Floating Castle RP

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

Moderator: Floating Castle Mods

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Guyshane on Fri Apr 12, 2013 6:55 pm

Quest 16: Trouble-seeking



“Hey Marcus! Someone is here for you!”

Marcus looked up from where he was grinding herbs. “Okay Elric I'll be out in a minute.” Marcus called back as he stood and cleaned off his hands. Who the hell is looking for me? The guilds? I haven’t given them any reason to talk to me. Well as long as it isn’t the guard. Marcus arrived in the front room and saw the messenger. “So who wants to talk to me?” he asked.

“Legias, leader of the city guard.” Of course. “She has a job for you”

“I don't suppose its optional?”

“No, details are in this.” the messenger said handing Marcus a sheaf of loose-leaf

Marcus sighed and took the papers. After which the messenger left. Possible corruption in the guards, interesting. Looks like she's putting one of her own on the case. So I must be the deniable one. Wonder why she choose me of all people. Well doesn’t matter I suppose.

Marcus grabbed his stuff. “Well Elric I guess I should be back soon”

“This isn’t a paid vacation Marcus” Elric replied

“Yes boss.”

“Don't be so glum I'll buy you a drink when you're done.” Marcus smiled. I've had worse bosses.

-----

Darren calmly looked at the people passing by through the city street from the roof of the inn. Things have begun to cool down between him and the guards now that he was being a temporary member of the City Guard. Still, his job as a sentry had gotten harsher as the security precautions increased due to the recent missteps regarding diplomacy, most of which were probably his fault.

He yawned as a large group of people made their way across the street, not really having to worry about staying up late and watching over … or so he would like to believe. Truth is, he wouldn’t be able to sleep properly anyway after all that had happened, so staying up late hadn’t been as hard as he had thought when he was conscripted to sentry duty. He was even starting to get used to being asked to do ridiculous jobs once in a while, so when Nestor appeared out of nowhere, startling him and making him almost fall from the inn’s roof, he couldn’t help but feel a bit unimpressed.

“You ready for tonight’s shift?” he casually asked, trying to ignore the surprised scout trying to keep his balance.

“Not that I have any choice…” Darren replied half-heartedly.

“Well, you won’t be doing that… sort of.”

The young scout couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the soldier’s sudden statement. “Sort of? What do you mean?” Nestor eyed his surroundings in a cautious way, Darren hadn’t been able to notice before, but he seemed a lot more stressed out than the other times they had talked.

“We’ve been kind of on edge lately…” he whispered “…Legias heard some rumors. Apparently some of the guards have been ignoring their duty lately. We’ve heard that they’re mostly sentry guards, but there might be others involved. And I wanted to ask you…”

“What? You think I’m involved in that sort of stuff?” Darren interrupted the soldier before he could finish talking, upset at what he thought the soldier was implying. ”Haven’t I proved myself already?” Nestor quickly shushed him, his expression showing his irritation.

“No! Listen, just let me finish!” Darren crossed his arms, not really believing what the guard in front of him told him. “Not many people know you, right?” he waited for Darren to nod, before continuing. “Well, that’s sort of our trump card. You see, Legias actually wants you to look into this matter. She wouldn’t find any information if word got out that she’s aware of shady activities inside the City Guard… that is, if there are any. So, we’re sending you and some other guy to do the job. Nobody would suspect you.” Nestor looked at Darren with a serious look on his face. “Are we clear on this?”.

“Yes…” he answered, slightly more convinced than before, but he still held some suspicion towards his superior ”Looks like I’m stuck as a scapegoat this time, huh?” “Once again, it’s not like I can really ditch this, right?” Nestor didn’t even reply to his query. “Fine, I’ll do it.”

“Great. Meet me at the central building before the night sentry shift. Also, if trouble arises, try not to engage in combat. We only want whatever information you might provide. We… have no need for corpses suddenly showing up the next day.” And with that, he left walking down the stairs that went up to the roof. Darren remained motionless, the people in the street carelessly minded their own business. ”Looks like it’ll be a long night…” Darren just looked below once more.

Marcus had left the city not long before sundown on the pretense of going to collect herbs that only blossomed at night time. He had gone a walk before returning to the treeline near the wall to observe the guards. If I have to do all of this just for some guards being lazy I’m gonna be pissed.

In the distance, a lone guard walked towards the treeline, the weight of an iron chestplate slowing down his movement, ”Gee, didn’t expect him to actually come up with this” thought Darren as he clumsily made his way to the meeting point. He wouldn’t have protested if he only had to wear the City Guard’s now iconic blue vest, but for somebody who wasn’t trained to wear armor, the chestplate was something that he thought unnecessary. Thankfully, the helmet wasn’t as heavy, yet it probably wouldn’t be able to protect him that much.

“Sorry, I had to pick something before coming this way.” said Darren as he arrived at the meeting point. “My name is Darren, you are?”

“My name is Marcus” He paused for a moment “Is there any other information you have that wasn’t in the initial briefing?”

“Oh the usual stuff...” Darren said, trying to sound confident “...you know, try not to make a ruckus... or die.”

Marcu sighed. “Well then I suppose we should get to work.” Marcus considered the options for a moment. Me as a potential guard recruit touring? Too conspicuous. go to a pub for information? Possible but I really shouldn't drink on the job.hmm... After considering and discarding a couple more options Marcus had a couple ideas. “As far as I can tell we have two options: Either we both keep watch for suspicious activity, me from down here and you on the wall and signal each other if we find something or you arrest me and I figure something out from there.”

“Alright, I guess that’s settled then. You’re now under arrest, if you would kindly follow me? Don’t me make cut you in half.” Darren said, pointing towards the small sword he had been given. “...If only I knew how to use it...” he added sheepishly. “Anyway, I lead the way, let’s just hope the guys at the central building don’t mess this up.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “While of course you lead the way shouldn’t you confiscate my weapon first?” Marcus asked offering up his spear. He also offered up his gunpowder pouch but palming a small amount. You never know when explosives will come in handy.

“Oh yeah...” Darren laughed nervously, he hadn’t had to deal with something like this since he was forced to join the City Guard. ”The way back will be a lot worse...”. He took the gunpowder and stored it inside a one of his own pouches, then he took the spear. Darren started walking towards the city gate, before turning back suddenly. “Hey, just to make sure, hide this somewhere” he handed Marcus a small dagger. “If something does happen, it would be better if you had something to defend yourself, right?. Anyway, now, follow me!”

Marcus followed the guard to the central building. He was thrown in a cell until it was his turn to actually be processed. He thought that he saw Legias at one point. She didn't look particularly happy to see him thrown in prison. Before he was locked away he said “Darren have my stuff near by, and see if you can find out what's going on before they actually get around to charging me.” Why the hell did I suggest this plan?


“...I’ll do my best.” Darren answered before heading out. As he walked out of the jail portion of the building, he looked for a place where he could hide the “confiscated” spear, without anyone finding out about it. Sadly, as he decided on which would be the best spot to do it, another guard approached him. “Hey there, um, if you don’t mind me asking... why was that man arrested?”

“I’ve been told that Le...” he paused, realizing the mistake he was about to make “...someone discovered a group of soldiers that have been neglecting their duties, this man was one of them. The information he gave us will probably lead us to know who are the others...” Darren tried to sound as serious as possible, but formal speak wasn’t something he was accustomed to. Thankfully, the other man seemed to believe him.

“I see...” the man said, an eerie expression forming on his face. “Well, I’ll guess I’ll be going now.” The man saluted him and left, heading towards the cells. ”Suspicious... I should follow him...” Darren thought, but something inside him told him he would regret it if he just mindlessly went after the guard. ”Guess I’ll have to improvise...” Darren threw the helmet he had been lent to the ground. Then, he took out some of the gunpowder he had taken from Marcus and began dropping it on the floor as he decided to tail the suspicious man. ”Man, I hope this works...”.

Marcus looked down at his unconscious cellmate. Well that takes care of that. Then he heard footsteps heading towards his cell. He looked up to see a guard arriving at his cell. “I’m sorry” The guard said as he drew his sword. ”I’m sorry?” You gotta be kidding me. Marcus palmed the dagger. I don't care how sorry you are, I’m not going down without a fight.

The guard opened the door slowly with his free hand. He kicked the door open after unlocking it, ready to lunge at Marcus, but just as he was about to enter the cell, a knife flew by in front of him, distracting him for a moment. “Now’s your chance!” Darren said, trying to find the best spot to hand over Marcus’ spear to him.

Marcus wasn't interested in waiting. He slammed the blade of the knife into the guard’s leg before headbutting him and slamming him to the ground. “Well I think its fair to say that there is in fact an instigator behind this.” Marcus took his spear. “Do you know somewhere we can interrogate him?”

“Not really, haven’t been here many times.” He looked over at the subdued man who now seemed to be terrified and was whispering gibberish. “Still, we don’t want to alert anybody else, how about we just stick him inside one of these cells?”

“I guess” Marcus turned to look down the hall. "Let's be quick before we attract any attention." The two dragged the man in to an adjacent cell. Marcus slapped him awake. "Why don't you start?" He asked Darren kindly.

”Gee, this would make sense if I actually wasn’t being forced to do this...” Darren thought as he stood nearer to the guard who looked to be in distress and scared enough to be about to start shaking. “Um... first of all, who are you? And why did you attack my partner here?” Darren said trying to be firm.

“Uh... I... no... no” the man started, but all that seemed to come out of him was gibberish. Darren frowned. ”Well, we’re off to a good start.”

Great he doesn't want to talk Marcus sat down next to the man. “Look I’m pretty sure you aren’t the brains behind this operation, you freaked out way too quickly. So tell us who you’re working for and I’m sure we can work something out so you get less of a sentence.” Suddenly the guards eyes widened. Marcus turned to see two men in the hallway behind them. One was dressed as some minor noble, the other as a farm hand of some such. Both wore weapons at their hips. The noble dashed away. Marcus went to chase him but had to stop to dodge a swing from the farm hand’s mace. “Darren can you get the other one?” Marcus called out.

Darren ran after the noble, struggling to keep up with him. “Crap... at this rate, I’ll lose him out of sight.”. He turned over a corner, but the man was nowhere to be seen. “Dammit!” Darren exclaimed, kicking the air in frustration. He looked at the floor while he caught his breath and saw the gunpowder trail he had left had been scattered around. ”Well, I guess that didn’t work.” The helmet was in the exact same spot he had dropped it. Darren picked it up and noticed it now had a very noticeable dent due to the impact. ”Well, is thing even useful at all if dropping it damaged it like this?” And even though he knew he would have to explain how the dent was made when he returned the equipment, he dropped it again onto the floor, cursing his luck.

“You really shouldn’t let your guard down, you know” a nearby voice claimed. ”Not around... then... above!” Darren moved out of the way just in time to dodge the attack. The noble dropped from the ceiling, slashing with his sword inches above his arm. Darren felt the edge of the sword graze his arm, making a shallow cut. He flinched in pain for a moment and soon he found himself barely dodging the noble’s swordplay, unable to be granted a moment in which he could reach for one of his throwing knives.

“Only a fool would refuse to ignore his weapon when in a fight, you know” the noble mocked him feinting a sword slash. Darren jumped backwards, but the man was faster and lunged forward, making him lose his balance and fall onto the ground. The man smiled triumphantly as he thrusted his sword downwards just as Darren rolled to the right to evade certain death. “Hey, I could use some help over here!” Darren shouted, hoping that Marcus or somebody else would hear him.

Marcus heard Darren’s plea for help. Not that I’m in any position to actually to do anything at the moment. The fight had not been going well for Marcus, the enclosed space of the hallway meant that he was having trouble maneuvering his spear correctly. He had only missed death by an inch the last time. I have to end this fight, now. The next blow from the flanged mace broke his spear and smashed Marcus into the wall. The farmhand brought the mace around to finish Marcus.

But now unhindered by the spear Marcus was able to avoid it. “You know any two-bit city thug would have hit me then.” The mace came in from the side this time. Too slow. Marcus grabbed the man’s arm before stabbing the front half of his broken spear into the assailant's chest. “My life is nothing” the farmhand said. Marcus picked up the man’s mace. “Good to hear.” He said before striking the man down. Marcus began to run. I hope I’m not too late.

”If only I could move around properly...” thought Darren as he received another cut from the noble’s sword. He felt tired and dizzy, but he knew the moment he stopped evading that would be the end of him. He wanted to fight back, yet, every time he wanted to reach out for a knife the noble would simply increase the pace of his attacks, not that he would be able to throw it with precision, he could feel his arms beginning to shake, either out of fear or exhaustion.

“You’re so boring. Just draw your damn sword already! Where’s the fun in fighting somebody that doesn’t put up a fight?” ”Sword? I don’t...Wait!” Darren would have facepalmed, but that wouldn’t be such a good idea. Dodging another slash, he finally unsheathed the sword that Nestor had lent him and held it in front of him just in time to parry an incoming strike. The sword flew to the side with the force of the strike. ”Well, so much for that.” thought Darren as he jumped to the side while reaching for a pair of knives, taking advantage of the noble’s surprise. He threw the knives as precisely as his trembling arms allowed, luckily hitting one of the noble’s legs.

“You won’t be doing much more than that.” the noble claimed as he grabbed the other sword from the ground and proceeded to lunge forward to attack. Darren braced himself, he surely wouldn’t be able to dodge two swords.

Marcus delivered a sweeping blow to the noble’s shoulder, making him drop the sword and knocking him on his back. “Oh good you're not dead” Marcus observed. “That means we can interrogate you.” However Marcus was careless and couldn't block the next attack completely and the noble stabbed him through his left arm and was pulling back for another blow. Marcus swung hoping to connect, which he did with a sickening crack. Damn.

He walked over to Darren. “You okay?” he asked.

“You should be asking yourself that question.” Darren replied relieved to be safe, but annoyed at his uselessness during the fight. “Sorry about that.” He said, pointing towards Marcus’ wound. “We should get somebody take care of that. Anyway, it won’t be long before somebody comes to check on this place, pretty sure the sound of fighting carries over all of the building.”

Rushed footsteps echoed through the hallway after a few moments had passed. The incoming guards stood dumbfounded at the sight of a corpse in the middle of the room, a warrior bleeding from the shoulder and the disguised guard covered in cuts and bruises. ”So much for not making a wreck.” Darren sighed. ”Just what I needed...”.

Marcus had heard the footsteps and had hid the mace before the other guards arrived. I'll pick it up later, its cheaper than buying a new weapon. As the guards arrived he smiled. “Gentlemen, I know this looks bad, but there is an explanation for everything...” The guards were giving him evil glares and Marcus could tell they wouldn't put up with him for much longer. He looked over at Darren. “A little help here?”

Darren stepped forward to deal with the quartet of guards. “We were attacked by another guard, luckily, we managed to lock him up in one of the cells.” He pointed towards the hallway from where Marcus had come. “If you follow me, I’ll show you.”

The guards looked at each other with suspicion, grudgingly agreeing to follow Darren into the cells. “This better not be a trap, or else...” one of them started to say, but was cut short by Darren who glared at him before speaking: “You know I’m already in trouble, it would be stupid if I were to ambush you.”

All of them advanced slowly, either out of caution or exhaustion. They finally reached the cell where they left the disguised guard was held... or he would be, but all that was left inside was the corpse of a farmer and a message written in blood on the wall. Darren eyed Marcus nervously as he pushed the cell’s door. It opened effortlessly. “You did lock this, didn’t you?”

“If I had taken the time to lock this, we wouldn't be having this conversation.” Marcus replied. He examined the message on the wall. No man escapes. “Who did this?” one the guards asked. Marcus sighed wearily “Probably some new crime family or gang. They’ll most likely get taken out by one of the other ones soon enough. Go tell your boss that the source of the corruption in the guard has been found and that she might want to have her own division of guards to deal with internal crimes in the future.” the guards nodded and left.

Marcus went over to Darren. “This is not another gang.” He whispered. “These guys are way too well trained for that.”

“Perhaps we should be the ones dealing with the report then. Besides, can we really trust the City Guard now that this happened?” Darren looked into the hallway to make sure the guards were far enough for them not to hear him. “Are you going to go look into this?” He motioned his hand towards the bloody wall.

“I will soon, but right now I’m gonna get my arm patched up, get my stuff and go home. Its been a long day.”

“Well, I guess that’s it then. I’ll go give this damn armor back to its owner and... I guess I’ll go make sure those guards don’t get me in trouble.” He paused, lowering his head to think about what to say next. “I... I’m not really looking forward to find out what those guys are after.” He lifted his head and extended his arm towards Marcus. “Anyway, thanks for bailing me out, if you need something, feel free to ask the Severed Claws for help. I owe you after all.”

“Thank you Darren, don't be a stranger.”
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.
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Guyshane
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:45 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Pixelmage on Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:58 pm

Turn Rewards:
  • Lordxana0 ~ Iron Claws.
  • Qara-Xuan Zenith ~ Shortbow.
  • Blurred_9L ~ Shortsword.
  • Guyshane ~ Mace.

The guard is busy. Legias tries, but no matter how much she works, she can't be everywhere. Internal matters within the city guard require her attention, and the lack of medicinal supplies does nothing to help matters. Although the treaty was successful and an expedition to find the way to the Third Floor should be organized soon, she decided against sending a party at the present moment.

New faces start to appear, a few new emergent political talents now seek to help in managing the forces within the Castle. Matters are still slow, however, as Lori and Legias currently share the biggest part of the responsibilities, and a promising youth aspires to use his talents in the service of the city and it's people, whether this help will be fruitful remains to be seen.

Floor 2 Boss: Granite Gate Guardian.
The so called "official forces" decided to wait. You have to wonder, is that really the best decision? Isn't the whole point to move up? As a small group of adventurers you set out to find the path to the next floor, not bound by politics you ask for the goblins to guide you through their mines in search of the illusive stairway.
Your goal: Clear the path to the third floor.
Quest Takers:
  1. Seire "Kaitou" Valefar (AMimsyBorogove) and Lovia Tevinter (RationalThought)
  2. Mirae (Tohrinha) and Alexander Curtiss (Endless Sea)
Boss Fight Details:
There are two main dishes to this fight: The Rakes, and the boss. Ben and Blanks banished them to the tunnels, but their homes are still wrecked, so they're roaming around. If you go blindly around the mine they'll find you and swarm you, no part of the deal was that they couldn't kill people inside there, after all. Of course, once you reach the stairway stage 2 starts.
Instead of a free pass, we have a guardian stone this time. And by stone I mean literal stones. Rubble and rock animated into a crude Golem that'll block the path and try to crush anyone who wants to go past, unless you manage to neutralize it, we can't consider the path to the third floor secured. And in general, the city folks are busy throwing meetings and other such events. Don't expect any cavalry, Legias has her hands full. Lori has her hands full. The church has to focus on healing and health matters. No one is free to lend a hand.
Mechanics of the Boss Quest:
  1. Part one is getting to the stairs. You'll have a goblin guiding you so you don't get lost, but you can't count on him to defend you, if you're losing out, expect him to hightail to the safety of his tribe in a explosive fashion, and of course, it'd be a shame if he died while you're supposed to be upholding the alliance and protecting him. Rakes and rockfalls could happen. Especially if you are too flashy.
  2. The golem isn't too strong, compared to it's kind. But it can still squash puny humans rather easily, so be careful. It isn't sentient, and can't regenerate, but it's pretty hard to damage, so you'll have to be creative. Think of it as being about Hector-Sized. :P

Quest 17: You're ALL Gonna Die! (Unless You Kill Those Guys First) (Written by agoraoptera)
.. said the prophet. Rather, yelled the prophet. Screamed the prophet maniacally, even. You get the drift. This guy's been standing around the streets of Castletown, calling all kinds of apocalyptic gloom and doom. Very prophetic. He's even been able to give accurate weather forecasts to people challenging him, as well as answers to more personal questions. Like a public fortune-teller, but true! That wouldn't normally be a problem, except that his ranting includes doom for everybody in Castletown if the guild leaders stay alive. Who knows how long before the townfolk get too nervous?
Your goal: Do something about this prophet guy before he incites the whole town against the guild leaders. With every accurate forecast he gives, the more paranoid they get.
Quest-takers: Ben (Qara-Xuan Zenith) and Julius (Pixelmage)

Quest 18: Knocking on the wrong door. (Written by Blurred_9L)
With the city guard too busy tending its own business and the appearance of a guild comprised of assassins, the townspeople are getting restless. A group of concerned, but mostly paranoid people have gathered in secret to defend themselves. They are poorly equipped and they lack real combat ability, yet their rashness is not to be taken lightly. Furthermore, there are rumors of a young teenager seeking out this so called Assassin Guild, dead set on joining their ranks... and neither the guild nor the paranoid will stand for this.
Your goal: Prevent a confrontation between both factions and keep the teenager out of trouble.
Quest Takers: Anji (eli_gone_crazy) and Marcus (Guyshane).

GM Notes:
  • On the Boss Fight ~ Ok, so... Some concerns. Seeing that this is the first Boss under a time limit, this will be a trial run. You'll have only 4 people involved, meaning two parts to the quest. And each part has a 4 day (harder) time limit, for 8 days total. You can poll that time together if you want to, for instance, if the second pair starts writing the fight itself now and doesn't need all four days to finish it, you can talk to the first pair so that they can use a bit more time if they need to. This also totals for 1 day more than a normal turn... Not much of a difference there. Another note is that you can do a 4-way collaboration if you wish to, in that case, the full 8 days go to everyone involved, and of course, 2-post limit, even if you make it in a single collab, you can go up to two posts in text length.
  • On quest 17 ~ The prophet MUST quote several lines from the R.E.M song "It's the End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" :D
  • On quest 18 ~ Protecting the teenager is your biggest priority. You don't have to stop him from joining or being offered to join, though that would be the ideal case.

Deadline on this is April 24th, 23:59 EST for part 1, and April 28th, 23:59 EST for part 2 and the two turn quests.

Play smart, good luck and have fun!
"Yami ni madoishi awarena kage yo
Hito o kizutsuke otoshimete,
Tsumi ni oboreshi gō no tama,
Ippen... shinde miru?"
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Pixelmage
 
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:08 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:54 pm

Quest 17: You’re All Gonna Die

All right, might as well get straight to the bottom of this. Ben rolled her eyes; apparently since she and the goblins hadn’t slaughtered each other, she was now the expert at “diplomatic work” and had to deal with some doom-and-gloom prophet spreading discord. Step one: Find the guy. After that I can figure out what exactly I’m supposed to do about it...

The muttering crowds-- which parted to let the angry and armed knight through-- seemed to have left a berth around two figures. One, tall and garbed in a black-and-white uniform, seemed unlikely to be her mark; the other, a squinting fellow holding up a placard which bore some dense, spidery writing, looked promising.

As she got close enough to read the placard, her guess was as good as confirmed; “Hear the misfortune the future has in store,” it read. The two men seemed to be engaged in some sort of argument when she approached. Right...

“What’s this all about?” Ben asked, getting right to the point.

“The guilds, of course! They have doomed us all! DOOMED!” The self-proclaimed prophet replied instantly, turning his attention once again to the crowd who watched the events. Julius just sighed, looking at whoever had interrupted the conversation without replying, as if to say, ‘What do you think?’

Ben stared at the “prophet” in disbelief for a moment, before turning to the taller man. “Who might you be, then?” she asked, her voice taking on a friendlier tone. She felt more warmly disposed to him sheerly for not being the other fellow.

“Julius. From Storm and Drive. I thought I’d try to talk some sense into our friend there, but he has the attention span of a goldfish.”

Ben stiffened visibly at the man’s name. “Captain Valerian,” she acknowledged, holding out a hand to shake. “My name’s... Steve.” She felt a tiny bit silly using Ian’s old joke-name, but she was already on edge and didn’t want to make her true identity more obvious until she’d had a chance to see for herself how much of Valerian’s reputation was true.

“Steve...?” He recognized the woman talking to him, but corrected himself before reacting to the name. It didn’t seem wise to know people from events that could hardly be explained. He couldn’t, however, pretend that he believed that she was called ‘Steve’. “Sure, then, Steve... Should I assume you came here for the same reason as I have?”

“Just about,” she agreed. “I might not have chosen this as a fun way to spend my day, but I was... deputized.” She shrugged. “Not the worst way to pass the time, I suppose. Plenty of worse ones I can think of.” Like treason, she added silently. If the rumours are true. It’s quite possible they were simply vicious lies, and I intend to find out which before I turn my back on Valerian here. ...I think there was talk at some point of Emily marrying that boy.

“True enough, I suppose. But I’m afraid that talking to him isn’t going very well. All he says is that the guilds are evil, that their leaders are a sign of the end... All the usual doom predictions.”

Ben wasn’t particularly thrilled about prolonging conversation with a possible oathbreaker, at least until she’d puzzled him out better, so she seized the opportunity he presented. “Speaking of...” She turned back to where the soothsayer was standing. Had been standing. He was no longer in the same spot. She whirled around again, trying to spot him, but the man had disappeared. Dammit! Usually that only happens with suitcases!

“Looking for the forecast guy?” A passerby commented, calling Julius.

“I believe so. Do you know where he moved to?”

“Usually he goes out to the square at this time... But I’d stay away if I were you. Things are getting pretty heated around him these days.” At this point, the woman was just chatting beyond the necessary. “Usually his weather forecast is so spot on... I wonder why he’s started calling the end of the world as we know it... It was so sudden...”

“The end of the world, huh?” Ben interjected. “Well, I’m feeling fine. I wouldn’t set much store by these things.”

“But he never missed a weather prediction!” the woman protested.

“Sorry, but I believe it’s best if we move... Things will get bad if he doesn’t stop riling people up,” Julius interrupted. “I’m going to the town square.”

Well, at least that solves my problem about subtly keeping an eye on Valerian, Ben thought. If our little doomsayer’s going to be there, I have to follow anyway. She followed the taller man silently, feeling ponderous. He was acting very... reasonable. Of course, nothing to say anarchist traitors couldn’t be reasonable in their spare time. But he certainly wasn’t acting very anarchist.

As she walked, she tried to call to mind the half-remembered reports she’d heard, garbled from travelling halfway across the continent. As far as she could recall, the man marked as a traitor hadn’t actively murdered the young prince, just been... complicit. The original reports had been vague, and all she had was a half-memory of them. Ben sighed. That was the thing, though, wasn’t it? It was all very well to ignore royal privilege, but when it came down to it, she couldn’t help picturing her siblings in the boy’s place, because it might as well have been one of them.

---

Reaching the square was easy; reaching the podium where the doomsayer preached wasn’t going to be the same. Really..? A friggin’ podium? For a prophet who wasn’t here two weeks ago? That’s more craftsmanship than we have on most houses in the lower side... The crowd was denser than before, and Julius didn’t look forward to facing yet another mob. Now that I think about it... The people must love me, because every time I look around, there’s scores of them trying to grab a slice.

He realized that Ben had followed him, and since diving into the crowd was a bad idea, he turned to her. “So... Any ideas on how to get to Mister Inspirational?”

Ben had been considering the same quandary. “We could skirt the perimeter,” she murmured. “Take a while, but we won’t have to push our way through people.” She paused; Valerian showed no signs of moving. Well, it’s not like he doesn’t already know I don’t trust him, what with the blatantly-obvious ‘Steve’ thing... “After you,” she added drily.

Julius led the way, looking for a path around the crowd, but time wasn’t in their favour. The people started to get passionate, and the prophet’s cries and pleas seemed almost genuine. “Save yourselves!” the prophet said. “Save yourselves! The guilds only serve their own needs! They will destroy us! I have seen it... Clear as tomorrow will be! They’ll bring about our end! But you can prevent it! Yes! Yes! You can prevent it... Stop their leaders! Stop their crests and banners and members! You can save yourselves!” There was little time; if the people dispersed and started a riot, they wouldn’t be contained until the city was ruined. Well, more ruined than it already was when we got here, at any rate.

He turned to Ben once again. “This is dangerous. And we need to stop it fast. I... Can do something, but it’ll be risky for you if you’re with me.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “Risky... for me.” From them or from you? Should I say that aloud? ...Ugh. Well, she’d wanted to see Valerian’s true colours; here was her chance. And she highly doubted that even an infamous regicide would be able to somehow overpower her, despite all Alex’s warnings about overconfidence. “Go right ahead, Captain,” she told him coolly.

“Guess I was right... There’s not one person with common sense in this place... Well... I’ll draw fire to myself; you can probably escape if you stay close to the edges and things go wrong.”

...The hell? Now Ben was just frustrated at his suggestion of “escape” and his refusal to be mentally pinned down according to any sane description. What kind of goddamn regicide goes around drawing fire to himself? If he was suicidal, he’d have gotten himself executed; if he’s just the kind of guy who thinks the sensible option in any tight spot is to draw fire to himself... then he really doesn’t fit the typical “oathbreaker” profile.

“Bold claims for someone who predicts the weather!” Julius called out to the prophet. “Care to elaborate some more on why the guilds are a threat?”

“They are here! See? They’re here. He’s one of them!” The prophet pointed, and all the faces in that place turned to Julius. “He’s one of these guild people! And he’s the same one that was threatening to kill me if I didn’t stop trying to warn you of their evils!” The crowd howled.

Well, that would be a point in the other direction... if I could take anything this jumped-up fortune-teller was saying seriously. Considering Severed Claws, at least, aren’t planning on dooming everyone, though... yeah. She mentally dismissed the squinting man’s words.

“Threatening to kill you?” Julius laughed. “Yeah, yeah, right... So, how is it that you know the guilds are a threat again? You know, from before I... Threatened you, as you put it, I mean. Because I surely only came out of my room this morning after hearing your claims, you know?” The crowd was unarmed, this time. These men and women weren’t there to wage a war, and Julius decided to risk his advantage. He sat down, cross-legged, placing his swords on the floor by his side. “Even if I wanted to kill you... I can’t do that while sitting this far away now, can I? So talk, prophet. If you have predictions, share with us how exactly are the guilds going to doom us all.”

Ben stared at the now-sitting man, hand still on her sword hilt in case the crowd grew nastier, her irritation mounting. What kind of criminal mastermind just... drops his weapons like that? Or is that what he’s guilty of-- sitting idly by as his accomplices murdered the boy? She shook her head at that thought; the idea that doing nothing could merit such infamy was absurd. After all, one man doing nothing wouldn’t stop the prince from fighting for himself. If Innis had done nothing, Charlie might have had a fighting chance. ...And, of course, that left her right back where she started, forced to keep an eye on two potential threats-- Valerian, sitting here, unarmed like some sort of decoy, and the fortune teller, who was all the way over there and practically frothing at the mouth.

“It’s them! It’s them! They’ll-”

“HOW?” Julius yelled, cutting the prophet’s babbling. “You make claims like these and you think it’s perfectly fine? You want to start war... At least have the decency of having a reason.” He rose to his feet, and this time the crowd started parting, giving way for him to get closer to the podium. Before the people could close back in around them, Ben slipped into the tall man’s wake, drawing her sword out of its sheath. She had a feeling things might not follow “Plan A”.

“No... Don’t come closer!” the prophet cried. But the crowd was curious; it looked like a show and they wanted to know what was going to happen. “Don’t... Don’t come near me!”

“Why?” Julius asked calmly, not to the crowd but to the man in the podium alone.

But the prophet fell over before he could reply, clutching his stomach and crying. “Don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me!” He tried to run away, managing to leave a weak trail of blood. The people entered in panic.

Ben narrowed her eyes. Well, one or the other of them is a scoundrel... I’ve taken a measure of one, time to see what I can glean from the other. Stepping around Valerian, she addressed the fallen man. “Mr. Soothsayer,” she called out, in a loud, clear voice, “I’ve had my future told before. But I’d like your take on it. What do the fates have in store for me, then?”

“Don’t... Don’t come close to me! You want your fortune told now?! Get away from me!” He pointed around the square, showing the madness that went around as people tried to get away from the possible murder scene.

“Yes, now,” Ben answered coolly, raising her voice again to ensure that the panicking people heard. “Before I take any steps... I like to know exactly where I stand.” She paused, eyeing the expression on the doomsayer’s face. “If you can see what’s to come, you can see it whatever the circumstances. Are you able to see my fortunes, or not?”

“You’ll die... Or not. How can I know?! I’m bleeding here!” He pointed at the very shallow knife wound in his belly.

Really? Well, since I didn’t have immortality the last time I checked, your first guess is probably better, but a good effort all around. ‘I’ll die... or not.’ Yes, that just about sums up all the options.” She nodded to his injury. “That looks self-inflicted,” she observed, “but you should probably have it looked at.”

“Ben.” Julius called. Dropping the pretense of not knowing her. “That wasn’t self-inflicted.” He pointed to a bloodstained shard of glass lying close to the edge of the podium. “Tell me, prophet... Who got you this nice podium here?”

The doomsayer didn’t reply. Instead, he struggled to his feet and began running away. His face was, honestly, twisted with terror.

The crowd was more baffled by this than anything. It didn’t quite dissipate-- after all, their prophet’s words hadn’t been soundly negated-- but neither was it hungry for blood. What it was, mostly, was a bunch of people milling about, muttering amongst themselves.

Ben decided to take advantage of this lull, knowing it might be brief, to deal with what she considered to be the bigger mystery. Pulling Julius a little way away from the crowd so they could speak without being overheard, she gave into the temptation to simply voice her frustration rather than only speak the occasional passive-aggressive thought aloud. “Okay,” she said bluntly, “what’s your story?”

“You did call me Valerian even though I only said my first name. So... You know my story. Oh, and, my guildmaster has met with yours, Hector of the Severed Claws, and I’ve heard about the other guild members. That’s why I knew who you were, by the way.”

“And you called me Ben even though I only said my name was Steve. Fair enough; we know each other’s names. But I doubt either of us knows who each other are, by a long shot. Yes, I’ve heard your name before, Captain Valerian. I’ve heard rumours. But I haven’t heard your story, and here I am, ready and willing to hear you out-- not an opportunity you see frequently, I’ll wager. Why not take advantage of it?”

“Mostly because no one has a reason to believe. Even if they do listen. But I guess I can tell you; the worst that will come from it is that you’ll waste your time, I suppose.” He paused. “I am Julius Valerian. Former Royal Guard and oathbreaker to the crown. My sin is lending a sword to the prince under my care against the orders of the royal family. And allowing him to fight by my side instead of cowering behind stone walls while killers targeted his life. The rumors are true, I am an exile, and I did fail to protect him and I did teach him something that was forbidden by my oath... Honestly, I wouldn’t bother telling this story, but here in this place of no countries or crowns, I don’t think the secrecy matters anymore. Of course, what you’ll believe in is entirely up to you.”

Ben’s mind boggled a little at the story. She felt sick at the idea of a country forbidding its prince to fight. No amount of soldiers can keep your king safe if he can’t do it himself, she thought furiously; no king can sit at home while his men die in battle! On the one hand... true, Valerian had failed, in that the boy had died. But a bodyguard isn’t like a general. The shame of surviving a lost battle just isn’t there. There’s no battle strategy, no tactics available in a melee assassination. Just luck, and the skill of those with you. Which in this case, was kept to a minimum, apparently.

She supposed it made a sort of sick sense. Those in authority had failed horribly, their prince dead because of their restrictions, and so they chose as a scapegoat the only loyal man there was, the one who had given the boy a fighting chance. If he’d been allowed to go farther than that, their precious prince would be alive. Hell, if someone had taught Emily to fight, she’d have been in better shape by the time Ian caught up with her. She couldn’t help herself from once again drawing comparisons to her own family, as though she were making the tragedy her own. And of course... She thought of Charlie. Sometimes no amount of skill will help. When the odds are already stacked against you, you can only fight so hard before the fight is lost. “As far as I’m concerned,” she began, but was cut off by the rumblings of the crowd, which seemed to have decided where it stood.

The people started talking to each other, forming pockets and repeating descriptions of what they had just witnessed. Each time more exaggerated and unbelievable. A couple of them directed their words toward the two. “You tried to kill him, didn’t--”

“Stop it.” He was cut off by another. “Don’t... Don’t provoke them... They’re armed, let’s just get out of here.”

Julius sighed, and decided to climb onto the podium himself. “Look here... Thank you for your presence, but there’s nothing going on anymore. Go to your homes already; your so-called prophet has already ran to his, after all.”

The crowd flinched, and started to disperse with murmurs of fear and awe at the events they witnessed. It’d take a while for the square to return to its normal flux of people, but they had started to move, which was an improvement.

Ben rubbed her forehead in a tired gesture, glad that that was finally dealt with. “Listen, Julius,” she began.

“To be perfectly frank, I don’t give a damn about the black mark on your name, considering how you got it, and it’s plain that you are very good at what you do. I’d have to double-check with my fiance, obviously, because if nothing else I don’t want to cause an international incident, and he’s the one who’d know if it would, but I am in a unique position, I suppose, to be able to offer...”

“I suppose I should wait until you sort your thoughts before saying I don’t understand, shouldn’t I?” Julius commented.

“I’m sorry. I guess just agreeing with you that my name’s not Steve doesn’t really qualify as a proper introduction, does it?” Her lips twitched in a self-mocking smile, and she extended her hand to him for the second time that day, this time considerably more amenably. “I’m Be-- Belinda of Orono.” She winced internally at the name. Well, the authority comes with the title, she sighed. It’s a package deal. “Princess Belinda of Orono. ...Though, at least while we’re in the Castle, I’d prefer you call me Ben.

“Anyway... Once we’re all finished with this place. Assuming His Highness can affirm that it won’t start a massive war, you’re welcome to your old position, on the Orono Royal Guard.”

Julius reacted by placing his fist over his heart and bowing slightly. “I’m honoured to be recognized, princess. However...” He paused to think of his reply before continuing. “I don’t believe I’ll ever accept such a position again. And even if I were to change my mind, such matters would only be a concern when we leave this strange land, and that could take decades, for all I know. So, if once outside you haven’t changed your mind, you can ask me again. Then I’ll consider whether or not I have changed mine.”

Ben gave a small bow in kind. “Well said... Julius.” It felt a little strange addressing him informally when his military background was so evident, but if she wanted him to call her Ben, she could hardly maintain that double standard. “Storm and Drive is fortunate to have a good man in its ranks.”

“Thank you,” he said simply. “Perhaps we should get moving, then? I don’t suppose the prophet will come back for a while.”

---

The prophet hurried to the safety of his walls. He failed to understand how the knight managed to hurt him. It didn’t make sense, after all. The knight hadn’t moved... But it was clear that he had tried to kill him; there was no other explanation. He panted, moving to his bed to hide under his sheets, but stopped at the sight of a neatly folded piece of paper where his pillow should be.

It’s a shame that the guilds would seek your head in such manner. We are afraid for your life, friend. So from this day, you’ll no longer receive the letters on the weather. We believe that will be enough to keep you safe, so long as you don’t attract their attention again. But rest assured, the day will come when you’ll be able to give them justice for trying to silence you.

Wait, my friend; the days we have foreseen will come.


The former doomsayer curled under his sheets. He didn’t understand, he couldn’t. And there was nothing he could do... Except wait for the day when ‘his’ predictions would be proven true.
Last edited by Qara-Xuan Zenith on Mon May 27, 2013 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

AS DICTATED TO INSTANTIATION 17-01-18-01.
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Guyshane on Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:16 pm

It was a dark and stormy night.

And Marcus was getting soaked in the storm. Damn weather, how are you even here? He was looking for one of the guilds and the rain was doing nothing but making it difficult, having already soaked through his cloak. Now where is this damn inn, should be somewhere around here. And it was close by, except Marcus had taken the wrong turn a few times... and was off by a block. A fact he finally figured out after another fifteen minutes out in the storm at which point he he crossed into a nearby street and saw a small inn which fit the description he had been given.

Oh wonderful, finally. Marcus walked up to the front door. Well time to meet these people. He thought to himself. Marcus raised his arm and knocked four times. He heard yelling inside as someone approached the door.

“Dunno what you’re selling but whatever the bloody crows it is-” At this point the door opened to reveal a short red headed woman wielding an onion and a sharp knife, “I don’t wan- oh hello,” she said, putting away the blade and tossing the onion to a boy with a sword. “You must be Marcus.”

“You get salesmen who are out in this kind of weather often?” Marcus asked genuinely confused. “I presume you’re Anji. Can I come in? Its kind of miserable out here.”

“No better inside, I’m afraid. It seems that my loving sister has decided that I am uniquely suited to all the chores.” Marcus looked out at the storm with the wind blowing and the rain falling in sheets. He then turned back to Anji and stared at her with an eyebrow raised.

“Alright then. Welcome to the Drunken Dragon. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay here.” Anji motioned for Marcus to enter the warm, torchlit inn. Marcus nodded gratefully and entered the inn. Finally. Warmth, sweet warmth he thought as he basked in the fact that he was no longer cold and miserable. He turned to the redhead. “So do you want to know why I’m here straight off or would you like some help with the chores first?”

“Nah, chores are chores. That’s the wonderful thing about them. No matter what you do, wait five minutes and it’s needing to be done again. Here, let’s borrow Fa-Julius’ room.... Zi won’t think to look in there.” With a grin, Anji lead Marcus up the stairs and into Julius’ room. The room was spartan, but clean. The only disorder in the room were books. There were books on the shelves, the bed, the window ledge.

Marcus took a minute to look around the room. Why are we hiding? She’s the guild leader couldn’t she just order- Dammit Marcus focus. Can't get distracted from why I came here. Its too important. Marcus cleared his throat. “Right basically I came to see you is because I’m in need of backup, seeing as I’ve drawn the attention of a new group in the castle. Or hell maybe they’ve been around since we got here and they’re only revealing themselves now. Either way its bad news.” Marcus took a calming breath and spoke. “There is a guild of assassins in the castle.” He then waited for Anji’s reaction.

Anji paused for a moment, then stood and closed the door. Turning to face the larger knight, she spoke, “So your bright idea was to approach a complete stranger in a crowded hotel to crow loud and long about their misdeeds? Are you dense?”

She crossed the room, gathering a wooden staff and a few more knives. “I think the real question is, why did you approach me? Hector is easily twice my size, seems more your speed. Salvantas is always looking for... more recruits.”

“The guy I was working with when I found out about them is already associated with Severed Claw and as for Heroes Unlimited...They apparently don't have anything wrong with them. At all, seriously every possible negative trait is quickly dismissed as rumor. In my book if something seems too good to be true, it generally is.” Marcus paused. “Also I have not crowed about anything yet. Aside from the fact they exist. And believe me better you find out now than have them...inform you.” Marcus shuddered at the memory.

“And what do you want Storm and Drive for? We’re not bodyguards, you know. I’m not for sale, and neither is my crew.”

Dammit! The one person I need to convince and- Okay, okay she’s bringing up valid concerns I have to address them. Marcus checked outside for anything suspicious. He then turned back to Anji and said “I don’t want to hire your guild I’m looking to work with the guild because I need friends, because I need allies, because I would like to wake up and not worry about whether that sociopath they sent after me has a blade at my throat again.” He continued on hoping he could convince her. “Also because they aren't here just to kill for money, their actions don't bear out that assumption. They have a plan and when they start the endgame I doubt anyone is going to be safe.”

“Friend of mine... Goes by Tommy. He’s looking for the guild you speak of. Looking to join it, actually. I haven’t heard from him in weeks. Worse, his mum and uncle found out. They’ve started to stockpile weapons, thinking I wouldn’t notice.” Anji bit back a sarcastic laugh. “Help me find out what happened to Tom, and maybe we can keep the city from rioting again. Then we’ll see about how you fit in my guild.”

“You realize you’re going to have to protect his family too. the guild finds out they know, they get a threat. They go to anyone in a position of authority before they get that threat, then heaven help them and anyone they know.” Marcus paused for a moment. “Also how did the kid find out about them? these people aren’t noted for being easy to find.”

“And you think he was playing marbles in a schoolhouse?” Anji laughed. “He used to be a mugger and a thief before coming to Ddarn. I’m sure the guild appealed to his special talents. As for his family, I will protect them, because I swore to. If I can’t protect them, then I don’t need to lead any longer.”

Marcus nodded. “Well I certainly love an opportunity to spoil the guild’s day. Lets go.”

It was full night when they left the inn. Anji sent Marcus out the front door, while she retired to her room, complaining of a headache. Marcus walked for about a block alone when Anji fell off a nearby roof, spinning neatly onto one knee. “That should take care of the tails. I think heading towards the slums would be a good idea.” Anji said, blatantly ignoring the poverty in her own section.

Marcus shrugged and replied. “Lead the way boss.”

Anji raised an eyebrow, then continued walking for another block. Looking back, she saw a few shadows melt into the background. “So, uh, how are you with that...thing?”

“I’m good enough that these morons are going to regret what they’re about to do.” Marcus replied. The men stepped out into what light there was. They never spoke, simply nodding to each other and attacking the mace-wielder. Marcus jumped back to give himself some room to draw his weapon. He fell into a ready stance as the pair started circling in an attempt to flank him. Just have to pick one and hope she gets the other. So Marcus turned to face the man circling to the right who was wielding a hand axe.

Marcus could practically feel the backstab coming but charged his opponent regardless. He was forced to sidestep as his opponent swung downward at him. Marcus managed a quick punch to the man’s gut, staggering him. Marcus was forced to block a flurry of attacks. However now the man was overextended and Marcus was able to smash his arm with the mace disarming the assassin.

“My life means nothing.”

“Yea, save it.” Then Marcus bashed him in the stomach, knowing that either by his wounds or by his own guild this man was as good as dead.

The other man wielded needle-sharp blades. yeah, let’s hope those aren’t tipped with poison. Anji thought. She wasn’t completely competent with the jon staff yet, but she needed the reach it gave her. Settling into her stance, Anji used the staff to thwack the assassin over the head. Stunned, the man swung wildly, neatly grazing her arm. “Oi, that kinda hurt.”

The man paused, and let out a sardonic laugh before resuming his assault. Anji jumped and dodged her way back against the tree, and scrambled up a few tree limbs, out of sight. The assassin stopped for a moment, a puzzled look on his face, before following Anji up the tree. moments later, he tumbled out of the tree, knives sticking out of odd, and varyingly vital places.

Well I suppose that’s proof that being part of a secret organization doesn't mean you’re smart Marcus took a moment to examine the weapon of his opponent. Yep this is one of their weapons, same smith’s mark, no blackening this time though “So Anji meet some of the apparently stupider members of the Assassins.” He called up to the tree. “The ones I fought before were better at their jobs, to say nothing of Hara.”

“Yeah well, their blades are sharp enough.” Anji said, taking some gauze out of her satchel and was about to wrap her arm up before Marcus motioned her over and applied some salve before wrapping the wound. “So, that gets them out of the way. Thanks.”

“Your welcome. The mixture I just put on speeds healing a bit and does a little to counter poison.”

“Anjali Torvantine, you get yourself back home. This is no place for a girl.” said a disembodied voice behind them.

“Pardon?” Anji said, slipping her job staff back into its shoulder harness and pulling out fresh knives. Turning, she saw a crowd of about thirty aging warriors. They were a motley group, as likely to carry a kitchen pan as a sword. Torches were scattered amongst them as frightened rabbit eyes glittered back. “I said, you need to get yeself back home, lassie. You’re liable to injure yourself.” A woman spoke at the head of the crowd, armed menacingly with a rolling pin and slippers.

Marcus knew a brewing fight when he saw one so he decided to step in. “Excuse me sirs and madams.” He called out. Suddenly thirty pairs of eyes swiveled and focused on Marcus. Well that isn't creepy. “I do not know your goals are here tonight.” He continued “But surely there is no reason to harass the honorable guild master after we have just fended off this pair of criminals.” The crowd took a moment to mutter amongst themselves, while Marcus turned to Anji and whispered “Who are these people?”

“Well, that’s Tommy’s mum-”

“Aye, yer right I’m Tommy’s mum. I’m old ‘nough ta be yer mum, yours too, laddie. Now scat, the both of ya, or you’ll find out how I’ll get my Tommy back the hard way.” Tommy’s mother interrupted angrily.

Marcus found himself unintentionally wince when the woman brought up his mother but otherwise was able to retain composure. “Ma’am there are easier ways of getting back your son than an angry mob. Seriously threatening anyone who wants to be part of That guild with bodily harm wont work. At all. However if he doesn’t know some of their standing rules then telling him might be enough to convince him not to join.”

“Go home, Maddie.” Anji spoke up, sliding her knives back into their sheaths. Damn, I’m getting good at crowds “I’ll get Tommy home.” Anji was tired. She’d spent all night with her various jobs and duties, and speaking to grieving mothers did nothing to alleviate the knot of tension that had been growing in her stomach for weeks.

The woman started to speak, then stopped. Anji stood in the middle of the pathway, blocking the mob from moving further into the murky dark. “Now all of ya, get going. It’s late. Go to your families... leave the fights to those who won’t be killed by them.”

So grumbling the crowd dissipated and went home. Well that actually didn't go that badly. What a pleasant change of pace Marcus thought. He turned to Anji. “Lets hurry, before the Assassins get a new member, or they just kill the sap. Or we’ll be the ones with an angry mob after us.”

“What, never outran angry old people before?”

“Well I didn't say that.”

Anji smirked for a moment. “Well, any idea where they’ll be?”

Marcus thought for a moment. “Well if they aren’t at Tommy’s house they’ll be headed back to the guild hall.” he replied.

“Lead the way, Mace-wielder.”

“Don’t be so happy. I’ve only got one guess about where their hall is. We need to get to them before they go down the well. Unless you feel a pressing need to fight off vampires and mutants.” He said before turning and running toward the entrance of the Underground.

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I wish I was, I really do.” Marcus yelled back. Anji followed and they came up to the well. Marcus noticed that the guard who should have been there wasn’t present. And saw a street thug escorted by two obscured figures. “That your guy?” he asked in a whisper.

“Aye, that’s Tommy, alright.” Anji paused, then spoke again, unsheathing her knives, “I’m going to follow. I don’t suppose you’re any good at sneaking... So, stay behind. I’ll see where they go.”

Marcus nodded. “Okay that sounds-” Before he could continue he heard a voice he knew all too well. “I’m so glad another is joining us” Hara said in her raw voice. Dammit, dammit, dammit all to hell. What is she doing here? “We might want to adjust our plan” he said to Anji.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

With a grin, Anji stepped into the streetlights.

Hara giggled as Anji stepped into view. “Oh good a new friend to play with.”

“Oh I like games. Why don’t we play the one where you decide to slink back to the scum what made you, and leave the peaceful folk alone?” Anji said, methodically tossing a knife into the air.

“Oh no can’t do that, little thing. Especially when you brought an old friend with you.” She turned and looked at a nearby rooftop. “Marcus, dear. Don’t be shy, you aren’t that sneaky.”

Marcus stepped into view. She is really starting to get on my nerves “Hara, I had hoped you would get eaten before I had to see you again.” He replied.

“Your talking bores me, get down here so I can kill you and your new friend.”

“I don’t know about my associate here... but I don’t plan on seeing my blood on the ground today... Yours might be a pretty shade, though.” Anji smiled innocently.

Hara was about to reply when the other figure spoke softly into her ear. She turned back to them. “It seems I don't have time tonight but my friend here will indulge you.” She spoke to her comrade. “Take them if the boy can get up the nerve to help bring him back with you. If not...” She trailed off and jumped down the well.

And just when I thought we had her. The other assassin appeared to be staring at Marcus. So Marcus spread his arms with his weapon drawn and said: “Here we are now, entertain us.” That was when the assassin jumped to the roof and started strangling Marcus with inhuman strength. Vampire?!? He managed to choke out “Anji--Help---”

Three blades sought out their mark as Anji sprinted towards the combatants. Sliding her staff out of its holder, she sent an uppercut thrust to the assassins’ chin. The combatant bled old blood, the stink of old flesh reeking through the night air. The vampire was apparently annoyed by this since it threw Marcus at her.

“oh hey that actua-GAH” Marcus and Anji collided, and they both fell. Anji heard a sickening crack before a bolt of pain shot up her arm. Biting back a scream, Anji rolled up onto her feet. “Marcus.. I think we’ll need that mace of yours.”

“The damage it takes from my mace is only going to be temporary, we need to decapitate it. Got anything that can manage?”

“uh... hair.. hairpins, my knives, and... and that damn staff.” Anji said, gasping for air, trying to shut down that screaming in her mind.

“There are shops around see if you can find something. and hurry.” he ordered as he rose to meet the creature.

Nodding, or with what was at least a decent attempt at a nod, Anji went to the nearest shop looking for anything, something that they could use to beat the bloodsucker. spoons.. no... rolling pin...ha.... machete, playing cards, napkins... MACHETE Grabbing the blade in her good arm, Anji raced back to the battle.

The fight had not been going well for Marcus. The vampire had dodged his initial assault while delivering blows meant to stagger him since it apparently like playing with its prey. “Are you quite done?” The vampire asked in a noble accent. Marcus spotted Anji running out of a shop. “No, I’ve got a bit more if you don’t mind.”

The assassin shrugged. “As you wish, you’re doomed anyway.”

Marcus then slammed his mace right in between the vampire’s eyes. Before the creature could comment Marcus then smashed the mace into its kneecaps and began pummeling it. shouting. “Anji hurry up!” as he did.

Anji didn’t know a scimitar from a longsword, but she did know that if you swang the point end at something alive, blood came out. So that’s what she did. It hurt. A lot. The machete was dull, and so was the Vampire, but that was beside the point. The vampire’s head separated from the rest of him. Hara’s laughter still seemed to echo in the plaza.

The two stood on the roof breathing heavily. Once Marcus had gotten his breath back he asked: “So should we go check on your friend?”

“Bastard ran off as soon as the fighting broke out.” Anji said laughing.

Marcus stopped for a moment before speaking. “His mother is going to kick his ass.” Then he broke out laughing too.

“Better his ass than mine.” Anji said, sobering. “So, that’s your assassin’s guild, huh?”

“Yea, see why I’m worried?”

“Yeah. I am too.” Anji said.

“Oh good that means you aren't completely insane. I was wondering for a second when you came up with that plan.”

“Yeah, that’s one of my saner ideas... Want to go after Hara now? I think we can take her.” Anji said, standing.

Marcus considered it for a moment. “Tempting.” he replied. “But I think we’ll need a bigger team to go hunting the Underground for the Assassin’s guild hall.That being said however..” Marcus started to climb down. “Lets see if the psycho left anything behind.”

Anji looked at the ladders that led to the underground caverns. The world began swimming as she started to feel nausea. “On second thought... I think I’m just going to sit up here. Or something. Yeah.” she said, collapsing painfully against a tree trunk.

Marcus shrugged and went to look at the edge of the well. Come on clue where’s a...what's this? It appeared to be a small amulet, an obsidian circle inside a stone ring. He walked back over to Anji and held up the amulet. “Even when she leaves stuff behind it isn't useful.”

“Eh, keep it anyway. Never know when stuff like that will be useful.”

“True enough.” shrugging as he said it. “So you think I’m guild material?”

“Welcome to Storm and Drive, Marcus.” Anji said. “Uh, hand up, maybe?”

Marcus smiled as he helped Anji to her feet. “Sure thing, lets get you back to the inn.”
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.
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Guyshane
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:45 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby AMimsyBorogove on Wed May 29, 2013 11:19 pm

To her chagrin, Alexander Curtiss’s humming was turning out not to be the most annoyingly distracting sound Lovia would have to suffer through on their journey. At least he knew how to carry a tune, to a certain extent. Unfortunately, while he’d left the area for the time being, the incessant dripping noise in the background hadn’t, and whereas it didn’t have any semblance of musical quality, it more than made up for that lack in being so profoundly irritating it made the ice mage want to encase the entire tunnel in a thick coating of frost.

Exhaling quietly, she stood up from her seat against the tunnel wall and turned her attention to the ceiling, searching the orange-tinted crags for the tell-tale glimmer of moisture, hoping that her lantern would reveal the source of the noise despite the dimming light it provided. As her first examination began to prove fruitless, she made a mental note to bring a better light source on her next mission- or, at the very least, some earplugs.

In the left corner of her vision, the girl leaning against the opposite wall shifted somewhat unsteadily, her movements only partially obscured by her voluminous purple cloak. “Sorry, would you mind not waving the lantern around?” she called out.

Halting mid-movement, Lovia turned her head towards the only one of her companions still present, who waved hesitantly before continuing, “It’s kind of distracting, and I’m not sure if it’s good for the fire.”

Lovia nodded, ignoring the two dozen or so rebuffs that arose in her mind, and gently set the lantern back where she’d picked it up before retaking her seat against the wall. Mirae murmured her thanks, but the other mage barely noticed, once again trying to determine precisely how much magic it would take to ice over the tunnel, the amount available for use being deemed a secondary concern.

“…and sweat is the real cost, thinking ceases; the truth is lost! Don’t you worry…”

Lovia’s head jerked up, all but forgetting the dripping. As faint as the singing was, the voice was clearly discernible as belonging to a human male, and came from the same end of the tunnel Curtiss had vanished into earlier- which, she belatedly noted, was beginning to look significantly less opaque and black than it had minutes before.

“The fires of greed will burn the weak, so we’ll make- ooh, wait a sec…”

The not-too-distant clatter of metal impacting stone echoed from the direction of the singing, and a few seconds later, a pair of silhouettes stepped into view from a nearby side passage, one tall and human, the other distinctly resembling that of a goblin. Glancing toward the two mages, the former individual waved and gave a shout of greeting before dipping back into the corridor he’d emerged from. He reappeared a moment later with a lantern of his own, then grabbed the arm of the being accompanying him and strode over to where his companions were resting.

Once he’d drawn close enough to Lovia and Mirae for his features to be distinguishable, Curtiss was easily recognizable by clothing alone, his bright red headband contrasting heavily with his gray-dyed hair and similarly colored uniform. The goblin he was dragging behind him, on the other hand, was more or less dressed as an average member of his species would, but the fact that Curtiss had forced him to come with was proof enough that he was their missing guide.

The scout abruptly yanked on the goblin’s arm, and the guide promptly stumbled a few steps ahead before steadying himself, shooting the human behind him a vindictive glare. Curtiss smirked. “Oh, don’t give me that look. You’re getting paid to take us through here; if you didn’t want to go, you could’ve easily said something back when we hired you.”

The goblin remained silent, but turned back towards the section of tunnel the group hadn’t explored yet. Frowning, Curtiss glanced over at the mages, both of which had repacked their gear and gotten to their feet. “Apologies for the wait,” he said. “The guy wasn’t actually too far out of the way when I found him, believe it or not. Didn’t even try to run for it again when he saw me. In hindsight, he seemed kinda freaked out about something.”

Lovia and Mirae exchanged glances. “Something like…?” the latter inquired.

Curtiss shrugged. “I don’t know, cave stuff? How am I supposed to judge how a goblin thinks? Does it really matter, anyways? We’ve got places to go, staircases to find, something like that.” He reached out and tapped the guide’s shoulder. “Right, you ready to do your job now?”

The goblin hissed and started down the tunnel. The three humans were quick to follow.

***

With silent steps, the white-clad figure slipped unnoticed between several standing stones, dropping down from his perch high above the broad entrance to the mines (Did they really think that the front door was the only way in? They obviously hadn’t checked on the newly exposed tunnels that had been opened by the recent explosions.) and landing softly upon the railing of a watchtower. The guard inside didn’t even hear the sound as the infiltrator hastily dropped down once again, catching himself on the ladder of the tower and sliding down it, dropping down amidst several supply crates stacked at the base of the wooden palisade surrounding the formidable gates into the goblins’ underground dwelling.

The thief smirked, ducking low as a patrol passed by, not even noticing him as he hid beneath the supplies. Which was... actually kind of surprising, considering that he hadn’t bothered to remove his rather gaudy coat. But, Seire thought to himself, it wouldn’t be any fun, sneaking into a heavily guarded subterranean fortress of isolationist goblins unless it was challenging. But, of course, the thrill of infiltrating a difficult target wasn’t the reason Seire was there. Or rather, it wasn’t the ONLY reason. The real purpose of his whimsical expedition into the cavernous city was to follow a certain group that had come there earlier. Of course, this brave party had actually bothered to enter legally, something Seire supposed he could have done too, save for the fact that it would have been long and boring, a prospect which would prove much less entertaining than his current infiltration.

And, besides. If he’d entered legally, he wouldn’t have the chance to... peruse... the goblins’ supplies while he was passing through. Grinning childishly, the thief slipped his scissors out of his sleeve and, sliding them into the lock of one of the crates, he poked around for a moment before at last hooking them within the admittedly well-made mechanism. With a flick of his wrist and a quiet click, he twisted the seal open, lifting the crate’s lid ever-so-slightly and reaching a hand inside. Grabbing a few packages of small, cylindrical objects that happened to meet his probing fingers, he swiftly removed them from the box and stuffed them into his large pockets.

The thief grinned, about to reach in and snatch some more... uh... whatever it was he was stealing, but, unfortunately, it seemed he didn’t have time for that. His golden eyes snapped up as the gently bobbing light of a distant lantern suddenly moved out of sight, fading around the winding curve of a tunnel across the cave. It seemed that his unwitting guides had finally begun to move. Well, then, he supposed that meant it was time for him to do so as well.

Conveniently enough, the patrol chose that moment to continue its rounds. Even more conveniently, the guard on the opposite tower seemed to be sleeping.

Within five seconds, Seire had crossed the open space between him and his targets, and no one was any the wiser.

* * *

Lovia sighed in exasperation. The gray-haired, gray-clothed one was beginning to get on her nerves. Now that he had returned, that infernal humming was making it extremely difficult to think. She had been trying very hard to remain patient, however, enough was enough, in her opinion. “Please...could you stop doing that?” Lovia said at last, in her usually quiet fashion, trying her best to be polite as always in the face of grating nuisances such as this. Far from stopping, however, and much to the irritation of the green-eyed mage, the young man merely continued, if anything - louder. This is looking to be a long day, Lovia thought.

At about that moment, Curtiss’s voice cut in, somehow speaking over his own humming- “Okay, stop that, seriously. You still haven’t memorized the tune yet? Even though you’ve been following us for, what, since the guide ran away? Since we left the village? Whatever the case, I’m disappointed, man- truly, severely disappointed.”

“What in- who’s there?” Lovia asked, spinning around and finding herself face to face with, as she had expected, someone completely unknown to her. The newcomer’s amber eyes flashed brightly in the dim light of the tunnel as he cut his humming short, his mouth closing into a sardonic half-smile. “Are you talking to me?” The man asked, sweeping out his arm in a somewhat over-the-top gesture of self-introduction, his flowing, five-tailed white coat sweeping about him almost as though suspended by a conveniently timed gust of wind - although this, of course, was impossible, given that the small band was already well within the torchlit tunnels of the goblin mines, whose thick stone walls not even a gale could penetrate - as he took a courtly bow. Somehow, it seemed as though the raven-haired young man had rehearsed this gesture. Either that, or he had performed it many more times than most would consider “normal.” He didn’t seem to be concerned by this fact either, if his cheerful, carefree grin was anything to go by.

“Oh, I’m nobody to be concerned with,” The young man said as he bowed. “Just a passing yeoman who happened to hear at a certain tavern that a group of bold adventurers were daring enough to attempt to brave the gate leading into the next floor. Hearing that, I couldn’t help but be quite... interested. So, here I am - Seire Valefar, at your service.”

Lovia shook her head, making sure this man’s sudden appearance was not the result of sleep deprivation. Once her suspicions that this was a hallucination were cleared, the black-robed mage groaned inwardly, brushing a lock of her short, black hair out of her pale, girlish face. A showman...great. Just what we needed. “So you’ve been stalking us...for twenty miles now?” Lovia looked quizzically at the ludicrous man. What sort of fool would simply appear before a dangerous adventure, unbidden? This would only cause more complications to the mission, and annoying complications like Seire were not exactly what she had in mind when Lori sent her on this mission. “Find a way to the next level,” she had said. “Discover what secrets may lie there.” This mission was likely to be difficult enough without a wild card possibly mucking things up as well. Regardless, if this was the torment she had to endure for such an endeavor, then, she supposed, it would have to do. The sheer possibilities of knowledge were worth nearly any such nuisance.

The fourth member of the party now spoke. “If you’re no one to be concerned with, you won’t mind us leaving you here, then.” Might take a few broken legs -- and skull. Mirae wasn’t sure what to make of the situation. The fool appeared out of nowhere and stood there grinning.

“Well, that’s a rather rude way to greet someone who traveled all this way just to volunteer to help you,” The thief chuckled nervously, scratching his head. “In any case, I suppose that’s one way to put it, but I much prefer the phrase ‘followed without your knowledge or permission.’ The word ‘stalking’ just has all sorts of implications these days that really aren’t terribly relevant to our current situation. It’s much better to be clear on these matters, wouldn’t you say?”

“Maybe so.” Mirae suppressed a grimace; how could such a ridiculous man sport such an infectious smile? It almost made up for the start. Careful. “Shall we be clear, then? You follow us into an unknown, dangerous place, profess to be the leader of a guild of thieves, and claim to be doing this out of the goodness of your heart?”

“Well, it sure seems that way, doesn’t it?” Seire replied, grinning innocently as though he didn’t know himself.

Off to the side, Curtiss sighed loudly, rubbing his forehead. “Speaking as someone who’s had to talk with this particular man in the past,” he muttered, “I’d suggest we just deal with him tagging along. He is ridiculously obstinate, among other things, so if he wants to follow, I don’t think we’ll be able to change his mind.” He glanced uneasily at his pack, then added, “Might want to keep a close eye on your stuff, though. I wouldn’t put it past him to grab our bags and disappear again the second we aren’t looking.”

Seire turned to glare at the other scout, scowling in cartoonishly exaggerated indignation. “How rude! Are you seriously insinuating that I would accost an innocent citizen for his or her belongings? You wound me, sir, wound me deeply."

"Right,” Curtiss drawled. “And you most certainly didn't take anything from the goblins back at the town, I assume?"

"Of course not! If I had done that, I'd have been caught! Do you take me for a fool?” Seire paused for a moment to glance over at Curtiss, who was working his mouth in an apparent attempt to either come up with a retort or hold it back. Then, shrugging, he continued, “I just blindly stole a bunch of random things out of their supplies, nothing more. In fact, I’m not even sure what I stole myself!" He grinned broadly as though this absolved him of all guilt, not making it clear if this was actually the case in whatever bizarre code of “ethics” he held himself to, or if he was just trying to confuse and unnerve the party for his personal amusement, although anyone with even the least experience interacting with the carefree thief would know exactly which it was.

Curtiss groaned and let his head sag forward. The goblin looked like he wanted to strangle someone.

This was ridiculous - although Lovia couldn’t help but smile a little at the man’s antics. Clearly they weren’t going to be able to get rid of the annoying man. Either annoying man, the mage corrected, glancing towards the man who was once again humming his silly little tune. Lovia remained silent, however. Clearly this “Seire” individual wanted a cut of the profits. That would be acceptable - as four was a safer number than three, and Lovia sincerely doubted anyone else in here cared about the academic knowledge that could be brought from the third level. She looked at the two loud men, and amended that - safer, yes, more irritating, most definitely.

“I suppose you should know who we are as well.” Mirae was smiling now. “This is Miss Tevinter.” The green-eyed girl nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Curtiss, although he apparently seems to know you already. And I’m Mirae.” The shorter girl hesitated, glancing at the hunched figure of their guide, whom appeared to have abruptly forgotten his anger and fixed his gaze on the depths of the tunnel ahead. His agreement to lead the group to their destination hadn’t been forthcoming, even despite the promised reward, and this, combined with his current state of nervous wariness, could not but bode ominously for the path ahead of the group. She glanced hastily back at her group, deciding to focus on the interruption rather than the strangely unnerved goblin. “Well, I guess you’re joining us? We might need another set of eyes.”

“Well, if you’re inviting me, then how can I refuse?” The thief replied, giving a slight half-smile as he spoke. Although, it really couldn’t have been called an invitation, considering that he’d already stated rather plainly that he would be joining them regardless. And, judging by both his customary smirk and by his tone, he wasn’t even making a pretense of hiding this fact. Rather, it seemed more that he was using this seemingly innocuous comment as a means of proudly announcing that he now had an excuse to come along. It didn’t help that he wasn’t trying to conceal this, either.

No more diplomacy, then, Mirae thought, dropping her smile. She nodded to the thief, then turned away, careful to keep him and his suspicious confidence in sight. That meant facing the goblin again, though. He was still crouched against the wall, occasionally shooting them anxious looks, barely visible fingers tapping silently against his leg. The number of torches had decreased steadily since their breaking off from the main tunnel, until even Seire’s white coat was dim in the lantern’s meager light. They had been winding their way underground for what must have been hours by now, though Mirae could not tell whether it felt like minutes or days; the uniform stone walls played games with her sense of time.

She shifted her weight, feeling familiar blades swing her cloak. Exploration. That was why she had come, was it not? Probe each floor enough for a taste of its novelty, then continue. Even standing here for this long made her restless for a change of scene. There must be a ventilation shaft nearby, its soft hissing filling the tunnel. Mirae looked back, perhaps a little too eagerly. “Shall we?” Nodding, the thief took a few hastened steps to bring himself alongside the rest of the party, and then advanced silently, his keen golden eyes trained forward towards the darkness ahead of them. The nervous goblin guide seemed to flinch with every step he took, but, nevertheless, he, too, began to move, taking the lead of the party and advancing slowly into the winding tunnels ahead.

The group continued down the mine tunnel, Mirae dropping behind to watch their new companion as he delved into his coat pockets, occasionally flicking a grin across his face. It almost seemed like he knew as little about what was in there as Mirae did; she amused herself for a few steps by wondering about its contents. String. Compass. Nutmeg. Rainbow-dyed messenger pigeon. She automatically cocked her head to listen for birdsong before remembering where she was. The air carried no tunes. Even Curtiss had stopped humming some distance back.

“Ooh!” The sudden exclamation from the thief broke the silence of the tunnel as he held up a small package evidently produced from his pockets to the light of the gently swaying lantern.

Wincing, Curtiss looked away from the tunnel ahead to glance at his companion. “That was a bit loud,” he commented. “Mind toning it down next time? Or maybe sharing what you found with the rest of us, at least?”

The thief smiled in a manner that expressed an emotion somewhere between “childish glee” and “destructive mania” as he casually pocketed the large, dark red bundle he held once again. “Oh, just some fun new toys is all,” He said, still grinning in the same, rather unsettling manner.

Even as the package was returned to the depths of Seire’s oversized coat, a black symbol on its side caught Curtiss’s eye, and the gray-clothed scout almost tripped over his own feet as he remembered where else he’d seen it at the goblin village. “...Toys,” he murmured, suddenly wishing he’d packed some clothing suitably resistant to large amounts of heat, or shrapnel, or cave-ins. “Well, try to make sure nobody else is around when you’re playing with those, okay?”

***

The torchlight had disappeared by now, leaving only the flickering lantern to cast shadows in the maze. They danced across stone, briefly showing a crevice or turn before returning it to the dark. Their guide’s pace slowed, the shadow dance growing increasingly erratic as his hands trembled.

Mirae felt something short barrel past her and whirled, pulling a knife before halting, watching the rapidly retreating figure of their guide vanish up the path. The echoing clatter of a lantern hitting stone floor followed him back through the tunnel. The light shuddered crazily but remained.

Behind her, Curtiss grunted as he stretched his arms forwards. “Hey, coat-boy,” he muttered, elbowing Seire’s arm. “Looks like they’re not trying to hide anymore. I think they know we’re on to them.”

Mirae looked towards the two scouts. “Wha- hold on, what are you...?”

The more gaudily-dressed of the two merely grinned as her question died in her throat, stepping forward and casually laying hold of the hilt poking up over his shoulder. Then, with a shrill, faint whine of metal brushing against metal, he drew the black and white blade of his sword forth from its scabbard, leveling it towards the darkness ahead of them.

“This might be a bad time to mention this,” Seire said with a cheerful demeanor that clashed entirely with his poised sword, not to mention with the words he spoke so casually. “But we seem to be surrounded by those creatures your friend Curtiss heard whispering earlier. They’ve been following us for some time, and it seems our guide has just taken the last chance he had to run again.”

“You could have told us earlier,” Mirae replied irritably, drawing her own knives and stepping back as, sure enough, black shapes became visible in the flickering lantern light as they skulked about in the shadows, their giant eyes half-gleaming in the dark as the soft pattering of footfalls filled the tunnel. Scuttling echoed off the walls and ceiling as dust dropped from above the party, falling onto their heads from out of the darkness as innumerable small shapes poised themselves to plunge down upon their would-be prey from where they lurked in the shadows above.

“Well, it’s not like if we’d told you, we’d have any other path to go by. Plus, your guide probably would have run much sooner if he’d known. At least we’re closer to our goal now, are we not?” Seire smirked. “And besides... I’d say it’s a lot more fun this way.”

“Confident words for someone who’s outnumbered ten to one. Are you planning on backing that up? The thieves I know aren’t exactly renowned for their bravery.”

“Heh. Don’t insult me, my friend. If there’s one thing you should know about Seire Valefar, it’s that he never leaves his comrades, nor does he back down from a fight!” With this boisterous declaration, Seire leveled his sword as his words resounded throughout the tunnel, echoing back and forth between the walls and causing the enemies lurking in the shadows to momentarily hesitate. There was a faint rumbling heard throughout the cavern. Then, with a sudden, roaring crash, the ground around them shook. The creatures in the darkness behind them gave several panicked cries and began to rush frantically through the light, flailing about blindly as they dove deeper into the tunnel. Although several managed to stumble past the group - aside from one which was unfortunate enough to be offhandedly clotheslined and bisected by the rising blade of the thief’s sword as he struck a suitably heroic and confident pose - many more of those enemies attempting to cut off the party from behind were not as fortunate, for, in the next instant, with a groaning rumble that shook the cavern, the ceiling of the passage behind the group gave way, crushing large numbers of the creatures behind them. For a moment, the tunnel shook, and it seemed as though the rest of the ceiling would crumble atop the party as well. Thankfully, it seemed that the tunnel junction in which they now stood was somewhat sturdier than the passage they’d just exited, for, although several small stones came tumbling down from the roof high above, the ceiling held.

“Uh... I meant to do that,” Seire said, grinning sheepishly.

Beside him, Curtiss eyed the corpse at Seire’s feet, strands of sky-blue ichor still connecting its neck to the thief’s weapon. “They’re not going to be too happy about that,” he muttered, hands inching towards his knives. “Just so you know- they decide to attack, I blame you for it.”

One of the cave-dwellers inched forward and rotated its head towards the speaker, a fang-ridden smile larger than any human could manage spreading over its skeletal face. “Lucky find...” it rasped, its mouth laboring to pronounce pronounce words it was barely capable of. “This one is flesh, not rock. He can die.”

Seire grinned. Yes, he realized, this was exactly the sort of thing he’d been looking for when he had decided to follow the small party on their little mission. Well, that and being the first to reach the new floor so that he could hastily chart it out, claiming possible hideouts and strongholds for his own guild, and stealing whatever valuables might have been left there. But, to be honest, all of those plans were derived from one motivation, and one motivation alone. The thief had been bored, and some excitement was just what he needed to alleviate that irksome dullness!

With an ear-piercing shriek, one of the pale, hairless creatures dropped from the ceiling, plummeting down towards Seire only for him to casually step out of the way, swiping his sword straight up to meet the falling body as he did so. The falling monster found its howl cut off in its throat, and its head simply cut off. As it slumped to the floor, dead before it even hit the ground, the thief was already moving. Unlike the others, still gathered around the light of the fallen lamp, Seire lunged forward, delivering a linear strike aimed straight for the heart of the closest enemy he could find. With a scraping of steel against bone, he found his blade caught between the claws of his target, and yet, undeterred, Seire merely twisted his weapon downward, causing the creature to screech in agony as it found its hand split in half by the keen, biting blade of the thief. A moment later, the precise cut had changed directions, darting back up to plunge straight through the creature’s jugular, silencing it, too, in its turn.

Whipping his sword to the side, he half-severed his victim’s head, at the same time using his weapon as a lever to fling the collapsing body onto two of its comrades. Another instant, and his blade was already flashing in the half-light, trailing crimson ichor as it bisected the dead creature along with the two whom it had struck. The thief couldn’t help but laugh, smirking as he continued the slash, whirling around just in time to intercept another foe pouncing upon him from behind. Really? That was their strategy? Pile on top of him? The only way they’d manage to bury him in such a manner was beneath a hill of their own dead!

“So... predictable!” Seire cried triumphantly, splitting the small body of his unfortunate airborne assailant from hip to shoulder and sending it dropping to the floor in its death throes. The thief laughed once again as he casually swept his blade back over his shoulder with the force of his attack, deflecting an ill-aimed claw attack from behind and carrying another creature over with the impetus of its own charge, causing it to flop right into a rising reverse roundhouse kick that sent it hurtling through the air right into the ranks of its own comrades. The pests screamed and drew back in fright, murmuring and howling to themselves as the thief turned, sweeping down his blade and shaking the blood from its monochrome edge as he leveled it as his opponents, his amber eyes gleaming like burnished gold in the darkness of the cave, matching the piercing gazes of countless adversaries as he stood on the very edge of the light, as though daring the darkness to come and try to claim him. This battle was nothing more than his personal game, an old sport of strength in which he had excelled since his youth. The thrill of combat, the feeling of power and adrenaline coursing through his body... it was through these means that Seire had always worked to grow in strength.

“Hey!” He called over his shoulder with a cheerful grin. “Do you guys want any, or should I just keep going without you?”

***

Muttering a few of the more offensive cursewords he’d picked up over the years, Curtiss glanced around the room at the creatures nearest to him- rakes, they were called, if he remembered correctly. Smart enough to develop their own language and learn another through mere observation, which didn’t bode well for such a small group of mages and scouts; no matter how well-equipped and trained they were, a pack of sentient foes with terrain advantages and natural weapons would almost certainly have the upper hand.

His right foot scraped audibly against the floor as he turned to get a better view of the battle, then stopped when it hit something soft and moving and disturbingly warm. Instinctively he jerked around, a knife gripped in each hand, but the rake managed to act faster, wrapping itself around his leg like a toddler clinging to its parent and knocking him off balance. Another slammed into his other leg at high speed, forcing it to give, and he fell backwards.

Before he even hit the ground, three more rakes had already leaped at him. Two took hold of his arms, seizing his knives with their mouths and tossing them to the side with a shake of their heads, while the other landed square on his chest, slamming him to the ground hard enough to knock the wind out of him and destroy any thought of putting up a fight, or of anything else, for the time being. Their skin felt grimy and oily where it touched his, their breath reminding him of week-old carrion, and even before his mind had fully cleared, he convulsed and struggled within their grip, only succeeding in prompting them to tighten their hold.

“Enough fight,” the lead rake rasped, and Curtiss’s head jerked back against the floor, hard, as he recoiled from the spittle expelled from the creature’s mouth with each word. “Stay down until that one-” the rake glared in Seire’s general direction- “is down. Then, we talk.”

Curtiss groaned and tried to inhale again, his captor’s words barely registering. Apart from the pain, which was enough to keep him down by itself, his fall and the rake restraining his torso were making breathing nearly impossible, and he was half certain that a rib or three had fractured or dislocated in the process. The growing pool of liquid beneath his head didn’t bode well for the status of his skull, either.

An iridescent bolt of energy arced above and to the right of him- evidently, the mages were also busy with their attackers- and one of the rakes holding down his limbs hissed. It would probably be for the best, he imagined, that he went along with the rakes’ demands; with the team’s healers occupied, he certainly wouldn’t be in a position to fight back anytime soon...

***

Lovia inwardly groaned at the newcomer’s bravado. Great, another idiotic thrill-seeker, she thought. Our chances have just been downgraded from slim to almost nil. Her train of thought was interrupted, as the beasts were upon them. Drawing her dark grey sword, Lovia prepared to freeze those humanoids, when she saw one up close, and froze.

No amount of book learning could prepare her for how...monstrous that thing was.

More beast than man, the horrific creatures gazed upon her with dead, predatory eyes. Though their form resembled that of a man, their eyes, their movements, would be more in keeping with the demeanor of some ravenous, starved dog than any intelligent, thinking being. Their horribly twisted mouths were open, revealing pointed, yellowed teeth. Saliva dripped from their gaping mouths at the thought of devouring the flesh of four young and foolish humans, or so Lovia assumed. She wasn’t going to take any chances with these creatures.

Lovia shook her head of her fear, and raised her left hand as one of them came close to her, clawing at her with its yellowed, dirty claws, and a blast of cold filled the cave. Lovia gritted her teeth due to the chill, although her heavy black robe absorbed most of the cold. The same couldn’t be said for the creatures. The closest three to her stopped moving, dropping to the floor, dead from hypothermia, their skin turned from pale to even paler blue as their faces stayed in their horrible, twisted grins. The rest of the horde that were close to her took a step back in fear. Lovia noted their reactions - sluggish, shivering - of course! Those beasts would be weak to such cold - as they lacked any sort of visible insulation - hairless, unclothed. Lovia couldn’t help suppressing a little smirk, as she placed her left hand against her sword, her magic chilling the sword until it shone with a white sheen, as the water droplets in the air froze as they touched the sword.

Lovia silently thanked her father for her heavy black leather gloves, keeping her hands mostly insulated against the freezing cold, as she raised her sword, slicing through another creature’s neck, and parrying another’s claw strike, its hands...front legs...whatever you’d want to call them, froze, causing it to fall to the floor. Lovia gripped her longsword in both hands, and stabbed the horrible thing in the back. A third got too close, and very nearly bit her left hand, but was waylaid by another blast of cold. The things were retreating, in fear of the cold and the bitter bite of the sword.

Lovia adjusted her grip on the sword, looking to see how her companions had fared. Her fellow mage seemed to be doing well, a few creatures lying at her feet, though the short girl winced as her knives sliced through grey flesh. One creature, catapulting off of another’s back in some bizarre form of leapfrog, collided with her as she fended off one of its fellows, finding an easy foothold in her lowered hood. Caught by surprise, Mirae spun, allowing the other to wrap its thin arms tightly around her leg. A moment later, both of the atrocities inexplicably released their hold. They were soon followed by flashes of metal, the cuts turning red with burns.

Slowly, the horde was moving back -- or at least, Mirae’s group was moving forward. Curtiss had dropped out of sight, but the others were with her. They seemed to be intimidating the small creatures, as for each that continued to lash at the humans, another slinked along the side, scurrying back along the tunnel. Yelps echoed from the front, one caught by the edge of Lovia’s cold or nicked by Seire’s sword; the latter never lasted long. Each additional step brought more of these cries, from pain or . . . Panic?

“Run!” The shout came from behind Mirae. She started, giving the creature attacking her an opening. It had lunged, its claws were already outstretched, but it simply hit the ground on all fours and continued past her. In fact, all of their opponents were now fleeing up the tunnel, not even trying to swerve around outcrops or humans. Within moments, they were alone.

The cavern widened not far from them, the ceiling rising to where it was lost in shadow. Curving down the side were a set of stone steps, carved neatly into the wall. More worrying than an apparent lack of railings, to Mirae, at least, was what was sitting in front of the staircase.

Streaks of harsh white light met the yellow of the lantern, emanating from a mass of rock. It reminded Mirae of nothing so much as a cairn, though a poorly made one; instead of smoothly harmonious stones, it was made of rough boulders, not a one of the same kind as another, and all kept in place by the white shining through the gaps. Spines jutted out from its irregular mound, some so thin they seemed to sway in the wavering light.

Wait- They were moving. The stones at the bottom of the cairn shifted, moving straight out from the pile. The white followed, tracing out columns that were almost like . . . limbs. Two points of light blinked into existence in a broad piece of granite near the top of a newly defined head. Several small rocks drifted apart, forming a mouth ringed with stone teeth.

Seire glanced about the cavern, giving a quiet whistle as he observed the rising form of the golem. Granted he didn’t have much experience with magical constructs, but from what he recalled from a certain piece of recent (stolen) reading material - who knew a grimoire titled simply “The Ordinary Book” could contain so much relevant information? - this thing wasn’t exactly... well, ordinary, for lack of a better word. On the one hand, it seemed much smaller than even the simple, lumbering giants of golems he’d read about, being about the size of the average statue, but on the other, it was much more crude than even those basic constructs, looking more like a moving stone pillar than a humanoid shape. From what the thief could tell, the thing’s lower body and the floor were essentially the same thing, while its arms and head were more like solid blocks of granite with vaguely anthropomorphic features crudely beaten into them. Stalagmites protruded like extra limbs from within its form, jutting out at random angles. It looked more like a mass of random stones that had whimsically aspired to be a human being, but hadn’t bothered to even take on the form it failed to imitate.

Nevertheless, crude though it might have been, it was most certainly powerfully and sturdily built, and, most notably, it was positioned right in their way. With its huge arms and spined body to reckon with, it was fairly evident that, if the golem didn’t want them to pass, the small party wouldn’t be able to until the giant construct in their way was dismantled. And, considering its positioning and the fact that the Rakes had evidently run in fear of it open being forced back into its room, Seire had a feeling that the golem wasn’t simply going to remain idle while they slipped past it.

Wiping the blood from the blade of his sword, he glanced back into the darkness behind them, watching as the last traces of the enemy vanished into the shadows from whence they’d come. Well, that was fortunate, at least. It would be troublesome to deal with such a powerful enemy as the golem on its own, let alone to do the same with those clawed nuisances hounding the party’s heels. Still, the appearance of this artificial enemy here did explain why those beasts had fought so desperately as he had rushed upon them, and why they had retreated so suddenly. It also resolved any doubt that might have still lurked in the thief’s mind about the hostile nature of this strange guardian, and its intentions to hinder their passing.

“Great,” The thief said, smirking as he casually slung his sword over his shoulder. “We have to kill a boulder. Should be easy!”

“Oh, yes, like flying through a wildfire. No problem.” Mirae seemed recovered from seeing a piece of earth suddenly animate. She looked at Seire through the corner of her eye, mouth twitching.

“Oh? And would you know that from experience?” The thief asked, shooting a grin back over his shoulder.

“I may have tried once or twice.” Her own grin spread across her face. “Nothing quite like imminent severe injury to make an interesting day. Though, I must say, I never expected it to come from a bunch of pebbles.”

“Heh. Don’t make me laugh. That big lug’s probably too slow to hit a particularly energetic turtle. It’ll take a lot more than a few rocks to catch this phantom thief!” Speaking confidently, Seire leveled his blade once again, gazing fearlessly at the said rocks, which, for their part, glared back as the lumbering golem slowly retrieved its arms from the ground, closing its oversized hands into fists. Either the thief didn’t notice that his sword would be quite limited in its effectiveness against such a foe, or he simply didn’t care, for his usual enthusiasm didn’t waver for an instant as he faced off against his artificial adversary.

Lovia stepped back, evidently not sharing her comrade’s enthusiasm for battling such a formidable foe. The golem was, thankfully, distracted by the man who seemed to have caught some sort of insanity, allowing Lovia some breathing room. She looked around, ensuring neither of her other allies had fled in terror - and considered the action herself. Perhaps it would be the wisest course of action in this case...no. She had vowed to find what secrets lay on the third tier of this castle, and thus she would see the mission through to the end. Steeling herself, she stepped forward and began to weave her enchantments.

* * *

Bright flashes drowned out the golem’s light as bolts of lightning struck. The mage herself leaned against a wall near the entryway, keeping far out of the way of the melee fighters. Dark channels twisted their way down the animated rock as the lightning wound into the spikes and, just as quickly, vanished, leaving rough glass to mark its path. The path always faded before reaching one of the glowing junctures that webbed the golem’s back; in fact, Mirae could see hardly any white lines on the spikes. They seemed more like whole stalagmites than boulders cobbled together.

One particularly thin spindle exploded as her attack struck, sending shards of rock flying against the cave’s orange walls. A good many flew into the corners, skittering across the ground, but others came towards the small group. As far as Mirae could tell, none hit her companions, although she thought she saw Lovia hastily cast up a shield. The sudden loss didn’t seem to cause the golem any pain, but it was clearly annoyed. It quickly recovered as attacks came from other quarters, but it still paused every so often, shifting uncomfortably.

Seeing an opening, Lovia outstretched her black-sleeved hand, an icy chill coming from her fingertips and encasing one of the golem’s joints in a block of ice, slowing the huge, stone thing a bit. It hammered down on the black-robed mage’s shield of ice, cracking it, but the cold and the frozen joint slowed it enough for Lovia to dive out of the way...right into a sweeping blow from its other arm. The small, girlish mage was knocked against the wall, heavily bruised by the golem’s assault, and slumped. The ice magic she prepared misfired, putting a thin coating of ice across the cavern floor.

The golem, seeing its chance to finish off one of its adversaries, opened its stone-fanged maw wide, the white light within its body burning ever brighter as, with a mighty roar, it lunged forward with its head, releasing a sudden blast of magic from its throat, a lance of sorts that swiftly coalesced into a mass of razor-sharp, gleaming crystals. This glistening projectile streaked towards its target with tremendous force, crossing the distance in an instant and plunging towards the fallen mage... only to be abruptly deflected as, with a roar to match the golem’s own, a monochrome shape leaped into the path of the incoming projectile, his flowing coat sweeping out around him as he stood his ground, ripping forth his scabbard from his back and swinging it with all his might at the crystalline lance. With a groaning and cracking both of wood and crystal, the two met with overwhelming force as the scabbard collided with the piercing javelin’s tip, knocking it to the side at the last second and sending it crashing harmlessly into the wall of the cavern next to where the magus lay.

BGM: Mezame - Yuki Kajiura

Seire released his grip on his broken scabbard, allowing it to clatter to the ground in pieces as he raised his sword once more, pointing it straight at the golem, which gave a mindless, angry snarl. A fire burned in the thief’s eyes as he stood fast, his expression somewhere between joy at the prospect of a good fight, and rage at the gall of this beast for trying to slay his comrade while she couldn’t even defend herself. “Hey...!” Seire growled, amber eyes flashing as though to match the arcane luminescence of the cave’s protector. “Hey you!” He repeated, louder this time, as he took a step forward. The golem stopped for a moment, as though confused by this small Human’s inexplicable confidence.

“Yeah, that’s right, you! I’m talkin’ to you, you big, worthless pile of pebbles! You must think you’re really something, acting all high and mighty like that!” The thief continued his advance, his voice rising in volume as he did so until his words were resounding throughout the entire cavern, echoing back with renewed strength like the voice of an angry god. “Well, I hate to break it to you, pal, but if you think you can just go around crushing just anybody, then you’re wrong! Dead wrong! You better clean out whatever passes for ears on that stupid looking head of yours, and listen well, because I’m only going to say this once!” The golem cocked its aforementioned stupid-looking head to the side, as though confused by the fact that a lone, unarmored Human was now challenging it so confidently with only a sword to back his words up.

“He does what he likes, and lives as he pleases! If he wants it, he’ll take it! If you try to take it from him, then he’ll kick your ass and steal from you instead! With courage, fortitude, and his burning heart, he’s the one who dictates what will and will not be!” At this point, the ice mage had come to, and was wondering why in the Underground the fool was grandstanding against such a formidable foe. “He doesn’t back down, not in the face of fate or even the impossible! And above all else, he doesn’t tolerate punks like you messing with his comrades! He’s the man who’s about to teach you the meaning of pain! Who is he, you ask? HE’S ME, THE ONE AND ONLY SEIRE VALE-!”

The thief’s bombastic declaration, although impressive, was regrettably left unfinished. The golem, evidently quite unperturbed by the thief’s ultimatum, decided enough was enough, and, raising its fist, brought it crashing down right atop the thief, who was forced to cut off his little monologue and hurl himself to the side, only barely escaping being crushed by sliding across the ice, rolling once, and then planting his sword and skidding to a stop several feet away. The cavern shook with the force of the golem’s mighty blow, and dust began to rain down from the ceiling. Yet, Seire didn’t seem to notice this display of his enemy’s overwhelming strength. Rather, he simply stood up, his hands slowly clenching into fists as his golden eyes glowered murderously from beneath his raven hair. But, most notably of all was one simple change that, in the case of anyone else, would have seemed completely unremarkable.

Seire was no longer smiling.

“You cheeky bastard...” The thief hissed, ripping his sword out of the ice and dropping into a fighting posture. The golem raised its giant fist once again, preparing to bring it down, only to stop mid-swing, for, to the guardian’s surprise - or what approximated it - in the instant that the giant’s vision had been obscured by its own hand, the thief had vanished. The golem looked about in momentary confusion, before abruptly going stock still and then giving a roar of what might have been surprise, for the thief had somehow crossed the distance between them before it could even bring its hand down, sweeping up his sword with an angry roar.

“I!” His blade grazed across the surface of the golem’s body, only to curve straight back down again as his first strike flowed into his second. “WASN’T!” This time, his blade struck a joint in the construct’s waist and cut away a small chunk of stone as Seire stepped forward, reversing his strike once again to plunge his blade straight into the gap he’d just created. “FINISHED!” With this final snarl, he stabbed through the golem’s armor and into the energy making up its core. The guardian howled with anger, yet, to the thief’s annoyance, the surging arcane field in the center of his enemy’s body resisted his piercing blade, sending him stumbling backward as his sword was forced out of the gash it had just created just in time for the golem to deal a frenzied stroke towards its stumbling enemy. Yet, Seire was far from willing to let himself be smashed to bits. Launching himself with the force of his own sword, he allowed himself to slide on the ice, skidding backward and spinning around just in time to whirl out of the way of the golem’s horizontal blow, at the same time completing his rotation to bring his sword up from his side, slashing with the full force of his previous stroke, its deflection, and his retreat all focused into the blade of his rising weapon. His aim was true, for with a grating sound and a flash of light, he cut precisely into the golem’s exposed elbow joint, once again connecting with the magic at its heart. Yet, in the next instant, his sword was once again turned aside as the golem opened its mouth, releasing a mighty roar as it launched another crystalline projectile at the thief.

Bracing himself as best he could upon the ice, Seire leaped upward, flipping head over heels as the crystal lance passed below him, crashing violently into the ground where he had been standing as he himself landed right where he’d intended to: atop the golem’s overextended arm. In an instant, Seire had recovered his balance even as the golem swiped its arm downwards, attempting to knock the thief from his perch. Yet, it was as Seire had already said. The guardian was far, far too slow.

Leaping once more, Seire flipped over the golem’s head, plunging his blade downward and hooking it within the golem’s forehead. Using this as a lever, he caught himself mid-flight, hanging off of the back of the stone guardian’s head. His enemy howled angrily, trying to swat him with his hand, only for Seire to swing casually to the side, causing it to instead strike itself in the side of the head with its own oversized appendage. Recoiling from the might of its own careless blow, the clumsy golem gave an infuriated howl and tried again with the other hand, only for Seire to swing to the opposite side, yielding the same results. “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Why are you still hitting yourself?” The thief taunted, laughing with a slight hint of psychotic hysteria evident in his voice. The angry giant’s roars only grew louder as, enraged, it employed a different strategy, flailing its head suddenly forward as it tried to buck its unwelcome passenger off of it. Seire, however, had been prepared for this, and, even as his unwilling mount attempted to hurl him from where he hung, he had already pulled himself up, flipping over to stand atop his own sword’s hilt, then leaping upward, kicking his blade out from within the golem’s head as he did so, causing the weapon to go flying to the side, ricocheting off the wall and spiraling up towards him even as he righted himself in mid air, extending his hand just in time to snag the hilt of his falchion. Giving a triumphant roar, he descended, at the same time dealing a mighty two-handed slash with all of his strength straight across the reeling golem’s torso. Small stones were shorn from its body, scattering into the air as Seire’s sword carved across its body from its shoulder to its hip, whining as it ground against the stone body of the golem. And yet, once again, to the thief’s mounting rage, the enemy still completely failed to show any signs of damage.

Once more the golem brought down its fist, forcing Seire to draw back his blade and roll out of the way as the formidable hand of the golem crashed down where he had just been standing, only to do the same again a moment later as its second hand descended. Hurling himself to the side, Seire rose only just in time to bring up his sword and bisect another crystal as the golem began a frenzied assault, evidently pained, if not outright harmed, by the thief’s attacks. Well, then... Seire thought, taking a deep breath and preparing to once more leap into the fray. I’ll make it regret this, even if I can’t kill it outright!

“Is that all you’ve got!?” The thief bellowed, darting to the side as the golem answered with another crystalline lance. Skidding out of the creature’s reach, Seire allowed himself to slide over to ice, only to catch himself on a stalagmite and launch himself right back, lunging forward to deal another stab right into the hole he’d carved in the beast’s stomach, made even wider by his last attack. “Don’t make me laugh!” Seire roared. Light flashed wildly throughout the chamber as Seire stabbed once, twice, three times, then spun out of the way as though dancing around the base of the immobile golem, hacking at its side, then at its back as it tried in vain to keep up with his wild and swift assault. Small chips of stone rained down from the construct’s back as Seire dealt a staggering flurry of cuts to its exposed rear, only to dart nimbly out of the way as it retaliated by launching several of the spikes protruding from its body as projectiles which embedded themselves uselessly in the walls, unable to keep up with the thief’s rapid assault.

Countless repeated impacts echoed throughout the cavern as the thief streaked around his target at dizzying speeds, one moment striking at its side, the next bounding along its arm to slash its shoulder. Seire was little more than a blur dancing across and around the surface of the guardian, his blade a monochrome bullet by his sides that struck with overwhelming force, was turned aside, then struck yet again with redoubled force, its rapid impacts like the beating of rain upon its hapless victim. The golem roared and flailed, lashing out wildly, but in vain. And yet, its attempts to defend itself didn’t have to be successful, for even though it could not stop Seire from striking it, the thief could not actually harm it, no matter how many blows he landed upon its body or inside its core. But, it could not be denied that Seire’s attacks had left a mark on it, for the gaps between its joints were much wider now, and glowed much more brightly, pulsing more quickly as though somehow agitated.

Not entirely useless, then, Seire thought, leaping back and flipping head over heels as another fist, followed by several aimless crystalline projectiles, whistled through the air towards him. Three times, his blade flashed in the arcane light of the cave, and in the next instant, three of the incoming projectiles were reduced to harmless shards that scattered around him, while the others flew wide of his position, and the golem’s reach fell short of his retreating form. Landing once more, he skidded across the ice, sliding to a stop alongside his comrades. “Tch,” He spat, swiping the dust off his blade as he slowly rose once again, evidently unphased by his attacks’ lack of results, as, determined as ever, he dropped once more into a battle stance.

Mirae helped Lovia slowly stand up, as golden light spilled over the dark-haired mage’s injured side, mending her wounds. She had hastily stopped her barrage of lightning when the thief entered the fray at close range, preferring to remedy one injury instead of causing another. Lovia smiled shyly at the shorter girl, mumbling a soft “..thank you” before turning her attentions to the huge golem, which still seemed to be focused on the scout who attempted the ill-advised attack. It was evident that the golem would not go down from a frontal assault, even one as powerful as Seire’s. The group needed a plan. The main issue lay in the thing’s stone exterior - bypass that, and it would go down fast. The question was, how would one bypass it?

“Psst... Hello? People?” His skin pale enough to resemble that of a corpse, Curtiss edged around the corner of the entrance passageway, barely kept on his feet by the wall he was clutching at. “Kind of need a little help here, okay?”

The thief, just about to leap once more at the golem, stopped in his tracks, turning to shoot a momentary glare back at the unwelcome interruption from behind him. He was currently quite busy teaching a giant rock the meaning of pain, and being called out by a teammate who, as of yet, hadn’t helped him complete this task was the last thing he wanted to have delay his as-of-yet-futile assault. “What?” Seire hissed, abruptly sweeping up his sword to bisect an incoming crystal even as he turned to face Curtiss, not even bothering to look at the shattered projectile. “In case you hadn’t noticed, some of us are busy he- Er... Whoa... what the hell even happened to you?”

“Not-” Curtiss coughed, then winced as the pain in his ribs momentarily spiked. “Not you, you idiot.” He stumbled further into the passage, still leaning heavily on the wall as he scanned the cavern ahead for the team’s mages. “Hey, medic one and medic two, you hear me? Yeah, I still need some, uh, medic-ing for my head and back and stuff.”

Mirae was beside him before he could let out another groan, cloak rippling from running over. “Go and get yourself injured, of course,” she muttered as she looked quickly over Curtiss’s wounds. “I can slow the bleeding and take the edge off the pain, but other than that, you’re on your own.” Mirae made a mental note to get him to a proper healer once they were through; these were far beyond what she or Lovia could heal.

“Y-y’know, you could have just tried doing something before you decided to fight the, uh-” Curtiss craned his head towards the chamber again. “...what are you guys fighting, again?”

“And you could have avoided smashing your head into a rock. Stop moving.”

“Hey, remember who you’re talking to, here. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me, ever. If I get knocked down, it’s because there’s no way, at all, to not get knocked down. You want to blame someone? Blame Seire and the rakes.”

Mirae snorted. “You’re sounding better already. And Seire is kind of the one letting us have this leisurely conversation instead of being impaled.”

“What, the rock monster over there? From what I can see, that thing could aim at a non-moving target point-blank and still miss entirely. You’re giving coat-boy too much credit.”

The glare that Lovia gave Curtiss would have sprouted icicles were it any chillier. She bit back a sharp retort, as the pain in her side flared up again. As good of a healer as Mirae was, there was still some internal damage that would have to be healed naturally. She winced, as she took a step to the side. One of her ribs was probably broken - she had better not exert herself overly during the rest of this battle. Now, where was she...ah yes. How would they take out the golem? It was too tough for even lightning to so much as put a dent in it. So there had to be a way to weaken it, but how...

Curtiss rolled his eyes and shrugged, frowned, shrugged again. “Oh, hey, I can move properly again, that’s nice.” He took a few experimental deep breaths and nodded at the resulting lack of pain, then tensed as a sensation akin to being bludgeoned with an iron club invaded the back of his head. “...still got a killer headache, though. Eh, at least I can think straight now, so I guess that’s good enough.”

Ignoring Lovia’s protest, he leaped back to his feet and jogged back to the mouth of the tunnel, taking care not to move his head too much as he peered into the golem’s chamber, only to duck back as several shards of crystal slammed into the wall only a few feet from where he stood as Seire once more slashed his sword right into the path of one of the ubiquitous projectiles, destroying it with ease and scattering its many pieces away from their intended target: himself. It seemed he had made the golem quite angry, and, moreover, that he intended to continue his attack despite this fact, if his stance was any indication. But despite his evident determination to continue hacking away at the stone golem until either it died or his sword broke, it seemed he had done very little to the enemy aside from earning its ire.

No progress, then. In that case, Curtiss decided, they might as well pull out the big guns sooner rather than later. “Hey, coat-boy!”

“What now?!” The thief asked irritably, stopping in his tracks and shooting another glare back at his teammate...
"The Apocalypse is basically just a tutorial." - Sicon112.

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AMimsyBorogove
 
Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:38 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby AMimsyBorogove on Wed May 29, 2013 11:19 pm

“Toss me a bomb, will you?”

“...huh?”

“I said, toss me a bomb,” repeated Curtiss. “You have ears; use them.”

“What bomb?” The thief asked, cocking his head as though confused by his teammate’s sudden command, yet the mischievous smirk he still wore cast doubt on exactly how genuine this perplexment was.

Curtiss closed his eyes and sighed. “Look, I do not want to have this argument right now. You have a bomb. I saw it. You had that package in the tunnel and you put it in your pocket and it had that weird goblin symbol on it that means high explosives and that means it was a bomb. You have a bomb. Hand it over. Now.”

“Huh, I don’t recall anything like that,” The thief said, whistling innocently. “Nope, no bombs here!”

Fixing the thief with a glare, Curtiss let his right hand drift to one of the knives sheathed at his hip. “Do you want me to stab you? Because, you know, I’d really be quite happy to oblige, believe it or not.”

“Well that’s rather uncalled for. Are you sure you don’t have an anger management problem of some kind? Maybe you should get that checked on.”

“Funny thing about that,” Curtiss said as his fingers settled on a dagger, slowly easing it into his hand. “I’ve already identified the problem. He’s standing right in front of me, in fact, and he is currently refusing to give me a bomb.”

“Ah. But what if he doesn’t have a bomb?” The man in question replied, giving another cheeky grin.

“The question is moot. He does.” Curtiss shifted his footing a fraction to the right, eyes searching Seire’s coat for any conspicuously full pockets, only for his gaze to wander to to the slowly shifting mass of assorted rocks and glowing cracks behind the thief. “...ooh. All right, either the rock monster is yawning, or it really wants that wall over there to die horribly, along with everyone in front of it.” He squinted. “Judging by the shiny green spike things in its mouth, probably the latter.”

Seire raised an eyebrow, spinning about and raising his blade as all traces of his old smile faded from his face, his golden eyes settling upon the stone face of their seemingly invulnerable adversary just in time to witness several crystalline projectiles bursting forth from its throat as, with a mighty roar that shook the cavern, it opened fire once again. “Tch. Damn. I guess we forgot about someone, didn’t we?” The thief remarked, raising his blade. With the speed and spread of the incoming barrage, there could be no questioning the fact that the time for escape was long passed. There was only one thing to do, then. Gritting his teeth, Seire leveled his blade, and then swept it upward with a roar of exertion, slashing once, twice, three times, and then a fourth all in the space of an instant. Impact after impact rang out through the cave as a shower of dust and jewel shards spiraled up into the air, momentarily obscuring the thief from view as the lightning fast lances speared the ground upon which he had stood. And yet, in another instant, that dust cleared, revealing the thief standing, his head bloodied by several pieces of shrapnel, but unbowed. His arms and shoulders now bore several fresh cuts, prominent crimson stains beginning to appear across the once pristine surface of his prized coat. For a moment, he stood stock still as though dumbfounded. Then... he spoke, his words punctuated by a slight trembling in his sword arm as his eyes narrowed like those of a wild beast.

“This is my blood,” he murmured quietly. “Please excuse me for a moment. It’s just... it’s been a while since I’ve seen it like this,” The thief’s voice retained its composure, but it slowly began to rise in volume as a note of barely controlled fury entered it. Seire gave a smile that might have been called unhinged, and slowly began fishing about within his pockets for something, his hands trembling with rage. “And, of course, by like this, I mean...” He planted his sword firmly in a crack in the floor, and began painstakingly picking out a few shards of the crystalline lances that yet lingered within the wounds they had created. Drawing one such fragment forth, he slowly clenched his fist.

“...Staining... my... COAT!” A loud snap echoed through the chamber, audible even over the sudden roar of the thief, although whether this was the sound of his composure finally reaching its limits or the crystal in his hand shattering, one couldn’t be sure. Either way, however, it became quite clear that the level of charisma he had so carefully maintained up until this point had just... broken.

“You.. bastard... You weren’t satisfied with just cutting up my sleeves, now were you? No, you had to have the gall to actually cut ME, didn’t you?! And now look what you’ve done... Do you have any idea how hard it is to clean this thing?! Can your puny intellect grasp how much this is going to cost to FIX?!” Slowly, the thief drew forth a small object from his pocket, as, almost without looking at the stolen bomb he now held, he began to unfasten a small detonator from its side, preparing the powerful mining explosive for detonation. “No, of course you can’t. But it doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re still going to pay for that. I didn’t want to use this quite yet. I was being generous, letting you live a little longer so that you could relish in your final battle, so that you could enjoy all this as much as I was. Not anymore. I’m done playing with you. I hope you’re satisfied, because I’m going to make you burn for this... RIGHT NOW!” Turning back to his comrade, Seire held up the bomb and its detonator with one hand whilst at the same time drawing his sword once again with the other. “Hey! I think you said something about a bomb?” He gave a mirthless sneer as the light of fury began to burn within his eyes. “Well, look what I just found! Would you be so kind as to destroy everything while I go and take restitution for my coat out of this bastard’s rocky hide?”

“That is why I wanted it, yes,” Curtiss said, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards, and Seire jerked slightly as he noticed the other scout had gotten within arm’s length of him unnoticed. “Might want to run back to the tunnel first, though,” he continued, glancing between the device in his hand and the still-bulging pocket its most recent owner had drawn it from. “From the looks of it, this thing could take out half the room, maybe even a bit of the staircase if I aim it properly.”

“Then aim it properly,” Seire said simply. “But it’d be a shame to let the ladies have all the fun. So, while you’re getting ready, I think I’ll go kick its ass a little!”


* * *

It was then that Lovia realized it. It was all so simple, really. “M...irae?” she said, a little louder than her usually soft voice. The blue-eyed mage turned from scoping out the state of the battle, looking at her comrade. “I...I have a plan.” She told her younger comrade, who nodded in agreement. “....but we’ll need a distraction”, Lovia finished, in her usually soft voice, turning back to the battle. The men’s antics seemed to have attracted the ire of the colossal golem, which was attempting to crush them with its considerable might.

Mirae would have laughed at the impeccable timing, had a pile of rocks not been threatening their lives. “Well, then. Shall we?” She gave the other mage an encouraging grin, which Lovia shyly returned. Her smile changed as she began to slip around the edge of the cavern, dropping its friendly air and becoming tinged with glee, as her dark-robed ally proceeded to quietly edge around the opposite corner.

Mirae tilted her head, pressing it close to her shoulder in concentration, and began. She had broken off her attack before when one of her companions was engaged with the golem. Now two of them were close to her target, and there was nothing for it but to try and avoid them as best she could.

One bolt of lightning struck the golem’s, for lack of a better term, chest, then another. She slowly increased her speed, white flashes darting through the battle. Occasionally, one brushed by a human, Mirae compressing it in alarm to a thinner beam as it passed. Is it enough yet? The golem was attempting to evade now, a promising sign, turning its body away from the girl even as she paced, always keeping the fighters in view.

Somehow, she kept up the rapid fire assault, and was soon rewarded with a touch of warmth on her face, bleeding off of the bolts. The golem would be worse off in that regard. Just in time: the chamber was starting to swim in front of her eyes. She broke off, hoping she’d done enough.

Lovia nodded - this was all going according to plan. She stepped forward, as the thing turned its - now superheated - limbs, slamming the two men and trying to rush at the lightning mage - but it found its way blocked by a wall of ice. Lovia raised her arms, hoping the men would note this and get out of the way; and rapidly chilled the thing, freezing portions of its body and slowing its movements almost to a halt.

Lovia smiled. She had seen Seire’s explosives earlier. If the man had any sort of intelligence - although she had already given up on any sort of hope that Seire had sense - he would attack now. The thing had been rendered much more vulnerable by her plan. The superheating of the rock would have put some cracks in the thing, and freezing it again would certainly render it brittle, given the warping and cracking of the rock that made up the golem’s body. Now the only thing that remained was to actually place a finishing blow on the thing.

Unfortunately, despite being slowed, the thing was angry, and Lovia was too close to it for comfort. It slammed down on the ground where, had Lovia not quickly dodged sideways, she would have been flattened. Damn. The thing was still coming, and struck a few more blows that, were it not slowed, would have left a mage-shaped red stain on the floor where the girl had been. Anytime now, Seire...Curtiss? she thought, hoping the two scouts had noticed the fact that the golem was after her. Another arm strike came, this one followed by the same sweep that had knocked her out earlier. This time, Lovia was ready for it - the arm impacted on a wall of ice that Lovia had conjured at the last minute, but as she tried to step back, she was stopped by the wall of the edge of the cavern. She silently cursed herself for not looking where she was going, as the golem raised its colossal fist once more to crush the mage.

BGM: Tenka Fubu

“HEY BASTARD, YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE!” This sudden roar was the only warning before, a split second later, flying as though fired from a cannon, a bullet of white, gold, and newly shed crimson came hurtling into the path of the golem’s descending fist from the side. The loudly bellowing projectile in question, extending his armored feet, slammed straight into the construct’s arm, dealing a powerful kick that, when combined with the stone giant’s momentum, was more than enough to redirect the intended coup de grace several meters to the left, slamming the creature’s hand into the wall of the cave with enough force to bring down several large stalactites right on top of it. The smaller of these shards of debris simply shattered upon its surface, but one particularly large stone managed to wedge its way into the joint between the construct’s body and its arm, impaling the golem clear down to its arcane fastenings, only for the stone in question to be shattered by the power within the construct, scattering its shards right into the inside edges of the golem’s body, causing it to momentarily lurch forward. At that same instant, Seire braced himself against his titanic adversary’s arm, wedged firmly as it was within the wall, and leaped forward, sweeping up his sword backhanded as he did so in an upward strike aimed straight for the gash he’d already carved into the golem’s lower chest. The enemy, before it could even regain its balance from the first impact, found itself slumping right into the path of a mighty hammer blow into the very core of its body.

“THIS IS FOR TRYING TO HIT A GIRL!” Seire roared as the golem’s arcane “joint” repelled his sword yet again, but in turn released a backlash that slammed the colossus backward with surprising force. This time, however, Seire had no intention of letting his blade exit the wound it had entered. Hooking the curved edge of his sword on the inside of the golem’s torso, he hung in place, smirking as the giant had just enough time to realize what his plan was before he put it into motion. “AND THIS IS FOR WRECKING A PERFECTLY GOOD COAT!” He finished, roaring out this final grievance as, at the same instant, he tugged with all his might on his sword, ripping it free from where it had been wedged, a motion which, at the same time, pulled him up with tremendous force, and drove the blade once more into the golem’s core. Yet another shock of impact rang out as, carried by the force of his blade’s rejection from the construct’s heart, Seire was flipped heels over head and launched straight upward... right into the golem’s jaw, to which he summarily dealt a vicious flipkick right as it was about to spit another of its crystal spears. With a loud crack, the projectile launched, only to be intercepted by the golem’s rapidly closing jaw as its head snapped back from the whiplash. And, while the kick itself would do nothing to a target that had no neck to break, Seire didn’t have to damage the construct. After all, its poor timing would only lead to it damaging itself. Sure enough, with a loud crash like an explosion, the golem’s crystal spear burst forth from the inside of its face, shattering its jaw into several pieces and tearing off a good part of its lower head as rubble rained down around it, from the midst of which flew Seire, doing yet another aerial flip before landing on the icy floor with surprisingly good balance and skidding to a stop right next to the mage who had, only a moment before, been within an inch of her life.

But it wasn’t to Lovia that Seire was looking. Rather, it was to the gray-clothed scout lurking just beyond the entranceway to the golem’s chamber. “Throw it now, Curtiss!” The thief commanded. “Let’s show this eyesore what hell feels like!” Giving this command, he then turned to Lovia, then to Mirae.

“Oh, right,” He said, giving a slight smile as he slowly began to calm down. “Just so you know, we might want to be running.”

* * *

A crooked grin spread on Curtiss’s face as he inspected his handiwork. A ten-second delay before detonation was almost certainly more than he needed, but it never hurt to be prepared.

From the golem’s chamber came a wordless shout of warning, and the scout looked upwards to notice Seire and the two mages running past him, the light in their opponent’s eyes fading as it detected a sudden drop in quantity of nearby potential threats. He temporarily considered asking the tagalong thief precisely how he’d managed to kick a multi-ton rock monster’s jaw shut while it was in the process of spitting half a dozen spikes throughout the chamber, but, deciding enough time had been wasted already, settled instead for a mere “You took your damn time”.

Ignoring his teammates’ retorts, he started the stolen explosive’s timer and lobbed it through the archway. His grin widened as he watched the bomb arc through the air on a direct course towards its target.

His good mood disappeared when the golem’s eyes lit up again. “Well, that figures.”

***

Mirae had reached a turn in the corridor, propelling the still injured Lovia in front of her, when she turned back and saw -- and hastily thrust the other mage around the corner. “Damn! Get down!”

She herself stayed anxiously at the edge, watching as her companions sped past her, Curtiss yelling something about running. What did he think they were doing? As soon as his heels had whipped past her, Mirae pushed away from the wall and threw herself to the ground - by coincidence, atop the elder mage. An explosion ripped the air behind them. A cloud of dust swept over the group, bringing with it the sound of boulders plummeting to the tunnel floor. Ears ringing, she coughed, the taste of stone coating her mouth as she breathed in.

“I thought...” Seire hissed, slowly rising and glaring down at his now dust-coated, in addition to tattered and bloodied coat as though he would vaporize all of its new damages with the power of his eyes. “I told you to aim it properly.” Slowly, the subject of his wrathful expression shifted from his coat over to Curtiss.

“I did,” Curtiss groaned, leaning heavily against the back of the tunnel. He rubbed the back of his head, cringed, and gave his hand a sour look when he drew it back and noticed the blood and dust covering it. “The rock monster took issue with it.”

“Tch,” The thief growled, gritting his teeth as his eyes narrowed with annoyance. So, it seemed that the golem wouldn’t die so easily, then. But, Seire was a firm believer in the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Just because the golem had managed to toss back one bomb didn’t mean that it would be able to throw back every single one they might throw. They’d just need to try harder to make it impossible for the enemy to stop them. This just made it a little more annoying. The thief grimaced slightly, reaching into his pocket. This was the reason why he always bought - or stole, in this case - in bulk.

When the dark-robed mage came to her senses, her ears still ringing from the explosion, she felt the odd weight atop her chest, and realized that her arms were around Mirae - presumably for protection of some sort. The explosion had startled her, and most likely she had - to her mortification - held on to the girl out of fear. Her pale face flushing red with embarrassment, Lovia pushed the younger girl off her, mumbling apology to her.

Mirae herself seemed somewhat disoriented - “Lov....wha? Agh, my head..” she replied, clearly having taken more explosive force than Lovia did. After helping the confused girl stand up and checking to ensure she was not injured too badly, Lovia turned her attention to the borderline-insane thief. Seeing him reach into his pocket, Lovia knew exactly what he intended to do. For this plan - if you could call it that - to work, he’d need a distraction.

A small smirk appeared on the pale mage’s face. What were mages good at, if not putting on a show? She drew line with Seire, nodding at him. “I hope you know what...” she began to say, almost forgetting that the person to whom she was speaking was half-mad. “Forget it...” She hoped that whatever insane tactic he had in mind would work, as nothing else had.

Mirae rolled to brace herself against the wall, head swimming. Unfortunately, as her vision cleared, the scene didn’t become any more sensible. Their guest, his coat no longer shining white but still distinctive, was fiddling with two more of the explosives; while the goblins may have made the bombs their own, they were still horribly recognizable. “What are you doing? Trying to bring the cave down on top of us?”

Lovia looked to Mirae, and smiled in reassurance. "It's the only plan that could work. We just don't have enough firepower otherwise." Inwardly, she agreed with Mirae - but she'd take probable death over certain death any day. If nothing else, even if she...didn't make it out - she swallowed, as it still bothered her even to think the word "die", irrational as it was - someone else could claim whatever was there. Hoping Mirae thought the same way, she turned to the white-cloaked madman, waiting for him to work whatever madness he had in mind.

“Oh, are we talking about plans now?” Curtiss cut in, glancing at his teammates before returning his gaze to the far end of the tunnel. “Good. We’re gonna need a new one. Preferably one that doesn’t involve, you know-” he indicated the entrance to the golem’s cave, which now bore a distinct resemblance to the passage where they’d encountered the rakes- “that. As in, a way to toss over the bomb that doesn’t involve it being tossed back.”

The thief abruptly interjected with a slight chuckle, rising to his feet and gazing determinedly at the closest opening in the wall of rubble now standing between them and their target. “What we have to do is obvious,” Seire said simply. “During that last engagement, I noticed something. A stalactite that fell into an opening in its shoulder joint was repelled by that energy field holding it together, but the pieces stayed inside its body, as though it didn’t have enough force to push them out. It was weakened somehow, and I don’t think I need to tell you how. All those spells you shot it with didn’t just daze it. They made it vulnerable.” Delivering this matter-of-fact explanation, he calmly began setting the timer on the explosive packages he held. “So, then, you want a way to make sure it can’t stop us from setting off the bomb?” He gave a mirthless smirk, holding up the charges that now needed nothing more than to have their timers - set to 75 seconds a piece - started on the final countdown.

Curtiss frowned. “I... actually, I don’t recall seeing that. Could you be a bit more specific, maybe?”

“I do believe I just said where, or were you not listening? The breaks in the outside of its body, that it seems to possess in place of internal joints make the ideal targets, if it’s too dazed to stop us or to repel the charges. In any case, it makes no difference. We know how to stun it. We have the bombs we need. Now there’s only one thing left to do: blow that thing up from the inside out before it even realizes what’s hit it. So, then, if you’ll excuse me, I have a giant rock to kill,” Seire answered, turning and heading for what was left of the entrance to the cavern.

“Are you insane?” Mirae exclaimed, stepping forward and grabbing onto Seire’s tattered sleeve, momentarily holding him back. “Actually. Don’t answer that,” She continued, knowing all too well what the answer to that question was. “But seriously, what exactly are you planning to do?”

“Simple. So long as the golem is stunned, there’s are plenty of openings for me to place these bombs inside it. With it mostly powered down from being blasted with all the attacks we can throw at it, it’ll have no way to stop me, now will it? With the proper timing, we can blow it to pieces without any trouble,” The thief explained.

“Proper timing... I’m assuming that translates to ‘get its attention while I stick a bomb on its spikes’ or something along those lines,” Curtiss mused. “I think we can work with that.”

“Why settle for its spiky backside? I’m gonna blow off the thing’s ugly face!” Seire declared resolutely. “Er... What’s left of it, anyway,” he added quickly.

Curtiss squinted back down the tunnel, the jade gleam of the golem’s wrecked maw barely visible at its current distance. “Sure, why not?”

Mirae blinked at the pair. “What, are you just going to waltz up and toss them in at the right second? Perfect choreography?”

“Yes,” the Thief replied bluntly. “I have the timer right here. You certainly kept up that last little cannonade of yours long enough to render delicate matters like timing irrelevant. So long as I keep my eye on the clock and you people don’t get sloppy and shoot me, it should be a walk in the park - for a professional like me, that is.” Seire seemed, at least, to have momentarily forgotten his blind fury at the destruction of his coat, since it seemed he was back to his old boastful self, but despite his seeming cheerfulness there was a certain harshness in his voice that spoke volumes of his real thoughts. He didn’t want this conversation to go on any longer than it had to. He would dismiss whatever problems the others had with this, settle the plan as quickly as possible, and then, he quite clearly intended to kill the golem, no matter what got in his way. Whether or not it was going to be easy or hard didn’t matter to him, because in Seire’s mind, the deed was already done: it was just a matter of means, at this point.

Noting the edge in his teammate’s voice, Curtiss sighed and shot the mages a wry smile. “Well, at least it sounds like a viable plan,” he commented. “And he’s serious about this. Somewhat. Definitely eager, at least.” He turned to Seire. “So, since my knives are probably worthless against that thing, want me to run interference or something?”

“Run interference?” Mirae inquired, raising an eyebrow. “What, intercepting hits for us?”

“Sort of.” Curtiss searched his thoughts for a moment, then continued, “You’ve worked with that Darren guy from Severed Claws, right? Perfect pacifist, can’t throw a dagger to save his life, and yet when some insane wizard starts shooting fireballs and lightning at him like crazy, he just leaps and dodges and runs everywhere, gets right up in the guys face, and talks him into calming down somehow.”

“Hm. He also mentioned that he was terrified.”

Curtiss smirked. “Not a problem. I kept my cool being chased by a half-summoned behemoth in the underground; I can deal with some random rock monster.”

“Very nice,” Mirae responded. “But I doubt talking will help in this case, no matter how serene you are.”

Shrugging, Curtiss replied, “Wasn’t expecting it to. Still, I think running around and getting up in its face should be enough of a distraction to take a good deal of the heat off the rest of you, and that’s enough to satisfy me. Not sure about you guys, of course, but that’s your problem.”

Lovia nodded towards the thief. “I’ve got just enough magical power left to at least keep up a steady barrage, but we better make it quick.” She flexed her arm experimentally - it felt slightly numb, partially from the cold of her own magic, partially from the low reserves that were left. “Don’t worry, Mirae. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive.” She smiled shyly at the younger mage, not voicing her actual thoughts on the matter, which were more along the lines of, “Oh god, we are all going to die. Or at least, Seire is.” Granted, that last part wasn’t exactly undesirable. Regardless, there was little point in worrying - either this would work, or the annoying thief would burn to death within a fiery explosion of his own making. Either way, it was favorable from her point of view. She turned back forward, steeling herself for the final rush.

“Wonderful. Misjudging the odds is always good.” Mirae swung around to face the tunnel mouth as well, blinking to clear her blurred sight. She sighed and shook her head. Well, this is going to be fun.

BGM: Diving in Without Hesitation

“Since it seems you’re finally done chatting,” Seire cut in loudly, “If you’d all be so kind as to help me beat it senseless, that’d be great. Now, if you’ll excuse me...” With those words, the thief planted his weapon for a moment, started the countdown on both charges, and then once again took up his sword. “...It’s time to close the final act of this charade,” He finished. Two bombs in one hand and a blade in the other, the thief turned towards the entrance, and then dived once more through the breach.

Raising his blade before him as he entered, Seire only had just enough time to meet the lifeless, yet piercing gaze of the golem before, with a loud crash, his eyes were immediately drawn to the gaping hole in the construct’s face where its mouth had been as, in an instant, countless whirling crystals took form from amidst the energy inside the guardian’s throat. Unlike before however, it seemed to be making no effort to condense these countless razor-sharp shards into any single cohesive unit. Rather, it was simply creating them in one instant, and firing them rapidly in the next, releasing a piercing rain all across the space around the entrance.

Seire leaped aside, skirting the edge of the cave and darting between several prominent stalagmites sprouting up from the floor of the cavern, many of which shattered in his wake as they were struck by the lightning-fast shower of incoming crystalline fragments. The golem bellowed, whipping down its arm in a flash just as the thief tried to break cover and dart up to its side in an attempt to get into a blind spot, forcing Seire to once more hurl himself backward along the ice, skidding right back into the firing range of the projectile shower in exchange for escaping the reach of the construct’s formidable arm. To his surprise, however, there was much more to the golem’s attack than there first seemed to be. A flash of light erupted almost instantly from the stone guardian’s arm as the magic within it surged to a fever pitch. The thief had only just enough time to behold this sudden change, however, before it had dispersed once again, flashing out from the artificial giant’s palm just as it struck the frozen ground.

And then, with a loud crack that was most certainly more than the mere formation of ice, countless crystalline shards began to erupt all around the construct’s planted hand, streaking forward like an advancing wave directly towards the fleeing thief. It can create crystals through its arms?! Seire realized with surprise, having only just enough time to leap into the air before the ground he had just stood upon was overtaken by the advancing wave, which collided with the wall a moment later and shattered impotently beneath him. This did not mean, however, that he was out of danger yet. Giving a faint whistling as they split through the air of the cavern, the incoming crystal projectiles from the golem’s broken mouth began to arc in from the side, completely cutting the thief off. Another moment, and their aim surely would have been upon him even as he caught onto the wall and launched himself to the side, away from the crystal coated floor and back toward surer footing.

Abruptly, the golem reared its head back, the expression on what remained of its face bearing an odd resemblance to that of a man suffering from a severe case of hiccups, and something small and metallic flashed green in the light of the rock beast’s ruptured maw as it bounced off the remains of its lower jaw and tumbled to the ground. The sound of stone breaking stone rang out from the other side of the room, and Seire turned to see Curtiss leaning against the side of the chamber entrance, idly twirling a dagger in one hand, debris from half a broken stalactite scattered below the other. He mumbled something the thief couldn’t hear from where the golem had forced him to move (although Seire thought he made out the words “couldn’t even drop a feather without” at one point), then cupped his free hand around his mouth and roared, “Hey, blockhead! Look at me, I’m a target!”

For some reason, the golem seemed to respond to the taunt, digging both hands into the ground around it and throwing up another massive wave of spikes. As Curtiss smoothly sidestepped the attack, Seire decided to take advantage of the reprieve provided by the golem’s sudden distraction to move back behind the cover of the remaining stalagmites, a decision which proved to be tremendously wise when a moment later, two more figures entered the chamber, already releasing the first of many spells. As a rain of icicles and lightning showered down upon the golem even as it flailed about trying to strike the rapidly fleeing shape of Curtiss, Seire glanced down towards the twin packages in his hands. Fifty-four seconds left, it seemed, until the battle would be all over. It was just a question of what would be left after that.

The two mages followed swiftly after the scouts. Lovia raised her arms as she entered the cave, shards of ice flying out immediately towards the adversary. Beside her, lightning arced down towards the center of the cavern. Mirae didn’t seem to be aiming for the golem; rather, she seemed to be focused on keeping the bolts away from the human combatants. However, this fit the layout of the battle well, as for every strike that went astray and hit the far wall, another glanced the mass of animated rock. At the least, it was an impressive light show, particularly when her own icy projectiles blazed momentarily with reflected light.

The golem recoiled again as another bolt of lightning connected with its stalactite-encrusted shell, shedding hand-sized plates of ice from its back and left shoulder in the process. One arm ponderously raised itself above its owner’s head, then slammed into the ground with enough force to create a tangle of jagged cracks around the site of impact. Faint tremors began to circulate through the cavern floor, growing in intensity with each passing second, as a roughly linear section of ground extending from the golem’s buried hand to the chamber entrance slowly bulged outwards.

Curtiss grimaced as the floor beneath his left foot spontaneously began to rise; apparently, the rock monster had had been holding back much more than he’d thought. At once, the part of the hill closest to the golem’s fist broke into a wall of stalagmites, which shattered any clusters of spikes in its path as it spread like a cracking whip down the ridge. The scout muttered a curse and threw himself to the right, only barely avoiding having his foot skewered by a sharpened pillar of stone. Beside him, the row of spikes continued to its destination at the edge of the entranceway, isolating him from the mages but failing to do any physical harm.

Another crack of sound from the other end of the chamber announced the golem’s next attack, a relatively horizontally-oriented barrage of crystal. Instinctively, Curtiss flattened himself face-first against the wall of stalagmites, wincing as he listened to the projectiles whistle past his back and embed themselves into the chamber wall. Through the minute gap between the pillars the scout was pressed against, another face suddenly appeared in front of his. Curtiss jerked backwards, wincing as his still-sore head wound reacted to the sudden movement; then, recognizing Mirae’s features, he muttered, “Hi. Gonna take a bit to get out of here. You’re on your own for now.”

The mage murmured acknowledgement and turned her attention back to the fight, leaving Curtiss to work out exactly how he would make good on his plan to escape.

Too focused on her own work to notice her two companions’ conversation, Lovia moved her hands quickly together, forcing the deadly array of icicles into a vortex. The barrage, now concentrated, hailed down upon the golem’s rocky hide, causing it to bellow in pain and annoyance as its arm rose ever so slowly to meet the rain. Its roar made the rubble pile behind her shake perilously, a few loose pebbles tumbling down to knock against her boots. However, her attack continued unabated. The spinning tunnel of ice swerved first one way, then the other around the arm, coaxing it out through a series of feints. At last, the appendage gave a wide swing, and the path was clear. Lovia lost no time in redirecting her tornado to the gaping wound that once was the golem’s lower jaw. While she was under no illusion that her ice would bring the creature down, her magic might be able to interfere with that of the golem.

The moment passed quickly; the golem, perhaps figuring out another way to stop the barrage, which was more than she had given it credit for, slammed its arm once more into the cavern floor. The shuddering of the ground was enough to make Lovia grab the wall for balance. With mounting horror, she watched the earth between the golem and where she stood with Mirae begin to rise.

One of the stone pillars to the side shuddered and toppled over. Before the stalagmite had even hit the ground, Curtiss charged out of the gap its destruction had left and made for the golem, brandishing the downed crystal spike he’d used to free himself like a javelin in his right hand. One well-executed leap carried him over the first line of spikes that had just begun to erupt from the floor around him, and then he had reached his opponent, yelling, “Here, you dropped this!” as he brought his makeshift spear down point-first into the nearest eye.

The golem roared soundlessly and lashed out with unanticipated speed, its jagged hands cutting a bloody line across the middle of Curtiss’s abdomen even as he threw himself backwards. He stumbled to a halt a few meters outside of his foe’s reach, slightly off balance and hungrily sucking in air from even such a glancing blow, and inspected his wound and weapon with a mixture of distaste and irritation, the former much more painful than harmful, the latter broken down to less than a third of its former length.

A quick look at his surroundings revealed to the scout that his opponent had also suffered purely superficial damage- specifically, a jagged scratch or three around one eye- but had nonetheless failed to complete its earlier attack. The portion of ground the golem had been manipulating, evidently intended to have been a field of spikes, had collapsed inwards into a shallow bed of jagged, uneven stone- sharp, but nowhere near as life-threatening as what the uninterrupted attack would have been.

There was a shout from the wrecked archway, and the scout turned to see Mirae, eyes fixed on the ground, scrambling over the broken floor to where he was. “Curtiss! You hurt?” she asked, crouching down beside him.

“No, and neither is the golem,” Curtiss responded, still slightly short of breath. “Now, get back and keep your head down if you don’t need it up in case the rock monster wants to go for a repeat performance.” He leaped back towards the gap in the wall of spikes, but stopped just short of the stalagmite he’d downed earlier. “Oh, also? Try shooting it in the eye, I don’t think it likes that. Meanwhile, I’m going to bring down a couple more of the spikes, see if I can land them on the thing’s skull, um, the rock monster equivalent of a skull, something like that.”

“Good tip. And-” Mirae sighed. “Don’t kill yourself.”

“Thanks.” With that, Curtiss hopped over the stone stump and disappeared from the mage’s view.

Less than a second later, the area he’d been occupying was filled with enough crystal to cut a fully armored knight to scraps of bloodied flesh and steel. Mirae glanced at the golem, its arms flailing in apparent rage, and winced before making her way back to the broken archway.

Flashing its foes the dirtiest glare a non-sentient pile of animated rock could manage with only half a face, the golem raised both arms above its head, preparing to cover the entire room in impossibly sharp stone spikes, walls and ceiling included. Its plans received an unexpected delay when a disorganized cluster of lightning bolts jetted out from beyond its chamber’s entrance and connected with the eye Curtiss had previously attacked. It reared back and tilted its head away from the direction of the assault in an attempt to prevent further harm, only for another barrage to strike the region around its other eye.

The golem’s next reaction was to bring one of its massive limbs to bear as a shield for its face, reaching back with the other to prepare its own assault. Focused as it was on Mirae’s attacks, it completely failed to notice one of the nearby stalagmites it had risen earlier falling towards it until the pillar had already smashed it face-first against the ground. The rock monster immediately braced its crude hands against the ground and pushed, using its supernatural strength to force itself upright once more, only for a second stalagmite to topple onto its head as well. The third actually broke one of the spikes on its back upon connecting; the fourth and fifth only landed glancing blows, but by then their target was already covered in a steadily growing coat of ice and, for the moment, completely unable to move.

Lovia gave her fellow mage a grin as frigid energy continued to pour from her hands. “Well, this seems to be working nicely. I can’t help but wonder what Curtiss will think of our revision to his plan, though.”

Mirae did not return the smile, and as Lovia turned back to her target, grin fading a little, the younger mage sank haggardly against the wall. “Somehow,” she said as she eyed the scout in question, who was evidently busy inspecting some of the downed crystal spikes beyond the wrecked stalagmite wall, “I don’t think he’ll mind.”

* * *

BGM: Luminous Sword - Yuki Kajiura

Seire had watched anxiously, his eyes darting between the golem’s furious assault on his companions and the timers of the two bombs as they slowly counted down to zero. He wanted to dive into the fray at once and assist his allies in defending against the golem’s attack, but he realized all too keenly that he couldn’t risk it. If he became trapped along with them, then the bombs he held would only kill them as well as himself in the end. No, his only choice was to trust in his companions and wait until the very end to make his move, giving the golem no time to stop him. And so, he had remained perched atop a tall slab of fallen rocks from the ceiling, suspended just above the ocean of crystalline shards as he watched the battle unfold, waiting for his chance to attack.

Finally, he had gotten that chance.

With twenty two seconds remaining on the clock, the Thief at last began his final assault. Leaping from his vantage point even as the golem was still recoiling from the impact of Curtiss and Lovia’s frigid assault, Seire launched himself over the remains of the crystal wave, landing unharmed atop the frozen trench left in the wake of Lovia’s ice attack on the golem. Using this very ice coating the ground to protect him from the shrapnel beneath, Seire rushed forward down the crystalline passage, leaping forward with the bombs in his hand. The golem, immobile as it was, could not hope to stop him as he drew back his arm, and, with a loud roar, plunged the first bomb into the hole he himself had carved just above its waist.

...Only to give a cry of surprise as, with a flash of light from inside, he found himself flung backward by a sudden backlash as the bomb was forced back out of the golem’s wounded chest, his arm carried with it. Turning his flight backward into a full rotation, he flipped head-over-heels and landed once more atop the ice, his golden eyes widening as he realized what had just happened.

The golem hadn’t been fully weakened. It still had enough power left to keep him from planting the bomb! With now only seventeen seconds left before the charges detonated, Seire realized that he might only have one option left to ensure the golem’s destruction. If he remained up until the very end, keeping the charges right next to the construct until they could detonate and destroy it, then he might still have a chance of winning. However, doing so would surely cost his life, and the King of Thieves couldn’t afford to die today. In that case, there could be no questioning what he had to do. If the golem still had to be weakened, then he’d just do it himself!

“Bastard... Didn’t I tell you already?!” Seire roared, raising his blade one-handed and rushing back towards the golem without hesitation. Only fifteen seconds remained, but the thief had no intentions of being around when that time was up. Bringing up his sword, Seire slammed into the golem once again, slashing into the open wound with all his might. A tremendous surge of light erupted from within the construct as it reeled from the force of the blow, giving a hollow roar as the thief’s blade was repelled. Undeterred however, Seire swiftly released his sword, allowing it to twist within the golem’s wound, only to catch it backhanded as it was turned away, hooking its curved blade on the inside of the golem’s waist. “If you get in my way...!” He continued, using this leverage to twist his sword back around, dealing a backhanded slash through the golem’s body. Yet again, however, his sword met with the energy connecting its waist to its lower body, and was turned aside, but this time, Seire offered no resistance to this repulsion. Stepping forward even as he spun with his blade’s redirected force, he came back around in an instant, sweeping up his sword yet again to carve up from the golem’s waist, chipping away another small shard of its lower body and striking its joint yet again. The flash of light from within the golem’s waist, this time, was far weaker than before, and although Seire’s blade was yet again turned away, it was hardly even half a second before the thief had struck again. The golem twitched and flailed its arms, trying to free itself from the ice covering its upper body, but to no avail.

“Then I’ll...!” The thief shouted with renewed force as he reversed his blade’s movement into a downward strike, cutting the golem yet again, this time slashing across its waist with very little resistance. Now undeterred, the thief smirked, leveling his blade and bringing it directly across the golem’s waist with all his might.

“TEAR!” He roared, slashing once, then bringing up his blade and hacking in again from the opposite side. “YOU!” Another slash met, and by now, the golem’s internal fastenings had dimmed to a mere flicker, offering almost no opposition as the thief’s blade carved through its joint. “APART!” Bringing up his sword for one final strike, Seire put all of his strength behind this final blow, carving his sword directly into the very center of the golem’s body. The light inside it flared up as it offered one final, desperate act of resistance, pulsing with all the strength it had left in a last attempt to deflect Seire’s blade. There was a sound of steel grinding against stone, and then, glimmering in the dying light of the golem’s energy, Seire’s sword flew from his grasp, falling to the ground several dozen feet away, but the thief merely smirked. After all, he had already done everything he needed to.

Five seconds remained until the detonation as Seire now plunged his hand forward, striking his palm through the gap in the golem’s waist, releasing the bomb as he did so. Weakened beyond resistance by the repeated impacts of his sword, the golem could do nothing as the bomb dropped softly into its center.

Four seconds remained as the golem gave a frantic roar, as last shattering the ice binding its shoulders in place and raising its arms over its head, sweeping them downward towards the thief, who in turn leaped into the air, kicking off of the golem’s fist as it slammed against the floor beside him to launch himself upward towards the construct’s head.

Three seconds remained as the guardian’s mouth flared faintly to life beneath its broken jaw, the light returning to its eyes as countless tiny crystals took shape within its gaping maw. But Seire had no intentions of allowing it to fire this last shot. Raising the second bomb before him, he punched upward with the full force of his ascent, shattering this multitude of shards before it could even take shape with his bare hand before slamming the bomb into the roof of the golem’s mouth, releasing it and allowing it to drop down into the construct’s gullet.

Two seconds remained as Seire planted his feet on the golem’s face, and leaped away, flipping head over heels and landing in the frozen trench, skidding to a stop next to his dropped sword. Picking up this weapon, he shook the dust off of it, turned, and walked calmly towards his companions.

One second remained as the golem, dazed but not disabled by Seire’s close quarters assault, raised its arm for the last time, clenching its hand into a giant fist and preparing to bring it down on the thief as he strode calmly away. Seire merely smiled and turned halfway around, closing his hand and extending two fingers towards his already defeated enemy.

“Bang,” He said.

The golem never got the chance to even bring down its hand. In the next instant, with an earsplitting roar from within the construct’s body and head, and a flash of light and fire that surged outward, shattering the stone guardian like breaking glass, the bombs detonated. Seire’s tattered coat abruptly flared out around him as he calmly walked down the trench, the flames licking at his heels as rubble and debris rained down all around him. Crystals cracked and shattered into pieces as the energy that had animated them was destroyed, leaving only the thief, walking amidst absolute devastation as flickering fire and fading light danced in his wake. When the blast had finally cleared, there was nothing left of the enemy save a large heap of charred, smouldering rubble.

After a moment, Curtiss peeked out from behind the stalagmite he’d claimed as shelter, hands clamped securely over his ears. “Everyone all right?” he called softly. “Everyone found shelter on time? No one’s on fire, smashed to pulp, anything like that?”

Lovia stepped away from the charred stalactite she'd found cover behind, closely followed by Mirae. The black-haired Mage gave a nod to the affirmative, after inspecting the smaller girl.

“So,” Seire said, an unusual quiet coming over his voice. “I do believe we’re finished here. It was a pleasure working with you all. However, it’s time for me to make my exit. I have business to attend to on the floor above.” With these words, the thief, his scabbard broken, slid his sword instead into the belt he wore, and then turned towards the staircase now left unguarded. “If you’ll excuse me...” He said, walking back the way he had come now that his message was delivered. Hopping up onto the stairs, he quickly surmounted them, making his way towards the door visible in the cavern wall above, into which he swiftly vanished.
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Thu May 30, 2013 12:03 am

Not with a Bang

“That’s enough training for today,” Hector reasoned, placing the practice blade back upon the table nearby. Tamar silently nodded his head in agreement, limping over to the table to do the same. “We’ll need to call it early this time. Me and Anji got important work today.”

“...Everything all right?” Tamar questioned, a bit nervous about Anji doing anything after all the recent hell that seemed to have plagued their guild.

“Everythin’s fine, Delaney,” Anji said brusquely, as she walked outside to the commons that doubled as an eatery and a sparring ground. “Legias asked me and Jolly Green over there to watch someone for her.”

“Someone pretty important, from what I hear.” Hector smirked as he walked up next the redhead. “Apparently they’ve been aiding in restoring this city. Anyway, the whole guild unification thing means we’re working together on this one. It’s important, so they’re sending us Guild Leaders to help out with the situation. It should be pretty simple.”

“If you guys say so...” Tamar sighed, taking his leave upstairs.

“...Yeah, lucky us.” Anji scowled, tossing a few more knives into her pack. “Ready to go, big guy?”

Hector checked his equipment, tightening the gauntlets on his arms, and the strap that held Ivory to his back. “Yep, I’m ready.”

“Uh... Where’re we goin’ again?”

“Uh, I was hoping you knew...” The two stared at each other awkwardly for a second before a grin showed up on the taller man’s face, “Just kidding, I know the way. Follow me!” The green-haired man let out a hearty laugh as his large feet stomped across the room out towards the building’s exit.

Biting back a smile, Anji shrugged into her pack and followed the knight out of the building and into the late afternoon heat. They walked for a while without speaking, with Hector being able to just muscle his way through the crowds of people, while Anji stuck to the sides of the street to avoid the majority of the people.

Hector looked onward, his face neither playful nor serious. A sigh escaped from his head as he called over to Anji finally, “Did you hear why the town is so tense about this? Apparently the guards got an anonymous tip that this diplomat would be targeted tonight. I didn’t expect them to take it lightly; it probably explains why we’re being called in, too.” The two turned down a path, heading toward the edge of the city. On the horizon a fairly large building could be seen; one might call it a mansion if they had ever seen one before. “That’s quite a house,” the swordsman smirked.
“Still... I can’t help but feel this is too well-timed. After everything that’s happened, there’s definitely more to this than we know. Luca could be involved... we’ll need to keep our guard up; this diplomat cannot fall.” The man stopped in his tracks, his head tilting back toward the scout, another heavy sigh leaving his mouth. “I... probably owe you something of an explanation about him, don’t I?” Hesitation dripped from his voice; it was clearly a subject that bothered him greatly. “I probably owe Ben and the others the same courtesy.”

Anji paused for a moment, looking over the mansion, glowing in the setting sun. ”Something feels off... But that’s probably ‘cause of the weird newness of the unificationmajig, eh? As for explanations, I think you do owe me a couple. Though I should probably explain some things of my own,” she said, grimacing. Glancing over at Hector, she smirked. “You first.”

Hector nodded, quietly, before they started moving again down the path. “Luca and I traveled together, a few years back.”

“Why were you traveling with a sociopathic maniac like him? Other than the obsession with swords.”

“He was different back then. At least, I thought he was.” Hector scratched underneath his chin. “…We all were, honestly. I cannot judge him for the kind of man he ended being. The truth is… the truth is I was a lot worse than him before we had even met.” The swordsman looked off, his eyes distant. “The things I had done… if you knew everything, you would probably want nothing to do with me. I led a path of destruction.”

“I think a lot of us did, Hector,” Anji said, stopping. “But I’ll call things as I see them. You’re my friend, and I don’t desert friends.”

Hector smirked, nodding his head toward his friend. “Yes... well, the feeling is mutual.” He coughed a bit after the words, as if to clear his throat in embarrassment. “Things are a lot different now than they were then, anyway. Before I met with Luca and the others, I had no future… no past. It was only thanks to the three I traveled with, that I was able to change at all.” He paused, a brief memory of his time with the three drifting into his mind. It comforted him, recalling the travels the four of them had. “It's… troubling to see how much of a rift has been created between all of us. That’s why I need to make things right; I need to stop him.”

Anji didn’t reply, instead she knocked on the front door of the palatial home. There was no answer. “Weird... Hold on, Hector. I’m going to go in through that window.” Leaping up, Anji scrambled into a nearby tree, levering herself up and out of sight.

Hector looked around the perimeter. There were some guards out towards the edge of the property, patrolling as they had been ordered to, but things were oddly quiet. Hector knocked upon the door again but once again never got his response.

Opening the door, Anji faced the taller knight, face pale. “Hurry,” she said, taking off deeper into the house. The house was silent, no servants or errand boys to be seen. Very uncharacteristic of a mansion, the entire place was empty. The two moved up the steps of the entryway onto the second floor and stopped. There, in front of their feet, lay the very man they were meant to protect. Large stab wounds in his chest, easily killing him from the loss of blood.

“No way...” Hector growled, as he knelt down by the man. He breathed in as he examined the wounds, realizing what this was now. “The patrol is gonna be here any minute,” he mentioned calmly to Anji, rising back to his feet. “Perfectly timed to see us standing over his dead corpse. We were set up.”

“We need to leave, then. This place is too dangerous,” Anji said, backing away from the corpse, and glancing out the window. A small army of guardsmen were headed up the path to the house. “If this is a set-up, then we need to make like we were never here.”

“...” Hector shook his head. “I won’t be able to keep up with you. Sneaking and subtlety are not a strong skill of mine. If I leave with you, we’ll both be caught for sure. No... I’ll need to stay and try and buy you some time.”

“I don’t leave friends, Hector,” Anji said stubbornly, setting her chin. “You’re coming with me, or I’m staying.”

“We don’t have time to argue.” Hector sternly said, “You have to leave now or both of us will be screwed.”

“I’m not going to leave you behind! What are you, stupid?” Anji remarked. “It doesn’t matter, because either way, I’m not leaving.”

The two narrowed their eyes at one another, the sound of the guards’ movements getting incredibly close now. Hector finally inhaled, calming himself down. “Okay, okay. You’re right, we need to handle this together. Stand ready; who knows what the guards are gonna do when they get here,” he admitted, sounding quite somber.

Turning away from Hector, Anji started sliding her knives back into their sheaths. “So, we were just in the neighborho--” Her voice came to an abrupt gasp for air as something smacked against the back of her head. Her body felt completely numb as it drifted towards the ground below.

“Sorry... Better me than you,” Hector argued, as she fell to the ground. A moment later her eyes closed, unconscious. “... I’ve had this coming for a long time now, anyway.” Hector stepped over her after this, and looked down at the entrance of the mansion, waiting for the guards to enter.

Not a minute later did the group run in from where the open door was. A dozen soldiers, at least, more than Hector thought he had seen in the patrol earlier. Had they been hiding outside? he thought, as he simply lifted his hands up to surrender. The group swarmed him, and soon he was restrained. Everything seemed like a blur from there to the large swordsman, as his restrained body was carted off back toward the center of town, where the guard’s headquarters was located. Questions and threats were made his way, but he merely remained silent the entire time. His mind drifted, focusing once again on his time with the others from so long ago.

Luca, the Crimson Hound. A master swordsman, he and Hector had always sparred after the chance meeting with him and the others. The two always had something of a rivalry to one another, even if Hector never admitted it.

Asha, the Onyx Raven. One of the most powerful mages Hector had ever seen. For a time, he felt greatly threatened by her power, but even he had to admit that the two of them grew close despite their different philosophies and abilities.

Separated, it was likely that none of them would have ever bothered with the others. It was only thanks to the last among them that such a thing had ever been possible. The one who managed to ‘save’ Hector, as he remembered it. She was one of the strongest warriors who he had ever met, and it was thanks to her guidance that he had grown and drifted from his old ways...

… His thoughts drifted back before he could finish them. He was alone now, some sort of cell within the the city guard’s home. How long had he been here, he wondered. It had been at least a day now. With Anji unconscious, he had managed to take the fall for the entire event, allowing her to avoid blame. “It’s not ideal...” he muttered, his voice a bit dry, “but it’s not over yet.”

“No, not quite yet.” A voice announced its presence off to the side of the area. A few seconds later, Luca, dressed in his guard attire, stepped in front of the swordsman’s cell. Behind him was only one other person, a robed woman of some sorts. Hector, however, could not recognize her with the mask on. “Jade.”

“... Luca.” Hector growled, “Kidnapping children, now? What the hell happened to you?”

“Happened to me!?” he laughed out, “Look who’s talking. The Jade Devil, slaughterer of so many, now a man who won’t even lift his sword for his own survival.” A click sound was heard as the cell door opened, allowing Luca and Asha a chance to enter the room, before they closed it behind them. Slowly, the two approached the chained up man. “I have changed, I’ll give you that. But if we wanted to defeat society, we needed to use its own tactics against it.” He justified, “Don’t worry though, this bureaucratic bullshit is about to collapse in on itself.”

Hector remained silent as the two figures looked down upon him; the feeling of animosity and anger in the room was stifling. “Everything you’ve done in your life… and you think abandoning it makes you some sort of better person? Asha and I… we did everything, everything to save her.” Hector’s eyes narrowed, knowing exactly who Luca meant. “But none of it mattered to you, did it? Why else would you have killed her like that? You took away one of the world’s greatest warriors to grace this world.” Hector went to speak, but was met with a strike to his right cheek. “You’re going to pay, Hector. The first time we met in this castle, I gave you a chance to die then and there for what you did, but I acted hastily it seems. Now? Now that you’ve “graciously” given back her sword to those who should rightfully hold it, you’re going to be the catalyst to everything we’ve worked for.”

Hector’s eyes sunk under the weight of the sudden surge of sadness, realising now that Luca had claimed his sword. “Ivory…” Another strike, this time a powerful blow to the man’s rips. “Gu-ooof!” The man cringed in pain, the strike precise and damaging, easily breaking at least one rib.

“Don’t you dare say that name!” Luca yelled out. “Ivory was so much more than the sword she carried; you disgust me for what you did. But it’s okay… you did prove one thing to me. Warriors like us? We can’t survive in a world controlled by a system, by society. No… no, we’re held back in these systems, used as tools. The warrior blood in all of us is suppressed until we’re nothing more than blind subjects for some bureaucrat’s payroll.”

“What are you…” He grunted from the pain. “What are you trying to do?”

“Remove the restrictions on us, Hector. We’re gonna do what is naturally instinctive for us to do. Fight and survive; a land for warriors and no one else.” Luca proceeded to attack the chained up warrior, punching him several times in his anger at the swordsman. Asha’s hand rested upon Luca’s shoulder, calming him down. He looked over at her, and took a step back. “We have the key to it all, we just need a little influence to get this started.”

The masked woman knelt in front of the downed Hector, her mask looking deep within him. “Who… are you?” he coughed out.

“That’s right,” Luca realized, “you wouldn’t recognize her now, would you? Not after everything she’s sacrificed.”

At this, Asha lifted her gloved hand to where the mask was, and removed it carefully. What Hector saw widened his eyes, shocking him completely. “…Asha!?” he gasped out. “What-what’s happened to you? This can’t be...” Slowly, the mask returned to its starting position, locking into place. A moment later, she raised her gloved hand, allowing energy to grow around it until the fingers seemed to sharpen like talons of a bird. With a whip of her hand, she struck the man’s face, cutting deep scratches down his cheek.

“I told you… we did everything to try and save Ivory. Both in mind... and in body. You would never understand what we gave for her,” Luca repeated with a sneer. “… It’s just about time, now, Jade. Now, just like we were forced to have everything we fought for fall apart, so shall you. At that moment, you’ll either die, or you’ll stop lying to yourself and be what you’ve always been; a killer.” Luca looked back toward the direction he had come in and gave a sharp whistle. Moments later, two guards arrived and entered the cell as well. They took the battered swordsman, rebinding his arms before dragging him out of the cell. Luca and Asha quietly followed behind them. Just outside the cell, however, the group restrained him as Luca removed a sack from his side; quickly, he bound it around Hector’s head, cutting off his view of everything around him.

“Luca!” Hector heard an unfamiliar voice yell out ahead of them. “What the hell are you doing with the prisoner!?”

“Ah, Legias. Riiight.”

“Right? Is that what you have to say?” The captain angrily cringed as she approached the redheaded swordsman. “Do you realize what you’re doing? There’s an army of people outside because of those rumors you sent out everywhere. You’re gonna ‘reveal the truth?’ What the hell does that even mean!?”

“Captain, calm yourself. You don’t think clearly when you’re upset. I’ve just decided that this is the best way for us to handle this situation once and for all.”

“The prisoner is remaining here until the investigation is over. Whatever you’re doing, you are not taking him outside. If we do anything now, we could set off something terrible out there.”

“That isn’t an option,” Luca stated bluntly, no hesitation in his voice.

“It is an option. It’s the only option. I’m ordering you to do it!” Legias’s hand removed the sword at her side. At this, the other two guards looked to Luca, not sure what to do. “Stand down,” she growled to them. Before they could react, however, Asha stepped forward, extending each arm outward. Legias stared the other woman down, not sure what to expect. With her attention on the robed figure, however, she failed to see Luca remove a talisman from his coat.

“Captain,” Luca called, catching her attention just before a bolt of electricity surged through her body, blowing her back against the nearby wall. The attack exploded outward from the wood carving in the man’s hand, as it shattered to pieces upon use. “I never really liked to follow your orders, anyway.” He grinned, looking over at Asha. “These things really are useful, Asha. Thanks.” With that, the group began moving once again, merely leaving the unconscious captain where she lay. “I hope you do a good job when you get up... this city is gonna need it.”

~~~

Anji was woken up gently by a guard. “You okay in there?” he asked with genuine concern.

“Wha-... What happened?” Anji asked, rubbing a sore spot at the back of her head. Attempting to sit up, she was rocked by a sudden wave of nausea. “Ah damnit, where’s Hector.. the rotten bastard.”

“It’s all right, Miss Torvantine, he’ll not be bothering you any longer. The brute is in the jail now, being interrogated by the finest in the guard. I hope you’re not too-- HEY?!”

Anji leapt up and swayed slightly, ignoring the guard whose continued attempts to calm her proved fruitless. “I’m alright, sah. I just need to go... see a healer!” she said, as she began sprinting out of the house and into the deserted streets.

Reaching the end of the street, Anji paused, panting. Wincing, Anji attempted to check on her head, staggering from the nausea that blossomed at her touch. Julius wasn’t at the Inn’ he’d mentioned something about meeting someone at the Severed Claws, which was, luckily, only a few minutes’ run away.

“I can tell you’re holding back on me,” Ben complained. “You would have won that last bout if you’d been really trying. Let’s have another go; this time, try to clobber me!”

“Not on a sparring match,” Julius said, shaking his head. “Wooden weapons have a different balance to them; I’m as serious as I can be with a wooden sword.”

“Think of it as a new type of weapon to master,” she suggested, a spark of mad excitement in her eye. “You never know when you’ll have nothing but a wooden sword to win a fight.” Well, okay, not bloody likely, but what do I have to do for a real challenge here?

“Having only a wooden sword would signal a very grim day. Besides, it’s quite unlikely that something like that would--” He was cut short by the appearance of his guild leader. “What... Anji? What happened?”

“Hec-... Hector and I got set up.” She panted heavily, gingerly holding her head. “He uhm.. knocked me out... I think. I dunno. But we need to get him out of there.”

Ben, who had stepped away to give the Storm and Drive leaders some privacy to confer, snapped to attention at the familiar name. “Where is Hector now?”

Turning to Ben, Anji said, “Oh hey Benji.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. Valerian respects her, she reminded herself. There must be some reason for that, despite all appearances.

“If he was caught by the guard, I’m sure Legias will get things straight. Though I suppose we should go tell her about this, or it might not even get to her desk,” Julius evaluated. “Unless there’s something to make this more urgent.”

Anji paused for a moment, then said, “We were supposed to guard a diplomat tonight. He was dead when we arrived... I’ve never seen Hector that frazzled. Then I got knocked out, and when I wake up, HECTOR is the one taking all the blame for it.”

“Why would he?” Julius wondered.

“Because everything’s a big game to him,” Ben answered, already irritated with the green-haired man. “He’ll risk his neck because he doesn’t believe he’ll ever get seriously hurt.”

Anji began to speak, then stopped. She looked at the two knights, then said, “I’ve just got a hunch something’s wrong.” Turning to Julius, she said, “I think this is about him. I’m going over there. Feel free to carry on attacking each other with sticks for fun.” Twisting, she walked out of the building, headed for the square.

Ben swore under her breath, clearing the distance between herself and the other redhead. She put a hand on Anji’s shoulder, glaring until the girl met her gaze. “This isn’t a game, and I’ll thank you not to mess about with people’s lives. If you came running into Severed Claws’ headquarters on his account, why go running back out again?”

Leveling her gaze at the taller woman, Anji said, “Then why the hell did you stop me?”

“Well, let’s see. My friend is in danger. You’re the only one who knows where he is. You apparently get your kicks out of dropping cryptic hints and then disappearing, rather than actually trying to help people. So I stopped you to ask you to tell me at least where I can go to sort things out, if you don’t intend on being useful yourself.”

Julius was the one to speak now, already moving at a fast pace. “Ben... We need to move. Now. If we don’t reach Legias fast, Hector will be in serious danger.”

Glaring at Ben, Anji began sprinting down the street, headed for the city square and Hector. The two knights followed.

~~~

“Let’s go, Jade,” Luca finally said to the bound swordsman, before nodding to the two guards next to him. With a grunt, the two lifted Hector by the arms and dragged his battered body behind the redheaded officer. As their footsteps echoed across the hallway, the Crimson Hound’s eyes briefly met with the cold mask of Asha, who, on cue, went in her own direction.

With the sack over his head, Hector could not see where he was being taken, but when he heard the large doors swing open and the voices below, he began to realize where they had been going. In that instant, the group exited atop the second floor balcony of the city guard’s headquarters. Below, the formation of several guards and curious civilians had already begun forming, thanks very much to the same rumours Legias had challenged the Crimson Hound on. With one final tug, Hector’s heavy body was dropped upon the edge of the balcony, right before the man who had brought him here.

Luca looked down at his expectant audience, his eyes shifting through a multitude of familiar faces. However, it was off into the shadows that he was most interested in. When his eyes finally fell upon where Asha had situated herself, he knew all of their planning was complete. The red-haired swordsman took in a deep breath from his environment, as if empowered by it. “How does it feel, Hector?” he asked, distastefully. “In a moment we’re about to see what the true colours of humanity are… yours, mine… and theirs. It’s almost euphoric.” Hector nearly went to break his bonds right there, but the guards held his restrained, fatigued body. “No, Hector. You don’t need to go anywhere,” the other man ‘reassured,’ “You can witness everything you’ve done fall apart perfectly fine right from here.”

With those words, Luca took one last breath, his cold demeanour fading behind a man of charisma with each step he took towards the edge of the balcony. The voices below quieted, waiting to hear just what this officer of the law had to tell them. “People of this great city, many of you know me as Luca Maeori… ” he began, his voice sounding far more personal than before, “officer of the city guard, a man duty-bound to do what must be done to ensure the safety of our home, of this land we have called our own.”

He turned, pacing toward one end of the balcony, “But I have failed you on this day.” The audience at his feet looked confused, worried at these words. “I have failed to protect the city from those who have threatened it. I have failed to save the lives that have depended on me. As most have heard, Sir Lennon has been murdered, and that failure to protect them… falls to me.” His pacing stopped as he placed his hands behind his back. “And I have come to a realization as a result. I’ve realized that we can no longer ignore our greatest threat.”

“Our city is in great danger, not from a threat from the outside as one might expect, but from inside its very walls! I called you here today to reveal the truth of the threat that we face, and how entwined we are with its influence. What threatens us the most is not some sort of spies, or forces that hide in the shadows… no, they have never made any attempt to hide their intentions, and did it not make this any more clear than when one of their own preformed this heinous assassination.” He turned to his audience, raising his hand upward toward his chest. “I speak of the guilds.” His voice carried the words darkly across the area.

Asha nodded her head at the words, and raised her gloved arms up toward her chest. Together, her fingers extended as she began to draw upon the energy from within. Soon, a red aura began flowing from her hands in an identical nature to the same ability the kobolds had used, what felt like so long ago. The aura spread, slowly, unnoticed as it crawled across the audience’s feet. The process would be gradual, but Asha would ensure that the spell took effect. Everything would be proven right for her and Luca at this moment; she would make sure of that.

The voices below began riling up, many questioning the words the officer now spouted, some calling him crazy and others still just outright booing him. Luca, in response, just began shaking his head. “I, too, believed, as you do now, that the guilds and the warriors who took part in them were an essential ally and friend to the common citizens. They fought for us, protected us, and in some cases… even provided for us. Soon, however… soon I began to see past this veil, and saw what they really were: manipulators, liars, traitors, and, above all, murderers!

“My suspicions first arrived during our political venture into the upper floors. Just after the kobold attack had left us vulnerable, we were approached by the goblins and their unknown, possibly dangerous, motives. But Darren of the Severed Claws saw fit not only to reward our potential enemies, but armed them as well, with a weapons-cache of explosives.” The crowds arguing seemed to fall silent, as some of the guards recalled and backed up the statement. “It was a dangerous gamble, one that has yet to show any positive outcome. We gained…nothing from those actions.

“But we let it slide… a lapse in judgment, we said. These people were our heroes, after all; they protected us, didn’t they? Surely they only acted in our best interest. However, on several occasions, these guilds have dived into the depths of the underground, perhaps the most dangerous area we have access to… and it’s right under our feet! But despite our insistence to stay above for our safety, for your safety, they ignored us. If it had not been for the intervention of the church, the undead that these guilds, these heroes, had awakened would have swarmed the surface.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, these guilds and their members are no heroes. Those who would speak out against them were threatened or attacked, like the city’s very own prophet. As a result, we have created preconceived notions of them, ignoring the troubling parts we don’t want to admit, and we look upon ‘sisters’ like Anjali and Eliziya, but we all know that their relation is false; in truth, the guards discovered that Eliziya was a girl that Anjali Torvantine, a guild leader, I remind you, kidnapped from her own family! We look upon people like Fade as if he were some no-named face, when we really recognize that face as Julius Valerian, the traitor to the throne who caused the death of his own prince! Or did no one see the royal sword he carries with him now, still stained with the blood of his royalty? We look upon this guild’s youthful members, and forget that they are using children to meet their own goals!”

At this moment, his hands smacked down upon the thin railing in front of him. “We allow thieves like Seire to take away control of our streets, to take control of our information. We see men like Salvantas cleaning the city and bringing killers to trial, but we also see a man who has taken control of your education system right from under you and putting it under his guild’s jurisdiction. And soon… all of the guilds’ jurisdiction, thanks to this.” Luca lifted his arm as the crowd looked on, dumbstruck. In an instant, he pulled a large parchment out from his coat pocket. “‘The Guild Unification Act’…” he read aloud. “An act that will bring all the guilds under one unified group. All the warriors, mages, barbarians together… sharing their control. That is not a guild anymore, my people, that is an army!” he declared, as he tossed the paper down to the people below, some of whom actually scrambled to see this document, scarcely believing the Officer’s words.

“These are your heroes!” he yelled out, with several on the ground now yelling back in agreement, the influence of the rage spell interfering greatly with their judgement. “Now you see what they truly are. These are the people we expect to protect us, when they move to dominate us!” Finally, at this, Luca stepped behind the green-haired swordsman, who had this whole time been struggling against the grip of the guards who held him. “But none of them… none of them are as bad as this man, right here. The man who killed Sir Lennon.” The crowd was getting riled up now, many demanding to know who it was, for justice to be served. “The man who killed far, far more people than that… and he was one of your greatest heroes.” And with that, one of the guards handed him a small knife; with a quick flick of the wrist, he cut the sack open, allowing it to fall to the ground and reveal to everyone watching who was this murderer. “Hector Erastus,” he confirmed. “That is the name they call you anyway, isn’t it, Hector? But like the others in these guilds, we know the truth about you!”

Hector’s bloodshot eyes stared up at Luca, both in anger and in a realization. “The green hair, the power, the bloodlust; if we had only stopped to think about it… we might have realized who you really are. The scourge of Lamada, the demon of the west… in here, you knew him as Hector Erastus, but out there, you knew him as the Jade Devil.” Many in the crowd yelled in shock at this; some even began to distance themselves after hearing this revelation, while others began to question what such a title meant. “The Jade Devil! The murderer of thousands, slaughterer of men and women alike, the monster who never paid for his crimes!” Luca yelled directly into Hector’s face at this point. “That is you, Hector Erastus!”

He rose back to his feet and once again fully addressed the crowd, “As I have said, I have failed you. The Guard has failed you… but it is not too late for you, yes, you, the people! You can take back your lives, take back your freedom, take back your safety from men like this psychopath… this HERO!” The crowd by now was heavily under the influence of the rage spell, and with each passing word that came to their ears, Hector saw the men, women, even children calling for his blood. Not only did they want him punished, they wanted to rip him limb from limb. The grip the guards had on Hector tightened as they hoisted him up, forcing him directly against the railing.

“Will you allow this man, this monster, to go unpunished!?”

No!

“Will you continue to ignore what these people truly are!?”

No!

“Will you stand aside and let these guilds destroy your freedom, your safety!?”

NO!

“Where we have failed, you can take action!” At this, the crowd cheered and roared, gatherng directly underneath where Hector was now being pushed against. Luca took a single step forward, and, looking the swordsman in the eyes, made a statement only he would hear over the cheering. “You see, Hector, all it takes is a few words of influence and enough anger… and then we’re right back where we started, fighters who embrace war and chaos. This is your chance, Hector. Either kill them to survive like the demon you really are. Or deny it, and allow them to embrace what they really are.” A knife was slid into his belt at this and the bindings fell, unlocked by the men who still held him.

“Take action!” The words ended Luca’s speech, and signaled the final push that threw Hector over the edge of the balcony.

With a painful thud, Hector crashed upon the hard dirt an entire floor below. He wasn’t on the ground for long, however, as the swarm of people around him lifted him up, their strength increased from the rage spell flowing through their system. Hector barely had time to register that he had even fallen before his head was being used as a punching bag for the entire town. The man tried to deflect what he could, but being completely swarmed made defense nearly impossible. The attacks were unrelenting for the swordsman, and his previous injuries significantly reduced his maneuverability and endurance. Getting away was not an option, he could not properly defend, and they were not gonna stop.

Hector had only one alternative to death, just as Luca had promised. A knife in his belt, and the death of a few innocent lives stood between the swordsman and his only chance at surviving. With anticipation, Luca watched from above, watching every movement, every thought process go through Hector’s mind. “You’re a devil, Jade. It’s all you ever were. Now prove Ivory wrong about you… do it!” The red-haired man screamed in his head, desperately waiting to see Hector finally break.

But it never came. The mass of limbs continued to pummel him, and even as his hand rested against the knife, he never struck with it. His bleeding head turned upward towards Luca. The two stared amidst the combat, communicating a thousand things in an instant, and in that instant, a pained grin crawled across his face as he released the knife from his hand to the dirt below, and all forms of defense seemed to be dropped by the warrior. He accepted his fate.
Luca’s eyes widened, both in anger and utter surprise that Hector was… giving up? Coming to this realization, Luca’s eyes narrowed to a cold, emotionless glare. Looking back toward Asha, he gave the signal to make their leave once and for all, and she gave a nod of agreement. Even her emotionless body shared the same bitterness that Luca felt.

One of the guards questioned the Crimson Hound as he made his way past them back into the second floor, only to be merely shoved aside, completely ignoring them and treating them as inconsequential as he had always felt about the guards. “…There’s nothing left for me to see. The war has begun; I’m done here.”

As the crowd completely dominated Hector, many other civilians began to form into smaller groups, moving outward to continue the riot into the rest of town. The swordsman fell to his knees, heaving up blood and bile. “Hold the bastard!” one of them commanded, as several of them complied and essentially pinned the injured man to the ground. The one who spoke kneeled down next to him, growling nearly inches away from Hector’s head. “The Jade Devil... You’re the Jade Devil!? How many did you kill back in Lamada, you sick bastard!?”

The swordsman remained silent, his eyes staring only at the dirt underneath him. He made no attempt to justify or explain himself. “You son of a bitch...” He trailed off, reaching for something near him; his voice sounded both angry to the point of blind rage, and pained to the point of tears. “You’re... gonna suffer... for each one that you killed,” the man said, revealing the very knife Hector had just dropped.

“We couldn’t see the truth about you... and now neither will you!” And with that, the knife was swung down vertically. The slice was clean and quick; the pain did not even register as Hector witnessed the left side of his vision literally shatter before completely dissipating into darkness. The reaction was delayed by the yell of pain as enormous as blood seeped from what remained of the eye.

-----

The three arrived at the city square in time to hear some of the speech. Luca’s claims alone almost sent the ever-growing crowd into a frenzy, but even excited and blood-hungry as they were, that wasn’t the worst part of it. Julius could feel a familiar touch, subtle, almost gentle, that made his mind wander into his most violent thoughts. The man that had Hector bound in the balcony above the crowd wasn’t simply provoking people, he was enraging them.

“Stop,” Julius called. “Don’t get closer to the crowd. This isn’t simply a mob.”

Ben’s fingers twitched on the hilt of her sword. The man had gone from pointless fearmongering to vile slander and outright incitement to riot, and by god she wished she had the authority to arrest him where he stood. As things were, though, Julius was right, sick though it made her to admit it; she had no reason to expect immunity here, so far from her native soil, and her sword would not bind him under law.

“What’s that Kobold spell doing here?” Anji asked over the crowd’s roars. Everything was a disjointed mess. The crowds shook and boiled like tea set too long to boil.

“This is worse than what those Kobolds were capable of.” Julius corrected, “This is much closer in power to Minotaur’s version of the spell. We’ll need to be careful, these people will be more than just enraged.”

Ahead of them Luca was yelling something, and then the next thing they knew Hector was falling into the middle of the riot. Screaming, Anji began sprinting into the mob, racing towards the fallen knight. Before Anji could dive head-first into the mob, Julius caught her arm, and signaled for Ben’s attention. “You won’t be able to move well in there. Much less carry someone as big as Hector out. Circle to the edge.” He pointed in the direction of an alleyway with a movement of his head. “And I’ll get Hector as close to you as possible, then you grab him from outside and we all run off.”

“Jules, I’m going in there. At the very least I can stop a murder. Now let go of my arm.”

Ben sighed, gauging the shape of things. “Best if all three of us move together. Makes it easier to brute-force our way through the crowd with minimum injury all round. We’ll shove our way to him, grab the giant, and get away as best as we can.”

“I don’t have to brute-force, thankfully.” Anji said, ducking into the crowds and out of sight.

“Fine.” Julius resigned himself, drawing his sword. Or rather, realized that both of his blades were safely stored inside his room. He had left for a friendly spar, after all. There was no time left to discuss a strategy, and with Anji already inside the mob, it was impossible to change anything.

Pulling her oddly-light weapon out of its sheath, Ben came to the same realization as he did. “Well... damn.”

Anji ducked and weaved through the crowd, zig-zagging through any open space she could find. No one noticed her, except a few who shoved her to try to get closer to the Jade Devil. Taking a deep breath, Anji pushed her way through the thickest part of the crowd to see a ragged swordsman take a swing at Hector’s face.

Ben and Julius stood shoulder-to-shoulder and walked straight into the mob, as though the people simply weren’t there. Ben kept the hilt of her practice sword half-drawn, to present the threat of an armed warrior without showing the hand she used to bluff. Grateful for the defensive advantage from the padded practice uniforms they were still wearing, they barrelled through the people, allowing any blows deliberate or incidental to glance off them, not slowing in their beeline for the downed man at the front of the crowd.

Anji had taken care of the enraged swordsman, using the jo staff to its full effect, clearing as much space as possible to protect Hector’s unconscious body. The crowds jostled and pushed, screaming and throwing whatever was available. Anji’s reply was a simple whack on the arm. Or leg. Or whatever presented itself at the time, really. Time seemed to slow as she began to have to move faster in order to keep the space clear. Ah, come on. Where’s the cavalry when you need it? she thought, as she thumped an unfortunate butcher’s boy on the arm, pushing him back.

Julius and Ben pushed past the last of the rioters into the small oasis of calm that Anji had created. Not needing to verbally communicate the plan, they went straight to Hector, each grabbing an arm and hoisting him up between the two of them. “God, he’s heavy,” Ben muttered, almost staggering under the sudden weight.

“Keep your sword arm free,” Julius advised, wielding his own practice weapon in his left hand. “Anji’ll need a hand keeping the way clear for us to get out of here.”

Ben nodded, shifting her weight so that she could manage her half of Hector’s mass on her left shoulder, gripping the wooden sword with her right hand. They followed in Anjali’s wake, as the shorter girl cleared a path with liberal use of her staff. For her part, Ben took great satisfaction in using her practice sword for what could only be called shoddy exhibitionist swordfighting, maximizing the hits against enemy weapon or flesh rather than actual tactics. After all, it was probably her only chance to use it as a primary weapon; why not make the most of it?

Breaking out of the mob, Anji whirled around behind the trio of knights as they retreated to the Severed Claws’ headquarters. She glared menacingly at the rioters, who decided that a girl with a stick wasn’t worth their time and moved on. Under the effects of the spell cast on them earlier, they could just as well indulge in fighting each other, and as they spread, so did the violence they incited all around the town.

“Where the hell is the guard now?” Julius asked to no one in particular, as they struggled to carry Hector back into someplace safe.

“We need to avoid known places where people can find us,” Anji said, as they crossed the street in front of an overturned wagon.

“We should go straight to Legias,” Ben said, eyes scanning the empty street ahead of them.

“No,” Anji said, stopping. “Legias can’t help Hector. For all we know, Legias could be dead. How else would a raving lunatic be able to do this in the first place?”

“If Legias is dead, the first thing that needs doing is a responsible person verifying that, before a power vacuum causes even more chaos than is raging through this place.”

“None of us can carry Hector alone. If we don’t get him to a healer, he will die.” Julius declared. It was at this moment that Anji really got a good look at Hector’s condition, the most obvious wound being the large gash where his eye use to be but the man had clearly been stabbed one or two more times on his sides that stained the cloth over his armor. “We don’t know if Legias needs help or not, nor if we even can help her or not. But we can help Hector now.”

“Right. Closest healer, either of you have any leads?”

“Julius, we’ll take him to that temple outside of town, remember?” Anji said, grinning. “I’m going to go find Zi, or Marcus... Maybe both of them... He’s pretty banged up,” she added, wincing. “Do you guys think you can make it there?”

“Yes,” Julius replied. “But, can I ask you for one more favor? Could you pick up mine and Ben’s weapons after you get Zi and Marcus? I’m afraid we won’t be able to do a lot if they find us there and we’re unarmed.”

“Oh, right... Hold on.” Anji ducked into a nearby building, returning with a hammer and a rather flimsy-looking sword. She also gave the pair a few knives, producing them out of her pack.

Ben eyed the knives, nonplussed. Well... she’d used worse, she supposed. The range certainly didn’t look very useful, though. Maybe it would be best to just stick with the wooden sword. “Thanks,” she said blandly.

“Works just like a sword.” Anji grinned. “Just stick with the pointy end. Though, if you can, slash as much as possible, rather than parrying or stabbing. It’s about swiftness rather than strength.”

“Thanks.” Julius nodded. He wasn’t used to knives, and the shoddy sword wasn’t going to last long if used on an actual fight, but steel was steel, and he was glad to have some of that with him again. “It’ll do until we can get back in town. But we need to move now; be safe.”

“I’m not the obviously armoured knight people that can’t hide for jack.” Anji laughed before her tone became more serious as she headed into an alleyway. “But...uh, yeah. You too.”

Hours would pass, but the city still roared in chaos around every corner the adventurers traveled in. What had been a relatively peaceful area seemed to fully embrace its paranoia in an instant. And the adventurers had to wonder, would things ever calm down and if they did, would they ever be the same?
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eli_gone_crazy
 
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:59 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:23 pm

Turn Rewards:
  • AMimsyBorogove ~ Inactive Golem Core.
  • RationalThought ~ Apprentice Decay.
  • Tohrinha ~ Softer Flame.
  • Endless Sea ~ Crystal Spike.
  • Qara-Xuan Zenith ~ Fortune Cookie.
  • Pixelmage ~ Bloodstained Glass Shard.
  • eli_gone_crazy ~ Palm Guards.
  • Guyshane ~ Medallion.


The deserters from the Guard now play a pivotal role, leading the revolt. Thanks to the movement of the remaining Guard to prevent bloodshed, the garrisons were left open and unguarded, and were promptly raided for their supply of weapons. The rioters now started to organize themselves, this is less of a riot and has started to shape itself more like a real war.

Quest 19: Hide and Seek.
Hector Erastus has disappeared. The Jade Devil escaped the jaws of certain death. Certainly to plot the murder of all things alive. Or so the Anti-Faction claims. Pockets of Anti-Faction members are now scouting the city for signs of the green haired swordsman. And so is the City Guard, actually. Just what happened to the warrior?
Your goal: Find out what happened to Hector on behalf of the City Guard.
Quest-takers: Kurt (Sicon112) and Salvantas (Lordxana0)

Quest 20: The one who isn't my ally.
But isn't the enemy of my enemy either, is certainly someone troublesome, better take care of them. The Anti-Faction is pillaging areas of the city unguarded by the few of the City Guard. Anyone who refuses to join their ranks, identifiable by an always visible wooden carved amulet, is declared a supporter of the guilds' efforts. You watch as they assault a blacksmith, I certainly hope you'll not allow that kind of thing to go on.
Your goal: Stave off the Anti-Faction and keep the blacksmith safe.
Quest Takers: Tamar Delaney (Scarab) and Genevieve Hunter (JackAlsworth)

Quest 21: Stepping on pictures.
Soren Kavros, former officer on the city guard and now one of the leaders of the Anti-Faction has seized control of the cliffside. The houses around the area now work as a command cell, being a meeting point for the anti-guild forces, along with a... Recruitment center. People caught by their forces are taken there to have their loyalty to the cause evaluated, those who accept to join receive their brand new wooden necklaces.
Your goal: Crash the cliffside party.
Quest Takers: Ben (Qara-Xuan Zenith) and Darren (Blurred_9L)

GM Notes:
  • All in all, there's just one restriction regarding the Anti-Faction in general, while they wear the wood pendants and are channeling the rage spell and picking up fights, removing the necklaces isn't an instantaneous win against them, so you'll still need to deal with them. The spell is a catalyst that make them more trigger happy, but they have been persuaded into thinking that something needs to be done, and that something is getting rid of well, pretty much everyone not on their side, just to be safe.
  • On quest 19 ~ One major directive set by the City Guard when calling the Church and HU is that whoever was to look into finding out Hector's fate is that they do not try to engage. The claims about his identity are troubling, and any rash action at this point could be dangerous to the search party and possibly detrimental to resolving the conflict. <- Formal City Guard instructions. So, all in all, the goal is to find out, possibly with evidence, whether Hector is still alive on behalf of the guard forces.
  • On quest 20 ~ Rescue mission time! This one should be pretty straightforward, taking into account the general anti-faction note above, of course.
  • On quest 21 ~ This is a hard one, and they're not kidding around. I don't know how much of a dent you can cause in their momentum, but this is the kind of thing that has to be stopped. I'm counting on you on this one.

Deadline on this is June 10th, 23:59 EST.

Play smart, good luck and have fun!
Last edited by eli_gone_crazy on Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
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eli_gone_crazy
 
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:59 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Blurred_9L on Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:00 pm

Quest 21: Stepping on pictures

Ben made her way back to her quarters at the inn. It had been a long da-- two d-- week. It didn’t help that Hector’s notes on the guild were, well, nonexistent. Apparently he hadn’t had much interest in organization, or the written word.

Now, though, she didn’t have time to draw up her own reports on the people currently under her leadership; she just needed to find one who was available to come with her on this.

Probably shouldn’t come in full armour, though. Too flashy. Ben grinned as she discarded the heavy, uncomfortable plates; flashy tended to be unavoidable for her. As she pulled a light mail shirt out of her trunk, something else caught her eye.

That bloody ring. She had ended up with it way back, when she had first fallen into company with... Erastus.

In a fit of pique, she jammed the ring onto her finger, right beside the thin engagement band she wore. She despised jewellery, but this way, it would serve as... a reminder. Of what, she had no clue. Just... a reminder.

Rather than sit and dwell longer in her own head, Ben quickly checked her waist for her weapons, then marched briskly into the hallway, knocking on doors of rooms rented by her guild members until she found someone who was free.

***

Not this dream again... His voice resounded inside his head as the dark silhouettes took form in front of him. It had been a while since he had started having this dream in particular: a large crowd, all around a great plaza; they all looked at something in the center of it all... something? No, someone. His black cloak hid his face as he hung from a wooden platform, the executioner looking at him indifferently.

There were no words spoken, no sounds, no birds chirping; there wasn’t anything that could indicate that he was watching over a scene in real life. Everything was silent as a sword was unsheathed, followed by a sudden gasp for air. Come on, wake up!.

He knew he would hear a girl’s screams any moment now, but the anger-filled shouts of her friend were never heard; instead he could hear... a knock on the door? Darren opened his eyes to see the wooden roof. He looked around to get a grasp on his surroundings. He didn’t remember ever going back to the Severed Claws guild, yet there he was, lying down on the bed in his room. He briefly wondered how the hell did he get back, before concentrating on the fist currently making contact with the door.

“What is it?” he yelled, a bit annoyed. He couldn’t deny he felt relieved he didn’t have to go through the entire dream sequence, though.

Ben took the question as an invitation, pushing her way into the room. “Get your gear together and meet me in the bar. We have work to do. I’ll explain on the way.”

“What... wait,” he blurted out before Ben had a chance to leave the room. “Don’t we have better things to do?”

“Not when at least two of our people might be being held by the folks we’re supposed to find,” she answered grimly.

“Well, you should have said so sooner,” he said, as he jumped out of the bed and started picking up his stuff. “Okay, I’ll meet you there.”

Ben bit back a comment about haste and the relative speed of her statements, instead walking out to give the boy time to get ready. She sat at the counter downstairs, not drinking, just drumming her fingers against the surface tensely, disrupting all the other drinkers in there, waiting for her accomplice to come down.

Darren grabbed his old cloak that lay on the floor. He looked at it, before putting it on, wondering if he would ever become just like the person who had given it to him. No sense in worrying about that now, he thought, as he exited the room, closing the door behind him.

By the time he got to the bar, he found the people were all tense. He looked over to the counter to find his guild-leader tapping her fingers over the counter in an impatient manner. “Sorry about that, so... what is it about then?”

“You’re here. Good.” Ben brushed out of the building, without looking back to see if Darren was following. She led him down a few empty lanes before beginning to speak as they walked.

“Some of the malcontents had bigger plans. Set up a base just off the cliff. Between the idea that they’re more than just a violent mob acting randomly, and the number of disappearances which seem to trace back to that area, Lieutenant Adam figured we should take a look. Considering Severed Claws is not untouched by those disappearances, we’d better look extra hard.”

“Lieutenant Adam?” he asked without thinking. It had been a while since had gone to the City Guard’s headquarters. It probably wouldn’t hurt him to give the guys a visit; they could probably use some help, even if he wasn’t in the mood to be helping them.

“Legias’ deputy,” Ben explained. “Sorry, I’ve been hearing a lot from him lately.”

“Do... do we have some sort of plan?” He knew asking so many questions would be irritating for her, but recent events had taught him that a lack of information would end up in disaster.

Ben almost laughed outright. “A... a plan. What a novel idea.” She paused, wondering if her sleep-deprived semblance of coherence really was the best plan. “You tell me, Damien. What plan would you use?”

Not go in there, for starters... he thought to himself, having to remind himself that some of his comrades were in trouble. Truth was, if it wasn’t for the nagging feeling that told him he needed to go and see what this was about that he had felt as he thought about running back, he probably would have turned back. “Well...” he started, touching his chin with his right hand as he tried to think of what to do. “...If it was true you didn’t have a plan, you wouldn’t have left your armour back at the guild, right? I mean... this will be dangerous, right?”

“Yes,” Ben answered dryly, “I imagine a group of militant ex-rioters with a virulent hatred for guilds and an apparent habit of making people in their general vicinity disappear might, just might pose some minor amount of danger to a pair of guild members skulking around trying to see what they’re up to.”

“We could always try to sneak and inside and think of something once we’re in there,” he said, noticing Ben’s snarky attitude even more than usual. Note to self: don’t make any more questions. “How’s that for a plan?” ...Well, there goes my note to self.

“Sneak in,” Ben murmured... “Innovative. Sneaky. ...It’ll do. I’m hoping you know how to sneak, young man,” she added, smiling a little.

“Wouldn’t make much of a living if I didn’t know how, huh?” he answered.

Ben raised an eyebrow, but said nothing; she had never needed sneakiness to make her own living.

***

Darren led the way as they approached the east part of the city, the streets becoming more and more deserted as they neared the cliffs. Darren had to be careful not to allow himself or Ben to be seen by the people that seemed to be sentries, having to take an unexpected turn that would make them go on a long detour around the nearby houses, being careful not to draw attention to themselves as they navigated the narrow alleys in between.

To his own surprise, Darren didn’t need to instruct Ben on how to walk to avoid making as much sound as possible, in fact, it seemed to come a bit too naturally to her. It’s better this way, though, he thought, as he gestured with his hand to hide behind a wooden fence. A guard passed nearby, stopping just before their hiding spot. He stood there for a long moment, making Darren nervous. Did he see us...? he thought, as he readied his right hand with a small knife, shaking with anticipation of the moment in which he would need to throw it.

But the moment never came; the guard simply kept walking, humming to himself. Darren quietly let out a sigh of relief as he waited some more, in case the guard decided to return. “Close one there, huh?” he whispered to Ben as he peeked through a crack in the fence.

She merely nodded, her face tense. She knew the sneaking around was necessary, under the circumstances; that didn’t mean she had to be comfortable with it. Hiding your identity was one thing, she rationalized with herself; hiding your presence altogether was another.

“Okay, let’s g... wait!” he warned, just as he tried to get back to the main street, jumping back behind the fence just as a guard appeared over a corner. The sentry appeared to be leading another person to the cliffs, and by the looks of it, the man wasn’t really happy about it. He looked to the sides nervously as he walked behind the sentry, mumbling about it being a mistake and pleading with the guard to let him go. ...What the hell is going on here?

Making sure that they could follow the two men that made their way to the inner part of the complex without trouble, Darren, with Ben following closely behind, ran to the next alleyway where they could hide. There seemed to be fewer guards keeping watch of the inner parts, he realized, letting his guard down slightly. “I think we will be safe for now,” he said to Ben, as he took a glimpse of the two men that made their way toward one of the bigger buildings.

***

Ben slipped into the repurposed semi-detached behind Darren, through the door the guard had used. Blinking to adjust her eyes to the different lighting, she looked around.

The house had been gutted, opened up and turned into... cages. They were in a room full of cages. Ben felt a metallic taste in her mouth as she surveyed the prisoners in various states of abuse, uniformly cringing back as the guard they had followed shoved his companion into one of the emptier cages.

She swallowed, biting down hard on her tongue to keep her mind in the present. This was... raw, still very raw. None of their conditions were as bad as she had seen, she knew, but there were certainly many more of them, almost two dozen men and women peppered with bruises and weals and scars and burns.

And there, on the opposite end of the room, were the card tables, the jugs of coffee, the leering “guards” who did their work and then sat back, an eye still on their vicious handiwork, comfortable and relaxed.

Darren gritted his teeth as he watched the guards in the back of the room, trying to remember the duty he had conscripted himself to when he signed Ben’s charter and his own promises to stay out of trouble. He could feel the rage building up inside of him, but he couldn’t allow himself to let it out now. Not here and not at this precise moment when they still needed to know exactly what was going on.

“I don’t think this is all there is to see,” Ben murmured in her companion’s ear, her right hand gripping her sword hilt tightly, her left balling into an angry fist.

“Yeah... let’s get out of here for now...” he answered, before finding a way out of the room, through a door to their left, bracing themselves for whatever else could be in there. Fortunately, the room was empty, with just a long space between that door and the next. Crates of supplies were messily laid out across the windowless room, slowing them down.

Darren opened the door on the other side to find himself in an open area. There’s more? Darren thought, as he looked at the three buildings around them, each one in one of the directions of a compass rose. “So... where to now?”

“Right now... right now I’d like to find the bastard behind this,” Ben answered. “Be nice if we could figure that out on our first shot, though.”

They stood there, surveying their three options. Abruptly, Ben made an impatient noise at the back of her throat. “You go back where we came from,” she instructed Darren. “Do whatever you have to to get those people out. I’ll meet back up with you when I can.”

With that, she marched forward and wrenched at the door directly opposite the pair, choosing it seemingly at random.

“W...Wait! What if there are more guards over there!” he shouted, but Ben was already closing the chosen door as he said this. “How am I even going to get all those people out of there anyway?” he said to himself, his comrade already gone. ...Guess there’s no choice again. He slipped a hand inside his pocket, holding a knife as he opened the door at his back and going in again.

***

This time, there was no surreptitiousness, no hiding. Ben came into the room, eyes flashing, sword drawn, immediately getting the full attention of the men and women clustered around the table. As they drew their own weapons, she took a deep breath.

Using Alex’s trick of projecting his voice to fill whatever space he was in, and infusing her voice with the stern “obey or else” quality of a tutor lecturing a wayward student, she called out, “Listen to me.” It, well... it worked as well as could be hoped. The weapons didn’t go down, but they didn’t rush at her, either. They waited.

“I’m not coming here to pick a fight,” she began, and she could almost feel the disappointment in the room. “But you’ve stepped on my toes, so I’m coming to look into it personally. I am Sir Ben, leader of the Severed Claws; I have reason to believe that your organization, in addition to declaring de facto war on all the guilds, has a number of my men in your custody. What is the meaning of this?”

A dark-haired man near the centre of the group answered in a low growl. “Your precious guilds are tearing this place apart. You lie and plot and hide your faces behind a name which only means your loyalty doesn’t extend to the public. You’re damn right we’ll help your former members see a better way to do things, just like we will you.”

“I see,” Ben responded in a voice that had an edge of silk. “And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

“Soren Kavros, commander of this outpost.” He glared, as though to emphasize his words.

“Well, then. Commander. Should I take it that your comrades here feel as you do about the guilds?” She glanced around, reading the agreement in their faces for herself before continuing.

“I cannot speak for other guilds but mine, and I will not pretend to. I will say that no member of Severed Claws will lie to you, or plot against you, or hide his face from you. Loyalty to Severed Claws demands a loyalty to the public good.” She withdrew from her satchel one of the copies of the charter Adam had had made for her before she’d left the Guards. “In fact, as soon as matters stabilize enough for it to be feasible, this is to be posted in all public locations in the Castle. This being a charter of exactly what my guild stands for.” She held out the page, offering it to the room at large. A woman whose black hair was clipped short just below her chin snatched it up and began to read, passing it about amongst her companions. “I intend to approach the other guilds about doing likewise,” she added. “I am optimistic about their response. And, of course... it is in your power to hasten this sort of openness.”

Ben waited, as patiently as she could, as her brainchild faced the judgement of the mob. Finally, she asked them, softly, “Are you satisfied?”

“It could be worse,” answered the black-haired woman, apparently voicing her vote of confidence. About two-thirds of the room seemed to be in agreement with this verdict, willing enough to let matters go without a fight. They were the ones who nodded, who seemed to have found something in her charter that comforted them about the guilds’ intentions. As for the rest...

“You have some nerve,” snarled Kavros. “You want to bind us to your papers and your pretty words? We know that all means nothing to you! We’ll teach you what has meaning!”

As he lunged forward, Ben pursed her lips. “Teach me how, exactly? In the torture chambers you’ve got out back?” Her face was flushed with anger. “Put me in a cage until I say what you want? For a man so suspicious about the guilds’ intentions on your freedoms, you seem perfectly willing to take the freedoms of others!”

Her words had the desired effect; the ambivalent two-thirds of the room seemed now more solidly in favour of potentially-lying guilds than the definitely-duplicitous Kavros.

He rushed at her, a dagger in each hand; she parried with her sword, as her new allies subdued their less peaceful fellows. “I’ve got a better range than you, Kavros, and I have a feeling I’m better trained,” she warned him in a low voice. “Drop them.”

He didn’t listen, slashing wildly in the hopes of scoring a hit. He was lucky; he managed to nick her sword hand. Ben swore, pressing her left hand tightly over the right to try to stem the flow of blood without impacting her fight. “I don’t want to hurt you, Kavros.” Strictly speaking, that wasn’t true; she very much wanted to hurt him. That knowledge only made her more careful, though; she would not give in to an urge like that. “Don’t make me do something you’ll regret.”

“I’ll kill you,” he whispered through gritted teeth. “I see how it is; you’re too blasted stubborn to learn the right of it. Nothing for it but to kill you.”

“That’s right, Kavros,” she answered calmly, “you’ll have to kill me.” She turned her head, giving him an unbelievable opening, arcing her sword back around as she did.

Her gambit worked; knowing he had a second knife in reserve, the man went for her throat, only for her weapon to swing back out of nowhere, smacking the knife out of his hand. Someone-- Ben thought it was the black-haired woman from before, though she couldn’t tell for sure-- dove in to snatch the knife up as Kavros continued the fight with his spare weapon.

“By all that’s-- You just don’t give up, do you?” Simply ignoring the knife he held-- he hadn’t bothered to switch it from his left hand, and he was clearly fighting worse on that side-- Ben lunged forward herself, pressing her sword until it was a hair’s breadth from her opponent’s throat, with him backed against the wall.

While Ben held him at bay, the black-haired woman-- it had been her, she was sure of it-- yanked the second knife out of the erstwhile commander’s hand. Ben nodded her thanks to the woman, glancing over to see that the rest of the room had turned calm, Kavros’ remaining allies subdued by the rest. “Watch him, please,” Ben ordered the woman who had taken Kavros’ knives. “I have some things to finish up.”

As Ben left to find what her guildmember had gotten up to, the black-haired woman snaked into Ben’s place in front of Kavros, holding his knives in a fighter’s stance. Ben was impressed; she had obviously had some training in how to handle them. Whoever she was, she was no slouch.

***

Darren went back into the room where the prisoners were held. He could hear the guards talking and laughing on the other side of the door; they probably were badmouthing one of the poor people inside the cages. Anger... Darren thought, as he slightly opened the door to look inside. Nothing had changed. One of the prisoners saw him, his eyes telling him to hurry up and get them out of there. Don’t worry, I will.

He held tightly the knife in his hand before throwing it toward the opposite wall, making a clanking sound as it fell to the floor, making half of the guards stand up. “What was that?” said one of them, as he unsheathed his sword. He looked over to the prisoner closest to the place where the knife had hit the wall with an inquisitive look on his face. “Are you pulling some kind of trick?” he asked, with a menacing tone. The captive person didn’t even answer, merely lowering his gaze and gritting his teeth.

“I don’t have time for this!” the guard yelled, ready to punch the injured man. At the same moment, another knife flew flawlessly, stabbing the guard on his left shoulder. He cringed in pain as the rest of the guards got up to investigate. Darren closed the door to the room loudly, trying to catch their attention. The guards quickly ran toward the supply room, their weapons in hand, ready to intercept the intruder.

Darren ran back toward the door that led to the open area where he and Ben had split up a moment ago. He kicked the door open, and jumped to the side, crouching behind some of the cages, waiting for the guards to fall for the trap.

“Where is he?” Where’s that damn... whoever!” one of them said, as they walked around the crates on the ground, trying to make their way across the mess of a room. Darren crawled toward the other end of the room, the one where the guards had been just a moment before. As he neared the entrance, he could hear some of them leave the room, complaining about the sentries’ uselessness.

Darren slipped inside again, this time not having to worry about the guards. He approached the nearest cage, but found himself unable to open it. “Any idea where the keys are?” he asked the man inside.

“B...Be...Behind you!” the man screamed in fear, instinctively covering his face with his arms as he fell to the floor.

“What? Behind me? What do you...?” Darren started saying as he turned, being hit in the face with a fist, losing his balance and falling to the floor. The guard proceeded to unsheath his sword and slash downward at him, barely giving Darren any time to recover. He threw himself to the side, still dizzy from the punch, but he managed to dodge just in time.

Shouldn’t have left my guard down, he thought, as he took out a pair of knives and threw them toward the guard, who dodged one and parried the other.

“To think a brat like you managed to get in here. I’ll make sure you end up in one of these cages along with the stupid sentries that let you in!” he said, as he thrust his sword forward to attack. Darren crouched in response, slashing the man’s abdomen with a dagger, but he barely flinched, kicking Darren again into the floor.

Darren backed away, but found himself cornered, his back against the wall. Last chance, he thought, as he grabbed the magnetized dagger from his knife pocket. “Any last words?” he bluffed, trying to hide the panic he felt. The guard just laughed at him, holding his sword just above his shoulder.

“I should be the one saying that, little guy,” he said, as he slashed diagonally. Darren dodged, throwing the magnetized dagger in an angle the guard would think would never be able to hit him. To his surprise, the dagger changed direction toward the metal fence one of the cages had, briefly cutting the man’s face, just below his left eye.

Now! Darren slashed with his own sword, not paying any attention to where he sliced. He just needed to stop the man from attacking. The guard fell to the ground unconscious, a small pool of blood forming below his body. Well, damn, Darren thought, as he recovered the knives he had thrown around the room. “All right, everybody, where are the keys?” he asked to the prisoners, who all looked relieved and genuinely happy to be getting out of the complex.

“Check below the second tile near the end of the wall,” said one of them, a woman barely older than Darren. He walked over to the places the guard had been resting while watching over the prisoners. The keys were exactly where the woman had said they would be.

“All right, let’s get you guys out of here,” he said, as he started opening the locks of the cages one by one. By the end, around twenty people were free from the cages, all impatient and nervous, constantly looking over to the door that led to the supply room in case the guards decided to come back. Darren realized some of them were barely able to stand due to their injuries.

“Do any of you guys know how to use a sword?” he asked, only two of the prisoners raising their arms to indicate they knew how to fight. One of them was the woman who had told him where the keys were hidden, the other was the man who had discovered him peeking through the door a while ago.

Darren ran toward the body of the guard that lay on the floor and snatched his sword from him and gave it to the man, then he gave the sword that Nestor had given him just before going down into the underground to the woman.

“Won’t you need this?” she asked, looking at it as if she had wielded a similar weapon, recognizing the weight and shape of the sword, as she slashed the air around her.

“I can’t really use it properly. Meant to ask a friend for help but...” he stopped talking abruptly, prompting the woman to look at him with confusion. “Anyway, it will be okay as long as I have my knives with me.”

The woman nodded in approval. “My name is Betsy, member of the City Guard.”

“Darren, Severed Claws member,” he answered, as he, too, eyed nervously the door to the supply room. “All right, we don’t have much time left. Those who aren’t wielding a weapon, but are able to walk, please help those who aren’t as lucky as you. Swordsmen, please watch over everyone from the back. I’ll be at the front in case anything happens.” He sighed as he said this. I just hope Ben is done with whatever she’s doing.

***

Ben turned back into the corridor, ready to regroup with Darren. She’d just gotten to the second door when it swung open, and three angry guards ran out. Without hesitating, Ben engaged them, stepping out with her sword still drawn.

True, she was outnumbered, but there was an... art all of its own to fighting against superior numbers, especially with a build like Ben’s, considerably lighter than her opponents. She ducked and weaved, causing the men to run into each other. She played their skill off each other, luring them too close for maneuverability.

Ben ran up on one of the crates lying in the passage, sparring with the third guard, then leaped backward off of it. The taller man tried to follow her, and tripped over the box, falling down face-first. Returning to the two men who were still standing, Ben whirled, fighting the two at once. Slowly, she edged to the side, elongating the triangle that the three of them formed. She leaped away from them, toward the other wall; when they came at her, she ducked back, allowing them to collide with each other and the wall.

These three dealt with, Ben put her hand on the door to the room where Darren had gone... when it burst open, at the same time as the east door, armed guards rushing in. Oh, hell...

***

Just as Darren opened the door that lead towards the streets of the city, he heard the door to the supply room open. He quickly glanced back, the rearguard getting ready to attack the person that had come in. “Wait!” he shouted before they made their move. “That’s Ben, mem... I mean leader of the Severed Claws... What’s wrong?” he said, as he gestured the other prisoners to keep going ahead.

“We’ve got company calling,” Ben answered breathlessly. “Get the others out a different way; we’ll hold these goons off.”

What? All right... got to stay calm... Different way? he thought, as he tried to calm himself. He thought of asking how many there were, but he prevented himself from doing that; it would only make him even more nervous than he was. “All right guys, change of plans!” he shouted toward the group of fugitives. They looked just as or even more nervous than he was; Darren could tell from their expressions that they didn’t want to go back inside the cages. “Betsy, head outside and lead everyone away from here. There are sentries on the way, but there are also plenty of places to hide, just try to avoid being discovered. Dark alleyways are located in this order: left, right, right, left, right.” He wondered how the hell he remembered that, but didn’t give it much importance. “Got that?”

The city guard member nodded, before rushing outside the door, followed by the other townspeople. “Okay, now what?”

“Now... I think they’re the best ones to answer that. Nice to have a wall at our backs.” The handful of men-- looking somewhat smaller than it had at first, though Ben wasn’t in a position to complain about that-- came rushing at them, wielding a motley arrangement of blades.

Makes me wish I hadn’t given away my sword... Darren thought, as he started picking knives from his pocket and throwing a few of them at the rushing guards, who dodged most of them. His hand shook as he threw the knives, failing to hit any vital organs, barely stopping the guards that came charging at them.

Ben held her sword grimly; she’d prefer to incapacitate or disarm these men, but she could hardly be choosy. Anything that got them out alive, at this point, was a defensible action. With a groan, she noticed that her companion was a little shorthanded. “Goddammit, you couldn’t have brought yourself a proper weapon?” she muttered, as her blade connected with one of the guards’ hands. With a grunt, she sliced down; the other man’s sword fell, only a couple of fingers still attached. “Use that,” she directed impatiently, as she continued to defend against the onslaught of semi-trained soldiers.

“Knives are proper weapons. The prisoners needed weapons to fight, anyway,” Darren answered, without glancing at Ben. He threw another knife, preventing one of the nearest guards from picking up the sword that now lay on the floor. “Fine...” Darren said, as his hand counted his remaining knives. Rushing forward with a knife in his left hand, Darren grabbed the sword’s hilt just as another guard slashed above his head, barely stopping the attack with it. “Dammit, couldn’t you find a different way of disarming your opponents, Ben?” he complained as he recovered from the hit, removing the severed fingers from the hilt.

“I’ve tried asking politely, it doesn’t seem to work,” she shouted, blocking a blow aimed directly for her face before swinging her sword around to strike at one of the men in front of her.

Meanwhile, Darren held onto his newfound sword tightly, trying to ignore the difference in weight from the one he had given away. Stepping back, he threw the knife in his left hand, luckily hitting one of the guards on the chest. No time to feel bad about that, he thought, as another one came to attack. Darren crouched and parried the incoming sword strike, holding the sword with both of his hands to prevent being disarmed himself. Another one came from his left, quickly slashing at him while the other prevented him from lowering the sword to dodge. Darren shifted his weight to the right, in an attempt to dodge the guard’s slash, proving not as effective as he had hoped. The sword made a cut on his left arm. He could feel the blood pouring out, making him try to hold the sword’s hilt with all his strength to try to repel the attackers.

Ben leaned against the wall. At first it looked as though she were injured, relying on it for support. At least, one of the guards interpreted it this way, getting close enough for her to give him a powerful kick to the face before she continued to edge along the men’s flank, motioning for Darren to follow her. Before the guards were quite aware of what had happened, the two were behind them.

“Do you have some sort of plan?” Darren whispered as he backed away toward the door that led to the supply room, lowering the sword to rest his left arm. Still aware of the threat the guards presented, he grabbed another knife from his pocket and tossed it, feeling pain course through his arm as he did so, but managing to distract a guard, who was caught off-guard and almost fell backward as he tried to dodge.

Ben nodded, hoping to save her breath for running rather than explanations. “Follow.” She sprinted for the door to the “command centre,” slamming it behind the two of them before the guards could catch up. She looked around, pleased with what she saw. In her absence, the saner portion of the room had managed to scrounge up string with which they had bound those who were still bent on violence. Except...

“Where’s Kavros?” she asked, looking around. Her eyes fell on the spot where she had left him; the black-haired woman lay on the floor, bleeding heavily from a head wound.

“Some of the guards came in for him,” a blonde woman answered, looking distraught. “Augusta tried to hold them off, but...”

“‘ll be f’ne,” the black-haired woman-- Augusta?-- mumbled. “J’st need a min’te, ‘nd ‘ll f’nd h’m...”

Ben helped the woman up, supporting her weight with an arm across her shoulder. “Let’s get everyone out of here,” she directed, “and back to town.” She couldn’t say she was pleased that Kavros had gotten off. Something would have to be done about that, sooner or later... but for now, she had people relying on her; it wouldn’t do any good to go rushing off in pursuit when he had already disappeared.
Why should we do the right thing?
-Well... because it's the right thing to do, there's no other good reason.

Am I a bad guy trying to be good, or a good guy trying to convince himself that he's not the bad guy?
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby JackAlsworth on Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:16 pm

Quest 20: The One who isn't My Enemy

The nightmare was back.

She could tell it was the nightmare by the smell. She had smelled things burning in the castle, naturally, but none of those scents were as distinctive as the one locked in her memory. Maybe it was the herbs near the walls of the collapsing building. Maybe something in its construction material.

It didn’t matter. She would endure it, as she had many times before.

Yes, there they were - the ghosts of the family trapped in the building, floating before her. She tried to cover her ears; she didn’t want to listen to them. But nothing she did ever helped. Their words pierced directly into her head.

Why, Jenny? they said sadly. Why did you leave us there?

“I didn’t!” she cried. “I went to find help! I- ”

Why did you leave us to die?

“I couldn’t do anything! I was - ”

You were frightened, and you ran away. We needed you, and you ran away, and we died. Why did we have to die?

She was eleven again, staring at the towering inferno before her. She was panicking - she looked for someone, anyone, but she couldn't see - she didn’t know what to do -

She awoke in a cold sweat, a cry on the edge of her lips. She slowly forced herself to calm down. Just a dream, she chanted inwardly, just a dream, just a dream...

Part of her wanted to rest, to go back to sleep. But she had decided long ago that one nightmare per night was enough for her. She rose, trying to ignore the fatigue in her legs.

A pair of guards were having a conversation outside.

“ -With the splinter group, we’re incredibly short-staffed. We’ve had to pull out of several areas of the city.”

“It’s that bad?”

“It’s worse than anyone thought. This anti-guild mob has a quarter of the city locked down, and it’ll probably have more before the night is over. They set fire to half the Home District trying to smoke out those Storm and Drive folks; it was all we could do to save our own people.”

“Wow. I knew we’d retreated from the Workman’s District, but... how’d they get this organized so fast?”

The Workman’s District... Jenny frowned; that was where Tad’s forge was. Things must be pretty bad...

Memory surged. “I’m gonna stay awhile tonight, there’s a project I wanna get done. You take care of yourself now, kid. There’s a bad wind coming in, I can feel it.

The pieces clicked into place. Tad was still at the forge. Tad had missed the initial riot. Tad was in the way of the mob-

Tad was in the way of the mob. All traces of fatigue vanished.

The two guards saw her leaving. “Wait, where are you going?” said the sergeant.

“Workman’s.”

“You can’t! You must have heard us talking, it’s too dangerous!”

“I know.”

“Look, lady- ”

Jenny turned, her eyes steely. “Don’t try to stop me. Please. I need to do this.”

She hurried down the street without waiting for a response.

* * * *

Tamar still wasn’t certain how he had convinced Anji to let him do the supply run.

Anjali understandably wasn’t keen on her Guildmates wandering the streets with things the way they were. Truth be told, part of Tamar’s brain was still telling him he was completely crazy, but there were a number of good reasons why it should be him though, and Tamar, for some saints forsaken reason, had seen fit to mention all of them: he was smaller, faster, and could get into tricky places. Also, most people in town who already knew he was part of Storm and Drive didn’t know if he had met up with them yet. If caught, he could just say he hadn’t seen the rest of his guild in days and he’d be the only one to suffer from it.

“The one problem with that plan being,” Tamar thought as he shifted the bag of provisions on his shoulder, trying not to break the glass within. “That you will still have to suffer for it. Try to avoid that.”

Anyway, Anjali had done a lot of scowling. That she’d wanted to take the duty herself had been pretty obvious. “But she’s done enough for us, and the Guild needs her there,” Tamar told himself, while mentally refreshing for the millionth time why this really was the best of all possible bad ideas. (The argument had boiled down to: “Look, if anybody has any actually good ideas, then feel free to tell me before I go out there... Nobody? Sure? Right. I’ll be back in a few hours. Hopefully. Um... don’t go looking?”)

They were not without allies in town. Tamar had been relieved to discover this. He was fairly sure that the bag of supplies he found at the back door to the Inn (the fire had not reached it yet, though the air was sour and thick with smoke) had not been left by accident. The Innkeeper who housed them all these weeks had run for safety along with everyone else, but he had left them this, at the end.

The riots were changing, shifting slowly from ragged, disorganized gaggles of people with clubs and sharp objects to... slightly less disorganized gaggles of people with clubs and sharp objects. The change was subtle, but it was there. Tamar took the back alleys and side streets, trying to avoid the main roads wherever possible. He ran most of the time, suddenly grateful for all those times during training when Hector hadn't quite let him stop yet. So far as Guildmembers went, Tamar knew he kind of stood out. Then again, didn’t everyone in Storm and Drive?

He sneaked around a couple more places after visiting the Inn, trying to be subtle about leaving coins wherever he had to take things without asking and staying out of sight. His fears about standing out, it seemed, were unwarranted. Most people paid no attention to some random teenage boy scurrying about the streets. He paused at the end of the road leading to the trading district to catch his breath...

That was when he heard the next of the Waves.

That was what Tamar had been calling them in his head: Waves. The riots seemed to come in stops and starts rather than being a constant barrage. Every now and then the air would shudder with remnants of the spell that heralded the violence, and you’d just know that all hell was about to break loose not too far from where you were.

Tamar hesitated for a moment, recalling the last incident he’d gotten into. “You shouldn’t be here, Tamar: another fight is the last thing you need...” And yet, he still began following the sound of the squabble to its origin.It sounded as if it were coming from the middle of the trading district... Right where the worst of the violence had been...

...Damn it. He was going to get involved, wasn’t he?

Tamar stepped out from the alleyway where he was hiding just in time to have somebody run straight into his back.

* * * *

Something like fire had been running through Jenny’s veins since she had awoken. It wasn’t unlike the feeling she had while trying to track a particularly dangerous quarry at night. It pressed against her skin, pushing her forward; it kept her awake and alert.

Unfortunately, while her body had convinced itself that it no longer needed sleep, her brain was still tired, and she wasn’t paying as much attention to the world around her. As evidenced by the teenaged boy she had just walked into.

“Ow!” She stumbled backward.

She didn’t immediately recognize him; he was wearing a hooded cloak and looked more nervous than deranged, which put him several steps above the other people on the street. Still, she wasn’t taking any chances. Not tonight. Her hunting knife was in her hand before she even noticed.

“What are you doing out here?” Her voice wavered. Not quite the aura of intimidation she was going for.

Fortunately, the boy didn’t seem very intimidating either, now that she was looking. He immediately lifted both hands far away from the sword at his waist, forgetting that he had a sack in his hand and dropping it in his haste not to appear threatening. He scrambled to pick it up again, muttering an apology. “Um... I... what am I doing here? What are you doing here? The whole district’s going crazy.”

Oh, thank heaven; someone who isn't out for my blood. Jenny slowly returned the knife to its sheath. “Sorry, I’m... a bit jumpy. I think a friend of mine is trapped in this district.”

“Him and everyone else I guess...” The boy looked around with the same harrowed gaze as most of the other townsfolk. “There are barely any guards around, they’re too busy dealing with other areas and... I... sorry, guess I’m a little on edge, too.”

“You’re with a guild, aren’t you?” She said it as calmly and amicably as possible. He flinched. “No, don’t worry, I’m on your side. My friend’s been good to the guilds on the whole, or at the very least he associates with them constantly. I’m worried that the rioters are... not going to take kindly to him.”

“They’re not taking kindly to anybody... I helped this guy the other day? All he did was deliver a few messages to Salvantas and they... well...” the boy seemed to hesitate,. He glanced towards the square. “I... do you need help? I can help, if you need it...”

Jenny hesitated. She was accustomed to helping other people dive blindly into bad situations, but taking help...

She swallowed her pride. The boy had a sword, and the fact that he was in a guild meant that someone must have thought he could use it. “Yes,” she replied. “Do you know where the blacksmith is?”

“Tad?” the boy pointed over his shoulder. “Sure, about fifty metres down the road that wa- wait, you think Tad is...” he paused, slapping his forehead. “Oh saints damn it, I should’ve known. He wouldn’t leave the shop if you tried to force him out at swordpoint! He’s still there?”

“I’m almost certain he is, and- ” She paused. That was the sound of a very large object going through a window. “-And we should probably hurry!”

To the kid’s credit, he didn’t hesitate for longer than it took to sling the sack more securely over his shoulder.

* * * *

They arrived to find a cacophony coming from inside the Blacksmiths. The door was lying on the floor off it’s hinges, and one of the windows had shattered. Also, there was an unconscious body lying on the ground outside, and to Tamar’s shock, it wasn’t Tad’s.

“Ya goddamn spell-drunk maniacs! That was my favorite hammer!” an all-too-familiar voice shouted angrily. “I told ya once, and I’ll only tell ya once more - get outta my Forge!

Another body came sailing through the doorframe, a burly man tumbling head over heels along the cobblestone path. A few seconds later, a large wooden hammer came sailing out after him, and the man barely managed to move in time to avoid being hit in the face. Tamar and the girl exchanged a look.

“Maybe... he doesn’t need help?” Tamar suggested, politely.

A third man came hurrying out of the forge, covering his head. “You’re making a mistake, big man!” he spat out in the door’s direction. “We’ll be right back, and you’d best clear out before then!”

“Mistake? Hah! Come back in here, I’ll show you a mistake!” Another bludgeon flew threw the door. The man ducked, cursing, and ran off.

Tentatively, the pair came closer. Tad stood in the doorway, his jaw grit tight with fury. “Just charging around the place like it’s a bloody begotten playground. You two, what are you doing out in this? Jenny, I’m sure I said something about not being on the streets?”

The girl’s mouth opened and closed for a moment with no sound coming out. “We, um...” she managed finally, “thought you might be in trouble?”

“Trouble? Ha! The world we’re in is built upon trouble, girl.” Tad grumbled. He turned and walked back into the forge. Not knowing what else to do, the two of them followed. “Look at this mess...”

The forge had taken a beating. Several of the day’s projects were strewn about the room, and a failed attempt had been made to overturn the forge and spill molten metal everywhere. Display weapons had fallen from walls and cabinets, but there was no damage done that couldn’t be easily repaired. Tamar felt a stirring of relief... until he remembered the words of the last of the thugs. “Tad, I... sir, they said they'd be back with more people, I don’t think-”

Tad whirled to face Tamar, cutting him off with a stab of the finger. “Thought I recognized you, boy. Sword out.”

“...Um, sorry?”

“Come on now,” Tad tapped the counter meaningfully. “I remember the last time you was in here, boy, an’ it wasn’t a good day for weapon maintenance. I want to check my work’s being taken care of this time. Out with it!”

Tamar glimpsed at a confused Jenny before removing his sword from it’s sheath and placing it gingerly on the counter.

“Tad, is this really the time for - ” Jenny started to say, but the smith cut her off with a hiss. He started at the sword for a second before picking it up, sighting up and down the blade for what seemed like several surreal minutes. “Hm. Not bad,” he muttered, grudgingly before handing the sword to Jenny. “What do you reckon, Jen?” he asked with genuine interest in her opinion. “Well maintained? Hasn’t been sharpened on the side of a building?”

“It, uh... well, it’s seen some action, but it’s in good shape for the most part. If nothing else it’s well cared-for.”

The boy shuffled with obvious embarrassment. “Uh... thanks. I guess. W-well, the scorch marks are a little too deep to clean off.”

“Yes, I noticed...” said Tad. “Lucky for you this metal isn’t especially heat corrosive. Been wandering around the burning areas, have you?”

Tamar coughed. “Um, not really.”

The silence hung in the air awkwardly until Jenny spoke. “Tad, I think they meant it. They’ll come back with more men. We need to get you to a safe place.”

The smith scoffed. “Not on your life. All they managed to do was give me more work. No respect...” Muttering to himself, he started cleaning up the wreckage.

“But... half the town is rioting,” Tamar frowned. “They already knocked down the door. Who knows what they’ll do next, Tad!”

“Same thing they’ve been doing everywhere I expect,” Tad grunted, replacing one of the ornamental display weapons on the wall. When Jenny opened her mouth to argue, he waved her off. “Let me get this straight, you two came here to remove a Blacksmith from his own forge, right? A forge which happens to be filled with weapons that we do not want those fear mongers out there getting a hold of? They’ll have free run of this place if I leave! Anyway, ’m not letting a delusional mob scare me out of my own workplace!”

Jenny sighed. “You stubborn...” She leaned against a table; looking exhausted. “Fine. If you need help, we’ll be here.”

The smith barked a laugh. “I've been keepin' a forge since before you could walk. Don't worry about me.”

Another exchanged look. Tamar started running through his options. Anji was going to start wondering where he was. Jenny had already figured out he was in a guild, though of course that didn’t mean she knew anything else, and to be honest, Tamar had had just about enough of feeling edgy and suspicious about the intentions of every person he met, and Tad...

Well, Blacksmiths were important, for one thing, and besides that, this was the place where the sword Tamar wore had been forged. The place they kept coming back to. Hard-nosed though Tad was, Tamar wasn’t convinced he would be able to hold off an entire gang of anti-factionists. Jenny clearly had similar concerns. Tamar looked around, eyes falling on something small and dark lying on the ground near the window. He leaned to pick it up, passing it to Jenny. “... Um... Did they drop this?”

She examined it, a shape of straight lines in a carved diamond pattern. threaded onto a strand of loose hessian cord. “Doesn’t look familiar... it’s certainly not mine. Tad, you haven’t taken up wood-carving on the side, have you?”

Tad snorted. “You nuts? All the work I have already, I couldn’ take up a hobby if I wanted to.”

“So it must belong to the guy you um... threw out the window,” Tamar said slowly, still not sure he believed what he’d seen. “Maybe it’s some kind of symbol for them?”

“Hm. Symbols now, is it?” Tad muttered. “If I had a coin for every idiot out there trying to hide behind a symbol...” He was examining the forge now, checking on the molten metal within. “I don’t know what’s going on out there, Jenny, but you should go home and wait for the storm to die down. As for me? I already am home.”

“But...” Tamar trailed off, looking at Jenny hopefully.

“Tad, I know you value your independence, so we’ll keep out of your hair. But we’re not leaving. Not until we’re sure they aren’t coming back.” She looked at the fallen bodies outside and gave a small smile. “Besides, this might be the safest place in the city.”

The blacksmith eyed her for a moment with a look that said she couldn’t hide a thing. “Flattery didn’t get you into this forge, girl,” he grunted, sounding amused. “But alright, fine. Here.” He threw something in Tamar’s direction, and he reached out automatically to catch it. A broom. “You want to stay, you’re going to work.”

And that was how Tamar and Jenny found themselves cleaning up a forge while waiting for the inevitable return of a bunch of murder-inclined lunatics with sharp weapons and a grudge against guild members.

It was funny how the world worked out, really.

* * * *

Cleaning Tad’s forge was not new to Jenny. The mess might be excessive, but it was only a matter of scale -the work itself was almost identical, so she only had to concentrate a little. She shifted her focus back and forth from front of the store to the boy. This proved to be a mixed blessing; he was apparently one of those people who talked a lot when they were nervous.

Fortunately, she’d been looking in his direction when he almost knocked the release valve on the metal caster, meaning she was there to prevent the floor from being covered with semi-molten steel. “Careful, that’s hot!”

Tamar practically leapt away from the forge. "Oops. Sorry..."

Jenny exhaled. Honestly, if he was this skittish, she had to wonder if it was a good idea for him to be running around with any sort of weapon. “It’s fine. Just be careful, Tad will wish he’d never let us in if we accidentally burn the forge down.”

“Ah, to be fair we kinda let ourselves in,” the boy pointed out sheepishly. “And there wasn’t any door.”

“Too right, and I'm already regretting it,” Tad called. He appeared to be checking an entire cache of weapons. Jenny shuddered at the thought of what might happen if the mobs out there got a hold of some of the stuff Tad was keeping.

“...You’re not with a guild, are you?” the boy asked, without looking at her. He had this tendency, it seemed, not to look at people when he was having conversations with them. Then again, wasn't everyone avoiding eye contact lately?

“No, I’m not. I’ve... done favors for some guild people, and I guess that’s good enough.”

“You don’t have to do much,” the boy said. “People needed scapegoats and the guilds are targets.” He was gathering pieces of broken stone from a shattered bowl as he spoke. “There’s magic in it. Did you know that? Some kind of incantation. It only affected people who were in a certain area when this started, though. I was asleep at the Guild Headquarters so it passed me over. What about you?”

Jenny gave a humourless grin. “I was sleeping too. Lucky us.”

“...You have a weird definition of lucky,” the boy said. She couldn’t tell whether he was joking. “Anyway, I don’t think it’s the magic pushing things along now.”

“I hope not.” Jenny shuddered again. “Magic makes me nervous. Maybe it’s worse that they know what they’re doing, but at least they’re predictable.”

“So what are we predicting?” the boy frowned. “Do we have a plan?”

Jenny paused, thinking. “Not really a plan, but... magic makes people crazy, and that makes them erratic. It’s the same with, say, rabid animals; you can’t tell what they want, because they don’t know what they want. A violent, rational person is easier to deal with than a violent, IRrational one.” Suddenly, she realized something. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I got your name.”

“Oh, um... it’s Tamar.” The boy had placed the sword he carried on the table besides him and appeared to try and nudge it away as surreptitiously as possible. “You’re Jenny, right? One of Tad’s apprentices?”

“I wouldn’t go that far; I do some work around here is all. It helps me unwind.” Something about the name sounded familiar... “I think I’ve heard of you. You’re a friend of Anji Torvantine’s.”

Tamar’s head shot up. “You know Anji?”

Jenny nodded. “Remember I said I helped some people? She was one of them. And she wasn’t shy about trying to recruit me, either...”

Oh. Of course. “You’re with her guild,” she said softly. “That’s why you’re out here.”

“Uh...” Tamar glimpsed over his shoulder at where Tad was working. He didn’t seem to have heard a word of this exchange. Or at least, he was pretending he hadn't. “Don’t tell anyone?”

“Don’t worry about it. Like I said, I’m on your side. Anji’s my friend, I’d hate to see her get hurt. Her or any of her friends.”

Tamar smiled. “I’d be careful. We’re keeping company some people won’t be happy about. Anti Guild factions or no. I thought...” he trailed off for a moment, shaking his head. “I don’t know. I thought I’d be able to help you out. I have to be good for something in this mess...” He reached out a hand to the sword on the table. “Not that I even know how you use this thing properly. I was learning, but...” he cut himself off, biting his lip. “Well, I was learning. I guess what I know will have to do for now.”

Jenny didn’t know what to say. Clearly this riot... war... whatever it was, had hit him harder than it had her. Something had happened the other day, during the first outbreak, and she wasn’t sure just how much of it was magic. There must have been some instigator, some spark to set the fires burning, and Tamar, it seemed, might very well know what that spark was. Or who.

Of course, at the moment it was probably irrelevant. What mattered now was Tad, and the fact that, his ability to throw people through windows aside, the only people he had to defend him were a clumsy, half-trained teenager... and herself.

We’re going to die.

“I’m hearing a lot of yapping over there and not a lot of cleaning,” Tad’s voice cut through the silence. “Plenty more work where that came from. And the storm’s picking up. You two want to stay dry, you’ll probably want to help fix my door.”

Jenny took a deep breath, pushing down her fear and frustration, and crossed to where the door was hanging off its hinges. She looked for her bow, and found it still lying where she had left it on the large stone table, along with numerous other oddly shaped tools and weapons: ‘projects’ that Tad had been working on. She found Tamar starting right at it.

“Hey, can I ask you a weird question?” he asked suddenly. “Does she have a name?”

Jenny turned to look behind her. “Who?”

“That,” Tamar was pointing at the bow lying on the table. “Um, it’s just... some people do that.”

“...Do what?”

Jenny heard Tad give a quiet chuckle from across the room, amused but not really mocking. “Kid’s talking about naming your bow, Jenny. Though be damned if that isn’t a tradition that died out along with the Wyverns.” His smile faded, when he looked up, gaze falling on whatever was happening outside.

The burst of orange light and green glass flew past Jenny’s face. There was the crunch of shattering glass and the pop-crackle of alcohol catching fire. Jenny saw Tamar jump to the side. Tad swore aloud.

Instinct took over. Jenny grabbed to her bow and aimed as fast as she could. Six imposing figures stood outside, all of them armed and surprisingly well-armoured. That she hadn’t counted on. She’d be hoping for something similar to the earlier rabble, but these men were geared for war.

One of them was holding another bottle. She shot it. It shattered in his hand; he yelped and jumped backward.

Tamar blinked in visible surprise, but his yell of “Wow, nice sho-” was cut off by yet another bottle hurtling through the window. The boy had drawn his sword and was running for the doorway before Jenny could stop him. (She had no idea what he intended to do. Hold off a bunch of armed crazy men with a single sword? All five feet of him?) She hadn't time anyway, already nocking an arrow to her bow and aiming for the next of the oncoming mob.

...Not that they were nice enough to line up and attack her one at a time. They were all running straight at the forge. From aside, she saw Tamar dodge the swing of a man at least twice his size, throwing him askew and knocking him off balance. When the boy tried to attack, his sword glanced off the armour. The man turned and struck back with twice as much force, and Tamar was barely able to block the incoming sword with his own. Jenny’s mind whirled at the realisation that, sword or no sword, they were more than happy to hurt him.

Her second arrow went into the plate metal of the next attacker’s shoulder, throwing him off balance, but probably not piercing his skin. The third arrow caught the next bottle in mid air. She could already feel the fire from the last flickering behind her, licking along the trails of alcohol spilling across the forge.

It’s happening again. It’s going to burn down and there’s nothing I can do about it.

“Put it out!” she cried desperately.

“You think you need to tell me, lass?” Tad snapped, already grabbing the bucket of water prepared for cooling shaped metal. She heard the water slosh and hiss behind her, dousing the flames, but what good would that be when there were a dozen more to come? And the men were close now, too close to shoot-

Something slammed into the side of her head. She fell, her grip on her weapon loosening. “Thanks, miss.” One of the thugs grinned as he grabbed the bow from her slackened hands.

”You’re a fine shot, Jen, but a bow’s not gonna do much good when yer target c’n already see the whites of yer eyes.”

Stars winked in and out of her vision. Yes, Papa, I noticed.

At least two of them had gotten into the forge. A rough hand grabbed her arm in those few, dazed seconds, and she could hear the hiss-snick of a blade being drawn.

“What’re you trying to prove, girl?” the man growled. Her gaze fell briefly on his neck, where a diamond-shaped carving of wood hung from twine. Hiding behind symbols, Tad had said. Except this man wasn’t hiding at all. He didn’t have to. “Haven’t you an’ your ilk done enough damage here? We’ll have no more interference from you and your bloody guilds!”

“I won’t - let you - touch him!” She twisted and threw a kick into his gut. Startled and winded, he let go of her and fell backward. At about the same time Tamar kind of... stumbled into the doorway, and she saw the flash of a blade. One of the thugs swore, as Tamar’s sword hit his shoulder. The blade came back bloody, Tamar’s eyes blazing with anger, before another of the thugs knocked the blade away and shoved him aside.

She heard a shout of pain from behind and whirled around. The man who had grabbed her bow had apparently managed to shoot Tad. Now he was pointing a fresh arrow at Tamar’s prone figure.

Oh, no. We’ll have none of that. She leapt forward, careening into the astonished archer and driving him to the floor.

She rolled aside and stood to survey the scene, bracing herself on the wall. The attackers were scattered and stunned, but most of them were still alert and capable, and very angry. Furthermore, Tad was injured, her bow was useless, and they didn’t even know if the thugs had reinforcements coming.

They had no chance of winning.

She grabbed her bow, then rushed to Tamar and dragged him behind a counter. “Listen,” she whispered. “We need to fall back. There’s a back exit through the storage area. I want you to take Tad out of here; I’ll cover you. Get Tad to a healer, then go find Anji. People need to know what happened here as soon as possible.”

Tamar looked confused. “Jenny-”

“No time to argue. Please, just trust me.” The thugs were starting to regroup.

The boy nodded, though he was clearly reluctant to leave her behind. “What are you going to do?”

“I’ll think of something.” She glanced around, then dashed out through the front door before Tamar could stop her.

The looters watched her go; one started toward her.

“Leave ‘er,” said the one with the knife, who was apparently in charge. “One less body ‘tween us an’ the smith. Let’s finish this and get outta here before any guards show up.”

“HEY!”

Their gazes shifted. Jenny was standing a few yards away, her bow up and aimed squarely at the leader.

He smiled. It was not a kind smile. “We got better things to do than chase down some peasant chit who-”

His speech stopped abruptly. An arrow was vibrating a couple of inches deep in the wall directly next to his head.

“Leave him alone!” Jenny shouted, raising her bow for another volley.

This time the leader laughed, although he sounded much more nervous than before. “Didn’ you 'ear er? She's distractin' us while ‘e scarpers out back!"

Her hand didn't waver. "I won't tell you again!"

“Ah, put that down ‘afore ye hurt yerself, girl," mocked another of the thugs. “I’'d wager ye couldn’ hit the side of a baaaaaaaaaarrrrgh

He collapsed, Jenny’s arrow embedded in his leg. That was for Tad, she thought, anger coursing through her. Now come on... come out here...

The thugs watched their comrade writhe in pain. The leader looked from him to Jenny and back, and finally seemed to come to a decision.

“She's a guild sympathizer. She means us clear danger.”

The other men stared at him. He rolled his eyes. “Get - her - now!”

They didn’t need telling twice. They charged at her. She fired one more shot to slow their progress and fled down a nearby alley.

* * * *

It was a surprise that no one stopped them. But then, when you’re stumbling down a street, trying to support somebody who is twice your size and is bleeding everywhere, you don’t look all that threatening, even to a bloodthirsty gang. They avoided the still wandering crowds, moving as fast as they could.

“My forge... s’my forge those dogs are burning down.”

“W-we can rebuild it, don’t worry.”

“Damn it, boy, that’s hardly the bloody point!” Tad growled, wincing.

Tamar hissed. His head was pounding, but it couldn’t be as painful as the arrow still sticking out of Tad’s shoulder. The space where skin met the ragged blacksmith’s tabard was soaked with blood. Tamar could practically feel the arrow head grinding against Tad’s bones. It had to be agonizing. “The church is just ahead,” he said. “They have healers, and nobody would dare vandalise it.”

“Right, right... sacred ground and all that nonsense, eh?”

Tamar frowned. “Um... more like, nobody would dare vandalise the church while Kurt is there.” Tad grunted in pain and Tamar paused. “Sorry.”

“...M’telling ya, I’ve lost more’n this nickin’ my finger on an axe!” Tad snapped.

“You’ve got an arrow in your shoulder!” Tamar said, exasperated. He was trying very hard not to let on that supporting somebody over twice your weight was just as difficult as it looked.

“Like I said, no big thing. The people chasing down Jenny, that’s a big thing.”

“I’ll go back for her,” Tamar muttered, an anxious knot in his gut.

“When? Leave me here, boy, I can get to the damned Healer on my own.”

Tamar shook his head. If there was one thing he was good at it was instructions. Jenny had given him an instruction. Jenny was someone Anjali trusted. “They could come back... you’re a target too, Tad,” he said, and tad gave up on arguing as they limped the last few metres to the church.

Considering the riots, it didn’t take long for someone to answer. A small wooden door set inside one of the enormous double doors swung open part of the way, and a second later, a familiar white head of hair appeared in the opening. “Well, if it isn’t the kid again... I’d ask why you were visiting, if your bulky friend there wasn’t bleeding all over the steps I just cleaned.” he opened the door wider. “Seriously, with the rate at which you people get injured, I should start charging for this.” He rolled his eyes and motioned at them to come in, stepping out and slipping quietly behind them, keeping a careful eye on the street for movement, even though his posture remained as relaxed and laid back as always.

“...Hell, boy, why are you even cleaning the steps when there are rioters in the street?” Tad grunted, clearly not in the mood for any snark. “Don’t you have better things to do?”

Arching an eyebrow, Kurt smirked at the blacksmith as Tamar helped him through the door. “I’m stuck in a huge cathedral with a bunch of monks, who are, incidentally, cowering in a corner somewhere because they thought you were those rioters. Do you really need me to answer that question?”

Tam gave Kurt a glare that could have floored a behemoth. Or pretty much anyone or anything that wasn’t... well, Kurt. “No, I don't, I need you to practise whatever passes for medicine here before the lad drops me. This arrow isn’t going to yank itself out.”

Tamar shuffled. “Um... yeah. Hi Kurt. We’d appreciate that. Please.”

“I’m sure,” Kurt said in his usual bored voice. “I’ll go drag the monks out of their chambers. After the last unwanted guests, I’m on more or less permanent guard duty. Oh well, gives me time to figure out how to invent arrows that remove themselves. With the way you people get hurt all the time, I might as well save myself some work.”

And then he was gone, walking up the corridor with a quick pace that belied his casual attitude. Tad sank down into one of the pews, making visible effort not to wince in pain.
“Alright, fine,” he muttered. “M’here. You can go help now. Go on, get outta here.”

Tamar opened his mouth, remembering Jenny’s last instruction.

“Jenny’s out there, Tamar,” Tad interrupted before Tamar could speak. “She’s out there.” The and she’s one of ours was unspoken, but Tamar could feel the words anyway. “Don't think she can’t handle herself, but I don’t want her taking on on that many men without back up, you hear me?”

“...She said to find Anji,” Tamar hesitated. Jenny had been quite clear on that.

“Never mind your Guild Leader, somehow I think she’s handling herself just fine.” Tad scowled, giving Tamar a look that, even through the pain, told Tamar that he knew exactly what Tamar was all about. He growled in frustration and pain, a hand that could bend steel without flinching gripped Tamar’s arm, stained with blood. “Came here because I wanted to get away from this kind of nonsense...” he sighed. “Meant to ask you both... Been meaning to ask her a while. Why you came to the castle.”

Tamar shook his head in confusion. “Um, sir, is now a good time for that?”

Tad scowled. “Sure. Running for your life while the world goes to pot all around you is as good a time as any to figure out why the hell you’re there in the first place.”

There was the loudest silence Tamar had ever heard. “...I wasn’t looking for the Floating Castle,” he murmured. It was half true.

“So why are you here then?” Tad was giving him a look as cold and clear as glass. “What’re you waving that sword around for? Last time I saw you, you looked at me like inything because it could be fixed, even a sword as broken as yours. You don’t have that look in your eyes now. You’re fighting like you’ve lost something.”

“I don’t think that’s just me,” Tamar said. Everyone was losing now, guilds and townsfolk alike.

“Hm,” Tad murmured. That he was this coherent with an arrow sticking out of his shoulder was amazing in itself. Tamar found himself wondering what kind of a man Tad had been before he ended up in the Castle, too. He’d been wondering that about a lot of people lately. “Don’t have to tell me, kid, my whole forge is burning to the ground right now. But you... you look like you’re actually trying to understand this mess.”

“Trying and failing,” Tamar felt angry at his own childishness, but he said it anyway. He didn’t understand how everything had turned so quickly. “I can’t understand any of it, Sir.”

“Would it matter a damn if you could?” Tam asked bluntly. “Would anything mean this makes anymore goddamn sense, Tamar? Could it ever?”

Tamar’s anger bled away. Tad nodded, clearly reading an answer in the silence. “So we’re both at a loss, and I doubt there’ll ever be an answer for why this happened. Thinkers aren’t very good at jus’ going along with things. But for now we have to do what we can. That’s what you wannabe fighter warrior adventurer whatever-er types do, right?”

“My friend Ben, he’s kind of a thinker too, and I guess that works for him. You have to find a way that works for you. Sometimes, it’s not something you can just get.”

Tamar flinched. “Well, maybe I’m not any of those things then,” he said faintly.

Tad stayed quiet for moment. “Maybe,” he said. “Maybe not. Erastus clearly thought you were something,.” he shifted, still seemingly oddly composed for somebody who had lost a significant amount of blood. Or maybe that was why. “Now either you stay here and listen to mister Know-it-All preaching for hours, or you get out there and help Jenny before the mob kills her. Make your mind up already.”

Tamar sighed. Conflicting loyalties or no, the answer was pretty obvious.

* * * *

At some point while skirting in and out of the back roads of Workman’s, Jenny was forced to admit to herself that she had not thought her cunning plan all the way through. For one thing, she was tired. The sleepless nights were starting to catch up to her, and she couldn’t sprint for as long as she was used to. For another, her pursuers were either less tired than she was, or more enraged. Either way, their relentless hounding made any form of rest difficult and dangerous.

Eventually, gasping for air in a deserted, narrow alleyway, hearing the distinctive sounds of the anti-guild men, she decided she needed a change of plan. So when they found her hiding place, she did the last thing she wanted to do, and turned around to face them.


* * * *

Tamar’s mind was racing as he ran through the dark. Truth be told, it had been racing for two days straight, and Tamar still hadn’t given himself a chance to stand still and actually figure things out. But the time for figuring things out wasn’t now. Jenny could be dead by the time he found her... She was strong, and quick, but it was five against one, and he might be the only help she was going to get.

Yeah we’re probably done for...

Just as Tad had predicted, a storm was picking up, turning the evening sky black. Tamar was trying to track Jenny and her pursuers through the alley, hoping nobody had gotten killed yet. The spell, he thought as he ran... This had all started with a spell, but it wasn’t going to end that way. People didn’t need magic to get angry, did they? The mob had started with Luca and Hector, but it would end with the blood of everyone it could reach. Unless they stopped it.

“And why wouldn’t people be angry? Hector Erastus is a liar and a killer,” an angry voice that was not Tamar’s own whispered at him.

And maybe that was true. But Hector also gave Tamar this sword, and told him it mattered. Without that, Tamar knew that his time in the castle would’ve ended the same way it began: with an awful lot of pain and confusion.

What good was his survival if he couldn’t help people when it mattered?

He paused to catch his breath at a crossroads, the walls of the slum towering on all sides, mind still whirring to places it had no time to go. The people in town, all of whom had probably come here with the exact same dreams of escape and as Tamar and Tad, had chosen to use someone else’s past as an excuse for all this violence. That was what was really scary about this. Not the spell, but how willing people were to go along with the madness.

And how close had Tamar been to doing the same thing? To letting anger turn him into the very monster he’d ran away to make sure never had a chance to exist? Later on, when he could, he would ask for answers, and he would listen. But Tad had been right: this wasn’t the time for thinking about things you couldn’t change.

“What’re you waving that sword around for?” Tad had asked him. Tamar knew exactly why he’d used it the first time, back when it was a tacky ornamental sword stolen from a case in a Drawing Room. He’d used it because he’s been defending Eliziya, and defending himself.

The sound of voices echoed down an alleyway to Tamar’s left and he bolted into the shadows, following it.


* * * *

“Nowhere left to go, kid,” one of the men said, grinning. “Why don’ you save yerself some trouble? Give us the bow and come quiet like. We ain’t gonna hurt you.”

Jenny snorted. She wouldn’t trust his word if the Huntress herself vouched for him. “I don’t want to fight you - any of you. I’ve done no wrong, save to defend myself.”

The man blinked, though his vicious smile didn’t waver. “‘Course you did. Yer with the guilds!”

Something inside of her snapped. “Yes!” she retorted, backing away. “Yes, I was with the guilds. Yes, I assisted Torvantine, and the blacksmith, and whoever else you’ve taken a dislike to, and do you know why? Because they were helping people! Listen, it doesn’t matter who they were before! It doesn’t matter what you think they did or didn’t do outside the castle! What matters is what they’re doin’ now, here! If you think savin’ people’s lives and givin’ aid to those in need is wrong, then go ahead, kill me now. I want no part in this world you’re makin’.”

She stopped, breathing heavily. The men had paused, apparently considering her words.

The leader looked at her oddly, then his face pulled back into another horrible grin. “Sorry, miss. You’re wrong. It does matter who they were, an’ since you can’t see that, well...” The knife was suddenly in his hand.

She stepped backward quickly, and froze. Her foot had just hit a solid wall. Dead end.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The panic was rising in the back of her head. She closed her eyes.

“Jen, fear’s just the body’s natural way of respondin’ to danger. It’s what you do with that fear that matters, see. Courage is takin’ your fear and pushin’ through it, doin’ what you need to even when you’re so scared you can’t even see straight.”

Her eyes flew open. Yes, Papa. She would face this.

Something glittered in the corner of her vision. She felt a small smile play on her lips. Maybe her situation wasn't hopeless after all. “Fine,” she said. “Fine. There’s always plan B.”

* * * *

Tamar realised, in that annoying way people have of realising completely useless information right before they die, that it hadn’t rained properly since that night on the hill when they fought the Kobolds. It was about to start now, the rising wind carrying Jenny’s voice into the shadows.. She had led them on a merry dance into the slums, but now she’d hit a dead end and she was trapped here, outnumbered.

“...If you think savin’ people’s lives and givin’ aid to those in need is wrong, then go ahead, kill me now. I want no part in this world you’re makin’.”

“Sorry, miss,” Tamar heard the leader of the band respond, and Tamar flinched when he saw the knife in the man’s hand. “You’re wrong. It does matter who they were, an’ since you can’t see that, well...”

Well what? Tamar thought, although he knew the answer. He tried to send Jenny a signal. Some indication that she wasn’t alone, because he knew how that felt, and how it wasto realise you weren’t anymore. He remembered Eliziya’s hands burning in the darkness, and how he’d mistaken her for a firefly...

Tamar took a deep breath, letting the thin sliver of magic he possessed rush into the sword, just enough to create an aura. Jenny’s eyes flicked in his direction, a slight smile gracing her lips. Though she made no other sign that she noticed him, Tamar was sure she had. “Fine,” he heard her say. “Fine. There’s always plan B.”

Tamar’s heart skipped several beats in succession but he crushed the fear down again. There were worse things to be than a Plan B.

“Oh, Plan B, you say?” the leader looked at his men, who sniggered mockingly as if this were a performance (which, Tamar thought, it kind of was). “Well, that’s nice. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll get the chance to use it.” Then the hand with the blade came forwards.

There was no time for planning. The others had backed away, as if to give their leader the honour of taking Jenny down, and Jenny stood with her bow held before her like a shield.

Tamar struck. There was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flash of fire along the blade of his sword, and the crackle of metal heating rapidly as the knife aimed at Jenny’s heart flew out of the leader’s hand and went sailing across the alleyway. The others reacted just as Tamar had responded: with indignant rage. The guard hissed, drawing his hand back coated in blood. “Damn it, you little brat-”

That’s plan B,” Jenny said calmly, delivering a kick to the man’s front leg and sending him tumbling. As he fell, the others rushed forwards and Tamar immediately found himself trading blows with a man wielding a rundown mace, tarnished with age and rust, but heavy enough to be a challenge. He glanced over to see Jenny dodge a charging thug, shoving him into the wall behind her. He himself managed to duck under his attacker's swing, only to find himself beset by another man with a knife.

"How many knives do these people HAVE?" he thought as he parried.

Then the man with the mace stumbled sideways. Jenny had smacked him in the side of the head with the bow, and now he turned toward her with a furious yell, giving Tamar an opening.He aimed for the man’s legs, hearing the gasp of pain as his tendons were severed and the thug dropped to the ground. He heard Jenny give a yell of triumph before turning to block another man with a club, who was aiming straight for her skull.

That left one for him... and Tamar flinched as he realised the second to last of their attackers was armed with more than just a knife or makeshift club. There was a sword in his hands. Heavy looking and well maintained, and the man’s eyes blazed with the belief that what he was doing was right. Somehow that was the most frightening thing Tamar had seen all evening.

Then an exchange of blades. He blocked strikes an instant away from skewering him, weeks’ worth of muscle memory working to hold the man’s attacks at bay. But this was a sword, not a makeshift weapon, and more importantly, the man wielding it knew how to use it.

Tamar’s arms gave in, his block failing as the thug pushed him off his feet, knocking his sword from his hand. Tamar felt the cold push of metal into the skin of his upper arm, but there was no immediate pain... Yet the man who had struck didn’t attack again, even though he could’ve won. He seemed to be having some kind of internal battle.

“You’re just a boy, so I’ll let you off, this once,” he grunted. “You can walk away. Leave the traitors to us, kid. Forget the guilds and all they stand for. It’s your last chance.”

Tamar was normally good at reading people and, amazingly, it felt as if this man was telling the truth. He glanced at Jenny who it turned out, was a little busy.

“Did you hear me?” the man growled impatiently. “Go back to your family. I won’t offer again.”

...Yeah, because being around his family was totally better than being here, Tamar’s brain piped sarcastically.

Then he remembered Anji fighting to defend them, Julius talking men out of a fight without having to draw his sword once, Hector, the man who turned out to be a killer but who, for as long as Tamar had known him, had never done anything but help people who needed it. Even if that meant fighting alone.

Except he hadn’t been alone, because he’d had Ivory, and Tamar was starting to understand now just how important that kind of thing was. “Giving it a name? That proves it’s not just a tool.”

He reached for his sword where it had fallen in the dirt, the pain just beginning to creep along his nerves, the thin rain coming down with speed enough to sting.

How dare you?” he thought furiously. “How DARE you decide who gets to live and die?

“You’re the only traitors I see around here,,” he spat.

Tamar stood, gesturing with the sword in a way that he hoped looked controlled and ready, indicating that he wanted to duel again. He thought he saw Jenny throwing her own attacker onto his back, far too busy to come to Tamar’s aid. The man stared for a moment, then the doubt faded from his eyes, the rage returning. “Fine. If this is the only language you’ll understand,” he hissed, before coming at Tamar with the sword again.

It figured that the name would come to him now, Tamar thought dryly, in the moment when it - he - was the only thing between Tamar and a pack of lunatics out for his blood. Tamar lifted the sword to his face, crossed his fingers, and uttered a single, quiet word under his breath. The name of the sword. If Hector had told him the truth about anything, then this had better be one of those things.

The sword blazed. like somebody had thrown alcohol onto smouldering ashes.

Tamar couldn’t help but grin a bit when he saw the look on the guy’s face. He had no idea what he looked like, but he knew what his sword looked like, fire lancing up and down the blade, tinted blue where it was closest to the metal. When he struck, the thug leapt back, his own sword barely glancing Tamar’s. Defending against a kid with a sword was one thing. Defending against a kid with a sword when said sword was on fire was something else entirely.

Tamar lunged a second time, trading a short series of blows before the man hit the ground, the edge of his shirt smouldering. “Damn Guilds,” he hissed, fear leaking into his voice. “Y-you can’t...”

Tamar saw Jenny throwing her attacker aside. She looked... surprised. He didn’t blame her. He was pretty taken aback himself. The flame spell that had appeared only the other day, and had barely been able to destroy a bunch of insects, was staying constant now and shining brightly in the darkness. He could feel the heat travelling from his chest right through every vein in his arm, burning without burning. “Leave,” he snapped. “Stay away from the Blacksmith. And my Guild.”

The man threw one final desperate swing at Tamar before scrambling to his feet and taking off down the alleyway. His friends - he ones who were conscious, anyway- quickly followed.

Tamar stood in the oddly silent alley, processing what had happened. The short seemed to shudder in his hand, and Tamar felt as if something had settled between them. He was sure it was coincidence, that the name had come to him now, of all times, but even so...

Jenny was staring at him; “sword” and “fire” were no doubt mutually exclusive terms in her mind. She took a deep breath. “Well... I guess that’s where the scorch marks came from?”

Tamar jumped at the sound of her voice, coming back to reality with a start. The sword slipped from his hand, the fire dying almost instantly. When he bent to pick it up, the flame was gone, and he hissed in pain, clutching at a gash in the arm of his tunic. “T-that’s where the fire came from. Are you alright?”

“I... think so.” She stumbled. There was a bright red line across her leg. She touched it absentmindedly. “Oh... that’s blood, isn’t it?”

Tamar shuddered. The adrenaline was wearing away into chills already , but the sight of the blood kept him steady enough. “Pretty sure, yeah.” He reached out an arm to offer her support without being asked, trying to ignore the pain weaving up and down his right arm. “I need to get those supplies back to Anji. We can get you a healer there... Eliziya can do stuff with an open wound that doesn't even leave a scar.” He tried to sound reassuring, and hoped she didn’t notice the fact that he was shaking.

“Oh... thank you.” She was still leaning on him, but she tried to support him as best she could. It was an odd sort of balancing act, but they managed somehow.

It was when they were leaving the dark of the alleyway, and entering the not-quite-as-dark of the streets that Tamar saw a figure shifting into the shadows of a nearby building. They moved faster than a blink. He froze briefly, staring at the space where they had been but at Jenny’s questioning noise, he shook his head and started walking again.

Later on he would convince himself he had imagined it.
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JackAlsworth
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:40 pm
Location: Western Washington State

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:20 am

Turn Rewards:
  • Scarab ~ Fire Sword Control.
  • JackAlsworth ~ Burn Ointment.
  • Qara-Xuan Zenith ~ Augusta (NPC) joins the Severed Claws.
  • Blurred_9L ~ Rage Talisman (x5 uses).
Quest 19: Hide and Seek.
Hector Erastus has disappeared. The Jade Devil escaped the jaws of certain death. Certainly to plot the murder of all things alive. Or so the Anti-Faction claims. Pockets of Anti-Faction members are now scouting the city for signs of the green haired swordsman. And so is the City Guard, actually. Just what happened to the warrior?
Your goal: Find out what happened to Hector on behalf of the City Guard.
Quest-takers: Kurt (Sicon112) and Salvantas (Lordxana0)

Quest 22:The Exquisite Corpse
Quest Takers: Anjali Torvantine (Eli Gone Crazy) and Hector Erastus (Adell)
The temple seems a safe place to hide from the so-called “antifactionists” out for guild blood, but you’d be lying if you said it wasn’t a little weird there. Lately, you’ve been hearing things. The sound of sobbing echoes in the darkness of rooms you’re sure were empty. Things move on their own, and people’s dreams are growing darker and stranger the longer they stay.
Clearly something supernatural is afoot. Something which has been waiting for a very, very long time. Your pain echoes its own. Perhaps you can find a way to ease this creature’s torment.

Quest 23: Follow the Leader
Well, Legias went and got herself injured. Not only that, but she got injured in what is, quite possibly, the worst place possible. The Underground awaits the pair of you as you go to rescue her. Feel free to dump her at the nearest healer's, not like she's done you any favors.
Quest Takers:Julius (Pixel) and Zi (Agora)

Quest 24:The Forest Is Dying
Kavros does NOT like being ordered around. Especially by that snob, Luca. He and his mob are more organized now, a leadership structure has been formed out of the ashes of that crushing fight with the redheaded knight and her allies. See if that Luca guy can take him on now. Since he's all powerful and mighty, he's decided to smoke out the remaining refugees and hidden guild members. The obvious solution? Burn down the forest. So, that's what he did.
Quest Takers:Marcus (Shane) and Pan (Isla)

GM Notes:
  • All in all, there's just one restriction regarding the Anti-Faction in general, while they wear the wood pendants and are channeling the rage spell and picking up fights, removing the necklaces isn't an instantaneous win against them, so you'll still need to deal with them. The spell is a catalyst that make them more trigger happy, but they have been persuaded into thinking that something needs to be done, and that something is getting rid of well, pretty much everyone not on their side, just to be safe.
  • On quest 19 ~ One major directive set by the City Guard when calling the Church and HU is that whoever was to look into finding out Hector's fate is that they do not try to engage. The claims about his identity are troubling, and any rash action at this point could be dangerous to the search party and possibly detrimental to resolving the conflict. <- Formal City Guard instructions. So, all in all, the goal is to find out, possibly with evidence, whether Hector is still alive on behalf of the guard forces.
  • On quest 22- So yeah, the Temple is haunted. Whoo! The sound indicates something female, but that’s the only detail you know and even that’s not a certainty.
  • Fight it? Sure you can try that, if you know how to fight a ghost. But perhaps not all opponents deserve such wrath? Anyway in this instance, it might do more harm than good.
  • Use your heads. Not every battle requires a sword. No, not even your battles.
  • On quest 23- Legias is badly hurt in the underground. You have to deal with the People's army (formerly the crazed mob) on the surface, as well as whatever the underground decides to give you in the caverns.
  • On quest 24- The Forest has most of the herbs Marcus uses to heal, as well as concealing the forest temple (and it's Pan's house too, so she might want to save it as well). You can let the forest burn if you wish, otherwise I suggest water in vast quantities.

This round of quests will end on June 17th at 23:59 pm EST.

And, as always, be smart, play safe, and have fun!
Last edited by eli_gone_crazy on Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:35 am, edited 3 times in total.
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eli_gone_crazy
 
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:59 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Lordxana0 on Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:42 pm

Quest 19: Hide and Seek
Salvantas was having what one might describe as a bad couple of weeks. It had started with the anti-guild riots and ended with his school being set on fire and two of his guild members being killed. If Smoke hadn't been there to pull the kids out of the flames then there would be a lot more death than Salvantas wanted on his mind.

Death is something that must be accepted and moved past, focus on the mission

Salvantas curled his hand into a fist and felt an intense desire to reach into his mind and punch Blank in the face. He sometimes hated the emotionless monster inside of his head... and by sometimes he meant every moment of his life. But he had other things to focus on, and although Blank put it in his dry way he was correct. The Guard's had recently contracted Heroes Unlimited to find Hector and see if he was still alive, and if so to report his status back to them. Right now Heroes Unlimited was feeling the effects of the anti-guild hate and needed every last bit of good publicity it could get, and working along side the City Guard was about the best thing for that.

Of course it would be easier if he had access to Smoke’s nose, but the smoke had effected the wolf’s nose and the flames had taken a good few licks at his body, and he needed all the rest that could be provided. So Salvantas fell back on the tried and true method of making it up as he went along. From what he had gathered members of Storm and Drive hadn't been returning to their base, meaning they had a bug out shelter. Wherever this shelter was it would have to be on the first floor, even further and they would have killed Hector while trying to get him to safety. That narrowed down the options, but not by a lot. And with the city in almost total disarray he didn’t have the resources to have people in his guild join the hunt, they were all too busy assisting the City Guard.

So Salvantas had decided to find assistance through other means. It seemed that the anti-guild force had set up their own small task force in the city dedicated to holding back guild work and to find Hector and determine if he was dead or alive. They had been gathering info for about four days now, and Salvantas couldn't allow them more time. They had become a serious thorn in the side of those trying to restore order to the city, and even if they hadn't found Hector’s location their notes would at least allow him to mark off places they had been hunting already.

And that is how Salvantas found himself walking toward the bakery which had become an anti-guild base at the middle of the night, armed with his best knives and ready to do whatever it took to put an end to their operation and find Hector.

Of course the best laid plans never tend to last very long, and when he arrived he saw the door and been busted down and the air seemed heavy and cold, a feeling he knew well from his own homeland. This feeling was caused by the blackest of all magics, a creature of the Black Flame was near, and probably making short work of the men inside of the small base. Salvantas drew out two of his knives and suddenly really wished he was born with the ability to control the forces of the White Flame. At least then he might have stood a chance against whatever creature was inside of the place. He moved in slowly and carefully, watching every shadow for movement. The front of the shop was clear, and appeared to be nothing more than a simple bakery. But Salvantas had expected that, it was in the backroom that the anti-guild members made their base, and it would most likely be there he would encounter the creature.

We should get away while we still can, we can come back later for the papers

“And what if there is someone still alive in there?” Salvantas asked as he reached the door to the back room. The handle felt ice cold, as if it had been left out to freeze in the middle of winter.

That is just naive

Salvantas opened the door and a sudden feeling of disgust came over him. Around the room laid the corpses on the men he had been tracking. In the middle of the room stood the man who was undoubtedly responsible. The man held one of the anti-guild members by the neck with one hand while the other was placed over his mouth.

He turned to look at Salvantas as he entered the room. “Hello there, if you will give Jack but a moment Jack will be right with you” the man in Jack’s hand began to shake violently and the color from his skin began to drain quickly. After a few second Jack dropped the man and turned toward Salvantas. “Now how can Jack hel...”

Before the man could continue Salvantas had thrown ten knives into Jack’s body and followed it up by quickly attaching the claws to his gloves and stabbing five of them into the creatures face and the other five into his chest where the heart would normally be. After this Salvantas ripped the claws up and took a step back to see the damage to the monster.

The claws had effectively ripped Jack’s face apart, leaving nothing but loose strips of flesh. His chest wasn't much better, the claws had left five finger shaped marks crawling up his stomach. But after a few seconds black flames seemed to creep out from the wounds and cover them, and when they disappeared Jack stood unharmed, all of his wound had disappeared and the knives that had struck him had been reduced to slag from the heat of the flames. “Oh yes, you are the one that friend Tenzami doesn't want Jack to kill, though he didn't tell Jack nothing about hurting you” Jack moved like a flash and shoved a fist into Salvantas stomach with enough force to crack two of his ribs.

“Gah” Salvantas gasped out and tried to take a step back, only to be met by a kick from the monster that sent him through the wooden wall into the front of the store. He jumped up and pulled out one of his longer knives, his other hand holding his side. Jack walked through the hole he had made wearing a dark grin and with a flick of his hand sent the knife flying from Salvantas hands. “How in the...” Salvantas looked at his now empty hand. It felt like something had his the knife but Jack wasn't holding any sort of weapon. Before Salvantas could continue his thoughts Jack slammed into him with the same unnatural speed as before and pinned Salvantas to a wall.
“You weren’t nimble you weren’t quick, now Jack has caught you like a rat” Jack smiled and drew back his fist to deliver another blow to Salvantas.

The mark, use the mark!

For a moment Salvantas didn't understand what Blank was talking about, but the wheel in his mind started turning and through he knew it was a long shot Salvantas pulled the glove that covered the mark off his hand and grabbed Jack’s fist with it.

At first nothing seemed to happen, but soon after the marks of sin began to spread over Jack’s body like wildfire. As they did Jack began to let loose a demonic howl. The marks glowed white against his skin instead of the normal black, and after a few second he pulled away from Salvantas and glared at him, holding his body. “Holy magic” Jack spat and glared at Salvantas. “If Jack can’t kill you then there be no more point in Jack staying and getting himself all wounded and such” he grinned and his entire body burst into pure black flames. “Until next we meet” the man gave a bow and disappeared into the darkness of the flames. When the fire died down nothing was left in the place Jack had been.

Salvantas slid down to the floor and coughed, feeling the pain slowly burn through him. “Not exactly my finest hour” he said mostly to himself. After a few minutes of lying down in pain he stood up and made his way to the back room and went through the various papers the anti-guild had left behind. They had been rather diligent in their hunt, and after their days of looking they had found the most probable place for Hector to be hidden was a temple that had been cleared out by Storm and Drive some time ago. One of their members had caught sight of a healer exiting the place during the night. Salvantas gave the room a glance and kept in mind that he would have to inform the City Guard about the pile of corpses belonging to the anti-guild. That just sounded like a blast. Salvantas exited the building and began to make his trek to the temple, ignoring the pain running along his body from the fight. After an hour of walking he arrived at the front of the temple and after making sure he wasn’t being watched he entered it. “Is anyone here!?” he called out into the darkness.

No sooner had he said those words when he felt the iron twinge of cold iron on his neck, “What are you doing here?” A voice said softly, closing the outer doors, keeping the knife held against his throat.

Salvantas cursed his own carelessness and wondered quickly if this was a member of Storm and Drive or the Anti-guild with a knife against his neck. “I am here to find Hector to determine if he is alive or not, but also to find my friends in Storm and Drive and know that they are safe as well, and if they are to offer my aid to them”

Salvantas felt the knife-wielder hesitate, then put the knife away. A few moments later, the person lit a lamp. “I’m sorry to tell you this, Salvantas, but I don’t know where Hector is.”

Salvantas looked at the person who had put the knife to his neck. “And what of Anji, or the other members of Storm and Drive along with those that chose not to follow Ben as she took over Severed Claw?”

“For all you know, I might have killed them all.” The assailant said, lighting another lamp.

“If you had killed all of them I wouldn’t still be alive right now, and you wouldn’t be stupid enough to let me...” he grabbed his side and fell to a knee, suddenly coughing hard and covering his mouth with his hand. He felt the warm copper taste of blood in his mouth and he slid his hand down before he could see it and swallowed quickly. “Let me go” he slowly pushed himself back up, suddenly not feeling quite sure on his feet.

“Bloody crows. Sit down already.” Anji said, stepping into the light. “What did you do? Take on the entire army alone? I never took you for stupid, but then again I’ve been surprised before.”

“I believe an entire army would have been preferable to the creature that I did combat with tonight... through that makes it sound as if I actually put up a fight against it, whereas in this situation I more sat back and watched it beat me to a pulp and hoped it didn’t end my life” he took her suggestion and let himself go back to the ground. “It is good to see you safe, I worried that the anti-guild may have gotten to your group”

Sitting cross-legged across from him, Anji tossed him a jar of some foul-smelling ointment. “Try putting that on your wounds. All of my healers are out for the time being.”

He nodded and began to apply it. “So is everyone safe?” Salvantas asked.

“Eh, for the most part. Had a few scares, but everyone made it.” Anji said with a small smile. “Now that you’ve found us though, it’s probably time to find a new hide-away until this blows over.”

Salvantas put the ointment to one side and nodded. “Yes, even hidden as this temple is you are still too out in the open, I can think of a few good places, through I know some of your members have little trust in me or my group for whatever reason.” he shrugged and looked at her. “Of course a safe place is hard to find these days, and I doubt any of them would mind too much having a place with no risk of being found”

“Thanks.” Anji said appreciatively. “So, other than the free healthcare, what are you doing out here?”

“The City Guard wants knowledge of whether Hector still lives, I didn’t plan on revealing his location, actually I wanted to offer you the chance to use my safehouse if you weren’t in a location I couldn’t find. Also...” he sighed. “I needed to find people whom I could trust, there are forces moving in this city I can’t battle alone, and it would be nice to know I still have allies here for me”

Anji sobered, taking a few moments to examine her hands in thought. When she met Salvantas’ eyes, there was steel in her voice, “You can count on Storm and Drive.”

He nodded at her and took a small breath of relief. “I am glad for that, it seems odd, when we first met we had such a disagreement, but now it seems our guilds are the closest allies that we could ask for in these times” he laughed at the situation before quieting down after a few moments. “I have heard stories about Hector having once been the Jade Devil, do these memories of the past still haunt him?” he asked in a slightly curious tone.

“Stories are stories. They have a tendency of growing.” Anji said cagily.

Salvantas sighed. “Even if he was, he is no longer, I simply ask because I know what it is like to have the past haunt you. From what I have heard of Hector and the loyalty you show him I can honestly say that it doesn’t matter who he was in the past, because the Jade Devil died around the time he decided to never go out of his way to kill”

Anji’s eyes narrowed, “You and your spies. What things have you been hearing, my spymaster friend.”

He laughed at her words and smiled lightly. “It doesn’t take much spying to hear what everyone talks about. The legend of the Jade Devil is one I heard during my travels around the world beneath this castle, and stories of Hector’s bravery and nobility are something the people speak fondly of”

“And you want to speak to him.” Anji said, deadpan. “To what end? There’s nothing keeping you from reporting to the guard of his location, though that’s assuming I know where he is.”

Salvantas sighed. “I have already told you that I do not believe that Hector is the Jade Devil any longer, he is a new man, and I have no right to pass judgement on the sins of a man's past. And I have to intention of helping the City Guard any more then with information that he is alive. Through if you would rather I misinform them then I will do that. We are friends after all, and friends do not betray another”

Anji stared at Salvantas for a long while, scrutinizing him. After a few moments, she seemed to reach a decision. Taking a deep breath, she stood, and said, “Hector is alive, but badly injured. He’s under Storm and Drive’s protection.”

He accepted the answer and thought for a few moments. “Would he be too injured to move to the safehouse?” Salvantas asked as thoughts began to turn in his head. “I found this location after following an anti-guild unit in the city to their safehouse, I don’t know if they sent their information to the main unit, so I don’t know how safe it will be to stay here for much longer”

Anji paled for a moment, then recovered, “We’ll get him out. I’m just waiting on a few more things.. I would like to see the hideout before I start moving people there.”

He nodded. “I understand, it is not the greatest of places, but it is more than enough to house you and yours until this blows over, it is also safely hidden from all attacks and has a fresh supply of water. Things such as food and books and the like can be provided as well” Salvantas pushed himself up and offered his hand to her. “Heroes Unlimited is dedicated to the protection of all people, and we would be happy to offer our friends sanctuary, and to take it a step further I offer you the base as your own, taken from my hands to yours for as long as you desire”

“That’s a very generous offer.” Anji said, taken aback. “I uhm.... I think we will be continuing to move up, however.“

He smiled. “I understand, but for now you need a place for Hector to heal and the rest of your people to makes plans, and that is what this place can do for you. You may come at any time, and when you are ready to make the move simply inform me and I will make sure you get there safely. And once everyone is healed up you can leave any time”

“And what would you like in return? I don’t like owing anyone favors.” Anji said, crossing her arms.

“I want my friends to be safe and protected, I don’t ask anything for this” he smiled honestly at her and shrugged. “If you really feel you owe me something then pay me back by promising to keep the people you care about safe, through I know you would do such anyway”

“I’ll consider it.” the redheaded thief looked at the taller scout, “Anything else?”

“No I believe that will be all, now I have to get home and sleep away these injuries” he turned away and walked to the door. “And don’t feel like you are alone in this, my guild is known as Heroes Unlimited after all, it is our job to help those in need, free of charge” he made his way out the door.
Who you going to call? ME!
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Lordxana0
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:36 pm
Location: Long Beach

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Adell on Thu Jun 13, 2013 11:45 pm

(Adell note: This quest was too difficult to write for some reason for me X|)

Quest 22:The Exquisite Corpse

Anji quickly decided that watch duty had to be the most tedious thing she’d ever had to sit through. Even sitting through one of Tamar’s hesitant lectures was preferable to hours spent alert to any sign of danger. Rubbing life back into her sore legs, she decided that enough time was spent pretending to sleep. Standing, she made her way back into the temple in the warming sunrise, which had just started to peek over the trees bordering the temple.

Once inside, Anji noticed a definite chill in the air. Shrugging it off, she justified the odd chill with the logic that it was early morning. Shuddering from the chill, she quietly opened the door to the main room. The majority of the lights were out, mainly because it was early in the morning and all sane people were asleep. Well, except for the people out on missions, they were probably awake. The fire had burned low during the night, which was definitely odd. Tamar was supposed to keep that fire up all night. Kneeling down, Anji began stoking up the fire.

She had just gotten the fire stoked up properly when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Not bothering to turn around, she said, “Hey, come on Tamar, you know better than to-” Anji’s words seemed to choke in her mouth as she noticed that there was no one in the room. “You’re a bit more sleep deprived than you let on.” Anji mumbled to herself, standing up. She began walking backwards into the nearest room, looking warily throughout the empty foyer.

~~~

Hector took in a few breaths as he steadied himself in the long hallway of the temple he had situated himself in. His body still ached from the thrashing he had received days before, but he could not let that continue to get in the way of retraining his body and mind. With a heave he charged down the hallway, fighting through the pain in his ribs and lower legs. When he reached the end he would halt his movement, turn, and charge the other way. He performed these laps with some difficulty a few times, but it was a good way to judge how much stamina he still had in his body.

Candles had been laid across the ground as another part of his training. With only one eye his depth perception was essentially gone, so Hector needed to learn how to act effectively and quickly with only one eye. The candles were set up so that he’d have to keep track of them or risk knocking them over. Unfortunately, his aching body and lack of experience with only one eye caused him to blunder over most of them on the very first lap. After a few more laps, the man finally stopped and caught his breath. Lifting his head, he caught his reflection in a nearby mirror. The eyepatch Anji had got him hid most of terrible scar over the left side of his face. it was uncomfortable on him, but Anji assured him he looked like a swashbuckling hero, whatever that meant. With all the bandages on his head and body he looked more like a mummy to him. “Hmmm,” He groaned, “This is gonna take a lot of work.”

Woooooosh. A howling wind interrupted the man’s train of thought, blowing past him and knocking the rest of the unlit candles to the ground. “Augh, come on...” The man dragged his tired legs over to the candles and struggled downward to pick them back up. His left hand missed several attempts to grab them as he completely misjudged how far away they were from his vision. Finally however, he managed to pick them back up. “Whew...that was more difficult than it should have-” but before he could even finish his thought another loud gust of wind flew through the room and knocked over all of his hard work once again.

“The gods must be mocking me.” He sighed. Regaining his composure the man knelt back down, gritting his teeth in the pain radiating from his lower back. A few more grunts and heaves later and everything was back in place again. The man looked around, raising himself delicately to not knock anything else over. His ears twitched at that moment, as he heard in the distance a coming gust. “Nooooo!” And then everything was a mess again. Rubbing his forehead, the man kicking the candles away and walked down to where the wind was coming from. “Did the others open a window or something?” It was with confusion however, when he realized that the entire area he was practicing in was devoid of any windows; the area where the wind had escaped from was completely closed off.

“Hmm.” The man placed his hand against the wall, rubbing it to see if perhaps was some sort of false passage but found nothing. Shrugging, he went to return to the previous hallway only to be nearly swept off his feet by the biggest gust yet. The man stumbled, hitting his back against the stone surface of a nearby wall.

“What the hell?” Hector questioned, slowly backing away from the odd phenomenon. The man’s eye darted around with slight paranoia now. A shiver ran down his spine, it felt like he was being watched, and it didn’t help that he could only see half what he use to at a given time.He felt his legs halt however, as his back seemed to bump into something else unexpectedly, something that was moving!

~~~

Two yells of fear and surprise were echoed throughout the entire temple as Anji and Hector accidently found each other in the center of the building. Flailing on reflex, Anji soon found that she had bopped the larger swordsman on the head, who in his own flailing, accidently tripped her as his leg flew back. Both, still unsure of what they had touched, tumbled, flipped and scrambled away from the mysterious assailant to the nearest wall.

“Ow.” Hector coughed, laying nearly flat on the floor now, his head propped up against the wall he lay near.

“Bloody crows that smarts.” Anji said, flipping over to face the knight. “Woah, HECTOR? What are you doing in here? How’d you sneak past me anyway?”

“Sneak past you? Anji, you’re the one skulking in the dark corners of this place.” He laughed with his accusation, rubbing the back of his head where he had been struck. “I was just trying to get some practice in. Ya know, I need to adjust to the way I...er, view things now.” He explained, his voice rather carefree now.

“I am not the one skulking about at all hours.” Anji said, pointedly ignoring the tug of sleep that threatened to pull her under. “I think it makes you look like one of those buccaneers.” She said, cracking a grin.

“Really now?” The rubbed his chin with a smirk, ignoring her comment, “I’ve been overhearing some arguments around here that you’ve been doing quite the opposite.”

“You’ve been hit on the head one too many times, big guy.” Anji said. “Now fess up, the trick’s over. Why in the name of Crow did you decide to sneak up and tap me on the shoulder.”

The swordsman raised an eyebrow, “Trick?”

“You can’t fool me, Hector, you’re the only one in here, it had to be you.”

“Look at me Anji,” the man grunted, lifting up his bandaged arms. With a laugh he argued, “I couldn’t sneak up on a sleeping cow let alone a trained scout.”

“Well, someone tapped me on the shoulder, and last time I checked, we were the only two people in here.” Anji said, walking over to help Hector back up.

The man sighed, accepting the help. “It wasn’t me, I promise. I was too busy competing with nonexistent wind knocking over all the crap I was practicing with. Apparently, anyway, because I couldn’t find a source anywhere.” Once back on his feet the swordsman patted off the dust that clinged to his ragged clothing. “...Feels weird not wearing my armor.” It was another bit of a sore subject for the man, his old armor was in shambles now thanks to the fall off the guard tower.

Wincing, Anji apologized, “I said I’d find you some more... It’s just a bit difficult to run to the store at the moment.”

“Haha! We’ve got bigger things to worry about than some silly armor, don’t sweat it.” The man waved off the conversation quickly, as if it were nonsense. He cleared his throat, “Uh, thanks though.” He turned his head back with a curious look, “You said someone was tapping your shoulder? You’re sure it wasn’t your sister? She is a quiet one.”

“She took off with Julius to go... take care of something for me.” Anji said simply, turning to head back into the foyer.

“Maybe it was related to my mysterious wind.” Hector suggested causing Anji to stop and stare at him. He had intended the words to be a joke, but with a place like this castle it actually was a strong possibility, at least to him. “Uh, Tamar perhaps?” The man quickly added.

“He’s out on guard duty.” Anji said laughing, “It was one of the conditions of my, uhm, sleeping.”

“Yeah, that clearly panned out.” He teased, “Welp that’s everyone, unless you tapped your own shoulder.” The man hesitated, actually considering it, “You didn’t...you didn’t actually do that... did you?”

“Hector, I’m about to knock you out again so I can get some peace and quiet.” Anji grumbled as they entered the temple foyer. The foyer looked different than it did five minutes prior. The fire was out, and in a completely different spot, and Hector’s cot was flipped on its side in the middle of the room like a beached whale.

Anji glared over at the swordsman, who quickly defended himself, “I don’t leave beds like that, I swear! Well,” He corrected, “maybe with a few mugs of ale, but I haven’t had a drop in days!”

“Well how in the hells did this happen? Beds don’t just... do whatever that bed just did on their own!!!” Crossing the room, she knelt to feel the ground at the spot the fire was before. “And this, this isn’t even warm.” Anji said exasperatedly.

Woooooooosh

“That damn wind again...” Hector grumbled. “Something is up.” The man’s voice lowered, sounding a bit more serious now. Listening carefully, a noise began to echo towards them. It sounding like crying of some kind. The swordsman turned his head to say something to Anji, but his voice was interrupted by a loud yell of anguish, before another gust of wind knocked him onto his bottom and slid him across the floor right next to the fire place. From there, it was silent once again.

“Yep, that’s a ghost alright.” The man coughed out a ball of dust that had clogged his throat from the wind. “No doubt about it.”

“Ghosts? They’re fairy tales. Hell, ghosts are probably more likely than you suddenly getting your sight back.” Anji said sarcastically.

“Don’t be silly.” Hector argued as he brought himself back to his feet with some effort. “I’ve fought ghosts before. I did so in this very castle. They’re as real as the day is long...except in winter when the day is short. Besides, did you not hear the wailing just now?”

Anji bit back a smart remark, opting instead to go into another room to find some food. “Hey, did you move the flour?” She called out to Hector as she dug through the makeshift pantry.

“We had flour?”

Hector heard a loud smack as Anji facepalmed. “Well, the potatoes aren’t here either. Did you get hungry last night or something? Tamar had to fight through the battle lines for that!”

“Don’t worry I didn’t touch it. I prefer red meat over potatoes, anyway.” He reassured with a laugh as he scrounged around the room for where the only piece of equipment he still had was, his axe Zorica. “Hmm, that’s interesting, do you think ghosts get hungry?”

“Suuuure they would. If they bloody existed!”

He walked beside her, bringing the weapon into her field of vision. “Look, last time I fought with ghosts, I wasn’t even capable of touching them. That priest Kurt told me the only way to hurt them was to use something blessed in holy water, that only leaves us this axe which got doused in the stuff last time.”

“You’re taking this joke way too far, patches.” She shoved the weapon away from her, “And it’s not funny either, so give it a rest. In fact give yourself a rest, you look like a wreck.”

“I’m not joking. You think I was getting thrown onto my ass for fun?”

“I think you’re running around half-cocked because you’re getting antsy.” Anji said. “And you really should be sleeping. That’s the only way you’ll improve at this point.”

“All I’ve been doing in this damn place is sleeping, because someone asked me to.” He growled. “Something is going on here and you’re just ignoring it?”

“Maybe ‘cause I’m more worried about what’s going on outside this bloody temple!” Anji said hotly, turning to glare at the bandaged man.

The two glared at one another, what had been a relatively calm discussion between the two suddenly seemed to strike a cord. “You’re just being stubborn. You’d let this thing haunt, possibly kill you, because you think it isn’t your problem.”

“My problem? You’ve seen a draft and are now calling it a spook!” Anji snarled, crossing her arms defensively, “Ghosts are in your mind, Hector. Not in a dusty old temple.”

Hector clenched his hands tightly in frustration, “I see what this is. You think I’ve lost it from my injuries. That I’m making up some sort of excuse to go running around like a madman, is that it?” He accused, “Is this why you offered me your help? Did you take pity upon this murderer? Did you think me broken?” The man turned away, rubbing his head in annoyance, “I am a warrior, Anji. My body could be crushed into dust and I would still do what I believe in.”

“I made a promise to help every damn person on this damn castle. I swore an oath to protect people... Right now I’m the only thing standing between you and an executioner’s axe, and you want to say that I pity you?” Anji glowered at Hector for a moment, refusing to break eye contact. When she spoke again, her voice cracked, “I’m your friend... I am helping you.” She paused for a moment, wiping a stray tear away with her shoulder, “I’m just standing here, trying to hold everything together so nobody kills you. Yet you seem determined to let them.”

“The path I chose for myself is one of danger. My life is always and will always be at risk. You want to keep me away from the problems outside but my purpose it to fix those problems!” Another terribly chilly wind seemed to flow into the room with the two of them. In the background, the quiet sobbing seemed to return. He looked down upon his axe, sighing, “Now there may be a problem inside too, but even that you’d keep away from me?”

“When I wanted to take action, to stop a battle that I had started, you begged me to rest. So I rested; for once since I had obtained Ivory...I rested. When you’re friends asked you to do the same, did you listen?” He questioned in his low growl, “Why do you ignore what they ask of you? Because you have a path that you want to follow, their words be damned.” He placed the weapon within his satchel, fumbling with it slightly. “I have a path I must follow as well. Perhaps instead of sneaking past their words you can face them head on.” The man added retrospectively, “You would be surprised what the words of another can do to change someone...”

“There’s no use in dying for nothing, Hector.” Anji said softly. “I’m just trying to get you time to recover, to regain what fighting abilities you can so you aren’t slaughtered by Luca. If you can’t see that, then I’m wasting my time and resources trying to save you from yourself.”

“Perhaps you should take care of your own body like your friends want, before you try taking care of mine, if you don’t want to ‘die for nothing.’ Maybe there is a ghost here, maybe there is not... but I refuse to be furniture in this damn building any longer.” He proclaimed as he dragged his feet away, towards where the wind bellowed out from. “If you meant what you said about helping me, then help me figure out what the cause of this is. Otherwise just leave me be.”

Anji watched Hector shuffle slowly away, hands balled into fists. Then, abruptly, she turned, heading in the opposite direction. Hector seemed to think that it was alright to stumble around in the dark, without so much as a lantern, just to prove his warriordom or something. Knights Anji groaned inwardly as she grabbed a few more knives and adjusted her palm guards. Well, even if the idiot had it in his head to wander about looking for children’s stories. Anji began tracing her way through the dim temple, trying to divine where Hector had limped off to. Granted, rage spells were also children’s stories, but there was a logic behind magic, a set of laws. Ghosts didn’t have any rules that Anji knew of. The howling had grown softer, and the draft from the temple had crawled to a sluggish breeze.

Actually, from all the stories she knew about, ghosts tended to be the type to haunt you, then kill you in horrific ways. Anji stopped, staring intently at the track’s Hector left in the dust. Their shuffle-step was normal looking, at least for a gigantic, one-eyed bear of a man with a limp, but the tracks were hours old. Frowning, Anji suppressed a shudder as the moaning deepened and grew louder.

Whispers and moans grew louder as a soft glow began to permeate the old room. Standing, Anji went for the nearest door, only to have it slam in her face. Stifling a yell, Anji fell back onto the floor, scattering dust everywhere.

Coughing from the centuries old murk that had suddenly been reintroduced to the temple, Anji’s eyes darted around the room as a strange aura filled the corridor. With it, the scout felt movement, like the room was shifting from one spot to another; concrete was heard grinding against other concrete. Scrambling to her feet, she dashed for the door and attempted to open it, but it was closed tight. With a flash of anger she slammed into it, trying to force it open. One good hit later, and the door flew open revealing a vast emptiness inside.

Anji gasped when it appeared that the room she stood in was floating in some strange void. She could see other sections of the temple, all ripped apart and floating around in this space all over the place. It was clear wherever the temple was, it was not on the first floor any longer. The aura from earlier led out of the doorway and towards some piece of the temple that floated in the center of this chaos. Similar auras seemed to pour out of the other rooms as well. It was where they met that the sobbing echoed.

Gaping in amazement, Anji dusted herself off, and began to follow the softly glowing shade, leaping out from the room onto nearby debris. Stopping for a moment to steady herself, she tested out this sudden lightness by jumping into the air. She grinned as she jumped an easy ten feet into the air, before coming to a soft landing. The shade stopped, watching her antics. Once Anji had finished testing out her new floatation abilities, the spirit swirled around her, beckoning for her to follow. Curious, Anji leapt and ran through the debris field of the shredded temple.

When Anji made it to the room, if it could even be called that anymore, she saw Hector in the other corner, having apparently just crossed his own field of detritus. “Boy, this escalated quickly.” Hector commented on, before spotting his redheaded friend. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” Anji said briskly, dusting off a stray bit of dirt that had somehow gotten on her tunic. “And yourself?”

The man looked to the left and the right side of his bruised body before shrugging, “I guess I could be better.”

This produced a quick bark of laughter from the thief, who dug around in her ever present pack, finally producing a small tin. Eyeing the auras carefully, she walked over to the knight and gave him the healing ointment. “Use that, else you’ll start shredding at the seams.”

The man snorted, “Ha, it only takes till we’re floating in space for you to offer the good stuff, huh?”

“To be technical, we’re floating in space in a castle that is also floating in space.” Anji said smirking. “Besides, I only have a little of that left, how do you think I heal so quickly?”

Taking the container the man nodded. Reassuring, he said, “Well, I intend to use it. I have no plans on dying for nothing.” He turned his head, and looked upon the center of essentially what was now a platform the two stood on.

In the center the auras gathered, and the form of a woman was seen forming in and out of them. A spirit to be sure; Humanoid in appearance, the figure sobbed quietly in its arms and from the light surrounding it two large wings like those of a butterfly sprouted from behind it.

“Old girlfriend?” Anji said softly, backing up a step as the spirit’s crying became louder, causing Hector to give her a pointed look.

“So much pain… how do you two stand there and crack jokes!?” The spirit wailed, a strong wind bursting from her cry. Anji and Hector found themselves sliding backwards slightly, edging towards the end of the platform and out towards the emptiness below. “I feel it, I can’t help but feel your anguish… so much suffering between just two people… I thought I had escaped such pain…”

“Escape?” Hector repeated grabbing hold of Anji and trying to pull both of them against the strong wind pushing them backward. “What are you talking about?” The swordsman tried to reach for his axe with his left hand, knowing it was probably their only chance, but with no way of ‘looking’ at it, he could not get a firm grip on the handle quickly while his attention was diverted to the wind threatening to blast him into the void.

“Yes, Escape!” The winds power intensified, and for a brief moment the two were lifted off the ground until Anji managed to grab hold of one of the nearby debris, using it as a wall for the two of them. If the wind got any stronger, they would certainly be thrown off the platform. “I was so loyal to our king. Him and the people he had brought. I gave them love, devotion, power. But none of it was good enough! When they had all they would take from me, they sealed me in this temple...left me alone... abandoned me. After everything I had given them!”

“I could not take it. I could not take the pain of being betrayed, of being left behind by those I loved. So I took my life!” She shrieked outward, her power growing in intensity. “I see it in both of you as well...I heard your words, felt your pain. You reawakened the despair I tried to throw away!”

“I think she’s saying our arguing caused this?” The man grunted through the wind that whipped into his face. “That’s a bit of an overreaction, don’t ya think?”

“Maybe it was all your bad jokes.” Anji said, leaning into the gale. “So, what are you doing now?” She shouted to the quivering spirit, “You plan on killing us as well?”

“If it’ll end this suffering once and for all, yes!”

“Killing two people isn’t gonna stop this kind of pain!” Hector yelled back, “There’s a whole city of people who are being betrayed and killed for things they don’t believe in. How is dying gonna solve any of those problems!? Or are you so selfish that you only care about your own pain!?”

“Is that not what you two feel as well...?” The creature argued, “‘protecting your own bodies?’” She repeated from the words she must have heard earlier.

“Well, yeah. I’d like to keep breathing. It’s easier to live that way.” Anji said deadpan. “But honestly, why go to all the trouble of bringing us here if you just wanted to kill us? Awful lot of trouble for some noisy, suffering people.”

“Maybe we are suffering, and maybe we don’t like to listen to one another, but we’ll be damned if we take the easy way out.” The man continued, looking over at the scout as the two still braced against the wind. “Right?”

Anji looked at the knight for a moment, then nodded, smiling, “Right.” It was the closest the two would most likely get to an apology from earlier.

“We’ve been betrayed... we’ve betrayed others. I’m not going to deny that it has affected me, but there are others who need our help. We might have to suffer for it, but we can save them from the same fate!”

“Maybe we can even save you?” Anji offered, awkwardly.

“... Save me?” The fairy creature questioned between sobs. “What could...what could you possibly do for me?”

“Why don’t you tell me your story?” Anji asked, as the gale slowed to a stiff breeze. Settling down into a crouch, she motioned for Hector to do the same. “Who knows? Maybe we can help you figure out where all the problems began.”

The fairy-ghost fluttered for a moment, stilling her sobs. As she began to speak, images appeared, floating in the air. “I was an information fairy, when I was last upon the castle.” An image of the temple, it’s carved stone stark and glistening, while the forest was replaced with a desolate waste.

“I was no one important, only useful for human questants and minor godlings.” Another flash, as a group of blue-colored creatures with tridents approached the beautiful fairy.

“One day, I heard of a human alpha, by the name of Arthur, declaring a war on the King.” A man’s face, scarred and serious, grey eyes in marble skin.

“Instead of reporting immediately to the King, as per orders, I decided to learn more of this Arthur.” A small grouping of tents on the banks of a volcano.

“He convinced me to help him.... I betrayed my home and my entire existence for a human.” A soft smile, grey eyes twinkling like so many jokes.

“The war was terrible. So many of my kin, gone.” A battlefield, stained in red and silver, crumpled bodies littering a grassy plain.

“When... When we finally reached the top, He was there.” A tall man with a cruel smile, sword in hand.

“He told them of Arthur’s gift for planning, his ‘little bird’.” A duel, two men clashing, black on yellow.

“They were devastated... They couldn’t believe that he had been beaten.... They... They hunted me down, clipped my wings.” A flash of excruciating pain hit the pair of humans, who both crumpled.

“Then they left me to die.... Alone. And to try and end my suffering, I did.”

The platform was completely silent for a moment. “I know what it is like to... to give everything up for others, and then have them give up on you.” Hector lamented, as the spirits pain echoed within the two humans.

Wincing, Anji balled her hands into fists to deal with the pain, “Well, I can only speak for myself, but I think you were really brave.” Seeing the spirit’s puzzled look, she said, “You stood up for something, and helped people escape this place, hopefully. You sacrificed a lot, but you saved countless lives.”

“The pain is never easy,” Hector argued, “But preventing that same pain in others? That makes it all worth it. But you don’t need to face that pain anymore, those people you helped, they’ve made it now. All that’s left to do is... move on, and let us do the same for others.” The winds finally completely stopped at this, slowing inwardly towards the creature itself.

The spirit remained silent, contemplating their words. “You humans...are always such interesting creatures. To know so little of the universe, but to understand it so well...” With hesitation in her voice, the fairy continued, “Perhaps...you are right. I’ve done what I could for them, I just hope they don’t share my pain.” The spirit lifted its arms, and allowed a gentle wind to carry the two humans back safely next to her. “I shall leave this place, then, it will take people like you to save others from my fate. Maybe, however... I can help your kind one last time?”

The two humans looked towards each other, then back at the fairy, nodding hesitantly. Reaching its elongated arms outward, the spirit placed its hands above both of them. The fairy’s wind gathered within both hands, gathering in power and intensity before pouring over the two humans. When it died down, Anji found an exotic sword within her hands, emerald color and crystalline in appearance. Hector as well had new equipment, as he was adorned armor of far better quality than his previous armor.

The green haired man inspected the armor, silver and blue in appearance. He looked like quite the knight now, unlike before, and this armor would give much better protection than the past kind. “I... overheard you missing your old armor.” The fairy explained, embarrassed. “This was the equipment I used...when I still lived. There is power still untabbed within both of them, but I lack the means of drawing it out I’m afraid...”

“Thank you, and we’re sorry you had to suffer for so long.” Hector expressed, bowing respectfully to the much larger creature.

Anji looked down at the sword, then back up to the fairy, beaming, “I never got a chance to ask you... but what’s your name?

The spirit was quiet for a moment, then said softly, “Arthur gave me the name Asuna, that’s the closest I have to your form of classification.”

Grinning, Anji cradled the shimmering green sword as she bowed low to the deceased fairy. “Thank you, Asuna. For the gifts.”

With a small smile, the fairy disappeared.

The two humans were back in the temple main, which had been returned to normal. The only evidence that anything had happened were the shimmering, ethereal sword and armor that the pair now appeared to own. The two stood there in stunned silence for at least five minutes.

“So...” Anji said, finally.

“Yeah...?” Hector coughed out, looking around the newly restored building.

“I got a sword!” She said excitedly.

The swordsman laughed unexpectedly from the outburst. “So you did.”

“It’s so.... green.” She said inspecting it, then wincing as a stripe of red appeared on the emerald blade. “And sharp.”

Hector shook his head with a light sigh, pulling out the container she had handed him earlier. “We might as well split what’s left.”

“Nah, I’ll be alright.” Anji said, cleaning off the blood from the sword. “You need it more than I do.”

“A little trip through the void is nothing to me.” The man grinned, readjusting the eyepatch that had pretty much slid to the other side of his face from all the wind hitting it. “But fine, I trust you can handle a little cut like that.”

Yawning, Anji shook herself. “Uhm... Well, I don’t think that anyone else is back. Do you want to sleep first? Because, no offense, but you look like a wreck.”

“Look who’s talking. You look like you haven’t slept in years. This is the first time I’ve been moving around in days, give me a chance to enjoy it a little.” The man practically begged.

Anji stumbled away from Hector, nearly tripping over a spare shoe. “Just promise to wake me up if something bad happens, okay?” She mumbled, already half-asleep. The swordsman just gave a slight chuckle and nodded in agreement.

“I think we’re done with any ghost business... you should be fine.” Hector jokingly reassured, causing anji to mutter back some insult before leaving to finally get some rest. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow, arms still cradling the fairy sword.

A minute later, the blade laid on a nearby table instead courtesy of the swordsman. “That.” He commented with a sigh of relief, “was a terrible accident waiting to happen...”
If you ever need to ask the questions "Am I needed? Should I help them?" The answer is always yes. Always.
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Adell
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Pixelmage on Fri Jun 14, 2013 12:55 am

Quest 23: Follow the Leader

There was, all things being equal, an inordinate number of injured people at the temple that now served Storm and Drive as their base. At least, that was how it seemed to Eliziya.

“I’m so sorry, Aza,” she began, sighing, “to be bothering you so often.”

“T’is not a worry, friend Torvantine. The humours of your companions are so often misplaced and imbalanced I wonder if they are put here by the powers that be to torment you, or at least, to inconvenience you greatly,” she chuckled drily, “I have agreed to help as much as I can, no?”

“Ah, yes, and I am grateful. Well..”

Julius chose that opportune moment to enter the room. Both physicians (for Zi now considered herself one, taking some instruction from Aza Geilla) faced him impassively, waiting for him to list a repertoire of injuries. To their great surprise, he greeted them in an entirely civil and polite manner.

“Oh... I’m sorry, is this a bad time to ask for your attention?” He received troubling news from his contacts in the City Guard. Legias, who was supposedly meeting with Lori in the library had gone back to headquarters only to gather her gear and promptly vanished into the underground floors of the castle. “Something came up and I thought having someone skilled at healing to be forewarned would be wise.”

“W-wise.. Uh, do you want Aza to go with you then?” Her habitual echo-stutter manifested; somewhat unfortunately, Zi felt. It irked her to no end, and Julius was close enough that she ought to be able to speak to him properly.

“I’d rather go alone, but... Adam has left a request for me with the sentries, in case I could maintain contact. The guard forces are short staffed and the fact that he doesn’t know where I am means I’m probably his only option left.” He paused, considering what he could tell. In the end, he decided to reveal all of it; there was no sense in keeping secrets. “Legias is missing. She was last seen entering the Underground alone and he doesn’t have any free hands to send for her without sacrificing more of the city to the rebellion. Considering how that place is, I’d feel more at ease if I knew you’d be watching over for when I come back with her.”

Aza barked out a short laugh. “And I was just telling friend Torvantine about how the Never-Fading contrive to give her patients. Rest assured, friend..”

“Julius,” Zi supplied.

“Friend Julius. We’ll be ready. Is there any other need? You’ll forgive me if I say that there is little to justify a simple pre-emptive warning for us to be ready; surely you have more faith in your fellow guildsmate.”

‘I’ve been down there once.” He said preparing to move out. “Even all the possible warnings might not be enough to prepare for what that place could cause.”

Eliziya blinked. “T-Then why don’t I go with you?”

What in all the spheres am I saying? Zi wondered, not particularly certain of her rash offer. Maybe he’ll say no.. Yet at the same time, something in Zi told her she wanted to go with Julius and help him. Something, yes. Perhaps a suicidal urge, she thought wryly.

“That would be dangerous and needlessly risky. Helpful, but only if you’re sure you want to do it.”

“Want to do it.. yes. Besides, if Legias is injured, you can’t carry her back and fight off all the demons of the dark at the same time!” After a few moments of consideration, Zi amended her sentence. “Well, maybe you could, but you won’t be able to do it well enough to guarantee both of you making it back alive. And that would be, uh, bad.”

He laughed quietly, not a shred of common sense, offering to go along... But what else would I expect? He knew better than to try and dissuade the mage. He would just do what he could to keep her safe as well. “Let’s go. But just to be clear, stay safe. If you have to run away, do so. We’re trying to rescue someone, if we fall in there we won’t be able to help anyone.”

With all the un-thought-through confidence of youth, she nodded. Despite her experience in treating terrible wounds borne by people of all ages from all manners of catastrophe, to her, death was something that happened to people-who-were-not-Zi-or-Julius-and-preferably-nobody-she-knew-personally. A long qualifier, but a surprisingly common one.

“Aza,” Zi sighed, picking up a sewing kit, “I’m sorry to have to ask you again..”

“I’ll stay about. Morgante has little need of me.”

“Thank you. Let’s go, Julius.”

Like the number of wounded in The Temple, as Zi thought of it, she felt an excitement far out of proportion to what they were about to do.

-----

In retrospect, a mob was not exactly the most appropriate thing to get excited over. In full consideration, it would be more appropriate to run away, screaming bloody murder, feeling as though you were about to piss your pants. That, or get trampled over, stamped into the dust and dirt like so much insignificant flesh. Had Julius not been there, Zi would probably have opted for the former. As it stood, they decided to prudently step aside and melt into the buildings.

Zi willed herself to be inconspicuous. Never had she wished harder to be unseen and invisible like Anji; now more than ever she needed to do so yet her heart pounded so hard it was as if her own body was trying to give her away. Julius- rather, Fade now would be more accurate- was far more adept than she at the art of subtlety. He stood like a statue, listening and counting the steps of the people moving outside. Every so often he would signal for them to move to another room, or cross a segment of the streets, but even then, moving in open view was risky.

Risky, yes. Like how there was a singular arrow eagerly zipping its way through the air to meet them.

Thankfully, the arrow was none too accurate. It embedded itself into the wall, still quivering as Zi tore her eyes away from it in time to see the attention of the mob fixated upon them.

Julius whirled to face the attackers, positioning himself between them and his guildsmate. “Keep going,” he said to her. “I’ll be right behind you.”

“You, yeah, sure you will!” Zi retorted, flushed with excitement and dread. She tugged at his tunic. “You’ll never get away if you stop here!”

“I won’t fight them.” He said, drawing his blades at the pocket of enemies that was moving towards them. “But I can run faster than you, I’ll buy you some time and then run. Trust me. We have no more time to discuss this.”

Her once-repressed obstinate nature warred briefly with her inclination to follow others; she compromised by tapping a finger against the floor, then fleeing. A small flame sparked, tracing the irregular lines of cobblestone and rushing towards the attackers. It was intimidating to folk who didn’t see magic regularly, but it was harmless, unless they were stupid enough to let it burn them directly. Of course, they didn’t need to know that.

Thankful for the distraction, Julius stood in the middle of the street, watching as the attackers hesitated. Unfortunately, some of the more mindless ones weren’t intimidated at all. Or perhaps simply didn’t notice the fire-glow that threatened to burn them. No common sense. Julius began batting the crude weapons aside with his blades, but the group that stood behind at first was approaching once again.

With only a few seconds before being trapped, he risked a glance behind to make sure Zi was safely away. Thankful and worried about her not being in sight, he ducked under a mace from one of the rioters and promptly dashed off, hoping that whoever had that bow earlier wasn’t ready to shoot him in the back.

“Here!” Zi waved to grab his attention, then quickly changed her mind and ducked behind a well as another arrow came whizzing over Julius’ head. She peered tentatively over the rim to chart Julius’ progress, then glanced behind her at his signaling. He came close just in time to hear her yelp of surprise when she realised that there were many more people converging upon them from all directions.

“At least we’re here.” He pointed at the well behind them. “And their archer isn’t too competent either. So that’s always a plus.”

“G-go in! I’ll leave fire to stop them, so you go first.” Despite her seemingly brave offer, Zi was biting her lip to stop herself from trembling. I may as well do this, she thought, I’ll never get a better chance to show off ever again.

Julius nodded, letting himself down on the edges. But instead of descending ahead, he waited, watching out for Zi while she called upon her powers again. He almost failed to catch her as she leapt in feet first, arms stretched skywards, an orb of blue flame hovering in the centre of the well. Now this one was dangerous and it took a fair bit of her power to create, but Zi intentionally made it smaller such that it was about twice the size of a marble. Less power needed, but the intensity remained the same and while it wouldn’t deter any of the enraged townsfolk from following, the hole it would burn through their bodies would certainly prevent any of them from trudging more than a few steps before sinking into pain-induced unconsciousness. It probably wasn’t lethal, since the wound would be cauterised.. At least, that was how Zi justified it to herself.

“Easy now..” Julius set her down gently. “Jumping in like that would probably break some bones. But they won’t follow us down now, we can afford to be careful.”

“C-careful, yeah,” Zi breathed heavily with the exertion of the past few seconds. Unlike Julius, she wasn’t used to moving around much and was already sweating heavily. The dank humidity of the Underground wasn’t helping either. If it was any consolation, she wouldn’t have to use her flames to illuminate the way; faintly luminescent fungi dappled the cave at irregular intervals. If there was light, then maybe the Underground wasn't so bad after all.

They walked in silence for a few minutes. The eerie glow of the tunnels cast shadows in twisted shapes as they went, but absolutely nothing crossed their path. It was almost as if the way had been cleared for them. “I know it’s been quiet so far, but stay alert.” Julius warned. “This much peace seems unnatural, somehow.”

Zi nodded, keeping silent. In the uncanny silence, she had had ample time to become sober. They had narrowly avoided death and dismemberment and it shook her to think that anything, even a rage spell, could so twist any person to such violence. The look in their eyes had been nothing but undiluted hate and she wondered if there was any way they could turn that around, remove the anger. Perhaps if..

Her lapse in attention nearly caused her to lose her head. A sword swung in an uneven arc, aiming to decapitate her, but thankfully, Julius was fast enough to pull her back. The sword bit empty air and its wielder hobbled forward, yelling in a potent mixture of fear, pain and anger.

Julius’ brow furrowed in recognition even as the sword pulled back in preparation for another lopsided swing. “Legias? Legias, it’s us! Julius Valerian and Eliziya Torvantine!”

“Valerian? Torvantine? What the hell are you doing down here?” Legias glared at them with wild eyes, mistrusting their fortuitous appearance.

“We’re your rescue party.” Julius took a moment to assess the disheveled, bleeding woman, then decided to let Zi handle that.

“Saints..” Eliziya swallowed. Legias was bleeding from several sword-cuts on her arm, torso and shoulder. Other smaller wounds, already scabbed over, dotted the landscape of her body and relatively minor bruises added purple to her too-pale clammy skin. The leader of the City Guard was limping too, her right knee bent at an unnatural angle and her grip on the weapon was tenuous. Overall, she was in a bad shape and if they didn’t get her out of the dark Underground soon, Legias was going to die from blood loss and trauma. “Dessication, drained, exhaustion, blood loss, a complete case of enervation." She bit her lip uncertainly. "L-Legias, sit down. I can help you, but not a lot.”

“No, no, we need to get out of here right this moment!” Legias demanded.

“You’ll die if you keep pushing yourself as you are.” Julius interrupted, standing a few paces away. “I won’t complain about you coming here alone, but now that we got here, you should let Eliziya make sure you’ll stay alive until we get out.”

“You don’t understand-” Legias began, but Eliziya cut her off in an unexpected outburst.

You sit down! How many people go, “Oh, healer, help me, I’ve spent the day brawling in a tavern, now I’ve lost a finger, help me now so I can go back and beat him up” or “I tore a leg muscle running, heal me now so I can finish the marathon”, or “Miss, my friend stabbed me in the back, take the knife out so I can stab him back”! You people don’t know the limits of your body and you just keep pushing and pushing and then you’ll get angry at us when you push too far and we can’t heal you! Sit down right now!” Eliziya, red in the face after her breathless tirade, flung several beads of flame around them irritatedly, creating small candlelights to illuminate their surroundings. “Light,” she muttered, “light to drive away miasma and bad smells..”

“You’ve been down here before, Valerian.” Legias said mildly dazed as the young healer fussed over her with needle, thread and warming magic. “You two won’t get out trying to take me with you.”

Julius listened quietly, paying attention to both the captain of the guard and to their surroundings. Legias continued with her weak voice. “Luca escaped, and that other person with him is a mage. He’s using the horns of that minotaur... Now... Get the hell out of here and let...”

“Don’t bother.” Julius finally replied. “I’m just a consultant to the guard, Captain.” He smirked. “You’ll have to find one of the actual guards and ask them to make that report for you.”

“Gods damn you, Valerian,” Legias gritted her teeth, wincing from the pain as Zi sewed her wounds. “Get out of here, you don't understand, there’s a-”

A startling, deafening crush and crackle of stone like a landslide shook the cavern.

“-a devilite tamer and his pet around.” She finished grimly. “It’s made of rock and stone. You can’t beat it, Valerian, you need to get out of here, you and Torvantine both. I appreciate the gesture, but I’m a dead woman and I know it.”

Before he could say anything to it, the wall collapsed, giving way to the misshapen form of the creature. It was quite literally a pile of mossy rock that moved in waves and swung around whatever passed for limbs that stretched out of it’s form. A dozen strides behind it stood a man in city guard uniform, looking thoroughly amused at the scene. “Found ya! Man, cleaning the tunnels hasn’t ever been this fun!”

Julius launched a quick glance behind him. “Zi, get Legias on her feet and start heading back. Same as with the mob, I’ll buy time and be right behind.” He stepped to intercept the attackers; if the women replied, he didn’t hear it.

The creature rumbled forward, swinging a wave of cobblestone at the knight. Julius, unwilling to block the blow directly, rolled to the side and and rose to his feet thrusting his left sword into one of the seams in the monster’s composition.

“What the-” The supposed tamer stared at the fight from a safe distance, Julius kept repeating the maneuver; he tried to cause some manner of damage, but mainly, he was successfully holding the Devilite in place. “You dumb pile of rock! Stop trying to punch him and just roll over the idiot!”

The fight started to shift; with the increasingly furious orders from the man in the distance, the Devilite began to move more aggressively. Julius ducked under a tendril once again, and, keeping his barely effective attack, shoved a sword into one of the cracks. This time, however, instead of reeling back from the metal, the monster slammed another tendril at the knight.

Julius pulled away, ignoring the trickle of blood flowing from the corner of his mouth. One blow is like that, uh? As if preparing for a charge, the monster paused for a second before continuing his assault. The tamer, however, was not happy at the fact that his “pet” wasn’t winning fast enough. The words were mostly lost in the cacophony of the stone-bound monster’s movements, but the creature still seemed to obey it and moved to attack once again.

The knight adopted a defensive stance, crossing his swords in front of his body. “I am a shield.” He uttered the words to no one in particular, his voice conveying what was simply a statement. “So long as I stand, you shall never touch who stands behind me.”

The Devilite descended, a wave of rock and earth that resembled more a natural disaster than a deliberate attack. Julius lashed out, waving his steel in blinding speed at the enemy. The impact drew sparks and sent pieces of stone and moss flying from the creature. But deflecting a pebble wouldn’t stop a landslide, and the monster continued to collapse upon him.

“Shield?” The tamer stared at the lone man about to be buried by his creature. “Shields break, you moron!”

The Devilite folded upon the knight once again, but instead of dodging or deflecting, Julius simply stood. Making a guard with his left sword, he thrusted his right, to the point of burying his arm all the way to his elbow inside the creature. “Beware of splinters.”

The creature reeled back, shrieking and shaking, pieces of rock began falling from it as it whipped it’s form, struggling to get away. The rumbling continued for a few seconds, after which the monster promptly began to move away, running from the confrontation. The tamer screamed curses and orders for it to go back and kill the knight. And Julius, for his part, simply stood in the exact same place, his left arm dangling uselessly at his side, and his left sword dropped at his feet. He stared at the tamer, impassive, holding his right sword and arm in a basic defense.

At this point, the tamer’s screams were past being incoherent, and his wooden necklace emanated a faint red glow in the dim light as he rushed at the man who had, somehow, managed to turn back his Devilite.

Somehow, but at the cost of most of his strength and stamina, it seemed, for the tamer's charge not only bowled the knight over, it sent him sprawling back to the ground such that the tamer was atop him, brutally slamming fist after fist at Julius' face.

With a short burst of static crackle, a pure blue bolt of lightning tore from Zi's hands, tracing a jagged path through the air and slammed into the tamer, separating the two. For a single moment as the lightning made contact with the tamer, the electricity coursed through his entire body and into Julius', causing his back to arch and convulse painfully. Then the tamer was flung off; contact was broken; Julius slumped back to the floor.

"By the Never-Fading, Julius, I'm sorry-" Zi rushed to his side even as the dazed knight struggled to move, but then Legias' voice snapped out like a whip.

"Focus, girl, the tamer's not down yet!"

Indeed, the man, though not exceptionally large nor burly, had somehow managed to shrug off the lightning bolt and began his wordless yell again, beginning another charge. His eyes blazed the same shade as the amulet, now focused on Zi.

Flames began to sprout about them in a rough circle like so many rampant weeds, centred around their maker. With an effort, Zi began pulling the flames in a rough spiral inwards, taking care not to hit Legias or Julius. The pattern would ensure that any attacker would be too busy trying to dodge the flames to focus on attacking; Zi had practised this for many a long hour, determined never to be surrounded and made vulnerable ever again.

But then she saw the tamer charging undeterred, skin peeling off in sickening charred pieces and she lost what little concentration she had left. Certainly, she had practised the spell, but she had never attempted it with so little power left in her and now she was almost completely drained. The flames winked out of existence mockingly and the man's deafening roar reasserted itself. She threw a second lightning bolt, sending the man flying into a cavern wall with a gruesome crunch that spoke of broken ribs and she dared to hope that the man would now be incapacitated. Then he rose again, the rosy glow of the amulet stronger than ever.

Evidently, Legias saw the same. "The amulet, its fuelling the rage spell and him. We need to stop it somehow."

The Guard-lady hobbled forward, adjusting her grip and prepared to strike him as he began a third, and hopefully final, charge.

"H-hold him down," Zi ordered in a trembling voice as an idea came to mind. "I might be able to.."

Despite his fearsome injuries, the tamer's speed still managed to catch them offguard, Legias' swing a half moment too slow but even a half moment brought the man too far within her swing to hit him. He grabbed her, hefted her up with both hands and made to throw her but then Julius- praise the saints he was alright!- tackled him from the side and tried to hold the thrashing tamer down. Knowing she had but a scant few seconds before he broke free, Zi made her move.

Both hands clasped the sides of his head and Zi pushed her forehead against his, ignoring the flecks of spittle he spat in his rabid rage.

So little left, Zi gathered her strength, searching for the deepest fount of her greatest power. Healing, reconstitution, that was what she did best. Her awareness of all other stimuli faded away hazily and struggling, she pushed her mind against his. She could 'see' it clearly, the rage spell, a miasmata of hate, spite and ill-conceived malevolence choking away the faint pinprick-lights of reason. Like a breath of fresh air, Eliziya cast a gust of wind to push away the suffocating fog. Thought it resisted her, the mind-cloud gave way and dissipated after a thankfully short struggle; she hadn't been certain she had enough strength left.

With the rage spell dissipated, she drifted serenely in that surreal semi-conscious state, forgetting that there was an outside world. The ear-splitting scream that jolted her to wakefulness so shocked her that her heart seized up for a moment and she cried out in turn.

“Zi, stay awake.” Julius said calmly, shaking the young mage gently. “We must get out of here before that thing returns. Can you stand?”

"Y-You stand right there!' Zi gasped unsteadily. "You're all, you're all cut up and bruised and, and- by the Never-Fading, your arm! Again!"

“Let it be for now. You’re too tired and we need to get out of here. Legias, can you walk?”

"Barely, but it'll suffice. Enough talking, we'll sort out the wounded later." Legias shot a wary glance behind. "If the devilite comes back, we're dead anyway."

Trudging in silence, they began the long hike back to the surface. Despite her weariness, Zi could tell that his wounds were taking their toll on him. At least, the wounds should have been, but Julius kept walking on mechanically, impassive and calm as if the wounds belonged to some other.

"J-Julius? Don't you feel the pain?" She asked eventually, unable to comprehend how he was sustaining himself. Surely he ought to have collapsed a long time ago, or gone raving mad from the hurt. "I'll get Aza to heal Legias and you, but doesn't it hurt?"

“It does.” He said with a smile, and then directed her gaze to his right hand, still clutching the handle of his sword. “But I can’t stop, so I don’t. The weight of the steel helps me keep my mind away from it.”

"Keep your mind away.. maybe I can find a way to turn this," she held up the wooden amulet, "into a kind of a painkiller.. maybe."
"Yami ni madoishi awarena kage yo
Hito o kizutsuke otoshimete,
Tsumi ni oboreshi gō no tama,
Ippen... shinde miru?"
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Pixelmage
 
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:08 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby IslaKariese on Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:20 pm

Quest 24: The Forest is Dying

Marcus was out in the forest looking for herbs. Need to stock up. We're already injured and things aren't getting any better. He had already collected about a dozen useful herbs but now found himself confounded. The only way to tell if the current plant was of use was a taste test, but everything had tasted like copper for a couple days. Marcus put the leaf in his mouth and immediately spat it out. Copper Marcus stood, turning as he did. Guess I'll just have to- Marcus saw flickering lights and smelled smoke. Oh no.
--

Pan knew something was off when she began to smell smoke.

Looking up, she stared towards the middle distance, trying to determine the source. No one really came to the forest - at least, that she knew of. Oh, sure, there were warriors and scouts on missions, semi-regular patrols made by Legias’ police force. Even the occasional adventurer, when the city apparently became too boring. But none of those things ever disturbed her. Her world, consisting of not only the forest but of all it’s inhabitants and mysteries, was one of solitude. Until now.

The shepherd, barely even needing to watch her step, strode quickly from the base of her main haunt - a large, gnarled willow tree that was at least 100 years old, by her own estimate - onto the roots of a thick oak, then to it’s branches, climbing with near inhuman ease. Swiftly and silently, she climbed the oak until she reached the top and her head broke the canopy.

Nothing could have prepared her for when she saw the entire southern horizon blackened with smoke and flickering with the devastating orange and red flames of a life-killing forest fire.

Which was headed right for her.

--

We are so screwed. A rather large portion of the forest was on fire. A forest fire, thats just what we need. Dammit I’m getting really sick of people just setting things on fire for the hell of it. Thats when Marcus saw a man wearing armor at the edge of the burning forest. The soldier had a horrible realization. This wasn’t an accident. They figured out we were hiding somewhere in here, This is either to kill us or force us out where we’ll be vulnerable.

Now the man was moving away from the fire. Bastard won’t... No, the forest fire takes priority. I’ll get to them later. Marcus looked at the inferno. Of course first I have to figure out how to put out the fire.

--

It said much about Pan’s personality when, instead of running away from the threat, she ran right towards it.

The shepherd girl was in a complete panic. How could this have happened? she thought to herself, heading for the nearest lake. She stared up at the blackened sky as she ran, the sight of it making her throat go dry and her chest fill with panic and pain. I was so sure... so sure that this couldn’t happen here. Not here.

But it was happening. And she not only needed to find out why, but she also needed to stop it before it was too late.

Before too long, Pan had reached her destination, the forest’s largest lake. Luckily, it hadn’t been overtaken by the fire just yet, but it wouldn’t be long before the heat would force her to move away. But as the girl stood there, inches from the edge of the lake, she realized that she had no idea how she could possibly stop the fire by herself. Or at all.

But I need to figure it out. Soon, she thought, looking at the approaching flames with anger and determination. Before someone gets killed. Like last time.

--

Don’t even know what I’m looking for. Marcus thought to himself. There might be some water around but even if there is its not like there’s a way I can get it spread over the whole forest fire. Maybe I should just knock down all the trees around the fire, make it more difficult to spread. Then Marcus saw a lake and ran even faster than he was before. As he came out of the trees he saw another person standing near the lake. For a second he thought the figure was one of his enemies. Then he saw who it was.

Marcus cursed and drew his weapon all the same. Oh this is just who I wanted to meet today, Marcus thought to himself. I don't see how this day could possibly get any better. He sighed to himself before calling out in a loud voice. “Oi, Pan!”
--

As soon as Pan heard the voice, she reacted. Moving quicker than she thought herself capable of, she rammed herself into the figure’s body and knocked him to the ground, disregarding his weapon completely. She had her crook crackling with electricity and pointed at his neck before she even saw his face. When she recognized him, she growled.

“Marcus, the rider,” she hissed, baring her teeth. “Did you cause this? Did you?

Marcus gave Pan a flat look before smacking her upside the head. “No you crazy, tree-hugging mage, I did not. It would be completely counter to my interests since this is where I’m hiding at the moment.”

Pan narrowed her eyes at him. “If I find you’re lying to me...”

“I don’t have a reason to, it would be counter productive to burn the area that surrounds my hideout which is also the place where I get all my herbs, particularly the medicinal ones. Furthermore is now really the time?” Marcus said exasperated and pointing at the forest fire.

Pan swallowed, and all her anger vanished at once. “No,” she said, lowering her staff. “No, it’s not.” Her grip tightened and she looked up at the flames. “We have to stop this fire. Any ideas?”

Marcus grimaced. “Not any good ones. You need dirt or water to put out a fire, both of which we have. But we don't have a way to spread them over the fire. I toyed with the idea of knocking down the trees surrounding the fire but that a delaying tactic at best and even with a mage it would take too long.” Marcus shrugged. “I’m out of plans for the first time in awhile.”

Pan shook her head to herself. No. No, that can’t be right. There has to be a way to stop this. There has to be... She looked at the lake, at the ground and the mud, hating her inability to use her magic to her advantage. If anything, her lightning would only cause a bigger fire, which was the very last thing she wanted.

Wait a minute, she thought, pulling out an iron chisel from her satchel. Pan’s brain started working at a rapid-fire pace. She had been researching rune circles and traps, attempting to expand her knowledge of how to use her magic to the best of her ability. The most she’d done with the knowledge was make a few lanterns and nightlights to sell in the village. But here and now... “Instant rain,” she murmured to herself. She’d forgotten Marcus was even there until he spoke.

“Yes rain would be nice, now what are you thinking? I’ve got black powder but no way to light it underwater. in fact to keep it dry I’d probably have to wrap it up a few times.”

Pan looked up at him. “There’s a spell that allows me to use the water from the lake and spread it over a large area as though it were raining. It’s perfect. But I’d need to put the rune circle at the bottom of the lake, and I can’t hold my breath for that long...” Pan kicked the ground in frustration, wiping her brow as the fire grew nearer. They were running out of time.

A smile spread over Marcus’ face and held out his hand. “Let me see that horn you took from the big, ugly thing.” Pan handed him the horn. Marcus examined the horn. Perfect, this will work just fine. “Okay now let me show you how you’ll be able to breathe underwater.” Marcus waded out into the shallows and shoved that horn open end down into the water. “The air already inside the horn will keep the water out if you pull the horn down with you like this.” Marcus let go and the horn immediately shot to the surface. “Of course you’ll need a counterweight to stay down. A counterweight like a metal club.”

Pan watched attentively, already planning in her head. “I hope that that’s something you have on you.”

Marcus gave her another flat look and pointed to where he had dropped his mace when Pan knocked him down. “We also need to make sure you’re out of the lake by the time the explosion goes off.” he said. The soldier turned and began wrapping his powder pouch in stirps of spare cloth.

As he worked, Pan took a hold of the mace and tore a length of vine from a nearby tree. She started tying the vine to the handle of the weapon as she ran back to Marcus, taking her horn back and wrapping the other end of the vine around the mouth of the large horn. Hopefully, it would hold enough air for her to last.

She looked at him seriously as he handed her the wrapped gunpowder. “I know you’re only doing this for your own sake, but... thank you anyway. You don’t know what this means to me.”

Marcus gave her a crooked smile. “Who says I’m only doing this for me? Now get going, we don’t have a lot of time and we still need to catch the bastards responsible.”

Pan gave a grin of her own, green eyes hard with promise as she turned and moved as quickly as she could into the lake on foot before taking as big a breath as she could and diving. She channeled some magic through her feet to propel her some of the way, but she couldn’t rely on it. She needed a great deal of it if she was going to make this work.

She couldn’t say how long she travelled, moving as fast as she could while only taking occasional breaths from her only air source. Pan’s energy had very nearly given out before one of her hands hit mud. With a muffled exclamation, she pulled out her chisel and began to work as quickly and accurately as she could, feeling herself tire with every symbol carved.

With an effort, she finally finished the circle and watched as it flashed yellow, then white, the entire circle shining brilliantly for a few seconds before going dark.

Then, one symbol lit up. Then the next, and another. Knowing from her readings that this was a countdown, she planted her feet on the ground and gave an almighty push, using the rest of her magic to fire herself to the surface as quickly as possible.

After a small eternity, Pan’s head hit the surface and she gasped, coughing for air. She swam blindly in one direction, hoping that it was the closest way to shore.

--

Marcus saw Pan swimming and knew that she didn't have much time Marcus sprinted for the shore of the lake she was approaching. She was almost there by the time he arrived. Marcus reached in and pulled Pan out, hauling her away from the lake as much as he could.

I hope she gave us a few seconds to get away from the lake. The answer turned out to be yes and no as the two got away from that lake, but not far enough away when the massive detonation knocked them both backward. Marcus didn’t see what happened to Pan but he rolled and slammed into a tree where he stayed dazed for a moment. Okay, Ow. Did it work? Marcus waited a moment and suddenly a downpour of instant rain fell. I guess so. The warrior got to his feet unsteadily. “Pan?” He called out. “You still alive?”

A cough and a groan of pain sounded, but then a small affirmation came from a few feet away from him. Pan hissed as she tried to sit up and failed, falling back into the mud. She opened one eye, her gaze first finding Marcus and then out towards the fire, which growing smaller and smaller by the second. She gave a small smile and a pained chuckle. “It worked.”

“Yea it did” Marcus replied. “But come on this is no time to be laying around on the job.” He said offering her a hand. “We’ve got people to chase.” Pan looked up at him, her eyes hardening as she gave a determined nod and took his hand. She groaned again when he lifted her up, but she kept her feet well enough to stand.

“Now,” she said, wiping her hair from her face. “Which way should we start looking?”

“Well lets go that way” He said pointing to the approximate direction he had seen the other man walking towards. “Hell who knows they might meet us on the way if they heard that.” Pan nodded, following Marcus as they both started their search.

They weren’t walking for long before Pan heard a branch snap. Spinning on her heel, she tossed one of her lightning stones toward the sound and was rewarded with a yelp of pain. She and Marcus stood their ground as they were both suddenly surrounded on all sides by men dressed in black.

“Well this is nice. You guys came to us. Saves us the trouble of having to find you.” Marcus said cheerfully. “So you are the guards who abandoned their posts I presume?”

“Silence you guild-rat.” said the leader through gritted teeth. “You guilds are destroying our way of life.”

Marcus sighed. “So that’s a yes then. And who are you may I ask?”

“I am Commander Kavros and you are under arrest.”

Marcus appeared to think for a moment. “I don’t feel under arrest.” He looked to the mage. “What about you Pan? Do you feel under arrest?”

Pan twirled her staff idly in her hands, looking at the lot of them with narrowed acid-green eyes. “No, can’t say I do.”

Marcus looked back at Kavros. “So I feel I have to disagree with your assessment of the situation.”

“Men take the guild rat and kill his friend.” the commander said, grinning a sick grin.

Marcus immediately dropped back as the men came charging at him. He didn’t have time to draw his weapon so when the first man got close enough Marcus kicked his leg out from under him causing him to fall, which the fight followed with a kick to the face, then drawing his weapon. He still had about four opponents with Pan in much the same situation, while in the back the leader stood snickering to himself. Oh he’s gonna regret that once I’m done with his guys.

Pan, meanwhile, was collecting her second wind, blasting the men left and right with well-timed bursts of electricity. Anyone who wasn’t electrocuted was beaten brutally with her crook, feet, and fists. Now that the danger to the forest was done, now that she wasn’t panicking over the fire consuming everything in its path, her anger had come back tenfold. And she wasn’t giving the slightest inch.

One man had his arm broken in three places. Another had his jaw cracked and his tongue nearly severed. Yet another would never have children again. The shepherd girl was out for blood, and she grinned maliciously and coldly as she fought her way through the men to the leader, Kavros. The rage she felt under the minotaur’s influence had nothing on this. This anger wasn’t superficial - it was real. And it was all directed at him.

Marcus was not having any more trouble with his enemies two more already lay on the ground. the last two looked weary, so Marcus did something he knew would get them to attack. He held up his hand and gestured for them to come on. The first one, a spear wielder fell for the bait, charging straight at Marcus. Marcus simply broke the spear off at the point when the guard thrust at him. The guard brought his weapon around intending to use it like a staff, Marcus broke it again, the adversary gave him a harsh look, Marcus struck him down. While Marcus had been focusing on his current opponent the other one had snuck up on him. Marcus managed to dodge under the blade but was off balance. The guard’s shield was going to be smashed into the guild member’s head. Marcus desperately grabbed for any advantage. His hand grasped the amulet.

Marcus’ mouth exploded with the taste of copper as his mind filled with rage.

Marcus smashed the opponent's shield with his mace braking it and sending the man flying back, the amulet ripped from his neck. The big man dropped the amulet like it had burned him. He turned to see that Pan had handled her enemies.

“So Pan shall we deal with the last one now?” he asked.

Pan cracked her neck and advanced on the no-longer-giggling man in front of them. “Yes. Yes, we shall.”

The leader pulled out a pair of knives, but the warrior was out of patience and simply broke Kavros’ arm before Marcus grabbed the villain by the scruff of the neck and threw him to the ground in front of Pan.

Pan immediately slammed the butt of her staff into his stomach and the heel of her foot into his throat, sending currents down both and leaving him with nasty burns in both places. After continuing like this with several other parts of his body, leaving the man black and blue, she grabbed him by the bruised neck and slammed him into a tree, starting up a mild yet painful electric current as he clawed ineffectually at her arm. “You know,” she said almost mildly, not even looking at him. “If I keep this up, I could cook you from the inside out. Then again, I might get sick of the smell of burning flesh before you die, so who knows?”

Kavros, of course, had no coherent answer to that except to scream hoarsely.

“For heaven's sake Pan if you're gonna kill him, kill him. Don’t torture him.” Marcus said with a grimace.

Pan looked up at him, not letting up. “And give me one good reason why I shouldn’t.”

“I suppose you’re right” Marcus replied sarcastically. “He would torture us, so we should obviously be willing to be just as horrible to him.” Marcus paused for a moment. “Plus you’re only guarding one forest, guarantee there will be more. I’m protecting much more than trees here. I am telling you now, kill him or let him go, but enough.”

For two seconds, Pan only stared at him blankly. Then, with no outward indication of her thoughts, she released the man, letting him fall to the ground in a blissfully unconscious heap. The girl stepped toward Marcus, and her face twisted with pain before she hoarsely replied, “It was never just about the forest, rider.”

Without letting him respond, she began to turn away. “Thank you for your help,” she said lowly, “but I have a forest to rebuild.” She walked off, paying no mind to the unconscious men strewn across the forest floor.

“Thank you for helping me protect my family Pan.” Marcus said, not caring that she wasn’t listening. Kavros had regained consciousness and was crawling away. Marcus pulled the man to his feet.

“And where do you think you’re going?”

“You won’t torture me, you just stopped her from it and I bet you don’t have the spine to kill me. Kavros laughed in Marcus’ face. Marcus punched him.

“I considered killing you but I have a much better idea: I’ll give you to Legias, and let her decide what to do with you.”

The former guard looked at Marcus in terror and tried to get away, but he couldn’t escape as Marcus dragged Kavros off laughing as he did so.

And in the shadows of the few trees still standing, Pan watched with somber eyes before disappearing to do her own work.
The voices in my head tell me that we saved the world. However, they also told me that George Clooney's face is on the dollar bill, so... meh. The voices are more fun, anyway.
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IslaKariese
 
Joined: Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:53 am
Location: Maryland/Virginia

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Pixelmage on Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:29 pm

Turn Rewards:
  • Lordxana0 ~ Customized Knife.
  • eli_gone_crazy ~ Fairy Sword.
  • Adell ~ Fairy Armor.
  • Pixelmage ~ Metal Sense: Resolve.
  • agoraoptera ~ Advanced Healing: Pacify.
  • Guyshane ~ Latent Magic.
  • IslaKariese ~ Rune Power Boost.

Someone captured Soren Kavros? What in the-? Storm and Drive went all the way to hide away and stuff, and apparently the whole castle knows where they are now. :shock: Legias is back on the City Hall, I wonder how the talk with Lori went, don't you all? :P

Anyway, it's time to move again.

Quest 25: Rite of Passage.
Storm and Drive's hideout could probably be called their new headquarters by now. With all the attention they have received these past few days. Now they are threatened by the possibility of a large scale attack. There's no way to face that directly. So, step one, get to the second floor outpost. Of course, the gate that would make the travel easy, considering how beaten up and tired everyone is at the moment is located in the City Hall.
Your goal: Secure a way out of the temple.
Quest-takers: Tamar (Scarab) and Likovya (RussetDivinity)

Quest 26: Tiny war.
With Kavros missing, some of the anti-faction forces are tied up in the search for their leader. Now is as good a time as it gets to move forward and hinder their efforts even more! The amulets are stored all over the place, but a few stashes have been located in stores and homes that the antifactionists use as outposts. If you're able to deny them at least a chunk of their power supply, things might just start to get better.
Your goal: Destroy the amulet stashes.
Quest Takers: Nicholas Keyes (Spiritfchaos) and Giselle (narrativedilletante)

GM Notes:
  • On quest 25 ~ There are two ways to head up, take the gate and go straight into any established outposts, or walk up there from the countryside. Needless to say, having a bunch of wounded people running through the woods and climbing a rocky tunnel is not optimal, so, try to make the gate route available. :)
  • On quest 26 ~ There are about three stashes known to be close to the edges of the Anti-Faction territory, by no means their main storehouse, but it's still what keeps their front lines inching forward. Even if Kavros isn't there, expect at least some sort of officer attempting to keep these things under surveillance. It'll be easier with some of them elsewhere looking for their commander, but by no means completely easy. :twisted:

Deadline for this turn is June 25th, 23:59 EST.

Play smart, good luck and have fun!
Last edited by Pixelmage on Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
"Yami ni madoishi awarena kage yo
Hito o kizutsuke otoshimete,
Tsumi ni oboreshi gō no tama,
Ippen... shinde miru?"
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Pixelmage
 
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:08 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby RussetDivinity on Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:45 pm

Quest 025: Rite of Passage

Likovya had been keeping to back alleys and side-streets for the past few days. Ever since the Anti-Guild riots started, she had noticed people watching her, trying to judge her affiliation. She didn’t want to join a guild, but she didn’t bear them any ill will either. This didn’t endear her to anyone. It seemed neutrality was something she couldn’t afford these days.

At least she was small, she thought as she crept through a side street. Small and often dressed in black. It made blending into the shadows a lot easier, and sometimes, late at night, she felt almost like a shadow herself. The feeling frightened her a little, and she was growing anxious to do something, anything that wasn’t just creeping through the darkness, mouth shut and eyes open.

So while it wasn’t the most sensible thing she could have done, her eyes honed in on a shape moving in and out of the same shadows as her, less than twenty metres away. One thing sneaking around taught her was to notice people who didn’t want to be noticed. And the boy skulking in the darkness of the alleyways leading back to the burning residential district did not want to be seen.

*

Tamar thought he was getting pretty good at sneaking around, given how much of it he’d been doing lately. The alleyways seemed like the only safe route for anyone who was in a guild these days, and the anti-factions were getting wise to those, too. The same routes he’d used while fetching supplies the other day were now cut off, guarded by an assortment of figures, all wearing that familiar rune-talisman around their necks.

Just great... how did I get into this mess? Oh, right. Someone drugged the guys in charge of important missions. Oops.

The anti-factionists were many in number, so far on his journey from the temple into the main city, he had encountered at least ten groups of five or more people, the vaguest trace of magical impulses still clinging to people who were now quite happy to go nuts on the first guild member they saw without the need for magical encouragement. Tamar was beginning to feel completely out of his depth.

Still, it wasn’t as if he had any choice in the matter. “Can’t let Anjali down. There are only two ways out of here, and the only plausible one is via that podium” He ducked quickly between two buildings to get away from a group of three talisman’s that had rounded the corner up ahead. That meant he had avoided them, but it didn’t help with any of the others. They really were everywhere at this point.

Including at the end of the alleyway Tamar had just ducked into.

*

Honestly, Zack Matthias was getting a little sick of all this hanging around on the streets.

He’d been in and out of alleyways for the last week, and the initial rush of patriotism or whatever it was he had felt during that mob outbreak had faded away into the drudgery of nothing whatsoever happening. Guild members who had even a lick of sense were all in hiding by now, and the guard were nothing but a bunch of busybodies getting in the way of the people who were actually trying to fix things.

“Cowards and imbeciles,” Zack growled to himself, turning his father’s old sword over and over in his hand. Hell, he was eager to protect this town from the threat of guilds and thieves and thieves guilds as much as the next citizen. He’d came here the same way many had, with dreams of untouched fields and untarnished slates.Somewhere that he could just be Zack Hempsey again, and not the any dozens of people he’d been to dozens more people in the world outside.

He hadn’t come here to see mass murderers placed in positions of respect and power, or to have some uppity Guardswoman with delusions of grandeur prancing around like she owned the place. She owned nothing. Oh, people would argue with the factions. There would always be those who supported miscreants and outsiders, Zack knew that. But slowly the anti guilds would make themselves known. Slowly they would be heard, and then this Legias, or whatever her name was, would have to start listening.

Zack had been working his way into a half decent daydream about being home in time for dinner tonight, when he saw the shadow. Before he came to the Castle, Zack had been in an army quite different to this one: a small militia on the edge of the Veil, fighting for freedom as any good man would. He had learned to read the shadows, to understand what could be hiding in them, and that figure over there certainly wasn’t hiding very well.

He tensed, hands curling around the sword. Sneaking around in the shadows... now if that’s not the sign of someone up to mischief, I don’t know what is,Hell, maybe he’d actually get something done today after all.

“Hey,” he grunted, drawing the attention of a couple of bored looking volunteers leaning against a nearby wall; a young male tossing his pendant lke it was a toy, and a slightly older female. He gestured into the alleyway with a tilt of his head. “Trouble, folks.”

Neither of them reacted with the immediate attention he’d come to like from people when he was serving. The woman sniggered. “Oh bloody hell, Zack, another alleycat is it?”

Zack grit his teeth. “Alleycats don’t make that much noise. Somebody’s down there, probably trying to sneak through to the podium. You know, that thing we’re all supposed to be guarding with our lives, remember? Go round the other side, we’ll cut them off.”

The boy looked unsure. “But did Soren mean for us to...”

“Soren isn’t here, remember?” Zack snapped. “Got himself tangled up with those Storm and Drive Bastards in the woods, they reckon. We’re meant to be keeping control here.”

His comrades exchanged a confused look (how he got hooked up with a couple of useless greenhorns like this, Zack would never know.) “Just move it, Jess. Tom, go for the fence behind the alleyway, we’ll cut ‘em off.”

Jess sighed. “Alright fine, if it’ll stop you yapping at us.”

*

Alright... so it’s at least a quarter of a mile to the podium still, Tamar pawed over the map Julius had given him, trying to see amidst alley shadows. And so far, most of the anti guilds have been in this area... not the residentials, or the trading distrinct. A couple of Legias’ groups are around, but they seem to be outnumbered... They’ve lost control.

Tamar leaned back against the wall, running through his options. Storm and Drive needed to get to that Podium and up to the second level before the anti factionists closed in on the temple. But neither the Guard nor the Guilds had any control over the podiums, or much of the city for that matter. The anti factionists had set up blockades all around the square from here on in. Nobody could get near the damn thing. If only he had been able to wait until nightfall....

You’ll just have to figure it out, Tamar told himself. There has to be another way to sneak a bunch of guild members, several injured, through a city full of people baying for their blood...

He’d been lost in this worrying thought when the figure appeared, blocking the thin light coming from the end of the alley. Tamar’s blood froze at the same moment as a burst of heat raced through the blade attached to his belt. Oh, crap.

“Hey, you there,” the voice echoed down the alley, the tone of a short man doing his best to sound intimidating. “Come over here. No funny business.”

Tamar tensed, resisting the urge to reach for his sword. Okay... just act natural, Tamar, he can’t know who you are. “Uh...” He swallowed. “H-hey, um... t-this is the way to residential right? I’m sort of... new?”

“New? You folks should have more bloody sense than to skulk down alleyways then,” the man grunted, although he returned his sword to it’s sheath. As he got closer his expression changed from gruff anger to confusion. “What’s a kid like you doing here?”

“Uh... like I said, kinda lost,” Tamar shuffled, praying the man didn’t notice his sword.

“You kidding me? Get back to the main town before somebody mistakes you for one of those wretched Guild Members and hunts you down!” he stepped closer again, eyes hard and serious, but it wasn’t until he got closer that his expression changed from sort-of annoyed, to furious. “What the...”

For a second Tamar wondered what had caused such an abrupt change. Then a glimmer caught his eyes: dim light, catching on the Storm and Drive pendant around his neck. A dead giveaway. Everyone knew Storm and Drive’s symbol, by this point. The man swore, drawing his sword.

Tamar turned and bolted.

Not that this did him any good.. Like all of the anti-guild army, the soldier wasn’t patrolling alone. A female figure had already blocked off the alleyway, and when he attempted to jump the fence, he realised that would only result in him running into another guard.

“Jess, stop him, he’s from Storm!” the man yelled, and the woman hesitated before drawing her own sword. “Stay where you are,” the man growled again. We’ll be wanting a word with your ilk.”

*

Not wanting to be seen wasn’t good enough. You had to actively try to make people not see you, and the boy wasn’t doing a very good job. It would have been better -- safer, at least -- to just let him be attacked. Likovya could walk away, or she could hang around in the shadows until everything was over. But hanging around might mean she had to watch, and even if she walked away, she would remember him. He was young, younger than she would ever admit to having been.

“Damn it,” she muttered. “I’m not a hero. Why do I keep getting pulled into this?”

The boy ducked down an alley, and Likovya slipped a knife from inside her sleeve. It was one of her smaller throwing knives, specially made (so she hoped) to fly through the air and stick into something. Whether the sticking would be lethal depended on how hard she threw it. And since there was a boy in danger, she would throw as hard as she could.

The knife stuck into the back of one man’s neck, and she knew she wouldn’t be that lucky again. She could, but the odds were strongly against it. Besides, lots of bodies lying around was hardly a good way to endear herself to anyone, and it might scare the kid she was trying to save.

The two remaining anti-guild soldiers turned sharply in surprise, and Likovya stepped out of the shadows, (or as far out of the shadows as she could in the narrow side street). “Hey!” she said, lifting her head and making her shoulders as broad as she could. Her work in the circus hadn’t been for nothing, and she could play hero as well as anyone given the right motivation. All she had to do was get the wording right. “If you want to hurt that boy, you’ll have to deal with me, understood?”

“What?” one of them said. “Are you with the Guilds, too?”

“No,” she said, feeling slightly offended. “I’m not against them, either.” If he tried to say anything that even sounded like with us or against us, she would put her knife through his neck, too, probabilities be damned. She had heard enough of that outside the Castle, before the circus was broken up.

“It doesn’t work like that,” the man said. “You’re either --”

She missed his neck, but not by much. He was, perhaps, a little faster than she had expected. The woman reacted to the attack, momentarily distracted from the boy and turning on her instead, and Likovya realised she had just sealed her fate. “Looks like I’m against you.” The banter was coming back to her, and she thought she might as well run with it. She turned to send another knife flying at the woman coming up behind the boy, knocking her off balance long enough for him to duck away from the grab of her hand. She had meant to score a better hit, but then it was only lately that she had actually meant to hurt people with her knives.

She didn’t notice the boy’s sword until he drew it. The light came a few seconds later, licking up the blade. Wait... is that sword on fire? She hadn’t seen anything like that since the fire-eaters’ acts in the circus. The boy turned quickly, slashing at the guard who had attempted to cut him off from the fence.

“Get out of the alley!” the boy snapped, jumping over the second man she had felled, who was now gasping and grabbing at the knife sticking out of his shoulder.

Likovya didn’t need to be told twice. She sprang back, considered retrieving her knife, and then decided the boy’s safety would have to come first. She could always go up to the people she stabbed and ask for her knife back. Audiences liked that kind of brashness, but she wasn’t sure if normal people would. There was a rush of air dangerously close to her ear, and an arrow hit the wall to her left. The third attacker had a bow. Because things weren’t difficult enough.

She had used both her sleeve knives, and the knives at her ankles were really more for quick little stabs. This might turn into a melee... but no, melees didn’t work when someone had a ranged weapon. She took one of her longer knives anyway as she dragged the boy into another alley, away from the firing. “Boy with the sword! Stay close.”

“...Y-you don’t have to tell me twice,” the boy stammered. “Thanks by the way. Nice to meet you?” He still had his sword out, but the flame of the blade had died away to a thin glow. The fire-eaters would coat their tools in tar, but no fuel-induced blaze had that kind of light. His eyes shimmered in the darkness, in just the right shade of purple to set her on edge. Real magic, then. Typical. Likovya was still trying to get comfortable with magic. Seemed like every second person in this city was wielding some kind of etheric nonsense. Whatever happened to good old fashioned smoke and mirrors?

“Likewise, I’m sure,” she muttered. She supposed she ought to have some witty line about “just doing her job”, but for now she was just incredibly annoyed that she hadn’t noticed the bow. “I’m guessing you’re with a Guild, then.” He didn’t look old enough to have any personal enemies.

The boy’s response was cut off by a shrill whistle. Likovya started, glancing back into the alley they had come from. A signal, she realised.

“Oh, that doesn't sound good,” the boy said.

“We have to move. The alley will be swarming with them soon.” Likovya looked around. The wall to her right wasn’t well-constructed, and she could probably climb it. She would have to put away her knife, but that wouldn’t be too much of an issue aside from not being able to defend herself. Now that she thought of it, that really was an issue, and she didn’t know if the boy would be able to keep up with her. “Do you think you could climb to the roof?” she asked, pointing.

The boy looked up at the roof blankly for a moment, before frowning at her. “...Not unless you’ve got a ladder hidden in the same place you’re keeping all those knives.”

“Just because I’m a performer doesn’t mean I can make miracles,” she said. “You’d need one of the magicians for that.” Like Canzade... that girl could have done anything. “You’ll have to run, then. I trust you can do that.”

Before the boy could answer, she stepped to the edge of the alley. No one was in sight so far, but that might change at any moment. Luckily for the both of them, she had come to know this city.

“Right, then. Anywhere in particular you need to go?” Maybe she would just have to escort him home. Maybe he even wanted to go to a quiet area, and she could stay there for a day or two. “Wherever it is, I can promise that I know how to get there.”

The boy shook his head. “Not that easy. We’re going up.”

Of course. He wanted to get to the podium. She couldn’t just save a random boy who had gotten lost. “All right. Are you going to wave your little magic sword around and hope the guards are afraid of fire?” She didn’t mention that she would be bringing her knives. For now, he could assume he was on his own once she had finished guiding him.

The boy hesitated, probably reconsidering her trustworthiness. “Actually the um, entire point is to avoid every last one of them. Look, thanks for your help, but... I have to get moving.”

Likovya glanced out again. She could hear people coming, and there wasn’t much time. “Tell you what,” she said. “I can get you to a safe place. I know these roads, and I can lose anyone who tries to follow us. You want to go to the podium? Fine. You just want to get far enough away not to get killed? I can do that too.” She looked him over. “You can trust me. I’m not against the guilds, but I’ll have to leave if we don’t move quickly. This isn’t my fight.”

The boy only hesitated for a second. “Can’t stick around here,” he murmured. “Guess I’ll have to find another way. Let’s get out of here.”

“Follow me.” Without checking to see if he would, Likovya darted from the alley and raced down the street. She took the first left turn she came to and from there proceeded to lose herself. She knew these streets, but she could also shut off the little map inside her mind, at least for a while. If she didn’t know where she was, it was likely the Anti-Guild faction wouldn’t either, and she would be far better at getting her bearings.

Every now and then she slowed, making sure the boy was still behind her. If he seemed to be lagging, she would stop and wait until he had gotten close enough for her to feel comfortable moving on. She gradually eased her pace as well, now that she felt a bit safer. When she saw a rough drawing of a cow etched onto a brick wall, she stopped and waited for him to catch his breath. The streets around her were quiet of any danger, but she kept her eyes open.

“I think we’ve lost most of them,” she said. “What were they doing, coming after a little thing like you?”

The boy frowned for a moment before his expression changed to something more worried than annoyed. He reached for something at his neck: a silver compass rose pendant. “Probably something to do with this. Need to stop wearing it in public,” he shoved the chain under his tunic and re-sheathed the sword. “I’m Tamar, by the way. I’m... part of Storm and Drive, and right now, I … kind of have to get my guild off this floor.”

“I’m Likovya,” she said. “I dropped my family name awhile back. Not really part of anything.” She had to admit, she felt much more comfortable with his sword away. She had heard of Storm and Drive a few times. “So how are you planning to sneak a whole Guild to the podium?” His anger at her comment on his size made her wary of asking why someone so young had been put in charge of something so important.

“Good question,” Tamar groaned. “I mean, it’s not so difficult to get one or two people out, after dark. We could probably manage that... but this is about all of us. At least... six people? Two injured.” He scowled. “I thought the guard had kept control of the podium. Guess not.”

“The guard doesn’t have control of much right now.” Likovya wasn’t sure how she felt about it. On the one hand, it meant everyone was running wild. On the other, she could sneak some food for herself and no one could do anything about it.

“There’s got to be a way,” Tamar seemed to be talking to himself, pacing the empty street where they’d emerged. They had to be near the slums area, and the church nearby towered over the surrounding buildings, out of place in the ramshackle surroundings. “They already know where we are. Marcus told me to try alleys, but even they’re guarded.”

“Not all of them.” Likovya grinned. “I got you through those guys, didn’t I? I bet I can take you right to the podium under the noses of every guard there.” The banter was happening again, and she had to force herself to be practical. She traced the edge of a brick with her finger before turning back to Tamar. “Let’s see how the podium looks. Do you think you can keep up?”

The boy hesitated more than a desert rat in a thunderstorm. She couldn’t blame him. It was difficult to know how to trust lately, especially complete strangers. Eventually though, he looked up and nodded. “Sure, just don’t climb any walls and I’ll be fine.”

“Don’t worry. The wall-climbing was just for a quick escape.”

*

She led him through the alleys until she found a route she knew by heart. From there, it was only a few minutes to the main square and the podium. The task was made difficult by Tamar refusing to say exactly where they were evacuating an entire guild from, but he’d clearly gotten this far alone so perhaps that didn’t matter. They had to take a few detours to avoid people who looked suspicious, but Likovya knew where she was going. There was a side street next to a bakery that she liked to frequent when she had money (only occasionally when she didn’t), and her goal was to end up there. After that...

Well, they'd have to cross that bridge when they came to it.

“You... really know where you’re going,” Tamar commented quietly. “How long have you been here?”

“A few months,” Likovya said. “Probably longer. I lost count, really.” She had kept track of time for the first month before realizing there was no way for her to escape but up. By then, she had made this place her new home. “Long enough to know how to get around, at least. What about you?”

“Longer. Since before the town was built. You were here for the Kobold attack, a few months back?”

“...Ugly scaly guys with blunt weapons and hygiene issues?”

“Those are the ones.”

“Give or take. I’ve seem them around anyway.” She had avoided the attack, largely. Kobolds made her shudder.

“And... and you never joined a guild or anything?”

“No. I don’t know why. I just didn’t.” Likovya shrugged. “I suppose I might, someday, if the mood strikes me.”

“You might want to wait a few months, assuming this is ever going to be over.”

“It’ll be over someday. Maybe if the Guilds all go up to the second level, the Anti-Guild people will be happy down here.” It was hardly a perfect solution, but she didn’t care to think of a better one. That was for them to decide.

“And you’re sure you can come up with a route that gets us all the way to the main square?”

“Of course,” she said. “Trust me, alright?” At the sound of footsteps, she held out her arm to stop him before pulling the boy down a different street. “It just won’t be the most direct route.”

They shifted from one alleyway to the next, through a couple of looted buildings, and that was where problems started. She could see the podium - it was directly in the middle of the square, a strange, out of place pillar dead set at the centre of a cobble and flagstone square.... surrounded by no less than twenty various anti-factionists.

Tamar seemed to notice her hesitation. “Stuck?”

“A minor inconvenience.” She bit her lip. If she fought two or three, she might come out alive, if a little scratched. Four would be pushing it, and if five charged her, she wouldn’t last more than ten minutes. “Just out of curiousity, how many people do you think you can fight off all at once?”

Tamar looked nervous. “I think my maximum is three, but only one of them had a sword. What about you?”

“Two, three... four if I had to.” She didn’t mention that fighting four would be in the best case scenario, where she had a good defensive position and wasn’t in the middle of a wide-open square. “I think we’ll need another plan.”

“You got any? Because I’m all out... There’s practically an army out there, just to guard one saints damned podium.”

“Well, it’s more than just one podium. I mean, the best way to get in and out of this level is through that. No wonder they’d want to guard it. Come on.” She backtracked, leading him to a quiet spot, away from the group and the podium. “A few more helpers would come in handy. I don’t suppose Storm and Drive is filled with fighters,” she added, a little hopefully.

“Uh... yeah, no, there’s about ten of us max, including injured, and temporary members. A few more signed up what with the rest of the city being after them...” He stepped back against a wall, frowning. “Legias is fighting the odds here.”

“The anti-guilds seem like they won’t back down until their demands are met. I don’t know Legias, but I don’t think any city guard would be happy to let her citizens get slaughtered.”

“Then this is a stalemate.”

“Looks that way. Neither gives until the guilds show themselves.” And if Storm and Drive or Severed Claw or anybody in a guild so much as showed their face in the square, there’d probably be a bloodbath. “You’re sure you don’t have any more allies?”

“We have them, but they’re in hiding as much as we are, and the only other viable forces in town are the guards... wait.”

“What?” Likovya leaned forward. “What is it?”

“...Look, I’m sorry but could I borrow your um... skillset here? There’s somewhere else I need you to get me into, preferably unnoticed and without having to climb up any buildings. Trees are fine, though. I can handle trees.”

She smiled. “I’ll do what I can. Where do you want to go?”

*

Adam had spent the last night awake dealing with paperwork. There always was more paperwork, apparently. Still, Legias was safe and resting thanks to Julius Valerian, of all people. He’d remember that when the knight decided to stop avoiding him. Still, there was work to do before resolving these matters and he headed back to the office.

He turned to one of the wounded guard members as they walked down the halls together. The other man still serving actively as an aide in the office while his wounds healed. “Any more paper coming in today?”

“I’m afraid so, sir.” The guard replied, taking another folder of movement reports of the troops. “They are retreating, according to some of the reports, the revolt is retreating!”

“Don’t be so optimistic.” Adam sighed, taking the supposedly positive report to read. “Well... This certain to at least be interest-” He heard a noise from the office. Sighing, he pushed the door open.

“Dammit, Legias weren’t you supposed to-”

It wasn’t Legias. Inside were two youngsters and an open window. “You two are not from the City Guard.”

“Why, no, we’re not,” the girl said. She had been looking about the room curiously, but now she turned her attention to Adam. “At least, I’m not.”

“Um... yeah, me neither. Hello,” the boy waved slightly from where he was standing near the desk. “Sorry for barging in, but is this the office for the leader of the city guard?”

“Yes, yes it is. Tamar of Storm and Drive.” Adam motioned for the two of them to find a place to sit amongst the stacks of papers scattered around the room. “I’m afraid there’s not much space for chairs at the moment. Still...” He sighed sitting on top of the desk. “Under proper circumstances I should arrest both of you for questioning over this break in, but considering how things are currently, I assume you have a good reason?”

Tamar glanced urgently at the girl, who Adam didn’t know on sight, but could probably figure out by asking a few of the right questions. A new member, perhaps? if anybody even dares to join a guild at this time.... He was clearly silently imploring to her to stop poking at various items around the room in curiosity. “Sorry, but... the window was open?”

“No it wasn’t.”

Tamar winced. “Uh, okay, it wasn’t, but..”

“You don’t have very good locks?” the girl suggested, not seeming put out at all. “I mean, I’m not even an escape artist, and I managed to get in.” She looked up from a file. “Maybe you should have them looked at.”

“If someone can throw a wave of angry people to kick your doors down and there are mages around that could simply blast away the walls, I think a minor window lock is not something to worry about.” Adam laughed. It was still a concern of course, it’s easy to spot an assault from multiple enemies, but a lone assailant able to sneak in could be even worse. “But I don’t think you came here just to tell me how bad my windows are.”

“No, we didn’t.” The girl set aside the file, looking a bit more serious. “We need your help.”

Tamar, who was clearly doing his best to look self assured and confident and... alright, it was a fairly good attempt, if not all that convincing. “The guard has lost control of the city. “

“...Yes, thank you for that little insight into how bad the situation is, are you making a point here?”

“Sorry, what I mean is... the anti factionists control the Podium, right? And if they have that... they can control access to the other levels of the castle. They’ve driven the guilds into hiding, the guard are outnumbered and... and we’re pretty that the anti-guild members are closing in on... where Storm and Drive are hiding.”

Revolters retreating from the confrontations with the guard... And closing in on Storm and Drive? Adam’s face turned grim. “So you’d like a party to help secure your guild? Or do you have any other idea?”

“Actually,” the girl said, “we just need to get from the edge of the square to the podium. We’d do it ourselves, but... well, there are a lot of people. Could you make sure there are... less people?” She frowned and turned to Tamar, whispering, “I’m not very good at official things, am I?”

“I’ve seen worse,” Tamar muttered. Adam, for his part, continued to wait, half curious and half bemused by this entire scenario. “Look, we know there aren’t enough Guards to take the podium back by force... so re-strategize. We’ll take the podium and return control to the guard.”

“And may I ask you how you intend to do that? Putting a red bed sheet over your head and telling them to go away?”

“Would that work?”

“I highly doubt it, Tamar.”

“Oh... then no.”

Adam moved around the table, opening space for the city map on top of it. “See this area? It’s where the guard forces are, scattered all over, if I divert them now, we might as well give up half of this.” His motion didn’t point at any specific outposts, but was broad enough to cover a considerable part of the city.

Tamar stepped closer to the map, peppered with tiny pinholes and frayed at the edges from overuse. It was the first detailed map created of the Castle, pieced together from the Lorekeepers findings and their own cartographers. Tamar stared at it curiously for several moments, clearly thinking. He pointed to the square. “That’s where the podium is, right? And your guards are... mostly spread around the residential areas here, to protect people?”

“Yes.”

“But we’ve both just been through the city... a lot of the anti-factionists aren’t in the residential area, not since last night. They’ve been moving,” he nodded at the folders. “I bet those reports you have all say the same thing. Storm and Drive, and the Square... those are their main targets. At least I think so...” he didn't look entirely sure.

“Then what I can do is sit here and read these reports, evaluate the situation and possibly mount an offensive for the next couple of days-”

Tamar shook his head. “We don’t have time for reports. The anti-guilds already know where we are, and the longer you leave them, the more control they’re going to gain over the people and the Podi--.”

“Calm down, Tamar.” Adam said, imposing his voice over the teenager’s. “I’m sure you want what’s best for your guild, but everyone else is in danger as well. If they take the gate and move up, they’ll not be here threatening us and they’ll have to face the dangers that there are up there.”

Tamar’s face contorted then, into a scowl that really didn’t fit. “We can’t just accept that. They’re terrorizing people, are you happy to just let them?”

“No. But they don’t want to go up. They want to kill you and all your friends. And me, because I’m trying to stop them. They have no resources to push up, if they do, they’ll die. And sad as I am about Storm and Drive being under fire, all of the other guilds are also under siege! Do you expect me to move the remaining forces I have, leave everyone open on your word that about half of the enemy forces are elsewhere? That’s too much of a risk, so I have to ask, why would they not be here to react if we leave our outposts open? If you have no way to answer that, I can’t take that risk.”

“...Because like you said: they’re after the guilds, they’re not interested in the outposts.” Tamar argued. “This isn’t just about Storm and Drive, it’s about all of us. They’re only guarding the podium to stop guild members going through, and those who aren’t doing that are after Storm and Drive. They’ve actually got a pretty good reason for it.” Tamar said, after a pause. “By now lots of lines are being drawn. The anti-factions are deciding who their enemies are, and those enemies aren't in the residential districts. If they’re after the guilds, they’ll move to attack either them, or the guards.” He let out a breath, clearly trying to control his temper. “If you really want to read those reports then do it. I guess you have to be sure. But...”

“You don’t even have to move all of them,” the girl said. “I can handle a few of the anti-guild people, and I’m sure Tamar can hold his own.”

Tamar nodded at the girl gratefully. “It’s not as if we’re asking you to leave the townsfolk defenseless. We just need enough guards to move the crowd of anti factionists guarding the main square. If you can do that, we’ll get that podium back for you. Return it to guard control. You don’t even have to charge in there arms blazing. Just... send a few dozen people.”

Picking up on the young man’s earlier outburst, Adam’s eyes narrowed as he asked one more question. “Wait, they’ve actually got a pretty good reason for it? How, exactly?”

“Oh.” Tamar shuffled, eyes falling to the floor. People do that when they’re lying, or just don’t want to tell the truth, Adam thought abruptly. “We... we may have sort of... captured Soren Kravos.”

For a moment the room fell silent. Adam simply stared at the young man and began rubbing his temples. Retreating revolters, Storm and Drive under attack, Soren Kavros captured...

“Sir?” The aide spoke, cautiously placing a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “Are you feeling ill? Should we get a healer?”

“Insane. You.” Adam stared at Tamar for a moment. “I... Dammit, Storm and Drive! Do you guys have any idea what this kind of action even means?!”

“It means most of the anti-factionists breathing down our necks... and as a fringe benefit, that means they’re not terrorising the town.” Tamar said. “Look out the window! You can see how many are out there, trying to keep us from getting out. I... I know this is messed up, but if we can get Storm and Drive out of this city... hell, maybe some of them will even follow? I don’t know, I can’t predict a bunch of lunatics anymore than you can. But... this could be your chance to take back one of the most important places in town, Adam. And that could be the start of getting control over the city again. It'll send a message to the rest of the town, let them know the Guard is in charge here, right?” He took another deep breath, having apparently said all that without taking one. “Please,” he added.

Adam pondered this for a moment which felt like an hour. For their part, the two youths merely sat there, waiting. Instead of replying, or looking up for that matter, Adam simply picked up his sword from the holster in the wall. “You better have a damn good plan... And we’ll talk about this stunt later. You can be sure of that.”

*

The tension of the whole event aside, it started to get a little boring after the first half an hour or so of waiting around in the doorway of an abandoned store (not her bakery, thank the stars), looking out into the main square. They had a direct view of the podium and Likovya let out a sigh as they watched anti-guilds wander back and forth across the square: at least thirty or forty of them, at last count. Too many for them, but a few guards could surely handle it. “It’s sure taking Adam long enough to put this together,” she muttered. “When’s he going to signal us?”

“He said we’d know it when we saw it,” Tamar was checking his sword, probably trying to hide how nervous he was. Likovya knew nerves when she saw them. She was tempted to call it stage fright, but most of the performers hadn’t thought they were going to die when they went before an audience. Most, but not all; they hadn’t been sure about her knife-throwing abilities at first.

“He could have at least given us a hint.” She sighed again and pulled out one of her longer knives. The people guarding the podium had swords, and she couldn’t help feel the slightest bit nervous. She hadn’t dealt with swords very often. “Think you’re ready?”

“As ready as we’ll ever be, um... you know this could all backfire horribly, right? You sure you don’t want to...” The offer to let her go was obviously hovering on the edge of his tongue.

“I’m sure.” She was tempted to offer him the same thing before remembering that he probably felt he owed it to his guild to follow through. He could have backed out without feeling too bad about it; after all, he had gotten everything set up and only needed a little help from her to move around. “I’m not sure how many we’ll be facing. Don’t go on the offensive at once.” She almost regretted speaking; she didn’t know much about swordfighting. It couldn’t be too different from knives, though, just longer.

Tamar nodded. “I think I know enough to keep them off balance. Two of us should be able to handle however many are left guarding the podium after the Guards move in,” Tamar swallowed nervously. In truth he wasn’t certain how much Adam’s involvement was going to help. The guard were still outnumbered. Still it’s not about fighting them off, not really. It’s about creating a distraction... technically they were in more danger than the guards...

That was when he remembered the bottle attached to his belt. “Oh, hang on, I’ve got something here. Can I borrow your knives a second?”

“Why?” Likovya trusted Tamar a little, but not quite enough to let him touch her knives. “What do you want them for?”

“Giving them straight back,” Tamar waved the dim blue bottle, filled with some kind of liquid. “I borrowed this from a friend of mine. Trust me, I know for a fact that it’ll take a grown man down in seconds. Just don’t accidentally prick yourself, that would suck.”

“All right,” she said, giving him two of her melee knives. “How long will it stay on the blade?” Her suspicion turned to interest, and she hoped she didn’t look too excited about having some kind of drug on her knives.

*

Some would have considered guarding the podium a sacred trust, something that would protect their society -- no, their very world -- from the terror of the guilds, guild associates, and... well pretty much anyone else who didn’t stick to the rules, basically. Eoin Dempsey didn’t take it quite as seriously. He thought it was important, certainly, but the guilds hadn’t attacked yet. Unless they had and he just hadn’t noticed. Some people did say he spent a little too much time at a nice bakery nearby.

He sighed and tried to look imposing just in case anyone walked by. It wasn’t easy. He had grown a little too fast for his clothes, and now his ankles and wrists stuck out, looking pale and rather knobby in the sun. At least he had a sword. Sharp bits of metal automatically made anyone look frightening, even a skinny Dempsey boy.

He hoped he wasn’t the only one slightly unnerved by the sound of feet running toward them. It was more than just a few people running through the streets; there were lots of them coming, and he couldn’t make out from which direction. A second later, he realized they were approaching from every direction at once. By now, some of the other people guarding the podium were looking around. Eoin drew his sword, and some of his friends followed suit.

Barely five seconds later, City Guards burst in from every avenue, their shields rattling as they ran forward. He hadn’t expected this; the guards should have been beaten. It was supposed to be them versus the guilds, and they would win, because they were in the right. For a split second, he was terrified and started looking for an escape. Then a red-hot rage came over him, and he plunged into the fray, attacking wildly.

This shouldn’t have been, and it was up to him to fix it.

*

To be honest, it was obvious something was going on even before they got the signal. It started with a dim murmur, the same way the riots had begun earlier that week: a vague indiscernible rising chaos, which grew louder and clearer very, very rapidly. Likovya stepped back away from the door as various anti factionists began shouting, running in various directions. Adam came through, Tamar thought with relief. “Now, to get through this without killing anyone.

This thought was confirmed a few seconds later, by the arrow that shot just inside the doorway where they were hiding. Likovya leapt away nimbly, and Tamar tugged the arrow out of the dirt, untying the parchment that had been attached to the shaft of the arrow.

Image

“...Yeah, I’d say that counts as a signal,” Tamar muttered, handing the parchment to her and drawing his sword.

“Ready, then?” Likovya held her knives tighter.

Tamar smiled nervously. “Not even kind of. Let’s go.”

*

The guards (as he had promised, Adam had provided roughly twenty individuals: it would have to be enough, as it was all they could spare) had drawn the fighting away from the podium, but not all of the anti-guild fighters had left. Likovya counted five in the square, and she hoped Tamar could either handle two or get her to a healer. She wasn’t afraid, though, and not just because she trusted the boy. If she did this right, she could take down one or even two before they knew what was happening.

This wasn’t just a fight. It was a performance.

The podium had several decorative pillars around it, and while it wasn’t child’s play to reach one and start climbing, it was easier than she had expected. Likovya pulled herself to the top, drew her knives, and put her wildest smile on her face.

“Hello, boys!” she called. “Who wants to dance with me?”

Most of the anti-guild fighters looked up at her, surprised, angry, and a bit mystified at why a small woman with a pair of knives wanted a dancing partner. She chose that moment to leap down (regretting a little that she didn’t have a flashy cape) and slice open the closest man’s arm with one of her knives.

Tamar’s little drug worked as well as he had told her. Likovya barely had time to start fighting with the next man -- who was, unfortunately, better prepared -- when he stumbled and fell. She dodged him lightly, saying, “Come now, you can do better than that! If I’d wanted you to sleep I’d have brought wine.”

“Likoyva!” Tamar’s voice reached her just in time for her to turn to where the next of the remaining thugs was closing in. He was in no position to help, having taken advantage of her distraction to draw two guards to him. Two against one... it was almost unfair, but he seemed to hold his ground with that haphazard, awkward grace of somebody who had only learned half of what there was to know about fencing. The first was already staggering to the side, clutching his bleeding arm, and looking ready to drop (these drugs were really useful), the other was cleverer, already blocking Tamar with his sword: no fire yet.

“Thanks!” she dodged the man’s blade, twisted her body, and lunged for his arms. She hadn’t fought like this for a long time, if at all. Most of her opponents hadn’t been hungry for her blood, except during the staged fight with the acrobat. At least she had apologized for almost burning down his caravan.

The fight really was almost a dance, and Likovya found herself showing off a little more than was good for her. She feinted, retreated, and even pirouetted a few times, flashing her opponent smiles that were (depending on his taste) half-mad or charming.

“This is more like it,” she said when they were close enough that he could hear her. “Aren’t you glad I gave you a chance to lead?”

Fire caught the corner of her eyes, and she saw another member of the podium watchers start in alarm, probably not used to having people come at him with weapons that were on fire. Tamar swept the blade up, dragging the man’s own blade out of his hands and sending it skidding across the cobblestone. It crashed into one of the pillars surrounding the podium. The next thing the man knew, his coat was burning and he was stumbling away, panicking and trying to remove his blazing tunic. The fire went out as he dropped. Apparently enchanted flame didn’t burn away the drug that had coated the blade.

In the second Likovya paused to watch Tamar, she let her guard down just enough for her opponent to attack. He swung at her arm, and she felt the blade bite into her skin. With a hiss, she sprang back, trying to keep a hold on her knife. At least it had been her left arm. She could still fight with her right.

It wasn’t a game any more, and it probably never should have been. Likovya darted forward, dropped to her knees, and sliced at the man’s thighs with her knives. As he stumbled, she rolled away, wincing as she hit her injured arm. The wound didn’t seem too deep, and she spared a moment to be glad there wouldn’t be lasting damage. Knife fights were no fun if she couldn’t dual wield.

“Still need a partner?” someone said from above her head.

“Crap,” she muttered, scrambling back. She had forgotten about the last one. “Ah... my dance card’s full?” Next time, she thought, she would think about her metaphors before using them.

“I insist.”

As the man approached her, she realized there was nothing for it but to trust her her old skills. She propped herself on one knee and threw her right knife. It hit the man’s shoulder, and she rolled away again, cursing at her arm, her forgetfulness, and the stupid dance metaphor.

“Hey!” Tamar was moving in to help, sword flickering but still burning, almost as bright as a torch. Even somebody that puny could look reasonably intimidating yielding a burning sword. “She’s already got a dancing partner. Wait your saints damned turn!”

The man turned, ready to fight this new challenger, but his first step became a stumble. His expression went from enraged, to confused, to blank, and he fell flat on his face.

“Great,” Likovya muttered, sitting up and pressing her hand to the wound. “Now I’ll have to dig that out of him.”

The fire on Tamar’s sword died away. “Guess you don’t need a hand with that one, after all,” he smiled shakily. “That was amazing, where did you learn to do that?”

“The circus,” she said. “I was their best knife-thrower.” She got to her feet and nudged the man over. Her knife hadn’t worked itself too deeply in. “You weren’t bad yourself. Has someone been teaching you how to fence?”

“Heh, yeah, in between knocking me over a lot,” Tamar laughed. “I have a pretty good teache... wait, did you say circus?”

“Yes,” she said. “What of it? It’s as good a life as any.”

“No, really, an actual circus? Did you have lions?”

“One or two.”

“Okay, that’s kind of cool.” Tamar looked around. “We should hurry, Adam is expecting us to signal him back. The guards can move in, take control of the Podium, and thanks to the route you figured out...”

“Storm and Drive can head to the second level.” Likovya tugged the knife from the man’s shoulder. She would have to clean the blood from both of them, and she secretly hoped the drug wouldn’t dissolve in water. “Ah, Tamar? Could I ask you a favor?”

“After that? Sure.”

She pulled her hand away , showing him the wound. It wasn’t deep enough to really scare her -- she had seen other performers get far worse when their acts went wrong -- but it was bleeding and she prefered not to walk around with a bandage and possible scar for the next week or so. Also, it hurt. “Does this guild of yours have any healers?”

Tamar blinked, but didn’t seem too taken aback by the blood. “Only the best in the city. Come on. They can take a look while we’re heading for the podium. With luck most of Storm and Drive can be out of the city by morning.”

“Most?” Likovya pulled a handkerchief from her shirt and began getting the worst of the blood off her knives as they walked. “I thought all of them would want to get out.”

“I don’t think any of us really wants to leave. We just don’t have a choice. Anyway... I’m not going.”

“Why not?”

Tamar looked down at the ground. “Because someone else isn’t going, they’re important to me and they’re very, very likely to get themselves killed on their own right now. Believe me, I thought it was crazy as well, but hey, too late to start doubting him now. What about you?” he frowned. “If it gets out that you helped the guilds you’ll be a target. You know if you asked Anjali I’m sure she could use more help up on floor two.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Likovya said. “I think I’ll wait around for a bit, see just how dangerous it gets.” She decided against pressing him for more. It sounded like an interesting story, but not every story had to be told. “Do you need a hand moving at all?”

“If you can guide us to here, we’ll be fine. Thanks,” he sounded like he really meant it. “I owe you one.”
Jubilation and despair are two sides of the same coin.
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RussetDivinity
 
Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:56 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Pixelmage on Sat Jun 29, 2013 11:12 pm

Turn Rewards:
  • Scarab ~ Sword Magic Boost.
  • RussetDivinity ~ Drug Tipped Knife.

The way to the floors above is... Not clear. But at least it is unobstructed by rebellious forces at the present moment. :) That's one of the few opportunities of a clear path up, let's see what you guys make of it.

Quest 26: Tiny war.
With Kavros missing, some of the anti-faction forces are tied up in the search for their leader. Now is as good a time as it gets to move forward and hinder their efforts even more! The amulets are stored all over the place, but a few stashes have been located in stores and homes that the antifactionists use as outposts. If you're able to deny them at least a chunk of their power supply, things might just start to get better.
Your goal: Destroy the amulet stashes.
Quest Takers: Nicholas Keyes (Spiritfchaos) and Giselle (narrativedilletante)

Quest 27: Flower Land. (by AMimsyBorogove)
Following the riots, a large number of fugitives have fled floor 1 and gone to the newly opened floor 3 in the hopes of finding safe places to stay, and food to eat. Sent by the Church as a relief party, Kurt goes to the new floor along with Ben to help the refugees establish themselves in the new area. However, the two swiftly realize something is very wrong with the new floor, as refugees disappear in the middle of the night, only to turn up dead in a nearby field the next day, seemingly having committed suicide without reason. This area is a beautiful meadow on a hill, covered with bright flowers, and atop which stands an ancient cherry (blossom) tree. Investigating the recent deaths, Kurt and Ben soon find that there is something very wrong with the third floor, tied to this mysterious field, and the tree that stands atop it. Although once dead, the tree is suddenly starting to blossom again.
Quest Goal: Go to floor 3, investigate suicides, find evil cherry tree, deal with the spirit possessing it
Quest Takers: Kurt (Sicon112) and Ben (Qara-Xuan Zenith)

Quest 28: Special Delivery. (by Qara-Xuan Zenith)
Marcus is in charge of keeping an eye on Soren Kavros... meanwhile, Kavros' friends are getting impatient for his return. Between going off on quests and drugging people to sleep, most of Storm and Drive would be distracted when the anti-guild faction try to break him out. It might help to have some backup on the outside...
Quest Goal: Contain Kavros and whoever comes for him, or at least don't let Storm and Drive get massacred in their sleep.
Quest Takers: Darren (Blurred_9L) and Marcus (Guyshane).

Quest 29: ...Best served cold. (by Blurred_9L)
Quest description: They know where you are. They know what you've done. They know that their leader is held captive at your location. They might be normal villagers now, but they once were a mighty team of mercenaries... and they won't allow themselves to fail in their mission: to finish what Luca started.
Quest Goal: Protect your friends!
Quest Takers: Hector (Adell) and Pan (IslaKariese).

GM Notes:
  • On quest 26 ~ There are about three stashes known to be close to the edges of the Anti-Faction territory, by no means their main storehouse, but it's still what keeps their front lines inching forward. Even if Kavros isn't there, expect at least some sort of officer attempting to keep these things under surveillance. It'll be easier with some of them elsewhere looking for their commander, but by no means completely easy. :twisted:
  • On quest 28 ~ Darren's guild leader would like to send him to take a package to Marcus, which might explain what he's doing here.
  • Shane and Kariese: Catch me on the chat before starting to write, you guys have open rewards that we need to settle on, because you might want to use them on the quest.

Deadline for this turn is Thursday, July 11th, 23:59 EST.

Play smart, good luck and have fun!
Last edited by Pixelmage on Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"Yami ni madoishi awarena kage yo
Hito o kizutsuke otoshimete,
Tsumi ni oboreshi gō no tama,
Ippen... shinde miru?"
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Pixelmage
 
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:08 pm
Location: Brazil

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Guyshane on Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:15 pm

Quest 28: Special delivery

”I wonder what’s inside this... thing” thought the young scout, ducking behind some crates as several members of the anti-faction ran over the street in front of him. He held the package tightly with his right arm as he stood up and continued moving towards nearby city gate. It had been a while since he had been there, since the riots have prevented the City Guard from performing the usual sentry duty around the gates. After all, they had better stuff to take care of... he, himself, had better stuff to take care of too, but he would have to wait a long while before he was able to solve his own problems.

Darren shuddered as he thought of the book that was left in the underground. He didn’t feel like going inside in a long time, but every day that passed was another opportunity for other to reach it, and he knew that if those that wanted it got stronger, they would eventually be able to acquire it. ”I can’t let that happen, can I?” he wondered as he silently left the city and made his way towards the forest.

He remembered picking up the package that morning and being instructed by Ben to deliver it to Marcus. "Darren. I... have a number of things to attend to. If you wouldn't mind, this needs to go to Marcus of Storm and Drive.” She had said, pausing for a bit to hand him the bundle. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but the fact that he didn’t knew its contents made him uneasy. “No, I don't know what it is, and I hope to God it isn't something we'll regret having a role in delivering, but we can't really afford to go making enemies with people who aren't already trying to stab us." He didn’t pay much attention to the conversation that followed, but apparently, Marcus was now a member of Storm and Drive, and if the rumors of the crazy townspeople that roamed the streets day and night like zombie cows were to be believed, his best chance at finding somebody from that particular guild would be... ”The forest... You guys better be safe” He thought as he began running towards the forest, worry taking a sudden grip over him.

He found himself holding a rage amulet, taken away from some fellow who tried to attack him a few nights ago. He clutched the wooden necklace, as if trying to draw upon it. ”He wouldn’t be needing it anymore” Neither did he, of course, but in such moments in which he reminded himself of forgotten promises and that he needed to be stronger, perhaps a bit of magic would help. Even if it meant ‘that’ sort of magic. But he wouldn’t use it just yet. He had to wait until he had no other choice. He kept running as fast as he could, not loosening his grip over the amulet as the vague image of a red haired person formed in his mind.

“None of you will escape!”
Marcus sighed and looked up at his prisoner. “Dammit, how many more times are we gonna have this conversation? You don’t know what we’re doing next, and even if you did you are not in a position to do anything.”
Kavros was hanging by his one good arm with his legs tied and blindfolded. Marcus was regretting not finding something to gag him with. Kavros sneered. “None of you guild fools will escape, I will kill you myself, Marcus.”

“Do you even know my whole name?”
“What?”
“My full name, Do you know it?”
“I-”
“Thought not. Now shut up, you damn fool.”
There was a sound. Marcus stood up and drew his weapon. “Who is it? If you don’t tell me in advance I won't be held responsible for any and all wounds.”

“Sorry”, the scout apologized from the entrance to the room. “I didn’t want to interrupt... wait is that Kavros?” said Darren surprised, hurrying inside whilst tightening his hand around the package he had brought. “How did he get here?”

“Nice to see you again Darren.” Marcus said nodding. “Yes this is indeed Kavros. Caught him trying to-”
“Get justice on you stinking theiv-”
Marcus punched Kavros in the chest before continuing. “Like i was saying i caught him trying to burn down the forest. I wanted to give him to Legias but that doesn't seem to be an option at the moment.” Marcus sighed before continuing. “Which is a shame because I’m sure at best Legias would have thrown him in the deepest darkest hole she had. Anyway what brings you here?”

“I was asked to bring this package to you my the guildleader... I mean Ben.” he said as he went near Marcus and handed the bundle carefully. “We... we haven’t opened it yet, so we don’t know what’s inside, just that it’s something the apothecary wanted to give to you.” He glanced over to the other man sitting on the floor. “Anyway, I guess it’s no surprise I made it over here... I... kind of had followed some guys over here a while ago. Shouldn’t you leave somewhere safer?”

Marcus took the package. “Thanks for bringing this, moreover its good to know that Elric got out of there alright. As for the other...” The warrior’s gaze wandered over to his prisoner. “Well aside from not wanting him to hear, if your captured you can’t give away any info you don’t know. No offense but I hope you understand.”

Marcus pulled Darren away from where Kavros was. “I’m also curious have you had any more trouble with the pests we found infesting the guard complex?”

“As a matter of fact...” started Darren as he rummaged through his pocket, looking for the small badge engraved with a skull. “I have.” He said as he flashed the badge momentarily, immediately making a gesture to Marcus to stay calm. “They’ve been up to... something inside the underground, looking for something and getting stronger. Also... the ones in the city are getting restless, they speak of actually taking a side on this whole thing. Do you think they can be trusted?”

Marcus shook his head. “I trust them to work in their best interest during this, nothing more and nothing less. To some degree they’re on our side in this if Hara’s actions are any indication. I can’t say I’m surprised you’ve seen signs of them in the underground. I think their base is down there somewhere.”

“Their base is down there?!” he answered shocked. He hadn’t considered that before, but if they were, then it would make getting to the Lorewarden before them a harder task than it already was. He scratched the back of his head nervously while he tried to think of something. “Hara? Who’s Hara?”

Now it was Marcus’ turn to look surprised. “You haven’t encountered Hara while investigating them? Lucky you. Hara is one of the higher ranking members from what I gathered. She was commanding four others when I first ran into her. She makes quite an impression believe me. Last time I met her she had been out all night protecting guild members from the mobs. I don’t like that, these assassins aren't any friends to the guilds, so why the hell are they helping us now?” The man looked around the room worriedly as if talking about the assassins would summon them.

“Well...” Darren started, trying to appear calm. “I guess I haven’t been dealing with high ranked members, then. Figures, I don’t think a foolish badge would fool the leaders of the organization after all. Maybe I haven’t done anything that would make them want to ‘meet’ me?”

What? but that-What? “That seems...unlikely. They showed up outside my house that same day that we found out about them. Couldn’t have been more than an hour after I left.” Marcus scratched his head. “These people confuse me more we find out about them. Its like every action contradicts another.”

So those guys have been off harassing other people? Damn it... Darren thought as he analyzed his chances of survival if he went and messed with the assassins, dismissing the idea almost immediately, he probably wouldn’t even manage to get himself to stand up to them, it was already hard talking to them for information, even with the badge to help him prevent them attacking him. “They... did attack me once, but they’ve been avoiding me since then, I guess? I don’t think I can understand their way of acting, anyway.”

Marcus opened his mouth to respond when he heard the sound of unfamiliar voices. The warrior motioned for Darren to follow. When he reached the entrance of the temple he saw a group of the anti-guild. Dammit how did they find us? The soldier whispered to his companion. “How do you feel about lending a hand?”

“No other choice, huh? Seems like that’s the way it is over here.” he said as he took out a pair of knives from one of his pockets. “I’ll cover you, they might let their guard down if they think it’s just you.”

“Good idea. Hide in that room over there” Marcus pointed. “I’ll go sit by Kavros. Hit them from behind.”

Darren nodded and followed the direction in which Marcus had pointed to. He hadn’t taken many steps when he whispered to Marcus: “Might want to make it so that Kavros doesn’t mess up the plan, you know?” Darren hid behind the entrance to the room, making sure that he could see well enough into the other room before the anti-guild members arrived. He felt his heart pounding with nervousness, but he also felt different... he couldn’t tell what it was, but he felt like fighting... he wanted to fight them. ”Is... Is this because of the amulet... or is the spell still working after all this time” He wondered, but didn’t give it much thought. After all, it wouldn’t help him at all wondering about those things now.

“Help I’m in here, come we can stop these fools now!” The anti-guild ran into the room where Marcus and Kavros were. They arrived just as the warrior shoved a rag in the “Commander’s” mouth. “Marcus looked over at the group. “Quite, sorry about that, you have no idea how long I’ve been looking for a suitable gag, unfortunately his mouth is quite large.” One of the braver members stepped forward and spoke.

“Give us back the Commander.”
Marcus snorted. “Why so you can kill me and my friends, not likely. Of course...you could come and take him, if you can” The big man settled into a ready stance. The group wasted no time and charged him. Wait for it, wait...now. As his enemies reached him Marcus swung in a wide arc knocking anti-guilders back or to the side. The rest of the group stopped for a moment after seeing this. Marcus nodded. “I think you’re starting to get it, I’m not trapped in here with you. All of you are trapped in here with me.”

“But we aren’t trapped.” Someone said. The soldier smiled benevolently. “Funny you should say that.” Come on Darren, I can only keep this act up for so long before they figure out I’m bluffing.

“You are.” Darren whispered, as he sent the pair of knives flying towards the group of anti-guild members, hitting one of them on the leg and grazing another. The group dispersed in confusion at the sudden attack, thinking what they should do. Before they knew it, another pair of knives was hurled at them, injuring other two. “Better be ready for when they decide to come over here...” Darren thought as he sneakily moved to the opposite side of the entrance door he was at, readying another pair of knives again. ”At this rate I’ll run out of knives quickly though...”

“There’s another one! Perhaps even two, but we still outnumber them! Don’t let them get away.” One of the members said, trying to capture the attention of his comrades, preventing them from disorganizing themselves. “They won’t stop us!” he shouted, receiving a similar response from his companions.

”Annoying...” Darren said as he tossed one of the knives, hitting the man that was talking on the neck. The man instantly fell to the floor.

The anti-guild members had regained some measure of confidence but were still confused. Then Marcus charged them with a loud battle cry, which only seemed to disorient them more. The warrior moved like a storm among them. He smashed a side shields, shattered limbs, bashed in skulls. By the end they were running. “Darren, we can’t let them escape, They’ll tell the rest !” Marcus called out before giving chase.

The first man he caught up with had was smashed violently into the wall. The next had his ribs shattered by a swing of the mace. The last was strangled into submission but three of them were still getting away. I hope he’s good enough with those knives to hit them.

Darren followed Marcus, chasing the members of the anti-guild faction. He saw as the last three were about to ran into the distance and safety of the forest. ”Damn it, they’re too far away He thought as he readied one knife, trying to aim at the same time he tried to catch up to them. He threw the knife, landing a blow to the leg of the one that was nearest to him. ”Next...” he readied another knife, kept running, ignoring his body gasping for air. He motioned his arm and the next thing he knew, the second one was on the floor. “Marcus, get the ones that are incapacitated.” he shouted, while his hand looked for one last knife to use. But he found none. “Damn it, I’m out of knives? When did I...?” He then remembered he had forgotten the other set of knives inside his room back at the Severed Claws guild. ”I can’t catch a break, can I?” He thought.

Marcus noticed a glint on the finger of one of the attackers. No way. Sure enough it was a small ring with the same symbol as the assassin badge. Those thrice-damned sons of whores!!! Marcus looked up to see Darren returning, the expression on the scout’s face telling Marcus everything he needed to know. “For a small positive I figured out what the assassins are doing” Marcus said showing Darren the ring. “Playing both sides. They want a power vacuum.”

”Them again?” Darren thought as he watched the escaping man disappear into the shadows of the forest. He hadn’t realized it before, but it was getting late. He sighed, he really wasn’t ready for another encounter with the assassins, and yet... he found himself surprisingly calm about it. “You think he’ll be back soon?” Darren asked, subconsciously slipping his hand into the pocket with the rage amulet.

Marcus followed the man’s progress with a grave gaze. “Yes he will, He’ll bring the whole anti-guild with him. You should go while you still have time Darren. This will get ugly fast and I have to get my friends out of here.”

“Huh? But if I go...” Darren contemplated what would happen if he left now. Last time he left a friend to fend off incoming assassins he didn’t hear from them again. ”Wendy...” “I’m not going anywhere. Besides, he escaped because I wasn’t carrying enough knives with me.”

“Not important right now.” Marcus said shaking his head. “Besides you have to report back to your guild leader and someone needs to tell the guards what’s happened. We already needed to leave, this just moved up the timetable. Dramatically so, I’ll grant you but all that means is I don’t have anymore time to spend discussing this with you.” Marcus began gathering his things. “Storm and Drive is probably going to be busy for a while. I’m trusting you to keep harassing the assassins while I’m gone.”

“What, I’m not going anywhere.” said Darren, perhaps a bit more forcefully than he intended. “Even if you guys are getting out of here you still need to get back to the city, right? Do you think they’ll be waiting to welcome you with open arms?” He stomped his foot on the floor, not really finding any use to it, but rather because he felt like it. He could feel his hand start gripping the amulet even stronger now. “I’ll help you.”

Marcus gazed evenly at Darren for a moment. “Let go of that amulet and then tell me that what you're suggesting still sounds like a good idea.” The warrior crossed him arms. “You're not actually thinking this through, the amulet won’t let you. Otherwise these riots never would have started. We don’t need more people Darren we’ve arguably got too many as it is. But someone needs to know what happened here and most important of all we need someone keeping an eye on the assassins. Not enough people know about them. If we aren’t careful they’ll be able to do whatever they want unprohibited.” Marcus’ voice had steel in it. “Go where you’re needed. It sure as hell isn't here.”

“It sure as hell isn’t back at my guild, either” he murmured low enough to not be heard by the other man, taking his hand out of his pocket, more out of pride than because he had decided that Marcus was the one that was right. “I’ll go get all the knives I left laying around then” he said, not wanting to hide the anger in his voice. “But you better don’t die.”
For the first time during the conversation a smile spread of the fighter’s face. “If they’re gonna kill me they need to do a hell of alot better then they have been. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Marcus immediately turned and ran deeper into the temple. I hope the kid listens to me.

As soon as the older man went back into the temple Darren gripped the amulet once more. “Keep harassing the assassins, eh? Yeah, I’ll do that...” He held his hand in front of him as he turned his back on the temple and began walking away. “Why did I pick up this thing anyway? I already had what I needed” he whispered the words into the air as he felt the wooden material of the amulet break inside his hand. He began running towards the forest, towards the way back to the city. ”Even if I this is the only thing I can do. I won’t stand by and just watch as others are in danger. I never had a choice, anyway. I’ll embrace this anger for now, until I get stronger...”
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.
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Guyshane
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:45 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Adell on Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:29 pm

Quest 29: Best Served Cold

The soldiers feet stomped against the moist ground, their breaths visible in the cold and dark afternoon. Their distance was significant from one pair of feet to the other; each one of them watching the back of the other as they carefully traversed the healthier sections of the forest, a clear path forged ahead for them. The four of them wore similarly clad armor, light with the most protection centered on their dominate arms; two of them carried long swords at their sides, another with a bow at the ready and finally there was the one who headed the pack, who lugged a large halberd over his shoulder.

“How much further, Kain?” The female archer called to their leader.

“We will arrive within the hour.” The gruff man muffled out through his helmet that hid his face.

“The others will be at the temple before us.” Another remarked as he checked the condition of his sword.

“Exactly.” Kain said, roughly. “But we did not accompany them to take the temple from the guilds or reclaim Soren, if such a thing is possible at this point. You all know what we’re really looking to do.”

The three nodded silently. When rumor reached them that the Jade Devil had survived the initial riots, the four of them had all been quite shocked of the news, but none as much as Kain. It had been years since any of them had donned their equipment from their days as mercenaries, but they owed it to the people of this city and the nation of Lamada to take up arms once again if it meant finally putting to rest such a terrible human.

“… Where we had failed years before,” Kain reassured, “We will succeed today. Fate has seen fit to give us a second chance to finish the job we took so many years ago… This time, we will see it through to completion.” The others nodded their heads, determination burning in their eyes.

---

“He lives…” Luca clenched his fists, looking out the window of the room he stood, watching the ravaged city. “I know not how but...he lives; bastard doesn’t know when to give up.” He knew now of Hector’s survival, of course. Kain had been the one to relay the information to him, right before he offered his services to defeat the Jade Devil once and for all. Luca accepted, of course, though he cared little if Kain’s endeavor was successful. While Hector being alive was both infuriating and unexpected, it was not where his current motivations lay. Kain’s little expedition would just aid in the distraction for “Soren’s” return.

[i]“He’s probably used the talisman Asha gave him by now…his ‘last resort’ if things got bad.”
Luca sighed recalling the ploy to give him a talisman with the same Shadow creature they had used on Anji and Julius so many moons ago, not explaining correctly what it would do upon being summoned. “That fool was no warrior, he harmed this war more than he aided it. He fought with no direction, he only sought to be in charge, to have control over something. He was no better than the rest of these bureaucrats. The advantages Asha has given him have been nearly negated thanks to his inane antics. His shadow will be far more dangerous than he ever was once he succumbs to it; there is no way he’ll be in a position to defeat it… And his rescue party will arrive just in time to meet the new “hardened” Soren. It will take his knowledge, and twist his goals. The war will continue, even if twisted into a shell of its original intentions... It will burn. It will burn brighter than ever before.”

“Anything to keep this fire going, right Ba’al?” Luca peered down at the blade sheathed at his side. “I will increase the flames of this war, if it will allow me to find the depths of your power. As the rage within this city increases, so too does it resonate with the rest of this castle. Only at its peak will Asha and myself find what we desire; the origin of this spell, of your power.” The sword seemed to react to his thoughts, an intense glow spreading from its hilt in response.

“I may not be the one to finally kill you, Jade, but your death will also help feed the flames of this war. You may avert your eyes from your true nature, but you will be as much a part of this one way or the other.”

---

The sun seared onto Pan’s back as she rested from her work for the day. The damage to the forest was devastating. The fire had managed to ruin nearly half of it before she and the hunter finally put it out. It seemed like it had been years since then, but it had only been days.

Pan wiped her brow and looked out towards the ruined half of the forest. No tears came to her eyes, mostly because she had used them all up the first day. After she’d gotten her mourning out of the way, she put herself to work.

It will take years for this forest to even come close to its former glory... she mused sadly, tightening her grip on her staff. Years for which she may not even be here... she had no clue how the Castle worked, but she didn’t have all the time in the world, no matter how comfortable she was becoming.

Pan sighed and stood upright on the branch she chose and nearly began moving before a sound caught her attention. Blinking, she changed her course abruptly and swung herself over to another patch of trees. To her disbelief and increasing anger, there was a guild making its way through her forest.

Another one,[i] she growled to herself, keeping her presence hidden. [i]These damned guilds. I’m getting sick of these people thinking they can-- She cut herself off from that train of thought. Guilds weren’t forbidden from travelling through her forest. She was just bitter from what happened the last time they had done their business here.
With a silent sigh, Pan watched them for a few seconds, then made the decision to follow them. Perhaps not all guilds were bad, but that did not mean that she was giving this one the benefit of the doubt.

--

Hector sat his heavy body upon the trunk of a former tree, long since fallen over from time, and set himself to work. He placed a large sack of supplies at his feet and untied the knot upon it, inside revealed a variety of resources from around the forest. Food, firewood, as well as some other things the man thought might be useful. It had taken him longer than expected, but it was the first time he had been out amongst nature again in so long.

While the supplies would be useful, but it was not the real reason he had come to this spot. “Time to get to work…” He muttered as he pulled out a single object from the sack, a large claw of a CSR, a cow-sized rat that he had battled in the underground not too long ago. Things had gotten so chaotic ever since he had retrieved the material he had never gotten a chance to make something with it. But the last few days he had been wandering to this, chipping away and carving the claw to the perfect shape. With Zorica, his axe, in hand he slowly smoothed out the surface of the claw. By now its shape had long since been warped from its original appearance; it was more curved now, and shaved down in just the right places to make it more aerodynamic.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve used one of these…” The man remarked as he put the finishing touches with his new boomerang like weapon. “Wonder if I still got it…” With a grin, he patted himself off and stood atop the log. Recalling from memory, the man arched his arm back.

”You’re holding it all wrong.” He remembered Luca’s words to him as he practiced with his first boomerang. It was a vivid memory, one of the first times the other swordsman had willingly addressed him outside of Olivia’s recommendations. “It’ll arc right into the ground that way.” Hector remembered only looking back at the red-haired swordsman in curious surprise. Luca swiped the weapon from the green-haired swordsman before showing him the more proper posture, “You want to keep your arm arced around here, any further and it’ll fly right over you on its return, any lower and it’ll lop your own head off.”
Hector remained silently, still curious that Luca had been willing to help him at all. “Heh, quit looking so stupid. I may not understand Olivia’s reasoning for sparing you, but she did and I am honor bound to accept that. You may not be the kind of warrior I’d associate with, but you are one nonetheless.”

“... I do not understand her reasoning either,” The large man shook his head. At the time he was still confused over the whole situation he had gotten in, lost even. All he had was his training at that point, the chance of having a rematch with the warrior who so easily had bested him. “But...perhaps she can see something we can not.”

“Then we’ll just need to keep an eye on one another until we do. That means making sure you don’t kill yourself learning all these different fighting styles. I don’t know why you bother though, if anyone is gonna surpass Olivia, it’s me. I was the first one she found, after all.” The skinnier swordsman let out a small laugh, until Hector himself joined in with a quiet chuckle of his own. The two silently accepted the challenge, the race to get stronger than the strongest. A different time, that was. A friendlier time. Such a simple a short conversation, but from there on Luca and Hector challenged each other, both in battle and in philosophy. It was one of the earliest memories Hector had that he separated from his ‘past life;’ one of the first times he saw his humanity. “Now throw the damn thing, would you?”

Back in the present the boomerang released from his hand, a perfect throw. The return was messy, however, as the weapon returned from the left. Hector awkwardly turned his head so his working eye could keep track of the object, which through his posture off balance. In the end he had no choice but to sidestep a potentially bad strike to the head. With a thud the boomerang smacked against the log behind him.

With a sigh the man recomposed himself and walked over to where the boomerang fell, bending down to pick it up. Something caught his ear on the way down however, a shuffling in the air of some kind. To the untrained it would sound like a rustling animal in the distance, but Hector had long since become use to the noise a human predator makes after years of fighting them. He did not move from his position, the sound continued again, from multiple angles. It was likely more than one was near him, and they were spreading themselves out to flank his position. Whoever it was, they clearly were not the common soldiers that joined the anti-guild’s army.

Slowly, unflinching, the man’s hand closed around the boomerang on the ground. Once he had it in hand his eye shifted to the other side of the log where Zorica lay. He remained still, even then, waiting for just the right moment. It was when the sound of a notched arrow leaving its bow was heard did the man roll himself over the log before ducking behind it for cover, sliding the axe off of it in the same motion.

The arrow made a loud impact into the wood, causing chips of it to fly in all directions. It was obvious from where the arrow hit that the archer had him targeted. Moving from this position would be difficult, and the others in the area would soon circle around from the other side, he would be completely surrounded and at their mercy. “Whoever they are, they aren’t playing around…”

”Still,” The man’s ear twitched as the archer gave away their position by crunching a stray twig in their path. “I’ve fought worse, and won with less.” With a twirl of his body he arched his arm carefully and raised himself from the log. Right within his sight was a female archer, draped in a blue uniform and light silver armor. His hand let loose his weapon as her let loose her arrow. In a flash both figures were struck.

The female spun backward as the large boomerang managed to break right through her bow and smack against the side of her cheek completely knocking her off balance and onto the ground. Hector stumbled back from the arrow embedded in his armor, but grinned at his luck as the arrow had failed to pierce the much tougher material that protected his body.

His throw could have been better though, the boomerang completely went off course thanks to the impact against his assailants bow, and collided with a tree somewhere off in the distance. Grabbing his axe in both hands, he turned his attention to behind him where another assassin leapt at him from above, swinging a long sword down upon him. Hector met the blade with his axe, causing the two to deflect one another. When the soldier landed on his feet, he wasted no time striking with his blade; the green haired swordsman deflected them as best as he could, but soon he found his back pushed against the log that was once his shield.

Atop that log landed another swordsman, who unsheathed his own longsword. Running across the downed tree, the man took a powerful swipe right at the Hector’s head. Thankfully, his attack came from the right and the Hector managed to see it coming through the edge of his eye sight, ducking just in time for it to accidently clash with his allies sword. The two assassins lost their balance just long enough for Hector to land a powerful punch on the one in front of him before turning his attention on the other, grappling under his arm and flipping him right on top of the other swordsman.

The two groaned in pain as they were sandwiched on top of one another, but The green haired man did not have a moment to breath, literally, when the female archer leapt upon his back, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. “Your time is up, Devil.” She spat as she pulled up on her hold, forcing Hector backwards to give her allies a moment to recover. Thinking quickly, Hector continued backwards much to her surprise, until he intentionally tripped his large body over the giant tree trunk, causing him to literally fall on top of her as the two landed on the opposite end.

The large man scrambled to his feet in an attempt to put some distance between him and the three that fought him. Fighting all three in melee would not end well, he was gonna need to retrieve his boomerang to give him some options.
“There’s nowhere for you to go, Jade Devil.” A voice declared behind Hector as Kain came into view of the swordsman, his halberd pointed at the mans back. The man had used Hector’s blind spot to sneak up on him easily. “I think you’ve done enough running, anyway.”

Hector stopped his movement, but remained calm even as the fourth assassin revealed himself, not even lowering his guard. The other three by now were forcing themselves back on their feet, ignoring their injuries to make sure they were prepared for anything their enemy might try to pull. As he examined them, it was pretty clear a lot of the ‘injuries’ they were ignoring were from long before he had ever fought them. These were seasoned warriors, but injured ones, most likely retired judging by the weathered uniforms they were wearing.

“Warriors?” Hector kept his question short, addressing it to the man at his backside.

“We were, once, until our encounter with you... am I to take it you do not recognize us?” Kain answered honestly, even if it was hidden under his gruff exterior.

Hector’s eye lowered, though remained facing away from the lead assassin. “...My past was riddled with battles. Even now, I find myself in battle constantly. Most of it has long since become a blur to a warrior like me.”

“...An honest answer. It is better for a warrior to be honest than to lie and save face against an opponent. We, however, did not forget you.” Kain said, simply; His followers nodded silently, “Consider our surprise when we found out that the Jade Devil still lived, and that he had ventured to the same castle as us. This is fate, Jade, a chance for to make things right.” Not wanting to waste anymore time, the man brought the spear back and prepared to land the blow that would end this fight here and now.
Hector’s eye slowly scanned the area around him, looking for something to that could give him the advantage. Raising an eyebrow, he was a bit surprised when his eye landed upon some figure up in the trees. Unnoticed up until now, someone was watching them from above.

He had no time to react before a wooden shepherd’s crook was thrown by the figure, piercing the ground in between the three mercenaries. After a second of confusion, the carved wood sparked once and all four were shocked painfully. They let out cries of pain, and some fell down completely while others remained on their feet but doubled over from the pain.

Without further ado, the figure stepped away from its hiding spot and landed near-silently on the forest floor, stepping forward to reveal a small boy, dressed in earthy colors, sporting short blond hair and bright green eyes that were narrowed dangerously at the scene. With one glance at the attackers, who were still in a fair amount of pain, he snorted almost dismissively before turning to Hector. “Are you alright?”

The young mage’s voice was practically cut off as he was swooped up effortlessly by Hector, who proceeded to put as much distance between him and his enemies as quickly as he could. “Thank you for the save, I’ll be fine.” He quickly said as he ran over to where the staff had landed and plucked it from the ground before charging off to where the boomerang lay. “But it’ll take more than an attack like that to put these soldiers down; they’re veterans of the field.” Hector explained as he finally put the young mage down, giving him a free arm to pick up his new weapon. Off in the distance, the four soldiers prepared and regrouped themselves, preparing to reengage the both of them.

“I appreciate the help, whoever you are. I don’t want to be abrupt but we don’t have much time at the moment. If you plan on seeing this through, though, I suggest we work to together.” The man grinned, as he surveyed the area carefully, keeping track of the four as best he could. “They want me dead; probably want you dead as well now.” The man paused, “I’m Hector, by the way.”

The shepherd "boy" blinked once before giving a very small grin. “Pan,” he said softly, cautiously. The smile disappeared as quickly as it came, though, when the mercenaries found them again. Pan took up the staff and settled into a defensive stance, and Hector did much the same.

Kain’s companions flanked the two from the sides while Kain approached slowly from the front, weapon still drawn. “You said earlier that this is your chance to make things right.” Hector spoke up, raising his axe towards his opponent. “What did you mean?”

The helmeted man slowed his walk, raising into a defensive stance of his own. “At the peak of your infamy, we took the job to be the ones to finally kill you once and for all.” The soldier explained, “We found you easily enough, but were completely outclassed. Try as we might, you defeated us flawlessly.” Kain admitted, removing the helmet obscuring his face. The black hair and thick beard hid most of the large scar that carved into his skull and ran through his left eye, revealing that he too was blinded in one of his eyes. “Once I received this injury... we retreated, or I should say we ran for our lives. We were shamed as warriors from that day. We ran from you, ran from our duty, and our honor. Soon after we had to run from our country as well.”

“I see... and you came here to escape it all.” Hector’s eye looked between the mercenaries. Their eyes were distant, condemning their own actions, even now this battle seemed like one they rather avoid.

“Yes, but we have a chance now to redeem our past actions, right here. The warrior known as Kain Leroi can return to his former glory.” The man admitted with fervor, clenching his halberd tightly. “Now I answered your question, you will answer mine.”

Pan looked between the two, impatience warring with confusion. I don’t understand. What is going on between these two? Why are they talking now when they were so ready to kill each other before?

“What is it?”

“You had a perfect opportunity to kill me just now thanks to your little friend there. A perfect opportunity to kill any of us, actually.” Kain pointed out as he placed his helmet back on. “Why didn’t you?”

“Heh,” Hector grinned, “First of all, I’m not interesting in taking your life, the man who would has disappeared a long time ago. Secondly, this is the first real fight I’ve had since I lost my eye, there’s no way I’m gonna take advantage of my opponent like that, I need to win through my own means.” He looked back over to Pan adding, “Uh, no offense.”

“As do we...as do we.“ Kain admitted, sounding quite surprised by the answer. The other soldiers themselves almost stopped in their tracks at hearing the mass murderer they were so familiar with claim he didn’t want to kill them. “For a man we call the Jade Devil, you seem far less ruthless than the last time we met.”

“People change, given enough time. Even Devils.”

The mercenaries looked on as Hector spoke his words, not wavering for even a moment as they continued their approach. Where had the murderer gone? The monster they feared, the one that had to be destroyed? This... was not the one who they were supposed to be fighting. This person was no monster, just a warrior. “Perhaps.” The leader finally said, candidly. “It does not change why we are here, however.”

“And why would that be?” Pan said with a mix of curiosity and warning. “Because I don’t take kindly to either wars or personal vendettas being settled in my forest.”

“This forest is the Castle’s, child, no one else’s. You are a fool if you believe differently.” The man ignored Pan’s growl of annoyance and motioned for the other three to engage them. “If you want us gone then we shall end this battle quickly, so that we have no reason to linger.”

Pan wanted to hate this man for being so dismissive of her, and wanted to ignore the truth of his words. Instead, her anger boiled under the surface of her skin as she once again interrupted. “I may not own this forest,” she growled, “but it is my home. From where I stand, you’re prepared to fight this man four-to-one. But since you’re on my land,” she added, crouching once more into a fighting stance, “I have every right to even the odds.”

Hector gave a hearty laugh, lifting the boomerang in his left hand and axe in his right. “You came here for a fight, Kain, we’ll give you one.” Darting his good eye to Pan, he gave a reaffirming nod of his head. “You help me, I’ll defend your home, seems like a fair trade to me. Whether you own this land or not, it is a land worth protecting. I’m sure you knew that once, Kain.”
Pan smiled gratefully as she glanced at him from the corner of her eye.

“Enough talk.” One of the other mercs said, bringing his sword up in an offensive stance. “We’ll take care of the mage, Kain. The Jade Devil is all yours.” The other two nodded in confirmation of the plan. “We know it’s what you want.”

“Heh, hear that, Pan? Looks like you’re bigger threat here of the two of us.” Hector grinned, “You can handle the goon-squad right?” The large man stared down the halberd-wielding warrior. “I think he and I have a score to settle.”

Pan needed no other incentive as she immediately rushed at the three mercenaries. The sudden movement caught them off-guard, but not enough to keep them from responding as she swung her crook at them. One brought his weapon up to meet hers and the other two came around to attack from either side.

Pan expected the block and jumped up, using the leverage to push herself upwards and gain more height, allowing her to dodge both attacks and kick the first merc in the head. She then flipped backwards and landed on her feet, sending a surge of electricity into the ground as she landed. The blast caught two of them unaware and they fell to the ground immediately, but the third was wiser and jumped just as the wave of electricity passed by underneath her.

The shepherd growled in frustration as she went toe-to-toe with the woman. Even though her bow was broken, she was still adept at wielding her arrows as dual-weapons. The merc confidently slashed away at Pan’s defences, not even batting an eye as the mage met her blow-for-blow. Frustrated, Pan began channeling energy into her staff and grinned as each blow was punctuated with sparks. The electricity went from Pan to the archer and the unexpected pain distracted her just enough for the girl to duck down and kick the merc’s feet from under her. A good jab in the stomach, combined with another shock had her down for the count, and Pan directed her attention to the remaining two, who were now rushing at her with battle cries.

The clash of Axe against Halberd echoed throughout the forest as the two one-eyed fighters clashed weapons to the side of Pan’s battle. The two men struggled against the others strength as their weapons locked into place, Kain had the advantage of reach on his side, but even a mighty warrior like him could not compete with the immense strength of his opponent. With a growl, Hector forced his opponent back, pushing his weapon away before swinging with the blunt side of his axe at Kain’s chest. The solid hit caused the man to stumble backward, but with some effort he held his ground and swung his weapon like a bat striking against Hector’s armored arm.

The large man took the hit, using the contact to wrap his arm around the halberd and lock it between his arm and chest. Kain struggled to try and remove it, and when he could not instead relied on his helmeted head to bash against Hector’s skull. Even then, the Jade Devil refused to move, so Kain lifted his head and delivered another blow to the skull to finally get Hector to relinquish his weapon.

Kain knew he could compete with the green haired swordsman on physical strength, so he used the moment to get some distance between him and Hector. There was one advantage he could use however as he took some carefully angled swings at his opponent. Hector raised the axe to defend himself, but found keeping track of Kain’s weapons exceedingly difficult as the man swung from Hector’s blind spot. The large man did his best, but Kain knew where to strike, and easily got a few solid hits on his opponent, cutting into his armor. The fairy armor was strong, but even it was not perfect, as evident from the blood that seeped from where Hector had been struck.

Hector clenched his teeth in pain, but did not let the wound stop him. Grabbing the boomerang from his side, he attempted a quick flick of the wrist to strike his opponent at close range. Kain’s eyes widened from the sudden tactic, but he removed his halberd and dodged to the right just in time for it to fly past him. It got the job it needed done, though, it got Kain to remove his weapon before he could do any more damage. Hector charged right at his opponent at that moment, grabbling Kain’s halberd in his free hand and pushing his axe against it, forcing the man to struggle to keep his handle on it.

Kain glared at Hector through his helmet, only to be met with a grin from his opponent. Just as Kain was to question why he was grinning in the midst of their battle, he felt a strike to the center of his back; the boomerang had made its return trip. Feeling the wind knock out of him, Hector soundly disarmed him with the hooked end of his axe and threw the halberd behind him. Finally, before Kain could recover, he delivered one last punch to the man’s head sending him to the ground with a thud.

Kain coughed out as he lay on the ground, soundly defeated by the Jade Devil. He lifted his head, and saw too that his allies had been taken down by Hector’s mysterious ally, who stepped up to stand beside him. “How the fates toy with me...” He groaned, breathing heavily. “Are we to suffer shame for two defeats now? No... no I would rather die.” His muffled voice proclaimed. He looked back up Hector, who merely stared blankly at his defeated opponent. “Finish us off. At least give us a warriors death.”

“Why?” Hector questioned, his voice low.

“Did you not hear me?” Kain growled, “I will not be shamed again!”

“You are a fool Kain. You faced me in battle and lost, there is no shame in that.” Hector argued back, fervor in his voice. “You and your friends are strong, you could have done so much good around this city. But you let your weaknesses get the best of you. You think you can’t help people without honor? Or that you can’t fight if you have been shamed?”

“Don’t...” He began, catching his breath, “... lecture me, Devil. I never killed my countrymen.”

“You let your past dictate your actions.” The man countered. Very discretely, Pan flinched. “I have done things that no one should have done. I have lost my honor long ago... but I will never allow that to stop me from moving forward. …Can you say the same?”

There was silence between them, brief as his words were, they weighed heavily on the mercenary leader. The man thought, “Heh...ridiculous. Where was this human all those years ago? The Jade Devil was an unbeatable monster, it figures that the one thing to overcome him would be... himself.”

“You alright, Pan?” Hector called out to the other person still conscious on the field.

Pan nodded, shifting her grip on her staff. “Yeah, I’m fine. This was good for me, actually,” she said, laughing a little. “It beats the monotony that I’ve been cursed with for the past few days.” Which was to say that the task of rebuilding the forest was starting to depress her, but it wasn’t something she would say so freely to a relative stranger. Hector let out a light chuckle of his own.

Kain watched the two closely, he never thought he’d ever see the Jade Devil again, and he never thought he’d ever see that beast happy. A sigh escaped the man’s lips as he dragged himself back onto his feet, propping himself against a nearby tree for support. “I suppose this battle really was a waste of time...” He muttered, looking off into the distance, “It looks like the Jade Devil died long before I could have my rematch with him... because you certainly are not him.” He turned his attention back to the little one, “I’m sorry that you got roped up into our battle...we will leave your forest in peace, if you will allow it... once the others recover, anyway.”

Pan turned to him with a very grim look. “Of course I’ll allow you to leave,” she said, stressing the absurdity of the request with a heavy are-you-stupid tone. “I’m no murderer, and I actually do want you gone, believe it or not. However,” she added, her face softening only slightly, “you are welcome to return, given that you leave your personal business off my lawn from now on. Deal?” The shepherdess offered her hand to the man, who stood staring in surprise.

He stared for an awkward amount of time, before a small laugh escaped his helmet. “The people of this castle continue to surprise me. Fine, I accept your deal.” The man claimed, accepted the small hand.

“What will you do once the others recover?” Hector asked sincerely as he dug for some supplies in the bag from earlier to help with his wounds.

The other man sighed, looking around the forest somewhat. “I will most likely return to the city, and reevaluate what is happening there. Perhaps we have been too idle... there are better ways to use our expertise, like finding a safer resolution to this war brewing there.” Hector gave a friendly nod to the man, agreeing with the plan. “Hector...was it?” Kain asked.

“Uh,” Hector blinked, “Yes.”

“You should be careful. You as well, young Pan.” The man warned. “We did not come alone. That man Luca sent an entire squad with us, they make way for the temple further in. I believe they suspected some diplomat was being held there.”

Hector paused, but only for a second, before quickly closing up the sack and swinging over his back. “Then it seems I’m needed elsewhere.” He looked over at Pan, laughing slightly, “Thanks for the help, if you ever find you need some aid in the future, come look for me. It’s hard to miss me; I’m the giant with the green hair.”

Pan laughed a little as well. “Likewise, though it’s a bit easier to miss me. I’ll be around, though.”

With a nod, Hector wasted no time finishing gathering his gear and running off back towards the temple. “What an odd turn of events.” Kain sighed, sitting back down upon the downed tree trunk. “I certainly hope the others wake up soon...”

The girl rolled her eyes. “They’ll be fine,” she said, hooking the end of her staff on a branch and easily swinging herself up. She was halfway gone already. “It’ll only take another minute or so. They’ll be sore, but the only thing severely damaged would be their egos, I’d imagine.” With another laugh, the girl leapt away, leaving the leader on his own.

“... Damn kids.”
If you ever need to ask the questions "Am I needed? Should I help them?" The answer is always yes. Always.
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Adell
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Sicon112 on Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:38 pm

Quest 27: Flower Land

Gentle breezes fluttered across the landscape, making ripples run this way and that through the tall grass, lit by the mysterious light that permeated the day of the castle. Though the sun was not visible through the ceiling far above, its warm beams, or imitations thereof, somehow found a way to slip into the airborne edifice, filling the world that would otherwise be cast in shadow with reassuring light. The terrain, sometimes flat, sometimes rising to form hills, spread out as far as the eye could see, dotted here and there with the remains of old buildings or encampments. Spread across the land were areas that appeared to have once been tilled, by people long ago departed. The first impression left by this new floor was, at least to the cynical mind of the man watching it silently from a hilltop vantage, surprisingly tranquil.

Kurt stood with his arms crossed before him, wind causing his black coat to flutter quietly as he took in the peaceful scene. Grey eyes scanned the horizon before slowly sweeping downward to pan across the town below. A ramshackle group of ancient structures surrounded by a half-collapsed palisade, the ruins of the village were the sight that greeted the settlers of this new land when they passed through the warp point.

Between the buildings, Kurt’s sharp eyes caught glimpses of the new villagers moving back and forth, working on reconstruction of what structures could be repaired, and demolishing those that had fallen beyond that state to make way for new replacements. Amidst the workers, he saw here and there a small speck of brown, the robes of the monks that he had traveled here with. Idly, he wondered if some of them were searching for him, or if they were simply assisting in the construction.

Moving his gaze on from the confines of the town, or what passed for one, he observed the white field of tents that encompassed it, acting as a temporary shelter for those who could not find salvageable dwelling places. He and the monks with him had been offered a few rooms within the town, but the holy men had quickly turned them down, and now had quarters on the far side of the tent city from Kurt’s hill.

“One would think the peace of this place would be refreshing...” Muttering under his breath bitterly, the former Executor sighed and dropped his arms to his side. Yet it was as he had said. The tranquil silence of the floor as it stood was a perfect breathing space that innumerable residents of this twisted, flying world had fervently wished for, but it did not calm Kurt’s mood in the slightest. The silence just served to make the sounds of shouts, battle, and rioting that his mind conjured up, imagining the events now going on far below, all the more vivid.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by a glint of light off metal down the slope below him. His eyes focused on the shimmering point, far too big to be some small implement that managed to catch the sun, and sure enough saw an armored figure that seemed familiar. Curious, Kurt began his trek down the hill, deciding he had been standing still for long enough anyway.

---

Ben swallowed, though it did nothing to erase the sick metallic tang from her mouth. Death always put a damper in, well, everything, and this was the adventure she’d sought; she couldn’t very well run away from it now.

She snagged a dead twig, and used it to scratch a rough grid into the dust in front of her. She was still staring intently at the grid, a few squiggles added, when steady footfalls approached from behind.

“I cannot help but notice that your king appears to be two moves from checkmate. In a game you set up.”

Ben looked up and glared at the white-haired interloper. He stood, arms crossed, one eyebrow raised. “It’s a trick I learned from my brother,” she said, by way of explanation. “He’ll visualize any problem on a chessboard. He’s better at it than I am-- he’ll see a solution present itself as a handful of moves in a moment. He’d probably have this solved by now. But as it is, I’m stuck. There’s no method, no motive, no explanation, and I can’t fix it!” The last sentence burst out of her, applying itself to more than just the locked-room mystery she was frustrating herself with. For someone who treated the world’s problems as her own, the past few weeks had been particularly trying ones.

“Well, the first step to solving your whatever-it-is, and no, I don’t particularly care to know, would be to get rid of that queen that is going to put you in check next turn.” Kurt kicked a long branch from nearby up to his hand and scribbled a new grid next to the one Ben had just made, outlining the next move. “After that, I would suggest trying to avoid losing to yourself. It can be quite humiliating if you get caught in the act.”

Ben glanced at the new chessboard, blinking rapidly a few times. Without a word, she shot a parting glare at Kurt and ran off, absentmindedly tucking the twig into her belt. The black clad priest arched his eyebrow again, left standing on the edge of the line of tents by himself. Shrugging, he finally turned around and moved back toward the path to the town.

Ben’s mind raced as she processed the suggestion that the priest had made, her feet tracing her way to the fields that surrounded the new-old town. She pursed her lips, trying to mesh the information with what she already knew.

---

The woman was crying.

“It’s not like him, it’s not him, he would never do something like that! He loves me-- and our girls-- he wouldn’t just--” She stopped talking as another sob escaped. “Times are hard, but never that hard. He’s not a quitter, not Thom. He wouldn’t-- he wouldn’t do that, himself.”

Ben tried to phrase her question gently, though she knew she had never been good at these things. “So you think someone here murdered him?”

The woman looked up, her eyes wild, her unkempt hair swinging back and forth as she shook her head frantically. “No-- no! No, we know everyone-- they’re our friends. No one would-- no.”

“Is there anyone who was angry with him?” Ben pressed. “Anyone who might have felt driven even to an action they’d later regret?”

She shook her head more slowly this time. “No... no. Thom’s too sweet to make enemies. People never-- no. There’s nobody was angry at him, nobody looking to hurt him.” She turned her head toward the knight, her eyes pleading, certain that Ben held the answers to her impossible questions. “Who would do such a thing to a good man, with little children who look to him?”

“That,” Ben replied with a sigh, wishing she could promise more, “is what I intend to find out.”

---

The man was... well, he wasn’t quite the mayor, because this wasn’t really enough of a town to merit having a mayor. But as more people had filtered onto the third floor, he had apparently simply fallen into leadership, on account of being the one to step up and do what needed doing. Ben respected him, because, having fallen into the position, he didn’t shy away from it. He continued to work his unofficial, thankless job.

Right now, his particularly thankless job was talking to her.

“People have been... disappearing. Not clean vanishing, y’understand, but... bein’ nowhere t’be found, for a bit, then turnin’ up awhiles later, far from the village. Dead. Not no reason for it we c’n see, nor something should be happening. Homebodies, y’understand. Farmers. Children, some of ‘em. All types. Just one at a time, no warning. People are afeared to walk anyplace alone, nearabout, an’ that’s hardly the worst of it.”

Ben looked concerned; she far preferred something to fight, out in the open, than something lurking, waiting for her to find it out. She liked to know what she was up against. The first thing I’d need... “Do you have a map of the area?” she asked the not-mayor.

The man snorted at the idea. “Sir, we’re jes’ workin’ at holdin’ ourselves together. We came up to this place as a ramshackle group, and we’ve since been workin’ at settin’ ourselves up or at not dyin’. Both, for preference. Ain’t no time in the day nor no luxury for making maps.”

Ben nodded understandingly, knowing that lack of a map was hardly the worst problem at the moment, and the man’s expression softened. “Down there, I know, there’s plenty as ain’t so pleased with the guild members at the moment.” Ben silently gave him credit for excellent skill with understatement. “But up here, we ain’t got the time for those squabbles, neither. We’re just tryin’ t’do our own thing, and so far as I’m concerned, ‘guild’ jes’ means I knows where you stand, and I know you know enough that maybe you can help. Can’t rightly ask for more, now, can I?”

---

“Excuse me, people have been what?” Kurt, suddenly very intent on the conversation, turned his focus to where the monk and townsman were speaking.

“Ah, yes, that's right. You were absent when we were informed of this calamity, were you not, Brother Konrad?” The monk shifted his attention to the former executor, seeming slightly apologetic for having forgotten to pass on the information.

Kurt's eyes narrowed and became like hard steel, glinting in the candlelight of the house that served as town hall. “Fill me in.”

---

The man knelt beside the child-sized shroud; this death was the most recent, and one of the hardest. Ben didn’t want to probe his wounds too far by talking to him, when she didn’t know what to say; she would try to just listen.

“She hadn’t had a chance to live yet, not really. What can a girl of six do to deserve death-- how can she be gone so young?” Ben said nothing; the angry, anguished questions were not directed at her.

“...Not a mark on her, no bruises, no blood. Nothing. Pure as an angel, like the sweet angel she always was. How is that right? How can they take my angel away from me? She was all I had!” His face was dry, now; his tears had all been spent.

“She wasn’t one to stray far from the house, not her. She was a good girl. Sweetest thing you ever met. Always had a smile for everyone. After her mother-- well, she’d be too young to remember, just about. But she never let it bother her. She was happy with our little family, she knew how much I loved her.

“Bright girl, she was. You could tell. Everyone said. ‘That girl, she’s going to go far,’ they said. Well, now she’s gone, all right. No chance to do her great things. She had dreams! It isn’t right. Not a mark on her. Not a thing.”

---

“Vanishing townsfolk, unmarred bodies, no motive for suicide or signs of struggle...” The priest somberly ran over the details in his mind, resting his chin on a hand contemplatively.

“Yes, tha's about the size o' it.” The 'mayor', having completed his explanation, twitched nervously, a little put off by the sudden shift in demeanor from his formerly unattentive and apathetic guest. “Well, I guess that there's one more thing. See, the people were real upset, y'understand, and this passin' knight was offerin' 'is help, and...”

“...You took him up on his offer.” He was cut off by Kurt's voice, this time carrying a tinge of annoyance. “I suppose I can't expect a villager to do anything different, but this is going to cause problems.” He whirled to face the monk, standing up from the table and knocking his chair aside. “Do you or your brothers have any spare equipment among our supplies? Blessed items, sealing paraphernalia, anything of use? I have no intention of letting the body count grow again. It's far too high already.”

---

The girl met Ben outside after she finished meeting with the seventh victim’s-family of the day. She was petite, and looked very young-- probably still in her teens-- but something about the look on her face told Ben that she would be one of the more helpful people she spoke to that day.

“Eloen said you asked after a map... I s’pose I’m the map, really. We ha’n’t got much writ down, but I know the lay o’ the land better’n most. I wander a lot.”

“If you could give me an idea of where the dead were found, in relation to everything, that would be wonderful,” Ben requested.

The girl bit her lip, thinking. “Well, I could make you a sketch, I s’pose... but I could also show you, for some. P’r’aps that would be best. Come.”

She took Ben by the hand, her thin fingers grasping the knight’s calloused palm without hesitation, and led her to the dusty plain where the edges of the town gave way to fields. Picking up a serviceable twig, she sketched some shapes in the dirt.

“See, if here on this end is the town, all this around it are the fields. These ones are empty, we use them for grazing. On the other side we’ve started growing wheat, and up on the middle it’s slated for corn, but we ha’n’t had the chance to plant naught there yet.” She sketched a number of small Xs on her impromptu map, some clustered close together, others further apart. “That’s where they turned up-- I can take you t’ the spots f’r them on the grazing lands and the cornfields-to-be. Don’ want to disturb the wheat more’n necessary.”

“You’ll be able to pinpoint the spots there?” Ben asked, somewhat surprised.

“Found ‘em myself, most of ‘em,” she answered quietly.

Ben bit down on her tongue, keeping angry words inside. This town did not deserve its strange blight-- the people here did not deserve it. The sooner it was dealt with, the better.

“One more thing,” she said, as the girl tugged on her arm to show her the places in the fields where the dead had been found. There was an odd ‘U’ shape on the map, somewhat out-of-the-way but about equidistant from all the Xs. “What’s that mark over there?”

“That? That’s just the hill. Nobody really goes there.” Ben made a mental note of its location nonetheless, and followed the girl to see what she could see.

---

As she neared the far reaches of the field, Ben quickened her pace. The hilltop-- which by all logical dictates should be, must be her goal-- beckoned, growing ever-nearer. She half-ran the last stretch of the distance, not knowing what she expected to find. Whatever she expected, what she found was not it.

The light thumping of quick footfalls approached from behind, and as Ben turned, the black coated form of Kurt jogged to a stop behind her. “I figured as much when the mayor said he asked a knight to help him out. Civilians... They always send a knight to do a priest’s job.” While his voice contained some of the sarcasm he usually threw about, his brows were furrowed and he held a serious air about him for once.

Ben ignored his words, pushing on to finish her trek. She reached the top of the hill and looked around; there was really only one thing to see. “It’s a tree.” Her voice was totally deadpan. She turned to the man who had followed her up. “Any idea why we’ve come all this way for a tree, Miracle Man?”

“Far too much of an idea. The tree isn’t what you should be looking at. Unfortunately, it seems that the culprit doesn’t want to come out just yet.” Not bothering to look towards his companion, Kurt’s silver eyes swept back and forth across the hilltop, taking in all the tiniest details while he stood with a hand on his sword hilt, which protruded from beneath the fabric of his coat. “Be on your guard. Don’t just stand there wide open unless you are ready to deal with the consequences.”

“I don’t think you’re ready to be teaching me combat just yet, Miracle Man,” Ben answered coolly, sword at the ready. “Let’s just stick to what we each do best.”

“I expect you will find that this type of combat is not one you are trained to deal with.” Pulling a small vial from his robe pocket, he tossed it toward Ben. “I think you know what to do with this by now.”

Ben caught the vial by instinct, but she was already frowning at it. I’ll be damned if I wreck a good weapon like this with the god-knows-what of his ridiculous water. Grinning, she tugged at the shortbow she’d taken to keeping with her.

A moment later, her face fell again. The bow she had. What she didn’t have, and what she’d planned on dunking in the water on account of being expendable, were arrows.

She didn’t have long to ponder this oversight, because no sooner had she gotten the apparently-useless bow into her hand than what had appeared to be buds on the tree exploded outward into hordes of butterflies, spreading their wings. Ben rolled her eyes at the ridiculous display, but she had to admit that it was distracting. That was about the time that the butterflies, which now formed a veritable cloud of fluttering wings, began to glow with some deep purple power that filled the air with an ominous aura.

Short on time to think about what to do, Ben dripped liquid from the vial straight onto the bowstring. A string at least I can replace. Pulling the string back carefully between two gauntleted fingers, she loosed it, sending droplets showering into the air and onto the oncoming insects. She liked the shortbow; it was strung properly, so taut that it propelled the naked drops of water fast enough to cut.

The droplets suddenly sparked and blazed into glittering projectiles of golden light as they darted through the air with frightening speed. They almost seemed to bend their flight path to target the incoming creatures, and when the two energies collided, a flash of white filled the air, and charred remains of a butterfly fell to the ground.

Drop after drop slammed into the oncoming wave, taking out hundreds of the tiny creatures in the first instant, but innumerable more plunged onward toward the two humans, not seeming to be fazed at all. “Get back!” A flutter of black fabric flew in front of Ben’s vision as the priest leaped to the fore, bottle already uncorked and hurling liquid into the air. Golden light flashed as the holy power imbued within the water triggered by Kurt’s will, just as the oncoming horde crashed against the wall. Unfamiliar runic symbols of gold gleamed as they spun through the air around the priest’s makeshift barricade, and for a moment, the swarm halted in its path.

Then the tail end of the cloud crashed against the wall, gathering the entire swarm of butterflies together in one place, and the golden power bucked under the force of the attack. Reaching beneath his coat, Kurt pulled out his next item in a blur of crimson, swinging his mantle through the air as though swatting at the insects. Just as the barrier broke, the enchanted fabric of his cape crashed against the butterflies, knocking them back with another blast of white light.

Like the tentacle of a squid, a portion of the swarm split off from the rest and looped around and crashed down toward Kurt’s open left side, but the priest raised his free hand, revealing the golden crucifix he usually wore as a necklace, and a third vial of water. Crushing the vial in his hand, and ignoring the cuts the glass inflicted, Kurt twirled the necklace by its string, flinging more golden droplets into the air.

However, his moment of distraction cost him, and the main cloud attacked his front with renewed vigor. Blowing aside his crimson mantle, they darted inward toward his chest, and he barely managed to draw his sword in time to block. The impact of the purple energy and the power of the holy water he had already used on his blade sent him flying backward head over heels, and he barely managed to turn his flight into a flip and land feet first, skidding up next to the knight.

“Flashy,” Ben commented coolly, “but this isn’t going to work. For every one we hit, there are at least twenty more, and the thing about winged creatures is they can just fly out of range and regroup. We need a better plan. Or any plan will do, really.”

Kurt straightened, looking around as the cloud of black and purple insects split around them and began to circle in the air above, out of his reach for the moment. “You won’t find me arguing with that.” He reached down to his right hand and knocked what appeared to be a smouldering ring of metal to the ground. “That was supposed to amplify my powers, but it looks like I overdid it.” Glancing at his partner, Kurt gave a warning. “Just don’t let those things touch you. I got a taste of their power back there, and whatever they are meant to do, it won’t be pleasant.”

“Got any other brilliant advice, Miracle Man? Because I’d have never guessed that I want to prevent the demonic swarming insects from getting a grip on me, if I didn’t have you here to tell me about it.”

“Take it as lightly as you want, but there is some kind of curse on those things. I somehow doubt they are actually alive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they could place us in the same state just with a touch.”

“Well, Mr. Expert, what do you so wisely recommend we do about it, then?”

“Well, the good news is, I’m not out of holy water yet. The bad news is, I will be very soon. If I can just hit them all at once, we should be able to clear the air long enough to get to the source of them. But unless you have some kind of butterfly lure that I don’t know about, that won’t be happening any time soon.”

“Pity...” Butterfly lure... Ben froze, the words working their way into her consciousness. Catch more flies with honey... “Hang on! We do have something that could do the trick.” She fumbled in her pack as she spoke, pulling out the thing she spoke of. “A while back, some people gave me this honey... I don’t really know why. I did them a favour with some cows.”

Kurt muttered something along the lines of “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know” under his breath, but Ben ignored him.

“Anyway...” She paused, waving the bow with its still-wet string to disperse the small horde of insects that had begun to descend on her when her hands were otherwise occupied. “Anyway,” she continued, triumphantly holding the jar of honey aloft, “how about it? You mix your little magic into here, we’ll have them lining up to take their medicine.”

There was a moment of silence as Ben was answered by a single white eyebrow being arched in her general direction. Finally, the priest sighed heavily. “I suppose we don’t really have any less ridiculous options.” Tossing one more vial of water to the knight, he withdrew one more. “You prepare. I’ll buy you a little time.” Sword in one hand, vial of water and crucifix in the other, with his cape draped over his shoulders, Kurt stepped forward and into the horde, filling the air again with flashes of gold and purple.

“That’s right, get the woman to do the cooking... sexist pig,” Ben muttered, but she unscrewed the cover of the honey in fairly good humour.

Skidding backwards out of the cloud again, the priest shot an amused glance over his shoulder. “If you would prefer to play with the death butterflies, I’ll gladly let you have your fun the next time we are swarmed by homicidal insects.” Without further ado, he leapt back into the fray.

“Well, thank you for that courtesy, Miracle Man.” Ben looked at the little bottle thoughtfully for a moment, before upending the whole thing, with a shrug, into the pot of honey. She pulled out the twig she had used before from her belt, and did her best-- in other words, passable but poorly-- at stirring the mixture around.

She glanced up at the priest, fighting the storm of butterflies, trying to figure her next move. She’d need to get their attention if the honey ploy was going to work, since they seemed a little focused on their current battle; moreover, the feeding-ground would be better off away from the two of them, if they didn’t want any errant butterflies touching their skin.

Aiming straight for the centre of the cloud as it advanced on the man, Ben called out “Hey! Six-legs!” as she released the jar. It flew true, shooting straight through the swarm to land on the far side of the tree from both humans, already trailing a stream of hungry bugs. The jar smashed on its landing, creating a wide puddle of holy-water-honey for the butterflies to sip from.

They, for their part, abandoned their fight with Kurt almost immediately, swooping down toward the sticky treat. As the butterflies drank from the augmented honey, they began to melt, their “bodies” fizzling out in a bright white light that dissipated only when there was nothing physical remaining of the creature.

Breathing slightly heavily, the once-again-visible priest wiped sweat from his brow and replaced his sword in its sheath and his necklace around his neck, then dug around in his belt pouch for a moment and withdrew a roll of bandages as he moved toward the hilltop once more. Wrapping up his still bleeding left hand, he nodded to Ben as she approached. “Well, that went much better than it could have. Now, I think our attacker should be ready to show itself by this point.”

As the last of the butterflies disappeared, a shrill, keening voice sounded, splitting the air with its noise. A figure emerged from the core of the tree-- female in form, but quite obviously not human. Humans usually remember that their feet should be touching the ground.

The girl, whatever she was, looked... distraught. Her shift whipped about in a phantom wind as she glanced up to where the butterflies had so recently been. “Where did they go? The pretty insect-birds-- where did they go? They were almost like... when they were on the branches, I could almost imagine that they were the flowers.” Her head, whipping back and forth, paused in its motion when she saw the two fighters. Looking down, she snapped open a colourful paper fan, hiding her face behind it and falling abruptly silent.

Ben watched the ghost girl for a moment, before saying quietly to Kurt, “Let me handle this.” With a nod, the priest quietly stepped off to the side and began to examine the black trunk of the tree.

She even remembered to put her weapons away, though still within easy reach, as she slowly approached the girl, hands out in a friendly, harmless gesture. “What’s wrong? --Who are you?”

“I... that isn’t important who I am the important thing is the pretty tree, Lady.”

“Sir,” Ben mumbled, almost automatically, correcting the girl to a more appropriate title. “What about the tree?”

“I. I wanted to see it.”

“Well, you see it now. You can look right at it.” Ben tried to sound encouraging.

“Thank you, Lady, but I think you misunderstand. The tree is here, of course, but I wanted to see it when it was ready.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” Ben started slipping back to wariness, her hand reaching to her belt.

“When it was in bloom. When all the pretty flowers were showing on it. I wanted to see the tree with all its pretty flowers, Lady.”

Ben’s hand stopped in its descent; that sounded harmless enough. “And what’s wrong?”

“The tree is sad. It can’t bloom if it’s sad. It’s sad about its butterflies, and the butterflies made me feel happier. They made it look almost like it was already in bloom. They helped me find my friends.”

Ben felt relieved at the approach of a safer, saner topic. “It’s always nice to find friends,” she agreed. “Where are your friends now?” She glanced around anxiously, as though hoping to find those friends just about to turn the corner. She’d have asked about parents, at that, but the girl didn’t look quite human enough for the question to make sense.

As it was, the ghost faltered at the question, looking more distressed again. I just can’t win, can I? “They... never stayed for long,” the girl admitted, her gaze downcast. Her fan started to come up again, but Ben reached out, tilting the girl’s face up by the chin so that they remained facing each other. “They helped me meet friends,” she continued, “but then they said the friends would have to go away. And-- and not come back. Not until the tree was in bloom.

“I also wanted it to bloom for that. So I could have my friends again. But mostly just to see the pretty flowers, because I didn’t know the friends for very long but I’ve known the tree for almost forever and I just really wish I could see it bloom.” The girl’s expression brightened, and she looked up at Ben, excitement in her eyes. “Will you be my friend, Lady? Will you come play with me and the tree and help it bloom?”

“I’m sorry,” Ben said, “but I have a lot of important work to do. I’d be happy to take time off to play with nice little girls like you, but I’m afraid I haven’t the time.”

This did not appear to be the answer the girl expected to hear. In fact, at first she just repeated the question, as though she had not heard. “Will you? Will you come and play with me, Lady, to help make the tree blossom?”

“I can’t,” Ben answered again.

The girl looked disproportionately horrified by this answer. Her face screwed up and she began to cry, not loudly, but passionately. “I only wanted to see the tree bloom. All my forever, all I wanted was to see the pretty flowers... so hard I worked to help the pretty flowers come... please let me see the pretty flowers...”

Ben looked uncomfortably at the girl. She had no experience with children, let alone dead crying children. The best she could do was attempt a “There, there,” and offer the girl a reassuring hold of the hand.

When she took hold of the little ghost’s hand, however, a change seemed to come over the girl’s face. “Thank you, Lady,” she whispered. She gripped Ben’s hand tighter, casting an anxious glance behind her, in the direction of Kurt and the tree. “Thank you, Lady. Please don’t let go of me, Lady. You’re making it all better-- somehow--” The girl grinned, her whole face lighting up with an animation that it had not seemed able to hold, before. “There are lots more pretty colours other places, too, aren’t there, Lady? And friends who stay forever and ever without a butterfly’s help... Don’t let go.”

It seemed to give the girl some comfort, so Ben held on to her hand-- as though she could even let go, as tightly as it was being held-- letting the girl continue to sprout her seeming-nonsense, just so long as she looked happy.

They were interrupted by the creaking of branches as the tree seemed to sway in a non-existent wind, and a shout from the priest. “Whatever you just did, you might want to be rethinking it about now.” Black fire began to swirl across the roots as Kurt warily stepped backward, sword raised in a backhanded guard position in front of him.

“I’ll get right onto rethinking just as soon as I find out what, if anything, I’ve done.” She smiled again at the confused girl, to reassure her that the sour tone was not meant for her.

“Then I suppose we have to do this the hard way.” Kurt glanced quickly over his shoulder at Ben and the ghost. “I suggest taking your new friend there and getting some distance between you and this thing.”

Ben turned to the ghost girl. “Can you get to the town? He and I have some more work to do here--”

“DON’T LET GO!” the girl shrieked, gripping Ben’s hand even harder.

Ben looked at Kurt with a helpless smile. “Can you manage on your own? What are you even planning?”

Kurt’s face was serious for once, and his eyes held a coldness in their depths. “All that is left now is to try to seal it. However, something like that is far beyond my powers. I suppose it is a good thing my own power is meaningless in the end, then.” Withdrawing from his coat a few sharply pointed daggers, their pommels bound together with string, he threw them into the roots of the sakura tree. “Now, let’s get this started.” So saying, Kurt quietly kneeled before the tree, ignoring the pitch black fire that began to flit around his legs, and crossing his right arm over his chest.

Still dragging Ben along, the ghost girl ran over to the priest. “Wait! Take this!” Instead of handing him anything, though, she pressed her free hand against his back, as though supporting him. Her grip on Ben’s hand grew weaker, but the knight had a feeling she shouldn’t let go now. The girl’s hair whipped about in a wind that was not there, her hands tying her to the two fighters.

The sound of wind whipping through the branches filled the air, sounding like distant voices wailing a dirge, but Kurt’s voice cut through the ominous cries as he began to cast his spell.

Ye eyes who watch over eternity, look upon this earth.

Sparks of gold flickered back and forth across the strings tying together the sealing daggers. The flames leapt up to try to burn away the fragile threads, but recoiled at the bright flashes.

Ye spirits who observe this spinning world, look upon this earth.

The light upon the daggers gleamed brighter still and shot upward around the tree, sparking and flashing as the swinging limbs collided with the growing barrier.

I am the messenger of the heavenly chariot in this fleeting world.

Beneath the aura of light around them, the daggers, the core of the spell, began to melt away under the strain, droplets of their metal running slowly down across the tree roots, furthering the seal.

I am the dispenser of the justice of God in this ephemeral world.

The embers that filled the air seemed to synchronize with each other, beginning to spin slowly around the hilltop at a sedate pace, ignoring the furious writhing of the tree at their center.

I am the one who walks in dusk.

The voice of the priest rang with a power not his own, as sparks of light began to run across his kneeling form, seeming to rain down from the sky above. For as he had said, it was not by his own power that he was doing this. Another presence seemed to fill the air as something much, much more powerful than any human responded to the call for aid.

I am the one who brings the dawn.

The screeching howl gained volume as though trying to blot out the incantation, and the ground writhed as the roots below their feet began to tear away the dirt and spring upward, surrounding Kurt, who continued to speak, undeterred, or simply unaware of what was going on around him.

Even in the blackest night, I fear no darkness.
Even in the brightest day, I revere the light.


Ben pulled her sword one-handed from her belt in a fluid motion, grateful that it was her left hand which the girl still gripped. Lunging forward, doing her best not to bring the other two falling down, Ben sliced at the wildly thrashing roots, casting them back before they could break the priest’s concentration, or any other part of him.

Ye wheels that forever turn the heavens, answer my call!
Thou third of the highest sphere, hear my prayer!


The branches of the tree swung forward, twigs bristling as though sentient and trying to scratch out the man’s eyes. Ben parried the wooden arms with her sword, shunting the attack away from the man who continued to speak. A thicker branch whipped out at her in response, and she was sure she couldn’t hold against it-- and yet a strength that wasn’t her own poured through her, with a feeling like a much-calmer version of an adrenaline rush, and she held firm, keeping the branches at bay.

His will be done
His justice be delivered!


A wall of sound suddenly struck the tree as chanting began to ring out from all sides. The field of light that encircled the combatants twisted and danced through the air at a faster pace, and from time to time forms could be discerned in profile amidst the embers.

THRONE OF THE HEAVENS!

As he spoke the final line of the incantation, Kurt’s head rose and his eyes snapped open, spewing gleaming golden light through the air. The barrier around the tree shone brighter and brighter until white and gold was all that could be seen, before suddenly, all sound ceased.

The hilltop came back into view, and green grass and quiet breeze filled the senses of the knight and priest, one standing, sword held ready, and the other on hands and knees, panting as he regained control of his body.

As the air calmed and the sounds died down, it took Ben a moment to figure out why her left hand felt so odd. When she realized it was the lack of pressure, she turned, panicked, bracing herself to see... well, not what she saw. The ghost girl was still between her and Kurt, but just barely, fading to be near-invisible.

“Thank you, Lady,” the girl whispered, and then, with a flutter of her paper fan, she was gone, leaving nothing but a distant echo of her voice, carried on the wind.

Ben flexed her fingers, trying to shake off the decidedly odd feeling. “Well, that was... odd,” she remarked. “Anything left on your plate, Miracle Man?”

Finally rising to his feet and brushing himself off, Kurt caught his breath. “I originally came here with the intent of staying away from the chaos below, but I think I’ve changed my mind.” The priest smirked at nothing in particular. “But first I’m going to gather some villagers and get this tree chopped down.”
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."
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby narrativedilettante on Sat Jul 13, 2013 2:24 am

Quest 26 : Tiny War

Giselle sat in the PTA’s main office, assimilating information from the spies who’d been out risking themselves to keep Seire’s guild out of the firing line. The warehouse still stood, and Giselle herself (and, she was sure, many of the other guild members) had easy enough exit strategies, but the state of the city was still worrying. She hadn’t returned to the inn where she kept a room since the anti-faction movement had made its riotous start. Helping to reverse the anti-factioners’ trajectory seemed the only sensible option.

And now she had an idea of how to achieve that. The amulets that fueled the rage spell were dispersed in particular locations, and a few of them were easy enough to get to. She marked the locations on her map, scanning for the safest routes to and from the stockpiles. If she was careful, and very clever, she might just manage to stall the opposition for long enough to gain an advantage.

She left a note on her desk reading, “Gone out. If I’m not back within 24 hours, DO NOT mount a large-scale rescue mission,” desperately hoped that Seire would obey the note, and exited the warehouse.

Walking through the crowds of anti-factioners would have been a fun challenge if so much hadn’t been at stake. Giselle wore a counterfeit amulet, which made for an easy enough disguise, but walking nonchalantly along the street was out of character for an enraged militant. She tried to keep an angry expression and a quickened gait while also deflecting attention from herself.

“Hey! I know you!” A gruff voice called out, and Giselle realized she’d failed to blend in completely.

“What’s it to you?” Giselle shouted back, turning to face a man who did look somewhat familiar. After a moment she recognized him as one of the woodcutters she’d rescued from the Kobold beastmaster’s imprisonment.

“It’s great to see you again!” The man shook her arm vigorously, clearly buying in to her disguise. “I’m so glad to see someone like you helping us to take back the city from those godforsaken guilds!”

If the man hadn’t been under the influence of a rage spell, Giselle would have argued. Actually, she was a guild member, and that connection had been part of what helped her to rescue him and his colleagues, since she’d received help from a man who wouldn’t have worked with her if she hadn’t demonstrated guild membership... but those words would have achieved less than nothing, so she merely agreed, told him she had work to get to, and wished him well.

Oh, she also used the arm-shaking as an opportunity to replace his amulet with a simple leather strap. As she walked away, she snapped the amulet and hoped the woodcutter would be open to reason soon.

***

A young man sat on a rooftop high above the streets, chuckling to himself as he examined his ill-obtained loot. The bag of coins he had “collected” wasn’t as much as he usually could get, but the day wasn’t yet over. And there were plenty more targets around.

Nicholas Keyes gathered up the money and his sword, hiding them away under his jacket. Now to figure out how he’d spend the rest of his day. Maybe he’d steal something else, maybe start some fights, make friends with some rat-people living in the sewers, who knows? He certainly didn’t.

While Nick was perfectly aware of the various factions that more or less divided things around here, he chose to remain neutral in all of it, partially because those kind of allegiances tended to get people in trouble, but mainly because his way of doing things was more fun.

Walking through the streets was usually a dangerous idea, but that would operate under the assumption that you would be caught. Which, given Nick’s propensity for people just not noticing him, was simply not as much of a problem for him.

***

When you learn how to avoid attention, a useful side-effect is that you learn how to notice other people who are trying to avoid attention. As Giselle moved through the crowds, she kept tabs of all the pendant-wearers, aware of who was and wasn’t keeping tabs on her. Almost everyone ignored her, too wrapped up in their rage-spell tasks. A few guards were watching the crowds, but they didn’t pay her any special attention.

There was one young man, though, who deliberately wasn’t paying attention to her. In fact, he deliberately wasn’t paying attention to anyone, which meant that he must actually be paying close attention to everyone around him and hiding it.

The polite thing to do would be to let him go about whatever his secretive business was. Giselle wasn’t one to butt in on others’ plans. In fact, if he’d been standing in a slightly different place, she wouldn’t have noticed him at all, but he was right between her and a house that contained an amulet stockpile. She needed to pass by him, and neither one could maintain a charade of not noticing the other while surrounded by such volatile crowds.

That meant it was time for a deflective strategy.

Giselle walked straight toward the house, and therefore straight toward the young man. When she was close enough that she would have noticed him, she smiled and said, “Hey! I didn’t expect to see you here! What’s going on?

“Play along with me,” She whispered, putting an arm around his shoulders and walking with him, right past the front door of the house and around to the side. There was little traffic through that area. It looked like a useful place to be unseen and unsuspicious.

“Sorry about that,” said Giselle, letting go of the young man once they were out of sight. “Carry on with whatever it is you were doing. Unless... you wouldn’t want to help me with what I was doing, would you?”

“That depends,” Nick replied. “Is it illegal, dangerous, or both, because my involvement is directly proportional to how much fun I’m having with it. Everyone else but you is zombies in this town, so I’d say that makes you automatically better to be around.”

“Illegal? That’s debatable, but it’s definitely dangerous.” Giselle gestured to the wall beside her. “I need to get into that building.”

Nick backs away from the building and examines it. “There’s at least six viable entrances, most of them likely to be guarded. That last one’s through a sewer grate, so maybe a bad idea, as I have no bloody idea what’s down there.”

“Sure. Probably best to avoid any nasty beasties.” Giselle gave another look to the building’s exterior. “Which entrance would you estimate is the least risky?”

“Third floor window third from the left on the east side. There’s not as many zombies over there, so our odds of not being seen going in are much greater. Once we’re in, though, we may have to be a bit sneakier.”

“All right.” Giselle brought her hands together, quietly to avoid attracting attention. “Let’s do it.”

***

With some climbing and a small amount of jumping, they did manage to enter through the third floor window without drawing notice. The room they entered was poorly illuminated, which was good for going undetected but bad for navigating.

“Somewhere in this building there’s a chest of talismans. We need to find it and destroy it, or at the very least remove it.” Giselle whispered.

“What even is this place? Because knowing what exactly I can expect to find can influence how we approach this and what I try to steal before I get out of here. Because if it’s weapons storage, we could possibly bring the whole freaking building down, possibly on ourselves. But if it’s something useless, like some administrative bullshit, then I’m gonna have to use a predator approach.”

“We can probably expect to find ‘administrative bullshit’ here. I wouldn’t expect much in the way of weapons, outside of what they’d have on hand for the guards. There is one spot, a warehouse I’d like to hit later tonight, that does include weapons storage. But for right now... yeah, I’d assume most of this stuff is useless documentation and the like.”

“Then I suppose we could light some fires or someth-- ooh! Someone’s coming!” Nick smiles like a giddy child as he listens to the footsteps approaching the room from the hallway outside. He signals to the girl to remain quiet as he pulls a length of rope out of his jacket.

As the guard passes the doorway, his path is halted on account of him suddenly finding himself being choked from behind. He struggles for a few moments before the kid knocks him out and drags him into the side room.

“A fire could work, but we’ve got to be careful. I wouldn’t want the chest to survive relatively unscathed while the paperwork goes up in flames. If we can start the fire where the chest is, I’d be in favor.” Giselle stepped over the unconscious guard. “Getting the personnel evacuated would also be a plus. People might write the fire off as an accident, but I wouldn’t count on it. A body count wouldn’t exactly help relations between these people and the guilds.”

Nick nodded to show he understood, and then he disappeared into the building. Giselle went the opposite way, to expand their area of search.

The guards weren’t that smart, at least from Nick’s perspective. Staying out of sight isn’t exactly a huge problem if the security is stupid enough to follow every tiny noise in some admittedly rather echoey halls. Still, a knock on a door here, a creaking floor there, and finding ways around the guards was easy enough. True, he was almost spotted a couple times, but that just served as a reminder to keep a weapon ready.

Giselle found, as predicted, administrative bullshit. There were lists of names, along with descriptions of what looked like their potential contributions... it looked an awful lot like most of these people contributed body mass more than talent. Well, there weren’t any amulets in that room, or in the next she searched. She doubled back and met up with Nick again.

“This wing’s clear. I suggest we head down.”

The second floor was more heavily populated. The occasional candle provided a bit of light and a lot of flickering shadows. Footsteps sounded at the end of the hallway, and Giselle and Nick both ducked into the nearest doorway... which, as luck would have it, contained not only the amulets, but also a fireplace with some embers still burning from whatever meeting or business had brought someone in there. This was almost too easy.

“Okay,” said Giselle. “The next one will be simpler. It’s just a temporary storage location while the amulets are waiting to be transported. Not many people in the area. Follow my lead.”

***

A knock on the door. It was bad enough during the day, but at this time of night? “Old man, you should never have let them use yer house for storage,” the resident said to himself as he pulled himself out of his chair. Where were the young fellows who were supposed to be looking after him and the amulets, that’s what he wanted to know.

The young men hadn’t exactly been up to the task, and were currently unconscious in the alleyway. No one had really expected a threat to show up there.

“Hi. Sorry to bother you, but could I get access to your amulets? I need one for my friend here.”

Well. The young lady was certainly charming. She had some nondescript fellow with her; he hardly made an impression on the old man. In fact, looking back on the events of that night, the old man could’ve sworn the young fellow just disappeared. Then again, perhaps his attention was just elsewhere.

“It’s over that way and up the stairs,” said the old man. “You’ll need the key. I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to get one out yourself. My knees aren’t what they used to be.” He sat back in his chair and opened a desk drawer. A moment later he held a thick iron key in his hand.

The young woman took the key, then held his hand in her own for a moment and met his eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “You are an asset to the cause.”

Then she and the young fellow were both out of sight, and the old man was left pining for the days when his knees were what they used to be and he could have joined in with whatever mysterious young lady showed up at his door. As he reflected on days gone by, his eyes drooped and a few minutes later he was asleep. He never noticed the two young people carrying the chest of amulets down the stairs and out the back door.

***

The third location was the trickiest. No one had built anything to rival the PTA’s warehouse, but this was the closest the mob had come. It contained the largest stash of amulets, according to the reports Giselle had received, and was also the main weapons storage for the anti-guild army. In addition to swords and the like, it was probable there was a stash of explosives. Given the mob mentality that had taken over, Giselle hardly thought that they would have stored the explosives well. They could go off by accident at any time, even without an infiltrating force taking a wrong step.

Enough of the “zombies,” as Nick called them, were standing around that both himself and Giselle entering unnoticed looked less than likely. Their technique would have to be more... audacious. Giselle split off to provide a distraction while Nick approached through the shadows to the least guarded entrance.

Giselle climbed to a nearby balcony to get a better view. This warehouse was in a far more vulnerable position than the PTA’s. She drew her bow and took aim at a guard near the entrance. I wonder if hitting his helmet would knock him unconscious. She let the arrow fly and watched the ensuing mayhem. The guards from around the building flocked to the main entrance, looking for the unseen attacker. She hadn’t succeeded in knocking the one guard unconscious, but his helmet appeared to be stuck covering his face, so he was effectively removed from the operation.

Hitting another helmet would be difficult now that they were all moving around so much. She wouldn’t be able to incapacitate them, so instead she had to scare them. Her next arrow hit the ground near one guards feet, and the next stuck in a wall further to the left. She intended to draw their attention in the opposite direction from the one where Nick was approaching.

If every shot hit further to the left, hopefully she could convince the guards to search for her in that direction. If they were in full control of their faculties, they could tell roughly where the shots came from based on their angle, but these people were so wrapped up in the rage that little things like that sometimes missed them.

...And, actually... Giselle fired a few arrows nearly straight into the air, so that they would come down on a trajectory almost unmistakable for a vertical one. Sure enough, the guards began focusing their attention on the sky. The few archers among them began shooting straight up, causing trouble for themselves when their arrows succumbed to gravity. Giselle chuckled quietly to herself, and wondered how much longer she would have to keep this lot busy.

Her answer came barely a moment later, when the warehouse erupted in flames. Oh, I hope Nick wasn’t still in there. Hell, I hope no one was still in there. She left her sniping post (the guards were distracted by the blaze anyway) and ran around to the spot where she’d left Nick. She didn’t see him at first, but the chest of amulet’s from the old man’s house was where they’d left it, so she heaved it toward the fire. Might as well take care of two birds with one explosion.

A pain shot through her head as she carried the chest, and she groaned with the strain.

“Want some help with that?”

Giselle hadn’t even noticed Nick’s approach. He took one end of the chest, and together they tossed it deep into the fire. Then they stood and watched the flames lick the night sky.

“I certainly hope they forgive us for that.” Said Giselle.

“I don’t." This was too much fun to pass up another chance at.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after.
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Pixelmage on Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:38 am

Turn Rewards:
  • narrativedilettante ~ Hidden Blades (Two thin and normally unnoticeable knives attached to the bow for a rainy day).
  • Spiritfchaos ~ Single-Use Rage Talisman.
  • Adell ~ (The beginnings of) A good reputation.
  • IslaKariese ~ Unusual Seeds.
  • Qara-Xuan Zenith ~ Battle Fan.
  • Sicon112 ~ Spirit Tree Bark.

The war rages on, and things don't look so sharp for Storm and Drive. Assault forces thwarted for the moment, but they can no longer delay moving out. Specially after Soren Kavros managed to escape. Hector did not move with the guild, and Tamar decided to stay with him. Eliziya had disappeared and was nowhere to be found. Marcus, Anji and Julius successfully reached the podium and found temporary shelter within the guard outpost in the second floor.

Quest 30: Topsy Turvey. (Written by narrativedilettante)
You've heard rumors about a certain building. It's unassuming, though large, but according to the rumors, people have been disappearing inside it. So far no one who's gone in to investigate has come out again. Being brave or foolish, you enter... and encounter something straight out of an MC Escher painting. Ceilings, walls, floors, they're oriented every which way, and stairways sometimes lead from one floor to another wall. You find that you can walk on any of the surfaces, with gravity apparently adjusting to you with every transition. Just be careful not to miss your step... it's a long way down.
Your goal: Investigate the alien space.
Quest Takers: Salvantas Londgium (Lordxana0) and Tamar Delaney (Scarab).

Quest 31: From the frying pan to the fire.
There was no time to look for the others, or worry about the ones who choose not to go. You were forced to sprint for your life along those who were also willing to run. Once you were out of danger in the second floor, you meet a post. The post has a bounty for your old mentor, Elric; and It seems he's gotten himself into a spot of trouble. You are a bit disappointed, but try to figure out how to help him. Along the way, you meet a woman, one who says she's helped out your guild before. Do you trust her to help you save Elric?
Quest Goal: Save the apothecary!
Quest Takers: Marcus (Guyshane) and Likovya (RussetDivinity).

Quest 32: If that is your choice. (Description written by Qara-Xuan Zenith)
Soren Kavros is, quite literally now, a shadow of the man he once was-- and more dangerous than ever before. He's out for blood. What he wants-- what he has always wanted-- is amplified a hundredfold: an end the guilds. There are two people who have survived a fight with what he now is, and so to these two people he gives the honor of talk before the fight; he offers them a choice. The choice is simple: end your guild. Or die.
Quest Goal: -----.
Quest Takers: Julius Valerian (Pixelmage) and Anjali Torvantine (eli_gone_crazy).

GM Notes:
  • On quest 30 ~ In the center of the building there's a talisman that is causing the messed up interior with a spatial distortion spell. You need to find this talisman and destroy it in order to return the building to normal and escape.
  • On quest 32 ~ This one is a special case. It's not exactly a normal quest. It does, however, involve Soren Kavros, the main villain in the current arc. Because of that, I feel like it should be integral to the main thread to avoid a hole in his continuity and to avoid having to link posts from other threads, like I did above, in order to maintain continuity. So, this update is framed to fit in as a quest so that it doesn't demand a whole new format.
  • Hector's Rep. Reward ~ Considering that up to this point Hector was a fugitive, this token change of heart is the beginning of a return, it might be enough to allow him to move within the city walls without being actively hunted, provided he keeps a low profile.

Deadline for this turn is Saturday, July 20th, 23:59 EST.

Play smart, good luck and have fun!
Last edited by Pixelmage on Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Yami ni madoishi awarena kage yo
Hito o kizutsuke otoshimete,
Tsumi ni oboreshi gō no tama,
Ippen... shinde miru?"
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Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Sat Jul 13, 2013 8:43 pm

Quest 32: If that is your choice
Anji and Julius slowly made their way out of the depressing town. Anji didn’t speak much at first, seeming determined to make it to the goblin town before the fast approaching twilight. She had carried as much gear as possible, hoping that she could trade one or the other for the goblin’s advice. Surreptitiously glancing over at Julius, she saw that he was focused on the path ahead, moving at a constant pace, never breaking his stride. Leaning over, she unsheathed the green sword, and said, “I got a fairy sword when you were gone.”

Julius mind wandered for a while. Considering what had happened to them in the past few days, how that had affected them all, how to move forward. Anji’s idea of talking to the goblins was a good one, Adam had learned from them, after all. Perhaps they would have more of that wisdom to share. His attention was brought back to the present by Anji’s voice, commenting on her new sword. It was a welcome distraction from his worries, and he smiled faintly, looking back to respond. “I noticed that... It’s a really good weapon. But I have to wonder, how did you get it?”

“It’s kind of a long, boring story that ended in my taking a nap.” Anji said, grinning.

“A nap for a sword?” He mused for a moment. “That’s not such a bad trade, I think.”

“No... It’s not.” Anji mumbled before lapsing back into silence. The emerald sword slid back into it’s sheath, and Anji resumed her trek through the forested area outside the human camp. A few minutes went by, then Anji spoke again, startling Julius out of deep thought. “There was, surprisingly, a ghost in the temple... I hope she’s okay.”

Ghosts were an unknown factor for Julius. But considering what he had saw in the short span of land he explored since coming to the castle, he had long since stopped doubting the existence of things he didn’t know. “I never met one, to be honest. But I’d guess that she’s not at risk? I can’t imagine how you could harm a ghost...”

“Well, there was that forest fire....” Anji said, trailing off. “Uhm, is everything okay? I mean, uhm, are you okay?”

“In some ways, yes.” He stopped walking to look around. “But, things are wrong all over the place. I’m alive and well, but I can’t say I’m not worried about the future.”

“I guess I’m just hoping to help out as much as I can, help people avoid the worst bits.” Anji said softly, stopping as well.

“But as much as I do, it’s never enough. There’s always one more enemy. There’s always one more problem...” His tone seemed more that of a quote than that of a statement of his own. He then fell back into his usual voice. “It’s exhausting.”

Anji looked at Julius for a long moment, then gave him a tight hug.

“Adorable.” Said a reverberating voice a short distance away. “The perfect goodbye from people ready to die.”

Releasing Julius, Anji turned to face the voice in the growing dark. “I don’t think you have the right people. I don’t intend on dying today.”

The voice chuckled in the gloom, seeming to move at random. “I don’t believe you know the entire situation, Miss Torvantine.”

Pulling out a few knives, Anji said, “Yeah, well, why don’t you come out and explain them to me? Make the process of killing you a lot easier.”

“Oh, but you couldn’t kill my sister.” The shape of Soren Kavros stepped into view, still just out of reach. “You had to hug her into giving up! And she was nice enough to take your shadow with so many more... Fitting, ones in this castle.”

“If that’s the case.” Julius interjected, dashing as he drew his sword at the shadow of the anti-faction leader. “You should remember what happened to your brother down there.”

The armored man already expected that assault, however. And reacted by drawing his claymore overhead, swinging it as a single motion. The sheer violence of the vertical slash forced Julius to change directions, rolling to the side: Kavros didn’t try to defend or dodge, he choose to trade blows, if Julius continued, he’d wound the Shadow. But by nature of it’s attack, the shadow’s claymore would have killed him instantly.

Back at roughly the same initial position, Kavros spoke again, sporting a vicious smile. “And you think I would forget that? No... You really have no idea what situation you’ve found yourself in.”

“Aye, and what is that?” Anji said, “Being haunted by a pissed off shadow for the rest of my days? Truly, you are a master of revenge plots.”

“Revenge? No... It’s simpler than that... You’re in a guild, and I fight guilds. It’s just a hunting game, and you are prey. Sadly, just killing you wouldn’t be fun, not after you killed others of my kind...” The shadow’s guard was odd, seemingly relaxed, but it was still there with barely any room for a safe attack. “Shadows earn their existence by killing their host. If you killed your shadows, in a way, you are no different from us. So, instead of killing you, I’m here to invite you to join me. Murder your guild mates, prove your loyalty and come to the winning side, Torvantine and Valerian.”

“Are you insane? Why in the seven hells would we even consider killing everyone we care about in order to be associated with a monster like you?” Anji yelled.

“Why yes, what else would you do? Slit your own throats?” He laughed, as his voice echoed. “Make no mistake, you won’t be alive in the morning if you don’t join me.”

Anji looked at Julius for a long moment. Then, abruptly, she asked, “What are your terms?”

“Eliziya, Marcus, Hector and Tamar. Two heads from each of you, tonight.” He considered his words for a minute and then added. “Make it a public spectacle too, you’ll hand me their heads as a gift in front of as many people as there are in this floor!”

“And how do you intend on making us keep our side of the bargain?”

Kavros held up two talismans, with different runes. “These will do the trick.” He stared at them viciously for a moment. “I actually want you to try double-crossing me when I consider I might get to use them... Now now, don’t go asking what the trick is, that would spoil the surprise. Your choice now, if your next words are not ‘Yes, master Kavros. We shall obey unconditionally.’, then you die. Simple enough, no?”

Julius and Anji looked at each other for a long moment. The whole forest was silent, except for Kavros low and constant maniacal laugh, at least he seemed to enjoy the wait. And then Julius broke the silence. “You made two wrong assumptions, idiot. First that we couldn’t kill you for your trouble, and second, that we’d kill our friends to save our own lives. It’s insulting, really... Who the hell do you think we are?”

Anji smiled at Julius, then leapt at the shadow of a man. She threw a few blades at him, dodging and whirling, attempting to get him disoriented. After she had expended most of her store of blades, sending them pinging off Kavros’ armor into the darkened forest, she drew the fairy sword, holding it carefully. The emerald metal gleamed in the twilight.

Fighting in synch with Anji’s movements, Julius held both of his blades and circled around the shadow, staying on the opposite side to her movements. Kavros, for his turn, was barely inconvenienced by the knives that clattered against his armor, he kept his focus on Julius, while moving to keep Anji within his peripheral vision. Even though they were in a fight, their movements barely involved attacks, each side trying to sustain any advantage they could have. With neither being able to take the initiative.

With a single swing, Kavros spun his claymore, intent on knocking the weapons out of both Julius’ and Anji’s hands. “You defy me?” He laughed maniacally, “I own you now. There’s no escape! Do you really believe you could win?”

If you keep wasting your breath in words, yes. Julius rolled under the sweep, raising to drive his left-hand sword up into the shadow’s head. And to a certain degree, he succeeded. The edge of the blade bit into the man’s cheek as he reacted by dropping into roll. Kavros used the momentum of his sweep and the weight of the claymore to spin his body, falling into a roll beside Julius’ attack just as it went up.

Anji was nearly bowled over by the man and barely recovered by leaping over him, she landed near Julius, turning to face her opponent once more. Kavros rolled upright, facing his two adversaries. Then, with a nasty grin, he swung the claymore as he leapt toward the pair.

Sidestepping the swing was easy. But that kind of attack put them in a predicament, while easy to avoid, failing could be fatal. Because of that risk, opportunities to attack the shadow were few, and even when they showed themselves, Kavros was quick to recover his guard.

“You never knew who Soren was, did you? All you saw was the clown who tried to play general... You pitied him. But you never saw him for what he was.” The shadow spoke, using a short pause in the attacks as all combatants adjusted their positioning.

“I saw...” Anji said, panting heavily. “I saw... a weakling... and a coward!” With those final words, she leapt back at the shadow, swing the sword into an uppercut.

With an horizontal swing, Kavros batted the green blade aside, to his left. While the claymore was long, his attack didn’t reach Anji, only sending her off balance. Taking the opportunity of having the Shadow’s right side completely unguarded, Julius leapt.

While in the air, he reversed his grip on both of his blades, holding them point down with the intention of burying them to the hilt into the shadow’s torso. Kavros couldn’t dodge it, he couldn’t block it. And he didn’t even attempt either of these things. Exhibiting again the willingness to trade blows, he continued his spinning motion, relying on the weight of his massive two-handed sword to gain momentum.

While in the air, Julius couldn’t defend himself properly, but at that speed, if he didn’t, his opponent’s blade might simply split him in two. He spun his body to face the oncoming blade, crossing his own two swords in a makeshift block. It was barely enough, and the force of the impact both sent him tumbling into a tree trunk and caused one of his own blades, his unremarkable left-hand sword, to bite into his shoulder.

“He was blessed!” The shadow bellowed, locking his attention on Anji. “The son of a wealthy merchant, with a strong body and a sharp mind. He had it all!”

Anji began to circle toward Julius, but Kavros swung his sword in front of her, blocking her immediate path, his voice never stopped even as he moved.“He wasn’t a noble bound by duty, he wasn’t peasant struggling to live... He was trained by the best masters money could hire. Taught by the best teachers! But he was complacent, spoiled. He couldn’t use his gift.”

Julius was up on his feet, but not on his mind. He felt pain, and his vision clouded. He could hear as the shadow spoke, and see as it disarmed Anji with a swipe at the base of her blade. “He drank. He swore. He was a miserable excuse of a man... A clown playing war games. He deserved to be more. I am more. I am all he could have been.”

“I am shadow. The true self.” With Anji now disarmed and pinned against a tree, Kavros lowered his sword, flattening it for a single, vicious, thrust aimed at her heart.

Metal clashed with metal. Julius’ left forearm was coated in a solid iron plating as he dug his, now blade-like, fingers into the Shadow’s shoulder. The attack had been diverted from Anji’s heart, but the bloodsoaked tip of the claymore could be seen on the other side of the trunk. Anji’s eyes blinked a couple of times, and Julius went limp, falling to his knees. Kavros pulled his sword out, letting Anji’s wounded body fall to the forest floor.

For a moment, all that could be heard was the shadow’s demented laughter, and Julius’ mind went red. But before he could move, his opponent’s fist slammed his body to the floor. Kavros twisted around so he could see Anji laying there before speaking. “You tried to protect her, you really did... But you failed. You, killing a shadow was a fluke...”

Julius had no voice, his scream was purely primal. Kavros continued, chuckling. “You seem to slightly dislike me. Perhaps you’re a bit angry now... Or, might I say, enraged?” The shadow looked around for one of the knight’s swords, and found that one of them was missing it’s blade. The other, however, was perfectly serviceable. He then pressed Julius body, and aimed the blade slightly below his rib cage. “Watch as her life runs out, knight. Hate it, curse it. Stare as your weakness makes a show of your failure, because this wound will take long to kill you.”

Kavros shoved Julius’ sword through his body, pinning him to the ground. “Who knows... Maybe you’ll even get out of here alive. We could even play together again.” The shadow walked away, whistling.

The steps faded first, the whistling soon afterward. The shadow was gone, looking for it’s next prey, probably. Or simply indulging in it’s victory. Julius, for his part, struggled to straighten his thoughts. His wounds had pushed past his resilience, for the first time in years he felt dizzy from his pain. Kavros, whoever he was, had been right about one thing. The former guard had failed again.

There was silence for several minutes, when he heard a soft rustling to his right. “Julius?”

“I’m here.” His voice was barely a whisper.

“It hurts.” With effort, Julius looked across the meadow to see that Anji was balled up against the pain. “And I’m cold.”

“You’re alive...” Julius began to stir. She’s still alive. “We’ll get out of here.” Taking a deep breath he began to painfully pull the sword, and himself, out of the ground. He felt pain again, but Anji was alive. The ground was packed down by the fight, but it was just dirt, and that wouldn’t hold his sword for long. He pushed up. Anji was alive. He could still do something. Anything. “We’ll... Get out... Of here.”

“Are you okay?” Anji’s voice threaded.

He was not. The sword he was pinned down with began to melt, meshing with his body briefly in painful ways before falling from his skin like old scales. His own wound was similar to hers, and he knew he was only able to stand because of his affinity to metal. “I’m fine.” He said, taking off his ragged cloak and moving toward her. “Now let’s stop that blood and get you out of here. You need a healer.”

“I don’t need a healer.” Anji said, mouth twitching to a smile, eyes half-closed. “I just need to take a nap. I’ll be fine tomorrow.”

Julius wrapped the cloak around her body, causing her to let out a short gasp as he tightened the knot around her torso. “You? Talking about taking a nap?” He laughed for a couple of seconds, crying only silently. His own accursed power would keep him alive until he got help himself, but without the same resource to draw upon, she wouldn’t make it for as long as it would take for any healer to save her, even if she made it to one alive, to begin with.

He forced his mind to work, Anji was alive. There was something he could do. There had to be something he could do. There had to be... Something... He remembered a name, and the face of someone he saw years ago, someone who could help and someone he knew to be in the castle. “Do you trust me?”

Anji didn’t respond for several moments. Julius began to think that she had passed out, when she finally said one word. “Yes.”

“I’ll take you somewhere safe, somewhere you can take a nap. And when you wake up, you’ll be fine.” He wrapped his arms around her, preparing to carry her to safety, damned would be his own injures. “It might be a long nap though, but you’ll be fine. I promise.”

“But I don’t like long naps.” Anji grumbled, then yelped in pain as Julius picked her up. The world faded in and out of focus, and she lapsed into unconsciousness.

Julius walked in the dark woods, in silence. Leaving behind a faint trail of blood, his own and Anji’s stretched on his wake, droplets of life that counted down how much longer he would have to reach his destination.

After an uncountable number of steps, he arrived at the outpost. Someone tried to make him stop, another two ran off trying to find a healer. He kept walking. That person kept trying to talk to him, waving for his attention, but his mind was numb, focused on only one goal. He had to reach the library in time.

-----

At times, Ben liked mindless things like guard duty. It let her stop thinking about things that upset her. Things like deaths she hadn’t managed to prevent, and responsibilities weighing down on her, and people she particularly didn’t want to meet, such as the one headed straight for her right now and-- oh damn.

She started to ease her way into a diplomatic mask; what she thought didn’t matter for the purposes of this watch, and he looked about as expressionless as she was trying to, in any case. As she stood, it became clear quite quickly that that was not a diplomatic kind of expressionless. It was... the other kind. The “half-dead and carrying his even-more-half-dead commander” kind.

I can’t deal with this right now I can’t deal with this-- Her feet walked forward of their own accord, apparently of a different opinion than her mind. “Valerian,” she called out, to no response. “Valerian! Goddammit, Valerian, you should be leaning on someone yourself, not carrying another person.” Her arms reached out instinctively as she walked to take the prone woman from him, swallowing rapidly.

“Don’t.” Julius voice jumped from his throat. His focus returning to the real world as he saw the shape of a hand approaching Anji’s body. “Don’t touch her.”

“Jules? Where are we?” Anji croaked softly, face twisting in pain. “Why is Ben here?”

Ben’s eyes flashed. “I’m not going to hurt her, you complete stick! It’s amazing you’re still vertical, and you won’t be for long if you don’t let someone help you.”

“We’re going to the library... Lori can help.” He said to both of them. “Can you help us get there, Ben? If you can’t, then please, step aside...” He was breathing heavily. “There’s not enough time as it is.”

“Right. If you don’t trust me to not be a total psychopath enough to let me carry her, that limits your options severely. You’ll at least have to share the weight to free one arm for leaning on me, because frankly, Valerian, there’s no way you’ll make it there yourself if you don’t accept my help. Your healer’s in the library, I can take you to the library, but for God’s sake, let me take you.”

Julius’ balance began to falter now that he was no longer moving, and Ben’s words were true. He wouldn’t stop trying, of course, but as it was, he wouldn’t make it on his own. He nodded, trying to control his breath and remain on his feet.

“It’s okay Jules.” Anji said, “I’ll stay here so you can make it to the library.”

Ignoring the other redhead’s words, Ben reached under Julius’ arms to take her from him. The gentleness of her arms, and the care she took in helping him pull his arm around her shoulder for support, somewhat belied the angry tone she had used when speaking.

“You’re the one that needs to get to the library, if you stay behind, how do you get there?” He kept talking as much as he could, trying to keep Anji awake, if possible. To make sure she was still fighting to stay alive.

“What even happened to you two?” Ben asked absently, giving up the fight to check her intense curiosity. “You look like you got chewed up and spat out.”

“Soren Kavros.” Julius replied. “He found us when we were headed for the goblin settlement...”

Ben made a face, remembering her last experience with Soren Kavros. “Utter, utter, bastard... please tell me you took a chunk out of him while you were at it. He needs it. Badly. ...A few chunks, maybe.”

“He may have a new scar or two, but... He walked away.” Anji began to cough as he was speaking. Time was running out even faster now.

“He won’t forever,” she answered, her voice hard. Mentally, she overlayed the man with another brute who surrounded himself with lackeys. “How many men did he still have with him?” Her thoughts raced ahead and she matched her feet to her mind; she tried to speed up, walking as fast as she dared without overtaxing her companions.

“None.” Julius said grimly. “He wanted us, personally. So he came after us himself.”

“Mind if I ask? The thoughts of total scum are always difficult to fathom. No chance he explained his choice of targets?” It wasn’t far at this point, which was just as well; Ben wasn’t used to supporting the weight of two adults as well as her own. She could handle it, but it was taking a toll.

“He’s... It’s probably best to make an analogy...” Julius trailed off, trying to focus enough to make a coherent explanation. “If you look into the mirror, and your reflection steps out and tries to kill you... These reflections tried to kill Anji and me once, but we survived... Kavros didn’t. So, his reflection is what’s running around in his place now. And it hates us.”

“Absolutely zero percent of that makes sense. But then, since when did anything bother to make sense?” she mused.

“It used to, at some point... I’m not sure if it does anymore.” He looked ahead at the stairway into the library. They had taken the gate to the first floor at some point, and crossed the square as well, but somehow all of that slipped his mind. Time didn’t seem to connect continuously to him at that point. But the Loreknights on guard moved to intercept them.

“What the hell..?” One of the sentries said, staring at the trio. “What are you doing here of all places?”

“Seeking emergency medical attention,” Ben snapped, glaring at the guard. By God, if they didn’t move aside for the injured people, she would...

“Send for the church.” The guard ordered to one of the other sentries. “You should have gone there instead of here! But dammit... Get inside, now. You can’t keep walking as you are.”

Julius nodded, moving in. “Call for Lori as well... We’ll need her.”

The sentry ignored the knight. Julius spoke again. “Call for Lori.”

“Look, I know she’s known out there as a powerful mage, but the Loremaster is not a healer.” The knight said exasperated.

Julius stopped, staring into the sentry’s eyes. Were he actually able to carry it out, that glare would be an invitation to open combat. “Call her.”

Ben swore silently; nothing was getting done like this. “Sentry. The princess of Lamada and Orono sends her compliments, and requests to see Mistress Lori with all due speed.” She hated herself a little, or a lot, for saying it, but if it would bring help faster and prevent a pair of deaths, it would be worth it.

The sentry sighed. Not looking forward to how he would be punished for indulging the visitors, but if it would get them to settle down, it might be best to obey. “Fine...” He resigned himself to the task, going personally after the Loremaster. Barely one minute later, they were inside a side study, laying Anji down over a, now empty, table. The healer from the church would take longer to arrive, but Lori arrived almost as soon as they had.

“So there’s a princess who wants to talk to me... And a half-dead knight who still wants to pick a fight with my whole guard force that’s-” She stared at the woman laying on the table for a moment, falling silent as suddenly as she noticed her presence.

“Forgive me.” Ben’s face went red at the mention of her title. “I hoped that I could expedite your arrival-- or, rather, the message for you-- because my friends, as you can see, are in somewhat dire need.”

After being placed on the cold table, Anji slowly began to regain consciousness, coughing violently. “Jules?! Julius? Are.... Are you there?”

Julius turned to her and held her hand. “I’m here. We made it to Lori, you’ll be fine...”

“I hope she doesn’t get upset about the books I borrowed.”

“I’m sure she won’t. Just wait a while longer...” He turned to face Lori, never letting go of Anji’s hand.

The sentry from outside had followed Lori to the room. “We already sent for the healers. They should arrive in a few minutes.”

“That’s very optimistic of you, but I’m not a healer. Why do you assume I can help her when she’s beyond any healer in this city?”

“No one here can heal her wound.” Julius’ focus returned, pushing himself awake. Just a while longer. “And she won’t survive long enough for me to find one elsewhere. But you can give her that time, Lorelei Rhine Swift.”

Lori’s eyes widened. “I never used that name after coming here. How do you know it?”

“Does it matter?!” Julius screamed, and began to cry again. “She has no other chance...”

“Leave.” Lori ordered the sentry, then turned to Julius and began moving her hands in a flurry of signs. “You, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do. And this is on you, I’m using your blood for it. But before it starts, are you even awake, miss?”

“Has he got enough to give?” Ben felt as though she ought to leave, herself, now; but while she was here, she might as well speak her mind. “He’s barely better off than her. Come to that, he shouldn’t even be standing now.” Ever since they’d put Anji down, he’d been allowing her to support his entire weight.

“I’m awake.” Anji said softly to the imposing knight. Pulling faintly on Julius’ arm, she said, “I’m scared, Julius.”

Julius simply held her hand, while Lori kept speaking. “I’ll make you sleep for a while, okay? Enough time for this idiotic friend of yours to find someone who can help you.” She turned to Julius and Ben. “I just need a droplet of it to close the seal, it’s not like he’s not leaking it already, anyhow.”

“Trust me, Anji...” Julius spoke, pulling away from Ben to stand on his own as he watched Lori work. “You’ll be up in no time.”

"Why are they helping me first? Don't you need help too?" Turning to Lori, she said, "Help him... not me!"

“I will.” Lori said, mainly to appease the young woman. “Rest easy, we’ll take care of him.”

"I don't want to leave." Anji said, tears in her eyes. "Julius, I want to stay here with you."

“Anji... I’ll be here for you in the morning. I promise.”

Lori’s signing grew faster; she then placed a single drop of Julius’ blood, pulled straight from his own wound, slightly below Anji’s right eye. For a moment, nothing seemed happen, but Anji started to relax. Rather than simply giving into unconsciousness, Anji seemed to fall into a deep sleep. The real effect of the spell began to show itself soon afterward.

Her skin began to lose color, and along with her hair and clothes it all began to harden, acquiring the texture of carved stone. Several moments later, the girl laying on the table didn’t resemble anything more remarkable than any of the other statues dotting the library’s interior. Lori was breathing hard, seated over a pile of books. Staring at the statue, Julius stumbled back, finding a small mound of papers to lean against, It’s done.

“Now you have all the time in the world to explain yourself. Who are you and how did you know about... This?” Lori stared at the knight, as if to keep him awake by the power of her glare alone.

Ben’s reaction was almost the polar opposite to that of Julius. Where he relaxed, she jolted upright from the wall she had been leaning against, and grabbed Lori by the shoulder. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, the panic rising in her voice.

“This is an advanced earth magic discipline. It was believed to be a death spell, known as ‘Medusa’s Gaze’. But many years ago I decided to study it as my Sage thesis.” Lori began to explain, glaring at the princess. “I made a presentation on what’s now known as the ‘Seal of Stone’, it turns out that this method of petrification does not kill the subject, provided the integrity of the statue is ensured. The woman is now in a state similar to a deep, dreamless sleep, perfectly frozen in time until such a time when the seal is unlocked. She can’t be healed as she is, of course, but her condition won’t deteriorate any further. Now,” she turned to Julius once more. “How did you know about this?”

“I watched your presentation...” Julius breathed heavily. “I’m Julius Valerian... I was a guard for the court’s delegation that day, Sage Lorelei.”

“Do. Not. Call. Me. That.” Lori snapped, emphasizing each word as she spoke. “You have absolutely no idea how much more complicated this whole adventure here will be if everyone knows my name and title.”

Ben, who had returned to her rest once the reassuring technical jargon set in, smiled crookedly at the very familiar-sounding reaction. “Well... I should probably be off. Captain Valerian... If you’re back in fighting form by the time I catch up with him, I’ll give you the first crack at Kavros. Otherwise, I’m not planning on letting him wait. If you ever need anything, you know where to find me.”

“If he’s fortunate enough to die before I’m ready for him, so be it.” Julius said wearily. “But if not... He’ll learn just how wrong he was in expecting me to die...”

“Your passion for revenge is admirable, Mister Valerian.” Lori interjected. “But I have to remind you that this is your responsibility now. That woman is sealed in time, not alive nor dead. If the statue breaks, she dies. If you die it’s impossible to ensure that the seal will be safely removed. If the seal is released incorrectly, you risk insanity or death by the hands of a poorly trained healer rather than injury.”

“In that case, he’d damn well better not die.” Ben nodded to the two, already heading out the door. “A pleasure to meet you, Lorekeeper. Valerian, don’t die.”

Julius watched as Ben left the room, then turned to Lori. “That woman’s name is Anji. And I’m aware of my responsibility, ma’am.” He stood up slowly making his way to the door. “Could I ask you to guard her for the moment? I believe I should meet a healer myself, but I wouldn’t-”

“Go, Valerian. One of the Loreknights already called for the church, ask them to show you where you can wait...” She sighed. “Like it or not, I was the one who cast the seal. I have some responsibility for her as well. But by the lords, go or I’ll end up having to petrify you as well.”
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eli_gone_crazy
 
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:59 pm

Re: Floating Castle RP

Postby Guyshane on Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:50 pm

Wow, it was nice to finally get a little bit of sleep. Maybe once we reach the third floor we can actually rest without worrying someone is gonna try to kill us in our sleep. Marcus walked through the guard outpost. Luckily the rage had died down somewhat up here so Julius, Anji and he could walk around so long as they were careful. He exited the outpost, the hood to his cloak up. However before he could get very far he noticed something on the wanted board. There were notices up for most of Storm and Drive, which was no surprise, but he saw another poster which he had not expected.

Elric’s face looked at him from the board. Those idiots must have tried to go after him. Should have known better. Elric lined that place with traps after I told him about the assassins. Suddenly the warrior was pushed out of the way from behind. The man sneered at him.
“Get lost. This bounty is mine.”
Then the bounty hunter walked off to join a whole group of people. “Let’s go; I saw this guy hiding down on the first floor.”

Marcus sighed to himself. It had been that kind of week. Guess I’ll just have to follow them down and hope no one else gets involved.

----

Likovya was bored. Again. She supposed she shouldn’t have gotten too used to excitement, especially after having only one adventure after a long dull stretch, but reclaiming the podium for the city had given her an appetite. It was getting to the point where she almost wished she hadn’t asked Tamar about healing her arm, because at least lying in bed and healing would have made her feel like she was doing something productive.

To be honest, she wouldn’t have done much lying around in bed. She would have found someone to bandage up her arm -- or done it herself -- and gone back out to the streets. She might not have been so eager to get in trouble again, but she would still have been wandering about and letting her boredom build up.

Maybe she should have gone up to the second level with Storm and Drive. They would probably let her stay, if for no other reason that they owed her a favor. It had to be more interesting than down in the city, even if that interest only came from seeing something new.

----

Marcus had been tracking the group for a while now -- including some fairly close calls with the anti-guild members. Currently the group was in the market portion of the city. They had already gone into the apothecary shop and Marcus had been waiting for quite a while.

What the hell are they doing in there? They aren’t going to find Elric by what he left in the shop. Then there was a loud crash and some cursing. The fighter smirked; apparently the bounty hunters had found one of the traps the mob hadn’t activated. Then the bounty hunter from before came out of the shop while holding a conversation with one of his compatriots. Marcus strained but couldn’t hear the voices. He was going to have to get closer.

So Marcus left his cover and began strolling down the street past the shop. Eventually he got close enough to hear the conversation:
“What are we hoping to find here? He ditched the place weeks ago.”
“I told you that every step of the process is important. If I don’t take everything into account all it does is make the process of tracking him more difficult.”
“You had better be right about this, Tuan.”
“I am. Now come on. We’re close -- I can feel it.”

Marcus nodded to himself. Okay, I should just be able to knock these guys out, no blood spilled, Elric safe, and I can be back before dinner. Marcus entered the main room but didn’t see any of the people he was expecting. Where?- The soldier’s train of thought was interrupted by the door being slammed shut behind him by one of the hunters he had seen earlier. “Oh crap.” Then he was slammed back against the wall by a blow from a quarter staff before someone tied his hands to a metal ring.

The members of the group emerged from their various hiding spots as the leader stepped forward. He grinned at his prisoner.
“Greetings, Marcus. You don’t have to say anything. I knew you would be joining us.”
“Well, actually-” Marcus began before he was cut off by a blow to the face.
“Shut up. You're not here for your wit, just for the reward money. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be going and collecting your friend. You two,” he said, pointing to two of his cronies. “Stay here. Guard him.” Tuan turned on his heel and left.

----

Likovya decided she might as well amuse herself by peeking through windows. She was running out of money to buy things but wasn’t quite hungry enough to steal, so there was no need to hide her face. It might annoy some people, but others had gotten used to seeing the odd girl with all the knives. Of course, they might just be too nervous about the knives to really get annoyed.

The bakery looked delicious as always, and the little library was full of books that she had been meaning to read. There was an arguing couple in the butcher’s shop, a crying child in a vegetable market... and a man tied up in the apothecary’s shop.

She ducked to the side of the window and pressed herself against the wall. That was... unexpected, to say the least. She could move on, certainly, and keep herself safe. The sensible thing to do would be to run to the guard and tell them about what was happening. But she had broken into Adam’s office, which probably hadn’t earned her any points in his book, even if she had helped give him the podium.

Peeking through the window again, she saw that there were only two guards. They were armed, but that only increased her challenge. Besides, it wasn’t like she was going to be fighting city guards, or even that anti-guild faction. This should be easy.

“I can’t believe I’m thinking like this,” she muttered, but a smile was spreading across her face.

The door would probably be locked; anyone who know what they were doing would keep a prisoner behind a locked door. But then, anyone who know what they were doing would keep a prisoner away from windows, too. Still, she would look ridiculous trying to open a locked door, and it would alert the two men that someone was coming to rescue their prisoner. She couldn’t try to pick the window lock, either, since that would look suspicious. Instead, she took off her jacket, wrapped it around her hand, and began breaking the glass.

The sound of breaking glass caught the attention of the men, and Likovya paused to throw one of her knives. She had to throw left-handed because she had wanted to use her good hand to break the window, and the knife stuck into his arm instead of his chest. It still distracted him, and she clambered through the window, ignoring the shards of glass she hadn’t managed to break. A little blood wouldn’t be too bad, and she could always find a healer somewhere.

“You might want to keep that knife in,” she called, unwrapping her hand and grabbing two more knives. “It’ll keep blood from just gushing out. Of course, I’ll want it back, so you know what, just take it out. I’ll even clean it for you.”

“Who are you?” one of the guards snarled.

“You mean you haven’t heard of me?” She tossed her head before remembering that she had cut her hair when she left the circus. She also hadn’t come up with some name to introduce herself beyond her own, but improvisation would have to do for now. “I’m Likovya, Bane of the Anti-Guilds, Rescuer of the Podium, and Savior of Any in Peril.” Granted, she hadn’t done much saving yet, but she supposed she could work on that. “Do you dare face me?”

That had been too much. The guards were giving her strange looks, so she simply sighed and threw her next knife. This one was aimed better, and it hit the man’s upper chest. He staggered back, and Likovya took advantage of his distraction and pain to stride forward a few more steps, pulling out one of the knives from her boots.

“You should probably get that looked at,” she said. “It looks slightly deadly. I’m not a healer, though, so what do I know?”

The two staggered out, the first dropping her knife to the floor. So the door wasn’t locked, she thought as she worked the worst of the blood from the blade. Oh, well.

“I’ll want that knife back!” she called out the window in case they could still hear her. “And now my jacket has glass in it. Great.” Turning to the prisoner, she asked, “Well, now, what’s your story?”

“What's my story, you ask? I’m trying to help a friend who has had a bounty put on his head just because he didn’t immediately surrender to the anti-guilds. Now are you going to untie me or what?”

“Sure,” she said, starting to cut through the rope around his wrists. He sounded annoyed, but she could hardly blame him. “It’s a good thing you’re working against the anti-guilds. I might have left you here if you were one of them.” When the man was free, she put away her knife. “I’m Likovya, by the way.”

Marcus’s eyes widened in surprise. “You’re the girl that Tamar worked with to open up the podium?”

“That’s me,” she said. “Are you part of Storm and Drive?”

Marcus rubbed his wrists to help restore the blood flow. “Yea. I’m Marcus, Marcus Oracon.”

“Nice to meet you.” She wasn’t all that surprised that the anti-guilds were still around, even if they were putting out bounties rather than finding people themselves. “Do you want a hand with helping your friend?” Before opening the podium, she had tried to stay rather neutral, but now she found herself turning strongly against the anti-guilds.

“Well normally... you know what? On second thought, screw normally. This isn’t normal, and you must be trustworthy enough if you helped us out before.” He picked up his cloak off the ground and put it back on. “However, we have a bit of a problem. I’m not exactly sure where Elric is hiding but it seems like the guy who caught me does.” He looked down and noticed that he didn’t have his mace anymore.

“Also the son of a whore took my weapon.”

“Well...” It went against everything she felt was a good idea, but she gestured to the good knives that hung from her belt. “If you know how to use one and promise to give it back, you can borrow one of these. And as long as Elric’s still in the city, I can probably track him. No one knows this place quite like I do.” That might not have been exactly true, but she was certainly among the top ten people who knew the streets and alleyways. “Come on.”

She pushed open the door and stepped outside, deliberately not looking at the broken window. The street had a few people in it, mostly families going about for food or other such things.

“How far behind the man do you think we are?”

“Maybe five to ten minutes. We’re probably not more than two minutes behind the ones you wounded. That is, of course, if they’re stupid enough to go back to the boss.”

“They shouldn’t be,” she said. “I’m almost positive I got one in the lung. Of course, you never can tell with these types.” She started down the street, not sure at all if she was going the right way. “Any idea where they might head next? I can probably cut them off.”

Marcus thought about it. “From here the easiest way to lose someone would be to head for the slums. Lots of alleyways and dead ends there.”

“Dead ends are perfect.” This, she realized as she began to weave through the streets, which would grow tighter as they got closer to the slums, was why she hadn’t left the city. She knew it so well that it had become boring, but boring in the way her hand was boring. “If we can trap them, your friend should be safe. Well, safer.”

The warrior shook his head. “Like I said, it’d probably just be the two you scared off. When you go to ground, your hiding spot can’t be too far away or you run out of strength before you get there, especially if you’re running from a surprise attack. If they figured out where Elric is, they are probably there already.”

“All right, then.” She turned on her heel and crossed her arms. Marcus was larger than she was, but she had no intention of letting that intimidate her... or prevent her from being intimidating. “Where do you suggest we go? You know him better than I do, after all.”

Marcus pondered the question. It’d have to be close by, probably somewhere that isn't in great shape so there would be more hiding spots and good places to set up traps. He’d want something that would have enough space to store whatever he wanted....what could possibly... Marcus looked up and saw a warehouse in the distance. He smiled. “Perfect.”

She followed his gaze. “The warehouse? It’s worth a look. I think I know a shortcut, too.”

----

After a fair amount of walking and searching, they came upon one of the warehouses which was guarded by two of the group members Marcus had seen.

“Okay, that looks like them. We need to draw these two away before we can get at the main group.”

“I’m pretty good at distractions. How many will be left after these?”

How many were there again? “Um... three, maybe? Not entirely sure but I think I can take them if you get rid of those two and get back here as fast as you can. One more thing: non-lethal if you can, last thing we need are more people after us.”

“Right.” She wasn’t terribly fond of killing, even if she had forced herself to get used to it in extreme cases, but it was much harder to use non-lethal force. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Likovya pulled her throwing knives from within her sleeves and strolled toward the warehouse. The two guards looked at her suspiciously, and she nodded at them. They were armed the same as the ones guarding Marcus had been, and she was fairly sure she could fight one of them hand-to-hand. Two might be a little difficult, especially since she no longer had surprise on her side. She didn’t even have a good metaphor.

“Hello, boys,” she said with a smile, and when one opened his mouth to respond, she flung her knife at his leg. It stuck just below his right knee, and he dropped, swearing. The other man drew his sword and started to advance on her.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he growled.

“Taunting you.” She drew one of her good knives and took a few steps back. “Catch me if you can.”

When the man ran to attack her, she spun and raced away, making sure not to be so fast that she would lose him. Once she got him away from the warehouse, she would fight him, but right now, her priority was to let Marcus get in.

She just hoped a man with a stabbed leg wouldn’t be too difficult for him to handle until she got back.

----

Oh, hey, this is kind of working.

Marcus strode forward to the warehouse door. The guard was still holding his leg in pain but stopped and stared as the soldier approached.

“But you’re supposed to be tied up back at the shop.” Marcus spread his arms out wide.
“And yet here I am.” He then knocked the other man on his back before opening the door to the warehouse and striding in. When he walked in, he saw Elric on his knees with the three bounty hunters standing around him, apparently getting ready to move him. The leader had Marcus’ mace on his belt.

Well, I suppose this wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy. Now how to deal with this? He noticed a rock lying nearby on the ground. Staying in the shadows he picked up and threw the improvised weapon. Unfortunately he missed the leader but took down one of his cronies.

The lead bounty hunter spun around. “Who's there?” Marcus sighed and stepped forward.

“Hey, boss, how you doing?”
“I was fine until I hired you.”
“Good to hear you’ve been keeping safe.
Tuan cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to interrupt your reunion but I’m going to need to capture you again, Marcus, and you can’t stop me without your weapon.”
Marcus smiled. “Ah, but I do not need a weapon. I have acquired magic; allow me to demonstrate!” Marcus raised his hand above his head. “When I snap my fingers, a knife will strike you.”
Tuan sneered back. “What nonsense.”
Marcus snapped his fingers.

----

The fight had been a lot faster than Likovya had expected. She got the man behind a building, ducked his sword, and drove her knife into his gut. It wouldn’t be fatal -- not immediately fatal, at least -- and she didn’t bother trying to do anything else. He wouldn’t be able to fight her when he was stabbed there, and Marcus was currently unarmed, trying to face three men with his friend in danger.

Bleeding Storm and Drive, she thought, racing back to the warehouse. It’s a good thing I’m starting to like saving them so much.

The man who she had left in front of the warehouse was lying curled on the ground. If he saw her run in, he didn’t say a word. Once she made it inside, she slowed and kept to the wall. It was dark enough inside that she shouldn’t be easily seen, and soon she had found a vantage point where she could see Marcus, three armed men (one with a mace), and another man kneeling on the ground, who was probably Elric.

“When I snap my fingers,” Marcus said, “a knife will strike you.”

Cutting it rather close, aren’t you? she thought, but she threw her remaining wrist knife when he snapped his fingers. It struck the man she assumed was the leader, but her aim had been slightly off, and it didn’t stick into his arm. After tearing through some of the skin, it dropped to the floor and lay at his feet. If it was dented at all... at least it wasn’t one of her favorites.

----

Tuan gave Marcus a flat stare after the knife struck. The fighter shrugged in reply.
“New spell aim is a tad off.”
“Will someone please go and take him prisoner again, and for the love of heaven gag him this time.” Marcus smiled at the approaching hunter before rushing and sliding right past him, knocking the leader of his feet and grabbing the loose throwing knife. He came to his feet facing Tuan and the bounty hunter standing guard over Elric.

“Now would be a good time!” he called over his shoulder.

“If you insist.” Likovya stepped out from the shadows, plucked a knife from her boot, and threw it at the bounty hunter near Elric. It stuck into his shoulder, and she grabbed a knife from her other boot. “Sorry about that other one. I’m usually really good with my wrist knives.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” he replied not taking his eyes off Tuan. “But if you could take care of this other guy while I deal with this gentleman I would really appreciate it.”

“It would be my pleasure.” She threw her other knife, which just barely missed the man, shooting past his face and clattering to the floor somewhere in the distance. He turned his head to watch it and began to laugh.

“Is that really the best you can do, little girl?” he asked, but when his attention returned to her, she was only a few paces away with a knife in each hand.

“No, but Marcus says he doesn’t want fatalities, and I’ve been very bored lately.” She nudged Elric to the side so he would be out of her way and went in for the fight.

----

Marcus and Tuan stood a few feet away from each other. The bounty hunter had both his falchion and Marcus’s mace. Well, this is gonna suck..
“Are you sure there isn’t a way we can work this out?”
“Are you going to surrender so I can turn you in for a reward?”
“No”
“Well then, no.” Marcus shrugged. It had been worth a shot. Tuan dived in, his sword leading. Marcus was forced to jump back to avoid the two weapons. It was difficult, but between dodging he noticed something about how the hunter was fighting. He has no idea how to wield two weapons at once. Perfect. This guy doesn't realize that if you have two weapons you should really only use one at a time unless you know what you’re doing. The next time Tuan swung with the mace Marcus stabbed him in the arm, forcing the mace to drop. The warrior caught the mace and use it to knock the sword down to the ground.

“Now then, I have a suggestion for you. Storm and Drive has already dealt with much worse things than you. I suspect most guilds have. You might be better off bringing in anti-guild members for the guards. Some of them are defectors, pretty sure Legias would give you pretty high prices on any you brought in.”

The mercenary gave him a level look. “Why are you being so merciful?”
“Because quite frankly I’m tired of all the bloodshed, also I have enough to deal with at the moment i really don’t need someone else swearing a vendetta against me. Now leave.”

Tuan ran out of the building. Marcus turned to look at his former boss. “Hey, Elric I think you might be better off if you were under someone’s protection don't you?”

The apothecary nodded and replied. “Ben from Severed claw stopped by earlier, maybe I’ll see if she can lend me a hand.”
“Good plan.”

The other man had run out after Tuan, and Likovya collected her knives from the floor. “That went pretty well,” she said brightly. “I didn’t even get stabbed this time, and I only lost one... two knives. Damn it, I’m going to have to find that one, too.”

Marcus flipped over the knife in his hand and offered it out to Likovya hilt first. “Well here is one less you need to pick up. As for me....” He picked up the falchion from the floor. “I guess I’ve got my own souvenir.”

“Thanks,” she said, tucking the knife into her sleeve. “I’ll track down that other one sometime. Do you need a hand with anything else?”

“Don’t think so. I should probably get back, knowing Anji she wants to yell at me about how crow-brained I am before she asks how my day went.”

“I’ll see you around, then. Well, maybe.” She headed for the door but paused just before leaving the warehouse. “If Storm and Drive needs anything else, good luck finding me. But I will try to help.” With a final smile, she took off down the street.
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.
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Guyshane
 
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:45 pm

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