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Ambar: Chapter 1 - Snow & Ash

Ambar: Chapter 1 - Snow & Ash

In a world where old prophecies suddenly come to life, kings squirm, the dark approaches and an involuntary band must rise up.

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Topics: , fantasy, magic, original, prophecies, and warriors (Add Tags »)
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Introduction

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Ambar is a vast world, just like any other, real world. It has beautiful landscapes, though some are wild, rough and even downright brutal. And then it has everything in between.
At this particular point in time, there are two human kingdoms, two dwarfish kingdoms, an elvish kingdom and one enormous orcish empire. There are four dominant races in the lands of Ambar; elves, men, orcs and dwarves. The humans occupy the kingdoms of Vesia and Stormgarde. The dwarves have their homelands in Caeld and the isolated Dûrg-Bekári Empire. The elves reside in Rínarwin, and the orcs… Well, take a guess!

While a fragile peace has existed for a while, strife and bitter, bloody rivalries begin to resurface. The orcish empire has been rather reserved and isolated for a long time, but now there are reports of orcish warbands raiding borders. Of course, the orcish Khan denies this, entirely. Old crones and old wise men claim that war is brewing, while they mend clothes and smoke pipes (the latter applies to both).
No one wants all-out war, so diplomacy is important, but it is widely known that all kingdoms are stockpiling weapons and arming themselves. There has never been a better time to be a smith!

In this world, a select few have a role to play that is bigger than anything they could have imagined. They will be marked.


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Ancient Blood Rune


But what no one is puzzled by, is why these things are happening. Aggression and strife and rattling of swords happen for no apparent reason, but all races are concerned with keeping themselves safe, rather than getting to the root of the problem. So, several things seem to be happening all at once. The orcs are stirring at the borders, and there’s a general uneasiness among the people in the cities. What’s more; the granddaughter of the current king of Stormgard has fallen sick. This happened immediately after a strange mark appeared on her wrist. And finally: a town in the north-west of Stormgard has been utterly destroyed, burned to the ground. People talk of blue flame and the walking dead.

Some blame orcish warlocks, some blame blood mages and some are more inclined to see this as divine judgment - punishment for our wicked ways. The king of Stormgard knows how superstitious people can be, and naturally wants to avoid civil unrest. But he does want to investigate, as he thinks that all of these events occur suspiciously simultaneously with the recent affliction that has befallen his granddaughter, and the mark on her wrist, as well as the general ominous feeling that seems to creep through the land, hanging in the air, filling everyone with uneasiness and fright.
His scribes and masters of books were set to work, to find what they could about this mark, and her illness. They found little, but did return with an old, dusty and quite huge old tome, which contained an image (or drawing rather), resembling the mark on the princess’ wrist. It also contained the stories of something, or someone rather, called the Heralds. The Heralds are supposed to be 7 ancient beings of great and dark, twisted power. These stories are largely considered superstition and folklore now, though some still believe in them. Those that claim they don’t.. Well, people scare easy.

The Heralds are said to number 7 in total, and are supposedly the ones who will bring about the end of the world, plunging it into darkness. this is the one thing all the major religions of the four races can agree on. They all mention 7 figures that will bring doom.

All of these incidents have brought the king of Stormgard to initiate a search. A search for any and every one that might have a marking on their body, resembling that of his granddaughter’s, or just anyone who has knowledge about it. He has even requested the help of the other kingdoms, though all of this has been done secretly! Word was sent to the Orcish Empire, but no word has returned from the Khan. The king of Stormgard hopes that other orcish leaders might make their own choices. No one but the regents of the other lands, and the king’s most trusted friends know what the search is for. The soldiers that carry out his orders, have only been instructed to carry anyone back to Fellmark, who has a mark or knowledge thereof.


You will be playing a character, who will be part of a secret, chosen few. You will not, however have a say in this choosing. You have lived your life as you have, so far, but things are about to change dramatically as you are suddenly struck by dizziness and a sharp, blinding pain on the wrist. Your skin blackens, your blood feels hot and stinging in your veins. You’ve been marked, and now people are looking for you!

This is where your character’s story begins! En route to the audience chamber of the King of Stormgard, in Fellmark.





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[hr][/hr][center][size=150][font=palatino linotype][b]"[/b][color=#000000]Quote by or about your character if applicable[/color][b]"[/b][/font][/size]
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[size=150][center]>>Character Image Goes Here<<[/center][/size]

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[size=250][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][b]INTRODUCTION[/b][/font][/size]

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[[u]General Information[/u]]
[b]Nickname(s):[/b]
[b]Gender:[/b]
[b]Age:[/b]
[b]Race:[/b]
[b]Origin:[/b] (What country?))
[b]Occupation:[/b] (Could include class and or rank).


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[size=250][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][b]APPEARANCE[/b][/font][/size]

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[b]Hair:[/b]
[b]Eyes:[/b]
[b]Complexion:[/b] 
[b]Height:[/b]
[b]Build:[/b]
[b]Weight:[/b]
[b]Body Markings:[/b] (Scars, tattoos, other noteworthy markings of any kind).


[[u]DESCRIPTION[/u]]
(1-3 paragraphs.)

[b]Please do go into detail, don't rush yourself and be as descriptive as you can. This really makes the character come alive.[/b]

[hr][/hr]
[size=250][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][b]PERSONALITY[/b][/font][/size]
[hr][/hr][/right][size=120][[u]P E R S O N A L I T Y[/u]] [/size]
(1-3 paragraphs.)

[[u]FEARS[/u]]
[list][*]
[*]
[*]
[*][/list]

[[u]QUIRKS[/u]]
[list][*]
[*]
[*]
[*][/list]


[[u]LIKES[/u]]
[list][list][*]
[*]
[*]
[*][/list][/list]

[[u]DISLIKES[/u]]
[list][list][*]
[*]
[*]
[*][/list][/list]


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[size=250][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][b]ABILITIES[/b][/font][/size]


[[u]Skills[/u]] [i]Please describe your character's skills in combat. Have they adapted a certain fighting style? Do they know how to fight with a sword, but not how to repair it? Can they infuse their weapon with magic? Can they fight hand to hand? Can they hunt? Make potions? Mend wounds? Make wonderful balloon animals? You get it... :)[/i]


[[u]Spells/Magic Affinity[/u]]  [i]This isn't meant for you to list every damn spell your character has learned. Are they more proficient with a certain type of magic? Do they know a certain very powerful (or very illegal) spell? Stuff like that. And only if this is applicable! If your character doesn't know magic, then there's is no point to this.[/i]


[[u]Weaknesses[/u]]
[list] [*][b](something you're lacking in regards to battle, or otherwise. This is VERY important. EVERYONE has weaknesses, and I would like for you to list those of your character here. this also really makes him/her come alive!):[/b] (description)



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[size=250][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][b]EQUIPMENT[/b][/font]
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[[u]ARMOR[/u]]

(Feel free to use pictures!!
What is your character wearing into combat? Is he or she wearing heavy, slowing armor? Something lighter, perhaps? What does it look like? What's it made of?)

[[u]CLOTHING[/u]]
(Pictures welcome here as well!
What does your character wear when not in combat? Do they have a raiment of fine clothes, that they wear to certain social events, and a set of clothes they wear on the road? What does it look like?)


[[u]ITEMS[/u]]
(Does your character carry around other trinkets?)


[[u]Primary Weapon:[/u]]
[b]Weapon Name:[/b]
[b]Weapon Type:[/b]
[b]Length:[/b]
[b]Weight:[/b]
[b]Origin:[/b]

[[u]Other weapons:[/u]]
[b]Weapon Type:[/b]
[b]Length:[/b]
[b]Weight:[/b]
[b]Origin:[/b]

[b]Weapon Type:[/b]
[b]Length:[/b]
[b]Weight:[/b]
[b]Origin:[/b]


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[size=250][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][b]>>INSERT NAME<<'s Story[/b][/font][/size]
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[[u]RELATIONS[/u]]


[[u]Family[/u]]

[list][left]|[b] >>Family member<< [/b]|[/left]
(INFO GOES HERE)

[list][left]|[b] >>Family member<< [/b]|[/left]
(INFO GOES HERE)

[list][left]|[b] >>Family member<< [/b]|[/left]
(INFO GOES HERE)

etc....


[[u]OCCUPATION[/u]]
(What did your character do before they were marked?)



[[u]Outlook on life[/u]]
(Does your character hate elves but love orcs? Other way round? Don't care? What's his or hers thoughts about the different races, different countries and the general state of the world?

If you find this to be a dreadful waste of time, you may skip this.)


[[u]HISTORY[/u]]

Rules

Rules


  • I would like you to contact me, before you submit a character. This is for you to sort of “pitch” the idea of your character to me. I’ve implemented this rule, so I can stop you from creating a character that we don’t need more of, in time. Also, we can talk about it and I may have some advice or ideas, or you may have questions
.

I REQUEST THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD TIME!

I never write very much in the rule section. I think you are all well aware of what to do, and what not to do. I feel like it shouldn’t be necessary to fill this section up with do’s and don’t’s.


  • I’m a big fan of common sense, so if you just apply that to most every situation, I think we’ll all get along fine

Be nice. Don’t god-mod, etc. General good behavior!

Regarding Characters:


I do expect that you put some work into these characters. That doesn’t mean I expect you to be finished with your character sheet in a couple of days. Take your time, put some work into this thing, and I’m sure you’ll come up with a lovely, wonderful character! <3

Please contact me if you have questions. I will write to you if I have any, and if I feel you should change something about your character.

I have deliberately not filled the world map entirely with towns and cities, so if you want your character to hail from a certain region, but you’re maybe not content with the currently added locations, we can talk about that and I can add something to the map :]

To ensure diversity, I will reject characters if there are already too many dwarves, for instance.

REMEMBER TO CONTACT ME BEFORE YOU SUBMIT!
I’m hoping for around 10 players for this. 1 character pr. person for the time being.

To ensure that you have read through all of this, please include the word "squiddlyspooch" in the PM you'll send me, when you talk to me about your character!

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad "Oh, I've got troubles of more than one kind."
Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros "No time to grieve for roses when the forests are burning."
Character Portrait: Emily Austringer "Don't nip at me, ya little bastard."
Character Portrait: Callion Lightson "This bores me...all this bores me...Can we go get some pork?"
Character Portrait: Lipilu Aldaeth ""You're sick, the whole lot of you. As if a child gets to choose their heritage."
Character Portrait: Mara Timbers "Knowledge is not dangerous..."
Character Portrait: Glola Heavyrider "Understandable."
Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany I don't do well with boredom.
Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy "Which of you do I answer to?"

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The rest of the day, for the king, was spent looking over lists, maps and documents. Along with his advisors, he was going to make sure that they had the most accurate maps on their journey as well as the most recent news about the village. Considering their willingness to undertake this quest given the circumstances and lack of information, King Balian wanted to help their journey as much as he could.

“Sire, there’s a servant who wishes to talk with you.” The voice of his most senior military advisor rumbled through the air.

Balian waved and the door opened.

The servant approached and looked at the king, fidgeting with his hands that were clutching a list and a magnifying glass. “Sire, I do beg your pardon, but we’ve received a rather…” he looked around searching for the right word. “…peculiar list.”

The king looked up at this and furrowed his brow in confusion. “I take it that’s the list?”

The servant nodded and approached, handing his king the parchment and the magnifying glass. “You’ll need this, sire.”

Balian’s eyes widened slightly as he looked at the tiny words. “Indeed.” He said and held the magnifying glass over it. He mouthed along as he read the requests of Callion Lightson, confusion more and more evident on his face the more he read. He put the parchment down and looked at the servant confused.

“Is this meant to be amusing?” He asked, though he couldn’t help a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Neither could his advisors.

“Find what you can within reason. They’ll need two horses for this Callion Lightson alone if you pack all this.” Balian tapped the parchment and handed it back, waving him away with a dismissive gesture. This mage truly was an eccentric personality.

The king had viewed all the lists that the company had written, partially out of interest, but mostly because he wanted a say in wherefrom their supplies would come. When he had viewed all of them, he fell in to deep conversation with his chief advisor. And it quickly turned to different subjects.




“If I might steer the conversation to different topics.” Jayle started hesitantly. “I’ve received repots of clans stirring on the Isle of Marn. As per the old agreement, we still supply half the garrison at Mirefield.” There was a pause as the commander considered his words. “But these orcs are not flying the banner of the Khan.”

“Any attacks?” the king asked.

“None. In fact, they seem to be leaving the island.”

“Leaving? After decades of conflict?”

Jayle nodded and shrugged. “And we have no idea why but judging by their movements they seem to be moving on their own. None of it looks like preparation for war or any major attack. We’ve not had an encounter with them for years and nothing has happened that could spark aggression. Except for that rabid dog they call a leader.”

The king pondered for a moment and nodded. “You’ve always been honest, Jayle. I like that about you.” He said and smirked. “Keep your scouts busy.” He wanted to know everything they did. “Since they’ve closed themselves off so, we can do nothing but take preemptive measures.”




Jayle and the king had talked about the state of the kingdom and what to do about a potential orcish threat for the rest of the afternoon. They had come up with no solutions, of course. The Orcish Empire was unknown in the sense that no news or reports came out from there. Everyone knew that the orcish Khan was a big brute, but last they heard, he was growing increasingly war hungry and irrational and quick to anger. When Commander Jayle left, a dark cloud hung over the king.

He’d emptied his wine and gone to his chambers to rest. When he woke, he bathed and dressed himself in a suitable formal attire and prepared for the feast. He considered topics of discussion but came up short as he knew nothing of these people, and also reminded himself of things he must say. Practical information, like the fact that all the things they had requested would be ready for them by their horses at noon tomorrow. All these things.

When he was satisfied with his clothes and felt ready, he went to the hall where the 8 companions would await him.

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Character Portrait: Callion Lightson
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Baths were meant as a time of relaxation and cleanliness to most people, a chance to reflect on the day and maybe tear some stress from their mind and body, allowing themselves to fall into a blissful state of non-caring as everything melted away from them. Callion didn’t believe in this though, already thinking that he slept far too much to risk letting the world slip away from him in the hours it took to rejuvenate his mind. As the baths were communal, at least by gender, some might have thought that Callion would be a bit more reserved regarding his own appearance. Instead the man wandered out completely in the nude, striding in as if he wasn’t currently waving his wand in every which direction as he found himself a place to sit and think upon the direction of today’s events. His tattoos covered his entire body, even parts of him that others would consider...odd. It wasn’t even that they looked like normal tattoos, in fact to the layman, it looked like he had simply spilled paint all over his body. None of the images, unless you were of a magical descent, would make sense to anyone. Catalysts, incantations, runes and sigils were all overlayed with each other on nearly every part of skin save for his hands, feet and face.

As he slipped into the baths, he gave a content sigh as he allowed the warm waters to wash away what little accumulated stress he had gained this day. It was only for a moment though, as he went to work as if he was a man on a mission. Every part of himself was scrubbed, his hair washed and he made sure to double check he wasn’t dirty in any parts before deeming himself clean and stepping out. All in all, he had been in there for maybe seven minutes. After all, an idle mind was a weak mind, and he had too much to be working on and thinking about. With a smile to others in the bath, he strode out as if he really had to be somewhere and left the baths.



It appears I’m the first. Callion thought to himself as he wandered into the room and immediately took in the decor of the room. Naturally, it was incredibly posh with more than a few art pieces hanging off the walls and small sculptured busts sitting on equally small tables. The entire room was lit by an arrangement of candles that look like they had just started burning, and the table was more than large enough to accomodate the entirety of the crew that was being asked to perform this mission. Plates and cutlery had already been placed out, and even a few pieces of bread were placed in the serving area as well, most likely to tide people over until the main course. Being the first person there, dressed in the clothes provided by the King, Callion hesitated for a moment, looking around. Was this a test? Could it possibly be a test? What would the King be testing? Callion brought a hand to his chin, walking slowly over to the table. He leaned over the heavy wooden construct, staring at the bread until he was a breath away from the basket, practically putting his weight on the piece of furniture as he peered at the food as if it were about to get up and jump away.

Then, without warning, Callion grabbed a piece and threw it up in the air, backstepping several feet and watching as it landed with a soft sound back on the table. He stood rock still, as if he were a human statue. ”So...just normal bread...but what about the cutlery?” Callion leaped forward, grabbing a fork and tossing it up in the air, backstepping several feet again and watching as it fell back on the table with a clatter. There was several tense seconds as Callion looked as if he was about to bolt before giving a satisfied ‘hmph’ and once again placing his hand on his chin. So it would seem that this is all normal stuff...not sensing magical energy, no traps. The King doesn’t mean to test us before sending us? Could this really be a normal meal...with royalty? Why do we garner such special interest, this continues to vex me… It was at this moment that Callion looked off to the side and noticed a couple of servants standing along the wall and staring at him.

”Have you been there this entire time?” Callion asked as they looked at him.

“Yes M’lord.” They answered in unison. Callion paused once again, giving a soft ‘huh’ before looking back at the table.

”Then it appears my powers of observation have failed me once again, I must rectify this.” Callion went to reach into his bag, only to remember he had left it in his room considering he had been given these clothes by the King he didn’t feel like sullying them with his dirty shoulder bag would have given off the right impression...then again he did just spend a couple minutes throwing things in the air, so maybe he was just crazy. ”You there, I require a small bottle, an open flame, an eye from a Jurisheen Toad, the grease of a overcooked turkey gizzard and exactly three strands of Hampton Grass.”

“I’m...sorry M’lord, I don’t believe we have most of those things.” One of the servants replied, as they both looked to each other. Callion placed both of his hands on his waist, tapping his foot slightly.

”Right, there would be a kitchen nearby, not an alchemist shop...in that case, I would like some water.”

“...there’s some on the table directly in front of you M’lord, would you like me to pour it for you?” Callion blinked, looking at the table and sure enough there was a pitcher filled with the liquid.

I am on point today. Callion somehow thought sarcastically to himself. ”But of course...so there is. In that case, I would like some soup.”

“I’m sorry M’Lord, but have been instructed to wait for the rest to gather before handing out the main course. We hoped the bread would be enough to tide you over in the meantime.” Callion wandered over to the table during his little explanation and sat down.

”Yes yes yes...tomato if you have it!” Callion answered, sitting down, rolling up his sleeve and tracing one of his tattoos as he pondered different things...none of them related to the supper.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers
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Mara was unusued to company in the bath. The land between her father's farm and their neighbors was vast, so much so that she could only recall having met the neighboring farmers once in her whole life. It was before her mother left. Before the alcohol consumed her father's every need.

Still, the company was not unwelcome. In fact, as Mara was the first to arrive at the baths, she had at first been unnerved by the sheer size of the tub of warm water before her. This was larger than the pond on her father's land! She was not the strongest swimmer. But just as she carefully disrobed, neatly laying her clothing on a seat nearby, others began to enter as well.

She supposed she should be unnerved or abashed of others seeing her au natural, but she couldn't much summon such feelings. She was too relieved to have others there in case something went awry. With a soft sigh, she soaked in the perfectly warm waters. Gently, she sponged herself, being sure she felt presentable enough for a dinner with the King. Could one such as her ever feel clean enough for that?

As she finished, she carefully drew herself from the tub, she became acutely aware of how thin she was compared to the other women there. Though, not as thin as a few days ago. Three meals was such a luxury. Mara's shoulders were birdish compared to the other ladies, and her ribs and spine were fairly easily seen. Her tummy poked out a little bit, from being well fed after so long without. Somehow, her breasts looked normal though, perhaps in comparison to the rest of her thin frame. Though, again, some of the other ladies were much more well endowed. Their bosoms floating gently as they lowered themselves into the tub.

Mara gently toweled herself off, rubbing her long hair dry. She found the clothes she had laid out were missing, replaced with something much more intricate and fine. Nearby, were the two handmaidens who had so roughly cared for her these first few days. Neither one looked too pleased to be assisting her once more. If anything, that unfamiliar expression between scorn and warmth had grown more prominet. She still was unsure what emotion that was which they displayed.

The dress before her was a bright crimson color, and softer than any material that Mara had ever felt before. For a moment, Mara felt the sting of tears in her eyes, grateful for the use of such finery. She lifted her head to thank the women, but they were already moving in to "assist" in her dressing. They did not want her thanks. They did not want her at all. So, she took their scorn in resigned silence. She made no sound of complaint as they roughly buttoned her in to the soft dress, layering a strange uncomfortable cage around her waist underneath the skirt, with a fine and intricate white lace layer in there as well. Again, they tightened the rib crushing device around her middle, lifting her bosom like a soft shelf.

They roughly raked a comb through her hair, pulling so hard that her head pulled back. Though her eyes watered, she still did not complain. She supposed it was their right, as a higher station, to treat her as they willed. Once brushed, she felt one if them roughly pulling and braiding her hair, chattering amongst themselves about how, "lucky" she was to be dining with the king, and that they had been amongst the castle ladies for years of their lives and never had the same opportunity, and as to why the king would want to dine with her amongst the likes of heroes and well bred ladies, they could not phathom.

Mara took all of this in silence, faintly brushing her thumb against the mark on her wrist. If they knew she would soon face the undead, would they still feel this way?

Finally, came the shoes. Mara had been dreading this. But it seems her little shoe-less meeting with the king had not been kept quiet. Three different types of ladies shoes were presented to her. Each of different sizes. The first, a tiny red pair with pointed heels and slashes open along the top. They were much too small, and as the handmaidens jammed them onto her foot, she couldn't help but whimper. Hearing this, the ladies sighed and threw them aside. The second pair were leather and pointed, with a strap across the top. But though they did not pinch Mara, the ladies were not satisfied with their appearance on her, it seemed. The third pair also thankfully did not pinch, they were a supple red leather with intrucate red ribbons which had to be carefully laced up Mara's ankles. Seeming satisfied with their work the ladies finally began to escort Mara to the dining hall.

As they made their way, they passed a tall viewing glass, and Mara caught a gimpse of a young woman she did not at first recognize as herself. She couldn't help but pause, taking in the rouge the ladies had put on her, and the intricate braiding on her hair. She looked like a real lady in waiting. It was somehow wrong.

Though she heard the handmaidens hiss in disapproval, she used her thumb to remove the redding on her lips and rouge on her cheeks. Then, breaking a few pink roses from a nearby decorative vase, she worked them into the braiding on her hair. That felt more like her. To have her true face and the beauty of nature around her. Only then did she finally enter the dining hall.

It was just as beautiful as the throne hall had been. And just as large. Nervously, she approached the table, seeing she was the second to arrive. The eccentric wizard, Callion, was already seated at the long table, and nearby the servants watched him, looking nervous for some reason. Mara made eye contact with one of the servants and gave a small nervous smile. As if this were a cue for him, one servant stepped forward and offered her his elbow. Mara felt herself flush, unused to gentle treatment, but feeling assured by the servant's gentle smile, took the man's elbow in her callused small hand. The man then led her kindly to the seat beside Callion, pulling it out for her and assisting her to sit. ( something Mara felt most grateful for, as sitting in the strange, restricting clothing was somewhat challenging.)

Mara, ever unfamiliar with conversation at great length, or at really, looked to the man beside her breifly before looking to the tabletop bashfully. How much higher in station than she was this gentleman? She did not know, and fretted causing offense by staring...though she wanted to. The man was covered, each inch of him from the glance she had chanced, in colorful tatooes. Why so many? Had it to do with his magics? She wantes to ask, but did not know how polite that would be.

"G-good evening, Sir." Mara managed in her soft, mostly unused voice, though she said it while looking at the table.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers
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The only person who actually looked like a proper prisoner was the one who’d instructed Garos where to go—or at least where the baths were located. He followed closely behind but hadn’t opened up any conversation or dialogue. Didn’t seem the type to fill the empty spaces of silence, that one. Besides, they’d have plenty of time to do that on the road. It didn’t mean that he wasn’t sizing him up, though. For someone who’d looked as dirty as a street-rat… there was something peculiar about him. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Not yet, anyway. Maybe he’d look like an entirely different man after washing the grime and dust off his skin. Less like an animal, and more like a human being.

Human.

It almost made him laugh.

Garos took his time in the bath. He’d tidied up his belongings and neatly folded them in the corner. Kept a close eye on them too, as if they’d snatch away his things as soon as he looked away. The warm water felt good on his swarthy skin. Washing away the sweat and grime; less obvious when you had such dark skin. He could feel it nonetheless. It felt good to be clean after being dragged through the streets. The bath itself was enormous; a huge square, with all of the niceties he wasn’t used to. A public bath meant for people of a higher station. He watched the others with an uninhabited curiosity. Unabashed. As he always did with fresh, new things. People were the same—they were curiosities meant to be unraveled, discovered. Peeled like layers of an onion. He’d discover every one of them, eventually. People talked when they were bound by mysterious forces, he was sure.

They weren’t any different.

He certainly wasn’t.


It appeared as if Garos was third to appear in this little gathering. Even though he’d been deliberate with his time in the bathhouse, he couldn’t shake the anxious feeling building in his guts. He wanted to know what else the King had to say about the matter. What would he divulge while they ate? Maybe nothing at all. Maybe this would be the last good meal they’d have before striking out down whatever path he intended them to follow. Who knew. At least now he was dressed appropriately. No longer bare-chested and grimy, he wore clothes befitting a sellsword. Leathers, dark clothes crafted for swift movement; a thief or a disreputable individual. A mixture of the two, probably. He didn’t particularly care what he looked like. Never had. It was comfortable and if he was anything at all, he certainly wasn’t nobility.

Callion and Mara. He remembered their names—always did. It was a good habit to keep. He scratched at the stubble already growing at his chin and jawline; an unfortunate effect of not being entirely pure-blood. He blinked at them. Or rather, him. The slim, tattooed man was tossing things into the air, watching as said things plopped back onto the table with an intense focus he couldn’t quite discern. He could feel the corner of his lip tip upwards; a laugh ready in the back of his throat because of how ridiculous this entire situation seemed. Deciding it’d be better to keep quiet, Garos took a seat closer to Mara. The opposite side of Callion. At least, she seemed relatively normal compared to their other companion.

He seated himself. Less gracefully. Plopped down in his seat before dragging it forward in order to situate himself closer to his plate. His stomach gave a gurgle; hungry. It’d been awhile since he’d actually eaten anything other than a hard knuckle of bread or an apple. Work hadn’t been exactly booming lately. Specifically not here. Seemed as if sellswords were less welcome in the good grace’s kingdom; no work for honest folk like him. Clearing his throat as he leaned back in his chair, Garos arched his thick eyebrows and regarded them both with a leveled stare, “No need to be shy here, Mara.” The way he rolled her name across his tongue seemed to insinuate something more, though he’d been told that he always sounded like that. Meaning more, when he meant nothing.

“We’re all equals at this table, no?” he added with a toothy grin. He meant it. Be they nobles or paupers, it was the King who’d invited them here, asking them to do him a favor that many would have turned down otherwise. What was in it for them, anyway? Aside from burning curiosity and perhaps, the chance to avoid prosecution… there was nothing keeping them here. The tips of his tusks momentarily peeped above his lip. Quick to stifle it down as soon as he felt them, Garos tempered his grin into a thin-lipped smile.

It'd be an interesting journey, at least.

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers
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The baths were a definite welcome after being locked away for days, even if she would rather be bathing in the confines of her own home. The warmth of the waters washed away the grime and stress that clung to her body, and after ensuring that she was sufficiently clean, Cecilia found herself thinking deeply about the unusual circumstances that she has found herself in. It was strange how the situation could change in just the span of a few weeks. Before being taken to the King's castle, she was surveying some ancient ruins or another near a small village, and now she was about to set off on some quest with an unforeseen outcome. Not to mention she was traveling with strangers no less. It was almost too outrageous to be believable.

She wasn't interested in the dinner, all too aware that it was little more than a formality. She bathed for a while longer before leaving the public baths. The servants had prepared a dress for Cecilia, knowing that she probably didn't pack a formal gown in advance. She requested something more simple for the occasion. While the frills and intricacies of certain dresses were interesting to look at, they were hellish to wear. Perhaps some women of nobility were willing to suffer through it for the sake of aesthetics, but Cecilia was certainly not one of them.




She was the forth of the group to arrive, and it was clear that the King had yet to seat himself. The decor of the room was of the caliber that Cecilia had slowly grown used to seeing over the years; a vast candle lit room with overly expensive paintings on the walls. She hoped that something worth note would come of this dinner, but her expectations were almost nonexistent. At the very least, it'd be interesting to see how everyone acted, given that some of them were clearly unaccustomed to such luxuries.

She would enjoy seeing them squirm a little, but perhaps that's a tad sadistic.

It wasn't long since she'd seen the other three, and their names remained fresh in her head. They acted as they did whenever they had first gotten their mission from the King, though Mara's courage from earlier seemed to have evaporated along with the bath waters, as she was back to curling in on herself. Truly a shame. But, what did manage to catch her eyes the most were the tattoos that were painted over Callion's skin. Of course, they looked less like tattoos and more as if someone had tripped and spilled ink all over him, but there were a few magical symbols that she could pick out here and there among the mass of confusion.

She had arrived just in time to hear Garos speak some consolidating towards Mara, no doubt trying to ease her out of her shell. "I wouldn't be so quick to say that we're all equal, but it is fair to say that the King is certainly higher in station than all of us here." Cecilia seated herself at a slight distance (one or two chairs) from the rest of them, to give her a decent view of everyone's movements.

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers
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Mara saw from the corner of her eye as the dusky-skinned man seated himself beside her. As before, she couldn't decide what race he was, not that it mattered for more than sating her endless curiosity.

"No need to be shy here, Mara.” he said to her, his voice deep and sonorous. For some reason, the way he said her name made her face feel hot. Why was she blushing at such a simple comment? Probably because she was unused to the luxury of being acknowledged by her own given name. Her father mostly called her, "scum" or "maggot" or "dungheap" or when he was feeling affectionate he'd called her his, "earthworm". And she was careful to never give the priests her name, so they wouldn't seek her out and set her father into one of his rages.

"We are all equal at this table, no?" The man said. Mara felt a surge of gratefulness that anyone would say such a kind thing. Though surely, he must not realize how low on the food chain she really was. Maybe even nobility could think her fair and equal in these clothes?

Somewhat emboldened by his words, she lifted her green eyes to his face. He was smiling, broadly and warmly. Small tusks poked past his lips for a moment before he seemed to realize himself and pull the smile in. Mara drank in his dusky blue-grey face, his well-made leathers, and the somewhat ruggedly handsome scar thst arced across his face. Mara had a sudden thought that she would like to touch that scar, but was not sure why. Instead, she absently used her left hand to stroke her own scar on her right hand. She managed to give a smile, small and gentle back to Garos. His voice had been the easiest to recall. Though, she could recall all of them, she was sure.

"Sir Sharad--" Mara started to thank the man, but was interrupted by another guest as she seated herself across from them.

"I wouldn't be so quick to say that we're all equal, but it is fair to say that the King is certainly higher in station than all of us here."
The elvish lady said as she settled into her seat.

Mara felt the small flame lit by the kindness of Garos words blow out by the coolness of the woman's words. Cecelia Floros. The elfin woman's beauty was daunting before, now attired more formally, Mara could hardly stand to look her way. She dropped her eyes back to the table demurely. Mara felt a bit silly for even starting to think her change in clothing could change the vision of others. She was just a farmgirl after all. Perhaps Garos had just felt sorry for her, looking so out of place in these fineries. Especially out of place beside the carefree eccentric Callion.

Mara nodded, taking the cloth napkin from the table and placing it delicately into her lap. She folded her hands around it, missing the comfort of an apron in this unfamiliar gown.

"G-good evening, Lady Floros." Mara managed meekly, gripping her napkin in her lap. She was unsure how else to respond to the woman's honesty.

Mara was sure it was for her own good that Cecilia quickly reesrablished her place in the food chain. For a moment, she had forgotten her place. She did not, and probably never would, belong in the world of nobility. She was simply here as a pawn for the king to use, not to be accepted by people of higher rank. More like a useful pet, to be set loose once her purpose was complete. It was best not to get her hopes up or get attached.

Mara was unsure if greeting the woman would count as speaking out of turn, but hoped her lack of eye contact would subdue any feelings of offense that stirred. She wondered if a proper lady would bother to strike a lowborn such as herself for speaking out of turn. If so, Mara knew she would take the woman's blows over returning home any day. Perhaps if she survived this awful encounter they were to take, the king might consider letting her stay in his service as a scullery maid. At least she could expect to be fed here. And maybe she could sneak a book or two to read.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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Thomas was not impressed when he saw that the bath was a public one, with the other male members of the party already scrubbing away in it. Well, actually, he was slightly impressed by what he saw - but entirely unimpressed by the fact that he was impressed. He averted his eyes from the bath, frustrated with himself. He should have been used to this sort of situation, there was no privacy back in the guild when it came to bathing, but it was just one thing that he never got used to. This was always going to be awkward for him.

His bonds were removed and he crept to the furthest corner away from everyone else, slipping into the water and closing his eyes at the pleasure of its embrace. It had been too long. Red and brown seeped from his skin into the water in a cloud. The others were probably happy to have him as far away from them as possible. Though most in the bath were minding their own business, Thomas felt eyes on him that seemed to dart away whenever he searched for them. At last he caught the wandering gaze of the half-Orc and stared back at him. He must have been sizing his new allies up, Thomas supposed. How he could do it so openly in this environment and without shame was just baffling to him. Thomas didn't vocalize any complaint, just glanced away with an uncomfortable squirm. His ears were tinted pink as he turned his back to him to clean the dirt from his face and hair privately.

There was a mirror fixed on the wall before him that he gazed into as he scrubbed away at the dirt hiding his "humanity". Soon, the redness of his rubbed skin cooled and he saw himself again. It was... underwhelming. Remnants of mistreatment and starvation lingered and his hair was a messy wet clump, flattened against his neck. The features he took so much pride in were merely pretty and the scars that tainted his face seemed even more prominent against the pallor of his skin. He picked at the bags beneath his eyes and gave a small huff. He could fix this.

... Or, as it turned out, somebody else would fix it for him. It seems the castle staff were determined to make the assassin into someone who would dine at the banquet, not poison it. Waiting on his bed (remade with new sheets, as requested) was a grey, white and silver tunic, dark grey pants, a fancy belt with a lily-themed buckle and this odd white cape designed to hang off only one shoulder. It wasn't his armor, but it would do for a dinner party. Was it a party? Could all dinners at the King's palace be considered parties by extravagance alone? He put on the attire set out for him, shaking off his nerves. Given his position, he shouldn't have had any expectations - he could be stopped by guards on the way to the King and thrown into the dungeons, that's what he should have expected. It was stupid to get flustered over clothes and luxuriant food like this was some delusional rags-to-riches story, as delusional as the thought that helping the King could transform a killer to a hero.

What would he be after helping the King, exactly, given he survived?

After trimming the hair off the back of his neck (closely watched by his guards) and shoving down the urge to hide his face behind powder, Thomas was finally satisfied with his appearance. He had failed to bring back the beauty he was used to, but appeared youthful and pretty nonetheless. At least his eyes were not tarnished, blue and innocent... Oh, what a misleading mug he possessed.




He was the fifth arrival to the dining room, his first time arriving anywhere in this castle without chains. Also, his first time presenting himself to the others as a man instead of an animal. He made no spectacle of it. Near-unrecognizable to all present, he stood back and regarded the table with a stony expression before moving to his chosen seat. Even his gait was different. Prouder, purposeful, almost soldier-like. Instead of moving to sit in the dark and gloomy corner like any other self-respecting assassin, he took his seat across from... Mara, he recalled. She had undergone somewhat of a transformation herself, though not as drastic. He sat in the chair with the posture of one who belonged in such an environment, as much a part of the scenery as the paintings and the bouquets. Given how eerily still he sat, he could have been an artwork or part of some arrangement.

There was a mostly subconscious reasoning behind the seat he had gravitated towards. Callion would be entertaining to observe, he needed to prove that he wouldn't be uncomfortable sitting near Garos despite how he reacted when he noticed him watching in the baths, and Mara... her gaze from across the table wouldn't feel so harsh, he thought, if she had the bravery to look up. His long lashes fluttered up as he looked across the table at Mara and her company, but he couldn't think of anything worthwhile to say. His hysterical, pleading stomach spoke for him instead. Thomas shut his eyes with a deep, exasperated inhale, trying to pretend he was elsewhere as the tips of his ears grew pink. Though he was prettied up, there was no denying that he was still seen as a miserable, starving criminal by these people.

Why, why, didn't they take him to the dungeons instead.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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Caught in his own thoughts, Callion’s fingers traced through the seemingly incoherent mess on his arms with a practiced precision as his mouth formed soundless words. Every so often his eyes would dart somewhere, although not to anything in particular. It was almost as if he could see a visual representation of his own memory, his eyes moving from one mental image to the next as he put together pieces of a puzzle only he could see or hope to understand. So lost in his trance like state that he didn’t seem to notice that he was no longer the only guest in the room. There was a soft voice, although in his almost daze like state, Callion didn’t quite get the words. When he looked over, he noticed a woman he had not yet met. She was gussied up, although that was to be expected when attending a dinner with the King, but...had she even said anything? Her eyes were downcast at the table and she seemed to be trying to make herself smaller. Callion leaned in, his eyes narrowing as he fought to see through the mirage of makeup and fancy clothes...who was she? So lost in his concentrated effort to figure out who this woman was, his face mere inches from hers, he didn’t notice yet another individual walking into the room.

“Mara?” Callion repeated after Garos as he sat down on the other side of him. “The farm girl?” Callion looked over once more, his hand rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Hmmm...I suppose I can see it now. Remove a bit of dirt and the beauty can really shine through, hmm?” Callion stated, a genuine smile on his face as yet another person entered the room. The elf, Cecilia if he remembered correctly. Her tone and message were one of condescension, something he always expected out of the long lived species but still never enjoyed hearing. Used to long years of being able to try and experiment, they often lacked the ambition and drive that made the shorter lived species of this world so amazing. Still, a smirk crossed Callion’s face as his eyes narrowed slightly, almost like he was sizing her up for a potential fight or debate later on.

Still, her striking beauty did catch Callion slightly off guard and he mentally managed to correct himself from the improper staring one such as herself would draw. He would never say he was a ‘fiend’ in that kind of sense, but he was still human and above all else, male. There were some things even years of magical experiments, explosions and failures couldn’t wipe clean.

As she moved to a chair a few seats away, he did hear the tiny voice of Mara speak up once more to greet the elf as she moved to her seat. Before he could say anything else regarding the matter, yet another person joined the fray. The prisoner if he recalled correctly. Technically speaking, they had all been prisoners, but none of them had the misfortune of being treated like this man. As he moved to a spot across the table from the rest of them, Callion’s eyes sized up Thomas like he was one of his alchemist creations; a curator’s eyes appraising Thomas’s worth with a slowly spreading smile. Callion looked around, waiting for someone else to speak up, and when no one else did, he gave a small clap of his hands together. “Well, aren’t we a bunch of cheery folk?” Callion stated, standing from his chair with a flourish, spinning with his robes and standing behind his chair. He placed a hand on both Garo’s and Mara’s shoulders, using them as leaning posts as he smiled at the table.

“Such an event shouldn’t be depressive, nor should it be something to be feared.” Callion gave the slightest of squeezes to Mara’s shoulders as he said this. “If nothing else, we’re feasting like literal kings today, or in the case of the women folk, queens. So turn your eyes up from your laps and enough of this ‘equal or not equal’ nonsense.” Callion released his hold on the two people who had chosen (poorly) to seat themselves beside Callion. “Equality is such a twisted word, because if we were all equal...who would be great? Who would be heroes? Who would be the downtrodden or the kings? A world of equality would be boring. While what we have is not inherently fair, it is by far more interesting than a world where no one has ambition for more than they currently have, yes?” Callion stopped, rubbing his hands together as he seemed to be lost in thought. “But I appear to be going on a rant, my apologies, not my intention.” Callion wandered closer to the hired help, who involuntarily edged away from him. “My intention was to bring forth the light in people’s eyes and hearts...and how do we do that you ask?” Callion stepped quickly up to one of the help, pinning him against the wall with a finger as the man looked from side to side for a potential escape route or reason as to why Callion was suddenly pressed up against him.

“Liquor.” Callion backed away, waving the hired help on. “Go fetch us some wine, we need to be good and loose if we are to truly bond in any form or fashion before our trip.” The help looked between each other, before one coughed.

“I apologize m’lord, but the wine is being presented with the meal. We don’t wish for anyone to be drunk before meeting with our Liege.” Callion glared at the man, an eye so evil it could have caused the apocalypse itself, before he smiled and shrugged.

“Fine, but let it be known that I asked first.” Callion wandered over to the table, picking up a pitcher of water and holding it up. “Would anyone care for a glass of water?” Callion looked around, filling the cups of anyone who asked before looking back into the pitcher. “Should be enough.” He said, placing the pitcher back down on the table and holding his hand over the top of it.

No words were spoken, but underneath his sleeve, a soft glow could be seen from his arm as a small purple sigil of intricate design appeared, floating slightly above the pitcher. Immediately the help started panicking, but before they could get right and properly alerted, Callion scoffed. “Calm your thoughts you plebs. Honestly, what interest would I have in harming anyone here? Or in causing any amount of chaos...what I truly want in this scenario…” Callion lowered his arm, the sigil disappearing as he did so and the glowing from underneath his sleeve leaving as well. He picked up the pitcher and poured himself a cup. Instead of water, however, out poured a purplish liquid. “Was simply a way to lighten the mood and open the hearts of those whose social courage might be failing them.” Callion took the cup and passed it to Thomas before pouring another one and handing one to each member of the table.

“A simple transfiguration spell, nothing more.” Callion explained, pouring himself a cup and standing at his full height. He raised the cup in a mock toast before taking a drink of the wine. It wasn’t the best wine, transfiguration spells often lacked in the flavor department, but he had enough of the base ingredients to make passable alcohol. Finishing his drink, he wandered closer to Thomas, placing a hand on the man’s shoulder as the other held onto his cup. “Now, does anyone want to share their life story, or did I nearly get burned at the stake for nothing but some either horrible Vesian wine or amazing Orcish wine?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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It were as if Callion had suddenly fallen asleep again and woke to find others around him. She felt him suddenly close to her face, and jumped when he began reacting with surprise when he suddenly put the pieces of who she was together.

Mara's face very nearly matched the red of her dress when he exclaimed something about her being beautiful after a scrub. Mara glanced up at him meekly and was met with another warm smile, but he seemed to be a man with a flighty mind for soon he was ranting about other things. It seemed Garos was not the only one trying to be kind to her at this table. Sir Lightson might be a little...mad...but it made him in her mind that much more genuine. It was obvious he cared little for social norms, and Mara found herself deeply respecting that in spite of herself. Callion's antics nearly made her miss the arrival of another guest.

Mara couldn't help but smile at him. Ah, this was the way Sir Lightson felt when he was stunned by her difference in attire. Thomas Burgundy, the man who had arrived in chains, was a far cry from that poor wretched man they had met earlier. Mara had only known by his eyes that they were the same man...a look she knew all too well in them...hunger..as if in response to her thought, she faintly heard his stomach complain. Since arriving, Mara had not cessed hoarding food. Even though they had taken most of her clothes and prettied her up: this had not changed.

Demurely, Mara withdrew a handkerchief from her blouse and with the familiar fluid motion of someone who sometimes stole to live...discretely pressed the clean handkerchief into Thomas's hand as if offering her hand to him in polite aquaintance. Simple enough with most attention on Sir Lightson. Inside she had stashed dried fruits from her breakfast in case she grew hungry. Having seen Thomas that morning, she felt he may need it more. She had eaten twice--twice!--already today. Mara risked a glance into Thomas's eyes, her green eyes flashing knowingly for a moment before she cast them down again.

"S-Sir Burgundy...is it not?" She said in her somewhat soft, unused voice. "With me in shoes and your chains gone...we must hardly be recognizable..to these fair folks..."

She would have said more, but Callion chose that moment to put his hands on her shoulder. Mara froze instinctively, like a hare when sighted by a hawk. First one. Then both shoulders were touched, to which Mara flinched away, more than unused to any touch that didn't immediately lead to being struck. Especially when it happened unexpectedly. Though, Mara knew that Callion meant her no ill will, she had to force herself to unclench her shoulders. Not wanting to look like a dog cringing before his master's boots. She was somewhat relieved when Callion moved his attention to the unwitting servants.

In spite of herself, she found herself smiling a soft bemused smile as she watched Callion. She had never met his like. But when he began to cast magic, a rune glowing over the water, Mara momentarily forgot her meekness. Magic.

"Spell..chucker..." Mara murmured in awe, voice barely a whisper. Mara straightened to see better as the contents to the pitcher became the dark tint of wine, her neck curving, her lips pursed in thoughtful curiosity as she drank in the sight. She thought as much! Those tattoos were magic! Mara's mind whirred with questions. How did he learn that? Could he teach her? Oh, how she wanted to show him her candle-lighting progress! Though, surely, blowing a candle on was not as impressive as turning water to wine.

Mara took the cup he offered gingerly, as if it contained the secret to all magic-learning itself or..horrifying poison... As a rule, she didn't drink...seeing the mess her father was from the drink...just the smell of most alcohol made her feel queasy most days. She politely pushed the cup in front of her out of smelling distance. Only the use of magic here made this any more paletable for her. When Callion looked to them for "life stories" Mara was immediately somber looking. She was sure that after him pressing liqour onto them that the least uplifting thing he could possibly hear would be for her to talk about growing up taking care of her alcoholic parent and broken life.

Mara took a sip from her water glass as she thought how best to approach this. Ah, there it was. Mara lifted her eyes to Callion's cheery face. They were eyes wide with curiosity.

"Sir Lightson, if I may....i'd much rather hear your story." Mara said softly. " I have never met a real spell-chucker before, and though you say that spell was simple...I would love to know how you came to learn such magics."

What she really wanted to add was, "and I want to learn. Show me!" Or " I have always yearned for a gift like yours." But both of these phrases were kept locked inside her heart. They did not seem appropriate to throw at someone she had only met...though...she doubted such a thing would even phase a man like Callion. Still, getting people to talk about themselves was usually the route Mara took. She would almost always rather listen than talk.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Glola Heavyrider Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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He didn't think twice about de-robing and bathing, even though the baths were public. There were no ladies to make the situation awkward. He'd been a soldier for his whole life and that meant that he wasn't really scared or had second thoughts about this. When you served, you lived with many other men in a tent or barracks every day, and they didn't have private rooms or baths. Unless you were a high-ranking officer. However, Ragnar was only a Captain, after all. One thing that struck him was, that he seemed to be the very last one here. Ragnar would have to hurry to not be late.

The warm water felt so good on his skin that he hardly noticed when servants behind him took his clothes and laid out new ones. He gave in completely to the feeling in his body when emerged in the warm water. It did wonders for sore muscles and general rejuvenation. Any person who was used to physical work could relate to that. It would be good to don a fresh set of clothes and appear more formal in front of the king and the band of-

Well... I don't know the first thing about them, really.

He realized as he started scrubbing away. Ragnar clung to the hope that he would learn more about every person tonight. His at times reserved demeanor might inhibit that, though. So he sighed and worked to make sure he was clean, before he got dressed.

The clothes that had been laid out for him closely resembled the one fine set of clothes he owned himself. A long tunic of thick cloth with intricate patterns worked into the black and red tones of the fabric. The neck was stiff and buttoned under his chin. Not particularly comfortable, but he was used to it. He wore a belt and black pants underneath. Finally, a pair of boots of supple leather were there. When Ragnar put them on, he realized that he hadn't worn footwear this comfortable in years.
As he stood and looked at himself in the mirror, he noticed how closely he resembled an officer. This was undoubtedly on purpose. When the servant next to him moved to assist and make sure he looked good, Ragnar held up a hand in dismissal to which the servant frowned but nodded.

Smoothing out the tunic and making sure he looked presentable, he turned and followed the servant.




Heading straight for the door, Ragnar hoped he wasn't late. Two guards approached the door from either side and opened it for Ragnar. He walked inside and stopped before he took the few steps down from the door. He was going to be in here, but he wasn't going to be a guard standing with his back to the wall, staring blankly into space for hours on end.

Strange.

Ragnar walked down the stairs and with a straight back and slow, confident steps he approached. it took a few moments as the dining hall was immense. He noted that everyone else was there. The dwarf from before and the other human soldier were just sitting down at the table. He made a mental note of their names.

They must have just arrived before me then. Glola and Emily.

He flashed everyone a smile. They were in animated conversation. Almost literally. As the king had not yet arrived, it seemed they had taken it upon themselves to converse and entertain. Well, apparently Callion had taken it upon himself to do just that. But no one at the table was more fit for the task, he figured.

"Good evening." Ragnar managed to get the phrase in as he sat down at the table across from the elf-lady.

They were sharing stories, it seemed. Nothing he would particularly enjoy if it came to it. He'd rather drink the wine that was on the table. He found it slightly odd that it wasn't served with the meal, but perhaps someone had requested wine for the them.
Shaking his head of redundant thoughts like that, he began observing his fellow companions at the table. All washed and neatly dressed. He beheld Callion for a moment, who looked rather dashing after his shower. He stood, wine in hand as he listened.
Apparently the shy farmer had found courage and was speaking to Callion. His attention shifted to her, and noted how naturally beautiful she was now that she wore shoes and had her hair washed and braided with flowers in it. Ragnar smirked at this, but cast his eyes down and took a drink of wine.

He leaned back in his chair and found a new target.

The thief or murderer who'd been brought before them in chains was now in a much more approachable attire. In fact, Ragnar didn't know if he was a thief or a murderer, but he figured that you wouldn't be treated like Sir Burgundy had, if you were not guilty of some crime.

Or would you? What a grim thought.

His eyes found the dark-skinned man. The clothes he wore suited him and were well-picked. Ragnar nodded to him and smiled, raising his glass in a small toast, acknowledging him. Finally, his eyes landed on the elf-lady with the sharp tongue.

She had opted for something simple to wear for the dinner but was stunning nonetheless. His eyes lingered for a moment. Mara seemed a counterpart in her dress. The dress was beautiful, but it was such a change from her earlier appearance that Ragnar had to focus to see the little shy girl. Looking around at everybody at the table, he noted that they were all rather presentable. It was surprising and it made him smirk to himself.

Some more than others, I suppose. He looked down at himself and drank more wine. He was not used to these clothes. It felt awkwardly light, but very comfortable at the same time.

"Are we sharing life stories?" Ragnar leaned in over the table, slightly and looked at Cecilia as he spoke.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Glola Heavyrider Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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If Garos was at all uncomfortable or aware of his lower station in life, he hid it well. There was a general sense of disconnect there, as if he wasn’t aware or simply didn’t care that he was seated at the table of the most powerful man in the realms; a King. The King. Manners and etiquette seemed lost on him as well. He tipped his fork up and leaned his cheek into an upturned palm, turned slightly to speak to Mara properly. One finger was poised on the opposing end to keep it from toppling over. A childish tendency. A clear indication that he wouldn’t steeple his fingers in his lap and eat like a proper gentleman should. Had he been taught any manners at all? Unlikely.

It was the most apparent suggestion that he was no Sir or highborn lad who was used to such fineries. Neither did he seem to shrink against it, unused to fancies. He just didn’t seem to care either way. Some might consider him barbaric in his mannerisms. Suppose they wouldn’t be too far from the mark… but he liked to think that he was polite and well-adjusted, in any case. What more could anyone ask for? He arched a thick eyebrow at Mara and noted her studying his face in a bolder manner than he gave her credit for. In more favorable circumstances, he might’ve leaned conspiratorially close with the intent of making her face all the redder. But this was neither here or there, and he preferred having no audience.

A small smile cracked across his lips; smaller, this time. Tempered. Meek as a mouse. There was something there, though. Something that they were probably looking over. His eyes trailed down to her hands, small fingers smoothing over a peculiar scar. There was a story there, he was sure. Sir Rashad sounded odd on her lips—had he ever been called that before? No. He didn’t think so. Another voice cut through the amiable conversation and drew his attention away. The dainty little bird with the sharp-tongue, a bite to her words that didn’t seem particularly malicious. Carefully considered, more like. Realistic, perhaps. Two qualities he had never had much use of in himself. She seated herself a few chairs away. Perhaps, intentionally so. To see who her traveling companions would be. What they would say. How they said it. It was a stand-offish move, but curious nonetheless.

He hm’d at her and shifted his shoulders, raising one in a lazy shrug. “Maybe,” he drawled and whistled low, “Don’t look so different from where I’m sitting. Once we hit the road, we’re all the same.”

Equals. In the barest sense, Garos believed it was true. Kings and Queens, knights and soldiers, farm-girls and wizards. Sirs and Misses. Prisoners. What did any of that mean when they walked away today? Nothing. Strip a man of his crown and he was just like anyone else. Glorified titles perched on their heads; standing on weaker or stronger shoulders, a totem pole that made no sense to him. He had no use for such things. Never had. Never would. A pauper was just as useful as a nobleman. Perhaps, even more so. His value came in actions; not entitlements.

There was a thoughtful pause, before he turned back to Mara and brushed her shoulder with his own. A gentle chiding. He grinned again and a laugh bubbled from his chest. Too loud. Too assured. “Please, just Garos. I’m no Sir of anything.”

The fifth newcomer to the table wandered towards the table. Thomas, if he remembered correctly. Young lad. He certainly looked younger without the inch of muck and grime caking his face and body. The bath had shaped him up nicely. He looked less like a grubby street-urchin and more like someone befit a fancy table. They all did, really. Perhaps, him least of all. He hadn’t dressed appropriately. He looked more like he was heading for an adventure; like he was lounging in a dingy tavern looking for trouble. A mercenary, through and through. Which he was, so he supposed he didn’t care much. A shadow of stubble was still on his face and he’d simply pushed his black mess of hair away from his face; keeping his hood at his shoulders, rather than over his head like he preferred to.

Garos’ stare was as unabashed and blatant as it had been in the bathhouse. He drank in the occupants of the table, eyes roving across them; watching with a less than subtle curiosity. It bordered on rudeness. It was rude. Not that he seemed particularly bothered. He finally tore his gaze away from him and leaned back in his chair, setting the fork down in order to roll out his shoulders. When he heard an insistent grumble from across the table, the same toothy grin curled the corners of his lips up. He found it amusing, at least. “Hopefully the King doesn’t keep us waiting much longer.” He patted his own stomach. How long had been since he’d had anything other than hard tack and too-dried strips of beef? Far too long if the emptiness in his guts was anything to go by. He’d probably stash some leftovers in his satchel for the road. He doubted anyone would care. Or they’d be grateful when he shared.

Another eyebrow raised as he felt a hand clap down on his shoulder. He glanced over it to see the spindly Callion using he and Mara to lean on as he looked over the table, mouth readying itself for another long-winded speech he seemed to be renowned for. Not that he didn’t like listening. He was intriguing… though he wondered where he came from and what exactly he did. The stretch of tattoos splattered up his arms and he general demeanor were both unusual. For all he’d seen across the realm, he had no inkling as to what kind of person he was. Another laugh wrestled its way out at the exchange between Callion and the panic-stricken help. Poor lad didn’t know what to do, other than squirm against the man’s demands. Liquor would be nice, he had to agree. While someone might have turned their nose to such parlor tricks or questionable magic… Garos was all too ready to pull his goblet back as soon as it was filled to the brim. He doubted it’d be poisonous if Callion was drinking it too.

Raising his own goblet into the air, he brought it to his lips and took a long dredge. It was smooth going down but had a pleasant bite. Warmed his belly nicely. He gave Callion an appreciative nod but maintained his silence. He had no stories he wished to grace the table with. None that were appropriate. Besides, like Mara, he’d much rather listen. He turned towards Ragnar, acknowledging him with a nod of his own and raised the goblet up in the air, favoring himself with another large gulp. A little indulgence wouldn’t do him any harm. Who knew when he’d next have the chance?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Glola Heavyrider Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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Thomas stared at the handkerchief in his hand before looking up at the one who had discreetly placed it there, her head turned to the tattooed wizard. The weight and feel of the handkerchief indicated that its contents weren't a message or small weapon and the red-clad young woman didn't strike him to be an undercover agent of some shady organization that would reach out to him. Still, he lifted a corner of the handkerchief to peer at its insides with the stony face of someone opening a chest of blood money...

Oh!

His face did not betray him by expressing the joy and relief he felt when he saw the dried fruit, but his stomach leaped in excitement. He felt almost embarrassed for expecting something ridiculous, like an ominous note telling him "Don't eat the ham." He looked back at Mara, just as her shy green gaze flicked up to meet his.

"S-Sir Burgundy...is it not?"

It was not. Thomas didn't open his mouth in protest or make any indication that he was bothered by the way she addressed him, mostly because he wasn't sure what he could tell her to call him instead. He didn't have a false name and status to use, only his own. Back in the guild, he was simply referred to as Burgundy or Remelion when he wasn't being called something derogatory. Luther called him 'Young Black' when the grizzled old assassin was in one of his better moods, but no sirs. Never a 'sir'. He supposed with the bridge to that life broken, he was now just... Thomas.

Thomas. Thomas. Ugh, no wonder he went by Remelion at his guild. What self-respecting infamous assassin names her son Thomas? Thomas the Assassin sounded so - the wizard was talking.

The young man's petty internal dialogue ceased immediately as he turned his attention to Callion. He truly was an experience, that was for certain. The atmosphere around him seemed magically charged. Whether that was just the way he composed himself and the enthusiasm he spoke with or because the wizard literally had magic coming out of his ears, Thomas couldn't tell. Callion's spiel on the notion of equality quirked his brow, but that was as much of a reaction that could be squeezed from him. With everyone's eyes on the wizard, he reached into Mara's handkerchief and popped a slice of dried apple into his mouth. Not exactly polite to start nibbling on something before the food had been set out and the King was seated, he knew that, but... the way Callion was carrying on, he highly doubted that he was the worst offender. He flashed Mara a brief, tight-lipped smile from across the table as he chewed, his stomach purring from the attention. This small gesture of kindness was the most he had received in the past month, the last being when a fellow assassin shut the door for him because he asked. She was kind, too kind. Or just uncomfortable. She had found something familiar in him and reached out for it, like he was one of her kind. He could expect no more handkerchiefs once she learned to what extent that wasn't true.

Thomas swallowed, hard, when he watched Callion transform water into wine. Wizards. As impressive as they were, they were much more impressive when he knew they were on his side. With their fancy magical alarms, lightning hands and ability to alter the material world without regard they were - putting it bluntly - a bitch to kill. He pitied the poor sap tasked with Callion as their target, should the wizard ever have a price on his head.

He reluctantly took the cup that was forced upon him by Callion, a bewildered expression breaking through his straight face. As Callion moved on to fill the cups of the others, Thomas just looked down at the cup in his hand like he had no clue what to do with it. He peered up over it at the others in a discreet search for help, glancing briefly at Ragnar who was already swallowing down the poison. Assassins weren't allowed to drink. The first and last time he had drank was when he was a child, which resulted in consequences that made it quite easy to forsake the vice for his career. He wasn't... technically, he was unemployed now, so he could...

When he saw Garos take a swig, he brought the cup to his lips, took a sip, let it sit on his tongue, then quietly spat it back into the cup and set it down away from him. Hopefully nobody noticed him do that. Damn wizard spoiled a perfectly fine pitcher of water, in his opinion. He put a small handful of dried fruit in his mouth to mask the taste then turned to Callion, giving a nod in support of Mara's questions. He would rather not have detailed his own life story, and he had to admit... he was curious, too.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Glola Heavyrider Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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Opting out of grand robes and heavy coats and cloaks, the king dressed himself in a simpler outfit. Simpler, in this case, still meant grandiose and remarkably royal. It had silver stitching through the entire length of the silken surcoat which made up beautiful and intricate patterns. Staring at it almost made you think it spelled out letters or some hidden message. Around his middle sat a belt. Under the surcoat he wore a dark green silken shirt, tailored to perfection. All in all, the outfit was every bit royalty, but slightly more discrete than what he usually wore to balls and other such royal frivolities. He started at himself in the mirror and nodded. He had the distinct feeling that some of the people at the table, might not have the best relationship with authority. Hence the simplified outfit.

King Balian stepped out of his chambers and headed down a grand hall toward the great dining hall. Immediately, two guards fell in behind him. While he walked, he mulled over what questions they might have and how to best answer them. But the truth was, he needed these people to go and bring back more knowledge for him. No one knew very much about any of this. Balian suddenly realized how that most likely was a huge contributing factor to the fear that seemed to grip every one privy to knowledge about these marks.

He’d been to visit his granddaughter before this evening. Her condition had neither improved or worsened. She seemed stable. She talked with him for a little bit, but she was weak. So many times since she had fallen ill, had he thought he was going to lose her. But she had been strong and survived. For that he was grateful. His son, the Crown Prince would not be joining them this evening. At the express order of Balian himself. While he was sure he’d make a good leader some day, the king was acutely aware of his lacking sense of diplomacy and to some extent, empathy. His son had a hard time understanding people outside his own social class.

And that is crucial.

The door in front of him swung open. It wasn’t the main door into the hall. It was in the opposite end. Those at the table couldn’t see him until he stepped onto the dais. When Balian did so, he lingered for a second. It both reassured and worried him that they were already talking and drinking wine.

How did they get wine? He thought for a moment. They weren’t supposed to have that until food was at the table. A few nervous servants looked upon their king with very apologetic expressions.

It was, of course, the wizard from before who was entertaining everyone. Balian stepped down from the high dais and toward the table, back straight and hands behind his back. He stopped behind his chair and looked around.
“Friends! I apologize for keeping you waiting. I see you have already made yourselves comfortable.” He looked at the wizard. “But no more. You must be hungry?” His eyes found those of the skinny farm girl, then the orc and several others.
“Hungry?” Callion piped up, standing behind the one called Thomas. “I believe I could eat a horse, the typical size of a horse being upwards of a 1000 kilograms, or over 2200 pounds for those of you who don’t understand the metric system.” The Wizard strolled around the table, his hand swinging a goblet of wine as he did so. “Despite already having some bread…and yet no soup!” Callion glared at the help. “Which I expressly ordered the moment I got in here, after assuring myself that the table and its many accompanying utensils were indeed not trapped. Tell me, good help…are you good help? Where is my soup?” There was a brief pause before Callion seemed to realize what exactly he was doing and straightened himself. “Right, of course we’ll be eating right away, no need to make a large horse out of a small mouse, or a meal out of an appetizer in this case. Come, let us feast like Kings with a King!” With all that said and done, Callion appeared to calm down and take a seat between Garos and Mara.

Balian had a hard time suffering fools. But this was more amusing than anything else. He stood and watched the wizard rant and even cracked a smile from time to time. It seemed, however, that the man remembered where he was and who he at the moment kept waiting. He calmed down and sat down between the farm girl and the.. Orc? Balian stretched out his arms and looked at them all.

“I shall take Mr. Lightson’s description as an expression of how you all feel. At least regarding your hunger.” He added the latter part after a moments thought. “And you have, of course been waiting far too long.”
With that, he signaled to the servants, and they quickly scurried off to fetch the meal they would be eating. Meanwhile, Balian looked around and silently wondered how they had been given wine. The help had not been willing to give them anything to eat other than the bread, but somehow they had acquired wine?

I cannot have them drunk. He thought to himself. At least not yet…

What they did after he retired to his chambers, he wasn’t really that concerned with. But for now, they’d have to remain civil and clear-headed. Furthermore, if they got drunk, they might start asking questions to which he’d have no answers. And that simply wouldn’t do.

A medium-sized door to the right of the king swung open and out streamed one servant after the other. They each carried a plate with food and some brought ale, mead and wine. They wouldn’t be missing anything at this table. It was a proper meal before their journey. It had large beef and pork roasts, sausages, and other meals of meat. Meat pies and bread. Even the occasional salad. Balian new the cook and he nearly salivated right there looking at all of it. Instead, however, he took a seat and smiled.

“Please, let us not stand on ceremony more than we need to.” He gestured to every body and then the food. “Eat!”

Ambar: Chapter 1 - Snow & Ash: Out Of Character (OOC)

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