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The Jedi temple among the clone wars
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CT suddenly recognizes that the kid, Jei, must not be able to see the scratches on his armor. "It's currently about forty of them."

He realizes that these padawans aren't so bad. They don't see him as the expendable cannon fodder his superiors do.

Speaking to Jei, he consoles the padawan, hitting him lightly on the shoulder. "Don't worry too much. Everyone is probably just fatigued from the attack."

He recognises that Jei is worried and probably pretty tired.

"You don't need to be nervous. You're a Jedi, however young you are. You're being trained in powers few can wield, so that you can preserve peace across the galaxy, assisted by one of the largest militaries to exist in the past millennia. You are fighting to preserve the union of the senate. You're all important. All of us are."
He hoped that helped.

The Prince's Palace
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【"The difference between a regular attack and a sneak attack is that sneak attacks mean you have to use your inside battle cry."】
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【Leaping at a guard】
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Eris continued her prowl around the room, checking the windows, peering into the other rooms, looking for a shred of a hope of a chance that there might be some way to get out of this place short of taking a sledgehammer to the wall and busting out. Which honestly would be ideal, but she didn’t have a sledgehammer, and it didn’t seem likely that one would be provided for her demolishing pleasure. Shame.

The prowl, and it’s plodding, barefooted agitation,came to an abrupt end as movement in her peripherals caused Eris to swivel her head around, eyes fixing on the man who just materialized out of the wall. A guard. She glanced around at the others, who were also looking in his direction. They could take this puny guy, even with his sword. Eris gritted her teeth, coiling as the man began to speak.

To her surprise, however, the others merely crossed the room to sit down placidly. Where was their sense of justice? Of freedom? Of the ability of seven people to effectively gang up on one man and beat him to a pulp until he relents and releases them from their prison? Eris growled low in her throat but conceded, sitting in the back corner. Soon after, the tall woman emerged with a Bez-filled burrito of blankets. They sat in front of her, and then the guard began to speak again.

The anger that boiled up within her was somewhat counterbalanced by Val’s presence nearby, but it still burned white-hot in her chest. Arson! She’d fucking show them arson! The big white-haired one had similar objections to his accusation. Eris decided she liked that guy. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to those stupid guards who didn’t know their head from their asses. Especially this one, who seemed to think it was just perfectly fine to trap a bunch of demons together and put them against one another. She’d known the Prince was a scumbag before, but this proved it. Who did something like this?

After the guard finished his spiel and retreated, everyone scattered off into different rooms, which frustrated Eris even more. They could take this guy! Why weren’t they all on the same page? Thankfully, at least Bez stuck around. Unfortunately, so did Val, and she could feel him blurring her thoughts together just enough that she couldn’t quite focus in on what she wanted to do next. Nonetheless, watching Bez back the fool into a corner, both verbally and physically, amused her. This was what they often did together. Bez would set the target off kilter, and then she would sweep their feet out from under them. It was a fun game.

At some point, Eris felt the sloth’s presence diminish, then vanish entirely. Which seemed to have an effect on the guard as well, because his answers grew more and more defensive and agitated. The way he was speaking to Bez bothered her. He didn’t have the right. His smug, mocking tone, and the way he kept telling them to go away made her coil further. Finally, the frustration grew high enough that Eris couldn’t bear it anymore. The breaking free, the releasing of all that pent up energy was pleasurable enough on its own--that sensation of weightlessness as she leapt up onto the table, the sound her bare feet made as she dashed across the wooden surface, the slight give the guard’s body had as she first collided with him, before his spine seemed to realize what weight had suddenly landed on him and caused him to stumble backwards to keep his balance.

She managed to get a few good hits in before he flung her off. No bites, unfortunately. She rolled when she hit the floor, returning to her feet after a few seconds. She was used to being flung, thrown, batted, and tossed by larger demons. They often weren’t ready for the second strike. Bez’s hand landed on her before she could straighten fully.

Before she could so much as move shrug off the hand, however, it was as if a hand emerged from the stone, grabbing the guard by the collar of his uniform and yanking him backwards through the suddenly apparent door. Said door disappeared again without even a mark on the wall. Eris growled. “
I’m fine,” she said after a long moment, finally straightening now that the guard was out of sight.

Eris stood for a few moments after Bez let go of her, staring at that wall. But no one else came through the fight. Disappointing. She sighed and turned, unsure what to do with all the energy burbling inside her, anxiously seeking a way out. She wanted to punch someone. As she turned towards the fireplace again, Ino appeared, announcing a bathtub. A bathtub???? Why did they need a bathtub?

Nonetheless, Eris made a beeline for it, checking all the doors in the hall and investigating every inch of the new room for potential escape or potential weapons. Disappointed and sweaty she emerged not long after, having no luck in her search. So instead she went to work on the window by the fireplace, trying with every ounce of her strength to open the sash.

Essex, Connecticut
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#4d2915 || Outfit || Trujillo Estate

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The town of Essex would begin to disappear after a few moments. Traveling to the Trujillo Estate was like being in a totally different place. The ambiance was darker; the air cooler and much more humid. It was a place, unlike Adrien's, where one most certainly felt stranded and alone. Luckily, there were signs of life like the sprawling bright flora meticulously nurtured by Mrs. Potterson. Not that it was completely visible in the shadows of the night, as the estate offered little in the way of illumination. Ricardo liked it that way.

They passed through the tall gates at the foothill, then drove up the long and meandering pathway for about two or three minutes. They were surrounded by forest, towering fences with brambles that sprouted wine-colored roses, and the faint glimmer of the moon as the sole source of light. It was q quiet place; maybe even a scary one, given the disposition and rumors of its master.

The car stopped and Jacque stepped out to help Miss. Voigt from the car. Ricardo, of course, let himself out first. While a patient man, he still felt the heat that Adrien incited earlier simmering in his blood. He waited for a couple of moments after Lorelei was helped out of the car and turned toward her, "Miss. Potterson will show you to your room. Everything but the West Wing is open to you." His voice had a strict command tone to it, but he found it especially hard to be gentle for some reason. He felt pretty tense himself. Wound up. It was harder than usual to settle, and that was likely due to all the things that Adrien said and the fact that it had a lot to do with Lorelei. "Sleep well, Miss. Voigt," he dismissed himself in a formal fashion and disappeared swiftly into the Estate.

Jacque guided Mrs. Voigt into the Estate, helping her settle into the foyer where Miss. Potterson was oh-so eager to meet the woman! The ivory-haired lady practically bounced toward Lorelei, cupping one of her hands in both of her own, "Good evening, Miss. Voigt. We've been waiting for you for such a long time." She chuckled, lifting a hand up to her lips as though she released a secret by accident, "We don't get many guests."

Once she released Lorelei, she beckoned her to follow for a brief tour of the house. They'd begin at ground level - naturally. "Nevermind the eerie ambiance. It's much brighter when the curtains are drawn," she assured her guest, realizing that what may be suitable for Trujillo may be a bit daunting to someone like Lorelei. "You'll not have much business in the kitchen, but the dining room is here. We have many servants that are dying to cook a proper meal." She chuckled again as if she had made a joke, but it was really just a sad truth.

They floated in and out of doors to rooms like the tea room, Ricardo's study, and what was probably one of the best parts of the estate - the library that Ricardo spent a lot of time in. Most of the other rooms, especially on the second floor, were scantily furnished. They didn't turn down the West Wing, as it was forbidden to guests and servants alike.

"Oh dear," Miss. Potterson exclaimed as they passed by a looming grandfather clock. It was only a few second-hand ticks away from the booming stroke of midnight. "Time truly does fly!" She ushered the girl toward a set of deep mahogany double doors, pushing her slightly at the small of her back to go inside. "Just put your clothing in the bathroom basket, and I will have them cleaned for you. We tried out best to provide you with undergarments and clothing, but it was such short notice and we don't know much about you at all. We will serve your breakfast downstairs in the morning. Good night, Miss. Voigt."

As Lorelei stepped into the guest room that had been made up for her, she'd find it as dour as the rest of the estate. It did appear, however, that there was at least some effort made to give it a more modern and feminine appeal. There was a splash of light here and there, fresh flowers in vases, a gentle lavender and sandalwood scent, and fresh velvet bedding in deep violet. It may not be the most inviting guest room she has ever been invited to, but they tried. It also had a bathroom attached to it, which was fully stocked with all the amenities a woman might need; sans the makeup. Ricardo and crew weren't in the know-all about that.

Something else awaited her on the bed, covered in a small black box and tied simply in red ribbon. When she lifted the cover, she'd find her feather quill. It seemed to have been put back together somehow, and likely while she was on the long state tour with Miss. Potterson. Next to that laid a trio of casual dresses and a nightgown. No one could be certain of her size, so she'd have to try her luck! At least she would be clean.

As Lorelei settled in, Ricardo had fled to the West Wing. If his estate was considered dark and dingy, then this part of it was even more so. Even the hallway that led to it was uninviting and showed no hints of a light source behind barely lit candle sconces that lined the walls. His first stop was his private study. It was a place that mostly kept family heirlooms and other things he coveted close to the heart. He'd set the encased rose down on a tall side table near a window. The second that he left the room, the grandfather clock that Miss. Voigt and Miss. Potterson would pass only seconds before, tolled its midnight chime. As the door shut and the clock boomed, the first rose petal floated to the floor of the glass dome.

He entered his room, bedroom and moved to his bathroom. He'd wash up, tug on a pair of boxers, and eventually crawl into bed.




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#e2b985 || Outfit || Town Hall

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D U M A I N E x L E R O U X
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#4B0082 || Outfit || City Hall

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Mahin had watched as Roman moved onto other people. Typically, she might be more interested in being social. There was a different feeling tonight, especially as she surveyed the interaction of others. Unlike many others, she hadn't gotten to the dance floor because it just wasn't the night for it. She did listen to the speech, though, and gave her own toast.

It was a rather... awkward speech, and she didn't know what it meant. New beginnings? The end? Maybe there was something going on in town tomorrow that a mere guest didn't know. Then again, it's not like this town had a website. Trust her - she did look.

Just as she thought about leaving, someone approached her. His accent was thick, attire a bold violet, and he seemed smooth as butter. The way he entered the conversation, with a charming dimpled smile and a sharp crease at the corners of his eyes, was enough to earn immediate ease and trust, "Headin' out, cher?" Dumained inquired, leaning against the table with two folded arms and a sharp piercing gaze.

"Actually," she began as she raised her right wrist to snatch a glance at the time, "It's about that time. Care to walk me to the hotel?"

His signature smirk found his lips, "Of course, cher. It's almost midnight, and a lady shouldn't be walkin' alone." He extended a hand toward her, and Mahin gently grasped it long enough to help herself out of the chair and onto her feet.

She grabbed her clutch, "Oh, before we go - I did bid on something."

Dumaine snapped his fingers, "Ah, distracted by a beautiful face. I did as well."

Mahin was first, leading the pair toward the auction table where her princess jewelry set rested. Having had forgotten her bidding number after so long, she had to get the crumpled piece of paper out of her clutch and give it a quick looksie. She was a little bit surprised that she saw it also on the winning bid. It appeared as though a few others tried to have a go at it, but it was hers. The set was cradled by a velvet black box, and she needed only to place the cover and scoop it up. "This was your item? It looks like it was made for you."

Mahin chuckled a little, blushing slightly at the same time, "It felt like me, if I am to be honest. What piqued your interest?"

They didn't have far to walk to find the table with his cane, "I was feelin' a little elegant tonight." Since he was excellent with numbers, he knew that his own was the winning bid. It was also boxed up for him, but he chose to take it out and try it on for size. He tapped the can on the floor, gave off a little twirl and some fancy footwork, "Suits me, no?"

She nodded, laughing lightly as she found his whole victory routine quite comical and charming, "No one else here could pull that off."

Mahin had her winning in a box pinned between her elbow and side, and Dumaine - feeling extra fancy tonight - waltzed out of the town hall in style. All he really needed was a tophat.

It was during that exit when a hasty Lorelei nearly gabbed Dumaine, but didn't offer him much of a chance to respond when she, instead, went for Grayson. Mahin's brows furrowed, and she looked up at her traveling companion. Both the officer and the blonde were back outside in no time, but so was everyone else. In a few short minutes, the throng of witnesses would grow to include Mahin and Dumaine.

Dumaine knew better than to stick around for this hot mess. He turned toward Mahin and began to usher her the other way, "No need tah ruin your night, cher." The truth was that Dumaine didn't want to be a witness to this. He didn't want to earn anyone's ire; neither Ricardo's nor Adrien's. Mahin was just a visitor, so she also didn't need to be an unfortunate bystander.

Mahin allowed Dumaine to lead her away, and the pair walked down the dimly lit street toward the hotel she was staying in. It wasn't much of a hotel, really. It was more like a room above a shop that she was temporarily staying in for a small fee.

They left each other there. Mahin settled into her room after they said their goodbyes, showered, and did all the other necessary things before going to sleep.

Dumaine, on the other hand, was not the luckiest man in Essex. Somewhere in town, clocks were ringing their midnight bells. A couple of hours after midnight, and he was fast asleep in his bed, someone - rather.... someones - were creeping into his apartment. They were just dark contours on his walls at first; jagged, monstrous entities with eyes and long tendrils for limbs. They sunk into the floor and gathered under his bed. His creme-colored sheets were immediately painted in a sea of black and these inky limbs reached for him. They wrapped around his body, and before he could wake up fully, dragged him down to someplace. He would never be seen again.

The Shadowman had a price to pay in the Enchanted Realm, and the souls had come to collect. When his bedroom opened, Baja Muhadhar; the mayor, also the notorious villain known as Jafar, stood in the doorway with Dr. Facilier's amulet in hand. After a few moments, he turned to leave so that he could take care of this turn of events.

It was time for a gathering of villains.

The Horat-verse
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"No, I have no need of revenge," Fushigi said, his eyes hard. "But the circus slaver does deserve retribution. He broke our contract after all. Refused to pay and all that." Fushigi smiled at the group. "Besides, I have a fond spot for your little posse. The Hunter bested me in combat, and not many I've known can do that. Consider it a professional favor."

Suna walked a short distance to where Lo-Muna had fallen, and stared blankly at the woman for a moment, his eyes distant. Stooping, he scooped her up and brought her to the wagon Ren lay in, depositing her gently inside.

"We should gather the others who were brought unconscious by Makoko's wine," Suna suggested. "We need a plan."

Boston
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If one thing was now certain, it was that the Dynasty enjoyed a good party. It wasn't a big group of people by any means, Victor doubted Theo would host a group much bigger than the one now in his own home, but the personalities mixing with alcohol and conversation made it seem a lot bigger. Still, Victor found himself still sitting at the kitchen island wanting Theo's attention. At this point, he didn't care whether or not he had an excuse to sit here, but it was relaxing to focus on the one person that seemed to be in their own little world.

Victor couldn't help but laugh as Theo finished his drink and barely managed a smile. His comment was redundant at this point, considering he was still in the kitchen while the rest of the party - including his girlfriend and best friends - had migrated to the living room. "I had a feeling, considering you're in here and everyone else is out there," Victor replies, grinning as he leaned back against the island counter and looked over to Jake as Theo spoke about him.

It was obvious how much Theo cared for Jake. The rescue mission was a huge indicator of that, but it was also the way he spoke about him and the care he took into his recovery. Victor had started to gather bits and pieces of Jake's life, from Beah, from Theo, and even from Jake himself. He remembered what Beah had told him at the hospital, how Jake's family didn't want anything to do with him, but he didn't know anything further since he didn't want to bring up a sore subject. But Jake had found his own family in the Dynasty, who cared for him as much as he cared for them. It made sense why Jake had taken him in so easily. The kid had a heart of gold, and even as he caught eyes with Victor, he was beckoning him over and swirling his drink in his hand enticing Victor for another; he barely caught Theo asking him why he was here and not with the group. "What, you don't enjoy my company? I'm a bit offended, boss, I thought you were starting to like me."

Tipsy Victor was much less restrained than sober Victor, which made it easier to let all the smartass comments out. It was easy to forget how dangerous these men were when they were offering you drinks. He stayed turned out towards the party, but looked over his shoulder as Theo set out a few different liquors and asked for his 'poison' of choice, never failing to use the pet name Victor had embarrassingly grown fond of. "I didn't think you would join in on Jake's plan to get me trashed tonight," Victor responded, looking over his choices and looking for the one with the least amount of liquor left, wondering if that would be Theo's choice too.

"Hey Snitch!" Victor was honestly surprised to hear Salvi calling him over, but sauntered over anyway, standing to the side of Salvi and Jake on the couch. "Max wants to see your battle scar from your first collections," Salvi's words were already slightly slurred and Victor had to wonder how much he already drank; Theo did mention he was a lightweight. Victor rolled his eyes at the request, but with some further prodding and teasing, he unbuttoned his shirt just enough to shift it off of his shoulder and show the healed scar from when he took a bullet for Salvi. He hadn't thought about the injury much since that day, except for the events that occurred once he was alone with Theo in his office. There were still days where his shoulder would ache, but nothing he couldn't handle. He was just thankful that it didn't backfire and have him lose his position in the Dynasty.

"Still didn't get a 'thanks for saving my life', by the way," Victor said with a grin, and instead of the usual glare or threatening words, Salvi chuckled loudly and stood up, roping his arm around Victor's shoulders. "Okay hotshot, you'll get my thank you when you get me another drink," Salvi answered with more laugh, causing the group to loudly share their approval, "Even better, why don't you beat me at shots and I'll give you that thank you,"
Salvi offered with a devious grin.

His friendliness was surely due to the state he was currently in, as was the hairbrained scheme to get Victor involved in a shot contest. If this was the one time he could manage to be friendly with Salvi, he could take it. Victor looked to Theo for approval, it was his house after all and he didn't know how rowdy of a bunch Theo was prepared to handle. But, Theo did seem just as eager to intoxicate Victor as much as the rest of them, and this was a quick way to do that.

Father
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Blood in the Water

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Musical Accompaniment



Transitioning from the commercial break with the unexpected but natural cadence of autumn leaves changing color, Zhang Wei maneuvered the capitalistic tone into one more somber and sincere. Feeding off of the Editors' cues, he stood in the center of the stage, clasping his hands together and furrowing his brows to give the impression of seriousness.

"Our next competitor comes from a remote mining colony called Fort Kate. You know her as 'Little Fish' Ljilja. This is her story," he said before stepping aside and letting the holos take over. The lights dimmed and suspenseful music began to play.



"Go now, and don't look back," a raspy voice echoed through the stadium, as an older man in uniform held Ljilja close in the rain before sending her off on a sleek white aircraft.

A flash of lightning and the crackle of a thunderclap ushered time forward. The feeds showed Ljilja beginning to panic while onboard, wrenching her seatbelt off, and then scrabbling out of her seat towards the back of the vehicle to escape an unseen threat. She reached in desperation for the bright red handle of an emergency exit. The camera exited the vehicle to show the raging seas miles below, and the dark storm above. Then, black nothingness for what seemed like eternity.

A sudden slam brought things into view once more - Jaden, her manager, pinned her to a wall to keep her from leaping from the craft. "Come on, little fish, we can't have you out of the game this early," he asserted, gazing into her eyes as she panted for air.

In a flurry of dramatic short cuts, the holoscreen showed the craft ascending to Father and the two disembarking together. After, it showed Ljilja standing alone at the opening ceremony, reaching toward the blue flowers of a tree. A voiceover of Ljilja's conversation with Jaden began to play.

"What if they don't like me?" Ljilja asked.

"Watch your back," Jaden warned.

The editors cut to a shot of Ljilja backing away in terror from a towering, cybernetic competitor clad from head to toe in midnight black metal.

"They will gut you if they get the chance."

With a bone-chilling howl as an audio cue, a stern white wolf marched towards little Ljilja, whose eyes darted to and fro for escape routes.

"Hey," Scout barked, "why is a kid here?"

As Scout approached the small blue girl, the audience's concern and anticipation grew to a fever pitch. Then, overlooking Scout's deadly and aggressive nature, Ljilja thrust out her hand as a gesture of friendship. After, it showed Scout and Ljilja sitting together on a mat in the gym.

"I want to be with my family. I’ve worked on Fort Kate as long as I can remember... I’ve never even met my mother. I want to."

"What about your dad?" Scout asked.

Suddenly, Ljilja was plunging into the aquarium, lying still and motionless as she sank deeper and deeper, bubbles of air flowing from her lips.

"He died."

Now she was bounding down the marathon track at full speed, the audience heard no sound but her heavy panting and footsteps before she began to lose her balance. She slipped and fell forward, and time slowed to a crawl. As it became clear that an impact with the floor was inevitable, the voiceover continued.

"Can we be friends?" Ljilja's voice asked as her limp body crept closer to the hard ground.

"You don't want to be friends with someone like me." Scout answered.

"I think you're a good person. I want to be your friend. But if you don't..." Ljilja continued, her voice wavering with pain and desperation.

"Allies it is," Scout declared with a tone of finality.

The feed cut out just before she hit the ground.



Ljilja sat meekly in her chair as the introductory video ended and the audience cheered and applauded on cue. She could not tell if they were moved, but she hoped that they liked what they saw.

Zhang, regaining the attention of the audience, leant forward and gazed deep into the eyes of the small mutant before him. "So, Ljilja - am I saying that right?"

She politely nodded.

"Ljilja, do you have a death wish?"

Blinking in confusion, she answered, "Huh?" So unexpected was the question that she was already on the back foot.

"Nearly jumping out of a plane, diving into an aquarium, and getting up close and personal with one of the most vicious competitors in the Games? Ring any bells?"

Ljilja stammered, her cheeks turning pale. "Scout is...I was..." she said, averting her eyes and shrinking back into her chair.

Zhang Wei chuckled warmly. "Alright, alright. Let's just say you're quite daring for such a small fish," he said, trying to draw attention away from her timidity.

"I...I have to be," she answered, peeking up at Zhang.

"You really think you can take this whole competition home to the folks back at Fort Kate?" he asked. He seemed to be sincerely asking.

Perfect. That was exactly the question she had been drilled on. Swallowing her nervousness, she put on the warmest face she could muster. Making a fist in determination, she answered, "I'll try my best!"

The crowd roared, more than happy to cheer for an underdog, if only to ensure she would remain in the Games long enough to be fodder for a stronger fighter.

"Beautiful!" Zhang replied. "We're happy to have you aboard as a competitor. What are you going to do if you win?"

"Um...I want to be...a family again."

A chorus of 'awws' signalled the crowd's affection - and with it, some loss of interest. Zhang needed to keep the show going.

"How sweet! Alright, everybody, that was Ljilja! Next up after the break: Jax the cat! Stay tuned and don't miss a thing!"



Blood Money

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"Step right up, don't miss yer chance! Takin' all bets on the little blue fish - 1 to 27, she bites it in the first round!" shouted a tubby human in striped suspenders with a grin the size of a small moon. There were few takers on such a hopeless cause, but a handful of high rollers put their money against Ljilja for the meager payout, assuming it was a safe bet she would lose quickly.

"Counter," announced Jaden, leaning forward over the bar, looking over the gambling spreads.

The man squinted from behind the bar, grabbing a scanner puck and sliding it over to Jaden. "Counter?" he inquired. Someone was betting on her? "What's your put?"

"Eight thousand," he answered before swiping his chipped wrist along the scanner. The puck chimed to indicate that the transaction had completed, paid in full. Jaden slid it back across the bar.

Scratching at his brow, the man retrieved the puck and asked, "That was you in the intro, weren't it? You know somethin' I don't know?"

"Let's just say I have some faith."

The Tower
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As she walked into place, crimson shaded and sanguine scented scales begun to form about her outer limbs. Starting by blanketing the affected areas with a bloody flame, the plates formed as the fire grew and faded, her coated forearms took the form of deadly claws alongside similar armor growing on her thighs, knees and stomach. Her swaying tail, leathered wings and draconic horns grew a considerable number as well, growing into effective weapons in their own right.

On the cusps of the last few moments of her transformation was the trumpets of battle. Still taking the time to compose herself with breathes despite being descended upon by another team (curse the Ten Family Prince's theatrics), she begun by flying up to the center of the ongoing battle between both receiving teams. First noticing Art's small scuffle with a red-haired assassin, then a more pressing struggle between a well-built man and the more comparatively helpless Moon. She flew down to assist the hot-headed catgirl, descending in time to take full advantage of the man's recovery from throwing her hapless pink-haired teammate into a nearby wall.

Flipping to adjust her posture for a rough landing, Sibylle crashed directly on top of the man. Pushing into his chest and creating a characteristic crater where she had landed. The shockwave could very well be heard throughout the battlefield, kicking up a cloud of dust that covered Sibylle and her unfortunate target. The dragon, still propped up and standing comfortably on the broken chest of her opponent, flapped her wings with a powerful thrash to clear the smoke and once more to rocket into the air and resume her aerial position. In her wake, the man lay completely incapacitated, mouth agape and wholly unconscious due to the back of his head knocking onto the floor. Any evidence of armor lay as remnants that more so resembled scrap iron crumbles.

Surveying the area once more, Sibylle's gaze scanned the room before leveling at Moon once more. Watching her gnaw at the current throne holder's leg, the dragon again took full advantage of said teammates distraction and barreled towards the throne, her assault preceded by a thunderous boom made from her wings.

As she landed, her feet cracked the base of the throne. Stomping forward a few steps, Sibylle's hand trembled slightly as she let loose a punch directed towards the witch hat competitor's gut. The dragon limited her power as to not cause any harm to Moon, though now slowing her punch to give the pale complexioned girl a chance at unleashing a trump card if she had one in stock

As the dust settled, the vanguards of the team turned to face and rush Sibylle. A battle cry and charge from the black tortoise and a bark and assault from the bat wielding delinquent.

The West
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She stood by quiet as the others spoke, her eyes still partly drawn to the Lunar who’d taken to the form of a feline. The Deathknight’s introduction passed overtop her head—she was only aware enough to really catch his name and little else. She heard him questioning why they were all gathered together...and making assumptions in regards to the matter. Again, why she of all Exalted had received a summons was beyond her. Why Fakharu had summoned them all, it didn’t matter to her. She’d gotten a plea for help, that was all that she needed to know. Whether or not the others ended up agreeing to assist Fakharu in whatever matters he asked of them, that didn’t matter either. There’d been more than one instance where Lux had ended up having to absolve things on her own when others deemed them not worth their time. She’d do it again...even if she wasn’t the best suited to most tasks.

Folks had called her naïve before, she’d been called a lot of things before. She was, in a manner of speaking. If she was that, then that was fine.

Wanting to help others...and doing it, that was something that defined her life. She had no purpose, no goal, nothing to aim for. Lux took to traveling the world in order to find...something for herself, to gain perspective and to refine the views she held on many matters—including those she had on the Cult of the Illuminated. In her travels, she still had yet to find many answers. The only answer she’d reach thus far was that she felt compelled to help others, if only in the most minor of ways. From little things to the large, anything that makes things better….

That was enough.

“To be truthful with the lot of you, I don’t much care why we were all summoned in this manner.” Lux responded in a quiet voice. “Whether we’re needed for reasons of discretion or otherwise, it doesn’t matter to me. I only want to help however I can...if I can.”

New York
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“Don’t fuck up, kid.” Taylor called out after Gabriella as she headed out the door. “Just one more week for that six month chip.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Gabriella rolled her eyes, but her smile made it evident that she had every intention of getting that chip.

“Call me!” They yelled through the door as Gabriella closed it behind her. They didn’t need to specify when, Gabriella knew they meant whenever. Though her friends had been supportive throughout her recovery, she needed someone who’d been in her position to tell her when she was being a whiny little bitch.

In fact Taylor was the one who convinced Gabriella to go to the party, or rather had been the one to tip her over the fence. Obviously Gabriella wanted to go and she trusted her friends to help her stay drug free, but it was scary. She obsessed over every reason she shouldn’t go despite very obviously wanting to. There were too many temptations, too much bad blood, too many ghosts.Taylor had told her to just shut up and make up her mind already and stop letting fear make her into a blubbering baby. In Gabriella’s opinion that was a bit of an exaggeration but point made. Gabriella just had promised to check in before and after, not that it was mandatory but it didn’t do her any good to piss off her sponsor.

Admittedly Gabriella wasn’t wholly honest with them. Sure when it came to drugs and her work she told Taylor - but lately those things had been the least of Gabriella’s problems. She couldn’t shake this feeling of dread, like soon her whole world would come tumbling down. It felt like things had only begun to stabilize for her and if she was being honest it wasn’t for noble reasons. All she’d done was change her drug, and his name was Damien Wolfe.

Gabriella could tell herself it wasn’t that big a deal as many times as she wanted, didn’t mean she believed it. Even if he and Dylan were in an open marriage she knew the secrecy was wrong, and of course that’s what made it so intoxicating. Secrets ruled Gabriella, had been her demise - for once to have one that gave her such pleasure it felt like reclaiming that power that others had once wielded over her. The weight of a new secret was enough to distract from the burden of older ones, but that little voice never stopped reminding her: the truth will always come out.

When she arrived at the party there were already enough people there that she could somewhat blend into the crowd. Deciding to put on her highest heels so that she could tower over anyone who might try confronting her tonight, she was just under 6’2”. No one was going to make her feel small tonight. Plus she looked hot as hell.

Erin was busy doing host duties but Gabriella had managed to give her a weak wave from across the room when the two were both engaged with other’s. She probably should have gone over but whatever ease existed between them was long gone. Doing her best to find a life ring she floated room to room for a while. Erin seemed to have done well for themselves.

Good, Gabriella thought to herself. She deserves this.

There were some people she remembered but none she was ever really close with but Gabriella kept her eyes open for Evie, Declan or Robyn. While it would be nice to use this party to catch up with the others she needed one of them around to keep her on her best behavior. She knew Jade was bound to show her face and even though it’d been over a year since they’d seen each other, Gabriella knew Jade could still play her like a fiddle. It was nearly an hour in before she found Declan, Gabriella still nursing her first beer.

“Where the fuck have you been.” She clutched his arm, desperation apparent in her voice. Whatever his answer was she didn’t listen, waving his words away. “It doesn’t even matter. You’re here now. Don’t you dare leave me alone.”

Linking arms with Declan, Gabriella immediately launched into a detailed account of all the gossip she learned so far navigating their way to the kitchen. Immediately she felt exponentially more at ease. Declan had that effect on her. Others had to navigate this unspoken agreement that didn’t point the finger at Jade for what happened, but Declan knew better. It’s why she needed him.

Gabriella caught sight of Evie, going towards her before realizing she was dancing beside Erin. Pausing for a moment debating if she should approach them or not, she forgot for a moment that Declan was beside her. She shook her head, tugging them back towards their kitchen.

“They look like they’re out of some gay ass coming of age movie.” Gabriella joked. As they entered the kitchen she recognized a familiar head of white blonde hair. Coming up behind Livvy, Gabriella wrapped her arms around the girl. “Hey bb!”

Gabriella threw back the last of her beer, walking around the island to toss her bottle in the recycling bin. Now that Declan was here she wasn’t so scared to loosen her inhibitions a little. Opening the fridge she grabbed herself another beer, handing one off to anyone who seemed to reach for one nearby.

“Soren!” Gabriella called out as he entered the kitchen, still handing out beers to empty reaching hands around her. “You want a beer?”

Cairo, Egypt
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Romeo Viljoen
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XXXHost of Bastet | Attire | hex: #6565D1
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Annette Ryeo
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XXXHost of Osiris | Attire | hex: #73200B
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Although the hallway he walked through was dark, he was still able to see a bit. Romeo decided to keep his phone buried in his pocket, suspecting he’d need it later. Every minute of walking or so he called out Ten’s name to see if he was any nearer to her than before.

”Teeheeen? Where are you?”

No sound was coming back to him. He felt more alone than ever, the silence had never agreed with him and it made him feel uncomfortable. He kept talking to himself the further he went.

”Why did you jump at the sight of this tomb exploration, you dumb fuck… Minorities in movies always die first in these type of situations, why did no one tell me I was being stupid…”

He still saw the writing on the wall, endless engravings. It was like one of those movies where the imprisoned psycho had put scribbles on the wall because they were mad. Is that what happened? Were these people not able to get out after building it? He wondered if he just was the next victim that would never make his way out of here.

He turned around quickly, all of a sudden getting the feeling somebody was following him. He thought he saw two eyes light up in the distance, but as he adjusted his eyes they disappeared like they had never been there. He wiped his arm over his forehead wiping away sweat. He didn’t even know if the sweat was from the heat or from the scare he just got.

”If you think I’m going to turn on my flashlight or walk back there to check if you are actually there, you are stupid and will be disappointed!”

He waited for a reply that he knew would not be coming.

”Ten, if that’s you trying to be funny, I will kill you, not joking, I will literally murder you!”

Again there was no reply. But Romeo still could not shake the feeling he was being watched. Shivers were running down his spine and once again the lack of sound was the worst of all. This is not for me….this is soooo not for me. He looked in front of him again, even though it was hard to figure out what was forward and what was backward.

”Heart beats fast…colours and promises”

He started singing the first song that came to his mind, with a shaky voice. The echo sounded like he was in a church choir.

”How to be brave, how can I love when I’m afraid to fall.”

He still felt like the eyes he’d seen before were looking at his back. He felt they were increasing speed when he did and they slowed to a standstill if he stopped.

”But watching you stand alone. All of my doubt, suddenly goes away somehow.”

Not knowing why, he started to run. The sight was still not too bad, even though he couldn’t really locate any source of light.
He slowed down after a minute or so, catching his breath. He was scared to do it, but he looked behind him. He didn’t see anything, not even the eyes he thought he’d seen before. Romeo calmed down, walking again, but slower this time. Only after a minute of walking he was standing in front of an abyss-like depth. He could not see the bottom of the depth, but he could see the 2 ropes that seemed to cross the gap to the other side. Or at least he suspected, as he couldn’t really see the other side.

He grabbed his phone and turned on the flashlight. But even though it helped a lot in the first few feet, the light did little to cross the distance he needed right now. Looking around him, he saw a wheel. It was made of wood with small holes in it every few inches. Is that the same thing Ten was talking about?
He took the backpack from his shoulder and searched through it. He took out the selfie stick he had bought in the city the day before. He extended it and fit it in one of the holes. I wonder…
He started pushing the stick in order to turn the wheel. It didn’t take as much effort as he had suspected. A scraping sound confirmed something was happening and he could see one of the ropes moving away to the left, creating a bigger gap.

”HELLO? Who is there? Romeo?”

Romeo hadn’t suspected it, and certainly not this loud. He almost fell down in shock.

”Jesus, Ten, where are you?” He raised his voice slightly but not the way he had been shouting earlier.

”It sounds like you’re on my right. Wait…do you see the opening in the wall on your left? It’s tight, but I think we’re not that far apart.”

Romeo left the wheel alone and inspected the wall on his left. He took his phone again and could see it now as well. The opening was very small, but looked like it ran along the entire abyss. It was about as thick as the rope, but not much more.
”Wait… so how many ropes are there on your side to get across?”

”Oh, of course Mr Viljoen has got ropes. There’s nothing here, just a black nothingness.”
Then she was silent for a bit. ”Why do you get 2 ropes and I don’t get any?”

Romeo sighed. ”Cause I pay my tuition in advance… how the fuck am I supposed to know. I didn’t design this place. I .. I can give you one rope. I have got one of those wheels here, and I think I can move one rope across to your side. ”

”Awesome, send it over so we can get on.” she sounded a bit chirpier than before.

”But… if I give you one, I only have one left for myself.”

”Don’t be selfish, you little shit. What am I supposed to do if you are using both? You think I’ll fly over or something?”

”Maybe there is another wheel on the other side, and I can send you the rope from there?” he asked more than anything else.

”Romeo, I will say this once more. Send me the rope… now!”

”Fine, fine. Don’t get your grandma panties in a twist.”
Romeo went back to the wheel and started pushing the stick again. He could see the ropes getting farther and farther away from each other. He could see the rope fitting perfectly through the hole in the wall, and he could hear Ten cheering for finally seeing a way across.

”Okay… I guess it’s now or never. Any tips that will save me from surely falling down here?” He looked at his only method of getting across and scratched his head. He could hear Ten as she was climbing on the rope already. He grabbed the selfie stick back and put his back in his backpack.

”Okay, so you want to stay on top of the rope. Put one leg on either side, and lean forward. Then bend one knee and put your foot over the rope behind you. This will keep you stable as you pull yourself forward.”

Romeo put his legs over the edge and sat down on the rope. He felt it go down a bit, but it was keeping his weight well. He felt a bit wonky as he leaned forward. ”So, who died and made you Lara Croft?”

”If I didn’t know any better, I could swear you sounded ungrateful there. Not well known, but this is the kind of thing you learn in the Girl Scouts. I’ve got the badge to prove it.”

Romeo pulled up one leg and crossed his foot over the rope. He was laying so flat on the rope, he was able to look through the hole in the wall, seeing Ten laying exactly the same way. ”Okay, so now we just pull ourselves forward bit by bit, huh.” As he pulled himself forward he found he was laying quite stable. As they made their way across, they did not say much. You could only hear some grunting as the pain inter arms became more apparent the further they got.

It was hard to know the exact distance, but both of them made their way across and were able to pull themselves up from the rope onto the other side. ”My arms hurt like hell. Hey, see, if you see a lever there.”

”Yes there is… like I told you. I could used two ropes to go over and send the rope to you then. There was no need at all to make me suffer with the one rope.” Romeo sat against the wall, massaging his shoulders.

”Bull-fucking-shit. You’re the worst liar out of any of us. Now get up and go on, I guess were not done yet.” Romeo could hear some muffled sounds, probably Ten getting to her feet.

He got up himself, glanced back at the black hole behind him and walked on. ”See you at the next stop.. I guess.” Without another word they both continued their way.

After two more minutes of walking Romeo grabbed his phone again. It had gotten darker and for some reason he had the feeling they were getting deeper underground. The creepy feeling had gotten back to him, but he refused to turn around every few seconds to look for those eyes in the distance.
He looked around him with the flashlight and he noticed a small gutter all along the wall. He saw a liquid inside of it, and he bend through his knees to check it out. From his backpack he got a piece of paper and his lighter. And he lit the piece of paper before dropping it in to the gutter. As he suspected, it caught fire immediately and the fire dragged itself forward, illuminating the entire hallway. Like an ancient oil lamp…

He turned off his phone again, knowing he would not be this lucky for long. But he felt a lot more comfortable in the clear light than he had before. He walked on confidently until he reached a small chamber. He must have walked downhill, cause what was the gutter before was now pretty much at eye-level.

”TEN! Can you hear me?” he shouted, but received no response. He might have been faster than her, so he decided to wait. No doubt, another challenge was up, he could already see another lever in the small chamber. It didn’t seem to special for him though, as he could see the other side of the room already, and the clear path he had towards it.
He took another date from his back while he waited.

”Romeo? Are..are you there?” Ten’s voice wasn’t as clear as before, but he could still hear it.

”Hey there slowpoke, I was ready to take a nap, you were taking so long. Did you not find the gutter with oil?”

”No gutter my side, I’m afraid. Uhm… there is something else though.”

”What? Not another rope to cross, is there? I’ll be honest, there is nothing this side, except for another lever.”

”Please pull it, it might make a difference on my side. There’s about a 1000 snakes between me and the other side of the room. Like… they’re in a pit, but there is no other way through for me than through that pit.”

”Snakes?!? Oh shit. Okay give me a sec here” Romeo walked to the lever, this time already a handle sticking in it. He pushed it away and hear the, by now, familiar sound of stone moving. Behind him he could hear something splattering on the ground and before he realised what was happening he could hear hissing behind him.

”Fok, jou ma se poes!” he jumped back from the lever and it slammed back to where it had started. He could hear the stone moving back into place immediately as well.

”What…did something happen? I could hear it, but nothing changed on this side, still a mass load of fucking snakes.”

”It changed all right. Holy fuck, there is about 7 snakes less on your side. As soon as I pulled the lever I think your snakes dropped into my side. They.. they look so mean. They remind me of you.” Romeo backed away from the snakes who had fee range to come as close to Romeo as they wanted.

”Ha ha, very funny douche face. If you have 7, remember I still have about 993 on my side. Think of that before you make more lame jokes. Now open the lever again, you need to drain more of them.”

”Just wait a damned second, lemme figure this out.” He could do little to scare the snakes away. And if Ten wanted to get any further, there would be a whole lot more than just 7 of these things on his side.
Keeping a close eye on the snakes he dived in his bag. First thing he grabbed was once again the selfie stick. Best purchase ever!

He took out his spare set of clothes as well. He wrapped his shirt tightly around the end of his selfie stick and held it in place with an extra set of socks. Making a scared kicking movement towards one of the snakes did nothing, and the snake seemed to get more angry at him. He stuck the end of the stick in the burning oil and held it in deep to his shirt nice and soaked in the oil.

”Are you still alive or did the 3 snakes kill you already?” Ten asked with an impatient tone in her voice.

”I told you to give me a moment. Do you want me to help you or what?” He finally took the stick out of the oil and the fire immediately took to it. It was a bit wild, but it was the best he could do for now. He held it in his left hand and moved it close to the ground in order to keep the snakes at a distance.

”All right, I’m going to open it again. As soon as you think you can make it, go for it. I won’t be able to keep a 1000 of these hissing bitches at a distance.”
With his right hand he started pushing the lever. As soon as he did, he heard the stones move again, and right away he heard that nerve-wrecking splatter of snakes dropping on his side. The sound of hisses grew louder with every second. It seemed like he opened a waterfall of snakes into the room.
Romeo moved the makeshift torch back and forth along his side, hoping none of the creatures would get near him.

”I See it, it’s less now… I think they are coming towards you now.”

”TEN, they are already here. Please tell me you can go, these things are coming closer.” Romeo moved the lever open further and the hole in the wall grew even more. More and more snakes dropping in. He could barely hear himself think.

”Okay, I’m gonna go for it!” Romeo could barely hear her voice by now.
”YES, I made it over, I can go to the next room!”

Romeo was sure he heard it correctly. He could not wait any longer himself and he pulled the stick out of the wheel. The wheel turned back with a force, and Romeo heard the slamming of the stone trap door shut again. He was basically surrounded by snakes. They crawled over and under each other and soon the floor was made up out of snakes only.

”Come on Romeo, we can go on, hurry up!”

He waved the torch back and forth. In his other hand the stick he had used as lever. Even that one was mowing back and forth, just trying to keep things at a distance. The snakes moved slowly, and they did not back away quick enough from the fire. He stuck the stick in the fire, hoping the dry wood would burn quick enough for it to light up. It did catch on fire pretty quick and before burning his hand he threw it halfway between him and the exit. It created a small opening for him, and before the fire could go out, he jumped towards it and past it to the exit of the room. There was a small rise in the floor which he could easily jump, but it did stop the snakes from following him.

He could barely see in the next room, even with the selfie stick still in his hand. Sweat was dripping down his forehead and as the nerves were dripping out of his body he fell against the wall and slumped down. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, gh my god
The more often he repeated it in his mind, the more calm he was getting.

”Romeo? Are you there? Did you make it?” He could hear how she was smacking her fists at the wall, as if it would be able to respond for him.

”I’m here, I’m okay…” the sound out of his mouth sounded strangely hoarse and high at the same time. He cleared his throat. ”Yes.. I’m okay..I made it. Did you…did you get bit?”

”I… don’t think so. I don’t feel anything. I don’t know…thank you.” She sounded soft and quiet, but still clear enough for him to hear.

”Don’t get used to it, okay. I’m not gonna safe you from snakes every day. Especially not with putting my own life at risk.”

”Can I ask you something weird?” Again soft and unsure.

”At this point, I don’t see why the hell not. It’s not gonna get weirder than this FUCKING SHIT.” he said angrily. He was pissed. Not at Tan this time, but at himself, at their situation, the snakes and bloody professor Price.

She stayed quiet for a few seconds. ”Do..do you hear him too? In..in your brain I mean?”

”What are you talking about?”

”This voice.. in my head. It’s like he is there, next to me, or in me, or around me, I don’t know how to explain it.”

”Ten, there is no one here but you, me and a shitload of angry snakes. Are you going nuts?” It sounded harsh, even to him. She sounded like she was genuinely asking, but he was fed up with their situation and he was not her shrink.
”Dust yourself off, we have to go on and get out of this place. I doubt this is the last thing we’re gonna run into. I’ll take the lead, hear you in the next room, I guess…”

California
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B E H A T I . P R I N S L O O

"Life is short and unpredictable,
don't waste another minute on the people,
places, and the things that don't
make you happy."
~ Anonymous
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Bea Prinsloo stumbled into the party. She was looking bomb asf. She had red lipstick and a skirt that was so flowy and long. She scanned her eyes through the throng of drunk kids until her eyes met with Samuel Kim. She confidently strode in his direction, sashaying her hips from left to right. She grabbed his face in hers and planted a smooch on his lips. She pulled away, smiling, "Happy fourth anniversary, bitch."

Atlas City
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"Stolen?"

The Rockaverse
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"This.. This world's been rotten," Horik spat as she slowly sat up, a hand gently holding her throat. She coughed and cleared her throat, her voice hoarse as she threw words at Qunith. A low rumble could be heard from the worm that now swam alongside them. Horik's gaze went up to Talideth's face, scowling but making no move again to lunge.

"This place was no damn sanctuary to begin with," she continued with a snarl. "The Skylanders just made this damn pussridden sack of a place burst when they upset the pissing contest between Alarisset and Ajab."

~*~

"Certainly hasn't changed much," Argent said with a small smile as he eyed the young girl who had ridiculed him. He then hunkered on down next to the kids and sat cross-legged, looking up at the old man with interest. "Tell me, old man. What else do you know of the Baons? Of what is beyond this here lawless space now? Of who that man is smoking his pipe?"

Argent turned to face the man who had been blowing rings with his pipe.

Camp Athens
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xEthan Knox ~ Hestia ~ #8B4513

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xHeath Taylor ~ Athena ~ #808000

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xxIliana Remington-Taylor ~ Demeter
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xxxxPenelope Givens ~ Hermes ~
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Iliana remembered the last time she'd been at the stables. It was the day when she first arrived, which seemed like a lifetime ago. So much had happened in such a brief time. Alex's trial, the party, and then there was yesterday's incidents. Not to mention all the little things that happened. Iliana didn't know what would happen next. All she knew for sure was she wasn't looking forward to it. So consumed in her own thoughts, she didn't realize that someone was following her.

Reaching the stables, she hesitated. She liked animals, but in her current state, she was afraid of what she would do. She learned animals could sense someone's feelings and could respond to that, especially with horses. One of Heath's relatives worked with horses and she got to see them a few times growing up. Never had the courage to ride one though. Heath did and did pretty well.

Suddenly the hairs on the back of Iliana's neck stirred and she turned around to see someone coming up to her. She didn't recognize him. Confused on what he wanted, Iliana gave the man her full attention.

"Hi there. I'm...I'm completely lost and confused. I've lost my bearings. Would you be able to help me out. I’m looking for the hall."

He didn't look confused, at least not to Iliana. She suppose she could lead him to the Hall, but that would mean running into more people, something she wanted to avoid. Still, she couldn't leave him hanging. She would show him the way, but then leave when she did. Decision made, she started typing her response on her iPad when the stranger spoke up again, talking about the horses before introducing himself as Lochlan, all the while holding his hand out. Iliana hesitated briefly, feeling compelled, placed her hand in his.

"And I think this is the part where you tell me your name."

All thought escaped her mind. She felt this intense pressure within her head. Without thinking about it, Iliana spoke for the first time in over a year.

"I . . . li. . . . na. Iliana," she said a scratchy and low voice.

Shocked, Iliana inadvertently dropped her iPad as she raised her now free hand to her mouth. She spoke. Lochlan could probably figure out she hadn't used it in awhile due to how rough it was. Iliana couldn't believe it. She remembered when Apollo had told her he healed her vocal chords. She had tried speaking then, but nothing came. It was like something was blocking her. Now for some reason she could speak. How did that happen? Totally forgetting about Lochlan, Iliana felt her eyes welling up.

"I . . . can . . . talk . . . . how?" she murmured to herself.

Suddenly a voice penetrated the silence as someone spoke.

"Good morning, Campers, I’m Nicholas Bower, and as you’ve heard from Poseidon, I will be assisting in your training. It is now something o’clock, so be ready at the training arena at 4:30 pm sharp. This training is mandatory. Be dressed for the part, and everything else will be provided for you."

Snapping out of it, Iliana quickly took her hand out of Lochlan's hand and picked up her iPad. It when she heard this Nicholas and some other female. What they said confused Iliana, and that confusion read easily on her face. Deciding to ignore it, Iliana thought about what Poseidon's son said. Training? A look of fear passed over Iliana's face. That was not good. She didn't think that be wise, but knew she couldn't avoid it either. Maybe when the time came she could show up and try to convince Nicholas to sit this one out. Feeling her anxiety rise though, she remembered Lochlan was still there. Looking at him, she tried talking again.

"The . . . hall . . . . . is that . . . way," she said, pointing in the direction of the Hall.

Wanting to be alone again, the blonde took off running, leaving Lochlan alone.




Theo was the first to answer Heath's question. He also noticed how the man didn't directly look at him at times, but seemed to be looking beyond them. Heath looked and saw him looking at Veronica. Knowing that she was Aphrodite's daughter, and his own initial reaction to her, Heath wasn't too surprised by Theo's reaction. But at least he gave him an answer. Then Daniel spoke up, but instead saying if he'd seen Iliana, he asked him her age.

"She's 19," he said simply, not understanding why Daniel would want to know that.

It wouldn't but the first time Daniel confused him though. Out of the campers Heath had met so far, Daniel was the most puzzling. At least he came off as a decent man, much like his sister. Before Heath could thank the two men for their time, Daniel spoke up again.

"I'm going to lay a pro tip on you. You're going to be divided one day, whether on your own or surrounded by people you can't trust so....branch out. Make friends in high places. That way, you don't have to worry about your sister every two seconds."

It was very sound advice and Daniel was probably right. He could probably relate to Heath since he had a sister and since both Daniel and Andy had been at camp last year, Heath knew he should follow good advice. Still, Heath's protective nature was never going to fully go ahead. Heath even before Iliana had come to live with him and his family, Heath could recall the times he tried protecting others. It was just innate for him to be that way, for better or worse. But Heath knew he'd would sleep better at night if he knew more people at camp would get along with Iliana. Her recalled Cherise being nice to Iliana, as well as Duke and Wes, at least from what Iliana told him. He also remembered Iliana had hanged around others more then he did. He would hope she would do that again, but first she had to get over the events of yesterday.

"Thank you. I will do my best to follow your advice,"

Daniel then mentioned that Theo was a great tracker. That got Heath's attention, but before he could say anything, an announcement was made. So Poseidon's son was here? Heath then caught Nicholas's voice again along with a female voice. Heath couldn't help but groan. He could piece together what was happening. Waiting a few more minutes, it sounded like the pair had turned off the speakers, much to Heath's relief. Focusing on what Nicholas said, it sounded like they were finally going to start training. He hoped Iliana showed up.

Looking at Theo and Daniel, Heath said, "Thanks for both of your help. If Iliana doesn't show up for training, I'll probably ask you for your assistance, Theo."

Bowing to them, Heath returned to Veronica.

"Looks like we're going to be training soon. I think I'll give Iliana the space she needs for now, so I'll go about my own way for now. Oh, I would recommend letting other guys know you're Aphrodite's daughter since we males might act like fools around you," Heath said with a small grin before continuing, "Thanks for your assistance. I'll see you later."

With that, Heath went on his way.




Ethan entered his cabin to see Heath already ready for training.

"Hey, any luck finding Iliana?{/color]

[color=#808000]"No, but did decide to stop looking for her right after that announcement,"


"Aw, well, I am going to get ready for training," Ethan said before heading for his private quarters.

It didn't take him too long for he dressed in workout clothes, the same way as Heath was. Ethan would have spoken up, but the front door opened and Iliana came in. The three stood in silence when Heath suddenly came forward and drew Iliana into a hug. Surprised, Iliana just stood there.

"You had me worried, Lia," Heath said.

"So . . . rry. . . ." Iliana said softly.

For the first time in his life, Heath was shocked. Did . . . did Iliana just speak? Gently, Heath held his sister back.

"What did you say?"

"I'm . . . sorry . . . I didn't . . . . mean to . . . make . . . you . . . worry."

Heath's jaw dropped and he found himself dropping to his knees. Concerned, Iliana dropped before him. Ethan hadn't heard Iliana speak, wanting to give siblings space, but he came forward and dropped next to his friend when he saw him drop to the floor.

"Hey, you okay? What happened?" he asked as he placed a hand on Heath's shoulder.

Tears appeared in Heath's eyes as he looked at Iliana. He honestly thought he would never hear Iliana speak ever again. Hearing her voice, as rough as it was, was miraculous. Overcome with emotion for the first time, Heath cried. Both Iliana and Ethan comforted him. Ethan was confused, while Iliana herself started crying.

Soon, Heath calmed down and looked at Iliana again.

"When . . when were you able to talk again?"

"This morning . . . when I met . . . a new camper . . . named Lochlan."

Now it was Ethan's turn to look surprised since he never heard Iliana talk before. When Heath heard Iliana mentioning someone new, he couldn't help but wonder if this Lochlan had anything to do with Iliana talking now. Well, with training coming up, now would be a good time to find out. Needing a goal to refocus, Heath decided to thinking about training, otherwise he wouldn't be able to recover from the shock he just received.

"Well, you can talk and I can't tell you how happy that makes me feel, Lia. Are you going to come with us to training, Lia? It be best if you did," Heath asked before getting to his feet.

Ethan and Iliana stood up too.

"I will come, but . . . I don't . . . want to . . . train. . . . Might hurt someone." Iliana said, slowly getting used to using her voice again.

"You might have no choice, Lia. Best get ready just in case. We'll see if we can convince this Nicholas to let you skip this session." Ethan said, trying to be encouraging.

Nodding, Iliana left to get changed. Alone once more, Heath decided to confide to Ethan.

"I still can't believe Lia can talk. I don't want her to train either, but I know our mothers want us to train. Mother even told me it's imperative for Iliana to master her powers at some point."

"Hey at least Lia can talk now. And maybe this training will help her."

"Iliana has been training since she was a kid though. I still don't know how being here will make a difference."

"Try to think a bit more positively, bro. Maybe training with other demigods will make a difference. I honestly don't know what to expect, but dwelling on the cons will not help us or Lia."

What Ethan didn't add was he wasn't looking forward to training either. He was not a fighter and knew he was severely lacking in practicing a few of his own skills.

Soon, Iliana came out of her room and the trio left for the training grounds.




Once there they saw others arriving, including Nelly. Nelly had a fine time taking pictures and was pleased the images she took. After lunch, she spent the next few hours at her cabin going through all the pictures. She already knew she would be making a scrapbook for her trip here. Her next plan of action was to get pictures of her fellow campers, but knew she'd have to get permission first. First rule in photography people was to ALWAYS get permission to avoid any legal trouble in the future. That was something her mother taught her. However, she knew she would never get pictures of them using their abilities. That was just asking for trouble and Nelly would never do anything that might put her and her fellow demigods in danger.

Once things were settled, a tall dark haired guy came forward and reintroduced himself as Nicholas. First thing he mentioned was how the Valises wouldn't be returning. This got Nelly and Iliana's attention. Nelly was curious for the reason why, but had a feeling she would never know why. Oh, well, at least she knew what happened to them. Iliana knew the Valises had gone to Olympus. Maybe what happened to them was too much for them to handle. She hoped they were going to be okay, especially Alex.

Nicholas then started talking about their training. When he was done, Heath and Ethan got up to get their tokens. Heath drew out a white token and Ethan drew a green one. Both were relieved their weren't sparring with each other. Turning back, they head for their seat. Nelly wanted to see what colors others drew before getting hers. She saw what colors Ethan and Heath drew, as well as a few others. She started heading up when Daniel head up, so she was able to spy his white token. Looks like he was going up against Heath. This should prove interesting. Daniel was Hecate's son right? So he was bound to use magic skills. Heath was Athena's son. She had no idea what his skills would be, but she imagined he would be pretty smart. Well she would wait and see. Coming up to Nicholas, she smiled and reached into the bag to pull out a pink token.

"Aww, phooey, pink? I was hoping for turquoise, navy, or orange," she complained since those were her fav colors.

Oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbled, she suppose. Shrugging, she returned to her seat.

Iliana deliberately waited for everyone else to get their token before taking a deep breath and approaching Nicholas.

With desperation in her eyes, she quietly asked, "Do I really . . . . have to . . . train? . . . . I can't . . . control my powers . . . . I've killed before . . . "

She started crying again, thinking about the past once more. Once again, it started drizzling. Looking at Nicholas and seeing he wasn't going to let her be excused, Iliana sighed and grabbed the last token before going to sit down.

Widow's Peak
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SOREN BOWERS
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outfit : herex|xhex: #4d5676
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xi wonder if you feel kinda like i feel, temporary
xfixed on a moment, just out of focus
xand we can't quite see
xbeing us ain't good for us

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Xan's answer wasn't exactly the one he'd wanted. In a lot of ways, he'd been hoping that everyone felt exactly the same as him, unable to remember even who he was. But then she said that she'd hardly been able to remember things when she was alive; and he found himself wondering if having things to forget was one of the reasons he'd lost so many of his memories. He wanted to ask Xan more; but then they were interrupted by somebody else coming in. It was Erin. He wanted to talk to Erin as well, he realised; but not here, not like this. Having heart to hearts about what the hell had happened in their previous lives seemed like the type of thing that should happen one on one, not in a random kitchen with an audience.

However, she didn't seem to have much of a memory either, which was something of a comfort. Maybe he wasn't entirely alone in this either. Her declaration that he'd done music was a strange feeling. Because when she said it, his feeling was "yeah that's right", something that he instinctively knew without realising that that knowledge had been there all along. And now he remembered it, it felt like a puzzle piece had been slotted into a part of him that had been a gaping void only moments before. But of course music was his thing. He just nodded and smiled a little at her, his stomach sinking at the realisation that he couldn't remember anything similar about her. But he'd known her. He knew that much.

He gave Xan an awkward, but genuine, smile as Erin left. "Trust me, I think I know exactly what's going on in her head," he admitted with an awkward laugh. He frowned as Xan asked the smart speaker to play a song, wondering what she was doing. At first, there was a blank there; the words not ringing any bells. And then, it was like somebody flicked a switch. It wasn't just that he could remember the words; he could see the sheet music, could see the piano keys. His face broke into a huge grin without even realising, and as Xan put her back against his, he knew exactly what to do.

"She's a killer Queeeeeeeeen," he sang, hitting the high notes effortlessly. The words came without him having to think about them. In that moment, it felt like nothing had changed; like they were still dumb teenagers goofing around in the auditorium and like time hadn't changed at all. "Gunpowder, gelatine, dynamite with a laser beam, guaranteed to blow your mind!

He'd somehow missed them being joined by two others in the kitchen until Nixie joined in with singing the next verse. He laughed at her facial expressions, shooting Xan a look and starting some improvised choreography as the two girls sang, hoping that she'd join in as well. He was no dancer, he never had been, but he could somehow remember some of the choreography from the rehearsals he'd been in. And then they hit the chorus again and it seemed like they were all singing now. The memories of the night before were long gone, banished from everyone's minds, as they just goofed around and sang their hearts out. When he was singing, he swore all of the memories were clearer and didn't disappear the minute he tried to grasp them.

Gravity Falls, Maine
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Venus Matthews
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the nerd | #519cc2
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Venus had enjoyed her time catching up with Eva as well as spending time with her friends. It had been too long since she had a proper visit with a lot of them as she usually stuck to herself inside her room doing god knows what. Vi was used to just streaming on her channel and talking with people over the streams in the chats, but lately, she’s had to come out more and socialize with people who weren’t her roommates especially around this time of year.

The blue-haired girl had no idea what really happened that night. Her mind won't let her remember for the rest of her life, it's like she stored it in the depths of her brain and chained it up. It still made her uneasy to come to these things though, so it was nice that Vi ended up heading there with Ashir. He was not a part of their original friend group, but she felt comfortable enough around him to be able to have some solace in his presence.

It wasn’t long before he spotted Eden though and began to point her out. Vi’s eyes looked up from her phone and scanned the general direction Ashir was pointing in. He had asked about the boy who was with her, and Venus gave a soft smile not realizing Elliot was in town.

“That’s Elliot. Those two have always been inseparable. I’m fairly certain they’ve been together in all their past lives.” Venus said with an upbeat tone. It wasn’t long before Ashir had left and part of her was sad, but she knew she should try and be closer with her friends.

Venus slowly made her way over to the other two, but on her way, she noticed Isla and walked up to her instead. “I swear these things throw me back in time.” She said in a more somber tone and offered a small smile to her friend as she took a stand next to her.





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Miles Stevens
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the de-facto leader | #6C021B
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Miles Stevens was the kind of guy who could put up with a lot of crap. You could literally deliver dog shit to his door and he would shrug his shoulders, but today was the day that Miles had little to no patience with anyone, not even his students.

He had been relieved to see his friends at the restaurant during his morning routine, it helped stabilize his mood throughout the day. He didn’t make any snide comments to his students like he did last year when he called Tommy Miller a bastard child. Yeah, that did not help his reputation and his job stability when he was already on thin ice some days.

As he was leaving through the school field, as his house was near the backside of it, some kids were playing football toss with each other. Then he heard a voice coming from the biggest douche in school, Ronnie Savage.

“Hey, Mr.Stevens!” He called and as Miles turned around there was a football spiraling for his face. “Think fast.” He said chuckling with his friends, as the football hit him square in the face.

Miles was stunned and didn’t know what to say or do for a minute, but his blood was beginning to simmer and only continued to rise as the laughter from the teenage shits engulfed his brain. Without thinking about it he picked up the football and walked a little closer to Ronnie and deliberately spiked it in his face.

“Think fast,” Miles said in a mocking tone and the corners of his lips turned down, nose scrunched. Fuck this douche canoe. “Pull that shit again Ronnie, and I’ll bang your mom.” He said and did a motion like he was gonna go after Ronnie, before turning and heading home.

Miles was stressed to shit and didn’t want to go to this funeral service but he could feel his heart swell at the idea of missing it. He was in town, and he owed it to Sam. He had to go. Hopefully, Ronnie wouldn’t be there, or if he was his mom better be there. Miles would make good on his promise.

Somewhere Miles had ended up at the service, the crowds were forming but he stayed on the outskirts. He could see Vi and Isla over to one side and Eden and Elliot to another. He was closer to Eden and Elliot and he just offered a wave, not being as chatty as he was before.

Salem, Massachusetts
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in collabration with partially-stars




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malachai bernard

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outfit - soul - hex: #90a3a7
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xxx“Dear child, choose to forgive yourself.
xxxYou are human, flawed, and
xxxmost of all worthy of love.”
xxx- Desiree Nala Dupree


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eden thomas

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outfit - mask - hex: #63acaa
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xxxI woke up from a never-ending dream
xxxI shut my eyes at 17
xxxI lost every moment in between
xxxI felt the sun rise up and swallow me

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"... Dance with me."

Eden shocked Malachai by reaching out his arm in his direction, almost causing him to choke on his drink. Then he snorted at Eden's jester, who was mocking his fellow nobles at the joyous masquerade ball, one of the year's most significant events. It also happened to be a long-standing inside joke between Eden and Malachai. They spent hours beforehand ridiculing the sophisticated social elite founded on politeness, as well as their ludicrous accents and clothing. For the sake of appearances, everything was a ruse. “Are you serious? Right now?” Malachai hesitated, his mouth open, yet his eyes filled with excitement. “ Fuck it,” he shrugged as he downed his third shot and slammed the empty glass on the counter, attracting the attention of a few bystanders. “Of course, Mr. Thomas. We must preserve our idealistic gentility in the face of our fellow witches and warlocks. We cannot let people believe that we have been chosen as The New Order to wreak chaos and destruction.” Malachai proudly raised his chin in the air, his arm linked with Eden, displaying his blasé attitude. Malachai tried hard not to laugh, but the ludicrous performance got to him, and he broke out in hysterics. Finally, he dragged Eden along with him to the dance floor with an exaggerated spring in his step. Violating the rules was their first plan, and Kai devised nefarious schemes to do this. The Academy owed him a favor because of the hardship he was about to face. After all, what better way to have a good time than with his best friend? Eden's presence elevated Malachai continuously, bringing much-needed light into Malachai's life until the two became inseparable. Malachai felt happier as long as Eden was nearby. Eden breathed new vitality into Malachai's life. He explained to Malachai that home isn't a physical location but rather a state of mind. Moments, not clocks, are used to measure time. Instead of being heard, heartbeats are to be felt and shared. Eden had come to bring Malachai back to life; he was his guardian angel. Eden symbolized roots, Kai represented water drawn to those roots, and the two combined to produce a blossoming flower. In an attempt to draw closer to his closest friend, Malachai unlinked his arms on the dance floor and turned to face Eden. And Malachai simply stood there for a while, staring into Eden's sparkling, blue eyes that resembled the glistening Atlantic in the summer sun. The corners of Kai's mouth curved into a grin. It was difficult to remain serious in the presence of someone so animated. He'd always had a “thing” for Eden, although Eden had turned him down years ago. As a result, reaching out his hand to Eden felt natural. “May I have this dance, Mr. Thomas?” he grinned, lowering his head.

Eden grinned as Kai asked if he was serious. So many of their stupid jokes and dumb ideas had started as one of them jokingly suggesting something and the other deciding they should do it, and this was no different. Of course, it usually ended in a fashion that some would probably describe as “bad,” but they always laughed until their ribs hurt and tears streamed from their eyes. And for Eden, anyway, that was enough.

Kai joining in on his mockery of the aristocracy made Eden’s grin widen. He knew that there would be some in the room who would lament what the order had become, with so few of the chosen ones being from a “suitable” background. A conversation in which he’d overheard somebody complaining about the “standard” of the protégés a few years ago had sparked the whole thing when he’d relayed it to Kai, and their terrible impressions had begun. But, over time, they’d gotten quite good at portraying a caricature of the old money that surrounded the order.

But that didn’t stop them from finding the whole thing hilarious, and when Kai started laughing, it was enough for Eden to also drop the act as Kai’s laughter spread to him. Whenever the other boy started laughing, Eden couldn’t help but laugh, too, especially now with the alcohol beginning to buzz through his system. The harder Kai laughed, the more he set Eden off, to the point that it was Kai that eventually had to drag the two of them, still giggling, towards the dance floor. Finally, Eden managed to fix his overly pompous and snobby expression and posture back on his face. He even managed to hold it until Kai let go of his arm and took a step back.

The minute Kai grinned, Eden could feel his act beginning to slip. That smile, that genuine, warm, bright smile, it always made Eden smile too, no matter what. It was a smile he’d do anything to get, a smile he’d search the stars for. So as Kai lowered his head and held out his hand, Eden smirked and sank into a perfect curtsy before taking Malachai’s hand.

That contact felt like an electric current running through Eden’s hand until it felt like it was the only thing he was aware of. It felt like he was controlling somebody else’s body as he stepped into the hold. His hand hesitated for what could have only been a moment before coming to rest on Kai’s waist. All thoughts of chaos and mischief were entirely out of Eden’s head at that moment. The only thing he could think about was the points of contact between them, and that was the only thing he cared about maintaining. He was looking at Kai, really looking at him, and Eden suddenly remembered the last time they’d been this close to the other. He couldn’t remember much about that night, but he could remember the feeling of Kai’s arm around him, helping him home, how much he’d liked that. He could remember the slurred confession. And most of all, he could remember kissing Malachai as clear as if he’d been stone-cold sober.

There was static from the moment Eden's palm touched Malachai's, and Kai wondered if Eden had felt it as well because, for a brief time, he watched his friend hesitate as if testing Malachai's touch. Malachai offered Eden a subtle gesture of comfort by nodding his head, then gently drew Eden against his body and felt him relax the tension. Kai closed his eyes and took a long, controlled deep breath between clenched teeth as he sensed Eden's touch on the small of his back. Malachai was experimenting with fire. He hasn't had this much contact with Eden since that night. The night of too many cocktails, Eden's touch caressing his thigh, and then those eyes. That night was a blur, but those blue eyes were prominent and Malachai's favorite feature. Eden's blue eyes glistened back at him like the layered marine ocean that captivated Malachai and caused him to sink in its sparkling seas. One thing led to another, and they were leaning in like magnets until their lips met, generating an electric current to flow through Kai's body, similar to how Eden had fit his palm almost perfectly into Kai's. The only difference this time was that Malachai was reluctant to repeat the incident with Eden's questioning of his identity. Even after a few more “curious” hookups, Malachai began to wonder whether his romantic feelings for Eden had resurfaced.

Malachai and Eden stood there swinging their hips in sync to music that wasn’t intended for slow dancing, and he could hear hushed murmurs from a few bystanders who looked at the queer couple. But Malachai didn't mind since it was just them and the countless 'what ifs' at the time. For instance, 'what if’ they hadn't kissed? 'What if,’ they hadn’t met? 'What if,’ they didn't know the person having the greatest effect was standing directly in front of them? Malachai believed Eden was the most beautiful 'what if,' despite Malachai’s acquaintance with this portion of the tale. So many possibilities tugged at his heartstrings that it seemed inevitable. It was the reason Malachai was cautious about anyone he allowed to get near since he didn't know whether they'd remain or if they'd leave him the next day. Eden was one among those who remained at his side. Nonetheless, Malachai's other hand on Eden's shoulder slightly twitched as if urging to draw Eden even closer in dread of becoming the 'what if' into oblivion.

Malachai's thoughts entered his head as they slow danced, and the booze was finally setting in. Kai pressed his forehead against Eden's and looked him in the eyes, smiling wistfully. "What if," he murmured more to himself than to Eden. Still, he had a glimmer of hope that Eden understood what those two words meant, so simple but powerful, like a blank canvas with endless possibilities. Malachai gently gripped Eden's hand for comfort, his agile fingers intertwining with Eden's before carefully bringing them to his gentle lips. His gaze never leaving Eden's, he kissed each finger gently, allowing his buzz to sink in deeper. Eden and Malachai's customary intimacy represented a profound bond for two people involved in an ambiguous romance.

Malachai took Eden's hand and trailed his fingers up his arm, interlocking his hands behind Eden's neck. It was dangerous, extremely dangerous, particularly in front of the others. However, the booze gave him fresh confidence, which clashed with his feelings. He leaned close to Eden’s ear. “Excuse me, Mr. Thomas, but I may have been mistaken,” he said indistinctly, his smile widening, “for you are a wonderful dancer just as you are well-dressed.” As they pirouetted around the dance floor, he chuckled as he pushed his temple to Eden's. Malachai's eyes closed once more as he focused on the warmth of Eden's chest against his heart, which was pounding rapidly in his chest to match the instrumental bass of the music that filled the air.

Eden had never been a risk-taker. Even from a young age, it felt like his thoughts had always had a habit of getting caught up in themselves and becoming a tangled ball of roots, catastrophizing and confusing him. Everyone around him had praised it as responsibility and as being “mature.” And then he’d met his friends. He’d met Kai, and suddenly, the risks didn’t seem so terrifying because there was always somebody by his side, keeping him fixed to the earth and making sure he couldn’t get too entangled in his thoughts. With a smile and some encouragement, Eden found he was able to take risks.

Being pressed that close to Kai felt like the biggest risk he’s ever taken.

He was never sure about anything these days. It didn’t take much to unsettle his surety. Sometimes, he just woke up and felt like the earth had gone beneath his feet, and nothing was the same as it had been when he went to sleep. But he felt sure that he wanted to be there, pressed to Kai, his hand in Kai’s. With his eyes closed, it felt like it might just be the two of them left in the ballroom, or maybe even the world. He wouldn’t have minded either of those things. It felt right, and that was such a rare thing these days. The whispered, barely audible “what if” seemed like a wish and a wish that Eden shared. But acknowledging it would break its magic. He only opened his eyes as he felt Kai’s hold on his hand change, and he was afraid that the dream would shatter. But instead, Kai’s lips- so soft, so gentle, so tender- on his fingers just added to the dream, and Eden managed a soft smile.

Kai wrapped his arms around Eden’s neck, leaving both of Eden’s hands to fold around Eden’s back. This, too, was a risk, especially as Kai leaned into Eden’s ear, close enough that Eden could feel the other man’s breath on his neck. Kai’s whispered comment could have been taken a number of ways. Eden decided to play along. “I could say the same about you, Mr. Bernard. You’re truly enchanting tonight; you know that?” He remarked, pulling away ever so slightly, allowing him to brush a few strands of hair out of Malachai’s face. It was as he moved that he spotted a member of the upper class they’d been mocking only so recently- or had it been hours ago? He couldn’t tell anymore- leaning to her neighbor and whispering something with a disgusted look on his face and a pointed look in their direction. “I do say, Mr. Bernard, we seem to be gathering a lot of attention rather,” he said, his voice slipping into a mockery of that accent again as he turned the full of his attention back to his dance partner. Sober him might have lingered on that fact. But right then, right there, he couldn’t have cared less.

When Eden pointed out a small group of upper-class witches talking about them, Malachai's grin vanished. And, to Malachai's surprise, as he glanced over his shoulder, he noticed the pointing and disapproving glances from a group of high-class witches. Malachai shook his head, returning his gaze to Eden. His hands, locked behind Eden's neck, slid down his back to his waist. While intoxicated, his emotions were out of control, and the alcohol was burning his insides. Kai brought back that same wonderful feeling from that one crazy night he had with Eden, and it was fantastic. Eden's presence was always reassuring during Malachai's worst moments. However, it did not deter Malachai from what he did next. He swung Eden around, spinning on his heel so that he was now facing the gossip. Malachai held his gaze on a single individual in the throng, much as he still had Eden against him. As he stared at them, the coldness in his eyes became stronger, becoming black and frigid. Then he focused on the strength from inside, which flooded him from the inside out till his hand had opened off Eden's waist. He made a waving motion in the direction of the gossipers. Immediately, he watched as the wine glass in one of the person’s hands began to shake, then the red wine erupted from the wine glass like a volcano and splashed on the person’s white attire. He grinned as he saw the terror etched on the person's face as their friends hurriedly searched for napkins. “I don't believe they'll be concerned about us anytime soon,” Malachai said, biting his lip to keep the laugh at bay as he returned his focus to his friend.

Eden almost regretted pointing their observers out to Kai. Almost, but not actually. Because soon, the boy’s attention was back on Eden again, and Eden just about forgot what he’d just said. Eden’s breath caught in his throat for a moment as Kai’s hands skimmed along his body, coming to rest on his waist. For a moment, Eden had forgotten where they were, for a second remembering that night in their dorm and for a brief second, maybe even wishing they were there again. And then they spun, and Eden’s attention was almost forcibly dragged back to the room around them. He watched Kai as his expression changed, becoming more intense and focused on something. Eden wanted to look to see what precisely that look was focused on, but instead, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from his dance partner. It was only when he heard the cry of shock that he turned around properly to look. Once the laughter started, Eden knew he didn’t have a hope of stopping it, so he tried to suppress it and maintain a somewhat composed expression. However, the minute Kai looked at him, Eden’s composure broke, and he burst into laughter, unable to hide it properly. Finally, feeling that they’d probably already drawn enough attention to themselves, he took Kai’s hand, lacing his fingers through his friend’s. “Come on, let’s go find the girls and tell them about it,” he said, dragging him back towards where they’d last seen Shiloh and Jupiter.

Rhindeval
0.25 INK
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#125131

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#18D10A



”On the honour of captain you just knocked out your own crew. What do they address you as? Captain Dense?”

”HA!” Korgan scoffed, then tossed aside two table legs which had broken off from the impact. The hulking beast-man strolled towards Raiden as the latter continued to run his mouth, the cries of the barmaid falling on deaf ears.

”Well, what are you waiting for? There is more than one table here to smash your crew with.”

Korgan grinned. ”I have a crew, Raiden! But you. His voice lowered, and the shadows on his face deepened against his golden eyes. ”You’re a lone wolf.” Korgan stomped forth, and swung. ”You’ll spend next week in the infirmary alone.” And swung. ”Unmourned.” And swung! ”And pissing blood into a pan!” And swung, and swung, using his immense size and reach to his advantage as he delivered a flurry of haymakers.

Raiden jumped on tables and benches in order to avoid the fists coming his way. Splinters flew around him while Korgan wrecked anything on his way to reach the archer.
”Alone… or being kissed on the arse by scum like that? You betcha I’m a lone wolf.”
It was time for Raiden to do something back, but one arrow in the pig’s face would not necessarily bring him down. He didn’t know why, but the only thing he could think of was to make him and his crew even more mad than they were. Hopefully they’d mix in the fight and mess each other up.
”I don’t mind a few days in the infirmary, I’ll have your head mounted on the wall to get me through it.”

In his last jump Raiden turned mid-air and grabbed the bow from his back. He tiptoed on two chairs before jumping again and laying an arrow on his bow. He aimed and let go of the string in one sweeping motion. The arrow flew past Korgan, aimed right at the head of the Goblin that was just enjoying another gulp of mead.

The goblin's eyes bulged from their sockets. His lips parted, closed, and parted again, like a fish gasping for breath, then stopped completely, as he fell to the side, dead, blood seeping from his mouth.

"You SON OF A-" Gorhau drew his crossbow to retaliate.

”He's MINE!" Korgan roared. His blood was boiling now. Raiden had barely landed when the Raid-king was already up on the archer's face again, dragging a stool that inexplicably sparked as it scraped against the ground.

Killing the goblin maybe wasn’t the smartest thing Raiden could have done, but it was a little late for that now. He could see Korgan was seething. It was like smoke was coming out of his ears. But I wanted to make him more angry…, right? Raiden asked himself confused.
Raiden landed, but Korgan was fresh on his heels and was having trouble keeping the beast at an arm's length.

The beast-man gripped his stool with both hands, and he swung left, and missed. Then swung right, and missed again. The stool struck a wall, shattered, and its pieces flew in four different directions. Every dodged attack sent Raiden closer against one corner of the tavern, and with a bellowing roar, Korgan sent forth a jab.

Raiden had seen the fist coming and as before he swung his body left in order to avoid it. But the attack barely came close to his face. A feint! And with the archer's back against the wall, Raiden's evasion sent him straight into Korgan's other hand. He flashed a monstrous grin.

”Got you."

The Raid-king grabbed Raiden by his left arm. His grip was tight and it was already Raiden’s weaker arm to begin with. Korgan picked up Raiden as if he was a toy, swung him around and slammed the archer into the wall.

Slam!

Raiden thought his back might break as he flew through the wooden wall and was flung onto the cobblestones of the street. Raiden rolled on, not able to stop on his own due to the brute force he was thrown with. The archer coughed and tried to suck back the oxygen into his lungs. Laying on his stomach, he put his hands on the stones, pulled up his knees and slowly began to rise.

Crack!

A wooden chair was the next part of the tavern furniture to break at Raiden’s expense. He sank to the street again, but was quickly picked up and held up off the ground by his collar.
His eyes barely opened as he breathed his way through the pain, Raiden could see Korgan’s crew. They were silent. The colour drained from their faces, and they backed away. Far, far away.

”GYAHAAHAAHAA!" Korgan's raucous laughter dominated the street as he held Raiden in front of him. The archer could do nothing but wait as he was at the mercy of the giant creature. He thought he was going to be thrown again, but he saw Korgan pulling one arm back, seemingly ready for another punch. Not knowing where the strength still came from he pulled up his legs and aimed to plant them straight in the face of the now red-eyed monster warrior. He felt the grip around his collar loosening and pushed harder to fully get away. The kick struck him square on the face, hard enough to flinch the Raid-king and gave a second of reprieve.

He fell to the ground but finally did so by his own volition. If nothing else, it gave him a morale booster and he was quicker on his feet than before. He scampered away in the opposite direction of Korgan to buy time, and to make sure that he wouldn’t be pissing blood any time soon.
Raiden immediately tried to get his bow, almost forgetting it was probably in a pile of rubble.

”RAIDEEEEEEEN!" Korgan roared. The Raid-king finally drew his axe; a wicked thing of dark grey iron, with a bearded blade that gleamed to reflect the light of sunset. ”I'll chase you to the ends of the WORLDDDD!" His voice was deep now, a throaty bellow that sounded more monster than man. Dock Workers and sailors scrambled to flee the scene.

"RUN! The Queen's Men are at it again!"

"AHHHHH!"

Out in the open, Raiden had more space to work with. But with his axe, Korgan's reach multiplied threefold, and a direct hit from that weapon would spell doom to any man. He hacked, and slashed, and dragged the axe across the ground into a skyward uppercut. Barrels were crushed, crates cut in half. Sparks and debris scattered with every hit, until the entire area was thick with dust from Korgan's rampage.

The beast-man's strength seemed unceasing in his rage. Even as he missed attack after attack, he did not let up, pressuring Raiden on the defense as their chase led them around the docks - until the archer saw his bow, its pointy tip embedded amidst crumbling stone from the tavern. Korgan held the axe high above his head, came close to Raiden, and brought it down. Its shadow fell over the archer to herald the massive blow.

In an attempt to get away from Korgan and closer to his bow, the acrobatic archer dived through the legs of Korgan, who had set his feet wide apart to increase the strength of his axe swing. They were thick as tree trunks but gave him more than enough space. During his jump he grabbed the hunting knife from his belt and tried to embed it into Korgans leg with force. Not waiting for a response he sprinted on until his hand closed around his bow once again.

The fact it hadn’t broken on the handle or the string was an indication of how strong it was and how much strength was needed to wield it. Finally having some luck, his quiver was next to it. He put an arrow on his bow and pulled it back. He was shaking, the weapon took more effort now than before. His arm still hurt from when Korgan had grabbed him and he must have fractured a rib somewhere along the way. It would be hard to keep it steady enough and give it enough force to plant it deep inside the head of the Raid King. He didn’t even know the strength of leathery razorback’s skin. Instead, Raiden moved his aim and let his arrow softly fly through the air.

The arrow landed on a lock, instantly breaking it. It flew off and the box it was guarding flew open. With a soft rumbling the apples that were in the box rolled down the street, creating a slippery obstacle for Korgan. And it kept Raiden where he’d like to be, at a distance.
He gained his breath, although the fractured rib only hurt him more than before.

The knife had went all the way through Korgan's thigh, so deep that blood violently spurted from within. But the berserk beast-man barely acknowledged the attack as he continued his pursuit. The apples made him skid and stumble, yet he continued on, crushing the fruits beneath his heels with slower, but no less relentless steps. Hitting him was the easy part. A monster his size was not fit for nimble dodging, no matter how fast he was. Actually wounding him - that was Raiden's challenge.

Raiden had trouble to keep breathing. If anything, he could only admire the endless energy the behemoth seemed to have. He could see Korgan was getting ready for another attack, almost salivating at the idea to finally take Raiden down once and for all.
It was then that the archer spotted a way to end the fight. Close to Korgan, probably as supplies for his own ship, Raiden could see a few kegs of gunpowder. I’m sure if they can make the cannons roar, they must be able to do some damage.

His smile returned to his face. ”It’s been a pleasure little piglet, but I feel like a roast.” Raiden took another arrow and struck his tinderbox against it, lighting up the tip with a flame. He put it on his bow, pulled with all the strength he had and sent it flying towards the powderkegs.

Korgan's eyes widened. Whatever smart words he would think of was eschewed in favour of a beastly and furious roar.

KABOOM!

He could not tell if the sound or light was first, but his ear drums had trouble with the pressure. He held his bow arm in front of his face and felt how he was lifted off his feet and thrown back by the explosion.

The explosion was visible and audible for miles away, all the way to the castle and beyond. Dark clouds of smoke and rushing, explosive wind spread away from ground zero, flattening anything and everything around the docks that had somehow survived their fight. Windows shattered. Bricks spilled.The wooden planks of the jetties scrambled from their frames. The boats by the docks were upturned and broken, and even ships like the Razorback were not left unscathed, their planks and mast floating atop the water.

Raiden laid atop the pile of rubble that was once the tavern. The air was thick and grey, and every inch around him was covered in soot. Korgan was nowhere to be seen, and neither was his crew, who had hightailed it out of there ages ago.

Then, from the corner of his vision, a hulking figure burst through piles and piles of crumbled stone and wood. It was Korgan; golden-eyed, stumbling, his pelt charred black, and his skin black and red, bleeding internally from the force of the explosion.

He was barely functioning, only an inch away from unconsciousness. His gait uneven and limping, and his eyes looked past Raiden instead of directly at him. The axe in his hand screeched as it was dragged across the earth.

It took him forever to get close to Raiden. But eventually, he did. He bared a snarl full of fangs, and muttered, ”Don't fuck with my crew." The beast-man lifted the axe with one unbroken hand.

...And promptly fell on his back.

He sighed, staring into the skies with glazed eyes. It was done. Neither of them had any fight left, and it was up to Ivelda to pick up the pieces. ”We'll… call it a draw…"

Testing Palace
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Titan's Fall
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In his frustration and tunnel vision towards the shapeshifting creature, Alex hadn’t been paying attention to the Templar. That was a mistake he wasn’t going to hear the end of any time soon if Dean still had eyes on the scene.

He heard the thunderous crack and had pivoted on instinct, his conjured weapons forming a wall around him as he bracing himself for what Alex had assumed was gonna be the templars massive sword. Instead he hit shoved back a few feet from the residual force of a shockwave . . . and was met with the sight of Einherjar being cut down by the Templar. Entropic energy already crackling around him.

Shit. I owe the guy a few drinks after this.

The barrier weapons quickly melted together and formed into a sizable wall between Alex and the resurrecting Viking. Alex really wasn’t wanting to take a chance at his bodies durability against that angry red stuff. ”Crazy Viking. You could have given me a warning instead of getting yourself killed again.” The wall quickly faded out as Alex squared up and got ready to jump in with Raudd. ”Infinity for you maybe, some of us need rest. Then again-” Raw psychic energy flared around Alex, contrasting with the cracking red mist. ”I could do this all day.”

Without warning Alex was suddenly thrown to the left in a flash of blue. A blue pillar that had suddenly extended from the ground fading as quickly as it had manifested to launch Its wielder. This continued in rapid succession, effectively pin-balling himself around by taking advantage of his own durable body. This culminated in Alex effectively blindsiding the Templar woman with a shoulder check, right into a quickly closing bubble that would soon have dozens of layers added to it.

Unfortunately Alex didn’t really have the skills to control rapid movement as he had achieved and had face planted after impact. Well, at least it had seemed to have worked. Taking a moment to get up, he noticed that the shapeshifter had seemed to have decided to bug out, probably in a literal sense too. Probably a waste to go after it now anyway. He would check on the others after the current issue was resolved. Speaking of which~

After dusting off his armor, Alex glanced at the hopefully restrained Templar and saw her still moving. There was a good chance she wasn’t going to be very coherent any time soon. Which left only a few options on how they could deal with her. Still being rather fed up with recent events, Alex opted for the . . . . Bluntest option. Stretching out a hand towards the bubble, Alex began forcing it to shake. Rather violently. Just for a short period of time. He would stop moment to moment to check and see if the Templar had stopped being conscious or not. In the meantime though . . . ”Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep please!!.”

Iskjerne Ring Fort
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Fulgar Thornheim heard the commotion outside resulting from the approaching Argosian contingent. Frustrated with the lack of Sigurd's presence, he spun on his heels and headed outside, his attendants in tow.

Iskjerne Village
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Iskjerne Arena
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Iskjerne Sawmill
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Iskjerne Bay
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It took over a half hour for the pagans to defeat their enemies at the Argosian encampment. Hundreds lay dead or injured on the blood soaked hills. It had been the most brutal, most intense battle ever on Viking soil, topping even the likeness of Sigurd Hring's rebellion against the Taiyou Empire in former days gone by. The Vikings faced heavy losses. Their dead alone outnumbered the Argosians a hundred to one. It was a hard sight to witness, and yet it was only the beginning. What the Vikings now lacked in number, they made up for by seizing the Praetorian supplies and equipment, arming themselves with Argosian weapons and shields, and distributing the much needed wealth amongst themselves. Ubbe Ragnarsson, the grandson of Sigurd Hring himself, walked up calmly towards the burning encampment, wide eyes glaring at the Decanus as he struggled to hold back the onslaught of Viking savages to no avail.

"Alea iacta est."

The Decanus said to Ubbe as he glared back. The young Viking leader simply rotated his neck and shoulders before twirling his axe in one hand and stepping forward to greet this brave Argosian leader. He and his Praetorian guards had fought bravely, and Ubbe felt it would be an honour to kill him personally as he motioned for the remaining Vikings to stop their advances. But before Ubbe could step any closer, the Decanus suddenly fell on his own sword, committing suicide right in front of him. Ubbe Ragnarsson walked over to the Decanus slowly after watching this display. He had impaled himself, and was still sitting upright, resting on both knees with his head down.

Ubbe gently nudged the Decanus with his boot, but he didn't move. He glanced over at his fellow Vikings and shrugged, before walking past him. But as he walked by, Ubbe gritted his teeth and suddenly turned around, swinging his axe horizontally at the back of his neck, taking the Decanus' head clean off of his shoulders as it hit the ground and rolled forward, still wearing his helmet as his decapitated body fell over on to the charred grass. The Vikings roared with victory. It was done. Afterwards, the young prince would gather up the rest of his Viking warriors and continued forward towards the mountains, apparently looking to join the other groups that were already advancing towards the caves. Those who lingered behind him would make a mockery of the Argosians by playing soccer with the Decanus' head, kicking it back and forth like some sort of sick and twisted Viking ball game. It was apparent that the Iskjerne Vikings were no longer being civil towards outsiders and invaders. They had been pushed over the edge and were tired of being oppressed. They meant business, and they were now prepared to take their war over to enemy soil, and face them in their own backyard.

Meanwhile, the Iskjerne Castle was already under siege as Duke Rollo and his Ellarian Normans faced a similar fate. The Frankish army was a bit larger and better fortified than the Praetorians, armed with heavy crossbows which they used to keep the Vikings at bay. At least for a short while. They had barricaded the castle's inner doors and began dropping heavy rocks on invading Pagan heads, along with buckets of hot boiling water which melted their faces and burned their skins like sizzling poultry. Those at the front line would scream and cry out to their gods as they fell in agony. The smell of burnt flesh permeated the scene as King Harald watched from the castle's open courtyard, studying and observing the onslaught, trying to think of a good strategy. After a few minutes, he motioned for his Viking warriors to form a shield wall and accompany him in as he raised his own shield over his head and charged.

The large bolts and heavy rocks continued to rain down upon them, but with a roof of Viking round shields now overhead, the Norman projectiles had little effect on King Harald and his Viking warriors. Once they reached the castle's inner entrance, the Iskjerne Vikings quickly used their axes and brute strength to hack away at the barricaded doors, as Rollo's guards tried desperately to push back against them from the other side. But the Vikings were powerful and fought with great fury, and every time one of them rammed into the door, a dozen or so Frankish mercenaries on the other side would be pushed back momentarily before recovering and stepping forward again to keep the doors from breaking. It was only a matter of time. Soon as the first axe blade pierced through the thick wood and its metal blade shined on the other side, the guards knew that the barricade could not hold much longer. The Vikings were literally hacking their way in, splintering the heavy arched doors one plank at a time. Duke Rollo shouted for some of the guards to step back and ready their spears as he stood above them on the winding stone stairway, terror in his eyes, for he himself had been a Norseman and knew fully well what the Vikings were capable of.

"Les voilà. Sois prêt!"

Duke Rollo shouted, pointing his guards and mercenaries into position. Just then, the heavy wooden crossbar would crack and split as the twin arched doors swung open. The first wave of Iskjerne Vikings stormed in, only to be met with spears as more crossbows rained down upon them from the stairwells above. It would be a hard fight to get through, but eventually the outcome would be the same as before. Only this time, someone else was also making moves. Bjorn Ironside and a small group of Iskjerne Vikings had their own strategy for penetrating the castle. While those at the castle's entrance led by King Harald had rammed their way in, drawing the attention of those from above, this was only a distraction. Bjorn Ironside and his handful of diehard Vikings were climbing up the backside of the castle, using ropes to make their way up to the battlements.

Once at the top, they stealthily snuck up behind the guards and quickly cut them down. Some of the Ellarian Normans, alerted by this sudden infiltration, barely had time to turn their attention on Bjorn's raiders before they too were faced with the stampeding Nordic bludgeons and axes. Bjorn Ironside himself grabbed one of the guards by his throat and lifted him up by his neck, throwing him over the side of the battlements only for the helpless man to scream before his armoured body hit the ground below with a metallic thump. Upon seeing this, King Harald gazed up and made eye contact with Bjorn Ironside, who nodded down to him before turning around and walking away, presumably entering the castle from the rooftop. Duke Rollo's guards continued to fight and kill as many of the invaders as they could, but it was no use. Soon, Bjorn and his men came roaring down the stairs, knocking archers over and hacking down the guards above, giving King Harald's group more of an advantage as they stormed into the open halls and swarmed the castle from within.

Duke Rollo was trapped. He tried to walk to his right, but King Harald's army was already coming up the stairs. He turned and tried to go left, but Bjorn's posse was already advancing towards him. With no other choice, Rollo quickly turned around and bolted into the guest chamber behind him, slamming the door shut. He had abandoned his guards to die as the small remainder of them stood outside the bed chamber, defending the door with their lives. It was only a matter of time. Their gurgling cries could be heard on the other side of the door as the Vikings showed no mercy. The last guard's torso could be heard sliding against the door as he fell to the floor. Rollo used all his strength to flip the bed and dresser up on end and slide them against the chamber door, creating a temporary blockade. It took a minute for Bjorn Ironside to push his way into the room. But as he opened the door to greet his uncle, Bjorn was slightly surprised to find the room completely empty with the window open. He quickly ran over to the window ledge and looked around, but his uncle Rollo was nowhere to be found. Bjorn scowled, placing his hands on the window ledge and gritting his teeth as the other Vikings started to enter the room. A moment later, King Harald entered, but Bjorn just shook his head quietly.

King Harald nodded and snickered, turning to look at the boar-skinned warriors behind him. He made a wave of his hand with his wrist, as if unsure but yet undaunted by what just happened. It was Duke Rollo, after all, a man they had all been aware of and whom they had once respected. Rollo had served Sigurd Hring and fought hard against the Taiyou army, and against Erling Snake's crusader knights. There was no telling what he was capable of, and King Harald seemed mildly impressed, if not a little bit amused by Rollo's escape.

"Well... What are you waiting for? Find him." King Harald said quietly, his deep raspy voice showing a hint of malice or anger, despite his smile and very calm demeanor.

By that point, Ubbe Ragnarsson and the remnant of his group had already met up with Halfdan Ragnarsson and the other two larger groups of Iskjerne Vikings who had descended into the caves. A dozen of them were equipped with weapons, armour and shields that they had confiscated from the dead Praetorians, while the remaining Vikings still had traditional weapons and armor. They made their way through the dark labyrinth of caverns and tunnels, holding oil lamps and torches. Finally, the time for their revenge had come. No longer would the Iskjerne Vikings stand idly by and allow their villages or fortresses to be invaded and destroyed by bullying foreigners. For too long had war and famine, pestilence and the plague of death and suffering been hurled upon them, guided by powers and circumstances that were out of their control. These hardened people, these veteran warriors of the far north, they had somehow managed to survive everything that the gods had thrown at them. Now it was time to fight back, this time in full force as they made their way towards the Rikkisopi Caves, numbering in the hundreds with only one goal in mind. To avenge Sigurd Hring, and ensure once and for all that Iskjerne Bay would remain in the hands of Iskjerne natives. Only this time, there would be no warning, no messengers to alert the Taiyou Empire of the horde that was coming to destroy them. The Vikings were absolutely mad with fury, and there would be no mercy.

Iskjerne Watch Tower
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Terra
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Master O nodded in agreement.

Very well. I'll tell the others.
he said, before grabbing his coat from the rack and departing for the docking bay.

Ariosas
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html code: #FE01FF | currently imprisoned at the manor of Lyle Townsend | late evening


The whole of Midgrasp was reveling in the pure chaos of the Solstice festival right outside the window, and Chiyoko Ito was stuck inside the overly zealous estate of one of Lupin’s most generous supporters. They left the windows open for all the fireworks and music, and Chiyoko sat on the edge of the window looking down below.

”What's the matter, kit? You seem distracted,” Lupin managed to find her in the few moments of solace after spending most of the day hanging off his arm. For a man that usually focused entirely on his own problems, he did have moments where he could see right through Chiyoko’s facade of a dutiful fiancé. Though the little pet name he decided on after hearing her mother call her ‘cub’ was something she had to force back a scowl for. She finally turned to him, and held her hand out for him to help her off of the windowsill. ”There’s a beautiful party outside and you have me locked in here with all these stuffy people,” Chiyoko answered plainly.

Lupin chuckled, looping his arm around her waist and directing them back towards the heart of the function. ”I’ve hardly seen you these past few weeks and you’re already trying to leave me again?” Lupin questioned her, turning and brushing her hair back behind her ear. ”I’m starting to think that you like those little friends of yours more than me,” Lupin said this as a joke, but Chiyoko could see it didn’t quite meet his eyes. Oh sweetheart, if only you knew.

”I think you’re jealous that I have friends,” Chiyoko returned the teasing. He scoffed in return, sounding light, but his hand around Chiyoko’s waist tightened and their pace quickened back to the where the other guests were still drinking and schmoozing to their heart’s content. Chiyoko’s friendships with what the tabloids called the “girl squad” had become a reoccurring topic in the arguments between the couple. Chiyoko didn’t have the energy for the petty arguments Lupin started, but her mother never failed to remind her that she needed to keep him content if she wanted to keep his powerful presence in her life. There were plenty of rumors about the intimacy between Chiyoko and some of her friends, but there was never a reporter or colleague that dared speak about it in her presence, especially if Lupin was around.

”I think you forget that this very expensive ring on your left finger obligates you to me. And I don’t enjoy hearing that my fiancé is off gallivanting into the night with less than savory characters,” Lupin finally murmured to her as they stopped in the lobby, careful for any eavesdroppers that would leak their little bickering into the press. Chiyoko had the ability to make anything disappear - hell, it was the reason she and Diana had become close - but it was such a tedious task.

Still, she would have a little fun, raising her eyebrow at him. ”Priyanka Aarush is an unsavory character?” Chiyoko’s voice was innocent, but her eyes were shooting daggers into him. She knew exactly what she was doing, bringing up Priya. Due to her family’s status, there was never an objection to Chiyoko’s friendship with Priya. She never failed to remind him that she was a powerful asset to be on good terms with, so that she could stay close to the sun elf for as long as she could. Her family wasn’t too fond of Priya hanging out with shifters, but at least Chiyoko was a representative’s fiancé; they were none the wiser to the kitsune’s actual influence on their daughter, and she hoped to keep it that way.

But neither Chiyoko nor Lupin liked to be wrong, especially Lupin, even if he knew all too well how stubborn she could be. ”You know who I was talking about. That Mercury woman is a terrible influence. Is she the one dragging you out to all of these parties?” Lupin asked.

”She's my client,” Chiyoko answered simply. Playing these games with him became boring quickly, and she walked into the main group of guests to end their argument. He wouldn’t dare fight with her in front of his supporters and had to play a part just as she did. Before she could enter, she felt him grab her hand, though it was more gentle than the statement he’d just made. ”Don’t make me worry so much, kit. Go enjoy the party with your little friends,” Lupin pulled her in, kissing her forehead. For all his annoyances, he wasn’t interested in involving her in his work, which allowed Chiyoko plenty of free time to pursue her legal work - and pretty women who came by in her line of work.

As if reading her thoughts, a text message from the very person she wanted to be with tonight popped on her screen. She couldn’t help but grin; Priya was already waiting for her to arrive. Chiyoko was aware of the ceremonies that the sun elves put on during Solstice, so she wasn’t sure if she would be able to see Priya today. Kitsune only celebrated the festival as everyone else did, but it was customary to wear all white during any event. The younger of the packs, especially the yako, took it as an excuse to party once the night fell and the moon was bright. Special kitsune moonshine that didn’t affect their shifting was center stage, illusions danced in the air in their own little world that they made for themselves.

Before Chiyoko befriended her current group, she was often in the heart of those parties and one of the last to leave. But she hadn’t gone in a long time. She could have made other plans too, found where Diana had gone to party or called up Ziran for some company, but meeting with Priya was the best outcome. While she was fond of both of the other women, Priya had quickly taken up most of her attention and affection. Everything just seemed a little better when she was with her walking sunshine.

’Don’t pout, pretty girl. I was just leaving.’


”Miss Ito, my dear, shouldn’t a young thing like you be enjoying the Solstice by now? There’s no need to stay all cooped up with us old folk, is there?” The host of the party finally made his rounds to Chiyoko, reaching for the kitsune’s hand and pressing a kiss against her knuckles. There were a lot of things she put up with to stay at Lupin’s side, including playing nice with his supporters. It was amusing how they saw her only as the young, charming fiancé of Lupin when she’d already lived on this earth for over a hundred years. ”I wouldn’t want to make my exit too early. What would you all think of me?”

Like she would even care. She was very aware of who she was, as a person and as a kitsune, so the opinions of others never bothered her. ”We’d think that you’re someone that’s enjoying their youth! Mr. Wandeross, you’re not keeping the poor girl here, are you?”

Lupin had locked into another conversation, and barely had time to give Chiyoko a roll of his eyes before waving her off. ”Don’t worry about him. He likes these kinds of events, talking to his supporters. I have friends who’d like my company tonight,” Chiyoko came to Lupin’s defense, wishing the host well and making her exit before she could be pulled into another conversation. As she made it outside, she looked through her contacts for a specific name. Once it landed on Dakoda Montour, she sent off a message.

’Leaving an event with the wolf. You think I could have a prettier one come pick me up? Your boss wants to see me.’

New York City
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E V E L I N A KLIMA
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Eve let out a smile as Jeff gave her a compliment, but it was a bit bittersweet. Of course he would like this. Anne dressed like this, and this seemed more onbrand for him, but she took her mind off things. “Thanks.” She said shyly, taking her wallet back and tucking it away as he asked about a movie. Eve had completely forgotten about the movie, the reason her and Anne went shopping. “I actually forgot…” She said a little embarrassed, but Anne spoke up. “There's this new movie that came out, I’ve been wanting to see it, but think you two would enjoy it a bit more.” She spoke, bringing up the movie review on her phone.

A romcom. Not the usual type Eve would watch, more into horror movies or documentaries. The three of them eventually made a choice and headed up. They agreed to just leave most of Eve’s shopping at Jeff’s, more so Anne saying she should have some clothes at his place, to fill up some of his empty closet space. Evelina actually enjoyed the movie, though she did notice Anne giving hints to Jeff like putting his arm around her, as well as just about making him buy the popcorn and slushie they shared. As the movie ended, Jeff offered to walk Eve home, probably another idea by Anne, but she dismissed it saying she had things to do. The two of them exchanged a quick kiss, not wanting to make it awkward for Anne, but she didn't seem to care.

Evelina got home and quickly got out of the outfit and stuff she wore, letting out a deep breath of relief. She felt like she was someone else in the clothes. She then panicked when she couldn’t find her choker, remembering she put it in one of the shopping bags she left at Jeff’s place.

AwkwardCuteGuyJeffrey
omg! i left my choker, its in 1 of the bags from shopping. plz dont lose it, hold onto it for me!!!!! D:


She sent the message, then decided to send another.

AwkwardCuteGuyJeffrey
oh & im home btw :D


Eve tossed her phone aside and flopped down on her bed, reflecting on the day. A lot of good happened in her mind, but still trying to figure out Anne. She was a lot for Evelina to handle. But she did enjoy the time she spent with Jeff, turning over and watching her phone as she fell asleep.

The next few days the two of them texted a lot, but both were busy and hadn’t hung out yet. Jeff was being silly and took random pictures of her choker around his apartment and out, as if it was going on an adventure. These always made Eve smile.

She had awoken today already running late for her shift at Target and rushed out of her apartment, doing her make-up on the bus and stumbling into work as she , not realizing her socks were off shades of red from each other. Luckily today would be a short shift for her and she could head back home and finish the laundry she wanted to do before work.

As Eve was hanging up clothes people had left in the dressing rooms, she heard some commotion before her, a group of friends laughing. She ignored them for the most part, having a feeling she shouldn’t even ask if they need help anything. “Look at this girl over here, trying to dye her hair to make her life seem interesting, but working here.” Evelina rolled her eyes at the remark and just continued working, trying to ignore them as they laughed. “Probably to make up for whatever mental illness she might have.”

“Hey!” Eve turned around quickly, getting ready to say something back to them and not caring about getting another warning at work. But as she turned around, she saw the last person she expected to be hanging out with these people, Jeffrey. Eve froze for a moment, mind going completely blank. The group was also quiet for a moment, before another one of them took charge. “What is it little rebel, not used to seeing people who aren’t trash?”

The Garden
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Enya watched them leave, retaining her smile until they had left her vision. She lay down, exhausted, exhaling with a sigh. Enya had never met children before, not to mention human children. One had been overwhelming enough, but two? She thought back to the red head, laughing at his bow. Quite a showman, wasn't he? She smirked, those two were complete opposites. One closed off and silent, the other exuberant talkative. Her smile faded slowly, things had gotten complicated. If she killed the little girl and fled, he would know who had done it. Still, it was the easiest course of action, a warning.

If she killed both of them... Enya tried to think. A demon's first instinct was to cut off loose ends. Enya sighed, rolling to look up at the sky. Those children had offered her a helping hand, but that was only because she had tricked them. What if there was an alternative?

"Over here is where I heard the noise," Enya stiffened, quickly diving into the bushes. "Did you hear that?" Enya could see them through the leaves, two angels. Their halos illuminated their faces, shining brightly above their heads. "I don't hear anything," there was an animal with them, a beast Enya had only read about in books.

A wolf.

She held her breath, the wolf turning its head, its green eyes meeting her own. Well.... shit. The dog stepped forward, its ears pulling back. It growled, its tail stiff and on alert. What to do? What to do? If Enya used her ability, it would delay her departure from this place. If she was found, however, the risks were much greater. The dog leaped, the angel beckoning to the other. The two surrounded the area Enya was hiding in.

She crawled closer to the brook, the sound of the gurgling water covering up the noise of her bones breaking and reforming. She bit down on her lip to stifle her cry of pain, fur bursting from her pores, her body growing smaller. "Wolf, this way!" They were closing in, a cry escaping from Enya's lips. A sword was held against her throat, the demon looking up at the angel with panic in her eyes. "A rabbit?"

The angel stepped back, the other one moving forward to pick her up. "Poor thing, it's quivering." Its touch was soft as it stroked her head, "Put it down Evening, you know what Sankta said." Evening leant down, Enya hopping out of the angel's hands and onto the grass. "Yes, yes, keep the wildlife wild."

"Still, it's unlike that dog to get so fussed over a rabbit." Enya was quick to hop back into the bushes, the wolf darting after her. "Whoa!" The angel grabbed it, stopping it from snatching the rabbit in its jowels. "What is with you tonight? C'mone, let's go back to the house. You're probably just hungry." She waited until she could no longer hear their footsteps before releasing the transformation. Her bones snapped and crackled, the fur shedding from her body, her organs shifting to their proper place, and Enya returned to her full size.

She was breathing heavily, her fists grasping the grass as her nails finished growing. It hurt, but it was a necessary pain. Enya rolled onto her side, panting. Water, she needed water. She crawled towards the brook, dipping her head beneath the surface to drink.

Tomorrow, it didn't matter if she was fully healed or not, she needed to leave tomorrow.

Barden, VA
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Kieran Vallenetti
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Malfyre | Antihero | #575772
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Seems like the whole damn world
went and lost its mind
And all my childhood heroes
have fallen off or died
Fake tears, we are living fake tears
But the alcohol never lies, never lies
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Kieran remained silent as she watched the shit show transpire in front of her. Of course the two boys would start a fight, it happened just about every god damn time. And she was borderline sick of their petty and childish actions. They were adults and could act as such, not squabble like children. But she actually going to stay out of it this time. Just wait as the others settled things between them, seeing as she did her part already. She watched as the female counterpart of Gemini appeared, taking over the situation as hand. Surprisingly she had a cooler head and better grasp on things than the other half seemed to possess.

She continued to sit back and listen more as the rest continued to debate on what to do. It seemed that everyone was stuck with how to progress with things, and she wasn't too shocked. They had so little to work with, and they were slowly running out of time. It was only when Icarus was done talking, that she stepped forward again. "It's not a solid plan, but it is a plan regardless." Malfyre finally spoke up, eyeing the others. "I don't know if you picked up on it or not, but there is a pattern." she continued.

"So far, it has always been warehouses or large buildings, right?" she asked, glancing out at the others. Kieran retrieved her phone and placed it down on the table. A large holographic map opened up and expanded in the air above the device. "We have already checked out these locations, yeah?" Malfyre said as she pointed to a few outlines of buildings. "Each time, it has been bigger than the last. And if you look at the map of the Barden- Malfyre gestured once back to the map they were looking at.

"What is the largest building, in all of Barden? Especially one we haven't checked yet, not would we even begin to assume or suspect?" Maflyre eyed the others, before finally pointing to the one in question. The map zoomed in on the building. "It's not a sure fire or even promised location, but it is an idea. We get we're running out of ideas and more importantly time. But would you rather give this one a go, and possibly be right, or would you rather we continue to check building by god damn building and run out of time before we even reach half of the places?"

Malfyre backed up from the table, arms crossed, "It's a random guess sure, but it's all we got at this point. My vote, we at least attempt it, and if we're wrong....I don't even know. But what I do know, we're running out of time, and if we don't come together now, we're all fucked."

It was just then that someone's phone went off. Malfyre looked off in Aaron's direction, giving him an annoyed look, even through the mask he'd be able to sense it. She watched as he answered it, and the look on his face was enough for her to grow worried. "What is it?" she questioned. Bludywnd made his way over to the others, handing Malfyre his phone, "I just got a call and...I think you should see it..." Malfyre took his phone, retrieving something from her pocket as she attached it to his phone. A series of numbers and coding scrambled across his phone's screen for a moment, and she paused after the process was done.

"What? What is it?" Bludwynd questioned. Malfyre looked at the others, still in shock. "I don't know what kinds of Gods exist...But they just confirmed my random, bullshit guess." Malfyre placed Bludwynd's phone beside her's on the table. "Those god damn coordinates from where that phone call came from....is the same as that building's address...I think we just found them, guys..." Malfyre looked at the others to gauge their reactions. She knew it was seemingly all too coincidental, but at this point, what else did they have to lose?




Greythorne
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Neden Isimir
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Angel | outfit | #a39d9d
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I'll be good, I'll be good
And I'll love the world, like I should
Yeah, I'll be good, I'll be good
For all of the times that I never could
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When it was finally time to leave, Neden had followed Rosie and the others to the Court House, anxiety had taken over them from the inside out, but they managed to contain it. Somehow. Neden knew it would take some time for the townspeople to all gather, take their seats, and for the entire trial to begin. And seeing as how Neden would now be needing to defend Travis in a trial, they had to stay close enough by him until the time came. They watched as he excused himself to the bathroom, and waited for a few minutes until Evie would give them the cue for when it was time for them. And eventually, it came. The female vampire returned to where Neden was, and gestured it was time. Neden stood up from their seat and walked over to the bathroom where Travis was, and knocked lightly. "You good in there" they questioned, and waited for his reply.

Neden waited patiently for the door to unlock, and watched as Travis emerged. Apologizing. "Don't be. I'd give you more time if I could but..It's time." the angel gave him a bit of a sorrowful look before turning on their heels and motioned for him to walk ahead of them. The three finally took their seats within the main room, Neden shooting Rosie a look to signal they were ready when she was. Anxiety still running deep through their body. Their heart was racing heavily, it would be surprising if no one else could hear it.

They watched as Rosie got up, gave her speech and then next was the representative of the town elders. Neden sat in their seat entirely still as the man spoke. They even half hoped he'd keel over, but no such luck. Instead, he gave a suprisingly well spoken speech, giving reasons and examples of why Travis should face the punishments for his crimes. And while Neden did agree to a degree, they knew their purpose in all of this. And they just hoped what information they garnered was enough for the people to at the very least, consider their punishment for him in the end.

Finally, Rosie got back up and addressed those who would be acting as defense for Travis. Evelyn and Neden. The angel took a deep breath and rose to their feet, clutching the messenger page they had with them closely. Slowly Neden made their way up to the podium, gave Rosie a small nod and turned to the courtroom. Neden took yet another deep breath, "Fair people of Greythorne. I am both honored to be able to stand before you today to bring evidence in hopes of aiding Mr. Graveson here. But on the same hand, I am also regretful for what I learned in my time away from Greythorne." Neden began, their eyes scanning over the room as they spoke. Neden removed the bag and carefully placed it beside the podium, retrieving folders from within.

Neden looked back around, "I have spent the past two weeks, largely scouting for any outposts and hideouts for The Branded. As I knew what I'd need would be within at least one of their compounds." Neden began, shuffling through the folders on the podium. "I won't lie, I did almost give up towards the end. I had managed to look through at least four different compounds, just outside of Greythorne borders. And I will give you the coordinates of each one. Know where to avoid and keep your eyes on." they said with a small nod before continuing.

"But I am thankful to say that I did find information for Mr. Graveson here." Neden began, swallowing the lump in their throat, "I'm just not sure how he will react with what I bring to you." their eyes flitted over to Travis for a moment. Gauging his reaction so far. They knew what information they had would most likely destroy him. He'd feel betrayed and angry. But he deserved every right to know what they found.

Neden retrieved one of the folders, removing a few papers that they removed from within. Scanning it for a moment as they took a deep breath. "While I am here to defend Mr. Graveson, I also can't help but try to remain unbiased here. We all know what he's guilty of. Slaughtering countless Supernaturals throughout his course within The Branded. We all know that. And there is no denying that fact. We ignore that, then what are we really here for?" Neden asked with raised eyebrows. They took another deep breath, "But what we didn't know, was why. Why was Mr. Graveson apart of all of this to even begin with? What motivated him to do what he did? To get involved with all of it to begin with? Because there most be a trigger to that, right?" Neden's eyes moved around the room, taking in how the jury acted.

"I found several documents pertaining to Mr. Graveson. Those that were his entry forms, documents about his progress and activities out in the field when he was apart of The Branded. And the last one, was his discharge form from their side." Neden cleared their throat before continuing. "I discovered, that upon Mr. Graveson joining The Branded, he joined under the pretense that his family had been killed due to Supernaturals. All he wanted was justice for his family, that he believed were killed by the Supernatural. But with what I had found out as well, everything that Travis was told and made to believe-" Neden paused for a moment, not able to look at Travis as the following left their lips, "-was all based on a lie." Neden finished as they placed two folders on the table that sat in front of the Elders.

Neden turned back to face them, "The reality was, Mr. Graveson's parents were killed by the monsters he was led to believe. If anything, the monsters in question were the ones who lied to him in the first place. No supernatural forces were involved in their deaths. Only humans." Neden looked away for a moment, making the briefest eye-contact with Rosie before continuing. "Within those folders, you will see the fabricated story that the recruiting officers of The Branded forged, to gain Mr. Graveson's loyalty. Like most of those who get involved with The Branded, are lied to and deceived to bolster their ranks. They have one goal in mind, to wipe out the supernatural, not caring what means they must take to achieve it. Even killing innocent people to accomplish their goals." Neden finally looked at Travis, a sorrowful look overcame their face for a moment.

There was silence that filled the room for a moment as Neden took a moment to let it all settle in everyone's mind for what was revealed. "While it does not excuse Travis of his actions while within The Branded, and it never will pardon him for his actions. At the very least it explains why he did the things he did. At least consider it in your decision. While it is unforgivable, it is at the very least understandable. A young kid wanting justice for his parents murder." Neden took another moment as they walked back up to the podium. "Retrieving this evidence nearly cost me my life. The last document, which is The Branded's claim for what happened to Travis. They have it documented that he betrayed them and was killed in combat. They believe him to be dead, as that was what a few of their own Hunters claimed during the last attack." Neden held up another folder, and gave it to the Elder's Representative.

"What I will say, to finish this off. Is that while Mr. Graveson here is responsible for dozens of deaths of innocent Supernaturals. He is also responsible for the deaths of dozens of Hunters that belong to The Branded. He's fought just as hard for us, if not even harder than he ever has. And that at the very least has to count for something. We don't expect nor want you to forgive and pardon his past actions. but to acknowledge them, and at the very most, be willing to consider giving him a second chance to prove himself." Neden's eyes flickered around the room one last time, before giving a small nod, "That is all." Neden retrieved their things and made their way back to their seat. Awaiting for whatever evidence Evelyn had to report for Travis' case. Neden's eyes kept grounded to the court-room's floor. They didn't know if they truly aided Travis and is cause, or only made things worse. All they could do was hope they'd at least head him out and decide based on evidence alone.



Raptor Bar and Grill
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/say hello

Pagos Way
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Reinhart Elvengar nodded, waving for the party to follow him as he set out for the mines in the valley. This was going to be an easy job, with all of these skilled shooters.

With confidence, he set out towards the city gates.

Gromp's Gun Emporium
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Reinhart Elvengar headed out of the shop, speaking loudly with his men about their plan to clear the mines.

Gromp's Shooting Range
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Norg Fungona looked around, not expecting a crowd...

Descendant Academy
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theodore grayson
nightstarx|xoutfitx|x#13315c


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josiah dalinski
jesterx|xoutfitx|x#b48f7c


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Turning everything off seemed as good a plan as any, so Theo reached for the control panel, starting with the more important-looking ones. It seemed to work, because nothing went off, and after a tense moment, Theo relaxed. "I was almost expecting that not to w—"

The alarm went off.

"...Or not," Josiah sighed, but he also didn’t blame whoever set it off. The boys had been rather slow in getting this done. Perhaps there had even been a better candidate for this job in the group, but he never gave the chance for anyone else to take it. Violence avoidance was key in not becoming some deranged psychopath, and he’d very much like to keep James’ inner Demon at bay for a little while longer.

"Josiah, Theo - forget the communication tower. It’s too late," Aria’s voice chimed over the comms, and Josiah, for one, was going to listen. Being on the tower meant that the boys had a great view of what was going on down below, and it looked like personnel clad in fatigue and armed to the teeth were on their way to converge on the southeast quadrant of the base.

"Yeah, we’ve got company," Theo growled, grabbing his escrima sticks from where they had been strapped to his back and snapping them into their extended form with a flick of his wrists. Most of the guards were focused on unlocking the stairs that led up the radio tower, although a couple had looked up and spotted Theo and Josiah at the top. No time like the present, he thought, and before he could lose any more of the element of surprise he’d leaped over the railing, falling down onto the guards gathered below. At the last moment he summoned what little flight he had left to soften the blow, landing squarely onto the shoulders of a guard, sending him into a panic as he tried to buck Theo off.

Using his thighs to steer the guard he was mounted on, Theo dealt various blows to the guards surrounding them, lashing out with his sticks and occasionally feet to send guards sprawling to the ground before they could attack him. With the way they were clustered together, it was difficult for any of them to land a real hit on Theo, although he did have to dodge some bullets. One flew a little too close and grazed his temple, sending blood trickling down into his left eye.

Half-blinded, Theo paused for a moment, and the guards took advantage of his confusion to press forward. Struggling to regain his balance, Theo brought his leg up and pushed off the guard’s shoulders to flip off him, landing shakily on the ground a few feet away. As he wiped the blood out of his eye, he turned his face up to the radio tower, yelling, "A little help here, J! We gotta split!"

Josiah really didn’t want to go into the fray of the fight. It was a simulation and not worth his sanity to lose control of himself in a way that would be counterintuitive to the mission at hand. Still, since it appeared that he’d have to figure out his place in this messy team, he’d also need to participate like a normal hero would. Whatever normal was. He jumped down from the tower, utilizing a variety of holds for his hands and feet that would allow him to not simply fall a drastic distance.

As shocking as it might be, the awkward looking boy had excellent hand-to-hand skill. Despite his comically flamboyant, and potentially disturbing, appearance, he was able to take on the advancing personnel with dodges, kicks, and punches that seemed to have come out of nowhere. Even as he was hit, he didn’t appear to be fazed. His fearless nature, much like his father, kept him from both defending himself and backing down.

Josiah hadn’t even noticed that, at some point, he was shot in the arm. Blood seeped through his vibrant sleeve and dribbled onto the snowy ground. His expression could be described as… crazed… especially after one of the guards knocked the masked right off of his face. His eyes were bloodshot, and veins pulsed visibly in his neck and temples. The blows that he delivered were meant to kill, and they were bloody and made snapping and cracking noises. It was almost music to his ears! At one point, he forgot that Theo even existed and he was lost in the red of bloodshed until every last opponent had fallen, whether from his doing or Theo’s.

He picked up his mask, wiped off the snow, and then put it back onto his face. His features were now stoic, as if nothing had just happened and he wasn’t injured at all.

There were hostages pouring out of the facility. Some of them were being dropped to the ground by long distance shots by the military personnel, others were running for the gates and fences. "Out the way we came?" He didn’t bother helping Theo at all because he didn’t even notice that he might have required it.

Theo hesitated. His immediate desire was to find a way to get the rest of the hostages to safety, but so many things had already gone wrong. Alfred and Phil were almost certainly waiting with a lecture already. And, if the noises coming over the comm were any indication, the others would be leaving too. "This way!" he yelled at some of the closer hostages, waving them towards the fence where the hole they’d made earlier was.

He turned to Josiah, noting the blood covering him and the wound in his arm. "Let’s get as many of them out as we can," he said. "It won’t be much, but we can try. Stand by the exit, make sure they can get out. I’ll meet you outside.” He took off at a run across the open space, summoning all the Tamaranean strength he could to blast through the fences at opportune spaces to let the hostages out. He also fired a few careful blasts at the attacking military personnel that he could see, trying to put them out of commission.

A significant number of the hostages had gotten out by the time Theo gave up. He had completely exhausted himself trying to tap into his sun-powered abilities in the middle of the night, and, figuring he’d done what he could, he too turned and left the facility, disappearing into the snowy night with the last of the prisoners.

The Hidden Glen
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As the time passed and days began to change, so too did the unhatched infant dragon. It had slowly evolved and developed nicely into something which looked very similar to a gliding lizard, only much larger. It's oil bladders started to mutate and become gas bladders, while it's gills became gliding membranes. It's lungs grew bigger while it's toes and claws grew longer. Finally, the tiny dracodylidae was ready to hatch. It wiggled around and twitched quietly, pushing its slightly curved elongated snout against the egg shell from inside its pink, gooey veined center.

At first there was a crack, and soon the egg shell began to break away as the tiny forelimb of a dog-sized reptiloid reached out from between the cracks, curling its talons and hooking on to the edge of the busted shell. Then another hooked claw appeared, gripping the egg's outer shell as the scaley dragon lifted itself up. The egg's lid rested on the creature's head as it poked its face out, it's large round golden snake-like eyes simply menacing and frightening to behold with their diamond-shaped black pupils and slanted, scaley brow ridges. If ever a slimey salamander could look evil or dangerous, it was now, as it tested the air by tasting it with its forked snake-like tongue. It was obvious just from its appearance that this animal was a carnivore.

But even predators have to partake in the race for survival at some point. The infant dragon's natural borne instincts took over, and within moments, it managed to break free from its heavily armored egg shell. It didn't seem like much, but the struggle to get free had left the little baby dragon exhausted and tired. It crawled out into the world for the first time since its conception, and proceeded to rest between the protruding roots of the old willow tree. Although its scales were harder now, its flesh was still soft and slimey, covered in a protective layer of mucus which gave off a pheromone that would temporarily ward off predators. However, the baby dragon was still brittle and weak with soft skin and cartlidge-like hollow bones. Breaking free and hatching from the egg was tiring and the baby dragon had no choice but to rest afterwards. It would bask in the sun and dry out, allowing its body to absorb the sunlight and warm up, giving its heart and lungs the boost needed in order to get its blood pumping. The dragon's skin was sandy in color and semi-transparent like a newborn gecko. Although it had claws, its talons were still soft and very small, more useful for climbing and digging than for hunting or fighting off hungry wildcats.

After a few minutes, the newborn's claws and skin had dried out and hardened wonderfully. The large lizard reared its head up for the first time, and like a frog or gecko, would almost comically lick its large round golden croc-like eyes with its blackish purple, forked snake-like tongue. It was tasting the air, and becoming more familiar with its surroundings. The baby dragon could already smell other animals from over a mile away. It could hear their footsteps with its false ear lobes, located behind its eyes where it still had gills. It had a rounded snout and looked almost cute, if only for its small size and disproportionately big eyes, tiny cat-like claws and itty bitty webbed toes. It croaked its throat, or tried to, but no sound was presented by the creature's tiny call to its mother. It couldn't even chirp, for its body was still developing and the baby dragon had not yet learned to use its vocal abilities. It tried again as it's neck bulged, but again to no avail. Soon, it began to crawl or slither on all fours, taking its very first baby steps. It started to crawl along the forest floor, leaving the natural nest it had been in between the roots of the still burnt but partially green, old thriving willow tree for the first time in its entire life.

Dogs in God's Vineyard
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It took Charles a good minute, but his efforts soon proved to be fruitful. The lock gave a click, and when he tested the door handle, it opened up with ease. Upon fully opening the door, a long staircase was revealed, the path dimly lit by a descending row of rustic looking chandeliers. The staircase curved toward the right halfway down, denying them a full view of the basement below.

"Well," Margaret remarked after a moment, staring into the abyss with no small amount of wariness. "There's no way to go but down, I suppose. At least we'll be able to keep a somewhat quiet approach for a little while longer."

"Probably not much longer. Like our Leader says, won't be long until we're knee deep in whatever occultist blasphemy they've got going down here," Sonia remarked.

With that said, the group started to venture their way down, Anna leading the vanguard as they descended down the stairs. The walk down was tense, an expectant air of restrained violence hanging between the group as they walked down the stairs. As they followed the curve, Margaret half expected them to run into another party, or to otherwise see things devolve into blood and sweat and gore as hostilities were renewed...

But they met not a soul as they traversed down the stairs. It was only as they neared the bottom that they saw a source of life.

At the base of the stairs...was a maid. She was a plain looking woman, dressed in a simple black uniform befitting of a higher-end hotel. She carried no visible weapon, and seemed utterly unsurprised at their presence as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

"Good evening, Madam Dog," the maid began, a pleasant smile on her face. She gave a small curtsy, displaying an almost disturbing amount of professionalism, even as Anna reflexively pointed a gun at her head. "We have been expecting you. Have you come to join the Feast?"

Scarriden
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LUCIAN MITCHELL
the villain - 2d2a2f - outfit
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xxsome people watch, some people pray
xxbut even lights can fade away
xxsome people hope, some people pay
xxbut why'd we have to stay?

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For once, things had gone right for them. They'd gotten the information they'd needed, and they could act on it almost right away. Nobody did anything. No windows were smashed in, no cops showed up. Lucian, Markus, and Erin stumbled out of the venue at 2AM when the event was over and they'd even helped clean things up. When they'd gone home, they'd been so hyped up that they'd hatched their plan right there and then, despite the copious amounts of alcohol in their systems. None of them had actually made it to bed, instead falling asleep sprawled across the floor in various positions.

When they'd woken up and got their respective hangover cures, they revisited their plan and were somewhat shocked to find that, with only a handful of sober minded changes, it still held up as a pretty solid plan. They all agreed that they needed to act fast before Aegis got a chance to move them; and so they decided to act that night. There was no time to waste, and they knew if they didn't act, they'd all be in trouble. So they got changed, got a few extra strong coffees, and began taking steps to prepare for the fight. They poured over the plans they had, repeating their plans and their escape plans and their backup plans over and over again until it was the only thing echoing in their heads and they'd probably still act on them in their sleep.

Despite their late night, when they made their way towards the factory, they were all wide awake and on their guard. Lucian's heart was in his mouth. If things had gone smoothly last night, then he knew that it was unlikely they'd have the same luck today. But his trust in Erin and Markus was at an all-time high, and he knew that they were all very much on the same page. He wasn't sure that he believed the intel about it being all low level grunts. He was expecting a much bigger fight, and that's what they'd come prepared for. They knew in their heads they were preparing for the worst; but none of them would admit that out loud.

The world
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Ivan #e3001f

"Why would I fight you? What would it prove? Why is reconfirming to them that I am the monster they think I am, do? Why waste the time to decide on a match I already know the answer to?"

Ivan blinked once then twice, surprised at the words that left the other man's mouth. Monster? He let go of the stranger's collar and let his arms fall down at his sides unsure what to do with them now. Did he really think that this weak thing was a monster? How? Why? It seemed so strange. Ivan couldn't comprehend how the two of them could be placed in the same category.

An sudden touch, Ivan looked down at his own hands and watched as the man touched the wounds he had created himself. He saw the skin heal itself, it was not something weird to him, but this time it was different. He could feel an interference, a warm feeling was left on the palm of his hand. This was not his own doing. This must be the other man's doing, was he a healer? Why was he participating in this sort of fight in that case? The situation seemed to grow stranger by the minute.

"Why are you fighting me? Why did they pick you of all people to be the one to punish my brother? Do they think you are a monster too? That you would enjoy making me bleed? If you want me to bleed, I'll bleed for you. I don't mind."

Ivan chuckled at the question, he didn't really know why, but he found it funny somehow. Here was someone that didn't know who he was. That was something new. A bit entertaining but mostly something strange he hadn't experienced in a long time. With a grin, Ivan shrugged, "I think everyone here thinks I'm a monster. Haven't you heard about me? I'm the mad dog they can't put down even if they wanted to. So there's no reason for you to waste energy by healing me - I'm immortal."

Perhaps he had a flair for the dramatics, but he truly found this situation hilarious by now so in a matter of seconds Ivan had thrust his own thumb inside his eyesocket. His vision became red as the blood started to pour out of the place where an icy blue eye just had been. He stretched out his bloody hand towards the healer and hissed, "Wait, don't do anything. This doesn't even hurt anymore so don't overreact."

In a matter of minutes, the blood stopped pouring out of the wound, and just as fast as it had appeared it disappeared. Soon after he opened his eye once more, it had regenerated by itself since that was Ivan's special gift. He chuckled once more, "See, I'm the nutcase they send in when they want to see a real fight since I can't be damaged. But I can do damage. Do you still believe I'm interested in fighting with someone that's just going to bend the knee and accept it?"

Seoul, South Korea
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novak
spatial manipulation
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hanne
bio manipulation
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hawke
telepathy
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Hanne winced as Vlad coughed out blood, looking back and forth between him and Hawke. "I fixed what I could. He's weak from blood loss but he'll live. It would be best if you could get some rest soon, Vlad, but you'll be fine. I promise." There wasn't much she could say, knowing that they'd reached a temporary truce only because he needed her help. And now she'd done what she could, so she was no longer needed. She backed away, moving towards the others.

Only the gentle hand on Hawke's shoulder pulled him out of his worry, and he jerked around to look at Ivy. Jumpsuit... "Right. Sorry." He'd almost forgotten about the bundle of cloth, pressed to his side. This he returned to Ivy, turning away to allow her some privacy while she pulled it back on.

Beside Specter, Novak was trying to come up with a plan, but no ideas were coming to mind. The combined effort of the escape and the jumps they'd done were beginning to take a toll on them, and they could feel their energy sapping slowly, a migraine beginning to take hold in their head.

"Something isn't good enough," they countered Specter. "We should be trying to find some signs of other people, then we could at least hide. Otherwise we'll be walking around in this forest until we're caught." They paused, and then it came to them. "A road. What we need is a road. Then we'll be able to follow it to people."

"We'll take whatever we can find," Hawke said grimly as he hauled Vlad upright, adjusting to support his weight. He didn't want to say so, but at this point it was really up to Specter to get them out of there, being the only person who could read the environment enough to find them a way to safety. But pointing it out would just put undue stress on the boy.

As they walked along, as quickly as they could given Vlad's injuries, Hawke couldn't help the guilt that spread through his system. There were so many moments where he had dropped the ball, focusing only on surviving in the moment. If only he had tried to figure the facility out sooner. If only he had worked harder to bring everyone together to work out a plan. Now they were all soaked, lost, and growing tired, and all they could do was trudge forward or face recapture.

The group moved through the trees in silence for a while, Hanne drifting along behind them. Now that the initial excitement of the escape was over, she was beginning to come to terms with what she had done, especially to that guard. What had she done, exactly? She wasn't thinking clearly when it happened, just let her emotions bubble up and take over; apparently she was capable of things she didn't know she could do.

"What are you thinking about?" Novak's voice pulled Hanne out of her reverie, and she looked up at them, speechless for a moment. "Um, just... the, this whole thing..."

Novak nodded, misunderstanding Hanne's brooding. "You're not a burden, you know. I mean, I'm sure Vlad's grateful that you came along, but you're part of us. You deserve to be free, too."

She frowned. It wasn't a concern occupying her at the moment, but it was strange to hear affirmation like that. She was well aware of how some of the others thought she was a dead weight, complacently happy in her cell. Novak had never really seemed to share Vlad's vitriol, but they had never been particularly approving either.

She would have said as much, but at that moment, up ahead, Specter called back "I see a clearing," and Novak hurried up front to look, leaving Hanne alone.

Specter reached the clearing first, but Novak was close behind, almost running full tilt into the fence, their earlier exhaustion all but forgotten. This was better than a road, so much better. Their fears of being condemend to wander forever in search of civilisation vanished as they looked upon the city in awe, the lights reflected in their eyes. There had never been anything like this before.

Hawke could sense Vlad and Ivy getting excited too, although he tried to temper himself. He glanced around to make sure they hadn't been followed; the coast seemed clear. "Alright, we'll go through. Be careful. Take Novak first, then Vlad." At least that way Vlad would get out first, and have someone waiting on the other side for him, plus Ivy could catch a break from supporting him. It couldn't have been that easy, given Vlad's weight as the most muscular of the group.

Novak went through obediently, waiting to help support Vlad as he passed with Specter through the fence, turning them both so they could stare at in the city's direction until the others were through. "The lights are crazy, huh? I didn't think they would look like this. Like if I swallowed all this brightness I could float away." It didn't make sense. But it was all they could say.

Hanne followed after Vlad, and Hawke motioned Ivy forward. "Ladies first." He was eager to get back to Vlad, certain in the back of his mind that if he looked away for too long something bad would happen; he would get injured again, he would start coughing blood and never stop, he would just vanish... But then the sign on the fence caught his attention, and it puzzled him. What was S.A.A.? Surely it had to be them... but what did it mean? "Specter," he gestured at the sign, "do you know what this means? Have you ever read about it?"

Novak turned, glaring disdainfully at the fence. "Who gives a damn? We're out now, and it's going to stay that way. I'm not going back in there now that I'm out here. The only way they'll get me in that building is carrying my corpse through the front doors."

Hawke winced. It was a poor choice of words. "Alright. Nobody's dying just yet. Our priority right now is finding clothes, then somewhere to rest. We made it this far, but we're not out of the woods just yet." He glanced over his shoulder at the trees. "...Figuratively. They're not going to give up that easily, and we probably look really suspicious. We're going to need to keep a low profile for now." Easier said than done. Other things like food and money—whatever passed as currency here—wouldn't just fall into their lap, but first above all was shelter. They couldn't be sitting ducks out in the open, covered in blood.

Once Vlad was repositioned between Hawke and Ivy they set off towards the city, moving forward in silence. No one passed them as they inched closer to the lights, Hawke's feet aching with every step. Finally, they were standing on the edge of the city, pressed up against the warehouses that lined its borders. Storage space... and one of them might store clothes. Novak, sensing Hawke's tiredness, tried to take charge, as jumbled as their mind felt. "Specter, you take that row, and I'll go this way. See what you can find. Something here has got to be useful. The rest of you just... just sit here and wait. Hawke, give us a shout if anyone comes." They tapped their temple meaningfully, and started off down a row of warehouses, determined to pull enough juice together to make a few more portals.

Hawke helped Vlad sit down, giving him a once over. He didn't look quite the worse for their trip, but Hawke was concerned all the same. It wouldn't do them any good to stay on their feet for too long, yet he couldn't sit still. After a moment, he pulled Ivy aside. "Will you keep an eye on them? I'm going to have a look around, make sure that no one's coming." He set off at a slow walk, keeping his mind open to any foreign presences.

The first few warehouses didn't yield any good results. They were certainly large, but often packed with things Novak didn't recognise; some had huge machines, others shelves upon shelves of wrapped boxes. Eventually they found one stocked with racks, clothes in plastic bags hung on them. Over half the warehouse was packed with such racks, and surely something would fit them. Novak hurried back to the group, waving them over. "I found clothes, come have a look!"

Airdalen Academy
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"Haha, how charming. It looks like I've hit the jackpot."


If Kazuki was a jackpot… it would be one of misfortune rather than luck in her opinion, which she could tell her company would agree on. Smiling back at Devone, Shiori pressed her lips together to hold back her laughter. They were still in public and Kazuki attracted enough attention on his own. She didn’t want to draw in any additional sets of eyes on the three of them. The onlookers were growing alarmingly high as it stood, “I would toss that ticket in the trash, I can’t imagine anyone other than Tsukiko that would cash that in.” Shiori added, teeth pressing into her lower lip to contain her amusement. It was the first time that someone had joined her in one of her verbal assaults. It… was actually kind of nice to have an ally.

"Now, now, Mi-ya-mo-to-san~"

Devone coming to her aid was surprisingly… nice. They shared similar misunderstandings regarding their outward personalities, especially at school, that was becoming clearer. Devone could have easily left her to deal with Kazuki on her own, and yet she stayed. Violet eyes lit up a bit, touched by her classmate’s choice to stand by her and come to her defense.

“I think you should quit now while you're ahead.” “She is rejecting you, just in case you didn't know. Any further and it'll be assault, police, and a, "Don't let him get away with this, officer." from me." "Are we clear?"

However true shock claimed Shiori’s expression when Devone mentioned police. The cameras would support their claim, and she was incredibly touched. Until now she had felt so incredibly alone, but Devone… Rhys… even Aeon had come to her aid when she truly needed a helping hand. Perhaps… extending her heart and lowering her guard was a step in the right direction after all, “Kim-San…” Shiori whispered under her breath without even realizing it. The conviction in Devone’s eyes had Shiori convinced that she meant every word that she’d threatened Kazuki with. Despite her current situation, in Kazuki’s grasp, she felt incredibly lucky to have bumped into Devone. Sure… it would take some work, a lot of work, but it felt like she was witnessing the start of her first female friendship.

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" "You two can find employment as a comedic duo."

And the heartwarming moment was ruined by the hellion of Airdalen Acamdey’s voice bellowing in laughter, of course. This made the raven haired heiress sigh, a weary expression crossing her features as she gathered up the energy to resist, pulling hard on her claimed wrist just as he seemed to have decided to tighten his grip. It didn’t budge, the girl fragile like a porcelain doll, “No one cares about your opinion. Laugh all you want.” She rolled her eyes up at him, fuming, her lips curling into a pout as she failed to pry herself free from him.

"Miss Sea B*tch Obaa-San seems to misunderstand me." "When did I ever care about that?" "Well, I look forward to it."

Blinking as he referred to Devone in such a derogatory way, Shiori used her free hand to do something surprising. Instead of remaining on the defense she used it to shove at his chest, even to pound her fist against it, “This is why I don’t like you at all! You’re so vulgar!” She snapped, raising her voice this time. He had gone too far. Regardless of Devone’s moniker as Ursula, calling her a… it was deplorable. Low grade name calling was one thing, but he had crossed the line by using a demeaning word like that to address her, “A man wouldn’t speak to a woman that way. Calling her Ursula would be one thing, but you went out of your way to be utterly vile. I hate guys like you!” Her glare had become a violent storm of emotion, staring straight into his predatory eyes with concentrated disdain.

"Call them. The chase will excite me more. But you are coming with me either way. Miss Pipsqueak."

Despite her attempts to pummel him with her fists, Shiori had little choice in where she went. Height difference as well as their individual builds all worked against her. She didn’t weigh anything in comparison! Hitting him, thrashing, and even kicking, Shiori found herself quite literally snatched up in the middle of the mall.

"As for rabies, let's go mad together then. After all, we already shared saliva."

“D-Don’t say that like I even had a say in it! You attacked me!” She snapped at him, flush returning to her face as that was not something she wanted to become public knowledge. Mistletoe and a sudden kiss… it had simultaneously flustered the icy class president and broken her secretly hopeless romantic little heart all at once. It was not at all how she imagined her first kiss going!

"Hey everyone! I am kidnapping this girl for a date! Call the police okay?"

“Are you a psychopath!?” Shiori snapped louder than she even thought possible of herself. The attention he was drawing, especially given her family reputation was not good for her. Even if someone called the police, while the public would likely side with the Kitogawa heiress given her pristine history… her mother would be a different story, she would be forced to move back to the Kitogawa family estate… which was not an option. Going backwards… she couldn’t let that happen, “Just put me down! I don’t want to go on a date with you! You idiot!”

"You plague rat as described by your friend here." "Go f*ck yourself since that is the only way you can ever get laid by anyone seriously."

Pounding her fist into Kazuki’s back as he insulted Devone further, Shiori was trembling with rage. Never before had anyone handled her so carelessly and with such groundless familiarity aside from her school bully Takumi, Kyo.

"This will be fun." "Why not get HIM involved? He is your dog isn't he?""Then again, you probably can't handle that right, plague rat b*tch?"

Who was Kazuki talking about? There were a few guesses in Shiori’ ahead, but she hadn’t really paid a lot of attention to Devone’s comings and goings at school. She had been swept away by her own interactions for once, Akira, Rhys, Cassiopeia, Sora and Aeon… bit by bit she felt a little closer to them all. It wasn’t a lot of progress especially with Cassiopeia and Aeon, but her world was expanding slowly but surely. Devone was always a passing curiosity of hers, but she had just recently made it beyond Shiori’s walls. She… earned a spot as one of the people she decided she cared about. That she would make an effort toward.

"Now, let's finish this date."

Was he serious!? Did he truly believe they could have any fun after what occurred between them to this point? If anything she was his hostage not a date! How could he smile like that after every cruel thing she had said? If he had known her role in Devone smacking that girl… would he still smile at her like that? Certainly not… but she didn’t want to find out how things would change when he was taking her further and further away from Devone, “We weren’t even on a date to begin with! I was just trying to buy you your present for the Kris Kringle event at school!” She protested. It was almost, almost admirable how insults seemed to roll off him as if he were impervious to being upset by the opinions of others. She… wasn’t like that at all. Perhaps it was a good thing to not have Kazuki’s level of self assurance… but she felt that having a teaspoon of his devil-may-care point of view wouldn’t be the worst. At least she wouldn’t be working herself up into a frenzy over the way others perceived her all the time. Still… it was Miyamoto, Kazuki… the first kiss thief!






Notoriety: +1 to Kazuki

Popularity: +1 Devone






Hadriatica
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The rattle and din of automatic fire followed the agent as he ran along the street, his weapon resting vertical against his shoulder while two feet sprinted him until he was near an overturned taxi. Stopping for a moment, he only made a quick hand sign to two men in cover nearby him.

“You two! Who’s been shot?!” The agent barked, putting his back against the crumpled taxi as bullets shot overhead. Windows shattered and glass rained onto the pavement, bouncing against blood stained concrete.

“No one yet! Adama is bringing the particle gun!” The Moluk screamed from his cover, racking the bolt on his assault rifle before inching away from his cover. In the alleyway behind the two Moluk riflemen, a third man appeared from around the corner hauling a cylindrical weapon over his shoulder.

“It’s going over your head, solamilitis!” The Moluk rifleman screamed as he took up position behind the rocketeer, who braced himself against the corner of the building. The agent scrunched himself down onto the pavement and against the frame of the taxi, flinching through the catastrophic ploom of the particle cannon accelerating the air into charged particles.

The agent’s ears continued to ring as he rolled himself onto his back, one hand slapping at the frame of the taxi. With a snort, he promptly spit - if only because the taste of the air was so repugnant.

In the nearby alley, a squad of Moluk infantrymen had gathered to support the flank - across the street, Tyrus and his squad engaged the street gang and seized the cafe. The agent managed a short chortle before his own breath seemed to overcome him, waving a hand over toward the cafe and encouraging the Molukai forward. “Seize and str- fucking forward!


Yannis racked the pump of his scattergun, stepping out from behind his dust covered comrade and then shrugging forward to the other infantry behind him. Snapping the weapon up, the shotgun barked in two thundering shots as he passed one of the gunmen strewn out on the pavement.

“Do you know these bandits, portitor?” One of the Moluk riflemen said with a chuckle as he bounded across the street, making sure to keep his boots free from the gore of a twelve gauge to the skull as he took position at the trunk of a car.

“Only that one!” Yannis yelled, hoisting the shotgun against his shoulder while he crouched down next to a Moluk squad leader. The Sergeant braced his assault rifle against his chest, holding a fresh magazine in one hand.

“This is Raptor - we have the cafe and civilians secured, let the moveremus have their signal!”

There was squawking and garbled words from the radioset hanging off the chest rig of a young, pudgy-faced Moluk - he couldn’t have been any older than nineteen - as he stood by the ruined barricade. Nodding, he hitched a hand upward into the sky and aimed between the two eclipsing buildings that were the Colonial Langara Hotel and the Imperial Embassy. In his hand, a single-shot flare gun.

While the Battle of Nethe raged along in a quagmire of senseless blood and death, a single flare went spewing into the skies above the city.


”This is Captain Petrescu, we have secured the evacuation route through Embassy Row - begin the rescue of all our brothers and sisters from Nethe!”

Fort Veritas
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Marlene quietly rolled her eyes and disconnected the transmission, placing her telephone reciever on the hook and turning to her intercom.

"Ready my transport, I'm leaving for Terra."

Never Land
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The faeries could always sense when the cycle was restarting, but this one was different. Though they hadn’t made it explicit it was clear that the island was dying. Sure it was still as beautiful as the day Clara first arrived, but the magic wasn’t the same as it was before. She could feel it in the way the flowers bloomed. Clara wasn’t a part of their discussions but she could sense the tension. There were conversations behind closed doors, bouts of frustration with limited magical abilities. It used to bother her but she’d grown used to being an afterthought.

With their magic waning it was too risky for them to leave their hideout so they sent Clara to watch as Hook rode in. They hadn’t told her what to watch for, but she knew it was important. While they often sent her to run their errands, they rarely seemed so serious when doing so. She wasn’t usually trusted with matters of importance unless it was a matter of safety so she didn’t ask questions when they sent her on her way.

She would often go to watch the ship as it came in, wishing she could once again be the one trying to help those children. Usually she would have to sneak out so it was convenient to have the grace of the fairies this time. She had flown high atop a tree, warping the leaves around her to provide camouflage.There wasn’t much the faeries told her to do except observe and report, but already Clara had the twisting sensation in her chest that everything was about to go wrong.

As the ship approached the shore a shudder went down her spine. It had been decades since Clara was last aboard that ship, it was more of a phantom than anything. A ghost that re emerged from the shadows every so often to haunt her. It always seemed so small from a distance but as it rushed through the waters she was still disturbed by it’s grandeur.

There was a sparkle of moonlight glinting across the water, catching Clara’s eye. Though she couldn’t make out who it was she recognized the movement of a mermaid rushing through the water. It would seem that the faeries were not the only ones who wanted to have eyes on the Jolly Roger tonight.

She wondered who the victims were this time. Once upon a time she would have worried about how scared they must be, but now she had to remind herself to be concerned about such things. She could feel her compassion fading - that’s why she had to keep coming. Clara had to see the horror to remember.

Suddenly Clara was aware of the eerie silence over the island. She shifted the leaves around her, slowly lowering herself. Careful to linger below the tree line to remain unseen she found another tree to perch herself within, manipulating it’s branches and leaves to provide coverage. She peered through her makeshift blockade watching the beach intently.

shijie
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The Abandoned Slums
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Even though Isaac knew that this was part of the plan, his brain still registered only shock and fear at the moment the tranquilizing round made contact. His hands grasped at the air in a futile effort to remove it before its effects took hold and he fell, paralyzed and unconscious. This was definitely not one of the more glamorous undercover operations he'd taken part in.

The joint NPA and TAF team moved in quickly, the ground team already on the car by the time Ladon and Isaac's bodies had hit the ground. The agents pored methodically over the entire vehicle, leaving no compartment unseen, even as the detainees were bound and hooded for transport. "Five ready for transport," one of the agents radioed back.

"Acknowledged. Any ID?"

"Negative."

The team worked mostly in silence, cataloguing the materials in the truck and inside the abandoned apartment building, before tagging the items, too, for transport back to headquarters. Isaac, of course, had no way of knowing that several of the team members hadn't even been told that he was an undercover. Director Metternich had decided it was the strategically smarter choice, just in case any of the Molukai detainees started questioning the legitimacy of the supposed Hataf contact.

And so while most of the team worked to secure the scene, a secondary unit arrived to transport the five to Fort Veritas - all pre-arranged, of course, to prevent any inadvertent embarrassment to the government.

The Three Realms
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Melarue found herself… grateful, internally, for all of Bayard’s assistance. His actions were almost enough to make a stone heart melt like butter, but she also felt his kindness stemmed from fear. A man - anyone, really, would do anything if they were scared. Still, on the inside, she felt a bit bad that a man like him was stuck with her on a mission like this. A suicide mission. One where she didn’t even know if she could ever repay his kindness, or if she’d make him regret it as soon as he trusted her enough to turn his back away.

She lowered her head slightly and took the herbs into her mouth from the palm of his hand. It felt undignified, but she knew that Bayard was trying his best to treat her with some humility. Whatever his reasons were.

Just as she thought she’d have to carry her own pack, the man reached down and snatched it up in her place. Having been a prisoner in the dungeons the longest out of all of them, and the most restrained, Melarue’s body did feel pathetic. When he picked up her pack he answered her question, "The King said once Ilyos disappears over the horizon I can remove your bindings. I'm sorry."

A sigh fell over her chest, but she didn’t blame the king for the order. In fact, she hardly thought it wise to release her at all, let alone when Ilyos disappeared and there was nothing to save the group from her in the vast loneliness of the sea. In fact, her mind was already swarming with malicious ideas. After all, if you keep an animal caged for so long, you're bound to release something worse. Melarue felt a lot of things, and most of them were in the dark realm of anger and resentment toward everyone. She had made her own life, but she had done it in service to her King. For the last seven years, her thoughts have been conflicted. To whom should she turn her anger toward when she is released from her bonds?

"Right," Rosalyn sighed, and Rendrik instantly wished that there was a way he could console her. However, he didn’t have a good history of going on long voyages and returning to family intact. He couldn’t imagine not being able to return at all, knowing one had family waiting for them. It was almost the same as losing them, but maybe it was worse. He wasn’t sure. Regardless, he felt strong sympathy toward her situation.

Vonmyr decided that he had words for the court lady instead, which would probably be delivered with more tact than Rendrik ever could. "Family? It's hard... leaving family behind. I'd know. But you seem like a good person, Red. They'd be proud of your bravery and what you're sacrificing for them." There was nothing to be proud of in doing this, Rendrik thought. Something felt… off.

As he side-glanced Rosalyn every so often, he wondered what she brought to the table that was worth the sacrifice she’d have to make. Did she mention it? He couldn’t recall. Either way, he didn’t see much use for her beyond maybe she had done something to upset the king, or she had some hidden talent. He’s seen her around, likely, though it must have been very fleeting instances that didn’t leave a memorable mark. That realization made him all the more suspicious of her involvement. Not of her, but the reason as to why she, of all people, was chosen to embark on this journey with this motley crew. This dangerous crew.

For the most part, Rendrik decided to remain quiet while his traveling companion gave his sympathies in a polite and understanding manner.

As Melarue walked alongside Bayard, an arm through the bend of his elbow with her slow and uneasy steps, she watched the group ahead. Her gaze eventually found Bayard, and she watched him for a couple of long seconds before he had the chance to notice and catch her in the act of looking.

She took his closest palm and scribbled with her fingers, "I understand if you don’t wish to release me. Even I don’t know what I will do." Then she resumed her casual arm-link with him, looking ahead at the others as they moved. Rue hadn’t the slightest clue as to why she’d warn him like that, but she did. Perhaps the smallest amount of affection she’s had for him all these years won over the years of resentment.

After some time, the group of adventurers arrived at their last stop in the Kingdom before they’d set off for their certain deaths. It felt good to be outside, Melarue thought. The night air was cool on her exposed skin and there were few folks out on the streets at this time. Neither of the prisoners has been out in the open air for quite some time, but for Melarue it had nearly been a decade of being pelted by water droplets.

When they approached the blacksmith, she remained quiet. There was nothing that she required, and she seriously had doubts as to whether or not she’d be allowed to use her power or not. If granted freedom to utilize her abilities, she could conjure her own weapons. Her magic did not stem from objects, but from her own self and body. It came from the elements. It came from those that surrounded her. Stealing the energy needed to manifest her spells was as easy as breathing for a mage as old and practiced as she.

The vile mage found herself lost in thought once again, especially as Bayard and Rosalyn exchanged words. "My sister doesn't live far from here... Could I say goodbye?"

Rue glanced at Aramis, as he was the captain after all. Was he not? Yet, it would seem that Bayard might take the brunt of the court lady’s justified outrage, "I... Don't know if that would be the best idea."

Begging, "I won't tell her anything. I promise." Ah, the pleading. Through the mouthpiece, it was hard to see the dark grin forming over Melarue’s lips, as such strife was like music to her ears. This was the kind of energy she’d drink up and unleash chaotically. Alas, it was wasted on this group. A shame.

"It's... too risky," Bayard had to reinforce his opinion. It didn’t help that no one else had chimed in. Laou didn’t care about anyone but himself and his charge, Megina had nothing to say, and Rendrik had no faith in anything when it came to this particular voyage.

Begging, "We all know I'm going to die! I'm not a warrior! I just... I just want to see my family one last time." An outburst. Melarue couldn’t help herself as her insidious and wretched character seeped into her. Her chest and shoulders rattled as if she was laughing because she was. Quietly. As Rosalyn said her thanks when she was handed one of the daggers, the mage’s piercing gaze followed until that fiery mane was well out of sight.

Oh, Rue would deal with her later. That was going to be fun. There was a slight tug when Bayard tried to step forward to stop her, but Aramis made him stay. "The King threatened her family if she disobeyed. Do you think she'd risk that?" She’d give anything to laugh out loud. Oh, how the humans trusted their kings so much.

Later she’d remind Rosalyn that her family is likely as good as dead. What good was the promise of any king? They were nothing but snakes. The whole lot of them.

"Is there anything you'd like?" Bayard inquired after the whole squabble went down, and Rue simply shook her head.

Megina picked herself up a set of two daggers, complete with a brown leather sheath that rested against the lower back, and a short sword. Sure, she could have chosen a sweet quiver and bow, but she was more of a brawler type. Melee was always her go-to, but normally after a fistfight was no longer an option.

Naturally, Laou stepped forward before Phaedra. The order for him was simple; he’s a man, she’s a woman - these are weapons. He couldn’t help the sexism ingrained in the tradition of Ilyos, and it would likely take a lot of time for him to recognize that his counterpart was her own person separate from him. His own culture, specifically, had gender-based roles that were harsher and rarely deviated from.

The blacksmith, recognizing the garb, pointed a finger up into the air, "I have something for you." He moved around and pulled out a much older sheath. It looked as if it was ivory once, but age had tanned it just slightly. He handed the curved weapon to Laou in both hands with open palms. Laou would accept it the same way; both hands and open palms, bowing slightly at the head. It’s not every day you meet someone well-cultured.

He had to pull the sword from its sheath to give it a cursory inspection, and when he was satisfied, he kept it but asked for something else, "Do you have a Eunjangdo?" Laou was an assassin, and while he could work with a long blade, he also required a much smaller one for more tedious work. The blacksmith nodded and produced one of the shorter blades. It came in a simple wooden sheath with some designs painted in faux gold. Laou took it, Perfect."

While he strapped himself with his chosen armory, he kept Phaedra in his peripherals and eyed her choices. They weren’t surprising, perhaps much like his own.

Rendrik chose his weapon shortly before Aramis did. Much like Phaedra, he picked a quiver and dagger combination. One never knew when they’d run out of arrows, or when the enemy would be too close for long-range. It also came complete with a shorter sword, as he was just as strong and capable with melee weapons as he was with the bow. Speaking of his bow, it wasn’t terribly fancy or ornate. Plain. That’s how he liked these things. He strapped it and waited for his charge to finish equipping.

He gave Bayard a heavy pat on the shoulder, "I wouldn’t trouble yourself over the lady," he began, obviously meaning Rosalyn. "No one could possibly say anything right in this case." He looked down at Vonmyr, "Not even this guy." When he said that, he raised his shackled arm slightly to also raise the dwarf’s. With a stupid grin, he waited for Aramis and began to travel to their ship.

Once they were at the docks, it would be Rendrik that bargained for the release of the prisoners. He mentioned all of the tedious ship work they’d have to do just to set sail, and how impossible it would be to accomplish nautical tasks with only one hand. They weren’t given much of a crew, so they were literally short-handed in this endeavor.

Aramis, Rendrik, Laou, and Bayard were given the keys to the shackles of their prisoner. "Don’t worry, I won’t let the big bad dwarf get ya," he teased the sentries, and they looked pretty offended. Of course, Rendrik knew that Dwarves could be fucking dangerous. They are a sturdy and hardy people and not to be trifled with.

After they ascended the ramp onto the ship, he put the key into the shackles and released both himself and Vonmyr. The guards were long since gone, and with Aramis likely freeing his own captive so that he could command the ship properly, they were well on their way.

Rendrik took this freedom as an opportunity to locate Rose sitting on one of the crates. He sat down next to her, legs spread slightly and forearms resting against his thighs as he leaned forward, "I can’t promise that you’ll get to see your family again, but..." He paused and sighed, peering out into Luna Isle as though it was already a distant dream wavering on an ocean horizon, "I can promise to protect you long enough for you to try."

He turned his head and looked at her, "Also, you can stave off some seasickness closer to the center of the ship. You should rest. It’s been a long evening, and there’s not much that you can do here. It will be a long trip." He gave her a weak smile, patted her gently on the back, and got up to help Aramis with whatever he could.

Megina, however, was one of the unlucky ones that wouldn’t be set free. She didn’t blame Aramis for his decision to shackle her to the railing at the main deck, She wouldn’t be of any help at the helm, so it was fair. Still, she scoffed and muttered something about at least giving her some ale, but it fell on deaf ears.

Phaedra would also be hapless. Laou did not trust her quite yet, and he shouldn’t. She was going to assassinate a king, and that was not a light task. Even in the seedy underbelly of their world. He had a lot of complaints about the monarchy, but if she’d go that far - she’d kill any of them.

"You know I can’t let you out of sight," he said as he stepped in front of her so abruptly that she’d have no choice but to run right into him. At that moment when she’d step back or look up, he’d dangle the key in her face. "I haven’t gotten what I want out of you just yet." That smirk; it was sly and devious, but also uncertain. Like most of his words, they had multiple conclusions. It could mean anything. The only thing she’d know for certain is that she’s not to be free just yet; not even shackled to the railing. A woman with her skill could likely get herself out of that. Laou was not born yesterday.

The assassin dumped the key into the folds of his attire and tugged Phaedra along to help their skeleton crew out with whatever needed to be done. While Laou was no sailor, he had some nautical expertise from traveling on ships. Most people did if they worked for the king in any way.

When the work was done and there was nothing left for Laou to do, he dragged the poor woman with him below deck. If there was one thing that was going to cause a squabble, it’d be hammock arrangements. The struggle to get down there was real, but he helped the lady the best that he could given their situation.

Most of the decisions made have been by himself, as he hadn’t considered much of Phaedra’s thoughts. At least, he didn’t want to give off the impression that he would like to. Just when she might’ve thought about wanting to kill him off in his sleep for keeping her bound to him, he yanked her close, pulled out the key, and then unlocked the shackles. It was just them, and if she tried to kill him, then he’d take care of her himself. At least, that’s what he imagined.

Once the shackles were off, he kept her wrist seized in a hard grip and leaned forward to whisper into her ear, "Remember that I didn’t kill you when I should have, Phaedra." It was a clear warning, and also a reminder that she owed him. Imprisonment was the lesser price for the conspiracy of assassinating a king, and it was thanks to Laou that she could be alive for this small glimmer of hope. If this voyage and taste of freedom meant anything to the woman at all.

Since it was just the pair, he released her and sat on one of the hammocks. "My sister was poisoned instead of the Queen. I didn’t kill you because I was bitter. I hesitated because part of me wanted it. I didn’t let you go because you were caught." He played with the billowing sleeves of his clothing and looked up at her occasionally as he spoke, "My loyalty died with my sister’s death."

He watched her closely while he spoke. Eventually not believing her to be as threatening, he flopped onto his back into the hammock and stared up at the ceiling. Laou’s folded arms bracket the back of his head and he kicked a knee up and straightened the other leg out, "I have no qualms with you, but do not touch the others. I ask for that one favor in return for sparing your life. These are not bad people."

Laou sighed and moved onto a lighter topic, though it was quite dour to him, "Ah, the king ruined my night. I had so many beautiful ladies. Now I am just stuck with the one woman in the Three Kingdoms that would bite my dick off." He scoffed and closed his eyes. Not to sleep, just to rest. "Stay down here for now. Unless you’d rather be shackled to a railing."

Above deck, Megina was at the helm with Aramis. She fared quite well on a ship at sea, and she kind of missed it. "So, you and the redhead?" Who couldn’t see the way Aramis sometimes stared at Rosalyn? You’d have to be blind.

It just so happened that Rendrik was on his way to his pal, and he tossed Megina a smirk, "She’s a pretty lass! I think they would look great together." Both the dwarf and archer shared some laughter together, as the old man wasn’t one to shy away from lightening the mood. Also, he’d never say no to teasing his friend. Ever.

Rendrik leaned against the railing, having helped Aramis in all the ways that he could think of, "Laou moved below deck with his prisoner, but he did help me out a bit." He just informed the Captain because now Laou and Phaedra were nowhere to be seen and he didn’t want to cause any alarm.

"When we get the sailin’, maybe we should unshackle everyone, have a good drink, and enjoy the calm sea while we have it?" He looked over his shoulder at Aramis, "We don’t know what will happen. Might as well as… make the best of it, get to know each other."

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"Momma, look!"

"Love! Come down from there this instant!"

Lemnia stood on one foot balancing on a beam between two homes near the docks with her mother standing beneath her with both arms partially extended.

"Love!"

"It's okay momma! I'm good at standing!" She chirped as she stepped forward to the other foot.

"I know you're good at standing, love. But please come down this instant!"

"But I wanna see the chickies."

"What?"

"The chickies. They're in the nest."

Cretas looked at the roof she was trying to walk towards but couldn't see anything.

"I don't see a nest, love."

"I do! I see the chickies' heads too! They're so cute! I wanna hug them!"

"Love, please! What if the momma doesn't want you playing with her babies and pecks at you?"

"It's okay momma. I'm friends with all aminals."

Lem finished crossing and walked over to and leaned down next to the nest.

"Hi chickies."

The three little heads with gaping beaks chirped loudly towards her.

"You hungry? I have food!"

She reached into her pocked and brought out a handful of worms she'd plucked from the dirt earlier this morning. The chirping got louder as the worms were lowered down to the snapping beaks of the chicks. As the first worm wriggled into range one of the little heads shot up and snapped it into its gaping maw and guzzled it down ravenously. A second worm found its way into the belly of a second chic, and another into the belly of the third.

"Hee hee. Still hungry?"

She had a few more worms which she was happy to feed to them. But the chirping still didn't stop and their little beaks continued to go snap snap snap!

"Aw. Sorry chickies. I don't have any more."

Lem stood up and had just turned towards the beam leading to the other roof when she saw a mass of feathers flapping down in front of her. Rising her arms to shield herself she could hear and feel the beak of an angry seagull pecking at her arms.

"Lem! Jump down!"

Lemnia panicked and ran blindly ahead which caused her to slip and fall off the edge. Thankfully Cretas was right beneath her and scooped her up into her arms while raising a hand to swat at the bird when it came down after them. One good smack to its belly sent it reeling and flying away to check on its young while Cretas walked away with Lem huddled up against her chest.

"Love? Did we learn anything from that?"

Lem was quiet and shaking slightly.

"Haa... Love, this is why we don't feed wild baby animals. Okay?"

"I just... Wanted to not be hungry."

"I know, love. But remember that's why they have parents. Mommy was probably out finding worms to feed them already and got scared thinking that you were a monster trying to eat her babies."

"But why? Lem's not a monster." She sniffled.

"I know, my love. But the bird doesn't know that. Remember they're a lot smaller than you. So they see a giant girl crouched over their babies and they get scared that something bad will happen."

Lem nodded and smooshed her face into her mother's chest while Cretas stroked her hair.

Together they sat on a bench on the docks near the water. Lem cried it out and Cretas just held her gently to herself while continuing to stroke her hair and back while humming a little tune from back home.

"I miss Derf." Lem suddenly squeaked.

"Aw, my love. I miss him too. But don't worry. We'll go back for him once we find the new world together. Then he can come live with us again."

"Promise?"

"Of course. Our family's not complete without him."

Lem nodded and wiped her face while Cretas kissed her nose and helped clean the tear stains off her cheeks.

"Why don't you go play in the water for a bit? It's nice and cool. And there's lots of neat things to find out there."

Lem's eyes brightened.

"Really?"

"Oh yes. The ocean waves hide a lot of adorable and amazing creatures. Why don't you go see if you can find me a seashell? They're really pretty. And we can keep it with us and make it part of our home in the new world."

Lem's face lit up with a big smile as she hopped off her mother's lap and dashed towards the water.

"Wait, love! Let's go down to the-"

Excited as she was, Lem didn't look before she leaped and hopped off the edge of the docks into the water below with a yelp of surprise.

"Lem!"

Cretas jumped into the water immediately and swam over to her daughter who was flailing wildly to stay afloat.

"Come here, love. I've got you."

Hoisting Lem onto her back Cretas calmly swam towards the sandy beach nearby and sat down patting Lem's back so she could cough out the water she'd swallowed.

"You really need to learn some patience, love." She chuckled while stroking her face. "You never learned how to swim. So jumping into deep water is dangerous. Okay?"

Lem nodded through her coughing and gagging.

"The water... It's bad."

"Yes, it is. It's really salty. So you should never drink it."

"Can I still find a sea shell?"

"Of course. Just be careful and don't go too far into the water okay? There should be lots of shells around."

"Kay!"

Lem stood up and walked out towards the water. As the waves approached, she paused and ran away from them staying just out of reach.

"It's okay, love. The water won't hurt you as long as you stay nearby." Cretas called.

Lem looked back nervously and walked out a ways. Another wave came rushing up towards her and she froze and closed her eyes. The water gently washed over her feet and up to her ankle, and then receded as quickly as it had arrived. Lem opened her eyes and looked down with a smile.

"Momma! I'm still here!"

Cretas smiled and laughed a little to herself while Lem dashed about scanning the water and the sand for any signs of sea shells.