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Meraxa

A Cure For What Aleth You

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Paul may be able to spot and strafe each and every member of the erstwhile band since they are bunched up and were drawing considerable attention to themselves; Caeceila's position, on the contrary, is not so easy to discern.

Following her respec, Caeceila moved through the vessel, with all due urgency, to a breach leading down into the Wyrm's Bane's ruptured ballast tanks.  She dove into the briny water, exiting the Wyrm's Bane by way of a narrow, rusty gap in the walls of her pre-screened ballast tank where weld material and rivets had long-since succumbed to the tides.  She executed her plan without a hitch and will, latent hazards notwithstanding, take cover behind the prow of the wreck.  Caeceila's body is well-suited for this environment, capable of replicating the undulations of crocodiles or snakes as she sees fit and operating on scrubbed air, so she elects to remain submerged as Argi and company are ambushed by the prattling pheonix psychopomp of Casper (whose identity is something of a mystery to Caeceila).

Caeceila has no business with the bird.  It probably isn't infected.  Taking stock of the situation, Caeceila perceives the bloody trail left in the Yuuja's wake and, perhaps, Argi returning from the depths and Gozen hovering above the water, but she completely missed the pow, the biff, and the bam.  The Yuuja was gone, that much was obvious - if something so massive could turn invisible the genius loci would be cracking down on everyone and everything in the area - but this fortuitous circumstance begged two questions: where and why?

The host was wounded, sure, but the Enrele fought to the last.  Though Caeceila had yet to scrap with Enrele that had hijacked humanoids and deemed it necessary to ruin their meat puppets, she had, in her research, dredged up and pored over pieces of old report on an Enrele-parasite purportedly posing as a librarian.  What little she could scrape together was by no means a full-account of the incident, yet it was enough to confirm, in her mind, that the Enrele do not retreat when outnumbered and outgunned, sacrificing the individual for the good of the collective with no prominent caveats.  Such behavior is in line with the grotesque philosophies hiveminds are reputed to espouse.  Why, then, had this one fled?

Here, the why and the where converged.  If the motley crew arrayed against the Enrele were focused on the Yuuja's retreat, they might not notice Enrele advancing from the beach.  As such, this maneuver could be a distraction, a costly distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.  Assuming the Yuuja-Enrele was isolated from the hivemind, it could be acting on the last reliable information it received from its comrades or itself or whatever Hivemind Daloth conceptualizes Hivemind Daloth as.  Given that the Enrele advancing on the beach are, with any luck, also isolated, any assault they launch is bound to be uncoordinated and reckless: easy to fend off without any painful complications.

While Caeceila is confident in her and, to a lesser extent, the unofficial Hivemind Aleth task force's ability to push back any Enrele encroaching on their position for the next eight to nine minutes, the same could not be said for the city proper, hence Glasmann gunships which were already en route.  Idly, Caeceila wondered if Ilyana had made provisions for Ventrix's defense prior to dispatching one of her subordinates to participate in this grand affair.  The blowback from tangling with the Enrele can't be pretty; House Glasmann is definitely persona non grata in Casper until Hivemind Daloth is upended.

Yes, Caeceila is perfectly content to stay on overwatch until she has thoroughly assessed what all transpired while she was away.  Her scales, sapphire and silver plates, provide her with a degree of natural camouflage, enough that she isn't shy about swimming about underwater and keeping an eye peeled for signs of trouble from the open seas.  Her gear detracts from this natural camouflage, but Caeceila either doesn't care or is a little oblivious to the minor details gumming up her otherwise well-oiled machine.  When the task force has assembled on the beach, she surfaces, her icy eyes held just above the surface of the water, and attempts to read people's lips when the opportunity arises.

Because she knows how to read lips.  Yep.  That is a skill Caeceila has certainly developed.  It goes without saying, really, and even if she hadn't learned to read lips - and she certainly, certainly has learned to read all of the lips, how hard can it be?  Look, Caeceila sees the bird is talking and...

Talking...

And talking...

And talking...

Wait, it stopped to- to take a breath.

If Tweety doesn't put a lid on it soon, that anti-psychic field will expire.

Edited by The Alexandrian

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Flying straight towards the Yuuja's chest, Dauner loaded his magic into his right sword causing statics to build up around his right hand the sword it held. When he was close enough to the Yuuja, he thrust his sword at the beast yelling, "Demon magnum". The tip of his sword hit the Yuuja's chest causing a blast as the force caused some extra damage to it's chest breaking off the piece of it's skin that had been hit. The Yuuja's body eventually bent backwards as it attempted to return into the deep. Argi fell into its mouth finding his way down into its stomach. Dauner then landed on the water as he kept his speed up until he reached the ground. Gozen followed him back to shore.

Not too long after the Yuuja had gone deep, Dauner noticed its aura disappear. "Seems like it's dead now" he said to himself. Argi came swimming onto the ground shortly after that. There was a strange bird that seemed to have come with Argi and just like a few creatures that roamed Valucre, this one was strange. It could speak human language. Dauner walked towards it as it conversed with Argi, only managing to hear the final words they exchanged before the bird flew off. The bird later return with the others right behind it and arriving one at a time.

Finally it seemed like it was time to set out for Dougton on their adventure to take down the enrele hivemind, Aleth. After Paul was done talking, Dauner clenched his fist in front of him with a grin on his face. "Ok. Let's go beat the enrals" he said raising his arm with his fist still clenched. "This is gonna be fun!"

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Emile lowered his rifle; sure that the Yuuja was dead. Yet instead of the thrill of victory he could only reflect on the tragedy the towering creature represented. It didn't want to be here. Left to its own devices the beast might never have encountered a human. The Enrele had forced it away from its home, its family, and turned it into a weapon. While he had seen the invasive species for the threat they were from the start, he had never felt any true animosity towards them.

That had changed.

The booming voice of the Regent had given him his next mission. He would accompany the party to Doughton, and do whatever it took to destroy the hivemind.

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Moments before the yuuja delved into the deep, there came the older sister. Her figure shot from the ship and straight into the water to land on the yuuja. Unfazed by the enveloping seawater, the crazy sister waited for the creature's life to snuff out before finally unsheathing her blade, Baeoi. Eyes filled with madness and excitement, she plunged her blade deep and cut a man-sized piece of that thick armored plate that greatly protected the creature. A feat only possible with that damned blade of hers.

Once she's satisfied with that cut of hers, she swam back to the surface with that armored plate in tow. Upon reaching the surface, she used the plate as a makeshift raft where she sat on the floating thing while enjoying a good smoke. Meanwhile, a black amorphous blob dribbled down her coat and slithered down the armored plate until it found of what seemed to be blood and small bits of yuuja flesh, leftovers from the older sister's previous act. The jelly-like mass pounced on the bits of blood and flesh and somehow absorbed it into its body. It did not take long before it returned to its owner where it slithered up the woman and rested on her shoulder. What's even more surprising now is that the little blob had taken the form of a miniature yuuja that;s fresh out of water.

As the witness to all these ridiculous feats, Shishi could not help but sigh. Ignoring her sister and that damned pet of hers, she focused her attention to the chatty floppy bird. She wished they were all in Dougton now for their true battle. In time, she too will have the chance to face the hivemind itself and if she ever survives the encounter, she can only hope the Order would heed her warnings and take action against such invasive species.

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 Elizabeth wasted no time as the Yuuja began retreating, dropping her light display and canceling her spell; foregoing it in place of a responsive prompt which activated an unseen beacon. The mechanized winding, and whirring of sigil crossings could be heard a bit more clearly as things settled, getting closer to Liz at an alarming rate. A sharp silhouette came into view behind the scientist, removing its cloak and revealing a large floating chair; adorned more to resemble a throne. With little regard for the others, she took a seat and rubbed the bridge of her nose, attempting to relieve the anxiety of the madness beforehand. After shaking the feeling, Liz paused, tapping her fingers atop an orb which fitted the right arm rest before spinning it methodically, tracing lines across it as it spun. The system re-activated, taking Patton portside on the contraption.

 Elizabeth had arrived promptly before most of the group, remaining silent as Paul babbled to Argi for far to long. Even longer yet, once he had spotted the rest of the bunch. She rubbed her nose again, triggered in annoyance by the lip work, and debated sending off alone before everyone else. She had gotten what she had come for, and was prepared to have her goons haul the test subjects to the facility at once. Still though, she wondered about what had become of Glasmann.

 E.P. was ready to give herself to this cause, through and through, but the weight of the lives at risk were far heavier than she could bare. If these fools were to go to Aleth and kill it, then the consequences could be dire still. Their ambition was at question already, the young scientist decided in this moment that she would do what must be done; one way or another. She would begin preparing for departure with these people, to Dougton, and monitor the situation. For the time being however, she had to monitor the perimeter, to aid in the "hazard control". Ventrix security had spread across the port, ushering the ebb and flow of civilians, and encroaching towards the shore line. She expected that soon, someone would be along to clean up this mess, and she intended to remain proper and steadfast until.

Edited by Vilhardt

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Enrals?!

Paul reacted with shock and disdain towards Dauner's slip of the tongue, taking flight from Peldun's sword to flap about the young man's general vicinity, correcting him quite sharply.

The Enrals are a good, fine folk, who make delicious meat pies! They're not extravalucrean parasites bent on subsuming us beneath their will! I implore you, do not confuse the two!

As Dauner was receiving the earful, and the blade in Peldun's hand was no longer occupied, Argi released the summon, a much less intense green light masking the swap, leaving the scruffy, bath deprived mountain man that had first arrived here. The relief that washed over him felt more cleansing than water would - at least, as far as he could tell, having potentially forgotten what water over his back felt like - just for the simple fact he was not standing here, alone. His eyes wandered between his erstwhile allies, even the one who had hidden herself in the waters, visible only by the slight glint of her eye. He certainly could not say his mood quite reflected the sheer enthusiasm that Dauner seemed to find for the task, but he wasn't quite so... stoic? About it as Emile was. Then again, Argi realised, he wasn't really showing much of how he felt, and perhaps that might be true of the man with the rifle as well. So many other things to focus on, after all...

 

But yes!

Paul managed to just about hover in place with one wing, while the other was held up like a hand holding up its index finger - feather, in his case.

Go now, and may the blessings of Saint Odin protect you all! Unless you're the one whose airships are violating my airspace, in which I should recommend you leave promptly!

At mention of the airships, Argi looked up; he had some time ago learned what that word actually meant, after his own escapades in such a craft. It was difficult to see any such thing in the night sky, however, which left him squinting his eyes for a good while, mostly in vain. Still, he imagined someone here might be responsible for them, and so recalling that the waters of Casper sat on the eastern edge of the city, he turned so as to keep it to his right, meaning he was to be going north.

"Let's go." He said simply, not sure when he was next to rest or eat - whether it would be on the road to Dougton, or only after this campaign against it was complete. But both for the orange bird's urging, and for his mind being stuck upon the notion, he began his way north, assured that at least some would follow.

 


Some time after The Wyrm's Bane™ had departed for Dougton, the Regent returned to his roost - not the literal kind, as he sometimes occupied in his aviary, joining his less sentient guests. No, this was in the official estate of the Regent, though it had obviously been built with either someone different - someone more humanoid - in mind, or with the expectation it might not always serve its current occupant. The walls were relatively bear, purely the stone as raised by the geomancers who built the estate. But the floor... that which the Regent so rarely walked upon, had been coated in plaster, and that plaster decorated with a most immaculate fresco, its colours only slightly faded now, detailing what seemed to be the most peculiar tale of how a certain bird of the flames, gifted with the knowledge of healing, life, and death, came to submit before a human monarch.

Paul landed right on top of it, beside a human aide.

"I require a notice be sent to the police - they are to watch the roads, and the skies, and inspect any vehicle that wishes to depart the city. If we asked as to the cause of this disruption, say that it is by order of the Regent, and for the safety of this city. They do not need specific details. You know who the potential missing persons are."

The aide was gone soon after that, writing down details. Paul turned then, giving no mind to the myriad things scattered about the office - some well worn from copious use, others beginning to wear from lack of full attentiveness. He hopped up to his rest upon the desk, and grumbled slightly, eyes turning towards an intricately crafted brazier that sat in the corner of the room, cold after many weeks, perhaps months. But he turned away from it, fighting visible urges within the muscles of the body, broken only by a faint scar, and a break in the feathers, in the form of a straight line along the neck.

 


Returning to Dougton had proven to take a fraction of the time it had to escape it, Argi found. With or without the aid of vehicular travel, if a certain someone was set to provide it, Argi would at least this time be able to simply travel the road in the safety of companions. At least one night - though perhaps more - would be needed to camp out along the way, of course, and it would be in these that Argi took the time to clean himself, and... well, perhaps not eat 'properly' by the standards of those around him, but it was much easier to hunt in the forested hills that divided Casper and Dougton. He had a rabbit roasting on a fire as he washed in the waters of a river he knew not, but that almost certainly led back to Casper, following the descent of the land. Upstream, he realised, looking in the general direction, would be Dougton. So there, with nary any clothing save a loincloth on him - it also having needed to be washed, and thus all his robes were spread across the branches of a tree - he stared for a good few seconds, contemplating just what it was he was getting into.

Upon returning to his food, and hoping it hadn't been wholly swindled from him - especially by Dauner, who seemed the sort - Argi sat upon the stump of a tree that had been felled long ago for whatever reason, where his empty sword hilt had been placed, and to whoever was nearby, made a clear sign of intending to speak.

 

Only to say nothing.

 

So easy had it been, even with the difficulties of language, when discussing such a clear and relevant subject as the Enrele, he found himself absolutely stymied by the matter of small-talk. Though he knew names, he didn't really know these people, even those he had met before. What was he to say to total strangers? What questions wouldn't annoy or irritate him, showing his continued ignorance of the world? Someone like Dauner seemed like they'd be happy to talk, but surely they'd only want to talk to someone who knew how to talk back. Meanwhile, there likely wasn't much that bothered Emile, but then, he probably didn't much care for useless chatter either. But he had to try and say something - anything - to and build an understanding with these people. He had committed them to a cause that could well end in their deaths. Had any of them been lost against the Yuuja, he realised, he would have had nothing of note to offer up to the Ancestors in praise of their passing. That didn't sit right.

"So... um..." He began again, but even vague noises was shattering his confidence. It needed to be something that could let someone provide an answer. But it also needed to be a pretty easy subject to answer - hopefully - so he didn't alienate by asking about something that was either beyond the other speaker, or beyond his ability to understand the response. Maybe just speak of the first thing that came to mind...

"...Why the girls so pretty?"

 

...

 

His face immediately sank in his hands. Heavens above, he felt like an idiot! Could have asked anything - maybe about those swords or the rifle or whatever else people were carrying - but he had to just go with...

His face remained sunk in his hands.

Edited by Meraxa

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The group having defeated the Yuuja and finished their dialogue with the large avian, during which time, Aya simply smiled lightly and stayed at the back of the group, a matter of transportation was needing to be discussed. Granted, Aya wasn't native born to Terrenus as far as she knew, and she also wasn't an expert on the land; she didn't come to the region without doing her homework. From what she knew of the layout of current settlements, their destination was well over a hundred miles away, and most likely fortified. "If I may be so bold, I don't think using the train is a wise course of action." Aya said from her position at the back of the small crowd. "The train is most definitely the easiest form of transportation, but that would make it the most expected one. It runs on a schedule, has a very fixed route, and deviation from that route would leave all other passengers stranded." She was, of course, referring to the train being derailed.

The more tactically inclined party members may have been thinking of their own safety, since the Enrelle could very easily plant agents inside the train, or find out that they were using the train and have a whole army waiting for them at the end of the line. Aya was not a military official, a bad-ass noble wyrm-lady, or a scientist. She was a Priestess of Judgement- a businesswoman who also dabbled in law on rare occasion, to put extremely simply. It was logical to know the limitations of the train and assume that if the Enrelle controlled a Yuuja, they could also control a large land animal that could destroy a train like the Yuuja destroyed the ship. She had no problems assuming the group could handle such a creature, but the presence of other non-combatants would lead to unacceptable casualties that Aya would have to attend to.

Aya cleared her throat just before Myuil began descending. The force of his massive, one-hundred-eighty meter wingspan began increasing the air pressure while whipping up a colossal wind with every beat. Aya winced while using one hand to keep her hair from flying in every direction and the other hand to try and hold on to a nearby light post to keep herself from flying into the aether. Tales of a dragon's power normally told of their breath attacks, magical prowess, or muscle strength. Many forgot to mention that lifting such a massive being into the air required massive wings, and a lot of downward thrust. In the near distance, a dilapidated house had been completely blown apart by his arrival. Aya would have to pay for the replacement... even if the house was already decrepit. 

Rather than landing on the shore, he landed in the water. His two-hundred meter long body looked more like an adult in a child's swimming pool than anything else. He lowered his head near Aya and let out a shimmering sound. Aya reached out and gently rubbed his snout while ignoring her now slightly messy hair. "It's okay. My abilities were only disabled." she said in a warm tone. The dragon replied with another shimmering sound. Aya couldn't actually speak dragon, she just assumed what he was saying based off of context. "I can have Myuil give us a ride; but a massive dragon is somewhat difficult to not notice approaching, and many sane people are normally terrified of seeing that. The best we can do is get everyone halfway there, after which we would have to either go on foot, or find a smaller transport." Aya said, still rubbing Myuil's snout. Assuming this option was taken, any who mounted Myuil would notice that his feathers, despite being made of crystal, were quite soft to the touch.


At the halfway point, where they decided to make camp for a bite, Aya was pretty quick to pull a metal kettle from her duffel bag and begin preparing a spice tea. It wasn't as fancy as a ceramic tea pot, but it was much less likely to shatter on impact. When Argi stepped away from the fire to go clean himself up, if Dauner had tried to go after his meal, Aya would extend her staff and cut him off. "Mister Dauner." she would say, looking at him with a passive-aggressive expression. The tone of her voice was very calm and gentle, but with her psionics back online, she was giving off an aura that implied she was dangerous. "You wouldn't want to spend time hunting a creature only to have it stolen, I would advise against doing so to others." her words were more of a warning than a gentle advisory statement. One thing she knew was that when working in a team, it was important to be able to trust each other. Who would trust someone who stole from them? "There's a herd of animals not far from us. If you'd like, you can bring a carcass back and everyone will be able to eat." she added. This one wasn't a passive-aggressive order. She had some food with her, but even Aya would have to admit that fresh, seasoned meat would be preferable to dry bread. If Dauner, or anyone else, had gone for a hunt, Aya would provide some simple seasonings in small jars to make it taste better. If Dauner would still try and take Argi's rabbit, Aya would attempt to hit him with a psychic pulse hard enough to send him into the tree lines.

When Argi had returned and made his comment about being surrounded by pretty girls, Aya would give a bright smile and say "I was wondering that, myself. Even in her non-human form, Miss Glassman is quite elegant. Miss Ravenbush and her companion are both quite pretty, but also strong looking. I never got her name, but our science friend looks as intelligent as I think she might be." Aya paused while thinking about how she didn't comment on the other half of the group... "Oh... Ummm... And the men are quite impressive, as well. Mister Argi's magic was wonderful. Mister Dauner and Mister Gozen were as brave as I remember, and our ally with the gun did quite a number on the Yuuja." Aya than rubbed the side of her head with a slightly embarrassed expression. "... I admit that compared to everyone else, I seem like the most frail, and am very limited in practical combat."

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Paul's reaction was a clear indication at that Dauner had made a big mistake in his pronunciation mainly attributed to his inattentiveness which would be the reason why he doesn't really know how to pronounce 'Enrele'. The description that followed had Dauner's eyes turn to the shape of meat pies as he began drooling uncontrollably. "Say you wouldn't know where i can find some Enrals would you?" he asked the bird just before getting smacked on the back of his head by Gozen. "I know where this is going and to that i say no"

"C'mon Gozen. Just a little meat pie for the road" Dauner pleaded.

"If only it would end at just a little meat pie. I know you better than that and i'm not falling for that"

"Even if they have great sweets too?". At this Gozen's tough act began to melt away, try as he may to hide it. "Just think of all the sweets they may have" Dauner whispered into Gozen's ear trying to tempt him into joining him. "The tenderness, sweetness. Imagine it melting in your mouth. The divine taste, that sensation of pure bliss". Gozen could no longer hold himself. Dauner's seduction strategy was once again a success. Both of them turned to Paul and asked in unison, "Where can we find the Enrals".


After arriving at the halfway point where they got off Myuil, Dauner and Gozen both got off still looking gloom from not having been able to get to the Enrals. After Argi had gone to go clean himself up, Dauner tried getting to his feet only to be stopped by Aya.

"Don't worry about that part" Gozen said lifting his hand to his chest level where everyone could clearly see. There was a cuff on it attached to a long chain with the other cuff on Dauner's hand. "Already took care of it" He finished.

"Hey you two. This is a violation of my rights" Dauner complained. That was when he noticed something a strange presence deeper in the forest. He immediately pounced in that direction with a speed that left a gust of wind blowing for a while. Gozen who's hand was attached to the other end of the chain was pulled along the ground in Dauner's dash.

A while later at about the same time Argi returned, Dauner and Gozen arrived at the camp. "Still, what the heck was that strange bird" Dauner questioned. He was carrying a wild boar across his neck from behind while Gozen was mostly covered in bruises. "Don't you ever pull me away like that again"

"I didn't pull you away. You came running after me" Dauner said with a smirk. Before Gozen could say anything else, Dauner ran over to the others. "Guys, I brought back dinner". He put the boar down and left all the rest to those in the group who could pass off as their culinary experts such as Aya.

After Aya made her comment about Cae being elegant in her non-human form, Dauner stared at her weirdly. "Do you need glasses?" he asked with his head tilted 45 degrees to the right. "You don't really need to be quite skilled in combat you know" Dauner responded to her last comment. "Not when you've got someone like Gozen around to protect you".

"Why me?" Gozen asked with an indifferent look on his face. Dauner looked at Gozen with face that said 'Are you forgetting something'. Gozen then remembered why Dauner couldn't be left to protect pretty girls. "Ok then. If you don't want to, I'll-*smack*". He was cut off by Gozen who smacked him while yelling "Not on your life".

"I think in the end, i might be the one who really needs to be protected here" Dauner commented.

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Take care of your rifle, and it will take care of you.

It was the first thing taught in sniper training, and it was repeated until it became a mantra for every trainee. Whenever he found himself with downtime, this was the first thing he attended to. Sitting by the fire, he disassembled his weapon, going over every part with oil and brushes. By the time he had put everything back together, Argi had returned from his rabbit hunt. He politely declined, wanting to leave some for those without other means of sustenance. Instead, he retrieved an MRE from his pack, and ate in silence.

When Aya mentioned him he spoke up, "Emile. Corporal Emile Gareau. Just for reference."

After Dauner spoke, he addressed her again, "He's right. There's more to combat than just direct action."

Edited by danzilla3

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 On the day after the incident in Casper, Elizabeth had gone silent. Caution was a mandate in these sorts of affairs, especially in the cases of missing persons that would surely crop up at some point. Security was getting tighter in Casper, an expected outcome resulting from the night before. The local hustle and bustle of the streets were tripled in a feverish attempt to come and go from the city. Some folks were worried about the whole ordeal. Property owners, merchants, anyone who could be at risk of sailing outland, or inland. Rumors began to spread about the town as the day drew to a close, casting shade over the truth.

 It had been fortunate that Elizabeth had acted quickly, using the guise of the situation at the docks to extract her subjects to a secluded facility before things had begun to lock down. It was not much later within the week that an alarming announcement of Dougton's independence had exploded into the public eye. Such a heretic event, the very thought even, wouldn't be without cause. It was with this same radical mindset that E.P approached the insertion of her will. Her "allies", The Wyrms Bane, were well on the way to Dougton by now. She had deployed a pre-selected E.N.D task force of only four with them, accompanied by an Armored Bi-Pedal Bus which could hold roughly ten units. With everyone in tow, it would be a very tight fit, but.... They could figure something out. In the meantime, Liz continued to pull the strings at her disposal.

             

 The night was young, and three of the four E.N.D units sat inside the bus, awaiting word from Patton about the plan of action within the following days. The senior, Cardinal, was an old man. Bald, with a thick grey, jutting beard and moustache which covered his cracked lips; and hid his rotten teeth. He wore a red and white ceremonial garb which flowed loosely, except along his left arm, where his arm was held in place using a sling. His blind eyes were covered by an expensive black cloth which accented the deep folds of his stern face as he stared beyond everything, in a deep meditation.

 The youngest member was still very youthful. He wore a blue cloth vest, split at the middle to expose his chest, and a rather plain set of cloth pants. A long beige sash wrapped around his waist, extending around his shoulder, and once more over his face, exposing only a dark tuft of hair over his eyes. He was a nomad from the sands across the sea, codenamed Mirage. The lad leaned back in his seat, at ease for the moment.

 The third operative, and the fourth were native to the Biazo Isle. The largest member, a beefy man with a mutation that caused his head to be that of a badger's scaled to fit his broad shoulders, had somehow managed to fit himself into the back of the transport. He sat with his arms and legs crossed, his leather pants pulled above his waist, over his black tank top which rested beneath a brown shoulder fur line. The brute fiddled with his fingers, clenching his fists beneath a set of four fingered rings which spelled the words 'Big Heavy' when aligned.

 The strange woman they called Skin sat perched atop the bus, looking out at the camp with her leather boots dangling from the side. She seemed normal in comparison to the rest of the E.N.D here, wearing standard jeans and a green tube top beneath a puffy coat which cut off at her belly button, revealing ink along her entire left side. She seemed intrigued by all of the others, watching them attentively from a distance. Her brown eyes followed them around from behind the makeup, tucked beneath long brown hair.

 Each operative was distant, only responding when asked questions, and generally minding their own business for the majority of the time. From time to time they would update the group on how close they were getting to Dougton, and whatever information Elizabeth sent them to convey.

         

 It was by the next day that Elizabeth had contacted the group. All political hell had broken loose. Companies were pulling out assets left and right from Dougton, and countless public contracts were appearing, offering pay for the delivery of various wares, medicines, and craftsman equipment. She had arranged for them to meet up with a delivery caravan that needed security while moving around Dougton, from checkpoint to checkpoint. The Wyrms Bane were to meet the caravan before the first checkpoint, and disengage once through, rendezvousing with a smuggler who would transport she and they into Dougton. Elizabeth had prepared all of the 'legal paperwork' to help them get into the city, which she would provide once they met again.

 She had a feeling that Glasmann had some kind of way around the city herself, that was to say that, her presence could not be masked by Elizabeth's solution. Liz had pulled as many strings as she could without compromising her own involvement, and she had reached out to her sources to try to keep everyone on the same page. They still needed to meet Argi's contact within the city walls, and devise a scheme to eliminate the hivemind. There were forces at play which seemed too coincidental to ignore, and Patton had her goons inform them of what was going on. Someone, possibly the Enrele, was trying to create a political warzone. She had a feeling that they were walking straight into a trap, to be stripped of right, and made to be an example of the enemies of Dougton. The idea made her stomach weak, the gut feeling in response assuring her that they all seemed like martyrs at this point.

 

Edited by Vilhardt

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Caeceila is no social butterfly, and her myriad eccentricities have done little to endear her to the party.  If Caeceila and the party follow the same paths, they will note that she has a penchant for wandering into the wilderness, vanishing for hours on end only to casually pop back into formation as though she never left.  She outright refuses to offer any explanations for her disappearing act or its many encores, reminding would-be meddlers that it isn't polite to pry even though she routinely eavesdrops on the rest of the party's private conversations whenever she is in earshot.  Caeceila maintains her own mode of transportation: a ruggedized all-terrain vehicle that zips down the relatively safe roads connecting the megacities of Terrenus.  While she typically rendezvouses with the party when they setup camp for the night, she neither eats nor sleeps in their presence, standing guard with several of her "Eyes" during the first shift and racing off into the night seconds after she rouses her replacement.

Alarmingly, Caeceila has made a habit of arriving at the campsite decked out in combat gear speckled with blood.  Sometimes, she lugs a sack of local produce with her and deposits it carelessly by the fire, as though she means to pawn it off on the group.  Once, she arrived coated in glitter and stickers toting a small container of candied apples.  As usual, she offered no explanation for her disheveled state and removed these cutesy adornments before most could ridicule her.

Today, she arrived at the campsite with a bottle of fine, aged wine, a chip on her shoulder, and a bundle of newspapers tied up with strings, all of which she unceremoniously dumps at the center of the campsite before trudging into the woods in an especially foul mood.  Elizabeth Patton, no doubt, had already informed the party of Dougton's bid for independence and the overwhelming resistance they could, if this bill was made law, encounter as they advance on Dougton, so it wouldn't take much effort to deduce the root cause of Caeceila's rage.

What follows, conversely, will seem needlessly cruel and unwarranted.

Perhaps someone would notice, as Caeceila stomps through the campsite, the smooth, lustrous ball bearing she rolls, contemplatively, between the thumb and index finger of her dominant hand.  Perhaps someone would notice how her gaze is fixed on the limbs of the trees surrounding the clearing and the tiny, woodland creatures darting from branch to branch in the barren canopy.

Someone might even take note as tiny, broken bodies tumble from above, crunching as they impact the dead leaves blanketing the forest floor.

Caeceila is massacring all wildlife in close proximity to the campsite.  One-by-one, with a flick of her thumb, a polished metal sphere, and a jolt of magic, squirrels, birds, and more exotic lifeforms fall.  If Argi blamed the Enrele for the Yuuja's demise and regarded it as a tragic death, he might, in witnessing Caeceila's actions, stumble upon a frightful truth.

Caeceila, recognizing that the party is encroaching on Hivemind Aleth's turf, is poking out Hivemind Aleth's eyes and slicing off Hivemind Aleth's ears.  In Caeceila's wake, trees, once teeming with life, are slick with blood.  As the light fades so will the ambiance of the forest, melodic or discordant, quite literally die away.

It is fortunate that Caeceila does not question where Argi scrounged up his rabbit or Dauner tracked down his boar.  Were she to discover that her accomplices were supping on what could very well be contaminated flesh, there would be hell to pay.

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182535233-352-k521815.jpgThe trip to Dougton was mostly uneventful except for that fateful meeting right after they disposed of the yuuja but before they began the trip. Upon reaching dry land, Shishi and her sister had been visited by a pair of suspiciously questionable individual each of them riding a big black motorbike. They stopped before the two sisters and words were exchanged.

"Fucking special delivery for miss goody two-shoes," spat the taller one of those individuals as she threw something silver and metalic at Shishi.

"Good. Right on time," Shishi replied. Of course, did not miss the act and easily caught the thrown object. It was the key to one of the bikes as the taller individual was already dismounting it. Then the other suspicious person, the smaller one dismounted from her own bike and handed it to Shishi. After a series of grumbles and nods, the two suspicious individuals mounted on one bike and left the other one for the two sisters. As their figures retreated, the taller of the two suspicious individuals would turn back and flip Shishi off before finally leaving for good.

Despite that rather absurd encounter, the two sisters would proceed to ride the solitary motorbike with the duffel bag in tow.


The two sisters joined the group at the campsite but the older sister kept to herself as if satisfied with playing with her half-jelly, half-slime pet in the background. While Shishi was mostly concerned with her older  sister's lack of social skills, she payed no heed to her sister's shape-shifting pet which seemed to be reenacting their previous battle with the yuuja but in a smaller media.

Shishi chose to be the more sociable person this time and thus sat with the others while they ate, leaving the bike and the bag with her older sister. She did enjoy the meal but the current happenings around them made her lose her appetite. The small specks of animal life in their vicinity seemed to be dropping at a rather alarming rate, leaving the forest much quieter in the process. Soon, one might notice the severe absence of animal and critter sounds around the camp site.

 
 
 
 
Spoiler

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Maybe he should have asked about the dragon.
That would have made excellent conversation fodder. He had always heard about dragons, and even faced one when first uncovering Peldun, but the likes that he had seen since starting on this endeavour threw everything he thought of them into question. Glancing to Myuil, it seemed the most traditional of the bunch, if even larger than what the stories had taught him to expect, yet was also perhaps the most unusual with its sheer shift in size, and abilities that seemed tied more to the heavens than the flame. It was becoming increasingly apparent that the word 'dragon' was much more like the word 'bird' than it was 'sparrow'. A very broad kind of creature, indeed. 
Alternatively, he might have remarked upon just what exactly this 'Paul' was meant to have been. The question had lingered in the back of Argi's mind a while, but it was difficult to find anything comparable in the stories that the Menjen shared among each other. The closest he could think of - purely in terms of colour and a loose notion of 'intelligence' - was the firebird, a creature said to bathe itself in flames to renew itself, knowing when and where lightning would strike to make use of its power towards that end. If Paul was such a thing, then that made curious as to how well his kind would respond to threats like the enrele. Sure, the firebird would inevitably survive the fire, but would any parasite?
 
In any case, these were not the questions he had asked, and so they were not the things about which he received an answer either.
"...Glassman elegant, yes." He agreed with Aya, perhaps to Dauner's surprise. Her supposed human form he hadn't especially seen, though he would trust Aya's assessment of the matter - she had her own dragon, perhaps she could tell these sorts of things. As for Caeceila... it was hard to ascribe. The way he saw it, it was as if something from sprung from a tapestry, flowing from the fibres and into the air. A creature of legend made flesh.
Yet, something about that also didn't seem right.
"Not my magic." Argi seized upon the chance to correct the priestess, picking up his empty sword hilt. Extending it to Aya, if she would accept it, Argi would place in her hands, saying, "Now Peldun yours."
After a few moments to try and allow the implication to set in, he would of course seek to have the nominally useless weapon back,
 
After Dauner and Emile had both given their assurances to Aya, Argi added, "Knowledge important too. You knew group was infil... infil..." Argi trailed off into mumbling, fingers upon his lips to try and find the right word in Terran. "Filled with Enrele. Not just Glassman suspicions then."
Such suspicions were why he briefly glanced into the dark of the woods, where he could have sworn he saw the smaller - on average, though technically larger at the moment - dragon slink through the trees, whether for the shimmer of her own coat, or the strange substances that had adorned her one night of their travels. It was hard for him to truly tune out the noise in the world that surrounded him, so that these woods should be so quiet suggested to him that something was amiss. Finding the rabbit had been difficult enough, other creatures in the brush evidently spooked or simply slaughtered by something else.
Still, Argi did not exactly blame her.
The Yuuja had been a tragedy, but it confirmed one thing: The enrele did not limit themselves to intelligent life. It was quite possible then, that every squirrel, deer, and sparrow that frolicked these woods was possessed. Where the travellers had to rest, a squirrel could rush to tell a deer to tell a sparrow of what was transpiring, and word of the group's arrival would travel ahead of them.
 
Cruel? Yes. Needless? He couldn't be so sure. But then, that was point of the point with this mission: To make such things needless, and thus ensure they didn't happen.
"...Thank you." He said suddenly, and then further raised his voice to those on the walking box, "Even you! Don't think... could fight alone."
Without another word, Argi made quick work of his small meal, dressed himself once more, and then made use of that walking box that Elizabeth's people had provided, as a place in which to rest his weary head. Compared to the slums of Casper, and being out in the rough, it was the height of comfort.
 

 
The next day, word came from Elizabeth. Much of it Argi couldn't entirely understand, but the general gist he got was thus: getting into Dougton was going to be difficult. And by difficult, it meant a need for subterfuge, sneaking in past armed guards under assumed identities. From what he had gathered, while that would work for most of their group, it would not work so well for him. He could not be out in the open. So rather than posing as security for the caravan, as others might, he was to be hidden as part of its wares. He found a certain irony in the whole affair, given his first time in Ignatz, but he did not argue the matter. Fortunately, as the van was looking to take things out from Dougton, there was a fair bit of space in which Argi could be hidden, mainly great boxes meant to house... uh... Actually on that, Argi was not so sure.  The lowlands had so much material he could have imagined anything, from valuable jewels to... 'fertiliser'. He hoped it wasn't the latter, but Dougton seemed rural enough a place to be possible. In any case, Argi plopped himself down inside the box, a lid was placed atop his head, and then he sat there, in the darkness.
Waiting.
For quite a while.
Argi desperately fiddled with his clothes, the ends of his sword hilt, and anything else really, to keep his mind distracted. He might have sung a tune, but a fear struck him that it might reveal his location. Then, another fear occasionally crept in: How did they know their driver wasn't one of them? Argi may have sealed himself in, completely at the mercy of his enemies. Where were the others now? Still with the van, or had they been forced to move on without him? They... would tell him when they reached their destination, right?
Right?
 
His grip on the sword hilt was tight when at last, someone pried the box open, at which point Argi almost leapt out at them. Almost, because the only thing that really stopped him was the fact that there was no blade in his hilt to actually swing.
 
Unless someone was to tell him, he would have no knowledge of the tense moment there had been at a small market town by the name of Yenford, which existed as something of a natural border point, situated in a wide but shallow crossing of the river. He would not know of the inspection that had been foisted upon the travellers, insisting to see what lay inside the vehicle, even if it was 'nothing'. He would not know of how exactly the standoff had been resolved; if it had been negotiated away, or if force had been involved. He would know nothing of these things at all, and the only thing he would know, would most certainly astound him.
It made the first he'd ever rode on look absolutely tiny in comparison, with this more on the scale of the ships you might see on the waters around Casper. Were it not for Myuil, Argi would honestly doubt that something so large could even fly at all, but in both cases, seeing was believing.
 
Argi left meeting the master of the vessel to Elizabeth, who seemed to be the one who had arranged all of this. If need be, he would make introductions of himself - Argi of the Cloven Hoof, etc - before trying to find somewhere quiet, comforting, and not quite so confined in which to be on the ship. The upper decks seemed to have cabins and such in which passengers and crew were expected to find such comfort, and for a time, Argi would make use of them, if allowed to do so. He would find the bedding even better than the inside of the walking wagon. Yet even with such comforts, he would not be able to rest or relax any better. At first, for an hour or so, he believed it might be mere anxieties. There was much on his mind, after all. But then he realised the chill upon his neck was despite the temperature, not because of it. His anxieties gaining focus, Argi would emerge from whatever dwellings he had been permitted - even if it proved a mere seat or corner of a room - and follow where his gut was leading him. Not even his gut, but a sense of dread that swelled with every that passed, and every inch he drew nearer to the source. There most certainly was a source, of that he was certain, and he flung the door in front of him open to find it.
 
~Moments earlier~

Wherever Aya had opted to settle in among the ship - a cabin, the canteen, maybe the top deck, or anywhere else really - she too would have felt such a chill as they approached Dougton. In fact, she would have felt it much more strongly than most others - less of a chill, really, and more of an adverse reaction. Her very being crying out in rejection, begging she either flee, or fight, whatever option was available to her. But she would only even know what it was she was reacting to, when it stepped into the area. 'Stepped' felt like it would be wrong to ascribe it, however; the being did not so much enter the space as it was drawn into it, as if the space itself were acting in submission to its will. A being that looked as though it were younger than Aya, vaguely in the shape of a female humanoid. Light bent around it in ways it shouldn't have, and it cast no shadow-- wait, no, it was though its shadow clung to the skin itself, rather than be projected onto the floor. It wore clothing of a sort, as though one could spin fabric from shadow, light and fluid as silk, lifted by a breeze that did not exist.
You.
It spoke without speaking, and Aya would hear it as though it were speaking in her own tongue. The same would be true of anyone else around her.
Who do you serve?
It spoke again; its words were less a question, and more like a challenge of sorts. That any truthful answer should be a direct assertion against its being. Yet, it desired to know all the same...
 
It was then that Argi arrived, and any others might do so in turn, or just before. As the mountain man came into sight of the being, it twisted around, its body following through more like a fluid than a solid, and beheld him in turn.
You.
It spoke, and its word was malice made audible.
You are the one that has bound my servant in agreement.
Every syllable dripped with venom and spite, and for a moment, Argi was held fast by a most instinctual fear. Then, he stammered out, "Y-You are... Meryam?"
Yes.
The 'goddess' spoke, and thus, approached. Her hand raised, shadows unfurling to reveal fingers of azure blue, reaching forth-
"I-I-" Argi made loose sounds, before steadying into a sentence, "I want... new agreement. With you."
The blue hand stopped, and shadows fell from Meryam's face to reveal a similar blue visage, and as though she were even younger than Argi.
You desire to know the location of Aleth.
Argi looked up, astonished at the goddess' insight. "How do you-?"
My servant still heeds my will in all regards except for what they have agreed with you. He has told me of all you desire.
There was a sound that, on any other being, might have been coupled with a sneer.
You would ask for knowledge that you know may decide the fate of these lands, this continent, and even this world. The soul of a man does not equal such, and you have already bargained even that upon your failure. You, who carry only a sword without a blade, and the clothes upon your back. What could you offer for the knowledge I hold?
The seconds began to pass, and Argi was without answer before the great and terrible Meryam, whose name is forgotten by all but the scholars, and the heretical.
Edited by Meraxa

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