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Chouette

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  1. All of a sudden, Gillian had become a very busy man. In a place as vicious as Lessertown, a gang leader had to be more than just tough or mean to make the cut. You needed smarts, business sense, an ability to see opportunities and grab them by the throat, to squeeze them for everything they could give. Luck had dropped a godsend right into the Devils' lap, and now it was up to their boss to make use of it. He'd taken the deal- all they'd asked up front was info on the other gangs. The Devils weren't exactly popular in the area, so if those two fucks felt like messing with the other locals Gillian was all too happy to give them all he had. They might've been spies, sent by one of his enemies to figure out how much he knew, but the drug more or less disproved that. Any other gang that had their hands on stuff this good wouldn't risk letting their competitors know before it was on the market. Because boy, it was good. He could tell it worked at first sight, but outside of that... well, anyone would be a fool to take a guy at his word in the underbelly of Cosanastre. Gillian had the man they'd injected with BANTER watched constantly and periodically questioned, monitored as methodically as they could manage without being professional fucking psychiatrists, and the results seemed promising. There might be side-effects over the long term, but most buyers didn't give a fuck about those. With proper distribution, this NanoTech shit could turn out more valuable than liquid gold, the big break the Devils needed to start spreading their territory and becoming one of the top dogs in this filthy town. So, they'd almost certainly be selling this shit in the near future. That meant planning, logistics. Gillian sat down in the old ticket booth and began sketching out a plan, keeping it vague so that anyone peeking at the paper would have a hard time figuring out what he was up to. He trusted his subordinates, but a leader had to be careful. An opportunity like this could make a man... ambitious. He'd played it down, keeping most of his gang under the illusion that this would be just another drug while informing his inner circle of its true potential. The secret would be out soon enough, but by then he'd have things planned out well enough to avoid being backstabbed or stolen from. His plan wasn't focused so much on places as it was on people. Pretty much anywhere in Lessertown could be used as a hideaway to peddle drugs, and the Devils had already staked out a few good spots for their existing trade. What really mattered was who peddled, which hands he could trust to sell the drug fast while keeping it from falling into the hands the other gangs. Dealers, thugs, lookouts, coordinators, contacts, spies- he even put down the name of a back-alley chemist or two, in case they could reverse-engineer the stuff so the Devils could make it on their own. Slowly but surely, the gang's future was taking shape. Then a voice, calm and steady, spoke from behind him. "Looking busy, Gillian." The stout man froze, one hand going for the firearm at his hip. He'd been alone in his makeshift office, the entrance locked. How the fuck- "You can relax. I'm not here for trouble, just... checking in." Slowly, Gillian pushed back his chair and turned around, never taking his hand off his weapon. He recognized the voice, and sure enough, a familiar face was now looking back at him. The intruder leaned against one wall, dressed in shabby brown clothes, completely relaxed. He was bald, with a sturdy nose and a faint hint of stubble spread across his jaw and chin, fairly handsome by Lessertown standards. What set him apart, however, were his eyes. Small black pupils surrounded by bright yellow irises that extended all the way into the lids, leaving not a hint of white visible. Unnerving, inhuman, and unmistakable. Gillian swallowed. "Siskin." The man nodded, his eyes swiveling as his head moved, never leaving the Devils' boss. "Good to see you too, Gillian." "The hell do you want? We paid our tribute already, next one's not for three weeks-" Siskin held up one hand, smiling lightly. "Like I said, not here for trouble. I only need one thing from you, then I'll be on my way." Gillian folded his arms, trying not to let any weakness show. "Out with it, then." Outside, a pair of Devils had noticed his movement and were wandering over, but he waved them away. "There were two people here earlier," Siskin said, "I'd like to know who they were. What they discussed with you." He stopped, and took a short, sharp breath, sniffing the air. "What they brought with them." Damn. Why did he have to interfere now, of all times? "Why's the regent interested in all this? People have been saying she's dead- and if she isn't, a rumor like that means she's got bigger problems on her hands." The boss was watching for a reaction, any evidence that the stories might be true. The gangs could squabble and fight over who got to be top dogs, but the regent kept them all collared and leashed, exploiting their quarrels to rule unopposed. Siskin was one of the collars, so to speak, so if something really had happened that man would know. The only reaction Gillian got was a slight quirk of Siskin's lips, the beginnings of a grin quickly suppressed. "You'll find out soon enough." He leaned forwards, standing up straight and towering over the Devils' boss. "Now, I asked you some questions. That's all, not going to make you do anything- but I very much want those answers." His bright eyes narrowed, and suddenly Gillian regretted not keeping guards in there with him. There was little else to do but talk.
  2. OOC

    Welcome back, Cress! Way I see it, there's three options: - First, we leave the old thread as-is. It won't officially be 'canon,' but we could include it in our characters' stories. I haven't officially included it in Larque's, seeing as it never finished, but if either of you two wants to make it part of your characters' stories then that's probably fine. The inconsistency wouldn't be a problem unless these same specific characters ended up interacting in another thread, which is unlikely if we go with this option. - We don't continue the old thread, but agree that the journey failed somehow and start a 'round 2' as Cress mentioned. This could work, but there's little reason to do this when we could just as easily... - Pick up the old thread and finish it. I can't do this immediately, but give me a week to plan it into my schedule and I'd be down for carrying on where we left off. Thoughts?
  3. Closed

    For the briefest of moments after Gormaric made his request, silence reigned. Then, from deep within the massive lizard's throat, there came a low rumble, building and building like a growing avalanche until Vol Lok Ra threw back his head, jaws opened wide, and laughed. The noise rang out like thunder, filling the entire hall and causing the very walls to shudder as the earthquake of sound battered against them. It was far more than that, however. Its volume filled the ears rather than deafening them, rich and warm, each syllable reverberating through Gormaric and Osa and washing away some of the weariness, the stress, even the pain they had endured over their journey. As it gradually faded away, Vol slowly dropped back down into his slightly hunched posture, bestial features twisted in what could only be amusement. "Neque? Now that's a name I wasn't expecting to hear in this day and age." He stepped nearer, his head level with Gormaric's, examining the armored figure. "And you're the one he conned into bringing him back." Another rumble of amusement. "I chose better. I returned first, and now the Shadow King begs me by proxy to restore him." He leaned in a little closer, the tip of his snout almost touching Gormaric's helm for a moment. "Yes. I'll give you what you want, and let Neque wallow in shame whenever he thinks of me." At that he withdrew, and once again his form shifted, feathers flowing out and covering the scales, wide wings bursting out from his back and beating against the air. In the space of a single breath, the reptilian creature was replaced by a bird of even greater proportions, which soared upwards, crashing through a part of the roof already weakened by the dragon and knocking a fresh layer of debris down into the hall. Osa stared after him as he vanished out of view, muttering obscenities through her gritted teeth. In front of Gormaric, where Vol had stood, there remained a tiny, gleaming box. Brass and steel, by the look of it, a cube less than three inches high, the metals forming intricate patterns across the surface that danced and swirled around each other, so delicate it was easier to imagine them being woven than forged. A keyhole was set into one side, a small silver key inserted but not turned. What really made it stand out, however, was the sheer power emanating from it. Only the tiniest of cracks was visible, the join between the lid and the rest of the box, smaller than a hair and all but invisible to the naked eye. It was leaking, the equivalent of ten average souls escaping from it with every passing second. These weren't individual souls, however, only fragments of something much, much greater. Whatever was in there, it radiated that kind of strength simply by existing. Osa glanced at it, a little tempted, but didn't move. She looked to Gormaric, and there was something in her expression that he hadn't seen before. Sympathy. "Thanks. Not for the gold- that's not even going to start to cover the shit I need -for the truth." She cocked her head to one side, frowning. "I don't blame you for what happened, though. Shit always goes wrong, and it's always the gods and monsters pulling the strings, the morons who think they know best." She turned away from him slightly, scowling at the empty air. "Fuck them. Here on out, nobody tells me what to do." She walked past him, stretching her arms, her mind already turning to the tasks ahead, the repairs to her home and the plans she'd need to put in motion, now that this metaphorical weight was off her shoulders. Her underlings were probably already wondering what the fuck had happened to her, so she'd need to get back to them before some ambitious piece of shit decided to name her dead and take command. Before she reached the door, however, she paused, turning to Gormaric one last time. "Once you've gotten this Neque bastard off your back... if you need work again, come find me." She shoved open the doors, striding out into the halls of her mansion, barking orders to waiting henchmen. She didn't stop to say goodbye, but quickly made sure it was known that Gormaric could leave unharmed, and directed a pair of pretty young healers to go and fix him up, in case he needed it. Her own injuries were already sealed and fading, new cells growing to replace the old, though she had plans to replace most of her body soon anyway. Vol was out there, now. She could only guess what he planned to do, but if the old legends were anything to go by, the world would be dealing with some serious fuckery in the near future. He wasn't the only one, either: this Neque business was proof of that. Old things had begun to resurface, returning to shape the world once again. The ancient, however, would have to contend with the new. Osa, Gormaric, even all those fuckers who didn't make it the whole way with them- each one brimming with potential. Who would see the opportunity before them? A world ripe for the conquering.
  4. Once everyone who planned on coming was aboard, the pilot flipped a switch, and the stairs retracted into the side of the airship, the heavy door closing with a thunk behind them. The hull began to shake slightly, the engines generating some lift and moving the craft out of the landing bay. No going back, now. The pilot smiled a little in response to Henry. "Felicity, and it's nice to meet you too. But let's try and get through this alive before we start talking about pleasure, hmm? Now be a darling and steer us out- I'll watch for hazards and make sure everything stays running." Then she leaned back, yelling to their passengers. "If you haven't secured yourselves yet, you have five seconds! Four! Three!" Beyond that her words were drowned out by the roaring engines, and the airship lurched into motion. The first thing Henry would realize was that this thing was damn fast, and within an eyeblink it'd be practically rocketing out of the hangar and into the freezing skies beyond. To everyone in the central hold, it'd feel like getting slammed by an invisible wall, the sheer force of the acceleration strong enough to knock someone off their feet if they weren't ready for it. Then again, these were hardy types, so they'd find a way to cope with being flung about a little. Sure, it wasn't exactly comfortable, but at this speed they'd be able to get all the way out into the mountains in no time at all! Assuming Henry didn't crash, of course. Felicity was laughing, pressed against the back of her seat, gesturing to her new co-pilot. Even sitting right next to him, she had to shout to be heard over the engines. "Take us south! Just a wee, bit, then hold course until I say so." 'Holding course' in this case could mean a bit of weaving between some of the higher peaks, but she trusted him to have enough common sense not to fly them into a mountain.
  5. It really comes down to one core principle: people can do what they like with their characters. Variations beyond that tend to come from the social side of things, or site administration. A good way of thinking about it might be in parts, each of which influences what eventually ends up written IC. Let's take your example of a character dying. If I'm writing a character, the general assumption is that I decide whether they die or not. If a bunch of bozos jump my character and hit them with 500 megatons of magical fuckery, I can decide to have my character only get knocked out. If someone farts in my character's general direction, I can decide to have my character drop dead from the smell alone. Sure, if I did either of those things people might complain at me, but what does that really matter? I could easily take a character who was 'killed' in one thread and start playing them in another, and who would stop me? On a basic level, RP is about writing your characters how you want them to be. Other people might not like what you do, sure, but then you don't have to give a fuck. There's the first part: your own ideas. Moving on from there is really where the structure comes in. RP is an inherently social game, and so while there's no requirement to pay attention to or collaborate with anyone, ignoring everyone all the time will result in them ignoring or ostracizing you, depending on how dickish you are about it. Either way, no fun. Thus, most people tend to be judicious about when they do or do not give a fuck. For instance: if someone shoots a magic missile at my character, while I could just write my character shrugging it off with no damage, I'll usually have them either be hurt or do something to counter it. In this way, I'm interacting with the player who fired the missile, showing them that I do give value to their actions, and this in turn encourages them to continue playing with me. That's the second part: player interaction, working with other people's ideas. While it's possible to RP with only your own ideas, it's generally lonely and no fun. How much you collaborate is up to you, though the 'right' amount of collaboration can differ between groups and communities, which brings me to the next part. There are people in RPs who can force you to give a fuck about their ideas. There are Admins, Moderators, GMs, whoever controls the site or thread or chatroom you're playing in. They set rules, and generally you have to obey or be kicked out. The admins themselves are limited too, since nobody will play in a thread/site with horrible rules, but they can heavily influence how collaboration occurs and how ideas mesh. Example: if an admin dictates that all story-related combat is to be resolved via dice rolls, then that's how combat interactions will go. That aspect of collaboration is shaped by the rules, and those who don't like it can fuck off to their own thread/board/site. That's pretty much it, really. Player, other players, and admins, all throwing ideas at each other. No party is technically obligated to work with the others, since it's all just words on the internet, but successful and enjoyable RPs usually rely on that sweet spot of cooperation between the three. *** Going to throw in some more examples, to illustrate: - In the example Robbie put forth, there were apparently no set rules about combat or who jumped into the thread, so from the get-go the 'admins' were largely out of the equation. This makes it an interaction purely between players. One character came in to kill the other, which was the writer's idea. However, other players quickly input their own ideas (e.g. "let's team up and fight this person!) which clashed with the writer's. In this case, the value of interaction took precedence over the writer's original intent, and the writer (happily or not) decided they'd play along rather than stubbornly ignore the attackers and risk people not wanting to interact with his/her characters in the future. The writer switched to having their character dying, only to switch back after some discussion. My take on this is that this particular writer (in this case, at least) valued interaction more than their own ideas, and thus was willing to have the fate of their character decided by the input of others. As to whether this was the 'right' outcome or not, I'd say that depends on whether everyone had a good time writing the thread! - I at one time faced a similar situation myself, but took a different road, because there were other factors in play. There was a big fight going on, and some of my character's IC allies were badly injured, so I had him jump in solo against impossible odds to buy time for them to escape. The opposing side initially tried to just barrel on through, but eventually played along and engaged my character as I'd intended. Likewise, I played along and had my character get beat the hell up, which was pretty much what they wanted. Each side had made some concessions to the other, and melded their ideas to create a good story. The issue came up when my character was pretty much beaten: someone decided to stab him a bunch of times, and said OOC that my character should die from this. I accepted getting stabbed IC, but refused to have my character die. There was plenty of justification for that happening, but it was my character and I decided what to do with them. So did people stop wanting to play with me because of this? Not at all. I simply pointed to the site rule (this wasn't Valucre) that characters could not be killed without consent. The guy trying to kill me whined to the admins about it, and sure enough they told him to fuck off. If the rules of the site allowed character death, I might not have been able to pull such a blatant refusal without having the admins come down on me and/or people think I was just being a dick, but they didn't, and so my character got to not only survive but play in multiple other threads without issue. In this case, player collaboration broke down when individual ideas clashed, so a solution came about via rules and administration. - On the other side of things, I once played on a site that explicitly allowed and enforced character death. During specific threads (e.g. massive awesome battles) characters could be permanently killed, and when this happened, the admins listed your character in the 'dead' group and pretty much banned you from ever posting with them again. Why would anyone want to play with a ruleset like that? Well, the admins took care to include both player ideas and collaboration in the process. Entering the massive fights was not required, and even within them there were set factors that determined when a character could be permanently killed (such as drawing the aggression of a powerful 'boss' enemy). If you jumped into one of these things and started playing recklessly, you were basically making a kind of deal with the admins: you got to do awesome shit, but you were putting your character at risk. In this way, collaboration was included. On top of this, the admins let players have some sway over how they'd go out- they'd PM you slightly in advance, and give you time to set up a final post so your character could go out in the most badass way possible. By including the ideas of each writer and collaborating with said writers, the admins managed to shift the direction of the RP to their purposes and get people to play along with enforced deaths, resulting in some high-stakes threads that were some of the most intense fun I've ever had RPing. *** Tldr; RPing is all about the people who do it, and how we deal with each other. What happens IC is always determined by a mix of: the players behind each character, the interplay between said players, and the rules/administration guiding the RP. When these factors are balanced, people have fun and long threads happen.
  6. I just checked out your rescue mission and it looks fun. Got any other rp ideas you had in mind?

    1. Chouette

      Chouette

      Definitely!  I have a couple big threads planned for the future... though there's some stuff I need to wrap up first.  Still, I'm hoping to get things rolling later this summer, so if you're interested then keep an eye out!

  7. They should be able to strap themselves in place, if they wanted to. Like the pilot said in my post: So it's fine, characters can secure themselves as they see fit!
  8. Closed

    On one hand, the gap in Antique's vocabulary irked Larque more than it should have. On the other hand, she deduced his intention quickly enough, and before long they were sneaking silently away, bags of supplies in hand. His longbow folded in on itself, returning to the form of a silver necklace, which he clenched tightly in one fist so that it would not produce any sound that might alert the creatures out there in the dark. They'd made it through the worst of the Broken Plain during the day, and Larque had a good enough memory to avoid any cracks large enough to fall into. Which was fortunate, because as the adrenaline of the brief engagement faded, it became harder and harder for him to walk. His right boot was filling with blood, and his foot screamed in protest whenever he tried to put weight on it. The wounds in his back didn't impede his movement so much, but just from the pain he could tell that they were wide, and deep, the kind of injuries that'd bleed him out if they weren't taken care of soon. He clenched his teeth, biting down on the tubes that ran through his mouth, and carried on. Now that he wasn't being constantly attacked, he could put his foresight to work more effectively, figure out when and where to place his feet to limp as quickly and quietly as possible. It felt like needles being slowly pushed into his flesh, like he was a rotting doll being pulled apart at the seams by his every movement- but he had the advantage of knowing, through the machinations of cold logic, that only carrying on would allow him to survive. An advantage of foresight: easier to push past one's limits, without the lure of false hope urging one down an easier path. Even so, when Antique told him to sit down he practically collapsed onto his knees, arms limp, head lolling forwards. His mind turned inwards, away from the harshness of reality, curling up in thoughts and schemes and a few good memories he'd managed to cling to over his lifetime. He moved his arms, making it a little easier for Antique to get her makeshift bandages around him, but otherwise remained as dull and limp as a puppet with its strings cut. Only when she spoke again did he finally emerge from his seeming stupor, turning his head a little towards her to answer her question. "Foot. We need to get my foot as well." He drew his leg closer, trying to get a better look at it without moving his back, though as it was the small shift made his other injuries scream in protest. Working slowly and carefully, he took off his boot, revealing the foot. It wasn't nearly as bad as his back was, but something still needed to be done lest he become unable to walk. "Cut up my coat if you need to. Then..." He reached for his bag, his hands fumbling inside it for a few seconds before drawing out a flask. "Once the bleeding slows, we'll need to clean them as best we can, before wrapping them more permanently. Should be some actual bandages in here somewhere." His voice held steady, calm as ever. It helped, walking through these steps, setting his mind to the task of thinking rather than panicking. He glanced towards Antique, who seemed to be in quite the state herself, judging by her clothing. How much of that had been her own work? "Did they get you at all? I apologize for not warning you sooner, I hadn't anticipated anything coming from the air." He couldn't be bothered to put any emotion into his tone at the moment, and it all came out sounding a little cold.
  9. The pilot didn't look particularly impressed by what she saw, though she raised an eyebrow at some of the stranger figures among them, especially the great red wolf-thing. After a moment, though, she gave them a satisfied nod. "All right, step on in! If any of you were lying, then I guess we'll find out on the way." She turned around and marched her way back up the into the airship, gesturing for them to follow her. Unsurprisingly, the inside of the craft was a great deal warmer- almost too warm, in fact, flooded with heat from the humming engines. The stairs led to a single, hollow space that was easily large enough to fit the whole team, with a small door leading into the cockpit on one end. Most of the floor was taken up by a massive cargo hatch, but thankfully whatever goods this vessel usually transported had been cleared out, aside from a few tightly-locked crates here and there. Other than those, there were no seats, but straps and handles protruded from the roof and ceiling, giving the would-be passengers at least some way of keeping themselves from being flung about once the journey started. The whole thing smelled a bit musty, but it wasn't overly unclean. The most notable feature, however, was a large map pinned to one side of the hull, near the entrance to the cockpit. The whole of Genesaris's south was laid out on it, in varying levels of detail, though much of it was fading from age and wear. A large pin had been stuck through the mountains south of Shrine, presumably marking the location they were headed, though only one small label marked that particular region. Nersherdere. The pilot shrugged off her winter coat, revealing a surprisingly slim figure underneath, and folded it up, sticking it beneath one arm as she glanced back at those who had followed her inside. "Strap yourselves in, or just hold on to something if you think you're strong. No need to get comfortable, this won't take long." She pointed at Henry. "You. If you're feeling confident, then come help me out a bit. I could use a co-pilot." With that, she stepped into the cockpit, shoving her coat in a small locker and tugging at a lever on the wide, haphazardly assembled control panel. The noise from the engines grew louder, the low hum becoming a gentle rumbling, like the purring of some massive beast. It wouldn't be long at all before this thing was ready to fly.
  10. Closed

    Sure enough, the dragon exploded out from the ring of iron, barely missing the other reptile in the room as it crashed to the ground with enough force to be felt throughout Cosanastre- and, Osa noted with a grimace, to utterly ruin her favorite carpet. She'd been ready to fight anyway, but seeing that really pissed her off. Crouching, she reached down to touch the floor with one hand, eyes on the enemy as she made contact with the unseen bacteria at her fingertips. This was her house, and she'd put as much effort into the microbes as she had into the decor. Small, strange feelings mixed within her as glands deployed hormones and chemicals never meant for human bodies, preparing the signals that would turn all the trillions of cells around her into vicious biological weapons. Though mostly unseen, her intent was obvious, her body tensed and mouth already opening in an angry snarl. Vol Lok Ra stood still and quiet, his ancient features unreadable. Whoever this shadowy fucker who'd decided to chase them was, however, it had enough of a brain to tell that taking on the three badasses who'd just blown up a plane between them was a bad fucking idea. It pussied out in classic dragon style, beating its massive wings and fucking off into the sky, though not before smashing its way through the minor obstruction that was Kim Osa's roof. In the aftermath of the minor cataclysm, the silence came crashing down in a wave, the violence and terror ending so suddenly that it felt almost hard to believe. Osa's fists clenched and unclenched as she stared upwards at the dark shape shrinking up above, but she didn't pursue. She stood up and dusted herself off, nodding in agreement when Gormaric finally spoke up. "Damn well hope so. That roof was fucking expensive." It'd be a bitch to replace, too, but money wasn't hard to come by when you controlled half the criminal enterprises in Cosanastre. She'd gone in looking for something else. Her eyes moved to Vol, her teacher and patron. "Job's done. Time to hold up your end of the bargain." The scaly beast was staring at the iron ring, watching as the mirror-like gateway within quietly folded in on itself, shrinking down into a tiny, gleaming marble which he plucked out of the air with a massive, clawed fist. With a slowness she just knew was specifically meant to piss her off, he swung about to face Osa, yellow eyes gleaming like nuggets of gold amidst his ashen scales. He gestured vaguely in her direction. "You are released from your oaths. Take your name and do what you will with it- I'll look forward to watching you fail." She scowled at him, bitter and cold, but the relief in her eyes was clear. Vol's gaze flicked over to Gormaric, locking on him with the intensity of a hawk. "She owed me one. You didn't. If you want something, say it now." His jaws parted slightly, spiked teeth bared in what might have been a smile.
  11. About ten posted in the interest check, so ideally that's how many we'll start with. I'm planning on waiting a few days to let people find time to get their intro posts done (some take longer than others), then moving things forward with whoever entered. We'll probably lose some players along the way (stuff comes up in real life and people stop posting), but we should end up with a steady group of five to seven, at an estimate.
  12. Thread's still in the first round, so sure, hop on in!
  13. @Vinsue @Doglefox @LukeRipstine @aesome @Pastel @Kierri @AllDelusions @CuteCat @Al Sa-her Took me a while, but I've kicked things off! IC thread is here! OOC thread is here. Feel free to get posting as soon as you're ready.
  14. IC thread is here! Post away, and feel free to ask questions and/or discuss stuff in this thread.
  15. Even after thousands of years, there are still rough spots on the maps of the Cold South. Regions simply labeled 'forest' or 'mountains,' in a vain attempt to cover up the fact that the mapmakers had no idea what the hell was out there. The icy peaks of the Cold South are one such area. Valjer and Shrine City, along with their environs, had been sketched out in great detail by generations of cartographers, but the areas between them were a wilderness. Trade routes skirted north of the mountains, avoiding steep roads and winter storms, and with little commercial interest in the mountains, few had bothered to map them. There were rumors of tribes living within those cold, forsaken ranges, even entire societies, but such suggestions were usually laughed off- after all, what kind of people would choose to live in the depths of a wintry hell? Of course, a few intrepid souls did venture out there, seeking to chart new ground. Problem was, they didn't often return. This was why, when mages and soothsayers all over Shrine City picked up a major supernatural event far to the south, the military was understandably concerned. They turned their most advanced sensing instruments towards the disturbance, called on oracles to try and pick up any further activity. What they found, after a few hours, was a distress signal. Broken up with static, transmitted at strangely irregular intervals, its message was nevertheless clear. A lone, male voice, his terror audible even through the crackling of interference, begging for aid. I don't think we can last much longer. We're in a cavern a short ways off one of the main roads, about two hundred kilometers south of Shrine City. Five of us left, and two are wounded. If anyone can hear this... we need help, and fast. Please. For our sakes, for everyone's sakes, we can't die here. The situation was clearly urgent, and well worth investigating. At the same time, however, risking the lives of soldiers on a journey into the unknown would have major political fallout, especially if the mission went wrong. Officially, the military couldn't act. Unofficially, they immediately put out a mercenary contract and covertly spread word all over the city. Freelancers were strange types, there was bound to be someone brave or stupid enough to take up the offer of a high-risk rescue mission. The objective was simple: find out who was transmitting out there, and bring them back- alive, if possible. *** Whichever freelancers or would-be heroes who signed up would be directed to an airship hangar on the western side of the city for the journey out. It was, as it happened, a very cold airship hangar. Open to the air, a brisk breeze blew in from outside, moaning faintly across the wide, empty space. Only a single craft was docked, a squat, sturdy thing with a heavily plated hull. A stylized white wing was painted across one side, scratched and scored and worn away to the point where one could barely recognize it. Not a particularly unusual aircraft, except for the titanic engines welded to its upper half. Together they made up most of the ship's mass, and they steamed in the cold air, humming loudly as something within them warmed up. With a gentle whirring, a wide door opened in the airship's side, a set of steps extending downward to the ground. A short woman in a heavy winter coat made her way down, looking out at the gathering freelancers with dark, narrow eyes. "Finally here?" She clapped her hands together, thick gloves crashing into each other with a soft whumf. "Good. You've all been on an airship before, right? Wouldn't want any of you vomiting your guts out before I drop you off out there."