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Found 1,250 results

  1. Luck, Fate, and Gambling

    @Avilon The gambler was toying with some pieces or equipment his smith had been working on, looking it over before going to his tinkerer. He was still in Valucre trying to steal some of their architecture and engineering ideas. He could feel someone was watching him, someone familiar enough. Salvine was walking up and down the coast...watching the people and also studying the architecture of the buildings. Salvine would stay in the open and would stay at a slow pace to see if she kept following him, the gypsy girl, the one who he had taken attention to. Salvine had a few cards swirling around him using his manipulation of their flux. He stopped on the pier and leaned on a post watching the tide come it. It reminded him of when he used to do it as a child. That was soo long ago it was hard to recall Each time he destroyed a place or went to war, it was the rivers and the tide that brought him back to a peaceful state. He took his attention off the gypsy to watch the waves.
  2. Gathering Materials [1/3]

    After the ruins a fire still burns. @Mag Mina reborn There was nothing beneath her as she fell, the world looked like hell fire as a burning sensation fired through her limbs and loins. An not for the proper reason oh no; the reoccurring nightmare of the draconian's foolish fire chased her nightly. Mina however would not let this shake her training; she focused herself deeply and directed the emotion else where. A gentle shift in the course of the speedy airship brought her to her senses allowing her optics to illuminate in the darkness. Mana weaved itself across her body like a cocoon of safety. With a gentle exhale the kunoichi rose from the sheets allowing the woven threads to break. The raw energy poured out across the room before flowing back into her pores with ease. Her bronzed skin glistened with sweat against the lights which illuminated the floor as she stepped out of bed. It was time for a shower no doubt the trip was about to begin and she could not afford to be walking the planes of dream land. Or perhaps was she exploring the lines of technology that now surrounded them. Ever since her incident with the cur she had gone in to reclusive training to improve herself. The forge was a dream to come true and like herself the rest of the Empire would benefit from its works. Reaching up she pushed back her long strands of hair with her bandaged left hand. She still had not cut her hair but it did not matter at this point. The once pigment-less strands were dyed black while her once pale optics held an iris unlike before. Contacts which she would use to disguise herself during the future missions. Stepping one foot in front of the other she moved to her own personal bathroom with ease. The wound she had sustained had healed marvelously and of course she practiced to not only return to normal but improve her abilities. Never again would she be made of fool of by a cur child with emotional issues. Keeping the lights off she was comfortable in the darkness as a bare hand turned the nozzle for cold water to wash over her skin. The sensation sent a vibration through her body as she woke up even further her hair standing on end. Mina placed her face beneath the flood then her hair next and began to wash herself hair first body next giving the shampoo time to sink in. The feeling of being clean was something the woman cherished above all else; how could one possibly know this? To start she enjoyed clean places and her clothing was always as white as her hair, unfortunately it would not be so this time. Once her shower was concluded she exited the stain glass cube and stepped out into a towel. Drying herself she then wrapped her hair allowing the remaining dye that did not stick to flush itself out. Opening the closet the woman was not herself anymore; or rather one could say she had changed immensely since her time in recovery. Reaching into the thicket of clothing options the woman chose a black chain fish net body suit. Wearing nothing beneath it she pulled her hair back and up into a pony tail. When she slipped the suit on it hugged her hips and chest tightly before she pulled on a set of thigh high boots designed to look like thigh high socks. A smile cross her lush lips as she looked in the mirror lightly, there was no helping the scar that marred her bronzed face from the public. Looking around she scoped out her backpack and a small box she had brought along with herself. Walking over to the box Mina pulled out a second binding wrap to place around her right hand that matched the one on the left. She would not be calling Bane on this trip, his duty was to guard the treasures of Koji and execute all who bothered the harem. The Arch Elemental would do exactly as instructed for his will was now Mina's own. Keeping the binding firm her expression turned from a gentle smirk to one of slight insanity. A gentle giggle left her throat as she bit her bottom lip gently. The next toy she picked up was a small magic tech orb that began to float beside her. Mina had wasted no time in picking up materials from Samul the tiefling to use for her benefit. Chuckling the toy had a few tricks up its sleeve which she would enjoy using while within the lands of Alterion. Grabbing her backpack the pack was not something so simple either. As she slipped it on the top opened and a flood of shadowed hands popped out looking to grab and stock the nearest thing. The bag was bottomless and allowed for her to store virtually anything at the time. Quick and effective for their current mission at hand. Grabbing her cloak she slipped it around her body and smirked once more, her ample body was no longer clear for all the view. She appeared to have no weapons but that was another trait she had picked up as well. Something to be shown off at a later point. Once she had checked herself and things, Mina hung the towel up lightly and closed the box. Exiting her room her feet made no sound as she strolled down the hall into the main bridge. Looking left and right no doubt she'd find Dove possibly in the divers seat, she was not one who liked her toys on auto pilot. This current shuttle was going to get a remodel once they found items to outfit a better and faster ship that would be the lead for all of their missions and adventures. "So.. Dove.. How long till we are ready to dock?" Her voice remained lush and vibrant with life however her eyes screamed death for all who dared oppose them in the future adventures.
  3. I have no eye and I must blink

    The tent-settlement rested just outside of Aspyn, hidden from the naked eye by distance but still within the scope of a day's march. Aspyn was the newest settlement in the Isle, chaperoned by the youngest PeaceKeeper in the history of Terrenus's present regime (admittedly, not very long). The settlement was outside of Aspyn for that very reason – Michael Commager was a vigilant guardian anxious to prove he was worth the honor bestowed him, so the shadier aspects of society made it a point to avoid his attention. The armistice between these two parties was strained but viable, for the time being. The larger tents of the minor settlement were for the indulgence of vice. Gambling 'parlors'. Strip 'shows'. And, naturally, a 'bar', whose existence was the sum total of a secured row of metal lockers brimming over with hooch. Evelyn was in the bar tent now, occupying the body of one of its favorite hosts, the female Kharn cleric. Her leather armor was muted and pragmatic, purposefully failing to accentuate her feminine grace and obscuring the presence of her weapons until one was too close for it to matter. Evelyn held in Talice's hand an untouched drink, this being a mere nod of patronage to the bar owner so it could occupy space without rousing ire. The bar-tent had no tables, only cheap folding chairs. Talice was in one chair, and two empties in front of her formed a triangle of privacy. Evelyn had deliberately picked the point in space furthest from the bar, where the rowdy people were highest in number. The others should be arriving soon. Past experienced had informed Evelyn's trust in Handyman subcontractors. It wasn't possible for it to do everything itself and so it was nothing short of a delight to find adequately competent concierges to associate with. The two sellswords would be nothing less than competent and amenable to a fair deal, the only kind of deals in which Evelyn partook. OOC: https://www.valucre.com/topic/37817-are-you-a-mercenary-or-what/
  4. LotE: The Descent

    Humans are governed, much as the world is, by sets of facts. Where, for the earth, facts alter landscapes and shape horizons, denote coastlines and scorch soil, the more emotionally-inclined derive from them thoughts. We are touched by facts not without, but within. In the soul, or heart, or nervous system. Empathy, sympathy – we can feel one another’s pain and loss and happiness and hate and anger and love, even if it is not ours. A mother winces as her child trips, a father smiles fondly at his daughter’s wedding. Two friends drink to a third’s success, and a widow sobs somber once a year. Our faces are mirrors of the world, but not perfect. Each is unique in the way it reflects the histories that have happened, the events that are, and the promises that will be. Nonetheless, for all this individuality, we are still presented with the same set of facts. We all see the same things that move us and shake us. We live with each other, not against. These were the facts that were currently presented to the residents, refugees, and travelers of the Valley: Isore had fallen. Eight hundred thousand dead in a day, the fate of the other 1.5 million, unknown. There was no soul brave enough to venture into the ruins of the Walled City to find out. Many escaped as refugees. Many of those refugees were burnt to ashes by the dragon-fires that ravaged the Isorian forests. The dragons of legend had begun to awaken. Old wives’ tales had become more and less than mere fictions. Children did not know whether to laugh or to cry that their fantasies and nightmares were realities. Those in Isore never had the chance. Casualties of myth – and we once wondered what fate befell those in the flood when God smote the earth for sin, what happened to the men and women of the cities when the Olympians met Typhon in desperate melee. When the sun rose this morning, it was through a haze of inky black that drifted across the eastern horizon. The ashes and charcoal from the Isorian fires were blown wayward to the north and though by now they are thin and feeble and nothing more than a shadow on the horizon, “harmless,” they are still made of homes and bones and the ashes of the dead. A reminder to we who are quick to forget, that yesterday has happened and that tomorrow is no more hopeful. The sunrise is bleak and dark. The end of the night is nothing more than a formality. No great, God-sent symbolism awaits us there. There was no way to flee but to the distant west coast, to the sea. The ships were beginning to fill. Perhaps they were already full. Perhaps they were almost sinking beneath the weight of the frightened. Heavy hearts make for heavy ships that bob on the ocean’s gray waves, and all it’d take is a pinprick to make the tension break into pieces. Nothing more than a pinprick. Perhaps the ships, too, were a myth (it would be a good season for myths). They were spoken of in hushed tones, in bars and taverns full of rabid rumor and hysterics. The Western City-States were across the long and unforgiving Oestean Desert. Hundreds of miles of death for the chance at life – better than the handful past which lay certain death to the East, they all agreed. Could you imagine, what makes a man agree to suffering? And in a place such as the Valley, that knows no such thing. For the first time, in a long time, in a timeless place… The air shudders and shivers and feels alive. With fear, with desperation – all those things that civilization tries to purge from us, the emotions that lurk beneath the conscious and make themselves known only in times when we cast away thought, intelligence, sapience, for the comfort of instinct. Comfort. It hangs on their words as they pretend to haggle with the caravaneers westward-bound, ready to pay any price to bring their families towards the waning light of sunset. If they can’t afford the prices that steepen with every circuit of the sun, then it is the air that makes him consider, for a second, the wallets and pockets of other. And the next hour, he’ll consider it for a minute. A man feels his spine chill as he walks down the alleys after a long day, praying for tomorrow to come take him away, and in the same breath praying against tomorrow. Each midnight is a midnight closer to an escape. One way, or another. In the night, the horses toss and turn sleeplessly in their stables, and the streets are quiet and likewise sleepless. The Valley has a plague upon it, this electricity that makes all our hairs stand on end and robs us of the idea of peace. Even if it is quieter than it’s ever been, even if the air is so still that even the flap of a butterfly’s wings cannot blossom into a hurricane regardless of principle. Because it’s too still, see, because it’s playing dead. It’s forcibly frozen. If one speaks too loudly, it’ll shatter like glass. It’s a hospital, and we’re waiting on someone to die, because it’s inevitable. We are the dead. Tucked away behind and beneath all of this thickness, this atmosphere that feels like a stretched thread that’s given into its fate, there is a little dram of madness. There are teaspoons of it sprinkled among a handful of people. Madness! I could call it hope if I liked, but it’s not hope. It’s self-love, the musings and machinations of the lifeless and disturbed, it’s anger, it’s hate and cat-killing curiosity and resignation. It’s folly, idiocy, the boy who strikes deals with demons because he thinks that his blood and his soul is worth selling for an instrument. It’s madness, it’s lunacy, it’s suffering. But it is neither fear nor desperation. For this, we can call it hope, because we have nothing else. So there in the Valley, tucked away behind and beneath the suffocating tension, despite the horrors and atrocities, despite the deaths of a million and the insurmountable obstacles that face them, despite themselves and damned emotion… The fact is that there are a few people with hope. THE CLINIC RELEVANT PARTIES @Mag The room in which five of these people slept was still. There was one girl and a half-dozen motes of dust in the sunbeams and the distant scent of coffee, and these were all the things that moved, however lazily. Four of five beds were marked by crumpled sheets and an absence of warmth. Not for the weather – autumn afternoons in the Valley, and especially this autumn afternoon in the Valley, were warm and dry – but because Madon, Jinsoku, Judas, and Bolt had left to find greener pastures in the city, somewhere better than here to pass the time that slipped by. Lily, alone and preparing to read quietly beneath her sheets, was unsure what greener pastures were out there. This was her town. She had lived in the Valley her entire life. A five-year-old orphan is found in the desert; what could they do? “It takes a village,” the saying goes, and it took The Valley to raise her. The town was as much family to her as she was kin to herself. She remembered the wild vastness of the desert spreading out between her toes as she played among the dunes. She remembered the streets that were choked with the scents of cinnamon and spice, and food from the farthest reaches of Nar Oeste, and gruff men crowded around gruff fires with laughs like gold and soft fleece. She knew that two steps out from this inn-become-clinic, one could meander down to the left and take the second right, and there would be a bookstore run by a middle-aged woman, Mas Andstromm, who took great offense if you pointed out the grey streaks in her hair that she obviously tried very hard to hide beneath more youthful locks. Lily bit her lip and shifted onto her side, half her face buried in the pillow. The other eye – her good one – traced the whorls and hard lines on the page thoughtlessly, staring blankly at the handy penmanship of Exarch Laslow Steelshield. She could feel the sun through the window warming her bare back through the thin linens. The dull thrum that rustled through the drowsy air was probably the noise of the street outside. It weren’t as loud as that which she remembered, and the noise was a lot closer to white than it was to the vibrant colors it should’ve been. The blue notes of the cellos, the reds of haggling, the yellows and browns and greens and fiery orange that symbolized the frantic welcoming of another massive caravan. This was not her town anymore. It had been less than a month since she’d left the Valley she remembered, at midnight, clasping a dragonstone and a heart so full of vigor and hope and determination. She still had the dragonstone. She still had her heart. Her hand pressed absentmindedly against the bandages covering her chest. It must’ve been the city that changed in the meantime, then, because the young woman hadn’t. There was no one to blame. Those who once brought joys and tales from faraway lands were replaced by those who brought struggling families and haunted survivors who, more than anything else, were interested in abandoning their memories rather than making them. The Valley, once a heaven, was now a haven. A convenient place to hide from the horrors of war for a few days longer, while the flames were as distant as the horizon and no closer. There was no trade except in lives and arms. So what could Judas and Madon and Bolt and Jinsoku be looking for? There was nothing for them anywhere. All Lily needed was hope, and that lived only in this room in all The Valley. Two Seal Fragments at her side. Two of seven pieces of the lethal puzzle. Lily closed the journal, placing it carefully inside her bag beside the two stones, and sat up with a yawn and a stretch. How to Save the World, Seven Easy Steps. As long as they could complete the seal, no matter the sacrifice, disaster could be averted. That was how it was, almost laughably simple, right? “Isn’t it?” She asked to the empty air, rubbing her bare shoulders that were suddenly cold despite the sunlight. The historian knew her histories. She had to believe in the truth, because the truth was in their favor and the truth was good. So long as she had these two fragments, she had hope. All of them had hope. Nar Oeste had hope. There came a knocking at the door, quick and very firm in its insistence. It told her that it wasn’t a request, but a warning. Like trumpets or fanfare, but those were for kings where hard knocks were preamble for hard knocks and people who meant business. “Come in,” she wanted to say, but by then it had already opened. “Coming in,” he said brusquely, and paused when he saw Lily’s half-naked body. She started to raise a hand in greeting, a smile rising on her face as all her thoughts fell away in favor of recognition. “Oh. Charles. Long time, no see. What brings you here?“ The door slammed closed. The librarian’s voice came muffled from behind, sounding every bit as disheveled as he had looked in her memory. “I’ll wait for you to get decent. Get on out here.” Suddenly, The Valley felt a lot more like the home that she remembered. Her eyes brightened for the first time in a month. “Can’t spare any time for a friend you haven’t seen in a month?” “Amusing. I’d rather you not call me that in public. My real friends would question why a middle-aged man is consorting with a twenty-two year old. Barely more than a girl,” he added with a scoff. “You don’t respect me.” “I don’t. I think you’re still nothing more than an impulsive youth, and god I hope my daughter won’t grow up anything like you.” There was a hint of irritation in his voice. Lily’s face fell. “I guess you’ll want to know where I’ve been?” “I have a good guess, but I’d like to hear you admit it. And not just me.” Lily pulled on a thin black cardigan and slacks and stepped into her shoes that had been worn dry by the vast reaches of sand that they’d hiked once the horses had given way to the weariness of the journey. A moment of deliberation later that was full of nothing but a single, resounding yes, the girl grabbed the bag with the journal and the fragments, carefully tucked out of sight, and pulled open the door to the hallway with a careful look on her face. What explanation drove a girl to disappear from her hometown in the dead of night? The truth was felony, but she couldn’t admit this to her friend. Criminals are caught because they make mistakes, and admitting that she’d fled the town because she’d stolen the Seal Fragment – the first of many that she had set her mind to obtain – was, if not the very definition of the word, a very very good approximation. “Fine. Let’s talk.” She stepped into the hall, tasting silver on her tongue as the lies began to spin, and glanced askance at a rather pale-looking Charles. “What’s up?” Something flew into her chest, right at the sternum, almost like a bird; she tried to look down and her eyes didn’t make it halfway before his other hand slammed into her temple and her body fell forward into the support of his arm. One last breath, enough for her to see him unfurling with his other a bag that looked awfully large on the inside – and then Lily was gone again, and a man, just one of a million weary souls in the city, walked out of the inn with a folded-up burlap bag in his pocket, making his slow, meandering way towards the Great Library. THE MARKET RELEVANT PARTIES @Fragile @SweetCyanide @Mag @Chouette @sheep Elsewhere in the city was a knight. This was not a remarkable occurrence, because the mercenary armies of the continent had begun to coalesce at the Valley in preparation of a long march southward towards the fortresses of Glia and Dodon. Like a heart, the Valley pulled the blood of the land, its people, its warriors and defenders, from where they were scattered in dales and hamlets, and pushed them towards the distant battlefronts where they were needed most. One could tell from looking at the soldiers, from their drooped gait and tight-lipped, unshaven faces that they knew they went to their deaths. They camped far apart from the city because they knew this, because they did not want to infect others with their thoughts. The nominal cause of their fatal march was gold, but the true cause was listlessness. Where would they go, if not towards war? Unattached men and women would only drift whether it be on land or sea. The greatest purpose of their lives were here. They knew they were no heroes, and they knew that there were no heroes. But their story is for another, later time. There was a knight in The Valley, and she was not of the free companies, neither was she motivated by things like a lack of purpose. Adelaide Fontaine was full of purpose as she stood there, lost in the midst of the marketplace. Because she was not Lily and was foreign to the city, she did not know what joyful mercantilism looked like. She did not remember coziness and had never seen the full warmth of the Valley. To her, this was normal, this tight-packed alley of shuffling and shouting and fruit-sellers shooting glares at the grimy refugee children whose hands were as red as the apples they tried to steal. Hostility was in the air, and when a man jostled against another he was accused of pickpocketing instead of being excused. The dog-eat-dog world had overtaken one of cooperation. Mistrust had triumphed over trust. But Adelaide kept her wallet locked and on a chain, so to her it was all perfectly acceptable, even if others were brought to tears by what their city had become. There was no problem in the state of things here. The problem was purely personal: she was lost, had lost someone very valuable to her. Some who was fifty-two gold pieces per day of valuable to her. “JASPER!” She crooked a frown and spun to look for the author who had hired her as armed escort. She was tall for a woman; this didn’t matter when there were just as many men of average and equal height choking the alley, and it extra-didn’t-matter when Jasper Gray was shorter than average. Short enough to be a kid. Short enough to be abducted, and although she didn’t know what kind of enemies an aspiring author could hope to make, Adelle was the sort of person who thought of (but clearly did not plan for) all eventualities. “The hell did she go?” Great tarps cast themselves overhead across the buildings to protect the vendors and shoppers from the glaring desert sun. Some would say that the point was to thrust them all into the cool comfort of shade, and it would take a great idiot to bemoan this, but the knight was on the edge of complaining that it was too damn dark. Jasper, at least in personality, was a dark young lady (man? Adelle couldn’t tell, but it was less awkward for the both of them if Adelle assumed that she was a girl – Jasper hadn’t complained yet). So allowing her to come out to the bazaar, shady in so many more ways than one, was the first mistake. One error begets another. There was danger here; not from her fellow men, because all of us are good at heart, but from the air that they breathed in that was full of the things which drove children to steal and integrities to slip. There were men leaning against the walls, lounging at corners and smoking on the curb, ready to walk nonchalantly towards the soon-to-be-less-fortunate. They had their hands in their pockets and in those hands they carried tomorrow. Tomorrow and fists that would buy it for them. If Jasper was assaulted, Adelle would have failed as her guardian. That was the one thing that was to her, unthinkable. A knight never breaks his vow. A loyalty made is a loyalty kept under any duress. “JASPER! Where are you?” They had left their room because they needed to buy groceries, and an author needed to observe the conditions under which people break. Just author things, Jasper told her by way of explanation. A knight and a writer comes to a land on the precipice of being consumed by war – a land in which millions had died in the span of weeks and one where the sun is darkened by the burning corpse of a city, something that disturbed her even then, a thousand miles distant on some other continent – and one of the two wants to ask the other: why? The answer was simple. Novels written in peacetime are not as raw as those written in war. You do not understand what people are like until you’ve watched them at their lowest point, seen evil with your own eyes and lived through hell. It sounded at first to Adelle that Jasper wished simply to die. There was something horrible about it, about waltzing blindly into the midst of widows and shattered lives and saying, “Fascinating.” But the dead needed someone to tell their story, she realized, and it was for this that she accompanied the shadowy, dark-demeanor’d young woman to The Valley. Because although she wasn’t losing sleep or shedding tears for the loss of life in Nar Oeste, many others were and just as many were robbed of that voice. Someone needed to speak to the dead. Earlier in the day, they had spoken to a librarian who’d told them of the First War of the Wyrms. She had not liked it, although Jasper seemed to be interested in the man’s spiel. The war was nothing more than a legend, with almost no literature left of that time period. It was a myth. Something to fuel the imaginations of hyperactive children who slept thinking of riding dragons. Never mind all those who died and those who had to suffer life afterwards. They must be turning in their graves now, knowing that the same grave mistakes had been repeated and all their sacrifice was being trampled into the dust. That the grim pall falling over the land now was bought so cheaply, at the cost of mere forgetfulness. This, she told Jasper after the fact. She would have to write for them, if she lived through it all, and Adelle, ever the knight, would give her life to bring that “if” to a certainty… “And so where the hell are you, eh?” The knight rounded another corner, one she was 90% sure was looking depressingly familiar by now, and sighed. The intelligent course of action for Jasper would be to head back to the room. Intelligent referring to practical, and Adelle felt, with a sinking feeling in the stomach that the author was as far from the knight’s idea of practical as the stars were from the sun. She clenched her teeth. Search until sundown. Jasper was an observer. Someone, in turn, must have seen her. The nearest vendor was a jeweler, cutting as clean and sharp a figure as the gems that she peddled out of her stall. Not bad, Adelaide thought as she pretended to look through the wares – she figured that people helped you more if they thought you might buy something – and unconsciously slipped her wallet out of the chinks of her breastplate onto the table, lost in her examination. How long did she have to look before she encroached on rude and window-shopper? There was a nice emerald gold ring, would form a formidable pair with her eyes, she’s sure. But she couldn’t look up too soon, or else it would be insincere. Or pearl earrings? Something creamy, to contrast with her tanned skin? Sapphire on a silver bangle! Blue-green combination, one-two punch. Adelle frowned at her silvery armor. Maybe she needed some gold to offset? Settled it. Emerald was the way to go. “’scuse me,” she said to the woman whose name Adelle would later learn to be Basilica. The rather handsome knight flashed her most dazzling smile. It’s never disarmed a man, but it’s sure made the uglier ones a bit angry. “Have you happened to see a short, thin little pipsqueak of a…girl…boy? Name’s Jasper, shifty little thing. Looks like she spends all her time indoors?” “Hey, watch it!” Someone said angrily. This was the first indication of an object incoming. “I’ll take the emerald ring, by the way,” the knight said, oblivious. Loud noises were the norm in the cities of her youth. If she looked around for every sign of every altercation, her head would never stop turning. Staggered footsteps were the second signal, swiftly closing in towards her back, and at this point Basilica might’ve noticed a white-haired kid stumbling towards her customer. “It looks lovely,” Adelle added, beaming. And then someone who weighed more like an ultradense something slammed into her back and the knight yelped as her hip struck the table in almost poetic expression of Newton’s Second Law. The jewels shook in their places, but good craftsmanship kept them in their place. The knight’s wallet did not benefit from such a thing. Instead, it slid towards the edge and, with a cheerful jangling of chains, fell into the crack between stalls and bounced to the floor beside Basilica’s feet. Out of sight, out of mind. “Hey, watch it!” The knight, doomed to repeat history, whipped around as the boy muttered something – was it an apology? – and disappeared again into the crowd. “What the –?” “GOD DAMN! MY WALLET!” Adelle’s eyes shot wide open as she came to the (mostly true) realization that her wallet was missing. Her (mostly false) conclusion: “HEY KID!” There was a knight in The Valley who suffered from a great deal of hardship, and for whom being robbed blind was so common an occurrence, that chasing down and tackling street-children was not an idea that was ever alien to her mind for very long.
  5. Death Valley

    Paris strolled about the charred ruins of an old hut at his leisure, one of the many abandoned abodes that now riddled the western outskirts of Lorean. The Whispernight had long since passed, but its devastation remained. The peasantry had suffered the worst of it over the many days the otherworldly nightmare ravaged the countryside. Blood soaked the fields where crops grew, and the roads were littered with the mangled, butchered corpse too slow to reach safety behind the Walls. It had been weeks since any noble dared travel so far from the sanctuary of the palace, and Paris did so only at the chagrin of his mother and father. There was no shortage of patrols warning of companies of undead—some small, others large—still stalking the outermost towns and villages, or shambling through the eerily still, lifeless forests, quiet with death. Making his way through the skeletal remains of a threshold, Paris stepped out into the blackened, ash-covered streets. “Fire has always been a friend of man. In his darkest hour, it gives him light. In the heart of winter, it gives him heat. It cooks our food, cleans our steel, purges rot, eradicates disease and devours the wicked.” Pressing back the length of his cloak, the prince revealed a modest canteen of crystal at his hip. “But fire burns indiscriminately, and if wielded by a reckless hand, can become a troublesome friend indeed.” There came a noise of pure pitch; it was a high, thin sound at the edge of hearing, like the scraping of steel against a sheet of ice. Paris glanced down at his hip and took up the crystalline canteen, lifting it to his eyes. He could just barely make out the nymph’s features in the murky fluid, so small was she in this compacted form. Her features were twisted in pain, her large eyes shimmering in agony like two bright emeralds. “I warned you there would be consequences to your actions,” he said flatly. He shook the canteen hard, intensifying the odd crushing sensation she must have felt at that moment. There it was again, that piercing cry. “I don’t care if it was my sister. I told you that none were to lay a hand upon you, under any circumstance.” It had been difficult getting all of her inside the container, and more than once, the nymph had spilled out and across the floor before he could properly seal it. It took the better part of an hour, and no dearth of cursing and swearing before Shinguri was wholesome packed away inside her newest cage. “My Lord,” a stern, grisly voice called out from further down the road. “Not to question your keeping of time, crown prince, but it will be night in two hours’ time. The ride home is an hour in itself, at the very least.” Solomon Glass XIII was a mountain of a man, and upon the back of his black stallion—named Imperious—he sat nearly thrice a man’s height. He wore the armor of his father, as was customary in the Glass family, sanded down steel that neither reflected nor shimmered nor gleamed, but stood in grand defiance of all the light that touched it. In his right hand, he loosely nurtured his Lochaber axe. “Do you fear the dead, Ser Solomon?” Paris asked, making light of the guard’s worry as he often did. “Do they unsettle you?” “I fear the wrath of your mother, my prince,” Solomon replied, unbothered, “And the fate one would suffer at her hands for allowing her favored child to waltz into harm’s way.” Paris snickered, then nodded at the weapon in the man’s hand. “Is that why you carry that dreadful thing around with you?” Solomon adjusted the axe in his hand, and for a moment, its ornate blade gleamed wickedly in the dusklight. “I carry this around as a warning to the living, my Lord, for any that might see us.” “A warning, you say?” “So that they know at least one of them will die should they mean my prince harm,” he elaborated. Then, with a wry grin, he added: “Even if he is an arseling.” Paris scoffed and turned his attention away, down the opposite end of the abandoned road. “I suppose we should head home. Shinguri is getting restless.” He shook the canteen with a softer flick of his wrist, as if in warning. “I was hoping there would be something of intrigue out here. Maybe even run into an undead or two. But alas, this has been a rather disappointing affair…” The prince’s words trailed off as a soft glow between the sickly, skeletal trees caught his eye roughly forty yards out, deeper in the woods, away from the village. “Fire?” Paris tilted his head. “Out here?” The mounted guard pulled along beside his ward. “Whatever it is, my Lord, I doubt it’s worth delaying our return to the palace.” Paris glanced over his shoulder at the knight, a mocking grin on his lips. “Satisfying one’s curiosity is always worth delaying a return home to the same, boring drab.” Solomon nodded begrudgingly. “Yes, my Lord.” “Watch the horses.” “My Lord—” Paris raised a hand, silencing him. “No harm will come to me, Ser Solomon. I am not nearly the fragile, ignorant arseling you believe me to be. I have been educated by the best, I assure you. He’s a bit of a haggard old man, but he knows battle well enough.” Solomon frowned. “Haggard, am I?” The knight grumbled something else, but the prince paid it no mind. An eager stride had already put him well beyond earshot, more than half the distance separating him from what was quickly becoming a modestly sized campfire. “I wonder if they’re a stranger,” Paris said with a glance down at the canteen in his hand. “Or, perhaps it’s a survivor?” His mind ran rampant with possibilities, of the dark, gruesome stories the latter might be able to impart on him. “How exciting.”
  6. Sharpmate's Noodle Shop

    The Noodle Shop Layout Sharpmate's Noodle Shop has only a single floor and serves noodles that have been described as dazzlingly mediocre. This fare here is always cheap, always filling, and always no less than decent tasting. It is open 24 hours a day, more popular late at night than any other time of day, always has at least three customers, and the wooden sign that hangs in front of the window has lettering of a faded lilac which somehow manages to remain legible. Beneath The Surface . . .
  7. @Pasion Pasiva The study was elegant in its simplicity, shelves stood silent on the first floor, surrounding a small reading area in which a small fireplace that crackled softly in the quiet. The room was softly lit, bright enough to read in, but dim enough to create an air of comforting solitude. A love-seat sat in front of the fire, and a bearskin rug lay on the valsee wood floor, imported from Genesaris. Two chairs sat on either side of the rug, angled towards the fire. Corvinus had often sat with his youngest daughter Olympia, reading to her or even making up his own stories much to her delight. Across the circular room wide windows stretched from in a halfcircle, and reached high up to the second floor. They were made of reinforced glass, but held a crystal clear quality. The view they offered of Ravenspire and the eastern coast was magnificent. The city glowed with light and the sky showed Kadian airships floating gracefully in and out of the city. A testament to the devotion of the Kadian Emperor and Empress to their people, and to Leoa’s unfathomable love for her husband. Corvinus sat at a blackwood desk, his broad back visible from the doorway, in which the door stood ajar. His coat lay across the back of his chair, revealing the white shirt he wore. His shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows, buttoned so that they remained that way, and revealed attractively defined forearms, marred only by the scars of past battles. The front of his shirt was unbuttoned halfway, revealing a broad chest that looked as if it had been carved from marble, the skin too was equally scarred. His large hands were covered in black gloves, his left holding a massive tome as his right held a pen the scratched elegantly on a blank page. He wrote in High Kadic, a language that mirrored the elegant beauty of Latin and the philosophical focus of Greek. He was an undeniably handsome man, in his dark way. His black hair was groomed and kept reasonably short, falling only to his high cheekbones. His eyes were darker than his hair, black as a moonless night, accentuated by masculine and nicely shaped eyebrows. He had a strong jaw, that spoke of determination, and drew attention to full lips that spoke of stoicism, and hinted at a lover hidden beneath that exterior. Despite the the technology at his disposal, he preferred to take pen to paper, finding other methods too impersonal. He felt that the effort of creating a language that would be the foundation of Kadian culture and people required a personal touch, only that could provide the necessary nurturing love. He was focused, all but oblivious to his surroundings as his black eyes followed the graceful dance of the characters his hand and pen produced. He was alone now, preferring not to be hovered over by Ucissore or TEMPLARs. He wanted solitude so he could focus on the task at hand, and to consider his thoughts over the current events of the wedding and those that happened after. For the first time in years he saw Gabriela, the woman he had loved for what seemed centuries ago. He had hidden his surprise well, maintaining a calm expression during the short moment they had met eye to eye. There had been no recognition. Had he been so easily forgotten? He set down his pen and closed his eyes, trying to clear the pervasive thoughts. He had been visited often by them since Raphael has informed him of his departure without his fiancé. It was strange to have the Orisian Queen in his palace. It was a strange tapestry fate had weaved, he had been a knight in her service, beneath her in rank and following her decrees, until his betrayal of reversing her siring of him. Now he was her equal. He shook his head, calming his mind before he returned pen to paper.
  8. In the depths of the witches’ volcanic mountain, there was a sanction where the blistering heat mysteriously vanished. Through these lantern lit shadows of the underground corridors, a she-orc trended with apprehension and anxiety towards pull of the increasing cold. She was a jade-colored orc, sporting natural charcoal tresses upon her built shoulders and stood lower to the ground compared to her brethren. This beast tamer orc was assigned by Luna to care-take the creature migrated to the mountain long ago. The orc wore furs on her body against the cold, her skin also not as thick as the coal colored orcs, and a spiked bone plate upon her left shoulder. As the ice began to bite at her, the ugly grimace on her face increased heavily. “This was Nigel’s job,” she grumbled in her orcish tongue. “Nigel, Nigel, Nigel. But no, that big idiotic oof had to go and screw up in his first mission off the mountain! Now I’m getting punished!” She kicked a rock in frustration, listening to it clink and clank down the tunnel ahead of her. She couldn’t believe her outrageously rotten luck. Nigel was the leader of the beast tamers and easily the most qualified to do this job. Luna had sent him to guard three witches within the Dark Forest; he failed when they all got poisoned by some creature and turned into banshees. Luna was infuriated; beyond infuriated, the orc could have sworn Nigel would have been beheaded on the spot. However, instead Luna used him as a guinea pig for evaluating the intentions of some dwarfs. She hated dwarfs, she hated Nigel, she hated everything! “Ugh!” The orc kicked another rock and watched it tumble out of sight. This orc’s name was Ferrah. Ferrah was a teenager as far as orcs went, but proved herself great at beast taming. She thought she was passing underneath Luna’s radar by keeping her skills limited to the hound pit fights under the fortress. But nothing escaped that witch. It was like Luna somehow witnessed everything. Witchcraft was evil, Ferrah concluded. It was the same iniquity that drove her to conditionally follow everything a witch told her. And it just happened. If her own mother tried to boss her, she would put a bone down her throat. She didn’t get it. She didn’t care though. She was just angry at everything. But the anger transferred back into apprehension when her breath started to flow into the air as a thick white mist. She was getting close to where she needed to go. Icy winds transpired through the lungs of the cavern, lifted her locks and stiffened the drool on her tusks. Clinching her fists and continuing forward, stepped into a cerulean light that began to shed upon the tunnels. Then she entered the dragon’s chamber. The blinding blue fires at the center of the cavern made her squint and raise a palm to shield the light. The rock floors were slippery with a thin layer of ice; she had to spike her boots to travel without hindrance. The temperature was deathly cold and unpleasant. Ferrah shifted the pack on her shoulder and continued further into the chamber’s light with searching eyes. The dragon had been sedated into a slumber for many weeks now while the witches healed the damage they inflicted during its capture. Her job was to maintain the wounds and place raw meat in its mouth. Many of the wounds had healed at this point, so today was only feeding and adjusting the wing incase the dragon has shifted on its broken one. As she approached the platform in which was dragon was to lie, she froze rigidly on the spot. It was empty. In the time that it took for her crimson eyes to widen and heart to race with alarm, a crumbling sound on the wall above alerted of what was soon to happen. Ferrah whipped around and was greeted with the raging roar of the descending beast upon the wall. The dragon’s silvery body came down with utter fury, eyes whitened with energy and fangs glistening with murderous intent. The orc released a stream of obscene curses as she tumbled to the side, barely dodging the stabbing talons into the earth. As a tamer of violent beasts, her reflexes were sharpened and she was on her feet with a decisive leap as the dragons fangs soon crushed the air of which she had abandoned. The orc landed and broke out into a sprint, entering some jutting stalagmites and disappearing moments before the dragon came forth, terrorizing the landscape with her powerful limbs. Ferrah ducked down under the destruction, preferring to be pelted by rock than the outrageous strength of the beast. She army crawled towards the rear of the destruction before she got up and started running again. She thought she was clear for the exit when a sharp metallic like tail whipped across the air and slammed into her left shoulder. The sound of crumbling bone crepitated into her ear as she flew through the air and slammed into the cavern wall. “Ugh…son of a—” she muttered as she dropped onto the floor. Her bony shoulder plate fell to the ground, split evenly in half. It was by sheer luck that it wasn’t her flesh. The dragon turned towards her, Ferrah weakly lifted her head and gazed through bangs as it reared up like a wild stallion. It seemed ready to roar but to Ferrah’s surprise, words instead pierced her mind. “WHERE IS MY EGG?!” Telepathy. It had to be. The dragon’s mouth was filling light, not forming speech. She didn’t have time to fathom it because the dragon landed released a storm of flames from its fangs. By a second wave of luck, the orc had been tossed near the entrance of the cavern and she rushed for it. The fire hit the wall behind her and she disappeared into tunnels. The dragon rushed to pursue, but Ferrah grasped a lever on the other side, pulled it, and bars laced with electricity slammed the entrance shut. The dragon collided into the gate and electricity rushed through its body. She roared and agony and stumbled back. As Ferrah vanished from her view, the dragon’s fury melted into sorrow. “No…No. WHERE IS MY EGG!?” Her fearsome demanding roar oscillated throughout the entire fortress. Ferrah stumbled into the courtyard panting and planted her hands on her thighs. “This…was…Nigel’s….damn…job!” She exclaimed and shot her boot into a nearby rack of armor. Helmets rolled and bounced in across the floor, she picked them up one by one and threw them in a rage. The other orcs of the courtyard ducked and snarled at her, but knew of Ferrah’s temper tantrums too well. “Damn it, damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!!!!” She fell to her rear, more exhausted than before. She thought about what to do. Luna told her if the dragon was to awaken, she was to retrieve one of the witches. One or two in particular. She would have to go to the witches’ tower, but would be surprised if the witch hasn’t heard the roar of the dragon. Ignoring the mess she made, Ferrah got herself up and headed towards the said tower.
  9. [Closed: Avaliable to @Khovfe and @Demonicmuffin ] Basic Layout Orange - Book Shelves Purple - Unknown Green - Entrance Red - Stairs Blue - Meeting Table Black - Work Table [Sugn Enters Master Room] Sugn stepped through the mystic stone doors entering the Master Room given to him by the Pub’s co-owner, Drasx. Revealing a large open room filled with various tools, mechanism, and books filled with unknown knowledge sat upon selves filling the room, some still sat in piles where the original owner had left off. Dust collected in the air from the years of neglect, cobwebs littered every possible corner. The energies in the room were special to this room feeling as if it belonged to a lost time. A large Crystal sat in the center of the room illuminating the surrounding area, the arcane sifted through the air pressing against the two as Sugn made his way over to the dusty table that sat in the right corner of the room adjacent to the entrance. His brown leather pack with his sample jars sprawled out across the table. A few remained in their overturned position forgotten after his encounter with the Fox Mask now bound to his face. Fixing this oversight he hurried to straighten the contents. “Take a seat, Oh…” he paused letting off a loud belch. “Just don’t break anything, I’m still looking over the contents of this room.” Slowly he worked his way over to the Head chair it was padded with long purple fur sinking into its fluff. If someone would have told me such an Armchair existed I would have never sat in another before this. He sighed, then promptly propped his head upon his shoulder awaiting an answer. You best keep your eye on the Necro Boi… For I have a task for you.. The Alien Voice echoed among his thoughts. Sund shifted his eyes over to the millipede like creatures twisting around in one of the jars. “What can you tell me about these creatures here, since you have already experienced the life cycles of these creeps of this island.” He shifted in his seat sinking a little further into his seat of comfort. “I may not be human, but I know when one seeks adventure. I seek the ultimate freedom, and as you see I’m as free to do as I please here on this island and in this Pub… Now what is it you have to offer?”
  10. [Quest] Crimson tears

    Thanks to all the participants! Before we start, a few notices. All normal rules for questing apply: if you don't respond to the thread within 72 hours from the last post when it's your turn, you forfeit the quest. The remaining characters will press on and hopefully complete it. We will post in order, according to our reply to the thread in the water cooler. Therefore the designated order is: LordYalet (me), Sétanta the Hound, Rolynight and Unkawaii. I have a plot in mind already and I will try to direct the quest towards the intended conclusion, giving more insights each time it's my turn to post. Also, please read a bit about the lore of Mageside before posting. Lastly, please read carefully what players write and try not to ignore others' actions. Also remember that you need to justify whatever skills your character uses, as he/she needs to be coherent with his/her profiles and with the lore. For Rachel, since we already met at the tavern, assume our characters are at least acquainted with each other. Ah! Mageside City! Probably the most magnificent work of art and magic I have ever seen! Kelnor was ecstatic about this new location. Mageside was everything he could ever desire and a hundred times more. It was home to one of the most renowned academies of all Valucre and hosted a library so vast and grand any scholar of the world would kill for. The sheer amount of knowledge condensed in that relatively small space made it a wonder to be discovered little by little. A visiting traveler could literally spend each day in a different point of interest, be it a store, a cathedral or any building of the academy, and an entire year would not be sufficient for him to visit it all. Not by a long shot. Despite the severity of his task, Kelnor allowed himself a break, since he arrived in the city a few days earlier precisely for this purpose. It was really a shame he had to keep a low profile for the whole time. He was longing to buy pretty much anything he saw, from the latest edition of "Cobalt Contraptions and their Applications" to that amazing Recursive Alembic on exposure in a quite shady store near the corner. Unfortunately, duty called, and it was a rather stern call to be honest. The matter at hand seemed quite grave, thus needed to be dealt with immediately. Nevertheless, Mr. Finch had been quite laconic in his appreciation for this case and assured Kelnor that all details would be provided in due time by the archmage in person. Kelnor and Mr. Finch were total strangers to each other. That is, until a month ago, when Vaddok randomly mentioned the man in a casual conversation at the bar, while discussing about recent available contracts. Vaddok was a great man, a milestone for any adventurer, traveler or bounty hunter of the entire country; with a plethora of connections that not even kings can claim, he knew personally pretty much any relevant persona in Valucre. Mr. Finch was no exception. Given the occasion to work for such a notorious man and the opportunity to visit this majestic city, Kelnor readily put himself up for the task. The challenges he tackled to be granted the privilege to work on the contract weren't exactly easy, nor friendly. In that situation, he learnt the reason behind the man's reputation: he produced results, great results. He was the absolute best at picking the right person for the right job. That's why the high spheres of the Arcane East trusted him so much. Only one thing Kelnor knew for certain: he had to be at the Doubtful Jaguar after nightfall, tonight. There he would meet the other three assigned agents, together with their contact from within the academy. He was already there, ten minutes early. The tavern appeared like a small unassuming building, almost comically encased between two larger structures. The front door faced a narrow shady alley that was probably the favorite spot of murderers and thieves. What a fine location for our first meeting. He burned a tiny amount of silver, feebly and slowly, and let it on. I like to trust people, I really do. But... maybe for tonight I'll put this attitude of mine on hold for a bit. Just until tomorrow, I swear. Silver made his senses more keen, his brain faster and his reaction times smaller. Granted, burning it so weakly didn't give any relevant advantage but it acted more like a probe, in case something unfortunate happened. He opened the door with confidence and was welcomed by a though smell of shoddy rhum, accompanied by a quite romantic ephemeral magelight that barely lit the uninviting features of a dozen patrons. A knife flew towards his head and he moved by a fraction of inch, just enough to avoid it. "Ye 'ave t' excuse them, sir. Playful are me guests tonight. But that's all among mateys, rest assured.", the bartender welcomed him with a rather toothless smile and what was left of a beard. "Of course, of course, good man. No fault given. How about you fill my glass with some of your most expensive liquor, eh?" Kelnor replied with a courteous look and a nice smile that looked way out of place there... too many teeth in a single mouth. He sat in a table far off the corner where the magelight didn't reach, and waited for his contacts to arrive. @Sétanta the Hound @Rolynight @Unkawaii
  11. There were some things about the world of the land-dwellers that could not be explained through lessons. There was the song of the birds; There was the taste of freshly cooked meat, and the warmth that a fire provided during the cold, lonely nights; there was the scent of wild flowers, fragrant and seductive, tickling one’s nostrils ever so lightly; And there was the arrogance of the land-dwellers, who thought themselves entitled to the world around them and never took a moment to value how easy their existence was… But most of all, the King on the Waves thought as he looked up, there was the Sun. How could the sun be explained to those who had lived a lifetime without it? How could books explain the gentle, lover-like caress of sunlight, or how life for the land-dwellers was ruled by the Sun’s rise and fall? But most of all... How many generations had paid for his father’s mistake and had never known the warmth of the sun, or held their loved ones under a tree as they basked in the sweet comfort of sunlight. Without thinking, Rxychra wrapped his fingers around the delicate golden necklace he always worn around his neck and sighed as memories of his lost love flooded him. He had been alive for nearly four centuries, but there were certain memories that stood out more than others. Memories of her. He had long accepted that he had to live on for his people. Long accepted that the weight of his mantle meant that he had to put aside the grief that always darkened a part of his heart. But… It had been in one of those warm, sunny days that he had asked Myra to marry him. Not for the first time the man began to question his actions, but banished the thoughts from his mind with a steely resolve. Today was a day for celebration. After ten years of watching the land-dwellers, it was time to come home. Rxychra Alrandwe di Firdana, the King on the Waves, was finally returning to his people after a decade and he could feel the warring emotions rising in his chest as the thoughts of his subjects, friends, and family flooded his mind. Closing his eyes the man felt the salt-scented breeze as it caressed his skin, embracing him as if to welcome him home. He felt a small, muted smile play on his lips as he opened his silver eyes and gazed at the blue horizon before him. It had taken no small amount of coaxing for the merchant vessel to deviate from its’ route, but in the end Rxychra had gotten his way. The King liked to think it was his charm that had led them to change their hearts, but… But he had glimpsed himself in a mirror before. Standing at 7’0” and heavily built with muscle, Rxychra had garnered his fair share of looks in his travels. Whether it had been because of his odd, silver eyes, or the multitude of blue hues in his hair, or the countless scars on his bared chest and arms, men and women had looked at him often enough in suspicion, curiosity, and even desire. Clad in simple black pants mostly covered by the heavy mithril, steel, and electrum net that was always in his person, the man had elected to forego shoes and shirts, bearing most of his torso saved for that which was covered by the hand-wrought leather pauldron he wore over his left arm and the thick matching leather glove, while his right arm and shoulder emitted a constant seafoam green light of its’ own as the tattooed design seemed to ebb and flow with the ocean’s tides. Sitting in taverns at night, he had heard more than one hushed inquiries as to who and what the man actually was. Ironically enough, the most outlandish humor was the closest to being true: According to one drunken, filthy man, he was a traveling runaway slave who had killed his master and now sought his place in the world. Normally, Rxychra would’ve taken note of the man and imparted choice words upon him… But his story had been so near accuracy that he found himself laughing instead. There were a couple of things to be said about the soft, craven minds of the land-dwellers: As idiotic as they were, their tales were quite creative… And they made fine, fine ale. It seemed that no matter where his feet had taken him in his travels, those two statements were held as truth. He had seen much of what humanity had to offer in his travels, and it left a sour taste in his mouth. It seemed that since the demise of his empire, humanity had sunk as far as the Nymerians had. Devoid of honor, loyalty, and courage, the dregs that lived in the world above thrived on backstabbing, plotting, and deceiving one another. Cooperation was nearly inexistent as they attempted to get ahead of one another, unless it served their own purposes. Ruled by their currency, people’s days seemed to rise and fall in search of more coin… And their rulers. Their Kings. The filth that saw themselves as fit to rule over others had enraged him more than anything else. Weak, arrogant, and unable to look after themselves, they placed their needs ahead of those whom they ruled over… And after observing blood being spilled over and over again over petty squabbles, Rxychra had come to a conclusion: If humanity’s avarice was a symptom, those who ruled over the weak cattle that roamed the lands were the source of the disease. And that left Nymeria’s purpose clear. Broken out of his mental reverie by the cries of the sailors below Rxychra began the descent from his perch at the mast, attempting to find the source of the threat. He watched the sailors scramble around him, seeking their harpoons and mumbling incoherently about a beast tailing their ship. Arching an eyebrow, Rxychra wrapped his gloved fingers around the vajra that hung beneath his net and began to head toward the back of the ship, where the sailors readied themselves to fight the ‘beast’. For a moment, he felt himself slipping back into the old warrior mindset… Until he spotted the “imminent threat” that had the entire ship in such a commotion, and he found himself smiling once again as he slipped his vajra back into place. Rising from beneath the waves was a familiar fin pierced by a golden ring. Belatedly, he watched as one of the men pointed his harpoon toward the approaching figure, and he sprung forward, grabbing the sharpened tip with his gloved hand and throwing his elbow back toward the man’s face, hearing a satisfying crunch upon impact. “Cease. The shark will do you no harm, boy.” Rxychra said quietly, silver eyes challenging them to do otherwise as he moved to stand between the creature and the harpoons. Nodding toward one of the sailors that he had come to trade stories with, Rxychra reached for the bag of golden coins he had kept beneath the net and tossed it to him. “Fetch my effects. I fear we will be parting now.” Moments later the man returned with a large pack, approaching Rxychra carefully and handing them off without looking him in the eye. Snorting quietly to himself, the man placed his belongings against his back and stood atop of the edge of the ship. Nodding toward the sailors, the King on the Waves jumped into the water, satisfied by the sheer amount of gasping sounds he left in his wake as he swam toward the hulking figure they had been so alarmed about. Reaching with his right hand, the man felt the rough skin of the shark’s nose beneath his palm and touched his forehead to his affectionately. “Hello, old friend.” Rxychra said gently as he pressed his lips to the shark’s forehead, feeling the vibrations coming from his old companion Pyxiz. Through their bond, he could hear his companion’s excitement at their reunion and found himself equally pleased. After a moment, the King moved to the side as he felt the shark submerge once more and position himself beneath the king. Holding fast against the shark with his legs, and wrapping his right hand against its’ dorsal fin, Rxychra was pulled under as the shark began to dart forward… And he realized how much he had missed the ocean. He felt the air in his lungs replaced by the water, the saltiness of the ocean around him and for the first time in ten years he felt himself again. Being connected to his domain once again felt like a second breath of life. Exhaustion he had become accustomed to, years of aches and pains that had riddled him, and the disquieted palpitations of unease his heart had felt from being separated from the ocean seemed to be washed away by the currents even as his eyes readjusted themselves to the darkness beneath the waves. He was almost home… And with home there came a host of people he had not seen for nearly a decade. He was sure of what awaited him when he reached the city, because of the reaction he had received from his brother upon sending word of his return: In true Nymerian form, his family sent word of a Festival that was to take place with his arrival. Which worried him. Immensely. It had been a long time since Rxychra had seen those who he called family in either blood or at heart… And he had hoped for a more private affair, despite the traditions of his people. He had always found joy in the… Primal aspects of Nymerian parties, but after a decade above land the only balm he sought for his tired soul was the company of those who had fueled the spark in his soul that kept him walking forward. There were his siblings, with whom he had corresponded with most often. There was his son, who despite his racial differences had turned out to be more Nymerian than many people he had met. There was the albino beauty that headed the Meraki Clan, and with whom he had found he shared a bond of interest in the arts. There were his soldiers of the Land Invasion Legion… And then there was Juni. Juni, who had cared for him when he was wounded. Juni, who had stood by his side as a friend when he needed, a confidant when his burdens got too heavy to bear alone. Juni… Who had presented him to his mate. With the ghost of the crooked smile that was a constant companion to his features and a small, mischievous glint in his eyes, Rxychra gently tugged at Pyxiz’s fin, directing him to change its’ course toward away from the main citadel and toward the peripheries of the city. It had been years since he had last laid eyes in the city, but he recognized it like the back of his hand. Ten years might have been a long time while traveling amidst the land-dwellers… But for his people, ten years were almost the blink of an eye. For all the time that had passed since he was gone, it seemed that aside from a few minute differences in landscape and the ever-growing addition of more lodgings. In the back of his mind, the King noted all of that as the warring feelings of nervousness and excitement overtook him once more. The Faliga still stood where it once had been, a majestic collection of large tents that had housed the Healers away from the city’s busy throng for centuries while they trained. After training was complete, he had learned, they were free to find other lodging as they saw fit… But Juni had never left. Dedicated to her craft, and one of the youngest Nymerians to have become head Healer at that, she had always resided in the same spacious, abnormally colorful tent. Pushing himself off of Pyxiz, the king placed a hand against the animal’s head and nodded toward him. “I’ll see you at home, old friend. Go let my siblings know that their wayward king is back.” He muttered quietly as he shouldered his pack once more and began to swim toward the collection of tents. Without looking back, he felt the shark poke its’ nose against his right arm again with something of a concerned expression on its’ face. Chuckling quietly, the king turned around and touched his forehead against his old companion’s. “No, Pyxiz… I won’t be gone for long again. I promise. Go on, now.” Appeased, the shark pulled its’ head away from the King on the Waves and began to make its’ way toward the capital. For a moment, Rxychra smiled after Pyxiz and remembered a time long ago where the shark had been gifted to him by his son. Not longer than his forearm, the shark had taken to following him around no matter where he went. In many ways, Pyxiz was as much his son as Q’myha’myha… With the only difference being that he had gotten to actually raise this one. Throughout his travels and his battles, he had never been parted from the shark for so long, and his reluctance to leave was almost endearing. Watching the familiar figure fade as it approached the old alabaster Wall of the Ancients, Rxychra turned back toward the collection of tents and resumed his swimming. Landing at the edge of the precipice that house the collection of tents where the Healers resided, Rxychra began to quietly make his ways through the tents. It had been far too long since he had even written to Juni, so he was unsure of what would be waiting for him in her tent. Had she found a mate? Had she grown to resent him for being gone for so long? Lost in his thoughts, he was surprised when his feet had taken him exactly where he had meant to go. Hesitantly, the man pulled back the curtained entrance to his old friend’s abode and stepped through. It took him a moment for his eyes to adapt to the change in lighting, but it seemed like some things remained the same no matter how much time had passed. Brightly colored and spacious, Juni’s tent was a true testament to the woman’s personality: Vibrant, full of life, and extremely welcoming. He brushed his hand against the soft, crimson satin walls of the tent, decorated by neat embroideries and lined with her sparse belongings. He felt no small amount of joy in seeing the gifts he had sent her over the years displayed on the far wall from him. Quietly, he made his way toward the wall of gifts he had given her, brushing the first totem he had ever carved reverently with his fingers. He shook his head in disbelief at the fact she had kept it for so long… Hearing a rustling from his right side, Rxychra spun around in search of the intruder only to be faced by the sleeping form of his friend. He felt a smile tug at the corner of his lips as his friend twisted in her bed, turning from the wall and facing him as she slept. For a moment Rxychra was hesitant to move, afraid of waking her. So he settled for looking her over. Light skinned and boasting of delicate, well-hewn features Juni was a sight to behold even by Nymerian standards. With hair as dark as her skin was fair, the healer was commonly sought after by hopeful suitors. Built tiny and oftentimes underestimated, Rxychra had watched a fair share of people attempt to take advantage over her, only to be utterly shamed when they realized they had bitten off more than they could chew. There were not enough words to describe what she meant to him, however. She had been his rock, his healer, his friend, and for a brief period of time she had almost become the one whom he had chosen. But it had not been meant to be. For a moment, Rxychra was conflicted in between waking her up or not… But in the end, he knew how tiring her job was. He knew how much of herself she put into it every single day. With his decision made, the man shrugged off his backpack and placed it gently on the floor beside him before sitting down and sighing. It had not hit him until then, but after nearly twenty-four hours of traveling he found that weariness had finally found him. Tilting his head toward his friend’s sleeping frame, Rxychra watched her for several hours before his own eyes became progressively heavier. Dimly, he remembered with no small amount of amusement that the last time he had managed to get a good night’s sleep wasn’t much different than this. Finally losing the ability to rationalize, the King on the Waves slipped into a deep, relaxed sleep with one final thought. He was home at last.
  12. The room smelled sour. Part of this was due to the people. One might think a public conference on the future of magic would call for a more cerebral audience. Scholars and the like. Instead the room was comfortably packed with the head and shoulders of Blairville's proletariat. Here, of all places, the arcane was not some far-removed field of academic interest. It was the means and life-blood of the people. This smell was the smell of their sweat, the proof of their labor. Also it was hot – there was little natural ventilation in the underground conference room beneath the Inn de Clairmont, one of the few venues which could accommodate a gathering of their size at next to no cost. Blairville was not in such a state that dissent reaped punitive action, and so the people gathered without fear of reprisal from the government. Gatherings like this one numbered into the dozens, advertised on posters and public access channels, organized by special interest groups from either side of the dividing line. That in mind, if one did not have to fear government intervention, the dissonance between local guilds and unions was another matter entirely. Near the main entrance was a folding table, on which rested a spread of edible, lukewarm, somewhat tempting appetizers. Next to the dishes were pots of coffee, bowls of punch, and clay jugs of water. Beyond the snack table and deeper into the room were rows of cheap, uncomfortable, but inarguably functional chairs. Past that was the raised stage, on it was a podium, and behind the podium was a man. "Okay so tell me this. When is enough, going to be enough!" A hybrid offspring between a Shawnee human ad a Kharn elf, the man's coloration evoked a semblance of concrete. He slammed his hand onto the podium, punctuating his sentence with all the strength his stony skin suggested. "I'll give it to you. Maybe they're just too fat and happy to see that the only people a law affects are the law-abiding citizens, that all they're doing is making it harder for good, honest people to defend themselves. But I don't feel comfortable letting some bigwig's short-sightedness cost me my life! How about you?!" The uproar of support drowned him out, even despite the presence of overhead speakers. When the cheers ebbed away the man was already partway through the next leg of his speech. " – every would-be criminal mage on a spree targets places like schools? Markets? Dance clubs? Why don't they ever target libraries? Guildhalls? Places where everyone and their mother and aunty know the people inside of it will blast you to Gaia and back? Huh?! You tell me!" The man had more to say, but he was wary. He knew that if he started talking about what the government could be planning with the database of registered magic users, or the compulsory certification of all its law enforcement officials, that he might turn the audience as sour as this room. He would have to tread that water slowly and carefully, lest he undo all the zeal he'd manage to gather for his cause. OOC thread I had a much longer post written out but decided it was a better move to split it up so characters could be introduced earlier on in the scene. Your character is in the audience – how and why is up to you. In your introductory post please touch on your character's needs and desires, with everything else unveiled in as little or much detail as you like whenever you like. I just want to establish a reference point as the thread develops.
  13. A lost man on the right path Roman never been the best at orienting himself, especially in areas where close to no webs were present. To him, it was like missing one of his senses, something guiding him to interesting points or areas of importance. Perhaps roaming the forest was not the greatest idea he ever had. He had enough supplies to last for a while, but at this point he had absolutely no idea where he was going. It was only when he finally spotted the fleeting image of a rogue web that he smiled once more. Someone was here... or something. He swallowed. He realized that this web could literally be stuck to an infinite possibility of things. But it was too hard for him to ignore it. It was finally a familiar sight in this hostile world, and everything in his body pushed him to follow it, even if he felt fear. He picked up the pace, getting closer and closer to the source. As time went on, the fear went away as he was instead filled with determination. He had to figure out what was linked to this. And this is when he reached the source....
  14. Biazo was by far the strangest location in Terrenus Nur had visited thus far. The people here seemed to speak a wildly warped dialect of the Terran language that made it even more difficult for him, already a newcomer to civilized speech, to understand. The boat captain who ferried him here had been just as bad, eventually relegated to hand gestures and other motions to get his orders across. That in itself wasn't everything. What really shunted this whole island into a full blown stage of peculiarity from his point of view were the scents. Despite the fact that the destructive necromantic influence that once gripped this place had been dealt with, his nose could still sniff out brief pangs of rot in the air, subdued as they might be. The waltz of life and death among the various organisms here seemed one sided, with life reigning prevalent. In the end, the imbalance between each of those powerful forces was unnerving. Right now, he disapproved of how nature seemed to coddle the living, something he viewed as a way of enabling fragility of the wild life but because he didn't step foot here during the necromantic blight, he was completely oblivious to the terror of when death reigns supreme. The cave was simpler. After helping a farmer write his land in preparation for seeding, a task that so far appeared to be universally shared throughout Terrenian territories and with which he was already very familiar, Nur was asked by one of the villagers in the town to investigate a mine. A group of "minahs" had stopped communicating and must be in danger. He was to find them and, if they were injured, bring as many of them back to their families as possible. When he entered the cave, both of his ears angled ahead to capture the rumblings of anything that he might be approaching. His eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared, sniffing in quick repeated bursts as he turned his head in different directions in an attempt to paint a picture of his environment using his olfactory and hearing senses before having to use his eyes. Various different scents crossed his perception, the first notable of which being a large pick axe, its shaft protruding from a rail car. Taking it into his hands, he examined the axehead, pausing momentarily to stare at it before taking a few soft bites of its surface, teeth clinking in response. It was metal, much better than stone from what he had learned since leaving his tribe. More importantly, it was heavy, and therefore perfectly at home in his hands. The head wedge also seemed nice and sturdy as well. He finally encountered the scent of human flesh by following the smell of burning wood. There were torches lined up along some of the walls, still burning and casting the entire area in light, and that was where he found them. He approached a group of unconscious miners who lay unmoving on the floor and could smell the sickness in their skin before ever laying eyes on them. As he knelt over one of the bodies, leaning in closely to sniff the welts and the moss that was beginning to cover them, he sneered and exhaled out of his nose to expunge the stench while his ears constantly angled in different directions, monitoring the surrounding area very closely. Nur thought he had a pretty good idea of what was happening here but that was hardly any of his business. He was here to get these men out of here and back to safety, as deplorable as it was to deprive superior predators from their hard earned bounties.
  15. Landfall.

    A lone man stood atop one of the many nameless peaks of the Cold Mountains. Shorter than the mighty Ruzhal, less enchanting than the mystical Tyrin, and depopulated unlike the inviting Eira, it was nevertheless a good mountain. The snow was soft, fresh, and the weather was fair: a quiet overcast of iron gray that stretched on, vanishing into a black horizon. The wind was inexplicably calm, settled—but whenever it stirred, weaving through the high peaks and combing the low valleys, small flurries of snow and frost danced around his ankles to its whisper. To any of the mountain’s denizens, the man standing there in the snow would have been inappropriately dressed for such a harsh climate. He was clad in black silk that shimmered in the gray, filtered sunlight, and rippled wildly at the slightest touch of the wind. The thin material hugged his figure loosely at the arms, and legs, but held tight at the waits, chest, and shoulders, favoring his breadth. And though bare at the hands and feet, the man in black neither shivered nor trembled from the cold. “You’ve kept me waiting,” the man in black said. Closing his eyes, he dug his toes deep into the snow, smiling. “I thought you might show some punctuality for once.” The Cold Mountains was their home, his home. It hadn’t always been this way, of course, but the man in black had learned a special appreciation for the mystic chain after his ascension. It was the blood of the High Lords that flowed through his veins, he knew; and though his might was not shackled to the sprawling continent below as theirs was, he was never more powerful than when he stood upon the land of his second birth, his ascension. Perhaps that is why his host had chosen this place? If this meeting were to turn harsh, the Cold Mountains provided the closest setting to neutral grounds. Or they had, at one time. Opening his eyes, the man in black leveled a red gaze on the shadow across from him, further along the mountain’s crest. His eyes were darker than any blood, soaked so heavy in color and power they were nearly black. They were the same eyes he’d last seen before that infinite black, only to be reborn some hours later, and yet this time they held neither the same wicked intent nor malice. Eyes that once seemed to look upon the shadow with admiration, respect, and a firm sense of equality now seemed to look down from highest reaches of ascension, as a man might an ant before he crushed it beneath his heel. “What is it, Ryzerus?” The man in black asked.
  16. Chance encounters

    @Tia Dalma A'aria had been travelling in the forests for months now. It was difficult not to run into people on occasion, but she found it was far less than most other forms of travel. While just a few short months ago, she would have jumped at the chance to meet anyone new, now she hesitated at the chance. The tattoos on her arm were the reason- each a member of the Rose Offensive, each having vanished without a trace. She assumed they were still alive- the tattoos would turn faded if they hadn't. But wherever they were, she could not reach them. Still, her insatiable curiosity could only be dimmed, not fully erased. The few people she ran across, she struggled not to question, to ask who they were and what things were like for them, and if they had any stories that would leave her wide eyed to hear. And there were- there was a half dragon, half human man who had been incredibly kind and curious as well, and there was the odd woman who seemed to forget- or ignore- everything she heard and was told only to turn back to her work. Their stories had eased her need to stay away from people, whether she liked it or not. The forest she was in now was full of magic. A'aria could feel it in the leaves, the branches of the trees, the roots and the flowers and the very air she breathed. It was not quite as much as in her home forest, but it was still more than most she had encountered. And, curiosity drawing her forwards, she continued through it, looking for some kind of source. She could reach out with her magic and locate it immediately if she wanted, but there was something about doing it the human way, trekking through the woods and taking it all in with only her senses, that held a certain charm.
  17. Prey for Predators

    After six weeks at sea, it was the knock of one of his men that had brought him out of his quiet, meditative state that morning as the dulcet tones of water splashing the hull had helped the assassin maintain his trance through the clamorous cacophony that accompanied the gathering of pirates in the ship. Feeling entirely too restless, Aquill Therryon rose to his feet fluidly and knelt before his bed, his body still bare as he went through the ritual that had been ingrained in him after countless years of battle. Almost reverently, the master assassin reached into his bag and brought out two large, rectangular wooden boxes and a small square metal and wood box sealed by lock. Running his fingers through the notches of wood that served as both puzzle and lock, rearranging certain pieces until the wood mosaic displayed the image of two clashing swords engulfed in what appeared to be wind. Gently, the raven haired man brought out a long-sleeved blackened gray leather vest complete with a hood, and a matching set of trousers. Identical to the set he had originally worn in the years after he had won his freedoms from the arena, the assassin’s garb had been altered for functionality in these current times. Running his fingers through the inside of the lining of the leather set, Aquill could feel the stiff silkiness of the kevlar as he pulled the snug pants up his legs. Looking at the small regulation mirror at the desk that had served as his own, he took a moment to look over the scars of his torso before pulling the tight leather vestments over his head. Stuck in the darkness that came with pulling the leather vest over his head, Aquill could’ve sworn that he could hear the cheering of the arenas, and could smell the metallic scent of blood accentuated by sweat and piss that seemed to always accompany his ludus. He could faintly hear the sounds of men praying, uncertain of whether they prayed for a swift end or a glorious victory. For a moment, he was just another warrior in the arena… And just as swiftly, the opulent silence of his cabin overtook him once more as he pulled his head through the leather vest and began to tighten the various belts on his sleeves and ankles that concealed the dozen throwing knives that had been made specifically for his hand. Shaking his head as if he could rid himself physically of the realization that he had been thrust into a world that was not his own without any explanation, Aquill turned toward the two rectangular boxes and felt a small smile tug at the corner of his lips. Opening both boxes with exceeding gentleness, the assassin revealed his oldest possessions. Sitting in their nest of silken cloth a set of unadorned black sheathes that housed his dual kopis, sharpened and ready for combat, laid in wait as the assassin pulled them up individually, inspecting both blades before he put them in the bed and pulled out a blackened gray utility belt lined with his gun’s holster at his left hand, followed by a small pocket for clips, six individual silk-encased apertures for his black eggs, and straps for the blades at the back of his belt. Tightening the belt around his waist, Aquill began to arm his belt, carefully placing the frail black eggs in their individual pouches, fixing the gun and its’ clips in their individual openings, and finally fixing the blades at their usual place before turning toward the oboe case that had been singularly untouched his entire trip. Undoing its’ latches, Aquill pulled out his 24 arrow quiver and began to fill it out mechanically, used to the task that had become almost second nature over his years of hunting. Placing three regular arrows at the small quiver that had been attached to his bow for quick draw, Aquill slid the quiver onto his back and tightened the strap, causing it to hug his body and placing the arrows within easy reach of his right hand, before sliding the bow across his left side, strapping it in place. Aquill closed his eyes for a moment, feeling the beginnings of an adrenaline spike as the familiar, comfortable weight of his gear settled in and he mentally readied himself for the hunt that was ahead of him. Stepping out of the cabin, the storm spirit’s eyes narrowed into slits as he accustomed himself to the harsh lighting of mid-noon’s sun as his eyes drank in the sights of the cityscape and he felt… Unimpressed. Something about the city seemed too pristine. Too pure. And in his experience, that’s when the rot was set at its’ deepest. Hopping lithely over the ship, Aquill snorted to himself with a mirthless smile before pulling the half-mask that covered the bottom half of his face before he pulled up his hood. In his experience, the less people who remembered his face, the better. For hours, the assassin walked through the streets of the city, the pit at his stomach only deepening in breadth as he observed sheer amount of guards that the city boasted of. In his weeks of research whilst on the boat, he had become acquainted with the martial prowess of the members of the Invictus Army, and of their ruthless methodology. From what he had understood, fear of them and their brand of justice was what had kept the city’s criminal scum on their toes. Out of all the possible choices for missions, Coastal Grande had not been his favored choice of assignment. In a city fraught with brutally efficient guards, a booming economy, and constant tourism, assassination was what most would call a foolhardy attempt. But with the amount of gold in his reserves running low, the cadre of assassins trying to recruit him, and the stupendous payout that the job would yield, Aquill had decided that taking the contract would be the quickest way to balance his ledger. And besides… He was the best in the business. Reaching into his belt Aquill pulled up the piece of parchment that was hidden in one of his many pockets, the assassin unfolded the paper that had been neatly delivered to him by one of his many contract brokers. Scrawled in tight, shaky handwriting were only a few different lines: “Lord Siegfried Rasmussen” “Sex Slave Ring” “Housed in Rich District” “Will be in the town’s square at 3:00 AM for the new shipment.” Frowning to himself and casting an accusatory glance toward the Sun, Aquill sighed to himself and pinched the bridge of his nose. Weeks at the ocean hadn’t lent anything to the pent-up frustration that had been slowly building in his in the pits of his stomach, gnawing at him as the hunger threatened to overtake him. Shaking his head, the former gladiator turned assassin pushed his baser feelings back down, and began to make his way toward one of the seedier inns he had spotted in the poorer parts of the towns as he chewed over the information he had gathered as he paced around the town and began to formulate his plan. Crossing the dilapidated threshold of the inn charmingly named Whore’s Boot, Aquill looked around the at the rough sorts it called patron, and raised an eyebrow as a man began to size him up, noticed the look in his eyes, and looked away. With a small snort of derision, the storm spirit went over to the man minding the bar and exchanged a few words with him before slipping him a couple of gold coins and grabbing a small copper key. Making his way up the stairs, the man headed toward the end of the hall and made his way into a rather bare room, equipped with its’ own private bath and a full size bed. Locking the door behind himself the man pulled down his half-mask and hood, not even bothering to remove his weapons as he collapsed into the bed, exhausted. ______________________________________________ Sitting up with a lurching motion, Aquill’s electric blue eyes snapped open as he attempted to control his breathing. Running a hand through his short raven colored tresses, the assassin attempted to shake off the remainders of the nightmare that had come to him. Frowning, Aquill shook his head and began to focus on his breathing, pushing the… Memories away from the forefront of his mind as he glanced at the clock that hung from the cracked wooden walls. 2:40. It was time. Pushing himself to his feet, the storm spirit began to head toward the door… Only to stop halfway through as he eyed the wide window with a small smile. Pulling his hood over his head, the man pushed the creaking windows open, and perched himself atop of the window sill. He could feel the light breeze, carrying the slight salty scent of the ocean and for a moment he felt himself almost at peace as he allowed his senses to expand and touch upon the wind currents once more. Without hesitation, the man stepped out of the window and felt the air around him speed up as, for the first time since he had gotten into the accursed boat, he allowed himself to fly in the cover of the night. He pushed himself forward through the sky with his body feeling lighter than it had for a while as he made his way toward the rendezvous point.Closing his eyes, the storm spirit allowed the euphoria of flight to overtake him, if only for a moment. In his tenure in the realm of Valucre, he had found that there was little pleasure that had compared to losing himself in the embrace of the air currents. For a moment he allowed himself to put away the cold, callous mask which he had learned to wear so many years ago and just let himself be free. Free of the lascivious hunger that gnawed at his insides. Free of the concerns about the job. Free of… Everything. Everything but the embrace of the Wind Gods... … And just as quickly as it came, the feeling left him as he approached his destination. Once again wearing the mask of the assassin, Aquill landed on the rooftop that directly oversaw the square’s main entrance. Closing his eyes for a moment, the assassin expanded his senses around himself and forced himself to truly hear. Beneath, he could hear the cacophony of sounds of merriment, conversation, fighting… Everything that encompassed a gathering of human beings, in short. Snapping his eyes open, Aquill focused himself upon the figure that approached the square. Tall, well garbed, and youthful, the man fit the descriptions he had heard about his target. Silently, Aquill removed his bow from his shoulders, gripping it tightly with his right hand as he pulled two of the arrows from its’ portable quiver, stringing one into his bow and holding the other in between his ring finger and middle finger. Stringing the arrow into his bow, Aquill Therryon took a deep breath and awaited confirmation with a savage smile beneath his black mask. Tonight, he was preying on predators…
  18. Ace

    Epithet: The night fury Moniker: Ace Walker Title: New Swordsman looking for master Visual Age: 21 Race: Human Alignment: Evil Gender: Male Class: Swordsman physiology Hair: Black Eyes: Red Height: 6-0 Weight: 160 lbs. Build: Skinny, Fast clothing • Black robe skills • Magic, Swords, dual wielding inventory • Two swords Black robe Blaster Book of spells Food Water
  19. [Feel free to gm any NPC that appears in this post and add any char/NPC(s) you wish to this scene.] A river of tepid blood courses through the street gutters, the soft glow of neon lights playing upon it as it cascades into the dank tunnels buried deep below the streets. Bloodcurdling screams cut short by the chilling crunch of bones snapped in twain followed by quiet fizzing echo through the deserted street. Well-appointed stalls and overturned carts from which vendors hawked their wares to passersby mere minutes before stand empty. Food chars on unmanned appliances, cloaking the area in a stifling black haze. Miscellaneous items are haphazardly scattered across the ground - belongings abandoned in people's haste to evacuate the area before the quarantine went into full effect. This is no night to embark on a leisurely stroll through the night market, no matter how tempting this evening's pickings may be. There were those who did not heed the blaring sirens, those who were blind to the flashing lights and indifferent to the panic. Had their prudence overridden their avarice, Nirvana's morticians and gravediggers would not have the pleasure of pawing at half as many corpses a week hence. Looters and shopkeepers fell upon the cold stone, indistinguishable in death though they were anything but in life. Each death was more gruesome than the last. The first was dragged into the darkness by sticky, yellow tendrils which crept out of a shadowy recess. The second was pushed through the whirling blades of a large fan. The third was flattened by a gaudy sign which had been relieved of its cylindrical steel supports. The twelfth victim has just been claimed. He had almost reached the energy barrier Nirvana's security force had erected around the area when he plummeted to the pavement. His spine and shoulder blades were exposed as the skin on his back sloughed off with a dreadful hiss that would haunt the reporters who had converged on the street like a murder of carrion crows for weeks to come. Even after he drew his last breath, he continued his flesh continued to hiss and sputter. At the rate he was melting, it would be a miracle if enough of him remained for a proper burial at dawn's first light. What began as a slow news night had, in the blink of an eye, evolved into spectacle that folks would be yapping about for next month, and although all eyes were glued to the street, the population's response to the incident was mixed. It was yellow and it was dangerous. No, it was more than dangerous - it was a menace! These two attributes were all that informed citizens' opinions on the situation. The pit fights at the Abyss were on hold - customers were more interested in betting on the number of people the creature would drag down to hell before it was incapacitated than placing wagers on the meat in the pit. The preponderance of Nirvana's clones and masters feared it and what it represented. A clone, a bloody sanitation clone, was responsible for the wholesale slaughter of twelve naturals! This rabble-rouser could spark a rebellion among the more defiant clones if she wasn't dealt with swiftly, publicly, and brutally. A significant fraction of Nirvana's illicit slaves delighted in the bloodshed, viewing it as a righteous punishment for unworthy masters. There were others who opined that it signified nothing, that the dumb animal was only doing what its instincts demanded. Its function was recycling trash for Pete's sake, and to top things off, it was a prototype according to a statement issued by the company that owned it! This was the equivalent of a goat or a chicken going on a rampage! In reality, S.I.W.R. was terrified. The only world she had ever known was a 12 foot by 12 foot by 12 foot reflective, dim box. Hazardous junk rained from holes in her sky. Transparent tubes grew from her ground twice a month, draining the valuable chemicals she produced. No one lived there but her. One day, strange, shiny things that whirred and clicked entered her chamber. They prodded her with electrical batons until they had corralled her into a smaller box and sealed her inside. Without so much as giving her a chance to collect her meager belongings, they attempted to move her to a "newer facility." She escaped from them, burning her way out of her container and the truck carrying it and spilling out into this wide open space with all of these two-legged creatures that liked to shout at her. She had seen some of these two-legged things before, but never ones that moved and shouted. They were always quiet and still. There was something beautiful and mysterious about them, so she kept as many of them as she could in a corner of her box. She wanted to look like them. She made her skin tan when it wasn't raining and she dyed her eyes green. She was puzzled to find that some of the things had features that others didn't and that their second layer of skin came off if you pulled on it. She didn't understand most of the noises these ones made, so when some of them approached her with sticks, she got rid of them. Then, there were loud noises and the two-legged things started running and wailing and attacking each other. She didn't know what to do! She want this! Everything was too open. She felt like she could fall upward at any moment and there'd be nothing to stop her from floating away. She couldn't stay out in the open, and there were all of this foreign things she had never seen before all around her, some of which hurt her. Maybe if she got rid of them, things would be quiet again. Maybe if she recycled this stuff, everything would be normal again. Spying her reflection in a nearby mirror, S.I.W.R. decides to adopt a more humanoid form. Maybe they harsh lights and the loud noises will stop if she looks like them. She has trouble balancing in this form, so she sits down behind a stall to keep herself from toppling over just in time to hear the amassed security forces instruct her to give herself up.
  20. The Art of Acquisition

    November 21, Year of the Falcon— Today, I visit the North. It’s been a rather eventful set of weeks since my last entry. Between cleaning up that ugly business in Kadia, my dealings with Ser Paendrag, and orchestrating this audience with the Council of Coastal Grande, I’ve found incredibly little time to write. But our journey thus far has proven rather uneventful, much to my design, and Ser Paendrag is neither the most talkative nor engaging company when sober. We’ve been flying for little under an hour now, and Seven—our pilot—has informed me we’ve covered more than half of our journey already. It would seem the Everlinde’s schematics proved useful in the Artificers’ overhaul and modifying of the Ambrosia class prototype. Perhaps I’ll have Seven take us on the scenic route when returning to the Red City. It would be nice to finally see the Summer Isles, having read and heard so much about them. Though, I must admit to a worry of what influence La’Ruta may have on the ship. Initial reports seem to suggest that Orisia’s strange magic and technology-deadening atmosphere fluctuates, with its furthest reach of influence being documented along the Genesarian shore opposite of the islands themselves. Due to its adverse nature, it has been excruciatingly difficult—impossible—to study the La’Ruta phenomenon at length. Is it growing? And if so, is it exponential? Or is it more like the tides, merely adhering to the push and pull of some external force. Is La’Ruta even able to be studied, I wonder? Is it even possible to understand it, to comprehend it? Thoughts for a later time, I suppose. In lieu of possible spiritual enlightenment and scientific discovery, I will settle for the political gratification of acquiring the North. If half of what I’ve heard about the Northerners are true—namely their indomitable pride, which often borders on the lines of sheer arrogance—then this promises to be my most challenging venture yet. And who could blame them? For the longest time, the North’s army terrorized its Eastern and Southern sisters, raiding, pillaging, and plundering their fill before returning to the high plateaus and peaks of the northern coast. They have a strong, independent economy and are rely on no one other than themselves. But times have changed—Genesaris has changed. The East and South have become powerful nations unto themselves, and the Great North is no longer the fearsome threat it once was. The North’s loss of Mageside to the Empire is arguably the most significant achievement in imperial history, as it has since paved the road to this fateful meeting. Already, smaller northern cities and villages have seceded from the native government; whittling away, inch by inch, at the hold Coastal Grande retains over the land. The Council must seek that which is most beneficial for their people, and the people have spoken. Of course, no alliance—or annexation, for that matter—is ever entirely altruistic. The Empire has managed to become the monolith it is through diplomacy and peace, but that will not always be the case. There will be nations in the Midlands, perhaps in the West, that will choose war. While I find the idea of conflict particularly distasteful, it is my duty to the Empire to ensure it is ready to respond in kind. The Great North is far from defanged, and their army is indisputably revered as one of the greatest military forces to have ever existed within Genesaris. Their addition to the Imperial Host would prove invaluable, but more importantly, solidify the East’s position as the single most significant force in recent Genesarian history. The Kadians provide themselves as an unwitting accomplice in the pursuit of this goal, what with their rampant prejudice and racism. It’s an exciting bit, the God of Mankind, but one that stirs discomfort rather than soothes it. The Southern Emperor has made his edict known, and to be a subject of the South’s rule is to abide by their unrelenting conservative fanaticism. They are a threat, not only to the vast majority of non-humans—Xenos, I believe the Kadians call them—that call Genesaris home, and one I intend to take full advantage of. As it stands, the East is the high wall that shields the North from this vicious tyranny. But if we should falter, or perhaps even step aside, what would become of them then? The threat of total war and the possible extinction of one’s way of living is always a strong catalyst to inspire change in a man, but rarely can it be your only approach. Like in all things, you must need variety; you must combine that fear of loss with the certainty of profit, which is far more alluring in all regards. The Cold Mountains and the Great Barrier belong to the Empire, as do their near limitless wealth of resources. Few understood the genius of the Emperor’s selection of territory until the Umbral mining corporations, and artificer enterprises took root. The Empire’s fortune is one of great substance, and available to those within its fold. Coastal Grande is by no means impoverished, but even they wouldn’t be foolish enough to turn away such a lucrative investment. Then again, should the worst come to pass, I suppose we can always just take the North from them. We’ll see what they choose.
  21. The Adventure

    Red eyes stared at the door number marking one of the many classrooms that populated the Gaian Academy. The man staring at this number, Alexander Polybius, slowly lowered his eyes as he lifted a sheet of paper up. He eyes scanned over the schedule that he had been given with his most recent classes posted on big, bold, letters. Raising his head back up he nodded his head with a quick breath of air. This was the classroom that he was looking for, The Adventure course. As a mercenary, and at times a bounty hunter, it would seem as though taking such a course as an introduction to adventuring would be redundant for someone who had been in his field of work for as many years as he had. However, the fact of the matter was that one of the courses he had set his sights on required this class to have been taken before he could even attempt to sign up for it. That being said, Polybius had no qualms in sitting through a few lectures and going through a few miniscule adventures to move forward to his overall goals. Placing his schedule back between his hip protector and his hip itself, Polybius reached out and grasped the door handle before slowly opening the classroom with extreme caution. With the course being all about adventuring, survival and the like, the Spearman had no idea what to expect from the teacher. For all he knew there was a trap on the other side of the door waiting for him as his very first test. However, as the door fully swung open, he found that the interior was fairly empty except for the few students that lined the rows, patiently waiting as they went about various activities such as reading from books or studying for another course. Looking around, Polybius furrowed his eyebrows as he gave the room a double take. He couldn't see anyone that he could pinpoint as the teacher unless one of the people sitting in the rows was, which he highly doubted. Shifting his weight from foot to foot he briefly thought of how much he missed having his Golden Rose spear with him at that moment.
  22. I, Henrietta

    "The golem." Henrietta Monroe, lead engineer of the Monroe foundation, was young but gave every appearance of being ancient. She reached out a frail, wrinkled hand to touch a section of opaque wall. At her touch that opacity bled away by degrees, the once hopelessly impenetrable pane now as clear as rarified air. On the other side of the pane was a humanoid figure, immobile in the darkness. The impression of Henrietta as a walking mummy was deepened by the presence of the little girl grasping her free hand with two of her own. The little girl broke away from Henrietta and rushed up to the pane in puerile impatience to see more, to get closer, to satisfy the engine of her curiosity. "Mechanical muscle, in other words." Henrietta turned towards the group of two dozen occupying the wide hall, overhead lights throwing shine on her at such an angle that it bounced sharply off eyes mostly obscured by flesh and made them twinkle like gems beneath folds of skin. She was leading this walking tour through sanctioned parts of the automation facility. Her intent was to introduce the public piecemeal to the next breakthrough, hopefully inoculating them against the all too common knee-jerk response of fear. Some of these people would tell their neighbors and friends how brilliant Henrietta was, and some of the some might even come take the tour themselves. By the time she started speaking at conferences across the nation, her reputation would precede her. That was the plan anyway. "This model is pretty old and not particularly sophisticated. You'll notice the prehensile hands, suited for basic articulation work, but in terms of task complexity this model is capable mostly of rote. It has enough functional memory for a page's worth of contextual commands. It could copy one page of one book until the end of time, but just that one page unless you manually loaded the next one. Mostly used for things like farming, hauling, stacking. That sort of thing." Anyone in the group who was (un)fortunate enough to see the military GL-17RX golem could attest to the fact that the model before them was as far removed from the current capabilities of golemetry as a campfire was from a combustion engine. Henrietta led the group further down the hall, revealing at precise fifteen-meter iterations newer and newer models of golems, explaining the increase in their capacity to store commands and their ability to execute on higher orders of complexity. The little girl pressed her face against the glass at every opportunity. "This educator model is capable of teaching any one academic subject to within a margin of error acceptable at the state-level for certification. It can be programmed with expert-level knowledge of any field in a matter of months, and is currently being deployed across Terrenus to low-income communities. It really is a marvel, and really is making a difference, but what I want to show you now is something else entirely. Any questions before we move on?" Henrietta assumed everyone was simply waiting to see the newest model, the whole reason the tour was put together in the first place, but she wanted their minds free of distraction and comprehensively prepared to fully absorb her genius. OOC thread I had a much longer post written out but decided it was a better move to split it up so characters could be introduced earlier on in the scene. Your character is in the audience – how and why is up to you. In your introductory post please touch on your character's needs and desires, with everything else unveiled in as little or much detail as you like whenever you like. I just want to establish a reference point as the thread develops.
  23. Phantom Light [Artifact]

    Stepping lightly, Azure Day approached the doorway with measured motions. He kept going over it all in head as if a record on repeat. Keep Calm.. This is nothing more than a simple task. Your information is solid and you made sure to check the sources. All you need now is.. Azure knocked on the door with a firm fist. Moments later it would open and he would barge in like a mad man on a mission. "So, I've been thinking. I recalled something odd from the Hooglobe Library after seeing those sparse pages from your journal and then it struck me. Recently rumors of old artifacts came to light and filed away in the tomes, where I just so happen to spend most of my days. There in.. Is one of the objects in which you seek. The Rod of Peter the Dark.. I traced it to the Dark Forest in eastern Terrenus. Now I'm not one to pass up on opportunity; particularly an exciting quest of perilous nature. And with your plans.. I thought the two of us could make quite an effective team." He moved then and laid out all the notes he pulled from the Archive on the whereabouts of the Rod. Apparently, sightings of a little girl and monstrous shades were reported many months ago and the the Reports were filed away as hearsay and rumor. Most would have overlooked such a thing, but not Azure. He knew within all stories was a grain of truth, not matter how small. He stood straight and turned to look his potential cohort in the eyes, loosing a small mischievous smile. "So then Polybius.. Care for a little Adventure?"
  24. Hard as Stone and Cold as Ice

    Corvinus had been kind enough to offer her clothing and she had lost enough of her pride to accept the generous offer. She knew, by the warmth of his gaze and the sincerity of his words, that she could have asked for more and her request would have been well received. In retrospect, though their private conversation had not lasted very long, the effects of it had been profound. He had stirred in her a wonder for the life she could not remember simply by virtue of him being a part of it. He was a wondrous man, harsh and full of conviction, but she could say the same for herself. However, it was his unabashed generosity that moved thawed her heart, though it did little to remove her suspicions. And so, they had left each other on amicable terms the previous night, with the agreement that she would leave tonight. But here she was, two hours into the evening, and she still had not collected Emily from their rooms and she still wasn’t at all certain what she was going to do. The simple reality was that she wanted to cry. Childish as it seemed, she felt utterly incapable of handling this situation. Everything felt profoundly hopeless, and she felt absolutely helpless. Everything was horrible -- there was no light at the end of this tunnel. Raphael was gone, and although she had fought for months for nothing less he had been the only certain thing in her life. The pain he inflicted, both physical and emotional, was the only real thing she had besides the small child growing in her belly. But he had even helped to mask the difficulties of even that -- now that he was gone she felt the aches and pains in her body, and the horrible chill that was making her tremble violently. This was never suppose to be an easy pregnancy, and yet with Raphael by her side, she had not suffered many adverse effects. She was alone, and although she had never before feared loneliness, this time she felt the ache of it in her soul as well as in her gut. She had never needed friends as badly as she needed them now -- but there was no one -- and it was very simply her own fault. For the sake of the baby she should have been more agreeable with Raphael, she should have forced herself to endure just long enough to ensure her child could be born alive and healthy. A marriage to him would have secured the Orisian throne, and instead she gave in to the whims of her supposed convictions. What the hell did her convictions matter now if they just caused her the life of the most precious and innocent being? She loathed herself beyond words. Death seemed like the only suitable end for someone as stupid and shortsighted as her, but even the comfort of suicide was an impossibility. She couldn’t take her life if it meant taking away a chance for her baby to survive. “But I am so tired,” she blubbered out loud.”I don’t want to do this anymore…” Her voice was small, and each word came between a sob. Ugly black tears had welled up in her eyes, but the moment they spilled, she wiped them away angrily. She didn’t get to cry or break down or fall apart, not now, not when there was still so much work to do. And even if she was alone, she couldn’t risk having anyone see her and go whispering back to the Emperor or Empress. This game was dangerous, and she was already in such a compromised position. The last thing she wanted anyone to know was that she was steadily crumbling -- pieces of her were breaking off, and her foundation was nonexistent. Each and every one of the beasts that had come stomping into her life had taken with them a piece of her, leaving behind nothing but a shell of the woman she once was. She wasn’t strong, or resolved, or courageous. She felt small, weak, and tired. So tired… Gabriela found herself leaning heavily against a stone pillar. She had come to walk the halls of the castle one last time, in a dire attempt to figure something out -- as if the art on the walls or the manicured gardens -- could help her come up with some sort of strategy. Somehow she had ended up here. A small, private courtyard. It was a perfect square that was lined with stone arches and slender columns. There was a fountain at the center, with murky green water and the constant stirring and shifting of tiny golden and copper fish. At the center there was a figure cut in marble and polished to a cold glow that seemed far too much like her own skin. Would that she could be like that -- perfectly still, beautiful beyond reproach, and utterly unimportant. “I am so sorry,” came a whisper, a dull little voice devoid of anything other than weariness and sorrow. She was speaking out loud again, but this time she was stroking her belly over the silken, long sleeve blouse that she was wearing. It was black, thank goodness, and it matched the gray, wool trousers that hugged her hips and fell in a straight leg down to her ankles. Under that, she had ankle length boots, which had been a horror to lace up and tie into knots. It was an elegant outfit, especially with her long hair braided into a loose set of links that allowed wisps of hair to fall loose around her face, elegant but functional for her upcoming travels. “You deserve so much better than me,” her hand, pale and lovely with its glass like fingernails, stroked her belly back and forth. And then, just in that moment, like a sign from heaven or maybe from hell, she heard the call of a bird. It was a strange sort of chirping, that she found oddly familiar. Her eyes had to close, hiding away the gold of them, as she tried to place the unique song of the strange little bird that sat somewhere overhead on one of the many hanging vines of green. She remembered it then, just as a clear and perfect image came to mind of him, of Roen, the man she hadn’t been able to think about for months. Suddenly there he was in her mind, cut in red and framed by wisps of romantic smoke that clung to him like the long limbs of a lover. He was whistling the same melody, and there were whispers, people from the night of the wedding, marveling at how sad the song was. But it wasn’t sad. It was hopeful -- blindly hopeful. It was a call. The love in it endless, and it went on and on even if there was no answer. That was the light in her dark tunnel. It was a strange and awkward reminder of who she was. “I am all you have -- and I promise I’ll be enough, I promise.” Although she was hard as stone and cold as ice, she was no less susceptible to suffering nor was she less susceptible to hope.
  25. The Bold and Unwritten

    The sun had just begun to dip behind the distant hills on the horizon, casting a pink light across the nondescript office building. The communications offices had never been a truly quiet place, but there was always a sense of order to things. A steady ebb and flow of messages through the day, something calm and as predictable as the tides. The endless clattering of keys behind him sounded more like the frantic rushing of some incomprehensibly vast waterfall. There had been no temporary cease or break in the flow of messages to transmit and suspicious traffic to decipher - it was madness, pure and simple. But it was undoubtedly a result of the mad times they now lived in. The old traditions and interservice rivalries had momentarily conceded to the inescapable facts of the situation. Manpower was needed. For every message to be faithfully passed on, it touched no fewer than three pairs of hands and consumed at least five man-minutes of processing time. Multiplied by the sheer volume of comms traffic roaring through all secured lines.. it was no wonder the place sounded like an angry beehive even into the wee hours of the morning. And still, they were pressed to the very limits. Anything reviewed and found wanting less than a class ten response was immediately funneled into a separate hold queue to languish until they had no other choice but to forward it on. There were dozens of unfamiliar faces in the cubicles, each presenting their own example of total, bone-deep exhaustion. Fingers flew all the same, with hushed, dry, hasty voices passing on the messages they received as best they could. It was hard for him to look on this and not feel some sense of swelling pride at the noble work being performed there. Long, delicate fingers closed tightly around the red folder in his hands. For some time, they had been tracking groups of suspected dissidents. Any letters, radio traffic, magitek based communications, any sort of information they could glean from them, they did. For the most part, they constituted a diverse set of individuals with three common characteristics. First, they despised Safeguard and everything it represented. Second, they were mages, warlocks, magically inclined, or those who sought to employ the talents of any of those for profit. Thirdly, they were undoubtedly incapable of anything more than a few rowdy showings of force and a swift trip to a detention center once faced with more competent enforcement. Except for three. At first, an alarming amount of traffic had emerged, all of which centered around obtaining anything of sufficient power to cripple the Safeguard program. Read: weapons capable of overwhelming said competent enforcement. The first two or three had been utterly chilling to read, but further investigation by F.I.S.T. agents managed to quickly root out and hammer the minor hotbeds of rebellion before they had the chance to fester. But these final three were legitimate. He knew it in his bones. They were meticulously guarded about their aims and any traffic between them was frustratingly vague. Their memberships were largely unknown but unique to each group - they were cordial, but certainly not friendly. At least, they had been until only a few hours ago. Any pretense of civility had gone out of the window. The Crimson Ledgers had gone ballistic, sending threats of bloody vengeance unless "the Opus" was returned to them. Both the Bronze Crescent and the White Councilmen thoroughly denied any responsibility, with the former swearing to it and the latter welcoming anyone suicidal enough to attack their members to try. Oh, they had tried. The charred remains of four bodies were found in an alleyway, blasted apart by foul magic and brutal weaponry alike. The three factions had been at it since then. In thirty messages, they mentioned a variation of "Drago", "Opus", "The Work" collectively around 28 times. This suggested an alarming sincerity to the threats - and to the possibility of something powerful enough for these previously cautious groups to kill for. And now he knew what they were hunting for. Max moved briskly to the thick door that separated the main production floor from the smaller offices and meeting rooms beyond. He checked his reflection in the polished metal, and took a moment to straighten the uncomfortable bindings of his field uniform. His sidearm hung loosely at his right hip, although a closer inspection would no doubt reveal that it was strapped just a little lower than regs for access. He ran his fingers through his cropped raven dark hair and, finally, took hold of the handle. The air in the hallway was noticeably cooler, no doubt due to the lack of hundreds of people talking, breathing, and generally sweating in an enclosed place. He wore a standard identification badge for recruits in the regular divisions, but in truth, his real ident card carried T.I.T.A.N. markings. It just so happened that it was more convenient to send him here to collate documents and make coffee runs than it was to assign him out to the more dangerous stuff. It rankled his pride, but at the end of the day, he knew this was where the first stages of any fight would be decided. Private Sanders set off at a mild jog, taking care not to disturb the folder. He passed a group of whispering investigators with a casual salute, and rounded the corner. Almost immediately, he turned into a narrow hallway and found himself face to face with the door to the F.I.S.T. field offices. He let out a slow sigh and twiddled his fingers to increase blood flow. A cold handshake was never a good way to start things. The door swung open on greased hinges so quietly he wondered whether any of the five people in the room would even notice him before he said anything. It had been bold enough to request a meeting like this with the Lead Investigator. Thomas Martin was not known to suffer fools lightly, and judging from the severe impression on his leatherlike countenance, he was already keeping track of every second of his time this would waste. "It's real," Max blurted out. "Illyushin Drago. Dead for one hundred and twelve years. Master Warlock, former professor here in Blairville, notorious for his intricate spells. Supposedly he was working on something amazing before he died. He finished it. My source can't confirm what exactly is in it.. but given Master Drago's speciality.. it's almost certainly full of the sort of knowledge we don't want any of these people finding it." He turned to the other people in the room, imploring them to listen. "What proof do you have?" You had to hand it to Martin - he knew how to cut straight to the point. "One page, partial. It's not much.. but if you follow what he's talking about, it's one part of a formula for breaking down large spells into more manageable pieces. Something like blowing up this building with a thousand little firecrackers going off at once. And that's just the easy stuff. Someone smart enough, powerful enough.. they could do worse. We have to stop it." He flicked the folder open and practically hurled it down the glassy table, where it slid smoothly past the Investigator and onto the floor. Martin's stern eyes were the color of an ancient oak, and they met Max's with more than a flicker of irritation. Still, he bent and picked up the folder from the ground and began to read. The man's expression grew more and more grave as he read and reread the faded parchment. He slapped the folder shut and placed it onto the desk. "Who else knows about this?" "Just you all. I kept it hidden from everyone else." Max's young face slipped into a smirk. "Strauss wouldn't have it any other way." Martin gave a grunt of acknowledgement and reclined in his chair. For a moment, his fifty eight years etched themselves into his face. "Pick your team. Find out the truth. Bring it back if you can, but if there's even a one percent chance that you can't, burn the damn thing. Same applies to anyone that's seen any of it." There was a disarming mildness to the words that almost obfuscated the ruthlessness beyond. Almost. Max saluted. "I've surveyed the available personnel here. In that folder is a short list of those I believe capable. Call them here, send them in now, and let's get this going."