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supernal

What tangled webs

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All members of the Dali family, of the bloodline as distinct from simply being a member of the noble house, claimed certain advantages by birthright; among them was an unnaturally keen sense of impending threat. This made even the most bookish or foppish among them, some who outranked even Ampelos in terms of dandification, a factor worth considering when plotting a tactic against Dali.

Hence the swarm. Their keen senses would alert Ampelos and Victra and Icarus that something wicked their way came, but the volume, the shifting variables, would help obscure the deeper running threat.

Ameplos moved forward, breaking away from the focal point around which the small mob converged, and advancing on one of the men who was advancing on Ampelos in turn. Ampelos made offense his chosen defense, truncating the man's momentum, interrupting the rhythm and flow of his pace. He brought one hand down to meet the man's rising arm; the two cancelled each other out. With his free hand Ampelos jabbed knuckled towards the man's exposed neck. The other, familiar with brawling at the very least, tucked his chin down in anticipation and blocked the throat jab. Ampelos pivoted on his right foot and brought his left up with blistering speed and practiced precision, clipping the man's diaphragm and forcing the breath out of his lungs.

He stepped over the man and turned about to face the others, enemy combatants and relatives alike; he could see now, a short distance away which grew shorter by the passing second, a familiar face. Not a man he recognized by name, but by face, knowing Jaron as a fellow guildmember (Enchantment to Ampelos's Transmutation) and one who married into the family.

A few of them were jostled by Jaron's authoritative declaration. Turning to find that he was just another person rather than a member of the guard, they advanced on him with daggers brandished.

Confident he had thwarted a mugging of his own person, and distracted as he was by the bedlam, Ampelos didn't notice someone slip a small listening device into the folds of his clothes.

Less than a minute had passed, but attention was growing and slowly shifting their way.

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"They must be stupid. But, that's what fear and ego does to people. They can't think."
By saying that, Jaron unsheathed his Gladius. His one, true friend. But wait, it's not a friend if the Gladius is an object, even though it thinks, talks and has feelings like a human, as if a poor soul, trapped in it, guides his master step by step, through troubled waters. A guide that serves not only as a helper, but as a friend, companion and, most importantly, an extension of his master. A living thing being commanded by another. Guard and dog, Dragon and his rider. Inseparable and strong together.

Though, he unsheathed his mighty extension of his body, he couldn't stop there. The gem... The aquamarine, pale-glowing gem, that would be fitted in one of the sword's sockets. With grace, he put the glowing gem into its socket. The sword, from looking normal, changed. As if it would be coated by a magic spirit, the blade changed its colour, into a strong, intense purple. What would that have been? No one knew, until Jaron aimed his sword at one of the coming bandits. Five of them, armed with a dagger each, making few steps, trying to circle him, while the sword changed its property. Few glares were thrown at the sword, glowing in the powerful colour from the combination of red and turqoise, but they kept moving. They were not scared.

"I know they don't understand. I know they have barely seen this magic. But... is it really worth risking their lifes to take someone's life? It doesn't matter anymore. They made their choice."

Aiming his sword at one of the poor attackers, The sword let out a powerful light, painting the surroundings into the vibrant colour coating the sword. Suddenly, the sword turned to normal. But it wasn't done. Jaron's eyes turned purple, as the Gladius let out a spectral, purple version of itself towards the targeted man. The spectral version disappeared, as it hit the poor man, falling on the ground, being left unconscious. The others looked at him, with sadness, anger and determination. They looked back the the man who hurt their friend, moving closer to him, filled with hate towards him. A flaming hate, that would only be satiated by seeing the man's blood dripping on the ground, covering his soulless body. This is when they decided to fight him, once and for all.

A vertical, slow slash was directed towards Jaron, as he dodged it by simply sidestepping, following it with a punch to the chest. Reacting to the pain, he instinctively tried cutting his arm. "Again, that's a waste of anger." He quickly parried with the Gladius, as he punched him again in the shoulder. As if he felt the pain, too, Jaron shook his hand, as he slashed the attacker's hand, managing to throw his small and forgiving dagger, following it with a punch to the face and a push against the wall. He, as well, fell unconscious.

A scream was heard from behind. Another man, charging, to yield the probable, final hit that would render him useless to this world. But it was not done, yet. Not for the white-haired elf, at least. Not for Ampelos, either. The next hit was directed towards his head, with the intention to soak the road in blood. Jaron quickly ducked, as he stabbed the man's leg. Another man came in to help the attacker, laying down another hit at the outnumbered force. Unable to dodge, he barely scratched his left hand, as it shivered because of pain. The bandits were happy. Their bloodlust was even more intense, as a result to their pathetic, useless effort. But they thought they were one step closer to victory. They were enourmously wrong.

The scratch only caused him to be more determined. As he parried another blow, he started thinking again: "Circling a man into a fight. Outnumbering him, thinking they could prey on the weak. Why is the world so afraid of fighting one to one? Or, are they cowards? I never understand humans and their cryptic frame of mind." At the end of the thought, he quickly dodged another hit, aiming for the knee, which caused the man to lose his balance. As a profiteer he is, Jaron made a short leap, catching the man's hand, which would hold the dagger. With a yelp, he tried escaping the struggle, as Jaron tried to stop his hand from getting blood, rendering it useless and letting the weapon go. And so it happened. The metalic sound of a blade, hitting the rocky pavement, excited the elf's ears. He smiled, as the Gladius was covered in the blood of the poor man, his stomach being ravaged. And suddenly, the sword started glowing again. Its purple, vibrating coat came back, while the light would warm the cold, depressing pain the man had to suffer. "I'm sorry.", Jaron said to the man. One more was waiting to swing his weapon, as he was on his right. His steps blew his apparent 'cover'. being deeply surprised, the only thing he had to do was to use the hurt man as a shield. Or, even worse. As a way to kill the man. Turning him, while the sword was still on the other side of his body, it stopped glowing, again. Then, it happened. With a thundering sound, the spectral weapon hit the man, throwing him on the ground, being left unconscious, too. 

"You can let him go, Master. He has to meet Death on his way to the Land of the Dead.", the Gladius said. As he heard, he nodded, drawing the weapon out of the almost-dead man. There was blood everywhere. Once, a clean, visited place, turned into a land where people had to fight for their lifes, in order to survive. The place turned macabre, into a blink of an eye. People were watching, scared, as the dead body fell on the ground, meeting with the ground, once and forever. But, there was one man in front of him. Part of the swarm, shivering and looking at him, terrified. He didn't want to hurt him, as Jaron didn't want to harm him, either. He smiled and nodded, as the man fled, throwing the weapon on the ground.

Then, he looked at the other two persons. Ampelos and his guard, fighting people of the crowd, too. They were as competent as he was, but they were fighting so differently and less cruel than him. He rubbed his Gladius to the black coat, before sheathing it away from people's eyes.

 

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Their job was done the moment one of them slipped the listening device onto Ampelos's person and issued the clandestine signal which informed the others it was time to disperse. However, if they did so suddenly and with too little resistance, they would tip their hand as an organized unit and not merely opportunistic vagabonds. It would arouse suspicion. Perhaps not in most but certainly among the security-conscious and business-shrewd Dali.

And so, coerced by the necessity of maintain their pretense, the intelligence operatives consigned themselves to pain and loss.

Ampelos was little disturbed by the bandits, who were now focusing the lion's share of their erfforts onto Jaron just as Jaron focused his attention on them and put them to violent task. Most were merely bruised and broken but some among their number were pushed inexorably to the very edge of life's reach. One lay bleeding on the floor, a hand over his stomach to keep his guts from spilling out, the other reaching up to the sky as numb lips mumbled prayers.

Around the locus of the incident there formed a crowd of civilians and merchants. This crowd cut the Dali and bandits a wide berth but were clearly concerned, and had no intention of simply fading away.

"Icarus." Ampelos addressed his cousin. "You are familiar with battlefield medicine, yes? Would you be so kind as to attend to that wretched soul writhing about the filthy floor until the proper authorities arrive?"

Ampelos fished a handkerchief from his shirt pocket, used it to wipe his knuckles down, placed it back into the pocket and then broke stance to stride towards Jaron. He stopped a respectable distance away – half a dozen feet, giving himself ample time to respond to a weaponized lunge should the friend prove himself foe.

"You strike a most interesting and dare I say familiar figure, fellow. It will behoove us both to hang about the scene a bit. The authorities will want to sort this out and better now than have my door kicked down in the middle of the night, would you say? I'll be late to a meeting but ah, such is life.

"At any rate I must first thank you, deeply and sincerely, for contributing your hand to our skirmish. And second I must inquire, why risk your wellbeing on our behalf?"

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