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Grimshar

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About Grimshar

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    Immortal of Sithrak

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    Washington State
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    Gaming, Hiking, Hunting, Target Shooting, Electrical Engineering.
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    IT Support Specialist

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  1. Renkor was comforted by Aelyria's presence at his side. She had fought with him, bled, with him, it formed a bond that wasn't easily broken. Now, facing down a horde of white werewolves that were half obscured by the whipping wind and snow, he wouldn't have wanted anyone else standing beside him. Emotion, thick and heady, filled his throat. He accepted the dagger she pressed into his palm, it's presence almost as familiar and reassuring as Aelyria's. He stepped forward, bumping her shoulder with his and giving her a wry smile that tugged at one corner of his mouth. "Don't worry Aelyria, I may be an old dog with old tricks, but the Heart Crystal has some vestiges of power remaining. For one last fight I won't be useless." A fresh surge of emotion pushed its way up through his chest, he wanted to vomit, cry out and rage, then unleash his pent up fury on the world. Already he could feel the vast silence of the world around him as it rejected him. He wasn't a native of this plane anymore, he could no longer feel a connection to the magic that normally cartwheeled through the air with whimsy. He couldn't even hear the wind anymore, and that more than anything else terrified him more than anything. The wind had been with him since his birth, a quirk of his heritage as a Sylph, whispering to him always. It's silence was a sound so deafening that it nearly drowned out the rest of the world. He shoved the feelings away, turning to the only source of magic that he could feel, the Heart of Valjer. It contained an ocean of power compared to what he normally handled, and yet... he could tell that it was only a fraction of what it had once been. As he continued his introspection, Ysgrid strode forth into the deepening snow that separated the two armies. She exuded such confidence, such power, that he couldn't help but feel that they had more than a snowball's chance in hell of surviving this. She beckoned to Hati, inviting him to attack. "Come, Demon. It's time someone put you down like the rabid dog you are." Apparently that was more than enough to entice the werewolves to attack. The ranks of City Guardsmen and Deep Delve Rangers closed tighter together as the horde of slavering werewolves charged. Fortunately there were no more non-combatants in the area, they didn't need to worry about any collateral damage or protecting anyone. He and Aelyria suddenly found themselves in the center of five ranks of a military force that must have looked like such a rabble. He grabbed at the power of the Heart Crystal, forcing his will into a spell that would summon a forest of icy spears from beneath the feet of the werewolves, undoubtedly slaying many. The heart responded eagerly, dumping its power into his body, it was totally overwhelming. The power burned through him in great waves, as if someone had injected acid in his veins. He crumpled at the waist, half coughing, half vomiting a spray of steaming blood across the snow. The metallic tinge of ozone filled the air, like a lightning spell had discharged too close for comfort. He recovered quickly, fearing that the werewolves would be upon them already, but they hadn't covered the distance yet. Perhaps he had been too aggressive and enthusiastic with his first attempt. His mind churned as he tried to think of what to do, before finally settling on a much less intensive spell. He performed the new spell in much the same way, pulling on the power of the Heart Crystal and imposing his will on the land in front of him. The burning pain returned, lesser, but the spell took hold this time. Dozens of clawed hands sprang from the snow and snapped shut, trying to grab and hold any part of the horde of werewolves it they could. Many of the hands missed, closing around empty air. The hands that didn't worked to good effect, yanking the werewolves to a stop and in some cases shearing through or tearing off limbs. A few of the other magical combatants on their own side fired off spells of earth and ice, serving to further thin the horde. Hati had led the pack, his imposing bulk like a runaway wagon charging straight for them. He leaped at the last minute, bringing both arms behind him as he fell and smashing down where Ysgrid stood. The woman practically danced out of the way of the assault, skipping to the side and lashing out with her fist, slamming into the beasts side and leaving a dark spot of flesh that crumbled into dust. Then they both disappeared under the mass of the charging horde and it slammed into the spear-wall erected by the guard with a sickening noise of tearing flesh and splashing fluids. His limbs still burned with the fresh agony of slinging a spell, but he tightened his grip on the borrowed dagger and looked for a spot to slip it between the shield and spear wall to cause some mayhem.
  2. Renkor allowed Aelyria to feed him some liquid that burned and left him gagging. It was like sucking in water from a fetid pool. A sense of calm washed over him as Aelyria poked at his raw shoulder and chest, the flesh there was tender, but not agonizingly painful, more like a skinned knee or a hand burned from a bath heated too much. He zoned out as she practically grumbled at the state of the wound, whether from amazement that he had survived or horror at its state he didn't know. Eventually she seemed to be satisfied with the state of it and stood, offering him a hand that he gladly accepted, and pulled him to his feet. "Thank you, Aelyria. For everything. I'd say that I don't think I'll ever be able to repay what you have done for me, but I think maybe we should just call it even at this point." He meant the words, Their history together was about as dramatic and storied as he could ever wish for it to be. Somehow he felt that he wouldn't get his hope and that things were about to get much worse for them. After all, who knew how long the crystal now lodged in his chest would have enough power to keep him alive. They stood together on the dais, Aelyria's attire closely matching his own, ragged and torn. He didn't know what she had gone through to find him, but it looked like one hell of a story. His own memories of what had happened were vague and blurry, as if it was all a dream. The clearest memory was that of him leaving Valjer and galloping off into the wastes to fume over his exile. Not wanting to dwell on it too much, he motioned toward Ysgrid and they set off on a winding and complicated path through the labyrinthine Deep Delve. He took in the sights and sounds of the place as they walked, appreciating his first time every seeing the deeper levels of this place, having only previously explored the very entrance to the Deep Delve. This place would warrant much more exploration in the future, when he had time of course. They had been walking for quite some time through the dark tunnels and across great gaping chasm overpasses when they heard the distant sound of footsteps. He shared a look with Aelyria, concern about what might be lurking down in these long dead halls growing in his chest. But, as he slowed, Ysgrid continued on, seemingly unconcerned by the sounds. The rattling of metal soon accompanied the footsteps, his mind conjured images of armored Duergar coming up from the depths to capture them for their slave pens. He couldn't have been more wrong. They rounded a tunnel corner and saw a line of armored soldiers wearing the colors of Valjer, the white, black, green, and gray of the city flag adorned their tabards, and their scale male gleamed a burnished bronze color in the torchlight. The soldiers seemed equally surprised to see them and the point man called them to a halt. Ysgrid didn't stop, merely waved her arm at the men like they were blocking her path down a narrow Valjer street. "Make way, I must reach the surface." The men looked skeptical, but parted before her and allowed her to pass. Renkor and Aelyria followed, passing through the ranks of men, three deep, to reach the other side. The men closed ranks behind them and continued pushing forward, sweeping through the tunnels and performing whatever duty they had been assigned. Renkor shared a look with Aelyria, if the rangers had once again returned to the Deep Delve, then something seriously wrong was happening on the surface. They hurried through the tunnels, faster now that they had encountered the rangers. The entrance to the Deep Delve was a grand sweeping room, large enough to house hundreds of people, and had been carved many hundreds of years ago as the first home of the Valjerian people. Now, the descendants of those very people were filling the room, fluttering about in a panic, penned between a group of Rangers at the exit to the main room and the crush of people trying to push their way into the great room. Ysgrid cut a path through the people, parting them before her with her confident stride and an aura of power that flowed off of her like a tangible force, driving them back. The trio exited the Deep Delve, forcing their way up like salmon swimming upriver, and found themselves standing in the courtyard of the Bailey Farmhouse, where the entrance resided. More and more people were streaming in from the town, with the City Guard and the Deep Delve Rangers shepherding the people to the entrance. A tent had been set up off to the side of the courtyard, and large iron braziers had been set up all along the pathways to keep the people warm. Snow had started falling again, and soon it looked to begin in earnest. Ysgrid cut another path to the tent and pushed her way in, Aelyria and Renkor in tow. Inside Valerie stood with two men clad in the uniform of the guard and the rangers, peering over a map of the town that had been stretched across a table and were discussing some strategy. Their sudden entrance drew the groups attention away from the map, all eyes focusing on Ysgrid like moths to a flame. She stood, spine straight, with a confidence that belied her previous demeanor. Her presence now seemed to fill rooms, rather than only existing in the corners. "Mother." Her voice cracked like a whip, power and confidence flowing off her in waves. "The Werewolf approaches." Valerie and the two men looked at Ysgrid, stunned. "Gather your men, we must protect the innocent as they flee into the Deep Delve." She turned and left the tent, Renkor followed, unsure of his role in this. He felt hollow, his strength had flagged and left him long ago, he wasn't even sure if he found a blade that he could utilize it to fight. "Ysgrid." He called for her attention. He didn't know what was going on, but he figured she had answers of some sort. "What's happening? What werewolf?" Ysgrid stopped and turned to answer him, "A manifestation of my fathers hatred and desire for isolation, given form in a form similar to a white wolf. I have clarity now, there were ancient magics used by the fore bearers of Valjer, magics that allowed the wild-men who lived in this land long before it was colonized, that allowed them to take a shape not unlike a werewolf. My father has somehow warped this magic, causing a creature of unimaginable power somehow connected to the Will of Valjer itself, and capable of turning others into white werewolves as well." She paused, as if ruminating on some bit of information she didn't necessarily want to share. "I can sense him now, I am connected to the Will of Valjer now as well, somehow. He's coming to us." She turned away from him and walked to the edge of the Valmer Courtyard. Aelyria caught up with them and a troupe of Rangers and City Guardsmen arrive shortly after. Ysgrid turned to address the group. "I can sense this being, Hati he calls himself, he brings with him a number of White Werewolves. We can defeat them, I know it, as we have defeated White Wolves numerous times before. Focus your efforts on the small ones, I will deal with Hati myself."
  3. The true Renkor had been floating in a state between consciousness, not fully awake, but not fully unaware. At first it had been nothing but darkness, a void of anything at all. He had entertained ideas of a purgatory, or even of a hell, but dismissed those notions almost as quickly as they arrived; there was no hell worse than that in which he had lived. Eventually he began to catch glimpses, fleeting things that flashed before his senses and left him disoriented. He couldn't explain the overwhelming power of the sensations that bombarded him whenever they arrived, to be deprived of any and all sense, of any feeling, and then to suddenly have that full spectrum again was crippling. He began to piece together a story, a story that even disembodied as he was, sent a hot bolt of fear and horror down his spine. Someone, or something, was in control of his body. Then he received the most powerful image of all, Aelyria standing below him, dagger to her neck, and a surge of emotion brought him fully to awareness. He felt like he was awakening from a long and horrific dream, his mind still foggy, but an insistent need pushing him to action. Trying to take control of his body was a surreal experience, kind of like sitting into a familiar and comfortable chair. He knew it was his, but now he had an awareness that somehow he was separate from it. He dare not think about the implications of such things. Something blocked him, a darkness that had settled itself into his body, oily feeling and clinging to every part of himself and controlling him. He floated between this state of consciousness, wondering what he should do. It wasn't like had hands that he could use to pry away an intangible oily feeling that kept him from getting a grip on his own body. A thought occurred to him, something that he had heard his mother say long ago. "Magic isn't anything special. It's just intent and will. You use your will to push your intent to the universe, to tell it what you want to happen." Perhaps, even in his disembodied state, he could use his will and intent to have some kind of effect? He focused his intent on returning to his body, of pushing away whatever had taken control of it. Nothing happened. He was bemused, how do you will something more? It took a few tries before he felt anything, it was only a small movement, a twitch of the finger, so small that he didn't think whatever was controlling him had noticed. He grabbed onto that feeling, wrestling with it for a moment, trying to pull it over himself like a cloak. It was difficult, but eventually he dragged it away and slipped back into his body once more. The feeling only lasted a millisecond before he was shoved back out, rage filled him as he pushed back and tried to shove the being away for good. He struggled like this for what felt like an eternity, a ceaseless battle of wills that never pushed past a stalemate. He could sense the rage and indignation of the other being that seemed so entwined with his own sense of self. A wash of pain rolled over him, a blinding wave of white-hot, fiery pain that would have left him blinking back tears and screaming in limp agony if he could have done so. It scoured his body, his soul, reaching deep into that dark recess of himself where he hid his darkest secrets, his biggest regrets and shames, his loneliness, and burned it away. He felt a weight lift off of him, the feeling of freedom, and control of his body returned. Now, he just felt cold and vulnerable. As feeling returned he felt the thick knot in the back of his throat as a rolling tide of emotions swept over him, sweeping away the last remaining vestiges of stability that he had. He opened his eyes and looked up for the first time in what felt like an eternity, locking eyes with Aelryia and drinking in the depth of emotion that burned within her. He winced at a raw, itchy feeling that covered his left side and arm, turned his head slightly to try and observe what was causing the feeling. He stared at the missing arm and open chest cavity with hollow eyes, seeing the damage caused to his body but not really understanding how he was alive. He couldn't see the inside of the cavity, but it probably didn't look pretty. He turned back to Aelyria, trying to push himself to his feet, nearly falling over as he tried to steady himself with both arms and only one finding any purchase. "Aelyria, I think we have a lot to talk about." The words seemed rather anti-climactic at this point, since it seemed for all intents and purposes like she had brought him back from a state not quite living, but not quite death. Despite this, he was already starting to feel better, a new and untold power seemed to be coursing through his veins. He didn't know what came next, but with Aelyria by his side he felt at ease. He struggled to step forward, to embrace Aelyria, feeling the need to do so after such a long time apart. He couldn't deny the bond they had, even if he desperately wanted to isolate himself from anything and anyone that would tie him down emotionally. He stumbled, his legs still weak, his torso shifting as he fell into Aelyria. He turned his head so as not to face-plant into her, forcing his vision to turn back towards the dais. "Is that my fucking arm? Can I have it back?"
  4. Renkor turned to face Aelyria, unsurprised that she had followed him all the way down into these cursed tunnels. He practically rolled his eyes at her dramatic display of fealty to Ysgrid. "Aelyria, please. As if you would kill yourself to save Ysgrid." His words slipped from his tongue like oil, practically dripping from his mouth with a saccharine display of confidence. "All of those sleepless nights, fighting to stay awake, praying that I wouldn't take control of you while you slept. The innumerable times that you held a dagger to your throat, terrified to continue living with the 'darkness' living within you." Mocking amusement danced in his, in Renkor's, cornflower eyes. "You couldn't do it then, can you really do it now?" He spread his arm wide, waiting for Aelyria to smite him and herself down. "I know you Aelyria, I lived inside your mind for what felt like countless eons. You are weak, you are pathetic, you can't take your own life, even if it means saving those you love." He turned away from the woman, and stepped back to the cloudy pink stone that was the source of his salvation. "Now watch Aelyria, as your negligence and inability to take action gives this land and its denizens to the Shadowborn." A dark fire sprung from his body, a halo of flames that coiled and writhed in the air with its own sentience. The darkness struck Ysgrid, diving into her flesh and worming around underneath her skin. The woman woke abruptly, a scream tearing at her throat as the darkness tore at her flesh, searching. Heat rolled off of Renkor in waves, akin to that of a blast furnace, turning the stone at his feet to slag. A sigh escaped his lips at the feeling of the power around them fueling him, it had been so long since he was able to truly flex his power. It took the dark tendrils only scant seconds to find what they were looking for, a tiny sliver of jagged crystal nestled up against Ysgrids heart, matching the very crystal that throbbed with power on top of the dais. The tendrils wrapped around the shard and ripped it free, tearing a jagged wound in Ysgrid's chest. "You see, Aelyria, this poor girls father might have prolonged her life and prevented her from succumbing to the very disease that plagued him, but he couldn't have realized the true power of this artifact." The tendrils gently deposited the bloody shard in his outstretched hand. He turned the shard over in his hand as he stepped closer to the stone, before slipping it into the very spot it had been broken free. The dark aura of flames sinking into the surface of the stone and fusing it back together, repairing the damage that had been wrought. He placed his hand on the stone, feeling the power it emanated like touching an shielded mana core. "This isn't just a stone, or even a mana core, Aelyria. This is the heart of a god." He picked the grapefruit sized stone up and continued to push his essence into it, fusing them together. "Not just any god, my dear, no. This is the heart of the Dragon God Valjer." He quirked his eyebrow at Aelyria. "Strange isn't it, that the very god these people worship gave its very life to sustain their ancestors, and they forgot about it?" He chuckled as he placed the stone back on the dais, then reached his good arm up to his chest and drove his hand into the gaping wound that hadn't ever healed. With a grunt and a sickening snapping of bones, he tore at the flesh, separating the shoulder and parts of ribs that had been shorn free. His arm fell to the ground with a wet thud. A manic smile crossed his lips as he reached into his still chest cavity and pulled free the slender heart that was nestled there. He gazed at it for a moment, admiring how small and fragile it appeared, before incinerating it in a flash of dark flame. "Now, my dear Aelyria, it is my heart." With that, he grabbed the stone and jammed it into the spot where the previous heart had been. A fresh wave of heat and power rolled off of him as the heart of Valjer fused with the flesh, repairing damage done and attaching itself to him, restarting his circulatory system and healing his body. A translucent arm sprang from the gaping wound in his side, that same dark, oily power the Shadowborn employed. It sealed the wound with its power before solidifying itself into a tangible, if not odd looking appendage. A temporary solution, but effective. He turned back to Aelyria, fully intent on gloating, of letting Aelyria witness what she had wrought with her own hands. But, something was wrong. He gasped, a choking, gasping cough wracked him. He fell to his knees and vomited, spewing his dark, oily essence all over the floor. He started shaking, his body fighting against him. No, Renkor, the true Renkor, was fighting against him. "Damn you man, let me have this victory." He knelt on the dais, shaking, unable to move as he waged his mental war against Renkor.
  5. The near euphoric feeling of shadows crawling over Renkor's skin was interrupted only briefly as he plunged into the frigid lake at the bottom of the well. He bobbed back to the surface, never having touched the lakebed, to find Ysgrid floating away from him. He wrapped one arm around her and set off toward the distant shore, the shadows whispering their secrets to him and guiding his way. It took far too long for them to reach the shore, the water seeping through the thin clothing that covered his body and slowing his movements. Finally, though, he clawed his way onto dry land. Or at least what qualified as dry land in Valjer. He conjured more ghostly black flame, the darkness around him fueling his power to dry both Ysgrid and himself in moments. Now that they were dry he took a moment to observe his surroundings. The underground lake was dark and still, the water long since stagnant and undrinkable. He doubted that anyone still used the well and that it had long since fallen into disrepair. Deep within the recesses of Renkor's mind, he realized that nobody even knew the well was a second entrance to the Deep Delve. Well... it could hardly be called an entrance, more like a natural overflow tunnel for the underground lake that fed into one of the tunnels carved by the original settlers of the underground. A deep sense of wrongness seemed to emanate from everything around them as if the very stone of the Deep Delve didn't want them to be there. The ground squished under his feet as he shifted Ysgrid's unconscious form into a more comfortable position on his shoulder. The footing was treacherous as he stepped carefully over to the slick tunnel that disappeared into the bowels of the earth. It always impressed him how warm it was down here, even just thirty or so feet under the earth and it was a balmy fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Sweat rapidly formed on his brow as he walked, after spending time on the surface where the temperature was so low his body was rebelling. He followed the natural tunnel for some way before it finally crossed with one that had been carved into the earth and stone. Rotted iron-wood that had once formed a bridge across the gap now littered the tunnel floor. He marveled at the skill of the mason who had carved this tunnel. The surfaces were almost perfectly flat and even, forming near-ninety degree angles everywhere. A stonemason, or perhaps even just someone who was bored and looking for something to occupy their hands had come back through and carved designs into the stone. He had no idea how far down the tunnels went, he doubted that anyone did, but he could sense his destination like an aroma coming from the next room over. Call it what you will, magic, essence, power, energy, it saturated the air, the stone, everything. As if the very substance of the world was a sponge that was slowly soaking up the energy from its source, drawing it away. He followed that trail of ever increasingly-potent energy, winding through the tunnels, backtracking when he reached a dead end. Ysgrid stirred several times, trying to come back to consciousness, but he didn't let her. Hours passed as he jogged through the tunnels, never tiring, his body long past being constrained by normal human limits. He felt the frail hold that Renkor's self held on to this body felt the power that couldn't quite pry his hold away. It was this fragile hold that Renkor had over his own body that had allowed him to slip in between Renkor and his own body to take control. Now he just needed to find the massive source of energy hidden in the Deep Delve and he could resurrect himself in his form. The Deep Delve was an annoying place to traverse. No stairwell ever led down more than one level, every level was laid out differently, the whole thing was a fortress of confusion and narrow hallways. Even with the shadows being his natural domain he felt a tickle of madness in the back of his mind as he walked the halls. Every corner was a void that escaped his vision, hiding twisting shapes that gave him pause. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to walk these halls as a mortal, as someone who was not adjusted to shuffling along in the darkness. He paid no mind to any of the rooms he passed, ignored the great rooms and natural wonders. He doggedly pursued the taste of energy that flooded the air. Tuning out the sounds that echoed through this place, this dungeon, focusing with single-minded intent on his destination. Eventually, finally, he found it. A massive room carved entirely from a dark stone, basalt perhaps, the walls and floors wrought with long strings of runes that might at one point have meant something in another language. As he stepped forth, towards a raised dais at the center of the room, he craned his neck to further examine the room. The room appeared to be a perfect half-sphere that was sunk into the floor, like an inverted dome. The dais itself had stairs leading up to its peak, upon which sat a rather plain, cloudy, pink crystal. The crystal was rough and uncut, appearing for all purposes like a useless chunk of rock. He could feel its power. It was like standing before a roaring fire on a cold night. The feeling of energy much like the heat that very same fire would exude. Suffocating, even. He could feel the tiniest spark of that same energy within Ysgrid. Despite the raw power held within the stone before him, he could feel the wound inside of it. Someone had tampered with the stone in the past and somehow linked it to Ysgrid. It flowed from the stone and to her like a transfusion of life energy. He would have to remove that spark from her if he were to harness this power for himself, the magic used to graft it to her was coarse and wasteful, it would prevent him from being able to reconstruct himself. He placed Ysgrid in front of the stone, on the dais, and set about preparing himself to separate her from the stone.
  6. The now not so dead Renkor stumbled down the hallway, eyes open but unseeing, arm dangling awkwardly at his side. He sucked in a deep breath, reveling in the coppery scent of blood that had soaked through the wooden floor and walls. Each breath brought new vitality to him, bolstered him against the discomfort that he felt now. Something else tickled at his senses, drawing him back to the present and focused on the far end of the hallway. Two women stood, blocking the door, their postures uncomfortable. His eyes snapped to the woman in front, her thick mane of auburn hair mussed but easily recognizable. "Aelyria..." The name was foreign on his lips. It had been so long since he had spoken it. He scanned her body, drinking in her appearance, noticing the subtle way she favored her wounds. It was hard to take his eyes off of her. How he had longed to see her in person, to speak with her. The second woman was smaller than Aelyria, slighter, and bristling behind the larger woman like an adorable hedgehog filled with righteous fury. "Aelyria..." his voice was rough and raspy. "Where am I?" He could see her relax at the sound of his voice, the tension practically melting away. He stumbled further down the hallway, his sense of balance faltering. Horror crept into his voice, tinging it with panic and a bit of desperation. "What happened to me?" He fell to his knees in front of her as tears sprung from his eyes. "What did you do to me?" Aelyria leaned down and laid her hand on his shoulder, squeezing it to show him comfort in her aloof way. He let his head fall, his chin touching his chest as the tears fell to the floor. As the tears fell, a vicious grin split his lips. "You know Aelryia, I always said I would kill your friends for keeping me cooped up on that airship for so long." Black flames wreathed his left hand as he lashed out, quick as lightning, striking Aelyria in the hip. Aelyria crumpled with a wounded sound as she was pushed away from him and fell to the floor. The second woman let out a screech and tried to turn and flee, but he was upon her like a shrike snatching its prey. He threw a quick punch to the woman's jaw, not hard enough to cause serious damage, but enough to stun. He caught her with his good arm before she could hit the floor and slung her over his shoulder. He turned back to where Aelyria laid gasping on the floor, tears pricking the corners of her eyes, "Oh Aelyria, I'm beginning to think that I should have done this sooner. To think of all the fun that I could have had if I just took over sooner?" He laughed as he turned away from her and carried the woman down the stairs. It was a quick trip down the stairs and through the front doors of the house. The guards stationed at the front doors were more of an annoyance than a threat, a single blast of dark flame knocked them out and cleared his path. He turned immediately towards the old Valjer Farmhouse Well, its presence calling to him like a beacon. There was a power under the well that the simpletons around them couldn't even begin to comprehend; a power that he would consume for himself. He stepped up to the well and hefted the woman on his shoulder to throw her down the well. He paused midstep, another presence tickling his senses, another being of power was nearby, one that felt similar to the power coming from the well. "I guess we will just have to deal with that when it comes to looking for us." He dumped the woman in the well and slithered in after her, sighing in pleasure at the feeling of the darkness swallowing him whole.
  7. Valerie was idly stroking the side of Renkors' face, basking in the wonderfully numb feeling of the frigid cold. She drank in his features, the almost bird-like shape of his nose, it made him look hawkish. She longed to gaze into his cornflower-blue eyes one last time to tell him how she truly felt; how she coveted the freedom he had, the adventure he could seek. Was that why she had exiled him from Valjer because she couldn't stand to see the very thing that she most desired? She closed her eyes and pulled him closer, feeling herself start to drift into blissful sleep. She grumbled as something prevented her from finally letting go and falling fully asleep, an irritation on her skin that was both itchy and oily. She turned her head and tried to find a more comfortable position so that she could sleep, trying her hardest to ignore the increasing discomfort. It was futile trying to block out the discomfort, she needed to deal with it so she could sleep. She cracked her eyes open to see what was causing the itching. She sat up with a jolt, scrambling away from Renkors' corpse. Darkness crawled across the floor and over her flesh, an ethereal smoke that glistened with sickly wetness. A shiver raced down her spine as the darkness wormed its way into every crack, crevice, and seam it could find to sink into Renkors' exposed skin. The darkness flowed faster and faster, his corpse twitching in response before turning into full-blown spasms that shook his whole body. Valerie folded into herself as the remaining darkness slithered across the floor and disappeared into Renkor. The corpse snapped into a sitting position, but far too rigid, unnatural even. Its eyes opened and she gasped, even in her addled state she had expected them to be cornflower blue. But they weren't. They were pools of darkness, pits of tar, smoldering, bubbling, raging portals to the darkest parts of hell. The... thing... that sat before her now scanned the room, locked its unnatural eyes on her, and then vomited a stream of blood and clumps of something fleshy and vile. Its whole body shuddered and vomited again to purge itself. The corpse awkwardly climbed free of the canvas wrappings, its left arm hanging uselessly at its side, before stumbling towards the door. Valerie watched in horror as it disappeared into the hallway.
  8. Concern cut through Valerie's fugue, like a hot knife through fresh cheese at the sight of tears welling in her daughters' eyes. As the previous flurry of emotion melted away a surge of anxious energy and a desire to comfort her daughter pushed its way to the forefront of her mind. She pulled herself forward with the arms of the chair, intent on pushing herself up and rushing to wrap her arms around her daughter and give her the safety she deserved. But, Ysgrid practically leaped from her chair as she brushed away the very tears that tore a rift in Valerie's soul. Empty excuses fell from Ysgrids' lips like a waterfall, Valerie didn't believe any of them. She let the tension flow from her body and allowed herself to relax back into the chair, drawing her eye calculatingly over Ysgrid as she practically groveled her way out of the room. It was hard to remember that Ysgrid was a woman now, no longer a child of only twelve, that she had a will of her own and methods of dealing with trauma that didn't always align with Valeries'. She let her daughter go without complaint, finishing off the rest of her glass as Ysgrids' footsteps disappeared up the stairs. An uncomfortable silence descended in Ysgrids' absence, the young woman was the only thing that brought life to her home anymore. Her concern for Ysgrid slowly slipped away, leaving only a hollow, listless feeling behind. She needed to fill that hollow within herself. A numbness had taken over her, she didn't even feel herself drinking the rest of Ysgrids' glass, nor did she realize she had removed the entire bottle of whiskey from the cabinet. Her feet moved of their own accord, taking her to the stairway as she absently sipped from the bottle. The dark amber liquid worked its way into her bloodstream, pulling her up from the depths of her despair and depositing her onto a pleasantly floating cloud. It wasn't long before she found herself back in the study, pulling her clothing tighter against her body in a futile attempt to ward off the cold. Her eyes were drawn again to Renkors' corpse. Their fates had once been entwined, so close that they were almost indistinguishable. Seeing him now, a corpse without the usual vitriol of life that she had grown accustomed to, it disheartened her. How had she fucked everything up so badly? She stepped over to the gaping hole in the side of the house, realizing that the blizzard seemed to have stopped. Heavy clouds still hung over the town, blocking the sun, but no fresh snow fell from them. She took another swig from the bottle, trying to push herself further and further into that floating feeling that numbed her soul. When before she had thought Valjer was burning, she had been wrong, it was a rash of fires, but nothing serious. Now, Valjer burned. Half of the town was aflame, burning to a char and leaving her people stranded in the cold. A sickening thought managed to pierce the veil she had drawn over her awareness, by the end of the night would she even have anyone left? Even if she did, it would take months for the town to rebuild. She turned away from the sight again, trying to hide from her anguish. The now-empty bottle of alcohol fell from numb fingers, bouncing off the ironwood floors with a dull thunk. She fell to her knees next to Renkor and reached out to run her hands across his face, feeling the sharp angles of his face that were so distinctively elfish. He looked so peaceful, so happy, she wanted to be happy too. She laid down next to him and wrapped her arms around him.
  9. Valerie lost herself within the whirlwind of events that occurred following the Scion depositing the trio in her house. Cleaning, suturing, and bandaging the wounds of the two living members, losing herself in the old embrace of mending wounds. It wasn't something that she had done in the recent past, having to take over the day to day operations of Valjer from her late husband had consumed the majority of her time. She would be lying if she said she hadn't slipped into a mild depression at losing the one thing that had truly been her passion, and being able to immerse herself in that passion again was like being able to breathe again. Like all things though, it came to an end. There were no more wounds to clean, no more heart rates to monitor, just two patients that needed to recover on their own time. The guards had hovered for a few minutes before eventually deciding they would be of no use and returned to their posts at the front of the manor. Ysgrid still knelt next to her, having worked just as fervently as she to get their two patients stabilized. The biting cold was the best motivator, like a cruel taskmaster standing at their backs with a prod, ever present and needlessly liberal with the punishment. Her hands had gone numb long ago, a reminder for the urgency of finding shelter form the storm still raging outside. With the cold in mind, she motioned to Ted's unconscious form, "Ysgrid, carry him down to the basement where it's warmest, we'll drip feed them some of the soup broth and try to wake them up." She looped her arms behind Aelyria's knees and shoulders and hefted the waif of a woman up and over her own shoulder before heading towards the door, sparing only one glance back towards the supine form of Renkor before entering the hallway and stepping down the stairs. The fire had dwindled in the basement fireplace, but the warmth remained for now. She lay Aelyria in front of the hearth and finished stripping away the layers of clothing and canvas that were wrapped around her body, replacing them with a thick bear skin that was much warmer. Her hands warmed as she did this, feeling returning along with a prickling sensation that was uncomfortable to say the least. She shivered at the feeling of Aelyria's frigid skin, pale and delicate like a sheet of paper, as if all the life and warmth had been sucked out of her. She placed Aelyria's equipment off to the side and grabbed several split logs to throw onto the still hot coals. Ysgrid had done much the same for Ted, stripping his wet and cold clothing before replacing them with a fur that was warm and dry. With nothing left to do besides wait for the fire to warm the two frigid companions, she retreated to the small liquor cabinet kept next to the plush reading chairs and book cases. The cabinet was another relic of Valjer's storied history, an ancient ironwood barrel that had been converted into a cabinet with shelving and swing out doors. It was an heirloom that had been crafted by the hands of men who knew no life outside of the dark depths of the labyrinthine caves underneath the very place she stood. She drew out a decanter of amber whiskey and set it on the barrel-top, realizing that perhaps her own willingness to hold onto items from the darkest part of Valjer's past was part of what had continued to contribute to the very issues that plagued her city today. She poured two glasses of the liquid, tossing one back immediately before refilling it and taking both to the plush chairs, sinking into one with a sigh. She placed the second glass on the low table that stood between the two chairs for Ysgrid. The whiskey settled in her stomach with a burning curl, her thoughts skipping over everything that was happening. The creature that was rampaging in their town couldn't be the Scion of Valjer, as she had begun to suspect. Her late husband was delusional about many things, but the appearance of the true Scion of Valjer just a short while ago proved that whatever was killing her people was not their savior. But, if that was true, and the Dragon that had torn half her house apart was the real Scion of Valjer, then what was she supposed to make of it bringing her a near dead trio with such infamy. Well... duo now, Renkor had long since passed into Death's Embrace. Was the Scion delivering them to her for her to deliver justice? If that was so, why wouldn't the Scion have dispensed the justice itself? No, the more she thought about it, the more she began to convince herself that the Scion had brought them here for her to protect, to the seat of power in the city. That made things awkward for her, since the last time she had seen Aelyria or Renkor had not been a pleasant interaction, in fact it had been quite hostile, with Renkor himself promising to kill her if their paths ever crossed again. She swirled the amber liquid in her glass, feeling that despair creeping up from the pit of her stomach. "Oh Ysgrid... What am I supposed to do?"
  10. Valerie Valmer sat in her late husbands study, staring despondently at the ruined state of the room. The ironwood desk that had been an ever present, monolithic symbol of the enduring nature of the people of Valjer was split completely in half, its contents strewn about the floor. The desk was a relic of a time before her ancestors had emerged from the labyrinth below the city, dragged from that very same labyrinth and preserved in the Valmer manor. It had to be at least two centuries old, it was quite honestly the most beautiful piece of furniture she had ever seen. It was a shame that her husband had corrupted the very principals that it had once stood for, driving them back into the very isolationist and backwards type of existence that would lead them back into the labyrinth below the earth. The weight of the world settled on her chest, how was she alone supposed to deal with all of these issues that her husband had brought about, there was no one that she trusted enough to bring into the fold of her machinations. It was nights like these that she would sit in the basement, in front of the hearth, the roaring fire the only light provided, swirling a glass of amber whiskey and sinking into the depths of her own despair. Tonight, though, she couldn't afford such luxuries. She needed to turn her mind away from idle thoughts, to turn away from the despair, turn away from the knowledge that there was a creature of indomitable power rampaging through her city, killing indiscriminately, and her best rangers could do nothing to stop it. The window that she had stood before only hours before, admiring the attractive city skyline, stayed firmly at her back now; she couldn't bear to see the flames that raged across it now, consuming the city. She turned her attention instead to the contents of the desk strewn on the floor, the books knocked off their shelves, the blood staining the wood, and the gouges in the floor from the werewolves claws. Ysgrid remained in the basement, sheltered from the sights of gore and destruction that made the otherwise bleak and emotionless study fill with horror and revulsion. The bodies in the hallway had been removed, but the blood had found its way inside the room, the scent of blood heady in the air. It was a fitting scent as she organized the various relics from the bloody and brutal past of Valjer that Bailey Valmer had hoarded in his desk. Most of them small trinkets that were little more than carved pieces of stone, bone, or wood, depicting animals or monsters. A few, though, were more substantial. Daggers of dark ironwood, inscribed with symbols that she couldn't understand, sharp as any steel blade. Lupine skulls, too small to be from a white wolf, but equally vicious looking. Crystals the size of a closed fist, clear like the purest glacier water, but flecked with drops of red that reminded her of drops of blood in a pool of water as they diffused. These were but a few of the things that she scooped up and placed in baskets that she had brought from a closet. She was broken from her somber mood by shouting coming from outside, the replacement guards that stood watch at her front door. A jolt of icy fear spiked through her chest at the thought of seeing that beast of a werewolf maul more of her loyal citizens. An odd sound, like that of an enormous tarp flapping in the wind was the only warning she had before her precious second floor windows, along with much of the wall, was torn from the building with a horrific cavalcade of noise. She shrieked and covered her head and neck as shards of glass and wood sprayed her body, her clothes protecting her from most harm, but several slivers finding purchase in her soft flesh. She uncurled, looking towards the wall as the dust settled, and felt that bowel loosening fear intensify as she stared into the face of a massive, scale-plated, lizard-like head. It was a cobalt blue and the size of a cart, hoarfrost hung from the spikes that protruded from its head, and a forked tongue flicked out to taste the air. Then the chilling cold hit her, the subzero temperatures sucking away whatever warmth she had held onto in the blink of an eye. She fell to her knees, ready to surrender to what she could only assume was the Scion of Valjer, the very dragon that Bailey had said was the protector of the city. So it was to her surprise when the creature snorted, then pulled back from the side of the building and used its razor sharp claws to shear through a row of straps holding something to its distinctly drake-like body. A saddle, she realized, with saddle-bags, fell from the creature, then it awkwardly picked the saddle up with it's front claws and gently deposited the entire saddle in the study, its bulk taking up almost the entire room and forcing her to the back wall. The Scion snorted one more time before turning and with a single bound flapped its great wings and soared away from the building, away from the city, releasing one world shaking screech before disappearing into the thick snow storm, heading for the mountains. Valerie struggled to overcome her shock, struggled to understand what had just happened. She stepped closer to the saddle, trying to pick through the piles of leather and rope that had allowed it to be harnessed to the great creature, and eventually found the main portion of the saddle. Three large bundles were strapped to the back with what looked like vines, and six saddle bags, three on either side, were stuffed to the brim with various items. She stepped over the straps, focusing on the three bundles, They were a combination of canvas and some kind of insulating fiber, wrapped together with more vines. She pulled free her dagger, slicing easily through the vines and peeling away the layers of canvas and fiber, revealing the contents of the package. Her shock turned to anger at seeing the face of Renkor in the package, a quick jolt that turned into a rising burn that made her want to sink the dagger into its hilt in his eye. That anger subsided rapidly when she saw the damage to his body, the blood that was dried and coated to him. She reached out and placed her shaking fingers against his throat, feeling for a pulse, and left wanting. She turned away from the corpse of a man who despite the circumstances she could only give a begrudging amount of respect for his tenacity. She quickly peeled open the other two packages and was equally shocked to find Aelyria, and an associate of Renkors', a man she only knew as Ted. These two were alive though, they looked pallid and weak, but alive. She ran into the hallway and yelled down the stairs. "Ysgrid! Start a pot of soup and then come help me, quickly!"
  11. The endless snowfall that fell from the sky above Kjell seemed to take on a new weight, one that settled firmly on his chest and lay there like an annoying cat. Defeat, that was the sensation; It was not one that he had felt in a long time. There had always been hope before, always a chance that they could pull off a miracle and save the day. Against this foe, though, he felt no such hope. They were outclassed from the beginning, they just hadn’t realized it, now they were paying the price. The frozen blood of his fellow townsmen was proof of his own incompetence, his inability to do what he had always done, to save them. He sat up slowly, struggling against the weight that pressed against him, telling him to stay down, to give up. His own team littered the ground around the small intersection, interspersed with the dead members of the guard; why had they been killed but himself and his team spared? He got to his feet and started walking, leaving behind the shattered sword that was so painfully reminiscent of his own feelings; broken, pained, jagged... raw. He wasn’t really aware of his surroundings as he walked, his mind wrapped in a thick blanket, his ears still ringing from the intense blow to his skull. His feet dragged deep furrows through the snow as he half stumbled along, he was halfway down the street before he realized that he didn’t actually know why he was walking or where he was intending to go. He stopped, almost halfway down the street, and turned his eyes skyward again. Bailey Valmer, curse the man, even in his death he found a way to meddle in Kjell’s affairs. He was almost certain of it now, that Bailey Valmer had somehow managed to cause this curse, to bring this beast to Valjer to cause mayhem. The man had been a raving lunatic, so it wasn’t hard to connect the dots when the creature seemed to share his isolationist views. The strain on his body finally took its final toll, his knees giving out and smashing painfully against the ice under him. He collapsed there, face down in the pathway, unable to muster the energy to fight the pain and continue on. His head throbbed with an urgent and insistent agony, and despite the fleeting thought that he should probably find some shelter, or help, he passed out in the icy snow.
  12. Eriko strode deeper into the room, avoiding the roaring fires that adorned either side of the room. Who needed to warm their house in the dead of summer anyway? As she walked, one tapestry in particular caught her eye, a massive piece that spanned the entire height of the wall and then some. It was woven with the most vivid color she had ever seen, the background a blue so deep she felt as if she were staring into the ocean depths, yet tinged with a brightness of color that mesmerized her. She found herself lingering ever so briefly in front of it to let her eyes devour the sight of it, trying to decipher the story that it told. Each figure so contrasting to the blue background that they seemed to pop off the tapestry and come to life before her. A man with a chiseled jaw and dark hair throwing objects that glowed on the weave towards little, red, imp like creatures was the only image, and it was stunning to look at. She didn’t have time to get distracted, so she continued moving through the room, not noticing the multiple sets of eyes that peered out from underneath the furniture, tracking her through the room. How shadows had managed to stick to the bottoms of said furniture, was a magical miracle in and of itself. As she moved through the room to the opposite end, she passed the two doors that were adjacent to the entrance. They were made of the same dark wood as the tables, and hung seamlessly in the wall. They appeared to swing outward, which she thought made sense, they would be harder to break into that way. As she approached the wall, she noticed an alcove that was previously hidden by the dim light, it was filled with objects half hidden in shadows. She reached out tentatively, chewing on her lip as she did, grasping one of the objects gently and pulling it free of the darkness so she could inspect it. She cringed when she realized it was a dagger, one that looked old, really old. It was covered in rust and pitted all along the length of the blade. She hastily set it back on the stand she had plucked it from, not wanting to damage the item. Flakes dropped free of it when it settled back into its resting place, dusting the alcove and causing Eriko to cringe a second time. She backed slowly away from the alcove, turning to head back to one of the sitting areas closer to the center of the room. Perhaps if she waited for a short while, someone would arrive to greet her. She eyed each of the various chairs and couches, examining them for their potential comfort, before settling on an extremely plush looking leather armchair. As she lowered herself into the chair, a happy sigh slipped through her lips, this was one of the most comfortable chairs that she had ever had the pleasure to sit in. Even though it was still early in the day she found herself starting to nod off, the room was the perfect temperature for a nap, and the chair was just so damn comfortable. It wasn’t long before she gave in and allowed herself to slip into a rather pleasant dream about raspberry cream tarts. The sudden sensation of falling brought her abruptly back to wakefulness, a pang of annoyance rushing through her at the all too common nightmare interrupted the wonderful nap she had been having. It wasn’t until her face smashed into the floor that she realized she actually was falling. She sputtered indignantly and raised her hands to her face, clutching at the throbbing flesh there. Her indignance turned to icy fingers of terror when something, or someone, grabbed her ankles and yanked, hard. The legs of the leather armchair flashed past her, she yelped the threw her arms out, trying to catch a hold of something, anything. But it wasn’t meant to be, her fingers scrabbled over the legs of the chair and the hard, wooden floor beneath her before she felt that falling sensation again. The world turned dark for a brief moment before the lighting changed drastically, she couldn’t see much in the dim light, just hard stone flashing past her as she fell. Another hard jolt rattled her as she hit something hard beneath her, driving the breath from her lungs and knocking her out cold.
  13. There were many in the land of Terrenus who knew the ways and customs of Dougton, Eriko was not one of them. Despite being born in Casper and traveling all over the continent with her merchant father, she knew and understood very little about its different cultures. That was probably how she found herself in this situation. She had recently traveled to the town of Dougton from Casper, offloading large quantities of silk at such a low margin that she nearly wept. It was then that she heard of a man who was rather reclusive, and liked to collect antiquities. This alone wouldn’t have been enough to pique her interest, she didn’t have anything that would be of interest to the man, so an easy sale wasn’t her lure. It was the tales of debauchery and villainy that were spread by a doomsayer that preached from an overturned box in the market. This man wasn’t particularly exceptional, not by any means of the imagination. In fact, Eriko had seen thousands of them in her travels across Terrenus, there was always someone who thought the world was ending or that mole people were going to invade. But, as the man shuffled erratically back and forth on top of his box, thrusting a rusted and pitted iron cage to and fro and screaming about demons bringing about the end of Casper, she couldn’t help but feel a growing sense of excitement. Could demons really be coming? Could this man, Alban Moore, truly be able to summon creatures from another plane of existence? He wouldn’t be the first person in history to be able to summon beings from another plane, but the rarity of the ability was a draw that she couldn’t resist. Imagine, her, seeing a real, living, summoner! She tingled with excitement at the thought. She moved through the crowd, getting closer to the man and his cage, and was stunned to see a small lizard like creature with two small nubby horns protruding from its skull. The creature seemed to be upset about being swung round and round, and alternated between attacking the rusted iron bars and swiping at its captor. This was the real deal; she needed to find this man and speak with him. She rushed off to find her cart, spending no more time than necessary to wrap up the transfer of gold back to the banks of Casper and send a note to her father giving word of her delay. Then, she unhitched her horse from the caravan, asked a few people where to find Alban Moore, and raced off into the surrounding hillside. It was not a long trip, Dougton was a large city by every stretch of the imagination, but it was extremely dense. It was only once you reached the outer limits of the city proper and entered the farmlands that you stopped fighting the crowds. As she and her horsed cantered quietly across the rolling hills, she kept her eye out for the sign post indicating her ultimate destination. She muttered the instructions to herself as she rode, keeping them fresh in her mind. “Follow the main road out of town, turn on Moore Drive, then straight on until his manor.” The path down the main road had been quite pleasant, very flat, only curving slightly upward as it climbed out of the valley. Moore Drive, however, was less maintained, almost overrun with long grass and shrubs that made the entire road seem claustrophobic. As if a predator was hiding amongst the long grass, waiting for the perfect moment to strike; It was difficult to resist the urge to spur her horse forward at a gallop. Eventually though, the path opened up and she found herself mere yards from the front of the manor. Calling it a manor was probably too conservative, this was a full-blown compound. Tall fences lined the exterior of the compound, topped with razor wire. The building itself was a four-story monstrosity that loomed over her, and she couldn’t help but wonder why she hadn’t been able to see such a large building from afar, even with the tall grasses blocking her view. The building had two large wings, extending back away from the front entrance, creating that ever popular horseshoe style. The walls were made of dark stone, which was an odd choice of construction material in comparison to the rest of the buildings that had lined the streets of Dougton, which were mostly constructed from wood. Despite the imposing appearance that the building struck when she first lay her eyes on it, the front gate was propped open, as if inviting travelers to come inside. She nudged her horse forward, walking it inside the tall metal fence and into the front yard of the compound. There was a hitching post attached to the front porch of the manor so she tied the horse there and made her way up the front steps. Large wood doors loomed over the porch, twice her height and nearly as wide, they looked solid enough to stop a charging bull. She reached out and pounded the heel of her fist against the door. She had assumed that such a solid looking door would require a lot of effort to create a loud enough knock, but it boomed and the door actually creaked open a few inches. Was she just supposed to go in? Was there an attendant in the foyer that would be waiting for her? She assumed that such a place would lock the front entrance if they didn’t want people to just wander in. So, she pushed the door all the way open and stepped inside. As her eyes adjusted to the lower light of the room, she was able to take in the level of opulence laid before her. Thick rugs covered the floors, ornate pieces that were woven with golden threads, tapestries depicting all manner of scenery covered the walls, a crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, several low tables of dark wood were surrounded by thick leather armchairs. Two fireplaces with no apparent chimney’s flanked the room, fires roaring in their hearth. But, no one was present, the room was entirely empty and devoid of life. She couldn’t help but tenuously break the silence. “Hello?”
  14. The term 'Spring Showers' has an entirely different meaning to the denizens of Valjer Town. To them, a spring shower was an unexpected blizzard that dumped several feet of snow over the course of a week. Such an event was deadly to the unprepared. One such 'Shower' was currently hammering Valjer Town with snow, having already brought two feet overnight. Normally the strong spring sunshine would offer the town a reprieve from such an unexpected storm, but this one was unnaturally powerful, near darkness reigned. It was on these sleepy days, where no sound but that of the Ironwood trees creaking in the wind echoed through the alleys of Valjer, that the townsfolk would feel most alone. In the chilling subzero temperatures it was suicidal to try and go to the market or visit a neighbor, everyone shuttered their doors and lit a roaring fire in their hearths to ward away the cold. Even the town guard was wary of the cold, staying inside the guard towers scattered along the walls, huddling around wood burning braziers and bundling up in their thickest furs. The standard patrols limited themselves to shorter routes and carried with them magical implements that provided warmth that warded away the freezing temperatures. Valerie Valmer stood on the second floor of her home, the mansion built for the Regent of Valjer, looking out the window over the sprawl of the town. She placed her hand against the frigid glass, enjoying the contrasting feeling of her warm home. It was impossible for her to see the entire town, but she could see a few buildings that weren't obscured by the haze of the thick snow and the darkness. It was rare for a building in Valjer to have windows, the glass was a poor insulator in a region so cold, maintaining the heat in the house took much more fuel and was a luxury for her family alone. She turned away from the window, intent on heading back downstairs and to the basement where the rest of her family was huddled. But, her eyes caught on the sole piece of furniture that adorned the study, a massive Ironwood desk, images of snarling wolves and stalwart defenders clad in chain-mail adorned its edges. She still half expected her husband to be sitting there, writing some zealous text about the Scion of Valjer and how it would cull the impure from their town before sheltering them from the outside world. A small sigh escaped her lips as she finally tore her eyes away, he wouldn't ever return, he had been slain of his own doing. His mind had failed him in the late stages of his illness, and he had been slowly destroying the town with his isolationist measures. She hardened herself as she left the study, as much as she had loved the man in his youth, he had done nothing to endear himself to his family before his death. He wouldn't return, couldn't return, and for that she was grateful. As she stepped quickly down the stairs and into the below ground basement, she saw her daughter Ysgrid chaffing her hands by the hearth. A smile played across her lips at the sight, thankful that she still had her daughter to keep her company on these lonely nights. The wind howled in the hearth's chimney, the sound eerily reminiscent of the White Wolves that still to this day plagued her people. A plush leather chair adorned with the pelts of many different animals called to her like a siren on the waves. She had no intention of resisting, and eased herself into the chair with a pleased sigh. The room was roasting, the hearth keeping the small area almost suffocatingly warm when combined with the heat that became trapped in the furs. She slipped into a contented mid-afternoon nap, happy to spend a day at home with Ysgrid rather than worrying over the future of the town. #### The sound of splintering wood dragged her from her sleep, the noise an explosion when compared to the relative peace of the crackling fire and the shuffling of pages being turned in Ysgrid's book. Her daughters worried eyes stared back at her as she sat upright, it was hard to tell exactly where the noise had come from, but it was almost assuredly inside the mansion. She stood, pulling a delicately wrought dagger from her belt, and started toward the stairs. Had someone gotten past the guards that were stationed at the front of the mansion? The sound of a door opening near the front of the building drew her attention as she ascended the stairs, a guard pushing his way inside. So they hadn't gotten past the guards. The man, stocky and full bearded, wearing thick ringed chain-mail and a conical helmet, gave her a questioning look. She shook her head and motioned him over. He poked his head back into the foyer where he and the other guard were stationed, saying something to them, before they both came tromping over in their thick clothing. A bright blue glow had begun to emanate from up the stairs, the sound of boards creaking and ragged breathing accompanied the light. Valerie gave the two guards an alarmed look and gestured up the stairs. To their credit, and her pride, they were well trained. Both guards grabbed the hilts of their swords, pulling them free from their sheaths with the ring of steel. They ran past her, running up the stairs with shouts of 'Town Guard! Identify yourselves!'. She followed them up after a moment, at a slower pace so as not to be in the way. She was halfway up when the first scream rippled through the air, followed shortly by a horrific screeching sound and a crashing thump. More shouting, frenzied, and the sickening sound of flesh tearing and bones cracking. She flew up the stairs then, coming upon a scene that chilled her blood more than the frigid temperatures of the 'Imperial' South. The guards were dead, of that she was sure. An enormous... thing stood on the corpse of one, and held the second in massive, clawed hands. It's maw was wrapped completely over the head and shoulders of the second, and Valerie could have sworn that its eyes were looking right into her soul as it bit down with a crunch that curled her stomach. Her throat clenched horribly at the sight, vomit erupting out of her lips at the sight of the now mangled lower body of the guard slumping to the floor. The beast in the hallway opened its maw, letting the bloody and shredded head and shoulders of the guard plop to the floor with a sickening noise that sounded like someone dropping a wet sack on the floor. It reared its head back and let out a deep and throaty howl, one of satisfaction and victory. The beast finished its howl and locked its eyes on her. She was finally able to get a good look at it, and she felt an even deeper surge of terror run through her as she realized she was looking at a White Werewolf. The beast was hunched in the hallway, not even able to stand to full height, its bulk filling it to capacity with rippling muscles and obscene mass. The White Werewolf leapt forward with astonishing speed, the corpse it stood on slipping down the hallway as the werewolf pushed off, its gigantic hand closing around her neck and lifting her free from the ground with ease. It pulled her close, drawing a deep breath in through his nose, smelling her. A blast of hot, fetid, sour smelling breath hit her as it exhaled, and her shock intensified as it spoke. "Ahhh.... pure.... Hati hunts the unclean for you." The words came out slightly garbled as it spoke through a slavering maw filled with razor sharp teeth and a long tongue. The beast, had it called itself Hati? It dropped her to the floor, her dagger clattering away, totally forgotten. The werewolf stepped past her, claws leaving deep gouges in the Ironwood as it entered the stairwell. Her senses began to return to her as it reached the floor below, and she moaned in horror before dragging herself after it. She stumbled down the last few stairs just in time to see the werewolf crash through both the interior and exterior doors of the mansions foyer. Baying to the moon loud enough to rattle the furniture in the house as it lowered itself to all fours and began loping through the deep snow. Two regular White Wolves materialized out of the flurry and flanked it as it disappeared around a building. She stared after it, unable to will herself into motion, what did it mean... 'hunt the unclean'?
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