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The metallic sounds of the forge echoed through the air, the sounds of hammering and fire accenting the occasional passing of breath as the woman within worked. She would occasionally pause to rest, to walk away from the fiery heat that filled the air and grab something to drink or snatch a slice of meat from the decently-sized hunk positioned over the open fire pit in the middle of the shed. She would place some meat over the fire at the beginning of the day and it would roast slowly, serving as her meals as the hours passed. Whatever her rest consisted of, it would only last for few seconds, enough to regain her strength before she set about working again. The building itself was situated at the edge of town, far enough away from local residences so that the sounds of metalwork wouldn't disturb the occupants but near enough that people could walk by and watch the dance of orange flames that flickered with green light. It was a small building with the largest part being the attached 'shed' that the noises echoed from. A sign listing the building as a blacksmith's workshop hung on the open door outside of the shed, swaying slowly in the gentle breeze. 

Demi had been around the forge and heat that accompanied it all her life. Raised by her father, Demi had begun learning the art of blacksmithing from an early age. She had always found a certain… beauty in the metal work, from the smelting of ingots, to the casting, to the forging of various equipment and had strove to be as skilled at it as her father. It hadn’t helped that, as a little girl, she’d been mesmerized by the flames that would spout from the forge whenever her father worked. Although it didn't do so now, the dance of orange flames tinged by green light had done wonders to excite the fantasies of her then child-like imagination, as if her father were taming a giant, metal dragon that spewed out green and orange flames...

Blacksmithing wasn’t the only thing Demi had ever done in her life. It was a passion, to be sure, and one that she followed to honor the life and passion of her father, but it wasn’t the only thing she did. At one time she had been a soldier of another province’s army and her body showed it, from the tone of her arms and legs to the flat of her abdomen. While she was no longer a soldier her current ‘occupation’, along with her artistic talents, helped her maintain that same muscular tone. As a soldier, her hair had been once been cut short, shorn to a small buzz on her skull. Now however, the thick, jet-black tresses trailed down to just below her shoulders, typically styled into a low tail or a braid, as it was now. Her eyes were grey and her skin was pale and accented with scars, both from swords, teeth, and claws alike. Demi was a warrior and if the scars didn’t show it, it would be that her right arm ended at the elbow.

Straightening from her hunched position over the anvil, Demi removed her glove and wiped the back of her hand across her brow, lips pursed slightly in a sigh of mild exhaustion. She’d been at the forge since early in the morning and had it not been for the fact  that she had naught else to do that day, she might have stopped for the day. For Demi, it was either work or do nothing… and Demi had always had a rather hard time doing ‘nothing’. In this case, it wasn’t so much her making something just for the fun of it as it was something she’d had the mindset of making for a while now. Right now it was just a mess of leather straps, metal gears, screws, and other bits of miscellaneous metal bits but she hoped that soon she might see the piece in life as she saw it in her imagination.

Edited by ViverFever

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It was an especially beautiful day in Coth. 

On such magnificent days Constans could not help but think of God, of the world God wanted him to create where all days could be as serene as this one, where all places could be as filled with peace as Coth. It was a monumental undertaking, to change the world in such a way. Yet looking up at the bright sun and how it spilled its warm light with such favor upon the sleepy civilization which had risen on Coth's idyllic hill, Constans believed it could be done. 

Yet if Coth was to thrive, he thought as he walked out of his ruined church this morning, it would have to thrive upon the hard work and effort and, yes, blood of loyal Cothites. The realm that needed to be fashioned required hard fighting. War had never been Constans' strong suit, but it was necessary. Coth's peace could not only be spread through forgiveness and love. There were vile monsters out in the world: undead and the necromancers who propagated them, foul races with false dark gods who could never be brought into the light, god-pretenders who saw themselves as higher than any other divinity-- these people could be forgiven for their errors, but they could not be spared God's wrath. 

Constans hated it, personally, but it was not his will that led Coth. It was God's. God wished for him to dispatch those foul hearts which would never turn toward his green light, and so that was what Constans would do. 

Or, at least, that is what he would ask others to do. Others who could accomplish it. For while Constans had God's fire at his disposal, his heart was always bent towards peace. He needed fighters to do God's work. He needed warriors.

"Father!" a child said as Constans walked, his hands clasped behind him, through the streets of his town. He smiled and yelled back at the child in greeting. it was not long before that child, and a few others, were trailing the Prophet of Coth on his sojourn down the hill. 

"Father!" a woman called, and he stopped to talk to her and to kiss the forehead of her child. The child's eyes were bright green like the mother's, like Constans', like almost everyone's in Coth. She too followed the Prophet as he walked on. 

"Father!" the butchers called and "Father!" yelled the seamstresses and shoemakers. "Father!" cried the soldiers and "Father!" the farmers. He stopped to speak to them all. They told him that the recent rains had been a blessing to the crops, that the meat of the cows was especially well marbled since he had prayed over the sows, that the elves had brought fine animal skins back from the wilds and that the people loved the new opera singers who visited Coth, and the new library the elf Ioreth was raising. 

A bard picked up her flute and trilled a marching tune as Constans walked down the paths between the homesteads with his growing train of people. A walk of five minutes took Constans over an hour to make, but by the time he arrived at the blacksmith's home and workshop he knew all about what sort of day Coth was having. True to his first impression, it was a good one. 

"You will all forgive me, but I must leave you. Many of you have heard of the blacksmith who lives in this home. It is said her fires are touched by God." he said, standing and raising his hand and addressing the crowd in front of Demi's house. 

"Today, I must confer with her in private. You may not know, but she has more than once ventured outside of Coth for your benefit. She is an example to all of us, and I hope you will all favor her with your patronage. Now, you must disperse and do your parts to keep our happy home safe." 

And with that gentle command the people who had followed him down the hill said their goodbyes. Some kissed his hands, while others bowed before walking back up to their homes and shops and their play. He watched them go, holding his hands clasped together, smiling until his eyes crinkled with joy. 

When the were all out of sight, Constans listened for a moment for the sounds of the blacksmith's hammer. When he heard them, he walked around to her shed and, knowing she would never hear his knocks on the door, let himself in. 

For a shed, it was spacious. It had to be: the fires would burn down a smaller space. Yet they were contained in a great stonework oven, and beside that open and blenching cauldron of fire stood the one-armed woman, her work clamped in an iron press as she slammed her hammer down upon her newest strange piece of metal.

Constans didn't speak, but when she noticed him he bowed his head toward her metal and signaled for her to keep working. He moved beside her and watched her hammer for a moment, noting the fading red metal of her project. It was beginning to cool, and so Constans held his hand over it, opening his fingers wide and inhaling. 

He exhaled sharply, and from his palm blasted a small flamethrower gout of green-hot fire. His eyes began to shine light down over the work as his fire bathed over the metal, licking her hammer and hand harmlessly whenever she let a blow fall. God's fire spared the innocent, always, but it had no such mercy for the metal, which it melted down until it was as orange as the sun and as pliable as clay. 

When he was satisfied, Constans closed his fist and withdrew his hand. He walked over to the center of the room, allowing her time to use the gift he had given her. He grabbed an oil-stained knife and sliced himself off a piece of roast pig from the second, smaller fire pit. He held it gingerly in his fingers, taking small bites of the delicious meat, and found a table to sit on while Demi finished her work. 

@ViverFever

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When Demi had been a child, the noise of the forge had always seemed so loud, from the roaring of the flames to the constant clang and grind of metal and stone. She had always been able to tell when her father was working by the various noises; she had been roused from sleep more than once by them but the older she became, the more the noises shifted. They became softer, easier for her to ignore and to dismiss entirely. She barely heard the noises at all now, in fact. It was like background music to her, something she heard but never really acknowledged.

The forge was still loud enough to block the obvious commotion that collected outside of her home, however. Normally, had she not been surrounded by the loud noises of the forge, the fact that  both the window shutters and the door stood open would be enough for the noise to filter into the shed. She’d be able to then hear the pluck of bard strings and happy chatting and would grow curious enough to put down her hammer and venture outside to see what all the activity was about.

Instead, all Demi heard was the repeated clangs of her hammer in her ears and her own thoughts that circulated in her head. They were thoughts of measurement, idle mental tracings of the design pattern for her recent project. It was easy enough for her to get lost in the inches of metal and bits that lay in an organized position on the workbench, to focus entirely on curving the strip of metal she worked on now. Pulling on her lower lip with her teeth, Demi bent back with a soft sigh and looked at the metal strip, parts of it now curved. Getting the shape of it exactly right was the hard part, Demi thought as she twirled the hammer idly in her hand. A lot of her pieces were never this delicate, this precise. Given the design of it and its intended use however, it had to be perfect.

Closing her eyes against the cool breeze against her neck, Demi released another sigh then went back to work, her hammer coming down on the heated metal with a clench of her jaw. Her hammer had come down a few mores times, the red metal slowly beginning to fade and cool, before she’d noticed a body had walked into her shed. Grey eyes raised from her work bench as she saw a shadow move from the door. Her hammer stopped when she saw who it was, eyebrows raising.

She had met the prophet before, of course. She sometimes took jobs from him, sometimes ridding the countryside of some monster or villain that posed a threat to his little community. He and his followers had done much to help her in the past; the least she could do was pay that in kind in whatever way she could.

Parting her lips to speak, she stopped when he motioned to her and smiled, turning back to her work. When he neared, she paused again, hammer laying flat against the half-curved metal strip. Her eyes watched his movements and at the flicker of green fire from his palm, her eyebrow raised in a silent question. The green fire washed cool over her hand, the glove only glistening with a green light as the fading red metal began to brighten and glow, silver turning white. The green flames were familiar to her and her eyes softened as she struck the metal. With the renewed heat, it was easier to curve the strip, to mold it into the half-curve she saw in her mind.

By the time she had struck her hammer down for the final time and slid the metal into water to cool, half an hour had passed. A sigh echoed from her throat as Demi laid her hammer down, using her other arm to pull off the heavy leather glove she wore to protect her arm and hand. Turning to the father, she smiled softly and leaned gently against the anvil she'd been working on.

“Apologies for the delay, Father, and I appreciate the help,” Grey eyes turned to the forge fires near her, hand wiping the beads of sweat from her forehead. “Made my project easier to finish.” Her eyes slid back to her and she bowed her head. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Father? May I offer you something to drink? Had I known you were coming, I might have stopped to make my workshop a bit more presentable and less,” Her eyes turned to the stray bits of her project laid out on the workbench, "...like a disorganized mess." 

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Constans ate and left the woman to her work. Even without his help, the fires in her smithy were flecked with green whenever she toiled. He watched in awe. It was not the first time he had noticed the fires of God in her forge. She was blessed, like he, with the color of destiny. Constans had long since learned to trust its familiar glow. 

"I will take that drink, Demi." he answered, ignoring her apology. As she fetched a drink, he held his hands before him and imagined his oily fingers smearing over her tankard or goblet. He looked around himself and spied a rag that, if anything, was even more filthy than his hands. He wiped his fingers with it and discovered that it cleaned well. 

"Friction." he said to himself. And again when she returned: 

"Friction, lady. Cleanliness is about friction. Do you see this rag? Oily, greasy, blackened, charred. And yet if I rub my skin with it, I come away clean." he said, holding his hand up for his own inspection and hers. His fingers were dry of oil and, indeed, relatively clean. 

"So too does a land require occasional friction. It requires good men and strong women to scour it clean, else the filth at its edges with creep further in toward its core and disease will take root." 

She offered him a drink, and he took it. Before he thought to drink, he raised it up to her. 

"You have helped clean the land around Coth before, Demi. And I thank you for it. I must ask you to do it again." he said flatly, "I have had nightly dreams of the restless dead and of monsters. There are dark shapes rising in the wilderness. Why? For what purpose? And why do I dream of them marching under a flag?" 

These were the questions which had plagued him for three nights now. Three nights he hadn't slept-- or he had slept, but had gotten no rest, because God refused to be ignored. 

"These are questions which cannot be answered from Coth. I need strong warriors and scouts to settle the questions which plague my dreams. I need you, and I need one other, to ride out and see if it is true: if some evil is rising in the countryside. Are you able to do this thing?" 

It was, as it always was, a request. Constans had on him the face of a man truly entreating for aid. Command was not his way. The dignity of all men required that he only ever lead the willing and the able. 

 

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With a singular nod of her head and a soft smile, Demi exited the shed. It only took her a matter of a few minutes to gather one of her better goblets and fill it with water before returning to the shed. She held the goblet gently in her singular hand, curving around the room to position herself on a chair close to the Father. When he lifted his hand, she handed the drink to him then held up her hand alongside his own. Her hands were the hands of a worker, of a warrior, with a mottled assortment of old, barely visible scars and rough skin.

Curling her fingers, she lowered her hand to her thigh and shifted as Constans spoke, listening to his words with rapt attention. She had done jobs for the Father before, as she had done with the various towns people. To her, it was a way to pay them back for their kindness, among other minor reasons.


Demi released a soft sigh and turned her eyes away from the father, eyebrows furrowed in thought. “I can’t begin to imagine what the meaning is behind your dreams, Father.” Demi turned her eyes back to Constans then rose from her chair.

Wandering over to where all the pieces of her newest project were laid out, she picked up a screw and looked at it, seemingly scrutinizing it. Twisting it in her fingers, she laid it back down after a few long seconds and picked up the piece she’d been working on before. She laid it out among the other pieces then turned, hand lingering on the surface of the worktable as she looked to the father.

“You should know by now, Father, that you don’t have to ask if you need my help.” A soft smile graced her face. “Just point me in a direction and bide me farewell. I don’t know if you have in mind who this ‘one other’ person will be but I’ll help you, Father.” Her eyes turned down to her project, then back to Constans. “How soon do you want me to leave?”

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Constans smiled proudly. 

"You're incredibly sweet to say so Demi. I hope you'll forgive me if I do ask anyway. Every time." he said with good humor. One of the heaviest burdens of leadership was resisting the urge to thoughtlessly accept the fealty people offered. When the day came when Constans had to command rather than request, he hoped someone would have the good sense to slap him. 

After all, what was he? A man. God's man yes, but not God himself. 

"The other person is an elf named Tirkas. He's a swordsman of considerable skill and a very useful person to take with you through the wild lands. Once he arrives I'll ask you to head out as soon as you're both ready." 

Constans took another drink of water and nodded to the work she'd been doing when he'd entered. It was clearly something complex.

"What is that?" he asked, nodding at it. 

 

 

(Enter: @Spooky Mittens !)

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The sight of The Green Knight was not an uncommon one around Coth and it's surrouding territory.  He was a man of normal stature, beautiful by human standards, sporting robes of green and black.  The gentle clicking of metal plates about his chest and legs heralded his approach where he walked, though little warning they did give as Tirkas stepped with grace and stealth.  Despite his armaments, he was no more noisy than your average man carrying a bag of coin.

He wore several layers, some comprised of normal clothing, and some comprised of armor.  His outermost garb was a brigandine jacket that protected Tirkas' torso from the front and back.  Under this jacket he wore some bright green robes that peeked out around his neck and legs.  His pants, once grey, were a newer black pair, stuffed neatly into a set of greaves that had been oxidized near-black.  His arms were adorned similarly, with a vambrace only on his right hand and jack-chain strapped to his sleeves.  His satchel was plain brown hide.  He carried two weapons on his left hip as well, a sword by outward appearance, and a funny looking dagger with a grip that was far too long.

He strolled through town, headed to a specific location.  He recalled the previous evening when The Father had given him his mission.  He was told a time and a place, as well as the nature of his visit, and so Tirkas carried a deep satchel over his left shoulder.  He didn't need provisions of his own, but his newest companion might have need of them.  There was obviously food in the bag, since Tirkas' newest animal companion stood upon his shoulder pecking at the bag opening now and again.  It was a bird, a sleak and shiny green peacock.  Tirkas had named him Percival, but the bird obviously cared nothing for the named given to it.

Tirkas arrived promptly at the time he was told, for what was a man who could not keep a schedule?  While he might normally keep to convention and announce himself, he saw no need.  His pointed elven ears could hear the conversation within from up the way, and his bear-like sense of smell would recognize Constans anywhere, so Tirkas simply let himself in.

The door opened, and he slipped inside the forge shack like a ghost.

He was obviously ready to go already, so the elf stood and waited to be addressed directly.

 

@Vansin@ViverFever

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Demi couldn’t stop the small smile that graced her features, eyes turning to the Father with a glimmer of amusement in her eyes. She truly enjoyed the discipline that Constans showed in his station. Most men, were they in a similar position as Constans, would have shown little restraint in abusing that power but the Father showed no such inclination.

“Tirkas?” Demi questioned, more to herself than to Constans. “The name is unfamiliar to me but if you can vouch for his skill…” She shrugged and curled her hand against her stomach as she leaned back against the workbench, “... then I have no complaints.”

Her eyes shifted behind her to the pieces laid out and her shoulders raised in a soft shrug. “Something to replace what was lost.” She wiggled her amputated limb in emphasis and turned fully, grabbing one of the larger pieces. She held it out towards Constans for him to look at before she continued, “I’ve been fiddling with the schematics of it for a while. The pieces are easy enough to make and put together but I can’t quite come up with a method of how to get it to function like a replacement limb. Something I shall have to consult a physician for, no doubt.”

Demi soon took the piece back from Constans and set it in it’s proper place on the workbench as a shadow passed through the door of her work shed. Looking up, she gazed to the owner of the shadow then to Constans.

“I suppose this is the individual you spoke of, Father?” She questioned then looked up to the aforementioned man. She raised her hand in greeting, a soft smile on her face. “Greetings. No doubt Constans had already mentioned me but I am Demi. Apologies that I do not shake your hand.” She tucked her hand at the small of her back and gave the elf a small bow. “If you’ll give me a few moments to pack, we can head out.”

@Vansin @Spooky Mittens

Edited by ViverFever

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"Fascinating." Constans said, observing Demi's handiwork.

"When you return from this mission, please visit me in my library under the church. I have at least three books on anatomy that I can think of off the top of my head. And if they're not what you need, we'll go to Ioreth." 

Ioreth, of course, being the notoriously capable bookseller who was erecting Coth's first grand library. While Constans' small personal collection was impressive, it paled in comparison to the knowledge the elven woman's book retrieval company could produce. 

Noticing Demi glance over his shoulder, the prophet of Coth turned to see Tirkas enter the forge shed. Constans smiled wide and swept beside the elf, clapping him on the shoulder and facing Demi. 

"Demi, this is Tirkas. Tirkas, Demi." he said gesturing between the two. 

A few minutes later, the trio stood at the edge of Coth. Behind them were fields of grain rippling in the fresh western wind. Constans had walked them to the edge of town, but this was where he would leave them. 

"I know I have told you both but I will say it again one last time: darkness gathers in the wilds. More and more frequently do I dream of sinister portents gathering under a long shadow. They are not mere nightmares. You cannot go out into these wilds wondering if you will meet with danger. Danger is waiting for you. But what kind? That is the question whose answer I need. All of Coth depends on you now."

And with that, Coth's father kissed them both on the cheeks, and invited them to depart. Though he wore a smile on his lips, the crease in his brow spoke the worries his mouth withheld.

As they left, he watched them until they shrunk to little specks on the horizon and disappeared. 

 

@ViverFever @Spooky Mittens @Ghorroj

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Location: Blairville: On The Road.

 

Grassy cobblestones raced past Fiji's peripheral vision in a blur of green-and-brown.  The scent of magic, specifically the reagents that made potions work, mixed with that of perfumes and animals in the Market square.  The yells of people diving to one side or another to get out of the way of the large, blue-furred wolf who bounded through the crowd added a patina of minor slapstick to the entire affair, but was swiftly left behind as Fiji turned down another street and raced onwards.

About halfway to the gate, Fiji slowed, rose up onto his feet and then tried to rub some feeling back into his fingers.  All-four running was fast, no doubt about it, but it was absolute murder on the hands.  He walked onwards, then took the plain leather scroll-holder out of his mouth, focused on his destination and lengthened his stride; The giant gates of Blairville loomed ever higher in front of him.  Just beyond those elephantine and overly grandiose symbols of of the city, and barely visible around one of the gateposts, was a simple cart.

'the leader is a four-armed man who reeks of fish'

Vert's parting words, delivered with a grimace of distaste, came back to Fiji as he looked at the cart and the various Wargs, Orcs and humans milling around it.  He saw someone with four arms, right enough, but that person was more 'fish-man' than 'man'.  Either the hideous little homunculus had a wonderfully hidden sense of humour and mischief, or he was far more partisan and inclusive than he realised; Fiji resolved to inform him of both options at the earliest convenience, just to see the somersaults Vert's adorably-ugly little face went through.

The smile that the thought evoked lasted right up until the fish-man spoke.

"You!  Dog-face! What are you doing here?"  The shuddering breath that the black-and-grey mottled creature took through his gills translated themselves within Fiji's mind into racist swearing that mostly involved Fiji's mother.

"My mother was lovely.  I assume."  Fiji let his nostrils flare briefly, before he handed over the sealed, leather scroll holder.  "Here.  Orders from someone who told me to look out for you."

The fish-man stared at the ornate wax seal intently before cracking it away from the leather and unfurling the single-sheet contents.  He stared at it blankly, and then handed it off to one of the two humans with a stern bark of 'Here!  Read!'.  If Fiji was any judge, the man, who looked like a bandit and smelled like a bandit, would most likely have the same reading ability as a bandit.

"Too...  ooo Whooo.  Um.  Whooomeeev-" began the painful dissection.

"What are you doing here?"  The words, rather faster than the ones that the fishman had been speaking previously, were aimed at Fiji.  He looked at the piscine, sharp-toothed face, smiled and pretended nothing was wrong.

"Special assignment from Nasniv.  I think you're supposed to watch me, make sure I don't do any funny-business."

"...iiiit.  Con.  Cooonceeeer..."

"Of course," Fiji continued, ignoring the way the fish-man's eyes were closing more with every word, and the way his teeth were being gradually more bared, "he implied something about wanting to torture and kill me himself if I am disloyal.  So your bonus is still on the line.  On the other hand, my abilities should be useful, should you want me to use them."

"...thiiii-  thiii-  the pee-  per-  pers-  persimmon..."

The brief hiss from the fish-man sounded like a kettle at full-boil and the bizarre fin-like appendages on either side of his face fanned forward.

"Fine.  Go.  Load the cart."  The fish-man waved one hand dismissively in Fiji's direction.  "Try not to fall over and impale yourself on one of my spears, language-lover."

"iiis.  Is.  Reeee-"

"And you can stop that too," added the fish-man, snatching the scroll from the bandit.  "Give that back!"

Rather than watch the inevitable argument and posturing, Fiji looked around at the motley group.  Two Wargs, intelligent, black-furred quadrupeds who resembled large wolves, stared at him intently and ignored the human who was tightening the leather harness on one of them.  A skeleton, dressed in sparse, rusted armour, grinned at him from the other side of the cart.  Its twin, this one wearing a leather hat but very little else, stood up from where it had been crouched next to the vehicle and stared back at Fiji.

The delectable scent of carrion wafted over when the breeze suddenly shifted direction, and the nearby figure that Fiji had assumed was human turned.  For a moment, just a moment, the beastman had to hold himself back from leaping at the leather-clad warrior whose face had clearly been gnawed half-off.  It was difficult, very difficult, but breakfast had been only ten minutes ago; there was sure to be other things to chase and eat along the way, although it was unlikely that any of them would be as fun to subdue and crack open as a zombie.

Two zombies.  There was another one standing a little way up the road from the cart, or Fiji's nose was a damned liar.

In order to distract himself from potentially eating valuable assets, Fiji looked at the crate that the intellectual bandit had returned to loading onto the cart.  He stared for a moment at the mismatched collection of weapons then sighed, wandered over, grasped the crate with both hands and picked the entire thing up.  He noted the disbelieving look from the bandit as he simply slid the entire crate onto the back of the cart, then stepped back and dusted his hands off.

"What?" he said, innocently.

"Bet you won't be able to pull it back off there when we stop," said the bandit, confidently, the scar on his mouth crinkling as he grinned.

"Really?"  Fiji flicked his ears down.  "Want to bet your left forearm?"

"Fuck off!"

 

A few minutes later, Wargs tethered to the cart and pulling for all they were worth, they set off.  More or less.

 

@Spooky Mittens @ViverFever

Edited by Ghorroj
More detail added. MOAR!

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[The Wilds of CoTH:  A Few Miles Out]

They made their introductions and preparations, briefly, for the light of day was a fleeting thing and these travelers would need it.  Father Constans was a kind man, and he showed his deep caring by following his wayward children to the edge of the village.  Tirkas remained mostly silent the whole way, except in cases where he was addressed directly.  When addressed, he gave curt answers, direct and to the point.

Even after Constans bid them farewell and they wandered into the distance, and even still a way after they entered the wooded lands between Coth and their destination, Tirkas was mostly silent as a mouse.  Strange magic surrounded The Green Knight that made him seem like a piece of the background.  Though his armor was heavy, he left barely an imprint on the ground where he walked.  He led his companion along a path of his own making, towards a brook he used as a personal crossroads.  It was a good distance out from Coth, but close enough that the pair could sweep as long as Tirkas maintained his bearings.  He had a clear idea in his head how they were to reach their destination in as quick a time as possible, while also remaining unmolested by avoiding main roads.

Now was probably going to be the easiest stretch of the journey, so Tirkas took to speaking.  "So, Demi."  He began.  "Father Constans hasn't told me much of what our task is.  I don't think god has revealed it to him in full yet."  Tirkas spoke with a certain intonation, he clearly believed what he was saying.   He went quiet for a time again.  A few minutes passed before he spoke.

"I wonder, though.  I understand why the good Father chose me for this task, but as I understand it you are an artisan."  He spoke softly.  In a small bit of clear earth between a coterie of birches, Tirkas came to a stop and finally turned back to look upon his new partner for the first time since they left.  "We might encounter real danger on this quest, Demi.  If we must fight, which I hope we will not, but if we must. . ."  Tirkas' face adopted a grim expression, his brilliant green eyes locking onto Demi's.  His gaze was intense and unyielding, his face like stone and his brow furrowed just slightly.  "Could you take a life?" 

It didn't concern him that Demi was a craftsman and not a soldier.  It also didn't concern him that she was missing one of her primary limbs.  What concerned him most was whether or not her mind was in the right place, for most people were capable of extraordinary things despite their limitations if their mind was focused.

@ViverFever @Ghorroj

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Whether it was working in her forge or taking a hunting contract from one of the Coth citizens, Demi had always been alone in her various adventures. To go from that to now traveling with a companion was a strange, but not entirely unwelcome one. Perhaps it was because his silence coupled well with Demi’s own quiet nature. Whatever it was, Demi found herself in a mood that was not as foul as she had initially thought as the miles stretched out between them and the village.

Where Tirkas lead, she followed and the dirt road soon transitioned to the forest floor. She was not as quiet as the elven man, but her steps pressed down quietly enough to pass; she’d hunted in the forest before, with some success. Demi pressed branches out of the way, remaining mindful of where her feet stepped down as she walked. When Tirkas spoke, She looked up in his direction, an eyebrow raised, though when silence lapsed between them once more, she stayed silent.

Demi stopped when he did, taking the moment to gently press the water skin to her lips for a small sip. She wondered if, by his questions, that he doubted her skills. Perhaps the father had not told him much of her, or her past, Demi wondered as she screwed the cap to her water skin back on, connecting it back to the side of her pack.
“Could you take a life?”
The question furrowed Demi’s eyebrows as she locked her gaze onto Tirkas’ own, her hand pressing thoughtfully to the hilt of her sword.

It was a few long moments before Demi answered, straightening her posture and drawing her shoulders back. “In a past life, Sir Tirkas, I was a soldier. I enlisted into the army of a neighboring country; I served in their basic training, their advanced training. I served with a unit of whom I thought were good men and women at the time.” Her jaw clenched briefly as she talked, an old resentment flaring to life in her eyes. “But when war graced our doorstep, we were ordered to flee. I refused and helped those I could.


“So when you ask if I can take a life…” She turned her gaze away from Tirkas to the treelines, her hard gaze softening. After a brief second of silence, she looked back to him. “Just because I am a monster hunter  and a blacksmith now, does not mean that’s all I ever was. I am just as apt at forging armor and weapons as I am with taking lives. I just prefer it if those lives needed to be taken.”
@Spooky Mittens @Ghorroj

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Location: One mile from Blairville

 First Day (Mid-Morning)

It was a lovely day for a stroll.  Birds sang, bees buzzed from wildflower to wildflower, and small animals dived for cover and trembled as the cart rumbled along the road at the same speed as an enthusiastic jogger.  Occasionally, the four-armed fish-man on the carter's seat twitched the reins he held in to of his hands, only to be completely ignored by the large, wolfish Wargs who pulled the thing along.  Jogging next to the smallish cart were two men who were dark-haired and fairly well-muscled; both had stripped to the waist, although that didn't stop one of them from jingling with every step from the sheer amount of chains and apparently ornamental keys hanging from his belt and a collection of thin, white scars that covered every inch of bare skin.  He was the normal-looking one.

Someone given to understatement would have said that his companion was covered in tattoos, except that would have completely missed the opportunity to use the phrase 'walking carnal instruction manual'.  Every arm movement, muscular twitch and deep breath caused by the light exercise he was taking resulted in something explicit and R-rated happening somewhere on the man's torso.  Someone given to distraction would have tripped over their own feet; indeed, the man's scarred companion had distinctive marks on his hands where he'd presumably saved himself from greater injury while falling over, and was avoiding looking in the direction of the pornographic display.

Loping a fair distance behind the cart was a tall, wolf-headed beast-man.  Thick, light blue fur covered him from head to toe and his hunched, muscular shoulders flexed with every one of his own footfalls.  His tongue hung out as he panted under the far-too-cheery sun, until he stopped, bent over and put his clawed hands on his knees.

"Screw this," he muttered under his breath and stalked to the side of the road.  He straightened and looked further ahead, and then he crouched and drew something in the soil with his foreclaw.  He looked at the line of peculiar symbols, frowned, counted on his fingers, and then added a few more symbols underneath the row he'd already inscribed.  He looked up and a patch of blue flame burst into being in mid-air and completely failed to burn any of the thorned hedgerow that hid the view.  The flames widened, with a distinctive, slightly threatening hum, and hung in the air like a panel showing a view of a blue inferno.  Abruptly, the view within the square patch of flame rippled from the centre and cleared until it showed the image of a road surfaced with white limestone next to a set of fields.

The still-panting beastman stepped into the panel.  The image didn't ripple or make any other movement; it looked exactly the same as if he'd stepped into a completely normal doorway.  On the other side of the flame-edged portal through space, the wolfman looked around, stepped further into the centre of the road, took note of the cart way in the distance, then wandered back to the edge of the road and settled down in the grass to wait. He didn't look behind him as the panel he'd stepped through snapped shut with a pop of displaced air.

 


 

Location: Six Miles from Blairville

First Day (Midday)

The cart rumbled slowly up to Fiji, who looked up from making a daisy-chain and squinted at the fish-man as the vehicle stopped.  The two dark-furred Wargs in the traces were panting heavily and looked thoroughly displeased with their lot as Fiji carefully placed the flower crown he'd made on his head, so that it dangled over his ears.

"What do you think, guys?" Fiji said, tilting his head from side-to-side as the human bandits collapsed at the roadside.  "Does it suit me?"

"How?" croaked the fish-man.

"I gave you the letter from Nisnav." Fiji's rumbling voice held a note of mild reproach.  "I told him my abilities, demonstrated them even, and he said I'd be useful to this team.  And you didn't even bother finding out what I could do."  He squinted, then shielded his eyes to look at the black-scaled fish-man.  "If you give me parchment and ink, I can make doors.  They lead to places I can see.  If you don't give me parchment and ink, I'll have to make the door in the soil here and you'll have to turn the cart around."

"I vote... water."  The voice belonged to the intellectual Porno-Bandit who'd read the letter in the first place.

"I suggest watering yon wolf-beasts first."  Fiji stood and brushed a few leaves off his furry behind.  "Actually, I'll do that while you all get your breath back.  Maybe pass out some water skin-" He stopped as he looked into the back of the cart, and then levered a greenish-tinged corpse with a leather hat on its head out of the way.  "Beats me why you guys put the party-snacks on top of the water.  Surely being underneath would keep them fresher?"

As he talked, he pulled a leather waterskin from the cart and tossed it to one of the men on the ground.  He tossed another one negligently to the fish-man, and then pulled a larger sack from underneath another corpse.  It sloshed gently as he lifted it one-handed and without visible effort and walked to the front of the cart.

"We have party snacks?"  As if in answer, a long, drawn out moan followed by a death-rattle came from the back of the cart.  "Wait.  Zombies?"

"Zombies are the best party-snacks," said Fiji levelly as he set the large, leather water container down.  "They're carrion, but you can chase them.  My people hold parties in haunted places that are full of walking carrion, and confused people usually pay us to do it."  He grasped a deep wooden bowl from the back of the cart and put it down for the Wargs, before filling it from the container.  Both of the Wargs stuffed their faces in the bowl and made noisy drinking sounds, clearly not caring when they got splashed.  "No downsides whatsoever, especially when they're aged to perfection."

 


Location:  Forest (near Coth)

First Day (afternoon)

The gentle fizz of crickets gave way to a menacing hum and a ball of blue flame formed in midair over the road.  It lengthened until it was a line of blue fire eight feet tall, and then widened into a mirror-like pane that was eight feet across.  What the flame-edged panel showed wasn't a reflection; rather, the Warg-drawn cart exited the image without even making a ripple in the surface of of the picture.  The driver, a four-armed, black-scaled fishman grimaced as he passed through the peculiar mirage, his sharp teeth making the expression disturbing and semi-threatening.

Two men, one on either side of the cart, crossed next; each of them had one hand on the wooden vehicle, while the other hand held a bared short-sword.

The last through the portal was a blue-furred beastman.  He had a sheet of paper held between two hands and was murmuring something that could have been an incantation under his breath.  His ears were flat against his head, his blue eyes narrowed in concentration, as he stepped through the flame-edged doorway.  The second both of his feet were on the road, the portal moved back, away from the group and snapped shut with a faint pop.

"Where are we this time?"

"Looks woody.  Is that a signpost?  Go and have a look."

"How far have we come?"

"That's it for today." Fiji rumbled, as he rubbed one of his bloodshot eyes with the knuckles of his left hand.  "I'm out.  No more hops until tomorrow."

"Eight miles from Coth!" called the bandit who'd gone to look at the signpost.

"Not bad," murmured the other bandit, as he gave Fiji an appreciative look.  "Thirty miles in a few hours, and I don't think we even got over a gentle stroll."

"Close enough."  The fish-man clambered off the cart.   "Find a clearing so we can make camp.  You know the drill."

 

@Spooky Mittens  @ViverFever

Edited by Ghorroj

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[Territories of CoTH, Afternoon Woods]

 

Tirkas stood in silence and listened as his companion explained.  He held no skepticism in his face, and he patiently awaited the end of her speech.  As she came to a close, Tirkas bowed his head a bit.  He knew battle well, and he knew that for most it was never something that left you.  He would hesitate to call it traumatic but that was probably the closest word to fit how he felt.  When he finally spoke, his voice was softened and carried no judgment.

"It eases my nerves to hear you say that.  Let's hope we don't have to fight."  He replied.  "And, it's just Tirkas, if you would.  I gave up my title to devote myself to the cause."  Like Demi, Tirkas also had a past life.  He was still known to some as The Green Knight but the moniker was just a nickname now.  Tirkas no longer owned land or titles in any other territory.

With this awkward conversation out of the way, Tirkas turned and continued on into the wilderness.  The pair would travel at as close to a set distance away from town as they could manage using primitive methods, attempting to establish a perimeter.  They would be on the lookout for anything suspicious, which Tirkas would be able to pick out quite readily since he was very familiar with the area.  Above all else, they were on the lookout for people.

Tirkas wasn't much for idle chatter, so he couldn't think of anything to say to Demi besides the occasional warning that the terrain ahead was knotty and rough, or overgrown and thorny.

 

@ViverFever @Ghorroj

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When Tirkas had posed his question, Demi had first taken it to be a slight; as if he doubted her as a warrior. It had been a knee-jerk reaction, as if she thought she had to prove herself to a stranger but if he had been a soldier too… Perhaps she’d been too quick to judge the intentions behind his question.

Ducking underneath a branch, Demi moved her gaze from the path ahead to Tirkas, the gentle downturn of her lips and the slight furrow of her brow softening slightly. “Tirkas..?” She called after a small moment of travel. Quickening her step so that she was walking next to him, she turned her gaze to peer at the profile of his face. “I want to… apologize for earlier. My reaction, that is,” She stepped over a particularly dangerous dip in the earth as she looked to the path ahead of them. “When I was a soldier, I had many question my abilities because I am a woman. When I lost my arm, some said that I would not be able to do the things I do now without it.  When you posed your question…” Demi paused, eyebrows furrowed. When she spoke again, her voice was soft, “I was the one to assume that you thought the same. I see now that I was wrong and I want to apologize for my earlier and quite wrongfully directed irritation.”

Demi went quiet for a few moments as she walked alongside Tirkas, lips set in a thin line as she tried to think of what else to say. “Back in Coth,” She began, her tone one of curiosity. “Father Constans said you were a swordsman of considerable skill. Do you work for him, or for the church?”  

@Spooky Mittens @Ghorroj

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