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The Obsidian Crown

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Prior to today, the most random happenings in his life were only the occasional hiccups that came sometimes occur when you work with dangerous, unpredictable minerals—Exalta, which sometimes proved unstable and prone to… explosions. Aurelius himself never had such an unfortunate accident. He knew and respected the danger such material presented and acted with due caution; sadly, that could not be said for every other individual he had ever worked with, especially amongst the interns. Young, naïve and cocksure, they often ignored protocols and sometimes… they paid for it in the price of singed flesh and other unusual effects. If he could recall correctly, there was this one time an intern went home with pink eyebrows and a forked tongue.

The extent of excitement he typically encountered amounted to nothing at this level (though, unknown to him now, he would be taking Mageside Academy students into the biggest recorded magestorm in Genesaris history—that got exciting). Exciting to him was a night’s work well done, a few glasses of wine and a night with a woman who wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty and expect nothing in the morning other than a nice breakfast and perhaps seconds. Transported to and from another land? Fighting in a gladiator style tournament against beasties and foes he had nothing against? Yeah, that all exceeded his threshold for novelty. He was done, and he was pretty well ready to let Vayne know all about it. He felt no sympathy for the man simply because his little magic trick induced motion sickness.

“Now listen here…”

Asshole was going to be the next word, followed by perhaps another string of unflattering names and accusations, of which he was ready to “fly by the seat of his pants” and see what felt natural coming off his tongue. Again, he preferred control in things, but what better way to end a day without any control or sense by letting loose a torrent of words that came with little control and certainly only made a minimal amount of sense? At least, that was his thoughts behind it until the "man” revealed himself to actually be a woman. That added another wrinkle to this already rather wrinkly day.

Make no mistake, Aurelius is not the chivalrous sort who believes women should be tucked away and cared for- no, they’re fellow human beings, let them pull their own weight and learn how to make their own decisions. The idea of putting them up on a pedestal irritated him beyond measure, and so his hesitation had nothing to do with the fact that she was a woman, but rather had to do with his surprise at finding out she was a woman. One with a rather nice set of… assets, too. Perhaps (just a little!) to his dismay, she turned around before dropping the tape holding back the obvious sign of femininity, revealing herself only to the empty space behind them.

Thinking of said empty space reminded him that he had no idea where the hell they were at.

Despite his surprise, and despite the still submerged but now nearly conscious set of lascivious thoughts, his response was certainly less than cordial.

“Oh, so now you fucking ask. I think I’m on a nice date with this pretty girl, passing the time during my vacation- a forced vacation mind, because I would rather have been working- I get attacked by some weird group, transported to fuck-all knows where whereupon I am tossed into a gladiator pit with no other explanation other than what amounts to a ‘Fuck you, go prove yourself’, only for everything to go to absolute shit before I get transported back to who the fuck knows where.”

He’s breathing heavily, his face flushed and his fists clenched tightly at his side.

“Also, my clothes are gone, so that means I lost my favorite jacket, and when the fuck did you become a woman?!”

Really, he knew that was a silly way of phrasing the question right after he blurted it out. One could almost certainly assume (safely) that Vayne had, in fact, been a woman this entire time. Rather, a more properly suited question might have been to ask why she was masquerading as a man, and why she chose to reveal it now. Alas, even for men with his remarkable degree of intellect were prone to bouts of unadulterated stupidity when the adrenaline was flowing and the cortisol was flooding his brain. Enough stress could make the most sensible become rather senseless.

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For long a while, Vayne just stood there and faced the crystal lake that was laid out in front of her. The way the light hit it was almost as beautiful as the clarity that she was finally having with the situation that she was now in. The circumstances had almost been perfect, there was almost no time left and she would have completed what was needed to be. Yet… It was dragged, no, ripped clawing like a feral beast seeking its freedom. The urgent need to yell, scream, and let loose was there in her mind but she did nothing. Instead she let the bandages fall to the grass; they did not dissolve or show themselves as anything more than cloth. 

Instead Vayne would spin on her left heel, it was quite important that it was that heel, and she stared at him with an almost impassive gaze. The look of contempt blatant upon her expression, niglets of black and blue creasing toward an almond shaped collusion of eyes.  Hold it, hold it, maintain it… and she failed. The expression softened and she gave a gentle sigh. 

“Oh good. That is all you are worried about. At least there is no grudge,” she retorted while turning back around and heading toward the lake. The hands swept up to guide through her hair, she fixed the wild mop into something tight and cornered, hanging by a leather thong.

“The other good news is, you are technically free to go. I personally do not understand why Uriel decided to bring you to the encampment. If anything, we only needed the woman, for our… experiment, I suppose is the best answer. However, thanks to that Ryn-case, I now have to eventually go back and see if our eldritch friend is still alive.”

Once by the lake, she would kneel and sweep and scoop, gliding the water to her lips and inhaling a deep drink. If there were any toxins, she certainly did not taste or adhere to them and would finally sit back upon the grass. Arms crossed her chest, pressing upon the meat slops that tended to get in her every way; she stared at the lake in wonder. The anger did build; it surfaced with an almost ugly and primal heading, so much that she was near her limit, but it suppressed after a few breaths. Unbeknownst to her was the trailing glistening down her cheeks, and she let out a soft whistle. 

The tune was soft, almost a sing-song, but it grew and grew that it began to roll off of Vayne in gentle waves. Just as soon as the whistle started, it stopped, and she would hear the mighty flappings, the giant beatings, and the roaring echo of her partner. 

The beast landed on the far side of the lake to their left, it collided with branches and sticks alike, crushing and depressing, almost upturning dirt and mud and shit and whatever was there with it. The wyrm like beast began to trample, mighty four pronged hooves that created mud routes in the ground as it made its way to the lithe woman. With a serpentine head, aquiline nose, and flared horns the baby wyrm at almost fifteen meters long with a height about six meters high would let out a whining roar. The tongue darted out, svelte and sticky, dabbing at her side and she would laugh and playfully bat it. 

Of course, while friendly to Vayne, the wyrm did sense that of Aurelius and began to march to him, halting a few meters away. With an almost voracious roar, the wyrm would hop backwards and spin around after its tail, wings flapping casually as it snarled and then reversed the way it chased its own tail. 

Vayne smiled. “Aurelius, this is Vax.” The woman, half naked, stood and attended to Vax’s side, grasping out of a brown patch that had been sealed beneath the beast’s mighty left breast, and she fished a cotton tunic to finally suppress her issues, and picked a few things out that were almost essential to her. One was a stick like object with a curved bowl at the end, the other was a knife.  

Unfortunately, Vax had other plans and rushed, causing her to drop the long pipe and knife, and the bag flung assortments of things including vanity objects. The massive wyrm bunched past Aurelius and then skywardly leapt. 

“Vax! Get down here!” 

The large baby slammed into the rushing lake, sending a wave of water this way and that, showering them with such a drench but was lucky the damn coast was enough to halt too much from being ruined.

Edited by Eschaton

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Typical of a woman, she answered nothing and acted as if she covered everything he asked and then some. He might have been inclined to press the issue further, letting his temper continue to leak into the conversation, but he found himself distracted- the “inconvenient bags of meat” were indeed inconvenient. For Aurelius, their awkwardness was not a matter of logistics and proximity but rather the biosocial attachment he had for them, kick starting yet another physiological reaction he found difficult to control. Another reaction that tended to make even brilliant men rather dense. Alas, things came back around full circle: he got into this mess because he followed his penis, and here was at the end of the mess, fighting the temptation to follow his penis once again.

He did maintain enough of his sensibilities to fire off a retort of his own.

“Technically free to go. Sure glad that I have that technicalities have worked favorably for me.”

To his credit, he made an effort to avoid letting his eyes fall below her neck anytime she faced him and left her distracting features exposed. Lee was well short of chivalrous, but he did believe having at least some degree of manners made interactions go more smoothly. Honestly, he was not sure at this point if her lack of care was genuine or if there was an ulterior motive. Did she simply not care about such things- perhaps a matter of culture- or was she intentionally trying to manipulate him. The more he thought about it, the more his head began to throb. He’d had enough of this day. If he were technically free to go, then he certainly would make use of that privilege.

Lee raises a hand to tell Vayne as much, but the arrival of a dragon brought his departure to a screeching halt. Understandably, his initial reaction involved going for his pistols, as the stories he heard of dragons ranged from nerve-wracking encounters to tales of death, but Vayne’s body language quickly clued him in to their apparent relationship. He relaxes to a degree, but remains wary, having little more trust for Vayne than her pet.  

His trust diminished further when he saw what little degree of control she had over the beast. It spilled her possessions about and then took back to the skies, engaging in behavior that seemed an awful lot like trying to show off. Unfortunately, that showing off involved dousing them with water.

“Really? Really! Now I get to hike back to civilization whilst chafing and making annoying squelching sounds. Just perfect.”

Lee does just that, turning about and heading away from the lake.

“You do whatever you need to do, I’m calling my vacation over with and going home. Never should have left work.”

Indeed, he had important projects in the pipeline and couldn’t wait to get started.

“If you need me, just cast the idea from your head before making an effort to reach out. I’d say it’s been fun but really, this was not at all what I call pleasurable. You go about your business and I’ll go about mine.”

His voice begins to fade as he works on distancing himself from the cross-dressing woman and her poorly trained (and quite dangerous) pet. Much to his chagrin, he could see that mud and other debris were sticking to his boots and pant legs. Just perfect, he would reach a town looking like some disgruntled mountain man.

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The Festival of Love

The rubble exploded upward of fifty thousand miles into the air!

Or so proud Rideaux thought as he rolled out of the stone mound that surrounded him, and the rest of this miserable fucking place. Blood was spat there, ankles dragged there, and he crawled to the pitiful glory that he called his second in command. The bloodied bruiser was beaten to snot and smithereens, his teeth laying in a heap in every direction that the Cosmos themselves would be proud to say they were stars.

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

Rideaux smacked him! He slapped him! He bent down and bit at his eyes, and then he tossed his head, a guttural sound left him in a vicious cry that would sent the most curdling wolves to their dens. He rolled to his back, grasping at his chest with hurdled breaths. Gasping, he finally sat up; standing took a moment later, and Rideaux traveled around the torn down Garrison. He could barely recall the concussive force…


Why am I not dead?

Rideaux looked over his arms, the sleeves torn into jagged edges, armor ripped aside to unveil blackened fragments sputtering like pus from his wounds. Squealing from the sight, Rideaux shook his arm and glanced again to see the armor was unkissed by damage, shining as brilliant as ever. Silver. Prideful. Articulate.

Worry not, my child. You have only glimpsed into what I have in store for you. Your pitiful vessel is starting to falter already.

The voice echoed within, and Rideaux screeched. “What the fuck!? You! You caused this! You did this! You! You!” You… Rideaux looked around him. The Garrison was fucking smashed, every little ounce of defenses magical and physical were cluttered into piles of rubble and wooden discard. For the first time since he had risen from the fucking black hole of death, Rideaux felt powerful. Was he immortal? What was this vessel nonsense? Did it matter if Rideaux captured that bouncing little blue cock?

These were all questions Rideaux had. He wandered the graveyard in childlike wonder, gleefully giggling at the marks of blood and sigils left behind. Carefully making his way into the blackened obelisk, he had been ejected out of. It was less of its former glory, the insides lacked the mysterious gloom that echoed before. The magical fields were all dispelled, revealing a rather tiresome room that was an eyesore for the mighty Rideaux himself. What was once a mystical staircase that led down a path of wonder, the trapdoor was flecked open and smoke boiled out of it.

Hesitating at first, Rideaux thought otherwise, and traversed down the stairs to the pit where a large slab of stone lay. And in the center of that stone was… nothing.

“Hey! Voice thing! Is this some sort of fucking joke? What the dicks? Where is the girl? I had plans for her! Where is she!?” Thrashing around the room, Rideaux began throwing various objects, not once thinking that a body as large as the females would fit in the ordinary size of a bucket. “What the fuc—“

Rideaux gagged. The voice boomed.

“…! T-Thank you. You have removed the seals, and now we will rise.”

The honored guest has arrived, my child. Your vessel shall evolve… beyond your comprehension! Are you excited to finally ascend to Godhood? Your filthy sins shall be purified… You are my …

Rideaux screamed.

 Twas oft naught when a planetary diversion prevented warping… did strange things occur. Twould be the very hands of fate that twisted the Obsidian Butterfly, turning back time and cowering the divergent participants, bullying them without so much thought to negate their own feelings. For it would become soon obvious to the wandering city-man that the world Vayne had dragged twas not exactly their own.

Caked boots would not be the very thing that Aurelius should find himself too worried about. For every step he was drawn closer into the Butterfly’s weave. Mayhaps he would notice… was it four times or five times did that very same rock appear? Did that out grove appear to be very reminiscent of the one he passed awhile back?

It was very possible that this man was very tired of being dragged through nightmarish shit that he did not deserve an ounce of, that he should be rewarded… after all.

In the distance, look! Look there! Do you see? Flames… abound. The sounds of chatter and music breathed life into the forest. Dim campfire would coruscate the surrounding milieu, a grove washed in light as it enticed and beckoned. The smell of food called, the chatter of drink and wine begged, and the safety of the hearth could not have been even more clear. Did this man finally deserve respite? After all he had went through… Perhaps.

Finally, when the wyrm had sat himself aperched did Vayne get a moment to herself. Deep breaths were always a forced thing, but she had to take the careful measures. It was only when Aurelius had traveled too far out of sight did Vayne collapse, her fingers raking the mud and blood expelled from her. The pain wracked her lithe frame, causing her a moment of indignity. She had no true way to tell how many heartbeats it took for her to regain her composure, for her to finally sit on her haunches and stare upward to the sky.

How many promises did she make to her mother? That she would save her from that tyrant? Memories flashed to the garrison being destroyed, the shockwave that pulsed and brought a wave of resolution to her plans. Cerulean eyes going wide, she let herself shake for a moment. The lives that were lost, that she used for the sheer thought that this world may be capable of helping her.

No longer hearing the voice of Aurelius, she wondered where he would go. Perhaps she could catch up to him and recruit him for gold, or sex, or whatever it is these strange barbaric men loved. Hopping to her feet, she turned to head after the fading sound when everything went mute. The area grayed around her very form, and she felt the force first before hearing it.

A crackling ripple blasted behind her, halting her in her steps and the shockwave followed. Unlike the one before where she had anticipated and could flee from it, this one smacked her like a brick wall. It drove her to her back, stealing air from her lungs, and forcing her to accept the pain that followed. Dread immediately settled into her mind, and she felt the claws sweep into her. They dug deep, rooting and infesting and the voices pierced.

Mnn… C-child… Child of the Gods. We. Are. Free.

Images flashed within, like a slideshow they reeled in front of her vision, swimming. A tower in a cold distant mountain, magic pooled into the depths of the explosive crater, and nine figures stood around a depraved center. In the very center of the crater lay a defiled monstrosity, its enormous body was restrained by the Nine; energy being absorbed into the bindings that enslaved it.

Vayne whistled… a poor attempt, but she did her best. The wyrm let out a vacuous roar, pitiful and childish, it took off.

The Paragons have awakened.

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Twice is a coincidence.

Three times is a pattern.

A fourth time is fucking bullshit.

Aurelius thought the rock looked familiar the first time he passed it. He was no connoisseur of rocks, but his memory assured him that he remembered seeing that rock earlier on his walk. Lee chose to ignore that early warning, but the third passing made him cringe, and the fourth time ended with him losing his temper and kicking the damn thing as far away from him as possible. Despite wearing hardened leather boots, that proved unwise and rather painful. Had anyone been around to hear his relentless shouting of obscenities they might have been impressed. After all, who expected an intellectual to have some choice selections in his vocabulary of vulgarities crass enough to make even the most hardened sailor flinch?

Forcing himself to allow rationality to take back control, and momentarily ashamed of his outlandish display of impulsivity and poor conduct (even if he were the only witness), Lee forced himself to set back out. He redoubled his efforts to use the sky for navigation and worked towards ensuring that he strode forth with an assurance of making progress. He would not allow himself to wander in circles like some fool stranded in the middle of nowhere. Aurelius might cop to being stranded, or being a fool, but he certainly would never allow himself to take on the title of both in one sitting.

Luckily, it looked like might have pulled that off. Further ahead, the markers of some kind of civilization showed itself up ahead. He had no idea who the people were, if they were friendly or accepted the currency he had on him. Lee had no way of knowing if they would offer him a place to rest, let alone a decent set of directions. They could be hostile—but he could deal with that. More than likely, he could at least get out of here with some sense of where he is going.  And perhaps something to eat and drink as well. He would settle for the former, but hoped for a little more.

“Here’s to hoping these next folks are more hospitable than the last.”

He certainly expected they could do no worse.

Lee felt his tight chest and pulsating vein in his forehead relax a little. An inviting fire burned at the center of their establishment, and some lively music played as well. Surely, anyone who had the decency to play music would be an amendable sort, willing to help a fellow person get out of some trouble. Even their food smelled appetizing, though with his given state of hunger, it took little to wake up his senses and send his stomach into growling fits. He really hoped they were the sort to share with others.

“Hello? Anyone here?”

Aurelius is known among his colleagues as being a little trusting at times, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. It might be for that reason that he was willing to trust people at all, after the last ordeal. Someone less inclined to find strangers in favor might skip them all together, trying to make for a bigger location where they could slip into a crowd and disappear. No, Aurelius was not the sort of man to walk from a bad experience assuming that everyone was out to get him. He did come away from it feeling a greater sense of wariness, recently reminded of how some were not worthy of that trust and would seek to exploit it. He does not approach without caution, even as he boldly calls out, trying to get their attention before startling someone needlessly. He is ready to act if need be, but his airs confidence and trust—that is only half faked.

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The Queen of Bile



oKABzlU.pngSeph’s head hung over the edge of the couch, her blonde hair cascading like a river bathed in sunlight. Pleasure seared through her body like tiny fingers that danced over her skin, each little stroke she felt pulling a gentle gasp from her throat. It was always a temptation to give into the serenity of feelings, it was even more a temptation to give the one who made her feel this way the pleasure of her lips croaking a sound of indecency. Lips parted, a rush of air, teeth found flesh and ruby droplets dribbled down her jaw. The intensity rose and roared within her, a fiery volcano that promised to erupt.

A singular fist found matted brown hair, and she jerked her lover closer to the heat between her legs. Hips bucked in vicious need as the volcano hit the caps, so did her mind find elucidation. The heaven parted ways, and Seph shuddered with rapid convulsions. A single sigh passed the moment and she lowered her eyes to the creature beneath her.

He was not exactly a pretty thing with scars ruining his face in various gashes that left swiss cheese for appetizing, but he had his uses. She shoved him back to the floor and moved to straddle him. Taking care to poise that villainous spear to her sex, she smirked. “Caim, did you happen to find that villainous wretch who hunts my glyph?”

Caim’s lips turned into a smile, he could not speak, but Seph found that to be far more useful. Expressions were… however, quite delicious, her hips lowered and she created her own.

The Festival of Love


They called him silver eyes.

Or that was the name the troupe had given him. He was bent over his instrument, a strange object that protruded with pipes and strings, a hole filling the middle where sound could escape with the thrum of each digit. To Alicia, the sound was absolutely beautiful, to others it was a cause for a feast. Mr. Silver Eyes, or Baldric as she affectionately knew him as played his music with compositing glory. She hummed to the song she had heard a thousand times before.UadgHeP.png

A tale of the twin stars that collided, creating the very Multiverse about them, over eight hundred billion collections coming together for a single purpose and single mind. Families created of each star, wars beginning to claim those stars, and soon it began all over again. It was supposed to be a tragedy, but Alicia never really saw it as that. Instead she saw it as a means of time constantly arraying to fix itself, to ensure that every death began anew… just in another point in time.

A sound emerged and drew her attention, she looked over the festival. Nearly sixty people had gathered, each of them varying builds and races. Though hating to admit it, it consisted mainly of their unit. There were eighteen of them sent from a faraway land, beget to recover a stolen artifact that had been sealed deep within the relics of a land known as Genesaris. However, when the boundaries between the worlds had become unstable: they arrived here, and at a much later date, of course they were not aware of this until they noticed the alignment.

And so did the alignment continue, adjusting for every single person that did not belong. Once immortals now mortal, immunities were granted brief protection, and the aether that powered their gem stones were sucked dry, running on limited fuel. Mana seemed to be entirely the power consistence and the transfer rate was much slower than they were used to. The leylines forced a jurisdiction that they could not remove, and so they went with it. After enough testing, she was still a shadewalker and a mimic, so that was all she cared for.

Another sound.

She stood up quickly and stepped off the raised platform bleachers. Gentle feet pressed upon the grass, causing blades to yield to her impressive callouses. Someone shouted her name but she held up a hand, and swept back her eyes raven hair. An amethyst gaze warded the area, and she saw someone headed their direction. Could this person actually see them?

A soft jump scored her several yards, another brought her closer and soon she was at perimeter of the wold. Her head gave a curious tilt as moonlight soon came, and as random people who had waded their way in to see the troupe had flickered in and out of existence. The alignment solidified, partitioning in everyone at once and Alicia felt a cold slime go down her back, and she knew they were trapped until they found the breacher.

Until then… this newcomer, she made her way over to him with light travel and soon would find him.

“Who… are…” Her brain seized and she gasped, staggering a fist to her forehead. Memories flooded her in a complete instant, drawing her in and filling her mind. A young girl at the beach with her appearance had met this man… They spoke… She got lost. They came to a city, a battle in the restaurant, Uriel… No, that was not Uriel… that was… She clenched her fists, she was taken… swept away into a sea. Where did she go?

She heard voices shouting, a few men rushing over to her and she held up a hand to stop them as her posture straightened. A gaze fell onto Aurelius, her lips curved into a flashing smile. Alicia knew this man. “Aurelius! So you saved me, after all? I am so happy to hear that!” Should Aurelis call back to the woman way back, he would notice only a few visual differences. Unlike the so-called Avatar that Uriel had claimed, Alicia was slightly older. Nearing her thirties with shoulder-length black hair that surrounded her like a crown, her violet eyes less pronounced and darker.

Though in her usual fashion, she wore a long white dress that clung to her body, hugging a thin waist and round hips. A svelte frame danced onto one foot briefly and she continued her smile. “Come, let us have a drink and you can tell me all that happened.”

They were, after all, back in the Wilds of Terrenus unchanged.

Edited by Cylewen

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Finding people lifted his spirits. A large gathering implied an organized group, one with rules, structures, and some degree of resources. Perhaps enough resources to help him get back home, should he ask nicely enough, or offer something in exchange. Lee knew himself to be a man of a variety of talents and figured he could find some manner of service exchange to give these people in aid for helping him along his way. He could repair devices, build new tools, or if he had to, even engage in some manual labor—not that he particularly favored wasting his time on such menial tasks. Those were usually best left to the meatheads without other appreciable talents. Nevertheless, he was feeling just desperate enough to degrade himself to such base forms of working off a debt.

Then he saw her. Not her… her…

Lee did a double take, rubbing his eyes and then giving a hard look at the woman who approached, trying to convince himself that the one he looked at was not the same as the one before. After a closer look, he realized that he was not looking at the same woman as before. She looked older, aged by both time and circumstance. The resemblance though, too uncanny for this to be just some kind of older sister or another close relative. Then she removed all doubt by admitting to as much. It brought back memories of the conversations from before, something about avatars and forms, differing identities and representations. He had not wrapped his head around it before, but something told him he might need to work on that soon.

Lee stops, keeping the gap between the two of them a healthy one, not yet sure if he was ready to approach Alicia, or this representation of her anyway. She clearly knew him, calling him out by name and even alluding to the recently transpired events—well, as recent as they could be. Now that he was here, he had this foreboding feeling of lost time. How long had they been in that other world, fighting creatures and watching as things fell away to ruin?

Oh, how he felt his fingers itching—a brief but almost irresistible impulse to pull out his gun and put her down. Then it passed.

“Alicia, I assume?” Lee stood with his hands in his pockets, keeping his shoulders down and his stance ablated. He did his best to convey ease while remaining ready to strike if necessary. She seemed happy enough to see him, but the last time he got himself mixed up with this one, he ended up far from home, fighting a fight that was never his to begin with. Yes, he took in this encounter with caution.

“You have me at a disadvantage, it seems. You are aware of what transpired before, but I know so little of what is happening or who you really are. Perhaps you can start by telling me where on Valucre we are now? Or if we are on Valucre at all, for that matter. This looks right… but I cannot tell for sure.”

Lee made eye contact as appropriate but took moments to steal glances of the surroundings, as well as those of her companions, watching for brewing hostility or other signs of danger. The last time he went around with this one, outsiders came to them, taking them away. They invited him down a rabbit hole, and assuming he had no real choice in the matter, he voluntarily took a step down and explored its depths. He hoped to never repeat that mistake again.

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The Festival of Love

Hostility would never be found as those coming to her aid would eventually stand down, and meander back to doing as they would. Several caravans had popped up around the edge of the clearing, large rounded mobile wagons that forefronted a canopy made of leather and two sticks that stabbed the earth with rapturous glee. In and out, small forms would enter and create a cacophony of sound. Fires lit and breathed as the night was slowly passing.

Chatter filled as white noise and Alicia could not stop her smile.

“Ah… Itou… Ah.” She pondered how she was going to formulate her next words. Would they even make sense? Did this man deserve an explanation? It would be a point of interest to take note that she would not know the events that had transpired after the Paragons had been restored, but instead she would only cross her arms over her chest. Just as swiftly as she had appeared to Lee, her clothing shaped into that of a longer attire of black leather trews and a long buckled coat.

A shrug finally rolled from her. “I can tell you that we are indeed in Valucre, a few kilometers—maybe less—from Last Chance. I’m heading…” She shrugged again, turning on the ball of her feet, she’d beckon him with a smile and start heading toward one of the open flames. Three logs sat around the pyre, flames roared at the air with vicious tongues that lapped for energy.

The closest log was offered for her and another to him; she would lean into her own, a nice privy moment from everybody else was absolutely necessary to provide him with the details that he may be interested in. “Simply put… There are worlds outside of this one. Unfortunately—and fortunately—I was offered a mission to come here and track down two abominations that harbored the fragments of a Titan. Now… things get kind of tricky when I decided to be lazy, because they were just worthless kids, why should I have to actually expend my own energy to get them?

So I fragmented parts of my souls and created these things known as Avatars. Presumably… you met my Avatar of War, and apparently fertility, my much younger self. And then there was Justice…” Her hand shaped her jaw as she thought of her. Justice was a woman born of creativity and heart, strength and power, but Justice craved to create; whether or not that included her body, she ached to be remembered. “Alas, neither accomplished either goal. Now I have two runts to hunt down: either putting a sword into their throat, or banishing them…” She trailed off.

Ahem—Right. An apology.

“Personally, I am quite sorry you were dragged into this. But if my memory serves me right, you are from the land known as Genesaris, yes? After I meet with my informant in a bit, I will be heading to a tower located in the Cold Mountains region if you would like a way back home. Unless you have other means to teleport or whatnot, it’d be nice to travel with acquaintances, yes?” Her voice was just a slight tenor deeper, and that unnerved her for some reason. Alicia was never one to be known to raise the pitch of her voice when talking to someone she bore interest in, so when her tone remained uninflected… she pondered its meaning.

Edited by Cylewen

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Listening to Alicia form her thoughts and work her way into making an articulate statement pained Lee. It was not that he doubted her ability to communicate (he had seen the other version of herself do just fine at such a simple task) but that it delayed receiving the information he sought. Lee lacked the usual amount of empathy, at least not as far as reading facial expressions went. He likely missed subtle expressions that might reveal ulterior motives that a better-practiced reader of people might have caught on straight away. Despite that, he could at least see that she was going through some kind of motions, weighing what to say to him and how to frame it. For a few long seconds, he feared he was still far from home.

“Good, good!” Lee can barely contain his excitement upon hearing that they were back in Terrenus. Sure, he was not on his homeland and a good ways from where he started, but at least he was in his home world within a reasonable traveling distance of an established city with transportation options. Getting home would not be so difficult after all. Being caught up in his joy and excitement nearly caused him to miss the rest of what the young woman had to say. Lee caught on a few seconds too late that he had been invited to sit and hear at least a partial explanation for the troubles he found himself caught between.

Lee caught that she was working towards a many world theory, one he was well aware of, given Genesaris’ regular access to the crossroads. It was said that those ways led to an infinite number of possible worlds and realities, each with their own structures, rules, and even laws of physics. Such ponderings often kept him up at night, especially given his psionic talents to bend the rules of some of those laws. Lee often considered how his powers might expand or fade, dependent on where he travels or whose world he finds. In any game, some rules are more favorable to some than others are.

There he goes, mind wandering again.

Lee manages to get his focus back in the conversations just in time to hear Alica make a half-effort at an apology and mention her intent to travel to the Cold Mountains. Those were literally half a land away from his final destination but he would cross them on his way home. So, he turns to her and shrugs.

“Alright, traveling companions it is. I have much further to go than the Cold Mountains, but they are on my way back to my home.”

To be honest, he had never spent any real time there either. It might be worth his while to take in a view of the mountains and experience one of Genesaris’ greatest wonders. Who knows, perhaps if he played his cards right, he still might have a chance at getting that last itch scratched. Granted, he really doubted it, given that this individual, though similar in looks, already displayed a difference in personality.

But a man could dream.

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The trees groaned overhead, that was the first thing Rideaux noticed when he came to. The next was that he was on his back surrounded in rubble and stints once more. Unlike last time where it took effort to press things away, this time he was able to cast aside everything with a bare flick of his wrist.


He felt it—no, them wriggling in his mind, puncturing and corrupting. He felt the flow of their blood running through his veins, and he fought every instinct to claw at his body, shred his skin, and flay himself like the Abbey’s new bitch. It angered him, boiled him to be possessed, to be used like some arcana’s cunt and left to fester. Yet. He felt calm, and the thoughts barely passed him. Their words, they spoke, but he could not hear.

Rideux hated magick. But was this the magick that everybody spoke of?

Thoughts left him to an idol fool’s rambling, and he noticed the pain that came immediately after. His entire body throbbed, and he rolled to his front, digging his knees into the ground. Boots were already caked in the shit of the body’s surround this tower, what was a little more? Fingers clawed at the ground to find his balance, and slowly he stood, stretching and testing his limbs. The pain was there, but it did not identify where it came from.

A turn this way, a turn that way, but he still could not single out the sensation. Mn. Is this the cause of those bug-like shits?

Climbing himself out of the hell that was these creature’s bidding, Rideaux thought on his feet, or well, their feet so to speak. Despite feeling his legs, pound after pound, strut upon the blood-caked ground, Rideaux did not actually notice the earth crushed beneath his feet.

However, it was when he left the old “tower” did Rideaux notice the garrison was gone, torn away and shredded to nothing. There were no longer any walls, palisades, or bodies to gander. The earth itself was sprung forth with a spring lush, and what Rideaux thought was going to be a nightmarish foray into the fucking jungle to his client’s town, he realized, he either had been duped or the bloody creatures were fucking with his head.

Not one to be the bitch. He canted his head, lifted a hand to stroke his fine-edged stubble, nails creating a slight scrunch. “Hey. You things. What happened here?”

So he speaks.

Yes, he does, brother. What is it he says?

He wonders about the Garrison. Should I tell him?

Laughter. Should, should.


“Cut the shit, tell me what happened?” He heard a derisive sound, and he found himself smiling, realizing he had put those “Gods” in their fucking place.

Fine then. This world is forcing itself onto the inhabitants who once owned this piece of property.

“Magic. Got it. Not interested. Where is the nearest town?”

… …. Erm.

Sigh. “You are all pretty worthless as Gods, you know that?”


“Pair of idiots.” Rideaux heard the snort once more, cast his foot in a direction and began his trek.

The stone gave a shrill cry as the blade buried deep.

“Cy?” Aluriel whispered.

The back alley of Last Chance was empty as far as anyone would know. A long corridor of darkness that separated twin roads on either side. Whispering moans of smoke billowed out of beckoning manholes as rats scurried frantically to their havens. A body slumped against a forest-green bin, a weak pale hand smeared the edges with blood as it failed to grasp, and then they sat in the corner. Each puff of air was like dragging a knife through a rib cage, rattling and shaking, scraping and grinding; the figure slumped still, head lolling to the side, faintly hearing the sound of footsteps rushing away, carried by panicked voices.

Aluriel arrived not too long after. The body looked weak but it wasn’t the worst thing that could be determined. A cant of her head had her brushing away dark strands beneath her hood. She knelt beside the figure and took their hands into her own, slender, svelte and weak; Aluriel gave a sigh. “You cannot keep doing this to yourself, Cy.” You cannot keep doing this to me, Cywerien. Words unsaid.

Aluriel sat beside the figure for a time, waiting, waiting. The cold hand in hers beginning to change, first the muscles twitched, the nerves flared as the skin tingled beneath her knuckles, and soon warmth flourished the hand to life. The figure sat up and gasped, her free hand taking to her chest, the cotton tank-top split open by a large gash, giving way to sights unseemly for a woman her age.

And then Cy turned to the ground, black oozing vomit spilled forth from her, over and over and over again. Aluriel watched with morbid curiosity, but not the weakness of her friend, no, but the ooze that touched the ground. The moment the disgusting ectoplasm hit the planet it turned solid, and slowly broke away, chipping into tiny spectacles of dust.

It was described once to her. Black Matter. An unknown particle from a nebula far away, the goal and prize of their captor.

“Thank you, Allie.” Aluriel winced. She never did take a fondness to that name, but… here they were.

“It is no problem. Why did you provoke them?” Her eyes narrowed, forming onto the gape of her tanktop, the skin flawless and unmarred, an aberration to what should be there. She always healed like that. So quickly. Aluriel found herself envious, but she discarded the emotion simply because it carried no weight.

Cy laughed. “I told them to stop calling me sweetheart. I didn’t wanna dance with them either.” Cy curled her feet up, legs crossing over another as she leant forward, silver tresses hanging around her pixie sharp features. “But a girl should as pretty as you here in Last Chance should have a big strong man to take care of her!” Attempting her best to mimick their tone, she sneered near the end. “Figured they wouldn’t manhandle so much if they got a taste of their own medicine!”

Aluriel rose a brow. “And your plan backfired. Spectacularly, I might add.”

“All good plans do, unfortunately. Oh well. Can I borrow one of your straps until we get back to our room? I don’t care much for this sight,” she motioned to her shirt. “But I imagine the riling of perverts from tits might just be too much.”

“Aye, aye, that’s fine.” She ducked into her cloak with a deft hand, and retrieved a coil of cloth. She moved to pass over the cloth when she froze.

“Allie? What is it?”

Nearly chucking the coil to her, she stood up and fabricated the shadows around her. They leapt from nearby streetlights and formed into her palms, solidifying with strolling stars into oily black blades. “Something is here, something… pungent.”

“Yes.. So…”

And off on a moment did Lee have. Alicia could not help the crease of her lips into a small smile. Ah, there was at least some humor in the way he was presenting the fact that this nightmare might soon be over for him. She let her thoughts wander, travel far and wide, expanding around the camp grounds and brushed against the soft safeguards that were in place. Each barrier responded with a loving kiss of electricity against her spiritual frame, and she would return quickly back to see Lee accepting the proposal of being a traveling companion. Well, that was… easy. She expected more resistance, especially after everything he had been through. Oh well.

A shrug of slender shoulders, and she proffered a smile, reflecting a nascent glimmer in her eye. “I think you will find that wretched bitch in the Cold Mountains shall happily guide you the rest of the way home.”

She stood from the log, giving a few brushes of her dress and it twisted around her form, shifting and changing, clinging to her like a second skin and breathing life as charcoal dust rode over her form and then dispersed, revealing the quick change of clothes. It was nothing major, just a pair of blackened trews that clung to her hips, hugging her waist and kissing skin down to her ankles. Her top was covered in a blackened-ribbed make-shift of mist, it swelled over and hid her flesh beneath, the outfit gave a soft pulse of air, as if it breathed life into her and around her.

“Well then. Shall we head out? It should, theoretically, be a quick visit. It just depends on how much fight this captive is willing to give.” She said with a small grin. It was always best to be optimistic, for if she wasn’t, there was a higher chance of the cracks slipping. Being truthful was the absolute most painstaking thing to be when dealing with outsiders. Their atmospheric leylines might force them to behave a certain way, but that did not mean the foes they faced had to follow.

“We can no longer detect the anomaly that happened a few hours ago, Judge Magistrate.” A shadow said as it blended into light by the campfire, it’s body was without, only a small slender figure that could not be entirely seen.

Alicia sighed. “Fair enough.” She rose two fingers to her lips, pressed inward and blew a loud whistle. “Alright, Justicars! It is time to prepare! One of our secondary targets is making its way through the Forest! We cannot, and will not allow it to make contact with this planetary wildlife! We do not want interference of the locals, nor do we wish to present ourselves to these people!”

Alicia began moving through the camp, walking past a plethora of men and women rushing to the troubadour’s carts, each one came back out filed in a similar outfit as she. The only difference was that they did not have the sleak of mist, instead they had a blackened chiseled hauberk with an amethyst gem hollowed into the middle.

“Alright! The plan is simple!” She said from the stage where the long haired man had been playing prior to her commands. “If you encounter any of the cosmic entities that have wrought us for the past four years, you create a psychokinetic barrier! After you have done that, you can activate the gem in your chest and draw from my soul! Do not worry, I have separated the actual Source from my body, so do not fret on drawing too much! If, however, you fear you cannot handle what is coming, restrain the creatures and then run! Find your squad brethren and have them aid you! I do not, under ANY circumstances want any of you to die.” This is my problem. Alicia glanced down the stage to the long haired male, his silver eyes glinted. “Kaorasu.” Her eyes flicked to Lee. “Get him to Genesaris should I die,” her voice came out grim, darker than she meant it to be.

One of the Obsidian Justicars stepped forward, slamming his fist into his own chest, he bowed. “Ser! What of the captive?”

Alicia’s lips turned into a smug grin. “You leave her to me.”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

It appears he cannot hold us, brother. Each step seems to burden him more, drive him deeper into the earth. Worms and maggots might be a better host than this weakling.

“Fuck you, you darkening faggots!”

Our incestuous love for another is none of your concern, human.

Rideaux snorted.

More laughter followed their voices as they trailed off, probably to their disgusting pile of bodies and bones. It was only a moment when Rideaux used his ability, and there they were. Two indistinguishable figures melding over one another, several interlocking bones lied out like a funeral pyre, skulls aligning as a wall, crowns sitting upon each, gems that darkened in the writhing mass of flesh’s constant distraction.

After that night, he stopped questioning their motifs and began to follow orders. Of course there was little choice in the matter, but Rideaux figured if he was fucking stuck with these miserable piles of dung, that he better give them the benefit of the doubt, after all, they did seem to keep his wounds immaculately healed and he no longer felt the urge for hunger or stress. The only thing that bothered him was the constant pounding into his head, the reverberations that followed whenever he took a step, his body truly grew weary from having the invasion, and there was no amelioration to their insatiable hunger.

“Oi, shit for brains,” assholes. “Is this the correct image?”

For the past few nights since Rideaux had awakened, he had focused entirely on the creation patterns he had seen in that pile of flesh. The ornaments to a summon, they had said. The summoning could be beneficial to him, but Rideaux didn’t believe that. The moment he had asked if he would survive the summoning process, there was a snicker that got cut off and then a giggle that gave him extreme doubt. But that was fine to Rideaux, he was used to dealing with entities and their misnomers and their lies. Fetching into his pocket with his hand, he brought out several jewel ornaments.

Four beautiful crested emerald gems that coruscated with a swallowing light. The second was a bizarre marooned crystal that Rideaux took and pressed it into the back of his hand. It bit deep immediately, forcing his teeth to brush against another, and he cursed all that was living but soon that pain turned into sensational pleasure, and he knew those dumb beasts were helping rid him of his pain.

It took a few heartbeats for it to happen, but the ruby came to life and each pulse was a roar of light.

Are you ready, human?


Snort. Are you?

Rideaux gazed down at the broadened circle that now reflected in the earth. He had no idea how to describe it other than it took over an hour of digging into the planet, bleeding most of his damn body and then stroking over it with the steel of bodies he had found on the way to this damn town. Jesus, fucking Christ, they took control of him before, why could they not force him to do it when he was huddled in the back of his mind, enjoying a who-the-fucking-cares-mind-bender and let them do all of the work?

The itching happened, it scratched at the back of his mind, forcing his chest upward and his mouth to open. He formulated the thoughts that hid unbidden into his thoughts. “Yes.”

Good, little puppet. Now stand in the middle of the circle and put your hands together.

Rideaux obeyed.

Now… Take your arms apart.

Rideaux did so. His arms spreading wide as they could go, fingertips shaking with threaded strings of mana that hung around him. The leylines of the planet slowly forced them downward, a language that was an old as time formed before him, the original language; primordial, ancient, draconic. It was then he began to see the words, the wind blew past him casting leaves ahead of him as the edges of the diagram began to glow. Shards of light began to form, earth crenulated upward around his ankles, the tips pressing deep into the flesh forcing a grunt from him.

The ruby gem flared.

Sweat baubled at the tip of Rideaux’s head, hair matted and swept downward as the earth crawled slow by slow inch upward, swirling upward around his body. His breaths came quicker, panting the few precious breaths, he heard the rumbling laugh at the base of his mind. The scratching turned fierce, jutting inward, shattering his mind and lurching Rideaux forward. A slab of earth rose up and slammed into his throat, cresting into him and forcing his breath from him.

Pulse. Pulse. Coruscate. Pulse.

Dear human, did you think we would not notice your preparation? We are old as the very earth, old as the very cosmos themselves. Do you think because yo—

The ruby gem blasted and flared. Markings flared along Rideaux’s arms and rushed upward over his neck, tattooing and sending out a powerful glow. Rideaux cried with laughter. Fists curled, he drew his arms together as his magic circuits pumped through him. The stone yet stopped coming toward him. “Oh?” He curled a smirk, and withdrew his arms away from the stone and extended his neck upward and then as he was told, he slammed his fists together, this time with veins of ruby sparks shooting around his form as his fists collided. Explosive-red hot energy kicked a gale around his frame, sending earth crumbling beneath him.

But yet not did the earth leave his grasp, nor did the plan remain unfinished. Rideaux rode down the language’s original path, followed to the very core of the Primordial writhe of flesh, and he reached out with his gangly, gnarled fists and grasped the gems from the crown’s around the flesh’s bed. The darkening laughter turned to visceral cries as he ripped the gems, one by one, and then socketed them to his arms, enhancing and empowering his own body through the coursing aether. As the energy dawned upon Rideaux, he let out a curdled laugh and roared his primal usurping.

“Paragons. Paragons. Paragons.” Rideaux spat to the fucking earth. “You believe to control me so easily? YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU CAN DO WITH ME?!” Rideaux cried. He stomped his feet to the symbol, drew the heel of his foot downward, and then he spun around, curving several more axis strikes into the planet beneath him. The gems all aligned within his arms, pulsing in his biceps and forearms, the arcing lightning shattered the aether into immediately mana to be absorbed into his own body.

“You wanted to use me for a summon, right? How about… I show you a true


Rideaux slammed his hand into the earth. All went dark, moonlight was cascaded into complete stillness. And then a cry was heard. The earth erupted skyward, and the very planet quivered in pain.


Edited by Cylewen

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Alicia expected more resistance, and had this been the beginning of this cluster-fuck so-called adventure, he might have made more of an effort to resist. Hell, he would have done more than make an effort, he would have made the process as unbearable and annoying as he could, trying to tempt the others into cutting their losses and sending him on his way. Lee had a way with getting under the skin of people who annoyed or otherwise inconvenienced him (the two were often intertwined to be honest)—high intelligence and no desire to adhere to social conventions made for a caustic pairing.

Despite his instincts fighting cooperation, he gave in. The Cold Mountains were close enough to home that he could at least manage the rest of the trek back to a larger civilization and catch a gate back home. In the meantime, he could enjoy the sights and see where this went. Despite feeling greatly annoyed by the unplanned events and his afternoon turning into a week-long bender rippling in some cosmic underpinning that even he found a challenge to wrap his mind around… he could manage this. It was not a calm, controlled lab setting where he set the variables and the controls, but he could manage this.

“Wretched bitch?”

Alicia’s casual mentioning another party threw him off from the mental calculations working through their permutations in his mind. He planned to travel with them as far as the mountains, to wherever they were headed, and then soon after strike out on his own, a free man at least on back on the damn continent of his origins. Another person brought into the situation threw off these plans at least a hair. Would this person interfere? Would they produce more troubles, more blasted complications. He hated complications, almost as much as he disliked people with little imagination and with little to no ability to wield logic. It was always a shame that so many of them ended up as politicians.

Lee was about to press the issue, but damn if the clothing change wasn’t distracting. By itself, clothing that reformed and changed the color and fit would catch his attention even if it were worn by a manikin, because that is unusual—and useful. Couple it with it being on a woman he had just recently (well, same body and look, different temporal personality or some such, but whose keeping track anyway) tried to sleep with, and well he couldn’t be bothered to finish that train of though. A wretched bitch in the mountains—well, anybody who holes up in an unpredictable mountain range was probably a wretched bitch before they bought property. Taking up residence there was just making the identity complete, liking adding a hat to an almost perfect suit and tie.

The drifting into more lascivious and less strategic thoughts halted when she inquired of his readiness to travel, and dropped yet another tidbit that forewarned of possible danger and complications.


In their previous conversations, there had been no mention of tracking down a wretched bitch who was also a captive that might fight back. Lee began to develop a strong suspicion that despite Alicia’s air of candor and honesty, she continued to hold back a great deal of information. He understood such practices and regularly employed them; after all, lab assistants rarely understood the work he developed, and even if they did, they were not privileged with that information. Technology development operated under a need-to-know set of practices. The workers were only granted what they needed to know to do their job and remain safe. If all she held-back were trade secrets that had no bearing on him, he’d manage. Of course, his intellectual curiosity would desire more information but he could understand her desire to retain company material. Withholding a possible fight from him though—that violated his need to know for protecting himself from harm, and that was not kosher.

Again, an opportunity to dig for information closed before he could pry it open, when one of her men interrupted his inquiry. Lee might have opted to press further if it were the interruption had not borne some interesting bit of news that set Alicia and the rest of the camp scrambling. Whatever could get a group of inter-dimensional travelers worked up was at the very least worth giving a bit of attention. Especially after Alica declared it a secondary target that they did not want to “contact with planetary wildlife,” which just eluded to all kinds of potential problems. He really wanted some Gods damned answers!

Watching the others prepare, Lee did a quick, sightless inspection of the P.A.S.S. armament hidden beneath layers of clothing and outerwear, worn across his torso and down his arms. The activity of the encampment piqued his caution now, and he wanted to be ready. This creature of theirs was no concern for him personally, but if it could cause harm to the world itself, than he might be obligated to ensure it never found a way to Genesaris. He was no altruistic sort; it would be a matter of duty to his city and homeland, not a favor to the locals around here, though he could empathize with them to an extent. That and he didn’t want to be caught in any crossfire without protection at the ready.

Alicia’s relayed plan to the crowd meant little and less to Lee, but it seemed they understood and he took it for some kind of strategy based on the weapons and technology they possessed. Much in the same way were he to explain what his gear could contribute he would expect them to look at him with confusion, he felt no sense of lost pride at not knowing what they were doing, beyond teasing out some hints through the words issued. Psychokinetic, something to do with energy of movement through psychic sources, probably tied to the abilities that created the quantum-fuckall of the multiple Alicias problem. How was it that there could be so many and yet he still had not managed to bed a one of them? His week indeed.

Alicia’s transition to comments on death and dying brought back his full attention. She didn’t want the men under her watch to die for this cause, but made contingency plans in case she should fall. At least he was part of back-up plans. Should she go out and go down in act of unnecessary heroics, he would still get back home. That was nice. It made him feel slightly better about all of this bullshit.

Calling out to her, he says, “How about not dying, telling me what the fuck we’re doing, so I can help you round up this little problem of yours?”

Emphasizing his point, he pulls out both his custom made Exalta pistols.

The sooner we get done here, the sooner we’ll be back in Genesaris.

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The Peaceful Forest


Lee’s dramatic exultation called Alicia from her momentary stupors, and she gave Kao’s shoulder a brief brush of her hand, and turned to the man whom she was sure had one hell of a day. Most likely mnemonically reminding herself that this man had had most of his day rightfully taken away for a brief mistake she had, well, it could be more aligned to a colossal fuck-up if they had to assign adjectives to the sort. But waving that all away, she turned her violet hues to him, finding herself smiling as she saw the double pistols being drawn from his side like a western repeater, and her head took a moment to cant and sent her waves of jet-black down her shoulder.

“I know what I should be saying is ‘regretfully, I cannot sacrifice a denizen, et cetera, et cetera. But we shall cast aside those humours, yes?” She straightened herself up, her gait altering as she took fluid steps to him, closing the gap in mere moments. “So, the target we are hunting is a supposed child prodigy of an experiment gone wrong in the slums of Nich`e.” A soft husk caressed her voice as she laughed, her head shook and she placed her hands onto her hips. “Good lord, I could never say it went wrong; no, it was actually a wonderful breakthrough! A drug that can actually alter the molecular genetics of a person! Do you know what you could do with that kind of power? Humans into Angels! You could twist Nephilim into Daemons! Daemons to Hell Guards! It is fantastic! But no… Drav was not happy with that simple-mindedness, he wanted something more… He wanted me, he wanted my nephew, and he got the blood of our kind. Exolaeth.” Her face turned into a sick grimace, eyes going dark at the very thought. A snarl nearly left her as she went on. “Exposition aside, they escaped. They could level a city. Yadda, yadda. She’s too young to understand that, so you can help if you would like. Just don’t get yourself hurt. If it comes to worse, shoot her in the head. Won’t kill her, but it’ll knock her out long enough.” Finally she was done speaking.

Alicia offered Lee a small smile, and then she was wandering around the encampment. There were things to say, and others to check on. She met with a few of her commanding officers, men and women encased in black, but around each of them flowed a billowing blue cloak. She doubt much what she had to say had any meaning to Lee, but she made sure to at least act accordingly. The difference between her now and her aloof personally was magnificently vast, but it was not different enough to call her an entire different person. The thought and mind would always be the same, so when she was finished, she turned to offer the same silly innocent smile like the one on the day of their fated meeting on the beach. This was not his war, and she would continue to repeat those words into her mind; even as she crossed through to the different coloured cloaks, she dismissed each of them. Some would wander to the wagons and caravans, others would head off into the woods on their own. The farewells were bitter in their own way. Each of them were stalking to different parts of the world, whether they remained entirely in Terrenus, she couldnt say. The hunt for something that has been on the loose for the better part of three years left enough holes to search, gather, and research. With the last of the troops spoken with, she made her way back to Lee’s side, another smile this time smaller, but a shrug after.

“I do believe we are done here,” she murmured quietly, and rose a hand to her chest. Violet light slowly beamed off of her form, and she glanced around the encampment. Dark of the night slowly started to fill in the forest clearing. Trees began to materialize one by one, they came into view as the caravans and wagons slowly began to fade; dissolving into blackened particles. The Obsidian armoured warriors were next, each slowly turning into nothing. The stage that had been their night’s enjoyment, a place Alicia really enjoyed her time, even if briefly… It, too, began to dissolve away and become replaced with a lush richness of grass and dismembered logs. The world was finally taking its toll, and this was a source she was not willing to entertain. Moments later, Lee and Alicia stood side by side in a rich forest milieu. The silence of the night set in around them, a blackened cast throwing over lights; dimlit fires were gone, and all that could be viewed were what their eyes allowed them to see.

She proffered Lee a smile. “It seems like I don’t have much time left,” a laugh fell from her lips. “Well, let’s get going.” 

A smile turned grin, and she looked down his form, could have been sizing him up; but instead she gave a flick of her wrist, and a disc of light formed beneath them. Numbers started to appear in their most common form, and a ticking hand swept, and swept until an aura of glowing orange would caress their frames. Alicia took the lead and dashed off, her form a blackened blur that whizzed through the forest with accelerated celerity, leaving a path of faded gold for her companion to follow.

Last Chance—The Safest City in Terrenus

Two Years

Two years to go until retirement, at least that is what Zef thought to himself as he bounded down the usual beaten path through the docks. He wore his usual blue-silver tabard over a rusting chaimail hauberk, and his rune-blade sat unused for four months at his side. Zef passed a building, an ordinary looking shack that hung weathered seaweed over it, he always thought it looked strange but he passed it nearly every day on his way to the Wall. It belonged to an unlicensed apothecary who believed that the Wylds would be coming back, raising from some forgotten ancient prophecy to curse and bring Last Chance back to the plagues of the underworld, but Zef believed differently. The Madame has shaped things up, brought Last Chance out of its desperate plea of need and into one of the largest and safest cities in Terrenus; but that didn’t stop those who thought this place once a safe haven for the immoral to make their way here.

As such the Apothecary was allowed to continue their practice as long as they operated a front-end business and paid their taxes to the Madame. And if one of their products was so much as led back to them, they would be slammed with regulations and permits. Zef didn’t care though, and the amount of dealings he had seen in the three years he worked as a CDF, most of them if pestered enough would indeed lead back to the Apothecary in some way. As he rounded the building to the North-East he spotted the Apothecary standing with a shadow of a man. Or at least, he seemed like one until a light flickered above, exposing a scarred and riddled line face. Zef usually avoided interrupting business but something about this man seemed off, and he couldn’t place it. Now that Zef thought about it, he had seen that man a few times before… 

Ignore it. Just leave it be. It is just your imagination.

Remember what Aya said? You’re just thinking about that same event over and over. Zef always shrunk into his coat when he passed the Apothecary, but tonight’s honorable guest caused him to pull in just that bit more. The scarred man was much larger up close. He had broad shoulders and a chest shaped like an iron-keg, and when he lifted a light to the Apothecary’s pipe, his hands looked like gigantic mugs meant for ale. Just that brief flash drew Zef’s attention to the shaggy peppered beard that then raised his gaze to a scar that disappeared beneath it. Zef rounded  another building and nearly shook out of his bones when the Apothecary’s hollowed-skull laughter rung out. What on earth were those two chatting about?

The sounds of laughter eventually faded and Zef was continuing down the beaten path once more, a path he had trudged over a thousand times as he neared the end of the docks toward the Wall. Relief swept through him as he began to see the common dock workers start their shift, and he shared smiles and nods as he passed on through, hustling as quick as he could to his post. Sunlight was now beginning to crest the darkness of night, the rays splitting above the massive parapets, the exposing the Madame’s grandest addition in all of Last Chance: The Wall. The familiar banter and chit-chat of workers aided in settling; topics of the usual sort, of course, weather, shipments, and the mummery of none of it going well.

The tower at the top of the Wall provided amble enough freedom for Zef, at least enough for him to finally get settled. The chair felt stiff against his back and he stood from it, made his way to the door and swung it open to exit, feeling the need to move now that his nerves were settling. A shadow stood at the other end of the door, its form was just disfigured enough for Zef to yell what the fuck before the colossal slime of a fist crushed into his chest, bending him inward and slamming him into the wall of the tower. Splintered shelves fell around as the oozed creature lanked into the tower room, the metal light overhead swung from the debris and Zef got a good look to the creature’s monstrous form… or lack of form. It held no definite shape except grotesque, it’s body a writhe of bones and putrid carapaces mismatched, they swirled and floated over the creature’s form like cursory bees to a flower.

Zef watched the creature lower its head beneath the light, it’s jaws began to unhinge, it’s massive arms expanded and the creature let loose a blood curdling screech that caused him to swear and shut them close, hoping to avoid any lasting damage in the process. It ambled then, Zef made a notion to move, dodging quickly from the first strike as the furrows of blackened claws sliced through the marbled stone, deep rows of sludge were left behind and he backed into the door. Rushing out into the night, another figure emerging into his path. This time Zef was prepared and he drifted his hand to unsheathe his rune-blade, however, the shadow launched over his head and took off toward the interior of the tower. Zef made to glance but did no such thing, instead he found a place to halt when he no longer heard a sound.

Silence greeted him as he stopped moving, catching his breath and wheezing the air of his cursing skipped days of fitness. He turned back to his tower, seeing nothing out of the ordinary… That was until the tower wall buckled in, and stone exploded out in every direction as the figure that launched over his form was flung onto the non-malleable walkway in front of him. The body was lithe, slender to a point. As the sunlight finally creased, it exposed a ray of golden-silk hair and two sturdy points of ears. It launched into the rushing shadow, and the figure spun with two bleeding blades of night. Sun light kissed the blades in just a way that Zef saw starlight bleeding from the weapons as they sliced into the creature’s hollowed-husk of a stomach. The creature let loose a horrifying screech that went short the moment the shadowed figure released its head… probably its head?

Right! The Alarm! 

Zef moved to back up and felt something solid and sturdy behind him, he turned around to see the scarred man glancing down to him. Fuck… He’s huge. The man gave a kind smile that would scare motherly wolves away; the scarred man made to step past him, his large figure casting a horrifying shadow to the land below as it walked toward the slimmer form. The two turned to glance to one another and for a moment Zef was thinking they were possible partners, but that ended the moment the slimmer figure launched toward the scarred figure. They clashed and the sound of their blades rung a high pitched wheeze, and Zef bolted down into the next tower’s door. He swung it open and was greeted by another monstrous figure, it’s carapace was different.

“Not this time!” He roared as he swung his rune blade down across the creature’s head as he had saw from the slimmer form. His blade lodged and then rebounded, an aura of silver flickered around the monstrosity and it swiped toward Zef. Panicking, he dodged and kicked back, rolling onto the stone floor and lifting back up right. His breathing harsh from the fleeing, the nerves, and everything about him… He didn’t take time to notice the crescendo of an alarm resounding along the walls. More CDFs began to appear, and the glimmer of hope that Zef would be saved was extinguished when he saw the litany of forms clashing below with an army of ambled monstrosities.



The Separation of Chaos—Into Eternity


It was the freedom of the run that carried Alicia forward, her mind wandered to the matter at hand and that was how she was. The past no longer belonged to her, it was lost from her; and she was happy with that. What she had done, and what she will do shall remain behind her for the coming days and though others may end up paying for her transgressions among the land, it would not be her duty to care. Apologies were slippery in that sense, they came from her in the same way as the flames licked the air, desperate and with hope, but nearly pointless and empty. Because at the end of the day, the flames will retire to charcoal and the sticks will be burnt… 

With wind whipping her hair across her face, she turned toward Lee to see if he chased after with the same fervor she was accelerating. The forest floor beneath her was hardly noticeable with the enchantment still in effect, they were almost gliding at nearly four times that of the fastest sprinter in all of Archadia. She thought to yell something, to perhaps warn him of future endeavors, but she herself did not know entirely what they were to come up against. Instead as they rushed through the darkening, yet enlightening wold, the milieu becoming smaller to their destination, Alicia let her eyes close and she expanded herself into the astral realm. Her physical was locked to a destination, and so she expanded herself to her Source.

As her body became lighter and her mind wandered, the world around her brightened, light slanting through the thickened brush of leaves and foliage, Alicia would gently glance around momentarily and then reach out to the small shards of aether she could feel. Digits brushed over thin-sliced blades of pure energy, and she felt the Source hum to her, welcoming her and there she took her step. Leaping into the next plane of existence, she would stand before a massive ball of concentrated power. Rings upon rings of itself stood high in the sky, massive roots of aether trailed off in woven patterns like that of a grand oak. Each branch delivering aether as the spherical orb of energy pulsed with hummed energy. 

Most of the time… insurance plans were never needed, but Alicia was not somebody to have anything go smoothly. With a gentle tap of the sphere she grasped a newly created thread, and with it she spun it softly, gently opening her lips and letting out a soft song as she spun the wove of aether down through the forests, past the forceful leylines that endagered her very being, and she would latch it to Lee’s back. However, the empowerment would not be active just yet… After all, it was a small sliver of aether, it needed to grow big and strong, didn’t it? Alicia smiled to this, she turned to the sphere and offered a prayer of gratitude. She closed her eyes.

The moment they reached the end of the Peaceful forests was when things began to turn a bit grimy, despite the shattered blades of light that fractured overhead and split into multitudes of beams that allowed the imagination to paint the scene before them. The entirety of the frontward wall of Last Chance’s massive fortified barricades were covered in a substance not altogether far from blackened plasma. The gloops dropped off and fell into a heavy, thickened splat, smothering an already sheened floor, land that was corrupted and corroded as the battle raged on within. Alicia dove head first when the first creature rose up from the blackened tar, it’s body a barrel of plasma and its head nothing but chunks of bone and cartilage. Alicia struck with a force akin to a ramming ballistic, her fist slammed deep to the elbow into the beast’s gem beating heart and she ripped it free, forcing the blackened catalyst away and sending the creature sprawling. Turning over behind her to check on Lee, she called out to him. Another of the creatures lanked forward, its body was more slender and several skulls were already aligned over its shoulder, chest, and make-shift hips.

Taking the initiative to move toward him, Alicia halted to the sound of glass being crunched, she sank to a crouch, spinning her frame and drawing up her Source-blade, the weapon wheeled to life, energy humming as it flicked through the air. CLANG! Preparing to buck against the creature and drive a wedge against their form, Alicia found herself stopped short to the figure in front of her. This thing, whatever it was, was not one of the oily black beings that came from a vast quantity of nether, no… this figure was far more slender, far more feminine. A blade of light tipped over the trees, shedding onto the figure she was crossed with, a snarl left her lips as emerald hues stared back at her. Silver hair and a blackened duster, the figure offered a smirk and tugged away, separating their forms and Alicia danced back. Her violet hues pierced to the figure and she rose up her blade in challenge, the star-silver glinted from the morning sun.

Alicia spun the massive claymore in her hand, the kinetics being drawn from the area around her as she tilted her chin up. “And who might you be, lovely?”

Noticing the woman for the first time was covered in some sort of scaled cloak, a grin parsed her lips and she smirked. “Ahhh… I recognize that armor, that must mean you are my very first roadblock, aren’t you?”

“Hyaaaahhh!!!!” came from above, enough for Alicia to kick off the ground to annoy the giant’s slam, his fist colliding into the ground while his large, fanged blade pierced the earth. Alicia didn’t bother asking as she already knew who this was, but a surprised smile did steal over her expression. “Ah, Caym… So good to see you again, lovely, how is Seph? How is her imprisonment?”

The large man only grunted as he straightened his form, the scars over his face glinting in the morning light that swept the fronting battlements of Last Chance in a scent of charnel. A lumbering creature boiled out of the forest with breakneck speed, crashing its large, lumbering frame into Caym’s. The two heaved into one another for only a moment, soon the oozed carapace was smashed and Caym ripped away the creature’s insides, fist crushing over a rheumy gemstone. With little care, the object was thrown aside, and Caym roared after the cloaked woman who had taken the opportunity while his back was turned to strike. Instead the massive man’s weapon the glinting steel, forcing a song to sing across the growing battlefield. Alicia moved then to Lee’s side, tapping him on the arm and pointing to the growing blob of chaos slowly starting to force its way deeper into Last Chance.

“I’m going to open a path! Follow, okay?!”

Despite the growing phantasm of creatures oozing to life and creating a barrier of plasma like aberrations, Alicia grasped the heavy hilt of her massive claymore, and then took a deep breath. A pulse of power slowly ran off of her. A white glow gently caressed over her blackened outfit, manipulating the threads and alternating their colours. A blackened harness that had once clung to her shifted to a deep hue of navy and cobalt, the hue continued down her waist and over her legs as the once tightened trews expanded and flourished into a large battle-armored kilt, and finally her once bare hands were sheathed into steel gauntlets. Alicia opened her eyes, and a crack as loud as thunder could be heard and the blade snapped down the middle, shattering into two separate weapons. Alicia’s once violet eyes now burned a cobalt blue, her expression altered to a more youthful appearance that offered the same smile. She took off toward the blob in an instant, the ground quaking beneath her as the traces of violet and navy light followed her celerity. Each strike came in random assortments, splattering blackened mist against the inner wall’s battlements.

Once Alicia broke the line inward, she would twist around and slapped her blades together. In an instant, Ten Judgements reformed to the solid massive slab of obsidian as the blackened outfit smothered over her form. Twisting the blade toward the earth, she slammed it deep to the middle where a pulse of light exploded in a ring. The first ring collided with the coalescing phantasm, shattering it and spattering the insides. The second pulse did a little bit of the same, except it drew every bit of splattered plasma inward toward the weapon where she then withdrew it from the earth in a second. Like a spinning twister, the phantasmic blob was sucked into the shattered vacuum where the air once was and Alicia slammed the heavy blade down onto its gem-heart with a cry.


The blade shattered the pulsing heart, the beat gently sputtering until it died out and she let out a whisked breath. “One down… Seven to go.”

The Darkening Sky—Twisted Ambitions and Broken Flies


Where… am I?

He floated within an unknown place… an unknown world. Soon his shitkickers slapped the ground, the gray earth depressing, webbing beneath his feet until he found purchase to be erect. A glance to his left brought his vision into an accursed fish-eye view, a swing to his right returned the very same hue. With a grunt, some freedom at his back, he took the steps forward as he crunched through the empty land. His mind was at war, the once familiar feeling of fullness was completely gone; empty and swept away, he felt the loneliness that he had only felt once before. Worrying not, he had been through worse, he continued forward as his vision did not waver. The only thing he knew was going forward, and going forward solved every problem he had ever fucking had. 

How long had he wandered? He did not know. How long had he been in this world? He did not know. How long until he reached the end of this fucking land? He did not know. How long… FUCK! Yes! We get it! I don’t fucking know! Who the fuck are you to judge where I am to go!? Who the fuck are you to decide my fate!? To decide my path! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?

A tree stood several meters ahead of him, it’s ivory sheen offered itself as an idol of translucent light. A contrast to the crushing darkness that threatened to sweep him under the rug. As he closed the gap between him and the tree, the branches grew and grew, expanding into massive gnarled fingers that split the skies into mighty veins. A calm wind flew by, causing the ivory tree to wither and rake the darkness and he blinked. He blinked again. A boy stood at the tree, just far ahead that it delineated his thoughts from the truth. But something about that boy… It drew him in, and he continued to walk like a moth to the flame. Soon enough like every other accursed thing in this bloody place, the boy disappeared from view. He was left standing by the trunk of the massive tree, and he reached with a shaking, trembling hand to touch the bark. It felt cool against his palm, heavy and lasting, his pulse bleated and he heard himself gasp.


“Oi! Mister! Are you okay!?” That voice…

“Mister! Mister! Oi! Cockwit!”

And just like that the pain vanished, he spun around to face the boy who glanced up to him with beaten, swollen eyes. The child curiously tilted his head, shaggy brown hair falling around him that it was like a moon in the brush. He knew that look… And then he realized what this was. Did he challenge it though? What was the logistical success in really fighting against the whims of destiny. Ugh, Destiny. What a load of crap. He sighed. Pressing onward past the boy, brushing him off as he wanted to know nothing more about what sort of lesson there was, he continued onward. Once his boots crushed the ash… The tree faded from view, and a new path availed itself to him.
Like a god damned fish to a hooked worm, he made his trek across the opened path. Each step was forced from him as teeth grit, and his body trembled from the sudden onslaught of cold. Feeling as if he was trailing through a river of molasses, he took a moment to stop and breathe. Deep in. Deep out. Deep in…. Dee…p… What?

Edited by Cylewen
formatting, textual errors, corrections

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If Alicia were to ask Lee about his “day,” he would have insisted on stronger phrasing than to refer to as merely a hell of one. Normally, he put little thought to the written word beyond its ability to disseminate information—leave the poetry and flowery phrases to the bards and lyrists in his not so humble opinion—but in this case, he might ask the aid of a bard in putting to words the exact depth of his experiences that day. No, just calling it a hell of a day fell too far short of the mark to adequately describe the annoyance, inconvenience, and utter bullshit he experienced. There were days at his job where things went wrong and he went home feeling like he had “one hell of a day.” His experiences made those past days look trivial.

“Glad we’re skipping the talk of civilian protection. I’m Genesarian military anyway.”

Aurelius expected that she would give him a brief rundown of what they chased and the highlight of its capabilities but instead got an unexpected history lesson on some obviously illegal experimentation going on wherever this woman came from. She gave him a look that suggested she thought him clueless when it came to genetic structures, but unlike most people of this world, he knew a thing or two about the smallest structure of the body. While he never heard of such terms as genetics, he knew about molecular building blocks of life, chained together by amino acids and sugars, pieces of people he could sense when he amplified his powers. The things she spoke of struck him more as the dreams of power-hungry madmen than realizable breakthroughs, but who was he to judge? He sensed and manipulated particles so small even the most advanced telescoping technology could not see them.

The lighting out here was too poor for Lee to see the change in Alicia’s eyes, but he felt it in the subtle shift of her tone as she spoke about the work of this scientist, using hers and her nephew’s blood. Finally, she came around the bit of information he could use in this chase—that the thing they hunted could level a city or some such. Vague and not entirely useful, other than telling him to ensure he approached with absolute caution, but her follow up at least told him something else of use. Aim for the head, and “she” will at least take a nap.

“You do realize that rounds I pack aren’t exactly standard issue?”

She claimed a nap might come of it, but Lee made sure his rounds did a hell of a lot more than just deliver brass and lead at high rates of velocity. If the goal would be to take down their quarry alive, he might not want to fire off a round at her head after all. Not unless they were prepared to take back what remained of her charred skull fragments in baggies. He turned to follow her as she went wandering about her camp, checking in with others. He watched the body language and facial expressions of the soldiers, trying to get a bead on the task to come. He also watched her, noting the differences in the way she carried herself and acted. The glimpses of the young woman he met on the beach were long since buried, seemingly lost until she gave him that same innocent smile that sent him down this wild chase all day long. If disarmed him for a moment, but only that moment, as it reminded him of everything else that followed, giving resolve to his temper.

She did not have to go far to return to his side, he had remained just a few steps behind, keeping a familiar face nearby. He watched as Alicia dismissed the soldiers and the signs of their stay, sending away the stage and entertainment, each fading like ashes swept up in the wind. Though he was loathe to admit it, the technology at work fascinated him, making him wish there had been time to speak with their scientists and researchers, to compare notes and learn from one and other. It might have made the events of the day seem worth the trouble, had he been able to engage in a conversation with great thinking minds from another land, another world if the stories told to him were true. These thoughts colored his mood as he watched everything fade away, leaving him with a touch of sadness for what could have been and never was. A day of this, chasing strange women and nearly brushing with an advanced group of people, all of it crashing down into a woodland chase instead.

“Time?” He was unsure what Alicia meant by declaring her time short. Did she mean the time she had to put down this problem before it ran amok, or that her allowed time in their world drew near its conclusion? The meaning would appear to remain just outside his comprehension for now, as she broke off into a run headed deep into the darkening woods, leaving behind a brilliant trail for him to follow. A good thing perhaps, as it seemed her physical abilities far outclassed his own. He was in decent shape for an ordinary human, but pushing the limits was never his thing. While some fought with brawn and others with grace, Lee used wit and psychic power to take down his enemies.

“I suppose it’s a good thing I kept up with jogging after basic.”

Thus off he went, keeping a brisk pace after the young woman who was perhaps traveling nearly five times the speed he could muster. Well, perhaps he would arrive just in time to save the day. Not that he expected any kind of reward for that—with the way this day had gone, being a hero to this one might just get him tossed into another gladiator match, or stuck wrestling an overweight, sweaty man in underwear.

Lee shudders as he carries on with his jog, following the blazed trail before him.

It probably did not take long for him to fall behind, traveling much slower despite his efforts. He did not let it deter him, focused instead on maintaining the pace that he could, falling into the steady rhythm that helped him get through his early military training. Even a scientist had to endure the rigors and trials of the other enlisted, proving their worth so that they too could be relied upon as a line of defense should things go awry on the home front. He always understood the reasoning but disliked the training despite it. Now… now he felt a need to write a thank you card to his old sergeant for instilling some decent fortitude into him.

Alicia dipping in and out of their plane of existence went without his notice: she was too far ahead and he was too focused on his breathing, trying to make the run without arriving out of breath and too tired to fight. He knew they were coming upon the place when stepped down on some black slime coating the forest floor, as well as the trees, barricades, and structures once outlining the now ruined Last Chance boundaries. Within seconds his boots were starting to sizzle, so Lee took great care to wipe away the sludge and move away from it, doubly glad he did so as he watched a figure emerge from one such pooling of the mysterious black liquid.

It seemed Alicia knew how to dispatch the foes quickly, removing a soul gem and tossing it aside, causing the creature to return to its lifeless existence as unsightly sludge marring the otherwise lovely forest. She turned to call back to him, but he only had time to raise a hand in answer as he closed the distance as another one of the creatures sprang forth from the murky pools and attacked again. This one looked different, and it seemed Alicia knew this one personally, given how she addressed it and that it appeared to take offense at her words. Lee made another mental note to himself regarding the status of their relationship, something to the effect of this one spending too much time with sludge monsters and thus probably not someone he would want to spend an evening with, let alone try for a second date.

No, he was going to call this a night.

More chaos from the woods, as some creature came barreling out of the woods and throwing it into the sludge monster. In the meantime, Alicia worked on trying to cut the creature down, but it was proving more stubborn. While she performed her dance, Lee noted another sludge creature rising from the murk to his left. With a soft sigh, he rolls his eyes, pointing his pistol at it with a blue shard primed and ready to fire. He kept his eyes on the battle as a blast of frosty white splinters fired forth, bursting through the creature's chest, blowing black sinew and gem fragments out the back. The threat collapsed back into its prior elements. Lee kept his eyes on Alicia the whole of it, ensuring he did not lose sight of his ride out of this nightmare.

Soon after she made her way back to his side, tapping his arm to ensure she had his attention, perhaps unaware that he never let her fall away from his intent stare. He looked the way she pointed, a menacing, huge globous mass dragging itself towards the heart of the city. Just what the civilians needed, a strange creature that seemed to burn through matter with little to no effort. Actually, his psionics attunement told him that the black matter existed in a state of plasma; unexpected and problematic to be sure.

“Lead the way then.” BANG!

The gun on the right this time discharges this time, leading to another spray of bluish white light lancing out through the chest of a forming creature that came too close for comfort. Like its predecessor, this one too fell away into chunks of black ooze that melted into the ground, rejoining the surrounding sludge. Lee could tell that this jaunt through the city was going to be interesting, if not harrowing. Lee wondered to himself, as he watched Alicia undergo some other transformation (one that he assumed increased her battle readiness) if any other men had been led so far astray while chasing… opportunities. If any other male in the history of their world ever got themselves caught up in some interdimensional battle scape involving illegal experiments and blob monsters. Really, he thought he might the first.

Muttering to himself as he fell in behind, he quietly says, “I’m a black widow,” as he keeps in step, shooting down another minor inconvenience as they headed for the big one rolling towards the city. Alicia seemed to take that one down without much struggle as well, but it did appear to take more of her power than the last. He wasn’t feeling too concerned about it until he heard her mention that this one was just one down and that there were seven more of these damned things to go after.

“Seven? Are you fucking serious? Are you going to be able to handle that many more? And what of the really big threat you told me about? Where does ‘she’ fit into this? Right now I just see these black plasma shits,” speaking of, he fires his gun at another one, “and nothing of a girl who might have some of your lineage.”

Seriously, he was having a bad day.

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Harsh Objectives

There were truths to Lee’s thoughts, the girl that he once knew was no longer there… or well, at least the carefree semblance had long since passed. Alicia had diversified herself over the years, splintering herself into fragments… shades, memories that created their own personalities, their own goals and lives, true memories that when Alicia would eventually find herself whole again… she would learn them. Until that day, however, it was simply to not be. Whatever that girl on the beach had done, had participated in, and somehow ensnared Lee, this Alicia had no thoughts on the matter. No, Alicia saw Lee as a tool, a weapon that could be used, and a scary accurate one. A creature had shown up to her side, on her left flank was Lee and that blast went off and the creature shattered into sharded plasma that soon dispersed away, falling like uncared ink on pavement. A grin spread her lips, her pale-sheen glancing the moonlight off of her, and laughter bubbled away.

A heave of the greatsword in her hands, nothing more crystallized aether forged into meteor, she slammed the tip down into the pavement and leaned on the pommel. Once her laughter ceased, she grinned. “Seven more? Nah… I am pretty sure I will die in the next two or three, but that isn’t something you need to worry about, okay?” She heard the boots on the pavement more than saw them, but she spun to the on-coming group of people. Her head hung back, and she looked to Lee then. “It seems my intel could be mistaken… or—“

Just as Alicia was about to get to the juicy bits of her life, her past, and well, the current enemy they were about to shove ten feet of fucking steel into… an eruption split their frames. Alicia’s feet fleeted away as the bile erupted around them, and the sinful void beings clawed their ways to the tops of the earth. Seven of them rose from the ground, their bodies covered in moss, thickets of branches curled as armor around their oozing flesh, and upon their heads sat cracked and severed crowns. A guttural cry escaped an unhinged jaw, and the first of the armored corrosions barreled its way toward Alicia. From the earth sprouted roots that coiled around its massive arm, the edges protruding and spikes gleamed as carbon razored into sharps sickles that exposed at the end.

With a sweeping stroke the beast slammed its crescent blade toward Alicia’s shoulder, and she dodged just as swiftly as the attack came. Alicia never had a liking for poisonous, odious, and foul-breathed beasts… and especially disliked those created and earthened-bound as they were, as she liked to put it: tough, her blade stroke backwards and rode the sickled crescent to the root; son of a, her massive blade tore through the barked armor just as easy as it had been made; bitches! She heaved with the rest of her body, lifting her foot off the ground and the weapon shaved away the beast’s shoulder to the ankle, sending defilement and gaseous odours over her thin cloak, burning at armor that didn’t give. 

A panted breath found its way from her lips, and she cursed to herself. Damn it, I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. A screech turned her to the left, and she was shoved by another of the vicious beasts. This one lankier than its barreled body companion, and it loped with the grace of the shadows outside of the gates. Alicia pushed herself off the ground, and looked to the hobbled shadow, its eyes nearly ten-fold all blinked back, a smile an empty yawn into darkness, the creature hobbled closer with outstretched phantasmal arms that swayed and sliced through its fallen companion as if butter. An immediate thought came to Alicia in that moment, and she readied herself, poising her heavy blade in a horizontal frontward direction, breathing shaking her focus as her eyes gazed down the thin edging of her weapon.

The lanking creature continued toward her, hieing faster and faster, its massive claws tearing into the earth as it bounded with animalistic ferocity. The air rent by the creature’s arms, and finally within a few paces, Alicia took a deep breath as the creature’s arms rose upward, reading for a staking strike to her position did she make her move. In an instant, the earth was crushed at her place but Alicia was nowhere to be found, instead she turned her body to the left, tresses of black shaved as she turned her blade upward, driving forward and slamming it home. The weapon rent blackness apart, slamming to the hilt as the creature let out a defeated and gurgled yelp of pain.

Alicia would love to say she got out of the beast’s slumping form unscathed, but the weight shouldered her to a knee, and the blackened thorn beast finally fell to the side. Panted breaths passing her lips as she struggled to a stand, white knuckled fists clenching the hilt of her weapon as she used it to force her feet firm into the earth and look upward as another pile of blackened ash began to circle and form. A hiss of pain left Alicia as she looked for Lee in all of this, hoping he was not too busy with dealing with his own battles, and she hefted the weapon upward, waiting for the next battle to come.

Seven battles… Seven… battles. I can do this.

The veiling shadows began to harden, forming into a towering and sickening pit as the smell of charnel permeated the area, the opened grounds of Last Chance’s inner city began to spiderweb, rockened sludge bursting through the cobblestones a moment later. Alicia let out an exhausted scream and launched herself toward the gathering mass. A whistling sound caught her attention just before she collided into the frothing earth, and she kicked backwards and ducked. Aether exploded around her as white hot earth sizzled with light. Arrows of light pummeled into the ground, each one sending out pulse-waves in every direction. Frothing black screamed and hissed and fell into despair. 

Alicia sought out Lee once more, this time making movement to his side, but found herself standing with a blade two inches from her throat. A man stood in her way, a coat of blue riding off his back as his eyes spoke of grey steel. She heard him mumble something but could not quite make it out, her teeth grit as she forced the world to focus. Ears stiill ringing from the blasts only moment ago, she caught several more forms began to arrive. Their bodies all covered in the same blackened uniforms, capes of varying colour sitting off their bodies as they surrounded the two of them.

“Drop your sword!” This time she did not mistake it, the sound felt like a command, running through her bones and sizzling its way up to her brain. The fire pulsed in her veins as she resisted every moment, her jaw clamped shut as the command came again. “I said DROP YOUR—”

“Enough, Sarael!” Another voice, this one beloned to the man who had lovingly kept the point of his blade to her throat, whether he was a smart man or a dumb one. The itch to bring her weapon up and kill them all turned very tempting in that moment. To feel their guts splayed over her weapon, their bodies cleaved in twain, to feel their hot blood running over her body as… as… she screamed.

“GET. OUT. OF. MY. HEAD!” Alicia snarled. 

The man’s blade whipped away from her neck and he was on the robed man in the back, whom she was guessing was Sarael. The bladed man stalked to him and growled, “Villainous or not, we do not kill those we need!” Alicia watched Sarael mumble something she could not hear, and she looked around for Lee. If she could just get to him and use her magic, they could be out of here in a moment… But gods, she felt herself tapped out.

But the moment was gone as the bladed man made his way back over to her, this time he seemed more casual and less threatened by her. He offered a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, but the silver hair that curled over his forehead did little to conceal the tense features. He’s waiting for me to do something, she realized. Control yourself. A deep breath and she offered a smile, one that she always gave.

“Ah, it is no worries! It never is! I would like to thank you, actually! You saved me and my comrade there!” She would make a pointed motion with her index finger to the four uniformed men all sporting navy coloured capes, she was guessing they were magia concealment by the way they carried no weapons except for a few relics on their wrists. Her eyes wandered over the others, counting nearly twenty three in total… She could not fight her way out of this if she tried. A sigh left her, “May I a—”

“You may not, little spirit bitch. Who summoned you here?” A female voice spoke this time, belonging to a slender woman of the group. Dangling straits of red surrounded her skeletal features. Alicia noted the gauntlets she wore, they pulsed crimson and blue, and she was guessing aether control. The woman crossed her arms, stepping forward as she clearly boasted a bit of confidence to get so close to an enemy. “And what are you doing with Genesarian personnel? You think we did not run any checks the moment you two entered our sphere of influence?”

“That’s enough, Rasp. I will take it from here,” the silver haired man said once more, he gave a warm but lying smile. “The name is Darion, and we need your help.”

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Lee glanced over at Alicia as they worked through the slog, noting the grin across her lips as he huffed about the remaining enemies they had to face down. Her answer chilled him, a cold fist suddenly twisting about his guts. He saw that she was a more than capable combatant and proved a good ally to have at his back so far—at least in battle. She did drag him into this mess. Hearing her admit that she expected to be dead before they even got halfway through this skirmish concerned him deeply. Even as she tried to brush it off as nothing, he found himself becoming rather worried. While she might place little value on her own existence, he certainly felt attached to his! She regained his attention when she passably mentioned faulty intelligence, a familiar complication. Lee never thought that he would welcome bad information, but at least this was used to--between bad observations and purposefully given disinformation, Lee had experience with working around bad intel. He was about to ask follow-up questions when everything went to shit… again.

The events unfolding around him seemed ripped from the pages of a fairytale. He had heard of the undead, and stories of how some beings could reanimate corpses to serve a new purpose. Lee had even encountered a few credible reports over the years that made it sound like it might have some basis in reality, be it actual reanimation or some similar form of magic that made for a convincing replication. Nevertheless, Lee remained skeptical, preferring empirical evidence to stories before making a definitive conclusion. He was open-minded enough to entertain that the stories might have some real-world analogue, a source giving birth to the tales people tell. In general, he chalked up sightings of the walking dead to being poorly made constructs or something similar. Instead, he stood face to face with animated, rotting bodies. Covered in debris and fungus and all the things you would expect to be affecting corpses. Only they were upright and ready to fight. Another impossibility made possible. What day.

Worse yet, their undead enemies left a parting gift upon the destruction of their recycled bodies. As Alicia picked apart the first of their new enemies, it released a horrid smelling gas, putrid in the literal sense of the word. Lee instinctually brought up an arm to cover his face against the odor, fighting back the taste of vomit at the back of his throat. Admittedly, he never was one to deal with things gross and disgusting, preferring to leave that detail for foot soldiers who had no future as officers. If they lacked the talents to move upward, the least they could do was handle distasteful tasks such as removing refuse. Little did Lee know, he and Alicia shared a similar disdain for such things. 

His thoughts were interrupted by a ear-piercing shriek from some eldritch beast attacking Alicia. Lee lacked the time to give warning before it was already engaged with her, and even as he intended to make his way in her direction to lend a hand, he found himself flanked by a pair of creatures interposing themselves. He glanced at each giving a slight nod of head in acknowledgement of his foes as they circled around him, looking for an opening. “Right then, I guess this dance is mine.” Lee kept one gun trained on each, waiting for one to make a move, knowing he had only one chance to time this properly. All the plays and stories made out battles to be prolonged affairs, but he knew all too well that it often came down to one critical mistake. 

Come on you bastards, one of you needs to try and take the lead. I didn’t extend the invitation, so it’s on you to take the first step.

One of the two, which in a strange way resembled a hound covered in tumors, thought that it had its opening and lunged forward, his partner just a step behind from the other side. The beast over-committed, giving way to momentum and blind hunger, thinking it had its quarry pinned between itself and another hungry maw--but Lee capitalized on mistakes like this. All emotions, no logic, no timing. He waited it out, and seeing both committed to their approach allowed him to duck down and twist so that he was perfectly positioned to avoid their snapping jaws and its slaver running down their chins, while took his firearms and jammed them into their throats, a concussive blast ripping apart their sinewy flesh and dropping them to the ground. Lee rose back up just in time to fire off another shot at one more trying to join the fracas, both over eager and too tardy to have had a chance. 

Spinning around, Lee shot back  up to the balls of his feet and directed his attention towards Alicia, seeking to alleviate his concerns of her untimely demise. He watched as she shook off the remnants of the attack, alive if not looking a step slower than before. He caught her glancing about, trying to pick him out in the midst of the chaos, their eyes locking for perhaps half a second before the next wave threatened to pull them under and swallow them in its infinite darkness. Just another day in paradise, another exclamation mark on this wonderful vacation his superiors forced him to take. The next time they suggested he take time off, he might consider putting a hole in their head and being done with it. Better to be court-martialed than deal with this again. 

Shadows coalesced and sought to sweep them under, and Lee found himself growling in unison with Alicia’s wearied screaming. Two more well placed shots drove back the forming creatures taking shape from the splintering darkness dancing about his feet, but no matter how much he sent out, it still pushed back, determined to take form and swallow them whole. It was all he could do to keep up with the onslaught, firing and firing again, missing the approach of others who formed up around the two of them. Just as the inky entourage pushed back and gave them a little room to breathe, Lee only just caught his breath as he realized that they had company, one’s that Alicia seemed less than happy to greet. 

While the newcomers contented themselves with arguing, Lee took the advantage to draw a bit closer to Alicia, closing the distance between them, while he charged another round. He could feel his PASS array burning against his skin, nearly pushed to its limits, threatening to burn its way into his flesh. He hoped that this new complication would be one they could resolve diplomatically, or quickly, because if he pushed himself too much more, he was going to be left with some lasting injuries, if not fatal ones. 

“Who the hell are you all?”

Lee took a more direct and blunt approach, given that one of them already rudely addressed his present company. While Alicia certainly had done him no favors this day, he didn’t care for people talking down those with whom he kept company. 

“And why should we help you?”

He realized they might not be talking to him at all, but for the moment, the two of them were a “we”, so he chose to interject before he was dragged into something else without having a say.

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