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Phaedara last won the day on April 2 2015

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About Phaedara

  • Rank
    The Nightingale
  • Birthday 08/20/1989

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  • Interests
    Writing (duh), drawing, reading, video games (primarily PC), board games, exploring the wilderness, airsoft, medicine and cuddling all the animals! Oh, and definitely rain. I love me a good thunderstorm.
  • Occupation
    Veterinarian Technician

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  1. Roleplaying goals? Shit. I never really thought about it, but suppose now is as good as a time as ever. OOC To develop my writing skills, and consequently, my confidence in them. I had a dream as wee girl to become an author one day, but had that dream smashed many moons ago by a less than pleasant teacher. Since then, it's been a while since I took writing seriously enough to put some conscious effort into it. Although now I am trying, it's evident I've still got quite some ways to go but I'm enjoying the journey in it. Maybe one day, when I can commit some solid time to the forum, I'd like to carve a little piece of Valucre for my own to create a place for the enjoyment of others! I love world building and can really get lost in it if I'm allowed to. Of course, that ties into my aforementioned dream to becoming an author. To continue to share and collaborate in stories with others, encouraging each other to grow while enjoying these moments where we can just escape in these daydreams. Master time travel or human cloning so I can have more time to write. Preferably time travel. I fear for humanity in which more than one Phaedara exists in that universe. IC For Aelyria's story to end tragically and suddenly. There are some days I love her and others I want to wipe my hands clean of her. For Eleri to finish her debut thread. I blame school and my negligence. For me to finish any debut thread with any other character I designed. I'm terrible at this BTW.
  2. Wisps of smoke penetrated her senses, lingering in her flaring nostrils with a draughty prickle. An aspect of Aelyria's conscious was concerned and wanted the Urge to relinquish its grip long enough to let her look back towards Ted. But, that was like trying to convince a dam to crumble in the presence of a trickling stream. The course was already set and their target was the Queen. The initial throng of Xer-Orians was smaller now though they continued to spill from the fissures lining the dome above and from tunnels that surrounded them. She seemed to be calling them from deep within the caves and there was no telling how extensive of an army she commanded. On occasion, a soldier might pause as if contemplating whether rushing to its inevitable death to protect a Queen that was abandoning them was worth the price. The Queen's psychic control was teetering as evident by the subtle glimpse of hesitation in the soldiers' beady eyes. Aelyria struck down another soldier, losing her spear to the thick layers of chitinous plate on its thorax but quickly recovering by flicking her wrist and spawning a pair void blades into her palms. They didn't have the same pestilent effect that the crystal spear--now shattered into a scattering of fine twinkling dust--had, but they wouldn't find themselves lodged as they offered little to no resistance. She could be wilder and faster with her attacks, though accuracy became more critical to achieve as she could no longer leave her victims behind to mutilate themselves. However, the finesse of combat was not something the Urge concerned itself with. It was primal and uninhibited by the fears and consequence of pain, so it acted without forethought. It made Aelyria alarmingly efficient in striking down their foes but careless. The tip of a soldier's spear flayed through supple leather and buried its head deep into her hip. Pain erupted like fire for a fleeting moment before becoming subdued by the Urge's call. Another Xer-orian soldier sought to take advantage of the moment, charging with an unintelligible chittering war-cry before being felled by the shadowy blade, its wicked magic splitting the arthropod down its center, leaving a trail of smoky black in its scintillating wake. With demonic fluidity, she redirected the blade to her successful attacker, severing its triangular head free from its segmented body--a clean and regretfully quick death--while the blade's twin fended off another soldier by disarming it of both the weapon and the claws that wielded it. It screeched more with dismay than pain at the loss of its limbs but swiftly succumbed to silence as it met its fate on the end of her sword. The onslaught did not stop there, but as Aelyria jerked the spear free from her side and peered towards her final target, she saw an opening widen like the great maw of devouring beast, beckoning her forward into its spasming gullet. Enraptured by its call, she rushed forward, ignoring the stream of weapons that reached forward to stop her, splicing and tattering skin and gear alike. She twitched only to barely avoid the tip of a spear that sliced laterally against her cheek, leaving a fierce yawning gash from cheekbone to ear as her reward. A pair of consorts turned to deal with her. They sputtered something akin to surprise as she leapt in front of them, inhumane speed and strength granting her the might to nearly bound clear over their heads, using their shoulders and hunched backs as bouncing boards to close the distance between her and the Queen. She landed in the midst of the retinue of hulking consorts, mere steps behind the smaller Xer-orian female they guarded. The Queen scarce had time to react and mentally bark orders to her guards when Aelyria spun in place. A spray of crystalline needles darted outwards from all around her, battering the consorts and Queen indiscriminately, protruding from their hard carapace like the quills of a porcupine. It took a second from the initial lurch of pain for the pestilence to take hold. Almost as if their demise was choreographed, they screamed excruciatingly in their alien high-pitched wails, a sound that even prickled Aelyria's sweating skin. The consorts were first to fall, grasping at their thick antennae and snapping them free from their heads as if somehow that would stop the pain. Next, shards of exoskeleton were liberated from their bodies, a pretty collection of grey iridescent husk littering the rocky ground. They dug and gouged at their exposed innards, searching for the source of their torment among the blackening organs and muscle. They did not die quickly and the Urge had little patience to wait until they did. Aelyria faced the Queen, her many crimson-speckled claws clinging to the needles that pierced her carapace. If she were surprised to see the Xer-orian leader resisting the Urge's poison, she did not seem show it. However, the Queen was not entirely infallible to its blight as she twitched uncomfortably, large black eyes glassy with the pain. The soldiers had begun to back off, the tether that bound them to their queen weakening and blind loyalty waning. You... The Queen reached out into Aelyria's mind with hesitance, as if somehow the parasite that consumed the human before her could pass through this mental channel. You do not know what it is that you carry. Such darkness... The Queen seemed to grin then though it didn't show on her mandibles. At least I will die with the comfort of knowing all you hold dear will eventually die with you. A sultry laugh defied the fear that held her. By you. The Queen wobbled and cackled again. You're destined for destruction. It will follow you like the very-- Aelyria waved her hand dismissively and river of intrusion ceased to flood her mind. The Queen jerked, surprised yet expectant. Then, the Xer-orian's eyes widened and she trembled, appendages buckling and giving way as she toppled over gracelessly. Her wings sputtered uselessly, their pearly film punctured by the crystal needles that bore through them. She saw something in those last moments before her death, something that only her mind could see. The Queen didn't seem to be looking at Aelyria anymore but instead at the thing that stood behind her, guiding the woman's arm as the blade came down, arcing to her neck. She stared into its grinning eyes and knew she had made a terrible mistake. She screamed internally and then all went black. The Queen's head tumbled for a while before coming to a stop, blank eyes regarding her soldiers one last time before they scattered--at least those who still could. The consorts had eventually bled themselves to death, though one still groaned nearby, inky ichor bubbling from its jowls. Aelyria ignored it and turned, golden discs regarding Ted and the Mork'Outh before settling on the burden they carried. Renkor.
  3. Gonna pull this thread from being buried. I love seeing everyone's music interests! It's an opportunity to explore for new inspiration! Edit: 😐 Supernal beat me to it by a minute.
  4. I'm so thankful for the school break. I can finally live again and write! PURE BLISS!

    1. princeben07





      Well wonders NEVER cease to exist!!! THERE SHE IS!! My LOST and Found RP buddy!! how in the Seven Earths ARE you dear?




    2. Phaedara


      Could be better, but taking one day at a time! I'm trying to get my gear rolling here back into writing, but it's so hard! I thought I had a four day weekend to rejoice in, but unexpected surgery at work ruined those plans >_< Where did all the free time go, Benny?!!?! Save me!

    3. princeben07


      Maybe a little RP can get your mind away from the Triffling things in LIFE. It might help you relax while you recover from surgery???


      Hit me back...Let's whip something up!!!! I'm always DOWN for a good story!!



  5. The fanfare upon their return to town was unexpected to say the least. Eleri, despite the decent repertoire of fulfilled missions under her belt, had never before experienced this degree of ostentation for a job well done. Regardless, she relished in the temporary stardom from such simple town folk, even if at the same time, she became increasingly self-conscious, making futile attempts to pin the dusty brown flyaways that strayed from her head. With all the noise and commotion that swarmed them, Eleri almost hadn't caught sight of the two men prying about Ashelewyn's saddle bags. Instinct jolted her nerves and she reached for one of the longswords pinned to her left hip. However, it hardly made a handspan's breadth free from the scabbard before softly clinking back into place after the men had been shooed away. She sighed with relief but remained unsettled with how acute she had been willing to act. He's is carrying precious cargo, she thought in attempt to excuse herself. There's no telling what this town would do if they discovered what else we had brought back. Eleri snapped from her introspection at the mention of her presence. She nodded solemnly to town governor and then raised an eyebrow at Ashelewyn. Excellent help? She decided not to argue the point and accepted the compliment. After all, Eleri had still yet to determine the full nature of their working relationship. The governor soon left them to their designs, and she eyed the elf suspiciously as they made their way free of the crowd, walking beside his steed. There was something about the tone of his voice in that last sentence to the town leader, and she didn't have to wait long to find out why. "I'll stay with Rhaast tonight. You should go and enjoy the celebration." Eleri scarcely heard the rest before coming to her own opinion. "Yeah, that doesn't work for me," she objected flatly. "As much as I'd love free reign on your share of whatever rotgut delicacy they pass as booze around these parts, I... I'm not the one who they should be celebrating." Eleri knew she was passing on an opportunity for not only free drink and dine but for recognition. This was her chance to weave the story into a fine tapestry that might later be appreciated by others, specifically those who could open doors to other avenues that she long sought to explore. But, as she skirted her gaze away from Ashelewyn's penetrating scrutiny, she thought, perhaps, that wasn't so important right now. A cough cleared her throat. "I mean, you know. You're the one who struck the final blow. And, this originally your mission alone. I just happened to get in the way and be of some use." Her cheeks and neck felt hot, but she tried to conceal her embarrassment with an inflated smile and shrug. "Plus," she trailed, her voice taking on a different tone. "I have a feeling you might find more than one kind of banquet awaiting your arrival. This might be your opportunity to show off that," she paused and waved an open palm exaggeratedly in his direction. "Natural visage of yours." Eleri didn't care for the suggestion, but she was not about the admit her disdain especially when she couldn't think of what else to say to convince him to go. By no means was she willing to confess that she was merely anxious in attending the celebration all by herself. "Gauging by the number of young, bright-eyed maidens looking your direction, I'd say you have quite the selection to chose from. I might even seen a few eager lads, if that's your thing. So, you go. I'll stay and and keep Rhaasty company. Hopefully when I see in the morning, I'll still have all my fingers!"
  6. The spear's head seared her fingertips as Aelyria primed the unsteady blade, its target marked. The soft leather of her chamois gloves offered no protection against its scalding touch, and she couldn't be sure if the metal truly radiated heat or if it was her conflicted morality that made it burn. She wanted to desist and lower the spear to seek Renkor's guidance in this desperate moment when she felt so helplessly alone. But it was as if a phantom hand had manifested and gripped the back of her skull, pressing it forward and coercing her into the only choice she was allowed to make. She trembled. Aelyria was a killer; she had done this many times before to satiate the Urge, so why was this any different? She lived in Union City as a vigilante, deciding the fate of men and women whom she deemed worthy of death all to feed a demon she had been too cowardly to dispel of herself. Yet, as the Mork'Outh hung his head in acceptance of her judgement, she found the will to kill sapped dry. She hesitated. Clarity struck her with the force of a cataclysmal gale and she gasped as her lungs swelled till they were brimming with the electrifying air. For how long hadn't she been able to breath like this? Eyes wide, Aelyria met her emancipator's gaze. A Mork'Outh towered over her, emanating with conviction as his leathery grin turned grave. "Quickly child," he prompted, the languid waves of luminescent haze radiating from his woody chassis like a sunrise breaking free over a mountain's peak. "Destroy these invaders before I can no longer prevent her from influencing you." Though her mind felt free from the oppressive authority of the Queen's psionic grip, bewilderment arrested Aelyria from acting immediately. She hadn't even seen the mass of Xer-orians surrounding them, their mandibles chattering frenziedly at the sight of the intruder, the sound of it filling the chamber until there was scarce else she could hear. The size and sheer number of them all made her stomach drop and it took nearly all her willpower to not waver and vomit before, what she now realized, was the true enemy. For when her eyes turned to the scrutiny of her would-be-victim, they were met not by fluorescent green of almond eyes, but that instead of the hazel she once recognized in Ted's gaze. If it were he who laid sprawled before her, then to whom did the other body belong to? Aelyria knew the answer before she even had to look. Yet, she did anyway. Renkor lay motionless, slumped thoughtlessly as if he had been merely thrown onto the ground and discarded with the same level of appreciation as rotted meat used for scraps to feed wild dogs. There was no denying his death. His skin, grey and caked with dried blood, remained flat and still, the swirls of his blue heritage faded and inanimate. She wanted to question the identity of his form; aged and bleak, Aelyria didn't want to believe that the impenetrable and transcendental occupant of her memories was even capable of dying. But in that moment, she knew it was a ridiculous notion, one conceived by her naivety and, dare she confess it, her love for him. The room seemed quiet. She could see the Xer-orians chattering away, drawing their weapons which consisted of a mixture of crude and refined weaponry that possessed an effervescent blue glow, much like the spear tip still clutched within her hand. However, the sound of their ramblings hardly reached her ears, overridden instead by the incessant, rapid thrumming of blood rushing to her head. Aelyria turned to face the Xer-orian Queen, the contrite facade shattered to reveal a vindictive sneer teeming with blind arrogance. The world around her turned red. Now you're ready. The familiarity of the Urge's voice brought an odd comfort she would've never thought possible. Its return sparked a horrid fire deep within her, somewhere within the forbidden dimensions of her sealed potential. The Queen's expression shifted, the glimmer of fear in her dark eyes betraying the forged, cavalier display. Now it was Aelyria's turn to sneer. "You can hear it now." It wasn't a question but rather a matter-of-fact. "No. You can feel it, can't you? That terrible, dark, insatiable hunger?" Black, dismal flame erupted from the palms of her hands and engulfed them, the immense pain that once accompanied its ignition now barely a tickle. Trails of shadowy vapor seethed from her skin, casting a light-less aura around her unfettered visage, the tension that once subdued her now unfurled. The dark flame that swirled around her fingertips was paradoxical in nature--it swayed and flickered much like fire, but instead of giving birth to light, it absorbed it. It did not burn hot, but instead burned cold, its frigid bite exact and piercing, capable of penetrating fortified steel without the slightest inhibition. Of course, such powers came with a price. The Urge cackled menacingly, euphoric for what was to come. Aelyria couldn't help but smile in turn, the fringes of her mind tainted by the Urge's presence, easily breached during its vulnerability upon seeing Renkor's lifeless form. The spindles of gold in her turquoise eyes proliferated until not a trace of their blue tranquility remained. The sclera of her eyes turned inky black, the stark contrast against the golden discs giving the impression that they glowed. Her hair, lose and unkempt from days of neglect, seemed to garner a life of its own, unbound from the limitation of gravity and gently flowing as if influenced by an unnatural breeze. "Then," Aelyria continued, her voice raspy and starved for revenge. "I don't think I need to tell you how this is going to all end." The Queen, snapping free from panic's clutch, wasted no additional time and screeched a harrowing battle cry, commanding the Xer-orians to attack and calling upon the aid of her consorts to protect her. The Mork-Outh started and hastily set to freeing Ted from his bindings as the swarm began to enclose on them. Aelyria paid the pair no mind, her focus drawn to the encroaching mass and reveling in their soon-to-be demise. She flicked back the wrist that held the spear tip, commanding the shadow to transform. It swallowed the blade vivaciously, the imbued glow extinguished and warped as it began to crystallize, expanding and reshaping itself until the shaft was restored to its full length into a disfigured memory of what it once was. The first Xer-orian felled by the spear shrieked with such intense agony that Aelyria thought she might shed a tear at the beauty of its sound. But, as much as she and the Urge wished to relish in their deaths, there was scarce time to do anything other than move and strike. There was no methodical resolve behind her actions. Driven purely by untamed instinct, she struck down each Xer-orian soldier that flung itself upon her, the transfigured spear effortlessly piercing through the hard exoskeleton to meet its target. She wasn't always accurate and there were few opportunities to finish off one soldier before having to fend off another, but she didn't need to be. Much like the crystal needles that her powers could conjure, the crystallized spear poisoned her victim from within, turning their fleshy interiors black with the pain-wracking affliction until they eventually ripped themselves free of their own carapace, digging and tearing at their flesh in a delirious attempt to free themselves of the pain, only to bleed themselves to death. It didn't take long for a pile of grey, disfigured bodies to form around her. But even then, Aelyria was not satisfied. She oriented herself, locating the entourage of consorts that huddled to protect their Queen as she attempted to flee. Blind desire propelled her forward, forcing her way through the mass of soldiers and leaving those behind to be dealt by the Mork'Outh and Ted. She felt an unusual pressure strike her in the ribs, but brushed it off with a casual swing at her attacker, which thus liberated her of the storm forged blade from her side. She cared not for the warm dribble of blood that soaked her clothes and continued to press through the flood to quench her thirst.
  7. With a heavy sigh, Aelyria's shoulders slumped, the weight of them shifted onto scuffed and tender hands perched lazily at her hips. Shamelessly, she huffed and moaned with each satisfying crack of her spine, neck and joints, as she stretched away the dull ache of their arduous journey up the mountain. Renkor, of course, barely seemed winded from the climb, his stoic attention focused east--or what she assumed passed for east in Taen--to where just hours before a vehement storm had been brewing. Now, there remained little trace of the tempest's fury, only the distant echoes of soft rumbling marking their memory across the grey and lonely ridge line. With bitter fondness, the peaks and falls of jagged stone set against the bleak sky reminded her of Valjer, a sleepy winter town nestled snugly in the valley of ancient mountains deep within southern Genesaris. She wondered if their familiarity is what originally brought Renkor here, but felt it too impertinent to ask lest she dredge up memories that were better forgotten. "It's not much longer." The deep thrum of his voice surprised Aelyria and she nearly leapt at the sound. He seemed to take notice and smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, the Xer-orians may seem strange to you at first, but you'll quickly realize the worth of having such allies." She didn't move to correct his misunderstanding for her fright and merely nodded. After all, she was anxious about meeting the hard-carapaced creatures, but according to Renkor, they were compassionate enough to rescue him when his drake had suffered a fatal fall. They couldn't be all bad if they nursed a stranger back to health without seeking anything in return. Of course, Renkor had given them something in return--weapons of his own design to help eliminate the Mork'Outh. He sympathized with them; they were exiles from their home in Taen, just as he too was exiled from his in Valjer. Though she could understand his plight, there had been something that just didn't sit right with her. "If you play your cards right," he said while beckoning her to follow with the jerk of his head. "You'll find yourself rewarded with a fortune you never thought possible before. The Queen is generous." There it was again. She clicked her tongue, remembering, long ago, Renkor with his coffers of gold and the magnanimity of which he shared it--no, practically forced it upon her without a second thought. "Really? Strange, you never really struck me as someone who cared much for riches," she remarked pointedly. "What exactly does she possess that could even entice you?" He stopped and turned. For a moment, Aelyria thought she might have upset him and expected to be reprimanded for her ignorance. Instead his lips curled into a knowing smile. "You'll see soon enough." Figuring the phrase was his polite way to shutting her up, Aelyria shrugged and followed him along what appeared to be the subtle trace of a trail among the craggy silvery-black rocks. She shuddered to think what might happen if she took one misstep. A fall from this high up would be quite the spectacle of pain all the way down as her body was shredded to pieces on jagged ends and snapped on jutted rocks. Aelyria paused to look out beyond the cascade of silhouetted mountainsides and could just make out the haze of amber in the distance. Conscious of the ring of black metal around her neck, she tugged on it. "It's best you leave that on," Renkor said flatly. "It helps with the thin air in this high altitude." It's not like I can even take it off, she thought, having yet to discern how it became latched on in the first place. Another magic device of his that I'll never come to know how he got, no doubt. A part of her envied that about him, that enigmatic nature of his. Another part was just... annoyed. "How soon is soon?" She stretched her palms open and closed, the ache in them beginning to throb uncomfortably. "Just there." Renkor pointed and she could just make out a great maw in the rock face nearly three hundred meters ahead. She sighed and they pressed forward, taking care along the narrow path while anticipation swelled in her chest, bubbling until it festered into a dull, persistent pain. Aelyria half-expected there to be guards out front, but instead the maw was left unprotected. She stopped to reach into her pack to retrieve and light a lantern, but was interrupted by a raised hand. "There's no need. They're expecting us, see?" She followed his gaze and saw within some distance into the cave's gullet was the faint glow of blue light. "Surely you don't think they need the light to see, do you?" "No, I suppose not," her voice trailed, teeming with uncertainty. "Though I'm not even sure what they are." "You'll see. Soon enough." The cave walls first appeared unnaturally smooth, but at each passing of the crude, blue stone-lit torch's eerie glow, she could make out tiny pockmarks that defaced the rock and gave it its unusual, deceiving texture. Although their hosts may have been gracious enough to provide them light, they either were in short supply of these glowstones, or severely overestimated the human ability to see in low-light conditions. Or, she thought while fighting the chill that gripped her, they don't want me to see. At times, even Renkor would disappear from her sight if her eyes dared to stray, and his footsteps were so soft that they scarce made a noise loud enough for her to follow. Nevertheless, she'd pressed forward rather than succumb to panic and sure enough, he'd suddenly reappear as if he had not ever been but five feet from her the entire time. It soon became clear to her that they hadn't been traveling in just one tunnel. At each branching she'd feel a slight breeze, just barely softer than a whisper, but if when she'd turn her head to see, only darkness beckoned. She counted each opening, designating each right and left and accounting for every turn they made on their path. She tried to mentally map the network of tunnels, overwhelmed by the vastness and complexity she could only imagine. Each step closer to their destination made her uneasy, with only her blind trust in Renkor to ground her. They turned one last corner and a blast of cold air struck her. The antechamber gave way to a great hall, brilliantly lit by rows and rows of blue stone that spiraled endlessly upwards into a permeated dome. She sheared her eyes away from the remarkable structure and turned it to the cavern floor, where, for a moment before Renkor's visage blocked her view, she thought she saw Ted crumpled on the floor. Aelyria gasped and leapt past the sylph but came to an abrupt stop when the body that lay bound and gagged on the cold stone before her was unlike any she had ever seen. It definitely was not Ted. Another of the same creature lay beside it, limp and haphazardly strewn, with such an extensive gash seared across its chest that it didn't require any of Aelyria's medicinal skills to deduce that it had long passed since its gouging. Behold, the enemy. The pressure she had felt so incessantly since before the fire chased Ted and her out of the jungle, now surged with intensity. That voice in her head... That wasn't the Urge. With a grimace, she shot a look back to Renkor, but his eyes seemed elsewhere--almost inattentive and blank, drawn blindly to another's presence. She turned back to face it, startled to see a pair of torches not previously lit now shining bright as if to spotlight the creature before them. Such use of petty theatrics might have once made her scoff; that is, it might have hadn't the thing that deliquesced from the shadows terrified her. Welcome Aelyria, the Queen voiced deep within the chambers of her mind. Welcome to what was once my sister's home. I've since... renovated the place to suit my needs. The Xer-orian queen stepped away from the stone light, the alien beauty of her shimmering carapace serving as a natural armor among slender limbs that each moved with precise and unnatural individuality, yet each controlled by her in complex synchrony. She was humanoid, yet not quite, her proportions and mandible more closely resembling that of an insect--rather an ant. That is, a very large and telepathic ant. I'm sorry, I'd typically greet you with considerably more fanfare than this. But you see... She raised an arm, guiding it to the pair of bark-skinned creatures Aelyria had first seen upon walking into the hall. We've murderers in our midst. These two alone had killed hundreds of my kind, all to assassinate my dear sister. Unfortunately, they succeeded. Aelyria wanted to turn and see Renkor, yearning for his reassurance, but when she tried--her head snapped forward again as if held captive to an invisible force. No, she thought. Not invisible. She's right there. A flicker of amusement glittered in the Queen's eyes as she surveyed the human female. You're as strong as he says. I hope you are also as compassionate he says. My kind will not survive long here without the help of those such as yourself. The elf may have provided us with weapons to use against the Mork'Outh and their titans, but it will take more than storm blessed steel to win a war. We need allies. "Allies? I'm but one person," Aelyria grunted, the pain behind her head pulsating urgently. "Whatever Renkor has said is a gross overestimation of any skill I have." Shall I remind you that these were but two Mork'Outh. And they killed hundreds. This one, the queen gestured to the dead creature, nearly killed thousands before he was brought down by my own sister. Any ally in the cause against the oppressors is a worthy ally. Surely, he has told you of your reward? Aelyria shook her head. "I don't desire gold or trinkets--" Gold and trinkets aren't the only treasures worth owning, now are they? She eyed the queen warily as the Xer-orian sauntered closer, like a cat toying with its prey. Memories? Those are worth having, aren't they? Or rather, perhaps, in your case... The absence of? The queen audibly chuckled, a sinister clicking that one might imagine an insect to make if it could laugh. Don't get the wrong impression--I don't intend to bribe you with your memories. I just offer to wash them away. Free you of those dreadful things that plague you each night. Aelyria couldn't speak, but she could feel the queen tug at her mind where secrets she thought had been well buried now reeled through her memories. I can erase the beatings your father inflicted upon you, night after night after night. I can erase the cruelty of his lesson as he forced you to watch that young stable boy die, his only crime being he befriended you. I can erase that night when your father had had enough of withholding his carnal desire for you... and even the moment you saw your mother turn away and leave you there. Aelyria choked. When had she started crying? When had the queen gotten so close to her that she could practically feel the creatures alien breath plucking at the hairs at the back of her neck? I can free you of those things, Aelyria Tywen, and more. Let me set you free. All you have to do, is prove your loyalty to me. She looked down at the pressure of something cold being pressed into her open palm. A severed spear head, faintly glowing with ethereal storm light, lay flat in her hand. Kill the remaining Mork'Outh. And all that you desire shall be yours.
  8. The first few days were a series of hazy dreams. Prior to finding Renkor--rather when he found her--Aelyria had already long ridden the edge exhaustion to it limit. To make matters worse, the begrudging swamp failed to be forgiving and she stumbled frequently, the muck resistant to relinquish its prize and sapping the remaining fumes of energy that continued to fuel her. She thought Renkor might force her to walk to her death, but eventually they would stop, rest for a few hours, and then continue onward once again. They shared little conversation aside from the orders he'd give to eat, rest, and walk. She obliged willingly, too tired to argue or question him. There was little room in her broken heart to fight back. Time passed in a flurry of variant shades of amber. Sunlight scarcely penetrated the dense fog well enough to make much of a difference, and at night the toxic fumes had an eerie orange glow about them that screened their silhouettes and highlighted those of the creatures that dashed around them, chittering excitably with warning. But Renkor nearby, Aelyria remained safe. No creature would dare wander too close as if his mere presence were enough to ignite fright within them. Despite the dangers surrounding them and the poison threatening to enter their lungs, Aelyria felt safe. She felt safe for the first time in such a long time, the last having been on a cold winter morning, nestled against the back of a stranger who had just rescued her from the aftermath of a snowstorm. By the week's end, she felt almost returned to her normal self. Her mind less of a garbled mess than before, tried on occasion to spark conversation, but was often met with curt nods or abbreviated answers. She even asked about his drake, wondering why they should walk when, according to Ted, they could fly, but he reasoned that the fog was too noxious for even the ice drake to withstand and could not risk it's life. It seemed to make sense and didn't think much of his lack of further explanation, as her other conversations with Renkor having been just as brief and one-sided. He always seemed to have more important matters on his mind so she let him be. Never did it cross her thoughts that the person before her was anyone other than Renkor. So, Aelyria focused her attention elsewhere, but whichever direction she looked, only plumes of fog met her. She looked her feet and occasionally she might stumble upon a small reptile, skirting around her mud-caked boots to avoid being stepped on, but nothing of considerable interest. At one point she made a game for herself and attempted to match Renkor's long stride, nearly lunging just to keep up and match his footprints with hers. She remarked how the size of them dwarfed her own and paused, her boot settled on the deep print, heel in heel and creating an ant-sized canyon between curvature of imprinted mud and the tip of her toes. "Aelyria?" Her head snapped up to find Renkor turned, brows furrowed concernedly as his eyes gazed at her from above the raised mask. She must have stood there for a while staring at the footprint and felt her cheeks flush with heat. "Sorry," she said sheepishly, refraining herself from looking down again. "I saw a strange looking gecko before it skittered off. I'm good now, we can keep going." Renkor cocked his head questioningly, and she had the most eerie sense he was inspecting her, as if examining for cracks in a discounted piece of pottery. But then he shrugged and moved onward, she trailing after but with the first of glimmer of hesitance she had had all week. Why did she lie? It was an innocent gesture and yet she felt like a kid caught with a pastry well before dinner time. Aelyria tried to shake the feeling and focused her attention on other matters, only to find the subject of them filled with images Caliben and Ted, one man burning and the other bloated on fetid waters. She visibly cringed against the icy tingle that crept up her spine, and knew she needed to escape her thoughts. "Hey, Renkor," she called out to the mists. "Can I ask you something?" He didn't turn but for the briefest moment paused and then nodded his head. "You can." "Why are you even here in Taen? What could possibly be so important here that you had to cross into a whole other dimension to get?" Initially, silence followed her question, only the soft squish of mud and chattering insects greeting her ears as they trudged through the swamp. "Solitude," he said finally. "Solitude? And you couldn't find solitude anywhere else in the world that you had to come here? Of all places?" "Yes. It's not as if I didn't try. There were just...certain things in that world that I needed to be apart from. To escape from. I had hoped that being in an entirely different plane of existence would be enough to clear my mind." Aelyria thought to pry further, but had the sense that such an inquiry would be ill received. So, she diverted her attentions to another question that had been eating away at her. "So, you've been a while, haven't you?" A simple nod was enough to confirm. "Then... was that really you at the mire?" This time, he stopped and turned to her. "The mire?" "Yeah. Ted... Ted and I saw you at the mire. You just seemed to appear out of no where like a ghost, and you looked at me." She paused, swallowing at the memory. "Called out my name." He seemed to searching for an answer, eyes darting to the ground as if buried in the muck was the key to an unsolvable puzzle. Then, he sighed irritably, turning to press onward with renewed urgency. Startled, but not wanting to be left behind, Aelyria chased after him. "I'm sorry, did I say something wrong?" "No," he growled. "Not you." "Then," she scoffed exasperatedly. "Then tell me what. Was that not you at the mire?" He shook his head. "No, it wasn't. It was a Morpher." "Morpher?" She scrounged the depths of her memory for any detail on the name, but found nothing. She cursed herself for not taking more time to research Taen. "What is that?" "A creature. It plays tricks and was likely trying to mislead you. No doubt the working in tandem with the Mork'Outh to isolate you, capture you. Kill you even." "The Mork'Outh? I-I don't understand." Renkor sighed again and stopped, suddenly looking weary as if all the world's burdens sat so heavily on his shoulders. She wondered if he hadn't slept these past few days--she had been caught up in her own tribulations she had forgot to consider him. "The Mork'Outh are a group of tyrannical beasts who believe they own all of Taen. They want nothing to do with outsiders and will do whatever it takes to remain in control over everything." He paused to consider his next words carefully, as if hesitant to burden her with the secrets he carried. But with a nod and beckon to move onward, he continued. "I've been here for the past several months working along side a native race called the Xer-orians. For centuries they've been suppressed by the Mork'Outh, forced to live in hiding within the mountains. The Mork'Outh are ruthless and the Xer-orians have lived in fear for too long. They have been trying to form a resistance, an uprising to fight back." Aelyria gawked as she listened. She almost hadn't expected anything less of him, knowing he had always been so ambitious. "But, not long ago one of the hives was struck. The Mork'Outh attacked with vicious titans of their own making, savagely destroying everything and anything in their path." Aelyria could almost see his jaw tighten with anger. "It was massacre." "That's horrible," she exclaimed, the drum of blood beating in her head with rage. "It is. I've taken it upon myself to supply them with weapons of my own design. The Queen of the hive has been generous and I've been rewarded handsomely for my rendered services." He cocked his head at her and she thought she saw the hint of a smile in his eyes. "Just as I'm sure you will be if wish to help." Her heart skipped. To take on such an endeavor, something so much larger than herself? It seemed impossible. Yet... He wanted her there. "Is that we're going then? To the mountains?" He nodded. "It won't be much longer now."
  9. Why, Aelyria feebly contemplated within those last moments of life, why would the Urge so adamantly force her awake only to have her face the same inevitable fate as before? The darkness was coming for them either way, so why spur her to life to suffer mercilessly at the hands of an element so far out of her control? Did the madness just want one last final kick of sadistic joy before they disappeared into nothingness together with their bitter futility? Or was it masochism that fueled it? Resentfully, she compelled death to get it over with and make good on its long-overdue threats to strike the final blow, but, regretfully, it proved to be as fickle as ever. Instead, the blackness behind her eyelids brightened and the weight that bore them shut lifted, granting clearance for them to flutter open as her blurred vision swam with images of a figure peering down at her. As the pressure decompressed from her chest, leaving naught but the smoldering remnants of acrid miasma in aching lungs, Aelyria gulped in air so pure that her head reeled from the drunkenness of such an ambitious draught. Although the agonizing thrum at the back of her head still lingered, the discomfort of it seemed so minute, overridden by the strained tightening of her chest once the image of her savior became clear. Twin pools of cornflower blue stared down at Aelyria, unruffled by her near brush with death, as if buried deep within them lay ancient secrets that gave them the confidence to remain unwavering in the face of mortality's icy grip. Swirls of blue marked the man's pale skin, and though scarcely seen, she could swear they swayed and moved like the winter breeze passing over the snowy mountaintops that loomed over the quaint, solitary town in which they first met. Renkor, while remaining as inscrutable as ever, shifted back an inch on his knees to give her room to adjust as she struggled to string even one coherent thought together. Aelyria attempted to speak, but was surprised by the rush of cool air taken with each breath. Reflexively she reached for her mask, but found it had been drawn down and her scarf loosened. As if anticipating her confusion, Renkor darted his eyes down below her chin and nodded to the slim metal collar bound around neck. "That collar will keep the toxic fog at bay," he said, voice resonating with a calm reservation that she hadn't realized until now how much she had missed. "That is, as long as you wear it." He spoke as if nothing had transpired since the last they met. There was no delight in their reunion, nor did he show visible disdain as she had encountered in their previous meeting. No. He was just as she imagined he might be. Renkor rose to his feet and made no offer to help her rise. She took in the sight of him, garbed in his signature black stryderian leathers and outfit, though she had but the one opportunity to bear witness to it many months ago. Tall and slender, he kept his cowl drawn forward as if even now with only her to see him, he had something to hide. Although it was strange to not see him in his Valjerian attire, the one more suited for the harsh, cold winters of southern Genesaris, this darkly donned visage seemed better suited for him in her mind's eye. It struck her how similar they were beginning to look and she felt a twinge of embarrassment at her meager attempt to emulate him, as if imitating the man who stood so firm and daunting while retaining all the grace of his natural being was nearly akin to trying to reach for the sun. She felt incompetent and even ashamed as she stood beside him. "You came for me." He didn't turn to look at her when he spoke. Something in his tone gave her pause. Had he been afraid she wouldn't? "How could I not?" she said, breaking her silence despite being terrified he might disappear into the wind if she spoke, as if he were nothing but a figment of her imagination. She thought she saw the curl of a smile on his lips, his head slightly turned and eyes cast in her direction, but he hastily returned to stare into the dense fog, as if able to see the lurking dangers hiding within their midst. "I mean, I'm surprised you even thought to consider me reliable enough to come to your aid if you were ever in danger. I'll be honest, I couldn't even begin to think what kind of danger you'd have to be in to even need that kind of contingency plan. But when Ted came to us, adamant that you--" Her eyes widened. "Ted! Caliben!" She palmed her forehead in bewilderment, grasping at the loose strands that had fallen out of her braid without care for the disarray. "Oh Velmesh! We have to go find Ted and then head back to the jungle and find Caliben! They could be in danger!" Without any direction in mind and only sheer determination and dread to guide her, Aelyria lunged to race up the stream when Renkor's firm grip halted her, forcing her eyes on him with agitated confusion. But at sight of the stoic expression broken on his lean face, her heart sank, it replace by a genuine remorse that seemed so completely alien on him. "Ted is dead. I found him first, drowned and afloat, further up stream." He released her arm when she showed no indication to run off, and shook his head. "And if Caliben was in the jungle when it caught aflame... A good chunk of it is ash by now. I wouldn't be surprised if Lunaris had burned down with it." Aelyria aged visibly in that moment, fine lines darkened and pronounced as her expression fell flat, and her limbs dropped, limp. Numbness settled in firmly in the sinew of her joints, and all the blind, fierce determination she carried just but a second ago had been completely sapped dry. Renkor sighed and drew his arm around her shoulders as if to offer some semblance of comfort and provide the crutch to lean on if she failed to find the strength to carry forward on her own. "Come," he lulled, gently but eagerly leading her onward. "Let's get you somewhere safe." And without question or resistance, she followed.
  10. Darkness. Whether playing the foe or friend, it waited for her, eager to embrace Aelyria with cold familiarity. As always, there was the struggle at first; a need to escape fluttered her heart with panic but it soon would succumb to the sweet tempting promises of rest and peace of mind that often eluded her in the light. With the darkness in control, relieving her of those worldly burdens, she began to relax, arms wide invitingly to be swept away. Wake up. Pain rocked her, erupting from the back of her head and searing down every nerve of her being like belching wildfire. We're not done yet, puppet. I'm not done yet. Was that the Urge? Where had it been this entire time? The last she had heard from it, the madness screamed bloody murder upon slipping through the portal to Taen before withering away into silence. But now it chuckled menacingly as if amused by her bewilderment. Shush now, puppet. Later you'll understand. But right now, you need to wake up. Understand what exactly? It made no damned sense. The Urge teemed in her mind incessantly night and day, bombarding her with its twisted desires and insatiable hunger, but now it suddenly-- WAKE UP. Aelyria woke with a start, gasping for air but then immediately regretting it. She coughed violently, sputtering out a mixture of stagnant, fetid water and mud, only to find a more foul substance entering her lungs to nearly suffocate her. Frantically, she wheezed and covered her mouth in a feeble attempt to filter out the miasma that permeated the air. Once the initial spark of panic ran its course, she recalled her mask and quickly drew it up from her scarf and secured both snugly into place. It served its purpose as a crude filter--a necessity that helped her navigate through the toxic plumes of her smoke bombs--but the fog was lain so thick in the atmosphere that she could still feel her lungs burn with it. Undoubtedly, the mask was only a temporary measure and a short one at that. She'd need something more intricate to survive the poisoned air. Ted, as she recalled, had a more sophisticated mask. He was her only chance to live. With the clock ticking, Aelyria unglued herself from the muck along the bank of the sluggish stream, and desperately searched for any sign of Ted. Instead, she was met with the glaring amber of toxic fog, no doubt the source of her fiery lungs. She could scarce make out more than 10 paces in either direction through the thickness of it, nor could say with any confidence whether it were day or night. She struggled to remember the turn of events that brought her to this swamp, only able to recollect visions of a fire that chased them through the jungle, and then of spiraling into the ravine with Ted after she failed to catch hold of him or anything else. Her body felt bruised from head to toe, and she was soaked all the way down to the insides of her boots. It'd make sense if there were a channel of water at the bottom of that ravine as it was most likely the only thing that kept them from turning into a crumbled, meaty bloody bag of broken bones and organs. Assuming Ted even made it. Aelyria followed the stream, practically pleading he were still alive. If her memory served her right, she was in the swamp quadrant of Taen now, presumably the most dangerous of them all. Not only would she need Ted for his mask, but who knows what other dangers lurked in these putrid waters. But as she proceeded along the stream, she found fatigue quickly consuming her, limbs tingling and chest heaving as oxygen became scarce in her bloodstream, lungs poisoned by the noxious gases. "Ted!" she croaked, an invisible anvil pinned against her chest, making it impossible to breath, much less make a sound. "Ted!" She stumbled at a misstep of her weakened limbs and barely caught herself on her knees to avoid face planting back into the muck. "Ted," she cried, the sound a pitiful wheezing mewl of a newborn babe. "Renkor..."
  11. Dismally, Aelyria nodded in agreement with Ted's observations. She knelt beside the path where it began at the edge of the mire and gently pressed her palm into the soil beside his footprint, as if somehow it might surrender the answers they desperately needed. Instead, her exposed fingertips were met with cold indifference. There were no answers to be found here; only a memory flashed in her mind's eye of the spectre's pained expression and the chill of its voice as it croaked her name. Aelyria... Preoccupied by her brooding thoughts, she hadn't registered Ted's intent to pursue the trail, merely nodding absentmindedly and rising to her feet. It wasn't until Aelyria caught sight of his readied fist that her mind pieced the puzzle together. Her brow pinched inwardly before rising and then drawing back taut, a dance that reflected the bedlam of her emotions: from confusion to disbelief to begrudging acceptance that she was doomed to always be the voice of reason. And just what was that lizard still doing here? "Look," she began, easing her tone as she thought over her words carefully. "I get that you want follow this trail and although I appreciate your enthusiasm, we have to think this thoroughly. We can't just go parading though the jungle on little to no sleep and dwindling rations. We brought enough to get through the blue hills and little more but, as we had originally planned, intended to resupply at Lunaris while gathering information." Her chest heaved outwardly, shoulders collapsing with the release of an exhausted sigh. But as the last wisp of breath escaped her lips, she was struck with an intense pain that pulsated at the back of her head, just where it met against the nape of her neck. Aelyria winced visibly from the agonizing thrum, teeth bare and eyes squinted shut to brace against it. It barely lasted a few seconds before it was gone, leaving only a dull resonance and aura of fading lights trailing in her vision with its wake. She shook her head dismissively and returned her attention to Ted. "It's not that I don't want to find Renkor," she confided softly, "In fact the sooner we find him the better. It's just that I can't risk losing Caliben's life--or yours for that matter--because we were too hasty and eager to think this through. I say that we stick to the plan and--" At first, she thought the contortion of Ted's face was the result of dissent towards her argument. But as it shifted from annoyance to near distress, she paused to question it. It was then she noted the prickle of a familiar scent invading her nose. Smoke? She turned to face the wall of jungle from where she originally came, only to find the lush greens consumed by the blacks and orange of a violent conflagration rapidly closing in on them.
  12. Scarcely a moment's breath into tracking their whimsical companion had passed when it became clear of his destination. Ironic, she thought, that as volatile and unpredictable as Ted initially seemed, he was rather persistent if not obstinate. Although tracking him would've spent little effort--he hardly made it difficult for anyone to follow--knowing his objective cut travel time significantly. There was something to be said about Ted's devotion to Renkor. It's not as if she questioned its validity; Aelyria undoubtedly understood the magnitude of the sylph's irrevocable impact on their lives. It was as if Renkor had sewn the very wind into their every breath, lungs filled to the brim of his presence with each draw of air. It frightened her enough to not breathe. Yet, Ted bellowed his chest full and ran forward with that same bull-headed tenacity that she once saw long ago in a young boy, who she'd wrestle and tease with when their father wasn't looking. The squelch of sodden soil snapped Aelyria from her reverie, alerting her of dangerous but familiar terrain ahead. Recounting earlier events, she opted to circumvent the mire, only to discover that Ted appeared to have done much the same. A grin cracked at the corner of her lips followed by defiant twinge to suppress it. At least he's not prone to making the same mistakes twice, she mused, tracing his indisputable footpath where the impressions of his heavy ladden boots bubbled with aerated blackened mud. She caught a glimpse of what she believed was his darkly garbed visage, when the resonant snap of splintering wood whirled Aelyria's attention behind her. But when her gold-flecked eyes fell on the still, tranquil labyrinth of breeze-swayed vines and undisturbed, gnarls of ancient trees, she was left with a foreboding dread she could not quite place. Turning her attention back to Ted, she saw him seemingly unfettered by the abrupt sound, as if he hadn't heard it at all. Was it all in her mind? Had the number of countless, sleepless nights finally reached their peak, beckoning for their due? She softly groaned and rubbed the inward corners of her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose. No time to dwell, she rallied, discarding the worry in her ever alarmingly growing pile of disregard. With intentional haphazardness, Aelyria announced her presence as conspicuously as possible as not to alarm Ted. He seemed to recognize her appearance, but didn't immediately address it whether out of spite or not, she could not begin to fathom. So, she approached his side carefully, trailing his eyes until she spotted the footprints. With eyes wide and mouth agape, she made no attempt to hide her bewilderment as every word she had originally intended to say to him evaporated from her mind. "Footprints?" Although she weren't nearly as familiar with Renkor's tracks to determine they were the sylph's, she could at least determine they did not come directly from Ted. "This is where that...thing was standing, right?" Aelyria followed the tracks into the slumbering jungle, her skin prickling with dread renewed.
  13. The weight that pressed against her diaphragm, threatening to collapse the air from her lungs now ballooned with panic. She was losing control quickly and all her futile attempts to keep the situation from escalating out of proportion had backfired. But when Ted's inordinate outburst failed to spark her pique, Aelyria knew she had been defeated and forced herself to succumb to bitter resignation lest the trepidation consume her. How could Ted not see what was happening to them? How could he not see how much she was struggling to keep them together and how excruciatingly vital it was to cooperate with the officer so that they might have an local ally to get to the bottom of Renkor's disappearance? At the very least, they did not need to make any enemies! But how could she begin explain her actions to a man so hell bent on sending them on a wild goose chase? Venturing into Taen was a daunting experience in itself, but coupled with the mysterious encounter with the apparition carrying Renkor's uncanny visage had electrified her fears, the frenzied throb of her veins circulating adrenaline with such fervor that she was sure her heart would burst from the excess. How could he not see how terrified she was, not only for Renkor's sake but for her own? If her darkest fantasies were to come true... If Renkor was beyond help... What would become of her? With no answers to offer, Aelyria yielded to Ted's provocation and watched as he walked away. The charged satchel of which he had thrown to the ground in a huff caused Aelyria and Caliben to jump with alarm having recognized it from their unfortunate expedition on the airship, but both of them sighed with relief as the hiss subsided peacefully. An uncomfortable silence trailed in after his absence and it wasn't until Milde audibly cleared her throat that Aelyria turned her attention to the other woman. She stole a glance at Caliben, attempting to read his expression and found such a mixture of emotion that he looked as if he were almost physically in pain from the ordeal. She couldn't refute his feelings, knowing if she hadn't been so emotionally drained to the point of exhaustion, she might share the same expression instead of the stony facade she bore. Now was not the time to dwell on her turmoil. Determined to move forward, she reached into her satchel and after from meticulously searching, drew out a vial filled what looked like black salt and firmly placed it in Caliben's hand. "Go to Lunaris and get as much information as you can gather about this drake and anything else you can manage to find out," she said, her voice drawn taut as if threatening to snap at any moment. "Take this vial and sprinkle a little of its contents every few meters until you get to Lunaris. I'll be able to track you a little more easily this way." She didn't wait for Caliben's reply, hastily turning to Milde to avoid any chance of his objection. "Stay safe you two." The woman merely replied with a dismissive shrug, but then thought better of it and nodded with understanding. Spinning on her heels, Aelyria dove into the overgrown brush after Ted, ignoring Caliben's protests that followed after her, hopeful they would see each other again soon.
  14. As Ashelewyn dressed, Eleri turned away to slip on her own garment, retreating within the menial task to keep her vexation at bay. For a man who relished in the freedom of his bare visage, he was rather stiff principally. She wasn't fond of being lectured--even if she could reluctantly admit he may have been right--but she held her tongue to avoid devolving into another argument. After all, considering how quick Crysta enchanted the pup to sleep, she determined it was best to remain on their good side lest she ended up losing a day herself. Taking the signal the leave, she went to gather her things and follow. When they returned to the fighting grounds, Eleri was almost surprised to see the chimera's limp carcass still unsullied. Their chance escapade that lead to the pup's discovery seemed to take a majority of the daylight, enough time for a scavenger to catch wind of the fresh kill and mutilate the corpse. Perhaps even in death the chimera's vicious reputation superseded itself, sowing hesitation even in the most starved creatures. Or perhaps it had just felt like an eternity passed with the elf to banter and bicker with incessantly. She couldn't quite decide if that were a good thing or not. With the impression she would just be in the way if she tried to help with the skinning process, Eleri found a place to settle her gear and got to work inspecting the armor for dents and abrasions. The light-weight metalwork had cost her a pretty penny to afford, but it had already proven its worth on multiple occasions, to include today's battle. Granted, denser armor might have saved her from the bruising of her ribs where the chimera had struck her, it was still enough protection to keep them from fracturing or breaking entirely. Aside from some scuffs and superficial scratches, it remained in good form. Satisfied, the fighter began to arm herself with the bulk of it since she did lacked a steed to carry it for her. Reminded of her mount back in town, Eleri cast her eyes on the chimera pup. She half expected it to wake up, but instead the pup slept soundly nearby with only a twitch of its ear or flare of its scaly nostrils to indicate it still lived. Well shit. I'm not sure how well Brie and Rhast will get along, she mused, disconcerted by the prospect. Last thing I need is that little daredevil nipping at her heels. But as she inspected the pup from afar, curiosity beckoned her closer. With Ashelewyn busy with his work--though she doubted he were completely unaware of her dealings--Eleri slowly crept up to the slumbering beast. Carefully, as she didn't quite know the full potency of Crysta's magic and fearing it might fail if she disturbed the chimera, she knelt beside Rhast. With her gloves still piled with the rest of her gear she had yet to fasten, Eleri reached forward with bare hands to touch the lion cub's head. For a brief moment, she hesitated. She wasn't frightened, not at least in the usual sense, so she couldn't quite understand what it was that held her back. Upon realization the elf could at any time peer up, notice her hesitation, and deign her a coward, Eleri forced her hand forward with pride as motivation. It was softer than she had imagined it to be. With all three heads still locked in twilight, she contentedly streamed her fingers through the cub's fur, relishing in a particularly soft spot on the top of its head. Its ear twitched in sleepy response, spurring a grin on her lips. Feeling bolder now, Eleri danced her fingertips across the kid's coarse curls, working them upwards to inspect the pair of ivory buds protruding from its forehead. She wondered if its horns might one day become as formidable as those of its parent's, and suddenly an anchor dropped in the pit of her stomach. The chimera had only been trying to protect its young, yet they killed it. She knew it was ridiculous to feel sorry for the beast and she was sure the pup would come to care less as time pressed on, yet she still felt remorseful. Eleri tried not to let that bother her as she turned to the whelp's head, ready to explore its scaly hide when a voice drew her concentration. Finding Ashelewyn shoulder-deep within the chimera's open chest cavity didn't help assuage her guilty conscious, but it did remind her there was still plenty of work to be done. "Was I...supposed to?" Curious if she even had brought anything remotely useful for organ preservation purposes, she left the pup to rummage about the rest of her gear but couldn't find a thing aside from the salt she brought to preserve the hide she hoped to bring back. With nothing else to contribute, she took the bags of salt to him, kneeling beside the sealed jars. "I honestly have never dealt with witches, so I never found much use in taking organs unless a client specifically asks for it. Even then, I just use whatever container they give me or a waxed hide since it's easier to carry around...Wait. Mire?" There was no hiding the displeasure in Eleri's warped expression, her eyebrows furrowed inward. "Is that...where you intend to go next? Please say no. I hate mud. I especially hate getting stuck in mud. And it stinks."
  15. Aelyria's nostrils flared and her jaw clenched tight. Even with the absence of the Urge's incessant prodding at her temper's threshold, Aelyria found it difficult maintain patience when vexed these days and, naturally, she found Milde's tone particularly more annoying than it had any right to be. She wanted nothing to snap and snarl like some unhinged wild beast sick with disease, despite how petty and diminutive the other woman's offenses were. Diplomacy be damned, she deserved respect! But, instead she took in shaky breath, mustering the remnants of her failing willpower to swallow her pride and keep her irritation at bay. "Enough." She blinked. No, that did not come for her own thoughts. That was not her voice. Aelyria reeled her head in time to see Ted charging forward into the line of fire, an indomitable presence that left her gawking with near envy. That was until he spoke again. "You arrogant little shit," Ted barked, his pale, sickly appearance a sore match for a convincing bravado. "Who the fuck are you?" Aelyria stiffened despite the triggers in her mind sparking an urgency to leap forward and clamp a hand over his blustering mouth. Maybe it was exhaustion or even a morbid curiosity to hear what he had to say that kept her locked in place, but fortunately, Milde did not seem to take him seriously enough as a threat to draw her rifle or pistol. At least she had some sense. When Ted's tantrum had subsided, he barged towards the jungle only to pause and reveal--perhaps not as covertly as he had intended--that it had all been an act. Aelyria groaned inwardly and rolled her eyes in Caliben's direction, wondering if he were nearly as dumbfounded by their companion's lack of tact as she. But beside him she noticed Milde, the fire burning in her eyes a familiarity that she quickly realized needed to be extinguished. She licked her lips and turned to the woman, holding up a hand to excuse herself. "One moment, please, if you don't mind." Aelyria lightly nodded her head and pivoted sharply in Ted's direction, chasing him down before they lost sight of the demolitionist. Aelyria hadn't put much thought into what she did next, but she knew something had to be done before they found themselves thrown into whatever passed for a jail cell in Lunaris. With a less than carefully aimed slap at the back of Ted's head, she struck him with just enough force to get her point across. At the very least, she had to make it look like she was reprimanding him, even if not for the most readily apparent cause. "What exactly do you think you are doing?! I am not going to go trampling through the jungle looking for your sorry ass, and I sure as hell am not going to trust a godsdamn lizard to get us to Lunaris in one piece!" She pulled on the back of his collar, twisting him around and then shoved him back in the direction of from which they came. Ted looked ready to interject, but Aelyria was quick to bark him down like a mother who met her patience's limit with an unruly toddler. "Either you cooperate or you can climb your own way out of the next bloody mire you stumble into with only Mr. Hissy-Pants to witness your slow, inevitable death!" She couldn't be sure if the exaggerations would be enough to pacify him, but at the very least she hoped for temporary compliance, long enough to get them headed in the right direction. So with a reluctant Ted in tow, she returned to Milde and Caliben, narrowing her eyes sharply at him a final time as if to punctuate her former threats before returning her gaze to the bewildered pair. "I apologize on behalf of my associate here," she gestured mildly with the tilt of her head before hesitating. "That is, for his abrasiveness, but not his words. There's truth in them. We've traveled too far and long to get here only to end up at odds with a stranger in unfamiliar lands." Aelyria paused, crossing her arms with shoulders slumped, the burden of which they carried showing its toll. "We could use a guide as I don't much care for our companion's version of one, and...perhaps...we could be of some use to you as well." Here she had be careful. She eyed the woman, picking apart at the character of which she so briefly understood to decide with what information to disclose and how. For certain she didn't trust her, but before them stood a potential asset, assuming they played their cards right. "I overheard, just before you were so rudely interrupted, you mentioning a drake. We might have information of one in the area, perhaps the even very same one we're looking for." She recalled that Renkor had indeed had a drake. Ted had reviewed it in their plans and even Renkor himself had mentioned something about acquiring a dragon's egg in the letter he left behind long ago, of which she still kept neatly folded in the pockets of the satchel by her hip. "Our goals may not be too dissimilar and we might be able to help each other out. But... I think Lunaris would be a better place to discuss such things, wouldn't you agree?" Gingerly, Aelyria turned as if to indicate she were ready to follow should the Taen officer choose to lead them.
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