The Witch’s Trail (Fantasy, Horror, IC)

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Reverend Norv
Posts: 2960
Founded: Jun 20, 2014
New York Times Democracy

Postby Reverend Norv » Fri Nov 20, 2020 9:10 am

It does not feel like home.

This should not surprise me. I have not been back in more than thirty years. Much has changed: I do not remember quite this many strangers slouching through the street, wandering landless peasants whose faces are slack with the loss of an entire way of life. My memory has faded, too. I remember these crumbling half-timber buildings as cozy, somehow; welcoming. I remember the mud in the streets as wholesome, and the swine sniffing through the gutters as cute. I remember warm fires, and gentle hands, and everything else has faded in my memory like a tapestry left too long in the sun.

But the color is still full in this place, not faded. It is drenched in darkness and rain and misery. The smell of filth and despair - I do not remember it. But I have smelled it all over the world. I cannot mistake it. I just -

I somehow didn't expect it to be the smell of home.

I have been running hard for weeks now, and I feel stretched thin: too little sleep, too many hours looking over my shoulder, too much of silence and shadow. I went three hundred miles on a train, then two days on foot to avoid a border crossing, then I bought a horse and rode until a priest spotted me in a small town, and his eyes went wide. So I sold the horse and detoured, eighty miles by ferry, then three days' walk cross-country to shake pursuers, then an airship under a false name, then another four days on the road, two on foot and two by coach, and then...

I feel ragged, and old, and very alone. And now I am here: home. But I do not want this - not this. And I have nowhere else to go.

I am thinking seriously about just getting drunk. The tavern is just there; I can see the candlelight in its windows. I lean heavily on my staff, almost sleeping upright, and feel my boots sink into the filth of the street. A group of pilgrims passes to my left, chanting with exhausted exaltation. I lean my forehead against the cool steel that caps my staff's end. I try to pray.

Some old instinct, inherited from generations of medieki, makes me open my eyes and look up just in time. Then: a crash of shattered glass, and a man sails through the tavern's window, and lands in a heap in the mud at my feet.

For a moment, we look at each other. I offer my hand to help him up. The man squints at it, and then at my face. This close, the shadows beneath my tricorn conceal little. The man's eyes go wide, and I see the recognition there. "You too?" the stranger mutters blearily.

Bounty hunter. I lift my staff slightly, casually, and bring its end down on the side of the man's head. He crumples into the mire. It is such a calm, careless motion - I could just be shaking mud off the staff - that somehow, even in this crowded street, nobody seems to give it a second look.

Or perhaps this sort of thing just happens all the time here. I do not remember that either. But maybe there's a lot I don't remember about this place.

Enough. I need to get out of the street.

I walk over to the tavern. For a moment, the crazy thought of just stepping through the broken window flits through my mind. Sleep deprivation. I go to the door instead, push it open, step immediately sideways: the old inquisitor's instinct. Never stand in silhouette. I tuck my chin so that my tricorn hides my face, and blink: slowly, deliberately, forcing my eyes to adjust to the dim candlelit interior of the tavern.

Sure enough, there is a brawl in process. Two men stand in a corner, near the window: a hard-looking man in a cloak, with sword in hand, and a younger man in country clothes with clenched fists. They are surrounded by armed men with a lean and desperate look to them. A third man - younger, in nice blue clothes - has just parried the cloaked man's blade, saving one of the ruffians' lives. A young woman with dark hair is brandishing an OGEIE rosette, to little obvious effect. Everyone here must know that she is a long way outside her jurisdiction.

This does not concern me. None of it. I feel a twist in my gut, a pang of conscience: I have too often consoled myself with that exact thought, in the face of suffering and injustice. Not my problem. But this time, it is true. I cannot know the rights or wrongs of this fight, and no one is helped if I get myself killed interfering in it.

I look around the rest of the room, and stop dead.

I recognize two women. One of them is short, about my age, wearing a pointy hat - a borderline blasphemous parody of a witch. She is shouting with intoxicated fury at the brawlers, likewise to little obvious effect. Alexandria Ashwood. I feel an irresistible smile flicker over my face. Some people never change.

The other woman is younger, half my age, dressed in a black travelling cloak. She has the angelic face and golden ringlets of an Ancerrian painting. And she is an inquisitor. I know, because I trained her.

I could probably kill Venusta. This is not the problem. The problem is that I won't; she is too young, and I have too much blood on my hands already. But I have no doubt that, if she gets the chance, Venusta will kill me. I remember the fanaticism behind those blue eyes, the utter ruthlessness that comes from knowing, whatever you do, that you are right. I tried my best to teach her that the world was not so black and white, but she never wanted to learn.

I should go. I should go, now, and think of some other place to run. Maybe the Deadlands. There has to be another -

Venusta sees me. For a moment, across the crowded tavern and its brawlers, our eyes meet. I know that even in my ragged travelling clothes, she recognizes me: the weathered face, the distinctive, archaic, wrought-iron longsword sheathed across my back. Venusta's deadly-beautiful blue eyes widen, just a fraction.

No use running, now. Just as well. I am too tired anyway: down below the body, down where it matters.

Instead I walk across the tavern to the bar. The barman is watching the unfolding brawl with exquisite boredom. He looks me over, and comes to an obvious conclusion: another armed vagrant.

Instead, I speak Robezan, and order a kozicowe: juniper beer, the traditional beverage of the border country. The barman blinks. Even here in Robaiziche, our historic homeland, Robezans are now a small minority. We are the old people from before the Commonwealth, the people of the woods, indigenous. This barman is from Robaiziche, but he is not Robezan. In this one way, I belong to this place more than he does.

The barman pours me the juniper beer, and goes back to watching the fight. I drop a few copper pennies on the bar, and take my beer over to the table where Venusta sits. A white-haired woman has just left the table. Moving carefully, keeping both my hands in clear view, I lean my staff against a chair and put my kozicowe on the table and sit down opposite Venusta.

Why am I doing this? I honestly don't know. Perhaps I am just too tired to do anything else.

I speak Mordian now. "Salve, Venusta." I take off my tricorn and run my fingers through my short grey hair, feeling the sweat of too many days on the road. I look steadily at the young woman. "Are you here for me?"
Last edited by Reverend Norv on Fri Nov 20, 2020 11:22 am, edited 3 times in total.
For really, I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he. And therefore truly, Sir, I think it's clear that every man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government. And I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.
Col. Thomas Rainsborough, Putney Debates, 1647

A God who let us prove His existence would be an idol.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Postmaster of the Fleet
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Founded: Feb 15, 2011
Father Knows Best State

Postby Britanania » Sun Nov 22, 2020 7:45 pm

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

The young woman kept her eyes on the eccentric academic when a new figured entered the tavern from the outside. Venusta turned to see who walked in, and as the older gentleman removed his hat, the blonde inquisitor's eyes widened for a moment in recognition. He was slightly older and more worn than the last time she had seen him, at his trial, but there was no mistaking him: it was Remus Valante, disgraced former inquisitor, her former instructor.

What's he doing here?

Venusta saw recognition in his face, and although the young woman expected Remus to ignore her, possibly leave, the former inquisitor walked to the bar, casually ordered a drink, returned to the table where Venusta sat, and joined her.

The blonde shook her head at his question.

"Non," she replied. "Alium praedam venor."
Christus vincit; Christus regnat; Christus imperat
"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven"--Ecclesiastes 3:1
"Great Britain is a republic, with a hereditary president, while the United States is a monarchy with an elective king."
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Naval Monte
Posts: 13451
Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Sun Nov 29, 2020 8:33 pm

Tór Galiech- Two months ago

The scent of blood was thick in the air.

The scent was all to familiar for Hex. The cool night air carried the pungent coppery aroma; mixed with it was the sickly sweet stench of decay. As the hooded cloak Reaver walked past the wooden post she would see the dark clouds parting to reveal small wooden homes bathed by the pale moonlight. For most people the small hamlet before them would be indistinguishable from all of the other hamlets that dot around the continent. Even to Hex she saw no hints of anything amiss with her eyes. Which was why she was grateful for her nose.

"I was too late. It seems those damn specters already claimed their latest victims of the night. Hopefully I can make those victims their last."

Hex would continue inward to the village. Sticking on the dirt road she would look around and find all the homes were dark inside. She couldn't see any movement within the buildings nor hear any signs of anyone moving around. However the stench of death was now much stronger for her, nauseating so.

Hex can feel that something otherworldly was at play. Her experiences with dealing with psychomagical entities, and her monstrous implants, have given her a sixth sense when it comes to such matters. More importantly she was forewarn about this part of the country being troubled by a hooded figures who attacked farmers and killed livestocks.

"And just them alone. It seems now it has grown bold enough to kill people."

The Reaver reach down to one of her pouches and take out the truthstone from within as she can see the well that was at the center the hamlet. Once Hex reached the well she would knee down in front of the wall, grabbing the hilt of her claymore and taking it off her back, and stabbing the blade on the ground. She began to scrap the stone against the blade, chanting in an unknown language she memorized back in her childhood, all while purple sparks came off the stone and sword.

She would keep repeating this pattern as the clouds began to move forward to cover the moon. As darkness began to consume the hamlet the Reaver can sense something beginning to stir within the town. Hex would make one last scrap with her stone before she stopped and put away the truth stone. She would get up just as the cloud would cast her into darkness, removing the blade from the ground.

"Your kind are truly cowards you know that? You refused to strike even when the light above is just the Moon." she would turn around to see a figure standing by the entrance of the square. "But considering what your kind are maybe I shouldn't been expecting you lot to have some ounce of honour in you lot."

Hex would see from her right and left more of the figures appearing from dark clouds. The Reaver would lift her blade up and pointed it to the one facing her. Just as the figures took out two long knives with hook ends at the top the Reaver would sprint towards the first of the Revenants. The hooded specter would let out a ghastly wail as it began to charge towards her with it's blades by the sides while the other two ran towards her.

The revenant would jump in the air and raise the duel blades over it's head to strike down at Hex. The reaver would raise her claymore above and the cursed blades would clash against the alchemical metal, sparks flying off from the clash between the two enchanted metals. Hex felt her boots sink in slightly to the ground as the lanky build of the revenant beguiled the paranatural strength the reanimated being contained.

As the revenant land on the ground the creature would kick Hex on the stomach and besides knocking the air out of her lungs would send the Reaver flying to the well. When she hit the well she would shatter the wooden pillar that held the overhang angular roof and even broke the stone walls, causing the upper half of her body to lean down into the well. She would can see from her eyes the stone and wood landing in the water below, hearing both splashing loudly to her.

Hex would lean up and find the two Revenants that were running towards her were now very close, both poised to strike her down. Hex would quickly reach down and grab what look to be a quill from her inventory. She would aim the feather implement to the two hooded assailants and would quickly recite a chant. From the very point of the quil a glow would appear before fire gushed out of the quil.

The flames would catch one of the Revenants but the other jump in the air and dissolved into black smoke and ravens before the flames can catch it. The one covered in flames would thrash about wildly as it tried to put out the flames. Hex would grab her sword and push her self off the ground. She ran towards the Revenant covered in flames but as she got close the creature would stick it's arms forward and unleash a cloud of flies towards her.

Hex would bring out her quil and unleash more flames at the swarm. Many burning flies fell to the ground as she close the distance between the two of them. Once she was close she would stab her blade through the revenant. The hooded creature let out a terrible shriek in pain as it would try to stab Hex with it's left knife but she would quickly grab it's wrist and begin to squeeze tightly on the wrist until she finally heard an audible crack. The Revenant screamed as the now useless hand dropped the knife. With her quil now on the ground she would raise her left hand up and the gem at the palm would glow.

Hex would scream out a chant and a blast of pure force would send the Revenant flying away from her blade and towards the other Revenant who bend his body back to dodge his flying comrade. The flying revenant would hit the wall and explode into smoke and flies while the other would bend back into shape and raise his hands forward to unleash a swarm of centipedes towards Hex.

The Reaver would grab her quil and unleash more flames at the centipedes. As the swarm was now smoldering lumps on the ground the Revenant would take out his blades and charge towards Hex. Hex put away the quil as she took out her repeating crossbow and fired off three bolts at the revenant, the creature swiftly deflecting each bolt effortlessly with quick swipes with it's blades.

Hex let out an annoyed hissed as she fired two more bolts that were like the rest easily deflected as she ran back to the well. But as she ran towards the well a murder of ravens flew down in front of the well and they turn into black smoke. From the smoke materialized the revenant that fled when she unleash her flames upon it. Hex would stop suddenly, her feet sliding on the ground. When she finally stopped she would make a quick turn and bring her claymore down on the Revenant. The hooded fighter would bring his two blades and bloke the strike from above.

As Hex was ready to fire another bolt into the revenant she would hear buzzing coming from above. She would break off the engagement she had with the Revenant to jump out of the wall of a cloud of smoke and flies that almost hit her. Without even thinking she would aim her crossbow at the direction of where the cloud came from and fire five bolts at the source of the cloud, all five hitting their mark.

Standing on the roof of a building she found the revenant that she threw standing on the roof with five bolts on it's torso. The revenant wobbled on its feet before it fell on it's back, dissolving once more into smoke and flies. Hex would quickly turn her sight back to the ground and steady her blade as the two revenants ran at her from both sides as she moved away from them.

Hex would throw her crossbow away and grab both hands on the hilt of her sword and pull it back before making a wide swing. The attack would cause the two reanimated killers to jump back and using this distraction to her advantage she would bring out her left hand and with the gem exposed would unleash a blast of telekinetic energy that would send the two revenants flying. She would quickly take out her short bow and aimed at the revenants and open fire, releasing more bolts at the revenants.

The bolts fired at the revenant that send out centipedes would be hit by a bolt that went through it's head, causing it to become motionless as the other bolts hit it. That one would land on the ground and dissolve into smoke and centipedes. But the other would block each bolt with it's blade and would turn its body around so it would land on its feet, sliding across the ground until it stopped.

The two would stare at one another as Hex put away her bow to hold on to her hit with both hands tightly. The two waited to see who would make the first daring move.

As the clouds above them began to move away and the moon light began to bath the hamlet once more the first one to draw the first move was Hex as she let out a war cry as she charged forward. The Revenant would be ready and when she swung her blade down it would use one of it's knives to block the attack and cause it to slide across it, making the two blades scrape against each other as sparks flew off, all while moving it away from its body as it pushed the blade away from its body as the revenant would swipe with it's other blade.

However the Revenant would be caught off guard as Hex would let one hand go off the hilt of the claymore and reach down for her shortsword, quickly taking it out and blocking the knife while still holding off the other knife with her claymore. Hex would let out a roar as she brought her head back and thrust it down to hit the head of the revenant. The Revenant was stun by the attack as it moved back, it's defense weakening. Hex would quickly stab the creature on the abdomen with her shortsword.

The pain made the Revenant alert again as it would bring down it's knife on her right shoulder, failing to get into the gap to strike at her flesh, but applying enough pressure to make it difficult for her to lift her claymore easily, all while stabbing her on her abdomen, breaking through the mail behind her vest and inflecting it's poison and curse within her.

Hex let out a grunt as she can feel her body burning from the poison now coursing into her body. She knew that even with her magical resistance her body will have a tough time fighting off the curse that the revenant placed on her. But she will deal with it later. Right now she needs to deal with the revenant now before it can curse anymore people.

She would let go of her shortsword to grab on to the creature's wrist but she would be stopped by the revenant who would let go of the blade it used to stab her to grab her wrist, twisting it back. The Reaver would shout in pain as the Revenant would bring it's other blade away and cut away at the hand it caught. Hex would scream in pain before she tried to kick off the Revenant but it would turn into a cloud of smoke and ravens as it flew back from her, reforming just a few miles away.

Hex held on to the stump that was her hand, looking down at the fallen appendage. If she had time she would warp her hand with bandages and wait for her body to close the wounds and her nerves to reform. But she doubt the revenant would give her the time to do so. Instead she would painfully pull the other blade the Revenant left in her and grab with her left hand her short sword and prepare for the creature to renew it's offense.

The blade she dropped would disappear and reappear on the other hand of the Revenant as it began to charge towards her. The Reaver waited for the right time to use her plan. As the Revenant turn into a cloud to close in the distance she remain still as she waited for the her chance to strike. Once it reform to deliver a decapitating strike Hex would thrust her shortsword.

But behind the hilt of the blade she would unleash a telekinetic blast that would send the shortsword flying from her hand and into the head of the revenant. The creature would move back as it was stun by the attack. Hex would quickly grab her claymore and raise the blade up and bring it down on the revenant.

Cleaving it in two from it's left shoulder all the way down to it's right hip.

The creature would let out one last shriek as it dissolved into smoke and ravens flying into the night sky.

With the three revenants now gone the Reaver would let out a sigh of relief as she stabbed her claymore on to the ground. "I heard those bastards were tough but I didn't think they were that tough." she look down at her bleeding stump.

"I didn't think one of them could disarm me like that." she would let out a tired chuckle. Normally she wouldn't make a terrible pun like that. Thus she attributed to the post combat high she was experiencing. It and the poison and curse cocktail that was now inside of her. She

Hex would search for her lost hand and would find it. She would take out some bandages with some struggle and wrap it around both her hand and stump, tightening it with her teeth.

With her hand now safely warped up she would sit and press her back against her claymore. She would take out a flask and begin to drink from it, hoping that the purifying waters that it contain can help alleviate some of the curse within her.

Hex waited until down for her hand to get better and for when she felt right to leave the ghost town that she stayed to report back on what happened to the hamlet.

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

"This town is quite cozy." the Reaver muttered under her breath as she walked past a few drunk adventurers trying to flirt with some of the women walking past them. Hex had no strong opinion on the town she was in. It looked like all of the other towns off on the countryside. It didn't matter to her if the town was colder, hotter, dryer, or wetter, nothing changed what they are so she could care less on what she could find in them.

Hex would eye at a tavern with a window broken. "I see the tavern in this town is very lively. Much better than the one I was in previously." she would shake her head at remembering that one. "Best to gather some information in here. Maybe try out some of the local cuisine." she let a small smile form behind the cloth that covered her mouth and nose as she stepped into the tavern.

Immediately she saw a bunch of people with weapons drawn.

"Of course. It couldn't be just a typical bar fight." she sighed deeply as she shook her head.

Hex would look at one of the bounty hunters and walked up to him. "Oi. Mind putting away that toy of yours? Some folks here are trying to have a good time and you waving about your swords like you are trying to prove you aren't compensating for something is ruining that." The hunter and his buddies would turn to face the new occupant.

"What did you say jackass? You want me to cut you up? How about you get out of here before I..." Before the man can finish speaking he would feel the side of his face explode into pure agony as Hex would hit him with the side of her forearm, sending the man flying to a nearby table.

The other bounty hunters turned to her as the Reaver grabbed on to the cloth. "What the hell are you?!" one of the hunters shouted as Hex pull down the cloth.

"Just a very annoyed traveler who wants a drink and some food." she would bare her fangs at the bounty hunters. "Now. Either you idiots leave this place or I will make you all my lunch!" she shouted, changing her voice to sound much deeper and more menacing. She hates playing to the stereotypes of Reavers being monsters but in this case using it may help in making these idiots flee the tavern before they can harm someone innocent.
Naval Monte- The Mediterranean crossroads of mind-controlling conspiracies, twisted dimensions, inhuman depravity, questionable science, unholy commerce, heretical faiths, absurd politics, and cutting-edge art.

Make wonderful memories here, in Naval Monte.

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Posts: 112
Founded: Nov 25, 2019
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Laiakia » Mon Nov 30, 2020 2:52 am

Iosef Strana

Iosef felt his sword get deflected away from his target, and locked eyes with the man in the blue tricorn which had interviened. Iosef then twirled his sword again, keeping it and himself in a defensive posture as he answered the man in a rough tone while keeping an eye on all the bounty hunters in the room.

"Stay out of this, man. I appriciate the help, but i had it under control. Now, i would like to leave before the local police arrive and recognize whomst i am. Please mo-" Before Iosef could finish speaking, another bounty hunter hit the floor hard as a tall and lean man came into the fight, shaking his wrist.

At this rate, Iosef had lost count of how many people were coming into the tavern. He shook his head and eyed both the tricorned man and the lean man, before watching as yet another newcomer made their appearance. This one was a female with a fairly tall height and a tanned complexion.

Still keeping an eye on the tricorned man, Iosef watched the remaining bounty hunters and contemplated his next move. He could either try to fight his way out, which would probably be a bad idea, or he might try to escape through the broken window. Groaning at his situation, Iosef takes a bottle of alcohol from a nearby table and takes a quick swig.

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Union Princes
Posts: 2914
Founded: Nov 02, 2017
Father Knows Best State

Postby Union Princes » Mon Nov 30, 2020 10:41 am

Wilhard Strauch

By the ancient writs of Robaizche, you have been found guilty of sedition, conspiracy, instigation, and the practice of magic deem heretical in the eyes of the Lord...

Steel-tipped boots splashed against a small puddle forming between the cobblestones that make up the road. The unemployed and the uncared for all huddle up near the walls yet they dare not speak a word against the newcomer clad in brown, white, and red.

With Father Gaston as my chief witness to your guilt, I, Witch Hunter Captain Wilhard Strauch, sentences you to die…

One hand was firmly gripped on his flintlock pistol while his one good eye harshly interrogated the lower class that stared back at him. They were lost, without purpose, without hope. “Seek sanctuary at the Church.” the old man advises them.

For the mercy of the Lord, Ms. Rue, is there anyone, anyone, that you can call upon that can swear the oath to testify your innocence?

The boots stopped at the entrance of a tavern. Grunts, screams, thuds, crashes, and the breaking of glass leaked through the door and into the ears of the veteran. He could already see a broken window at the side. Must be recent, no self-respecting owner would let his tavern be worn down early.

Then I hereby declare my judgment is final and without revision. Ms. Rue, I sentence you to death by firing squad! May God purify your soul!

The doors to the interior of the establishment burst open. The shadow the Inquisitor cast over the clients was darker than the night of the New Moon. His eye scanned the patrons like a hawk finding a mouse. There were men with swords drawn, out of their seats, and some men were clearly injured.

Given the insignia of the Church and the talismans of the Inquisition, everyone knew what Strauch was. Their grandmothers and mothers told them before to behave well or else the Inquisition comes to take them. “Holster your blades,” Strauch ordered, his tone quiet yet no fiercer than a clap of thunder.

Most of the bounty hunters did though the ones that continue defy him were becoming visibly shaken. One bounty hunter was quick on his wits and deflected the blame onto the Reaver.

“Wit-Witch Hunter-er!” he half-shouted half-stuttered as he pointed at Hex, “This fanged woman attacked my comrade! She threatened to assault the rest of us!”
The air of the tavern seems to drop ten degrees. The man was speaking half of the truth. To most Inquisitors, it was enough to make a case. But Wilhard Strauch only stared at the woman, studying her fangs. Her teeth reminded him of vampires.

“Take your wounded to the hospice and see that they are looked after.” the elder commanded as he moved out of the way for the bounty hunters to carry their injured comrade away. “This incident shall be a private investigation!” Strauch declared to the remaining patrons still watching the scuffle before marching towards the bar.

"We can discuss this later," the Witch Hunter spoke to Hex as he walked past her.

“Any Wiedzma?” the Barman, asked as he filled Strauch’s mug of kozicowe.

“Only one last week.” the Witch Hunter answered, handing a gold coin as payment and tip.

“Do they look recognizable to you..?” the barman suggested, using his thumb to indicate where Venusta was sitting. She was pair up with another middle-aged individual wrapped in a heavy coat.

Taking his mug, the Witch Hunter Captain made his way to their table. “Salve.” He greeted, “Beg pardon if I’m not interrupting anything.”
Last edited by Union Princes on Mon Nov 30, 2020 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
There is no such thing as peace, only truce between wars

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Naval Monte
Posts: 13451
Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Mon Nov 30, 2020 1:56 pm

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

"I knew it! That accent was instantly recognizable. It makes anyone who speaks of it sound almost like they are on the verge of singing." Alex said as she tried her best to make the same accent, an effort that was an utter failure. A fact that was compounded by her drunken state.

When Jackie began to drag her away Alex began to pout. "Come on Jackie. I wasn't bothering the pretty lady." When Venusta told the former sailor as much Alex smiled. "You see. I wasn't bothering her at all."

Alex's attention would be drawn to Kim when she told her that her white hair was nature surprisingly. She would also complement her attire which made her smile. "Thank you love. Not many people can appreciate beauty nowadays. Right now most people are so caught up on money, material goods, or petty ideological struggles. Is enough to make any self respecting woman become a hermit. Maybe I should become a bog witch?" the matron philosopher chuckled at what she thinks was a joke.

Kim would soon leave them, with Alex waving goodbye at her.

Just as Kim left the table and bar a new person would soon enter the table. Alex's eyes would focus on the man with the tricorn as he began to speak to Vensuta.

The voice of the older man seem to jog her memory. "Remus? Is that you?" she asked as she gave him a goofy smile. "I didn't expect to see you of all people in this place. This town is full of surprises."

Before she can say anything else she would hear a table being smashed into pieces as someone was flung to it. Her eyes went to the person who threw one of the bounty hunters and her eyes fell upon her teeth.

"Hey. Is the ale playing with my head or does that woman have really big fangs?" the matron asked as she was unsure if what she was seeing was real. Her question would soon be answered as a man dressed like a witch hunter of old stepped in and the bounty hunters accused the woman with fangs of starting the fight.

Alex glared at the bounty hunters. "Yeah right! You idiots started flashing around your swords before the shark lady barged in. Infact it was you idiots that broke the wall!" she shouted.

The Reaver turn to look at the witch which made Alex recoil slightly. The philosopher looked into the green silted eyes of the woman and she felt as thought it was a predator staring her down. Judging if she was a worthy prey. It almost made her shiver.

"I hope she was kidding about eating people. Because I'm not that tasty."

The matron would than see the Reaver seemingly checking her up as she scan her eyes up and down the woman.

"Oh though. It seems she may not meant literally eating people judging by how she is looking at me."

While the woman chuckled to herself mentally at the idea of the monstrous woman finding her attractive in truth Hex was merely looking at her just to make sure that what she saw from the corner of her eyes was true. There was someone dressed like a witch.

"That woman is either incredibly brave or stupid to dress like that in this part of Vesperia. Maybe she really is a witch since no one hasn't tried to burn her on the spot."

When the witch hunter captain approached her the Reaver's eyes narrowed at him. When told her that they will talk later about this she said nothing as she looked over at Iosef. "You're alright?" she asked him. "It looks like you did something to piss off those idiots." her voice was now sounding normal as she no longer need to keep with the act. However the low lighting of the bar meant her pupils were still contracted into slits

Hex looked glance over to where the witch hunter was going to and saw that he was approaching the same table where the witch dressed woman was at.

"Looks like her luck has finally run out. If she can fly on a broomstick I think now would be the best time to do so."

Back on the table Alex was witching she can either fly away or teleport as the witch hunter got closer. She was shivering more under his presence than from the Reaver.

"Hey Jackie. Can you protect me from this guy right? I'm deathly allergic to fire you see and I have a feeling that old man is going to try and burn me." she pleaded to the young woman.

When the witch hunter finally joined the table and asked if he was interrupting anything Alex would shake her head. "No. Infact me and my friend are about to leave now." she would try to push Jackie back so she can put distance between herself and the witch hunter.
Naval Monte- The Mediterranean crossroads of mind-controlling conspiracies, twisted dimensions, inhuman depravity, questionable science, unholy commerce, heretical faiths, absurd politics, and cutting-edge art.

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The Peninsular
Posts: 154
Founded: Apr 04, 2017
New York Times Democracy

Postby The Peninsular » Mon Nov 30, 2020 2:22 pm

He had hoped the fight would be over quickly, with the fall of the mercenary leader, who was still laying disarmed on the ground. However, if anything, his intervention had seemed to escalate things - or maybe it had just been unfortunate timing. Jean was contemplating what he would do next, inching backwards to back away from the other newcomers, and studying the cloaked man. That was when he realized who he was looking at.

What the hell was Strana doing here? He'd never met the revolutionary personally, but he was fairly known in the circles of revolutionaries he tended to frequent. Granted, he was a controversial figure - especially Jean and his associates did not like the ideology of Bucharism at all, but he was still a fellow activist, aligned against the corrupt governments. Relaxing his stance, Jean gave the Bucharist leader a slight but meaningful nod, before turning his attention to the rest of the fight.

Or he was going to, at least, when the doors opened and another man walked in. This one was different then the previous ones - he was positively covered in insignia and the telltale signs of a professional and high-ranking witch hunter - and he radiated authority. Quickly deciding that drawing any more attention, especially from someone such as that man, was not a good idea, Jean stepped to the side, outside the with hunter's field of view, and sheathed his saber.

Back at his table, Jean slowly sat down in his previous seat again, making sure this time to have his saber ready to draw in case violence flared up again. He took up his book again as well, pretending to return to his reading, and keeping tabs on Strana, the witch hunter and some of the others involved in the fight, over the edge of it.
Last edited by The Peninsular on Mon Nov 30, 2020 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Founded: Nov 01, 2017
Moralistic Democracy

Postby Menschenfleisch » Tue Dec 01, 2020 12:45 am

Jacquelyn and Winter | Some Gay Bar

Jackie almost instinctively interposed herself between Willhard and Alex. She was fond of the woman, dammit, and moreover, she still had Ana’s gift-liquor in her gullet. “Evening, sir.” Her hands lay at her sides, just shy of a knife. She wasn’t sure she could take him in a brawl, she was hardly even certain whether she could out-shoot the man, but Alex had even less of a chance than she did. “You’ve not interrupted anything of importance. My friend here is an anthropologist and we were just discussing the merits of the church and the importance of societal structures. You see, I myself am a representative of the Office of General Esoteric Inquiry and Equity, and am therefore quite well versed in the enforcement of law.” She gave an almost unnoticeable nod toward the musket on her back. “Sit down, I’m sure you could benefit from our insights.” Such an aggressive condescension was typically inadvisable. But rule number one when facing down an enemy, monster or man, was not to flinch. Her words rolled into one another, creating a half-hypnotic lilt; the other half was stern determination. “Alex, there’s no need to stand. Now, where were we?”

Alex looked over at Jackie and shook her head. “I think I should go Jackie. No one wants to hear me prattle on about stuff most people won’t care about. I mean who truly cares about culture and history besides philosophers like myself?” Jacquelyn’s eyes hardened for a split second. ‘No you idiot, don’t back down now! Don’t make it look like you’re trying to run.’ she tried to convey her words through her gaze but it was a vain effort. Alex was lost to a stupor and it was all that the associate could do to keep her upright. “Well,” she finally uttered, “I think Venusta was having a good time. Besides, you haven’t even finished your drink. Wouldn’t want to tire your legs in this condition.” Fact of the matter was, to Jack, that there was no reason for the witch-hunter to have singled out their corner of the room unless he suspected that Alex was in fact a Witch. That, or a sympathiser. The man before them presented a greater threat than any bounty hunter and if they were to come to blows - either in authority or in flesh - it was likely that the rest of the inquisitors in the room would leap to Wilhard’s aid. She had to throw him off the scent.

Alex gave the musketeer a few blinks. Jackie swatted them out of the air as if they were buzzards. “Right… I suppose we can stay for a while.” The woman seemed to have understood what Jackie was trying to tell her. Though in truth it was more due to the fact that the fear, mixed with the alcohol, was making it difficult for her to stand correctly. But Alex blamed the unremitting terror she was feeling on that.

As she gripped on the chair she would practically fall on her seat.

“So… who here wants to hear some factoids I discovered about the Old Empire before it was fractured into a million pieces due to imperial competence, economic decline, and barbarians sliding in and out like a bad sex metaphor?” Alex let out a nervous giggle as she looked at the three inquisitors. “Imperial competence?” Jacquelyn hazarded a laugh. She needed the witch-hunter next to her and off his guard. A moment of skin contact was all it would take… “you really are off your rocker. You sure it’s not too late to throw back up some of what you drank? I worry for you, dear.”

Alex looked over at Jackie. “I may be drunk but I’m not that drunk. I still have class.” she would try to place her hand on her chest but instead she would squish her right breast on her hand. Alex was unaware of the action.

“And yes I said it. Imperial competence. Each new emperor promised to make the empire great again but all they did was lead it further and further to economic and societal ruin. Cumodes was the worst. If I can travel back in time I will suffocate that bastard with my tits you hear me! Everything that was wrong with the empire was because of him!”

“Sounds like a reward to me,” Jacquelyn smirked, putting her cup to her face while her eye lingered on her surroundings. The closest people to her were Alex, Venusta, Wilhard and Remus in that order. Choosing a dark and empty corner of the tavern was to her disadvantage: she was essentially boxed in. She was tempted to flip the table and run for it but assaulting a patron and making a mad dash for the door would only make enemies. “Now personally, I’d take thighs any day. I’m sure us three can all agree.” She gestured at Venusta and Wilhard at that. “So what brings you here, Mr. Latin?”

Winter caught Hex’s heart with a word. She might as well have laid an iron hand on her shoulder. “Hello there. Excellent iris, well developed flexors. You’re an archer, right? Beyond just a monster hunter.” She didn’t lean in but with every word that she uttered she seemed to grow a little closer to Hex, seemed to close the distance between them. The way she curled the ends of her sentences betrayed a terrifying intimacy. “Please, don’t feel at odds with anyone. They’re just vulnerable to prejudices is all.” As if to imply that whereas the reaver inspired fear by the reputation of her peers - other reavers who informed the villagers’ preconceptions -, Winter elicited terror through nothing but her own deeds and virtues. But was she even saying that? The implication was so firm that Hex couldn’t help but think that was exactly what she was trying to communicate but nothing in the syntax and word choice that the doctor had chosen directly indicated it. It was like she was having two conversations at once, one with a woman and one with a scalpel.

Hex can feel the hairs on her back stand on end, her intuition alerting her of danger. Each word from the mysterious woman seems to be like knives slicing deep into her as she can feel her presence getting closer and closer. It was oppressive, but dreadfully familiar.

In her mind she was reminded of doctors and scholars who acted as her caretakers when they found her barely clinging to life and not only gave her a new life but remade her entire being to how they saw fit. This woman would not be so out of place among their ranks.

When she turned to face the woman the Reaver showed no signs of her true feelings, remaining as stoic as a statue.

“I was an archer before I became a Reaver and afterwards I was trained under the Lycanthrope class; who are skilled hunters.” she told the woman.

The Reaver would stare down at the woman to see for any signs of her planning something.

“Interesting. I wasn’t expecting a lesson but who would I be to refuse? I’ve always had a sort of admiration for your creators. Although, I find it a little odd that they’d try to create perfection rather than try to improve themselves. Betrays a lack of self awareness, I think.”

Hex crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I think one of the fellows in the Unicorn class was on to something when he told a few of us that he suspected that we were the labrats for their attempt to achieve perfection of themselves. They just needed someone else to test on so their procedure can have all of it’s kinks fixed.”

“Hm, well, I suppose I can sympathise with them somewhat. I’m in the business of changing others too, you see. I’m a surgeon.” Winter patted the case at her hip, surgical tools jangling about inside. “Though, my vocation is a little more concerned with helping others than forcing excellence upon them. Would you like to find a seat, by the by? Drinks are on me.”

Hex knew that this offer may be dangerous, her instincts were telling her as such. But she couldn’t find the right excuse to deny her request without showing any hints of fear.

“Since you’re paying, why should I refuse the offer?” she would grab a random chair and drag it towards a nearby table before sitting down on it. The old wood creaked due to her weight. “So I take it you are from Carmina?” Hex asked. “The materials on your bag and your clothing matches with those from Carmina. My caretakers came from there even though the “school” I was raised in was in Tallern.”

“Close enough.” Winter gave the reaver a slanted smile. So how close was close enough? She took her own seat and ordered nothing. “I’ve been to Tallarn many times in search of ill-advised adventure. The last time I went, it was because I’d been summoned to advise on a certain police investigation. The Nettlemaker Case, have you heard of it?”

Hex shrugged. “In pasing. By the time I heard it I was off clearing out a Dancer infestation. Not dancers as in the professionals, but the psychomagical entities born from people’s thoughts and senses. Apparently some old house on the outskirts of Sodpot had many tenants with strong memories attached to the place that it was able to form five Dancers when I finally arrived. The current family residing in them were almost close to being subsumed by the Dancers before I got rid of them.”

“Ah, you’ll forgive me for only having a passing knowledge of what those are. I’ve always been too cooped up inside academies and cities, I admit it. Though, I am curious, what exactly are they?” Winter intermingled her fingers and placed them under her chin.

Hex sighed. “I’m not surprised. Only arcanists and Reavers know about them. That and exorcists but they are often called to deal with ghosts or demons, not Dancers.” The Reaver would order for the strongest drink available.

“Dancers are born from the memories, emotions, and sensations left behind by the occupants of a place. The stronger these memories and emotions are the more they will linger in a place. Of course magic plays a major role in this obviously because memories alone can’t create Dancers. But if the right amount of magic is present and all of the memories within a place is strong enough the two can create a Dancer.” Hex explained.

“They got their names because when seen they look like clouds of colors dancing in the air. Dancers need those emotions and sensations of the past to stay alive. So when someone moves in they will influence their minds to repeat those same actions, over and over. The longer this influence lasts the more the victim loses their will until they become nothing but a puppet to the Dancers. Doom to repeat those actions until the Dancers commands their puppets to find a new nest to give birth to new Dancers, often with those puppets dying as a result.”

Winter showed a polite fascination. Did this woman even have deeper feelings to uncover, or was the facade all that existed? Hex wasn’t sure whether she even wanted to pull away the veil and look upon what the doctor really was. “Dancers, puppets, they’re familiar concepts to me. Although, I take a more physiological approach to their study. Three muscles in my cheek-” she tapped on the side of her head. “Used to belong to a boy in Tallarn. Sold his flesh for a few pounds of bread after learning what I was. I needed replacement ligatures, you see, for I’d suffered some injuries that night; muggers with knives. He can’t frown anymore with half his face but at least he didn’t go hungry for a week after our trade. He seemed to quite genuinely believe that he’d ripped me off.”

Hex frown. The Flesh Market. She had heard of such businesses. With the resurgence of magic it meant new industries were opening up. The industry of flesh is one of them. People selling their body parts, skin, and organs all for money or for arcane promises. Of course in some transactions the buyer loses a piece of themselves and gets nothing in return. But if what Winter claims is true it seems her deal had the seller feeling robbed.

She personally dislikes the market. Many bounty hunters looking for exotic parts tend to come after Reavers since their organs are often the most expensive and rarest item on stock, especially since such items are extremely rare.

“I didn’t notice. Most of the time people have obvious scars when they make transactions in flesh markets.”

Winter shrugged. “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call myself a part of the flesh market. They sell very poorly preserved goods. Most of their sources are in diseased districts anyway, where limbs are harvested from the dead and nerves are sold as spinal tissue. I tend to acquire my materials from fresher sources.“ She smiled wryly. “They volunteer, of course. I’m an academic before a doctor. I’d make a living even without healing the injured.”

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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Ormata » Wed Dec 02, 2020 1:41 am

Maryn Potocki
Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

Co-written with Naval Monte

The gentle tap of a staff, slow, ponderous was perhaps one of the few things heralding Maryn’s coming. He walked along that long road, had for some time; it was only a few instances where another rider came along the path, times when Mira gave a sense of warning and the mage shifted into the shadows to see them pass by as lances of light through his comfortable hiding places, and such instances were few and far between. He’d avoided the towns and villages, the children at play and the adults at watch. It did no one any good to see him, whether they knew him or not. The ignorant would see a wizard, the knowing would see a threat, and by either case they would treat him odd, treat him different. He’d eaten seldom on the journey as well, seldom enough that his stomach groaned in protest. The rations Maryn had brought were not quite the same as the meals he’d once had in plenty, restrained only by his own research and drive, and to hunt was not a task the old man felt in his purview. He didn’t quite know how one skinned a beast, either. Fire would alert others, too, the fire that normally accompanies travelers and harkens questions. Maryn didn’t need that, either, didn’t need the attention at all. And so he’d been quiet, quiet and careful as he’d walked the long path.

Why, then, did he approach this new town? It was quite simple. Those who followed had gone too far astray and those before him were countrymen. By most of Maryn’s reckoning, the Inquisition hadn’t sent an agent to Robaiziche in some time and not for quiet long; he’d likely be able to tell if one was in the area by the actions of those normal townsfolk. They were largely a loud lot, anyways, and of the sort to proclaim their holy writs here and there, throwing their weight about. It was a lucky thing, in Maryn’s opinion, that they would be such like bulls in their nature. The countrymen, besides, were as Maryn could recall the sort to respect a man and his privacy. Of course, he had been gone for a very long time. Besides that, there was another reason. There were several, really.

He was hungry for an honest tavern’s fare. He was hungry for an honest tavern’s talk.

Maryn passed under the town gate and stood there for but a moment, neck lightly crackling as he turned it to look about. It was different. He was sure of it. The air smelled differently, felt different on his coarse skin, and the buildings were broken, dead little things. He’d passed through the town once before, long long ago when marching off to war in the Shadowlands. The buildings had been full then, their roofs complete, and the air smelled of baked goods. The soldiers he’d gone down with had been lighter-hearted, drinking away the night, something he’d had fun watching. The people now weren’t so carefree, weren’t so happy, watching from porches of the old man with the staff and robe, the old man with the long beard. It wasn’t the same and he wasn’t of it; moving on would be easier, simpler, and Maryn doubted that the coven had changed much since he had left it, since he’d last talked with Bry. No, it would all be the same and his bed would still be warm. A smile rose to touch the corners of old lips with the memory of such things.

A feeling reached out to him, that little emotion of someone watching one’s back, that heightened little heartrate and the cold ice spike through it of fear. It was the feeling of a prey cornered, one who didn’t have anywhere to go next. Maryn sucked in a deep breath of air, hearing a single word spoken into his ear, calming himself.


It was ahead, he heard, as Mira watched from high above him. It would do no good for a familiar to be seen with a wizard, no good at all, especially when they were such as his was. The idea that air might have a mind and intent, might consume as mortal man might, was not one many peasants were well-used to. It would do little good for those who had more specific knowledge on the Art; it would merely confirm their suspicions about him. He’d need to make some minor preparations about the matter, all things considered. Sucking in his breath yet again, Maryn took one hand and ruffled about a pouch for just a moment before producing his well-worn smoking pipe. Clamping it between his teeth, he rummaged about again for his own special tobacco, placing a pinch within the pipe before taking but a single pinch from that, concentrating just a little power into it, into the tobacco itself, heating it in a flash before strands of smoke rose between closed fingers. Breathing in the scent of it all, he was satisfied in that little fact. He would be ready in the event of some little conflict that would befall such a town on the border, ready to disappear if need be. A brief thought approached the old man’s mind, that the Inquisition might make their own arrivals, though he dismissed it. If they were, then he would most certainly need to disappear and the whole question wouldn’t really matter anymore.

He turned a corner, keeping on walking down the street for the tell-tale tavern’s sign above the door; what caught his eye first, though, was not that same sign. No, it was a handful of men ducking out from the door, running down the other way of the street. One man stumbled in the slick mud, sliding briefly before getting his feet back under him. They were all relatively well armed, though, gambuseons common among the men and full scabbards handing at each one’s side. The clink of chainmail rose to Maryn’s ear; normal folk didn’t wear such equipment, not at all. They were...soldiers, maybe? Soldiers or mercenaries. They weren’t normal folk and they were running from something. The question of what was quite the prominent one. The tavern had a broken window, glass intermixing with the mud. A bar fight, perhaps? Strange that they ran so eagerly, then. As Maryn slowly approached, he could see a slowly moving object in the mud. A man? It was indeed.

A sigh escaped his lips, walking steadily over to keep his feet in the mud before looking the injured man up and down. Glass shards peppered his face, shoulders, and arms, long pieces with blood slowly running down him in rivulets. Cocking his head, Maryn slowly crouched down whilst still leaning upon his staff, making a line from right shoulder to left...yes, it was in fact dislocated. Nodding, he surveyed farther down, finding a red, rapidly swelling point at his lower leg. Fracture? Maryn would say so. Nodding, he leaned back briefly to take his pack off his shoulders, retrieving a pair of tongs from his kit as well as a moderately sized vial of opaque, colorless liquid. Puffing his pipe in approval, Maryn leaned in from his crouch. Luckily, however, the man was quite unconscious. Taking his tongs, he proceeded to remove one of the pieces of glass from the face, blood briefly turning from rivulet to flow, before dripping just a little of the vial into the open cut. Blood turned to almost clay, hardening before his eyes just as it should, and the pain awoke the man.

The man let out a loud hiss at the removal of the glass shard. He tried to raise his hand but stopped as he squinted in pain from his wrist and elbow, forcing his hand back on the muddy ground. The bounty hunter began to open his eyes and from his blurry sight he saw a dark opaque figure standing over him. However with his mind still not yet being able to fully process everything around him the hunter did not show any reaction to the strange shape.

"Wh.. What.." the man slurred out before he stopped for a few seconds. Blinking away moisture that was accumulating in his eyes. "What.. happened?" the man weakly asked as he was starting to feel his mind finally starting back up and his vision slowly adjusting back into manageable levels, the blurry shape becoming more solid and defined, revealing an old man who the hunter was now starting to suspect was trying to rob from him. What with him looking like a begger who has never slept in a proper bed in years.

“I’d assume you went through that broken window. Hold still,” came the soft reply as Maryn dropped the glass into the mud, moving to retrieve another piece from the man’s face. The vial was yet held at the ready, Maryn keeping it close to the cuts. He left out yet another puff of smoke into the air, caught and dissipating quickly. Grasping the glass, he took another piece from the face, dripping yet more into the cut and letting it heal before half turning and dropping the piece away from him.

The man would keep hissing with each removal of the glass shards. "Bloody Infernium, would you stop that already! How about you get an actual doctor instead of cutting up my face more!" the hunter complained as he was unaware of what Maryn was doing.

The bounty hunter would realize that the sounds of conflict within the tavern was now silent. "Hey. What happened to the others? Did they catch that maniac?"

A moment passed as Maryn kept on removing pieces from the man’s face. Eventually, though, his little piece of mirth could not be quite wholly contained. “A real doctor,” chuckled the old man lightly, “a real doctor would do the same as I. A real doctor would doubtless charge you. I think, though, that a corpse in the street is not good for anyone. What maniac? Your friends ran off, that way.” Maryn motioned the direction, down the street, with his head before nodding to himself. He removed the last piece from the face, moving down to the shoulders which blessedly had only a few sharps embedded.

The bounty hunter sighed. "Fucking idiots. Leaving me behind with that lunatic." the man complained. "We were hired to bring in this dangerous criminal who threaten to kill the king and nobles of some state. The guy is a bloody anarchist and a radical one at that. We were trying to bring him in but the wanker took out his sword and threaten to start killing people. I thought with our numbers we can take him on but that bastard was a lot tougher than he looked. If the others left that means he manage to get some goons working for him. Either he got them to believe in his nonsense or he is paying for their help."

“Your friends didn’t look so injured,” observed Maryn dryly, chewing on his lips as he thought things over. A man who threatened to kill a king and nobles was in Raven’s Ash, the middle of nowhere and bordering on less than nowhere. It was a doubtful story. His hands nevertheless kept working steadily, retrieving piece after piece.

The man rolled his eyes. "Obviously they avoided windows after what just happened to me." the bounty hunter dryly stated. "But we need to get those guys back. That lunatic needs to be taken down before he starts slaughtering people."

All he got was a grunt from that; Maryn heard no screams, no pleas for help. It was all quite quiet in the tavern and, far as he could tell, the slaughtering hadn’t really happened at all. Besides...he’d threatened to kill people when the mercenaries arrived and they had...left. If anything he would be fleeing the scene, but no one had fled but the mercenaries. There was more to it all than the simple story this man was telling, Maryn was certain of that. He shook his head at the request for it. “You’re in no condition for it.”

"I bloody know that. But I want that bastard to pay." the hunter shouted. "That lanky fuck just got lucky that he caught us by surprise. If we strike back he won't be so lucky. We'll get our revenge."

“Of course,” said the old man off-handedly, finally finished with the glass shards. He moved down the body, settling himself down near the leg. “Deep breath in, keep your tongue behind your teeth, and hold it in.” His hands grasped both sides of the man’s fractured leg before he concentrated on it, against it, upon the little pieces that had turned to near dust from their once solid conformity. He focused upon them thumbs traveling about in small little motions, symbols and systems which were unknown to most and many, and could feel the fractured little pieces turning semi-solid in between his hands, forming back up again into a bone which once was. The process was somewhat long, though, to restore a bone broken, perhaps half a minute at most though doubtless seemingly longer for the man.

The bounty hunter let out a loud scream as his leg was being snapped into place. The man was shouting out every curse he knew to the heavens as his leg was being fixed. From the window a woman's voice could be heard.

"Quit your whining! You're giving some of us a migraine!"

Maryn ignored the woman’s yell, instead knowing that the man’s groaning and screaming wouldn’t stop at just his leg. Moving up to the shoulder, he grasped it with one hand and the arm itself the other, roughly shoving it back into the joint before giving the same sort of magic to that thing. Calloused hands massaged the area in circles, a quiet voice giving sound to old canticles from the forest ways. The pain would, gradually, disappear for the man, the muscles restitching themselves, the part whole. A grimace grew on his face, brow furrowed in concentration about the task.

And indeed people reacted as from the streets townsfolk got out of their homes to see what was the commotion. A few women were gossiping with each other on what they were seeing while a few men looked at the scene with pensive looks, as they suspected that more trouble would come to them. Even from within the bar some of the patrons looked outside to see where the screaming was coming from.

"Break his arm!" one drunk patron screamed as he thought the mage was breaking the hunter, not healing them. "Can you do that somewhere else? Some of us are trying to enjoy the fact that peace has returned." another patron yelled out, a few others joining him.

Maryn looked up, one hand grasping his smoking pipe as he rose from his crouched position. Beady little eyes narrowed further, almost lost in that brow, and the old man wearily shook his head to himself. They were quite drunk, of course they were, and it wasn’t as though yelling at such poor souls would cure them of their own ailments. Those who were so sour at the prospects of another being treated would likewise not be treated by a thumping, nor was it really within Maryn’s personality to do such a thing. No, it was best to leave them alone. Sighing, he looked back down to the prostrate man. “Best to get going,” was all he said to the bounty hunter, frowning before turning about and slowly bringing his pack back about his shoulders.

The bounty hunter was still lying on the mud as the pain began to subside. The man was now taking deep breaths as he looked up at the dark sky. "Yeah. I'll leave. When I can feel my legs again." he told the old man as he remained on the ground. The two would hear some of the bar patrons cheering when they realized the screaming was now done. All of them would resume with their previous matters as though nothing has happened.

With that all well and done, Maryn finally got his pack settled and walked into the tavern. He stopped dead in his tracks at the first sight.

The first thing the old man saw in the dim light of the tavern was that distinctive shape of an Inquisitor’s hat; it was quite the sight, one which gave Maryn no please at all. No, they most certainly were there. The man seemed somewhat old, despite having his back to the door, with that skeletal look which accompanies age, though Maryn could see pistol grips about his waist. Cursed be the modern Inquisitor who expands his view for new ways to kill and not new ways to save, that was the old mage’s opinion, though he could see another in the garb of the Inquisition among the other seats. Near her No, it couldn’t be. Maryn paused his eyes for just a moment before moving on, but he couldn’t shake his disbelief. Remus? Couldn’t be. That man had been declared an exile some time before, the old man getting a copy of his book before the presses were shut down and the printers executed for their own heresy in aiding him. Surely he wouldn’t be in Raven’s Ash, nor sitting with an Inquisitor unless...well, he might just need some sense of help, one old heretic to another. It wouldn’t do to barge in, though, not at all. If he didn’t need help it’d only complicate the matter further. Among those also nearby, though, was one who looked suspiciously long-limbed but...bah, it wouldn’t do to theorize with no information. Maryn needed a drink and a meal.

He crossed the floor’s length slow, staff tapping against the wooden floor, and ordered a nalewka, Robaiziche vodka, with bread and cheese. Worn hands placed a number of small, dull coins on the counter for payment.
Last edited by Ormata on Wed Dec 02, 2020 1:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Posts: 5594
Founded: Aug 29, 2015
Democratic Socialists

Postby Theyra » Wed Dec 09, 2020 7:42 pm

Njulgu Rantala

Guess things sorted themselves out before he felt the need to intervene. He thought as he slowly moved his hand away from his knife. Looking at the downed mercenary leader and then at the broken window. Njulgu's journey to the Shadowlands had been relatively peaceful. Bearing some instances like this barfight. Though he was not apart of it, he almost joined in the fray.

He almost missed one of the newcomers to the tavern during the fight, and when a frightened man spoke did Njulgu feel dread. What a Witch Hunter here now? Njulgu looked at the man but looked away as fast as he since the man. He had heard the stories from his parents about Witch Hunters, and while those that follow the Eklessia should still be terrified of them. He should be more so given his status of being a pagan. If that man somehow catches on that he is a pagan, then... then. Njulgu shook in fear at the thought but then forced himself to calm down. If I appear afraid, then I might stand out, but most are afraid of the Witch Hunters. Debating the right course of action in his head. No, No, just relax. I am not a shaman. I am just a hunter passing through. A pagan hunter, that thought reappeared in his mind.

Njulgu went back to focusing on finishing his meal as calming as he could. Not to draw attention to himself, and would take a glance from over his shoulder at the Witch Hunter. So he has taken a seat with those women, okay, so maybe his is not here for business. Good, as long as that man does not approach him, the better. Returning his glace to his roasted chicken. Trying to relax and hoped that the Witch Hunter would not notice him. He is almost there to the Shadowlands. Almost there to finding safety and a place to rest for someone like him. Just eat the chicken and relax. He told himself as he ate. Just relax, and I should be in the Shadowlands in no time.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Ceystile » Wed Dec 09, 2020 11:10 pm

Kim scanned the tavern with her eyes, things look like they’ve calmed down for the time being at least. Now, one of these people had to have the information she needed...she’d researched the Shadowlands heavily before making this journey, but it’s not like there was a ton of information floating around by a place that was supposed to be mysterious to begin with.

Noticing an older man with a staff enter the tavern, he seemed to flit about (as much as a man of his age could possibly qualify as “flitting” about) seeming to tend to those who’d been wounded during e struggle. Who was he? A wizard? No, not likely...he was probably like the lady who dressed as a witch but didn’t really appear to be one. She couldn’t comment on eccentric dress, looking down at her own choice of vestments. He looked like he may know some things, was it wise to go over and ask him? Well, one didn’t know unless they tried and she could very well defend herself if things got out of hand. Straightening her bag over her shoulder, she walked over to Maryn’s table.

“Sir...excuse me.” she started in her accented Common. “Might you be interested in sharing a drink with me?”

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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Laiakia » Thu Dec 10, 2020 2:52 am

Iosef Strana

Taking a moment to adjust his position, Iosef slowly walked over to the window, in case he needed to make a swift escape. Taking a glance at the tricorned man, he was given a slight nod. This drew Iosef's attention greatly.

"Did he recognize me?", he thought. Giving a cautions nod back to the man, Iosef holstered his blade just as another person entered. This one seemed to cause things to go very silent in the tavern, only interrupted by some uttering about 'witch-hunter'. Taking a closer look at the man, Iosef immidietly spotted the Inquisitor talisman, and internally paniced.

This was bad. This was real bad. The last thing he needed was to be put in jail. Again. Thinking on his feet, Iosef quickly sat down at a nearby table at the window, and kept his down while taking glances at both the Inquisitor and the tricorned male while grabbing a nearby bottle of vodka.
Last edited by Laiakia on Thu Dec 10, 2020 2:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Bolslania » Tue Dec 15, 2020 11:20 am

Lucius barely even felt the rain anymore. It had been hammering him for 3 days now on his trek to the Shadowlands. He kept his eyes straight forward, and he was functionally sleeping on the move, only awake enough to stay upright and moving. He was almost set to walk right through the town until he heard the voices from the tavern, bringing him out of his stupor. He walked around the man laying in the street. His eyes scanned all over the town, nothing interesting. His gaze flicked back into the tavern door, noting the broken window, he compared it to the location of the hurt man, sighing. It sounded like the fight was over though. He stepped into the tavern, taking a moment to appreciate the heat of the fire and the shelter from the rain. He noted the men laying unconscious, with some towering woman being wooed by some other woman. There was a lot going on in this bar, two militant types were talking, and a variety of other people were talking to each other among the smashed furniture and drunken townsfolk. Lucius had a bad feeling about the old man with the staff, he didn't know why, but something about him was triggering Lucius' instincts. Lucius decided to ignore him for the moment. Lucius was still fully armed, and as he sat at the bar he unslung his musket and leaned it against the bar, he noticed the bartender's concern.

"Don't worry, I won't be long." Lucius said. His tone was polite, and his face remained flat.

"Are there any bounties for....unusual creatures at the moment? And a vodka please."
Last edited by Bolslania on Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Ormata » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:58 pm

Maryn Potocki
Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

A woman started to approach Maryn just as he’d gotten his food from the tender, the bread warm enough from the ovens that wisps came off of it and into the air. The cheese, yellow and speckled with black, seemed to be cut recently from the wheel; it was still spongy enough and not yet hardened. Producing his own small knife, Maryn was distracted enough by cutting his meal as he liked that she’d crossed a good amount of the distance before he turned to see precisely what was walking towards him. When he did though, the bite was cut off; he could see her coat, which she wore openly, before he could see the details of the face and yet the coat told it all. He could see symbols about her shoulders embroidered right into the thing, symbols which took a few precious moments to realize were of the Alchemical College of Kemwar. She was a magi, in some ways, and one without the common sense to hide it. People got nervous about even the legal mages. A sip from his nalewka and Maryn looked over the rest of her as she continued to stride.

Middle-aged? Stars, he wished he could scry ages. The younger seemed to look older by the day and the older continuously tried to look younger by ointments if not outright magecraft. Maryn would say middle-aged, though, fifty at the most, with a figure that seemed to tower over the old man by a foot at most. It was a rail thin figure, however, and the mocha skin combined with white hair presented a most striking picture indeed to the magus. She was an odd one. His hand drifted up to the smoking pipe, snuffing out the hot embers inside with a swipe of his thumb over the top before applying a fresh plug of tobacco. Lighting it was just the same as before, a piece taken and crushed as the heat slowly drew-up wisps of smoke from the smoking pipe. It was an off-hand gesture, though one which Maryn immediately realized was a suspicious thing as a pang of regret rang-out in his heart. It was a mage’s thing. He cursed old habits inwardly, hoping that they hadn’t quite noticed.

“Sir...excuse me.” she started in her accented Common. “Might you be interested in sharing a drink with me?”

She wanted to drink with him? Why. Why was the immediate question towards the old man’s mind, why for an alchemist of Kemwar, why for him. It’d be odd, though, to refuse such an invitation to Talk? It’d been a while since Maryn had a talk with another person save through dreamscapes, save the poor fool outside who’d yet run off. It might be good for him.

“By all means,” his voice ground-out, motioning for the empty seat beside him with a wave of the hand.

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Father Knows Best State

Postby Britanania » Fri Jan 08, 2021 10:23 pm

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

The young inquisitrix waited on her former instructor to reply when a new arrival appeared at the tavern. The doors of the bar opened and Venusta wouldn't have thought much of the new arrival until she heard another patron--a bounty hunter, from the look and sound of the person--made a bit of a fuss that it was a witch hunter. Venusta raised ane eyebrow. She might not have been well-travelled, but the young woman new a witch hunter meant an inquisitor in these parts.

Sure enough, the man had the insignia of the Eklessia and Venusta resisted the urge to wince. She knew most of her order displayed themselves proudly--as they should--but she was the one working discreetly, and her mind raced as she tried to work on the jurisdiction.

Well, I have orders directly from the top, she reasoned as the new arrival made his way over and greeted her and Remus. Venusta gave a curt nod.

"Non interfare nostram disputationem," she told him. "Just a pleasant chat," she continued, much slower and deliberate as she worked on the words, her accent obvious.
Christus vincit; Christus regnat; Christus imperat
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Naval Monte
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Sun Jan 17, 2021 6:16 am

Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

Alex was glued on her seat as she can feel her very life force fading away she feared that the inquisitor that sat down on the same table as her may call for her execution simply for her attire alone. "I hope he doesn't know what happened back in the church in Velluri" the witch thought as she looked for a way out.

Suddenly an older man came to join them on the table and Alex looked at the old man who fits with what most would think of when they imagine an old wizard. More importantly she can tell that he was an actual wizard as the scent that lingers around him and the general vibe she was getting from him were clues that this man was a practitioner of esoteric principles.

The middle age woman waved at the man as a familiar face return into the bar. "Hello again. I take it you didn't want to stay out in the streets for long huh?" the matron said to the silver hair alchemist as she was glad for the distraction. "Though I think now I should make my leave. This table is starting to get crowded and I think I should be on my way."
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Moralistic Democracy

Postby Menschenfleisch » Fri Jan 22, 2021 11:21 pm

I forgot the format for these posts

To have described Jacquelyn’s thoughts as jumbled would have been doing her an immense disservice. It was damn near impossible for her to befuddle herself: she only had one brain cell to do any work with and being confused was just so much effort that her mind hardly ever bothered to be as such. Instead, when Alex threatened to throw a wrench into her plan to not be burned at the stake (a surprisingly hard thing to do as a female practitioner of magic, let alone a female practitioner of magic dressed as a witch) by standing up, she just sort of blanked. It was time for no thoughts, only smiling politely and nodding her head every few seconds: it was much the same ritual which got her through board meetings and briefings without seeding an oceanic desire to end her own existence within her soul. The meaning of Venusta’s words barely registered to her and yet she felt that something was being shared between her and Maryn. In a world where she lived in fear of the Eklessia, she might’ve picked up on the accent and realised that they were of the same breed. Unfortunately, she’d never had many encounters with the inquisitors herself and the few that she’d suffered through (perhaps suffered was too strong a word to use, it was more like she… existed her way through those confrontations) hadn’t been under very talkative circumstances.

“Sit down.” She unconsciously took Alex’s wrist without ever turning her head. Was she blinking? She had to remind herself to blink and to stop staring directly at Maryn. “We’ve absolutely nothing to fear.” She invited the inquisitor to take it however he wished: whether they weren’t afraid because they weren’t witches or because they could take him in a fight.

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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Bolslania » Tue Feb 16, 2021 2:25 pm

Raven's[b][u]Raven's Ash, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

The bartender paused for a moment, looking Lucius up and down. Lucius had set both arms on the bar, too make it clear he wouldn't reach for a weapon. The bartender set a glass in front of Lucius and poured out the vodka into the glass. Lucius took it in his hand and drank as the bartender spoke

"Some farmers reported livestock going missing. Entirely missing, and no damages in fencing to suggest they broke out. I'd check that out if I was in your line of work, need directions?" He said, obviously he was not particularly fond of people in Lucius' profession. Lucius nodded

"If you would be so kind." He said, the bartender pulled out a scrap of paper and a pen from under the bar, and scribbled something down. Lucius was surprised the man was literate, but it was best to not look a gift horse in the mouth. The bartender finished his writing and slid the paper to Lucius, who picked it up and looked at it. Finishing his drink, he nodded to the bartender.

"Thank you, have a good evening."

"Mhm" was the bartender's only reply. Lucius picked up his musket, slinging it over his shoulder and walking out of the door, back into the rain and muck. It appeared it was about a mile's walk to the farms where this had been rumored. The rain didn't seem to be decreasing in intensity. He set off through the muck.

Weatherton Farm, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

Lucius tromped up the stairs onto the porch, knocking on the door. He was dripping wet, water rolling off of his oiled coat. A few moments later, a man opened the door, only exposing his face.

"Yes, can I help you?" He asked, his eyes looking suspiciously at Lucius's musket.

"Bartholomew Weatherton?" Lucius asked, the man looked even more suspicious.

"Who's askin'?" He asked, Lucius could hear him reaching for something, presumably a weapon.

"There's no need for that Mr. Weatherton. My name is Lucius Virrillin, and I came here to investigate your reports of missing livestock." Lucius decided not to say outright that he was a monster hunter. Weatherton relaxed, opening the door a bit more. Lucius could see the flintlock that had been set on a small table.

"Let me just get boots and I'll show you the situation, please step inside." Lucius smiled pleasantly and stepped into the entryway as Weatherton went for his boots and a coat. The entryway was about 15 feet long, 6 feet wide. On the left side it had stairs leading up to the second floor, on the right there was a doorway, sans door, to a sitting room of sorts, and ahead there was a doorway, once again sans door, that lead into a kitchen and dining area. It was that doorway through which Weatherton had gone through, and now a small head was peering around it. A young boy, maybe 7, was peering around at Lucius, who was rather sinisterly dressed to the perception of a young boy. Lucius was about to greet the child before the head disappeared. Lucius remembered the days when he was that young, and hadn't seen his family ripped apart. Hopefully that child wouldn't have to see what he'd seen. No one should have to.

About 2 minutes had passed, and Weatherton came back around into the entryway, wearing large, worn boots and an equally used coat. Weatherton picked up the flintlock from the table and shoved it in his coat pocket.

"Well, lets be off then." He said, opening up the door into the rain. Lucius stepped out with him, noting in more detail the surroundings. The farm seemed to be upwards of 15 acres, mostly wheat. He had noted a windmill on the way here. About 300 yards off, there was a large barn, presumably where the livestock was stolen from. As the two men got closer, Lucius could see that one of the doors was opened, and could hear what sounded like a mixture of pigs and cows. They stepped in, and the smell of a barn wafted over them, hay and fecal matter prevalent amongst them. One of the stalls was empty.

"This is the animal that got taken, she was a dairy cow. She was pretty big as well, it would've been a feat to get her out of there without opening the gate." Weatherton said, Lucius grunted as a reply, kneeling infront of the stall, inspecting the dirt for imprints or prints. There was something, he traced his finger over the ground, feeling the extents of the imprint, it was quite large. The creature that had left it was probably 12-15 feet tall and weighed around 500-650 pounds. Weatherton was about to speak but a sharp look from Lucius silenced him. Lucius moved methodically, feeling for more indents. He found a few more, which suggested that the beast was bipedal. Lucius leaned back on his heels, thinking for a moment before he straightened up, brushing his hands off.

"Is this the first time?" He asked, looking for more empty stalls, there were some more empty stalls around, but that wasn't necessarily conclusive.

"No it isn't, its happened two other times, the first one happened about 3 days ago." Weatherton said. Lucius nodded thoughtfully.

"I presume the second one happened the day before yesterday?" Lucius asked, Weatherton nodded

"This one happened last night." He added. Lucius nodded, this means he could wait out tonight, and try and kill the creature.

"Did you see what it looked like?" He asked, Weatherton shook his head.

"Could hear it though, it stomped quite loudly, it also breathed really heavily, as if its nose was all plugged up." Lucius nodded. This was narrowing it down to a Troll, Hinderghoul, or Swamp Thing. Probably not a Swamp Thing this far from, well, a swamp. However a Troll of Hinderghoul was strong enough to do this, and roughly the right size. It was a bit large for a Hinderghoul, but then again most Hinderghouls didn't live to maturity. Regardless, both could be killed by application of musket ball.

"Right, I'll take care of it. Now, there is an official bounty, yes?" Weatherton nodded.

"Good, and I presume I turn that in to the barkeep?"

"Yep, bring him proof of its death, such as its head, and you get paid." Weatherton said.

"Alright then, I'll make sure it dies." Weatherton nodded, a gesture which seemed to be a mainstay of his.

"I'll leave you to it." He said, leaving Lucius alone, save the livestock. Lucius had his bag with him, and began pulling out his beartraps, of which he had three. He needed to see if he could kill it in a place were it couldn't trap him. Like in the field. Which he would need bait for. He turned to a pig that was rustling in its food trough. It looked back at him suspiciously.

Later that night....

The sun was fading, and the pig was tied to a stake in the field. Both the pig and Lucius were shivering in the cold. 3 beartraps had been laid out, in the most likely paths that the creature would take. Lanterns had been laid out as well. One thing that Trolls weren't was smart, so the opportunity for easy meat would overrule any sense of concern about the lanterns laid out. Lucius laid in the wheat field, watching the open field carefully. His musket was loaded, and so were his pistols. He laid almost entirely still, his eyes moving being the only sign of life from an onlookers perspective. He had been laying out here for almost 2 hours, and nothing as of yet. But Lucius hadn't expected anything different. Trolls were mainly nocturnal. He shifted his weight slightly, the rain masking the slight rustling he made.

A few hours later, and the pig began squealing. It had detected something, It looked in the direction of one of the beartraps, and Lucius could hear a heavy breathing. Almost as if someone was congested. He shifted his musket to point in that direction, aiming down the sights. A stomp, the sound of a beartrap, a scream of agony. There, looming in the light, was a 14 foot tall, 550 pound troll. It reached down, trying to open the bear trap. It uttered a guttural noise as it struggled, blood leaking onto the ground. Lucius took aim, pulling the trigger, smoke filled the air, and the troll gurgled and fell. Lucius had shot the beast in the throat. It made a choking sound as blood filled its windpipe. Standing, he pulled one of his pistols out, walking up to the beast. The thing smelled horrible. He aimed at the side of the trolls head, and finished it off, blood and brain matter splattered over the ground. He holstered his pistol, taking out his knife. The head was too big to take back, but the hand would do nicely.

Lucius deposited the pig back in the barn, giving it a rub on the head as he left. Blood from the trolls head was one his greatcoat. That would take a while to clean off. He had suddenly grown tired, the burlap sack containing the troll's hand feeling heavier than it should. He yawned, rubbing at his eyes, a hard nights work. He stepped up on to the porch, and didn't have to knock. Weatherton opened the door, what appeared to be his wife standing behind him, a lit candle in her hand.

"Its done, the body is by the large oak tree on the South West side of the farm." Weatherton nodded, smiling in relief.

"Thank you Mr. Virrillin, I am grateful to you." Weatherton said, offering his hand, Lucius took it, the two shook hands.

"Its all part of the job Mr. Weatherton. You have a good night." Lucius said, Weatherton thanked Lucius again, before closing the door. It was a mile back to the town, and it would feel much longer on the way back than it had on the way here. He sighed, the lantern and the crickets would be his only sensory input on the way back.

11 PM that night

Lucius stepped back in to the tavern, looking much worse for the wear than he had 6 hours ago. He hooked the lantern outside, next to the doorway, and pushed into the warmth of the tavern. Walking up to the bar, he was greeted by a raised eyebrow from the barkeep, who was cleaning out a glass.

"You look like shit." He said, Lucius nodded.

"Feel like it too, here it is." He said, putting the sack on the bar with a squishing sound. The barkeep opened it up and quickly closed it, nodding.

"Alright, that'll do. Was it a troll that was harassing the farmers?" Lucius nodded. All he wanted was to sleep. The barkeep took out a bag, rattling with silver, and handed it to Lucius.

"Does this establishment have rooms?" Lucius asked.

"Yes indeed, a gold per night." Lucius nodded, plucking a singular coin out of the pouch and handing it to the barkeep.

"Number 15, coal for the stove is at the end of the hall."

"Thank you." Lucius said, trudging off. He wouldn't have trouble sleeping tonight.
Last edited by Bolslania on Tue Feb 16, 2021 2:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Check out my Napoleonic Era Alt-History RP!

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Moralistic Democracy

Postby Menschenfleisch » Mon Mar 29, 2021 2:58 am

Collab with Nagakawa
Jacquelyn - somewhere in The Commonwealth

She awoke to the chirp of crickets. At once she coughed, spurting brine from between her lips, a fine suspension which settled evenly across her face. An awful pressure fell on her all at once, the weight of darkness and a body still adjusting itself to wakefulness. She bent forward and retched thin saliva across her bedding. Under the light, before the fluid could soak into the fabric, it glistened with black lustre. Painted gold, she likened it to. What ink might resemble if it were hardened into ingots. She scrubbed the water from her eyes with her blanket, an eiderdown stuffed with raw cotton. It was warm, even if it clung to her like a soppy lover. Before she’d gone to sleep it’d burnt her nose with the scent of vinegar. Now it was moist and carried a decidedly more offensive, aquatic smell. She resolved to be gone before the owner of the lodge could pester her about it.

Moonlight made fuzzy patterns of itself on the curtains. The corners of the room were black, like patches burnt out of a painting. She knew this scene well, even if it was different for the first time in a while. A dark bedroom, the portal from lucidity to sleep, a comforting sojourn to a place far from her concerns. The way back was always abrupt. She looked back at her pillow, studded with white hairs. It took great self control not to simply fall backward into its embrace. She resigned herself to this brief intermission, another eighteen hours of fulfilling obligations and maintaining her failing body.

She polished her teeth with the corner of a rag soaked in brandy and strained the two drops in the cloth onto her tongue before it could disperse and become trapped. She wasn’t even vaguely aware of what time it was nor did she care. Life was a contiguous thing; sleep was not rest, it was just a transition of the same kind as walking through a door or riding a train to someplace new. She held herself to no calendar; she slept when she was tired and ate when she was hungry, wanting no schedule nor company for that matter. She regarded bed-couples with some perplexity in that regard. What was the point of napping at someone’s side? There’s no pleasure in a lover during sleep.

She wasn’t very interested in having that particular question answered though. She liked having small, open-ended mysteries to ponder; examining the world’s idiosyncrasies took her out of her own mind and away from the present. It helped her, for example, to ignore the ferocious cold which hardened her skin and made the floorboards cut deeper. She draped a thick coat over her shoulders and pulled it tight with her rifle sash, its weight digging into her shoulder blade with the weight of a friend’s hand. She took no light with her as she stepped out of her room, relying on the faintest impression of her surroundings to navigate. The darkness for her was not a frightful thing. It was almost reassuring, having the world be cast in such a vague light. With only indistinct silhouettes to pay attention to she had no features to obsess over, no minor intricacies to examine. She was as at peace as she had been in weeks, walking empty halls as everyone was fast asleep.

They’d made arrangements last night to meet at where most roads into the Shadowlands converged. There was a delta of paths leading from where they were to the edge of the forest - dozens of small towns, military outposts and research centres speckled its borders - but only a few continued very far into the eerie territory itself. As Jacquelyn stepped outside the wind picked up and slid like a razor across her skin, standing the short hairs on the back of her neck upright. She swore that she felt her embattled blood vessels contracting so as to keep more heat from being circulated out of her. The sun and moon were nowhere to be seen in the sky. The world was under a dome of black stone, horizon to horizon painted in the thinnest coat of dark blue that anyone had ever seen. The breeze snatched at the tails of her hair, drawing it sideways along her face. She held it back with a numb hand and went down the best travelled road, following a trail of deep-set trenches made when the road was wet and the lightly-coloured scars in the dirt which travellers who dragged their feet made on their way through town.

She shied away from cover. Standing air reminded her too much of the indoors. Claustrophobia, choking fits, weeping saltwater. The symptoms were always the same but her patience for them was not so consistent. Today in particular she had no want of drowning, not when the ground sung such a yearning song. She took a fifty foot pilgrimage to the town’s well, a stone circle with a thatched roof on its outskirts. It was in utter disuse, its drawing line too low to even see the reflection of the sky in. Worse, it was freshwater. Still, even tainted and stagnant bodies of water eventually ran back to the sea. She drew a hardened strip of meat from a pouch by her side and tossed it in, listening for the echoey plop. She had no concern for turning the water rancid; it was obvious that it hadn’t seen use in decades. Perhaps some housewife still used it to get what they needed for the laundry but she was skeptical that such was the case. The voice of the waves quietened a bit. Visceral swirling filled her ears, the sound of water curling around a sinking object and filling the space that it continually ceased to occupy. The ocean was chewing its meal.

The things that water whispered to her weren’t insidious by any means. In fact, they were hardly legible most of the time. They were just intrusive and horribly raw. The melodies that they composed were discordant and personal, the same as the tunes which people hummed and whistled to themselves while nobody was listening. They had a perverse intimacy. The longer she listened the more comfortable she felt. They eased her fears, coaxed her into approach. Yet, she knew the ocean well enough to know that its beauty was feigned. It was vacuous and so, so hungry. Some days instead of murmuring it screamed, piercing her with saccharine adoration. Puddles would extend for miles, the water in her own eye would writhe and soak into her. Once she nearly drowned in a light fog. She shivered at the recount, her memory doing what the wind could not. She cleared her throat and spat on the road until the inside of her mouth was dry.

Drawn in by the noise a brown and shaggy mess appeared before her. The dog’s coat wasn’t especially thick but it was covered in loose clumps of straw, mud and grass, creating the silhouette of a much larger creature. A stray, she surmised. The town’s transient population made it ideal for feral animals. It raised its head toward her, eyes reflecting a dim moon. Its ribs were sunken and its posture was tired, with a sagging spine and bent legs. There was a noticeable dimple in its torso as well; missing bone and atrophied muscle. Without a smile, knowing that it wouldn’t be seen even if adopted, Jacquelyn knelt down and placed a morsel of meat a foot or two ahead of her. The dog crept forward and placed its teeth around the offering, just gently lifting it off the ground. It lifted its gaze toward her to gauge her reaction. Right as she put a finger to her eye and caught a salty tear on the tip of her index.

The insistent purr of the dew all around her and the quaver of the deep well rose in pitch. It was now a close sigh, dainty as it was forceful. She had meat to last but the dog was diseased, riddled with injuries and scars. There was a streak of livid skin on the side of its snout, lacking hairs. The thinnest trench ran down the middle of it, a scar half stitched over by starved growths of skin. It would die in weeks regardless, wouldn’t it? If it was awake at this hour then it must’ve lacked a place to sleep, or even have been recently driven out of its home. She saw it as bones tangled by kelp and bleached sinew. How pretty it would look, beside white coral and basalt sand. Brine welled up in her eyes and salt crystals gathered on her lips; the sea was salivating. She turned on her heel and made a brisk pace away from the well. The ocean could go fuck itself.

On the border of the town there was a stable manned at all hours by a young boy who Jacquelyn had taken steps to acquaint herself with the night before (meaning she’d inconspicuously watched the station from afar for half an hour and taken good notice of all the comings and goings). He was barely just pubescent, a good five years on him before he started growing a beard. He had the full cheeks and slim belly of someone who’d eaten well in former years but now had less access to luxury. All pale and unnotched by the world’s ravages, he was quite distinctly out of place amidst the rest of the place’s world weary inhabitants. She found him hunched over a desk, eyes tracing the paths that melodies took across aged sheet music. He stood out the front of a small station with room enough for four horses, a slanted thatch roof keeping the rain off them and a stall to one side for the beasts’ caretaker to post themselves at. An oil lamp hung from a short chain on the roof. It clattered against one of the beams, threatening to spill in the high wind.

“You’re awake at an odd hour.” The boy glanced at her from beneath a tousle of brown hair. He had a roguish gaze, somewhat violating. She didn’t like being looked at. Something about irises was off to her, striations of muscle behind a lens too fine for nature to have formed. She held his look for a second before responding. “And so are you. I haven’t seen anyone else who’s up and about.” Her words were dry and her tone deliberately belied a threat. “Give me a horse, gaited. I’m travelling light.” The boy raised an eyebrow. “At this time of night? Better to wait until dawn.” She tched in annoyance, which seemed only to elicit a grin from the kid. “Don’t worry about my safety. I’m sticking to the trail.” “Where are you headed? Some paths are more travelled than the rest.” “It’s not your concern.” He let out a long whistle. “Whew, okay. Well, in that case, you’re paying for the whole horse.” She had to take a moment to parse what she’d heard. “As opposed to?” “Renting. Have you ever seen a travel station?” “No. I’m from Carmina, city centre.” “I see. Not a country girl then. We have stations in all the neighbouring towns and crossroads; you pay full price for the horse, ride it to wherever you need to be and then you return it to one of our sister stations; we give you back most of the money too, so you only pay for however long you rented it for. You pay less, we have less liability and-” “I get it.” “Not my choice, it’s just company policy to give you the spiel.” She dropped her head and emitted a short, breathy sigh. “Just… just give me a horse and tell me what I need to pay.” The boy leaned forward across his desk, resting his elbow on the papers. “No, now you have my interest. Where does someone like you need to be at this hour?” She grabbed a handful of copper coins and palmed them onto the table.

The boy locked eyes with the deposit and for a moment she was overcome with relief. Then his gaze was right back on her as he slid her money away, rooting her in place. She bit back a growl. “You’re not getting your ride until you tell me where you’re going. You’ve got a musket. Lost soldier? Hunter? Can’t be heading East for the Festival of The Wake, it’s all lovers.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” She snapped, then pulled back and drew a hand through her hair. “This is not. Worth. My time.” The kid had his chest over his desk now, eyes wide with anticipation. It would’ve bruised his ribs if he hadn’t been wearing the skin of a sheep. “I’m heading to The Shadowlands.” He exploded from his seat and clapped, whooping that total disregard for volume which only a child could muster. “Ha! I knew it from the moment I saw you!” She didn’t move her head at all. She just bored a hole in his chest with her gaze. “You must be the most annoying piece of shit kid I’ve ever met.” “You meet a lot of them?” “No, just one. Often.” “Intimately?” “We work together.” “Oh I’m sure you do.” Her expression soured. No, more like it curdled. “I’m not a pedophile.” “You’re suspiciously defensive.” “I’ll be suspiciously covered in your blood if you don’t give me a horse.” The young boy’s face scrunched up and he let out a pathetic little yelp. He clutched himself tightly and made that indescribable but highly identifiable noise that always comes before someone starts bawling. “Don’t cry, I didn’t mean it.” Jackie uttered on reflex, backing up until she saw the smirk the boy was concealing behind his sleeve. She would’ve shot him on the spot if cooler heads had not prevailed. Alas, rather than committing murder, she chose to be the bigger man and paid what she had to.

With a wordless smile, the kid took what he’d been offered and slid it into his pocket. A ripoff undoubtedly since there weren’t any visible price listings but she would’ve done anything to escape the conversation. She worked the horse’s mane until its eyes snapped open and she pulled tight the saddle-straps herself. As she clambered up on its side the creature whinnied and she felt its powerful muscles rearranging beneath her, sliding across bones and cartilage in preparation for a thunderous act of protest. In a brief gesture of panic she grabbed the back of its neck and enervated the thing. It immediately came to rest, losing tension as she secured her place atop it. She wrapped the reins around her hands and enticed it into a gallop. It took two unsteady steps and wobbled, swaying beneath her. Bad memories came back. But thankfully, it was able to fight through its drowsiness and adopt an awkward canter. ‘Gaited horse’, what a joke. Though it seemed healthy enough. As long as she reached the Shadowlands at all she’d be happy. There was no deadline on her return, which was a luxury that she was rarely afforded.

The rough skyline of the town, all speckled with wattle and daub roofs and straw, turned to a smooth plane. Far from civilisation, she was surrounded by rolling hills and fields speckled with conifers. Distant forests appeared to her as stains on her vision with fuzzy boundaries and no features to make out. The sky was a dilated eye, its pitch pupil rimmed by strata of blue and green, a horizon lit up by slanted moonlight. The road turned to a damp mire, the crunch of gravel being packed tight transforming into a soft sort of squelch. She felt something on the bridge of her nose, a tickle. She dragged a finger down along it and smeared cold water on the tips of her nose and lip. It was raining, and for her alone. A serenade of falling voices. They beckoned her to the air, to the void, to the great grey storm clouds that scrawled themselves over blue sky, relentlessly billowing over miles of sun and star. She was submerged. When water began to seep from her mouth she let it run down her chin. When it choked her throat she coughed without emotion or a flicker in her gaze. She just stared at the implied vanishing point through the rain, calmly weeping and vomiting. She raised her bare forearm and saw the droplets gathering in arcs all over, as if the positions of teeth left behind on a bite mark. They dug into her, eliciting sharp pains. The droplets which gathered on her elbow and came off did not dribble, they sloughed, turning red and black. Her blood was leached through her skin. It was not taken from her, it simply chose to join that current which inevitably led back to the sea. Her capillaries shrivelled and her hair whitened as it blanched. Her nail-beds were pale. The rain was scrubbing her from the canvas, washing her away.

So was the world of her or was she of the world. Another meaningless, trivial question. Not as answerable as she hoped, either. The dreams of leviathans and the wishes of places lived within her. A thread of fate ran through her existence, binding her to the emptiness beyond soil and shore. She was the ocean but also a part of it. An aspect which encompassed more and a subordinate that meant less. Sometimes she felt like a harbinger. She always had something behind her, something greater that she acted as a herald for. She took the daze of lost humanity, a familiar catatonia which one indulged in whenever confronted with the unteachable but eminently witnessable scale of the unknown. She was the shadow of greater things. A pretentious thing to believe, yes, but there was a counterpoint to her self-aggrandising view; she was never independently important. Rather, context informed what little significance she had. She was whatever context she was made to exist within, a response to impetus. She was no force of personality. She was goals, and she became whatever she had to be in order to fulfil them. And currently, her goal was to be fed. In her own twisted reality, knowing was a state of being identical to full. As creatures must feed, she must know. She does know, in some of her iterations. But this one is ignorant. She is not dreaming. She is the dream.

She snapped back into the diegesis, a necessary hollow suddenly being filled to the same effect as a hole being punched in paper. Orange light crept over the edge of the world. She raised her head from where it had found itself rested, chin on chest and eyelids crusted closed. Rainwater was still in her hair, on her lashes. She had the faintest recollection of a transition but not a journey. Long grasses grazed her heels as she rode, the reins loosely held between her hands. There was a moment during which her heart sank, not out of dread but anticipation of a tedious trek back onto the main trail, but she noticed through the haze of drowse that she was still on the path. But dawn was only just breaking, as evidenced by dim light shining through the clouds. She hadn’t been completely asleep. She’d graced the boundary of rest at best, though she was feeling far more awake now. The reins were still in her hands and she was confident that she was on the right path; someone half asleep could still decide between left and right and she had more experience than most in operating while in an altered state of mind.

Of course there were still bearings to gain and a sopping wet body to warm up. She didn’t know whether to pull her jacket tighter around herself or to keep the sodden mess as far from her skin as possible. Squeezing it dry was not an option, not when it exposed her to the wind that was throwing strings of wet hair in her face and running blades across her cheeks. A wooded meadow sprawled, swallowing up everything on her left and right. The grass reached naturally to her knees and the soil was loamy and free of hard grit; it packed beneath her steed’s hooves. Trees, too - sparse enough to not have to negotiate a path around but dense enough that they stood in her path no matter what straight line she drew from herself to the skyline - stuck from the ground, leaves like snakes’ scales hanging down to a height where she could comfortably reach out and touch them with her hand, just inches overhead. The world was washed out green, an emerald shade broken up by browns and greys. The road she travelled was demarcated only by trampled grass and trimmed bushes. No flowers, no insects; the birds had been cleared by the downpour. This was true isolation, an empty paradise whose startling lack of anything but lustre only became apparent once one managed to move past the pretty sights. The field could’ve tessellated and she would have been none the wiser. In short, it was an overly simplistic rendition of reality. A dream. She felt the breeze curling around her fingers as she held a claw to the air and indulged in the aroma of wet, enriched dirt. The grass broke beneath her horse’s feet, shattering into pieces. Her skin bled its colour into the air like a droplet of dye dispersing in a cup. Time to wake up.

The unpleasant process of waking up bore no description. Simultaneously eternal and instant, she snapped out of her slumber to a lingering darkness. The sun had come over the horizon, it was just smothered by the roiling sky. She swallowed her nausea and kept her eyes on the road. She nearly missed the three figures in the shade of a patch of foliage, only sighting them by their reflections in the shrubbery. She pulled her horse up alongside them, spotting a man and woman of similar age to herself bent over a baby faced man whose facial features and jacket were splotched with red jelly. They all wore the uniform of the Commonwealth infantry, green dress coats and white pants paired with black leather boots, though the waking ones were considerably more ruddy and had ill-fitting shirts. The man on the ground had epaulettes and his sabre - a common feature between all three of them - was longer and more ornate. To contrast, the scabbard of the girl was featureless and worn, the portion which the blade slid over when drawn had a deep gash in it which made the container almost useless. His clothing, too, was perfectly pressed and sized. She kept her distance and turned to face them, loosening her rifle strap with a shrug. “What’s happening here?” The woman looked at the bloodied man’s face. His gaze was absent, distant, irrelevant. If he could still speak, he didn’t look in any condition to try. Presumably, he wasn’t out here - far from civilization and in the cold - because he was going to survive. The woman shrugged. “Hemorrhagic fever. Caught it in town.” She quickly added on: “Spreads through water. Don’t touch him and you won’t catch it.”

Jacquelyn glanced at the fire between them, kept safe under a cute little contraption of sticks and waterproof canvas. She grabbed the hem of her coat and squeezed, watching rivulets of water scurry down the cloth. The dying man was unsightly but she’d rather tolerate his moans than catch hypothermia. “You have room for one more?” The man met his companion’s eye, held it, and then just nodded at her. She wrapped her scarf around her mouth and exchanged her fingerless gloves for thicker ones made of desiccated cotton, better suited for warming her cold palms than maintaining dexterity. She placed herself next to the two healthy soldiers, the fire before their laps and the boy behind it. The grass around the flame was a rheumy yellow, shrivelling and steaming from the heat. Her eyes wandered over the boy’s body. If there hadn’t been pink bubbles at the corners of his mouth and red foam in his eyes, she would’ve thought that he was perfectly healthy. At least, from a distance. From this range she could see that his face was sallow, that there were distinct abscesses all across his forearms and neck. Eaten from the inside. “Do you know if he’s going to live?” The girl beside her let out a protracted sigh, like a drag from a hookah. “He’s not. By the time they start presenting, it’s already over.”

The boy choked down a raggedy breath. His chest was filled with irregular tremors. Jacquelyn couldn’t bear to sit there in silence with only that to look at and listen to. “Where’s the rest of your unit?” “Rouen,” the man responded almost too quickly. He had half-closed eyes, blue irises. He wasn’t looking at her. She was thankful. But the girl, she snatched sidelong glances. Jackie couldn’t help but stiffen at them. “Border town right on the edge of the Shadowlands. Very quaint. Small, insular. Prettiest girls. The children loved to hold my hand and show me flowers.” He stumbled on the last word and he grasped his own hands, squeezing his knuckles white. “Last week it all, it all, umm… it...” “You don’t need to tell me.” Jacquelyn cut him off. “... but you don’t have it, do you?” The boy spoke in utter monotone. “No. Don’t touch their faces, that’s the rule. But what are you supposed to do when there’s a child blind with blood in his eyes just crying alone and... just...” He spat into the fire. “What a waste.” She breathed in deep. “If you need help with the burial then-” “No,” the girl cut her off. “We found him like this, we’re leaving him like it as well. He’s the one who realised what he’d done and ran away. Could’ve rendered the whole quarantine moot if he hadn’t succumbed so early. Idiot.” “Shut up Cris,” the man mumbled. The girl let out a cruel laugh. “Let’s just put him out of his misery and go back already. I’m bored out of my mind.”

The man loosely waved his hand at her. “Just leave and tell them what we found. I’ll stay.” The girl just rolled her eyes and got up to walk away, leaving deep footprints in the mud as she disappeared over where the forest crested, the trees gathering together like a crowd of shy witnesses. The clouds circled around her, a concave bowl centered on this moment, this place, this stench and this man’s dying moments. She knew he couldn’t see so she wanted to lean over him and stare into his eyes, free from the weight of mutual observation. She desperately wanted to see without being seen. There was a violent current in her mind too, a desire to stride forward and ram her boot into his skull. In small part it was conjured up from curiosity, she wanted to see whether it would pop, but otherwise it was almost entirely just pity. She didn’t want him to be seen in these waning hours. A lonely death was a kind thing to grant. She knew the invasive grip of someone else’s stare. She knew the discomfort of the unknown when it was forced to become something knowable, when infinite possibility crossed the threshold into human perception and was snapped into a single state of being.

“So he was your commanding officer?” Jacquelyn had to turn her head away. Stare at the man beside her, anything to avoid looking at the body, even though her stare wasn’t reciprocated. Did he even know that she was there? “He earned it.” the man responded with startling belligerence. He bared his teeth, peeled back his lips as he stressed his syllables. “The rest of the unit didn’t like him?” She asked him earnestly, not caring whether there was enough ambiguity in what she’d said for him to take it the wrong way. “Of course not. Nobody likes you when you’re young, brilliant, and most importantly, better.” She had to let out an ironic, mirthful huff. “It begs too many questions.” “Now you’re getting it.” Stoic, solemn, the man was fixated. The longer she sat next to him the more worried she became, and not for herself. She slipped her canteen off the loop on her belt and offered him a drink of whisky. The smell was unmistakable. He didn’t react at all, implicitly turning her down. “Now they’re going to call him a fucking coward,” he seethed as she took a sip for herself. “As if they had the decency to comfort a child, and as if they wouldn’t have run if they knew this was coming too.” There was nothing really to say to that. She understood what he wanted. Just the impression of a listener, someone to pour his thoughts out to without any expectation of them coming back to him. She sometimes did that too; unloaded her neuroses and fears onto someone so that they would carry it away with them. “You know if you want help burying the body I’ve got some gloves and disinfectant.” No response. The man just closed his eyes for a time. They sat until the flame started to die, cooling to an auburn red. Then the man stood and knocked the pit over, spreading charcoal and embers onto the grass. Though wet, it shrivelled and took up in some places. He threw a linen canteen over the fire and whatever it was filled with, it burst into violet ethyl flames. He watched the haphazard blaze spread, tendrils spreading across the soil while being extinguished in other places. But it was decidedly growing larger, already grazing the then dead man’s torso. His clothes were already smoking and the dye in them was boiling away. They went black and slimy with the visual texture of a rotten egg. The last thing that she wanted to do was stay. The sights and sounds of cremation… she hated them then and she dreaded them now. Besides, she wanted to afford the man some privacy. She quietly got on her horse and cantered away, last seeing the man standing over the silhouette of his friend. There was nothing to be read from him. His posture and face were blank as untouched paper.

Grey sunbeams now fell through the thinner parts of the cloud covering, illuminating some foothills and woods while casting others in thicker shadows. Ahead of her the trees grew dense and the grass rose up like a wave at shore, all tall and vibrant and like a mattress of jade nails. The sky was overtaken by a canopy and all the open space that she’d borne witness to before shrunk down to a region only dozens of feet in any direction. She led a tighter existence now, no longer having to reckon with an endless fabric of earth and sea. There were grooves in the trees, ribbons of vegetation that snaked through the dirt. All around her, the smell of just mold and spores. She felt as a lone woman in a cold home, familiar with her surroundings but anything but welcomed by them. There were thorns in her waist and mud up to her knees. The horse was gone, exchanged a while ago. The moments that passed were trivial. She examined each thin slice of her present in great detail then discarded her memory of it. Just to keep herself occupied. Strange how transient the seconds were. Days behind her felt truncated. And what had she been doing a few months ago anyway? Chores and conversations and endless cups of tea. These weren’t new thoughts, they weren’t even abnormal. But taken altogether, the sum of her life just felt… meaningless. It was funnier to her than that it was demoralising. Just this ironic, dramatic humour somehow came through to her. The fact that she meant nothing, that nobody meant anything, was funny on its own merits. There was no explaining the joke, the idiosyncrasy of it all was enough to inspire mirth.

She didn’t quite take seriously, then, the suction on her feet until she heard a splash from beneath her. A little bit of cold spray stuck on her chin. Her train of thought was cauterised, cut off at the neck. She was knee deep in water, furry knots of kelp floating on a suspension of peat and silt. She screamed and ripped her leg out of the mud. She fell, or was pushed. She tilted her head back even as she toppled forward. Her ears and mouth disappeared under the surface and everything was eaten up. The current tore at her, beat at her eardrums and pried open her lips. It screamed at her, a rising crescendo of anticipation, building toward the point of no return. It had a grip on her neck, on her limbs. She wasn’t suffocating, she was being strangled. Her hands scrabbled for something to grab onto and found driftwood; cutting open her palms on infested edges she pulled herself out of the water, stumbling across earth packed by ferns and reeds. She coughed and coughed and let out long, exhausting breaths until her lungs felt like they might shrivel inside her like empty paper bags. On the ground, she just writhed and curled up into herself, blind and deaf with water in her ears and strips of algae in her hair. She wasn’t feeling terror which obliterated the senses, she was overwhelmed by dread. She peeled off her jacket and scrubbed her shoulder against the ground, shivering, until eventually she had the courage to open her eyes. There was a phantom sensation coursing through her wrist and a fading tune in the back of her mind. She had let it take over. Nearly walked to her death. Even at that moment she was already beginning to question why she was so afraid, dismissing her own fright as trivial and childish. It wanted her to think that way. To let her guard down.

She propped herself up on her elbows and vomited a brackish, salty effluent. It clung to itself even after impact, greasy and mucousy. She had been drenched before. Now she was utterly matted with floral gore. She clenched her fists, crushing the rim of a toadstool in her hand, and got to her feet. There were pale streaks, she noticed, on her wrists, in the shape of fingers. She took a moment to find herself, to stop seeing water under every single thin patch of moss or possibly floating mass of dirt. She was shaking but not cold. A former sailor afraid of the water. Nonsense. It was out for her blood but it wasn’t anything special. If anything, she’d conquered it in a way that almost nobody else had; she’d ventured into The Pellucid and come back. But that made it only more hungry. It didn’t hate her. Like a doting mother hen, it just wanted her back. Though it sometimes seethed, despising being seen, it still thought of her as a part of it. Jacquelyn Vanth had entered those white mists and something else had come out, the spawn of the black and blue.

The Shadowlands were not far. But there were no more landmarks, nothing but a worn down road to follow. Though she still felt short of breath and had eyes blurred by tears, she wanted to keep going. She’d already made it too far to turn back. Now she just wanted to see someone dry and to indulge in a feeling of warmth, even if just vicariously. So she cleaned out her hair and plucked splinters from the gaps in her gloves before moving on, noon’s light hidden above sedimentary layers of leaves and a fog of dead matter.

Chemdah - a great wasteland located to the East of Vesperia
The early hours of morning

In the vast wastes of the East known as Chemdah, there stood a great tower amidst the ashen dunes, hewn from granite and breaking the otherwise barren landscape. It punctuated the border of Vesperia the fertile and Chemdah the spent, and from its spire, one could gaze far into both sides.

Orange embers crackled gently on the open top floor of the three-storey tower, as the two figures sat in there, huddled over the fire. Night had fallen, and a peculiar phenomenon had shown itself. The half of the sky over Vesperia was clear, the endless constellations glimmering brightly, the milky river of a distant galaxy coiling round the gentle darkness like a dragon; the half of the sky that hung over Chemdah, however, was blank- it possessed a sinister maroon tint, not unlike that of fresh blood, and were one to peer into it, certain things would appear.

Eyes. Mouths. Entire faces, perhaps. It was hard to pinpoint what exactly.

“Do you know of the history of this land?”

One of the two who sat on the tower was an aged old man, who had swaddled himself tightly in a shroud, hunching close to the fire in an attempt to absorb as much of its pitiful warmth as he could. The other was a young boy, no older than sixteen, whose long and greasy hair fell over his eyes.

“For a thousand years”, the old man rasped, “we lived under the guidance of the Three Supreme Intelligences. We believed that they knew everything. Until they went to war and destroyed themselves, and this once fertile land upon which we once lived. The border between this barren land and the bountiful soil of Vesperia is where the flames of the Blackstar died.”

The boy sat quietly and nodded pensively. He’d heard this tale a hundred times before, but did not have the heart to tell the old man.

“My dear grandson”, the old man suddenly said, cutting his story short. His eyes looked out into the distance, but his voice caught the boy’s attention.


“I do not know how much time I have left in this world”, he murmured.

The boy leaned closer and clasped his grandfather’s hands with his own. The old man’s words were slurred and melded into each other, but his voice was knowing- perhaps more so than it had been in years.

“Grandpa, no. You’re still in good health. Don’t say these things.”

“I don’t mean that”, said the old man. He looked up at the insidious red sky and frowned, his clouded eyes furrowing. “I hear something in the distance.”

“You don’t mean-”

The old man stood up and pulled his shroud tighter over his body with his trembling fingers. By his side hung a sword in a leather scabbard, which the old man unhooked from his belt and handed to the boy, who accepted it despite his confusion. From around his neck, the old man then pulled off a small pendant hewn from brass, resembling a small cleaver and worn by decades of weather.

“My body is too old. I cannot cross over into Vesperia fast enough”, said the old man, his voice forlorn yet somehow determined nonetheless. “But I can stall the ash beast long enough for you to make your way across to freedom.”

The boy nodded as tears welled up in his eyes. He quickly hooked the sword to his belt and hung the pendant round his neck, clutching it tightly with a closed fist.

“Go. Seize your future. And no matter what… don’t look back.”

And with that, as the old man climbed up onto the battlement of the tower and looked eastward towards the vast dunes of ash, the boy dashed down the spiralling stairs of the tower and out of the door, heading westward towards Vesperia. In the distance, he could hear a shrill wailing sound, a lachrymose cry that mourned nothing at all. He wanted so badly to look back, but remembered his grandfather’s final command to him.

It wasn’t merely a command for him to keep moving forward towards Vesperia- it was a command not to turn his gaze backwards into Chemdah. Both he and his grandfather were well aware of what horrors lurked the cindered dunes of the Wastelands.

Don’t look back.

The wailing grew louder, despite the boy’s running further from the tower and closer towards Vesperia. By that time, it no longer sounded like a wail, but a moan, one of a sexual nature, perverted into a form still recognisable as such, yet distinctly wrong.

“Saethris, the Immoral Beast…”

Shutting his eyes tightly, the boy continued running on, even as the moans grew louder and permeated every inch of his head. As his eyes watered, he opened his eyelids again to find his way, only to notice, to his horror, that Vesperia seemed to be receding farther and farther into the distance with every step that he took, while the moans of that horrid presence behind him became louder and louder until it was the only sound audible in the otherwise silent night.

A sense of impending doom stirring the contents of his empty stomach, the boy clutched the pendant tightly, and vainly fought back the tears that already flowed. His throat had constricted in fear and in anguish, but his voice would not die, as he chanted between each laborious breath that he took in a final act of desperation.

“In the name of Qimranuth the Most Holy, Formless God of the North, I, Andras of Dromi, hereby claim my rightful mantle as the 12th Heritor of the Name of Dromi.”

And the moment his final word had been uttered, the boy felt grass under his feet, and when he opened his eyes, he found himself standing upon the soil of Vesperia, the ash of Chemdah now behind him.

No matter what… don’t look back.


No longer could he choke back the emotions that burst forth from within him like an overflowing river. With the moaning of the beast now silent, left behind in the Wasteland to the East, all he heard was his own wailing.

What he mourned, however, he did not know. For even in death, the boy knew that his grandfather was still with him, as were his forefathers. The Name of Dromi had endured since the fall of the North. The Blackstars of Chemdah could not snuff them out- nor, then, could any earthly power that existed.

Andras. When I am gone, no longer shall I be known as Dromi, and no longer shall you be known as Andras. From that moment on, I will cease to have a name, and you will then be Dromi, as I and the ten who came before me were known.

“I… am now the Heritor…”

You know your duty. Bear the name of Dromi with pride, Andras, for you will be the last one to hold it. It will be through you that Qimranuth shall have her vengeance.

And with a decisive grunt, the boy stood up and looked forward into the farthest reaches of the Western horizon. Behind him, he could feel the earliest wisps of morning warmth as the sun slowly climbed out from its slumber and cast streams of golden light across the grass. The tears had all but dried now. No longer did he have a name of his own.

He took one more step forward, and then released his grip on the pendant. Despite the warmth of his hand, the brass pendant remained cold to the touch- frosty, even.

Go forth, Dromi. Grant our nation rest.

Robaiziche Commonwealth
Raven’s Ash
A tavern, that same morning

When Koba Melia awoke, he found himself stark naked, and the room appeared to spin round him in a cruel spiral.

Too much grog.

Pulling his night coat over him to cover his nakedness, the young man groggily brushed his long hair out of his face and behind his back, pulling his dry tongue off of the roof of his equally dry mouth and sighing as he rubbed his throbbing temple. Sprawled out on the bed still fast asleep was another young man roughly the same age as he, also stark naked, snoring contentedly.

“Damn it…”

Stumbling over to the other end of the room, Koba took the other night coat off of its hook and draped it over the other young man lying on the bed, before taking a long belt from the cabinet and tying it haphazardly round his hips and letting the excess dangle to the floor. It was still early in the morning- the sun had yet to rise- but already, the smell of breakfast rose from the kitchen below.

Normally, Koba did not eat breakfast. He found it hard to muster much of an appetite in the earliest third of the day, and much preferred to wait till the sun hung at its highest points before consuming his first meal of the day. Nevertheless, he was stricken with the aftereffects of the previous night’s drinking and other such frivolous merriments, and his empty belly, ordinarily silent, cried for nourishment to distract the body from its self-inflicted discomforts.

And as such, deeming it necessary for his recovery to at least fill his belly a little, Koba quickly changed out of the night coat into his day clothes- a simple shirt and trousers, with an open jacket- and made for the main dining area of the tavern in which he’d crashed.

“See you around, Ben”, he said to the other man, who stirred briefly but didn’t wake, before quietly stepping out and shutting the door. “Nice getting to know ya.”

Already, despite it being early, the tavern had customers. Breakfast that day was sparse; there was a peppery parsnip soup with chunks of brown bread, some ale, but other than that, little else.

“Yes. Thank you.”

Koba took a seat near the door of the tavern, where he could soak in the early morning rays of sunlight, before pensively dipping his hunk of bread into the parsnip soup and taking a few haphazard bites out of it. Sitting across from him at the adjacent table was a one-eyed woman who stared blankly at him, her hands wrapped in bloody bandages. Her bowl was already empty, and the last remaining morsel of bread dangled between two of her fingers as she planted her elbows into the wooden table and daydreamed.

There was something about the way that her one eye cast its blank gaze that creeped Koba out immensely, but he chose not to let it bother him. The soup tasted better than he expected, though it was still rather too thin for his liking.

“Nice morning”, said Koba to the woman.

“Very nice morning”, the woman replied dryly. “Good observation skills.”

“You’re Leliel, aren’t you?”

“How do you know my name?” The woman seemed rather perplexed that Koba knew her name, though it didn’t show other than in the way her eye contracted. Koba was used to looking out for small details like these.

“I overheard some of the other patrons talking about you.” Taking the tray on which his bread and his bowl of soup had been served, Koba quickly scooted over to Leliel’s table, gingerly putting the tray back down and then taking a seat. “The legendary Lamine Hunter. Who wouldn’t have heard about you?”

“Yes, please talk a little louder”, Leliel hissed at Koba. “There aren’t enough people who know. The whole world must hear it.”

Koba cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly, glancing about the sparsely-populated tavern suspiciously.

“But yes, that would be me”, Leliel continued. “Have I met you somewhere before?”


“Nah, just forget I said anything. You just sound like someone familiar.”

Dipping half of his remaining bread into the bowl of parsnip soup, Koba stuffed it all into his mouth, chewed quickly, before then lifting the bowl up to his lips and chugging everything down. His stomach felt marginally less empty, but the palpations of the previous night’s drinking remained, and Koba grimaced as he straightened out his back and then leaned forward on the table and yawned.

Leliel, for what it was worth, didn’t seem particularly interested in making small talk either. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms, closing her one eye as if taking a snooze. The tavern was bound to get more crowded soon- people drank at any possible time of the day- so if Koba needed anything, he could easily go find someone else to accost should the opportunity arise.

But the hours passed, and still the tavern remained empty. Contrary to what Koba had expected, there were hardly any other patrons besides Leliel in the tavern at that hour of the day, and the longer he lingered, the more uneasy he began to feel.

“Hey, Leliel.”

The one-eyed woman had leaned back and dozed off in her chair a while back. At the sound of Koba’s voice, she stirred and opened her one eye to look at him from her reclining position, but otherwise did not react.

“Can I ask you something, Leliel?”

“...” Leliel said nothing, but her sitting up and folding her arms indicated that she was listening.

“What are you planning on doing from here on out, anyway?”

The question was loaded, and Leliel sensed it immediately. She casually looked around the bar at the other patrons, of whom there were few to begin with. It didn’t seem as if any of them were particularly interested in either of the two, but nevertheless, Leliel was careful not to present an overly cautious image, even as she leaned closer to Koba to speak without it becoming audible to anyone else beyond the boundaries of their table.

“Have you heard of the Shadowlands?”

Koba flinched at the sound of Leliel’s question, his heart skipping a beat. For a moment it seemed to him as if the rest of the tavern had receded away from him.

“Th-The Shadowlands?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know”, said Leliel. “You do know what I mean. The Shadowlands- a dark, mysterious haven. Hidden from the world’s prying eyes.”

Koba chuckled.

“No use trying to lie to you, it seems”, he said with a relenting smirk. He glanced about the room as Leliel did, though in a much less subtle manner. “You see, there’s a big bounty on my head.

“I, uh, accidentally killed someone in Carmina.”

“...” Leliel didn’t seem the slightest bit disturbed by Koba’s revelation.

“So you could say I’m a fugitive of sorts”, Koba continued, clearing his throat and brushing his long flowing hair out of his face. “In other words, I’m trying to get to the Shadowlands to escape from the Eklessia. It’s the one place in Vesperia where the Church dares not step.”

“Have you considered hiding in Chemdah?” Leliel joked dryly, her face stony as ever.

“The Wasteland of Chemdah? Why would I-”

“Nah, I’m just messing with you.” The faintest whisper of a smile broke out on Leliel’s face as she leaned closer to Koba. “Thing is, I’m also headed there. I happen to know the way. Why don’t you come with me?”

“Wh-” Confused by Leliel’s sudden flurry of propositions, Koba struggled to find an answer. For one, there was something that sounded a little off about Leliel’s speech patterns that he just couldn’t put his finger on. “Travel with you?”

“Pray tell, Koba, did I stutter?” Leliel folded her arms and leaned back in her chair. “The road ahead is very treacherous. It won’t be easy if you… have not been there once before.”

“I’ll come along, then”, Koba blurted, grinning almost foolishly.

Barely had he said anything when he began to feel a sensation of malaise growing from within his stomach. The road ahead was uncertain as it is, but here he was, agreeing to put his trust in the directions of a woman whom he’d only just met a few hours ago. There was no guarantee that she wasn’t an agent of the Eklessia, sent to hunt down the rogue doctor who had murdered Archbishop Barne Sodris of the Eklessia, barely a few months ago.

But then again, what had he to lose?

“Fine then, we have a deal”, Leliel answered decisively, standing up and pulling her coat over her shoulders. “Go and pack up your things. I’ll meet you at the door.”

Joram Luria Orev, I will rip your throat open one day.

You are no match for me, Leliel. You are like dirt under my feet. Until the day you surpass me, you shall have no speaking rights. You exist only to serve me.

One, two, three, four, five... six…

One, two, three, four, five… six…

Later that day

The strange thing about the path that led to the Shadowlands, Koba noted, was how nondescript it was. For a place like the Shadowlands, a mysterious haven where the rejects of Vesperia’s class-conscious society were said to congregate, he hadn’t expected the road there to be so forgettable.

“But then again”, he murmured to himself under his breath, as he and Leliel continued down the road in inconspicuous fashion, “a secret haven ought not to be too obvious, either.”

The pair had travelled relatively unmolested for most of the afternoon, only spotting another person along the path closer to evening. From far, it was hard to make out who exactly that person was, or any defining features they might have had. But one thing caught Leliel’s attention.

“That person’s going to the Shadowlands”, she whispered to Koba.

It was all but certain that this person, were they observant enough, had already noticed the two of them- neither Koba nor Leliel had taken pains to remain hidden, though they had taken every pain not to look like anything other than a pair of unassuming travellers.

“Let’s just pass them by”, Koba answered.

They were walking ever so slightly faster than the person ahead, and as they got closer, they could tell that it was a woman. She had a haggard appearance, as if she had just fought for her life barely moments ago- whether against enemies or the elements, neither Koba nor Leliel could hazard a guess.

“Can we just-” Koba said, before suddenly cupping his hand over his mouth as he realised that he had, without thinking, spoken loud enough that this vagrant woman ahead of them had most certainly heard him.

Jacquelyn’s head snapped toward the two, her hand immediately moving to the butt of her impotent rifle. Her cartridges were safe but the barrel was too damp to light anything in. Well, that was assuming that brandishing a weapon at the pair would’ve done anything good to begin with. She knew that face, that iron eye and caustic expression. If a normal stare was violating, then Leliel’s gaze was penetrating. She stood with her arms by her sides, waiting for them to close the distance. Her teeth hurt from being clamped together. The cold was truly getting to her now, her soaked-through coat doing nothing but singing to her. Her throat seized up and she had to put her thumb to it, hold in a retch. But a mouthful of water came out anyway, flowing over her bottom lip before she could react. She lowered her eyes. Awkward gesture, no doubt.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Koba stopped dead in his tracks and stuck his open palms out, in a desperate attempt to calm the woman with the gun down. “We don’t wanna fight. We’re just going to the Shadowlands-”

Leliel cast a deathly glare at Koba, but her expression soon relaxed, as she pulled the left lapel of her cloak tighter over her body with her right hand, still covered in bloody bandages.

“Pardon my travelling partner’s loose tongue”, she said to Jacquelyn. “Still, he is telling the truth. That’s precisely where we are headed.”

Her one eye quietly and subtly sized Jacquelyn up. The poor woman looked like she was exhausted- whatever she’d been doing earlier, it had clearly sucked most of the soul out of her. Stone-faced as ever, Leliel clicked her tongue at Koba, beckoning him to turn round. Gingerly she reached into the large rucksack he carried on his back, rummaging around inside and producing a small bottle she’d packed inside earlier that afternoon, prior to their departing from the town. While Koba was busy getting dressed for the journey, Leliel had taken the liberty of sneaking into his bag a few of her own personal items.

“You- how many did you-”

“Would you like something to drink?” Leliel offered Jacquelyn the bottle, without any further elaboration.

Honestly? She would’ve taken the bottle under any other circumstance. But today of all days, she had no patience for the drink. Besides, she could hear it whispering to her. “Watered down,” she whispered. Not enough alcohol to silence it. Then she widened her eyes and came to marginally more attention. “Red, no… thanks for the offer but I don’t think I should be dulling my mind right now.” Alcohol did not warm her. It sucked everything out, made her feel nothing. It was a pleasant experience when there was enough of it to achieve total bliss but when there was too little, it only scraped away surface level inhibitions. Underneath were the things that she really wanted to suppress. Her attention finally returned to where her hands were and she pulled them away from her rifle. “Sorry about the gun. You, I know you.” She looked pointedly toward Leliel. The muscles in her neck tensed. When she met the woman’s eyes, she felt like she was being throttled. “You were at the bar. I suppose you’ve also got a death wish.”

“I don’t believe we’ve met before”, Leliel replied dryly, opening the bottle that Jacquelyn had refused and downing its contents quickly.

Jack took a single step back. She stood sidelong to them, eyes wandering over her surroundings. Bushes to the left, a slope in the other direction. Bluffs in the distance. A song was coming from the East. She knew it well, the dirge of a bog. They might not follow if she ran there. “I wouldn’t have expected you to remember me. Familiarity is a young woman’s game. But I don’t suppose I’ve seen you before,” she quipped at Koba. “Awfully green. Are you sure you want this?” There was a knife in her back pocket, though it wouldn’t do any good against Leliel. She didn’t truly know whether Koba was as skilled or unskilled as she claimed him to be, either. Everything she said, everything she did, had a purpose in mind. Currently, it was just surviving. These trails were isolated, they could go untravelled for months. Her body wouldn’t be found. Her heart palpated at the thought of being left to moulder here. Well, at least her killers would get their just desserts.

Leliel cocked her head and looked at Jacquelyn squarely. Something about the way she carried herself and spoke suggested that she wasn’t in the best of health at the moment.

“Are you feeling all right?” Koba asked, picking his words more carefully after his blunder just now. “You don’t look too well.”

“I’m just fine,” Jacquelyn snapped back. “Leave me alone, I’m only-” she leaned forward and clamped a hand over her cheeks. Water welled up in her eyes and flowed out, forming streams down her face and slipping beneath her fingers. It was far more fluid than could ever be produced by crying. And it burnt, leaving the skin it touched raw and white. Her humours were eating her from the inside out.


At the sight of Jacquelyn’s sudden affliction, Koba instinctively stepped forward and stretched out his arms, ready to catch the woman if she fell forward. While she retained her balance, he wrapped one arm carefully round her shoulders, careful not to appear as if he was trying to violate her.

“You don’t look okay”, he hissed. “I’m a doctor. Let’s get you somewhere safe. Then we can get you looked at.”

“Should we press on then, Doctor?” Leliel asked.

“Can you carry her if she falls over?” It sounded almost as if Koba was jabbing at Leliel for her stuffing his bag full of alcohol without telling her.

“Yes. I’ll carry her if need be.”

Letting go of Jacquelyn’s shoulder and taking a step back, Koba looked Jacquelyn in the eye.

“You’re going to the Shadowlands too, aren’t you?” he inquired, firmly but not probingly.

Jacquelyn’s knee rose an inch as if to kick but instead she took the opportunity to back away. She nearly slipped on the ground, her vision completely blurred. “Sure. Searching for something. Someone. Neither of you look like that though. And if you’re a doctor, then-” she took a moment to cough to a side. “You should know what this is. Never seen a sailor before?” The implication was obvious. Saltlure, blacksight, many names for it. A symptom of prolonged exposure to a deprivation of laws, mathematical and physical. One started hearing the waves, seeing water. Expelling it, being sung to by it. To her, Koba’s eyes were the most noticeable part of him, a corona of fluid over a hollow pupil. The abyss of the human oculus. “Sorry, don’t mean to be rude,” she muttered, knowing her situation all too well. “You’re heading where exactly? I don’t really have a plan, per se, but I know that most have a goal in mind when they come here.”

“We’re not looking for any destination in particular”, Koba explained, taking a moment to brush his hair out of his face. “Rather… we’re both trying to get away from somewhere else. As it is, there’s no better place to hide than the Shadowlands.”

Still tugging on the lapel of her own jacket, Leliel slowly wandered forward a few paces and looked down the path pensively. She knew the road to the Shadowlands, all right, but this was the first time she’d actually set foot on that fateful path. It was like being told of a foreign cuisine for years, and then tasting it for the first time.

“Oh, you won’t find sanctuary here,” Jacquelyn bitterly remarked. “And who am I to pry. Keep your sordid histories.”

“We’re happy to take our chances”, Leliel replied tersely, still looking down the path.

“Better than having no other options, I guess.” She sighed, brushing the last of the seafoam from her lip. She sort of just incorporated herself into their group, walking down the path and expecting that they’d follow. It wasn’t as if there was anywhere else to go or any way for them to separate, unless Leliel and Koba were willing to greatly under or outpace her. “Your names. Or pseudonyms, so I don’t have to call you boy and girl.”

“My name’s Koba”, said Koba, casting a tired smile at Jacquelyn. He was normally a bit more bubbly with the introductions, but it had been a long day, both for him and, undoubtedly, for Jacquelyn.

“Leliel”, said Leliel. “Though I think you already know. Somehow.”

Jacquelyn broke the slimmest and grimmest of smiles. “As I said. Familiarity’s a young woman’s game. Now Koba, there’s a name.”

“We can talk more when we get to somewhere where we can sit down and take a breath without worrying about something coming after our backs”, said Koba, attempting to crack a bit of dark humour, though it fell flat as he failed to find any punchline. “For now, let’s just stick together and get to where we need to.”

“We’ll know it when it comes”, said Leliel. “That safe resting place, I mean.”

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Posts: 5594
Founded: Aug 29, 2015
Democratic Socialists

Postby Theyra » Wed Mar 31, 2021 11:29 pm

Robaiziche Commonwealth
Raven's Ash
A tavern
Njulgu Rantala

Noooo!, yelled as he woke up in a cold sweat. Heavily breathing as he tried to calm himself. A nightmare he had, one of home. Of that fateful day when Ditlevsen ordered his men to attack Ikaakila. Watching as his fellow villagers, many of who he knew for years, were cut down before his eyes. Searching in vain for Ervá in the middle of the chaos. Then came the sight of his parents fighting for their lives, father using his magic on the invading troops, and mother sniping those that came towards her with her bow. Njulgu wanted to rush towards them and help but, something was holding him back. Something he could not see, and all he could do was watch his parents make a final last stand. Father was hit first with an arrow to his shoulder and then another arrow to his leg. Mother faced to his side, still firing her bow. But, before she could reach him, a faceless soldier in full mail stopped her. Taking a swing that destroyed her bow, and so she switched to her two knives. She would hold out for a while before the soldier would cast her down. Then turned and unceremoniously cut his father down. It was here that Njulgu was finally able to run towards his parents but before he could reach their bodies. A sharp pain erupted in his back, causing him to fail, and slowly everything went black.

Njulgu was breathing easier now that some time has passed though he was still uneasy. This is the first dream of what to happen to Ikaakila, and he suspects that it will not be the only one. He did not see his parents get cut down during the attack, having left beforehand. But, seeing what his mind imagined was their last stand. Small tears went down his face. They told him to run for it. He repeated in his mind, they told him to run, and he obeyed. But, should he have, would it have been better to fight alongside to parents to the end. Njulgu shook his head at the thought, no. His parents wanted him to live, not to die at the hands of a zealot. So he must live, for their sake, and maybe Ervá is still alive. Maybe some of the other villagers too. Njulgu knows it is a long shot that they survive and even be heading to the Shadowlands. But he got out. So maybe others did too, and they are okay.

Njulgu wiped the tears off his face as he collected himself. He got out of bed and searched through his belongings until he found it. 'Got ya," he said victoriously. One of two things he has left of his village and his people, the old gods necklace. Sure, having it out is dangerous for him. For what could happen to him if people find out that he is a pagan. A follower of the old gods, nothing good at all. But, it is one of two things he has left after the attack. The other being the old wooden flute he has. Still, the necklace always gave him a sense of peace, something he needed right now. So he held it close to him for a short bit before he hidden it away in his gear. Safe and sound where no one could see it, and he could rest easy.

After getting his bearing and seeing how it was morning, Njulgu gathered his gear, and once he was ready. He left his room and went downstairs to get something to eat. Which in the morning was not much but, it would do as he ate his parsnip soup and brown bread. Seeing how they aren't a lot of people in the tavern at the time. Only a select few which suited him fine. Njulgu simply ate by himself in the back and did not bother to interact with those that were in the tavern at the time. Once he was done, Njulgu left the tavern, took a deep breath, and made his way to the Shadowlands.

Later in the Day

You would think that a place like the Shadowlands, a place where those who wish to hide. That it would be harder to reach it but, all he has to do is to follow a simple road. Even if it is a rather nondescript road, it is still a road. Easy enough to follow, and surely he would be in the Shadowlands soon enough. A place where he can rest and recover in peace. Though before that can happen and as he was walking there. Njulgu spotted some people ahead of him. They had not noticed him yet, and he plans to keep it that way. Choosing to keep his distance from the people. Chances are they are heading to the Shadowlands as well, and he does not recognize any of them. He is not safe yet, and so Njulgu will keep his distance for now and continued his way to the Shadowlands.

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Naval Monte
Posts: 13451
Founded: Sep 04, 2014
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Naval Monte » Wed Apr 07, 2021 3:35 am

Collab with Menschen and Nag

Shadowlands Outskirts, Noon

True isolation is a difficult thing to find. Loneliness is abundant, but the sensation of being utterly alone - no longer a factor of any plan or the subject of any sight - is scarce. Jacquelyn, for a few minutes, felt alone. Lost at sea, adrift, ephemeral. It was not a strange feeling, not unfamiliar to her either. Instead, it was haunting. Like having a knife dig into an old scar, or a finger push itself into a bruise. Painfully far from anything familiar or that she might cultivate familiarity from, the air was cleaner and the soil was softer. There was no substance to the world that she inhabited, no lingering aspect of any thought. She could afford to be petty, meaningless, silent. This was a place that would not judge. The people she was with, on the other hand... she glanced up at Leliel and Koba, her apparent companions on the road. They had each other for company, likely saw her as at least an acquaintance too. But to her, they barely registered as alive. She didn’t know enough about them, hadn’t seen enough of them, to care. 

But an aching body demands warmth and discomfort gives way to mechanisms of distraction. So she talked, even though there was nothing to discuss. As the miles disappeared beneath and behind them, the road steadily becoming more overgrown and the crossroads getting denser, the light of day was gently smothered by the trees. She pushed through thorns and tore her foot out of brambled snares. The sky, a dizzyingly vast expanse, was cut off from her. She was no longer beneath the eye. Though men were not made to live in the dark, she found more comfort in it than under sunlight. What a strange and dysfunctional set of desires she possessed, she thought. What contradictory beliefs. To not want to be seen and to want for company. To be friends with a child and enemies with everyone else her age. It was a sad state of affairs, she knew. To an extent it was comforting, though, to know that nobody could possibly envy her. To some, an inability to taste - the sense stolen from her in The Pellucid among snippets of sight and all sensation on parts of her body - would’ve been enough to inspire a depressive spiral. She was rather okay with it. Tasting nothing was better than reckoning with rotten fish and garum. It also meant that she was immune to the side effects of her own decidedly awful cooking. There was a reason why she only ate onions and rice.

“Let’s rest here for the night.” Taking a step off of the beaten path and behind some brambles, Leliel grunted and took the large rucksack off of her back, before then opening it and digging around for something to eat. The air had become decidedly colder, almost icy to the taste- this close to the Shadowlands, it had taken on a rather otherworldly fragrance, of a sort one found hard to put into words. 

Koba too put his bag down, but unlike Leliel, who tended first to their immediate physical needs, the young doctor’s gaze drifted to the horizon. The part of the path where Leliel had elected to stop and rest had a bit of a higher elevation, and offered a view of the plains below. 

“It’s… so beautiful…” 

In the absence of any human light sources, the milky rivers in the night canopy hung over the endless plains. As far as the eye could see, it was a vast expanse of trees and boulders punctuating the grasslands. To the northwest was a great blue glow- those were the Marshes of the Night Goddess, a mysterious swampy land that, at night, lit up with an ethereal glow, supposedly the discharge of excess magic. To the south was the Fortress of Arla- it wasn’t actually a fortress, but a large, stony hill, surrounded in all directions by trees and water. 

To the east, however, was something quite different- beyond a certain point, visible only in the night, the constellations and carpets of bright little lights in the sky were blotted out, obscured by ominous red plumes of some sort, impenetrable and imposing. 

Chemdah, the Wasteland. 

“Would anybody want something to eat?” Leliel inquired. From her rucksack, she produced two loaves of brown bread and a block of cheese. “Personally, I’m famished, but you two…”

Jacquelyn waved her hand. Didn’t mean to be dismissive but also didn’t care if she came off that way. Sometimes it just wasn’t worth keeping up the facade. “I couldn’t possibly. Those are your supplies, you hang onto them.” Not the truth, but something more easy to digest than ”ew what the fuck no I hate cheese”. Her gaze wandered, subconsciously tracking the line of sight of the rather starstruck boy, Koba. Well, not boy. He was about the same age as her, maybe even a little older, but everyone registered as young to her. It came with the territory of living in such a malleable form of time. She was conscious for more than twenty four hours a day and the years she’d spent at sea could be construed as having all the import of seconds or of decades. Collectively? She probably ‘remembered’ far more than either of the two people before her combined. Most of it was of worlds that never were or couldn’t possibly come to be, though. Her day to day life, the one that she was experiencing now? It was just one of many lives she led, albeit the one upon which all the others depended on.

The meadows, the forest, the water, the marsh. Splotches of colour on what would’ve been a spotless canvas. Nature erred on the side of unnecessary complexity and the human mind tended to see merit in things that intrinsically held none. Why did trees and blue skies mellow the common man when they served less purpose than bricks and mortar? Why did birdsong register as pleasant when the beat of one’s heart was a far greater indicator of health? Again, small questions to ponder for no other purpose than occupying time. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As I’m sure you’re heard recited over and over.” She spoke at Koba with a voice full of low, steady fry. “Tell me what the best thing is. What makes it so wonderful.” Maybe if she couldn’t see it herself, she’d be able to understand through someone else’s words.

“Me?” Turning round to look at Jacquelyn, Koba’s gaze drifted almost as soon as he had made eye contact. “I… really can’t say.”

He had not thought this question through for the longest time. All his life, he’d known exactly what he didn’t want to do. What he hated. As for what made life worth living, though… 

“She’s asking you if you’re hungry”, Leliel joked. Taking out a small pot and a long, scrawny parsnip from the rucksack, she squatted down and began to shave off the dirt from the root with her side dagger, taking care to waste as little of the actual parsnip as possible, before holding it over the empty pot and cutting the parsnip into small cylindrical pieces. “But I can’t make you anything. We need to conserve our food.”


Koba took a seat and looked up at the sky.

“If I had to say what the best thing is”, he murmured thoughtfully, a faint, innocent smile breaking out on his face, “I would say it’s… freedom. The freedom to do as you wish. To choose your own destiny and the path you wish to take.”

“Koba, that’s such a boring answer.” 

“I know”, he chuckled. “But that’s what I really value, anyway.” He turned to Jacquelyn, as if expecting her to elaborate too. By the side, Leliel had formed a little ring of pebbles, and was proceeding to light a fire. 

She let out a short breath, almost begrudgingly accepting that she had to speak. “Well there’s something we agree on. Though, sometimes there are only bad paths to take.” But freedom is less about the self and more about the world. There need to be things to act on and things to see for freedom to mean anything. So she sought out the most vibrant and hellish places on earth, sustaining her mental health on a diet of novelty. She would’ve worried that someday, the world would run out of wonders. But truthfully, she knew that the day of her death would come a long time before then. She watched Leliel peel the parsnip, blade passing under its pitted, white shell.

“They skinned me.” She muttered vacantly. “I was a sailor. So I felt nothing. The others, they went hungry. But I was weak while under the command of someone prone to pity, so I still ate well. They pinned me to my bed and cut some bite sized pieces out of my forearms and calves. It didn’t hurt, some of them thanked me for it.” A cruel, distended smile graced her features. “I could give a scrap of myself for you to eat. It wouldn’t even be cannibalism. I’m… a little past human.” The recount was not traumatic. Wasn’t particularly funny either, it was just a memory that stuck out to her. An interesting curio, she decided. That was the best description for it.

“Sweet-” Koba cupped his mouth in shock, while Leliel turned to look at Jacquelyn with an utterly unreadable expression, before then turning her attention back to the fire. 

“Sorry. It’s a little gross,” Jacquelyn added as if that made everything all better.

“No, don’t you worry about it.” Leliel took out a small flask from the rucksack, emptying the little water it contained into the pot. By now, the fire had been lit- all that was left was to wait for the parsnips to cook. She wasn’t a particularly good cook by any means, but with everyone (or at least two out of three) hungry, it probably didn’t matter all that much, so long as it tasted fine and the bellies were filled. 

Pulling his coat tighter over his body, Koba stood back up, but couldn’t figure out what to say. The gentle crackling of Leliel’s fire and the rhythmic groans of the crickets hidden in the grass filled the silence.

Truth was that Jacquelyn was famished but she’d never been great at listening to her body in the first place. Instinct was something which you necessarily had to discard when you had a vocation such as hers. That wasn’t to say that she was any smarter or more cogent than anyone else, more like she was just much less able to make snap judgements and engage in intuition. What was left was an over-tuned mind, given too much lease to judge the world and make complex, often useless conclusions about things. The way of thinking… served her well. Not always but usually. “Before all this I was an investigator. Solved crimes, cured diseases of the mind. You said you were a doctor, didn’t you? What kind of pathologies have you encountered?” What went unsaid was the word ‘grim’. She wanted to hear about the worst diseases, the most severe morbidities. Maybe it would give her some idea of where to go next.

Koba smiled uncomfortably. 

“I’m a cancer doctor”, he explained. “I work under the Araelian discipline. My specialty is in the excision of tumours, so if you’re asking me what I’ve seen… Well, it’s mostly abnormal nodes and growths. I’ve seen some really scary things, if you’d like me to go into detail?”

“Open up.” Jacquelyn tilted her head a degree or two. “I’d like to hear it.”

“Well, there was this one guy who had a tumour growing inside his nose, which I then-”

The group would hear a loud scream. Looking at the source they would see a woman desperately holding on to a witch hat with one hand and the reins on her horse while her ride was sprinting quickly, evidently spooked by something.

"Please calm down! I can’t hold on for much longer." She pleaded to the horse who ignored her cries as the horse remained in its wild state.

The horse would stop as a loud wail would be heard echoing through the air. They sound closely human but the cadences were off somehow.

The horse would loudly neigh as it rose up. Alex screamed as she tried desperately to hold on to her horse, screaming for help.

Jacquelyn glanced at Leliel. “Think I should shoot her?” … “The horse, I mean. Not Alex. That’s the name of the woman by the way, she’s the one that I… well, probably best not to tell.”

“You know her?” Koba turned his head and whirled about. 

“That appears to be the case”, said Leliel. 

“What a coincidence.” Leaving the soup to boil, he rushed forward towards the horse, stopping just out of kicking range of the spooked steed. “Hoi. Do you need any help?”

Alex looked over as she tried to hold on to her horse. "Oh no. I'm fine. I don't need any help whatsoever." The sarcastic woman replied back.

Jacquelyn would’ve been content to just let her flounder around but honestly, seeing her wizened bones and shrivelled skin (anyone above twenty five was old to her, even though that was an incredibly low bar to clear), she kind of felt a pang of pity. Strange, she’d thought the ability to feel emotion long since deprived from her.

She stood and took about two strides toward the horse, holding out a hand and laying it on the beast’s flank. Bracketing it with lead shot would’ve been faster and easier but paying someone for damaged property wasn’t on her list of priorities. As soon as her hand made contact with its hide, it was overcome by a spell of fatigue and calmed down, wobbling on its legs. “You might want to-” and then the horse collapsed beneath Alex’s feet. “Get off.”

Even though Alex was holding on for dear life when the horse was bucking around  wildly when it collapsed onto the ground she managed to follow the horse and landed on her right side.

"I'm okay." She weakly told the others. "I only broke my dignity."

“Well if it’s not bones then it’s not worth worrying about.” Jacquelyn dismissed the scuffs and adrenaline no doubt running through and over Alex’s body. “Glad to see you. I was beginning to think that you were going to leave me to die in the arms of these twats.” She gestured with a thumb at Leliel and Koba. “So what took you so long? Woke up late? Had to write a goodbye letter?”

“Kind of.” Koba whistled sheepishly.

Alex would detangle herself from the reins as she got up, picking up her hat. "I woke up too early so I went back to sleep. I was having such a nice dream that I didn't want to wake up. I probably would have stayed asleep if a rooster didn't cry out close to my window."

She told Jackie. "After that I tried to find a decent meal and I was almost scammed into buying a dying horse. Instead I bought one with anxiety problems."

“Ah. I know who sold you that horse, then.” Jacquelyn recounted her experience with the lad, rather regretting that she hadn’t made herself suspiciously covered in his blood, as she’d promised. “If you ever see the little shit again, tell him I’ll eat his corpse.”

Leliel quietly walked towards the horse, running her hand gently through its mane and pressing her head against the horse’s body, as if to listen to its heartbeat. 

“Poor fella doesn’t seem too well”, she murmured. 

“How do you know?” Koba asked, scratching his chin. “You an animal doctor too?”

“Nah, mate, it’s just a hunch.”

Alex looked over at Leliel. "Don't tell me that brat managed to sell me another sick horse."

She placed her hand on her face.

"I swear I will curse that boy if I see him."

“Don’t play too much into the witch’s angle. We’re not in that particular neck of the woods yet.” Jacquelyn offered a drink to Alex, high proof. “I’m impressed that you’re not on your ass. You drank enough alcohol to kill a reaver yesterday.” She looked at Leliel and the boy, standing a fair ways off. “Might not want to stick around her. She’ll wake up, sooner or later.”

“I think I can handle myself”, Leliel said dryly. Jacquelyn just sort of gave her the half-shoulder shrug and turned away. Very suave, very indicative of a systematic failure to parse the human condition, resulting in a total inability to understand or communicate with her fellow man.

Alex would accept the drink. "What can I say. I inherited both my looks and my iron liver from my ancestors." She would gingerly taste the drink.

Of course it was strong. Had to be, if it was to overwhelm the constant ennui and debilitating existential dread which chased Jacquelyn wherever she went. At such a concentration, it was more likely to dessicate than rehydrate her. Even a seasoned veteran of the devil’s juice like Leliel would have found it difficult to wash down, if not unpalatable.

Alex would move the drink away as she smacks her lips. A grimace appearing on her face.

"This one is incredibly bitter. It tasted like burnt bitterroot." 

She told Jackie as she returned the drink back to her. “Thanks for the recommendation,” Jacquelyn responded dryly. Drier than Alex’s tongue at that moment. “I’m sure bitterroot is cheaper than wine.”

“We ought to get moving soon”, said Leliel. In the meantime, Koba had zipped back to where the soup he was making was simmering, stirring it a bit and adding a pinch of the small amount of salt he’d brought along, taking care not to waste a single grain of it. The soup was meagre- little more than chopped parsnip, a bit of bacon, and some bread to thicken it just a bit- but it at least smelled good enough to fill a few hungry bellies.

Alex would remove her bags from the satchel attached from the horse. "Gonna have to agree with them. I want this final chapter of my journey to have an exciting finale to share to my daughter and future readers." 

“Daughter...” Jacquelyn snickered, but refused to elaborate further. “Let’s get moving already, before your buzz wears off.”

The trail was almost impassable for Alex, riding on horseback. The trees hung low, the creepers and thorns clogged the path and the further they went the larger the buzzards got, swarming around the stallion’s ass and nesting in her hair. Jacquelyn folded a hood over her head, not wanting maggots to feast on the flesh over her skull. Though, she would have been lying if she’d claimed that she hadn’t any scientific interest in allowing botflies to grow inside of her. It’d be no different from allowing a little puckered fish to flense the skin from her fingers, as the captain - Kataigida - had done to raise it to maturity. She wondered what the ship’s old mascot was doing now. With a lifespan of some three hundred years and a length of about a kilometre by the time that it reached adulthood, it was no doubt eating better than she was. Ah, leviathan whales, their bones regrew and could be ‘milked’ from their fins, squeezed out with calipers by an entrepreneurial seaman. The trick wasn’t getting onto the animal or cutting away the joints, it was avoiding the grand nerve stems which would elicit a scream from the animal, loud and monstrous enough to seize one’s heart and burst all their capillaries. She’d been at the edge of one of those screams’ areas of effect and had felt her veins turning to mush. It had been an oddly satisfying feeling, like a massage from the inside out. Granted one that left dozens of bruises and which had likely taxed her heart by about twenty years.

The darkness just kept getting thicker, the water underfoot deeper. Eventually they had to ford a short bog and Jacquelyn insisted on riding on the horse, even though it only had room for a single person unless the other was willing to ride upon the very unstable, very uncomfortable rear of the steed where they were no doubt going to bruise their tailbone and end up walking wide-legged for a few hundred metres. Anything to avoid touching the swamp water, she knew that it wouldn’t let her go if she entered for a second time that day.

Alex would try to swat away the flies that flew around her. She knew that the buzzards would be terrible but no description or imagination can match the reality as the flies try to land in every patch of exposed skin.

Whether they wish to rest on her body, lay their wretched brood on her skin and hair, or even feast on dead skin. No matter what the idea made her skin shiver.

The group happened across a pile of carrion, scraps of sinew and knots of dense muscle clinging to bleached bones. She saw boots amid the mess, still upright somehow even though the man above them had been torn to shreds a long time ago. The bottoms were filled with liquefied flesh, bits of skin bobbing in colourful fluid. The smell was like aquatic amniote, the partially rotten remains of whatever fetuses suspended themselves in. She rather fancied the smell, really. She put on a glove, grabbed one of the chunkiest bones - it even still had a few intact muscle fibres on it, hooray - and lugged it into the nearest bog, watching it sink beneath a cap of algae. Another gram of flesh to the sea.

"Well isn't that a lovely sight." The witch theme scholar sardonically commented.

“Certainly isn’t. I’d much prefer it if they just left this shit where they found it. Killed it, whatever.” The former was correct. Only carrion feeders moved bones around like that. “It’d be so much easier to find old meat if that were the case.” The pile was surrounded by a corona of tall grass and fungus, feasting on the byproducts of decay. Miniscule orange tubes, like masses of hair, sprouted from many surfaces, shivering slightly in the wind. Jackie smelled the spores just for the experience and found them a little intoxicating. Not good for her, no doubt, but probably worse for the spores.

Alex was silent as she looked at the pile.

“Oh come on, it’s not all that bad.” Jacquelyn washed off her glove with a little rubbing alcohol. “At least it’s all in one place, rather than being spread like a fine icing of shit over the whole world.”

The journey continued. The road transitioned from trampled dirt to blasted vegetation, charred and black and shrivelled. There was salt in the dirt, spread by those who didn’t want the road to be overgrown. Not that the woods hadn’t tried. Trees bowed their heads over the path, long vines stretched over it but none were rooted within. “Freshly maintained,” Jackie commented. “Someone’s got a lot of salt on their hands.” Which wasn’t exactly special. She produced salt all the time. Literal, emotional, you could name the medium and she could provide as much sodium chloride as you desired. Though, her tears were full of sea salt, which was rather different from the plain salt which lined the road. Sea salt could cause melothesia, could be boiled into a vapour which permanently robbed you of sense from whatever region it touched. Tattoo artists used it on clients’ forearms before filling them with ink, surgeons used the method more rarely. It was irreversible, it caused the nerves in the body to turn to a strange white albumin, not human so much as generically organic. Obviously, sea salt was not edible. Though, there were gourmets who insisted on putting it in their recipes anyway, even though anyone who tasted those dishes wouldn’t be able to do so ever again. Sea salt dishes were popular among the soon to be dead, whether they be criminals or the elderly or those about to walk into a battle unwinnable.

"I suppose that title this place has of being the land of witches makes more sense now if they are tending to the grounds. I wonder what is their goal in changing the Shadowlands though?" Alex pondered outloud as she looked around in the environment.

“What’s the point of having pink wallpaper or putting a statue of a cat on your countertop? It’s for the look, Alex. For the aesthetic.” She pronounced the “c” with such delicate emphasis that it would’ve made a man cream his pants. In Alex’s case she just sort of nodded along, slightly too drunk to appreciate Jacquelyn’s phonetic excellence.

Of course, the vegetation evolved alongside the route as well. The trees grew taller and the canopy lower. As sunlight was robbed from the forest floor, the grass became thicker and more rigid, to a point where Jacquelyn could run her fingers through it and end up with tiny cuts all over her digits. The colours evolved. Less chlorophyll, more cellulose. The woods lost a little bit of their colour and adopted a more ethereal grey, washed out as a vision of the dead. It created a sense of there being mist, even though there wasn’t enough to occlude their sight for a few hundred metres. The whole forest was the pallor of a sick man, his skin splotched with dark patches and his eyes all milky with illucid gaze. Jacquelyn seemed to relax in the claustrophobic environment, pushing past thorns and stepping over patches of fungus growing around bird bones. Though, she didn’t appreciate the buzzing insects. She crushed a flying thing as wide as her thumb on her shoulder, creasing its thin body in places where it hadn’t been designed to fold and causing its limbs and wings to snap in a chorus of little clicks. She wiped the smear off on her pant leg, the brown slime blending into her dark linens.

"You know what would make this part of the forest better? Glowing mushrooms." Alex said as she swatted at another fly. "We can gather a few and make glow in the dark mushroom ketchup to go along with whatever animal we catch in here for dinner."

“Ketchup? Animal?” Jacquelyn scoffed, though lightly and not with emphasis. “I think I’d rather just eat the mushroom outright at that point. At least if I didn’t grind them up I’d have a far lower chance of poisoning myself. And frankly, look at this shit.” She took a short detour to snatch a spider off a tree, her palm wrapped around its abdomen and fingers interlocked with its legs. It thrashed in her grip, mandibles impotently scraping against one another. It more resembled an elongated crab than an arachnid, what with its tremendous size and the thickness of its carapace. She squeezed a little and it popped, purple bile oozing from one of the cracks in its shell. “Think this is edible? Might be worth a shot.” She threw it to the ground where it properly burst, its soft thorax giving out and spilling guts across the dirt. She didn’t grind it into paste with the heel of her shoe, though she considered it for a moment. “You ever think that the witches are the lucky ones? To have found a nice cozy spot to snuggle up in before anyone else could? Think about it, loads of people come flocking to this place looking for something but you hardly ever see an army marching on it. Something tells me that the witches have the Commonwealth running scared.” All the plague, most likely. She’d come prepared to go down with a fever, maybe even a hemorrhagic disease. Brain eating amoeba? She’d come to terms with that eventuality. A virus which made her a flesh eating ghoul? Better state of existence than whatever she had to tolerate now. 

Alex was intrigued by what Jacquelyn was saying. "The Commonwealth is scared of the witches? What makes you think the powerful lords and merchants are afraid of a few pagans and heretics hiding in a remote pocket in their kingdom?" Alex asked.

“The fact that there’s quite a lot of money to be made here. A lot of whores to be taken as well, if you’re into that kind of business.” Which Jacquelyn certainly wasn’t. “But consider it. A whole forest full of all the wonders of the world, things that lesser men would chew their fingers off to have. And yet, the only people who ever try to find it are the lunatics and those who’ve not nothing left to lose. Not to imply anything about you, but… well...” She gave Alex the subtlest wink.

Jacquelyn had assumed that they’d eventually transition into the Shadowlands and be there before they knew it. Instead she nearly tripped over her own feet when it truly came into view. The forest just cut off at a point, past which there was nothing but inky blackness and a mist so thick and well defined that she could say there was one part of the world - the part outside - followed by a metre’s transition and then just… nothing. A wall of darkness, amidst which only the faintest suggestions of shapes could be seen. The trees at the edge of it weren’t trees really, there were masses of interlocked fungus, saprophytic colonies from which dangled fruit of flesh and whose surfaces were covered in hairs which crumbled at a mere touch, blowing away in the wind. The darkness was not merely the absence of light, it was also in part the occlusion of it. “Safe to breathe?” Jacquelyn remarked. With no volunteers forthcoming she stepped forward and took a whiff. It was like inhaling ashes but once she overcame the unpleasant sensation, she didn’t feel any worse for wear. And people entered the Shadowlands all the time, so it was unlikely that it was life threatening in the long term. She’d studied mycotoxicosis under the captain for a time. Breathing in spores was alright, it was only about as harmful - if not less so - than inhaling dusty air.

Speaking of which, the wind curdled around her limbs. There was a saccharine smell here, attractive as overwhelming, sickening sweetness could be. To her left and right she saw insects swarming, diving deep into the cloud. She reached out to touch one of the masses of fungi and dragged her finger through the rubbery mass. It gouged effortlessly but when she made to pull her finger away there was genuine suction, enough that she had to pull hard to escape. A layer of her skin peeled away, left on the surface of the overgrowth. A carnivorous biome. Wonderful. 

Visually, the saprophyte forest was rather beautiful. The grass was blue and made of rounded poles of compacted mycelium, the dirt was soft as ice cream and not hard on the feet at all. The trees, too, if they could be called that, had ever so slightly fluorescent underbellies which provided a blue hue, if not much definition to their surroundings. They were walking into the belly of a superorganism. But surely, there weren’t enough animals in the forest around it to keep it fed? 

"Hmm. I think we're not seeing what this organism is truly feeding off from." Alex mused. "These creatures might be feeding off something underground or perhaps maybe that have evolved to feed off magical residues?"

“You’re the prof.” Not to discount her own experiences, but Jacquelyn couldn’t be bothered engaging in such musings. She cared about the bigger picture of course, loved to theorise and think about all the existential implications of completely meaningless phenomena, but at that moment she was slightly too worried about the fact that the forest had just eaten a layer of her fucking finger. “It probably eats the dumb fucks who wander into it like us. But you know, roads are roads; if this one exists then it probably doesn’t kill you. So might as well take the plunge.”

It was a plunge indeed. Jacquelyn could see well enough in the dark but the others couldn’t. Out of sheer courtesy she lit a candle, holding it up to guide their way. The ground was… white, the surrounding flora was covered in a sort of pale powder. What she’d assumed to be black spore clouds was instead all bleached, like snow. And it was cold, too. Much colder than it should’ve been in the embrace of such a tremendous organism. The illusion was impressive, it took genuine effort to remind herself that she wasn’t in the middle of a snowy forest at night, that she was instead in a warm bog just after the cusp of noon. 
Naval Monte- The Mediterranean crossroads of mind-controlling conspiracies, twisted dimensions, inhuman depravity, questionable science, unholy commerce, heretical faiths, absurd politics, and cutting-edge art.

Make wonderful memories here, in Naval Monte.

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Posts: 25029
Founded: Feb 15, 2011
Father Knows Best State

Postby Britanania » Wed Apr 14, 2021 9:57 pm

Border of the Shadowlands, Robaiziche Commonwealth, Northern Vesperia

Venusta took a moment of rest as she read from her Book of Times, saying her prayers in honour of Enas with all the devotion and piety of a Cleric. The young woman seemed to blend with the words of her prayers, forgetting for a moment her mission to the Shadowlands, the night at the tavern, and even the rustic and nearly barbaric primaeval worlds she found herself in, so far away from Sopdet.

"...famulorum tuorum, quaesumus Domine delictis ignosce; ut qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus, qui regnat in aeternum." Venusta closed her book and rose from her kneeling position, walking towards the group and the rest of the party.
Christus vincit; Christus regnat; Christus imperat
"All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven"--Ecclesiastes 3:1
"Great Britain is a republic, with a hereditary president, while the United States is a monarchy with an elective king."
"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected"--G. K. Chesterton
Pro: British Unionism, Catholicism, Classicism, Conservatism, High Toryism, Monarchism, Traditionalism
Anti: Consumerism, Devolution, Materialism, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Progressivism

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Founded: Mar 29, 2013
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Ranoria » Thu Apr 15, 2021 12:23 pm

Esther Strathos
Shadowlands Outskirts

It wasn't long before Esther was in a completely foreign environment. Between bugs larger than anything his nightmares had deemed to present to him and plantlife - if that's what it was - that was more exotic than the street rats he'd had to deal with back in Redwater.

Following close behind the others, Esther drew his cloak a bit tighter once the temperature began to drop, his breath quickly becoming frosty. "Cold all of a sudden," he muttered, his gaze flitting from one patch of unfamiliar environment to another. "Whoever you were praying to," he said to Venusta once she caught back up to the group, "I hope you requested that this place doesn't eat us anytime soon."
Fan of football, the Murican kind. But soccer is cool too! Just not really my thing. C(:^D/-<
I go by Ran. Unless, of course, you want to type out Ranoria. That's your decision.
Lumi is my NS mom



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