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Pagans in the Night [S-Class Artifact]

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SERA

"YOU'RE MINE, BIRDIE! NOT EVEN A DRAGON CAN STOP ME!"

The madwoman roared at the beast as her arms wrapped around its neck in a chokehold. She was undaunted by the extreme height she is right now or the fact that the ensuing fall could easily lead to her untimely demise. She was Sera, after all, her insanity is her greatest weapon.

Her blood boiled at the thought of killing such a large magnificent creature. She dreamed of turning this beast into her own trophy, its pelt into a magnificent coat, its bones turned into accessories. But the beast was unruly and the intense shaking brought Sera out of her fantasy.

"YOU MOTHER FUCKER!" she bellowed at the beast. Her arms are already starting to loosen from its violent movements. Any longer and it would pry free from Sera's grasp and then she would plummet downwards. This is not the end Sera dreamed she would be getting. Sera must do something, and she better do it quick.

Power blossomed within Sera, coursing through her body. One thing she was always trusted during battles was her ability and this moment begged for its appearance. She let loose another battle cry and sparks flowed from her body into the beasts sending a thousand jolts of electricity into its body. The current would fry her insides, even burn her flesh.

I'll be having griffin meat tonight, so please die for me you fucking beast. 

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As he waited for the others to arrive, Cerik sat atop Stormfire's back, his thoughts wandering and meandering as he thought of the encounter he had just had with that pair of bandits. If they were genuine in their intentions, as they had seemed to be, then surely there was something interesting in how he had inspired them onto the path of good. And all the evidence that the knight was aware of pointed to them truly turning over a new leaf. Good beget good. That was one of his main tenants that he lived by, and one that he sometimes found hard to retain faith in. But surely, this proved its validity.

Soon enough, Iomhar approached. He asked about the bandits that had gone down the road, and the knight errant smiled slightly in response. It was somewhat surprising to him that the tabaxi hadn't zapped them or anything, but he supposed that the sight of the supposedly redeemed bandits not being hostile had been surprising enough to hold back such a knee-jerk reaction. Knee-jerk reactions tended to cause problems more than not, but the knight typically advocated for good reflexes and swiftness of response to threats.

"Oh, those two? They gave me some information that confirmed the rumors that led me on this quest to begin with. We're on the right track, and I'm now certain we'll reach the desert's edge with time to spare. Perhaps then I can tell you about that time I dueled the dark knight Gormaric Warmoon to a standstill, and saved a lovely young lass from having her soul taken from her. ... And, oh, those two also told me they were planning to hire themselves out as caravan guards. Apparently, watching me during our skirmish inspired them to change their ways, somehow. If it's a ploy of some sort, I fail to see how it would benefit them at all."

Looking past Iomhar, he could see the griffin ascend into the air, grappling with Sera. The madwoman's' shout were unintelligible at this distance, but Cerik supposed that it was nothing more than angry ranting, the likes of which he had probably heard before, or at least close enough to where it didn't interest him to strain and listen in. With a wry grin, the knight looked at the tabaxi sorcerer once again.

"Well, by my reckoning, we're actually a bit ahead of schedule. We could leave now, if you'd like. Could also wait for the, ah, more sane ladies of the trio to arrive and then leave, like I was thinking of doing. Or, if you really want..."

He pointed over at Sera and the griffin in the air.

"We could take the time to wait for her, and hope she's let out all her anger on that griffin before she gets back here. I mean, I doubt even a prolific gambler would bet on that one, and she'll catch up to us anyways unless that griffin manages to kill her off. But it is an option."

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Iomhar rubs his chin in thought when the knight explains the prior situation with the reformed bandits. It is quite a shock that they had changed their minds so thoroughly on the matter of their own moral compasses over the course of one battle, and even moreso that they had been inspired by a relative stranger they had been fighting with, a knight though he is. But no matter, it is ultimately a good thing, and so the tabaxi merely nods in reply to Cerik.

"Well, by my reckoning, we're actually a bit ahead of schedule. We could leave now, if you'd like. Could also wait for the, ah, more sane ladies of the trio to arrive and then leave, like I was thinking of doing. Or, if you really want..."

Iomhar watches with an amused grin as the knight points towards the screaming woman clinging to the griffin in the distance. It is all too dangerous, that wild grapple Sera is engaged with, but it seems she has the situation under control for now, with the giant beast screeching in pain and frustration. Mostly frustration, Iomhar guesses.

"We could take the time to wait for her, and hope she's let out all her anger on that griffin before she gets back here. I mean, I doubt even a prolific gambler would bet on that one, and she'll catch up to us anyways unless that griffin manages to kill her off. But it is an option."

“Like minds think alike, my friend!” The tabaxi gives the knight a thumbs up, tugs his mule closer towards him as he continues. “I believe we could simply—”

A sudden cry of pain streaks through the clearing, and Iomhar turns his head just in time to see the body of the griffin enveloped in a brilliant electric light, sparking up like a clumped mass of lightning bolts. He cannot see Sera, but it is rather obvious that the show of power had come from her.

“Bravo! Bravo!” He claps his paws together; the show of magical skill that so resembles his own power over electricity is a sight to behold. The griffin hangs in the air, suspended for a brief second, before it begins plummeting down to earth, a woman following its descent to the ground.

“Well!” Iomhar turns to Cerik and shrugs, mouth slightly open in disbelief. “Perhaps we needn’t wait too long for her after all.”

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SERRAIDA MAVAJO


Madness. insanity. Rage. She was the terror incarnate. This meager offering of flesh barely managed to stifle her hunger, barely quenched her insatiable thirst for carnage and bloodshed. She was the Serraida Mavajo, the Paragon of Insanity. Not even this majestic beast can match her prowess. In fact, she barely lifted a finger.

Modesty aside, the lunatic's shrill and cackling laughter filled the forest, her chilling inhuman scream spreading terror to all the fauna within her vicinity. She had emerged as the victor, the last woman standing within this battle of wills. Victor she maybe but her trials and tribulations have yet to end as there was one more enemy this mad woman has yet to defeat.

That singular enemy is the ground.

As the foul and vile best gasps its last grotesque breath, so too did the beast's capacity for maintaining altitude falter. There was nothing to slow down Sera's descent or anyone that might catch her as she fell downward, plummeting at breakneck speed to her imminent doom. Such was the fate of one who had acted a tad too rashly, of one who plowed half-mast into a stormy sea with nary a thought nor concern for her personal safety. Woe the poor mad woman who defied the beast's will only for her victory to be cut short through the machinations of destiny and oddly enough, through gravity and the laws of physics.

And even as she fell, a savior appears in the form of one short woman, one petite warrior that was quite familiar to Sera's eyes. Such a little thing but with such surprising strength. Sera, noticing the appearance of her savior, felt her body quickly filling up with vigor. She took a leap of faith and took a literal leap as well toward's the petite woman's general direction. Quite unbecoming of the mad paragon but this is Sera, after all, logic does not apply to someone as ridiculous as her.


 

 

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THE MISTRESS BLACK HEAD


"Oho!" the woman called to the two men as she quickened her pace to catch up to them. She was in a rather joyous mood after seeing such wonderful heroics from one of her less reasonable subordinates. Still, the Mistress did send Khakina to catch the idiot Sera in the off-chance that that woman's stupidity has reached a point where failure to plan for that lethal descent would have become a somewhat plausible conclusion. Oddly enough, her fears came true and Sera did fail to think ahead thus prompting Khaki to deal with the consequences. She only hoped that Sera would keep most of her limbs intact. This was not the first time, that blasted woman lost a limb or two during a mission but the Mistress would be against such a phenomenon becoming a rather usual thing.

Once she reached the other's the Mistress would address the two other men in their party, "Quite the spectacle wasn't it? I assure that won't happen again, judging by Sera's fall but to be safe I suggest we go on ahead."

What was the Mistress thinking? To leave her people behind? Well, whatever cunning plan she has would be better unveiled sometime in the far future. Such surprises after are best served when one did not see such developments coming. 

"No need to concern yourself," the Mistress continued, "Those two fools will just catch up later once Khaki manages to fix Sera properly."

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"Well, we're right on schedule by my current reckoning, if not a little ahead. We can spare a minute or so to wait, I would sa-"

The knight cut himself off mid-sentence as he heard the shout and subsequent approach of the Mistress, and turned to look. The third woman of the trio wasn't in sight, though Cerik supposed that she had gone off to aid Sera. A bit too resilient to die, it seemed. Or perhaps there was a god or similar powerful entity that was amused by her and lurked in the shadows to ensure she remained alive. It wasn't out of the question, Cerik recalled a particular adventurer he had met who dodged even the most guaranteed deaths one could think of, who assuredly had a higher power watching over him. Whether that was benevolence, or amusement, or both, the errant knight didn't know.

"Quite the spectacle wasn't it? ... No need to concern yourself, those two fools will catch up later once Khaki manages to fix Sera properly."

Cerik let loose a light chuckle in response to these statements before responding.

"Quite spectacular indeed. I have neither the reckless stupidity nor the lack of self-preservation instinct needed to commit to such an action myself, but I still feel the desire to applaud, if nothing else than to the fact that she lived through that. And as for getting on our way, well, you don't need to tell me twice."

He turned his head off to the side, speaking out loud still but more to himself than anything.

"A few more obstacles and delays like this one, and I'll start to wonder if dealing with those pagans in the desert will be the fastest part of this quest..."

With that, Cerik guided Stormfire onto the main road, looking behind to ensure that Iomhar and the Mistress were following before beginning to pick up pace.

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It does not take long before the leader of the female trio makes herself known to the two on the road, and the tabaxi looks on in slight confusion as she begins to speak about the prior event.

"Quite the spectacle wasn't it? I assure that won't happen again, judging by Sera's fall but to be safe I suggest we go on ahead."

Iomhar raises an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed by the announcement, but then the Mistress continues, extreme blithe shown where her companions are concerned, and really, what else is there for him to do but agree? She, of all people, would know what her subordinates can or cannot do. “If you say so,” he grumbles, looking back over his shoulder. “I’m not very keen when it comes to leaving our allies behind, but then again, we might lose time waiting around for them.” At the end of his babble, Iomhar shrugs, moves to take his place atop his pack mule.

"A few more obstacles and delays like this one, and I'll start to wonder if dealing with those pagans in the desert will be the fastest part of this quest..."

Despite himself, the tabaxi grins widely, endlessly amused by the proclamation. Seeing their leader ready himself for the road ahead, Iomhar urges his horse to follow, eyes and eyes attuned to their surroundings in case such intrusions occur once more.

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While the Mistress is busy following Iomhar and Cerik, Khaki and Sera were doing something else. Way back into the woods lies the griffin carcass, its body painfully disfigured after that debilitating fall. 

"This shit was better than I expected," Sera spat as she tried to move her body. She was in a rather bad state but can still fight. Probably.

Khakina chuckled in response. "I say,  the poor griffin's done better than you ever did. You should be thankful you survived."

"Bitch! I fucking owned that piece of shit of a griffin," Sera sneered or tried to. It was a rather bad fall and her body hasn't fully recovered from the damage she received. Perhaps she's out of the count. For now at least.

Khakina scoots towards Sera's beaten figure. There was some form of gentle power emanating from her, the mark of possible sorcery. "Now, don't move Sera. I'll need you to stay still until the healing is done."

The battered woman's face contorted in disgust. "Fuck off, Khaki! I can treat my own wounds."

"I highly doubt you but that's not the problem here."

"To hell with your fucking problems."

"Sera, the Mistress needs us. Now stop bitching and let me fix you up."

 

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While the duo of ladies bickered in that copse of trees, with the slain griffin laying lifelessly beside them, Cerik continued down the road followed by Iomhar and the Mistress. It was rather quiet as they went down the road, with only their own voices and the greetings of the odd traveler heading the other direction breaking the silence. If it hadn't been obvious before, it was now: this road did not have traffic nearly as heavy as many others throughout Terrenus. Then again, it was sensible in that regard because not many people had business in the High Desert, and not many traveled north or east out of Hell's Gate compared to those who would go south or west.

The knight errant quietly pondered a question he could ask his companions, something like his previous question about religion in order to spur conservation and relieve the growing monotony of this traveling. It seemed, however, that this would not be necessary as he heard an indistinct shout from up the road. Spurring Stormfire forward, he came in closer to listen more closely and investigate whatever may be going on.

He could make out a gang of decently armed and armored men surrounding a wagon that was now parked on the side of the road, it's front wheels broken and with a spear jammed through them. A single woman could seen on the other side of the wagon, armed with a bow and quickly leaning over the top or the sides to shoot at the men on the road and deter them from advancing. It seemed to be kind of working for the moment, but the men were slowly gaining ground. After a moment, he saw the face of the woman, and gasped quietly as he recognized it. Then, moments later, he drew forth his crossbow, loaded a bolt with practiced swiftness, and turned and looked back toward Iomhar and the Mistress, speaking quietly for a moment.

"Salida... Looks like a band of deserters, maybe from some village militia, robbing a lone merchant. Classic technique to disable the wagon, though I'm surprised they didn't kill the horses. Must be wanting to take those too."

He raised up his crossbow and took aim at the man he took to be the band's leader.

"Abandoning their posts, their duties, their oaths, and trying to forcibly take what isn't theirs... For this bunch... No mercy."

The knight released the bolt, sending it flying perfectly into the gap between the leader's helm and armor, biting deep into the neck and sending him falling lifelessly to the ground below. Then, he slung the crossbow back over his back before drawing Farcutter forth from its sheath, letting light-blue flames burst to life on the sword's silver blade before spurring Stormfire forward into a charge.

Edited by EpicRome23

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As the road stretches ever onward into the dusty horizon, Iomhar’s mind travels its own journey.

He cannot help the paths his thoughts wander, not always, and despite the pain and ache it causes deep within his ribcage, the mind is an utterly fickle thing. He tries his best to distract himself with the sights and the scenery and the steady presence of his companions around him, but to little avail: images of his past still arise behind his eyelids every time he blinks, and really, if these are what his brain can conjure, the tabaxi finds himself terrified of sleep.

Luckily, a pressing diversion presents itself in the form of a commotion further up the road, and Iomhar urges his pack mule to go faster in an attempt to catch up to the stallion raising ahead of them. They come closer to the scene of an apparent crime, Cerik explaining in low tones what he believes is unraveling before them, and a sharp jab of sympathy pierces Iomhar’s gut.

"Abandoning their posts, their duties, their oaths, and trying to forcibly take what isn't theirs... For this bunch... No mercy."

The tabaxi nods in agreement, the knight’s words fueling his righteous fury for this innocent woman fending off her attackers. As an arrow flies to hit its mark and Cerik’s sword burst into radiant blue flames, Iomhar follows close behind, electricity sparking up on the length of his arm as he draws a paw back over his head, a ball of energy forming in the cup of his palm. “Take this, you rapscallions,” he yells as he throws the orb in the direction of the closest bandit, and it connects with the gleaming armor, electrocuting him and two other men standing close enough for the lightning to spread. “You will cease and desist this horrible endeavor!”

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Say what you will of the intelligence of bandits, of those willing to stoop so low as to make their living off of taking that of others. But if nothing else, they had the intelligence to know when they were outnumbered and outmatched. A duo of bandits furthest from the broken wagon turned tail and fled from the incoming knight and sorcerer... only to be felled by well-placed arrows from the merchant woman. After all, she hired no guards and trained in the usage of every weapon she had in stock. As for the remaining bandits, they turned to face the incoming adventurers. One was felled by a swift, powerful slash from Cerik's blade, the blazing flames upon it instantly cauterizing the wound and letting no blood flow out... though that didn't matter when one was nearly bisected. Another bandit was trampled under Stormfire, unable to remove himself from the warhorse's path in time.

With their leader felled in one blow, and being completely unorganized against the adventurers attacking them, the bandits simply stood no chance. When all but one had been slain, Cerik dismounted and strode over to the last bandit, who had thrown down his weapon and pleaded for mercy. The knight responded by kicking him in the stomach and holding Farcutter inches away from the bandit's throat.

"... This one, we take with us. I have a notion of where they deserted from, and at least one of this group should face justice there as a warning to others. Iomhar, bind him while I check up on the merchant they were attacking. But first..."

He slashed with his blade, cutting off the bandit's left hand and leaving a cauterized stump behind in its place. The bandit curled up and clutched the stump, sobbing in pain and agony. Cerik had already turned around and strode over to Salida the weapons merchant, who greeted him with a warm and thankful embrace. They stepped back after a few long moments, and Cerik looked over at the wagon.

"Do you need us to help you fix that up? We do have little bit of a timetable we need to stick to, but we can easily spare the time to help you."

Salida smiled and shook her head.

"It's okay, Cerik. Continue on your quest, I can take care of the wagon. And well, as for any further threats, surely you've already cleared out everything along the road on your way here?"

Cerik laughed and smiled widely, bidding Salida a fond farewell before returning to Iomhar and the Mistress.

"Alright. If you've got that bandit secure, let us be on our way. I still want us to get every minute of nightfall that we can, just in case."

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The drums of battle call, and Iomhar is their willing captive.

He grins, feral and wild, as a few bandits try to run away from the group but are ultimately stopped by arrows piercing through the wind. To be quite truthful, he is even pleasantly surprised at the merchant woman’s spunk; it is uncommon to find one as well-versed in battle as they are in business.

All too soon, the rampage ends with one lone bandit left standing, and the tabaxi watches as Cerik looms over the fallen man, blade held mere inches from his throat.

"... This one, we take with us. I have a notion of where they deserted from, and at least one of this group should face justice there as a warning to others. Iomhar, bind him while I check up on the merchant they were attacking. But first..."

Iomhar’s eyebrows climb to his hairline at the sight of the virtuous knight cutting off the man’s hand off like it had been nothing, the tiniest slight. A small curl of pity rises in him, quickly squashed before it translates into action; it had been Cerik who had done such an act, not himself, and so he is to simply pick up the slack.

“Okay, okay, calm down, boy,” he murmurs at the bandit as he conjures a rope from his satchel and begins to wrap it around exposed limbs to restrain the man. From the corner of his eye, he sees Cerik and the merchant woman embrace—well, now, that’s interesting!—and exchange a few words before the knight returns to the group.

"Alright. If you've got that bandit secure, let us be on our way. I still want us to get every minute of nightfall that we can, just in case."

The aforementioned bandit whimpers in response, and Iomhar wordlessly shakes his head, carefully slinging the man on top of his pack mule like fragile luggage. Once he is back atop his horse, the tabaxi sends Cerik a curious, innocent look. “So, that woman—you know her? You seemed all the more vigorous, defending her from these evil miscreants.”

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It seemed that both her allies had everything under control, leaving the Mistress time to worry about her poor idiots. Those dumbfucks were left behind because of their absurdity and now the Mistress missed them. For a second at least.

Moving on, the Mistress inspected the bandits and the merchant woman. It seems that Cerik may have some relations with this peculiar mercantile female but the Mistress has no idea what kind of relationship the two had. Not that she cared but any form of knowledge, even if it is just pointless gossip, was always beneficial in one form or another.

This notion she kept stored in that large brain of hers where most of the information and data she has gathered were wont to be contained. Forever hidden until the day of their reckoning comes when the opportunity to make use of such juicy knowledge will give the Mistress some form of an edge. It pays to be prepared and the Mistress was a well-prepared woman.

With the bandit secured, the Mistress followed the two other men. There was a rather bemused look on her face as she leered at Cerik. "I too am a bit interested with the story between you two."

 

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“So, that woman—you know her? You seemed all the more vigorous, defending her from these evil miscreants.”

"I too am a bit interested with the story between you two."

Cerik had had his attention turned to the road ahead, not expecting his traveling attentions to be so curious or probe more deeply into the matter. He was actually a bit taken aback, and sat atop Stormfire's back for a few silent moments. Then, he removed his helm and turned Iomhar and the Mistress with an eyebrow raised.

"Really now, both of you are so interested in gossip? It's... not really all that big of a deal. Her name is Salida, and she's a weapons merchant who I can count among the women I've, ah, spent quality time with. There's a reason I mentioned that whole 'no vow of celibacy' thing in our discussion earlier, you know. But anyways, I loathe deserters, I loathe banditry, and I absolutely loathe anyone who tries to hurt those I know and care for. Suffice to say that the vigor of my fighting was a result of this bunch happening to hit all three of those factors."

He smiled for a brief moment before replacing his helm on his head and returning his gaze to the road again.

"Now, onwards to the desert's edge. We might actually get to rest for a couple of hours if we keep up this pace and don't hit too many more distractions. Or obstacles, I suppose you could call them."

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Never let it be said that Iomhar has never perfected a mischievous Cheshire grin. What sort of half-hearted tabaxi do you take him for?

“Gossip, truly? It’s such a horrible word; I prefer it be called interest in my employer’s interests,” he chuckles, stroking his horse’s mane as he listens to the knight’s offered explanation. It’s altogether refreshing, this show of humanity from someone who had seemed so untouchable, a shining paragon of truth and bravery and what-not. Iomhar shrugs his shoulders, takes a moment to share a weirdly amused look with the tied-up bandit he’s lugging around at the back of his horse.

"Now, onwards to the desert's edge. We might actually get to rest for a couple of hours if we keep up this pace and don't hit too many more distractions. Or obstacles, I suppose you could call them."

He nods, then, a thoughtful expression replacing the teasing from before; back to business, then. “Yes, yes, of course,” Iomhar smiles, waving a paw in the direction of the road stretching out beyond them. “Shall we?”

Once they continue on in their journey, it does not take long before they begin to encounter signs of their changing environment. The treeline begins to taper off, and the air begins to warm with the beginnings of desert heat. Iomhar merely whistles a merry tune, bobbing his head to some made-up rhythm.

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