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LOTE: Wartime Festivals?

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Eve sat on the beach, just out of reach of the waves that rolled against the sand. She sat alone, with just herself as company.
For her, it was peaceful, yet discomforting.
"I never understood the beauty of beaches... even being at one now, I don't see the appeal."
"Believe me, I don't either. Who likes to immerse themselves in seawater?"

"I know. And this sand... it's killing me."
"I hate it too. It's coarse and rough and it's getting everywhere. And this is what people call ideal vacation spots?"
"Thank goodness we never lived near one. But..."
"But what Eve?"
"I feel like this would be more enjoyable with people we knew."
"Eve, you know that's physically impossible. Though I do agree with your sentiment. Perhaps the beach would have charm with others to enjoy it with."
"Yeah... like him..."

Eve physically let out a sly smile as she mentally responded to herself. "Maybe one day we'll get to enjoy that then. But for right now, didn't you agree to help... what's her face?"
"Orsola? Yeah, I did. I guess we shouldn't keep her waiting." Eve patted her handbag. "She did say she'd need this."
Eve got up and dusted the sand off herself, thankful that it was easy to clean off, and set off.

After some walking, Eve saw two figures in the distance. "You know Eve, I'm so glad you decided to wear this swimsuit. It really accents our body and... oh, is that them?"
"It looks like it... they don't see us. Like usual."
Eve approached behind them, as they were looking off into the distance. After a moment of not being notice, she suddenly spoke out. "Hello there."

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Orsola turned upon hearing Eve's words, gesturing with her hand towards her.

"General Kenobi!"


The only sound that could be heard in the area of the three women was the lapping of the waves, and a nearby seagull squawking. Orsola didn't dare to look to see if Eve and Olivia were staring at her, but she winced nonetheless. What exactly had possessed her to say that in response to Eve? After the silence lapsed a bit longer, she decided to break it again.

"... anyways, you are a bold one, Eve. Sneaking up on a Princess of Glia and the future Exarch of Isore like that- in a different setting, we might have turned and blasted you on the spot! Anyways, all that aside, we should figure out how exactly we're going to get up that rock. If you've brought the shard like I asked, Eve, the wind should be dispelled, and maybe some kind of seal will be unlocked once we reach the top."

She paused for a moment to laugh.

"But that's the easy part. The hard part is getting to the top without slipping, bashing our heads on the rocks below, and drowning, or something along those lines. I did suggest we grab some of my father's engineers, build a trebuchet on the hill overlooking the pillar, and launch ourselves to the top. ... Olivia told me in no uncertain terms that the plan was stupid."

She side-eyed Olivia for a second, before turning her gaze back to look at Eve.

"So, if you have any ideas of how to get up there, we're all ears. Neither of us have come up with a plan we both liked yet."

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“If that’s the Exarch’s fellow as you say, then it’s just one less man the next time we clash.” Wanker was low, threading twine and baiting hooks and entirely enraptured by it in the towering shade of their catch-boxes. It had been a good day’s work, and it was not over. Fish spilled out of the wooden baskets, flopping feebly. All of the three of them, Wanker especially, fished as if they were feeding a nation. Hell, Princess had eaten nearly so much just the night previous. And they were set to feast again in just a few hours, though Wanker would have preferred to land a king mackerel for the sport of it. “Let’s just get back to it, why don’t we?”

He set a finished line aside, wiped away a thin veneer of sweat. It was hot out on the waters that day. Onstade’s festival had been auspiciously dated, a beach celebration on a day that had been hot for a few hundred years. One would be ill-pressed to find a better day for leisure – something that the three of them had not had since the campaign began. The front had stabilized; Isore had been reigned in; and the Glian had ceased their posturing which had demanded continous answer. It had been the Knight’s idea to accompany Innes to his family’s annual reunion during the Summer Festival, and displeased as the archer was, he had to admit that it did them all good. No worries but the shade, the next fish to catch, and the procurement of fine drink. Even the ever tightly-wound Jill had loosened up.

Wanker reached into a nearby cooler absentmindedly and felt for a beer as the other two continued musing over the question. He kept feeling and after a little while, declared, “Shit. We’re out of drinks. Quit looking at the clowns, we’ve got a real problem here. Bitch?”

No response forthcoming, he looked up. The two were still people-watching. Wanker followed their gazes. The woman produced another sizable demijohn from the box on which she sat, popped it open, and swallowed enough to set a house ablaze in one gulp.

“No heart, have you lot?” Wanker talked slowly, furrowing his brow. “We’re hardly at war at the moment – it’s honour at stake here. The right thing to do would be to, ah, save a person in need, even they’re an enemy. Maybe they’ll even grant us a donative from their grace.” Still empty. The man dried off with a towel and snapped his fingers. “Let them aboard.”

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Tolok could be seen carrying the half of the palm tree as an umbrella, trying to find a way out. As hungover as he may be, he still found use in "Quality of life" additions, such as the added shade of the "Umbrella", while Owend was taking down each drink, one by one, as if this was her fuel. That was, until Tolok, whose vision as probably as doubled as it could be, managed to spot the fishing ship, along with three people in it. Tolok's clear, drunk response was to flail the half of the tree around so maybe, but maybe, they could see them on the island. 

"LOOK AT US!!! WEEEEE AAAAAAAAA-hic-EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HERE!" Anyone who would have watched would, most likely, fall of the ship, due to the almost comical way of him to gather the attention. Not only he managed to get their attention, but he also managed to get a sore throat, which he thought he could ease the pain with another drink. Carrying the palm with one arm, proudly, like a guardsman watching over the gate. he leaned down to reach for another demijohn, which he emptied in a minute. Inside, there may have been another but unfortunately, it cracked. Now, it would have not been a problem if the crack was as small as it could be, but the demijohn would break as soon as one would try to pick it up or apply force, and the one who'd have decided to drink from it would have to sustain a smelly, beer shower. Not a problem for Tolok, which he hadn't managed to see the crack itself on the other, last bottle, as he only chose his bottle to drink for the only reason that it was closer to him.

The ship went closer and closer to them, so Tolok waved at them with a wide, yet very awkward smile. "Are yooouu-hic our savio-hic-s? God bless us, and G-HIC! bless you!" he spun the "Umbrella" around, as form of gratitude. "We may have so-hic-thing for you, as reward, HIC! Are you avid drinkers? We have a lot of drinks for you hic-re!" He pointed at the box where Owend would rest before, where the last, cursed demijohn was resting. "Do you have any problem with that, hic?" He looked at Owend, who was clearly still trying to recover from the hangover. Meanwhile, Tolok embraced it. 

"Anyways! A-hic we fine if we -Hic could board the ship? -hic!"

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The day was fine and blue, and the dark stone of the bluff cracked beneath the open sun, steaming in the spray. Sand skittered ghostlike across the abandoned dunes, brushing their ankles. The beach some hundreds of meters away was choked by revelers – a sliver of characteristic bright green denoted Madon’s poor taste in swimming trunks, surrounded by the remainder of the party – but where the three women stood, there were only the wheeling gulls, the rumble of water, and the shadow of the colossus that emerged from the sea ten ship-lengths out from shore.

“The hard part is to get to the top without slipping, or drowning, or something along those lines,” Orsola said. “I did suggest a trebuchet...but Olivia told me in no uncertain terms that the plan was stupid.”

“It had a provincial charm to it, if the province in question was Isore.” Olivia shaded her eyes. “I could see your fa – ah, Madon – proposing something similar. But while I do believe I could survive a fall, I’m not so confident in my odds on being catapaulted into a cliff face.”

The Mourning Pillar – how Owend had referred to it in passing, as they had talked in preparation for the festival – rose a hundred meters out of the water, surrounded by sheer rock on each side. The prize lay, as if it were part of an obstacle course, at the very top. The question became how to reach it.

“Well, if you’ve brought the shard like I asked, Eve, the wind should be dispelled, and maybe some kind of seal will be unlocked once we’re up there.”

“Oh?” Olivia stepped to the edge of the bluff and extended her hand. Sure enough, the wind seemed to weaken. The gulls, too, had long dispersed, in search of better thermals elsewhere.

Something occurred to her. “When you say ‘shard’, is that…?”

Then she shook her head. “Time enough for that later. If there is no wind, then can we not simply fly over? I recall that the Lieutenant’s pegasus is quite unused at the moment...”

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Bitch shook her head in response to Wanker's sudden change of heart.

"Oh, now that you've seen the possibility of acquiring more booze, suddenly you're all for taking the altruistic and honorable approach? ... A simple man with simple needs, I suppose."

She turned to meet the concealed gaze of the armored man called Princess, who directed towards her a knowing nod and a brief hand gesture to carry on. She turned toward the drunken duo on the beach, cupping her hands to ensure she would be heard.

"Come aboard! And of course, of course, bring that box with you! We certainly aren't going to turn down such a kind and generous reward, you know?"

She shifted position in order to help the two onto the boat, to help ensure that they wouldn't trip and fall face first into the water. Probably would be a faceful of sand, seawater, and seaweed at worst- but better to avoid the issue and the embarrassment in the first place, if it could be helped. And if they fell... all it would take was one foot pressed down onto the back of their heads. They wouldn't get back up. Future possible thorns in the side removed. There was an allure to that, though doubtless Princess would not be much fond of such an action. So... best not to let such a situation arise, indeed.

The drunken duo and their box, with one cracked demijohn within, were loaded onto the boat without a hitch. Princess took a hold of the oars, guiding the boat out onto the currents leading away from the island and back into the open sea.Tolok, depending on how much capacity he had for rational thought at this point of time, might have found something about the person in armor, the one that their gracious hosts referred to as Princess, familiar. As well, the red-haired woman called Bitch turned and looked at him every so often, staring for a few moments. Along with her, he might have sworn he also saw a mouse on her shoulder, pointing at him and rolling with squeaking laughter.

While all of that was occurring, Princess turned toward Wanker.

"So. What are you thinking we should do now, Wanker? Are we going to continue our war against the denizens of the sea with these two..."

He paused for a moment, searching for the right words.

"... with these two aboard? Because if we are, I still would like to find that swordfish and combat it. Or, are we going to simply pull in to shore and join the festival at large? It's a decision I could make myself, of course. But this time, I'd think I'd like to enjoy the novelty of leaving decisions to somebody else for a change of pace."

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Eve waited for a moment before reaching into her bag and briefly revealing the shard that was mentioned, before putting it back. "Of course... I have the shard... I wouldn't give it... to anyone..." Eve's words were directed at Orsola, before turning to look at Olivia. "But... uhh... what's wrong with the trebuchet? I... I think it would be... a good plan... I could... even help set it up..."
"You just want to build another weapon, don't you?"
"I... I think we could make it work... we... launch ourselves... or... maybe launch just me..." She then frowned. "But... materials..." She sighed. "I... understand you... want to use... a pegasus... but animals... don't really like me. I don't think... it'll like me... riding on it's back..."

Eve then approached the pillar itself, then gazed upwards. The rock face was unforgiving, but she stared at it with great interest.

She was unresponsive for a few minutes before speaking, her eyes locked to the pillar. "I think... I can climb it. You... you go ahead and fly up... I'll... meet you up there."

Before a word of protest could be spoken, she was already gripping the rock face, making quick, careful calculations. Grabbing a rock here, putting a foothold there. Her motions were fluid, and despite the dangers the pillar's face represented, Eve showed no hesitation as she clambered up the rock pillar at a decent pace.

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Before Tolok hopped on the ship, he threw the "Umbrella" on the island and grabbed the box with his strong, but drunken inarticulate hands, pointed out by his inability to hold the box properly, probably causing Wanker's heart to have an ache, everytime he'd be close enough to destroy the box' content(s). Even though his actions before and during his drunken act would be considered "savage" with anything he'd hold, he took great care of the package and placed it with care in the boat, right near Wanker, as an invitation for disaster. Owend followed as well, almost wanting to sit on it, but quickly changed her mind and sat down somewhere else in the already crowded ship, probably wondering how aren't they sinking yet.

Tolok so did, as well. To his luck, he slightly recovered from his hangover, probably enough not to remember anything in particular about the armour the trio would wear, but to remember the squeaking of a mouse.... a mouse on the boat? Who'd have a mouse... as a pet?! He thought, as he leaned towards it. The mouse didn't want to lose this chance, so it pulled its cheeks and stuck its tongue out, as if it wanted to provoke him to cause something mischievous. 

But then he remembered what's with that mouse. Back during his first fight as part of Exarch's squad, when he miserably failed to scare away his opponents, a mouse came out of the rubble, just to laugh at him, as well. Now, he should not jump to conclusions. Many people might own a mouse as a cute, little pet in the house. Maybe the knight has a wheel for it somewhere in the house, feeding it cheese and grains, anything a rodent would love eating, thus his assumption only lead to curiosity, which lead to keeping quiet and listening to anything that would come up.

"Oh, a festival... OH, "The" festival! How much of it did we miss, while we attempted to incapacitate our livers with ale?" His stomach growled wildly. "Uh... What Hic!- time is it? I bet they have tables, over tables, over tables of food. Roasted, grilled, chopped, cooked, baked food is probably waiting for us. Mmh..." He spoke, thanks to his drunken state, most likely thinking for just himself. "Oh, how could I have forgotten, there are so many kinds of alcohol in the city! From the peasantry ale, to the rooooyal white wine!" With that, he made himself comfortable on the boat and looked at the sky, with absolutely no care for the world.

Edited by The Fire Heart

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Orsola frowned as Eve swam through the water to reach the pillar and started to ascend it. If she slipped and fell, she would likely come to grievous harm- not to mention the likelihood of the shard she carried being broken on impact. But, oh well, hopefully Owend's pegasus Nodite was swift enough to catch her and strong enough to bear the extra weight. Though with any luck... all three of them would reach the top of the pillar with no issues. Orsola nodded toward Olivia, then began to make her way toward the pegasus. She had made no big deal of it, and hadn't the opportunity to do so as of yet in this time, but the Owend of her time had taught her how to ride a pegasus- such a skill would surely take the good Princess Olivia by surprise, would it not?

Wanker pondered the decision that Princess had designated to him. The great swordfish waited to be combated, certainly. And the lapping waves still teemed with plenty of fish to be caught. But... on the other hand, the festival promised a great deal of food. And there was only so much you could take of fish alone, and so much they had caught already. This would require some thought.


Or, it would have, had the drunken Tolok not spoke so vividly of the alcohol that would be present at the festival. The mention of this galvanized Wanker into action, and he jumped forward with a leg planted against the prow of the boat, heroically pointing toward the beach where the festival carried on in earnest.

"Let us go now and make land! To the festival, for booze and for boo- food!"

Princess chuckled at this decision, and took up and oar and began to steer the boat toward shore. Bitch shook her head for a couple of moments, but followed Princess' movement with her own oar. The mouse on her shoulder continued to stare at Tolok, silent now that its mirth had faded.

Meanwhile, in Glia proper, Anselm stared forlornly out the window and sighed. Cassia raised an eyebrow at this and spoke up.

"Princess... what is the matter?"

Anselm shook his head sadly for a moment, before turning toward Cassia and attempting to muster a smile.

"Ah, nothing, Cassia. I was just... ah, well, if I can't admit it to you, who can I admit it to? I was thinking of the festival at Onstade. Every year I go there, show off my most dazzling and fashionable swimwear, test the limits of the secret I must uphold... but not this year. Instead, I am stuck with dark business in Glia proper, while dear Olivia gets to enjoy the festivities!"

Cassia smiled slightly.

"Hah. I know you greatly relish the opportunity. And I too was looking forward to what you had selected this year. But... nevertheless, are you thinking of running off, abandoning your duties?"

Anselm laughed for a moment.

"No, I would not dream of it, lest I was seeking to be on the receiving end of dear Severa's anger. I just had a moment of... longing, which I thank you for indulging, my faithful attendant. Now... I suppose we should get back to it. Bring in the next one, would you?"

Upon the beaches of Onstade, Madon and Wymp played a game with the knights of Owend's squad- one that involved a net stretching across the sand, and hitting a ball back forth across it. Vanessa kept score, and Madon's team was in the lead at the moment. The various Isorians and mercenaries that had accompanied their Exarch from The Valley were spread out throughout the festivities, greatly enjoying their relaxation and downtime.

It would be a shame if something happened to interrupt this idyllic peace, wouldn't it?

The boat bearing said interruption came onto the sand with great ferocity- driving a furrow into the beach as it was rowed forward until it came to a stop, somehow undamaged. The occupants of the ship made their way onto the shore- two of them obviously stumbling. Nearby festivities paused as those involved turned to look at the newcomers, and the faces of Madon and Wymp in particular carried expressions of shock as the trio of Princess, Bitch, and Wanker strode onto the sands. Jill and Innes were immediately recognizable to the Exarch- however, the man with the swim trunks over his full suit of dark armor was not somebody he recognized. A strange man, one he would take the time to try and identify later, he supposed. Madon instinctively reached for Arcane Piercer... only to grasp thin air. Right. The legate had disarmed them all the previous night. The red-haired woman strode forward until she stood in front of the Exarch. He narrowed his gaze and spoke.

"Jill? What are you doing here?"

The woman made a shhing gesture.

"There's no Jill here. Call me Bitch."

"Why would I-"

Madon was unable to finish his sentence as Bitch suddenly took hold of his hand and dragged him off down the beach. Wymp stared after them with an incredulous expression.

Edited by EpicRome23

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Away from the festivities and other people, the sounds of cheer were faint as Crystal!Mason and Amber sat alone on a towel by the waves, watching them roll in and out. It was quiet, and peaceful. With how awkward things were for them both at the moment, they preferred it that way. The sooner the festival was over and they could get out of their ridiculous swimsuits, the better.
"Sorry I ruined the festival for you Mason. I know you're wishing to not have to be wearing a swimsuit like that."
"Amber, it's me who should be apologizing. I'm stuck like this, but I didn't have to pick out a swimsuit like that for you. Though... deep down it felt satisfying getting some revenge."
Amber let out a chuckle. "Revenge for what? It took very little convincing for me to get you into a disguise like this in the first place."
Mason just waved his hand, flustered. "But... You... well... what can I say? You put up such a halfhearted argument I felt a little bad. Besides, we didn't really have much time and I couldn't think of anything else. And, well... screw Glia and their hatred of men."
"You gotta admit though... you look good dressed like that."
He couldn't make eye contact in response as he bashfully pushed her. "S-Shut up." There was silence between the two for a moment. "Embarrassment aside, this is kinda nice. It's been a long time since I could just... sit down and relax. Makes me with I was in a boat with a fishing pole."
"You're a fisherman?"
"Yeah. My old home had quite the lake behind it. I can't tell you the hours I spent there casting away while on leave."
"Do you miss your old home at all?"
"I miss my brother. But... I don't really miss my home. Call me crazy, but this world is already growing on me. I feel right at home here." He then mused, "At least here I don't have an entire nation out for my head."
"Hopefully they don't figure out where you've gone. I'd hate to see yet another nation here vying for power."
"You and me both." He paused. "You know... I think I'm starting to get over this whole swimsuit fiasco. Why don't we go enjoy the festivities? Sitting here is nice and all but... well... we can sit on a beach any old day of the week."
"Yes, I agree. What would you like to do?"
"Heck if I know, I've never been to this festival before. Here, let me help you up."

Mason stood up, and right as he did so an arrow came flying in and impacting the back of his knee, causing him to let out a cry of pain and drop to the sands. Had he not stood up, the arrow surely would have impacted where his heart was.

"MASON!" Amber quickly wheeled around and saw the culprit of the attack: A man in some odd looking clothes, ones she's never seen before, holding a bow. Without her rapier, her magic was unfocused, but she still unleashed a quick bolt of fire, striking the man and knocking him over, dead. He then vanished in a flash of light.

With Mason hurt, she didn't have time to question this. She instead turned her attention over to him. "Bastard got me in the back of the knee... can you still use your healing magic without your rapier?"
"I mean..." She hesitated. "I... I can but I have to make physical contact in order to do so."
"I don't care, this hurts like hell... just get ready to after I..." He yanked the arrow out. "A seashell?" He said through gritted teeth.
Indeed. The arrow was not a typical arrow. Instead the tip had been replaced by a seashell.
"How does... nevermind." She then placed her hands on his wound and closed her eyes. Physical healing was always painful for her because she could feel the deeper feelings of the target. Usually, the pain they endured was pain she now had to endure. But this time, it was a bit different. While she still felt the pain, she felt soothing waves wash over her mentally as well. A first, she could never recall anyone like this before. Perhaps it was because he had very little magical resistance?

Before long, the bleeding had stopped and the wound was closed, nary a trace to be found of it. The arrow, somehow, disappeared as well.
"Thank you Amber... you keep helping me like this and I'll never be able to owe you back all the favors I do."
"Think nothing of it. But... that man... and that arrow..."
"Yeah, it has me bugged too. A scout, perhaps?"
"If it's a scout, then the festival may be targeted for an attack. We should warn somebody."
"Agreed. Let's go."

The duo clambered to their feet and started making their way back to the others.

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"Wymp. Hey, Wymp." He reached for his shoulder in order to gain some balance and ensure he won't fall any sooner from the hangover. Owend followed as well on the opposite side of Wymp but didn't rest on Wymp's shoulder, since she recovered sooner than Tolok. Wymp probably didn't notice the two strolling to him, as his eyes were fixated on Innes and the armored person, who most likely expected this turn of events, thanks to the two drunkards who could have probably, God only knows what, managed to attempt something even more stupid than managing to be stranded on an island. 

Fortunately though, they were just fine, thanks to Ebon Knight and his subordinates, with the exception of the headache and a dire need of water. Tolok took his precious time on the ship to recover and most of his senses were back (including his common sense, though its presence is uncommon), with the exception of balancing. He took a long look at the two who saved them, trying to connect the dots between Wymp's shock and their dominating presence. Why did the three of them have such weird aliases, to begin with it? His only reason he could think of was to keep their identities hidden and continue on with their work, as long as they can't be identified. It was fairly obvious Wymp knew them and the history between him and the trio was not a kind one. He didn't know much about his history, but he knows only one person who'd hold a mouse as a pet...

He facepalmed, with a deep and disappointed sigh, directed to himself. He knows he's an idiot, but wasn't this obvious? Though only an assumption, he looked at the two, then at Wymp. "Let me guess... we fought them several times." At this point, Tolok thought he'd be dead several times due to these circumstances. If there's no weapons, there's fists. And a drunkard mixed with fists is not a great combination. Now there's two of them who wouldn't bring anything to the table. Only thing he could do is pray and hope they don't seek malicious intent during this festival.

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"Let me guess... we fought them several times."

Wymp's frown of concentration lifted for a moment as he turned and looked at Tolok.

"Innes, yes. Jill too, and she's just dragged Madon off to who knows where. ... God, I should have stopped her, but something made me stay in place."

He shook his mournfully for a moment.

"Anyways, we've fought Innes several times. Rat bastard nearly did the Exarch in with that bow of his, in the woods outside the inn. But I don't recognize the man in the armor, yet I feel like I should... and you know what? Something tells me this situation may not be as hostile as it seems. After all, the fact they haven't drawn steel on us indicates that they may have been disarmed in a similar manner as we were. As strange as it seems to say, it seems this meeting between us will not come to blows."

As Wymp and Tolok spoke to each other, Innes strode forward and gestured grandly at those watching him and the Knight.

"What is with the silence, this aura of hostility? What kind of pale imitation of the legendary summer festival of Onstade is this? Come, let us eat together, drink together, and be merry!"

With that, he made his way toward the food stands and the open bar, conveniently situated where the beach met the city of Onstade proper. Wymp watched Innes' departure, stroking his chin in thought. Then, he turned to Tolok with what seemed to be a devious grin.

"We should accept that invitation, I think. If we ply him with enough drinks, I believe we could get him to let slip some valuable intel on the movements of Byrn- information the Exarch and the Princess will undoubtedly appreciate."

Meanwhile, atop a sandy dune overlooking the beach, a man in dark robes stood, staring disapprovingly at the corpse in front of him with a blackened, charred area over his heart. Though it could have been harder to tell the direction of his gaze with one eye concealed behind a turban worn at an angle, were there anything else of interest in the immediate area. A hooded man bowed to the robed man as he approached and began to speak.

"Lord Nergal, I- ah. One of our scouts got compromised, it seems."

"... Indeed. Inconvenient, I was hoping for this assault to come as a total surprise. Nonetheless, we will make this work. Denning, signal the advance. We must act immediately if we are to maintain any momentum. And if any power that be favors us, we may even catch those who encountered and killed our scout before they can bring the news to their compatriots."

Denning nodded, and unslung a massive bow from his back- one that seemed to have been carved from a large piece of driftwood. Nergal mused to himself as his subordinate nocked an arrow tipped with a firework.

"That damned legate. Somehow managed to disarm all of us, in spite of our presence being otherwise unknown. These improvised weapons should hopefully do the trick. But even if they don't... this is a minor bump in the grand scheme of things. If it works it will be a beautiful success, but I lose little from this operation's failure."

As his musing trailed off, he watched as the firework arrow was fired into the air. It exploded in the air, a blood red skull becoming visible for the brief moments of the explosive display's existence. His force would now be en-route. He drew a glass ball from within his robes, looking into it with an expression of concentration. He would watch the conflict through his scrying orb. If all went south, he would simply teleport out of here before his presence could be detected. But until then, he would watch the chaos unfold...

Edited by EpicRome23

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Mason and Amber hurried back to the group, or at least, the people who were still around.

"Everyone, we have a..." Amber paused as she gazed at the man in swimtrunks over armor. She couldn't recognize him at all. Just who was this mysterious man.
Mason, unsure why Amber was staring so intently at the Ebon Knight, continued in her stead. "There's a problem, we were just attacked by what we believe to be a scout."
Amber finally shook her stupor. "If it was indeed a scout, the festival could be in danger of being assaulted. We need to let someone-"

She was cut off by the sound of an explosion, and an ominous red skull that appeared in the sky for the briefest of instances.
"It was a scout..." Mason muttered.
"We don't even have any weapons, and my magic isn't all that powerful without my rapier."
"Where's the legate? We need to get our weapons back."

"Umm... no you don't..."
Amber and Mason wheeled around. "Eve? What are you doing here? I thought you were someplace else... actually... when did you get here?"
"I've... I've always been here..." There was a brief pause before her voice suddenly changed. "There's no time to talk about where I've been."
"Hush." She pointed at a nearby shack filled with all sorts of beach themed objects. "Grab one of the beach balls."
"Why would I-"
Completely caught off guard by Eve's sudden change in personality, Mason submitted and grabbed one, and right as he did so, a soldier appeared, dressed just as strangely as the scout they saw, and wielding a beach umbrella.
Eve's voice once again changed back to normal. "Throw it at him."
"Again, why would I-"
Eve sighed, grabbed the beach ball out of his hand, and threw it at the soldier. There was an explosion of blood as the beach ball hit the soldier and he fell over, dead. And disappeared just like the scout. The beach ball returned to Eve's hand and she gave it back to Mason, who was slack jawed at what he just saw. "Everything... everything in this shack... has been modified to be a weapon... so... we can use anything here..."
Mason was staring at the beach ball from hell that he was holding. "I... I guess I'll take this then?"
Amber, just as surprised, walked over and picked up a giant tuna. "For some reason this is calling out to me."
Eve just simply picked up the nearest beach chair. "I'll... take this..."
"I guess... grab your 'weapons' and split up? We'll be able to protect more of the festival this way."

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"...So... He could have just shot us between our eyes and call it a day." He looked at Innes, who didn't give a damn about the world and only wanted some peace and quiet, striding towards the food stands. Tolok grinned as well, hearing Wymp's mischievous plan "We can challenge him to a drinking contest. Uh, not really. I just recovered from a hangover." He ended with a chuckle.

Though his attempt to persuade Innes was underway, he was quickly interrupted by Amber and Crystal!Mason's arrival. Confused, he tried to speak up and ask about the scout, but was quickly stopped by the appearance of the skull in the sky.

"Oh, edgy." He said, as he looked at it. Who would have thought there's people who'd mix up red with the human skull, like in a dark fantasy book and call it a day? Absolutely barbaric and grotesque, he thought! How would they be able to strike back with no weapons? Sure, Tolok had his unrealistically apparent strength, but he has nothing else to fight back. That was until Eve , who appeared out of thin air, showed them the power of the beach ball and the rest of the items in the shack. Watching the whole scene unfold, he only approached the small warehouse-thingy with confusion and looked through everything. "A surfboard here? What am I supposed to do with it, hover on sand?" He kept looking, not finding anything he'd remotely excel at. There was a pair of slippers which were already lethal without any enhancements and... Jump ropes?

He left the shack with disappointment, but he brightened up as he saw the palm tree he pulled... On the shore? He quickly picked it up and shook it off the whole water which was soaking it, accompanying it with a grin. "Ha! I found something worthy of my power!" He joined them back, smiling at the weapon in the while. "Well, I guess I would have to choose...." He looked at everyone who picked up their weapons, but Crystal!Mason seemed to have one of the better synergies with his weapon. So... He picked her, even though he hadn't seen her before. "Hey, you up for splitting up? We can do some good work out of them!" He pointed at Trap!Mason, waiting for a response.



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Wymp stared at Eve incredulously as she appeared from what seemed like nowhere. He knew for a fact that she had previously departed in the wake of Orsola and Olivia, to investigate that pillar far down the beach- there was no way she could have gotten back here so fast. And given her strange behavior now and previously... he had no choice but to assume that she was possessed by a demon. That could become a serious issue in the future, and he would need to find the opportunity to perform an exorcism. But for the moment, there were more pressing concerns.

The pious soldier missed the familiar weight of the vaunted Arbalest on his back as he made his way into the shack full of strange "weapons". Well, and his armor as well, but that went without saying for all of the Isorians there. For so many of them, their armor had become as a second skin. Well, hopefully they would never be caught unprepared like they were now again. Looking around the shack, a red velvet pouch tied with a black string happened to catch his eye. He untied the string and felt inside, pulling out a handful of... sand?

"What do I need with a pouch of sand? There's literally a beach full of it just outside!"

Shaking his head, he tossed the handful of sand over his shoulder and began to look for another weapon- only to stop as he heard several popping explosions behind him, culminating in one large and powerful explosion that propelled him out the shack and laid him out flat on the ground. Turning his head, he saw a couple of weapons had been blasted out of the shack and flew into the sky, to land God knows where. Huh. Had that been... a swordfish? As he looked at the pouch of sand that had landed behind with an appraising eye, somebody grabbed him and forcefully yanked him outright. He grabbed the pouch and stared indignantly at whomever had pulled him up. It was Owend, who had obviously been drinking again. She had a cocktail in hand... was that simply her drink, or had that been her weapon she had chosen from the shack? Before Wymp could ask, Owend gave him a wild grin and pulled him down the beach to split off and protect a section of the festival that wasn't already under attack.

The Ebon Knight had a moment of surprise at Eve's sudden arrival- he hadn't seen her since their little battle in the sands outside The Valley. The moment swiftly passed however, as he heard the news of the scout and of the impending attack. Who could have orchestrated such an assault on this festival? Had that bastard Nergal caught wind of his presence here, and decided to remove him as a potential threat while he was at his most vulnerable? But... no, it wasn't possible. He had simply thrown swim trunks over his armor, and nobody at the festival seemed to have been able to recognize him whatsoever. Perhaps he could take best advantage of that phenomenon, then. Everybody moved to the shack to gear up. That wimpy fellow set off an explosion that sent a couple of the weapons flying into the wild blue yonder, and then was dragged off by that drunken girl he and his subordinates had rescued. The drunken man also split off with a woman he did not recognize. Had she always been with the Exarch's group?

Whatever the case, he entered the shack himself, and examined the offerings to be had. Out of everything... something about the jump ropes, of all things, called out to him. He picked up the both of them, one in each hand, and then made his way back out. The only ones who remained in the area were Innes, Amber, and Eve. He already had enough of Innes on a regular basis, and Amber wouldn't be a bad choice by any means. But... hah, he couldn't help but listen to that part of him that said to go with Eve. So it was that he approached her, an obvious amusement in his tone as he spoke to her.

"You and I... let us fend off this incursion together. Then, perhaps after..."

He didn't finish his sentence as he turned away and began striding toward a group of bandits that were charging toward lounging sunbathers.

And then there were two. Innes rested his chosen weapon, what looked to be a piece of driftwood with a blue banner attached to it, on his shoulder and watched the departing Ebon Knight and Eve with a chuckle. He mused more to himself than anything for a moment.

"Figured those two would end up together. Too bad nobody but that weird girl with the staff would get the joke."

He stretched languidly, and then turned and looked toward Amber with a smirk.

"Looks like it's just you and me left, huh? ... You can call me Wanker. And you were that mage that decimated Jill and her troop outside Cortia, weren't you? She was steaming mad about it for days, couldn't put in a word edgewise without getting slapped. I bring this up because if you can still muster even a fraction of that power, then we're in business. Let's go crush these bastards, shall we?"

"What the hell was that about, Jill?"

"Look, Madon. I needed to get you away from everybody else so that we could talk. And, umm, I asked you to call me that because we're going by codenames while we're here in Glian territory."

"What kind of codename is 'Bitch'?!"

Jill couldn't hold back her laughter, and Madon was soon pulled into it as well. The fiery wyvern rider of Byrn and the Exarch stood there laughing while the festival carried on around them and the waves lapped incessantly at the shore. The squeaking of a mouse joined the cacophony until it soon subsided. Jill and Madon looked at each other in silence for a few moments, before Jill finally replied.

"Innes came up with them. Well, except for his own as 'Wanker', I gave him that one. I'm not quite sure what purpose they actually serve, given that we're hardly in any effective sort of disguise, but I digress. Madon... what are your plans after this?"

"After this festival? I will resume the march of my force to our eventual destination. Even your most mediocre spy could probably figure out where that is, but I will still not be such a fool to let loose such intel even if you approach me so amicably."

"No, I mean... after the war? When all is said and done, and we can turn our thoughts not to our next battle, but the restoration of our homes and nations."

This question gave Madon obvious pause. What were his plans? He had been driven thus far by simple goals in mind: Defeat Byrn. Restore Isore. Resume his duties as Exarch of the Walled City as if the war were but a minor interruption. Broad, sweeping strokes. He had never considered the specifics, had he? He mulled it over for a bit longer.

"... Would it surprise you to know that I haven't thought out that far? Sure, I've thought of the grand and broad ideals, like restoring Isore and setting my nation back in order. But I haven't considered the lesser, more specific things. Like who among the Guard will... replace Severus."

He paused for a moment, and Jill's expression grew slightly intrigued. There was evidence that Severus might not be dead, Madon knew. But he couldn't check the veracity of it unless he found the time to go to the besieged Cortia himself. He shook his head slightly and then resumed.

"Promotions and positions would have to be considered. And even before the war ends, I will likely have to give great consideration to the matter of an heir, in the event that I were to meet my untimely demise in this conflict."

As he said these words, Jill seemed to move closer. There was... something about her, the Exarch thought. Had she always had such a charm to her? Or had it simply been concealed by the blood and sweat of the battlefield? Jill spoke and shook him out of his reverie.

"An heir would mean that you would need to take a wife, then. Have you ever considered what lucky woman you would take as your bride? And would you seek a union of pure political maneuvering... or of actual love?"

Madon's stoic expression rippled with consternation for a brief moment. Such thoughts had been far from his mind for the most part, due to how occupied it was with all those thoughts related to the war. But even so... there were two that the Exarch knew had come to mind in the depths of night, as he finally drifted into the the best sleep he could manage to muster. And one of them...

"... It has been a matter that has not been completely been absent from my mind, Jill. Love, or pure political ploys, I would take whichever benefited Isore more in following my logical mind's desire. Yet in my heart? A relationship not built on a solid foundation of love can only end in tragedy, I feel. So yes, while I have given it some thought? I don't think now is the proper time to commit to anything. When I have ascertained better the situation in Dodon, and secured a stronger foothold for myself and my nation, then perhaps I can speak of commitment. Was that... all you wanted from me, Jill?"

Jill smiled shyly for a moment, almost physically touching Madon as she leaned in closer to him.

"Those were my main questions to you, Exarch. And your answers are definitely satisfactory. But there is indeed, hmm, something else..."

She locked gazes with the Exarch, something lurking beneath her expression.

"I'm a simple woman, Madon. I want your lance in my va- vanity chest. The golden lance of the Exarchs, Arcane Piercer. It's just... so cool, and would make for such an excellent display piece."

Madon chuckled for a few seconds.

"Is that so? Far better than our previous meetings where you wanted my head on a platter, I suppose. I could certainly arrange something after the war is over. Even if I wanted to at this time, I couldn't even give it to you, because I don't know where that damned legate hid it and the rest of our weapons, and nor have I seen her anywhere since the very start of the festival."

Jill grinned deviously as she touched Madon's shoulder.

"Perhaps we could go together then, track her down? Get your lance back, and I could, mmm, admire i- Madon, watch out!"

Jill gathered her strength and pushed the Exarch away from her, moving him out of the path of an incoming arrow. It seemed to have been tipped by a seashell, judging by the fragments surrounding the rock the arrow had impacted. Madon and Jill turned to look at their assailants: one with a weird bow and arrow, and one wielding a floatie as if it were a deadly weapon. Madon frowned and raised his fists as he looked at the approaching duo.

"People attacking the festival? And we are sorely unarmed, to boot. Damn, is this really how our story e-"

He was cut off by two objects falling out of the sky and landing in front of them. There was... a swordfish?! And a buoyboard? Madon and Jill glanced at each other, then shrugged before each grabbing one of the items before them. Madon grabbed the swordfish and shifted into a swordfighting stance, while Jill clasped the buoyboard and... ducked behind Madon? The Exarch turned toward her with raised eyebrows.

"Jill, what exactly are you doing?"

"I'm using you to protect me, you idiot!"

"Why the hell would I need to protect you? You have at least twice proven capable of matching my strength physically, and even without armor I would suspect that to remain true."

"You moron! Just... just shut up and keep these men from harming my delicate body, okay?"

Madon let out a deep sigh and shook his head, before turning back to their assailants- who had patiently waited for them to finish speaking to each other. The archer drew back an arrow and aimed as the floatie-weilder charged at the Exarch.

The latter clash was decided when Madon's swordfish popped the floatie, and the sword-like part of the petrified ichthyoid pierced the throat of the man. He collapsed to the ground choking and spluttering, before disappearing in a flash of light. At the same time, Jill pointed the buoyboard toward the archer and moved it up through the air. A wave of apparent seawater moved across the beach, striking the archer full-force and collapsing into a swirling whirlpool. The water dissipated in a splash, but only after it had drowned the archer where he stood. He too disappeared, and the odd duo at this far end of the festival turned toward each other. Then, with resolute nods, they turned away once more and began making their way to where they see people approaching the beach.

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