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Ataraxy

dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same

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Location: Landonia

It was a single airship, single but mighty. The Invictus Nova brought death, and hope in equal measure. Death to the beseigers of Landonia, hope to its defenders. Although not the most advanced warship in the Order of Force Majeure's arsenal, it was the largest, a weapons platform dedicated to creating a dominate presence in any theater of war it was brought to. 

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It was more akin to a sea-going dreadnought given flight then any airship commonly used by other nations or ordos, the sleek lines of its Kadian origin-keel broken up by even more esoteric attachments and technological advancements. Streaks of light flew from the vessel in a magnificent broadside and arched through the sky, targeting particularly thick clusters of the undead army, missiles ripping into them like the fury of an angry sky god.

No ordnance flew anywhere near the defenders, and they still had to fight for their lives against the horde immediately before them, but they might take heart that they were alone no more. There would be an end up the masses that assaulted them, for as the ship closed and poured forth more fire from the heavens, the deluge of the undead would begin to gutter out.

@Sir Nathaniel

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The sight of the airship loosing its firepower and blowing hundreds of cadavers to smithereens lifted the spirits of the defenders, providing the Watchers leader in particular with a huge morale boost. With that, he began to redouble his efforts to rally the Landonian troops. What few corpses remained on the ground were steadily mowed down by his blade or by the footmen, or were crushed by war machines firing off one last salvo. 

A further ten minutes of hard fighting and the last of the main force was all but obliterated. Everywhere Nathan looked, there were corpses; truly dead corpses littering the ground, ten thick in some places. Further, beyond the bridge, whatever remained of the enemy host was scattered and fleeing. A Company of cavalry rushed after them, putting any who lagged to the sword. 

He would let the living enemy troops have a reprieve, once they had passed beyond range of the archers and machines. They would bring word of this defeat to Lillith. Furthermore, he saw no need to turn this into a massacre. 

For now, he contented himself with watching his men and their allies gather up the fallen to be placed in pyres for burning. It had been a hard fought victory, but it was worth it. All of the Watchers had acquitted themselves well on the battlefield. And of course, the Landonians showed that the living could win against impossible odds. A city had been saved. Best of all, it showed there was still a chance for survival, if not victory. 

Therein came a new set of problems. The city was safe, but others across the continent were being overrun. The Watchers could not be everywhere at once, even with their ship. 

The idea came just like that, along with a sudden desire to thank their new friends. 

Just as Max began to set fire to the first pile, Nathan leaped up onto the nearest building. With a grin, he waved up at the airship above the city. 

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In the aftermath of the battle, the airship floated overhead the city battlements imperiously. Observers would be able to see a dropship of Terrenian design disembarking and flying down from the Invictus Nova

After it landed, from that dropship would appear eight most curious soldiers. Each one was dressed in silvered full-plate, adorned with a harness of ammunition and other weaponry, and each bore a poleaxe specifically sized for them, of varying designs as well, some having a longer spike, a broader blade, or curved bill. 

Two of the halberds had more ornamentation, and pennants flying upon them, and their owners stepped forth. One removed his helm, revealing a shock of red hair framing a chiseled visage. The other remained faceless, allowing the unmasked to take the lead in speech. Both stood at the ready, a combination of proud warrior and ambassadors.

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"I am Gideon Barbaras, Guardian of the Order of Force Majeure, Custodes Militant. I seek an audience with whomever is in command"

Edited by Fierach

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Lke before with Lord Gerold, Gods rest his soul, Nathan thought, the Watchers stood at attention and waited behind their leader. With one smooth motion, he sheathed his sword and fixed his posture. 

"I am Sir Nathaniel Jameson, leader of the Watchers team. With the unfortunate death of Lord Gerold, it falls upon me to act as commander of the defenders here." 

Nathan was using his "diplomatic, noncommittal tone for this conversation. His face was a mask; his expression unreadable. While it need not be said he wasn't ungrateful for the Order's assistance, experience had taught him to keep his emotions in check. Nevertheless, there was the ghost of a smile on his lips as he watched the soldiers march in perfect formation. A part of him admired their discipline and training. 

"By the authority vested in me by the good people of Landonia, I extend my greetings and give my heartfelt gratitude for your aid."

Edited by Sir Nathaniel

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"Well met" Gideon replied simply. As one, the postures of the Custodes relaxed, and their representative went on. "The Watchers? We had heard that you were operating in this theatre of war. How fare your numbers now? The loss of Lord Gerold of Steelsward is a heavy blow, but will the Landonians be able to hold without him?"

Gideon looked past Nathaniel, eyeing the condition of the rest of the Watchers, and of the remaining Landonians in particular. They had turned back one attack, at great cost, but Gideon didn't fancy their chances with a second, and the Force Majeure airship was too useful an asset to keep static in one place. "The Force Majeure had sent us to strike one of the foe's bases of power at Hungary when we detected Landonia's distress and came with all speed." He wanted to know what their intentions were next, perhaps they could coordinate.

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Parrish

The house she entered moment after arriving in Parrish reeked of wealth and spoils. All assortment were there, varying from majestic gems to masterpieces in artwork and literature. It all went up in flames. Dark, corrupted, black flames that ate everything in its path except its mistress whom walked among them freely. Their blasphemous glare whispered across her face, flicking miraculous shadows everywhere they went. 

A boy and his mother huddled in a corner, her arm wrapped protectively around him as the father stood in front of them. Sword at the ready. And though his legs trembled in unsightly terror, the look of determination and hatred boiling in his glare hardened his stance. His resolve. The father's eyes told Lilith that he knew his death was coming, but he would make it so she followed with. 

A foolish thought. Brave, but foolish. 

Her steps toward them were slow, though not drawn out. She had no intention of making them suffer. What did she care for the state of their being? It was the stone she wanted. The Stone of Life. 

"Where is the stone?" Her voice came out cold. Perhaps it would have been refreshing in the heat of her flames had it not been so heavily dripping in menace. Before the man could answer her with a useless denial, Lilith snarled. "The Stone of Life, mortal." He shook his head. Apparently his words had escaped him or his tongue had simply decided to stop working. The necromancer reached out with her bare left hand and tendrils of invisible magic spread forward, knocking the father aside and grabbing hold of the mother. The magic tightened around the woman's pale neck so that despite its status of invisibility, a clear denting could be seen pushing in the skin. "I won't ask again. Refuse me again, and you all die. I will find it on my own." 

It's presence was powerful, but without actually have the crown first tracking it down was rather difficult. Impossible? No. Difficult while she was waging a large scale war? Most certainly. 

"It's..." the man began to say, but then a tattoo upon his arm lit up and whatever he was going to say distorted itself into a gurgle of soundless words. Lilith frowned and, with no small amount of magic drawn from the Genesari Soul Stone, shattered whatever curse or restraint was on the man. 

The shattered tattoo fell to the ground in what looked like shards of glass, reforming itself into a stone only slightly smaller than the Soul Stone she'd embedded into the gauntlet of Zengi. 

"Ah. No wonder it was giving off a weird aura," she mumbled, striding over to snatch it from the ground, already having forgotten about the woman hanging in the air. Dying. The crying child in the corner. Horrified. The man clutching his arm and crawling to his family. Despairing. 

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Parrish, defenders

It had been hours of scouting after a fruitless loop of recording hell to try to get a living sapient being at the PRIME's office.

Aveline makes triple-sure the ten .50 BMG rounds in the magazine currently in her Barrett M82 rifle are fully-expanding. These are made especially for killing big monsters like dragons, hydras, manticores, griffons, and the like, and there are few monsters bigger than Lilith Reiter and her paragons.

Vivian and Nadia halt suddenly as the scents of decay and corruption hit their massive olfactory bulbs, and immediately turn to its source. Thurgood raises his spotting scope just in time to see the back of somebody that looks kind of like Lilith maybe?

"What is it?" Aveline asks.

"Kinda looked like Lilith stepping into a house down there," Thurgood replies.

"Do ya really think it was Lilith?"

"No, prob'ly one of her paragons. Either way, it's a target."

So Thurgood, Aveline, Vivian, and Nadia get to a scouted sniping position with a direct line on the door of that particular house. Thurgood takes out his spotting scope again, with a laser rangefinder taped to it, and gets a range of 735 yards to the door frame. Aveline puts that into a ballistic calculator app on her phone, along with the size and mass of the round, humidity, elevstion, current temperature, Valucre's size and rotation speed, to get aset of basic scope corrections, which she turns her elevation and windage drum to. Thurgood keeps watching the door as the purple flames erupt, confirming that the recent entrant is indeed a target. Aceline gets her scope set to 600 yards for magnification, and now both look for indicators of wind speed at the target area.

Vivian and Nadia have taken positions overlooking the approach points, with pistols drawn and ready to fire.

Now it's a waiting game...

@Ataraxy

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Ankou had felt the surge of energy from the Soul Stones almost immediately, and had opened a portal to go to Lilith's location. Though logically he knew that she could handle most anything that troubled her, a more emotional part of him couldn't help but worry. Lilith had started out as a curiosity to him, but had grown into something akin to a granddaughter to him. The thought of her being hurt in anyway made him hurt in ways entirely knew to him. But as he exited the portal, he found that his assumption had been correct, and she had found her prize.

"So you found it."

The necromancer looked at the scene before him, the woman held in the air, the child crying, the man desperately trying to make his way to them. On a whim, he summoned the mind stone and exerted his will over the family. In an instant, their minds were his to shape as he saw fit. 

"Bow to your goddess."

Silently, the father and child lowered themselves before Lilith. The mother, still hanging in the air, tried her best to do the same; awkwardly bending at the waste in an effort to fulfill the command. Curiosity sated, he turned back to his leader.

"What now? Shall we depart? Or will you test your new power."

@notmuch_23 @Ataraxy

Edited by danzilla3

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Defenders, Landonia.


"Our numbers consist of myself and my knights: Max, Gale, Arthur and Elias." Nathan gestured to the Landonian troops still standing and gathering the dead. "Our numbers now are less than when this great assault started - but still great enough to challenge battle should there be another."

Behind Nathan, Max had just finished lighting the last of the corpse piles - his enhanced strength and healing had allowed him to recover his full potential in considerably less time than any normal man. No doubt though, he would be wanting a massive meal once they had a chance. Battle had drained him and there was too little sunlight to draw power from. 

"The Order of Force Majeure?" He murmured, almost to himself. "The threat must be great indeed."

"Yes." Said Arthur with a snort. "How fortunate for the good people of Nu Martyr that they have such keen eyed eagles standing vigil over their gates." His tone was sarcastic - and he opened his mouth as if to give another quip but a silent, angry glare from Nathan silenced him. When the Watcher's leader turned back to Gideon, his expression had softened.

"I believe together, our chance for survival increases. Our next objective was to strike Hungary and attempt to disrupt the enemy's forces. With the use of our airship, though I have another idea in mind." He turned to his men. "I want the four of you to head over with our friends to their objective. I will take our ship on an... errand."

The other Watchers looked at him as if he had gone insane. Arthur was the first to speak up.

"But Jameson, you're our leader. We need you." This time, his tone was sincere. "The defenders need you."

"And in my absence, you, Arthur will lead." Nathan replied. Before his compatriots could interrupt, he raised his hand. "I will return to you as soon as I am able. I give you my word."

"So where are you going off to then?" Gale asked. "Should you not be heading to the fight?"

"Plenty of fight to go around, Gale." Nathan said, clenching his fists. His eyes started to take on their blue glowing tint. "I intend to take this battle to Lilith herself."

That got everyone's attention. Even the Landonian troops stopped what they were doing and listened. 

"Master, have you taken leave of your senses? She's a sorceress of incredible power!" Max cried. "Attacking her head on alone is suicide!"

"Not with what I have planned." Nathan replied calmly. "Please understand; I have to do this alone. All of you are to head to Hungary and disrupt the enemy's forces." With more force of his own, he barked. "That's an order."

Reluctantly, each of them nodded - then walked towards the Invictus Nova - and all but Arthur did not look back. For just a moment, it looked as if he wanted to speak but could not find the words. With a slow shake of his head, he joined his comrades. Nathan would long remember the stare he gave. Was it sadness? Grief? Rage? Or was it fear of the possibility his closest friend might be rushing to his death?

With that, Nathan offered his hand to Gideon. "Take care of my men. They are the bravest, most dependable fighters I have ever known. Every one of them. Go with my thanks - and with luck. I go to strike the head of the enemy."

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xxEA2D6.jpgConnor chuckled at the PRIME’s words, there almost seemed to be a patronizing tone to it. “Indestructible, how quaint.” He said, offering the man a small smile of pity. How many times had he heard such things, especially from Champions of Corruption during the Harrowing? When the Dark Gods’ influence was far more...palpable. “There is no such thing as Indestructible, certainly not in this world.” He said, his voice becoming serious. “Myths often speak of such things, and certainly; it could be quite close to the truth. No, it merely requires more effort, an understanding of its properties and metaphysical resonance.” He paused. “Alas, I don’t have the time to lecture you on magical theory.”

Not that they had the time had he truly intended to.

He doubted it had anything to do with “dark powers” in why Lilith could locate the crown, and more to do with her own understanding of magic. He was certain if he deigned to do so, he could locate it. He had never been the superstitious sort. He considered for a moment, which of his own relics he would chose to sacrifice to destroy the crown, it would be a small thing to lose; a trinket he could replace with enough time and effort. “In any case, you would do well to solidify your defense, just in case.” He warned, settling cold green eyes on Ardon.

He had a feeling the crown would inevitably find its way into Lilith’s hands, he could only hope they would bloody her nose. If he didn’t do so first.

His attention turned to Tenkai when the monk addressed him. “The Divinity of lesser gods can be mimicked if you know the proper frequency of its resonance, and have a similar depth of power.” He said, almost chidingly. “It would take time, but it can be done.” especially if it was me, the unspoken words hung in the air. The authority was more than just some force that ground down the likes of magic, it was merely one application of its infinite possibilities. Not that any of them could truly understand it, lacking in the truth of the nature of Kadian faith. “For someone who has never seen or touched the crown, she certainly seems to know an awful lot about it.” He pointed out nonchalantly. “That’s something to consider, no?”

“Keeping it around is also a folly, a less manageable one at that, mind. Should we stop her here, there will be others, and such destruction will continue to happen.” He shrugged. “Its because she is toying with us, in truth I sincerely doubt we are much of a matter in her eyes, and it's already shown to that the Renovatian forces are proving to be of little threat to her goal.” He noted for good measure. “If they had been, she would have already revealed some of her hand by now,” Connor had expected better. Though it could be said that his standards were far from conventional, a decade in the Sea of Corruption tends to warp how one views the quality of military might.

“So be it.” Connor said with a nod. “My fleet will be arriving with a force of a thousand Kadian elites.” He said with a wave of his hand. “Five hundred shall hold the front, along with me. Two groups of two hundred-and-fifty shall reinforce and rally the forces at Ralrome and Algany for a flanking attack. Should I have the distinct pleasure of meeting this Lilith, I will do her the benevolent favor of returning her back to her grave.” That was if Tenkai did not have the first chance to do so. In truth he could care less about whether the crown was kept out of her hands or if she was cut down, he was only here to mitigate the damage.

“Hah, a predictable outcome.” He said after the Greatsword delivered his report. “Well, at the very least those shambling mockeries of life will provide plenty of target practice for my men.” He said in a cavalier manner. “Ardon, it would be wise you call in support from the Zodiac knights and prepare your defenses here. We can’t be doing all the work, now can we?” He said as he began walking towards the doors. “Ah, and a bit of advice for the future. Don’t announce when you’ve found a powerful relic of some deity, especially before you understand its power, yes?” He left with a light wave, mockery all but dripping from his person.


-------

The Kadian Fleet cut through the air, the sharp designs of each ship created a sword-like profile that was as graceful as it was threatening. It was an impressive display of five battleships centered amongst their own contingent of frigates, destroyers, and cruisers. It was a minimal display of naval power on part of Kadia, but it was certainly one not to be taken lightly, as each contingent was more than capable of laying waste to any one of the cities as easily as the undead scourge that was now plaguing the region. Scout ships flitted forward in various directions and altitudes to assess any threats that may or may not be on an interception course.

Connor sat upon the command throne of his battleship, the Divine Right; perhaps the most advanced and deadly ship to dominate the skies of Valucre. Like the sword of Damocles it hung over Renovatio’s head, ready to judge and sever the life beneath it. “Taurus fleet, push to Ralrome and begin disembarking the elites to reinforce the soldiers there. Heracles Fleet, do the same with Algany. The Holy Father guide your bolts, and give no quarter to the enemy, even should they surrender, gentlemen.” He said, the carefree attitude displayed earlier in the meeting with Ardon and Tenkai long replaced by one more befitting of a ruler.

With a brisk confirmation from each Admiral, the vox channels between the three fleets were cut, and the ships adjusted their courses to take a wide path around Parrish.

“We move on Parrish, Kadians.” He began, his voice filling the vox casts of his fleet with a stentorian regality that could very well have matched his father. “The enemy has seen fit to raise the dead and make a mockery of the purity of man, an affront we will not tolerate. They seek to raze as much of this region down as they can in pursuit of the Crown of Asteria, we will deny them at Parrish; and rebuke them for their sins against or ally.” He stated with a force that was almost palpable, easily galvanizing the men and women who served in the fleet. “Let us show them why the Aravians fear us, why the Dark Gods and their petty Champions quake at the very mention of the Dauntless Sons.”

He said, pride filling his voice and the hearts of his soldiers.

“We head for Parrish, where we will hold the line with the Force Majeure like we have done many times during the Harrowing. Let’s see to it the damage does not spread beyond what it already has, as is our duty to all of mankind.” He stated before cutting the mass vox broadcast. He opened a line directly to Engine Control. “Engage main thrusts and push to the coordinates I sent you with full speed.” He said. “Affirmative, your highness!” Came the quick reply as the ship began to gain speed, cutting sharply through the air before leaving behind a shockwave that rattled the air as it began its full forward momentum.

Edited by Alexei

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@Sir Nathaniel

Gideon was vaguely annoyed by the other Watcher's insult, but it was one of his fellows who expressed his scorn privately over their internal comms.

"Perhaps we should have been so keen-eyed as to have left them to their fates and continued on our mission"

The Guardian Sergeant silenced him with an almost imperceptible movement of his head, and a tap of a finger on his left side. The other soldier shut up immediately, and as the rest of the spectacle played out, they were as silent observers. To Gideon, the Watchers could be as rude as they liked, they had just been through a fierce, and trying battle, and it was ultimately not up to the Custodes to avenge any slights against the honor of the Order of Force Majeure. No, the Knights did that, if they were so inclined. 

"I'm sure they'll do you proud" Gideon replied at the last, taking the other man's hand in handshake, and he looked over at Arthur, making sure to raise his voice so that the rest of the Watchers could hear what he was going to say next. "Although I doubt you will be alone. Our master goes to strike at Lilith as well..." he paused. He would have also added "alone" to be dramatic, but that wasn't really true. Knight Tenkai Matsumoto took his personal frigate a good portion of the other Custodes in the theatre along with him, even if he did intend to face Lilith in single combat. "If you should meet him, I am sure Knight Matsumoto will welcome you to the battle"

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"Duly noted." Nathan said, giving the other man a nod. With that, he gave a slight smile. "I can only hope your Commander leaves some of the fun for me. Do not mind Arthur, he is a good man - and an excellent fighter. He simply needs learn to control his tongue better. Regardless of his mouth, I can think of no better man to lead my team. With all that I am, I am truly thankful for your intervention. I hope we meet again - at the victory feast, celebrating the Cult's utter defeat."

And I hope you raise a glass in my memory should this mission fail. Nathan thought as he turned away and headed back to his ship. Despite his brave face, Nathan knew there was a very good chance he was walking to his death. That notion did not bother him though. Death was a constant companion in his line of work - its shadow loomed over him every time he threw himself into the fight. The only thing he could hope for was that his actions made the world just a little better - that he could drag as many of his foes down with him as possible - and that after he drew his last breath he could reunite with his loved ones in Paradise.

As Nathan strapped himself into the command seat of the ship, activated the controls and started off on his departure, he decided a little speech might be in order. Patching into the Vox frequency on an open channel through the communications headset, he cleared his throat and sent out a broadcast to any that might be listening.

"Citizens of Nu Martyr, this is Sir Nathaniel Jameson, leader of the Watchers team. I send this message to you from a liberated Landonia. This is not the end. Barely a day ago, the Cult of Power entered your country. They came not as friends and equals, but as murderers and would-be conquerors. They have mercilessly slain many of your citizens and enslaved their corpses in service to their dark leader, Lilith. No doubt many of you have lost friends, comrades and loved ones. They believed you would be easily defeated. That you would surrender to despair - that you would be like animals to the slaughter.'

'We have proven them wrong. Twice now, the Watchers have assisted your defense forces in decimating their armies. You have fought them at Parish, at Landonia, at Hungary and Kadia. Your living countrymen are still fighting now. Even as I speak, the enemy is approaching your cities. They will soon be in your homes, on your streets and your rooftops, roaming the underbelly of your cities. To all those who still live - to all refugees and to the brave defenders, I say to you the same thing I tell my comrades as they move on to the next battle: Keep fighting. The enemy corpses will not falter, but should we cut off the head of the snake - the body will die. Target any living enemy commanders and the hordes will crumble. If all of you do your duty to your country, I know in my heart we can win. Hold out as long as you are able - then take a rest - then stand and fight more. Keep fighting - I promise, you will prevail.'

'To our enemies in the Cult of Power, I say this - you have come here to die. The Watchers are here and we are invincible. Our swords and spears wait to rip you to shreds. Our Magic will tear your bodies and souls asunder. The veterans of the War in Iselyr await to add you to their tally. We have prevailed against ruthless enemies before - the Leviathan, Leraje, even a King of Hell itself, Beleth has fallen before our might. You cannot win. Will not win. So long as even one of my men stands against you, you will never be victorious!'

'And to Lilith, I say this... make ready your defenses; for I am coming for you.'"

 

And with that, his ship's engines roared to life - and it was off in a flash at full speed.

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