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=WPC 2020= Hallowed Battlefield

 
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1/26/2020 0:08:58   
  Starflame13

Gryffin Warrior of DF & RP


How do you name the place in-between? The dead metropolis that serves the living, where ancient and new are one and the same, where Good is interchangeable with Evil, and where black bleeds into white?

What awaits a lone traveller in the Chequered City?



Streets paved in smooth stones of ebon and ivory twisted in a maze of countless paths. Dead ends, dizzying turns, numerous doors and alleyways - all served to disorient those who suddenly found themselves adrift and far from their home. From the tallest spires of the palaces, to the squashed hovels of the slums, not a single imperfection marred the gleaming facade of the Chequered City. Automatons, ageless creations showing neither wrinkles nor rust, glided silently about sharp corners of buildings and around smooth edges of courtyards. At first glance they appeared faceless, emotionless. Upon a second look… hauntingly familiar. Food, rest, equipment, all forms of needs and desires they offered to the strangers in their midst. Or at least, to those destined to partake in the coming War.

For the travellers never remained in the City long. Some found themselves before gates that opened only at their touch. Others were drawn from the path by whispers or shadows. Still others simply vanished, with no trace left behind. No peaceful respite, no warm reception, no welcoming place for them to return to and rest.

For where else do Pawns belong, but on the Battlefield?



Mist. Still, silent, a calm so profound it slowed the heart and numbed the soul. Its cool droplets, forerunners of the fog, swirled unbounded. Closing in until all beyond was concealed in entirety. No reprieve, no escape. No place left untouched.

And then the realms shifted, twisting upon themselves. They shuddered, collapsed... and formed anew.

The fragrance of wildflowers, of a glen untouched by iron and steel. A golden sheen unfurled across the surface of still rivers, cast by the surrounding light of dawn that illuminated the Pawns under a sky painted in strokes of gold and rose and lavender. Wind whistled across the moor until the rippling of long grasses blurred with the gentle lapping of distant waves. A land long forgotten, filled with a gentle warmth that belied the tension in the air.

A single battlecry broke the quiet - desperate and heart-rending and victorious all at once. Golden sparks arose from the water, cascading outwards from a central pool to flow along the banks of the spiraling, silent rivers. They drifted ever upwards, as if attempting to join the last of the stars that had yet to fade with the coming morn. Yet no movement came from waters themselves. Nothing born of magic could cross the banks unscathed.

The cry sounded once more, sure and strong against the dawning day. Within were voices, their meaning clear even if the shape of their precise words were not. “You stand upon the Hallowed Battlefield. No Good can save you, no Evil can claim you. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in the very waters that sustain!”

AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 1
1/27/2020 20:00:20   
nield
Creative!


Stab-stab

The ever-present pain coursed through her body like a surge of electricity and she exhaled a rough breath as she opened her eyes. She threw a glance over her shoulder at the burned-out husk of the town behind her, the source of that constant companion. A snort of derision and then she faced forward and walked.

Stab-stab

The source was now far behind her, but the pain refused to die down, as powerful and pervasive as it ever had been. She’d shed all her tears attempting to quell it, to no avail. Alone, with a pain she could not bear and no manner to assuage it.

Stab-stab

Then the whispers started. Deep in a forest, they came to her. you are hurting She whirled around but there was nothing there. do you want it to stop What a ridiculous question. Of course she wanted it to stop. are you prepared to do anything Anything. EVERYTHING. then follow us it will end

Stab-stab

She was led, deeper and deeper, into the primordial parts of the forest that had never been walked. over here the whispers would entreat. not far now they would cajole. Into the very oldest parts of the forest. Then, suddenly on a path far older. Yet also newer. A glance behind her yielded no trace of the forest. Before her was a city, etched of dark and light.

Stab-stab

The whispers had vanished, faded into the very shadows beneath her feet. This city would end her pain? She walked toward it cautiously. Her whole body was tense and slowly, a figure, gliding across the ground came into view. It was-
STAB-STAB
HIM.


She was bounding forth, rage roaring from her lungs as she leapt and closed her fangs around his throat to-
No response.

Her eyes went wide. This figure, self-sure grin intact acted like its throat wasn’t being crushed. She then realised. She had no sense for this thing.

Stab-stab

It wasn’t him. Just something that looked like him. She tore away, bringing the thing’s throat with her and it clattered to the ground. She looked around. These things, bearing his face, they were everywhere. What was this city? How was a place populated by things bearing his face meant to rid her of that feeling? Was she meant to go around killing them?

Stab-stab

no not them how would that help no you need to fight the others The whisper. There was something different about it now. Something off. The figure beneath her reformed and glided off. She watched it go, unnerved by everything. She opened her mouth to- behind you

Stab-stab

She whirled, her natural response. As she whirled, the world shifted. No longer was she in the city. Instead she was standing before a pool and she scrambled back a few feet, her natural distaste for getting wet shining through. Rivers spiraled from the pool, one to the left that spiraled away, one to the right that spiraled around her. She was here, supposedly to fight. Really, she had just one question. She was here.

Stab-stab

So who were these others she was supposed to fight?
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 2
1/27/2020 21:16:56   
Chewy905
Member

The letters hadn’t stopped. Every day, the girl would walk out to her mailbox and find it stuffed to the brim with requests, demands, and tokens of admiration for her display. Every day she would remove them, bring them inside, and toss them directly into the fire. The first couple times she had bothered to read them, but she had long since stopped. Never once had the letters addressed who she was; only what she could do, and who he had been. Did no one care she was still grieving? Did no one care about her well-being?

The girl tied her fading hair back as she drifted to the mailbox once more. The rising sun painted the landscape and the village she overlooked a lovely shade of orange, but she paid it no heed. It had been many weeks since she had been able to admire color as he always had. There were so many today that the postman had given up and just hung a bag full of letters to the box, swaying gently in the cool morning breeze.

The hot-lava of rage flowed through her blood. Day after day after day after day after day of this! It never stopped! She just wanted to be left alone! She had tried to appease them, to show them what she could do so they would stop asking if he had left her anything of note. She should have known that it would have only escalated the situation. She unclipped her sheath from her side and swung the heavy metal rod at the damned box of wood, caring not for the tedium the necessary repairs would bring.

Her sheath cleaved only empty, still air.


She stood right outside a city. It was massive, with ebony and ivory towers reaching high into a blank, featureless sky. She tried to follow the road with her eye, but there were too many twists and turns, and she quickly grew lost without even being within the maze. Confused, she went to take a step into the city grounds.

Up.

Forward.

Down.


As her foot landed on a black stone, everything around her changed instantly. She was deep within the city now, an intersection of various roads. The towers loomed over her, casting deep shadows. The smell of warm bread drifted out of a nearby building, but she was unable to pinpoint exactly which one. The sounds of clashing metal and a roaring fire echoed down an alleyway. Was that movement out of the corner of her eye? She took another step, this was faster than the last, trying to chase after the figure she swore she saw, swore she recognized.

Up.

Forward.

Down.


A white tile this time, and another instant change of scenery. She was indoors. A… tavern? There was music, lively and upbeat, but there was no source. The stage was empty. A man behind the bar poured drinks and prepared food. No, not a man. Simply a semblance of one. A faceless machine, perfect and unmarred by time. Is that what this city was? A city of the faceless? The quiet? Was this where Silence belonged? What she had yearned for? The music swelled. Louder. Louder. Louder. It drove itself into Silences skull. A tune of mirth and joy. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t his. It could never be his. The song offered respite, seeming to even speak within her mind itself.

Come, weary traveler, rest! Feast! Prepare! It sang.

Prepare? Prepare for what? She thought back at the cacophony. I just want the quiet back. Give me peace.

Answer the call! Dance to the tune! Soon you march off to war!

“No!” She shouted. But her voice died as the music surrounded her in it’s eternal, melodious dance. “I’ve had enough wars! I’ve had enough fighting! Give me my peace! Give me my quiet! Grant me silence!”

She ran from the tune. Each footfall landing on a stone. Black. White. Black. White. Every step she took catapulted her through the city. She saw inns, armories, hearths, training grounds, bakeries, graveyards. Anything a traveler, or a prospective warrior, could possibly want. But the music followed her everywhere, screaming directly into her mind with promises of freedom and of purpose, if she would just listen to its call. She was hopelessly and utterly lost now, too many steps taking her in too many directions. There was nowhere she could land that wasn’t black nor white. An eternal chess piece, marched around the board with no end in sight. Until… there was. She stood atop one of the cities highest towers, an endless expanse of ivory and ebony buildings stretching out far into the distance in every possible direction. And directly in the center of the roof, a hole. It was black, true, but that was only because she couldn’t see the bottom. An infinite, suffocating quiet seemed to emanate from it, fighting off the ceaseless song that tortured her.

Without a second thought.

She jumped.




Finally quiet. The music was gone, leaving only an empty void, bare of sound. Just like she wanted. There was no light this deep in the pit, as she fell further and further and further. She saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. It was perfect. She curled up and closed her one eye, embracing the stillness. But then, there was feeling. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was there; a cool chill of droplets clinging to her clothes and skin. Mist? It swirled around her, and then swallowed her, a hungry leviathan of cold ocean consuming and washing her clean. She felt her heart slow, her very soul freeze in place at the infinite cold. Peace. This was peace.

After what felt like an eternity, light dug at her eyelid, interrupting her quiet rest. A scent reached her nose, sweet and fragrant. Wildflowers? Sound reached her ears next, as one sense after another was yanked from its peace and thrust into life once more. The gentle lapping of water against a shore, the soft breeze whistling across the land and through the grass. She opened her eye to the warm sunlight, and was greeted with beauty. A lovely glen, unmarred by man, with two rivers spiraling through the grounds and meeting in the middle, right where, she now realized, she sat curled up in the pool, water gently flowing around her and bubbling up against her side.

She uncurled, stood, and stretched her arms, reaching up towards the golden sky. What a beautiful place! Was this also peace? These gentle, warm feelings the world could provide? Free of the letters, the nagging, the non-stop annoyances of her current life! She decided then; she would stay here, in the peace of life. In the sound of the waves and the wind, the smell of the flowers, and the light of the picturesque sky.

The battlecry arrived with such force and suddenty that it almost knocked her over. It was a cry of desperation, but also one of victory. It was the type she’d heard before on the fields of battle as she cut down foes alongside him, memories since buried behind the ever-turning sands of time. Sparks of shimmering gold rose around her, spiraling outward along the banks of the rivers and drifting slowly skyward. She felt a part of her deep within close up, and sink beneath a tidal wave of magic. Though this water was beautiful and gentle to the eye, it was deadly to the soul.

The cry sounded once more, bringing with it voice and meaning. It rang in her head, just as loud and obnoxious as the music had before. “You stand upon the Hallowed Battlefield. No Good can save you, no Evil can claim you. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in the very waters that sustain!

Silence sighed. A battlefield. This place did not deserve such sacrilege. Silence was no stranger to the tide of war, nor was she a stranger to its effect on the land it defiled. She waded forward, out of the water and onto the grassy shore, her drowned spirit rising above the waves within her as she exited the cool liquid. Only now did she notice the others; beings of various races and sizes, many armed with implements of war just as she was. Fine. She could kill. She knew how to kill. She would cut down each foe she was presented with, just as he would have. Once this Hallowed ground was empty, she would return to her peace, and hopefully the rivers would wash the blood out of her shirt.
Post #: 3
1/29/2020 22:44:08   
Dragonknight315
Member

Kill him.

Kill them all.


The silver-haired youth sighed as he resigned himself to his chains. The poison was swelling in his brain, the blood boiling in his veins; he could feel the serpents writhing beneath his skin, and like tightened springs they awaited their moment to be released. But it would not be, he knew, not today. The cold manacles were as strong as ever, and his struggles left naught but burnt and bloodied wrists.

Just how many days has it been? Since he last had food and drink? Since he last felt. Martin shook his head as he tried to push the whispers away.

Hanging against the dungeon’s cold walls, his head trembled as he looked up to his roof of stone. For all Martin knew, he could be miles beneath the waking world, but through his bloodshot eyes, Martin could imagine His stars in the cracks. The thought was enough to make him smile.

This would be Martin’s prison for another day, but he would not be alone.

He was never alone.

The words were clear on his lips, a prayer spoken a thousand thousand times.

“Oh Lumen, hear my cry-”

But it was not his god that answered; it was his demon.

“Stop it, stop it NOW! Hold your tongue, or I will gut it out myself!”

As the door swung wide, Martin closed his eyes as the room was illuminated with torchlight. As his sight returned, Martin could see that his would-be captors had returned. He had grown quite familiar with them during his stay, much to his disgust. Of the trio, two were dressed in robes made from tattered red cloth. Short, hunch-backed, the two hid their faces behind a sheet of ashen wood. There were no eyes, nor was there a place for a mouth. No detail that could be called human.

He had never seen the two without their masks. Martin wasn’t sure if they even had a face. Perhaps they weren’t even alive at all. But as Martin swept his gaze across the two, the mites locked their knees. The torchbearer turned and looked breathlessly to their screaming messiah. The master waved his hand with a screeching hiss. Immediately, the torchbearer placed his charge in a fixture, and the two sprinted out, the door slamming behind them.

The faceless red mites were not worth his time; their fates would find them as written in the stars. But this man had a face. He had a name.

He called himself the Shepherd.

He has it.

In place of mismatched shreds, the figure bore a robe of fine purples. He was tall, strong, everything that his servants lacked. As the Shepherd approached, he raised his right hand once more, and the torchlight glinted across his inhumane hands. His digits were like living blades, bending as one’s own flesh, but they were blades all the same. Blood dripped like sweat as the Shepherd pressed them into Martin’s temple.

“So? Are you done blathering now?”

Martin gritted his teeth as the Shepherd spoke. The two were locked in focus, eyes unblinking as the moment passed in silence. Eventually, the Shepard broke away and stepped back. He pulled a cloth from his robe and wiped his tools clean. The figure looked back to the youth with a content smile.

“Good.” The Shepard ran his blades through his locks as he paced back and forth. “If I so much as hear even a whisper of that again. . . Do you understand?”

A smirk crept upon Martin’s pale face as the Shepherd looked him in the boy’s green eyes. “Shepherd, was it?— I have never seen a shepherd dressed like a king.”

The messiah placed his hands on his chest as his voice rose from a whisper. “Oh, poor, poor Misery. . . Don’t make me repeat myself. You and I are so much greater than kings— We are gods in the flesh!”

“Save your boasting . . . for someone who cares.” Martin's voice cracked as he replied. “What a weak god you are before Lumen—”

“SILENCE!” Martin gasped as the claws were swept across his face. Before he could take another breath, The Shepard drew close, grasping with his bladed digits at the young man’s throat. “Your faith is WEAK.” The shepherd pulled his arm back and forth, slamming Martin’s head into the stone. “He has stolen your birthright, your destiny! He has made you a slave! Why can’t you see it, Misery? Why do you-”

It was then the Shepard saw that boy’s form went slack, and the focus was gone in his eyes.

“Hmph.”

He released his grasp on Martin; there was no purpose in torturing the unconscious. It would be the greatest hubris to kill him. No, the Shepherd needed him alive. Content with his work, he reached into his robes with his blood-marred hands and pulled out a necklace fixed with a gem, an emerald sun caught between his blades. “Soon. Soon you will come to forsake your faith, and in that moment of despair, you will join me and your sisters for the end. You will be free, o Harbinger of mine—”


“Oh. . . Are you finally awake?”

Like shards of glass, the voice pierced through his ears.

“Hey- Hey, are you there?”

His heart pounding in his skull, Martin rubbed his temple as the haze began to lift. And as his mind returned to him, it finally dawned on him.

This was not the Shepherd’s prison.

Without warning, he leaped to his feet and put his back into the nearest corner, his arms held forward to meet this new voice. Whatever it was, he would—

All of the voices in his head went silent as one thought pushed forward. His arms— his arms were free! His legs were free! He was—

Martin looked down at his form, and his hands were without a mark. But more than that, his equipment was there too. His robes, his leathers. . . He could feel the twinned tomahawks perched along his belt. It was all restored as if he were plucked by Lumen’s own hand.

If it was all there—

The silver-haired youth reached for his neck, and it was there. He traced his fingers along the silver chain until he found his treasure. Martin pulled out the emerald sun and clutched it in his hands, tears flowing unbidden from his green eyes. The whispers would be gone for now.

“I knew it. . . I knew you would rescue me, Lumen—”

“Lumen? Who’s that?”

There was that voice again. He turned to look, and there was a cloaked person sitting on the floor in the center. A young boy, Martin figured, given their size and their voice, but he wasn’t sure. Their clothes completely enveloped them with not a single inch of flesh visible.

“I know you can hear me. You’re looking right at me.”

Martin stared at the child for a moment before giving a sigh. “I’m sorry, but— I have a lot to take in.”

“Sit then.”

Another moment passed with Martin frozen in place. At last, he gave a nod and walking next to the child.

Taking his place on the wooden floor, Martin looked down at his hands again. He tried to piece together the last few moments. Some time ago, the Shepherd had captured Martin while he was on one of his investigations. He had received a rumor that one of the local farmers had been hoarding grain from the city. A dull task for a Life-Taker in retrospect, but an important one all the same. No one was excluded from the Tithe, and there were mouths to feed. . . Sure enough, when he arrived at the holding, the barn was overflowing with grain. But as he was surveying how much the farmer had withheld, all went dark. One of the Shepherd’s had used black magic on him. When he awoke again, Martin was in the dungeon.

But now— where was he? Martin peered around the room. Three walls made of stone stood without windows, a set of iron bars and a matching gate made the fourth. Scattered across the wooden floor were stacks of damp hay. Oddly, there was no source of light, yet the whole room seemed to be painted in a white glow.

“We’re in a cell” the boy spoke up.

“I see that— What are you doing here, then?”

“I took some bread.”

“Pocketed food from the markets, huh?” Martin gave a chuckle as he turned to the boy. “I remember when I was younger, I stole some bread once.”

“Oh?”

He nodded. “I was so hungry that I was going to die.” As he spoke, Martin could feel his stomach aching from just the thought of food; that pain was real to him. “Was that what you felt?” The boy replied with a nod of his own.

“Well, I know how to help that. Hold out your arm.”

The child shuffled in place before giving Martin his arm. Martin held the boy’s palm before tracing a finger along the boy’s arm, slowly working his way until he was just above the elbow. Without warning, he brought his hand down like a sword against the child’s arm. The boy winced as he pulled back.

“In my home, they would take your arm if you were caught stealing.”

“My— my arm?” Martin did not need to see the boy to know that he was wide-eyed. “I don’t wanna lose my arm!”

“Then don’t steal, aye?” Martin pointed at the boy. “Even if you think they deserve it, you can’t feed yourself by taking food from another’s mouth no matter how bad it seems. We all have to eat, or we all starve.”

The boy nodded once again and rubbed his arm, much to Martin’s satisfaction. “That’s good. A lesson learned before it is hopefully too late. Maybe you will walk away with both arms as I did.”

The two sat in silence for a few moments. Eventually, the child spoke in a hushed tone. “What are you doing here? Did you do something bad?”

“I don’t know.” Martin scratched his head. “I . . woke up here and not there. . .” Confused as he was, Martin was thankful for that fact alone. “Just where are we?”

The child did not move as he gave his reply. “The Chequered City.”

The words echoed in the air for the moment as if the words carried a magic of their own as if he had heard them once before. “I’m sorry, the. . . Chequered City?” Martin muttered the name, and he felt his skin run cold.

Before another moment passed, a loud screech echoed through the cell as Martin reached for his ears, his heart pounding in his head once more. The boy looked at Martin, a booming voice pierced through infernal noise.

“What do you call yourself?”

He closed his eyes. “I. . . I am Martin Talhmore, Life-Taker of His Sidereal Majesty, Lumen.”

“Really? And not Misery?” The voice rang clear in Martin’s head, and his eyes went wide.

“No— I don’t know what you are talking about!”

The boy now stood up; where there was weakness in his form before, it was gone, replaced with unyielding strength.

“This is a test, your greatest trial, one that will tip the scales between Order and Chaos. This is a war, and the battle here will decide who will return— you, or me.”

At once, the gate swung wide, and a blinding light poured into the room as the boy ambled towards the exit. Martin staggered forward and reached out.

“Who are you?!”

His hand went to grasp the being’s arm, but he pulled back, he had found only his cloak. And as it came off, Martin stood paralyzed in awe.

Snakes. Dozens of black snakes hissed as they were wound around the boy’s pale form, twisting and contorting like waves in the sea. His arms, his legs, and his neck were all covered in these serpents, but one part was left exposed where Martin saw a familiar sight: a pale oak tree. From the limbs of the tree, new snakes sprouted to join their brothers.

The child did not falter; he simply towards the light. The boy made one last look at Martin, his green eyes nearly fading into the white glow.

“Come, Misery. They are waiting for us.”


On the other side, Martin took a deep breath and he stepped onto the soft, damp ground.

Fresh air. Sunlight.

For the first time in days, Martin felt refreshed. Better, he felt invigorated, free of the pains of thirst and hunger.

He was ready for war. But where were his opponents? Martin looked to the earth around them. Beneath him was a sea of wildflowers. To his left and right, they stretched for a way until they met the waters. Before him was a central lake, and two crystal rivers spiraled out from it, their path carved by some unseen hand. If he didn’t know better, Martin would have sworn that this was the afterlife. After the nightmare that was the Shepherd’s dungeon? This surely seemed like Paradise.

Suddenly, a cry erupted across the battlefield as several figures seemed to slip into place.

“You stand upon the Hallowed Battlefield. No Good can save you, no Evil can claim you. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in the very waters that sustain!”

It was time, then. Quietly, he let his robe fall onto the flowers below. Then at once, he cried so that all could hear.

“So then, who is worthy among us?!”

Martin knelt down the flowers below and drew one of his tomahawks. The words came to him once more as he made a cut along his left palm.

“Oh Lumen, hear your vengeful servant—”

With the wound made, Martin pulled his hands together, anointing his palms with his own blood before taking both of his weapons in hand.

“I offer myself as a living scourge to the One above all, to the sun and stars that grace the sky. Let it be known that evil shall never reign where I walk. To those who live righteously, have no fear; He shall protect you, and my steel will not find you! But to the guilty ones—”

With dark blood and heavy steel in hand, the snake-bearing youth rose to his feet.

“. . . May Lumen have mercy on you, for I am His Life-Taker, and your trial begins.”

Now, Martin would wait and see who would dare answer his challenge. Doubts and whispers leaped in his mind, but he pushed them back. For this was no time for fear.

Besides, what did Martin have to fear? He was the Life-Taker, and he knew that he was never truly alone, not even here.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 4
1/30/2020 0:15:30   
Necro-Knight
Member

The cavernous tunnels seemed to stretch on forever. A turn here, a climb there, a two-story drop after that. Aleisha had stopped trying to memorize the path decades ago and simply let her instincts guide her, for trying to make sense of something that had none to perceive only led to true madness. She had not been summoned back to the Master’s domain in such a long time and the suddenness of the tug at her soul had left a permanent furrow in her brow during her travels. The tradition of her servitude was messages and debilitating visions that came without warning, buckling her mind under the presence of the Master. The order would be slammed upon her psyche without mercy, before vacating her mind as quickly as it had arrived. This experience, while typically leaving her gasping for breath and trembling, had become such a norm that the subtle nature of her latest summoning had left a feeling of unease lingering at the base of her neck.

Finally, as she once again ran through the expansive list of possibilities in her mind, she found herself in the great hall that was her Master’s throne room. Pillars of dark stone stretched high above her head and meet at a singular cylindrical shape running the length of the ceiling, forming an almost ribcage-like appearance. Where each pillar met the central column, the same rune was carved into the stone, their edges glowing with a malicious crimson light that reflected off Aliesha’s burnt-orange armor. At the far end of this great, dark hall sat the Master himself. His form did not simply suggest power or authority; it radiated it. A tangible weight upon her that once again forced the air from her lungs in an almost comfortingly familiar fashion. Still, she continued along the smooth floor, the footfalls of her boots echoing loudly amidst the silence, before finally reaching the foot of the massive throne.

She had seen the Master in person numerous times over the years, but his being never ceased to leave her awestruck. Pale green skin stretched across muscles rippled with power, both physical and arcane, while armor the color of furious storm clouds followed the contours and shapes of the hulking form like a second skin. Spikes jutted from the outer plating, as if the power of this being had attempted to escape and expanded the metal from within before submitting entirely. Raising her gaze that much more, she finally met the Archfiend face-to-face for the first time in years. Where six eyes should’ve reflected her visage back at her, instead only pits of fiery orange light burned. While she sensed no joy or excitement from the Master at this moment, it was difficult to read him as his mouth was a mass of teeth the length of her entire forearm, leaving no lips to betray his mood. The dark crimson horns that curled up from the sides of his skull only added to the staggering height of this being and she wasted no time in kneeling before him, knowing her place among the Nation without question.

Minutes slipped by and she held her pose, breath coming in short, ragged gasps that she did her best to keep silent. His presence was all but crushing now, leaving her body little room to expand her lungs or even rise from her position to voice her discomfort. Aleisha had seen those who showed the Master impatience or disrespect. Both inside and out. She would not risk her life with such immature actions. She had learned from the dead and remained kneeling, head down, until finally she both heard and felt Nulgath the Archfiend speak in a voice that rumbled like a volcano ready to erupt.

“My Herald… war is coming, and not one the Nation can afford to miss.”

She did not raise her head or try to fight for a larger breath, she simply listened, dark hair hiding her own glowing eyes. Her master continued.

“This is unlike your previous assignments, which were more of a… harvesting, a reaping of souls in mass quantities, but with lower overall potency among themselves. These souls make for a convenient morsel in the moment, but ultimately, I need greater fuel if I am to dominate every realm in which I have influence.”

Aleisha recalled some of her more recent quests. Villages, chapels and even entire cities had fallen beneath her blade. Every soul she extracted through merciless conquest was sent screaming back to the void where her Master made use of them, grinding them within the gears of the ever-growing war machine that was his Nation or twisting them into hideous minions. While most souls were torn forcibly from their mortal shells across a multitude of realms and dimensions, not every being’s fate was decided without consent. Some mortals eagerly signed their souls away in exchange for a molecule of the Archfiend’s power, becoming both fuel and servant in one stroke of a blood-tipped pen.

This was how she herself had come under the fiend’s employ nearly a century ago, when he offered to return her own two herald’s souls to her after their murder by her kingdom’s nobility in an attempt on her life. While hatred had not been in her nature then, a queen could only lose so much before darkness took root in her heart. Following a dark rebirth, her first harvest had been the entirety of her own people. Seventy-five years had passed since then and she had only made a few paces worth of progress towards trading for the two souls she truly loved in all the realms. Deep in her dark core, she pleaded with fate that this new assignment would aid her in expediting that goal.

“This war is beyond the realms themselves, lingering instead in the place between where the rules of existence are…” He paused, frowning as he seemed to hunt for a mortal word that could describe such a place, “...fluid. Ever-shifting. As such, the beings called to lead in this grand conflict are champions in their own right.”

She finally lifted her own fiery gaze to look upon her master, eyes widening as her mind filled in the gaps. Beings of such power and status would be worth far more than their own spiritual weight in souls if she were able to harvest even a handful and if she managed to reap her usual number of beings, she could perhaps even earn her ultimate reward in one final assignment.

The Archfiend smiled truly now, mouth widening even more and only adding to his inhuman nature, “I sense the eagerness, the hunger, for this bloodshed already burning within you, my Herald, without you ever having to voice it. As I’m sure you have gathered, you will be my champion in this matter and bring back as much power as you are able. Should you succeed…”

Nulgath lifted a massive hand and spread his fingers, the air in his palm crackling with a bright blue energy. After a few moments, a pair of wispy, glowing orbs appeared, floating just above his skin. Aleisha nearly lept from her kneeling position, muscles trembling at the sight of her heralds. Every feral instinct she had honed over the decades screamed in unison, to jump and seize that which was hers. To show her speed and power and reclaim those who hadn’t deserved their fate, but even as she shook with restraint, she remained at the foot of he who held rights to her own soul.

“Return to me with the souls of these champions and you will have what is yours returned to you, to do with as you see fit. Forge them into monsters, weapons or playthings, I care not. Bring me what I desire and the reward shall be yours.”

Almost as if to accentuate the finality of the order, the sound of singing metal and cutting air drew her gaze over her left shoulder, where Aleisha spotted whirling form of one of the Archfiend’s many infamous oblivion weapons. Much like the one she had strapped to her back, this weapon was controlled through the sheer dominating will of its owner, rather than through physical prowess, though this technique required no less amount of practice.

The jagged longsword swept around them like a child’s thrown toy before finally stopping and making a singular, clean slice downward. Its crimson blade seemed to disappear into nothing as it stabbed forward, but as it continued to cut downward, reality itself parted around its edge. The edges of the portal were rough and chaotic, as if they were being burned by a fire she couldn’t perceive, but what truly caught her gaze was the place beyond the gateway itself.

A city, but like none she had ever conquered. Pristine white and black stone laid out a nearly disorienting display of what had to be the closest example of perfect she had ever witnessed across the realms. Towers reached towards the sky like teeth from a massive maw and tight streets led down into what must’ve been a maddening underbelly. A few moments later and she was standing in one of the beautifully-carved courtyards, the portal seeming to have come to her instead of her Master waiting for her to leave of her own will. Her own obsidian skin and jagged armor stood out as a near-violent contrast to the place, and she realized that no typical mortal filth stained even the lower streets she could see through fences or over railings. Only a place truly untouched by the realms could hold such an exemplary state and she wondered if this was to be where such a war would take place.

As she began walking south along a chequered street lined with booths and racks of supplies, Aleisha began running strategies through her mind. If the Master had sent her, then the beings she would be facing had to be just as, if not more, powerful than herself. Defeat was not a fear that lingered in her empty heart, but failure to her Master a risk now more than ever. Were she to return empty-handed, or worse, defeated and shamed, the Archfiend would not only reclaim the gifts he’d bestowed upon her, but treat her men to a fate worse than their original deaths.

Hissing softly through pointed teeth at the thought, she steeled against such negativity as she rounded a corner and knocked shoulders with one of the many faceless beings that silently wandered the city. She sensed no souls among the alien forms, at least not ones she recognized and decided they were too far below her concern to be harvested before the real fighting began.

After deciding she needed to veer off the beaten path, Aleisha bent her long legs and leapt down from a bridge she’d been half-way through crossing. She dropped a few stories before landing in a deep crouch in a back alley. Rising back to her impressive height of well beyond six feet, the Void Herald took in her new surroundings. Maddeningly familiar alleys now rose up around her and a dead end almost seemed to mock her from the right. By this point, she was unaware if this was a war of the blade, or one of the mind and she had not been informed ahead of time. Growling with frustration, she turned to her left, hoping for better results. What greeted her was a door that stretched well above even her own head, the white and ebony pattern reflecting the glow of her eyes back at her as she came closer.

“Doors always lead somewhere…”

Taking a few steps back, Aleisha unleashed a savage kick, her patience running thin long before this point. As her narrow boot met the stone and sent the doors swinging open, a torrent of water erupted from within, consuming her in its currents. Her senses, both physical and magical, were stripped away as she was drug beneath the surface.Even if Nulgath had blessed her with the ability to survive underwater, she was not sure it would have mattered. She felt her arcane power stripped away, her lungs suddenly burning with an almost-mortal level of exhaustion as she kicked and clawed at the sinking current around her. Turning her gaze downward to perhaps see the source of her downward current, she frowned in bewilderment as it seemed she was suddenly heading towards another surface.
Spots beginning to form in her vision and her skull beginning to ache towards the base of her neck, Aleisha twisted with as much speed as her aching muscles would allow and kicked towards the light of this underwater surface. Combined with the flow of the depths already behind her, the motion propelled her from beneath the water’s surface, sending her lanky form soaring across the body of water. As she gasped for air, trying to fill her lungs all at once, she felt every drop of the Master’s gifts return. The aches in her muscles faded nearly instantly, replaced with the buzzing hum of power ready to be unleashed.

Senses returned and sharp, Aleisha turned the leap from the water into a roll as she met dry ground, crushing flowers and grass as she did so, before finally coming up on her feet. Her black hair clung to her jawline and neck, giving her gaunt appearance an even more unnatural feel as she took in her new location, eyes burning once again with their unholy fire. Flowers, a winding set of golden rivers leading to the glittering pool she must’ve just arrived from and a sky that reminded her of many paintings she’d destroyed in her conquests.

As she gazed up at it, wondering why such places of beauty would be chosen to hold such devastation, the glittering light from the liquid gold of the pools suddenly rose of its own accord and erupted towards the heavens as if to escape the coming bloodshed… or to signal it.

“You stand upon the Hallowed Battlefield. No Good can save you, no Evil can claim you. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in the very waters that sustain!”

Many voices speaking at once wasn’t something new to the Void Herald, and the confirmation to her assumption drew a grin from her lips. She rose her left arm and snapped her long fingers, the bright orange eye located in her palm looking around in an almost spastic flurry, and a fraction of her will was sent out into the air. Her weapon obeyed, the large, knife-like weapon drawing itself from the slot in her armor’s carapace and hovering close to her left side, bobbing lazily, like a fisherman’s lure awaiting its first victim.

A shirtless man, one she couldn’t identify as mortal or not from this distance, was already crying out his challenge of her worth and was kneeling among the dainty flowers as he did so. A short laugh bubbled up from her throat and she flicked a finger. Her weapon obeyed, slicing a horizontal arc ahead of her and decapitating the beautiful plants in one swift motion, before raising straight again at her right side.

Her voice, once again strong and crackling with fiendish fire, called back across the pools to the man, “If you are quite done plotting out your own grave among the flowers, little man, come and test my worth yourself. I do so love playing with my prey..."
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 5
1/30/2020 1:20:37   
roseleaf320
Creative!


“No.”

The tall, elven woman’s stern voice split through the silence, her wooden staff firmly planted into the grass beneath her feet. She faced a muscular human male who, at the sound of her command, shrunk behind the young elven girl who served as his escort. His voice was shaky, but determined. “Leaf Which Floats On Raging Currents, I urge you to consider the possibilities. We have the best forgemasters this side of the ocean- we could provide your clan with all they could possibly need.”

The elf’s blue eyes shone with disdain. “We need nothing created by man.” She turned her head, addressing the elderly woman next to her, who seemed resistant to the strong verdict. “If you give humans an inch, they will take a mile, until our entire forest is nothing but smoke and industry. Squirrel Running Through Bushes, would you kindly escort our guest to the border?”

The human knelt to the ground, tipping his head respectfully. “Thank you for allowing me into your home, Leaf Which Floats On-”

“Don’t test my hospitality.”

The man nodded one last time as Squirrel pulled him away from the cluster of elves. Their stares flicked between Leaf and the human as he disappeared behind the trees with his escort, not one of them daring to say a word.

Sometimes, silence echoes through the forest louder than any wail.


After the pair were out of sight, the elder woman placed a hand gently on the elf’s shoulder. “Leaf…”

“I am the protector of this forest, mother. I’m just doing my job. That man seeks to control things that must be left alone. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must ensure our trespasser makes it over the border safely.” She turned abruptly away from her mother, pale purple hair flowing in the wind behind her as she adopted a brisk pace, not bothering to look back at the others in her clan. She heard their whispers, though. Surely they were as indignant as she felt right now. The nerve of that rat, trying to use his charm and false promises to gain a hold on the sacred forest. And how dare her mother question her decision making? The role of diplomat fell to Leaf now.

The gurgling of the river pulled her away from that dangerous spiral of thought, and back to her beloved forest. Eythyr was restless, beckoning for Leaf to come and play. Her current path wouldn’t cross its waters, but… Squirrel was a smart kid, she would ensure the human left. So Leaf turned, answering the river’s call with a gentle song of her own. Soon she stood at its banks, water splashing across sand to reach her bare feet A few paces away, the water dropped off, plunging a hundred feet down to meet the water beneath it. It called me to the falls…

Leaf sighed, her restless heart calmed by the river. She sat on the shore, her feet resting in its waters, and absentmindedly scooped up some of the water. It floated above her hand, shaping various animals and flowers in response to the small flick of Leaf’s fingers. “Eyth… I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m more comfortable with rocks than people. I feel like every time I try to speak it just goes wrong.”


Wrong… as soon as she said it, she noticed the pit in the bottom of her stomach. A sharp unease, deeper than just a response to the human. A foreign song began to brush against her ears, a thousand whispers roiling on top of each other. The river grew violent, surging over the cliff like a pack of dogs to a feast. Leaf jumped backwards to avoid getting caught in its rage. Her breathing grew faster and faster, and the fight to push down her anxiety was failing. Had she said something wrong? Was it trying to push her over the edge?

No, that was ridiculous. Eythyr had chosen her in the first place, had blessed her with this connection to nature. It had to be trying to tell her something. She ran across the shore to peer over the waterfall, to find some explanation for Eythyr’s unease. Perhaps…

“Seems you’re having a bit of trouble connecting, huh, Eyth?”

Instead of crashing into the pool at the bottom, the cascade continued downward, consumed by a dropoff which cut through the earth itself. Though Leaf could sense of the environment around her, the hole escaped her perception- everything just felt normal. As if the chasm just… wasn’t there.

“Well… you can’t just go on an adventure without me.”

Without a second thought, Leaf ran uphill to the top of the waterfall, wading into the raging current, and jumped.




A white dress railed across checkered ground, disappearing around a corner moments after Leaf caught sight of it. The elf stood still as a statue, her mouth agape. “Em…”

Abandoning the portal through which she’d come, with no worry about where her sudden dive had taken her, she was racing down the street, black and white tiles blurring together as she gained speed. “Emilia!” She turned the corner, only to see the dress disappearing once again. Eythyr must have brought her here, must have known Emilia would be here.

“Leaf!”

She knew that voice. She had spent too many months yearning to hear that voice again. She flung herself around the second corner and came to a screeching halt. Facing her, about 30 feet down the road, was a beautiful human woman. She seemed to be in her early 40s, her hair betraying the first gray wisps of age. Each hair, each freckle on her skin, had been committed to Leaf’s memory, left untouched by time. The world around them was filled with metal and stone, the harshness beating at Leaf’s senses, but this was something no animatronic could duplicate.

“Emilia… I, uh, you know I’m no good at… uh…” Why isn’t she smiling? Shouldn’t she be happy I’m here? That I finally found her?

Leaf took one more step forward, her bare foot hitting ivory, and Emelia did smile. A wonderful smile, her mouth wide, her eyes sparkling. Leaf could see tears sliding down her cheeks, and felt her own eyes growing watery. There were so many questions, so many things to discuss, but for now… where were they again?

As though Emilia could sense the momentary distraction, her tears fell faster, flowing down her face and dripping onto her chest. Water began to bubble and spill out of her mouth until it seemed like the spout of a fountain. Her dress, her skin, even her hair became wet until they were soaked through. She coughed once, twice, before the water washed away her freckles and left behind a faceless metal robot.

“No!” Leaf was a fool. Emilia was gone, swallowed by Eythyr’s falls for her senselessness. Leaf had seen the ribbon wash up on shore, a warning to those who wished to play Chosen. “You abandoned me. You don’t deserve my mourning! You left me!”

And yet there Leaf was, her tears splashing against cold tile, her sobs echoing off the crowded buildings. She stayed there, long after she had run out of tears, utterly alone in this unnatural and evil place. She slept there, curled into a ball, ivory and ebony her only bed.




Leaf awoke to silence, to a thick mist that clung to her. The Pearl had awoken from her necklace, and sat against her stomach, while she was still curled up in a fetal position. Am I back in the river? Was that all a dream?... But the mist’s embrace began to falter, and Leaf found herself lying in a shallow stream, staring up at a golden and rosy sky. Glancing around, she saw Eythyr swirling across the landscape, shining bright in the morning sunrise. Wildflowers and grasses blew in the slight breeze. Could this be the river’s heart? The center of all things?

But as she lay in the water, something felt off. She felt life around her. She stood up, her dress wet from the water’s kiss, and pulled the Pearl to its home atop her staff. She wasn’t alone here. She saw two figures near the center pool, and sensed others around her. Why are there people here?

When the battlecry came, she could tell it wasn’t from another person in the glen. It came from the earth itself, and all the grass and water echoed it, a noise greater than any animal howl or elven wail. Leaf resisted the urge to cover her ears- she knew it wouldn’t help. Golden sparks began to eminante from Eythyr’s center, spreading outwards through its arms and rising upwards as if to escape the water’s grasp. Like little souls… Whatever was about to happen… was going to happen now.

The cry came again, with even more fervor than earlier. To her ears, it sounded as incoherent as the whispers which first beckoned her down the waterfall. But she could tell what they meant. This wasn’t the heart of Eythyr. This was a battlefield. And she was one of the soldiers. She was too shocked to feel panic or angert. She knew that would probably set in much later- if it ever got the chance. She just felt a low settling in her stomach, an acceptance. But not of something good.

“Eyth you know how jumpy I am. How much I hate fighting.”

The river didn’t sing to her this time. It didn’t move. It just met her despair with cold silence. A “deal with it” kind of silence.

Fine. I guess I will.
Post #: 6
1/30/2020 1:58:50   
Chaosweaver Amon
Friendly!


Whispers.

They were all I could hear as I walked slowly through the flawless streets. They were what called me here...I wasn't sure when or how, but day by day those whispers grew louder as they drew me into this immaculate place. The place worth leaving my ship for.

The whispers grew louder. But what were they saying? It was maddening. Hearing the whispers just too soft to decipher.

At first, I thought it was the Blank Men. That was the name I decided upon when I first encountered one of the strange figures. Terrifyingly plain, just to look at them was uncomfortable. I couldn't see them without feeling guilt, regret, frustration, or any other possible distraction that piled on top of the maddening whispers. It wasn't them, though. There was something else alive in this city, I just couldn't find it. So I continued my trek through the twisting maze that made up the streets. Louder and louder the whispers became, and I was getting forever closer to hearing them, subconsciously knowing that I was losing myself here. Whether it was the exhaustion, the whispers, or the Blank Men, my mind was heavy, slow, and foggy, and deep down I knew that the source of the whispers would fix me. I needed to find it. There was no other option. It felt like life or death at this point, getting so lost in the checkered streets. Twisting and turning, deeper I continued into the merge until I found it.

The source of the voices. I had come to a wide courtyard, surrounded by seven other streets apart from mine. In the center sat a large chest made of a smooth dark wood that I didn't recognize. I saw nobody coming from the other streets, so I slowly approached it.

By now the sky had grown dark, and a heavy mist drifted across the checkered stones below me. The whispers grew louder and louder, almost clear enough for me to understand. The fog in my mind was so heavy now; the whispers were all I could hear. There was nothing else that mattered. Finally, I stood in front of the chest. There was no lock, just a simple metal latch. I knew better than to get too close, so I stayed away and gently lifted it open with my sword.

The fog cleared. Not just in the courtyard, but my mind as well. The dark sky was illuminated by blinding golden sparks erupting from the chest, and the whispers suddenly turned into screams, deafening, yet still unclear.

I staggered back, blinded by the light. I squinted to see the golden sparks still erupting into the sky from other parts of the city. It wasn't the only thing I noticed. Dozens of the Blank Men sprinted towards me, standing with perfect posture, ultra-focused on me. I delivered a wide kick to the closest one and ran. I hadn't realized how light they were until I saw how far it flew. Charging towards the closest alley I sliced through another like paper, before jumping up onto the side of one of the smooth white buildings, pushing off to spring off of the opposite wall and land on top of a house. I had a clearer view of the city, now that I was up high. I darted across the tops of buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, listening to the footsteps of the Blank Men below. I had no idea where to go-I had gone miles deep into the empty maze.

The sparks rained down, and suddenly I heard it. A wonderful familiar sound. Water flowing. A river. Get to the river. But where was it?

I paused, trying to listen for a clearer current sound. All I could hear were the seemingly endless footsteps. I could tell that some of the sparks weren't cascading straight down. They fell at an angle; blown by some breeze. I knew the current would be following the same direction, so that's what I decided to follow. It was only now as I paused that I realized that the Blank Men were quickly ascending to the rooftops. I sheathed my sword and hefted my poleaxe in one hand, as ready as I was going to be.

Three came at me, fast. I was faster. I spun rapidly and cut them down with a single stroke. I was completely surrounded. I cursed and spun, thanking my poleaxe for its perfect balance. I was a windmill, cutting through them left and right, desperate to find an opening. Dozens upon dozens fell around me until for one brief moment, there was a pause. More were climbing onto the roof, but I had a chance. Slinging my poleaxe onto my back I flipped over them and landed lightly on the opposite rooftop before sprinting again. Almost there.

Two cut me off, and I let my sword take care of them. Almost.

Three more fell in front of me. I could see the last rooftop. I was drenched in sweat. Almost.

I only landed on the final rooftop for a second before I leaped off...and landed on grass. Grass?

Rising to my feet, I turned to face the Blank men. To my relief, they were gone. To my surprise, so was the city. I had seen many inexplicable instances of magic before, but this was something even I had never encountered. From the mysterious city, I had somehow been transported into the middle of an open field, not far from a large central lake. Wide, curving rivers spiraled out from it to either side of me, and continued on far behind me. It was beautiful here, perfectly serene, but the hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and I could tell what type of place this was.

"You stand upon the Hallowed Battlefield. No Good can save you, no Evil can claim you. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in the very waters that sustain!”

There is a certain atmosphere on a battlefield, and I had been in enough battles in my lifetime to know what one felt like. This. I grinned, and let my sword sit more comfortably in my hand. Finally, maybe it was time for a real fight.

< Message edited by Chaosweaver Amon -- 1/30/2020 18:45:05 >
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 7
1/30/2020 12:30:10   
Oddball
Member

“That’s the last time I let a machine lay its hands on me!”

Shouting back through the front door of the establishment, Fierra rolled her left shoulder with a wince. She definitely wasn’t expecting a ‘comfortable massage’ to involve the automaton to nearly break her arm, but here she was… In an unfamiliar city with nary a single, familiar, face in which she could attach herself to. Well… That wasn’t quite correct, some of the automatons wandering her vicinity wore the faces of her fellow clan members! Choosing, in particular, to appear as those who had fallen, the exact same people Fierra had started her journey to avenge.

But that was all in the past now, her revenge had been oh-so sweet and she found immense joy in watching the life fade out of the culprit’s eyes as she stood above them. Now? She, herself, was a wanderer, finding herself moving from city to city, always looking for something to help pass the time. She wasn’t picky with her activities, she couldn’t exactly afford to be either… When you have no goal? Anything would do to fill the void. She had thought getting revenge for her fallen clanmates would have brought an endless joy to her, where she could celebrate night by night! And, for a small while, it did. But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and her joy slowly faded and transformed into something else.

Still, finding herself in odd situations happened to be Fierra’s favourite, and most treasured, hobby! It was the only thing she had left to, truly, excite her besides combat. Something about the idea of not knowing what could come around the corner struck some sort of chord with her and the checkerboard-like city she had found herself in a few days prior was a seemingly endless maze. There had been many occasions where Fierra had swore she had visited the area before and, most definitely, hadn’t. Such was the way of this strange city.

“What’sa girl gotta’ do to find somethin’ fun to do around here, anyway? Even smashin’ up these robots does nothin’ since they just repair themselves!”

1

2

3

No response, not even a whisper answered her desperate cries. The inhabitants of the city paid her no mind, ignoring the pleas of a woman bored half to death. Her fist found a nearby automaton, the woman’s blow mighty enough to send it spiralling into a closeby wall. Even so, this short burst of anger did nothing to disrupt the flow of the city and within moments, it had repaired both the automaton and the wall.


“Your order, ma’am?”
“Somethin’ warm, surprise me.”

Fierra had found herself in a conveniently placed Inn, or something in a similar vein at least, and was glad to have found a spot to, actually, rest. Sure, she was a wanderer and used to long walks, but even she needed a 15 minute break on the rare occasion. Stretching her limbs out, Fierra takes a moment to observe her surroundings, keeping a mental note of specific items dotted around the rest of the room. A large broadsword lay across the table opposite her, gems of all kinds covered a good 30-40% of the weapon’s handle… Wouldn’t be comfortable to wield, that’s for certain. A larger-than-average pen sat on the inn’s counter, probably out of ink since it had just been left there by its previous owner since, again, Fierra was alone in the building, besides the innkeeper who was, surprisingly, flesh and bone.

Something about this place felt familiar to the woman. Maybe it was the open fire that Fierra had, instinctively, rested near? Maybe it was the incredible detail on the wooden beams supporting the building’s ceiling, endless waves of small patterns all perfectly synched with one another.

A loud ‘clink!’ against the table brought Fierra’s attention back down to reality and to the innkeeper, who stood proudly with a smile adorning her features. Fierra liked pretty things, and this innkeeper was definitely on that scale.

“One cuppa’, on the house.”

Free stuff? Oh heck yes! Fierra gladly took the mug in her hands, taking a short sip of the drink that had been, so graciously, placed in front of her. The first sip reminded her of some sort of bizarre combination of a hot, refreshing mint drink and a smoothie.. The second was more like a normal coffee, just with an absolute tonne of sugar mixed in. She looked up to try and call the waitress again, but they seemed to have disappeared entirely. The room around her began twisting and contorting, misshaping everything that, once, was sat neatly. Colours warped into a single, block colour that rapidly flashed in the exact order of White, Blue, Black, Red and then Green. Everything in her near vicinity emitted a sudden, loud screeching noise before the gems on the blade began to shatter one by one, each emitting a sudden burst of wind that rearranged the interior of the building. Something was, indeed, happening to her, she just couldn’t fathom what that something could be, a thick mist had begun to roll through the room which, among everything else, was rather strange seeing as Fierra was indoors. At least she thought she was...

And then, the tranquil sound of running water finally reached Fierra’s ears. Everything that had been surrounding her had vanished suddenly, leaving the woman free with her own thoughts. It was… comforting, to her amazement. After spending most of the last week by herself, she would have expected this to be much more of a problem than it actually was. Still, she at least had to get up and see where she was, she couldn’t spend the entire day laying flat on her face now, could she?

Rising from her spot, Fierra’s mouth crept open in awe, she was absolutely certain she was just in that Chequered city.. How did she end up in such a gorgeous, open field? Even just being in this place seemed to relax her body significantly, which was appreciated! At least she got rid of that irritation in her shoulder. The sight of the area was absolutely breathtaking, two spiraled rivers ran in opposite directions from each other and were, honestly, rather hypnotising, she’d have to watch out for that.. It seemed to her that one of the rivers started just to the right of her, and the one in front of her curved off to the right. The grass was immaculate, and each flower was perfectly aligned like an experts’ painting.

An immense battlecry snapped the woman out of her stupor, one that filled the woman with an overwhelming sense of pride, and battlelust! But one that also calmed her nerves just as effectively as the flowing water. It was such a strange, yet euphoric, feeling that Fierra had suddenly found washing over her, and she was stunned by its uniqueness. That was, unti, cry began again, now with one precise message.

“You stand upon the Hallowed Battlefield. No Good can save you, no Evil can claim you. Prove yourself worthy, Pawns, or perish in the very waters that sustain!”

A smile broke out across Fierra’s features, now THIS was a way to keep her boredom at bay for, at least, a small while! She finally noticed the other combatants that had been whisked away to this battlefield, taking particular notice in the shirtless, shouting man who stood across the way from her, and the armoured warrior challenging him from the opposite side of the river from him.

“Let’s get this party started then!” With a mighty yell of her own, Fierra grabbed the gourd she had kept safe at her side and took a short swig of the contents, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Her smile widened into an, almost, maddened grin, she hadn’t been involved in an actual combat scenario in quite a few months, and this whole situation was perfect for her.
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 8
1/30/2020 18:41:35   
nield
Creative!


Stab-stab

Noise, noise, noise. First from all the ground around, a grand cacophony of a single sound, a sound so brief, yet so many and so varied. What did it all have to say? Nothing of real import, that she could tell. The whispers had told her everything she needed to know; fight and the pain would go away.

Stab-stab

So who were these others? Across the pool, there was an evil directly ahead trudging from the waters. Off to its and her left, a good, producing more worthless noise. That one was a dark good, however. The type that knew that sometimes like must be repaid with like. They were unpredictable, much like those for whom she had no sense.

Stab-stab

Off to the right, another evil. Sending out noise because it liked to hear itself. Very standard for that type. But-
There.

Further ahead, beyond the quiet evil and the noisy good. Another good. A light good. The type that had no idea the cruelty it could be capable of. She had her-

That smell.

She dived ahead a good step, twirling and raising her wings to admire her unintended handiwork. She hadn’t noticed the tips of her wings resting in the long grasses, which had set them ablaze.

Stab-stab

But the flames were not spreading. The lit grass was happy to burn away without spreading its warmth to its kin. She turned to once more regard that light good. Her selected target—

”But my dear girl! You’re a Niqxzlqotl! Should you not pay heed to your better natures and claw the evil out of the world?” She turns to regard me, eyes narrowed. “Reiter.” She spits the word out and I sigh, raising a wagging finger. “No no no, dear girl! It’s ‘Writer’!” Here in her mindscape, where time cannot pass, she crosses her arms and regards me. “Leave me be. My life is no story for you.”

I grin, eyes widening as more and more teeth are revealed. “But my dear, Jicella-” She winces, as she always does at the sound of her name- “Your life is a tragedy! And ALL tragedies are the providence of writers!” She turns away from me, retreating from her mindscape for now. But she can never ignore me for long. You understand what I mean, don’t you?


—standing in the river. Her distaste for getting wet would not save the good from her. Though no longer her natural locomotion she settled down onto all fours.

Stab-stab

Off she went, running through the grasses, her wings trailing in the air behind her. The dark good was focussed on the evils, good, that lot were natural enemies, let them deal with one another. The light good saw her coming however, splashing across the river to the far bank. A curious move. Why not engage where she stood? Or in the middle of the river, where a quadruped would be most disadvantaged?

Stab-stab

As she herself splashed into the river, she snarled, twitching and wincing at every drop hitting her face. She HATED getting wet—

”Of course you do! You’re just a big cat after all! Ahahaha!” She snarled and struck at me. No effect of course. Not like I’m really there. Not that she could do a thing to me if I were. Then gone again, back to her real world.

—and worse, while the river wasn’t exactly DEEP, she still had to rise onto only two legs to make proper progress when she neared the middle. Not to mention her target was slinging stones at her, one had flown overhead whilst she was still on all fours, another was batted out of the air by her wing as she rose to only two legs. Facing down the light good now, she had a decent look at them.

Stab-stab

Female, definitely. Visual appearance not unlike that of the Elfs, she decided. Not quite the same, but similar. She strode forward, arms low to either side, her claws twitching. “So then. Shall we get down to business?”
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 9
1/30/2020 23:50:48   
Chewy905
Member

She had been able to recover his sword in the aftermath. It had somehow remained pristine, unstained by the events that had unfolded. It felt… wrong… for it to be so untouched. As if he had taken what his blade deserved. She kept it displayed above the hearth, now. The light of the flames flickering across it and casting haunting shadows on its sheath. The quiet crackle of flames was the only noise in that house now, a house that used to sing with lively music some days and the joyful clashing of steel on others. Every now and then, she would take the sword down, and sit on the ground with it before her.

Time and time again, she had attempted to draw it, as he had so many times. But she was never able to bring herself to set eyes on its steel, or to give anyone else that chance. It shamed her. Her tears would come, leaking from her one eye, rolling down her face, and dropping onto the sheath. The wet droplets flowed through and traced the intricate, beautiful designs that it held. Every time she was unable to unsheath his blade was a failure in her eyes. So she took her own, melted it down, and reforged it.

She promised herself she would never again draw her own blade until she could draw his first.




”So then, who is worthy among us?!”

A roar, a cry, a challenge. The man that screamed it was as pale as she, kneeling on strong legs, black serpents of ink writhing across his skin in uncovered glory.

He was so noisy.

As he stood, massive weapons in hand, Silence crossed the river between them. Her steps were slow, light, as she drifted softly over the grass and into the cool liquid. She felt her spirit drown once more as the water clung to her bare feet, but she continued onwards. More ghostly strides released her from the beautiful blue grasp as she rose up onto the shore. Behind her, another cry rang out, a second challenge to answer the first, but she paid it no heed.

The man turned to her, his emerald eyes hard and focused. Though his body grew tense, and those emerald orbs took in her presence, he did not act.

“You. Where does your heart lie? We need not be enemies in this war, but the choice is yours.”

Silence stopped, standing straight at attention, one hand absently resting on her solid, bladeless sheath. Her silver eye wordlessly swept across the man, taking in every last detail.

Sickly in appearance, but strong in build, stronger than I. Perhaps slower. Large weapons, hopefully equally slow. Abuse speed, abuse my secrets, and run him out of this place.

She spoke in a low whisper, a ghostly wisp of a voice that carried on the glade wind just enough that the tattooed man would be able to hear her, if he strained to listen.

“You are far. Too. Loud.”

Instantly her entire posture changed. Her leg snapped backwards into a steady stance. Her arm crossed her body and her hand closed on the hilt of her steel as her other hand twisted into place to assist. In a flash, the sheath was skyward, cutting through the gorgeous shades of gold, rose, lavender, before rocketing down towards the man’s skull with the speed and precision of an executioner’s craft.
Post #: 10
2/1/2020 22:57:21   
Dragonknight315
Member

He did not have to wait long.

“If you are quite done plotting out your own grave among the flowers, little man, come and test my worth yourself. I do so love playing with my prey..."

Like gargled fire, a voice boomed with laughter across the crystal lake. Martin focused with his emerald eye, and he saw a most appalling sight— Armor like bone, burned with hues of red and orange, adorned with strange shapes and strange sights. It seemed to be one and the same with its wearer as blackened flesh manifested in its cracks. It reveled in its monstrousness. An infernal blade hung by its side, suspended mid-air, eager to partake in the closest living creature.

This was inhuman, a mutation and mockery of all he knew. It was. . .

Twisted.

It was unmistakable. This was the corrupting plague that grasped at the soul of its victims, transforming them into abominations with endless hunger and bloodlust. These would become the Twisted. These were the very enemies of his god. His eyes narrowed as the fangs pressed against his skin. This time, Martin would not hold them back. Like a living serpent, the ink along his left arm began to move, its presence shifting slightly across his flesh. It would stay in its cage for now, but like a notched arrow, it would be ready when the monster drew near.

If one followed him, surely there were more? Who else—

Among the shadows that dotted the battlefield, one combatant immediately stood out in his sight. The figure stepped across the water; it seemed another had answered his call. But for Martin, this sight was no more pleasant than the last. A human, shorter frame than his own. Her skin was pale like a ghost, and her raven hair was turning silver. Another Sickblood, perhaps?

But that mask.

He watched the woman for the smallest twitching of muscles, but his mind kept wandering back to the mask. It was then that his blood ran cold heard a voice speak in his head.

“. . . you will join me and your sisters for the end.”

The Shepherd. His eyes flickered around, looking for his unseen foe, but he was nowhere to be found. The words seemed so distant, but they felt so. . . present, as if he was speaking to him right now.

When the woman held her place, Martin pulled his tomahawks to his chest, and his emerald eyes met her singular grey. He had to be sure.

“You. Where does your heart lie? We need not be enemies in this war, . . . but the choice is yours.”

He scanned the girl for every detail he could grasp. Indeed, her countenance was like his own, strong, calm. He gleaned a sense of quiet resolution to her. A blade hung by her side, but her hands were empty. One simply floated by her hilt, but she did not draw it. A show of self-defense? Perhaps she did not want to draw unnecessary blood. Perhaps they were alike.

But if Martin had learned anything from his Father in these last fifteen years, it was that actions, not assumptions, one should believe in.

There was a pause in the woman. Perhaps she considered his offer. But then, her words came like a thief in the wind.

“You are far. Too. Loud.”

That was his signal. Just as the woman reached for her blade, Martin put one foot back and crossed his tomahawks in the air. The sheath came barreling down with tremendous force, only to be stopped short in the intersection.

“So be it. No more words, then.”

An odd choice, fighting with a sheathe, so he figured there was more to this woman. Regardless, Martin simply didn’t have time to question it right now. She had to fall now before the monster - or anyone else for that matter, turned the tide.

With the leverage in his favor, the Life-Taker pulled with his right hand, the spike tugging the sheath outward to break the woman’s guard. She was strong, that was certain, but he was stronger. At the same time, the ink moved once more as he wound up his left arm then swung, the cold steel racing to cleave where her neck and shoulder met.

If the attack connected, then all was well; Martin would simply move on and take up the Twisted’s offer. But if the woman dodged, or if she unveiled whatever mystery she held, then the scales would be ready. All she had to do was spring the trap.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 11
2/2/2020 19:30:20   
Necro-Knight
Member

A true grin spreading dark lips over sharpened teeth, Aleisha watched as the man's body art shifted and slithered across pathetic muscles. The Master could've crushed this pup with a thought, and as she was an expression of His will, she would have to do the same. She knelt down to dig her claws into the soft earth, raising her legs up to settle on the tips of her clawed boots, expecting this pup to come rushing at her with those little toys of his and pounce upon him with the full force of her might... but he did not. Instead, his gaze wandered elsewhere, reaching another woman and almost... saluting her? Had he not just prepared himself for battle with her? Why the sudden distraction?

Her blazing eyes rolled in a mix of disappointment and simple disgust. If the pup did not consider her worthy of his misplaced skills, then he was clearly not worth harvesting first off. Let him wear out what little strength that mortal shell could dish out before she returned to pluck his soul free from his chest like a ripened fruit. Rising back to her full height, Aleisha cast her own gaze about the battlefield. Another pair of combatants had decided to seek each other's blood, simply adding to the number of weakened prey she would have later on. How helpful of them. Purring softly in amusement, she finally spotted a lone figure far to her right. The shades of dark crimson hues against the emerald fields reminded her of countless battlefields and harvests in the past and with a glance back towards the pup and his new plaything, she figured she could entertain herself with this woman before getting to her true work.

Her blade trailing a few inches behind her, the Void Herald broke into a long-legged sprint, crushing flowers and grass with tiny sparks of satisfaction as she neared the edge of the river. After her previous experience with the strange depths, she had no desire to risk another loss of her connection to the Master, and just as she was about to step into the currents, the water's hunger was already nipping at her strength. Refusing to let it feed upon her once again, she mustered her might and kicked her narrow legs off the lovely ground. As she soared across the water, she noticed her blade begin to drift towards its surface as the currents continued to hungrily leech at her abilities and managed to snap her arm out to catch the weapon before it ended up at the bottom of the river.

Her landing was less than graceful, as it had been earlier, and she cursed the enchanted river loudly in an infernal language as she stumbled back to her feet. Just as it had before, her blessings surged back through her muscles and soul, urging her forward. Hunt. Harvest. Reap the souls of mortals and please her Master.

Blade still held tight in her left hand, Aleisha inhaled, filling her lungs to the point of her muscles aching in protest and tapped into her void energies for the first time since her meeting with Nulgath. Voices rippled through her mind and ripples of black tendrils danced at the edges of her vision, mad and discordant, but the familiar buzz of power was worth the denizens of the abyss noting her willpower among them. All at once, the air held in her lungs erupted from her throat in a terrible, inhuman scream that was sure to echo around the open field, but the full force was directed purely at the woman before her. Strike terror into her heart, send her reeling and let her know that the Herald of Nulgath came for her soul and flesh.
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 12
2/2/2020 22:50:59   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Of all the diverse and sometimes bizarre creatures that lived in El’dorai, Leaf had never once seen one that was on fire. She wasn’t the biggest fan of fire- all it did was cause pain, and it made the forest scream. But here was a being with a mix of human and catlike traits, that toted flame around like a trophy. It had started towards her almost as soon as the battlecry sounded, racing around on all fours like a winged panther. Oh come on, why me?... There’s juicy meat right in front of you! Indeed, there were two others facing off right near the creature, but it skittered past them and made a beeline for Leaf herself. Leaf ran backwards, putting the river between herself and her foe, almost tripping in the process. “Shoot!”

Pull yourself together, Leaf… Battle. You’re on the defensive with this thing. You can defend. Eyth, do your thing for me. She sent the Pearl flying behind her to trace her steps. As it brushed against the tall grass, a rocky layer erupted from its center, spreading outward until its surface was enveloped in its dusty covering. Mysterious new earth, pad my feet and aid my fight. She beckoned the Pearl with her arm, pulling it upwards until it floated a couple feet southeast of her, a little higher than her head. She lobbed a stone projectile from the Pearl towards the ground in front of the flaming animal, hoping to scare it off, but the rock sailed by harmlessly and without so much as a head turn from the creature. Emilia loved playing with the Pearl when she was younger… she’d try to catch the rocks and then giggle when they dissolved in her hands. No- Leaf stopped the thought from going any further. She was supposed to be fighting for her life. She couldn’t get distracted now with sentiments from the past.

By now, the leonian figure had reached the water, and stood on its hind legs to wade across. Now, Leaf could see clearly- its body held the shape of a lean woman, but her face was pale and sunken, and outfitted with a pair of fangs. It was attractive… in a rather eerie way. Leaf sent another muddy projectile towards the animal, but its appearance had caused Leaf to falter, and the rock glanced harmlessly off one of its flaming wings.

“So then, let’s get down to business.” The being’s voice was broken and hoarse. It was still twenty paces away from Leaf, but had slowed considerably in the river, and kept a leisurely walking pace as it strode back onto land towards her. Do we really have to get right to fighting?...

“What are you?” The figure’s strange amalgam of parts fascinated her. In an ideal world, she would get an interesting answer, while hopefully convincing the creature to back down.

"Just a damaged soul, trapped in a box. Living and dead."

“Well… you seem pretty alive to me.” She smiled awkwardly at the woman. Leaf meant it as a genuine compliment (seeming alive is much better than seeming dead), but clearly it hadn’t been taken that way. The beast bared its fangs, and released a guttural snarl which made Leaf shudder.

"I seem so, do I? Well, you won't for very long."

Woah woah, wait, that’s clearly a threat, we don’t need to… yeah, we do. Wherever this battlefield was, Leaf’s route to survival was clear. She had to fight.

Sturdy ground, bless me with your strength, and banish my foes. Leaf tilted the top of her staff downwards and then flicked it up, its swirling wooden tendrils wobbling slightly in Leaf’s shaking grasp. She felt the earth respond—tentative, but willing—rising up at an angle below the being to launch her away from Leaf. Good. That still works.

Post #: 13
2/2/2020 23:12:59   
Chewy905
Member

Though he had blocked her strike, it had not been a result of her movement. His weapons had risen the moment she had spoken a word to him.

He’s jumpy. Reactive.

The harsh sound of ringing metal cut across the glade as sheath met steel. The man took no time to rest, quickly drawing out his right blade, the spiked fang on the back snatching hold of her sheath and throwing it, and her arm, aside.

His left moved, pushing forward with his momentum, swinging his heavy axe down at her. The metal passed through empty air as Silence caught her balance and dove beneath it, a gust of wind created in its path blowing her hair back. She shot up at his open side, the echoes of an inhuman scream across the battlefield going almost unnoticed by her as she honed in on her only target.

Her cyclopion silver gaze locked with one of emeralds as she leveled a finger at his forehead. She whispered one word, once again just barely loud enough for him to hear her on the gentle breeze.

“Volga.”

It was gibberish. A nonsense word that, to her, had no meaning. But to him, facing down the unknown, it could have millions of possible dangers.

On his other side, the air began to shimmer, filling a long, thin space. A third shadow joined the two combatants, cast by the beautiful setting sun. It hovered, still for but a moment, before thrusting forward, intent on planting itself within the man’s side. Ideally, her distraction would prevent him from noticing the unseen threat. But if he did, it’s follow-up would be quick and merciless.
Post #: 14
2/3/2020 1:33:09   
Chaosweaver Amon
Friendly!


I could already hear the songs of battle echo through the air. There was no significant cover to hide behind, so I crouched in the tall grass. I darted to the edge of the central lake. There was a slight dip at the shore, so I squatted cautiously in it.

I could see fighting already...three battles. Two were far away, on the opposite side of the lake, across from the far rivers, but due to the flatness of the land I could still tell that there was no sense of comradery between any of them. The third duelists were closer than I liked, but seemed so preoccupied in their own fight that they hadn't noticed me. I decided they were my target.

Two people. A man and a woman. Both very pale, and dressed in equally light colors. The man looked as though he was on the verge of death, but still moved with impressive agility. The woman had something on her face that I couldn't determine. Neither seemed heavily armored by any means, but it looked as though the man had tattoos. Tattoos are always risky. One can never be sure what they can do. The question was, which one is the greater threat...? My goal was to take out the tougher of the two, and cut down the other while they were off guard and tired.

I weighed my options. They were both quick, but I knew I was quicker. The man's tattoos were unsettling. Were they...moving? The woman was clearly far from harmless as well. Something fought...with her. A second shadow. I cursed. More magic. I hate magic. I rubbed my amulet. If they were magic users, I doubted they were amateurs. Would it be enough? I set my sword on the ground next to me and drew my dagger. Its black blade gleamed from the wetness of the poison it was drenched in. I was at a good angle, I had a perfect line of sight to cut one of them from afar. But which one? I saw the second shadow rise up to the side of the man.

I made my decision.

Rising to one knee, I drew back my arm and threw. The dagger shot through the air in a straight line, right on target. A perfect throw. All it needed was to make the slightest cut, and I knew it would. As it hurtled end over end I grabbed my sword and darted forward through the grass. My blade was ready to taste blood.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 15
2/3/2020 16:57:36   
nield
Creative!


Stab-stab

The Elfin good seemed distracted, taken with her features. “What are you?” she asked, her voice sweet like the morning dew, with a lyrical lilt. Her ear flicked and she locked her orange orbs on the good’s own watery blues. “Just a damaged soul, trapped in a box. Living and dead.” The girl offered her a smile. “Well… you seem pretty alive to me.” She was kind and warm.
STAB-STAB
He had been kind and warm too.


Stab-stab

Her lip curled up, baring her fangs as an ugly noise came forth. “I seem so, do I? Well, you won’t for very long.” Alarm crossed over the good’s face and her snarl turned to a malicious smile. The girl manipulated her wooden rod and suddenly, she felt a trembling in the ground beneath her. She dropped once more onto all fours, her claws digging into the dirt as it raised and tilted, aimed at sending her back towards-
The water.


Stab-stab

That was just insulting. She scrabbled up the tilted earth and launched herself at her target, her wings beating ineffectually as instincts dictated, a primal roar bellowing forth from her lungs that resounded through the plains. Panicked, the good launched another clump of dirt at her, this one bigger than the previous ones that had been flung at her.

Stab-stab

With no desire to get smacked in the face by a big ball of dirt, she raised her claw up and smacked the dirt away with the flat of her hand, the downward force causing her to land a few feet shy of the good. But something strange happened to the clump of dirt. As it returned to its master’s side, the earthen outer layer shed off, to be replaced by spikes. A natural reaction to being attacked, was it? No, not to judge by the slight look of confusion on her target’s face as she considered it. Something else at play?

Stab-stab

She hunched over, putting her face close to the earth below her and swung her wings at her target, her left wing headed for her head, the right headed for her legs.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 16
2/3/2020 18:09:42   
Oddball
Member

The sounds of battle had quickly fallen upon the… Well, battlefield, and Fierra was scanning the playing field through narrowed eyes. If she were to choose an opponent here, she’d have to think carefully about her strategy, and weigh up her options. Though she did think that a sudden spring into danger was a viable option here, there was a huge risk of it backfiring. She was here with six other warriors, each with their own unique set of skills and abilities, blindly running in would, probably, not be the most effective style to go here.


Fierra was content in watching the battles play out in front of her, she was pretty decent at playing the long game, despite her restlessness. At least all the shouting had stopped for now, so she could, at least, hear herself think. Her mind wandered for a brief moment, thinking back to battles prior and the ways in which she had won those. Mostly by keeping her distance and letting other combatants tire each other out before she swept in for the win. A small laugh escaped her lips, she knew that it wasn’t the most honorable way to fight...
“But she who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.” The Monk says aloud, taking another look around the arena to, finally, notice one of the other warriors racing towards her position! Fierra watches through, still, narrowed eyes as her future opponent leaps across the river towards her.


On closer inspection this one looked a lot less human, and more like something straight out of somebody’s nightmares. Ebony skin that stretched horrifically as it lunged towards her, its burnt, orange blade following neatly behind its wielder who, snatched it out of the air just before landing. Fierra stood in front of this beast, a look of slight intimidation clearly visible across her features, but something different sat behind her ice-y blue eyes, something much calmer than Fierra herself seemed.


Fierra finds her foot had moved slightly behind her, and was in prime position for the Monk to turn and begin an, ultimately futile, game of cat and mouse. But something was keeping her locked in that position, watching carefully as the being cursed in its native tongue before it lurched forwards, Fierra’s hands quickly balling up at her sides in case she had need for retaliation.


And then… A scream. A scream that echoed through her entire body. A paralyzing, inhumane scream that felt designed to strike fear into those who hear it. And, for a brief moment, Fierra had fallen into its trap. Taking an involuntary step back, Fierra looked all but ready to turn tail and flee from this opponent! Which was the perfect time for a drink! Though, she'd use any excuse to have some of her home brew. In her years of wandering, she had never found another that could even hold a candle to it.


With her opponent’s searing eyes staring into her own, cold blue, Fierra calmly reaches down to the gourd at her side and takes a small drink, placing it back down to her side.

“I see… Are you to be my first test, then?”
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 17
2/5/2020 0:08:38   
Dragonknight315
Member

She was the beginning—

The Life-Taker grimaced as he traced his opponent, his strike finding no purchase. Had she stalled for another second, it would have torn through both mask and flesh, and her blood would be on his hands. But just as the cold steel was hissing through the air, the woman dove to the left with his assault passing just over her head.

For all the strength Martin bore, she matched with speed in excess. To any onlooker, they were like kin, long lost brother and sister, equal in every right. But that was impossible, Martin knew. He was an only child, the first and the last.

For she was the first victim of his burden. No memories, no paintings, nothing; ‘mother’ was an empty word to Martin. Her first and only act was to leave him. One of Lumen’s many mercies; she was allowed to love him, to never see what her child would become. Now, none by blood remained, but in essence, Martin could see something in the other as his emerald eyes were fixed to her form.

A worthy one indeed. If only you had not chosen this path—

Martin followed the woman’s trail, his heels digging into the ground to face his foe, but just as he was to strike again with his right hand, the woman was already in place. But still, she had not drawn her blade; instead, a single finger met his gaze.

“Volga—”

At the very word, the boy’s instincts took over as his body moved before his mind could process what had occurred. Abandoning his assault, Martin leaned forward and pushed off, carrying the momentum into a leftward roll. The air hissed once more with the sound of blades. As Martin landed, he wasted no time before turning, his tomahawks tearing into the earth. Where he once stood, a shadow lingered in his place. The once heavenly glow seemed to grow discordant with the rays of color scattering in all directions, all forming a thin outline.

Witchcraft—

He could feel the fangs gnawing at his bones as the last few days flooded his mind, of all of the dark magic he had to endure. Just one word from the Shepherd's flock was enough to scar a man. By the stars and sun, he would not endure that pain again. The lock shattered, and another snake was given leave. His right arm twitched as the serpent head whispered to the boy’s ears with killing intent.

She’s one of them, an enemy. Turn her tears to blood and skin to ash—

He turned to look at the witch, eyes locking once again. She had not moved; she merely looked over her foe with the same cold expression as her distortion waited by her side.

Enemies, all of them—

He was sure of it now. The Twisted with their floating blade, the witch commanding their one of their own; he could even see another fool charging in the distance with something in hand. All were likely working together. Sweat mixed drew as his arms trembled, his fingers growing red from clutching his steel. He could feel the chain starting to grow heavy around his neck. How would he survive this trial?

There was only ever a single choice: embrace it—

“I said: No. More. Words.”

Martin lunged forward as the ink moved on both his arms. In a few steps, he tensed his legs, ready to leap forward into a dive, but he knew the witch was watching. She was not the only one graced with sleight of hand. Instead, Martin swept his own feet forward as he went into a slide. The steel hissed once more with the fury of two as he swung towards the witch’s shin. Just as his right arm moved, so too did the snake. Blood and black ink became one as the snake bit into his flesh.

The whispers were replaced with a humming chorus as the pain rippled through his forearm. The bargain was struck, and now one was free. The ink-stained blood wove across it like a second skin. Where there was flesh, only scales remained.

“His blood for theirs,” they sang with sweet laughter. “His pain is to be returned a thousandfold.”


“Only in darkness can one appreciate the light, Martin.”
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 18
2/5/2020 23:14:21   
Chewy905
Member

The Ghostblade had appeared exactly three days after the incident. It followed her as she went about her quiet, mournful days, like a loyal pet. She wanted nothing to do with it. She yelled, screamed, and struck at it, but it never faltered. It wasn’t some animal, to be commanded and berated.

It was her. And she was it. A part of her had known that, the instant it had first shimmered to life as she had sat lifeless before his eternally sheathed blade once more.

She had sighed, the day she finally acknowledged it as her own. She had stood, her own sheath in hand, and called the wispy sliver to her side. For the first time since he had gone, she had assumed her stance. It had felt odd, doing it without him to mirror her.

1
2
3

One swing, invisible steel following sheath.
A backstep, the hidden blocking nothing while sheath rammed empty air.
A push forward, a sweep, and her secret blade at the throat of the phantoms of her imagination.
She had won.


The next day, she did it again. She lost. Then she won. Day after day after day, a silent duel in a silent home.




Silence’s trick worked too well, as the man instantly retreated, his body clearly moving faster than his mind. Sweeping through empty air, she called her blade to her side, and it sat, still, casting a sliver of shadow to join her own.

The warrior spun to face her, his axes cleaving through dirt and grass, a sun-carved emerald swinging on the chain around his neck. The black, serpentine tattoos on his body shimmered, then shifted, sliding along his skin and up his right arm. Unsurprising that she wasn’t the only one here with such tricks.

His eyes locked with hers once more. The fires of rage were apparent in those hard emerald orbs. Pain and fear and a hint of pure, unbridled killing intent. The kind that would kill what’s before him because he believes he can, and would take not a moment to consider the weight.

Shock racing through her body, SIlence forced herself to calmness, returning that rage with only a cold, emotionless stare. This man was one of them. The reason he had fought. The reason she had trained. And the reason…

The shrouded half of her face grew cold. It felt cold. That was impossible.

“I said: No. More. Words.

She took a slight step back, careful not to step into the water, and shut her eye, falling into her stance once more. Her mind raced, crafting another wraith of thoughts, a wispy approximation of the man before her. In her mind it leapt forward, faster than possible, and swung, one above and one below.

Her eye shot open as she reacted, her sheath moving through empty air to block a strike that didn’t exist, while her mind’s blade swung low, clashing with the man’s true blow. Though the ghostly steel stood strong, Silence did not, her false block throwing off her balance.

She tried to step back, but the gentle water lapped up against her bare foot. She remembered the feeling of her soul drowning beneath those quiet waves, and her heart seized up. No.

Instead, she leapt straight up, and her blade rushed up to greet her, its invisible grip filling her empty left hand. The air moved aside as her arm rushed downwards, silent blade driving itself to pierce Anger’s chest.

Unwittingly, her lips curled into a slight, joyful smile.
Post #: 19
2/6/2020 0:25:30   
roseleaf320
Creative!


She hadn’t been forceful enough. The creature was able to hold on, digging its claws into the dirt as it was thrust upwards. But the ground’s response, though tentative, sent a wave of calm through Leaf. In this unfamiliar world, she had found the most familiar feeling she had ever known. The song of the earth was beautiful. Her fear still lurked inside her, but its claws had dulled.

She could not forget where she was. The winged animal leapt towards her, practically soaring through the air. The first time my mother realized what I could do, there was a boulder that was like this. It had gotten loose from the side of the cliff, and mother didn’t have time to grab me. I stared at it as it flew at me, and just willed it to stop. And it did.

Maybe she could do that now, too.

Stop.

With a decisive swing, she whipped the Pearl around to make contact with the creature’s skull. It reacted quickly, pushing at the Pearl with its hand, avoiding a dangerous impact but forcing its momentum to send it a few feet short of Leaf. As the Pearl swung through the air to rest back on Leaf’s staff, she sensed a weird confusion from it, dust trickling off it until, like a pufferfish, it thrust its shell outwards to form dangerous metal spikes. Leaf blinked, scrunching up her face in confusion. Eyth, what are you doing? This was the Pearl’s unnatural form… Leaf had only seen it react in this way to weapons and armor. It was possible the creature’s leather could trigger it… but this seemed like something more. Was the entire creature human-touched?

She couldn’t tell whether the knot that emerged in her stomach was pity or disgust.

The hybrid took no time to continue her ruthless assault, swiping at Leaf with a flaming wing. Hey, don’t you DARE get that thing near me. Leaf pushed her staff into the ground at an angle, launching herself sideways. Water droplets trickled from her feet as she leapt, remnants of Eythyr’s rivers. A wall of earth rose to meet the mutant’s strike, responding quicker now to her staff’s motion. I’m safe from that hit, but she’ll come right back at me. I don’t want to, but… Leaf squeezed her eyes shut and sent the spiked Pearl careening towards the monster’s body.
Post #: 20
2/6/2020 4:33:18   
Necro-Knight
Member

"Test?"

An almost child-like giggle bubbled up from Aleisha's throat, though she didn't take her ember-bright eyes from her new opponent for a moment. After the years, she was always amused at the different types of souls she would encounter and how they would react to her ending their trivial little existences. Were they a pleading farmer? An honorable warrior? A corrupt nobleman responsible for ending the only friendship a rightful Queen had earned in her time? The Void Herald's eye twitched for only a moment as the memory burned at her core, but she maintained her menacing mask. In the end, every mortal died differently, and while such variety was the spice of her servitude to the Master, the soul within was the true prize.

Devouring a soul for the first time had not been quite what she'd prepared for, back during her early days of servitude. She had expected it to be like sinking her teeth into a sweet fruit, considering how Nulgath seemed to revel in the flavor every time she witnessed his own feedings. In reality, it was not beautiful flavor that had sent the young Void servant to her knees, but pure power. Every tooth in her skull had ached to their root with a storm of ecstasy and her tongue screamed in glorious, burning agony as she'd devoured the mortal soul like a starving woman blessed with a loaf of fresh bread. Afterward, she'd barely been able to think, instead she just wanted to move. Each nerve and muscle quivered to run and hunt and unleash the power she'd never known could be so easily extracted from a living being. She had not known then, but she knew now, and this first kill would be hers. The void hungered, always.

The icy-cold eyes of the woman before her gave nothing away about how intoxicating her life energy would be, but the fearful step back led Aleisha to believe the little woman would die like all the others, at least. Screaming and afraid.

"No, child, I am to be your doom."

As the final syllable left her lips, Aleisha bent at the knees again and brought the arm holding her blade across her breastplate, before releasing the weapon entirely. With a blast of mental force, the sword launched from her palm like a stone from a trebuchet. The possessed weapon continued at the same height it had been cast from, following a tight horizontal, crescent motion that aimed to cut the woman off at the knees. Meanwhile, Aleisha herself remained crouched, coiled, wound-tight for but a moment... before she kicked off the soft ground and launched herself at the woman's shoulders, all claws and teeth. Feeling a soul struggle in vain between her fingers before she gorged herself upon it was her favorite part of the harvest, and she was eager to treat herself so early into this one.

Surely, Master Nulgath will not miss this one...
DF MQ AQW  Post #: 21
2/6/2020 23:55:25   
nield
Creative!


Stab-stab

The girl was certainly quick on her feet. Before her wings could near, the good dug her rod into the ground, springing off to one side, as a wall of earth raised to greet her wings, which collided with it harmlessly. She raised onto only her legs as her target sent that spike ball at her one more time.

“No more games.” she growled. The Elf had constantly run away and away, revealing something. She knew that if she ever caught her, it would all be over—

”Or maybe, that’s just what she wants you to think? Maybe if you get in close she’ll draw a blade and gut you in one motion. Maybe you’re the prey and she’s the Hunter.” She growls at me and leaves immediately. Ah well. Looks like I can’t draw this little chapter out.

—and she would lie dead at her feet. All she could do to stay alive was stay at a distance and fling her little minion at her. So then-
Time to take it away from her.


Stab-stab

As the malevolent spikes drew near, she reached out her right hand and clamped down. A roar of pain erupted as her hand was skewered in nearly a dozen different places. A dim corner of her mind noted with curiosity that while colour returned to her lower arm, the flames that should have been licking out around the spikes were absent. The utterly dumbfounded look on her target showed just how unanticipated her maneuver was. Then she moved, her hand still clenched around the spike ball, running at the good, her left arm inconspicuously trailing down by her waist.

Alarm filled the girl’s face as she saw her spiky instrument of death headed at her own face, no room for adaptation. She faltered over her own steps but moved to one side. She felt an influence in the ball, forcing it in the other direction. This pushed her slightly off course and the spikes breezed past the Elf’s face-
And then she struck.


Stab-stab

Her left hand swiped and she felt the parting of flesh beneath her claws and a malicious triumph came over her face. With some distance put between them, she turned to face her target, noting her hand, held on her side and the red erupting from that location. There was a tugging in the spike ball and she relaxed her hand, letting the spikes slide out from her flesh and return to their master. She could have her toy back. This would not go on much longer.

She brought her right wing over her shoulder and held it over her hand, now erupting flames from multiple points where spike had intruded into flesh. With a slight shake, what few feathers continued to exist on her wing shed off, slowly floating down onto her hand. She winced a bit at the warmth involved, but soon her hand had healed over, a score of new orange markings like the others that littered her body apparent on her hand.

Stab-stab

And then she was running at her target, colour once more fading from her arm. She would end this now.
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 22
2/7/2020 18:13:33   
roseleaf320
Creative!


Leaf could sense the impact before it even happened. Hands moving through the air towards the Pearl, no movements on the ground to indicate a plan to dodge. But that didn’t make the connection any less brutal. Spikes broke through flesh, a bloodless saw as the monster’s hand was shredded by the Pearl. It couldn’t even bleed…

She had never purposefully hurt someone like this, but it was possible the monster wasn’t even hurt. After all, what kind of sane being purposefully rams its hand into a ball of spikes? And now it was barreling towards her with her Pearl in tow! She struggled to hide her shock, but the creature showed no signs of pain- it just continued straight towards her, thrusting Eythyr’s gift back at her face. It really is a monster. Recovering at the last second, Leaf willed the Pearl away from her, veering it to the left as she sidestepped in the opposite direction. It missed her- barely, but she would regain control of it before the beast could try this again. It, too, was passing by harmlessly… until she felt sharp claws tear her dress, her skin, and her insides wide open.

And she screamed. Oh how she screamed.




”Leaf!” The human ran towards the elf, who was curled up on the ground in a pool of water and blood. She placed a gentle hand on the elf’s back, whispering comforts in Leaf’s ear until her breathing calmed. “Show me where you’re hurt, love.”

Leaf uncurled slightly, moving her hand to reveal the deep cuts covering her knee. “I don’t know what happened Em, I was dancing in the water when Eyth grabbed my ankle, I couldn’t keep my balance-”

“Shhh. Let me bandage the wound.” Emilia pulled a roll of cloth from her satchel and began to wrap it around Leaf’s knee. “You should heal fine, especially with your Pearl.” Leaf barely even cared anymore. All she wanted was to be held, to sink into Emilia’s arms and never leave. But Eyth’s grip still held tight to her mind, a question that wouldn’t go away no matter how much she wanted it to.

“What if…”

Emilia rested a hand on Leaf’s cheek and gave a soft smile. “I’m sure Eythyr was just playing.”

Leaf could tell she didn’t mean what she said. It was the same face she made whenever she spoke about growing old with Leaf. They both knew that was impossible.




Bandage the wound. She had time for that- the monster had stopped to consider its destroyed hand. Leaf forced her breathing to slow, and quickly tore off a sleeve from her dress, tying it tightly around her waist. Her ears were buzzing, but Emilia’s voice was strong in her head. ”Now get up and keep going, silly fish.” No use fighting her thoughts anymore, it seemed.

Her breathing haggard, Leaf forced her way through the pain and pushed her body upright. Without her direction, the Pearl had returned to its base form, and sat peacefully atop her staff, as if nothing had happened. And the monster was charging at her yet again. A relentless abomination, unthinking, uncaring. Leaf noticed no signs of damage to its hand- even though she knew it had been ripped apart just moments earlier. Cause why wouldn’t it be able to do that. At least it cleansed Leaf of any lingering guilt she’d felt. She still didn’t want to kill it, but those claws... the wound in Leaf’s side throbbed. I suppose, if the job falls onto me to teach this beast their place…

Prepared to launch herself towards the river if she missed, Leaf swiped her staff through the air, and the earth followed, more eager than before under Leaf’s now-determined hand. It rose to slam the monster’s side. Hopefully, battering and fatigue are less easily healed than wounds of the flesh.


Post #: 23
2/7/2020 20:49:05   
Oddball
Member

Fierra stood, rooted in place, as the creature before her let off a small, almost innocent, giggle at her words. It was… Kinda’ cute, actually, though she’d never say that out loud… She didn’t, exactly, want to run the risk of aggravating this warrior. She was, for some reason that she couldn’t figure out, amazingly good at that exact thing.In fact, other members of her tribe had called her ‘marginally likable’! So that was good, right?


Her tribe… How she missed them. Their ability to raise her spirits after a long, egregious day. How they’d all share stories about their latest hunt, and how difficult the path that had led them to said hunt had been. The moments that Fierra, and the other women of her clan, would engage in ‘friendly’ sparring matches that were anything but! She couldn’t help but join in during the festivities, and quickly made it known that she wasn’t an easy target.

“No child. I am to be your doom.” Her opponents words snapped Fierra out of her stupor, the Monk’s focus finally being drawn to her enemy. Her opponent’s blade was heading straight for her lower leg, while the being itself was aiming high, looking to grab her prey by the shoulder, from the looks of it.

With a quick step, Fierra suddenly lowers herself to the ground, releasing herself from her tight, wound, position with a forceful push from her legs.. Her push hadn’t sent her sky high, neither had it, really, given her any height at all. It was just enough for the woman to avoid the blade coming towards her knees, while still being close enough to the ground to dodge under her opponents’ leap.


Alas, her opponent had been far too close, and Fierra had reacted far too late for her to, properly avoid damage from the attack, and the blade had cut deep into her thigh as a result. Thankfully, she had been quick enough to, have not, lost more than a few inches off of her height, but that wound would, quickly, cause extreme difficulties. She’d have to either lose her opponent’s interest, or stand her ground… And, as much as she’d like to have upheld her philosophy at this moment, she just couldn’t bring herself to.


With a wince, Fierra rolls as she lands from her dive, quickly reaching down to her side to pull a small, spherical object from it. With a short yell, she raises her hand high before bringing it down upon the ground, shattering the object on impact. With the chemicals inside the sphere now, suddenly, interacting with the oxygen, a burst of flame engulfs Fierra as she stands, taking a deep breath before clenching her hands at her sides once again.


“I’d rather keep my knees, thank you. Need ‘em to walk.”


With a heavy stomp, Fierra’s flames seem to dissipate, the woman bringing her hands up in front of her, small flickers of fire seem to spurt off from her fingertips as a, surprising, grin spreads across her features once again.


“I hope you’re not too worried about the state of your face, ‘cause I’m just gonna make it worse.”
AQ DF AQW Epic  Post #: 24
2/7/2020 22:37:23   
Dragonknight315
Member

“Hello there.”

Aster looked through the iron bars to the boy before him. Though he spoke with delicacy, the words grew hoarse and jagged as they echoed throughout the hall of empty cells. It was just the two of them; all else were evacuated upon rumor of the boy’s capture, through Aster knew it was out of kindness. Dead men made for poor harvesters, and even the taxmen could not urge them to speak. Still, the father was thankful for this opportunity with the boy.

“I believe you are Martin, yes?” His voice cracked with age once more, and he could see his breath in the cold wind.

The boy was sitting by the far corner, nestled in a pile of brown hay. His eyes flickered towards the hooded priest, but he turned away and said nothing.

“Do you mind if I come in?” The father pulled a ring of keys from his cloak and rustled them. This had earned the boy’s attention. Those emerald pools seemed to glow with life as he twisted around to meet the priest. He sat there, eyes unblinking, waiting to see what the father would do next. Satisfied, the elder took one of the keys and turned the lock, and the metal rang out as the door crept open. At that moment, his heart must have skipped a beat; the boy’s arm seemed to twitch.

With the door open, Aster removed his hood and raised his hands.

“I am not here to harm you; I just want to come in and talk.”

The father put one foot forward into the cell and then another, and with each step, the air seemed to grow warmer and more dry. As he approached, Aster could make out more details. The boy was half-naked, clothed in mismatched tatters. His silver hair was dull, muddied from lack of care. Martin’s form seemed stretched across his body with black markings etched along his skin. The ribs poked from underneath his chest.

This— This was not a monster as Aster was warned. This was a starving boy who was barely alive. It broke the father’s old heart. The boy seemed to press himself to the corner as Aster approached. At last, when the father was upon him, Aster kneeled with a groan and held out his hand to the child.

It was then that the serpents appeared. Streaks of black scales erupted in all directions from the boy’s frame. They slithered and stretched out until a dozen or so serpents had surrounded the father, fangs gnashing and dripping with blood. But the father was unmoved; he simply smiled at the boy with his hand outstretched.

“Come on, take it. I’m not afraid.”

A moment passed, and the boy blinked—

“Don’t worry” spoke the father. “You can’t hurt me, and I won’t hurt you.”

Finally, Martin gave a quivering sigh as he closed his eyes and slowly extended his hand.

It was soft— his grasp was so soft that it was like a pulse of wind. The father could feel him touching his palm as if he were a flower. Fleeting, momentary, ready to disappear at any moment. But as the boy opened his eyes, the snakes were gone, and the father remained.
But there was more, Martin saw. He looked down at the father’s arm, and though it was warm like flesh, the priest’s arm shimmered like bronze in the torchlight. Martin could see his own reflection upon it.

“See? I told you—”

Aster reached across with his other arm and pulled on the sleeve of his robe. The bronze worked its way across his entire arm and into his shoulder.

“I’m mostly like this.” The father chuckled as he smiled at the young boy. “I told you that you had nothing to worry about. Now, before we begin— can you help me?”

The boy paused for a moment before he gave a nod. He rose from his corner and pulled the priest onto one of the benches. The priest gave his thanks— old as he was, the argumentation made up for his weakness. He just wanted to see if the boy would help him, and much to his satisfaction, Martin did not leave him there.

“I’m Father Aster, by the way. I am a priest of the church of Lumen. It’s only fair that I give you my name when I know yours.”

As he spoke, Aster took out some bread as a reward for the child, and like a starved rat he fed with haste. He seemed unswayed by the priest’s declaration, instead focused on the meal. But after two had finished, they sat in silence for a time.

Eventually, the father chuckled again and looked to the boy. “So, why are you still here? The gate is open?”

If he wanted to, Martin could have ran then and there; no one could have stopped him. And yet, he remained, sitting on the bench with the elder. Another test; another success. But the boy’s first words to Aster were the most surprising.

“I belong here.” His voice sounded like a young girl, but he spoke with an understanding as though he were Aster’s age.

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“Don’t do that. I hate it when they do that. You know who I am, you know why—”

“I want to hear it from you, Martin. Why do you think you are here?”

The boy turned away from the father and looked at his lap. “Because I kill people. I wanted to kill you. . .”

The boy continued on with Aster listening in silence. “My mom died because of me. . . That’s what papa always said. He said that I should never have been born. He would. . .” Martin choked on his words as he tried to recall the painful memories. It was evident to Aster what had happened; looking down at the child, he could see several scars across the tattoos on his arm and back. Some had healed, others were still fresh.

“You don’t have to, Martin—”

The boy gave another nod as he continued to stare into his lap. “But he wasn’t the only one. There were others who were mean to me. Said I was strange, that I wasn’t human—

One time, I had a dream, and . . . I could hear whispers.”

“Whispers?” The father repeated. “What did they say?”

“They promised . . . that they were my friends, that no one would hate me anymore. That. . . they’d protect me from the bad people.”

The father pushed himself back against the wall, eyes turned to the ceiling. The truth was here. The boy continued. “They promised. . . that they would know what it was like to be hurt.”

“Revenge, eh?” The priest gave a sigh as he looked back to Martin. His eyes were fixed to Martin, and his gaze was like a dagger.

“Martin, both of us have told nothing but the truth so far, correct?” The child gave a slow nod.

“Then I want you to know that I am here to help. But to help you, I need you to trust me and be honest, understood?” Another nod.

“Then tell me. Did you feel satisfied with your revenge? Did you feel joy from killing your father and those other children?”

The boy froze in his seat, his arm twitching once more. But at last, the boy pushed the whispers away and shook his head. “No, I didn’t.”

Father Aster placed his bronze hand on the boy’s scarred shoulder, and the boy looked up to see him smiling. “I won’t tell you that you were wrong to do so. I understand the torture that you felt.” His face went hard as he spoke. “But I will say that it wasn’t right what you did. Revenge. . . There comes a time when killing is necessary, to those who do not repent. But those people never had a chance to see the light, Martin, and now. . .”

The priest pulled him into a hug, and the boy’s arms went limp at his side. “Martin, those whispers. They are a part of you, the deepest part inside you. They promise to give you everything you ever want, but they cannot. Instead, they can only take it away.”

“You wanted love, but a corpse cannot love— You wanted peace, but running like this, you will never find it— These whispers, you must conquer them. Only then. . .”

Tears filled Martin’s eyes as he felt love for the first time. His arms quivered as he hugged Aster; this is what he always wanted. “But— how?”

“Simple, my boy.” The father pulled away and looked back at Martin. “Use your gifts for good. It is said that a sword is built to cut, but if one uses the sword for murder, we do not cast the sword into the fire. We take it from the man and give it to another so that it may be put into better hands.”

He continued. “You, Martin, are a sword, sent by Lumen Himself, to bring glory to this world. You cannot ignore those whispers in the dark, but you can use them for good. Focus their malice into those who deserve it, but never let them cloud your heart. Just as you have been shown mercy, be the first to give it to others—”

“Only in darkness can one appreciate the light, Martin.”

Aster reached into his robes once more and pulled out a brilliant emerald cut into the shape of a sun. It glimmered in the torchlight, shining like a true star for a moment as Aster placed it around the boy’s neck.

“Let’s leave this jail and go to a better place, Martin. Your brothers and sisters are waiting for us.”


Pain.

Mercy.

The Sun—


Thoughts and whispers bounding through his skull, Martin reached with his tomahawk to cleave at the woman’s legs, but the witch was not deterred. She was prepared for his feint; just as she raised her sheath to guard her front, the discordant blade was cast down below. Petals were cast into the air as his steel clashed with hers, and Martin’s slide came to a stop.

Although his opponent was left unwounded, it was still a miracle of its own. In his years of hunting the wicked, there was one certainty; there was no certainty in magic. Indeed, a single touch of that discordant blade could be instant death. If he was to advance, he would need to avoid it at all costs, or at least disable it somehow. Martin took note that his tomahawk was left unscathed. . .

It was cold comfort, however, as the witch continued. She wasted no time before leaping into the air, and her discordant blade followed.

Move, now! Take her!—

Just as the witch descended, Martin tucked his legs in and rolled out to his left. The blade came down with such force that it sundered the earth. Whatever it was, that magic could still be his end.

Freedom, Misery! Free her! Free us!—

The chorus roared in anticipation, but for a moment, he hesitated, and all went silent.

No. We are one, but you will not rule me. I will do this His way—

It would be risky, reckless even. One wrong move and that magic blade could take an arm or worse. But Martin saw his opportunity, and when the fate of the world was at risk? A worthy gamble; he would not let this moment pass. She would be put to the test.

As he landed on his chest, the blade still in his sight, Martin pushed off of the ground with his steel. Just as the witch was to react, he leaped and swung up with his right hand as he rose. It hissed through the air once more, aiming to strike at her cursed veil. He would tear that black mask from her and set her free— free from the dark, or from this mortal coil.

If it is Your will, guide my anger and let my strike be true. Let mercy— or death, be upon the witch.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 25
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