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Ataraxy

kick names, take ass [Airship]

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On the outskirts of Strider City, a lone woman leaned casually against the frame of a wooden post. The odd thing was, however, that the wooden post belonged some feet away as it had previously been used to hold up the Traveler Restaurant's rafters. Now it was instead being used as a makeshift spear, a broken branch so often used to stick a pig. Except what it poked out of wasn't a stick. It was a man. A drunk man at that. The sight of his belt buckle being undone and pants unzipped as if he'd been sure of his score tonight was in stark contrast to the pure terror that filled his eyes and contorted his expression. 

The wooden post was gutting him. Stabbed in his midsection, just to the right of his spine. Lilith had half a mind to kill the man right there. There was just something about drunk men and their consistent inability to determine whether or not she'd be an easy target that never failed to annoy her. Any dimwit with have a brain could feel the intense power that rolled off her, power that originated from each of the three continents in mass quantities. But not drunken men. Or drunken women for that matter, though Lilith found herself in situations like these with women much less. 

There was just something about the fact that they were male and drunk and in the middle of no where that incentive them to try forcing their will on her. On Her. It was so ridiculous it was nearly funny. She almost laughed. 

Almost

And, yet, she resisted the urge. Not out of kindness or pity for the mortal insect that had stirred her wrath, but because she'd recruited a healer for today. She doubted the healer had any intention in becoming one of her Paragons, but something had told her a healer would come in handy during this trip. With the Soul Stone Lilith could do much and control life in general, but healing others had always been a skill that alluded her. Especially in physical wounds. She tended to do more harm than anything else, even when she bothered to try doing otherwise. 

Lilith didn't spare another look at the stabbed man nor did she care to watch the life drain from his eyes; there was no pleasure in killing him. It had simply been something necessary. Obstacles needed to be removed. With a small tuck, she pulled back a few loose strands of light brown hair behind an ear and walked into restaurant.

@Song Sprite

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Her healer arrived somewhat late, wiping blood from his hands with a rag, which he tossed into a wastebasket as he entered the restaurant. Normally Winter was a model of punctuality, especially for a job interview, but he couldn't very well call himself a healer if he walked past a dying man in the street without lending a hand. The poor human had been at death's door, stabbed by robbers no doubt, some kind of ruffians with extraordinary strength. Once healed, he had run off into the night without a word of thanks, obviously frightened out of his wits.

Lingering in the doorway as he finished cleaning his hands, he surveyed the evening crowd, trying to spot his new employer.

He was short, for an Elf. Were it not for the slender pointed ear tips poking out past his cropped white hair, he might easily have been mistaken for a human labourer, for he dressed like one, and had the muscle mass to play the part. Long years spent working in Blairville's mines, a lifetime ago, had given him that, along with his relaxed mannerisms. The gun at his hip was a more recent acquirement, something he'd picked up during one of his first stints as an airship medic, but he wore it just as comfortably as his casual, working-class human clothing.

Singling Lilith out as the most likely candidate, he made his way over to her and offered his hand. "You must be Lilith. Winter, at your service."

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Ah, the handshake. 

The classic mortal welcoming. Despite growing up surrounded by normal humans and their customs, Lilith had never quite grasped the point of shaking hands. There was the theory that it demonstrated one did not pose harm, though that mainly applied to the grabbing of forearms. And Lilith was, if nothing else, always a threat. Would that, then, imply she was lying in the action?

It didn't much matter in the end since Lilith ignored the hand and motioned for Winter to take a seat across from her. One thing that struck her as particularly pleasant about the male is that he did not pose his curiosity as a question like most of his brethren might have. She wasn't in a foul mood, though the quest for her cornerstone had been quite the challenge. Rather she was feeling particularly upbeat, an emotion she rarely basked in. 

But questions were the one thing she felt difficult to tolerate. Lately she'd been more... lenient with mortals questioning her, though how long that leniency would last, no one knew. 

"I am indeed," she answered, leaning into her chair's cushioned back. "How much were you told about what we're going to be doing today?"

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Dropping his hand without taking offence, Winter offered a brief bow instead, and then took the indicated seat, lounging back in his chair. Despite his sturdy figure, he moved with the grace of the Veldamari people, catlike and poised.

As a magic user himself, he could clearly sense Lilith's radiating power. Darkness and death hovered over her like a cloud. It wasn't the most promising first impression of his employer, even though the red-eyed creature was undeniably beautiful in her own strange way.

Setting aside further analysis of her powers for another time, he answered, "Almost nothing, I'm afraid. Just that there would be a job that might be suited to my skills. I assume you're looking for a healer, although I also have experience in combat, and I'm not adverse to hard labour either. What do you have in mind?"

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Well, he was certainly correct in that she needed a healer for this mission. Though not for herself.

Still, the question was how much she should tell him. Considering how Winter was not a Paragon certain parts of the mission were beyond his clearance. But letting him go in dark was not an option- not where they were going. Even if she wanted to keep in the dark the elf would likely figure it all out as they approached the first city. He probably suspected part of her plan already anyways. 

Raising one hand to run her index finger along the circular edge of her glass, the snow white of her skin almost gleaming in the glass' reflective surface, Lilith sighed. What a habit to pick up. She pushed the glass away. "We're going to infiltrate Strider City," Lilith answered, not bothering to lower her volume. Not much the vagabonds in this rundown tavern could do even if they knew her designs. "There's a man in there named Stephan Barlova. An ex-airship pilot. And captain, I believe. He has information concerning the Clockwork Grind, an airship that I intend to acquire. Unfortunately it's location has been lost to time and to death thanks to Whispernight and other mage storms." A pause. Not a pause to think but a pause to test Winter's attention. To see whether he truly understood the length they would have to travel and go in order to obtain something so powerful and enigmatic. "Fortunately, it seems that Stephan came across it a few years back." Lilith shrugged. "It's a lead. But, and here's where you come in, I need him alive. I'm going to need a lot of people to stay alive that, without you and just me, will probably end up dead."

It was hard to always make sure not to fully squash the ants underfoot. 

Edited by Ataraxy

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Winter tilted his head, thinking about it. "Well, keeping people alive is something I'm good at. What's so special about this airship?" He signalled the bartender for an ale while they continued their discussion. Overall, the job sounded like it was a treasure hunt. He had no particular interest in treasure for himself, but it was something to keep him busy, at any rate. Boredom was the constant foe of the quiet, unassuming Elf. Too many bad memories that tended to creep to the surface. "I don't mind picking up the pieces after a fight, but I won't be party to torture," he added. He'd had one job offer for an information guild that amounted to putting people back together so they could be torn apart again, and he had no stomach for that sort of work.

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"You won't need to be," she replied, waving off the worry. "By the end my interaction with them, there won't be a need for torture. Only they might not be able to speak. It is often times difficult to judge how much damage some mortals can bare before they break. I cannot risk accidentally killing or muting someone who holds the information I require." 

As the bartender returned with some ale for Winter, Lilith couldn't help but chuckle. As if she'd need to torture someone to force answers from them. The Soul Stone upon her gauntlet gleamed at that, as if joining in her snickering. In her experience the simple threat of what she could and would do, had much better results than simply doing them off the bat. If your arm was cut off, you couldn't fear having your arm cut off. It was already off. Fear was a much stronger motivator than pain.

Her lips curled at the question and her fingers twitched toward her sword, but she relaxed both almost immediately. She used to just kill beings that posed question to her for the mere disrespect of believing themselves capable of questioning her. But lately she'd discovered there was a power in restraint and weakness in a lack of self control. So instead she tilted her head and quirked an eyebrow, almost surprised. "I'm surprised you live in Genesaris but have not heard the tales of the Clockwork Grind. It is the only airship in known existence whose existence rivals the airships of the High Lords of old."

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Winter's face stayed neutral, but at the sight of Lilith's snarl, he inwardly raised his eyebrows. He couldn't think how his question might have offended her: after all, they were here to discuss the particulars of the proposed job. And if there was no reason for her anger, then that left mental instability - certainly not an ideal trait for an employer, or indeed for anyone with so much raw power. Hopefully he would be able to mitigate whatever ill effects this would produce, at least until the job was completed.

Setting down his ale after taking a long drink from it, Winter spread his open hands. "I haven't lived here all that long. Terrenus was my home for most of my life. I'm afraid that there are many aspects of Genrsarin culture and history which remain unknown to me. Perhaps once our errand is complete I will visit a library, and remedy that fact." He spoke cheerfully, and it was difficult to say whether or not his conclusion was in jest.

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Lilith laughed. It was a rare laugh and held a good amount of darkened humor to it, but the laugh was genuine all the same. It had been a long good while since she'd encountered a stranger who'd look her in the eyes and not fear her. Winter had even joked with her. At least Lilith took it as a joke. The company she held wasn't exactly a room of comedians. The true laughter did nothing to lighten the heavy corrosive aura her, but it did play nicely with the contours of her face and high cheek bones. The necromancer wasn't exactly a beauty and was more likely to make a man run in terror at the death in her eyes than stand at attention, but there was an evil attraction about her. Like a seductress whom wielded all that you wanted but could never have, with the promise of more. 

The upward curl of her lips was a stark contrast to the darker persona, showing what her looks might have been had her being not been so corrupted all those winters ago. 

She looked at her mug of ale, untouched and still, then flickered her gaze back to Winter. "Sometimes being naive of dangers in the world is better than being aware of them." For Winter in this particular moment, not knowing who Lilith was, what she had done, what she could, and what she planned to do was probably for the best lest the poor elf find in himself a desire to try fighting her. Lilith shrugged and stood, not bothering to cast another look toward her untouched ale. The liquid crutch. "Libraries are a fine tool, but the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

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Winter offered a friendly smile as Lilith laughed, although the contrast between the light-hearted sound and the darkness of the creature's aura as somewhat unsettling. Standing as well, he placed a few coins on the table to cover the drinks. "A wise philosophy," he agreed. "If not always the easiest to put into practice. Are we leaving tonight?"

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Lilith's grin was toothy and a little teasing, as if she'd been waiting for it. She clicked her tongue and her head shook so that loose strands of brown hair slapped across her face. "Tonight? No, Winter. We're leaving right now. The night guards are never as lax as the day guards. Better to take then by surprise." Another grin. Not feral or disingenuous, just... Odd on such a dark visage.

Leading them out of the tavern, Lilith approached a pair of magitech cycles she'd "borrowed" from a passing group of men in leather jackets. "Can you ride? We're heading that way," she pointed east toward Stride City. We'll stop a good mile or so away, but with the incoming winds there should be enough sand around the city to obscure any vision that long."

Probably.

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"I've never had the pleasure, but don't worry; I'm a quick study," he assured her. "I've piloted many stranger things."

True to his word, once he had been shown the basic mechanics of the bikes he was able to manage the little craft as smoothly as though he had been riding them all his life. He tied a scarf tightly over his nose and mouth to keep out the sand, and put on a pair of goggles to protect his eyes, wordlessly offering Lilith a second pair.

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Silently she took his offered goggles and slipped them on, sparing the elf a nod of appreciation. As unlikely as it was for her to need protection of any kind against mere sand, the world of Valucre held many powers still that could harm her. Many disguised as such things like 'mere sand.' Once they were on she took a second them to adjust them, flipping the bands from on her ears to above and maneuvering it so the bridge sat a little higher on her nose. 

Without another word she pushed a bit if magic into the bike, turned the key still inserted, and was welcomed by a low and gracious growl from its engine. She kicked up the stand, revved the engine a bit and then took off toward Stride City. If she'd flown there using the Cult's dark stream, the distance would take little more than a few dozen minutes. But Winter wasn't a Paragon and there was something about riding Magibikes that set a thrill in Lilith's stomach which nothing else could stir. 

So it would take them about an hour, more or less. Assuming nothing intercepted them. But, of course, something did interrupt them. Nothing was ever smooth on such journeys. A fact Lilith had become increasingly convinced of the more experience she accumulated. 

In this specific case, about thirty minutes in, half way to Stride City, a horde of Desert Wyrms slithered out from the dunes, their entire faces nothing but a giant rotating circle of incredibly sharp teeth. 

Lilith glanced at Winter and shouted to him over the dying wind as they both slowed down, "Can you handle yourself for a moment?" She needed him alive but also wasn't sure if she could protect him and still defeat the Wyrms in totality.

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In answer, he saluted cheerfully with two fingers against his brow, and then peeled off to the right, taking the bike offroad over a patch of brittle sand, letting loose a couple experimental shots from his gun, though the small rounds didn't do much more than annoy the monsters. "Do your thing, boss," he called back to her. Even if he couldn't do much to harm these creatures without a sword or larger rounds, he was confident that he could out-maneuver them for as long as he needed to.

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Do her thing indeed. That was something certainly easier said than done. Having never fought a desert Wyrm before and knowing nothing about its anatomy, Lilith wasn't super positive she could even kill it short of blasting it to a billion pieces. A feat, while impressive, was an entirely next level kind of problem what with the stand blocking her vision more than fifteen feet out. 

But nonetheless it was a good feeling. With the bike's motor, the roar from the Wyrm's, and the loud drone of her adrenaline as it pumped through her near invisible veins, every single one of the voices belonging to the previous Lunar Daughters, her previous lives, were drowned out. There was only her. Her and white noise. It was a good feeling; a wonderful feeling she might sometimes admit, and certainly one that has been growing on her as of late. Much to the despair of her previous lives as they could most likely feel their grip on her being slowly pulled away. 

The first wyrm, a giant motherfucker by any definition of the term except perhaps the most literal, bared its head (mouth?) at her and dove, trying to swallow her whole into the depth of that deep body. But today wasn't her day to die, especially not by large teeth and creatures without much thought besides those of survival. 

She gave a hard jerk to the left and her Magibike obeyed swiftly, just barely dodging the Wyrm has to devoured the land where she'd stood and dug back into the earth below. Then two more burst from the ground on either of her sides, spraying dust and debris over her like a wave of dilapidation. As if they were taunting her, laughing at her lack of ability to utterly annihilate them. And Lilith laughed back. Not because they couldn't hurt her. But because they could. She laughed to show them what she cared of their power. Of their threats. 

They were nothing. 

And they were going to lose the game because they'd chosen to move on her too early. You don't attack the queen unless you're sure you can win. 

Reaching out toward the one to her right with the gauntlet of Zengi, Lilith closed her fingers into a fist and the orange cornerstone embedded into it lit up on a brilliant radiance. The light burst forth with an overwhelming pressure of dominance, burning straight through the Wyrm and ripping whatever kind of soul it had to shreds. It took a lot of energy to use the Soul Stone, especially so soon after she'd gotten it, but still she grinned at the sight of such a giant beast collapsing to the earth like a sack of potatoes. 

Too bad she'd forgotten about the second Wyrm, who'd decided the death of its kin was not so important and its potential meal more so. With those rotating razor teeth in its mouth the beast fell on her like a tunnel, its teeth cutting at her skin with endless hunger. Grunting against the pain Lilith grabbed one of the teeth between the fingers of her gauntlet and shattered it, sending shards scattering down into the beast's stomach alone with a blast of necromantic energy that exploded from her. Like a ball of destruction it tore through the Wyrm, sending skin and green creature blood raining down all around. 

She looked back to see the Magibike ruined, torn to shreds by the Wyrm's bladed teeth.

"Fuck," she muttered, nudging the destroyed parts with a foot. When she got back to town she'd have to remember to snatch another. Keeping in mind the their Wyrm below the surface, Lilith turned to face wherever Winter had headed. Her body morphed into a black stream of smoke as she lifted into the air and barreled toward his position. 

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