Floating Castle RP

It's a castle....and it's floating! :O

Moderator: Floating Castle Mods

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Guyshane on Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:38 am

Marcus set down his drink. “So remind me why you’re here again Zi?”

"It's like I said, I'm just curious about you and Mirae. Not keeping tabs on every guildmember or anything." She looked sheepishly into the bottom of her tankard. "She seems like a nice lady."

Marcus nodded as he took another bite of his meal. “That’s true. But what precisely are you asking?”

"Well..." she gestured vaguely. "Like... tell me more about her."

“Bahahahahaha!” Marcus continued laughing for a solid minute. “Oh I’d love to. Unfortunately you’d have to ask her,” he shrugged. “I still don’t even know what her surname is.”

Zi waved her small hand dismissively, unperturbed. "What's in a surname? A miserable pile of secrets. I'd ask her, but I don't know her. Mind helping me ask her? Or at least, set up a meeting."

Marcus scratched the back of his head. “What exactly are you trying to ask her?”

"It might not be your relationship status. Might not be."

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “Are you….trying to get relationship tips?”

Zi blinked, then laughed away his comment. "Oh, no, nothing like that. It's just that as a healer, it's my duty to keep track of all your.. emotional well-beings. I'm going to see Anji later."

Marcus snorted in derision. “Emotional well-being, sure. I bet this is-” A large series of crashes and crunches suddenly exploded out nearby. Marcus dropped some money on the table and whistled for Binky.

“Never a dull moment around here. Damn castle.”

Zi paled. "Did you hear that scream? It sounded like Kevin." She grabbed onto Marcus and mounted Binky behind him, hoping that her over-large animal ears were hearing things wrongly.

Galloping swiftly to the source of the disturbance, Zi was dismayed to see a trail of carnage leading from Anji's house to a hulking minotaur-like creature moving bullishly down the street.

Dammit that thing is heading towards the population centers. Marcus jumped down from Binky and was about to give chase when he noticed the wrecked building where Anji and Kevin’s apartment used to be. The warrior looked back and forth indecisively before turning and heading into the building. Zi followed him, prayers dropping from her lips like flies, tail stiff with fear.

I hope no one dies while I’m saving them. Or Anj will never forgive me. Marcus thought to himself. “ANJALI! KEVIN! ARE YOU GUYS ALIVE IN HERE?!?” The big man yelled out as he progressed inward.

Eliziya pushed away the cold dread curling within; Anji and Kevin lay on the floor in puddles of their own blood.

"Marcus, bandage Kevin. I'll take Anji," she ordered emotionlessly, forcing herself to think. Think! Eliziya kneeled and ran her gaze over her sist- her patient. Bleeding from lower orifices.. She closed her eyes and lay her hands over the patient's abdomen, casting an inquisitive pulse of magic. Liver. Back. Womb. Wom- Zi struggled to keep her gorge from rising. Womb. She cast a second probe within. It was dead.

Miscarriage.

Her vision blurred, and Zi rubbed away the hot tears. How had she not seen the signs? The darkening blue at the lips, the waxing of the flanks- recriminations later. Liver. Ruptured. Zi extended healing tendrils of energy, pulling internal vessels together and wrapping up the patient's liver in fibrous filaments drawn from the patient's own blood. Fragile, but it would have to do for now. Back. Misalignment, slipped disc. Spinal cord intact. Thank the saints. Nothing she dared do about the disc until they were someplace safe.

The womb. Zi gritted her teeth, reached for Anji's chastity and sent another pulse to loosen the muscles. Relax. Relax. She found herself whispering it more to herself than the cramped muscles. With a firm grip, Eliziya removed the..

"Marcus." Zi called, somehow keeping her voice steady through the squelch and stench of decaying matter and uterine blood. "Kevin's condition."

“Significantly bad.” Marcus replied. “ Only two wounds but the slash on his back is quite deep. He’s lucky its wasn’t any closer to the spine otherwise I’m pretty sure he’d be dead right now. The leg, that one is nasty not sure if there’s anything I can do about that.”

As he spoke the big man finished applying salve to the slash mark before cleaning a needle and starting a quick sew job. “This will not be one of my better pieces of work. He’ll have some nasty scars.”

Zi looked down at her niece, or nephew, then put it aside. She moved wordlessly to Kevin's side, repeating the process of probing. The male patient's body gave up few secrets: open fracture, leg; deep cut, back. Porcelain-white bone jutted from his thigh like a bloodied tombstone.

"Hold him down in case he wakes."

Then she grabbed both slick ends of the bone and thrust them back into the flesh, fingers vibrating with reconciliatory energy. Zi pulled out her crimson fingers from the patient's thigh slowly, careful not to break the newborn blood vessels. Skin regrew with a sound like a choked sob.

"Marcus, splint the leg." Without waiting for his reply, she returned to Anj- the female patient's side. Zi gazed at what might have been. Anjali would live. Eliziya felt for her pulse. Weak, but stable.

Marcus grabbed some nearby wood and began tying it to Kevin’s leg to hold it straight. “You’re really something Zi. Most healers couldn’t have done the job this well.”

She couldn't reply. She breathed away the lump in her gullet. "We need to get them back. Guildhouse."

Marcus hoisted Kevin’s limp form onto his shoulder. “And you will. We can rig up some drag stretchers and you can use Binky to pull them.”

"Anji. Back injury. We need to keep it straight. How stable is the stretcher?" Eliziya asked, voice breathy with weakness.

“How uneven is the ground? because that’s your answer.”

Zi closed her eyes; she had not the breath to curse. "Fix it up then."

Marcus quickly laid Kevin down outside before going back in and grabbing several long pieces of wood and the bedsheets. He quickly combine them with the rope in his bag and within a few minutes had a pair of stretchers. Moving quickly, he looped the ropes around Binky’s saddle.

“Okay now boy, do what Zi tells you. Once you’ve gotten them to the guildhall I want you to go and find Chet and Mirae. We’ll need all the healers we can get I fear.”

Binky neighed and whinnied in response before settling down and walking over to Zi. “You know Binky it’s times like these that make me wonder if someone brought you up here or you just came here of your own will.”

The horse looked back and let out a snort.

Marcus’ face went blank. My horse did not just sass me. I live in a kooky place but i refuse to believe things have gotten that weird.

"Help me with Anji," Zi said quietly, reaching down to hold Anji with hands gloved to the forearm in gore.

Marcus moved over and carefully helped Zi move her sister onto the stretcher.

Anji jerked, muscles spasming for a moment. “Kev’?”

"He's beside you." Eliziya said shortly. A single tear escaped the prison of her iris and fell onto Anjali, belying her curtness.

“He’ll be fine Anj, you both will.” Marcus commented from her other side.

“‘Ey, Marc’s.” Anji smiled, eyes closed. “D’dya take me for drinks, or what?”

“Psh, if only you were so lucky.” Marcus joked. “No it seems someone woke up a terrible beastie, again. And now I have to go fight it.”

Anji’s eyebrows narrowed. “F’nd som’ne ‘lse.”

Eliziya pulled gently on Binky's bridle. "Talk later. I'll bring them back. You.."

“I’ll fight it.” Marcus finished for her. “I mean someone has to. It’ll do too much damage if we just leave him.” Then he looked over at Anji.

“And I don’t need someone else to fight it. Just because you had trouble fighting this thing doesn’t mean I wont be cutting it up into steaks for dinner.” He replied, pretending to be annoyed.

"Don't fight it." Eliziya told him with a hardness in her eyes, baring her teeth and hissing without realising it. "Kill it."

“Fight, just a step in the killing process.” Marcus said shrugging as he started to head towards the chaos.

“Don’t drag it out; I can’t deal with more major injuries. But make it suffer,” she added.

Marcus shrugged one more time. “I’ll make it suffer if I don’t just kill it with the first hit. This thing probably just got lucky.” Then the warrior ran off towards to the source of the distress.

Eliziya tugged Binky away slowly, striking a balance between the need for haste and the makeshift sled’s stability. Marcus would deal with the creature soon enough. Behind the horse’s tail, Anji fell back into deep unconsciousness by her husband’s side.

----------

The Tauros reached out towards the woman who had fallen in front of it. “Weak, tremble and die.” But before the monster could reach its victim there was a sharp pain in its upper leg. The beast looked down to find a spear sticking out.

“Dammit I missed your kneecap. Looks like I’ll have to try again.”

The monster turned to see Marcus standing right in the middle of the street. It let out a burst of air from it’s nostrils. “You are weak, I will crush you.”

Marcus pulled out his falchion. “That’s big talk coming from dinner.”

The monster snorted and charged, clearly planning to simply trample the warrior, only to have it’s prey sidestep and deliver a light slash against its snout. The Tauros crashed into a shop front Marcus had been standing in front of.

“Such speed, such power, Too bad you’re so damn blind that you mistook a weakling for a shop.”

The monster whirled and started rushing towards Marcus only to have one of its legs yanked out from under it. It looked back to see a strand of rope binding the limb in a simple snare which had been attached to a sturdy pillar. Huffing the creature tore the rope easily.

“Oooh you ripped that hemp rope apart. Now I’m truly quaking in my boots.”

The beast snorted and charged again only to receive another light slash, this time against its side as the soldier dodged its charge. It then promptly crashed headfirst into another shop.

“No. Stop. You fiend. Think of the china.” Marcus deadpanned. “Won’t anyone stop this craven beast?”

“I am no craven. I crush you weakling.”

Marcus rolled under the beast’s wide swing with its weapon. “Oh yes because you’ve done so much to prove you aren’t craven. I mean attacking a married couple when they were unarmed and at home relaxing. Truly the very image of a brave warrior, grass-for-brains.” He swung and left a gash on the monster’s arm.

The beast swung again and missed. “Look on the bright side though, at least you know wha craven means. Quite frankly I’m impressed anything as dumb as you can even pronounce a two syllable word.”

“Weakling!” It roared chopping downward at the object of its annoyance.

“Yes weakling is also two syllables. I’m sure you worked very hard on it.”

The Tauros roared and lashed out again only to hit air once more.

“I’m curious how much does ‘Lackey to someone else’s lackey’ pay?”

It swung around to find Marcus standing in the street behind it again.

“You are a coward. You only attacked the unarmed and inexperienced for fear of reprisal.” Marcus said as the beast charged him aiming to cut the man in half. But to its shock Marcus using both his weapons managed to block the blow and to hardly be moved by the monster’s great strength. “You even flee from the guard force, whose merits sorely lack for fear of one getting lucky.”

The creature roared again only to receive a mace blow across it’s snout. “You knew where to find Anj thus you likely know where the guildhall is. There too you have turned your back to because you are such a coward that Robin the Retreater would have told you to pull yourself together.”

Marcus juked quickly to avoid another swipe from its weapon. “You are also exceedingly ugly. Those women and children ran not from what they feared you would do to them but from your ugly face, which likely causes blind men discomfort for quite sometime after they pass you on the street. Windows nearby shatter from your very reflection.”

This time when the monster swung it managed to hit Marcus though not seriously. “Ah! Bastard,” the big man hissed out. “You are stupid. I wish I had more to say on the matter but I’m not sure what ground I haven’t covered for I have already commented on your lack in the power of speech as well the appreciation for grass that you share with cows. And indeed I have observed that you’re only strategy is to flee. Um… hold on there has to be something else I can use to insult your intelligence…..Hey! Reinforcements!”

The tauros turned to look only to have Marcus chop forward viciously with his blade, embedding the weapon just above the kneecap. The beast howled wildly and caught the fighter with a powerful backhand, knocking its opponent into a nearby wall.

Marcus groaned in pain as he felt his arm break from the blow and several sharp pains shot through his ribs where he had collided with an alley wall. Heh, guess I’m pretty dumb for getting that close. Urgh...No time. Get up, get up damn you. The warrior staggered to his feet and working as fast as he good with his teeth and one arm fashioned his baldric into a makeshift sling for the broken arm. Marcus looked up when he heard a clatter on the street and saw his sword laying on the ground removed from the Tauros’ leg.

“Crush you!”

Marcus reached down and picked up his mace.

“Bring it you uppity piece of steak.”

Marcus would hold off the monster until help arrived. He just hoped he could survive that long.
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.
User avatar
Guyshane
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:45 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby JackAlsworth on Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:30 pm

“Bring it, you uppity piece of steak,” the warrior who stood in the street declared towards the large Tauros that threatened the area. The creature roared and grinded its hooves into the ground as it readied its charge. With a burst of speed the creature rushed the man, aiming to crush under the stopping power of its own body. The warrior clenched his teeth and held his mace forward, bracing for the approaching creature.

The stampeding creature never seemed to reach him, however. There was a sudden sound of bodies colliding together and legs dragging across the dirt. When the blur of everyone’s motion had slowed, the Tauros was mere inches away from the warrior, stopped dead in its tracks by a large green haired swordsman… with an equally large sword. Hector raised his head, grinning right into the monsters face as he struggled to hold it back. “I heard there was steak. I wasn’t disappointed.”

“Oh hey Hector,” Marcus said, breathing heavily. “What took you so long? You missed out on me insulting him half to death.”

“Ha! I’m not as fast as you smaller guys, cut me a little...” He grunted as he pushed against the creature as hard as he could, eventually causing it to fall backward, “... slack.” He looked back, quickly seeing some of the injuries Marcus had. “How are you holding up?”

“You’re a few inches taller than me and suddenly you think you have an excuse to show up late to the par-” Marcus was cut off by a fit of coughs. “I’ve been better. Arm is broken. Pretty sure he got like...half my ribs too. Not the worst shape I’ve been in. I’m just not sure how helpful I can be here.”

The Tauros slammed its arms into the ground, furious to be knocked down by these weak humans. Hector turned his head back to face the creature, and clasped Ivory with both of his hands. “Alright then. I’ll handle it; I could use a good fight, anyway.” He said simply, “Go find Zi, or someone who can patch you up.”

“Weaklings. One will not be enough! I crush all of you!” The Tauros ran its fist once more into the ground, pulling a large rock from under its surface and tossed it towards the two warriors. Hector moved forward and stabbed Ivory right into the incoming boulder, causing it to shatter into much less threatening shards.

“Aww, aren’t you adorable. You figured out ‘enough’. Three two-syllable words. Your mother must be so proud.” Marcus jeered from the alley.

“What’s a syllable?” Hector laughed. “Sounds delicious!”

Marcus gave Hector a flat stare before looking back at the Tauros. “Speaking of which: Was your mother the cow or was it your father?”

The Tauros snarled, and prepared another charge towards the duo. Hector nodded towards Marcus, giving him a signal that it was alright for him to leave for now. “Hey, do me a favor and make sure there aren’t any civilians around on your way out of here. I get the feeling this might get messy.”

Marcus nodded. “I had a similar plan,” he explained before heading out down the alley.

The Tauros lowered its head, aiming directly at Hector. Then it stood abruptly, letting out another roar of rage, and twisted around. Hector noticed several arrows pointing out of its back.

“Hmmm, I definitely didn’t do that...” Hector looked down towards the creature with confusion. He lifted his eye to where the shots had come from, and saw in the distance a young woman with her bow readied. Hector also noticed the creature dashing off down an alternate road, ramming into the sides of buildings clumsily as it did. “No time to think about it. Help is help, I suppose.” He muttered before calling out to the help, “He’s going this way, come on!” The man hoisted the blade over his shoulder, and ran after the enormous beast as it went out of view.

“Try and keep it busy!” he heard the woman cry, followed shortly by a muffled thunk and another roar.

“My pleasure.” The man grinned as he leapt right in front of the beast as it realed back from another arrow. The massive blade in his hands lifted upward with ease, and swung down upon the beast. To his surprise however, the creature was quick to recover and merely backhanded the blade like it was a stick, nearly causing Hector to lose his grip on it. The warrior regripped his blade, and without missing a beat changed the angle of his swing to be horizontal instead.

It cut deep into the Tauros’s arm, but the monster seemed to ignore the pain. Its wrist turned, tightly wrapping its hand around the blade despite its sharpness. The two struggled hold over the blade, again surprising the green haired swordsman. “It wasn’t this resilient just a second ago, what the hell happened…?” The beast glared at Hector, its eyes red with a furious fire. Immediately flashbacks played in the swordsman’s mind of the rage spell Asha and Luca had used. “It couldn’t possible be the same thing, I destroyed the source of that magic…”

Another thunk told Hector that the woman was continuing to shoot the Tauros, but at this point it either didn’t notice or didn’t care. It shoved toward him, trying to cut him with his own sword. Hector twisted himself away from Ivorys sharp edge, but had difficulty keeping a good hold of the blade. It was then that that Tauros seemed to become bored of the tug of war, and decided to just strike at the human with its free arm. The swordsman flew backwards, losing hold of his weapon in the process. Before he knew it, he had collided into a nearby fruit stand, causing the whole thing to collapse around him.

The Tauros felt the sting of another arrow into its back, causing its terrifying glare to turn upon Jenny instead. Quickly peering at the blade embedded in its arm, it removed it and tossed it like as if it were a spear, effortlessly causing Ivory to fly right towards her. She dodged a fraction of a second too late, and the sword left a thin gash in her shoulder as it flew past.

She gritted her teeth, forced the pain to the back of her mind, and fired another shot at the Tauros before darting behind another building. She heard the metallic stomping signalling the monster moving towards her. How did he even manage to bring it down?

After a few seconds of frantic running in the opposite direction, she paused to catch her breath and consider the situation. How was she supposed to fight something that refused to be hurt? The large swordsman had barely even scratched it with his even larger sword; what chance did she have of all people?

Something interrupted her train of thought; the stomping had stopped. She whirled around, but she couldn’t see the monster anywhere. Had it given up?

She heard a small crash, then the stomping resumed. Another crash, closer this time. Was that… a wall coming down?

The question was rendered moot as the wall she was standing next to gave way, the Tauros’ massive hand carrying her across the road into the opposite building.

--

“Hey...uh, you alright pal?” A voice rang out as Hector slowly opened his good eye. “Yeah, hi, you kind of crushed my fruit stand?”

The man rubbed his forehead, before he looked over all the mushy food that now stained his armor. “Oh...uh, sorry. Yeah...I’m alright, I think.”

“I’d be mad, but you’d be surprised how often this happens to me.” He offered a hand to the swordsman, and helped him back onto his feet. “I’m guessing you were trying to fight that giant monster?”

Hector raised an eyebrow towards the caretaker of the stand. “...Yes, yes I was. You wouldn’t happen to have seen where it went, would you?”

“Yeah, it chased some girl with a bow down that way.” He pointed casually.

“You, uh... you seem pretty okay with all this.”

“Yeah, well, honestly this is probably the least surprising thing to have happened my entire time in this stupid castle.”

The two stared and nodded in agreement. “Alright, get indoors, it’s not safe till we take this thing down.” The other man simply nodded, and Hector dashed ahead, following the large foot prints the monster left in its wake. Dipping his hand down he scooped up Ivory on the way down the path.

--

Jenny tried to say something, but couldn’t. She was finding it difficult to breathe as well. Her bow lay in the street, smashed beneath the iron hooves of her assailant. Her legs flailed uselessly two feet above the ground as she tried to break the Tauros’ grip.

It watched her attempts to free herself. “You annoy me,” it growled. “I don’t like being annoyed.”

The pressure around her chest tightened. She gasped and struggled harder.

“Was going to kill you. Now going to kill you painfully.” The thought seemed to please the monster immensely. It brought its arm up, threatening to smash her against the stone road below.

A burst of blood erupted from the front of the creatures chest, a moment neither expected. Hector gripped to the creatures back, holding himself atop it through Ivory which now was embedded into the monster’s body. Even with its new found resilience to pain, the attack was too great for it to keep its focus. Its grip loosened; Jenny fell heavily onto the ground, coughing and trying to stand.

The beast swayed left and right furiously, not losing an ounce of energy even as it bled severely from its wound. The power within it seemed to grow, and before long an ever so slightly visible aura seemed to form around it as its anger rose. Hector twisted the blade, guiding the monster away from Jenny in doing so. The Tauros reached for Hector but couldn’t with its muscular arms, and instead opted to ramming its back into nearby walls of buildings. The motion was successful, but the bull monster only felt the blade sink further into its body; Hector refused to let go.

“... You! Not weak...” It snarled as it slammed into another building. “How can human be so strong?”

“Push ups,” Hector coughed out, still hanging onto the back of the creature, “and lots of steak...”

No more jokes!” the monster declared, finally managed to grab ahold of one of the man’s swaying legs with its arm. With ease it tore him away from his sword once more and slammed the swordsman into the ground, causing the ground to indent slightly from the force. Breathing heavily the monster placed its hands upon the blade in its chest, and slowly pulled it out of its body. Once the blade was removed, the creature looked upon it, its face still rich with anger.

Hector struggled to his feet, somehow getting up from what should have killed him. The monster glared at him, and then back upon the sword. “Sword strong...human weak. Human nothing without sword.” Hector tried to take a step forward but fell back to one knee, still reeling from the last attack. The beast snorted and grasped the blade with its arms, one on each side of it, before slamming its hoof into the center of the blade. With an earth shattering strike, the blade cracked and split in the center. With a flick of its wrists, the severed pieces of ivory were flung to the behind the creature like trash.

The swordsman’s eyes expanded in shock, his teeth clenched so tight it was audible. He watched in horror as Ivory was broken in front of him. The Tauros’ mouth twisted into what could have been a grin as it started towards him.

Jenny’s entire midsection was in pain. She somehow managed to push herself to her feet in time to watch the Tauros destroy the giant sword and toss it aside like so much cloth. She glanced at her broken bow, then back at the monster.

There’s no way to stop it. It just won’t die. As she thought this, a boiling wave of defiance blew through her, burning away the pain. Then we can’t die either.

Without even pausing to consider the consequences, she drew her dagger from her boot and threw it as hard as she could. It embedded itself up to its hilt in the Tauros’ back.

It paused, halfway to goring the swordsman on the ground, then turned. “Fine. You first.” It stomped toward her.

She grinned. Just a bit closer… a bit closer…

It swiped at her. She dodged around, rolling past its legs. She groaned as she tried to stand; her lungs were still hurt, no matter how much she tried to convince herself otherwise. The Tauros roared and aimed back toward her, raising a hoof. Frantically, her hand found the hilt lying on the ground; she slashed at the monster’s leg and scrambled backward.

The hilt and the dull blade that remained on it was still strong enough to cut into the creatures leg, a lucky hit that caused the Tauros to clumsily miss its strike and tumble into another nearby building. It roared once more, undeterred by the small human’s attack. Wasting no time it charged head on, preparing to goar the woman with its horns. Jenny prepared to roll but flinched from the pain; there was no time.

“Raaaaaah!” A yell erupted from behind Jenny as a fist flew into view and hooked into the monsters jaw from the side. The blow, on top of all the monsters injuries, caused it to finally fall to the ground. It shook its head, and prepared to push itself back up, but Hectors hands gripped upon its horns and shoved the creatures head back upon the dirt.

Hector stared down upon the beast, shaking his head slowly. “Humans are stronger than you think. If you get up again, I’m knocking you back down,” he warned, deathly serious. “Consider this your last warning.”

The monster laughed, lifting its head up, it attempted to say something but a left hook from the human’s fist silenced it once more. “Ya know what the problem is with bullies like you? You think because something is smaller than you that you can just do whatever you want with it.”

“That’s ‘cause...me powerful!” The demonic creature declared as it tackled into the human, who met the monster head on, pushing up against it with all his strength.

“That’s not power! Real power is having this strength, and using it for the good of others! You can’t seem to understand that though. Do you know what that makes something like you?” Hector seemed to give everything he had, slowly pushing the beast backwards once more. “It makes you weak, hyaaaaaaah!”

The monster was tossed aside once more, rolling to the ground. Its injuries were making it difficult to react carefully anymore, and it struggled to keep itself in place. Hector looked back at Jenny. “We need to stop it here.”

The woman nodded, still not trusting herself to speak. She stood shakily and walked toward the monster, raising the sword hilt. Hector followed, placing his hand upon the other piece of the blade, carefully lifting it up into his hands. At the same time, the monster finally rose back onto its feet and the three met within the center of the battlefield.

The beast was riddled with stab wounds, arrows, and much more. Even with its intimidating glare, it wobbled back and forth, barely holding itself up anymore. “Why...not die?” it growled.

“Can’t yet, too many things to do.” The man explained sincerely. “You just made the list a little longer when you broke my sword. Ready to give up?”

“Never!” He roared back. “I - ”

“Yeah, I expected that,” the swordsman interrupted, jamming the blade into the creature's throat. It gagged on the blade and flailed backward from the surprise attack, right into the sharp hilt that Jenny held in front of her.

The Tauros wobbled. It tried to look at the blade in its back, but apparently that was too much effort. With startling grace, it descended to its knees. The fire of rage slowly faded from its eyes. It choked out a noise that might have been a snorting laugh, and then it fell slowly onto its face.

Hector looked upon it and sighed, “What a pitiful creature.” His voice grew distant however as he removed the remains of ivory from its mouth. His eyes were sullen as lightly placed the blade on the ground away from the creature. He knelt down to the blade, and silently cleaned the blood that had accumulated off of it. For such a strong individual, the man was clearly upset at the destruction of his blade. However, not forgetting the girl who helped him, he looked back to make sure she was okay. “I… think we should go get someone to heal these wounds of yours.” He recommended, lifting the blade off the ground once more with him as he went over to help her.

She nodded slowly. “And… you?” Her voice rasped.

“Well, I can still see out of my good eye. So...good enough for me!” The man let out a light chuckle, but the pain in his back caused him to stop. “My sword though...” He lowered his head towards the two pieces, “Sorry, Ivory.”

Jenny opened her mouth. “It’s…”

The words just a sword died unspoken when she saw his expression. The last time she’d seen an expression like that was after her father had found out that her mother was dying.

“I’m sorry,” she said instead.

Hector merely nodded. “She’d want me worrying about everyone else before I’d start worrying about her,” he said, more to himself than to her. “Let’s get you some help.”
User avatar
JackAlsworth
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:40 pm
Location: Western Washington State

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:12 pm

So, you beat the tauros. Congratulations! It’s now time for us to introduce a concept to you for your perusal and comment. First, however, we need to begin with an explanation.

For those of you who haven’t guessed, Shard is what is known as a Genius Loci. Genius Loci are a form of nature spirit, an embodiment of a specific place. In this case, then, Shard is the embodiment of the castle itself.

This is all rather unmanageable for us. Even pooling all of our time and resources, it would be unlikely that we could harm the entire castle. However, there is another way.

What if, hypothetically, one could reclaim portions of the castle for oneself? What if, by destroying or altering the parts of Shard that are tied to the land, the pieces of himself that guard and protect the places we call Floors, we tie the land to what we want instead?

We can steadily chip Shard down to something more manageable. Something we are all capable of handling.

In fact, he made the mistake of doing part of our job for us. By sending the tauros as a messenger to Anji and Kevin, he put a part of himself in harm’s way.

The tauros was a Guardian: a Genius Loci, a small aspect of Shard that was the embodiment of the area formerly known as the First Floor. As the natural result of everyone going boss mode and killing it, there is now a new Guardian which is not under Shard’s control. As long as this Guardian exists, Shard cannot enter or influence the area known as the First Floor.

This is the part where we, as GMs, tell you that the gameplay has changed once more. The immediate goal is no longer to clear floors or establish outposts. Instead, our focus has shifted to these Guardians.

Each floor has a Guardian, which is currently an aspect of Shard. In the coming quests, you have as many options available as always-- but a successful quest, in most cases, will mean that the Guardian has either been subverted so as to sever its ties to Shard, has given over its mantle freely, or has been killed and its mantle passed to its killer.

What are the rewards for killing it, you ask? If one cannot convince a Guardian to align with us, and you deem it necessary to kill it, two things happen. One, you become the Guardian for that area. It is your land. It also becomes your responsibility. As a side benefit, while you are in that domain, you are far more resistant to damage and more difficult to kill. That would be your reward for that quest.

A technical note: collaborators should, if their characters are killing the Guardian in a quest, decide between themselves which one will cast the final blow and thus obtain the Guardian’s mantel, or whether they will share the kill and the Guardianship.

If you have any questions, feel free to message either of us.

Good luck, play safe, and have fun!
User avatar
eli_gone_crazy
 
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:59 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby AMimsyBorogove on Mon May 05, 2014 12:15 am

Two Hours After the Castle Realignment

The wind whistled through the ears of the group of four as they streaked across the treetops, skimming the surface of an ocean of green. The night was beginning to fall, a blood-red moon already ascending into the sky behind them, illuminating countless shadows that danced in their wake. But they could not turn back, lest the darkness that pursued them on that bloody night claim their lives for its own.

“How much further?” Called Shirou to the familiar at their head, atop which the priest balanced precariously against the raging wind.

Konrad’s visage was grim as his eyes darted back and forth across the foliage below, scanning relentlessly for signs of the shadowy shapes he knew were approaching. “Only a few miles more until the foothills. The lake should be in a valley at the base of the mountain.” His voice lacked its usual humor, and his words were blunt and professional. The others with him, though they had known him for years, still did not often get the chance to see him in this state. He turned his cold eyes to the mage carrying them in their flight for a moment, glancing up, and then returning to his vigil over the forest below. “How fast can you get us there?”

“Approximately twenty minutes until we clear the forest. If the lake is there, then we should reach it by then,” The magus responded calmly after consulting her familiar for a moment.

“Do we even have that much time? Those things may catch us before we get that far,” Shirou questioned pointedly.

“Too late.” Konrad turned and looked to the rear of their formation, staring intensely into a gap between the trees. “The vanguard just found us.” A group of dark forms flitted in and out of the clearing in a blur, the darkness cloaking their forms and movements from almost every eye, but the Executor’s experienced vision had detected them almost as soon as they arrived.

“Vampires.” The priest spoke only one word, his face still pale, as he scanned the horizon, as if expecting an enemy army to come charging into view across the ruins of the castle at any moment.

”What do you mean, ‘Vampires?’ Don’t just go giving us cryptic one-word warnings like that explains everything.” Seire interjected, looking gravely at the priest who seemed, for the first time since the thief had met him, genuinely frightened.

“I mean ‘Vampires’!” The priest snapped, his patience gone in an instant. “I’m sure you heard of them when you and your merry band were wreaking havoc all across the continent!” He turned coldly to the waiting group. “You are in danger here. Leave. This isn’t something kleptomania and improvised swordsmanship can handle.”

“I think what my brother was trying to ask was, ‘Why are these Vampires here, and posing a threat to us?’” Shirou said pointedly.

“Yeah. I ain’t heard of any Vampires on any of the floors we’ve been to - even the ones nobody else has reached,” added Zess.

“That’s because the lower floors don’t
have any Vampires.” Kurt ran a hand through his hair and let out a breath of frustration. “They are powerful. Far more so than anything the lower castle could handle. That’s why you all need to get out of here before they arrive. They aren’t coming here after you, and I don’t need more people to keep out of the crossfire.”

“Okay, there are a thousand things I’d like to call you out on in what you just said, but let’s start with the obvious question. If they’re not after us, then what the hell makes you so special that they’d come all the way here just to say hi?” Seire interrupted pointedly.

“This!” Kurt growled out as he ripped off his coat and pulled down the collar of his shirt, revealing the red fabric tightly wound around his collarbone like a bandage.

“When did this happen?” Asked Scarlet gravely, narrowing her eyes as a glimmer of distrust entered her visage. The magus stepped between the thieves and the priest, a tiny familiar appearing before her as she analyzed what lay beneath the remnants of the Executor’s shroud. An insidious curse, one that had already rooted itself firmly within him, simmered beneath the surface, slowly pushed back by the consecrated mantle’s healing powers, but awaiting only death’s releasing touch to spread like wildfire.

“If you insist on knowing, it happened months ago. A low level Underground vampire caught me unaware. My shroud would have removed it by now, but I had to take off the bandage during the fight and the curse managed to entrench itself. Now it’s trying to call in reinforcements, and every vampire in this castle can hear it.” He pulled his coat back on and looped the remains of his mantle around his neck as a scarf once more.

“So you’re planning on distracting an entire army on your own? How long exactly do you think that you, on foot, will last against a legion of superhuman killing machines?” Shirou questioned.

“Do I need to remind you that that used to be my job?” Kurt snapped back unconvincingly.

“Irrelevant,” Scarlet said calmly. “As it is, any distance you can gain on them will be insignificant. Should you sacrifice yourself here, it would be in vain. And were you to become one of them, with your abilities, you would pose a threat to this castle’s entire populace.”

“Right,” Seire said, nodding. “And besides that, a certain person would be really pissed if I just let an old partner go get himself killed without at least trying to help.”

Kurt started to protest, but was cut off by Shirou. “Just hold on a moment and hear my brother out. He may be crazy, but he’s never done anything suicidal without a plan to make it out okay.”

“Indeed. With Scarlet’s familiars, we should be able to avoid direct confrontations. And all we have to do is keep them away from the townspeople, right? Running away isn’t very manly, but with more mobility and more manpower, even if we do end up in a pinch, at least we should be able to get them far enough away from civilization that nobody else gets caught up in it.”

“You don’t have a clue what you’re dealing with here, do you?” Kurt growled in annoyance. “Fine, keep being crazy if that’s what you want, but understand that there isn’t anything even all of us together can do about this except run and hope we’re faster. Even the ghouls can move faster than a normal human can see, and the ancient ones wouldn’t even bat an eye while they destroyed us. We have to find somewhere to escape to.” And just like that, the argument had become a planning session. “Because of me, they’ll know where we are no matter where we run. We have to find somewhere where they either can’t, or don’t want to go, and if even the oldest ones from the top of the castle get in on the pursuit, there won’t be anywhere in the world they can’t follow.” Kurt’s breathing calmed and his face became cold as he slipped into the role of an Executor for the second time since he had entered the castle. An itinerant priest, con artist, and swordsman wouldn’t be enough to overcome the situation the thieves were in, but a trained demon hunter of the Church might just make the odds something they could manage.

“Then where the hell are we supposed to go? The way you’re talking, it sounds like a fool’s errand,” Zess asked irritably. “There’s gotta be somewhere that they won’t follow us. Maybe a church, or across running water… a garlic farm, maybe?”

“The ancients would only take it as an insult.” Konrad quickly shot down the idea without even mocking it. “Water…” He paused, and his face changed into a distant expression. “I was attacked by a vampire before, during the climax of the rioting. It was a greater vampire, perhaps even an ancient, but it overwhelmed me and threw me from a cliff, into a lake deep in the wilderness of the second floor. I thought I was dead. I should have been dead… unless it didn’t want to follow me.”

“It’s away from civilization, then?” Scarlet inquired, to which the priest nodded. “In that case, we should set out for that place immediately. It may not be much, but it seems to be our only hope of evading your pursuers.”

“A lake, huh? Maybe I won’t be as useless as I thought, then,” The pirate mused, laying his uninjured hand upon the hilt of his enchanted sword.

“No. It’s best that you don’t get involved in this,” objected the Magus. Seire nodded gravely.

“With your arm in the state it’s in, you won’t be in any shape to fight. Besides, we need somebody to go back and warn the guilds to evacuate the second floor in case we don’t make it. At the very least, we need to keep innocent bystanders from getting killed.”

“I got it,” The pirate sighed. “I guess I should thank you. I thought you’d be dragging me along for your suicide mission.”

“Well, comrades are always welcome in times of danger, but your skills are best used elsewhere,” The thief said wryly.

“Fine by me. In that case, I’ll set off immediately.” With those words, the former pirate turned and began to make his way down the mountain of rubble and towards the distant center of the now horizontal castle. Looking back over his shoulder as he went, he gave a final salute. “And Seire!” He called. “In case you guys get yourselves killed, know this: I’ll take good care of your guild for you, like I wanted to in the first place!”

“It’s in your hands,” The thief replied, before turning to Scarlet. “Alright, then. We’ve got no time. Let’s move.”


“How many?” Seire asked, looking back into the shadows as he tried to discern the numbers of the approaching enemy.

“I count at least two dozen,” Scarlet replied, her familiars blinking rapidly as they transmitted this information back to her.

“They’re only the first to arrive. More should be here soon, and the trees below are already swarming with ghouls.” The malformed, incomplete vampiric creatures might be mindless, but with their feral attacks and lightning fast speed, they could overwhelm even masterful warriors quite literally in the blink of an eye. They would be the first to arrive, followed shortly by the true Vampires. Konrad turned over the situation in his head planning contingencies where he could. In the best case scenario, the ones below would be the weaker vampires from the thirtieth floor or below, arriving first because they were the closest, but the floors had been so shuffled about he couldn’t even be sure that those floors were even close anymore. Even if they were, the far more potent ancients from above could potentially arrive first regardless, their immense powers that would spell almost certain doom for the fugitive thieves should they arrive being the same thing that allowed them to ignore more mortal concepts such as distance at will.

“Well, then, guess we should thin the pack, huh?” Seire said, drawing his sword.

Several flashes of light illuminated the darkness as the Magus commenced the battle, four familiars rising up from the shadows at the same instant as two of the Vampire attack force made their move, darting for their targets only to find themselves caught in a grid of energy turned to a makeshift net by Scarlet’s force runes, which swiftly closed around them and ripped their fragile, deceased bodies to pieces. Several more familiars opened fire, a blitz of lightning deterring a few of the more eager vampires from trying their luck, and dropping one of the less prudent ones.

Konrad’s eyes narrowed as he heard the snap of a twig and the rush of displaced air below, and silently spinning into a powerful leap, he flew from his mount, whirling through the air, daggers digging into the flesh of a leaping ghoul and sending it spiralling back down into the forest below with a scream. Spinning higher into the air, his trajectory shifted by his contact with the ghoul, Konrad flew past the diving, black form of a lesser Vampire, wire netting around its neck as he hurtled away. The empty familiar he left flew straight into the wire stretched taut between their flying forms and yanked the creature backwards, snapping its neck and hurling its body into a flying fireball from the battle above even as Kurt was launched upward to land on another mount, unbalanced for a moment as he accelerated once more.

It was in this moment of vulnerability, however, that one of the vampires that had been keeping its distance made a lunge for its target, clawed hands raised to tear his throat apart. In an instant, a flash of black and white darted into its path as, sword plunging towards his foe’s chest, Seire leaped into the way, slamming into the vampire and plummeting along with it into the woods below, his scissors flashing forth from his sleeve and plunging into the beast’s eyes as they fell into darkness.

“Seire!” Shirou cried, preparing to leap after him. Scarlet nodded, halting the motion of both the familiars upon which the two remaining thieves rode before the oncoming horde, hundreds more like them blinking into existence around the Magus as she prepared to make her stand.

“This is where we part,” She said calmly. “The rest is in your hands. We have a comrade we can’t leave behind. Now go!”

Konrad only nodded coolly, and allowed himself to fall backward from his perch, the ghouls below caught by surprise at his sudden leap. As he neared the treetops, a gleaming metal strand flew from his grip, and with a flash of blue lightning, he vanished.
….

The thief groaned, rising to his feet and dusting himself off as he glanced around at the clearing he’d found himself in. Trees surrounded him on all sides, their branches, broken by his fall, hanging chaotically in a mockery of the green canopy that must have once covered this place. The ground was overshadowed, largely devoid of grass - or anything, really.

Well, except for the body lying in a small pool of blood next to him. The pale, emaciated creature hadn’t managed to land nearly so well as himself, Seire mused. Both of its batlike wings had been torn to shreds by rocks on the ground, and their bones had snapped in several places. Its other limbs had fared little better, with several bones protruding out of both its arms and legs. But most notable was the fact that the front of its body appeared to have been caved in, with quite a few ribs protruding from the gash in its chest Seire had created with his sword as they fell. He reached down, recovering his bloodied scissors from its severed jugular. It seemed this vampire, at least, wouldn’t be getting up again.

A flash of light illuminated the woods a short way in the distance, drawing Seire’s attention. But just as he was about to head for the nearby battle, something stopped him. A familiar sense ran through his body, an uncanny instinct that he was walking into danger. He hesitated, and took a closer look at the surrounding area.

His search wasn’t in vain, for as he looked around him, black shapes became apparent in the trees, and several deformed, bestial humanoids came crawling like wolves on all fours from within the circle of dead trees. Their scarlet eyes gleamed in the shadows as they emerged, encircling him.

“I see,” Said the thief, dropping into a combat stance. “These must be the ghouls Kurt was talking about. My, my, there are quite a few of you, aren’t there? Well, I guess it wouldn’t be a fair fight otherwise!” Grinning, Seire lowered himself as the beasts around him did the same, preparing to pounce all at once. But he didn’t intend to give them the luxury of the first move. Leveling his blade, he abruptly leaped at the edge of the circle closest to where he had seen Scarlet’s magic a moment before. “Come at me, dogs of the devil!” He roared. The ghouls screamed wordlessly back, and lunged at the thief.

A murder of crows rose into the air, their cries drowned out by the beginning struggle.

…..

The final ghoul screamed, leaping for the man who stood over the bodies of all of its fellows. It was naught but a blur, barely even visible to the eye. But Seire didn’t need to see it to know where it was going. In an instant, the thief, his coat stained crimson with the blood of countless fallen enemies, blurred to the side, his sword rising in a flash towards the incoming attacker.

The sound of rending flesh.

The scream of the ghoul as its extended arm fell away from its body.

Even as these sounds rang out, Seire was already making his next move. Sweeping out his leg, he kicked the clumsy creature’s back legs, atop which it had landed, from beneath it, in the next instant reversing this motion to bisect the creature at the waist. Flicking his blade around using the ring of the handguard, Seire caught the weapon with a reverse grip and plunged it downward, driving it right through the heart of the falling beast. The ghoul was dead before it hit the ground.

A blink of red light caught Seire’s attention, and he turned to see a familiar descending from above. ”Seire,” Called out Scarlet via the construct, worry evident in her voice. ”Are you alright? Can you move? You need to get out of there! The vampires’ main force is almost here. Shirou is cutting a path for you. He’ll be there in about three and a half minutes, so please, run while yo-” The mage’s words were cut off suddenly as a blood-red projectile pierced through the floating familiar, splitting it in two and dissolving it instantly.

“Little late on the warning there, Scarlet,” Seire muttered to himself as all around him in the sky above, a circle of figures in black and white armor whirled overhead, their batlike wings slowly folding up and collapsing into their backs as they landed around him, surrounding the bloodstained man and cutting him off completely. “Let’s see,” He said casually, pointing his blade at each member of the circle in turn. “One… two… three…” He began to count idly, turning to face each before finally stopping on one final member of their number, who, unlike the others - whose faces were covered completely save for their grinning, fanged mouths by white masks - wore no helmet, in addition to a flowing black mantle that adorned his armor. Ah, so this was their commander. “That makes nine,” Seire finished. “Nine enemies in only three minutes, huh? Easier said than done, Scarlet. If I don’t kill at least one every… oh, 20 seconds or so, then Shirou will start stealing my kills.”

“Well, aren’t you confident?” Hissed the unmasked Vampire. “What makes you think you’ll be alive when your friend gets here, Human?” Nodding to his fellows, he sneered, baring his fangs at the thief as the other vampires extended their hands and drew matching sets of weapons seemingly from thin air, leveling them at their opponent. In the hands of each rested a jet black double-bladed sword, and a small, circular shield. Seire grimaced. Considering the ease with which they were using those oversized blades one-handed, he had a feeling that they were a lot stronger than their emaciated bodies would suggest.

“Kill him,” ordered the leader. With a wordless scream, like a crow of triumph, three vampires leaped towards the thief. His amber eyes widened in surprise. Even with all the armor they wore, and the large weapons they held, they were still faster even than the ghouls he’d just finished fighting. Reacting on instinct, he darted to the side at the last second as the first vampire swept down one of the blades of its polearm, only barely missing him as he, in turn, slashed his own blade upward. The vampire raised its shield to defend, but the thief had predicted as much, and with a flick of his wrist, he redirected his slash around the edge of the small buckler, severing the vampire’s entire arm. The creature cried out as its hand flew into the air, stumbling past its mark, but was swiftly silenced as a blade pierced its body from behind and a boot planted itself on the creature’s back, launching it into one of its own oncoming allies and knocking both over. Yet, at the same time, the final vampire had managed to close in behind Seire. Raising its blade, it slashed downward, only to cry out in surprise as its weapon, too, was turned away as the thief offhandedly caught the buckler that the first vampire had lost along with its arm, batting the incoming blade aside. Undeterred, the creature turned this momentum into a second attack, pivoting and bringing up its second blade towards the thief, who leaped over its head, flipping head over heels and slashing downward as the enemy’s blade passed beneath him. With a crash, its weapons fell to the ground, along with both of the hands that had held them. Landing, he smirked at the unmasked Vampire, who was now eyeing him with an air of surprise.

“Believe me,” The thief said with a grin. “I’m much harder to kill than you’d think.”

…..

With a crash, the vampire fell to the ground with a dying howl, its back carved open by the bloodstained blade of the thief. As its last remaining comrade charged from behind, its face was met by Seire’s stolen buckler, smashing its nose in before the thief hastily followed up by dealing a slash directly across the creature’s chest, sending it toppling over along with its fellows.

“That’s eight!” The thief cried victoriously, leaping over his fallen enemy and hurling himself at the unmasked vampire, who, as of yet, had not moved from his position, or drawn any sort of weapon. He merely smirked, watching as the thief came on, his blade raised to attack. Sweeping his mantle before him, his red eyes flashed as he spoke a simple command.

“Shield me,” He said calmly. The thief’s sword came sweeping down, only to meet the cloak of the vampire and, to his surprise, be turned back completely, sending Seire staggering backward several feet.

“What the hell?” He muttered. “Magic? Damnit, I knew I should have read more of that grimoire I stole from the tower!”

“Knowledge of mere Human magic won’t help you in a battle against a superior being, fool,” Laughed the vampire, flicking his cape back over his shoulder. As he did so, Seire caught a glimpse of the inside of the garment, and his amber eyes narrowed in understanding, for on the inside of the cloak was plainly emblazoned a large crest, evidently drawn in blood. Although he didn’t recognize the mark itself, its purpose was obvious.

“I get it,” He said, shouldering his sword with a grin. “You’ve got some kind of magic that allows you to mess with the properties of objects, but requires a blood seal and a vocal command to do it.” The vampire’s eyes widened in surprise, and the thief’s smirk broadened. “You seem surprised. Didn’t think I could put two and two together?”

“You’re… not as stupid as you look,” Conceded the vampire.

“Well, I fight mages on an annoyingly regular basis, so I’ve been doing my homework.” The thief leveled his sword. “Now then, if I had to guess, I’d say that since your magic requires a seal, it’s a one use spell, isn’t it? Then in that case, that trick won’t save you twice!” Roaring this, Seire lunged once again, slashing his sword upward towards the vampire’s side, only for his adversary to once more sweep out his cape, turning aside the strike and sending Seire stumbling past. Undeterred, the thief pivoted and attacked again, and when this was deflected in the same fashion, aimed one final blow at his adversary, skidding back as his blade met the vampire’s cloak.

“No command…?” He muttered, his smirk turning to a grimace of irritation. “Great. So even if it’s one use only, the spell has an energy reserve and won’t break until it’s depleted, will it?”

“How astute of you. That’s correct,” The vampire laughed. “And as my blood contains many thousands of human souls, I believe you’ll find it impossible to-”

“Then I’ll just get around it!” Seire roared, abruptly closing the distance between them in a fraction of a second and lunging forward. There was a grating of metal against metal as the thief’s blade pierced a joint in the vampire’s armor, driving itself through his enemy’s body. “Heh. As I thought,” He jeered. “You were so confident in your abilities that when you got the chance to boast, you lost focus on defending yourself!” Swiping his blade out of the vampire’s body, he sidestepped the falling corpse and smirked. “And I do believe that’s nine,” He said, about to sheath his sword.

“Try zero,” Replied the enemy he’d thought dead, rising to his feet once again as the wound in his chest closed abruptly. The vampire leader rounded with a sneer upon the thief, who was just opening his mouth to cry out in surprise when a loud whistling was heard behind him. Acting instinctively, he spun around, raising his stolen shield as a black projectile came streaking towards him. His golden eyes widened in surprise as the double-edged sword collided with his buckler, thrown like a javelin by one of the vampires he was sure he had slain. But he had no time to focus on the eight white figures that were rising from the ground where they had fallen all around him, their slavering jaws dripping with blood and saliva, for in the next instant, the weapon that had collided with his buckler froze, and began to undergo a change. Its back blade collapsed upon itself, narrowing into the haft of a spear, while the tip spiraled outward, whirling like a drill as it expanded into a two pronged spearhead… and then passed through his shield without any resistance from the stolen ward as it, in turn, vanished in a spiral of orange light. His eyes widened in surprise, and he gave a cry of agony as the gigantic javelin pierced his flesh, its twin heads driving themselves clean through his shoulders. The impact was tremendous, enough to carry him off his feet and send him flying backward as though fired from a cannon. Colliding with a tree, he found himself pinned by the spear that had impaled his body, its heads piercing not only himself, but even managing to embed themselves into the tree.

“How…?” He gasped, struggling for air as agony wracked his chest. It seemed several of his ribs had been broken by the impact. His sword landed, skittering to a stop in the dirt next to him. Weakly, dazed both by the collision with the tree and his many wounds, he tried to reach for the weapon, yet with his shoulders pinned, he could hardly move his arms.

The vampire leader laughed as he stood over his fallen enemy. “Did you really think that we, perfect, immortal vampires, could be slain by a mere Human with a sword? And did you really think that the weapons we created with our own power, the forms of which we control as we see fit, could be used to protect you from us? HAH! Guess you’re not as smart as you thought, huh, Human?” Giving another mocking crow of laughter, he turned to walk away. “Still, you were fun while you were alive. As a reward for entertaining me, I think I’ll let you bleed out there. A warrior should die with his sword in his hand, after all. But oh, wait! You dropped this, didn’t you?” Giving another mocking, mirthless laugh, the vampire snatched the thief’s fallen sword as he tried in vain to grasp it. “Well, I guess it’s mine, then! It’s quite a nice blade, for a Human like you. Good craftsmanship, and it’s even enchanted to keep its edge. That’s one thing I love about Humans - well, other than how good they taste, that is. They always make such fine toys.” Looking down, the vampire noticed the thief raising his arm upward, and gave a maniacal laugh, bending down over him with a twisted sneer. “What’s that? You want it back? Hah! Too bad. You’re going to die soon anyway, so the likes of this is wasted on-”

Seire’s fingers abruptly extended, and the small, yet razor sharp black wyvern scale held between them was loosed, burying itself in the vampire’s eye. He screamed with pain and drew back, dropping Seire’s sword and clutching his new wound as blood streamed down his face. “You disgusting little INSECT!” He howled with rage.

“I… don’t… run away…” Seire gasped out between bloody coughs, reaching out and laying hold of his fallen sword with his weak arm. He raised it upward, feebly trying to lunge at his tormentor. “And I don’t… surrender…! I’ll kill you… I’ll kill you…!” Chanting this oath like a mantra, as though it was the only thing keeping him from succumbing to death then and there, he aimed one final stab at the vampire.

The vampire stepped to the left as his eye regrew in its socket, reached down, laid hold of Seire’s extended left arm, and then dug his clawed hands into it just above the elbow. The thief cried out in pain as his limb was torn from his body, and the vampire gave another cruel laugh as Seire’s hand, still clutching his sword, fell lifelessly to the ground.

“Well, I was going to let you die peacefully, but no! You couldn’t have that. You Humans always try to die like heroes, don’t you? Well then have it your way!” Turning to his now fully regenerated henchmen, the Vampire beckoned for his less intelligent subordinates. “Devour him,” He commanded.

The white-clad creatures gave wordless shrieks of delight, spreading their wings and rising into the air as they circled their prey like so many vultures. Then all at once, they dived down upon him, their mouths open wide as they prepared for a feast.

“Have a nice death,” Said the vampire, and he turned to walk away… and then was promptly reduced to a shower of splattered innards, red mist, and disconnected upper and lower body parts as a familiar black greatsword tore through him like so much wet paper.

“LIKE HELL!” Roared Shirou, sweeping up his blade once again and reducing three of the descending predators to similar showers of gore. The Vampires ascended once more, unsure what they should make of this new arrival. Taking advantage of this opening, Shirou turned, picking up the sword his comrade had dropped.

“Well, well, well,” Said the vampire leader as his body slowly reformed itself, rising to his feet in a flash of crimson light. “What do we have here? Another would-be hero? Wonderful. Well, I do have to give you some credit. It looks like you actually managed to at least kill some of my followers.” He motioned to the various messily disassembled bodies around the knight, which, although they struggled to reform themselves, only managed to regenerate partially before going still. It seemed the damage had been too great for their powers to undo.

“Sorry, brother,” Apologized the knight, gritting his teeth as he leveled his own blade as well as Seire’s. “But I can’t remove that spear from your body and carry you out of here while under attack from monsters like these.”

“That’s… fine…” Chuckled the thief, blood slowly beginning to pool in the dirt beneath him. “Just… go.”

“The hell I will! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the oath we swore,” Said the knight angrily. “I promised to follow you until the end, and if this is it, then I still have one last battle to fight before my promise is fulfilled. I might not be able to save you, brother… But at the very least, I’ll avenge you, even if it means dying by your side!”

“Idiot,” Gasped Seire. “Hey… I’m feeling kind of tired… Is it alright if I… rest for a bit?” He shut his eyes. “I really can’t… stay awake much longer… so I’ll leave it… to you.”

“Then I’ll finish what you started,” Shirou replied coldly as the vampires began to close in. “You monsters… The only way you reach my brother is over my corpse! Now, then, come at me! I’ll make you taste the sword of the King of Thieves at least once more before I fall!”

…..

No sooner did the priest's foot land on the tree's branch than the whole tree reverberated with a deafening crash and swung sideways, its trunk shattered by a swing of a huge arm. By the time the tree hit the ground, Konrad was already swinging off through the forest as fast as his cables could carry him.

“Get back here you pathetic human! I need to eat you before the others get here and steal my prize!” The giant arm retracted into a normal sized, pale-skinned body, changing into a normal shape as it did so, and the vampire leaped off in Kurt's wake. “I'm not letting you escape!”

“You don't get a choice.” Came the ruthless response as Konrad swung in from the side and planted his boot into the creature's enraged face. Spinning to earth, the thing slammed into the dirt with an enormous bang, leaving a crater completely at odds with its apparent size. As the priest tried to swing off, however, two huge appendages shot through the smoke cloud. He barely managed to dodge them, but one slammed into his cable, sending him careening off through the forest.

The Executor grunted involuntarily as he slammed chest first into a large branch that shattered with his momentum, taking a rib along with it. The cold control of years of training took over and crushed down the instinct to grimace, and he shut out the pain and threw another cable, barely managing to catch onto a passing tree trunk. A straight flight suddenly turned into a wide arc, and his speed carried him around in a semi-circle, just barely avoiding the next set of trees as he gritted his teeth from the pressure of his harness on his bruises.

Back in the clearing it had made, the now giant vampire, having transformed its whole body this time, was unprepared for what it thought was its incapacitated prey to come hurtling out of the tree line, knives flashing in both hands. The giant vampire's head jerked back as Kurt collided with it, and blood flew through the air as his knives stabbed deep into the monster’s eyes. Roaring in pain, the vampire's head jerked away, sending the demon hunter flipping off, staring down like an emotionless spectre of death as he spoke the activation phrase for his sacrament. “Cremation.”

Konrad landed on the tilted trunk of yet another violently uprooted tree as the creature's head exploded in flames, two knives coming flying out of the chaos, flickering with blue light as they became sheets of paper, expertly caught by the priest with his black book. Not waiting for the creature to regenerate, long experience having taught him well the tricks they were capable of, he went flying out again, his cable yanking him up and around the vampire's massive arm. Flailing about blindly to kill its attacker, the vampire found cables looping around its midsection and other shoulder, even as Konrad swung out and up, pulsing a perfectly measured amount of power through his wires to constrict them with just enough force to cause the maximum amount of physical pain and collateral damage.

Blood and another scream filled the air as both the vampire's arms at its lower torso were torn off and turned to dust. Its upper body crashing to the ground, already wreathed in power that was slowly remaking its missing parts, the vampire screamed curses and threats towards the priest.

Konrad’s silent glare met one of the vampire's half-rebuilt eyes, sending fear down the creature's shattered spine. His eyes were as cold and unforgiving as steel. “This is where you die, creature of darkness.” And with that, he fell from the sky, coat and scarf flapping around him, and landed atop the hastily constructed, rune-covered wooden stake he had just withdrawn from his coat, driving it home into the vampire's heart with a blinding flash of golden power.

Control breaking momentarily, Kurt panted for breath as he balanced atop the stake that was now embedded in the ground, the remains of the vampire dissolving around him; a black cloud that filled the air and obscured the moon. Can't keep this up much longer. Too many of them have been catching up, and I'm taking too many wounds with every kill. Where is that damn lake? Massaging his aching head, the pounding of which had been increasing since the landing, Kurt tried to focus and regain his Executor’s calm.

He only had a moment to catch the last rustle of the forest floor behind him and start to flip forward to avoid the oncoming attack from behind, but he was too slow, and a vice like grip, like a thousand chillingly cold, animate ropes clamped around his chest. A moment later, his back was slamming against the ground, and for a second he blacked out as blood flew from his mouth.

Forcing himself to cling to consciousness, he recovered to find himself lying on his back, the intense pain running through his body speaking of multiple broken bones, and judging by how his vision was blurring in and out, he probably had a concussion. Damn it... how was I so... sloppy? Laying a moment before what would probably be his demise, he felt nothing but irritation with himself for failing so easily. With much effort, he turned his head downward, to see the swirling black substance covering him and pinning him to earth, spreading out into the grass in all directions. Of course, a shadow mage... He used the darkness from the disintegrating vampire to fuel his attack. But this shadow mage was nothing like the level of the peons he had fought months ago in the underground. The force his presence left in the air, even though he hadn't revealed himself, was almost as overwhelming as the shadows crushing him into the dirt.

Dizziness filled Kurt's head as the shadows slowly raised him up, constricting further so he couldn't even make an attempt at escape if he had been in any shape to do so. In the darkness ahead of him, something moved. A form that seemed to be wrapped in a cloak of liquid darkness stepped forward, baring its gleaming fangs. Then it struck.

The vampire's teeth clamped down on the incapacitated priest's shoulder, slicing through the black fabric of his coat, only to strike a weave of deep crimson wrapped tightly underneath it. The explosion was like a flash bomb of holy magic, and the blinding light rendered the shadows into so much dust that blew away on the wind. The vampire's head was burned away in an instant by the holy light and the remnants of his body went hurtling through a tree.

Kurt, feeling a bit more clear headed after the pulse of holy power, managed to regain enough focus to drag his body up to a tree trunk. Slumping at its base, he gasped for breath as his vision began to blur again. Somewhere within him, he knew he had to move before more showed up, but he could barely raise even a single arm to try and drag himself from the dirt.

Then a slow clapping sound echoed through the trees, and Kurt's eyes, focusing on the source out of instinct and sheer willpower, found themselves staring at a familiar cloaked form. The wounded priest barely managed to let out a startled, weak hissing sound as he groped for air, and mutter a single, anger-filled word.

“You...”

…..

The black clad mage darted between the trees atop her construct, her silver hair trailing behind her as her crimson eyes frantically searched the ground below for any sign of the two comrades she’d been separated from. Rising over an entanglement of leafless branches, Scarlet found herself soaring over a large, open clearing. It was filled with fallen bodies, with parts of precisely dismembered ghouls and violently smashed vampires mingling amidst the carnage as blood flowed freely across the ground. At the center of the clearing stood a single figure - a man in black, his black hair and mantle fluttering in the wind as his red eyes focused on the far side of the battlefield. Scarlet’s own gaze fell upon that place, and her eyes went wide with horror.

Buried in the ground by their blood-soaked blades were two swords, crossed one over the other: a darkly tinted zweihander and a curved black and white saber. And, slumped limply against a tree, lying soaked in their own mingling blood, were two familiar figures. Even until the end, Shirou had not left his brother’s side, as the three rapidly disintegrating spears piercing his body would attest. The similar lance that had been driven through Seire had already faded, leaving his body bloody and broken at the foot of the tree. And yet, despite their wounds, somehow, the two yet lived on the very brink of death, struggling for breath as they clung to the life within them.

“That man killed me at least half a dozen times,” Muttered the vampire, gazing upon the fallen knight, half with anger, half with disbelief. “And he even eradicated my followers, just to add insult to injury. Who was he, any-”

He got no further, for at that instant, a bolt of lightning pierced his chest and melted his lungs. Scarlet dropped from the sky, innumerable crimson lights filling the air around her as she landed in front of her dying comrades, her eyes wide with disbelief, and her heart full of rage.

“Really?!” Cried the vampire in exasperation as his lungs reconstructed themselves anew. “Just how many of you insects ARE there?! Seriously, I never thought I’d say this, but killing you is actually starting to get BORING! I me-”

BGM: Don’t Lose Your Way (Because I Had To)

Another bolt of lightning quickly struck him in the throat, reducing his vocal cords to ash. Scarlet rounded upon him, her knuckles white as her hands clenched into fists.

“What?!” Gasped the vampire, his eyes frantically searching the clearing around him as, all around its edge, familiars aligned themselves, projecting lines and runes in all directions as the markings spread across the ground. In an instant, the entire area had suddenly been filled with an enormous magic circle the color of the mage’s namesake. The vampire realized all too well the power of the spell he was facing, understanding that whatever it was, if it was cast, it might actually pose a threat even to his nigh unkillable body. Hastily extending his hand, he created a jet black spear much like those his deceased cohorts had used, the blood from the many deaths the thieves had inflicted upon him soaking it in an instant. “Kill her!” He cried, and then tried to draw back his arm to cast the javelin and slay this girl before it was too late - to no avail. To the monster’s horror, he found that his blood refused to respond to him. Not only that - his very body refused to move.

“Are you surprised? I’d expect you are, considering that a being of your power has probably never encountered someone able to take away even his ability to move, let alone his magic,” Said Scarlet icily, her voice filled with the intent to kill.

“How?!” The vampire gasped out. “I can’t even sense any magic from you! You’re just a Human! You should have no power over me! Me, a perfect being, wielding the power of thousands of souls! This is an illusion! It must be!”

“You’re correct. I, myself, do not possess the ability to use magic. I can only wield its power by proxy through the constructs I create,” Scarlet replied coldly. “However, that does not make my magic any less real. You see, you were wrong about more than just my magic being an illusion. I am far from being ‘just a Human.’”

“What do you mean?!”

“Well, that is not entirely correct, I suppose. I was a Human - once. But that changed long ago, when I underwent a ritual that turned me into a construct capable of subdividing itself into a smaller parts. You might say that I’m as much an extension of these familiars as they are of me.”

“So what?! That changes nothing!” The vampire cried, struggling against the unseen force that immobilized him.

“On the contrary. It changes everything. You see, from the start, my purpose was set out for me. I was meant to become a being capable of slaying anyone who used the power of magic, no matter how strong they were. From the most inexperienced novice to the most adept of spellcasters, so long as they possess that power, I can overcome them. By breaking off parts of myself, I had obtained a means of storing energy outside of my own body. With each passing day, I created more familiars to store the power of my soul, then recovered my strength and repeated the process. You claimed to possess the power of thousands of souls? Well, I possess the power of my own soul, replicated in its entirety every day for seventeen years!”

“So that’s it, then! But do you seriously think you can hold me forever? You say you have the power of 6205 souls, but I possess far more! I’m bound to break free eventually, and then you’ll have nothing left with which to stop me!”

“That is also incorrect,” Said Scarlet, smirking cruelly as the magic circle beneath them intensified its glow. “You see, the reason why I can kill anyone who uses magic is because my power is irrelevant in the equation. Do you recognize the magic circle we’re standing in? It is the ritual space required to cast a powerful curse, known as the Crimson Flame.”

“What are you getting at?”

“Ah. I see you’ve not heard of it, then. You see, it’s unique among curses in that the effect of the spell isn’t fueled by the caster, but rather, by the subject’s own energy. Using the one who begins the ritual as a focus, it subverts the target’s energy and uses it to break them down into raw mana from the inside out. Of course, normally, this spell takes the full power of multiple high level spellcasters to properly execute, and even more if the subject is powerful, like yourself. For a single caster to execute it, they’d probably have to pay their entire soul several times over as a price.”

“So you intend to kill us both?!” The vampire cried incredulously.

“Of course not. Weren’t you listening? I have plenty of souls to give! So, no matter how much power it takes… I’ll rip you apart from the inside out with all of your own strength until you’re nothing but ashes in the wind!”

The Vampire’s eyes widened in surprise as he opened his mouth to cry out, only for his words to be stifled in his throat. A terrible heat was growing within him as an immense pressure began to force itself upon every inch of his body. Scarlet smirked as her voice resounded across the clearing.

”Dark flame, crimson flame, the fire of hatred that consumes all life,” Scarlet began to chant as the glow of the circle beneath them grew to a fever pitch. ”I ask of you to scorch my path, to judge the sacrifice that stands before you. In my right hand, I give you form. With my left, I offer up my heart. Now, come forth, and reduce the world before my eyes to ash, embers of the flame of Hell!”

With those words, the ground surged up, and the circle beneath them expanded outward… and then collapsed inward in a single instant, focusing directly on the vampire at its center. A surge of red light began to erupt from within his body as, for a moment, even the wind was silent.

And then, in the next instant, the forest was blown apart by an enormous explosion of crimson flames. Dry, dead trees were reduced to ashes in an instant, while the earth scattered wildly along with the dust and embers as the air was forced outward by the overwhelming explosion as the vampire, a creature from the very top of the castle, had its vast, unfathomable power converted directly to energy that exploded from within it with the force of a bomb. Smoke pillared high into the air as the darkness of the woods was lit up by a blinding light, and the silence was filled with a deafening roar as the world itself seemed to burn to the ground within the confines of the spell. At its center, the vampire writhed as his body tried to piece itself back together, only to erupt in flames anew, explosion after explosion rocking the floor for at least half a mile as Scarlet turned the vampire’s power upon it again and again, disintegrating it over and over until there was nothing left.

But, at the same time, she had more important things to worry about - like how she herself, or her comrades, would withstand the uncontainable blast of mana that was slowly expanding outward around them. Fortunately, her magic circle wasn’t quite finished yet.

“Second stage! White flame, healing flame, the fire of hope that protects life! I ask of you to shield me now, to come to the aid of those who are imperiled! In my right hand, I clutch the staff of life! With my left, I offer up my body! Now, come forth, and embrace us as the world collapses, light of the heavens!” Chanting thus, Scarlet swept out her arm, and in an instant, the magic circle expanded once again, shifting in hue from red to a brilliant, radiant white. Collapsing around herself and the two fallen warriors, it surrounded them in a wall of silvery flames, beyond which even the heat of the scarlet inferno could not penetrate. But shielding them was not all she did. Wrapping itself around the wounded thieves, the white flames licked their wounds, cauterizing them in an instant. It wouldn’t undo the danger to their lives, but at the very least, it would stop them from bleeding to death.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the flames - both red and white - faded, leaving what had once been an open clearing a desolate, scorched waste. The trees of the forest quite simply had ceased to exist, while the ground around them was piled high with displaced dirt and rubble, leaving the magician standing at the center of a vast crater.

But she wasn’t the only one there. To her disbelief, up from the rubble, a faint red light began to rise as countless particles of dust slowly reformed themselves, coalescing into the shape of the vampire once more. A hideous cackle resounded across the scorched land as he brushed the ashes from his new body.

“Well, I must admit, that was unexpected,” He laughed. “To think that a human - or, wait, so sorry, is it a subhuman?” He jeered sarcastically before continuing. “Could turn so much of my own power against me! Maybe if you hadn’t broken your circle to protect yourself, that might actually have killed me for good. Congratulations. That’s the closest anyone’s come in two centuries to ending my life. But you failed when you thought you could use a spell designed to take me down at the cost of yourself, and live through it. And now, you’ve got no power, and on top of that, you haven’t killed me. So, tell me, girl, how would you like to die?”

Scarlet smirked wickedly.

“That is… also incorrect,” She said, and snapped her fingers.

The vampire’s eyes widened in disbelief as a familiar magic circle took shape once again, and a radiant golden light rose to the heavens above, like a thunderclap that instantly rebounded, descending upon its victim. However, a closer observer might note that the comparison to lightning was perhaps a more apt one than it first seemed: for the light was actually rising from within the extremities of the Vampire’s body and rushing up to meet the initial flash from the circle’s activation, and took several large chunks of his flesh with it, burning away the edges of his body into a fine ash.

The Vampire cried out in pain, clutching the stump of his severed left arm as it flickered with clashing red and golden lights. The golden light which had disintegrated the appendage slowly drew back, surrounding the magus as she rose slowly into the air, every last one of the familiars forming the magic circle rising along with her and spiraling inward, fading into her body.

“You… What did you do?!” Hissed the vampire, gasping for breath. Even though it had been several seconds now, his arm still refused to regenerate. All of the power that should have been used to repair it was simply… gone - torn away to form the golden shroud that now surrounded the magician.

“It’s useless. You are no longer capable of regenerating your arm. That’s for what you did to my comrade. Did you think I had lost control of the energy I subverted within your body? Foolish.” Scarlet declared triumphantly. “By combining that with the mana I already tore from your body with my first spell, and the remaining power of my magic circle, this time, I’ll make sure you can’t regenerate! Third phase: Trinity Flame!”

The golden light that followed this proclamation was like the radiance of the sun itself, causing the vampire to draw back, burned by the flames surrounding the vengeful magus as she descended upon him, her power steadily growing and condensing inward until it was like a sun held within the palm of her right hand.

“You cocky bitch…!” The vampire snarled. “How many times will you waste your energy trying to kill me? It’s use-”

He got no further than this, for in the next instant, Scarlet had crossed the distance between them without even seeming to move, and had plunged her hand, as well as the golden light it held, directly through the vampire’s torso with superhuman force. Her adversary screamed as he was slammed into the ground with enough force to crack it, sending a tangible shockwave outward across the basin of the crater.

“As many times as it takes for you to stay dead,” Scarlet replied coldly, crushing the orb of golden light.

An explosion dwarfing even the first blast erupted from the crater, sending dust scattering in all directions as ashes rose high into the heavens, carried on a hurricane of golden flames. Scarlet skidded backward, the aura that had surrounded her flickering out as she shielded her eyes against the light of the fire. Had she slain the seemingly immortal creature? Had she won?

...Her hopes fell in an instant as a black form slowly rose, staggering out from amidst the fire. The vampire’s armor had been destroyed, his protective cloak incinerated, and his skin burned from his body. Yet, he was alive. Raising his remaining hand, he created a black javelin within it.

“I’ll kill you… I’ll devour all that energy you’re so proud of…!” He hissed, his voice a rasp due to the damage done to his vocal cords. Scarlet shut her eyes. All of the 6205 souls worth of magic power she had stored up over 17 years of preparation… she’d spent it all. She couldn’t even muster a single familiar now, let alone a spell. Her body was tired, battered by the shock of her own attack. The Trinity Flame had been her trump card, and it had failed. All she could do now was stand in the path of this monster, and hope to delay the deaths of her fellows.

Scarlet reached down to her side, and with the last of her strength, took up Seire’s sword where it lay. She didn’t know how to use the weapon, nor did she possess the strength to wield it properly. But for what this being had done, both to her husband and his sworn brother, she would fight him to the last, if for no other reason than to make her death, and those of the people she had failed to protect, as painful for him as possible.

The vampire closed in, and raised his lance to strike. Scarlet took hold of Seire’s sword with both hands, and responded in kind. Both combatants lunged forward at once, weapons raised to end each other, when suddenly, a single, black-gloved finger interposed itself between both upraised armaments.

BGM: On the Precipice of Defeat

Seire’s sword clattered to the ground, pulsating wildly with internal light.

The vampire’s spear shattered into countless fragments, and its owner was sent hurtling head over heels across the crater, impacting into the far edge of the vast wound in the earth and lying still.

Scarlet’s eyes went wide as her namesake gaze met orbs of a matching hue, the owner of which gave a kind, yet somehow paradoxically wicked smile.

“You’re…” The Magus gasped.

“I am indeed,” said the dapper man. “That is, if you were about to say ‘...an extremely overqualified butler.’” He cocked his head to the side, almost as if he were unsure of himself, an idea that seemed utterly absurd in the face of the immense power that seemed to radiate from him. “That was what you were about to say, right?” His grin got just a bit wider, and he gave off an air of amusement, as though entertained by some fanciful toy.

“Vampire,” Hissed Scarlet, stumbling backward, but remaining on her feet so as to interpose her body between the new arrival and her wounded comrades. “But why? Why would you-”

She got no further, for in the next instant, a wild roar echoed across the crater as the vampire who had just been sent flying came streaking towards the so-called butler, hand upraised to strike at him, only to be once again deflected with ease as his target sidestepped the blow, catching the wounded Vampire by the face and tossing him almost casually over his shoulder, slamming his limp and battered body into the dirt once again.

“Now, now, Malus,” the new arrival spoke once more, this time like he was lecturing a small child that had just done something extremely silly. “Is that any way to greet someone?” He casually brushed a bit of dust kicked up from the charred ground by his attacker from the side of his flawless purple and black tunic, then twirled his long black cape behind him as he withdrew a gnarled staff from within it, poking it at a small black shape that had just crept up from beneath the blasted earth. Smiling winningly toward the stunned magus, he returned to his earlier conversation. “How would you like me to save you?”

Scarlet’s eyes darted between the newcomer, the slowly rising, irate Vampire leader, Malus, and her own fallen allies. The newly arrived Vampire smiled. “Of course I’ll save them too. Even I’m not so cold. Come now, would you doubt the man offering to save your life?” He reassured, the sneer on his face going completely against the supposedly calming intent of his words.

Scarlet’s eyes narrowed. This man could kill them all in a heartbeat. If she refused, there was no chance any of them could survive. And if she didn’t hurry, then Malus would attack again, and this man might not be so generous as to save them a third time.

“...Why?” She asked once again.

“That,” began the man, raising a single gloved finger and wagging it cheerfully as a smirk crossed his face, as though his words were some sort of joke known only to himself. “...is because you’re interesting.” He motioned to the vast crater in which they stood, at the center of which only the cockroach he was currently prodding idly with his staff had survived. He was… impressed? “Now, then, will you accept my offer or not?”

Scarlet opened her mouth to respond.

Malus screamed, leaped to his feet, and dived for the Magus.

“Yes,” she said.

The man smiled, and crushed the cockroach beneath his staff. “Fantastic,” He said cheerfully, and turned his gaze to the oncoming vampire.

Malus was then instantly flattened, exactly as the insect had been flattened a moment before. This time, he did not rise.

“Shall we be going, then?” He said, smiling. “I have one last important matter to attend to, you see.”

The man smiled, and a vast darkness began to creep over the woods. Just as the shadows reached the edge of the crater, reality bent several degrees to the left, and the thieves vanished just moments before the darkness passed over, consuming all in its path. The ground trembled and broke, falling away into an endless, yawning void beyond. The mountains shuddered and caved in. The trees that had not been incinerated instantly were instead consumed by the endlessly expanding shadows as the screams of ghouls and vampires alike resounded throughout the wilderness, each cry bringing with it a renewed wave of eldritch blackness to sweep over all things before it.

As the darkness took him, the horrified Malus extended his remaining limb towards the sky, his eyes meeting those of the traitor who had bested him as he uttered three words.

“Damn you… Berith…!”

The traitorous Vampire clapped his hands with delight as the curtain fell on the final act of this particular tragedy. The heroes had played their parts well, but ultimately in vain. The villains had been toppled, but at what cost, he wondered? Even now, the protagonist of his expertly woven tale was becoming something that transcended simple heroism or villainy, and a new monster was being created. His face twisted into a mad grin, and he pronounced the final line of his act as the second floor wilderness was swallowed below. “Acta est fabula,” he said.

And then, there was nothing.
"The Apocalypse is basically just a tutorial." - Sicon112.

"Due to the ambiguity of this wording, I am unable to determine whether or not I am the leader of the X-Men!"
"UNIVERSE-BREAKING EPILEPSY RAVE!" - AMimsyBorogove
User avatar
AMimsyBorogove
 
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:38 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Thu May 08, 2014 9:10 pm

Quest 67: Once Upon A Dream
Quest Description: When you enter floor 21, it looks eerily familiar to at least one of you. The entire floor seems to be straight out of a dream you’ve had.
Quest Goal: Survive and/or get to the bottom of this.
Quest Takers: Alexander Curtiss (Endless Sea) and Fern (Krika)
GM Notes: Up to you whether one or both of you had this dream, whether it’s a recurring dream or a recent dream or a childhood dream.

Quest 68: Your Worst Nightmare
Quest Description: Floor 22 is the stuff of nightmares. I mean, literally nightmares; you’ve each seen some of this stuff in your worst dreams before. And it’s probably all trying to kill you.
Quest Goal: Survive and/or GET OUT OF THERE.
Quest Takers: Hector (Adell) and Morionem (Victin)
GM Notes: Have fun!!!!!

Quest 69: Get Your Mind Out Of The Gutter, Guys
Quest Description: Anji and Kevin are still recovering from their, ah, housewarming guest.
Quest Goal: It's up to you two to help cheer them up.
Quest Takers: Lori (NPC: eli_gone_crazy) and Ben (Qara-Xuan Zenith)
GM Notes: Get your mind out of the gutter, guys, SHEESH.

Quest 70: Exception
Quest Description: Floor 23 is… a blank slate. Empty. A bright white light in a neverending void, anyone? Until you fall asleep, and enter the right person’s dream, which corresponds perfectly to the geography of the floor.
Quest Goal: Enjoy the scenery. Also, if you play your cards right, you can embed a message of your choosing deep into the Castle’s consciousness...
Quest Takers: Jenny (JackAlsworth) and Mirae (Tohrinha)
GM Notes: The mechanic here is presumably vaguely reminiscent of Inception, tailored to suit your whims.

Quest 71: Life Is But A Dream
Quest Description: Floor 24 operates on dream logic. In the same way that things don’t quite make sense, one scene morphing into another or someone becoming someone else, the same way that you know where you are but not why and anything is possible… being on this floor is like being in a dream.
Quest Goal: Explore. Learn about this place.
Quest Takers: Tamar (Scarab) and Pan (IslaKariese)
GM Notes: Our description of dream logic is just a guideline. Go with your gut, or with the peculiar properties that your dreams generally take on.


Deadline for all quests is Thursday, May 15th at 12:59 p.m. EST.
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

AS DICTATED TO INSTANTIATION 17-01-18-01.
User avatar
Qara-Xuan Zenith
 
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:34 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Victin on Thu May 15, 2014 8:44 pm

Quest 68: Your Worst Nightmare

The trees here were elongated, spiralling upward in unnatural shapes. The air was thick, and a light fog crawled across the muddy surface that Hector and Morionem walked across. Over Twenty floors up, they were a long way from the city by now, but scouting the upper floors would become essential in surviving this place especially with Shard now actively sending powerful creatures to challenge them. The two swordsmen would explore this floor, as others had explored the ones below, and hopefully secure the area.

There was something unsettling however, even Hector could not deny this. A strange shiver in the air, one not caused by a cold wind. The man laid a hand on his axe which remained strapped to his belt. With Ivory out of commision, he once again would rely on the other weapons he had obtained in his time here. “Hmm,” His eyes scanned over the floor around them. “Strange, no animal tracks or droppings anywhere. It’s like there isn’t any wildlife on this floor.”

Morionem eyed the swordsman carefully when his comment made him pan his attention towards the environment around him. He glanced back to Donald, who also seemed uneased to the point of remaining silent instead of any worrisome quacks. “That’s true. I think even Donald feels unsettled here. Heck, I feel unsettled here.” The young man moved his hand to the hilt of his new sword. It still felt strange to him, lacking the wooden feeling of the old one.

If it were anyone else, they might have question why Morionem brought a duck along for the journey, but Hector was not someone to care about such decisions. The two continued further into the area, the eerie silence of the environment following them wherever they went. The trees seemingly grew paler and paler, twisting their logs and branches while the leaves cascaded to the ground.

“So what do you think we’ll end up dealing with here? Ghosts? Giant Lizards? Maybe a Giant...uh, Crab?” Hector asked light heartedly. “Aw, I hope it’s a giant crab, that would be so fun. And think of all that crabmeat!” The man drooled in excitement.

“We haven’t seen neither wreckage nor water, so I think ghosts are a safer bet. Maybe giant ghosts?” Morionem smirked back at his partner’s excitement, but a voice in his head whispered the old epithet of the green-haired man for him. He shook it away and kept walking, while Don just stared dumbfounded at the duo.

“Quack.”

“Your duck wants it to be a crab, I think. Ya can’t eat giant ghosts.” He paused, “or...can you? Are giant ghost crabs edible?”

“Uh… I’d say no, but I’m pretty sure there are things which eat ghosts out there, so, I guess yes?”

“I imagine they taste like fluff. I prefer meat in my food.”

“You can’t know unless you try it first. Ghost could certainly taste like meat.”

“Whether it tastes like meat or is composed of meat matters a lot to me.” The man chuckled.

“Quack.” Don said again, dumbfounded.

A rustle in nearby branches interrupted the men’s conversation, causing both to stop cautiously. Hector looked briefly at Morionem, then back to where the sound originated from. The fog was getting incredibly thick by now, making the surrounding area a bit difficult to see. “... We should check it out, this is the first sign of life we’ve seen here. Remember, stick together, getting separated in this fog could prove dangerous.”

The mage nodded quietly and gazed over Donald, who flapped his wings in response. Unsheathing his sword, Morionem raised its blade and thrusted against the higher branches of the tree. Even after getting the leaves out of the way, he didn’t find any animal standing there, nor heard any other noise originating atop the tree. “Strange. Maybe it… Uh… Flew away?”

The rustle of branches was heard again, this time closer to Hector. “Hmm,” The man silently approached where the noise came from on his side and with a hunter like reaction dove right through the branches to nab whatever was making the noise. After a few moments of struggling, the man stood up with nothing but a rock in his hand and a rather annoyed looking face. “... It looked more dangerous when I leapt on it, I swear.” He said disappointedly, tossing the rock back to the ground.

The movement was heard a third time, but was this time coming from all around them, and it was not stopping. Hector looked around the little area they had walked to, and realized that they were in a rather suspicious clearing, with trees bordering them in a near perfect circle. “Wait, I’ve seen this before, back in floor Five. Say, have you ever fought trees?” Morionem walked backwards, approaching Hector at the center of the clearing.

“That’s an oddly specific quest-” Hector began to say as something from above smacked the back of his head rather hard. “Ow!” He turned around but saw nothing. “What the hell?” He took his axe from his belt, irritated. “Mori, are trying to tell me something here?” The man growled, glaring at one of the trees. It glared back, and lunged towards them, its branches twisting even more into crude, long-fingered hands that tried to grab Hector.

The swordsman raised his left arm in defense, but the branches wrapped around it and began pulling him closer to it. Morionem turned to slash at it, but halted to prevent himself from being grabbed by another. He cut a gash halfway through a fake arm, and then dove beneath it. “The secret is setting them on fire while not setting yourself on fire.” Striking the tree again from the other side, the mage managed to slice off one of the hands.

Hector grunted and began pulling back on the one that held him, with some exertion of strength, the arms that clung to him began to give way, with a well time slash of his axe he was freed. “I don’t know about you, summoning fire from nowhere isn’t how I do things.”

“Me neither, I just do lightning.” The creature he was fighting spun to the left, and brought down its remaining fist on Morionem. He used his shield-holding arm to try to hold the branch still as his sword descended, severing off another hand.

Hector as well cut off the branches that approached him, but more of the surrounding trees were beginning to close in on the two. “Lightning sounds like a plan, do it.” The man encouraged as he blocked another branch from reaching Morionem.

“Doesn’t sound wise while we are surrounded by fuel. Let’s see if one of them care to show us the door out?” He said, trying to take his companion’s attention towards the handless tree in front of himself. Catching his cue, both of them ran towards the target, their shoulders laying all of their weight with the intent of bringing the tree down. After it fell, they stood up and spun to face the trees again, while Donald nervously flapped his wings towards the two.

The two looked at each other and nodded, and with that Morionem gathered the ether inside him and cast a bolt of lightning at the cluster of trees. A large spark of fire erupted from the collision of tree and lightning, and the fire began to spread across the group of them. Hector and Morionem back away from the trees as the bark began to fall to the ground in heaps. The fire was short lived however, as the fog slowly seemed to consume it. The two stared into the smoke and fog, and still saw the movement within.

There was a tinge of nervousness in Morionem as the trees moved through the fog and into their vision, looking much more grotesque than before. The fire had burned away their branches and bark, revealing a bone like structure, as if the trees were some sort of undead mass. A strange vibrating noise was emanating from the monsters, a low moan that unsettled the mage.

“That’s unexpected.” Hector said flatly.

“Okay… I have no idea how to fight that, then.”

Hector lamented not having his masters sword at a time like this, but there was nothing to be done about it now. “Then let’s not, we’re out of their little trap, let’s retreat while we can.” The two nodded in agreement and turned from the monsters and quickly outpaced them as they faded back into the fog. “This is a bad sign,” the man reasoned, “If the whole forest is made of these creatures it might explain why there is no wildlife here.” As he said this he ducked under the branches of other trees that lay across the forest they ran through, each one seeming to activate as they approached it.

Morionem quickly discussed with him whether he should or not sheathe his sword. It was slightly longer and heavier than what he was used to, though he might need it to ward off some enemies. He decided it didn’t trouble him enough to put it back, but didn’t took his shield to hand yet. “Last time there was a druid sending off magic that brought the trees to life. I can try to find him or any equivalent again.”

“For some reason I get the feeling this isn’t quite the same thing.” The two charged through another group of creatures before finally emptying out of the large forest into an even larger clearing. Hills sprawled out in the distance, with what looked like the ruins of old farms or other housing. There was a faint sound of running water, but neither of them could see a river nearby. The forest behind them seemed to stop its pursuit of them instantly upon escaping. It was strange to Hector as he looked back towards them. It was if they had returned to more a natural state as soon as the two were out of range.

The two and their duck companion continued forward, towards the ruins ahead of them. With nothing in their way now, it was not long before they reached them. The air here was similar to the forest, but was more stagnant, rotted, than before. Donald fluttered nervously and perched itself atop Morionem’s head. “Uhhh,” Morionem began to say in protest but was interrupted with a scared quack. “Ok… fine.” He sighed.

Hector rubbed an armored hand up against one of the walls of the old building they were nearby. The littlest pressure seemed to be enough to make it chip away. “These seem to have been here a very long time. Hard to believe anyone would live this close to that kind of forest...”

Morionem watched the green haired warrior continue to examine the place. It was strange to watch the man work and act the way he did; after all the rumors were not particularly kind about Hector or who he was and Morionem had to admit he was more than a little curious about the truth. “Hey, Hector?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry if this comes off as rude, but is it... true what they say about?”

Hector smirked, “What do they say about me?”

“That you were the Jade Devil, a pretty horrible criminal back on the surface.”

Hector peered through a shattered window, there were a few bodies inside, but had long since rotted away into a few bone fragments. “If it were true, what would you think?”

“I’m… not really sure, actually. You’ve seemed to have done a lot of good here in the castle. It’s a little hard to believe you could do all the bad things they say.”

“Maybe I didn’t,” Hector reasoned. “The truth, Morionem, is that when you gain any sort of notoriety, people begin to have preconceptions on who you are and what you are capable of whether you actually did what they say or not; and many people back then saw what they wanted to see, regardless of what I may have been doing. I was the Jade Devil, yes, but if you're asking if I committed all the crimes I am accused of...I can not say for certain; exaggerations and hyperbole are often tossed around with my old name, and I never held any interest in attempting to end these rumors.”

“I see.”

“I’m just Hector, now.” He assured, “At the moment, that’s all that matters.”

“Yeah… You’re right. And… I know Kevin and Anjali trust you, and I chose to work for their guild. If they trust you, I trust you too. Besides, I remember you also fought the kobolds when they set fire to the town.” He smiled to the swordsman, which vanished right after a sudden realization “Oh! I’m sorry for... Bringing it up.”

“Ah, don’t sweat it. I don’t blame you for being curious, as long as we can work together I don’t care.” The swordsman heard a creaking coming from inside the building, as if something was placing pressure on the floor boards. “Go to the door, check if you see anything.”

Morionem nodded, “I’m on it.” Even the mage could hear the creaking as he placed his ear to the door. It was as if there was something swaying back and forth in there. Carefully, he nudged the door to the ruined building open and peered inside before almost immediately backing up in shock.

“What is it?” Hector questioned, beginning to approach his ally. Morionem did not look away, it seemed to have trouble finding the words. It was at that moment the body of another person bursted from the barely open door and charged at the mage. Morionem stumbled backwards and trip onto his bottom, above him was no doubt an undead human, but it was one he recognized. It looked to be Anji. Her zombified body reached towards him before being abruptly pushed away as Hector slammed into the creature with his shoulder. “...No way,” Hector muttered as he got a better look at the creature.

“On no… not this again.” A bead of sweat collected atop Morionem’s brow as he spoke in disbelief.

The husk that resembled Anji twisted and contorted its body back onto its feet, and let out a painful screech to the two. And with the screech drew the presence of more creatures. From the fog emerged the walking corpses of Kevin, Julius, and even Tamar. “What trickery is this!?” Hector clenched his teeth in anger as his eyes fell upon Tamar’s rotted corpse. He pushed back Julius’s attempts to bite him, knocking him to the ground.

“I… I don’t know!” Morionem scrambled to his feet, narrowly dodging another leaping attack from the zombified Anji.

As Tamar approached the green haired swordsman, Hector found that he could not raise his arms to strike the boy. Whether what he was witnessing was true or not, seeing Tamar and the others decayed and barely held together greatly unsettled the man, and seemed to hurt him more than any attacks to his body could. The man merely dodged the attacks, blocking when he can, but refused to strike them.

Morionem swung his sword to the left, and then to the right, keeping Kevin and Anji from approaching him directly, but he too found it difficult to just outright attack them. It was like everyone Morionem had met was appearing as some sort of undead being, and in truth he could not help but feel afraid of his situation.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Hector declared, “We saw them back on the first floor alive before we left; and Julius’s body was destroyed when he fought Shard, there’s no way it could be here now as a part of the undead. I refuse to believe what I am seeing!”

Hector brought up a good point, though it was hard to think logically when you were surrounded by the zombified remains of your friends. The two continued to defend themselves as best they could without harming their friends. Their focus on evasion instead of fighting caused the two to slowly become separated, with Hector being forced to back away into the old building while Morionem was pushed further away into the hilled valley they were in.

The green haired swordsman pushed old crumbling furniture in the way of the creatures as they approached him. “I won’t hurt you,” He growled, doing whatever he could to put distance between him, Tamar, and Julius. The floor was weak however, and as he continued to back away from them, it unexpectedly gave way to the warriors weight, causing him to drop into the basement below.

For a moment, all was silent. Hector groaned as he lifted himself up from the debris he laid in. He looked up, but heard nothing, it seemed as if the zombies had not followed him once he fell below… or like they weren’t there at all once they were out of his sight. The man narrowed his good eye, suspicious of this.

“You can’t save them, Jade.” A bored voice announced its presence behind the swordsman. Hector whipped around, and say a rather pale looking Luca. Luca seemed to pay Hector no mind, instead quietly examining a very familiar red and white mask; Asha’s mask. The swordsman could only look on in shock. “You couldn’t save me, you couldn’t save Asha...” His pale eyes looked to where Ivory would have been strapped to the man’s back, “Not even Olivia.”

“We led a path of destruction that you caused, and those friends of yours will be destroyed too. If not now, then very soon. Kind of sad, really,” He smirked, “When you were the Jade Devil at least you weren’t trying to be the “hero,” now that you are you seem to be doing even less good. Hell you brought one of the greatests threats to this castle we’ve face so far; Me.”

Hector’s face turned grim. “... You’re not real. Luca is dead.”

“Does that make my words any less true, though?” Luca argued, throwing the mask up in the air and catching it lazily. “Real, not real… face it Jade, whether you kill or not your actions will always just cause other people to suffer. Tamar and the others will just be the next on the list of many who will fall because of you. We’ll be lucky if they just end up as zombies.” He chuckled. “Why don’t you just admit it?”

“... Admit what?”

“That you’re afraid. Not of the monsters that stalk us, or even all the injuries you’ve been hiding from your friends.” Luca shook his head silently, “Admit that you’re afraid of yourself. Afraid that no matter what your intentions are, they will always have negative impacts. That no matter how much good you do, it’s not really you doing it; it is merely your attachments to Olivia guiding you... as one would guide a weapon.”

On the surface, the mage warded off the legion that rapidly arose around him. “Not this again. C’mon I know you’re not real, you can stop that this time.” He braced his shield as vicious claws struck the wood from the front and struck his leather jacket from behind. Even with his defenses too many wounds were gathering in his skin, quite a few of them bleeding. ”Time to... Attack!” Doubtful, Morionem slashed horizontally, but his new blade’s weight threw his arm to the side due to the semicircular motion, giving an opening for one of the zombies to bite it.

With a growling of pain, the young man jammed his shield in the beast’s head, throwing it backwards where it hanged by a piece of flesh that quickly ripped and let the head fall to the ground. A creamy yellow blur struck another zombie in this face, giving Morionem enough time to jab it in the shoulder, and then push the sword down, slicing off his arm and abdomen in a single strike. Looking around, he analyzed his enemies and searched for his best way out of this living trap. There was a wrecked windmill the mass seemed to be walking towards, but Morionem wasn’t going to fall for this again.

He thrusted forwards and upwards, stabbing a zombie from the middle belly to the back of its neck. Muttering an apology under his breath, the mage ran out of the encircling legion followed by his bird companion. Once besides the ruined mill, it was clear how rotten and old the wood making its foundations were, surprising Morionem how it was still standing. The zombies ferociously raced their way to the mage, hungry for his flesh.

“Quack?” Asked Donald, with begging eyes.

“Uh… Well… This.” A thunderbolt jolted from the iron sword, and arced through the sky into the windmill’s wall. The thunder deafened, the lightning blinded and the electricity set the building ablaze, the flames furiously eating away the wooden foundations and causing the whole building to collapse over the zombies.

There were the sounds of hissing flames and feral groans, and then there was silence and ashes. Morionem took a deep breath, and the coughed out some smoke. Shaking his hand in front of his face, he and Donald walked away from the ashes and the smoke.

Hector knelt to the dirty ground as if physically fatigued. Others stood around him now, not just Luca. Asha was there as well, as was Tamar, Ben, and even Olivia. None of them however, acted any differently than Luca had been. They all warned him of his danger to others, and the fear of his own actions. The man clenched his own fists in anger, but refused to do anything to stop them. The truth is he did not really disagree with their judgements of him, in fact it was exactly how he perceived himself. The unnerved feeling the man had seemed to try and cloud his mind, but Hector felt like he was starting to understand this.

The trees returned to normal when they were out of view, the Zombies disappeared when they left Hectors vision. Was it possible that this too, was nothing but illusions, tricks playing with their minds. “Real or not…” The swordsman repeated, rising back to his feet. The angry voices of his friends seemed to increase in tone and curses, but there was something else there, a voice calling his name from above. Hector focused on that voice, and slowly, those around him began to fade away.

“Hector, are you alright down there?” Morionem called back down, seeing the man just standing alone in silence.

The swordsman opened his good eye, and looked around the now empty basement. A feeling of relief washed over him and his attention returned to the mage above. “Yeah...yeah, sorry. You handle the undead?”

“Yes. Second time they have attacked me, same faces and all. It’s still unnerving.” He shook the thought out of his mind.

“I think that may have been the point.” Hector explained as he climbed his way back out of the basement. “You faced those trees before too... I think something is playing with our fears; these things aren’t real.”

"The second time you fight the undead remains of the people you know you start suspecting it's fake, specially when the first time was." He tried to smile, yet the place still felt too eerie for that. "Well then, any ideas where we can find the source?"

Hector thought for a moment and looked around their surroundings. Walking outside, he looked at where the zombies had been and where they had chased Morionem, and noticed something of interest. They had not left any sort of tracks. “Makes sense,” he muttered, “if it were an illusion.” He walked further towards the hills then, opposite of the building they had been near, where surprisingly there were foot prints, human feet in appearance. “Up till now, the only thing leaving impacts in the ground has been us. The rest of this stuff has been fake, and hasn’t been able to directly interact with the environment...these foot prints had to have been made by something real then. I think this is our best bet in finding our culprit.”

The two tracked the footprints, which led out of the farm and the hills around it, until finally they came upon the river they had heard in the distance. The followed the river, and in the distance began to hear something close by. It sounded like weeping. They paused, “Okay,” Hector whispered, “the last two times we heard something it went horribly wrong. Just stick close and be ready for anything.” The man warned, clenching his axe.

Morionem nodded and followed Hector, holding his sword and shield ready for more combat. The two rounded the corner and prepared to swing at some terrible monster or illusion. The two held back, however, when there was a cloaked woman laying on the ground, seemingly in fear, crawling away from the two. “Don’t kill me!” She pleaded, “I didn’t mean to run!”

The two men looked at each other, and then back at the cloaked woman. “What are you talking about?” Hector asked.

“S-shard sent you to kill me,” She whimpered, “because I ran away.”

“Do you recognize her...?” Hector whispered, making sure it wasn’t another illusion.

“No. I take it you don’t?” He whispered back. Hector shook his head back and forth.

“Please, whatever you do, don’t take me back to him.” Her voice faltered, as if she cried under her breath.

“Were you the one performing these illusions…?” Hector asked. “Who are you?”

The woman seemed hesitant to answer, still slowly crawling away. “I… I can manipulate the darkness. I can draw on the darkness inside a person’s mind, and bring it out as their worst fears. Shard made me to do this, but I ran away. I was… just trying to get you to leave, to protect myself.” She explained between her weeping. “Please,” she pleaded in her fear, “I am afraid to die.”

“... What an incredible power, this doesn’t seem like it’s normal magic. I’ve never heard of any strictly ‘dark’ spells from Asha, anyway.” The swordsman muttered aloud. “We don’t work for him, or any of the ones upstairs. Actually we’re basically just the opposite at this point, seeing as he’s killed plenty of our friends now.”

She eyed the swordsman suspiciously, and then closed her eyes. With a movement of hands and fingers, a distorted image appeared between her and the two men. A lone figure, hovering far above the First floor’s town. The motion ceased, and the blurred image vanished. “H-He… Did he attack your… town? He… Killed someone. You mentioned his name before,” she stared at the green-haired man, “J-Julian?”

“Yeah, something like that.” The man scratched his chin. “Well… ” Hector looked over at Morionem, “What’s the plan here? If we can find her, our enemies probably can too, that wouldn’t be very good for her. Taking her back to the city could end up being just as dangerous, though.”

The mage thought for a moment, and responded, “I think… we should let her go, hide somewhere else maybe. She might not be safe here anymore, but she could find somewhere else.”

“You...you would let me go? Even after a I...”

“Yeah, that works for me.” Hector nodded. “Just don’t go scaring us if we, or our friends, bump into you.”

“Are you… are you sure?” The two nodded without hesitation to her question. “T-thank you. I will not forget your kindness.”

“If you need further help, search for Severed Storm, at the bottommost floor. My name’s Morionem, the little duck over here is Donald.”

“Quack!”

“Call me Hector.” The other man introduced.

“I will do this...” She gathered herself up off the ground, bowing politely to the three. “I hope I find others as kind as you… I thought everyone was like he was. I’m sorry for what I did.”

“Don’t sweat it, just stay out of my head next time.” Hector chuckled.

After a few more moments to collect and calm herself, the maiden prepared to leave, further away into the depths of the castle. The two swordsmen turned to leave, and started walking their way back.

“Say, uh… Hector, you’re a much better swordsman than I. Would you mind… Er… Teaching me something?” He asked, only slightly awkward.
“What, Sword training?” Hector asked, “Aaaah, sure, why not? Just don’t expect me to go easy on you.”

The young man smirked. “Well, okay then. The harder you go the stronger I get, right?”

Hector just laughed somewhat off puttingly and did not answer, causing Morionem to get a little nervous.
Dolphins are some of the smartest animals, yes, but by human standards… Let's say you should praise the god that forces them to stay handless and underwater.
User avatar
Victin
 
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:17 pm
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby JackAlsworth on Mon May 19, 2014 12:52 pm

Quest 70: Exception

Jenny looked at the map apprehensively. “The twenty-third floor is pretty far away.”

“You’re not expecting us to climb through every floor, are you?” Mirae asked, looking over Jenny’s arm at the parchment. “If you’re only sending the two of us.”

“Well, since you asked…” There was a gleam in Lori’s eye as she gestured over to a large object in the courtyard.

Jenny’s eyes widened. “No,” she said flatly. “You’re not putting me in that.”

Mirae grinned. “Oh, come on,” she said, putting a hand on Jenny’s back and giving her a slight push toward it. “You’re up and moving about, you’ll be fine.”

Jenny didn’t budge. “Has it been tested? Has anyone else used this?”

“You’ll be the first,” said Lori cheerfully. “I’ll be taking notes the entire time, of course, so I know what tweaks to make for the next trip…”

No.

“It’ll at least get us up there.” Mirae came around to Jenny’s side, her grin encouraging and with only a slight hint of mania. “Better than trudging for weeks through floors full of monsters.”

Jenny was looking less sure of herself; it’s easier that walking was clearly warring with I don’t want to get flung into the air by something Lori built in her mind. Finally, she shook her head, and Mirae knew she had won.

“It’s mad,” Jenny said. “It’s completely mad. But Mirae’s right. It’s…” The words had a hard time leaving her mouth. “...safer than the alternative.”

“I can go first,” Mirae replied. “I’ll give a signal when I’m up.” She looked up at the cliff, hand half-raised to block out the sun. “You could see lightning over that next ridge, right?”

“Um, I think so…”

“Great!” She ran the few steps over to the construct, glancing over her shoulder to see if Jenny was following. Mirae scanned it, then swung herself over a wooden beam into the machine. “See you on the top.”

“All right,” said Lori, “now make sure you’re holding onto the sides tightly, and… release!”

The wooden arm swung upward with shocking speed. Lori clapped her hands. “Now give us just a minute to reset it, and we can send you, Jenny!”

Jenny was still staring at the quickly ascending speck that was Mirae. “Oh my.”

The catapult made soft scraping sounds as it was winched back into place. There wasn’t any harness or net or… anything that looked like it was there for safety. Something flickered at the top of the cliff that might have been lightning.

“Looks like she made it!” Jenny couldn’t tell if Lori’s tone was happy or surprised. “Are you ready?”

Jenny looked at the apparatus again. I’m going to die, she thought. Something’s going to go wrong, and I’m going to die. She tried to say something, but only a squeak came out, so she nodded instead.

“All right, you saw what Mirae did, right? Try to do something similar. I’ll calculate the differences based on your weights, and… there! Go ahead and sit down. You won’t be hurt. I don’t think.”

Jenny swallowed and got in. She closed her eyes as tightly as she could, and thus felt rather than saw the castle flying past her as she shot toward her destination.

--

“Jenny! You can look now.” Jenny hadn’t felt an impact, but she opened one of her eyes a crack. Mirae was in front of her, one of her arms looking like it had scraped against the ground, but otherwise looked okay. Behind her… There was nothing. Not even the cliff face she had come over. Just an empty expanse of blank, white surface. No sound, no color, just… nothing.

“Wh-where are we?” she asked.

“I… don’t know,” Mirae said. She glanced around, one hand rubbing her scraped arm. “I’m pretty sure I hit the right floor, but when I got up, I was…” She shrugged. “Here. Weird place,” she added under her breath.

Jenny squinted, trying to see some sort of a terrain feature, or a horizon line, anything. “Should we… should we try and see if we can find a way out?”

“We should try and find a way to anything. At least then we’ll know we’re not going around in circles.” She spun slowly, looking for anything that would stand out. “Do you have anything we could use as a placemarker?”

“No, I…” Jenny paused. Even though her bow had been broken in the fight with the tauros, she had still reflexively put her quiver on when Lori had assigned her the exploration mission. She pulled out an arrow and examined it thoughtfully. “I guess these won’t be much useful for anything else.”

She tentatively poked the ground; it felt hard to walk on but yielded surprisingly easy to the arrowhead. Beside her, Mirae dug through her bag, pulling out a wad of paper. She stared at the ends until they began to smoke. She rubbed it on the tips of her fingers, then marked a circle on the ground with the ash. When she was finished, they set out.

They rested often - Jenny’s chest was still healing, and she couldn’t walk as fast or as long as she would like. Every ten or twenty minutes, she would pull out another arrow and stick it in the ground, with Mirae providing a unique ash mark for each one to make it easier to tell when they were accidentally backtracking. They found previously marked ground at least twice; each time they simply turned around and headed in the other direction.

After a few hours, they still had not found any part of the floor that looked different to any other. Just a vast, white void hanging in the middle of nowhere.

“You’d think we’d have fallen back off the cliff by now.” Mirae grumbled as they continued their steady walk. She brushed a strand of hair out of her face, leaving a black streak. “How are you holding up?”

“Been better.” Jenny was tired, much more tired than she felt she ought to be. The castle’s sun didn’t seem to be present as there was no sky, so she didn’t even know how late it was. “Are you feeling sleepy?”

“Not really. But we should stop and make camp soon, before we’re too tired to.” Mirae shifted her pack as she scanned the horizon, as she had whenever they had put another arrow into the ground. “First watch is mine.”

“All right.” Jenny yawned, then laughed suddenly. “I think this is the only time I’ve ever hoped we’d be attacked here. At least it would prove that this place wasn’t completely empty.”

Her companion smiled. “Who knows? Maybe when we wake up, there’ll be a cave full of things right beneath us, and we didn’t notice because we were wandering around on top of it.”

“Heh… better than now.” Jenny carefully set up their sleeping places and laid down as Mirae drew an arrow in the direction they had been going and took her watch post. In only a few minutes she was asleep. Mirae leaned back on her hands, looking up at a ceiling as featureless as the ground. She tugged a knife out of her cloak but let it rest on the ground next to her hand. She didn’t think she really needed it.

Mirae didn’t move for the next few hours, until her hand cramped up. She stifled a yawn while rubbing it. “Jenny,” she called over.

The woman didn’t respond. Mirae reached over and shook her shoulder, and then again, more forcefully. Jenny stayed sound asleep. She sighed, looking once at the empty horizon, before heading off to her own bed.

--

Mirae blinked. She couldn’t remember standing up, or where this rise in the floor had suddenly come from. The void above her was still the same, but...

She started as Jenny, who she hadn’t noticed standing slightly behind her, suppressed a gasp. “This… this must be what the twenty-third floor actually looks like.”

It was the castle in miniature. Each individual floor had its own tiny space, with smaller versions of the terrains (and dangers) contained on them. Most of the squares were lightly colored, but…

“That’s strange,” she said, looking at a space on the edge closest to them. “This one’s all dark. And that one is too, over there.”

Mirae stepped up next to her, bending over to see what seemed to be a black replica of the city. It was dark all the way to the silver line that separated it from the next square. “The first and the…” She paused as she counted. “The ninth. And all the rest are white.” She let her hand drop as she peered towards the far edge. She smiled fleetingly. “You could turn this into a giant checkers board.”

Jenny blinked. “Checkers?”

“Game with a black and white board. You have to capture all of the other side’s pieces.”

“So… this is a game board.” Jenny looked around. There didn’t seem to be anyone else. “So who are the players? Are we supposed to play each other?”

“They didn’t give us any pieces, if we are. And the colors are off. Half of them should be black,” Mirae said, pointing to every second square along the first row. “I don’t know if we can do anything with it.”

“Well, I would certainly hope not.” A voice yawned from across the board. “There’s enough meddling going around as it is, lovelies. I would hate to see my pretty board go black.”

Jenny jumped, instinctively reaching for a bow that wasn’t there. Mirae spun out a knife, staring startled at the voice. “Who are you?”

The woman stretched out on the large chair. Her hair, obscured by dirt and tangles, appeared blonde. Her eyes were an imposing brown, and she smirked at the two arrogantly. “I do believe that the question should be what are you two doing here?”

Mirae shot a glance over her shoulder to make sure no one else had appeared. “Why would we not come up here?” she asked, wary.

“Well, you should die, obviously.” The woman laughed, grinning madly at the two. “No one should ever make it through my floors, sweethearts.”

Jenny wanted to look away, but her traitorous eyes were frozen on the woman in front of her. “Your floors?” she asked, trying to stall while her mind worked frantically. “I thought they were…”

“Hmm? Speak up dear, it’s not nice to mumble.” The woman yawned, stretching out like a cat.

The corner of Mirae’s mouth twitched as she fought to keep from grimacing. “This is your game, then, is it?”

“Oh, it’s not a game. That would mean you little dears had a chance.”

Mirae opened her mouth to reply, then thought better of it. She still couldn’t keep the glare off her face. Eyes blazing with pride, she turned her gaze to Jenny rather than snapping at the woman.

Jenny was looking at the board again, at the tiny spots of black among the sea of white. “But… then what’s the point? Why are we here, if…”

“Oh, my silly little girls.” The woman stood, tattered dress clinging to her skin. “Why don’t you listen to Millena? It’s simple, even a child like you should grasp it easily. You, my dears, are here to die.”

Mirae put a hand on Jenny’s shoulder, pulling her back ever so slightly. She kept her head tilted away from the woman, not just to keep her temper. Her eyes were sweeping the area around them for any sort of exit.

Jenny managed to shake herself out of her reverie. Think, she told herself. “Who are you?” she repeated, still trying to buy time.

"Why, haven't you figured it out, sweet?" The woman laughed again, swooping close. "I'm the keeper of this lovely little place we both call home." The woman singsonged madly. "Well, I do. You shan't for much longer, I'm afraid."

“You’re the one Shard works for?” Mirae returned her gaze to the woman, knuckles whitening around the hilt of her knife. “Should we let everyone in the city know your plan for us? It might take us a while to understand something so simple.”

The woman sobered, smirk coloring her features. "You know they always say that, and then they die. I wonder what will do you in. An ogre, maybe? Or maybe a demon? Perhaps even a friend, someone you love. It doesn't matter, either way."

The board. Jenny’s thoughts were running around in circles. It all has to do with the board. The board is the castle, she’s in control… “Why would you do this?” she asked desperately. “Why not just let us die outside? Who would build this… thing?”

"I didn't build it dear." The woman smiled widely. "I'm just the King."

“What happened to the builders?” Mirae asked quietly.

"I wouldn't know. Before my time, dearie."

"There's been more than one... uh, king?" Jenny was both fascinated and horrified.

"Oh of course." The woman stood taller, holding herself stiffly. "I am King Millena. All shall bow and die before me."

Scowl returning briefly at the King’s last words, Mirae let a bit of curiosity slip into her tone, though she stayed taut, ready to move. “Where were we before? Why couldn’t we see this”--her free hand gestured at the board, her still-blackened fingers passing over the miniature farms of the third square--“before?”

"I didn't want you to see it." Millena smirked.

“Why not?” Jenny felt her hands trembling. “You d-don’t seem to have a problem with trying to scare us.”

The smirk grew to a toothy grin. "I am the King here. It's time everyone knew that."

“Did you know we were coming up here? Or did you just… wait?” Mirae asked.

"You ought to run along now, sweetmeat." Millena returned to her throne.

Mirae’s jaw tightened, but she didn’t say anything. She dropped to a crouch in order to take a closer look at the board, glancing at Jenny as she did. The archer was standing stock-still, staring at the queen with an unreadable expression.

As Mirae examined the board, one of the squares seemed to get larger. It grew and grew, until the white enveloped them; they heard Millena’s shrieking laughter fade away, growing distant.

Jenny blinked; the blinding white was dimming, becoming more recognizable…

“I know this floor,” she said slowly. “We’re back on the second.”

Mirae sprang to her feet, her initial surprise starting to fade away. “How…?”

Jenny didn’t speak. She was moving, almost trancelike, toward a small object on the ground. It was a makeshift grave. She knelt next to it. Frowning, Mirae followed her. She dropped onto a knee next to Jenny, looking at her questioningly.

“This was where I killed my first… person,” Jenny said quietly. “I always told myself…” She trailed off; she was shaking, tears falling silently onto the grass.

Mirae rocked back onto her heel. “Oh. Um…” she started, still watching in confusion as her companion wept. She worried the neck of her cloak for a moment, letting her gaze stray. “How… how long ago was it?”

Jenny shook her head, wiping her eyes. “I had just come the castle. I don’t know exactly how long…” She looked back at Mirae, eyes shining. “I see this place all the time. In my…” She fell silent again, pondering.

“Sorry,” Mirae murmured. She continued a bit louder. “I guess this means we’re not out yet.”

“No. No, we’re not.” Jenny looked around. “This is exactly how it looks in my dreams. This… we must still be asleep!”

“Great,” said Mirae, decidedly not enthused. “There’s got to be some other way to get out of a dream other than waiting.”

Jenny’s breathing slowed. “I don’t know. If it is a dream, it’s probably almost over anyway. Mine don’t usually last this long.”

“A’ight,” Mirae said quietly. She pushed herself back to her feet, walking over to lean against a tree. As she reached up to push a couple of leaves away from her face, her hand brushed against the trunk. The bark… moved. It scraped against her hand, feeling almost like snakeskin.

She took a hasty step away from the tree, turning to face it. “Jenny?” she called out. “Was this part of your dream, too?”

Jenny looked over, startled. She got up slowly and moved toward the tree. She had almost reached it when another branch swung forward, slamming into her stomach and knocking her off her feet. Mirae ducked down to help her up or pull her out of the way. Another bough rammed into her from above, sending her sprawling next to Jenny.

Several different exclamations passed through Jenny’s head. None of them quite made their way out of her mouth, since the wind had been bashed out of her. She struggled to push herself up and get another look at their assailant.

The monstrous tree lumbered toward them, branches swinging around wildly. In the middle of the trunk, behind the thickest cluster of leaves, she thought she could make out a… no, that wasn’t possible… but then, this was a dream… she could swear the tree had a face...

She wanted to stand up, to run, to find somewhere to hide, but something in the back of her mind was telling her otherwise. Stay on the ground... The wood creaking was getting very close now. There was one final rush of wind through leaves, and then darkness.

--

Mirae’s eyes flew open. She shot out a hand to push herself out of the way of the flying branches, twisting her head to look for cover that… wasn’t there anymore. She realized a bit belatedly that her hand was resting on her bedroll rather than grass. Letting her breathing slow, she sat up. Movement came out of the corner of her eye, where Jenny had been sleeping, and was now stirring feebly.

“Well,” said Jenny, after an uncomfortable silence. “That was unexpected.”

Mirae chuckled. She started disentangling herself from her blanket. Pausing halfway out, she stared at the ground. Thin black lines were painted on the eerie surface, stretching out as far as she could see to either side. “Did you notice anything going past when you woke up?” she asked, running her finger over them. They didn’t smear.

Jenny’s gaze followed Mirae’s hand; she shook her head. “I… I think we’re still alone.”

“You up for some walking?”

“Yes.” Jenny stood, wincing as she did so. “We should get back to the first floor as quickly as possible.”

“Let’s hope these don’t go in circles.” Mirae hurriedly repacked her bag, then set off, following the lines. Every so often they would see one of their improvised landmarks, but they were clearly headed in a slightly different direction than they had come from. Eventually, Mirae pointed.

“It’s getting darker.” Ahead of them, the sky was fading from dim white to a more familiar nighttime blue. As they got closer, the silhouettes of bare trees started appearing against the horizon. Mirae half-smiled at Jenny. “I think we just found the way out.”

Jenny breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness.” Then she blinked, considering. “Uh… Lori didn’t happen to give you anything to help us get back down, did she?”

Mirae started to reply, then fell silent, looking uncertain. “Well, I’ve got some rope. I think it’s long enough to get down a cliff.”

“It’s worth a try.”

Mirae pulled the end of the rope out of her bag and looked at the cliff edge. She took a deep breath. “Here we go, then.”
User avatar
JackAlsworth
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:40 pm
Location: Western Washington State

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Scarab on Thu May 22, 2014 9:11 pm


Quest 71: Life Is But A Dream

*
Something was scratching at the darkness, like a shard of chalk against stone, when Tamar awoke to find himself in a very different place to where he had gone to sleep last night.
is first thought was still to reach for Echo though, and that was when nervousness kicked in when the space besides him was suspiciously empty, and the darkness all around was closing in with nothing to light it. Not that the fire spells were behaving themselves at the moment anyway, but still, being anywhere without Echo was like a kick in the gut. It wasn't right.

He didn't say hello. That would be stupid. Instead he held his breath and tried to examine his surroundings as best he could. Stone walls, corridors and... doors? They looked like doors, but they weren’t. The same stone grey as the walls, as if they’d been cared there. They probably had.

He didn’t know how he knew this, but he knew.

"Right... okay. This is... this is a thing," Tamar let out a breath. The scratching in the darkness continued heedless of his words. And then, abruptly, the darkness lifted.

Tamar didn't know how. There were no torches on the walls, no fire pits, no windows. But the darkness rose like a blanket and the corridor before him stretched outwards into silence. The walls were almost bland in comparison to the strange, lichen rich inscriptions you found in the underground or the old warehouses . Bricks seemed artistically placed, rather than structurally, a thin greenish grey sheen on the whole world around him. There was a sense of presence here. Of being watched.

Tamar shuddered. He hated portents. So then, where was this? The Underground, maybe? He didn’t remember deliberately seeking out a place that was more than likely to kill him but hey, stranger things had happened...

The doors were indeed carved into the stone of the walls.. No handles, they couldn’t be opened, but Tamar could feel movement behind them, and hear the echoes of almost voices. There was a sense of familiarity which was probably the only reason he wasn't freaking out already. There was anxiety, sure, he was nervous and on edge and doing everything that Hector had taught him to do. But still, a strange kind of normality was settling. The sense of “this is how things are”, similar to casting a spell or... whatever it was that Echo did. Things were as they were. When he turned the corner , he expected the thin corridor to open up into a room, with other doors and passageways, and it did. Right. Normal. Empty. Surprisingly dull.

“Not right,” Tamar muttered. He imagined he could hear the omnipresent scratching growing louder. Like it were trying to answer.

The glimmer of something bright caught the corner of his eye. The only thing sliver amidst the green, and Tamar started at the suddenness of it’s appearance. It hadn’t been there a second ago, but now, as he crossed the room, there it was: in the thin space of wall between two stone arch doorways. A mirror in a simple frame. Eliziya had one just like it on her desk at the headquarters, but not as new and unused. He reached out to brush away nonexistent dirt from it’s surface.

“Weird,” Tamar muttered, voice quiet. “Where is this place?”

“I hope you don’t think I know the answer to that?” came a voice from the mirror, making Tamar startle backwards because okay, talking mirrors... Never in the history of literature had that ever been a good thing.

Except it wasn’t a mirror, he realised, it was more of a window, and the place on the other side was brighter and... well, greener than his side. And there was a face; young boyish figure with short blonde hair and goggles, standing with a bemused expression. He probably looked much like Tamar felt.

”Though I have to say, it doesn’t seem like where you are is the same place as where I am,” the voice added mildly. The mirror fogged up for a moment before showing something completely different from Tamar’s reflection. The face shifted in and out of focus a little, as if the mirror were a globe, but it was another person sure enough. Someone Tamar had never met... and beyond them, in the green, were the...

*

...huge trees that towered hundreds of feet high, with trunks far too large to be natural. The ground was made of moss, and only a few rays of light hit the ground, the rest swallowed up by the overhanging branches. Pan looked into the mirror-window that very clearly didn’t belong, looking at the reflection that was not hers: a man with light hair and violet ees, standing in a factory-like building that made her stomach churn a bit just looking at it.

She had no idea how she got there. She didn’t remember falling asleep, and yet the next thing she knew she was standing in a forest she had never seen before, surrounded by trees that were as far from normal as was possible and filled with the sensation of being watched from all angles. She knew that a forest had it’s own brand of magic, it was what she loved most about living there, but she also knew that it was supposed to be far more subtle than this. It didn’t match up with what she knew and combined with the fact that she didn’t know how she got there…

Looking back at the man, she despaired slightly over his confused expression. “Well, neither of us know where we are. Great. This castle’s bound to be the death of me, I just know it…”

*

Tamar bit down on the urge to ask whether or not this was real. Of course it was real. It wasn't even the strangest thing the castle had ever thrown at them. Still, he couldn't help but agree with this complete stranger. “R-right... okay wait, where are you? This is a mirror, right? Or some kind of magic... thing.” He pointedly ignored the boy’s rude snort at this. “This isn’t where I fell asleep last night...”

”Me neither,” came the reply, a worried expression coming over the boy’s face. ”Not even close. So, what, are people getting kidnapped now, do you think?”

“What kind of kidnapper leaves you completely unattended in the middle of a corridor in the dark? or... wherever you are?”

”What kind of mirror doesn’t reflect where you are? Normally logic tends not to apply in this place when it really counts.”

*

...Okay ,that was a fair point. Tamar stepped backwards frowning and was about to say something else, but the mirror seemed almost to... crackle. Like a lightning bolt. He only got to see the boy’s face frown for a moment before the mirror itself cracked clean across the surface, the image fogging up, the green trees vanishing.

Funny. The room seemed immediately darker now that the light had gone. “Uh... hello?” Tamar frowned, although he already knew there would be no answer. Whatever magical signal had connected the two of them had gone. ”...But he’s here somewhere, right? he has to be.”

The disturbing sense of normalcy was creeping in over his shoulders again, and now, tamar was beginning to feel more than a little creeped out. He turned to examine the two doors, and blinked. The light that had been in the mirror seemed to have moved, now a dim shade glowing in the back of the door on the left. If he listened closely, Tamar could hear a sound like a blacksmith, smelting iron in a forge.

Steps going downwards. Down deeper into the darkness of this place where the castle had dropped them. Tamar hesitated, every nerve in his body screaming that this was a terribly bad idea.

He stepped forward anyway.

*

Regardless of how she felt about being spirited away into a strange, supernatural forest and speaking into a mirror that reflected a place she considered hell on earth, having said mirror crack and cut off contact with the only sign of human life she found in this place did not do her any favors with regards to her current state of mind.

And not a minute after the mirror fogged up and became useless, the ground shook, causing Pan to lose her balance and fall heavily to the mossy forest floor. With a muttered curse, the girl looked around her, noticing that the forest had become unnaturally still. Somehow, in some way, she had become the center of attention in what should have been an empty glade.

The air grew cold. Every breath she took stung her throat and lungs, and on each exhale she could see her breath cloud. Pan tightened the grip on her staff, preparing for a fight, but the air only stung more when she did so, forcing her to reluctantly relax her body. It was rather difficult, since every inch on her body was on edge and every thought skirted on the idea of survival.

Before long, however, something in Pan’s awareness changed, and she slowly turned to see what looked like nothing she’d ever seen before. Even as she stared, she couldn’t pin a definite body shape - one moment it looked like a giant elk, the next a boar, the next a wolf, then a tiger, then all of these at once and none of them at all. Staring was starting to make her head hurt, so Pan eventually lowered her eyes and concentrated on staying as still as possible.

The air grew colder still, and the longer she knelt there the more she became aware of voices riding the wind. Stranger, human, they said, and they carried such an undertone of malevolence that Pan automatically stiffened again. Danger, killer, leave now.

“...I can’t leave,” she said quietly, and she winced as the forest grew still once more. “I don’t know where I am. I don’t know where home is. I would leave in a heartbeat if I could, but I can’t.”

Pan dared to raise her head to look at the figure in front of her, and paled as she got an impression of bared teeth. Leave, killer. You have no place in this forest. Leave now.

“I told you I can’t,” she growled slightly, wincing as the cold grew sharper and returning to a far milder tone of voice. “...I wouldn’t hurt you,” she tried adding. “I love the forest. I prefer it. I would love to go back to my forest. But I don’t know how. I can’t.”

The forest was silent, almost as though it were pondering her words. Pan barely dared to breathe.

And then the beast lowered its head down to her level. And gave a screaming roar.

Then we will MAKE you leave.

Without giving it a second thought, Pan ran for her life.

*

The corridors seemed to go on forever. But eventually, the tunnel ended,...
The middle of the room was walled off by metal walkways, like the levels of a factory. At first it seemed dark and empty, the raucous noise was just the clashing of machinery that Tamar couldn't see. But then he looked down and saw that every single floor of the building, metal grated and iron barred, was heaving with... things. Figures.
The noise wasn't machinery at all. It was the noise of creatures fighting.
Maybe they had been people once, or still were in small ways, but they certainly didn't look it. it was like somebody had ground up coal and ash and lashed it onto sticks and bones. Their eyes glowed empty ice white, and they lashed at one another in a bizarre, constant pantomime of battle. Their bodies were their blood, torn away and dripping.
Tamar.. .was not certain what to feel. Disgust was the first thing, that much was clear. not so much for how the place looked as how it felt: the air was rank and heavy. The horn came from nowhere, making Tamar jump. The creatures... stopped. They all turned and began to shuffle to the edges of the room. Towards the large, metal cages that Tamar hadn't noticed before... They crushed their way into them, the way Tamar had once seen an entire contingent of guards squash themselves onto the Podium to ascend to other floors at the castle, except... not as amusing.
Then there was the sound of dragging chains. The pulleys began to move...
It was a mechanical system, Tamar realised. They stopped, dragged the pulleys and moved onwards to another floor directly above, while creatures on the uppermost level tumbled over the edges into the blackness below. presumably though, something caught them, because there were new creatures ascending from a level underneath this one. There was a shuffling for roughly ten minutes while the creatures made their way into place on their new floors. Then the horn sounded again, and away they went. It was methodical, organized and utterly barbaric. These creatures fought like frenzies beasts, without weapons, but they responded to an instruction like blind, human slaves.
'I should be afraid of this,' Tamar murmured quietly.
"There's lots to be afraid of, but I'm not sure this is amongst them."
Tamar looked up with a start of horror, then alarm, then relief as the figure stepped out of the darkness. Tall and younger than he looked. dark eyes, the scraps of a five o’clock shadow. It had been… how long since Tamar saw him? "Delaney?'
"That's what happens," Delaney shrugged -yep, definitely him, as sharp and to the point as ever; that awkward sense of normalcy was once more tracing patterns along Tamar's spine. Delaney leaned against a metal railing, as if this were just another day in the gardens. 'You get used to things. They becomes comfortable. Like a sword. And in comfort is understanding. Why be afraid of that?'
'Delaney, what're you... how are you...' Tamar stammered. Every urge he had was being crushed by confusion, paralysing him from doing anything at all. 'What?'
'I've never lied to you, Ere,' Delaney answered simply, and the boy shuddered, resisting the instinctive urge to wrap his arms around his chest in protection...
"They.. .don't seem especially interested in us,' Tamar muttered, watching as the horn blared again and the elevators once more began to fill with stumbling beasts.
'Why should they? You're just here to watch. They know you. You belong here too.'
Tamar didn't so much shudder at that as convulse in disgust. What's that supposed to mean? I never asked to be here.'
"Here specifically, or here as in the castle?"
"I..." Tamar trailed off. The Castle.. .the Castle had Severed Storm, and Hector and Eliziya, Saints, it had Eliziya. But still... he couldn't deny the truth. "...Both. I never asked."
Delaney nodded. "We rarely do, Tamar. Look at them. Do you think they asked to be here? I know I didn't."
How long had it been since he felt normal in a place like this? When had he last been without Echo? And Delaney knew he was afraid because he always knew. He was like Hector that way: he knew things he didn't say ,while at the same time missing the blatantly obvious right in front of his face.
Tamar sighed. 'Look, I have to find someone. There's a boy here, blond hair, green eyes, he's... in a mirror. I think.'
Delaney raised an eyebrow but smiled a smile which looked nothing like him. 'Worse places to be.'
Delaney wasn't a fan of more words where few would suffice. He didn't sleep on beds made out of the pages of tomes or in libraries of other things. Tamar shook his head, stepping away even though he knew that, odd as it sounded coming from him, what Delaney told him was true. Things became comfortable if you were around them long enough. Even fear and horror.
Like the worn leather wrapping of a sword hilt.
"I need to find him... We have to help each other. I don't know how but we can see each other in mirrors, so that's a start."
There was a sliver of light in the air, Delaney moved, and Tamar instinctively opened his hands to catch what his friend was throwing. The silver compact stolen from his sister's bedroom sat in Tamar's hands. Without thinking, Tamar opened it.
*

Pan had no idea how long she had managed to avoid getting eaten and skewered already, but she knew for sure that she wasn’t going to last much longer.

The creature behind her was very fast, but it was also very large - it couldn’t make the sharp turns that she could, and that saved her life more than once. It didn’t surprise her, however, to learn that the forest itself was against her, with rocks, roots, and puddles popping up in front her from out of nowhere, tripping her up and causing her to slow down and lose precious seconds. Only her familiarity with navigating forests in general, if not this particular one, kept her from being fatally obstructed.

With a move that nearly flipped her head-over-heels, Pan leaped from root to boulder to branch, nearly losing purchase due to it being so much larger than she was used to. She scrambled up and dug her foot into a hollow nook and pushed off just as the beast’s claw gouged out a series of rivets each the size of her arm. The girl landed clumsily on the next branch and instantly gripped a handful of vines that brought her over to the next tree altogether. Without pause, she scurried up the trunk, nearly dropping her staff in her panic and rush.

This continued for several seconds before Pan realized two things: the forest was no longer trying to trip her up, and the beast was not climbing after her.

Pausing only to catch her breath, she looked down the tree, and several dozen feet below her the creature stood staring up at her. It was nearly as calm as it appeared when it first came, though the eyes held a dark promise for her that she knew it would keep if she dared to touch the forest floor again. Without a word, the creature lingered only a second longer before disappearing between one blink and the next.

Pan gulped in as much air as she could, raising a hand to her heart and clutching at her chest in a futile effort to dull the pain that came from the harsh pounding in her ribcage. Apparently that thing wanted me to go up, Pan thought blandly to herself, looking above her to the endless expanse of leaves and branches. Whether she wanted to or not, it didn’t seem like she had much of a choice.

For several more minutes she sat there, straddling the branch, but when she moved to stand up she noticed a foreign object clutched in the hand that didn’t hold her staff in a death grip. Raising it up to eye level, she saw a small hand mirror resting in her palm, fogged up just like the mirror she saw before. Blinking and taking a deep breath to calm herself, she called into it with a hopeful, “Hello?”

There were a few seconds of blurred fog before the face formed, strange eyes pressed oddly close to the mirror on his side. There was a breath of relief which briefly fogged up the mirror. Whatever was behind him was a mystery. “Oh good, you’re still there! You alright? Are things still not making sense for you too?”
Pan couldn’t afford to spend any energy getting angry at a guy who didn’t deserve it in the first place, so she let out a gust of air that ruffled her bangs a little and gave a half-hearted glare. “Nope. I’ve got some creepy ambiance and a giant thing that nearly killed me, but very little sense was made. You too, huh?”

“Yeah creepy ambience I understand. Nothing trying to kill me though. Killing each other, though...” she could practically hear him shuddering. “Getting out of here would be good. Not alone anymore though.” There was a shift. The boy briefly vanished from the mirror and Pan caught a glimpse of dark metal railings and shadows. There were sounds in the background, much like those she was hearing on her end. “So that’s one thing. We need to get out of here.”

“...You’re telling me,” she muttered, not sure what to make of the empty space where his new friend supposedly was. “Your guess is as good as mine on how, though at least I have a general direction.”

“Okay... okay, if we can track each other down maybe we can find a way out of this. Look, I... this probably isn’t going to make much sense, but wherever I am it’s... it’s some kind of factory. I’m going to try to go down, find the bottom floor.”

*

“Makes sense, I guess. Think you’re gonna be okay?”

Tamar nodded. “Probably... sorry I didn’t get your name. I’m Tamar.”

The boy smiled slightly. “I’m Pan.”

The name rang bells in Tamar’s head, but there wasn’t time to question further. The mirror was already fogging again. 'H-hey are you still there? Hey!" Tamar yelled, but the mirror was foggy and he could already see cracks crawling across its surface. "Damn it... it's like it's doing that on purpose.' Tamar looked up at Delaney who was frowning. "I have to find him," Tamar said. "He's around here somewhere and we have to help him get out.. ."
"This boy... You know him?"
"Well... no, but that's not the point. He's trapped, just like us. If we're seeing each other in magic mirrors or whatever then...the odds are we're in the same world. Or at least reachable. I've been reading up," he added by way of explanation. "The castle operates on a lot of types of magic, but transportation is definitely amongst them."
"You talk like someone taught you," Delaney smirked.
"They did," Tamar's face quirked into a small smile.
Delaney watched Tamar's face intently for a while before shrugging in acceptance. "Then I suppose you'd better keep going down, hadn't you?"
"...Right. Down." Tamar glanced awkwardly down through the metal grate of the floor, to the floors below, still swarming with creatures whose only purpose seemed to be tearing one another's head off... until the bell rang, whereupon they stopped, moved into the elevators and shifted to different floors, before the scrap began again.
"Remember the castle?" Delaney said casually. "The worst things are always in the basements. We went down there once.'
Tamar shuddered again. Yeah and we almost got killed, didn't we?" the phantom pain burned in his gut and Tamar struggled to ignore it. “You haven't even been around for the last however many months, what would you know...' Tamar trailed off as he realised the truth of his own words. Delaney hadn't been around. That was... odd. If he hadn't been with Tamar, the way they promised, then... where had he been? "Look, it doesn't matter anyway, we have to find him before he gets hurt."
The noise from the scrapping creatures was growing louder. Sharper. It was like music building to a crescendo. Except the violins here were guttural voices and the harpsichords were fingernails. And then, abruptly, they stopped.
Just like that. There was no horn. The elevators stopped moving. The creatures stopped their endless scrambling for one another's bones. Tamar shuddered, a cold sensation creeping across his neck. He was being watched, but not by the creatures fighting or operating the pulleys.
Stranger. Human.
'Delaney, something's coming...' Tamar stammered.
'Always is. Think fast,' Delaney said. "This is how they're going to meet you both."
Tamar blinked. "What? Who's going to meet us?"
"You'll see, so long as you go fast enough."
The darkness beyond the elevators... was coming downwards, blacking out the corridors Tamar had already walked. It was wrapping around the world, focussing inwards, creating weaving patterns between metal framework...
The shadow landed on top of Delaney, his eyes went white, and Tamar realised that it wasn't Delaney at all. It never had been. He had no idea where Delaney was now, but it certainly wasn't here, in the castle, in the darkness of this pit. It wasn't anywhere the living dwelled. he had been dead for... well, for years now.
For the first time Tamar felt truly frightened...
He had no idea what to do. he didn't have Echo. Without Echo he couldn't access any of the magic he could feel bubbling beneath his fingertips. Without either of those weapons at his disposal he was basically helpless. Tamar stood still for a few seconds longer than he should've, trying to figure out a plan. Down, he thought abruptly. Down, head down, Tamar!
Then he turned and ran. The shadow followed.
*

Pan hissed as the mirror in her hand fogged, cracked, and shattered in her hand, leaving a stinging sensation. She looked at her palm, somewhat stunned to notice that the event didn’t cut her hand at all. Chalking it up to the strangeness of the forest seemed like a pretty decent idea, though.

With a sigh, Pan finally stood up and glowered slightly at the sheer height between her and the canopy of the forest. The chill was really starting to bother her, though, and the sun would be more and more visible the higher she would go. Part of her didn’t think the chill would really go away, even in the presence of the sun, but she ignored that part the best she could.

With newfound determination, Pan took a cursory glance around her and made a running leap at the next branch, stumbling slightly at the edge but refusing to slow down. She held her staff between her teeth and she gripped the bark and climbed straight up a few feet before hooking her hands around a vine and swinging to another branch.

Trunk, branch, vine, branch, branch, vine, trunk, rinse and repeat. The was no clear path to follow, no well-worn trails like back home. She had no idea where she was going. All she had to go on was the vague direction of up and the cold promise of what would happen should she go down for any reason.

Almost as though fate were wanting to test her, Pan’s foot slipped on the trunk she was currently climbing, causing her to lose her balance and hang suspended for one heart-stopping moment before beginning to fall backwards. She screamed and flailed for several seconds that lasted an eternity before her hands gripped another vine and clung for life as the sudden change in momentum jerked at her arm and nearly made her drop her staff. For a long minute the forest grew quiet again, looking a shade or two darker than it was before she fell, as though waiting for something.

Pan whimpered in pain, fire seeming to radiate from her shoulders down her spine. Her hands burned from the friction. She could practically feel her teeth gouging new rivets into her staff. She knew it was only her lack of jaw strength that kept her from biting it clean in half, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. Setting her jaw even further, she pulled herself up and took a hold of another few inches of vine. The action burned worse, but she couldn’t let herself rest. Not here.

Slowly, slowly, she made more progress upwards, the forest growing steadily lighter again as she did so. It would dim slightly whenever she slipped, but Pan didn’t dare acknowledge it. She was frightened of what she might’ve seen had she looked anywhere other than up.

After what felt like hours, she finally reached another branch within arm’s reach, and after a moment’s struggle, she pulled herself a decent height above it before swinging down and landing particularly ungracefully on the branch. As she was much higher, the branches were comparatively thinner, but given the size of the trees they were still a bit larger than the bottom-most branches back home.

Panting in exertion, Pan looked above her, trying to find some sort of landmark, a sign, a goalpost, anything that would indicate what, exactly, she was aiming for. The trees looked strange, here. The leaves looked less natural and had a grayish-silver sheen to them. Bits of bark here and there seemed to be made of metal. The vines were intermingled with wires and instead of the natural animal sounds that she’d grown used to in the background, there was the oh-so-distant sound of machinery.

Suddenly, the air seemed to shift around her, flexing and tightening like an unfamiliar muscle, and she had the strangest urge to turn around. Still wary and tired, she turned slowly and cautiously and blinked in surprise at what she found.

A door.

*

Tamar ran faster that he could ever remember. Somehow it never seemed fast enough. The tunnel seemed to slope downwards now, as if encouraging him on the path, and tamar thought this must be how the cows felt, being herded into the barns. Or the slaughter house, he thought grimly, swallowing in fear.

But what other choice did he have?

[i[No choice, no choice at all, keep going human, keep going![/i]

That voice... was it his own? It wasn't Pan's sure enough. Sounded kind of like Delaney... Not that it mattered. Tamar knew if he stopped the shadows would swallow him and that would be the end. His lunged burned like somebody had set fire to them, but he ignored it.

Every now and then there were steps, two or three of them at a time, on a slow, mangled descent. The shadows were behind him. if Tamar glanced back he could see it crawling against the stones he had already passed, as if eating the world up behind him. On a desperate whim, Tamar paused, casting out his hand the way he had seen Eliziya do so often. Nothing happened. Nothing ever happened when he tried it. Unless he had a sword in his hand, trying to use whatever magic he had was useless, but hey, it had been worth a try. The darkness continued to crawl forward at an alarming pace, like tendrils of shadow, dragging their way over the stone.

Running kept him from being afraid, at least.

But then again, given the last few months, perhaps being afraid was just so natural to him now that it didn't make any difference? He kept running, forwards into the darkness…

And then the floor vanished.

Well, it kind of vanished. Tamar stepped into a corridor slightly larger than the first and found the ground to be crumbling underfoot. The floor dropped away here and there into seemingly bottomless chasms, and the jumps between each space seemed almost impossible to clear. He skidded to a halt, dragging in desperate gasps for air. He glanced back at the darkness closing in. Jump or die appeared to be the choice. But there was no way he could make that jump…

'Okay... okay think, Tamar, think.'

Except there wasn't a lot of time for thinking. The darkness was close, too close, and he had no idea what to do...

'Mind your balance' a voice said in his ear. It sounded like Asha, the voice in his mind that liked to whisper on occasion when he was least expecting it. Sometimes it felt as if she would always be there. And remembering Asha's voice reminded him of other things. He remembered the twisted reality inside of the cursed building, Salvantas and the twins and... Right. So this was just like that, then? If he squinted the distance didn't seem so bad. You just had to trust your own sense of perception.

Tamar stepped forward and closed his eyes, already knowing what to do. The stone he placed his feet on fell, but only for a second and then his eyes were open. He jumped. The paving slabs shifted and shattered beneath him but Tamar was faster than the crumbling stone. The ground collapsed as he scrambled from one side to the other - safe. Pretty sure he'd scraped both his palms free of skin and his face had caught a rock somewhere, he could feel the blood against his cheek, but safe.

He should have known better than to expect this simple little pit would stop the darkness in its tracks. It crawled into the gap, sluicing over the edge like a black waterfall, but then it rose again, hissing and continuing to chase its prey like a nebulous beast.

Sometimes you have to run. It's not always just the coward's hope," Asha's voice said. "Run from one fight, into another, choose your battles the way you choose your friends. You have to be fast enough to get away, Tamar, just like you were in the Castle basement, run!”

Tamar didn't need to be told twice.
When he found the doorway, Tamar had been gasping what he was pretty sure were his last breaths. The corridor didn't trail off, it simply ended, the way everything in this damn place seemed to: no fanfare, or warning, just a sudden, sharp stop at the end of a corridor. A small room, once again containing doors. Three of them, all closed tight and made of stone.

Doorways. But doorways to where?

Pan was behind one of them, he had to be. Tamar had no idea how he knew this, but he did. He also knew making the wrong choice would do him no favours. How was he supposed to tell...
Careful, careful, something whispered in his mind. Tamar imagined he could hear a voice giggling faintly in excitement, as if this whole thing amused it. Tamar glanced desperately back and forth between them... "I'm being careful! Damn it, which door..."

And okay , Tamar absolutely did not have time to stand here arguing with voices in his head about doorways. Not with the darkness so close to catching him. he could see the thinnest of the tendrils crawling into the edges of the room already. Then his eyes fell on something different about the middle door… the faint distortion in the air around it. He stepped forward hesitantly, brushing out a hand, feeling cool mist against his fingers.

"...Fog?" Tamar murmured.

…Like the fog in the mirrors. Tamar frowned as he stepped closer towards the middle door, fingers brushing the cool air.

The sound of the darkness crawling close behind him was like an angry symphony in his ears. How could emptiness be so loud? Tamar took a deep breath of misty air and pushed the middle door open, gripping the door frame tightly, as if already anticipating what would be on the other side.
His stomach lurched as the door opened to a striking blue sky and... no ground.

Or rather, a ground that was very far away. Tamar grabbed the door frame tighter, suppressing a yelp of surprise as he realised, for the first time, that he was quite possibly afraid of heights. Below him the world was the purest carpet of green, like a rolling sea, dashed by violent winds. It went on forever, just green green green for as far as the eye could see. There was no platform for him to stand on, no solid ground, the door simply opened into empty air. Tamar felt his stomach drop. Balance, Asha's voice murmured gently again, but it really didn't help one bit.

The misty fog around the doorway hadn't been fog at all. It was clouds.

"Hey!"

It was only the alarmed voice yelling up to him from below, which snapped Tamar out of his alarmed stupor and gave him the nerve to open his eyes and look down. There, perhaps seven or eight feet below him standing in a doorway of his own at the top of the tallest of all the trees, was Pan.
*
Pan had very little time to wonder what lay behind the door before she noticed movement in the corner of her eye and looked, her eyes widening as she saw the man, Tamar, standing on the edge of another door hanging in midair. The panic on his face was clear as day, and she didn’t blame him one bit, seeing how high up he was. But she knew that freezing up was not an option right now, for she knew that there was a darkness creeping up on all sides just waiting for them to slip up and ruin their chances of making it out of here.

“Hey!” she yelled, catching his attention and drawing him the slightest bit away from the panic. “Not to interrupt you or anything, but you really need to get over here before that thing eats you!”

Tamar seemed to glance briefly back into the doorway, clinging to the frame for all he was worth. “Are you serious?” he gasped. The wind kept catching his voice and dragging it away, but she was pretty sure he was squeaking. “How is this even…” he trailed off, glancing back again. “Did you climb all the...”

“Oi, oi,” she said, snapping her fingers. “Focus. Way I see it, you’ve got two choices: get eaten by the shadow monster or meet me down here so we can go through this dubious doorway behind me.”

Tamar briefly considered the Monster. The sickening depth of the drop before him was making his stomach churn. “...Uh... This means jumping, doesn’t it?” He winced.

Pan spared a moment to give him the most sympathetic look she could. “...Yeah. It does. And I know how awful this must feel right now, but you’ve got to make a decision, or else it’ll be made for you.”

Decision. Right. Tamar didn’t bother to look backwards. He didn’t have to. It was obvious how close it was. Pan had both of his hands up. His palms looked to be as skinned and bright as Tamar’s own palms felt, gripping the stone door. Pan had climbed that... All the way. He had actually climbed that tree from the ground up. The journey down threatened to be a whole lot faster. No other choice.

Tamar took a deep breath, said a quick prayer to Saints he was fairly sure didn’t exist, stepped forward, and let go of the doorframe. he expected to have at least a little momentum left, but apparently running constantly for twenty minutes kind of did away with that degree of muscle control. He fell straight downwards. Oh hell.

Pan had a moment of panic. He didn’t jump, he fell like a freaking sack of potatoes! She had no time to berate him, however, as she ran forward as fast as she could to the edge of the branch and reached out desperately with her staff. She hooked it under his flailing arm in a show of miraculous dexterity and viciously clung to the branch with both legs as she swung upside down, hold the staff with both hands as Tamar gripped the other end as hard as he could.

There was a sharp jolt as Tamar was literally dragged into Pan's doorway like a hanging basket.
The shadows seemed to follow for the longest possible moment, crawling down through the doorway in the clouds, trying to close the gap between them, but the second they made contact, the darkness shuddered and withdraw, snapping back on itself like a trap door crab, closing itself inwards. Pan's door slammed shut with an air of finally. The sense of dark pressure on their chests faded like a bad dream.
Tamar started breathing again, briefly considered the cruel betrayal of his legs, and then looked up, meeting Pan's rather annoyed gaze.
"O-okay..." he muttered. "Okay, S-saints be hallowed that... was worse than one of Hector's trust exercises. Um. Thank you. A lot. Hi."
Reluctantly, Pan’s lips curled up into a small, triumphant smile. “Hi.”

After a moment of brief calm, Pan shifted her grip and steeled herself before heaving the both of them upwards, first pulling the staff to the point where Tamar could grip onto the branch himself and waiting as he did so before hauling herself into an upright position, scooching backwards quickly to make room for him. When her back hit the trunk, she all but melted into a jelly-like state, utterly exhausted.

That was how they stayed for what felt like forever, before Tamar adjusted to the fact that he was no longer falling to his doom. At which point another prominent question took it’s place. “Okay um... so just so we’re on the same page. I got a creepy factory full of crazy things and a monster impersonating a dead person and you got...”

“A murderous forest spirit that tried to eat me, the forest itself which was way too sentient than was possible and also tried to kill me, and a guy who nearly killed himself because he forgot how to jump.”

“Oh... well that’s... hey! They do work ,they just stopped for a minute when they realised they didn’t have any ground underneath them,” Tamar mumbled. He was pretty sure neither of them had the energy to actually argue this. Pan definitely didn't look like he wanted to ...
Tamar did a double take. Oh, okay, maybe not he then, but hey, it had been a really blurry mirror and he'd been running for his life half the time, Tamar figured he could be forgiven a little misidentification. "For once, it'd be nice if something in this castle didn't try to kill us all the time. So my next questions would be, where the heck are we, what were we both drinking last night, and why does everything feel like it's happening and... and not really happening at the same time?”
Pan shrugged. “Beats me… if the castle wasn’t as completely upside down as it’s already proven to be, I’d say this was--”
She stopped, her eyes widening in revelation. “...A dream.”
The world shifted out of focus, and for a couple of seconds, everything went white.
*
The brightness faded into... more brightness, but at least thing brightness had the shadowy outlines of shapes in it. Tamar blinked a few times, instinctively trying to clear the flare blindness he didn’t have because hey, it’s not like your retinas could actually be scorched when you were dreaming.
The figures were everywhere. Short. Unassuming. It was their movements that made them seem alive more that their appearance, for there was nothing even close to human about them. There was a faint, excited murmur in the back of Tamars mind, like hundreds of voices muttering all at once.
”You won the game! You won!” The voices giggled innocently, sounding like hundreds of children at a party. ”That was really fun! You’re really good at this game!”
Pan looked at them all blankly, looking for all the world like she was physically putting a puzzle together in her head. “A… game?”
There was a flurry of movement, but Pan and Tamar got the distinct impression that they were nodding. ”Yes, yes! We’ve been waiting so long-!”
“-It wasn’t any fun all by ourselves, but then-”
“-the seal broke and we could play again-!”
“-You were really great-!”
“-Do you wanna play again?”

The air broke out into a flurry of ‘again’s and ‘play’s and ‘fun’s, even as they finished each other’s exclamations without pause.
Tamar glanced sideways at Pan, vaguely hoping she had an explanation for all this. No such luck. “Um.. .thank you? Wait, no, hold on a second. game? Seal? I think a little more explanation would be appreciated here, who are you?”
There was a moment of stillness as they seemed to ponder the question, followed by a unanimous shrug. We dunno, they said chipperly. We just know we like dreams! Lots and lots of dreams! And then...”
“-we had to stop because we couldn’t find anybody to bring and -”
“-it was really lonely! But then we could feel people and we brought you here to play!”

Pan’s eye twitched. “You mean to tell me that all of this - running for our lives, getting hurt, nearly getting killed - that was just a game to you!?”
The figures paused once more, seeming to give off an air of mild concern that was still largely overwritten by the carefree joy. Their voices overlapped one another, as if each of their minds was connected to the next and they crowded the two of them like curious children. “Of course, we love games!” one of them -several of them?- said.
“It’s been so long, and-”
“You were so clever!”
“You won!”
“You won the game, aren’t you happy?”

Tamar glanced uneasily at Pan, still trying to analyse all of this. Honestly, the fact that they apparently weren’t even awake right now was starting to make an awful lot of sense. he considered reaching out a hand to Pan’s shoulder to try and calm her down, paused, reconsidered, and lowered his hand. “Well... that explains why I didn’t realise he was dead,” he murmured. “So... so what is this? Are we in some... some place where people go in the castle when they dream? What’s this seal?”
“We don’t know,” they said again. “It kept us here-”
“And didn’t let us out.”
“Not until now!”
“Now we can play again!”

The chorus of ‘play’s and ‘fun’s started up again. Pan was sure the grinding of her teeth was audible even over the cacophony. “I don’t find it very fun to be dragged away from my bed into a nightmare world!”
The whole lot of them seemed to gasp in dismay. “Not nightmares, no, no, no,” they cried out all at once. “Never nightmares, nightmares are horrible!”
“Terrible!”
“Ugly!”
“Mean!”

“You can’t control what other people dream,” Tamar said, doing his best to sound firm without being unkind about it. The more he heard, the more these... creatures seemed more like naive children than malicious monsters. “Sometimes they’re going to dream bad stuff... that’s why you shouldn’t make games out of it.” He thought for a second before crouching down in front of the nearest of the strange creature’s. It’s face seemed to twist and reshape, simple expressions of dismay and confusion, created with only a few lines. “You’re in the Floating Castle, aren’t you? This is one of the floors... I’ll be willing to bet,” he looked back at Pan, “that it’s the newest floor. So they’ve been stuck here with... basically nothing to do. “
“Bored!” one of the creatures piped up petulantly. The others joined in in chorus.
”Bored. Very bored.”
“Soooooooo bored.”
“Not bored anymore.”[/i]
Tamar shook his head. “Well, I don’t know what they are,” he muttered to Pan, “but... I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to cause trouble.”
Pan snorted in disdain. “That’s all well and good, but how are we going to wake up?
There was murmuring amongst the crowd. “More to the point,” Tamar added. “How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?” He was still on the eyelevel of one of the small creatures and was gazing at it curiously. It seemed to look back with just as much confusion, craning its head towards them, twitching like an owl. Even as the thought entered his head, the creatures all shifted in size and shape, looking exactly like baby owls that all peered up at him with large, grey eyes.
Well. That was certainly a thing. Tamar lifted a hand and paused for a moment before reaching out to pat the creature on the head. His hand half sank into the creature’s “skin” before it decided to hold his hand’s weight. There was a sound almost like laughter from the creature. “You can’t just go jumping into peoples heads like that,” he said, firmly. “Our dreams aren’t just your... your playground or anything like that, they’re our thoughts. What did you even do just... drag our brains to wherever you are?”
”We don’t understand-”
“We do what we do.”
“We play games! You were asleep, sleeping people-”
“Are the only ones who know the rules!”
“We like Games but-”
“We do not want to make nightmares.”
“How can we not make nightmares?”

“You can start by not having monsters chase us and try to kill us,” Pan muttered mutinously, struggling to keep her anger afloat at the sight of the many balls of fluff that tugged at her heartstrings. She looked away, cheeks powdered pink with something very much like a pout.
Tamar resisted the urge to smile. “I... I don’t know if the nightmarish bits were their fault. You know, I’m pretty sure I can dream that stuff up all on my own... not the giant fall from a great height though,” he shuddered. “That one I did not see coming. I mean, can we even actually die? This is a dream...” he glanced at his palms. They were certainly stinging. He could feel the dried blood on his cheek, the burning where his shoulder had hit the hard stone. It felt real enough. You didn’t feel pain in a dream.
“...We need to somehow make sure they don’t let this happen to anyone else,” Pan muttered, drawing their attention. Biting back the growl, she addressed the dream creatures. “How much control do you have over a… game?”
They seemed to think on it for a bit. Pan’s eye twitched at the sight of a few of them rubbing their beaks with their wings or scratching their heads. ”We don’t pick the place they go-”
“And sometimes the creatures change.”
“We just say where you need to go and try to see-”
“-how quick you are!”

Pan ground her teeth again. She was probably aware of the same thing as Tamar was right now: the fact that however well intentioned these things seemed, they still had a rather naive grasp over a frankly terrifyingly powerful form of magic... and they had no real idea what they were doing with it. That meant they were in danger here, however long they stayed.
“Okay... see that’s the problem, this is really dangerous, guys, look at her hands, those things hurt them! I mean I know you didn’t mean it but you can’t just go around putting people in danger.” He looked up at Pan shrugging helplessly. “If they can’t control where the dreams go, then there’s no way to stop the dream from going... bad. Not unless they stop doing it altogether.”
The ghostly creatures seemed almost to buzz uncomfortably at this. ”We didn’t want to hurt her hands...”
“But we are alone here.”
“Games are fun! Can’t we keep playing?”

Pan’s staff crackled with electric energy, making Tamar quickly move forward to try calming her down. Not that there was anything he could do about magical freak outs, not without Echo, but he risked closing a hand on Pan’s arm all the same. There was a flicker, more like static than pain, hovering on the edge. “Pan,” he muttered. “We're still dreaming, remember?”
“I know, I know,” she said, still mildly trembling with rage. After a minute, she seemed to slump forward and put a palm to her face. “I just… I wanna go home,” she mumbled quietly.
Tamar took a deep breath -that felt real enough too. “That makes two of us.”
”This is home!” one of the creatures chirped. ”Home for us.”
“Not home for them, silly,”
another one put in.
“Not their home, we can send them home!”
“You can go home, strange people with hurt hands.”
“We didn’t mean to make nightmares.”
“We wanted to play.”

“Well it wasn’t playing, and you owe us an apology or something,” Tamar muttered. “Look... we know the people who take care of the first floor on the Castle, we can go talk to them, tell them about you. You must be somewhere on the new floor. Whenever we beat one floor, we unlock the next, right?” he glanced at Pan. “So maybe we could... negotiate with you, or something.”
These words were met by perhaps a dozen or more owlishly blinking eyes. ”What’s negotiation? Is that a game?”
“Um... sort of?” Tamar hesitated. “Okay not really, but we can talk to people and see if we can find some... some safer way for you to play your games without putting people in danger or, or scaring them.” he looked at Pan again lowering his voice a tad to ask. “Um...Someone in the Lorekeepers or Mages or something will know how to do that, right?”
Pan blinked at him. “The Lore-whata- who now?”
“....Okay, right, I guess I’ll do the asking.” he turned back to the ghosts trying to look authoritative. He was feeling a lot more sure of himself now that he was standing on something which at least felt like solid ground. “Look, first of all, we’d like to go home now, please. Like, wake us up or whatever it is you do. Second, you have to stop dragging people into dreams for a while.”
The sense of disappointment all around them was virtually audible. ”But... games...”
“We’ll figure something out,” Tamar muttered. “We will, that’s a promise. But this has to stop. You can bring us here without starting a game, right? Could... you do that again? If...” he glanced at Pan realising suddenly that she probably wouldn’t like his following suggestions. “...if one of us agreed to come back and... and bring people you could talk to, I’m sure we could find a way for you to do this safely. You don’t want nightmares right? Nobody likes those.”
The dream creatures all shook their heads rather violently. It made Pan wanna laugh for the first time. Then she registered what Tamar actually said. “Wait, what!?If this guy ropes me into being some sort of ambassador for these things, I’m hunting him down as soon as we wake up.
“Yeah um… thought you’d say that,” Tamar looked at her. “I mean, you don’t have to. Severed Storm can handle it… hopefully. I mean, Eliziya’s basically running it right now, and... well, if there’s nobody else then I’ll do it. We can’t just let them run rampant but... you’re not a guild member, it’s not like you have any kind of obligation.” He left the sentence there, leaving it open to her choice. She certainly didn’t look willing to play playground warden for a bunch of ethereal dream-hijacking owl-things.
Pan stared at him a while before heaving a sigh. “I’ll think about it. Preferably after I’ve had several nights’ normal sleep.”
”Sooooo no dream games for angry girl with stick?” the nearest of the creatures asked.
”That’s what she said, dummy!”
“Very well, no dreams for angry girl with stick! Angry girl with stick does not
want dreams, everyone. Do not give her dreams.”
“Or nightmares!”
“No, no nightmares.”
“We are sorry for the nightmares, angry girl with stick.”

“... You’re all lucky you’re cute.”
The rustle following this statement may have been joyous amusement. Or it may have been bewilderment. It was hard to tell at this point.
“Angry stick girl’s friend will come back again, though.” one of the slightly bigger creatures asked. ”He will come back ,and bring people and tell us how to make dreams safe and not open nightmares by mistake. Then everyone will be happy and we can play games.”
“...Right, right, okay. I can do that.” Tamar said, with the gradually sinking feeling that he was getting himself into something he wasn’t prepared for. I have no idea how the heck I’m going to explain any of this to Zi and she’s probably going to kill me for this. “But until then no dream games, understand? It’s dangerous... so... um… do we have a deal?”
There was a few more moments of nervous muttering. A couple of the creatures took to inspecting Pan’s hands while the others chattered. Given that they didn’t appear to have hands themselves, they probably found the things fascinating.
The little owl creatures all looked up at the both of them, and blinked. With a flash of light, Pan and Tamar were suddenly alone. Before they could give into confusion, though, they both vanished as well.
In two separate locations, far from the 24th Floor, a boy and a girl woke up at the same time, right where they first fell asleep that evening, with the exact same thought.
”I’ve GOT to find out if that all really happened.”
They sometimes say, "the place where I am right now was circled on a map for me"... Unfortunately, I kind of suck at orienteering.
User avatar
Scarab
 
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:35 pm
Location: Durham, United Kingdom

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:24 pm

Turn 26

Lori has developed a new way of getting adventurers to higher floors, which will be everyone’s method of transportation unless otherwise indicated.

Quest 72: Shadows and Fog
Quest Description: The shadows are moving. The shadows are alive.
Quest Goal: Make contact with the shadow world
Quest Takers: Giselle (narrativedilettante) and Vincent (Lordxana0)
GM Notes: You are on Floor 21. The shadows may be allies, but for now, you are an unknown to them, and therefore dangerous.

Quest 73: Minstrelsy
Quest Description: A small song festival was interrupted when a nest was discovered under the largest stage. The performers found a chittering group of young lizards, their mother nowhere in sight. The festival has dissolved into chaos as the singers refuse to continue on top of the lair.
Quest Goal: Figure out what to do with the lizards.
Quest Takers: Ben (Qara-Xuan Zenith) and Likovya (RussetDivinity)
GM Notes: Some or all of this quest must be written in ballad format.

Quest 74: Quarantine
Quest Description: There’s been a plague spreading through the city. People are getting gross and sick and some of them are getting dead and they want you to do something about it. Before you get gross and sick and dead yourself.
Quest Goal: Do something about the plague so it doesn’t spread and people don’t keep getting dead.
Quest Takers: Tamar (Scarab) and Hector (Adell)
GM Notes: This is an unusual quest! You might be in quarantine and FORCED to fix the plague to save yourselves, or maybe you’re just helping out of the goodness of your hearts.

Quest Deadline for all quests is Thursday, June 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST.
User avatar
eli_gone_crazy
 
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:59 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby narrativedilettante on Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:41 pm

Quest 72

Vincent sighed and looked at the long stretch of road in front of him, feeling every step that he had taken so far. “Why didn’t we bother getting horses again?”

“Because horses are nasty, unpredictable animals that don’t tend to like me very much,” said Giselle. “Or at least, that’s my reason.”

“That reason doesn’t make my legs any happier with me,” he sighed and opened up a map, looking at it to try and figure out if they were going the right way. “So do we have any information on this floor or do we just walk in blind like usual and hope we don’t explode?”

“Well,” Giselle replied, stealing a look at Vincent’s map, “I’m pretty sure it’s not a floor that makes anyone explode as soon as they get there, because the Loreknights did have a handful of accounts regarding it. They weren’t very useful, though. Something about light and darkness. Sounded more like a spiritual balancing thing than practical advice, but in this place you never know. But hey, wandering in blind makes it more fun, right?” She added with a smile.

He laughed at that and gave a nod, rolling up the map and putting it into his pocket before brushing a hand on one of the potions he had brought along. “Aye, a lot more fun now that I remembered a few of my useful potions from before we got here.”

Giselle chuckled in response. “Just don’t try any of those on me, thanks.” She pressed forward. “The faster we get there, the sooner your poor legs can rest.”

Vincent nodded. “And whose to say that the floor isn’t just a massive hot spring with hundreds of maidens waiting with offers of comforting massages?” that thought seemed to give him the strength to press forward.

“That’s the spirit. The whole ‘light and darkness’ thing is about the fire burning in a steam room.”

He stopped after a few more minutes of walking and sighed. “I...somehow doubt that.” Ahead of them was the start of what appeared to be a massive black bubble. “I would say that was the darkness part of it.”

“Looks like it.” Giselle picked up a pebble and tossed it at the apparent barrier ahead. The rock went through, but they couldn’t see what happened to it once it was on the other side.

“Well we could do the smart thing and just turn back, pretend this didn’t happen, and get something to eat…” he shook his head and stepped forward. “But my guess is that we are about to walk into this thing and probably find something horrifying on the other side.”

“If you want, I’ll go in first,” offered Giselle. “That way you can report back if I don’t come out to get you.”

“Naw, I would hate to miss it, and the story of me waiting as a beautiful woman went ahead into danger isn’t going to earn me the wooing and swaying figures of barmaids.” He smirked and stepped forward, putting a hand against the black bubble. “It...doesn’t feel like anything.”

Giselle followed suit, watching the tips of her fingers disappear in front of her, then withdrawing her hand. They were still there, not visibly or tangibly damaged in any way. “Step through on three?”

“Three has always been a number that ends badly for me. I feel like four is a much better number for our luck.” He got ready to move through, quickly saying a few prayers in case he was about to die.

“Okay then, on four. One.” Giselle prepared herself, bringing one foot forward to take a step while Vincent muttered beside her. “Two.” She checked that her satchel was in place. “Three.” And her bow easily accessible. “Four.” They stepped through.

Black. For a moment, it was overwhelming. The sense of sight was useless. The ground was still beneath their feet, but the air was still and there was no ambient sound. “Vincent? You still there?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Vincent put a hand in front of his face and found that he wasn’t even able to see something that close to him, the darkness was so thick that it almost felt as if they should have been crushed by it. “Don’t suppose you can see in the dark?”

“No. And I don’t suppose you’ve got any matches or special luminous potions tucked away?”

“Actually something like that.” He reached under his coat and pulled out a small torch before uncapping a vial and pouring a yellow liquid onto the top, causing a fire to be sparked on its top.

Vincent’s face came into view, illuminated from beneath, but refreshingly visible. “Oh good,” said Giselle, “I was worried light wouldn’t work at all here.” Still, despite the illumination of her companion, she couldn’t see anything else.

He laughed. “I was more worried that it would work and we would see something we a bunch of teeth that was about to eat us…” he looked up, just to make sure that his prediction wouldn’t come true.

“Thankfully neither of our fears were realized. Of course, it’s going to be difficult to find our way back… Hang on. You stay right there.” Giselle turned in what felt like the opposite direction to the one she’d walked in from, and kept going until she found herself in blinding daylight. An experiment occurred to her. “Can you still hear me?”

“Yes, we can.” From behind her a cold and cruel voice answered her call. When she turned around she saw a group of six people. Five of them were dressed in ragged but brightly colored clothes and had white facepaint with small marks of red over their lips and around their eyes. The sixth figure lead them and was dressed in a black robe that covered its entire form. On its back sat a long scythe, with a blade that seemed to be caked with dry blood. “You are quite loud.”

Giselle’s eyes widened as she took in the scene before her. She could explain that she wasn’t addressing them, but that much was obvious, and she didn’t particularly want to engage these people in small talk. Although she didn’t have any clear idea of how to avoid talking to them at all. “I apologize for my volume, then,” she said, and after a moment’s thought, added brightly, “Do you happen to have any rope I could borrow?”

“Yes actually, though we have yet to obtain it.” The robed figure pointed at Giselle. “Open her up and take out the intestines, plenty to go around, and a perfectly good weight to hold one end down.” The five clowns pulled free dull bladed weapons and began to chuckle lowly, stepping forward at her.

She stepped backward into the cover of darkness as quickly as she could. “Vincent?” She called out. “Run!” She barely saw the yellow light of his torch, burning a line as an afterimage as she swept toward him, more concerned about avoiding the party behind her than in keeping track of the way back.

The other six people entered into the darkness as well and Vincent saw and heard Giselle running toward him and nodded, moving forward and trying to keep a pace she could catch while not moving slow enough to be caught.

The open landscape offered no hiding places, no protection. They ran in a straight line, Giselle and Vincent putting slightly more distance between themselves and their pursuers with every step, enough to give them hope but not enough for security. Giselle took her bow in hand.

“So are the clowns friends of yours?” Vincent asked with a rather snarky tone, trying to cover up the fear he got from a small group of people chasing them with the desire to kill them.

Loosing an arrow, Giselle replied, “Never seen them before.” She didn’t watch to see whether the arrow hit its mark.

Vincent cursed and began to reach under his coat, but froze in place as he looked in front of him. “Uh...um...uh…” his mouth hung open in shock and confusion. “Giselle, you might want to look at this”

“What- damn,” Giselle muttered, as her second arrow flew wide from her distraction. She pulled ahead of Vincent before taking a good look ahead, and then she, too, came to a stop.

In front of the two sat thousands of glowing red eyes that seemed to sit in the darkness, some of the hovering hundreds of feet above the ground and just looking down at them. Some would occasionally blink, but that seemed to be the extent of their actions.

Giselle watched the eyes, arrow ready. Whatever creatures the eyes belonged to, they did not seem to be an immediate threat. Certainly not compared to the group who could be heard approaching from behind. Turning around, Giselle watched the vague outlines of the pursuers coming closer, leaving Vincent to warn her if the eyes made any change.

The group made its approach and paused a few feet away from Vincent and Giselle, standing and looking at the eyes. It looked as if one member of their group had fallen, and another had an arrow lodged in its arm. “So you found them before we did,” the robed figure stated.

“Yes,” said Giselle, “We did. So I recommend that you back off, now.” She had no idea who ‘they’ were, but she would grasp at any advantage she could get over these maniacs, whether it required bluffing or not.

The robed man laughed and shook his head. “They are Grue, creatures that exist and live in pure darkness. They can even be controlled with an artifact found at the center of this area. Of course you knew that.” The man pulled the scythe from his back. “Or else you wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

“Obviously. And obviously you’ve got an interest in the artifact yourselves. I think Vincent and I would be amenable to accepting a finder’s fee, in return for delivering it. Right, Vincent?”

“Uh, I don’t think they are too interested in that.” He might not have always been the sharpest tool in the shed, but he didn’t exactly see this ending well if they tried to help the insane group of clowns.

“Well.” Giselle kept her bow at the ready, since the clowns seemed apt to attack the moment she relaxed. “I guess we’ve got ourselves a problem.”

“Oh not at all, I don’t intend to drag this out for too long.” The man with the scythe slashed it at them but wasn’t close enough to hit, instead just striking empty air. “Your death comes from within.” He raised a sleeve that covered his entire arm and two figures began to form in the darkness. In mere moments to figures took the shapes of Vincent and Giselle in their normal outfits, however they had completely blank expressions. “Yourselves and the clowns will keep you company, while I ensure that no one will ever advance past this floor again.” He began to walk toward the glowing eyes.

The doubles advanced on the real Vincent and Giselle, while the originals tensed at the sight of them. “Oh god,” said Giselle, as she watched her counterpart prepare an arrow, her motions quick and sure but, to the real article, decidedly sloppy. Part of her, absurdly, wanted to reach out and correct the other’s grip.

“So ever thought about how you could beat yourself in a fight?” Vincent asked with a half joking voice as he pulled a blue potion from his bag and drank it. His counterpart did the same with an orange potion and Vincent cursed. “Because I have to admit, I am probably one of the last people I ever want to fight”

Giselle smirked. “Your father never loved you!” She shouted at her own counterpart. “You’re not worthy to hold that bow.” The copy did pause, for a moment, but then tightened her grip on her bow. “Emotional warfare is about all I can think of,” she admitted to Vincent, “But the trouble is if it works on me, it also works on, well, me.”

“Yeah, thats the big problem...oh and,” he jumped out of the way as one of the clowns leapt forward to strike him, only to take a hit from his copy, who moved a lot faster than most humans. The potion he had drunk had given him super speed, just like the one Vincent took granted more strength. “Got to admit, running low on ideas here.”

The copy of Giselle loosed her arrow, but the real Giselle was able to tell just a moment in advance, and got out of the way. Seeing an opportunity, she stepped forward and knocked her bow against her double’s, causing the second one to fall to the ground. Giselle grinned. “This is surprisingly eas-Ow!” As she kicked at her double, knocking her offbalance, she felt a corresponding pain in her own shin. As the double recovered, Giselle’s own balance was thrown off.

Vincent took a moment to steal a glance toward Giselle, and it cost him. One of the clowns ran at him and rammed into him head first, knocking the wind out of the alchemist. In return he struck his elbow into the clowns neck, most likely breaking it as the clown went flat. He was unable to enjoy the victory however, as his double was already surging forward and attacking once more, using a number of super quick blows to force Vincent back. “I just had an idea!” he called out toward his partner.

“Let’s hear it!” Still barely staying upright, Giselle readied an arrow as her opponent snatched her bow from the ground.

“We switch dance partners. I think we might have better luck beating each other than beating ourselves” he jumped back so he had his back to her.

“Worth a shot,” said Giselle. She turned on the false-Vincent and released an arrow. He was fast, dodging quickly enough to avoid anything worse than a graze.

Vincent moved toward the false-Giselle, taking a few of the arrows in him as she dodged away from his attacks. Thankfully the potion reduced his ability to feel pain as well. “I am really easy to trick, my sister used to pull pranks on me all the time!”

Giselle tracked her opponent’s motion with the tip of her arrow, keeping just ahead of him, then switching at the last moment before she fired, landing straight in his torso when he jumped to avoid the shot she looked ready to make. “Got it!” She said. “Get in close! I’m best at fighting from a distance.”

Vincent nodded and moved forward, knocking a few arrows that were launched at him and landing a solid hit on the copies jaw, sending her back a few feet before pulled a small blade from his back. “Gotcha, promise to not get offended by me beating the fake you up?”

“I won’t if you don’t.” Vincent’s copy became erratic in his movements, not slowing down yet but definitely not moving with intent. He rushed Giselle, but she stepped out of the way and tripped him as he passed, before sending an arrow straight down. He scrambled away, still fast but notably chaotic.

The copy of Giselle went for her bow but Vincent was a bit faster, bringing down his foot on it and snapping it in two, leaving the copy without a weapon. “...Hey would you mind insulting me or something?”

“What, you’re not even good enough at improvising to pick the low-hanging fruit? Or…” Giselle dodged as the copy of Vincent again rushed toward her, “Sorry, was that too obscure? I was implying that you’re incompetent enough that you can’t even highlight your own obvious flaws.”

“Thank you” without a moment of hesitation Vincent swung his blade at the doubles neck and it burst into smoke, disappearing right in front of him. “Need help on your end?” he asked.

“It’d be useful if I could lock the damn fool down,” she admitted. The man wasn’t landing any blows, at this point, but he was moving quickly enough to avoid damage and Giselle was getting fed up.

Vincent tossed out a potion on the ground, instantly creating a thin layer of ice on which the copy slipped on, landing on his back with a sound of pain. “Go for it!”

Before the double could rise, Giselle’s arrow flew forward, hitting him square in the chest. He, too, vanished, leaving only a hint of smoke rising from the vague shape of a person. “Whew.”

Vincent held the spot where she had shot and blinked. “Man… remind me to not get on your bad side”

“I’ll bring it up any time you’re looking for a new test subject,” Giselle teased.

“So… now we go after the scary guy with the scythe?” Vincent said, half hopeful she would say no.

“I guess we couldwander around aimlessly until we find our way off this floor, but… I’m guessing that getting that artifact is the only way we’ll make it out of here alive.”

Vincent looked toward the floating red eyes and noticed that instead of being bunched up they were now forming a line, almost like they were leading them in the right direction. “So...follow the spooky glowing eyes?”

“I don’t think I’ll come up with a better idea,” said Giselle, starting to walk where the eyes led.

Vincent sighed and followed after her. “So how did you get into the adventuring into spooky dark floors business?”

“Oh, it’s a long story.”

“Is there a way to slightly abridge it?” he asked with a smirk.

Giselle thought for a moment before answering. “Got bored with petty theft, decided settling down would be just as boring?”

Vincent laughed at that. “Sounds like an interesting long story, one that could be told over a few mugs of ale once all is said and done.”

“Well, I’m hardly one to turn down a free mug of ale. Assuming, of course, that you’re buying.”

“To enjoy the company of a beautiful woman a few mugs of ale is the least of the things I would buy” he had a joking tone into it, trying to banish the darkness and dread this place instilled.

It was difficult, walking past the row of glowing red eyes, to maintain any sense of mirth, but with both of them making a concerted effort, neither one allowed themselves to let up on the attempt. “You’re just lucky my company can be purchased that cheaply.”

“Aye, but…” before he could continue he was stopped silent by what was in front of them. It appeared to be a massive cathedral made of some sort of black stone, only visible due to the glowing white fire that burned from hundreds of torches all along the stone.

A whistle escaped from Giselle’s lips. “Who needs landscape when you have this?”

“Its beautiful in a ‘I really hope there isn’t blood inside of it’ way.” He didn’t know exactly what that meant, but it sounded about right. “So...ladies first?” he said with a joking tone.

“Oh, I get it, we get to the giant death cathedral and now it’s ‘Ladies first.’” Giselle replied, gripping her bow tightly in front of her. Nonetheless, she climbed the steps to the cathedral’s entrance.

He quickly followed right next to her, having to intention of allowing an archer to be on the frontline and fall to a upfront attack. As they entered the room through it turned out it wasn’t an issue to be worried about. The robed man was laying flat on his back on the ground, his scythe missing and had what looked like blood pooling around him. “Damn it…” the figure stood up and looked back at them. “Still alive?”

After a quick glance at Vincent, as if for verification, Giselle said, “Apparently.”

“Well bother this then.” The man opened a portal by his side. “The artifact isn’t something I am able to touch, and if I am lucky you two will be killed by the guardian anyway.” He stepped through the portal and disappeared.

Without thinking, Giselle took a step forward, trying to look through the portal and see what was on the other side, but it vanished before she could tell anything.

Vincent sighed, thinking of the various times he had seen that portal lately. The same one that the person he believed to be his sister had stepped through. Somehow he felt like the fate of whoever was controlling these portals and himself were linked. But there would be time for that later. “Okay, any idea what an artifact looks like?”

“Could look like anything. But… old, presumably. I mean, obviously. Sorry, I’m not very helpful. I guess we just… look around?”

A large burst of white light appeared suddenly in the room and a large orb filled with what looked like a white cloud was hovering over their heads. Are you worthy to control this land?

Giselle looked to Vincent, hoping for some direction, but he seemed as uncertain as she was. “That’s a difficult question,” she said.

“Yeah…” Vincent scratched the back of his head. “What do you have to do in order to be qualified for that sort of thing?” he looked toward Giselle, shrugging his shoulders. “Like royal blood? Or is it a voting thing?”

“I’ve always heard that it’s something to do with a noble heart, more than lineage, but… I don’t really think I have one. I doubt anyone has one, really.”

“Hm… hey orb...thing...voice…” Vincent scratched the back of his head. “What do we have to do?”

Answer a riddle” the voice spoke lowly, bouncing off the black stone walls of the cathedral.

“Oh….” Vincent blinked. “That doesn’t sound too hard”

“Can’t say I’m any good at riddles,” said Giselle, “But I’m sure we can give it a go.”

What grows heavier as it becomes lighter? the question was spoken quietly, almost like a whisper. Both of you must answer, and your answer must come from your heart

Giselle began to mutter to herself. “Lighter… could mean color, not weight…” Her eyes darted around the cathedral thinking about this land of darkness, the shadows cast by light. “But shadows don’t weigh anything, unless we’re speaking metaphorically…”

Vincent took a moment before sighing. “I think I know my answer.” He stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Duty, when a person first starts their journey, whether it be a farmer or a soldier they start out with a small burden, just learning the parts of the trade. But as they continue through their trade they take on more duties, leaving behind older ones. Finally it ends with them having both the heaviest and lightest burdens, preparing the future generation to take on their task.”

“Love,” said Giselle, “Begins light, and grows heavier as it bears the lover higher. It weighs most heavily when it has begun to fade.”

The orb hung for a few moments in silence. Acceptable answers, welcome new rulers. The orb shrank to the point where it could fit in one hand and then split in two, falling into both of their hands.

“So uh…” Vincent looked down at it. “Orb get?”

Giselle burst into laughter, without even being certain why. “I guess we can try to find our way out of here, now.”

“Hm… yeah, we could.” He walked out of the church and looked into the darkness. “But before that…” he raised the orb. “I call upon the Grues to form a line that will lead people to the beginning and end of this floor. You may leave to eat if you must but make sure all humans and people escorted by humans will be able to come through this area and reach their destinations safely!” A line of glowing red eyes was formed in front of them. “So coo,l” he said looking at the orb.

“Good idea,” said Giselle, watching the eyes come together. They seemed less malevolent in appearance, now, though that could merely be because she perceived them differently, rather than due to any inherent change.

“I have quite a few of those” he tossed the orb up and down. “So...ale?”

Giselle smiled. “Ale sounds lovely.”

“Off we go!” Vincent began to walk down the line of eyes, ready for what came next.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after.
User avatar
narrativedilettante
Meta-Robin
 
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:07 am

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:17 pm

Quest 73: Minstrelsy

Arietta seemed far happier than she had any right to be, given she didn’t have Curtiss to taunt. “Come on, Likovya. At least act like you’re enjoying yourself.”

“I just don’t see why I have to be here,” she said, fiddling with one of the knives at her waist. At least Arietta hadn’t insisted she leave her weapons behind with the Sky Chasers. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust her little proto-guild; it was that she didn’t trust anyone with her knives. The last person she had happily allowed to use them was Fitzroy, back when he had been the juggler at the circus. Now, for all she knew, he was racing headlong into danger because he thought he had some kind of duty to protect her.

“You need to experience culture,” Arietta said. “After all, if you’re going to be a marchioness --”

“I will not be a marchioness,” Likovya snapped. “That was just an illusion.”

“In any case, you need to have a taste for music. Now, come on.” She grabbed Likovya’s sleeve and pulled her toward the music festival. “Let’s see if you can recognize instruments.”

Likovya decided that she was going to find a way to lose herself in the crowd at her first opportunity.

That opportunity came sooner than she expected. Arietta spotted a tent selling various fried and sweetened cakes, and as she got in line to buy one -- or, more likely, flatter the baker until he gave her one -- Likovya ducked between two men carrying a strange bag attached to several pipes and began meandering through the crowd.

Casting his eye about desperately for inspiration, the harpist thought he recognized one of the attendees as that crazy princess lady people had been talking about, the one with the knives. Pausing only to take a breath, he launched into a tune the words of which he improvised as he went along:

They say she is a princess, and knows to hold a knife
They say she was a dancer or a circusmaster’s wife
She carries knives aplenty, and bloodies them as well
Protects the weak, defies the bold, and often… hmmm…”


“‘Kills as well’ would work,” Likovya put in. The words “princess” and “knife” had caught her eye, and she had been curious about who would try making up a song about her. “It’s true, too.”

“No, no,” the musician complained irritably. “You can’t rhyme the word ‘well’ with itself. Do you know anything about music, young la-- OH!”

“I don’t, actually,” she said, tossing one of her knives in the air so it caught the sunlight before it landed in her hand again. “But then, how would I? I’m just a knife thrower.”

“Another song!” the man called hastily, his eyes transfixed by the glinting blade.
-----

Ben had wandered over less out of any real interest in the show than out of the desire to prove to herself and her friends that she wasn’t moping around unsociably in her rooms, because she had, in point of fact, been moping around unsociably in her rooms. The fresh air would do her good, at least, even if she had little faith in the abilities of the travelling players.

Part of what drew her to the show, too, was association-- in her experience, musical entertainments were what accompanied Games. Even though she knew it wasn’t so, she couldn’t help feeling that if there were singers here, a good fight couldn’t be far behind.

Unable to sit still, the redhead moved through the crowd, keeping a sharp eye on those around her, until she found herself at the very front edge, off to the side a bit, where her mildly bored expression and readily accessible sword could put the performers off their ease.

On the stage, a performer began to sing, throwing the others off completely as he started a new tune on his lyre.

Oh, sing we now the ballad of Ben,
A lady great who great dragons slayed.
Many a year she did… ah…


He hesitated and glanced at the flautist. “Which rhyme were we using for ballads again?”

The flautist simply shook his head in disgust and launched into the reel again.

No sooner had he begun, than all the music came to a crashing, cacophanous halt. One of the younger, more impressionable singers screamed. They all scattered from the stage.

“We refuse!” the man who appeared to be their leader declared. “No performer would work under such conditions!”

“I only threw one --” A small girl began to protest, but her voice trailed away when she heard a sudden chittering noise. Dropping her other overripe tomato, she fled with a scream, prompting others to panic, though a few stayed and shouted for the musicians to get back up on that stage.

“I’m not paying to watch cowards,” one man spat, while his wife tried to remind him that he hadn’t paid at all; the musicians were putting on this act for free.

Ben raised an eyebrow, catching the fleeing lutist by the arm. “Aren’t you guys supposed to believe that ‘the show must go on’?”
The lutist laughed, though it sounded more like he was trying not to scream. “How can we have a show with those… things under the stage? They’ll eat us. Maybe if we were brave warriors like you or -- oh! Hey!” He pulled away, waving at a dark-haired young woman. “Aren’t you that Princess Knife Lady my cousin keeps talking about?”

“Why?” the woman asked. “Are you going to make up a song, too? I hope you’re better at rhyming than that last singer was. He couldn’t think of anything to rhyme with ‘well’.”

The lutist shook his head. “There are monsters under the stage! Please kill them.”

The woman looked to Ben. “Do you know what he’s talking about?”

The redhead grinned. “No, but it sounds like fun!” Without hesitation, she drew her sword and mounted the stage, without waiting to see if the woman the musician had called the “Princess Knife Lady”-- a moniker she had been worried, for half a moment, was being applied to herself-- followed.

It turned out the woman had, and she now had a knife in each hand. “What sort of monster could fit under this stage?” she asked, kneeling and tilting her head to better hear the chittering. “Does that sound like more than one thing under there?”

Ben frowned in disappointment, sheathing the sword to pick up one of the creatures that were by now crawling around her feet. “This is hardly a monster,” she complained.

“Actually, they’re kind of cute.” The woman put her knives away and picked one up. It hissed at her but then began crawling up her arm. “I doubt the musicians will see them that way, though. They tend to be high-strung.” The lizard settled on the woman’s shoulders, and she reached up to stroke its head.

“Why would a high-strung lizard…” Ben got halfway through the sentence, distracted by the lizard exploring her hands, before she understood the other woman. “Well, we can probably take them someplace. I know the Lorekeeper likes animals.” She glanced up and around, her eyes roving across the square. “If we’ve got these fellows under control, the only question is how to get the musicians to come back…”

The woman looked over at the huddle of people staring at the stage. “Hey!” she yelled. “You can come back now! It’s just a bunch of baby lizards!”

Faintly, she heard the response. “Like hell we will!”

The woman bit her lip. “We might need to lure the audience back. Can you sing?”

Ben gave her a blank stare. “What?”

“The way I figure it, if we get the audience back, the performers have to come too. No one likes being upstaged, especially by people who don’t even perform regularly.” Clearing her throat, the woman stepped to the edge of the stage, spread her arms, and announced, “Now presenting, the Ladies of the Blades and their accompanying lizards, Likovya, Princess of Knives, and…” She glanced back. “I don’t think I caught your name.”

“Ben of Lamada.” Ben paused, taking on an almost hunted look as she considered Likovya’s formula for introduction. Finally, she sighed, and reluctantly added, “Princess of, uh, Swords.” In a quieter voice, she asked, “Do you know ‘Long Road to Travel’?”

Eyeing the audience as though she were about to spar them, the redhead began to sing, in a husky alto that was clearly more accustomed to passing the time than to performance.

It’s been a long, long road,
And though I won’t admit I’m weary,
It would be truly fine to find a sign
Telling me: Travel no more.


Likovya joined in, though with unfamiliar words, a different tune, and quite probably a different key.

But all I see is the open sky
And that’s sign enough for me
To keep traveling, until I find
Wherever I’m supposed to be.


Ben kept singing, ignoring the dissonance of her partner and the dissatisfied mutterings of the crowd.

“What sort of bollocks is this? I didn’t pay to hear a couple of idiots warbling at each other!”

This time, he repaid the favour and didn’t remind his wife that she hadn’t paid. “Hush! Didn’t you hear what they said about the knives and swords? Just clap and make like you’re enjoying it.”

I don’t know where I’ll go,
I can’t remember where I came from,
So in truth I’ll say that I’m here today,
And for now that’s good enough for me.


And now I think I’m here,
At a place where I can rest,
Except for the fact that this castle’s insane,
And I’ve almost died twice this week!
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

AS DICTATED TO INSTANTIATION 17-01-18-01.
User avatar
Qara-Xuan Zenith
 
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:34 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Adell on Thu Jul 03, 2014 1:29 am

Quest 74: Quarantine

Tamar had seen worse places in the city being used as hospitals. But not many. The building was a strange one: a seemingly square edifice of rock, with row upon row of mostly shattered windows. There had been structures around it once all eroded through time. Roads, bridges even. Enough that a cart and horse could travel easily carrying as many people as needed to go there.

Earlier today the back of the horse drawn cart had been filled with people, scared and on edge and wearing faces Tamar was a bit too used to. This time there were only four. Tamar himself, an older woman, perhaps in her fifties, who Tamar recognized from being one of the tailors, back when Eliziya took him there to have her dresses altered. Another woman, younger, with an arm wrapped around a girl who was probably about eleven. Tamar was trying not to look at her because every time he did, she would smile at him the way children did. It made his stomach twist with fear. She probably didn’t even understand where they were going.

Nobody had said anything in particular about what was actually happening up here, but Tamar had seen the look on Legias’s face, and on Lori’s, and he knew what wasn’t being said. They might as well have carved their thoughts into marble slabs. You didn’t quarantine things like the flu. The driver didn’t look at anyone either. He kept his eyes on the road and his face behind a mask.

He rolled up his sleeve and stared at the brand that all of the infected so far had shown. A faint blue glow radiated from a strange foreign rune: nothing he recognized, even with the memories of an elder mage scratching away in the back of his mind. To Tamar It was just another mark, in a way. He had enough of those at this point. There was another, one which had nothing to do with any kind of infection, burning hot under the skin in the middle of his ribcage. “Got any suggestions for how to get out of this one, Asha?” Tamar thought to himself. He didn’t expect a response. It didn’t work like that, but he kept doing it anyway in the vague hope his brain would start doing what Eliziya’s did and answering him back.

The only answer, though was a rough grunt from the cart driver as the vehicle came to a sharp halt. There were people waiting at the doors. Tamar tilted around to see them... Yep. They were wearing the masks as well, the thick leather material draped uselessly over their mouths and, in some cases, eyes. The girl opposite him shuffled and frowned. her mother tightened her grip on the little girl’s hand as they were helped down from the cart.

"I'll need to take that," a woman -clearly a medical mage of some kind, judging from her dress- said, gently. At first Tamar didn't know what she meant. then she noticed her eyes were fixed on his sword hilt.

For the first time, anxiety lanced upwards into actual fear for Tamar. He took a step back, almost instinctively. "Uh..."

"I'm sorry but it really is policy," the woman said. "There are no weapons in the quarantine.It wouldn't help worried people to see a weapon on display," the woman said. She was a little shorter than he was, yet she spoke to him like a teacher talking down to a child. To be honest that frightened Tamar more than it annoyed him. It also made him wonder when exactly he'd gotten this tall... "They'll be kept somewhere safe until you... leave."

It was a sword. It was just a sword, but it was also such an important sword and... Tamar swallowed the lump in his throat. "Urgh, seriously, Tamar? Grow up, you're not a child, you'll get it back later."

It was like dragging the proverbial sword from the stone, but Tamar removed the sheath and handed Echo over. To her credit, she took it carefully. The driver leaned over to the first of the masked men, and though he said it in an almost whisper Tamar still heard him. “Think that’s the last lot for Purgatory.”

In his head, Tamar made that the name of the building.

*
“It’s starting to get to you too.” An older gentleman said, pointing to Hector’s left arm.

“Yeah.” The man said absentmindedly, downing a glass of ale.

“What’s it feel like?”

Hector stopped for a moment, lowering the glass. His good eye stared down upon his arm, which had begun showing the effects that the other infected were showing. Well, not so much an arem anymore. The crystals seemed to have completely consumed the flesh, a pale blue-green, like a dark sea. Spikes jutted out like scales, and the fingers looked more like the talons of a bird than the fingers of a man. This plague would see the victims turn completely to crystal, but the green haired man just raised his glass once more. “Kind of itches, I guess.”

“Uh, can you...even scratch it?”

“Not really no. My arm is a giant crystal, how would I even do that? Maybe if they let me leave the outpost I could grind it up against a tree or something.”

“You know they’re not gonna risk that, Hector.” The man sighed, “we’ve already lost a few w...nothing but glorified statues now. They can’t risk this getting to anyone else.”

“I was mostly joking; tree bark gives me rash.” The man grinned.

“You really seem to be handling this well.” The other said, dumbfounded.

“I’ve been in worse situations, honestly. At least I can still use the damn thing.” Hector lifted himself from the table, clenching the fist of the crystallized arm. “Think I’ll go for a walk, it’s getting kind of boring just sitting here.”

“Ah, uh.” The man shifted out of the giants way, “but where will you go? We can’t leave the outpost.”

“Guess I’ll figure that out when I get there. Take care of yourself.” Hector laughed, patting the man on the back with his transformed arm, ripping holes on the back of his shirt by accident. “Whoops, sorry about that, haha.” The man merely nodded nervously and continued to shift away from the giant. Hector shrugged and went for the door out of the holding room the two were in.

‘-yah, sorry!”

Most people would have been surprised to have someone walking right into them. Hector was not most people. People did this to him on a regular basis, which was strange, because he thought people should have seen him coming. Asha once said that perhaps it was because his size was such that he seemed like part of the scenery. You didn’t realize he wasn't just a wall off in the distance until you collided with him.

Who it was, however, was a bit of a surprise, and not an altogether welcome one.

The man looked down and sighed, “Tamar? They sent you here... So you’re marked as well, then?” He coughed, clearing his throat “Oh also, hey what’s up?”

Tamar had a familiar confused look on his face. He had apparently been distracted, staring at the mark just on the inside of his right palm. The mark was a similar place to where Hector’s had started, on the opposite hand, though judging from what Hector had seen, the growth wasn’t standardized. He’d seen one guy with the stuff growing out of his chest. He hadn’t lasted long, considering his organs were calcifying.

Tamar’s confusion faded into an anxious smile after a few seconds thought. “One of these days, Hector, we’re going to get into some kind of awful mess, and you’re going to have a reaction which isn’t “hey what’s up?”,’ Tamar muttered. His tone was sharp, but there was relief in it too.

“Yeah maybe,” The man replied with a chuckle. “Hey, check it out,” he lifted his left arm up to show the transformation it had gone under, “Pretty cool right? It’s like free lightweight armor, ain’t nothing gonna hurt this arm!”
Tamar leaned back against the wall to let a few people passed. “More worried about the arm hurting you,” he mumbled, holding out an arm. “Here, let me see that.”

“It’s pretty strange… well I mean this whole plague is strange but this specifically is stranger.” Hector commented as Tamar looked it over, “most of the affected lose sensation and control in the parts of their body that crystallize. I still have mine.”
Tamar lifted the crystallized arm upwards. There were lights coming in from the broken windows, and he could see clean through the sea-coloured surface of the crystal, to where muscle and blood still pulsed. It was... odd. But the crystal caught the light too, splintering blue fragments across the walls. “...Just the surface.” He let go of Hector’s hand. “I’m not sure if that’s how it works with everyone. I haven’t seen many people... this far along. They’re calling it a plague, how many people do you think are actually dead so far?”

“It’s a little different for everyone. Maybe six or seven are actually dead,” Hector quieted his voice as he mentioned the numbers, so others walking around didn’t hear it. “Most of them had the rune appear somewhere... vital, like their chest. Others are living but practically mummified.”

Tamar muttered something that might have been a curse. “They don’t have any idea what this is, do they? Much less any idea about curing it... Everyone says Hi, by the way. Anji says she’ll kill us if we die.”

“That’s nice.”

“They took your weapons too, huh? Did you... you know...” Tamar shuffled, recognizing a sore subject when he saw it coming. “Ivory?”

“Ivory is back in the city, not much else to it, they didn’t bother taking a broken blade...” Hector muttered. “My other equipment is gone.” The two walked down the hall together, emptying out into a commons area, where other infected sat around, conversing, or just trying to rest their bodies. “Seems like they were just trying to get rid of us before this became something city threatening. But… well, if you’re right, and this isn’t some normal disease, then maybe how it started is our best bet to figuring this out.”

“Not a disease at all, I don’t think,” Tamar shook his head. “I’ve read books on this- shut up, it’s relevant- diseases don’t work like this. Not really. Not even magical ones. What kind of disease has no symptoms except... this and that?” He pointed to the sigil on his hand, and Hector’s arm in turn. “They probably expect us to die here, whatever it is.”

“Speaking of ‘this,’ you seem to be handling it better than I was. By the time that rune was glowing like yours, half my arm was already a solid rock.”

Tamar clenched and unclenched his fist as he gazed around the room. There must have been twenty or so people, in various stages of crystallisation. Most walking. His eyes kept slipping to the strangest cases. The woman with fragments of blue-grey stone growing out of her left eye, the man with a misshapen back... The atmosphere was one of malaise and fear, in it’s own way more oppressive than the underground. “I didn’t even see it at first... Eliziya noticed.” He shrugged. “I’d...say I’m glad you’re here, but...”

“Wow, She’s so cool!” A younger voice called out, catching Tamar’s attention. It was the same little girl from before, hopping up and down clutching some sort of toy in her hand. She was stood besides a young woman in front of the hearth, with short deep red hair; a strong and lean build, and some sort of smithing attire. the little girl excitedly asked about the toy she held, “Is she a princess?”

“Pssh, no way. She’s something much cooler, she’s a knight.” The older woman proudly said. As she lifted her arm, Tamar noticed the brand on the back of her tricep. The same glow as his, and yet no crystal. Another slow burner, Tamar thought. But the little girl was grinning and dancing the small toy along the fireplace hearth, the sigil on her neck dimmer than any of theirs. “But mostly a knight, see? The princess thing is just what she was born with.”

The rune wasn't all that was weird, though. There was something else. Something... moving. Quite possibly it was just the atmosphere in that part of the room was brighter, thanks to the fireplace and the general brightness of the two infected but something told Tamar it wasn’t that. That something of the brightness was coming from the woman herself. He closed his eyes, and there was an afterglow burned there. “...Hector, do you know who she is?”

“No clue; haven’t spoken to her. She was already here when they brought me, though. Why, does it matter?”

There was nothing odd about her. Unless you counted the fact that she was smiling. She was just another normal infected woman, albeit apparently one with a knack for craftsmanship. Almost every part of Tamar was telling him this, except for that one tiny corner of his brain. In the oddest way she reminded him of Echo.

And that was just... not normal. probably the weirdness getting to him. He shook his head. “I guess at least someone here besides you can make light of things,” he muttered. Then the woman’s eyes drifted upwards and Tamar looked away quickly. “Look I’m pretty sure at least some[/[i] of us outside the city are working on this... some of Severed Storm... the Lorekeepers... there’s got to be some way to fix this, but I’m telling you, it’s [i]not a disease. It can’t be.”

“...Tamar, is this about the books thing again?” Hector grimaced on the word books.

“Yes, and it’s still relevant, damn it, one of these days I’m teaching you how to read common.”

“S’there something on my face, or are you two just staring off into space?” The woman barked out at the two, who both realized they had just been kind of standing in the middle of the room watching this woman. “If it’s the latter, it makes you look dumb and I’d like you to stop doing it.” There were some muffled laughs from the other patients as she called the two out. Her hazel eyes drifted back to Tamar again, and narrowed slightly, almost knowingly.

The two, still standing there awkwardly just looked at each other, not sure what to do. “Augh,” She groaned with a hint of a laugh behind it, “Get over here.” Hector shrugged and approached the woman, while Tamar more hesitantly followed. “Nice arm there, big guy.” She mentioned off handedly as the two went up to the hearth. “M’name’s Sully Acker, you?”

“Pretty cool, right?” He laughed, showing the arm off. “Hector Erastus.”

“Tamar,” Tamar answered after a moment’s pause that was probably a bit too young. “Delaney.” He shifted to let the young girl skip off with her new toy, racing it along the furniture as she dashed back into the hall to where her mother was.
“Cute kid. Seemed to like the toy, at least.” Sully turned back a basin filled with water, alight steam coming from it. The water itself was not producing the steam however, the objects floating within it were. Lifting one of the metals out with tongs, she examined it before placing it next to a series of other metal creations. It resembled a horse, raising it’s front legs, no bigger than the palm of her hand.

“Incredible,” Hector approached the little creations. “This is Bradden Steel… how the hell did you manipulate such dense metal like that into something so small?”

“You’re familiar with Bradden?” The woman smirked, “Well...not to boast, but when you’re an expert like me the metal does what you tell it to do.” Tamar almost smiled, remembering another man who told metal how to behave. These days he could even think about him with fondness first.

Hector’s good eye widened in amazement, looking like a child at a toy store he began picking each creation up and examining its details “Familiar with it? It’s one of the best metals to use if you want them heavy but sturdy!” The man chuckled.
“Hey, you know your stuff, I’m impressed.”

“You’re a smithy?”

“Aye.” She grinned, before stopping herself. “Well... trying to be. Things keep getting in the way...lack of property, equipment, money...uh...”

“Horrible crystal diseases?” Tamar suggested.

“And those. But ya know, ya work with what you got.” She let Hector continue to look at her creations, finding it amusing. “Really they’re not that great, but I needed to do something or I was gonna go insane from boredom.” Her gaze looked over at the smaller young man... Then she raised her hand.

Tamar did the same.

For a brief moment, Tamar wasn’t even aware he had done so. It was going to happen, happening, and then happened before he knew it. A pulse of energy between the two hands, communicating in its own way.The fire in the hearth seemed to still, and then it all snapped back to normal like a rubber band. Tamar took a step backwards on instinct and if she’d been standing, Sully probably would have done the same.

And then she looked away, as if it hadn’t happened. It was over before Hector noticed. He was clearly still trying to figure out how Sully had created a tiny metal horse out of such an unweilding steel as bradden. “I’ve never seen such precision with this kind of metal. You really are an expert.”

It took Sully a moment, clearing her mind of the exchange, to reply to the swordsman, “If you’re impressed with that you should see some of ma weapons, they’re beauts. You two were in Lowtown?”

“What?” Tamar frowned.

“The lower town. Haven’t ya noticed?” Sully nodded around at the other infected in the common area. “Almost everyone here is from around that place. That part of town opposite the Old City? Figure whatever this mess is, it broke out there. it’d make sense. This seems like magic to me, no stronger magic than the old stuff. S’like stone that way.”

...They had been there, Tamar realised. Only days ago, before this whole mess started. “...They were trying to pinpoint an origin. You’re not changing yet,” he noticed, nodding at Sully, not sure why it was important.

“Hmm?” She lifted her arm back at the rune. “Oh Yeah, it progressed to the part where it was glowing and just... never went further.Been here a week now… I’ve got a theory on what’s going on, actually.” Hector placed the last of the metal toys down at this statement and joined the two once again.

“What is it?” He asked. “Any idea might give us a clue to fix it.”

“I’m sure you got the same idea yourself, don’t ya Tamar?” The young woman insinuated. “It hasn’t progressed for you either... so the way I see it, that can only mean one thing, really.”

Tamar shook his head in confusion. “I... just got here. I don’t know what-”

It was sort of odd that they could tell a “someone's being attacked” scream from a simple “I just saw a spider” scream, but also useful. This particular scream came from the corridors, and Hector was on his feet already, hand clenching as he realised he didn’t have a weapon. The others in the room shifted and somebody, one of the guardian mages treating patients at the back of the room, made a break for the door, but nobody else moved, muttering in confusion.

“What in t’name of Bolka’s almighty furnace?” Sully growled, and Tamar saw her too reaching for a weapon that wasn’t there. She cursed. Both felt a rush of wind as Hector rushed passed them.

“Hector wai- oh why do I even bother.” Tamar shook his head.

Sully turned to Tamar, her face more serious than before. “Help him out, I’ll be back with weapons for us.”

“Wha- weapons from where? We’ve been disarmed!” tamar yelled after her, but the red-haired woman was already turning the corner opposite of where Hector had dashed off. Tamar let out a breath, brain still catching on that brief glow he could barely remember...

No time to worry about it now. “Well if we’re going to die here anyway,” he muttered dryly. Then he turned to the hearth and reached out the grab the closest thing to a weapon he could see before racing off after Hector.

*

Tamar arrived to see the mage knocked out behind Hector. The swordsman had his crystallized arm lifted, blocking the incoming strike of a large creature. Fittingly, in a disturbing kind of way, the creature looked to be made completely of crystal itself, with large forearms, and to skinnier hind legs somehow supporting the mass. Tamar could see the wreckage of the window where it had broken in from outside, shattering what was left of the glass. Thankfully, the creatures attack had been canceled by Hector's arm they struck.

“It’s not a person!” Hector called out to Tamar as he noticed his arrival, narrowly dodging another blow. He said this, knowing it would be the first thing Tamar would worry about. “It came from outside, not any of us!”

“Got it!” Tamar yelled, and, though it felt completely unbalanced, he swung the poker at the nearest of the crystal creatures. It struck, and the creature was thrown back, skidding, but only slightly. It’s diamond-hard skin was barely cracked, and the pain of the strike was still ringing in Tamar’s fingers.

Hector was shoving another aside, fist slamming directly into it with somewhat more success than Tamar. Because of course, Hector would find a way to turn a potential life threatening condition into a hammer. Of course he would. Still it was steel against steel. Again the creature barely skidded. There was a strident cry, like the sound of an entire mountain of glass being ground into dust. Somewhere behind them, one of the Purgatory guards was yelling for help which probably wouldn’t come. Not all the way up here, in the dead zone of a lost floor. “What the saints is this thing?” Tamar yelled.

“Whatever it is, it’s pissed off.” Hector claimed, chopping it at it with his transformed arm. A few strikes that were good enough to chip away at the body of this creature, though in return breaking off one the spikes protruding from his own. “Not that hitting it over and over is gonna fix that. Maybe you could bore it to death with some talk of boooooks.” The man teased.
“Pretty sure it doesn't read Common! Or for that matter Askinov, Goblin or Veil scripture!” Tamar snapped back ,and whether he was joking or not, Hector couldn’t tell because Tamar was more interested in bashing this creature was over the head with... yes, that was a poker.

“It probably has better things to do!” The man grinned.

“Yeah, like try to kill everyone! I get we’re already dying, but let’s not make it happen any fast-” the creature got a shot in before Tamar could finish that sentence and the next thing either of them knew, Tamar had hit the wall behind them. A curious patient who had gotten too close for comfort ran backwards screaming.

The sharp whistle next to the young man got their attention however. Hector turned his head in time to see something flying towards him, which he caught with his right hand. It was Sully of course, who lowered something for Tamar to grab as well. Hector examined the blade he had received, make shifted out of what looked like a candelabra and a thin strip of metal. “Sully? How’d you find this thing?” Hector questioned as he used it to block another incoming attack, working shocking well.

“Find? Psssh.” The woman grabbed the third and final weapon she had brought with her, a coat hanger with the top molded with steel to be a spear. Spinning the weapon in her hand, she claimed, “I told you, the metal does what I tell it to do, I made it!” Her hand seemed to activate something as it handled the makeshift weapon. The blade began to channel an energy that felt so familiar to Tamar, and before he knew it her spear was glowing with a alien like energy. “I wouldn’t be a very good Evoker, if I couldn’t.”

Evoker? Tamar was staggering to his feet, ears still ringing, staring at the weapon Sully had handed him. A sharp-edged, axe-like twisted blade that looked, bizarrely, impossibly, as if it had been torn into shape by human hands... “S-Sully did this used to be a--”

“-Frying pan, yeah. Don’t complain,” Sully yelled as she charged the creature, spear forward as she rammed it. The energy around the metal seemed to enhance its piercing, allowing it to stab right into the creature and shave off a chunk of its protective crystal. The beast leapt back away from Hector and Sully to put some distance between them.

Hector went to pursue, but the windows burst as he approached, and several smaller crystal monsters entered, similar in shape but way less...developed. They screeched in their eerie way, and dashed passed the giant man. “Don’t let them get any further!” Hector yelled.

“Didn’t plan on it!” The young man responded, batting one of the creatures away with an underhand swing, launching it backward into another fleeing creature.Sully swatted at another as it ran past, trying to prevent too many from approaching Tamar at once. Meanwhile, Hector focused on the big one. Slamming into it with his transformed arm, he pressed it up against the back wall, slashing at it with his new weapon. “So, you mentioned not being able to smith?” Hector asked casually as he battled with the beast.

“Not really by choice,” She grunted, stabbing down upon a smaller one, causing it to cease moving. “Ma family has most of the cash , and I need money if I’m gonna get the equipment I need.”
“They don’t want to?”

“More like...they want to make sure I accomplish some... things first. Things I have no interest in, just a waste a time for me, though I understand why they want me to.”

“Hyah!” Hector slashed the creature’s chest, causing it to roll on the ground in pain. “That’s a travesty. To work with metal in the way you can, it’s a gift.”

“You seem, hya!” Another slash, “Pretty passionate about weapons, yourself! You a smithy, too?”

“No. A warrior, raised to appreciate their weapons as more than tools.”

”Oh no,” Tamar thought as he held back another of the smaller monsters, ”if there is one way to confuse or make someone uncomfortable, it’s Hector’s weapon talk.”

He continued, “A strong weapon is like a good friend. You need to understand them, how they act, what they like and what they don’t, in order to use them to their fullest.” Tamar laughed to himself, waiting to see how Sully would react.

“Exactly! Finally, someone who gets it!”

Wait. What?

“So many hogwash warriors swing their blades like their a pair of scissors. Each weapon needs dedication, trust, passion, and it takes those same ideals to use them correctly. Ya don’t know how pissed I’ve gotten when weapons I made in the past were wasted on people who just saw them as tools.”

...Huh. Well. Tamar didn’t have much time to focus on the conversation taking place, on account of the fact there were stubborn monsters that just refused to die all over the place, but the fact it had carried on as long as it had and Sully was laughing and fighting and not looking at all freaked out was evidence in itself. ”Okay Tamar, not the time to be wondering about your weird mentor’s social skills, focus on the crystal monsters.”

“So is it just me...” Sully paused to strike at another of the creatures that was attempting to grapple it’s way past her ankles. “Are are they more interested in gettin’ down there than in us?”

“Yeah you’d think they’d care more about the people throwing dented frying pans at them,” Tamar muttered, for now he’d noticed it too. The...doggedness of the creatures. They actually barely seemed interested in fighting. It was just that the humans were in their way and the corridor was narrow.

The only one focused on fighting at all was the big one, most likely cause it was in a constant tussle with Hector who now that they actually thought about it, had probably started it. The two giants traded blow and after blow, but Hectors arm made the perfect shield to protect him and with the creatures crystal protection waning thanks to Sully’s strikes his own blows were beginning to effect the creature to a greater degree.

Finally, it raised its arms to try and crush the human, but Hector back stepped just enough where it missed its swings, leaving it wide open. Tamar and Sully proceed to see how Hector handled a lightweight weapon, the speeds of his swings far surpassing any movement he ever performed with Ivory. Before the creature could reasonably react to defend itself, pieces of it rained to the ground and shattered like glass. Finally, with its integrity weakened enough he slammed the crystal arm of his right into it, causing it to completely splinter apart into several pieces, nothing remaining.

At that moment, as if realizing what had happened, the other smaller creatures retreated back out from where they bursted in.
“That was some swordsmanship, cabbage head. Never seen someone handle my weapons that well.” She complimented with a laugh.

“Cabbage head?” The man asked, confused.

“You have green hair.” She responded, deadpan.

“Yes I do.” He did not seem to put the joke together.

She explained, “...Cabbage is green.” Hector continued to stare at her blankly. “...Neeeeeevermind, nice work big guy.”

“Don’t mind him,” Tamar muttered, obviously holding back a smile. “What he lacks in complex dialogue he more than makes up for in... hitting things.”

“I always say, better to have a sharp blade than a sharp mind!” The giant laughed with some sense of pride in his voice.

Sully couldn’t help but laugh herself, but her attention turned back to Tamar after she gave herself a moment to think on the skirmish just now. “Hey...uhhh,” She seemed to blank on his name, “... Kid. What gives? Didn’t feel like evoking ma weapon that I went and crafted for you?”

Tamar looked up from the hastily crafted (but apparently very versatile) former frying pan he had just been wielding. “What do you mean? I was just using it...”

“Not the fussy grammar kind of evoking, ya idjit, I could see ya using it, I mean EVOKE Evoking.”

“Welp, I’m lost.” Hector shrugged, checking out of the conversation, instead he decided to check on the unconscious mage in the meantime.

“...Evoke evoking.” Tamar repeated, blank faced.

“Yeah! Duh! Evoking!” She tapped her fingers against the makeshift weapon she held in her hands. There was a sound like a tuning fork, a thin sliver of what was almost, but not quite light across the metal. “Okay fine, so crystalline lifeforms suck up magic like a shieldsman soaks up liquid in an alehouse, but even so, if you’ve got it...”

Tamar continued to look completely confused. “...I... sure I know magic, but it’s no good to me I don’t have Echo.”

Sully looked over at Hector, expectedly. “What’s an Echo, now?”

“Oh, we’re talking about weapons again?” Hector perked up, as he placed the mage against the wall to rest. “That’s the name he chose for the sword he normally carries with him; the guards didn’t let him in with it. Pretty nice blade too, especially when you channel your fire magic in it, Tamar.”

“Wait, fire? Nah. No way. That’s not...” Sully looked frankly bewildered for a moment. Then her features relaxed slightly in realisation. “Aw hell, you have no idea what you’re actually doing, do you?”

“When I found him he barely knew where the hilt was.” Hector chimed in again, with a light chuckle.

“I wasn’t that bad!” Tamar paused. “...Okay, maybe I was, but you didn’t teach me the fire, Hector, that part just came out of nowhere, and it only works with Echo. I can't just... run it through a dented frying pan.” (Although that would be useful for cooking things, now that Tamar thought about it.)

“Hmm,” Sully thought for a moment, looking between Hector and the confused younger man. “Alright, alright, come with me you two; I think ya earned an explanation after this little scrap.”

*
“So you’re from the Veil? I guess they’d just consider what you’re doing as normal ‘mage’ crap.” She air-quoted mage as the three were travelling down to the bottom of the outpost. “In Catarina, where I’m from, we got an actual term for what you or I can do.”

“Evoking.” Tamar recalled the term.

“He has a memory, good,” Sully grinned.

The room around them was quieter, though still buzzing with alarm. Mages rushed from one side to the other, calming people down. At least the whole fuss had distracted people, but eventually, fear kicked in again. People gasping as crystals burrowed into their lungs. The little girl was curled up by the window. A couple of people came over to talk to them, to ask about what happened, and the general mutterings were that the situation had been “a one off incident” and that things were “now under control”.

Tamar didn’t believe them for a moment.

Still, istening to Sully was better than worrying about the harbinger over their heads. She was messing with another scrap of metal by the fireplace, a fork. Her fingers twisted it into a trident. Hector seemed more interested in admiring Sully’s impromptu weapons. “It’s not all that common, but they know enough about it to teach it properly, at least, in all the ways it can be taught. Its not something you can learn from a book like other magics.”
“Where I come from...” Tamar swallowed nervously. “I couldn’t do anything. They thought I had no magic at all.”
“Well sure they thought that. Evoking wouldn’t show up if they don’t know how to check for it! All the magic I’ve seen ‘em throwin’ around here, the lightnin’ and the fire an’ the earth movin’... it’s impressive stuff. But it ain’t Evoking. Evoking is... older.”

Tamar noddedd. “Out there... you said my magic wasn’t fire.”

“Right. That’s cause it’s not. Fire’s a thing, y’see. It has form and structure and all of that, even if it keeps changing all the time. Evoking doesn’t care about the shape something takes, it cares about the shape it’s in in the first place. In this case, your shape.”

“...That makes absolutely no sense.”

“Urgh, look, my skills lie in crafting metal, not words, so just can it and pay attention, kid. Obviously nobody’s ever bothered to tell you what the heck you can do or how freakin’ dangerous it can be if. Ya can’t just run off, actin’ like you’re shooting fireballs or lightning when that’s not what your magic does at all. Cabbage head there says you use fire all the time. That’s what it looks, like, right? But it’s not fire at all.”

“...Right, okay, you’re going to have to go back a step here,” Tamar shook his head. “Of course it’s fire magic, it looks like fire.”
“Really? Always?” Sully raised an eyebrow. tamar opened his mouth to answer, yes. But then he remembered the underground, the ice cold crawling up Hector’s skin beneath his bracer. Surely that had just been a different spell, though? It wasn’t unusual for mages to have more than one elemental attribute, it was all a question of learning...
“Well... there was ice, once or twice, but....”

Sully let out an impatient sigh. “Look I’m not a great teacher, okay, but... that fire magic, that ice? Ever wonder why it doesn't burn properly? Why it doesn't leave a scorch mark? Why the ice only ever makes you cold.” She laid down the trident she had fashioned out of a fork. “It’s not elemental. It’s just... there.”
“But it looks like fire!”

“Because that’s what you wanted to see it as. it’s a fair enough guise for it to take, but it’s not it’s true shape. So you think it’s weaker than most magic, or you can only use it with that... what did you call her? Echo?”

“Him.”

“Right, sure,” Sully waved off the naming of weapons as if she’d seen weirder. “Rapier? Longsword?”

Scimitar.”

“Huh, funny. Would’ve tagged you more as a rapier guy.” Sully said. “Anyway, you’re doing this wrong. Hell, Tamar, it’s like you’ve been usin’ a beartrap in a rapier duel, sure ya might do some damage, but you’re taking a stupid risk all the same. Hey big guy!” Sully called over to Hector who appeared to be in deep thought regarding the curvature of the frying pan axe’s blade. “Don’t suppose you ever spent time around any mages before this pipsqueak, did ya?”

It seemed she knew how to get through the swordsman’s easily distracted nature. That is to say, just yell loud enough. Hector turned his good eye back towards the two, before answering, “I did. With one of the best, actually. Why?”
"Right... and did that mage ever talk to ya about something called the Ether?"

“At annoying lengths sometimes.” He sighed, though the sigh had a tinge of fond nostalgia in it. “Pretty sure she gave up trying to explain it to me after awhile, but from what I gathered it was...like a source of power or something?” He attempted to recall the discussions, “Mages draw their spells from some sort of connection to it.”

"Isn't that just another magical school?" Tamar frowned. "Nobody really knows where magic comes from. It's got no more validity than anything else."

"No less, either," Sully said. "And it's the way we did it back in Catarina. Evokers are pretty useful, but their power’s... finicky. Fickle. They can't just call down a storm or a fire or something. Every Evoker works differently. Some people's power is so subtle you can barely tell it's there."

"Like yours?" Tamar guessed, eyes flickering across the row upon row of cutlery weapons laid along the mantelpiece. It looked like a garrison for rats.

Sully grinned. "Ain't nobody ever called me subtle, but yeah. You seem to have figured out how to make yours take on the form of elements, even if it's not actually those elements at all..." she frowned. "Maybe ya should've paid more attention to your mage friend, Hector. Could be useful right about now given me and ash-head here are the only people not turning into rocks."

Hector narrowed his good eye and scratched his chin, “You think your resistance to this plague is because you’re both Evokers?”

“It’s what I was trying to say before our friends showed up. I’ve been here for about seven days now. There are people who came here after me who’re already gone, crystals burstin’ from their bodies, the whole ugly mess... And given that I never saw you before today, you must have been here even less time and you’re already part rock.” She switched back to Tamar, “When I saw that he hadn’t been effected either, I put two and two together.”

“But how did you know I was an Evoker?”

“I’m… not exactly sure,” She squinted her right eye in annoyance, “I dunno, when ya approached me I kind of just sensed it. If that sounds right. I’ve heard a rumor that Evokers can communicate with one another through their connection to the ether. And it looks like that little sense of mine was right, so I’m inclined to believe ‘em.”

“So... we’re immune to this?” Tamar frowned. He wasn't sure why this didn’t reassure him. Probably something to do with the fact that Hector was still approaching stone-memorial status. What had previously been an almost reassurance (hey, at least they wouldn’t be turning to crystal on their own) now became something a lot more worrying.

“Maybe, maybe not. Resistant, though, sure. Ether’s funny stuff,” Sully shrugged. “Old. It’s kind of like what magic is before it becomes magic. Gets into the body when it’s still raw and uncontrolled instead of focussed. If you believe that... well, you might also believe that this disease we've got is made out of Etheric Magic too.” The two looked at her, waiting for more explanation. “Well, think about it, our bodies are used to this raw power passing through ‘em, we know how to handle it’s presence so our bodies are compensating. Someone like Hector here, no offense, has never been exposed to this kind of magic, and his body has no means to defend itself.”

“Whenever magic is involved I always lose out,” He smirked, “That’s okay, I like the challenge. So let’s set this straight then. Basically, you and Tamar are some sort of conduits for raw magic… this disease is also some sort of raw magic being spread and non-evokers can’t handle it and are crystallizing.”

“Yeah,” Tamar added, “We also know that it’s only affected people from Lowtown.”

“But where do the crystal creatures fit into this…?” Sully questioned, leaning back.

Hector recalled how the battle went. There was silence between the three as he thought on how the monsters had been reacting during the fight, and suddenly it all seemed to hit him at once. “I’ve fought plenty of monsters before, I know how a lot of them think,” he began, “Those creatures weren’t here to attack, they were trying to get past us. It’s no coincidence they happened to be made of the same material infecting us… but it’s not likely they’re the cause, otherwise we’d all have seen them at one point or another.”

The other two watched as Hector seemed to unravel the situation for them with surprising ease, sharing a glance once or twice in bewilderment. “So, if they weren’t trying to kill us, then they wanted something. This outpost was empty before they sent us all here… so whatever they were looking for came with us.” He looked directly at Sully now, “Sully, is it possible that, assuming this is Evoker magic like you say… that just as you two are a conduit of your magic, there is a conduit of this magic too? Here, somewhere?”

“I...” Sully stammered in a bit of shock, “Well, yeah I think ya might be right! Shoot, I thought you were the dense one!”

“He has his moments.” Tamar added. He started to stand up. “We can figure this out later, though, right now we should tell the Mages working here, they need to know that whatever’s causing this, it could’ve come up here with-”

The sound of an alarmed cry stopped Tamar in his tracks and shook everyone in the room. The girl at the window had stood up and staggered away. Tamar caught a glimpse of both Sully and Hector reaching for their makeshift weapons at the same time. Hesitantly, the young man peered out of the window himself and saw the reflected light bouncing off the bodies of dozens of the creatures they had battled with just moments prior; they were minutes away from storming the outpost. “...Looks like they’re coming back for round two.”

*

The guards and mages did their best to stop the creatures advance, battling with both spells and steel. Mages were useful in a battle, normally; their magic convenient and fast, but the crystal sucked their power in so easily it was as if they were throwing out sparklers. The crystal creatures seemed to be swarming from all directions, climbing up the walls of the building and peering into the rooms inside. They looked, observed, and when they didn’t see what they wanted, moved on to the next window or room. Only the ones below showed any direct action as the guards tried to kill them. “Change of plans,” Sully spoke up to the other two, “We need to find this conduit, otherwise these things are gonna tear this place down.”

“I have an idea.” Hector claimed, “We need to find where they’re going, yeah? So we let them show us the way.”

“I don’t like this plan already,” Tamar sighed.

“What are ya thinkin, use it to track the conduit down?” Sully asked quickly, to which the swordsman nodded. “Aw hell, I figured you were a little crazy… eh, who am I kidding, I’m a little crazy too.”

“You say a little...” Tamar commented, but his sentence trailed off as he jerked away from the window. One of the creatures had leaned in, it’s crystal head and neck tilting in the manner of a bemused insect. Tamar stepped back, biting back the urge to attack. Sully and Tamar stood there, looking for some sort of opportunity to catch the thing, knowing that at any moment it would leave. It watched the two curiously, one of it’s large claw like limbs etched out of the window, looking to probe at the two.

It let out a squeal that surprised them both. However, when a more human like crystal limb grabbed it by the neck and pull it into the room and slammed it on the floor. Within a flash the creature was pinned to the ground, causing it to flail in a panic as Hector prevented it from moving any of its limbs in a dangerous fashion. “Alrighty, captured...er, until I let go.”

Sully snapped her fingers as an idea came to her, she ran back to where her figurines were and nabbed a few before running back. Quickly, she knelt next to the creature and concentrated. Tamar saw the faint glow in her hands as she molded the metal like it was clay, and within seconds it tied around the beast’s neck, finally, she stretched out a thin piece, so thin it became like wire. “There; all yours.” She said, handing Hector the rope to makeshift leash, “Just remember, a pet is a lot of responsibility.”

“Well I’m not cleaning up after it,” Tamar muttered. “Um, do you have a plan?”

“What do you mean?” Hector grunted, still trying to keep a grip on the struggling creature. “This is the...plan!”

“No I mean a plan for when-”

The creature leapt forwards with a sound like shattering glass. It’s joints moving with twitch like speed, and its head turning every which way. Hector held the leash tight as the beast began to move, or rather charge forwards. Sully and Tamar exchanged a look before racing after them.

The three ran all through the building. Every so often, the creature would seemingly sense something and change its direction. If it was not acting so determined, the three might have started to assume it was just running around in circles. Finally, it lead them to a room on the very bottom floor. Nothing out of the ordinary at a first glance, that is, if you ignored the gigantic hole on the back wall.

“That...wasn’t here before.” Sully tried to explain but the creature did not bother stopping as it practically pulled Hector through the hole and out into the wilderness ahead.

Tamar hesitated for long enough to recognize that going out there was absolutely breaking quarantine. The world beyond the building was all overgrown half-wrecked buildings and trees and... crystal.

Even if they hadn’t still been able to see Hector and his new friend ahead of them, they would probably have been able to trace the path the two were taking. Other creatures, smaller, but no less dogged, scurried all around them, pretty much ignoring the two in favour of their destination.

“This is like follow the leader with a bunch of saints damned giant crystal.. crab. . turtle... things!” Tamar muttered. Sully rolled her eyes and jogged ahead. “Where are we even going?”

“Who knows?” Sully muttered. “Where’s Hector?”

“I’m... guessing that way,” tamar pointed amongst the buildings. You could still just about hear Hector in the distance but the creature was surprisingly fast for a beast made out of crystal. The farther they went, the more overgrown their route became. There were buildings all around them ,a set up which may, once over, have been a village. Now it was a haven for the crystal like-fungus, growing up the walls and pushing through cracks in the floor. Eventually, there was more crystal than stone or grass, and buildings filtered aside to reveal what looked, uncannily, as if it had once been a church.

Sully snorted. “Oh great, abandoned temple, middle of nowhere, tingly sixth sense going crazy... yep, that’s some ominous foreboding right there. Got your frying axe, kid?”

“Sure, not that I can do anything with it.”

“Hey, I get it’s no scimitar, but still, I work with what I’ve got!”

“Yeah, and from the looks of it you can bend metal into whatever shape you like! I can’t-”

“Oh don't gimme that,” Sully groaned, already marching forward towards the diamond encrusted building. “Got this far alive, didn’t ya?”

“I guess, but...”

“No buts,” Sully said, raising a hand in calm impatience. “You know what this means, Tamar. Or a part of ya does, anyway. Me too. You’re an Evoker, you decide what that means. Preferably later because right now, we better check to see if the big guy needs help.” Tamar would normally have argued, but he knew this wasn’t the time or place… and strangely she really did seem to know what she was talking about. He felt it too.

In there, the feeling said, in a voice almost it’s own. The answers are inside.
*
The buildings interior reminded Tamar of the glow of the rune he and the others shared. A bluish green tint that was reflected in the floor which had been covered over in this strange crystal formation. It crawled up the pillars, and reflected the light that burst in from the exotic windows that showed images of old and forgotten myths. Hector was ahead, on one knee and holding his right arm, a cut bleeding where he held it. His Crystal arm held back the small flow of blood, but Tamar could see that the arm was changing. The spines on it were growing larger, covered a bigger section of the arm now; it looked almost demonic in appearance. At the shoulder blade, large scales spread outward, forming a strange kind of tendril armor around the swordsman. Some formations had even started to appear at the edges of the left side of his face.

Tamar moved immediately, to run forward, but Sully’s hand gripped his arm, holding him back, a silent wait.
The Beast was seemingly gone; vanished. The leash lay on the ground, and shattered gemstones spread across the floor between Hector and a third entity. His body was hunched over, looking away from the three with a thin cloak hiding his appearance from them. Sully narrowed her eyes over at the man, “It’s him.” She whispered, “I can feel it, either it’s him or he’s got whatever it is on him.”

“So... we get it back,” Tamar murmured. He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. The whole building was ringing with the sound of crystal fragments breaking. The creatures came here and, apparently, died when they entered this building. he could see the crystal changing in Hector’s arm, too, almost dragging at him. “Or... stop him.”

“Great. Got any idea how?”

“Not a saints damned clue.” Tamar carefully prised his arm out of Sully’s grip, stepping forward, slower this time, towards his friend and the figure cowering in what looked like a shall of crystal teeth. “Hector...?”

Hector’s head perked up, alerted to the others now. Slowly his head tilted back to face them, his eye looking directly at Tamar with a sign of pain but also a warning. He shook his head, as if to tell the kid not to get any closer. The robed man, whose whimpering up until this point had been inaudible seemed to get louder as Tamar approached. “Another…? You want it too!?” The figure seemed to calm on a whim and he stood tall, his back still facing them. “I am...it’s guardian now, it has chosen me.” His body continued to rise, moving upward an impossible amount. Soon, the cloak became nothing but a small scarf upon his body.

What turned around to face them was not human, not any longer. It stood almost ten feet tall, crystal shot off of its body in all directions, like water, frozen mid splash, it’s legs sharp as swords and it’s arms thick with spines of crystal. The remnants of a face could vaguely be made out in the center of the beast, but that too seemed frozen in time, even as it spoke. “You will be consumed, like the others. It will be eternal.”

“No thanks!” Hector yelled back, wincing as he stood. “The only thing eternal here is the eternal amount of pain you’ll be in when I punch that stupid head of yours.”

“Ha!” Sully snorted, “That was a really lame comeback.”

“Same team!” Hector retorted.

Tamar’s own comment was swallowed when he caught a glimpse of the figure’s core, beneath it’s face. You could see blood, veins and muscle just pulsing beneath the surface, but most of the beast was composed entirely out of clear-stone now. And yet... Right there, where a human heart would be. What was left of the inner flesh had folded around it like arms encased in the crystal. There was... something. An obviously foreign object. And his brain dragged his attention to it faster than his eyes did. He glanced at Sully, but if she saw it too, she was giving no signs of it. She does. She just doesn't want to give away that she’s noticed.

“They are not enough,” the creature, once man, growled. “Your bodies.. .shatter. But it does not. We... do not.” It’s eyes flashed on Sully. “You know... you come from this. You seek to take it away. You will not. You were not chosen.”
“We don’t know what it is, and we don’t care,” Tamar snapped. “It’s killing people!”

“They were not... right.”

“Right?!” Tamar snapped. “What... what’s that supposed to mean?”

The creature shuddered in what might have been a headshake, it’s figure was so huge that it brushed the ceiling of the shattered church. There was the sound of stained glass cracking in nearby windows. Or maybe that was the sound of the crystal lancing through Hector’s skin, twisting the flesh underneath.

It took every ounce of self control Tamar had to stay where he was. “They were not enough. They do not belong with the eternal one. They are nothing. Once. I was them, once.” The creatures words were twisted and broken. “No longer. You will not take it.” It’s eyes flared with the colours of opal. “You... should know this. You both should understand.”
It was right, tamar realised. In a strange way, they did understand. he could feel it: The Ether running through this creatures twisted body, lancing back into the eart below, into the sky above, everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He saw it’s power, what it meant... he couldn’t believe he had never noticed it before. To Sully it seemed to come as naturally as breathing...

He also saw what it was going to do.

“Nuh uh,” Sully shook her head. “You’ve got some weird ideas about how this is gonna work!”

The creature screamed. It raised it’s arms and took a powerful first step forward, shaking the room they were in. The second step didn’t happen though as, true to his word, Hector leapt up and punched the thing directly in the face, knocking the beast back a step. Despite this, the crystal around it seem to easily deflect any actual damage done to it. It countered, slammed a gigantic fist into the ground Hector landed near. He moved in time, but the impact was strong enough to send even him off his feet. The creature wasted no time raising the other appendage and slamming it down upon the human. Hector caught its descent with both arms, trying to hold it back from crushing him. The longer he held onto it, however, the more his left arm seemed to mutate; it became larger and heavier.

With both its arms down, Sully charged right for it. Stabbing the spear into the ground she vaulted herself upward and landing upon its ‘chest’ where it clutched the orb tightly. With a thrust she attempted to stab the spear into it and pull it loose, but the weapon deflected off of it to no effect. She tried several more strikes but began to lose her footing and had to leap back off, just before it swatted at her. This freed Hector who tackled the beasts left foot, lifting it up and causing the monster to fall onto its back.

“Hector, stay away from this thing!” The woman ordered with concern in her voice. “It’s accelerating the disease in your body, you won’t last much longer.”

Tamar seemed to agree, as he ran past the others and attacked the creature while it was still trying to get up. Like the others, however, he only seemed to be mildly annoying the beast. Hector watched this and looked back at her, “You two don’t stand a chance on your own.”

“Pssh, I don’t think you know us enough to-”

“Neither of you can break through its armor,” He interrupted, something she knew as well. “You got a clean hit and it did nothing. I’m the only one here possibly strong enough to get through… and you don’t know me well enough if you think Hector Erastus is gonna run from a fight.” He grinned cockily. Sully stared at the man in bewilderment as he was back on his feet, pulling the large hunk of crystal upward and forming it into a fist.

Tamar was getting pushed back, each strike merely bouncing off the monsters body. When the golem prepared to flatten the boy, the strike was once again blocked as the now enormous crystal appendage on Hector had become something of a shield, completely deflecting the blow. Using all his strength, he pushed the beast back striking at it and chipping away at the armor surrounding it.

For a moment, it seemed Hector might actually force it back it with just the arm, but finally the beast caught the arm and clinged to it. Then, capitalizing on the man’s weakened defenses, raised it’s sharp leg like appendage, and stabbed it through his body. Hector buckled to the ground as the leg pinned him in place, the man gasped in pain. With the crystal working through his body, his reflexes had dulled, and the beast could keep up with his strength. It left its leg within him, allowing the proximity of its body to continue to spread the crystal across the mans body. Tamar staggered back, panic flaring into terror and then desperation and then anger and no. No, not him.

And then something clicked.

It looked like fire. Tamar was starting to know better than that now, though. And his hand wasn’t holding a sword. Instead, he had reached up and grabbed Hector's shoulder, just for a second before the pressure pushed Tamar backwards. But the link held. The power kept flowing in the same way as fire would lance down Echo’s blade. The way it had crackled into ice when he learned of Anji and Julius’s death, and into fire when he thought of Eliziya. But this time it sparked through crystal and stone and every part of Hector that wasn’t still flesh and bone looked as if it were a flame.

No. Not fire. Ether. The thing magic became when you stripped away all the trappings of modern alchemy. The thing it was before fire and ice and lightning and metal. He could hear Sully yell out in something like triumph, and he knew how she did it now: how she bent metal to her will. He knew why it worked. It was born from her, from what she believed.
And this, Tamar realised, was born from him. Hector got a second wind, the arm now transformed grabbed hold of the creatures leg and snapped into right off with ease. The beast immediately lost its balance, falling down onto its bottom. Hector on the other hand, stood back up, pulling the piece of leg still embedded in him out and tossed it to the side. With the beast fallen, it was now at eye level the large human. Hector raised his empowered arm, the evoked energy steaming off the limb. With a might charge he dove right for what lay underneath the armor, putting all of Tamar’s energy into the attack. The collision caused the fire like energy to spread through the cathedral, evaporating the crystal it came in contact with. It burned right through the Golem, ripping out a now very much human individual from within it, before it completely dissolved from the attack.
The man’s body fell to the ground, the effects seeming to have reversed, though he lay unconscious. The fire like arm of Hector’s, however, now safely held the thing the man so preciously clutched, an Orb the had the same glow as the rest of this mess.

There was a moment of frankly bewildered confusion before Tamar’s voice broke the silence. “Drop it!” he gasped.
Hector grinned, and silently placed the thing on the ground. As he did so, Tamar finally broke his concentration, and the not-fire left his body. Then he dropped too, only Sully had moved close enough to grab him before he went the rest of the way. Surprisingly, most of the crystal on Hector’s body had regressed, leaving only the early showings on his arm. There was dust in the air...

No dust. Fragmented glass. Crystal.

Sully approached the orb, looking it over more closely, though hesitantly. It seemed, dull now, empty of its power. Curious, she looked back at the symbol on her tricep and saw that it had faded. Tamar, on cue, looked for his as well and found it missing. Finally, what remained on Hector slowly chipped away to reveal his ordinary arm underneath. “I...think you stopped it, kid.”
The three would return to the outpost to get Hector healed, but their return was interesting, it seemed that the beasts had dispersed once the orb had become useless, many of them merely turning to dust, apparently. Sully merely shook her head at the two as they patched the man up, getting one last word in, “Tamar was right, you’re a lot of crazy. The good kind, but crazy.”
If you ever need to ask the questions "Am I needed? Should I help them?" The answer is always yes. Always.
User avatar
Adell
Meta-Lovecrafter
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:31 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Thu Dec 04, 2014 9:40 pm

Turn 27

Quest 75: Gatecrashers
Quest Description: So, uh, a whole lot of people-- many of them important people-- just kind of disappeared! It’s been a while, and people are only getting more anxious about that. So you figure you should find them. You track them (or something) to the entrance to the 25th floor, where you are blocked by a great big gate. The gate is warded by powerful protections, but you know you need to open the gate if you want to find your people.
Quest Goal: Get past the protections and open the gate.
Quest Takers: Tamar (Scarab) and Kurt (Sicon112)
GM Notes:
  • The protections on the gate can take whatever form you want, so long as you get past them.
  • The gate (and the protections on it) do not need to be uniform between these two quests (see the Floating’s Game quest), even though they are the same gate-- due to Magic, one side of the gate is totally distinct from the other (and both sides need to be successful for the gate to fully open).
  • If you prefer, you may collaborate between the two quests on the opening-the-gate thing, but that is totally not compulsory. (If you collab, the posts should be made in the Main thread.)
  • When the gate is successfully opened, all memories return to those characters who were on Floor 25.
Quest deadline is Friday, December 12th at 11:59 p.m. EST
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

AS DICTATED TO INSTANTIATION 17-01-18-01.
User avatar
Qara-Xuan Zenith
 
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:34 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Sicon112 on Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:59 pm

~Quest 75: Gatecrashers~

The thing about Sully (something she had in common with her soon-to-be-husband, it seemed) was that she didn’t do quiet.

Nor did she do lie ins. Or staying in bed for more than ten seconds after the alarm. And it wasn’t like Tamar wasn’t already used to being up before the cows started mooing in the fields, but really, this -this- was an entirely different level. The sack, filled to the brim with iron filings and fragments of metal that Sully insisted she wanted to ‘try out, to see if it’s any good for the tough stuff. Can’t go mountin’ rescue missions without the proper tools, kiddo. besides, ya can do some experimenting while you’re out there, huh? See if we can’t pinpoint some of these traits of yours.’

She failed to mention these bags were really large and would have to be dragged back from Tad’s Forge one at a time, but hey, this was apparently character building or something. So here he was, doing precisely that, alternating between dragging the bag behind him and throwing it over his shoulder.

He had to admit though, the city was nice before dawn. Quiet. The sunlight (assuming what they saw was sun at all) cut between the buildings and striped across the plaza like the bars of a cage. Even the slums were peaceful - people were either sleeping, or too drunk to do anything more than mumble dejected love songs and curses at random passers by. Sometimes both. (“Okay, sir I’m sure I do look like her, and I’m sure that’s flattering, but I am really not your ex wife... I have to go sir... sorry. Yeah okay, thank you sir, bye.”)

Harmless and peaceful. On the surface, at least. But then that was true for everything in the Castle, wasn’t it? A peaceful panorama spread over a darker underbelly. He remembered Zi telling him about things like that once - about the surface of magic, compared to what was actually going on underneath.

Thinking of Zi at this time was never wise. He suppressed a wince because she was out there and they would find her. They would find everyone eventually. He kept looking... sometimes, Tamar thought, he searched with things besides just his eyes and ears. And he had seen and heard a lot, from the seedy underbelly of the city, to the higher up streets of the governing district. There had been an expedition to a new floor, and then people had gone. Nobody seemed to know anymore than that.

He dropped the sack at the crossroads, near one of the town fountains and sat down besides it. Here seemed as good a place as any and he needed a break. Deep breath. His hand reached for Echo, still in its sheath. “Remember what Sully said about not forgetting where you were grounded. Reach out, but don’t let go - that was the dangerous part, what might happen if you let yourself slip.” He closed his eyes, letting out the breath, focussed briefly on the water in the fountain, then closed himself off from that too - looked inwards. ‘Let’s find out who ya are, pip.’

It had been easy enough on floor six, in the world of crystal where everything about being an Evoker was concentrated and amplified. Here it was harder. But Tamar could feel the fingers of magic reaching out all the same, intersecting branches spreading out from around him sensing the area. The sense was drawn to weapons most of all. He felt the carving knife on the Butcher’s table, the distant cooling white-red of molten steel in Tad’s furnace just across town. Weak - but present, rooted in his head, and in the vein that reached from his left hand down to Echo’s hilt. Zi had given Echo his name. If anything could find her, find everyone missing, it would be Echo.

He didn’t realise something wasn't right, at first.

It wasn’t like Tamar had a full grasp on what his magic could do - according to Sully, Evokers differed enormously from person to person, which was one of the reasons it was so hard to recognize. Tamar couldn’t figure out something he didn’t have the rules for, not without Zi or Fern or someone actually knowledgeable to help. For all he knew this was normal. But slowly, the branches began tugging, changing direction, pulling outwards.

Tamar opened his eyes to see them better. They were vague and barely visible in the daylight, although Sully claimed she could see them clearly, and they were tugging at his feet, like the branches of a tree in the wind...

Tamar frowned. ‘Up?’ he muttered.

The tug happened again.

Tamar stood up. Something was shifting just below his rib cage. A sort of angry, nervous sensation.

The bag of metal filings was left forgotten at the edge of the fountain.

*

Tamar could not remember the last time he had been to floor three. Probably because there was a giant hole between that floor and this one. Indeed, he wasn’t sure what he was doing here now. The abyss was empty and black, and the sky before him - it had to be sky, right? What else could be so dark - was empty of anything except the shattered rubble caught between the floors when they collapsed. It had nowhere to fall, so stayed where it was - defying all logic.

It felt like an open wound here: raw, cold, and empty. An ocean, except nothing could ever live in it -the images of islands in his mind had to be tricks of the light. There were buildings, trailing off the edge - the remnants of what had once been an entire floor and...

He shouldn’t be here.

Nobody should be here.

Where had this been, though? Tamar looked around trying to recognize something - it was strange how difficult it was to remember how floor two had looked before... all this. But the threads were tugging again. It had grown gradually stronger the higher Tamar ascended. Right now, it was flooding out his sense of any weapons in the area, it was so loud. A much stronger magic drowning out another, weaker use. Tamar didn’t have the skills to focus it yet, he knew this, so he didn’t bother. He did what Hector had told him to do - took a deep breath and focus on getting through it. Tamar shuddered, feeling the way threads of Evoker magic curled over the edge into nothing then withdraw. He shouldn’t be here.

So why was he?

Because of that, a tickle in his mind said. And then the tugging changed direction. The air tasted foul and every inch of Tamar was screaming at him to leave. To go back. To find Sully or Hector or... hell just about anybody would have been a better choice right now than continuing to walk into the blast zone.

It pulled Tamar slightly away from the edge, around the remnants of what might, once over, have been a barricade - a hastily constructed fortress, torn apart at what looked like the edge of the world. You could just about make out the rest of it, floating in the inky black.

But he kept walking.

And it wasn’t much longer before the thin branches of light that passed from his feet found what they were looking for. The Evoker in him knew before the rest of him did. Tamar felt before he saw, the branches curving over a shape, and recoiling in horror, even before Tamar knew he was looking at something alive.

Not something. Someone.

‘...Oh holy Saints. What...’

He only realised it was human because the Evoker threading through his veins could not identify it as anything else. The body spat energy that it shouldn’t have. That no human should have. As if several chunks of it had been torn away and replaced with something black and ink-like. The kind of shadows that swallowed you whole and ate your breath. Like the Abyss itself had crept out into the body and was slowing eating it whole. The part of Tamar that was magic fuelled wanted to turn and run - but the part of him that was human and had an actual sense of saints-damned empathy crushed that part of him down and made him step forwards. It was... strange. His magic led him here, but now, it reacted like horses, standing in front of a burning barn - terrified, yet drawn to the fire in panic. There were fragments in the air of something that were not quite memories - fleeting sensations of panic and fear and utter, total rage. Tamar couldn’t tell where it came from. It made the rage of the madman on floor six feel like nothing more than mild irritation. The Rat King’s fury was a feeble snap in the dark. This... this was pure fury, the likes of which he’d never even imagined.

He’d felt it, though. Just once. He didn’t want to think about when.

Tamar ignored them. There was a person in here. A hurt person, whatever was happening to them, they were still here and still human. There weren't many members of Severed Storm left now. Far be it for one of the remaining ones to turn away from the people they should help.

‘...Hello?’

Most. Ridiculous question. Ever.

But Tamar stepped forward all the same. He checked he was wearing the gloves Sully loaned him -empathy was one thing, abject stupidity was quite another- and reached out to touch what he was fairly sure was a shoulder. There was the shudder of black ink parting, shifting away from Tamar’s touch. And then he realised who he was looking at, and just about wanted to throw up in horror.

It was the hair that gave it away - dark with dirt and what looked like pure ink. But under it, it wasn’t dark at all. It was much lighter than that. Paler than even his own, the opposite of Zi’s. Pure white.

For a brief second, Tamar thought he could feel his own ribcage cracking. The realisation was sharp and cold and mixed with something otherworldly - something like magic but... not. he knew who this was. It was impossible and insane and yet, it couldn’t possibly be anyone else. He still remembered that sarcastic smile, one of many he had already assumed was dead and lost to the void. Lost to the Castle and its games. No sign of that cocky grin now. “...Kurt?”

Not dead. He couldn’t be dead, Tamar knew. He knew that you didn’t find anything dead in the blackness out here. You were hideously lucky if you found anything at all. This was something that should not happen, but he silenced that part of him, ignoring every voice Sully and Hector and even Julius had always told him point blank to pay attention to because there was a man in front of him who was dying, and that was important. So he gripped the shoulder tighter, considering a shake, and pulled the body backwards.

The hand hit him in the gut. It was probably supposed to be a fist, really. Tamar remembered the underground, all that power compressed into a small figure, but there was no power here now. Barely even the strength to curl fingers into a grip. Still, it was a shock, and Tamar started, pulling back but not letting go of the arm. “Holy saints,” he muttered.

The eyes were right. Just about. Everything else about him felt wrong though. The usual gestures, the poise that marked him as the Priest in Tamar’s mind, all of it gone, replaced with exhaustion and what seemed like barely contained panic. That, in its own way, was as frightening as the black ink. Tamar was trying to ignore the fragments of it that he could still see crawling across skin. As if it might reach out and snag Tamar, too. ‘Hey, it’s alright. It’s me... Tamar Delaney, you remember me, don’t you?’

He didn’t seem to, at first. There was nothing like recognition in his face. Then the arm Tamar wasn’t holding reached over and tried to mirror the gesture on Tamar’s shoulder. Empathy dragged Tamar’s free hand to hold Kurt’s steady. There was a muttering, something Tamar couldn't make out - half words, half... something. Not quite a human voice. Part of Tamar cried out in terror, in warning, and he pointedly told it to shut up.

“What happened to you?” he murmured, not honestly expecting an answer, at least not a coherent one. But there was an answer. Not of words, perhaps not even from Kurt, but it was an answer all the same. It happened when Tamar held Kurt’s gaze for more than a second and the world shifted, the ocean curling like a black fog, faces and shapes gathering in the darkness, building into half-solid forms. Almost voices in his ears. Tamar tried not to flinch as the world crafted itself around him. Kurt’s gaze was half desperate, as if trying to convey... something about what was happening, but not having the coherence to do so.

Tamar saw her running - a half shape of black ink, a flicker of dark hair and the shape of fire made with darkness. His heart leapt. ‘Zi?’

He wouldn’t jolted to his feet if it hadn’t been for Kurt. ‘Eliziya! Firefly!’ The shape almost seemed to hear him, turning slightly towards them in the black haze. Then the illusion broke into fragments, ink falling to the ground, draining down half-visible walls in rivulets, fading away. It had been real. It had to have been real.

At this point Tamar realised he was literally the only thing keeping Kurt upright as his body slumped forward against Tamar’s chest.

There was a noise from the black ocean, something like a laugh. Or maybe it was Tamar’s imagination. Maybe it didn’t matter, and he should just focus on getting them out of here. Time for questions later.

--------

Tamar had only half expected there to be resistance to this idea. In fact, if Hector had been there at the time, there probably wouldn’t have been any resistance at all. Hector was always down for dangerous missions. Of course, first they had to deal with the more immediate problem in the next room. “So... that’s what happened. I couldn’t just leave him half dead on the edge of some... giant void in space where an entire floor used to be,” Tamar finished up his rather long winded explanation. “Even if a part of my brain is screaming at it. Which it is, by the way. Really loudly. I don’t know if that’s a thing or not.”

Sully silently raised an eyebrow, not because of Tamar’s admittedly crazy story, but more because her brothers were constantly bobbing and weaving around the two while they were trying to have a mostly calm and quiet conversation. She opened her mouth to talk only for one of the six giants that she called family lifted one of her arms up and held against it some sort of measuring tool. “Ya know we can do this later, right?”

“Nonsense! We need the proper measurements now if we’re gonna be prepared for the big day!” The portly one in the back barked out with a hearty laugh as he seemed to be tanning some kind of leather.

“Our sister, getting married! What’s this world coming to?” One bellowed out with a deep voice.

“Ya know, technically we may not even be in our world anymore.” The smallest of the six brothers admitted, scratching his thick and curly red beard.

“Will ya idjits shut it for one minute?” Sully barked, “I’m trying to talk to pip, ‘ere!”

“Aye, sorry Sullivan.” The one measuring her said, quieter, but still a quite audible whisper.

“Augh, don’t call me that!” She said trying to push him away.

“No no waitin’, sister! We ‘ave a deadline!” Another said as he shoved several different sized hats on her head. “Don’t worry, everything will be perfect. It’ll be the most exciting and daring wedding in years! The Acker family won’t disappoint!”

“...You guys realise we have an unconscious guy in the next room, right?” Tamar sighed (honestly, he was getting used to this. Intimidating as they seemed at first sight, Sully’s many brothers were not actually half as rough as they seemed.)

The smallest looked up. “Do we need to measure him for a suit?”

“No.”

“Then there’s no problem!”

“Don’t scare us like that, pip!” One said shoving his way past with a crate of different metals.

“...They’re honestly way too excited. I was afraid this would ‘appen.” Sully muttered, rubbing her forehead in annoyance.

“Sister I can’t measure you correctly if you move like that.” Sully just silently shook her head in defeat.

“Right.” She sighed, “Unconscious guy, some sort of preacher? And ya got a ghost girl calling for ya?”

“Not a ghost. Eliziya Torvan, it was her.” He tried not to let his voice catch on that. Truth be told, he wasn’t entirely sure. It was difficult to make out features in a face of black ink but... “Well it felt like her, anyway. I’d know, Sully. And wherever Kurt came from... maybe she’s there. And if she’s there, maybe the rest of the missing expedition are, too.”

“Ahhh, is this an important lass for ya, boy?” One of her brothers chimed in. “Ooooh young love. I remember my firs-”

“I said SHUT IT!” Sully kicked at him to silence her intruding family. “Look Tamar, maybe you’re right, maybe not. I’m not too familiar with all this craziness around ‘ere. I’m not sure what you’re thinkin’ either, but it probably ain’t the best idea to go charging back into the giant awful void of nothingness.”

“I’m not charging back into the Void of Nothingness, that’s not where she is,” Tamar argued. “I need to go... Up.” He was aware of the vagueness of this statement, and tried in vain to come up with a better one but it remained the only possible idea he had. “That’s all I’ve got. Up. I guess... up to a higher floor? I was sort of just planning to follow it until...” he trailed off, aware that the room was somewhat quieter and most of the people in it were staring at him.

Sully wrinkled her brow, shaking her head slowly. “... Until what? Ya walk into some ferocious demon? Get possessed by a giant squid? You and Cabbage ‘ead, I swear...ya aren’t even thinking this through. The whole plan is just go up until something ‘appens. I’m all for adventure, don’t get me wrong, but ya gotta ‘ave some direction ‘ere. Didn’t your...oh I’m sorry, MY guest try going up there, how’s he looking?”

“Well, technically he’s OUR guest, if we’re gonna go down that road.” The smaller of the six brothers interjected again.

“My point is,” She spoke back up, trying to keep the conversation on topic, “I’m all for daring rescues, but aimless wandering? That’s a idjit’s plan if I ever ‘eard one. Especially for you, Tamar. S’not smart to go trudging up to the ‘igher floors when you still barely know how to be an Evoker. The stuff in this castle ‘as weird effects on people like us.”

“The weird effect it ‘ad on her was she finally decided to get into a relationship, dohohohoho!” The portliest of the brothers joked, giving a hard jab of his elbow to Tamar. Tamar tried his best not to wince. “When do we get to meet the lucky guy, anyway?”

“... Y’all are literally the worst. Never.” She paused, letting out a long annoyed sigh “...The wedding.” Her voice carried with it the hope that this would all be over soon.

Tamar resisted the urge to sigh. Honestly, the sooner this wedding was over with, the better. “Look, you don’t have to come with me or anything, just keep an eye on Kurt for the night, he’s in my room anyway, and if nothing changes, I’ll go talk to one of the Healers when I get back, which will probably be... soon.”

“Boy, ya should probably listen to Sullivan, she’s usually right about these things.” One of the brothers warned.

“Sully. Not Sullivan.” She said directly to Tamar. “Ya never are calling me Sullivan, got it?” Tamar just silently nodded his head, “... I can’t just let ya go.” She finally said with a slight sign of hesitation, “Ya aren’t really thinking this through and… well, I doubt the big lug would be as willing to go through with this stupid marriage if something ‘appened to ya. Especially if I could ‘ave prevented it.”

“I’m not sayin’ don’t go.” She added, “I’m just sayin’ to wait a bit, maybe git some of the guards or figure out a plan or somethin. Not just run up there and git yourself killed.”

“...Alright, I won’t just run up there and get myself killed,” Tamar grit his teeth at the end there, trying to cover up the fact that for whatever reason, waiting on the guards did not feel like something he could do right now, and only in part because of the memory of Eliziya's face formed in ink. There was something else there, too. A constant tug.

He wasn’t sure if her frown was an indication of suspicion or if she was just fed up of her brothers adjusting her arm positions every five minutes and throwing more pieces of leather at her (what kind of wedding dress used this much leather, anyway?)

“Maybe the boy should get some rest.” The portly one suggested.

“We’re gonna need the extra space out ‘here anyway!” The large bearded one bellowed with another laugh.

“...Okay, fine, but consider the fact there’s someone using my bed right now,” Tamar mumbled.

“Eh, the floor ain’t so bad ‘ere, pip.” Sully teased with a grin. “Your back we only git a few splinters.”

“Yeah, I’m borrowing pillows,” Tamar muttered, turning away to do just that.

The brothers began to swarm around Sully as the young swordsman was taking his leave, but she pushed through them and called out, “Wait, Tamar.” Tamar stopped, turning his head back slightly, looking a bit dejected. “You’re an evoker, ya know? That comes with a lotta extra baggage.”

“...I can keep my emotions in check, Sully, I’ve been practicing.”

“Not just ours,” She explained, shaking her head. “The animals...tree’s, other people, even the weather. It all can ‘elp or ‘inder how much control we ‘ave over our power. Sometimes the pain of another causes incredible control like with what happened with ‘Ector an’ that whole crystal nonsense. Other times that same pain can make ya lose all sense of self.” She sighed, hating bringing the tone down so negatively, plus the look on Tamar’s face was probably more confused than anything. “I’m...aaah, crud, just be careful and pay attention will ya? I got enough to worry ‘bout an’ then some, little Pip.”

-----

The thing about fading in and out of consciousness was that no matter how much experience one had with the sensation, that experience wouldn’t do them much good at all. It was a simple enough matter for Kurt to recognize later what the nonsensical jumble of stimuli meant, but as it occurred, his thoughts were far too disarrayed to logically deduce what was going on. Thus, all he remembered of the time he spent passed out under the care of the remnants of Severed Storm was a blur of confusion and, what stood out to his addled mind most, light. Anyone else would have called the blackness he sometimes glimpsed inside his eyelids darkness, but one of the few moments of clarity he was granted gave him the impression that to him, such light was blindingly bright. Perhaps he had been trapped in darkness for a very long time. He wasn’t sure.

Another moment of semi-consciousness reintroduced him to the sound of people’s voices, and he recalled the meaning of speech, or at least his rough estimate of language. He was still too far gone to form coherent words, or understand the voices carrying over from the far room, sometimes fading to distant sounds just barely able to reach his ears, and other time rising to volumes so loud he could clearly make out every word, though he couldn’t remember what each meant at the time, and later, his memory was too faded to recall what was said.

When Kurt next awoke, it was night. As his eyes opened, he raised his head weakly and looked around him at the room he had been placed in. No lights were still lit, so the shadows of the twilight crept across the floor, but the room couldn’t be called dark. Definitely not, as light still streamed in from the window on the far wall. Pushing himself out of bed and supporting himself on a table, Kurt stumbled across the room, drawn to the light. His body felt sluggish and feeble, and seemed to respond to his thoughts only after a delay. Well, all that meant was that his coordination was gone with his atrophied muscles. He had felt these sensations before. Living a life like the one he had lived, it was difficult not to.

All in all, Kurt took his situation with an uncommon degree of calm as he quietly watched the last light of the sun fade away into a deep midnight blue along the edge of the distant horizon. Looking out at the distant light brought him some measure of clarity, and brushed aside the last bits of disorientation from his period of unconsciousness. Just being able to see the light allowed him to focus on the present, and kept his mind from falling back onto the place he had been before.

It was at that moment, as he surveyed the sky from his position at the windowsill, that he heard the creak of floorboards, followed by the quiet squeaking of a slightly less than optimally oiled hinge. Logic told him that the sounds were most probably caused by the movement of whoever had rescued him; the owner of this building. However, his job often found him encountering situations that would make logic hide under its bed, so just to be sure, he moved as silently as was possible for a half-invalid towards the door.

Quietly slipping through the small gap he had opened into the hallway, he moved down the stairs at the far end and approached the source of the noise, a human form facing away from him and removing an object from a closet. It was when the person pulled back from the closet and into the faint moonlight slipping in through another window to examine the item they had been searching for that Kurt recognized them.

“You know, last time I checked, you didn’t own a boomerang.” His voice was weaker than normal, and he coughed a little as he spoke, his voice rough from lack of use.

There was a clatter as the boomerang hit the floor. ‘Damn it,’ Tamar winced, glancing over at Kurt. There was a sword in the scabbard at his waist, a small rucksack over his shoulder, ‘Last time I checked you weren’t conscious. Still look like you shouldn’t be.’ He kept his voice low.

Kurt pushed himself off the wall he was leaning against and moved out of the shadows, having regained at least enough strength to move about without too much stumbling or leaning on nearby objects. “It looks like your tongue has gotten sharper since we last met too.” Wincing, he coughed a bit more. “I’ve been worse off than this before. I can handle myself. More importantly, what has you up in the middle of the night with a full travel kit and…” He looked over at the weapons closet and the boomerang on the floor. “...nosing about in someone else’s weapons, if your clearly guilty reaction to my arrival was anything to go by?”

He didn’t miss the way Tamar’s eyes kept glancing towards one particular closed door as the suspiciously behaving adventurer leaned over to pick up the boomerang, tucking it into the bag on his shoulder. “Nice to see you’re thinking like yourself again,” he muttered. “But you should really not be up. I have... somewhere to go.”

“‘Somewhere’ standing for ‘somewhere far away and potentially extremely dangerous, if not an outright trap’, if I’m reading the situation right. So what has you about to jump in and play the hero this time?” Kurt looked down at Tamar a bit disapprovingly.

There was a protracted pause. Tamar’s stance was mostly upright -taller than he used to be, apparently - but he was worrying his lower lip with his teeth, giving the whole posture away as a bluff. ‘You probably don’t know the details. You’ve been gone for goodness knows how long, Kurt, and things... happened while you weren’t around. There’s people I need to find, and I have to go now, there’s not much time...” he trailed off guiltily. Still glancing at the door. “Anyway, technically this is your doing.”

“Sure, blame it on the invalid so your guild mates can gang up on me when they figure out you got in trouble. Sorry, but I’ll pass on that.” Kurt walked over to the weapons closet himself, reached in without hesitation and held up a blade to the moonlight. The gentle curve of the katana’s blade reflected shafts of gleaming white around the room as Kurt examined it carefully, finally running his eyes down the gentle wave-like pattern in the metal, a sign of proper craftsmanship. Tamar opened his mouth, as if to protest the fact that it wasn’t his, then seemed to think better of it. Nodding once, Kurt reached back in and pulled out a simple sheath of glossy wood that matched the blade and slid the weapon into it with a quiet click. Glancing back in the closet one more time, he withdrew a short fighting spear, gave it a quick twirl and nodded a second time. “So when did you guys get a contract with a blacksmith for your own personal grand armory anyway? Before I left here, Seire had a pretty solid lockdown on the weapons trade, and I can’t imagine that guy giving up this much nice stuff.”

“I guess we can consider it one of the perks of Engagement,” Tamar was frowning at Kurt like he was some kind of puzzle. “Sully won’t be happy you’re taking her stuff before she test runs it...”

“Perhaps, but once I explain all about how this was all your idea and I, the poor invalid, had no choice but to follow along and do what I could, I’m sure she will have other issues to take up… whoever she is.” Kurt shrugged as though he didn’t care, and surreptitiously leaning on the spear he had taken to make walking easier, he moved for the door with beams of moonlight slipping through the cracks, before turning and eyeing Tamar. “Well, are you coming or what? I thought this mission was supposed to be important.”

“She’s also not going to be happy if I let you walk out of here and get killed straight away,” Tamar muttered at a volume that was, hypothetically, supposed to be heard only by himself. Kurt caught it though. Still, he followed Kurt to the door.

“If I could get killed that easily, I wouldn’t have ever made it to this castle in the first place. So, where is this highly dangerous situation you’re just dying to throw yourself into?” Kurt opened the door with a smirk. “Lead the way.”

----------

Turned out, Tamar didn’t exactly know where the highly dangerous situation he was willing to throw himself into was. Or if he did, then he wasn’t saying so, and didn’t give off any tells to suggest he knew. “Up,” he had said, once or twice, although that rarely correlated with where he was actually going. They left the street -some quiet place far away from the centre of town. They left the town square behind. But then they left the first and second floors behind, too. There were stairs, at some point. And a large room that shifted upward - all vaguely familiar, but... changed from the last time he'd been here. As if the castle had restructured itself, but kept to a central point.

He said it under his breath, as if not realising Kurt could hear. As if he were following a voice inside of his head. Not a very informative voice, Kurt had to say, but Tamar kept up the infrequent litany of “up” the higher they went, and he stayed a little closer to Kurt that was probably typical. At some point, Tamar draw his sword, a shining thing that glittered with Runes Kurt was fairly sure had not been there the last time. They seemed to spread from the blade to Tamar’s skin.

They walked through a field. At least, it looked like a field - a large plain set in the middle of the seemingly endless forest. It sort of reminded Tamar of the forest on the first floor, except... wrong. Different. For reasons he couldn’t see. Like the roots of the forest were reaching beneath them, farther than the branches of the trees ever could. There was moonlight coming from somewhere, with no moon in the sky above. Half-light striping through the trees and across the field, like the bars of a cage. The shadows around them tar black and dragging the light inwards.

In between the litany, Tamar explained a little of how he had come to find Kurt over twenty four hours ago, as they went. “You were on floor two, Kurt. Or what’s left of floor two. Which isn’t much. Or like... anything at all. Just blackness since it was destroyed. But you were alive there. Somehow. I don’t know much about where exactly you were...”

“You should probably keep it that way.” Kurt warned, making a serious expression. “It’s not something any of us should be messing with.” Waving off further concerns, he switched the topic. “That aside, I hope this heroism thing you’ve got scheduled is pretty close by. Hector will have noticed our escape by now, and I imagine he won’t be happy when he catches up with us. Well, that’s not exactly a problem for me, since I have a scapegoat and all…” He smirked smugly again. As they traveled, Tamar had also enlightened him as to the missing people, including that most of his guild was among their number.

“You’re terrible,” Tamar sighed, although there wasn’t a lot of heat to it. He seemed... distracted. Which made a lot of sense given his behaviour so far. “Anyway, we’ll explain things when we get back.”

“That’s pretty optimistic considering the situation. He’s probably going to catch you with your hand in the hero jar at the worst possible time. Even if not, there is no way we’ll manage to slip back past him on our return trip.”

“You say that like I’m going to try sneaking. Not much point where Hector is concerned,” Tamar might have had the slightest smile of his own for just a second there. “Look... they’re up here. Everyone who’s missing. They have to be. We have to get to them, we can’t just leave them...”

If Kurt had anything to say in response to that, he never got the chance to do so. The gate appeared out of literally nowhere, a splash of black ink on the edge of the field before them.

Was something laughing?

“Up,” the push came again.

“Wait...” Tamar murmured. “Was that... that gate wasn’t there before, was it?”

It could have been there. It... felt as if it had been. It was just that a few seconds ago, it hadn’t felt that way at all. It had felt utterly absent.

“As much as I would like to mock your lack of attentiveness…” Kurt’s face twisted into a frown as he watched their surroundings very carefully. “...until you reacted, I didn’t see anything either. Something isn’t right. We’ve…” He paused, a confused look flashing across his face as he looked around again, before comprehension dawned across his features as they hardened and he prepared for battle. “We’ve just walked into a barrier field of some kind.” He spoke in a tone ominous enough to pass on the gravity of their situation even to someone completely uneducated in the ways of magic.

Tamar’s eyes narrowed. You could see his body tensing up, closing inwards. “...Etheric?”

The priest’s former casual air completely absent, he spoke in a cold, businesslike manner. “Unclear. The intent of the field is to separate ‘inside’ from ‘outside’ and take control of the contents… No, that’s too simple for something of this scale. There are probably layered fields piled on top of each other, all caging us in. It’s a web we have no way of breaking free of by normal means.” He readied the spear in his hands, not yet entering a fighting stance, but clearly ready to shift into one the moment anything suspicious occurred. “Looks like we’ll be playing by the rules of someone else’s game from here on out. Tamar, can you detect the direction our targets are in?”

“I’m... not sure,’ Tamar stepped forward just once, as if testing to see whether he still could. He drew his sword, runes glittering against his skin as he dragged the blade, glowing faint blue, across the ground before him, shimmering, like water flowing upwards, touched with ice. The air felt cold: A shield, although of what magical ilk, it was difficult to tell. It shimmered close to Tamar and Kurt, barely reaching out to encompass both of them. “I think... Up, that’s the only word I can think of, Kurt, we need to go Up.”

For just a moment, Kurt’s cold mask fell and he turned to Tamar with an expression somewhere between irritation and amusement. “Unless you have been hiding your secret heritage as a bird that allows you to fly all this time, I don’t think your ‘up’ is happening any time soo- WAIT!”

Tamar had already taken a step forward.

The shield did nothing. The sky shattered. That was how it looked, the almost-dawn navy cracking and splintering and suddenly the sky was a pure, almost blinding chartreuse - the clouds paler but no less unnatural. It hurt your eyes to look at it. Tamar stumbled backwards, the shield he had cast flickering out of existence with an alarmed ‘pop’. His eyes glowed the wrong colour for a few seconds. The trees... were no longer there. Different trees. Different ground beneath his feet. Different echoes in the air. Tamar didn’t recognize it. He didn’t see anyone, not even Kurt, who Tamar could have sworn had been right behind him. Instinct drew the shield back to his sword, evoker power crackling in the blade as he called. ‘Kurt?’

The air twisted in on itself in a swirl of black and purple, and Kurt materialized from the incomprehensible corkscrew of air, spear at the ready. “Well, it seems we have discovered what these fields are meant to do.” He scanned the area, taking in the twisted colours of the dense marshland surrounding them on all sides. “Space here is twisted, and the locations keep changing constantly. I think I passed through somewhere on floor 12 on while I was trying to find you. Looks like this is meant to split us up and take us out one by one.” He glanced aside and muttered something strange to himself. “I nearly got dropped into that damnable witch’s kitchens. Like I’d ever want to go back there after what Seire did to the place…”

“...Wait, witch’s kitchen?” Tamar frowned.

Kurt didn’t reply. Turning back to Tamar, he regained his serious expression once again. “Anyway, if something hasn’t already tried to kill us, we need to mo-”

Honestly, it wasn’t like Tamar hadn’t seen his fair share of unnaturally sized wildlife during his time in the Castle. The rats the size of cows, however, were something he was never going to get used to. Especially not the way they screeched when they scrambled out of the undergrowth. It didn't really help that the field they were trapped in made it some hideous shade of yellow-green that almost seemed to glow. He switched the sword from one hand to the other, the shield fading to be replaced with burning fire along the blade. “You were just saying about things not trying to kill us?” he snapped. He pushed the sword downward, swinging, as if in attack, and the fire cut outwards, tearing through the creature that was scrambling out of the marsh. Tamar stepped backwards, going to jump onto a convenient fallen log and that was when the world twisted again.

A moment later, Kurt appeared next to Tamar, blood dripping from the tip of his spear, though with the twisted colours of the world, the blood was a golden yellow. “I can tell I’m going to get tired of this fast…” he muttered, and looked around.

This floor was as unfamiliar as the last but nonetheless, there were still things trying to kill him. It was almost a reassuring constant when the worms smashed through the ground beneath them, drawing close before Tamar even had a chance to hit any of them. Kurt was luckier, slicing at least one of them through with his spear as he spun aside.

“Oh great. This is the last place I need. Knowing my luck, that giant slug still remembers the time I carved up its hide.” Kurt muttered to himself in annoyance as he jumped back and landed beside Tamar. Raising a hand to his head in a strange gesture, as though it ached, he made a grunting sound of discomfort. “We jump together. Follow me exactly. I don’t want to have to keep going through three or four differently floors just to find you every time you warp.” He waved the tip of his spear through the air behind them, watching as the air around the tip distorted in one location, as though he had passed the blade through water instead of air. “This way! Now!”

-------------

Tamar was not one hundred percent sure how exactly any of that had worked, or how many times they had jumped into nothingness, but now the gate was in front of them. Directly in front of them. Bigger than it had looked from the distance. Tamar could still hear the litany in his head, and Kurt was leaning on his spear in a bad impression of somebody who was just taking a break and not in actual pain but at this point, but Tamar knew better than to comment. ‘Let me get this straight,’ he muttered. ‘This whole thing could basically be bypassed via trial and error?’ He pointed at the gate. “We didn’t even fight most of what we ran into.”

Kurt frowned darkly. “Right, that doesn’t make any sense. It shouldn't be that easy-” He cut himself off to rub at his temples as though in pain. “Nevermind. We're here now. We need to get by this thing… or open it?” The tone was questioning as he looked up at the monolithic structure, then saw something about it that gave him his answer. With a nod, he turned back to Tamar. “The towers on either side are the gatehouses. Judging by the construction, there should be a crank system in each tower that opens one half of the gate. For security reasons, they usually have to be opened at the same time…” He frowned again and didn’t look particularly happy about what he was about to say. “It seems we will have to split up.”

“Okay that’s probably not going to end well,” Tamar commented sincerely. Still, Kurt was probably right. This looked like a standard construction gate, the fact it was located in such a bizarre environment aside. Most of the castles had used the same construction back in the Veil. “But I guess you haven’t gotten us killed so far, so I’ll trust you on this. Where’s the mechanism?”

“Probably at the top… But it’s strange.” Kurt made another odd comment as he looked at the gates. “The way it’s all set up makes it look like we’re on the inside of the gate. The towers wouldn’t have ground level access doors on the outside. So perhaps it isn’t to keep people out…”

“...But to keep people in,” Tamar smiled. Like most of the current Guild Members for the city, for example. And Eliziya. Kurt was already turning, heading for the leftmost tower, while Tamar turned and made for the right.

-----

The longer this went on, the more Tamar was grateful for Kurt's presence. Injured or not, he was still functioning, and Tamar was not convinced he would have made it through this entirely on his own. The compulsion kept gnawing at his brain, a constant drumming beat of up. he felt it even now on what he was certain was the right floor. And in it all he still saw Eliziya, who was probably trapped with all the others. People who needed to be found, to be set free.

He had no reason to assume Kurt wanted anything differently. For all his tough exterior and his blatant refusal to give answers, he had still followed Tamar here. Tamar was grateful for it. Grateful enough not to pry just yet into what Kurt could possibly mean by anything he had said so far.

It also, Tamar thought, as he cast another freezing ray into the ground, cutting off the jets of fire exploding from the ground beneath his feet just in the nick of time, meant that he was really sort of missing him right now. At the very least, an extra pair of hands would've been useful to press the buttons that he was fairly sure were designed to turn off the security devices. Such as the burning floor.

Tamar half stumble-rolled across the flaming surface onto what looked like relatively safe ground. he glanced back to see jets of fire still spouting from the ground behind him. 'Stupid' He cursed his own idiocy. Like the raised platform in the ground could have been anything else. But he'd been so impatient, and the voice in his head dragged on so incessantly.

Okay Tamar. Focus. Sully isn't teaching you this so you can stumble around in the dark some more, he thought to himself.
And that was where things got a lot more simple.

He kept walking, but this time, Tamar paused for long enough to spread the tendrils of magic within him outwards. To reach around corners, to pick up half-visible highlights of any weapons that might be ahead. It was honestly all a little cliché. Large axes, suspended from ceilings, to come down and cut through anyone who passed. Arrows set into crossbows in walls. Tamar sent rays of ice to trap the arrows in place, and cut through the ropes holding up the slicing blades with a burst of fire. There were other traps which seemed to be disabled - their essence glowing faintly in Tamar's mind, the way Ivory's shattered hilt did, rather than with the vibrant life and aura of Echo.

Nice. Sully would be pleased about this. Or she would be, if she wasn’t just gunning for Tamar’s head on a pole when he got back. He felt a little guilty for running off like this, but it hadn’t felt like much of a choice at the time. The push had been as real and solid as a hand around his arm. He couldn’t just leave any of them, he thought as he froze another series of arrows into their gap in the wall.

This was almost too easy... He hoped Kurt was having as good a time of it.

The door was locked when Tamar came to it. Tamar tried for a few moments, before opting to simply freeze the lock, shattering it from the inside and shoving the door open to reveal a seemingly over-sized winding stone staircase. The tugging sensation dragged at his head, and a wind from nowhere pushed at his back. In the distance, he could hear the fire pits still burning, a steady beating sensation in his ears.

...Oh. So that was what it had meant.

"Up," Tamar murmured again. The thing in the back of his mind kept tugging

It was starting to make sense now

He climbed.

There was nothing at the top of the staircase except for a room. No door. Tamar wasn't sure what he had expected - more booby traps, certainly - but what he got was a simple plain room, with tables, chairs, a cot in the corner. A sort of middle class room. The kind of thing you'd expect to see in a castle with a gate of just that style and stature. There were picture frames along the walls, or perhaps just empty, dirty mirrors, judging by how there seemed to be no images in them. Taking only the time it took for him to spread Evoker energy and sense the presence of any concealed weapons, Tamar bolted across the room to the exit.
The crank was on a balcony: large and metal and coated in a thin orange layer of rust. There was nothing special about it. It was just a simple crank shaft attached to large metal chains. Through the gaps in the balcony, Tamar could see the gate between them, although it was impossible to see what was on the other side.

He reached out a hand, saw it was, for whatever reason, shaking and pulled it back. The runes glittered on his palm, and he felt the warmth of the one left on his chest by Asha - it was beating like his heart, but Tamar couldn't tell if that was a warning or not.

If it was, he ignored it. There was no turning back now.

He shoved his shoulder under the crank handle and pushed it upwards. At first nothing happened then slowly, arduously, the metal chains began to click in their grooves. The handle jolted upwards with a smooth click and Tamar waited for Kurt to do his job on the other side of the tower. waited for the gate to begin falling. It didn't.

Anxiety began to tug at Tamar's skin, like a static charge.

--------

Kurt slumped weakly against the wall, the shattered haft of his spear falling to the ground next to him. Panting for breath amidst groaning in pain, he gripped his pounding head, ignoring the shattered clockwork strew across the room around him; remnants of the mechanical garrison of the tower he had chosen.

The ever growing ache filling his mind had only worsened as time past, and now he struggled to throw it off and keep moving. His mind was hazy again, filled with half-remembered images of death and destruction, fragments of his past overlaying themselves upon his present.

The clockwork soldiers had ambushed him when he entered the tower a few minutes-or was it hours? No, his memories were so jumbled that he couldn't even remember if they were the first trap he had come across or not. He had been driven into this room, cornered, moments (Minutes? Hours? Days?) ago, or maybe it had been in an attempt at setting an ambush? Yes, a planned ambush, that made sense. All of his enemies now lay broken, guts scattered messily across the floor, staining everything with bloo- no oil.

He struggled for focus. He had a purpose here. He needed to reach the crank to open the gates and help Tamar free the trapped guild members. Forcing life back into his limbs, he pushed himself up with the wall and stumbled towards the door. Suddenly, he was standing in front of it, unaware of how he had crossed the distance behind him. Gritting his teeth and trying to hold his attention on his surroundings, he pushed open the wooden entryway. As it slowly swung open with a long creak, his vision blurred once more, and the grain of the wood seemed to morph and flow; the room beyond it shifting smoothly from one form to the next, hundreds of rooms throughout the tower replacing each other over and over again, until suddenly he was stepping through and into a new room, empty but for a crank wheel in the center.

He gripped his skull in pain, the pounding seeming exponentially worse than even how it had been back in the room where he had destroyed the clockwork guards so long (short?) ago. He could have sworn it had only been seconds, and yet, it felt like an eternity had passed between then and where he now stood. That couldn't be, though, for he had only just stepped out of that room, hadn't he? And yet, a feeling in the back of his mind, almost drowned out by the aching which seemed like a roar, gave him the impression that that room was at best only halfway up the high tower he was climbing, and the crank must be located at the top.

He wanted to turn around to look behind him, and prove to himself that the room he had just left was still there, but the pounding ache intensified, and he realized that he probably wouldn't be able to last much longer before he passed out entirely. Stumbling forward, determination forcing his mind clear for just a moment, he let his legs finally give out as he directed his fall at the crank, pushing against it as he slumped to the ground and darkness filled his vision.

-----

Tamar could feel Echo vibrating in the scabbard, Evocation dancing from the blade to his fingertips. For what felt like forever there was silence and confusion. Because surely Kurt could not be worse at this whole thing that Tamar was, and surely there couldn’t have been anything worse on that side...

But did there need to be? He put on a mask, but it had been blatantly obvious that Kurt wasn’t exactly at his best, and Tamar had gone along with it anyway, a decision that was seeming more and more ridiculous, the longer he started at the unmoving gate. What if Kurt hadn’t actually gotten there at all?

Then, in the distance, he heard a heavy slamming. The whole tower around Tamar seemed to tremble. The air sang with noise so loud Tamar had to cover his ears. Then it stopped.

'We did it...' he murmured, throwing himself at the balcony, looking down at where the gate was slowly dragging against its chains, lowering. Still impossible to see what was on the other side. Tamar stepped back, letting out a breath. Then he turned and bolted for the edge of the balcony, scrambling beneath the metal chains, onto the pathway that reached over the gate itself. The sky above them was no longer dark. It was as if dawn had come in the few seconds while Tamar looked away. The sky was no longer the distorted, ugly chartreuse of before. Tamar grinned and looked down, peering into the almost pure white light where the gate had opened - and then through it, to what lay on the other side.

Except he wasn't altogether sure if what he was seeing was really there. It felt there. The culmination of the beating sound of 'Up' in his mind, but he was feeling it more than seeing it. Whatever was happening on the other side of the gate was steadily spilling through into the Castle, the contained world of floor 25 disintegrating as he watched. He saw the image of a boy in a red cloak, and a girl, driving a weapon forward... He knew her, he’d seen her before.

Wait, was that a Golem?

Tamar shook his head. But the sense was there now, clear and bright in his mind - the sense of her, beautiful and bright as fire. Eliziya. He couldn’t see her, but he knew she was there. Eliziya, Anji, Likovya... he laughed because there was really nothing else to do.

Kurt, he thought, and the high broke almost immediately. For all he knew the guy was dying (again) back there or something. He turned for the doorway at the other side of the tower, forcing himself to pull away from the afterimages of missing people shining in the back of his head.

The door clicked open before he could reach it.

Tamar paused as Kurt seemed to drag the door open, pull his way through, and shove it closed behind him with a shoulder. He leaned heavily on the door, seeming less concerned with the mask of composure than before. Tamar wasn't surprised. The man had clearly been running on fumes for the last few hours and the sooner they got everyone back and got out of here, the better,

“Looks like we did it!” Tamar said, unable to keep the joy out of his voice. “We... you can feel them down there, can’t you? We found them, Kurt!” He moved closer, debating whether or not he’d be shoved away if he offered a hand or any kind of support. Kurt’s face twitched into an almost smile and he spoke slowly, with an odd deliberation about each word.

"It seems we did, indeed. I can feel all of them."

Tamar nodded, turning back to look at the gate, face filled with the light of hope as the brilliant whiteness washed away the barriers between his sight and the place he had been searching for all this time.

Behind him, beyond his line of vision, Kurt's face went blank, and he straightened, holding, for one infinite moment that stiff and unmoving stance of a puppet whose strings had frozen in place.

The black light spread the way insects swarm - together, but without pattern. breaking away from Kurt’s skin to split and snatch at the air like grasping hands before drawing back, coagulating and forming tight seals against Kurt’s skin. There was a sheen of metal to them, but mostly, the texture of tar that spread across his body, fragments of a chitinous suit of armour.

It split from his back like a moth emerging from a cocoon, spreading iridescent wings that might, in another context, be beautiful. Here they were nothing but the absence of light and they flickered out from Kurt’s shoulders, a cape half liquid, half swirling mist as it trailed down to the ground. It crawled upwards too, tar across Kurt’s face, hardening and splitting into separate fragments. The overall mask was an insect’s shell, fragments overlapping, not quite covering a vicious smile that did not quite fit the face. His eyes that shone as if the blood within them were glowing locked unblinkingly onto the back of the neck before him.

He lifted the sword, and it changed. The sword, which had been a katana seconds ago, was black now too, longer and broader. It bore sharper edges, jagged and elaborate. It all happened in a matter of silent seconds.

Tamar wasn’t looking. His eyes were fixed on the whiteness beyond the gate when the sword...

Fell.
Normal people are the easiest to manipulate. Too smart and they have an annoying tendency to catch wind of your plans, too dumb and, in the words of a certain pirate, "You can never tell when they are about to do something incredibly...stupid."
User avatar
Sicon112
Meta-Witch Hunter
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:07 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:05 pm

Turn 28

Quest 76: Trick or Treaty
Quest Description: Listen, people are about a quarter of the way up this Castle and it’s only uphill from here-- figuratively and literally. We have some tentative agreements with the other groups of people living here, but if we’re going to scale the remaining 75% of the Floating Castle we need some harder alliances with the people sharing this world.
Quest Goal: Make at least one treaty/agreement with at least one of the non-human groups inhabiting the Castle.
Quest Takers: Pan (IslaKariese) and Giselle (narrativedilettante)
GM Notes: As a reminder, groups in the Castle with which you can negotiate include kobolds, goblins, rakes, dreamlings, the centaurs of floor 13, and any other thinking creature that’s been introduced that I’m missing.

Quest 77: Tortoiseshell
Quest Description: Lori or someone has helpfully discovered and revealed that the Guardian of floor 16 is known to be the giant turtle that resides there. Based on what we now know about the Guardians, it has become necessary for you to travel there.
Quest Goal: EITHER convince the turtle to break away from Shard and throw in its lot with you (this is difficult), OR kill it (this is also difficult).
Quest Takers: Fern (Krika) and Darren (Blurred_9L)
GM Notes: The turtle has already appeared and the fact that a poor impression was made on it then will impact its willingness to work with you now.

Quest 78: A Meeting of Minds
Quest Description: Now that Floor 25’s been opened up, you’ve decided to travel on into floor 26 and explore it. Once you enter the territory of floor 26, a strange thing happens: You can all hear each other’s thoughts, without filter. This can lead to discomfort and discord.
Quest Goal: Get through the floor without killing each other.
Quest Takers: Jenny (JackAlsworth) and Curtiss (EndlessSea)

Quest Deadline on all quests is Monday, January 26th, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

AS DICTATED TO INSTANTIATION 17-01-18-01.
User avatar
Qara-Xuan Zenith
 
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:34 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Krika on Mon Feb 02, 2015 9:49 pm

Quest 77: Tortoiseshell

Fern stared at the island that lay in the middle of the lake. On the shore near them was a boat that was intended to take them to the island. He very much wanted just about any other option besides getting in it to be viable, but Lori had told him to do it and what the Loremaster said went.

With a sigh, he turned his head to look at Darren, who was standing next to him. “Ready to do this?”

“Do I have any other choice?”, he grumpily replied as he got on the boat. He hadn’t expected to be sent on a mission so soon after returning from the barracks at floor 25. “C’mon let’s go, the sooner we get there, the sooner we can figure something out, right?”

Fern gulped, nodded, and picked his way across the beach toward the boat. “I fully agree. I suspect that I might have a possible solution that would help us, but I do not know if it will respect it or acknowledge it as legitimate.” He paused to help push the boat out into the lake. “Are you certain that you could not find a way to retrieve that tome you mentioned to it?”

Darren shivered at Fern’s words. The image of the book falling alongside the reanimated pieces of armor was still present inside his mind. He also knew that a part of the assassins guild was, even now, looking for it. “I… I don’t think I’ll ever be strong enough to get it back from the underground.” He paused, the boat started to advance towards the island. “Besides, the book is probably better down there.” He tried to sound sure of himself, but not even he was sure that he was right.

“What were you planning?”

Fern patted a carefully bound pack that he’d strapped to his back. “On our prior visit, it made mention of ancient treaties, presumably that would allow a settlement on its back, or something akin to one? Regardless, the Loremaster had me searching through the deepest parts of the Library, looking for something that might refer to them, or help to determine precisely what said treaties might contain in them. Fortunately, I suspect that I might have found them, or at least something that appears to be similar enough that we might be able to bargain with it?”

“I hope that works.” he said, rowing the boat closer and closer to the island. “Because I don’t think we would be able to defeat it in battle… Anyway, what did the treaties say?”

“Well...they mentioned that the guardians managed land for the King, so that the King’s subjects could use it. I presume that it is the guardian of this floor, and in some respects we are considered to be the subjects of...whoever lives at the top of the castle. Thus I think that it means we’d be able to use the land on this floor, including possible its back, at least under its supervision. Maybe. Possibly.” Fern did not look at all sure as he said this.

“That just makes me wonder what kind of supervision those treaties are talking about.” the island had come into sight and it would not be much longer until they were upon it. Even though he wasn’t ready yet, he kept rowing. What else could he do, but press forward? “Should we go to it head on, instead of, uh… climbing onto its back?”

Fern gave a helpless shrug. “I suppose it would be polite to not try to bargain while standing on it? Maybe? It is not something I have thought about, really.” He glanced around the shores of the island. “Would you remember which end of the island the head is supposed to be on?”

“I would, but it could spin from time to time. Let’s just go around it… and yeah, I don’t feel think climbing onto it is a good idea…” he paused again, thinking about the worst possible scenario. “Hey, Fern… do you know how to swim?”

“Yes? Sort-of?”

“D… Don’t worry about it” he answered unsincerely. “Should we try calling out to it?”

Fern nodded. “Uh, umm...right. I also think I found its name, so...let me try that?” He carefully stood up in the boat, rocking it back and forth worryingly, but not capsizing it yet. He cleared his throat, and then yelled as loud as he could. “NIUTA!!!”

His voice didn’t travel far, unused to yelling as he was, but as he finished pronouncing the name, the island itself seemed to shake slightly, and began rising slightly, sending wild waves ripping out from it. On the boat, Fern sat down as fast as he could manage, nearly falling overboard in his haste to be standing as the boat bobbed up and down in the rough water.

The island rose a meter or two up, but off coast to their right, another object was raising out of the water, faster and more continuously. The creature’s head once again surfaced, a twitch shaking off sheets of water that fortunately did not quite reach far enough to capsize the boat with their volume, but nonetheless soaked Darren and Fern to the bone.

The creature opened its eyes (or eye, they could only see one side of its head). It seemed to regard the pair of shivering humans in the boat for a long minute, before finally speaking.

Such interruptions I am presented with in this age. For what reason have I been summoned?

Fern started to try to stand again, but the very choppy water dissuaded him. Looking up at the creature’s head, he gulped. “We...we, uh...we are hoping to bargain with you based on the ancient treaties?”

If you possess them, then you know what you may do. Why do you interrupt me?

“No, no, no, it is not that we do not know about them, so much as, ah, that the specifics of the text have been...lost…?”

The treaties are binding. You can not renegotiate them.

Fern shook his head. “No no no, it is not like that at all! We do not wish to change them, so much as learn what they say, and abide by them! You...you would know, and we do not.”

The massive head tilted a fraction. Such short-lived memories. I am bound, the words part of who I am. I am this land and this land is I. The King may command me, and none else. And I have been commanded to allow the King’s people to thrive.

The head seemed to tilt another fraction toward them, the eye sharpening its gaze. Invaders pollute the Castle. If you are the King’s people, then I am bound to welcome you. If you are the invaders, I am bound to deny you.

“Y...Yes! We are the King’s people!” Darren started saying nervously. He glanced over to Fern as he tried to come up with something. “W… We actually have a very important request for you. Yes, important. And… From the King himself! Yes, he ordered us to seek you out. We… demand that you hear us out.”

You demand nothing. The voice rolled out, pressure from it lancing onto the two humans. I will listen. I may allow. But you cannot demand. The eye narrowed. Even the King forgets his manners, it would seem. Speak.

Darren continued speaking, trying to sound more as a royal messenger than a desperate rogue. He cleared his throat before proceeding. “There has been insurrection. Another messenger from the King is responsible for this. His name is Shardreach. Perhaps you have heard of him… no, I am sure you do.” He glanced over to his companion again before continuing. Fern shrugged helplessly, gesturing for him to continue.

“Shardreach has betrayed the King in the worst way possible. He had taken others similars to us to floor 25, from which he intended to raise an army to overthrow the King. He used… some kind of magic to turn us against our great and honorable King, intending us to train by fighting against each other until we were strong enough for his nefarious plan to work. Fortunately, others came to our rescue and we were able to escape from it. The King now knows of his insubordination and seeks to remove the source of his power, that is, his link to the floors of His Majesty’s castle.”

Truly, the King has fallen far to allow Shardreach to be able to do such a thing. Nevertheless, it is of no concern to me. I shall allow you this land, as the treaties say.

Darren was surprised by the turtle’s response, but quickly regained his composure. He could not let himself fail at this point. “I… thank you in behalf of our King. With your help, we will stop Shardreach. Also, in return, I’ll make sure the ‘invaders’ do not bother you.”

You are not even aware of the extent of the treaties, and yet you bind yourself to them the same. The voice sounded amused. Your kind cannot bother me. I have given as you have asked. Now leave. The head and island slowly and ponderously dropped back down, renewing the surging waves on the lake.

Fern looked at Darren as he desperately hung on to the rocking boat. “I think we succeeded?”

“I guess so…?” Darren replied as he started rowing back towards the shore. “Maybe we should tell Lori and the others to avoid this floor for a while, though” he went silent for a while, the only sound around them was that of the rows moving through the water. “By the way, what do you think it means for us to be bound by the treaties?”

Fern gave a shrug. “You did say that you would make sure the 'invaders' did not bother him. Perhaps some sort of defense clause was in the treaty, and you stumbled onto it?”

”More mind control, just what I need” he thought, trying not to lose himself in his own thoughts. “Well, whatever it might be, that Shard guy won’t be thrilled about what we just did, let’s just go back to the City as soon as possible, ok?” He suddenly felt uncomfortable.

Fern nodded quickly. “Yes. Let us do so.”
Krika
>Narra has tiny jerk people in her socks.
>We are affirming our collective jerkhood by committing genocide on them.
Guyshane
>I'm going to read the logs and pray that that sentence makes more sense in context
>No
>No it does not
User avatar
Krika
 
Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:07 am
Location: Home. I don't want to be.

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby narrativedilettante on Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:49 pm

Quest 79

Giselle walked a short way into the forest, getting used to the familiar ground again. The time in Battle School still left her feeling somewhat disoriented in the Castle, like she couldn’t trust herself to remember the things she did. Not too far, she spotted a rabbit chewing on some underbrush. It would hardly be enough for a meal, but it was certainly better than nothing. She held it in her sight and readied her bow.

It wasn’t the cleanest of kills, but the arrow did its job. Satisfied that she’d accomplished something more than sitting around in a tavern so far that day, Giselle picked up the rabbit carcass and strolled lazily into the forest. If she found better game that day, great, but if not, no terrible loss.

“Not a bad shot,” came a voice out of nowhere, and Giselle reflexively reached down to put her hand where she now carried a sword. “Whoa, there, easy. I don’t bite. Much.” Down from the trees swung a lithe figure dressed in various shades of green and brown, landing lightly on their feet before unhooking a large wooden, rune-carved shepherd’s crook from the branches. As the figure stood up straight, Giselle got a good look at short blond hair held back by goggles and bright green eyes. Everything from the dirty face to the muscled arms to the flat chest told her that this was a young boy, probably fifteen or so. “Having fun, there?” the boy asked, making Giselle realize she was staring a bit.

“I’m sorry, you just startled me,” said Giselle, letting go of her sword hilt and relaxing her tense stance. “Can’t be too careful around here, you know. Something could attack.” She held up her rabbit, meaning to show that it should have been more wary of attacks, but looking a little like she was suggesting that the rabbits in the forest were vicious and prone to jump out at wandering adventurers. The boy simply looked amused.

“Oh, I understand completely,” he said almost too lightly, twirling his staff around a couple times in one hand before stabbing it down swiftly and firmly to bury a couple inches into the ground before leaning on it for support. Giselle got the message: he wasn’t entirely defenseless himself out here.

“But anyway, I was just complimenting your style. I never did have the patience for the bow,” he added, gesturing towards the rabbit and her arrows.

Giselle nodded. “Thanks. Yeah, it takes some dedication to learn, I guess. My dad taught me, when I was a kid. Or he tried. I didn’t really take to it until later.”

The boy nodded, smiling in a sort of nostalgia of his own. “Yeah, I get that. Probably wouldn’t have survived out here as long as I have if I didn’t eventually get around to learning what my parents tried to tell me.” He shook his head, refocusing on Giselle. “Name’s Pan, by the way.”

“Hello, Pan. I’m Giselle.” She held out her hand to shake, and then something Pan had said caught up with her. “Wait… ‘out here’... do you mean you actually live in the forest?”

“Yup,” Pan replied, tilting his chin up with a grin. “Call me tree-hugger, flower child, whatever you want, but the forest has been my home since before and after I came here. Never really liked towns or cities much, but I’m getting over it a little bit. Just enough to go into town every once in a while when I really need to.” Pan’s grin was carefree, but there was a glint in his eye that dared her to say something untoward.

“I can get that,” said Giselle. “I mean, I’m not one to give up a decent bed and a mug of ale unless there’s a compelling reason, but I certainly see the appeal of this place. It could make a home, if you have the temperament for it.”

She noticed right away that Pan looked pleasantly surprised, and the minute tension hanging about his shoulders faded some. He smiled a bit more genuinely. “Yeah, it is.” Before he could add anything more, Pan suddenly tilted his head, his brow furrowed in concentration. “Do you hear that?” he asked after a few long seconds.

Though she heard nothing, Giselle copied Pan’s head tilting. “Hear what?”

“People. Lots of folks, more than the number that usually hang out in here at once.” Pan’s expression ranged from curious to territorial to indignant. It was fascinating to watch, in all honesty. He suddenly turned to her with all the air of a trickster. “Wanna go see what they’re on about?”

Giselle shrugged. “I guess I don’t have anything better to do.” Now that she knew to listen for it, she could hear a faint trace of conversation, the sort that formed a general background noise in the city. She was so used to it, she hadn’t noticed how odd it was to hear such a sound in the forest.

With a sort of giggle, Pan hooked his staff onto the branches again and hoisted himself up with ease, reminding Giselle of a monkey. The hook then poked itself out from the dense leaves, and Giselle hesitated only a moment before grasping it firmly. After a few test tugs, the staff then retreated back into the tree, pulling her along with it.

The world became a brown and green blur for a second before she was gently set down onto what seemed to be the lowest branch of the tree. Grabbing a hold of the trunk for balance, she looked up to see Pan a few branches higher. “Have you ever travelled by branch before?” he asked somewhat sheepishly, as though just realizing that he kind of took a few liberties by hauling her up into the tree like that.

“Not in recent memory,” Giselle replied, hoisting herself onto the next branch up. “Are you sure these are stable?”

“No doubt about it,” Pan said, jumping a few times to prove his point. The branch trembled slightly, but not enough unbalance anything, let alone risk breaking. “I get around this way all the time. It’s easy to recognize firm branches once you get the hang of it. Just follow me and keep close. Falling’s a risk, but I’ll keep an eye on you.”

Giselle reached the branch that Pan was using as a demonstration of the tree’s stability. “Okay then. Just know that if I do fall, I’ll blame you. Got it?” Pan had a face that made it look like he was trying his hardest not to cackle like a lunatic, but nodded all the same. He led the way across the branches, seeming to deliberately take a path that had the thickest and most tangled branches simply for her peace of mind. Giselle wasn’t nearly as sure-footed as he seemed to be, but she never overbalanced, which to her mind was a victory all its own. Steadily, the talking grew louder and louder, before it was as clear as though they were standing right next to them. Giselle realized with a jolt that they must’ve been right on top of them.

Giselle looked to Pan with mild shock, but he simply put a finger to his lips and crouched down, slowly moving a small branch soundlessly upward to reveal the group in its entirety. They were quite a bit higher than she’d thought, but she simply took a firmer grip on the branch she sat on and watched.

Members of a variety of Castle races seemed to be gathered, all talking about… something. Some change that had happened, that many of them were unhappy about.

“I don’t know what everyone’s complaining about. We’ve been thrilled with this development.” someone said.

“Sure, you’d feel that way,” a gruff voice responded. “You got to start making bombs. All we got was invaded.”

At first it sounded like they were discussing the Castle’s new structure, but something didn’t seem right.

“They had to go and shake things up! Who knows what’s going to come next? As soon as we get used to the way things are now, boom! One of their incompetent sorcerers will curse everyone to be bombarded with lightning.”

“If the sorcerers are incompetent, then why worry about them?”

“Because you don’t have to be good at magic to do harm! Look at what happened to the vampires!”

“Listen, we really don’t need another one of your vampire apologist rants-”

“I’m not defending vampires, I’m just saying they wouldn’t have started bugging us if those fools had left them well enough alone!”

A hiss sounded, and the bickering quieted down for a moment. “Um, no offense meant to present company, of course.”

“You may say what you like. Remember, my people and I are under no obligation to cooperate with this little… endeavor.”

All I’m saying,” shouted one particularly strong voice, “Is that we ought to get rid of the humans now before they can cause anymore trouble.

Giselle’s eyes went wide. The group below them burst into a cacophonous chatter, from which it was impossible to pick any coherence. Looking to Pan, Giselle saw her concern reflected in his expression. Concern which quickly molded into a stubborn line in his face.

“Right, then,” he said, and without waiting for any other comments, not even a word of caution from Giselle, he leapt down the gap in the leaves right in the middle of the congregation. With the shepherd’s sudden appearance, the whole lot of them went silent with shock before the air grew thick with hostility.

“Well, if it isn’t the little lightning bug,” growled one, a larger-than-average kobold wielding a giant bone for a staff. “Finally shown yourself, have you?”

“I suppose you knew I was up there then?” Pan asked blandly.

“You weren’t exactly quiet,” inserted a vampire sitting lazily among the roots of a particularly shadowy tree. “Perhaps if you hadn’t brought that little snack with you, you would have had a chance of eavesdropping undetected.” His grin revealed a particularly sharp eyetooth. “Perhaps.”

“Regardless,” Pan injected harshly with narrowed eyes, even as some of the more bloodthirsty species chuckled in appreciation. “I couldn’t just sit by and listened as you planned the mass homicide of every human in the Castle.”

“Oh, calm yourself, Firefly,” said another vampire, this one female. As she spoke, Giselle gingerly picked her way down the tree, watching the proceedings warily. “We’re not killing anyone. Yet.” She expertly ignored the grumblings of some of the others. “But the humans are a problem, you must admit. You are reckless, dangerous, violent without fail. No matter that we were here first - we are creatures, so we are a threat. ‘Tis how the world works. As of now, it’s us or them, and while you’ve done admirably in proving to those of us who watch you that not all humans are sick in the head, the general consensus has simply changed to ‘all but one.’” A murmur of agreement sounded, along with a large number of nods.

“Excuse me,” said Giselle, “but I think you may be setting yourself up for trouble. If you gave the humans a chance to defend themselves-”

“So defend yourself!” demanded a centaur, stomping a hoof. “Floor 16 has become unbearably hostile, and it wasn’t us that did that. It was humans. What do you have to say to that?”

Giselle wrung her hands, looking to Pan to see if he had any ideas. He simply continued glaring at the group as a whole. “I can’t really… I mean, I wasn’t there at the time, so I don’t know exactly how that happened, though I’ve met one of the humans involved and I can only imagine he was trying his best to-”

“If a human’s best is bad enough to doom us all, it’s clear you’re too dangerous to be allowed free passage.”

“Exactly what I was saying!” cried a goblin. “We don’t have to kill them, just stop them from leaving their city.”

“And how, exactly, do you expect to keep them contained?” asked the female vampire. “They’re pests. They find ways to slip through the cracks.”

Giselle tried to wait for a gap in the conversation, but the chatter continued with no signs of stopping. Finally, she held out her hands and shouted, “Listen to me!”

Though that wasn’t enough to stop every bit of the frantic discussion, it bought enough attention that she could trust a significant portion of those present would hear her.

“We have just as much right to be here as you do,” she said, and gestured to stop the inevitable backlash to that statement. “And regardless… given my experience with humans, I suspect you’d find exterminating us to be far more trouble than it’s worth.”

A kobold somewhere in the back of the crowd muttered, “I believe it.”

“So,” said Giselle, “Why don’t you work with us?”

The vampire said, “Why would we do something like that?”

Giselle shrugged. “So that we won’t bother you. At least, not directly. You could, at a minimum, agree not to attack humans in exchange for them not attacking you. But if you’re really concerned about disruption, then taking an active role in our journey could be to your advantage. Why not insinuate yourselves into our decision making, see what sort of influence you could have? I know things have been turbulent, but how much of that turbulence is just the result of humans being left on their own to navigate a strange and unfamiliar landscape? Just think. If you help us make better decisions, then the whole Castle could benefit from the lack of foolish humans doing foolish things. Instead, you’d have foolish humans doing wise things, under your guidance.” As she spoke, she turned in a circle, the better to address everyone assembled, and also to keep an eye on the gathered creatures for her own safety. “What do you think, Pan?”"

Pan shifted his grip on his staff as he took the time to think. “It’s decent in theory, but I’m not sure how to get the others in the city to agree with it. Your reputations precede you,” he added wryly to the others, who snorted or chuckled or huffed in agreement.

“Just goes to show that such an arrangement would never work,” grumbled a centaur, hooves pawing at the ground in irritation.

“Now, hold on,” Pan interrupted. “I never said it couldn’t work. We just need to convince them all that you won’t attack them on sight. Which you won’t. Right?” The glint in his eyes showed that it wasn’t a question.

The female vampire laughed. It wasn’t a very nice laugh. “Now, now, Firefly, don’t pout like that. It doesn’t suit a young lady like yourself very well.” She reached out to pinch playfully at Pan’s cheeks, but Pan made a snapping motion only half as quick as it could be, and the vampiress backed off, laughing harder.

“Never made much of a lady, to be honest,” Pan mumbled to… herself, and wow, wasn’t that a bit of a shock, Giselle thought to herself in a mix of confusion and irritation. “But that’s not the point.”

“No, it’s not,” said a gnarled-looking goblin. “If you can get those blade-happy humans to not behead first and ask questions later, I’d be happy to know how.”

“To be sure, I can’t speak for all humans,” Giselle interrupted, “But I do have some power in some groups. I can personally guarantee that all members of the PTA guild will abide by an agreement that I have made on their behalf. And, though the city guard and I are not on the best of terms, I will gladly present a proposal to them. Legias may not agree to it, but I’m sure she’d at least consider it. Whatever I may think of her, she’s not stupid enough to take the risk of everyone here turning against her.”

The grumbly centaur shook his head. “You see? The humans are too disjointed to make any sort of agreements with. All it would take is one bloodthirsty maniac to destroy the peace, and you lot could claim that we shouldn’t even hold it against you because he wasn’t part of your bedeviled groups!”

“That’s a point,” said Giselle, “But… imagine the difference between a horde of humans riding in defence of that bloodthirsty maniac… or a horde of humans acting to defend you from his actions, because any harm to one of you creates danger to all of us.” Another murmur went around the crowd, sounding, for the first time, friendly.

She reached into her bag, which she’d earlier cursed for its unwieldiness while running around on branches, but which she did, after all, carry around for a reason. Retrieving a piece of parchment and a quill, she began to write out a proposed non-aggression pact. “Anyone who wants any input into this proposal, tell me your opinions now. If I find them amenable, then I’ll take them back to the city. Anyone who does not agree to this may do as they wish,” she continued, eyeing the vampires as they began to slink away through the crowd, “But by doing so, they risk future encounters with humans who may not treat them as respectfully as I have.”

After Giselle made a few notes on the parchment, a goblin snatched it from her to examine the wording more closely, and a new round of bickering started as everyone present argued over what they should ask for, and what the humans might reasonably agree to.

“This is a totally reasonable idea, right?” Giselle asked, unsure if she was addressing Pan, the crowd in general, or just herself. “There’s definitely no way this could go wrong.”

Pan looked warily out at the increasingly rowdy crowd. “Oh, yeah. None whatsoever.” She ducked down to avoid an axe, which smashed into the tree behind her. Her eye twitched.

A beleaguered goblin staggered past with a scrap of the parchment in hand, and everyone steeled themselves for a long, but hopefully productive, night of negotiations.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after.
User avatar
narrativedilettante
Meta-Robin
 
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 11:07 am

Previous

Return to Floating Castle

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron