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  1. There was a chill wind that had passed as a tall captain stepped off the boat followed by someone covered in robes. It'd been a long trip and Beris was glad to see the two figures he wanted to put into the ground off the boat first. There was a lot the shaman needed to gather before getting off with the large mass of people traveling on this cruiser. He was able to pack his things quickly however and was top side before most were as he got to watch the captain and the 'VIP' he assumed was a mage walk from the boat. Beris leaned against he mast waiting for everyone else to go away. Part of him was glad to be gone, away from the Ardesians for a bit. There was some annoying issues that had caused Al to give a leave of absence to everyone. Kreig went to work on a forge with Lenix, Ishanis went looking for a tailor to get some new outfits and her primary gown sown, that homoculus had drifted off from the clan to go on a 'revival walk' which he thought was a sad joke. The shaman didn't care he decided to just get away for a time, hoping that with luck he could get something for the Yarakul to coincide with. The 'waiting' in line thing had killed his patience. Beris took a run for the edge of the ship. The crew had shouted for him to remain in line, before they could move to stop him, however, Beris had leaped off striking the wooden dock with his cloth covered feet before using the pegs that held the dock in the water to hop off of to get the move on. "Get out of the way!" He shouted as he leaped from peg to peg. There was a lot of held in aggression brimming from him that he wanted to be free of, right now was a bad time for someone to try and stop him which is why he moved as he did. Beris was lightly loaded. There was no armor on him, only a light cloth shirt and a hooded jacket tied to his waist. His legs had tan cargo pants which bore his axe and knife in separate sheaths attached to his belt. His feet were covered with a cloth-type 'bandage' covering which was made to be very resilient and inlaid with runes to accept changes in temperature if Beris poured essence into them to change the temperature accordingly. Around his back, the shaman had a rucksack with very light supplies including some food and a bottle of water strapped to the side. There was a pouch inside the sack which held his travel currency with him. He did not plan on spending much. There was a necklace made of some bone and wood fetishes that hung from his neck along as well, useful to help channel his magic if it was needed. It would only be a few minutes of jumping from posts to walls then down to the streets till he could move about the town freely and find something to do. With luck it would be relaxing to help overcome the long trip and the harsh mental torment he endured as a result of the Ardesian usurping. @Hani
  2. The Spire was not a place many people expected Blaine Moreton to come visit so often. As High Councillor of War, he was a man of action, regal in his fury and just in his might; he was tall and handsome, a lion in shape and mind, commanding loyalty wherever he went with the weight of ten generals. Apparently, that made him ill-suited to reading. It was ancient, the Spire, and more cavernous than it had the right to be. The interior was smooth rock and polished wood; the smokeless lights burning along the walls cast the balconies in a lustrous, tangible blue. Many of the alcoves, like the one Blaine was headed to now, dotted the lower floors at irregular intervals. They were typically reserved for scholars. Sometimes men of faith. Those who had no business spending whole days on their research were relegated to the public tables on the first and second floor, rarely the third. It was often a point of contention how difficult it was to acquire some privacy. The Spire had enough space to house a storm, let alone enough depth to echo like a canyon. Beautiful, Blaine thought, as he always did whenever he came here. Casting his gaze to the side, he peered over the railing. Even from the tenth floor - being underground, they counted up as one moved down - he couldn’t see the bottom of the inky black hollow. Supposedly it connected to the ocean, where the water flooded in from Coastal Grande’s subterranean caves. “If you listen hard enough,” the servant guiding him said. “You can hear the streams.” Blaine didn’t know about that. The Spire was a library, after all, and his ears were perfect. The only thing he heard were their footsteps, and the passing whispers of two men in the middle of a search. The bookshelf they rifled through was the size of a small house. “Here we are, sir.” The servant unlocked the door, then handed Blaine the key. He muttered something about getting comfortable while one of the scribes fetched his book. “Thank you,” Blaine said, before the servant disappeared down the hallway and up the lift. Sometime later, a small woman arrived with the tome Blaine had requested. It was old, thick yet delicate, with a crisp leather cover titled Of Dragons and Men. He pored over it for an hour, maybe two, beginning where he’d left off last week after he’d gotten a little more than halfway through. They were given power once, but they’d lost it already, he read. The sun in their words, the blizzards in their teeth, the storm in their roars, the venom in their lies. They gave it away. Never truly knowing how or why. What had transgressed, they faced- “So it’s true,” a voice cut in. “You really are more than just a dog in a suit.” Blaine looked up. High Councillor Vindama was leaning against the doorway, eyeing him with that hawkish face of hers. “Vindama,” Blaine started, his surprise melting into a smile. “This is unexpected.” “Words right out of my mouth,” Vindama replied. She flashed her own smile, sharp and thin. “I almost didn’t believe the others when they said you came down here to read a book.” “Most people don’t. You’ll have to explain that to me sometime.” Blaine gestured to a chair. “Please, have a seat.” “How kind of you.” He watched Vindama come forward, never shifting in his seat. Her green eyes met his, and she smiled that same knife-like smile from before. He found it mildly unsettling. “It’s not very romantic in here, is it?” she asked. Blaine’s eyes flicked around. “No, it’s not,” he agreed. “But I’m not here for romance.” “Shame,” Vindama purred. “Would’ve been more interesting than talking to you about scribbles on a page.” “Vindama-“ She cut him off with a wave. “Relax. I’m just yanking your chain. You’re always so formal.” Blaine nodded silently. It was one of the few things that made him look confident when he didn’t know what to say. Vindama’s grin told him she knew better. “So, what do you have there?” Without waiting for an answer, she reached over and grabbed the tome. Her eyes flitted over the cover, dissecting its every detail. Her left brow arched ever so slightly. “The Draconis Totems?” It was Blaine’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “You’re familiar with the book?” “Yes and no. More no than yes.” She flipped over to the first page. “One of my cousins - we don’t talk to him anymore - owned a late copy. He was an aspiring archaeologist, you see. Always digging his nose in dead people’s junk.” Vindama glanced up. She was waiting for a reaction. Blaine didn’t give her one. “This book,” Vindama continued, half-sighing. “Is what got him started. He was obsessed with it and anything remotely related. Made it his life goal to find the totems.” “You talk like he’s retired." “I guess that’s a word for it.” Vindama shrugged. "There’s a reason we don’t talk to him anymore. He never came back from one of his expeditions.” “Oh," Blaine muttered. "I’m sorry.” “No,” she said. “You’re not." Blaine nodded silently, again. Vindama slid the back to him. Its worn leather cover dragged against the table. “Why are you reading fairy tales?” Blaine leaned back in his chair, tome in hand. His idle fingers began leafing through the pages, towards the one he’d been reading before Vindama took the book from him. “Well, in this particular case, I prefer to call it history." Vindama’s perpetual grin suddenly softened. “Blaine,” she started, almost mockingly. “Don’t tell me you think this stuff is real.” Blaine found the page. “Myths and legends have to begin somewhere, don’t they?” He bookmarked it with a slip of paper. Vindama’s lips flattened into a severe line. “Blaine.” “Yes?” “Listen to me.” “I’m doing that right now.” “Don’t be an idiot-“ Something in Blaine’s breast pocket abrutply grew hot and alive. A hum accompanied it, along with a slow buildup of light. He fetched a hand in his pocket, producing a chainless amulet of sorts. His eyes flickered between the object and Vindama. She bowed her head knowingly. “I’ll go,” she said, standing up. “We’ll continue this another time.” “You don’t have to leave,” Blaine offered, even though he wanted her to. “It’ll only take a few minutes." Vindama looked him over critically. “No," she said, a little too thickly. "I think I’m alright, thank you.” Blaine waited for one of her usual snipes. In the end, she left and closed the door. Another minute passed, just to make sure Vindama wouldn’t come back. Blaine glanced out the doorway, peaked around very quickly, then went back inside the alcove and locked it with a click. He gripped the talisman tightly in his hand. Show me. The walls around him quietly twisted away, like a dream unravelling in the most intricate of fashions. A gentle fog crept in where an endless void replaced them, stretching in every direction as far as the eye could see. Waiting for him a short distance away was a dark-skinned man dressed in ragged travelling attire. He was holding an amulet identical to Blaine’s. “Professor Velakis,” Blaine said, then more pointedly, “What are you doing here?” Velakis didn’t seem to notice him. He was too busy looking around, fascinated by the mindscape. Blaine took a few steps forward, each one leadened with irritation. “Where’s Romo? Why do you have his trancer?” “Romo’s dead,” Velakis answered, not turning away from the fog. Blaine started. “What?" “He’s not the only one,” Velakis continued. “Me, Viha, three of your guys… we’re the only ones left. The others are all gone.” He finally faced Blaine, then chuckled humourlessly at the expression on his face. “But don’t worry; we found it." Blaine stared at the professor. “You found it?" he asked slowly. “We did." “The Vault, you mean.” Velakis nodded wearily. The motion revealed a shallow scrape on the underside of his chin. “Describe it to me,” Blaine demanded. At that moment, something howled in the fog. Something awful, like despair on the wind. Velakis craned his head towards the noise, squinting at it as if it were an old and familiar nuisance. “Guess my time’s up too,” he said. As the sound shifted to an abrupt, jerky rattling, Velakis fished out a crumpled note from his pocket. “Listen well, Councilor. I’m only going to have the time to read this once; everything here’s written on the wall.” The rattling changed yet again, this time to something slow and wet. It was louder now, coming from behind Velakis. Blaine opened his mouth to ask the professor what he meant, but Velakis silenced him with a glare. It was less the urgency in the man’s eyes than it was the dread that stopped him from speaking. “Don’t interrupt.” “Alright.” Velakis paused for a moment, then cleared his throat. His words were precise and carefully timed. “That which you seek you stand before But only with the key may you unlock Death’s door Shrouded within Shadows it awaits But only by the elements might one navigate From whence it was born, it shall return Undying or dead, it must be earned Ferns of winter to be milled A fair lady’s ashes faithfully swilled And to appease the debt and see it paid The mortal trade must be made.” Blaine waited for something more. The silence was so swift, so empty, that Blaine almost hadn’t heard it. Velakis was staring down at the note in his hand, still as a statue. He seemed used up. Defeated. Infinitesimally small, despite his large stature. The colour had drained from his face, his hands, and the queer sound behind him was a hollowed-out roar now. “Did you get all that?” Blaine blinked in response. Instinctively, he ran the narrative once more in his head. That which you seek you stand before But only with the key may you unlock Death’s door Shrouded within- A starved wheeze interrupted his thoughts. He shook his head. “What does it mean?” “Are you daft? It's a key-“ And just like that, Velakis disappeared. One second he was there, the next he wasn’t. All that remained was the amulet he’d been holding, which clattered to the ground in a puff of light smoke. Blaine picked it up, held it at eye level. It was cracked, nearly torn in half, with a vicious groove running along its center. “Velakis?” Blaine called out. No response. Not even the everchanging cacophony. Blaine wanted to call out again, take a look around, even though there was nothing to see. Instead, he willed himself back into the real world, where the alcove’s dark stone walls loomed over him. Velakis’ amulet still sat squarely in his left palm. He laid it down on the table, then reached for a stack of papers. -Shadows it awaits But only by the elements might one navigate From whence it was born, it shall return Undying or dead, it must be earned Next came the pen. Blaine dipped it in an ink bottle. Ferns of winter to be milled A fair lady’s ashes faithfully swilled And to appease the debt and see it paid The mortal trade must be made He began to write. @roboblu @Rhysing @SweetCyanide @Csl @ourlachesism
  3. Her skin tickled when it changed forms; the light blue gills transformed into smooth, fair skin. Her long, squamous tail split into two - now becoming legs, the feet and then the toes quickly forming. Anahita kicked through the water with more difficulty now and soon broke the surface with a gasp for the air she now needed. Her dark blue hair seemed almost black as it flowed down her neck and spread on the surface of the water, the purple stripes in it lighting up in the dark. She swam for the waterside and walked on her two legs when her feet touched the ground. Twisting her hair to relieve it of some of the water, she sent cascades of drops to the ground. Her black dress clung to her figure, drenched as well. It was impractical for her to swim with her clothes on, but in these areas, that she knew where full of humans, she could never be too cautious. Truth be told, she had not met a human yet; through most of her travels through the lands she had hidden quickly whenever she smelled or heard them nearby. It wasn't that she was afraid; at least she wouldn't admit as much to herself. She was simply... careful. At some point there would be a first encounter, she was sure, but she wanted it to be on her own premisses. Walking barefooted, she took a few steps into the clearing and looked around. The moon was shining high above, sending a pale, grey light through the treetops. It was quite deliberate that she chose to travel through the night and sleep during the day; another attempt to postpone her inevitable meeting with the land walkers. Dripping from both her dress and hair for every step she took, she started following a small trail that traced between the trees. A howl was heard not far away through the thin forest, but the noises of the night creatures troubled her not; she stayed close to Du Chevalier so she at any given time could run to the water and disappear below the surface. She would be gone before anyone figured out how to follow her; she was, after all, much faster in water than on land. There was something soothing about walking, though; something she had discovered to her surprise. It was quite the process for her to learn how to walk, but now she enjoyed it. Sometimes she would even start running simply for the sensation, though it wasn't at all as fast as swimming. She started humming lightly to herself, skipping a few times and only paying slight attention to her surroundings when she continued down the scarcely lighted trail. She felt safe in the night where nearly no one would travel as she did.
  4. After experiencing the destruction wrought by Whispernight, trekking to the floating Necropolis Isles, and, most of all, playing slave to the sheer tediousness of the food industry in Hodra, few things worried Khaalida El Sayad- certainly not the wight walking toward her with quick, hungry steps. Khaalida gradually brought her horse to a stop, considering the unfortunate creature from her perch. It looked fresh, perhaps a recent victim of Whispernight, with its skin and clothes still mostly intact. A deep gash in its forearm was the only sign of decay; perhaps the victim had torn its flesh during the throes of death. Still, to Khaalida, it was unmistakably dead. What telepathic powers she possessed were for the sole purpose of identifying and ushering the deceased into the cool waters of death, and her consciousness had marked this figure as a wight long before it had come into view. She took a long glance around the area, scanning for other potential attackers. There were only a few of the undead variety, though her radar was noticeably less reliable with living beings. How far had this creature walked to reach this point? Was there a decimated village lying just beyond her scope? By her own estimation, Khaalida was not an hour from her final destination, the city of Lyria; she did not anticipate to encounter any wights so close to the a bustling metropolis, and it put her task into perspective. The Lorean king had contracted her to address the growing number of undead in his domain, and, given the number of shambling things she had laid to rest in the past five days of travel, the kingdom had taken Whispernight by the horns. Frankly, Khaalida would not be surprised to find the city itself in ruins, swarming with undead creatures of the most horrifying variety. It mattered very little to her whether the dead lay outside or within the city; as the sole survivor of a long line of necromancers, it was her life's calling to seek and relieve the undead from their suffering. She had been following the stench of Whispernight for some time now, spurred by the destruction of her own town in the Cold Mountains. It would not be difficult to lay this soul to rest from horseback, she thought, her angled, black eyes narrowing as her horse sidestepped the creature's first feeble swing. The mare's movements were ginger, not panicked; she had been reared to withstand the presence of the undead, and trusted her rider to keep her from harm. After a moment of consideration, Khaalida hefted a light sigh, and swung down from the saddle in one fluid motion. Over the course of her 28 years of life, she still hadn't overcome a soft spot for the recently deceased, and wanted to pay this wight the respect it deserved. A second shambling figure emerged from the shadows, and a third followed close on its heels; they were both as fresh as the first. A few calculated, evasive steps were all it took for Khaalida to arrange the wights in a favorable formation around her. Her arms, six in total, unfolded gracefully like the petals of a lotus flower. Two of her hands held scimitars as a last resort, but the remaining four hands held mirrors with handles of different materials. The first mirror, held in her right upper hand, possessed a handle of petrified wood; this she swung before the nearest wight, instantly pacifying it as it caught a glimpse of its reflection. When the thing was snugly caught in her grasp, she fluidly transitioned its gaze into the second mirror, whose handle was crafted of ivory. In her mind's third eye, she met the creature in the swift river of death, ushering for it to follow her. The other two spirits joined her in short order, this dance of mirrors beckoning them forward, into the realm of the deceased. When at last she had all three wights locked into the depths of the fourth mirror, whose handle was crafted of stone, the four beings stood at the brink of death, the waters rushing past their feet, pushing them on through. With an expenditure of will, the necromancer urged the three spirits forward, and they flowed down the river into waters unknown. Opening her eyes, Khaalida saw the three bodies crumpled on the ground before her. With a twirl of the wrists, the mirrors were tucked into their individual pockets, reflective surface in to avoid any wandering eyes from an embarrassing traipse into death. The scimitars, too, slid neatly into sheaths at both sides of her hips. Then she stooped, closed each corpse's eyes, and began the process of building a small funeral pyre to burn the bodies. It was her insurance against more sinister necromancers; she would burn a specific blend of herbs and spices to ward off evil energies, effectively sealing these three souls into the afterlife. Before the quest for firewood began, Khaalida took a moment to weave her lustrous dark hair into a tighter plait, wiping a bead of sweat from her temple. She posed an intimidating figure at around six feet and two inches, with gleaming bronze skin and dark, intelligent eyes. There was nothing on Valucre like her anymore, but she bore the loneliness with square shoulders and a strong chin. Her clothes hung close to her body to avoid unwanted hands grabbing any loose folds, and the fabric of her tunic and breeches was soft and dark, with jewel tones in the details. A heavy sash was tied around her torso, and the handles of her mirrors projected from reinforced pockets. After double-checking to ensure that all of her mirrors were present and secured, she began the process of hunting for firewood. This was the task she had been hired for; Lyria could wait for a few hours more. @King
  5. Often woe is wrought not in war, but instead the plans which precede it Looming above the Abyssal Enclave, as though some great storm spilling across the mountains, Irkalla was a formidable sight, for any who could pierce its halo of churning soot and smog, a blazing bastion, whose veins bled smouldering flame in place of blood. This enormous edifice was a marvel of engineering, a behemoth measuring over a mile across from buttress to belly, whose bulk lay perpetually suspended in the air, through nefarious magic, or some said, the sheer force of will of its owner. Stationed within this structure, the Barbed Legion were a force unlike any other on Valucre, a cavalcade of horrors from another plane, whose forms were fleshed from the nightmares of man, as even the meekest of their footsoldiers resembled a red-skinned daemon of yore. Despite their appearance, however, or the propensity one might assign to them for violence, these creatures were not beset by chaos, as was often the want of warriors when not in battle, but instead bound by regiment and routine, a duty dictated by their Warlord, who snared their souls within his maw. Life within Irkalla then, much like its sister fortress Ubshu, was one of measured Malice, an existence of training and tribulation which shaped their society into one of martial might above all else, for from the first moment new creatures clawed their way from the birthing pits, they suffered, and grew strong. Ibishma emerged that morn, much as thousands had before it, and thousands would again, a soul shredded upon the Devourer's teeth and forged into a fiend, as any who perished in battle to his blade, or any mortals that were deceived by his promise of an afterlife, all would in time, as he converted their faith into fuel for his eternal crusade. The air stung against his skin, as Ibishma began to walk, studying the labyrinthine levels of Irkalla's innards for a moment, before purpose plagued his consciousness, and one of the Warlord's many commanders assumed psionic control of his mind. That was not to say that the daemons were puppets though, that primordial desires did not beat within their breast, but instead that Ibishma, much like many that came before, was inspired to obey their overlords, an instinct as intrinsic as breathing to a babe, for they were a cog in the machine, and knew their lord would harness them well. On this particular day, Ibishma was assigned to an office of great import, though they knew it not, so fresh was their mind, for by serving as one of a multitude of guards about Nekeshtul, they unwittingly bore witness to the birth of a wondrous and terrible thing. Nekeshtul, of course, was the black foundry within Irkalla's bowels, the infernal place where atrocities were conceived, and weapons were wrought, the spot where sorcery and science entwined to usher doom upon worlds without count. It was there within the dark heart of Malice's fortress, that his chief artificer and enforcer had begun a great project, a monster whose might over magi-tech was unparalleled upon the prime material plane, and whose thirst for knowledge led them to ever more ingenuous inventions of woe. Marduk had been called many things across the millennia they had served the Great Devourer, slayer of sons, shaper of sins, and many more vilifications besides, but when Ibishma saw the way that they moulded metal with their bare hands, he couldn't help but marvel. A cambion by birth, which were half-breeds compared to the bulk of the legion, Marduk had been elevated not because of his strength with a sword but instead the inhuman aptitude they possessed for sorcery, and it was whispered that the floating fortresses themselves, and the soul-furnaces which powered them, were little more than afterthoughts for his level of genius. Ibishma watched with interest that day, when Marduk began to unlock the secrets of a vial of blood and then sculpt its anathema into an artefact, a sword whose very bite would be bolstered by not sorcery alone, but additionally the science behind the DNA which once stained fair Ubshu's marble floors as well. The daemon watched unwaveringly, as minutes lapsed into hours, and the dread device slowly took shape, watched as it was tempered by forces far exceeding Valucre's gravity, as it was doused in extra-planar energy that sparked and spat fumes which made even his monstrous eyes wince and falter. Marduk themselves traced intricate gestures within the air, as though they were conducting an orchestra that they alone could hear, whilst spells streamed from their fingertips and bled themselves, inch by inch, syllable by syllable, into the alloy of the blade, scorching the silver sheen from its surface and blemishing it evermore an unyielding black. This process lasted several weeks, as the Warlord committed considerable resources to the endeavour that the Emperor had entrusted him with, until at long last, when Marduk's toil had culminated, the weapon was presented before Malice, and he could taste its triumph upon his tongue. Ereshkigal, the Great Devourer thought, a fitting name for the Carmine Cutter whose very presence set his teeth on edge, such was its sheer power, a weapon for Rafael to unleash upon their foes, should history repeat itself, and base-born beasts seek to usurp thrones which they could but dream to dignify.
  6. In this world of amassing uncertainty, one thing was undoubtedly true. House Aetherion was finished in the Great North. "I'm staying with you." Iselda said, his heart pounding in fear after hearing his life mate's plan. Unfortunately Lothlorian was a stubborn elf, and rarely ever moved on his position where it concerned his authority as a noble. With the sun shining off their splendorous bodies, he heard the answer he was expecting from his truest of loves. After the debacle at the coronation in the Rising West, there was a scramble of vultures coming in to pick off what they could from House Aetherion's rotting corpse. Word has it there are many bidding for the land and resources that would be left behind once proper punishment has been met out to the offending party. Iselda didn't know what to think, anxiety plaguing him for days on end as the preparations were being made, and every effort was used to deny those greedy bastards the pleasure of all their hard earned materials. Everything that wasn't nailed down was being packed and brought with by stone warriors, the giant golems easily handling the weight in their massive arms. With all their worldly possessions ready to be transported, Iselda felt it was important now to stress to Lothlorian just why he should be allowed to stay with him. "You can't stay here, Iselda, you must leave with the others, and make sure they make it out of the Great North as soon as possible." He stood at the door to the Dreamlands, the place his mother...late mother, that is, spent most of her time in as the capital building of House Aetherion. Somehow it seemed less than what it used to be, a decrepit shell of something so beautiful and so full of life. Without her this place, this land, it simply didn't feel as vibrant as it used to, as if the land had died the same time as Gentle Breeze did, an idea that left him with dread. "If we throw ourselves to his mercy we may not get that bad of a punishment." It had been difficult trying to reason with Lothlorian these past few days, he simply wouldn't budge from his position. Every time he tried to put some sense into his head, Lothlorian just shut down and retreated off to his study to be alone with his thoughts. What he did in there by himself, Iselda could not say, but he knew for certain it could be nothing good for the health of the wizard. As always, Lothlorian was stubbornly refusing to see any other side but his own when it came to the evacuation. "There will be no begging for mercy, Iselda, it will only serve to embarrass us when the emperor enacts his punishment. You, Olandra and a friend I have called upon will lead our people to the Rising West, where they will be safe in Aelindra city. Please, Iselda, do this for me." With tears in their eyes, the two lovers hugged one last time, exchanging a kiss before Iselda went to rejoin the caravan getting ready to leave. All they needed now was the ally Lothlorian spoke of, and they could begin the long journey to their new home. @Radioactive
  7. No tale is beyond transformation, no mountain moulded to survive conquest, for change comes for all things, in time. It was naught but a glint at first, a spark to stoke a flame of promise, and usher it into the void of night, and as its first fingers crept across the cold and rocky peaks, dawn brought not daylight from the east, but instead something far more sinister. Writhing upon the wind, and coiling about the coastline like some vast serpent, a mist suddenly beset Genesaris' shores that morning, a broiling miasma that scorched stone and made the snow-laden mountains weep at its passage, as though the very land cried out, and knew despair. This was no mere fog, however, for concealed within the smoky shrouds of this phenomenon jutted ghastly shapes, spires that spat toward the heavens, and towers that tore the air asunder, as though they were jagged teeth within the maw of some vast and terrible leviathan of yore. Penetrating Genesarian airspace, as though its arrival had been pre-ordained, this cloud curled around the continent's eastern corner unhindered, blanketing the waters east of Mageside in a bleak and impenetrable smog, before spilling over the mountain range to the south, and vanishing from sight. The entire event transpired within the space of several minutes, traversing leagues of farmland and villages as though propelled by some fel and malevolent force, until, unbeknownst to the neighbouring population, it came to rest within the nook of the Abyssal Enclave, a region infamous for magical manifestations in the past. Where once man and mage alike had feared to tread, however, there now stalked an inhuman host, a legion that lashed the earth with their footfalls, as twin fortresses, still shrouded by mist, disgorged thousands upon thousands of red-skinned monstrosities. Marching at the head of this force, with confidence that belied their bulk, when compared to the twelve foot tall terrors upon their flank, came an ancient creature, a figure armoured in obsidian plate, which bore trophies of his victories upon its broad shoulders. Into the mouth of the enclave's sub-levels they stalked, shooting a spirited will-o-wisp a withering look, as they dismissed their guidance with a gauntleted hand and instead strode hungrily through the ranks of undead which rose to greet the intruder to the shrine. Gnashing their teeth and moaning in complaint, the restless dead who had assailed so many interlopers in the past parted now, compelled by a will that transcended mortal minds, as they split like a sea and knelt as one, before the coming of the Great Devourer. This procession continued for several miles, winding its way through catacomb and crypt alike, until there in the heart of the mountain the Warlord found the shrine itself, an ornate altar hewn from stone, graven in the likeness of a bull. Surveying this spectacle with black and lidless eyes, the stranger studied the scrolls which lay strewn about the dais itself, as a thick and meaty tongue traced the taste of magic in the air across sun-scorched lips. Rather than rifling through these tomes, however, as any intrepid scholar or sorcerer was want to do, the figure extended their arms instead, speaking but a single word of power before ink and etching alike veritably leapt from the mediums that bound them. Floating through the air, as though they possessed some sentience of their own suddenly, this knowledge slipped through the stranger's armour and began snaking its way up their skin, coursing up either arm until it came to rest upon the face of the fiend. Turning slowly now, as the spells and secrets of generations long gone danced upon his flesh like archaic tattoos, the warrior stood upon the podium and stared down upon the innumerable creatures that comprised their legion, addressing the assembly of abominations, much like a priest might their congregation. “The shadow of the Carmine Empire falls upon these lands, a kingdom swollen by prosperity, whose citizens number in the millions. We shall establish a fresh foothold upon this plane here in these mountains, we shall sap their very souls from the soil of this paradise, to fuel the machine of War. Know ye now that our conquests shall come, not from the feeble borders of this realm, but the stars themselves, for before our time is done, the heavens shall bleed, and the very Multiverse shall tremble.” A cacophony of assent followed this speech, a chorus that shook the catacombs and caused the restless dead to cower, such was its tumult, but as the daemonic host celebrated, their leader's eyes fell not upon the commotion, but instead swept their vicinity for the arrival of another, a partner in the woe he would sow upon Valucre.
  8. INTRO. Name: Mogonda Location: Nestled upon the border between the Arcane East and Great North, west of the Bloodmage Shrine, with the forest at its back, and the river at its feet. Predominant Languages: High and Common Lyri, Imperial, and Gensari. Abstract: The City of Mogonda is an ancient and harrowing spectacle, a place of bleak gothic bulwarks and twisted towers, where noble blood was elevated toward the heavens, whilst the poor were cursed to a life of misery in the muck at their spires' feet. Walkways and bridges criss-cross each district like sinew from a limb, creating a clear separation between the mist-marred streets below, and the sleek structures which loom like titans in the night. Despite this disparity, however, the slums and sub-levels of Mogonda are relatively devoid of dirt or crime, for on each and every blood moon the city's masters descend, and purge the peasantry with a great hunt. Those that survive this event enjoy a life of luxury, in return for their labour, for their overlords are as generous as they are malevolent, trading a lifetime of lavishness for an eternity of servitude, once the peons perish, and rise to serve their lords anew. BASIC. Current Ruler: Count Mordred Von Drakenfel Contact: Malice Successor: Basarab Bismark [Cousin] Population: 20,000 Mogonda is home to the ruling elite of the Drakenfel House, and from it they govern their demesne, which stretches from the south-western plains beneath Kethlerin, to the edges of the Arcantium Stead in the East. The city itself lies straddling the River Pontis, as it winds its way north from the lake beyond Shrine City, monopolizing trade bound for Mageside from the Cold South. Despite its position, however, relations between Mogonda and neighboring cities is one of shared prosperity and mutual benefit, for the ancient lords which rule this land keep their people comfortable and docile with the merchandise brought through trade. Beyond its commercial appeal, however, Mogonda houses one of the greatest cathedrals to the Sitraic Faith, a marvel of gothic engineering and architecture, which towers hundreds of feet towards the heavens, a sleek black monument to the Emperor, and the might he inspires. It is for this reason that the city is the training ground for the fearsome blood-knights, warriors whose skill is without peer, who adhere to a strict martial regime and are even said to transcend the abilities mere humans can muster. Situated at the centre of the city, Drakenfel keep is, therefore, a formidable fortress for any to behold, for it is not only girded by the curtail walls of Mogonda itself, but also houses the largest continent of blood-knights on the continent. It is from this foreboding edifice that their mounts are bred, their armour forged, and their wrath dispatched against any and all that oppose the Empire and its rule within Genesaris. LAYOUT. Founded upon a hill with a forest at its back, Mogonda sprung up around the original Drakenfel residence upon the summit, as gradually village and farmland grew to accommodate an influx of travelers, and the hamlet of a Baron, became the fortified city of a Count. In modern times, Mogonda has extended to encompass both the River Pontis, and vast swathes of pastures to its south, west, and east, thereby creating a thriving metropolis, which is subdivided into different districts. Arranged around the towering spectre of Drakenfel keep in concentric circles, the Noble district is the closest quarter to the Count, offering both protection and influence to those with enough wealth, or indeed ambition to afford such an honour. Next is the merchant district, positioned across an imposing bridge and down a level from the main hilltop itself, where local entrepreneurs and valued vendors from abroad can ply their trade upon the wealthy and woe-begotten alike. Passage across the bridge and back up into the Noble district is heavily restricted, however, with some locals swearing the stones themselves are haunted. The craftsman's district is located to the east, with the poorer hovels found in the slums far below, and all manner of service may be found beneath the shadow of the hill, from smithing and sorcery to the pleasures of the flesh. The darkest and most impoverished section of the city lies at the base of the hill itself, a region bathed perpetually in shadow, which employs smouldering oil lamps to light the labyrinthine streets that wind between one disheveled house and the next. INTEREST. The Crimson Cathedral -- Drakenfel Keep -- The Flayed Man Pub
  9. It could never be simple to conquer a land, even after doing so in a non-violent fashion. Humans are always so stubborn when the balance of power shifts from their favor, it was almost annoying. Soon though they would begin to understand, once they were properly put in their place. Riding out on his chestnut mare, the elven lord arrived at the forward operating base camp near the final bastion of human resistance, Lightstone Keep. The pearl white eyesore stood out against the rugged forests that surrounded the countryside of this area. Once it was the shining beacon of all House Horbrace held dear, and all that brought upon its downfall. Honesty, integrity, showing kindness to anyone that needed a helping hand, all of it lead to their destruction at the hands of House Aetherion. Hopefully it would serve as a lesson for other fools who believe they could meddle in elven lands for their own agendas. One of the wizards in charge of breaking through the keep's defenses saw Lothlorian as he rode in. "Greetings, Lord Lothlorian. How was your trip?" "I see your men wasted no time burning down some of those villages. Is it safe to assume everything was done by regulatory standards?" Purple and golden robes fluttered in the wind as the elf dismounted, his perfect yellow skin shining in the early sun's light. There were several groups of Stone Warriors being directed to the perimeter being formed around Lightstone Keep. It was reassuring that a good amount of their military assets were being used to secure these new lands. Bad enough they weren't able to formerly connect it with the blessed lands of Elysia Paradisium, leaving them blind in certain regards, but the very idea of being overwhelmed by meager soldiers of flesh and blood was not a good idea to dwell on. "Everything has been done just as the treaty states, my lord. We gave them ample time to vacate their homes, then burned all the ones who didn't along with their little villages." As part of their agreement with House Horbrace, anyone who stayed upon their land and did not wish to convert to Astra Terra were henceforth considered trespassers. There was no room for such disobedience in the world of the elves. It was either get in line, or burn with the rest of the useless trash. "When will the mercenaries I requested be arriving?" "We've had reports they just entered the area, my lord. I've sent a detachment of Stone Warriors to each of them as an escort to our camp." The wizard replied, his own regalia of white and purple robes denoting his rank as below Lothlorian. "Any news of someone making it into the Keep?" "No one has reported anything happening as of yet, my lord. It's all quiet in there." Good, he thought, walking forward to get a full view of this seemingly insurmountable obstacle. With hands behind his back, Lothlorian committed every part of the structure to his memory, burning the ugly yet practical architecture into his memory. It would be good to have that in his mind for when he finally tears it down brick by brick. Lothlorian was ready to make them all starve to death for their defiance of his rule, for what were the lives of a few humans in exchange for creating a paradise for the elven people?
  10. On this day there had yet been any bloodshed in the vicinity of the land House Aetherion occupied, nor did there seem to be any need to spill any. Much of their neighbors were happy with the state of things, as House Aetherion were quite generous with those they held good relations with. No strange mineral or other resource had been found in their land that couldn't have been found anywhere else in this world of theirs. As far as anyone knew there had been no reason in which anyone could be hostile to them or vice versa. Of course, this was merely at the start of the day, and this tale has not even begun to be told as of yet. First we must establish who it is that House Aetherion is, for they are not widely known nor is there any such reason to know them. They are a noble family of elves who held supremacists views of their own people. Great portions of their existence has gone to showing those not of elven blood that they are far superior to them in nearly all ways. Everyone has their flaws of course, House Aetherion did very well in hiding those flaws from the rest of the world. This, coupled with their advanced economic wealth and tremendous power over magic has made their claims quite worthwhile. There has not yet been an opponent they could not charm, bribe or simply destroy as of yet, but today may prove interesting yet. Greeting the rising sun with his beautiful, golden body, Lothlorian Aetherion was truly a sight to behold in all his glory. A beautiful elf even amongst his people's standards, he was beloved by all, and considered more than just a prince, but a future king of his House. Titles and admiration were pleasant to him, but he would rather prove himself worthy of such praise instead of taking it in and basking for too long. Any lesser elf would have succumb to the temptation of power his station brought him, but not Lothlorian. He was cut of a greater cloth, he understood the grander game of it all, and how the useless appeasement of baser desires would only end in downfall. It's what made him such a powerful leader, and a devoted follower of his beloved religion, Astra Terra. One could not find a greater paragon of Elven excellence than Lothlorian, he thought to himself. After going through the process of greeting the sun and honoring the earth in which he lived upon, Lothlorian was ready to begin his duties. Though he did not have the same duties or the same responsibilities as his mother, the leader of House Aetherion known simply as Gentle Breeze, he still considered himself an important figure. Finances needed to be taken care of, the reports from the farmers needed to be reviewed, and most of all was the upkeep for their military forces. The elves of House Aetherion did not fight as others did, that was certainly beneath them. Instead they fought with the aid of stone golems that are formed and controlled under the careful watch of their long eared masters. Walking through the streets of Elysia Paradisium was a beauty in itself. Seeing everyone's smiling face as he walked along the golden paths, knowing it was the work of his family that made these elves so happy. Centuries of work came to this, a shining example of true goodness in the world, where all could see and know it was the elves who had built such a thing. Not the impatient hands of a human, not the grubby fingers of a dwarf, not even the blood stained palms of a vampire could match such elegance. It reminded him of an old adage he heard some two hundred years ago from a traveling wise man. Certainly clever for a human, but not quite entertaining enough to warrant being recognized in the history books of his people. Elves are not arrogant, merely aware of their superiority to others. Yes, truer words have never been spoken, Lothlorian believed, enjoying a tasty bite of delectable tarts baked just that evening while he sat at a local eating establishment. He always made sure to pay for his meals, even though it wasn't necessary for him to do so. Hard work from an elf deserves to be rewarded, and it proved to others how much of an elf of the people Lothlorian could be. Being a leader wasn't just grand expeditions and huge, sweeping decisions that had effects lasting for lifetimes. No, nothing as dramatic as that for the day to day life one finds themselves in during peace times. For Lothlorian, showing his support for his people was just as important as figuring out the best strategies for defeating their opponents on the battlefield. “My Lord! My good and gracious Lord Lothlorian, protector of the people and the eater of tarts!” A familiar face was across from the young noble elf as he enjoyed his mid morning snack. None other than his good friend Iselda, an elf who had been a close friend of his since childhood, always ready to see him through thin and thick. Who else could make such jests at the Lord’s expense without incurring a good verbal retort but the beautiful golden elf who sat across from him. He wore incredible red silks which accentuated his body wonderfully, of course in the same Celtic style of a kilt, a cloak and other such garments as the rest of their people. Iselda however seemed as if he could wear a potato sack with more grace and beauty than most kings he knew. “I could never have the same appetite as you, Iselda. Grocers start sweating bullets whenever you walk into the market.” They laughed at the shared jokes, exchanging kisses upon their gorgeous golden lips before his friend began to report on matters within their court. “There appears to be a problem at the western border.” Iselda said with something of a bemused expression, balancing the end of a butter knife on the tip of his finger. He could never seem to sit still for even a moment, but that was exactly the kind of energy Lothlorian needed from his friend and equal. “Apparently House Horbrace was trying to transport refugees and well, they seemed to have forgotten to pay our tolls.” “Figures” Lothlorian said, ordering another strawberry tart and a cup of honeyed milk as well. House Horbrace was a family of humans who believed their good deeds made them immune from having to purchase what they required. Ten years ago House Aetherion halted their shipments of food to those bleeding heart humans because they refused to pay what was owed. They griped for what felt like a millenia, complaining of their people starving and shortages of food across all classes. Multiple times they tried to petition the Council in Coastal Grande to force House Aetherion to continue the shipments under humanitarian efforts. Little did they know House Aetherion could make their own threats, and the Council was aware of the problems that could arise should House Aetherion stop shipping out food altogether. Eventually their people became tired of being so hungry all the time, and after several threats of revolution and one assassination attempt, House Aetherion was given a very generous offering of several chests of golden Hawks. “I trust they have been detained for illegal crossing then?” Lothlorian asked. “Of course” Iselda replied “their up at the outpost now about twenty miles from the incident. Thirty refugees from some destroyed city or other and about five Horbrace men. One of them is even their precious little knight Johannes.” A fine catch indeed, Lothlorian thought with a chuckle. Humans had such a strange fascination with their knights and heroes and such, when it seems only to set them up for failure instead. Lothlorian didn't see any of the stone soldiers they used as important enough to warrant being so honored. Killing with a sword is such a messy thing, hardly worth the indignation of making one famous. Now there was simply the issue of what to do with the little rabbits. “Send a message to Jordan Horbrace, let him know we have their people and set a reasonable price for their release.” Charity comes at a price, especially when caught trespassing on land that did not belong to you. “What about the refugees? Do we sell them off as well like cattle or will we deport them back to whatever wasteland they shuffled out of?” There was something about Iselda’s quip that Lothlorian didn't quite like, like he had poison in his mouth. His golden eyes still held that mischievous twinkle, but beyond that Lothlorian could feel the fear behind them as well. Did the elf believe Lothlorian to be some kind of monster? “We’ll see which are willing to convert to the faith, then send them back with the Horbraces free of charge. Let them be their problem if they wish to help them so much.” Having a soft spot for humans made Iselda a difficult elf to be around. At times he knew to keep his mouth shut, but as of late he had been having these little outbursts about them that made Lothlorian worried. This was a state made for the elfish people, that was made clear in most of the laws and of the practices of their religion. Non-elves living in this place were forbidden to practice any other religion, to breed or to immigrate here without first converting to Astra Terra. Having one of his own people become a sympathizer for them could prove to be a problem, one that Lothlorian didn't want to think about trying to deal with. Tossing up the utensil with his finger, the object flipped several times on its way up, then went straight down, blade first towards Iselda's palm. With just a thought Lothlorian cast his magic upon it, stopping it in motion before it could touch his friend’s perfect and supple skin. He smiled, the punch line having been delivered in his little joke of his. “You’re never any fun.” Slowly he grabbed the handle with his other hand, wrenching it from Lothlorian’s will as he gave a soft laugh at his jest. “It is just a butter knife, you know.” “You should be more careful.” Lothlorian chided, sharing his own bit of scorn in his tone. “One of these days your little jokes are going to get you killed.” It wasn't a thought he enjoyed, seeing the elf he had spent centuries growing up with, dead and dedicated back to the earth that supported him. Even elves grew old, eventually, and it was Lothlorian's hope that he could spend that time with Iselda, by his side as their twilight years went past them. Having spent so long in developing their relationship, Lothlorian was more than reluctant to let his own antics threaten whatever future they may have. It wasn't the same kind of love humans experienced, so short sighted and so quick, like a fire burning out after one night. For elves it was much different. Things took longer, but the payout was by far greater than what a non-elf could understand. “Yes, yes, we wouldn't want to spoil my pretty little skin now would we? Anyway, I will relay your commands to the guards and make sure House Horbrace receives your message. Its strange how you will call me reckless yet flirt with open conflict with this house of humans, worse yet humans who believe themselves justified in their cause.” Their zeal for doing good for their fellow man wasn't as intense as say the Kadians, but it was still much too frustrating at times for him to tolerate. If they believed themselves so bold, they could certainly give it a try. “One of these days Iselda you will test my patience beyond its limits.” “I await such a grand event with baited breath.” With that he left, and Lothlorian would continue to think upon what to do about their little problem. If House Horbrace continued to try his patience, more drastic actions than bruised prides and lightened wallets will have to be taken. They had been able to ignore such a petulant people for decades now, but to attempt something so brazen in their lands, it was certainly a troubling sign. Humans had a nasty habit of escalating things when they didn't know their place. Thinking about war made him feel flustered, as it was never as lucrative when one was waging it against someone. House Aetherion increased their wealth by great deals as they traded with warring factions. As a major agricultural industry, there were little competitors in times of war. Farmers were being sent off to die by their master's directions, thus leaving the elves able to charge whatever they wished for their produce. So long as the humans were content with slaying each other for their honor or pride or what-not, House Aetherion were more than willing to feed their hungry people, for a price of course. An army crawls on its stomach, and it is no coincidence the ones who bought from the elves tended to have the advantage during conflict. Even though they did not fight as hands on as others did, resource resources would still be lost when they could be put to better use. Finishing his morning food signaled the start of the next part of his morning, which was to speak with the nearby mages responsible for maintaining and creating the stone warriors whenever they were needed. It felt like a bad omen to be speaking with them so soon after a troubling report of a neighboring noble house instigating trouble, but it had to be done. These were the protectors of House Aetherion and her lands, so were required to be in peak condition in case they were ever needed. In more than one occasion the mere sight of those faceless fighters has sent quite a few bandits running for the hills. At the southern entrance Lothlorian discovered several of the more prominent members of the group responsible for the military magic of House Aetherion. There were two masters and four apprentices, working on a dozen new stone warriors, much to Lothlorian’s surprise. He had not approved of any orders to create more of the fighting statues, so he decided to investigate the matter. “You there” Lothlorian said, addressing the older of the two masters as they inspected some glowing runes upon the warrior's body. “Who gave you permission to start making more of these?” Cautiously he answered, feeling as surprised as Lothlorian did. “Orders came down from Gentle Breeze, Lord Aetherion. She requested they be made so that we could be prepared for a future campaign.” Lothlorian was stunned, but refused to allow the others to see such an emotion on his face. Instead he nodded and looked over the golems they were currently working on near the gate. They were beautiful in their design, strong and deadly, likely able to take enormous amounts of punishment before falling to enemy attacks. If House Aetherion were about to go on the warpath, then woe to anyone unfortunate enough to go against these unfeeling behemoths of death. “As marvelous as ever” he said with a smile. “How many of these are to be made?” “At least one hundred sir, quite the expensive order if I say so myself.” Lothlorian nodded and started to make his way back to the capital palace. House Aetherion could afford such a cost, but to what ends it would be used for was his concern. Making war against another house was not the common occurrence it was in years past. Now that the East has swallowed up the North, the rules have changed, and order has more or less been forcibly imposed upon the nobility that made up this area. Granted the amount of bloodshed was only hindered instead of stopped, as people just became much more cautious about how they plunged their daggers into someone's back. Anger and questions began to formulate ugly thoughts in his mind about why his mother would do this to him. Gentle Breeze had never gone over his head and personally requested for more warriors to be constructed. There was an understanding between them, one that was clear in Lothlorian's mind at least, that he would handle the military affairs of House Aetherion. For her to do this to him felt like a blow to his ego, and it planted doubt within his mind about his own leadership abilities. Most of all, he felt left out of the loop as to what the plan was to be. He was her son, yet now he felt like a stranger, his head beginning to feel clouded by emotion. Clearing his head of such distractions, he approached the beautifully carved panel of wood that served as the “door” to the capital palace of Ellysia Paradisum. There were no handles, no hinges, no visible means of opening the large wooden object physically. All anyone would see was the ornate, fantastical scene so lovingly carved into the mahogany surface of the sealed entryway. Of course for the elves of House Aetherion, this was by design, for what lay beyond was created especially for them, away from the greedy eyes of humans. Placing the palm of his right hand upon the door, he summoned the magic within him, concentrating it upon the spot he was making contact with. Golden ripples of energy were released, causing the wood to shimmer as it transformed before his very eyes. In a matter of moments the door was now a portal comprised of a viscous material that could be stepped through, the scene carved into the wood now alive just beyond the threshold. With but a few steps, he was now within the Dream Lands, the magical realm of his mother, Gentle Breeze. This was not like the world of Valucre itself, more of a waking dream created by an avatar of its power, where the fantastic and alien were commonplace. It was a mystical place, a place where the light never harmed one’s eyes, the air shimmered with vibrant life, and the grass was softer than clouds. Walking through the place of his mother's sanctuary was always an enlightening experience. This was where his mother placed all that she cared for, all that she desired and all that she hoped for in the world within this place. All of Lothlorian’s beliefs of what he knew of his mother were under threat of being questioned, all because of this breach in protocol in a system they had operated under for centuries. Surely she would explain things, and the confusion in his head would be cleared before things became problematic for them. He found her in a grove of silver trees some distance to the north, her incredible beauty accentuated by the light violet fabrics she wore as her robe. Gentle Breeze commanded such incredible grace and perfection in her appearance, but it went even deeper than that. Of all the followers of their faith, none were as devoted as she. So great was her service to Astra Terra that the land itself chose her to lead House Aetherion. It was by her rule that they had been able to continue their golden age of prosperity, with the elves of House Aetherion inching ever closer to their goal. It was only how much he loved and cared for Gentle Breeze that Lothlorian felt so hurt by this. Desperate for answers, he waited outside the grove until given permission to enter by his mother. “Hello, my son” she said in that velvety voice of impossible softness “I imagine you have come to visit me because of the order I placed for more warriors.” There would be no games between them, something he was appreciative of immensely. Gentle Breeze did not mince words with her children, not when it came to important matters of state. “Yes, Gentle Breeze. Why did you not go to me to request the construction of the soldiers?” His eyes could not stray from that beautiful face, taking in every inch of her glorious skin and perfect features that seemed to bend the light around her. What did humans know of beauty? No other face could be as intoxicating or as mesmerizing as the elf that stood before him. He almost forgot why he was upset with her in the first place, ready to forgive everything if only to look upon that golden visage for a few moments more. Yet his wounded pride would not allow him to forget, so he retained his focus. “You entrusted me with running the military affairs of our people, but you go behind my back to have more weapons of war created? Mother what is going on?” When she looked at him, deep into his own golden irises, he felt rooted to the ground. This was her domain, her power was all around Lothlorian, her influence spread over every inch of his being. For a moment he thought he might die, but then she smiled, that warm, uplifting upturn of her lips that fooled the elfin lord that a second sun was rising. “My son, you are so incredibly important to me, that I could never imagine hurting you in such a way. The only reason I did this was to get your attention, to make you understand what is to come soon.” “I...I’m not sure I understand what you mean, mother. What is coming?” “Our time, my son. For far too long the world has been without the guidance of the elves. They would rather follow flawed humans who have so monstrously altered themselves, they do not even resemble the people they claim to care for. More and more of our people are flocking to our gates, all in the knowledge that House Aetherion will protect them, will give them the future every elf deserves. The time for hiding beneath the tyrannical rule of inferior beings is over, today we will be a free people.” Her words sounded so wonderful, so agreeable, so dangerous. While he agreed with much of what she said, it was the idea of trying to reclaim the world that had him reluctant to commit fully. Powerful forces were afoot, and one wrong step could cause disaster for everyone involved. “How will we accomplish this? Our armies are nothing compared to theirs, they wield weapons and magic that they do not fully understand. If we break free now, we will surely be crushed underneath their boots.” Gentle Breeze nodded, understanding her son’s fears, and quelling them with artistic ease. “My dearest son, we will do what we always do. We play their little games, and best them until we have what is ours. They underestimate us, and so will not be expecting our moves to be so quick, so decisive. We are about to wage war, my son, a war of ideas and beliefs, without a single arrow being fired or a sword being raised. While we are advancing and claiming victories, they will not even be aware there is a battle going on. Even now, we are preparing to make House Horbrace our first victory, and a reminder to those who would defy our sovereignty.” Lothlorian then knew it was more about punishing the humans than anything, but he could not say he did not feel the same about it. Of course it did leave one question in his mind left unanswered. “How will we punish them this time?” “Just as we did a decade ago, my son, we shall starve them. Only this time, we shall give them no reprieve, no mercy, until they pay our price. Our price will not be satisfied in Hawks though, it will only be paid in land, much of it indeed.” There was much one could do with the right kind of property, if they were shrewd enough. Considering how much intelligence Gentle Breeze possessed, it would surely be a death stroke against House Horbrace. A victory here would mean more power across the board, which would also mean their neighbors would begin to feel a little unsettled by their expansion. Such was human nature, to fear that which was greater than themselves. Something about this conversation felt strange to Lothlorian, like it should have happened sooner. Then all at once he understood what she meant by getting his attention, and felt ashamed for not having seen her sooner. His mother had many children, part of her personal mission to try and bolster the number of elves in the world. Lothlorian stopped keeping track after thirty or so, knowing that she would always be having children, so long as she felt the desire to nurture and care for her people. Even with so many children, she loved them like they were the only ones she had in existence. This was why she went behind his back, because she was saddened that he had not come and visit her in some time. Shameful, yes, but he has grown into his own elf, and had his own responsibilities to handle in this trying world. Not just his duties, but his own relationships that required their own time and dedication, like his relationship with Iselda. Neither parents were particularly happy that they were spending so much time together, as Gentle Breeze would rather her son be spending time with a female of their kind, to continue their efforts in increasing the elven population. In time the lord would choose his mate, but for now he appreciated Iselda’s company, and would continue that relationship for some time at least. It was difficult to find someone he enjoyed more than his assistant, they just didn't share the same wild spark as Iselda did. If he ever did find a female elf with such qualities, he would likely never leave her side again. “Mother, I apologize for not coming to see you sooner. Protecting House Aetherion requires much of my attention, especially after the Carmine Empire assimilated the Great North into its borders. That as well as the Kadians advancing in the South makes our situation even more precarious.” Disappointing his mother was tantamount to plunging a dagger into his own beating heart. She had given him life, given him everything he could want, all while asking for nothing in return. Lothlorian could not begin to repay all that which she had done for him, forever in her service and forever loyal to her in all things. Walking over to him, her every step a graceful act of divinity, she would wrap her arms around her son, embracing him fully and pulling him close to her. It was an incredible feeling that could not be described in words, to feel her warmth, her body, her very essence made him feel as if he were floating in the clouds themselves. They stayed that way for a moment, embraced in each other’s arms before it was broken, the love they shared causing Lothlorian to feel charged with energy. It was in these moments that he felt the safest, the most certain of himself in all that he did. Whenever he was in his mother's arms, he just felt safe. “You will always be my most favorite child, Lothlorian.” For a moment he thought his heart might stop, overwhelmed with the intense feeling of joy he experienced. What woman could possibly compare with his own mother? The next morning brought with it new challenges and new victories, mainly when Lothlorian awoke to find Iselda in his room. More than a little surprised by the unannounced visit, Lothlorian was at first uncertain as to why his lieutenant was here, and more importantly why he looked so cross. Realization slapped him in the face as he realized why the elf was there in the first place. “Iselda, I meant to tell you, I swear.” “You're going to cause a war. You know that, don't you?” He shook his head and scoffed. “Of course you know. Your dearest mother always shares her plans with her little pet.” Pushing down the anger Lothorian felt from his friend speaking ill of Gentle Breeze, he got out of bed and moved to his dresser. Before he could pull open a drawer and select a tunic Iselda was there, blocking his way with that hardened stomach of muscle and smooth skin. Even dressed in the attire of his office, bright shades of purple and gold, Lothorian longed to caress his midsection and pull him closer, but his anger brought him out of such fancies. “You are acting like a child, Iselda.” “Who is more the child, I wonder? The elf who will not stand up to his own mother and tell her these plans are madness, or me?” Iselda stepped closer, and Lothorian held his ground, their eyes getting close to one another. Tension was running amok of what could have been a pleasant morning, but the young lord would not give in. Any other time, this might have been when their lips met and they lost themselves to their own passions, but the seriousness of the situation did not allow for such a thing. “I am doing this for our people, Iselda, you have to trust me on that.” Neither of them blinked, each of them were looking for something in the eyes of the other. Times were beginning to change, and while Lothorian felt he was adapting to those situations, Iselda felt the changes were not for the better. Seconds passed, and Iselda’s face tightened to that of a grimace, his hand cupping Lothorian’s face for a brief moment. Would he kiss the elf that seemed so different to him now? How long had he really been different, and Iselda just let his own heart blind him to such things. Letting out a regretful sigh, he dropped the hand back to his side, an action that hurt the both of them and turned to walk out of his room. “You should get dressed. There is much to discuss about your little trade war.” Walking through the fair streets of their beloved city, the two elves spoke in depth of what needed to be done. It was difficult for the both of them, as the earlier conversation left an awkward space between the two, preventing them from acting naturally. The emotional gap between them was upsetting, but there was work to be done before Lothorian could try and mend the damage. “So, how are we to stop others from shipping goods over to House Horbrace? Some are scared by our reputation alone to not dare such a thing, but the promise of gold can make them brave.” His voice was dry and professional, without the least bit of jest to be found within it. This was not the future that Lothorian wanted, one where the person he cared about would act so cold to him. “If anyone tries to supply them with anything whatsoever, we’ll simply double whatever Horbrace is offering.” “What if they take our gold and decide to sell to the Horbraces anyway?” Lothorian grimaced, frustrated not just in the depths that human greed could come to, but the fact he didn't think of that as a possibility. Would the other houses truly be so devious to fill their coffers from both sides? Of course they would, it was in their nature to be deceitful, especially in times of conflict. Birds chirped to the playful tune of natural melodies as the elven leader thought up an answer. “Whoever we discover to be doing this won’t be punished, no, we have to play smarter than that. Instead we’ll do some bidding wars with Horbrace, driving up the prices of whatever they need and then let them pick up the bill. In addition we will put out hefty bounties to anyone caught smuggling supplies into Horbrace territory, a hundred Hawks a head should do it.” It would be expensive, that much was certain, but that was a hit House Aetherion could withstand. Besides, what good was gold if you couldn't use it to gain you something besides material possessions? “Fair enough” Iselda said, refraining from making any kind of quips or snappy retorts to the ideas. They were good, mostly because they played well to the darker parts of human nature. “What will we do if they decide to raid our lands and pillage from us what we won’t allow for them to buy?” Lothorian laughed, finding the level of desperation a government could go to in order to survive nearly hysterical. “If it comes to that, then it means we’re winning. To think they would go so far astray from their own morals is highly amusing. At that point all we have to do is continuously beat back their advances until they are too drained to continue. While this is going on we will have extra patrols on the roads, defensive perimeters around the villages and towns as well as restricting travel to regions that are distant from Horbrace lands.” The threat of violence from such pathetic people meant nothing to Lothorian, believing completely in the might of his House’s military power. Iselda however did not find the humor in the joke, instead letting out a frustrated sigh as he looked to his colleague. “They aren't evil, Lothorian. We don't need to do this to them or their people when they've done nothing to us at all.” Yet another worrying sentiment from an elf of his own kind. To have feelings this deep for their enemy had to be squashed, and quickly. “Iselda, do you think House Horbrace will stop at trespassing in our lands to achieve their noble goals?” He would continue talking regardless if he had anything to say in response or not. It was important he actually listen to him. “The answer is no, Iselda. They won't stop there, they'll keep escalating until they can rationalize even more horrible things to do to us under the guise of their so called righteous morality.” His voice was beginning to rise in volume, the common folk around them making way so as not to accidentally anger Lothorian. “That is the way humans work, Iselda, its how they have survived for so long since their creation. Manipulate, scheme, come off as the ones with the moral high ground even though they are the ones breaking the rules and disrespecting our rights. If you wish to see everything we have built and love here smashed to ruins because those very same humans have rationalized in their pathetic minds how it is righteous and noble to gather together and destroy us then yes, continue arguing on what is a ‘good’ human. As far as I am concerned there are no good humans, only varying degrees of repugnant.” For a moment they were silent, their area deserted of civilians due to Lothorian's shouting. Realizing how monstrous he sounded, he tried to recovering by focusing on a different aspect of the argument. “The people here at home care about you, Iselda. I care about you, which is why I don't want to see you get hurt because of your faith in humanity or others in general. We have to stand together, because the world will do anything and everything to destroy us for good. These people depend on us, on me, to keep them safe and to keep their way of life safe from people who would replace it with their own flawed way of living their lives. Please understand I am not the monster here, Iselda.” Turning away from him, Iselda shook his head, running his fingers through that golden mess of hair he never bothered to tame. Something as orderly as putting it in a ponytail or a bun was too restricting to him, so he allowed it to roam free and wild like a majestic animal. Lothorian wanted nothing more than to be with him, to hold him close and to make the world occupied by only them for a few moments. Conflicting emotions swirled within the elf, but he knew in his heart he had to stay true to his people, to his values. Iselda was one elf, and Lothorian wasn't sure if he could value that life to the lives of everyone he was responsible for. “Answer me one question, Lothorian, just one that I need an answer to, because I can't go like this, with my heart in such turmoil. Do you love me? All of me? Even the parts of me that make you worried and concerned over my loyalties to our people and to your house?” Now it was his turn to feel nervous about the subject matter, fearing this question for sometime now. Iselda wanted something real in this now, something to actually call themselves. If he was to say yes to that question, it would mean accepting him for who he was, their relationship becoming now something akin to life mates. To do so would mean walking into a firestorm of political turmoil that would make his future dealings with his mother difficult at best. Something in him though could not relinquish that connection to him, that wild passion they shared for each other, and it twisted his heart into an unrecognizable mass in his chest. “Yes, Iselda. I love you, and every maddening part of you that makes me want to claw out my eyes, I love as well.” In that moment they stood frozen, the world around them inconsequential as their feelings were left in the open. Lothorian had put himself out there, making himself vulnerable for this one chance at obtaining the kind of love he felt was the one he had been searching for his entire long lived life. The risk of being decimated with rejection made him angry, scared and uncertain at the same time. It was then that Iselda walked right up to him and their lips met with fiery zeal. Loving Iselda felt like strange, different from the love he felt for his.mother, but still just as wonderful and exhilarating. This moment was right, it was all right for them, and he wanted it to last forever, but that was not to be their fate as of yet. Breaking their embrace, they knew where their focus had to be, where their priorities lied. Iselda did not approve of the plan and the methods, but in Lothorian, his new mate, he could find peace in a way. Now all that was to be done, was the execution and the end result of their machinations. The days went by, and House Horbrace felt the full wrath of the elven house in the Great North. Food shipments stopped, then the ships from other houses stopped coming, and their people experienced an economic depression like they had never known before. Hunger was rampant, the people were growing angrier as common items became ever more expensive by the day. Something had to be done soon, or else House Horbrace would face a violent revolt against them. This was when a conclave was called, and the two houses met under neutral ground for their negotiations. Rain had come down this day, setting the stage for a somber encounter between the two. Lothorian and Iselda were in attendance, their own retinues, with several of their stone guardians for protection. Wearing their finest clothes, they watched their counterparts with vested interest. There was something profound about seeing their rivals lain low in such a manner. Arriving in what looked to be the last vestiges of their wardrobes, the three remaining Horbraces looked upon the elves with open disgust and contempt. Elizabeth Horbrace, the newly widowed Lady Horbrace after the unfortunate riot which claimed their husband Jordan's life, was looking near livid with rage. None of them had any jewelry or other items of luxury upon them, likely sold to help pay for the simple supplies needed to make everyday life possible for their people. It was amazing how much one could suffer when cut off from the rest of the world. “Let us begin our negotiations now between our two venerable houses.” Lothorian said, keeping his voice calm and even, repressing his urge to laugh at their misfortune. It was wonderful to see the arrogance of humans ground into the dirt as they deserve to be. Now was the time to finish them once and for all. “Let us begin with how we can settle this feud, and restore peace to our region.” “You are the ones who turned our lives into chaos in the first place!” Said the outraged son, Bartholomew Horbrace, who was close to drawing perhaps the last possession of their house, a short sword of poor quality with the jewels inlaid in the hilt removed. It was almost amusing to see him so.angry, but so helpless against the power of their betters. As soon as he tried to make a move, either the wizards in their group or the warriors in their party would destroy them all in a heartbeat. They had no other cards to play, no power left in these negotiations. “Calm yourself, child. All of this would have been avoided if you only had respect for our laws.” Lothorian said, his voice carrying such authority their mousy daughter Ramona began to cry like a helpless child. Iselda looked the other way, his heart not in it for seeing the suffering of others. In time perhaps, he would understand the folly of caring for these flawed creatures. “Just tell us what you want. Our people have suffered enough from all of this.” Elizabeth did well to hide her emotions, but Lothorian could clearly see the distress and despair clawing through her. Nodding to her suggestion, the elven leader gave them their price. “We demand everything. All your lands, incomes, assets and titles. Your house will be dissolved, and you will leave the Great North forever.” The downcast look of defeat they had was absolutely priceless. It was obvious they would accept, for what did they truly have in their lands anymore? Nothing, absolutely nothing but a failed legacy of altruism and self imposed righteousness. Already the other houses were recognizing their rule and paying tribute to them for fear of receiving the same punishment. Being on top was a truly grand experience. “We accept” Elizabeth said, her heart sinking as she felt her world finally crumbling into ruins. “Just...just treat our people with respect, they deserve that much, at least.” “Whoever wishes to convert to Astra Terra will be allowed to stay as a Neophyte, the others will be banished.” Their expression was predictable, though not what Ramona did next. “I will convert to Astra Terra!” “Ramona!” “I will not be banished from my homeland like cattle. If it means I get to stay in the Great North, then I will gladly become a Neophyte.” Neither of the two could comprehend the decision, but it was clear their relationship as a family dissolved long ago. Welcoming the young woman into the flock, Lothorian gave them three days to pack their things and be gone. In showing they were not complete monsters, they allowed them a large caravan of supplies to be brought back to their people. “So you have succeeded, Lothorian, and caused the destruction of an entire family as well as created suffering for an entire group of people for weeks on end. Do you feel like a conqueror? Like a hero?” “Would you have preferred we invaded, killed everyone and painted the land red with their blood? We couldn't allow them to continue operating as they were, and this was the more humane way to do it.” He was silent, but Lothorian went to him, kissing him softly in front of their peers, he returning the kiss in exuberant passion. The future was theirs to take together, no matter what the consequences of their actions were. Elves did not need to care about the opinions of lesser races, for they were the greater race, to apply their own morality to what they felt was right for them. For now House Aetherion would enjoy its victory, its increase in property and the power that came with it. The time of House Aetherion’s rise was coming, and this was only the beginning.
  11. Elves are not arrogant, simply aware of their superiority to others. On this auspicious day, there is to be a glorious union of powerful groups. What is promised in this alliance is wealth, security and greater influence within the Great North. Preparations have been made, events set in motion, history about to be made. Will it be a great victory or a tragic disaster? Standing at the precipice of the outer gates of their capital, Elysia Paradisium, was the welcoming party organized to greet the delegates from House Kuei. It was a host of golden skinned elves, covered in the expensive finery of their house colors, and were lined up on both ends of the path for half a mile. Each of the richly robed elves were armed with a basket of rose petals, who were to shower the arriving dignitaries in the sweet smelling aroma of their homeland. First impressions were important, and House Aetherion was determined to set a positive tone for the rest of the day. Atop the walls were various musicians instructed to play only the softest and most beautiful of melodies they could imagine. Between every other musician was a stone warrior, as still as the mountain and ever vigilant in its duties, ensuring safety and peace during these negotiations. The violet banners of the elven house fluttered freely, and the entrance to their idyllic capital was well and truly ready for the visitors. All over the palace grounds, there were whispers raging like wild fire as to what the foreign guests would be like. Speculation was rampant as to how many would come, whether they were human or some other race, how they would react to their lifestyle and whether or not they were clean enough to go near. No one was certain of anything, only that the day promised to be filled with intrigue and plenty to gossip about. More curious than any elf in the noble house was the one they called Gentle Breeze, who stood on a balcony in the capital building, stories high in the air, watching for the arrival of their guests. Gentle Breeze's beauty outmatched all others in her realm, for she was the chosen of their clan. Centuries of countless prayers, endless dedication to ritual, and the utmost faith in the practices of the Astra Terra have lead to this. Facial features so alien, one could hardly believe she was born upon this planet, sculpted to perfection and having never felt the pain of a blemish or pimple. With golden eyes so deep and filled with life, it seemed all things looked grander and more vibrant when under her pleasant gaze. If she stood still long enough, one might swear she were a statue of pure gold, but she moved with the grace of an angel. In her heart she could feel them, the connection she shared with the land under Aetherion controlled like a second body she seamlessly slipped into at will, and it told her that House Kuei was closing in. "Handmaidens. I require clothing to meet our guests." Customs needed to be upheld, protocols followed, for there was much in the world of the elves not fit for human eyes. Whether it be certain parts of the palace, or even the face of Gentle Breeze, there were rules put in place to curb their inevitable jealousy. It was her sincerest hope that they could move past that in order to form a more perfect union between the two houses. If everything went as it should, then House Aetherion would be enjoying the better end of the deal, as is where they are most comfortable at. At the sight of the dignitaries, there were multiple groups of people waiting at the gates, eager to see these newcomers. Everything was prepared to give these emissaries a feast for the senses, and to show them the natural, graceful superiority of the elven people. Some saw it as arrogant, others are so mystified by it they don't even notice the implications of it all. One thing is for certain, it will be an interesting course of events to unfold. @Impulse
  12. Strolling along the tenuous borders separating the Carmine Empire from the Great North, Kassandra sought the pulse of magic. It had drawn her attention from far away, weak and erratic like a dying, fearful heartbeat, but there had been something about it that had gripped her attention. A darkness, a certain malice about its aura that could certainly prove useful, if not at least entertaining. So she had chosen new route, roaming into the high hills of the borders and seeking the source of this magical beat. Grass and trees rustled as she stopped, head tilting, listening. Aside from the gentle wind and shifting boughs of tall oaks and pine, there was no sound. No birds calling or squirrels chittering. There was no life other than the abundant vegetation. Kassandra could not hear the tantalizing sound of the flow of blood through living veins, or the pounding thoughts of a single soul. It proved her correct, confirmed her suspicions. There was indeed something here. One sunshift later she found it, lying upon a jutting rock. Multifaceted and gleaming brightly, the red stone was the size of two handspans, and certainly no crystal or gem she had ever encountered before. It had come from far away, perhaps from Terrenus, she thought as she drew close to it, bending to examine its shimmering surface. Breathing in deeply, she placed one hand above the stone, palm downward, almost close enough to touch. She carefully extended her internal energies, and caressed the stone’s aura. The vibration that rippled across it was no doubt dark, almost evil. There was something cruel and wicked attached to this stone. Kassandra straightened, crossing her arms, thinking. She looked about, searching for any who might be watching, but found herself entirely alone. Perfect. She extended her arms, first to her sides and then adjacent-wise. She breathed in, and exhaled. The wind howled, kicking up around her. The shifting grass stirred and the trees grew restless. The ground suddenly shook as she called up the energies that was hers to command. Loose pebbles rolled across the earth, leaves torn loose flicked away into the sparse clouds above, and the bones of a long-dead creature shattered to dust. There was an unearthly shriek from the wind as Kassandra threw one arm above her, fingers splayed, and began to chant in a voice harsh and mighty, echoing throughout the hills of Genesaris. “By and by, the heralds cry, As ghosts and spirits wail and fly! May chains and bindings crumble and rust - Give me your promises and trust. Break free, my little one, and know The sins and punishments you’ve sowed. Come to me, hear my call! By the shadowed sun and the stars downfall By the black moon, pay my toll, Break loose, become my imprisoned soul!” Trees uprooted themselves. Grasses turned to ash and scattered. The ground around the crimson stone turned black, and cracks appeared around the rock upon which it stood. The red stone suddenly shattered, but as the shards flew wide, time seemed to stall and reverse. The pieces halted in midflight, and joined back together in one loud, ear-shattering bang. Kassandra laughed as her spell reached its climax, the energies reaching into the lands beyond and further still to grasp hold of what should not be.
  13. ~Watchers Mansion, Mageside City~ __________________________________________ In light of recent events in Terrenus, the vigilante group dubbed "The Watchers" were holding a meeting. At the head of the long table sat Nathan Jameson, the group's leader. To his right was Arthur Morn - the former leader of Shrine City's Watch. Arthur's twin, Elias sat opposite to Nathan on the other end. To his left sat the group's other two members, Max and Gale. "You are certain of this, then Elias?" Nathan asked, leaning forward while looking up from the notes on the table. Across from him, Elias nodded. "I am. Terrenus' government is attempting to stamp out reckless, unauthorized use of Magic. Though some are in agreement with this decision, many are offended by the very thought of it. There has even been talk of armed insurrection." The Watchers exchanged worried glances. A tense silence followed. They all understood what this meant. Terrenus was a principal battleground between the group and their enemies - the demonic cults that had spread all across the world. Without being able to use their powers in combat, they would be at a critical disadvantage. Furthermore, to ignore the law and go about using their abilities openly might bring governmental reprisal. The debate that was raging in each of the Watcher's minds at that moment, though a word had yet to be uttered, was over their stance in regards to the law. Arthur in particular had fought his whole life to preserve the law as part of Shrine City's Watch. However, he had given up that career when he joined the Watchers. Though Nathan suspected Arthur still held lingering sympathies for his former comrades. He was not blind to the man's nightly activities. At least once a week, when he put Miya (his adoptive daughter) to bed, Arthur left the mansion, ostensibly to go on late night walks around the city. At first, the Watcher's leader had accepted this as part of the man's nature as a creature of habit. However, Nathan became aware of his real doings when one night, he returned (near 3 AM no less) with a number of bruises and a bloodied lip. Instead of confronting his friend - and risk splitting the team on their opinions, he had secretly allowed it - even taken to shadowing Arthur during a few of his nightly patrols. Most of the time it was nothing; just the guardsman walking around the city, but lately he had encountered increasing numbers of disturbances. Purse-snatchings and muggings were on the rise, as were the number of renegade magic users fleeing from Terrenus to escape persecution. Nathan suspected these events might be linked. Finally, it was Max who broke the stalemate with a few choice words. "Perhaps we should consider appealing to the government. See if we can get them to change their minds." Beside him, Gale snorted. "You'd have a better chance of negotiating with a stone wall. The government is afraid of what it can't control. They think that anyone who doesn't answer to them is an automatic threat." "That would include us too, then." Arthur pointed out. "We are not beholden to any government. We answer to no authority but our own - and we operate largely independent of the law." "Yes, but that doesn't make us a threat." Nathan replied. "After the Leviathan Incident, we were thought of as heroes. The governments of the world thought of us as their allies." "Allies?" Gale spat. "They thought of us as potential tools. They saw us and labeled us heroes - hoping that would curry our favor and make us more sympathetic to them. They didn't see us as savors, they saw us as potential weapons." "And when that did not happen, when we did not become any tool of any government, they went the opposite route and started to try and slander our good names." Elias said, understanding dawning on him. "So you think this is all part of some conspiracy to coerce us into joining them?" "It's a strong possibility." Gale replied. "They know that some of us are more inclined to serving than others." "Serving?" Arthur said coldly, leaning forward. His brown eyes were dark with anger. "I didn't serve anyone except the people." "That's enough, you two." Nathan said firmly, eyeing them both. He saw the potential shouting match brewing between his teammates and he was determined to keep that from happening. The moment Arthur lost control of his temper, the moment this whole meeting would become worthless. "Why the government is doing this is irrelevant. The real issue is to decide what are we to do about it?" "The answer should be obvious, Nathan." Gale said, slamming his fist into the table. "We join the rebels and fight." "And be part of a war that could destroy innocent lives?" Arthur countered. "Who's to say these rebels are even in the right?" "There are those of us that rely more on Magic than just for reading a few dirty minds." Gale said angrily. "Or are you saying that all of us should be like you and just rely on our fists?" "ENOUGH!" Nathan shouted, rising from his seat. He took several deep breaths, as all his comrades looked up in surprise. Rare indeed were the times Nathan ever barked an order, or indeed, ever lost his temper. "Both of you knock it off before I knock both your heads off." Once he mastered himself, he sat back down. "Elias, since you're the one that brought us this information, you and Max will head to Terrenus and check on every area of instability, then come back and give us an update. Don't interfere unless the situation demands it or you find your lives threatened. And don't use your powers unless you have absolutely no other choice." "As you will, Master." Max said with a nod. "IF that's all, then." Nathan said. "Meeting adjourned."
  14. A warm breeze snaked through the trees, rustling the leaves. It tussled the curly, knotted mass of deep red hair spread across the ground. Its owner was in a similarly disheveled state, her pants and baggy shirt covered in a mix of blood and dirt. Next to her lay a dog nearly as big as she, his shaggy grey coat flecked with mud. He was whining, his nose occasionally nudging the woman's cheek in an attempt to wake her. She groaned and scrunched up her bruised face before opening her green and gold flecked eyes to look up at the tree canopy with confusion. She turned her head stiffly to regard the dog next to her with surprise, he let out a bark and wagged his tail. "What the hell happened?" She groaned and attempted to sit up. Shooting pain shot up her side and her head spun, she quickly lay back down with a bigger groan. The dog continued to whine and nudged her shoulder with his nose. She reached out an arm and gently stroked his head, the dog was familiar with her, but she couldn't remember ever having a dog....in fact, she couldn't remember anything prior to her waking up. She sighed and tried to push herself up to sitting once again, gritting her teeth she pushed through the pain shooting up her side and the world spinning and managed to sit. She closed her eyes a moment and hoped the spinning would stop, it was making her queasy. When she felt the earth still, she bravely opened one eye and closed it quickly to prevent the dog's wet lick from going into her eye. He was sitting too, wagging his tail and panting, he attempted to lick her again and she pushed him away. "Agh!" She cried, trying to fend off the dog while her side agonized her, "enough! enough!" He sat back and looked at her expectantly. "I don't suppose you know how we got here do you?" She asked, "A better question would be where are we?" He continued to wag his tail and regard her happily, he barked causing her to flinch from the splitting pain in her head it caused. "Not so loud!" She scolded, "My head feels like it is going to fall right off my body..." She looked down at her blood soaked clothes and put a hand tentatively to her scalp where she felt a burning pain. When she pulled it back there was a red smear on it from blood. "I've got to get all this cleaned out..." She ground out, attempting to use a nearby tree to pull her to standing. The dog began to whine and lay back down. "I'm not going to lay back down." She said through gritted teeth. The world spun again and she clung to the tree, her stomach finally losing its battle, she vomited. The dog looked at her knowingly and she could swear it looked a little smug, as if to say "I told you so." "Yeah, yeah yeah." She glared back at it, waiting for the world to stop spinning. When it did she took a tentative step forward, when the world didn't spin and her stomach didn't empty, she took another one and then another. The dog stood and followed her, occasionally looking at her quizzically. "I need to see if there are any clues as to who I am, who you are or even how we got here." She told him, "Be helpful and start looking too!" He sniffed around while she slowly scanned the ground around her. "Nothing but dirt!" She said in frustration, the movement loosening up her stiff limbs. The dog sat and barked, he looked at her expectantly once again. She approached him and he nosed the ground, she bent stiffly and lifted a necklace from the ground. She ran her thumb over the dirt encrusted engraving on the back. It read "Zafira." "Who is Zafira?" She asked, "Is that me?" The dog barked and wagged his tail. "I'm going to take that as a yes for now..." She searched the ground for any other clues, "Now I have to figure out what you are called..." The dog stood and pranced in a circle, whining. Zafira ignored him and continued to search, she found a strange looking stringed instrument in the bushes. It looked to be once ornately painted and carved, it looked battered and well used now. She plucked a few strings for amusement and her fingers flew across the strings, producing a haunting melody before one of the strings broke with a very ugly sounding "thwang." "Well....it appears I know how to play music." She said furrowing her brow, "But how can I remember how to play music if I cant remember the name of the darn song?" The dog barked and wagged his tail happily. "You don't happen to know where a stream would be do you?" She asked the dog, fully expecting him not to answer. He leapt up and loped off into the woods. Zafira shouted angrily after him and began to stiffly walk in the direction he ran off to. He doubled back and walked next to her. "If we are to be companions I should figure out your name..." She mused, "Perhaps I will just make one up." The dog growled. "Fine, I will try to figure it out..." She tried to think through the splitting headache, but it was like trying to hold sand, it kept slipping away, "Its no use, my memory is gone...is it -" She looked around, "Tree?" She could have sworn the dog raised an eyebrow at her. "You are right that is a stupid name, I would never name something that..." She looked around again, "Sky?" He ignored her and continued to lead her towards water. "What about Cat?" She joked, he growled at her again, "It was just a joke - jeez - Good thing there is no one around, they would probably think I'm crazy talking to a dog." The sound of running water caught her attention and she momentarily gave up on her quest to remember the dog's name, she wasnt even sure if the name on the locket was her name. But she would borrow it for now.
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