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Everything posted by Valentine

  1. Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

    Gethsemane. The name of the four-star hotel in which Violet was staying. She walked into the lobby, the door held open for her by an attendant. She strode across the deep crimson carpet and nodded to the receptionist as she passed her and took the elevator up to her room. The sixth floor, room 204. She opened the door with her key and closed it behind her, locking it and chucking the keys onto the glass table in the middle of the room. Violet let out a deep sigh, it had been a long day. Between the undead, her brother showing up out of nowhere, vampires and evil water spirits, she'd had just about enough of the magical world for tonight. She ordered some food from room service, undressed and got into the shower. As the hot water washed away the dirt, aches and discomfort of the day, she ran her hands over her body. The bumps of her scars were a reminder of the danger of her job. As though Violet was able to heal faster than a human, she still scarred like them. Bullet wounds, bites and scratches, deep cuts and burnt or rough patches of skin splashed across her body. Across most of her body, were dozens of symbols, runes and other strange markings, safeguarding her from various magical attacks. The tattoos spanned the length of her body, across her arms, her body and down her back, all the way down to her legs. She pulled a robe from the closet and tied it around her and wrapped her head in a towel to let it dry of it's own accord. Room service arrived, and she sat at the end of her bed, eating and flicking through the channels on the television. She was checking the local news, as often times - and annoyingly - the news would fall upon bodies before the cops. A fact she often had to rely on, much to her chagrin. Yet tonight, the city seemed strangely quiet. There were a few traffic accidents, a number of home disturbances, several of which were domestics. But there was little news in the way of murders. Her phone remained silent. She felt strange, unable to settle. She was used to having to work, or wanting to have time off, but ultimately getting called away to a job. In fact it had happened so often she'd been unable to hold down a relationship, or form many friendships that weren't related to her job, and the world of magic and mysticism. But now she had the time off, she didn't know what to do with herself. Violet pushed the food around on her plate and eventually put it to one side and decided she might as well catch up on missed sleep. She turned the television down low, but kept it on. The noise was comforting to her, and so she curled up in bed, turned the lights out and let her dreams take hold. Something woke her. Her senses were buzzing. She looked across the room, and despite the near-darkness save for the glow of the television's light, she could still make out the time. It was nearly four in the morning. What had woken her? She looked around the room but could see nothing out of place. But she felt like she was not alone. Instinct told her to look to other realms and reluctantly, she opened her mind's eye and looked into the realm of the magical. Her room seemed relatively similar as it did in the human realm. She saw the occasional creature or spirit passing through, but there was nothing out of the ordinary in that. None of them took any interest in her, despite her being able to see them. Violet frowned as she leant up in her bed. She felt strange, something wasn't right, but she couldn't see anything out of place. She leant over to her bedside table and picked up a jug of water and poured some into an empty glass and sat upright. Letting out a deep breath, she shook her head and took a sip. As she sat there, she lifted her knees up and balanced the glass of water on top, holding it there and watching a drop of water on the edge, teeter and slip down the outside of the glass. She watched it almost like a cobra, hypnotised by the movement of the snake charmer's flute and it wasn't until she saw the movement in the reflection of the water that she realised why she'd been transfixed. Someone was behind her. Immediately she tried to leap up, but felt a pair of gloved hands coil around her throat. They were throttling her, almost immediately she felt dizzy. She was going to pass out. Instinctively, she turned into the first creature that popped into her mind. The thing that could protect her. In an instant, her body morphed into an enormous light brown grizzly bear. Her attacker howled in surprise and released her throat, though at that point his grip was no more a danger than a flea bite. She turned on the man and batted a paw at him. Her paw connected and the man flew through the air and smashed into the television, casting the room into darkness. Though not for her. He stumbled towards the door, and she gave chase, but it was difficult to follow him. She was so large now, and despite the size of the room, it was full of furnishings that got in her way, and slowed her pursuit. But it didn't matter any more. She had him. Violet raised up onto her hind legs and opened her jaws, ready to land on the man with all her weight and bite down on his face. Quickly, her attacker pulled something from his coat pocket and a terrible ringing stung her sensitive ears. She felt something hit her, and she fell back and the man fled from her room. If it wasn't for the fact she'd been shot many times before, she might not have known what had happened. She knew she was lucky to be alive, however. A small calibre pistol round was never likely going to put down a grizzly. It still hurt like hell though. She suppressed her cries but it didn't matter, she could hear the couple in the next room over arguing about whether they were going to call someone. People in L.A. didn't like to get involved, and she couldn't really blame them. Too many witnesses go missing before the trial comes up. Violet lurched towards her bed and brought her paw up onto the covers and looked down at her chest. She saw three little bullet nubs push their way out of her wounds. The injuries themselves would take a while longer to heal, however. Days, rather than weeks. She grit her teeth and morphed back into her human form and released a cry in spite of her resolve. The bullet holes were smaller now, proportional to the size she had been when she was shot. She had taken one in the shoulder, one in the arm and one above her right breast. She pulled back on the covers and wrapped herself in them, protecting her modesty and grabbed her phone. Violet unlocked it, and scrolled down the contacts, her finger hovered over her brother's cell phone and then she backed out of it and dialled 911. "You're lying." "I'm not lying, Doc." Violet replied. She watched as an orderly pushed a patient by in a wheelchair and then turned her attention back to the doctor who was inspecting her wounds. "I was attacked, and I got shot, okay? Could you just stitch me up, and be done with it." "No, look--" The doctor - a man in his forties with a greying beard and hair - came around beside Violet and ran his hand across her back, "You have no exit wounds. Furthermore, these are far too small to be bullet wounds, granted, they match the shape... but, anyway, these wounds are days old, not hours." "I'm a quick healer." Violet muttered. "Uh-huh, and i'm Gandhi." The doctor replied, irritably. He pulled the pan full of instruments to his lap and took a needle and degradable thread that the body would absorb naturally without needing removal. He disinfected the wounds and then stitched them closed. "Now then... If you're not going to be straight with me, i'm going to call the cops." "Great." Violet replied, "I used to be a cop. They'll be happy to see me. Thanks, Bapu." The doctor rolled his eyes and made an irritable noise like he was clearing his nostrils and then walked out. Left alone in the hospital room, Violet checked the curtain was closed properly and then got changed. She gingerly pulled her coat on and scrolled down her contacts to her brother and sighed, hovering over the 'call' button. This time she pressed it. A few rings, he wasn't going to pick up. She waited, and just as she was about to hang up, she heard the call go through. "Hey, can you pick me up?" Violet asked. "Uh..." Vincent murmured groggily down the phone. "Don't you have a car?" "Yeah." Violet replied, and then held her breath, "I left it at the hotel. Can you just pick me up and not make a big deal about it?" "I could." Vincent replied. "But it's stupid O'Clock in the morning and I'm grumpy. But I'll save it until I get there, after all you'll owe me one after this. Where are you?" She looked up at the wall clock, it was just past 6am. "Uh..." She rubbed her forehead, "I'm at West Hope Memorial." "Well looks like somebody didn't go to bed like they were told." Vincent replied. "All right, give me a half hour." Violet hung the phone up, "I tried to." She muttered, and stood up slowly. As she did so, however, the doctor walked back in and shook his head immediately, trying to usher her back onto the bed. "You need to rest." He said, offering her a couple of pills. Probably for the pain. "That sounds a lot like, 'you need to wait for the cops to get here'." She corrected, "Look..." She gingerly reached into her pocket and pulled out a small black wallet. The doctor opened it and saw the gleaming badge of a detective. "Oh, you weren't kidding." The doctor muttered, handing it back to her. "Wish I was." She replied, "Thanks, Doc." The cool morning air helped to wake her up as she stepped outside and looked out across the car park in front of the hospital. After a couple of minutes Violet walked over and sat on a bench and closed her eyes. Next thing she knew she heard the sound of her brother's voice. "What?" She growled, looking up at him. "Oh, right..." She looked around, rubbing her eyes with her good arm, making sure to keep her injured one still. Vincent was leaning out of the open window of a black 1979 El Camino that had seen better days. Dented and covered in rust, it's exhaust spewed black fumes out from behind it. The front door on the driver's side had a large scratch caused by some unknown, but undoubtedly inhuman creature. "Do you want to get in before the rush hour starts?" Vincent offered. "I've told you before, the traffic stinks in L.A." "No worse than you." Violet muttered and slowly stood up and crossed in front of the car and got into the passenger seat. "Just a ride back to my hotel would be great." She pulled on her seat belt and let it rest gently against her shoulder. "You got it." Vincent replied as he pulled away from the street and took off down the road. "So would you like to sit in awkward silence or do you want to tell me what happened?" "I'd like to sit in awkward silence." Violet replied, looking out the window, "But I can't really do that," She muttered, "A couple of hours ago, a guy broke into my room at the hotel. I didn't hear a thing, just woke up, felt a weird presence and so I thought maybe something otherwordly was bothering me, but when I checked - nothing." She paused, adjusting her seat belt as it was uncomfortable, "I lean over for a glass of water, and suddenly i'm getting throttled. I shifted into a bear, and he freaked out. I'm pretty sure he's not savvy on magic, or at the very least, what I am, anyway." Violet rolled her window down to let a little air into the car, "So, I shifted, and he shot me a few times. Hospital, phone call, here I am." "Well, shit." Vincent replied. "Looks like someone has eyes on you. That must mean you're getting close to something." "Well i'm definitely into some kind of business. But i'm just not sure if it's the right kind." Violet replied, "If we were on the right track, following something magical in nature, do you think they'd send a human to kill a shapeshifter with a pistol? His bullets were just that, too. There wasn't anything on them, they weren't dipped in anything. I'm healing just fine." She paused as she considered what had happened to her, "I think maybe they looked into my past, saw what I used to be, or... what I am, I don't know. Maybe they're just criminals trying to protect something of that nature." "Sounds to me like somebody has stumbled upon the supernatural world." Vincent replied. "There are plenty of practitioners who awaken their powers without anyone to guide them. It's likely they know nothing of what magic really is, or the laws that they must abide by. If that's the case, if they've stumbled on to some deep, powerful shit...well then they are probably all the more dangerous for their ignorance." "Oh, shit..." Violet cursed, shaking her head. "LaChance." "Maybe." Vincent said, but he sounded unconvinced. "It's unlikely that some dipshit with the gift would know how to hide their aura. LaChance didn't give me any vibes, and he seemed completely unaware of the... thing that was attached to him." "But that's just it." Violet replied, "Maybe it's not him at all." She looked at her brother as she spoke, "Think about it, he stumbles across some magic books, maybe someone tells him he can use magic to further his personal goals. Maybe it's money, or power, I don't know, that's beside the point. He intends to use magic for money, power, influence. Trying to do that, he spawns that, whatever it was called... Adaro?" Violet twisted in her seat to focus on her brother as they slowed to a crawl, caught in the L.A. traffic. "I think he accidentally spawned an Adaro, and he thinks it failed. He's given up on magic. The Adaro isn't protecting or guarding LaChance, it's whispering in his ear. Feeding his paranoia. It told him to send someone after me, without knowing what I am. And it would make sense that he wasn't hiding his aura, because he's not in control of any magical ability beyond what he's summoned - and that, he doesn't even have control over." Violet paused as the pieces felt like they were falling into place, "But if this is the case, and I think i'm right, that still leaves one missing piece - who told LaChance about magic, and why?" She grinned, "Right? They put LaChance up to this, hoping to stir the pot. It means anything that happens comes back to LaChance, and leaves this unknown party completely blameless. Like a ghost, only worse. We can find ghosts..." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "Whatever the case, I want to get my things back at the hotel room. I got rushed out of there so fast I couldn't get my sidearm." Violet's face tensed as she realised she'd said something her brother had never heard before. They hadn't seen each other since their teens, barely spoken. Vincent had no idea she'd been a cop, or worked her way up to becoming a detective prior to being pulled back into the world of magic. Violet sighed, it looked like it was going to be another long day.
  2. Hallowed - Private Kyo& Val

    Sat on the edge of the bath, Violet crossed her arms in quiet contemplation. How was she going to get out of here? She looked around the bathroom, but the jingle of her phone distracted her. She picked up the phone and checked the caller ID - Sergeant James Walker. She held the phone out in front of her for a moment and sighed before flipping it open and answering, "Evening, Sergeant." She said, as the door to the bathroom banged heavily. "Evening, Violet - what was that?" James asked. "Nevermind that, i'm going to be a little late." She replied, pushing her long, thick black hair out of her dark brown eyes with her free hand. "Everything alright?" James asked, sounding worried. "Nothing I can't handle." Violet replied. The bathroom door banged once again, and the wood splintered. "Listen, i'll talk to you when I get there." "It's just we've been waiting for a little while now, the crime scene is already prepped and i'm trying to hold off the science guys but--" "--James, James!" Violet interrupted the Sergeant. "Just... give me an hour, alright?" She heard a muffled, "Ah Christ..." Then he came through loud and clear, "Fine. But you're not going to be happy when you get here." "Why?" She asked, putting a boot to the door, to support it as parts of wood began to cave. "Your brother just showed up..." Violet hung up the phone and put it in her pocket and pulled herself down off the bath and braced her feet against the door. The moans on the other side reminded her of what was about to come crashing through. She looked around the room, but there was little to help her get out of this. She'd have to shift. Violet Hallow was Vincent's sister, well, his half-sister. Her mother had been a native American and a shapeshifter, and so she inherited more than just her mother's unusual good looks. That hadn't always made life easy living with Vincent, but she'd adapted, and so had he, in his own way at least. She concentrated for a moment, trying to think of her best option. When the horde of walking corpses smashed through the door and stumbled into the bathroom, they looked around in confusion while a little brown mouse skittered past their shoes and out into the hallway. It hopped down the steps onto the ground floor and as it left the front door, it shapeshifted back into Violet, clothes and all. "Just as well nobody lives here..." She muttered, and held out her hand. She pulled back the right sleeve of her black button-up jacket, and aimed her palm at the carpet. Sparks crackled in her palm and suddenly a short, but incredibly hot jet of flame splashed across the ground. It spread through the building like it had a life of it's own and Violet swiftly withdrew from the building and watched it erupt in flames. "That's that, then. Now to deal with Vincent." She muttered. The drive in her black BMW had only taken a half hour. Traffic was almost non-existent at this time of night. When she finally pulled up to the crime scene and got out of the car, she saw dozens of people, cops and more. Clubbers milled about, watching and trying to film the events on their camera phones. She pulled a pair of sunglasses from her jacket pocket and put them on, feeling slightly stupid for having to wear sunglasses at night, but it was the only way she could reliably protect herself - and others - from the effects of the soulgaze. More often than not, an unpleasant experience, for everyone involved. She sauntered up to the crime scene, nodding to Sergeant James Walker as she came up behind her brother who seemed lost in thought. She knew it was Vincent. His tatty clothes and dishevelled appearance were enough to identify him anywhere. The fact she could smell him all the way back at her BMW helped too, but she wondered if she didn't have heightened senses would she still have smelled him from back there. Probably. "Penny for your thoughts?" She asked, raising an eyebrow. "You?" Vincent's response was somewhat accusative. "When the hell did you get to L.A?" "Me. I've been here for a while now, Vincent." She replied quietly, "What have you been doing?" She muttered, looking him up and down. Vincent gave a rather violent sniff as he shoved his hands in to the oversized pockets of his duster. "Ah, you know. Same old same old." He replied. "On a case right now actually, or well... I was." "You're a state." Violet replied, poking a finger through one of the holes of his jacket. "When was the last time you ate?" She paused, "Or showered, for that matter. You'd wake the dead with that smell." She muttered, but grinned at the thought of what had happened earlier being possibly linked to her brother's hygiene. "Give it a rest." Vincent replied miserably, pulling at the collar of his coat to bring it closer to his neck. "Just because your ass got fat doesn't mean I'm anorexic, alright?" Violet smiled, tipping her sunglasses down enough to lock eyes with Vincent, "Poor people are so grouchy." She said squeezing his cheek playfully, "Let me know when you want in." She added, and strode past him and under the police tape. A cop stopped her but she showed the officer her credentials and he let her by. Unlike Vincent, who was a freelance investigator, Violet also worked in tandem with the police as a consultant on the occult and paranormal. "Hey, what the fuck?" Vincent called to her, almost whining. "You're with the cops? Look uh..." Vincent gave a heavy sigh, lingering, clearly struggling with what he was about to propose. "You can really... get me in?" Violet grinned and turned to look back at him, "Oh didn't I say? I'm the LAPD's paranormal bloodhound." She smirked and then considered him for a moment, "Fine." She said, sighing. The officer beside her lifted the tape for Vincent to duck beneath and Violet walked over to the corpse and checked it over. She sniffed at the corpse before lifting the cover away from it's face. The young woman was dressed provocatively, but she had far too much make-up on. Violet checked her bag, she was carrying a lot of money, and condoms. Another prostitute. Her blood had been drained, that much was obvious. Her dry skin and gaunt, pale body. But the wounds on her neck were wrong. They were placed in the right area for a vampire bite, but fangs hadn't made these holes. Violet knelt back and looked at her brother, "You see this?" She asked, pulling the woman's head to one side so Vincent could see the marks. Vincent hunched down, so his face was only a few inches from the deceased woman. After a moment he pulled away and stepped back a few steps, balancing on his rear-placed foot for a moment, before settling back on both. "Claw punctures." He said, giving another sniff. "Something smells bad." He shot a glare at Violet before she could make another comment about his hygiene. "I wasn't going to say anything." Violet replied, smirking as she looked back at the corpse. "Okay..." She muttered, letting out a long sigh, and closed her eyes. Violet remained motionless as she concentrated. She pictured her third eye opening upon her forehead and stood up, opening her eyes. As she pulled the sunglasses from her face, she saw a world turned inside-out. The sky was red, and the ground beneath her feet was a sea of black water. Ravens shrieked and circled the woman's corpse that seemed brighter and more serene than it had in death. Here, in this world, it seemed at peace. A shadow loomed in front of Violet and she looked up to see a huge, monstrous creature, standing over the woman. It bent down, tore at her throat with it's claws and then snarled and lunged at Violet. Letting out a panicked breath, she stumbled backwards as she was pulled from her vision and returned to the world of the living. "I hate doing that." She muttered, before replacing her sunglasses, "Visions aren't doing squat." She added, "People are monsters as much as anything." Then she looked to the nightclub, "We still have a lead though." And she stood, and walked into the nightclub. "Ever been here before?" Violet asked. "Yeah you know me, life of the party." Vincent said sarcastically. "No, Violet, I've never been here. The guy who runs it is a vamp though. My client thought as much... and this can't be a coincidence." "Yeah, I know." Violet replied, "His name's Jimmy." She grinned and looked around, most of the nightclub's patrons were gone, or were being talked to by police, but there on the second floor of the club, looking out across the balcony, she saw him. Jimmy White. An appropriate name given his skin pallor. "Hi, Jimmy!" She waved up at him and he nervously nodded at her. "We're coming up." She added, "Stay right there!" She grinned and they started up the stairs to the second floor, "Jimmy's a control freak, by the way. He's going to try and charm you." She muttered to her brother. "He can fuckin' try all he wants." Vincent growled as he followed her up. As the pair came to the top of the stairs and turned the corner, Violet saw Jimmy trying to wedge open one of the windows. He had it open nearly a third of the way but she raised her hand and swept it down and the window violently slammed shut on Jimmy's left hand. He let out a wail of pain and pulled his hand free before whirling back on them. "What do you want?!" Jimmy snapped at Violet before turning his attention to Vincent. He took a step closer and his eyes flashed, "Why are you here?" He asked, his voice calm and yet strangely alluring. "You shouldn't lock eyes with a wizard, Jimbo." Vincent growled, stepping forward with his cane tapping rhythmically on the ground with each step. "and you can use your sexy voice all you want..." Vincent stopped and with a final tap of his cane, the handle end caught fire and he held it forward threateningly. "...because I'm not budging." "Ah, dammit!" Jimmy snarled, wincing at the fire. "You never bring anyone normal here, Violet." He added, dropping his charm attempt. "Don't be rude, Jimmy." Violet replied, smiling and leaning back on the balcony, "We're playing bad cop, bored cop here, and you don't want to see what happens when I get bored of this." She looked to her brother and back at Jimmy, "At least, if he doesn't fry your gonads first." "I-I didn't do anything!!" Jimmy barked, and looked back longingly at the window. "We know you didn't, idiot. If we thought you had you'd be a pile of dust by now." Vincent snarled. "But don't think for a minute we'll buy that this was unprovoked. Spit it out, now." The end of his sentence was commanding, bellowing like a preacher. "Spit what out?" Jimmy became confused, looking at them both. "I run a nightclub, okay? I have a lot of money, okay? Women flock to me, okay? So I have a lot of enemies, okay?!" Jimmy crossed his arms and stood in silence, "What, you want me to list off all the people I piss off in a day?" "I suggest you do." Vincent said warningly. "If you don't start talking I'll start up the scripture, and you don't want that, Jimbo. I fuckin' hate scripture, and if you make me say it I'll make sure you fuckin' hurt." "Ah, nobody wants to hear that, Vincent." Violet muttered, and walked up to Jimmy and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, "I'll make things very simple. If you don't give us something, Jimmy, i'm going to shift into a bear and tear you limb from limb." "Christ, I don't know alright! All I know is this guy told me he wanted to spend a little time with one of my girls, I told him no, cus they're with me, right? There are plenty of girls for paying customers. Jimmy knows best, right?" When neither of them replied, he nervously resumed, "Yeah... so I said no, okay? Then one of my girls winds up dead with puncture marks and everyone's talking 'vampire' this, and 'vampire' that, but I never even bit Rebecca. She was new." "Don't you lie to me, Creature!" Vincent snapped. "Her friends have seen marks on her neck and arms!" Vincent strode forward again, thrusting his fiery cane. "In the name of Jesus Christ, our God and Lord..." He began to quote scripture, and the very sound of it seemed to rattle the vampire with pain, causing him to seize up. "Strengthened by the the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary!" "Ah, geez." Violet muttered, and strode forwards as Jimmy's ears began to bleed, "Quit your bible bashin' nonsense, would you?" "I didn't!" Jimmy groaned, "I can't! I can't!" He howled and doubled over on the ground. "Alright!" Violet pulled her sunglasses off and pocketed them, "Alright Jimmy, just tell us who you're so afraid of?!" "I can't!" Jimmy wailed, but the scripture continued regardless, and soon Jimmy could bear no more, "He calls himself LaChance, I don't know if that's his name!" The room fell silent and Violet took a step back from Jimmy. "And I thought a bear would be fun." She muttered and then looked at Vincent, "Scripture? Honestly." She turned and started walking, replacing the sunglasses on her face. "Well he was pissin' me off." Vincent grumbled as he exitnguished his cane and followed after Violet. "Don't you go skipping town, Jimbo. I'll find you, that's a promise." "A little finesse, Vincent. That's all it takes. Jimmy is a scumbag, but he's not a murderer." She walked down the stairs and looked over her shoulder as she reached the bottom, "And 'Jimbo'?" She laughed and shook her head. Her brother's idea of being menacing was like watching Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap get 'serious'. But she had to admit, it was nice spending time with him again. Even if it was in this messed up place.
  3. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    OOC: Private RP between myself and Kyo, rated NC-17. LUCKY NUMBER 8 The full moon looked down upon the city of Tokyo, though most of it's cream-coloured light could not reach the depths of the city. Instead, bright lamps illuminated the streets, and brilliant neon signs seemed to adorn every available shop front. Tonight was like any other night. A night of endless possibilities. Bars and nightclubs were in full swing now, the bouncers refused those who didn't dress or look the part. Drunk businessmen, relieved at the end of their working week, half-stumbled their way down the flight of stairs into the Tokyo underground. Tokyo was truly a city that never slept. Thousands upon thousands walked the streets at any one time, whether going to work, coming back from it or just moving through the city. A young woman in her mid-20's moved with the crowd as the lights turned from green to red and the cars came to a stop. Her long, wavy golden hair bobbed as she walked. Her skin was pale and her eyes an unusual golden amber, her lips were a brilliant red. She was attractive and voluptuous, but at the same time she was relatively short, and looked as though she could stand to eat a little more. She was dressed in black trousers, a white blouse and practical black boots. Over her blouse she wore a long dark brown coat with rigid shoulders and an upturned collar. She moved quickly through the crowd without issue, smiling at anyone who glanced at her, as many did. Her face was warm and welcoming, and she had a wide, toothy grin - though her eyes looked a little too intense for her soft face. She crossed the street and looked up at the building she had arrived at. A skyscraper that stretched as far as the eye could see. She glanced up at the crisp, clean windows above her and then walked in. The moment she stepped inside, she could feel the change in temperature. It was a little chilly out right now, but the building's interior was slightly above room temperature. She walked up to the reception counter and waited patiently while the dark-haired receptionist finished the call he was on and hung up. "Evening Miss, how may I help you?" The man smiled at her, and she mimicked him. "Evening!" She replied, energetically, "I'm Hayashi Hitomi, your boss was expecting me." The receptionist looked her over a second time, unsure. Hitomi chuckled, putting her hand to her lips, "Oh i'm sorry, here--" She reached up and undid the top button of her blouse and pulled it down, just above her left breast was a dark red tattoo of a snake consuming a sword - blade first. "A-ah!" The receptionist averted his eyes and bowed before picking up the phone in front of him. "She's here." He said, and watched as Hitomi strode past him towards the elevator and pressed the button with a sigh. She absent-mindedly tapped the pockets of her coat until she found what she was looking for and pulled it out as the doors opened. She pulled a stick of gum from it's wrapper and stuffed it into her mouth, blowing a bubble as the doors closed in front of her. The 65th floor. Doors chimed as they slid open and she stepped out. The room she entered was quite unlike the reception below. This room was dark, lit only with a single, simple lamp upon a long, well-varnished table. Every seat at the table had been taken, and so when Hitomi strolled into the room and glanced at those present, she laughed. "Isn't anyone going to offer a girl a seat?" She asked. Those at the table remained silent. "Alright." She added, grinning. She took the gum from her mouth and licked her lips, savouring the cherry flavour before squishing the gum under the table in front of her, much to the grimaces of the older men and women present. "You were brought here for a reason." A man in his 50's with a short, grey goatee spoke up. "Show some respect, Miss Hayashi." "Oooh?" Hitomi's eyes expanded in surprise, "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to mark your table, i'm so stupid, let me just--" "Enough!!" The man barked, "The table can be cleaned, but do not presume to entertain us with your theatrics." Suddenly, Hitomi's expression changed. The smile washed from her face, and her intense eyes grew stern and calculating. She scanned the table and focused her attention on the old man, and smiled. But this time, it held no warmth. "Fine." Her voice was colder now, holding none of the charm or energy it once had. "I was busy, so what do you want, old man?" The board member snarled at her and quick as a flash, Hitomi opened her mouth and her teeth were all thick, long fangs. She snarled back at the man, her eyes wild and bloodthirsty. The sound of clapping distracted her and she closed her mouth and coughed delicately and when her smile returned, her teeth appeared human once again. "That's enough." A man at the far end of the table stood up, "I didn't bring an Orochi here to antagonise my board members." The man was in his early 30's and had black, slicked-back hair. His suit was a dark blue and looked particularly expensive. He carried an air of authority about him. "Hayashi Hitomi, this is not a conversation. The higher-ups have given me an order to relay to you as they were unable to contact you directly," The man paused until he was sure Hitomi was listening, "You are to make contact with a human called Dr. Ikitsuki Munenori and--" "-- I know that name." Hitomi replied instantly, her face was cool but her eyes were excited, "You want me to eat him?" "No. Nothing like that." The director replied, "You have a new assignment. You are to work alongside the Doctor, to ascertain a reason for the recent murders of our kind." "Shit happens." Hitomi muttered. "Yes, 'shit' most certainly does happen. But this isn't over territory or sport, these are serial killings and usually we find some kind of evidence left behind, but so far there's been nothing. Frankly, the murders have started to spill over into the human news. They're already calling the murderer the 'Crimson Mist'," The director let out a hollow laugh, "Because most of the body is spread across the surroundings of the crime scene, like a big balloon just popped." Hitomi grinned at the thought and then turned and walked away, entering the elevator once more. The doors closed and she started her way back down. One of the board members turned to their director and asked, "Why do the higher-ups want one of those things - and her of all of them - doing their dirty work?!" The director shook his head, "She's a wild card... I heard she once took her team into a hopeless situation, claiming it would be a success. She walked out alone with the prize in-hand. The only one to walk out. She's a weapon is all, they want to point her in the right direction and pull the trigger." He shook his head. The walk to Ikitsuki Munenori's apartment hadn't taken long. He seemed to live in a pleasant enough part of the city. She walked through the foyer and took the elevator up to the 16th floor. Walking past row after row of doors, she came to one labelled 'Ikitsuki' and stopped. Hitomi glanced left and right, but the hall was quiet. She looked down at the door and twisted the handle. Locked. "Humans..." Hitomi sneered, grabbed the handle and pushed. The door creaked and simultaneously the lock snapped and the door swung in. She stepped inside and looked around. Though the lights were off, she could see quite clearly in the darkness. His apartment was average to large, it was organised, almost so much so that it felt clinical. It was minimalist as well, and seemed to hold little of personal value. Hitomi strolled through the room, glancing at various objects until she fell upon a small cabinet and opened it without hesitation. Inside, there was a small selection of bottles. Several of them were clear crystal. Hitomi picked one up and inspected the amber liquid inside and grinned, then pulled the crystal stopper and sniffed, "Mmm..." She brought the bottle up to her lips and heard a noise. Hitomi turned to look towards the door, as it was pushed slowly open and a man stood in the doorway with a confused expression on his face. Placing the stopper back in the bottle and putting it down, Hitomi turned to face the man. "Oh, evening, Sir!" Hitomi's smile reappeared on her face and she became energetic once again. "I'm sorry to barge in, but I saw your door was broken, and I thought maybe someone inside was in trouble. Is this your home?" She asked, smiling as she bowed politely.
  4. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    "-- and perhaps just knock this time.†The message finished playing and Hitomi pressed the 'End Call' button on her phone and flipped it shut. She couldn't help but smile at the doctor's sense of humour. It was something he seemed to hold onto in spite of his bad fortune. She let out a short sigh and brought the coffee up to her lips and took a sip. It was disgusting. It was too bitter and the cheap coffee granules hadn't fully dissolved, leaving a gritty taste in her mouth. "Who was that?" "Hm?" Hitomi looked up, "Sorry?" She asked. The woman sat across from Hitomi was a little younger than her, she looked in her late teens. Her short hair was a bright blonde, she had soft features like Hitomi, but unlike her this young woman's face held a natural warmth. However, her eyes though once blue, were now a dull white. She was blind. "Wake up, Sis." The girl raised her cane and bonked Hitomi on the top of her head. "Hey!" Hitomi barked, "I hate it when you do that, Izumi." She growled. "It was just a colleague." "Oh..." Izumi pulled her cane back onto her lap, "You're not messing around with that Orochi lot any more, are you? You promised." "No, i'm not. So much so, that when I refused the assignment, they gave me this one instead." "What's wrong with this one then?" Izumi asked, and before her sister could question, "Because you get a look on your face when you're unhappy." Neither of them commented on the fact she couldn't see Hitomi's face any more, and so the idea that she could tell because 'she had a look' on her face, was impossible. Izumi had lost her sight several years ago, after their mother had passed away. Ever since then, Hitomi had taken it upon herself to care for Izumi whenever possible. She came with food and supplies, and tried to spend more time with her sister whenever possible. But her assignments often kept her away from her sister for long periods, and that was when she worried most for Izumi. "It's just that..." Hitomi couldn't tell her sister everything, "The person i'm forced to work with... he's not a good man." "Oh..." "I just don't know how much good he can do, or if that just washes away what he's done, to hundreds of our kind. To the unit, and to me. When all is said and done, I don't know if I can forgive what he made possible." Hitomi let out a deep breath and noticed the time on the clock hanging on the wall behind her sister, "I better go." "Come again soon, ne?" Izumi called after her. "Mm!" Hitomi nodded, and left. She knocked on the door and waited, it was a minute or two before the door finally opened. "I see you fixed your door." Hitomi noted, stepping inside. "It's a relatively safe building, but you can't be too careful." Munenori said as he closed the door behind them. "Can I get you a coffee? Or would you prefer to smash another one of my crystal decanters?" "Coffee will suffice." She replied, "You might also want to dress up warm, doctor. We're going for a walk, this evening." "Can I ask why?" Munenori said as he went to the kitchen and began making a pot of coffee. "Because we're going to catch ourselves a killer." Hitomi replied. "Right..." Munenori replied unenthusiastically. "Did I forget to mention that I'm a biologist? Not really much I can help you with in the field." "I disagree." Hitomi replied with a smile, "I wasn't asking you to catch it, doctor." "You haven't asked for anything since we met, Miss Hayashi." Munenori replied with a smirk. "I've given you everything I can. I'm not a police officer, nor a detective." "Good!" Hitomi replied, "I wasn't asking you to be a police officer, or a detective. A meal will suffice." "Bait?" Munenori shook his head. "You're not doing a very good job of masking your desire to have me killed. You've shown no hesitation to use other humans before, so why me?" "It's simple, doctor." Hitomi replied, "Humans are incapable of protecting themselves, from themselves. They make mistakes in the throws of fear and panic. If I asked a human to be prey for a ghoul, they would inevitably do something that would get themselves, or others, hurt or worse. You do not suffer from that affliction." She grinned, "You're more like a ghoul, you aren't skittish and prone to flight. But you don't smell and taste like us, either. You're the only option..." She paused and apologetically held her hands out, "... regrettably." "You're a terrible liar." Munenori replied. "Let's skip the coffee. It's not like I have a choice so we might as well get this over with." He added as he made his way to the coat stand and took his jacket. "Don't be sour, doctor!" Hitomi chimed, patting the man on the back, "Let's get those coffees to go, it'll help keep us warm." She paused and then shook her head, "Much as it would resolve a headache, doctor, I am not going to let any harm come to you. Do you understand?" Munenori finished putting on his coat and let out a sigh. As he went to the kitchen to finish making the coffee he was quite silent. When he had finally put them in flasks he slid one over the table to her. "Hitomi." He said, his tone a little more direct than usual. "Playing games is fun to a point. I'm not so foolish that I can't see the gun pressed against my back. From the moment you stepped through my door I have been your prisoner. Even if I were to object, it wouldn't matter. Fortunately for you, I'm quite keen to work with you. But let's not pretend that we're friends. Point me where you want me to go, and I'll do so." "Fortunately for me?" Hitomi replied, a mixture of surprise and amusement on her face, "If you are the prisoner, with the gun against your back, doctor. It is fortunate for you, that there are those who wish to keep you alive in order to retain your services more than it is fortunate for me, as I am keen to see you die. Apparently." She paused as she took one of the coffee flasks, "Would it be more fortunate for me if you died today? I don't know..." She thought for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders, "It doesn't matter, doctor. I'm starting to like you, maybe we can be friends." She grinned, and walked out of Munenori's apartment, with the good doctor in tow. The unlikely couple that made up Hitomi and Munenori walked down the street. Hitomi was leading the doctor towards the park. Shinjuku Park was well known for being a hang-out for couples, and this time of the evening, it was surprisingly busy. And yet, there was still a great deal to conceal a predator. Hitomi lead Munenori off a side street and crossed the road over to the park. They walked in and Hitomi reached out and took Munenori's hand and grinned at the doctor, "Just for a little while, doctor." She smiled, as they walked and hummed a tune to herself until she noticed a secluded spot and led them over to it. "Let's sit here for a while and chat!" She offered, and sat upon the grass. Hitomi opened her coffee flask and poured a little into the small plastic cup, "What would you like to do after this doctor, supposing you were not a prisoner any more?" She asked. "What I would do is go back to my job." Munenori replied simply. "What I would like to do holds no bearing. My entire life's work is hidden under lock and key. That doesn't leave a lot of opportunities to advance my career." "Your 'life's work', you mean the research you performed on ghouls...?" Hitomi asked. "Of course." Munenori replied. "It is the only research I have conducted of any significance. However the powers that be decided they did not want their name attached to such... unorthodox methods. So my research was buried and me alongside it." "Do you think some things should remain buried?" She asked. "Are you asking if I regret my work?" Munenori asked in reply. "I think that would be like asking a lion if it regrets eating the zebra." Hitomi replied with a bitter glance, "No, I meant that once the work was done, how do you justify the damage your research could do, if it resurfaced? Or even just resuming your work. Is the possible damage you might do, worth the risk? If I could give you back your work, would any good come of it?" "Good and bad... that's a matter of perspective." Munenori said. "My focus was always on new information. As for the 'good' it could do... that depends whose hands it's in. I'm sure you were informed that my work led to many deaths, and a lot of suffering. However, we obtained promising results. My research could endanger ghouls and humans just as much as it could help them." "I am well aware of what your research did, doctor. Better than you, most likely." Hitomi rolled her shoulders in discomfort and looked up at the dying light in the sky, "I wonder how long it will take..." She muttered, "If he is trying to maintain a high metabolism, but can maintain a functioning brain while doing so, then he might not strike until all the natural light is gone. I wonder..." "Too many variables." Munenori replied. "If he has suffered any length of starvation the hunger will have damaged his psyche. Your regenerative capabilities aren't quite so effective on psychological damage. As I mentioned in my research... he will be quite unpredictable." "I don't expect we'll find him tonight, doctor. Statistically, it is unlikely. But if anyone in the area is attacked, we might get a lead." Hitomi took a sip of her coffee and sighed when she heard footsteps approaching. She finished the coffee in the cup and sealed the flask when the owner of the footsteps appeared. A flash light danced across their faces, "Evening, you two, and what are you getting up to?" It was a woman's voice, though it was difficult to see her face. She was dressed in the uniform of the park rangers. Officers appointed by the local council to keep the park clean and make sure the laws were followed. "Just having a short rest." Munenori replied politely. "We ate a little too much at dinner so we thought a nice walk would settle us down. Can I help you with anything?" The woman paused, bringing the light down from their faces, "I'd like you to move on, guys." The park ranger replied, "There have been too many attacks in the park over the past two weeks. It's not safe at night any more." "Attacks?" Hitomi asked. "Our boss won't listen because they think it's an animal, something escaped from a zoo or something. But we've said before that it looks more like a ghoul, we've even called the police, but when they couldn't find anything we got an earful, and docked pay. So I can't do anything more, but i'd suggest you go home--" "-- nothing in east side, oh--" Another park ranger walked up to the trio. The man was in his mid-thirties with a short goatee and thin eyes, "Fumiko, my shift is ending shortly. I'm gonna head." "Alright, Sho. See you tomorrow." She replied, "And you two, get movin'." Hitomi and Munenori stood and picked up their flasks and started back onto the path, but once they were out of ear shot, Hitomi quietly asked the doctor, "What do you think?" She looked to him, reading his expression. "It seems like we have the right location." Munenori replied. "Alas, we've been told to move on. I suggest we comply." "You have no idea how right you are, doctor." Hitomi replied, her jaw clenching. "The park ranger was a ghoul." "Is that uncommon?" Munenori asked. "Ghouls need to pay the rent too, right?" "No, it is not uncommon. However, most ghouls do not hide from one another. Her smell was heavily scented with perfume, but beneath it she smelled the same as that rage-mad ghoul you tested. She smells of sickness. Also, her job gives her too much control of her environment and everything within it. There are too many factors lining up, I am certain she is our target. She was trying to hide what she was, not just from humans but from other ghouls." "Well in that case..." Munenori nodded back in the rangers direction. "Isn't this the part where you go get her?" "No, doctor." Hitomi replied, "It might be, ordinarily. However, firstly, she knew I was a ghoul, it is unlikely I will be able to surprise her without her first being distracted. Second, she seemed quite competent, mentally, and so I don't believe she will make an impulsive mistake as we first assumed. Lastly, there is no need for me to pursue her - because she is pursuing us." "Joy." Munenori replied. "Well then, I am at your mercy, Miss Hayashi. What's the next move?" Without warning, Hitomi turned on Munenori and pressed herself up against him. Grabbing the back of his head, she pulled him into a kiss and held him there. Footsteps approached them, passed and slowly moved on. Hitomi pulled away and wiped her lips with the back of her hand, "She would have attacked, but mistakenly believed as I wanted her to, that I was going to attack you, and moved on to distance herself from the scene." She nodded to Munenori, "Keep walking." She added, "See her?" She nodded to the woman walking shortly ahead of them, seeming to pay them no mind at all. "I'm going to buy some ice cream from the kiosk vendor, sit on a bench, and expect her." Hitomi quickly turned from Munenori and walked off. A few minutes passed when footsteps were heard once more, but these did not belong to Hitomi. The female park ranger, Fumiko, paused on the path when she saw Munenori sitting on the bench and turned to face him, casting her flashlight across his face, "Where's your girlfriend?" "Just getting us a little dessert." Munenori replied, smiling warmly despite the imminent danger. At the very least, he was good at hiding his fear. "Don't worry we'll be moving along shortly." "You two are destined to clash." The Fumiko replied, smiling. "Wouldn't you rather come home with me? She's not looking out for your best interests, you know? She just wants you for your... heart." "Oh I know." Munenori replied. "You could say I'm a bit of a masochist. Why else would I be with such a ball buster, hm? Hahaha!" "Y-you shouldn't say such things." Fumiko replied, taking a step closer to Munenori, "A man should treat his woman like a queen. My man bought me this great perfume. I loved it so much I showed him my love. Let me show you my love." She held out her hands to embrace Munenori, but suddenly her teeth were replaced with fangs and her eyes grew wild. "No wrath like a woman scorned, albeit inadevertantly..." Munenori said, a smirk across his face. If he were to die, he would do so smiling. No dignity comes from wetting ones pants. Fumiko snarled and leapt at Munenori but at the last second, Hitomi crashed into her and the two of them fell away, rolling and snarling at one another. The ranger grabbed hold of Hitomi by the throat and smashed her into a nearby tree, breaking the trunk in two. Hitomi twisted the woman's arm around and snapped it in the wrong direction and kicked her away. The woman howled and was on her feet in seconds, gingerly cradling her arm. She grabbed hold of her wrist with her uninjured arm, pulled and twisted until the arm snapped back into place and healed. The ranger ghoul charged once again, and Hitomi's eyes turned black and a long white spike erupted from the centre of her palm. The bone kept coming until it was completely clear of Hitomi's body and she held it like a sword, and used it as one. The ranger ghoul snarled at her but quickly changed tactics and ran back towards Munenori. "Doctor!" Hitomi yelled and ran after the ghoul, but she couldn't catch her. This ghoul was too fast, too strong. Everything that could be going wrong, was. Hitomi threw her bone blade at the ghoul which impaled the woman to the bench and gave Munenori time enough to get free while she tried to pry the bone from her back. But before Hitomi could close the gap between them, the rage-filled Fumiko snatched out and managed to catch hold of the edge of Munenori's coat jacket and pulled him back into her embrace. Threatening his throat with her claws, Fumiko forced Hitomi to freeze in her advance. She had lost. "Now..." Fumiko panted, "You're going to turn, and walk away. This is my man, now. Find your own." She growled, stroking Munenori's cheek as though she were being loving. Hitomi opened her mouth to speak when she heard something. Fumiko heard it also. But what was it? Where had it come from? Before these questions could be answered, there was a sudden flurry of activity. A half-dozen black-clad soldiers appeared out of nowhere, before Fumiko could turn to see the one behind her, he had grabbed her by the head and twisted one hundred and eighty degrees, snapping her head so it faced in the wrong direction. Her body dropped to the floor, releasing Munenori. "On your knees." The soldier kicked Munenori to the ground, and Hitomi - brandishing a new bone blade - stepped forwards to confront the strangers, but before she could interject, she felt the boot of another soldier kicking her legs out from under her. Two more grabbed her arms and before she could stop them, something was pressed to her face, and the world fell to darkness. First she heard strange noises, shuffling and scratching. The sound of chairs moving across the ground. Then she heard several people talking in hushed voices, and then a bag was pulled from her head and she had to squint to adjust to the bright light cast down on her in an otherwise dark room. She looked to her side to see Munenori was there as well. "Greetings, Hayashi Hitomi. Welcome home! The Susanoo are glad to have you again." The man's voice and the laughter that accompanied it sent shivers down her spine as unrestrained fear washed over her. They were dead. They were both dead.
  5. Playstation 4

    :0 I wasn't mad! I was jus lookin forward to chatting to ye in person. Also you didnt suck, I literally died virtually every time you did. lol
  6. CLOSED Lucky Number 8

    "You're so caring, Doctor! Thinking of my safety, ne?" Hitomi grinned at Munenori before whirling around and pulling a pair of surgical gloves from a box on one of the counter tops. She pulled the gloves on with a 'snap' and with the dismembered arm in hand, she sauntered over to the blood-covered window and looked in. The feral ghoul was pacing back and forth, staring at the floor where only a handful of bones remained. It held a femur in it's mouth and was chewing with a vacant expression. Hitomi unlocked the door and opened it, stepping inside. For a few seconds, the feral ghoul didn't seem to register her at all. Then something caught it's attention. The ghoul raised it's head and sniffed the air. "H-h-hun-hungry..." He groaned, reaching out towards Hitomi. Tears streamed down it's face as it stumbled towards her. "Dinnertime!" Hitomi chimed, and threw the arm to the floor. She began to step back out of the room. The feral ghoul bent over and inspected the arm, sniffing it. Then it looked up, and eyed Hitomi. Her face grew tense, because she knew that look. The ghoul's thick fangs quickly filled it's mouth and it's eyes rolled around in it's head with glee. "Hungry!" It yelled with a laugh. "Doctor, step to one side, please." Hitomi had dropped the pretence of her alter-ego. She heard the doctor move behind her, and just in the nick of time. The ghoul launched itself forwards, snarling and biting before it had even reached her. She raised her hands to protect herself instinctively, but realised almost immediately that if the ghoul bit or scratched her, she would likely become infected just as he was. It was too late. The feral ghoul crashed into her, biting and snapping. Hitomi's eyes had already turned jet black, she bared her fangs but knew she couldn't actually bite the ghoul for the same reason she couldn't be scratched by him. Anger and frustration swamped her, but it was quickly overridden by the thirst to survive. As the ghoul drove her back, she quickly fell limp, becoming dead weight. The ghoul stumbled with the sudden weight change, and they both fell back, but as they did so, Hitomi rolled and kicked the ghoul up over her head and into the far wall. Glass beakers, cabinets and all manner of objects smashed and scattered as the ghoul came to a stop. "Tch..." Hitomi quickly got to her feet as the ghoul pulled itself away from the wall. "I don't have time for this." Hitomi muttered. She glanced at the doctor and thought for a moment. She had to disable the ghoul, but not kill it. They had to transport it. "You'll just have to be second class post." She added, and held her arms out, ready for the ghoul to strike once more. The feral ghoul wasted no time in attacking. Snarling, it ran in a beeline towards her. Hitomi raised one arm up, and from the sleeve of her coat, a long white spike shot out. The ghoul slashed out at Hitomi, she dodged to one side and quickly whirled around and jabbed once with the spike. It punctured the back of the ghoul's neck, and it collapsed to the floor immediately. Hitomi let out a breath, and the spike disappeared back inside her coat. Her black eyes returned to normal, and her fangs vanished. She took one step towards Munenori and winced as she felt something rub against her coat. She looked down at her left arm and saw a tear in the fabric, and beneath it, a shallow gash. "Dammit..." Hitomi quickly pulled her coat off and placed it to one side and stared at her arm. She took a deep breath, steeled herself and then quickly grabbed hold of the flesh surrounding the wound and tore a large chunk away. She stifled a scream and leant back against the nearest counter as she watched the muscle and tissues re-knit with fresh material and she quickly cast aside her infected tissue. "Your specimen is ready for transport, doctor." Hitomi said at last, trying to control her breathing. "Interesting..." Munenori said, ignoring Hitomi's comment. "That... reaction. Was it intentional or a natural defence mechanism?" "Doctor, your curiosity is something I accept in relation to other matters, because I have been told to keep you alive, for the betterment of my race." Hitomi looked down at her arm and saw the last bands of skin knit together. She sighed and walked up to Munenori until she was just an inch from his face, "If you grow curious about me, however..." She paused and scented the doctor, taking a deep breath, "What is it humans say? Curiosity kills the cat?" "The lesser known rejoiner being 'but satisfaction brought it back', and I am happy to admit that I am often satisfied with my curiosities." Muneori replied. "But, I take your point. I am a scientist, it would be foolish of me not to ask these questions, but of course you never have any obligation to answer them." "Just remember, doctor. The cat had nine lives to bring it back, you do not have such a luxury." Hitomi replied and then turned her attention back on the paralysed ghoul, "So, what are we doing with our new friend?" She asked, picking up her coat and pulling it back on. "Wait, and observe." Munenori replied simply. "If you're curious you can stay and see for yourself, although I suspect you might find it a little trite. However I'm sure you trust that my notes are incredibly thorough. I don't think I will require anything else, as long as the fridge is kept stocked and the coffee flowing." "Then i'll leave you to your own affairs, for now." Hitomi replied, reaching into her inner coat pocket. She pulled out a small phone and turned it on, then passed it to Munenori, "That phone has one number. Mine. Call me if you need anything. But as we've discussed, trying to hide from me would be... pointless, and more so, bad for your health." She leant over and gently took Munenori's arm. His expression was almost unreadable, but she wondered if he was preparing himself for something unpleasant. She took her left thumb and pressed it into his arm, her claw immediately pierced his flesh like a needle and a couple drops of blood seeped out. She wiped them away with her hand and licked her fingers clean. "Au revoir!" She chimed, and left the doctor alone in the lab with the paralysed ghoul.
  7. Haven [private Kyo & Val]

    Dark brown eyes opened and peered up at the metal ceiling. Metal? Her head was spinning, she tried to focus but the more she did, the more her head hurt. She put a hand to her black-skinned forehead and wiped away the sweat. It was hot in here. Was metal a really great idea in this kind of heat? She let out a raspy breath and started to pull herself up when she heard a noise on the other side of the small metal hut. A sheet of corrugated iron separated her from whoever was on the other side, and so they didn't know she was awake yet. She brushed a few of the loose dreadlocks out of her face and then quickly pulled on the clothes beside her. Just a simple pair of dark brown trousers and a light brown shirt. She pulled on a pair of boots and then noticed the holsters. Picking them up she examined them and then looked around her bunk. There were no pistols. Slowly, quietly, she got to her feet. She had to get out of here. She just felt like she wasn't supposed to be here. Her head still hurt though, and she felt a bit dizzy. As she moved out of her little alcove, she tripped on the corner of an old rug and fell face-first into the dirt. She winced, both from the ringing pain in her head, and from realising she'd given herself away. "Oh, good morning!" The man's voice clearly chimed. "You were out cold all night! I thought maybe I put something back in the wrong place!" He said jokingly, and after a moment, chucked to let the woman know he was joking. She just stared back at him with a mixture of confusion and derision. "Oh, i'm... i'm sure you're fine." He added, rubbing the back of his head with a little embarrassment. "Where the hell am I?" She asked, her voice had a slight drawl to it. "Y-you're in Haven..." The doctor replied, "My name's Pete, but people just call me Doc..." He added, frowning. "Uh, and you are?" He asked. The dark-skinned woman was looking around, her focus was elsewhere. Doc glanced over her. The woman was tall and slim, and rather attractive, but there was also a roughness to her. She was unlike anyone he'd ever seen before. He mused aloud, "You're like a wild animal trying to get out of a cage." He smiled, "You're not a prisoner here." The woman looked down at the holsters in her hands, "Then... where's my weapons?!" She yelled angrily, wildly looking in every direction. The door opened and Leon stepped in, rubbing under his nose before folding his arms across his chest, blocking the door. "Weapons are forbidden within Haven." He said firmly. "Also you'd do best to keep your voice down. You're scaring people." "What do I care?" She bit back at the man, "Gimme 'em back! They're mine, ain't they?!" She held out her hand expectantly. "You can get them back as soon as you walk out the gate." Leon replied. "Well if you have a deathwish i suppose." The woman's eyes narrowed suspiciously and she straightened up to her full height and glanced from Leon, to the Doc, and back to Leon once more, "Fine... i'll leave then?" She growled, as she attached the holsters to her hips, her eyes still on Leon. "Fine by me." Leon replied. "We're not looking for extra mouths to feed." Leon turned his body so that she could leave the hut. "You might want to thank Avery though. She saved your life." "I don't owe nobody nothin'." She muttered, stepping past Leon and out into the hot sun. She winced and held her palm over her eyes, shading her face for a moment. She heard footsteps behind her and saw a wide-brimmed, flat-top cowboy hat being held out to her. "Found this on you, an' all." The Doc offered. Her face bound up tight into a snarl and she reluctantly snatched it out of the man's hands and then stomped out into the middle of the street and looked around. For a few seconds she turned, and turned. Until at last she was forced to look back at Leon, "Where the hell am I goin'?" She growled, patting the dust off the hat and brushing her dreadlocks back before placing the hat upon her head. "You're going to the Tower. Mack and Avery are there doing repairs." Leon stepped forward so that his face was inches from hers. "Avery didn't just save your life. She risked her own. For you, a complete stranger. So you will thank her before you leave, understand?" She snarled in response and started to advance on the young man, and then realised she still didn't have her guns. And what else did they have of hers locked away? She'd have to do as they said if she was going to get anything back. She sniffed, and leant back on her haunches and tipped her hat back, "What do I care?" She muttered, "I was goin' there anyway." She raised an eyebrow at Leon and spat at the ground, dabbing his boot in her spit and then she sauntered over to the tower. For all her bravado, she knew they had her dead to rights right now, she'd have to cooperate. But even as she moved towards the tower, and this so-called 'guardian angel' they called Avery, she was glancing around, trying to catch sight of her pistols, or indeed any available weapon. The dark-skinned woman stared up in surprise at the tall column in front of her. Whatever it was, you couldn't really help but name it anything but the 'tower', that's exactly what it was. Her eyes eventually fell down to the pair talking amongst themselves in front of it and she stomped over, kicking up dust behind her. "Oi!" She snapped, and walked up to Avery and looked down into her eyes for a moment, ignoring Mack. "Thanks for saving me, kid. Where's my guns? And... whatever else is mine that ya got..." "It's you!" Avery gasped. "You're alright!" She cried as she leapt at her, bringing her in for a hug. "I'm so glad you're okay..." "Ey!" She growled, as the girl caught her in an embrace. "Get off me, would ya?" She muttered, squirming and trying to push Avery away by her shoulders. Avery let her go, sheepishly brushing her hair from her face. "S-sorry... I'm just... I was a little scared you were a goner. " "Yeah, well... i'm here, ain't I?" She replied irritably, "So listen, kid. It's been fun, but i'm gonna head. Where do ya keep my stuff?" "W-wait...go?" Avery shook her head in disbelief. "You're kidding, right? You can't just go..." "Why are y'all so insistent on keepin' me here." The woman sighed, rubbing her temples, "I ain't yer friend, i'm just..." The woman trailed off as she got lost in her thoughts. A mixture of confusion and panic touched the edges of her expression, but she wanted to be out of this place, so she wrestled these thoughts to the back of her mind. "... if i'm not yer prisoner, let me go, dammit!" "But... you're from the outside." Avery protested. "It's not that we're forcing you it's just... I've never met someone from outside of Haven before. I just wanted to ask you some stuff." The dark-skinned woman let out a long, audible sigh. This kid wasn't going to just leave things be. She bit the inside of her cheek and shook her head as she stared at the girl. A few seconds passed in silence until at last she relented, "Alright, fine!" She snapped. "Really? You'll stay?" Avery said with a grin. "I mean... here why don't we get you some food and... oh! I forgot to ask what your name is..." "I ain't stayin'!" The woman corrected her quickly, pointing her forefinger at the girl accusingly. "And..." The girl's second question left her confused. She stood in front of Avery in silence, frowning. "Don't look at me like that!" She growled, her eyes fierce as she frowned and then turned away from the girl, scratching her head in deep thought. "Are you okay?" Avery asked, putting her hand on her shoulder. "We can go back and get Doc if you don't feel good." "I-i'm fine, dammit!" The woman snapped back at Avery, over her shoulder and then returned to her thoughts. What was her name? She shook her head and tried to clear her thoughts, but every time she tried to picture her name, she just kept pulling up a blank. "Dammit..." She growled and rapped her forehead with her knuckles. "Dammit why can't I remember my name..." She muttered to herself. "You can't remember?" Avery asked, "We should get you back to Doc. You might have hurt your head or something." "I'm fine!" She repeated angrily, "I know my name, it's... it's..." She trailed off and then quickly got annoyed again, "What's it matter?! This is stupid!" She barked and held out her hand, "Gimme my guns, i'm leavin'!" "You're not leaving with your head like that!" Avery replied sternly. "You need to rest and get some food or something. Come on let's go get some grub and figure this out." The woman watched as Avery walked off and opened her mouth to chastise the girl when she heard a strange noise. For a moment, she wasn't sure what had happened, and then she heard it again. Her stomach growled and she clutched it. "What do y'all eat around here?!" She called after her, and gave chase. "Well meals are rationed out, so we make sure we keep a good supply. But I'm pretty sure Lucy is making Stew today. Do you like stew?" Avery walked with her hands in her pockets and gave a little smile. "Well even if you don't, you'll love Lucy's stew. Although... do they even have stew where you come from?" "I..." The woman frowned, "I don't know." She replied with a look of defeat. "Maybe. Probably." She guessed. "So how did you manage in the Wastelands on your own?" Avery asked. "I mean I know for a fact there's nowhere other than Haven for at least a day's travel on a Dustrunner. And you were on foot..." "I don't remember..." The woman muttered, as they walked into the hut ahead of them. The woman inside - who must have been Lucy - greeted them warmly, and offered them each a bowl of off-colour... goop? She looked down into the bowl with disgust, but her stomach growled again and soon, she didn't care what was in front of her. She grabbed the nearest utensil - which happened to be a knife - and tilted the bowl up to her face, using the knife to scrape the contents into her mouth. She had finished eating within a minute and sighed once she was done, wiping the side of her face with the back of her hand. When she saw the shocked expressions on the people looking at her, she raised her eyebrows. "Sorry...?" She muttered, unsure of what she'd done wrong. "Have you never used cutlery before?" Avery asked, giggling a little. "Or um... I guess you can't remember, right?" The woman frowned at Avery with an expression that clearly said 'Really?', threw her knife onto the table in front of her and crossed her arms as her mood turned fouler, if that were even possible. She sat there brooding for a little while, watching Avery eat until suddenly she spoke. "I ain't from here." She said, her comment was a definitive statement. She smacked her lips, "This doesn't feel right..." She muttered, looking around, "I feel trapped." "Well..." Avery shrugged a little. "We're all trapped really. I mean there's nowhere else to go. You don't even realise... there is nothing around here. You... are impossible. Nobody survives out there after dark." "Says you." The woman growled, "Where'd you find me, huh?!" She raised an eyebrow, "Out there! That's where. Maybe you know less about this..." She threw her hand around looking for a word, "... place... than me, even! Think about that, did ya?!" Her temper was getting the best of her. She looked for something to drink, her throat was parched. She caught sight of a small jug and instinctively reached out to grab it, but before her fingers were anywhere near it, the jug knocked over and the water started spilling out over the dry ground. "Hey!" Lucy yelled. "Be more careful!" The dark-skinned woman's expression widened in shock and confusion and she clumsily tried to pull the jug back onto it's base. "I-i'm sorry, I don't know... what happened..." She muttered, looking down at her hands as she returned to her seat.
  8. Your Writing Readability

    Yeah, I think this is a fairly unreliable tool for creative writing. Better for English, for example, than English Literature. Because many of you have posted high 'grade' scores, but I think of many of you as being really excellent writers, so I think it's talkin' out it's computer algorithm ass.
  9. 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?
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

    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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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...
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. "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.
  25. 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.