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The Queen's Gardens [Solarium de las Ciencias Flora]

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Magical powers.


Gabriela loathed the idea of it -- all of it and everything it encompassed -- and could not begin to wrap her head around the fact that she was chosen to be the representative of just such a thing as magic. Parlor tricks, is what she used to call it, when she was younger and more foolish. Back then, she refused to see the use of magic as any sort of serious discipline. It seemed to her that magic was the result of those remarkably unremarkable few who desperately sought a way to make themselves special, powerful, and worthwhile. No better than a human sipping on vampyre’s blood for the dangerous high it afforded them without any of the actual consequences that came with being sired. 


And now here she was, having to accept that the very land she sought to rule was imbued with powers beyond her ability to reason through. There was magic here, in the soil, in the water, and through those elements, the magic carried itself onto every other aspect of life -- the plants, the animals, the very air that blew across the city streets and open meadows of the forest. It was in everything, and it was like a broken faucet, pouring out from its source in a catastrophic geysir ever since it had been reawakened. Initially, it hadn’t seemed like such a bad thing to have the magic of the land, dormant for over a hundred years, returned to the people. But the equilibrium was all wrong, and signs of it were starting to become apparent. 


The prophecy told of a Mother and a Father, and the necessity of it was clearly apparent. It was simply not a one person job, but there was only one person left to do it. Gabriela simply had to assume both roles, for better or worse, until something happened -- until it somehow got fixed. 


“I can’t do this,” she complained.


She and Jericho had been sitting for hours now within one of the small, private laboratories of the Solarium de las Ciencias. With Raphael away with Zenahriel, seeing to the diplomatic duties that did not require her attention -- not that she had even been asked or invited to go -- she had thrown herself into her studies. She needed something, or anything, to keep herself from festering in hurt. Better to put her mind to use than to think about her loneliness, or worse, begin to actually miss Raphael or his mate. She’d rather die than admit to needing either of them, even if she went to sleep every morning wiping tears from her eyes and refusing to acknowledge the gentle movements of the child in her womb. 


“I can’t push it forward toward its end, I cannot make the flower decay…”


Life came easier to her than death. It seemed impossibly simple to push a little seed into the small dirt-filled terra-cotta cup and conjure from it a tiny green vine, a seedling that quickly rose inches high, and unfurled tender green leaves, and a vivid green bud as it’s crown. All of that was the easy part. Breaking the bud, watching the small rose-like flower gain color, stretch out, and open into a full blossom -- she could do all of that with her eyes closed, with the least amount of effort. But going beyond that was exhausting. Causing the flower to begin to wilt, for its petals to start to shrivel and curl inwards as death breathed upon it was proving to be near impossible. 


“Don’t think about is as good or evil, that’s not the difference we have here between light or dark. Think more along the rules of nature. Life thrives within light, flowers bloom and grow. But the darkness -- it is a fertile landscape for what must rot and decay. It is not a matter of choice, rather it is simply the way things are.”


Gabriela listened to her mentor. It was not the first time he had told her something similar, and it wasn’t for lack of trying that she was not grasping the concept. However, the darkness that she came from was very much a place lined with wickedness and cruelty. It was hard to divorce the two concepts now. 


“I need a break,” she uttered, nearly grumbled as she picked up a small white cloth -- a handkerchief -- and began to clean her fingers off. There was a small piece of broken glass within the folds of the cotton, a forgotten shard from a beaker she had broken earlier. “Damn it,” she hissed through clenched teeth, holding up her wounded hand to the light. The glass had cut deeply into her index finger, and the black blood that poured forth came in nauseating sprites that made it hard to apply pressure, or keep the contents of her stomach settled. There was blood everywhere on the work table, with a few drops of it having fallen and seeped into the small terra-cotta pot in front of her. 


“Goddamn it,” she continued, mostly under her breath, as she pushed back the stool she was sitting on and began to clean up the mess of her blood on the table. Gabriela didn’t even bother with the small, forgotten plant, which was just shoved to the side along with a number of other failed attempts. “I am sorry, but I think I’ve had enough for the day. My mind is wandering and my heart isn’t really here.” 


She was up on her feet, examining her newly healed finger. There wasn’t so much as a scar left from her ugly cut, though her hand was still covered in drying blood. Gabriela shook her head, rubbing the back of her neck with her clean hand. She knew that she didn’t have to give him any explanations, and honestly -- even if she tried to come up with something, nothing even remotely believable would come.


“I miss my son, I miss him so much. I said I would never see him again, I begged his father to take him away -- he didn’t listen. They’re still here, living in the same city. My boy is just a few miles away, and it kills me to know it. It’s weighed heavily on my mind. I just need to clear my head...You go on Jericho, I’ll clean up here. Thank you, as always, for your time.”

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"Yes, yes, I see..."

A curious little creature crouched at the edges of a particularly resplendent batch of croci, fingers wrapped tightly around a pencil that scrawled away at the surface beneath it. Eyes of green sought to translate the image of a saffron into a shape that could be communicated to the hands, so that they might replicate its shape. Rough, in places callused hands, wrapped by well worn gloves, the fingers of which were missing more as a matter of wear than by deliberate design. A similar disregard for - or inability to afford - clothing that was younger than ten years of age could be seen all across the young man, from his ill fitting jacket - too long at the sleeves - to his repeatedly patched trousers, or the extremely tired cap atop his mop of black hair.


But, whatever the state of his personal affairs, it was enough to get him pencil and paper, and with which to indulge an apparent habit. The fingers of his other hand, holding the book, rested between pages filled with pictures drawn by the same pencil, sketches of all that there was to be seen in the Solarium. The Queen's sheltered garden was a treasure trove for someone who sought the splendour that nature had to offer, abundant as it was in plant life. It was certainly enough to captivate and keep this young man coming back, a recognisable - in appearance more than name - fixture there for some time now. The guards did have to occasionally remind him not to 'vandalise', but at least one flower already broken by someone else was excused, explaining the hibiscus tucked atop his right ear.


Occasionally, he would look up from his subject, rendered curious by what might be done in some of the siderooms that could be vaguely seened through the blurry tint of the glass walls. Making new flowers he might some day draw, perhaps?

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For someone who has lived as Gabriela had, Jericho did not find it surprising how difficult she found trying to learn the ancient art of the Arcane. Before the spectacular events that lead to his founding of his noble house, Jericho did not care much for magic, opting more to trust in his own hands than the wizardry of the strange men who prowled the courts of kingdoms past. Now it was absolutely imperative that she learn, for the sake of the prophecy, and the lives that hang in the balance. 

Today they were working upon trying to make plants go through their entire life cycle within only a few moments, but Gabriela was having difficult time of it. He could tell that she found it difficult to deliver death, finding life had a more palatable taste to it. Jericho could not blame her for such a preference, but now was not the time for such trivialities.

"I can't do this."

"Yes you can." He said. "You have the power, all you need is the will." His patience was infinite, which helped in tutoring his fledgling student. With the amount of power she had inside of herself, she shouldn't have this much trouble, he thought, or perhaps there was something more to it...

"I can't push it forward to its end. I can't make the flower decay." 

"Just try. Even the simplest of spells require practice." Even if it took years, he will always try to teach her the ways of magic as best as he knew how. "Don’t think about is as good or evil, that’s not the difference we have here between light or dark. Think more along the rules of nature. Life thrives within light, flowers bloom and grow. But the darkness -- it is a fertile landscape for what must rot and decay. It is not a matter of choice, rather it is simply the way things are.” Nature was a never ending cycle of life and death, uncaring in the face of morality or convenience. Surely that would be what helped her get through this obstacle.

Alas, it was not enough, and in the end, they did indeed stop with the lesson. What was even worse was that in her rush to get cleanes, she had harmed herself, causing droplets of black blood to slip away into the pot holding the flower. Had Jericho noticed this, he would have made sure to destroy the plant.

"As you wish, Your Grace. We can continue the lesson another time. My condolences towards your plight with your son." Standing to leave, he looked to her, milky white eyes betraying nothing. "If there is any way I can help with that, please let me know. I live again to serve you, my Queen." 

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The rumbling of magi-tech engines whirs within the hood of the van. For every bump, an exaggerated 'woosh' would be made by the engine.

"Damn Genesarian tech...."

His disdain for this place was shared by his squad; they all have had their share of bad memories of this continent. Always a pain in the ass being unable to use actual weapons in the face of unexplained anomalies. He hated the place, hated the magic, hated the number of goddamned anomalies in this continent because the moment they bring it to their main facility in Terrenus, it dies. Whoop de fuckin doo.

It doesn't matter. None of their opinion matters. When you're part of the Foundation, what you think, what you know, it's all irrelevant. Command sent in one of their best, Agent Rookstone, to buy off a Solarium with countless dozens of unexplained botanical anomalies. Some could be helpful, some are dangerous. If you ask Rookstone, he'd say 'They're a bunch of god-damned plants, get over it.'.

It wouldn't matter how much he protested though, he still had to do the Foundation's dirty work, him and 5 other unlucky, lucky agents who were sent to negotiate with the owner of the facility. Beats retrieval duty at least.

"All right, you've been briefed on what we're here to do. Listen to me at all times, protect yourselves at all times. Carlsen will carry the payload, I'll take lead. Jason, Daniels, I want you beside Carlsen. Eyes open for any threats, Flora or Fauna. Swanson will follow and cover Carlsen's flank and Pliskin will detach from the main group, standard overwatch procedure. In and out in 20 gentlemen." He said, receiving a collective nod in return.

"Weapons hot, ETA 1 minute." the driver spoke.

The hum of their CR-F23 Concussion rifles filled the van, neon-blue energy coursing through the weapon's main generator. A primitive but effective design, it's practically useless in any other continent than Genessaris, granted it's one of the only few Foundation-issued weapons that WORKS in Genessaris. Rookstone and Carlsen have the privilege of using actual fire-arms for self-defence, much less powerful but much more lethal than the others. Automatic weapons don't even work here, much to Swanson's dismay. Only the most basic of firearm technology, a rotating chamber and a firing pin.

"Spec-ops should arrive in 10 to close down the area and escort any remaining civilians out of the facility. No casualties would be preferrable, got that Swanson?" a shared laugh emanated throughout the squad. With a loud buzz, the door to the van opened and they all rushed out. Rookstone clearly didn't look the part, The other agents were wearing heavy-duty Foundation-issue full protective gear from head to toe, faces covered with protective gear, masks, visors and all to protect their identity but not Rookstone. He wore a simple black trench coat, covering the vest he wore underneath. 

Like a well-oiled machine, the squad, designated Beta-4, and Rookstone himself moved with speed and precision. The 5 men moved in a diamond-formation, the VIP in the centre protected from all sides. Pliskin who was at the tail of the formation detached and sought a suitable vantage point, going to the tallest greenhouse within the Solarium and grappling his way up, setting up camp.

Indeed, the sight of armoured men with guns and a metal briefcase unsettled the populace. Much left at the mere sight of these unknown, black-cladded menaces but some stayed, much more interested in the plants within the Solarium than some muscle that showed up. It didn't help that the men had a patch on their shoulders, a symbol of a yellow hexagon with a white triangle pointing inwards every 120°, a symbol many don't recognize but somehow feel familiar with, almost as if they've seen it on the back of their minds before but somehow forgot.

The men walked passed a laboratory, having to pass it to get to the higher levels of the facility where they would meet a lady named "Asha-Kwame" to negotiate the purchase of the Solarium, and threaten her if need be. Observing the Laboratory, he only saw a man within the premises with a lady caring to her finger. A pity indeed, an accident must've taken place just before they arrived. In their rush to meet the deadline, Rookstone accidentally nudged a plant-pot off the edge of the table where the lady was working. The clay pot shattered on impact with the hard tiled floor, much to the horror of Rookstone. He quickly apologized and tried to clean up the mess, scooping dirt with his gloved hand to the carcass of the previously pristine clay pot, to no avail. Oddly though, he could not find the small, withering plant that resided within the pot before his involvement. He wished it was of no importance, what damage could a little dying flower do? 

"My sincerest apologies. My name is Rookstone, Alexander Rookstone. I apologize for my ineptness. You are Miss....?" He spoke to the lady, hoping to appeal to her mercy.

FSTF Beta-4 (B-4) Uniform:


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Directed: @Pasion Pasiva @Infernal

Mention: @Meraxa


Edited by Sanonymous

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sample_94eecc8df56217feb683e9205e1110fceac49445.jpg?2264212A botanical garden. Is it tasty?

The little girl cocked her head in disbelief. Once more, the voice speaking in her head was interested in starting a conversation. Unfortunately, despite its sentience, the speaker, an abomination living like a parasite inside her,  was still incapable of human level common sense. No one had found it prudent to teach the abomination things like 'the garden being inedible' or perhaps 'it is definitely wrong to infest within the insides of a human girl.' Still, the little girl humored the being with a giggle.

No, you silly. A garden is a place not a thing. Although, the plants and little critters could probably whet you appetite. Just a bit.

Another stretch of silence greeted the girl as the being pondered on her words. Left to her own devices, she went back to literally checking out the flowers. She was thankful that the place was open to the public or she won't have any business strolling around like a lost child. Now that she had thought of it, did Orisia have any child protection services? Who knows when she might need it.

Shaking off the wayward thoughts, she entertained herself instead by skipping from one queer looking plant to another, her eyes and mouth growing wide in awe and wonder. It seems the trip to Orisia isn't that bad after all. If only her guardian would come and take her home. 

Now, I'm hungry.

Very hungry.

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She kept her back to him, unwilling or perhaps unable to face him as his sympathy crept toward her. Having confessed to the situation with her son, she was left with a bitter taste in her mouth -- as if she had revealed a secret that no one wants to hear. The truth of the matter was that she had given up Philippe. She had given the devil full custody over their son, and now she ached for him. But what right did she have to complain about her heartache, or to even allow it to dilute her attention in matters that were so important, when there were people like Jericho or even Marigold who had truly lost everything by the cruel litigations of fate. 


She had no right to feel sorry for herself. 


“As you wish, Your Grace. We can continue the lesson another time. My condolences toward your plight with your son. If there is any way I can help with that, please let me know. I live again to serve you, my Queen.”


It was temptation of the sweetest and most dangerous kind. From where she stood at the counter, still fretting over her finger, which had long since healed, she tilted her head and examined the necromancer from as much as her peripheral would allow. Thoughts of bloody battle came to mind, of broken bodies, and the sounds of a crying child. Her child. 


Gabriela had to turn away fully once more. 


“Thank you, Jericho… but it isn’t necessary. Things are as they should be.”


I think.


He didn’t say more. He didn’t need to. There were few people alive who had such a bond with the queen, and most of them had forged it through blood. Jericho and the Black Queen were tethered through the magic of the land, connected by something unlike anything else in the world. They were learning about each other, but Jericho was a good a student as he was a teacher. He had quickly picked up on when to push and when to depart without further prying. 




“Excuse me. Excuse me! Hello -- Hey you! You cannot leave that here,” a woman was calling out, she was pointing at the large vehicle that had been parked right in front of the steps leading up the doors. “You can’t go in there dressed like that either, you can’t brandish weapons -- this is a place for families. What the hell are you doing? Who in the world are you? Guards, guards!” There was a woman standing behind a glass and metal kiosk. She was near the large double doors that lead into the main foyer of the Crystal Palace, also known as the Solarium. Clearly she was in charge of distributing information and helping tourists find their way. She was quite official looking, with a black vest over her white blouse and a badge over her left breast that read, ‘Volunteer.’ 


There were guards, a dozen of them or so patrolling the outside of the structure and half as many within the crystal walls. They heard the call and left their leisurely walks to answer the call. The truth of the matter was that Lauren was a bit dramatic, and she called for the guards at least three times a day. Usually because someone wasn’t keeping to the designated paths within the gardens, or when some wayward child picked a flower, or any other sort of minimal offense. And while there was something more urgent sounding in her voice this time around, the truth of the matter was that this little girl had cried wolf one too many times.


“What do you think happened this time,” asked one guard to another. He was a burly man, quite tall and wide, but his partner was a petite creature, a felion type woman dressed in fitted metal armor. She laughed, her voice was musical.


“The gardners probably didn’t water the right area, or forgot to prune the shrubs she’s been complaining about,” she replied just as they turned a corner together in time to see a formation of heavily armored men rushing past the doors of the solarium. 


Their easy walk turned into a sprint.


“Hey! Stop…”


The collection of black-clad men, along with their trench-coat dressed leader, moved in unison and with all the militaristic training that denoted a well-planned but poorly executed assassination attempt. The guards knew that the queen was working inside the solarium today, it was a wonder that the Emperor had not issued any vampyric knights to her care, or that she had been allowed to leave behind her queen’s guard. It probably had to do with the fact that Raphael wasn’t even in the capital. Left to her own devices, Gabriela tended to lean toward the side carelessness. She was alone with Jericho, but the man was well trusted -- everything had seemed well enough. 


“You, go get the others -- tell them what’s happening. I can outrun them,” the female guard barked her orders to her male counterpart who did not think twice to question her logic. She was small, but she was fast, and someone had to warn the others that they were under attack. 




Jericho had left her, but she knew he wasn’t far. Perhaps he felt how heavy her heart was, or how she was on the verge of tears or begging him to help her get her son back. Whatever the case, he lingered within earshot, busying himself with whatever it is powerful necromancers busied themselves with. 


For the most part, she had cleaned up the mess of black blood and fallen soil. She was frowning at it, at her clumsiness, at all of it, when she turned and began to head out of the laboratory. Of course she had heard the heavy footfalls of the men, but she had thought nothing of it. Often, tours were given of these private laboratories, where the curious people of the city were allowed to glimpse at the splicing of new plants. She figured it was such an event taking place, and not anything more. Just as she turned to go and follow behind Jericho, she found herself surrounded on all sides by mask-clad men in black, and the one named Rookstone. 


At her feet, her small terracotta planter had fallen and shattered.


Gabriela was dressed in a black dress, but it was hidden under the heavy and thick cotton material of her lab coat. It was a modern enough look, but made with all the fine care and detail that only those who still work with their hands can manage. A petite thing, she stood far below the larger Rookstone, who wore a rather embarrassed look upon his face. Her golden eyes regarded him, and then the men behind him -- clearly at his command, and finally their weapons. 


“My sincerest apologies. My name is Rookstone, Alexander Rookstone. I apologize for my ineptness. You are Miss…?”


“I am Irene Gabriela DuGrace, the Black Queen of Orisia and the Empress of the Carmin Empire. I know for a fact that you and your men are not allowed to be here, and not in that get up -- which honestly, how in the world did you make it this far? Who sent you? What are you here for? You are aware that these are the sovereign lands of an independent country, barging in here like you are could easily be misconstrued as an act of war if not a terrorist attack.”


“Your Majesty,” the felion-like guard had arrived, just steps behind them, nearly breathless from her hard run to catch up. Drawn was her sword, which she wielded in her right hand, and in the left a long dagger. Both were held up, pointed at the men. “Are you alright?” 


A deep and troubling moment of confusion followed. Again, those summerset golden eyes were sweeping back and forth, taking in the sight of these men, of Rookstone. 


“What is this?”


Of course no one noticed the small, tendril like wisp of green that unfurled from the small pile of dirt and slid between two polished floor tiles, crawling along the seam of the floor to escape out beyond the door.

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 Kurush raised one eyebrow, as he caught movement in the corner of his eye. Not the kind of movement that one might have readily expected in a place like this; neither a forceful eviction by the guards, or a desperate throng trying to see if they could make out Her Majesty somewhere upon the grounds. No, this was... too organised for that. The young man did not stray from where he stood, but he began to study the plants that stood within his previous, peripheral vision, thereby also granting him a chance to look at the scene that was unfurling a short distance away from him.


Half a dozen or so men(?), clad in a body armour and wielding weapons clearly not of a local make. They moved as well with purpose and mission; doubtful to be mercenaries, they were most likely to be seeking work elsewhere in the capital, not apparently doing it on palatial grounds. Whoever they were, they were also uninvited, as evidenced by the lone guard trying to play catch-up behind them. That it was a lone guard was a curious thing; Kurush knew well enough from previous run-ins that they patrolled in pairs. Each to watch the other's back, or perhaps one to be the distraction and meat shield while the other actually dealt with a problem. Either way, there was no such extra, most likely meaning the other had been made a spare body for sounding the alarm.


These people were very much not invited.


Still, curious as it all was, it was hardly a matter he had to worry about, right? Guards would remind them this was crown property, and no-one would be stupid enough to cause trouble. Well, he hoped not at least, as trouble would disturb what he had realised to be an otherwise much, much more pressing issue. Kurush flicked the red flower from where it rested atop his ear, and extended it out, to the seemingly young woman beside him. He threw up the best smile he could, batting his eyes briefly as he offered the flower to this stranger.

After all, why not?



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Beta-4 Mission log: Day 1

Time elapsed: 8 minutes from first entry


Some ost to play while reading this, fits in well: 



This was not ideal. They planned to reach the office before anyone could realize what happened. Sure the guards would notice here and there, but a few dozen sword-wielding men wouldn't be of any issue, lest they pose a threat. 

But now because of Rookstone's mistake, they are delayed and are face-to-face with the sovereignty of the Carmin empire. This was not part of the plan, they had no intel on the empress being here on this day, much less encountering her in their path.

Rookstone looked at his watch in the middle of the empress' threat, in a way undermining it and disregarding her. He knew he was on a tight deadline, lest the time runs out and backup arrives; he would not rather have any blood spilt on these cobbled streets today.

12 minutes remaining.

As soon as the guard raised her sword to the men, a clear audible static noise could be heard. A man's voice came through the radio on Rookstone's right chest, it was Pliskin.

"I have her on my sights, give the call sir."

A red dot was resting upon the guard's forehead. It was clear this was no ordinary attack, nor was this an assassination attempt; they are clearly stating with a threat that they could have easily dispatched anyone standing in their way, that they were vulnerable to a mere pull of a trigger.

"Stand by, hold the trigger, switch to stun," Rookstone replied.

As fast as he uttered the sentence, the laser turned to blue and now was pointing at the guard's chest, a much easier target to shoot if she attempts to dodge.

"My deepest apologies your majesty, I would much prefer that none be hurt today; lest this Solarium be tainted with the blood of the innocents,"  he spoke as he slightly pulls back his coat to reveal a silver revolver. 

His men were now on standby too. The rifles previously dark and dim was now charged up, fully bright with a bluish hue, emanating a hum that roared with the sound of an engine charging up.

"We mean no harm, we truly do. We are simply here to negotiate with the owner of this Solarium, Asha-Kwame. I am sure, you know why, your majesty." He said, gesturing to the patch. A yellow hexagon with three white arrows.

No one else would know, of course, other than the Empress herself. It was not only a national but an international necessity that the VCF remained confidential to all but the highest ranking and the strongest of men and women all over Valucre. Years prior, site-82 of the Orisian isles suffered a containment breach, one of the worst in VCF history. thousands perished of the then-annexed territory of the Carmin empire and OS-2 had to personally speak to the Empress herself, along with 100 armed agents. 
The negotiations were short.
Needless to say, the VCF remained on site-82 but the population of the Carmin empire had to be administered a class-A amnestic, to have them forget the incident completely, all but the Empress and the Emperor. Some details remained familiar to the populace, sitting within their sub-conscience. That symbol, the yellow hexagon and three arrows, the symbol of the Foundation. The symbol that reduced the molten giant that rose from the ground to cinder and ash.

"Please, for my sake and yours, stand your guards down and let. Us. Through." he spoke, threateningly no less; a clear sign of disregard and disrespect to the Empress. He knew it was unwise to speak to the Sovereignty of the Carmin Empire with such disdain, but the end must justify the means, and said means is what he needs to do to have the end goals met. 

Now the guns were pointed at the guard and the Empress herself, and Pliskin watched idly for any threats that may be dealt onto the main strike team, either internal or external.

The rook has now taken a gambit with the queen. Now the only question remaining; will she take it or stand her ground?

Directed: @Pasion Pasiva @Infernal

Witness: @Meraxa

Mention: @Thotification


Just trying out a new format of posting, if it's too confusing please do let me know.


Edited by Sanonymous

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Just beyond the doorway, Jericho waited in absolute silence, listening to the conversation of this newest commotion. He had left to gather his materials, books he had brought with him and had quizzed the black queen on their contents before their experiment. Now there were armed men in the other room, with weapons he did not recognize, but knew to be deadly. Intruders were here, making demands of his Queen, and for that alone they should die.

Wait, what was this? They seemed to know each other, had even met each other during a crisis, a secret...

He had hoped there would be no secrets between himself and Gabriela, that they were able to be honest with each other, as master and student. Jericho knew it wasn't his place to feel  over it, she was doing her duty to her people, and sometimes that meant keeping a secret. Still, it pained him to think about it, and perhaps after this he would have a discussion with her to understand the true depth of the lies which now seemed to divide them.

Coming forward from his position, he announced himself plainly. "Before you do something you may regret, I am Lord Jericho Estelle-Negra, servant to the Queen and curious as to your intentions. You there." He looked to the guard woman, milky white eyes betraying nothing. "You are relieved. My presence alone is enough to prevent any harm from happening to Queen DuGrace. They will find their little...toys insufficient in stopping me should I decide to intervene. Now, let us behave as civilized folk should, and allow these gentlemen their audience with the proprietor of this establishment. Once their business is concluded they can be on their way, and we can forget this ugly attempt at violence."

Jericho had a low tolerance for brutes with no manners. Men of such caliber were better suited for working in the fields, where they could apply their anger in more constructive ways. Looking to Gabriela he could indeed see that she was all right, and was certain she knew not to mention his role as her teacher. If they already knew then so be it, but that didn't mean they had to speak openly about it should they be unaware. He too knew how to keep secrets. 

Edited by Infernal

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Khakina received the flower and mumbled her thanks but she was more concerned with all these armed personnel suddenly appearing out of nowhere. From the cartel's repository of memories she could see some kind of similarities with these armed groups and the ones that recently hired the Mistress and that brat Ravenbush. She found it to prudent to make her scarce or at least go incognito lest their attention would be targeted on her.

I'm not a monster. Just hungry.

You are one. Don't deny it. Now go to sleep or we'll be in big trouble.

And with that, the abomination inside her fell silent. That's one less thing the little girl has to worry about.

Her eyes shifted from the flower to the man before her. He may have noticed the sudden tension brought by these foreign entities. Armed entities. Still, Khaki found it prudent to smell the flower the man gave her as a token of gratitude.

"i'm Kkaki, by the way," she spoke to the man, "Perhaps we should go, I'm not really comfortable with the sudden situation."

Then she sensed it. A wrongness within the garden. She cannot determine where but she may have felt it too late. Is this what these armed people wanted? Khaki could only hope she won't get caught up in all of this.

Maybe I should call for this city's version of child protection services.

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A tendril of green was pulsing nearby but no one took notice. 


This little seedling, it sensed the tension in the air and vibrated with the resounding anxiety that lingered in the voices of those who spoke. It shook with the force of the footfalls that rained down all around it, while it remained hidden within its small, thin, grove between the white tiles. It had only taken a second or two, but magically infused seedling had awoken just as the queen’s black blood watered it’s soul. And it had drank deeply of that black blood, and with La’Ruta sealed within its roots, had come to know some semblance of awareness. 


But it knew only a singular thing, from which all of its actions sprung, and that was thirst. 


With great rage and need, the little seedling thirsted for blood. 




“My deepest apologies your majesty, I would much prefer that none be hurt today; lest this Solarium be tainted with the blood of the innocents. We mean no harm, we truly do. We are simply here to negotiate with the owner of this Solarium, Asha-Kwame. I am sure, you know why, your majesty.”


“I can assure you that I do not know why,” Gabriela replied, her brows set into a firm and angry frown. 


Her golden eyes saw the flash of red atop her guard’s forehead and the shift to blue that followed once the same pointer shifted down to settle between her breasts. She knew what it was and what it meant. They had brought a caliber of weapons into her home that was forbidden, and for this, her cold blood began to boil.


There was much that Rookstone thought he knew -- there was a lot that he thought the Empress knew. They were operating from a place of total chaos now, as the man stood there trying to communicate something subtly that the Black Queen of Orisia was simply not privy too. As far as she knew, there had never been any sort of incident in Orisia that she was not aware of, she was also completely unfamiliar with his agency and unite, and finally the sigil that he pointed out, the yellow hexagon and three arrows, it meant absolutely nothing to her. Orisia had only recently come into the power of the Carmine Empire, it had been a completely independent nation prior to that for at least 5 years, and before that it had existed in a state of complete anarchy after the Great North decimated the royal family at the time. 


There was a chance that something may have happened -- something between the Emperor of Carmine and the VCF, sometime before he had claimed Gabriela as his bride and back when he was secretly enforcing law and order in her name. She couldn’t be certain, but if that was the case, then she had never been privy to the secret dealings between the two entities of power. So the familiarity with which Roockstone regarded her was all the more offensive. 


“Please, for my sake and yours, stand your guard down at let. Us. Through.”


There was a severe edge to his voice now, and a narrowing of his small eyes. She saw a gun turned upward and the barrel of it pointed directly at her. She looked down in time to see the flashing of vivid blue light across the perfect white of her lab coat, right between her breasts, and above her small pregnant belly.  She made a point of setting her hand atop her stomach, the swell of it which was far more distinct now. She wanted to make sure they knew that they were threatening a pregnant woman -- a pregnant empress no less. 


“You there...you are relieved. My presence alone is enough to prevent any harm from happening to Queen DuGrace. They will find their little… toys insufficient in stopping me should I decide to intervene. Now, let us behave as civilized folk should, and allow these gentlemen their audience with the proprietor of this establishment. Once their business is concluded they can be on their way, and we can forget this ugly attempt at violence.”


“Do not stand down,” Gabriela said, speaking over Jericho. She understood his reasoning and she knew what he wanted to do. He was a wise man, perhaps measuring the value of the precious child growing within her womb, the first full blooded vampyre -- Raphael’s heir. “You gentlemen, all of you,” she glanced at Jericho pointedly, “--seem to fail to understand that I am the Black Queen of Orisia. This building, this city, this entire bloody island and nation is my domain, and I will not be threatened in my own home. So you stand down, Mr. Rookstone and surrender yourself into my guard’s custody before you make things for you and your men so much worse than they already are.”


There was a ripple of power, something that the strangers may not feel or if they do, would not likely understand. Undulating waves of La’Ruta shifted from where Gabriela stood, but rather than move outward to disperse as was natural and normal, a small shooting seeding began to suck up the spilling magic, drinking of it as if it were water laced with blood. While the small, velvet leaves of the seeding did not grow much larger, it’s roots grew thick and strong and began pushing through the floor, cracking the glass under the tiles and dangling in mid air before growing longer, faster and faster. From below, those who remained in the gardens, would see a thick vine-like thing extending downward, growing as it stretches. 


Gabriela began to move, she was walking forward -- the broken terracotta pot forgotten, the seedling as well, her blood most of all pushed back to the interior of her mind. Up, she moved until she was nearly face to face with the man pointing the gun at her, close enough to feel the cool, metal muzzle press against her flesh through layers of fabric. 


If Raphael were here he’d kill them, she thought to herself. 


If Raphael were here, he might kill me, she reasoned as well, knowing how unkindly he would take to her putting their unborn child in danger. But she wasn’t trying to be brave. She was just angry. Angry at being pushed around, angry at being ordered around, angry at these strangers who did not seem to have the most basic intelligence correct.


“Asha-Kwame works for me. She has no authority to sell or trade secrets kept within this facility. This solarium belongs to me…”


There was a blast. It nearly made her go deaf. Unlike humans, her hearing was spectacularly better. But the sudden explosion struck her with more force because of this. A gun had malfunctioned. A bullet was discharged, even though the weapon was set to stun. And now the smell of gunpowder, smoke, and blood was threatening to suffocate her. Gabriela had a distant thought -- that it smelled like Roen -- before feeling herself knocked over with Jericho flung over her body for protection. 


Across from them, sprawled on the floor, lay the Orisian knight -- twitching and gurgling on her own blood. There was a hole in her chest, and from it, blood oozed and soaked into her armor, spilling and making a growing puddle under her. Much to the horror of all witnesses, there was a small green seedling growing from the corner of that crimson lake of blood. The little, tender shoot had moved on the blood like a starving animal upon a fresh kill. 


And then they could all hear the glass creaking and cracking under their feet as the roots of what appeared to be a small seedling grew as thick as a man’s thigh.

Edited by Pasion Pasiva

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Beta-4 Mission log: Day 1

Time elapsed: 16 minutes from entry

Current status: Code Emerald

Plant-based anomalous threat has been encountered

Disaster. That was all that was in Rookstone's mind as the queen's words were spoken. The VCF incident was years ago, how was he to not know that the current emperor's bride was not informed of the disaster that wiped out countless lives? No, that didn't matter. Now there are 2 highly dangerous vampires, a B-class threat by Foundation standards, staring right towards them ready to kill if necessary, pregnant no less. They were only armed with weapons meant for E-class, humans. Like them, vulnerable. 

"Your majesty please und-" was all he could speak before he saw the female knight, who valiantly attempted to protect the queen, appear with a hole in her chest. Gurgling in her blood, pathetically squirming for whatever ounce of life she had left, until her body went limp. The blood pooled, it's crimson colour tainting the pristine floors of the laboratory.
But wait.
He never gave the order to fire.

"That wasn't us."

The moment he finished his sentence, roots like tendrils flared through the floor, thick as a tree branch and growing rapidly.

What have they done?

In the instance he saw the vines whip through the floor, he knew exactly what to do. "CODE EMERALD, I REPEAT CODE EMERALD, ABORT MISSION, PROTECT THE VIP" He shouted into the radio that hung on his coat, urgency and dread within his voice. He knew this threat too well, he saw more than a man should within their lifetime in his relatively young age, benefits of working in the foundation; nothing surprises you anymore.

His squad members stayed calm, spreading out in a circle to protect Jericho and the queen herself. Carlsen still held onto the briefcase for dear life, the other hand with his revolver out. As much as they disliked to do it, Rookstone's orders were clear as day.

Rookstone, on the other hand, was panicking. Hiding it for now but no less panicking. This was not part of the plan, this shouldn't have happened. The foundation scouted this place for months, no plants should have been able to lash out like this. He knew for a fact this wasn't the queen or what he presumed to be the mentor's doing, no use attacking their guards. This must be the action of a self-aware plant. 

As he was thinking, Swanson went over to the queen to see if she was alright. As he kneeled to inspect on the queen's current condition, a tendril as thick as a log shot out of the ground, it's edge a deadly point.

Just as quickly as it emerged, it was decimated by a well-placed shot of a heavy slug. A slug belonging to Pliskin.

"Pliskin you son of a-"

"Watch your 6"

Pliskin replied as calm as ever, with good reason. 3 more came out, targeting Agent Daniels and Jason. Rookstone's reasoning for the queen's protection was now clear even if it was unintentional; the plants are targeting the queen herself. 

Daniels and Jason instinctively aimed their rifles onto the plant tendrils, but the trigger produced nothing but a weird rising hum and...





The noise left everyone's ear ringing, the explosion emanated from the guns themselves. Genesarian tech was spotty at best in Orisia, but this was a worst-case scenario, especially in this situation.
When the smoke cleared, Rookstone watched in horror with a poker face at both of his men that now laid on the floor, their front side completely charred and burnt. Their mask
and goggles were fused onto their skin and the areas that were unprotected by the armour was burnt to the bone, charring it as well.


Jason and Daniels were killed on the spot.


Their sacrifice was not for nought, the immense heat that came from the explosion also led the plants to retreat. The fire was a major bane to them apparently, something common for plant-based threats. As the smoke started to clear, he knew this laboratory wasn't safe, and neither was his men. 

"Pliskin the plants now know your position, rendezvous back at the entrance. Inform reinforcements to switch weapons to bolt action rifles with incendiary ammo, magi-tech is useless here." He spoke, his voice as calm and collected as when he arrived. "Carlsen, Swanson, make sure the queen is alright, the other one too." he continued. Everyone was panicking, the room was now unbearably hot especially in their gear, the lights were knocked out from the explosion and the only thing that illuminated the laboratory was the burning remains of the two ex-squad members, but he had to stay calm and collected. He had too, he was the captain.

If these agents were supposed to be human, they didn't show it. They hurt like humans, they bleed like humans, but they didn't act like them. Even after two of their comrades lost their lives to a gruesome death, they heeded no attention to it, moving like machines heading towards the VIPS still on the floor after the initial explosion.

Carlsen was the only one other than rookstone with a working weapon, as Swanson discarded his rifle when he saw them blow up in the hands of Jason and Daniels. Swanson once more headed to the queen's side who had the other man resting above her frame. He pulled out his hand to touch the queen's neck, it was oddly cold, but he could feel it. Slow and steady, he always forgot how slow a vampire's heart can beat. No doubt, if she was human, she would be declared unconscious or near-death. He heaved a sigh of relief, probably the first thing he did that seemed of human nature, even if Swanson was a gung-ho soldier, addicted to the premise of warfare, he like any human value life to the highest degree - pertaining to their short lifespans.  


"They're alive sir, still recovering from auditory damage. Vampyre ears are incredibly sensitive, the VIP must be in tremendous pain right now, if not temporarily deaf. The other one seems fine though, extraction team will arrive in 5 minutes"


Rookstone observed the room. The entrance was destroyed, rubble covering the exit presumably either by the explosion or deliberately destroyed by the plants. They could no longer exit the way they came, Pliskin was now alone to fend for himself. If he was lucky, he could escape the Solarium and meet up with the extraction team.

Rookstone analyzed the situation carefully, their next move could mean life or death. He walked up to the queen, reaching out his hand to help her get up. He hoped she harboured no hard feelings, he felt an obligation to escort the queen to safety, he couldn't let a pregnant monarch die under his presence after all. He needed the queen's guidance, she knew the place better than he did, she MUST know another way out... Right?

Carlsen moved onto Jericho's side, his exhausted, pained face covered by the many layers pf his mask. He put the briefcase down gently, and put Jericho's arm over his shoulder, hoisting him up. Carlsen knew the only way out of this situation is together, might as well help them while they can and try share any semblance of camaraderie, even if it be a hostile and temporary one.


Related image

Directed: @Pasion Pasiva @Infernal @Meraxa @Thotification (Everyone should be able to hear the blast and the rubble falling)

Edited by Sanonymous

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Kurush could quickly tell that the flower had served only as a fleeting distraction from the admittedly, potentially worrying set of armed thugs that had burst their way into the Queen's garden, and were still vaguely visible in the distance, though their forms were obscured and blurred by the various layers of glass - and the gaps of open air - in between, along with the simple difference in height. Curiously, the blob of black that he took to be to be the intruders had largely stopped, which would mean either one of two things: They had either found what (or who) they were looking for, or had come across something (or someone) that imposed a sufficient enough barrier as to block them going any further. Given how they had so easily ignored the guard chasing after them, and he could not easily make out any kind of similarly sized blob in opposition to them, if it were the latter option, there would only be so many people in the building that could presumably command such a presence.


How very curious.


"Kurush." He threw up a light smile in almost immediate response to Khaki's introduction, laying down his notebook on the edge of the flowerbed, subsequently trying the name upon his tongue a few times. Once he was certain as to its pronunciation, Kurush listened to the rest of what Khaki had to say with regards to the situation before them. Dirt-encrusted fingers wrapped around his chin as he considered how best to approach the design; deciding at first to make his consideration visible, noting, "Well, that's fair. You never know what strange men with strange weapons may be up to. Perhaps I could escort you to the ex-"

His attempt to excuse himself accompanying the young woman was cut short, as he noticed something strange stretching across the rooftop above him. Plant roots? But they were growing far too quickly - such things were not supposed to be visible to the naked eye, even Kurush knew that. He whipped his head around, trying to follow the roots back to their source. He could see their green tendrils snake through the translucent frame of the complex, leading all the way back to...


That room. With the armed men.


"You know what? Yes, yes we should go." Kurush found himself shuffling behind Khaki, urging her along towards what he believed to be the nearest exit, though that was still several sections away. "Maybe I can show you aro-"


The noise wasn't... loud, as such. Not at this distance, through so many materials. But it was distinctive, and clearly noticeable. Some kind of explosion - but Kurush could not see what had exploded. There was a pause as he tried to discern it all - some of the glass broken, maybe? He was curious for sure, but this was one of those instances where he could recognise a possible result would be one that made him akin to a cat in the old saying.

"Come on, come on." He urged to Khaki, now stepping ahead of her - less to lead her on, more to make sure he wasn't holding himself to her pace - and shuffling down the steps in an attempt to get out of as soon as could be managed.


He paused about mid-way.

"Wait, shit, where-?" Kurush mumbled, hands patting down all across the body, and scouring the satchel that hung off his side. More than anything else, this seemed to worry him most.

Oh, right, he'd put it down by the flowerbed.

"I'm getting my notebook!" He hastily explained why he was rushing back up towards the potential danger he had otherwise just been so insistent against escaping, figuring it would only be a short distance so as to reclaim his most prized possession. Even if it meant ignoring the second, much louder BANG that shook the facility as he rose the steps. Whatever the first one had been, this was straight up an explosion! All he wanted to do was draw flowers and flirt, dammit!

Edited by Meraxa

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So it begins.

It seems her intuition was correct. The unexpected wrongness. That familiar feeling of dread. Her senses that remembered it. A supernatural signature similar to the oppressive La'ruta that had given her trouble way back during the shitstorm that happened in Ceyana. Back then,  they had two gods who played hooky with them but there's only men here. Not to mention the actual Black Queen is just a few feet away from here.

I'll ogle the Black Queen later. Safety first.

Shrugging off her wayward thoughts, the little girl followed this kind fellow she recently knew. Kurush seemed to be quite the cute and gentle lad so she blindly trailed after her new friend who seemed to be in a hurry to get away from the impending chaos. However the the man seemed to have suddenly forgot something and had to go back.

Happens every time.

Rolling her eyes, Khaki turned on her heels in hopes of running after the man. The first explosions was bad enough and the second one is bound to have killed someone. Not that it mattered to her but the corpse would be a waste if it was crushed under all the rubble. Would have been a good feast for her abomination. Just another weird eating habit of her parasite.

"We need to go back!" Khaki pleaded at the man. "If the place goes down, we'll be trapped here."


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A sea of people, pushing against each other in an effort to escape something strange. She watched the flowing tide with confusion, holding the boy's hand tightly and wondering what was happening. For whatever reason, there was a notable amount of patrons leaving the Solarium as another group entered. Currently the two were situated on a balcony that overlooked the main atrium and, from there, they could see paths that were lined by foliage. Pomin's current obsession was a large tree in the distant background, it's branches arcing high in some vain effort to puncture the skylight of the Solarium.

"Let's go there," he said. The kid had a heart for adventure, it seemed.

Still, Karis kept eyeing the atrium. There was something going on there, but she could only pick out the Queen as she faced off her new guests.  

"Follow me," said their tour guide. "Much to see, and it's much more interesting up close." He was a cute old man, and a clear lover of botany. He gestured them away from the balcony and toward the stairs they had taken to get here, displaying a patience that must have come with age since Karis certainly didn't have it just yet. Their tour group slowly left the glorious view. It consisted of a younger couple, Karis and her nephew, and a grizzled bear of a man who had yet to ask a question. All of them complied, though Karis had to yank Pomin from the railing before following. Luckily, he was still light, a new ten year old as of last week. As the group descended a flight of stairs, he held her hand tightly and she felt a pang of guilt. It was rare for them to spend time together. I'm not his mother, she thought. No, I guess I'm preferable to her. 

It was at the base of the stairs that the boom rang through the Solarium, a resounding sound which embedded itself in the very glass and stone walls. Their own shouts quickly followed, and the entire tour group froze. The trees that lined the path ahead of them shook with a fear that echoed what they heard. Birds took flight, soaring through the open expanse that was given to them. She suddenly felt very jealous of the wings given to pigeons. 

"What," asked the young man, "was that?" His wife looked around, her eyes filled with honest fear. Pomin drew closer to Karis. 

"Ah, I'm unsure," the tour guide replied, his tone laced with worry. He stood in front of the group, scratching his head. "It's possible that the Queen has been experimenting but..."

"Experimenting?" Karis scoffed. "I'm sorry, but plants don't make those noises." The tour group shared her sentiments, but the guide regarded her with clear concern, the lines of his face creasing even further. He opened his mouth to address her, but they were interrupted by another explosion. This one threw them to the floor. Karis thought she heard the sound of collapsing structure and widened her eyes. What is this? An attack? Today? 

Their tour guide made a sound, getting her attention. She looked up to see him on his knees, red faced. He was hyperventilating. The young woman left her husband's embrace and rushed to him, a hand on his back and a soft voice that even comforted her. Karis, feeling inspired, looked to Pomin. The boy was already looking at her with wide green eyes. He looked a lot like her brother right now. "What's happening?" he asked. His voice was small. He probably felt smaller. 

"Not sure," she answered softly. "Just relax, kiddo. I'll get us out of here."

The large man, who had been a silent statue until then, stepped forward. He approached their tour guide, and spoke with a rumbling voice. "Lead us out of here," he said. 

"He can't talk," snapped the woman, "let alone walk." 

"Then I will carry him. We cannot stay here." The giant man spoke differently. It took her some time to realize that he had a Terran accent. Why's he here? 

"I agree," Karis said, rising and pulling Pomin up with her. 

"They're right, Mena," said the woman's husband. After a moment, she relented. They waited a bit longer for the tour guide to calm down, but were quickly on their way with the old man slung on the Terran's back. When he wasn't leading the group toward the entrance, he was whispering to himself. Pomin suggested that he might've been praying, a thought that frustrated Karis. Praying wouldn't help in this moment. Runes, however...

Runes were a gateway to a full manifestation of human will. They represented the idea that with a symbol and command one could access true power and control it. Their family was defined by these symbols and she had been practicing with runes for years, first under her mother's tutelage then driven by her own hunger for the arcane. Indeed, Karis Nextwin was a master of the runic arts in her own right.

So, it was a surprise to her that she'd forgotten her stylus, the main component for the interface between this world and the other, today of all days. Damn it.


Edited by ticklefarte

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