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Tyler

A Crowning Achievement [Artifact]

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"In air? All we need is a scout on the ground who will send us the exact coordinates. Oh also we could use fire." At the mention of the word fire, Holly's hand crept up to the sword usually strapped to her back, only to find the Oathblade no longer there. "If I still have Sunscar perhaps. Sadly, an army of short females does not sit well with Crowley."

Trailing after the Duchess' wake, Holly gestured her goons to follow. "My crew members are capable of seeing through darkness. We've picked up a lot of tricks during our campaigns in mainland Terrenus. We've been trained for missions like this."

"But it would be a good idea to send for reinforcements, claim the Uldwar's lands for your own."

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"I was not aware that House Sheathe conducted "campaigns" on the mainland," Abigail eyed Holly suspiciously.

While it was known that Holly was training her farmers for combat, it was another thing for Holly to claim experience in military operations in Terrenus. Who was this woman and what had she been up to before claiming ladyship over House Sheathe? 

"But I'll trust you in this instance; pick you best scout and we shall send them ahead. I will attempt to send a message back to Gold Harbor to request reinforcements, however; I have no intention of claiming Port Mars for my own. No doubt it would reflect poorly in front of the new government..." she trailed off and looked around at the city, "Plus it will take some significant investment to make this place profitable again. I will pass, for now."

They approached the airship, at which point Abigail motioned for one of the marines to run ahead.

"See if you can get that Norkotian radio working. I want it functioning by the time I board," she demanded.

The marine rushed up the gangplank and onto the ship. There was a large, portable radio that the Karradeens had brought on board back in Gold Harbor, but it had not been used, nor tested, from this range before. Even so, the marine managed to obtain a weak connection with the Karradeen airfield radio tower back on Corinth. Abigail left Holly to pick out her scout and send them ahead, while she herself went and began relaying a message to her servants back in the Karradeen estate.

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"I was not aware that House Sheathe conducted "campaigns" on the mainland"

Holly shrugged at that. "That story is for another time. And perhaps another place."

Such a tale of course would be too long and mostly inappropriate to their current situation. And would be most likely dangerous for the Lady Sheathe to have her past life known to someone other than those closest to her. The repercussions would be terrible. Not that it mattered to her anyway. She's more or less over it.

"But I'll trust you in this instance; pick you best scout and we shall send them ahead. I will attempt to send a message back to Gold Harbor to request reinforcements, however; I have no intention of claiming Port Mars for my own. No doubt it would reflect poorly in front of the new government..."

Abby's words made Holly frown. "Not claiming Port Mars? Feels like a waste to me. Not that I'm interested either. Such stuff only reeks of politics and I try to stay away from them as much as possible."

When the Duchess left, Holly turned to her crew members. "You heard the Douche-ess," she spoke, her voice as neutral as possible. "I need Khakina on the ground, try to find the bugbears as quick as possible. Meanwhile, Teddy and Sera will be going with me back to the ship."

Her 'servants' all nodded their assent and with that, the trio are gone leaving Khaki all alone. The little girl eyed the retreating figures of her companions for a short time before a frustrated sigh escaped her lips then she disappeared into the darkness of the forest.

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After sending off the radio message, the airship took off, and they began to head to the north, away from the city and toward the few patches of jungle that had not been completely destroyed by the lava-flow during the eruptions some weeks prior. However it was that Khaki was able to maintain contact with Holly, Abigail could not say, nor did she question it. She only allowed Holly and her crew to do their thing as they were guided over the jungle.

The airship would ironically spot the camp before Khaki could, though Khaki was responsible at least for putting them in the right direction. The trails of smoke billowing over the treeline were a dead giveaway once they were spotted. This was soon joined by an orange glow emanating from the ground beneath the canopy. When Khaki finally got in position to peer into the camp, she'd find scores of bugbears all moving about to and fro. Despite the appearance that there had been some manner of feast at one point, the camp actually looked in disarray, and there was blood and bodies scattered about the ground. It appeared as though there had been some sort of massacre, as a number of the bodies looked human. But upon closer inspection, she'd realize that many were also bugbears, and there were piles of corpses from each race being formed a bit further into the camp.

Whatever happened here had been recent, within the last few hours to be sure. To one side of the camp, she would notice a young human male strapped to a wooden construct, with his shirt torn asunder and his back being brutally assaulted by a whip made of rope and bone. His screams could be heard over the rest of the sounds of the camp and the nighttime jungle. Why they were torturing him specifically was difficult to determine, though he appeared to be the only human left alive in the camp.

"You haven't even asked me any questions!" the young man screamed.

"Shaddup, human!" the torturer grunted, "No need to question. Know who behind this already. Will make them pay... but first... make you squeal!"

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Finding the camp was easy. Her olfactory senses were more beast than human, after all. She can never forget the scent of the bugbears. Or of the human prisoner being tortured right now.

The little girl peered at the scene from the hiding place the forest has graciously provided. She was in a dilemma. Should she save the man or just let him die? Clearly there's only one option here.

So Khakina waited. Patiently waiting for the right opportunity. Soon, one of the bugbears seperated from the camp and went off on his own into the forest trails. A chance. The woman swiftly yet stealthily trailed the bugbear until he came pass the darker part of the trail.

It was over in a flash. The bugbear did not have a chance to react. A little human girl pounced on him out of nowhere. The last thing the bugbear saw was the girl's tiny mouth opening into a massive maw, there was the glint of sharp teeth and then he was gone.

A few moments later, Khakina can be seen mingling with the other bugbears back at the camp. Assimilating the bugbear's persona was not a problem for the little girl. This was not the first time she had worn a dead person's flesh. Now all that's needed is the strike from above.

Edited by Thotification

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While Khakina was busy scouting on the ground, the others were up there in the airship preparing for their assault. There were four cannons aboard the ship, not that Holly ever needed to make use of them. One can say that the noblewoman is a true pacifist. These weapons are only meant to pacify the opposition. Still, she needed them working in case opportunities would arise. Like their current circumstance.

She sat there on her wheelchair, near the prow of her airship, her eyes overlooking the enemy encampment from afar. She knew that they should attack now while the enemy still haven't noticed them yet. Her ship was silent after all and barely visible during night unless there's moonlight.

She did send Sera out there, as an aerial scout. Through the use of radio waves, Holly and Sera are able to communicate from afar. All she needed now are the coordinate from Sera before giving the go signal.

Cocking her head as if listening to something, Holly decoded Sera's latest transmission. Turning to face the Duchess, Holly relayed the woman the necessary information. "We can start shooting now."

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Abigail had been waiting impatiently as the airship hovered over the camp, waiting for Holly to get the signal. At last it came, and Holly indicated that they were ready to attack. The duchess immediately raised a hand to signal her sharpshooters, who were positioned on the railings around the perimeter of the airship deck.

"Pick your targets and fire at will!" she barked.

As Holly's ship cannons began their heavily bombardment, the sharpshooters began picking off bugbears that dared to step out of the canopy cover and into the open ground below. The camp was soon in an uproar, which also prompted the torturer to abandon the young human he was whipping, so that he could grab a proper weapon and join the defense. Not that the defense was proving effective int he least. The bugbear bows were sturdy and could shoot a ways, but they were firing blindly at a dark mass hovering above their camp, barely even within their range. Meanwhile, the Karradeen and Sheathe forces had a bonfire illuminated camp to fire down into, giving them double the advantage.

With most of the bugbears either trying to shoot at the distant airship, both the prisoner and their store tents had been left abandoned. However, if Khaki were to search the tends, she'd find them near-empty, with much of what remained being damaged or scattered. It was as though this bugbear coalition had already used up all the loot they stole from Port Mars... or perhaps someone else had already stolen it from them?

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The Lady Sheathe almost grinned at the massacre below. This was always what she had in mind.  Death from above. Firing at ground level targets from a place where their paltry return fire could never reach. She found it glorious but only for a moment. If this was the past version of her, she would have been part of the shooting but now that she's grown older and wiser, she can no longer take joy at this pointless murder. Then again, she's not one to talk. She had lead more people to their deaths than the number of civilians all these bugbears have killed.

Meanwhile, Khaki the bugbear has long shed her bugbear skin as soon as the attack started. The little girl had reverted to her original figure, the form of an eldritch monster. She was no longer one being but a mass of multiple blobs of blackened gooey flesh. These smalls black blobs moved like jellies across the battlefield and devouring any bugbear corpse they happen to chance upon.While they were consuming, these blobs are also tasked with determining the location of the said special object, one that Khakina is very familiar with. She had experienced the Crown once as she was very instrumental in helping the Uldwars acquire it and that chance encounter allowed her to imprint within her memories the magical. The blobs' sensors can detect this magical signature within five meters of each blob. Unfortunately, there was no reaction at all.

Disappointed, Khaki moved to check who this poor tortured man is. She was joined by Sera who was earlier acting as the groups aerial scout during the attack. They peered at the dying man, faces filled with amusement.

"Now who the bloody fuck is this?"

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The bugbears, despite their best efforts to #resist, were absolutely routed, and most dispersed into the woods in fear. Those who remained were killed or eaten by Khaki, leaving almost nothing in the way of prisoners. Unfortunately, there was no sign that any of them possessed the crown, or that the crown had even been in this camp.

However, the tortured youth, one Shane Haynes, a displaced fugitive who was now a couple years separated from his exile from Norkotia, and who had cycled through a fair number of less-than-reputable organizations since, could tell that the newcomers were searching for something. The sight of Khaki's true form terrified him, but Sera at least seemed human, and familiar at that. His vision was starting to blur, for the wounds on his back were not meant merely as torture, but as a method of slow, painful execution, but he was able to recognize Sera after a moment. She had been a member of the Cult of Power at the same time as he had been, though he had since forsaken that bond and returned to Ursa Madeum to join the pirates there. Unfortunately, that got him stuck here instead, only reinforcing to him that there was little honor among thieves.

"I... I know you..." he whispered, looking at Sera, "You are with the cult... Did Lilith send you... to kill me?"

There was a noticeable scar on one of his arms, where skin and flesh had been cut away. This was where his mark had been, but when he abandoned the cult he forced himself to remove it. The wound was stable now, after many months, but still appeared grotesque to look at. 

"I'm... I'm not ready to die... Please, just let me go and I won't bother anyone again," he added after a moment, looking down, despair evident in his voice.

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ced84de1603372b8341c70c26721256f.jpg While Sera and Khaki were racking their brains and mulling over who the fuck is this guy, the duo decided to send a message back to Holly. Nodding her assent, the Lady Sheathe turned to the Duchess.

Face filled with thought, she addressed her concerns. "We have a human survivor down there. I'll land the ship so we can try to question the man." She paused then as if trying to think of her next words. "He's barely alive. It would be a miracle if we can reach him in a more lively state."

Whether the Duchess protested or not, Holly gestured to her other workers to lower the airship's altitude. Soon the vessel has landed on the bugbears' desolate camp. There was another dark-skinned woman who aided the crippled Lady down the airship's plank and down into the clearing.

"Thank you, Teddy," the Lady Sheathe spoke to her aide. "I can take it from here."

Blushing, the aide gave a curt bow. "Very well, my lady."

Dismissing the odd woman, Holly moved on to the topic at hand.She could not help but scowl at both Khaki and Sera for their lack of initiative. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do.

"We are too late. The man just died."

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Abigail did not protest when Holly stated they were going to land. The bugbears were routed, and if any stragglers dared to oppose them now, it would be their own funeral. Besides, she wished to search the camp personally. The revelation that there was a dying human prisoner down there was interesting, and she had the same thought as Holly, which was that maybe this human would know where the crown went.

Unfortunately, by the time they touched down and reached where Shane was being held, the young man was already on the cusp of death. Neither Sera, nor Khaki, were of any comfort to him, and despite his soft begging for help, his life slowly slipped away into blackness. Abigail stepped up and put a hand to Shane's neck, to check his plus, but there was nothing. She took an irritated step back, crossing her arms indignantly.

"Did you two not question him?" she looked at Khaki and Sera, her gaze showing clear disapproval, "Did he say anything about the crown? All the bugbears are dead, so he's the only one who would have known!"

She was clearly growing more irritable by the second, thanks to what appeared to her to be a missed opportunity. She had no way of knowing that the cartel ladies had a way of reviving the recently departed.

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Instead of feeling hurt or ashamed with the Duchess' out burst, Khaki instead gave Sera the stink-eye which prompted the other woman to pull out a couple of coins and offer it back to Khaki.

"I can't believe I misjudged that," Sera grumbled like a sore loser little girl, "I did not expect Duchess here to actually want the crown." Khaki had to chuckle at that while pocketing her well-earned money.

The Lady Sheathe on the other hand, could not help but sigh. "Apologies for this rather crude behavior," Holly spoke hoping to catch Abigail's attention. "My servants' lack of regard for the man's death is due to my guest. The one who lives in the ship's engine room. And someone who can bring back the dead." She paused to eye the girl named Teddy. "I think it's time to call our energy pack out. We can't have that woman lazying around not doing any work."

Nodding, Teddy returned back into the ship and disappeared from view. She would soon return with a white-haired woman in tow. The newcomer is this bleary eyes, sheepish slacker of a woman, and the Lady Sheath had to shake her head just by the sight of this woman.

"I heard that someone needs reviving?" the newcomer spoke as she headed towards the dead young man. "This is quite a delicate procedure but...." she stopped just before the corpse. She slipped her heeled boots down the dead body and with a grunt, lifted the dead body up with a light kick. Still in mid-air, she grabbed the corpse by the neck and slammed it back down to the ground with great force but the corpse did not splatter. Instead, there was this white light that bathed the body as the kneeling woman slowly loosened her grip on the corpse's neck. Soon the body began to regain its natural healthy glow and even regenerate its missing flesh.

"I think this random strange is going to survive," the woman exclaimed after a while, "Holly, I'll put this in your tab."

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Abigail wasn't sure what the heck she was witnessing, as the white-haired woman from the airship's interior came outside, grabbed the dead man's corpse, then slammed it to the ground by the throat as though she were a wrestling champion from some more uncivilized culture. But what was even more astounding than the unexpected violence was that fact that it was somehow healing the body, restoring vitality to its skin and sealing up the wounds (though not completely healing all the scars). But there was something else happening, something that caused Abigail's face to twist into a mix of confusion and mild disgust...

* * *

Darkness. The mocking faces of Khaki and Sera were the last things Shane had seen, before his vision went black, and all the world seemed to fall upwards away from him. He felt as though he were slowly drifting downward into the ground, his body and the scorched camp visible far above him, but fading fast. His eyes were drawn downward, and in the infinite emptiness below, he thought he could see shapes darting about. Shades of something blacker than the blackest darkness, crawling, hobbling, skulking, slithering though the void. Distant cries reached his ears, cries of pain, of horror, of utter hopeless despair. Faint at first, yet louder and nearer the deeper he floated into the abyss. 

He tried to flail through the air, to try and push himself back upward, or direct his heading away from the things below, yet it was futile. He could only gaze downward, helplessly, as he saw now the faint, glowing spectres of the damned far below. Tortured souls condemned to eternal punishment for the sins they had committed in life. Their glow was choked by the darkness around them, yet faintly illuminated by what remained of the luminescence of their former life. Desperately he tried to swim away again, and yet he could not go upward, only downward. And the shadows of the fiends below seemed to finally take notice of him, as they squirmed through the void to place themselves underneath him. Some were even rising toward him, and he soon felt dark, chilling fingers groping at his body, pulling him ever faster downward. Struggle as he might, he could do nothing to free himself of them, and in his desperation, he forced himself to look upward. In the far distance, like a single star in a pitch black sky, he could see a tiny gleam of light. The only wholesome light in this wretched place. 

As the creatures of darkness threatened to envelope him and pull him through the threshold and forever into the hellish depths below, Shane managed to think the words, to will them into the softest of audible form. He knew the fate below was what he deserved, for his hatred and murder, for his apathy toward those he ought to have been trying to help instead of harm, and yet he wished more than anything that he could be saved of it.

"Divine mother above... Gaia... Erde... Goddess of the Prophet... forgive me... save... me..." he whispered, before his prayer began to turn into a cry as he felt the clutches of the daemons tighten about him.

Then all at once, he felt another hand, like that of a life guard pulling a drowning child from under the surf, and he felt himself dragged rapidly upward. Even the titanic grips of the dark beings could not hold him down, as he shot upward toward the light...

* * *

Shane's emerald green eyes shot open, and he let out a mad cry of fear and exasperation. The horror in his voice actually caused a couple of Abigail's marines to jump back, though the duchess stood her ground and narrowed her eyes, hand resting on her sword. This devilry may have gotten her what she wanted; the restoration of dead man so that he could be questioned, yet it disturbed her nonetheless. And there was something worse at work here, for the white-haired woman's "healing" had done more than simply restored Shane's broken body. It had changed it, made it smaller, more slender and curvaceous. His reddish-brown hair had grown longer, the curly locks now long enough to cover his eyes and ears, while his face had grown smoother, more petite. Abigail wasn't looking at a young man anymore.

"SAVE ME!" Shane shrieked in a shrill voice, before his vision finally cleared, and he saw that he was staring only at the starry sky peaking out from the jungle canopy above, "Wha... I'm..."

Abigail turned toward Holly and the white-haired woman, not sure whether to be grateful or peeved at the spectacle. Finally she decided to settle on the former, at least until it was proven that Shane's life was useless after all.

"Good work, I suppose. We can question hi-- it... now," she said.

Edited by Tyler

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It seems that the white-haired woman's ability might have gone horribly wrong. One cannot demy that the man had ben thoroughly revived but at what cost? 

The Lady Sheathe herself could not help but facepalm at such an outcome. "I can't believe that this happening again. That poor boy."

On the other hand, Khaki and Sera are both on the ground laughing their assess off.

"Every single time. Little Middy never fails to disappoint."

"MOTHERFUCKER DID IT AGAIN! THIS IS TOO FUNNY! BLOODY CUNT!"

Embarrassed, the white-haired woman knelt beside Shane and whispered in his ear. "You're a woman now, boy. Enjoy it for the rest of your life."

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Shane sat there in confusion for a moment, wondering what everyone thought was so amusing. Then Middy leaned in and whispered into Shane's ear, the former's words causing the latter's green eyes to go even wider than they already were.

"Wh-what!?" Shane squeaked, voice breaking as she processed what Middy had just said.

She sat up quickly and looked down, immediately detecting the bulge under her shirt that had not been there before. A quivering hand was raised and hovered in the air for a moment, afraid to touch but also needing physical confirmation of what he was seeing. 

However, Abigail had seen enough for her taste. Shane's moment of self-discovery could be done on her own time, not on the duchess's. A pair of hands, remarkably strong in their grip, reached down and grabbed Shane by the collar, then lifted him up to his feet to stand face to face with the raven-haired noblewoman.

"I don't have time for this, child," Abigail growled, "You were brought back for one reason, and one reason only; to answer my question. Where is the True Crown?"

"C-crow-wn...?" Shane gulped, her voice scratchy and weak.

"Yes, the True Crown! Surely you saw it somewhere in this camp? If you haven't, then you are no use to me and I might just send you right back to where you were a moment ago!" Abigail hissed.

Shane's face turned white, the fear of being sent back into the abyss immediately blotting out all other emotions of confusion or embarrassment she was feeling just then. In a moment of pure cowardice, she ratted out her (former) employer, willing at that moment to do anything to avoid being killed again.

"Captain Copperbeard! He ha-has it! We raided the goblins and took everything they stole from Uldwar, but I got... left behind... But Copperbeard has everything the goblins took!" she cried. 

"Copperbeard!" Abigail spat, throwing Shane back to the ground forcefully, "I should have known that bastard would not sit idly while Misral lie vulnerable."

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