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  1. Superlike!
    King reacted to supernal in Read only site on 4/9   
    I'm flagging the weekend of 4/9 as the day that Valucre goes read only. I'm actually going to use that time to try and migrate the site to its new host
    If all goes well then I'll point the domain to the new server and may even leave it writable into May before making it read only
    If it doesn't go well I'll probably point it back to the existing host and low-priority troubleshoot until the new one works or until the first host runs out of lease, at which point I'll troubleshoot it on the new host over time and it'll just be read only when it becomes accessible again
  2. Superlike!
    King reacted to Noko in [Seraphim] When Trouble Brings Friends (Closed)   
    "I'm glad you're alive,"
    Back in the present, in the warm familiarity of their apartment, his whisper wrapped her like a well-worn blanket.  She sank into its embrace, her hand pressed flat above his heart and feeling to its steady thrum as it reverberated through her palm, passing from him to her until they felt like one.  Her thoughts took time to settle; at times, they felt as if they were almost a force unto themselves, free and wild.  He was her anchor, a strong comforting rhythm that beat alongside her heart, and she should have found its unyielding synchronicity comforting-- she should have found triumph in their mutual victories, in the ways they bent and broke the world to suit their collective will, but the pain was too near, and the cost too visible, and her smile spread short, clipped and ruminating.
    "I'm glad you're alive, too.."  she whispered after a moment, pained with the implied alternative.  It was a criminal's 'I love you' - a soft, grateful expression for the simple gift of their continued breath, tangled with complications as it was, intermingled in the fast dying space between their bodies.  
    "I'm sorry for your hand, we'll.."
    There would be something, some cure, some fix, some thing they could do to make it as if it had never been.  A mask to slip over the ruin, as was Phoebe's way.
    Her lids dipped in acknowledgment, her dark lashes as heavy as winter drapes as she took his injured hand carefully into her own, cupping it as a child would an injured bird, and brushed a kiss across the air above the wrapped bandages.  Her heart ached in time with its throbbing, and she sighed.  Her breath passed across his knuckles, and as she pulled back to meet his beautifully contrasting gaze, he bent toward her, and she lifted on her toes to him in a rush, needing as he did, wanting as they both did, longing to fill herself with something beyond the waiting tension of the past days.  
    "Oliver.."  His name was a desire, a fire always smoldering in the center of her being-- a need, a hollow longing when they were apart, but its heat was never gone, never reduced to the anemic wisps of a dying love.  They were lucky in that; unlucky in so many other things, but in their bond they had found something others only dreamed of.
    She slid her hand from the plane of his bare chest to the strong curve of his neck, worked her fingertips along the edge of his hairline and frolicked there, pulling him close as his hunger escalated.  He was so warm, so solid against her, and their crushing need swept them forward with its growing wildness.  Catching her breath, she felt the days' anxiety fall away beneath their growing passion, like so much dust to the wind.  She nipped his lip, dove into his deepening kisses, and eagerly threw her worry to the Fates until she felt him slowing-- her stretch to catch him, to set her palms against his jaw and pull him back to her, ripped a lightning-hot pain through her wound, stripping the color from her cheeks and dousing her heat as surely as an ice bath.
    He turned and she caught his hand as he did, their steps one set echoing as they walked as a pair into their sanctuary.  The short walk gave her time to appreciate his injuries, from the stiffness in his gait from whatever injury lay beneath the bandages on his torso, and she cataloged them all with malicious, simmering efficiency -- if any of their dealers survived, they wouldn't for long, at least.. well, once she healed.
    Settling, standing between his legs, she raked her fingers across the top of his skull, lifting and ruffling his hair until it was a mockery of the somber mage he sometimes was.
    “Show me,” he spoke, and she sighed at its seriousness, replying with a tease, "I love how your brow wrinkles when you're being stern," as she began to work her way one-handed through the ivory buttons of her overly common shirt.  It didn't take long; she was a dexterous beast with deft fingers that remembered her days running sleight of hand cons and, before long, she shrugged the almond-colored button-up off and tossed it onto the couch.  Beneath it, she was a braless tapestry of purple-black bruises, hosting an angry, scarlet red centerpiece that drove into the flat of her lower-right abdomen. 
    Landing the hit might have cost Amirah her life, but if the Phoenix looked back at the wretched trauma from beyond the pale, and saw how it had set and lingered, and threatened, she would probably choose to die again.  It was a masterpiece of pain, two-inches of ragged, torn crimson, seared raw and festering at its edges with the psions flailing, failed attempts to bind it futilely waving in the air like seaweed from the ocean floor.  From its frayed edges, the ruin crept outward like the blue-purple edge of a match marching down its wick toward the unblemished fingers holding it.  From several inches away, Aristotle could feel its heat radiating, focused along the outward spreading contagion, and his searching gaze would soon find the poisoning hexes set deep into the wound, ground into her flesh along the knife's path like dirt into roadrash.
    As he looked, she played with his hair, gaze turned toward the ceiling like she would find morphine there.  A primp here, a pluck there, and the mage's pepper-flecked hair took on a flopping sort of faux-hawk that ran the length of his skull, distracting her from the pain she expected as Aristotle's examination continued.  The injury had to hurt, even with out his ministrations; it had to scream and batter at her self-control, but for the time being she bit it back-- aided by the nanites she'd ate earlier in the day, thank the gods for science, and the fact that he hadn't yet touched its ragged edges.  Before he did, she cleared her throat, traced the clean white beams overhead and wondered too-casually, with a forced idleness that didn't settle.
    "..do you regret coming back?" she asked, drawing her light eyes back down to his familiar face. 
  3. Superlike!
    King got a reaction from Eternity in Un-Foretold Journey   
    It was only by the gift of the lightning in his blood that Paris’ eyes kept up with the she-wolf’s movements, blindingly fast and wickedly lethal. It was as fine a dance as any the crown prince had seen in his life, beginning and ending so quickly, not even her victim’s bodies had realized they’d been rent asunder. They came undone at the seams in a disgustingly glorious mess, blood and gore spilling out across the ground in tides, turning it muddy. More interesting, however, were the micro-transformations the woman had undergone in so short a time. Paris’ eyes drank in her claws, her fangs, her feral eyes and smiled appreciatively. She’s beginning to understand her role, he thought, relaxing more comfortably in his saddle. What I’m truly purchasing from her.
    The crown prince’s jade eyes lifted, flicking his gaze across the way. It landed on the chieftain, eyes wide, body tense with the realization that neither he nor his men could truly contend with the deceptively small, fragile, sword-carrying woman. “A true ruler’s power does not come from their own hand, Bojack, but from the hands they command. You see now what kind of brutality I could have unleashed on you and your tribe, Bojack, had that been my desire. What manner of death and butchery would have met your women, your children. And yet,” he continued, raising a gloved hand with dramatic purpose, “I speak of deals and negotiations to be made. Things that would, both immediately and overtime, improve the quality of life for you and yours.”
    Gently urging his steed forward, Paris closed the distance between him and the chieftain. He circled around the remains piled high at the center of the walkway, though his eyes did adjust so that he could appreciate the vulgarity of it more closely, before returning to the mountainous man. “You spat in my face mere moments ago, and I would like to think that I have gracefully wiped it away. There needn’t be any further violence between us. Those men, they looked well-versed in killing, and I would have liked to have had their skills and knowledge for our forces. You’ve robbed us of that talent, all for your pride, Bojack. But, I trust that my she-wolf’s display has made you more open to reconsider your, mm, previous stance?”
    The chieftain’s gaze flicked to Okina, then back to Paris. The grip on his axe was white-knuckle tight, as if he might shatter the notched wood to splinters. Perhaps, if Paris had given him another moment to consider his options, to let the devil of pride whisper in his ear, Bojack would have swung his mighty axe at the prince. But Paris could see that possibility glowing in the man’s eyes, true as an oracle divined the future, and raised his gloved hand once more and snapped his fingers to draw the she-wolf’s attention.
    “Okina,” he called out softly, lovingly. “If the chieftain does not kneel in the next ten seconds, I want you to bring me the heart of every child in this village. Even the newborns. But use your claws, she-wolf. Not your blades.” There was an emptiness in his voice, bitter and cold as the frigid winds of a desolate tundra.
    “No, wait,” Bojack snapped. “Wait!”
    The chieftain lowered his axe and slammed it into the earth. And then slowly, heavily, brought himself down to one knee. Those that surrounded him gawked, for they had witnessed the unthinkable, but they too fell, one by one, then in scores, until every soul in the village bowed before their crown prince. “You’ve done the right thing,” Paris said as he spurred his steed, driving her forward toward the chieftain’s long, wide house. “You just can't see it from down there.”
  4. Superlike!
    King reacted to supernal in Sunset and sunrise, the cycle continues   
    Most of what I'm going to say is what I sent to members of staff a little while ago. The sentiments I expressed were genuine so I see no reason why not to share them again as the backbone of my message to everyone else.
    ~ ~ ~
    My colleagues / friends / friendly strangers with whom I share a hobby with / etc,
    For a little while now I’ve been thinking about the best way to serve up the site long term, which is really saying something in light of Valucre's longevity. Along with various other people (desolate has been there just about every step of the way; the people who have worked on this with me for long, early hours I can count on one hand) I’ve managed this project for something like or over 15 years. If I don't want Valucre to be one of those sites which eventually stumbles its way towards a handy abyss then I have to think about what it looks like to keep it going against the natural forces of entropy which conspire against us all.
    One thing I know for certain is that my personal commitment, which I recognize as being a considerable component in Valucre's success, can't be the same. It's not simply a matter of keeping the lights on or growing but of staying engaged and innovating while decoupling dependencies. To quote Edwin Catmull, it isn't that I feel Valucre has "arrived or that my work was done . . . I'd spent two decades building a train and laying its track. Now the thought of merely driving it struck me as a far less interesting task."
    Improvement doesn't always mean doing and having more, or getting and being bigger. So to that end:
    # Sunset and Sunrise
    1) Valucre will become a read-only archive.
    2) My attention and that of some staff will turn towards a successor project, which has already been created and beta tested. With this announcement it’s reached public access.
    I plan to allow the next month or so to serve as a transition period during which we'll work to explain and fine-tune the new platform and systems, after which registrations and posting on Valucre will be locked. Valucre will continue to serve its content, meaning stuff isn't disappearing and bookmarks keep functioning and all that, and members are encouraged to save off content they consider valuable, as has always been the case.
    When Valucre is read-only and the dust has settled on the new project, I plan to move the archive to a new host (the same place the new project lives). The cost savings in doing this and in managing the infrastructure myself (we’re lucky staff has the skills to do what we’ve done; without which we’d be having a different conversation) instead of through the provider translates into longer runtime for both the archive and the new project. The fact that any still interested members would be on the new project (or not! I know not everyone will agree, as not everyone has in the past with my decisions and this is a big one) will take a lot of stress off my shoulders if I run into any hiccups swinging Val over.
    There are a lot of reasons driving this and I’ll probably rant about them all over time but I think the most immediate concern to players are covered in the migration guide we've put together. One major thing I hope comes across in the experience is that, while still being fundamentally the same thing, still being a roleplay website and one with hopefully plenty of familiar faces, the new project is a new project. Is a departure in terms of both process and platform that trying to turn one thing into the other would have been a long and trying disaster.
    Anyway that's what we've done and we hope you enjoy the salty sweat and tangy frustration that went into this. I hope you'll come along for the ride but realize many of us are dealing with many things - pandemic, recession, juggling different high priority responsibilities like work and school and family and personal health, all of the usual things that see people pulled away for years at a time before doing a pulse check to find that yes, we're still here.
    See you on the other side!: https://prettygoodrpg.com/
    Please read the guide in its entirety! Click on the links, read the material. Compared to just recalling information I know this is a nontrivial effort but (one more time now!) it’s a new project with new (even if comfortable) structure and information. It’s not just a continuation of what came before.
    Discussion thread:
  5. Think
    King reacted to Mystic_Lhoth in Druid Coven?   
    Hi, just wanted to see what Druid coven's exist in Genesaris, and if there isn't one perhaps we together [or not] I'd prefer to get a small group of druids going before perhaps coming to an agreement in character to start a Druid Coven. Whichever outcome is preferable, as I am blissfully ignorant of whether or not it has happened before or not. Either way is fine, this is more or less a feedback thread for a group of druids.
  6. Superlike!
    King reacted to Ace in [Patia] Hunting Grotesquerie   
    "Hm." Miavaris' directed a kind of grunt at Usher and stepped closer to him, hands drawing to her hips, brow furrowing. She agreed with his assessment... and that raised more questions. The half-elf weighed something in her mind for a moment, then slung her bow back into the wedge-shaped, leather harness on her back and glanced above them, to the lowest-hanging branches over their heads. 

    "I want a better look," she said. Mia took two bouncing half-steps backward and then turned and jogged to the largest of these nearby trees. It was easy enough to push herself up and onto a sturdy limb. From this vantage point, the ranger was able to study the odd placement of body parts in the clearing, and you could just see her nodding as she crossed her arms over her chest. 

    Randomness in nature was rarely even; but people---well---beings, she supposed, trying to appear random had a way of trying not to arrange anything too close together, and it usually resulted in the pieces having too consistent a distance between them. Like the eye would judge three feet to be too close, but four feet 'just right.'  Sure enough, from this height she could see that subtle pattern in the spacing. 

    Mia swung and tumbled nimbly back down and shook her head, "These things are unnatural." She didn't just mean their appearance, which was obviously aberrant to this world. "They must be created by some... one, some magic perhaps. But they have intelligence like a human's. Attempts to stage trickery... and, in the wild, when a beast is sacrificed for the good of the pack, they simply leave it behind. They don't murder it."

    Contrary to the brash demoness, Miavaris was a tracker, and she had little doubt she could have picked up the creatures' trail. But there was no reason to waste the time. The vhersi's summon would be able to follow their scent. "Lead us, then," she spoke to the panther with the ease of someone with more fondness for forest beasts than town ones. "Everyone else, keep your eyes open around us. There may be traps, or an ambush." 
  7. Superlike!
    King reacted to Ace in The Afflicted (Semi-Closed)   
    “Uh- Okay. Sure.” Regina blinked, taking possessions of the folder that seemed clumsily offered to her, not as if Cole were in a rush to get rid of it, but as though his mind were full of other things and handling the file’s inconvenient shape and size was not one of them. She gave him a puzzled look, then thumbed open the worn, tan folder and glanced down at the page. 
    The secretary’s last name appeared to Regina first and her eyebrows raised. “Santos?” She murmured, moving distractedly, automatically, to sit on the edge of his nearby desk. That could be lucky for them. Gina recalled seeing the woman, whose first name was Dorothea, once or twice; She had mocha skin and short, straight hair styled in a conservative, chin-length bob, but that was about all that she could remember. She flipped the page. There, in neat printing on the back, she found the address. “Actually, I won’t need to. It’s not far. We can walk.” 
    — — — 
    Dorothea Santos lived in a run-down tenement building six blocks North of their office. By the time they reached it, Regina’s soft, dark hair had begun to bake under the beating sun, leaving her neck gleaming with sweat whenever she swept it from one shoulder to the other. On the stoop sat an elderly man in an old and rickety wooden kitchen chair. His head, crowned with pale grey down was turned away, every so often jerking softly from the neck. He might have been sleeping, except that when the detectives stepped onto the bottom stair from the street, the man’s face turned toward them. Regina saw that his eyes were thickly clouded. 
    “Hello,” Regina tried to make her voice sound cool, but reassuring. Merely offering a politeness, alerting the sightless man to their presence before they approached too near and startled him. It didn’t seem to be needed. His face was pointed directly at them, he knew they were there, but the man shrugged and said nothing at all in return. 
    The front door was left open, and so were most of the apartments lining the hall inside, to let in a cross-draft that might provide some relief to the sticky, wet heat. The secretary’s door, however, was tightly closed. Regina knocked softly. They waited, but there was no answer or sound from inside. She knocked again, a little more firmly, and said, “Miss Santos? Dorothea Santos?” 
    For a moment it seemed, again, like there would be no response, but just as Regina was about to resign to the possibility that she wasn’t home, there was a stiff, heavy scraping of the deadbolt from the other side of the door. The door cracked a couple of inches and a young, pretty girl with fearful eyes surrounded by deep, tired bags peeked out at them. “Yes…?”
  8. Superlike!
    King reacted to Raptor in The Library. [The Feeding]   
    Shanna is quiet, an unusual thing for her, but the night has been long and her attentions heightened to a near breaking point for most of it. Between the celebrations, the reveal of Zenahriel’s persona, and now Rafael’s presence – Shanna could barely contain her enthusiasm, but now it waned in favor of a collected calm that she hoped was not disturbing. Instead, a warm smile slides along coral lips, as her attention focuses solely on Rafael and his presence, even going so far as to leave the tome upon the table before her as her hazel gaze shifts between honeyed pools and an almost emerald.
    “I’m glad, then, that you were able to speak to her. It’s important, I think, to not leave things unsaid, especially if they’re good things!” The last is a chirp, her voice hitching half an octave. His admittance in the next sentence, however, does cause a noise of protest to tear from her throat, her mouth opening only to close sharply when his hand rose to give himself time to continue without interruption. Instead, a flush flourishes across her visage, dusting her cheeks with a gentle touch of red.
    “How could I refuse such an invitation? I am glad I was home to receive it, and not out in the field. That would have been a travesty. I…will admit I took a couple of classes on appropriate behavior during events such as these, since I’ve never been.” A hand moves to twirl into an errant strand of hair, twisting it into a thick curl as though her nervous energy will dissipate with the simple action.
    “I admit I am …hesitant to visit you. You are so busy, and the affairs you see to are so important…” It is now that the flush begins to creep from her cheeks, giving way for her pale visage to reclaim itself.
    His gentle command leaves little room for argument, and Shanna finds herself rising before she can protest. She moves, albeit slowly for the first step, to offer her hand to him to take so that they might find the calling of the music together. The gentle echo of it in the deep is enough.
    These calm moments are fleeting for Shanna, and she relishes them with the entirety of the her being. No doubt she will never forget this moment – this quiet moment in the library with her Lord Emperor.
    “You received your scarf, yes? I have a hat in the making to match.” Shanna offers, finding long quiets unsettling. Her form now, is closer to Rafael than it has ever been, their hug in the above room withstanding, and Shanna finds herself dizzy with the sensation - though not through complaint, but elation. 
  9. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in In the grim future, there is only war.   
    Uric screamed against the iron palm covering his mouth as he felt the razor slit his flesh at the fundament. He writhed in pain and agony, twisted his arms and legs in the firm grip of the soldiers that held him down, pinned against the rough cobblestone. They immediately packed his fresh wound with an abundance of paste to stop the bleeding, while at the same time, another knight fetched the stake. It was a long stretch of wood, taller than the knight carrying it, impeccably sharpened at the end and tapered. “He’ll be one of the live ones,” the lieutenant informed his men as they prepared to insert the pike. “Run it along the spine.”

    They drove the pike in with a heavy-headed mallet. Uric’s flesh bulged as the wood strained against it during the ascent; each thud sounded like thunder echoing over the hills. The boy grunted into his captor’s hands, sobbed as the pain became unbearable. But the end of his torture was nowhere in sight.

    The lieutenant spared a sympathetic gaze toward the skewered youth. “May the other children dwelling in Kul’Daru learn from your mistakes. To spill the blood of this city’s protectors is to invite punishment, and torture, and death.”
    He waved his hand with a dismissive flick on his wrist. Those surrounding Uric hauled him up the tall case of stairs, still thoroughly impaled, to the upper reaches of the city walls.

    There, he would join the vampyric rebels bound to posts and left to await the coming sunrise. He would also be among many other humans impaled – some completely, with the stake’s point thrust out of their mouths, shoulders, or chests, while others remained alive and aware of their gruesome state – that would be left to wither away in the elements. They would all provide a generous feast to the crows and buzzards, some of which had already been drawn to the fresh stench of rot and decay.
    It promised to be a bloody morning.
  10. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in In the grim future, there is only war.   
    Victor watched as the young vampire strolled toward the guards hauling Uric off toward the wall. While Roslyn Luther was a woman of power (purely political), and a normal man or vampire might quake in fear of what she might coerce the Blood King to do to them in retaliation of their disobedience, the Captain was not one of them. As she reached the entourage and began barking orders, he made his presence known.
    “Ignore her.” No matter her influence, the military and police were a strict society; one not even her father could sway with all his might. Uric screamed again, almost begged for the Mistress to take him, but fell silent as one of the knights elbowed him in the mouth, split his lip. His head rolled back, blood gushing from his mouth, and the knights continued carrying him to the wall.
    Roslyn would find her path impeded by Victor.
    “My orders were to ensure that all those involved in the rebellion were made a proper example of,” explained in a sharp, curt tone. “The wishes of my superiors, and the king, far exceed your own desires. Even if you are one of his favorite pets.” Victor’s eyes rose to the higher reaches of Eir’Daru. “The leader of this rag-tag group has been taken to the dungeon for the king’s personal enjoyment. His execution will be far grander than this.”
    It was time he cut her high-horse down at the knees. “Do not let your status go to your head, child.” Though she carried herself with all the regal swagger of a noble woman, and flaunted her wealth and influence, she was but an infant in the eyes of the pureblood. “You are still very much a citizen within this city, and thus bound by the same rules. If you ever attempt to interfere in another operation like this, you may find yourself on the city walls for treason.”
    Did she want to die? Roslyn would do well to worry about her own neck, opposed to a traitorous child’s.
  11. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in In the grim future, there is only war.   
    Victor's eyes watched as the six men appeared and began herding those fortunate enough to escape the Vanguards' blade into the shadows. He knew who they were, who these men worked for. Roslyn Luther was one of the king’s favorite pets and made sure to abuse her position as thoroughly as it was allowed. Her father, the Headmaster of Imir, was far more tamed, in spite of being one of the first to invoke the Blood King’s gifts and shed his mortality. He quickly turned his daughter, and being the spoiled and vain brat she was, Roslyn took every advantage since then.
    Breaking laws and civil services were one in the same to her. Rumors flooded the lower cloisters, whispers of the terrifying house of Luther. Many, except for the bravest and most prestigious of humans, dared work in the folds of her manse. Roslyn was bold, but murdering high-profile individuals was a line not even she dared cross.
    After all, the king’s leniency only extended so far.
    His attention returned to the bloody street and the many bodies littered across its face. The rebellions groaned as they were dragged toward the city walls, writhed in agony as their wounds caught in debris and splintered armor. Trails of red spider-webbed from the massive pool of blood, and then stretched across the massive bridges that led to the walls. Severin had long-since been hauled off to the dungeons, his transformation only midway.
    The lieutenant appeared again. “Sir?”
    “What is it?”
    Two more guards appeared then. They had each hooked an arm around a young boy’s arm, and held him up between them. The lieutenant pointed to him with an armored finger. “What are we to do with him, sir?”
    Victor’s eyes narrowed. “Was this boy not a part of the rebellion, lieutenant?”
    The lieutenant swallowed hard. “Yes, sir. But…”
    “But what?”
    “But, he’s just a boy. Can’t be any older than twelve, thirteen at the most.”
    “That’s true.” Victor sighed and surveyed the young boy more closely. A wicked grin spread across his face. “I want him on display at the center gate.”
    The lieutenant nodded and waved the guards off. Uric screamed and pleaded until his throw was raw, and his voice faded as they crossed over the bridge, and headed toward the center gate.
  12. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in In the grim future, there is only war.   
    Victor cleaned his blade of Severin’s blood as the rebel leader fell to the ground, impaled by a handful of swords and an equal amount of spears. Still, the man breathed. The Vanguards were masters of precision, and managed to avoid the majority of his more important organs while, at the same time, inflicting the maximum amount of pain. But, if the skewered rebel believed his life would end here, he was gravely mistaken.
    The scarce remains of his forces fell as well in a rain of their blood and severed limbs. Their dying groans filled the streets, only to be overpowered by the furious roar of the civilians who, like a sixth sense, realized they were safe once again. Many of the Nu’Daru’s denizens took to beating the injured rebels, stabbing, biting, clawing; The Vanguards efforts turned to restraining them while other units collected the dead and injured.
    The lieutenant emerged from a wall of Vanguards. His armor glistened with a thin red sheen, and blood covered his face in violent patterns.
    “Was this”—Victor gestured to the blanket of bodies that writhed against the street in pain with a disgusted wave of his hand—“all of them?”
    “Yes, sir.”
    “How many dead?”
    “Of the original rebellion? A third, sir. This was before you arrived and gave your orders.”
    Victor smiled. “Good. Bring them to the walls.”
    The lieutenant tilted his head. “The walls, sir?”
    “Yes, the walls, with stakes as well,” Victor explained in a low, authorities voice as he knelt beside Severin’s body. “The vampyric conspirators of this filth’s rebellion shall be burned at the stake at sunrise. His human accomplices shall be impaled – leave them there until the crows have picked the lack morsel of flesh from their bones.” He bit into his uncovered wrist; a surge of blood rushed from the skin and covered Severin’s face, his mouth, filling his dying body with new life. “But you? The Blood King will enjoy your screams for the rest of eternity, fool.”
    The process would take time, but when Severin awoke from his near-death experience, it would be in the dungeons of Umbra. “Take him”—Victor kicked a sword deeper into Severin’s gut—“to the castle and lock him up with the others. I want this mess cleaned up in two hours.”
    The lieutenant nodded. “Yes, sir.”
    “Have the displaced sent to Eir’Daru. They will be the king’s special guests until their homes are restored.”
  13. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in In the grim future, there is only war.   
    The Vanguard took brutal advantage of their cowering opponents. Those they found huddle in corners, or skulking in the shadows, found themselves cut and maimed no differently than their brothers in arms doing battle in the streets. Severed appendages collected in large heaps, and the screams of the injured and dying grew louder than the survivors bearing witness to the grotesque sight. What had begun as a revolt had turned into a massacre as Severin’s rag-tag crew of humans, vampires, and other undesirables were forced into the wood-chipper.
    Victor paid little attention to the chaos surrounding him. He was lost in his own world; he heard, saw, and felt only what he wanted: the howls of pain as he sliced into them, the look of horror on his victims’ faces, and the taste of their lesser blood as it splattered across his lips. He was a blur of dark leather and steel as he danced among the enemy’s ranks, severing limbs and skewering all those unfortunate enough to cross his path.
    He saw something out of the corner of his eye as he dug his wrist-blade deep into the shoulder of another rebel, only to wrench it out with a violent twist. Victor could smell the blood of his men on the boy’s hands, though he no longer brandished a weapon. Unfortunately for cowardly boy, not even children were exempt from the city’s harsh laws.
    Victor appeared before the fleeing boy mid-step, and with a powerful thrust, sent his blade clean through child’s right leg. There was a hint of resistance as the weapon stabbed against bone, and then passed through it and split his femur clean in two. The wicked edge exited out of the back of his thigh with a surge of blood, and left a gaping wound when Victor twisted his arm pulled it free of its fleshy sheath.
    Uric wouldn’t be going anywhere.
    A roar of commotion stole the captain’s attention then. Deep red eyes, hidden by the icy blue visor of his helmet, settled on the origins: Severin. He’d found the head of the snake, and with a mounting eagerness, he charged to remove it. What was left of the rebel leader’s forces had crowded around him. They fed off his unnatural vigor and continued to fight through injury and exhaustion, scoring blow after blow against their oppressor. But, even the most determined forces know when a battle is lost.
    More units had arrived from the Kul’Daru, and now pressured the small collection on all sides. It wouldn’t be long now.
    Victor disappeared in another burst of smoke and shadows. The blood at his feet sloshed as he took stance on Severin’s western flank, and brought his blade whipping around to claim the Rebel Leader’s left shoulder. It was a wicked fast strike, like a viper snapping up its prey, and would bring him low if it connected.
  14. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in In the grim future, there is only war.   
    Victor’s orders were simple: quell the rebellion that had spilled into the streets of Nu’Daru by any means necessary. “It is the king’s desire that you make an example out of them.” He remembered his superior’s emphasis on example, and already had devised a grisly fate for those who did not meet their end directly at his blade. “Such that all who look upon our might will tremble and submit.” While a sadist by no means (at least in his own eyes), the Carmine Elite captain took great pleasure in his bloody work and administering the king’s dark will.
    By the time he arrived, stepping from one of the many shadows cast from the district’s tall buildings, the first explosion had rocked the streets of Nu’Daru. The sky was dark with smoke and thunder clouds, illuminated only by the violent fire that had torn into the side of a shop. His nose twitched as the stench of charred flesh invaded his senses, followed by the pungent odor of sewer blood.
    Victor pushed his way through the ranks of Vanguards—who had barricade the entrances to Ivory Square with their numbers—on his way to the conflict. “Who’s in charge here?” he asked once at the front lines.
    “I am, sir.” The knight was a young man no older than his twentieth year. Fresh out of Imir, Victor surmised.
    “Under no circumstances does battle reach the Square. Do you understand me?”
    The lieutenant swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”
    “We are to make an example of these rodents.” With a light flick of his left wrist, a long, wickedly sharp blade protruded out from his bracer. “You are to maim them, but not kill. They shall all be made to suffer state execution.” An eerie silence washed over the Vanguards then, as horrifying images polluted their minds. There was no fate more gruesome, or painful; this they all knew. The captain stepped forward, into the fray, and the Vanguards followed close behind.
    His first targets were an emaciated pair as they struggled with a vanguard, trying with all their might to drive their weapons down into the man’s dented armor. Victor vanished in an explosion of smoke and shadows, only to appear before to two savages a second later. His left arm whipped up so fast the momentum caused it to blur; the blade sang as it cut through their uplifted arms, severing all four appendages at the elbows. He doubled-back and drove them off the knight with a bone-crushing blow.
    Powerful strides brought him to the back of a vampire as it fed on a young woman, biting, pulling, and tearing her throat into fleshy chunks. A low, precise strike removed the fiend’s left leg and then, as Victor snapped his arm up, claimed the vampire’s left arm at the shoulder. The vampire howled in pain as he fell from the woman and thrashed against the street, wet with blood and gore.
    Victor pressed on without so much as missing a beat, continued his deadly dance to the rhythm of dying screams and clashing steel.
  15. Superlike!
    King got a reaction from Raptor in The Library. [The Feeding]   
    “A good time would be a rather strong way of phrasing it,” Rafael replied, a teasingly devious grin visible only by the soft, dim light of one of the library’s many self-contained lanterns. “I did run into an old friend of mine a little bit after you and Zenahriel departed. We hadn’t talked in a while, the fault of which, I confess to you, is entirely mine, and so it was. . . well, it was delightful to see her.” The emperor’s face softened with nostalgia as he thought of days and nights long-since past, the pain, the pleasure, the joys, triumphs, and failures that had unfolded over the course of years. It had been good to see Her, though. “We managed to say a great deal, a great deal that should have been said years ago, and so it was nice to move on from that chapter in the long, winding story that is our relationship.”
    Pausing a moment, Rafael rapped his fingernails against the fine wooden table, quick and rhythmic, clickity-clat, then smiled. “Of course, there’s the matter of my favorite mage making her appearance. I’ll admit, I was. . . mm, well, speculative of your attendance.” He raised his had before she might take offense or think it a statement on his, or that of his wishes’, importance to her. “I’d hoped that you wouldn’t be in the middle of one of your grand adventures, or perhaps knee-deep in research. I would have understood, naturally. It’s not as if this is the only time we will, can, or should see each other. But, it brings me no small amount of joy to see you so beautifully dressed.”
    After a while longer of comfortable silence, Rafael rounded the table to stand more closely beside her, extended a pale hand toward the girl, still coddling the great tome that had, since his arrival, been forced to share her attention. “Come,” he said to her, the softness of his voice unable to mask the authority of his demand. Even with one so dear to his heart, it was not in him to make a request. “Let me look at you more closely and admire more appropriately what you’ve become for this evening, now that we’re alone.” It was the first time in all his memories that could recall describing a situation with the mage and such.
    Even this far from the celebration halls, the music seeped through the heavy tile floors, the stone walls, from the page of every book and the spine of every tome. It was soft and gentle, barely a whisper on a breeze, but it resonated in him called to her. Rafael smiled.
  16. Superlike!
    King reacted to Raptor in Shanna Eichel.   
    Behind that cute face and innocent demeanor, a chaos demon of the highest order resided. He had no idea if it was bound to her when she was a baby or if she is the literal personification of chaos, but the brief amount of time he spent with her left him with no doubts, at all, that she was Armageddon and Ragnarok fused together in Apocalypse themed wrapping paper, that came with a Book of Revelations greeting card. - Neph.

    act i. The Profile
    Birth Name: Shanna Eichel.
    Age: 27   
    Race: Human.
    Class: Mage.(Magical disaster.) 
    Birthplace: Celin City, Genesaris

    act ii. The Diagnostics
    Height: 5'7"
    Weight: 145lbs.
    Hair: Light Molasses.
    Eyes: Hazel.
    Voice: Lilting, but almost annoyingly so. If she were a videogame character, it's the voice you never choose.
    Skin: Light complexion.
    (A note: This character's appearance is constantly in flux. Her face shape/hair styles/and small things are constantly changing little by little.) 

    act iii. The Armament
    Weapon: Grimoire, along with several small daggers, varying potions, and a familiar. She has magic, as well, but...it quite often backfires.
    Armor: Slightly reinforced leather gloves, boots, and jerkin.
    Accessories: Several varying potions of....questionable use. Mainly because it's never for sure if the potion was brewed entirely...correctly.

    The Familiar: [None]

    act iv. The Dossier
    Likes: Fruit.
    Long Walks on the beach.
    Not blowing herself up when making a potion.
    Nice People.

    Dislikes: Being told what to do.(But come on, who does?)
    She also dislikes being threatened. Kind've another no brainer.
    While she dislikes fighting, she hates those that take advantage of others and has no qualms about protecting herself or others. 

    Attitude: Awkwardly optimistic, despite her often dismal predicaments. Of course, she realizes that she has no one to blame but herself for such predicaments, Shanna does not seem discouraged in her attempt to better herself as a mage, even when it does blow up in her face. Shanna is also extremely pious and loyal to her God. 

    Abilities: Potion mixing - Though to be fair, it's not her strongest suit...and often times the results are...not what was expected.
    Basic Spellcasting - Though she will try higher level spells in hopes that they don't backfire. 
    Polymorph and Requip style magics. - These are her strengths. These particular magics will never blow up in her face. 
    Healing - More like bandaiding. Yup. That's the extent of her abilities for healing.
    Her goal is to find a series of books called the Ars Notoria. They are a total of 4 great grimoires from around the lands.(Or hinted to be around the lands, in any case.) Having and studying these would give her great power. 

    Something to be known about Roleplaying with this character. They have a disaster sheet, This means that when they use their magic, the chances of a magical mishap are extremely high. 
    This will determine magical interactions with the character.
  17. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in The Sitraic Faith   
    The Kraken and the Sea of Corruption
    The following are the decrypted personal memories of [REDACTED]; Third Chief Seraphim of the Sitraic Host, retrieved from his sword found along the black sands of the Shattered Coast. They detail the discovery of the Kraken and the incursion of its domain, the Sea of Corruption, at the furthest reaches of the Maelstrom. Several sequences have been omitted from all records.
    The Shattered Coast; Six Hours before Contact—
    It’s been some time since I last saw the interloper. I remember when he shed his former self down to the bone, name and meat, to become something new; something made of this place. He killed a demon and took its strength, I remember, and with that strength he forged a blade. [CORRUPTED], Sitra Ahkra named him. I wonder what has become of him.
    Has he grown fat from strength, as is the one true way? Has he sharpened his blade—
    What was that?
    I can tell from the looks of the brothers and sisters among me that they’ve felt it too. Something has come; it lingers still, beyond the black horizons, at the furthest reaches of the Maelstrom where not even the tempest dare stray. But we are not the violent winds, the lapping sea, or the crumbling earth. We are the lords of this realm; our charge is to go where others will not.
    We will see this commotion settled.
    The Maelstrom; Two Hours before Contact—
    The tempest is calm.
    In all my existence, never have I see it so.
    From the strength of the disturbance, I thought we might witness the birth of an archdaemon—but there is no sign of such an occurrence. The skies are dark, undisturbed. The winds are silent. Only the sea churns beneath us, tireless, until its black waves reach high enough to lick my heels.
    Something is wrong. I can feel it.
    The others can feel it, too.
    The Dark Horizon looms before us. We press on.
    The Maelstrom; Contact—
    We were fools to come here.
    It reaches up from the waves, an endless coil of flesh and malice, and swallows [REDACTED] whole in its spade-shaped petals. Another crushes [REDACTED] into the black depths.
    I draw my sword, one of the first born of the Deep’s logic.
    It rends the coil’s flesh with ease. The severed limb bleeds taint; it tastes of poison. More come, and I cut and tear and rip myself free of them. I will not let the beast have me. The others are not as strong—their blades not as sharp.
    [REDACTED] is gone.
    A coil curls around [CORRUPTED] and crushes them into chunks of meat and splinters of bone.
    There’s a pressure at my back, then pain. My wings are gone.
    I plummet into the ocean, dragged down by the beast. The surface creeps slowly out of my reach. I will not make it back. I will die here.
    Below is a tear in the ocean, a great and terrible eye, and within it a pit of void and starlight—not of Sitra Ahkra. I am somewhere else. The others, they must know.
    Unknown; Moments before Death—
    I have destroyed myself to do this.
    The creature has tasted my flesh, ate of my power and now demands more. I feel its will in my blood and in my brain.
    I look to my sword.
    My blade is forever. Within this old blade are the laws of existence and even in this damning hell the world creases along its smooth edge. I will make this creature understand our power. It will be my final act of service to the Host.
    I place all myself into the blade – what I know, what I have seen. Look to it, and understand: this knowledge will be your deliverance. It will help you blind this great eye. It will change your fate.
    I summon all the strength left in me and throw my sword. It cuts free, parting tidal waves of tainted reality and black ocean. It vanishes into the sky.
    The waters rush back in, crushing, consuming me.
    I see the beast— [CORRUPTED]
    A great deal of the information regarding the Kraken and its primary domain, the Sea of Corruption, is still subject to conjecture among Sitraic scholars and cryptarchs. The predominant theory, however, is that the beast was lured to the shores of the neighboring sub-plane (underlining the Genesarian prime material) due to its almost identical composition to the Sea of Corruption.
    As described in the Liber Corvinum (Verse 18:12), the Sea of Corruption is a highly concentrated vat of sentience and emotional energy. Unlike Sitra Ahkra, which can only be touched and affected by those of the Faith, the Sea of Corruption is subjected to the influence of every creature capable of complex thought and emotion. It is especially sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of humans, which has caused the human-centered Kadian Empire to become the greatest culprit in feeding the Sea’s ravenous tides.
    Within the Sea of Corruption dwells the Kraken, the All-Devourer. It is an eldritch entity born from the depths of the rolling sea of chaos, corrupting all that it touches with its presence into scourgeborn, loyal thralls to its will. It is believed by many to be an amalgamation of all the plane’s aspects in their most extreme state; and as such, there are those that feel the Kraken is little more than a reflection of humanity’s true self, a beast born of their impulsive ways and uncompromising behaviors.
  18. Like
    King got a reaction from Shuck in The Sitraic Faith   
    The Sitraic Faith
    “Those that would cast aside their brothers and sisters and forsake their faith become something less than beasts. They have no place in the heart of our empire nor in the eye of the Lord Father. Let them die and be forever forgotten.”
    — 13th Understanding, 6th Book of Insight
    The Sitraic Faith is the official and only state religion of the Carmine Dominion. It is devoted to the to the worship of the Sauriel, the Blood God, and Immortal Emperor—reverently known as the Lord Father —as the ascended divinity and savior of the Faithful. Those who believe in the Faith’s teachings hold that the Emperor is a living spiritual entity and the one true divinity of a unified people.
    The Sitraic Faith is lead by the San’layn, also known as the Ecclesiarchy, who devote their lives to spreading the word and will of the Lord Father to every corner of the empire and beyond. Despite an almost fanatical and single-minded sense of loyalty to their deity, almost all forms of nonconforming faiths are tolerated by the Ecclesiarchy and their congregations (spare those that would intentionally and directly attack the integrity of the Faith or the Lord Father). As the Faith spans over a great deal of territory, there is a broad spectrum of manners in which on may practice their belief (the most common of which is blood sacrifice); however, all worship of the Lord Father must comply with certain Ecclesarchal values including, but not limited to: unquestioning political loyalty to the Ecclesiarchy and the various agencies beneath their rule, diligence in carrying out the Lord Father’s will, belief in Lord Father’s ultimate divinity, and conscious contributes to the empire’s overall well-being, no matter how little or great.
    In the current Genesar era, the Sitraic Faith has unrivaled power and influence within the Empire. Any and all heresy against it is punished with unquestioning, draconian severity. There are many that view the Faith as the empire itself, for it is the glue that binds the empire and its many people together, both in times of prosperity and strife alike.
    The precepts of the Sitraic Faith, called the Great Understandings, include the belief that all living beings are born into the world by blood and thus are bound together by that blood, the absolute exaltation of self-improvement, spiritual, immaterial, and psychological enlightenment above else, and that racism, prejudice, and xenophobia are a dire threat to the existence of all sentient creatures which must be eradicated by any means. Many of the Faith’s precepts trace their origins to the opposing beliefs the Lord Father once held during his time as a young knight, long before the rise of the empire.
    History of the Faith
    “Knowing his god survived now on the prayers of all, it was Cecil’s cunning that ensured the Lord Father’s rivers of tribute would never run dry.
    He wrote the Lord Father into the ambiguity of their laws.
    He wrote the Lord Father into their art.
    He wrote the Lord Father into their war.
    He wrote the Lord Father into their livelihood.
    He wrote the Lord Father into their hopes, their dreams, their fears.
    Soon, all the Umbral people’s efforts were in the name of their new god, and the seed of the Sitraic Faith had grown into a mighty oak tree.”
    — Verse 1:6, The Book of Insight
    In the beginning, the Sitraic Faith was little more than a zealous cult—known as the San’layn—loosely structured around the teachings of Cecil Anseleme. A man of unending loyalty and piety, Cecil viewed his then king as a god in his own right, a man of necessary vision and proper ambition to usher in a new era of enlightenment for those beneath his rule and the world at large.
    It is the belief of some that it was Cecil who encouraged the then Blood King to seek ascension as the solution to his strong mixture of troubles. In other accounts, it is said that Cecil was oblivious to his lord’s true intentions. By any tale, the young cleric’s faith and determination to serve the Lord Father are always regarded with a sense of awe-stricken admiration. Never has there been one more singularly dedicated to the cause of the Faith or more involved in the erecting of its infrastructure.
    The teachings of the San'layn were well received by the Red City's vampiric population and those that still claimed allegiance to the city-state beyond its high walls. As the newly minted Blood God tested the limits of his being, it was Cecil that wove an enchanting tale of blessings, boons, and favor that befell those within the city that gave tribute to their Lord and Savior. It was in this manner than the entirety of Umbra was indoctrinated in a matter of weeks. It was then, with an army of crusaders behind him, that Cecil turned his sights abroad to convert the non-believers-- or silence them.
    Many of the immediate threats to the Red City and its newborn religion were targeted first: vagrant packs of werewolves, savage beasts running rampant along the coast, rival warlords and warring tribes, and any manner of civil unrest that might upset the delicate balance of power. When Cecil could not reach these poor souls with diplomacy, he did so with the blade. And while the story of the Arcane East's consolidation under that of Carmine rule is told by the series of alliances and exchanges made between rulers, it was not without its battles. There were many conflicts along smaller borders within the empire, lesser kingdoms housed in the growing shadow of the Red City. These were bloody and excessively violent affairs, so vicious in their unfolding and high in cost of life that even the most warmongering of soldiers lost their taste for battle.
    In the times since the unification wars and the final establishment of the Carmine Empire (now the Orisian Empire), the Sitraic Faith has blossomed across the entirety of the Arcane East and beyond. It has rapidly developed into one of the largest faiths on the continent, if not the world, and guides the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each and every day.
    Religious Practices
    In spite of a vigorous determination and unrelenting practice of self-betterment, The Faith is an establishment of constant-- nearly excessive --jubilation. It is not uncommon for a number of extravagant festivals to take place at any given time, most lasting for days and weeks, some even months. These festivals are often enacted as a manner of prayer to the Lord Father, with sacrifices and offerings made in his name during each day and night of the event’s duration.
    The most prestigious of these events is known as the Feeding, an exclusively vampiric masquerade held annually within the Red City. It is preceded by a nearly month-long period of fasting by the vampiric nobles of the empire, wherein they abstain from the partaking of blood. During this time, “vessels” -- mortal civilians of the empire elected to serve as the event’s feast -- are groomed to service these lords and ladies’ pleasure during the night of the Feeding.
    Those of the Sitraic Faith also practice a betrothal ceremony, known as the Tethering, which serves as a prerequisite to any religious marriage. A ritual to symbolize the promise of unifying mind, body, and soul by blood, the Tethering requires the betrothed couple pour their lifeblood into a chalice and drink from it, thus inviting their shared essence to fill both vessels. Those that partake of the Tethering are considered bound in the eyes of the Ecclesiarchy (with many of the Faithful considering this to be the true marriage of beings), promised to forsake all others.
    The Deep and Sitra Ahkra
    As it is taught in the Scriptures of Insight, the Deep is believed to be the fundament of all things; the great void from which all that is, isn’t, was, and will be first emerged. It is seen by the Faithful as a plane of being that underlines the prime material, also known as the Waking World, and all of its sibling immaterial planes. It is from this primordial foundation that the Lord Father carves the Great Understandings, and thus the Deep is viewed as a sacred place of blessings and enlightenment for their patron deity.
    It is also from the Deep that Sitra Ahkra, the final destination for all souls of the Faithful, was created. The afterbirth of the Lord Father’s ascension, this nightmare realm is a scar on the Deep bound to his will. Both heaven and hell to the Faithful, it encompasses both the Maelstrom and Islah, the Eye. It is the source of all Sitraic faith-magic within the empire, contrary to popular belief that such is derived from the Lord Father himself.
    The Maelstrom is inhabited by the souls of the wicked, the damned, the unfaithful, the sinners, and the faithless slain by the Faithful. It is a boundless, ever-changing landscape of raging black oceans, thundering red skies, and crumbling earth torn asunder. Inhabited by eldritch horrors of the Lord Father’s design, these angels patrol the seas and skies and stalk the broken shores, preying on the weak and weary. But every so often, they stumble across one who is worth redeeming - a soul that, with the proper encouragement, may see enlightenment. With enough time, a soul lost to the Maelstrom risks becoming corrupted by the endless violence and chaos of the realm. This defiling manifests itself in the demonizing of the afflicted soul, rendering them as little more than mindless terrors.
    More threatening, however, are the creatures born of the very fabric of the Maelstrom, itself. As a realm of purely spiritual and psychic energy connected to the lives of millions upon millions of people, the Maelstrom is unsurprisingly sensitive to the raw emotions of the Faithful in the Waking World, and even more so to the countless lost souls that find themselves in its tempest. When these like emotions, typically negative, gather and swell within the seams of the Maelstrom for too long, they eventually burst and give form to what is known as a daemon—a powerful entity able to pass through spaces between realms and lead demonic incursions into the Waking World.
    Protected from all this, at the center of the Maelstrom, is Islah, the Eye. If the Maelstrom is the hell that all Faithful fear, Islah is the venerable paradise they all tirelessly seek. Throne World of the Lord Father, Islah is said to be an obsidian city of eternal peace, happiness, and understanding, bathed in the inverse light of the ever watchful Oversoul. It is the resting place of Sitraic heroes, martyrs, prophets, and forge of the great holy relics used in worship.
    "Discovered amid the outer limit coasts of the Maelstrom, the bio-matter is a novel sentience dependent upon neuralanima-symbiosis with a host organism. It seeks to link to the synaptic and/or spiritual patterns of the closest organism, living or synthetic, to form an unbreakable bond (typically selecting the more potent of the two options, though, as seen in several cases, will connect via both. In this situation, the aforementioned bond - and likewise, its effects - are considerably more prominent). We theorize that this bond is a form of primordial 'love'—an emotional connection meant to compel the bio-matter to view its host as 'family.' The host comes to regard the bio-matter as an indispensable tool.
    The science is inexact, but what is known is that the bio-matter becomes aggressively protective once linked to a worthy host, demonstrating the ability to drastically amplify the host's own strength when immediate threats are detected."
    —Self-authored report broadcast over covert imperial frequencies
    Siderite is an extremely rare substance (referred to as bio-matter in all official imperial studies and reports) found within the realm of Sitra Ahkra. Beyond its limited sentience, siderite is distinguishable in the prime material by its "blacker than night" color (similar to vantablack in the fact that it absorbs 99.965% of radiation on the visible spectrum) and smooth, obsidian texture. As it is a substance born of the sitraic realm, siderite is especially susceptible to acausal and paracausal expressions in the prime material, allowing the bio-matter to serve as a powerful amplifier or inhibitor, depending on the host organism's will and intent.
  19. Superlike!
    King reacted to Noko in A Celebration in Red: The Feeding III   
    From behind her own glass, Phoebe's expression was playful; flush with wine and atmosphere, her green eyes sparkled at the counter as Bodice checked her look with the crystal glass, and she mocked a pout, laughing silently as she curled a grin around the edge of her flute and tilted its stem to drink.  The reward for her adventurousness was, disappointing, and as the lift sent the Tevka slipping, flowing, tumbling over her taste buds, she recoiled with a barely concealed wince and brought the glass down.
    Its bitter wash was a cold shower after a hot and raucous night, and she glanced at her glass, full nearly to its rim with the flat crimson promise, and sighed.  It was so like the Dominion; old, and limp, and lacking any emotion.  The fact Bodice had chosen it was the real puzzle-- had she meant to signal valuing its cost over its function?  Maybe not, but she mulled it over.  As the servant approached with the Neznan, Phoebe deposited the crystal glass onto his tray with a wave, commenting aloud, "It's pretty, but so bland..", as her attention drifted on, settling on the Duchess as if she had somehow just noticed her, and as if her comment couldn't even mistakenly be construed to apply more broadly.
    The pair, Bodice and the Duchess, began their introductory banter, taking their first careful steps to test each others waters, to let their ebbs and swells lap against one another's skin and exert its pressure, feel its flow, and determine if the waters would drown them or not.
    One would, and a smart bet had picked its winner already.
    A cool smirk picked up the corner of Phoebe's full lips as she watched the pair like an anthropologist from behind her golden mask-- removed, reserved but for a small, disappointingly amused head-shake, should she catch Bodice's eye.   It was beneath her.  Maybe part of the game, a ploy to inflame, to raise the tension and the possibility that Bodice could be lost to another, or maybe it was true, but either way Phoebe didn't bite.  It was too transparent for the Headmistress, or so she thought-- too common a scheme for one as well-bred as Bodice and besides, an attentive watcher could spy that the dark-haired beauty had become distracted.
    Past the hunger and the want, through the warm and welcome haze of wine and pheromones, she found her thoughts dancing with an all-too-familiar musk - one that stroked memories of tangled sheets and aching exhaustion - and the shift in her essence was palpable.  Discipline kept her rooted, fixed her expression and wound gracefully on through the required social motions, when for all her worth all she wanted was to turn and kiss him; to tangle her fingers in his dark hair, and look into his bicolor eyes, and cast aside the months they'd spent apart for the nights they'd spend together, until their responsibilities required them to do it all over again.
    They'd been apart too long this time, she thought, followed by another that accused her of growing soft but, for once, she didn't care if it was true.
    “À tois aussi madame, bonsoir. Bodice Brouchard. Cela c’est une nomme très jollie. Et pour moi…”
    The newcomer was speaking, she heard her like the faraway call of the forgotten, and considered that the Duchess was trying too hard...
    Drifting past the discussion, Phoebe recalled the Neznan and without comment wrapped her hand around its drab, smokey glass neck, pinched two glasses in her other hand and filled them both as Alistair wove through the crowd, slipping past the distracted attendees like a shadow.   As he walked, she poured, so in sync with his arrival that the last drop of the yellow-orange Neznan tumbled out like a liquid flame as she felt him settle behind her and brush her back with the lightest dance of his fingertips.
    "It's a rare sight, seeing you blush.  It would seem my timing is as impeccable as ever." 
    "You planned it, I'm sure.. I could hardly expect less," she teased lightly, not turning to meet him but dropping her empty hand to her side, then finding his fingertips and entwining her own for the briefest of moments.  Her smile lingered, trapped in the moment with a wanting that transcended the surrounding debauchery, before polite society went on and her metaphorical mask rose to renew the game.
    Always the game.
    She lifted the pair of filled glasses, still expertly perched in her hand, and offered one to the man behind her as he picked up the next move in their courtly sport.  A purposeful nod met the servant's gaze; the flick of her eyes from the bottle, to Bodice and the Duchess, then back to the bottle suggested that he ought to be pouring instead of standing there like a statue and with the faintest widening of his eyes, he sure-handedly scrambled to comply.
    Unlike Tevka, Neznan was rare not by age but by the limits of foolishness, and the arrogance of the lawless, and its flavor rolled over the tongue like a bed of fire and licorice.  A reviewer had once described it as tempestuous, and remorseless for its wild energy, and as apt to stop the heart as to set it racing, and he was not wrong.  Alistair had enjoyed it with her more than once: it was one of Phoebe's favorites, a tempting glass she offered new partners, exotic and appropriately supportive of her myth, and further, she quite enjoyed watching people's reactions to it.
    Conversation tangled, as it normally does with an influx of new voices.
    "Mademoiselle Brouchard," Alistair said, dipping his chin in honor. "What a privilege to finally meet you." Then, after a beat as to not intermingle attention given, he addressed the other. "And you are, miss?"
    "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance," the Duchess was saying, having introduced herself in Alistair's earshot, "and you two, it's a pleasure to meet the both of you as well...Though.... I'm not sure I got your names....Would you kindly introduce yourselves?"  Lucinda spoke as the servant extended the tray full of poured Neznan out into the circle, muddying the drink and glass issue substantially. 
    It hovered there, like a reminder of the awkwardness, as Phoebe curled a brow at Bodice's offer of sloppy-seconds.
    "I'm so sorry, but could one of you finish this for me, please?"
    "I'll leave that to our new guest," laughed Phoebe.  A wave of her hand cast off even the suggestion, the sheer folly of drinking another person's wine was simply monumental even before one even considered the rather weighty social implications, the clever lessening that Bodice did so naturally, like a Lioness parceling out her prey to the lesser members of the pack.  Having recognized the charitable trap for what it was, Phoebe happily discarded its gift to the lesser-abled and swept conversation back to their cultural exchange.
    "Please, try the Neznan," she urged, an idle gesture toward the tray hovering in the servant's extended hand, "I'm dying to know what you think.  It's not quite Tevka, I'm sad to say, but I'm not quite the Carmine Dominion either."
    The question of introductions was left hanging, unanswered, dangling in the air like a lonely worm, curling in on itself as it writhed, pinned on its hook. 
    Maybe Alistair would free it, but Phoebe was content to let it wither in plain view.
  20. Superlike!
    King reacted to Raptor in The Library. [The Feeding]   
    The hours had come and gone in what seemed seconds, and Shanna was enthralled by the book that had been granted her. She made no notes in the margins, and made no effort to recollect what she had read, for now. Her fingers twisted into hair, errant curls falling in their wake as pages turn. Shanna seems intent on absorbing the knowledge through sheer will-power alone, and it is not until she is disturbed does she allow her eyes a rest.
    The gentle touch, accompanied by the sweetest voice breaks her reverie, startling her enough that she jumps lightly in the chair, her hazel gaze wide as her mouth mimics an o shape.
    “My lord!” It is a quick murmuring, as she bows her head. As he circles, much like a predator, she cannot help but to watch his graceful figure as a smile slips across her visage once more, cheeks tinting. “I have! It’s most fascinating! Lord Zenahriel said I could borrow this one, it would seem a shame to take notes in the margins like others have, however. I will likely wait until I have parchment and pen to scribble my own ideas.” Surely there were some in the library, but Shanna was not sure if she was entitled their use, and did not wish to overstep the bounds of her invitation. Gently, the book upon her lap closes as it finds a home ‘pon the table before them, and her curious gaze finds Rafael once more.
    “Did that mess with the Lagrimosans get cleared up?” She questions, not wishing to be nosy, but her ire at the absolute disrespect shown flitters along her ever-changing features for a brief moment. “I thought that perhaps I was lacking in proper courtly matters, but it seems  Lagrimosa sets the bar low.” An idle wave of her hand but a moment later brings that conversation to a close, not wishing to dwell on unpleasant matters.
    “Did you at least have a good time, tonight?” As though it was just as important to her that he find joy in the celebration as anyone.  
  21. Like
    King got a reaction from Fierach in The Library. [The Feeding]   
    It wasn’t until after the Lagrimosan excitement had dulled, becoming little more than a footnote in an otherwise splendid night, more hands had been shaken, accomplishments acknowledged, titles spoken, and propositions considered, that Rafael found the time to slip away. Though his appreciation for these archaic celebrations still remained as strong as ever, for theirs was a culture worth preserving (albeit modified), his interest in the affairs was another matter entirely. As with most fortunate enough to reach his age, blood had become more of an indulgence than necessity. He drank more for the taste, to satisfy the habit, and in some small ways for the intimacy of it all, than any true sense of necessity.
    And so, his presence at the gatherings more carnivorous became ephemeral at best, appearing and disappearing at a whim, like a phantom in the twilight of sunrise. At the current moment, he’d fled to the imperial library where his dear friend had been deposited by the High Lord, left to comb its many shelves, pocketing any secrets that dared reveal themselves to her. But even in the privacy of these closed-off chambers, Rafael was a quiet man, his steps rarely heard, his presence only felt when he willed it to be. He’d been standing behind Shanna for nearly a quarter-hour, watching her read, devouring the knowledge of the tome splayed open across her lap. He watched how she shifted, how she leaned, how she twirled an errant lock of hair into a thick curl that bounced once it slid free of her finger.
    “It seems you took my recommendation to heart,” Rafael finally said, the gentle touch of his hand on her shoulder a soft punctuation to the sultry roll of his tone. “I hope you’ve found the book enlightening so far.” He let his hand linger for a moment, smiling down at her, before circling to Shanna’s right.
    That same hand came to rest on the edge of the table, supporting his weight as he leaned, casting his gaze across the page. Much of the Book of Insight, he’d penned himself, though equally has much had been written by members of the council, the upper echelon of his fanatical congregation. Within those pages, the truth danced hand in hand with the wild fantasies of those desperate for something to believe in, becoming folklore, legend, and myth. It required a keen eye to discern which was which, and many, despite their best efforts, proved utterly incapable. Looking at her now, he wondered how Shanna would fare navigating the maze of its content. “You’ve been up here for a while,” he noted calmly, blue eyes throwing his gaze to the narrow window across the way. The Blood Moon had waned, its color drained and all but depleted. “Enjoying yourself?”
  22. Superlike!
    King got a reaction from Raptor in The Library. [The Feeding]   
    It wasn’t until after the Lagrimosan excitement had dulled, becoming little more than a footnote in an otherwise splendid night, more hands had been shaken, accomplishments acknowledged, titles spoken, and propositions considered, that Rafael found the time to slip away. Though his appreciation for these archaic celebrations still remained as strong as ever, for theirs was a culture worth preserving (albeit modified), his interest in the affairs was another matter entirely. As with most fortunate enough to reach his age, blood had become more of an indulgence than necessity. He drank more for the taste, to satisfy the habit, and in some small ways for the intimacy of it all, than any true sense of necessity.
    And so, his presence at the gatherings more carnivorous became ephemeral at best, appearing and disappearing at a whim, like a phantom in the twilight of sunrise. At the current moment, he’d fled to the imperial library where his dear friend had been deposited by the High Lord, left to comb its many shelves, pocketing any secrets that dared reveal themselves to her. But even in the privacy of these closed-off chambers, Rafael was a quiet man, his steps rarely heard, his presence only felt when he willed it to be. He’d been standing behind Shanna for nearly a quarter-hour, watching her read, devouring the knowledge of the tome splayed open across her lap. He watched how she shifted, how she leaned, how she twirled an errant lock of hair into a thick curl that bounced once it slid free of her finger.
    “It seems you took my recommendation to heart,” Rafael finally said, the gentle touch of his hand on her shoulder a soft punctuation to the sultry roll of his tone. “I hope you’ve found the book enlightening so far.” He let his hand linger for a moment, smiling down at her, before circling to Shanna’s right.
    That same hand came to rest on the edge of the table, supporting his weight as he leaned, casting his gaze across the page. Much of the Book of Insight, he’d penned himself, though equally has much had been written by members of the council, the upper echelon of his fanatical congregation. Within those pages, the truth danced hand in hand with the wild fantasies of those desperate for something to believe in, becoming folklore, legend, and myth. It required a keen eye to discern which was which, and many, despite their best efforts, proved utterly incapable. Looking at her now, he wondered how Shanna would fare navigating the maze of its content. “You’ve been up here for a while,” he noted calmly, blue eyes throwing his gaze to the narrow window across the way. The Blood Moon had waned, its color drained and all but depleted. “Enjoying yourself?”
  23. Superlike!
    King got a reaction from Eternity in Un-Foretold Journey   
    Like most heathen leaders, Bojack was a man that had earned his rank of chieftain through honorable combat. He was taller than most in attendance, easily seen as he made his way from the largest hut near the heart of the village. He’d covered himself in the furs and hides of beasts, protecting himself with sturdy leather armor, with the little bit of plate reserved for his vambraces, greaves, pauldrons, and helm. Over his left shoulder, he’d slung dreadful, single-facing war axe, its edge slick and freshly whetted. The crowd parted around him like river on a stone, until he came to stood at the very lip of his people.
    The chieftain eyed the woman on her horse, the stench of blood thick about her. Flicking his gaze over her shoulder, he settled a curious gaze on Paris.
    “And who are you?” he asked, speaking the savage tongue.
    “The ruler of these lands you pillage,” Paris replied in kind. He’d taken up studying the various tribes that occupied his vast territory as something of a hobby, despite his professor’s stout belief it would never be of any use to him. The men and women that speak this language would sooner rip out your heart than converse with you, my lord. Perhaps they had underestimated the wildling’s civility?
    Bojack scoffed. “And what do you want, lordling?”
    “To strike a deal,” Paris replied, a genuine smile lifting his lips. “I’d intended on slaughtering the lot of you, but. . . it seems you all breed rather unique specimen.” There weren’t many men with the size that Bojack possessed, and he suspected fewer with the pension for violence. “An alliance between our peoples could be the beginning of something grand. Cease your terrorizing, and I will see to it that you and your people are well-taken care of. Weapons, armor, food. . . the lot of it yours.”
    Tilting his head, Bojack used smooth top of his axe to scratch his chin. “And in return?”
    “You and your warriors help me convince the other tribes to the same. There are at least a dozen out here, and all of you compete for resources,” Paris noted casually, eying the many faces in the crowd. The sickly, the hungry, the weathered and tired. “Kill those that do not bend the knee.”
    Bojack was quiet for a moment. Paris saw his eyes through the visor of his helmet, moving, pacing as he mulled the offer over. “And if I refuse?”
    “We will exterminate you like a pack of vermin, sparing not even your children.”
    The chieftain laughed, the sound loud and booming like thunder. “You speak boldly for a man standing in a wolves den, lordling.” Then he nodded to a handful of men at his left, five in total, all armed to the teeth. The group approached slowly, chuckling as they readied their weapons for what they no doubt believed to be an easy kill. Paris didn’t blink.
    “Handle them, she-wolf,” he said in the common tongue of the land. “And make a show of it, will you? I want their chieftain to understand the gravity of this situation.”
  24. Superlike!
    King reacted to Raptor in The Library. [The Feeding]   
    Shanna follows dutifully back into the main hall of the library, the grandest she has ever seen. Even though it is the second time she lays eyes upon it, it still takes her breath away. How much knowledge was tucked into the crevices of each shelf? She pays no attention to the hidden compartment of the key, having no desire to break the trust so carefully sculpted.
    Her feet carry her after Zenahriel, in awe of his expanded wings and she smiles. To imagine that such beauty still existed in the world was humbling. It is then that she leans forward, rocking on the balls of her feet as she waits for him to finish his conversation with the guard, a short little excited gasp tearing from her throat.
    “Thank you!” She chirps rather loudly, refraining from the desire to wrap her arms around him in a hug – but just barely. She doesn’t have to temper her desire for long, for Zenahriel vanishes in a flash of light that causes spots to dance across her vision. Amused by the rather dramatic exit, Shanna stoops to pluck the crimson feather off the floor. She muses over it for a moment, attention turning to the guard.
    “I know we just exited, but I’d like to reenter the library to study.” The guard merely inclines his head, and Shanna sweeps back into the large room with intent. It does not take her more than a moment to find a table in which to set up shop – placing the crimson feather aside as she sits in a stool, stooping over the book that she has been granted the privilege of borrowing.  Her fingers caress the pages, taking in the passages until they burn into her mind as though mantras. The notes are secondary – though Shanna finds most of them redundant, she still gobbles them up as though starving.
    It is in this timeless place that she loses track of the minutes and hours, the never waning light a boon in her explorations.
  25. Superlike!
    King reacted to Jotnotes in A Celebration in Red: The Feeding III   
    Bodice did her best to recall from memory whether or not she'd seen any couches in this particular room for her fine company to share with her, while not letting it show on her face. Faces had an ugly habit of looking odd while you were thinking; really, any flirt or diplomat of good standing knew this and took pains to avoid it. It was the main reason why, Bodice suspected, she found herself so taken with the incredibly smart, and the incredibly dumb. When you were smart enough so as not to second guess anything you spoke on, you could maintain composure at all times, less wrinkling in the face, no confused frown, simple. On the other foot, if one was dumb enough...
    Bodice felt her lips tug upwards, just a fraction more as she thought of Zalygos, her obedient little invitation to the party. He was academically savvy, and even charismatic, but she wouldn't call him 'smart', per se, and he didn't pretend to be, either. It reminded her quite a bit of herself, really.
    "Santé" Bodice purred in affirmation. She saw her fair company seeking her out around the glass and, in a moment of daring, lifted her glass to hide herself from view as she raised her glass in toast.
    At that moment, Bodice caught the reflection of a siren swimming to approach them, a sanguine vision reflected in the ancient drink. Bodice lowered her glass, holding it loosely as if ready to discard it at a moment's notice as someone new came to them.
    Bodice turned, and subtly shifted her position in the conversation to make room for the Duchess as she regarded her. The practiced step was acquired through years of political practice, and was every bit as calculated as it was fluid--immediately, whether this was intended to be a short introduction or something more, the conversation, the game had opened up to swallow in the newcomer in a silent phagocytosis of powerful wills. Bodice looked her over blatantly, unashamed as she digested her appearance. She had a nostalgia to her that the Headmistress required a moment to process--had they met before, in person? No, not likely, but perhaps in passing. Or perhaps, not even in passing. As Bodice glanced into her eyes, and threw that playful stare right back at the Duchess, she immediately ruled out that they'd met before. These were new eyes, a new face. 
    Bodice's free hand curled inwards, as she took in her pale skin and fine figure.
    A new body.
    "Bonsoir." She purred in greeting. It was at this point that she very clearly lifted her free hand to signal for the waiting staff to return, while also lowering her own glass, The cheer Phoebe had started had been finished, but instead of drinking Bodice waited patiently for the help to arrive again and during which, she drank in the newcomer's presence.
    She was beautiful, of course, in her own way. Where Bodice had been drawn to the way Phoebe's attire accentuated her body initially, Lucinda enraptured some different part of her mind. The curiosity, perhaps, of another woman, dare she say another predator, stepping into their space. Or maybe it was the way she appeared flustered, heady on perhaps wine or the scent of blood, the Headmistress could not be sure. In a word, her appearance was interesting, and Bodice welcomed interesting, perhaps far more than she valued wealth or status. You couldn't buy 'interesting', after all.
    "I think we may have seen each other in passing," The Headmistress suggested pleasantly, before offering her hand to the Duchess. Her palm was facing downwards, as opposed to when she'd introduced herself to Phoebe where she'd assumed the inverse role at first. It was a rather clear message--a request for a show of respect, perhaps even reverence for her inclusion in the circle. Regardless of how formalities concluded, Bodice introduced herself afterwards.
    "Je m'appelle Bodice Brouchard." She gestured with the glass of Tevka, as if brandishing it as a status symbol. That was just for show, of course, because between her spoken words and the wine in her hand, her name was a far more concrete symbol.
    She waited for the Duchess to introduce herself, and by the time she had, the waiter had returned with the Neznan, which Bodice found herself unable to pick up and pour just yet. 
    To resolve this, Bodice took a single sip from her Tevka, and held it aloft, somewhere in the null space between both women. Condensation on the side of the near-full glass appeared, almost as a ghostly apparition of where her lips had touched the drink. She was, inwardly, grateful to not have to finish the rest of the drink. Tevka's value was in its age and history, and unfortunately that history involved not knowing how to make a good wine. 
    "I'm so sorry, but could one of you finish this for me, please?" She purred, holding the proverbial Discordant Apple between the two circling sharks she found herself with. 
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