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The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

The realms where magic is the most prevalent. These are the realms of traditional fantasy but includes any setting where magic is the primary focus. Examples: LotR, Harry Potter, Dresden Files.

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Sat Jun 01, 2019 1:54 am

_______________________________________________________________________
The Cardinal
_______________________________________________________________________


"BY THE POWER INVESTED IN ME BY THE EVERGLOW SENATE, I, TITUS OF HOUSE SABRE, DEMAND THAT YOU RELEASE MY WIFE AT ONCE!"

"Hear, hear!" The chorus rang out.

"Hey nonny-nonny!" A perfumed fop in a floppy yellow hat plucked a string on his lute, plink, and that only seemed to spur the colorful crowd to even greater heights of boastful cheer. Perhaps a hundred of them had piled into the plaza that bright spring morning, all around the offices of The Glow Newspaper. Stacks of parchment had been issuing from the publishers all day, each one of them emblazoned with that fateful headline; TALIA SABRE, NIECE OF DOMINIC BLACKTHORNE, SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR WITCHCRAFT, DEMON-SUMMONING AND KINSLAYING.

Titus Sabre, husband of the girl in that headline, sat proud atop this horse--the only one of his mob to be mounted. He had been absent from the city for a long time, sleeping with some peasant in one of his father's holdfasts instead of his lawfully wedded wife, but apparently still felt entitled to be assured of Talia's welfare. But it was widely suspected that it was something else he wanted; Talia's witchery was a violation of the marriage pact, and it apparently left the Sabres entitled to a rather large sum of Blackthorne gold. Titus had come sniffing after his wife's family's money many times before, under the guise of war reparations and dowers, but this was different--was solid, in a way the Westerners could not contest. The heir to House Sabre would have his due this time, it seemed, whether he got his wife back with that or not.

Avarice. Hubris. Sin. Cardinal Steerpike, Lord Steerpike now, felt his pale lips peel back from his teeth in a leer of disgust. Is this what you seek to test me with, my King? Such frivolities?

"We can't get them to leave, my Lord-Hand." The Blackthorne stormtrooper said from behind him. The man feared him. All the Western men feared him, truth be told, save the ones he had personally Enlightened. "And we can't force them either, since a share of their number have seats on the Senate. The one with the lute is Gerold Highcliffe...Goldenvoice, he calls himself now, but his cousin's widow owns one of the most powerful trading ports in the East. If he were harmed, then--"

"Captain Griflet." Steerpike half-turned to regard the soldier with one colorless eye. "When did the might of the Western militia quake before the sight of a bard?"

Beneath the Y-shaped visor of his helm, the stormtrooper's green eyes narrowed, and his gauntleted hand clenched around the handle of his halberd. "We do not quake, my Lord-Hand, but the Highcliffes are--oh goddess where did they come from?"

The Harbingers had appeared, drifting from the shadows around their master, cloaked spectres now in silver Blackthorne plate armor. Their visages were still hidden beneath their hoods still, and only the one the Bloodhawk had called Sixx wore any identifying feature--a platinum-plated facemask. It gleamed as the creature approached the soldiers, and they all stepped back in fear, muttering amongst themselves--foul sorcery, they spoke of. Witchery.

"My servants are with me always, Captain," Steerpike whispered. "Their minds are filled with the light of the One True God...they fear no man, and they will never hesitate to carry out your Lord's orders.You may remain inside, for you are no longer needed." The Hand of House Blackthorne turned his back on them, and pushed open the door of the offices, letting the light flood in. "This moment has been prepared for."

The booing began almost immediately; it seemed that Titus' entourage was completely, unwisely, undaunted by the sight of the Harbingers. Steerpike ignored the jeering crowd, craning his neck left and then right. Peasants and civilians had gathered in even greater numbers, forming a border around the protesters. The Cardinal saw the look in their eyes; the pieces were in place, by the Underking's divine will...now they need only be tested.

"LEAVE THIS PLACE." Steerpike looked to Titus, but spoke loud enough to address his whole gang. "I WILL NOT TELL YOU A SECOND TIME."

"I say thee nay, villain! For we are the New Age Knights!" the man who had spoken had dyed-purple hair that fell to his shoulders in soft ringlets, curly-toed yellow shoes and a doublet embroidered with sparkling jewellery. Like each of his compatriots, he looked soft. His noticable gut strained the bindings at the front of that doublet. "I am Claudio Deparma, sculptor extraordinaire, and I am but one of the thousands of influencers who are sickened by your endless wars! Your time is done, for when you fall, House Sabre shall rise!"

"The Griffin boasted and made its wars, a-hey-nonny-oh!" Gerold Highcliffe warbled, beating a crude melody from the strings of his lute. "But all the while the Panther did lie in wait, and when the Griffin took heed it was too late, a hey-nonny-nonny-faldey-aldey-up-wahey!!"

The awful, nonsensical song seemed to delight the so-called New Age Knights, who sent up a great cheer--"HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH FOR TITUS!"

The Sabre heir looked pleased with himself. A proud man approaching his thirtieth year, he was, dressed in shining gold finery with a chain of carved onyx panther's heads draped about his neck. He might have looked almost chivalrous...but again, there was that softness to him. "I demand that you tell your lord to release my wife at once, and to pay House Sabre for the lies he has told us." Titus pointed at the Cardinal accusingly; his hand looked manicured, uncalloused, and it was obvious he had never even held a sword in his life. "You have been warned, Hand! House Blackthorne does not know our true power! If he does not comply, the waterways will close to your foul household, and my father's noble Birhor warriors shall--"

"--fight for us, I think," Steerpike said softly. "Yes, Lord Blackthorne could have use for them. They are best deployed against the Demon hordes, rather than sitting on their ships doing nothing, as your father has commanded."

There was a moment's pause. A frown of confusion creased Titus' brow.

Claudio Deparma broke the silence. "The old Hand is senile, Lord Titus, just as his House is! Still dares to think he can give your men commands! Tis bullying, I say, to be expected of a House of bullies!"

"Hear, hear!" the New Age Knights chorused.

The Cardinal ignored them, turning instead to address the civilian growd gathered on all sides. "CITIZENS OF EVERGLOW CITY! YOU ALL KNOW WELL BY NOW THE TALE OF TALIA SABRE, A FOUL DEMON-SUMMONING WITCH WHO CONSPIRED TO MURDER ALL THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE HER IN HER FAMILY IN ORDER TO TAKE POWER FOR HERSELF! IF OUR BRAVE LORD BLACKTHORNE HAD NOT STOPPED HER, WHO KNOWS WHAT OTHER DAMAGE SHE MIGHT HAVE DONE? NOW COME THESE...FOOLS, THESE CHARLATANS, CO-CONSPIRING WITH THE WITCH TO HAVE THE DEMONS TURNED LOOSE UPON THESE LANDS AGAIN! WHO DO YOU TRUST TO KEEP YOU SAFE--DOMINIC BLACKTHORNE, FAMED WARRIOR AND WIELDER OF THE FABLED BLADE JASON BLACKTHORNE SLEW VERMITHRAX WITH, OR THIS...LOT, WHO FEAR TO FIGHT, WHO WANT US TO LAY DOWN AND LET THE DEMONS KILL US ALL! WILL YOU STAND FOR THIS?"

There was another silence, as Steerpike's voice reverberated across the plaza, carrying to the ears of all nearby.

"Psh." Titus waved a hand dismissively. "You must be really senile if you think the citizens love you more than they love me, old man. Our house are the purveyors of pleasure; we give them wine to fill their bellies, weed to fill their pipes, clothes for their backs and yet you think--" Something flew from the crowd and exploded against the side of Sabre's face, splattering all over his finery and making his horse almost buck him with the shock. It was a half-rotted cabbage.

"COWARD!" a voice from the crowd screamed.

"SISTERFUCKER! SISTERFUCKER SISTERFUCKER!" A woman's voice, high and hysterical.

"BLOODHAWK! BLOODHAWK! BLOODHAWK!" One voice started the chant, and then another took it up, and then ten more, and soon enough the sound of that terrible name was shaking the whole square.

The New Age Knights pressed against each other, looking around in bafflement. Some of them were beginning to look frightened. That was pleasing. More projectiles followed; a handful of mud splattered all over Gerold's lute, and the youth immediately burst into tears.

Titus spluttered as he brushed the filth off his doublet. "What--what have you done to them??"

"You ought to read the news more often, Sabre." With one black-velvet-clad finger, Steerpike stroked the golden amulet that hung about his neck. "Lord Blackthorne has been seeing to it that the people know his truth. His only truth. Did you know that your sister killed her husband, so that she might come to the city to sleep with you instead? Did you know that Lord Henriik ordered his men specifically to stay away from fighting the demons at the Riverford, thus ensuring countless more would die, all while planning to wed his daughter to the foul Knoxes? Did you know that your family has been importing ingredients for witchcraft, demon-summoning and blood-magic for your wife's--?"

"Lies! You have been making them tell lies! That is against the Law of the Senate!"

"There's something else you have never understood." Steerpike bared his teeth. "The Bloodhawk is the Senate."

"You--oh! Guards! Thank Aradia!" Titus had noticed a column of Everglow guardsmen winding through the crowd towards the New Age Knights, bearing the standard that indicated their Captain was present. "Over here, over here I say! This man has just confessed to treason against the Senate, Guard-Captain Roth! You must arrest him, lock him away, and clear out these revolting peasants as w--" He paused. eyes widening. "...you aren't the Guard-Captain."

"oI am, as it 'appens." Leading the column was a small, hunched, twisted figure on a black horse. His magnificent armor and fine blue cloak contrasted with his actual appearance; he wore a hood, but what was visible of the face beneath it was sallow and hideous, with rheumy eyes, a lolling tongue and a chinbeard so long that it almost reached his chest. Years of pipesmoke had turned his crooked teeth brown, and coarsened his laugh into a wretched croak. "Ehh heh heh hehh...yeh friend Roff wuz fookin' indisposed. Takin' a nap, 'e is, ehhh heh heh, and when 'e ain't around, role o' Gawd-Cap'n goes to me. Suh Daxtuh Waynroite's moy nayme....pleased tah make yaw acquaintance."

Titus cringed away when Daxter came near--the twisted man famously smelled as awful as he looked. "You are still an officer of the Senate! Arrest them!"

The Guard-Captain said nothing, only grinned insolently at the Sabre heir. His lolling purplish tongue drew slowly across his brown teeth, slathering them with drool.

"Do your duty!" Even now, at the end of it all, Titus Sabre did not seem to comprehend the danger, did not seem to see the weapons hanging from the other rider's saddle. "I demand that you--"

Daxter reached out, put a hand on Titus' shoulder, and shoved. Sabre might have had experience as a groom and breeder, but staying in the saddle of a horse when a great force was trying to knock you off it was something they only taught fighting men. The nobleman toppled down and hit the cobblestones with a crunch and a scream. Some of the New Age Knights seemed to understand then, and they tried to bolt, but by that stage the guards had formed a perimeter. The whole lot of them were trapped, herded in like sheep.

"BY THE POWER INVESTED IN ME BY THE EVERGLOW SENATE, I, LORD STEERPIKE, HAND OF HOUSE BLACKTHORNE, NAME YOU ALL TRAITORS AND CHARGE YOU WITH CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT TREASON." The Cardinal turned to look at Daxter. "Spare the Highborn, if you can. The rest...we don't need."

Claudio Deparma skipped towards where Titus lay heaped on the ground, his curly shoes making his gait awkward. "How dare you! How dare you strike a New Age Knight! Lord Henriik will hear of--"

In one swift movement, Daxter pulled a hatchet from his saddle, the kind generally used to chop wood, and buried it in the sculptor's head. Deparma's one remaining eye widened, his expensive trousers darkening as he soiled them noisily, and his mouth opened to make one final noise. But Waynrite pulled the axe back and took half the head off with it. The body spasmed and collapsed on top of Titus.

Daxter whirled the remains of the skull over his head (with most of the purple hair still clinging to it) like a banner, spraying blood and brains onto the cobblestones. "ROIDE 'EM DOWN, BOYS!"

It was not a legendary battle. Singers like Gerold would not speak of the courage of the brave New Age Knights for years to come; most of the New Age Knights followed the example of Claudio, in fact, screaming and wetting themselves as they tried to make a futile escape. The guards tore into them like foxes in a henhouse, their steal blades flashing bright in the early morning sun. Jets of blood and gore flew meters into the air over their heads as they went about their work. Steerpike went down the steps to walk among the carnage, the Harbingers closing around him in protection. Oh, this was glorious. More glorious even than the Riverford, where the Cardinal had watched from afar as the demons had torn into the pathetic terrestrial soldiers. But those had been warriors. These New Age Knights were not even that. There was a truth to them, to these pathetic cockroaches who dared to call themselves great and noble and progressive when not a one of them had ever faced hardship in life. In that lay the truth of all Terrestrial life. Great Mordaghast would be pleased with their dying. The new world would have no place for the hubris of sinners such as these.

Daxter had dismounted from his horse; off it, he looked even smaller, his hunchback twisting his entire body while his left leg was misshapen by a clubfoot that he dragged behind him as he used a walking stick to pull himself along. "How'd you loike that, boy? Ehhh heheh heh. Loyin' down in da filf."

"Ouggghhh....my arm..." Titus had landed on it, and it was bent out of shape. He tried desperately to pull Claudio's stinking corpse off of him but to no avail. Pleadingly, he looked up to Daxter, reaching at him. "Please....help me..."

"Yew wanna lift, boy? Wanna be carried? Awrigh'. C'mere." Daxter grasped the heir's good arm, and pulled him up--right into the path of his walking stick, which powered into Titus' jaw with a sickening crunch. Blood and teeth sprayed against the ground. "EHHH HEHE HEH HEH! YEW LOIKE THAT BOY? 'OW ABOUT THIS?" The walking stick came down again. "AHW THIS?" Again. "AWH THIS, YEW FOOKIN' CRAVEN--"

Steerpike caught the Guard-Captain's arm, intercepting what surely might have been a fatal blow. "We need this one alive."

"Fuh what?" Daxter's ugly face twisted with angry defiance, and he spat on the bloodied unconscious Sabre. "Wot good is 'e, eh? Fat fuckin' ponce--"

"To us? Not much. But to his father..." the Cardinal beckoned Sixx closer. "Go fetch the lackwit sister. And the bastard, as well. Put them on the first boat out of the City, back to the Tropics. Raid the Villa and take whatever is not nailed down. Anything not of value, put it to the torch. The Birhor soldiers are to remain here to serve us. Send a falcon to Lord Henriik, and tell him that if he does not order them to comply, we will break off pieces of his Heir and send them to him until he does."

Sixx nodded once, then melted into the crowd.

Daxter snorted. "Wot about the 'ighbawn?"

"They will serve us as well."

Two guardsmen approached, dragging a beaten figure between them. Gerold Highcliffe was now wearing the remains of his precious lute around his neck as one of the guards had bashed him over the head with it. By the looks of his hands, where several of the fingers had been bent the wrong way, it seemed unlikely he would have ever been able to use it again.

"Gerold Goldenvoice. I did not find your voice overly golden, I must say." The Cardinal grabbed the lad by the chin and forced him to make eye contact. "But I think you might sing sweetly, oh yes. Sing to Lady HIghcliffe, and tell her anything the Bloodhawk wishes to know."

Gerold was sniveling, but his family had been proud warriors for generations, and some of that still lingered in him. "I....will never...."

"Oh but you will." Steerpike raised his amulet, and the gold seemed to glow. "I know you are highly born, Gerold, but there is no shame in servitude. For the right cause, servitude can be a beautiful thing. Now watch the sun...oh, the things you will see..."

The Bard took one glance at the amulet, and could not look away, and his scream of agony soon became ecstasy as the Great Light of Mordaghast poured into his mind. From his pupils drifted barely-visible plumes of black smoke.

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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by dinthalion » Sat Jun 08, 2019 4:10 am

At first it was just a stirring, a restlessness among the guests. There were less and less people on the dance floor and more and more muttering in groups on the side. It looked like many of the Blackthorne bannermen were disturbed and many were readying to leave quickly. At first Rivka scanned the faces, picking up what she could read from the lips of even those far away. Witch, Talia, murderer, his son, a witch, who could believe... She caught enough initially to understand someone had been killed. She felt her heart sink in terror. Another murder. But this one had something to do with witchcraft and something to do with Talia. Her first thought was Talia had been murdered, someone had overheard their conversation and killed her new ally.

But Rivka learned the truth was even worse. It seemed Talia had used magic to kill her cousin and would now be hung as a witch. The magic part didn't bother her. Few people in the north had qualms with magic user of any sorts. Though no one in the Vennet family had any gifts she had grown up around the drow and their constant use of their gifts. It had been drow powers that had saved her own life. It was the fact that these gifts had been used for murder that disturbed her. She knew Jacques was an evil, ugly spirited man but she would have never thought Talia a murderer. Rivka couldn't help but worry it did have something to do with her.

She found her father to ask more questions.

"All I know is she killed her cousin in cold blood using magic." he told her grimly, "She's to be brought back to Everglow and executed as a witch."

"But having magic isn't against the law." Rivka replied, "The university teaches it, the Seraphs practice it."

"Black magic is an executable offense." he replied.

"But..." Rivka replied, "she offered to help me. She's a good person...She deserves a trail at least. You need to demand that the senate have a trial!"

"She's a Blacktorne Rivka." He replied with a sigh, "Any help she offered you was a ruse, you should know better then that by now. Who knows, maybe Lady Sabre's madness, Lord Sabre and his son both fleeing Everglow, maybe that was black magic too. Maybe she and her uncle are locked in some kind of power struggle. Its not our business."

"There has to be something we can do. If you won't I'll ask Lord Ludlow." Rivka replied meekly.

"Its too dangerous to cross the Bloodhawk." he replied, "For your safety, for the good of Briochi I will not get involved, and surely Lord Ludlow would be a fool to raise his voice either. Don't be upset Rivka. She wasn't your friend. They're all just playing a political game."

Rivka was fighting tears now, "But father.."

"Don't make a scene." Freyr interrupted her, "You don't want people talking..."

He put a hand on her gently, "I know its been a long day and a hard one for you. No one will blame you if you go to your quarters and prepare for Casim. I think the party is breaking up anyway."

He motioned to one of the servants to get Clarissa. It would be Casim's job to see the guests off and Rivka was too emotional to say many good byes. Once they had left the ball room the older maid guided her by the arm down the corridor. Rivka was openly crying now. She remembered Talia's words about how the Blacktornes were cursed, she felt a foreboding dread as she wondered what sort of cursed life the child she carried would lead.

"It will be alright, child" Clarissa whispered. She was trying to shelter Rivka as best she could from the prying eyes of servants and others in the hallway.

"No..no it won't..."Rivka replied, "I just want to run away, I just want to hide. We should just leave, hide in the mountains forever."

But she knew she couldn't do that.

------

This was her first time in the new quarters she would be sharing with her new husband. She slumped onto a plush bench. Light blue curtains were drawn by the large window. The floor was covered by a large rug interlaced with an intricate pattern of blues and greens and purple. Above the fireplace hung a beautiful paining of a gushing river flowing through a mountain pass lined with wildflowers. The furniture was elegant and the décor done to her liking. It was the sort of place she would have dreamed of as a child. But it felt foreign, almost mocking. this was a place for a lady, not a frightened girl.

Her things had already been moved in but they looked out of place. Her crying and trickled off as Clarissa led her into the large bedroom and began to help her undress. It was a time consuming effort to remove the white gown and all of the bulky underskirts and girdle. Finally she slipped into a white silk nightdress, the edges lined in lace. She couldn't help but stare at herself in the long mirror. She may have looked innocent and childish if it wasn't for the bulging stomach and the now swollen breasts. Her face was red and her frowning reflection looked much to plain. She felt a tear start again, she knew she would disappoint Casim just as she was sure she'd disappointed Jaster.

"I wish I was prettier." she whispered her lips trembling. Her hand rested on her stomach. "Casim deserves someone beautiful."

"Shh.." Clarissa told her softly, "He'll like you just the way you are. He's lucky. Everything will work out, you know that, the lady is looking out for you remember that."

She took down Rivka's dark hair and carefully brushed it out. She braided it and pinned it up with a few clips, leaving a loose strand to frame one side of her face. It was simple but still had an elegant look to it. Clarissa left her when she was done and Rivka wrapped herself in a robe and sat on the bench in the sitting room to wait, a poetry book on her lap. But she didn't do much reading.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:54 pm

He couldn’t imagine how she felt. How he felt was enough without having to consider it was now his duty and responsibility to look after her well-being. He knew there had been a connection between Rivka and Talia Sabre, maybe even friends. But now, on the night of their wedding, they were to deal with her friend being a murderer in their own home. Their home being the scene of a terrible crime.

As he saw off the guests, thanking them for coming and apologizing for the early finish, Tazim Chakif stood at his side. The old guard captain was constantly under attack with updates from servants and his own guardsmen, but at least that created a buffer between them and Casim. He found some comfort that someone older was taking the brunt of this for him. His own father somehow slept through the murder, through the screaming of the victim’s mother. The servants hadn’t tried to wake him when they checked on him.

Finally the hall had emptied of nobility. Even his own family members were scarce. Elmer was off tracking down his moron of a cousin Darius – why couldn’t he just wait to pull such a stupid stunt until things had calmed down? Admittedly, Casim knew that wasn’t how things worked. He was just pissed. Not even for himself.

Another murder at another of Rivka’s weddings.

At least he was doing a good job of following in the prints Jaster had left for him. To the letter.

Servants scurried about clearing dishes and putting away decorations. Others swarmed the library accompanied by guardsmen as they destroyed every scrap of evidence that something terrible had occurred there. Casim stood numbly in the doorway, watching one of the maids on her hands and knees scrubbing blood from the stone floor. He was jostled by another servant entering with a bucket of fresh, unbloodied cold water and soap. A hand gently squeezed his shoulder and he turned to find his older sister standing at his side.

“Hey,” he said quietly.

“You should be with your wife,” Claire said, not unkindly. She understood, he could see it in her eyes. But she was right.

“I’m meant to…” Casim trailed off, glancing down. “I’m meant to-… Claire, what do I do?”

She took his arm, steering him out of the way of the servants and bustling. Leading him down the hallway a little, they stopped near their father’s chambers. Here, no one could hear their low tones.

“Talia was her friend,” Claire said. “She might even be mine. And I know that son-of-a-bitch deserved whatever he got. Maybe it’s not our place to fight for or against her, and I know Papa wants to keep us from the fury of the Bloodhawk. But he took liberties in our house. Papa may forgive that, but I cannot. I’m going to find a way to help Talia.”

Casim stared at his sister, lost in her conviction. “You… you’ve never even mentioned Talia before. Your blood is too hot, you’re not thinking straight.”

“She more or less told me it wasn’t beneath her uncle to kidnap Eason. Maybe he didn’t do it, but he’s a terrible man regardless. And with his posse tonight, can’t you see? Jaster Blackthorne’s gone. Talia’s on her way out. This isn’t just about Houses and lordships anymore. This is boiling down to a war.”

“It’s going to become one if you go marching off on some vendetta against the man,” Casim said, trying to keep his voice low and level. His eyes shifted back down the hall, then to her. “She murdered his son, Claire.”

“Oh and you think she killed that asshole unprovoked?” Claire hissed back. “Yes, the perfect twin of Jaster Blackthorne, suddenly a ruthless killer. It was most likely self-defence judging by the way he was groping that girl during the party. I would have happily slapped that bastard myself had there not been blades and eyes everywhere.”

“We should have banned weapons from the wedding,” Casim muttered, distracted again by how wrong everything went.

Claire stood quietly, her brows furrowed before her expression eased slightly. She grabbed Casim in a hug. He blinked, then embraced her back. She pulled away and held him at arms’ length, her hands on his shoulders. “I’m going to take Lyron and Nimbe to Everglow. There, maybe we can find a way to get Talia free. Pull some political strings, have it that she killed in our house so we can claim ownership and force a trial, or something. I don’t know, but I can’t stay here and do nothing.”

“You’re mad. And you’re going to get yourself killed.”

“I feel more sane than I ever have before.” She pressed a kiss to his forehead and walked off.

The guard Carndas Rodin looked uncomfortable with how long Casim stood before the doors of his chambers. The man’s eyes were on him, his brows crooked as if asking a question. But it wasn’t his job to question the lordling, even as he stared at the wooden doors. He shifted from one foot to the other, his fingers clenching about the glaive’s length that he held. Casim finally let his gaze settle over on him.

“We’re cousins, yeah?” he said.

“Yes, my lord. Distant. Second-cousins, I believe.”

“So, we’re family.”

“I… yes. My lord.”

“Are you under my command now with the marriage?”

Carndas blinked, glanced uncertainly at the door, then back at Casim. “I think? Can I do something for you?”

“I’ve heard you saved Rivka’s life in Everglow City. You’re a good fighter, then?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Casim nodded. The half-hearted attempt at conversation lingered uncomfortably in the air. He remained still another few, long, terrible moments. Enough. He turned the handle and walked in. He closed the door behind him, afraid to look into the room. But with the door shut, he breathed out and found Rivka sitting on a bench in their newly-renovated chambers.

She was beautiful. But there was no hiding the morose nature of what had occurred tonight. Casim began unbuckling his armor. It was something he should have had a servant in for, but he didn’t want anyone else here. Quietly, he made his way to her before sitting beside her on the bench, with only chestplate, greaves, and armored boots still on over his padded clothing. The rest of it – the cape, the gauntlets, the pauldrons, he had let fall on a loveseat as he moved.

He looked at her a long moment, then reached out and gently took her hand resting on a book in her lap. He squeezed his fingers around hers.

“I’m sorry this happened,” he said.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:10 am

Casim and Rivka's Chambers
Heartstone Estate, Slyvie Isle
A Note from a Friend

A letter seemed to find it's way into the room as Casim entered, it fluttered a bit but found its rest on the nightstand by magical means, where it sat next to the other items gifted to Rivka in the past by her guardian uncle, Divan. It laid next to her dream pendant and her living storybook she had been given at her first wedding. The note could be read later, but it was stamped with Divan's official seal, something wholly recognizable to Rivka in the years of time shed see the letters come floating in to her father's study back in Briochi. It was Divan's preferred way of communications, a quick but efficient way to communication by his logic.

Built in with the note was a drawing, properly shaded and detailed to a fine degree, of a happy Rivka, Casim, and their child now presented a a beautiful infant between the two of them as they embraced. It was signed of course with a set of D.D. and over top was laid the letter to Rivka for when she could find time to read it later.

"Rivka,

You are my treasure, your father and I have made arrangements to bury the hatchet and fix Briochi together. I am sorry your wedding did not pan out as you wanted it to, there were just too many things going on for me to prevent the tragedy. I love you, always, and whether or not you've forgiven me I promise you I will do everything in my power to save Talia from Dominic. I would have told you in person but I was busy aiding in another matter taking place tonight.

Have faith in the powers that once saved your life, I will always protect you no matter what, be calm. The next news you'll hear from me is that Talia is safely away from the Bloodhawk, I swear to you one way or another she will make it through this all. Until then, take care of that child! You are my niece but dammit that child is your own, don't let this recent turn of events spoil what love you have within you as you'll need it to care for what you'll bring into this world.

Please enjoy my wedding gift to you and Casim, I took up art some time ago and I hope it will help ease the burden off of both of you.

With all the best,

Divan


____________________________________________________________________________

Garin sighed and sent himself towards the quickly vanishing Caravel. He landed with an unceremonious thud behind Darius and Arianne, breathing heavy and realising he had taken more damage in the fight than he thought. One of his gauntlets was burnt, he had a concussion, he was actually bleeding on his stomach from the piercing strike, and his nose and mouth were bleeding and he hadn’t noticed until just this moment how hard he’d been knocked, spitting blood. He promptly sat himself in an upright position and ditched the ruined gear.

“Turns out I came with you after all, dude’s an immortal freak, like in a real sense, I used my entire arsenal on him, went so far as disembowelment and explosions, didn’t keep him down for long. If he doesn’t die on that dock he’s coming to look for you, and while I wanted to kind of just hit and run on this, I was either going to die or follow you around. I hope that your sister can learn to appreciate what you’re doing for her, I know it’s what’s best but it might take her a bit to kind of understand just what the fuck he was doing to her mind” Garin was still bleeding and he removed his longcoat to as not to get ti coated with blood as he laid himself up at one of the rails and let himself paint part of the deck with scarlet.
There was still a roll of bandages and some poultices left over from Garin's supplies and Darius hadn't used the permafrost on any bloody part of Serenity's head. So the younger pirate set to repairing Garin's waist, pressing the permafrost into the drow's hand to choose for himself what part of his aching body deserved it most.

"Is that your tongue bleeding?" he asked. "Or is that stuff coming up?"

"It's mostly internal bud, you know cause all the times I got smashed without being stabbed" He spit more out and pressed the permafrost tot he back of his head sighing as it helped to stem the flow of bleeding and cool him off. "Easy with those bandages, tight but not too tight, and thank you. I don't regret the damage I took, dude's a monster and I can only imagine how it would be if he got Serenity back in his clutches.....You're a good kid Darius, funny how this is what brings me out of retirement" He pulled a cool flask from his boot, it was slick with condensation and he flipped it open, it reeked of vapors and he took a swig out of it.

"Mountain moonshine, really powerful stuff for when you want to stop feeling pain for a little while" He uncorked a poultice and downed it quickly "Healing magic works best, but when in doubt carry potions. Where's your next stop Cap'n?"

Darius said nothing as he continued to bandage Garin. Although the drow advised him on how to do it, it was pretty clear he’d patched up more than his share of wounds in the field. Or with less supplies than those on offer – as proven by his makeshift bandage made out of a strip of Serenity’s dress. As Garin spoke about the moonshine, Darius stood and went over to a crate on the deck, hefting the lid off to reveal small rolls of cloth inside. He took one, and one of his daggers, slicing off a few portions. One small rag he handed to Arianne on his way past, he kept one, and the rest he tossed into Garin’s lap.

“For the bloody mess,” he said, not answering the question. He picked up his cutlass, wiping the last few drops of Divan’s blood from it before sheathing it across his back. But with the schnick sound of his blade sliding into place, there was a thud.

Serenity was awake. She had weakly dropped her closed fist down on the deck of the ship. The look in her eyes was terrible. Even bleary and barely just conscious, that look spoke depths that didn’t belong on a fourteen-year-old girl’s face.

“Did you…” she ground between gritted teeth. “Knock me out…?”

“It was an accident,” Darius said, crouching to her side. “But you’re safe now. We’re on a ship, heading for Everglow City.”

“I don’t care… where we’re going,” she stammered, holding her head as she eased herself into a sitting position. Darius tried to help her but she viciously slapped his hand away. “Turn this ship around. I’m going home.”

“Serenity, it’s okay. You don’t need Drake. You don’t need those people that practically sold you to him-”

“Sold!?” Her eyes flashed in anger. “Do I have to throw myself into the Sorrows to make this clear? I am happy. Happy. I don’t need you, or your… band of misfits to save me.”

“You’ll see it one day,” Darius said, glancing briefly at Garin and Arianne. “But for now we’re going to Everglow City. I feel there, maybe you can get an idea of how freedom can really feel. No arranged marriages, no nobility, no controlling-”

“No controlling fuckwit brothers?”

Darius stared at her in shock.

In that time, Garin stopped paying attention to the conversation, and began to drift off into unconsciousness.
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
Thank You Both!

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dinthalion
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by dinthalion » Sun Jun 16, 2019 2:12 am

Rivka watched Casim enter but didn't say anything. She would let him lead the conversation, and everything else that was to come. He took off his armor, maybe a little awkwardly. It crossed Rivka's mind that maybe she should help, but the idea felt so strange that she just sat there motionless instead. He looked so vulnerable as he approached, she wondered would he be able to protect her and the child? He was nowhere near the big handsome knight she had always dreamed of. She looked him in the eye with a sad, slightly forced smile as he sat down.

He took her hand, she liked his hands she thought. His touch made her feel safe.

"It's like the whole world's falling apart, like I'm helpless." she said, "I thought I could run away from it on Caybourne. There's nowhere for us to run. So we just have to find a way."

She looked at him resolve in her eyes.

"We will," he said.

His hand stayed on hers a few moments longer before he stood so to reach the buckles of his armor more easily. He took his belt and sheathed longsword off, laying them carefully on the loveseat and resumed unbuckling everything else. Finally, he was left in the dark gray padded clothing worn beneath such armor and he sat down next to Rivka again.

His hand gently rested on her knee. He stared at it a long time, as if trying to convince himself it belonged there. Then he reached over and gently kissed Rivka on the cheek. It wasn't long, or awkward. It was a simple, affectionate and innocent kiss.

"Let's go to bed," he said. "We don't... have to do anything if you don't want to. I don't know... if it... hurts the baby." He blushed terribly. "Not that I don't want to, but... I want you to be comfortable. I don't want you to feel like this is something you have to do, like how you had to marry."

"Mrs. Waxheart said it wouldn't hurt the baby if you were gentle." Rivka said, her face bright red, then she giggled, "But I don't know if we'd...fit together right with my belly. It might be awhile before I'm thin again."

She hadn't quite answered his question because she didn't quite know. She looked at Casim, he looked a little more natural now with the armor gone. Slowly she got up. She took her robe off as she walked toward the bedroom, trying to act like it was natural, like she was just going to bed. But she turned, the robe draped over one arm letting him get a look at her in her thin nightdress. She searched his eyes, trying to read his thoughts. Wanting to see his reaction, to see if he wanted her or if he was disappointed and he felt like this was just something he had to do.

He was not disappointed at all. His blush increased as he put his hands in his lap, but he was too slow to hide his entire reaction. Shyly, his eyes moved over her body. Then, gathering the courage, he stood and went to her. He tried to ignore the vulnerability of his situation, moving behind her and gently taking the robe from her. He pressed a soft kiss to her shoulder. Then one to her neck as he slipped her hair over one shoulder.

Though she felt a little shy and awkward Rivka felt goose bumps form at his gentle touch. There was a lot in this situation neither one of them could control, they both had loss in their near pasts and stress in their futures, but for this moment at least they could find some comfort.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Sun Jun 16, 2019 3:23 am

Drake and Elmer
Aboard the Gracious Ornia, En Route to Everglow City
The Sorrows

Collaborative effort between myself and Kotor!

The ship cut through the calm waters of the sorrows like a blade through flesh, there was little resistance and the ship was blasting outwards at full tilt in order to reach Everglow with plenty of time to gather supplies, rest, and await Darius and the others or to figure out where they might head off to. It was also going to be where Elmer would have time to digest the story 'Drake' had begun.

"My name is of course, A'Draak Morvala, I'm the seventy-fifth born under Morvala the Mountain in Amora to one of his concubines. I was born in what I can only presume by modern calendar dates is sometime before 700 BE, probably long before as that's where the Capitol instantly vanished under the strength of the Spreading. I am more than likely one of the last remaining citizens of the Empire, which is a shame because it was a place unrivaled in technological advancement and magical design" a sad smile had crept onto the face of this impostor figure, he was not Drake the Lizard General, but a boy within a man's body-yet somehow not the same boy he was before, the personalities melding somewhat.


His arms were perched up behind him as he sat on a bench with Elmer facing him in the hold of the ship as it rocketed towards their destination "I was sixteen when during some event I died, it's fuzzy in my head but I woke up eating that weird bread and drinking slyvvbruq with you. All I can recall between the two events is pain, agony, losing Amarissa, and from what I can remember, my daughter but they were all emotions or faint imprints and I wasn't conscious for any of them. All of that came first then it was quiet for a while and then the pain and the torment started up again before I got to wake up.”

“When I woke up suddenly I was in a world that to my knowledge, has moved leaps and bounds backwards without the elves controlling it. Humans suddenly rule the world and fight with each other all the time, I'm on an island I know never fucking existed ever. It's jarring, but at the same time I knew if I didn't try to make the best of it I'd go back in the dark and I wouldn't be back out after. So I just kept moving"

A pause and then a continuation "I really do actually love Serenity, she's warm and kind and I think on some levels she sees past whatever this shit is" he motioned showing his massive upper body in a flourish of his hands

"I think on some deeper level she knows what I am on the outside is not me. But I'm also sobering up that it's not fair to her that I be reliant on her, the drunken happy go lucky time is over and realism is starting to sink in. I don't think I can marry her, no matter how bad I want to be with her, until we've both had time to mature and think this through carefully. It was easier when I was alive the first time, you met a girl, you fucked, you maybe had kids if you wanted them, and then you could just figure shit out after"

The last part came with a chuckle and a smirk thinking back to his youth before he shook his head looking back to a still alien form to his eyes "To be honest, I did no such thing with her before you also accuse me of it like Darius did.....kinda not exactly the best thing to go off doing"

Elmer was mostly quiet, looking down into his hands as Drake spoke. He didn't seem as receptive as he had before. Something about this all disturbed him on a deeper level, but he did not voice his concern. He raised his head to meet Drake in the eyes.

"That island has existed long before you," he said softly. But he switched topics quickly. "Explain to me what you know of the life of Drake the Lizard General. Because if you woke to us eating, then I spoke with him at length on our walk up the hill. Whoever, whatever he is."

"Drake, from what I know, is all of us inside this stupid Heart of Obscura in my chest. He's anyone who has held the stone before. He's me, my father, and other users of its power rolled into one. So on a weird frame of mind you were also talking to me but I wasn't cognizant of the fact and they were using my mental imprints alongside the others to form a personality. From what history I can tell this being is one that has a purpose of existing as a sort of hero for mortals but it's being constrained by some magical agreement with Xankresh" The smile faded, a serious look upon the man's face, and intense look in his eyes.

"Elmer, believe me when I tell you, you are the one and only friend I have left in this world. But this shell is just that, it's a shell that took over without my consent on my ruined corpse of a body, I haven't had a say in any of this shit. I have not been trying to deceive you, any of you, but I was waiting for the right time to slowly introduce it all and tonight was meant to be that night"

"I believe you," Elmer said, waving off Drake's concerns that he might lose a friend tonight. "This changes many things. And... I am thankful you understand marriage is not the right thing at this time. I advised you against marrying Serenity when we spoke on the hill, but that was for different reasons."

He leaned forward, elbows on his knees and fingers entwined as his palms pressed together. "Perhaps honesty is best now," he said. "You may not have deceived me, but I... I have deceived many. You among them. All in the protection of another, I assure you. And I remember a time where I also had only one confidant in the world. And he, I also wounded with my deception."

He met Drake's intense stare. "I put you forward as the marriage candidate for Serenity, although Mancel fought it. He thought you too old, too wizened by your time as the Lizard General - and now I know he spoke wisely. The man I betrothed Serenity to is even more ancient than the body this... Heart of Obscura inhabits."

Then his gaze broke. He looked away sharply, almost guiltily. His jaw clenched.

"I chose you because you were Obscuran, not just drow. Long-lived... long-lived enough to possibly make it as long as she will. A suitable mate that would not fall victim to age, disease... nor the darkness that I sealed within her."

The man blinked, a little taken aback by the confession, but then it was about as poignant as his own so he was none to berate of chide his companion. He simply swallowed and nodded sighing "I suppose we both have things that needed to be spoken of tonight, I'm happy that you trust me with such knowledge and I think out of anyone I can understand pretty well why you might've done such a thing....Drake, was our best bet on keeping whatever was sealed under guard." he let everything settle as he spoke more.

"An exchange is in order, information for information, if we are to move forward. You need not be detailed but I certainly will be" he seemed to chew at something eating away at him as he began.

"I'm ancient, to be sure, but this body is not, I have reason to suspect In was flung through time and space by the power of the three treasures and landed in modern day Amora five hundred years prior. Thanks to being ancient I'm also rather well educated even though I was only sixteen by the time I died. I may not understand fully what you sealed in Serenity but I have my suspicions it's something rather horrifying to warrant you marrying her to the strongest Obscuran in existence, something that is functionally immortal in both age and sustainability. I'll help you if you ask of me, I owe you that much"

"Beyond that.....I have plans to kill Xankresh Avani and Argavir Notusi, they're the alter egos of Xanvani the Seawalker and Notusi the Shadow, and I know damn well that they have no love for anything but themselves and if they're not stopped they'll cause untold devastation thanks to the power of the Three Treasures. The Heart is strong, it takes the souls of all obscurans who touch it and adds to its strength but you can't split from it so you cease being, but the eyes of Dusk and Dawn are wholly different.” he licked ast his lips as he continued, not ceasing for a moment.

“From what legends say the Eye of Dawn witnessed the birth of creation and summons the visions of beauty in its wake, it has an unlimited supply of mana and can be used to 'Shine the light of Dawn on the corruption that has come over Terros'. The Eye of Dusk saw the death of creation by the hands of the Void and it summons visions of despair, it can turn the user into living energy detached form time and space to be anywhere they wish and can 'Cast the world in absolute darkness as is in the Void, unrelenting and without mercy'. While those are embellishments I'm sure, they have markers of truth and so long as they have those weapons with them they're a danger I have to destroy.”

“This is just one reason in a list of why I made my choice to stop the betrothal with Serenity, I have a duty beyond myself that needs to be accomplished for the sake of the Children of Aradia and what's left of us Servants, but now I'd like to hear more about what you did to Serenity and whose trust you deceived"

"First," Elmer said, curiosity in his voice, "tell me more of this Eye of Dusk. I... must be certain it has no connection to what I am about to speak of."

"Well the Heart of Obscura comes from the original Obscuran elf supposedly, the Eye of Dawn comes from the ancient Dawn Elves and was supposed to be in safekeeping with them but was stolen I think by Xanvani. But the Eye of Dusk I only know it was supposed to be under guard in Avamor because entities of the Void were trying to claim it and according to speculation it's a high demon's eye where the eye of Dawn is supposed to be one of Aradia's.”

“However all of this is a bunch of second hand information carried around by descendants of the original elves, as the three kings supposedly had their minds cleared of this to prevent the truth from being known fully"

"It stinks of the Void however, that much is clear, it is an object of great power for destruction as opposed to the basis of creation for the dawn eye and balance for the heart....would it have some connection to you or where you came from?"

"I'm not sure," Elmer admitted. He stood, putting his arms behind his back as he began to pace. There was agitation in his step, and his ears bent down, planing back and to the sides. "It doesn't sound like the sort of power I expect to hear in association with the word Dusk."

"Well it's just what it's named is all, I think the three objects don't resemble what they're named it's just esoteric understandings to give them a place of reverence. While I can subscribe to the fact that might be their origin it's just as likely as proposed by the rationals party that they're collections of intense energies made solid and we're just too dumb to fully comprehend them. Why would you be concerned with the word Dusk? Were you also born back in the days of the Empire? i don't know why it's named that, every time they just said because that's what the Empress said it was"

Elmer said nothing a long moment, compiling his thoughts. He obviously hadn't intended to speak on these matters. But with Drake's story told - in part, at least, there was no better time to share his own.

"Maybe I should start from the beginning," he said softly. "I'm not sure it makes sense if I tell it from here. I don't remember the Empire. But that means nothing, because I was... a long way from them, I suppose."

The shell seemed to scratch at his chin and sighed nodding "I see, well the more we talk to one another the better we will understand. I think we're the only two who can understand at this point. We're the remaining ancients that aren't insane or sealed up somewhere. I don't know how far your life goes but it's clear it goes a helluva lot farther beyond the modern era. I will tell you more about my life before of course, about Draconic Riding and other shit that doesn't matter now but it mattered when I was still alive, but you have the short and sweet of what's relevant to our circumstance.”

“I would not mind hearing from the beginning but if it's too painful or exhausting then feel free to cease and we can pick it back up on just what's most relevant to the here and now" He stood, his frame stooped some but he stretched his legs regardless, uncomfortable with it all. He was not as intimidating as he used to be, his demeanor was clunky and clearly he wanted to be rid of the form that was so unlike him

Elmer sat back down on the bench, resuming his former pose. He stared at the wall opposite, exhaling as his mind clamored to organize everything. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he found a place to start.

"Perhaps you do not know this, but I have suffered from amnesia since... 800 something. 30? It was a confusing time, it's fuzzy when it comes to exact dates," he said, waving off the numbers. "To summarize that time, of what I clearly remember, it's easiest to just say I was lost. I had no purpose in my life until I met Keyair Heartstone's father - Gauge. 700 years of monotony, farming, brewing, studies, slavery... much happened. But none of it related to what we speak of now."

He glanced at Drake. "In 970, shortly after I assisted Harold Umbridge in rescuing Amayl from the pirates that kept her hostage, I began to remember. I made what we call the Ravensyell - a device designed to speak magically to another user of another Ravensyell. I felt possessed by a past self, one that intuitively built this contraption but knew not what to do with it once the madness had passed. I methodically built another, learning I could connect the two, summon the image of one person accessing the first, on the other and vice versa. But the clarity was lost upon me. I was but a child with the blueprints of a world in my hands. I knew not what I was doing. I used blood to infuse the crystal part of the Ravensyell and somehow that was what made it thrum to life. I didn’t know how I knew to use blood magic. So from there, I began my search.”

He made a vague motion towards Drake, where the injuries had been severe in his fight against Serenity's kidnappers.


"Looking into blood magic, or hemomancy, I discovered healing. I discovered terrible ways to kill and maim, also. But it is an uncommon class of magic. Even a visit to the University in Everglow didn't turn up much in the way of historical research on the subject. Eventually, it was the dreams that helped me remember."

His gaze lifted to Drake. Something in his eyes almost suggested he was about to stop talking right there and then. Not because it was too painful, but he just hesitated. He exhaled. Then pressed on.

"My first memory was of meeting my goddess."

"I'm....going to presume you didn't meet Aradia" the man spoke, blinking as he sat back in his seat and rubbed at the back of his head letting the words settle into him. "I know about hemomancy, it was an outlawed practice thanks to what it did for the priesthood in ancient drow history when Aradia opened up a path to the Void just to throw them down it. It's also a very powerful school that can heal anything, including mortal wounds, disease, you name it. But I have to think that was the tip of the iceberg of what it’s capable of....who was your goddess? Is it a name I'd know of? Does she have a name at all?" the man's face was set but he had an almost childlike fascination while also a mature hesitancy.

He knew about magic that was clear even if he wasn't a practitioner he was well versed in the many schools lost to time and superstition, he knew enough about Hemomacy in the basics despite it being forbidden even in his time.

"In our culture, it was common among her priests and priestesses to practice Hemomancy. It was how we contacted her," Elmer said. His jaw clenched again and he shut his eyes for a moment, almost regretfully as if he now wished he hadn't started down this line of conversation. But again, he pressed on.

"There were many names for her, none were Aradia. But I'm still uncertain on which to call her. They all meant varying things in our tongue. The tongue she created. She and us, her descendants, were collectively known as Thvroka. As close as I can translate, it means 'of the Void.'"

He picked at a splinter of wood in the bench. "I once told you Caybourne holds a special place in my heart. It is because despite all my ambulation, I came back here against all odds. I didn't know this used to be Thvrokaal - land of the Void. To the west, there was Thvrokaskald, where I was trained to be a priest. I was here when our goddess finally came. And where the clearer memories begin."

His jaw would not relax. Muscles and tendons in his neck rippled beneath his skin as he spoke on these things he was not proud of. Even mortified by.

"About thirty years ago, I bought a relic I found in an underground market in Everglow. I recognized the writing on it - something I had never seen in my living memory other than the dreams. The seller said it was from Westgate. So I went to visit. The memories became clearer. But it was only when I returned to Caybourne that they hit with full-force and I knew what I had been all along."

He swallowed.

"What I had done."

Despite him obviously trying to compile his thoughts into order, they refused to come out as such.

"The High Clerics of Thvrokaskald sent news that they knew how to summon the goddess. We were overjoyed. We couldn't wait to meet our maker, our foremother. And she spoke through the blood crystals, telling us to await her arrival with open arms. We did."

A chuckle escaped him. But it was mirthless, something that just uttered from his chest rather than any indication of amusement. Perhaps it was an ironic laugh. It was hard to tell.

“We welcomed the coming of our goddess, soon knowing she had claimed all of Thvrokaskald for herself, and that she was now on her way to bless us in Thvrokaal with the ways of the Void. We were fools, so accustomed to the words of heretics and liars. We didn’t realize that meant the destruction of everything we were.”


He wiped a hand up over his face, sliding it down from his forehead to cover his eyes as if to hide from the shame.

"When she arrived on our shores, the first thing she did was drain the soul from the High Priest that went to welcome her. She raped him. Right there on the beach. And we were transfixed. There was nothing we could do, staring in mixed joy and horror as she had her way, person to person, ripping the souls from them. I took my wife's hand and we ran. Chaos erupted as we were shaken from our reverie and fled the demon that plagued our streets.

"There were few of us left when she found us," he said, his hand now further down his face, almost muffling his words as his fingers rested over his mouth. "I was fortifying the side door when she erupted through the wall, grabbing Sinmae. She took her from me, dropping her lifeless body on the floor as she reached for me. And I... I fucking snapped, Drake. What I did was... it was what let me and a few others survive, but..."

He closed his eyes, his hand dropping down to his knee to mirror the other. "I killed the goddess before she could touch me. I ripped the blood from Sinmae and throttled the demon so viciously it just exploded. And I felt all of what I had done. The release, the torment... I killed her, and with her death, her return to the Void, she took all the souls of whom she had raped. Sinmae among them.

"I don't know why we worshipped such an entity for bringing us into existence by the very rape she destroyed us with," he added miserably. "She tricked us all. Illusionist, in both the eye and mind."

His knuckles were white as he gripped his knees.

"We called her The Lilin."

The man blinked and seemed to follow the along in the story with a stony expression, his inward thought unrevealed to Elmer as they looked to one another. Finally he broke it when he ended his explanation by reciting her name. Not something he had ever heard of, it was an entity beyond that which he had studied. "We all have our failures, our lives, our tragedies. I don't hold any amount of judgement or accusations for the life you led. Servant or not, the call of the Void is powerful because it gives to you where you think you're lacking. If it weren't for this fucking stone in my chest I would have gone to the Void to save Alyssia and Kasuna the moment they were taken from me-made a deal with Vermithrax himself if he'd eat Xanvani for me......" he stopped there and groaned as he shifted his arm about.

"I make no assumptions, your life is your own, and tit for tat I'll reveal to you my deepest pains and regrets so that we can come full circle with no secrets between us both. that way we may move forward and shake the weights away of our lives" he sighed and set his head back before continuing.

"Alyssia was my mate, not a wife, but the mother of my child and a lover. She was a sweet woman, I was not very nice but she got over it and buffed out something remotely presentable. When I died, I am sure it was because I had managed to stand up to Xanvani, I'm not sure the exact conditions of my death but Xanvani wanted my mate for his own because she had been promised to him by her father. I'd soiled her by having Kasuna with her, and Xanvani wanted my baby so he could kill it in front of us for betraying the three kings agreement. I stabbed him in the fucking face screaming bloody murder, gouging out and eye and summoning up some primordial strength to kill him if it was the last thing I did."

"He threw me off of him, because I was still just a kid and I'd screwed up his perfect face and taken his eye out" Alyssia was trying to run with Kasuna in her arms and I was thrown at them. My father wasn't present at the time, else he would have ended it then and there with one swing of hiss word, but I crashed into Alyssia. Kasuna was alright but I was still furious....the handmaiden came and snatched Kasuna up, she bolted for the door while I got back up and got in Xanvani's way as well as Notusi's. They couldn't get past em for fear I'd screw up their faces some more so they drew swords on me while Alyssia tried to get up.....I wasn't about to let them take her" he grunted looking away and then down before straightening again.

"I....killed Alyssia to save her from Xanvani having his way with her, she was not mad, or sad. She was thankful because she knew either I'd die protecting her and she'd wind up a concubine to that devil or she'd die and we'd be reunited in death and our child could live on.....Her neck spurted blood when my knife cut through it and I kept going to be sure, so I ran it around her neck in one fluid motion, and tore it form her body so there was no chance they could revive her or staunch the bleeding....or put her head back on"

"In those moments, the look of pure agony on Notusi's face, and the unfathomable rage on Xanvani's at the loss of a favored target of his raping madness are what make me understand that I did the right thing in the end. I saw them rush me with legendary weaponry told of in song and I picked up I think some basic club and spun my knife, roaring at them to come and get me. Then I woke up talking to you, I'm not sure if Kasuna ever made it out with the handmaiden, but I know damn well Xanvani never got his hands on Alyssia. We all do pretty horrible things when we are in desperation, and I know for one thing I don't want Xankresh as he calls himself now to keep drawing breath on this plane nor can I allow for Argavir to remain.”

“They forced my hand in destroying my love, in sending my daughter out and away, and killed me in that dark day, but I wasn't fucking killed, I'm certain they cursed me with the heart so they could have a vessel unable to fight back against them for their schemes, but something went wrong and I did fight back. Otherwise I wouldn't have been flung through time to be where I was. I don't know what I did to them after, but I'm certain I have been their worst nightmare for a very, very long fucking time."

"You're not alone in what you did, we've made our beds and have been laying in them for centuries, there is no question about it. Nothing we do will make it hurt less the actions we took. But I know that we both have duties to attend to and put the horrors of our past to rest forever. I'd like to think what came for Amarika and Jennifer wasn't this Lilin, but that's wishful thinking, as it wouldn't have been smart enough to avoid the two of us if that was the case. I'd also like to think Xankresh and Argavir weren't as horrible as they were in my time, but that as well is a falsehood, they've only grown more debased and horrendous and have to be stopped before it’s too late."

Elmer sat there with his brows raised a fraction higher than they usually sat on his forehead. It was a lot to process, how similar their stories were in some ways. On the one hand, Elmer had killed his wife's rapist. On the other, Drake had killed his lover to save her from a rapist.

"We're quite the pair," he said softly. "But my enemies are dead. Yours... we will have to deal with. After we get Serenity back."

"Quite so" he simply replied, in a terse and conclusive way that this chapter was closed for the time being to move forward back to relevancy "But that still leaves a question, what did you seal inside Serenity? With that we can conclude on our talk at hand and I think we will be able to move forward knowing each other far better than when we began"

This seemed to be even worse than all of what they had spoken of combined. Elmer's shame was evident in the way his posture flattened. He seemed to deflate, staring at the wall again, as if he wished Drake might forget he had ever said anything.

"I fell in love with a human," he said. His voice was so low and quiet it was almost a whisper. "Jacinta Piers."

The mountain elf was mute but his lips hardened into a line as he peered up and thought to the lineage lessons he'd studied into during his time at the Estate, learning how their families were arranged "Odd question, probably reading too much into this....but are you Serenity's actual father because of an affair between yourself and Jacinta?"

"Yes. She doesn't know. Besides Jacinta, only Keyair knew."

"Well, that explains what you said earlier about another immortal living with her" the larger drow's ears had flattened to his head, his eyes shut, he was mulling over this information carefully and had no true read on his feelings. He was taking it with a serious note however, maybe not as much as Elmer felt but he understood "Man I am dumb, I didn't actually see that coming" he smirked a bittersweet smile and ran his hand down his face. "I mean, I get it. It really can happen, and it can eat away at you worse than the fucked up shit we've done in our past because it's not done with adrenaline pumping and life and limb at stake. It's done fully conscious of repercussions but done anyways because it’s what feels right in that moment.”

“It's like when Alyssia got pregnant with Kasuna, neither of us wanted pregnancy because we were just two stupid teenagers and would have to explain it later but damn did the moment feel right and then we had a child" his face was caring, understanding, colorful as he tried to lessen the blow.

"I can't fully understand what it feels like, the guilt on the shoulders of what you did to people who are, in your own words, essentially your whole world and your humans. So does she have a wellspring of corrupted elven power boiling in her that needs to be held off with your magic? That the cause of the warding?" he was lighter now, he couldn't truly experience what Elmer did, only tangentially grasp it through his unexpected pregnancy, but he was at least kind about it and didn't press too much into the details of what led up to it.

"She doesn't know what she's capable of. What we're capable of. I wanted her to have a normal life, one where she could... be a child, be a wife, be a mother... all without... that. But I don't know if I'm doing the right thing in holding her heritage from her anymore. Maybe she should have the choice."

“I made her a promise, that she could decide anything and I’d be there to support her even if it meant losing her, I’d put forward you should put that same level of respect upon your daughter’s shoulders. Now let’s-” there was a mighty thud on the bow of the ship, the elves could feel the large yacht buck nose first and the frantic mewling of their captain trying to regain control.

“I can’t fucking believe it….we’re under attack” With that he pushed himself off the bench and began to make his way up the stairs to the deck of the ship, with Elmer right behind. Standing aboard the deck was a cloaked interloper, with a white face mask inscribed with a powerful illusion enchantment so that neither man could identify anything about the thing before them.

It was otherworldly that much was clear though. It’s cloak blew open as the ship regained control and shuffled forward in the blackness of the night. It removed it’s mask and a sensation of calm washed over the deck.

It was raw emotion unfiltered by the mask, thrumming out so that anyone with magical perception could tell this was a powerful force indeed. The face behind the mask was grey skinned, and it lowered the cowl of its cloak to reveal while hair, stunning silver eyes, and pointed ears.

The being was an obscuran elf, and her smiled glinted as she spoke to the men before her “Hello Mister Twicefreed, Hello Drake. I’m Kasuna the Reaper, I’ve been sent to take the Heart from you”

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Xankresh and Argavir
Aboard the Fading Patience, in pursuit of the Gracious Ornia
The Sorrows

“I’m not happy that it’s come to this, that dumbass needed to just stay in his lane and he would have himself a pretty little wife and be out of my hair for the duration” Xankresh was agitated aboard his ship, slashing through the water, it would be improbable he could find Drake before the man reached Everglow and then he could seek aid to hide. Garin was probably going to be long gone as well, those motherfuckers.

His grip had turned his dark slate hands to a shade of light casting around a mug of some illicit concoction. Sat across from him was Argavir Notusi, his ‘son’, or rather his conspirator in all of this who had kept up the lie for thousands of years as to what they were up to.

“We have to purge Dul-Sansiska, Divan was snooping around form what I could tell, the House is finally turning traitor on us and I can’t let them sink me further. Maria and Garin were adamant about stopping Drake.”

“You need to call in from Avamor and bring them to Ques Novich, city needs to be reminded who the true king is-I’ll hire the Headhunter to carry out the hit on Divan. He’s reasonable, I’ll give him a hold and as many bitches as it takes but that fucker needs to die” he drank at the mixture again and again trying to calm down as the stonefaced man sat across from him.

Argavir groaned and pulled out two false films over his eyes, revealing piercing redness and dry eyed annoyance “I always hated this charade Xanvani, I told you to kill Divan when he was young, had you Volia would still be malleable and alive.”

“The fuck was I supposed to expect? The man literally defied the wish and understands he’s not my son, none of them are mine. He knows and he’s been fighting me from the shadows ever since, he’s a crazy and unpredictable lunatic but in all his madness he’s managed to retake his family from the coup”

“That’s you own fault, I told you Arkon was full of shit just like last time, they let the rest of the family try to take him out instead of sending in soldiers when he was weak. Had Kor actually stepped off his high horse and brought his kids Divan would have been dead. But noooooo you wanted to try and pull Barakul in on it and Arkon was convinced if Dul-Sansiska wanted a seat at the table they had to play ball” the flying mug missed Argavir by a fraction of an inch as he lazily ducked his head away.

“SHUT THE FUCK UP NOTUSI! INSTEAD OF BLAMING ME HOW ABOUT WE FIGURE OUT HOW TO FIX SHIT!?” Xankresh was one his feet, glaring daggers, clearly not in the mood for more arguments.

“You said it yourself, purge the House, for good measure let’s take out Divan’s kids too. Mossa is getting too close to the truth, she was absent for a long while so maybe she and Divan were conspiring. I couldn’t tell my vision was blurred by other events, apparently his sister escaped her prison and is blabbing everything, and somehow his daughter from Reynea has been alive for nearly two centuries without anyone figuring out.”

“Don’t get me started on Olivia, if we can hit her hard and fast her ice magic won’t have time to take root. We need to get to them before Divan is able to fully understand the gravity of the situation.” there was a subtle silence as the boat continued to chop through the night waters.

“Wait, shit now I’m confused, how many kids?” a genuine look of befuddlement had suddenly taken hold on Xankresh’s face as Argavir grimaced and planted his hand to his face.

“By the might of the void you are fucking dumb….First he was married to Reynea, we convinced Aldrin to chase her out with his men and take the fall when Divan killed him. We thought we killed his demonspawn as well but she seems to have survived. Then his sister was born, to whom I am not sure but he has been protecting her. Until we found our opening and sold her to Dorvan in exchange for them not backstabbing us this time.”

“Then you have Mossa because Divan is a motherfucker and he loves to fuck up our plans, so we had to use the wish in order to make it so she wasn’t his daughter anymore, or else he could have claimed Aegis and fought us-because you know he was wanting to do it when he came back. That leaves Olivia who we had to keep and eye on with one of my generals but he got murdered by Divan, again.”

“The fucker is remembering who his kids are, and realizing he’s got power over us both, he’s making moves to snuff us out because he’s realizing what’s going on and he wants his vengeance. We need to strike hard and fast to exterminate them, and kill his actual father while we’re at it, Nielus Lorka needs to get the hell out of our way so we can access the Drow Vaults and make the east ours!”

A sound could be heard above deck, and the sickening crush of bone as sentries meant to keep watch were quickly exterminated. The elves looked to one another and brought up arms, rushing up the stairs calling for all hands. Passing by the locked cabin, where Maria, Mossa, Susi, and Niri were bound and gagged after the quick and decisive interactions. Xankresh had condemned Maria for treason and when Niri fought back she was severely wounded, clinging to life even now.

Susi could do little as a common elf, but would make for a good sex slave back on the black market, Mossa was still a cripple and Argavir had made sure to cancel out her matron powers with his eye. Maria had managed to keep them from getting the brat Saki, and she’d paid with a severe beating for costing a good exotic slave boy. She could be ransomed to her father in exchange for Mabusa turning their backs on their historical overlords and joining the true side of victory.

Passing them by the sound of battle up ahead could be heard as the elite guardians of Argavir and Xankresh were all that was left above deck, with two basic guards standing at attention to guard over the locked cabin and the cat.

There, in locked combat, at the bow of the ship, Wolfgang Amadaeus III had his might longsword locked in with a cloaked being with a powerful illusion mask on. No identity could be determined but it was fearsome and giving Wolfgang a hard time. To the other side was a strong figure also wrapped up in illusion but using martial arts to beat back Argavir’s Hand, a strong High Feline warrior that was quickly succumbing to multiple strikes.

The deadlock ended abruptly between Wolfgang and his attack as a roundhouse sent him flying in the feline and kept them both down. The masked figures lowered their hoods and removed their masks. Waves of roiling emotion, bloodthirst and serene discipline swept the ship and overtook the two guards, overwhelming their senses and two dull thuds came up form below the deck as they hit the ground.

Stood before the two ancients, were two ancients themselves across the length of the ship. The pure evil visage of the Blac Elf in all his corrupted glory reborn glaring hungrily towards Argavir, and the cold contemptuous stare of the one man Xankresh had been hunting for a millennium, Al-Zehin the husband of Dul-Sansiska the Shield Maiden and former leader of the Imperial Inquisitors.

“Hello Xanvani, Notusi, I’m sure you know who we are but let’s go through the introductions anyways. I’m Al-Zehin the Spirit, and this is Wraith the Black Elf, we’re here to take your eyes from you and end this madness once and for all” Xankresh couldn’t contain himself, and launched forwards as Argavir was already shifting to rend the Black Elf’s neck from his shoulders.
___________________________________________________________

Nielus Lorka, Olivia Erenai, and Reynis Dul-Sansiska
Azure Box, Great Baths
Everglow City, Some time after The Kidnapping

Nielus knew what was coming, it was in his bones, something that deeply wrong with the air and he knew it was only a matter of time before death was at the door. He arose from the bathwater, taking an offered and heavily flush towel to pat himself to dryness, he thanked the kyn who had provided it and looked back to Olivia who was gently washing the newest guest to the Box.

Reynis the Silkstrider, now to be known as Dul-Sansiska, the famed lost child of Divankul was sitting in the bath somewhat uncomfortably but otherwise normal. She had a strange choker on her neck ensuring her demonic pangs didn’t start to unfold again, apparently she’d been undergoing treatment for severe possession and transformation. It was slow going and clear she wasn’t nearly well enough yet to take the device off. However it was supposedly an improvement where she wasn’t locked in a room surrounded by magical inhibition.

Reynis’s eyes drooped sleepily, she still couldn’t operate her vocal cords and they frankly hadn’t healed up enough yet even if she could, so it was important to tell the gestures in caring for her. Divan had simply dropped her off alongside his sister and told them to watch over and care for them for him while he was out. Ornia was different, she was a bit distant when not caring for Reynis and only really spoke to her three children who were operating as the home’s security outside of the actual guards and knights posted within.

Nielus didn’t pester, he knew that there was nothing to be said about her circumstances, he watched as Olivia hugged on Reynis and spoke in wood elvish to her to keep her to cool off. A similarity between the two was that they grew up in the Silkwoods. They did know each other but it had been professional up until now. “Come on Reynis, lets put you to bed, you’re weary from treatment dear” Olivia had a bright and cheery grin that helped ease up on the strain Reynis must be feeling. She helped her dry off and took her out of the chambers to her bed.

When she returned, Nielus was sitting, he had Vosal to his side and the Knight Commander Argencol, Olivia sat as well. “I fear that we will have to make a choice very soon, leave or stay. I’ve felt a very terrible energy just an hour ago that felt as though the Dul-Sansiska family is under threat.”

“By whom” it was the commander, a senior knight of three hundred years in age, the most senior military officer in the city.

“I fear, Xankresh has shown his true colors this day, I can’t explain it, but from the sensory artifact that was given to Maria she sustained heavy blows. She was under guard, being escorted and with Xankresh. I can’t see anyone else who could manage to wound her so badly, if it were Blackthorne she would have been stabbed or slashed at, maybe run off with Saki….But blows determines she’s to be kept living, infers capture, and Xankresh was considerably on edge before he left. Something’s gone wrong and we need to prepare ourselves”

Argencol sighed and put his helmet on, rising up “With all due respect, this is a heavily fortified military installation in addition to be the place of residence of the Dul-Sansiskan family. Reserves will be called to man the trusts and all senior personnel will be called. This will be the safest place for everyone, and if the need arises I’m sure aid can and will be offered by the city guards to prevent a catastrophe. The thought of leaving is foolhardy, you should begin preparations for defense in case of a siege and all personnel should be taken to the lower levels to wait this out and allow for the knights and security to man the upper levels.”

“We should reach a decision together…”Nielus had begun but Olivia shook her head as did Vosal.

“We’re in favor of staying, Mother and Lady Reynis aren't capable of going out and running, Divan will come back. He has to have felt the damage done to his family and will come to protect it.” Vosal was adamant and he began to walk away, prepared to fight for every last inch as Nielus groaned and nodded ”Alrighty then, to war it shall be”

___________________________________________________________

Saki, Alone
Hiding in Heartstone Estate, Claire’s Guest Room
Slyvie Isle, Caybourne

Saki couldn’t keep himself from crying, he kept wiping his tears and hiccuping but it kept dribbling face along his cheeks and nose whenever he stopped. He couldn’t stop hiccuping and his stomach hurt. He wanted his father to come save him but he wasn’t anywhere and there were no more people. He missed Mister Fang, he would have saved them all, or Uncle Divan would have beaten everyone up, or even Grandpa Bara would have made it so Grandpa Xankresh didn’t hurt everyone.

The tears kept rolling, his arm was bleeding still and he didn’t know why it wouldn’t stop, he wrapped it with his sleeve but it was already red again and coming out. His ears hurt so bad from the bang of that thing they used, he couldn’t stop hurting, he just wanted to close his eyes and be back home. He couldn’t stop sniffling and hiccuping, his tears still coming as he held his legs tight on his chest with one arm.

He had been on Auntie Mossa’s lap while they were leaving the party, he wasn’t sure why they were leaving so early and nobody would tell him, but Auntie promised it was fine and was stroking his hair when he saw one of the redoran knights get his throat cut from behind. And then he turned away and saw the other knight get killed too and then Uncle Argavir was in front of him and auntie with soldiers on either side.

Up ahead Miss Niri was fighting with sailors and Grandpa, while Momma was rushing Uncle Argavir and tackled him screaming. He couldn’t use his legs until Auntie shoved him from her lap to the ground and it hurt, he saw her get up and swing her mean cane around and break one of the soldiers’ fronts with her thwacking.

“Saki you need to leave, NOW!” Auntie was still weak she wasn’t supposed to be out of her chair yet but she swung the cane hard again and the soldier dropped to the ground. Miss Susi was keeping the other soldier busy jumping up on top of him screaming and pulling at his face mask. Auntie’s whole body was glowing purple and red and Momma was still on the ground with Uncle Argavir punching him as hard as she could in his face.

“Saki we’ll come back for you but for now get running and find Uncle Divan, er Fang, anyone! Go!” her face was scrunched in the way he knew she was lying they weren't gonna come back.

“That motherfucker is here, I knew it!” Grandpa’s voice as different and Saki scrambled to his feet and started running. Papa had taught him how to fight with his fists if he was in trouble but Saki was too scared and just went. “You fucking idiots I’ve got this one get him! He’s valuable!”

Saki’s ears suddenly hurt from a loud bang noise as something whizzed by at either side of him and hurt his right arm really bad. He kept running and found his way back to the big gates and scrambled underneath as they were closing even as the guards yelled for him to stop. The sailors tried attacking the guards though which distracted them as they were yelling about ‘That fuckin kid’ and the sentries wouldn’t let them by so they started fighting. Saki didn’t stay, he had only been to one part of the estate so he ran to that part as fast as he could scared a guard or someone would pick him up and make him go back to the sailors and everyone else.

He ran into the first big building, he wouldn’t go into the hall farther up, people were there cleaning up so he hid in a room that he chose at random from the close building. He huddled himself tight and only after a few minutes, he stopped worrying about being caught but began to realize he was truly alone. He didn’t have Uncle Divan, he didn’t have Mister Fang, he didn’t have Momma. He was alone, and that’s when he was allowed to cry, and be loud and be a child. He wasn’t some big strong warrior like papa or always careful like momma, he just wanted to go home! He was scared, he was tired, everything hurt and it wasn’t fair!

Now here he was, he came here because he didn't know what else to do. He just kept crying in his hiding room hoping nobody’d see him and try to make him hurt even more, he didn’t want mean guards or servants to find him and try to make him go. He didn’t know how long it was since he had to run, it felt like forever already. Mister Fang wasn’t there, Uncle Divan wasn’t there, Papa wasn’t there. Why wasn’t anyone there to help like they said they always would be?

The room was something Saki knew to be much like his own shared room back home, a big open and warm bed that sprawled out in every which way. All it did to see such a thing was remind Saki that he wasn’t home and there were probably more bad people there as well.There were so many weird fineries of draped velvet with a big vanity to one side of the room and a sitting area to the other. He couldn’t be sure whose room it was and frankly he wasn’t thinking about that at all right now.
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
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IronParagon
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Mon Jun 17, 2019 11:39 am

_______________________________________________________________________
The Witch
_______________________________________________________________________


Talia Blackthorne, last living issue of the Great Griffin Arthur Blackthorne, spent her nineteenth birthday locked in a cell beneath the deck of a ship named after that man who had sired her.

Or at least she thought she did. One day was much like the other down here in the dark, and passage of time soon became almost impossible to determine. Talia's whole world had shrunk to four wooden walls and a ceiling so low she could barely stand up, sparsely furnished with a bucket and a metal cot that felt worse to lie on than the reed-blanketed floor. She had gotten sick some hours into her first night, and that was when she'd discovered that Blackthorne prisoners were not afforded the advantage of clean quarters. Everything that came out of her, even blood, she had been left to wallow in, and tidiness was difficult in the dark. Nor had the bucket been replaced. The cell door opened only twice a day; two jailers, each to deliver a pitcher of water and a bowl of thin gruel. One was a thin, old man with a seamed face and sad eyes that drooped like a bloodhound's. He never spoke. She was beginning to suspect that he might be a mute. If only the other jailer could follow that example.

"Yew awake, witch? Ol' Edgar's 'ere again." He was a bald man with a face scarred by pox-marks and a belly like a boulder, this Edgar, and his teeth were brown and crooked like stakes of wood hammered into earth so he slobbered as he spoke. If Edgar was in a good mood, Talia might get the toe of his boot. Otherwise she might get his cudgel.

On what Talia guessed to be his fifth visit, the jailer had hawked up a wad of brownish phlegm into her bowl. "Eat that now, witch," he snorted. "Yew eat that right up."

When she had not spoken or moved to respond, Edgar had simply seized the gruel and dumped it over her head so that it soaked into the ragged remaining cuts of her hair. The memory of it still made her shudder in revulsion and anger, and the offense caused at the time had been nearly enough that she'd made a break for the exit upon the reappearance of the Mute. But that jailer's comparative dutifulness had been only skin-deep, and he had been just as quick to turn his cudgel on her as his noisier counterpart. He'd gotten her in the stomach, in the same spot where Jacques had punched her, and she could feel a spreading bruise on her midriff the size of a dinner plate. It hurt to move, hurt so much she wondered if the strikes had ruptured her inner organs. Let's see them try to sell me for a brood mare after they've pierced my womb, some vestige of her old self thought. It gave her comfort sometimes to pretend like she was still that old self, that girl hiding away in her chambers to practice spells and read histories and wish for a bountiful future life. Because the Witch, the Talia Blackthorne squatting in a filthy cell, she had no future. Only an oncoming noose.

A few nights ago she had heard drunken mumbling from the other side of the cell door, an unusually short amount of time after the last jailer's visit. "I've been feedin' the bitch for days. I go first, thass only fair..." there had been the scrape of the key in the lock, and then Edgar was looming in the doorway, and there were men behind him but she could not see their faces. The jailer was seizing her by the arm.

"Are we...have we arrived at the city?" Misuse had turned Talia's voice into a hoarse croak.

"Heh heh. Yeh, if thass wot yew wanna tell yehself." Edgar pinned her against the wall as his friends watched with grunting chuckles. His breath stank of cheap ale. He groped at her breasts through her cotton shift, his grubby fingers digging painfully into her skin. "Yew fink of me a lot when yehr in 'ere, wench? Yew think of ol' Edgar, while yer strummin yerself off?"

Oh. Talia had been in the dark for so long that trying to form a thought, much less a plan, was like wading through treacle. It was only when his finger slid up her thigh, shoving rudely up against her lower lips, that her weakened mind produced a spark. "You...you shouldn't."

Edgar stilled. "Yew orderin' me...?"

"I am a Witch. I lie with demons and devils." She watched him through the ragged remains of her fringe, and did her best to produce a sinister grin. "If you take me thus, you will be accursed. Your seed will turn black and fester within you. Your--"

He silenced her with a stinging slap across the face. It opened the gash Jacques' knife had made, and she could feel it bleeding again. "Yeh'll not lay yer curses on me, cunt."

But his friends had exchanged unsure looks and began to scuttle away. Evidently that took the fun out of it. Edgar had cursed, kicking her knees until she had collapsed in a huddle back to her corner, then retreated and slammed the cell door behind him.

There was nothing for a while after that. Talia could not sleep, only occasionally drift off into a feverish delirium where she was haunted consistently by memories of her mother, her sister, and the scarred apparition of her twin that had come to her at the wedding. Her brain felt overheated, but her skin seemed cold; her face felt swollen at the lip, and she was certain the cut on her face was infected as well. Worst of all was her mana. It had been a part of her for as long as she could remember, but now it was just gone. Every time she reached for it within her consciousness, she found nothing. Complex spells had left her drained before, but the mana had always come back to her in time, but this, to have it gone completely...it was not natural. Something was at work here, something beyond her knowledge.

The answer came to her with the next visitation of the Mute. The door creaked as it swung open, and even the dim lanternlight that flooded into the cell was blinding to her now.

"Hello, Talia."

She had been curled up against the wall, knees drawn up against her chest with her arms around them, her head down. But at the sound of the familiar voice, she looked up immediately, even though the light burned her eyes. Her vision was blurred, but she knew the speaker, knew the silhouette looming in the doorway as it came into focus--the oiled coiffured hair and mustache, the immaculate white clothing, the lean wolfishly handsome features.

"Nestor." Her voice had become a rasp. "Nestor, you have to get me out of here."

The mage's yellow-green eyes swept the cell; she saw naught in them but a kind of distaste. He went to sit down, seemingly decided against it, and then crouched beside her. The smile he gave was patient, almost condescending, like he was speaking to a small child. "Come now. You know I can't just pull you out of imprisonment. You committed a crime, Lady Sabre, against the most powerful man in the world no less. If anything should happen, your Uncle will kill everyone involved, starting with me. No, I was allowed to visit you to break the news. Your husband attempted some kind of...coup, back in the City. He has been imprisoned. His allies, these....New Age Knights, of his, that were the source of his political power in the senate....well, they were not so lucky. Lady Attia and her assets were deported from the City, back to the Tropics...quite forcibly, I believe. We just received word that Lord Henriik will co-operate absolutely with Blackthorne demands in exchange for the safety of his son. Isn't that convenient? He was a friend of my father's, you know. A shame my father could not share his good sense. There is value in a good surrender..."

Talia gazed up at him, disbelieving through the delirium. "Are...are you hear to gloat? Are you gloating at me?"

"Of course not, darling. But down here alone....I thought you would want to know what's happening. Are you sick? You look feverish, and that cut is ghastly. I won't have it." Knox clicked his fingers, and all at once, the room was a clean as a noble's chambers. He reached out gently, and sighed when she twitched away by reflex. "You think I'm going to hit you? Let me see those wounds properly."

Hesitant, she relaxed, and let him take her by the chin. The gentleness of his touch made her feel an involuntary, almost pathetic gratefulness. The magic washed over her, and she felt the dull aches on her face and torso lift as the wounds stitched themselves back together. The Mute at the door hissed at the display of magic.

"None of that from you, please," Nestor told the jailer archly. "If I am to be jeered at, I prefer for it to come from people who can actually speak. Does that feel better, Talia?" He stroked her cheek, touched her hair. "Tsk. I told them not to change your appearance. I liked you the way you looked before. If only that lout had listen to what I'd told him..."

"...what? What do you mean?"

Nestor gave a long-suffering sigh, like she was boring him. "Must I spell it out for you, darling? You husband is a...soft man. Not the kind that lasts long in imprisonment. I suspect that once he goes, and your Uncle razes the Tropics to ensure further co-operation, you will be in a position to re-marry. I had thought of Aislinn Corcoran, my brother's widow...but you would make much more of a worthy prize."

"A...a prize?" Talia didn't understand this sudden influx of information. Her wounds were outwardly healed, she could feel it, but her mind still swam with fever...and her mana was gone. And just now, the touch of his magic...there had been a familiarity there. She shook her head angrily. "What....what are you doing to me?"

"Don't fight it." Nestor's yellow-green eyes narrowed. "There's a good girl. Just relax...."

She felt a tug at the edge of her consciousness, the same thing (she now realized) that was blocking her consciousness. She faced it now, forcing herself to focus on it, to grapple it, to bring it under her command, and she felt the mind on the other end of that connection--and just like that, it snapped back, sending an arc of power between them that sent up a flair of light. Talia gasped and collapsed back against the wall; Nestor might have fallen from the force of it if he had not quickly staggered to his feet.

"You..." Talia looked up at the Grand Warlock, seeing him in a whole new light. "You've been sapping me. Taking my mana. And...what was that about what you told that lout? Told who?"

There was a coldness in Knox's eyes now, and he had pressed himself back against the door of the cabin. I've frightened him, she realized. I'm more powerful than he thought. "You've always been just a bit too clever for your own good, girl."

"It was you." It came to her in a rush, left her lips as soon as it did. "You told Jacques to go after me. You knew I'd have to reveal my magic if he attacked me, knew I'd be stripped of every asset I had so you could...move in. And even if he'd killed me, you had AIslinn as a backup. This is sick. Does my uncle know about this? Why does he even trust you? What did you do for him that he would let you away with so much?"

"I hope you appreciate the shackle I've put on your abilities. It's called a mana clash. Designed it myself--"

"I think," she cut over him, a fierceness descending upon her, "That you've been working with him longer than anyone knows. It was convenient that my father should leave his keep for the first time since the accident to appear at Jaster's wedding. Was it your idea to send Preston in there to manhandle him, or the Bloodhawk's? How about further back than that? The wild griffin that assaulted my father, left him crippled. Your power influencing the creature, no doubt, but my uncle would have loved to see his brother die by his own supposed hubris. What, longer even than that?" The worst was yet to come. She ran her hands through her hair, seizing clumps of it in both fists. "It's not the first time you two had Preston act on your behalf. You had him kill my brother, didn't you? He struck the killing blow...but it was you, Nestor. You killed Gordon."

There was a brief silence. Then the Grand Warlock sighed again, patiently, and gave her another calm smile. "I called you clever, She-Griffin. But make no mistake, your mind is not special. You are like every other bleating commoner sheep that clings to the skin of this realm. You do not understand. You simply do not understand that there are stakes here beyond the...mundane."

"Is that where the demons come into it? My uncle's cultist hand?" Talia hugged herself, but her voice held steady. "At the Untamed Isle, the Riverford, Tumbledown Falls...picking off Arthur Blackthorne's children. Clearing the path for my uncle. What have they offered you? Gold? Power? Sovreignity? Sovreignity over what, I say? When they are finished there will be naught left of the world but ash. My uncle will be king over the cinders, and you will be...what, his hand? Betraying your whole species for--"

"Do not talk to me of betrayal," Nestor snapped, and it was only then that she truly saw the mad gleam in that yellowy gaze. "I am not like you. We are not the same. I destroyed your whole wretched dynasty on a whim. This world is doomed, to be sure, but I am the only one with the will to overcome the hand I have been dealt, or else I would have ended up like you, a doe-eyed wretch wringing her hands over the cruelty of fate while mewling over any passer-by that shows you a shred of kindness because your father never loved you. I have a respect for the power in your blood, girl, but do not ever think I consider you an equal."

Talia shut her eyes, feeling the sting of tears, and took a long, shuddering breath in. "I hate myself for it...but I had started to respect you. To trust you."

"Then heed my plans. It need not end on a gallows for you. Marry me, Talia. I will lobby your uncle to grant you immunity, as a favor. The magic in your blood, combined with mine...imagine what we could create together. Could any force, even the Bloodhawk, stand in the way of that?" he leaned closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. "Could even an Underking stand in the way of that?"

And then somehow, Talia found herself laughing. Her tears flowed freely, but they were of mirth, and her stomach ached as it had before so she had to bend double as she laughed on, laughed freely for the first time in she-did-not-know-how-long, and the sound of it reverberated off the low ceiling and made the Mute jailer look alarmed while Nestor looked on in bemusement.

"I do not see the joke." Knox's wolfish features were drawn into a look of thinly-veiled anger.

"Haaa...you wouldn't." Talia wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, watching him through her fringe while grinning viciously. "You really are a worm, aren't you, Nestor? There isn't a shred of honor or loyalty left in you. You have pumped yourself up so much, convinced yourself so thoroughly of your own supremacy, that you cannot even conceive of a reality where things cannot go your way. Well, hear this, Knox." She locked gazes with him, sapphire-blue on yellow-green, and when she spoke she heard so much conviction in her own voice that it shocked even herself. "I would rather die. I would rather die than capitulate to your genocidal mania, or even let you touch me. If you try to force me, then I will spend the rest of my life using everything at my disposal to make your life a living nightmare. That is only a fraction of what you deserve for destroying my family. If you know what's good for you, if you value your treacherous backstabbing existence in any way at all...then you had better fucking hang me."

There was a long, cold silence between them then. Nestor looked down his nose at her, with the same look one might give a particularly disgusting insect. Talia stayed kneeling on the floor but did not break eye contact. She wanted him to know that she'd meant every word she'd said.

It was a while before Nestor's lip finally curled into a leer. "Disappointing. This is why I have called you small-minded, girl. Your family, prior attachments....they do not matter in a world that is destined only to burn. And yet you insist on pretty grudges. And they say it is my family that never forgives, never forgets..." He stepped back, out of the cell. "Have it your way, then. You hang. Farewell, Talia Blackthorne."

The door slammed shut, and she was alone in the darkness once again.





_______________________________________________________________________
The Griffin's Bastard
_______________________________________________________________________


A collaboration with Kotor


Sobriety, Arianne had come to realize, was not something to be revered. It was not a virtue, not a strength; it was bloody boring, and she hated it.

Being along for the ride had turned out to be more personally taxing on her than she would have cared to admit, even if it had only been for several hours. The girl they'd lifted from Caybourne had not exactly been happy about the situation, oddly enough, and that had sullied the Boss' good mood as well. That had left somewhat of an....atmosphere, on the caravel, and since sunrise an hour ago, no-one had spoken a word to each other. No conversation, no wyvern-mead, and the last dregs of her herb were currently smoldering to their end in her new smoking-pipe. The City docks were days away. It was already starting to feel like years.
Arianne had been the one one capable of scaling the mast in seconds, and so management of the rigging had fallen to her. That had been an entertaining enough distraction at first, but the breeze was so mild that it had resulted in completely smooth sailing and yet more inactivity. The Griffin's Bastard perched on one of the ropes, gazing forlornly out at the nearby Blackthorne ships. She wondered briefly about telling Darius to steer closer to the nearest ship, the Rookwood's Bird of Prey, and switch to their vessel. Presumably they had something to drink. And maybe even a proclivity to approach the Huntsmen's Grey Lady, which was on the opposite side of the fleet, for some of that conversation. It was a stupid thought; they were already pressing their luck by travelling among the Western fleet, and if Arianne were no longer on that boat as a confirmed Blackthorne ally, who knew what the Bloodhawk would command. The Lord was in a viscous mood, it seemed. His son had been killed.

My sister was killed by demons. My other sister is about to be executed for witchcraft and kinslaying.
That was a stupid thought, as well, and its intrusiveness made Arianne physically wince. The girl imprisoned in the hold of the Great Griffin was not her sister, any more than the one who had been eaten alive at Tumbledown Falls was...or any more than the scarred squire on the Grey Lady was her brother. She did not owe Arthur Blackthorne's other children a thing, any more than she was paid for. Yet still the doubt niggled at her, making her feel like she should act. Goddess, how did people stand this attachment lark? She needed to take her mind off this, and quickly.

It was at that moment Arianne noticed someone had sat on the hull's deck beneath her, without noticing her presence. It was the girl Darius was "escorting," still in her now-rather-less-splendid party dress and with a silken white bandage over the wound. Her dark hair danced prettily in the sea breeze; that gave her something of her brother's look, despite the difference of coloration, and her high birth was plain. Rather less ladylike was the scowl on her features, and her itching at her brow.

Arianne clambored, spiderlike, over the rigging. She perched atop the rope that held the jib, hooked her toes around it, then spun on it and hung upside-down so her face was level with where the girl sat.

"You shouldn't scratch that, you know." She indicated the scar on her own forehead. "Just makes it worse."

Serenity's alarm at the strange elf was short-lived, rapidly replaced by a flash of anger and a slight flush of her cheeks. But the anger melted away as she gained some resemblance of control over her expression.

"How much did he pay you?" she asked, her tone strangely even.

"Eh?" Arianne dug around in one pointed ear with her little finger. "Ah, for the job, you mean. Thought we were still talking about the wound for a second and was about to ensure you that gift came thanks to your brother.""

Still hanging upside-down, she cast an eye over to where Darius was positioned on the quarter-deck, steering the caravel. His pale hair was tousled gently by the breeze; she could not read his expression. Serenity had obviously come to this spot to be about as far from the man as she could possibly be on such a small vessel.

"He didn't have to pay me anything, as it happens." She dropped from her position, landed catlike on her feet, then straightened and rested her hands on her hips. "I did it for free. Now don't go thinking I do that for just anyone. If you want me to beat up someone who owes you money, or kill a creature that's been eating your cattle, that's still going to be at least a hundred gold pieces...after taxes. But yours was a special case."

"Why?" Serenity asked, her expression curling up into one obviously of complete and utter confusion. "Are you...?" Her gaze flicked over to her brother, then back at Arianne. A mildly disturbed look fluttered over her features. But with a quick blink she was back on-topic.

"Why is mine a special case? I was happy... he has no right to take me away. None of you do."

"Ahh, by the Void, it should really be your brother giving you this talk..." Arianne pressed a hand over her eyes, then with a sudden resolve, dropped to the deck and sat cross-legged beside the girl. "Alright, Serenity...can I call you Serenity? I'm not going to fucking call you m'lady. Serenity, I heard what you said when you woke up last night, and I understand you're angry. I know you...feel like everything was good, and happy, and it was all of your own volition, maybe even like you were grown-up. But--please don't be angry at this--you're still very young. People aren't said to fully come of age until they're eight-and-ten, by common law. When this all started you were four years off from that. And I know it doesn't feel, right now, like you've got more growing up to do. But think about it. Four years ago, you were ten. Are you the same person now as you are when you were ten? At your age, you do a lot of growing up in a short amount of time. And that's why it wasn't right for your Lord, and your betrothed, to do what they did to you. They are adults. They should be your guardians. And instead they've both exploited you for their own gain. That man you were meant to marry..." She puffed herself up in an imitation of the Drow's manner. "Urrh, give me back child bride or smash, him. Doesnt strike me as the stable sort, savvy? How old did he tell you he was? Hundreds of years, I bet. Lifetimes and lifetimes of experience. He could have looked after you, all right. But I'm willing to bet he did the opposite."

She leaned one cheek on her hand and regarded Serenity knowingly. "Tell me. Did he ever touch you? Or maybe you tried to touch him. In that case, did he stop you?"

Serenity just looked more and more hurt as she spoke. By the final questions, she was hugging herself tightly, gripping her forearms. She looked away sharply.

"It's what's meant to happen," she said, miserably. Her gaze darted back for a moment, then out to sea. "It's what I was meant to do. I... they..."

She stumbled over her words before finding her conviction again and looking Arianne in the eyes.

"Of age or not, Uncle Mancel made a decision for me. One that as a member of his house and family, I will respect. One that I even like. And what girl in an arranged marriage gets to be happy? I'm lucky with Drake. He makes me happy."

Arianne gleaned everything she needed to know from that initial reaction.

"There's nothing wrong with you liking him. Or trying to act on it." Her tone was gentle, alien to her own ears. What the hell am I doing? I have no stake in this. I don't owe this rich brat a thing. But the words kept coming, regardless. "But he was the adult there, do you understand? He had the power in that situation, to put a stop to it. And instead he went ahead. Because it made him feel good. Because despite his bragging and his knighthood and his pretensions to nobility, he's a fucking rat. They all are. And I know you like him, he makes you happy, whatever. Doesn't change the fact that what he did was wrong. And your Lord, too..." She clenched her fists, now, spitting the words out with anger. "Should be, you know when to question him. When to question them both. See that vessel at the front of the fleet?"

She pointed across the water to the Great Griffin, a magnificent war dromond that needed two hundreds oars to move, its oakwood prow shaped in the likeness of Arthur Blackthorne as he had been in his youth with flowing hair and mystical blade held heroically aloft.
"On that ship sits my Uncle, my Lord. I've been working for him since I was barely any older than you. I've killed for his gold. Done things for him his soldiers wouldn't be capable of. Now, he's got my little sister locked up in the bowels of his ship accusing her of witchcraft. He's been butchering members of the Senate back home. Funny how everyone who gets in the way of his absolute supremacy gets the fucking axe, isn't it? So do I accept this, because his pay is good and the drinks and pipeweed and whores I get from it make me happy? No. I question. Because objectively, I know its the right thing to do."

Her nails had left marks on the deck where she'd scratched them over. Arianne dipped her eyes to look at those marks, and took a steadying breath.

"Fucking hell. I came down here so I wouldn't have to think about this." She raised to one knee, and put a hand gently on the girl's shoulder. "Look. Your brother is trying to help you...in his own clumsy, cack-handed way. He doesn't want them to hurt you any more than they've been doing. He's trying to give you some of the freedom that those men stole from you. And I know he hurt you. I know he scared you. I might've done it differently, but I'm not in charge here. I can only tell you his cause his just. You don't have to forgive him. But you should talk to him. Tell him how you feel, and he'll tell you how he feels. Better than sitting here scratching your scar and feeling sorry for yourself. And maybe some good can come out of this whole sordid situation, eh?"

She was met with silence, but the look on the girl's face had changed to one of consideration. Some gears were turning, but perhaps not on the right subject Ari was trying to get at. Her eyes were on the dromond.

Serenity was a noble freshly versed in and armed with the knowledge of the houses - their legitimate children and their bastards. So she knew who Arianne was, and it didn't take her long to put two-and-two together.

"It sounds like you rescued the wrong little sister."

She stood, Ari's hand falling from her shoulder, picked up the thick book she had been sitting on, and went to the other side of the deck for some pretence of privacy

"BUT YOU ADMIT WE RESCUED YOU, THEN?" Arianne called after the girl as she retreated. That might not have had the storming off effect Serenity had wanted, as the small size of the boat meant she really didnt have anywhere to storm off to.

She sighed and stood. There was a chance that slightly embarrassing impassioned speech she just gave didn't get through to the girl at all. Arianne wouldn't have been surprised. At fourteen she'd been even more implacable, though she had been running towards freedom rather than away from it. She remembered all the long, pleading lectures she'd got from her mother on responsibility, we must know our station, you can't just go disguising yourself as a sack of potatoes to stow away on a ship then bite Lady Karhall's guard on the hand when he comes to bring you back to the Keep. That particular escape hadn't worked the first time. But hiding in a barrel on a trading boat to Everglow City had worked nicely the second time, if she recalled correctly, and did.

Deciding that it was best to leave Serenity to her own devices for now, Arianne skipped up the steps to the quarter-deck where Darius was doing his best to look like a little girl's romanticized idea of what a pirate was. She admired the man's cause, and certainly liked him more than the bloviating Drow they had kept on board, but was otherwise not entirely sure if she fully respected him yet. He certainly made for a pretty picture, though.

"Well, I did my best," she told him, leaning against a railing with her arms folded. "Not sure how much good it might have done. She doesn't seem to like me much. Nor you, for that matter."

Darius' eyes were on the horizon, scanning every now and again over the fleet they had disguised themselves within. His lips hardened into a line but he breathed out a sigh into the salty air and flicked his hair from his eyes with a jerk of his head.

"I don't remember her being so stubborn," he admitted. "She was so curious, exploring every corner and asking too many questions. But she's a Piers. We come from a man with a temper, so I shouldn't be too surprised that some bullheadedness finally developed."

His eyes landed on her and narrowed. The corner of his mouth twitched, like he was thinking something, then a chuckle escaped him. Arianne caught the look he gave her; her eyes narrowed, one ear perking up and the other folding down. "What? What are you looking at?"

"I'm not usually one to ignore a good comment when I hear one. In retrospect, maybe not in the moment... I loved that joke you made. And a fucking elephant... girl, you got some stylish-ass balls."

"No, no, we've been over this. I don't have those. You're in a very funny mood all of a sudden." She approached him, leaned over the wheel, and looked him boldly in the eye. "What, you wanna fuck me or something?"

"I'm always in a funny mood," he said with hardly a reaction to her point-blank question but for the quirk of a brow. He met her gaze, and his eyes dipped - but not out of shyness. Straight to her chest. Then back up. There was no subtly in the act whatsoever.

"You got a problem with that?"

"Ooh la fucking la. Listen to the master smooth-talker over here." Arianne reached out, slid a finger into the lapel of the pirate's coat, and tugged him closer so they were practically eye to eye. This close, he smelled of timber and saltwater and brine. She felt a slight flutter in her abdomen, a pang between her legs. How long had it been? Before Medger's Spine, certainly, with Madea. The Griffin's Bastard had taken pleasure from people of all backgrounds, races and gender over the course of her life, and found something to be desired in each one of those. She preferred women, and those close to being women, most of all. But there was a base rawness in lying with a man, and taking what only a man could offer. "I don't have a problem with it, friend, but there is nothing to do on this fucking boat, and I am so. Very." She whispered the last word in his slightly-pointed ear. "Bored."

He turned his head, catching her mouth with his. Stubble rasped her face, but he tasted like how electricity felt.

"Ah-ah." Arianne pulled back, putting a finger on his lips to stay him. She raised that finger to his eyes, then used it to direct his sight to where Serenity was sitting on the other side of the deck. "Think your sister's been traumatized enough for one lifetime. To the cabin. And by the way..." she used that same finger to trace a gentle line down Darius' chest, along where his shirt was opened. "...I know this is quick, but it's just a timepass, savvy? What little time you can give, that is....I should warn you. You might have trouble keeping up."

~*~

"Aradia's knickers."

Arianne lay in a heap, stunned, in the captain's bed, her nakedness barely covered by the sheets twisted between them. It had been hours, judging by the slant of the sun streaming through the cabin's window. Her head was pressing uncomfortably against the footboard, but she found that she did not have the energy to move. She felt the rippling effects of her pleasure thrumming through her body--her fourth in a row. And she was panting, a layer of light perspiration on her skin...that was new, as well, she could run or fight or fuck for hours but this....

"Aradia's knickers," she said again, stupidly. She could barely form a sentence. "How did you...where did you..."

She sat up with sudden righteous anger, covering her chest with one arm in an absurdly guarded motion as if he had not seen it by now. "How did you do that? Where did you learn it? That thing with your tongue..." She paused, reddening in mixed ambarrassment and anger, the tips of her ears curling down. "I meant...I'm curious, is all. You were better than I thought. Not...not good, exactly! But better." That half-truth sounded false even to her own ears.

He had rolled onto his side, arm propping up his head as he gazed at her dishevelled state. A smug smirk was plastered on his features and he used the heel of his thumb to wipe at his mouth. He sat up, reaching forward and grabbing both of her hips to scoot her close to him so they were chest-to-chest, her legs draped over his, her feet on the pillows behind him.

He kissed her. His mouth tasted like her desire, musky but sweet. Slowly, he kissed his way along her jaw, his hands working their way up her back, tracing circles and abstract patterns in the lightest fairy touch to tantalize her skin.

At her neck, he grazed her flesh with his teeth, playfully nipping.

"You're cute when you lie," he breathed warm air against her dampened neck.

"...oh. Oh, goddess." Her stammering recriminations died immediately when he pulled her. The touch of his lips made her gasp softly, made her hips buck forward reflexively against his.She had thought herself exhausted, but now...her long legs were wrapped around him, pulling him closer...

It came to her like a light going off in her head.

"Now wait a fucking minute--" with sudden force, she grappled him and flipped him around so now she was the one on top, straddling over his midriff. "--wait a fucking minute. Damn you. Do you have any idea the situation you've put me in? I don't get attached, pirate. I take it from whoever I want, wherever I want, why...ever I want. And now I can't, because if I do...I'll never get that again." She prodded him on the nose with one finger, in a move simultaneously aggressive and playful. "The Drow was right about you, Darius Black. You are a selfish bastard."

"Selfish!?" He indignantly snapped at her finger, barely missing the tip. He massaged his hands over her hips, smoothing his fingers down her outer thighs. "I believe you were the one laying on your back doing nothing for the majority of it," he teased.

"See what I mean? It's not fair. Gives you an inflated sense of your own fucking importance." At his touch, she revolved her hips, grinding herself against him and feelings his response. "....let's do it again."

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Kotorchix
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Mon Jun 17, 2019 11:41 pm

“My lady, have you been compromised?”

“Yes.”


The Shatterlight Coven Council of Elders sat in stunned silence. She had held nothing back. Hidden nothing. Her soul was spread wide for all to see. They felt Kraai. They heard her. And they agreed Metheryl was in no way capable of ruling as High Enchantress while she was so plagued. They had said nothing, but she knew by their connection to her as they perused all she had to offer. But there was sympathy, even empathy. Many of the Elders had fought beneath the Wilds to keep the demons at bay. Few still lived that had been possessed. But they knew the pain of watching their loved ones fall into possession, do terrible things, and eventually, be killed for their treachery.

But Dironthir was livid. He was not an Elder, but having brought this matter before the Council, it was his right to know what can of worms he had opened.

He was younger than them all. His rage was justified. Everything he had grown up believing to be truth and firm tradition, was ruined in this moment of clarity. Their High Enchantress, their role model, was falling from the Coven’s ways. And the worst part was, it wasn’t even the demon she dealt with that had caused the transition. Somehow, somewhere, their High Enchantress had decided the Coven’s ways were wrong. Perhaps not wrong in actuality, but far too ancient to continue existing as the mantra by which she lived.

“This Divankul,” Dironthir spat. “I should… I should never have shown you to him. This was my fault.”

“It was happening long before I was in need of his services,” Metheryl said, quietly. “But without entering his world, I would never have known my progeny still existed.”

She sat on the runed stone platform in the center of the Council Hall. This, they called the Baring Table. When the correct ritual was used, it bared the soul of that upon it to the Elders of the Shatterlight Coven. No lies. No deceit.

“The demon, Kraai,” said a female Elder – Joleni, a gaunt-faced elf with long white hair and wrinkled skin. “She made your descendant Nimbe hear her the way you do. We need her, to watch her. Ensure she does not fall prey to Kraai’s forked tongue and act on the demon’s suggestions.”

“I don’t believe Kraai can reach her through me without proximity,” Metheryl said. “There is no sense in bringing her here while I am present. It would only encourage Kraai to attempt possession of her. Nimbe is safer far away from me for now.”

“How can the demon swim through their blood connection so easily?” Dironthir asked. “A great-grandchild, and a halfblood at that… I thought our blood purity didn’t stretch so far. It should be muddied. I am… so bewildered.”

A creaky, shaking old man spoke up. He was one of the oldest, Urin, plagued with a disease of the elven body only terribly great age brought on. Metheryl remembered it said he was around in her own grandparents’ youth. “We bred,” he wavered, “to make the purest of magical entities. The Wild Elf, as we have been called by outsiders. Eventides. And we are strong. Pure. But not… the strongest, it seems.”

He stood, leaning on his staff. He coughed a few times and one of the Elders near him gently put an arm out to steady him. He waved them off and continued. “Obscuran, Dawn, Wildern… we are blended from the greatest there was. We broke from the Dark Lady Aradia and made ourselves anew. We… we believed that breeding all there was would create the strongest, capable of combatting the darkness that is Aradia and her hordes beneath the Wilds, in the Void, in the Elsewhere. That with a new breed of elf, we might be the best.”

“Elder,” Joleni admonished. “This is history we all know, what are you trying to say?”

“The Void Elves,” Urin coughed. “The Wights. The Dusk Elves, the dwarves, humans, orcs, high felines, demons… we went about it all wrong. How are we to combat Aradia using her own darkness, that which we are? We chose only the elves. Ones that we believed were pure, removed from the evil of Aradia. But her blight is in our bones, flowing through our veins. How are we to escape what we have always been?”

There was silence, confusion. But Metheryl knew what he was trying to say.

“Are you saying our ancestors were wrong?”

“Aradia is a demon,” Urin said, raising a knobbly finger high above his crooked back. “Our ancestors could not escape what they were. Nor can we. We are parasites on her corpse, feeding from what only she could provide. As we have always been, and as we have always done. There is no escaping her. There is no purity. We have not created a new breed. We have only made stronger adaptions of her own creation. We have been serving her all this time.”

His steely grey eyes landed on Metheryl. “This demon, Kraai, could reach the halfbreed child because with the addition of another of Aradia’s creations, the bond through blood became even stronger. Stronger. We have been aiding them all along! The demons!”

Another Elder gently helped him back into his seat as a terrible coughing fit began. The Council sat in silence a long moment, mulling over Urin’s words as to whether they were wisdom or madness. “Why do we fight a dead demon?” came a small voice. Then the Council erupted into anarchy. Angry voices, impertinent cries, confused questions, and heated discussion. Metheryl stared out over them, her soul still bared to them, and found the only one still meeting her gaze was Dironthir.

She knew by the look in his eyes that he wanted to accuse her of this. He wanted to accuse the demon of spreading disharmony and summoning these new-fangled ideas and lies. But he was still linked with her. He could feel Metheryl’s honesty. And he could feel Kraai’s mild amusement as she watched on from some distant realm of existence.

His voice boomed throughout the room in the strangest way. Metheryl heard it clearly in her mind, but it reverberated through her to fill the chamber. She realized he was using their telepathy, but with her open soul it was broadcast to the Council of Elders who were still in link with her also.

“Whether our beliefs have been shattered, we must now face the facts.” Everyone stared at him. He withdrew from the link, his presence in Metheryl’s mind winking out like a candle snuffed.

“As the Shatterlight Coven of Eventide Elves, we have done what the rest of the world does – we have bred, we have survived. But unlike them, we have had a goal together. We have been more united than most. We do not believe in Houses, in wealth, in arranged marriages, in the false importance of these menial things. We are united. Perhaps in a false belief. But through demon wars, through the Spreading of Obscura, through the lies we have told ourselves, we have remained together. And together, it’s time we faced the truth.”

Metheryl felt an unexpected swell of pride for her former aide. Everyone else felt it, and one by one she felt them disconnect from the link so that they might have the presence of mind to hear this without her influence. She was still under investigation so was expected to leave herself open to those who wanted, so her soul was left free in the air. Kraai’s amusement had turned to curiosity as she watched on.

“As a united front, we are one of the most powerful magical organizations in the Isles,” Dironthir reasoned. “But we could be so much more. If purity is a lie, if nothing matters but what we do in this world, on the corpse of our demon creator, then let it be great things we do. Together, we could work with the Drow as a combined force to turn back the energies of the Void. Aiding others, we could make this a better realm. Perhaps purity is not of the blood, but solely of the heart.”

He caught several Elders’ gazes. “Allow everyone to know our new truth. We should not isolate ourselves as we have. To do so is to kill all those separate from us who have also fought the Void. We are better than that. Our enemy is not that of a different blood, nor Aradia herself. We do not fight a dead god in vain.”

His voice sent shivers down her spine.

“We fight the ones that are trying to rise.”

“I propose we hold a Choosing,” Metheryl said.

Silence reigned. This was not the reason they had come here. Dironthir had wanted to hold one, but Metheryl’s Baring was considered paramount. A Choosing meant she knew she was stepping down. But after Dironthir’s enlivened speech, everyone also knew what she was implying. But she made it somewhat more formal with her next words.

“I offer Dironthir, also known as Sir Anaeyl Olajar in the City of Everglow, as a candidate for High Enchanter.”

Joleni raised three fingers in a sign of approval. One by one, other hands rose around the chamber. Urin’s among them. This didn’t mean he would be made High Enchanter, but the Council acknowledged he was a great candidate for the role. Metheryl no longer held a vote as she was on the Baring Table, but she felt a smile form across her features. For the first time since Kraai had made herself known to Metheryl, her presence was that of utter confusion.

But she seized her opportunity.

Metheryl felt her neck yank back and a horrible sound erupt from her mouth as she rose from the runed platform into the air. Her arms and legs outstretched to form her body into the warped shape of a star, her fingers wracked the air in claw-like motions. She was no longer Bared. Because the Baring… the Baring had been a terrible idea. Open to all in the room, soul bared for all to see… and for one to take.

She landed back on the table, one knee bent beneath her. She stood slowly, her head turning from side to side to take in all the gaping stares of the Elders. Her hands smoothed down over the curves of her body.

“Ä̴̠́͠h̵̯̀͝,̵̡̀̅ ̸̹͘i̸̘̿͒ţ̴̂̕'̸͎͍̍͋ iś̴̲͖ ̴̢̀̿ğ̴̙ō̶͔o̸̟̕d̴͚͎̊ ̵̩̚t̷̼̂̕ô̶̧ ̵͍̚͘ḇ̸͒e̸͓͕͋ ̷̜̔b̸̮͈͂̈́a̸̼͑̾č̵̺͎k̶̨̛͌.̴̮̀̍ ̶͇̝͠”

“Metheryl…?” Joleni hesitated, half-rising from her seat.

“It’s possession!” Came a cry. “End her!”

Trapped in a husk of herself, Metheryl watched in horror as Kraai stretched out her arms. Power thrummed along the length of them as from her black blood beneath her skin stirred a terrible energy. It seeped from the creases of her hands, from in-between her fingers, from under her nails. It threaded its way into the air as curious wisps of smoke.

There was no time for anyone to react. The shadow snapped the distance between them in twain, Kraai upon the elder as she plunged Metheryl’s hand right through Joleni’s chest. A cacophony of spells lit around them, curses muttered, weapons summoned, but it was still too late. The long fronds of black blood shaped like terrible claws over her hands, stretching far beyond the reach of any normal being. Kraai ripped through the Elders like they were nothing but lightly melted butter.

Their red blood joined the black, strengthening over Metheryl’s body in the manner of chitin armor. Spells bounced off her as nothing more than pebbles. A strong arm clamped about her neck from behind, so chitinous spikes ripped from her back, piercing the body of her captor. She fell back with the weight of his body going limp on her, tore herself from him, and leaped back to her feet and into the fray. The more she killed, the more lives she took and blood she spilled, the stronger her magical armor and claws became.

STOP. PLEASE. STOP.

All faded from her conscious. She stood in a dark room with a single light illuminating her. She looked up, but only saw the light, not its source. Staring about, she wondered at the silence and the distant shadows.

“Kraai,” she spoke into the Void. That was surely what this was. “Kraai?”

There was no response. She turned back and forth, but realized something was wrong – she was too high. Everything was so far down. So looking down, she realized this was not her body. It… well, it was her body. She stood in the Void, wearing the form Kraai had wielded for so long she no longer felt it was her own skin. She stared at her pale arms, a healthy dash of color in them that suggested red blood beneath the surface rather than black. She touched her face. Her… scars. Old scars. Scars she no longer identified with.

“Kraai, what have you done?”

Her voice boomed about the shadows. And it certainly was not the voice she was accustomed to. This voice was stronger. It held authority, a rasp from the damage she received in the Void. It was much more mature.

“RETURN ME!” She roared. “You vile bitch, answer me!”

But Kraai left her there under the single light in the darkness without a word.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:56 am

Black Elf vs Argavir Notusi
Aboard Fading Patience
Within the night of The Wedding

It was strange, existing once more, he didn’t have the once pronounced violence he used to but instead he was left alone with his thoughts and able to truly contemplate his actions. Sure his head was still swirling with dark impressions and the echoes of damnation, those would never leave no matter how many times he was recreated, but it as odd to be so clairvoyant and to see that the world no longer needed him to enact a sort of balance to it. This would be the finale, the send off, the way he’d leave the world forever and become one with that which had so roundly destroyed him and brought him back. As the men began to fight parallel to his mark, the Elf just stared blankly at Argavir awaiting something in turn.

He was not impressed when the man turned to shadows and tried to slash forwards, he easily just caught the blade in his teeth and bit down destroying it. With another movement his elbow went into the shadows middle and sent it flying backwards. “Child’s play, come now great terror of the world-you can do better than your contemporaries can you not? Impress your betters” more slashes, even easier to predict and soon Argavir was without. As the brawla round them intensified the Black Elf felt cheated that his opponent was not worthy of his time, but that was before he began to express the true power of the dusk eye.

In this hour of night he turned into mist and began encircling the elf trying to kill him with strikes, now without blades but good effort. It enticed the elf to actually take this one seriously if he would betray his mortal form for the powers of a god. Not good enough, the sword on the Elf’s back whipped forward and cut deep into the analog of what was more than likely a thigh. The mist stopped and a new tactic formed.

To simply blast him with the driving darkness of destruction. As Argavir appeared behind him, fully out of ideas it would seem. No more hidden blades that would do nothing, no techniques for one that was not to be killed, just a piercing blackness meant to consume thrown point blank. Didn’t work, a glare and a flurry of strikes later and Argavir could no longer use his legs as he grunted not willing to let out pangs of agony from his paralysis brought on by the sword strikes to his back and knees.

“You’re boring, you’re weak, you waste my time and your own-you should have trained in the use of the eye-given in like that one had. But no you used it as a tool and relied on the safety of shadow. Only fools are afraid to fight, I was not in fear when death came for me, I stared him down and was devoured roaring” little more than grunting and hard eyes to look back, nary a response.

“Dignity in defeat, resolve to not let me see you squirm-courage enough when shadow fails to accept the loss. Very well, pain it shall be for you” his left arm came flying off, a glove removed and the glowing infinity of the eye staring from the palm. The defeated man was clutching his socket in pain, to die of slow agony was the price of shadow.

The Black Elf removed the eye diligently and proceeded to watch the much more interesting exposition unfold between two grown children fighting in the dirt. The final show before the end, he’d complete the mission with or without the mortal living through it. Simply put, it just made sense to let this one have his day. It would be the first of the last decisions he’d ever make, such a life, to end on a note of reflection such as this.

He was the living embodiment of rejection of Aradia, the idea of the ideal creator losing them upon the world, no they were animals caught in the endless spiral of the Void’s madness and the only sense of order and calm was brought upon by the power of the natural shell that guarded existence. Chaos was not to be feared or wielded, but to occur and be made aware of, to cause suffering was to awaken the truth that he had seen all those ages ago.

Aradia was a lie. The world is simply a spinning plane of chaos arranged in patterns of safety, and you just have to get the fuck over it.
_____________________________________________________

Al-Zehin vs Xankresh Avani
Aboard Fading Patience
Within the night of The Wedding

Xankresh would not stand for this, not now, not after millennia of work and plotting was he about to let the last remaining vestige of the inquisition steal away his treasure. His baldes began to move at a rapid pace, spinning around every which way with blinding speed as he began to juggle his cutlasses. His arcane eye glowed bright golden as he drew deep upon its power to destroy his foes, lines of magic began to show coursing through the man’s veins. This would be the first in a long line of executions carried out, first Zehin, then purging of Dul-Sansiska.

He’d find Drake, the fuckers that helped him, Garin, that little shit Darius Black and that griffin whore. He’d sink his blades into every last one of them and then he’d destroy Blackthorne. It was time to get Arkon on the path of war and use them as the battering ram for a new age, they could easily betray Mordeghast and keep the void at bay while they dealt with humanity, and it would be glorious.

His blades were moving at such a speed it was if they were floating around him, expanded, ready to cut away at everything that came across them. The energy coming off him made a visible golden glow, it made him seem more righteous than he was. He was in his white under shirt and pants, having taken off his regalia, his drow eye burned and his magic eye pulsed. The shirt began to rip and tear as his movements continued and as his muscles fully expanded into a much bulkier form than just a few moments ago but no loss in speed. In fact he was even faster, now the blades were starting to fade from visibility entirely.

All of this happened in the span of about five seconds, in that time Al-Zehin had already prepped himself. He had thrown the cloak and mask off into some pocket dimension and he stood there, with a relaxed way. His build was athletic but not war weathered, he was clean and smooth with no real visible definition many elves would get. Sure there was some but it was not as if he looked cut from a mountain, he looked old by elven standards until his counterparts who had kept their age throughout history.

His skin was a paler grey, his eyes tired slate, the fire in them supposedly long since put out by hat he had witnessed. His hands were wrapped in bandages up to the elbow and his body showed its age. Rather than gain wrinkles as one’s elasticity decreased, drow aging was the steady lossfo definition as the compact structures could no longer hold their forms and strength, speed, and virility began to seep away. While more or less immortal to an extent that was not the same as everlasting youth, a drow would slowly lose the one thing they were bred for-the ability to combat the void.

There was little definition left in the man, it would be a few more thousand years before he completely lost it. Zehin kicked one bandaged foot up and shattered one of the spinn cutlasses with a singular well pointed strike that hit it at the flat of the blade as it spun. The stress could not be contained fully and so the edge cracked and shattered, Xankresh flew at him spinning the others but Zehin moved into it and struck the second cutlass away by way of its hilt before spinning off to avoid a strike.

Xankresh could not understand how he was moving so well at an advanced age without magic and without equipment. He stopped juggling the blades and held them in either of his two hands now, looking fiercely at Zehin who was standing perfectly still waiting for another strike out.

“How?”

“You forget I’m the last Inquisitor-fighting a battlemage, you infused your blades with so much raw power I can see it all” swiftly he moved in and Xankresh was forced to cross his blades to absorb the strike. Even in advanced age Al-Zehin was a terror of his own, a true master and a philosopher who waited in secrecy for this day.

You won’t win against the eye, Zehin, I win this day- you’ve been hiding for centuries at this point” a spin cutting, the edge of Crescendo digging into the flesh of Zehin’s left forearm through the bandages and the edge of his other being held in the right grip. A grimacing old face, hair in the eyes of the master. Then a sudden jolt and Xankresh was forced to step back or have his testicles pulverized by an upshooting knee. There stood the legacy of that damned Empire, now bleeding and showing weakness. Age had slowed him down, made him softer, made it easier on Xankresh in his powered state to end it here.

There was no need to act without caution however, he was still blitzingly fast and agile, just not quick enough to twitch his bdo the right ways if taken off guard. However those slate eyes were the real problem. “You can still see mana trails can’t you Zehin?”

“Course I can, I see all possible movements of your spirit and can act accordingly, it’s why we were developed. Mages can’t kill what already knows their next movement”

“I’m sick of the Empire creeping up, first Drake came back and now you’re getting in my way-WHY DON’T YOU JUST JOIN YOUR WIFE AS A STATUE ALREADY!”- Xankresh

That did it, that broke through the quiet calmness that pervaded every ounce of that prideful cockface’s being. He was moving, charging, channeling. Xankresh primed his counter and swung outwards...

Then fell to the ground heaving from the strike that had hit him in his chest, his last cutlass shattered striking at Zehins neck and Crescendo lodged into his stomach piercing through his back. His right wrist bleeding profusely from absorbing the cutlass’s shocking power. It was more than likely broken as well. Xankresh couldn’t breathe, couldn't move, couldn’t speak-he wasn’t even in his body by this point more or less he was just right above it watching the scene unfold. Zehin began to falter, wobbling some as he shuffled his way back to Xankresh, and removed the starforged blade from his body. More blood to follow and only one good hand left to do anything with.

“That was my Soul Palm, I had to eat the strikes you threw but it was worth it in the end, I’ve separated your soul from the body it’s housed in. I win” he was moving to take the eye out…

“No” was all Xankresh could eek out as he drew upon deeper powers of his eye despite the disconnection, though he was separated that was not the same as severed. The eye glowed and his soul was drawn back in as a beam shot forward when Zehin came into sight. It was not expected and hit him square in the chest piercing right through and burning a quarter inches away from sheer heat like a sun. The son of a bitch however still stood, and had a vial in between his teeth with the contents dripping into his mouth even as he was mortally wounded.

“You…..you had an All Heal, after all these years, you have kept that thing?! THERE HASN’T BEEN A NEW ONE IN TWO THOUSAND FUCKING YEARS AND YOU HAVE ONE?!” He struggled to his feet in those seconds as the most powerful healing medicine ever created by the ancient elven civilizations, restored the broken and shattered burned body of Zehin defeated into a not only fully standing but age reverted monster now showing no signs of being a few thousands of years old by this point.

An All Heal was quite possibly the greatest achievement the ancient world had ever created, it took the combination of every elven civilization donating time and effort to its research and constitution and to even come close to affording it one needed to be of high ranking status in terros in the ancient world. It was made by using the feathers of the legendary phoenix, the teeth of a manticore, the venom of a spider queen, and the blood the three elves. The amount of time and effort to acquire these ingredients, mix them by a renowned master of alchemy, and preserve it was such a daunting event that most nobles could work for over a thousand years and still never afford its preserving qualities.

The Three Kings managed to snag a few, and of course the other even powers were gifted their own vials for their efforts in helping to create the mixture. Even the Storm Kings were granted an amount for their help. But a fucking Inquisitor?! Even if he was a high ranking one at that time there was no way he could have afforded it. As well the powerful quality was such that it had been tampered with-enhanced to such a fine degree it reversed his aging over thousands of years to produce a strong young elf staring back.

The young man primed himself, removing the bandages that had once helped covered his arthritic and frankly broken arms and feet. He was letting Xankresh get his bearings back, taunting him, smirking. Xankresh took the bait heartily, even with age reversal and having all wounds, sickness, and ill effects completely consumed that would not be enough. His fist came crashing in like a meteor but Zehin caught it, gripped it hard and threw the enhanced older obscuran over at the other side of the boat, rocking it by the impact as they continued to speed along in the night.

Xan shot another beam forward, but it was smacked away by a glowing left hand and the sot lept through empty air and space a few hundred meters out before dissipating. Al-Zehin was no longer weak enough to be counted on Xankresh’s level anymore. The old master had become new again…

“To answer the question, I kept that one because it was what the Empress gave me when I uncovered your plotting with Notusi before you murdered Morvala. But that wasn’t the first time you had assaulted the family of Morvala was it?”

“No your treachery spread far into the past, but you could always bribe or kill your way out of it thanks to Notusi” He grabbed Xan by the bald head even as the other went to tackle into him, and they stood locked in a struggle for dominance and survival. Xankresh was still powered by tons of magic and could unleash more of the eye in his rage, but by this point Zehin did not care.

“You killed A’Draak Morvala, seventy fifth born, and the son of Annavelle, my daughter who had been dutifully taken in as one of his many wives by Morvala. You killed my grandson, because he had taken your precious new sex slave promised to you, and had a flawless little girl with her-they were happy

“Unlike Morvala who was beloved and who loved each of his wives you mistreated any concubine in that disgusting harem and preyed on the young and weak” more rage Zehin found himself being thrown towards the aft, Xan wanted to run him off the ship. He had gathered the Crescendo and was racing forward by now but Zehin spun and the blade missed by a hair’s breadth.

The resulting knee to the back and a backflip later and Xan was widely cutting and thrusting, spinning, going fully into it and channeling magic into the starforged blade to amplify its power exponentially without the need for strikes. Zehin was deftly weaving in and out of the path of fire thanks to his arcane sight, Xankresh forgot that this was the main tool of the Inquisition. Al-Zehin was bred and trained, modified for witch hunting and investigating crimes of any who stood against the Empire.

This was thousands of years in the making, two men, one a disgusting monster who had lived far beyond what he should have and the other a slumbering hurt bearing the wrathful vengeance of a civilization that no longer existed.

“That. Won’t. Work” a spinning drive kick to the gut to slow the man’s rampage down as Zehin continued “You didn’t stop there, reports were you hunted the child down, intent on raising her as your own toy since you couldn’t have the mother and the father was dead. You never found her, none of us did, they were gone. You covered up your crimes, but the Inquisition saw all, when confronted you had the investigator assailed and a few nobles made the problem disappear”

More cutting, Al-Zhein shot out his hands like whips and sent Crescendo crashing away, still vibrating with untold amounts of energy. It wound up becoming a fist fight in the heat of rage, Zehin striking with palms and elbows, and Xankresh going at it with bare knuckles and headbutts. The madder he made the old man, the faster and more deadly he became and Zehin wanted that. He wanted this fucker at his angriest so he could send him spiraling.

“You stole my grandson’s life, just like you stole those artifacts from the Vaults. You were too fucking weak, weaker than the other obscuran heroes to wear them all because you’re nothing but a joke- you forced one into the body of A’Draak and gave the other to your conspirator but you kept the artifact of creation for your own”

A resounding punching hit him square in the chest and it would have broken something had Zehin not been chugging more alchemy. This one was some sort of powerful resistance poultice, Xankresh began thunderously punching but it did little but shuffle Al-Zehin around.

“The Eye of Dawn is taxing, is it not?” a whipcrack of a kick and Xankresh was thudding to the rails of the ship again “You have not managed more than what I’ve given you. I want you a feral beast unable of thought. I am vengeance for all you have wronged. When Divankul stood against you-you changed and warped his reality and defiled the sanctity of his existence.”

“You turned my son into a power hungry monster, when Xanmar came across you for it you flung him to the Void, you could not defile Exarnkul in his death, and so you got your talons into Volia while my back was turned” He was crouched over the heaving form of an enraged Xankresh, too stubborn to stop but damaged by his overtaxing of the eye’s power.

“You killed Morvala when he dared to stop you from carrying out your plan, you killed his wives, you killed my firstborn…..You stole the light out from my life, and in the end you doomed our civilization and this world. When I caught you, it was too late, and before I could stop it the Spreading was already underway.”

“You were caught, you were going to die-so you destroyed everything” newfound power, destroying his body to be sure but he threw one gold grey hand up and grabbed Zehin’s neck, started squeezing. The one move the man hadn’t seen coming oddly enough.

Wheezing, striking, prying there wouldn’t be enough of that to stop the eye from allowing its host this last concession before taking its payment “Will you shut your fucking mouth Zehin? Will you ever stop getting in my way? It’s been thousands of years of me hunting your dogged ass, will you simply die already?”

“DIE! I’M SICK OF ALL OF YOU! THIS WORLD BELONGS TO ME! I’LL KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU IF THAT’S WHAT IT’S GOING TO TAKE TO HAVE MY VICTORY! FUCK MORVALA! FUCK A’DRAAK! FUCK ANNAVEL! FUCK ORAKO! FUCK YOU AND ESPECIALLY FUCK DIVANKUL, I FUCKING HATE ALL OF YOU!”

In that moment, Zehin’s world went dark, he had goaded the dragon and the dragon had bitten for the neck. The jaws were clenched and there was no way out of this all consuming darkness as he began to go limp.

“Time’s Up, Xanvani, time is up” a voice, from behind, the Black Elf grinning from ear to ear. He was the unquestioning victor of the duel with Argavir who lay bleeding badly and with one arm amputated at the shoulder. The coalescing power of the eye of dusk held firmly in one hand of the demon- able to ignore it’s tempting call due to his very nature as an agent of chaos housing objective damnation in his very core.

“It is the end, we win, though I can understand where this is coming from. You’re mad because in the Void you’d be a wyvern-class by now with this much ambition. Sadly, it is not and will not be, for you are too weak to be powerful” one punch was what it took, one punch from a mythical and ancient creature that had plagued Terros for millenia. The grip released in that moment, Zehin fell to the ground, unconscious. Xankresh was left screaming as the unkillable elf tore the eye from its socket gleefully and held both within his hands listening to them whisper on and on.

He looked to the scene before him and shrugged, delighted that such amounts of torment had brought a race of warriors into the depths of depravity and despair. He only wished he could have brought it on, but he did, didn't he? He was the beginning of evil being allowed into the hearts of the drow, through him the whispers of chaos flowed and the end of a civilization still in its infancy was already sewn for much later. He had touched Xanvani somehow-probably killed his wife or something when he went on the rampage in the beginning of his existence. Delightful.

It would appear all that he had done paled in comparison to Xankresh’s events over the years however, or Argavir’s if Zehin was to be believed. While the Black Elf had been the beginning of the end for the descendants of Obscura-Xanvani had been its accelerant. The Spreading was due to him, causing such widespread devastation that could never be achieved by one so short sighted as the Black Elf. Simply beautiful it was, to be resurrected to bear witness to the one who had caused such chaos, and to rip his eye from its socket and delight in the screams of brokenness as all plans came to die this night.

The whispers were getting grating to his ears, and the muffled movements from below were of no true concern to the elf. Xan was screaming as the magic left this body completely and utterly torn asunder and his bleeding socket was clutched weakly. Divan had been so much more of a challenge-capable of devouring him with ease-the fact he had been bested by an old man with a grudge was insulting to say the least.

He began to vanish from the realm, his journey completed, and the prospect of being returned to the yawning void of nonexistence a tempting offer. He took it, and faded into dust as the multi-dimensional artifacts winked out of existence alongside him, into the awaiting hands of that which sent him- ready to undo the horror these items has wrought upon Terros. The Black Elf, for all he had impacted and pervaded upon history, was finally, and eternally no more.

His final usage had been completed and there was no use in keeping such a simply unpredictable agency of pure destruction around. For what it was worth, his final act had been heroic, safeguarding the world from itself, though he probably never would have cared to see it that way.

The ship pushed ever forward in the darkness of the night, holding the slowly dying Xankresh and Argavir captive as much as the stolen family members of Divan. Zehin was the only one not in any real danger. Saved by the last moment actions of his partner for this time, unaware that his vengeance was still yet to come….
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by IronParagon » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:16 am

_______________________________________________________________________
Handsome Arthur
_______________________________________________________________________

"Get out of my way."

"J'Zara insists kitten should stay on boat. Is what Elf would want."

"Elf's not here, though, is she?" Jaster's tone was deceptively calm; inside he was in an absolute turmoil, an endless flush of doubts and anxieties and misery, but above it all was anger. And that was good, he thought. It was concise, and clear, and when the other that spoke in his father's voice from the depths of his consciousness encouraged him to feel it, he knew for once that is was right. After hours of agonizing uncertainty, this was the focus he needed. "Elf's run off by herself. Elf's forfeited the right to tell me what to do. I'm free to choose. And I choose to pull my sister off that ship."

They stood in the empty captain's cabin of the Grey Lady. The other WIld Huntsmen had opened a cask of Wyvern-mead and were partying raucously on the open deck above them. Jaster hated them for that. Hated them even more because he knew his appearance would be greeted with cries of "Handsome Artie!" and "Here's to the bastard's squire!" and "Come drink with us, lad!" They had taken a shine to him, but he could not bear their affection right now. It would sicken him. He deserved none of it. The only thing he wanted was his sister out of harm's way.

But J'Zara had barred his way, waving her staff at him threateningly. "Will not tell Kitten again!"

"Good. I don't need to hear it again. Get out of my way, before I make you." He laid a hand on the pommel of the iron blade at his hip.

"Hmph! Kitten has asked for this. Dwarf!"

Ogden came barreling down the steps behind her, and for a second Jaster tensed, fearing he was about to be tackled. Instead, the Dwarf stopped dead in his tracks at the doorway, and looked around himself in a puzzled manner as if he had forgotten why he was here. "Wiglumf?"

The Feline sighed. "Dwarf, J'Zara has rehearsed this with you many times. When J'Zara calls, Dwarf restrains Kitten, remember--no, Dwarf! Stop giving cheese, is not part of plan!"

"Stuhnturn, aga mili rijoni." The Dwarf had indeed produced a wedge of rather suspiciously green dairy from out of his fur armor and was offering it to the squire. "Indo ragga?"

"....no thanks." Jaster, who had been watching this display in bemusement, forced himself to focus. "I'm getting out of here, whether you like it or not."

She raised her staff again. "J'Zara knows vomiting hex. Will not hesitate to use. Kitten will get himself killed if he leaves boat. Might run into Bloodhawk himself."

"If I see my Uncle, I'll gut him and every bannerman that stands in my way." The thought was pleasurable. Jaster was not entirely sure he could follow through on it. "I don't care if they were loyal to me once. When I claim my lands and titles back, I'm getting rid of the whole lot for turning against Talia--"

"Your uncle, hm? Your lands and titles?" The familiar, echoing rasp and harsh sound of air dragged through a greathelm's metal breathing-holes cut through the noise of the party above. The Headhunter's heavy boots made the stairs below him creak ominously as he made his descent. "I should have known. You look just like your father, Young Griffin."

Dammit. Jaster pressed his lips together. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Sure you do. Why else was the Bastard of Blackthorne so determined to keep you at her side? She never uses squires, and yet for you, she makes an exception." With one clawed metal hand, he shoved J'Zara out of his way without even looking at her. "She always used to brag that she would gladly treat any trueblood Blackthorne as less than any other noble if she ever found one in the wild--rob them, beat them, even kill them. Always knew she was soft-hearted beneath it all."

"I'm going to the Great Griffin to rescue my sister." Jaster tried to defiantly meet his Captain's gaze, but could only look at the mismatched jewel-eyes of the twisted demon greathelm, which was disarming. "Are you going to get in my way as well, Spinner?"

If offended by the use of his real name, the Headhunter gave no indication. "Im afraid I might, since I helped put her there."

"You--?!"

"Me. Your cousin Jacques hired me to butcher the guard. Not traceable back to the Blackthorne family you see; no diplomatic issue with Volmark. In return, I get your witch sister's Villa in the city. A meagre holding for winesots, living amongst the peasantry; I'll have it pulled down and sold, I think, and use the money to buy lands of my own. Finally, being paid what I'm owed..."

Jaster was so angry he could not even speak; he trembled with fury, his hand clenched so tightly round the hilt of his blade that the metal was almost creaking.

"...you look upset, lad. You goinna hit me? That should make for some sport. I've always wanted to kill a Blackthorne." The Headhunter's gauntleted fingers brushed softly against the old Western blade at his side. "Worthy of this, perhaps? And the trophy...the scarflesh on your face, perhaps. They won't believe it was from you, of course....but I'll know. And that's all the matters."

He would kill me. Just as the Bloodhawk would. He forced himself to stay his own hand. "Will you tell my Uncle? About who I am?"

"That's the thing about Mercenaries, lad. The nobility owes us rewards for our work; we do not owe them secrets for their rewards." He turned and stalked away, his cloak of human skin billowing out behind him.

J'Zara let out a breath of relief. "Kitten is wise not to fight Headhunter."

"I'm not wise. I'm weak." Jaster slumped into the nearest chair. "What can I do about this, hm? Once I get her off the boat, then what? Even if I can....maybe before the Riverford I could have killed my Uncle's knights. But not now."

"J'Zara is extremely glad that Kitten is finally seeing sense."

He felt a flash of anger again. "Don't think this is done. I have to do something."

"Elftribe will," J'Zara assured him soothingly, laying a paw on his shoulder. "Elf will think of something, when we see her again. Kitten can be assured she already has a plan in mind."

Ogden, who had been obliviously gnawing on his green cheese, raised one of his thumbs as if in agreement--though he might have just been expressing his opinion of the meal.

Jaster returned the gesture with a roll of his eyes. But what can we do?

The possibility that it was nothing, that he would have to watch his dearest friend, his twin, die alone on a noose filled him with cold dread.

If our positions were reversed...Talia would know what to do.


_______________________________________________________________________
The Witch
_______________________________________________________________________


"Dont be a stupid, Gordie! I'm not going to spend all my time reading books!"

Gordon Blackthorne, twelve years old on the outside and yet always seeming so much older, leaned forward in his seat with a customary wise smile. "And why is that, little sister?"

"I'm not little." Talia, aged six, stuck out her tongue at him. "And books are for stupids. I'm going to be a great knight, like Ladyjayne! Great knights don't spend all their time reading books, they spend their time learning to fight! Sir Valar's the best knight in the whole wide realm and you don't see him looking at books. Isn't that right, Sir Valar?"

The omnipresent shadow at her side turned his flourescent gaze to her, a gentle smile touching his lips. "Actually, Lady Talia, I am quite fond of the written word. The wisdom of many a warrior is passed down in the tomes all around you; I have learned much from perusing their pages."

She gazed at him with the wide-eyed wonder only a small child was capable of. "Really?"

"Who told you knights don't read?" Gordon leaned one hand on his cheek, his grey eyes filled with mischief. "It wouldn't have been....Jaster, by any chance, would it? Convenient he'd say that, considering he barely knows his latters."

Tali scowled, scuffing the floor with her foot. "Murtagh always says Jaster is something called a Mutton Head. He never understands things in our lessons."

"Murtagh is cruel. Not everyone has to be good at their lessons. But just because Jaster isn't good at them and doesn't enjoy them, doesn't mean you have to as well. Just because you're twins it doesn't mean you have to do everything alike, see?"

"I see." Talia looked at her big brother with shy admiration. "...can it be a book about Ladyjayne? I want the story of when she killed King Argiliac, that's my favorite."

"I have one here I think you'll like better, Tali."

The familiar voice made them all turn, and Valar clasped a fist over his heart and bowed--"Lady Blackthorne." Alyssa, the children's mother, had appeared from behind one of the archives' bookshelves. Gowned in Monmoth green, her hair a halo of golden girls, her eyes the same sapphire-blue she had passed onto the twins; these things stood out in memory in vivid color. Which made the unfamiliar book she was holding all the more jarring. Talia had to force herself to look away from it, to keep the sweetness of this recollection alive.

"Your dress is filthy, little one. You haven't been playing in the stables again, have you?" Alyssa mussed her daughter's hair with a fond smile.

Talia shook her head angrily. "Mama, stooooop, I'm not little!"

"Well if you're not so little, maybe you can read to us." Laughing, Alyssa sat in the alcove by the window; many times, over the following years, Talia would come back to that little alcove by the window. To remember. She remembered the rush of affection she'd had for her mother as she sat up on her lap, watched the pages of the dusty old tome open...but this was not the one she had read at the time. This was the history tome from the Ludlow library.

"Don't be shy, Talia," her mother whispered, and it seemed not to be her mother's voice at all in that moment. "Remember your lessons. Look at the words, the symbols, the patterns...add them up...understand them."

The blue comet. King Balthazar the First. Androvax. Demons spitting up from beneath Tumbledown Falls to drag Joanna screaming into their depths.

"Talia, it's me."

She looked up, and though it was Gordon who had spoken, she saw now that it was the awful vision of Jaster that had appeared to her at the wedding, a gaunt spectre with ugly burns crawling up the side of his face like an infection and she suddenly felt eyes upon her, yellowy-green eyes and a wolfish smile.

"TALIA IT'S ME--"


Her eyes flickered open, and again, she was alone in the dark.

Her skin tingled, and the world seemed to press down upon her as she lay coiled on the wooden floor of her cell. She took a deep, steadying breath. These dreams had been plaguing her with increasing ferocity. Always the same; treasured childhood memories perverted with images of demons and decay and her enemies watching down over her. She remembered, faintly, the stories of her own grandmother Isabella Karhall. Men had called Isabella the most beautiful woman who had ever lived. But something about her story had always troubled Talia; they said that Karhall had not spoken a word until she was four years old, but after a violent nightmare one night, had suddenly began to communicate with full vocabulary. Those nightmares had continued to plague Isabella for the rest of her life, though she never told anyone what she saw in them. It was whispered that they were prophecies, dreams of the past and future, that were slowly driving the woman to madness. By the time of Talia's own childhood, Isabella had seemed an almost sinister figure, spending all her time in the deepest parts of the archives or else at her son's councils, whispering tales of fate and destiny into her son Arthur's ear. She had died not long after Gordon had left to squire for the Knoxes, and even at that stage her grandmother had only spoken to her a few times. The woman had always frightened her almost as much as the Bloodhawk. Isabella always wore a hood, but her amber eyes seemed to glow from its depths, and when she spoke it was in a husky whisper that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

The voice, she realized. It was the voice that spoke to me in the dream...spoke through my mother.

That was as far as her thoughts were allowed to get. The door behind her crashed open, flooding her cell with light, and the familiar figure of Edgar the jailer loomed over her.

"Evenin', poppet." He grinned, showing the ugly stumps of his ruined brown teeth. "Yaw in luck. Lawd Blackthawn's asked teh see you."

She was clapped in iron manacles that pinned her arms behind her back, and a matching pair was clamped around her ankles where they chafed bitterly. Edgar shoved her forwards, and she took some staggering steps forward out of the cell. She had been in that tiny, enclosed space for long enough that walking felt strange and unfamiliar to her, and the fact that the chain binding her legs together was barely long enough to allow her to stride normally made the entire process into a farce. Talia kept her eyes firmly down to where her feet hit the wooden deck beneath her, doing her best to ignore the muttered curses of the crew members they passed.

They led her to a cabin at the back of the ship--she thought, at least, based on the limited view of surroundings she allowed herself. Men in silver plate armor and tall, feathered helms surrounded the entrance to one door.

"MY LORD," one of them called. "THE WITCH HAS ARRIVED."

A resonating voice seemed to vibrate the swaying deck around them, even though it was from the other side of the door. "Send her in."

The door creaked open, and there sat her captor. He was alone, sitting by his desk, watching over a parchment map of the City; his vast figure cast a long shadow over Everglow in the dim light of the ship's lanterns. There was an unsheathed blade across his lap. She did not have to look at it for long to know it for Redwing, the ancestral blade of the Blackthorne family, the very weapon used by Jason to slay the Underking Vermithrax.

Slowly, the Bloodhawk raised his eyes to meet hers. "Lady Sabre. Sit."

She stood motionless for a long moment, taken aback both by the casual tone he'd used, and the fact he had seemingly just asked her to sit down with him like nothing had changed since before they'd come to Caybourne.

It did not last. "'E said sit, Witch!" The toe of Edgar's boot struck the back of her leg, and she gasped, collapsing to the ground.

Her uncle watcched this display dispassionately. He turned his gaze to the soldiers and servants in the room. "Leave us. All of you."

They exchanged anxious glances. One, a knight with a swanfeather crest on his greathelm, stepped forward. "But the witch--"

"You think she poses a threat to me? Do you understand what this is?" The Bloodhawk tapped Redwing's pommel. The blade seemed to glow faintly then, an eerie crimson that illuminated the runes engraved into the blade--I am of the Red Winge, they read. None shall holde me, save the True Kinge in the Weste, whose name is of the Black Thorne.

"....As you wish, my liege."

Not my liege. My lord, not my liege. He is no king. Talia felt the dull weight of despair upon her as the soldiers trooped from the room. Edgar made sure to trample on her hand as she went past her; she bit her lip to stop him getting the satisfaction of hearing her cry out, and kept her eyes on the floor. The door clicked shut behind the last one to leave, and then she was alone with her uncle. She did not need to look up to feel the weight of his gaze upon her.

"I hear you have refused to marry Lord Knox. He's quite disappointed. Are you so eager for the noose, girl?"

A sudden anger gripped her, and she raised her eyes to meet his, defiant. "I know you're in league with the Demons. You and Knox, both. And I know you conspired to ruin my family, so that you could climb over our carcasses and make yourself Lord."

"Obviously you knew." Dominic's long, slender fingers beat out a soft rhythm on Redwing's crossguard; his voice had dropped so lower that it would not be audible outside the cabin. "Hence your refusal, I'd imagine, out of some misguided act of heroism. Strange how every one of my brother's spawn shares in exactly the same type of self-delusion, right down to the bastard...hmph. I call it strange, but it is quite explicable. Your father was the same."

"I asked Nestor what he intended to do once the Underking slaughtered every terrestrial in the realm and left you both nothing to rule over." Talia clutched her crushed hand; one of the nails had split, and her blood was dripping gently onto the floorboards. "It vexed him."

"I'd imagine it would. He has little in the way of....vision. I doubt he will be of use to me much longer."

She almost laughed at that. "He said the same of you. Goddess, does anyone involved in your little scheme have any kind of loyalty to each other, Uncle? How do any of you manage to co-operate at all, when it seems each of your endgoals will see every other conspirator in the group dead?"

"Insolent." Dominic tilted his head to the left, examining her with a curious fascination, like she was a cockroach that had inexplicably learned to sing the Ballad of Black Manfred. "There are things at stake here which you could not begin to comprehend, girl. I will not try to make you understand that which you cannot."

"Try me. You called me here, so you might as well speak before you hang me."

He was silent for a moment, grey eyes unfathomable. His next statement was puzzling. "How else might a group co-operate, if not through mutual loathing, or mutually assured destruction?"

She blinked. "What...what do you mean?"

"So you don't understand, then." Beneath his long beard, the Bloodhawk's mouth coiled into something that could almost be called a smile. "There is no such thing as loyalty, girl. There is only fear. It is fear that keeps the peasantry in check, fear that keeps our family in power; fear is a simple, primal aspect of terrestrial nature, for it wards us away from danger. Fear keeps us alive. It governs every one of our actions, in some small way. I am only one who understands this. I wield the fear of others, as my own weapon...as surely as I wield this blade at my lap. Every life on this realm fears at least one thing. And I have made it my mission that I comprise at least one of those fears."

"And are you afraid?" she asked softly. "Afraid of the Underking? Of the end of the world?"

He seemed to consider that for a long moment. "Perhaps I was, once. A long time ago. It is a rational thing to be afraid of, the end of everything, no? But I have seen the mechanisms of the oncoming apocalypse now, have seen its puppeteers at work. And I do not fear it any longer. Only a fool fears the inevitable."

"And what of the kingdom of ashes you will rule at the end of it all?"

"My kingdom will not be one of ashes, girl." Dominic leaned forward; shadows fell over his long face. "You think I would allow the demon to destroy my domain? An Underking died before, by this very sword. This second one knows the same can happen again. His hordes will get their place in the world, in exchange; I will keep the rest."

This is madness. Talia could barely believe she was hearing this; if not for the throbbing in her fingers and the bruise on the back of her knee, she would have suspected she was still dreaming. "You'll just....threaten to kill the Demon king?"

"Threaten? I'll do it. I said every creature in this terrestrial earth fears something. I should say every creature outside it has a fear too. And what that Demon ought to fear is me. I have no fear, you see, girl. The only one who does not suffer the ailment; the only wise man adrift in a sea of fools."

"Why would you even want to lead a sea of fools? What value do they have to you?"

"Good question. I might ask your brother the same thing, or your father. You're a fucking Blackthorne, girl, are you not? Don't make me explain what you already know. The pleasure of the Apex, being at the pinnacle of all beings...this is something each of us is born with. And I have heard you say that you believe the realm to be better under the unified rule of a single will."

"Not like this. Not a unified nation built out of fear."

"I told you before. Fear is the only thing that unifies us." Dominic sighed. "I will make a better world, child. Free of this...squabbling. These pretensions of bravado. It would have been simpler if you had not made my work more difficult for me."

Talia did not understand for a second, but it came to her. "...because I killed Jacques?"

"My heir. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to make that boy? A creature so devoid of empathy's weakness?"

"What value is there is having that as an heir??"

"You still do not see." He sounded irritated, like a schoolmaster dealing with a slow student. "I have not yet found a way to live forever, girl. I expect to exist a great while longer, but when I am gone....what holds the rabble together then, eh? No King, no Living God-Emperor to walk among them and keep order. Against a weaker man....against Geoffrey, they would eat him at the first sign of trouble. The one that follows me needs to be able to do what is necessary to keep the cattle in line. A few more years, and the naysayers would have trembled at the mention of a King Jacques far more than they would have for me. It will take years to fashion another successor on that level." He shook his head. "All gone now, because of your hysterical, petulant outburst. Arthur's final trueborn child, a Witch....he would have hated that."

"Why do you hate him?" Talia's mouth trembled. "Hate my father, hate my whole family so much? What did we ever do to you? What did he ever do to you?"

He looked at her for a long time, then, only gazed at her silently. She had never seen that peculiar edge in his stare before. His statement, when it came, was even more disarming. "My mother never loved me, do you know that?"

She was so taken back by this sudden, emotional frankness that for a moment she had nothing to say. "If...if you're trying to get me to feel sorry for you..."

"I expect no such thing. It is a statement of fact, nothing more. She never loved me. Pushed me aside from the second I was born. Expected me to wither away on the sidelines like Roderic." His eyes bored into her; she felt suddenly sick, like she was being exposed to something rotting and vile, if it was even possible for ideas or feelings to be like that. "But Arthur...he was stupid, all of our schoolmasters said so, and any fat squire could have swung a sword better than he did. But our mother latched on to him like a parasite. Preening and fawning over him, and when he grew he did not even need her--he could preen and fawn over himself, all he liked, for nothing. Every battle he won, every political victory, I secured it for him and yet he was always the one praised for it. The Great Griffin, they call him still, even upon this ship we are sailing in." There was a petulant edge to his voice. She had never been able to imagine her Uncle as a child, but now, she could almost see it; these wounds went deep, back decades. "And our mother...always telling him of his grand destiny, his future heroism, filling his tiny mind with tales of how great things would one day be because of him. I resented it at the time. But I think, in the end, I am grateful to her. It is not her fault she had her prophetic grand designs for the wrong child. She was merely one of the cattle, after all. And without that....fear, I suppose you might call it, of having my worthless brother claim everything I accomplished as his own...I might never have become the man I am today." He paused, regarding her. "You look just like my mother, did you know that?"

There was a long silence, then. Talia's mind was whirling again; she could not speak. She felt as if she might burst into tears.

Dominic finally broke the silence. "I brought you here as a favor to Lord Knox, to ask you again if you will reconsider. Will you marry him?"

Talia took a steadying breath. Her vision blurred with tears, but her voice was steady. "No."

"I suspected as much. This was pointless, as so many of Knox's ideas are." He turned away from her for a moment, then back again. "I think....I think hanging is too common. You are a Blackthorne, after all. When the end comes..." He laid one massive hand on Redwing's grip. "When the end comes, I will do it myself. With this very blade that was once your father's. Oh, Arthur would really hate that."

The Bloodhawk smiled, then, and that made for a chilling sight.

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Kotorchix
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Kotorchix » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:21 am

Anger thrummed as a smooth current through her veins. It wasn’t the sort of rage that broke the mind, made her scream or want to throw things. This was something else, something she knew was her sense of justice kicking in. Justice by the laws of the Blackthornes would result in Talia’s death. But this justice was one that she could feel was going to change her. For the worse or better, she didn’t know. But she could sense Lyron was frightened of it.

“Just, just hold on!” he called, running after her along the path through the gardens. “Look, too much is happening with our own house right now! Darius and Serenity, Drake, the… the thing with… Claire, slow down. You’re going to get us all killed.”

Nimbe was off grabbing some food for them as Claire had requested. But Lyron had disregarded her suggestion he should start packing, and instead was wasting time and breath on chasing her down trying to talk her out of this.

“Casim’s already given me this talk, Lyron,” she snapped over her shoulder just as he caught up. “You don’t have to come with me.”

“Are you mad?” Lyron’s brows furrowed. “Of course I do.”

Claire stopped at the door to her guest room and looked at Lyron finally. His white hair had come loose from its ponytail, flowing freely about his shoulders. She sighed, then took his shoulder and squeezed it gently. “I know,” she murmured. “We’re a team.”

“That’s only going to change when you get married. Then I won’t be the only man in your life, and I can’t deal with that sort of competition.”

She gave his arm a quick smack in response to his joke. She turned the handle and walked in, Lyron quick on her heels. “Maybe you should consider letting Nimbe stay here,” Lyron suggested.

“No, I don’t think so,” Claire murmured. “We’re going to need someone that knows how to-”

She cut herself off, feeling eyes on her. In an instant, she had grabbed the unlit bronze candleholder near the door, wielding it like a mace. But in the same breath, her eyes connected with those of a frightened child. She shoved the candleholder into Lyron’s hands and he fumbled to catch it.

“Where did you come from?” she asked, her voice gentler than it had been before. It was a stupid question. Despite the blond hair she could clearly see the boy was a drow. “You were at the wedding,” she realized aloud.

The little blonde, pewter skinned boy had covered his head in anticipation of a blow that never came-surely expecting another kind of visit upon him. His right arm was bleeding badly, a projectile had torn though what little muscle there was on the arm, it was clearly in need of dressing. His eyes were as wide as saucers and filled with fresh tears, stained rivers were lining his cheeks, he'd been here for a good time. The gold in his eyes went form shock to slow realization and sniffling as he tried to 'man up' as it were but failed spectacularly crying more and trying to wipe at his face smearing blood from his arm onto his face as he tried to talk.

"Grandpa and sailors took Mama and the others...and I can't find Mister Fang....and I can't find Uncle Divan.....and....and I just wanna go home please don't take me outside they'll find me" he was clearly unable to make total sense, as if Claire could somehow managed to understand who this little boy's mother was and the like. He couldn't even give his name, he was so scared about being caught he must have been trying his best to hide where nobody would come looking and now that he had been found he was trying not to be pulled out and away into danger.

Claire motioned to her dresser. "Lyron, there are some clean cloths in the top drawer," she said, before approaching the boy. She offered him a hand up. "Come, sit on the bed. We'll clean up that blood."

She might not have known who his mother was, but Mister Fang and Uncle Divan were some indication. He'd been left behind. Internally, she cursed his dumbass drow relatives.

The little boy shook a little and his ears twitched reflexively but he took the hand and sat on the bed trying to stifle his crying "I'm Saki....Mama is....Mama is Lady Maria and my Papa is Garin Dul-Sansiska but he's not here either...I saw him talking to Mister Darius and then he just went away" His eyes weren't really focused as he tried to look away from Claire's face, clearly raised to try and put on strong fronts in front of a lady so as not to appear weak but he also couldn't help but be a child and forget that these lessons sucked.

"Moma tried to stop it but they killed Auntie's knights, and I got told to run and find Uncle and not get caught. Auntie hit the sailors with her cane and Miss Susi jumped on one of their backs so they couldn't catch me so quick. Miss Niri tried but Grandpa hit her really hard, and Moma was keeping them from getting to me" eh was recounting how he got here int he first place, blankly and trying not to break down again, a pretty fucked up way for what could be no older than a ten year old to have to go through.

It wasn't just Blackthorne who had gone off the deep end, this night was filled with lunacy and it would spare nobody.

Claire and Lyron exchanged glances as Lyron pressed the clean cloth into Claire's hand. She knelt down before Saki on the bed so she could look more closely at his arm. "It's okay," she soothed. "You don't need to explain. We can get you back home to people that can help your family."

She felt Lyron shift behind her, positioning himself between her and the door. This child had been through some danger, a danger that they couldn't be certain wasn't going to reach them too.

The door opened suddenly and Lyron was the one wielding the candleholder as if he were going to smash Nimbe's face in. The small elf woman stared around at everyone, then her eyes settled on Saki's wound.

"That needs stitches," she said softly.

"I've never stitched flesh before," Claire admitted.

"I have," Nimbe said.

She moved across the room and went rifling through another drawer as she set down the bag of food and drink she had packed. She withdrew a small cloth pouch and unwrapped it to reveal a sewing kit. Claire grimaced as Nimbe held up a curved needle.

"Don't... just flash that around," she said. "Come on, he's a child."

Nimbe went to Saki's side and unceremoniously hiked up her skirt so he could see her calf. A thin line of silver marked an old wound. "I stitched this myself. It will hurt," she said. "But I was around your age when I did it. If I can do it, you can get through the pain. Just remember, the feeling will pass."

Claire watched as Nimbe took the cloth from her and indicated that Lyron give her the candleholder. He did, and she clicked her fingers a few times over the wick of the candle. Eventually, an ember sparked to life. She held the needle over it for a long moment.

"There is whiskey in the bag," she told Claire.

"Uh, good to know."

Nimbe stared at Claire a long moment. "To... disinfect the wound..."

"Oh."

Claire rummaged through the bag and handed it to her. She exchanged the lit candle holder for the flask. Nimbe poured a bit of whiskey over the needle, then looked Saki in the eyes. "This is going to hurt."

Claire took Saki's hand. "You can squeeze if you need to. Try to stay still. It will be over soon."


The child tried to have a stern face but the pain was very different from what he experience clearly as his eyes scrunched and his grip tightened into Claires, the hot needle pulling the torn flesh together and stitching the wound closed. For his part Saki wasn't screaming, wasn't fidgeting, just squeezing on Claire's hand and keeping his eyes tightly closed as his teeth gnashed. He was keeping still, still enough at least there was some minor gasps of pain and reflexes but not enough to ruin the stitches.

When it was over he had stopped crying, he had calmed down now that there were people to help him ad he used a cloth to wipe at his face while his newly stitched arm was covered to make sure it didn't get messed up. With a clean face he was a cute little halfbreed, it was clear by his features he wasn't fully drow. His body glowed with faint golden light and the area around his arm seemed to react with the faint magical lines in Nimbe's touch because it was glowing gold more heavily around there without Saki even realizing as Lyron helped him into clean spare clothes.

"You look like Mister Darius, are you guys brothers?" he asked it in a very nonchalant way only children could ask anything, open and honest to a fault.

"Supposedly," Lyron muttered, nearly under his breath.

Claire easily saw the anger simmering on Lyron’s face, but her eyes were on Nimbe as she finished the binding. "I didn't know you could summon fire," she said softly.

"It's the only thing I really remember from my mother's teachings," Nimbe admitted. "It doesn't always work." She gently squeezed Saki's upper arm. "All done. I wish I knew healing magic, but that's the best I can do for now."

"Papa says my body heals on it's own cause I have aura, I dunno what that means but I don't get hurt when we practice fist fighting. He says since it's golden that means I have lots of mana to protect me....but I can't use it-it only comes out whenever it wants to" He rubbed at his arm instinctively and felt the tenderness and looked at it, more than the typical passing glance as a child looks at many things in a sort of own universe type of way before looking to the adults in the room.

"I'm sorry I went in your room without asking, Lady Claire, I was just really scared and didn't want anyone to find me." the elvish child wrapped onto her in a hug and then hugged onto Nimbe, it was a soft hug from soft little arms. At least he was appreciative of what they did for him and not some spoiled little brat, despite his parentage being almost the opposite in a way he was probably one of the more noble of the 'noble' drow elves. Even if he was just a little boy.

"That's fine, Saki," Claire said. "It's a good thing you came in here. We were just about to leave for Everglow. You have family at the Azure Box, yeah?"

"I do, I know Everglow will be safe cause all the soldiers would stop Grandpa, they're really strong and Auntie Ornia is there now too... Are you guys gonna go save Lady Talia? Nobody will tell me what she did but I heard people calling her a witch, and that's bad when westerners start saying that word according to Papa."

Claire and Lyron exchanged glances. Lyron opened his mouth to reply, but Claire cut him off. "You can't tell anyone we are helping her, Saki. Please, promise me this. It's very important it looks like we're just... visiting Everglow."

Saki nodded his head and pressed his lips together, miming the locking of a key across them to ensure the secret never came out. "I promise, I like Lady Talia, she's nice even if she comes from the grumpy west where everyone forgot how to smile" a cute term for how dispassionate those from the west tended to be.. The elven boy wasn't quite as ignorant as others might believe him to be, he had his own brand of childish wisdom. "If you need anything from our house I'm sure Auntie wouldn't mind giving it to you, she's really nice, I heard she used to be High Priestess of the Servants Faith...whatever that means but it sounds important. She's really, really nice"

"We'll be all right," Claire said. She looked at Lyron again. "But you should go pack. Try and find us some blades too, if that's possible."

"I have my own," Nimbe said softly.

Claire and Lyron stared at her. Nimbe gave a small shrug, then tapped her upper thigh as if that would answer a question. Lyron shook his head and swiftly left.

Saki nodded along silently as he watched them all and tried to ignore the soreness of his arm, his face was scrunched in hard thoughts, clearly he was trying to make sense of something, or maybe just digesting fully the events that he'd had to go through. Regardless it seemed to be something that was drawing a lot of his attention, until his head snapped back to reality and he faced Claire with his same big saucer eyes.

"The Accord is really weird compared to all the other nobles houses, you're not stuck up or snobby at all and you wanna get your hands dirty when things are going bad, I wanna be like that when I'm older, I don't wanna be stuck up or work for our family's bank. I wanna fix problems myself too, you're all really nice and really care about the right things being done"

“Our house is still young,” Claire said. “If we start ignoring the needs of others or letting injustices pass now, what right do we have to rule the commonfolk now or in the future? I say none.”



The silence was deafening. Her cries into the Void were the quietest thing she had ever heard, despite the shaking of her body as she screamed. She paced. She ran into the darkness, always deeper but never any further from that one light shining down on her wrong body.

She didn’t know how long she stayed there. Oblivious to any need other than the one to leave this place, she didn’t grow weary despite her constant striding. But she finally sank to the floor, disgusted with her efforts. Her hands smoothed over the floor, finding it was dust beneath her feet. Compacted so tightly she had thought it rock, but with the touch of her fingers it crumbled. She clawed away a handful of the ground, but revealed only more lint. She shook the soot from her hands and stared about again.

This place wasn’t just silent. It was dead. She couldn’t even reach her own pocket dimension for items such as clothing or weaponry. The tug of magic was just nothing.

Her examination turned to her body. She wore clothes, but they were made of spidersilk. Until this moment she hadn’t noticed and had an intense desire to throw them off. But she didn’t, choosing instead to pat down herself in the hopes of finding something – anything – to break up the desolation of this place. She wore a form-fitting suit, black and glistening with the sheen only spidersilk could give off. Queen Spidersilk.

A strange feeling settled across her face, growing from the corners of her mouth and cracking across her jaw like a blade had to slice skin to allow muscle such movement. How did a smile feel so wrong on this body? She didn’t know. She didn’t care.

Kraai had left a touch of magic in this place after all.

She breathed deeply, her mind sinking through the threads of the fabric. She glided along the intricate designs, soaking up every remnant of void-tainted mana knitted through the silk. She felt the poison of such magic enter through her skin, her mind, but the minor sacrifice was worth it for just a touch of power back.

With this, she could feel again. And with enough absorption, maybe even escape this hellscape in time.



Crossing from Sylvie Isle to Caybourne was non-eventful as one of the Heartstone Estate guards ferried them across. Stepping out onto Caybourne docks, Claire and Lyron made certain Saki didn’t slip as they left the yacht’s slippery deck. Along with his new, over-sized shirt he had been given to replace the bloodied one, he now also wore a dark green travel cloak of Claire’s.

Lyron’s bow was bound over his shoulder, a quiver of arrows at his waist. He had changed from his party wear into something more practical. He wore leather greaves and a leather jacket over a dark shirt – all in shades of grey. At his hip he bore a dagger on plain display, another strapped to his calf. A grey cloak bloomed behind him as he walked, a leather pauldron fastened over its clasp on his left shoulder.

Claire had opted to wear a dark purple dress, the bodice clinging to her form with a black corset. The skirts actually had splits up the side, not that they would be seen with regular movements, but her mother had always said this would be a good dress to wear for travel if trousers were not an option. Keyair had trained all his daughters that practicality was paramount during travel, even over first good impressions. This dress allowed the luxury of both while also plumping up her bosom and providing a decent distraction. Against Nimbe’s advisement, she wore a gold chain about her neck with an onyx amulet. She wore a hooded cape similar to the one she had given Saki, but this one had grey fur trimming the edges which fanned at her face. As for the dagger Lyron had given her; that was strapped to her thigh, accessible by one of the splits.

Despite the cold, Nimbe had refused a cloak. She wore brown leggings, a green tunic tied with a length of leather at her waist. She also wore a leather jacket, but she had cut it off at below the waist for some reason. She wore a cowl, in the Ludlow green of Claire’s cloak. She walked along behind the others with a leather satchel bound over her shoulder and hanging at her hip. Claire still didn’t know where the dagger she claimed to have was hiding, but that bag had a meal or two for the group in it. Once they were back at Twicefreed Manor food wouldn’t be an issue, but who knew when that would be if Claire’s information was correct.

Commodore Moxus had only mentioned his mission’s results in passing to Claire. It wasn’t exactly a quest she was meant to be privy to, but he had wanted her to know all there was about the Shifter to ease her bustling mind. That demon had taken her little brother and used a ‘Sender’ in Maria Vale. There had been some muttering from the giant cat as he turned to walk off about how inaccurate such a magical gift seemed to be. Claire wasn’t certain what that meant, but she hoped this risk she was taking would not outweigh the results.

She wanted to get to Everglow City as fast as possible, and magic seemed to be just that.

Doubts nibbled at her. When she had first thought up this mad plan, it had only been her doing this. Which in retrospect, was even madder than she had thought. She knew nothing of fighting. She could hardly navigate the city on her own. And she was a woman – which, despite her great courage and sense of equality, would still be a great barrier in being alone. As much as she hated to admit it, she was vulnerable.

So Lyron and Nimbe had entered the plan. Both capable, independent people she could rely on. They knew the city from different angles. They were both versed in combat – though she was still yet to know what exactly Nimbe could do. They also knew the risks by this point.

But she hadn’t told Saki. She just hoped he remained youthfully oblivious to the danger she was possibly exposing him to.

And what danger was she putting those back home in? What of her father? What would he say if he knew of her plan?

They stood before the blue door, the artful scribbling ‘Lord Ixium Edelis, Arcaneologist’ sprawled across it in fanciful strokes. Only the light of the street lamps was enough to illuminate these words at the fourth hour of the day. Without consulting her companions further, she rapped her knuckles against the wood. She wanted this done with.



The Day after the Wedding of Casim and Rivka Ludlow

Aegis Mabusa hadn’t expected the road between Everglow City and the small town of Homefast to be dirt. Highways webbed out from the city to various holdings across Aradia, cobbled and maintained by the taxes of the lords and ladies here on the mainland. Pines and firs stretched across the road, but left plenty of room for a carriage or wagon. Still, Aegis felt some relief he had opted for a horse instead of hiring a ride. The bumpy ruts of this road would have made the trip an absolute hell on his backside.

Across his back was a silver claymore. The pommel was encrusted with a huge ruby, several smaller topazes trimming it and spiralling up the hilt in a delicate pattern. Each of these topazes formed the middle of a tiny flower inscribed through the silver hilt. The length of the blade was clean, polished to a fine glint.

He sat tall in the saddle, his light ash complexion complementing the silvery white of his tied-back hair. Long ears flicked forward with his horse’s as a hare darted before them, disappearing into the foliage on the other side of the road before either could react further. His steel gaze shifted along the sides of the road, waiting for a pursuer to bolt after the critter, but there was none and the horse continued on in relative silence.

Soft puffs of warmth clouded the air at its nostrils, the thudding of its hooves the only sound bouncing off the road.

The small town of Homefast was unimpressive. But its buildings were sturdy, its people fed, and more than capable of giving him directions to the Holdenhome Keep. This road also held no pretensions of glory, appearing as nothing more than a backroad in the woods like so many others crisscrossing Aradia.

There were birds high in the pines and firs above them and Aegis tilted his head back to listen to their song. It was rough. Crows cawed in no particular melody and before long his ears had folded back against his head in denial of their symphony. They drowned out the delicate chirps and twitters of smaller birds, ones made to warble, not scream any old thing that passed through their walnut of a brain.

So instead he began to sing. As his voice rose through the trees, the cries of the crows became softer, almost reverent. An almost curious tone took their caws, like a soft oh? being asked of the wind.

It speaks in silence
A black broken tongue
Slipping like fluid red sin
Rattles down its lungs


And along it swung
Limp muscle and loosened skin
Monster of the streets
Dark blood rolling down its chin


Upon its face a wide grin
In its throat, heartbeats
Desire in its eyes
Upon your flesh, eats


The final lingering note of his song was broken by a deep chuckle off-road. He startled, his horse sidestepping with a whinny as he tugged the reins away from the throaty sound. He recovered quickly and his hand was up and over his shoulder, gripping the hilt of his claymore.

“Who goes there!?” he demanded. A low buzzing sounded at his ear as a bee landed on his shoulder. He shrugged it off, but it resettled atop his ear tip. His ear flicked and the bee swiftly took its leave. “I have no gold, but can provide a good fight if that’s what you seek, vagabond.”

The foliage rustled and his sword sang free of its sheathe. But the creature that stepped from the briars was not what he had expected. This human’s long dirty blonde hair was thick and unruly. He was shirtless, a casual tunic tied about his waist and tightened beneath his belt. An elaborate tattoo in dark blue adorned his right bicep, portraying a corded rope and winding knots. Despite the chill in the air and the armed drow facing him down he seemed entirely unbothered. A short beard, the same dusty color as his hair, adorned his face. He looked Aegis up and down with an appraising gaze just as steely as the warrior’. He wiped his red-stained hands on a rag from his trousers pocket.

“Vag’bond,” he purred in a terribly gruff voice. It filled the air, stilling the birds like a predator had growled instead of a man speaking. A shiver travelled down Aegis’ spine. “Tha’s a new’un.”

“Whose blood is that?” Aegis asked of the rapidly-reddening rag. He swung down from the saddle, brandishing his blade. “Who have you harmed? Answer me, bandit!”

The man’s bushy brows lowered and a sinister smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. The same dark chuckle rattled forth and he tossed the rag aside. His hands were still stained that terrible red. “P’haps ya’d be best off haltin’ all the name-callin’, greyskin. They’ll getcha fists in yer pretty face if’n yer not careful.”

“I’d rather not attack an unarmed man,” Aegis snapped. “Where is your weapon?”

“Yer lookin’ at it.”

“Against a claymore, I don’t see your half-naked body doing much good to protect you.”

“Who said anythin’ ‘bout protection?” the ruffian growled. “Wasn’t talkin’ bout my body.”

Aegis faltered a moment, but a shimmer gleamed across his body as he raised a magical ward. “That explains the lack of armor in coming out here to ambush me, wizard.”

The human’s eyes squinted and his head tilted as he looked at the drow for a long, sombre moment. Finally, he placed his hands on his waist. “Wot th’ fock’d ya want? I came oot ‘cause y’were yellin’ crazy shit at the trees.”

The son of Mabusa’s brows drew down. “Take me to the victim that blood belongs to. Then maybe we can talk.”

“Not sure I wanna, ‘onest,” the man snorted derisively. “Yer a bossy bastard, ain’t ya?”

Aegis strode forward, blade brandished. But before he could take another step, a terrible buzzing filled his ears. In the time it took for a half-moon to drop to the floor, a swarm of bees had closed between him and the horse. It cried and quickly galloped off up the road. Aegis swore, turning to face the new threat while realizing his sword would do nothing against this enemy. He strengthened his ward, gaze flicking back to the crazy woodsman.

“Call them off!” he demanded.

“They’re only doin’ what they feel is right, strange lad in their territory an’ all.”

“Bees don’t organize like that, stop with the tomfoolery! I can cast a fireball if I must!”

The same head tilt and squint. Then the man let his hands drop down by his sides. The bees dispersed. “Yer more violent than I was ‘specting fer a florist. Fireball this, slash that, an’ I don’ see any flowers.”

With a start, Aegis realized the man knew exactly who he was. The dumbfounded expression on his face must been something as the man roared with laughter. It was warmer than that dark little chuckle he had led with. He extended a reddened hand. “Ya fool, yer on m’ land. Y’think there’d be bandits oot here?”

This was Richard Holdenhome. And Aegis had not expected this at all. He had seen a portrait of the man’s father some years ago, a quiet sallow little man with dark hair and hollow eyes. This man was a beast, flaming with life and passion. This was the man he had come to see, to sell his mother’s blossoms to for his apiary. Aegis stared at his red hand, then sheathed his claymore and reached gingerly for it. But his hand never connected with Richard’s. He couldn’t bring himself to.

“Then if not blood, what is that!?”

“Fockin’ berry juice.” Richard clasped his hand. “Noaw, come on oop tae th’ house. We got business t’talk. I hope y’brought seeds if y’didn’t bring th’ flowers at least.”
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dinthalion
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by dinthalion » Sun Jul 14, 2019 3:54 am

The days since the wedding had sped by. Everyone was busy and there was much going on. Rivka had yet to find her 'role' in her new life. She still felt like a guest though she where things were and was learning the routine. Casim was busy and she hardly saw Lord Ludlow, her own father had left to deal with affairs in Briochi the day after the wedding. She felt like the one person who had nothing to do among the barely hidden chaos. She had learned Rasheba, who'd promised to join her personal guard and teach her swordplay had left the day of the wedding to search out those who had attacked her family. Rivka supposed she understood but she still felt a little betrayed anyway that the woman had intentionally misled her.

She and Casim had of course gone through the gifts. There was very little that was that exciting, this wedding had hardly been on the level of her fist. Rivka had begun the task of writing the thank you cards, but her heart wasn't in it. It was hard to focus.

She glanced around the sitting room. Casim was away attending to some matter or another. *****

She looked across the desk and picked up the picture Divian had given them. She held it a moment and smiled. It reminded her that everything would be ok, at least for her.

Her mind drifted to Talia. She felt guilt, frustration. Talia had offered her her help but what could she offer her? 'There's nothing we can do' seemed to be the general consensus. What could she do? Nothing, not here. But her eyes wandered back to the picture, maybe she couldn't do anything now but she knew someone who might have the power and the motivation. She pushed aside the thank you notes.

Dear Uncle Divian,

Thank you for your note and picture. I don’t hate you. I just wish things were different. I know you’ll always be there for me.

I know you don’t like the Blacktornes but is there anything you can do for Talia? She was my friend, she was trying to help me. I don’t know of any way I can help her and father is too afraid. But it doesn’t seem fair at all. Why do they even hate magic, isn’t it a gift of the Lady? Please if there’s anything you can do help her, she at least deserves a trial.
Love,

Rivka.


She didn’t know if it would help but it was worth a try. Divian was always full of surprises and hard to predict. She put her pen down. She hadn’t really talked to Casim about this. There was too much on his plate right now though. His family was still mourning their losses, still didn’t even know who or why, she couldn’t burden him with the problems of a stranger.

She still felt a little shy and unsure around him. Marriage hadn’t quite been the passionate romantic adventure she had been so sure a few years ago it was supposed to be. She wondered if the books and stories were wrong or if there was
Something wrong with her. She liked Casim, he was nice, she was pretty sure she trusted him. But she didn’t have the strong, overwhelming emotions she’d hoped for and he wasn’t the only thing she thought about. She still felt like she barely knew him. And a part of her was glad for that, not sure she wanted to give someone all her trust, all her thoughts and all of her emotion, she was guarded. Maybe she was even afraid, afraid to feel like that and put all of her hope in one person. Life was so much more complicated now that it had been, her emotions were more complex and she was starting to understand there was no one she could completely rely on to keep her safe and make her happy. Not Casim, not her father, not Divian, maybe it wasn’t a bad thing if she relied a little more on herself.
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Re: The Isles of Aradia (IC/New Settlers Welcome.)

Post by Skummy the Kitty » Sun Jul 14, 2019 7:10 am

Divan
Heartstone Estate, Crypt

Divan stumbled around drunkenly, within the bowels of the Heartstone Estate, having managed to offload an entire cask of wyvern mead as the chaos that erupted after Talia’s fateful move had overwhelmed his senses, and he drowned it with booze. Sure he was sober enough to help Drake, but beyond that he was to the four winds of it, stupidly tanked on the high proof alcohol. He had managed to ignore all of the going’s on around the world at this time, by now he could have thrashed the Blackthorne’s fleet, or killed Xankresh and Argavir, or hell even just forced everyone to sit down and shut up.

No, none of that, he was down here in this admittedly enjoyable cavern walking-er stumbling along. He had darkvision but even that was only marginally sufficient with how blitz he was, as he crossed a doorway he decided to double back and open it. Within he found the entire of the Accord’s family members. Set into urns after they were disposed of by the proper customs of Aradia. He shut the door quietly and stumbled in, and began to watch over the still urns within the chamber.

They stirred an old hurt inside his soul, beyond the madness that was slowly setting back in even after he had found his ‘cure’. There were gaps in his memories, things that were only shadows of a thought of a reluctant opening of old wounds. The loss of many that he had no recollection of-the forgotten due to...magic. There was something far more sinister at play here and through drunkenness came clarity, someone had invaded his mind and forced him into a self that was not his own.

He could not tell who, but he knew there were many that he lost within lifetimes over his own perceived one. Almost as if someone had pressed for a reset on his life a little over two centuries ago…the thought was gone. He looked around once more in the odd serenity of death and quiet mournful state of the crypt, and his face fell as he was face to face with mortality. Not of his own, he was immortal, but of those that he had once known and that were gone. Good friends, family unto themselves, comrades, and many others hiding behind a veil of sorts yet to be unlifted.

He nestled himself into the crook of one of the unfinished gravesites, Jennifer’s most likely if these were arranged in any kind of order. He felt okay now, in the hall of the dead he felt like he was allowed to be sad about the people he missed. He wanted to stop returning to this point of madness and just live normally again. He knew he couldn’t, power was what was ultimately necessary in this world and to attain it one had to let go of everything else.

He had done it, once and that was probably enough...when he sobered up he’d go back to his same selfish antics but for now he’d allow himself to rest. Rest with the dead, and watch over them, a place of rest with the dead...that sounded, peaceful enough.

He was soon in a slumber packed into a carved alcove, above the ashes of Jennifer Ludlow.

_____________________________________________________

Drake
Gracious Ornia, Enroute to Mainland

(reviewed by kotor)

Drake had to look at the ghostly image before him, well not so much ghostly, but unexpectedly ethereal in a kind of way as she shed her illusionary cloak and stood before the two men. It was clear she was no longer of this world, her body was not all the way there. She had a sad smile and nodded as if reading the muscular giant that was once her own father-her words had not sunk in to him as of yet he was simply stunned.

“Yes Drake, I’m A’Draak’s child, and yes-I am very much deceased due to the actions of Xanvani...to skip a very long story you came back to life, through the power of the heart being held in your corpse, and raised me alongside Miss Marigold. But I did die when I was sixteen when you were wished to go away, I tried stopping it by holding onto you but wound up somewhere and kinda, just fell asleep...then I woke up, and I met Godmind, he says I’m dead but that’s not forever, not if he can figure out how to rebuild me a body” she looked at both the men and shrugged, noting it was a pretty implausible story to be completely transparent.

“I’m a ghost inhabiting an incomplete and faulty body, I’d like for you to peacefully surrender the Heart please. I would rather not fight the shell that my father inhabits and his friend, I even have tools for you to fight back against Xanvani and win this time. But first I need to do what Godmind asked”

Elmer didn’t really, well, react at all his face was quite impassive as far as masks went, to be quite brutally fair he had opened up in complete confidence to Drake about his past. This new addition of explanation was little more than icing on the insanity cake for the night. He waved his hand, he would not be interjecting unless it came to a point where his assistance was needed. Until then it was in Drake’s hands to make up his mind what happened between him, and his supposed ghost daughter.

“I’m...honestly at a loss, really this entire night is one massive clusterfuck of information I’m swimming through and I’m fairly sick of it all. If you’re actually my daughter then by all means, tell me how the void any of this makes sense?”

“Oh, well, it doesn’t-nor will it and you really shouldn’t think too hard.” The young woman began taking steps as he body shifted and glid this way and that as it tried to remain in one piece. “Come on, do the thing, do it, do it, do it” she was reaching up at him now, having crossed the distance and Drake had a weird expression before picking her up and resting their heads together. There was silence and he gave her forehead a kiss and set her back down quietly, he just shrugged.

“That answers that, fine, take it from me but won’t I die?”

“Nope, cause I know that your bod can remain functional for about a good thirty seconds before you’re actually dead. I’ll be gone as soon as I touch the heart, and then you’ll not need it once I’m gone”

“Will it hurt?”

“No…..no I think it’ll feel much better, you’ll get the equipment after I’m gone, okay I’m going to reach in now” he hand extended and placed itself within his chest cavity, the heart was hard at work and all three of them could feel the mass of magic and souls within the object scream out in defiance attempting to will themselves away from this ghost’s reach. “They’re lively, for ghosts, I’m not sure if you’ll ever be A’Draak. Even after Godmind does what he needs to, your soul is inside this thing too”

“It’ll work itself out, always finds a way to”

“You really are my Father” her voice was softer now, she didn’t want to do it, afraid of killing who she knew to be the one who raised her. He reached out and clutched at her semi-ethereal arm and pulled her in. Her hand brushed against the heart and she closed her eyes as her hand began to encapsulate the artifact. In a moment she was gone, her gear vanished, and left standing was the stone like impassiveness of Drake. Dead on his feet in a sense but still conscious enough to feel his bodily functions quickly tank out as his heart was no longer in his chest….

Then everything went white, the world, the sky, something was happening and there was a shudder that could be felt throughout all of Terros as blinding light pierced through the sky as if it were blinding daybreak. Then as soon as it began it was over, and standing before Elmer, was A’Draak Morvala. Shorter, standing at only 6’2” now having lost much of his height over others. His muscles were more realistically proportioned to his body, no longer the jacked up statue but a well built and strong soldier’s body that could move easily and quickly along a battlefield.

His tight braids gave way to short and well maintained hair, he had those same eyes as when he first came on. But instead of piercing they had warmth and kindness behind the silver, his ears were decorated with two silver earrings. He was dressed in a basic blue long sleeve and new pants to fit his new statue, plus actual boots so he wasn’t flying off without any shoes on. He patted himself down and sighed a little bit agitated he was missing all those mega muscles but also relieved not to be that huge anymore.

“I guess this means Notusi and Xanvani are going to be back to their old selves too”


With a lightly quirked brow, Elmer's reaction was minimal although some doubt lingered beyond his eyes. His brows drew as he looked Drake up and down. Mild confusion gave way to something more logical, although this situation was anything but. "What a bizarre evening. I assume you... are still you?"

“Yeah…yeah I’m the me that you and Serenity have come to know and care about, I’m also the one that’s going to get her back and handle Xankresh afterwards.”

“I see” Elmer looked to how the night sky still stretched onwards and the mainland or Aradia was not yet in sight “I’m going to bed, today has been far too much for me to keep up with”

“Agreed, there’s some good quarters downstairs” with that, Drake led his friend down to the small crew quarters and the two fo them chose a respective sleeping bunk and feel quickly into slumber, the ragings on of the night having finally concluded and leaving both worn down and tired.

____________________________________________

Xanvani
Fading Patience, Mainland

Xanvani rubbed at his face, painfully aware of his reality now that his magic eye was no longer present, and painfully aware that with the insanity lifted all his goals and ambitions had simply run off and vanished forever. He was left with a deep sense of annoyance at this, but also a lifted weight that it no longer mattered what his plan was. All that mattered now was that everyone would die and that would be how he’d send himself out. He looked to Notusi, frowning as his co-conspirator and one actual confidant lay dead, where Xan had managed to survive long enough-this guy had gotten an entire arm sliced with nobody to help him.

A rather uneventful death for one such as the Shadow King, but it would save him from a hard choice later on, on how to cut him down. He’d simply use his forces regardless, they’d already plotted it out, while the dwarves would once again claim Avamor it wouldn't matter. Not now, not here, he pulled a pipe and lit up a match, puffing at its contents as he watched the daylight stream over the damages to his boat. His hostages were gone as well, taken by Zehin, Arkon would have to clean that up for him or he’d get a strong right to the jaw.

Groaning, the ancient lifted his body off the deck and shook himself into a suitable level of awake. He gathered up the bodies of Wolfgang and Notusi’s cat guardian. They hadn’t been spared in it last night either, but it again spared him having to kill his loyal hand. He wasn’t angry of saddened with their losses, just less people as a burden. The escapees were wounded and hungered and they had landed far enough that it would be a full day’s walk even to Fairsmith. They could be caught, and Xan would take him time butchering Zehin, for now though, he flexed his fingers outwards.

Millennia of age and deterioration were gone, what took their place was a king in his prime, with an unseen amount of power from previous experimentation. His eye wasn’t coming back, but it was alright, in the end it wouldn’t matter...nothing would matter any longer soon enough. Between demons, human conspiracy, and the drow killing each other over some machinations he couldn't give a shit about anymore there would be a coming of death and he’d just expedite it.

Pulling off his ragged set of trousers he went down the living quarters and found one last pair of dark brown linens and an old tattered longcoat which he draped around his form. He took up a sash and stored Crescendo inside, before heading back up and tossing himself over the rail of his ship’s deck. There was never going to be another rise of this thing, the damned cat had vanished and the ship were smashing off of the eastern Aradian coast. The soldiers had been given orders previously before all hell broke loose, the only thing that was not ordered was the purging of House Dul-Sansiska, he’d have to take care of that himself. He had forgotten to loot Wolfgang’s shoes so he just started walking along the rocky coast, far off in the distance was Everglow City, he’d get there in a few days. Arkon would hunt the escapees and anyone crazy enough not to stand and fight, and Xan would get his chance to destroy that ancestral abomination of a house. If he were lucky, Drake would be there waiting on his arrival and he could put the pup in his place, Garin too, and maybe by happenstance Saki would be there and he could have himself some fun in the midst of madness.
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Credit to Sammy and Nicodemus; one created my set for me, the other drew the source image as a request.
Thank You Both!

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