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  1. @The Alexandrian Done! Will this do? Thread
  2. bfc

    The Silvermind

    Immaculate. Not a word to be casually thrown about, but here stood a structure that merited the term. Walk under the open archway into its towering lobby, and one would see no flaw in its curving walls, crafted in mimicry of plant growth patterns to produce and elegant and soothing shape. One would see no dirt on the towering windows, no frowns on the faces of the guards and secretaries manning their posts, no stains or discarded litter marring the pretty mosaic of the bright floor tiles. Breathe, and one could smell the air of a deep forest or an open field, freshly oxygenated and free of all unpleasant pollution. Listen, and one could hear the kindly voice of the building's central mainframe, quickly answering any confused newcomer who happened to ask for directions. Clean and beautiful, safe and self-sufficient. Never mind that the open archway of the entrance was guarded by an electromagnetic barrier, shutting out any dirty unauthorized rabble who might try to sneak their way in. Never mind that the windows and floor were covered with artificially engineered bacteria eagerly devouring any contaminants that might hurt the building's perfection. Never mind how the air was seeded with chemicals to give it that pleasant 'natural' scent, or how the guards and secretaries were contractually obligated to smile and would be laid off if found displaying an attitude inconsistent with their requirements. Never mind how the kindly mainframe was tracking everyone in the building and recording their movements. After all, this was a utopia! A glorious, towering monument to the ingenuity of civilization! Why worry about the insignificant details when one could climb in an elevator and shoot up past each floor, one, two, three... Ten! Twenty! Thirty! Up and up and up, watching them all fly by until one reached the assigned room of one's appointment— oh, but why not visit the observation deck first? After all, there are free drinks to be served there, and a good view. Why not stand there a while, and think on how wonderful it all is? Yes, think on that, and then think on how this is but one of the Monroe Foundation's many magnificent properties in Hell's Gate, and perhaps not even the most magnificent at that! Does it not invoke a feeling of worship? Good. Then it's working as intended. *** Immaculate. Not a word to be casually thrown about, but here stood a woman who merited the term. Walk into a room, and chances were she'd immediately catch one's eye, her slim and gently curved figure poised to emphasize its elegant and soothing shape. One would see no tangles in her long and snow-white hair, no flaws in her makeup or her pale and silky skin, no stains or wrinkles marring the expensive fabrics of her black suit and white shirt. Breathe, and one could smell the tang of her perfume, a gentle hint of cinnamon. Listen, and one could perhaps hear the faint rustle of papers turning as she flipped through the folder held in her slender hands. Clean and beautiful, alluring and formal. Never mind that her irises, on close inspection, were not a doe-like brown but a harsh, bright red. Never mind that her appearance was the result of over an hour of careful, precise preparation that she undertook every morning, perfectionist to the point of obsession. Never mind how running searches for the name 'Sabiya Invarti' would inevitably lead to classified material, the news articles sparse on details and the official documents marked with thick black censoring bars, mostly related to an incident a year or so back involving a multi-pronged terrorist operation. Never mind how nobody got to the position she had without being incredibly smart, and just as ruthless. After all, she was gorgeous! A lovely, intelligent lady eager to help out her new client! Why worry about the insignificant details when one could tell her one's wishes and watch the prices shoot up, one million, two million, three... Ten! Twenty! Thirty! Up and up and up, because of course the best services incur the greatest costs, and nobody would book a private appointment with one of the Monroe Foundation's top-level specialists unless they had something seriously expensive that required such expertise— oh, but why chatter about the costs when one could discuss the possibilities? After all, she was smart, and charming, and a pretty face. Why not chat for a while, and tell her how wonderful one's grandiose pet project will inevitably be once completed? Yes, talk with her, and then think on how she is but one of the Monroe Foundation's many excellent personnel in Hell's Gate, and perhaps not even the most excellent at that! Does it not invoke a feeling of hope? Good. Then smile, she's watching. The meeting room had been cleared out, a large table and dozens of chairs folded up against the wall to leave the space largely empty. A smaller, more casual table stood by the window, along with a pair of very comfortable chairs, but for the moment Dr. Invarti chose to stand, staring out the floor-to-ceiling windows as the city stretched out below. This wasn't the highest floor in the building, and the building wasn't the tallest structure in the city, either... But it was still nice. Nice to look at. People far below, scurrying about like ants... and one of them was coming to see her. Which one? she wondered. Idly, she pressed one finger against the glass, as if crushing those ants into oblivion. Whichever one it was, they had better not be late.
  3. Yeah, that sounds good. You want to make the thread or shall I?
  4. Hey. Wanna have an onboard AI on your giant airship? I have a machine learning specialist working for the Monroe Foundation in Hell's Gate, and this sounds like the kind of thing she could help out with.
  5. bfc

    Destruction des morts

    The strangers burned. Not all of them, true, but only three had made it out, and killing those three would be easy work. Diversions, distractions, ambushes; lethal traps and indirect assaults: her tools were many, her options endless. Out of them all, she'd choose the safest and most surefire way to finish these stragglers off, and take them out without ever giving them a chance to try and turn the tables. This team had come armed for war, but she was armed for murder. Except... It wasn't just three. Someone else had shown up, and she hadn't heard them approach, which meant that either they were an audiomancer as well or they'd used some kind of portal or rapid transport to get close. The timing couldn't be a coincidence, either. Someone had been watching the intruders from afar, and on seeing them under attack had decided to come and investigate. Which meant they were likely on the same side as said intruders, a superior or mastermind directing the team from afar. Another problem. One of Schrei's hands dipped into a pocket, whilst a tiny sphere crystallized in the other. Fine. If these interlopers wanted to escalate, she'd start bringing out the big guns— Or was that the Maleficence talking? An aggressive response could be useful, yes, but would it really benefit her most? For all she knew, there could be several more individuals like this one just waiting to teleport in, or perhaps higher-ups commanding them, with further unknown agents and resources at their beck and call. Even if she wiped out this observer and the three stragglers from before, that might just bring more enemies down on her head, which would render her efforts pointless. She needed to remove these problems, but that didn't necessarily mean exterminating them. If this new observer had been able to notice her attack and pinpoint her location from beyond her hearing range, that meant he'd have some kind of long-range energy sense or similar detection method. She could use that. She turned to face him, shifting her features into an expression of dull irritation. What happened while she turned wouldn't have been visible to the average person, but she knew that he'd catch it somehow. He'd probably witnessed it before, or even practiced it himself: an unveiling, the sight of someone who'd been suppressing their power letting it loose all at once. Where Schrei had been small and dark, a blazing aura now erupted forth from within her, the energy present in her small form completely dwarfing the power of her previous attack. Stronger than Cain, stronger than Julius, perhaps stronger than anyone in the city. The little vampire girl, as it turned out, was both terrifyingly powerful and skillful enough to conceal that power until now... ... it was all a lie, of course. Schrei wasn't some titanic mage or hidden god. She was a sneaky little fucker who killed her targets with whatever methods were easiest and then disappeared before anyone could retaliate. However, when it came to the black arts of sneaky little fuckers, she was one of the strongest. Any high-profile target in a place like Terrenus would have some form of magical or high-tech threat detection, and any assassin better than a thug would have some means of slipping under all those supernatural radars, but Schrei took things a step further. Cain could have sent a hundred assassins to the Tower who knew how to keep their mouths shut, but she was one of those very few who could tell a lie. A fake, a forgery, an appearance of power where none in fact existed. She could have left an energetic signature in a completely different place, or twisted it so that any magical sense would register her as a stray cat. At this range, however, the observer would be able to see her directly as well, and conventional sight was ironically one of the hardest to fool. So instead, she simply exaggerated the supernatural elements of her presence, like placing a hand in front of a torch to cast a massive shadow. She didn't try to make herself seem completely invincible; nobody would ever believe something like that. She just needed to appear strong enough that overcoming her would require more effort and resources than anything in the Tower was worth. Combined with her expression, the message was clear: Don't fuck with me. Even if you win, you'll end up worse off for it. Such was her gambit. A hyena trying to protect its meal from a trespassing lion, weaving itself a bushy mane and flawlessly mimicking a fearsome roar. The only question was: would the lion call her bluff? @Twitterpated
  6. bfc

    Destruction des morts

    The Apprentice now made her move, apparently taking advantage of the devastation Schrei had left in her wake. Her communication announced her intent to find Nica, which prior intel indicated would also take her straight to Serafino Dolos. Assuming she managed to handle that particular problem without issue, that left Schrei with two targets: Karl Matton, and the new intruders who'd just entered the tower down below. The latter were still largely a mystery. Possibly reinforcements called in by the vampire nobles, possibly old enemies taking advantage of the chaos to try and kill them like Schrei was doing, or possibly something else entirely. They definitely weren't allies, however, or Cain would have informed her. That made them a problem, and as she'd amply demonstrated thus far, Schrei had a well-established modus operandi for dealing with problems. She removed them. Six pieces on the board. Dolos, Matton, Nica, the Apprentice, the intruders, and herself. Two to three different factions. With the newcomers still on the lower floors, and having to fight their way through Maleficence-infected vampires... the most efficient route would be to kill Karl Matton first, then double back and deal with whatever this new problem was while the Apprentice went after Nica and presumably Serafino. Once Schrei was done with her first two targets, she'd follow, and make sure the job was completed as specified. She stalked through the poisoned halls, passing unhindered through violet clouds, tweaking her headphones to better filter and amplify the noises around her. Hard to keep track of so many factors, especially with the Maleficence starting to affect her, too. She'd injected herself with a second dose of the antidote shortly after hitting the ventilation system with the grenades, but even so, this much exposure was inevitably having an effect, making her thinking more aggressive than usual. Not necessarily a bad thing, given the circumstances, but she'd need to watch that. The vampires had shut off the ventilation by now, and had apparently realized that most of the lower floors were a lost cause. Bodies were shifting up above, gathering, voices urgently barking back and forth. They want to get out, but they're not planning a direct sortie. An airship? Or do they have some other means of escape? Either way, Karl Matton's forces were consolidating. Well-armed, well-armored, with an ingrained knowledge of the Tower's layout and the training to react quickly to almost any situation. Some, including the aforementioned leader, would be able to make use of magic both offensive and defensive, countering threats and turning the tide in their favor with overwhelming force. Not the kind of enemies she could sneak up on and stab in the back. Not the kind of enemies she could take in a shootout, even with the advantages provided by her enhanced senses. Not the kind of enemies Schrei wanted to confront at all— better to just annihilate them before they noticed her and did something inconvenient. She padded silently on through richly carpeted rooms and hallways, avoiding bodies and blood, avoiding the sounds of anything alive. The Apprentice had helped by drawing the infected to her with her noise, leaving the way clear for the small assassin to creep about as she pleased. Still one floor below Matton and his security forces, still taking care to avoid all detection... Here. She stopped, seemingly at random, in a small room with curved walls. Some sort of miniature gallery, with dull yet elaborate paintings hung in ostentatious frames across its length. Nothing of interest. Rather, what interested her was that this room was directly below the room Karl Matton was currently standing in. Indeed, the stop Schrei had chosen to stand was directly below where her target was standing. I can hear you, Karl. Stay still, now... Slow and silent, she reached inside her coat and withdrew a glass vial filled with dragon's blood. Uncorked it, drew it to her lips, and swallowed half its contents. Above, her target took a few steps, his footfalls gently vibrating through the floor and to her sensitive ears, and she matched his movements, taking care to remain directly below him while she replaced the vial within her coat and turned her head towards the ceiling. Breathe in. Tingling in her throat and on her tongue, hot and sharp. Something building in her stomach, too great to be contained. Stolen power long kept in a frail glass container, now begging to be let free. Breathe out. She breathed out. And out came fire. Karl Matton didn't have time to think, or act, or call upon his many defenses. The floor simply exploded beneath his feet, throwing him upwards and shattering his bones against the ceiling even as the obscene heat warped his pale flesh to crusted black, melting his eyeballs, vaporizing the myriad fluids that had coursed through his veins. And still came the fire from below, burning him down to the bone. Spreading outward, filling the room, turning his cronies and underlings, their weapons and gear, to cracked and ruined charcoal. For six seconds the room was bathed in dragonfire, white-hot and hungry, purging all within reach of life and undeath alike. Six seconds, and then Schrei stopped. And breathed in. And held that breath. Magic, and overwhelming force. In the hands of a skilled mage, they could turn the tide of any battle, but Schrei found them most effective when combined with the element of surprise. Sometimes, a knife between the ribs or a drop of poison just wasn't enough. Sometimes, you needed a bomb, or in this case, a particularly potent breath weapon. In the wake of it all, she listened, double-checking for any signs of life in the room above. She heard nothing, only silence and the quiet patter of ashes falling to the floor. Five pieces on the board. Her eyes flicked downwards, and she tweaked her headphones again, listening for sounds from below. The effects of the dragon's blood wouldn't wear off for a few minutes yet, and what had worked for one set of enemies could easily work for another. *** The team that had entered from below were quick, were coordinated. Twelve members operating as a unit, too well-armed to be anything but military or the mercenary equivalent. Not Problem Solvers, though. Someone else had apparently taken an interest in the Tower and its inhabitants, though Schrei could still only guess at their intentions. She could leave them, and hope they were torn to shreds by the infected vampires or consumed by Maleficence themselves, but given how well-equipped they were, it was possible they'd be packing countermeasures. Schrei didn't like leaving these things to chance. It was possible, even likely, that they'd have some means of detection to seek out and anticipate threats. On the other hand, so had the Mattons, and that hadn't helped them much. Schrei took great pains to avoid being noticed where she could, and even in the unlikely event that something bypassed or surmounted her various means of concealing herself, it would be hard to distinguish her from any of the other vampires now roaming about the structure. No, there would be no warning. Only death, from above. A stop, a breath (at an angle this time— she didn't want to fall through the floor) and then fire. Roaring down from overhead in the space of a split second, curling tongues of ravenous plasma seeking to consume them all before they even registered that they were about to die. Unless they were killed or chose to retreat before Schrei came down to finish them, such would be their first meeting with the agents of the Dead. @Twitterpated @-Lilium-
  7. bfc

    Chapter 2: Kamikaze (LoD)

    Three minutes. That was her best estimate of how long her newfound power would last, based on prior experience and the amount of blood she'd consumed. Enough time to change the shape of the battlefield, if she moved quickly and decisively, but any longer and she'd be forced to dip into her remaining supply. Which, judging by the massive lizard now glaring down at the Legion from the Terror's shoulder, she'd have need of later on. The question wasn't whether she could help the Legion win the current conflict, but whether she'd have enough resources left in the aftermath to help them survive what came next. Her gambit had been effective, at least, but it had also drawn the attention of a new enemy: tall apes, white-furred and cunning, closing in on her through the chaos. Quick enough to match her in speed, and distinctly superior in strength and toughness— at least, under ordinary circumstances. For temporary though her gifts were, the dragon's blood had granted Schrei more than just its fire. Strength. She crouched, legs bending, and pounced at the approaching pack, springing straight towards their leader. Or rather, she rocketed, transforming in one moment from a still figure to a black blur that streaked across the battlefield like a bullet. Grown dragons could be lumbering and ponderous at times, but that was because so much of their strength was used to simply move their massive bodies around. For Schrei, small and light, even a stolen portion of that power was enough to propel her forwards at terrifying speeds. Durability. The black blur slammed into the chest of the leading yeti, caving in its ribcage and knocking it backwards into its fellows. An impact that should have done just as much damage to her as it did to her target, had she not possessed the toughness to match her power. Instead, it was the ape who broke, flesh and bone twisting and shattering from a collision with something harder and stiffer than even its formidable frame. Heat resistance. As the first yeti tumbled backwards and the pack was thrown into chaos, fire coursed once more from Schrei's lips, blackening flesh and turning snow and ice into clouds of scalding steam. Burning, blinding, preemptively ruining any attempt at recovery or retaliation. Fortunately for the breather, the same effect that kept her throat from being melted by her own flames also meant she could keep moving amidst the extreme heat, taking advantage of her disproportionate strength and speed to disable those least affected by her initial burst. Her advantage would last for mere minutes, and that meant she had no time to fight cleanly or skillfully, or to let this become a fight at all. Even with the scales of power tipped in her favor, she operated as an assassin: moving quickly, striking unexpectedly, and aiming to wipe out her targets before they even realized what was happening.
  8. bfc

    Destruction des morts

    After a few seconds, Schrei's silence spell wore off, its framework evaporating into the aether. She usually kept their duration short, since the stealth they granted came at the cost of her auditory awareness, and she rarely needed long to secure a kill. Case in point: all three of the other vampires in the room lay dead on the floor, their rotten hearts punched clean through by a hard stake and a helping of enhanced strength. As noise returned to her ears, Schrei crouched over the bodies and set her weapon down, replacing it with a pair of syringes. Dolos... and Matton. The different strains of vampirism could differ greatly in their causes and effects, granting the afflicted various forms of immortality, cannibalistic needs, and weaknesses. Hers had been one of the scariest to start with, but that didn't mean there wasn't anything to gain from studying the others. Now her needles punctured pale skin and drew forth deep, sweet crimson, and were promptly stashed away for future examination. With that done, she could turn back to the problem at hand. Nobody appeared to have noticed her incursion as of yet, meaning she would still have the advantage of surprise. The three corpses here would be noticed sooner or later, but even they could be confused for victims of Maleficence, provided that nobody examined them too closely. Schrei’s mysterious partner seemed to be lagging behind for whatever reason, but for the moment that worked to her advantage: she was small, agile, and with her echolocation could effectively see around corners. All of which made her ideal at moving about unseen. She’d do as much as she could, before anyone even knew she was here. It was easy enough to find her targets by ear, but a direct approach risked exposing her, and it was unlikely the Matton security forces would go down so easily as the three unlucky fops. She needed a distraction, and Cain had thankfully provided one. Making a beeline out the door and down a deserted hall, Schrei found a ventilation grate and, after popping another short-duration Silence orb, tore it from its place. Obviously the architects of the Black Tower hadn’t been stupid enough to make its ventilation shafts big enough to crawl through, but there’d be no need for that: instead, the small vampire simply pulled the pin out of a Maleficence grenade, and tossed it in, before moving silently onwards. *** Voices crackled over a small handheld communicator. “We have a breach! The purple stuff again, it must have leaked in from somewhere…” “Copy. Which floor?” There was a pause before the next reply. “…all of them.” She hadn’t stopped at one grenade. By now the entire ventilation system was full of the stuff, and merrily pumping it all through the tower. It had been designed to filter out toxins from outside, not within, and now the building’s arteries turned against it, spreading venom throughout its body and killing every cell. It was almost the same strategy Cain had employed with the WAK and the city, just on a smaller scale. They’d shut off the vents once they found out, but by then the damage would be done. Chaos, on a scale that couldn’t be contained. Chaos, which made it particularly easy for one small, silent figure to slip through unnoticed, heading up the tower and towards her main targets.
  9. bfc

    Chapter 2: Kamikaze (LoD)

    With a horde of ice mongrels attacking from the front and yetis hurling ice from above, there suddenly wasn't anywhere safe to stand any longer. Following Dredge's vanguard had been one thing, but now Schrei found herself literally skulking in their shadows, relying on the bulk of warriors larger and better armored than she to take the brunt of the enemy's wrath. Even so, she had to dart aside more than once to evade wayward projectiles that might have staved in her skull. Luckily for her, the battle was producing another kind of cover, one she soon took advantage of. Finding the corpse of an ice mongrel left behind by the front-line fighters, she hauled it up out of the snow and squeezed herself beneath, using the dead creature as both shield and camouflage. She could hardly move around much beneath the body's weight, but a moment's respite gave her the chance she needed to do several things. First, she sank her fangs into the dead mongrel's neck and sucked out a few mouthfuls of blood, whilst her fingers reached up to pluck one eyeball out of its skull. She'd tuck that away for now—it could come in handy later on. Secondly, she observed. Not having to constantly watch out for blunt objects raining down from above gave her a chance to listen, to get a feel for the overall shape of the battle. Sudden and fearsome as the initial assault had been, the Legion was holding up well. The mongrels, no matter their hunger or hatred, lacked the sheer power to deal with juggernauts like Dredge and his chosen elites, and their lack of organization or tactics meant they'd run themselves onto the Legion's spears so long as the ranks held fast. The mongrels might have won the day had the shock of their appearance scared the Legion into rout, but the dark army was stronger than it had been: almost every soldier here was a veteran of Last Chance, tested and steeled by far deadlier opposition than these half-wild beasts. They held firm, and would do so until the enemy lacked the numbers to continue their assault. To win the battle, however, would not be enough to win the war. These monsters were mere dregs, and while Dredge might be happy to hack away at them for hours on end, the source of the problem would need to be attended to. Even without knowing the mysterious castle's name or origin, Schrei could tell that those icy spires held far greater power than any oversized pack of oversized wolves might bear. The vast creature crouched before it was proof enough of that. The threat needed to be observed, analyzed, and if necessary, dealt with. That meant punching through these creatures as fast as possible, to reach the source of their emergence. The Legion's infantry would be able to deal with the mongrels and the yetis, it was time the elites turned their attention to something greater. Thus, the third matter Schrei took care of beneath that mongrel corpse was the selection of a vial hidden carefully within the deep folds of her coat, which she uncorked and brought to her lips. She only had one of these on her, so she'd need to ration it carefully. A sip, just quarter of the vial's contents, would be enough for a few minutes. Enough, perhaps, to carve a path through the mayhem and direct the Legion's best and brightest towards a challenge worthy of their varied abilities. A sip, just a few drops, red and hot on her cold, pale lips. An unmistakable spice, a fire that picked her tongue, powerful enough that she could taste it even after years of vampirism had deadened her palate. Dragon's blood. Few would see her slip through the ranks of the front lines, small and scrawny as she was. Her presence would become quite evident, however, when she opened her mouth. When her stomach seized with a burning pain that worked its way up her throat and through her jaws to burst free into the icy Shawnee air. When flame coursed forth, bright as the sun, and swept over the beasts before her, searing them down to the bone. The ice held harsh terrors aplenty, but within Schrei's veins now coursed a remnant of its ancient enemy. Step by step she advanced, and with each step took another breath, and with each breath let loose a fountain of dragonfire, carving deep gouges in the ice and burning all before her. Let the mongrels stand in her path and be cooked alive, let them flee with tails tucked between their legs; it mattered not. They were in the way, merely another obstacle she would dispose of. For the Legion.
  10. bfc

    Destruction des morts

    Stealth was of the essence. Schrei's route to the Tower had been planned out well beforehand, meant to keep travel time low whilst minimizing the chances of the carriage being seen. Both the Dead as an organization and she as an individual had their ways and means of avoiding long-distance scrying and other magical scans or searches, but conventional senses were not to be underestimated. That meant making use of the city's layout, rushing behind rows of buildings that blocked the Tower's view, passing through the thick clouds of Maleficence being spread by the plants and remaining concealed within the purple mists. It meant adjusting course, where necessary, to avoid Tia's remaining defenders and the thickest presses of the maddened mobs. Inasmuch as a carriage could sneak, it sneaked, slunk, and crept its way towards the Black Tower, a killer closing in on its slumbering target. Not all the way, though. In the dusty outskirts, where the populace was thin and the Tower loomed tall and menacing, the battered vehicle came to a sudden halt in the middle of an empty street, for no clear reason whatsoever. Schrei hopped off, her feet touching the ground with a noise not unlike a sigh. She beckoned silently for the Apprentice to follow, then shooed the Skeleton away. With all its passengers disembarked, the ruined carriage creaked into motion one final time, dragged off to be abandoned, perhaps cut apart and burned. The horses could be salvaged, but alas, those damaged wheels were well beyond repair by now. In the meantime, the small vampire was drawing out a small vial of red fluid, downing it in a single gulp. Then took a few steps, and kicked a manhole cover. Not a gesture of frustration, nor one born of ennui. The metal dented beneath her boot, and with both hands she levered it free, before clambering down into the fetid hole beneath. A sewer lay down there, pitch-black thick with the putrid stink of Maleficence, the sharp smell of blood, and other distasteful things besides. An overpowering scent, perhaps, but the quiet down there was almost calming. High-pitched pings flew from Schrei's tongue and rebounded off the slime covered walls, painting a scene in the color of echoes, identifying—there, between one faceless brick and another—a tiny crack in the wall, within which hid rusted gears and mechanisms, an archaic but still functional design. If it worked, though, it was meant to open from inside. Thus, an improvised means of entry would be required. Schrei's right hand ducked into her coat again, pulling forth another red vial, whilst her left summoned between its fingers a minuscule sphere, clear as glass and twice as fragile. This she crushed, before swallowing the dose of blood and kicking down the wall. It crashed inward before her, the scrawny killer somehow exerting a strength that seemed ludicrous for her frame. The little orb, however, had worked its magic: even as stone and metal crashed down in a collapsed heap before her, it made no sound at all. Not a peep, not a hint of vibration to be caught by even the sharpest of ears. Stealth was of the essence, after all. Trusting her assigned partner to follow behind, Schrei clambered on over the destruction she'd wrought and into the tunnel hidden beyond. Old and narrow it was, filled with dust and entirely unlit. Solidly built, though, the dry and musty air within a sharp contrast to the fetid sewer's stench. Tiny runes on the walls had helped keep the groundwater out and the passageway intact, whilst ensuring that the hidden route evaded the senses of geomancers over the years. As always, though, no amount of secrecy or security could keep out the bugs. As she marched her quiet way down the passageway's length, Schrei found herself constantly ducking beneath cobwebs, using echolocation to pinpoint spiders in the dark and snatch them from their resting places. Each one she caught, she shoved in her mouth, crunching on their hairy legs and sucking the hemolymph from their wriggling bodies. Beneath houses and streets the tunnel led, past pipes and sewers and shafts, and other secret passageways besides. Beneath the Black Tower's thick walls and stiff defenses, beneath its exquisitely tiled floors, leading towards, if the diagrams had been correct, a carefully hidden entry. Now that they were closer Schrei could hear things from above, and began to pinpoint her targets, sharing approximate locations and known movements with the Apprentice. Vampires were harder to track than most, and from underground she couldn't hear anything from the Tower's uppermost floors, but this would do for a start. The spread of Maleficence had been all but contained within the structure above. A few had been infected, but they were dead or captured, with security forces already scrambling to identify the poison and figure out a cure. It seemed that Karl Matton ran a tight ship, tight enough that the oncoming infiltrators would have few distractions to rely on. Already Schrei could feel the probing fingers of sixth senses and information-gathering abilities, sweeping all around the tower for any sign of incoming hostility. (Though of her, of course, they found no trace.) It was a floor tile, in the end. Not a cabinet or cuboard, nor a hidden lever in a bookcase. Just a floor tile, which through the right methods could be slid aside to enter the passageway from within the tower. Even easier to open from the other side, but as she reached up to do so Schrei encountered a problem. Someone was standing on it. Did they know? No, or they'd have trapped the passageway. An annoying coincidence, nothing more. Hostiles above, she sent to the Apprentice, the words flashing over the telepathic connection as stark white chalk on an imaginary black surface. Be ready. Two more tiny transparent orbs, one from a pocket and the other crystallizing into her fingers from thin air. She crushed the former first, adjusting her headphones and wincing slightly as the noise contained within was released. Buzzing, high-pitched and quiet but indescribably irritating all the same, a sound the brought to mind an angry wasp or a hungry mosquito. Above, the vampire shifted uncomfortably, glancing about for the vile insect that now pestered him so. Unable to find it, he moved to avoid it, stepping away— —and Schrei struck. Crushing the other orb to cloak the surrounding area in silence, forcing the entryway open and leaping out with the strength that remained from the vials she'd consumed earlier, pulling out a sharpened wooden stake and ramming it through the vampire's chest before he'd even registered what was going on. Stolen blood stained the oh-so-innocuous floor tiles, and the two other nobles in the room screamed as their companion toppled, backing away and immediately calling for help. Or at least, they tried to. They opened their mouths, diaphragms pumping air up their throats, and nothing came out. In silence their cries died, and in silence they saw Schrei hurtling towards them, bloody stake in hand, looking mildly annoyed that her infiltration had taken a couple of seconds longer than expected. Another message flitted out across the city, directed to Cain and Riforte. Black Tower breached. Extermination ongoing.
  11. bfc

    A brief thought on the future of T1

    I mean, you have your answer in a nutshell right here. T1 (and other freeform combat RP) was never competitive in the way a video game or a sport is. It's competitive in the sense of being a debate: you try to convince your opponent through IC interaction and sometimes OOC communication that their character will be defeated by your character's actions. If neither you nor your opponent can concede (e.g. one or both of you are being stubborn) then you call in a judge, and trust that your IC posts in the fight will be enough to convince them. In that sense it's kind of like a writing contest (e.g. creative competition), except that rather than writing a great story that'll get judges to select or vote for it, you're writing a character and a selection of tactics that'll make specific people want your character to win, or at least accept them winning. In fact, one of my favorite systems had fights proceed for a set time or number of posts and then had judges 'grade' the fight according to a rubric, with written feedback in each category, to determine who won. This allowed contestants to see where their writing was more or less convincing (e.g. 'okay, I got a bad score on defense because I kept implausibly dodging everything' or 'sweet, I got a good score on attack for that genuinely clever maneuver'). Much like a writing contest, it's never going to be entirely objective, but if you have judges and fighters who are at least trying to be fair and impartial then it generally works. I'll agree that chance-based battles are generally better in the context of an ongoing story. T1 can be slow and difficult to resolve, and can generate drama that derails any ongoing collaboration. Rolling a dice resolves things cleanly and instantly, allowing the plot to carry on unimpeded. For fighting in a vacuum, however, I'd argue T1 and/or freeform fighting is better. If the whole point of a thread is for characters to fight, then why not genuinely make it a contest? Why not give each player a chance to prove how cunning and convincing they can be, to earn recognition from their opponent and/or the judges? You can show off cool moves to some extent in a chance-based battle, but it's never going to be as thrilling as typing up a post and knowing that every word you write may affect the final outcome. So yeah. I'm not surprised to see T1 being largely phased out of collaborative storytelling, since it seems to me a logical and inevitable separation (though I will miss the hilarious drama that inevitably arose when the two mixed). People who don't want to fight and would rather just tell a story shouldn't have to deal with the prospect of someone barging into their thread/setting and trying to beat them up/take over, a situation that chance-based battles generally avert. However, T1 will continue to be a thing so long as there are people who enjoy it. It's just that nowadays (especially with Discord being a thing), the demographic of people who want to fight tend to form their own groups and communities, where they can flex egos and battle it out without bothering anyone else.
  12. bfc

    Lemme draw your character!

    Submitting Schrei. Have at her if you ever feel like it. 1. Waist-length black hair 2. Reddish-brown 3. Very pale, always wearing black headphones, has pointy vampire fangs 4. 5. Female, small
  13. bfc

    Chapter 2: Kamikaze (LoD)

    Dredge, unsurprisingly, chose to lead his troops into battle from the front. From a certain perspective, this was a good tactic: seeing a commander racing into battle at the front lines inspired awe and bravery in the ranks behind him, giving them the will to hold fast and fight on against whatever terrors they might face. Not only this, but the sheer power of Dredge and his charging vanguard could change the tide of a battle far more quickly than any elaborate tactics or careful plans. He was relying on brute force to win, yes, but brute force could sometimes be the most effective tool of all. The Legion's previous victories were testament enough to that. However, for someone aiming to keep this army intact, and keep its leader alive, Dredge's methods were a nuisance indeed. Schrei was a killer, not a front-line fighter. Fighting wasn't part of an assassin's trade, where the goal was to get rid of specific targets with minimal noise or fuss. She could creep up on an ice mongrel in its sleep and slit its throat, lay out poisoned food and let chemistry destroy it from within, or just snipe it from afar before it even caught her scent. Charge into battle, however, and even one of the ravenous creatures could easily send her flying, toss her about like a ragdoll while ignoring the tiny cuts and jabs of her knives. Perhaps this explained why she was looking so miserable as she raced towards the horde of beasts behind Dredge and his elites. As they laid about them with blade and magic and all kinds of destructive forces, the dreaded assassin simply trudged along behind them, looking rather small and useless amidst the carnage. Her boots splashed through the pools of blood the others left in their wake, stepping around corpses carved to shreds by the real warriors. A killer, however, had her uses even here on the battlefield. Perhaps she couldn't slaughter these creatures easily in a fair fight, but Schrei had a talent for making fights unfair, one that had seen her through confrontations with opponents far more numerous and powerful than she. And indeed, though she carried no weapon in her gentle hands, she instead held a small crystalline sphere, pressed between a thumb and two fingertips. These mongrel beasts were largely nonexistent in the records she'd studied, but by observing their form and their behavior, she could tell they had canine ancestry, or at least biological similarities. That meant their hearing range likely extended across higher frequencies than most humanoids, such as those in Dredge's vanguard. The machine she couldn't speak for, but he'd likely have safeguards against what she was about to do, and most of the others she could identify by species and approximate might be vulnerable to. Thus, she'd chosen a frequency too high for them to hear, while still just low enough to fall within the mongrels' approximate hearing range. The sound trapped within her little sphere would be likely inaudible to her allies, but for their enemies, it would be agony. Thus, as the vanguard crashed into the thick of battle, Schrei crushed the orb between her fingers, and let loose the noise. To the Legion soldiers looking on from behind, nothing would seem to happen. Dredge and his vanguard would likely notice nothing either, at least not immediately. The ice mongrels, however, would hear it loud and clear. A shrieking whine, a droning siren, so high-pitched and loud it would feel like tiny blades digging inside their earlobes. Enough to make them howl and jerk with pain, to shift them momentarily from bloodthirsty aggression to stunned disarray, and for the next few seconds leave them sitting ducks for the dark warlord and his warriors. Not the most glorious contribution, perhaps, but it was an opportunity. She'd trust brute force to handle the rest.
  14. bfc

    Destruction des morts

    At this moment, the Black Tower was the safest place in the city. Or so the vampires believed, anyway. The streets were clearly in uproar, ravaged by a disaster that only seemed to be growing worse as time went on. The halls and gardens, the docks and steel mills, all had been breached by the maddened and painted with blood. The Watch Fort was more secure, but could not be trusted, having once been a power base for the minions of hated Cain. The outskirts of the city were still mostly deserted, and thus more or less untouched, but to try and escape now would mean exposing oneself to any number of eager assassins, happy to take advantage of foolish nobles who rendered themselves sitting ducks. No, the leaders reasoned, the Black Tower was best. At the edge of the city and away from the general population, it was strong and secure enough to hold out against any wild mobs that might charge its way, not to mention sufficiently supplied to hold out against a protracted siege. Maleficence had found its way into the building, but already the Tower's security was stomping out the infection, tracking down, isolating, and eliminating those who had been exposed to the drug's effects. The city was lost, to be sure, but so long as they could hold this structure, the vampire leaders could simply wait out the disaster, until such a time came that they could safely escape or even move to reclaim the city. They were wrong, for course. Because from the moment Cain sicced Schrei on the building and told her to kill everyone inside, the Black Tower became the most dangerous place in the city. *** Alas, the massacre would be delayed for the moment. Rather than rushing directly to its final destination, the broken carriage took a scenic route, stopping first near one of the shafts and then at the Watch Fort, all so that Cain could switch out with some other accomplice and sally off to handle business of his own. Which made things very inconvenient for the new girl and Schrei, since every moment they too to reach their target was a moment more the Tower's forces could suppress the presence of Maleficence within the structure, thus ending the distraction and leaving the pair of assassins with a far more difficult task ahead of them. Schrei's fingers twitched with impatience, and she barely looked at the new passenger who stepped on board to join her. She did, however, use the ever-so-handy telepathic connection to forward her supposed partner (and the Skeleton conducting the carriage) a new flood of information. A map, marked with a route. To try and walk in through the Black Tower's front door would be an uphill battle at best and suicide at worst— but they were working for the man who'd once owned the place. The vampires, cunning as they were, didn't know everything about their own seat of power, least of all the tunnel that lead there from beneath. An additional escape route had been its original intention, but for those who knew of the passage's existence and where the other end was, and knew the means of accessing said end... well, with the two sides of Tia's power struggle having been flipped on their head, a secret way out could become a secret way in.
  15. bfc

    Chapter 1: Revival (LoD)

    With a single nod of acknowledgement, Schrei followed the half-elf into town, pacing silent and steady in his wake. As they walked, she slid the black slate she'd been using to write on back into her coat, and drew out in its place a rolled-up sheet of parchment, sealed with a skull marked in black wax. All things considered, her approach had gone quite smoothly, though momentous events had been taking place whilst she negotiated her way in. Schrei couldn't sense energy or read the minds of others, but her ears were unmatched, and she heard everything. The gruesome death. The final declaration. The few words of weakness that slipped out the mouth of a mourning overlord, before he burned away all trace of what was lost. And as she listened to it all, a hint of emotion graced her features for the first time that day. A smile. Something crystallized between the fingers of one pale hand, a tiny sphere of clearest glass. Almost as soon as it appeared, she tucked it away in a pocket for safekeeping, and her mouth returned to its usual grim line. Just in time, as it happened, for her to come into sight of the Legion's leader, and see him standing in the midst of blowing ashes, tall and intimidating as ever. Schrei wasted no time with condolences, nor with greetings. She simply tossed him the scroll she'd been carrying, and let it speak for her. Assuming Dredge broke the seal and opened it, he'd find a short message penned in a neat, simple script: Dredge, You've been busy since we last met, and your work has attracted notable outside attention. The Legion is not the only organization at odds with the current authorities of Terrenus, and there are individuals of some means who would prefer to see it recover from its losses in Last Chance and become a preeminent threat once again. Chaos breeds opportunity, after all, and while the military is focused on you, criminals and revolutionaries of all stripes can breathe a little easier. I have been contracted by a third party to assist the Legion, for the time being, in regaining its former stature. As such I offer my services, free of charge, in achieving your immediate goals, in exchange for a fair share of whatever spoils my assistance may earn you and an understanding that this arrangement will only last until my current contract expires. You may choose to reject this offer, in which case I will leave without causing you further inconvenience. But you're well aware how useful I can be, and I'm sure you recognize how valuable an opportunity this is for us both. I trust you to make the wiser decision.
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