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lost in the fog, these hollow hills [quest]

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DAWIC, SEINARU FORVEN
 
| PROLOGUE

The swamplands have long since found a place in the vicinity of Oskar Lutgehr’s breastbone. Perhaps even greater than his love for Elendaron had been, even, though he cannot tell if this is for the better.

He had been a refugee, once, and had found the land to be wholly unsuitable for a dwarven blacksmith such as himself. There had been the giant reptiles and the piranhas and the incessant showers that poured over Dawic daily, rain droplets skittering through the gnarled mess of giant trees. There had been the sunshine in lieu of comfortable underground darkness, and the rivers that bring forth fish and rice farms along its banks. Nothing at all like his old home and the familiarities of a world he had been brought up to cultivate and adore.

And yet: he has made a home for his family here in Dawic. It is a land that has embraced them in their forced, permanent exile from the death of Elendaron, and it is a land that has taken root deep in their hearts, making them thrive now. There is happiness to be found in this swampland, beauty to be found despite the dangers, in spite of them.

The swamp monster had been little more than a strange anomaly, before. Something to scare the children to bed early, something to lure the more wildeyed adventurers in and inspire the avid ingress of coin and mainpower to Dawic’s murky waters. Nothing had been reported beyond odd sightings of the creature, and so the citizens of Dawic had developed a tenuous bond with the swamp monster. It is something to be feared, but from a distance, like fog on a window pane: looming but intangible.

But then the disappearances had begun. Mangled bodies have washed up on the riverbanks, faces torn beyond all recognition. Fear has taken on a new form in the minds of the townsfolk; it bears the image of swamp vines and moss, now. Perfumed with the mingling scent of wet earth and the stench of decaying flesh. A veritable boogeyman dripping with bogwater and blood.

Dawic is home for this dwarven refugee, and he is not about to lose another home to terror and death again. He has taken it upon his own shoulders to find a way to vanquish the entity that poses a threat to all he holds dear. 

And so it comes to pass that Oskar Lutgehr, local blacksmith of the wetlands, posts a quest on the notice board of Swally's Swamp Bar seeking to find the swamp monster, promising a generous reward to anyone who can capture the beast and bring it to Dawic. In this way, perhaps, the people can catch a glimpse of the terror brought down groveling on its knees and realize there is no danger after all. Not anymore. 

There may be heroes to be found, champions to be elected in this search for the safety of all who live in the swamps. However, the darkest depths of the badlands hide the most monstrous of creatures, and as three figures make their slow approach to the tangled reeds of Dawic, it becomes quite clear altogether—this is no place for angels.


 

 

@Ripley @L E V I A T H A N @Mickey Flash

Also tagging @Ataraxy, who requested he be tagged when this story begins!

 

///
 
 

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angel.jpg

| that's where old devils danced and kissed |

Combat was not one of Esdel’s strong suits, and this misfortune put him at a great disadvantage in the pursuit of this Swamp beast. When he once could call himself a resident of Grad na Ang’eli, Esdel was no more fortunate – his skill in combat was lacking, and it was, as he’d been told numerous times before, “luck” that had protected him from death, time and time again. Esdel, though, saw banishment as the equivalent to death. Tragedy befell him when the Povisoko proclaimed him a Fallen. Esdel had no reason to be surprised at this proclamation, considering he had shirked his prayers and worship too often – In fact, the Ang’eli had even mocked the Creator and their strict laws in Grad na. But, to be exiled by his race… it left Esdel feeling like there was a void inside of him, and that void was filled with resentment. Malice.

Esdel fled. For the first time in his life, he ventured below the clouds to escape his fate of losing his wings. As he became a deserter – not even honoring the life that potentially waited for him in Ničija Zemja – Esdel sought out purpose in Hell, pledging himself to the Dark Lord to spite the Creator and to spite the Ang’eli. Although Esdel liked to make light of retelling of his time in Hell, it was best that he did not repeat what happened there at all.

Esdel grew mostly comfortable with being subjected to a life as a loner and outcast; but a deep sadness settled into his heart, oftentimes masked by witty humor, or gone overlooked because of his charming nature.

The Fallen Ang’eli heard rumors about the Dawic Swamp Monster, but knew very little about it. Whenever he did hear about it, it was always through hushed words exchanged between shifty-eyed dwarves. Esdel didn’t remember that he had previously heard about the Monster, until he saw the poster in passing. He nearly missed it while making his way out of Swally’s – the bar that he had frequented often since arriving in Dawic not two nights prior. However, the poster caught his eye, and upon reading it, Esdel quickly concluded that it would be a way to earn a bit of money. That is, if he was not destroyed in combat with the creature.

Esdel decided already that he hated the swamp – there were too many bugs. Too much bog that carried a putrid smell. Too many opportunities to misstep and find oneself stuck in mud. And, because of Esdel’s many misfortunes, he liked to keep his wings hidden, which prevented him from flying above the many wetlands. They remained shrunken and tucked under his jacket, for Esdel did not want to risk being spotted by any Archangel mission trips that might be in the area.

 

 

Edited by Ripley

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X A R A N E U S   V Á L K A 

 

 

                        Dank and damp were the wetlands of  Dawic.

 

                                                Fortunate was He who Flew.

 

       Contrary to popular expectation was this sight: Brunette Plumage and Hair to match; six great wings moving what most might assume to be a divine being through the air. In truth, he was no higher than any bird with wings in his own eyes. Humility hung over him in modest accommodation, as prescribed by the Faith and their Creator. Grad na had been graced with this being mere decades ago, yet it was He who moved without Company. He did not need them, and it was not arrogance that spoke. His acts were his own, and a direct extension of the Creator's Will; this was largely his own opinion, but he was certainly not the only one with it.

 

       And so it was that Xa-Válka moved through and above the region without issue and without those of like feathers. Word of a rise in attacks in the already hardship-addled region drove his motivation. By His Will, this would cease. While not familiar outside of company sweeps over the region, his eyes read well when on the move. Dawic was within range, now. He could smell it. Smell the rot, the bog, the notes of death and wild animals tapered off by tanning dens in the caves. These dwarves and their human and non-human constituents were bustling against adversity and the Povisoko(Arch[angel]) respected it. Just another reason to give aid to those who reached out and worked for their cut of land, however putrid the place was to a being from the cloudscapes. 


       Descent delivered the Válkan to the land. Something of a high waisted skirt, looking to be a folded down yoga or tunic of some sort that hid the navel. Belted, sashed, banded at the biceps and thighs of one were to see either. A waist belt of scale and fur was adorned. Three rings worn among eight fingers and two thumbs. His radiant aura suppressed with his wings, which now lie against his back and beneath a cloak dark as the night sky. As if a storm had been wrenched from the sky. War-ready caligae strapped to his feet and calves meant he would not be bogged down so literally. 

 

       He was not of this world and it showed. A clandestine House noted for their lack of blending in to the sky. They were not to be obscured and for good reason. No one knew why the Válka were so dominantly brunette, but it had issued an idea about them. Initially, passive oppression and “purpose” on the front lines to serve as the diversion. Now? Any one Válkan was worth a handful of Ang’eli, or so Xaraneus felt. 

 

       Identifying the origin of various distress notices was common for his kin in lands bearing their presence. While Grad na bore no true fealty or affiliation with many terrestrial planes, they did take pity and try to indulge the wants and wishes of the late Titus. A good man and greater Angel, but ultimately deceased and deposed. Their world was political turmoil and Xara needed space more often than not. Pointless murder and rage was moot, but bettering the lives of others had merits. Reconnaissance missions noted a local Blacksmith hoping for aid, and he would receive it. This swamp would be liberated if he saw to it. 

 

       What was not expected was the foul scent of a Fallen, likely a deserter at that.  They did not smell of the reduced Wingless, moreso it smelled of the skies down here. Muddled by Dwarven musk and inhibition was they who walked without grace. A grimace, then a glare, and finally a finely pressed frown on an otherwise graceful and tanned complexion was worn on the Arch’s face. 

 

       Outside of Swally’s did he find himself staring down at a wretched Fallen Middling. The dishonor was tangible on him; he had been slighted by the Ruling Houses, yet he did not smell of burnt feather and flesh. Disgrace, but lacking disfigurement. Perplexing, but true as the day was bright. 

 

“By Their Will.. Ničija Zemja was not good enough for you?” He mused in pure condescension. In a blink, he was within reach; arms crossed over broad and full pectorals. Molten eyes fell on what he assumed to be a male now. His voice was deep, calm, yet sharp as a snake’s fang. 

 

“What business do you have here?” A cestus of hard light  condensed into a warbling distortion around his dominant hand. A sliver of his immense aura was expressed, applying pressure on the air around him to assert himself. 

 

       Typical Highborn... Only he hated the Noble District. He knew it well and danced through it with ferocious grace, but he loathed such interactions. 

Edited by L E V I A T H A N

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AbN4FCu.png
 
/ ARDÍS /

Her exile continues on, and yet the sting refuses to fade, still. Stubborn thing that it is. The Grace of the Creator may be gone, but it lingers: tar inextricable beneath her fingernails, a cesspool curdling in her stomach.

(Her spine aches, missing the weight of what she has lost. She does not yet know how to convince her mortal vessel that it might never come back. Not without a reckoning, not without an absolution she cannot receive.)

She has forsaken the rolling greenery of the Midlands for now, drawn to an unexplainable siren's call in Cierno. Or perhaps not unexplainable—it is perhaps the need to be closer to the Sozdavanje, to feel its presence in her veins again: albeit muted, like she's underwater. The closer she gets to Grad na Ang'eli, the more cautious she becomes. It will not do to become complacent and get killed off for her efforts. Not when she has not been able to suss out what she needs to find out in the world yet.

And so here she is, wading through the badlands of Seinaru Forven, braving the swamps of Dawic in search of an nondescript place to reside in for a few days. The unyielding landscape is not so unfamiliar; she has battled her way through the frozen wastelands of Genesaris' Cold South before, after all. This is not so much a hardship to traverse.

There is a sudden shiver down her back, the prickling awareness at the back of her neck, the tightening in her throat. Poised halfway between a puddle of mud and a moss-covered rock, Ardís is struck with the realization that nearly knocks her over: there is an Archangel here. One like her.

Her first instinct is to run—they are here for you, they changed their mind, they will drag you back and dispose of you—but her feet stay locked in place, paralyzed with fear. The feeling passes quickly, and she is about to pivot and flee in another direction, but then she feels him next: the Fallen Ang'eli, the one that is a Middling. Out of place here, just as she is. Her rapid heartbeat slows against the walls of her chest.

Not you. They are not looking for you.

And here, then, comes the anger. She has seen plenty of unjust cruelty in the halls of Grad na Ang'eli, and she will not stand to witness them again. Her footfalls ghost over wet leaf and stone, coming close to hear muffled voices through the underbrush. There is a building in the distance, a tavern of sorts. She pays no attention to anything but the tableau laid out in front of her.

When she speaks, she is at the edge of the clearing, glancing at the two men found within. (She does not dare come closer, not yet.) "And what business is it of yours?" Ardís tightens her grip on the hilt of her sword, knuckles white against the drab darkness of the undergrowth. "You roam too far from your post, Ang'eli."

(That word has not passed her lips in a year. It tastes strange on her tongue.)

 

 

@Ripley @L E V I A T H A N

///
 
 
Edited by vielle

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| that's where old devils danced and kissed |

Esdel’s immediate reaction was to panic when goosebumps formed on his skin. He shuddered at the powerful presence of an Archangel and couldn’t believe his luck. For so long, Esdel managed to avoid being anywhere near other Ang’eli. He had no interest in encountering any of his kind – they were thick-skulled, self-righteous and, in Esdel’s opinion, brainwashed to believe that the Creator was the sole thing in this life that could decide who was worthy and who was not. It was a bogus belief. Esdel believed that there was more to a life purpose than impressing a Higher Power.

The Middling, when seeing said Archangel, wondered if he could look elsewhere and act as though he had never seen another Ang’eli in his life. Play dumb. Damn it, Esdel thought. Despite his wings being safely tucked away, hidden from sight, he forgot about the very important detail that Ang’eli had a very strong sense of the presence of other Ang’eli. Even Esdel – as much as he was a disgrace to his race – still could feel the unpleasant chills that signalled another Ang’eli’s aura. Perhaps he had forgotten this because it had been so long since the feeling last struck him.

Then, even worse than goosebumps, came the feeling of being completely small. Esdel was not meek nor small, but Middlings were seldom blessed with the Godlike appeal that was most common in the Povisoko. When standing face-to-face with a Povisoko, was there anyone who didn’t feel utterly belittled and helpless?

Esdel knew that he looked stupid, standing there in front of an Ang’eli who perhaps once would have had seniority over him (but not since Esdel decided that he was governed by no one), with absolutely nothing good to say. He considered replying literally by telling this Povisoko asshole that he was on a very important mission to (hopefully) kill a Swamp bastard, but it was more likely that Esdel would be the one to face death.

His heartrate couldn’t possibly get any faster. Two Archs, now? Esdel noticed the woman easily – she was like fresh snow that had fallen on a dead winter landscape, totally contrasting with her environment. Another Fallen? Esdel could not tell for certain, his abilities dwindling more and more with each passing day. Her aura was not as strong as the towering Povisoko that stood before them, but it was that of an Arch, nonetheless. It mattered not – she was challenging the other Arch, and if they engaged in some kind of incredible battle, the Middling could ideally slip away unnoticed.

“My business is my own.” Esdel stated, his voice coming off much stronger than Esdel was feeling. “I surrendered my Faith years ago, and I am so tainted that I would never compare myself to your… pure self.” He spoke to the male, making the word ‘pure’ sound undesirable, despite what it meant. “I am under no obligation to report to you, Ang’eli.” He added, but then looked at the woman as well. “Either of you.” He added in. “I will be on my way. It appears that two Archangel have plenty to talk about, and I would not want to trouble you with my Middling trifles.” Esdel boldly walked past the brawny Povisoko in front of him, and with a bit of luck -- Esdel relied far too much on luck – the two Archangels would forget that they ever saw the Middling. It was very wishful thinking.

          @vielle @L E V I A T H A N

 

Edited by Ripley

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X A R A N E U S   V Á L K A 

 

“My business is my own.” Esdel stated, his voice coming off much stronger than Esdel was feeling. “I surrendered my Faith years ago, and I am so tainted that I would never compare myself to your… pure self.” 

“I am under no obligation to report to you, Ang’eli.” He added, but then looked at the woman as well. “Either of you.” He added in. “I will be on my way. It appears that two Archangel have plenty to talk about, and I would not want to trouble you with my Middling trifles.”

 

       Warbling energy fluctuated with a shimmer akin to the glare of a star around his hand when he stared at the Middling before him. 

 

"First of All.. you are lucky I do not Smite you for your foolish choices. Secondly, neither of you will go anywhere.” Between Esdel and the direction of Ardís did he turn his ireful eye while he spoke before returning to the former. 

“As an Agent of Will by birth and rank, though.. I am able to understand that even you -- a meek little blackbird -- has choice over their life... Even if that life is dishonorable and lacking merit. Tell me: What have you done in your time away, with your Severence from the Sozdavanje..?” The cestus was as a nigh-transparent effigy that rippled like a heatwave did off a car hood. As if cloaked by prismatic aura, his ruling force remained unseen to glancing eyes but the distortion was more than enough to make it known to even the severed among him. His tongue hummed with inklings of the very power he had named. Yes, he was endowed for definite, the browns and tans of his hair and feathers expressing the gravity and the way in which he and the Válka needed not the colors of the sky or the camouflage it provided in their natural territories. For a Válkan, it was better this way; to be seen and known was a pride the units of shock troopers kept to in the face of occasional ridicule or questioning of just how high the House of Povisokos sat. 

 

       For every entity receiving him, he became more aware of their location. Rather than prickling fear or discomfort, horripilation was out of the urge to destroy or at the very least inquire as to who bore witness to his Will and continued to oppose it. 

 

“While he thinks, you have this one chance to preserve civility here. Step forward.” A sharp predatory glance over the shoulder was made with his fist clenched. 

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AbN4FCu.png
 
/ ARDÍS /

The Archangel turns his attention towards her, and there. There it is, that itch growing desperate under the skin, the instinct of desertion she knows all too well: that broken thing in her bones that she cannot hope to fix, having strayed so far from the Sozdavanje, so fallen from Grace.

Oh, but here is a trickle of doubt, now, in the aftermath of her wild maddened rush to try and mediate things between the Archangel and the Middling. It's a pebble thrown into the sea of her soul, ripples shaking her resolve. Is this Fallen worth this? She is not nearly as strong as she once had been before her exile, before her wings had been taken from her and the love in her chest had been burned away. Despite the considerable skill she still has to her name, she knows she is no match for a warrior Ang'eli operating at his best.

The Middling is attempting to take his leave, but the Archangel refuses him. His power is palpable in air, a violent kiss of a spark against the skin. He demands he think and she come closer.

She could leave him. She still could. All it takes is a murmured spell and the use of adrenaline pooling through her veins to bid a hasty retreat from this encounter. She could leave him and save her skin.

(But she has not been built in the forges of her Creator to be heartless.)

And so Ardís steps forward as she is bidden to, just enough to place her within the clearing but still far enough to be just barely out of reach should the other Archangel choose to attack. She stamps down the fires of fear in her belly, keeps her facade cool and composed as she glances between the two of them, her hand still tight against the hilt of her weapon.

Now that she is closer to the other Archangel, she recognizes his vestments; the House of Válka stands above many others in Grad na Ang'eli because of their inclination towards war and defense. She does not remember who he is exactly nor whether they had known each other Above—her memories yet another part of her that had been wrestled from her being—but what she knows is enough to make the blood in her veins run cold.

It is paramount to not only her survival but that of the Middling's that the Archangel calms his horses, as the mortal term goes.

"If it is amenable to you," if you've any sense at all, "you would stand down." She fixes her gaze on the glow encasing his hand with light. "Perhaps you would do this as your own effort to preserve civility, as you say."

 

 

@Ripley @L E V I A T H A N

///
 
 
Edited by vielle

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| that's where old devils danced and kissed |

The Middling, despite every ounce of him desperate to escape this situation, felt himself listening to the undeniably superior Arch that commanded him to stay. Esdel had nothing to say to this Povisoko, and Esdel saw himself as above all of this – all of the ridiculous formalities and conversation that kept leading back to the notion of I am big and you are small. The Arch was trying to compensate for something, surely, with his perfectly majestic stature and an aura that was radiating power raw enough to shatter a window. Esdel wanted nothing to do with his impressive pectorals and his radiant, godlike wings. No, Esdel was above this. He believed that true power was more than… all of this.

Esdel, though, knew next to nothing about inner peace and true power and self-actualization and all of the bullshit that this female Arch seemed to have down to an art.

Pale skin warmed and rouge crept up his neck and settled into his cheeks, and he spun around, and even convinced himself for a fleeting moment that he was going to avenge himself by engaging in combat with this Arch as he looked at him with his honey eyes set ablaze. Blackbird, Esdel thought. A pathetic insult, Esdel knew, and yet it still made his skin tingle.

Why was this woman not fighting? Esdel knew nothing of her, but she had the courage to stand up against the other Arch – something that they did not have in common. She did, however, share with Esdel the distaste towards the other Arch. At least, it appeared that way, and Esdel was really praying to a Creator that he did not believe in hopes of being saved by this woman. If she was not there, Esdel feared what might become of him.

Esdel could fly away. He had his wings. They were strong and healthy, and he was proud of them. They were not as glorious as the immaculate wings of the Povisoko, but a Middling was cursed to a life of being second best, and Esdel knew this well. If he flew, though, he might begin some kind of chase and he likely would not succeed in fleeing. Esdel did not remember the laws very well, but could this Arch take his wings? Esdel had worked so hard to keep them.

He willed the red in his cheeks to go away. “You can surely guess how I have spent my time. Do not play dumb with me. You can smell it. You can sense the disgrace on me.” Esdel answered, turning his gaze away. Did he really need to get into it? Esdel once reeked of death, his essence tainted by his wrongdoings when he served a Darker Power. That … stench, albeit very weak now, reminded him of his past mistakes. This Povisoko had the ability to sense this, Esdel thought. He just wants you to admit it out loud to humiliate you.

“You should listen to her.” Esdel shuffled himself to stand closer to her. She was confident enough and she was Esdel’s only chance at not being destroyed, and he was now realizing that. Esdel would do more damage to himself than an opponent if he ever dared wield a blade. That reminded Esdel of the task at hand. “I do have a very important appointment with a Swamp Monster and surely my imminent death, and so I do bid you adieu. I am not worth your time.” He began to step backwards, ensuring that the woman was between himself and the looming Povisoko. This time, Esdel was convinced that trying to walk away would work.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Ripley

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X A R A N E U S   V Á L K A 

 

 

"If it is amenable to you," if you've any sense at all, "you would stand down." She fixes her gaze on the glow encasing his hand with light. "Perhaps you would do this as your own effort to preserve civility, as you say."

 

        Stand down.. Stand Down? The Válka yielded to no one but themselves outside of obvious higher powers. The Povisoko shifted to listen to the groveling Esdel ahead. He had half a mind to cage him, but felt it would not benefit the situation.

 

“You can surely guess how I have spent my time. Do not play dumb with me. You can smell it. You can sense the disgrace on me.” 

 

“Of course I can smell your DisGrace. I could smell it on the seabreeze.. At least you had the mind to abandon such a regrettable life.” He was calming a bit, but not before glaring when the  light haired woman’s words were enforced by the blackbird’s mimicry.

 

“You should listen to her.” Esdel shuffled himself to stand closer to her. 

 

      When the male tried walking away after shimmying toward Ardís, he could not help but to take a step forward. Walking away from anyone who was speaking was rude.. Walking away from him? Foolish, for lack of kinder words. The Valkan continued moving closer, quieting his torrential aura and dousing his agitation a bit. These two meant no foul, though one of their existences was worth snuffing -- ultimately it was not his place to divine whether one ought to be erased or not. Facilitating such a demand? Surely capable; but not his place in this moment. At least one of them seemed to be living with some dignity, and for her control of tongue he would cede.

 

“I do have a very important appointment with a Swamp Monster and surely my imminent death, and so I do bid you adieu. I am not worth your time.”

 

“Your deaths would not be warranted, not here and without reason. One of you has taken their separation with pride.. And one of you has taken a tumultuous path. While my curiosities for our crossing is strong, it is not stronger than my Will to aid these people. By the sound of it, at least two of us are here for the same thing.. Put bluntly, Whatever is in this swamp is ravaging the denizens and needs to be stopped. What say we put our differences aside? I can admit that I might have come off a bit harsh. ” Clenched fists became open hands as his eyes closed and he took a breath before speaking the last two sentences.

 

       Once opened, the male would neither smile or frown. “I am Xaraneus Valka; Dawic is in need and I have come to fulfill that which would benefit these… Zemjište Pešaci. I do not see why either of you would be here for anything other than work.. So let us get to it, then... who are you two?” Those piercing eyes found them like a raptor's prey.. Only they softened at his attempt for compassion and then a quirk with his question sprouted along his brows. His House knew little of the merits of soft approaches and staying one’s tongue. Conscription and the assumption of compliance was, however, a bit of a factor when it came to Grad na's finest. How would it go? 

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