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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!

View All »Available Characters

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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?"
Character Portrait: Phaedra Mithalvarin "Everyone's got secrets, love. That's where I come in."

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These poor, unfortunate souls were once a part of this great world, but have been abandoned. Why don't you consider viewing their profiles and making a decision on whether or not you can roleplay them accurately?


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Arcs are bundles of posts that you can organize on your own. They're useful for telling a story that might span long periods of time or space.

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Setting

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers
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After their little send off by the King himself, the entire group swung onto their respective mounts and set off down dirt pathway. It’d eventually lead to this village. One he’d never particularly heard of. Of course, Garos wasn’t picky when it came to where he was going… but he tended to avoid smaller places for a reason. Folks didn’t usually need mercenaries, and if they did, they weren’t that well off to begin with. Sometimes, he traded favors or manual labor for a place to rest his head. For a hot meal. Even if it didn’t pay particularly well, it kept him going. Besides, he had a soft spot for farmers; the simple, hardworking folk on the outskirts. Reminded him of his parents.

He knuckled at his nose, and readjusted himself in his saddle. Despite working with horses at his own homestead, he never really liked riding all that much. Too bouncy. Chafed his legs. Made him sore. S’pose if he rode like Callion did; all side-saddle, like a wee lass plucked into someone’s saddle, he wouldn’t complain too much. Unfortunately, he didn’t think his pride would allow him to. While he wasn’t much for prying into people’s business or offering too much about himself, he was curious about those who rode at his side. People he’d inevitably bloody his blade with. If anyone thought they’d be spared any trouble on the road, they’d be in for a rude awakening. It was almost never the case.

Digging his heels gently into Suledin’s sides to quicken the stallion’s pace, Garos nudged him alongside Mara, with Callion only slightly ahead of himself. It appeared as if Ragnar had taken the lead. It looked like it suited him, too. He was just as comfortable accepting the grizzled soldier in that role. It meant that things would generally be smoother if someone was in charge. Usually. Besides, they had mostly the same goal here, even if they were reluctant participants. Cecilia seemed only interested in learning more about their marks; Thomas was a prisoner, and probably didn’t have much choice, Callion was a mystery and Ragnar must’ve been driven by a sense of duty for his country. His kingdom. His king.

No doubt Mara had her own reasons, as well. One borne from something far more abstract then being asked politely. A sense of adventure? Purpose? Perhaps both. Seeing how she didn’t look like someone who actively fought… he couldn’t help but think it was admirable. As for him? Who knew. He certainly didn’t. At least, not yet. He cleared his throat behind a fist and tried to tame his grin into something manageable. A tempered, non-threatening smile. He hoped it was. “Ah, hey, Mara—” he swung his gaze back to the road, “I wanted to say sorry. For being y’know… back then, in the garden.”

Beastly? A savage? Unmannered? He’d heard it all before. It was unnecessarily vague. Like he was, most of the time.

Mara gave him a small, somewhat bashful smile. In spite of this demure reaction, she seemed more comfortable on a horse than on her own two feet. Sat taller, even, it seemed.

You don't need to apologize, Garos... I'm just unused to....” Mara trailed off, looking perplexed. It seemed she was seeking the words to express what it was exactly she was unused to. When she finished, it was a little unexpected. "Kind contact.." Mara seemed satisfied with those words, strange though they were. She held the reins in her small hands, looking comfortable for the first time since they had met. A scar on her hand seemed especially white against the dark leather.

"I'm sorry to have reacted so poorly." Mara looked to him, eyes soft, and smiled in a way that seemed embarrassed.

From what Garos could see... she definitely looked more at ease there, sat atop her horse. Probably tended to a lot of them back on her farm. It made him feel a little more comfortable, though he couldn't figure out why. Similar backgrounds, he supposed. He scratched at the back of his neck and swung his gaze back towards her, though maintained his attention on her hands, only sneaking a glance to her face when he caught sight of a smile. Small as it was, it was something at least.

An indication that he hadn’t offended. Not nearly as much as he thought he might’ve. The swell of tension in his chest loosened. Unknotted. If only a little. Sometimes, he just wasn’t sure how to compose himself around people. Sometimes, he just didn’t think about it. The company he rubbed elbows with tended to be of the nefarious variety. They weren’t gentle, nor particularly friendly. He was an outcast there, as well as many other places. An unfortunate effect of looking so odd. People didn’t know what to do with someone they couldn’t pinion in a category.

“Ah, I see,” he cocked his head to the side, mouth pulling into another pensive line. A lady like Mara, all soft, smooth edges, so very like the garden she’d been pilfering from back at the King’s wee kingdom, wasn’t used to kind contact? It made him wonder, wonder what her life had been like, if that was the case. For all his own misgivings, he’d been surrounded by people, his family, who’d been varying degrees of invasive spaces. His gaze trailed down from her face, and back to her hands. They raked across the obvious scar sliced across her hand. One that looked peculiar. He was quick to look away, though his mind buzzed with questions.

One’s that were probably better off left unspoken. Perhaps, for now.

Garos laugh came from deep within his chest. Loud, breathy. He couldn’t wrangle his smile quick enough, tusks peeping out despite himself. “No, no, I know I can be overbearing, at times. I hope you’ll forgive me in the future for it.” He scratched at his chin, partially covering his mouth. Only for a moment, before he dropped it back to the reigns and smiled, softer this time. “I’m guessing you had no rowdy brothers, or snotty sisters?”

Mara's eyes drifted to his face. She again seemed perplexed by his attention, more than anything else. But she was managing to look him mostly in the eyes now. Well, as much as one could while riding.

"No. Just me, a grumpy old plow horse..." She said, raising the scarred hand a bit as if in explaination. As if she could sense his stares. Mara paused a moment, expression briefly flickering, hardening. "And Father." Mara's body seemed to stiffen for a second, before the soft smile returned. She stared ahead at Callion's back, looking as if she were thinking. Maybe trying to decide on a quick topic change?

"Do you come from a big family, Garos? A big...hugging..family...?" Mara seemed suddenly red again, as if flustered by just the thought of a bunch of folks like him all hugging it out. Even her voice had that nervous squeak to it.

It didn’t really surprise him, hearing that Mara hadn’t had anyone else growing up. Garos’ mouth tipped down momentarily, eying the top of her hand. The way she’d said it. Father. Sounded more like a curse, than an endearment. It made his stomach twist, and he was sure he knew why. The inclinations were there, unspoken. A quiet admonition. A painful one. He wasn’t stupid enough to press her on that subject.

He licked his lips, and tore his gaze away from her hand. Besides, he found it far more pleasant looking at her face. She was smiling. Kind. A soft person who probably had reason enough not to be. She followed her gaze to Callion’s back, gracelessly side-saddled on his horse. Certainly a sight to see. Didn’t seem like he had any care in the world, but who knew. Everyone here had their own story.

When Mara questioned him about his own family, he almost laughed. Instead, he leaned back in his saddle, mouth twisting into a sheepish grin. “You’d think, huh?” ‘Course, people could only guess at his upbringing by how he behaved, but his family had never been the touchy sort. His father was as stern as they came, all business and lessons. His mother, on the other hand, was composed of tougher stuff; hands smacking your back if you’d done something particularly well, and impossibly loud laughter. A little like he was. “Nah, it was just me, and my parents. They weren’t big on hugging.”

Mara nodded as she listened. Seeming to absorb all his words like a plant would take in rain.

They were farmers, through and through. Hardy folk. And they had conflicting child rearing techniques, neither were particularly warm or cuddly. He never had any siblings, or many friends, besides the animals they tended. It made him lonely. Maybe, that’s why he was the way he was. Too loud. Too much.

“We tended horses, too. Pigs, chickens, cows.” Garos grinned when Mara’s face flushed red. He cleared his throat and knuckled at his nose, raising his voice to call ahead to Callion, “S’pose you had an interesting upbringing.”

"Hm? Pardon?" Callion asked, peering back and appearing to take a moment before realizing what they were talking about and what had been asked. A smile planted itself on his face, although from genuine happiness or just because his face always seemed to contort into that expression was a different question entirely. "Ah an interesting upbringing, most definitely." Callion exhuberated. "My life was, and still is simply a series of challenges to overcome, as many people could say the same. If you're looking for a tale of an uplifting and loving family filled to the brim with professional and unbridled curiosity, I'm afraid I will have to disappoint you, unless you count poisoning, severe beatings, mental and physical degredation, literal torture and home cooking that wouldn't be served to lifetime prisoners of the Hag." Callion looked back at them, with a smile that leaned more towards lunatic at this point than anything else. "But life is full of challenges we have to overcome, correct? Why not share yours, they're most likely more upbeat than mine."

Mara's smile dimmed at Callion's request. It was clear she did not think her life story was more upbeat. Garos' grin fell a fraction of an inch, though he was quick to fill in the silence, "Upbeat might be a stretch. But, you're not wrong. Challenges, overcoming. All that." He paused and awkwardly rubbed at the back of his neck. Seemed as if their stories hadn't been the happiest. He didn't want to press either of them. Loneliness was a far cry from outright... misery, but he understood it. If only a little. The sun dragged across the sky, beating down at their backs. He wasn't sure if they were making good time or not. How far? How long? He cleared his throat and lifted his shoulder, "there's nowhere freer than here."

Free from whatever they'd been through. Free from burdens, in whichever form they took.

That, most of all, was a truth he believed in.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany
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As the group rode on towards their destination, day was steadily transitioning into night. The sun drew closer and closer towards the far off horizon, beginning to pain the skies in vibrant hues of purple and orange. "Well, I think that now would be a better time than any to start setting up camp. We should get a good fire started before the sun fully sets." she said, turning to adress the rest of the group. She still wasn't sure how she felt about half of them, besides the fact that they were strange in more ways than one. In any case, there surely wouldn't be a dull moment with all of them around, and Cecilia was a little hesitant to admit that she was looking forward to the rest of their travels together.

She slowed her horse as she looked for a place suitable for camping the night. It didn't take her long to find a place that was sheltered, relatively flat and even. Cecilia rode her horse off the path and towards the alcove, before swiftly dismounting and tying the horse in a quick release knot around a tree. She waited for the rest of the group to make their way over as she began unloading some of the supplies that they had taken with them.

Quietly beside her, she soon noticed Mara had taken to helping unload. The dark horse the girl had chosen was tied neatly nearby, happily grazing. The girl had barely made any sound as she began her work and only gave a small, shy, smile at Cecilia when they made eye contact. Mara laid out a hankercheif and from her pockets, she produced a small mound of dandelion greens and a few handfuls of blackberries she had apparently found as they rode. She had noticeably lingered in the back as the group rode, before cantering ahead again, fast, with an unusually pleased expression on her face as she trotted around the group. Mara popped a berry into her mouth, looking contented and offered some with an extended palm to Cecilia.

She took one of the berries and rolled it over in her palm, her mind somewhere else before she spoke, "You know, I hope you don't take anything I said prior to heart. It'd be apt to call it...an act of sorts, and I don't wish for your own perception of myself to be marred by my occasional two-faced nature." She paused, slipping the berry into her mouth. "I am, of course, refering to what I said earlier when we were dining with the king. However, I can't promise that I won't say something to that effect again." Satisfied with herself, Cecilia returned to unloading, taking the time to pick out a nice area shaded by the surrounding branches and trees before laying down her bedroll.

Mara seemed to absorb all of what the woman said and nodded, though her expression did not reflect either belief or disbelief of her words. She also continued unloading and preparing the camp.

Ragnar had been minding his own business for the duration of the trip. While he had enjoyed talking to his companions, it had been nice to spend hours inside his own head. He'd thought about their journey, which route to take and whereabouts they should stop to rest along the way. It would take them about a fortnite, if his calculations weren't off by much.

"This is a nice spot." He offered to Cecilia with a nod as he rode his large horse into the space that would be their camp for the night. Ragnar dismounted with a loud thud and patted his horse before tying it to a tree. The wind sent soft breezes through the trees into their camp and it was mild and gentle. Ragnar placed his bedroll on the ground against a huge log. "I'll go get some firewood." He paused for a second and looked around at everyone before leaving. He got out an axe from among his possessions and went into the woods.

As much as he was used to wearing his plate armor, it was nice walking around with only minimal armor to weigh him down, axe in hand and cutting firewood. Ragnar was pleased with the company he was in. “I’ll help,” Garos added, finishing his own knot around a nearby tree. He gave Suledin a final pat on the neck and rolled one of his shoulders, joining Ragnar’s side. He, at least, seemed to know what firewood to look for, and began scraping off large sections of bark from a speckled tree, before tucking it underneath his arm and setting about to find more suitable material. A small smile tipped the side of his lips up. He seemed pleased with the arrangement. Comfortable, even. He worked in silence, though occasionally his gaze could be felt.

Within a few moments the camp was set up and the fire was sparked, catching on the wood, twigs and sticks until it started to grow into a fully blazing fire that lit up the ever darkening space. Before settling in the for the night, Cecilia spent a few moments writing down in great detail everything that had occured up until then; including the meeting with the king, matter-of-fact descriptions of her travelling companions, and a meticulous drawing of the mark that had embed itself into her wrist. Only after she was pleased with her notes did she finally curl into her bed roll and allow herself to fall asleep, seemingly at peace despite the inevitable danger that awaited all of them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Phaedra Mithalvarin
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Phaedra laid on her back in the overly plush bed, a light sheet draped over her bare body. Her hands ran across the silk fabric that covered her as she sighed. Phaedra never liked the way silk felt upon her skin, it made her feel like she was going to slip right out of the bed. She couldn't remember the last time she laid in a bed that was softer than a woman's bosom. He probably liked it that way. Lord Salvator Reed was a noble, but that was a lose term. A young man thrust into responsibilities and politics far before he was ready at the death of his father. He tried too hard. He was a peacock, not a Lord. With titles brought power, power and money. Both of which he hungered for. He used it to furnish his home and keep his bed warm, but neglected his duties.

It came as no surprise that someone reached out to the Shadow Courtesans in regards to a noble like him. It was an easy job, especially when Lord Reed welcomed anything with perky breasts and a friendly smile into his bed. To be honest, Phaedra hated how easy the job was. It seemed far more suited for a novice Courtesan rather than herself. But it was the only job in Highspring and money was money. Especially when she wondered if she was going to have to spend half of her take on milk of the poppy just to knock the guy out.

She lost track of how long she had been lying there, staring up at crimson velvet curtains that were fastened in a haphazard canopy above the bed. He didn't last long either. For a man that chases women like a hound chases a fox, she would have thought his endurance might have matched. But instead a majority of her night had been her waiting for the bastard to pass out. It was over an hour before he stopped trying to kiss on her and rolled over in the bed. As she lay there she could feel her eyes grow heavy, threatening the illusion she held over her appearance to fade. Phaedra would prefer him to fall asleep on his own so she'd be the girl that slipped away, but if he didn't pass out soon she'd opt for a more straight forward and abrasive approach.

Then finally, the ridiculous Lord began to snore so loud that it made the bed rumble. Phaedra quickly sat up, tearing the silk sheet from her body and tossed it over on the sleeping noble. As she stood up and her bare feet padded along the cold stone floor, she let the illusionary magic slowly dissipate. The long, straight hair raised up her back as the curls weaved through it, brightening the black locks to a bright crimson. While the rich olive skin faded, her own freckled porcelain skin shined through while the mark of the Shadow Courtesans appeared upon her back.

As quickly as she could manage, Phaedra gathered her clothing that was scattered about the Lord's chambers. Her hands fumbled with the blouse as she turned it right-side out, then slipped it over her head. The tunic was light and too big for her. It very well might have belonged to Salvator, but she could hardly care. It covered her, for the most part. The V neck was lower than her own shirts, but the laces kept it closed, well enough, so that nothing was revealed beyond her own cleavage.

She cursed under her breath as wiggled her way back into her leather trousers which always seemed more difficult to get on rather than off. Phaedra swiftly tucked the ends of the blouse into the hem of her pants before she shoved her feet into her knee high boots. When it came to her corset, she never put it on properly but with only her own hands she wasn’t left with much of a choice. With the back laced up, Phae wrapped it around her torso and began to lace and tighten the font.

She finished tying the laces of her corset as she paced around the room, feeling as though she had forgotten something. Phaedra felt naked even fully clothed. Her hands ran over her torso, searching for what wasn’t there. Then she recalled stashing her weapons near the border of the Lord’s home to avoid them being confiscated or herself looking like an assassin.

Phaedra sighed, hating being without her affects as she snaked her way around the bed toward the large window. She lifted the latch and pushed the windowpanes outward. She stepped up onto the ledge, grasping the wall above as she leaned forward to gauge the distance to the ground. Two stories, maybe three? She could always put the illusion back up and saunter her way out of Lord Reed’s room… But she would be searched or who knows what else, and Phaedra was not in the mood to deal with that.

The red head stepped down off the ledge back into the room and dug around in her satchel. After a moment, she pulled out a long rope with a pre-tied loop on one end. She knelt down by the foot of the bed and wrapped the rope around its leg. She slipped the loose end through the loop and pulled it taught. The bed was giant, no doubt solid wood but she still wonder if it was enough to hold her own weight. She grabbed ahold of the footboard and with all her might she tried to move it, but it didn’t budge. With a sigh, she then threw the tail end of the rope out the window.

Phaedra made her way back over to the sleeping Lord and squatted down beside him. She took his right hand and gave it a wiggle to make sure he was out. When he didn't wake, she grabbed ahold of his signet ring and pulled it free of his index finger. Pinched between the tips of her thumb and index finger, Phae raised the ring, inspecting it. Gold, of course, and huge, it was heavier than any jewelry she had ever owned and at least 2 sizes bigger than any of her fingers. Intricately engraved in the top was a phoenix, the sigil of the Reed family. Although expensive, it was evident Salvator didn’t care too much about this family heirloom. It scuffed, being to tarnish and remnants of wax remained in the insets of the signet.

As she stood up, Phaedra took the ring and tucked it in her corset between her breasts, hoping that if she is caught and searched it still wouldn’t be found. She took a step toward the window but stopped, and pivoted on her heals, turning back to face the Lord once again. Instead she moved toward his nightstand and rifled through the drawers until she found his purse, quite heavy with gold. She smirked slightly as she tossed the bag in the air and caught it. "For the trouble," Phae said as she tucked the gold away in pouch on her hip.

Once her pouch was fastened shut, Phaedra climbed up onto the ledge and grabbed ahold of the rope. She looked back at the sleeping Lord. "Was it good for you?" She asked with a smirk before she slowly and carefully backed herself out the window and began to descend down the side of the stonewall. It was slippery from a mix of moss and dew that clung to the stone. More than once she lost her footing and if it weren’t for her firm grasp she would have had a nasty encounter with the earth below. But once Phae was close enough to the ground, she released her hold and landed with a thug in a squatting position. She froze upon standing, hearing voices come from a nearby window. Staying low and quiet she moved among the shadows against the wall until she was beneath the windowsill.

”Has there been any word?” A deep voice asked.

”Nothing. No ravens have returned, nor refugees arrived. When word of what passed in Oakheart reached Highspring we prepared to receive refugees by the dozens… But not a word.”

Inaudible whispers and paper shuffling came from in the room, followed by a long silence.

”None of the guard will go, no matter how much gold we offer them. I can only hope that being on an island will keep us out of harm’s way.”

Phaedra’s attention was drawn elsewhere as distant voices and footsteps could be heard growing closer to her location. Unable to stay and listen further, she pushed off the wall and ran crouched among the darkness. She continued along, ducking behind wagons or barrels and moving in the shadows of the guards footsteps until she made her way off his land.

It didn’t take her long to find the rotten tree off the shore of a nearby creek. Hidden in the hollow was her assortment of knives wrapped in leathers. Relieved to have her blades intact and on her, Phaedra took her time putting each belt, strap and knife in its proper place on her. All the while her mind kept toiling over the few lines she heard exchanged about Oakheart.

She slowly walked over to the edge of the water and crouched down. Her fingers diligently pulled a necklace from her pouch. It was nothing extravagant, a simple piece of carved marble in the shape of a rose on a leather cord. Phaedra’s thumb rain across the rose as it brought back memories of its original owner, her late friend, Veela. She then carefully untied the necklace and slipped the newly acquired signet ring on the chain to be sure it wasn’t lost. After retying it, she placed the necklace over her head, but continued to cup the charm in her palm.

It took her awhile to remember why Oakheart made a tinge of worry knot up in her gut. But after a moment of silence by the water it came back to her. Rebekka. Another woman who had been with the Courtesans for little over a year got her first big contract… And it was in Oakheart. Phaedra took the job in Highspring to be close to Rebekka, just in case of any unforeseen circumstances, like most veteran Courtesans did. She hadn’t been sent word to go and aid the novice, but after what she heard, how could she not go.

Phaedra spent most of the night by the river, sharpening her blades and mulling over the words she overheard. She had no idea what she was about to get herself into but the fact that guards couldn’t be paid to go there didn’t help her unease. But before she could talk herself out of it, she gathered her things and made her way to the nearest port.

Traveling took her the better part of two weeks, but with the aid of Salvator’s gold, Phaedra at least got her own cabin on the ship. She wasn’t much for the luxuries of nobility, but she never liked the idea of sleeping in a hammock. The rest of the journey she went by foot, preferring to avoid the wondering and nosey gazes of others. It seemed the closer she got to the village the less people she saw and the larger the knot in her stomach grew.

It’s safe to say she had no idea what to expect and upon arriving to Oakheart… It definitely wasn’t what she fell upon. The village was completely decimated. Not a home or brick still stood. Whatever remained was ash among the rubble or tarnished with soot. Some places Phaedra could still see small streams of smoke elevating from the debris. Her heart sank and she was frozen in place, unable to move. She thought that maybe the village was raided and seize by the Orcs. That she would have to sneak past dozens of them to help Rebekka… She would have preferred that.

Phaedra should have turned around and left at that moment, but part of her couldn’t let go of the little sliver of hope that still remained. She slowly tip toed her way through the rubble, looking around for any signs… of life. But the farther she wondered into the village the more she felt the pit in her stomach grow. There were no foot prints coming or going. No one had left… And no one had been there. How could no one have traveled here to see if there were survivors?

Her searching quickly came to an end when she saw a shoe beneath a plank of wood. A deep sigh escaped her lips as she lowered herself to her knees. It took Phaedra what felt like ages to build up the courage to lift the piece of wood and reveal the charred red shoe. She knew it was hers the moment she saw it… The same shoes she lent to Rebekka for her first contract. As she held what remained of it in her hand, something farther beneath the wood caught her eye.

She set down the shoe and dug through the debris, revealing a strange stone tablet seemingly unharmed by everything that transpired around it. Phaedra held it in her left hand while using her right to wipe dirt and ash from its surface. Slowly the foreign markings in the stone became visible. Her brows furrowed as she looked it over, never seeing anything like it before in her life.

Out of nowhere a blinding pain shoots up her arm. Phaedra winces, doubling over, the tablet falling from her grip as her left hand moves to grasp her right wrist. Spots quickly form in her vision as everything around her starts to feel like it is spinning. ”What the f—“ her voice trails off as her eyes roll back in her head and she collapses unconscious in a pile of debris.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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He rubbed his eyes again. The horse walked at a pace so pleasant it threatened to lull him back to sleep. Ragnar sighed and cleared his throat loudly. He shook his head and sniffed, breathing in the fresh, crisp morning air. They had woken up with the sun. During the days they had been on the road, their little group had become better and better - meaning faster and faster - at setting up camp and packing it down again. They could be on the road rather quickly by now. Ragnar was pleased with that. Their company had been pleasant enough as well, conversations seemed to come easier by now. This meant that the evenings around the fire had not been as dull as he might have feared. Now that they were an hours ride away from Oakheart, the general demeanour and atmosphere seemed to dim and become more and more serious with each mile.

The sun painted vibrant colours on the morning sky, but they seemed less powerful and clear than usually. The air felt thicker here, than it had miles back in the woods. Something eerie and uncomfortable settled in his stomach and Ragnar furrowed his brows, considering what they might face when they reach the village. If anything at all. They had taken the road north-west from Fellmark to the northern tip of the Hailwater Bay, wherefrom they had proceeded due north towards Oakheart. Now that they were going to be there within the hour, all the things that had retreated unnoticed to the back of his head, came back with sudden urgency.

Ragnar sighed again and fixed his eyes on the horizon ahead, rolling his shoulders as he usually did when danger approached.




The closer they got the thicker the air seemed. It was a mixture of smoke and something else. Something he couldn't quite define yet. It was easy to tell that they were approaching the right village, as the area surrounding became more and more desolate and abandoned. It felt colder as well, like someone had wrapped a blanket around him that they had just pulled out of the sea. Ragnar did not like the feel of this place, but tried to push it to the back of his mind and focus.

The group passed a cluster of trees on the road and Ragnar immediately spotted a man by the roadside. He was picking Blane's Tongue. He was already looking in their direction as he must have heard them down the road. He looked wary at all of them, but didn't say anything. Ragnar stopped his horse in front of him and returned the stare. This went on for a good few seconds before the man shifted his weight and spoke.

"Greetings, travellers."

"Greetings." Ragnar replied with a nod of his head. "We mean you no harm." The last bit was added with a dismissing wave - the man seemed on edge.

"Lots of folks say that..." The man seemed to relax after the words had left his mouth. "Pardon me good sirs-" His eyes moved to those of the group of female gender. "And ladies... Surely you'll forgive an old man? The recent evil up in Oakheart has not endeared any of us local folk to strangers."

"All is forgiven. But tell me, howcome you're here picking flowers by the roadside when everyone else has left? You are the only living thing we've seen for a mile or two." Ragnar asked.

"Aye." The man produced a flower from a satchel that hung at his hip. "Blane's Tongue. Only place it grows for miles is this here road. Need it for Mellowtea. Soothes the nerves." He added. "What happened has everyone fidgeting, I'll tell ya. Terrible that. True evil, that's what I think-"

The man stopped talking and looked the group over again. "God's blessings, you're not going there are ya?"

"We have business there." He realized quickly how official that sounded. "Relatives who's fate we'd like to know."

He looked terrified and like he was going to throw himself on his knees to beg them, but regained his composure after a while. "You'll find nothing but death and destruction there, lad." He looked at them. "All of you!" And with an almost irritated expression, he waved them on. "Bah! Go on. I won't stop ya. Go on and may you found your kin."

Ragnar looked back at the group and then at the man, nodding at him. "And may you and yours find peace."




The road ahead was barren and the man was the only one they would see until they made the entrance to the city. Wisps of smoke could still be seen vary rarely. The smell in the air was still there - as was the cold feeling. Ragnar stopped his horse and turned to face his companions. He dismounted and tied his horse to a fence post, drawing his sword.

"The road splits into three ahead, I say we do the same? I'll take the main road with one other person, the rest of you cover the other two roads and we'll meet in the town center?" Ragnar waited and hoped they would agree.

Death. It smells like death. He suddenly realized. But not in the same way he was used to. It didn't smell like a battlefield or the infirmary tents or a sickhouses. It smelled like death, but something masked the scent. Something he had never smelled before. It sent a cold shiver down his spine and the village was entirely quiet.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy Character Portrait: Phaedra Mithalvarin
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Time was always somewhat of a problem for Callion. Considering he would slip in and out of consciousness at the drop of the hat and sometimes never know it, he couldn't tell if they had been riding for days or simply a couple of hours. They had set up camp a few times, during which he had scoured the landscape to find any kind of alchemical reagents he might be able to use for potions or healing salves later on. The nights passed as they usually did, either incredibly slowly or with what appeared to be a snapshot to sunrise. His hallucinations and dreams weren't always elaborate affairs, sometimes he would fall asleep into nothing and simply wake up with an unknown amount of time having passed. Still, for whatever it was worth, the group seemed to meld together well enough that there weren't any outbursts or arguments during the few...days worth of riding? Regardless, Callion had been relying on his horse to simply stay with the group as his hands combed over one of his books again. With the threat of death and undeath surrounding their target location, he had taken the time to look through his spell list to deal with such afflictions. Granted, there were more powerful options at his disposal, but if he had the choice he wouldn't use them. He didn't bother to look up from his notes until he had taken notice that his horse had stopped of its own accord. Were they setting up camp again? Looking up, he saw that Ragnar was talking with a villager of sorts who appeared to be gathering a herb. Blane's Tongue? Made a decent tea, minor medicinal properties. Had Callion more time, he would have grabbed a few for himself, but it seemed like they had gotten whatever information was worth getting out of the man and were moving on.

Now that his head wasn't stuck in his book, Callion's eyes drifted upwards and forwards, towards their destination and the sky which had slight billows of smoke protruding through it. The temperature seemed to drop, and for Callion, he could feel the slight twinge of magical essence. Of what, he couldn't discern, but it was clear something unnatural had happened here. Callion closed his book and placed it into his satchel as his eyes scanned the horizon for any hint or sign of what this could possibly be.




A short time later and they arrived at a literal crossroads. As the Soldier hooked his horse to the post, Callion did the same, peering towards the village. As Ragnar spoke, indicating he would be taking the middle road with one other person and they should split up to cover more ground, Callion agreed as he started walking towards the left most street. "A solid enough start." Callion stated before walking towards the left road, his staff in hand. "Be sure to take in whatever information you can, but be cautious." Callion looked to the others for a moment. "Magic lingers in the air, potentially a curse but I can't be certain. If you do notice anything unusual happening to you, be sure to find me immediately, I'll want to take notes as whatever the spell is slowly overtakes your body." Callion turned towards the left road once more, taking confident strides in that direction. "If anyone wishes to join me, they are more than welcome." Without waiting for any kind of response, Callion continued walking until he had hit the outskirts of the village proper.

The buildings were partially burned, the road (if it could be called that) was little more than a mud pile fit only for a pig's bath. Smoke rose absentmindedly from a couple of the hovels as a number of bodies appeared to litter the area ahead of him. He couldn't tell what had killed them from this distance, but he was noticing that blood seemed to be absent from much of his surroundings. If it had been as violent as the decor would suggest, he had been expecting a veritable river of crimson to be flowing. Instead he was left with a mystery. That was perfect, after so many days...one day of travelling? Bah, after so much time spent on a horse with only his books he had read a dozen times to keep his mind preoccupied, he was excited for the chance to stretch his mental muscles. It was then that a presence was felt behind him, and he turned to notice a meek little Mara standing there as if she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. "What are you doing all the way back there child? Come, let us walk the road once travelled together.". Child? He was not that much older, hell to many other priests and wizards, he was practically a child himself. Old habits from his days as a priest die hard he supposed.

Mara seemed to move even more slowly than usual.

It was clear she had heard Callion as she gave him a strangely wide-eyed expression and nodded at his voice. Yet, she still trailed behind. She had never seen a village this destroyed before. As if walking through a graveyard (and possibly she was, as surely corpses rested here, trapped beneath rubble.) Mara gingerly walked after Callion. Cautious of footing. Ears straining for any sounds of life. She too had heard the elder on the road, explaining that this would be what they would find. Still, she had never thought it would be...quite this awful.

There was a smell about the air she couldn't place. Mara sniffed deeply, almost like an animal might, as she tried to pinpoint the scent. She knew the smell of death, as she had often helped her father slaughter animals for dinner..but somehow this was different.

"Callion...do you smell that?" She asked softly. "It's death..but...something else too...something...strange..." anxiously Mara picked at her apron. "Also...do you suppose that smoke is from the blue fires we were told about?"

"Magical essence lingers on the wind." Callion answered as his hand scraped up against a burnt piece of wood, feeling the brittle nature of it and noticing a lack of heat. The flames that had burned it had long since died, yet the smoke remained. The ash died his skin a dark grey as he rubbed his fingers, bringing it up to his nose and sniffing it. He could apply a scrying spell, but there was no telling what kind of magical interference was happening in this village. He would prefer not to use his abilities until he had a clearer picture as to what was going on. Remembering that Mara had asked a secondary question, he swiped his hand in the air to get rid of the ash still clinging to his skin. "It's possible. It's also possible a normal fire caused this damage as there are no indications of magical tampering yet...well aside from the aforementioned essence." Callion continued forward, and was almost drawn into a trance of figuring out a puzzle before stopping and looking behind him once more. "I realize I'm no muscle bound soldier clad in white armor, but I require you to walk closer to myself Mara. There were reports of the walking dead, and I would hate for one of them to grab you while I was otherwise preoccupied."

Mara's expression was something between frightened and harassed. She was well aware of reports, she had heard the king as well. But it seemed imprudent to hurry across the wreckage. She didn't want to trip over something..or worse..someone..

"Yes..but..the footing is a little unst--"

As she began to lean across a burnt out board, her fear seemed to come to life. There was a snapping sound and some of the rubble that had smoldered nearby collapsed beneath her. Mara threw out her arms to steady herself, hobbling backwards to avoid the new gaping hole, some burned out cellar..it seemed. She stepped unsteadily backwards and felt something soft and fleshy under her boots. She yelped, falling backwards onto her rear in her surprise and scrambled backwards away from whatever had tripped her. What was it?! The undead? A corpse?

To some relief, she realized it was an arm...an arm still gracefully attached to a woman. She was mostly covered by rubble, but it seemed somehow she was not crushed. A small, unstable cave, of sorts, had been formed over the woman. Cautiously, Mara inched forward, slowly reaching out a finger. Was she dead? She poked the womans hand, trembling, expecting the hard coldness of death to greet her touch. Instead, it was warm and still soft. Mara's eyes went wide and she crawled closer.

"Callion....?" She called out to the wizard. "I..I think this woman is still living..."

Mara leaned over the woman's face, noting the obvious bump on her head. A bit of blood. Quickly, the girl's eyes scanned the woman's body, seeking any other obvious wounds..but could see none. She also could not feel breath though or see her chest rising and falling..as one asleep would do.

"M..miss? Hello?" Mara said softly to the woman. Hoping she would stir. She did not.

Mara sat on her knees beside the woman, putting her head to her chest, listening. It was a little tougher than she expected though as the woman's..ample bosom...made Mara have to shift awkwardly..they were practically smothering her. Ah! But there. Yes, there was a heart beat. Slow. Very slow. And breathing..very shallow. She may be near death.

She lifted her head to call the wizard again.

"She's breathing! She's got a bump on her head, but she's still alive...but her heart is slow.."

Mara fumbled in her satchel, pulling out some herbs and bandages. Gingerly, she squeezed the herbs til the juices ran, smelling strongly of the earth, and began to tend to the woman's head wound. She had only ever done this on herself before...and she knew if it was not gently done, then it would sting.

It would have almost been comical if the situation weren't nearly as serious as it had the potential to be. On cue, there was some sort of snapping followed by a yelp, and Callion looked back to see Mara fall over something. Callion paused in his forward stride to keep watch long enough to make certain that there wasn't something more sinister waiting for the nearly prone form of Mara, before she seemed to get curious and call out to the wizard. A survivor? That would make things so much easier towards figuring out exactly what had happened here. He strolled forward as Mara did her best nurse impression and went about seeing to the woman's health. As he got closer, and managed to get a better look at the wounded party, he was pleased to see that she didn't appear to be too severely injured. In fact, comparable to the building that threatened to squish her, she was relatively unharmed. Why was she out cold then? Did whatever magical entity that had passed through this place cause this? It was at this point that Callion was really regretting his internal promise to not overtly use magic here in case there were other factors in play. Regardless, he stood over Mara, either like a cold teacher or domineering statue depending on your point of view before a slight twitch of his nose broke the facade. "Good, she appears to be well...relatively speaking. We should be able to get the story as to what happened here in short order."

Mara gently tied off the bandage around the woman's forehead, not too tightly and in a neat bow beside her left ear. She nodded to Callion's suggestion.

"I suppose she may have answers...maybe.."

Mara said softly, still focused on the woman. Mara knelt behind the woman's head, pulling the unconscious lady's head into her lap, like a pillow. She griped the woman's sleeve and tugged at her arm, bringing it in closer to her body so she wouldn't be overly sore when she woke. That was when she noticed her wrist..

"Oh...she's like us..." Mara murmured softly staring at the marking on the lady's wrist in surprise. "Look, Callion. It's the same, isn't it?" Mara said putting her mark beside the one she found on the woman.

"It would seem that way..." Callion noted absentmindedly as he bent down to get a closer look. Grabbing the unconscious woman's hand, he turned it over as if he was inspecting some kind of dangerous vial filled with something that might explode. He rubbed a finger against it, confirming that it was indeed some form of tattoo or marking. "Doesn't appear to be painted or drawn on... I believe it's safe to assume that she is as we are." Callion nodded as he spoke, standing to look at the town once more. "If that's the case...and we're supposedly the heralds of the apocalypse..." Callion let the thought slip as he peered through the devastation that was most likely wrought by magical means on a scale that was not small. His eyes narrowed as he started pouring through his own mind, attempting to collect his thoughts into a coherent picture for him to start working from.

It was only a moment later that he heard what sounded like scraping, and peered over to see an arm reaching out from the hole in the ground. Callion stared at it for a moment, noticing the skin was peeling off in places, replaced with a dull white sheen of bone and murkey red of rotting meat. "I was wondering how long it would take for them to notice our presence." Callion stated, as if he had expected this from the very beginning. True, he was told that the dead walked this village sized graveyard, but he had no idea of telling where they were. Callion wandered closer as the zombie managed to pull its severely burned and rotting head past the lip of the hole leading to...what Callion could only assume was some sort of basement or cellar. It chomped slightly, its entire jawline a mixture of bone and dried blood, with empty eyeball sockets and seared flesh where applicable. "Interesting." He knelt down just out of arm's reach of the zombie, which continued its slow climb upwards, snarling at the wizard as he took his staff and poked at the flesh. "Decay, flesh was cooked...burn marks on the bone...the heat must have been intense or it was burning far longer than we believed." Callion seemed to lose himself in his thoughts once more, forgetting that Mara and the woman were right behind him. "Standard fare really, shame. I was hoping for something slightly more interesting than your typical corpse monkey." Callion stated as he took the bottom of his staff and tapped the deadman on the forhead. There was a slight pause filled by a 'pop' as the back of the zombie's head burst outwards and it fell back into the hole. Standing up and peering over the metaphorical abyss, Callion looked down to see that was only the first of what appeared to be several deadmen peering up at him, each one without eyes and missing flesh in several different places. "Must have gotten trapped, turned the cellar into a steamhouse."

Callion turned back towards Mara and the woman, pausing for a moment before remembering they had been there the entire time. He wanted to push forward and investigate, but now they had a wounded party and the best course of action would be to take her out of the village, but he couldn't send Mara alone in case there were more of those creatures hiding just out of view. A compromise would be to take the woman with them to the center, meet with the rest after having gathered whatever clues they could get. "Are you capable of carrying her?"

Mara had taken on the frozen rabbit form again. Clutching the prone woman tightly,her mouth slightly a gape with fear, she was aware only of the small, high pitched rasping that was inexplicably escaping her mouth. Not really a scream. More like a trapped scream.

Until Callion directed a question at her, she thought she may be stuck that way forever until these..walking corpses got her...

Watching the wizard easily take one of the creatures out brought feeling back into her legs. She nodded vigorously at his words and with a strength born of back-breaking labor, hauling wood and stone, she hefted the unconscious woman onto her back, as if the woman were no heavier than a sack of grain.

"I...I can carry her..." she croaked, her voice dry with fright. "But I can't fight this way.." or at all, she thought...but did not voice.

She imagined that she might look astounding with this woman riding piggyback. Easily, Mara was half this woman's size. Like watching a grown adult ride a miniature pony.

"W..what do we do?"

"We can't take her back, because no one is there to take care of her and I'm not giving up the opportunity to investigate the potential of this place. We can't leave her here, because it was already a miracle that the dead hadn't found her, so the only option left is to take her with us and hope she wakes up along the way." Callion stated, not bothering to address the portion of her being able to fight, mainly because she had made it evident several times prior that she was simply not a fighter. He understood and in some ways was sympathetic, but he was caught at a crossroad of understanding a moral obligation and the intense urge of his professional curiosity. With Mara carrying a body through the streets, there would be no option for remaining somewhat stealthy and avoiding unnecessary conflict. Callion gave a sigh and flicked his fingers. A small red orb appeared hovering in his hands. "Come, we'll need to make our way to the village center, where we'll meet the others." Callion tossed the orange ball into the cellar, walking back towards Mara before snapping his fingers and turning back towards Mara.

At the same moment, the cellar exploded, heaving slight flames and debris into the air. "Oh, and I mean it this time now Mara...stay close." Callion stated, taking his staff and tapping it into the ground. With a slight glow from the orbs inside the staff, a white translucent dome surrounded the two of them, and as Callion started to walk, the dome moved with him.

Phaedra was in a lethargic haze as the murmurs of movement and talking seemed far in the distance, coming back to her like reliving the moments of unconsciousness before she woke. Were people approaching? Should she hide? She tried to will her body to move. Get up. Get out of sight, she told herself, but her body did not cooperate. Maybe it was a dream? Or was she paralyzed? Her mind felt conscious but her eyelids were lead.

At one moment she felt a weight on her chest, not heavy like it was trying to suffocate her, but gentle. The sent of feint roses, travel and sweat softly overwhelmed her senses. Something about it was comforting and innocent. A woman? Then there was a grasp of her wrist. Callused fingers touched the soft skin where Phaedra remembered the strange mark appearing. And then her head was cradled, resting upon a soft surface that made her wonder if this was the kind of comfort a mother would give their child. It was a foreign feeling that made her nostalgic for something she never experienced.

Then Phaedra had an odd sensation of weightlessness. Was she dead? Something carried her but she couldn’t tell if it was to death or beyond, or someone moved her body while her mind was away. She felt a breeze sweep rose scented hair across her face. As a reflex she wanted to brush it away, yet her body did not listen… Though a finger twitched. Then a loud explosion startled her awake, jolting her body as her mind and consciousness coincided.

Sensory overload washed over her in a tidal wave. Where was she? Who was this woman carrying Phaedra on her back? And who was the wizard? She raised her head from the brunette’s shoulder, her eyes wide as she took in her environment. Her gaze fixated on the surrounding ruins and it all came back to her, knocking the wind out of her in an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. At the shock, Phaedra sat herself up from the woman’s back, yanking up her sleeve to stair down at the fresh mark that plagued her skin. It wasn’t a dream?

Phaedra’s body was thrown off balance at her sudden movements. Her legs were still held in the woman’s grasp but her body tipped backwards until her back slammed into the ground with a slight thud.

Mara suddenly felt the weight on her back shift. The muscles of the woman that had before been limp like a sleeping child, went stiff. Then the weight pulled backwards, knocking her into the now struggling woman. Mara yelped in fright, tightening her grip in fear they would flounder into the cellar or the living dead.

"Wait! Wait!" Mara rasped.

Still in slight disbelief, Phae tugged the sleeve over the mark and closed her eyes for a long moment. She pulled back the fabric again to see it still staring back at her. ”Fuck,” she cursed under her breath as her left hand quickly covered the damned mark.

Images of everything before her blackout flashed through Phaedra’s mind until it all came back to the strange tablet she found. She had questions… Too many to count between the mark, the village and the convenient people who just happened to find her. But if she wanted to be any closer to some semblance of answers she needed that damned thing. Phaedra quickly tore into her satchel, sifting her hand through the contents but it wasn’t there. She slipped her feet from the woman’s hold, trying to be quick but gentle enough not to hurt her.

Mara felt the woman tugging her feet from her grip. She didn't fight her. And Mara watched in vague horror as she fled.

"C..callion?! She's awake..and running away..." Mara said to the wizard as she scrambled to her feet. Still, she minded his words. Freed from her burden, she inched closer to Callion. A trembling hand gingerly gripping the back of his robe, like a lost child.

"It's dangerous...shouldn't we go help her? I didn't feel any weapons on her..." Mara whispered, looking anxiously in the direction the woman fled. "Please?" Mara asked turning round eyes to Callion. She knew he could probably feel her trembling, but with her other hand, she fished an arrow from her satchel. She was too shaken to fire it...but she could still hold it and strike. Her eyes flashed with a small determination. Callion looked back, seeing the pleading Mara and the makeshift weapon she had in her hand. With a calm movement, he lightly brushed her weapon hand down and made a slight swat at the hand that gripped the robe, momentarily forgetting about the woman currently running from them.

"It will be fine...and don't touch the robes, I would prefer to keep them as clean as possible...despite our current predicament."

Mara winced away from Callion's swatting hand as if she'd been burned. She drew both hands together, gripping the arrow that had also been pushed aside and looked down. She should know better than to touch someone unbidden.

"Y..yes...sorry...I didn't intend to offend you..."
She suddenly felt smaller.

Phaedra hopped and skipped through the rubble trying to keep her footing light. Every few steps, she’d lose her balance as she grew dizzy from her head wound. Whenever she stumbled over, Phaedra would flounder back to her feet. She didn’t spare a glance backwards toward the other two to see if they were chasing after her, watching or leaving her behind. And honestly, she didn’t care.

When Phaedra saw the scorched shoe she lent Rebekka, she skid onto the ground. Her hands quickly started to sift through the debris. She froze where she was when she heard rustling in the rubble near by. As quietly as she could manage, Phae continued to search until she found the tablet and slid it into her sack. Regardless of the other two helping her, she didn’t know them and something made her apprehensive about sharing the weird tablet that gave her her mark. So to quickly cover up why she went back, she picked up the burnt shoe in her hand and stood up. The head rush made her sway before gaining some bit of control over her balance and started back toward the others.

With the new strangers in view, Phaedra adjusted her satchel on her shoulder, stepping through the remnants of the village. They both seemed quite on edge, which she didn’t understand. The place looked like hell but so far she hadn’t seen anything to warrant so much caution as a barrier and whatever the woman was holding. She moved passed the smoked cellar, paying it no mind. That was until there was a shifting noise behind her and before she could turn around something grabbed a hold of her ankle, pulling her to the ground.

Phaedra extended her hands to catch her weight as she fell. She rolled onto her back and became frozen in shock as… well, a dead man began to climb on top of her making grotesque guttural noises. She kicked and tried to break free but nothing made the thing budge. Her left forearm pressed against the undead’s chest, pushing back against it to keep their chomping teeth away from her face. Her right hand grabbed a hold of a small knife tucked in her corset and slammed it up through its jaw. And while that would stop any man, it was unfazed coming at her crazed and stronger.

a bolt of what appeared to be fire slammed into the creature's head, causing bits of bone, rotted flesh and what was left of the creature's brain to spray out the other side as it went limp on the stranger's body. Callion lowered his hand, a small red sigil disappearing as he did so, walking closer to the woman and making sure Mara was keeping in step with him. Eventually the barrier encompassed all of them, roughly ten feet in diameter as Callion knelt down to the woman. "Well if she's strong enough to struggle, then maybe she's strong enough to tell us what happened here..." Callion semi-asked, as if he was both talking to the women around him and himself at the same time while one of his hands reached towards hers and pointed at the mark that she had tried to cover up. "And why she's marked like us."

Mara followed Callion like a birdish shadow. Shyly, she began to offer a hand to the woman to assist her, but thinking better of it, she slowly withdrew it again. Instead, she clutched the arrow, looking meekly at her shoes.

"Are you ok, miss?" She murmured softly, though couldn't bring herself to look up from her feet again.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany
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The first to step forward was Callion. He was quick to offer his advice, which Ragnar appreciated. He was sure everyone else did. Eccentric as he might be, he would be valuable in a situation like this. He wasn't sure about the magical affinity of the other members of the group. Almost unnoticed, Mara crept along behind him as quiet as she usually was. His eyes lingered on her for a second. He briefly wondered why he found himself having a soft spot for this young woman.

Looking back to the rest of the group, he raised his arms slightly to either side, indicating that he was waiting for someone to step forward and join him. The wind rustled through the burnt trees, as if they were aware of their presence. As if they spoke their own language and warned each other of intruders. It didn't help alleviate the eerie feeling this place gave off. Silently, Ragnar reminded himself to not let his imagination get the best of him, but use his soldier's brain to be rational and remain wary.

Garos, too, seemed to watch as Callion and Mara disappeared down one of the cobblestone pathways. A strange smile played on his face, eyebrow flagged. Nearly all three directions looked the same, rubble and disarray. The smell of death lingered in the air, uncomfortable. It hung heavy around their shoulders. A sense of being watched seemed to hang there, as well. As if someone were studying them from afar. Though the feeling had no apparent source, from what they could tell, there was no one looking at them. At least, no one they could spot from their vantage point. It took him a moment before he seemed to remember himself, shaking his head and hooking his thumbs into the loops of his belt.

He made a humming sound in the back of his throat and joined Ragnar at his side, grin slipping into somewhat of a frown. “Don’t mind if I do,” he said softly, huffing against the breeze snaking its way through the trees, bent over the remains of houses and the pathway itself. It might’ve been pretty if it weren’t so… empty. A ghost-town of a place; lacking any heartbeat villages usually had. The familiarity, the dirt-smudged faces. All gone. Burnt to cinders. Blinking up at the smolder, his expression tightened before he cleared his throat, indicating that Ragnar take lead. His discomfort was clear to see, through the tension of his shoulders, to the glassiness of his unusual eyes.

“Place gives me the willies.”

He tapped Garos lightly on the shoulder and turned, starting down the middle road. Though not before he had given Cecilia and Thomas a nod and a glance toward the road on the right. It was the only remaining option and therefore their choice was already made for them. Personally, Ragnar was pleased with his partner but he couldn't help wondering if their strengths could have been allocated more efficiently. But that was too late now. They might as well get the task over with.


It was a conscious decision to wait with giving Garos a reply. Ragnar didn't want to say what he felt and thought in front of the others as it might discourage them. Some of them, at least. He looked around. As they headed into town, the scenery changed slightly. No less destruction around them though, no, on the contrary. Houses were collapsed and some still smoking. And those that still stood seemed about to follow suit. He sniffed and grimaced, flexing his hand. When they were out of earshot of the rest of the group, Ragnar grumbled.

"You're not the only one who's... unsettled by this place." Ragnar said. "The smell is thick but it's not the smell of a battlefield. It's death and.... Something else." And it was precisely that which sent a shiver up his spine. Precisely that which he couldn't put his finger on that was so terrifying. And still, that was the very nature of their task it seemed. None of them knew what to expect.

Abruptly, Ragnar stopped and looked down to his left. He took a few steps, close to the rubble of an almost burnt out building. Smoke still rose into the air, but it was something at his feet that had caught his attention. Ragnar kneeled down and turned over a fragment of wood. It was still smoking, but the embers in it weren't red or orange or yellow as one might expect. They were blue. Bright blue. Careful not to touch it, he dared still to hold his hand above it but felt no heat on his skin.

"Hmm..." He let out. "The wizard would be helpful here."

Garos’ countenance was unhurried, as if he’d seen things like this before, and wasn’t quite as affected. Though, at Ragnar’s touch, he quickly turned and followed along the path, joining him at his side, thumbs still stuck into his belt. Although his appearance appeared suave and slick… perhaps, of one who’s tongue was far more used to wagging in the streets, and far more with someone who was frequently involved. His outward nature appeared deceiving. He’d seen things like this before; that’s how it seemed. He regarded the scene with lidded eyes; absorbing. Taking it in not as one who’d never seen atrocities before, but as one who was used to violence, and tragedy.

He was patient with Ragnar’s response. He hadn’t interrupted nor added anymore reflection beyond what had been stated before. Maybe, he was used to waiting. Perhaps, he was used to this sort of companionship. Or else, none at all. Garos seemed to represent a mysterious type; all smiles, and laughs, but a roughness beneath the skin that was telling to those who knew where to look. Most likely, Ragnar had seen that sort before. Someone who’d witnessed the darkest parts of people; perhaps, partook in those dark things, as well. It was hard to say when someone had eyes as dark as night. When he smiled wide, and laughed as hard as he did, it was hard to tell.

“Something else,” he echoed softly. There was a puzzled look on his face, before it smoothed itself out. The tension in his shoulders hadn’t eased. For someone who had his thumbs hooked into his belt, it looked as if he’d snatch the large axe from his back in any moment. He cleared his throat once more, and gave his head a shake, “I’ve never seen anything like this. Ain’t no raid, that’s for sure.” How he knew that was anyone’s guess. His history, much like everyone else Ragnar had just met, was anyone’s guess. A pause, before he added, “Didn’t wanna say it back there, but don’t think anyone survive this.”

Garos almost walked into Ragnar’s back when he abruptly stopped. Though, he’d managed to hop out of the way and peek to his side, trying to see what it was exactly that he had seen. The rubble at their sides looked as if it held nothing of particular interest. Wreckage. Bereft of life. Smothering them with smoke that smelt like burning rubble and flesh alike; something else, too. Something that they couldn’t quite put their finger on. He joined him at his side, watching as he knelt down and held his hand aloft. Just above a peculiar piece of wood.

A laugh sounded, soft and frank. “You think this involves strange magics?” He scratched at his jawline, “Not sure what we’re looking for here, but I don’t think it’s anything we’re used to seeing.” Straightening his shoulders, he regarded Ragnar once more, smoothing his fingers through his hair, “You think we'll find anyone here?” It was clear that he didn't.

He stood back up, leaving the piece of charred, blue-glowing wood alone. He dared not touch it. Usually it was not fear but common sense that bid him avoid things like this, but this was different. It wasn't fear now either though, no, it was a deep sense of unease. So Ragnar let it be, but let his eyes linger for a moment as he stood at full height next to Garos again. The great orc had been mumbling as they went. Or maybe not mumbling, maybe Ragnar's attention had just been elsewhere.

"I would guess, yes. I have certainly never seen blue fire before." He sighed. The road took a slow turn left ahead, and even more than before, Ragnar felt like drawing his sword. There was no telling what they could encounter. His eyes met Garos' dark ones. Ragnar seemed to think for a moment before he shrugged. "Not likely." He said grimly, nodding toward the road ahead.

He began moving, hand resting on the hilt of his sword.

Garos eyed the piece of wood curiously, though he, too, maintained his distance. His eyes reflected the blueish light, crackling embers in the twisted knots of the wood. Unlike the peculiar wizard in their midst, it didn’t appear as if the tusked mercenary had any inkling towards magic—didn’t seem as if anyone else did, either. Though, it was clear that they didn’t know much about each other. Callion was, at least, very outspoken of his capabilities. He hadn’t been shy about using his skills in front of them, either. Besides, he looked the part. Slim as he was, decked in robes. What else could he be?

He tore his eyes away from the smoldering bits of the house, and dropped his hands from his sides. He made another soft sound in the back of his throat as he surveyed the area ahead. Halfway between a sigh and a grunt. The road twisted and led into something that resembled a square. As much of one as a small village like this would have anyhow. Most likely, there’d be a small, comfy inn at its core. A homey tavern. No longer, if this was anything to go by. He met Ragnar’s eyes and held his gaze for a moment before his mouth straightened into a line, eyebrows drawn together. "I'll be glad to set this place behind us."

If anyone had survived whatever this was… it was doubtful they’d stuck around long.

Garos began cautiously retracing his steps over the rubble. One of his hands reached back over his shoulder, unstrapping the leather fastenings that kept his axe properly strapped to his back. Once it slipped free, and he brought it to the forefront, he gave it a bounce between both hands and squinted ahead of them. He, at least, looked far more comfortable with the ridiculously large weapon in hand then he did before. He only continued moving when Ragnar joined him at his side.

Ragnar unsheathed his sword as well. The black, rippled steel seemed at home in this burnt down village. From time to time, it sounded like something shifted in the rubble. Ragnar couldn't make out if it was just debris crumbling or if it was movement caused by something alive.

...blue fire and the walking dead.

The words rang out in his head. It was like a prophecy. They had seen the blue fire, so one of the things had come true. He breathed deeply and let it out in a single, solid breath. They followed the road as it slowly turned into the town square. Here there were corpses. Charred ones that lay strewn out across the cobblestone. The stench made him grimace. It was as if the air was thicker here. But that was because of them. The dead. He had smelled it before.

He slowly approached and stopped next to what looked to be the remains of a woman. Her jaw was twisted wide open and her limbs seemed impossibly thin. He let her be and moved on, carefully letting his eyes move over each of them. In the center of the square there was a large well. As he approached this, he noticed that some of the corpses here were not burnt to a crisp.

"Garos." He called out and pointed with his sword to the pale, blueish corpse at his feet. "Unburnt." He added. "I don't know what to make of it." Ragnar went to the well and looked down. He didn't seem to know what he was looking for, but he thought he might as well.

"The-" As he turned around and spoke, an explosion ripped through the air and made him snap his head in its direction. A few seconds of silence passed. Then several corpses began to move. All unburnt.

Garos’ expression had soured upon seeing the charred remains. Blackened fingers clutching the air, frozen in place. Some looked as if they had tried to defend themselves from something… others were little more than torsos, husks of people who were gnawed at by flame. How had the fire even started? There were no indications; it even seemed as if someone in the village may have been the cause, if the lack of evidence was anything to go by. Raiders normally left something or someone behind in their wake. There’d been no battle here, certainly none that were left so clean.

Those scenes were made of grislier things; blood would paint the walls, not ash. Only fire remained. Kindling. Little more than ash blowing in the wind. The sickly sweet smell lingered in the air, unfamiliar but growing stronger as they walked through the rubble. The mercenary slowed in his steps and lingered a few paces at Ragnar’s back. Whether or not he’d seen anything was anyone’s guess, but he certainly seemed to feel on edge. He hefted the axe in his hands and caught it once more, ringing his fingers around the haft. It didn’t appear as if he was nervous. Anticipation, more like.

He hadn’t stopped to look at the woman like Ragnar had. Instead, he continued forward into the widening square. It might’ve been pretty once, under better circumstances. If it hadn’t been reduced to little more than skeletal remains of buildings; it’s trees razed to crooked spines, cracking off branches when the breeze proved too strong to bear its weight. Garos’ eyebrows drew together once more, as he raked his gaze over the nearby buildings; the corpses and ashen remains.

Garos’ head swung in Ragnar’s direction when he named was called. His gaze dropped down to the odd-looking corpse laying at his feet. Unburnt, as he said. Far different from those they’d come across so far. It’s pallor, veined and splotchy; skin papery and threaded like a leaf. From the look on his face, he certainly had never seen anything like that before. His lips pulled into a hard line as he stepped over a fallen posts that might’ve once been a fence, closing the distance between them.

He hadn’t made it far, before the explosion cracked in the distance. He, too, jerked towards the sound like a dog, halting his advance. The silence was overwhelming. Uncomfortable. Much like the stench that hung in the air. It didn’t take long for it to be interrupted. A low, drawn out moan came from one of the houses. Wooden slats shook and were pushed aside by ragged arms and legs. Pushing. Crawling. Lumbering up onto sickly legs. “T-those ain’t human,” it sputtered from his lips, as if he couldn’t quite believe his own words. Even so, his reaction was one of survival. Of facing something grotesque, and answering with violence.

Breaking into a forward lunge that quickly closed the distance between he and Ragnar, Garos howled something unintelligible. Watch out, maybe. Difficult to tell with all of the gargling mewls joining the eerie moaning of the corpses rising around them. His axe whipped through the air, swinging over his head in an arc, before it slammed into the neck of the closest corpse; it’s jaw snapping towards Ragnar’s ankle. Teeth clacking. The head rolled off to the side, a few feet away. He exhaled sharply and swung around, eyeing the ambling foes. "Blue fire and walking dead. Gulfin's arse, the King wasn't kiddin'."

Initially stunned by the speed at which the orc swung the axe, Ragnar did regain his composure. His sword flew from its sheath and he was ready as well. He studied the head of the creature as it rolled away. He stood at Garos' side and looked around them as more and more of the dead staggered toward them.

"Aim for the head?"

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Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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As they drew closer and closer to the village, Cecilia could feel the noticeable shift in the atmosphere. The sun seemed to dim, though no clouds covered its light, and there was a biting chill to the air. All things that otherwise would've gone unnoticed otherwise, but given the circumstances they stood out just enough to put her on edge, making her sit stiffly in her saddle as she scrutinized every inch of her surroundings. Since then it had gone passed the point of uncanny and was beginning to border on eldritch, but Cecilia focused herself on the goal in front of them. If there was blue fire and undead as described, it was only more reason to continue on and solve the enigma surrounding Oakheart, and perhaps figure out the meaning behind the mark that embed itself into her wrist. The older man that they had come across did little to shake her resolve, even as he spoke of this "evil" that had been plaguing the area.

Soon the one road would diverge into the three that all looked equally unwelcoming, and Cecilia remained on her horse as Ragnar spoke. She didn't fancy the idea of splitting up. There were so many ways that it could go wrong, that one group could easily be overwhelmed should there be danger while the others were left unaware. It was the very last thing that she would've recommended, but her words were caught in her throat as Callion had already started the trek down the path furthest to the left. Eccentric bastard. She grimaced as she dismounted her horse, leaving her staff behind and ensuring that everything was secure before tying it to the fence post as well. She watched as Mara soon followed Callion, trailing slowly behind him.

Why the two of them would ever be paired up together was lost on her, but she made no move to stop either of them.

Ragnar was the next to step forward, and Garos was close behind. After Ragnar gave a slight nod in their direction, they were off down the middle road, leaving Cecilia and Thomas to the road that went furthest to the right. She gave a heavy breath of resignation as she turned back to her horse and pulled out a piece of parchment that was supplied to her by the king before folding and stuffing it into a satchel that was strapped on her side. She was going to write down every detail of this town and whatever was plaguing it, undead be damned. Cecilia also took one of the many vials that she had packed in order to take samples of whatever had proved itself interesting while they were in the village. Thomas opted to leave his bow behind, given that the close quarters of the village would make it difficult to put it to good use, and instead took his short sword and dagger.

With irritation beginning to makes its way into the features of her face, she spoke to Thomas as she started down the only road left for them to take, "Well, I suggest you don't drag your feet if you want to keep up. I won't have you slowing me down." There was a harsh bite to her words, entwined with impatience and annoyance, that wasn't necessarily intended, but was present all the same.

"Whatever you say." he muttered, shoulders hunched, seemingly trying to make himself smaller, less visible. Whether Thomas felt slighted or not was a question left unanswered; he stayed as silent as he was since they had first met in the king's castle, and followed behind her without protest. She wasn't exactly wary of him even though he was a prisoner. In reality her main concern was that he wouldn't get himself killed in a fight. Still, the fact that he managed to get captured for whatever he did wasn't exactly helping his case.

As they continued down the decrepit roads, Cecilia couldn't help but think back to the slums where she was raised in Rinarwin. This village had the same air about it now; deject, derelict, a general sense that the world would be better off had the place not existed at all. It was painful to see that a village could be so easily reduced what could now be compared to a ghost town, and somewhere in all the debris there had to be a clue to as to who, or what, could've done this. As Cecilia and Thomas continued on the path into the village, there was clear evidence that there had been a fire that had burned and ate away at some of the buildings, leaving behind blue embers that were still burning weakly, but just enough to still be glowing.

It was clear that magic, or something that had similar qualities, had been involved. After all, she had never heard nor read of any naturally occurring fire that left behind blue embers. But the fact that some embers were still alight meant that the fires must've occurred fairly recently. Well, there was always the chance that the possible magical qualities of the fire kept the embers burning, and it wouldn't be too far fetched to assume that fires could start up again if whoever orchestrated this whole thing deemed it necessary. She knew better than to touch the charred pieces of wood that still glowed blue, but even still it was insanely tempting to so she could examine it in entirety. But against her better judgement, she grabbed the vial she had taken earlier and with a small handkerchief she had on hand, she moved to grab a small fragment of the wood. Immediately she was stopped by Thomas.

"Um...I don't think we should be touching this stuff, especially in a village that's as deserted as this one." Thomas himself stood far away from any of the blue embers, and raised an eyebrow at Cecilia as he waited for a response.

"Hush, I'm not going to be holding it for long. I just want a small sample. Plus, if anything happens to me...well, at the very least we'll have a good idea of what could've happened to the people in this village." Unfazed, she grabbed the charred bit. There was a strange pulse of cold that crept up the nerves of her arm, even with the handkerchief acting as a barrier in between. It did seem to have a unexpected velvety texture to it, despite being a piece of burnt wood. Forcing herself not to drop it on instinct, she quickly placed it into the vial before covering the opening and storing the vial away. If she was lucky, the sample she took wouldn't disintegrate into thin air or burst into flames.

"Now that that's taken care of..." Cecilia took out the piece of parchment she had folded up earlier and started a rough sketch of the current state of the village, including annotations that confirmed the rumor of there being blue fire, and the possible arcane nature of it as well. She didn't have time to put as much detail into it as she would've liked to, but that could always be added later. Behind her, Thomas shifted on his feet, keeping a wary eye on their surroundings and a cautious hand on his hip next to his short sword. After a moment passed, he spoke up, "We should get going so we can meet up with the rest of the group. I don't think it's a good idea to stay in one place for too long while were here."

Cecilia gave a slight nod as if she fully heard and understood his words, but stayed were she was, writing down everything they had seen so far in the village, before she eventually folded the parchment back up and stored it away before heading further into the town and towards its center. There were no signs of anyone who survived what had occurred in the village, but what was also curious is how she hadn't seen any bodies yet either, though there was an unmistakable smell of death and decay that indicated they were present, perhaps buried under rubble away from sight. However, she and Thomas wouldn't make it far before they would hear the sound of an explosion in the distance. Muffled as it was, it was still stood out among the silence that permeated throughout the rest of Oakheart.

She immediately started towards the town center at a faster pace. "Come now, we should focus on figuring out what that was and if the others are—" she paused as she heard the sound of movement. The slight shift of a plank of wood had caused it to fall over and clatter against the stone path. And following that came the sound of other things. Bones creaking and cracking at their joints, clearly too decayed to be supporting any form of weight, and a low, guttural groan which could only be described as ghastly. One of the undead abominations that the king had spoken of, which only further confirmed the rumors. Thomas immediately drew his short sword and stood at attention. From the sounds that had started to come from around them, there would soon be more coming out of hiding as well. Cecilia cursed as she drew her rapier"Of course, it's only natural that this would happen now that we're all split up."

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Character Portrait: Callion Lightson Character Portrait: Mara Timbers Character Portrait: Phaedra Mithalvarin
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The red headed woman flinched as Callion blasted the walking corpse’s head open, it’s contents spraying out the back of its skull, some of which even fell onto the woman. With no more movement or life, the body collapsed on top of the woman causing her to gasp at the dead weight. Her brows furrowed in a look of confusion as Callion asked her questions indirectly as if the woman wasn’t there. She didn’t seem to like that too much by the look of disgust on her face.

When Callion crouched down beside her, she quickly grabbed her dagger from the jaw of the body on top of her and held it in his direction. She held her weapon like a silent threat and by the looks of her she’d use it if he got any closer to her. The red head didn’t answer his questions, or say anything. Instead she stabbed her knife into the dirt beside her before she shoved the corpse off of her. Cracking and rattling bones echoed in the silence when the lifeless body hit the ground. Mara shifted uneasily, watching.

The woman exhaled deeply through her nose as she wiped her face with the back of her hand, removing the blood, dirt and whatever else from her skin. Her nimble fingers brushed thick crimson locks behind her ears. At first glance she could be mistake for an elf if it weren’t for the slight differences. Her red hair, no doubt, wasn’t a common color… but it was the ears. Not as pointed as most elves, the woman's ’s ears were soft with a more gentle curvature. Mara, curious as ever of new people was itching to know the woman's background.

The woman rolled her eyes slightly at the others as she took her blade from the earth and moved to her feet. She appeared to take a step back, while staying within the barrier, but kept her dagger out before her. ”I’m… Fine,” she answered with apprehension, ignoring Callion’s questions, only addressing Mara.

Mara shifted nervously from foot to foot. Looking from the woman to Callion. As Callion had requested, she remained close to him, and within the barrier he had erected.

"Good... good... well... we will probably have... much to discuss at a safer time..." she murmured softly, sifting through her pack and locating her bow. It wasn't a very pretty weapon and was clearly handmade, but they were surrounded by undead and she knew she had to pull her weight. "Please, miss... stay near Sir Lightson... as I shall. I am a poor shot... but being together will be safer than being alone..."

"I don't need protection," the woman interrupted with a little bite in her words. She didn't leave Callion's barrier nor take a more threatening stance. But the way she carried herself and spoke, the red head wanted it known that she was more than capable to take care of herself. By the looks of her, the stranger had enough knives on her for every corpse in the village.

"Of course you don't." Callion stated with enough exasperation as to create fog from the chill in his breath alone. Whatever his thoughts were, it was evident he wasn't a fan of bravado.

Mara winced as though the woman had physically struck her. Despite the woman having been unconscious and a bit battered... she was still proud. Mara nodded, flushing and inching a little behind Callion, like a cowed child. "I... I see... I did not mean to offend, Miss. I only meant... that if you are... perhaps knocked unconscious again... it might be best not to be alone." Mara murmured softly, looking at her shoes. Shakily, she put an arrow to place and drew back, readying her weapon. Cautiously, she kept it pointed to the ground. "l am Mara Timbers, this..." she nodded her head towards Callion, "is the spell-chucker, Callion Lightson. " At the mention of calling him a Spell Chucker, Mara noticed a slight wrinkle to Callion's nose, but he didn't say anything, so she continued. "Our party split up to investigate this place... they told us there were no survivors... but I am glad to see they were wrong." Mara said bashfully to the woman. "What may we call you?"

The woman did not sheath her dagger, still keeping her blade pointed at the two of them but in a slightly more relaxed manner. By the look of her constantly shifting gaze, she was confused and still trying to wrap her mind around everything that was going on. Her free hand raised to touch her chest as she began to speak, "I'm Phae—" She stopped speaking abruptly as her eyes fixed on Mara, almost like it took the woman a moment to understand what she had said. "Survivor? I'm not a survivor," she corrected.

Mara managed to lock eyes with the woman at her correction. If she was not a survivor, she could be an enemy. Mara's green eyes flashed sharply as she listened.

"I arrived..." the woman's voice trailed off as a puzzling look covered her face. Her brows furrowed and nose wrinkled in thought. "Yesterday... I think." She didn't sound so sure about her exact arrival.

As if the realization of her unconsciousness truly just hit her, the woman began to search her body like she was checking everything was where it should be. Her free hand finally froze when it came to a pendant on her necklace that had been hidden behind the neckline of her silk blouse. She cupped the tricket while she chewed on her bottom lip, deep in thought. Finally, she spoke up once again. "I'm Phaedra... Phaedra Mithalvarin."

Mara shifted uneasily. The woman didn't seem to have a concussion. Just no knowledge of the present day. That was concerning. Mara exchanged a glance with Callion, expression wary.

"Well, Lady Mithalvarin..."

"Phaedra," the woman interrupted. "I'm no lady," she corrected.

Mara nodded and continued.

"if you wish to go on alone, I suppose I have no right to stop you. Though..." Mara held out her wrist, revealing her small calloused hand and the mark, like an angry burn, that scrawled across her skin. Phaedra's gaze fell to her wrist where her own mark peeked out from under her glove. "The king did summon us to his side due to this marking... and it appears you have one to match." Mara gave a small, shy, smile before jumping nearly a foot in the air as an undead creature hit Callion's barrier with a sickening fizzling sound. Mara yelped, swinging her bow around and loosing her arrow in her fright. The arrow lodged in the creature's milky eye and it slumped backward, onto the ground. Mara put a trembling hand to her chest as if to stop her heart from bursting forth. That was a lucky shot. Mainly, lucky she hadn't been holding it aimed at the people beside her.

Phaedra didn't move at Mara's outburst, instead watching and waiting. She quirked a brow when the arrow somehow made its way into the creature's eye. Mara fumbled in her quiver for another arrow, and gingerly fit it to the bow, pointing it toward the ground. "S-Sorry..." she mumbled, feeling ashamed of her fear. This woman had nearly been eaten alive and she was still insistent on being left alone. Mara might consider begging for the opposite. Callion gave a slight huff as he looked back at the zombie now laying on the ground with an arrow in it's eye. Mara couldn't tell if he was amused by the spectacle or surprised by the shot, but either way he seemed to brush it off as he looked back at the two of them.

"Well... Phaedra, now that we're on a first name basis, do you mind lowering the knife?" Callion asked, sounding as if he was offended. "After all, there are already plenty of things wanting us dead without adding a paranoid blade to the mix." As he spoke, sounds started coming from around them as debris was being moved. The groans of the dead could be heard, but it was as if Callion was either oblivious or deliberately ignoring them as his stature didn't change for a moment.

Phaedra didn't say anything, but by the way her facial expression twisted and tightened, it appeared that she didn't like the comment of a 'paranoid blade.' She started to look around them as more undead seemed to stir. "And you would be calm if you awoke to two strangers carrying you to Gods know where?" Her tone was sarcastic and sharp. Phaedra looked as if she was about to lower her dagger, but she tossed it upwards. The weapon spun in the air before she caught the tip of the blade between the tip of her index finger and thumb. Her arm winded back before she threw the knife.

At first the blade looked as though it was going straight for Callion, but as it reached him it whizzed past his head, the wizard flinching and falling to the side slightly. With a sickening crunch it imbedded itself between the eyes of other dead thing sending it toppling back on the ground. Phaedra then quickly closed the distance between herself and Callion, but moved around him to recover her dagger. As she wiped the blade off on her pants, she looked over at him from the corner of her eye. "Now we're even."

"Even? Even in what sense?!" Callion sputtered, recovering from his nearly kneeling position. "This barrier prevents them from reaching us using the combination spell of force and-you know what, that explanation would obviously be lost on someone so ungrateful." Callion stated, dusting his robe off and picking off faint particles of dirt off the lower half of his attire.

"Am I supposed to be grateful for something? Phaedra retorted sharply as she aggressively shoved her dagger back into its sheath.

Mara had frozen, bow shakily cocked, looking from Phaedra to Callion with a discomforted expression. Then slowly, she straightened. There was a brief moment, much like when she was first to speak in the throne room where Mara straightened and her eyes held a firmness, a determination...

"If I woke being carried by a stranger... whom had bandaged my head wound and left me unbound... I would not quickly decide they were a threat... as they had done nothing threatening." Mara toned firmly, head tilted almost scolding. As she spoke, Phaedra's brows furrowed as she raised a hand to her head as if she hadn't noticed it before.

Mara looked to Callion, eyes still holding his gaze. "Never expect someone to be grateful for anything you do... do things for your own satisfaction... that is what I know. Expecting more is foolish." She said, voice slightly raspy.

"Listen, I am sorry that when I woke up to two strangers, I wasn't Susie Sunshine, ok?" Phaedra chimmed in, holding her hands up in a surrendering manner. "I came here because an acquaintance of mine was supposed to be in town... And I found this." She motioned her hands toward what was left of the small village. "And then I touched this stupid mystical bullshit that gave me this stupid mark and knocked me out. And then I wake up to people I don't know... And walking corpses?! So, I'm sorry if I'm fucking on edge."[/b] Stating her peace, Phaedra sighed. She crossed her arms over her chest, her nostrils flaring in frustration.

Mara nodded slowly, acknowledging Phaedra's explanation, but showing neither belief nor disbelief in her expression.

As if suddenly realizing herself, Mara once more looked down, staring at the fallen corpses outside the barrier. She swallowed, nervous. "Please... can we work together to leave this awful place?" The whisper was back, and she couldn't seem to face them after managing to be so bold.

Callion's expression on the whole matter was either unreadable or all over the place depending on your point of view, resulting in Mara being unable to tell if he was feeling guilty, angry, indignant or constipated. Instead all he did was turn with a slight flourish and start heading towards their agreed upon rendevous with the rest of the group, the edge of his barrier quickly approaching the two of them as they stood there.

Taking Callion's reaction as at least agreement, Mara began to follow him, staring mostly at the back, bottom part of his robes. They had gotten dirty, she noticed. Perhaps later, she would offer to help him clean them. And apologize for her outburst.

"Come if you like..." Mara said, looking over her shoulder at Phaedra's knees, still concerned she had crossed some line in their standings. Pulling into herself once more like a snail into her shell. Then, not waiting for a reply from the obviously irritated woman, she followed at Callion's heels.

After a moment, Mara heard the begrudging crunch of footsteps behind them as they went.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany
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Sweat beaded Garos’s brow, trickling down the back of his neck. Dripping from his chin onto the dirt. The sheer number of zombies clambering out from beneath the rubble was surprising—was the whole damn village under there, shambling out to greet them? Though he’d never seen the like before, he supposed he didn’t feel that surprised. The King had warned them about this, after all. The undead, rising. Blue fire. Stuff he couldn’t quite wrap his head around. His fingers gripped tighter around the heft of his axe, biting into the leather strapping. He was thankful Ragnar was at his side, swinging with practiced precision: disciplined to the core.

A soldier, through and through. He’d seen his type before. Fought them, too. Damned good folk to have at your side, should you find yourself facing the sharp edge of a blade. Didn’t fight alongside them often, for obvious reasons. He’d never been considered all that good, even though he was friendly. Some probably considered him scum. Mercenaries. His like, feeding off coin and little else. He swung his axe in upward arc, and felt it slide through a collarbone, halting at the corpse’s clattering teeth. It crumbled and he kicked his foot off the fleshy things’ chest, pulling his axe free. But here he was. Life was funny that way.

Corpses’ littered the grounds they’d danced over, where they'd backed away from the squall to prevent themselves from being overcrowded. Those they'd felled remained unmoving this time. Truly dead. Whatever that meant in this instance. His head swam with questions; how? These were obviously the remnants of the village, of whatever had happened before they’d arrived. The smolder of flames hadn’t licked this far, that much was clear. They were in varying states of decay. Some lacked limbs, where they’d forcibly torn free from beneath homes. Others almost looked human. But their eyes, they were anything but. Soulless. Empty. He made a noise, a grunt, as he backed closer to Ragnar. “Think the other’s are okay?” He was worried, even if he believed them capable.

While he was in constant motion, fighting the onslaught of the living dead, Ragnar quickened his pace. In the distance, there were more coming. They came out of alleys and from around corners. They came from wherever they could. The two of them had only startled the ones in the square. Fortunately, it seemed as if his experience served him well in this situation. Garos could tell that he'd found a place in his mind that was absolute focus and balanced movement. His movements, concise. No wasted slashes or stabs with his sword and no distractions in his mind. See all. Expect all. It had taken years to perfect. A soldier's way of fighting.

He drew his sword from the throat of a dead creature. It gargled on semi-coagulated blood and other fluids of decay, but went limp on his sword and then fell at his feet. By the way Ragnar danced around the undead, it seemed as if he had discovered that if they severed the spine, or damaged the head sufficiently, it was a surefire way of felling the monsters; cutting off the head entirely, the beasts would die. He seemed to ponder in the brief respite between a flurry of blades and scrabbling, crooked fingers, then turned to face Garos. The large orc wasn't the worst ally to have in a situation like this. He was strong and his axe did much damage to their foes. They were two very different fighters, but you couldn't say one was more efficient than the other. Judging by the bodies surrounding Garos, the orc had slain most so far. Ragnar smirked and nodded, seemingly to himself. He rolled his shoulders and tightened his grip on his sword. The dark steel glinted hungrily.

"Well..." Ragnar began, placing his hand on Garos's shoulder, to let the big orc know he was there, before he would back into him. "The explosion came from the direction of Callion and Mara. Odd as he is, I don't think it wise to underestimate the wizard's power. He can take care of her." One of the undead approached and Ragnar made quick work of it. He cut its arm off, stepped far to the side and kicked its leg behind the knee before taking of its head. Returning to Garos' side he spoke again. "We're all capable enough to fight these slow, walking caracasses. It's their numbers that might become the problem."

Bracing for the next enemy, Ragnar looked to the skies, studying something that Garos could only guess at. Perhaps, he was searching for a means to somehow let their friends know they were there. Alive. Most likely, he was counting on them to come toward their position, though the danger would most likely not be lessened.

The blunt side of Garos’ axe slammed into the face of a nearby corpse, caving into its cheekbone, exploding splinters of bone and flesh into the air. Blood sprayed onto the charred ground at their feet and the body soon followed, tumbling onto its ruined face. His gaze roved across the grounds, toppled buildings and groaning creatures. He was right. They were damnably slow. Stumbling in their direction at a grueling pace. Mouths gaping open, tongues lolling over blackened lips, mewling a droning noise that made his skin crawl. He bet they could even walk around them if they were mindful of their steps; falling down here was a death sentence, with all of the hidden nooks and crannies these thingscould be hiding in. Hidey holes, basements. It wasn’t something he wanted to experience. A worthless, dishonorable death. One without meaning.

He pushed sweaty bangs from his face, and huffed a deep breath from his nose. Another. This time, focused from his mouth. A calm inhale, exhale. He studied their position and the remaining ambling corpses; dead-eyed and solely focused on the two that’d stumbled onto them. There were too many to fight here, and he wasn’t even sure if they were making any progress. How large had this village been? Slaughtering every single one seemed a chore; besides, it didn’t get them any closer to figuring out what had happened. They’d get tired. Sloppy. With no end to them, it wasn’t the smartest move he could think of. But he wasn’t a soldier, and he never had been… Ragnar, on the other hand.

Garos shoved a corpse who’d wandered too close and watched as its legs tangled like a clumsy colt. It fell onto its backside in the rubble, and somehow managed to trap itself onto a piece of wood sticking out like stake, slipped clear through its thigh. These things, whatever they were, weren’t intelligent enough to disentangle itself. Let alone do anything but clack their teeth and try to get at them. To do what? He wasn’t sure. He didn’t want to find out, either. A hand settled on his shoulder just before he would have accidentally backed into him. He flashed him a grin. One he wasn’t able to temper in time, though in this instance, he supposed he shouldn’t care. “Might be right,” he noted with a nod, “Maybe we should make our way towards them?”

He followed Ragnar’s gaze to the sky. A soft hm sifted past his lips. Calculating. Slippery as he was, staying in the thick of battle with so many variables made him itch in all the wrong ways. “Think our best bet is to find them. Make some distance, ‘til we know what this is.” A thick eyebrow raised as he swung his gaze to the approaching corpses, growing ever closer. The same, droning moan beat at their sides. “What say you?”

In the midst of it all, Ragnar seemed too focused to process what Garos was saying. He was fending off the undead, keeping himself in the right position all the time while also remaining aware of their surroundings. He did not look like a man who was about to be surprised by one of these creatures. But a sharp glint and a nod was enough to let Garos know that he had heard him. It was obvious that he was considering his suggestion, seemingly running through all the options for their next move in his head. Apparently, he couldn't find one, but before he could give his answer, he was attacked. The bloated corpse of someone that once been a fat butcher, by the looks of him, had taken a swing at Ragnar. The soldier had in turn managed to block the attack with his sword, resulting in a couple of lost fingers for the corpse. This apparently confused Ragnar as he stood and looked at the undead man, who did not seem to notice that his fingers had been cut off. With a shrug and a sigh, he cut the man's arm just below the elbow in a parry that he continued in a fluid motion upwards, only to bring the edge of the sword into the skull of the former butcher. All movement and gargling seized and he fell. Blackfyre came free with a slick, sticky noise.

Taking his place back beside Garos, Ragnar pointed with his sword in the direction of Thomas and Cecilia. "I agree." He lowered his sword again. "If we can cut a path through them that way, we should meet Cecilia and Thomas. Then we can go get Callion and Mara?" He whirled the sword around, the edge catching the wind and making it sing slightly. "And then get the hell out of here."

Garos swung his attention back towards the nearest corpse, its crooked fingers already wagging in the air, inches from his sleeve, moan drawn into a feverish whine. It looked as if it were trying to bumble into him, but he wasn’t particularly sure. Arms held wide, as if to embrace. He hadn’t taken long to step out of its grasp and land a square kick to its sternum, watching as it stumbled backwards and toppled onto its back. He wasted no time swinging his axe in a wide arc, planting the sharp end into its face, nearly cleaving its head from what remained of its neck. It. He couldn’t really tell whether or not it’d been a woman or a man; what with the decay. He tried not to think of who it might have been.

He pursed his lips and saw from his peripherals Ragnar felling a much bulkier corpse, decked in a butcher’s apron. A harsh thud later, and Garos joined him at his side, keeping a close watch on the approaching undead. It would do them no good if they were backed into a corner. He huffed another breath, harsher this time. The dead were relentless in their approach, undaunted seeing their fellows struck down so viciously. So unlike people; those who actually cared. Strip that away from someone, and what did you have left? A monster. Little else but an empty vessel. These things… whatever they were. Pleased with Ragnar’s answer, he thumped his chest with his fist, fingers twined. A sign that was hardly recognized, lest the person knew of the Hooded Company. His eyes flashed as brightly as the peeping tusks at his lips, “Lead on, I have your back.”

The soldier took a brief moment before he moved. He seemed to wonder what the gesture meant. Garos’ smile was anything but revealing. He might not have told the trust enough if he was asked outright. The Hooded Company wasn’t the tidiest of organizations to exist. Maybe, Ragnar had even bumped into them in less than savory circumstances. He didn’t want to risk painting himself with their dirty brush, not when they were getting along so well. His ilk had the tendency of souring things, after all. Instead of asking, Ragnar started moving in the direction they had agreed upon. While his spear would have been good to have in a situation like this, managed with his blade. He swung it left and right, cutting limbs off and severing hamstrings to slow the movement of his enemies even further. He seemed more interested in incapacitating than killing them outright. Both males fought efficiently through the horde of the dead, rapidly approaching the edge of their surrounding enemies.

Garos, too, focused on hobbling the creature’s encroaching at their sides, rather than killing them. Not because he didn’t want to. He did. Their constant moaning and crackling teeth set his own on edge. Who knew what damage they’d cause to anyone unfortunate to stumble into this village? ‘Course, protecting passerbyers wasn’t why they were sent here, and besides, they didn’t know or understand what they were up against. This would have to do, at least until they rounded everyone up. No doubt, Callion would have a few choice words about these… things.

If they could keep up their tempo they would be out very soon and hopefully able to meet up with Cecilia and Thomas.

Besides, Garos was beginning to tire, and there seemed to be no end to these undead things. Relentless as they were, fingers splayed into the air, ever reaching. He peered out into the empty streets ahead as he swung his axe, slicing through an arm. It ripped free from its elbow, and bounced on the ground. Seemed as if the horde dwindled further up, but he couldn’t be sure. In the distance, he thought he could see two figures, facing away from them. Familiar, but too far to tell.

Hopefully it was them.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Garos Sharad Character Portrait: Cecilia Floros Character Portrait: Ragnar Greymany Character Portrait: Thomas Burgundy
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As they moved through the streets of the village, with Thomas following close behind her, Cecilia was quickly beginning to realize that the undead were approaching faster than she could fell them. She gritted her teeth as she brought her blade down, piercing through the head of one creature that had scratched at her feet. It died for a second time then. She didn't know how long they had to go before they reached the town center, her vision blocked by the wave of undead that ceased to let up. "Damn it!" Cecilia was beginning to grow tired of this nonsense.

With a sudden flash of blinding white light, a wave of lighting shot out in front of her, flattening rows of undead. A deafening thunder sounded throughout the village as a result, surely drawing more monsters to their location. Wiping droplets of sweat from her brow, Cecilia cared little for whatever commotion she caused now. Let them come if they wished. With another, weaker flash of light, Cecilia touched a finger to her rapier, flames sprouting from its hilt as they rushed to cover the blade in full. She snapped her heard towards Thomas, "Keep up the pace! We shouldn't be too far from the others at this rate." She quickly refocused on the enemies in front of her, cutting down those that came too close with an arc of fire.

It was obvious to her that she couldn't keep casting spell after spell. Eventually, she'd grow fatigued, and it'd be easy for anything to overpower her then. In an ideal situation, they'd make it out of the village before that ever became a possibility. If not, well... she tried not to think about the alternatives. Behind her, she could hear the distinct sound of an arrow let loose from a bow, and peering over, watched as it planted itself dead center in the creature's head. Thomas looked like he wasn't giving too much of an effort to the entire situation. He had speed to his actions, but it somehow held a distinct lack of pressure or alertness. Thomas moved to keep up with Cecilia, but he would aim for far longer than any other archer in recent memory, letting loose an arrow only after several seconds more than necessary. Even though each arrow found its mark, center of the forehead, it was simply not enough to stem the tide. The only moments Thomas seemed to move with some sense of urgency would be when a creature got too close to him, resulting in his pulling a dagger from his sheath and quickly planting it in the zombie's temple.

He didn't say a thing either, not even grunts of effort or exertion. He was completely silent, but at the very least appeared to be moving with her as she continued towards the center of town. A large crash from the building directly to her right sounded the alarm that more undead were coming upon them, and only then did she finally hear Thomas actually mutter any words. "Cal Tsu", Elvish words, roughly translating to 'Arrow of Fire'. On cue, Thomas's bow lit up like a blaze and sent an arrow flying towards the several undead trying to scramble out of the building, creating a small explosion as the entire area was lit up in a blaze.

A smirk found its way onto Cecilia's face. At least Thomas had more to offer than a few loose arrows and daggers. She didn't acknowledge that he had spoken elven words, though she did briefly ponder where he would've learned such a technique as she pierced through a handful of undead in her path. Perhaps the situation wasn't as hopeless as it was quickly beginning to feel, but there were still many monsters that stood between them and the others, and she had the sinking feeling that they'd need more than a few explosive arrows. It was hard to tell how far they were from the others, and at this point, she was more concerned about whether she and Thomas would be overwhelmed.

As another creature drew close, Cecilia quickly plunged her rapier into its skull, watching as it clawed at the blade until it fell limp, some of the flames beginning to catch on the decayed flesh. With a swift movement, she kicked it off the blade's end and quickly arced a blade through another one of the undead. Thunder sounded once more as she recast the spell she used only moments before, giving them time to breathe as the other undead clambered over the numerous corpses that had just been laid flat."If you really had to, hypothetically, about how many more of those arrows could you shoot?"

Thomas glanced at his quiver attached to his back with an almost slow and deliberate motion. It seemed like everything he did appeared both lazy and with deliberate purpose. "Ten." Thomas answered, his hand pulling another arrow and nocked it into his bow. Drawing it, and aiming once again with an extended period, he let loose and sent it directly into the forehead of yet another undead creature. "It won't matter if we can't get to the center. We need to regroup with the others and leave." Thomas stated, stepping closer to the elf as he prepared yet another arrow.

Cecilia let out a harsh huff as she gazed at the path in front of them. "I suppose you have a point." As she continued cutting down the rotten corpses, she was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that she was ill-equipped to deal with such overwhelming numbers. These undead were different from foes she'd face during her travels. While the common group of bandits could be sent scurrying away with the simple flash of a spell, the monsters remained unperturbed, even as others fell around them. It seemed as though they lacked awareness of anything that wasn't a target to be attacked, a disregard for everything but flesh that could be ripped and torn. If these things ever had a conscious, it was clear that they had quickly lost.

It was a shame that they stood at the end of her blade now, otherwise, Cecilia might've felt a pang of grief for them.

"Perhaps, it'd be better to simply get them out of the way." And with a rapid motion of her free hand, a glowing sigil appeared underneath a cluster of the horde in front of them before they were promptly sent flying, slamming into the crumbling houses beside the path, some even knocking down other undead with their lank bodies. It was a simple redirection spell, leaving more damage done due to the impact than the spell itself. Cecilia cared not for killing them all. What mattered now is that the path was beginning to clear. "I suggest you continue to stick close and save your energy. Don't bother killing unless they're too close."

There was the briefest of nods from the assassin, so subtle as to wonder if he had heard her words at all. He did take a few steps closer though, and in accordance with her words, his bow was ready but held low and his eyes darted over the landscape, denying his otherwise lazy stature. When a member of the undead variety did get too close, she found his bow at the ready and an arrow promptly found its way to its head. Together, they pushed through the horde, leaving behind more than their fair share of dead... or undead bodies as they went, yet they continued to come at them. Seeming to pick up on her desire to push through, she watched as he drew another arrow pointed ahead of them, and a glow started to resonate off of the bow. "Cal Nor". The blue arrow shot true, striking yet another undead in the eye and exploding much like before, but this time covering everything in a thick frost. Several creatures slowed and quickly stopped as their limbs were frozen solid. A few on the outer most edge of the blast continued to move, but severed their limbs as their legs attached to the ground and refused to be moved by any power.

"Nine." Thomas stated.

The grin on Cecilia's was all teeth as she watched a sheet of ice cover the undead. "If I'm being honest, I must say that you are beginning to surprise me in the best of ways." They found a steady rhythm, alternating between Cecilia's spells and Thomas' arrows, making their way through the infested streets at a brisk pace. Before long, they came across a road section that seemed to open up towards the end. Corpses were sent flying once more with one last redirection sigil, revealing the town center that had a horde of its own. And cutting their way through the horde were the familiar faces of Ragnar and Garos.

"Well, it's quite the relief to see someone who isn't a putrid, walking corpse."

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

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