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RE: Dead-Moon Sky

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6/4/2019 23:54:22   

Ember’s unflinching gaze followed the baron as he made his exit, armored guard in tow. Iron fetters or the wheel...how much of that metered out punishment had been the tiefling’s doing? The din of boots upon stone faded away as gentle steps carried the dancer through the shallow pools scattered across the floor. Baron Terex’s disdain for her kind had been clear as day, but the Cinder Witch had failed to give the noble a reason to act on his hatred. But luck was a commidity - if one person was blessed with it, another was cursed by its scarcitiy. Eyes of coal swept across the crone, any number of deadly concoctions hidden away on her person. Someone else paying for her mistakes. Or had this old bird built her last nest afterall?

Ignoring Arthon for the time being, Ember approached Marietta with a flaunt in her step. She stopped just short of the elf perhaps just a half-step too close for comfort for someone unversed in the social arts. If the ranger had not caught scent of her sulfurous perfume thus far, she would now.

“Well”, Ember began with a jaunty smile and relaxation of her shoulders, “that could have gone far worse.” The tip of her tail flicked up to the missing striations on her arm, the onyx spade tracing a line down the now-ashen skin. The little performance, while serving her will, had taken its cost. Even now, the sorceress fought the urge to clench her fist as the muscles tightened from the arcane strain. “Second-in-command is nothing to scoff at,” a dark brow arched, “unless you happen to be the guild’s finest.”

The ranger's eyes were icy, though she kept a tight lid on the flash of anger the noble's words had invoked. Knife-ear, is it? First the man questioned her ability; she had swallowed that insult because of who he was, and - more importantly - who she was. But to use those words, words she had had hurled at her so many times as a child...

It was the tiefling's return that pulled her from that anger. Gliding gracefully over the melting ice, the performer stopped perhaps a touch too close for normal propriety. Somehow Marietta did not mind. Ember was certainly... intriguing, and the half-elf caught a faint scent of brimstone from the other woman's proximity, but said nothing on that count. She had an idea, though it was an idea and nothing more solid, that the whiff of sulfur hanging about Ember was an affectation, a little touch of drama in the dancer's deliberate act of flaunting her heritage. Thankfully, it was all together enough to take the forester's mind from the insult she had been paid by the baron, and she managed a low reply in kind. "Should Yondrin agree." Her shoulders lifted in a shrug. "I leave the measuring to others. I was called upon to do a job."

Their talk was interrupted as a member of their fellow company addressed the motley band. Words of comradery and worth were spoken by the same silver-eyed elf who had sullied the tiefling’s name not a few short moments ago. The reek of hypocrisy was only overdone by the stench of ignorance as it was doubtless the ‘forestwalker’ was unaware of his own sanctimony. Ember gave Marietta a sideways glance and smirk. “Not everyone is as fortunate.” A burning orb flickered as the dancer winked. “I look forward to following your lead, Marietta.”

Marietta could not stop a slight blush from spreading across her cheeks at Ember's words, though she could not herself have said exactly what it was about the dancer's apparent vote of confidence that embarrassed her. "I... I will do my best," the half-elf muttered.

Striding towards Goodman Arthon, she passed by Salindrel, her tail flourishing back and forth behind in swift strokes. “An honor indeed,” the sorceress whispered within the hunter’s earshot, her gaze never wavering from the seated scribe. Honor meant little when one only preached its practice.

Approaching the bench with her head held high, the tiefling spoke. “Ember, called ‘the Cinder Witch’ by some. If I fall, do be sure to hold on to my possessions.” Her lips curled into a cheshire smile. “I’ll be sure to return and claim them.”

< Message edited by Apocalypse -- 6/7/2019 16:19:16 >
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 26
6/6/2019 23:02:42   

Dorothy was shocked.

First, she was insulted. When she attempted to show her strength, she was treated like a sheepdog that had attacked its own herd. Had she been rash? Depends on who you ask. But to handicap her, right before going into the forest to do the baron’s own dirty work, was completely absurd! He couldn’t wait until after the mission, no, this had to happen now. He might as well have signed her death warrant.

She could always turn around and go right back home. But to storm out would be a sign of weakness and defeat. It would prove that the baron was completely right. And how would she explain this to her children? Her customers? She had already taken her punishment. Leaving now, without seizing her reward, would be pointless. One of these men could probably just carry her anyways.

Dorothy waited patiently for her turn to approach and give Goodman Arthon the information he needed. After the baron’s stern entrance (and swift exit), she almost felt sorry for the man. Working under someone with that attitude, day after day, must surely be a chore greater than any Dorothy had encountered, even in her early years. Several of her companions made small speeches, and Dorothy listened approvingly. Maybe this misfit group could work together after all.

The tiefling stepped aside, and Dorothy contemplated the bizarre woman briefly before she took her opportunity to approach the Goodman. Despite direct attacks towards her, she had stayed calm and attempted to talk to the baron logically. That didn’t seem like darkspawn behavior at all. Perhaps there was more to the woman than she seemed.

She turned to address Goodman Arthon. “Dorothy Hausenbergerdorff, as you know. Please deliver my rewards to Adamantina. She will be running my business while I’m away.” Dorothy gave a small smile. “Oh, and please let her know, in the event that I fail to return, that both the shop and my residence belong to her.”

Post #: 27
6/8/2019 12:33:23   

Salindrel’s next action was purely instinctual, his rational brain lagging behind as his body moved of its own accord. A step forward, his hand stretched out as though to seize the Cinder Witch’s wrist. And then he stopped, Immeral's words hitting him hard;, that he needed to be an agent of peace and not wrath. He couldn't let the women's biting words affect him so much. Hadn't his penance been enough? Shouldn't it have been?

He needed to control himself if he wanted to find out. A long, uncomfortable moment later, Salindrel withdrew his hand, taking a step back as he breathed out tersely, “A word, Goodwoman?”

“A word?” Ember turned to face the forestwalker, her eyes of coal meeting his silvered ones. “Which one, Goodman Forestwalker? ‘Darkspawn’? ‘Devil? ‘She-witch?’ Last one’s a bit redundant, but nonetheless popular.” The sorceress crossed her arms in front of her, the scarlet sleeves draped over each in waves of red. She tilted her head not as one noble admonishing an inferior, but as a mother expressing disappointment in a child. The jewel in her circlet swung loosely with every small movement. “Whichever one it is, do at least make it original and not a complete waste of breath.”

"I just wanted to apologize," Salindrel said quietly, not wanting to pull the attention of Arthon or the rest of the group. He retreated a few steps further, trying to draw the tiefling off to the side. "I reacted poorly when I first discerned your nature and it seems I was in error. Your actions thus far have been quite the opposite of other demons I have encountered. However, you seem to be holding a grudge against me. If we are to work together, there must be some level of trust between us. I hope that my apology can begin to rebuild that between us."

The elf could feel the heat rising in his cheeks and moved to retake his prior spot, hoping that was enough to turn the tide of the Cinder Witch's scorn.

“So ‘demon’ after all.” The tiefling closed her eyes as she gave a slight shake of her head. “And here I thought I told you to not waste your breath.”

Ah, damn. He winced and stopped, speaking over his shoulder. "No, Goodwoman, you are assuredly no 'demon.' But what you are, I do not know." Salindrel turned back away, listening for the woman's retreating steps.

A smirk crossed her face as she turned to walk away. “If you must know, I’m what they call a *tiefling* - one born of both human and demonic blood. But those I trust call me Ember.” She turned away from the silver-eyed one. “Perhaps one day you will earn that privilege.” With long strides, the dancer took her leave.

Ember. A fitting name for one so fiery. It would be difficult to cool such a cinder, but ceasing his use of the D-word probably wouldn't be a bad way to start. As her steps faded, Salindrel realized that he should give the Goodwoman a wide berth for now. Hopefully, he would be able to get off on the right foot with the rest of their little group. He needed to be more cautious about the words he used and how he acted. If he wanted to make Immeral's teachings on diplomacy his own, he had his work cut out for him.

< Message edited by superjars -- 6/8/2019 13:02:13 >
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 28
6/9/2019 15:19:46   
How We Roll Winner

The ice came as a surprise to the Ghoul who immediately started to regret his decision of calling the old woman as… an old woman. The leather clearly suited her. It was, however, her exceptional control over her abilities that was even more alarming to Raithe for at that point, he truly understood how terrifying a situation he was in.

For a minute, his eyes had widened in awe as the stalagmites had erupted across the floor making their way towards the Baron on his stage and a small part of him might even have feared the outcome of that union. When the last of the ice constructs stopped less than a foot away from Terex, Raithe had breathed a sigh of relief. The awkward outcome had been averted.

“Inside my coat is an arsenal of important and dangerous potions of my own creation.” The old lady had boasted. This had caused a number of bells to toll inside the Cursed one’s head.

Is she some kind of a witch, he had thought at that moment, his right hand slowly reaching for the familiar hilt at the back of his hips. He had thought for a second to abandon this quest and take the old one hostage, even to just question her on the whereabouts of her friend who had brought this curse down upon Raithe. His fingers wrapped around the hilt.

Before he could react any further, the cinder being joined the old one near the stage.
“You see a bandit? I see a survivor.” she spoke clearly. The words broke Raithe’s train of thoughts which was growing ever darker and destructive. His grip relaxed and eventually the right hand dropped back to his side as he witnessed what happened next. The cinder creature had started a show of fire upon the icy floor, the brightness causing Raithe to narrow his eyes, yet something made him want to keep looking. As he looked on, the fire grew even more intense and as Raithe closed his eyes to shield them, the flames were gone.

Silence. A feeling of regret welled up inside Raithe, or was it plain sadness?

Raithe didn’t pay attention to what the cinder creature spoke after but the Baron’s words snapped him back to the present.

“Goodman Arthon,” he started, surprisingly calm for someone who had just been on the receiving end of a number of icy spikes and could potentially have been impaled. “Time is short. Sign them up, inform them, and get them on the road.”

Once again, Raithe sighed. He was glad that the Baron didn’t call on him to display his powers. That would end in a terrible manner… for Raithe, seeing as he had realised that each one of these individuals was the possessor of either exceptional magical talents or proficiency with weapons of ridiculous proportions. His daggers would almost certainly fail them against such monsters if he were to take them on just to show his battle prowess. However, given time, something could be made even of such a situation. The ghoul relaxed.

“I’ll have irons on the old woman.”

Raithe’s eyes shot up to the Baron. He had just proven to the assembly that he was not one to stand for threats in his own house, and surely not in front of his own subjects.

“Therefore, for a year and a day you shall wear iron fetters upon your ankles wheresoever you may go,” he went on. Now Raithe appeared slightly concerned for although he was unsure of the lady’s circumstances or nature, to handicap her before such a dangerous undertaking was not unlike putting cattle out for a culling. However, there was nothing the bandit could do. He could only hope that the woman had some potion in that coat of hers that would free her from the punishment.

Before the Baron left the hall, guards in tow, he assigned the orc as the leader of the band and the bow-woman elf as the second-in-command.

After frowning to himself for a good few minutes, Raithe exhaled and made his way over to the stage, his boots making muffled thuds on the floor as he approached the scribe.

“Raithe,” he started, not masking his voice anymore. “If I die, give my things to Jen Essai. She has a stable.”

He then stepped away from the stage and decided who to approach first, the old woman or the bow-women elf. The old woman had already landed herself in a terrible situation and to have a stranger question her on her nature would only upset her more. Raithe was in no mood to fight a woman with creator knows what powers. On the other hand, he had wanted to talk to the elf since she had seemed to be the only sensible one but even she had just been insulted by the Baron. Knife-ear, he had called her, an obvious insult keeping in mind her physical appearance.

Everyone is in a terrible mood, Raithe thought, making his way past the collection of people to the wall near the doorway where he sat down on the floor, his back against the wall and his arms resting atop his knees. Hrm.

< Message edited by Arthur -- 6/13/2019 14:27:51 >
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 29
6/12/2019 16:27:00   

Ether-knight of DragonFable & EpicDuel

Before he knew it, the first one to take up the opportunity to speak was Dorothy. Rather brave of her, considering the pointing criticism and far from youthful. However, what was bravery soon faded into foolishness. Grasping a vial, she tossed it, causing the glass to shatter as ice encroached the surrounding area, stopping just short of the baron. Eyes flared as Yondrin reached for a spear in his holster.

The angered woman retorted to the baron of her skills and abilities, demonstrated by how the ice stopped just before him. Yondrin alluded to speaking of one’s abilities, not showing them off! As hasty as she was, the woman was at least exceptionally lucky, as the baron spoke for her to be bound by iron fetters. For many nobles, surely that aggressive act were bounds for life in the dungeons or a death sentence. Perhaps Ember’s more calm and diplomatic approach was what had saved Dorothy.

The pathfinder lifted his hand away from his armaments, gazing back at the baron. After judgment has been made, it was declared that the orc will be the one to lead the expedition. As the noble took his leave, Yondrin snorted softly for what transpired. With a crack of his neck, he approached Goodman Arthon in between the other participants. “Yondrin Bulsill, representing the Dakorel company. If necessary, proceedings are to go to a man named Barkly, west side of the city,” with a low tone. Afterwards, he swiveled around towards the door as he pulled his hood up.

“For all who care to follow through this journey, make any last preparations as you must, then meet me on the main west road.” He tilted his head in contemplative thought. He was used to working with those without regard to who they were. From what he overheard, a couple individuals in the room seemed interested in getting acquainted with each other. The pathfinder, with his life of travel and taking specific duties, was not one for such talks, as it was exceptionally rare he would meet an individual once again. Would just make one too sentimental for all he cared.

“This one will be a swift, but dangerous, trip. So bring your best and conduct your best,” Yondrin’s head turned starkly towards Dorothy, obscured by the hood. “It will be what keeps you alive in the end. Not just what you bring, but also discipline. At that, if I catch wind of any of you bickering at each other for trivial reasons akin to what happened earlier, you’ll have a grievous time by pulling beyond your weight.” With that, he marched on out, ready to venture into danger once more.

< Message edited by Caststarter -- 6/12/2019 18:59:32 >
DF  Post #: 30
6/17/2019 20:34:23   
Eternal Wanderer

For all the oddities the day had brought, Goodman Arthon recovered himself quickly enough. Perhaps it was the soothing familiarity of the paperwork before him - lines of careful notes, facts marshalled into their proper place and configuration like men marching into battle. Whatever the case, by the time Salindrel stepped forward the bald scribe was calm, and by the time Ember approached he was composed enough to do little more than flick a faintly interrogative glance her way at the assertion that she would return to collect her earnings one way or the other. Arthon asked no questions of any, simply recording the details each spoke. He did smile for a moment at Luca’s claim it would take time to find his declared heir however, perhaps finding the implied challenge intriguing.

But finding herself last, Marietta approached the baron’s minister after managing her own feat of self-control. There was little trace of the fury the noble’s words had invoked, or of the bemused embarrassment imparted by the tiefling on the half-elf’s face. Goodman Arthon had done nothing to deserve her ire, and as was her way the ranger had packed it down, shutting it away somewhere deep within for a more appropriate time and place. “My name is Marietta Drevosa. I have neither family nor heirs. Should I fail to return, let my portion of any reward be remitted to the forester’s guildhouse.”

The bald man nodded absently from atop the dais, as though he had expected that answer in some way, and he spent several moments making notes on a second parchment. At length he dusted the papers and stood, bending backwards slightly as he stretched his back. Arthon seemed about to speak, only to be preempted by Yondrin’s declaration and swift exit. Blinking after the orc, the goodman recovered his equilibrium swiftly and glanced around at the others. “Perhaps a short recess would be in order, my goodmen and women. Please make what last minute preparations you find needful, and we shall reconvene within the hour upon the west’rd road.”

Collecting his materials, Goodman Arthon nodded to the assembled, and then followed the big orc out the door.

Marietta was waiting a distance from Arthon as the others arrived. There had been little for her to do in the way of preparations; she had arrived at the baron’s manse with most everything she needed for the trip. Still, the forester had taken the opportunity to briefly return home, double-check her pack, and slip in a few additional items that might be useful before heading for the rendezvous.

Her hood was drawn up, shading her face from the sun. The deep cowl also served to close her off, isolating her from Arthon and his companion, neither of whom she wished to speak to at the moment. The half-elf leaned lightly on the stave of her bow as the others assembled, blue eyes flicking every now and then to the goodman’s associate. The new man, the chief undergaoler, was waiting next to the bald secretary. Dressed in a dark outfit beneath the heavy leather apron of his office, the jailer had his own cavernous hood drawn up over his head. From one meaty fist dangled a set of fetters bound together by a length of iron chain.

This entire set of circumstances was a farce, in Marietta’s opinion. Goodwoman Hausenbergerdorff had earned her punishment, certainly. It was not as if one could expect to speak - and act - towards the baron in such a manner and not be reprimanded, but those chains might well serve to kill the old woman in the forest. The Piege was not a tame wood, and it held threats for even the well-prepared. But the half-elf’s opinion on the matter had not been sought, and as Baron Terex had said, Justice High and Low was his charge in Hron. The ranger could only wish that the party had not been saddled with additional burdens for their endeavor.

Marietta sighed, trying to focus on the positive side of things. First and foremost, they would be leaving the city soon, which always put a spring in the forester’s step. Keken was by no means a bustling metropolis, but she preferred the simplicity of the wood, even with its dangers. And it was not as though she would have to look out for Hausenbergerdorff by herself. Yondrin was very good at what he did, by all accounts, and if Luca’s axe was more than just a conversation starter then troubles with bandits or reavers - assuming brigands were responsible for the disappearances - seemed unlikely.

There was Raithe too, and Lane, with their blades. Truly, the ranger’s main concern was how they would move through the forest. Salindrel would be at home there, no doubt. Ember had grace enough for it, but seemed more suited to dance floors and noble parlors than hiking through forests…

The half-elf shifted the bow stave in her hands, turning it to grip the upper limb in reverse with her left hand as her right drew a string from a pouch at her waist. She slipped the loop through the string notch on the lower limb of the stave and then stepped between the body of the bow and the string. Bracing the slight curve of the lower tip on the outside of her right foot, Marietta twisted, applying the strength of arm, shoulder and back to the upper limb and using the back of her thigh and planted left leg as a fulcrum.

For a moment, nothing happened. It was very likely that the forester looked comical to an outside observer, a young girl playing with her father’s bow. And then the mighty stave began to bend with a quiet creak of flexing wood. The half-elf’s right hand rose, slipping the bowstring through the upper loop notch. Lifting her leg, Marietta stepped out of the bow, left hand dropping to the grip and lifting it. Her right thumb gave the string a passing flick, drawing a low, pleasant vibration she could feel up her arm.

It drew the ghost of a smile to her face as she whispered to herself. “Now then, let’s see what there is to see.”

Arthon made a vague motion as the alchemist arrived, and the dark robed undergaoler turned his hooded gaze towards the shopkeeper. With a faint grunt he moved forward, going down to one knee and starting the task of fitting and fastening the fetters without so much as a word to the goodwoman.

For his part, the baron’s minister had at least the good grace to look abashed as his eyes flitted over the group, ensuring each of them was present. His gaze refused to sit long on Dorothy as the jailer did his work. “We know precious little, but I shall tell you all that I can.” Reaching into a pouch at his hip, the bald man produced a scroll and offered it to Yondrin. “Sergeant Radrick Konning was the senior commander of the garrison at Pinewatch. This is a copy of his last dispatch. The letter is vague, and of troubling implication. He makes reference to other couriers sent with other letters, but we have not seen any of them, only the man who staggered out of the forest bearing this.

“That trooper died within twelve hours. He was wounded by both sword and arrow, but also bore signs of having suffered attack by some manner of animal. Towards the end he raved, speaking of a call, and babbling about the moon.” Arthon frowned slightly. “He said the moon was watching him, but the night was cloudy.” He shrugged and moved on. “Your mission is to reach Pinewatch and scout the settlement. If possible, ascertain what happened, and who is responsible for it. Your primary objective, however, will be to discern if the settlement is still viable. A relief expedition is intended to reclaim the site, should you determine that there is anything worth salvaging.

“You will still be paid, even should the conclusion be returned that Pinewatch is lost or no longer viable as an outpost for the barony and the Dakorel Consortium. However, that payment will be contingent upon proof being returned of the fate of Pinewatch and its inhabitants.” The goodman glanced back and forth between the group slowly. “I shall attempt to answer any questions you may have, but the baron wishes this business concluded swiftly. Please make haste - much depends upon your success.”
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 31
7/11/2019 0:51:52   

The elf was out the door shortly after Arthon and Yondrin, leaving the others to prepare the goods and supplies they would need for their journey. Salindrel had learned from his master to come to the meeting hall already prepared to move onward and so did not need the recess. Bow slung neatly across his back, he walked quickly through the town heading for the west. The elf hoped to find a tree, orient himself towards his home grove and meditate for a while on his recent failings. He hoped to perhaps even link with Immeral through the roots and seek his advice.

It was not long before the druid found what he sought, clambered gracefully to the top and sat to commune with the world surrounding him. However, despite great effort, he was unable to ascertain a route by which to connect with his master. Despite that, even a few minutes of quiet and peaceful reflection served to calm him and to some extent, prepare him for whatever trials lay ahead.

Nearby branches spoke to him of the half-elf’s approach long before he could sense it himself. Marietta, was that her name?, he thought, thinking back to their previous interactions. He seemed to recall that she had had several interactions with Ember. Positive ones. A shiver ran through Salindrel’s body as he thought of that tiefling woman. Perhaps Marietta would be able to aid in mending their relationship. He wasn’t sure, but it was worth a try.

The elven druid hopped down from the tree, landing lightly on his feet and strode toward his new companion. “Marietta, was it?” he said as he approached. “I see you are early as well. What do you think of our companions?” He attempted to keep his tone light and conversational, not wanting to offend another member of their collective. However, it did seem to come across as stiff and formal despite his best efforts.

Marietta glanced up at the sound of Salindrel’s landing, eyes flicking from the suddenly appearing elf to what had been his arboreal perch and back again. For a moment she returned the man’s odd gaze, her expression neutral as she inspected him. Elves were not uncommon in Keken, but most of them lived beyond the limits of the city, in Piege proper. She wondered, though she had no true desire to give voice to the question, if Salindrel could tell her mixed heritage. He had seemed quick enough to judge, when confronted with Ember, but it was hard to say what he made of half-elves. In her experience, Marietta had found elves tended to pity her, a condescension that was more than a little grating at times.

She shifted slightly, taking the stave of her unstrung bow between both hands and gently rolling the wooden length back and forth with a soft sigh. “I think we are very different, all of us. And I hope that is enough to see us through whatever is ahead.” It was, perhaps, not the answer the elf might have wanted, but it was diplomatic enough to try and smooth over the earlier confrontation. And if Salindrel pressed… Well, she would have to figure something else out if he wanted more.

Salindrel let out a low chuckle. “‘Different,’ eh?” he replied, letting a small smile touch his face. “How very diplomatic of you. That sounds very similar to what my master would have said in this same situation.” Salindrel turned his head slightly, cocking an ear to listen to the wind whistling through the trees as he stared off into the distance, speaking as if to himself, “Would that I had the sense to be as diplomatic as Immeral is…” His voice trailed off as he became lost in his memories for a moment.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, he turned to face the forester, pulling his vibrations away from their ever-present ebb to cascade upon her form, giving him his clearest look at who this Marietta was. She seemed to be an elf - or at the very least elven in appearance. But the weapon she carried was the most surprising part, seeming to be several times larger than he would expect from one of her stature. “And you, Marietta. What sort of weapon is that? It looks rather unwieldy.” He released control of his powers, letting them return to their previous flow.

The ranger frowned, a swift, fleeting expression that flitted across her face before vanishing. It was… a very strange question. Her fingers stopped the gentle spin of the stave, falling into place around the weapon’s grip as she returned the elf’s regard. “It is a bowstave, a war bow.” For a moment she hesitated, but in truth she could not stop from asking, as rude as doing so might be. “Salindrel… are you... blind?”

Another low chuckle was drawn from the elf. “I had thought that much to be obvious, given my eyes, but I suppose I should not take such things for granted,” he said in a slightly playful manner. Then suddenly, his brow furrowed as a thought crossed his mind. “However, I assure you that I am fully capable of facing any creature or being that may stand in our way. My lack of sight will not hinder me from being of use on this expedition.” His body tensed, suddenly self-conscious that this one, who had recently been named as the second-in-command, might send him home before they had even begun.

Marietta blinked, sensing the slight change in the elf, a sort of coiling tension. It took a moment to put a finger on the reason - or the most likely reason - for Salindrel’s sudden unease. The ghost of a smile crossed her face, quick as the frown that had passed by moments earlier. “Salindrel, it is not my place to say if you come with us or not, nor Yondrin’s. The only thing that you should worry about for the moment is getting in Ember’s way.”

There was no chuckle this time around. Salindrel took a deep breath, letting himself unfurl, but remaining cautious. “I plan to give her a wide berth for the time being, I can assure you.” His voice was back to its original intonation. “I apologize for any trouble I may have caused. I really did not mean for things to go as far as they did.” A nervous bow was the only thing the elf could think to do as he delivered the apology, hoping he hadn’t jeopardized his position. He had no way to know what Marietta would say to the orc about this conversation, or about his condition. Perhaps he had become too familiar with her before. The druid took a few steps back after righting himself. “It seems the others might arrive soon,” he lied quickly. “I thank you for the brief, but informative, discussion.”

The forester’s eyes flicked briefly towards the road, but if someone was coming they were as yet beyond the reach of her senses. Blind he might have been, but the elf had some way of knowing what was going on around him. That was a mystery beyond Marietta’s understanding for now. Still, it was not a bad thing to know, and… hopefully Salindrel would be more careful of the tiefling when the party ventured on. Her lips twitched, though the smile never quite made it to full life. Perhaps he would be more careful, and perhaps Marietta would convince Ember to let bygones be bygones. Either way she inclined her head respectfully to the elf. “May the wind guide your step and the stars light your way.” It was something her mother had said, at least, that was what her father had always told her. An elven farewell, perhaps, or maybe nothing more than a personal fare thee well.

Marietta drew back, one hand rising to draw the hood of her cloak up about her face. It hid the tears that stung at the back of her eyes. Betimes it was like that, when she thought of the mother she knew only from the second-hand stories passed along by her father. Sometimes the thought brought tears to her eyes, other times she felt nothing. As embarrassing as it could be, she silently thought the tears were better.

The elf stopped at the sound of her words, and a slight smile graced his face. He repeated her phrase in his native tongue, bowing to her in return. With one fluid movement, he turned quickly and retreated back to his arboreous sanctuary. As he came close to the gnarled trunk, he heard a shift in the wind and with hand on the bark, spoke to the tree: more of their number approached.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 32
8/8/2019 15:32:40   
How We Roll Winner

The ghoul had let his head sink between his knees falling into a sort of nap without even realising it and it wasn’t until the orc had spoken that his cursed head snapped back up, banging into the wall and almost knocking off his hat.

“No!” He blurted out, his right hand shooting up to the top of the hat’s crown to readjust it before it slipped off. A sigh unwittingly escaped his lips, fluttering the scarf.

“For all who care to follow through this journey, make any last preparations as you must, then meet me on the main west road.” The orc announced as he then proceeded to walk out the doors, right past where Raithe was sitting.

The head guard was right and Raithe hated him for it. His last assignment had indeed been needlessly tiring and he could feel the fatigue creeping up on him even as he rose to his feet, one hand on the wall. The ghoul could have avoided it altogether seeing as higher authorities had already assigned an outfit to track down the escaped were-creatures. Nonetheless, had he not been there, the remaining soldiers would almost surely be food for a pack of starving were-beasts. One of them had punched the ghoul so hard, he’d gone flying through a cabin.

Raithe massaged his side, remembering the encounter. Thankfully, his own curse had caused the pain to fade away rather quickly. He straightened up, arching his back to stretch out any knots before he skipped and turned, following the entourage out the oversized shack.

Do I have something I need to do?

A quick trip to the Weaponsmith’s would help him set his inventory straight before he moved out. Preparation was key in prolonged assignments like this of which the ghoul hadn’t seen many. After all, who knows when next he might chance upon a town. Raithe exited the house and like a few others, broke away from the group heading towards the town to make final preparations of his own.

The Weaponsmith’s store was fairly easy to locate thanks in part to the clear sign hanging outside the door and also to the mad clanging that rung out across this part of the town.

“Good afternoon,” The shopkeeper, or the person minding the front half of the establishment greeted the mercenary as he lumbered in, his boots thudding on the wooden floor. “How may I help?”

The smell of coal dust and molten iron hung heavy in the air, not to mention the scent of oil, just what Raithe needed. The constant whooshing sound of bellows and the heat was a welcome presence. The ghoul felt at home in this cramped environment, far from those vast mansions where lords resided. Never a man for luxury, nor one to settle.

He pulled out both his blades and placed them on the counter gently, a sort of respect suddenly pervading his being. The shopkeeper’s eyes lit up as he carefully examined the steel, first the larger one, then the smaller one.

“I need them cleaned, oiled and sharpened at the earliest.” Raithe beckoned to the blades, his guttural voice masked in part by the loud whooshing and the crackling of flames.

“How soon are we speaking?” The other man raised his eyes, mad with excitement and an eagerness seen only in those who are passionate in their craft. Raithe knew the daggers were in good hands.

Within the next hour, the ghoul was ready to depart and hurried over to the west road where already a few people had gathered. He could see the bow-woman elf, the Orc, Goodman Arthon, the old alchemist and one doubtful character dressed strangely who Raithe later came to understand was the one charged with carrying out the Baron’s punishment. The ghoul avoided this one and went to stand near the Orc who presently was being handed a scroll by Goodman Arthon who further instructed him on the particulars of the mission.

Raithe was ready.
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 33
9/10/2019 0:45:04   

The introductions continued as one would've expected from such a rag-tag bunch. Luca’s comrades-to-be gave their names, and their instructions should their group fail to return. Not exactly the most pleasant follow-on sentence after you learned someone’s name, but it couldn’t be helped, he mused. It was better than the fallen’s share staying in the Baron’s pocket, though this was already turning out to be one hell of an ice-breaker. ‘Name and next of kin’ was not really along the usual lines of ‘name, region and hobbies’. He grinned at the prospect of posing these questions to recruits. Burial or cremation? would probably be next on the list.

For the rest of the meeting, Luca stayed near the walls of the room, with his axe propped against the floor, and a calm expression on his face. If one had observed him closely, they would have seen his brows knit slightly closer at the tiefling’s quip, and a shadow of a smile form at the bandit’s statement about the stable. When the orc, Yondrin, left the room with the baron’s representative in tow, the former general glanced back at the others still in the room. It would be interesting to see how the group fared in the forest, but he didn’t have high hopes. At least, not for some of our number, he thought, eyeing the narcoleptic Raithe.

Still, everyone—and everything—deserved a chance; that sounded like something his father had said many times in the past.

He gave a small grin, and strode out of the room with his greataxe in hand.

Sparks flew and flame flickered, casting shadows dancing through the heart of the armory. The sounds of hammers striking steel resounded around Luca, as he strode through the smoggy air. Rows of workbenches and equipment racks went by, with custodians and smiths going about their work, pausing only to give him some polite acknowledgement. It was only when he’d reached the back of the room did the general find the man he was looking for, sitting at an old and pitted workbench, surrounded by piles of papers.

“Quartermaster Gallios.”

The man didn’t look up from his work when Luca called, merely squinting harder at the miniscule writing on the form. It was only when the Lightblessed commander stopped in front of his desk, did the Head of the military’s Armory look up, scowling at the general from behind half-moon spectacles. “General Forsythe. What do you want?” he demanded irritably, uncapping his pen.

“The Marshal sends his regards,” Luca responded simply, hands respectfully behind his back.

Gallios snorted and scribbled a signature on the bottom of the paper before pushing it to the side and standing. He rubbed his eyes and looked out the window behind him, scowling again when he saw the cloudless night sky. Gallios gestured for Luca to follow, and started towards the exit on the eastern wall. The general complied, following the quartermaster.

“Just how long exactly have you been sitting there?” Luca asked, curiously. There was something different in the venerable armorer’s gait. It was stiff, and there was a slight slump. Not unusual, for a man of Gallios’ years, but it was exceptionally noticeable today.

“Since dawn,” Gallios grumbled, rubbing his lower back. “And it’s all thanks to you, General. I hope you realise how much of a mess you’ve left for me to clean up. Just what were you thinking, exactly? Charging into the enemy, while vastly outnumbered.”

“There was hardly a better choice. It was that, or give them the township.”

“‘Hardly a better choice’? I’ll tell you what would have been a better choice, boy. If you had prepared your forces sooner and taken up a more favourable position, then all of those losses could have been avoided. Instead, you opt to run in at the last moment, straight through Golith’s Vale.”

“I did what I could, quartermaster. If I had followed my standing orders at the time, then certainly, more of our troops would have been alive.”

Alafael’s Chief Supply Officer shot him a look as they walked across the courtyard. “Then why aren’t they alive? Why didn’t you follow your orders?”

“Because that would have meant giving them the town. Thousands would have died.”

“Thousands did die. Your troops weren’t ready to engage enemy forces of that magnitude. Orcish forces, at that. You sent your soldiers to their deaths, nothing more.”

Luca remained unfazed. “Yet we won. The enemy force was routed and the township was spared. Would you have had otherwise, quartermaster? Would you willingly sit by and let the citizens in our charge be slaughtered?”

Gallios paused momentarily, turning to glare at him. “That’s not what I meant, and you know that.”

“Then I fail to see what you have an issue with,” Luca nodded to a saluting soldier before continuing. “The orcish forces were moving through the vale, with their intent to encroach on the town. If I had followed His Majesty’s orders and kept my soldiers on standby, then we’d have soldiers sorting through the corpses of every man, woman and child in Golith. It would have been a massacre.”

The quartermaster grunted, but didn’t say anything. The two walked in silence for several minutes, the stars twinkling down on them as they made their way to the heart of the fortress. It was only after they had passed through the keep’s entrance that Gallio spoke again, in a much calmer voice. “So what does your old man want?” he asked. “Have you come to apologise on his and the King’s behalf?”

“I have not, no,” the general admitted, ”What I bring is more of a warning, unfortunately. Our scouts have spotted a, ah, sizeable number of enemies from the south.”

“And why are you telling me this? Don’t you usually just have some poor lad write up a report at the last minute and throw it my way ten minutes before the battle actually occurs? To what do I owe this quick and timely honor?”

“That’s the normal process, yes. But for those last-minute reports to be useful, the recipient has to actually read them. And judging by our conversation this evening, you still haven’t started doing that,” Luca said, with a grin. “So I’ve decided to come and give you the briefing in person.” The quartermaster turned a lovely rosey red, and muttered something under his breath.

The conversation cut off once more as they neared Gallios’ office. There was a rattle of keys, a click of a lock, and then the door swung open, striking the chamber wall with a soft thud. Luca followed him in and made himself at home, settling comfortably into a chair on one side of writing desk.

Gallios’ desk was clean and organized, with only an oil lamp, a paper tray, and a potted plant sitting on top. Lined up along the room’s walls, however, were cabinets packed to the point of bursting and shelves on the verge of collapsing. It was almost funny how the room was the opposite of his superior’s, but Luca had already made that comparison many years ago.
Time had somewhat lessened the humor in that statement, though, as the only comparison that went through Luca’s thoughts were about how little the room had changed over the years. Much like it’s occupant.

The elderly man dropped into his chair with a groan of discomfort, then affixed Luca with a piercing, icy stare.

“So, what sort of harebrained scheme do you have, General?” Gallios asked, cutting straight to the point. “And again, why are you telling me this? Do you need extra arms, or supplies? Because if you do, I’m sure you know by now that unless I have orders from the Marshall himself, I will not make an exception for you or any of the other generals.”

The general returned a thin smile. “Quartermaster, I’ve known you for the better part of… what is it, thirteen years now?”

“Sixteen, by the next moon. Sixteen years since the Battle of Florane.”

“A fair amount of time, I’d say. I know well enough that there are better ways to requisition supplies than from the military’s quartermaster, as strange as that may sound,” Luca chuckled, but Gallios’ expression didn’t budge. Aewyn often joked that Gallios had been born with either a frown or a glare on his face, but he knew better; it had definitely been a glare.

“Get to the point, boy. What do you want, or what do you want to tell me?”

“As you wish,” Luca sat up straighter, before dropping the smile and bridging his gloved fingers. “Unlike the battle at Golith’s Vale, our soldiers and defences are already mobilised. Based on their heading, the horde is heading towards the villagers fortified behind the Southern Wall. This means that the battle will most likely be fought around Stolwyn’s Head.”

“Your tactics seem too sound for my liking,” Gallios remarked sarcastically. “Too simple and straightforward to be one of your plans. What’s the twist? Why not open the gates, and invite them into the keep for negotiations and tea?”

“Jokes do not become you, quartermaster. No, our strategy will be very straightforward. We’ll fight them from the fort’s walls, using defensive positioning and our weaponry. I’m sure our mages will appreciate having the high ground for once, though I’m sure that things will change when the complication arise.”

“So what are these complications?”

“There aren’t any. For now.”

“For now?”

“Indeed. We’ve received no orders from His Majesty at this point in time.”

Gallios shot Luca a glare, his stern expression somehow growing more serious. “What are you implying, General Forsythe?”

The Lightblessed Commander grimaced, and glanced at the clock. He had a feeling they were going to be here for a while.

About fifty minutes after the meeting in the Baron’s estate, Luca finally arrived at the rendezvous point. Preparing and packing took slightly longer than expected, even though he’d already prepared himself a few hours prior. It only dawned on him now that he didn’t know how long the journey would take them, so Luca had decided to take some extra supplies. Better over prepared than under, after all.

However, the entirety of the delay couldn’t be attributed solely to his preparation. Luca wasn’t overly familiar with Keken, so it’d taken him a few minutes of walking before he’d realised that he was in fact heading towards the east side of the town. Luckily, he’d managed to wave down an overtly curious passerby for directions.

Despite his best efforts, there was little that could be done to hide the general state of his armor. While it wasn’t falling to pieces, the scarred and battered plate had seen better days. Many a smith had tried their best to restore the plate, but the simple truth of the matter was that it needed to be replaced. Sure, the armor was usable, but appearance-wise? Definitely not up to Alafaelian military standards. Not that it mattered any more, but Luca had standards. The former soldier had thrown a rough cloak around its collar, in an attempt to make it look less bare.

By the time he arrived, a few of their number had already gathered, along with the Baron’s representative and dark robed attendant, who was busy fastening the manacles to the elder’s ankles. Luca opted to remain silent, and rested his axe on the ground, blade first.

He listened closely as Arthon addressed the group, making a note of what foes to watch out for. Beasts and sentient life, by the sounds of it. Not especially specific, but now he knew to keep an eye on everything in the forest. Not that Luca had predicted any less; he hadn’t signed up with the expectation of being paid to take a lengthy, but relaxing stroll through the forest.

Speaking of which.

At the Goodman’s bidding, Luca spoke up. “While I’ve prepared some extra supplies, I’m afraid that I’m not familiar with the forest, nor our path to the outpost. How long will our journey take? And what sorts of creatures or enemies are we to expect?”

< Message edited by Kooroo -- 9/16/2019 20:53:02 >
AQW Epic  Post #: 34
9/16/2019 12:04:35   

With the initial meeting adjourned, Karen chose to return to her room at the inn, eager to pack properly and set out. She quickly gathered her things and tossed them in her pack, paying little mind to how they were arranged. As she removed her hunting knife to sharpen it, she took pause, considering her party once again.

Will my lone blade really make a difference? I don’t think it will…

Fishing back through her pack, Karen removed a small wooden lockbox. She took a key from her belt, inserted, and turned it, savoring the soft click of the mechanism as the lid popped open. Within rested a wrist-sheath, holding a small black, thin black dagger. Karen removed the sheath and dagger and examined it. It hummed slightly as a faint tingle ran up her arm and through the rest of her body. Her legs ached, remembering the last time she had dared to use the potent tool.

Is it worth the risk?

Karen sheathed the dagger and strapped it to her wrist. There was no knowing what she would face in the woods, or how likely her teammates were to prioritize others over themselves. A risk was worth taking, if the alternative was death in the middle of nowhere.

She finished “packing”, left a generous tip for the inn, and strode out the door, excited for the coming hunt.

The road was already filled with her companions, some chatting, some waiting patiently. How many were anxious of what they would find in the forest? How many had people counting on them to return? Karen wasn’t. Karen didn’t. She was doing this because it was what she did, what she excelled at. Already she could feel her senses and instincts sharpening, every little sound and detail available to her.

This was her environment. Here she was comfortable. She had stories to tell of times like this, beasts felled deep within dark woods. Monsters slain within their caved lairs. With her now were soldiers, fighters, but how many were hunters? This knowledge gave her a bolster to her her previously waning self-confidence.

She approached the group and clapped her hands together. “So! Who’s excited to write a new story!”
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