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[A Key To Any Door]

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[COLOR="#800000"][FONT=Garamond][box]Lucis Angelus DuGrace[/box]

“Where exactly did she go?” asked Lucis as a silver brow perked and his golden eyes narrowed. He was sitting at his mother’s desk, leaning back with both his elbows propped up against the arm rests of the fine Victorian chair and his long trouser-covered legs crossed—right ankle over his left knee.

[I]“To Genesairs,” [/I]answered the shadow, a featureless figure that sat across from the Black Princess.

Lucis rubbed his face and pressed his fingers into the side of his head. He wasn’t annoyed that his mother was gone—in fact he was a little relieved that she had decided to take a small vacation and more so that it had been with the only three individuals in this entire world who seemed capable of keeping her out of trouble.

[I]If only he knew…[/I]

“Alright, but where—exactly,” he asked again peering up at the shadow.

[I]“Why don’t you call me grandfather?[/I]”

Somewhat caught off guard Lucis dropped his right foot back onto the ground and sulked in his chair as a way to avoid answering the question. But the Shadow only responded by tilting its head, or what one would assume was its head, to the right in a very curious and birdlike manner.

“Because you’re not really my grandfather, I mean,” the Black Prince frowned, “—you’re not really [I]anything[/I] at all.”

[I]“That’s a hateful thing to say to your grand-pappy!” [/I]exclaimed the shadow in that terrible mechanical voice of his. Lifting a hand, of course all of it black, the creature waved away the supposed insult and straightened in his chair. [I]“She has gone to the Mountains of Cold—that is where she has gone and that is where she shall stay, but only for a short time. Dollya’s death struck her powerfully.”[/I]

Lucis grunted and looked away. Being so suddenly reminded of his sister’s death had stirred up emotions in him that he was not willing or prepared to explore. So instead he focused on the pile of paperwork on the desk before him. There were things to do now—structures that needed to be built, new lessons that needed to be designed and taught to the Orisian children, things that needed to be invented, implemented, and perfected in order to give the island an adequate form of communication. There were also a number of other things that had gone too long without being attended to, the most serious of which, in his opinion, was the fact that there was a key out there somewhere that had the ability to open any door of the DuGrace Castle.

“You don’t happen to know what, if anything, the Black Queen was planning to do about this—do you?” Asked Lucis to the shadow whom in return offered a strange and disturbing laugh.

[I]“Your mother tells me nothing!”[/I]

“I imagined as much,” he plucked a black book off the desk and read the carefully written notes that had been supposedly written by his mother. She had a plan but had never had the time to see it through. He supposed he could add this on to his to-do-list while he was here in the capital. He had already set the beginning portion of the plan in motion—he had found four individuals whom had agreed to go into the forest of deadly poppies for a price, and after hearing of the quest, had been pleased to hear that Syven had also agreed to tag along. Of course he knew why Syven was going and he couldn’t begin to imagine the sort of conviction one has to feel in order to even consider going back to examine the ruins of ones very own home. It was a sad and difficult thing, and Lucis had nearly felt compelled to ask Syven to stay back. But the simple truth of the matter was that Syven was a valuable asset that could ensure not only the safety of the four individuals questing for this key—but the actual return of the key itself.

He glanced sideways to the squire standing at attention by the study’s door and nodded his head, “please go get Sir Syven and the other four who are waiting outside.”
[/FONT][/COLOR] Edited by §oft §ignals

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[SIZE=2][COLOR="#7d6678"][B]“ I’ll just have eggs and toast this morning. “[/B]

[COLOR="#DDA0DD"]“ And will that be all, sir? “[/COLOR]

The man nodded, grabbing the brim of his hat at the same time. The raven haired male leaned back against his seat which was by the corner of a local diner. Whenever he went out to eat, he wanted to sit by windows. He liked to people watch; it was quite a hobby of his. His name is Leonardo Flannagan: young, tall, slim, mesmerizing eyes, fairly attractive, and most important of all … single. His evenly tan skin almost glowed as the sun rays shined through the window. He waited patiently for about ten minutes and then his breakfast came. The steam from the scrambled eggs and toast could be seen from twenty yards away. Leon was pretty excited when the waitress set the plate down in front of him.

[COLOR="#DDA0DD"]“ Enjoy. “[/COLOR]

[B]“ Thank you! “[/B] Leon replied. After his server had left, he began to eat, looking out at the window as he enjoyed his breakfast. [i]I should probably get to that place right after this..[/i] He told himself. The other day, he had accepted this job offer to participate in accompanying others to find a certain item deep within the Ellwood Forest. Leon was a mercenary, a person who could be hired for work without having any allegiance to a certain group or organization. As long as the pay was good, he would do it. Leonardo hasn’t actually been doing this kind of lifestyle for very long. He was pretty new at this. One of his friends, Gabriel, was a mercenary and that was what inspired him to become one. The memory of his hometown was a harsh one on him. His town was overrun by bandits. He was sixteen at the time and Gabriel was nineteen. His mother was shot with an arrow as they ran away from the village. His brother was captured and his father died a long time ago. The memories still haunt him, but they have been more calm as time passes on. He believed that only time would help him forget, or at least ease the pain. He and Gabriel split up after being attacked in a forest years later. The young man shook his head rapidly for a second just to shake off the thoughts. He had a big day ahead of him.

Leon finished his breakfast and put his black coat back on. He left the money he owed for the food on the table, grabbed his two swords, which were sheathed, and then walked out of the place. His coat fluttered behind him as he moved. His hands deep in his pants’ pockets and his eyes watched the ground as he walked out and about. His sheathed swords were strapped on both sides of his hips, the hilt facing away for easy drawing. Leonardo walked towards the structure that he was supposed to wait at for the debriefing of his mission. There were a few others who were there. A few seconds after waiting outside with the other strangers, someone came out of the door they stood in front of. [COLOR="#006400"]“ If you could please follow me.. “[/COLOR] Leon simply did what he was told and followed the squire inside. There, he was led to a room where a single person sat. The squire left and went back to where he had come from, leaving Leonardo and the strangers alone. Leon took his hat off and looked at the others in the room with his pale gray eyes. He took note of all their face features and what they looked like. His later challenge would be putting together a name with a face. Leon didn't want to speak up first, he decided to wait for the others before he did.[/size][/color] Edited by John

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[COLOR="#FF8C00"]"Stop, it'll be fine."[/COLOR] Sida barked, narrowing her eyes at her brother as he trotted beside her, keeping pace with her long strides.
[COLOR="#FF8C00"]"I don't know what you're worried about. It's a simple quest. Go. Get some key. Come back. It's not as if I'm needed here anyway. I need to get out of this town for a while. And I could always use the cash."[/COLOR]
Harlo grumbled to himself, but didn't try to stop her. He knew once Sida had her mind set on something, next to nothing would get her to reconsider.
[COLOR="#0000CD"]"Well, I don't know what you expect me to tell our father. Or Francis for that matter."[/COLOR] He sighed, knowing the answer before she even parted her lips.
[COLOR="#FF8C00"]"You'll tell them nothing. Say you haven't seen me around. They'll think I wandered out to Raven's Landing again. They don't need to know. I'll be back before you know it."[/COLOR]
Pausing about a half block from where she was instructed to meet the rest of the group, she turned to her younger brother and smiled a genuine smile. She knew he'd have a tough time keeping her father and eldest brother in the dark. Harlo always knew her whereabouts. They were practically attached at the hip, these two. But she knew he could do it. He was a persuasive guy when need be.
Flipping down the hood of her fox fur cape, she pulls her pack to the front of her hip and peeks inside, double checking her supplies. Never one to carry a lot of things, Sida tended to only have the essentials, but now her pack was almost filled to the brim. Plenty of water, some dried foods, a few simple potions and healing herbs, just in case. Her bow hung off her shoulder and her tattered quiver held 10 stone tipped arrows.
Her shorn copper hair glinted in the sun like fire, even in its dirty state. Harlo's mouth opened as if to protest again, but he let out a puff of air and hugged her.
[COLOR="#0000CD"]"I hope you get out of this whatever you're looking for Sida. Come see me as soon as you get back."[/COLOR] He spoke into her hair, squeezing her small frame into his. [COLOR="#0000CD"]"And wash your damn hair, you smell like a campfire."[/COLOR]
Sida grinned into his shoulder, the horizontal scar under her right eye crinkling as she laughed.
[COLOR="#FF8C00"]"Nah, I like it. Reminds me of home. Now I've gotta go or I'm going to be late. Remember what I told you little brother!"[/COLOR] She mocks a serious face and points at him as she trots towards the door of where she was asked to present herself.
On approaching the building, she meets the eye of the squire standing before the entrance.
[COLOR="#008000"]"Come with me."[/COLOR] is all he says as he turns and pushes through the door.
Led by this large man, Sida follows silently. Her leather wrapped feet making naught but a sound on the hard floors of the hallway. The man makes a sudden stop and gestures towards a door, not unlike all the others they passed, but does not enter. After giving him a brief nod, she enters, immediately taking in the people around her.
She makes eye contact with the only man in the room who is sitting, and tilts her head downward in a slight nod, and gives everyone a small glance as well. She holds in a small sigh. Getting to know people is not her strong suit. Edited by A Decadent Intruder

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[FONT=Garamond][COLOR="#2F4F4F"]The air smelled fresh and clean. A hint of pollen, and a dash of soil decided to furnish the wind that blew to and fro in an elegant manner. It was quite lovely, but Scaevus had other things on his mind. [I]What am I going to do on this quest? Oh... I sure do hope I don't hurt anything innocent. That would a crime. Well, I think it would be. Nonetheless, I hope the pay is good. I need a new robe, a nice one. Not this ratty purple one. Wait! Did I leave the stove on all the way at home? Oh lord. Please no no no.[/I] Scaevus was always one to worry. It was something that defined him, as well as his clutsy personality & accident-prone life. He put the thoughts aside while he sat behind the door. This door was the entrance to the person that was waiting to meet him. The person that would give him the full details of the quest he was about to embark on. Scaevus hadn't quested in a while, and was in the mood for it since a life inside Sunset way was oddly boring enough teaching people the art of Light and the practice of alchemy.

[I]At least I'll be helping. I brought a few ingredients that I hope could help in this quest. [/I] He continued to ponder about questions that would haunt him until the answers were provided. He was in fact right though. He had brought ingredients; flowers, mushrooms, and many other things with scientific names. He had also brought his redwood wand that settled loosely on his leather belt. The dagger he brought was hidden deep in his robes. Scaevus never truly enjoyed melee weapons, but he always had one just in-case a closely-psychical attack would happen. He brought flasks for the liquids, a satchel full of bandages, and his very own worrisome thoughts.

It wasn't long before people began to show up. One by one, beings were coming to the door to wait with him. He hid his reptilian face in the hood of his robes. He never really liked meeting new people. Yet another attribute to his personality that made him awkward. His tongue slithered out of his mouth when he smelled the pungent flavor of campfires. [I]Love that smell. Reminds me of camping.[/I] he said to himself in his mind. When it was time to enter, he got up and continued to hide his face from the others. A squire had appeared, a man who looked honest & nice. "Right this way." He spoke clearly. Scaevus nodded and followed the man through the double doors and into the room.

Inside, a man had been sitting at a desk not too far from where Scaevus settled. He wore a large amount of black, making Scaevus intimidated in a minor way. He bowed shortly and decided to rest his scaly, green hand on a small table next to him. But being the way that he was, he awkwardly knocked over a paperweight that looked like a elephant made from jade. "Oh, oh. S-Sorry. Um." He muttered nervously. He was never one to act 'chill' in any situation. Some people would find it annoying. He just hoped the people inside the room itself didn't think that just from one petty accident. In time he picked the elephant up and put it back onto the table. He apologized one more time. Then, he waited to see if anyone would say something. [I]I don't want to say anything first, oh god.[/I] he mumbled in his consciousness.

[I]Whose gunna' speak first?[/I] he noted.[/COLOR][/FONT]

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"Lord Syven, if you would be so kinda. The prince is ready to see you."

The knight tilted his head up to looking at the squire that beckoned him. "Of course. I presume he is in the Queen's study?" The squire nodded in confirmation. Setting down a quill, Syven closed a the large leather bound book that sat before him. Depositing it into an open desk drawer, he closing the drawer causing it to nearly vanish into the wood. Standing from the desk, he plucks his gloves from the left side and proceeds to put them on while rounding his office toward a coat rack. From here he retrieves his jacket and rapier, the latter being fashioned to the right side of his belt.

"You can go about your day, I can find my way." The knight ushered the squire from his office with a wave. Following closely behind the youth, he secures the door with a key that he deposits in his left breast pocket before heading off down the corridor.

Several moments later Syven stands at another door, his left hand raises to tap against the dark wood... however he pauses. Deep within his core he can feel it, something dark and ominous looming within the room. For a moment his mind tries to grasp what unspeakable fear could possible be haunting this room, finally he settles on a single answer: the living shadow. Syven didn't fully understand the relationship between the vampyres and their shadow god. The best he could grasp is that he was their creator, or something like that. His discussions with Gabriela and Desmond (Sorta but not really) had given the knight enough insight to understand that the queen had a vampyre mother and father. Yet for some reason this god of shadows and darkness seemed to favor her.

"I can't help but ponder what madness is befalling the poor Prince?" He murmurs while considering the past. He'd never considered the shadow man to be a good sign. There was something dreadfully frightening about a creature that could be anywhere, see anything, and hear everything just from a lack of light.

Shaking his head in an attempt to disperse digressing thoughts, Syven raises his hand and knocks thrice. Only once permission to enter is granted does he do so, and immediately he moves to flank those that have already entered.

"Your Highness, Prince Lucis. You look a tad pale today." The greeting is given with a smirk as he stops, his body aligned perfectly with the prince. With hands clasped behind his back, his shoulders straight, and knees at shoulder width with slight bends, he was caught somewhere between formal and casual.

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[COLOR="#800000"][FONT=Garamond][box]Lucis Angelus DuGrace[/box]
An elegant silver pen was tapped against a small fountain of ink and then along the fine and well-oiled surface of a rather grand wooden desk. He didn’t have to wait long, but while he did wait he added more things to his list and pondered about the possibility of actually getting any of this done. Truth be told, he felt more than a little overwhelmed. For someone who had lived well over three-hundred years-everything had a tendency to feel rushed. So what if he had the ability to outlive most of the individuals on this island? He had been promised the crown of Orisia only as long as he served and to him that meant serving those in the here and now. Of course he cared about the future and he had grand plans for the Summer Island in the years to come, but that hardly meant that he could ignore this current moment in time—and there were just so many issues that needed to be sorted out.

Yet he would never point an accusing finger to his mother. Like it or not every single individual on this island owed her a debt. She had brought peace and prosperity to a country that had not seen or heard of such a thing in over twenty years. And now, when the rougher edges were finally beginning to show, he could not honestly believe that anyone would say a word against her.

These were growing pains.

This was good.

Just then there was a knock at the door, to which he did not have a chance to answer. The knob was twisted and the door pushed open—and he sat there with a passive expression as he watched the first of four enter the grand study. No, this was no small country manner or elegant city residence—the four would-be-adventurers had been brought into the very heart of a rather magnificent castle, which was set high atop four huddled hills. They were in the center structure, the Royal Hall.

He beamed a smile at the first and pushed his chair away from his desk. He was about to welcome the stranger when another followed not far behind. It made Lucis stop and stand quietly with his long pale fingers gently drumming along the edge of the desk as he waited for the parade of hero’s to finally end. He regarded each that entered with a friendly expression, though there was a touch of curiosity if not open scrutiny. His worry was two-fold. Not only was he sending strangers out to collect a vital artifact of the capital city of Orisia—but the risk he was asking these individuals to take seemed too great.

As if on cue with his doubt, one of the three individuals, shrouded in a heavy cloak managed to bump into a small side table and drop a decorative jade elephant. For a moment the loud thump of the sculpture against the carpeted floor is the only sound in the room before being followed by awkward apologies.

Lucis lifted a hand and shook his head, “no need to apologize.”

Walking around the table, something that was easily achievable being that he was not currently dressed in his armor but instead in a black pair of wool trousers and a simple but fine black tunic, the silver-haired prince made his way to a long table set along a far wall. There a number of bottles wait, along with beautiful crystal glasses. “Can I interest you three in a drink?”

He didn’t wait to hear if they wanted it or not—four glasses of wine were already poured out. Picking up his own he motioned for the others to help themselves before heading back to his desk and leaning against it.

“We’re almost ready to get started, just waiting on two more,” and just then, as if on cue, Syven entered.

All the while Darkness remained seated—he neither moved nor spoke. However, it was with Syven’s arrival that he stirred to life. The featureless creature turned what appeared to be its head at that moment—and although no eyes were needed, he was obviously making a point to physically show his interest with this figure he had pulled together from the wayward shadows of the room. The thing, from its seat, poised itself in such a manner as to better regard the Knight of Perseverance.

[I]"Your Highness, Prince Lucis. You look a tad pale today."[/I]

“Yes, well,” Lucis grined at Syven, “I am still recovering from the verbal whiplashing I got a few nights ago. Although,” he added after sipping his wine—unlike his mother and sisters, he seemed to have no problem partaking in normal food and drink, “I do believe I am handling the injuries to my pride a lot better than most.”

[I]“So I hear you’ll be heading back home Sir Syven—I imagine you’ll find the place quite changed since your last time there.”[/I] As always, Darkness’ voice was oddly mechanical. It lacked the warmth of breath or the natural melody associated with life. It was not dead sounding, but it certainly wasn’t natural. It sounded like a very fine machine.

“That’s quite enough,” Lucis said quickly, glaring at the shadow with furious golden eyes.

[I]“My Prince,”[/I] answered the shadow, bowing its head before falling silent once again.

Looking up at Syven, then to the others, and trying his best to ignore the oddness of his Grandfather, Lucis set his wine glass down and motioned for Syven to serve himself a drink. “You all know why you’re here—I assume you were properly briefed on the nature of this particular quest. I have asked you all here so that I may answer any questions that you have, so long as they are within my power to answer. I also want you all to meet and I wanted to properly introduce Sir Syven. He will be an invaluable asset to you all for he has firsthand knowledge of La Cierra and the Ellwood Forest. If anyone can keep you three alive as you take on this dangerous task, it is him.”


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[color="#7d6678"]As soon as Leon entered and his presence was acknowledged, the person sitting in the room stood from his seated position with a friendly smile on his face; Leon just smiled back. He seemed like he was ready to say something until another individual entered the room. Leon heard a tapping beat and he immediately found where it came from: from the stranger on the other side of the room. The young mercenary looked at the newcomer and nodded his head to show his acknowledgement of his presence. Then, more came in as well.

One of the people that entered the room ran into this small glass object which fell on the ground, shattering into many pieces. Leon tilted his head and flinched at the noise of the breaking glass. [i]IUh oh.[/i] was the first thing that popped into Leon's head. He didn't know how these rich people could be: they could be snotty, rude, and stingy about their money and belongings. The man, whose name was still unknown to them, was nice about it. He told the clumsy guy that he had no need to apologize. How nice of him. After the unexpected occasion, the adventurers were offered a drink. Leon did not hesitate to agree. [b]" Sure! "[/b] The young man exclaimed, but not exactly yelling. Leon walked over to where the host was and grabbed a glass for himself and returned to the same spot where he had stood just seconds ago. Nothing better than a glass of wine to kick a day off.

Another person entered the room and was not afraid to speak. They seem to be familiar with one another. Leon finally learned of the host's name, by observing of course. His name was Lucis. The 'Prince' in front of it must mean that he must be of royal descent. How fancy.

[b]" What the .. "[/b]

Leon whispered to himself. Little did he know that there was someone else in the room. Or should we say something? There was a figure lurking in the dark. Leon couldn't tell if it human or not, but ... it seemed like a shadow or some sort. He had read somewhere before that there were creatures that were able to appear where light was limited and they could hide themselves easily and still able to watch and hear what people are saying.

Lucis introduced the latest visitor of the room: Sir Syven. Apparently, this person is the one who would keep us alive in our quest. Which, he still had little idea about.

[b]" My name is Leonardo Flannagan. Leon for short. "[/b]

The mercenary bowed, grabbing the brim of his hat at the same time. He had a big grin on his face as he introduced himself. [/color]

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As she stood in this magnificent room with the two men who were here before her, a few others made their ways in as well. Sida watched as each of them entered, shifting her stance to accommodate everyone, and giving a small nod to anyone who made eye contact with her. Her ears were buzzing with this strange sound, almost like a hissing feedback, and it caused her to look over at the dark figure seated in the chair. When it spoke, it was so strange, mechanical even. Not knowing exactly who they were, she hoped that they were not going to be a member of this quest. Poking a finger near her own ear, she shook her head a little as the others talked.
Bouncing a little on her toes, she turns abruptly as the sound of a thud, her bow shifting on her shoulder, but then cracks a small smile at the person, swathed in robes. She couldn't make out their face in the layers of cloth, but could hear him muttering apologies as he replaced the item to it's place.

[I] “Can I interest you three in a drink?”[/I]

Ah, this was music to her ears. This might make this slightly awkward setting a little more bearable. And maybe it could help ease the hissing in her ears. As she picked her glass of dark wine off the table, another man made his way through the door. His presence seemed to fill the room, and she noticed even the dark figure in the chair across the room stirred a little upon his coming. She felt herself stand up a little straighter, and she raised her glass slightly and tipped her head. She felt no need to add her voice to the accumulating noise of the room until she was spoken to.
Taking a mouthful of her wine, she watches as some small banter begins, but is cut short, and this "Leon" introduces himself with a bow.

[I][COLOR="#FF8C00"]This one seems a little flamboyant.[/COLOR][/I] she thinks to herself, raising an eyebrow and smirking a little. Attempting to conceal it, she lifts her glass to her lips again and swallows another large mouthful of wine.

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[FONT=Garamond][COLOR="#2F4F4F"]Awkwardness had spread amongst the room. Of course, it was Scaevus' fault. Never to fail, he was always the one to make situations a bit more uncomfortable than they usually should be. The jade elephant, now back in it's own place, seemed to mock Scaevus as it stared at the door behind him. It reminded him of what his mother had told him when he was very young. In order to achieve a little bit of quirky good luck, you would have to have an elephant face a door in your house. He took the idea lightly, but ignored it. Good luck was never a concept Scaevus could understand himself since he had never had it.

To break the ineptitude of the moment, the casual person who had addressed them offered a drink. Scaevus nodded, and walked over to grab one. He made careful of the cup by holding it tightly. He may have dropped an innocent jade elephant, but a glass full of possibly-staining liquid could get him in much more deeper shit than he originally was in; even though there was barely a fuss over the clumsiness of him. He returned to his spot & took a sip of the drink. It was cold, and tasted smooth enough to swallow. He couldn't really identify the type of drink he was having since he was so uneasy... as usual. Wine was his first idea. He put that thought aside and continued to pay full attention towards the man behind the desk. That is, until another man entered the room precipitously.

He addressed the man in front of Scaevus as Prince Lucis. [I]Delightful name.[/I] Scaevus thought. He noticed that the two spoke in a manner that showed they already knew each other from before. He also learned the other man's name. Syven. But not just Syven alone, Sir Syven. [I]Sounds like a hiss.[/I] Scaevus commented in his mind. Oddly enough, he felt as though he wasn't the only thing in the room to stand beside the other three & the formal people. Instead he felt a presence; something dark. Dark in both ways, but maybe not as evil as Scaevus presumed. He noticed it. Sitting in a chair not too far from the Prince's chair was a dark figure. It didn't have a specific shape, and to Scaevus it moved like a night fog. It made Scaevus weary. He didn't want to be rude by the slightest, so he ignored it by the sweat of his hairless brow & listened to their conversations.

The first man decided to introduce himself. He tipped his hat, and named himself too. Leonardo Flannagan. He also decided to state that he would like to be called by the shortened version of his first name; Leon. Scaevus nodded underneath his hood and noticed the sly smirk that the girl beside him gave. She covered it with a sip, but Scaevus was wise enough for his mid-age to know what that smile meant on any face. He left it alone, and name himself to the crowd. [I]Maybe it's for the best. They'll have to figure out who I am sooner or later. And I surely do not want to be last.[/I] Scaevus put the drink onto the table next to him and lifted his hood from off his head.

His bald but scaly skin shined in the odd light of the room. It wasn't long before anyone could surely realize he wasn't human. Infact, he was caste; or Lizardfolk. The long sleeves of his robe sled down his soft arms to reveal his sharp nails... and even more green skin. Scaevus bowed just a tad, and nodded. "I am Scaevus Stilio. Nice to meet you all. If- the name is too much for you to speak, you can say S or Scae for short. Anything is absolutely fine, as long as I can understand the nickname that you give me." He tried to speak formally and nice, but the shake in his voice & the slither of his forked tongue made everyone understand he wasn't even remotely capable of doing so. He had never been one to be solemn in an impressive way. It was only until you had truly gotten to know him that his inner politeness would come out through speech.

Scaevus waited for anyone else to speak or acknowledge anything to break the short silence.[/COLOR][/FONT]

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Syven blinked a few times while listening to Lucis. "I suppose I owe you an apology then. None of it was meant to be a painful lashing, with one exception." There had been a particular knight present whose failure to pay attention had brought about Syven's wrath. That had been his only intentional attempt at berating anyone. "Although I do suspect many good things will come from the ideas brought to light that ....." It was the voice of living darkness that cut him off. Syven had heard the Queen describe it as mechanical before, however he heard something else. There was no pitch, no tone, nor accent. To him it sounded more like a deaf person talking. Someone that could not hear their own voice or the voice of another. Someone who had been left alone with nothing but their own thoughts for many years.

The burgundy hues of Syven's irides shifted. In the past it had happened when his anger was about to boil over and he was a whim away from releasing it. In the past his eyes had morphed into smoldering embers that quickly became ragging infernos of red and orange. However the shift today was far less subtle. It took a keen set of eyes and an extraordinary level of attention for minute details to notice something changing through hues of red. However, anyone looking at his face would immediately notice the smokey velvet red lighten into a sharp and painfully bright yellow.

With his gaze trained on the aphotic figured of living darkness, Syven blinked and smiled. Well, rather he smirked. When his eyes opened once more, his irises had returned to their normal hue.... which was often noted as being a weird ass color for a human anyway.

"I suspect that too much hasn't changed since I've last been there. Los Caballeros had a training exercise not too long ago that took us through Ellwood and the outskirts of La Cierra." As it turned out, there really weren't too many places to land a griffin in Ellwood, La Cierra offered on of the few openings large enough for the beast.

"Although, I must ask. Why is it that you, much like the Queen, feel the need to gauge my emotional reaction on La Cierra?" The knight's head canted to the left as he made the inquiry. When Syven first arrived at the castle, Gabriela had constantly asked him about how he felt, specifically regarding the magestorm. And without fail, he told her the same thing every time. [I]What had to be done, was done. [/I]Syven had started to speculate that her highness secretly wanted him to hate her, that she wanted at least someone from La Cierra to despise her very existence for the fate that she'd handed out to the town and its population. And maybe she secretly wanted to be hated so that should could find penance for the imaginary sins she committed for not being able to protect the town. Unfortunately Syven would probably never be able to confirm his speculation.

As two of the three took a moment to introduce themselves, something Syven would not be able to reciprocate since Lucis had already introduced him, he took the opportunity to assess them. Lizard person, human male, and human female? It was easier to gauge lizard folk as lizard folk, maybe he was dragon kin. It wouldn't really make a difference though. However classifying someone as human was tricky business. Werewolves, vampires, devils, and any number of other supernatural creature was more than capable of parading around as a human. For all he knew, one or more of these 'humans' were soul eating flesh rending windigos.

"It is a please to meet all of you." There was a stoic professionalism to his voice, an unwavering calm that offered nothing but assurance. Of course what he was assuring them of was impossible to gauge. "I'm not sure how much you have been told, so I'll summarize what I know. There is a key that opens something very valuable in the castle." Internally Syven wanted to yell. [I]Who the hell thought it was a good idea to have a key that cold open... anything?[/I] Externally he remained docile. "The key was in the possession of a Mr. Oliver Crim. His last known location was La Cierra. He's probably a corpse or a poppy at this point. We need to retrieve the key. Pretty simple right?" Syven's face twisted into a full blown sardonic smile. "Unfortunately the forest and two are littered with these blood red poppies and still have a far number of human remains. You'll also find a lot of dead animals near the poppies as well. The poppies aren't lethal, but they are dangerous." Syven offered them a moment to consider what he was saying.

"Of all the dangers in the forest, I'd argue that nothing is more dangerous than these little flowers. Just standing near them when the wind picks up just right is enough to cause a person to black out. It won't kill you, but you won't wake up until you are removed from them. That's why dead animals are found near them. They fall asleep and starve to death in their sleep." Syven shrugged, ending his brief. There really wasn't too much more to add to it than that. Or was there? Something rolled across the back of his mind. "I was hoping that all of you are familiar with horses and the art of riding them. I'd like to take horses into Ellwood and then once we are off the main road, walk the rest of the way. I'm not particularly comfortable with the idea of galloping through the woods and then having my mount pass out on me mid step."

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[COLOR="#800000"][FONT=Garamond][box]Lucis Angelus DuGrace[/box]
[I]"I suppose I owe you an apology then. None of it was meant to be a painful lashing, with one exception. Although I do suspect many good things will come from the ideas brought to light that ....."[/I]

Lucis remained poised, though his grin had steadily drooped away and fallen to a very flat line. His seriousness was an odd expression, being mirth simply seemed far more appropriate for such an angular face with such bright golden eyes. He should have suspected that Syven would take the comment seriously—he’d heard talk of the man’s dire somberness but it really was quite a talent to so quickly disarm someone’s humor with cold and seemingly calculated responses. Not so much as a smile managed to crack the serious knight’s visage, which in turn left Lucis feeling a little at odds. So he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head and offered simply, “—it was a joke, I assure you that no one deserves an apology other than you. Hopefully next time around we’ll all have brushed our strategies books and come better prepared to offer useful insight rather than flailing about like fledglings at the chess table. Ah well.”

The attention of the young knight shifted from the Black Prince to his Black Grandfather—whom had grown silent but visibly stirred when under the pressure of the odd but rather beautiful kaleidoscope stare. Within empty shell of the creature, he vibrated wildly at the change of color that he had seen and subtle but beautiful shifts in atmosphere. It stirred him like the birth of a faraway star.

The display was not lost on the prince either, whom saw the change of color and for a brief moment thought how absolutely appropriate it was that Gabriela adopted beings with such magnificent colored eyes. Perhaps Syven hadn’t noticed—Raspberry’s ruby-red eyes, Vivian’s forest-green stare, Dollya’s turquoise-blue gaze, or any other of the DuGrace’s distinct eye-colors. Members of this family—both those related by blood as well as those adopted into the ranks could practically stand side by side and make a distinctive rainbow with the color of their gaze.

And then there was darkness—Father Darkness—who could only ever manage his odd shapes devoid of features. How he yearned for colors. Lucis knew of this longing, he knew it as every blood-related member of the DuGrace blood knew it—knew it because it resonated in their own blood. The Dark creature yearned for life just as much as the vampires yearned for blood. But at the very least they could have satisfaction. Lucis knew of no possible way that Father Darkness would ever get to experience life—real life—in the way that he wished it.

[I]"Although, I must ask. Why is it that you, much like the Queen, feel the need to gauge my emotional reaction on La Cierra?"[/I]

[I][COLOR="#000000"]“I can’t speak for her—maybe it’s a mixture of concern, guilt, and sympathy but as for me? It is purely curiosity. It’s a meaningful thing, I imagine, to lose one’s home.” The creature shrugged what might have been his shoulders. It’s purely the situation that interests me. But worry not! My interests are fickle and soon enough the wind will shift a blade of grass and shift a shadow just enough to give me a new perspective on something else.”[/COLOR][/I]

“Let’s do this another time,” interrupted Lucis while setting his hands upon his lap carefully. He decided that the best way to end the awkwardness was to disengage it completely. And so he focused his golden gaze upon the other three—first Leonardo, whom had been the boldest of the bunch and had offered his name first and foremost. Lucis nodded his head and smiled content that the man had picked up a drink. Then came the other man—or creature—decked in a heavy cloak. The older male removed his cloak and revealed a smooth scaled head, to which no one seemed to have any sort of reaction. Orisia was knew a number of different races of creatures, from the beautiful merpeople of Ranthus River to the proud dragon-folk of Solum Irae.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” said the prince before turning his gaze on the young woman—whom had been bouncing on her toes just a minute ago and was now busy sipping some of the wine he had offered them. He beamed a bright smile at the girl but before she could go on to introduce herself Syven began to explain the concept of the quest.

"Of all the dangers in the forest, I'd argue that nothing is more dangerous than these little flowers. Just standing near them when the wind picks up just right is enough to cause a person to black out. It won't kill you, but you won't wake up until you are removed from them. That's why dead animals are found near them. They fall asleep and starve to death in their sleep."

“Actually,” Lucis interrupted gently, “—we’ve had reports of some strange activity and part of this quest is also for the gathering of important information. We would like for you, other than retrieving the key which is your first and foremost objective, to also keep detailed reports of what you see. The assumption is that while the magic cast by the magestorm was able to turn the human victims of the plague into the deadly poppies that Sir Syven is warning you about it somehow didn’t work on the undead animals that came as a result of the same attack.”

Although Syven and his team had been doing drills in the infected parts of the Ellwood Forest—it seemed that they were either not there long enough or had not expanded far enough to have witnessed any of the strange sightings. Whatever the case was, Lucis was certain he would soon get the answers he needed.

“Everything you need will be provided—Sir Syven will show you to horses and supplies, if there’s anything special you may require then you’ve only to ask before you leave. As for payment—it will be issued upon the successful completion of the quest. In other words, when the key is returned to me in this very room. Do you three have any questions?”

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His eyes locked from person to person after he had introduced himself. One of them, a woman, had raised an eyebrow just as soon as he was done introducing his name. Perhaps this person had a problem with his name? Or maybe how he had performed his entry? The reason remained unknown to him, but the judgement didn't affect his calm mood. The girl had also taken one of the glasses of wine provided for the small group. Leon, just using his peripherals, watched her take a gulp of the drink. Another stepped up to introduce themselves right after Leonardo. Thank goodness. How awkward would it be if only he had said his name? It would be such an unfriendly group of people ... or maybe even shy. This next person was not ... normal, though. He wasn't exactly disabled or deformed in anyway, Leon wasn't just expecting someone of another race to be here; even though the land is occupied of more than just mere humans.

[i]"I am Scaevus Stilio. Nice to meet you all. If- the name is too much for you to speak, you can say S or Scae for short. Anything is absolutely fine, as long as I can understand the nickname that you give me."[/i]

This Scaevus fellow was so interesting. He definitely stood out in the group, but Leon showed no sign of discomfort or being surprised. Leon observed his scaly skin as he mentioned his flowing name. He preferred to be called S or Scae, but Leon immediately thought that Stilio was more fun to say, or even steel. But, would the scaly acquaintance like the idea of being given a new nickname? [i]" Our lizard friend here seems quite ... friendly. "[/i] Leon thought to himself. Getting to know one of these people wouldn't be that bad; all of them even. It may take the entire quest for them to become close or even call each other friends, or it may be right off the bat. Leon was all for being friendly and acting as a team, but not everyone was like him. Some people don't trust others as easily or it took time to develop such friendships.

The next speaker was the one who had barged in and rambled at the same time. Still, he was also rambling: places such as La Cierra was mentioned, unknown objects such as poppies and such nonsense. These key words were so unfamiliar to Leonardo and he was afraid to show his lack of intelligence of such things. Leon scratched the back of his head as they talked about ' poppies '. [b]" What are they ... exactly? Poppies... "[/b] He asked, secretly hoping that none of them would judge him. Though, why would he care what others thought? The Prince and Syven talked about dead people turning into poppies, these ... so-called deadly flowers. Their mission was also quickly debriefed to them: find a person, who may have turned into a poppy, who held a key within the forest. [i]" Sounds like a dangerous scavenger hunt to me. "[/i] Leon told himself. He showed his interest of the mission through a small smile. Leon was technically a newborn mercenary. Not a bad fighter, but still much to learn. He immediately assumed that he was the weakest link of the group. The young male rested his arms on the hilts of his swords, which were strapped on his sides.

The group was being provided with horses and supplies. Their quest was about to begin and Leon could feel his heart beat faster and faster. Adrenaline has not kicked in yet, but excitement sure was. He would probably feel the adrenaline kick in as soon as he got on that horse. [i]"I was hoping that all of you are familiar with horses and the art of riding them. I'd like to take horses into Ellwood and then once we are off the main road, walk the rest of the way. I'm not particularly comfortable with the idea of galloping through the woods and then having my mount pass out on me mid step."[/i] Leon nodded as a reply. He could manage to ride a horse, alright. He grew up in a small town and learning how to ride a horse was one of the main things in a kids' bucket list. The prince asked if any of the new recruits had any questions. Leon personally does not. [b]" No, sir. "[/b] Then giving the Prince a thumbs up and a grin on his face. Leon looked at the others for their response.

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Sida's drinking glass rests against her lower lip as she listens while the clumsy cloaked figure introduces himself, pulling back his hood to reveal a scaly countenance and forked tongue. Even though his voice wavers, she can tell he's a kind person.
[I][COLOR="#FF8C00"]I think I'm going to like this one.[/COLOR][/I]
Expecting to be called upon to introduce herself, or at least state a name so people know how to refer to her, she lowers her glass away from her mouth and looks from person to person as they speak, but they breeze over introductions into a briefing of the mission. Which to be fair, is more than fine with her. She's never been one to volunteer information, and apparently they're planning on keeping things on a need to know basis.
As she thinks to herself, she takes smaller sips of her wine, listening to the somewhat charismatic man who's speaking.
[COLOR="#FF8C00"][I]So we're looking for a person. Who may or may not have a key. Who may or may not be turned into a flower. A somewhat deadly flower. Okayyy.[/I][/COLOR] Biting at her upper lip, she reaches to set her mostly empty glass back on the table from where she originally retrieved it. Maybe she'd had enough wine. Some of this was beginning to sound like a wild goose chase to her.

At the mention of soon heading out to be equipped with a horse and the necessary gear, she visibly perks up. Having been practically raised on the back of a horse, Sida gets a small thrill at the thought of getting to mount and ride another fine equestrian beast. It's been too long.
The briefing comes to a close, and like any leader, his last question is of course, if we as a group hold any inquiries.
Standing straighter than she originally was, Sida makes clear eye contact with the man and keeps her mouth closed, making her response quite clear.

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[FONT=Garamond][COLOR="#2F4F4F"]Scaevus was never one to be entirely open. Watching the others talk sweetly and overwhelmingly made him slump a little more than he usually did. He was still, well, sort of unfamiliar with the human language. Even though he had resided with the common beings for almost all of his life-time, something about their language made it insanely hard to learn & understand. He was used to his own s-like speech. You could tell he was not so used to their language because of his very noticeable dragging of all s-involved words. Something about the blue-blood that addressed all three adventurers in a informative manner gave off an inhuman sense.

Perhaps it was just Scaevus' tongue that picked out the sore-thumb-like smell of abnormal from the shadow that had sat in the seat. Or maybe it was just his own worrisome mind. It took some time for Scaevus to actually notice that the royal man was speaking about the quest they were about to embark on. He looked up and blinked vertically to show he was obviously paying attention; when actually he... sort-of wasn't. He made a list of the important things the man noted in his speech.

[I]Poppies that make you sleep. Sounds like an interesting thing to harvest.

Wait, dead people are the poppies? What... even....

Horses never trust me. Damn.

Hopefully if anyone falls asleep I'll be able to wake them up with a few ingredients.

That pillow over there has a nice design... wow... is that yarn or string... beaut- wait I'm supposed to be paying attention.


Focus, Scaevus. No lolly-gaggin'.[/I] He reminded himself. It wasn't long before the man asked about inquiries. Scaevus thought for just a brief moment if there was something he actually needed. He hoped that food would be available; as well as drinks too. Noticing the others' facial gestures indicating they actually didn't need anything made Scaevus realize what he needed after all. "May we bring a guitar? And some books. Entertainment for when we camp. Yes." He said before nodded and smiling. He neglected the fact that smiling would show off his sharp, reptilian teeth. It wasn't nothing to really be afraid about. Scaevus was a nice man, and he didn't like using melee or anything psychical. He'd rather heal you than hurt you.

That didn't mean that he wouldn't, though.[/COLOR][/FONT]

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The touch and go drills that the Pegasus Knights and Griffin tamer had been doing didn't exactly require prolonged contact with the ground. And when they were zipping through the trees to test the reaction time of riders and mounts it wasn't like they'd be able to tell the difference between an undead animal and normal animal. So it was completely within the realm of possibility that they had seen undead animals, been within feet of them, and would have never known it. Although Syven couldn't help but wonder how much worse an undead animal really was? From his experience the Unicorns of Ellwood were already huge jackasses that would rather skew you with their horn than ignore you. Could they really be any more of a threat just because they couldn't bleed out? Then there were the wolves and that giant ass flaming bull thing. Ellwood was filled with aggressive and dangerous animals. Some of them needing a beheading couldn't really increase the danger level that much.... could it?

"Your highness...." Syven did have a question, one that he wasn't sure if he should ask. [I]You are telling me that even after the War Games scenario involving an outbreak within our city.... no one thought to mention to me that their was a realistic threat for another outbreak in our backyard? That no one thought, oh hey maybe we should confirm this and deal with it immediately? No, we'll just make a comment about it in passing, a tack on to a mission. This should be a damn mission on its own! [/I]However the knight found his tongue firmly pinched between his teeth as his stoic visage remained unchanging. "By your leave then." His right arm folded over his chest running from left shoulder to right hip as he bent at the waist into a bow.

Rising back up he turned toward the door, his gloved hand pushing it open. Stepping to the side his left hand waved the other three out. However the knights gaze turned to Lucis, already knowing what the prince would say regarding the lizard-mans request. '[I]Of course you can.'[/I] Or something along those lines, undoubtedly. Syven had half a mind to object, although he held this tongue. If Scaevus wanted to turn himself into living bait and attract ever manner of beast and monster with merriment and gaiety, who was he to stop him? Plus, maybe living bait wasn't such a bad idea. It would given Syven a chance to subdue an infected creature that he could then drag back to study.

"If you three will follow me, I'll lead you to the stables." His gaze broke from Lucis, his head shaking once. Crossing the threshold into the corridor he extends his hand stopping a squire. "I need you to do me a favor. First let Lyrae know that she's in charge until I return. The second is to fetch a few books, a guitar, and some drums. Have the latter items added to the packs of one of the horses. Thank you." The squire nodded and headed off. Syven, turning on his heels, faced the trio.

"Not too long ago the town of La Cierra was over run by undead people. Supposedly the source of the infection was the country of Terrenus. That's really a matter of hearsay though. Anyway a powerful magic storm turned all of the infected humans into plants. They are red and you'll see vast fields of them. If animals are infected you can expect to see them attacking you relentlessly and completely clueless to any injuries they might have. If an animal isn't infected, it'll still probably attack you. However normal animals will bleed out and die. So just to save yourselves some time I strongly recommend just assuming everything that attacks you is undead. Either cut its head off or bash it in." There were other things they could do, disable the joints, knock some of them onto their back. A well placed sword strike through an eye could do enough damage as well. However there was a certain level of skill required to do these things, skill that he had no reason to believe they had."

Turning to walk down the corridor Syven pauses to look back at them. "If any of us get bitten, those of us not bitten should immediately dispatch them." There was no evidence to suggest that the infection could be transmitted from animal to human, but he wasn't going to take any chances.

Slipping both hands behind his back, black gloves clasped one another as they were held firmly against his aphotic jacket. Returning his attention to the corridor he began to negotiate the castle, working his way toward the exterior and the stables.


Minutes later they departed the castle. Not too far off four horses stood ready for the trip. Each had three packs attached to it. One sat immediately behind the saddle on the steeds back and the other two hung from its sides. Within the packs were an assortment of survival gear: dried rations, water skins, blankets, fire starting equipment (flint, steel, wood shavings and dry cotton), rope, very basic medical supplies (Bandages, blood clotting agents, and twine), a map, a compass, special blood poppy resistant masks, and a canister containing about half a pound of black powder. One of the horses however appeared to be under a greater burden than the rest. Undoubtedly this was the one that carried the entertainment.

Walking to one of the horses Syven grabs the the reins and places one of his legs into the stirrups. His other leg swings up and over the horse as he drops into the saddle. Waiting a few moments for the others to climb onto their own horses, he looks over his shoulder as he addresses them once more. "We'll be riding South West along the main road. Eventually you'll have to break off onto a side trail. We'll take the horses as far as we can before it becomes too dangerous to ride." Not really waiting for an answer, Syven brought his ride to a trout which lead him from the castle and into the city. Edited by Praetorian

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