh? Finally kicked the bucket, the old wretch? Well, he'll be back in no time if what he says is true. Don't say it, I know what I have to do. The... Ah, the cargo will be taken care of. These are your companions?")

    [i]Nah,[/i] Natalia thought to herself. [i]We all just happened to randomly run into each other just a moment ago. This happens all the time way out in the wilderness[/i]

    ("Quite a lot. And they get splits.)

    [i]Wait, what? We’re sharing splits with all of them? That’s bullshit. They didn’t have to survive an undead monk. We’ll see about this when the time comes. Maybe they only get small shares for helping us return the short distance to civilization.[/i]

    (All'll be dealt with fairly, don't you worry, don't worry a bit. Now, if you'd like me to take your burden...")

    The woman resolved to march in the rear to make sure the injured were not mistreated, or the gem spirited away.

  2. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]

    "Helpful friends, huh? That beats the hell out of unhelpful friends I guess. We may as well go meet them. Let's see if these friends of yours are as useful as you think they are. I promise I'll [I]try[/I] not to aerate them by mistake." The three passed through the wet forest unopposed. Natalia preferred the look and smell of the outdoors during and after a rain. Everything looked slick, the sun was blocked by the clouds, usually. The air was cooler and dust was beaten into submission. She inhaled deeply as they worked through the dense brush.

    To take her mind off the chore of pushing onward, Natalia turned her thoughts toward home. She imagined her lovely Angelika playing with their one-year-old son, smiling at their tall "little" toddler as he no doubt was laughing about something. When Nat and her love would become cross with each other, little Xander always reminded them what a wonderful little family they had. If anyone so much as touched a hair on his head, there was no doubt Natalia would make them very, very sorry.

    "I hope we run into them soon," Nat said out loud. "Not literally, of course." She grinned at her own joke. "We can make them carry the bodies and give you two a break. I'm really curious to see what kind of persons enjoy your company." She gave a side-long gaze toward Robert, winking.

  3. [B]Natalia Lancer[/B]

    Natalia stopped walking and looked at Robert. She had known Ashville was closer, but was wary regarding Robert's motivations to head East. Now he had announced that fact out loud, she would be unable to keep Zyphia with her. Nat gave in to the inevitable and hoped this would end well.

    "Are you sure Ashville's closer? Well, I guess if you're sure, we might as well go there. Are you alright with that?" Natalia turned and asked Zyphia. "Then it's settled. We go West." Nat glanced at Robert. "Are there any surprises ahead? I'd hate to shoot something I'm not supposed to. On the other hand I'd hate to miss something I needed to shoot."

    The trio set off to the West with their two over-sized pieces of luggage. The muddy forest slowed them, but they pressed on.

    [i]I really, really hope Zyphia and I aren't being led into a trap. We're going to find out soon enough.[/i] Natalia led the party, carefully scanning the forest as they passed through.

  4. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia began stripping some branches to use as a stretcher for Tathasine. She made surprisingly quick work of it for a one-armed woman. Nat glanced up at the sound of Robert mugging the midget then went back to her work. She completed the stretcher-sled and joined the other two.[/list]
    [list]"So why would we want to go West? Or why would you want to?" Natalia raised an eyebrow. We have two unconscious and you want to foray further from civilization? I doubt Tathasine could survive a detour. We have no way to heal him. All we've done is prolong his death so we can try to get him help while he still needs it, if you know what I mean. So if you need to exploring that's fine. But I'm going to try to get him some help."[/list]
    [list]Nat positioned Tathasine on the sled and secured him in place. She knew Zyphia would always be in favor of saving the warrior, but she wondered what Robert was trying to accomplish.[/list]

  5. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia smiled at Robert's offer to poison Shanty. After talking, they ate in silence. Robert stayed alert, watching the horizon. He was obviously paying more attention to the West for some reason. She did not ask him why and kept her own watch. The fire popped and hissed occasionally when water would drip off the trees above.[/list]
    [list]Nat was almost finished with her piece of meat when a black blur caught her attention. She dropped the meat quickly and her hand found the handle of her pistol. Her grip relaxed and she let go, moving her arm up to help her take the impact of Zyphia. The furry girl tackled Natalia to the ground, then tried to nuzzle her to death. Natalia swore and laughed as she playfully fought Zyphia off. As soon as she had appeared, the dog-girl was gone, going after Robert, then Tathasine. Natalia was relieved the girl didn't go for Shanty, his contagion status still in question. Zyphia shifted into her girl-self and made her suggestion.[/list]
    [list]"Hmm," Nat thought out loud. "I guess we could make a stretcher with some branches and my bedroll Zyphia could drag behind her. Or if you wanted to carry the other end," she nodded to Robert. "I could guard us and keep an eye on the troll over there. He's more of a threat than anything right now. Shall we?" Natalia looked around for suitable branches to strip.[/list]

  6. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]"Yes, waiting sounds good to me." Natalia watched Zyphia respond to Robert's suggestion that the shape-shifter go hunting. "I think we can safely assume that's a yes," she grinned. Nat turned toward Shanty and frowned. He had reacted violently to Zyphia's morning nuzzles and wasn't looking particularly healthy. "What's wrong with you this morning? You seem even less pleasant than usual. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the ground?"[/list]
    [list]"Mind your own damn business, whore," he half mumbled, half shouted. He staggered from where he had been standing to lean against a tree. Nat realized the reason for his garbled speech was a loss of muscle control on one side of his face. The active side of his face looked nauseated.[/list]
    [list]"Well, if I'm a whore, I'm pretty sure you'd want me to take your business. But since you aren't interested I'm happy to deprive you. You must be pretty pissed if you want me to leave you alone." Aside to Robert, speaking so only he could hear, she added, "He looks like shit. Do you think he had, or is having a stroke? He looks like he's dying. I certainly hope so. He's pure liability for us. If he just croaks on his own his friend and Zyphia won't get their feelings hurt over it. Or did you poison him? If you did, you have my thanks."[/list]
    [list]After a bit, Zyphia began returning with various food items. Natalia started working on getting a meal ready as the supplies came in. Once everything was ready, she sat down to eat, all the while keeping a close eye on the worsening Shanty.[/list]
    [list]"You don't think he's contagious do you?" she asked Robert. Zyphia was still out in the trees, hunting for herself, presumably. "Because if he is, Zyphia and Tathasine be damned, we're getting rid of him."[/list]

  7. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia watched Zyphia lope away from the food to lay, no, snuggle up to Tathasine to keep him warm. "She's not hungry I guess. Well, since you're not sleeping anyway, I'm gonna crash 'til morning. Thanks Robert. I've got to say you're a little less weird than Frederick," she added with a smile. Nat curled up against Tathasine on the other side that Zyphia was on to help keep him warm.[/list]
    [list]She remembered none of her dreams and awoke to Zyphia nuzzling her. "Alright, I'm awake, I'm awake!" she laughed. Natalia stretched a bit before getting up and gathering her equipment. She glanced at Shanty and frowned. [i]He isn't looking great,[/i] she thought to herself. "Well, are we going to set off, or wait here another day? I'm not sure we can carry him very far."[/list]
    [list]Nat knelt down and changed his bandages, attempting to stave off infection. She thought he looked better than he had yesterday. [i]Come on you big lug. We won't be able to get you any help if you never wake up. Civilization is too far away to drag your heavy ass the whole way. You're not a turd like your companion so I'd actually like to see you make it, if you can.[/i] Aloud she added, "Maybe he'll wake up today."[/list]

  8. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia raised her eyebrows at Robert as he made a hasty exit to "send a letter". [i]Where is he going to post a letter around here?[/i] she thought to herself. [i]Must be some kind of magical letter.[/i] She returned her attention to cooking and her silent friends. [i]At least the gnome is being quiet. Quiet and sulky. I wish Zyphia would just let me shoot him. Save us all the trouble of waiting. I know we'll have to kill him sooner or later. So why not let it be sooner? Then we can all start sleeping with only a regular amount of paranoia. I wonder how he will die?[/i] Nat gazed thoughtfully in Shanty's direction. [i]I do hope it's not sudden. It'd be way more fun if he gets to suffer for a while. If it's up to me, I'll shoot him in the gut and leave him to bleed to death or get eaten by wild animals. Then he'll have plenty of time to wish he was dead already. I might even stick around to watch for a little while. Make sure he doesn't hasten the process. Not to mention getting to taunt him a little. Well, a girl can dream.[/i][/list]
    [list]Natalia was pulled from her reverie by the smell of cooking flesh. "I think it's time to eat everybody! Whoops, I mean it's time to eat, everybody!" She winked at Zyphia. "Don't let it get cold." She began cutting the animal into pieces for everyone before grabbing a piece to eat herself. The roasting flesh had given her another thought. [i]Being burned alive is a horrible way to go. Now that would be something, to watch him running around on fire. He'd sure be brighter than he ever was before![/i] Nat smiled a wolfish smile while she chewed on the flesh of Zyphia'a catch.[/list]
    [list]Once Robert returned, Natalia waved the leg she was eating in greeting. "So now you've sent your post, are you ready to eat? It's actually pretty good if I say so myself. But the main thanks goes to our hound friend here for dragging it down for us. I've gotta say I'm a little jealous I can't turn into one myself, but I guess having three legs would kind of ruin the whole thing."[/list]

  9. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia settled down to sleep, curling into a ball. She thought about her wife and child, imagining her baby Xander's chubby little face and how his eyes twinkled, and cheeks dimpled when he laughed. How he made cute little noises when he was getting some boob. That reminded her of Angelika's beautiful body, and the face that still made her breathless when she saw it after being gone. Nat missed her family and couldn't wait to see them again. She was still thinking of them when she sunk into sleep.[/list]
    [list]Natalia woke just before Robert's shift came to an end and slowly unfurled her body. She slowly moved out of the lean to and came up next to Robert and sat next to him.[/list]
    [list]"How are you this fine evening?" Nat asked Robert playfully. "Did I miss anything exciting?" She sat and looked off into the trees. "Where did Zyphia go off to? She's just a ball of energy, that girl." There was a slight movement in the forest. "Speak of the devil, there you are." Zyphia had returned from her hunt.[/list]
    [list]"Wow, you sure know how to hunt. No bow or firearms either. I'm impressed. If you want, I can take this watch and cook that guy. Or would you rather do it yourself? Either way, I will help get it started. Whichever watch you take, the two of us are going until dawn. We will not leave a watch to mister sneaky. I know you want to like everyone but I need you to promise you won't leave him alone with us all sleeping." She knew Shanty could hear her, but that did not matter. [i]I'll be damned before I'll die at the hand of that little gnome."[/i][/list]
    [list]Natalia got to work on skinning the stag, gazing over at Shanty while she used her big knife.[/list]

  10. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia raised an eyebrow in surprise when Zyphia picked up Tathasine and set off carrying him alone. The tall woman shrugged and waited to follow the group. Shanty, however, stayed put as their companions marched off.[/list]
    [list]Nat finally shook her head and smiled at the little man. "Suit yourself. Catch up if you want to." She followed her comrades, keeping a sharp eye out for trouble... and on Shanty who had decided to follow from a distance. Natalia chuckled to herself, assuming he was afraid to turn his back on any of them after the things he'd said and done.[/list]
    [list]Zyphia seemed to be having some trouble with her large burden, but she was managing, so Nat stayed focused on her task. The rain had settled into a more gentle drumming on the leaves above. The hunter took a deep whiff of the sodden air. The smell of the wet forest was soothing to her and helped ease some of the tension from her shoulders. Finally they reached the shelter. Robert was right about it being just big enough to hold them together. As long as someone besides Shanty was on watch, she thought they would be able to get a little rest here before continuing on. Tathasine would need a chance to heal a little before they went further.[/list]
    [list]Zyphia stood and began addressing the group. Some of it made sense, some didn't. The young woman collapsed into a heap after her speech.[/list]
    [list]Nat pursed her lips in thought. [i]Sure we need to pull together, but the little troll is nothing but trouble. I don't think he can be any sort of knight. Now a backstabbing little thief, that's more like it. Maybe she needs to realize her father isn't the only "bad" person in the world. Maybe Shanty can do that for her. We just have to wait and he'll try something underhanded eventually. He's got that look in his beady little eyes.[/i][/list]
    [list]Aloud, Natalia said, "Well, you're right. We do need to work together. I still don't trust Shanty, but I'll play nice."[/list]

  11. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia noticed Zyphia was not noticing Robert's correction regarding his identity. But Zyphia was always a little flaky so Nat did not worry about it. She was glad to hear Robert had a shelter already waiting.[/list]
    [list]"Is your shelter big enough to hold us all?" Natalia asked as they ventured back toward Tathasine. She was soaked from head to toe, but warm enough from the exertion.[/list]
    [list]Nat blinked the rain out of her eyes and spotted the still form of the warrior, watched over by Shanty who started begging them to help his wounded friend. The sniper rolled her eyes at the little man's pleas.[/list]
    [list]"Now I almost want to let the poor guy bleed out," Natalia replied to Shanty. "Shut up and back up where we can still keep an eye on you." She joined Zyphia who looked like she knew what she was doing. Nat got bandages ready to cover the wound after the girl lanced the infected area. "You trust that drowned rat? You need to be a little more careful who you trust. It's pretty well established by now he's full of shit all the time. Just do me a favor and don't turn your back on him. Figuratively speaking, of course."[/list]
    [list]Once the two women had done what they could for now, Natalia got up. "Lead the way, if you would, Robert. I'll watch our back while those two carry the giant." She drew her pistol and kept a sharp eye out for danger as they worked their way to shelter.[/list]

  12. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Nat was taken off guard by Zyphia's sudden show of affection, but gently returned the favor an instant later. Natalia tried not to think to hard about the young girl's body. The young possibly-ware-something appeared about to speak when they were interrupted by the arrival of Robert.[/list]
    [list]The next thing Nat knew, Zyphia was throwing herself at the man, babbling on about... [i]Wait a moment,[/i] The hunter thought to herself. [i]She thinks he is Frederick. How can she have them mixed up? Unless the shift she did leaves her a bit loopy. Of course, she's always loopy, heh heh. Either that or she smells Frederick on him.[/i][/list]
    [list]Aloud she said, "I agree with Zyphia. We should get moving and to shelter that isn't part of a creepy temple-turned-tomb. Let's go back and pick up Tathasine. If the rat hasn't drowned I suppose he can come along. But keep an eye on the bastard."[/list]

  13. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]"May I have your blanket now? I don't want to use up your bandages." Zyphia paused for a moment, "Is everyone okay than?"[/list]
    [list]Natalia gave the young woman a funny look. "The bandages are meant for injuries, and they are cheap. You certainly need them for some of your wounds or they could get infected. I have some antibiotics as well. Unless you have some sort of self-healing power I'm going to use them on you and there will be no more argument. But let's get moving first. There is some sort of canine scent around here and we'd be better off with the group, and they with us. Pack animals are intimidated by numbers. So here's my blanket. I'll bandage you once we're back with everyone else."[/list]
    [list]Natalia unclipped her bedroll and tossed it to Zyphia. Nat peered into the darkness, checking upwind especially, for any signs of predatory activity. [i]There certainly is something different about this young woman,[/i] she thought to herself. [i]She doesn't want bandages, can leap high into the air, I wonder what she is. I wonder if... Something about her looks wrong.[/i] Natalia looked closer at the girl and sniffed the air carefully.[/list]
    [list]"Hold on a moment. Is that you I smell? Are you some sort of part-canine person? That would certainly explain that neat trick you had of launching yourself over our heads, not to mention dragging two grown men, one very large, with your tiny frame." Nat detected a hint of fear in Zyphia's eyes. "Hey, don't worry about me. I've got no problems with half-breeds or were-folk or whatever you may be. I'm not so normal myself. Do you really not need bandages or are you just being a hero?" She smiled warmly as she asked her last question, to make it clear she did not mean to be insulting.[/list]

  14. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Nat carefully yet swiftly made her way through the trees. Here she was sheltered from the wind. Rain filtered through the leaves and dripped on her head in large droplets. She had not drawn her pistol, instead her hand was free to help her wind thorough the underbrush and the trees. The hunter kept an eye on the canopy of the forest, looking for signs of her quarry. She finally spotted what she was looking for. The woman followed the trail quickly, hoping to catch the mystery person or creature before they ended up far away from the rest of her party.[/list]
    [list]Amidst the noise of the storm, something caught her ear. It sounded like someone had shouted her name. The shouter sounded familiar, like...[/list]
    [list]"ZYPHIA!?! Is that you?" Natalia rounded another bush and found Zyphia standing there, wet and topless. "Why yes it is," Nat gave her a quick once-over. "You're hurt. Let me help." She took some bandages from her pack. "You look like your wounds aren't the only part of you that needs dressing," the hunter chuckled. "You can borrow my bedroll if you want something to shield you from Shanty. Yes, unfortunately he did survive. A compatriot of Frederick showed up and claims Fred is dead, but he was going back inside to retrieve his body. What happened to you and how the hell did you manage to vault way up like that? Also, why did you bother?"[/list]

  15. [B]Natalia Lancer[/B]
    [list]"I'm not Frederick, but I'm pretty damn close!" Natalia heard a man shout as he rose and stepped forward.[/list]
    [list]"Had Frederick always planned to have us assassinated?" Shanty said to her before the man was close enough to hear.[/list]
    [list]"Seriously? It was the crazy monk who tried to kill us." Nat rolled her eyes.[/list]
    [list]"Fred's dead. I'm his... underling, if you will. I'm here to retrieve his body and see it safely back to Last Chance. Please, let me proceed." She looked at him dubiously. Shanty spoke up.[/list]
    [list]"Enter if you'd like, not even gonna warn you but if you're going to go, kindly leave any supplies you have up here as well as any weapons." Aside to the woman he said, "Natalia, my love-" (he seemed to catch himself and reworded his statement) "-my companion-I've-only-temporarily-had-an-alliance-with-as-long-as-our-mutual-interest-is-intact, perhaps this once, just this once, you could agree with my stance and enforce it? Wouldn't want this *mysterious* man, who 'claims' he knows Frederick to kill any of our 'temporary companion's' or rob us of our 'mutual interest'."[/list]
    [list]"I trust him more than you. Him, I don't know. You I know. Besides, he still has to come back out. It isn't like he couldn't have ambushed us to begin with. Sure, Mr. Underling. Feel free to go in there. I'll make sure this gnome doesn't try to whack you in the head when you come back out." Natalia resumed her post, laying with her rifle trained on the opening. She kept an eye on the little sneak, just in case. Her pistol was back in its holster but very handy nonetheless. The rain was still whipping about, but it did feel to her the storm had lost a bit of its edge. [i]Perhaps the old monk is truly dead now. Serves him right for trying to kill us all. I hope Zyphia is okay. Hold on a moment, if he is dead...[/i] "Wait up. I'm going in with you. There's someone I need to look for as well." She slung her rifle onto her back, drew her sidearm and made to join the stranger. Suddenly...[/list]
    [list]A blur burst forth from the hole. Tathasine and the body of Frederick sprawled into the mud. [i]What was that?[/i] Nat had noticed a quick blur burst upward when they came out. [i]Something must have carried them.[/i] She turned and ran into the trees, her hunter senses at full alert. [i]Whatever this thing is it must be on our side. Why is it shy?[/i][/list]

  16. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b][list]Natalia laughed at Shanty in the middle of the storm. "You certainly don't know what I like," she shouted through the wind, "if you think turning into a snake will make me want you! Besides, you're too ugly, too unpleasant, too short and you have a penis!" Under her breath she added, "It's probably too short too, ha. ha!" Nat noticed that the little man had begun gazing intently over her right shoulder just above where her backpack rested on her prone body. She was about to ask him what he was doing when he spoke.[/list][list]He shouted something about "a magical floating book." As soon as the word "book" left his lips Natalia twisted onto her back, drawing her sidearm and glancing about. The book was around but not where shanty was now indicating. It was about five meters behind where the one-armed woman had been laying, but it was floating. Or was it? Something about the space behind it seemed wrong, and familiar...[/list][list]"FREDERICK!" Natalia waved toward where she guessed his head would be. She had not seen him die and assumed he had simply gotten out before her. "I thought I was the first out!" Or maybe she had been. Had he put himself in that crawling book to escape?[/list]--end post--

  17. [b]Damienne Jameson[/b] ooc: quik post to get in line [list]Damienne stood before Kaine and courtseyed. "My name is Damienne Jameson, and there is my letter." Lily dutifully took her place at her mistress's side, still displaying the letter in her hands.[/list][list]The young witch looked over the others bearing letters. "Anyone else? Are any of you allowed out after dark? I hope everyone here is potty trained, because I'm not changing any diapers. Oh, and don't forget to ask your parents, if you have any."[/list]

  18. [b]Damienne Jameson[/b] ooc: quik post to get in line [list]Damienne stood before Kaine and courtseyed. "My name is Damienne Jameson, and there is my letter." Lily dutifully took her place at her mistress's side, still displaying the letter in her hands.[/list][list]The young witch looked over the others bearing letters. "Anyone else? Are any of you allowed out after dark? I hope everyone here is potty trained, because I'm not changing any diapers. Oh, and don't forget to ask your parents, if you have any.[/list]

  19. [b]Damienne Jameson[/b][list]Damienne looked at the gathered group in dismay. So many children. Why in the world would they want to be accompanied by a travelling nursery? She really hoped their employer knew what they were doing. Speaking of which, was he/she ever going to join them? It would be a troubling sign if their employer was afraid to join in the quest.[/list][list]The young witch was beginning to get bored and restless as the day wore on. She was not the most patient young woman, and was eager to begin the adventure. The way new members kept trickling in, Damienne was afraid they would not be leaving until well after sundown and she did not want to be bored in the square surrounded by a bunch of snot-nosed children.[/list][list]"So," she said aloud to the man who was representing their mysterious employer. "How much longer until we may set off on our journey? Surely our party is sufficient for whatever lies ahead? I tire of waiting in the glare of the sun. Let us be off before we begin by stumbling about in the dark, half asleep."[/list]

  20. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b][list]Natalia lay low, covering the opening ahead of her with her high-powered rifle. Low clouds scudded quickly across the rain-soaked sky. Deafening cracks of thunder followed the white-blue flashes of lightning. All of nature was in frantic motion, save for the woman, who seemed some ancient stone sentinel placed at the mouth of an infernal pit to guard the world from an eldrich evil that lusted for human souls. But instead of a nameless horror, a soaked, panting midget staggered from the darkness.[/list] [list]Shanty called out hurridly to identify himself, no doubt fearful Nat would accidentally impale him with a large rifle round like a little brown frog stuck through with a stick pin. Actually, he need not have worried. She was very disciplined and would never shoot him, accidentally. The little man was waving something in the air and claiming he had the gem, though if it were the gem it seemed smaller and was completely covered in mud or something. Natalia rolled her eyes when the dwarf made a half-hearted attempt to feign interest in going back for the others.[/list][list]"Oh shut up you little slime monkey. We're not going back in. We're waiting here. I am not willing to drown for my associates. Now that you've made it out, I hope everyone makes it out. Before I saw you, I was hoping everyone else made it out." Nat never took her eyes from the black hole before them. "Shit, why didn't I think of that earlier," she said to herself. The woman pulled another flare. She triggered the red sparking flame and tossed it about ten meters into the monastery. Natalia hoped it would draw her comrades to the surface.[/list]

  21. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b] (sorry, for some retarded reason, I didn't realize it was my turn, lol)[list]Natalia saw no one emerge from the gaping maw of the buried temple. But wait, what was that? "What the hell?" Nat said aloud, her words torn from her lips by the raging storm above ground. An anciet-looking book was wiggling along, escaping the monastery. She gave it a wide berth, wanting nothing to do with a book that moved on its own. Nat moved up the ramp and set up shop with her rifle, laying prone where she could see the entrance. If anyone else made it out, she would cover their escape. "C'mon Zyphia," she whispered. "Get out here."[/list]

  22. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Emir droned on from his pulpit, looking angry. Natalia pointed her pistol in his general direction, not liking his tone. Suddenly all Hell broke loose. Dust and small pebbles began falling from the ceiling, a rush of water began spewing from the ancient monk toward the other five and his emerald light suddenly went dark. Nat fired at Emir's face while she could still see the afterimage. The heavy shot tore towards his head. As she fired, the one-armed woman twisted her body to the side, taking the ice in her left shoulder instead of her racing heart. The impact spun her around, tossing her to the ground. She was temporarily safe behind the hideous pedestal. Her shoulder burned with cold. Nat yanked a flare from a pocket. The angry red fire spat in an arc in the general direction of Krom. The whole room grew colder and wetter at an alarming rate.[/list]
    [list][i]I don't expect much luck killing the bastard,[/i] Natalia thought to herself, reloading her pistol anyway. The cold was eating into body, her left shoulder already frozen solid. [i]Apparently he's dead already.[/i] She gritted her teeth to keep them from chattering and thought of her beautiful Angelika holding their son at home, waiting for Nat to return to them. [i]I refuse to die. Nothing can keep me from my angels.[/i][/list]
    [list]"DIE, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!!" Natalia screamed as she burst out from behind the pedestal, firing her pistol again at the monster who had lured them here. She quickly veered off to the side and sprinted like her life depended on it. It did. A stream of icy water slapped across her face briefly. A moment more and she would have been dead. But the frost nearly blinded her though she did not slow, glancing roughly off a rock with her frozen left shoulder. Nat felt as if her entire body had lit on fire but she ordered her legs to keep pumping. In the chaos, she had no idea where anyone else was, or even if any of them were alive. She had in fact stumbled over Frederick's dead form on the floor.[/list]
    [list]Natalia hated the idea of leaving the monk "alive", but she saw no alternative but to flee. She holstered her empty pistol took out another flare. This, she held to light her way back to the surface. The exit drew near and she glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone else was getting out.[/list]

  23. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]Natalia smiled that the comedic antics of Tathasine but kept an alert eye on everyone. Her eyes narrowed a bit and the smile vanished when Frederick began to confront Emir. [i]How strange. I wouldn't have expected him to suddenly care about the rest of us. Maybe he just hates our guide. Or, touching the gem gives power. Well, that would be useless to me anyway.[/i] She stepped away from the gem without touching it.[/list]
    [list]"You may try on your own if you want," Nat addressed Frederick in a low voice. "Or I can try first if you would rather. If this gem is some sort of soul or life-force trap," she looked at the distorted bodies that supported the gem. "I am immune to such things. I was stripped of mine years ago. You other three are welcome to try if you want, but I would recommend waiting until Frederick or I touch the gem. If you don't think this gem is dangerous, think about why there are five horribly distorted bodies holding up this five-colored gem that Emir wants us all five to touch at the same time. Are you not a little suspicious?" The tall woman paused and glared at the midget who was held in the air by his partner. "Though, if the little runt wants to try first I would be pleased to offer him the opportunity. It isn't as if he could help if we had to fight our way out of here anyway."[/list]
    [list]Natalia unlatched the holster of her shot-pistol and rested her hand on the grip, eying Emir with suspicion. She grasped the gun, drew it and popped the breach to make sure it was loaded. It was, so she snapped it shut. A thought entered her mind. [i]I wonder if we tried knocking the gem off the stand if that would make any difference. Well, let's see what comes from the touching first.[/i][/list]
    [list]The six figures around the gem cast sinister shadows in the ruined mockery of a shrine at the center of which sat the most sinister pedestal imaginable, crowned with an alluring, yet threatening jewel.[/list]

  24. [b]Natalia Lancer[/b]
    [list]As they dug, Zyphia peppered everyone with questions. Natalia listened to the others' answers, glad for some entertainment. When Zyphia asked if Nat could teach her how to shoot her rifle, she laughed and replied "Of course! But first let's get out of here alive, shall we?"[/list]
    [list]Though Natalia certainly did not enjoy the odor the party had unleashed from the earth, it didn't really get to her much. But she did make an exaggerated cough for dramatic effect, followed by saying, "This has to be the freshest 100-year-old grave I've ever had the pleasure of exhuming." Glad to be finished with the awkward task of digging, she traded the shovel for her shot-pistol and followed Emir into the broken monastery. [i]I hope we can trust this crazy old frozen corpse,[/i] she thought to herself. [i]We will know soon enough. Now if none of the rest decide to be stupid...[/i] Her thought trailed off and she focused on being alert to any sign of danger, from their surroundings as well as her companions. She put very little of her attention on Zyphia and more on Shanty and the most on Emir and the monastery itself. [/list]
    [list]Natalia wove her way through the ruin, peering intently into the shadows. Rounding a bit of collapsed ceiling, her eyes widened with excitement. A magnificent, and seemingly impossible hybrid jewel perched atop a gruesome, yet noble stand. The stand was created from the flesh and bone of five humans. Though they were monstrously distorted, they seemed to somehow give off an air of defiance.[/list]
    [list]"The Gaians did this," Nat said aloud. It was a statement, not a question. "Bastards." [i]Now comes the moment of truth. We find how truthful our guide really is.[/i] She was filled with trepidation now she knew there was one from the party for each of the mutilated corpses of the fountain. [i]Well, if it is a ruse to suck all our life forces out to revive them, I will be safe since I no longer have a life force to suck out. I hope nothing happens to Zyphia though. If something does, Emir will have Hell to pay.[/i][/list]
    [list]"So am I 'white lightning? I'm not entirely sure which color corresponds to which element." Nat took her place at the diamond station and would touch it when the other four touched theirs, if they agreed she was correct.[/list]

  25. [b]Damienne Jameson[/b]
    [list]Kaine leaned against his hand and seemed to be thinking. Before he said anything, Damienne overheard a young girl say something peculiar to the magician.[/list]
    [list]"Can I see that letter that you have? I'll give it right back."[/list]
    [list]The witch glanced over at the magician and saw it was the same letter she had received. [i]She is with us?[/i] Aloud she said, "Magician girl. You are here for the same reason we are? Show her the letter," Damienne ordered Lily.[/list]
    [list]Lily dutifully produced the letter again. She was not overly fond of her mistress's game of jokingly referring to her as a slave. Slavery was illegal so Lily was officially a servant. However, she actually was a slave and Damienne enjoyed "joking" that Lily was her slave as a way of taunting her with the truth. But the slave would never admit to authorities that she was other than a servant girl. There were reasons she would not betray her mistress.[/list]
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