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  2. Sorceri

    Morag stood, head jerking to one side and then the other, assessing the large, brass object in front of her. It looked as though it could hold her twice over, and was full of hot water. Steam was rising off the top of it. "Bath?" Morag quietly asked herself. She knew that word. Sort of. Get in, scrub, get out. Smell different. Smell strange. "Why bath?" Morag shivered, glancing at the brass bath and then back to Nazir who was holding a towel out to her. "Because you smell like rancid seawater." Nazir said with a smirk and gestured a little with the towel, "You'll feel better once you're clean I'm sure, or at least I'll feel better..." Morag took the towel and then turned and walked up to the bath. She wriggled free of her clothes. Standing there naked, her body was covered in scars, many of which looked like she had sustained serious wounds. Her black, inky hair only reached her chest but as she stepped into the hot bath, her hair continued it's waterfall cascade down her back and into the water, which rapidly turned as black as her hair. She sunk into the heat and sighed, closing her eyes for a moment in silence. "Bath is good." Morag muttered, "Ouch!" Morag recoiled inside the bath and looked around as though something had attacked her. "OW!!" She recoiled again and her stomach growled. "Our guts ache!" Morag looked to Nazir for an answer. Nazir's demeanour had changed slightly, he seemed a little uncomfortable suddenly. "I'll get you something to eat. What do you want?" he asked, his gaze fixed on a blank part of the wall. "We don't know..." Morag growled quietly, then her eyes blinked open. From somewhere, the sound of sizzling meat echoed in her ear. "Meat!" She proclaimed, splashing her legs in the bath. This was strange. But familiar. Pleasant, yet uncomfortable. Ridiculous, yet mundane. She studied Nazir's peculiar habits but couldn't understand his reasons, then returned to playing with the surface of the water. "Fine, I'll get you some stew." Nazir said, and he turned to leave the washroom, "Parr has left you out some clothes in the room next to this one. Report to her when you're done and I'll return with your food." He gave a stiff nod and then left. Morag refocused on the water when Nazir had left. She stared down into it's glossy blackness. Suddenly she sunk her head beneath the surface of the water, and touched the bottom of the bath. She could see very little beneath the water. The eerie green glow of her eyes illuminated the interior of the bath just enough she was able to trace the welding lines with her finger. It felt as though very little time had passed when she heard a loud surge as a pair of arms crashed into the water and frantically searched. Morag laughed, bubbles raising to pop on the surface. This was funny. She batted at the hands playfully and they refocused on her immediately. Snatching at her arms, they yanked as hard as they could and Morag breached the surface of the black water and was pulled from the bath by a woman and they fell to the floor in a heap. Morag looked down at the woman, dripping water and her long, inky black hair gently flowing down on her. "You are Par? Why do you pant and sweat, Parr?" Morag asked. "Get off me!" Parr - as it was, indeed, Parr - shoved Morag aside and stood up, patting down her uniform. She seemed more than a little shaken. "I came in to bring you your clothes and you were underwater, I thought you were drowning." Morag cocked her head at this, but said nothing. Instead, she addressed her want. She wanted the clothes that were promised to her. She saw them on the chair by the door and stalked over to them. They were new, and clean, but that meant little to her now. She only knew that it was supposed to be strange not to wear clothes. She saw their reactions to her without them. When she had finished dressing, Morag now saw her clothes were much like Parr's. They were blue, in a similar uniform fashion, with brown boots. Only, she noticed they didn't have any of the symbols and glittery medallions upon her own clothes. "You're not one of us, just because you're wearing that uniform." Parr cautioned her. Morag jerked her head up slightly and sat on the chair that had held her clothes. Parr spent a moment gathering herself and fussing over her uniform that was now covered in damp patches. She looked at Morag for a moment and scowled, "The Captain said you were a little touched in the head but..." She made a studious expression at Morag, her brow furrowing as she assessed her, "He's soft-hearted, not that he would ever admit it. What about you, Morag? Tell me about yourself." "What would we tell you?" Morag asked simply. Parr raised her brow at that, "You know like...where you come from, your family and friends, your job or..." She paused to consider, "Well...what duties you were assigned at least." She seemed to have made herself uncomfortable by saying that, "Sorry, Valkyr don't normally keep slaves. Your clan is somewhat special in that regard." "But..." Morag didn't understand, "... the man we met, he called us Valkyr. How can we be a slave, if Valkyr?" "You...don't know?" Parr asked, looking a little shocked, "Well then uhm..." She strode out of the room for a moment and returned with a thick book that she was busy flipping through, "Let's see...ah here it is - Lunéan clan. They led the last remaining Valkyr who had refused to swear fealty to the empire. It says here that their leader... Mordrang, well he entered in to a right of combat with the Emperor himself. He died in the fight and his people were to surrender as part of the agreement. His daughter... oh, wow." Parr paused for a moment, a little shaken by the words, "Mordrang's daughter ordered the armies to attack the Emperor, and then she fled the battle and committed suicide by falling from the cliffs. Valkyr traditions are quite sacred, Mordrang's daughter was branded a dishonourable coward, her actions cost the lives of many of their clan. It seems the remaining clan were enslaved and had their civil rights stripped as an example to be set for all other clans who think of betraying their ancient code." Parr had gotten a little absorbed in the text and wasn't even paying attention to Morag any more. Black tears streamed from Morag's eyes, she brought her hands to her face and brushed them away as they fell, but seemed equally perplexed, "We are coming undone..." "What?" Parr asked, looking up from her book. Before Morag could answer, however the door in the outer room sounded and Nazir called for them to come through. On the large table where their maps and books were stacked were also three pewter bowls of steaming stew. Nazir had picked one up already and scooped a spoonful into his mouth, and grimaced as he chewed on the meat. "Someone needs to tell these Valkyr what spices are." He moaned. Morag eyed the nearest bowl and swept down upon it within a moment, wasting no time she brought the bowl to her lips and slurped the stew from the lip. When she brought the bowl down she glanced at Nazir and parroted him, "Someone needs to tell us what spices are?" She asked. It was a serious question, but they seemed amused. "Ignore him he doesn't like any food that doesn't burn the roof of his mouth off," Parr said as she picked up her own bowl and ate a mouthful. She spoke again when she was finished, "So, Captain are you thinking she's possessed by a Daemon?" She asked, eyeing Morag to gauge her reaction. "I don't know. Shrike didn't seem threatened by her and I trust her instincts on such matters," Nazir explained, "Morag doesn't seem to remember much before she washed up on the shore. If we find her master perhaps I can petition them to release her. In Solaris slaves are freed if they bond a spirit usually, plenty of guilds pay slave debts off for a good sorcerer." "This isn't Solaris." Parr warned, "Morag's clan are stripped of their honour. They're essentially like a Valkyr version of Kalak." "Kalak have rights, I'm Kalak you know." Nazir said, frowning slightly. "You get my point." Parr said, "They are slaves because they are not even being given the chance to reclaim their honour. It's deeply personal to Valkyr culture." "If they don't give someone a chance to prove themselves then what honour do they really have?" Nazir replied, shaking his head. "What honour do we really have..." Again, Morag parroted quietly. The room fell silent at that, but she seemed unaffected by her own comment. "Give us that." She jerked her head at Parr's bowl of food, "We are not sated." "Manners cost nothing." Parr replied, and ate another bite of her food. "Here have mine, I can't stomach any more." Nazir said and handed his bowl to Morag, "Are you feeling any better?" Morag snatched the bowl, but jerked her head down slightly, as much a sign of thanks as she was willing to give and continued eating her second bowl of stew. "Our insides are quiet." She replied, between mouthfuls. When she finished she licked her lips with a long tongue and ran it across her canine fangs. At last, she seemed satisfied. But now she was alert. Her eyes darted around the room and swept over the table and maps and all these things she'd never seen before. "Why are you even dealing with this anyway?" Parr asked, "If she's not bonded with a Daemon then we don't have jurisdiction in this matter." "I'm just keeping an eye on her, I've never seen a bond where the spirit is... inside the human?" "Seriously?" Parr's eyes widened a little, "I seem to recall this really famous one, oh yeah, the Emperor!" "Oh..." Nazir hadn't seemed to have considered that, "That's different though, it's the Emperor we're talking about. He's a god." "I'm not comparing their power, just the process." Parr replied, "There's nothing that says a bond can't be done this way, in theory." Just then a black hawk-like bird flew through the open window and dropped a dead vole on the ground and stood next to it, looking very proud of herself.
  3. Sorceri

    After a moment Nazir quirked an eyebrow at the woman in the cage. She did mostly look like a Valkyr woman, but her hair, eyes and teeth were distinctly inhuman. Was she a spirit, perhaps? A Daemon like the guard had suggested? Nazir’s gaze shifted to the guard, and then to Shrike who was behind him, leaning against a wall in a dark patch of the room. The spirit was eyeing the woman in the cage with an intense stare, something anticipatory about the look in her eyes. “I know why you hate him.” Shrike said to the woman as she gently pushed herself off the wall and walked towards the cage, her approach was cautionary but there was no fear to it. Hate me?[/i}, Nazir thought. How could she hate him?, she didn’t even know him. His expression tensed as he suppressed his frustration at the thought. The Valkyr had a poor association with the Solari since the war, but it had been centuries since then and he hadn’t fought in that war, nor had any living Valkyr. Or, perhaps it was because he was a Sorceri. He’d learned quickly that people generally grew uncomfortable around him because of that. He didn’t especially blame anyone for that though. Nazir’s focus fell back to the woman in the cage, who was now looking at Shrike, her expression ponderous. "You're not like him." The ink-haired woman jerked her head at Nazir. It was almost bird-like. Shrike smirked and shook her head. “No, not like him…” She said, “Look at that smoldering face!” She gestured at Nazir and his frown deepened. “See?” she continued, “You think he’s grumpy but that’s just his face, see [i[now he’s getting grumpy!” Nazir’s expression darkened further, then it softened a little as he tried to fight it. He was playing right in to her hand. “So I can see why you would hate him for that, but I don’t think he can help it. Humans are quite stupid.” “Hey!” Nazir cried, but Shrike only rolled her eyes. Focused on Shrike, she no longer took notice of Nazir, "He is upset, because he is not stupid..?stupid...?" She asked, quizzically, still addressing Shrike, who responded with a slight tilt of her head, her expression becoming confused for a moment. “…Are you sure you’re not stupid?” Shrike asked, her eyes narrowing. “Miss…” Nazir interjected, but he paused as he realized he didn’t know her name. “I am Captain Nazir Szash. I’m a Sorceri. The guards have imprisoned you in this cell due to suspicion that you have been involved in Daemonic magic. Do you understand?” There was a long pause as the woman considered everything he had said. "... No." But as soon as she answered, in a matter-of-fact way, she refocused on Shrike. "What does the wind feel like beneath your wings..?wings...?" She asked, "We don't remember..." “We?” Shrike’s eyes glittered with intrigue and she edged closer to the cage. She got so close that she could wrap her hands around the bars, “Are you a we?” “Shrike, what are you talking about?” Nazir asked. “She is a we.” Shrike replied as if it was now completely obvious. “There’s only one person standing there.” Nazir replied. “One vessel.” Shrike corrected him and then she addressed the woman, “Who are you?” "We are..." She came to a halt. The question had obviously phased her. She stared at the stone floor for a minute or so in silence, then answered, "We are Morag." “Where did you find this woman?” Nazir asked the guard. “Down by the ocean, she was feral.” The guard replied, eyeing Morag timidly. “She attacked you?” Nazir asked “No…not, well…” The guard blustered, “She got really angryangry, so we had to club her.” “You knocked her out with a club!?” Nazir asked incredulously. “Well what were we supposed to do?” The guard asked “You could have killed her!” Nazir snapped at him, grabbing the guard by his coat and pulling him close so to his own face, “No wonder she’s talking nonsense!” “But she’s a Daemon surely?” The guard asked. “Get out!” Nazir snarled as he released him. “But…is there a re-“ “Get out or I’m going to club you round the head and see how you like it!” The guard visibly flinched and then he ran out of the holding cells quickly. Fool, Nazir thought. If there was somethingsomething, he hated it was people who were bad at their jobs. Yet he found it all so typical that guards would throw their weight around, instead of protecting people. He turned back towards the cell and Morag. She definitely waswas under the influence of some kind of spiritspirit, but there was no real way to tell if she was a Daemon without proof of malevolence. Strictly speaking Spirits and Daemons were the same group of entities, the words only described their alignment. “This bond is very strange…” Shrike mused as she watched Morag. “I’ve seen sorcerers with strange features before. The bond can affect people differently.” Nazir replied, then he turned his attention back to Morag, “What do you remember? Can you tell us anything about yourself?” Morag answered immediately though she seemed distracted, glancing around the cell. "We are storm. We are wind. We are rain. We are flight. We are freedom. We are Morag." She fell to silence. It seemed as though she had finished her thought, but then after a minute of curious searching inside the cell, she resumed, "We fell. We drowned. We were cold. It was dark. Long dreams. Strange thoughts..." So, she had fallen into the water? The cliffs down by the ocean were treacherous in some places, perhaps she really was a runaway slave. If she had runaway in the nightnight, then fallen from a cliff in the dark? That didn’t explain how she was in her current condition though. Memories flashed before his mind; men screaming as they died slowly and painfully, the crash of men tumbling in their ranks as the earth grinded beneath them. So much blood. All dead. He was next. Nazir shook the thought from his head. So perhaps a bond created in a time of stress much like his own experience? If she was drowning, then perhaps a Spirit came to her aid. “Do you recall anything before that? Do you know where your master is?” Nazir asked. "What is a master?" Morag asked. Then paced inside the cell, "We do not like this..." She hissed. “I understand.” Nazir replied with a nod, “Unfortunately you have a mark that indicates you’re a Lunéans slave. All LuneansLunéans are slaves under Valkyr law. This isn’t something I can interfere with I’m afraid.” “But she is bonded.” Shrike insisted. “That doesn’t matter.” Nazir replied, “She’s still a slave.” “So were you, once.” Shrike replied, “Yet when we bonded you became a Sorceri.” “That’s different.” Nazir said. “Why?” Shrike asked “Because I was a military slave, and Sorcerers are valuable assets. My debt was paid for in order to transfer me to The Sorcerium.” “Then can we not transfer her too?” Shrike asked “No it’s…it’s not that simple.” Nazir said irritably, then turned to Morag, “You are a slave. I can’t help you.” Morag stalked to the back of the cell. "... We understand. We will not be caged." She rushed to the front of the cell in a gush of wind and slammed into the bars. They dented sharply. She remained stuck to them, but she was not holding onto the bars to remain perched halfway up. Morag had shifted her centre of gravity. She leapt to the back of the cell (up for her) and then plummeted back down at twice the speed she had struck it the first time. "MOVE!!" Morag commanded, and crashed into the bars. She yowled in pain as the bricks holding two of the bars gave way. Morag and the cell bars went flying. She hit the wall outside the cell and ran along it horizontally until she suddenly shifted to the floor and came to a halt, pausing just long enough to assess Nazir's intent. In the chaos of what had happened Shrike had disappeared, and Nazir stood alone with a sword in his hand. It was a sabre with a black grip and a pommel and cross guard that looked like they were made of obsidian. The blade was curved and razor sharp. “Where will you go?” He asked her, his expression a hardened battle focus. He wasn’t attacking, but he was ready for her. “If you flee you’ll be caught if you follow the main roads, but if you stick to the wilds you’ll stand no chance of finding the next town and you’ll starve or freeze to death. I know what you’re feeling right now.” He did. He had not been born a slave, in fact he had been free for the entirety of his childhood. His father had sold him into slavery in order to pay some family debts. Ultimately he had found a good life within his years of enslavement, which was more than many could say. That wasn’t lost on him, and he remembered those early days, how much it hurt. He had thought about running then too, but he had not yet become the competent soldier he was today. “It’s not fair…” Nazir said to Morag, “But it’s the reality of your situation. If you want to get out of it, good. Just be smart about it.” Morag hesitated, "You will not bind us. Take us to the master." She took a step back and visibly relaxed her stance. Nazir stood for a moment with his sword ready, but then the sword rippled and disappeared from his hand, and Shrike emerged at his side. “Boring!” Shrike cried and let out a huff, “I haven’t had a good fight in ages…” “No bonds, but you remain at my side and follow my orders. Understood?” Nazir asked Morag. "We understand." She nodded, and swiftly moved to his side. Relaxing almost immediately now she was free of her physical bonds, yet she still seemed uncomfortable. “Come with me to our quarters first. We can get you a bath and some clean clothes.” Nazir said. “And food for the vessel!” Shrike added.
  4. Sorceri

    Valkheim. 200 years ago. The cold, salty air buffeted her pale skin. Whipping her long, white hair about her face. Her long, pointed ears twitched at the sound of two people approaching, clad in armour. Morag yawned and rolled over, opening her eyes, which were a shade of crystal blue. She slept in a large tent. Larger than most, as she was the daughter of the Chief, Mordrang. Two figures paused outside her tent and stood in silence, casting a shadow over her. "Morag, your presence has been requested by Chief Mordrang!" A man yelled into the tent. "You'd better go." Morag glanced over and saw her partner, Grelka, had woken. Grelka had a thick mane of white hair that cascaded back and was woven into braids. "I suppose you're right." Morag muttered, sitting up. The covers fell from her and she stood and crossed the tent, pulling on a pair of dark brown trousers and a white blouse, she picked up her blade, a longsword, and fixed it to her belt. "I don't know how much longer we can do this." "What do you mean?" Grelka asked, brushing hair out of her face as she pulled herself up, drawing the covers close to her. "I mean... one by one, the clans are falling in line. Father says the Emperor wants to erase our way of life. Every day I wake up, I hear another clan has been... absorbed, into this Empire of his. Now our scouts say they've found the northern pass. We're next." Morag sighed, sitting at the side of the bed. "Remember who you are." Grelka cautioned her, "You're a Swordmaiden. You have to leave your feelings here, with me." "What if I can't?" Morag muttered, looking down at her hands. They were calloused and rough, scarred from years wielding the blade. "You have to." Grelka rested a hand on Morag's shoulder. They kissed. And Morag left. "Show me to my father." Morag barked, as she strode out of the tent. The men nodded and led her through the war camp. She heard the clash of metal on metal as hammer struck blade, still hot from the furnace. Sparks flew into the muddy, snow-blanketed path. A man was cooking fish over an open fire. While another man was dropping things into a stew pot. A woman passed her, and noted the scar on her collarbone. In the shape of a downwards facing crescent moon. The clan symbol of the Lunéan. Every Valkyr held a mark from their clan and she bowed to Morag. While the Lunéan. were the last free clan of the Valkyr, hundreds of other Valkyr from other clans had joined them in resisting the Empire. Morag returned the bow, when one of the men indicated the tent ahead of them. It was perhaps twice the size of her own, but then it also held the war table, with a map of the surrounding regions and all troop movements by the Empire. Morag knocked the cloth cover aside and stepped inside. Her father, Mordrang, noted her with indifference. He was flanked on either side by several warriors dressed in full armour. One man, three women. They were arguing with one another over the placement of the models that represented their forces. Morag had just long enough to notice just how few figures on the map belonged to their forces, and how many more figures were now planted on all sides but north of them. That was not useful, however. Only a few hundred feet to the north was Valk's shrine, and beyond that, only a sheer cliff. "Father." Morag nodded to him. "Oh, Morag... yes, good..." Mordrang looked up from the war table. "I want you to go to Valk's shrine." "Why?" Morag asked, frowning. She saw something in her father's face she'd never seen before. She didn't know exactly what it was, but it seemed like he was afraid. She opened her mouth to argue, she didn't want to go anywhere, but at that moment, a scout ran into the tent, unannounced. "What is the meaning of this?!" Mordrang snapped, angrily. The council of advisers fell silent. The scout stepped forwards, panting. "A dozen figures are coming up the southern path, Chief Mordrang!" His blade was already drawn. Mordrang crossed the room and grabbed his blade, a longsword like Morag's but it was longer and larger, and certainly a lot heavier. It took two men to carry that blade, but her father slung it on his back like it was an infant to be carried, unconcerned by the weight. "To arms, then. The Emperor has come for Valk, and we shall not give her to him." "I'll fight with you." Morag added, her hand on her blade's hilt. "YOU WILL DO AS YOU'RE TOLD!!" Mordrang roared, losing his temper. "For once... in your life, Morag. Do this, for me." Morag grit her teeth, her nails biting into the skin of her palm as she clenched her fists. "Fine. I'll go to the shrine." She started to leave. "Daughter!!" Mordrang called out, as her hand reached for the cloth partition. Morag glanced back and they shared a look for a moment, and then she was gone. Morag walked out into the frigid air once more. She was out of the camp within a few minutes, and she started up the steep path to the shrine. An ancient building that sat atop the cliffs. It was a long climb, but she had promised her father. What she would do when she got there, she did not know. She knew only that the Emperor was coming, and she was not allowed to fight. Tradition would not allow it. If both she and her father were killed, then who would lead the clan? Mordrang breathed a sigh of relief. His daughter was safe. For now, at least. "Gather all our remaining warriors. Today is a good day to die..." Mordrang reached over his shoulder and drew the blade from its scabbard and rested it on his shoulder. "Now let us go and see what the Emperor wants..." He stepped out of the tent, flanked by the four other warriors. As they moved through the camp, dozens more joined them. More and more joined their ranks until hundreds were marching down the path to the southern tundra. They walked in silence. Armour rattling. Swords clinking. Heads raised and sure footfall. The Valkyr had lived in the cold all their lives. They were accustomed to it. But it made outsiders sluggish. They were stronger, faster, more capable. One Valkyr Swordmaiden was equivalent to a dozen Solari fighters. But there was so few of them now. Less than a hundred. It wouldn't matter when the armies of the Emperor washed over them. Mordrang had never met the Emperor. He imagined he was like any other Mesmeri. Small, tan skin, round ears. But whatever else the Emperor was, he knew he was a threat. He had already gained the favour of the other clans, essentially undoing years of work. Mordrang had spent nearly two decades trying to unite the clans. Now the Emperor had all but done that under his rule. Mordrang stopped, his feet crunching in the snow. There ahead of them, lay the tundra. Snow slowly gave way to tufty grassland dotted with snow. It was still cold, but the bitterness had been taken from the air. About fifty feet ahead of them, stood a man dressed in a simple sarong, but he also adorned himself in golden bangles and braclets, jewels and all manner of finery. Mordrang - a Valkyr warrior - saw them as ridiculous trinkets. Unnecessary. He was used to a spartan way of living. "Greetings, Emperor Reshik Esperitus Hashiram!" Mordrang yelled, over the intermittent howl of the wind. "You've come a long way. The north isn't suited... for some. Perhaps you'd like to go home, sit inside your palace, and count your coin. I would gladly point you in the right direction." Mordrang held his sword forwards and pointed it to behind the Emperor. "It would be that way." The Emperor did not reply at first. He looked at Mordrang with a penetrating stare, golden lines within his pupils that were the shape of a five-point star. A buzzing ripple of energy cut through the wind from where the Emperor stood. "I have come to end this," his voice was deep and calm and carried in the distance even though he didn't appear to be yelling. "This need not end in the death of your people." Mordrang smirked. But he felt a shiver as his body tightened, he felt a kind of pressure coming from the Emperor. He had never known this power. The wind whipped his thick, mid-length white hair about his face, and watched as the Emperor stepped forwards of his accompanying figures. Mordrang gazed out and caught a face beneath a hood that he recognised. "Baldur!" Mordrang yelled. The figure recoiled, "Aye I see you, you old goat!!" "What of it?!" Baldur yelled back, standing behind the Emperor. "Valkyr do not bend the knee, Baldur! You and all your lot have forgotten the old ways!!" Mordrang spat on the ground. "The old ways are dead! The old gods are dead, Mordrang! They are spirits!! ONLY SPIRITS!!" "BAH!!" Mordrang snapped back, "So what of it, Reshik?!" Mordrang yelled, refocused on the Emperor. "You can prevent our deaths! You need only walk away. This, is our land. That," Mordrang pointed his blade to the building in the distance casting shade upon them from on high, "--is our shrine to Valk. And Valk, belongs to none. You have come to take her, or kill her. I cannot allow it." Reshik's expression did not change as Mordrang spoke, and after a moment he nodded his head just once. "I understand." He said, "Yet I cannot acquiesce to you. I am not taking this land from you, for this land has always been mine. Your Daemon is not welcome within my land, but your people are. I could see you made Highlord of Valkyr, Mordrang. Your people would be united under you. Daemons will be scoured from this land but all else can remain, and more could grow if your pride allowed it." There was sincerity to what he said, despite the measured tone. "You call them Daemons, but they're a terrible bondage for both host and spirit. You don't respect the sacrifice that's made when even one is bonded to you." Mordrang sliced a line through the snow and frozen mud and turf. "No further, Reshik. Our lands are ours and Daemon is an ugly word for a Spiritling. Take it back with you, if you like, and teach it to your court, i'm sure they'll have a great laugh." "You will not win." Reshik said with certainty, "You will die to protect the Daemon, I see that now but your traditions allow for it to end another way. I challenge you to fight me in combat for the fate of your people. If you die then they will surrender to me, and they will be spared." Mordrang felt the bite of the cold. He swallowed. He had never felt the cold, until now. The Emperor stepped towards him, and he felt a weight press against his chest. Mordrang lifted his blade, it was heavy. Heavier than he ever remembered. So this was what happened when a Spiritling took more and more until their power was leaking out of them. To him, it looked like the Emperor was broken, cracks of light almost seethed from him, but it didn't matter, it was terrifying. Mordrang roared in rage and bloodthirst. It was time to give his ancestors a song to sing in Korvortor, the after lands. Mordrang ran at Reshik, whipping his sword up through the air as he skid to a halt in front of the Emperor and swiped to cleave the man in two. There was a sudden rush of power and suddenly the sword shot off in the opposite direction, pulled by a powerful force. Reshik's eyes narrowed at Mordrang and then he forced Mordrang back with another blast of powerful wind. The snow flurried around Reshik in a spiral, and his clenched fist tightened as he took a step forward. As he slowly advanced toward Mordrang roots began to emerge rapidly from the ground beneath him, earth parted and rose into the air, orbiting the Emperor as ancient roots rose around him like a network of sentient vines. So, the stories were true. Mordrang brought his arms into his sides and focused, tapping a power he had kept caged for a long time. It's fury in being released was enormous, fire burned from within and before he knew it, it was around him in a swirling inferno. The other Valkyr retreated, even the Swordmaidens fell back. Mordrang stepped forwards, fire swirling around him, forming around his limbs and body. He felt a presence, then. I'm out. I'm out. It's time? The fire took shape, and when Mordrang stepped forwards, his Valkyr body was somewhere inside an enormous bear of living fire. When he spoke, it was like a combination of Mordrang and whatever was with him now. These are our lands. We hunt here. You are in our territory. LEAVE!!! Ursun. A spirit of the wild, one that was focused on the control of territory and those that violated its perceived boundaries. The Ursun/Mordrang bear of flame and anger charged Reshik, melting the snow with a hiss with each stomping stride. The bear roared, and a wave of heat struck the Emperor moments before the bear opened it's maw and leapt to strike. Reshik grimaced and shot his hand forward in a command and the roots suddenly began growing rapidly, exploding from the earth and coiling around the creature as it ripped and tore at the vines. rocks and earth rose up to compact itself between the vines, then Reshik countered with his own intense heat as fire scorched the compacted earth and rocks, melting them into a burning magma. Finally the magma cooled rapidly and became solid as the heat was sucked out of it. A small tower of scorched vines bound together by black rock now stood within the field, Mordrang contained within. The wind howled mournfully for a moment, and between them a cracking could be heard from within the structure. The rock exploded from within, as the bear grew to twice its previous size, it roared in anger and pain as it's fire went from red to blue and its heat grew ever more intense, then suddenly it was over. Mordrang jerked as something hit him. He looked down at his chest and saw his own blade. He reached to his chest and touched it as though he wasn't sure it was really there. His eyes drifted up, he saw the Emperor with his hand outstretched. It seemed, the act was over. He would never have been victorious. As he collapsed to his knees, the fire dispersed around him. Where do spirits go? To Korvortor...? Ursun asked. "I don't know..." Mordrang muttered aloud, and then as the Emperor approached him, he saw a figure standing behind Reshik. It was his daughter, Morag. There will be rage... "Don't--" Mordrang whispered, his world turning to black. "You're not-- supp-- be here..." He felt a hand grip the hilt of his blade. Morag screamed in horror and anger as her father's sword was yanked free of her father's corpse. The body collapsed to the ground, eyes glassy, staring to the sky as blood pooled around him. Her anger and hurt and sadness funnelled into outrage as her gaze fixed on Reshik. A dozen warriors, and three Swordmaidens stood between her and Reshik. Morag drew her blade. "You monster..." "He chose this," Reshik replied, his tone measured. "Do this and you will dishonour his sacrifice." "What good is honour, when we have forgotten all the songs and tales of our people. I defy you, and everything you stand for!" The Swordmaidens grew restless. "Don't do this!" Baldur piped up once more. "Morag! You have a greater responsibility--" "Kill them." Morag growled. The warriors charged, but the first to reach the Emperor were the Swordmaidens. Their blades fell at different points to cut the Emperor down but he was too fast, he spun, blocking two of the strikes and grabbed them, throwing them into the men behind him. The remaining Swordmaiden, clad in the typical white armour, charged and fought with the Emperor in one-on-one. The other two Swordmaidens easily dispatched several of the Imperial-sympathetic Valkyr Chiefs, but by the time they reached Baldur, vines struck them and pierced their bodies in multiple places, ending them. Then a gust of wind pulled the final Swordmaiden's feet out from under her, and a blade found her back. Morag ran. As she fled, the remaining warriors threw themselves in vain, upon the Emperor. Like a wave crashing against a mountain, it made little difference. She heard their screams as they were cut down. She had to reach the temple. She could hear rapid footfall behind her. The Emperor was not just following her. He was chasing her. She was in terrible danger. She heard Baldur screaming something as she raced up the old stone stairs. Disappearing into the shrine. By the time she reached the statue of Valk, the Great Raven, she heard the doors open a second time as the Emperor's shadow was cast through the shrine, shrouding her. "Great Raven, protect me, give me the strength to dispatch our enemy..." Morag put her hand to the breast of the stone raven. "Great Raven, help us in our time of need." The raven remained motionless, she heard footsteps. Morag whirled around and drew her blade as the Emperor approached. "I won't let you..." The blade was ripped from her hands and pinned to the wall. The Emperor narrowed his eyes at Morag. "Step aside," he ordered. Morag charged Emperor Reshik. Anger and sadness welled up inside her, and she gave in to her emotions. She grabbed for his throat, but this was not a being she had ever faced in combat before. He moved so quickly she barely understood what had happened. One moment he was there, the next he was passing her, and she felt a rip and something hit the floor as she suddenly felt lighter and off-balance. Then waves of pain tore through her and she saw her left arm had been severed. She fell to the floor as the Emperor passed her and stood before the Great Raven. "No..." Morag growled, picking herself back up. She turned and ran once more at the Emperor. He seemed absorbed, long enough that she was able to grab his neck from behind but then suddenly he was mist, he reformed behind her, and she felt the blade pierce her back and saw it extend before her. She felt the blade drag its way out of her body but she was numb to the pain now. She hit the freezing stone floor and blinked, trying to focus on the Emperor. A brilliant flash of green light, thunder, rain and lightning cracked inside the shrine. The statue glowed with green light as it gave off black smoke and pulled itself away from the stone itself. An enormous raven, formed of glowing green light and black smoke took flight. Morag heard the Emperor yell, and then something struck her in the chest with a force strong enough that she felt herself become airborne and land at the top of the stairs leading out of the shrine. There was footfall again. She had to get to her feet, now. Her doom was coming. Fleeing the shrine, Morag ran for the cliffs. The camp was overrun now. There was no going back. To her surprise, she saw that while she had been inside the shrine, the weather had changed. A storm had developed. Rain began to fall. Lightning flashed in the distance. And the sky grew darker and darker. Reaching the edge of the cliff, Morag looked down and saw the ocean churning below, crashing against the rocks. She glanced behind her, and saw the Emperor approaching her once more. She had only two options. Stay and die with certainty. Jump and die in all likelihood. "I defy you..." Morag repeated. One day, she would have vengeance. She would not die. Not today. Korvortor would have to wait a while longer for this warrior. Morag Lunéan, daughter of Mordrang, Chief of the Lunéan Clan, Captain of the Swordmaidens, leapt from the cliff. As she tumbled through the air, the spray from the ocean hitting her face as she descended. She saw the face of the Emperor, staring down from the edge of the cliff. Then her world collapsed in on itself, as the rush of water enveloped her and the world above became a murky illusion of light and memory. Valkheim. 200 years later. Darkness. She felt fuzzy. She couldn't focus. She tried to take a breath, and pain filled her. Her eyes shot open and she gagged on water. She kicked her legs with all the force she could muster, and just as her lungs were beginning to burn she breached the surface and took an enormous breath. She kicked with her legs, and her only arm. She only had one arm? The shore wasn't far, but it certainly wasn't any easier only doing it with one arm. She had to fight the current all the way there. When she finally pulled herself up onto the beach she was exhausted. Her clothes were in tatters. She checked herself over. Her left arm was missing. A large section of white scar tissue spread from her shoulder where an arm should have been. And there was a white scar in the shape of a large, slim diamond, both on her front and, as she discovered in checking,on her back as well. Where was she? It was freezing. Was that normal? "Who are we.. we?" She said aloud, her voice was authoritative, yet she hardly had the knowledge to back it up. And it had a kind of resonance to it, as though two were speaking at once ever so slightly out of sync. She coughed again, feeling a bit better and stood up. As she did so, she noticed she was a few feet from a harbour. It was completely unrecognisable to her. Ships were moving back and forth, people were everywhere, all kinds of people. Some of them looked like her, at least what she could see in the reflection of the water, but a great many more looked very different. None of them seemed to pay her any mind. Why would they? She was just some woman in rags. She felt strange. Like she was having a conversation with herself. Her thoughts were all jumbled up, and she couldn't remember anything. "Hey!!" A voice called. She looked up and saw two men in light armour with an emblem of a wolf on their uniforms. That emblem meant something, but she couldn't think what. Had she known? "Look!" One of the men said, "She's got a Clan mark of Lunéan. Black hair, but... I know that symbol anywhere. She's probably run off from her Master-- Hey!!" He yelled down at her, "Wait there!!" She bolted. She knew that whatever was going on, these men were not here to help her. She ran as fast as she could, but she felt so weak. Suddenly, as she turned a corner, she bumped straight into one of the men who wrestled her to the ground. "Alright, alright, that's enough o' that, you're spendin' the night in a jail--hey!" The guard paused and looked her over, "There's something wrong with her..." "Don't worry 'bout that, just report it to that Sorceri and maybe we'll get a reward," The other guard chuckled and leaned over her, "An' in the mornin' we're findin' your owner." "NOTHING OWNS US!!" She snapped, the very idea of this suddenly enraged her. She began to thrash violently. Something would take her freedom away? She was freedom. She was flight. She was... something struck her in the back of the head, and everything went dark. When her eyes next opened, she was in a cell. It was freezing and damp, but she was alive. She didn't even know who she was. But she was alive, and that was a start. She heard footsteps. The voice of a man talking to someone. He was describing something. "Like a Valkyr woman, only hair is black an' it's like... smoke or ink or somethin', an' her eyes are green. Green-eyed Iceheart, ya ever hear a such a thing?! An' talkin' funny--" She listened intently. A Valkyr? She was a Valkyr woman, then. She reached up with her right arm and brushed hair out of her face. They were right, it was almost like a waterfall of ink pouring over her head and vanishing around her chest. When she moved it with her hand, it was like correcting a trail of water, laced with black smoke. But she was not so different from them. These beings were like water too. But she was even wetter than they were. Is that what it meant to be Valkyr? But she felt like a storm, a tempest, a-- then she saw a face that made her angry for a reason she couldn't describe. She didn't know why it made her angry, but she knew she was in danger. Like an instinct. She fled to the back of the cell, into the shadows. Her eyes, glowing in the darkness, black and emerald smoke rising from them. The guard banged on the cage, "Aye she's in there alright, Master Sorceri. She's a Daemon i'd wager, an' uh, don't suppose... there's a reward?" The iron bars of the cell clanged as she slammed her body against the metal, one black-clawed hand outstretched, she bore her teeth, which were more like fangs and grasped at the air, inches from the man with the face she hated, "Why do we hate you?!" The guard leapt out of his skin and recoiled until his back slammed up against the wall. But the man she hated, well... he didn't move an inch.
  5. Darkpine Valley

    The engine of the Pontiac GTO muscle car roared with bubbling menace as it glided through the winding roads framed by nationally-protected forest on either side. The enormous pine trees glistened off the ruby red, well-maintained body of the vintage car. A voice wailed from inside the car, the radio playing 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin. A pale hand tapped on the driver's wheel, their nails almost like claws, filed to a point and painted with black nail polish. She leant back in her chair and shoved her boot up against the wheel, holding it steady. Reaching into her black jean pocket, she pulled out a black lipstick and re-applied then took the wheel once more. Her amber-coloured eyes glanced at her road map. The town of Darkpine was only another mile into the heart of the national forest. Up until the 1980's, Darkpine had been a mining and logging town. When the surrounding forest became protected land, all industry stopped and Darkpine became focused on conservation, education, and wildlife protection, which brought in tourists and all kinds, but it kept the town afloat. So said the flyer, at least. She wasn't coming to Darkpine for the conservation though, unless that is, it was her own. Her name was Alice, and she had seen a few things. A few things that most people would scarcely believe, even if they saw for themselves. She brushed her medium-length scruffy raven hair out of her face and refocused on the road. She saw a sign approaching but her keen eyes quickly noticed it was so worn that it was illegible. There was a gas station coming up, and from there, several roads going in every which way. She'd have to stop and ask for directions. Alice pulled into the gas station and killed the engine. The music continued to wail until she hit pause and got out of the car. As she did so, two men stepped out of the gas station shop and approached with a wave. "Evenin' miss!" The man called out, "Hang on--" He leaned over and pressed a button, the gas station lit up with an assortment of lights. "Sorry, I know it's already pretty dark but we're savin' energy, gotta be mindful o' the environment, y'know?" Alice smirked, canines gleaming, "Sure." She looked the man up and down. He was tall, balding, wearing denims. Alice glanced behind him and her eyes were met by the second man. This man, she did not like. She recognised in something she knew all too familiar. He was quiet. He was meticulous. He was a predator. When her eyes caught his, he looked away sharp. "So," She turned back to the man in denim, "Which way to Darkpine?" "Darkpine!?" Denim repeated, blinking in surprise, "What'd ya wanna go there for, Miss--?" "Alice. Do people need reasons t'go places these days? What's it to you?" Alice asked, putting a hand on her hip, her tone accusatory. "Oh no, nothing. Just bein' curious is all, sorry, Miss. Take the road to the left there, you'll be on Darkpine in no time." "Thank ye." She nodded to him, then jerked her head at his colleague who was now walking back to the pumps, "What's up with him?" "Oh, don't mind him, Tom's a good kid, wouldn't hurt a fly." He brushed her off, "Name's Jack. I'm the only gas station for miles, well..." He paused, irritably. "Well?" Alice asked, her brow raising. "Besides that one in Darkpine, lord knows how they got the contract to that town when i'm stuck out here on Route 14, but--" Jack took a deep breath and shook his head, "That family's old as this wood, so what's a guy t'do?" He laughed and started back towards the pumps. "Bathrooms over yonder," Jack nodded in their direction, "If you want something to eat, or fuel up or anything just come in the shop, we'll sort you out." And with that, he left. Alice whipped the keys around on her finger a few times, considering her options. Throwing the keys into the air, she snatched them and shoved them into her pocket. The gas station door jingled as it opened. Jack's eyes lit up and he nodded to her, "What'd ya need?" "Wanna fill up the tank for me?" Alice asked, flashing a wad of notes. She paid for the gas upfront and walked outside as both Jack and Tom rushed to service the car. Jack grabbed the gas and started filling it up, while Tom was hoovering the inside. Alice tapped her short-cut leather jacket. She felt the pack of cigarettes inside and reached in, pulling one out and lighting it. She took a deep drag, savouring the flavour for a moment, then exhaled it from her nose like a dragon and wandered into the women's bathroom. To her great surprise, the bathroom was incredibly clean. She figured they didn't get many visitors. She crossed the bathroom and entered the furthest stall. She had time enough to close the door, when she heard the bathroom door open, and a second person walked in. To the average person, it could have been anyone. But Alice knew who it was. She recognised his smell. She felt the weight of his footsteps. And he favoured his right leg. His heart was also beating out of his chest, just as it had been when he first saw her pull up. The old work boots stomped across the slightly damp tiled floor. She heard him pause at the first stall. Alice walked to the back of her stall, put the seat of the toilet down, and sat upon it. A few more steps. The door to the second stall was knocked open. A moment's silence. Then more footsteps. She looked to the bottom of the stall, and saw a shadow cast from the other side. She could feel the heat of his body. Then it happened. Tom kicked the stall door open with a single attempt and took one step towards her. He didn't speak, he didn't even really acknowledge her. He let out a long-held breath, and advanced. "Aww for Christ sake, would you look at all o' this..." Police Chief Andy Marchand growled in disgust. He had just arrived after poor Jack, the owner of the gas station on route 14 had reported an animal attack. Whatever it was had gotten Tom. There was nothing to be done. When Andy stepped under the yellow police tape and walked into the bathroom, he had to steel himself or lose the contents of his stomach. It was bad. Real bad. He almost tripped on something as the front of his foot got caught. He looked down to see a clutched hand and stumbled back, "Aww Christ, geezus!!" He croaked, but he hadn't even seen the worst of it. Blood everywhere. On the walls. On the ceiling, still dripping down onto them like it was raining indoors. The body was in several pieces, and it had lost most of the blood. That much was obvious, from the copious amounts splattered on everything in the bathroom, and the grey, wrinkled body. "Fuck." Andy cursed, clenching his fists. "FUCK!!" His yell echoed across the bathroom. A flash brought him back to his senses and he saw a woman taking photographs of the fallout. Another flash from her camera. "Hey!" He called out to her, "You got a sec?" Andy asked. "Sure." She let the camera fall limp around her neck and carefully crossed the room, missing the worst of the blood pools. "What's up, Chief?" "Is this the only body?" He queried. "Yep. Jack said there was a girl came through here not long before the attack, but luckily she left before whatever it was took out poor Tom over there... and there... and there." She pointed at the dismembered arm. "Well i'd like to speak to her, maybe she saw something before she left, or maybe she left quick because it was already there when she left..." Andy rubbed his face, running his hand through his thick moustache as he often did when he found himself thinking. "Did you get a name?!" He yelled out to Jack, who refused to come back inside the bathroom. "WoooOO!" Alice hooted, "Now we're cookin' wit' gas!" Her playful drawl was unmistakably from New Orleans. The Pontiac sped past a sign saying 'Welcome to Darkpine!', as Alice used her long tongue, to lap up the last streaks of blood on her lips. Darkpine was a small town, population of a few thousand. Most everybody knew everybody. Facebook made that all too clear. Alice threw her phone onto the passenger seat and then glanced up in the rearview mirror. "Dang it!" She pursed her lips as she reached back for her lipstick again. She found it and looked at the road ahead. She was coming up on the other side of the town, almost home. One last road, pub on the left. Not a car or person in sight. Alice glanced up, quickly grabbing her lipstick. She rolled it across her lips, pursed and rolled her lips so that it re-applied. Her eyes caught movement in her periphery but by the time she looked, it was too late. A drunk, stumbled out into the middle of the round, and she had been speeding. There was nothing Alice could do. An instant later, she hit the man, her windshield cracked and he flew out ahead of her as she brought her car to a screeching halt. The man hit the concrete, she heard a terrible 'crack' and he tumbled and finally hit a tree on the other side of the street. Alice hesitated behind the wheel. Alice felt the need to bail on this situation looming. Self-preservation. She was very good at that. But now she wasn't sure. Alice hesitated. But then she saw a couple walking towards the body. "Aw SHIT!!" Alice leapt out of her car and sprinted towards the couple, "Sir! Ma'am!!" She yelled out. "Hey is that man--" The man squinted in the darkness, the nearest street lamp was too far away. Alice caught up to them, "Sorry folks, sorry! Don't mind my friend, he's had one too many." "He looks hurt!" The woman gasped. "Hurt?!" Alice whipped her head back to look at the man. He looked, well... he looked dead. His limbs were splayed in all directions and his neck was definitely snapped. But then she realised. It was as though it hadn't registered at first. This man, the one she had hit with her car, was not dead. Well, he was dead. But only as much as she was. Alice looked him up and down, "Well... maybe a little more dead..." She thought aloud. "What--?!" The man yelled in surprise, "Did I hear that right?!" "Bed... BED!!" Alice clicked her fingers at them and laughed, "Sorry. Bed. Maybe he needs a little more bed, y'know. Time to sleep." She ran over to him and picked him up, "See he's fine look, he's helping me carry his weight look, i'm five foot nothin' and half his weight, for sure." The man looked to the woman and she shook her head insistently and the pair darted off. "Right then..." Alice muttered, turning and hoisting the corpse of the man onto her shoulder effortlessly. "Come on, then, best get you home..." With the Pontiac parked, Alice got out of the car and pulled the stranger's corpse with her, shutting the door behind them and locked it. "Welcome to ma maison!" She cooed as she walked up the drive to a modern-looking house with lots of glass - though it was all deeply tinted, nothing could be seen of the house inside. "Just like the estate agent said--" She pulled the house keys from inside the soil of the potted plant beside the door. Opening the door, she pulled the corpse inside and shut the front door behind her and locked it. "Best get ya some fresh clothes or somethin'..." He was mangled. Alice frowned and went into the kitchen and came back with two glasses and three bags of blood. The first bag, she pierced with one of her nails and then emptied the contents down the corpse's throat. Then she stood over him, grabbed his head and with incredible precision - perhaps as though she had done this a great many times before - she snapped his neck back into place. Then she sat back down, and pierced the other two bags and emptied them into the glasses. By the time they were full, she heard moaning. She brought one to her lips and took a sip, then offered the other to the man who still had several bad injuries that required healing. "So..." Alice held the glass out to him, "You're a vampire? Like me, then." She smirked, her canines hanging over her bottom lip.
  6. Sorceri

    Fade walked swiftly down the cobbled roads of Grimstone’s main street. The sketchy old town was mostly hidden in darkness at night, illuminated only by the firelight of the few homes and establishments still awake. The rain was falling in that half-hearted way it always did just before it finally gave up. Eilun, the smaller of the moons was beginning to pierce through the gaps in the clouds, casting a faintly purple light. The streets were empty, Grimstone was not the kind of place that you stayed out in after dark, well, at least if you were other people. Darkness frightened most people, but Fade was the type of creature that relished the darkness and the shadows. Of course, there were lots of dangers in the darkness, but he had yet to encounter anything that was quite as dangerous as he was. He turned on to a side street and made his way towards the orange glow of lamplight coming from a small tavern. It was a little out of the way but seemed to still have patrons. He stepped inside. Rainwater dripped from his cloak on to the wooden floorboards. He was immediately greeted by warm air and bright light from the torchlights. He noted the tiny serpent creatures that danced around the flames, fire serpents. The lesser spirits were harmless and often entirely oblivious to their surroundings, but they seemed to appear around open flames quite often. Fade stalked across the room and sat himself at a stool by the bar, outwardly paying no attention to the other patrons. He kept his hood up, obscuring his face as the barman came up to him and cleared his throat. He kept his gaze down at the scratched wood of the bar and hesitated for a moment, keeping his body hunched and cowered slightly. The trouble with small towns is that strange faces brought suspicion. Appearing weak was an effective means of lowering someone’s guard. “What’ll it be?” The barman asked finally. “Whisky.” He said it quickly, let out fall out of his mouth despite himself. It took a bit of practice to mimic the quick, desperate plea of a man who was dependent on his liquor. He did not look up but none the less he could see the barman’s expression. In fact, he could see the entire room he was sitting in. Strictly speaking all he could see was the bar in front of him, yet he had a sense of where everything was, in the way that you know what your house looks like and where everything is placed even when you aren’t in it, like a memory. The memories were not his, however. There was another presence, a light pressure he could feel against his mind, a creature that observed while he played the role of a harmless drunk. Dangerous people were often easy to spot, because you could watch them watching everything around them, assessing and calculating. Fade had kept his head down the entire time, and yet he knew that there were 6 people in the room including himself. Three of them sat at a table behind him and to his left, another was sat alone in a small table by the far wall to his right, and the barman was in front of him. He was also aware that there were at least 3 distinct sounds of footsteps from the floor above him. As the barman poured him a glass of whisky he became aware that the barman was armed with a small dirk he kept stuffed in his left sleeve. The 3 men at the table all carried swords, and the lone woman had no visible weapons. “-Spotter’s Wood has gone dark as well, what are- “ “Sh!” One of the men shushed the other one who spoke, slapping him lightly on the head. “What? It’s just some old wino.” The man replied in a hushed whisper that Fade shouldn’t have been able to hear, and yet he could. “Probably doesn’t know his arse from his elbow I reckon.” “Yeah and twits like you mouthing off is exactly why every single one of our hideouts have been cleaned out. How else do you think people find out?” Old clients, dead drop surveillance, paying off multiple informants, hiring plants to pretend to be clients. Fade listed off just a handful of the many ways in which one could uncover the secret hideouts of a group of assassins. If it was as easy as overhearing someone in a pub then he’d have finished this job months ago. 4 months, 47 people killed. 47 members of the most renowned assassin guild in The Reach, a guild known as Maelstrom. Renown probably wasn’t a great quality in assassins, but while the guild was famous, the people within it were not. Fade had tracked down most of them now. He had located their various front operations, killed their operatives and destroyed their documents. Anything of real value would be in the hands of whoever was running this operation, a person he had yet to identify. A person that he was almost certain was one of the three footsteps from the floor above. This dirty little pub was the last of their hideouts, and the dregs had come running here just as he had expected. Now he just had to think about how to end them all. Any disturbance would alert the people one floor up. If they chose to fight then that wasn’t an issue, but if they chose to flee that would be a problem. It was not worth the risk. “6 dims.” The barman said, holding his hand out for Fade to pay him. Fade reached into his cloak and retrieved his money pouch. He opened it and took out 6 small grey coins. The barman took them and stepped away from Fade, who sipped his whisky and hid his annoyance. 6 dims for this piss? In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a large sum. He’d paid as much as 4 brights for whisky before, but stuff that expensive was in a different league entirely. Even that wasn’t a great deal of money for him. This job alone was paying him 15 blindings, he knew Lords that didn’t have that much wealth. “She watches.” A voice in his head said suddenly. It was a deep, harsh voice that only barely resembled that of a human. “The one who sits by herself, she is watching you carefully” the voice said with a throaty, purring quality. Fade did not respond; the creature could speak to his mind, but he could not speak back in the same way. Instead he began to think about his next step. The men sitting together would have to be dispatched quickly if he was to prevent them from raising alarm, yet the woman sitting by herself was focused on him, likely she was the most capable person in the room. He knew of only 6 more operatives he had left to kill, and this barman would make seven. So, the woman…had she slipped by his intel? Or perhaps one of the ones upstairs was a captive, or a new initiate? What is this woman was the ringleader? She seemed sharp enough to have caught the creature’s attention anyway. He considered his next step, and then Fade downed the rest of the terrible whisky and placed the glass back on the table. “Another please, barkeep.” He said, and he tapped his finger on the edge of the glass. The barman finished cleaning a glass with a rag that looked dirtier than what it was apparently cleaning. He picked up the bottle of whisky and came over to pour the liquid into Fade’s glass. As he began to pour his eyes focused on the glass. Fade took an inhalation of breath and held it, a rehearsed behavior for him by now, and then without warning he disappeared, leaving behind wisps of black smoke. He reappeared behind the bar, at the barman’s back, and in the blink of an eye he had grabbed the barman’s head from behind and pulled it back, as he drew the sharp end of a curved dagger along his throat. He disappeared again, and by the time the barman had fallen, the whisky bottle smashing against the ground, he had already reappeared behind one of the men at the table, and he slit that man’s throat as the other two shot up, their chairs scraping in horror. In a blink he had teleported once more, appearing in a crouch on the table, he rammed the dagger up into the soft flesh under the man’s jaw at an angle, causing him to gargle quietly as life rapidly fled from him. The remaining man was about to scream, Fade wouldn’t be able to react in time. His shadow rippled, and he felt the sudden surge of excitement from the creature. A large black cat shot out of his shadow like it was the exit to a dark cave, the creature mauled the man, clamping its powerful jaws on his throat and riding him backwards to the ground, where he menaced at his flesh, reveling in the kill. With another blink Fade was at the woman who had stood up from her chair, but as he came to face her she held her hands up in surrender, a smirk across her face. In her right hand she held an object. It was a stamp, one used for sealing wax. His eyes studied the glyph on the end of the stamp. The stylized, symmetrical glyph was not one he could read, it was a uniquely designed glyph and he was not scholarly enough to make out the script the glyph had been derived from. Yet he recognized it immediately. The black cat padded up behind him, it was the size of a large dog, lean and muscular. Its eyes were an alluring shade of purple, the pupil’s tiny slits. Kuuri was no ordinary beast. His black fur seemed to glint every so often, as if his coat were made of the night sky itself, stars twinkling throughout. “Why is she still alive?” Kuuri asked, sounding mildly incredulous. “Because…this woman is our employer.” Fade replied, and he turned towards the woman who was still smirking, and she lowered her arms. “I suppose I should be glad that you’re as sharp as I expected, or else I might have been a beautiful corpse, hm?” The woman had the light tan skin of a woman from Mesmer, she had hair the colour of sand, long with loose curls. She was dressed in a white shirt with a green jerkin, and a pair of brown breeches, and knee-high brown boots. Along with the maroon bandana she had tied around her head she didn’t dress much like a lady. “I have questions.” Fade said to her, but she held up a hand to stop him from asking them. “You are close, but you haven’t finished your job yet.” She said with that sly grin, “I’ll answer you when you’re done.” Fade resisted to urge to cut her down right there. He was not a man to be toyed with, and he had no patience for people who liked to play games with him. At the same time, he could not allow himself failure, he could not allow a contract to be unfulfilled. “Very well.” He said, and then he turned around and walked across the room, drawing the other curved dagger from his belt and held each in a reverse grip as he walked up the stairs to the next floor. Kuuri followed him without comment and disappeared inside his shadow once more. Fade’s extrasensory awareness returned to him as Kuuri returned to his shadow. While they were bonded in such a way his senses became more acute. Teleporting was harder without Kuuri within his shadow, it required more calculation. As he walked up the steps his awareness told him that one of his targets was reaching for the door ahead of them. He quickened his pace and as the door opened a balding man emerged in its frame and had just enough time to look alarmed before Fade teleported behind him and kicked him, sending the man tumbling down the stairs to the bar. Fade turned to face the last two people in the room. One was just getting up from a chair behind a desk while the other had already drawn his sword and was advancing towards Fade. The man went at a run and Fade waited for him. His attacker came at his with a strong forward thrust which Fade side stepped. The man swung the blade upwards and Fade leaned away from it and ducked as it went over his head. From the crouch he made a dive at the man, and then both of their worlds were engulfed in black smoke. There was a sudden rush of cold air, and the sensation of plummeting. The world around them was black, but below them there were some soft glows of light that were gradually getting closer. Fade let go of the man, pushing him away with a sudden blast of wind, and the man screamed as he fell towards the earth, his fate sealed. Another blink and Fade reappeared in the room. Gravity’s work on him was still going, and as he reappeared he had positioned himself sideways, and he fell forward through the room, towards the last remaining member of Maelstrom. His foot struck the man with a powerful kick, but the man did not budge. The impact was as if he’d hit a solid wall, and as he fell back and landed on his feet it was only then that he saw the thick tree branches that were coiled around the man’s legs, holding him firmly in place. “Finally.” Fade said with a nod of respect, “I figured one of you had to be bonded, surely.” “Second Awakening.” The man replied with a smirk. The wood of the floor suddenly shot up and grew around Fade, coiling rapidly around his limbs, tightly binding him until he was imprisoned in a mess of thick, twisting branches and vines. “So, you are the one who has devastated my guild? Disappointing I have to say…I thought you would offer up more of a challenge.” “…Well I didn’t expect such a display if I’m honest. How much growth did you have to absorb to pull this off? Second Awakening you said? So…years of stockpiling I imagine.” “What can I say? I’m prepared.” The man replied smugly, “I’ve been bonded since childhood, I achieved my Second Awakening almost 5 years ago now, I’ve adapted well to the power that comes with it. And what of you? Second Awakening also?” Fade allowed himself a satisfied smirk. “Seventh.” He said casually. “What?” came the dumbfounded response. Fade suddenly teleported, freeing himself from his bonds. Dread filled his target’s eyes as he flickered in and out of existence, rapidly cutting at the man, blood sprayed across the room, Fade moving and cutting at him with such speed that the poor man could not even track him. In moments he fell to the ground, his body in tatters, and the floor crimson with his blood. “Messy.” Kuuri said as he emerged from Fade’s shadow and stalked across the room, inspecting the scene. “I do enjoy the sight of blood…but this is out of character for you.” “A brief lapse of judgement.” Fade replied as he walked over to the desk on the other side of the room. In truth, for the longest time, he had become steadily bored of this work. Nothing seemed to offer him a worthy challenge any more. So, for a moment he decided to cut loose. “It won’t happen again.” He added as he inspected the desk and picked up the book on it. “It had better not.” Kuuri replied with a warning tone, “I will not allow my power to be wielded by a man who cannot control himself. Our bargain can come to an end, I am not some sentimental guardian spirit who will follow you to the ends of the earth.” “I am well aware of that, thank you.” Fade replied as he flicked through the pages of the book. It was a ledger written in Ishaaran script. He had a basic understanding of the script, but he was no scribe. Even to his novice reading level the structure seemed quite unusual.” “What is in it?” Kuuri asked, as he hopped up on to the desk and turned around in a circle before sitting down, his tail flicking lazily. “It’s a cypher.” Fade replied, closing the book shut. “Probably a ledger…client list perhaps. If they’ve taken the trouble to encode the script, then it’s probably valuable information.” “Very valuable.” Said the woman from before as she emerged from the staircase, “I think that man you threw down the stairs was the scribe. His head is bleeding quite heavily…I’m fairly sure he’s dead.” “As will you be if you do not start explaining yourself.” Fade replied coldly “Now is that any way to speak to your employer?” The woman asked with a smirk. “You are no longer my employer, I have fulfilled my end of our contract. Now you are simply a woman who owes me a great debt.” Fade replied. The woman sighed and tossed a large pouch of coins towards him and they landed with a clink on the floor. “15 blindings as agreed.” The woman said, “Now I have more work for you if you’re interested.” “You are a very capable woman, you already knew where this hideout was, you knew the value of the book I hold, and you did not show even the slightest bit of surprise at witnessing my power.” Fade walked over to the money pouch and picked it up, fastening it to his belt. “I do not work with people who know more about me than I do them, especially since I work hard to keep a low profile.” “Yes, you do.” She agreed, “I am very resourceful though. Many know of the legendary assassin Fade, but I doubt many living people know that you are he. You are also Vama The Knife, Kurik Bloodstealer, and at least a dozen other identities including, once, the Lord of Duskhollow. However, I know the one name that no one else knows you by…Raze Trellian.” The utterance of that name rattled Fade to his core. That name…his true name. How could she know it? He had not uttered it himself in…how long had it been? 30 years? More? “You better have a good offer, or I’ll end you right here.” He growled. “Of course, I have a challenge that is fit only for the very best assassin Ishaar has ever seen. The reward for which is 200 blindings.” “That’s obscene, you can’t possibly have that much wealth.” Fade replied. “I can, and I do…” The woman said, “Of course I know money is not the wealth you seek. You desire a real challenge…something that will help you reach your true goal…and yes, I know what that is too. Do you think you are ready for it?” Fade was still toying with the idea of slitting her throat. She knew far too much about him. Yet she knew exactly what he was after. She had set this little job up as a test, he could see that now. Months of his life spent on a test, so that she could see if he was worthy of her true mission. What could possibly be so challenging? “Tell me.” He demanded. “I want you to assassinate Emperor Reshik Esperitus Hashiram, The Ascendant God.” She said, and her sick little grin only got wider. Fade almost laughed. The idea was ridiculous, but then he saw that despite the smirk he could see in this woman’s eyes that she was serious. “You wish me to kill an immortal being that has ruled this land uncontested for at least 2 millennia?” Fade asked. Kuuri gave an excited purr. “He is worthy prey.” Kuuri said encouragingly. “He’s God!” Fade protested “God is dead, Raze Trellian.” The woman said. “Reshik is but a man who has claimed power…just as you have. He can be killed, I promise you that.” “If you’re so sure then why don’t you do it yourself?” Fade asked “Unfortunately I am somewhat forcibly following a path of pacifism.” She replied, “Which is why I wish for you to be my knife. What say you Ra-“ “Fade, if you please.” Fade replied. “And what do I call you?” “Me?” The woman asked, “You can call me Wander.” --- --- --- --- "When I was a boy Etri helped me tend my mother's garden. All I could offer was a light touch, but time and sustenance were still necessary for growth. When I attempted to grow the plants quicker i would fall deeply lethargic and occasionally fell to illness. Yet when I was a man with children of my own I found that I could do so much more with Etri's help. Where once I drew from within I now find power from elsewhere." This excerpt from the memoirs of Manev Laerin, a horticulturalist from the 12th century is one of the earliest records of humankind's awareness of Spiritual Investment. Interestingly the absence of scribe annotations indicates that the words were possibly written by the man himself. It is interesting to see literacy in a man already specialized in another field, especially in a text from almost 800 years ago. The text contains no other mention of Investment and Manev seems unaware of what essence he drew power from. Wood elemental sorcery is known to draw Investment from plants, causing them to wither, then this energy can be distributed to other plant matter to allow for growth. This is a logical parallel, rapid decay of one source and the rapid growth of another. If this is an accurate assessment of the investment process then it indicates that energy cannot be generated via Sorcery, it is more likely that this phenomenon is simply the redistribution of energy which already exists within our world. Osha indicates that my hypothesis is too rigid, too simple. As always, he is unable to offer further extrapolation. It is a frustrating but nonetheless universal trait of spirits that their knowledge is dependent on that of their bond partner. Osha declares that he knows the answers I seek, but that he cannot summon them in to words. He described this as, "Knowledge held captive. Treasures locked within a chest. A key we must find. The right key. Discovery!" Use of metaphor is a relatively new behavior to him, in our youth together Osha often found metaphors confusing. Osha's understanding begins to extend beyond logical concepts and he begins to contemplate abstraction. The indication is as clear to me as it is to anyone who has achieved the Second Awakening and beyond; We must learn on our own, we must discover the secrets of our bond. Spirits can guide us but are unable to simply supply the answers we seek. It is interesting that with such a range of different spirits catalogued within our world that all recognize and are bound to the principles of endeavor. This may seem a digression, but I think these factors are related. Common spirits are often bound by trade guilds to enhance their craft. While common spirits can form a lasting bond, unlike the typical temporary bond of a lesser spirit, it is unheard of for such spirits and their partners to achieve anything beyond the Second Awakening. Common spirits also seem to invest in essences closer to their elemental association; Fire spirits draw in heat, Water spirits draw in water, Earth spirits draw in earth and so on. Yet these examples of broader investment seem to be relative to the potential abilities that can manifest via the bond. The Sorcerium teaches that spirits are primarily beings that represent natural forces, and secondarily they are shaped by the ideas of humans. Yet research cultivated over 2 millennia has enriched our understanding of the natural world. The five elements that Sorceri doctrine clings so tightly to has already been proven to be mere vagaries. In developing my own sorcery with water, I have discovered that this substance which we refer to as an element is in fact a compound of other elements. One of these elements I have found is quite possibly the most abundant element in our entire land, perhaps the entire world. Water can exist in a solid, liquid or gas state based on the conditions of its environment, and I have found that through deeper understanding of the very nature of this element I have achieved a degree of refined manipulation that has yet to be matched by any water sorcerer I have encountered. Is it possible that common elemental spirits are manifestations of the very common understanding of said elements? Could spirits be manifestations of human cognition in their entirety? If my hypothesis is correct, then our limitations in manipulating the forces of this world are only limited by our individual understanding of the finer workings of nature. As our understanding of the world advances will our spirits change to adapt to these refined ideas? Or will new spirits be born? As dated ideas begin to fade in to history will spirits that represent these ideas also perish? So many questions and yet if I am to answer them all I would require more minds working on the problem. Yet convincing my peers to focus on such things will require undeniable evidence. Any potential doubt in my hypothesis will result in dismissal. Unfortunately, society paints me a heretic for my ideas. “Mmm!” The approving hum broke Talena’s concentration and she looked up from her notebook to the source of the noise. She was in her study, a room of smooth stone walls the colour of sand. Her space was clean and utilitarian. Bookshelves lined the walls, each crammed full of dense volumes detailing a variety of strictly academic studies, she had little interest in the creative arts. She sat at her writing desk, towers of books and stacks of paper piled around her. The room was dim, lit only by a series of candles around the room that gave a warm, orange glow. The source of the noise was an odd creature that had been hovering at her shoulder but had now descended closer to her notebook and seemed to be reading over her inscriptions intently, which was quite odd considering it didn’t have any eyes to speak of. The spirit was about the size of a small melon and shaped like an orb comprised of a viscous, metallic substance that provided warped reflections of its surroundings. It hovered in the air without any visible supports, its surface smooth for now. “Mmm!” It hummed once more, and it’s surface buzzed with a rippling vibration, “Provocative. Mm…dangerous ideas. Many enemies could be made of this.” “You say that like I don’t already have an ocean of them.” Talena replied with a quirk of her eyebrow. “Incorrect.” The orb replied, “Your fellow humans disdain you the most. The fish have no quarrel with you, I think.” Talena rolled her eyes at this. He was getting better at metaphor, but he had clearly missed that one. “Must you be so literal, Osha?” She asked him, but she couldn’t help but smirk a little at him. “Mmm. Language is structured to convey thoughts clearly. Words have clear definitions. This is logical. Mmmetaphor is…incoherent. Mm…why do humans create rules only to break them? Then they become upset when they are not understood.” “It was a comparison. The ocean is incredibly vast, as is the collection of people who oppose my ideas.” Talena explained. “Yet the ocean is far vaster than the land. It can fit the entire human population of Ishaar within it many times over. Therefore, the comparison is…mmm…exaggerated.” “Yes, sometimes we exaggerate for effect.” Talena said as she settled in to get back to her writing. “What effect? Confusion? Inaccuracy?” “Oh be quiet,” Talena said with a huff. The little sprite was an annoyingly logical thinker at times, although he was beginning to get better at understanding the nuances of human interaction. Talena found her companion’s confusion and constant questions to be quite charming…most of the time. Osha hummed again, something he did often when he was thinking. At least she assumed that was why he did it, although he seemed to vibrate more whenever he was excited, so perhaps it was simply an expression of interest. He was quite the oddity, then again people said the same thing about her, and that was probably why they were such an inseparable pair. Osha had been with Talena since she was a baby, the little spirit had been there for as long as she could recall. For a great deal of that time he had been quiet but curious and had only started to master the art of speech when she was in her teens. Often when he spoke he came across as naïve, but other times he displayed an exceptionally complex understanding that surpassed her own. For most of her childhood she had referred to Osha as an “it”, as there was nothing about his form that implied a gender, but soon after he began to speak he had made it very clear that he was a “he” and not an “it”. She wasn’t quite sure why a floating ball of liquid metal would have such a passionate stance on pronouns, but it didn’t matter to her in any case. For all his oddities he was still her very best friend. The door to her study opened without warning and a tall, slender woman in a sleek, black dress with gold trim, buttoned up the right side of her torso from waist to neck, the collar high and fitted closely to her neckline. The sleeves were tight and went the length of her arms, the material covering her palms, buttoned in the space between her middle and index fingers. It was a dress of traditional Mesmeri fashion, the black and gold colouring indicating her position as a member of the Sorcerium. Talena knew she was no Sorceri agent or priest, however. The woman had lightly tan skin and light brown hair that was tied back in a bun, with three golden hair sticks pinning it from either side. Her eyes were dark, and she had speckles of brown freckles around her high cheekbones. “I told you to go to bed” She chided at Talena. “So? I see you’re still up.” Talena replied, rolling her eyes. “Still up?” The woman replied as she glided across the room and pulled open the curtains, then opened the wooden hatch in the window and the room was suddenly aglow with morning sunshine that briefly blinded Talena. “I’ve slept, woke up, bathed and eaten since then!” Talena groaned as she adjusted to the light. Had it been that long? She could have sworn it had only been an hour or two at most. Yet the woman was undoubtedly right, as she had been every other time this had happened. “Meridia I-“ “Three nights in a row! All this lack of sleep cannot be good for you.” Meridia said sternly, “Have you eaten?” “No I’ve just…” Talena’s eyes fell to the basin of water that was to the right of her between two stacks of books. “Sorcery is not a substitute for a balanced diet and a good night’s rest.” Meridia said with a narrow-eyed scowl that made Talena feel like she was a little girl again. “Meridia, you are my matron, not my mother and I’m 36 years old, I am not a child.” Talena replied testily. She didn’t like anyone talking to her like that, not even the woman whose job was to look after her. “I’ll stop treating you like a child when you stop acting like one.” Meridia said as she began tidying up the room, picking up books and placing them back on the shelves. “This is not how a noble lady is supposed to behave.” “Oh I’m sorry am I supposed to fritter my time away buying gowns and courting the sons of Highlords like all the pretty little puffs at court?” Talena replied with a tone of revulsion, “Believe it or not I have more important matters to be dealing with.” Meridia stopped what she was doing and turned around to face Talena. Her stern expression softened slightly as she shook her head slightly. “Talenazerazar Esperitus Hashiram…” She used Talena’s full name, “Have you had a good look at yourself lately?” Talena looked down at herself. She was dressed in a dress of a similar modest style as Meridia’s but hers was an aquatic blue with dark blue trim and detailed filigree woven in to the fabric. She had a similar skin tone and hair colour to Meridia, as did most Mesmeri natives, but her hair was long with full, wavy curves, and her eyes were a brilliant blue. “You have a brilliant mind and I have no desire for you to dull it, but you are also a beautiful young woman and that combination makes you a force to rival the five elements. You are the only daughter, the only child to ever be conceived in the 2000-year reign of your father. You have position and power like no other and yet you choose to hide yourself away with all of these books.” “These books are the reason my mind is so sharp!” Talena said firmly. “And they are the reason why no one heeds you despite your mind.” Meridia replied, “You must make the world listens to your knowledge…you must demand their respect. You are the daughter of God, after all.” “He is just a man.” Talena said dismissively. Why did Meridia continue to bring that up? She knew Talena’s feelings on the matter. “That man saved us from the Devourers. He united us, made us whole.” “Yes, yes because he fused with the great elemental spirits and bla bla bla” Talena waved her hand mockingly as she spoke. “No, he accomplished that because he actually did something with his talents, Talena. I just wish you would too.” Meridia looked away as she finished speaking, and then she left the room leaving Talena to feel guilty and a little embarrassed. That woman had a terrible habit of always being right. Unfortunately, she had taken care of Talena since she had been a little girl when her mother had died. Her father was too busy ruling the known world to spend time parenting his only daughter, of course. “Mmm! I like her. She is wise.” Osha hummed. “Oh, shut up.” Talena bit back. The little spirit edged closer to her, and he nudged against her cheek and buzzed against her affectionately. “I like you too.” He said. “Yes and I like you too, you little demon.” “I am not a demon!” Osha buzzed indignantly. Talena shook her head, then she got up off her seat. It was time for her to get on with her day. She felt the prickling, tight sensation of exhaustion creeping up on her. She reflexively reached for the basin of water and flexed her fingers in a beckoning motion. The water rose up out of the basin and reached for her waiting hand like a vine coiling up a tree. The water enveloped her arm but then sank away as she absorbed it, investing its energy within herself. Immediately she tapped the invested power. Water – the element necessary for all life to exist, it seemed natural that it was associated with healing. She felt its properties immediately, easing away the tension in her muscles and providing her with a boost of wakefulness. She had not slept a wink in 3 days, normally at this point any ordinary person would be dead on their feet, but with just a short working of sorcery she felt sharp and ready to start her day. The nagging empty feeling in her stomach, however, was not so easily ignored. “Talena.” Osha said as he hovered by her head, floating along with her as she left her study and entered the hallway outside, “Investing heals only physical ailments…mmm…it does not facilitate biological processes required for health.” “It relieves the tension in my muscles, provides me with wakefulness and gives me strength and energy to keep going.” Talena replied. They moved down the short hallway and came out on to a small, secluded courtyard inside the palace, a simple square space with a garden, lots of potted plants and colourful flowers. The air was more humid in the outdoors, and the plants made the air smell sweet. “Mmm…sleep increases cerebrospinal fluid flow within the brain dramatically. It cleans the brain of toxins. Mmm…efficient.” Osha buzzed. Talena frowned. “And how would you know such a thing?” She asked “Humans…comprised mostly of water.” Osha explained, “Your bodies are…protected…mm…cannot be touched by sorcery. Yet external sources can enter…mmm…water invested within the body provides a map. You know this…mmm…you have seen it.” She nodded, she had indeed. In fact, it was what had allowed her to heal her exhaustion just a moment ago. It was also true that all life was comprised mostly of water, except for spirits of course. Talena had pondered why she could not manipulate the water that is within a person quite early into her sorcery training. It was considered a fundamental principle that sorcery could not be used to affect the human body. However, she herself had circumvented this, as had any who used the healing properties of water sorcery. To do so one had to introduce an external source of water to the body, a source that was already affected by sorcery. Doing so provided the wielder with a kind of sense of the body, an impression of its inner workings, like a complex diagram within their minds. They could use the invested water to locate problems within the body and often provide healing. In this sense water was like a conduit, it could transport the necessary chemicals required to rapidly heal wounds, mend bones, flush out poisons and several other medical marvels. “Yes, I have used healing sense Osha, but I’ve never seen what you have just described.” Talena said as they passed through the courtyard and through into a hallway on the adjacent side. “You are human.” Osha said simply, “Humans think in a line. They move from one point to the next. Dots connecting. Mmm…following a trail. Only one thought at a time.” “And spirits are different?” Talena asked “I am different.” Osha clarified, “I cannot speak for other spirits. It is hard to describe. Knowing yet not knowing. Knowledge there yet unable to be grasped. This realm…we forget ourselves…mmm…like fish swim in a school, we drift…coordinated yet unknowing. I see patterns…mmm…possibilities…a map with no key…no direction.” Amazing. Talena marvelled at these moments with Osha. He interpreted experiences differently from her. So often the little orb seemed naïve, and then other times he was brilliant. She had no doubt that in this spirit’s mind were the answers to questions scholars had been trying to decipher. Through simple observation he saw ideas that hadn’t even occurred to her, or perhaps anyone. “Additionally…healing sorcery requires presence of substantial nutrients…sorcery removes the requirement of time yet….mmmatter…matters. Matter, matter, matter….your language is flawed at times.” The little orb rippled in a manner that reminded Talena of someone shivering, shaking off an unpleasant sensation, “Nutrients must be present. If you do not eat then healing will consume your reserves, in time you will have none left. You will die, and sorcery will not save you.” “I see…” Talena said. As they continued through the palace the revelations had given her a rather pressing urge to eat something. She realized that Meridia had warned her to do these things as well, but her arguments came from a place of caring, she worried for Talena. Osha had provided a logical explanation for this, and it had made sense to her, and that desire to follow logic had driven her faster than the simple consideration of another person. The thought of that troubled her. Was she becoming cold? “And this…brain cleaning cycle you spoke of, is that life threatening if avoided?” She asked. “Mmm…yes, however it happens much more slowly.” Osha buzzed, “However avoiding this process effects cognitive capability. Impaired reasoning. Decreased problem-solving capability. Decreased attention span. Decreased attention to detail. Memory lapses. Depression.” “That settles it then.” Talena said, sounding slightly alarmed, “Regular sleep and food breaks from now on.” “Mmm…A wise decision.” Osha replied, sounding slightly relieved. “You should have listened to Meridia. She is smart. I like her.” “Shut. Up.” Talena demanded with a scowl, and the pair went off to finally get something to eat. --- --- --- --- The orange glow of fire light illuminated the warcamp. Out in the barren drylands of the Solari desert, away from the intense glows of the cities the night sky was clear. Bright stars twinkled overhead. Twin moons glowed like a beacon in the sky, Eilun the smaller moon that would rise first, and Makath the larger would rise second but would always overtake her sister and fall first. The camp was bustling with energy, although only a temporary military settlement it was the size of a town and was equipped with vendors, smithies, a lumber yard and large warehouses used for food and resource storage. Nazir walked through the barracks. His shoulder-length brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, revealing a clean-shaven face with dark brown eyes. Like every other man and woman in the camp his skin was the dark tan of the Solari. He had a slim, lean build and angular features, and was an average height for a Solari standing at 6 and a half feet tall. A black symbol was tattooed on the center of his forehead, three identically sized rhombus shapes, two adjacent to one another, with the third slotted in the space beneath them. The same symbol could be seen on all of the soldiers and workers around him, as they were all Kalak just as he was. The heat of the day had escaped in to the clear skies and the air had become cold. Nazir wore the standard uniform of the Ishaaran Imperial Army; black boots that went up to the knee, tan breeches and a cobalt blue double-breasted undercoat with silver buttons and a high collar, and a jacket of the same blue colouring that had a tailed back, the shoulders decorated with three silver pins shaped like triangles on his right shoulder that indicated his rank of Captain. The red sash around his waist indicated which command he fell under. Red indicated he was under the command of Highlord Vashir, ruler of Solaris. The Highlords of other nations were represented by different coloured sashes. Everyone in this camp served Highlord Vashir. This entire regiment had been out here holding off rebel armies for months now. Of some 5’000 men there, Nazir was responsible for a company of 140 men. However, now the camp was relaxing after a long battle. The air was thick with the scent of burning wood, cooked meat, and a variety of fragrant spices. Soldiers were sitting around campfires singing and telling each other stories while they ate and drank, and for a time forgot about the struggles of warfare. Nazir walked towards a fire where three other people sat. One of them waved at him and he nodded back, coming over to sit on a large log that had been placed by the fire as a makeshift bench. “Naz!” exclaimed the only female in the group. She stood up from her own log, standing only an inch or two shorter than Nazir. Her hair and eyes were dark like his, almost all Solari had dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. Her hair was cut short, however, and generally there was little to indicate she was female at all. She wore her uniform jacket unbuttoned with a simple white shirt underneath. She had grabbed a bowl filled with rice and had began ladling a rich, orange coloured curry out of the pot placed over the fire. She handed it to Nazir with a spoon and sat back down. “Finished berating the new recruits?” She asked with a sly grin. “They needed it.” Nazir replied with a soft smirk, “Is it just me or do they get greener every year?” “More like you become more of a hard-ass every year!” She said with a chuckle. “You going soft on me, Rizen?” Nazir replied in a playful tone. “No, sir.” Rizen said with a cocky grin and she tapped her index finger against her forehead in salute. Nazir took a bite of his food. The curry was delicious. Hot and spicy just how he liked it. Rizen paused to eat her own meal along with her two companions. To her left was the shortest and thinnest of the group, he had shoulder length hair that was thick with natural curls, and his uniform was disheveled and sloppier than the other’s. To Rizen’s right was a giant of a man who looked about half a foot taller than Nazir, and about twice as broad. His hair was cut short and he had long sideburns, the closest anyone could have to a beard while serving in the military. “So, Cap, I was thinkin’…” The short man, Leven said. “Hah! Is good joke, Leven.” The large man, Biran replied with a deep, jolly voice, “A tiny man like you has no space for brain.” The group chuckled along with him. Biran had always spoken in broken Ishaaran, he’d lived in the Erduk mountains for most of his life and had never picked up the common tongue. Solari had over 32 different languages dating back from when they were scattered in to tribes, although everyone spoke Ishaaran these days. “Oh, there’s plenty of room in here,” Leven said as he poked the side of his head with his finger, “See not everyone fills the space with rocks like you do, big guy.” “If you are thinking about anything, is probably about chasing skirt.” Biran said with a soft shake of his head. “I resent that, I’ll have you know I’m a gentleman, I am.” Leven replied, holding his hand to his chest, “The ladies, they’ll tell ya. They’ll say ‘Biran, your wonderful friend Leven is the handsomest, most charming, most intelligent and thoughtful man I know, he is. An’ he’d have bed all of us if it were up to us, but no…he wouldn’t allow it because he’s a gentleman, see?” “On behalf of my gender may I just say…” Rizen started, and then she followed up with a retching noise that got another round of laughter from the group. “You are very strange little man.” Biran replied, shaking his head again but smiling, “spirits protect any woman who ends up with you.” “Spirits?” Leven asked, “Now that’s a fine idea, I’ll get myself a little spirit chum to give me some sorcery and then no woman will ever be able to resist me. ‘Leven’ they’ll say, ‘I see that you are handsome and incredibly smart, but I also see you can fly! I shall have to kiss you now!’ an’ that’s how The Great Leven ends up marryin’ Highlord Vashir’s daughter.” “Highlord Vashir doesn’t have a daughter, you idiot.” Rizen said, rolling her eyes. She turned to Nazir who was quietly listening to his friends and eating his food. “You’re quiet tonight, Naz.” She said with a frown, “Everything alright?” “I’m fine, just enjoying listening to you three run your mouths.” Nazir explained. It was a true statement. These three people, his old squad mates, his Lieutenants, they were the only real family he had. Each of them shared the same surname – Szash. It was the name given to those who had given up their citizenship and become slaves. Of course, they were all soldiers now. They were well-trained, they were given purpose, a bed to sleep in, regular meals and clothing on their backs. Their pay went towards paying off their slave debt. For a slave the army was the best place to be. Each of them had a tattoo behind their ear that could only be seen if you pulled the earlobe back, a small glyph that branded them as slaves. If they ever paid off their debt, which few ever did, then they would be allowed to have it covered up with another glyph that confirmed their freedom. Strangely, the thought had never crossed Nazir’s mind. He had everything he needed here. He had his friends, he had his company of soldiers to look after, and he had an enemy to face. He smiled as he looked up at the stars above, they were beautiful out here in the desert. As a slave he was sure that this would likely never end for him, and he didn’t really want it to. Yet it had. Had it? He frowned at himself. Why had he thought that? He was here, now, living this life. How could he think it had ended? “Naz?” He looked up to see that Rizen was watching him. Leven and Biran had also stopped what they were doing and turned their gaze on him. They were smiling softly, but they weren’t saying anything. “What’s going on?” Nazir asked, frowning. “Come on, Naz…” Rizen said softly, and her eyebrow quirked. “This isn’t healthy.” “What isn’t healthy?” Nazir asked, and he shifted uncomfortably. Why were they being so strange? “This thing…” Biran gestured around him, “Is not real, Nazir.” “Not…” Nazir felt confused. Of course, this was real. He was here in the warcamp, eating with his friend as he always did after a battle. “Quit fooling around, guys.” “Cap’n…” Leven smiled brightly at him, but his eyes looked pained, “You need to wake up.” “What?” Nazir shook his head. He stood up, suddenly feeling uncomfortable standing still. He needed to move. He felt an uncontrollable urge to run away. As he stood up the wind suddenly picked up, becoming violent tremendously quickly. His friends just kept watching him, and he winced as the wind hammered into him. He turned to run, but when he turned around the warcamp he had walked through was not there. He was stood in blackness. No. He was floating. He could feel the wind raging around him, feel himself moving with it, flying through the endless blackness. Yet he was not alone. In front of him was a creature. She was as tall as him and was only vaguely like a human. Her body had feminine curves, but her chest was flat and featureless. She wore no clothes to speak of, but she was almost entirely covered in black, downy feathers, like a bird. The skin exposed at her midriff and on her face was dark like his, but her eyes were entirely black with yellow pupils. Instead of hair she had a crest of large, semiplume feathers that pointed backwards at an angle. Instead of arms she had a pair of brilliant, dark wings that stretched out on either side of her, and her legs ended in a pair of sharp, black talons that looked like they could cut through steel. Those piercing yellow eyes were locked with his, and the creature seemed to stare deep within his very soul. He felt like he could not hide anything from her, whether he liked it or not. In return he could sense her thoughts and feelings as well. She was a violent, dangerous creature. Proud, powerful and unyielding. “They are gone.” The spirit said to him, her voice feminine but firm and confident. Memories flashed through his mind; a great battle. It had gone wrong. There was just too many of them, they were surrounded. So much screaming, so much blood. Ruthless violence. No! He pushed the memories away, locking them up inside his mind once more. He could not face them, not yet. They would destroy him. “They are gone!” The spirit said more forcefully this time, her eyes narrowing as her expression became a slight frown. “I know that…” Nazir whispered, his hands balled in to tight fists at his side. “I am…just dreaming.” “Must you always dream of ghosts?” The spirit asked. That was right. They were dead, all of them. Biran, Levan, Rizen…and the other 140 men and women under his command. Every single one of them gone…except for him. He cursed himself. Why had he lived? He had failed them all. Why did he have to live with that? His gaze fixed on the spirit again and his eyes burned with anger. She was the reason. She had saved him. “You are not the man I saw on that day.” The spirit said, “…I want that man. The man who lived for the fight. The man who was one with his spear. The man who fought so well that he impressed the winds and rattled the rains…the man who shook the skies with thunder. I want that man.” “That man is dead.” Nazir replied quietly. “That man stands before me!” The spirit snapped at him, her eyes blazing with fury. “You are not dead, Nazir. Only your comrades are.” “It should have been me.” Nazir replied, “I dishonored them by letting them die.” “Then honor them by living!” The spirit’s voice boomed like a thunder clap and he felt the air rattle and shake around him. --- --- --- --- Nazir shot up in the modest bed he was sleeping on and gasped for air. His shoulder-length hair hung loose, and his body was coated in a thin layer of cold sweat. He was in a room made of cold, grey stone. The roof overhead was thatched and the ground beneath him was wooden. He threw off the thick fur blankets over him and immediately felt a chill in the air. Something squawked to the right of him and he turned to see a large bird, a black hawk with golden eyes and a large crest. “Shrike…” He said as his memory of where he was came to him. The disorientation from the dream faded quickly. He began to feel alert quite quickly, old soldier reflexes kicking in. He got up from the bed and began to quickly get dressed, feeling the cold snap in the air. This blasted country was far too cold all the time. The room he had been staying in had a mirror and he examined himself. His body was covered in old scars but was otherwise fit, with lean muscles and no fresh wounds. Across his back was a large tattoo, three glyph tattoos stylized in to one large design, a maze of symmetrical lines that spelled three names; Rizen, Biran, Levan. Even in death he had ensured they would always be behind him. “Are you well?” The voice was in his mind, but it was a familiar one, and he turned to the large bird that was perched on the back of a chair in the room, as it was the source of the voice. “I’m fine.” Nazir said to the bird, Shrike. “I don’t appreciate you invading my dreams like that though.” “Well I don’t appreciate you moping around like a gloomy, lost puppy.” Shrike replied. “I do not.” Nazir replied testily. Shrike said nothing in response and he got the distinct impression that the conversation was over. He spent some time readying himself, he washed and shaved and got dressed. He emerged from the room dressed in black boots, black trousers, a black, studded leather jacket with a collar of white fur and a pair of matching gloves. Around his waist was a black sash with a gold trim, and he wore a leather pauldron on his right arm that had a symbol emblazoned in gold. It showed a large eye, but within the pupil was a five-pointed star. It was a symbol known as God’s Eye, and all who saw it knew it as the symbol of the Sorceri – agents of the Ascendant Emperor. The room led to a short hall which Nazir followed and then descended the steps to the ground floor. He was in a disused area of a small keep near the town of Vaedmire in Valkheim. The ground floor was a larger room with fur rugs decorating the floor, the walls decorated with various stuffed animal heads, trophies from hunts. There was a fire going in the hearth and a woman was stood over a large table which had a map pinned across it. The table was covered with a variety of notes written in non-stylized glyphs. Nazir could not discern any of it, which was partly why the woman was there in the first place. Parr was about a foot shorter than Nazir and had a petite, soft frame. She had striking blonde hair and a pale skin tone, with keen blue eyes that fussed over the map studiously from behind a pair of spectacles. Her hair was tied back in a neat bun, and she was wearing a crisp, blue uniform – trousers, a jacket and a pair of brown boots. The uniform marked her as a member of the Mesmeri military but her features were unmistakably Reshin. The black and gold sash around her waist, however, marked her as serving under the Sorcerium. “Good morning, Captain.” Parr said absently as she continued with her work. “Morning, Parr.” Nazir replied, “Do you have a report for me?” “Yes…” Parr replied, stilled by thought, “The accounts from our reports do indicate malevolence. Lots of farmers have had low crop yields this year. This far out from the capital, the people here are going to have to rely on supply shipments to last them through the winter. Children have also been disappearing in the last few months.” She pointed at spots she had marked on the maps. “The farming villages in this area all supply to Vaedmire. There’s no other towns for miles so the community here relies on each other and supply runs don’t come out this way very often.” Nazir frowned. They had only arrived two days ago and had spent most of that time getting accustomed to things. He had been sent here to investigate reports of malevolent activity and to hunt and destroy the Daemon who was responsible. Of course, this also meant dispatching whoever was working with the Daemon. The circumstances here were troubling, and in many ways the damage had already been done to these people. The children disappearing was far more unsettling though. It had to be stopped. “Did any of the farms have a good harvest?” Nazir asked “No…a nice thought though.” Parr said with a smirk, “It would be too easy if one of the farmers was at it to bleed out competition.” “The disappearances paint a more sinister picture.” Nazir said, “Innocents, blood magic, sacrifices perhaps. Such magic is supposed to be used to draw huge amounts of power. This could all just be symptoms of something worse.” “Then what are we waiting for?” The voice came from Shrike as she flew down the stairs into the room and then suddenly changed before them. She took the form she had taken in his dreams, all black feathers and sharp talons for feet, however the feathers of her wings had shrunk and she had formed a pair of humanoid hands with long, sharp nails. Her talons clacked on the floor as she walked towards them, her yellow pupils darting around the black abyss of her eyes as she surveyed the room. “The information doesn’t point us anywhere.” Parr said, and she looked a little nervous around the spirit, “We need to start canvassing and gathering more accounts.” “By canvassing you mean abducting your citizens and interrogating them?” Shrike asked, her eyebrow raised in interest. “Do you have a problem with that tactic?” Parr asked “Not really, but canvassing is such a boring sound. Interrogate sounds much better!” “Not if you’re the one being interrogated.” Nazir said with a smirk. “What fear have I of interrogation? I am not human, I have nothing to hide.” Shrike said, folding her arms in front of her. “Well humans don’t tend to like it. Which is why they don’t tend to like us.” Nazir replied. “Actually it is you they don’t like. I am a spirit and Parr is a scribe.” Shrike said, putting her hands on her hips and smirking, “You are the Sorceri. So people don’t like you. You are Solari, so the Valkyr don’t like you.” “Rub it in why don’t you?” Nazir said with a roll of his eyes. “I thought that was what I was doing…” Shrike said with a toothy grin. Nazir was ready to fire back another comment when they were interrupted by a knock at the door. Nazir walked across the room and opened it. A Valkyr guard was standing outside. “Uh…Sorceri…uh…sir?” The guard said awkwardly. “Captain.” Nazir corrected. “Uh no I’m just a guard, sir.” The guard said, looking abashed. Nazir held back his response and instead gave the man a patient smile. “Can I help you?” Nazir asked him. “Uh…well we picked up a slave that escaped in the night and put her in the cells. She’s…she’s not right, sir. We thought you might need to take a look at her she’s…strange looking.” Nazir turned to Parr and Shrike and they both had a concerned look about them. “Parr, hold the fort. Shrike-“ “Let’s go!” Shrike interrupted as she pushed past Nazir and then barged past the guard. She got about 5 yards away before pausing and turning back to them, “Where are we going?”
  7. What's up?

  8. Amegakure

    [Morning] It was a new day in Amegakure. The rain that blanketed the city more often than not had abated just enough that smiles seemed to be on people's faces. A young girl with snow-white hair walked down the street, dressed in a cream-coloured kimono, with a flower blossom print. Her skin was almost as pale as her hair, but her eyes were a brilliant light blue. She had feminine features and almond-shaped eyes but was a little short for her age, even if she was 13. She weaved through the crowd, walking on traditional wooden geta. A small book clutched to her chest. Droplets splashed down off the guttering and rooftops of the city around her, while the merchants set their stores ready for the day. She crossed off the main path and disappeared down a back alley until she came to a large tree, surrounded by a small courtyard. It was quiet and intimate here, with only the wafting lines of clothing from the houses around the courtyard, blowing in the breeze. The white-haired girl walked up to the tree, turned and sat. Crossing her legs and pushing her back into the trunk of the tree. And just like that, practically on queue, it started raining again. It never stopped raining for very long in this city. You could count on maybe a few minutes to a few days, and then it would start raining again. She heard the tree getting pummelled by the rain, but it was running off and away from her. She sighed, enjoying the rattle of the water on the leaves and opened her book. A resounding thunk interrupted the gentle rhythm of the rain as a grocery bag fell from the sky and crashed into the ground, spilling it's contents all over the path. A few moments passed with nothing else happening, and then a figure shrouded in a dark green poncho hopped around the courtyard using balcony fences until he finally reached the ground and ran over to the grocery bag. When he reached it he cursed softly and scrambled to start picking up all the groceries. When he picked up the box of eggs the contents dripped out over his hands and he dropped the box back on the ground. "Aw c'mon..." He said with a sigh, "Guess I'll have to go back." He started seeing what else he could salvage, until the girl under the tree finally caught his attention and he turned to her looking a little startled, and then embarrassed. She held the book up to her mouth and chuckled, then closed the book and placed it on her lap. "Good morning, Shinobi-sama." Her voice was soft and full of cheer. She bowed slightly, with only her head. "I'm Kaguya Yui, pleased to meet you." The boy stood up properly with the grocery bag and tipped back his head to reveal his face. "Yo," He said casually, "I'm Uketsuki Sora, pleased to meet you too, Kaguya-san." "Ah, so you would be Uketsuki Satomi's son, then." Yui smiled at the boy, "Yes, I think, you must be an academy student? I'm home-schooled. My mother and grandfather teach me. But I still had to take and pass the exam to become a Genin. Luckily, it wasn't too bad, ne?" "Peace of cake." Sora replied with a smirk, "So you're a genin now too, huh? I guess you won't know anyone if you're home-schooled. Do you know who you're being paired with?" "No, I was told--" Yui trailed off, her eyes wandered down to the bag in Sora's hand, the bottom of it wasn't torn from the weight of the groceries inside, it had been sliced open from the bottom. A clean cut. Her eyes lit up as she felt the approach of projectiles. [Reverse Situation] Yui spun around, kicking away two of the thrown kunai and leapt back as a foot attempted to sweep her supporting leg, she cartwheeled backwards and landed on the courtyard stone as the shadow dropped a smoke bomb and vanished. Who was attacking them?! She wanted to know Sora was alright, she could hear footsteps all around her, the sound of clashing metal. Then something glittered in the smoke and Yui deftly dodged to one side as the kunai flew past her head, but as soon as she'd moved a fist came flying towards her. But her reflexes were honed like a well-kept weapon. She deftly spun to one side, and leapt into the air to kick her attacker in the head. Two rock hard fists knocked each of her kicks aside as she whirled in the air like an acrobat, compensating for the loss of momentum due to her attacker's strikes, and launched off from the ground with her hands, knocking aside two more thrown kunai and landed with a soft tap. She had to stay quiet, she couldn't call out to Sora. He had to be okay... but she could hear the clash of battle somewhere else in the smoke. A sudden gust of wind swirled around the courtyard and carried upwards in a spiral, taking the smoke up with it and revealing the courtyard once more. Sora was crouched on the front of his feet, his hands forming a seal. Somewhere in the scuffle he had discarded his poncho. He had a few scuff marks about him and he was panting heavily, but otherwise seemed okay. The attacker was nowhere to be seen. "Are you alright?" Yui asked, remaining motionless. Her eyes scanning the environment for movement. "I'm fine." Sora replied, his eyes also searching the area. "How about you?" He asked. "Confused." Yui replied, the smile on her face had barely lessened, "Their attacks are too advanced for most in our class, and a ninja from another village wouldn't bother with a couple of genin..." She drew a kunai from within her kimono and held it up, ready to defend herself. "That would depend on who the genin are," Sora replied, "Younger ninja are an easier target for stealing clan secrets and special bloodline techniques. More importantly... the attacker fled when I blew away the smoke, which could mean keeping their identity hidden was a priority." "But they cut your bag, not your throat, ne?" Yui smirked and waited. The rain intensified. "You're right...which means..." Sora's brow furrowed as he recalled the events prior to this, "I wouldn't have even come down here if the bag hadn't been cut. Which means whoever is doing this wanted me down here... wanted me to meet you." [Nervousness] The realisation seemed to come a little late, however, as a dark mist seemed to be rolling in from every direction. It was quickly getting as thick as the smoke bomb, but it stretched out even further and seemed less likely to shift in a breeze. Sora managed to reach Yui before he lost sight of her and he stood so that their backs were facing. "Aww... so adorable." The voice echoed through the mist, a deep but feminine voice with a taunting tone to it, "What's the next move, chumps? Have you figured it out?" "Sora, you should know, they might be here for me, i'm a--" Yui knocked a thrown kunai aside with her own and readied for the next attack. "... do something." Yui whispered to Sora, "Distract her. Anything." Yui took a step away from Sora and vanished into the mist. The mist was clawing around her. Hugging her, suffocating her. But she weathered it. She could feel movement around her, but she didn't know where it was coming from. Yui held her breath. She had trained for this, she was ready to fight. She wanted to fight. Reading and chatting were their own things. But this was combat, and her eyes were alive. She glanced one way and then another, making her way through the mist. "The great thing about this ninjutsu is that it distorts my voice, making it hard to locate where I am until it's too late." The voice echoed all around her, but then right at the end it became more localised, like it was right behind Yui. "Kaguya-kun..." The voice said from right behind her, the attacker's grey face appeared from the mist over her shoulders, her white eyes wide with anticipation, her serrated teeth fixed in a hungry, sinister smile as she drove the kunai down at Yui's neck. [Beautiful Wild Green Beast] Like a whirling dervish, Yui spun around without warning and kicked at her attacker who jumped back to avoid the strike but Yui followed her with a speed she hadn't shown until now. She was upon the woman in an instant. Yui kicked twice more, each strike thumping the woman's forearm as she blocked but was knocked back a step from each of Yui's powerful strikes. Yui moved like a flash, dashing one way and then the other, throwing kunai at the woman who deflected them with ease. Who was she? Why was she here? Yui finally saw her chance, as the woman moved back, losing further ground, the back of her heel caught on a loose stone and she stumbled, for only a moment. That happy accident was all she needed to take advantage. She flew forwards, dodged the woman's obvious counter-attack, and thrust her palm into the woman's torso, a bone spike shot out from the centre of Yui's forwards-facing palm and impaled the woman. She held the spike in her hand for a moment, shocked, and then she melted into a puddle of water. "A clone..." Yui held her hand up and retracted the bone spike back into her arm, her skin naturally healing closed, leaving not so much as a scar to show it had ever been broken. This was her kekkai genkai. The Kaguya were master manipulators of their own bodies, in particular, their bones. However, the talent was extremely rare, only 1 in every 100 are born with the skill. And of those, maybe only 1 in a generation ever has the skill to wield it as she did. She was her clan's last true survivor. She was not going to let them go extinct today. "Sora...!" Yui turned and ran back the way she'd come. [Orochimaru's Fight] As Yui returned to Sora the mists seemed to lighten a bit, and they revealed Sora was trapped, suspended in a sphere of swirling water, and was floating limp and lifeless. Standing next to him, with one hand outstretched to control the jutsu, was the attacker. She was an average height woman with grey skin and eyes that were almost white. Her teeth were serrated like a sharks, her spiky black hair was cut short and pointed out to one side. The forehead protector she wore had the symbol of Kirigakure across it. "Whoops... he's dead." She said with a shrug and gave Yui a fierce grin, "Are you next? Or will you come with me alive, Jinchuriki?" "So you know..." Yui smiled to herself. So, a Mist nin was here to kill her. She had been told this might happen. The Jinchuriki were weapons, of a sort. Weapons of defence, or mass destruction. They were a form of mutually ensured destruction, that kept the villages in-check with one another. For a village to gain another Jinchuriki, it would be an enormous advantage. And what was a Jinchuriki? A host to a demon. A tailed beast, formed of pure chakra, the energy they accessed within themselves. Two years ago, the beast had been sealed within her, and now it seemed, on the day of her first Genin mission, she was forced to fight for her life. That boy was dead, she barely knew him, but he was a part of this city, and now it was her duty to protect the people remaining. [Fake] "Nah it was just a shot in the dark!" With a roll of her eyes and a sly grin, "You've got a dangerous look in your eye, I like that. You failed already though." The woman dropped her arm and the water prison collapsed, and Sora lay limp on the ground but breathing. "Allow me to introduce myself..." She said as she snapped her fingers and the symbol on her forehead protector changed from mist to rain. "Kirisame Omitsune, I'm your jounin leader!" She held her hands up like she'd announced the winning lottery numbers or something and gave a toothy smile, "Oh and he's fine by the way I just knocked him out. I'll explain it to him when he wakes up." Yui lowered her hands and crossed the courtyard back to the tree, picked up her book and sat down. "Thank you for the work-out, Sensei." She said, smiling. Then sat, crossed her legs, and re-opened her book. Licking her finger, to turn the page. "You failed your teammate." Omi said darkly, "Despite your clear skill with taijutsu and the trump card of your bloodline ability it was Sora kun who made the best decisions. Neither of you have what it takes to beat me, but together you might have escaped me. We'll be training every day until you can prove to me you really are a genin." Omi turned to rouse Sora from his sleep, "Oh and don't use the J-word in front of Sora, he doesn't know about it, and we're keeping it that way for now, clear?" Turning the next page, Yui looked up from her book, "As you like, Sensei." An interesting turn of events. Her sensei was the kind of person to put her students in danger to test them. Maybe they had decided to pair her with someone who could stop the demon inside her, if it ever got out... Yui gripped the cloth of her kimono, glancing at Omi, "What now?" She asked, with a quizzical smile. "You have your first mission." Omi said with a grin. "Hwa? a mission?" Sora asked groggily, "Who are you?" "Omi, your boss lady." Came the reply, "And your mission is..." Omi pointed over to the far corner of the courtyard where there were two metal litter pickers and two trash bags sitting against a wall. "Litter picking duty!" Omi said with mock enthusiasm as she began to walk away, "And that's all you'll be doing until your training is complete. It's all you're fit for." [Kakashi's Theme] "Uwa!" Yui gasped as an awning above her collapsed under the weight of the rain, drenching her instantly. Thunder boomed in the distance. So, Omi really hadn't been kidding about cleaning up litter. She jabbed a piece of litter with her picker and placed it in the bag, then another, and another. She watched Sora a few paces ahead of her, poking bits here and there. Yui spied an old tin can, she made a beeline and with a smirk tried to pierce the can-- snap! The picker broke in two. "Ehh?!" Yui gasped and stood staring at the mess on the ground. "Ah--" She held her arm out, and a long spiked bone ejected from the centre of her palm and as it detached and flew out, she caught it with her already healed hand. It was like a needle but the size of a sword, and several times stronger and sharper than a metal instrument. With a squeak, the bone needle pierced the tin can like it was a styrofoam cup. Then she jabbed the old picker and placed both in the litter bag. "Sorry I got us in this mess." Sora said with an annoyed frown, "This is worse than school and I didn't think that was possible." "I should not have left you." Yui replied, giving him a smile, "I am the one at fault." Yui finished picking up the litter in her area and as she looked up to move on, she thought she'd seen something hiding in the shadows in the corner of the street. But when she moved her eyes to focus on it, there was nothing there.
  9. Amegakure

    [Guren] In this world of shinobi none stand taller than the 5 Great Shinobi Villages. Spread across the countries of Fire, Water, Wind, Lightning, and Earth, they are Konohagakure, Kirigakure, Sunagakure, Kumogakure and Iwagakure. There are many other lesser known ninja villages, but none hold the infamy of the Great 5. While each of these villages has a myriad of great legends to unfold, today we will tell the tale of a hero from one of the lesser known villages. This is the story of Amegakure. War was once all we shinobi knew, a time where clans warred against clans, and many died within the battle. The ninja villages were a means to end this conflict, by uniting clans and working together so that all shinobi could thrive, and so children could live happier lives. Yet as the villages grew more powerful, soon they began to see one another as threats, and war returned to this land. The wars that followed would be known as the Great Shinobi World Wars, as they were fought across the entire continent, leaving death and destruction in their wakes. Amegakure is a shinobi village that was unfortunate enough to reside within a land bordered by three of the 5 Great Shinobi Countries. When the great wars were waged the battles were fought in this small country and the land was laid waste to. As the 5 made peace with one another yet again, the land they had used as a battleground had been left destroyed and the people left dead, injured, or facing a lifetime of poverty and hardship. As Konohagakure sent shinobi to lend aid to the country, Amegakure’s leader became increasingly reclusive and unwilling to lend aid, until eventually there was no news coming in or out from the village. At this time there was a young orphan. She had lost her parents in the war and had no other family to speak of. She lived on the streets, stealing food when she could and sleeping outdoors in the caves outside the towns, trying to keep sheltered from the almost constant, drizzling rain. This poor young lady had given up on any hope of a better life, and was consigned to her fate, until she met a shinobi from Konohagakure. The man, who had fought in the war, felt exceptionally sad and guilty as he looked upon the girl. He decided that through this young girl he could try to make amends for his deeds, and so he decided to train her. He asked the girl her name, the first to ask her in a long time, and so she told him; “Kotetsu Asuna.” Asuna, it turned out, had a hidden talent for the shinobi arts. Under the tutelage of a Konoha Jounin she excelled in the martial arts of Taijutsu, the Chakra fueled arts of Ninjutsu, and the illusionary arts of Genjutsu. A year passed and the Jounin was called to return to his village, and so he led Asuna to the village of Amegakure, where he hoped she would continue to hone her skills and become something one day. Hope had once again returned to Asuna once more. Amegakure was not what Asuna had expected. The village was ruled by a powerful but bloodthirsty shinobi. This man had kept the village safe as wars were waged, and had done so through brutal and underhanded tactics. There was no school to speak of to teach young ninja as the Konoha Jounin had told her of. Amegakure had no ranks, no clans, and made its living by carrying out assassination contracts for lower prices than any other village, and they had become quite proficient. Years passed and Asuna became stronger in this harsh new environment. As she grew into a woman her heart grew colder, and she became the most effective assassin in Amegakure. Then during a mission with a small group of comrades, when the mission turned sour, she had been abandoned by them. Left to die Asuna realized that Amegakure was not a village at all, it was corrupt, and it had corrupted her. Asuna did not die, however. Weak but alive, she managed to escape and hide her presence, living a quiet life for a short time as she recovered. However when her strength returned Asuna left the small village she had temporarily called home, and was never seen again for many years. When Asuna returned to Amegakure she was not alone. Asuna brought with her 12 shinobi each with strikes through their forehead protectors. She had rallied missing nin, defectors from other shinobi villages, and had gained their allegiance. Together they struck at Amegakure during a heavy rainstorm, in the dead of night. They moved swiftly and quietly, killing any who stood in their way. Asuna had turned the very skills she had honed within Amegakure against it. She killed the corrupt shinobi who was still in control, and killed all of his conspirators. The streets of Amegakure ran red with blood on that day, but it was not long at all before the rain washed it clean. Asuna had not returned to Amegakure to simply seek vengeance, she had come to bring her revolution. She assumed leadership of Amegakure, vowed not to run it the way her predecessor had, but also not like the 5 Great Shinobi Villages either. 20 years later and this industrialized, modern village is finally beginning to thrive and stand out once more. --- --- --- --- [Kakashi’s Theme] “-and the reason I am telling you all this story is very important.” The teacher stood in a large classroom, addressing a hall of young teenagers who for the most part looked thoroughly bored about being there. “You see today you have all graduated from this academy, and you will be beginning your journey as young shinobi soon, so it’s important to keep in mind that things were not always this way here. After all it’s important to consider that Kotetsu Taichou gained-“ Boring. Why couldn’t sensei just shut up already? Sora tuned out from the dull nattering and leaned back in the chair he was sat in among all the other students. The expression on his face was often one of mild irritation, as if just living was a minor inconvenience to him. He had always been someone who got lost in their thoughts, and he wasn’t often very interested in the thoughts of others either. His shoulder length, red hair was tied back in a high and tight ponytail, and his amber coloured eyes looked sharp and focused despite the fact he wasn’t paying much attention. He had three silver studs spaced out along the rim of his left ear and wore a thin, olive green coat with a high collar and a black fishnet vest underneath, a pair of simple, black trousers and black sandals. He sat with his arm folded, leaning back in the chair with a relaxed slouch. He wondered how much longer this assembly was going to go when something snapped him from his musings. He tilted his neck sharply to the left as a piece of chalk missed him by inches. He gave a satisfied smirk as he looked back at his sensei, who had hurled the chalk at him. Then gravity did it’s work and he fell off the side of his chair and landed with a thump on the ground. There was a ripple of laughter through the students and Sora quickly stood up and groaned as he looked at the giggling students looking at him. “Uketsuki Sora!” The teacher called out his name from the front, “Couldn’t pay attention for just one more class, eh?” “Whatever…” Sora replied with a half hearted shrug, “At least I won’t have to listen to your cheesy history lessons.” “It’s recent history, Sora. Your own mother was one of the brave shinobi who fought with Kotetsu Taichou, what would she say if she saw you dozing off to the story of her past?” “She’d tell you that you’re telling it wrong.” Sora said with a frown, a testy frustration starting to bubble up within him. “And you would no better, hm?” His teacher asked. Sora’s lips became thin as he tried to say something, but there was nothing to say. [Many Nights] Uketsuki. It was the name of his mother’s clan. The rest had died during a planned assassination from a vengeful clan who had feared their abilities. His mother had always been very secretive about their clan. He knew that his mother had excellent chakra control which made her an expert medical ninja, and many in the village praised her expertise with sealing jutsu. He knew that their clan were originally from Sunagakure, and that his mother had fled as a missing nin and soon after joined Asuna to liberate Amegakure. The adults of Amegakure were always so secretive, and his mother was no exception. She would always tell him that he wasn’t ready whenever he had questions about their clan. After a while of this he had just stopped asking. His mother had always been quite distant, she was brilliant and clever but she had never been the affectionate type. His father was even more puzzling. He was a man born here in Amegakure, a Jounin ninja who worked within the village. He was a brave and confident man, but no very bright, at least not compared to his brilliant wife. At some point the other students had began filing out. The final class of the ninja academy was over. Sora was a Genin now, and starting tomorrow he would meet his assigned team and begin doing work for the village. Real missions; like spying and bodyguard assignments. Sora hoped it wouldn’t be as much of a chore as the academy was. At least it would be more interesting. --- --- --- --- [Hidden Will To Fight] Kotetsu Asuna stood on the balcony of the tallest tower in Amegakure. She looked out over the village, a cluster of large tower structures complete with running water, waste filtering systems, electricity. This was an industrial village of dark brass tones, and a dull skyline of grey clouds, and a constant, drizzling rain. It was a melancholy place, but one that Asuna found to be quite beautiful. She was a tall woman, dressed in a long, black rob with a wide and high collar. Her jet black hair was long, spiky and stuck out to the left. She wore a black eyepatch over one eye, a few deep scars coming out of either side of it. Her remaining eye was a cold blue and looked keen and prepared. Asuna turned around and walked inside the tower to her office where two people were waiting for her. One of them was a woman only a few years younger than Asuna in her early 40s, she was an average height woman with a slim built, dressed in a long black labcoat, with a short skirt and fishnet leggings, and a pair of heeled sandals. Her hip-length red hair was pinned away from her face with a couple of light blue hairpins, and a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses were perched on her nose, the glare of the lenses in the light masking her eyes. “Asuna Taichou…” The woman said with a monotonous tone, then she tilted her head and revealed a pair of amber eyes, “Are you ready for your report?” “I didn’t ask for a report, I asked you to come here.” Asuna replied. “Correct.” The woman replied with a slight nod, “However…considering the Jinchuriki is graduating from the academy today I deduced that you would like to know the progress on our…project.” “Your son graduated today too, Satomi.” Asuna said. “Yes…” Satomi replied as if she hadn’t thought about that until it had been mentioned. “Have you thought more about teaching him-“ “He’s not ready.” Satomi said, cutting Asuna off. “That’s a real shame.” Said the other person in the room. She was a younger woman with a lean, fighters build. Her skin was almost a slightly greyish blue colour, and her eyes were a pale blue, almost white, and as she grinned she revealed a set of spiky shark-teeth. Her hair was cut short but had a set of unruly spikes not dissimilar to Asuna’s. She had a forehead protector tied around her head with the symbol of Amegakure emblazoned on it. She was dressed in a dark grey flak jacket, a pair of tight-fitted shorts, but wore a belt with long sashes of black material that covered her lower half almost like a skirt, but less restrictive. “You see…they matched up for being squad mates.” “Impossible…” Satomi said with a shake of her head, “Sora is too much like his father, head in the clouds. He’s unfocused, lacking motivation and unhelpful in a crisis. He’ll make a good ninja one day I’m sure but…we need a genin with genius capabilities.” “Your lab nerds have been gathering all the data from every test conducted in that school and they’ve crunched the numbers.” The shark-toothed woman explained, “They’ve determined that his lack of motivation comes from lack of challenge. He scores high on tests and by all accounts he does so without really trying. Which means he’s going to be chum for me and the Jinchuriki.” “This is…” A flicker of concern appeared in Satomi’s eyes, and then she was back to her stern look of concentration, “…If that’s what the reports have concluded then I will have to agree.” “Geez…who took your mojo?” The shark-toothed girl turned to Asuna, “Am I right?” “Omi…” Asuna said with a sigh, “You could try for a little more tact.” “Yeah, yeah.” Omi said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “So when do I get to start torturing the little pups?” “You can start as soon as you’re ready. I can find you a mission if you like, something safe…” Asuna suggested “Nah…I’m gonna mess with them first.” Omi said with a toothy grin.
  10. Hallows S2

    The drive back to their motel was a long, silent one. Vincent drove for once, Violet needed some more time to get her head together he felt. His sister was sitting in the passenger seat staring aimlessly out of the window, a deep look of concern on her face. Vincent pulled over into the motel parking lot and parked the car, and they got out with their things and got back into their room. Vincent turned the TV on just for background noise and sat on one of the beds. He reached under it and retrieved a mostly full bottle of whisky. He gestured at Violet to get him two glasses before retrieving his cigarettes from his pocket and sparking one up. He was feeling pretty numb right now, his brain still had to process everything fully. He had felt so hopelessly overwhelmed when facing those beings. He had designed a field of magic to give them an edge and yet it left them so hopelessly outclassed. Why hadn’t he thought about that before going ahead with the ritual? The way they skirted his barriers, wards and defences with ease seemed like cheating, which is precisely how he felt about Violet’s magic. Cosmic magic was not the same as his magic, or really any other beings magic. There were fundamental laws to magic, things even greater beings could not break, and yet the Nagloshi had. Then there was his father’s appearance, which had been more of an event for Violet apparently. For Vincent it had all happened in a sudden burst, a flurry of action where there hadn’t been previously. Before he had gotten a good look at his father they had been sent out of The Void. Violet, however, had spoken with their dad. He had saved her from falling off the ledge, had somehow frozen time within that space. Two impossibilities in one day. Time magic was…messy and complicated. So complicated that he wasn’t certain it was even possible. His father was alive. Alive and well, apparently. Free enough to travel through time and space with little effort and just summon a freaking black hole to save his kids. Which meant he was choosing to be gone. Which meant Vincent’s fears were right, his dad was a selfish asshole. One who was apparently wielding some seriously powerful magic the likes of which he had never seen before. His brain was buzzing thinking about the potential magical theory of it all, trying to understand it. Violet handed him the glasses and he poured them out a drink each. He took his and drank it down, quieting the scholarly thoughts and replacing them with the soothing burn of the whisky. “So…” He choked, putting his glass down and pouring another, “…Drown your sorrows in a bottle with me?” She swallowed, pulling her gaze away from the motel window. "Yeah." Violet had been crying. She had wiped the tears away but he could tell all the same. She watched the amber liquid rise in the glass with an apathetic stare until she leaned forwards and pulled the glass away while Vincent was still pouring. She brought the glass to her lips, paused for a moment and then finished the contents of the glass in a single gulp. Violet retched, followed by choking and coughing. Then wheezing. Then she took one deep breath and regained her composure and then nodded and held her glass out at him. Vincent poured her another glass and put the bottle down on the little table by his bed. He sipped at the whisky this time and took time to gather his thoughts. “So what particular earth shattering bombshell do you want to talk about first?” He asked finally. He wasn’t fine either but he had more experience with suppressing his feelings than Violet, which he was sure was totally healthy, right? "I don't know... I don't know." Violet repeated. She lifted her legs onto her bed and sat there cross-legged, nursing her drink. "I think... I'm... Not me? Or I'm not... Who I was... I remember being this complete being. I knew so much, my emotions were so different, everything is different... I don't know who I am. I thought I was a complete person. But I'm not..." For the every day person saying such things was an alarm bell that the person might be having some sort of mental health episode, but when it came to the supernatural these sorts of comments could be taken more literally. Violet was not human…or at least he thought so anyway. She was a being of energy and light, and now she was not. It was quite possible that something more than her power had been taken from her. “Zeal…” Vincent said as he remembered what Violet had said earlier during the conflict, “You never really spoke about her much. I guess I never really knew what she was, or if she was even something or just something your brain cooked up to help you understand your powers.” "I don't know what I thought she was... I felt like the only time I saw her was was as this strange little animal in a dream or... Something." Violet took a sip of whiskey and visibly grimaced. "It wasn't until she was being torn out That I realised we had been more together, somehow. I'd become a lot stronger than I'd realised. Learned how to control my emotions, and now..." Tears still ran down her cheeks, she wiped at them with the back of her sleeve and sniffed. "How do you feel?" “Worn out.” He replied with a sigh, “There’s always another hurdle around every corner, and the stakes keep getting higher but I’m not getting stronger, just older and more beaten and scarred. I’m in my 30s and I haven’t got a life to go back to, what little of it I had in the first place. I’m tired of following trails of blood, always on the move, and even when I get to sleep it’s nothing but fucking nightmares.” Violet nodded and sat in silence for a while. "I'm..." She muttered and Vincent looked up only to see Violet collapse back onto the bed, dropping the glass which hit the ground with a dull thud, spared of breaking, and rolled across the floor as Violet began to snore. “Really?” Vincent said aloud but he didn’t get any response from Violet. She probably had overdid it today, and she wasn’t used to being mortal again. Who knew how much energy it took to wield cosmic energy. Violet had always seemed to work magic from her own personal pool of power, except her pool was more like an ocean. She didn’t have much need for learning to use the forces around her. Ultimately he thought it best that she rest. After another five glasses of whisky he decided he could use a nap himself. He lay down on his bed and stared at the ceiling for a while. As a warm, boozy feeling settled in he let his mind drift off, and eventually the deep darkness of sleep took him. --- --- --- --- “Vincent!” The sceam was close but muffled through a wall. Vincent shot up in his bed and looked around the room. Violet’s bed was empty, only a mess of sheets where she once was. He heard Violet scream again and he leapt over the bed and pulled open the motel room door. On the other side was chaos. A small army of perhaps twenty or thirty people were gathered outside, including a man he recognized as the motel owner, the others perhaps other guests or staff. The only problem was they were all quite clearly dead, but walking all the same. Violet’s impala was a wreck, it’s remnants nothing but hot metal, flames and black smoke that was piling into the air. Next to the burning wreck Violet was on the floor, being held up by her hair, a black tendril of dark magic clawing at her throat, squeezing it tightly. The woman who stood there was an enemy, one that had been plaguing his nightmares for 2 years. “Morgana!” Vincent spat her name like he would a profanity, “Let go of her!” Morgana Le Fay, they very one from the legends, stood in a body she had stolen. While it was Meredith’s body, Morgana’s expression and the way she held herself made her look so unlike Meredith. She gave a lazy, satisfied smile as she scanned over him with her eyes. She was dressed in black, heeled boots and a pair of black leather pants that hugged her frame, as well as an emerald green leather jacket with a wide collar. Her long, red curls of hair looked wild and untamed, and her cold, blue eyes were piercing. Meredith’s eyes. The thought made his blood boil. He searched through every nasty curse he had in his arsenal and moved his body to face her, and then Morgana pulled out a slender athame, a ceremonial dagger, and pressed it against Violet’s neck. All the rage evaporated. His confidence crumbled and his resolve slipped away like sand through his fingers. Vincent stood very still, his eyes fixed on Morgana’s. She was still wearing that contented smirk. “Did you miss me, child?” She asked, her voice smooth and relaxed. “Just tell me what you want and let Violet go.” Vincent said, although it didn’t sound like much of a demand the way he said it. Morgana seemed to consider this for a moment. She bit her lip and let out a little sigh of mock frustration. “Hmm…no I think not.” She said finally, and then she cut Violet’s throat. The bottom fell out of Vincent. His entire world crumbled, and the environment around him became irrelevant. There was so much blood around Violet’s neck. He fell to his knees. Just so much blood. How did she know Violet was vulnerable? Why did she come here now? Questions nagged at him, tried to drag him back to reality, back to the problem at hand. What did any of it matter though? Violet was gone. Despair gripped him tightly, he couldn’t move and he couldn’t speak. Morgana dropped Violet’s corpse like it was a garbage bag and slowly stepped towards Vincent. Just as she was about to get close to him she suddenly raised her hand and Vincent was yanked back through the air and crashed into the wall of the motel, he hit the back of his head and his vision swam. “This is how you pay for what you have done to me, child.” Morgana said, and her tone was bitter and angry, the jovial façade was gone. “I will take everything from you.” He heard her words but the intent behind it barely registered. Violet was dead. The very thing she had narrowly avoided had come to pass only hours later. He was quite powerless, the grief and despair made it too difficult to focus enough to work a spell anyway. He was done for. Morgana made a subtle twisting motion with her hand and suddenly pain blazed out from his chest near where his heart was. He went to scream but the pain was so excruciating that he couldn’t even muster one. The sheer burning heat of it was unbearable and he thought he might pass out from the pain, when suddenly a cool sensation ran through his body. A cold power washed over him. It was a delicious cold that snapped him back to his senses like a fog had been lifted. Cool energy traced over his skin and it felt cruel, vicious and unyielding, a biting cold that survives when all other things die, the icy heart of winter. When he finally gained enough focus to see again, he noticed that he was now sat in a heap on the ground. Morgana was not there, but in her place was another woman. She was shorter than Morgana, dressed in black boots that looked stylish, with little rhinestones decorating the heel. She wore purple and black striped leggings and a short, black skirt. Her upper body was covered by a baggy, black hoodie with purple detailing, and the hood which was pulled up had a pair of kitty ears and simple design of a pair of cat’s eyes and some whiskers. The young woman cocked her head to the side slightly as she looked at him. She was pale skinned with white hair that was a variety of lengths and had a sort of punky look. She wore purple lipstick and her eyes were so bright blue that they looked almost white, and her pupils were narrow like a cat’s. “You’re having another nightmare, Vincent Hallow.” She said to him. She had a Russian accent but her English was very good. She came closer to him and squatted down, leaning her arms on her legs and she watched him curiously. “Who are you?” Vincent asked weakly. “My name is Isoleth, but my friends call me Izzy.” She explained with a bright smile, “and I know that you are Eli’s son, Vincent Hallow.” “You know my dad?” Vincent asked, but then he shook his head. If this was all just a nightmare, a very real feeling nightmare, then either his psyche had conjured this person from his imagination or…or they were invading his mind. “Get out of my head.” Vincent said as he pushed himself to his feet. “I’m not in your head, stupid.” Izzy replied with a smirk and she stood up as well, “You’re in the Dreaming.” “The what?” Vincent asked “Come on Vincent.” Izzy said with a grin, “You are familiar with worlds existing parallel to one another; you’ve seen the Void, and Faerie. Did you not think there were other places too?” “So…your saying when I dream I go to a place? This place?” Vincent asked. “You project an image of yourself; all mortals do this. Generally there is not lasting damage to suffering pain through your projection here but…well there are ways to use the dreaming to establish a connection between two individuals.” “Morgana? That was really her? I thought this was a nightmare.” “Indeed she was, and yes this is a nightmare, however, it was one of her making.” Izzy explained, “The wound on your shoulder.” Vincent pulled his T-shirt up over his shoulder and examined the black, sprawling wound emanating from a small crater in his skin where something had impacted it. He had gained the wound two years ago when Morgana had hit him with a blast of some nasty magic. It was a wound no conventional doctor could fix, and he had tried every magical healing technique he could think of but nothing seemed to help. In the end apart from a few painful twinges he felt fairly normal. Didn’t he? “Gross…that’ll do it.” Izzy said with a thoughtful expression, “She must really have it in for you. This curse is…very unpleasant. We’ll have to do something about that. I can fix it, but only in person. I can come to you but it will take a few days I think.” “Wait a minute.” Vincent held up his hand as he spoke, “What makes you think I trust you? Cat eyes, and your magic is cold, which makes you one of the Fae, Unseelie court. The kind that trick desperate mortals in to bargains that rob them of their life and body. I don’t want whatever you’re selling.” Izzy stared at Vincent for a moment with a slightly stunned expression, but then she broke into a laugh and waved at him dismissively. “Oh, Vincent Hallow, you are so very like Alphonse described. I suppose caution is a good thing but in this case you are mistaken. I am a changeling, All the perks of being Fae minus the immortality part. Worth it when magic is so easy. Changelings are often viewed as dangerous because they have access to a lot of power and free will to use it.” “…So you know Alphonse? Know any more of my associates?” Vincent asked “Quite a few. Your father, Alphonse, Lucia, Vael and I’ve crossed paths with David Argent once or twice.” “So you’re some changeling girl who’s all buddy-buddy with my dad and Al, and you expect me to just take you at your word?” Vincent’s frown deepened. “What the hell is going on? Where did Morgana go? Why the hell is my dad and his cronies suddenly deciding to crawl out of the woodwork?” Izzy gave a soft shrug and glanced away from Vincent. She closed her eyes and Vincent felt that cold energy again. Before his eyes the environment began to change, the motel disappeared, along with the flaming impala and the corpse of his sister. In its place appeared a vast skyscape of stars that seemed far to bright and numerous. They were on top of a very large mountain, so high that there was a layer of clouds blocking the earth below from view. Vincent felt a chill in the air, but it was nowhere near as cold as it should have been on top of a snowy mountain he was beginning to suspect was Everest. The noise of the wind was also barely a whisper and he swore he could hear a light EDM track playing in the background. “I specialize in illusions, which means a lot in the dreaming.” Izzy explained, “I thought I’d change the setting to something a little nicer. Do you like it?” “I don’t care about the setting I just want answers.” Vincent replied irritably. “Don’t you ever stop to smell the roses, Vincent?” Izzy asked, and she looked a little sad. Then she put on a smile and shrugged, “Very well Vincent, I shall answer you. Morgana Le Fay has been sent back to her mortal body for the time being. You stopped her from calling down a great deal of power two years ago. With that sort of power there would be few who could match her. That is why she hates you, and that is why she has cursed you.” “So what exactly does this curse do? Give me nightmares?” Vincent asked “No that was Morgana doing that through your connection.” Izzy replied, “This curse is designed to siphon away your power and give it to Morgana. Each time she visited you in these nightmares she took a part of your power to replenish what she lost. Each time she grows stronger and you weaker.” “I…I never noticed.” Vincent replied “Well of course not. You’d account the fatigue to not sleeping well, and with the journey you and your sister have been on…who would blame you for feeling depressed or worn out. The symptoms were masked by your circumstance.” Vincent felt a strange pang in his chest. The thought of someone taking his magic like that was…very uncomfortable. He hadn’t even noticed that it was happening. He felt completely foolish. How much power had he lost? With his sister’s drop in power as well, the odds just kept stacking against them, and that weight bearing down on him was starting to feel crushing. “Get out of your head, dude.” Izzy said with a roll of her eyes, “You’re Vincent Fuckin’ Hallow, you eat lightning and crap thunder! You eat vampires for breakfast! Do you even have any idea how scary you are!?” “Sure doesn’t seem like it when I’m ducking for cover or getting tied up in word games with scary fuckers like Lucia.” Vincent replied, frowning. “Oh please, Lucia doesn’t show fear to anyone, but she knows what you’ve done just like the rest of us.” “And what have I done?” Vincent asked. “Hunted.” Izzy replied simply, “Stop trying to play the game, just break through. It’s what you and Violet have always done best. Sure you guys stumble a lot, but you’re both still alive and kicking. You should be confident in yourself.” “Yeah I’ll get right to work on that.” Vincent replied, he wanted to change the topic, “How do you know my father and Al?” Izzy bit her bottom lip and seemed to hesitate for a moment. “You don’t know it yet, but you have been chasing us for quite some time now.” She explained, “Recently you and Violet discovered that your father was part of some sort of group. You also discovered evidence which suggested that Lucia was part of the same group.” “If you know all that then why are we still searching? If you want to help us then why wait until now?” “Well, that’s complicated.” Izzy replied, shifting uncomfortably, “We’re bound by a lot of conditions. One of which is not helping people discover us.” “Wouldn’t this be classed as helping?” Vincent asked, brow raised. “There’s been some foul play so different rules apply for now. I have been tasked to watch over you and Violet for a while, and help you out a little. I’m sorry but I cannot explain much more beyond that. Though it will still take me a few days to reach you. In the meantime I believe you have work to do.” “Two dangerous vampires need to get smoked. I’m sure we can manage.” Vincent replied. “Do not underestimate them. I suggest you gather a hunting party.” Izzy gave Vincent a knowing look, “I think you already have a few allies nearby who can help you.” “I’m still not sure how I feel about this.” Vincent said with a frown. “Well then I’ll settle it with a peace offering.” Izzy said with a grin, and then she took an old photograph out of the her pocket and handed it to him. Vincent examined the old photo and his eyes widened as he scanned over it. The room had about 12 people in it, it was some kind of gathering in a small events room. Vincent recognized a few of the figures. His mentor, Alphonse was sat at a table talking with a man with slicked back, black hair dressed in a suit. In the background Vincent’s father, looking very young, was talking with an attractive woman who he vaguely recognized. “Vael…” He murmured as he continued scanning the photo. “This was before Violet was born.” “Correct. It is the day our little group was first founded. Although I wasn’t around back then.” “How old are you?” Vincent asked “I’m only 25, dude.” Izzy said with a smirk. “And your name is Isoleth? Bit of an old sounding name for a millennial.” Vincent teased. “It is a regal name…chosen by Queen Mab herself.” “Your…the daughter of the queen of the unseelie fae?” “Yeah dude, I’m pretty dope, I don’t know if you noticed.” Izzy said with a chuckle. “I think it’s time for you to wake up. Get your shit together Vincent, you’ll feel better.” “Easy to say when you don’t have a full day of ass kicking ahead of you.” Vincent said with a grumble. “My name’s Vincent and I’m a grumpy wizard!” Izzy said in a particularly poor impersonation of Vincent, and then she started giggling at herself, “Aw I like you Vincent. We’re gonna be the best of friends, I can already tell.” “Don’t hold your breath.” Vincent said and a hint of a smirk escaped his lips. “Yass queen!” Izzy said with a triumphant grin and she clapped her hands together, “Okay just keep doing more of that smilin’ until I find you! Oh this is going to be fun. I’m so stoked to meet Violet!” --- --- --- --- Before Vincent could reply he gasped for air as he suddenly woke up on the bed in the motel room. He turned to his side and looked at Violet who was sleeping soundly. For the first time since the nightmare had began he finally allowed himself to feel relief. That had been an extremely weird dream. Then he looked down at his hand and saw the photograph he was holding, the one that Izzy had given him. “Shit…” Vincent said with a sigh, “Violet! Wake up!” He had some explaining to do.
  11. Hallows S2

    "What's our standpoint on eating on a grave, then?" Violet asked to the air, unwrapping a taco. It never took long to find a graveyard. Although, this one had seen better days. Grass ran over most of the old graves. A small pink orb illuminated the graveyard for several feet in all directions, floating over Violet's shoulder as she bit into a taco, sat upon a grave while Vincent was busy drawing symbols in chalk on an area of the ground they'd sanctified. While he worked, Violet finished wolfing down her food and then grabbed the remaining taco and held it up, when she pulled her hand away, it remained floating on the spot and began to glow pink. Ancient words recited in a hushed tone, and something appeared in front of her. It appeared for a moment, snatched the food in front of her, and was gone. Violet was sure she knew what it looked like, but when it was gone, it was just a cloud of shadow. "Cool. That's the offering out of the way, and--" She looked over to see Vincent dropping little stones with runes etched into them, scattering them around the summoning site. She'd never seen so many charms, protection spells, cleansing rites and magical barriers erected in one spot before. That, in itself, was dangerous. There is such a thing as being 'too safe'. Magic does, after all, tend to attract trouble. "-- you done?" She asked her brother. "Almost..." Vincent said after a long pause, his attention seemed focused on the task more than Violet. With the final placement of a rune-engraved stone there also came a strange pressure to the air, like everything had just been wrapped in plastic wrap. As Vincent stepped inside the outer circle of their spell the runes lit up on the stones, and a green aura began to emanate from the patterns of salt that were shaped into all manner of ancient symbols; Chinese, Egyptian, Sanskrit and a smattering of others. "Are you ready?" He asked Violet, and he looked at her with a hardened expression. He was focused, but he clearly wasn't thrilled about what they were doing next. "How am I supposed to be ready for this, i've no idea what to expect, things that came naturally to me, it's like fighting through treacle now... more focused, less capable... I think..." Violet frowned and then shook off her confusion. She couldn't dwell on that now. Now was the time for action. "So, you want to take the lead on this? I'm kind of-- not as--?" Violet scowled. "I'll take care of the technical stuff." Vincent assured as he sat himself down on a pre-designated spot within the circle. He crossed his legs lotus style and took in a deep breath, and then exhaled just as slowly and purposefully. "Just lend me your mojo. Spells are stronger the more will you put into them, three would be better but I figure we're already pretty jacked in the mystical muscles department, so it'll be fine...probably." "Well now i'm really confident." Violet muttered, half-joking with a pained smirk. "... I'm ready when you are." Vincent didn't reply verbally. He had closed his eyes and had been focusing on his breathing. As he fell deeper and deeper into a trance-like state, the environment began to react to his will. The ambient noise that normally filled the silence just stopped. No wind, no birds, no distant car engines, just endless, crisp silence. Vincent's breath became visible on every exhale, like he was breathing out an aura or energy rather than just air. Then the world seemed to crack like glass. The circle split and broke apart, reflections of itself refracting upon themselves over and over. The graveyard scene became confusing and treacherous within moments, as a deep, true darkness engulfed the outside of the circle. However, the circle itself was growing, splitting off into fractal reflections of itself, and in each version a Vincent and a Violet. Reflections, but not the kind you found in real mirrors. They were real, or as real as anything was in this place. The Void was emptiness. The dark space in between all things, a place where there was a vast nothingness, but where everything existed in some strange paradox. Simple ideas, dreams and imaginings could become a reality within this realm. It did not obey the laws of the physical world, and even under the influence of a practitioner's will the realm could become quickly confusing, and many could lose their minds to this place, simply by attempting to understand it. There was a ripple within the tumbling mess of fractal realities, a pulsing, steady power that seemed to permeate throughout each. It pulled on them, gripping each reflection and pulling it tightly. The reflections began to merge and form a new, single reality. Vincent opened his eyes finally, and now the circle they had created had become an enormous platform floating through an endless abyss of darkness. He looked around them to see patches of floating bits of the graveyard just bobbing along as if gravity didn't affect them anymore. "Well..." Vincent said as he stood up, "Yep... this place still gives me the heebies... and also the jeebies." "I remember feeling comfortable here, like I was taking off a heavy jacket at the end of a long day." Violet looked out across the shadowy hellscape, "Now, it's just like anywhere monsters lurk..." Violet squinted as she looked into the darkness, where vague shapes of landscape could be glimpsed. "I'm not expecting it to take very long for our presence to be noticed. I just don't know what to expect, Vael often appeared when I came here, but she's worryingly absent now... never thought i'd say that." "Nothing is getting in without an invitation." Vincent said, an he sounded fairly certain of that, "That was the point in the....split." Vincent shivered a little, "They might have just been reflections in the physical world but reality isn't a concept that holds much weight here. The purpose was to rework the spell, over and over, across multiple realities, or non-realities...Im never quite sure how to refer to it accurately." Vincent paced around the new circle, which was now about the size of a freaking Walmart store. "This is the best I can offer you. A little playground on the edge of nothingness that we can let loose in. Demons and spooks can't get in here unless we summon them...and hopefully the same rules apply for these...orb thingies." "I'd like to think..." Violet paused, she felt like every little hair on her body stood on end at once. The feeling was mirrored in Vincent's expression. From the darkness ahead of them, over the rise, came a procession of twinkling lights. "Should we be pleased we found them already...?" "The sooner I get out of this realm the better, Vi." Vincent replied, "Better put our game faces on." He looked down at his black jeans and grey stone roses T-shirt, "Starting to think I should have worn a cool coat or something..." "Well i'm glad you've still got a sense of humour..." Violet muttered back. The orbs grew in size, until their forms shifted. Light grew in radiance from the cores of the orbs, but the light expanded and took physical form. Violet noticed they looked similar to her own appearance as a Nagloshi, but they were all white, not purple. It was like staring directly at the sun and made her uncomfortable and dazed for any more than a few seconds. She found herself looking at them through the shutters of her fingers. "Why did you hurt me?!" Violet called out to them. They seemed to ignore her for a moment, talking with one another quietly until the smallest of the group stepped forwards and looked them over. Her form was feminine, her hair - if you could call shifting strands of light hair - was short and spiky and danced around like she was in a wind tunnel. "They're mortals, do you see?" She said, without looking back at the others. "Hey, i'm speaking to you!!" Violet growled. "They're human." She added, her eyes lazily inspecting them, "I don't know, they have rudimentary understanding of cosmic magic. No. This one--" She pointed at Violet, almost hitting her in the nose in the process. "Hey!!" Violet reflexively slapped the... she had no word for her yet... but she slapped aside her hand. "Violent. Irrational." Then she was stood in front of Vincent, examining him. "Shall I remove them?" "Why do all you 'higher being' types talk to us like we aren't here?" Vincent asked, he didn't seem especially shaken by what she had said, "I mean you're speaking English or using some sort of psychic communication, either way you're making an effort to speak with us in a way we understand but continue speaking as if we can't understand you. Are you trying to appear intimidating? You just come off as assholes, y'know." "Intimidation tactics, basic reasoning, attempt at provocation." She turned her head, the way a dog or bird might, then looked back to the other orbs, "Then what?" "Violet, your ancestors are kinda rude... I think even Vael's less intentionally difficult than this..." He gestured at the creature's 'hair' , "Pixie?" He smirked, "My name is Vincent Hallow. You're currently standing in our domain." He gestured to Violet as he spoke, "We have questions. Depending on your answer, we might have to tangle. Not a threat, just a fact. So tell me Tinkerbell, do you want to proceed civilly or not?" "Pixie..." She repeated thoughtfully, but her interest lay in the other name drop. "'Vael'?" Pixie's eyes locked on Vincent, "Where is Vael? She is the other." "Don't know, don't care." Vincent replied, "We're here to talk about Violet." He gestured once again to his sister, "You'll have to excuse her as she appears to be lost for words...which is a universal first by the way so congratulations." "I... the other what?!" Violet blinked, coming to her senses at the mention of her 'aunt'. "Abnormality." Pixie replied, then added over her shoulder, "The human the rogue White Dwarf fused with, and her... Vincent Hallow." "Excuse me?" Vincent asked, his eyebrow raised so high it was dangerously close to rising off of his head altogether. "VINCENT!!" Violet screamed, launching herself at him. Pixie lifted her hand without warning, it seemed, for all but Violet. A light grew at the tip of her finger and shot in a beam, Violet shoved Vincent out of the way, turning to see the beam widening and blinding her, then she felt a rush of wind as something snatched at her. It was like a jolt. Was that death? She didn't even get to catch up with her ex... Violet blinked, she was staring at a black sky. Violet sat bolt upright, she was still in the Void, but she seemed untouched. "Vincent?!" Violet called out, but she saw her brother kneeling by something and she held her breath as she approached. "Vincent, what happened, there was a light and--" Violet's mouth fell slack. Vincent was cradling Vael, who had a hole in her shoulder. Violet walked over and knelt in silence, looking at the wound. Cracks began snapping out from the hole, creaking and spreading across Vael's body. "W-what happened...?" Violet asked, taking Vael's hand. "They were... going to erase you... for having infected... a Star." Vael struggled to focus, as the cracks spread and multiplied across her body. "I couldn't... watch you... die..." Violet was crying. She never fully understood her relationship with Vael, but somehow, in spite of everything she had done to them, she was still dear to her. "Why...?!" Violet looked up at Pixie with tears streaming down her face. "You shouldn't exist." Pixie said quietly, turning to face them. "Violet get behind me!" Vincent said frantically as he lowered Vael to the ground. When he stood up the air crackled with power and something mostly invisible spread through the air around them, a powerful hum of excited energy, a barrier between Pixie and the rest of them. "I don't know how she got here..." he said to Violet, and he wasn't sounding so confident any more, "I cant sense their magic... this is really bad." his gaze fixed on Pixie and it became a determined scowl. "Don't think I'll make it easy for you, bitch!" Vincent spat a few words, they sounded unintelligible and completely foreign to a human tongue but they were, in fact, names. As he spoke them there was a sound like a scream being sucked up into a vacuum and multiple tears opened into their domain. Three creatures emerged; snarling, quadrupedal beasts with hides as black as coals, and matted, coarse fur. They had long scar-like cracks throughout their bodies, and something glowed with an eldritch light from within. Their eyes glowed with the same light, their powerful claws and teeth producing an aura of magma-like energy that scorched the ground at their feet. Demons. "I said by invite only, but I didn't say I wouldn't invite them!" "Mortals..." Pixie cut the beam across the courtyard and caught one of the Demons in the light, they shrieked in horrific pain as they folded in on themselves almost instantly. Pixie turned and fired this concentrated magic and struck another Demon, it too, shrieked and fell. But the remaining Demon fell upon her. Violet drew in a breath to yell in victory when the Demon was vaporised instantly. Little more than ash in the wind. The largest of the orbs of light came forwards and formed a being similar in makeup to Pixie and the Nagloshi, but her hair seemed to flow back long past her feet, yet all of it was in the air behind her, like the currents of the ocean. Her light was most brilliant. And when she approached, Pixie apologised and moved out of her way. Her face was kind, knowing and jovial. But she was also like a giant, towering over them yet she stood passively, holding her arms behind her back. "Children..." Her voice was booming and yet gentle in tone, it frightened Violet for a reason she didn't understand. Like a hazy memory, warning her of something. She could only watch though as this being crossed the courtyard of Vincent's creation and stand before him. With the lift of her hand, she brought Vincent floating into the air to hover before her eyes. "Are you done fighting? Have you got it all out of your system?" The bright one asked, her tone measured and happy, like she was asking Vincent if his tantrum was through. "Luminous one--" Pixie interjected, "-- this mortal attempted to destroy a Star--" "Because you attacked them, impatient one." She clarified, "Now, what is it you want, Mortal?" Pixie recoiled and lowered her head in fear. "Why are you addressing me?" Vincent growled, "Why are you all addressing me!?" Vincent kept his barrier up between them, although who knew what good it would do them. "You have much from my sister, from Violet! Why aren't you speaking to her!?" Violet looked from her brother to the towering giant, whatever she was. "She has no right to speak with us. She is an abnormality." The being of light swept her hand across, Violet saw a battle play out, Star killing Star. All were being wiped out. And at the head of it, was Vael. She was killing them. Her hand moved back across and Violet found herself refocused and as distressed as Vincent appeared. Vincent shook his head like he was physically trying to remove something from it and his scowl darkened. "Stay the fuck out of my head." He snarled, but there wasn't a great deal of bite to him. It was clear on his face that he knew their options were limited. He was running his mouth to buy time because time was a wizard's most effective weapon. With a heavy sigh Vincent seemed to gather himself and stood a little more firm. "This just in: Vael is a violent agent of chaos. Stay tuned for our next big reveal: water is wet!" "Then you understand." She turned and looked to Vael, the cracks still spreading across her. "Ceasing to exist would be a relief, you are guilty, and should suffer." She waved her hand, and Vael wailed in pain as her body crystallised, spreading out from her chest until she was a frozen crystal statue. "You'll have time to think in there for a few millennia, and then we'll talk punishment." "You can't do that!" Violet spoke up, "Two wrongs don't make a right! And you said I was a fusion, a fusion with what? Was it Zeal?! Where is she?!" Violet marched towards the giant being of light, ignoring Vincent. "Hey! HEY!! I'm speaking to you, and i'm not going away!!" "Be quiet." It was an off-the-cuff demand, but it could not be ignored it seemed. Violet continued speaking, but her voice was gone. She yelled at the top of her lungs, but nothing came out. She clicked her fingers, sound. She opened her mouth and formed the words. Nothing. She clenched her fist, she wanted to yell, "What am I? What was I? How can I be that again?" But she couldn't so much as say a single word. She raised her hands, but again, without the words to back it up, and with no focus, and no direct access to the same breadth of cosmic magics she had when she was... fused? Or whatever that meant, she was relatively helpless. She wanted to throw everything she had at their enemy, but she was so utterly beyond her. "Stop it!" Vincent yelled, and his voice boomed along to the clap of thunder in the eternal darkness of The Void. The grass underneath his feet stirred with a growing, turbulent wind. "I've had enough of demons, vampires, faeries, and gods, and fucking cosmic energy beings imposing their will on us! You all come from the same place, you call it ki, mana or the power fuckin' cosmic but it's all the same! Power... and we have power too!" The ground shook and small pieces of the earth broke off and began to vibrate and shake, rising gently into the air as unseen forces played havoc with the environment. "Stop what you're doing... or I'll make you, I swear it!" "Make me?" She asked, she leaned down and picked Vincent up, holding him at the throat with her thumb, "I needn't use magic, I could simply squeeze and you would cease to be. You are so fragile. Why risk so much for so little..." Violet raised her hands, glowing pink light formed and she tried to strike out with the energy she was mustering. However, this being simply drew the energy away from her, concentrated it into a tiny orb and threw it back at her with a simple off-handed gesture. Violet was struck in her centre mass and thrown across the courtyard until she hit the ground, tumbled and rolled to the edge of the platform, one arm hung limply over the edge, threatening to fall into the very Void itself. Someone grabbed Violet's arm just as it was about to slip. The figure dragged her up with a firm strength. He let go of her as she was pulled safely back on to solid ground, and he had turned around before she could get a good look at him. The man was dressed in a dark robe with a hood, the entire garment decorated with a constellation of strange runes and diagrams, glittering slightly like the pattern had been woven in starlight itself. The hood covered the man's head, all but covering his face in a shadow that was definitely the result of some magic. Only the edge of his dark but greying beard could be seen in the vibrant light emanating from the Star beings. Said beings were currently frozen, as was everything else within The Void. Everything was perfectly still, not a breath or whisper in the air. Only Violet and the robed man seemed to be unaffected by this. Even Vincent remained frozen in the grip of the star being. "I'm sorry I didn't act sooner." The man said in a deep but gentle voice, "We don't have time to explain I'm afraid." He gestured towards the star beings as their forms seemed to be twitching and moving around in short bursts of rapidity. "It only slows them down for a moment." The man explained, "When it starts again grab your brother and get out of here. Do you understand?" "... Dad?" Violet asked, stepping forwards to put her hand to his shoulder, but as she reached out, he seemed to be ever further from him. Her arm stretched out to span an infinite yet unreachable goal. "How are you here? You don't need to go, you can come with us, we'll all leave together..." Elias Hallow tensed visibly, but he didn't turn to face her. "I can't explain now, Violet. I'm sorry." Then there was a sudden rush of noise and movement as time started again. Eli was already in motion. "Get your hands off of my son!" He barked and there was a noise like a shockwave and Vincent was suddenly and quite forcibly separated from the star being. Vincent fell across the floor choking for breath and oblivious to what had gone on. He raised his hands, his palms outstretched and several things seemed to happen at once. Bolts of energy flew immediately from the star beings who seemed threatened enough to attack the man on sight. Eli simply disappeared and reappeared, to the naked eye it seemed like he was simply materialising in and out of existence in different places. Then as he drew closer to the beings there was an explosion of light and energy as the wizard began to fight back, summoning all manner of strange magic to block their strikes and strike back at them. He moved gracefully, like he had done this kind of thing a thousand times before, and then he suddenly stopped in his assault and took a deep breath. The assault on him also halted as the attackers seemed to sense the severity of what was to come. Above them all the void suddenly twisted in on itself, infinite darkness coiling in on itself, surrounded only by the faintest of white light. The strong pull of force was instant. Everything started breaking apart and getting sucked up. Chaos ripped the world to shreds, hurtling through empty space. And then Vincent and Violet landed with a soft thud on the grass of an untouched cemetery. "No!" Violet yelled out, thumping the grass with her bare fists. "I don't understand! Why won't anyone talk to me!!" Violet's tears began cascading down her cheeks. "It's not supposed to be like this, i'm not strong enough, and you've left us again! You don't get to decide when we're in your life!!" Violet yelled, but it only echoed through the empty graveyard. She tore up a patch of grass and threw it into the air, the blades whipped and flurried through the air and fluttered back down like feathers on the wind. Violet held firmly onto the ground, as though she might tear away from it if she wasn't anchored. "Vincent, I... I don't know what to do any more." Violet shook her head in defeat, "I'm so helpless now... i'm incomplete."
  12. Hallows S2

    The nightmare began as it always had; with a victory. Vincent Hallow stood over the charred remains of a ghoul, only vaguely humanoid in shape. His shoulder length hair blew about in an aetheric wind. His shirt was gone and his chest and arms were covered in bloody cuts, wounds given by the now dead ghoul on the floor. Vincent winced at the pain and stepped away from the corpse, he could feel fatigue tugging at him. His body was exhausted, but adrenaline had wiped out his pain for now. His body protested for him to rest, but with he opened his emerald eyes with a look of determination. He gripped on the cane in his hand, the enchanted vessel he had chosen to channel his destructive will through. He looked to his surroundings. He was outside but it was almost completely black in all directions. He knew where he was, in a plaza outside of the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas. The Hotel, a large glass pyramid, was currently reflecting the only source of light in the entire city, an eerie green glow as shadowy entities flew through the sky. The Wild Hunt; All manor of ghostly entities and predatory spirits were now prowling the skies above Las Vegas like an enormous hunting party. People were trapped in a city with no power, and in that darkness they would sow fear, and would kill all in their sight. “Vincent!” A voice called in the darkness, and then a young woman emerged. She was in her mid 20’s with a long mane of red curls and a pale complexion. Meredith Palmer; the gifted clairvoyant who had been the beginning of this entire disaster, “Vincent! We’re too late, they worked the spell! It’s here!” “Yeah…I can see that.” Vincent replied dryly as he looked skyward again. Then he inspected his wounds. There was a lot of blood but he didn’t think he’d hit any organs or major arteries. “We need to stop the ritual.” He turned toward the Luxor building and went to walk towards it. “People are going to die if we don’t stop that!” Meredith cried, “I can…I can see it.” “There’s one crazy Necromancer in that hotel with his ancient ghost buddy, and they’re about to bring all that power down and into them, and then we’re not dealing with a two bit spell-slinger and an upstart old spirit, we’re dealing with Gods. Do you understand that?” Vincent shook his head and started walking. Meredith simply watched, a helpless expression on her face. “Then they’ll all die…” She whispered. Just then a bright light exploded in the sky. In the center of the maelstrom of ghosts, a bright light began to go brighter and brighter. Someone was cutting through the sea of ghosts like they were made of butter, a being of light and raw energy. She raged and soared and her power burned through them like a wildfire. Meredith gasped at the spectacle, whereas Vincent only smirked and rolled is eyes. “She’s a little hard to predict, even for spooky fortune tellers like you.” Vincent said. “Is that…?” Meredith asked “Violet.” Vincent said with a nod. “She’s the main event, kid. I just take care of the trash.” He didn’t waste any more time. He strode towards the Luxor while his legs could still carry him. As he stepped into the main foyer he realized how tapped out he was. He had worked a big spell that night, and had channeled a great deal of magic through himself, he was reaching his limit. His limit would have to be enough for this next part though. As he emerged into the room he noticed that the fake Egyptian-style styling of the inner building was lit up by a glowing flame in the center of the room. The center of the room had been cleared and a magic circle had been drawn in what looked like blood. Inside the circle an ancient, ghostly form that looked so dried up, rotted and disfigured that it barely resembled a human. Outside of the circle stood a man in a long, black coat and a wide-brimmed fedora. The man had a ponytail of dark hair and a clean-shaven face that looked gaunt and pale. “Lacroix!” Vincent barked across the room as he swaggered towards the necromancer, “Sorry, but your pet had to be put down.” “Oh great, you’re still alive.” Lacroix replied unenthusiastically, he seemed unconcerned by Vincent’s presence. “I’m afraid you don’t look up to posing much of a threat my good man. You’re already too late anyway. Your sister might have been up to the task but…it seems she submitted to her more primal urges I fear.” Violet’s light tore through the sky in an arc around the glass pyramid, and as she disappeared back in tot eh darkness again there was a rushing noise, followed by a crack and a boom. This seemed to drain the little colour that was left in Lacroix’s face. “Now did she absolutely have to break the sound barrier?” Vincent said with a shrug. Then he pointed his cane at Lacroix. “Listen up you washed up sorcerer, you should probably stop underestimating me and my sister. I know you think you’re badass because you’re rockin’ the dark arts and you’re about twice my age, but you won’t beat me.” “You?” Lacroix scoffed, “You’re just a thug. Throwing spells around with no grace, no consideration at all.” “Is that why you kept dodging this confrontation then? Why you came at us through your agents and pawns?” Lacroix went to work a spell, but then there was another bang and he stopped in his tracks. Vincent held the pistol he had been carrying in the back of his jeans. “What is it about wizards and always/ forgetting to account for bullets?” He asked with a smirk. Lacroix fell to his knees, clutching the area around his heart. He looked up to Vincent and for the first time he looked genuinely afraid. Funny for a Necromancer to fear death so much. As Lacroix keeled over lifelessly Vincent sighed and retrieved a carton with just 1 last cigarette. He took it out and lit it, tossing the empty carton to the floor. As he exhaled the sweet, sweet concoction of death he glanced towards the invisible barrier of the magic circle Lacroix had brought up. It was still active, and would stay that way until Lacroix finally drew his last breath. “You know…you should really hire better lackeys.” He said to the spirit inside, who was watching him with a piercing, unblinking gaze. “Lacroix was talented enough to do my bidding and stupid enough to obey my every command. He was an excellent lacky.” The spirit said. “So what now? In a minute this barrier is going to go down and then we’re going to tangle, right?” Vincent asked. “Oh I expect so, Mister Hallow, was it?” The spirit replied. Despite her grotesque appearance her voice was distinctly feminine, with a well-spoken English accent. “I’m going to enjoy that very much I think. You see you’ve ruined all the work I went to. You have unraveled a great deal of planning and dedicated work.” “I’m not too worried about what a ghost can do, even an old one like you.” “A ghost?” The spirit asked, indicating to herself. “I am not a ghost.” The circle’s magic finally faded and the barrier went down. Vincent brought his cane up immediately and called fire, and it shot out like a lance towards the spirit. She chuckled in amusement and faded away, only to reappear a safe distance away from the blaze. Vincent turned to face her again with another gout of fire but this time she simply moved through it and crashed into Vincent, phasing through him with that familiar, chilling sensation that seemed to rake at his very soul. However in that instant, where they had become connected, he realized the truth to her words. She was not a ghost, she was a soul. A real human soul, existing in a realm where it should not, where it could not without a vessel. “How!?” Vincent managed to ask through gasps of air. “What are you!?” “I think ‘who’ is a better question.” The woman said, “I think you may know my name. It is old, the last one I wore was…Morgue.” “He died before I was even born. I know who killed him.” Vincent replied. “Ah, I knew your magic reminded me of him.” The spirit replied. “Alphonse Blackmire, that old fool.” Vincent felt his stomach drop. The spirit knew his mentor, knew the man who had killed the dark wizard Morgue over 40 years ago. Information that was known only by a select few people. Which meant…this spirit really was that dark wizard. The dreaded Necromancer who could forcibly eject people from their bodies and take them for himself. He had been a constant headache, popping up for centuries, far longer than his mortal life would have allowed. But by stealing the bodies he stole their youth and their power and continued on his dark crusade. Al had finally put the guy in the ground, and it was said to have been for good. The voice, however, was feminine. “Morgue was a man.” Vincent said with a frown. “The body I inhabited was a man, yes.” The spirit replied. “But Morgue was just one name I have held, and just one life I have lived. So many know my name and yet they know nothing of me. I am…something of a story told to children these days.” “So why the big ritual? If you’re a body snatcher then why not just snatch a body?” Vincent asked. “Because, dear boy, power is not something you get to take with you when you die. If I was to truly return in my original form then I would need tremendous power.” “Which you aren’t getting any more.” Vincent said with a smirk, “Sorry.” “I’m afraid you have only delayed the inevitable, and have forced me to find a new body in the meantime.” She said. Then she came at him. “Yours.” He could do nothing to defend himself against the spirit as she passed inside him. The psychic assault that followed was agonizing. He brought up the mental protections he had trained with all of these years but this woman knocked them away like they were made of paper. She reached inside and gripped hold of his mind, and his soul. She did it all with an effortlessness that was absolutely terrifying. He could do nothing. Absolutely nothing. He began to slip away. It was an endless feeling. Like time was no longer a factor. Instead he drifted in a cold darkness. He felt his thoughts and feeling peeling away layer upon layer. All of the little things that made him whole just fell away. He was no longer Vincent. He was no longer anything at all, and before long he would simply drift into nothingness, into void. His eyes opened to an extremely bright light. He had experienced this kind of light only once before. When he had been younger, and when he had allowed his darkness to rule him, he had done just about the worst thing he has ever done, and it had nearly cost him his life. God had stepped in and saved his life. Sort of rude of him really considering Vincent was a filthy pagan and all. God had, apparently, decided to save his life not once, but twice. The light was emanating from a man dressed in black. He wore pointed toe boots, black trousers and a black shirt, with a pointed collar and white clerical collar. The man had a stubbled beard and short, jet black hair that was combed back. He also carried a sword; the one that was currently blazing with the light of God. David Argent was not a priest, despite the collar. He was, in fact, a wanted criminal. He was a highly skilled assassin under the hire of, as far as the authorities were concerned, unknown. If you asked David, he would tell you that The Lord was his client. His targets, of course, were a bunch of vampires and demons hiding in the guise of humans. David was not a good people, but he did not kill good people either. More importantly, he had an insane knack for showing up wherever he was needed. He was chanting scripture under his breath as he stepped closer to them. Vincent could now see that David was driving back Morgue with just the power of prayer. Vincent managed to find just enough time to find that irritating, and then he was rising to his feet. David lunged for the spirit but she shrieked and flew off, disappearing out of the foyer. David sheathed the glowing sword and the room grew dimmer. He came over to Vincent and helped him to stand. “It seems the Lord has more work for you yet, Vincent Hallow.” David said with a distinctly southern drawl. Vincent pattered the man on the back and smirked. “I’m still not convinced you aren’t full of shit about that but I’ll take the rescue all the same.” Vincent said with a nod of gratitude. “We need to find that thing before-“ A scream cut through the room from outside the hotel. “Meredith!” Vincent yelled as he was suddenly going at a sprint, David trying to keep peace with him. Panic shot up through him and propelled him forwards despite the blood loss, and the fatigue. Meredith was not like him. She was a kid with power but she’d had no training. She wouldn’t last a second. By the time he emerged outside once more the sky was aglow with the energy flying around as Violet finished up her own fight. Meredith was stood alone, not far from where he had left her. She was looking right at him, and his heart was crushed as he saw the wicked grin on her face. “No…” He breathed as he stopped a few feet from reaching her. “No…you…” “Vincent!” David caught up to him. “Stop her!” Vincent barked back at him. “Now!” “It…is too late.” David said regretfully, “She has already taken the girl…you can see this.” Vincent’s gaze focused on Meredith, and just for a moment he could see just behind her. A pale woman with raven hair was walking another Meredith away. She looked sad. He could have sworn he’d seen that woman somewhere before. Then he could only see the creature that was now inhabiting Meredith’s body. “Well…prescient abilities, this will be useful.” She said, her English accent coming through but with Meredith’s voice. “Not a great deal of power though…she’ll take some work.” “The girl is gone now.” David said to him. “We should do what needs to be done.” “Shut up!” Vincent growled back at him. He was beyond angry. It just wasn’t fair. His life saved by divine intervention, and moments later his fate is passed on to an innocent woman. It hadn’t sunk in yet. It had only just happened. He wasn’t ready to accept her death. He wasn’t willing to admit that she was…gone. Not while she stood right there in front of him. “I’ll…make you pay!” Vincent snarled. He clutched his cane and the runes etched along it cast an eerie, green glow. The air grow wild around them, and the pebbles and loose stones on the ground began to rattle and shake. He pointed his staff at her and his hands shook. It felt so wrong to point it towards that face. He screamed in rage as he called on fire with the last of his power. He took every last bit of it and put it into the blast. Light exploded from the end of his cane and bolten fire burst out and engulfed Meredith’s body. But then all that heat and fire was sucked up by an unseen force and disappeared inside Meredith’s body as if it were no trouble at all. “Oh how disappointing….so much power is wasted on you.” The spirit said with a chuckle, “You see even with just a small amount of power like this body has…well if you knew real magic then you would be so fearsome.” “Save me the ‘dark magic rocks’ speech.” Vincent said, gasping for breath. He had nothing left to hit her with. “Light magic and dark magic are modern philosophies, child.” The spirit said with a wicked smirk, “Restrictions placed upon this world by cowards with no vision. Darkness is not evil, Vincent. It is a force, and what are if not beings that work forces?” “Save it!” Vincent yelled angrily. “Foolish child, I lived in a time before your very concept of magic was ever constructed!” She cried back, her eyes alive and energetic. “I am The Enchantress! The Legend! Morgana Le Fay!” She strode forward and reached out to Vincent. He gestured his cane toward her and she gripped it’s end in her hand. She released the energy she had taken from his own spell and sent it down the length of the cane, causing it to shatter into ash. Vincent fell back and landed hard on the asphalt. He looked up in time to see Morgana point a single finger at him, and a dark energy began to form at it’s tip. “We’ll meet again Vincent Hallow.” She said, and then Vincent’s vision went dark. Blinding pain seared through every fiber of his being, pulsing from an area on his chest, burning at his insides. --- --- --- Vincent sat bolt upright in the bed, gasping for breath. He winced as he opened his eyes and the light from a gap in the curtains cut into the room. The disorientation from waking from a nightmare was, unfortunately, becoming a familiarity to him. He sighed and tossed the sheets away from him and climbed out of bed. He was in one of those roadside motels that were just a single room with two beds and a bathroom. He walked into the bathroom and switched on the light. The bathroom was small but had a full size mirror on the wall. Vincent stood in a pair of black boxer shorts. He was a pale individual with a wiry frame. His jet black hair was shoulder length but was recently trimmed and styled. He had grown a dark beard over the last two years. His body was a mess of various scars, burns and a particularly nasty looking wound at his chest that looked like black veins stretching out from a charred impact zone. Something of a love tap from the ancient sorceress who now inhabited his dreams most nights. Vincent undressed and got into the shower. As the intensity of the nightmare began to fade, along with the bracing cold of the shower, Vincent began to feel calmer. It had been 2 years since “The Vegas Incident” and a lot had happened. The government had done their usual “freak gas leak combined with power outage sparks mass panic” routine to explain away what had happened. Vincent and his cosmically-inclined sister, Violet had continued their search for their father, and as was the way of things they had gotten into a lot of scrapes along the way. It wasn’t long before their reputation among the hunters of the supernatural began to return in a big way. That had opened some doors and had sent a few messages. They had followed promising leads and gotten a lot closer to finding their father yet had still not found him. Vincent had also managed to admit to himself that Morgana had been right. He had spent the years training diligently in his study of magic, looking to eastern disciplines to broaden his understanding, and slowly he was discovering that magic did not have quite as many rules as he thought it did. He still wasn’t convinced that dark magic was the way to go, some magic just didn’t feel right to use. Violet had been on her own path of self-discovery. It’s not like there was a rulebook for being a shapeshifting energy-eating entity of the cosmos. One thing was certain, every creature that had ever learned of what Violet was, no matter how powerful they were, they all paid a great deal of attention to her. Nagloshi, not the true name of her species but the only one that was pronounceable by Vincent, were apparently something of an outlier, which was a terrifying notion when the system in question consists of all manner of supernatural beings, and gods of various pantheons. Even death can’t resist her, apparently. Vincent emerged from the bathroom and dressed himself. A pair of black boots, black jeans, and a grey t-shirt with a Stone Roses graphic on it. He picked up a pair of sunglasses off the table along with his wallet, keys and his cigarettes, and then he headed out of the door. The Californian sunshine was bright and sunny. The motel was on the roadside out in the Hollywood Hills. The city of Los Angeles lay in the valley beneath them, and just happened to be the next stop on their trip. A black Chevrolet Impala sat in the parking space outside of the room. The car was old but has been cleaned and detailed. It was Violet’s pride and joy, and she took good care of it. Speaking of the cosmic disco ball, she was currently sat on the hood of said car eating some sort of calorific breakfast burrito. “That shit will kill you.” Vincent said as he put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it.
  13. How's everybody doing? What's going on in your life right now? Things are ok here. I'm working on moving to upstate New York... Again. Need to work on some cosplays over the next couple of weeks and keep on top of studying Japanese and all that other junk. I'm basically just keeping myself busy as much as I can. TELL ME WHAT IS UP WITH YOU ALL I MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU ETC
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