Valentine

Graduate
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Everything posted by Valentine

  1. Your Writing Readability

    I seem to get between Grade 4 to 7 on my posts. The inconsistency annoys me. Though, i'm not sure I understand the scoring system. I only glanced over it - why is low good?
  2. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    "I will." Hitomi replied simply, and then walked over to a nearby counter and pulled out a pair of simple latex gloves from their container and slipped them on. She left the room, walking into the lab that still held four human students inside. Hitomi glanced around the room as she approached them and smiled sweetly, "Hi there!" She held out her hand, "Dr. Ikitsuki would like a sample, please!" One of the students closed the lid on a nearby Petri dish and handed it to her. "Thank you!" She exclaimed excitedly, "Now, if you would, split into groups of two, and occupy the labs left vacant by the other students, thank you!" She bowed to the students who looked at one another and after a moment's hesitation, thanked Hitomi and did as they were told. She followed them out, and closed the door behind her and walked back to the room with the ghouls inside. "Hey, when are we getting fed?" One of them asked. Hitomi smiled at the ghoul, "May I borrow you?" She asked politely. "Finally." The ghoul muttered. As they walked out, she glanced over the remaining ghouls. "I'll just be a minute!" She added, and shut the door. Leading the ghoul back across the main lab, Hitomi spoke to Munenori without as much as looking at him, "We're feeding this gentleman now, Doctor!" She called, and opened the door on the left. The two students turned to face the returning Hitomi, and her new friend. The ghoul looked to Hitomi for permission and she grinned, "Manners!" She chimed, bobbing her forefinger at him. "Thanks for the meal!" The ghoul cried, bowing. As he bent over, Hitomi held out the Petri dish, and smashed it into the side of the ghoul's head, knocking him to the ground. The students exclaimed, leaping back in surprise. But the ghoul was up on his feet almost immediately. "Enjoy," She muttered, dropping her mask as she stepped out and locked the door behind her. As she walked from one room into the other, she asked the other two students to follow her. They did so without question, but as they crossed the main lab and heard the panicked screams coming from the adjacent room, they slowed and Hitomi had to turn back and put her hands behind their necks to force them along. "Come on now!" She exclaimed, smiling reassuringly, "That's not for you to be concerned with!" She chimed, and kicked open the door in front of her. Inside, ten hungry ghouls stood up and looked at the two humans now suddenly aware of the situation they had been tricked into. "Sorry 'bout this!" She added, still retaining her pleasant tone. She threw the first human into the room and the ghouls descended on him immediately. The other human still in her grasp began to beg for her life. "Please!" The woman cried, "I have--" Hitomi pushed the woman forwards but held onto her wrist, with a quick strike to the woman's shoulder, Hitomi separated the woman's right arm from the rest of her body using her own bare hand. The woman passed out but before she could hit the ground Hitomi kicked her into the room with the rest of the ghouls and shut the door. Now Hitomi and Munenori were alone in the main lab once more. She crossed the room, the woman's arm still dripping blood from it's stump. She walked past Munenori and hopped up onto a nearby counter and sat, her legs swinging over the edge as she pulled the sleeve off the arm, revealing bare skin. "What are you thinking?" She asked, looking into the window of the room that held the infected ghoul. Blood consistently splattered on the window. The cries of those inside had long since ended. Munenori did not speak for a few moments, simply staring in to the blood soaked glass. Finally he wrestled his eyes away and turned to Hitomi. "... I feel somewhat disappointed." He confessed. "There is something quite... unsatisfying about an easy result." Hitomi smiled. "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…" She replied, quoting Theodore Roosevelt, "I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.†Then she opened her mouth, and it was full of long, thick fangs. She sunk them into the flesh of the arm and tore a chunk away and began to chew. "An appropriate remark, indeed." Munenori replied. "So what now? I don't think there is much more I can help with. Am I to become the next meal for your friends?" Licking her bloody lips clean, Hitomi grinned at the man, "Very astute, Doctor." She replied, "Were it up to me, that might be the case. However, as I have said, the higher-ups did not want you removed from play so soon. As you say, there are a great many things that adversely affect the physical and mental well being of ghouls." She paused as she took another chunk of flesh from the arm and chewed it slowly before swallowing. Resuming, Hitomi said, "I suggest you settle in. You have--" And as she spoke, her voice quickly morphed into her alter ego's mask and she smiled, her fangs bared as the blood from the woman's arm smothered the lower half of her face, "--a long future ahead, ne?!" "That act of yours is decidedly morbid. " Munenori replied. Pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. "I find it more unsettling than you eating a corpse right in front of me. I suppose that makes me the morbid one..." "Poor Dr. Ghoul!" Hitomi exclaimed, holding the severed, half-eaten arm in front of her as if it were her own. "Too much monster to be human, or ghoul! What does that make you?" She pondered, putting the arm's forefinger to her lips thoughtfully before she bit it off and began to crunch. "Perhaps 'monster' is the most apt terminology. It is certainly a popular opinion." Munenori replied. "Not that it particularly matters. There is nothing relevant in a given name or title." "Wrong!" Hitomi corrected Munenori as she finished eating and threw what little remained of the arm in a nearby trash bin. "Titles define us." She added, taking a napkin and wiping the blood from her face as her fangs retracted, returning her face to a state of normality. "Name, surname, gender, age, occupation, rank..." She listed them off, "These things define us, whether it matters to you or not. You are bound by them." She paused and looked him over, "You are Ikitsuki Munenori. Doctor. Human. Age 30." She paused, leaping off the counter as she sniffed the air. "Blood type O Negative." Crossing her arms, Hitomi slowly approached Munenori, "You are the son of an Ikitsuki, with a legacy recognised by others, for better or worse. Your name 'Munenori' is masculine and has many meanings. You are a Doctor, someone a human can trust. You are in your thirties, and so you are old enough to be considered unimportant by those your junior, and yet inexperienced by those your senior. Your blood type even defines you, as your blood is receivable by every other blood group, and is essential in emergencies. You are a special, precious little monster, Dr. Ikitsuki Munenori." Hitomi punctuated her statement with a sharp laugh and then walked away, leaving the doctor to his own devices. As she opened the front door and stepped out onto the street, she paused, "Oh!" She exclaimed cheerily, "I know it's silly to say, but you can't hide, so running would be bad!" She made a frowny face and held a forefinger to the corner of her eye to mimic the falling of a tear, and then slammed the door shut behind her.
  3. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    "What?" Dax frowned, holding her side as she stood up and followed her Master off the ship. The civilians followed them down the ramp as several republic troopers tended to the wounded, and others led the group away to be checked for injuries and situated with quarters or given a hot meal. Dax watched the group of people leaving, and a strange feeling came rushing to the surface. Before she could stop herself, she blurted out, "Wait!" She yelled, and the various men, women and children stopped and turned to face Dax and Ashara. She looked up to her Master unsure of what she'd first intended to say, but looking back at their faces now, she found only one thing she could voice. "I-I'm sorry." She muttered, then said it louder, "I'm sorry. I didn't save everyone... if you lost..." Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes, "... it's my fault, so..." Something moved through the crowd, and they parted slowly to let it through. When it emerged at the front, Dax saw a young girl, no older than six. To her surprise, Dax saw that she was a Mirialan. The little green-skinned girl stumbled up to her and Dax instinctively looked back up at the civilians to scan the group for her parents, but she couldn't see anyone else that was like her or the little girl. She felt a tugging at her trouser leg and looked back down, the girl was asking to be picked up. Dax bent down and the little girl wrapped her arms around Dax's neck and the Padawan lifted her up so that they were eye level. Then the girl reached into a pocket and pulled something out and grabbed hold of Dax's braid. A moment later, she released it and squirmed to be let go. Dax gently placed her back on the floor and the little Mirialan girl hurriedly rejoined the group before they walked into the ship, without a word. Dax held her braid out in front of her and saw that the girl had tied a number of dark green beads to it. Letting out a deep breath, Dax clicked her tongue off the roof of her mouth. Her first mission hadn't turned out anything like she'd imagined. But despite what had happened, she'd learnt a lot, and felt stronger for it. Maybe a little smarter. She turned to Ashara and gave her a weak smile before walking back up into their ship. Once they'd departed, Dax slipped into the chair besides Ashara and sat quietly for a few minutes. It'd be nice to return to Coruscant and maybe sleep in her old dorm. The co-ordinates for their hyperspace jump was keyed in but Dax noticed that they weren't the coordinates for Coruscant. "Uh, Master, where are we going?" She asked, frowning. "Ord Mantell on Jedi Business. " Ashara replied. "I won't know the details until we reach orbit, and then Grand Master Zym will contact us. If you like you can go back to Coruscant on that civilian transport?" Dax made a face that looked as though she was considering it for a moment and then laughed, "Mm, no i'm fine right here, Master. And anyway, what's 'Jedi business'? We're Jedi - we're always business. What are we doing exactly?" She asked, frowning. "I just told you as much as I know." Ashara replied. "Perhaps you should listen more carefully." "I was listening..." She muttered, crossing her arms and pouting. The ship entered and quickly left hyperspace. There before them was the planet Ord Mantell. She'd never been there before, and then she irritably reminded herself she'd never been much of anywhere before. She opened her mouth to say something when a chime echoed from the HoloNet room. Dax flashed Ashara a quick look and then both Master and Padawan made their way there. As they closed the door behind them, the form of Master Zym appeared before them. He looked over both of them with an unreadable expression. "Grand Master Zym." Ashara nodded to the Jedi Master. "Hi," Dax added, smiling and half-waving. "Ah, so this is Dax then." Zym replied. "Nice to meet you, Padawan." "He knows my name." Dax said, grinning at Ashara. "What's that thing on your face for?" She asked curiously. "Perhaps you should have paid attention during your lessons." Zym replied. "I'm, sadly, not contacting you for a nice chat. Have you reached Ord Mantell?""Yes, Master Zym." Ashara replied"Good. Then you should land at Fort Garnick and liaise with Korren Alek. He's an Intelligence Agent under cover. You should probably wear more suitable clothing, and hide your lightsabers. Jedi won't be a welcome sight where you are going. " The HoloNet faded and Dax let out a short huffy noise."We're not the only ones." Dax muttered to herself, though she didn't really mean it. She just wanted to vent, and perhaps, have the last word. "Do we have other clothes, Master?" Dax asked, looking at her Jedi robes, "I don't think I brought anything else...""I'm sure i can find something of mine that will fit you." Ashara replied. "Let's go have a look in my room shall we?""Fantastic." Dax replied, regretting having said anything. Ashara led Dax into her quarters and immediately, Dax was struck by how different it was in here. Although it was just as sparsely decorated as her own room, it was completely different. The lighting was less invasive, there was a large double bed, a wardrobe and even a small cushioned area for meditation. It was actually quite pleasant in here, compared to the bright lights, humming engine noise and hot temperature of her own room. Ashara handed Dax a bunch of clothes, she rifled through them and picked out a few of the better looking items. Once she was changed out of her Jedi robes, she looked at herself in the mirror. She was now wearing a pair of black leather trousers and boots, and a black long-sleeved top. Over it, she wore a full-length white coat with a large hood on the back. She pulled a pair of goggles on and used them like a hair band to keep her hair out of her face. "Not bad." She mused, and thought she might just keep the goggles on in future if it kept the hair out of her face. "What about you?" She asked. Ashara changed in to a pair of tight-fitted, dark blue trousers with black pouch pockets on either side. She wore knee-high black boots. Her long sleeved jacket matched her trousers, hugging her form, with black rubber padding over her abdomen and her shoulders. She completed the outfit with a pair of black gloves and a thick, metallic belt. Finally she removed the clasps from her Lekku, letting them hang loosely at either side of her shoulders. "I suggest you find a place to hide your lightsaber that is discrete but easy to locate." Ashara said as she pulled a pair of blaster pistols from her wardrobe. "This is more appropriate. Use this when we are undercover. Also... on Ord Mantell I am not your Master, or Ashara. Just call me Ven.""Neat!" Dax replied, taking the blaster pistol and examining it excitedly. Then she reluctantly gave her lightsaber one last look before she hid it inside her coat and slipped her blaster into a holster and attached it to her hip. "So what do I get to be called?" She asked, "What about something mysterious, like..." She scrunched her face up in thought. "I am a known Jedi." Ashara replied. "Ven is a common surname for Twi'leks. It won't seem strange here. You, however, shouldn't have to worry about anyone knowing who you are." Ashara left her room, leaving Dax watching her leave with an astonished look on her face. "... lame!" Dax called out after her. "Lame!!" She repeated and followed Ashara out. She walked onto the bridge and then sank dejectedly into the chair beside her Master as their ship lowered itself through the pink-haze of the atmosphere and down to the planet's surface. The engines roared as the ship banked and slowed to rest on a landing platform and Dax quickly got out of her seat - wincing slightly as she reminded herself it would be a little while before her injury had totally healed. Both Jedi stood and left their ship and immediately Dax was met with a wave of heat and she winced. "Eugh!" She grunted. It was so hot that the city around them looked hazy. She could feel the sweat beading on her skin already. "I immediately don't like this place..." She muttered."This isn't a vacation, squirt." Ashara replied uncharacteristically, before adding, "Sorry, just getting in to character.""I like that better than the real you." Dax muttered, and licked her dry lips. "Geez, who put that there?!" She snapped, looking up at the brilliant white sun that looked like it was a stone's throw from the planet's atmosphere. Dax irritably kicked the dirt in front of her and then followed her Master off the ship. "Should have grabbed a hat." She grumbled, and pulled the goggles over her eyes.
  4. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    The lights of the passing cars flashed by as Hitomi led Munenori down the street in silence. She moved quickly, and so he was forced to keep pace. She never looked back, knowing he would not attempt to run. He was likely the only human to know that it would be a pointless exercise, even amongst all these people. She turned a corner suddenly and disappeared from the crowd, into a quiet back alley. The alley was relatively quiet, a small black cat watched them pass, a woman on the second floor of an old apartment was smoking a cigarette on her balcony, paying no attention to them. When they reached the far end of the alley, they came to a wall, and a door. Hitomi banged on the door three times and for a moment, her mask raised and she waved and smiled pleasantly into the peep hole. The door unlocked and she strode inside, dropping the façade as quickly as she had adopted it. Inside was the polar opposite of the dark, grungy alley. Although the light was still clinical and low, it looked clean and sterile inside. The laboratory was full of beakers and vials, and various pieces of interesting looking technology and machines. Hitomi turned to face Munenori at last and watched him as his eyes fell over the lab, "Is this enough, or do I need more...?" She asked, her tone level, but her eyes darted to the ghoul behind her who recoiled as though he'd been stung. She pulled out her phone and held it in her hand, waiting for his answer. One that would likely cement the third wheel's future. "For now this will be fine." Munenori replied. "I might need more later depending on the test results." Munenori gave her a cursory glance before continuing. "I will need live subjects... and I cannot guarantee they will retain their current mental state... or continue living for that matter. How do you feel about that?" "Human, or ghoul?" She asked, scrolling down her phone list. "Both." Munenori replied. "Ghouls to test...humans to see how they react around their prey." Pressing 'call', Hitomi held the phone to her ear and looked around the lab as it rang, when the person on the other end of the line picked up, she said one word, "Both." And then hung up and walked across to the far side of the laboratory. A small kitchen had been fitted with a variety of basic essentials, she opened a cupboard and pulled out a bag of coffee beans and started to prepare a pot of coffee. "The kitchen has been stocked with a variety of foods for your consumption, Doctor. Though you may want to leave the top-shelf contents of the fridge to myself." She started the coffee machine and then turned to face him, "Would you like a cup of coffee?" "Black, please." Munenori replied. "I grew rather accustomed to it that way. There is one more thing I require though, if it's not too much trouble?" "Speak your mind, Doctor." Hitomi replied, as she poured the coffee into two mugs. "Time." Munenori said simply. "My research was seized when I was shut down. I still retain it here." He pointed to his head as he spoke. "I have practiced techniques which allow me to store and then recall vast quantities of information. However to recall it will take time and concentration. You can remain present, of course. However if I am to isolate the solution quickly this must be done." Placing his coffee on the edge of the counter in front of him, Hitomi took a sip of her own and let out an audible sigh, "Do as you wish, Doctor. We are still on a timetable. I suggest you 'recall' it quickly." She heard a noise outside and put her mug to one side and adopted her sweeter persona. Opening the door, she saw a human man with a large gut holding a clip board. "Evening!" Hitomi exclaimed, smiling at him. The man returned her smile and pointed behind him. "Uh I got a memo here saying that lab technicians were needed?" The man turned back and called out, "Guys, over here please." "Teacher, this is a strange place for--" One of the students stopped mid-sentence when he saw Hitomi. "Evening!" She smiled at the young man and he clammed up, "Dr. Ikitsuki is happy to give them all positions here for the summer, Sir." She paused, looking them over. There was at least a dozen or more students, all of college age. All human. She could tell just by their scent. "If they'd like to go in and give their names to him, i'm sure he'll get them set up!" She stood to one side and the students filed in. Before the last student had entered the building, another group of people arrived while Hitomi was still talking to the portly teacher. They had no shepherd, and Hitomi could sense immediately that they were not human. They were an eclectic group, varying wildly in appearance, demeanour and age. The teacher looked at them with a peculiar expression. He was clearly unsure of why they were here. "Inside?" One of them asked Hitomi. "Mm!!" She smiled back at the ghoul who sauntered inside, followed by a dozen others who seemed to have no connection to one another. "Thank you, Sir! Feel free to check back in, if you have a moment, you would also be welcome!" She bowed to the teacher who nodded and returned the gesture and left. Once the teacher was far enough down the alley, Hitomi dropped her mask and shut the door. "You are - all of you - to do as the Doctor wishes! Any misbehaviour will be disciplined..." She spoke to the students who all nodded and reassured her that there would be no such behaviour, but it was the ghouls behind them that knew the message was directed at them. "Thank you all for coming on such short notice." Munenori said with a genuinally warm smile. "While I make preparations I will need you all to work together to do some prep work. We will need fresh beakers, sterilized equipment, someone should check the computer systems are working. We will also need to conduct notes and-" Munenori continued on, listing meaningless tasks to keep the students busy while he gathered his thoughts. Hitomi let a genuine grin touch the corners of her lips, he was a better monster than she was. That deceit and detachment came naturally to him. She watched as the students began to work, passing by and weaving through the ghouls at the back, more or less ignoring them. But Hitomi noticed several of the ghouls were fidgeting, watching the students closely. "I'm going to take our other group into the next room, Doctor." Opening the door to the adjacent room, Hitomi held her hand up, inviting the ghouls inside. She watched each of them as they entered, but put her palm against the chest of the last straggler, stopping him. "How long since you've eaten?" She asked, her eyes narrowing as she looked him over. "Days. Not so much as a scrap." Hitomi looked at the busy students and back to the ghoul, "Wait." She walked over to the small kitchen area and opened the fridge. Hitomi pulled a small plastic container out and opened it and looked down at the bloody meat steak inside. It wasn't much. She took a knife and fork and sliced a mouthful from the steak and jabbed it with her fork. Smelling it tenderly, she touched the meat to her tongue and then pulled the meat from the fork and began to chew, savouring it. She stared at the rest of the steak and then closed the plastic lid and walked back to the other ghoul. "Here." She forced the container into his arms and he walked inside with the rest. Following them in, Hitomi took one last glance back at the group of students and then closed the door behind her. As she turned back to look at the ghouls a fist smashed into her cheek. The ghoul who had assaulted her leapt back and bared his fangs at her, showing his true nature. Slowly and carefully, she brought her hand up to her cheek and touched the area where she'd been hit. The skin had broken and a trickle of blood wept down her face. Hitomi brought a finger up the side of her face, wiping the blood away and then sucked her blood-stained finger as the wound on her face quickly disappeared. "You should not have done that." She said simply, looking at the ghoul with an intense stare. "You don't frighten me!" The ghoul snarled at her, "Those humans should be ours! We were promised a feast, and you're making them work instead! I want what was promised me!!" He snapped. "You should put those away," Hitomi nodded at his fangs, "Before I take them from you." She waited a moment, assessing the group. Several of the others seemed to have similar ideas. "None of you were promised anything!" She called out to the group, letting all hear her voice clearly. The silence that filled the room afterwards was deafening. She let it hang for a while longer and then said, "You will be fed, in time. Until then, you will behave yourselves. You will remain separated from the humans, as you have shown you are incapable of restraint." Her eyes fell upon the ghoul who had struck her, "And you," She added, "Will be fed last." "What gives you the right to--" "-- I am Hayashi Hitomi!" She yelled into the air, "If you know my name, then you know what I am. But, if we set that aside, then consider this..." She paused, staring at the ghoul who had hit her, "... this is Shinjuku. This is my ward. My territory." Her words were final, and so she started to leave but as her hand touched the doorknob, she heard rapidly approaching footsteps. Whirling around, Hitomi's amber eyes changed almost instantly. Her black pupils expanded so far that they filled her eyes, turning them entirely black. Several of the ghouls recoiled but the ghoul who had first hit her, was intent on finishing what he'd started. He slashed at her with his claws and she deftly dodged to one side and took a step back. He turned to face her and ran at her a second time. But once again, he was unable to land a hit, though she had barely moved. Once again, he ran at her, snarling as he leapt into the air. Fangs aimed for her throat. At the last second, Hitomi pulled something from her coat, whipped it through the air, and stepped to one side. The ghoul hit the wall with a dull thunk, his head and body separating as they collapsed to the floor and blood quickly washed across the floor. Whatever she had drawn from her coat, had already been replaced. She looked over the group one last time and then turned her back to them. Her pupils retracted until her eyes appeared normal and before she left, she held her hand up, "Enjoy your evening!" She called back, with her sickly-sweet charade, and stepped past the corpse and walked out, swiftly closing the door behind her. "I-Is everything alright?" One of the students asked, frowning. "Mm!!" She smiled at the student, "I'm just clumsy," She replied, laughing. The student blushed and smiled, then walked away. The night pressed on. It had been over an hour since the ghouls and students had first arrived. Munenori had been sat at his desk, lost in his thoughts. She walked over to him and bent down so she could catch his line of sight, but he looked vacant. "Tch..." She pouted, crossing her arms. The ghouls had remained silent since her 'chat' with them, and the students were content with the busy work they had been given. She reached down for her coffee mug and took a sip and curled her top lip. It was cold. She liked the flavour of coffee, but there was something about when it turned cold that repulsed her. She walked over to the coffee machine and started to make some more when several of the students wandered over and began taking interest. Suddenly she found herself with a dozen or so coffee cups lined up. The students began chatting amongst themselves as she made the now far larger pot of coffee. Then she heard a rustling sound behind her and as one, the students and Hitomi all turned to see Munenori rousing from his thoughts. "Are you ready to continue, Doctor?!" Hitomi asked, fake excitement spreading into her voice as a smile did her face.
  5. ALL ABOARD THE PERSONA HYPE TRAIN

    Really the first time a Persona game has ever made an impact on me, and that's just from the trailer. I'll probably pick this up.
  6. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    The Imperial troops were flooding into the cavern hangar now, Dax deflected all the blaster fire she could, but she couldn't block it all any more. She heard a scream as one of the civilians fell and she tried to suppress her feelings. She wanted to rage at the soldiers for their actions, but she knew it would bring her no happiness. Everything she had been taught told her that that was the path to the dark side. But still, she felt it. A stray laser shot flew towards a child at the outer edge of the group, and Dax had to summon The Force and run. She could see the laser bolt flying towards the child, it was going to hit her, it was too late. Dax started running, summoning The Force to aid her. She had already seen the child's death a split-second before, and had to stop it. She reached the child in the nick of time, and rolled out of the way of the laser, but it still nicked her arm and she let out a cry as she fell. She had to ignore the pain, bury it deep down in a place her mind couldn't find. She helped the child to his feet and picked him up in one arm, deflecting laser fire with the other. The boy looked up at her and she could see her own expression as a child when she had been saved by the Jedi, reflected in his face. Dax gave the boy to his mother and turned her attention back to the Imperials, "Group up behind me, I can't hold them back any more!!" She yelled, and the civilians bunched up behind her, hiding behind the whirling blue lightsaber that was deflecting a near-steady beam of laser fire now. It was too much, too many shots were still getting through, she had to sacrifice the civilians, or herself. Several more shots passed through and Dax was grazed several times, she ignored it. Finally, blaster fire bit into her stomach and Dax gasped. But it was not for the reason she was expecting. The pain was excruciating, but suddenly she felt something horrible. Worse even than when she had sensed the Sith. It was like witnessing a bright, beautiful light being snuffed out and it instantly brought tears to her eyes. Had Ashara fallen? Dax fell to one knee, but refused to fall. A minute later, the roar of engines behind her signalled the arrival of their ship. She could hear the walkway lowering and the civilians quickly flooding into the ship. Just a few seconds longer, she had to stop the blasters for just a few more seconds. She heard the last footsteps running up the walkway and immediately Dax turned and summoned The Force to leap far and wide, landing part-way up the walkway as it started to close. She deflected a couple more shots as it closed and finally deactivated her lightsaber, casting the walkway into shadow for a few seconds. She could hear the panicked whispers of the civilians, and her own short, raspy breaths. Dax looked down at the wound in her stomach and touched it gingerly. Wincing, she cursed. She would have to get that seen to and soon, or she wouldn't be up for much longer. But not now, she had other plans. If Ashara was still alive, she had to save her. "Move it, droid!" Dax barked, as she stumbled into the bridge. She had to hold herself upright using one of the seats. "Oh, Dax, I see you are injured. That must hurt like a--" "Get out of that chair!!" Dax took a step towards the droid and collapsed to the floor, suppressing a scream. "You need medical care, I shall ask that morose medical droid to take care of you..." X2 got out of the his chair and helped Dax to her feet, but as soon as she was upright she pushed off the droid and stumbled forwards into the pilot's chair and started pressing buttons. "We are to leave the planet, Dax?" X2 asked, scanning the group of injured and fearful civilians. "Nope." She replied, putting her hands on the controls and pulling the ship back up into the clouds. "We're going back." "I would advise against it, and Ashara is capable of deactivating Sith. Why, one time--" Dax started pressing buttons and X2 walked up beside her, "Dax Arandel, you are inept at piloting this starship. This is a bad idea." "It's okay, X2. I already know the button I want to press." She muttered. The ship's engines roared as she flew over the temple, she looked out of the viewscreen and saw not hundreds, but thousands of Imperial troopers flooding the sacred Jedi grounds. Her eyes wandered over the battlefield, if that was what it was. It was more of a massacre than anything. She saw dozens upon dozens of bodies, republic troops and more than a few civilians. Then her senses redirected her to another scene. She saw a robed form lying on the floor, the head detached from it's body. As the ship approached, she was able to tell it was not Ashara, but then she realised it could only have been Master Raella. She had not been expecting it, but she felt the tears falling from her eyes as she descended towards the battle. He had been an irritable, difficult, stupid old man. But he was a good man, and a great Jedi. They had no right to end his life in such a way. His head separated from his body like that, it was barbaric. Dax bent down, wincing in pain as she stretched out and pressed the large button she had hit once before. The computer's voice echoed out with familiarity, "Secondary cannons primed." X2 looked out of the viewscreen as Dax brought the ship to a stationary hovering position, "The Apprentice has become the Master..." X2 said simply, and Dax knew what that meant. She had been told this sad truth many times before. More barbarism. "He can have his Master..." Dax muttered, aiming the ship, "He's not having mine too!!" She yelled. Holding the trigger down, the ship opened fire. Enormous bolts of blaster fire exploded from the ship's cannons, scorching the ground between Ashara and the Sith approaching her. Both combatants leapt out of the way but Dax continually redirected the cannons at the Sith, forcing him back over and over again until there was a significant distance between her Master and that creature. She saw the Sith's snarling face as he looked up at the ship in unashamed rage and she smiled back at him then centred her guns on the Sith once more and fired. The Sith turned and leapt as far as he could, and in that instant, Dax sent the ship overhead. X2 lowered the walkway and Ashara leapt inside. A few moments later, Dax heard Ashara enter the bridge and she pulled herself out of the pilot's chair. Tears were streaming down her face, and she clutched one hand to her wounded belly, the other still clung to her deactivated lightsaber. She took a couple of steps towards Ashara, and then fell forwards. For a brief moment Ashara's face expressed worry for Dax, but it disappeared as she centred herself. There was no time for such feelings right now. She moved to Dax and caught her before she hit the floor, picking her up and putting her arm over Ashara's shoulder. "Come on, you need to walk with me." She said, her voice soft and calm, before turning to X2. "Get us out of here, now." Ashara took Dax down the steps of the bridge and across the corridor of the ship, leading her in to the med bay and lying her down on the bed in the room. She began sifting through the drawers looking for something and returned with a med pack and a small injection gun, with a vial full of green liquid. "Hold still." She said, before immediately pressing the needle end in to Dax's arm. "That's an adrenal stim. You'll feel a little dizzy for a minute." she said calmly. "Now lift up your shirt." "Ah..." Dax scrunched her face up as she peeled the bottom of her robe away from her belly and saw the wound underneath. Dax thought it looked pretty bad, "... I couldn't save them all, I wasn't strong enough...""You did more than enough." Ashara replied as she took the Kolto from the med pack and began to apply it to Dax's wound, trying to be gentle so as not to hurt her too much. "You should never have been in that situation in the first place. Given the circumstances... you exceeded my expectations.""I think that means you did good, kid." X2 interjected. Dax smiled at X2, but it didn't make her feel any better. "Master Raella..." Dax was barely able to say his name, "I felt it." She said, her tone even but her gaze staring off into space, "When he died, I felt it..." Her face scrunched up as fresh tears fell."Those sensations will only grow stronger as you become stronger in The Force." Ashara explained. "Do not view it as a burden. Master Raella has transformed in to The Force. Do not mourn him."She nodded, and while she understood, and wanted to believe, she couldn't help but keep picturing his crumpled, headless body. Lying there in the snow, with that sneering maniac standing over it. "What do we do now..." She muttered, looking down at her covered wound. She pulled close her robes, putting aside her mild annoyance at seeing a burn hole in them. A thought resurfaced, "That Sith... i'd been told Sith will kill each other, but I didn't realise it was so..." She shook her head, unsure of what word had to finish that sentence. "That is what pride and ambition do to a person." Ashara replied. "I sensed much pain and anger in him." Ashara thought for a moment on Dax's other question. "We have suffered a terrible loss today. Ilum is the most sacred place to the Jedi. The future has become... clouded. I would like to resume your training, but I feel the actions of the Empire will call us to a more pressing engagement. It is... not what I would have liked for you.""I feel pain and anger..." Dax replied, "Does that weaken me, Master?" She asked. "I can't forgive the Sith for what they've done...""It does." Ashara replied, her voice a little pained to admit it. "Pain and anger are easily felt, Dax. You must learn to remove such things from yourself. It is hard... but it is necessary. To forgive one who does not deserve it... that is a truly enlightened thing. The ability to do that is what makes a Jedi.""I see..." Dax replied, "Thank you, Master." After a minute's silence, Dax perked up a little and wiped the tears from her eyes, "I'm glad we saved so many, and... and that you are safe." She paused and then grinned, "Can I admit to being a little happy at seeing that Sith's face when I opened fire on him?" She laughed."Well you just did." Ashara replied. "Just be careful. Now get some rest."A floating droid hovered over to the trio, "Are you in need of assistance?" It asked, in a monotone voice. X2 walked over to it, "Go away, shoo!" He pushed the medical droid back, "You are a bore, Ashara should have you melted into scrap." Dax smiled at the interchange between the two droids and laid back onto the bunk and closed her eyes.
  7. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Sprinting towards the temple, Dax leapt up the stairs in a single bound and used the momentum of the ice to carry her across the threshold. As she entered the temple, she saw republic troopers running in all directions. Dozens of civilians milled around in the centre of the temple, unsure what was happening or what they should do. The loud whine of a starship engine settling outside the temple galvanised the republic troopers. They quickly ran towards the entrance, though a couple strayed from the group. "Hey!!" Dax yelled, but the deserters were ignoring her. She sprinted after them, quickly running them down. Dax leapt over the troopers and landed in front of them, crossing her arms with a furious expression on her face, "I said 'Hey!', you druk!!" "The Sith are coming, our fleets aren't going to get here in time! If we stay here, we're doomed!!" The trooper started to push Dax aside and she grabbed his arm, twisted it around behind his back and swept out his legs, knocking him to the floor. "There are people in this temple! And you're responsible for them, so do your droyking job and buy them some time!!" She picked the man up off the floor and pushed him back, and for a moment he was unsure what to do. His comrade glanced from him, to Dax and then ran towards the front entrance. After a moment's hesitation, the trooper nodded and followed his fellow trooper. Shaking her head, Dax turned her attention to the panicked civilians who had gathered in the centre of the temple's main floor. "Hey! Are you all alright?!" Dax asked, as she ran up to them. Their responses came in a tsunami of panicked questions. For a few seconds she was overwhelmed, trying to understand what they were all saying. She could hear the starship's engine dying down and the march of imperial troops. Dax tried to drown out the noise generated by the civilians and focus. She reached out with The Force and saw hundreds upon hundreds of imperial troops, marching towards the temple. Blaster fire exploded behind her and Dax knew there was no more time left. "Enough!" She barked, quieting the civilians panic almost immediately, "Panic later, follow me!!" She yelled, and to her great surprise, the crowd quickly followed her down the tunnel towards the east wing. "Go go!!" Dax yelled, the imperials were gaining on them. People couldn't move fast enough. They weren't going to make it, and the republic troopers were all likely already dead. She could feel the imps running down the tunnel after them. Sometimes they were so close that she felt blaster fire from behind her just barely miss as they turned a corner. Within minutes the tunnel opened out into a large cavern with a wide open front, used as a natural ship's hangar. She quickly looked around for available ships, but there were none that would carry the civilians into space. She would have to wait for her Master to send their own ship. "What are we to do?!" One of the civilians screamed. "Stay calm!" Dax snapped at the man, "Help is coming..." She added, but she couldn't feel the approach of the starship. She had been so distracted by sensing for the ship, that it wasn't until she felt the barrel of a laser rifle press into her back that she realised the imperial troopers had caught them. The civilians gasped and backed away, holding their loved ones close to them. Her upper lip curled into a snarl and Dax shook her head. She guessed this is what it was probably like for Master Raella, when sensing with The Force, you had to be careful not to lose sight of the world around you. Looking to the future, meant your mind wasn't in the present. She would have to be mindful of that in the future - if she had a future. "On the ground, Jedi scum..." The trooper pushed his rifle into her back as his comrade searched her. "Found it." The other imp added, pulling the lightsaber from her belt. Dax fell to one knee and put her hands behind her head. "Command?" One of the imperials touched the side of their helmet, presumably a communicator. "Yes, we have a group of civilians here. A Jedi child, too." There was a moment's pause, as whoever was on the other side gave them their orders. "Understood." He replied, and the two troopers raised their rifles. "They're unarmed!!" Dax yelled back at them. She could sense their intent, and knew she had to act. Now or never. Dax quickly leapt up and back-flipped over the head of the nearest imperial trooper. She reached out and yanked the lightsaber from the other trooper's belt using The Force and instantly ignited it and charged the two soldiers. They opened fire, but had only enough time to shoot once. Dax effortlessly deflected their rifle lasers into the ceiling of the hangar, whirled around and sliced the first trooper's gun in half with her lightsaber and kicked the man so hard in the chest that he flew back into the far wall and crashed into it, knocking him unconscious. She turned her attention to the second trooper but the man fired at close range and Dax had no time to redirect the shot, she blocked it with her lightsaber and what happened next was unlike anything she had been expecting. She imagined seeing the blaster laser travelling back and hitting the trooper in slow motion. She imagined hearing the man's scream as he died. But the truth was the laser pinged from the man's rifle, to her lightsaber, and back into his chest, in less than a second. His startled cry was quickly cut short and he collapsed like a marionette that had had their strings cut. For a moment Dax's mind couldn't register what had just happened. She stared at the man's body and looked around the hangar, there were no other troopers here yet. They had just been scouts. She turned to the civilians and wandered over to them, deactivating her lightsaber and replacing it on her belt. "What are we to do, Jedi?!" One of the civilians asked, "The ship?!" "Just..." Dax held her hand up and shambled over to a shipping crate and used it to support her, she felt dizzy with guilt and nausea. She had pictured disabling droids and disarming opponents dozens of times, run hundreds of simulations with her training saber. But nothing like this. She had not prepared herself for what it would be like to take a life. She had never expected to do it so soon, or so unintentionally. She doubled over and emptied her stomach onto the ground and stumbled back, disgusted with herself. "She's just a child..." One of the civilians muttered. "I'm a Jedi." Dax corrected the woman irritably. She didn't care if they were right or not. She had to get them to safety, but the ship was nowhere in sight. They were sitting ducks, perched at the edge of the hangar. "Things couldn't get any worse..." She muttered to herself. In response, a dozen imperial troopers marched into the hangar and opened fire. "I'm an idiot!" Dax yelled, as she ignited her lightsaber and deflected the first barrage of laser fire. The troopers were steadily advancing, and more were slowly emerging from the tunnel. It was becoming more and more difficult for Dax to deflect every laser blast, she had taken to just widely deflecting them in any direction in front of her, no longer carefully redirecting them. She just hoped that none of them would hit something explosive, or ricochet and hit a civilian. They didn't have much time, soon she'd be overwhelmed and then her, and the civilians, would be cut down. "Any time now, Master..." She growled, knocking several more blaster shots out of the way.
  8. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Attempting meditation the night before had done little to quiet Dax's thoughts. Her mind was still a whirling tempest of concepts and feelings all vying for her attention. For now, she'd just have to push them out of the way as best she could and concentrate on the day ahead of her. Once she had washed and changed into clean robes, and had something to eat, Dax left her room and met up with Ashara in the courtyard just outside of the temple. She was pleased to find when she asked her Master where they would be training, that Ashara had said 'outside'. The cool temperature didn't bother her, in fact it felt like home, plus it would mean she could train harder without working up a sweat. She could handle hot temperatures, there had been more than a few warm nights on Coruscant. But even so, she didn't think her race was very well suited to the heat. "I'm so ready for this," Dax said to herself, as they walked out into a snowy courtyard, away from the troops and that cantankerous old Jedi. She pulled her new lightsaber from her belt and twirled it in her hand before assuming her stance. "Okay." Ashara began to explain the exercise, "These training droids are salvaged Imperial Battle Droids, they have on-board shield generators, wrist-mounted blasters and have vibroswords equipped. Their lasers won't kill you, of course." "Alright." Dax replied, "Sooo... what? Can I trash them?" A brow raised expectantly alongside a mischievous smile. "I'd prefer you keep them as intact as possible, so we can repair them." Ashara replied, "But, yes, if you must." "I'll try not to break your toys." Dax replied with a smile, and turned to face the droids. For a few seconds nothing happened, and then suddenly the droid on the far right activated and immediately raised it's right arm and began firing. The blaster fire was constant, and had Dax been without her Jedi reflexes, she would have been hit immediately. She rolled out of the way, and in a whirling flourish, ignited her lightsaber and knocked one of the blaster bolts aside, sending it hurtling into the atmosphere. The lightsaber in her hand felt light, and yet it took more dexterity to wield than her training saber. Because of the handle, it also handled differently, but it was more comfortable for her to hold as well. She quickly knocked aside two more blaster shots and - getting cocky - she leapt forwards and tried to knock another shot away from her, but missed by an inch. The blaster bolt grazed her arm and Dax let out a loud yelp and dropped her lightsaber. The moment her hand released the lightsaber handle, the ignition button deactivated and the harmless weapon sank into the snow. "Geez!" Dax brought her arm up and licked the burn that was forming, then bent down and picked up a handful of snow and pressed it to her green skin. She was glad she hadn't worn her full robes, as the sleeve would likely have been torn. "That hurt!!" She barked, staring down the now deactivated droid. "Sloppy." Ashara replied. "Real enemies won't wait for you to lick your wounds. If you lose your lightsaber in a real battle you risk your life. Start again." Releasing a pent-up sigh, Dax picked up her lightsaber and walked away. Her pride had been hurt more than her arm, and when she turned back to face the droid, she went on the offensive without pause. The droid began firing, and she activated her lightsaber, knocking each shot aside without slowing, she raised her lightsaber and brought it down on the droid, quick as lightning. The shield activated, however, and her lightsaber crackled along the outside of the opposing energy field while the droid attempted to swat her aside. Leaping back to avoid the strike, Dax quickly ran back at the droid, raised her lightsaber as though she was going to strike again and the droid raised its arm to swat her aside once more. This time, however, Dax leapt clear over the droid, turning mid-air as she landed behind it. She threw out her hand as she landed, using The Force to knock the droid down into the snow and then before it could pull itself back up, she landed on it's back and plunged her lightsaber into it's core, disabling it. Straightening up, she brushed a stray strand of black hair out of the way and muttered something about 'feeling better', then deactivated her blue lightsaber. "Better." Ashara replied. "You rely too much on your eyesight, though. You need to listen to your other senses. Here... put this on." Ashara pulled a length of cloth from inside of her robe. "Blindfold yourself." Ashara pushed a button on her console and three more droids activated and made their way to the makeshift arena. "Three enemies this time. Use The Force to see them. Or is that too much of a challenge?" A small smirk appeared on Ashara's face. Dax shot her Master a dubious glare as she took the strip of cloth and tied it around her eyes. Darkness enveloped her world, the quiet howl of the wind surrounded her. She quickly activated her lightsaber and heard the sound of blaster fire ahead of her. She dodged to avoid the first barrage of shots before spinning her lightsaber around to catch several more, she heard one of the droids take a step towards her and she knew exactly where it was then. As it fired, she deflected the shot back at the droid, and heard the metallic hiss as it powered down. But the other two droids were still firing, and while they were stationary, it was harder to gauge where they were coming from when their blaster fire seemed to echo around the courtyard and become drowned out beneath the wind. Feeling the heat of a laser blast to her right, Dax quickly leapt to one side as several more shots reached her location. That was too close. She couldn't just rely on her physical senses though. Reluctantly, she had to admit that Ashara was right. She held her lightsaber in front of her with both hands and waited, reaching out with The Force. She could feel Ashara's life force like a beacon, and as she reached out further, even Master Raella's lifeforce was blinding, inescapable. She could feel other life forms around her, many of them tiny insects or strange mammal-like creatures. But the droids did not have quite so bright a life force. But she knew, however, that The Force was a part of everything. She heard their blasters resume firing and she began deflecting their shots, moving towards them. With each step, she sensed a little more. But then suddenly, it was as though she had had an epiphany. The two droids stood before her lit up like a pair of roaring starship engines. She quickly ran towards them, used The Force to knock one into the other, and ran her lightsaber across the top of them, separating the pair into halves. Dax pulled the strip of cloth down from her eyes and tried to slow her quick, shallow breathing. "That was amazing," She whispered, "I've never seen The Force quite like that before... never so strongly." "The Force is our true power, and its possibilities far exceed a simple lightsaber." Ashara replied sagely. "You are learning many lessons here in quite a short time. This was a worthwhile trip after all." Dax nodded to herself, thinking quietly in an altogether uncharacteristic manner, "This place is still stupid." She replied, sniffing. But after a moment she added, "But, yeah, I learnt a lot here. Plus, I got this." She placed her lightsaber back on her belt and tapped it gently like a well-behaved pet. "What's next, Master? Would you like me to tame a rancor?" She asked, putting a hand on her hip as a cheeky grin spread across her face. "We can maybe save that until tomorrow." Ashara replied with a soft smile. "Why don't you go study some of the holocrons here? The Jedi of the past have many things they can teach you." "What's a bunch of dead Jedi gonna teach me?" She muttered, leaning back and cricking her shoulders, "They're dead. They weren't so hot." "Because they died far older and wiser than you, my Padawan" Ashara replied. "Now off you go, stop stalling." "Hello?" Dax called out, her voice echoing into the temple. "Helloooo?! Master Raella!!" There was no response. Dax let out a sigh, he was probably asleep somewhere, recovering from breakfast. She scratched her head and was just about to start wandering around the temple to satisfy her curiosity when she felt the presence of another person. "Oh, sensed me at last, did you?" Master Raella asked her, his frown adding an extra layer of wrinkles. "I..." Dax scowled, "It's rude to sneak up on people." "I did not sneak, you were simply deaf." Raella replied, raising a bushy eyebrow. She shook her head but decided to let it slide, much as that annoyed her, "My Master wants me to look over some of the Jedi holocrons." "Oh..." Raella muttered, "Why?!" "Because i'm a stupid, ungrateful, waste of a Padawan, and I need to learn things, that's why." She said sarcastically. "Oh. Very well." The old Jedi relented, and at first she was pleased with how easily he had given in, but then realised he had accepted that description of her without question or correction. As he turned, she stuck her tongue out at him, and followed. Master Raella led Dax down a flight of stairs and into a room with a very high ceiling. The room stretched on for an age, and was filled with shelves upon shelves of records, texts and Jedi holocrons. "There," Master Raella pointed out across the seemingly labyrinthian records, "Go mad." The old Jedi Master's comment made Dax's face light up but she had to suppress her laughter until he had left. Once he'd gone, however - and she'd quickly vented her amusement - Dax found herself strangely curious of what these old records might hold. She walked up and down the records and picked a shelf at random and walked down it. But then she looked across the various marked holocrons to seek anything of interest. "Starship blueprint, history of the blah blahblah, nothing..." Dax muttered to herself, "Manual of Force Healing, boring." She passed one of the holocrons and then quickly came back to it and read the description, "Account of the Jedi Purge by Jedi Master Meetra Surik." She picked up the cube-shaped holocron and threw it into the air and caught it with a smile, "Cool." Then looked around the archive for a little space. "Okay..." Dax said to herself, holding the holocron in front of her, "Activate holocron..." Nothing happened, "Turn on holocron?" She asked, frowning and then unnecessarily shaking the little cube. Dax shook her head, she'd wished she had listened more to her teachers. But then a distant, foggy memory came to her. Something about using The Force. It couldn't hurt. She placed the cube on the ground in front of her and reached out with The Force, and the moment she attempted to move the holocron, it activated, "Oh!" She gasped. The room was suddenly bathed in deep blue light, and the appearance of a young human woman with short hair stood before her. Her skin, hair and garments were all tinted blue by the hologram light. "I--" Dax started, but the hologram cut her off. "--I am Jedi Master Meetra Surik, my Jedi Knights and I were responsible for defeating the Sith Lords guilty of instigating and enforcing the Jedi Purge. A galaxy-wide event intended to exterminate the Jedi Order. The Purge was led by Sith Lords Nihilus, Traya and Sion. They scattered the Jedi Order, and hunted us for years." Suddenly the woman vanished and was replaced by a scene of a large battleship firing enormous cannons. Their firepower was terrifying, even as a hologram. Dax watched as dozens of tiny ships blinked out of existence, and then suddenly Meetra Surik returned. "That's horrible." Dax said quietly, as the hologram watched her in silence, "What happened afterwards?" She asked. "You are a Padawan, you do not have access to that information." The hologram of Meetra Surik replied. "I... well maybe i'm not, did you think about that?" Dax crossed her arms irritably. "You are a Padawan, you do not--" "--alright, alright!" Dax snapped and huffed air from her nostrils. "That's all." The hologram vanished, and the room's light returned to normal. Dax picked up the holocron and held it in her hands for a few moments. The Sith had really tried to wipe out every Jedi? She knew the Sith were misguided, and while she'd heard stories, she'd never realised they could be such monsters. Seeing those ships destroyed, unable to defend themselves. There were no prisoners, no terms of surrender. Only death. In the end, Dax spent several hours down amongst the records, checking the occasional holocron and listening to a Jedi Master or Knight give her an insight into a piece of their history, or an explanation of a Jedi technique. Eventually, however, she fell upon a holocron on the fighting style she had wanted to learn - Makashi. She excitedly pulled the holocron from it's resting place and, like the others, activated it using The Force. The now familiar blue light bathed the room once more, and once again, an interactive hologram likeness of a Jedi stood before her. "Oh, not you again--" Dax moaned. "--I am Jedi Master Meetra Surik." "Didn't you have anything better to do than record holocrons?" Dax asked irritably. The hologram remained silent, "Fine!" Dax snapped and licked the inside of her teeth to distract her from her irritation, "Show me how to fight using Makashi." She asked, as politely as she could. "Makashi, also known as Form II, The Way of the Ysalamiri, or The Con--" "--no just show me." Dax asked, rubbing her brow impatiently. The standing hologram of Meetra Surik switched instantly, and she was standing before Dax, holding a lightsaber in the ready stance of the Makashi form. As the hologram of Meetra began performing the moves, Dax pulled her lightsaber from her belt and activated it, beginning to mimic the movements of the hologram teacher, even as the woman's voice still churned out information. "Developed for the purpose of lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat, to address the failings of Form I." Meetra continued, "Makashi is the most duelling-centric lightsaber form. Relying on precision and efficiency over Shii-Cho's wild, sweeping motions, Makashi allowed an initiate to defend herself against an opponent with minimal effort, while placing a heavy focus on avoiding disarmament. Makashi is elegant and focused, and is based on balance and footwork to outmanoeuvre opponents. Fluidity and economy of motion are relied on, rather than strength. Overall, the form was at its peak when engaged in combat against a single enemy duellist." "Awesome." Dax grinned, and continued to mimic the hologram's movements. Her flexibility and agile movements were perfect for this, and she took to it quickly. She wasn't the strongest amongst the Padawans, that honour went to Baan, but-- "Baan," Dax whispered, shaking her head. "Tch! Dammit Baan, you idiot." Her thoughts moved from Baan to her friend, and she wondered what Taka was doing. She hoped her friend was having a better time than she was. Locked up in an old library, getting talked down to by half-mad Jedi and snooty holograms alike. Actually, she supposed that Master Raella would have liked Taka a lot more than her. At that moment, she heard footsteps coming down the stairs, and so she deactivated the holocron and placed it back on it's shelf.
  9. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    "That's probably a good idea..." Dax replied, thinking about how the first button she'd pressed had almost blown a hole in the hangar. The engines of the starship whirred to life as Ashara ran her fingers over the buttons and controls as though the ship was an extension of herself. Dax watched quietly, pressing the occasional button when she was asked. Finally, the engines roared as the ship lifted from the ground, and after receiving clearance, their ship carried them up out of Coruscant's atmosphere and into the blackness of space. Dax hadn't been in space since she was a small child. Her first experience had been confusing and upsetting, as she had left her parents and world behind to explore a life unknown to her. Yet these were not the feelings that came to her as she gazed upon the millions of lights dashed across the void. She felt awe and wonder. Ashara pulled a handle up and the ship's hyperdrive engine ignited and in a matter of seconds the ship dropped out of hyperspace and was realigned to descend into Ilum's atmosphere. "What's down there, exactly?" Dax asked. "Crystal and Ice." Ashara replied simply. "The planet isn't very habitable." "So then why do we even have a temple there?" Dax replied with a frown, "I mean, I get it, the crystals power our lightsabers, but... couldn't we have just mined them out and put a temple down somewhere, I don't know... tropical?" She shook her head dejectedly as the ship lowered into the atmosphere and what she saw was a strangely serene ice planet, devoid of any immediately apparent life. In the distance, partially covered by mist, she could see the Jedi temple. "The planet is brimming with force energy." Ashara explained. "That, along with its historical significance to the Jedi Order, is why we come here." "Seems like a great load of nothing to me..." Dax muttered, as the ship lowered onto the large flat area of ice directly in front of the temple. As the engine died, the two Jedi stood and left their seats and as they approached the exit, the gantry lowered into a ramp that touched to the frozen ground of the planet's surface. Immediately, a rush of cold air hit them both, but it didn't seem to do much for Dax, she looked at Ashara and smiled, "Not much colder than the average day on my homeworld. Pleasant, really." She stepped out onto the ice and then stopped immediately, "Uh, Master?" Dax questioned, pointing ahead of them. As the mist began to clear, they could see a figure slowly approaching them. Soon the mist had cleared entirely and their welcoming party stood before them. "Greetings, welcome!" The man stood before them was human, looked as though he was in his late sixties, had a long wispy white beard and hair tied up into a knot. One of his eyes were permanently closed by what looked like a lightsaber scar. Aside from the scar, he was quite ordinary, at least on first glance. "Hello," Ashara said with a respectful nod. "I'm Jedi Knight Ashara Ven, and this is my Padawan, Dax Arandel." "Oh hello, hello..." The man replied, smiling. Dax grinned in confusion as the trio stood in silence for several seconds. "And you are?" Dax asked at last, prompting the old Jedi. "Oh, I am Jedi Master Raella, I am the custodian of the temple... are you here to teach your Padawan, Knight Ven?" "Indeed." Ashara replied. "Dax is here to construct her first lightsaber, and also to focus on her meditation in order to commune with The Force." "I see..." Master Raella turned his singular gaze upon Dax, "Well...?" "Well... what?" Dax asked, frowning. "What are you here for?!" Raella asked. "Well--" Dax opened her mouth and stopped, looking to Ashara for explanation. She looked back to Raella, "I came here to get a lightsaber..." "Nonsense." Master Raella replied, frustration in his voice. "Come along then, i'll give you a room where you can make your precious weapon." As Raella led them towards the temple, Dax turned to Ashara, "Master...?" She asked with concern, "He's..." She wanted to be delicate, but frustration got the better of her and she shook her head irritably, "He's not like any other Jedi i've ever met, he's just..." She trailed off. "Be respectful, Dax." Ashara whispered. "Wisdom comes in many forms. Do not be so quick to dismiss it." "But don't be afraid to speak your mind, either." Master Raella yelled back at them. Dax's cheeks turned a lighter green as she realised that the old Jedi had overheard them and a wave of embarrassment washed over her. Raella did not say another word until they reached the doors of the temple. "Here, it is your home as well, for as long as you need it." After a quick pause, Raella opened the enormous double doors, "But don't need it for too long." He added, as an afterthought. Muttered something to himself and then led them inside. The temple was incredible, it seemed that everything possible had been carved from the ice of the planet and done so so expertly that much of the ice appeared almost as glass. "This is amazing..." Dax remarked, her crimson eyes wide open in awe as they darted everywhere, taking in every little detail, constantly distracted by each new intricate facet of the temple's construction. "How long do you think it took to build this?!" She asked, calling back to Ashara. Before she could answer, Raella barked, "Too long! Too long..." Then he walked up a flight of stairs and pointed, "There. You can use that room." "Apologies Master Raella." Ashara piped up. "Dax is my student. I mean no disrespect but I have my own way of doing things. I will teach her how I was taught, and before we even begin to consider the construction, Dax must first find her own crystal." The old Jedi moved his lips without speaking, and after a long silence, waved his hand as though he was dismissing them and wandered off, no doubt to tend to his own affairs. Once the old Jedi was gone, Dax let out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. "He needs to get out more." "Solitude can often make one... misunderstood" Ashara replied, "When you commune with The Force for long periods of time, it can often make interactions with others seem a little trivial and distant." "So why aren't you like him then?" Dax asked, confusion clearly in her voice and on her face. "I have not spent anywhere near as much time communing with The Force." Ashara replied. "I am but a Knight after all. In this sense I still have much to learn myself." "I think i'll leave communing to special occasions." Dax replied, as they walked further into the temple. At the far end of the main hall, there was a flight of stairs, equally carved from ice as the rest of the temple. Ashara led Dax down in silence. They walked for what felt like an eternity, as much of the light from the sun no longer seemed to penetrate the cavernous ice caves below. Soon, they were almost in pitch black. Dax had to carefully feel her way down each step. "I'm surprised these stairs aren't littered with bodies, frankly." Dax muttered to herself. A few minutes later, a little light flickered up from below. As they descended, the light grew in intensity. But it was unlike the clear yellow light of the sun. This light was a mixture of blues and purples and greens. At last, they were almost at the bottom of the stairs, when the side of the wall opened out into a huge underground hall. Pillars of ice, roughly hewn from the walls, were dotted by jagged pieces of crystal, the source of the illumination. "Am I supposed to take one of these then?" Dax asked, touching one of the crystals as she passed a nearby pillar. "Your crystal most likely lies ahead." Ashara explained. "To find your crystal, there is a trial." "More trials?" Dax groaned, rubbing her forehead. "Okay, what do I have to do?" "The path ahead will seem simple at first, but as you go deeper the caverns split off in to many." Ashara explained. "You are to go ahead, alone. You must find your crystal, and before you ask, no I cannot help you, nor can I tell you how you will know which one is right for you. Each Padawan's trial is different, you will have to find a way to overcome it. Also..." Ashara looked back the way they had came. "When the sun sets the temperature will drop incredibly low. The entrance to this cave will be frozen in ice. You must return before that happens." "Super." Dax replied enthusiastically, but her expression looked closer to that of a person getting ready to have a tooth pulled. "I guess i'll see you when I come out then..." She added, and then started down the path. "If you are trapped in here, there is nothing anyone can do for you. You won't be able to exit until the sun rises again. Ilum's night lasts around 19 days. You must work quickly," Ashara said as she walked back the way they had came. "Remember, A Jedi is The Force made physical. Let it guide you. Good luck." Dax held out her arm in front of her, but could barely see an outline. Only the faintest light existed in the tunnel. It was just enough to make her acutely aware of herself without actually allowing her to see anything ahead of her. But she couldn't stop. She had to keep going, and find her crystal, before it was too late. She continued down the path until a fork in the tunnel appeared, which she only noticed at the last second. Dax cursed to herself, but was glad she hadn't just walked into the wall like an idiot. She stood staring at the two paths for a little while, but she could definitely feel it getting colder. "Okay Dax, make a choice just... pick a tunnel..." She paced back and forth, looking down each option. "Okay just... feel it out." She muttered to herself, and closed her eyes. A few minutes passed and eventually she shook her head and sighed, the cold air visibly exhaled in front of her. "Fine, left." She added to herself, thinking she was starting to sound like Master Raella. She took the left path. "I should have taken the right path." She muttered, after what felt like an hour. She had been forced to make a similar choice over a dozen times, and now she wasn't sure of anything any more. She had made so many choices, and been trying to keep track of them all, but at last she had given up. She had no idea how she was going to get back now. Her only option was to press on. Dax felt the chill on her arms and face, her nose and lips were stinging. It had to be very cold down here for her to notice that at all. She knew that her time in the tunnels was likely on a short fuse, and so she picked up the pace. At first, she started quickly walking, but before she knew what was happening, her walk turned into a jog, her jog turned into a sprint, and suddenly she was careening down each path, making snap decision one after another. Without warning, the path ahead of her vanished. Dax loosed a string of curses across a variety of languages (as cursing was the only thing she seemed to pick up from other languages besides basic). She tried to slow herself, but found the icy floor beneath her feet gave her little traction. There was only one option now. To throw herself fully into the jump. As her feet reached the edge, she instinctively called on The Force and leapt through the air. Soaring far beyond any normal person, but the ground didn't seem to be within sight. For a few terrifying seconds, she was in flight, frantically searching for the ground that should appear beneath her, but nothing came. Suddenly her flight turned into a free fall, and she loosed a scream that echoed as she fell. "Come on!" She yelled into the darkness, "Pull yourself together!!" She snapped, and realised that something was quickly coming up on her, she twisted in the air, leant back and found her back sliding against the wall. Quickly, the wall sloped and seconds later she flew down a chute. If she'd been just a few seconds later, the landing would have been far more sudden, and at best she might have broken both her legs. She quickly thanked her training and then refocused her attention on the chute. She could feel the open air around her, she was no longer in a corridor. She was in a large cavern, and below her the light was almost blinding. She reached out with her hands and feet and held the sides of the chute, hoping to slow her descent, but only managed to mitigate the smallest fraction of velocity before she flew over the edge of the chute and out into open air again. This time however, her drop was quite short and she landed with an uncomfortable ringing sound echoing in her head. She tried to pull herself up but found herself sinking as she did so. "This whole room is full of crystals!!" Dax cursed and tried to right herself amongst the unsteady piles without triggering an avalanche, but she had barely started to make sense of her surroundings when she heard a terrible roar. The sound carried clearly into the cavern and made the tiny hairs on the back of her neck raise in response. "Okay, no, nope. No." Dax pulled her feet free and then carefully stood up on the crystals and quickly ran down the crystal scree at an angle, holding one arm out over the crystals to help her balance. As she reached the bottom, a pile of crystals followed her but she was unharmed. Another roar, several crystals on the upper-most peaks trickled down the side in response to the creature's angry call. "Come on, hurry up..." Dax muttered to herself, looking all around her. Then she saw it. A large, brilliant coloured green crystal lay at the top of the pile in front of her. It was beautiful, remarkable even. No other crystal in the room seemed to come close. Dax quickly ran at the pile and began to scramble up to the top. Another roar, but this time it seemed so much closer. She was at the top now, and reached out to grab the large green crystal, but as her fingers reached out to touch it, she hesitated. This didn't feel right. She couldn't put words to it, but she knew something wasn't clicking into place for her. Her hand recoiled and she realised she was breathing very quickly. Dax had to slow her breathing, tune out the sound of the approaching creature, whatever it was. She tried listening to the sound of her own breathing. Slowed it until it was almost white noise to her, and then she felt a pull. Dax reached out, and her hand sunk into the pile of crystals and a moment later, she felt something and instinctively grabbed hold of it and pulled it out. A second passed and she opened her eyes to see a small, rather plain looking sky blue crystal. "Yes!" She laughed, holding the crystal up in the air, "What do you think of that you miserable monster!?" She yelled into the tunnels surrounding the cavern. There was no response. Dax slowly slid down the side of the crystal pile and walked up to the nearest entrance, she could feel a breath of wind coming from it. As good a place as any, especially as she had no idea which way was the right way back any more. Instinct had brought her this far. Was it instinct? Quickly - but not so quickly that she would be the victim of another pitfall - Dax ran down the tunnel, leaving the light of the crystals behind her. Darkness soon enveloped her, but not for long, very quickly she saw light up ahead, just around the next bend. She had been confused by the silence of the creature, but her confusion had been replaced by elation as she turned the corner and was almost blinded by the light of the hall she had left. But her elation quickly evaporated when she almost crashed into a wall of ice. She'd found her way back, but it was too late. She was trapped. Shaking her head in disbelief, Dax thumped her fists against the ice, but it was solid. She thought she could see the still figure of Master Ashara on the other side, but when she yelled out, there was no response. She couldn't hear her. No matter what she did, no matter how loud she yelled, Ashara didn't respond. "... notice me...." She cried, tears welling up as she banged her fists against the ice. "NOTICE ME!!" She screamed, pushing up against the ice and finally resting her forehead against it. She closed her eyes and tried to calm down, feeling the rough crystal in her palm and focusing on how it felt. Taking a deep breath she turned from the wall and took a couple of steps away from it. A second later, she whirled around and pocketed her crystal. She took one last, long breath, brought her arms back and reached out. Not with her arms, but with her senses. The seconds dragged by, and at first she thought she felt nothing. Then something grazed her senses and she brushed up against it, letting it flow through her. She could feel it enveloping her and building up like it was going to burst. She channelled that feeling and thrust it forwards and the wall of ice in front of her exploded outwards, shattering into a thousand pieces. She was back in the hall, and on the other side, waiting patiently, she saw Master Ashara. "So you decided to carve your own path... literally." Ashara said as a greeting to Dax, a hint of a smirk across her face. "Do you have anything to show for it?" Dax reached into her pocket, pulled out the crystal and opened her palm to show it to her Master, "Y'know what's funny, I thought the trial was showing me fear and confusion and..." She shrugged, "I thought my trial was back in those tunnels, but I think I realised what I was afraid of when I reached that wall." She smiled to Ashara and threw the crystal up into the air and snatched it as it was mid-flight. "So..." She began, raising an eyebrow, "Can I make my lightsaber now?" She held the crystal up to her Master with a grin.
  10. OOC: Private RP between myself and Erogenous Enigma. Rated 'NC-17' for violence, gore and dark themes. Forged by Fate Svarda, the ancient human capital. Home of the White Palace that has held the line of human Kings and Queens since the beginning of recorded time. Now the property of the usurper Queen, the Sorceress known as Aedra. She strode down it's white marble halls, assessing her surroundings as she went. Her quick, gliding steps echoing through the palace as a general of her armies, clad in black armour, struggled to keep pace with her. "Have you any news, General?" The Sorceress inquired, in a curious tone. The man was huffing as he spoke, "We... have six reports, Majesty." He took a deep breath, "None have returned... with any news of the egg." Instantly, the Sorceress came to a halt and whirled on the General, and he was immediately struck by her terrible beauty. She was tall and curvaceous, slick black hair flowed over her head and fell down to her waist. Sharp, angular features framed by a pair of piercing green eyes and ivory skin. He struggled to come to a stop and quickly assumed a rigid salute. "It has been, what?" The Sorceress feigned forgetfulness, "5 years...?" She queried, "Since your forces ambushed that Elven escort party, and yet, my egg remains lost. Why is that?" Her face tightened as her gaze bore down on the man, he trembled before her and licked his dry lips. "I... well, when the egg..." He wavered, looking for an answer, "You see, it was magic, Majesty." "I know magic, General. What I don't understand is your excuses. That Elf could only have teleported that egg a few hundred miles, at most." "Well, I..." He began. "I'm tired of waiting." She placed one hand on her hip and looked around, spotting a Lieutenant at the end of the corridor, awaiting her in silence. "Yes, he'll do." She added, and looked back at the General. "Majesty?" The General asked, confused. "Your services are no longer required." She replied, smiled sweetly and then instantaneously the General crumpled to the floor, his life snuffed as easily as a candle's flame. The Sorceress turned to face the Lieutenant as a pair of guards behind her lifted the body of the General to take it away. "Lieutenant Gerren?" She asked, looking to the soldier with the scruffy sand-coloured hair. "Yes, your Majesty!" Gerren replied, saluting her. "I want you to take a unit of your finest soldiers, and track down what is rightfully mine." "Yes, your Majesty." Gerren replied, bowing. He turned to leave but the Queen's voice stopped him mid-step. "You are my General now, Rey Gerren. Do not fail me, as your predecessor had." Placing emphasis on 'fail', she left no confusion in her statement. He bowed once again and Queen Aedra was left in the halls of the palace, she smiled to herself and continued on her path to the main throne room. Meanwhile, nearly 100 miles south of Svarda, in the small town of Wayford, a young boy, no older than 17, slowly drifted from the realms of sleep and dream. The morning rays shone through his open window in the home he had been born in, the home that his deceased father had built. He had short, messy black hair and skin tanned by long days spent out in the sun. He had dark hazel eyes and his face, though handsome, was relatively plain and slim from a meagre diet. He yawned, content to remain in his bed until he heard a shout from downstairs. "Aeran?!" His mother called to him, she paused and then yelled again when she heard no response, "Aeran?!" "I'm up!" He called back to her, sighing and blinking the sleep from his eyes. "Well you better be, you need to go hunting again today, as you failed to bring us back any game yesterday - 'Master Archer'." She added with a playfully mocking tone. Aeran groaned and rubbed his face and then finally accepted there was no getting away from it, he had to get up. He poured a jug of cold water into a bowl and took a deep gulp before plunging his face into the icy liquid. He washed his face and his underarms and then threw the remaining water out of the window and got dressed. He pulled a pair of dark brown trousers on and then a long-sleeved white shirt, followed by a pair of leather boots and a dark brown leather jerkin, fastening the buttons up to his collar bone. His family was poor, even as families went in Wayford, and they survived mostly on farming their own crops and hunting in the surrounding forest, so he had no mirror to check his appearance, but attempted to flatten his unruly hair all the same. "Morning." His mother smiled at him with a knowing expression, "Your breakfast is on the table." She added. Aeran sat at the table and ravenously attacked the miniature loaf of bread his mother had baked for him, it's warmth spread through his body like wildfire and by the time he'd finished it, he was fully awake. "Well I guess I better get going while it's early." Aeran grabbed his quiver, slinging it over his back with a full compliment of arrows and then reached for his elm-wood bow, his mother touched her hand upon his and kissed him on the cheek, "Be careful, okay? The town guard said they'd seen signs of monster activity and I don't know what i'd do if something happened to you." "I'll be careful." He muttered, reluctantly accepting her kiss before wiping his cheek. With that, he waved goodbye to his mother and walked outside into the fresh air, he closed the wooden door to their house and walked down the path. A couple of people were walking by, he recognized them from town but didn't know them personally very well, he knew they were friends of his mother but he couldn't recall their names. He nodded to them and they wished him luck with his hunt, and with that, he set foot into the twilight shadow of the forest. Nocking an arrow, Aeran slowly crept through the forest. He had been walking for what felt like an hour or more. He had seen signs of deer, but had so far only seen the fleeting shadow of a rabbit running through the brush. He cursed his lack of reflexes for having let it get away but decided it was best not to dwell on his mistake, and surged deeper into the forest. After a couple of hours, Aeran paused to take a quick break, he opened a satchel on the side of his quiver and took out a small waterskin which he drained and then ate the small lump of bread left beside it. Revitalised he pushed on, careful not to disturb the inhabitants of the forest. The sun overhead crept across the sky and upon seeing how late in the day it was, he was about ready to give up. Once again, he'd failed to bring anything back. He cursed to himself, angry at his inability to provide for his mother and then turned to make his way back home. But as he took his first step, something stopped him. He froze, confused at what had alerted him. For a long while he was silent, but readied his arrow in preparation. From perhaps 30 feet away, he heard a rustling sound. Aeran nocked his arrow once more, pulled back on the string and let the arrow fly. It soared through the air, vanished into a bush and then he heard rabbit's screech and a clang as metal hit metal. Aeran frowned and quickly ran over to the source of the noise and pawed his way through the bush just in time to see a rabbit vanishing into it's burrow. Distracted by the escaping animal Aeran shouted a curse into the forest, losing his temper. He twisted his bow in his hands, testing the wood with his anger until he finally released it, wary not to break something he couldn't likely replace. "Oh, what am I going to do with myself..." He sighed, kneeling down to gather his thoughts. He rubbed his face with his free hand but at that moment, something caught his eye and he remembered the strange sound. Fuelled by his curiosity, Aeran began looking for his arrow. After a few minutes, he found it embedded in the soft ground beside a large silver-coloured stone the size of a large watermelon. He gasped as he looked at the unusual stone, and once he'd placed his stray arrow back in it's quiver, he examined it in detail. Tapping the stone with his knuckles he heard the familiar metal noise once again, but when he checked the stone for a mark from the arrow, he could find none. In fact, the stone was so smooth and frictionless that he felt as though his hands slipped over polished ice. "What in the world is this..." He muttered, curiously rubbing his chin. The ground below the stone looked as though it had been scorched by something, but the stone itself seemed to be an ambient temperature. He paused as he considered the object but although it clearly wasn't edible, he wanted to bring it home anyway, it fascinated him. As he lifted the stone from the ground he noticed how light it was, despite it's size. He reached over his shoulder and pulled a small sack from a pocket in the side of his quiver and started to cover the stone with it, but as he did so the sack caught fire as if it had been thrust into a furnace. "Hey!!" Aeran cried and flung the sack across the ground and quickly stamped on it to put the fire out. He looked back at the stone and glared at it, confused and fearful but if anything, more curious than ever. "I guess..." He whispered and leant back down to cautiously touch the stone, yet it was still quite cool, "... i'll just carry it." He finished his thought and then lifted the stone and smiled at it appreciatively. He started his trek home but it was almost dark by the time he arrived. He watched as villagers ran to and fro, holding torches to light their way. The whole village was in an uproar. "What's going on?" He called out, asking a passing farmer he knew as Layton. Layton glanced once at the stone in the boy's hands and then met Aeran's gaze, "Karlod, the Blacksmith - he's been murdered!" "What?!" Aeran's voice cracked as his surprise exploded on his face, "By who?!" He pressed the famer. "By the Gods, I don't know, but the town guard said it was a monster!!" Layton began scurrying away, "They even sent word to Northhaven to send one of the Queen's yellow-eyed monster hunters, but Gods preserve us, they're no better. We'll be overrun by monsters by daybreak, you just see!!" Humbled by his exchange with the farmer, Aeran walked home in a daze. He nodded to his mother, apologising for his failure during the hunt. She didn't question the stone in his hands and so he walked up to his room. Closing the door behind him, Aeran set the silvery stone down beside his bed and let out such a long sigh that he could have been expelling all the day's worries from his mind and body. He felt like he could have fallen asleep right there and then, but he heard a loud bang from downstairs that roused him from his torpor. "Mother?!" He called down, for a long while there was no response, then at last. "I'm fine!" She called back up to him. Aeran relaxed and turned to look back at his new prize, the silvery stone from the forest. Something was wrong with it though, he rushed over to look at the stone and let out a cry, "Oh, what have you done now, Aeran!" He chided himself, looking at the stone. A crack had formed in the stone, spoiling it's smooth surface. Before he had a chance to further delve into the depression that assaulted him at his now imperfect oddity, the stone wobbled and Aeran fell back in surprise, landing roughly on his backside. "Hey, stop!!" He barked at the stone, out of reflex. Strangely, it did so. He blinked slowly and rubbed his eyes, wondering if he'd imagined the stone moving. Then at once, the stone exploded outwards, sending shards of it in every direction. Aeran yelped and shielded his eyes as he was pelted by the shards of stone and then after a moment he looked back to see nothing but a handful of shards remaining. "Ooooh..." He leant over and picked up a small, thin piece. "Damn..." He grunted, throwing it aside. Aeran pulled his knees up and rested his face on them. What else could go wrong today? He sat there in the middle of his room for a few minutes until he realised he was not alone. He lifted his head, brushing some of his messy black hair out of his face and looked around. He could feel a presence, something was watching him. He had the strange sensation that now he had become the rabbit in the forest. He could hear a quiet panting, and tried to hone in on it's origin. After a few moments, he realised it was coming from under his bed. He stared into the darkness and waited, afraid to move any closer and yet somehow rooted to the spot. He had to know what it was. A pair of dark shimmering eyes glistened in the darkness, like two drops of oil on the surface of a body of water. Aeran's breath caught in his throat as he watched a lizard the size of a small dog crawl from the underside of his bed. The creature was covered in bright silver scales and had a face with a long muzzle. Long, razor-sharp talons clicked off the wooden flooring and when it yawned, he saw a mouth full of dagger-like teeth. The most unusual thing about this lizard however, was that on it's back, was a pair of wings, each with a span as long as his outstretched arm. Despite his fear of the creature, he was drawn to it, as though gravity was pulling at him. The lizard seemed affected by the same thing, and as their eyes gazed into one another, their foreheads touched and Aeran felt a burning sensation emanating from his forehead, where it spread out and smothered his entire body. He felt like he was on fire, he became dizzy, the world tumbled before him as the candle in his room became so bright that it blinded him, and then he collapsed to the floor, falling deep into a dreamless sleep. When Aeran finally awoke, he felt as though he'd been running for miles. His whole body ached and burned. Stumbling to his feet, he looked around his room, spotting the strange lizard lying on his bed, watching him quietly. "What did you do...?" He asked the creature, but it simply stared at him. He didn't know why he had expected an answer, and the idea of the creature replying to him made him laugh and feel more than a little silly. He walked over to his water jug, feeling uncertain on his feet, then filled the bowl with water and went to dive his face into the ice-cold water. Before his face touched the surface, however, he noticed something different about his face. He brought his hand up to touch his forehead, unconvinced until he felt the smooth white surface of the skin. In the centre of his forehead, just above the bridge of his nose, he had an upside down tear-drop-shaped scar. He looked back at the lizard and shook his head, "What did you do to me, eh...?" He asked quietly, just then he heard another strange noise from downstairs and his attention flicked back to his mother. "Just..." He paused, feeling stupid for addressing the creature, "... stay here, alright?" The lizard stared back at him and he shook his head again, almost laughing. Aeran ran downstairs and fell upon a confusing sight. He saw his mother lying on the floor, her eyes fixed upon the ceiling with an empty stare. Blood covered the ground around her, and yet, standing over her, he saw his mother with her back to him. He stared at the scene for a few moments as his brain ticked over, trying to understand what he was looking at, and when it failed to come back with an answer, he stupidly said, "I don't understand." His mother turned to look at him, at least the mother that was stood over her other body. "It's okay sweetheart," She cooed, her face contorting into an unusually wide grin, "Mother's here." She added, raising her hands to offer an embrace. Aeran turned his gaze from her wild eyes down to the blood that coated the lower half of her face. "I don't understand..." He repeated, drawing his arms up to his chest in fear and confusion. As his other mother stepped towards him, her gaze locked upon him, the front door smashed inwards, sending shards of wood flying in all directions. His mother whirled around, turning her attention to the door as a figure stepped through it, brandishing a weapon.
  11. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    Stepping out of the shower, Dax towel-dried and changed into a fresh set of robes. It had been a long day. She let out a deep sigh and smiled despite how nervous she felt. Alright, she thought to herself, you could have done better, Dax. But you didn't do so bad. Anyway, if she'd really wanted to, she could have overwhelmed Taka pretty quickly, and chosen not to allow her to land a hit, but then she was concerned that the Jedi Masters wouldn't take Taka seriously, and her friend had worked so hard to become a Padawan, plus Taka wasn't messy and disobedient the way she was. As she was pulling on her boots, her little communicator - no larger than a badge pin - beeped, alerting her to an incoming message. Pressing the badge's button, she immediately heard a familiar voice, though it was unwelcome. "Hey loser, they kick you out yet?" "Baan..." Dax shook her head, "What do you want, Baan?" She asked, exasperated. "Nothin', just saw how relieved you were when they said you weren't duelling me, is all." She heard laughter, and the snickering of other boys in the background, Dax felt like losing her temper but she took a deep breath and shook her head, "I'm hanging up." She said at last, and hovered her finger over the power button. "Wait." Baan said quickly, "I've got two of those sparring sabers, want a match?" "Where'd you get two sparring sabers from? Master Vash is gonna lose her mind when she catches you." Dax shook her head but still, she smiled. She had to admit, she was kind of impressed. And the idea of finally knocking that guy down a peg interested her immensely. "Like it matters, i'll meet you on the landing pad, in the east wing?" Before she could answer, he cut the connection. Letting out a deep breath, she threw the communicator onto her bed and sat there for a few minutes, arguing with herself. On one hand, she couldn't just run off and start playing around with sabers - even training sabers - it was against the rules. On the other hand, when had that ever stopped her before? Then again, she was on the eve of becoming a Padawan... maybe. But then, Baan's face when she beats him... Quickly leaping to her feet, Dax left her room and made her way towards the east wing. It took a few minutes to get there, a little longer than she'd expected actually, as she'd met Master Vash on the way there, and had to hastily dodge her attempts at small talk, saying she was keeping a friend waiting. A 'friend', she chuckled as she walked. When Dax finally walked out onto the landing pad, the afternoon sun was setting in the sky. Thousands of transports flew by all around them, but nobody was paying any attention to the two young Jedi initiates standing on the landing pad. "I knew you'd come," Baan grinned, tossing a lightsaber through the air. Dax caught it without effort and felt it in her hands, she frowned. As she opened her mouth to ask a question, Baan interrupted her, "--you know you're going to lose, right? I'm the best duellist in the school." "And Hutts have wings." Dax muttered, holding out her lightsaber to face Baan. Baan ran towards her, crossing the gap between them in a matter of seconds. He leapt into the air, momentarily blocking the sun from view as his lightsaber ignited into a brilliant emerald green. Dax quickly rolled out of the way and ignited her own training saber. It was a bright blue. She barely had time to examine it's colour however, as Baan's saber swung around and she deflected it in the nick of time. Their lightsabers clashed and sparks flew out, accompanied by a crackling sound she had only heard when watching the Masters put on a performance. When the Masters used real lightsabers to duel. Real lightsabers. "BAAN!!" Dax screamed, as she realised the thing she was holding in her hand was a real lightsaber. Baan whirled around and slashed at Dax's face, she leapt back as the light danced in front of her eyes. A moment later, and she'd have lost her head. "Stop it Baan! We could kill each other!!" Dax yelled, trying not to get angry. "Oh please, as if you could ever land a hit on me!" He laughed and pushed forwards, attacking several times, hoping to find an opening in Dax's defence, "I just wanted to see what the real ones were like, they're so much brighter, aren't they?!" Baan yelled out over the sound of their lightsabers crackling and hissing as they met and the two young Jedi initiates pushed against one another. "I'm not going to fight you, Baan..." Dax snarled, and leapt back, knocking the boy's lightsaber away from her. It gave her just enough time to clear a gap between them. She deactivated her lightsaber and stood on the platform defiantly. Baan started to advance, angry at her refusal to acknowledge him, but as he lifted his lightsaber, a voice coolly sliced through the roar of the transports and the howl of the wind. "Baan Tanruk." Master Vash held out her hand and Baan's lightsaber was ripped from his grasp and flew into Vash's waiting grip. She studied the lightsaber for a moment and then deactivated it, placing it on her belt, beside her own. She walked up to the two initiates and studied each of them, her gaze piercing, so much so that both of them had to avert their eyes. "Hand me that lightsaber, Dax." She held out her hand and Dax silently walked up to their teacher, she opened her mouth to explain but Vash quickly held her hand up and gave a look that said 'Don't even try', and then jerked her head to imply they were to leave. Dax began to leave, and Baan followed. But as Baan passed Vash, she put her hand on his shoulder. Dax turned and looked back, "M-Master Vash, it's my fault too, I--" "The council have called for you." She said quietly, an unreadable expression on her face, "Go on now. You, however..." She looked to Baan and started speaking to him, but whatever was being said was whispered. Only for his ears. Feeling stupid and irresponsible, Dax fled the landing pad and ran towards the council chambers. Why had she been summoned? Wasn't she told she had the rest of the day to herself? She pushed open the big double doors and saw several other initiates inside, including Taka, who gave her a smile and a little wave. Dazed and confused, Dax half-waved back and cautiously stepped inside as the doors closed behind her. "I-I..." She started, noticing that all the Jedi Masters were present. Dax looked for explanation from someone, but nobody amongst the other initiates seemed to know what was going on. A few minutes passed, and Master Vash walked in. "Master?" Dax asked, frowning. Baan was nowhere in sight. Vash paused to look at Dax, went to walk on but something stopped her, she turned and walked up to Dax, "Baan has been expelled." She said simply, she then studied Dax's shocked expression and nodded, before walking away. "Initiates! You have been gathered here as you few are the ones we have considered to have the most promise," Said the Jedi Master, a Rodian with dark blue skin named Dao'sha, "You have each passed the trials and your Masters have selected you as Padawans. This is just the beginning of a long and happy journey, one full of adventure but also of responsibility and hardship, I am sure each of you will perform your duty to the utmost. May the force be with you." He bowed to the initiates and then stepped forwards, as did a dozen other Masters. Each of them walked up to a student and greeted them warmly and began to talk. A minute passed and Dax watched the Masters and initiates match up until at last, none were left. "M... Master?" Dax called out to the room, looking around, but nobody answered. She watched Taka talking to her new Master, and then looked back out across the room. Where was her Master? She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together nervously as she waited as patiently as she could. Eventually Master Rozahn approached Dax, a solemn expression on his face. "Dax." He said as he rubbed his hands together, lingering on what he had to say. "This is not an easy thing to say but...unfortunately you will not be able to become a Padawan today." "W-what...?" Dax shook her head, tears began to well, "I... I... didn't I pass? I did, didn't I?" She asked desperately. "Yes child you did indeed pass the trials." Rozahn replied, clearly disappointed with the outcome himself. "However the trials only mean you are ready to become a Padawan, but you must also find a Jedi Knight who will train you. At the moment that isn't possible... there is no one to train you." "But..." She couldn't believe it. Dax closed her eyes as she tried to think, "But I passed, and..." She held her hands out as though this would help her to make him understand. He had to understand. If he understood, then everything would make sense. "I passed... so... so why... why isn't there a Master for me?" She swallowed, and tried to slow her breathing using the methods she had been taught since she was five, when she'd first arrived in the temple and began her training. "I am sorry, child... truly I am." Rozahn replied. "The child asks a valid question, Master Rozahn." Ashara approached Rozahn, standing at his side, but her gaze on Dax. "Why isn't there a Master for her? Do you care to explain?""Well, Miss Ven..." Rozahn looked a little flustered. "We have already explained this--""Not to the child you haven't." Ashara interrupted him. She inferred her next words to Dax. "Young lady, tell me honestly. Why do you want to become a Jedi?"Dax felt the gaze of the two Jedi on her and she felt like she was going to pass out. "I... i've always wanted to be a Jedi..." She muttered, but her answer seemed insufficient to them, and so she reluctantly continued, "... I don't have a lot of memories of my childhood... but... when I was four, my mother took me to watch a holo film. I'd never seen anything like it. We didn't have a lot of money, but it was my birthday. Then she took us out for Ta'chek..." She paused when she saw the expression on their faces, "Uh... a dessert?" She half-grinned and then continued, "We were walking home, when a man stopped us, and told my mother to give him everything she had, when she refused, he picked me up and started to run... I just remember screaming and...." She stopped and laughed, "Then he ran right into this funny-dressed man, who waved his hand and told him to put me down, go to the nearest law enforcement and turn himself in, and he just... did." Now Dax was laughing, wiping away the tears, "I asked him who he was, he just said, "I'm a Jedi." I knew I wanted to be like him. I wanted to help people like he helped me. It's stupid..." She sighed and bit her bottom lip. "It is far from stupid, young one." Ashara replied. "To help others is very admirable. You have proven today that you are ready for the next step, but it is not the Jedi that hold you back from taking that step. It is-""Ashara... I don't think--" Rozahn tried to protest."Master Rozahn... you were sympathetic when I asked you if I could take this child as my Padawan. Your hands were tied by the rules and tradition of the Mirialan race. However, I feel this decision lies with Dax. Can you say you would still be able to refuse, should Dax want this for herself also?""Well...I suppose not." Rozahn said with a tiny hint of a smirk. "I don't normally condone skirting the rules but... once again you find me sympathetic.""Good." Ashara replied, before continuing to address Dax. She bent down a little so she was at eye level with the young girl. "Dax, it is tradition that Mirialan Padawan are trained by Mirialan Jedi. There is no one here right now who can fulfill that requirement. There may be in the future, and if you wish to wait then of course you shall. However, would you like to be my Padawan? Before you answer, know that this is your choice, little one."Her mouth hung open in astonishment, "You mean, the entire reason I wasn't going to become a Padawan--" Dax glanced at Rozahn before looking back to Ashara, "-- was because of a tradition of my people? I'm not even on my home world! I was raised here!!" She yelled incredulously, putting one hand on her hip and pointing the other at the two Jedi, "I'm a Jedi first, a Mirialan second." She sniffed and then let out a deep breath, focusing her gaze on Ashara, "Yeah, i'll be your Padawan." She rested her other hand on her hip and waited. "I see." Ashara replied. "Please do not think me dismissive of your people. The Mirialan... their beliefs are something I understand. Know that I will endeavour to teach you as a Mirialan would, to the best of my ability. With me you will have to work your hardest, I do not tolerate anything less than your best. Will you give me your best?""Yeah, i'll give you my best." Dax nodded and grinned, "But I don't really care about all that Mirialan destiny crap, just teach me everything you know, make me into a great Jedi. That's all I ask." Dax shrugged, as if what she asked for was nothing special and then crossed her arms, a lop-sided grin on her face.Ashara raised her hairless brow, standing her full height again. "Very well then. You will return to your quarters and pack your things. Say your goodbyes to your friends tonight, we will be leaving at dawn tomorrow. You will probably be gone from this Academy for a long time. I will come and collect you in the morning." Ashara turned around and walked in the opposite direction, with Master Rozahn walking alongside her, however she stopped and turned to Dax briefly. "Oh and one more thing. I will not tolerate disrespect of the Mirialan belief. Whether you choose to believe it or not, you do have a destiny, as do we all. I cannot make you believe that, but you will respect those that do. Now, run along."Dax bowed to Ashara and Rozahn and then walked towards Taka, "Destiny? ... poodoo." She muttered, grinning as she joined her friend in celebrating the start of their new life.
  12. Star Wars: The Old Republic

    The rays of the early morning sun slid across the sparsely decorated room. They danced across a row of simple beds, each immaculately folded and well kept, until the last bed in the line on the right-hand side. A figure rolled over, groaning as she did so and then resettling. "Dax! Daaaax! Dax Arandel!!" A young Togruta girl with bright red skin and short horns called to the sleeping figure, and then after a minute she sighed and leant over the sleeping girl and shook her violently, "Waaaake up!" "W-what?" Dax groaned, blinking the sleep from her bright red eyes. "What's going on, Taka?" She asked, yawning, "I need to sleep..." She started to turn over but Taka grabbed her and shook her shoulders, pulling her back into the world of the waking. "It's the Trials this morning!" Taka yelled into Dax's deep green-skinned face - a product of her Mirialan race. Along with her bright red eyes, long shaggy jet black hair and a line of black diamond tattoos dotting across the underside of her right eye in a geometric line - she stood out from a crowd. A moment passed, and suddenly Dax's eyes shot open, "OH!" She yelped, leaping out of bed, kicking her sheets out of the way. As Dax ran through to their shared bathroom, Taka lifted her arms up to the heavens and shook her head, "Look at this, your area is so untidy, I don't know how anyone finds anything in your mess. Don't you care?!" She rested her hands on her hips as Dax dashed back into the room and began getting changed into her initiate robes. "I care!" Dax grumbled, throwing her long messy black hair out of her face, "Just... not as much as you." She added, almost as an afterthought. When she was dressed and looking a little more presentable - thanks in no small part to Taka - the pair left their communal dormitory and made their way for the rooms given over to the Trials this year. "I need food..." Dax groaned, as she shook her head to pull herself out of her drowsy state. "Here." Taka offered her a small roll, which Dax took and ate with just two bites - thanking Taka with a mouth full of food which visibly repulsed the Togruta girl, though both of them laughed as they finally found their way into the Trials room after several minutes of walking as quickly as they could without running. There were already a dozen or so other initiates waiting inside. A couple of them were from the Bear clan - their clan - but most were from competing clans. "Late again, Arandel?!" One of the kids chided, clucking his tongue. His name was Baan, a human boy with blonde hair and a cocky strut. Dax had never liked him, and she wasn't afraid of letting him know - today was no different. "E chu ta, Hutt-spawn!" Dax retorted vividly, Baan's face turned red and he growled at her but as he opened his mouth they heard footsteps and all the initiates turned to see a group of Jedi walk into the room. "Good morning, Masters!" The teenagers said in unison, each of them bowing in their own way. Dax quickly scanned the group for a Mirialan, but saw none. It was unusual, perhaps even unheard of, for a Mirialan to be apprenticed to anyone but their own kind. That was the one condition that their people demanded in giving up their children to the Jedi order. This observation concerned Dax. Without a Mirialan Jedi Knight present, she wasn't likely going to become a Padawan this time. "Good Morning, younglings," Ashara replied with a short bow of her head. "Are you all prepared for the trials?" "I was born ready." Dax replied. Taka suppressed a laugh and Dax gave her a sharp jab with her elbow. They exchanged a glance with one another that said a dozen different things and then quickly returned their gaze to the Jedi and waited patiently. "Really?" Ashara replied with mock surprise. Then as she continued her tone became short and less than amused. "Overconfidence is dangerous. Equally, so is underestimating your tasks. I hope for your sake that your words aren't hollow, young lady." "I..." Dax turned to look at Taka who had a finger to her lips with an extremely amused expression, "Uh..." Dax passed her gaze back to the blue-skinned twi'lek Jedi and nodded, half-muttering, "Yes, Master," as evenly as she could muster. "Okay then." Ashara gave a soft sigh and forced a small smile. "If I can give you all one piece of advice..." She addressed the group but her eyes were fixed on Dax. "Control. It is your greatest ally in all instances. It is where most younglings struggle. If you master control, the rest will follow." Dax licked the inside of her teeth and folded her arms, "Well i'm ready." She replied, raising an eyebrow. The other initiates seemed to agree, as they nodded their heads and a quiet muttering spread through the students, though she noticed that they were standing notably apart from her. Even Taka had taken a step away and flashed her an innocent 'do you blame me?' face. The sound of clapping pulled the initiates' attention away from the Jedi, "Thank you for those encouraging words, Dax Arandel, but the time for words has passed, and now it is about proving your ability." The trainer, a middle-aged human woman called Vash, walked up to the group of nervous teenagers. She brushed a strand of bright red hair from her face and surveyed their faces with a keen eye. "While I can test you, it is the Masters present that ultimately decide on who is worthy of becoming a Padawan. So do your best, and show them what you can do! The first test is very simple, I want each of you to recite the Jedi code, and infer it's meaning." Their first task was over quickly and relatively easily. Most of the students were able to explain the meaning - or at least their reasonable interpretation - of the code. When it came to her turn, Dax had to think for a moment to recall the correct line that came after the last initiate's explanation, "There is no chaos, there is harmony." To which she explained that chaos was one of the root causes of conflict and strife for anyone - not only Jedi. But she also added that harmony was particularly important to the Jedi way of life, as everything was in moderation and control, and harmony was an important part of that. Her instructor seemed pleased with her answer, but Dax couldn't help but recall the chaos she had left her room in on a regular basis and wondered if that counted as true 'chaos', if so she was glad the instructor hadn't seen her bed. The second trial was one of lightsaber combat. Dax stretched with a confident grin on her face, and Taka didn't need to ask her what that meant. Out of the Bears, Dax was their best duellist. Tied only with Baan, which was one of the reasons she disliked him so much. Because lightsabers were understandably dangerous and could kill both their opponent and user, the initiates were handed out training lightsabers which, as Vash explained, "Won't kill or maim, they'll just sting and leave a bit of a br--" As the words left his mouth, Dax turned her training saber on and gently whacked it against Baan's bare shoulder. The boy yelped and recoiled, leaving a smirk on Dax's face, but an extremely disapproving look on Vash's face. Baan mouthed a curse at Dax, and she stuck her long tongue out at him in response and then Vash was calling out pairs. She was so busy hoping that she was going to fight Baan, that Dax didn't consider her other possible opponent. "Dax and Taka." Vash called out. The two girls looked at one another painfully, though Taka looked far more upset at the prospect. They were the last to be called for their duel. Dax had had to watch Baan absolutely destroy his opponent from the sidelines. She would have loved to wipe that smirk off his face, but she had to clear that thought from her mind as she entered the small arena to face Taka. "You have one minute to score three hits on your opponent." Vash explained, "Present your lightsabers." Both Dax and Taka raised their sabers, "Flourish." And they did so, each of them quickly assuming their stance, "Begin!" Vash stepped to one side and immediately Dax was on the offensive. She knew Taka's weaknesses and wanted to exploit them by fighting aggressively. However, she was also sure that Taka knew her own short-comings and sure enough, Taka immediately went on the defensive. She weathered several blows and as Dax raised her lightsaber to bring down a powerful vertical slice, Taka nimbly darted her training saber into Dax's collar bone. Repressing her discomfort and the shock of being struck, Dax quickly recovered and resumed her offensive, but this time she was aware of Taka's nimble attacks and each time she tried to attack, Dax would knock her blows aside. Very quickly, Taka was unable to block or dodge any further and Dax quickly managed to get two strikes on her before she raised her guard to block the third. The pair circled one another, bruised and tired but as they charged into the centre of the arena, Vash put her forefinger and thumb to her lips and whistled, calling it to a close. Dax and Taka came together in the centre and hugged before they turned and stepped down from the arena. Dax wasn't really sure how she felt about fighting her best friend, they'd duelled before but it hadn't been quite so serious as that. Taka looked a little uncomfortable as well, which she was pleased to see, if she was being honest. At least neither of them liked to fight each other. Dax thought to herself and smiled, she imagined Taka would have rather she'd fought Baan as well. "Yes, yes, very good." Vash muttered, checking her list, "That's everyone, now, on to the third trial." Once Vash had finished explaining what they had to do, Dax swallowed nervously and shook her head. "Okay, I might as well just go back to my room..." She muttered to herself, but Taka laid her arm around Dax's shoulder. "Hey, don't give up just yet, you pretty much showed the Masters that you're the best duellist here," Taka smiled at her warmly. "You still hit me though, that means i'm dead. Sort of." She returned, a slight 'huffiness' in her tone. "The best of a rubbish bunch, then." Taka replied, and they both laughed quietly. The third trial. The initiates had to show their willingness and ability to meditate and understand the flow of the force. Dax was well aware that this was the area she was most lacking in. She had never been a very patient, or meditative person. In fact, the time she disliked most in the day was meditation. The other students would sit down and close their eyes and go to a different place. But all that happened to her when she sat down was she could hear the minute shuffles and scrapes of the things around her. Feel the wind on her skin, the sun on her face. Hear the chatter of passing students and even the beat of her own heart. It was all incredibly distracting. As the initiates all sat down, Dax gave one last look to Taka who had already closed her eyes and to Dax's great surprise, she looked like she was levitating a foot off the ground! Oh, how she wished she could do that, and in fact, for a few moments she wondered if she could forcibly levitate herself off the ground, but discarded that idea when she figured that a Jedi Master had to be able to tell the difference between meditative levitation, and forceful suspension. Sitting down, Dax closed her eyes and tried to tune the world out. For a few fleeting seconds, there was darkness and silence. Then her senses attuned to her environment and suddenly it was a cacophony of noise. Shuffling, coughing, breathing. She could hear the hushed whispers of the Jedi Masters as they talked amongst themselves while they inspected the other students. Strangely, however, it was their words that pulled her away from the rest of the noise. She was desperate to hear what they were saying. She reached out, trying to concentrate and she began to catch little snippets of their conversation. "--is a shoe-in--" "--don't think--only one this time--" "--is her?" "Okay, initiates!" Vash's voice pulled Dax from her snooping, for which she had to let out a long, deep breath as though she'd forgotten how to breathe while she was meditating. That's all she needed - to be carted to the care wing. Death by meditation. She almost laughed, if she was going to die, it wouldn't surprise her if it was by that. "That's all we need. You will all be called upon tomorrow morning and informed individually of your assessment, and possible acceptance into Padawan training. You have the rest of the day to yourselves, well done!" Vash began to clap, and the distant sound of gentle applause followed from the Jedi Masters. It seemed that whatever happened next, was out of Dax's hands. She hated it, but at least she had the rest of the day off, so...
  13. NC-17 [Private] Forged by Fate

    "My 'fans'?" Aeran laughed, smiling to Gnarlen as he accepted the tankard. He took a sip and started to feel a strange buzz, but it was getting stronger. So much so that he was sure that even the dwarven ale couldn't be that powerful. Then he realised, and looked over to see Náriel with her face half-buried in a huge casket of ale. Her long throat pulsating as waves of ale washed down her meat. Having fun, are we? Aeran asked her through their personal link to one another. He felt Náriel clearly from across the room. It took a couple of seconds for their link to intensify and when it did, Aeran chuckled. He felt tipsy and reached out to hold the nearest chair for support. You're drunk, he noted. I am not, Náriel replied, a slightly haughty tone to her thoughts. I know my limits, thank you very mush. Aeran's laugh carried through the hall, mixing into the cacophony of eating dwarves, bouncy music and raucous laughter. Then to the surprise of all present, including Aeran... Náriel laughed. A rolling bellow-like trumpeting sound that made everyone in the room join in with her powerful laugh. The feast and ensuing party went on like this for some time, Aeran had no idea if it was day or night any longer, or even if one day had been lost to the next. It wasn't until King Barzúl stood and banged his fist off the table that all fell silent. Barzúl's throaty, rumbling voice boomed through the great hall, "Friends!" The word echoed over and over, "Family!" The King touched his palm to his muscular chest and smiled beneath his great beard, "We honour heroes this night!" The dwarves cheered and clapped and smacked their fists off the long tables in front of them. "And we bestow our appreciation and gifts upon them, as is our duty!" The dwarves cheering rang in Aeran's ears and he wanted to cover them - the Awyé was making his hearing particularly astute right now - but he didn't want to offend anyone accidentally. "To the guardian of the rider--" King Barzúl began, "Solstice!" He called to her, stretching out his arm. Solstice rose from her seat upon her name being announced, feeling strange about the attention, but sensing the expectation in the king's eyes. Against her discomfort she kept her head high, allowing the dwarves to see her face in the light, though they'd yet to show any alarm to her, it was still a natural response for her to be uncomfortable with the exposure. She raised her fist, drawing out more of their cheers, mildly amused at how the simple action made the room erupt with the dwarven cheers. Solstice moved from the table, joining the King, though she stared longingly at the exit. Barzúl clapped his powerful hand on Solstice's back and pulled her close to him, embracing her like a sister, "Solstice, without you, our young rider--" As he said the word, many of the dwarves in the room emptied their tankards with single gulps and cheered, "--might never have seen our halls. But now," He paused for effect, "Now, you three are the hope of our people, of all the people of these lands!" He motioned to someone beside him who offered him a scroll, "This is the deed to your home, we built it specially for your..." Barzúl rolled his hands as he looked up at her, "... needs!" He said, laughing. Clearly he was talking about her height compared to the dwarves. Everyone in the hall cheered as he pushed the deed into her hands, "Further, I grant you, all the rights and privileges of a member of our royal family, you will be as a sister to me, and know that you will always be welcome to travel in our lands." Barzúl pulled a small gold ring from his pocket and offered it to Solstice. It was one of the royal family's rings, indicators of their heritage. "Lastly, I grant you the title that has not been bestowed upon one such as yourself in many, many years... much as Aeran and Náriel are the first of their kind after all this time. You guard the riders with your life, and work with them to protect our world from all evil. You are now, and will forever be, a Dragon Knight." The room erupted in cheers and clapping and Náriel roared with joy, spreading her wings which grazed the ceiling. Solstice was stunned, staring with wide eyes at the dwarf so much shorter than her. He offered the scroll to her, even placed it in her palm, but it simply hit the floor. The elves had tied her up, put her in a cell - even amongst humans she was feared or looked down upon - but here, the dwarves they celebrated her. As the hall fell to silence, Solstice slowly kneeled down and picked up the scroll, clenching it in her blackened hand. "King Barzúl... I..." Solstice stuttered and then fell silent again. She pressed her hands to the floor and bowed her head, "You give me great honor... so much more than you could possibly imagine." Though she was obviously quite taken aback with the honours bestowed upon her she managed to rise back to her feet and with a shaking hand she took the ring still held in his outstretched hand immediately donning it upon her middle finger of her left hand. "Thank you, King Barzúl." "Aye..." The King's smile broadened, "The Dragon Knights were the eyes and ears of the riders, and great warriors in their own right. I can think of none better that deserve that title, especially in these dark days." King Barzúl then allowed Solstice to return to her seat and he clapped his hands together, bringing the room to silence a second time. "Many have forgotten that the riders were not masters of some domesticated beast," As he spoke the words, Náriel's head rose up, "They were not carried by beasts of burden, or tamers of unintelligent monsters." Aeran could feel the heat coming from Náriel's thoughts, her pride swelled as the King of the dwarves spoke so frankly about the majesty of her race. "The dragons bound themselves to the riders, just as the riders did to the dragons. Together, their partnership gave us thousands of years of peace and happiness, it is because of you, Náriel, that the betrayer Queen will soon be put to death - no doubt, if you have your chance, by your own fangs, haha!" The entire hall erupted with laughter as Náriel flashed the weapons in her mouth, each larger than a dagger. It was a terrifying sight - for those who might be on the receiving end, at least. "So you too, have earned our respect and admiration, scaled-one. I cannot give you the rights to hunt in my lands, for you can take them as you please, and I would not stop you, but many battles lie ahead of you and so I have had my smiths commission a gift..." From the far end of the hall, dozens of dwarves marched in, together they carried an enormous metal helmet, shaped to fit Náriel's face, covering her from the back of her head to the tip of her snout. It was engraved with hundreds of runes and beautiful markings. Náriel sniffed at the armour and growled with appreciation, and Aeran relayed her words to the King. "Thank you, Dwarf King," He said, trying to match her tone, "When we slay the Queen, I will bathe this armour in her blood and," Aeran paused, as Náriel did, and he smiled, "I will bring this helm back to you as a trophy to hang in your hall." The dwarves beat their fists on the tables in rhythmic approval and the King clapped his hands together with a beaming grin, as the armour was hoisted up and carried back out of the hall. "Aeran, dragon rider..." King Barzúl called out, holding his arm aloft for Aeran to approach. Still holding his tankard, Aeran strode up as confidently as he could, but he still felt butterflies buzzing in his stomach. Náriel supported his wavering confidence however as the King's large hand reached up and grasped his shoulder. "You are most precious to us. It is likely not the first you've heard it, nor I should think the last, but you are our greatest hope. You are rider, when there should be none! That was Aedra's first mistake, and I believe it is enough to show her weakness." Aeran beamed at the King's words, but he felt strange. His entire body was buzzing and he felt hot all over, the tips of his fingers were tingling. He glanced into his ale wondering if it was the drink, and then looked back at the King. "Aeran, there is only one thing we dwarves can give you. When you came here, you brought with you a piece of Svarl, the metal used to forge the swords of the riders." The King sucked in a great lungful of air, "Well our master smiths have been working ever since you arrived, to bring that metal to life. We have used all our knowledge and skill to create the most powerful sword in the history of the riders," The King's smile widened at Aeran's shocked expression, "In fact, so great is our trust in you, that I made a special request to our smiths." The King's expression became touched with severity, and a hushed whisper spread through the onlookers. "What request?" Aeran asked, frowning and trying to shake off the light-headedness he was feeling. "Your sword has no weakness, it answers to none but you, dragon rider. It is the one and only sword crafted by the dwarves for the riders that can yet harm us, kill us, if you so choose it." The whispers grew louder still and the King had to raise his hand to silence them, "Know that we give this to you, and trust that you will have the strength to wield it - and the knowledge to know when it should not be used." "T-thank you, King Barzúl... this is... I will never--" Aeran began, and the King raised his hand to cut him off. "Do not promise never to kill a dwarf, Aeran. We do not know what the future will hold, and I would not have you make a promise you cannot keep, I ask only that you remember why we have gifted you this blade." Aeran nodded slowly and the King mimicked him with a smile, clapping Aeran on the shoulder, "Bring us the blade of the rider!!" The King roared, and the hall erupted in raucous cheering once more. A few moments later, a single dwarf walked into the hall, and silence fell over the room yet again. She was a young girl, no older than 12 or 13, with bright blonde braided hair. She carried the blade sheathed in black leather, and wrapped in red silk. She looked nervous, glancing at all the faces staring intently at her and the weapon held in her hands. Her footsteps echoed down the room and as she ascended the few steps up to the King and Aeran, she looked ready to pass out. As she got to the top, she smiled at Aeran and then looked to the King, "Well go on then, lass. Give it to him already." The King grinned and the girl nodded excitedly and then held it high up to Aeran who bowed to the girl, making her blush. Pulling the red silk aside, Aeran lifted the blade from her hands and noticed at once that even in it's sheathe, it felt lighter than anything he had held before. It was lighter even than the red Infurus blades that Aedra had created but it wasn't until Aeran drew the blade from it's sheathe, releasing a delicate ringing sound, that he realised that this blade was so far removed from the Infurus weapons that it was almost comical. The blade shone like a star, reflecting every source of light in the room and making it bounce and dance along the white metal. The blade itself was quite long, longer than Aeran was accustomed to, it seemed quite delicate but Aeran could feel how powerful it was. "The blade has had many enchantments woven into the blade, for though we do not like or use magic, we know how to channel it into the metal, and understand it's importance in crafting your weapon, Aeran. It will not dull or break. It will not fail or betray you. There are many magical properties to the sword, but these you will need to come to know and use yourself, this is not something we can explain or understand." "It's incredible." Aeran whispered, looking at it. As he sunk the blade back into it's sheathe, Aeran was sad to see it hidden. It was truly glorious. "Your gift is..." Aeran laughed, "It's the nicest thing i've ever been given." He laughed again and the room exploded in loud clapping. Náriel beat her wings, sending waves of air rushing around the room, sending cups and food spilling in every direction, beards fluttering in the wind. She folded her wings and Aeran heard two voices say the same thing. King Barzúl turned to address the dwarves, and as he did so, Náriel spoke to him. "Now you're a rider!" King Barzúl cheered and the dwarves downed their drinks and readied for the party to continue. Now you are a rider, Náriel spoke to him, the loving caress of her thoughts touching him, her pride in him filling him with joy. Well now I feel the part, Aeran replied, grinning back at her from across the room. I just wish I hadn't had so much ale... The room was spinning, Aeran shook his head trying to bring himself back under control, but it wasn't working any more. He heard voices, people talking to him, he could tell they were asking him questions, but what they were he couldn't tell. He felt something hard hit him in the side, and then nothing. Not a sound, nor a sight. Just darkness. "Ugh..." Aeran groaned, touching his forehead, "How much did I have to drink last night?" He frowned, his voice sounded funny. It was still his voice, but it was lighter somehow, almost lyrical. He felt bed covers and a pillow behind his head and he tried to open his eyes but the lamp light hanging from the ceiling was blinding, why was it so bright? It was as though someone had captured the sun in a bottle. It was obnoxious to him, and fake. Then suddenly a hundred smells were assaulting him at once. He could smell cooking, and it was delicious. But he could also smell sweat and perfume and strange herbs, and all manner of things. The smells were so strong he thought they would overwhelm him at any moment. The bed sheets also felt rougher on his skin, the cloth felt imperfect to him, like it was woven by children. Stretching, he called out, "Hello? Hello, is there anyone there?!" He waited, wondering who was in the next room. It looked like they hadn't left the King's palace, but he couldn't be sure where he was exactly, but given the smell, was he near the kitchens? Solstice was standing outside the room, her back against the door, his personal guard. She heard when his heartbeat picked up, but she'd wait, if this was anything like the morning after she'd been mutated it would be overwhelming. Only once she heard his voice call out did she push off the door, twist around and enter the room. For several moments she just stared at him, taking in the physical alterations. When she spoke she made a point of keeping her voice soft and relatively quiet, "Aeran, how are you feeling?" "Oh, Solstice!" Aeran called out, smiling, "I feel strange. Everything feels weird, this bed feels weird, and the lights are too bright and everything smells." Aeran pulled himself up and rested his back against the pillows and noticed that his body was different. His arms and legs were leaner now, as was his torso which was also well-adorned with athletic muscle, "W-what...?!" He looked up at Solstice with confused, slightly panicky eyes. Solstice offered him a rare smile, which was more just the slightest curve to the corner of her lips. "The Awyé, Aeran." She raised her arm, gesturing to a mirror, "It seems it has run its course on you." Slowly, Aeran got out of bed, and pulled on a pair of trousers before he stood and crossed the room to stand in front of a full-length mirror. At first, he thought the person staring back at him was not him at all. It was leaner than he was, taller. It's face was different to his, it was more handsome, more angular than his face. His eyebrows were slightly slanted, and his eyes were almost almond-shaped now. His ears were just like an elf's now. In fact, if he didn't know it was him, he would have thought it was an elf. But still, he could see himself in it. His smile was still there, and the colour of his eyes had not changed. Also unlike an elf, his skin was still lightly tanned, and his head of wild black hair had gone unchanged. Enough of him remained that he was recognisable, and for that, he was glad. "Well..." Aeran let out a long sigh, "At least it's over now, I suppose." Solstice took her position by the door, waiting as he examined his reflection. She nodded at his comment once he seemed satisfied, "Let's hope so. I worried on the trip here you might fall off Náriel." Not that she'd have actually allowed such a thing. Aeran laughed, "Yeah..." He took a deep breath and stretched, looking down at the scars in his palms, "I was hoping that maybe the Awyé would have healed my scars, but I guess I can't have everything." He grinned, pursing his lips. "I think--" As he spoke, he heard footsteps. They both turned to see a young silver-haired elf stood in the doorway. His keenly critical emerald green eyes scanned the room and locked to Aeran, looking him up and down, "So you're an elf now, are you?" Angvar asked, raising an eyebrow. Aeran simply grit his teeth in silence. "Oh, hello half-breed." Angvar added, looking at Solstice, his tone centred and calm, even pleasant, but his choice of words was enough. Why was Angvar here now? He wondered if his expression was as surprised as he felt, but he hoped he wasn't giving the elf the satisfaction. Solstice simply raised a brow at him, curious on if he actually thought such a pitiful attempt at an insult would get a rise out of her. "What are you doing here?" Aeran asked calmly, realising that his voice sounded quite pleasant. "I came here because of your Awyé, obviously." Angvar replied, looking around the room with disapproval, "I was sent on behalf of the Queen, you are one of our people now, and so you have responsibilities to us, you were sent to the dwarves to receive a sword, and a sword I see, you have. I suggest it is time we returned to finish your training." "My training is over, Angvar." Aeran replied. "I am not going back just yet, and as for my 'responsibilities'," He paused, frowning at himself. He felt more confident, which also confused him slightly. It was a strange feeling, though not a bad one. He almost laughed if not for the fact that Angvar was stood staring at him with a confused expression creeping onto his face. "I owe no responsibility to any one people. As a rider, my loyalty is to the people of this world. Not to the elves, or the dwarves, or the humans, but to all." "Hmph," Angvar scoffed and stood still for a minute as he thought to himself, finally a grin spread across his face, "So you say your training is over then, rider? Perhaps I can give you a new lesson?" "Gladly." Aeran replied, and the silver-haired elf nodded and walked away. Aeran waited a minute and then suddenly realised he'd been holding his breath and let it out quickly. Solstice placed her hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze and he smiled back at her. He hoped he hadn't just set himself up for a big fall. Aeran looked down at his boots and the sand beneath them, the corridor was dark and cool and Gnarlen held his hand against Aeran's back, "Yer gonna be fine, laddie. Dinnae worry 'bout that pup." The dwarf growled, smiling up at Aeran. "Hows it feel then eh?" He asked. "Odd." Aeran replied simply, and the dwarf nodded in understanding. The sound of a horn blew in the distance, and Gnarlen placed one hand on the door in front of them. "Ready?" With a deep breath, Aeran nodded and Gnarlen opened the door. The light blinded him for a moment, as Aeran stepped out into the sandy arena, but his eyes quickly adjusted. Angvar was stood in the distance, on the far side. Aeran had been expecting a few dozen dwarves in the stands, but there were thousands. He couldn't count how many were looking at him, and at first, all he heard were whispers. He could hear dozens of dwarves remarking on his appearance. Most were surprised, some were interested, and even a few were angry or confused or upset. But the whispering quickly turned to cheers and soon it became so loud that even King Barzúl's third yell into the crowd did little to quiet them. It was not until Náriel - who sat towering beside the King - loosed a roar followed by a jet of flame that the crowd finally settled. "Our warriors," The King began, "Have trained and fought here for thousands of years!" Barzúl waited for the cheers to die down and then continued, "Today two warriors from foreign lands take their honoured place in our arena. Angvar of the elves, said to be their greatest warrior, who has trained their soldiers for decades, and Aeran, dragon rider!" That felt like I had a much shorter introduction, Aeran said to Náriel slightly nervously. Don't worry, Aeran. Remember, you almost beat Angvar when you were human. Náriel showed him images of the fights they had had in the past as she spoke, Just remember that. Anyway, now you're an elf, a rider and you have all the training you had before. He doesn't stand a chance. I'm glad one of us is confident, would you like to fight him? Aeran asked, half-joking, half-serious. I would eat him, Náriel muttered back to him, growling. "Begin!!" King Barzúl yelled, and an unusual silence followed from the crowd as they watched and waited. Aeran and Angvar approached one another until they were both in the centre of the arena, sizing one another up. "Are you ready, dragon rider? Are you really ready to fight me?" Angvar asked, grinning unashamedly, brandishing his blade. "I am more than I was." Aeran spat back at the elf, and drew his new blade from it's sheathe, the metal flickered in the light and despite himself, Angvar audibly gasped. Aeran flourished the weapon and took up a defensive stance. "When you're ready?" He asked expectantly. Angered by Aeran's sudden cockiness, Angvar quickly closed the gap between them. Drums sounded all around them as the two fighters circled one another. Angvar thought he saw an opening and launched forwards, slicing. But Aeran's blade caught his and deflected it quickly and riposte'd so quickly that Angvar had to retreat in order to avoid from being hit. Aeran smiled at the elf, and Angvar's snarl widened. The fight started simply enough, but within minutes the two fighters were performing moves the likes of which no dwarf had ever seen before. They danced around one another, slicing and stabbing with the grace and fluidity of dancers. The blades extensions of their bodies. Every time a strike was attempted, it was knocked aside, or redirected. Now and then Angvar would think he had seen an opening and he would attempt to exploit it only to find that the opening no longer existed, if it ever had in the first place. He was growing frustrated. Minutes turned to hours and the fight still raged on, and the crowd had lost none of their excitement. The two fighters seemed unparalleled in their precision and skill, and it was a joy to behold. Aeran ducked under a quick swipe and leapt over another, landing on Angvar's blade and barely affecting the elf's arm at all, he felt almost weightless. He vaulted backwards off the blade and kicked Angvar in the underside of his chin, sending him sprawling back into the sand, messing up his hair and clothing. The elf quickly scrambled to his feet as Aeran waited patiently for him to recover. "Take this seriously!" Angvar spat at the ground, unable to look at Aeran. "I was just looking for a little sparring, Angvar." Aeran replied with a cocky grin, "Don't you want to win?" "Yes!" Angvar snapped, running up to Aeran, their swords clashed once again, "But I want you take this seriously, as you would Aedra! Enough grand-standing Aeran, I know you can beat me now, so do it! You won't be able to do this with her, do you understand?!" It was only then that Aeran realised he was being stupid. He had let his new power go to his head, and instead of quickly beating Angvar, he had allowed their fight to go on, giving the elf the illusion that Aeran was still weaker than he was in reality, by offering illusory mistakes, chinks in his defence that never existed in the first place. "I'm sorry... Angvar-kai." Aeran replied, using the title as a genuine sign of respect. Then Angvar attempted to take Aeran's head with a quick 360 degree spinning attack, but Aeran saw it coming and deftly dodged to one side, caught Angvar's blade with his own and before Angvar could do anything to counter, Aeran attacked so quickly and so ferociously, that his defense was overthrown and Aeran knocked the blade from Angvar's hand and held his starlight blade to the elf's throat. The dwarves, suddenly realising that the fight was at last over, leapt out of the benches and cried out, calling Aeran's name. "You're a better teacher than I thought." Aeran muttered, reluctantly offering Angvar his hand. "As you are a better student." Angvar paused, but then accepted Aeran's hand and using his help, got to his feet. Angvar returned Aeran's grasp and then held the young man's hand high into the air. The drums came to a stop, but the cheering echoed on.
  14. The clouds were dark, gliding across the early afternoon sky. Syl stared up at the sky, unsure of how long he'd been awake, but he knew he had woken long before he had really been aware of it himself, as though he were in a trance. His body felt numb, but his face was on fire. He struggled to bring his weak arm up to his face to touch where he remembered being burnt. Bandages wrapped diagonally across his nose, over his left eye and brow. The pain was not as intense as he remembered, but it was throbbing badly. He leant up and saw Skarra's worg was beside him, and at his rousing, she shuffled forwards and nudged him in the shoulder. He smiled at her for a moment, the image of her flying into the face of the dragon to save his life still vivid in his mind's eye. Then he realised Skarra was gone. Syl looked around, dozens of bodies littered the ground around him. Some were charred corpses, barely more than piles of dessicated ash. Others were horribly maimed or broken, splayed across the ground like abandoned marionettes. A sound reached Syl's sensitive ears and it seemed to pull the world back into focus. Wary of his body's unresponsiveness, Syl slowly tried to pull himself to his feet. His first attempt landed him back on his backside, but as he tried a second time, Skarra's worg stood beside him and helped to push him up. The field had been turned to something unrecognisable, something only dreamt of in a nightmare. The ground was dead, flames lashed everywhere. The stench filled his nose, assaulting his senses, he could taste the burning flesh in his mouth and he was disgusted. The dragon had been a force of nature - no, worse. It had malice. That sound echoed in his ears once again, and like a moth to a flame, he approached. The low moans of a mother losing her son wafted across the battlefield. Dozens of the remaining soldiers stood still, looking at Shak'ti, unable to move - Transfixed. Syl placed a hand on one soldier's back, pulling him from his stupor. He thanked the Alfar and stepped aside, and Syl slowly approached Shak'ti until he was stood just behind her. For a little while he said nothing until at last he sat beside her, "I had to sit." His soft, lyrical voice whispered to her as he gingerly held his head in one hand. "It's fine" Shak'ti replied. "All are welcome, it is...I suppose it is nice that he'd have visitors in the end..." Syl's thoughts ran wild and indecision gripped him. Everything he had been taught by his elders had been done so with express direction that he was never to show a haella - an outsider - their ways. But seeing Shak'ti mourn Kobi, burdened by her understanding of the world, he couldn't stand it any longer. Syl leant forwards and touched Kobi on the brow, his lips moved but seemed to produce no sound. As he did so, a wisp of white smoke rose from Kobi's body and took shape. Kobi's spirit stood over Shak'ti, his eyes bore into hers. An unspoken exchange, and then he darted into the forest. Syl stood, and made to leave. "That..." Shak'ti said in but a whisper, "...I never thought it possible..." once again tears fell from her eyes. "Thank you..." Syl paused and nodded, "It is never 'the end', Shak'ti." The walk back to Amerus was slow and uneventful. Many of the survivors were carried by the mounts of Dumont's soldiers, but even then they did not arrive until after nightfall. The city was busier than ever however, even at this late hour. Syl noticed hundreds out in the streets, ready to welcome back their valiant champions, but upon seeing the wounded stragglers, their faces morphed from joy, to horror and shame. The hunting party walked through the crowded streets in near silence, only the lonely sounds of hoofs clacking against the stone work. With the assistance of the soldiers, Syl dismounted Skarra's worg, and was led to the door of an old but large house. One of the men knocked on the door and waited, but after a couple of seconds passed he impatiently rapped on the door again. When the door opened, a bedraggled middle-aged man with thinning hair and a short, unkempt grey beard stepped out, already holding his finger aloft and pointing menacingly at the soldier, "I'll not have soldiers bangin' on my door in the middle of the blessed night!" He snapped, "A man needs his sleep, i've earnt that much, haven't I?" He paused, breathing through his fluttering nostrils, "What?! What are you all standing around for - who are you all?" He scanned the group until his eyes fell upon Syl. "Holy Gods, an Alfar and... what's happened to your--" "--he needs treatment, as do many." One of the soldiers added. The portly man licked and smacked his lips uncomfortably until at last, he acquiesced. "Well bring 'im in then, come on, hurry up. And the rest. I'll wake the wife. She's not going to be happy." "You're bloody right i'm not happy, Alcot." Grumbled the wife, Elaine. "Look, their feet are all muddy, they're just traipsing it through our carpet - look, look!!" She pointed accusingly as one of the soldiers began to lead Syl down a corridor to a room beyond. "Listen, woman!" Alcot snapped at last, "That's not mud, that's blood!" He lost his anger as the realisation of his own words finally hit him and he looked back over the group - they were the party sent to hunt the dragon. "Oh..." He said feebly, staring at them. Elaine blinked, wiping the sleep from her eyes. Blood was dripping from armour and flayed skin alike. "Right, then... if you're going to stay, you best get to work. I want you," She pointed to the nearest guard, "Get a mop and bucket, and clean the blood out this carpet," she turned to the next soldier, "Get the lot of 'em out their armour this instant, and check them for wounds. Put them in three groups, from severe to, I don't know... well done." She rolled up her sleeves, revealing arms as muscular as her husband's. "Can you save them?" One of the soldiers asked the man. "Who are you talkin' to?!" Elaine barked, looking from the soldier to her husband and back to the soldier once more, "That man don't know 'is arse from 'is elbow, i'm the healer in this family. He's my nurse, I suppose." "Love you too, dear." Alcot grumbled, as he laid Syl down upon a bed. The cool, clean sheets made Syl feel drowsy, but he needed to stay awake. To do something, anything. He tried to bring himself up onto his elbow, but when Elaine stepped into his room, she shook her head and unceremoniously pulled his arm out from him, throwing him back onto the bed. "No. I don't think so. You're staying in bed." Syl glanced at her and she stared back at him, "Don't you give me that look, ya strange thing. If I as much as find anythin' magical or enchanted about this house, i'll turn your skin from blue to white, y'understand?" "Mmhm." Syl groaned, and rested his head back on his pillow. When Syl awoke, he felt someone fussing over his bandages. He looked over to see that Elaine was sat beside his bed, "Awake now, are ya?" She asked, already knowing. Then turned her attention back on the bandages on his face. "Resilient son of a bitch, aren't ye?" She muttered as she worked, "Most folks take a burn like that and they don't wake up." She sighed and ran her fingers across the rest of his forehead, down the bridge of his nose, under his eyes and down his neck, "You wanna tell me how you got all these?" She asked, raising an eyebrow at the scarification. "Leave me be," Syl pulled away from Elaine and turned onto his side, coughing as he realised his mouth was hoarse and dry. The dragon's smoke, no doubt. Elaine walked around the other side of the bed, and a deep growl rolled out. Syl opened his eye in surprise to see Skarra's worg sat beside his bed, alternating between panting and letting out a growl at Elaine's actions in the room. "I'll not be growled at in my own home ya cantankerous beastie!" She growled back at her, "I'm no scared of you..." Elaine stared the worg down until Akela seemed to decide that she was no danger to Syl, either that, or she was slightly intimidated by Elaine. "Here," Elaine poured some water into a cup and brought it to Syl's lips, he took a sip and she stood back, "How are you feeling?" "Take these off." Syl pulled at his bandages. "They're better left on, and--" "--take them off!" Syl snapped at her, panting and clutching his side. He glared up at her and after a few moments of silent consideration Elaine shrugged her shoulders and began removing the bandages, unwinding them piece by piece. "Yes, fine. Die, see if I care." She muttered under her breath. When she finished taking the last one off, Syl held out his hand. "Mirror." He grunted. Elaine hesitated but masked it with further complaints, "Yes, fine, obviously. Mirror. Shall I get your pipe as well, I don't--" Her voice trailed off as she left and walked down the corridor, leaving Syl alone in the room with Akela. A few minutes later, Elaine re-entered the room, a mirror clutched in her hands. "Now look, i'm not--" "Let me see." Syl cut her off, his tone calm but his expression barely hiding a frantic need to know. Elaine held out the mirror and Syl snatched it from her and slowly pulled himself out of bed, once he was stood he held the mirror in front of him, and looked back at his reflection. A slick, white scar ran from the corner of his right cheek, diagonally up across the bridge of his nose, through his milky white left eye, and up through his brow where it stopped at the left-side of his forehead. The dragon's flames had wiped away some of the facial markings. Elaine spoke, but this time, her tone was without jest or barb, "Your left eye... you'll no see with it again. I'm sorry, old one." Lowering the mirror, Syl looked around the room like he was trying to find something he'd lost. He frowned and his breathing accelerated into quick, raspy breaths. The mirror slipped from his fingers and smashed upon the ground and then he spun around, grabbed the side of the bed and flipped it with a single heave. The bed flew through the air and crashed into the side of the room as Elaine stumbled out of the room and pressed her back up against the corridor wall. Syl fled from the room and ran down the corridor, Akela quickly giving chase. He passed the soldiers, burst out of the front door and ran out onto the street. The light of the sun was coming up in the distance, and he ran towards it. Syl ran until he finally escaped the outer limit's of the city and entered the forest. He kept running, leaping over rock and springing off fallen trees, deftly moving through the forest until he put out a foot to step off a pebble he'd use as a stepping stone while crossing a stream, and ever so slightly misjudged it. His foot half-touched the edge of the pebble and he careened sideways into the stream, tumbling through the water until he scrambled out the other side. Akela trotted up behind him and paced, unsure if Syl was going to continue or remain as he was. "It took my eye..." Syl muttered, looking at Akela as though he was addressing her, "My face!" Syl snapped, but Akela continued to stare back at him with a mute expression on her face. "How can I hunt like this?!" He yelled into the forest, kicking his foot into the stream and sending a spray of water onto the nearby grass. He fell to his knees and groaned, "It took them from me..." He ran his fingers delicately across his face, along the scar, where several of the scarification tattoos had once been. "I will forget..." He cried.
  15. The night had grown ever darker, as the fire roared in front of the band of hunters with reckless abandon, mimicking their seemingly carefree lives. Syl glanced around, quietly observing. He had seen such scenes before, as those who go willingly to death. Acknowledging it in whatever way they can, distracting themselves from the necessary - and most likely - final outcome to their journey. He held his hand out, letting it dance alongside the flames until he cupped his palm and a shard of flame tottered into his hand and steadied itself. As the hunters' singing came to a close, and they bedded down for the night, Syl began to sing. His song though in ancient elven seemed to resonate with the camp regardless, conjuring images of great battles won and lost. Of a young Queen, who fought her way across the battlefield to save her beloved knight from certain death. She would succeed, but fall in his place. His song was mournful and yet it had a trance-like beauty to it. When his song was done, he stood, allowed the dancing spark to return to the flames, and in the instant it did the entire bonfire went out, casting the camp into darkness. Morning came and the effects of last night's alcohol seemed distant, the hunters were alert and mindful. Both hunter and worg paced to release excitement and trepidation. With the full forces of the hunting party assembled, Syl requested to be seated behind one of the worg masters. A young woman called Skarra with long red dreadlocks with unusually bright green eyes, giving a powerful contrast to her face. "Mornin', blue." The woman greeted him with an out-held arm and they clasped one another. Syl realised then that she had remarkable strength, equalling that or likely exceeding the strength of many warriors he had met - some even from his own kin. "Strange clouds, I don't like it." She muttered. "The clouds?" Syl asked, "Or the fact we're hunting an enormous, fire-breathing lizard, perhaps?" "The clouds." She said simply, with a raised eyebrow that led into a smile. “It’s coming.†Shak'ti nodded to Krios. "Alright then, this'll be a good mornin' pick-me-up..." Skarra muttered to herself as her worg - a beast as black as midnight, with eyes the yellow of the moon - dropped to the ground and snarled, "Easy, girl." "I see it..." Syl whispered. Moments later, a terrible silence fell upon the hunters and was swallowed up with the resonant beating of wings. The all-encompassing black dragon swept in, casting a shadow over everything and everyone. Skarra mouthed a curse as it spread it's wings and landed with a great, thunderous boom. Stretching the leathery skin of it's wings, the dragon coiled them close to her back and scented the air. She paused, hesitated and Syl knew what came next. He looked to one side just in time to see Krios addressing the other worg riders. “Let’s not waste any time. On my mark…†Syl could feel the worg beneath him tense, her legs seize up in anticipation. She knew what was coming as much as her rider, Skarra. "Go!" The sound of the riders were as deafening as the surprised bellowing of the dragon. Whatever it thought of the intruders, if anything, didn't matter. It launched into the air, ready to reduce the entire hunting party to ash in an instant. But the timing of the archers were almost perfect, and hundreds of arrows streaked overhead. Dozens of them glancing off scales, bouncing off the leather of her wings, and a few hit at just the right angle to pierce. Her pain sent her into a rage, even as she was forced to land. But she was far from defenceless when grounded and her first instinct was to glaze the battlefield in white-hot flame. Several of the riders and their worgs were reduced to charred remains while others deftly avoided the jet of instant death. Skarra kept her eyes on the dragon as they charged directly towards it. "How close did you say we had to get?!" She yelled. "Close..." Syl called back to her, as they were just a hundred feet away now. "How close?!" She yelled back, as they were barely a stone's throw from the monster. "Close!!" Syl yelled, and as the dragon saw them approaching, he leapt to his feet on the back of the worg. Reaching for his bow, Syl stepped forwards onto Skarra's shoulder and leapt into the air. For a few fleeting seconds, Syl felt the world around him slow to a crawl as he pulled his bow and readied an arrow, letting it fly with pin-point accuracy. The arrow flew directly into the dragon's eye, and for a moment he was sure he had wounded it, but the dragon ignored the arrow as it bounced off it's inner-eyelid and raised it's head up to bite him in two. Twisting in the air, Syl grabbed the top of the dragon's snout as it snapped at him and used it to vault back behind the beast. She roared in defiance and Syl had time enough to see - before he had even touched down - that Skarra was in it's sights. He opened his mouth, as did the dragon, and his warning was drowned out as a jet of liquid flame flashed over them. He couldn't stop and mourn them right now. Syl landed upon the dragon's back, taking a moment to right himself and cast aside his bow. It was useless, he had no other option. Falling to one knee, Syl thrust his palms onto the back of the black dragon and recited a hasty command. From the ground beneath the dragon, enormous tree roots exploded upwards, making the dragon screech in surprise as their rough bark coiled around her limbs and wings and started to restrain her. She snapped at them, shattering anything she brought her teeth, tail or claws down upon. But with every attack, more coiled around her. Vines stretched up from the ground, blades of grass shot up and covered her eyes and she wailed in horror and confusion, yet she was no less dangerous. Syl was forced to leap back as she broke free of the bonds and whipped her tail around to hit him. Despite his speed, the tip of her tail clubbed him in the shoulder and he fell back from her body and landed beside her left hind leg. He felt the heat of her flames all around him, saw the worgs and their riders in all directions, arrows streaming down from above. Syl shook his head, trying to clear his pain-addled mind. It was just as well, as the moment he started to move, he saw an arrow fly down towards him. Rolling one direction, he dodged it, landing harmlessly into the ground where his chest had been a moment before. But then the dragon's hind leg raised up, snapping the roots holding it in place, and once again, Syl rolled out of the way of the dragon's rampage. He tried to maintain his spell, to reinforce it and to continue to rotate it's effects so that the dragon had no time to overcome or understand his intent. But he could feel the drain of the magic on his body, and he was still not fully rested from his arduous trek. Sooner rather than later, the bonds were going to fail. He had to give a signal to Krios, it was now or never. He wouldn't be able to hold the dragon in place for much longer. Leaping to his feet, Syl weaved amongst the trampling feet of the dragon, but as he cleared her and opened his mouth to call out, he heard a sound behind him. A terrible, ominous creaking. The world moved in slow motion once more, and Syl whirled around just in time to see several of the roots break under pressure and the dragon wrestle the blades of grass from her eyes. Her rage focused on him as the first target she saw, and he could hear the strange, throaty inhalation of breath and knew his time was at an end. He would not be able to move in time, he could not cast a spell. He was at his limit maintaining the bonds still keeping the she-dragon grounded, and he could not release them to save himself and in so doing, sacrifice everyone present. He asked his God's for a swift death, and asked that they would let him walk among the forests of his ancestors. But they did not listen. Instead, they sent a monster of equal rage and hate to the dragon itself. As the dragon released it's fiery jet, Skarra's midnight worg launched itself at the dragon's face, tearing at it with blind abandon. The flame narrowly missed most of Syl, but the last spitting embers danced across his face and he screeched in unimaginable pain, grasping at his face. The painful and surprising attack from Skarra's worg and the otherwordly sound escaping it's intended victim surprised the dragon, for a split-second she hesitated and through the pain, Syl called out to Krios. His words were in ancient elvish and laced with curses, as his pain and confusion would not allow him to drop his childhood tongue, but his meaning was clear. The time was now. The dragon recoiled, batting the midnight worg from it's face as it let another stream of fire out across the battlefield. Skarra's worg ran up to Syl and snapped at his back, picking him up as she would a pup and then she ran. Syl clutched his face, and saw only the beating paws of Skarra's worg, treading ground as fast as lightning. One of her front legs and part of her chest were singed and scarred by the dragon's fire. He knew then that they had both been marked for good, but he did not realise then just how badly he had been wounded. He felt the warm trickle of blood oozing through his fingers as he held them over his left eye and pitied Skarra's worg as he knew the fate handed to her rider. He heard the sound of battle cries, heard Krios' bellowing roar and Azu's unique cry as the others entered the battle in full, but for Syl, the fight was all but over. His remaining energy had to be given to his spell, and so he closed his eyes and subtly altered his spell so that it would not stop leeching energy from him until he was dead, or the bonds were utterly broken, wondering if he would wake to the horrors of this battle, or come to find himself walking amongst the forests of his ancient kin.
  16. "You cannot imagine what I would do," Syl replied, holding his irritation in check in spite of the assumptions of the Agrinian. "You want more food, then you should look there," Syl nodded his head to a spot in the distance, where the forest had almost turned to darkness. The bushes moved, but Syl was unsure if Krios could hear or see as far as that. "Hmm..." Krios gazed out in to the distance. He waited for a moment, looking for another sign of movement. Whatever was over there was certainly larger, but now it was stood still, frozen. He notched another arrow, pulling the bowstring back. He waited again, while he could not see the creature he had a sense of where it was. Then, after a moment, it moved to make it's escape. He loosed his arrow and it shot through the bushes, followed by a short cry of pain and then a thud. "Good eye." Krios said with a warm smile. "That's interesting to see. I've never seen someone do that. Is that magic? Or instinct?" For a few seconds, Syl examined Krios quietly. At first he wasn't going to respond, but at last he let out a breath, "My senses might be keener than yours. I don't know what stepping back from magic has done to your race, additionally, I have spent more than a hundred years hunting... many things." Syl turned and started his way through the forest to pick up the kill, a sizeable boar. With one arm, Syl lifted the creature up onto his shoulder and started walking once more. "I can't say I don't envy the extra time you have." Krios replied. "Not that it would do much good. They say the reason we stopped living so long was because it wasn't neccesary. We died young, even when we were long lived. Agrines is a rocky desert, there's no forests to hide in. And magic... it requires years of study. Very few of us get the luxury of sitting down and reading a book." "My people don't understand time the way you do," Syl replied quietly. "Is that right?" Krios replied. "What about you then? Are they all like you or are you different? I've never met one of you before. And those that have say you guys need to pull the stick out your arse. Haha!" Krios gave a wide grin, but he noticed that Syl didn't seem quite as amused. "Sorry... they were probably kidding... I'm sure." "Unlikely." Syl focused his attention on his surroundings as best he could, but thoughts of his people were at the forefront of his mind, "I am... different, from the rest of my kin. Anyway..." He coughed lightly, "You don't need a book to understand magic. It is a part of everything, you need only observe it and come to know it - to control it." "Easy to say when you have all the time in the world." Krios replied. "Everything takes practice, and practice takes time. When you're constantly on the move it's a lot easier to learn how to swing a sword. Before we bonded with the worg packs we were slow, easy prey." "I am unsurprised that Agrinians bound themselves to an animal, it is the way of elves to rely on animals. Just as they watch over us." Syl gently knelt down and placed the boar on the ground, resting his hands on his outstretched knees, "How much more food do we need?" "Not much." Krios replied. "We don't like to be wasteful. We'll use every part, all the flesh, the heart, the liver, all of it. I'd say another boar, or a couple of hares." He looked around, as if a short scan would find them their prey all that much faster. Unfortunately he did not have the same gift as his companion. "So... this magic you can do." He went on, "The problem we face here is if the dragon gets back in the air. There's plenty of room for it to dive, and if that happens we'll never keep up and we'll be as good as dead. Can you... trap it somehow?" "Are we unable to kill it quickly?" Syl asked tentatively, as he looked out into the forest, noticing something in the distance. "As quickly as possible." Krios replied. "Their hides are tough, arrows won't put a dent in them, at least not without enchantment. We have to get in close, and don't worry we've done this before. We'll ride in on the worgs, avoid the teeth and claws... and the fire. They're soft under their belly, and around their necks. If you can get under there you can avoid the nasty stuff, and gut them with this..." Krios unsheathed his bastard sword, the blade of which was silver in colour but glinted a peculiar red hue. Across the flat of the blade were runic markings, enchanted symbols. "Dragonsteel, it's made from their scales and strong steel. Combined with Blood Rune enchantments... this sword will never dull, and will never break." As the sword was drawn from it's sheathe, releasing a metallic screech, the rustling bushes in the distance became frantic. Syl loosed a string of words in Alfar that sounded suspiciously like he was cursing and he quickly darted into the forest. He held a hand out in front of him and muttered a single word and the rustling of the bushes turned into a high pitched squealing. Syl leapt over the bush to see the boar bound to the forest floor by his net of wriggling tree roots. Kneeling over the boar, Syl drew a blade and killed the creature to end it's suffering. He remained sat over the kill for a moment longer, whispering something and then he wiped the blade on the side of the boar's hide to clean it and stood back up, facing Krios with a pained expression on his face. "Ies tressa sa'une Krios-haella sadan ver!" He marched forwards and shoved Krios in the chest, "Clumsy child!" He snapped and stepped back, his eyes falling upon the boar again, transfixed by it. "Well..." Krios said with a pause, his nostrils flaring as a tell of his temper rising. "...I guess we have what we need." Krios turned and picked up the other boar and held it over his shoulder. "We best get back. Oh... and whatever you just did. Do that... but bigger. I guess. Can you do that when the time comes?" "When I must." Syl strained the word, picked up the boar as the tree roots released it to his keeping and started walking. The two hunters walked back in silence for what seemed like an eternity until they were almost back to camp. When Syl could see the fires of the camp in the distance, he stopped and sat down, placing the boar beside him. "I am sorry for my actions. I was rude, and you did not know any better." He let out a deep breath and looked at Krios calmly, his expression sincerely apologetic. "No it is I who should apologise." Krios replied. "It wasn't intentional, but I forced your hand back there. It truly was... something to see. However it's not our way to force people. We all have our ways of doing things and it is my responsibility to respect your ways, just as much as it is yours to respect mine. Just because we are different doesn't mean either one of us is right or wrong. In the end we are just two different beasts, ruled by our instincts." "If it were so easy." Syl replied, and though he did not smile, his eyes seemed wild and merry. It gave him a strange appearance, like someone who was waiting for a prank to unfold upon another person. Syl did not elaborate further, but picked up the boar and rejoined the camp.
  17. Avatar: Reborn from Ash

    As the Avatar vanished from sight, Fang let out a deep sigh. She had nothing to pack, and so she set out for the portal immediately. The lights from the portal danced around in front of her, inviting her in but she didn't want to go. She had to, she knew that. But she didn't want to. She was about to step through when she heard a gentle rustle behind her and looked back to see dozens of spirits approaching her, appearing out of thin air. "You're leaving?" A tall, bark-skinned spirit asked. "Yeah and... I don't really know when i'll be back. I might not be coming back." Fang replied, she felt something grasp her leg and looked down to see the little frog spirit and she smiled, "There's something I have to do... I need to know who killed my father, and if what the Avatar says is true... what Lei Shen has to do with it. If I can... i'd like to come back. This is..." She trailed off. "... this is your home." Several spirits finished for her. She smiled weakly, and then turned away from them, only then allowing her tears to fall as she stepped through the portal. The light slowly fell away from her sight and was replaced by a light snowfall. Fang's bare feet touched the snow underfoot, making a light crunching sound and she smiled for a moment. She had never been to the water tribes before, had never even seen snow, not like this anyway. It was beautiful. She could see a couple of figures in the distance, and beyond that a camp. They had to be the white lotus, guarding the spirit portal no doubt. She started towards them, they were only a couple hundred feet away. "So then I said to her, 'Not on my pickle!'" The taller of the two white lotus guards finished his joke. "Uh..." The other guard scratched his bearded chin in thought, "I don't get it." "No, look it's funny, right, cus - hey..." The taller guard squinted and looked out into the snowstorm, "What's that?" "What?" The shorter, bearded guard turned to look. "I don't... Oh! Oh yeah, what is that? Is that a person?" A shadowy figure was quickly approaching them, but they couldn't make it out in the storm. Was it a pilgrim from the spirit realm? There hadn't been too many as there were tales that a guardian would attack those that entered, and so less and less seemed to make it through each year. "Uh... hello out there? Are you alright?!" The guard called out, no response. They looked at one another. "Do you need assistance?!" The shorter guard yelled. "WARM!!" The creature screeched, her face frozen and almost lifeless, appearing like a zombie. She leapt onto the taller guard and attached to him like a leech, wrapping her arm and legs around him and holding him tightly. "YAAARGH!!!" The guard screamed like a girl, "IT HAS ME!!" He stumbled back and forwards in the snow while the other guard yelled and hit the creature in the back with the shaft of his spear but it wouldn't detach. The tall guard frothed at the mouth and finally passed out in fear. The creature detached from the guard and turned her attention onto his bearded comrade. "Aaah, no, I don't want to be eaten by a yeti vampire!" He recoiled, dropping his spear. "A w-w-w-what?!" The creature stopped and frowned. The guard lowered his arms and looked at her, it was a woman! She was scarred and looked frozen to death, but she was just a woman. "What the heck kind of stories are you idiots tellin' one another?" "Oh, s-sorry miss, I just... are you alright?" "Coat, food..." Fang looked down at her bare feet. They were basically just blocks of ice. She hated wearing shoes, but she had to accept for the time being, it was necessary, "... shoes. Food, fire, food... shoes..." Fang maintained her mantra until the guard led her back into a visitor's tent. It was spacious and had a roaring fire in the middle, the guard brought her a large plate of hot food, a thick winter coat and boots and was about to ask her if she wanted anything else when she started to undress. "Ah--!" He whirled around, averting his eyes, though he caught sight of a number of nasty looking scars on her body before he faced the tent flap. Laying her clothes out beside the fire to warm and dry them, Fang began to eat, wondering about what the world was like now. More than ten years had passed, but she looked the same as she did when she'd gone in. Did the spirit realm's time move differently or have a positive effect on the body? Or was this some kind of gift from the spirits for her guardianship of the spirit realm. "I don't need anything else." Fang said, after swallowing a large mouthful of stew. "Hey, where's your friend?" She asked. "... oh shit!" The guard rushed out into the storm and Fang grinned. Once she'd finished her food, gotten changed back into her warm, dry clothes, put on her winter coat and reluctantly put on her boots, she stepped back out into the main camp. She saw the short guard trying to revive his comrade that had become half-buried in the snow, smiled then turned her attention to gathering a few supplies. Fully stocked, she set out for the southern water tribe. The journey was not entirely unpleasant, the storm calmed down after the first day and her coat and rations kept her warm and in relatively high spirits. Sleeping was the worst. Fang was used to sleeping in a lot of unusual or difficult places, but the cold made it difficult to rest without waking up frozen stiff. Eventually, she saw the southern water tribe's home on the horizon and breathed a sigh of relief. She'd come to learn over the last few days that she really didn't actually like the cold at all. She much preferred the warm, dry lands of the Earth Kingdom. The southern water tribe home was a lot bigger than she remembered. People were everywhere, it was so busy and lively. "Hey!" Fang grabbed the first person to pass her, a young man carrying a decoration made of ice, a sculpture of an otter penguin. "What's going on? Why are there decorations everywhere?" "It's the festival of lights, of course." The man's frown deepened, "Where have you been, under a rock?" "Uh, well..." Fang let the man go, "What's the festival of lights?" "Duh, it's the time when we celebrate waterbending, there's light shows and great food - man I love that spiced squid - Oh, and--" "Yeah-yeah-yeah-ok-thanks-bye." Fang quickly walked away letting out a deep breath. People are weird. As she walked the streets, she noticed how happy people were, they were clearly a tightly-knit community. It reminded her of her time with the spirits, or even of her home in the palace. Though, looking back on it now, it was a lot quieter in the palace than it was here. She wasn't sure which she preferred, she used to like the silence, the peace and quiet. She'd had plenty of it in the spirit realm, but it was different there. She wasn't sure she liked it when people were quiet any more, she didn't miss the peace and quiet. She wanted things to be busy and lively, like they were here. Fang was pulled from her thoughts when she heard a heaving roaring in the distance and tracked the sound to the skies. An enormous airship was flying into the heart of the city. It was obviously from republic city, so that had to be the airship that Avatar Yaozu was coming in on. Fang pulled her coat's collar up and tucked her hands into her pockets and sauntered in the direction of the airship landing pad. She wasn't sure if she'd stay in the human realm when all this was done, but she could tell that if the rest of her journey was anything like what it had been so far, at least it wouldn't be boring.
  18. "Syl..."Hearing his name but not recognising the voice that spoke it made Syl turn immediately to the speaker. He saw a young, grey-skinned orc woman and for a moment, he didn't recognise her. He was exhausted from his trek, he needed to rest. Was he delirious? Then, suddenly he saw a face reflected in this woman, Rokhan. Unlike the orc chieftain and shaman she was petite, her skin was smooth and untouched by time, and she almost certainly got most of her looks from her mother's side. But he knew her now, but could not allow himself a smile upon seeing her. "Go back," He said curtly, and turned and started walking down the street. Maybe a healer in the next town would have a cure, there had to be something he could do to stop the progression of this disease, whatever it was. But he knew that Rokhan didn't have much time left, and the fact he had accepted his apparent fate made it all the worse.Ondine frowned, "Almost twenty years and that's all you have to say to me?" She followed him. "You shouldn't be here," He replied, glancing at her for a moment as she fell into step beside him before resuming his attention on the road ahead."Does it matter? Unless you have some magic to poof me back against my will I'm not leaving." She spit back smartly. Whirling on the orc, Syl raised his hand and for a moment it looked as though he was going to do something and then thought better of it. He wasn't sure he could displace an orange several hundred miles, nevermind a person. If it wasn't already impossible, he was sure it would be in his current state. The corner of one eye coiled in frustration but his expression seemed - at least on the surface - to be serene."You have responsibilities to your people, I do not. Go back, Ondine." Syl stared at the orc with his piercing blue eyes and crossed his arms.Ondine hissed at the reminder, "I also have a responsibility to my father." She matched his pose, crossing her arms, prepared to stare him down."Oh, I see. So your father asked you to come then?" Syl waited patiently, a fine white eyebrow raised expectantly.Her expression broke as she struggled for a response. Knowing she'd lost this one she simply frowned, "I won't sit around and watch him die, Syl, and you can't ask me to.""I have--" Syl began, but his face screwed up in sudden anguish. White hot pain shot up his spine and focused in his head and he collapsed to one knee. He hated being reduced to this, he shouldn't have been so hasty. He had to rest, it could not wait until the next town. Standing back up, Syl regained his composure as he tried to compartmentalize his pain. He glanced at Ondine for a moment, considering her. "I need rest. When I wake up, I expect to either see you gone, back to your people, where you should rightly belong..." He paused, a hint of frustration seeping into his otherwise cool voice, "Or..." He sniffed, "... you could make yourself useful and tell our innkeeper to prepare us hot baths." Before he could see her expression, Syl whirled back and stalked into the inn again. A faint squeal of surprise echoed out from the inn, no doubt from the innkeeper upon seeing his harbinger of destruction return to his establishment. "W-what can I do for you, m'lord?" The innkeeper asked nervously. "Give me..." He paused, but knew the answer, "Give me two rooms. The gem I gave you was more than enough for this." He started up the stairs to his room while the innkeeper fumbled past the broken table and glanced at his smashed windows before following the elf. When he woke from his troubled dreams, Syl enjoyed his bath and got dressed. The sun had barely begun to rise when he stepped out the door, he would come back and wake Ondine when he had finished hunting. He preferred to catch his own food than be served. The rest he'd had - though overcast by uncomfortable dreams - had recovered his reserves of strength enough that he was feeling well again, though it would likely take several more nights before he was back to normal. He crept out into the streets where few were travelling at this time of the morning, it felt as though there were more rats than people out right now. Eating a rat wasn't out of the question, but they were all bones and he'd rather have something a little gamier. He left for the outskirts of the city with his bow and quiver full of arrows readied for use, daggers slung at his hip. When he finally reached the outer limits of the city, there was a sparse patch of grass and a long, muddy road surrounded by dense forest. This forest was unlike his own back home. Here the bark of the trees were dark and their branches smothered in leaves of green and brown and touches of yellows and reds and amber. It was beautiful and he could feel the life buzzing in the forest. Hunting in the ash forests of his home was far more difficult, and dangerous. This was like a bounty, stretched out for him. Within minutes, he caught sight of a young hare drinking from a stream. Taking aim, he gave a moment's thought for what it must be like to be a hare, to evade a hawk or run from a fox, the triumph and relief it must feel in doing so, or the fear as the predator comes down on it. Then he loosed his arrow. The projectile flew with speed and accuracy, narrowly missing several trees until it slid into the hare's chest and lifted it from the ground. The hare flew into the tree behind it and with a heavy 'thump' pinned it to the bark of the tree, though it had died the instant the arrow had found it's mark. Pleased with the kill, Syl retrieved his arrow and the hare and began to walk back to the edge of the city. He pulled his way up through the forest and back onto the road and began walking lazily, considering how he would cook his meal when he noticed something in the distance. A group approached him, riding beasts of burden. No, they were not horses but enormous wolves. He had never seen these creatures before but he instantly admired them and realised as they approached that they were nothing like the horses of men. They had not been broken in mind, but were wild animals still, and his admiration for the riders of these creatures mimicked that of the beasts themselves. Then at last he knew the reason for the mounts - they were Agrinians, nothern elves. As they approached he saw the wolves take stock of him, with the leader's mount taking particular interest in him and the hare he had caught, "Good morning," Syl greeted the riders as he walked past them, his gaze catching the wolves for a moment before continuing on."Vanya sulie..." Krios replied. "I don't speak much of the old tongue, but I'll assume you know that one." Syl paused as the words of the old tongue fell from the Agrinian's mouth and he turned back to look at him, "... ies halavas, Oerba." He bowed his head slightly and noticed the elf's expression and so added, "And to you, cousin." Then his gaze returned to the enormous wolf once again, though he did not look the beast directly in the eye but through his periphery."He's a handsome devil, no?" Krios said, "Have you met a worg before?""I have not," Syl replied thoughtfully as he swayed his head to one side and to the other, the worg seeming to mimic him, "May I approach?""That's up to him." Krios said with a grin. Syl took his hare and put it on the ground and with a single deft movement, removed it's head and tied it to his hip and then placed the body on the floor behind him and slowly began to approach the worg. As he got closer, the worg's head raised and it's muzzle arched back as a warning snarl escaped his throat. But as Syl approached he moved to one side and then the other, as though he was being brushed by the wind, and the worg seemed calmed by his movements. He crept up towards the worg, turning side on and crouching ever so slightly and then stood still. The worg examined him for a few seconds and then when Syl remained still, he approached Syl instead. Smelling the elf, the worg nudged him in the side as he looked for the head of the hare tied to Syl's hip. With one hand, Syl placed his palm against the side of the worg's muzzle and scratched it while his other hand pulled the head of the hare from his hip and offered it to the worg who took it, crunched twice and swallowed. Syl stood up and faced the worg and placed his other hand on the creature's muzzle and smiled, "A beast unlike any other." He muttered audibly, more to himself. "Well I suppose that's one way to do it." Krios said with a firm nod, though he seemed impressed. "You showed Maugrim you're not a threat, or food for that matter. A Good tactic, although not as fun to watch as the usual method. I admit I would have liked to have seen you try to fight him."Syl smiled, "I would not want to make an enemy such as him for the sake of show." His smile widened and he placed his forehead to the worg's muzzle and let him go, taking a few steps back and picking up his kill once more. Syl's gaze spread across to the rest of the Agrinian's party, "So what has brought you so far south, worg rider?""A good hunt" Krios replied. "A dragon. My company are setting out to scout the land, we're not familiar with these parts. We need a few extra men actually. I saw you with that Orc woman last night. An odd pairing, are you mercenaries? If you are I have work for you."At the mention of a dragon hunt, Syl's tone became cold, "Why are you hunting a dragon? They are like anything in this world, they need to eat and live like anything, what gives you the right to hunt it? Fame, money, sport?" Though his face was calm, his jaw clenched with anger."We're predators." Krios replied simply. "Like you say dragons need to eat, if we didn't hunt them in Agrines we'd have been extinct a long time ago. A dragon, cousin, is the greatest hunter this world has ever seen. there is no single creature that could best it. Yet...my brothers and sisters, and I...we hunt them. We kill them. In order to survive we have become predators, just like the dragon." "I suppose this dragon, so far north of your people, would also be a danger to them?" Syl looked to the ground, "It is easy to excuse a deed in the name of valour.""Valour? It's survival, plain and simple." Krios replied "We have hunted dragons to protect our people for years. We have it under control. These humans though, what have they ever seen of a dragon? They sought our help and we're giving it, or would you rather we condemn them to burn?" "Do you really believe they are worth saving?" Syl asked, "They scattered our people to the wind, and now most of us have all but forgotten what we once were. They are barbarians, content to multiply and infest every corner of our lands while we eke out an existence out of their reach.""Hmph!" Krios seemed amused at the prospect. "The Seers told me you lot hold grudges long past their due. I suppose that is the curse of your longevity. The truth, cousin, is that the men who hurt you are but rotted bones now, so too their sons, and their grandsons, generation after generation. You hold so much pride in what you were that you cannot be proud of what you are. I am no elf! I am Agrinian. I am proud of that, for it is all I have ever known. If you choose to sit idly by and watch the world burn over your foolish grudges, then the power of the ages is wasted on you." "It is easy to forgive when you have never known. Your people fled to the north, where the humans could not follow. Our people came to the ash forests and have bled to protect them ever since. You think I hold a grudge just because humans took our lands and slaughtered our people?" Syl shook his head, and his voice diminished almost to a whisper, "I hold a grudge because I patrolled our forests for a hundred years, and in that time my comrades and friends were reduced from thousands to dozens. I still remember finding my grandfather riddled with arrows by human scouts, I hold a grudge because they burnt what little farmland I had, because they raped and killed my wife, and stole my child. Do not lecture me on forgiveness, Agrinian.""If you hate humans so much I would suggest you disappear from their midst. At best you are just a drain on their resources." Krios replied. "Where I come from we cut leeches off and discard them. At any rate...I did not come here to debate petty grudges. I came here to hunt. You were offered work... a simple 'no' would have sufficed.""My grievances are not petty, I pay for what I take and bother nobody that leave me in peace..." Syl took a deep breath, he was ashamed that he had allowed himself to become so angry from a stranger's words. But he knew the Agrinian could not understand what it was like to live as he did, and he supposed, it was true that he likely could not understand so short a life either. Gathering his thoughts, he reached into his pocket and felt two small, sleek gems. Would it be enough for Rokhan's treatment? Ondine likely had no wealth on her person, as the orcs valued other things. He told himself that he needed the money, and that Rokhan's health had to come before his own choices right now. He owed the old orc that much and more. Syl let out a long breath through his nose and then bent down and skinned the hare, "So we kill a dragon, save some lives, and I get paid. What does an archer earn for accompanying you in this task?" He asked."You'd have to ask the man with the money," Krios replied. "I'm sure the good Lord will pay a fine price for an archer. But I don't seek an archer, I haven't lived this long without learning to use a bow. You're an Alfar... if you don't know magic then I'm a Dwarf's uncle." A wry smile escaped Syl's lips as he crouched over the body of the hare, "So be it." He put one hand to the body of the hare and an orange glow spread out from his palm, the body of the hare shrivelled and popped and hissed, the flesh turned grey and then brown until it was cooked through and then he lifted his meal and took a large bite, chewed and swallowed. "Let's begin this fool's errand, then." He nodded his head to one side and the Agrinian looked to see Ondine approaching them. "There has been a change of plan." He said to Ondine, "It seems I am a hunter today, a healer..." Syl wanted to tell himself that he was doing all this for Rokhan's sake, that he wasn't choosing to help the Agrinian to safeguard their lives, or even the lives of the humans. That he was doing it to get the money he needed for Rokhan's treatment. But he knew that no matter what he wanted, he was forced to admit that his friend's life was not worth the thousands of lives that a dragon could take, and that whether he liked them or not, he could not truly sit back and watch them burn while at their doorstep, "... tomorrow."
  19. The sky above him had become burdened with dark, angry clouds. A fog rolled across the valley, almost completely shrouding the grassy hills from sight. Lightning struck in the distance as he began his ascent to the top of the highest hill. He heard thunder boom and as he reached the peak of the hill, he saw a great creature looming over him. A majestic white dragon, scales as bright as snow. It's deep yellow eyes stared into his own and then it fell to it's haunches and lowered it's head, bowing to him. Then he noticed dozens of other dragons behind the great white serpent, each bowing in turn. He stood before the dragons and held out his hand as though he were going to touch the white serpent, but as he did so they vanished and in their place stood a figure he couldn't make out. It was no larger than a man but it's dark presence seemed to bleed out, covering everything in shadow. As the blackness touched him, it crawled up his skin and he felt a terrible pain. He heard the screams of dragons, men and elves, and two words rang in his ears, spoken by the dark figure, "Elf Lord..." He woke with a start, a dagger swept out in front of him immediately guarding him from the danger he felt deep in his bones, but it was gone as quickly as it had arrived. Panting, he pulled himself out of the covers that lay upon his bed of straw and, stepping past an already roaring fire pit, walked to the mouth of his cave. His sweat-beaded body quickly dried in the howling winds. Outside, the storm continued to rage as it had done for days now. It was unsafe to travel while the weather was like that, not because of the cold, for it didn't affect him, but because while out in a snowstorm, your surroundings could change so drastically that you would end up lost as he remembered he had done so once, nearly 15 years ago. But then, he thought to himself, it was that storm that had brought him to Rokhan's people at the foot of this very mountain. Something moved out in the storm, his keen eyesight detected a trace of movement, a shadow approaching quickly. Who would come to him in such a storm? What could be so important that they would risk their life? He waited patiently as the figure coalesced into being and staggered out of the blizzard. It was an orc, his hair was thick and dark as night, tied into scraggly braids and menacing tusks that conflicted his kind eyes. The orcs were no enemies, they were a passionate people, a young race, yes... but not savages as humans would sometimes tell one another. He trusted any orc over a human. "Hail, Syl Aeraval! May I approach?!" The orc called to him, "It is--" "--I know that voice." Syl replied, grinning. At last, the blizzard began to dissipate and they could at last see one another. Syl Aeraval was a southern elf, that was often called an Alfar. His hair was a brilliant white, smooth and fell down to his chest. His skin was a light blue, as was his almond-shaped eyes. His ears were long and pointed and his face was handsome and young. Tribal tattoos seemed to cover much of his exposed skin. Drawn by knife, rather than ink. Some were white with old age, others were more recent. They coiled up his neck and several runes marked the bridge of his nose, forehead and under his eyes. He dressed in plain black cloth but he was sparsely dressed, unlike the orc. "Karvath!" Syl called out, grinning and striding to the orc with an unusual mixture of grace and rigidity that made the orc pause for a moment, as though realising for the first time just how different their two peoples were. "I remember you, though last I saw you you were just a boy." He said smiling warmly. "Aye and you've hardly changed, you're just as I remembered - weird and blue." Syl smiled at the orc's humour and the two hugged one another as only old friends can. Syl brought Karvath to the fire to help him warm his bones and sat on the other side of it, waiting patiently for the orc to speak. Karvath removed his thick padded gloves and held them out before the fire, watching it with interest as the usual oranges, yellows and reds occasionally sparked with greens, blues and purples. Signs of magic. "I'll never get used to that." Karvath muttered looking at him. "What is that, old friend?" Syl asked, though he knew the answer and only asked out of etiquette. "You. You don't change, Master Aeraval. You're like this mountain." The orc growled as he looked around him, though his growl was not out of anger or dislike, but more out of cautious respect and admiration. "This mountain changes, Karvath, you just have to be here long enough to notice." He smiled and offered the orc some of the remains of his last hunt, as was his duty as a host, even in a cave atop a mountain. Karvath consumed the meat in silence without questioning what beast it came from and only when he was done did he speak again. "I bring grave news, Master Aeraval..." Syl noticed Karvath grip his knees with his muscular hands and clench tightly but disregarded it in the hopes of lightening his friend's mood, "Can't it wait? I haven't seen you in forever, I so very rarely get welcome visitors and--" "-- Rokhan is dying." Karvath blurted out, silencing Syl. He remained so for a long while, staring into the fire of his own making and looking for something in it, an answer perhaps. "We don't know how to treat him, this is unlike anything we've seen before, we thought, maybe... if you--" "I'm no healer, Karvath." Syl replied, frustrated at his inability to help someone that meant so much to him. "But... surely you could..." Karvath's words stuck in his throat. "I will come down the mountain... seek aid from the humans, their herbs and healers might help." Syl stood and walked out into the calming storm, "It's safe to travel at last, I understand you couldn't wait, but to risk your life, Karvath..." He didn't want to say anything more, seeing Karvath's pained expression and so they set off for the village at the base of the mountain. The sun was coming up over the edge of the mountain when Syl and Karvath finally reached the village. Syl was untouched by the cold as he had acclimatised to it through a mixture of the elves' naturally swift physical evolution, as well as potent magic. Karvath, however, looked frostbitten. They walked through the village, orcs parting as they saw the Alfar. At times, several of the villagers reached out and touched him on the shoulder or the arm as he passed, likely due to wild stories of magic and elves. Syl reached the chief's hut and stood before the animal skin that helped to keep the cold out, he almost had his hand to it when he hesitated. Stood in front of the doorway to his old friend, he could still remember the leader of their people, as he was many years ago. Strong and dominating, stubborn to a fault, yet warm and even-tempered. He wanted to remember him as a great orc, as what he was, not what he might have become. Their lives are so fleeting, he thought. "ENTER!!" Barked a deep, guttural voice, followed by a series of hacking coughs. Syl steeled himself and stepped inside. Though the cold never bothered him, the warmth inside the hut was pleasant to experience, and the smell of spice and cooked meat brought back old memories. His delicate senses detected a number of other smells also, however, it would have been poorly-timed to suggest a change in diet to Rokhan, at least at the moment. "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, POINTY-EAR!!" The orc roared and then tried to disguise a series of coughs with laughter. Syl smiled as he wove his way around the fire in the centre of the hut, past pots and pans and rugs and playing children who were unlikely to be Rokhan's as it was the chief's duty to watch over all the village's children. "You're in high spirits." Syl said, kneeling beside the old orc's bed. Rokhan stared at Syl for a moment quite seriously and when at last he caught the elf's eye he grinned and lay there for a moment, "What?" Syl asked, perplexed. "Youth is wasted on the ugly." Rokhan muttered. Syl burst out laughing, notes so infectious and musical that the children burst out giggling alongside him and Rokhan's face creased with humour, "I'm glad you see it that way, and that your sense of humour hasn't softened." After a pause, Syl's expression darkened, "You're ill." "I'm dying." Rokhan corrected, "But i'll go bitin' and clawin' i'll tell you that now, no spirit or critter is taking me wherever we might go without a fight." "I'm sure of that." Syl agreed, leaning over to touch the orc's forehead. He was sweating profusely but his skin was cold. Karvath was right, Rokhan was dying. "I cannot save you with what I know, my people would likely... but...." "I know, boy." Rokhan choked on his words, "It's not your fault, they wouldn't help an old orc anyway, don't give it another thought." "I'm going to see the humans, they might be able to help." "Aye, maybe. And a bird shitting on your noggin' is lucky." Rokhan chuckled. "I can ease your pain." Syl brought his hand up to his mouth and gently blew into his palm, a soft light grew from it and he placed it against the orc's forehead where it settled and sunk into the orc's misty grey skin. His worn, creased face relaxed and he sunk into his bed and dozed. "I'm leaving." He muttered, knowing Karvath was behind him. "Now." "But it'll take you 3 weeks to get to Raeghal, at least! By horseback!!" "I will run it," Syl said it more to himself than anyone, "I will tire, but..." He shook his head, he knew that the stamina of his people far exceeded that of any human or dwarf, but running at speed for that long, he wasn't sure if even his endurance could withstand that kind of assault. Perhaps aided by magic, as well. "I will not rest, I will not stop." He said to himself, these were the rules he had to lay down, he could not compromise for fear of being waylaid. "I will return, Karvath, you have my word." "Be careful, Syl..." Karvath placed his powerful hand upon Syl's shoulder and gripped him tightly, Syl returned the gesture and then he was gone in a blink of an eye. 2 weeks, 4 days. When Syl arrived in Amerus he was panting, sweat dripped down his brow and he fell to one knee, trying to catch his breath. He imagined there were not many humans who had seen an elf out of breath. He tried to compose himself as quickly as possible, as he did not want to display weakness, regardless. He regretted not staying by Rokhan's side, tending him as he had once been nursed by Rokhan's own daughter, Ondine. He imagined her sat beside her father, remembering her only as he had seen her all those years ago, a young child but now surely a grown woman, a warrior like her father most likely. Would she become the next chief? These thoughts had to be pushed from his mind, Amerus was the third city he had visited in the past 2 days and not a single healer had had the herbs and the knowledge to heal Rokhan. Though he did not want to give in to despair, Syl was beginning to admit to himself that it might be an impossible task. Yet even if it was, he could not stop. After asking some locals, he found the nearest healer enjoying his evening at an inn, he was drunk and uncooperative but Syl felt as though the man might actually know something, but every time he tried to broach the subject the man grew frustrated and angry and swung at him. Aside from being human and his reactions being much slower, the drink didn't help. He dodged the attacks simply enough and waited for the man to regain his composure before resuming his questioning. However, his questions attracted attention from several others in the inn who saw the old healer being badgered by a foreign elf, and not even one of those elves who'd promised to slay a dragon but from some ash forest Alfar. "Oi! Piss off, elf!" One of the men barked, as the group approached Syl. "Leave me be, human." Syl growled, turning his attention back to the healer. "Oi, I was talkin' to you, shithead, you ain't welcome here," The leader of this newly founded band of do-gooders stepped forwards and grabbed Syl by his jerkin and pulled him to his feet, "Hey lads, he's as light as a girl, reckon he squeals like one too?!" "I'm sorry." Syl replied. "Eh?" The man frowned as Syl reached forwards, grasped the man's nose between his index finger and thumb, then snapped it 90 degrees to one side. The man howled and clawed at his face gingerly as Syl released him. At the revelation that the elf was far stronger than he was heavy, several of the men ran from the inn, but those remaining got very angry. Several drew blades and the leader of the group fumbled for the dagger on his belt. "Fuchkingh helf yeh dednh!" He huffed, his nose at a most peculiar angle, his words barely intelligible, though Syl got the gist. The group of men advanced, blades lifted to the heaven's and Syl grit his teeth, he should have been more patient. He should have been more courteous, more observant. Whatever had happened, had been his fault. His. But they were paying for it. Reaching out, the leader of the group stalled in fear as the elf put his middle and index fingers to the man's chest. Suddenly the elf was flying away at breakneck speed. No, that wasn't right. The entire inn was moving past him. He was in flight, and he only realised it when his back hit the inn's window and he flew out into the street and tumbled across the ground until he hit the wall of the building on the other side. Several more thumps followed, and he looked around to see that the blast had affected the other men who had been standing with him. "I'm sorry to cause a mess," Syl said to the inn keeper who stared at him unashamedly. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small red gem, a ruby the size of a grape and placed it on his table and walked out. He only had a couple more gems, and those he was supposed to use as payment for Rokhan's treatment. He would have to be more careful at the next town.
  20. Name: Syl Aeraval Age: 246 Appearance: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y207/Sephy_dude/frostelf_zps63938ef8.jpg Personality: The Alfar see Syl as arrogant, headstrong, impatient, free-spirited and a little vain, Syl has a lot of qualities that can make him difficult to deal with, at least by their standards, but to humans, he still appears distinctly Alfar - distant, aloof, mysterious and noble. It is his inability to be accepted and properly integrate into either society that has caused him to be independent and nomadic in nature. Bio: Though ancient by human understanding, Syl is still considered to be barely more than a child to the Alfar. For a number of reasons, very few Alfar children are born each year, and they are venerated above all else in their culture. However, because of this, they are closely guarded, their freedom is limited and they are taught only what the elders consider to be prudent, and so their knowledge of the outside world can be greatly hindered. Occasionally, Alfar children have been known to escape from the twisted dark forests of the south to explore the outside world. Like most Alfar, Syl was trained in many disciplines, from learning his letters to speaking ancient elvish, to the dual schools of armed combat and the manipulation of magical energies. It is unclear the exact reasons for Syl having left his homeland, or where he has travelled since leaving, or even why he has come to Raeghal, though, word about town is that this elven battlemage chases rumours of a distant cousin, a dragon slayer, and a hunt open to capable adventurers.
  21. CLOSED Darkness Falls

    Snarling with rage, Alexander swept over the ground like a piece of cloth in the wind, scouring every part of the road. His wild eyes darted here and there, looking for anything that would give Constance away. But it was his nose that brought something to his attention and he froze. For a moment, he remained quite still and then he stalked a few metres up the path until he was staring down at a couple of tiny, shimmering onyx pools. Blood. Reaching down with a single clawed finger, Alexander brushed the tip to the surface of the blood and licked it thoughtfully, then stood up and brushed the dirt from his clothes and started to walk at a brisk pace. When her footprints disappeared, it did little to stop him, as he had her scent now and he knew of little she could do to disguise that in the short span of time that had passed. When Alexander arrived in Gilead, the town's streets were still bustling. It seemed the night life here was far more active. He crossed the road and began to search, being led by Constance's now familiar scent. But as he was about to step into the first inn that the scent led him to, he realised she was not inside. She had walked up to the inn, touched the door with her hand, and left. Running his palm across the door's rough wood he turned and followed the scent once more. She had moved around the city, brushing against dozens of doors. It was making it harder to smell her, as her scent seemed to be on every door he passed. He found himself moving faster and faster, passing each door almost at a blur, and it went on like that for some time until suddenly he stopped as he passed another inn. He smelt the air and turned to walk back to the door and smelt it carefully. Rubbing his thumb and forefinger together while he thought, he wondered if she'd had time to prepare for his arrival. Did she even think he could have followed her? He had to admit, that even most other Wolves would have lost her by now, his abilities were good for something, at least. No, if she thought he was following her, she didn't have enough time to prepare. But it was likely she didn't believe him able to find her in time. He opened the door to the inn with a creak, and everyone inside stopped talking for a moment and looked on as the Wolf stepped inside and closed the door behind him. He tapped his cane to the floor and looked around, it was dark inside but that mattered little to him. The barkeep watched him carefully while the other patrons did their best to pretend they weren't there at all. "My name is Alexander Lachance," He said to the room, "I am a Wolf, as you can plainly see." He added, running his hand over his uniform. Alexander was no longer dressed in the casual clothes he had been wearing when he'd stepped off the train. Now it was clear for all to see who he worked for. His clothes were completely black - trousers, shirt, boots, vest. However, over the top of this, he wore a long white coat with blue trim. On it's back, the symbol of a snarling wolf staring straight ahead. The insignia for the Wolves. Monster hunters appointed by the Queen herself, given absolute power. Judge, jury and executioner. Alexander swept into the room, his eyes darting over the inn's patrons. "W-we don't want any trouble, sir." The barkeep offered cautiously. Alexander smiled at him, "I will give you none, i'm only here for one." He replied. "A-A monster?!" One of the men sat at a table banged his tankard, "W-well if it's here, get it and... and be gone!!" Then his courage diminished as Alexander approached, once his point was made, Alexander veered away and stood in the centre of the room. "A young girl came in here, not too long ago. I want her. Give her to me." Before he had even finished speaking, he heard a dozen scraping chairs and tables. Alexander turned to see a path had been made to the back of the inn, where someone with a cloak over their head sat beside the fire. "Thank you," he said, and slowly walked towards the figure by the fire. "Did you think you could escape me?" He asked, curiously. Raising his hand, Alexander ordered two drinks to be brought to the table beside the fireplace, and sat down in the free chair on the other side of the table. The cloaked figure stood and moved to leave, but he quickly brought his cane down on top of the table, blocking their exit. "Sit back down." He said finally, "Let's talk." And then he reclined in the chair and waited. Constance flinched at his tone but seeing no choice that didn't include magic she sat back down. Keeping her face covered she spoke softly, the fear evident, "There is nothing for us to discuss." "There's plenty to discuss." Alexander replied, thanking the barman as the drinks arrived. He pushed the other glass towards her and then lazily eyed his own in silence for a few minutes. When at last he choose to speak, it was as though he had come to a decision just at that moment. "You're not going back to the coven." She remained silent for a long pause, confusion fading into realization and then acceptance. "I know, but can it not be in such a public place. There is no need to ruin the evening of these gentlemen with such... brutality." Alexander grinned, then his grin turned into a laugh until he was roaring, when he finally calmed down he shook his head, "Really, girl..." He licked his lips, "As lovely as that idea is, no. I was thinking more along the lines of - come back with me, to the Wolf headquarters. You are unwelcome anywhere else, but you could be of assistance to us there. If you are, then you will be given a modicum of freedom." Again she found herself confused, struggling to find logic within his words. Finally deciding on what his actual intent must be she shook her head, "And you called me a bad liar. You have no reason to do such a thing, you merely wish me to go with you without a fight. I'm sorry to disappoint." "If I wanted you to go with me without a fight, i'd--" As she started to come around, Alexander leant over her to check her bonds were still tight and then turned her around and sat beside her, "Wakey wakey..." He poked her with his shoulder and laughed as she recoiled from the edge of the cliff, even as he dangled his own legs over the edge. "So, as we were saying earlier, if I wanted to take you without a fight, I could do so, quite easily. Human sheep aren't going to stop me, and neither were you. I just thought i'd be polite, but you weren't making things very easy, so I thought an example of my intent would be best." As Constance came to and the distance from her feet to the ground became a distressing realization, panic swiftly stole her breath and any angry words she might have thrown at him if she could form them, instead she violently threw herself back, her struggles more of flailing as she tried to maneouver her feet to get her away from the lip of death. She ended up falling onto her back and rolling away. When she was several feet back, and somehow twisted onto her stomach, breath finally returned to her deprived lungs. "I... hate... you...." She hissed before pressing her forehead into the dirt, heaving. Alexander nodded quietly, smiling to himself. If she only knew the truth, what could she feel then? He sighed and looked out over the edge of the cliff, far below was a rocky beach, the ocean sending waves rushing up to meet the cliff. The sun would be up soon. "I gave you a reasonable set of options - hunt monsters, or go back to the coven, or be eaten." He paused, kicking his legs back and forth the way a child would, then he stood up and walked over to her. "But you've made your choice." He picked her up with one arm and with his other, reached behind her, their faces almost meeting. A tear, and her bonds dropped to the ground and he turned and sat back down at the cliff edge. "I came here expecting a monster, and I found one. Only..." Only, he thought to himself, seeing you has reminded me of who I was, what I did, and what I became... that i'm the monster. "Go, then. If you really want to." Alexander muttered, sighing and looking out to sea, "If not me, then some other Wolf will come after you..." He trailed off in thought, "I don't think they'll give you the same options, but... good luck."
  22. CLOSED Darkness Falls

    OOC: Private RP between myself and Erogenous Enigma, rated NC-17 for violence, gore and dark themes, etc. DARKNESS FALLS "Fairy tales do not tell children that monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales tell children that monsters can be killed." Galatris, capital city of Lunaria. Named for the holy divine, Galatea. It is a trade hub, home to the royal family, to Queen Theresa, known for it's art and music as well as it's night life. But crime is also rife here, pickpockets are everywhere and most murders go unsolved. The police are fighting a losing war against crime on the streets of Galatris. For every crime they solve, five more pop up in it's place. It is like a living monster, a hydra. Unfortunately, real monsters are out of their skill range, for that, a Wolf is required... The train lurched as it pulled into the station, groaning in discomfort while the doors of the compartments opened and hundreds flocked out onto the platform. Many of them stayed close to the train, looking it over and talking about it. The people of Galatris were still unused to travelling by railroad between the major cities. It was a very recent feat of technology, and while not an unwelcome one - for the sights of the countryside could be quite beautiful on the ride over - it still created a feeling of disquiet and unease amongst the passengers. Save for one man. He stepped from the train with purpose, dressed immaculately in fine clothing. Crisp black trousers and shining black boots, a pearl white shirt with a crimson vest and a black coat. He pulled a gold pocket watch from his vest coat pocket and clicked it open, cradling it carefully with hands covered by black gloves. After a moment's examination he clicked the watch shut and replaced it, watching the throngs of people move around him with a slight, lop-sided grin. The man was handsome enough, with slightly tan skin and hazel eyes. His dark brown hair was long yet a little unkempt, as though he had been sticking his head out a window on the train ride over, for which he tried to correct by brushing it back out of his face. He had a light stubble growing on his face, he had perhaps not shaved for a day or so. But in spite of his slightly dishevelled appearance, he looked every part a gentleman. Once he was happy with his appearance, he picked up his carry case which despite it's size, appeared to be quite light, and in his spare hand picked up a long black cane with an intricately carved metal handle shaped like the head of a wolf. Upon leaving the station, he could finally appreciate the moon and it's gentle light casting itself across the dark, dingy street. Occasionally a horse-drawn carriage passed him in the middle of the road, but most of the traffic for the evening had died down, after all, it was an unreasonable hour. He had a few things to attend to this evening, however, and time was of the essence, for he knew that if he was not swift, his target of interest would escape him yet again. He was patient, but he also did not want to play the cat to his mouse any longer, whether they knew it or not, he would soon be upon them. The city was just another stop for him, he was going to meet an informant who claimed to have ironclad evidence of his target's next location, so he hailed a passing carriage and started to climb aboard. "Oh, sorry sir. Wait one moment, i'll get your bag." The driver offered, immediately stepping down from his seat at the front. "It's fine, driver. I like to keep my belongings close by." The man smiled back at the driver who already had his hand on the handle of the case and tried lifting it from his customer's grip, but couldn't. He wasn't sure if it was the man himself, or the weight of the bag, but despite the strength he was exerting the case did not move. When his face began to turn pink in the cheeks, he finally relented and laughed, "By the divine, sir, you don't travel light, if you don't mind me sayin'." "Ordinarily, I would. This is not for me." He replied, stepping into the carriage as the driver shut the door behind him. The journey didn't take long, within a half hour the carriage rolled to a stop, he paid the driver and walked into an inn called the Fox and Hound. It had seen better days, but it was as good a place as any to meet his informant. When he arrived, he spoke to the owner who directed him upstairs. Third door on the right, he had said. And so he went upstairs, followed the owner's instructions and knocked three times on the door. He heard movement inside and listened intently. Footsteps quietly crossed the room, perhaps silently for anyone but himself. He heard breathing on the other side of the door and raised an eyebrow. He raised his cane and with a sharp tap, banged the metal head against the door. "Let me in, little pig!" He called, and heard a scuffle as the body inside recoiled and fumbled with the door handle. When the door swung open, he stepped inside and shut it behind him. The room was dark, lit only by a single candle on a table across the room. "Do you have everything I asked for?" He held up his large carry case and let it drop a couple inches above the ground. After the heavy thunk, a metallic sound rang out from the inside of the case. He watched as the figure in front of him stepped forwards to examine the case. He was a man in his early thirties, just as he himself appeared. The man took a single look over the case, glanced at him and then slightly opened it. What he saw inside delighted him and he hauled it off to one side, with a great degree of difficulty. "Alright." He said at last and crossed the room, indicating for him to follow. "Let me just get this straight, before we go any further, you're Alexander Lachance right?" "Right." Lex replied, smiling. "So, so this is all on the up and up right, I mean, i've never seen your face before, Mr. Lachance, but you're a Wolf and all, right? I mean, this ain't against the law or nothin' right?" He was nervous. The informant's heartbeat was racing, he could hear it, feel it. "It's alright." Lex said soothingly, "You have nothing to fear, just leave what I asked for by the table and be on your way." The informant nodded nervously and glanced at his face as he walked back towards the case, he noticed Alexander's hazel-coloured eyes, and thought for a moment, that in the right light, they seemed an amber hue. He picked up the case with both hands, and huffing as he left, said his goodbyes and wished Alexander well in his hunt, and closed the door to the room on his way out. For a moment, there was silence. Lex stretched and sighed, yawning - flashing an inhuman set of teeth. There were no flat molars, only wide, triangular fangs, almost like a shark's. His teeth instantly transformed the way he looked, and regardless of his serene expression, gave him a monstrous quality. Perhaps it was this that panicked the other occupant of the room, or perhaps he was just waking up for the first time since Lex had entered, either way, Lex walked over to the table and moved the candle to the edge before he sat on the free chair besides the restrained occupant of the other. "Evening." Lex half-bowed while sitting and the man in the chair groaned as his eyes looked around wildly. "Give me a moment, if you please." He added, and then picked up a small envelope on the table, tore it open with a single swipe of a fingernail which seemed more like a claw and then pulled out a short letter. The letter only held two lines, and read: Constance Geneve Drennen Hearthwood He was close now. Hearthwood was perhaps only a day's travel, and a lot less for him if he choose to make his own travel arrangements. And now, at least, he had a name to go with his target. She was travelling to Hearthwood then, just a small town. No doubt she'd gone there rather than come to Galatris because of the crowds and the stronger police presence so close to the royal palace. He would be upon her soon. Alexander was pulled from his thoughts by a nervous whimper from the restrained man in the chair beside him, so he laid the letter down on the table and turned his attention to this man. He was in his 40's, muscular and weather-worn. Perhaps a labourer. He had a mean face about him, piercing eyes and sallow cheeks. His mouth had been stuffed with a rag, which Alexander pulled free and smiled. "So, you're not having a very good evening, then." "Oh, you're very perceptive, ain't ye." The man growled, looking around the room for the first time and then back at Alexander. "What the FUCKING hell am I doing here? LET ME GO!!" The man yelled, and started to struggle to break his bonds, but they were too tight. "Well it seems my friend did a rather good job with those knots, what do you think - sailor?" He raised an eyebrow curiously as he examined them which only infuriated the man further. "I ain't done nothin', let me go!!" "Well that's funny," Lex replied, leaning on his cane. "Because my friend - the one who just left with that case full of gold? He tells me, that you are a rapist and a murderer." "He's a bloody liar!!" The man snapped. "Is he? Oh, alright then, I apologise." Lex stood up, leant forwards and sliced through the man's bonds. Quickly, the man was on his feet and stood as tall as Alexander himself, just over six foot. "It's a shame, really. You see, the last time I killed someone, they really deserved it and--" "You're a killer?" The man asked, frowning. "Oh, yes. Gratuitously." Alexander replied, in a mellifluous voice. "Oh..." The man fell silent, and the two stood before one another for a long while. Alexander knew that silence was better than questions, and so he allowed it to remain as such until at last the man choose to speak once again. "Hah, well..." He paused, eyeing Alexander, but something about him must have resonated with this man, as he nodded, "Alright, yeah, I killed her. Had my way with her too, when she was still 'bove ground, an' all. But she was askin' for it, she's a prostitute, it's just--" "-- she gets it all the time, why not right?" Alexander nodded. "EXACTLY!" The man agreed enthusiastically, "It's not like she gets paid much for it is it, so she must want it, stupid bitch was sayin' she didn't want it, but I know she did, they all did. She weren't the first, and she won't be the last neither." "Mmm," Lex mused, and smiled to the man. But this time, he parted his lips, and flashed the man his mouth full of fangs. "We're more alike than you might realise," The man recoiled so quickly, for a moment Lex thought he was trying to flee out of his own body. He tripped over the chair behind him and hit the floor, staring up at Alexander. "We're both monsters, I mean, myself literally, and you...? Figuratively, I suppose." "Leave me the fuck alone!!" The man squeeled and leapt up, pushing Alexander aside. He wasn't just running now, he was sprinting. He was just a couple more steps from the handle of the door when something brushed past him with an incredible speed and suddenly a hand darted out in front of him and grabbed him by the throat. "Well all monsters have to eat. You've had your fill, now i'll have mine." Lex threw the man across the room, he crashed into the table, snuffing the candle and it's warm orange glow, casting the room into darkness. A slight white-blue hue from the light of the moon cast across the floor, enough only to light the legs of the men inside that room. Alexander's predatory footsteps descended on the punch drunk rapist, who was attempting to pull himself to his feet. He had barely succeeded in this feat, when one of Alexander's gloves hit the floor and the rapist's feet were lifted two feet off the ground, suspended in the air as he choked. He tried to let out a scream, but the noise wouldn't leave his throat. Then he fell silent, his feet stopped shaking and Alexander released his grip on the man who collapsed to the ground, his face illuminated at last by the moon. The rapist had aged over fifty years! His skin was loose and wrinkled, his hair had turned a brilliant white and his eyes were sunken and nearly lifeless. He shook ever so slightly, with the rigours of old age suddenly upon him. Alexander picked up his glove, pulled it back on and placed his hand upon the head of his cane. "W-what... h-have you... d-done to m-me?!" He groaned, trying to stand back up. It took him almost a minute to do so, but when he was finally upright, Alexander pulled on the head of his cane, and the wolf's head came away. As the wolf's head left the cane, a long strip of metal went with it. For the cane was in fact a holster for a deadly looking sword. It shimmered in the moonlight and the rapist had time enough to question what had happened before the notion that his head had separated from his body reached his mind and his eyes rolled over as the head hit the ground with a wet thump, and the body collapsed beside it. Replacing the blade in his cane, Alexander left the inn. To Hearthwood.
  23. CLOSED Darkness Falls

    The trip to Hearthwood had been uneventful. Unable to take the train, as they had yet to finish the rails to the smaller towns, Alexander had been forced to make his own way there. He had no money for a horse, as he'd given everything he had on him to his informant, so instead he had walked. It was true he could have gotten there a lot faster, but he knew that while it was night time, the moon was out in full and he didn't need the hassle of someone spotting him. The last thing he needed was a misguided monster hunt. When he finally arrived in Hearthwood, the town was quiet. A few people walked the streets, but it was otherwise unoccupied. He had a name and a town, that was all. But he also knew where to find information. After checking in with a couple of inns that seemed a little cagey to give out information, one owner had given him the name of a brothel. Asking after this 'Constance Drennen' was not bringing him a lot of success though, the women in the brothel were uncooperative. He was unsure if they were protecting this woman, if she had worked with them, if they really didn't know her, or if she had gone by another name. It was not until he met with the Madam that he gleaned a piece of information. "I don't know who you're talking about, Monsieur Lachance," Madam Charlotte kept her hands placed neatly on her lap as Alexander paced in front of her, she had invited him into her office, away from watchful eyes as a Wolf in a brothel was bad for business, likely to scare away half her customers. "That's funny." Alexander replied, looking around the room at the various fineries, "I was told that a girl called Constance worked here until recently." The Madam frowned, but there was something else on her face as well. He knew that expression, she had been told something she both knew, and yet something about what she'd been told had been kept from her. He knew that now was the time to press for information. "Madam Charlotte, let me be clear. The girl you had working for you was a mage." "What?!" Charlotte's eyes almost popped out of her head and her breathing laboured. "That's not possible, she was such a nice girl..." "A mage is just a person, Madam. However..." Alexander continued, "Their abilities are dangerous, and so, they are dangerous. It is my duty to apprehend her, take her back if possible, kill her if I must. I cannot allow her to harm anyone, do you understand?" He sat beside the Madam, and took her hand, looking into her eyes. She wavered, unsure of what was real. Which was the truth, which was the lie? Could it be both? Finally, she pulled her hand from Alexander's touch and placed them back on her lap, when she spoke, her voice was empty. "Her name was Gem. She left just a short while ago." "Thank you, Madam." Alexander put his hand on her shoulder and stroked the side of her neck thoughtfully, then cursed himself when the Madam saw his expression and almost recoiled. Perhaps she thought he was going to try and have his way with her? He was unsure, but whatever she might have thought, he was glad that she could not have known how much worse it might have been. He thanked her for her time, and assistance, promising her a reward should her information lead to the capture or death of the mage, and left. This time, however, he knew he was pressed for time. She had already left, she was probably outside the town now, on the road to the next town over, Gilead. Whatever risks it might incur, he had to take them. Alexander stepped into the shadows of the first alley he came across and looked to the stars, he crouched but heard a noise further down the alley. He heard a muffled scream and the all too familiar sound of flesh being stripped from bone and cursed the mage for her flight from Hearthwood. Regardless, this was something that either he would have to deal with another time, or another Wolf would deal with it in his absence. Focusing back on the task at hand, Alexander leapt into the air. But his ascension did not slow, if anything it accelerated and within seconds he was high above the city, for a moment, the light of the moon was at his back and then he rushed towards Gilead. He would make sure that this mage was not going to reach her next destination. The sound of hooves thudding softly against the old dirt road didn't carry far into the surrounding forest. The horse was nervous, and she calmed him as best she could. A small lantern rested on the side of the horse, giving off just enough light that they could see ahead of them. The lights of Gilead were far in the distance and she wouldn't likely get there by morning. The forest was alive with noise. Crickets chirping, the screech of the occasional owl. The rustle of the brush as rodents and whatever else that lay lurking in the forest moved through it, but it did not feel oppressive. However, as she travelled, the forest grew still, almost silent. Enough that when her horse stepped on a twig and it snapped, the horse almost bucked in surprise at the noise. Again, she had to calm him, speaking words of reassurance. "Evening." Alexander called out to Constance, smiling from the darkness. He could see her upon her horse, but she could not see him. There was a part of him, the part that liked to eat... things, that found great pleasure in this. He was unseen, a predator, stalking it's prey. But his happiness was greater in simply having finally found his target. The horse whinnied nervously, likely at him and he grinned further, "I don't mean to startle you, but what are you doing out at night, travelling the roads? It's quite dangerous, y'know? All manner of beasties like to hunt in the night." He paused, examining her, wondering what her abilities were, cautious of what she might be capable of, and yet that same part of him that hungered for her also wanted her to attack him. He wanted an excuse, needed one. No. She had to explain herself, her actions. The lives she has likely taken. She has to be brought to justice. Justice. Not dinner. Screw dinner. Smell her life, mages are delicious. They guard their lives with their magic, until it's gone. Such a meal. She has to pay, though. It's his job, he swore an oath. Eat her. "Who are you?!" Alexander wrestled away from his thought process and addressed the question, unsure of what to say at first. Then his darker half gave a suggestion, and he agreed with it, "I'm a friend," he lied. Then waited in the darkness for her response.
  24. Avatar: Reborn from Ash

    "Quiet, human." Fang spat the word from her mouth as the spirit hauled itself back up. This spirit was incredibly dangerous, but she had fought with it many times, and she knew it as well as it knew her. It growled and snapped but did not advance on her further. Fang began to circle the creature's den, forcing it to circle away from the semi-conscious Yaozu until Fang was stood in front of him. "He is MINE!!" Ukurin roared, taking a step forwards. Fang matched the step and Ukurin haltered. "He might not have his bending here, Ukurin. But I do." She took up a powerful stance, spreading her legs and digging them into the dirt and holding out her remaining arm as a challenge to the creature. Silence filled the den, nothing moved and only the rasping sound of the Fate Eater's uneasy breathing remained. After a few minutes, it seemed as though Ukurin had decided against fighting Fang, and began to turn away from them. Letting out a breath she had been holding, Fang took a step back and bent down to help Yaozu up from the ground, but as she did so Ukurin's tail flicked out from the shadows, ready to slice the pair in two. In an instant, Fang reacted. Smashing her right foot into the ground, a great block of earth surged up from below Yaozu, knocking him into the air. Fang flipped backwards, missing the tail at the last instant as it whipped across the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust. As she landed, she whirled around and the block of earth split in two, forming a diagonal slide which Yaozu rolled down comfortably but Ukurin was already upon them. Fang ran forwards and leapt into the air, whirling as she went. Blocks of earth flew up from the ground like missiles and smashed into the side of the spirit, knocking it over but only for a split-second. Enraged at the attacks, Ukurin quickly reached out with it's jaws and tried to snap at Yaozu, but inches from the boy's face, two sheets of earth shot out from either side of Yaozu, creating a sort of 'tent' shape. Ukurin bit into this structure and roared, trying to break it but just as the rock began to crumble, Fang flipped forwards and smashed her foot into the ground. An enormous block of earth below Yaozu burst upwards, and as the rock tent broke, Yaozu was propelled directly into Ukurin's surprised face. The punch connected, sending the monster reeling. As Yaozu fell back to the earth, Fang brought another block of stone up at the right angle so that Ukurin's attacks missed him by a few inches, changing the trajectory of his fall just enough. Ukurin whipped it's tail back and forth, clawed and bit in a blind rage, and every time it was about to land a hit on Yaozu, Fang countered it by juggling the boy out of the way of the monster's attacks. But she knew this couldn't go on, she couldn't fight Ukurin and protect the boy at the same time. There was only one thing for it. Ukurin charged for Yaozu as Fang surged forwards and thrust her palm in a forward strike, all the accumulated dust during their fight gathered and flew into Ukurin's eyes, blinding it for a moment. The spirit's eyes watered as it fumbled to see where Yaozu had gone. Everything was blurry, it could barely see anything. Then from the corner of it's eye, it saw movement. Turning to face the figure, Ukurin charged once more, opening it's maw to swallow the human whole. Ukurin bit down, it's face oozing with pleasure. But the expression left it's face almost immediately, as it looked down at the body it had sliced in two. The figure was not human at all, it was a statue. A statue of Fang, pulling her eyelid down and sticking her tongue out at it. As a fresh rage bubbled to the surface, Ukurin desperately looked for the real Fang. "I've had enough out of you, Ukurin." Fang called out from behind it, and it spun around to face her. "So i'm going to give you your own special prison." Ukurin roared in defiance. Quick as a flash, Fang began a complex series of movements and smashed her foot into the ground. Ukurin dropped straight into a huge rectangular pit just large enough to hold it, but as it tried to clamber back up blocks of stone shackled its legs and tail and it sunk deeper into the earth. "I'll kill you Fang, you're mine, he's mine! You--" "Bye." Fang muttered, and with a final move, pulled across a thick sheet of stone on top of the pit, sealing the spirit inside and leaving no trace that it was ever there. "Well, he's going to be pissed when he gets out..." Fang smiled to herself and then remembered the human. "Oh..." She turned to look at Yaozu and sighed. Crossing the den, Fang picked up Yaozu by the scruff of his neck and threw him to the ground in front of the thorny exit. "Go on, move it!" She barked, and kicked him in the backside to get him down the tunnel, then followed him through. When she got out the other side he was waiting for her and she stood up and shoved him, "Get out of here! You don't belong!" She yelled, and then turned and started to walk back. "I belong here just as much as you do." Yaozu replied, hesitant but firm. "Out of the two of us, you're the only one here in their body." "I'm the only one here that doesn't go stomping around in the forest like an idiot, pissing off grouchy spirits, pokin' my head where it doesn't belong." Fang growled as she spoke and shook her head, "You're all the same." "I suppose you hit the ground running when you first came here then?" Yaozu replied, folding his arms at his chest and cocking his head. "You know you're not what I expected." "Life's full of disappointments, kid. Go home." Fang muttered. "I won't." Yaozu replied flatly. "I came here to speak with you, and I'm not going anywhere until I do." Fang stopped walking abruptly and turned to look at the boy, she put her arm on her hip and rolled her eyes, "This is the part where i'd smack my fist into my other hand, if I could." She cracked the knuckles in her fist and stepped towards him. "Hitting me won't solve anything." Yaozu raised his head, pointing his chin out. "But if it makes you feel any better then go ahead--" Fang punched Yaozu square in the jaw, watched as he hit the ground and then smiled, "You're right. That did make me feel better." Then she turned from him, and resumed walking. After a few moments however, she heard his footsteps fall back in line behind her and her lip curled back as she turned on him, "What do you want?!" "To talk to you." Yaozu said as he rubbed his jaw. "I did say that before you know..." "No." Fang replied, "Talking to me is what you want to do - but what do you want?" "That's... not quite so easy to answer." Yaozu said as he scratched his head. "Where to start... hmm... I don't know why I had to find you, I just know that I did. Something... bigger than you or I, wants us to meet." Fang stood in silence for a moment with a mixed look of annoyance and confusion on her face, "... What, like... a platypus bear, or something?" Then her face grew serious again and her eyes looked to the sky as though pleading for help. "Say what you mean. Geez, I hate humans that can't just say what they mean..." She muttered, looking the boy over. "Well actually there was a bear... but that's not important." Yaozu shook his head, then looked at Fang, eyeing her carefully. "I met General Lei Shen, well, actually I guess it's Emperor now. I wanted to ask you about... what happened 10 years ago." "L-Lei Shen...?" Fang's hardened expression softened for a moment as memories flooded back to her, "T-ten years... has it..." She looked down at her hand, marked by scars and worn by calluses, "... has it really been ten years...?" She could hardly believe it. She knew time moved differently in the spirit realm, but was that all it had been? Ten years? It had felt like a hundred. Fang began pacing. "I'm sorry if this is upsetting." Yaozu said softly. "You must have been pretty out of touch all of this time. Things have changed quite a lot, at least I think so. I was only a little kid back then. I didn't even visit the Earth Kingdom until I was 11. Oh... I'm Yaozu by the way." It was too much for her, Fang stopped pacing and walked right up to Yaozu, grabbed him by the neck and marched him backwards by force until he was up against a tree and then she lifted him off his feet and slammed him against the bark, "WHY DID YOU COME HERE!!" She screamed, her eyes brimmed with tears. The spirit world reacted to her outburst, the trees began to warp, the grass beneath her feet curled and browned and as the world seemed to close in around them and darken, hungry yellow eyes poked out from the darkness. "Lei Shen gave me one side of the story, from ten years ago. I want to hear the other side." Yaozu replied, his voice calm and firm. "You need to calm down, look at what you're doing." Fang looked around and realised what she was doing. She had been here so long she'd almost forgotten. Taking a deep breath, Fang let her emotions settle until the spirit world in their immediate vicinity returned to normal, then she threw Yaozu to the ground and stood over him, "There's no sides to the truth, kid. If it wasn't for me, my father would still be alive. There's your story, now just... just leave." She walked over to a fallen log and sat down on the trunk, resting her forehead in the palm of her hand. "You know... You were around in the time of my predecessor." Yaozu continued. "When he died, so I'm told, it was a truly great sadness for every nation. But I studied him, and his life. During the rebellions in the Earth Kingdom, he was asked to stand with the Earth Nation Army and put an end to the fighting. Instead he went to the rebels. He sat with them, broke bread, he listened to their stories. When his actions were questioned he told the people, 'It is not my responsibility alone to maintain balance, it is the duty of every single one of us. If only you could learn to see past your own nose.' Do you remember when he said that?" Fang laughed, "That idiot..." She muttered, biting her lower lip. Fang looked back up to ask Yaozu a question, but he was not there. Stood before her was an old man. His arms crossed, a hood shaded his weathered face from the sun. He had a goatee and long, ashen hair cascaded down his chest, and he stood smiling back at her. "Yun...?" 15 years ago "Yun!" Fang called out, crossing her arms irritably. Fang was in her mid-twenties, but she looked much the same, save for her lack of scars. Her skin was smooth and pale, and of course, she had both her arms. Her hair was just as long and dark, but unlike her older self, it was tied back in a high ponytail and she was far more restrained and serious in her mannerisms. She carried herself with an air of dignity and composure, with military precision. "Yun!" She called again, to no response. "Dammit, where did that idiot go..." She muttered, looking around their encampment. It was the eve of the battle between her father, the Earth King's forces, and the rebels. The moon was high in the sky, casting an eerie glow over everything. She quickly marched towards her father's tent and one of the soldiers, upon seeing her approach, stepped inside and announced her as she entered. "Captain Fang Zhao, Princess of the Earth Kingdom, Lady of--" "--Less of that." She growled, grabbing the man's lips between her thumb and forefinger and making the man splutter and squeek the last words. Her father laughed and ushered her over to his side. "Where have you been?" He asked. "I've been looking for Yun Feng, have you seen him?!" She asked, worriedly. The Earth King looked at his advisor and then back to his daughter with a concerned expression, "The Avatar has gone to speak with the rebels." "What?!" Fang snapped, "They'll kill him!" She punched the war table which cracked in two and the soldier beside her marched out of the tent as quickly as he could without running. "Perhaps..." The Earth King smiled weakly. "I'm going over there..." She replied angrily. "Daughter, wait..." The Earth King began, but Fang was already pushing past the guards. She had only gotten a few steps out when the King followed her outside and called to her, "Wait, Fang!!" He paused as she stopped to look back at him, "The Avatar has to do what he feels is right, for better or worse, he's... well he's the Avatar, Fang..." "He's going to get himself killed, and i'm not going to let that happen." And she ran. The horns alerted the camp to her approach seconds before she'd reached it. Rebel soldiers flanked her at every side and readied themselves but she washed over them like a raging torrent. Soldiers flew in every direction and she was just a stone's throw from the enemy leader's encampment, the palms of her hands holding two soldiers down in the mud, when a call came out in front of her. Fang looked up and saw Yun Feng and the rebel leader stood next to one another. "Stop, Fang..." Yun Feng asked her gently. "You're insane, Yun! You can't reason with these people, they'll do anything just to prove they're right and kill anyone in their way!!" As she let up the soldiers and they quickly scurried away, dozens more surrounded her and pointed their blades at her throat. "Is that so?" Yun said with a wisened smile, his face wrinkled but warm and full of life. "How would you know when all you've done is come crashing in and causing a fuss." Yun turned to the rebel leader and motioned his head toward Fang. "I'll take responsibility for her. Rest assured she won't attack any more of your people." And with that the leader nodded and raised his hand, and the guards lowered their weapons. "Do you see now, Fang?" Yun asked. "How can you hope to reason with people if you don't even give them a chance?"As the soldiers left, their eyes still warily on the wolf amongst their flock, Fang walked up to Yun and grabbed him, "Come on, we're going back.""I'm quite happy here, thank you." Yun replied softly."Dammit Yun!" Fang spat, letting the man go. She shook her head, rubbing her forehead with the back of her hand. "We gave them a chance and they stole supplies that our people needed to eat! To live! We gave them the chance to return our soldiers and citizens which they captured and tortured and what did we get?!" She paused as the anger bit at her, "If they didn't come back broken in mind or body, there was barely enough of them left to bury. What will you tell their parents? Their children! This has to stop!!" "You're right, it does." Yun agreed, nodding as he spoke. "But don't you see that these people have been fighting for their livelihood, and their freedom? Can you truly blame them for having no faith in the ones who govern them?"Yun shook his head, a look of disappointment on his face. "You are a product of the Emperor's will. He has molded you and shaped you like you mold and shape the earth. And like the Earth he has built you to be strong and firm, and unyielding. One of the many things I am grateful for, it is the time I have spent with all of the nations, and all of it's people. Learning, growing, changing. Even now in my old age I still learn wonderful and terrible things every day. If only... if only you could see past your own nose, Fang.""Damn them, Yun... damn you." Fang turned and walked back to her camp. Present Day "That was the last time I saw you..." Fang muttered to herself, looking back at Yun Feng, "... Alive... I..." She paused, licking her lips as she sat on the log, "I'm sorry, Yun..." She cried, "I was so stupid, so full of hatred I couldn't..." She looked back at Yun, wanting to ask him so many questions, but when she did, he wasn't there any more. Yaozu was stood in his place, staring back at her with crossed arms, just as Yun Feng once did. Stripped of the walls she had put up over so many years, blocking many of the memories that had stung her so, Fang saw Yaozu for who he truly was. She stood up and frowned, unsure what to make of him, but whatever she felt about him, she could see Yun Feng in him and knew who he was. "I know you..." She said, almost in a whisper... "You're... you're the Avatar..." She took a step towards Yaozu who smiled at her warmly, she smiled back at him. He held out his hand, and she punched him in the face. "That's for getting yourself killed, old man!" She barked.
  25. CLOSED Darkness Falls

    Private RP between myself and ErogenousEnigma, rated for violence, descriptive blood/gore and dark themes. At night, you tell your children stories. Tales intended to keep them safe. To be wary, to be cautious. You tell them stories about wolves and witches and all manner of things that go bump in the night. They are metaphors for the true evils that exist in your world. We tell our children similar stories, stories meant to keep them safe. Because in our world, monsters are very real. But, what makes a monster? Is it their claws and fangs? Is it their nature? Or is it a choice they made. Okay, my dumb thoughts put to paper out of the way, this RP is about supernatural, bump-in-the-night monster hunting... stuff. It's a story where morality is so often blurred, that knowing who is good or evil (if the concept even exists) is difficult to gauge. Set in a Victorian-style fantasy Gothic world with minor steampunk elements (to facilitate a little basic technology). This is just a place to compile our thoughts and lore or discussion in general for our RP, so here's a start: LUNARIA The name of the continent our story is based in. While we might decide to create more later down the line, or reference them for characters who might be introduced from overseas, I thought it important to base the majority of our story (at least for the time being) in one place. Lunaria is a greatly varied continent however. Freezing mountain ranges to the north, and a desert to the east. The majority of the landmass is a mix of valley/forest, the weather is often quite poor however, and is well known to have more days when it is raining, snowing, foggy, etc. than it does when the sun is shining or the cold bite of the wind is absent. QUEEN THERESA Theresa Wolfswood rules all of Lunaria, and is much beloved by her people, however she is not perfect by any means and there has been a great deal of conflict and in-fighting during her rule. She is forced to deal with everything from the ever-present threat of monsters, to growing crime and lawlessness. Many of her people are sick or hungry, and her resources are often stretched thin. Despite these issues, she appears to genuinely care for her subjects. For example, it was Queen Theresa who created the first task force to deal exclusively with monsters. WOLVES/WOLF A 'Wolf' is the title given to a member of the Queen's monster-hunting task force. They are essentially above the law, given rights to hunt, judge and if necessary, to pardon or slay a potential suspect without fear of repercussion. Their ranks are chosen from with extreme care and many Wolves were originally members of the Queen's Royal Guard. But again, they are not without fault, and whether rumour or fact many stories circulate the Kingdom about their brutal and indiscriminate nature. As such, people fear them and they are mostly given a wide birth. They are commonly given derogatory titles such as 'Dogs of the Queen', 'The Royal Hounds', etc. TECHNOLOGY For the most part, it's a mixture between medieval and Victorian, on a case by case basis, but much like Victorian-era England, Lunaria is in an age of industrial revolution. Travel is still commonly by foot or by horse, but the first train lines have begun to be laid down between major cities. Lighting is usually by candle or oil lamps, but most technology is steam-based. Weapons are mostly melee in nature, however law-enforcement, the Queen's guard, etc. carry projectile weapons, albeit they are extremely flawed. Mostly due to inaccuracy or long-reload times. There are many 'modern' conveniences such as newspapers, cigarettes, etc. The utilisation of electricity is in it's infancy, but it has been used with success in one endeavour - the electric telegraph, whereby an electrical current is used to move magnetic needles and so transmit messages via code. However, this process requires great expense, and is only utilised in the major cities, and it would still require the recipient to check with a local message holder, otherwise they would obviously not receive the message. RELIGION There is only one major religion in Lunaria, known as the Church of the Divine. Their beliefs centre around a God called Galatea, who was once human but ascended to the heavens. Most Lunarians are followers of the Divine, to one extent or another and the church is an integral part for most of their lives, even the royal family shares and acknowledges the power of the church and it's current leader, Cardinal Richelieu. Followers of the church are often called 'Children of the Divine'. Priests are most commonly titled 'Father'/'Padre' if they are male, or 'Mother'/'Madre' if female. God is usually referred to as the 'Holy Mother', 'Divine Mother', 'Divine', etc. Men and women of the cloth who have devoted themselves to God, but have not taken the vows of the priesthood are called 'Acolytes'. MAGEEvery so often a human is born with unexplainable talents, they are known as mages, not to be confused with warlocks. Mages have an innate ability to connect with the world around them and forces that make the universe tick. Generally a mages’ powers can be grouped into a specific tree of skills: elemental, arcane, creation, and spirit. Occasionally a mage will have natural talent in more than one tree; however any mage can learn any tree with the proper training and instruction. The highest tier of mages are known as the high mages, who often have ability in as many as three of the known tiers, and are usually masters of their natural tree. A mage’s ‘natural tree’ is the tree in which they first showed signs of magic, which can show up in children as young as five. Elemental – Fire, cold, wind, lightning, water, earth; the manipulation and creation of these elements. Arcane – The manipulation of the magic in the air, sometimes called ‘force’ as these mages will often be seen performing amazing feats of acrobatics, by managing the magic around their own body. They can also manipulate the magic around other people ‘forcing’ them, as if they’re being pushed or pulled by an invisible force. Powerful arcane mages can draw the magic into a visible form, generally taking on a blue or purple tone. A strong enough person can resist an assault of arcane, but should they see a visible wave of arcane it is suggested they not try and resist it, but to quickly get out of its range. While most commonly used as a force, it can be manipulated into many shapes, mimicking attacks like a slash from a sword or a thrust from a spear. Creation – Sometimes referred to as ‘conjuration’ but as conjuration is often associated with summoning which is an ability known only to warlocks, the high mages prefer the term ‘creation.’ This tree is most commonly associated with healing as it has the ability to mend flesh by ‘creating’ new tissue, however it can also create items, or simple tools. Anything created that is not being sustained by some means – either the mage, or a living body – will disintegrate quickly. They also have some power over earth and are able to grow plants and greenery. They cannot grow a plant from nothing without having to constantly funnel magic into it, however the seed is all they need, or even a leaf, as long as it is not already dead.Spirit – Magic that directly manipulates an individual’s soul, whether their own or someone else’s, though the use of someone else’s soul is strictly forbade among the high mages. A powerful spirit mage has learned how to expand their own soul, which can be done slowly over time by the natural magic in the air, or quickly(and illegally) by the absorption of other souls. Spirit mages are highly feared and never allowed to join the hunters. Their own soul is their greatest tool, they can do many feats from the other trees but not to the same potential, they can cause more havoc and damage by just using the raw energy of their soul. WARLOCKA human who deals with demons in order to gain supernatural abilities. By ‘deal’ they are joining into some sort of contract or agreement in which the human aids the demon into the mortal realm through use of their body and soul and in return the demon will grant them power. These powers can resemble that of the demon they deal with, another creature of lore, or mage trees, sometimes it is a mix of abilities. Demons can sometimes communicate with humans via dreams or where the veil between worlds is thin, or the human can contact demons through a ritual or by summoning them directly to the mortal realm which usually results in a massacre. SHADEA Shade is a consumer of energy. They can feed on almost any kind of energy, with perhaps solar energy being the only real exception. They are powerful physical beings that grow stronger when well fed, but grow tired and weak when they go without a food source. Though they can feed on any kind of energy, most prefer to feed on the life energy of humans, even to the point of their death. It is thought that they do this because the human body releases some kind of dormant energy upon reaching a near-death state that is extremely powerful. Though powerful, they have several weaknesses. Without a food supply, they quickly weaken. Though they can exist in daylight, it also tires them, compounding any effects of lack of food.It is said that to be fed upon is the most painful experience known to humanity, and that the process of feeding ages the victim dramatically, so that even if they were to survive, they could have lost years, even decades from their life (this is likely the reason that Shades do not appear to age). Many also fear being turned into a Shade, but the truth is that it is extremely rare with perhaps only 1 in 1,000 ever contracting the disease, if that is even what it is. Even then, Shades rarely leave their meal alive, and if they are unable to finish feeding, they will often choose to kill their victim. There are many theories for this practice, but none have been proven. There are three things that identify a Shade: First, their teeth. Unlike a human, the teeth of a Shade are comprised entirely of triangular fangs. Second, their hands. A Shade's palms have marks on them, vertical cuts each around two inches long that allow them to feed as easily from their hands as they do their mouth. Third and last, their eyes. While a Shade's eyes will appear as normal as they were when they were human, should they go without feeding for any length of time, a change in colour begins to occur. First their eyes take on an amber hue, then a dark golden colour as it finally turns to an ever darkening and intensifying crimson.Shades do not tend to live amongst humans, although it is not unheard of, and it is likely that many do without our knowledge. For although they are powerful, physically, and have incredibly keen senses, they are not invincible. They have an incredible healing rate, but only when they have recently fed, and so they are creatures of guile and cunning. Choosing subterfuge and stealth, rather than brute force. There are rumours that a small minority of Shades are capable of manipulating magical forces to one extent or another, but this has been undocumented thus far, either because it does not exist, or because those with such powers have left no witnesses.There is no known hierarchy amongst their kind, and they are as likely to avoid one another as work together as Shades are capable of feeding on one another, though this is thought to only happen in rare cases of necessity. They lack emotion, empathy, and though rare compared to many other monsters in our world, they are considered one of our most hated and feared. NYMPHThey appear like normal humans but they are always beautiful and far more devious. Though their intentions are not to harm or kill, they often ruin marriages. They ‘feed’ off of sexual energy, and they do not discriminate in their partners. While they can survive without it, they crave it like a human craves sweets. They are no more powerful than the average human, they do however have magical charming capabilities that come through in their words and voice, making manipulation much easier. STALKERA bestial species, while they are bipedal they are no more intelligent than a pack of wolves. If they speak it is in growls and guttural sounds, but there is no proof that they understand each other beyond a basic instinct. They generally feed on humans. They are covered in fur of various colours, mostly black, or dark shades of grey or brown, they have a hunched over posture and stand on their toes like most quadruped creatures. Their hands have hard leather palms so they can run more like a beast with the aid of their hands, giving them a drastic boost to speed. JACKALOPEA small creature that looks much like a fox with large floppy ears, horns that can take various shapes, and can be found in a wide array of colors. While not particularly dangerous they are known for their mischievous ways and strange capabilities to enter into ones dreams. Mostly they go completely unnoticed, but will sometimes alter the flow of dreams, causing nightmares or simply awkward dreams. They are hyper sensitive to a person’s emotions and feelings and are sometimes kept as pets by nobles as a security means – assuming the noble can prove themselves to the creature. Name: Alexander Lachance Age: 31 (43) Appearance: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y207/Sephy_dude/most_wanted_by_leejun35-d4tvzj2_zpsd4634b7e.jpg Personality: Though he is wise, aristocratic, well-spoken and charming, Alexander is also short-tempered, vain and extremely stubborn. He is patient up to a point, until he loses his temper but he does what he can to keep his stronger negative emotions in check. He can be inwardly self-deprecating, and struggles to balance his morals and humanity with his instincts and urgency to feed. History: Alexander remembers nothing of his parents, he was found abandoned on a church porch when he was a newborn. He had a relatively normal childhood, went to school, learnt the ways of the world, learned to read and write and yet he had always found peace and happiness in his faith, and so as soon as he was able he began studying to become a priest. When he was 24, he finished his studies, took his vows and spent the next 7 years tending to his flock at the very same church he had once been abandoned at. The day he returned, he found the church a crumbling shambles, but over the years and with support from the community he returned it to past glory and began holding service there. He had a simple life, but he was content. The night a Shade found it's way into the priest's rectory and began to feed upon his brothers and sisters, Alexander flung himself at the creature, hoping to wound or even kill it, or at least buy his adopted family time to escape. But the creature brushed him aside as the wind would a sheet of paper. When the Shade was done with the other priests, it came to him next. He would never forget the colour of it's eyes, changing from the darkest red he had ever seen, into a warm amber hue and even as it began to feed on him, he could not take his eyes from it's own. The amber irises turning to a light blue as he felt the life draining from him. The pain was unbearable, mind-numbing. He blacked out, not expecting to return to the living. Yet when he woke, something was different, over the coming days he found a sensitivity to light and a growing hunger that no food or drink would quench. He tried to hide his urges, tried to contain them, but eventually, the beast inside him won out, and by the time he was done, he stood over a bloodbath. He was a priest who had slaughtered his entire congregation, save for a young girl. She looked up at him, and he reached out, but before he could understand what he had intended something distracted him, his instincts told him to run, that he was too weak, too young, and so he ran into the night and never returned. 10 years passed. He came to understand what he was, what he was capable of, and despised it. For a time, he wandered aimlessly, feeding as sparingly as he could, hoping that he would cause nobody any further harm. However, after getting lost in a deep forest, and having not fed for almost a week, he was near death. When he finally found his way out, he fell upon the first unfortunate person he came across, and unable to stop himself, fed until they died. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your viewpoint) his victim had been a royal guard. He had found his way to the capital city, the home of the Queen herself. Before he had time to escape however, another human found him but this one was different. He called himself a Wolf, and he was far more skilled than the city guard. He heard tales of the Wolves as a child, and knew he was in mortal danger. He fought and managed to wound the man, but ultimately he was captured. He was tortured for weeks, studied and examined, asked questions of every facet of his life and nature. But in time, he found a sympathetic ear. It was in fact the man who had captured him, who went only by 'Leon'. Alexander and Leon came to know one another well, and eventually Leon suggested to his superiors that Alexander be allowed freedom under condition that he was to spend his life in service to the Wolves, and the Queen. Knowing it was this, or death, and that it might bring the possibility of saving lives as some small repentance for having taken so many, he accepted without hesitation and spent the following two years hunting those that would harm humankind. A monster hunting other monsters. Abilities: Alexander shares the various abilities of other Shades, including enhanced speed, agility, reflexes and strength as well as an abnormally fast healing rate (assuming he has fed recently). His senses are also particularly keen, but he has one ability that he gained and mastered over time that as far as he knows, he is the only one capable of using. Alexander is able to control his own centre of gravity using some form of instinctual air magic. Meaning he can scale walls as though he were walking on the floor, recline on ceilings, levitate and fly and become weightless or even extremely heavy if required, allowing multiple uses in and out of combat.