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      Vote for Valucre [August]   05/16/2017

      Voting for the month of August is open on TopRPSites! Vote for Valucre daily and help new members searching for a place to roleplay discover the same joys you have in Valucre. You can vote daily, so make voting for Valucre a habit. Discussion thread
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"Flesh and blood, but not human, we are as memories that never die in a haunted kingdom. We pass our horrors down, from generation to generation." ~Lastborn

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Spoiler

 

Sullen raindrops fell on the microphone like snapping jacket buttons. Between them prattled the angry voice of noblewoman Jane Blastice across all news waves in Tia. Jane was the wife of renowned elven lawman Merrin Blastice. More importantly, she held positions in several vampire and Unnatural hate groups. On this rainy afternoon, she stood behind a podium staged on the gigantic North Lodge market square in Tia’s northwest center, broadcasting a message of human-to-vampire intolerance. On either side of the stage stood two armored guards, a specialized faction of Tian enforcers known as the Problem Solvers, and all around the square were positioned great, tall floodlights, currently off position.

The crowd she had drawn was.. disconcertingly large, especially for the impromptu toppling of a thirty-foot high cast iron statue. The woman’s eyes, heavy with makeup, were yet by no means as darkly lidded as her intentions, her convictions no less red stained  than her lips; but that gaze and conviction exuding  from her blue eyes were even thinner than the gaunt blonde’s frame. Jane lived a life of privileged detachment, unknowing ignorance of her protection plain in her tone. Even some Natural humanoids in the crowd, who could not afford bodyguards or keep their children safe at night- as Jane could- looked at one another incredulously.

For the large part, however, Jane’s divisive message evoked still-present fears of vampire rule not one decade earlier. Her message evoked the paranoia festering within every human, even those trying to give the benefit of the doubt, that the monsters under their beds had decided not to stay there as agreed. Disappearances have, after all, been on a continuous and curious rise in years past, even though the Nica Sero administration claims to have toppled all vampire rule and invigorated safety in the streets. The fact that a vast majority of the disappearances imply Unnatural involvement has not helped the matter. As a response, vampire lynching mobs and armed human civilians have taken to the streets with physical, verbal, and unjust vilification.

“...You, me, our husbands and wives and kids, we have not been freed. No, we are but handed from one pair of cold, dead, Unnatural hands to another. Human-to-vampire crime had all but diminished, according to Together Weekly,” Jane said, inaccurately citing a human-biased news source. “And still our mothers and fathers weep for-” click!

“Brother? Is something bad going to happen?”

“N-no! May, no.” smiled Karl as he turned from the radio in their small Tian flat. He grabbed a brown jacket off the kitchen chair and approached her. He knelt on one knee and took his sister-in-law’s hands in his. “I need you to stay here for me while I run next door, can you do that? It’s a bad day out for a little girl and I promised Del you’d be safe with me. I may be next door for an hour or two, but there’s plenty for you to do here! We’ve got Pyres of Love Season 2, Find Me at Midnight, and Wolfsbane if you want to watch something, if you want to read there’s—”

“Karl, I’ll stay,” the young one interrupted while leaning her forehead on his. The two rested there for a moment, her hands in his, sharing the cold between them.

Then Karalanos Solvei, as his state ID said, entered the scent of rain that washed in the door before it clicked carefully shut behind him. The girl, whose ID said May Solvei, watched her brother through the rainy panes as he moved next door, nodded to a cigarette smoking man at the door, and entered. Then she immediately grabbed her black peacoat jacket and ran out the back door. She cut through two alleys to evade the smoking man’s sight. Then she ran down dripping Main Street toward the rally, where several men tied a noose at the base of a large iron memorial of vampire Viscount Jean DeCorbin.

Karl entered the house, nodded to an unresponsive elderly couple watching the woman’s hate speech— “And purge them from our homes and businesses, and burn their most heretical at the stake, really fu”— and closed the door leading to the basement behind him. Jane Blastice’s gathering was not the only being attended in Tia.

2161034_alucardflame_by_sendodevaro-dbih

Unnatural flame licked out from the figure. It flickered hotly across the room alongside torchlight and bubbling pits of something molten. Something organic. Filling the cavern were aberrations with dripping fangs, oozing talons, with mien and composure which stood at the furthest, darkest brink of human ken.

“The Dolos family gathers the night around it, friends,” said the one they called Heretic. His voice was elegant and smooth, a dangerous whiskey warm in the crackling fire. It did not rise and fall about fake intonation as Jane’s currently rang above, but remained disconcertingly level, comfortable with the conference at hand. “I call you here, young and old, far and near, strong and weak, because this land is our capitol. I call you here because the time has come for us to fight and take back what once was ours. The Inferiors have deemed us a scourge but again, called us a bane to their freedom. While we have taken the keys to our freedom, they have given us the keys to theirs.”

Visible behind the billowing flames surrounding Heretic, beneath the sigil of the Dolos family, were numerous silhouettes.

“Now come forth, those with the courage to lead this night.”


@Mag @MrDoubleSunday @Wanderlost

Edited by amenities

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A cacophony of clinking glasses and shouting erupted from a table nearby and it had Antique wincing and hunched over the counter trying to listen to the woman's vehement conviction over the television. The speech had certainly gotten the place riled up. Being a bar segregated in favor of "Naturals" as they'd advertised, it attracted a separatist crowd that the woman had expected, but she was seeking safety. The social climate in Tia was in turmoil, and it seemed no one was properly safe. She thought that at least the patrons' thirst for violence wouldn't be directed at her, and that brought some reassurance. Better than being out in that crowd, ripe for a culling at the hands of monsters and their humanoid facades.

This Jane Blastice woman worried her. Her actions would lead to a reflexive riot, she was sure, and it was something she hoped not to be involved in. The types that she was speaking against were a threat enough without being antagonized, and while she was guarded, Antique didn't get the impression that the Unnaturals of Tia would have much to contend with if they chose to abandon whatever alien complacency they'd adopted since they were deposed as rulers of the city. But, perhaps she was lacking details to complete her contemplation.

The camera panned over to part of the crowd tossing a rope up at the iron statue. Perhaps due to the added weight from the rain, or an upstart rioter seeking approval and failing, it slapped wet against the statue's chest and slid back to the ground. They'd already secured one rope at the bottom of the statue, it seemed, and a line of people were heaving at it. The whole scene churned Antique's stomach. None of this would result in anything good. None of this could result in anything good. They were like children at a zoo, poking the lion with a stick, not realizing how likely it was that the beast would whip around and bite their hand off. People were too vulnerable. Next to monsters and Unnaturals, they were like livestock. In fact, that thought reminded her of a different city. One less divided on the grounds of race, which had been terrifying in its own right.

She had left Umbra as promptly as possible after having heard about the legally mandated Sanguinar religion and their rhetoric supporting a primitive, 'Might makes right,' Sort of idealism. As there, as in Tia, she was not safe to walk the streets. But perhaps here, something could be done for it. She didn't know what, but as she downed the last of a glass of wine to which she'd previously whispered, "This looks bad," And pulled a patchy coat closer over her shoulders, she felt she would have to be involved somehow to ensure the protection and well being of the natural races of Tia. 

A hand fell on her shoulder and she flinched, threatening her stability on the stool by smacking her hand on the table and twisting around. He was a big man. Tall and wide with big arms and a fat lower lip. He wasn't entirely distasteful to her, she noted, but that didn't make him any less threatening. "This is a good thing." He stated in a deep voice that she thought she felt more than heard. He must've been some sort of half giant. Normally, people just didn't end up that large, right? Well, he had more to say. "One side needs to win, otherwise the conflict will just continue. If that means that we have to leave Tia in the end, and most of us die fighting for the home we've made, at least we had that chance." He tightened his grip on her shoulder. "Show me your teeth." 

"My teeth?" She was incredulous, but he was neither generous nor patient, and he thumbed up her lip, looking for fangs. He put his fat finger in her face and she shied away, half disgusted, mostly offended. "I'm watching you, wolf-eyes." And then, with Antique's knuckles white on her dagger and her hand tight around that finger, threatening him with wide, angry eyes, the man yanked himself free and walked away.

She let him go and silently fumed, calming herself before she exited the bar. If she was going to be harassed and distracted trying to watch from afar anyway, it would be better just to see it for herself. She wouldn't stand out from the crowd, she thought. Except for her eyes, nothing was remarkable about a tired, disheveled, and vaguely angry and fearful looking woman wearing an old brown bomber jacket over a white shirt and jeans. Especially not in the crowd she'd been watching on the television. Why then of all times, walking quickly through mostly empty streets in the downpour struck her as the best time to check her pocket watch for some half-expected anomaly where it suddenly functioned after years was beyond even her, but she tucked it away pretty quickly and kept on her way.

Edited by Wanderlost

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Spoiler

 

There is inescapable loneliness in streetlamps.

It was a stone’s throw from midday – maybe it was around two or three in the afternoon, or maybe it was precisely forty-seven seconds into eight minutes past three o’clock, who knew? (A woman tucked away her pocketwatch, unsatisfied.) It couldn’t have been much later than this. Yet all around Tia, the streetlamps had already begun to glow, soft yellow and tired. On an abandoned street corner, one flickered to life, painting things once grey a better shade: cracked cobblestone, a rusting railing, an abandoned bench. The trees rustled in the breeze and dipped into their light.

Unbeckoned, they came forth nonetheless and spurn the darkness. And even then, the citizens of Tia did not come out, did not roam the streets under the protection of their streetlamps.

There was the sigh of the rain and the thrum of the bulbs. The thin steam off the pavement danced nervously, watched by a quiet earth. The rain came down in torrents and mists, and the light bloomed into an uncertain, misty halo around each lamp. It was as if the city had been plunged underwater.

It wasn’t so far from the truth, and it had little to do with the rain. The air welled with something thicker than water, and it roused the sharks from their slumber, all across Tia. The people felt it. They understood that things were not right. It pressed down upon them, heavier than air had a right to be.

Dove felt it. Her already slow walk came to a halt halfway down the street, in the glowing shadow of a lamp. The door from which she’d entered the city was a black speck in the walls behind her, hidden in their looming shadow. Here and there along the road were storefronts. They were lit warmly – or struggling to remain alight – and the light of their reflections were chips of gold across the ground. The people walking past, towards their homes, tried very hard to walk quickly. They could not reason why their limbs did not move as they should’ve, why the air didn’t part so easily as it did when the skies were bright and the accords with the Unnaturals had been freshly struck. Every step was terse, every jerk of every limb pronounced and gaunt. The outlines of raincoats and the impressions of men and women staggered through the sidewalks, drowning, beneath the sodium vigil of the lamps. The streetlights flickered, drowning, beneath the sinking belly of the sky. It was the color of warships and old chains from which the rust had been rinsed, ready to be put to use again.

She stood beneath the streetlamp for a while as the street, which was never too busy to begin with, cleared to empty. The sky darkened a bit in those twenty minutes. Her gaze dropped a bit lower to the ground. The passerby hunched a bit more, fingers a bit whiter as they gripped the seams of their coats a bit tighter. They all had better things to do, better places to be.

Tia was, perhaps, the least of those places. Dove breathed deeply, closing her eyes. It was cool; cold pavement, wet stone, malcontent. If she had hands that would feel, they would be clammy, and if she had a mouth that would taste, it would taste metal.

If she had a heart to feel, it would pound painfully against the Gauntlet clutched to her chest beneath her coat.

Above her, the streetlamp flickered out briefly. When it came back to life, it seemed weaker. The bystanders did not notice. There were no bystanders. The street had come, at last, to rest. The thing in the guise of a woman began to move, and with the first step the lamps all along the street began to fade at once. Somewhere, a conductor had blown, perhaps, or a conductor had flicked her wrist to signal for quiet.

Elsewhere in the city, it was not as quiet and not nearly as cold. It was towards those places that Dove drew, leaving behind the street that faded, after her departure, into the uncertain bluish-grey of rain. The walls of Tia cast a pale shadow from one end of it to the other, and the shadow was now unbroken as the lights lapsed away. The people did not look up from the fires in their homes, they did not peer through the window from beneath their barely-warm covers.

They did not mourn the streetlamps.

Edited by Mag

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The Giant named Karna once more found himself in a brothel, lounging naked with a Dwarf woman held in one arm and an Orc woman in the other. They were paid to lounge with the man, of course, as he watched the television in the room while getting himself in the mood. "A drastic turn o' events, ay?" The Dwarven woman speaking to the Orc woman, whom replied. "Mmm. Not ta surprisin'." Though Karna sided with the Orc, he wasn't speaking up to state his opinions. After all, he didn't want to be angering the Dwarven woman that he had just paid to go near his (Censored.) And so he instead simply watched as a riot seemed to be beginning, or perhaps commencing, as ropes were attached to a statue. "Hope dey dun find Angelia." The Dwarven woman spoke up again, earning a curious glance from Karna.

And so the short woman explained about what she meant, to the mans mild boredom. Angelia, as it so happened, was one of the current employees of the brothel, for those that had an interest in the cold, feeling of death wrapped firmly around their (STILL CENSORED.) Either way, the discussion the two women he had hired were having was making it hard for him to get himself in the mood to violate them. The scene on television wasn't exactly helping either, however, as his mind wandered to the persecution that the Undead had been facing. It wasn't like he didn't understand the bias, after all, what with the entire being a Giant thing. When he first arrived at a town, he almost expected to be attacked on sight, just to be stopped from pillaging the houses, eating the men, and raping the women.

As the two women spoke between themselves in the background, the man was left to his thoughts. Fah, who were others to judge those less (or perhaps more?) fortunate than themselves? Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs... None of them had to worry about being killed on sight simply for trying to walk into town and buy supplies. And his mojo was completely soft, with the annoyed thoughts of bigotry that was circling in his mind. The only ones that had to worry about being hunted by the others was the Orcs, though. And even then that was less often than for Giants, from what he knew, whom were hunted because of a bad reputation. Properly earned, sure, but still not fair.

It wasn't long before he found himself being drug from his thoughts by the Orc woman poking his stomach, staring up at him with brilliant brown eyes. "We's gon do dis 'er not? I'm gettin' paid eitha way, ya knows." The mans reply was to grunt, shaking his head as he pushed himself to his feet. He had already paid, so there wasn't (too many) complaints from the women as he set to getting dressed, and soon leaving, the brothel to see what he could learn about the scene on the television by actually going to the streets and seeing what he could hear.

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The house, she learns, is like many others. It slumps beneath its own weight and the weight of the rain, just as the ones around it do; the windows are dark and because they are dark, they reflect the steely sky brightly. It is a small flat among small flats on a terse street among all the terse streets that radiate from the throbbing heart of Tia like spokes of a wheel. In one distance are floodlights, microphones, and the implacable anger of men. In the other are silence and the long-stretching mist that blankets the outer city. The poetic would say that this is where they met to compromise, the discontent and the content, between those wishing for war huddled in the city center and those who wish only to sleep.

The poetic are wrong.

Dove walks quickly, glancing down the street at first, then upwards. There are many pedestrians hurrying here and there – rioters, the hateful, and those drawn by the promise of excitement – but nobody looks her way. She does not release her breath. Each step taken is a step along the edge of a razor; one unpleasant surprise, one moment of vertigo, one misstep is enough to bring things crashing down. She slows to a stroll and readjusts her coat, keeping the Gauntlet nestled against her chest.

She was never a person for fear, had never been, and still she does not fear much. Whatever it is that she thinks the rain hides between its snare-drum rattling and the steam of the earth, it cannot harm her.

This time, however, the thing at risk is much greater and much more fragile than herself. She uncorks a flask of rum and, ducking into the shadow of alleyway, takes a breathless sip. The liquid washes about in her mouth, picking up information on the local reality as they warm – the atoms grow frantic as they begin to twist and turn and simulate the history of the world – and when she spits it out onto the ground she learns that she’s nearly there.

Fifty meters, on the right; the flat is nameless and unlabeled, but it is just before the house with “Solvei” carved into the mailbox.

Dove straightens up and strides out into the rain again, looking around as if expecting a companion and, seeing none, slumps dejectedly towards the covenant of Unnaturals next-door to the Solvei’s.

It took her months to discover that the fate of Tia would be ripe for interference. In the years after the concord between the Unnaturals and humans, old enmities dug themselves from the shallow grave they’d been put in; in these few weeks, the tensions came as close to the breaking point as they ever would; and on these nights – on this night – the situation stands on the precipice of reality. It is a long fall, and it is a fall towards a war that would leave much more than Tia alone scarred and scared.

It is a very small risk, but Fate has finally given a hundredth of an inch, and Dove is only too happy to take a thousand miles from it. The seedlings of war need a protector, a nurse to bring the ashes to embers and the embers to flame. If the Unnaturals are overcome, then all will be as it once was. If the Unnaturals prevail too easily, then that will be the end of it; perhaps Terrenus will unite to strike down the city at some nebulous future date.

The path that needs to be walked is one full of subtlety and audacity in equal amounts. Dove does not know much about it, but she knows that it is very narrow. Narrow and treacherous. She’d have to watch her steps.

It seems as if treachery is always dogging her, these days. The woman closes the side door behind her with a sigh of relief, sees the television past two unmoving figures on the couch. The woman (Jane Blastice, she learns) is, for now, the opposition leader. She is the voice of humanity, the half that truly mattered, and the face of hatred. Perhaps most importantly, she is of the many other keys to the kingdom –

– or collapse thereof, Dove thinks, and swings open the door to the basement.


The sole guard – he has a serious expression on a face that once belonged to a man – rises at the intruder’s approach and threatens the weapon on his hip in her direction. It is a lazy action, repeated hundred-fold, but it is dangerous all the same. Guns usually were. His words are the same, lacking conviction but full of purpose. “Halt. State your name, human.”

He has gone through the motions before, perhaps even just ten minutes before. He can be forgiven.

Dove closes her eyes, drawing closer, and when she hears the sound of a weapon being drawn and an ensuing click, she opened them again. “Is this enough?”

He peers at her, but reholsters the weapon. Her eyes are hollow, dark pits that lead into the skull; in their depths, witch-fires burn blue and black, scouring the bone surrounding them, and the guard finds nothing in them to his dissatisfaction.

“I see. Go on in, then.” He slumps back onto his dusty crate, and his gaze falls past her towards the staircase once again. She no longer has anything to do with him, and he, no longer any business of hers. The door is her newest concern. The lich swallows her anticipation as she stands there, gathering enough composure and grace to last her until the week was out. She felt that she would need it.

The door opens.

“–the courage to lead this night.”

All eyes are on the stage, all breaths held tightly in furor and excitement. Nobody glances at the newcomer. There is something far more powerful in the room.

The Heretic stands amidst flames and blood, both past shed and future promises, and she sees that she has found the sharks that swim beneath the formerly placid surface of Tia. The shadows stir among themselves, and the crowd breaks into whispers as they feel their redemption coming. Here are their promises, their threats, delivered by a mysterious man who seemed to deal in promises and threats. His banner was their banner, his ideology theirs, their power his. The pressure of the atmosphere is ready to burst. It is enough to make her light-headed.

Standing there in the doorway, her eyes moved from one misshapen face to the next, none of them human. They are like her. Just like the guard, they may all once have been, but no longer; and their excited murmurs, their clenched fists and the violence swelling in their bodies say that they do not want to be. They are like her. The air is hot and smells of brimstone. It is thick and suffocating. It is familiar to her. In the red light of the dancing fires that billow heat and send blood rushing to the brain, the horror of their forms blend together into brushstrokes of flesh, unnatural, grotesque colors. They are like her.

But they are not her people. This isn’t camaraderie she feels, only a tenuous ceasefire.

Dove steps forward from the back of the room, pushing through the crowd, and steps onto the podium before anyone, in their bloodlust, realizes that a clean-looking, nearly human-looking woman has entered their midst. She makes her way to the center of the stage as they begin to settle down; when they finally swallow her presence, she is facing the Heretic already.

The first shouts are silenced by her own voice, charmed to be as silken as the Heretic’s and as loud as the omnipresent crackling of the flames. It slides through the air like a heated blade through butter, and slides into every crevice of the room until there is nothing left but Dove’s voice and presence. She has stepped forth.

All eyes are on her, all breaths held tightly in confusion but anticipation nonetheless.

“The one they call Heretic, yes?”

She allows herself a quick smile. Here is the precipice.

“I come bearing a gift.”

Edited by Mag

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The Square and the Sanctum

“In the last twenty, I have lived the span of a thousand years. I have made servitude of the feckless as an impostor sun. Now I, the moon, dangle you like mice over a pit of snakes.” ~ Lastborn

Spoiler

(Right click > Loop)

“Who is tagging the city up under the name Lastborn? What do this guerilla propagandist’s words even mean? Nothing, certainly, because fear doesn't rule me! Just who reigns over whom, hm?” Jane snapped. “We have whole centers dedicated to voluntary blood donations for vampires. Even at those centers’ highest production, more dead keep turning up. Don't we humans reign over Tia anymore? I say once we wipe away this filthy statue, we take to their blood banks and take them out!"

The crowd’s response was so passionate that hardly even a sentence could resolve in the din, but the keywords were there.

“Yeah, it’s the blood centers!”
“Who even still donates to those puss suckers? Damn liberals.”
“We shouldn’t be making it easier for them to live near us, it should be harder! Impossible!”
“boo! Boo! BOO!”

Paranoia grows wings in the rain. It bares its teeth in the night- forms in every size, in every shape, and in everyone. Stronger than pure hatred for one another, stronger than the actual belief that vampires are to blame or humans are to blame, is fear that one will become greater than the other. Fear that, no matter what anyone does, they have for ages been led by an unseen hand to clash over the comparison of their worth. Not Jane Blastice, not Heretic, not even the regent Nica Sero could reign in a place like this.

“Paranoia reigns over Tia.” ~ Lastborn

Twists of wet rope skidded against themselves as the loop tightened around Jean DeCorbin's neck. While the crowd was primarily composed of the most humanoid (elves, dwarfs, and others included), there were trolls, goblins, ogres, and giants. Tia had long been a land where creature (even some Unnaturals) and human stood alongside one another in oppression against vampires and the Unnaturals loyal to them. However in recent years, with attacks from either side to the other increasing in violence and frequency, the line Tians saw between good and evil had become a hardly conceivable blur. It was only through continuous, overt acts of disowning the vampire way that some Unnaturals and creatures were able to side themselves with humans. Some of these creatures- two trolls and a giantess, to be exact- came forth to take hold of the rope leading to the statue Viscount’s neck. They pined to be seen doing such valor in the public eye, at the very least so they might be saved from the impending wrath of those who deemed themselves good. The creatures, as well as five or six adult males of varying size and comparable futility, began yanking on the two sets of ropes.

It was upon this scene that May emerged from an alleyway. The Viscount, she had been taught by Karl, was a benevolent vampire who once achieved peace with the Gaianists. He had taken good care of Tia, she thought, though he was before her time. It was a drug that had been introduced to the water supply, which drove vampires to bloodlust, that had lost their rule over Tia to begin with. These people with blocky teeth and angry words were the only ones with bloodlust she saw.

May was observant. She saw dozens of beings she judged to be on the very fringe of acceptable humanity. Many of them had clearings around them, as if they- or the surrounding humans- might suddenly explode into a killing frenzy. She looked closer to her and saw an undead boy (one of his eyes was a fishy cloud, his skin puffy blue, and he stank of death to the keen of scent), a wolf-eyed woman who smelled faintly of sweet wine, and a young man who reminded May of herself. These were the ones she would have picked out. Sure enough, she saw a back part of the crowd erupt into a moshpit-like uproar. A rough circle formed, its central figure the focal point for barrages of fists and kicks and bludgeons. The undead boy, of 12 or 13, appeared he would soon lose his prefix.

May backed away, until the slanting shadow of the alley could conceal her again, and a man smoking a cigarette dotted acridly with raindrops pointed to the red eyes she suddenly had when she moved into the dark.

“There’s one over here!”

Three others turned around, saw, and began approaching her, and she began backing away. These men ground their fists into their palms, grinned in ways more menacing than the way they had at the boy. She looked to the boy still getting beaten, to the young man who reminded her of herself, then to the wolf-eyed woman.

“I need you to stay here for me while I run next door, can you do that? It’s a bad day out for a little girl and I promised Del you’d be safe with me…”

 

“HELP!” May cried, turning to run as the man grabbed her arm. When she screamed, there were no pointed teeth or vampiresque features. Just a second scared kid being attacked by some men seeing red. The nearest Problem Solver didn’t even turn his head.

Karl turned his head, sure he’d just heard something in the darkness of the cavern. He was one of the figures behind Heretic, behind the veil of flame. What he saw was a female, from the looks of it, approaching Heretic from the entrance near his flat. It was one of many that led from locations all over Tia to here, guarded by trustworthy Unnaturals. He wondered who was so quickly eager to begin this rampage, however just it may be. Then he looked at his own hands. Looked at the four dark figures standing beside him. The legions before Heretic. Nevermind, he thought.

The thralls were silenced by Dove’s approach, her being the first to step forward.

“The one they call Heretic, yes? I come bearing a gift.”

The Dolos known as Heretic had just finished speaking when she approached. As she did, the flames around him adjusted, and the motion was vaguely reminiscent of a giant beast turning to look at her. In the middle of the swarthy blaze they stood, and beside Heretic, Dove would see what appeared to be a pillar of flame which did not move like the rest did. It contained something, she might deduce. Heretic himself, she would see from ten feet away, wore not a menacing robe or trenchcoat, but a black lab coat. No, as she got closer she would see it was red. No, as she got even closer, she would see it had once been white underneath that which badly charred and smeared it. His skin was pallor, untamed hair a once kempt black, each eye a glistening and painfully circular red embedded into a featureless face. A face that was mouthless, until thin lips split to reveal rows upon rows of jagged fangs. The 8’ figure faced Dove, but with his left hand reached aside a taloned forefinger to prick the forehead of each other lich, undead, vampire, and fiend that approached. When touched, it absconded into the dark imbued with cause.

Lich of ages.” the eyes were yet careless orbs, grin yet an knowing and unafraid entity worthy of revolution’s forefront. The voice, though, came with uncharacteristic reverence. “While your allegiance is gift enough, I wonder what else you have. Tell me, and I shall have a gift for you in return.

The glow of streetlights was a pale thing beside Heretic’s inferno. But the streetlamps in the waning and raining day, the coming night, did provide enough light to be seen from across the street. Rain did little to dampen the most boisterous voices on this night, especially those out for a killing.

Karna found himself exiting the harem behind a group of five men. Behind them wafted the carnal air of sex and shamelessness. Two were human, one a fat and somewhat tall dwarf, and one a half-giant who was passable as a huge man. The last was an exceptionally attractive troll male, meaning he looked like a pretty hideous human. He was carrying a black case with brass clasps. It looked like a case for some kind of musical instrument. None of them seemed in the mood to hide their intentions, this night an auspicious one for their goings on.

“.X caliber rounds,” he said, finger rings smacking loudly on the case as he held it up and patted it. “If we’re gonna bust those vamp centers up good, stop their legal bloodflow, choke ‘em out of this city, we gotta do it tonight. Now. And if anyone comes at you or me, we gonna pop ‘em with one of these and the blessed silver will send them straight to kingdom come.”

In an alley passing to Karna’s right was a redhead spray-painting a brick wall.

From the fringes of the city inward- Karna would hear it first, being the farthest out from the rally- came a pat-pat-patter. It wasn’t the rain, no, that beat was an old tune. This was like footsteps. Like drums.

Like a stampede.

Edited by amenities

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Curiosity flashed and flickered out in the golden eyes of the woman so hailed. She wasn't often compared to a wolf in regard to those eyes, for they weren't quite so yellow. She had suspected the half giant had done so as an indication that she didn't fully resemble a human, which really did bear the tint of gold, laying perfectly between yellow and orange. But as the surprise of someone yelling for help, barely audible over the din of the veritable riot faded from her face, the heat of anger boiled inside of her. For after a small group of men ran in front of her in the direction of the statue she had had her eyes locked on before, she spotted them, one man removing his hand from a little girl's throat and mouth in favor of fists and kicks. 

Antique ran as fast as her body would let her, which was not to say it was unimpressive, but there was one person leisurely approaching the commotion away from the alley who made a frustrating obstacle. She barreled into the alley, where she had been surveying well as she could in her approach, and her mind had been racing as to what to do. She didn't know if they had any powers or magic to complicate her approach, and while she was probably a bit stronger than them, judging by past experience, she didn't have much more going for her. Her dagger, at least, made her lethal. She threw her arms around the man closest to the mouth of the alley. One of them had noticed her based on the sound of her boots smacking against the wet street, but there wasn't much he could do in the time that he saw her to the time she was tearing her dagger away from his friend's neck, having knocked him on top of the girl. That, she judged, was a good thing. She'd taken a worse beating already, and it would make it harder for them to hit her. She just hoped the man's bleeding wouldn't terrify the girl. 

She had to be fast. Didn't have time to do anything more for her wellness except defend her. She took a kick to the breast as she was righting herself and it hurt. "Ow!" She stumbled back and stood against the wall, glaring at the thug who'd done it and three others still standing. It was a daunting spectacle. They were all standing there, in a moment, looking between her and their friend, who was trying to stand up and clutch his neck at the same time, which was an awkward affair, especially sprawled over a child. 

"She's one too!" One of them shouted, and everyone started moving at once, Antique included. She switched to a forward grip with her dagger, and the guy who was closest to her arrested her stab by the wrist with a look of a fortunate man. He swept her arm over his shoulder by the wrist in the same motion that faced him the other way. She was fortunate too, that she was able to forcibly turn her arm in his grip so his pulling down bent her arm and didn't break it, pulling her dagger closer to his chest before he noticed it and tried to bring it away. From there, she reached over his other shoulder and drove the blade in with both hands, which was accompanied with a struggle and a deal of grunting from both sides.

She took a kick to the back that knocked the wind out of her, and the two of them stumbled over each other and fell forward. She was quick to regain her breath and cough and move back up to her feet, but she lost the dagger to the other man on the ground. And then there were two assailants. She tried to stay them with a, "Wait, wait." Between panting breaths, but they had no mind for it. They worked remarkably well together, even, and it was difficult to fight back. First, a fist to the gut and a fist to the face, the latter of which forced her head to the side and sent her mind spinning. Both hurt quite a lot. The man who punched her in the face tucked his arm behind her neck and forced her to the ground with his knee behind hers, and it set the other up for a knee to her center that was accompanied with a sickening crack. She coughed and whimpered, her hand having done so little to stay the force of the blow. 

Antique looked up at him as he was reeling back a fist so angry he'd forgotten his form. She tried to put her weight into pushing it aside by the wrist, but she met the resistance of the one grappling her. Pulling him forward as strongly as she had almost felt like a hateful kiss, but she wasn't tender as her lips pressed against his flesh. In fact, they did so about his neck, and only to mimic the abhorable, iconic act of the type of creature she could have only guessed they took her for. It was disgusting, biting down as hard as she could, channeling her hatred through her teeth and coming away with a wet, meaty mouthful of another man's neck. Her natural urge to swallow triggered disgust enough that she retched while the man was screaming and clutching at the wound. That chunk wasn't the only thing that came out of her mouth, and it was left in a puddle of two reds and a lot of orange.  

Next was to force her weight against the man who was trying to force her face into it. She made a small amount of progress, but he wrestled her over onto her back and it took both hands in fists in his shirt and assistance from her leg to throw him to the other side of her. She punched him in the face, ever trying to ignore the knot of pain they'd left in her stomach. She punched him in the face again. A number of times more. It had gotten hard to articulate what she was doing. Or what she wanted to do. She just had to win. She supposed she had when she had to stop hitting the man as the pain of it made itself known to her. Her fist throbbed and the man was unconscious. That was enough.

So she dragged herself up against the wall, letting her chest heave. Both of the men who'd been victim to her dagger had either lost consciousness or died from blood loss. On the other side of the alley, there was that man clutching his neck, oozing blood and desperately gasping and gurgling for life. It twisted Antique's face and caused tears to well up in her eyes. No matter how rotten, she couldn't help but feel like they didn't deserve it. She'd been so caught up with the fighting, she hadn't thought about whether it was right. She let her head roll back and whimpered. Half in pain, half in grief. The sound of her jacket was grating as she slid over to her side and clutched her center, curling up and crying, realizing she'd just murdered at least two people, feeling like there must have been more she could have done, and she felt guilty that her mind also replayed concern over her own well being as she tried to assess whether her wounds would kill her. Had anyone noticed?!

Her head shot up to look at the edge of the alley and she settled back down to her grief seeing the commotion so distant and solitary, with shouting and running and violence only in the distance now. Could I have done better? Won and not killed them? Am I going to be okay? I'm pathetic. I just hope she's okay... She was thinking. Sleep offered an escape from the pain and the fear and worry and distant hope for a savior, and she let it speak to her and toy with her own consciousness where she laid on the dirty ground.

Edited by Wanderlost

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Karna couldn't help but blink in confusion at the sight he saw before him. A troll and a half giant working with humans and dwarves? It was more than enough to earn him siding with them. After all, no matter how well he knew the bias the vampires were experiencing, one of his own, well half of his own, was working against them. Ridiculous that he could be swung to help them with something so simple, but it was all it took to earn the mans allegiances. "Excuse me, would ya like some 'elp?" The words sounded like those produced by some guttural beast, deep, jerky, and ripping itself from his throat instead of flowing like English was supposed to.

The dwarf was the first to turn, but it was only by a margin as they all moved to see what had formed the question. The answer was the nearly ten foot tall man dressed only partially in armor, with his right pectoral left out and all of his face except blue eyes covered by the red metal Hannya mask that completed his intimidating visage. "Ah've always wanted ta know da taste o' Vampires." The five answered him positively, with the apparent leader of the group, the troll, answering him. "Aye, so long as we git rid o' dese monsters." The rest were nodding their approving agreement.

And so the group was walking, with Karna in the back, even with the sound that sounded like the feet of war. It sounded like trouble, and he had a feeling that there was going to be trouble coming soon. The rally wasn't in that direction, from what he had seen in the brothel. It was either more supporters for the rally, or it was going to be a march of undead. Either way, it felt like the city was going to be facing a fair amount of carnage in the near future... Actually, no. He knew that it was going to face quite a bit of carnage. This wasn't his first war, and he doubted it was going to be his last.

He was almost looking forward to seeing what kind of group was coming, even as he followed a small group of people towards a blood bank for some good ole' fashioned violence.

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The Heretic’s voice was slow and rich, some might say meandering like a stream of molten chocolate. Viscous – yet despite this patience in giving word, it was never late. One did not need patience to hear him speak, and Dove had hardly found his eyes before he addressed her. “Lich of ages.”

Dove did not flinch, though she nodded in deference to his perspicacity. She was a lich of the ages, yes – had been through the ages of Zengi and Levas, was in this age of Haze, and would be, or so she intended, until the stars swallowed the sky and the world was dust. The man was perceptive and correct to see this even through her guise of the mundane. The man, she noticed, was no man, and this gave him some excuse for his superhuman ability to know those things that men should not know.

Again his voice came wafting through the smoke and incense of sulfur.

“While your allegiance is gift enough, I wonder what else you have. Tell me, and I shall have a gift for you in return.”

Dove let him finish, then spread her arms to their full, admittedly short length. The sleeves of the coat pulled back as her arms rose to the sides. The beginnings of her left forearm were bare and painted red and orange by the flames; her right was mismatched, a pale green sleeve dressing it to the wrist. Her hands opened when they stopped, revealing nothing clasped within. It was the pose of the angels. It welcomed God in a godless place.

The mutters of the chamber drew to a pause as the Heretic waited to see the outcome of her silent action.

The first flickers of black began at her sleeves. The coat began to disintegrate. The warm eddies of the fires carried the ashes out of sight, just as more and more of the lich came into view beneath the black overcoat. It was not particularly strange. Her left arm was entirely bare, the sleeve torn off roughly at the shoulder. The rest of her was untouched and a green linen dress fluttered about her ankles in the bare breeze. The last vestiges of the coat disappeared from around her torso into black dust. Free, her hair cascaded down to her waist –

Free, a thing of twisted black metal fell from where it’d be clutched to her chest, onto the stony floor. Thunk. Perhaps the earth shook a little. Who knew? It was loud and heavy.

“Alas, I’m afraid you have it all wrong.” I won’t give my allegiance so easily. “I do carry many things, but my gift begins and ends with merely myself.”

“I am a tactician. I can lend you the strength of my mind, and –“ She bent to grasp the thing with her right hand. It looked almost like she was dipping into a bow, but the actions were too distant to be confused. She straightened and looked into the Heretic’s eyes with a grin matching his in intensity, if not in fearsomeness.

Then Zengi’s left gauntlet slid onto her arm. The metal shuddered and clicked as it slid about itself, tightening until it fit snugly upon her forearm. “–the strength of the past.”

The last piece whirred and snapped into place, and the eye in the palm of the gauntlet opened wide. It was something that looked beyond this world forever into the void. The iris was cloudy purple, thick as oil and shaped in the pattern of the magestorms that birthed the world. The eye of the storm was bottomless and a void of its own. It seemed like it might devour the minds of those whose gazes wandered too far…

The Gauntlet had not awoken for a long, long time. She could feel its hunger working at her soul. The Heretic, she presumed, felt the same. It was a terrifying thing in their midst.

The numbers had begun to alter. War drew ever-closer. This was the only solace in her mind.

Edited by Mag

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“Cries of you innocent, natural and unnatural, will fill the night.” ~Lastborn

Spoiler

 

Serafino Dolos, also known as Del, knew May in ways regular people, even Karl, her “ride-or-die confidante” (As she had told Del) never could. He knew her in deep ways which only the one who sired her could. Most of the others beneath him were more distant, muffled by a veil of frank uncaring, but not May. While big brother was unable to watch the world through her eyes, feel her every sense or emotion, he was able to experience her strongest instincts. For example, he would know if she was starving or on the hunt. He would know her hate and her love. Someday, though he wished he wouldn’t, he would probably know how she felt in her most sensual moments. He would know if she feared for her life. He would know if she was hurled into a fight or flight situation, perhaps having made the choice to protect a good Samaritan who just saved her. But if the thing inside her came loose-

The man holding May released her, turning toward Antique. He flung her and her head crashed hard against the alley’s brick wall. From May’s moment of mortal terror erupted stars and explosions of pain, and then through her blurry vision bled an amalgam of confusion, surprise, and rage. This not-quite-human woman had saved her, flowed May’s stunned thoughts, unerring to the man being thrust upon her. He slumped over with May’s head underneath his arm, jostling the burning cigarette loose from his limp hand. -tsss!- May’s eyes moved from Antique’s own mortal struggle to the cigarette fizzling out in a puddle. The little pool of water rippled with raindrops, and she was only vaguely aware of a familiar warmth leaking down her back, beneath her coat, beneath her dress, along her cheeks. Then there was neither sound nor feeling. Neither was there falling rain, the rally warcries, nor the weight of the adult-sized deadweight resting on her shoulder. There was only the grating sound of Antique’s jacket, sliding along the cement in May’s mucky peripheral.

The warmth gathered along her nose, and then her chin. Red drops dripped, slowly at first and then in a steady trickle, from her face; pooled at her heels; filled the puddle around her with her blood and the blood of the dead. Red filled her vision then, and May, on the precipice of control at any given moment- aware only of the grinding, grating sound of Antique’s jacket, which never ended, gnawing away her last restraint- blacked out.

Some of the crowd had come to watch the bloodiest conflict to have happened thus far unfold in an alley nearby. They had seen clearly Antique’s measures, discerning them not as unprovoked violence, but as a reaction to protect a vampire girl who was being attacked. Nonetheless, it had been at the cost of two human lives. Her second victim hit the ground, blood squirting from an open neck wound, pouring down Antique as she too fell. Whose blood was whose no longer mattered, but who was- or wasn’t- alive did. From afar, two unconscious, two dead, it appeared nobody was alive except the fallen Antique. The question was, how far could Antique fall before her own consciousness shattered? “There’s another one! She took ‘em down but it cost her. Get her!” The hoards encroached on the woman at the end of her line. Came with malice, until the slumping form of the man upon May stirred.

It lurched up bizarrely, powerfully. It leaned forward, the man’s form born easily and entirely upon May’s little legs. Tearing bone and flesh ripped through the rain as something heaved up beneath the man’s body. May’s shoulder blades cracked and bulged outward, contorting with disturbing speed. Her small arm reached around her human yolk and took hold of its ankle. Hop stepping between the approaching people and Antique, May- what was once May- flung the meatbag at the first oncoming wave. Cold water and warm blood splashed back on Antique. A trail of intestines connecting the body’s stomach to the creature’s mouth sprayed the alley with blackish red ichor, and the creature May’s blood-curdling roar filled the North Lodge market square.

Horrendous wings had burst from May’s back. Massive, powerful jaws and feral eyes of crimson replaced her soft face. Black fur and foreign musculature ripped away her white dress, until what stood at the back of Jane Blastice’s rally was every bit as terrific as the humans’ worst nightmares.

“I do carry many things, but my gift begins and ends with merely myself.”

Facial emotion was hard to read in the flickering shadows, on a face so wiped clean of such propensities. But as she moved, Heretic’s crimson eyes flicked away from Dove for just one moment. Since there were no visible pupils, it was a gesture both easy to miss and misinterpret. It could have been annoyance, but there was a subtle sense of urgency in the furrow of his pale brow which made that unlikely.

“Oh no, May. I'm sorry Del!” The voice was soft in the vast cavern, but there to be heard. Karl, the most human looking of the six remaining behind Heretic, took off like a shot for the entrance through which Dove had come.

Heretic had shone with respect since the moment Dove came into his view. He had shown her an attention which, even now as he deployed his kin to fight and die for a cause of paramount historical meaning in Tia, he did not pay the others. The reason, it was apparent, resolved before him in the object that fell before Dove. Now he had pupils, she could tell, because they widened out of nothingness, until black filled Heretic’s eyes. Now there was a tinge of something Dove would only notice was missing from his grin when it emerged in full force. Glee. Pure, disgustingly selfish glee. An arrogant person might also claim a hint of deference. The fire about Heretic doubled in size and heat output. Air had taken on a heavy quality elsewhere in the cavern. Some jaws dropped in unison with what dropped from Dove’s chest. Some shook their heads, even, whistling low as the machination spindled into place about its vessel. Dark laughter echoed from somewhere in the back, giving Heretic a moment to adjust himself to the new information. Then he took one step away from the pillar of flame, a step toward the crowd which had stopped moving toward him when Dove spread her arms. Wordlessly, he unfurled an arm toward the pillar, and it disintegrated.

Sitting inside a cage of wrought iron was Nica Sero.

He wore his signature white suit, badly bloodied and torn from untold time spent being abused and ripped at. His eyes were not fearful, but absolutely devoid of hope. His wrists and ankles were chained together so tightly, he wouldn’t be able to stand even if the cage was higher than waist-height.

“Ahh,” he said, first absorbing most of the sights around him, then separately appraising Dove and the gauntlet. He winced away from it, shielding his eyes. Then, seeming to realize something, he gave up shielding them. “Dammit. Hello.” Then, to Heretic. “You know he’ll come for us now, right? You’ve let me see too much.”

“Let him come,” said Heretic, never averting his blackened gaze from Dove’s bracer. “We have much to discuss, now that I’ve so much free time.” Then, addressing the one his eyes addressed, “This is Tia’s regent, Nica Sero.

“I hold him responsible for the rally of humans threatening my people. I also hold him responsible for the blood banks which, even now, are being born down upon by more hateful humans.” That smoothness still came with his voice, which is foreign to those dogged by the dogs of war, and only minutely more common even in their handlers. “I hold him.. mostly responsible, at least. However. It is him, I think, who I will credit with the fall of the hierarchy that has made these unfortunate events possible.”

Heretic walked in a circle around the cage as he spoke, never taking his eyes off the gauntlet, dragging his taloned finger along the hot bars. With his other hand, he procured six vials of blood. The remaining five individuals, who had stood separately from the hoards, came toward him and began taking the vials from his large palm, drinking their red contents. When he had walked halfway around the cage, he tilted his hand so most of the vials fell to shatter, clutching around the last full one, and held his other arm out over it in a motion which presented the legion standing before them. Stretching back, back, until the darkness of the firelit cavern swallowed their ranks.

“Night is falling. If I have it all wrong, then show me what is right. One thing I have come to know in my days is what a leader looks like. Take these vampires. Take these children of the moon, and lead them against the living rot who preaches their hate above us. Lead them where you will, and I will have my faith in your doings. I will take a select force to the manor, where this thing’s creator will hold palaver, and surrender,” Heretic said, kicking the cage. Lastly, he held the only remaining vial toward her.

“If you find yourself weakened by the light of Gaia, take this,” Heretic said, speaking to a possible past as a doctor, or somebody who had patients. “Even the most skilled necromancers will experience a notable resistance to holy magic for 45 minutes after ingesting.”

The five vampires, each also with notable qualities, stepped forward toward Dove. Several members of the crowd took off into the growing night, but many stayed with eyes on Dove. Heretic, without ever even having asked her name, grabbed the bars of Nica’s cage and began dragging him away, screeching him along the ground with each step.

Cries of the innocent began to emanate from the fringes of Tia, echoing inward, as Karna and his group reached their chosen blood bank. The lights were on, visible through a picture window in the building’s front, but there was only staff inside. Donations had dwindled and it was near enough closing hours that nobody else would be present. The troll man distributed rounds, saying the rounds were what was special, not the guns. And they really were, judging from the engravings and sourceless glow that accompanied each little steel casing.

“Okay,” said the troll, handing out weapons and crouching against the window, as they all finished loading and cocking their guns. Now there were screams coming from mere blocks away. The two humans quivered in fear, the giant oscillating his head suspiciously. The dwarf had disappeared from sight altogether.

“We go in in three.. Two.. one—”

Several things happened at once. The door to the blood bank burst open- apparently the dwarf had the ability to go invisible- and bullets began raining in on the unsuspecting staff. One of the human men, who had been standing nearest the alley beside the blood bank, was suddenly pulled into the darkness by two pairs of pale hands. The giant turned that way instead of going into the bank, while the troll and the human man followed the dwarf inside to hale blessed .X caliber bullets on some ‘unnatural scum’ (As it turned out, only the one behind the front desk was even a vampire.).

People. Normal, some even Gaia-fearing people who worked at the blood center, were torn to shreds by the troll’s automatic weapon fire. The man- vampire- behind the front desk pulled a stack of papers from the drawer and began sprinting for a room in the back, presumably the office.

“Destroy the maps! Destroy the maps before they can see!” He shouted as he ran for the office.

“Hey giant guy! You wanted to taste vampires? Go get some!” The troll yelled at Karna over the gunfire and smell of powder, gesturing after the shouting vampire on the run.

Edited by amenities

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The rush of the fight had faded. Now, Antique laid on the floor of the alley, clutching her chest and wheezing. It hurt so bad. Every glancing blow, and even where she had been forced down, and especially her chest. Her ribs--however many were broken--turned every forced breath into an expansion of that pain, shooting out from that point, seemingly enveloping her before settling back down to the constant pain that was more centralized, causing a false sense of relief to be hastily dashed in repetition. She watched the world through a hazy, rolling tube it seemed. Glancing back at the alleyway, she saw people she hadn't noticed before. They were gathering closer to the alley. They must have been watching from afar before. Some of them looked like they wanted to kill her. She understood, and supposed in that moment that she couldn't stop them if they chose to. But when she thought that, she was still in the right. Antique thought they had just attacked a child. She thought their blind fanaticism had driven them to a point of insanity, but she was wrong. So very wrong.

She let her gaze drift back to the wall across from her. The man who had shared that last look with her was now slumped and lifeless against the wall. His gaping neck wound leaked a slow stream of syrupy redness, but with no heartbeat, it seemed to be stopping. Then, Antique was distracted by someone walking past her vision, and something confusing about it that she didn't fully perceive. Following that direction, she saw wings sprout from the girl's back, and a stray quote from a speech she had once heard found its way from her lost memories. "The Devil lays buried partly in all of us, and we must be clean of the Sins He wishes us to commit! But-- The Devil also wears the flesh of other men, and you must be wary that you are not victim to His tricks and games, lest you find yourself in His Hell at the end of your days!" Conviction and a thick accent echoed in her head as she realized the truth of the horrifying monster she had saved. 

What could she do? She had saved a demon and killed her kindred in the process. Well, she thought she could start by standing, but that was her First Labor. She managed, with a hand clutched over her chest, and she stumbled toward the beast. The Second of her Labors was to find her bearings. She wanted her dagger for the Fourth, but there was no time, and the Third was to move. Quickly was a relative adverb for the limping woman hurriedly bracing herself against the wall by a hand, but she found herself upon her Fourth and final Labor before she could really figure out where she was in the line of things she had planned to do. She was not so tried by the gods as legends were, and thus were her Labors only Four, and also mundane, but to her, injured and dazed, they were each feats of will and strength worthy of such glorious detail. Fourth had her arms tight around the monster she had freed, reminding her of some distant legend, if only by name: Pandora, and a perplexing thought that was hard to shake. Why such an analogy? She kept thinking, I'm sitting on a box I should never have opened, but I'm not heavy enough to close it. And variations thereof.

Antique knew her strength. She had arm wrestled and sometimes won with large commoners in the past. Those she had known to be powered most often outdid her, but she was not totally weak. Though, compared to the thing she chose to attach herself to--which was a terrible twisting pain to press her chest against--she could not have been the one in favor. She just hoped, while she forced her knee into the back of its knee and pushed it forward, that the dainty features of the girl that it had once born might still be evident in some way. Either way, it was her effort, and her Fourth Labor, to try to undo what she had done, and subdue that which she had mistakenly freed.

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Karna had looked at the gun when it had been handed to him, and after a few moments of having it he had snapped off the trigger guard so that he could actually use it. The gun rested in his left hand from that point, right hand loading and chambering the weapon. It was a automatic machine gun, and it felt small in his hand, or at least smaller than he felt comfortable using as an automatic machine gun. It was often why he opted to punch things, with a lack of weapons that were actually built to be used by someone that was of his size. It was then that the troll started the count down, with Karna nodding his agreement.

"We go in in three.. Two.. One-" Karnas mind almost blew a fuse trying to register everything that happened at once. The dwarf could turn invisible, which was cool, as he launched the first attack. But something was off. Klaxon sirens were going off inside of the giants head, and they got louder as he looked at the half giant. "One of the guys got yanked into the alley." A grunt of curiosity registered from Karna, and the big man almost instantly forgot about the scene as the troll told him about the vampire inside of the blood bank.

"C'mon." The word was simply a command, and the surprise of it caught the half giant into following him inside of the blood bank. "Watch out outside." The half giants words to the troll, dwarf, and human as Karna charged further into the blood bank, after the running vampire. The vampire ducked behind a door, closing and locking it. And by the time that he turned to get away from the door and destroy the maps a massive body was barreling into the door, body tucked down so that the shoulder would slam into it with the full force and weight of his body.

The result was tearing the door clean off of its hinges and slamming it down on top of the vampire, his body falling and rolling over top of it so that he settled on his feet next to it. The man trapped beneath of it was wounded by the encounter with the door, the impact with it managing to snap his spine in two as well as crack his head against the floor. He was blinking away the stars, even when Karna lifted his mask and put the gun on his hip. Hands closed around the cold body before lifting it up to the giants mouth. And then it opened, revealing razor sharp teeth, which shortly after closed on the vampires head, bisecting it. As he did his feet kicked the papers to the side as neatly as he could, making sure they weren't below as the blood fell from the undeads opened up skull.

A few moments of chewing, and Karna spat out what was in his mouth before dropping the twitching body, grabbing his gun, and shooting it once. It just tasted like cold human meat. Not particularly rotten, but like it had aged a bit. And he didn't exactly care for the taste of it. It was what he got for deciding to eat something dead, however. His mask was replaced, his gun pulled out.

The rest of his group had worked his way back towards the room as Karna fired a shot into the vampires chest, followed by another to make sure that it was dead. With that he stepped to the papers, grabbing them up to look through them. It looked like the maps the vampire had been talking about, and when the troll got close Karna handed them to the man. After all, Karna couldn't actually read.

"This is good. We need to get this to town square." The troll handed the papers to the dwarf at that point, who tucked them into his clothing and vanished, going invisible as he set off to take the papers to the leader of the rebellion against the vampires. The rest of the party set about searching the blood bank, looking for anything useful they might find and killing any survivors.

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Goodbye, Nica Sero.

Dove looked at the man and he looked back at her and she blinked. It was as if the man had vanished. If she did not focus on the blank face, the blood that fringed him painlessly, it was like she was looking at nothing at all. Hope, rage, emotion; he’d let go of the things that made fools of men save acceptance and resignment. It was a husk that was being dragged beneath Heretic’s sickening fingers, a husk that was scorched by the hot metal of the bars and branded by the Unnaturals. Sero had already ceased to be a man.

No. The lich felt that this thing that was being dragged away before her was never wholly a man to begin with. She lifted her hand and gave him a wave, a smile, little gifts. Everything would be okay. Not for him, but for the beasts that he did not care for. It was reassurance that when the future came to pass, it would be one he recognized when he looked at the coalesced armies of Unnaturals, the gauntlet-clad figure standing at their forefront, and demon carrying him away.

The cage scraped away into the darkness. Dove did not know the man, but the Regent was an important thing to know. She would learn, eventually.

“Let’s go then. We might have all the time in the world, but the Inferiors do not.” She beckoned to the five that the Heretic had left her. They were crude shadows in the flames still, cut stiffly from the cloth of a child’s nightmare. As they resolved into the light, they fared little better; but tools were not meant to look beautiful when the trade they plied was ugly. It’d be a bad lie. “It’d be rude to keep them waiting, no?”

Dove did not like bad lies. They made the good lies less elegant, and the lich held herself to high standards.

“What are the exits from this cavern?”

Behind the flames was a jaunt directly to Central Plaza, where the tempers ran as high as the mighty statue in shards among the mud. The one in the back led to the Solvei’s, a sleepy suburban street that was one of the many spokes emanating from the Plaza; to the east was an exit to the blood-bank quarter, and the main west entrance was hidden amongst the high-rises and quaint mansions of the political sector. There were many others to spots all over the city, they told her, but these were the important ones. They made no attempt at neutrality as they spoke. Their voices were full of scathing emotion as they went through the list: the elegant marble of Jean DeCorbin that once stood inspired reverence and indignation, the downcast blood banks, anger, and the offices of the Regent, bloody satisfaction. The Heretic, they knew, would give the Regent and his creator their just deserts.

The last statement gave her pause. She pointed at the figure who said it, a modest-looking blond woman clothed in white. “You will be accompanying me. Your name?”

Arzada bowed.

The vampire was the least monstrous of the five, but there were too many imperfections for her to be even remotely human. Her red eyes were ringed with yellow and lacked pupils. It looked as if she considered her life to be aimless. Her hands were misshapen, jagged, as if the flesh had become serrated steel. Dove thought of soulless machines and thoughtless murder.

This one, Dove announced, would make a good bodyguard. Then she raised her hand, drawing the gauntlet closed into a fist. The solitary eye blinked and swirled with malice as she turned to face the crowd. “We have to strike first. The humans are cunning and cowardly creatures. If we do not fight, they will not fight; merely play their politics and whittle at the noble vampires until there is nothing left for you in Tia. If they want to press our faces to the fire, let them push instead, and we’ll pull them in with us.”

Her voice was cold and hard, but the crowd was satisfied with her words alone. Not yet satisfied, actually – their eyes demanded orders and calls to action.

Aindreas, a large and brutal beast of a vampire, was to head to the blood banks. He would not protect them. He would break them all open and let the masses feed one last time, to remember the taste of subservience and fear, before they were loosed upon the Inferiors. Angelic-winged, fair-haired Fiachna would accompany him along with the hungry and thirsty.

Quiet, shifty Tasgall was sent into one of the nameless corridors to emerge among the fearlessly asleep humans of Tia. His claws – torturous razor blades and half-dull hooks – would make a mess out of the children and the parents who followed their screams. The windows were to be painted with blood, and the Inferiors’ torn bodies left in the streets as example of the Unnaturals’ creed. When the rosy dawn came, the city would find them and realize that it was, rather, the dusk of a long and hopeless night. Those who best stalked the night followed Tasgall.

Aisling was to go to Central Plaza, where she would make a spectacle of Jane for the people upon the stage they had built for themselves. The frustrated and violent would follow her. Arzada and Dove would follow shortly after to watch and assist.

Each of them nodded as she gave her instructions, and like wraiths vanished into the darkness, leaving the lich with her two retainers. Dove’s gaze seemed to settle on Arzada after the others had left and the chamber steadily emptied of souls. It was unwavering. The woman did not notice for a few seconds and hesitated when she did. “Is there something you need?”

Dove was looking past Arzada, but the vampire without pupils couldn’t tell. The tactician finally refocused on her face. “What? Yes. This should be gap enough. Let’s go.”

She hopped down onto the floor behind the podium and strode into the tunnel. Arzada hurried to match her newfound superior.

“Entertain me.” Dove said without looking away from the path before them. Again, she seemed lost in thought. “Tell me about Nico Sera and his ‘creator.’”

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Antique’s knee caught the preoccupied thing May had become unawares. Her knee, surprisingly, bent, her bulky frame still that of a 10-year-old child. What was not surprising was that her knee had the strength to dent the pavement. What was surprising, however, was that May’s mighty wings suddenly billowed down like the sails of upturned warships. A hail of bullets climbed with them as they rocketed into the sky. May twisted and spiraled upward like a rogue missile, streams of red that might have been fire tracing from her wings; silver rounds whizzed by, some impacting the transformed girl and two nicking Antique in an arm or a leg. It was a spectacle visible and audible across nearly all of Tia. Then the gunfire grew distant and subsided.

Cold panes of rain broke over them as they blazed upward. Just when the pelt became painful, when Antique’s skin began rippling back from the force of their climb, the two broke the stormy veil over Tia and sunset’s warm purples, yellows, and golds washed over them. Not only did May not burst into ash. Not only did she not take on some weird opalescent glow in the light. She healed, and with extraordinary speed, as they flew Northeast. Antique would see May had a beautifully feline face with golden eyes. She would also see that, just by being in contact with May, her own wounds were healing at an alarming rate.

Through the cloud system which became intermittent towards Tia’s outsides, there was a tower. It looked like the Watch Fort, the white tower at Tia’s center which all authorities called headquarters. Only this tower was black, and miles outside the city limits, and shimmering before a jagged hole near its top was circular white vortex. As they grew nearer, speedily breaking through scattered showers,  there became visible a wide platform extending from the mile-high tower’s utmost exit. Upon that platform stood a man with red hair, black pants, and a white shirt roomy enough (but too short, stopping at the waist) to be a mage’s robe. His hands had red on them, and he smelled of paint. The rain matted his clothing and hair against his shoulders and face. He stood a desolate and powerful thing, every bit the same as the DeCorbin monument in the Central Plaza. May lighted upon the platform ten feet behind him.

From this side of the swirling vortex, Antique would see that, more than a vortex, it was an incredible scrying glass through which the redhead observed Jane Blastice’s rally. Until the view on the giant vortex screen became a dark cavern filled with ghastly shapes.

“You know he’ll come for us now, right? You’ve let me see too much.”
“Let him come.”

The words coming through warbled like eery fluctuations of a tuning fork, but they were clear. A clearer voice,  like one of those in the scrying glass but which came directly from the mage standing before Antique, filled the tower with volume. The voice was sarcastic, distracted. There was a minute degree of interest laced in, which instead of being refreshing managed to sound vaguely hostile.

“What kind of creature are you, saving a vampire from humans?”

---

“I don’t know just what I’m looking at yet, but this is fishy, Rooks.” The troll with Karna named Gyarl took the map, speaking to the rest of the crew.

Karna recovered a good map after impressing his new comrades with his brutality. Gyarl, holding it, gestured to a giant red oval that stretched from the middle of Tia to a black structure on the city’s outskirts. It was labeled “Sero Bloodfarms.” A radio to the rest of a lead anti-vampire group, the Rooks, spat static from its holster on the troll’s chest. Gyarl took a picture, sending it via square mobile device. After seconds an urgent and gnarled voice responded.

“Holy Gaia’s shits, Gyarl. Forget the blood banks, that’s a whole fucking farm for harvesting blood right underneath the city. Looks like it could house half the residents!”
“What in Odin’s balls..”

Shouts and gunfire erupted on the other side of the radio.

“Gyarl, this is not a joke or a drill. For the sake of your family, deploy all Rooks and go lethal with X. Caliber. Deploy them all now!”

The radio cut out and Gyarl looked at his group, including Karna, standing on the outside of the blood bank. Now there were figures flitting through the streets, running humans being dragged into the dark or violated right there in the dingy rainfall. In the distance, a flare-like spire rose into the sky until it pierced the clouds. The troll glanced at it, then back at the crew.

“There’s a.. There’s another blood farm. It’s big. Says it’s sponsored by Tia government.. Called Sero Bloodfarm.”
“They’ve been working with the vamps all along?” The dwarf asked in shock.
“Fuck me..” Said the half-giant.
“The Watch Fort and this clocktower outside town are the only entrances. Watch Fort’s too well protected, so we go to whatever’s at the clocktower and go for the big one.” said Gyarl, pointing at the structure on the outside of Tia, then barking orders for all Rooks with X. Calibers to be deployed on all blood banks- especially the big one- and ‘go lethal.’

---

“Are we attacking Sero Bloodfarm too?” A fledgling vampire asked Fiachna as a particularly massive horde of them tore down the street.
“Especially Sero Bloodfarm. Nica is of no use to us anymore,” responded the clever Dolos.

And perhaps he was of no use to the vampires. But as the screech of his scalding cage echoed away into the darkness, two piercing dots of silver that both were and were not Nica’s examined Dove out of the blackness.

“Entertain me. Tell me about Nico Sera and his ‘creator.’”

Arzada Dolos' face was soft and beautiful. Her skin was as white as eucalyptus. Her mien was as graceful as it was deadly and efficient. While all the others had given Dove at least a glance of wonder, Arzada seemed primed to follow her from the moment it was ordained. The white ghost she made in the darkness turned its glistening red orbs toward Dove.

“Nica Sero is a clone of the man they call Puppet Master,” said Arzada. There was sadness in her voice, something very emotionally attached to the situation. “Cain Rose is his real name. He is little known, as per his wishes, but his are seeds that have sprouted into great canopies of chaos all across Tia, Last Chance, Palgard, and Casper.

“Tia was once a vampire haven, but it wasn’t necessarily dangerous for humans. Just.. uncertain. Then Cain came with his gang, the Dead. They displaced us using a drug that drove us to bloodlust. Then he used his powers as a psychic and blood mage to enslave lords and merchant leaders. Their support systems became his support systems, and through Tia he trafficked all manner of the living and dead. In order to keep a pleasant face in front of all of it, Cain created an exact duplicate of himself. Nica Sero. In order to keep the vampire families happy, he created a massive blood farm where he sends his puppets to be fully harvested, called Sero Bloodfarm. None of that merciful donation business the public knows about takes place there- these people are harvested to the last bloody drip of fat. Nobody in the regular public knows about Cain’s evil against all our kinds, but Heretic has told those of us he is closest to. He has unified and raised the vampire families Dolos and Matton to become like brothers against the humans who oppress them, the government, and Cain, who attempts to keep everyone docile while he tears at us all. Defeat of the Inferiors will only be a right we should always have had, but that Cain took away from us."

Arzada’s razorlike fingers toyed with each other as she stared at them.

“Cain took control of my daughter, May, when he used his puppetry to infiltrate vampire ranks. Heretic calls Cain’s slavery seal weak, claims he was even a puppet once but broke free after removing Cain’s seal. But when the Puppet Master got hold of May, it was as if none of our rituals could totally free her. He did it because he knows May is the key to our strength against him and the agents of Gaia, fools he has controlled into thinking he is a good man. May is key to the retaking and holding of Tia.”

Violence is key to the retaking and holding of Tia!” Shouted Jane Blastice as the creature May and her savior tore into the sky from the back of the crowd. All around stood armored Problem Solvers, the greatest protectors of the humans Tia had to offer. But suddenly figures flickered through the sheets of rain. First a scream, then one gunshot when off. Then the sounds of dying, the sounds of Rooks shooting X. Caliber rounds, unraveled Central Plaza into an unrestrained warzone between humans and vampires. Some fled, some fought, but on both sides casualties immediately began piling. Like the water, vampires under the family sigils of Matton and Dolos bore down on the humans. Like the water, to Jane’s horror, human blood began flowing in the streets. And, like the water, Problem Solvers stood in useless puddles and did absolutely nothing to mitigate the violence. Cries of ‘help me’ and ‘why?’ roared all around them, and bloody handprints streaked their armor, but statuesque they stood. Jane the privileged coward ran to leave stage, but two Problem Solvers grabbed her, one by either arm, and refused to let her leave.

“The Problem Solvers? They’re all Cain’s puppets too,” said Arzada.


OOC

Thought I'd add some links for your perusing:

Karl Matton
Serafino Heretic Dolos
Cain Rose

Most vampires are about as manageable to kill as your typical vampire, but several (including those named below) have a special resistance to magic, including blessed X. Caliber rounds. These will take significant effort and care to defeat, but you are free to engage them in your posts if you wish.

- Arzada (OFF LIMITS) (M) accompanies Dove to the North Lodge Square with Dolos forces.

- Aindreas (M) and Fiachna (D) to raid the bloodbanks with Matton and Dolos forces

- Tasgall (D) takes to the night to slaughter on the fringes with mostly Matton and some Dolos forces

- Aisling (OFF LIMITS) (M) takes to the Central Plaza rally to make an example of Jane with Matton forces.

***Named vampires with M beside them are Matton

***Named vampires with D beside them are Dolos

- Matton vampires are known primarily for ruthlessness and violence.

- Dolos vampires are known primarily for cunning and lurking in the shadows.

Edited by amenities

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