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Acies ab Vesania

Tavern of Legend Season 3

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@Markus White

Vaddock did a double take. "Wait, slow down there buddy. So what you're saying is that someone is trying to take down all the governments and establish rule under their own name? That's.... crazy, but not an easy thing to do for anyone. Though I suppose the chaos that is happening recently will allow them to mask their movements somewhat. These are turbulent times. What will you do?" He asked, putting the glasses he had wiped back to the shelves. "Us, we continue running the tavern as usual. We are small people, serving as an information hub and resting point for heroes like yourself who make sure the world continues to revolve."

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At the end of a dark path, a light like a burning ember bobbed up and down in the air and then a man emerged from the shadows. The path he walked is laden with the oppression of war and the smell of ash and yet he retained a casual gait to his destination, his hands tucked comfortably into his pockets. After all, a man like him has no business in places that aren't burned and war torn.

“Sir,” a faint voice called from the side. “Could you spare some help?”

Liam stopped and his gray eyes fell on the form of a scrawny young man, likely not yet out of his teenage years. He is dressed in rags and leaning against the scorched stone of a building that may have once housed a family or two but now is likely only home to the dredges and derelicts of this desolation.

“I’m looking for a particular tavern, boy.” Liam responded in a gruff voice, taking his hand out of his pocket and reaching into his cloak.

“Just down the road, sir,” the boy responded eagerly, mistaking the man’s motion for charity. Liam's hand whipped out of his cloak and towards the begging youth, causing him to flinch. When he opened his eyes, he saw a dagger sticking in the dirt at his feet.

“In a world like this, that’s the best kind of help,” Liam said as he walked away. His casual gait took on a quicker pace, eager to finally see this tavern of crossroads. He walked for a while longer until the ruins turned into something of an urban wilderness, a woodland sparse with trees from human consumption.

Just as he was beginning to grow frustrated, he came upon a dimly lit path. Liam couldn’t decipher the source of this dim light but something told him that this was the right direction and so he flicked away his musty cigar and kept walking. When he at last came upon the tavern, he was sure that he must have the wrong place for it seemed far too humble to fit the descriptions he had been given.

“Figures,” he spat as he stared at the building a while longer. The place was only a single story and didn’t appear well maintained in the least. If not for the smell of food coming from the place, Liam would have thought it abandoned. Only his parched lips and grumbling stomach stopped him from walking away. When he opened the door and walked in, he stopped short.

Liam’s gaze immediately went upward to the impossible rafters and a ceiling he could not see. When he looked around, he noticed more corners than were possible, some dark and brooding and others illuminated by the flickering flames of a candle. He poked his head back outside and looked up at the edge of the roof right over his head.

“Ugh, magic,” he groaned, closing the door behind him and walking the rest of the way in.

Liam was an unremarkable man. He wore his sword comfortably but his short frame and narrow shoulders did not cut an intimidating figure. His gray hair and goatee are peppered with black and only in good light would one notice the light scarring across his left cheek. All in all, Liam was a man whom fellow veterans recognized as battle-hardened and experienced despite his small stature but an impertinent youth with something to prove may be fooled into thinking him an easy target. It was one of his favorite tavern games to play and sometimes he would even make himself appear vulnerable to provoke such troublemakers.

But tonight, Liam had different plans that would hopefully involve thumping some skulls and making money. He had always been a piss-poor soldier, much to the disdain of his commanding officers but after serving his time, he had become a helluva mercenary.

Liam sat down with his back to the bar, leaning against it and surveying the room. The first thing he noticed was that nobody was armed and so instinctively he rested his hand on the hilt of his nondescript sword. He winked at a passing barmaid carrying a tray full of drinks and she flashed him a smile. Feeling a bit more relaxed, Liam struck a match and lit another cigar.

One deep drag deserved another and as the thick smoke wafted out, the musty smell seemed to cling to him. He waited to see what would happen first; a bouncer to relieve him of his weapons or a bartender to serve him a drink. He was here looking for a fight but not trouble and as any good mercenary knew there was a fine line between the two.

Edited by Blackguard

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Fjorn sighed. Either the sign at the door asking customers to deposit their weapons was too non-obvious, or people straight-up ignored it. Perhaps they should make it glow neon or something to attract attention. It wouldn’t fit with the decor of the tavern, but at least it might make their job easier. 

The waiter had just finished serving a customer and was carrying the tray back to the kitchen when Gwen gave him a meaningful look, then tipped her head ever-so-slightly towards the man who had just winked to her. It was obvious what she was hinting at. She could ask him to check in his sword, but Fjorn knew how much the girls hated doing it. Some patrons refused to cooperate, and some even became aggressive, and those were the times that they had to call Lonely Night in to get them to leave. At least this man didn’t look particular violent. Shouldn’t be too hard then. Fjorn walked up to him casually. The blond waiter was in his mid-twenties, with a scruffy beard and an appearance that could be considered decent. His tone was friendly.

“Excuse me sir, weapons at the counter please,” he pointed to a corner where an attendant stood. There were various knick-knacks behind the counter - swords, bows, projectile weapons, even a few bottles of unknown contents. A pair of customers had checked in vials of poison earlier, though they had already taken back their items and left. Fjorn continued to speak.

“Once you’ve done that, feel free to browse through our selection. I recommend the seafood, they just came in fresh from Casper today.” He placed a piece of parchment on the table. The menu was written neatly in multiple languages: the common ones spoken by many people within the three major continents of Valucre. Some of the items were highlighted with images for the occasional visitor who may not speak any of their languages - those who inadvertently found themselves thrust into Valucre from another world.

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             As Fjorn approached, Liam didn’t shift his relaxed posture but looked the waiter over the way one might a stray dog to judge its temperament. He grunted and then inhaled another long draw from his thin cigar before moving it to his left hand.

“You mean this old thing?” Liam responded with a wry smile, pressing his right hand to his chest as if taken aback. “Or did you mean this old thing?” His voice was suddenly stern. He stood up and his hand fell to gesture to what appeared to be no more than a common arming sword. Within hardly a breath his fingers curled around the hilt and the blade was free of its sheath. It could have been an impressive display except that all he brandished was a rusty, broken blade.

Then Liam handed the sword over without a problem and even gave up the remaining knife he had tucked away in his cloak. He tipped an imaginary hat and returned to his seat and his cigar.

*

“I don’t eat fish off a plate, lad,” Liam quipped at the waiter’s offer, even waving away the menu. “Get me a steak and a whiskey and if you don’t have exactly that then bring me something dead and cooked and get me drunk, I don’t care how.”

Despite his casual demeanor, Liam’s eyes occasionally glanced up, unsettled by the idea of people above him. The corners kept him on edge, too. He understood the magic but like so many of his kind he could not comprehend the impossible dimensions it was capable of fabricating and that unnerved him.

“I’m looking for a job, too.” He said, feigning an afterthought. He put his cigar out on the bar top as if that were the only obvious place. “I was told a story about a cult in need of a few good men. A place like this has a lot of ears, I’m sure.”

Edited by Blackguard

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Fjorn laughed awkwardly at Liam’s joke, then jerked back in alarm when the man stood up and suddenly drew the sword.

“W-whoa, that’s dangerous!” He raised his hands in front and shook his head when the man offered the naked sword to him. Rusty or not, it could still cut, and a dirty blade was even more likely to inflict an infection. “Sheathed, please,” Fjorn said. Luckily, the man complied, and he brought both sword and knife to the counter for safekeeping, then came back around for the man’s order.

“Steak and whiskey coming up,” he said. He was turning to leave when he was stopped by the mention of the cult. Quickly, he brought his fingers to his lips.

“Hush, some of them might be around,” his eyes darted around nervously, then looked back at Liam apprehensively. “Are you looking to.. join, or..?” he leaned down closer and spoke in a whisper. “I heard the leader is a very powerful man, and they are planning ritual suicide by drinking poison. Crazy, isn’t it?”

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            Liam cocked an eyebrow when Fjorn shushed him and listened intently to what the young man had to say. He had expected he would have to wade through at least a little idle gossip before getting any real information, maybe even employ a little minor Listening. Liam thought the waiter seemed a bit squirrely but not hysterical and his anxiousness at the cult’s mention sounded genuine.

            The mercenary glanced at the black mark he had made on the bar. Since it was still there, he took to picking at it as he conducted a more serious scan of the room. His Listening had always been poor. He almost wished that Hawke were here. The two of them alone could probably infiltrate the lot of them. By no means was Liam stupid but Hawke, a natural leader, had always been the brains to his brawn.

            “Look here, boy,” Liam whispered, leaning forward and gesturing for Fjorn to come closer. “It’s my guess that this is a sizable lot. Big enough to have a mage or two, I reckon.” Liam obviously knew more about the situation than he was letting on but he was still working from a lot of rumors.

            “I want to join,” he proclaimed suddenly, locking eyes with Fjorn and grinning. Liam held out his right hand and a cigar drifted from his cloak and settled between his fingers. It was obviously unlit and yet when he took a puff, the tip glowed a bright red. “Be a lad and spread the word that there is a mage itching for initiation.”

             Liam released a bellow of smoke but even as he leaned back, the smoke would hit Fjorn square in the face. It was a sickly-sweet smell that even a secondhand embrace could leave a person feeling lightheaded.

When his whiskey was put in front of him, Liam figured his food wouldn’t be far behind so he waved the waiter away and found himself a table in the middle of the room. The old mercenary positioned himself in such a way that he could watch most of the room and keep an eye on the entrance. If these cultists were among them, he would not want to announce his intention and wanted to keep the option of infiltration open. Hawke always said that Liam was brash and hotheaded and he wasn’t wrong but even this old, wild dog wouldn’t charge barking into a den of wolves.  

Edited by Blackguard

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"I'd be interested in meeting him," Hain said. "Thank you, Banks."

@Strangeland

Hain rested against the bar, ignoring the stool that he'd been using. The din of the tavern cascaded over him with a feeling that reminded him of home. It was strange occurrence, if one considered the fact that Hain had hardly known a home. How many people here had the same story? After all, it was the staple of vagabonds to have nomadic roots; to belong nowhere. If I had a choice though... I'd choose to have a home. To have a wife. To love her. To have a family. 

Sappy thoughts, welp? 

He flinched at the intrusion, then gave a wry grin as he studied the lines of his weathered hands. Lightning arced between his fingertips, the smell of burnt air wafting to his nostrils. It took him a mere moment to reassert the bounds within his mind and push the elemental back down. Damn you, he thought. I'll kill us both soon enough. 

Through the atmosphere of comfort, the creak of the doors opening reached Hain's ears clearly. He gave little thought to the disturbance, waiting for whoever had arrived to make their way into his line of sight. He then looked up, and watched a curious interaction. The newcomer had opted to keep his weapon? Why?

They were all at the bar, with Banks on Hain's right and the new arrival a way down on his left. Hain watched out of the corner of his eye as the man all but flaunted his sword at one of the waiters. I could fix this right now. He slowly opened a channel to the elemental within and felt the power diffuse through his body. He'd welcome a conflict with a rebellious swordsman. He was fed now and could absolutely use a fight to make the day perfect. 

Unfortunately, the conflict was settled rather quickly. Hain sighed and closed off the release. As his body settled back to normalcy, he heard an announcement. 

"I'd like to join!" 

Join what? Was there someone recruiting? After a heartbeat of thought, Hain rapped his knuckles against the countertop and made his decision. He looked to Banks. "Last chance. I'm leaving soon."

With that, he left the bar and approached the man at his new seat. In his singed coat, he probably looked strange. Still, he fixed the man with cool grey eyes and spoke. "If you're looking to go somewhere that isn't this strange place, count me in. My name is Hain."

@Blackguard

Edited by ticklefarte
lololol

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            Liam had to stop himself from looking up and focus only on one corner. He’d never seen this kind of magic but it was more than the amount of power that unnerved him. Since his initiation, Liam had been taught that magic was an abomination. He believed it for a long time and even hunted mages under the guise of some noble crusade.

            The mercenary had moved past such prejudices but not everyone was born with the gifts that Liam possessed. How could he begrudge a person and their path to power? That did stop him from killing them however as he was just too damn good at it and he did not begrudge a person in how they made their money.

            Yet Liam was still uncomfortable in this place. He understood the tavern’s nature as a gateway of planes, learned from a blind Psion back home but the ancient hermit had not mentioned that the gateway was a magical construct. Magic created impossibilities by breaking nature and Liam could not ignore all he had learned.

            He finished off his whiskey just as his food arrived and called for a refill. The effects of alcohol had an interesting effect on Liam and his abilities but he could still get drunk just the same. Smiling down at the steak, the hungry mercenary pushed away his discomfort and picked up his utensils.

            *

"If you're looking to go somewhere that isn't this strange place, count me in. My name is Hain."

Liam pushed away his empty plate and eyed the man who had approached him. He looked like he was about to say something but instead picked up his whiskey and took a long sniff of it as if it were a fine wine. But this was cheap whiskey so Liam downed the rest of it in a single gulp.

“Have a seat, boy,” Liam gestured to the chair across from him. The mercenary was considerably older than this pup by at least thirty years. Still, this Hain had at least four inches on Liam, five if you got him to admit he was an inch shorter than he claimed. Liam grinned at Hain. “What do you know of the local cults?”

@ticklefarte

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Boy? Hain was surprised at the title, though he supposed that this man had lived long enough to earn the right to use it. He glared at the seat before taking the stranger up on his offer, sitting down. Across from him was a dirty plate, and beyond that his new subject of interest. An older man, grizzled to the point of making Hain want to shave his own stubble to avoid confusion. He eyed the scar on the man's face, wondering how someone survived a blow so close to the head.

The tavern was winding down by now, its denizens either finding their way to the door or finding the floor to be close enough. Still, a good amount of the patrons were enjoying the night life of the bar, with choice groups heading up a flight of stairs together to do... exciting things. Hain watched a man carry a woman off with a hearty laugh, both drunk and looking for fun. The steps would be an interesting obstacle.

"I've got nothing on cults around here," he answered truthfully as he eased back. "I'm a traveler you see. This place is new to me. You're telling me that you're interested in joining a cult?"

Maybe it was the atmosphere of the tavern. Perhaps the sounds of celebration had peeled back to simple dining and conversation and allowed seedy ears to listen in. It was possible that Hain had used the word "cult" too many times. He didn't know. 

Regardless, their table was approached by a man with a smaller frame and forlorn expression. He looked to Hain first, then the veteran, before retrieving the empty plate. Ah, he was an employee. 

But the man lingered. He stood in a way that implied he wanted to say something. No, needed to say something. Hain cleared his throat, but didn't soften his eyes. Kindness wasn't his thing. Finally:

"Heard you guys talking 'bout cults?" The worker sighed as if a great weight had lifted off his chest. "I've got some stuff about cults."

Really? Hain leaned forward, giving the worker a better look. He was about the same age as the stranger, weathered hands and eyes calling to a laborer's background. Now he was a tavern worker, apron stained with food and drink. In his face there was a sadness that was reinforced with...anger? Ah, no. Frustration. "Do tell," Hain prompted. "I think I'm interested. Your name, sir?"

The worker rubbed the back of his neck and spoke. His voice was clearer now, but the pain was there. "My name is Beat," he began. "I'm simple. I love my wife and I love my kids."

Coincidence? said the elemental. You were just moaning about those things.

Ignoring the interruption, Hain shrugged. "I don't doubt that."

Beat shook his head. "You don't understand. I love 'em. To bits. I love 'em too much to let them stay there with those people." He looked to the bar then continued. "There's a cult around here. It's full of liars, but those liars use magic and so people trust 'em. I'm more sensible but... Palri. She's always wanted to believe in somethin'. She was perfect for those monsters." 

In a flash of movement Beat whipped his head to look Hain in the eyes, a sharp blue gaze meeting a cool grey one. "Don't join them," he begged. "Help me instead. Please." 

Absolutely not, the elemental spat. 

I will help you. Hain thought

@Blackguard

Edited by ticklefarte

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Liam couldn’t help but study the boy as he sat across from him. His tattered clothing was not uncommon among travelers but this boy’s outfit looked like it had come out of a fire. If that were not enough, Liam could practically smell the magic coming from him and thought that he must have conjured recently but it was difficult to tell since this entire place seemed powered by the arcane.

“My name is Liam,” he introduced himself with the tip of an imaginary hat. He studied the boy further, feeling off-put by his presence and swearing there was something more to the lad than what he saw.

Liam would never be accused of being intelligent or witty but he possessed wisdom and exceptional insight into the arcane. Still, this place clouded his Sight and made him think too far outward and so he yearned to be gone from this abominable place. When All is at last destroyed, perhaps this place would be the nexus.

“And yes, I’m looking to join so to speak.” Just as Liam was going to elaborate, a man approached their table but as it turned out, it wasn’t just any man but the man he was meant to find.

Liam hadn’t been given a name but he was told that a man who sought to protect his family would need his help and that there would be rewards to be reaped. The Psion had been vague on a great many things but now Liam felt he had been led on a golden goose chase as he saw no rewards to be reaped from a tavern man.

“Beat,” Liam said suddenly, reaching out and grabbing the man rather roughly by the forearm. “You need to get your job done and then come find us.” His voice was a hoarse whisper as he looked the worker in the eyes. “I want details and all else you have to offer.”

“And you,” he said, looking at Hain. He pushed Beat away after snatching a bone of his plate to suck out the flavor. “We should get to know each other. I don’t like the idea of spilling blood beside a stranger.”



@ticklefarte

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Hain's face fell as Beat hurried off, plate in hand and his humble air quickly returning. He flashed a glare at the stranger named Liam. The man sat with a bone in his mouth like some dog, meeting Hain's eyes as he sucked on his meal's last remnant.

15 hours ago, Blackguard said:

“We should get to know each other. I don’t like the idea of spilling blood beside a stranger.”

Hain frowned. He supposed there were all types in the world, but who said one needed to kill beside friends? I've killed next to strangers all of my life. I even prefer it. Still, he mused over the suggestion while he moved his gaze to Beat. The worker was at another table, tending to a woman who sat and ate alone. Hain observed the exchange before finally speaking. 

"What do you want to know, Liam?" he asked gruffly. "I'm a Terran who travels. That's the gist of it. No purpose, no goal, nothing. I just like walking." 

Liar, said the elemental. 

Leech, Hain replied.

 "If you're concerned about my skills," he continued, eyes slipping back to older man and his snack, "don't worry. I'm capable. My spear is with the other weapons, and I've got my own tricks." For emphasis, Hain allowed a partial release. The elemental cackled in the back of his mind, but welcomed the transaction. Hain's nervous system jolted to a new level of awareness, his brain processing information faster than usually. He inhaled deeply and looked to his hands as they buzzed in anticipation. 

This place, resolute in its own mythological existence, had never banned magic. Let the blades and clubs rest comfortably at the counter. In the end it made no difference. There were some individuals who simply needed incentive to wreak havoc. His hands rose in front of his face, fingertips facing each other. In a flash lightning shot between his digits and formed a cage of white hot bolts. The smell of ozone grew strong, and the sparks that flew were getting cumbersome, so he stopped soon after. With a thought he closed off the channel and rested his hands on the table, though the air felt alive as it remembered what had just happened. 

Bah! Coward! Use more, you damned, wretched, disappointment! 

With a thought Hain silenced him too. He looked up at Liam, expression unreadable.

"Your turn, stranger."

@Blackguard

Edited by ticklefarte

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             Hain’s display certainly sparked the mercenary’s interest. Even through the haze of this place, Liam could keenly sense the power between the young man’s hands. The feeling thrummed inside of him like a pulse. Magic had a life to it that Liam and those like him found intoxicating. The mercenary’s hand moved as if he could reach out and snatch the power away but he stopped short.

            A ravenous look like an almost-feral dog melted away from his face just as quickly as it appeared. There would be time for that later.

            Liam tossed the chewed bone on the table and finished off his whiskey, holding up his glass for another. Depending on the information they could get and how soon they could get to work, he figured one more drink would round him off nicely. Otherwise he would be sure to fill his flask before they left.

            “I’m just an old hound with a few teeth left, lad.” Liam responded with a smile. “And a few old tricks of my own, I suppose. But your tricks are, well,” he gestured to Hain’s obviously burned and tattered clothing. “A friendly fire mishap?”

            “Look boy, I can fight alongside a raw recruit but if I survive a lightning bolt in my ass from the wrong team then I’m going to kill you from the toes up.”

            Liam waved away a serving girl who tried to take his glass. A shame, too since she had shown him such a pretty smile earlier in the night. Instead he made sure to get Beat’s attention. As the man approached them, Liam turned back to Hain.

            “I suggest we pull the man outside in an hour or so and get whatever information he has for us. We can move on from there and form a plan on our way. Or we can go full troupe on the place and test where we stand with Shade.” He chewed on that last part for a moment, trying to recall how mages referred to her. “Lady Luck, you might say?”

@ticklefarte

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With a lengthy blue defined and lively tail swishing about left to right with succession of each step. A finely dressed blue skinned Tiefling would saunter about with a mysterious tome in hand and her face buried in its contents. Hardly looking at her path but a few swift glances of her surroundings. Taking in the eerie atmosphere to carry her forward. 

To think I'd find a remnant piece of arcane knowledge from an old library! The content is a lot more fleshed out than anticipated, oh the joys I'll have studying and breaking down every last phrase and glyph, the excitement is bubbling! Her thought's rang and clearly shown as her tail wagged even more gusto. Yeul Fullbring, a Tiefling with a talent of the arcane and one would call a 'magic nerd'. 

Yeul was too distracted by her reading before she came literal face first into the remora of a building's wall. A surprised gasp erupted on impact sheepishly before she would adjust her blue wired square glasses and taking a gander at what's in front of her. A tavern, which was pretty convenient, a mighty thirst and the need to continue her studies was paramount. She'd close the tome in hand after placing a think white ribbon in place hanging loosely between the pages. She'd attach the book onto her hip in a a pouch and then proceeding inside to hopefully greet any patron's. 

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Shade? 

"Yes, Lady Luck is what I would call her. Where exactly are you from...?"

The doors creaked open, calling Hain's attention. He dragged his eyes from Liam and faced the newest arrival with wary appraisal. She was...blue. Not human, he knew, but a Tiefling. They weren't something he was well acquainted with, but he'd met two before. Not blue, though. No, this is a first. 

She carried a book at her hip, a fact immediately disregarded by Hain. He was instead curious about how she'd shown up. The Tavern didn't close, he'd surmised that, but had she known her destination or come upon this place by chance? Regardless, the atmosphere of the Tavern, while grand and awe-inspiring, was dampened now. She'd find little conversation at the bar, so Hain stood. 

"You there," he called to the Tiefling. "Sit with us. We're in need of a few friends. Tell us, what's your name?" He gestured to his own chair before retrieving a new one, placing it at the table, and sitting. Quietly, he whispered to Liam: "We need numbers, don't we?"

@Blackguard @Godspell

Edited by ticklefarte

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Clasping her hands together and nodded in response with a tone full of spirit. "She thing!" She answered. Making her way over to the group and taking a seat that was presented to her, watching out for her tail carefully not to get in the way of others. Returning her attention towards them she'd continue. "My name is Yeul Fullbring, Mephistopheles Tiefling, arcane scholar and adventurer to be - delighted to meet you!"

Taking time away from everything, her home, her studies back at the Mage's Guild, her hobbies -- all for the sake of furthering her life's experience and learn what the realms could offer in knowledge and fortitude of her person. Becoming an adventurer; a wanderer, might become worth it in the long run. Furthering accepting her accursed bloodline was apart of that trial. Time is fleeting after all, the world waits for no one. She figured better to start within her youth than later when complications were abound. She'd press a question further to the group.

"How about you, what are your names? You all seem to carry yourself quite well by first impressions on sight, full of vitality in a way. " She said offering a warm grin.

@ticklefarte @Blackguard

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