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EpicRome23 last won the day on November 14 2019

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About EpicRome23

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    The Last True Knight
  • Birthday November 9

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    Reading, writing, purging heretics, video games (Strategy and/or RPG all the way, especially Fire Emblem.) large flying and fire-breathing lizards, history, necromancy, obtaining unlimited power, and conquering the world. That's all the important stuff. What do you mean, 'one of these is not like the others?'
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    Devoted Yalortian

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  1. Madon and Sand faced other on top of the dune. The duel between the Exarch and the Bandit King began with a clash of weapons, Arcane Piercer and Sand's massive, powerful axe. Madon would normally have went for tanking the incoming blows and retaliating with Arcane Piercer upon a chain. But with his lighter armor, he took an evasive and maneuverable strategy as opposed to his opponent's brutal, ferocious swings. And so it was that he dodged and attacked with probing strikes, seeking gaps in his opponents defense to exploit. Meanwhile, Sand swung wildly, banking on landing a blow that would as good as end the duel then and there. The Bandit King's men watched the fight with awe. Meanwhile, Orsola watched with visible concern. Though she believed her father would win, she had never gotten to known his strength and fighting strategy. In contrast, Wymp and Owend watched with knowing smiles. It would take an act of God to see their liege fallen here. The deadlock eventually ended with Sand landing a hit, sending Madon flying backwards and driving a line through the sands before coming to a stop at the dune's edge. Sand approached with his axe over his shoulder, grinning down at The Exarch. "This ends here! I will not kill you, but I will take a thumb to forever remind you of this loss and of your promise to never return here!" Madon shook his head, having raised himself up to a sitting position. Arcane Piercer laid where he had been hit, behind where Sand approached now. Only one thing for it, then. He reached into his pouch and pulled out a metallic sphere. Sand's grin widened at this act of defiance, and he batted it away with his axe. Or, he would have, had the sphere not exploded into a large burst of flames on contact. Blinded and covered in flames, Sand stumbled around wildly... and tumbled down the edge of the dune. He rolled to the bottom, extinguishing the flames but still leaving him badly burned and covered in sand at the bottom of the dune. Madon advanced forward, grabbing the shard from where it had fallen, apparently knocked off of Sand by the firebomb's explosion. Clutching the shard in his right hand, he retrieved Arcane Piercer with his left, and then looked around at the dumbfounded circle of bandits. "A deal is a deal. You lot, retrieve whatever you may need from your hideout. Then, head to Monzia, report to the commander there, and follow their orders to the letter." Blankly, the bandits nodded before running off. Madon looked at Owend and Wymp, who followed him as he made his way back toward the airship. Orsola, meanwhile, stood silently, trying to process what had just went down. Her father using a fire bomb in combat? Dealing fairly with bandits? What?
  2. The Ebon Knight chuckled deeply at Tolok's words, breaking off of his attack for the moment to formulate a reply. "So... you appeal to my sense of honor, do you? Of course. Interesting maneuver." Frowning beneath his helm, the black-clad general turned and surveyed the situation below. The odds were suddenly very stacked against him and his men. Were he to commit to a duel here, he would find himself cut off and surrounded by enemies. A situation that he was not concerned about, and might have eagerly dived into were he concerned about the shard eluding Byrn's reach. But with Mason and Amber still in play, as it were? They would bring the shard to him, in time. Thus, it was more expedient to cut his losses here and retreat before his pride lost him Jill and Innes, along with the remainder of his troops. "... But unfortunately, I don't have time for you. I suppose you'll have to take a rain check on this duel, if you survive to meet me again." And with that, the Ebon Knight fired three beams of energy from Alondite before turning and going away. One slammed into Tolok's fiery platform, rapidly disintegrating it. The other two would arc toward him as he began to fall from the sudden lack of support keeping him aloft. Madon and Jill's duel was interrupted by the cutting sound of the Ebon Knight's war horn being blown, signaling for the Byrn troops to retreat. Madon blocked the Byrn captain's last blow with Arcane Piercer, and she had leaned in closely with the blow. In such proximity, her eyes visible to Madon beneath her helm, she winked at the Exarch, before pulling her axe away and taking Arvez into the air to follow after the Ebon Knight. Madon, for his part, smiled and chuckled to himself for a moment. Orsola gained the upper hand over Innes as he was distracted by the sound of the war horn, hitting him with a blast of light magic that sent him reeling and caused his last, hurried shot to fly wide. His well-trained wyvern, even temporarily missing the guidance of her rider, turned away and flew after the Ebon Knight and the retreating Byrn troops. Orsola smiled smugly and shouted after him. "Keep trying me, you pervert! I'm two for two so far, and my grace will triumph over your beastly ways every time!" The Byrn soldiers soon had either all retreated, or their blood stained the sands below them red. This left only the bandits and Madon's force, who all turned to face each other with wary gazes. Madon made his way back to where Sand stood atop a dune, approaching while flanked by Wymp and Owend. The surviving bandits formed a circle around them as the Exarch and the Bandit King faced each other. Sand spoke force. "You have upheld your end of the bargain. What do you wish from me?" Madon stepped forward, pointing at the crystal adorning Sand's next. "I wish to be given that crystal you bear, the objective of my journey into the sands here. It is an object with the potential to change the world drastically, whether to save it or to ruin it." Sand stared at the Exarch in silence for a few moments, before bursting into a great, booming laugh. The encircling bandits joined in the laughter. "You would ask for our greatest treasure? And what makes you a greater bearer for this crystal than myself, hmm? These sands were entrusted to us by Balthazar himself! We are no mere bandits, we are the descendants of Balthazar's Brigade! Our ancestors slayed a mighty dragon in these sands, whose power runs in our blood to this very day!" Madon began to speak up, but Sand raised a finger to cut him off. "However... your aid did ensure our victory. And if what I can sense is correct, you intend to keep this shard of the Dragon Emblem from falling into the wrong hands. Very well, then. Duel me, here and now. If you win, the shard is yours, and you will have the full loyalty of my men. If I win... you must leave this desert empty-handed, and never return upon pain of death. Do we have an agreement?" Madon looked at Wymp and Owend, meeting gazes with his loyal retainers. After a moment, he turned and nodded at the Bandit King, brandishing Arcane Piercer. "I accept your proposal. To the victor goes the spoils."
  3. By drawing such attention to himself, Tolok might have hoped to engage in battle with one of Byrn's upper ranks, a higher-up leader such as Jill or Innes. To cut such a fiery swath through the draconic resilience of the Byrn troops here, however (requiring an expenditure of power that would, possibly, hurt like a bitch after the adrenaline and thrill of battle had faded), was to invite ruin on a great scale. So it was that just as the Exarch was closing in to engage the Ebon Knight, the vaunted general took to the sky atop his black wyvern and flew toward Tolok in a deadly spiral. A powerful beam of red energy shot from the divine Alondite, followed by a powerful swing of the blade. The Ebon Knight spoke over his shoulder at the circling wyvern riders for a moment. "This one is mine. Go on and engage other targets." Then, his gaze snapped back forward, and he continued his charge. Tolok would quickly find himself on the defensive of the Ebon Knight's assault, with what attacks he could get in on the black-armored general having little to no visible effect. A chuckle echoed from within that black helm as the Ebon Knight's crimson gaze intensified as he spoke. There seemed to be... disappointment in his tone? "Flee from me, or perish. One such as you cannot hope to stand against my power." Madon was irritated at once again being denied the opportunity to duel the Ebon Knight, but didn't have time to dwell on it as Jill dived down to engage him in battle. The two danced a dance deadlier than the secret one they had had beneath the moon's light. Madon's lighter armor turned out to be a boon here, with the increased mobility enabling the Exarch to turn the duel with the captain of Byrn, twice now involving painful wounds sending him on the verge of death, into a deadlock where neither of the two was able to come out on top. There was an elegant flow to the duel that drew the gazes of nearby bandits and Byrn troops, before they remembered that they were in a battle themselves and turned to throw themselves back into the fight. At the signal of the fireball, Owend, Orsola, and the Grey Knights had began their charge, and crashed into Byrn's unguarded rear in the pincer attack that the Exarch had planned. Attacked from two sides, it was obvious that it was but a matter of time until the Byrn troops were routed. Still, Orsola found herself locked into a ranged duel with Innes, the two of them trading blasts of light magic and dark arrows respectively as Owend and the Grey Knights flew above and precisely struck at isolated targets to remove them from the battlefield and further thin Byrn's numbers.
  4. Madon turned toward Wymp as he made his way toward the bandits. "Of course I expect the bandits to backstab us. What kind of fool do they take me for?" Wymp chuckled in response. As the two of them and Tolok made their way forward, they saw the skirmish ahead of them starting to break apart, each side stepping back to rest and consider a different avenue of attack to bring victory. Tolok did not hesitate in setting up his wall of fire, almost entirely cutting off Byrn's force from the bandits. Although, a trio of Byrn soldiers continued to fight the bandits, oblivious to the major change in the battlefield behind them. The bandits took notice of the trio's approach, and turned toward with weapons raised threateningly. Madon turned his gaze back toward Wymp. The pious soldier nodded, and raised Arbalest. One bolt felled one of the Byrn soldiers. The second followed suit. The third one... glowed brighter and brighter with power as it soared through the air. When it made contact with the last Byrn soldier, a wave of power shot past the soldier to strike the rest of the Byrn troops. The wave did notable damage to each and every one of them, as well as... seemingly rendering them stunned, immobile? The bandits stared at Wymp at awe. Madon gave an appreciative nod himself, but wondered if Mason and the others would jump into action ahead of the signal and engage on this seeming opportunity. He supposed it was a matter of their own discretion. Though the bandits had been ready to attack, they all meekly stepped back after Wymp's display of power, and their eyes followed Madon and Wymp as they approached the Bandit King, Sand. Sand gave a great, booming laugh, and he leveled his gaze at them as they came to a stop. "A mighty display! By the fact that you approach me in such a manner... these black-armored fools are your enemies, as well?" Madon nodded. A smile came onto Sand's expression. "Then your presence is welcomed! Let us drive these ants from my glorious sands, then we can talk of a reward for your aid!" Tolok fired a fireball into the air as Madon, Wymp, Sand, and the bandits began their charge at the Byrn forces. The Exarch seemed to be making a beeline for the Ebon Knight himself, while Wymp stopped to focus fire on Jill, Innes, and the other wyvern riders above. The battle was met in earnest, and blood would soak these sands soon enough.
  5. "You may be on to something here, Tolok." Madon stepped forward, looking around at the group. "Mason, your ambush plan is a good one. However, it would require precise execution, allowing the bandits to return to their hideout but blocking the entrance before the Byrn troops, most likely in close pursuit, get in themselves. And with the Ebon Knight about, whatever fortifications they have won't hold up long. A lot of potential for everything to go wrong..." He looked over towards the skirmish with a frown. "Somehow, both forces are equally matched. We need to act before the balance of power swings, in any case. And with Tolok's plan, we'll be the ones causing the power to swing in the bandits' direction. As much as I loathe the thought of fighting alongside bandits, we share a common enemy in the Byrn troops. It should be enough to get a truce with them, and we can work out the finer details after we've driven the Byrn troops away." He looked around for a moment. "So, unless there's any objections, amendments, or further ideas... Let's get to it. Tolok, Wymp, you're with me. Tolok, as you said, use the wall of fire to separate us from the Byrn troops and give me a chance to speak to the bandit leader. Wymp, you might need to use Arbalest in order to intimidate the bandits. Try not to kill them, we need them for the time being." He looked back toward the others. "The rest of you? Make your way and get in position to strike at the flank and rear of the Byrn troops. Tolok will send a fireball into the air once the bandits' attack begins, that's your signal to strike. It should be enough. And leave the Ebon Knight to me, he may prove too strong of a foe for the rest of you. Not to demean your skills, of course."
  6. After everything had faded, Madon, Wymp, and Orsola approached Mason in his new toy. The trio stared at the M7 for a bit, before Madon finally spoke. "Thanks for the save. I had planned to bait that thing into the skirmish, and see if one of them would be able to take care of it. But hey, whatever that was, it worked out perfectly. Congratulations, you... re-killed Balthazar? Not sure how exactly that works, honestly." Wymp gestured vaguely as Madon finished speaking. "So this... something from your world?" Innes frowned and looked over at Jill as a bandit fell to one of his arrows. "For fuckwretched bandits, Jill, these ones take too long to kill." Jill nodded in agreement, as she threw another spear into the bandits below. "I want to say that they are enhanced similarly to how we are, but... that would be ridiculous." "Ridiculous, yes, but I'm not sure what else what make sense. By the way, Jill, did you go somewhere last night?" Jill paused for a few moments before responding. "I couldn't sleep and ended up taking a walk. Why do you ask?" "Eh, just making sure you're not secretly visiting Madon or something. How can I take the credit for getting you two together if you meet without me around?" "Shut the hell up, Innes." Innes chuckled and turned away. He looked around, his gaze falling upon the Ebon Knight facing off with that self-proclaimed "Bandit King", Sand. The two seemed evenly matched, oddly. But even more odd... Innes' frown returned as he noticed something around Sand's neck, on a chain. "Jill? Come here and look at this." "Yep! We need them if we want the shard!" With that, Owend pulled into a dive and landed next to the others. She was noticeably frantic as she looked around at all the others. "Bad news! The shard of the Dragon Emblem... has already been found. But not by Byrn, by the leader of those bandits. Our only chance to get it is to wade into the skirmish and take it for ourselves." Madon looked around at everyone himself, with a somber expression. "Well, I suppose we couldn't avoid combat after all. Are you all ready?" He then turned his gaze toward Wymp. He didn't fully know the power of Arbalest, but... it would surely be a deadly surprise. His retainer nodded as if responding to his thoughts.
  7. Madon, Wymp, and Orsola all stared at the specter with weapons in hand. Madon squinted, making out the features of someone he had seen mentioned in the writing talking of Arbalest and the shard. Balthazar, one of the Seven Heroes, and wielder of Arbalest. The specter spoke after a few tense moments. "✞︎♓︎⬧︎♓︎⧫︎□︎❒︎⬧︎✏︎ ⬥︎♒︎⍓︎ ♎︎□︎⧫︎♒︎ ⧫︎♒︎□︎◆︎ ♎︎♓︎⬧︎⧫︎◆︎❒︎♌︎ ❍︎⍓︎ ⬧︎●︎◆︎❍︎♌︎♏︎❒︎✍︎" ("VISITORS! WHY DOTH THOU DISTURB MY SLUMBER?") Madon spoke with his head bowed. "Balthazar! I am Madon Galen Ingeram, Seventh Exarch of Isore. I humbly request to take up Arbalest in order to combat the menace of Byrn, whose troops are enhanced by the blood of dragons, or at least an enchantment that channels those aspects." Balthazar floated silently for a few moments, before nodding. "✡︎□︎◆︎ ❍︎♋︎⍓︎ ⧫︎♋︎?♏︎ ♋︎❒︎♌︎♋︎●︎♏︎⬧︎⧫︎?︎ ♋︎⬧︎ ●︎□︎■︎♑︎ ♋︎⬧︎ ⍓︎□︎◆︎ ⬧︎⬥︎♏︎♋︎❒︎ ⧫︎□︎ ◆︎⬧︎♏︎ ♓︎⧫︎ ♐︎□︎❒︎ ♑︎□︎□︎♎︎?︎ ?︎◆︎⧫︎ ⍓︎□︎◆︎ ♒︎♋︎❖︎♏︎ ♋︎■︎□︎⧫︎♒︎♏︎❒︎ ◻︎◆︎❒︎◻︎□︎⬧︎♏︎ ♒︎♏︎❒︎♏︎?︎ ♓︎ ⬧︎♏︎■︎⬧︎♏︎?︎ ?︎♒︎♋︎⧫︎ ♓︎⬧︎ ♓︎⧫︎✍︎" ("YOU MAY TAKE ARBALEST, AS LONG AS YOU SWEAR TO USE IT FOR GOOD. BUT YOU HAVE ANOTHER PURPOSE HERE, I SENSE. WHAT IS IT?") Wymp stepped forward boldly. "Lord Balthazar! We swear to use Arbalest for good. As for our other purpose, we ask your guidance in locating the shard of the Dragon Emblem buried here in these sands." At the mention of the Dragon Emblem, the building around them started to shake. "❄︎♒︎♏︎ ⬧︎♒︎♋︎❒︎♎︎ □︎♐︎ ⧫︎♒︎♏︎ ♎︎❒︎♋︎♑︎□︎■︎ ♏︎❍︎♌︎●︎♏︎❍︎✍︎✏︎ ⍓︎□︎◆︎ ⬧︎♏︎♏︎? ⧫︎□︎ ❒︎♏︎?︎◆︎■︎♓︎⧫︎♏︎ ⧫︎♒︎♏︎ ♍︎◆︎❒︎⬧︎♏︎♎︎ ♑︎♏︎❍︎✍︎✏︎ ⧫︎♒︎♏︎ ♎︎❒︎♋︎♑︎□︎■︎ ❍︎♋︎⬧︎⧫︎♏︎❒︎ ❒︎♏︎♌︎□︎❒︎■︎✏︎ ♎︎♓︎♎︎ ⧫︎♒︎♏︎ ♑︎♓︎❒︎●︎ ♐︎❒︎□︎❍︎ ♋︎ ♎︎♓︎♐︎♐︎♏︎❒︎♏︎■︎⧫︎ ⧫︎♓︎❍︎♏︎ ◻︎◆︎⬧︎♒︎ ⍓︎□︎◆︎ ♎︎□︎⬥︎■︎ ⧫︎♒︎♓︎⬧︎ ◻︎♋︎⧫︎♒︎✍︎✏︎" (THE SHARD OF THE DRAGON EMBLEM?! YOU SEEK TO RE-UNITE THE CURSED GEM?! THE DRAGON MASTER REBORN! DID THE GIRL FROM A DIFFERENT TIME PUSH YOU DOWN THIS PATH?!) Orsola gave Balthazar an indignant gaze. "No! I didn't do anything! And besides, it's Byrn that seeks to unite that thing. We are trying to keep at least one piece out of their hands!" The shaking ceased for a moment. "?︎♒︎♓︎●︎♏︎ ♓︎ ⬧︎♏︎■︎⬧︎♏︎ ■︎□︎ ♎︎♏︎♍︎♏︎♓︎⧫︎?︎ ■︎□︎⧫︎ ♋︎●︎●︎ □︎♐︎ ⍓︎□︎◆︎ ♍︎♋︎❒︎❒︎⍓︎ ⧫︎♒︎♓︎⬧︎ ⬧︎♋︎❍︎♏︎ ♍︎□︎■︎❖︎♓︎♍︎⧫︎♓︎□︎■︎ ⧫︎□︎ ♒︎♏︎♋︎❒︎⧫︎?︎ ✋︎ ♍︎♋︎■︎■︎□︎⧫︎ ●︎♏︎⧫︎ ⍓︎□︎◆︎ ●︎♏︎♋︎❖︎♏︎ ⧫︎♒︎♓︎⬧︎ ⧫︎□︎❍︎♌︎ ♋︎■︎♎︎ ♌︎❒︎♓︎■︎♑︎ ♍︎♋︎●︎♋︎❍︎♓︎⧫︎⍓︎ ⧫︎□︎ ♏︎❒︎♋︎⬧︎❍︎♓︎♋︎✏︎" ("WHILE I SENSE NO DECEIT FROM YOU, NOT ALL YOU TRAVEL WITH CARRY THIS SAME CONVICTION TO HEART. I CANNOT LET YOU LEAVE THIS TOMB AND BRING CALAMITY TO ERASMIA!") The tomb began to shake again, more violently. Madon thrust Arcane Piercer into Balthazar, the golden lance's anti-magic properties causing a big hole in the specter to dissipate, though it quickly began to reform. The Exarch grabbed Arbalest with his free hand, and tossed it to Wymp before shouting. "Let's get out of here before we're buried!" Orsola and Wymp nodded, and along with Madon, rushed toward the stairs with all the speed they could muster. Somehow, they managed to avoid the debris and ascend the stairs to safety. The building housing the altar collapsed behind them. The noise might attract the attention of Byrn and/or the bandits, but for the moment, the trio smiled and breathed sighs of relief. Their elation was cut short as they saw the specter of Balthazar float up from the collapsed building to come onto the surface. Tolok and Owend had gone unnoticed by the clashing bandits and Byrn troops, except for the one wyvern rider who been thwarted by Tolok's shield. Therefore, Tolok's watch was uneventful, until he heard Owend shout from below... "Crackers!" The sound of rushing footsteps could be heard, and Owend stopped next to Tolok, a messily-scrawled letter in hand. She seemed angry. "Crackers, crackers! We're a bunch of spongebrains, we've been had, Tolok! We need to return to the others, immediately!" She didn't elaborate until the two of them were back on Nodite's back. "The shard of the Dragon Emblem has already been found, Tolok! That meathead 'Bandit King' fellow has it, if I read this bloody terrible handwriting right! We're all going to have to charge straight into the skirmish if we want it to stay out of Byrn's hands!"
  8. "Huh? Oh, yeah, extend the shield. If those clambakes manage to catch sight of us, I'd rather not got creamed without a chance to escape!" With, Owend took Nodite circling around the pillar, scanning the ground below. A wyvern rider caught sight of her and charged out of the skirmish in an attempt to skewer Nodite and throw her and Tolok onto the ground below, but was repelled by Tolok's shield. A bit later, Owend caught sight of an opening beneath the pillar. She brought Nodite around and descended behind the side of the pillar furthest away from the skirmish, bringing the duo out of view. "Alright. Tolok, cover the entrance with your shield, I'm going in. Wish me luck." With that, Owend took Blinkstrike in hand and descended the sand-covered stairs. Over at the edge of the skirmish, Jill saw movement amongst the ruins some distance from the battlefield. She focused on it, trying to make out who was there. She smiled to herself as she made out the Exarch, even in the lighter armor he was wearing now. A sandstorm kicked up and obscured him and his companions from view moments later. Innes looked over at her, pausing the volley of arrows he was firing at the bandits from atop his wyvern. "What are you looking at, Jill? Ghosts in the ruins?" Jill laughed for a moment. "Either that or a mirage, Innes." With that, she dived back into the heat of battle. ----- Madon, Orsola, and Wymp found stairs of their own in the midst of the ruins. Looking around for a moment, Madon led the way with Arcane Piercer in hand. At the bottom of the stairs, an oddly clean and pristine altar stood in front of the trio. Atop it... a crossbow. Orsola gasped involuntarily as she felt the power within the weapon, causing Madon and Wymp to look toward her. Orsola met their gazes. "That crossbow is powerful. If that is not the legendary Arbalest, I do not know what it is." That was enough for Madon and Wymp. The two of them stepped forward to retrieve the crossbow... only to step back in surprise as a spectral figure rose from the altar and blocked their path.
  9. "One moment, Tolok." Madon turned and looked toward Owend as she returned from moving the assassin's corpse. "Owend. Designate a couple of Grey Knights to stay here and guard the airship, while we search. With the golem, that should be sufficient defense for anybody who might stumble across it." Owend nodded and walked over to the Grey Knights. The Exarch returned his attention to Tolok. "Take Wymp and Orsola with you. Amber and Mason have told me they'll be fine traversing the sands. Eve hasn't said anything, but I presume she'll be fine as well. The Grey Knights, obviously, will have no problem. And myself... forgive me, but after spending all my life locked on conflict with the mage nation of Zenith, at least before Byrn's invasion... I still have an innate distrust of magic, even though I believe your intentions to be good. I switched to lighter armor for a reason, I will trudge through the sands on my own two feet." With everything seemingly settled, Madon strode forward and looked around the group. "Alright. If you're all prepared, let us begin our search!" Some distance into the sands, the group reached a hollow in the midst of the desert, one that was filled with stone pillars and other remnants of obviously ancient buildings. Madon scanned the area, feeling a bit of elation at finding some kind of lead. His smile faded into a frown as he spotted figures meticulously combing through the stones. Black armor. And above them... wyvern riders. "... Of course, Byrn got here first. I suppose going a day without fighting is too much to ask." As Madon continued to scan the area, he spotted another group approaching the Byrn troops. Their leader stepped forth and bellowed, loud enough for even Madon's group to hear. "Interlopers! I am Sand, the Bandit King! I am the desert, and I will brook no intrusion! Make your peace with God... for I am about to send you to him." Sand turned toward the men behind him. "Get them, boys!" The bandits raised their weapons, screaming a battle cry before charging the Byrn troops. Madon chuckled for a moment. "Looks they're going to fight each other. A convenient distraction. Alright, let's split up and search for Arbalest and the Dragon Emblem shard. Go in twos and threes, it's best if you don't get caught up in the battle alone if you can avoid it. Split into groups as you please." He stepped away, and approached Tolok's fiery platform. "Wymp. Orsola. With me." The Exarch's (supposed) daughter, and his retainer, nodded and followed after Madon. He walked toward a cluster of crumbling walls, a good distance away from the skirmish. Owend, meanwhile, landed Nodite next to Tolok and looked toward him. "Hey, Tolok! Want to check out that pillar over there? I have a good feeling about it!" Owend pointed toward the pillar in question, one that was intact... and also dangerously close to the skirmish between the Byrn troops and the bandits.
  10. Owend was outside to greet Mason and Amber, having been on the night's last watch. She saw what they were looking at and walked over to them. "I think that might be the body of that assassin that tried to kill Madon back in The Valley? But it's somewhat hard to tell without the head. Crackers, that one gave me quite a shock at daybreak, I tell you! The light of day finally comes, and the first thing I see is a headless corpse lying nearby where I was keeping watch! I jumped, and if you heard a scream around that time, I admit that was me." As Owend spoke, Madon and Wymp made their way out of the airship. Upon seeing the body, they both paused and did a double-take. Wymp was the first to speak up of the two. "... what the fuck?" Madon continued to stare for a few more moments. He strode over and flipped over the corpse with his foot. He looked for a couple more seconds, then looked up, frowning, at Owend and Wymp. "... I suppose that's one less threat to my life that I have to worry about. Still, I have to wonder who did this. None of you caught sight of either her corpse or whoever killed her during your watches?" Wymp and Owend, at least, shook their head. The Exarch continued. "Well... I don't see why you would lie to me about that. A strange happening, but I suppose it will have to remain a mystery unknown to us, at least for now. Owend, Wymp, take the body and place it by that dune over there. The shifting sands will bury her soon enough." Madon's retainers nodded, and went to work. As they departed, Madon looked toward Mason and Amber. "If you have ideas to improve our mobility here in the desert, I'm all ears. Since we're expecting conflict, we can only move with the slowest of us. The faster we all move, the less chance we have of getting caught up in a hostile encounter during our search. I would speculate that the objects of our search are housed in structures of some sort, so we'll at least be spared the effort of having to comb through every inch of sand in order to find them."
  11. The sun had set, and the curtain of night had been drawn over the land. Torie had landed the airship (safely, mind you) at the edge of the stretch of desert which Madon had marked as the location where Arbalest and the shard of the Dragon Emblem were supposed to be buried. The Exarch had taken second watch, trading off with the weary Wymp. He spent a while staring into the fire, occasionally glancing around for any sign of threats approaching the airship. But he spotted nothing. Behind him, however, coming from the airship, a hostile figure quietly approached... Willow, the scorpion woman assassin, had stowed away on the airship, biding her time and waiting for the perfect opportunity to slay the Exarch. Silenced pistols in (four) hands, she approached, wondering if she might not make it slow, go for asphyxiation instead of a swift death at the end of the bullets. She could, she had checked and everyone else was firmly asleep, to her knowledge. She crept forward, coming for her unknowing victim, exultant in the perfect assassination she was about to execute. ... An axe flashed in the darkness. The scorpion-tailed woman did not let out so much as a scream as her head was separated from her body. Madon was startled as Jill stepped into the firelight, kicking the head of Scorpion-Tits in front of her as she walked, the head of the axe she carried covered in blood. He didn't know whether it was the firelight or the traits of the scorpion woman that made it look so... off. Jill sat down next to the Exarch, planting the head of her axe in the sand and tossing the head of the scorpion woman into fire, causing it to flare up merrily. "... Exarch. We both survived the battle. I'm here to honor our deal. And it seems you owe me now, seeing as I just saved your life." "And so you have. But why would you save me, Jill?" The captain of Byrn turned to looked toward the fire, hiding her expression. "You should not die to skullduggery. If you are to die, it will be by my hands, and I will take your head from your shoulders to present to Vlad when you have passed." She sat silent for a few moments, before sighing. "My steadfast dedication to that conviction, somehow, fades more and more the longer I am around you. I don't understand it. Ask what you will about me, Madon, and I will answer." Madon looked over Jill for a moment, his eye settling on her leather glove before he spoke. "The design on that glove... do you have a connection to Zenith?" Jill nodded. "I do, indeed. Once, Madon, I was a noble lady of Zenith. I was young and naive, then. House Fizzart was a family not well-liked, magical talent was not as prevalent among us as it was among the other houses of Zenith. We had enough to get by, however, and we made up for the deficit with ingenuity and martial prowess. But still, our only friend was House Pleuvoir." "Olivia's house?" "Yes. I'm not sure how much you may recall of back then. But Olivia was my dearest friend of the time. And on that fateful day where her house was slaughtered, leaving her the only survivor... at that ball Glia hosted and the elite of Isore and Zenith attended, I met you for the first time, Madon." Madon rubbed his chin for a moment, before the realization hit him. "Ah, I recall. The red-haired girl who nobody would dance with. I danced with you in spite of all the stares. And I complimented you to make you smile, before Olivia dragged me off elsewhere." Jill smiled and nodded. "So you do recall. I'll never forget what you said to me that day. How I stole the radiance of the stars, and I was avoided by the rest out of overwhelming jealousy. I was sure you were somewhat full of shit. Still, I could not help but grin ear to ear. And Olivia shot a jealous glare at me as she pulled you away, you know." Madon chuckled quietly. "Honestly, I'm not all that surprised. Olivia might have claimed me as her betrothed back then, had she more time and had tragedy not struck her house." Jill laughed for a moment, before responding. "Betrothed? Hah, she might have already been planning the wedding at that point. Would have been very like her, too. But as we both know... that was never meant to be. After House Pleuvoir was slaughtered, my own house had no more friends to speak of. Everywhere we went, we were met with hostile gazes, affronted whispers and thinly-veiled scorn. Your act of kindness at the ball led to the other houses trying to shame me in public. Though Isore's involvement was never confirmed, many in Zenith suspected their hand. And rightfully so. Though the fall of House Pleuvoir was beneficial to them, they had to pretend to mourn their loss for the benefit of the general populace. Eventually, my father had had quite enough. In the dead of night, he took my mother and I, escorted by our most loyal guards, out of Zenith. Our property went up with flames soon after our departure, with the most prolific of our harassers inside, laying claim to the possessions we had left behind. House Fizzart, I hope, left a mark that Zenith would not forget." "And as for where you went... it had to be Byrn." "Right on the money. My father had some connections to them. He knew they'd respect all of our talents, instead of looking down their noses at our relative lack of magic. And they did. So... that's how we got to where we are now. The noble lady of Zenith, become the fierce wyvern captain of Byrn. I... should have much reason to hate you, Madon. The actions of your father, that ended up tearing me from my old life, and into this one. And you now, one of the prolific leaders of those who would oppose Byrn..." Madon turned and looked into Jill's eyes, causing her to give a slight start of surprise. "The very same enemy who you are sitting next to. Who you could, if you wished, silently dispatch without his allies knowing until the next morning." The Exarch grinned slightly. "You could have me at your mercy now, yet you approach me with pleasant conversation, and reminiscence of the past. I... can tell that you seem conflicted, Jill. You are right, you have valid reason to hate me. Bringing my head to your leader would likely bring you much prestige. But is that what you truly desire? I can't tell you what to do. I can't tell you to how to feel. But what I can tell you... is that only you can decide what's best for you. And also? I meant every word that I said you to back then, and I mean every one of them now." He stood up, extending a hand toward Jill. "We could dance over the sands in the pale light of the moon, where we will only be seen by the stars above. And they will watch jealously, for they know they cannot compare to you." Jill couldn't muster up a response whatsoever for a bit. Madon's words had taken her off guard. Finally, she spoke, with hesitation. "If your allies see me with you here..." Madon shook his head. "The next watch does not come for a while yet. And my sense of time is well-honed. If they do see, anyways? What do I care, they could never prove it. And the others would never believe them." After a few moments, Jill smiled, and took Madon's hand.
  12. "For what's it worth, Tolok, I didn't make a very good first impression." Orsola had made her way over to sit next to the Exarch. So close together, the similarities between the two of them were only further highlighted. She still seemed visibly shaken from having a gun pressed against her head, and knowing death could have come so easily from the small action of an angered man. "First off, Eve, I'd like to apologize for accusing you. The battlefield can make things very muddled, and I could have confused you for someone else. Also... there was no real purpose to the timing, aside from serving to make myself look like an ass. Second, as for what just happened... I wasn't expecting such a violent reaction." She turned her gaze to Madon for a moment. "I think it would be best if you kept us apart for the time being. I have bad blood with him. Or, rather... bad blood with the version of him from my time. It's a long story, one I'd rather not divulge at this point." She looked back toward the others. "I came here from a future in which all of the nations of Erasmia were felled by a great calamity, leaving only the walled fortress-cities of Isore standing, and hardly-livable wastes everywhere else on the continent. Of everyone on this airship, only Owend, Mason, and Amber survived the war with Byrn and the calamity that followed. Tolok and Eve... I don't know of your fates. Honestly, neither of you came up while I was researching the events of this war, and what led to the calamity. Both of you are thus unfamiliar to me. Make of that as you will." She paused for a moment, her frown shifting into a slight smile. "But as you may have guessed, I am here to prevent the calamity that struck my timeline from occurring in this one. And so far, the course of destiny is flowing in the right direction. I am, unfortunately, stumbling blindly in the dark in some aspects. So I do not know how best to maintain this flow. Yet, I promise you now, I will do whatever it may take to ensure that this timeline does not fall to ruin."
  13. Frederick analyzed the situation at hand as he stood at the center of the 3-man shield wall. He directed a grateful nod and a 'thank you' toward the reporter's hovering device. He felt back in full fighting shape, a fact he intended to take advantage of after the Twistlings before them had made their moves. But first... the one holding the gun seemed to be the most dangerous. The bad leg wouldn't do much to hinder it, since all it would have to do is spray at them at range. No movement required. The rest seemed to be melee fighters, something the Subversor commander was certain the shields and armor of himself and his men could stand up against. He stared at the Twistling holding the gun. Struck by a lightning bolt, riddled with bullets... that might have been enough. But at the moment, he couldn't tell whatsoever whether it was. And appropriate caution had saved many a life in his time. He raised his sword toward the gun-toting Twistling, and just past the tip of the blade, a spick of black energy took formation. This dark spike begin to spin rapidly, and the Subversor commander fired it forward, sending it en-route to strike into the upper part of the creature's torso. Hopefully, that would be enough to fell it. And if it were overkill? Well... sometimes, that just happens to happen.
  14. "... If I'm dead, then I have some strong words for whatever deity is in charge here. Fuck, this hurts." She spoke quietly, as she touched a wall now. Some ways ahead of her, perhaps, an exit? She didn't know. This being the afterlife seemed less and less likely, the more she saw. Had she not truly died then? Just been given an experience very much simulating it, indistinguishable from the real thing? It would have been enough to drive one of lesser will mad. Neque continued to guide her, however. The Shadow King provided for the one in charge of his Shadow Guards, here in Yh'mi. She ignored the cackling laughter that echoed in the back of her mind for a moment. She recalled the object she had stumbled over. Neque had guided her to a seeming exit. Perhaps he had provided to her something of use as well? She felt so naked without her curved blade, or the comforting power of the Inanis... if she had to fight, she did not want to do so without any aid. She carefully went back through to the dark, to carefully examine the object she had stumbled over. Then, she would make her way to that exit she had seen.
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