Assassin's Pledge: Devastation

Assassin's Pledge: Devastation

The Red-Eyed Demon is back, and more dangerous than ever. But can even he and a brave group of followers prevail against two warring Assassin organizations bent on enforcing their will upon the continent of Cre' Est?

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Introduction

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Welcome one and all to a story nearly a decade in the making!



Assassin's Pledge takes place in a fictional world not unlike our own. The setting of this RP is late-medieval fantasy where the recently invented flintlock pistol and rifle are the pinnacle of weapon's technology. Magic is not a thing in this RP. Sorry. But there are minor supernatural elements at play, but they're mostly environmental and not meant for being a significant part of the experience.

There are five Nations which call the continent of Cre' Est "home", and I will detail them below:

* Cre' Est - The Mother Nation, first founded, and named after the continent upon which she was founded. She occupies the center of the continent on the Western side of the Cre' Itian Mountain Range which splits the continent into two halves. She has the highest population and most stable economy of all five nations and is culturally very diverse. Cre' Est's government is a Monarchy, run by a Royal Family bearing the same last name as the nation and continent.

* Shaharan - The Desert Nation to the East of the Cre' Itian Mountain Range occupying the Northeastern hemisphere of the continent. The people who live here are tough and hardy, typically sporting darker skin tones and generally speaking are part of a more militant culture. It is a dictatorship run currently by a strict yet relatively non-oppressive man who's last name is the same as the nation.

* Triveila - Nation of Water on the Northwestern sector of the continent. She harvests the bounty of the sea and commands a respectable trade industry focused on pearls, coral, and other undersea commodities. Her people are generally peaceful and laid back and live life day by day as they watch the waves on the shoreline. The government is run on a Monarchy with a ruling family sharing the nation's name.

* Gweynura - Gweynura is the Nation of Trees located to the East below Shaharan. She is the lumber capital of the continent and also boasts the most beautiful landscapes anywhere to be seen. If you see a painting of a gorgeous landscape, chances are it's from Gweynura. The government is a Monarchy run currently by a widowed Queen who shares the last name of her nation thanks to her husband. Her son is soon to come of age and ascend the throne in his father's absence.

* Veilbrand - The Nation of Stone situated South of the Mother Nation in the Cre' Itian Mountain Range. She is the precious metal and precious gem capital of the continent and you will never find a better blacksmith than those who live here. They are also some of the finest weapon smiths. Veilbrand is run by a rather greedy dictator at present, though there are rumors of a rebellion on the rise.


Now that you are familiar with the five nations, it's time to learn about the story of the RP!



The RP takes place after the events of my previous two Assassin's Pledge RP's.

The Red-Eyed Demon, known simply as "Shadow" to the world of Assassins, is the most powerful and feared Assassin in the world. His body harbors the spirit of a Demon summoned from the Nether Realm by his mother and the cult she was attached to which greatly enhances his physical abilities far beyond the scope of normal humans.

He belongs to an Assassin organization called Te'i Sai. Due to the Red-Eyed Demon's success and how dangerous he is thanks to the Demon's spirit, Te'i Sai attempted to create a serum which duplicated the effects of the Demon's presence. They succeeded, and thanks to the serum their operatives are also much stronger, faster, more agile, and have higher reaction times than normal people.

However Te'i Sai made one mistake... They killed the Red-Eyed Demon's first and only friend. Her name was Iris Di' Nelma, and she was a beautiful and kind hearted young woman. When the Demon was temporarily banished for breaking Te'i Sai's first Commandment, "Never take the life of an innocent", she found and befriended him. She taught him things which were deliberately kept hidden from him such as the meaning of empathy and what it meant to care for someone else. She helped open his eyes to the fact that he'd lived his entire life as a puppet never making his own decisions, and thus when she was killed by Te'i Sai for her interference the Red-Eyed Demon secretly vowed vengeance and rebelled against the organization.

He killed the Grandmaster of Te'i Sai and his Second, leaving nobody in a position to take over. With the organization in chaos the Red-Eyed Demon led a small group of sympathizers to war on the organization. They had begun making headway after destroying the Mountain Fortress located in Roda Valley (a valley in the Cre' Itian Mountain Range's heart) as well as several other major Te'i Sai base locations throughout the continent, but their efforts were in vain.

... Another Assassin organizations called Roda Ah K'mht came from overseas and began laying claim to the continent. They seized control of the ruined Mountain Fortress and found the recipe for the serum used to enhance Te'i Sai's operatives. Now distributing it among their own ranks they seek to destroy both Te'i Sai and the Red-Eyed Demon and take control of the continent.

And thus we have our story...


Characters



With the Red-Eyed Demon being the sole exception as the focus of the RP's plot and story, all Player-Controlled Characters in this RP must obey these simple rules:

1) They may not be from Te'i Sai or Roda Ah K'mht, nor may they have ever had family or other relations with either organization.

2) They may not have acquired the serum which enhances their abilities.

3) They may not have any "superpower"-like traits or abilities. They're normal people.

And that's it! Keeping these three simple rules in mind you can make whatever kind of character you want from any kind of background including members of one of the five nation's ruling families.

For those wondering why I made the three above rules, it's because the point of the RP is to put everyone's characters into what feels at first like a helpless situation. The fact that Te'i Sai, Roda Ah K'mht, and the Red-Eyed Demon are all basically super human Assassins who can kill them at any moment of their choosing is what will drive the RP forward. The Red-Eyed Demon is going to meet and join forces with all Player-Controlled Characters who will find a reason to want both Te'i Sai and Roda Ah K'mht to disappear.

And about the serum... There's a reason you don't get to start with it. Spoiler alert, you get the serum later from the Red-Eyed Demon himself so you'll get to take on Te'i Sai and Roda Ah K'mht on even ground after the RP gets underway.

That's about all for now! If you have any questions feel free to send me a private message or ask away in the "General Discussion" thread!

See you soon!

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[b]Name:[/b]
[b]Picture:[/b] (anime preferred)

[b]Description:[/b] (Please describe your character in one paragraph)

[b]Age:[/b] (21 is the youngest allowed)
[b]Sex:[/b] (obvious)
[b]Height:[/b]
[b]Weight:[/b]
[b]Voice Type:[/b] (If you're confused, ask)
[b]Body Type:[/b] (Endomorph, Ectomorph, Mesomorph)

[b]Theme:[/b] (If they have a music theme, put it here ;D )

[b]Personality:[/b] (Write their personality in one paragraph with seven sentences)

[b]Biography:[/b] (Write their bio in three paragraphs, each with seven sentences)

Toggle Rules

1) No God-Modding, Metagaming, or Power Playing.

Even with the Red-Eyed Demon's enhanced abilities, he is still human and will have limits. Your characters as well will all still have limits even after the Red-Eyed Demon gives them the serum.

I will be very strict about this. It's one strike and you're out for any of them.

2) Be realistic.

This RP is medieval-fantasy, but it's still bound by the laws of nature and the laws of physics. There are no superpowers like flight, nor is there any magic. So please be as realistic as you can.

3) Respect your fellow role-players.

We are all here to enjoy an experience, so please do not insult or make trouble for each other in the threads. If you start to have a problem with someone, bring it to my attention and I will sort it out.

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 7 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle

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“Tranquil” was the word to describe the coming of the dawn this day. There was a stillness in the air marred only by the chill the breeze carried on its wings. Droplets of dew fell from every surface, lazily falling and coating the ground in moisture. A subtle mist, barely visible in the ever growing light of the rising sun, crept over the landscape and hid the horizon in a white haze.

In the flower fields East of Iyns, Xia knelt down, arms wrapped around her knees, and balanced on the balls of her feet as she sniffed some of the taller daisies and poppies which swayed gently on the breeze. Her pigtails swung loosely and draped over the front of her shoulders as she took in a deep breath filling her lungs with the cool morning air.

”It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” She asked the flowers, giving them a calm smile.

The sound of boots crunching over the plant life announced Quinn’s arrival. The Maiden approached the young noble, her sunny parasol in hand and brown curls shifting with each stride. The flowers brushed against the fabric of her red skirt and left it dew spotted. As she came to a halt, wisps rose from her lips to join the butterflies that had flown from her path.

“Lady Crescalla,” she addressed politely, "Might I assume what you have summoned me for?”

Xia’s right hand gracefully extended out and cupped the petals of a bright red poppy, gently leaning it towards herself as she sniffed it.

”Good morning, miss Dezantro. Did you sleep well?”

Quinn’s gaze narrowed. She glanced to a spot of movement she spied from the corner of her eye before returning Xia’s inquiry with a brisk lie, “Quite well, thank you.”

”I’m glad to hear that,” she said pleasantly, releasing the flower and rising to her feet.

”The mornings are growing colder.” She spun on one heel, a calm smile gracing her lips. ”We’re approaching the thick of Fall now, aren’t we? May I ask if we plan to make any stops after we depart from Iyns to acquire new furs or jackets of any kind? I don’t do too well in the cold.” She chuckled sheepishly.

“Ask Marcel to reserve the skins from the next hunt.”

Xia tilted her head slightly. ”Hm. Very well,” she said quietly, looking at the ground in front of Quinn somewhat sleepily. ”Are you cross with me for some reason, by chance, miss Dezantro?”

Quinn’s brow furrowed. “There is no reason to be,” she said firmly, “I’m only waiting for this meeting to get to its purpose.”

”Understood, miss Dezantro.” She replied calmly and took a deep breath. ”I’d like to know what… You think of me. And, please, do not be afraid to hold back. I grew up around harsh words and high expectations which everyone knew I could not meet. Even from myself. So… I can take your honest answer.”

A heavy feeling of apprehension set over Quinn. It was an open field, but she could tell that something was closing in on her.

“I find you perfectly amiable,” she answered plainly.

"'Amiable.'" Xia repeated softly. "I suppose there's much worse I could be called."

A more forceful breeze swept through the area. Xia’s twin tails fluttered and flared wildly about her person before falling neatly back into place. Her eyes slid up, heavy with new emotions clashing and clawing to overcome the rest and be the first to see the light of day.

"I told you when we met that, as children, I greatly admired you. Your bearing. Your posture. Your confidence speaking to your elders. I thought you were a perfect role model, and I lived in hope of seeing you again someday to thank you for inspiring me."

Her eyelids became heavier.

"Please... I need closure and understanding," she pleaded, her eyes welling with tears. "Why did you sacrifice me so quickly to that demoness?"

There it was. Quinn took in the smell of pollen and dew as she prepared to answer this as clearly and succinct as possible.

“Lady Crescalla, I had a responsibility for the lives of all my followers, not only the two weighed before me,” she said, “If I were to sacrifice our healer there, I would have endangered everyone. If I hesitated too long, I would have run the risk of her taking both of your lives.”

Xia remained silent as the first tears trailed down her cheeks to join the dew drops amongst the grass at her feet.

"... So your first thought was..." Her voice was little more than a whisper, the faintest tremble accompanying it. "... He was more useful than me?" She asked quietly, followed by a single sob and sniffle.

The silence between them became deafening. Every whisper of the wind became a shriek in her ears. The sound of her beating heart a war drum within her bosom. Her hands hung limply at her sides, her fingers occasionally twitching as her tears flowed silently from her now closed eyes.

"... You're..." she began, her shoulders rising and falling rapidly with her sobs.

"You're horrid."


Quinn’s mouth opened wordlessly at those hateful words. She watched in shock as Xia transformed, the young woman's eyebrows furrowing and her hands clenched into fists.

"We're just pawns to you, aren't we? Pieces on a board," she whispered. Her eyes opened, burning with passion and ire. "Are we even human to you... Or are we possessions? Just things for you to throw away when it suits your end goal? Sacrificed because another piece brings you closer to victory or success?"

Quinn knew she should’ve let Xia’s emotions run their course. But at the noblewoman’s accusations, the grip on her umbrella handle tightened.

“The decision I made was the one that would protect as many as I could,” she said as calmly as she could manage, “There was no time for defiant heroics, they would have gotten all of us killed.”

Xia’s eyes narrowed and her fists clenched tighter.

"You speak as if you know what that woman was going to do or what she was thinking…” she said softly, ”But how could you possibly know what was going to happen? You say defiant heroics would have gotten us all killed, but you don’t know that! You’re just saying what you think will justify your decision because you’re a cold-hearted monster on a power trip! For all you know, if you had the courage to stand up to her, she would have backed down and chosen to showboat her power another way! But we’ll never know because you caved under the pressure and played into her hands!”

Xia stomped towards Quinn, pausing less than three feet away as she glared the Maiden down. Through clenched teeth and a vicious snarl unfitting of her otherwise beautiful face, Xia continued her tirade, ”Kade is not a “healer” like you find on some board game that rich and entitled children play to vicariously live out their fantasies as conquerors of nations! He’s a young, peaceful, innocent man trying to do his God’s work in the best way he knows how. He's also a fine florist who tended the gardens back at the old base. He's sweet, caring, considerate, and so much more! But to you he’s just a piece on your game board serving only that "healer" purpose while you play God with his life. And if he died, it would be more an inconvenience than a tragedy, wouldn’t it?! Because now you have to find a new “healer" to replace the piece you lost while the rest of us grieve the human being and friend we lost!””

Her body was now trembling with rage.

”The demoness made a complete fool of you, miss Dezantro. And as far as I’m concerned she’s exposed you as the logic-driven and apathetic shell of a human being you really are inside who judges people based on skill sets or things you see wrong with them rather than who they are! Look at how you treat Kyero after all he's done simply because he's the victim of circumstance with the Demon inside him! Judging him by what happened in the past rather than the present! And even he, with a Demon compromising him every second of every day, has more compassion than you! He would have at least tried to fight for and save both of our lives. Whether he succeeded or not, he would have tried! Because to him nobody who’s his ally is expendable!”

She stepped into Quinn’s space, only half a hand’s distance from being nose to nose and speaking more calmly despite the roaring fury within her eyes.

”We are your followers by choice, miss Dezantro. But that does not make us slaves to throw away at your convenience or for some game you think you're playing! Do you understand me?!”

Quinn's eyes popped at all the utter nonsense being aggressively shot out at her from Xia’s mouth. She stepped away from Xia, bringing a hand up to cover her eyes and rub her temples.

“... Lady... Crescalla,” she exasperated, “... It is... admirable... to hold such compassion for your companions, however, your view on the situation is naturally tainted by your... involvement.” Drawing her hand away, she continued, “I am not a being of otherworldly strength like your Demon. All I had when she demanded that I make my choice, was experience. Experience that you are sorely lacking. Those with the serum may believe themselves untouchable by consequence once they hold such power, but what of you? What has allowed you to remain so naïve? For one who despises the serum so, how much have you relied on the Demon and his followers to protect you in the past?”

Xia smiled wickedly at Quinn.

"I relied on them about as much as you do. They left me to fend for myself unless I asked for their help or they knew that it was necessary to protect me. You remember the tunnels and how Kyero forced us all in there when the Wraiths arrived? Of course you do. You're the first person he threw in there. He was protecting all of us, prioritizing you as the you-know-what, and taking charge of a situation he knew put all of us at risk. How did you repay him for that? You stuck a knife at his throat and threatened his life... Like a heartless, thankless wench."

She leaned back slightly and flicked her pigtails off her shoulders with a "tch".

"You can hold your pompous, petty backside on whatever pedestal exists in your head as much as you want, pretending to know everything and talking down to anyone who speaks out against you. Do you know who else does that? People like Egruus. And do you know who throws people's lives away on a whim? Slavers and degenerates, lacking in humanity or compassion," she spat with venom.

Thwap. Quinn’s umbrella handle came to a halt right beside Xia’s throat. The rage in her eyes tried its hardest to hide the hurt.

“If I could have done something to save you both, I would have,” she forced through gritted teeth, “There wasn’t that option. Can’t you see that you were left alive for this exact purpose? Your turmoil is being used as a tool against me.”

Xia stared at the umbrella a moment without fear, her left fingers twitching slightly at her side as her eyes returned to Quinn.

"You could have made the effort to stand up to that witch. Maybe you would have failed. But that effort would be worth far more to myself and anyone else in my position than watching you throw our lives away."

She aggressively batted the umbrella with the back of her hand.

"And this, right here," she said, closing the distance slowly like a predatory cat as her left hand shifted closer to her hip with her pinky disappearing behind her back. "... Is nobody's doing but your own. You made the choice to play that woman's game, and she played you like any successful conman plays their mark."

She paused as she came nose to nose with Quinn, snarling up at her.

"I'm alive... She was bluffing. Had you called the bluff, who knows what would have happened. But you certainly don't. If you played the odds, I would have seen effort on the part of my commander to protect me! Were you too caught up in your game of playing God with us to see the bluff? Or were you just a coward?!"

Quinn finally snapped.

Anyone who joined this rebellion with no intention to die in it does not belong here!” she roared back at the young noble, shoving her away. She breathed heavily, her eyes smouldering, before turning her back and beginning her return to Iyns. “... Re-evaluate your reason for being here, Lady Crescalla. If it was only for your admiration of how a little girl was taught to hold herself in the company of elders, you never had the aptitude for this fight. I don’t live in your naïve fantasy. Neither do my people.”

Xia's lips pulled back revealing a fully teeth-bared snarl as a small knife was gripped behind her back.

"You have no people you pathetic, stuck up wench!"

She drew the dagger and primed it in a similar manner to her katana.

"You're just Ottavia Virmonte! Daughter of a corrupted house from Triveila who found herself offered a role she had no business accepting! You're no Maiden! You could never be the Maiden with your background! You're another Egruus in disguise!"

What came next came so fast, Quinn had no time to think. There was only one thought – one that didn’t come from her mind. And yet her entire body buzzed with it. Fight. The sound of metal being deflected split the air twice before it was over, and the cloud over her mind cleared.

Two seconds had passed since the fight had broken. Two seconds was all it took for Xia’s strikes to cease, and the knife to drop.

Quinn’s breath came ragged over Xia’s shoulder. Her glasses had fallen in the scramble and her wig had been pulled in the attempt to expose her neck. Slowly, her eyes slid down to see the blade of victor. Bloodied. Bursting from Xia’s back. The cerulean blue fabric was darkening, and over the heart beat in Quinn’s ears, she heard a gargle.

With a trembling hand cradling the back of Xia’s head, Quinn slowly laid her down in the flower field. Pulling back, she saw Xia’s shocked, terrified eyes and the tears that streamed down to meet with the blood and saliva dripping from the young woman’s chin. Hands clutching around the blade, trying to remove what was killing her - as if it were as easy as taking it out. Another gargle came from her throat, and Quinn knew she was trying to swallow the vomit. Quinn had killed enough to know. A woman, no matter how beautiful in life, was reduced to the same mess at the end of a blade.

“... I’ll... I’ll get Kade,” she choked out, the horror of what she had done dawning on her. “D-Don’t pull it out. It’ll be fine. I’ll return. It’ll be fine.”

"Ku-...Kuagh." Xia coughed, splattering further droplets of blood across her chest. "N-no," she begged, laying her right hand, bloodied and sliced across the palm, on top of Quinn's hand.

"I don't... Want him to see me like this," she wheezed, her voice hoarse and a gurgling shadow of its former self.

“Are you an idiot?! There’s no time to think so superficially! You’ll die without him!” Quinn snapped as she whipped her hand away to stand.

Xia, using precious amounts of her rapidly fading strength, reached out and grabbed Quinn's ankle.

”Please!” She cried, followed by a brief coughing fit. Gazing up at Quinn, she whispered, ”It's too late.” She reached up to grip Quinn's dress and tugged downward weakly, urging her to kneel closer as her other hand gripped her wound. And as Xia spoke, her voice came in soft, weak gasps.

”I have just-ack... One request," she whimpered.

Her hand on Quinn's dress slowly released its grip, unable to sustain the effort any longer as it fell gracelessly to the ground.

”M-my brother. He died. A simple guardsman... Just doing his job.” She blinked away a gathering flood of tears as she gazed pleadingly into Quinn's eyes. ”It was miss Almna. She took his life and-... Kuagh... She never told me why.”

Her hand on the ground curled, trying to grip the grass.

”I never-Nngh... I never got to say "goodbye" to him.”

Her body began to relax. Her grip on her wound slowly weakening.

”I confronted her the night she disappeared. She ran from answering me... She promised..." She sniffled deeply, clearing her throat. "Please don't let her hide... Don't let her run. She needs to-Kuagh... Answer for what she did. Please...”

“I don’t know if I can make the promise that she will pay,” Quinn blurted once she found her numbed tongue. “She’s escaped to Cre’Est, I... I have a revolution to run. I can’t focus on the death of anyone other than -“

"Liar-!" From Xia's mouth erupted a small fountain of blood which settled unceremoniously on her dress above her breasts. She coughed and gurgled until her throat finally cleared and her breathing settled. "This isn't about your responsibility to the Revolution... You just don't want to."

Xia took a deep, wheezing breath.

"You truly are a heartless wench... It would take all of a few seconds to order Feline to bring her back. And when... When she returns, you don't need to do anything. Taira and the others..."

The light in her eyes began fading, but somehow she continued to hold on. And it was at this moment that a figure appeared among the trees nearby, quietly observing the end of the exchange.

"You owe me this, Ottavia Virmonte."

As the words left her mouth, she began choking quietly in the back of her throat. Her heart rate spiked, and her breathing became shallower and sharper. And then… Silence. A tiny wisp of air escaped her lips as her chest went still. Her tears stopped flowing, and those stuck in her eyes either dripped down her cheeks or dried up against her flesh. Her mouth hung ever so slightly agape, her eyes glassed over and gray.

Xia Crescalla… Was no more.

Kyero approached and knelt down, looking over Xia’s body. Glancing to the side he saw the small knife she’d used to attack Quinn, and he took a deep breath in through his nose as he pieced together what happened.

As he gazed into Xia’s lifeless eyes, his stoic face betrayed nothing about his feelings. His fingertips gently coaxed her eyes shut, his thumb the same to her lips. Cupping her face in his large, powerful hand, he used his thumb to wipe the drying tears away and drew her into a quiet embrace. Her head rested in his shoulder, his cheek against her crown. Her blood stained his jacket and shirt, but he cared not. Setting her body down amidst the crimson grass and dirt, he rose to his feet to block Quinn’s view of the girl she’d killed. Using his thumb and index fingers to tilt her chin up, forcing her to look him in the eyes.

”On your feet, Maiden.”

His voice was quiet, but forceful. His eyes burning with a fiery passion not previously seen. He let his fingers slip off her chin and rose to his full height, gazing down at her.

Quinn stood with the confidence of a newborn fowl, each step threatening to topple her. Before Xia’s broken body, she extended a shaking hand and tried to hold her sword’s hilt. Attempt one. Attempt two. Four attempts before her fist could clamp around its mark. With a swift yank and swish, her dripping sword hovered at her side. Blood flung from the blade splattered the petals of a swaying silent witness.

“... What will you tell them of this?”

"Nothing," Kyero said. He stepped around her and carefully picked up Xia's body before facing his Maiden. "It's not my responsibility to do so."

Quinn completely froze at that. Her wide, unblinking eyes trailed down to Xia’s limp form and stared without seeing.






























“Tell Feline and Taira of Xia’s death and determine where she shall rest,” she suddenly commanded. She moved to pick up her fallen spectacles, rubbing them clean on her skirt. “Assist Taira in digging the grave and... and have Kade prepared to conduct the ceremony. Feline will inform everyone of Xia’s passing, gather them at the gravesite and have them ready to leave the moment she is buried.”

With that, she slid her bloodied blade into its jolly yellow sheath. Lowering it to her side, she looked over her shoulder to Kyero with dark eyes.

“Is my instruction clear?”

”Her life ended by your hand. You are informing them of her passing. Not Feline. Not me. You."

Quinn shut her eyes and took in a long, tense breath.

“Inform Feline and the others of her passing,” she repeated, “Not of how she came to pass. I would like my allies aware that they’re attending a funeral before they have gathered for one. The details of her death are mine to tell.” She turned her gaze from him to the ground, but deliberately glanced away from the painted flowers. “I need this time to determine how.”

Kyero took an equally long breath, then, speaking more softly... "Regardless of why, Xia made an attempt on your life. A traitor. It needn't be more complicated than that, so don't waste your time or breath trying to paint a prettier picture than the canvas allows."

He turned away, speaking over his shoulder.

"This can and likely will happen again... You know that.”

“Understood” Quinn snapped, “You have your orders. Go.

Kyero gave a nod and disappeared.

Quinn walked into the woods.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Following his orders, Kyero informed Feline of Xia's death. Gazing at Xia's lifeless body in Kyero’s arms, she pet Xia’s hair and brushed a bloody bang out of her face leaving a tiny red streak across her forehead.

”If there is an afterlife, I wish you a safe journey.” She whispered, stroking Xia’s cheek.

”Go inform Taira, and have her alert the others and gather them all here. Xia is to be buried.”

”Where’s the Maiden?”

”She will be along by the time we’re ready.”

Feline gave him a silent glare, holding it for a few seconds before disappearing to do as told. Upon delivering the news to Taira, who broke down into bitter and uncontrollable tears, Feline returned to the forest. Much to her surprise Kyero was on his knees and digging his hands into the dirt.

”What are you doing?”

”What does it look like?”

”You know there are tools for that, right?”

”My hands are the only tools I need. And this is for a friend.”

”Ex-friend. But… As you will. Once she stops crying, Taira will tell the others.”

Kyero paused, glaring at Feline out of the corner of his eye.

”You couldn’t be bothered to tell them in Taira’s stead?”

”You said ‘deliver the news to Taira,’ and that’s what I did.”

Kyero’s eyes flared, but he returned to his task.

By the time the others had been informed and arrived in the forest, Kyero was just finishing the grave. Setting the last of the dirt to the side, he heaved a sigh and looked at Xia’s calm, lifeless form, being tended to by Kade. Staring quietly, he slowly blinked once and stood up to face the others as they waited for Quinn.





”She’s taking a really long time, isn’t she?”

”She’s the Maiden. I’m sure she’ll be here as soon as she can.”

”Are a few bits of paperwork or planning truly more important than the death of one of our own, Taira?”

”… That’s not a fair thing to say,” she muttered, glancing away.

”You must have thought the same somewhere in your mind.”

Taira’s fists clenched and Feline’s stance grew slightly wider before Kyero snapped his fingers, sounding like the crack of a whip, drawing their attention.

”Feline, be silent. There is a reason, and you’ll understand when she gets here.”

Feline made a “tch” sound and crossed her arms while Taira heaved a sigh.



Quinn really was taking a long time though.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Twenty minutes or so passed as Marcus returned to clean up the discarded papers. Sheets scattered as the thief ran from one corner of the room to the next, swept away by the morning breeze which glided through the window. As the last of the paper were crumpled and chucked into a trash barrel, Marcus found a moment to appreciate the sense of a job well done. A puddle of wax hardened within the confines of a nearby lantern, not a flicker of light upon its pale, shapeless husk.

Tap, tap, tap!

Three knocks snapped Marcus’ attention towards the door. Dainty as a feather, and just as swift. Whatever doubts he had about this visitor’s identity were swept away by the high-pitched voice that followed. ”Qui- Ahem, Mademoiselle Dezantro? Are you there? I need to find Marcus! He wasn’t at the boys’ room, and I have something I really, really, really need to give him!”

“Uhh… Marcus is right in here.” The door opened a crack, and the thief peered through. Jeanne’s eyes went wide as saucers. “Morning, Jeanne. Got another present for me, have you? If it’s anything like the last, I’m all ears. Couldn’t have pulled off some of those shots I made without the rifling you did for my guns.”

Jeanne stood stock-still, her jaw hung loose, the green of her eyes twinkling to reflect the sunlight. P-P-P-Pardenaire, she stammered as she raised a trembling finger from the elbow. ”Did you-did you just…,” Jeanne continued in a whisper. Her eyes glanced to peer into the room, then returned. ”...You and Quinn.”

Silence.

A gust of wind blew through the window and out the corridor. Her strawberry locks bounced into a flutter.

Her lips contorted into a huge grin. She clapped her palms together over her chest and whispered, ”My Pardenaire’s all grown up!” then brought her hands against her cheek as she exhaled, ”I am so proud~”

Marcus’ face went bright red as he hurriedly tried to dissuade her train of thought. “N-no, we did nothing like that!” he hissed. “I was just clearing up some papers that needed throwing out, that’s all!”

Jeanne brought one hand to stifle her giggles, while the other dismissed his words with a wave. ”No worries, no worries!...I’m not telling anyone.” The jester emphasized with a nod, and her expression softened into a smile. ”Everyone expects the Maiden to sort out their problems! Kind of you to, ah, entertain her..." Jeanne flashed her partner a wink. "It’s a wonder she’s not stark-raving mad, if you ask me. I wouldn’t last an hour in her place.”

Jeanne’s eyes shifted towards her satchel, hanging from a strap over her shoulder. ”...And being her trusted advisor is no picnic either! Which is why I brought you…” Fair fingers fumbled inside, and Marcus could hear the clatter and rustle of nuts and bolts and steel, before… ”This!”

Strips of cloth over a handle of wood. A metal barrel, eight inches long and tarnished by soot and ash. A flint-striking mechanism above the trigger. At first, it seemed like just another pistol. But Marcus’ eyes were quickly drawn towards a cylinder in front of the guard. Six holes arranged at the front, with one obscured by and connected straight to the barrel.

”It’s a prototype,” Jeanne stated. She twirled the weapon from her index finger, caught the barrel with the rest of her hand, and handed the gun into Marcus’s palm, butt-side first. The jester stepped back, knuckles against her waist, and a familiar, cat-like smirk upon her lips. The expression of a job well-done. ”Comes with a liiiiittle surprise I developed back in Deadman’s Cove. And you’re going to test it out!”

The thief gingerly took the weapon, examining it carefully. He pressed a little catch on the side and watched the cylinder pop out on a hinge. He gave a nod, visibly impressed with the jester’s work.

Just then, a silver-haired shadow emerged from under the stairs. All traces of a smile vanished from Jeanne’s face as they noted the grim look upon Taira’s face.




The sun had swept aside the clouds while the Maiden’s Company gathered, as if the gods themselves saw fit to shine a spotlight upon the funeral. Jeanne stood besides Marcus, her head down, her beryl gaze dimmed with gloom. She caught a glimpse of the noble’s pale, cold hand, and immediately averted her eyes, one hand clutching her partner’s sleeve. ”S-she’s really…,” Jeanne’s lips quivered, then shut.

Sieg stood on the other side of the circle, both hands rested upon the handle of a shovel. Kyero dug the grave himself, but an extra pair of arms would hasten the burial. If needed, or wanted. He looked towards Xia’s corpse, brows set into a solemn expression. Taira told them little, and his mind brimmed with questions. Questions he kept at bay. Questions he expected to be answered, after they pay their respects.

Marcus put a reassuring arm around Jeanne’s shoulders, even his normal expression looking sullen. He had tried to get a look at Xia’s body to determine how she died, but it was difficult considering that she was already resting in her grave. Yet the questions continued to nag at him. Who killed her? An undercover bandit from the clan Miriam had warned him and Quinn about the night before? Would they have to keep a more rigorous watch to ensure nobody else went the same way? He even, on instinct, began to wonder how much that weird, foreign sword of Xia’s would have sold for…

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Miriam woke to the sound of a knocking on her door. Miranda was still wrapped in her arms and Miriam couldn’t even remember when they had drifted off to sleep. another knock caused Miranda to stir. Thankfully no more dreams had come to her last night.

”You should get that…” Miranda muttered sleepily.

Miriam rose from the bed gently releasing Miranda from her arms. Walking over she opened the door to see the Taira there. Miriam started to smile and greet but then she saw the goddess’ face. Soon the news of Xia’s death and Quinn calling a gathering was relayed.

Miriam could only glance back to Miranda as Taira left. Miranda’s voice was weak as she asked. ”Was it Era?”

Miriam frowned. ”There is only one way to know…” she said with a sigh. Was it Era? Miriam wondered. Or the bandit that had visited her? ”We shouldn’t keep Quinn waiting…”

Miranda quickly dressed Miriam had no need as she had fallen asleep still dressed. The two made their way to the meeting spot in silence. both lost in their thoughts trying to piece together who could have killed Xia and why…

As they come upon the meeting spot Miriam spoke up ”What happened? And where’s Quinn?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Marcel looked up to Miriam from "discreetly" leaning over the top of Kade to peer at the preparation of Xia's body.

"Well, it's an open casket," he said, jogging up to meet with her, "That crosses at least one culprit off the list, right?" His eyes narrowed and face soured as he glanced around the trees, his hands on his hips. "... And Quinn, I don't know. And those guys don't know," he grunted, gesturing with his head over at Kyero and his posse, "Nobody knows, and hell, I don't think it's safe to not know with what just happened."

At that, Kade rose from Xia's body, his eyes solemn and free from tears. He gazed down at his work and took off his sunhat to hold over his chest in respect. Xia looked nothing like how she did at the time of her departure. Her horrified eyes were shut, and the blood and drool from her mouth was wiped away. Her wounds were a flowerbed. Every drop of blood on her royal blue dress was tucked away behind an array of rainbow colored petals. She looked at peace... which was a dirty lie.

"She's taken too long, I'll do it without her," he said in a low voice towards Feline and Taira, deliberately looking away from Kyero. He took his place before the grave and looked up at the serious and impatient faces staring back at him. Behind him, Taira sobbed and the Demon stood. The sun shone directly into his eyes without the hat, but he placed it aside and took in a breath.

...

"Today we are gathered here to mourn the loss of the Lady Xia Jua' Crescalla, and celebrate the life she had," he spoke at last. There was a long pause, almost spared completely of mourning and celebration apart from Taira letting out a wail, before he murmured hastily, "I am not too familiar with Triveilan funeral customs, but -"

From his pocket, he produced a small pouch of water. He looked to the skies, made a gesture asking for Velran's forgiveness for what he was about to say, and poured the water into the open grave.

"The lifeblood of the Goddess Auxerellia takes many forms," he declared, "Falling from the sky, sitting stagnant in lakes, and rushing in the rivers like veins to her heart. Her heart, the ocean, where all water inevitably returns. Our souls are no different." There was something strikingly mature about Kade as he gave this service, shutting his eyes and clasping his hands in prayer. "Xia, I am not a priest of yours, but I pray that my offering carries your soul to Auxerellia's domain. May the Gods and your ancestors welcome you. ... And may you find all you have lost."

He reopened his eyes with a shaky breath to look back at the gathering, their expressions unchanged. "... Would anyone like to say a few words?"

Silence. Even Taira's constant weeping had come to a halt. The birds chirped, enjoying the sunlight on this fine day. Kade glanced over his shoulder to Kyero and Feline, silent and stoic. If Kyero had any sadness in his eyes as he gazed at Xia's body, Kade didn't let himself look long enough to see it. Taira began to say something about Xia being her friend when she broke down, and for a while, her agonized cries were the backdrop for the group's held voices.

"Go with the Goddess." Miriam broke the silence with a solemn blessing. Kade sent a weak, grateful smile her way before looking over everyone once more.

"... I'm not going to stand here pretending that any of you knew this woman," he said, voice cracking. "It's not... my place to, but I would like to say some words." He composed himself for a moment. "When I met Xia, she was... in the garden my sister once cared for, admiring the flower... Mable once cared for the most. I... wanted to know her." A little smile played on his lips at the memory, but it quickly fell flat. "And... And it feels like... I was the only one."

He paused, trying to gather his thoughts into something cohesive. He looked over the crowd, lingering on Marcus a few seconds longer.

"We made a promise to each other," he said, "To be noticed, but it was more than that. It wasn't just to be noticed, it was... to be braver, to belong, and... and I can say, that, I feel... I'm... apart of something, with all of you. And I - I took it. I took it from her." He swallowed, his eyes becoming wetter by the second. "When the demoness, she... Xia and I stuck together with our, pfft, our mutual insignificance, and when that godless woman demanded it... I rose, and she fell, and she must have felt so small until the end and I - I didn't notice, and I should have been by her."

His shining eyes dimmed, like clouds covering the moon.

"We should have been."

Kade turned from the group to Taira, Feline and Kyero. A storm brewed in his gaze, hidden from the rest.

"You were her friends?" he asked in a low, seething voice, his eyes fixed on Taira and her tears. "She was both too desperate to be and scared to let herself be noticed by someone who had 'good friends'. You forgot her."

The wind held still at Kade's boldness, as if the world had sucked in its breath.

"... I'm not telling you, that you didn't love her," he continued, his tone no less forceful. "I have forgotten and been forgotten and ..." he gazed back to Xia's body, his eyes softened. He looked back over to the gathering, and a blush began to spread over his cheeks like he was embarrassed to have been seen and heard like this. The belated tears were finally spilling.

"Never forget to show others what they mean to you," he said in a tiny voice, sniffling and wiping at his eyes. "Because sometimes... they go away. That's all."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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And so, it began. The final speech. Delivered by Kade to prepare the departed for the great beyond. As Taira’s sob crescendoed into a wail, Jeanne’s head sank lower, her eyes welled with tears, her shoulders shook under her partner’s hand. She held back her voice, having known little to nothing about the departed.

Sieg was no different. He bowed his head, giving the dead her dues. The death of a young girl was always a tragedy. But she was one dead acquaintance of many. The circumstances of her death seemed suspect. Still, he saw neither dismemberment nor defilement upon her body. He only hoped that it was quick. As Miriam broke the silence, the knight turned his attention to her. He turned right back to Xia's grave, his glare softened with approval.

Jeanne’s face leapt up to attention when Kade’s tone turned hot and his words, accusatory. He was right. Xia felt so alone, so distant, even when Jeanne tried to strike a conversation with her. The jester couldn’t help but wonder, Did I remind her of Taira?... Did she not like that? Perhaps she was overthinking it. But it was, definitely, too late for questions. The tears slid down her cheeks as the priest finished his words. Jeanne inhaled, and sighed out her parting words, ”Good journey, Xia.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Block, deflect, stab.

Block, deflect, disarm.

Block, deflect, stab.

Block, deflect, disarm.

Sweat rolled down to Quinn's hand as she finally lowered her parasol down, looking to the skies to catch her breath. The skies were blue and clear and beautiful and furious. The stagnant and peaceful forest around her was buzzing with unspoken resentment and painful to touch. The Gods didn't trust her in their domain.

Block, deflect, stab. Block, deflect, disarm.

How will you clean your mess, Ottavia?




There was nothing said as Xia's body was lowered into the grave. Not even Taira could recover from her tears long enough to return Kade's boldness. Marcel was impatiently pacing through the gloomy congregation when his face relaxed with relief.

Quinn took her place before the grave slowly. She didn't dare peer through her bangs to meet the eyes she felt on her. Swallowing, she opted to glance down into the open grave instead. Inside laid Xia, decorated by a soft, lovely flower arrangement. No doubt, a reflection of the soft and lovely woman who had left this world too soon.

Ha.

The Maiden cleared her throat.

"At sunrise this morning, driven by the decision made by myself that failed to make effort to protect her, Lady Crescalla made an attempt on my life."

And there it was, everything Quinn had been dreading to expose recounted in a single, succinct sentence. She finally lifted her chin to gaze over everyone's faces with a grim expression. There was no need to explain further. The silence that followed such a claim was telling in itself.

"The body in this grave is not a symbol," she continued, her voice sounding detached from the woman speaking, "She is not a message. She is not a warning. Do you understand?"

Despite her words, the stern glare she was giving them was most certainly a warning against ever saying otherwise.

"Now, there are some things I must be clear with," she said calmly, "To avoid any such incidents from occurring again."

A breath.

"This fight is not one you join not prepared to die in."

She held on that note. Her dangerous eyes scanned through the group before her, locking gazes with whoever she could.

"... And I am here, as its Maiden. This is the fight I command. I am here to lead my people. I am not here," her grip on her parasol tightened as she struggled to fight the rising passion. Her glare burned with the simmering fury of a volcano. Building pressure, ready to be challenged. Ready to erupt.

"To be your friend."

...

Quinn leaned down, clenched her fist around a handful of dirt, straightened and tossed it into the grave. It hit the flowers, dislodging the arrangement and crushing petals. She gave one curt nod of respect to the body and briskly stepped back to stand near Kyero, refusing to look at him. She didn't give a damn about his disapproval, but she didn't need to fucking see it.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Quinn held nothing back. Her words chilled the air like the first winds of winter.

”Lady Crescalla made an attempt on my life.”

Jeanne’s breath halted into a gasp. Her heart skipped a beat, her eyes quivering as she clasped her hands together.

”I am not here,

To be your friend.”


She hung her head, unsure of what to think, to say, to do, anything. From her peripherals, Jeanne snuck a glance towards Quinn. Her friend’s sea green gaze was cold as ice. Veilbrand needed an idol. A vessel for the ideals of its people. And Quinn seemed willing to sacrifice so much of herself, to become that idol. To carry those ideals. To ignite the flames of revolution, even if she burns in the process.

Jeanne’s throat went dry. Her lips parted, then closed, unable to summon the question in her mind. ”But why?”

Marcus’ jaw clenched. He looked from Quinn to Xia’s body, then back again. The Maiden’s story made sense; a bandit or one of Te’i Sai would have likely meant a closed casket funeral, and the deceased seemed like the type to be more at home with hosting a dinner party than fighting in the streets. From what little he’d seen of her, anyway.

And yet… somewhere, deep down, Quinn’s words stung him. The thief knew she had to keep an image, to uphold a reputation, and knowing that only seemed to make it worse. The Maiden of the Revolution had to keep herself focused. Distant. Even from the people who were the closest thing to her travelling companions.

Sieg raised his head. His brows furrowed into his usual glare. His body did not budge. His steel-like eyes focused upon Quinn. His fingers wrapped tighter against the spade handle. He peered into the grave from the corner of his eyes. Self-defense. Quick. Bloody. But dignified. Buried. A better death than a traitor deserved. Veilbrand was a warzone. And the revolution, an army. There was no room for disruption.

Sieg kept his head up, and his lips shut, for the rest of the funeral. No words need be spared, good or ill.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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As Miranda listened to Quinn’s words a deep sadness filled her heart. What had happened to the friend she thought she knew? Her look was cold. Like her Father’s… Miriam must have been having somewhat the same thoughts as Miranda looked over at her.

Suddenly a mock clapping cut though the deadly silence. ”Spoken like a true tyrant.” Miriam seethed as her clapping died.

”Mira please this isn’t the time” Miranda pleaded.

”And when is the time?” Miriam growled. ”After Your beloved friend puts us all in a grave like dear Xia?”

Miranda went silent looking at Quinn as Miriam turned to the others. ”I’m not afraid to die… What I am afraid of is that we are just replacing one tyrant with another one.”

Miriam pointed to Quinn. ”I don’t know who this woman is… She is not the same person I pledged my service to.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Though Marcel's feet were planted firmly on the ground during Quinn's address, he was experiencing a lurching feeling akin to something he'd only felt once before. Seasickness. Her words, her stare, her poise... it was all enough to break him into a cold sweat.

Not there... to be... a friend.

The first time he met her, she was sitting on her luggage and dripping snot and tears on the pages of a tragic romance. Seventeen years old, nothing like the heir to a family of slavers Rucia had spoken of. But...

Was it Veilbrand, or the Garnetts? ... Or had the Virmontes planted this seed, long before she had come of age.

Once upon a time, Marcel would have been the shield between Quinn's back and people like Xia. He protected her from the harm the world sought to inflict upon her. But now, as he recalled back to the rigid, unflinching way she had slit that man's throat in the first week of reuniting with her... and how casually she commanded him to butcher the bodies... he knew, and known for a long time, he wasn't needed to protect her anymore. She could protect herself... in other words, murder had become just another necessity of life for her. It wasn't a horrific spectacle, as the burning of the Chancellor's Mansion had been. Taking life came as naturally as taking a dump. Gross to boast about and definitely not something you want to be watched doing, but a necessary task nonetheless.

Marcel had taken life. He had taken so much life, he could laugh about it. An enemy's life wasn't sacred. Not once you had slaughtered fifty, and still counting, and ... you lost count.

His hand clenched at his hip, the ghost of Shiver's weight tricking him into reaching for her hilt. He had been the shield between this girl - woman and so much more than an enemy's blade. All that time, he'd been preventing her from learning the cruelty needed to survive as a soldier. And once he had gone...

Marcel flinched at the harsh sound of flesh smacking coming from beside him and tossed his head aside, pushing those thoughts away. He stared down at Miriam, his face slack with incredulity, as she spoke out against Quinn. Tyrant, she said. Addressing them like an assembly, turning to them for support. Marcel swallowed with a dry mouth as he looked to Quinn, the fist gripped around an imaginary Shiver shaking. Her expression and stance hadn't changed in the slightest, her stare fixed on Miriam's back. He caught Miriam's accusatory point in his peripherals and -

"Shark! You're out of line!"

He barked, short and sharp as a soldier being called to attention. He turned his golden glare down at her, a rare anger simmering behind his eyes. A hint of an anger that only Miriam had seen, once before.

"If I'd been there," he growled, jabbing two fingers towards the grave as he kept his glare locked with hers, "That kill would've been mine. And I wouldn't have sent her off with fucking flowers!"

Kade, sitting by the grave with his arms wrapped around his knees, flinched at Marcel's sudden aggression. He cast his tearful eyes aside in shame, trying to quieten his small gasping breaths. Marcel stalked closer to Miriam.

"So take it back," he demanded in a low, threatening tone, "Self-defense isn't an act of tyranny." Something switched in Marcel then, as his mouth quirked up into a smirk through his fury, "But hey, you know what is? Killing someone because you don't like what they're saying. ... Now doesn't that sound familiar?"

He finished in her personal space, hostile energy practically cracking in the small gap he'd left between them. He wasn't backing down. He could fall asleep to the melody of Miriam insulting him, but this would not stand.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Jeanne’s lips parted with a gasp. Her hands pressed against her chest. Her eyes darted from Marcel, to Miriam, and back again. The fury in Marcel’s words was… unmistakable, unconcealed, unexpected. The gold of his eyes shined stark against his darkened features, like a dragon eyeing his quarry. Serum or not, he was prepared to take her on. For the sake of his… their... friend.

Even so.

Jeanne stepped forward, her fingers clasped together in a plea. ”G-guys, time and place! This is a funeral!” she chastised them. But the jester saw the heat in their eyes, a mere sign of the fire already burning within their hearts and minds. There was no backing down.

In another corner, Sieg marched two steps forward. His mountainous form loomed over Marcel, his eyes focused straight on Miriam. The knight slung the shovel on his shoulder, all five fingers like a vise upon the shaft. Standing so close, Marcel could hear Sieg exhale, the voice which came somewhere between a growl and a hiss.

”Twenty four years,” he started, his jaw set into his glare. ”All that time in service of my country. My land. Its people.” Sieg bowed his head an inch. ”I am a son of Veilbrand. Tyrants come and go every generation. Egruus is just another cur to be put down. This time, my blade will not be held back.”

His brows furrowed. Deeper than usual. ”If you think an iron will and a heart of steel is a sign of tyranny, then your gut is softer than I expected. You are not fit for this revolution. Take your pledge and shove it,” Sieg narrowed his eyes. ”... ‘Shark’.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Marcus let out an irritated sigh at Miriam’s interruption of the funeral. She just couldn’t let this one go, could she? He muttered under his breath, “Fuck’s sake, not this shit again…”

Several others present appeared to share his opinion, with Marcel and then Sieg speaking out against the pit fighter. Not to be outdone, Marcus let go of Jeanne and took a step forward.

“If the Maiden’s not fit to lead the revolution, then who is?” he questioned Miriam. “You? Someone who’s done more complaining than the rest of us put together? Who thinks that their skills are wasted here?” The thief gave her a look of withering contempt. “Get over yourself. I’ve lived in Veilbrand my entire life, and trust me when I say that I know what true tyranny looks like. If we’re too busy fighting amongst ourselves, we’ll lose any chance of bringing down the real dictator.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Miranda saw it in Mira’s eyes as everyone turned on her. That rage building inside of her… She had to defuse this before it exploded in everyone’s faces.

”ENOUGH! All of you enough!” Miranda shouted. She stared down everyone as she continued. ”You are all acting like children. Can’t get off your own ego or too vain to admit when you are wrong!”

Miranda paused glaring at everyone. ”I speaking to all of you here… Even you Mira. We can not keep this alliance together if we keep bringing up and judging other over the mistakes of the past…” She turned her gaze to Marcel as she added. ”...nor should we judge by events that have been proven the work of our enemy.”

Turning back to everyone Miranda let out a deep sigh. This butting of heads will serve no one but our foes. We all have differences… We all see the world in different ways. From what I have seen of this group so far we don’t know near as much about each other as we should. Maybe just maybe if you took the time to learn how others ticked you would know that not everyone in this rebellion is kind that jumps just because someone says jump. And really can you blame My Tempest? After you pushed her under the wagon just to save your own face? I know Mira. I know you can’t keep pushing her and treating her like a rabid animal and still expect her to just calmly take it….”

Miranda turned to Miriam with a sigh. ”You need to learn some tact babe…” She turned her eyes to Quinn then. ”While i disagree with much of what Mira said… She is right about one thing Quinn. You have changed…”

With that Miranda turned to Miriam. ”Let’s go babe…Let them cool their heads..."





Miriam had shockingly stayed quiet during Miranda’s speech and just nodded with a glare towards the three men before turning to join Miranda. It was in that turn that Miriam suddenly felt lightheaded and stopped in her tracks.

Miranda looked to Miriam. ”Mira? Babe? You okay?” She asked coming closer.

”I’m Fine” Miriam said with a shooing gesture.

But Miriam was not fine as only a few seconds after those words crossed her lips so did the contents of her stomach. Miriam goaned a hand on her tummy.

”Kade! Kade!” Miranda called as she rushed to Miriam’s side.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

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Miriam’s sudden illness inspired nothing but a deep, restless dissatisfaction in Marcel. His expression was unchanging as Kade bumped past him on his way to her side. The healer’s tears had immediately cleared, his brow furrowed with a professional concern. He wiped his thumb across Miriam’s forehead, feeling the sticky fever between his fingers.

“We need to get her to a bed,” he informed Miranda calmly, “And my tools. Help me.”

His spindly arms looped under Miriam’s armpit and attempted to haul her up, failing to do so until Miranda came to his assistance. Kade hurried the sickly gladiator away with her lover, leaving the other to stew in the uncomfortable aftermath of an unfinished conflict. Marcel burned with the fight that never came, his fists shaking with pent up anger.

“She’s full of shit,” he growled, “It’s probably dysentery.”

Sieg stabbed his shovel into the ground, spade-side down. The shaft trembled as it stuck till it could shake no more. The giant of a man folded his arms over his chest. His limbs thick as tree trunks against his chest. ”The slattern has no loyalty,” Sieg rumbled. His chest rose and sank as he steadied his breathing. In. Out. In. Out. The red faded from his vision, and with it came his next words.

”She brought our judgment upon herself. Dissent is one thing. Treachery is another. It brings down the greatest of armies.” Sieg’s eyes dimmed, all traces of blue lost within the dark. Echoes of the past drummed within his mind. The symphony of screams and clashing steel. The scent of blood and iron mixed until they were one and the same. And her hand. Pale. Limp. Lifeless within his palm. ”I understand this. Personally.”

“And that puffed-up pet pirate of hers will defend her to the hilt, won’t she?” Marcus voiced his thoughts out loud. “If she doesn’t want to be treated like a rabid animal, she should stop acting like one all the damn time. And then she complains about it! How long will it be until we can’t trust her to do even a simple job?” The thief looked to the others, as if to prompt any further comment.

“Like jumping?” Marcel mocked with a huff.

Jeanne’s shoulders slumped as she looked from one man to the other, each of their comments harsher than the last. A gust of wind swept over her, and the jester brought her arms over her chest to ward off the cold. Part of Miranda’s words repeated in her mind.

We don’t know near as much about each other as we should.

Jeanne raised her head ever so slightly. Her eyes flicked from one side to the other. ”We- we know each other well enough, right?” she started. After a second of thought, she gave a single, vigorous nod. ”Yeah! E-enough to be acquaintances, if not friends!”

The jester squinted, and her lips pursed into a pout as she held both hands at her hips. Those two are the ones who insist on being aloof. Especially Miranda.” Jeanne’s head sank to one side as she sighed, ”She’s such a spaniel, following her wifey around, all day, every day! Like no one else exists. Like nobody else matters!”

A pause.

Jeanne swiveled on her feet and grabbed Marcus by his lapels, then looked between him, Sieg, and Marcel, her brows lowered as determination blazed within her eyes. ”Guys, guys!... We should make Miranda follow her own advice! Let’s have her come drink with us… without Miriam!”

Marcel stared at Jeanne with a flat expression and walked away. Sieg raised one brow. ”You drink?”

The jester’s eyes turned wide, and her lips parted with a silent gasp. She whipped her head away, her chin raised, her eyes closed, and her nose held high. ”Hmph! I’ll have you know, I appreciate the finer things in life too! Like… pretty clothes, and fatty foods, and strong liquor,and-and good-looking Shaharans!”

Marcel moonwalked back.

Quinn finally sat herself down after just watching everything unfold, removing her sweat-slick wig and glasses to rub at her eyes. She was exhausted. Perhaps she should have felt furious, at Miriam’s treacherous actions. Comforted by those who leapt to defend her. Or in mourning, for the having it confirmed, as plain as it could be, who Miranda would love and support unconditionally. No matter how her lover may condemn Quinn.

“She is right about one thing, Quinn. You have changed…”

No, Ottavia thought, smiling pleasantly and waving out the window to her friend with her father’s grip on her shoulder before he drew the curtains closed and swallowed the little girl up in the dark, This is the first you are seeing me.

As Quinn raised her head, there was a shadow cast over her eyes. The dark glimmer of resentment.

“Bury her,” she commanded with a vague wave over Kyero, Feline and Taira, not really caring who carried out the task, when her ear caught a faint clamour. “Get out of sight,” she hissed over her shoulder to Kyero as she hurried to her feet, trying to fix her wig back.

Her eyes were quick to follow the sound, her stance already gearing for battle. From the trees was emerging a small, furry shape. Like a bear, with a step too graceful and a back ladden with firearms. Chains hung from their neck and crumbs caught in their beard, while two small hands free of weapons were raised high.

Gert sauntered into the funeral, completely disregarding the gawking, wary glares and dead body in a ditch. The disguised woman appraised the party, her gaze unreadable behind those thick, glazed glasses.

Thud.

A netted satchel of books fell to the ground by her feet, disturbing the hanging bear traps and setting them off clanking once more. She put her hands on her hips expectantly and declared in an unmistakable old woman’s voice,

“The last surviving volumes from the City of Storied Stone, a tale sought by shadows that follows veins of green and eloquent conversation - which I hear you to be in sore supply of. Will you take me?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Red-Eyed Demon Character Portrait: Regene "Jeanne" Rhamnus Character Portrait: Marcel Starr Character Portrait: Quinn Xe' Duzelle Character Portrait: Marcus Keller Character Portrait: Miriam Gale Character Portrait: Miranda Wavecrest Character Portrait: Sieghardt Val Lohengrin

0.00 INK

Marcus was caught by surprise when his pardenaire grabbed him by the lapels and presented her idea with the same zeal and vigor as she did when coming up with a new invention. An idea that, at first, he found to be laughable. But then he cast his mind back, back to those early days when he and Jeanne had only just met Quinn and Marcel, the four of them spending the evening at a cozy inn while on the run from Te’i Sai…

That seemed like almost a lifetime ago now.

Well, Marcel sure seemed interested, given how quickly he went back over to Jeanne’s side. Of course, things had changed somewhat between them all since then, and holding a gathering with more people - especially someone as large as Sieg - wouldn’t exactly be inconspicuous, but…

“…Y’know what, I’d be up for that,” Marcus said at last, though not without a rueful glance in Quinn’s direction. “It’s worth a chance to… try and get to know Miranda, I guess? See what sort of person she’s like when she isn’t trying to crawl down Miriam’s throat, and all that…” He might have said more, but a sound from the treeline caught his attention. The thief looked, did a double take, then quickly held up a hand to signal for everyone to stay their weapons.

“…Gert?!” he exclaimed. “You… you actually want to come with us? Last time we spoke, you seemed pretty adamant about staying. Why the sudden change of heart?”

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