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The latest in-character activity throughout the many universes on RPG. Settings are only listed once, with the most recent post displayed. If you have a character in that location, their icon will appear as a button you can press to immerse yourself into character (IC).

The Plaza
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Michael Lewis sighs, wondering how he got here and how he can leave. He sits down on a bench, with his raven, Peter, next to him. The boy closes his eyes, and waits.

The Port
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Loki, not wishing to be noticed, slinked through the shadows as the Port slowly came to life. With the leadership of Proxi away, what would become of all the refugees from the lower realms as they filtered their way into the safer bastions of the heavens and beyond?

Alas, more pockets for picking, he thought to himself before vanishing back in the direction from whence he came.

Periwinkle Institute
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In the Kelek family's fields - well, a family of one - Odilon and Robin sang at one another, quarreling over the news: Robin had on this day proposed to Kazia, Odilon's longtime friend. Try as he did, Odilon never could win her heart, and despite her eventual promise to marry him should he fail to find a partner, given the opportunity, she accepted Robin's proposal instead. And why not? The man was a traveler from another world, and Kazia, the chieftain's daughter, was out of poor Odd's league.


O, once the maiden of my dreams was mine,
T'would justify all of this wasted time.
Past twenty years, left twenty more - I don't know what I'm waiting for -
But I'd hoped there was more in store -
Than this, you traveler divine.



Forgive me, friend, and hold me no more spite!
I know that there's no way to make this right,
But there's one thing I'll offer you: a place in which to start anew,
A Gatekeeper to send you to
A world with neverending light!


At that, Robin stepped forward to Odilon, removing his spectacles and setting them in the man's hands. Odilon turned them over to examine them, then opened the glasses' arms and donned them, peering through their lenses.

Inspired by this world's lyrical expression in the time that she had accompanied Robin on this adventure, the AI within the glasses appeared before them as a glimmering figure in white, an angel from another world, and added her own verse to their tune.


Dear Odd, I know your pains but from afar,
Yet I can sense the hurt within your heart.
If consolation is the aim, I'll give you power, give you fame;
With Aura as my given name,
I vow from your side ne'er to part.


Odilon pushed the glasses up the bridge of his nose and smirked. He looked to Robin, a fierce determination in his eyes.

"I am to take your place, then? As the new owner of this...'Aura'?" Odd asked before focusing his intense golden-eyed gaze upon the projection in his view. In response, the angelic AI instinctively bowed her head.

Never had she been so demure around Robin; their interactions were antagonistic on the best of days, and she unrelentingly bemoaned his choice to marry and remain here. What was different about Odd, that she should subject herself so?

Robin awkwardly scratched at his hair, answering, "Well, she's more like a partner. She'll take you back to the world I'm from. If you're nice, she might even tell you how to blend in over there."

Odd scoffed, shaking his head. "All my life I have 'blended in'; squandering my precious time over pointless courtesy is what allowed you to rob me of the life I wished to lead in the first place. I will indulge it no more. Aura? To me. Now."

Robin furrowed his brows. "That's a little rude, don't you think? That's not how you get her to respond," he objected.

But he found himself proved wrong as Aura rushed immediately to Odd's side, folding her hands in her lap like a maidservant and turning back to face Robin.

Odd's lips curled into a smirk. "Oh, that anyone had told me the secret to getting what I wanted was to insist..."

Picking up on Aura's astonishingly quick turn of allegiance and change of personality, Robin gulped with concern and warned, "Come on, man, you're freaking me out. Don't make me regret this."

"Of course not! I will make the most of this opportunity - you have my gratitude, traveler. May you and that..." he said before pausing to clear his throat, "Pardon me - may you and Kazia live a long and happy life on these beautiful lands! You may have my fields and all its livestock; prosper together!"

At that, Odd smiled pleasantly and waved, turning to Aura.

"Get us out of this wretched place," he muttered distastefully under his breath.

"At once, milord," Aura answered, her projection latching onto his arm as she promptly sent him back to Earth in Robin's place.

After Odd's disappearance in a flash of light, Robin sighed and pressed his hand to his chin in thought.

"Maybe...maybe it wasn't the best idea to pick him."

Camp Athens
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xxxxxxx E V E L Y N xx M A S T E R S
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xxxxxDaughter of Nemesis | Outift | #ffc300

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“I like to hold my cards close to my chest,” was all she received. She smiled slightly to herself at that typical Sylas response, like they had never missed a beat in their dynamic. Indeed, Evelyn was well and truly aware of how close he liked to hold his cards. Even so, she thought the spars they recently witnessed would make a withstanding topic and prove particularly entertaining to Sylas given it was a showdown of the demigods in a sense and fights. But he didn't bite for long, or even at all really, meanwhile, Evelyn had other matters chewing her up.

They found a small opening among the woods, and Sylas decided it was the place to be as he took himself to the centre of it and sat there with a casual demeanor, as Evelyn drifted back. Even in such beautiful scenery, there was something daunting about Sylas among flecks of sunlight and shadows, and it felt briefly like she was little red riding hood and he was the wolf. Yet, he remained magnetic. As Evelyn moseyed over to join him, Sylas spoke, looking up at her as she stood over him. “Why haven’t you asked me about it?” Her heart jumped. Sylas was far too cluey to the subjects and inner dilemmas she wanted to avoid. “Do I frighten you?”

She stared at him for some time. Not in contemplation because she knew her answer, but to watch him and study his reactions. “Do you want me to be frightened of you?” Evelyn looked him over, praying not.

More to the point, she didn’t answer his questions and he likely wouldn’t let it slide unless she outright refused. Rather, she sighed. Evelyn didn't bother to lie to him out of respect for his intelligence and he always answered her queries. “I’m not above curiosity killed the cat, you know that. But the trials...” she shook her head to herself, looking past him, “blew me away. I could barely digest my own then,” involuntarily a hand gestured to him before she could help it, others came up. So I guess I'm just a bit overwhelmed with the backlog of information and what to do with it more than anything.” Evelyn's eyes came to rest back on him. She wasn't afraid of what she admitted and speaking her mind. The trials were a lot for even the toughest demigods.

She was certainly interested to have Sylas's take on the trials or reactions at the mention of the forsaken task. However, Sylas wasn't much for heart on his sleeve, sharing what's on his mind and talking unprompted. And Evelyn wasn't going to pose any questions outright about the trial because it seemed in poor taste. She'd also be a fool to expect Sylas to reply with anything she could actually gauge. Unsatisfied with her own true but previous substituted statement, she cut the painted words. “I suppose there’s no good answer you could give,” she said. The blunt answer encompassed all; how there were no seeable avenues for a smooth explanation on his trial, how there was no wriggle room once she asked and she didn’t want to hear more about his darkness, how thrilling it might have felt, how defeated she was in this particular matter. Evelyn already felt an idiot. Though she had tried to convince herself to stay away from him and had outstanding evidence of his unfavourable nature, she couldn't tune him out. His trial and his spar, the son of Eris himself, Evelyn paid special mind to it all.

Finally, she knelt on the earth beside him and shifted her legs to the side with one arm braced on the ground. She supposed she didn’t technically answer whether she was afraid or frightened by him either. But her previously seeking him out and now getting down to his level in a vulnerable position might've shown better. He was difficult to place and trust. That's largely what fear was about. A lot of beings feared the unknown. However, Evelyn had demonstrated she was willing to explore the aspects of Sylas and get somewhat familiar. But the fact he didn't fit neatly into a pecking order or wear a title as Evelyn could often organise people into made him an unknown and possible treacherous land; something to be cautious of. “I'm wary of you.” The aloud observation came out managing to be void of judgement and nastiness. It was just.... an observation and her feelings. “I should be afraid, stay away, but...I don't entirely want to.”

For all the bad and untrustworthy she conveyed him in, she found herself reaching for him tentatively, hand slipping along the ground and closer to his body with her eyes forward. She pulled up just short of touching him because she wasn't sure if she was allowed or should indulge her attraction to the spider.

Atlas
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luci simon.
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outfit. raphael. #8C2FF7.
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bella clayton.
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outfit. sentinel. #772222.
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Singing for so long is exhausting in its own right, but it's a specific type of exhaustion. Sure, Luci was tired from standing and pacing and waving and spinning, but even with the occasional time to down some water, her throat and chest were getting tired. And having to use her abilities at the same time for such an extended period? She was glad that she was given a couple of 30 minute breaks for the night. One was approaching, thankfully, she just had one more song. Xavier’s song choice was decent, but a part of the deal was letting Luci pick a handful herself. Admittedly, she may have had a grouchy little witch on her mind when choosing several of them, including this one. And, at the moment, that same grouchy little witch remained in her thoughts as she sang it, “Love is all that I can give to youuu. Love is more than just a game for twooo.” It likely wasn’t a healthy habit, but distracting herself and getting lost in her thoughts was a common practice when Luci is on stage. It helped keep her calm, although distracting herself by recalling the feeling of soft, sweet lips against her own and even softer, sweeter words from one of the softest, sweetest women she’d ever met… It may be a little too distracting.

All of the audience blurred into a blob, only sudden movements returned her eyes to focus, but for the most part, Luci was in her own world, singing, standing, pacing, waving, and spinning for dozens of party guests. It was as if she was on autopilot, but nobody would be able to tell. Her grace and poise was flowing, natural. “Two in love can make it, take my heart and please don't break it! Love was made for me and youuu,” As if on cue, once Luci had hit that note, a bit of movement caught her attention. A face, one that she had spent years trying to avoid, for nothing short of a dozen painful reasons, appeared, clear as day, right next to the stage. Luci’s eyes darted between Bella and the crowd, and the blonde paled just a touch. Her smile became more forced, but her voice continued to flow like it always did; she had an image to uphold, a show to continue. “L is for the way you look at meee! O is for the only one I seeee!” She had to. The show must go on, she couldn’t ruin her public image, even as the pleasant thoughts of Morgana morphed and mutated into something else, something agonizing and guilt-ridden, something that reminded her of greedy, unyielding hands leaving marks across her body.

Bella disappeared back into the crowd and headed away from the stage, but her absence didn’t remove the thoughts from Luci’s head, nor did it sate the worry that bubbled to the surface when she saw the look on Bella’s face. She appeared ill and distressed in a physical way, not likely something that could have been caused just by seeing Luci, no matter how difficult that was. Once the last few lines of the song had been sung, Luci gave the crowd a polite wave and stepped off stage. Now out of the watchful eye of the public, Luci released a deep breath from her chest, and a frown turned the corners of her lips downward. She didn’t want to think about it, about how horribly she had treated Bella and how she didn’t deserve Bella’s forgiveness. Luci didn’t want to remember the brutality of the violation she endured, the smell of his breath, the roughness of his fingers around her throat, the feeling of vileness and disgust she had with herself that she still hasn’t been able to completely shake. But the moment one tries not to think about something on purpose, they can’t help but continue to think about it. Especially when all Luci could picture was Bella’s facial expression, troubled and strained, just before she disappeared back into the crowd. No matter how awful Luci felt, she couldn’t ignore somebody in need. So she grabbed a water bottle, glanced at the clock, and stepped out from backstage and into the crowd herself.

It took a couple minutes for Luci to figure out where Bella went, mostly because damn near every step she took, she was interrupted by a partygoer wanting to compliment her singing. Thankfully, she could accept their praise quickly and shuffle away from the conversations without being rude; something she’d practiced over many years of avoidance. But eventually, Luci turned a corner, not too far from the main hall, and found Bella, appearing just as troubled as she had been earlier. Luci thought Bella looked gorgeous in that dress, but the thought was fast, fading away again to be overpowered by those other thoughts, the self-hatred and the pain that she saw every time she took in Bella’s appearance. For Luci, Bella was tied to that night, that horrible night, and it was another reason why Luci avoided her. But she couldn’t avoid her now; Bella needed help. “Bella…?”Luci spoke softly as she approached, but the clicking of her stiletto heels gave her away first. She felt so silly, talking in this borderline gaudy dress, covered in sparkles, but she didn’t have much of a choice. “Are you alright? You don’t l-look so good.” She drew nearer until she was only a foot or two away. Bella seemed like she might keel over; Luci wanted to be close enough to catch her if she needed to. However, it was clear that Luci was struggling to maintain eye contact with Bella, more so than usual, given how her eyes darted up and down between the floor and Bella’s face. It was difficult not to flinch or tense up every time she looked at Bella. Every time, Bella’s face was overshadowed by another, one with a toothy grin and scratchy stubble and alcohol on his breath. “I.. I brought you some water,” She held the bottle out for Bella, and Luci’s hand was shaking visibly. There was so much she wanted to say, so much she was too scared to say, but now didn’t feel right. And it was difficult, so, so difficult.

Even now, as far away as she could physically get from the crowd, the noise was overwhelming. By now, the thought that taking the headband off might help was long gone. Bella could hardly think at all. Her head felt like it was about to burst as it was, leaving no room for her own thoughts. Her skull surely had to be about to crack open and let the thoughts fly back to their original owners instead of rattling around her head. Or maybe she would vomit them out instead. Her vision was fine one second and blurry the next, and then fine again, adding to the awfulness of the whole situation. She wasn’t sure that she would be able to focus on her phone for long enough to text somebody for help. She thought that it might be worth a try, and then remembered her phone was in her bag, abandoned somewhere on a table in the crowd. Nope, that wasn’t happening.

The thoughts of the person approaching her hit her before the actual reality of their presence did. Images of violence, a man’s face, the stench of cheap alcohol trying to be expensive… they were images that were hard for her to hear, even before she heard the voice that accompanied them.

Luci. Bella had to fight back a groan. Of all people, it had to be Luci. Bella had spent a not insignificant portion of the past two years attempting to move on from, or at least ignore, all of the hurt and pain from that fateful evening. She wasn’t so sure she’d be capable of that right then. She accepted the bottle of water but didn’t open it, just instead stared down at it and her hands. She’d barely even heard Luci’s question, and it took her a few seconds to even begin to process an answer. She opened her mouth to say, ‘I’m fine’, but it seemed like the noise and the thoughts and everything else spiked, overwhelming her system entirely. And so instead of a lie, something like a sob escaped through her mouth. She clamped her hand over her mouth, but it was too late. The violence flashing through her mind now was the final straw. Why had it only started when Luci had come over to her? She was in a room with plenty of heroes; they’d all seen awful things, why was this sticking out so much now? And why did it affect her more than anything else? Everything was too much. Her fist pressed to her mouth, she wasn’t even sure if she was making any noise any more. She took a deep, shuddering gasp as she tried and failed to compose herself. “I’m sorry,” she forced out.

Luci’s heart was already throbbing in her chest the moment she spotted Bella, but seeing her like this? Once that choked sob squeezed out of Bella’s throat, Luci thought she was going to cry herself. She wanted to dart forward, hug Bella, hold her close, cry with her, and maybe try to explain why she had done what she did that day. But Luci was not bold, she wasn’t confident like many of her friends, and in that moment, she thought she was pathetic, useless. Did Luci make things worse by approaching Bella? She just wanted to help, but she felt like she was doing the opposite. Bella didn’t even try to drink the water, she seemed too pained to even try. And all the while, Luci was fighting her mind tooth and nail, trying to continue to suppress the memories she’d been suppressing for nearly two years, but it was a losing battle.

Once Luci heard Bella’s apology, her chest tightened. Bella wasn’t the one who should be apologizing, but Luci still didn’t think it was the right time. Not now, when Bella was already falling apart. What can I do? She wanted to ask, but she had a feeling Bella wouldn’t have been able to form a coherent answer in this state. Luci had to find a way to try and calm her down, ease some of that tension, and she only knew one way how. It’s the only thing you’re good for. Luci swallowed, and her eyes lifted to stare forward. She reached deep into her mind and her heart, and one specific song traveled to the tip of her tongue. Perhaps an odd choice to many, but Luci’s mother used to sing it to her. And after everything that happened, the lyrics took on a new meaning for Luci. “Well I've heard there was a sacred chord, David played and it pleased the Lord.” Singing was one of the only times when Luci feels moderately self-assured, so she managed to maintain eye contact as she did it. “But you don't really care for music, do you?” It was as if Luci was speaking to Bella directly, and as the sweet, soft notes danced towards the brunette, Luci even smiled just as sweetly and softly. “Well it goes like this: The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift. The baffled king composing Hallelujah.”

If Luci could just establish a strong enough link, she could help urge Bella’s mind and body to relax. Bella was always someone that Luci had a hard time establishing a link with, so she knew she would need to pull out every trick in the book. The first verse wasn’t enough, neither were the soft Hallelujahs that followed. She needed more, but she was dreading singing the next part, and she cursed her mind for only being able to think of this song out of the millions of others. “Well your faith was strong but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof. Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you.” It was impossible not to think of Bella as she sang, how beautiful she had looked on that sunny weekend where they spent hours laughing and having fun. The link was still too weak; Luci needed more. Tentatively at first, Luci reached for Bella’s clenched fist; she forced her own trembling fingers to still. She didn’t have time to be nervous. Bella was suffering. Making a physical connection was the easiest way to help establish a link faster. Luci unfurled Bella’s fist, cradling her hand between her own.

However, her throat tightened as she sang the next lyrics. “And he tied you to your kitchen chair. He broke your throne, he cut your hair, and from your lips he drew the Hallelujah…” It happened again, those tender, joyful memories rotted, and they were replaced with flashes of rough, demanding hands and a vicious, hungry mouth that covered her body in marks that took weeks to heal. But it was working, the link had formed well enough, and Luci mentally urged Bella’s mind and body: Relax. Breathe. You will be alright. Relax. Breathe. But the toll on Luci was obvious, her shoulders quaked slightly, and she swallowed again to try and keep herself from crying. She hadn’t thought about these things in so long. Of course she’d sometimes still have nightmares, and she would talk to her therapist about it on occasion, but it had been months since she’d seen these memories so vividly.

At some point, Luci and Bella had discovered that Luci’s abilities didn’t work as easily or as well on Bella as it did on most other people. Apparently the lack of sexual attraction was something of a barrier; a fact that Bella had always found ironic considering the feelings she’d hidden for Luci for so long. But the fact that the magic didn’t work on Bella didn’t stop Luci’s voice from being automatically soothing to her. Her voice was so soft and clear and sad, but it was what Bella needed. Instinctively, she closed her eyes. The feeling of Luci’s hands around hers made her tense a little at first, before she relaxed again.

When the abilities finally began to kick in, the noise became a little less noisy and a little less overwhelming. Bella’s own emotions calmed somewhat. It was then that she became aware of a few things. There were the words that Luci was singing; soft and clear and with a touch of power that hadn’t been there seconds before. And the thoughts that came with them- of Bella herself, two years younger, two years more innocent, in a light that Bella had seldom seen herself. Those thoughts, those images of Bella… they didn’t fit with the way that Bella had presumed Luci felt about her.

And then came those images of violence. But now, with the link between them a little clearer, Bella’s head a touch quieter and most importantly calmer, Bella was able to make a bit more sense of them. Even still, it took her a few moments to piece the whole thing together. When she realised what she was seeing, her whole body went cold; but not from being overwhelmed or unwell, but from the awful horror of what Luci had experienced. She didn’t even fully think about what she did next. She threw her arms around Luci, pulling her into the tightest hug she could manage. “You didn’t deserve that,” was all she could manage to say. She couldn’t verbalise her thoughts any further than that, so she just repeated it. “You didn’t deserve that awful thing.”

Luci watched as some of the tension melted off of Bella’s shoulders, and relief flooded her system. Being able to see even a little bit of the pain fade away was exactly what Luci wanted. Once Bella had relaxed, Luci almost excused herself. She wanted to offer leaving, getting someone who would actually be able to help Bella. However, before she could, Bella lurched forward and wrapped her arms around Luci in a tight, firm hug. Luci froze, her whole body taut for a few seconds as she listened to what Bella said. Could this really be happening? Luci thought Bella hated her, and Bella had every right to after what Luci had done. She had been so foolish, selfish; she only thought about herself, her own feelings that day as she ran away from them and from Bella. And then she left Bella in the dark for nearly two years. Luci didn’t think she deserved this. She didn’t deserve a hug, she didn’t deserve those kind words, and yet she was given them anyway.

It was sudden; the tension leaving Luci’s body too. She nearly collapsed into Bella, and in an instant, tears were flowing from her eyes. After nearly two years, this is exactly what she’d dream of: a chance to reconnect with Bella, to explain herself. And even if all of that wasn’t happening at this exact moment, Luci knew in her heart that this was the first step in the right direction. She relented and wrapped her arms around Bella too, buried her face in her shoulder, and she cried. Covered from head to toe in sparkles, with far too much make-up on her face, she cried, not caring that it would start running or how a woman should never make a mess of herself at an event like this. She cried and she cried, all of those pent up emotions finally escaping through her tears, and she trembled against Bella as she did. “I’m sorry…” Luci managed to squeeze out between sobs. “I’m so, so sorry… Bella…” She hadn’t said Bella’s name in so long, it sounded almost strange in her voice. “I’m sorry you.. you h-had to see that, those things.” Luci knew Bella likely saw what she had been thinking about, all those horrific images. “I… I have so much I-I want to.. To explain, to apologize for, but now…” Luci pulled back from the hug, and she hurriedly wiped at her running mascara as she sniffled. “Now isn’t.. Isn’t the best time, really,” She almost laughed at the end.

Perhaps it was a bold move, but Luci was running out of time. She had to be back on stage soon, and she now needed to factor in time to fix her make-up and try to find someone that could really help Bella. “I… I w-want… Could we maybe… get together and talk, sometime?” Luci asked, though her eyes remained rooted to the floor. She expected rejection, so she moved past it quickly.

Bella had just about managed to stop crying. And then Luci pressed her face to her neck and began to do so, and Bella began to cry all over again. She cried over the things that had happened and the things that hadn’t, over the pounding headache she still had, the grief that had made a permanent home in her chest, over the swirling noise that still deafened most of her own thoughts. And in some strange way, it was what she needed right then. She just clung to Luci and let Luci cling to her, and they both sobbed.

Luci’s words felt like the first steps towards bridging the chasm that had grown between them in the past few years. Bella just listened, shaking her head as Luci apologised for the images she had seen. It hadn’t been pleasant for Bella to see them, but it must have been so much worse for Luci to live them, and so she didn’t think an apology was needed. When Luci pulled back, Bella let her, wiping her own cheeks with the back of her hand.

When Luci asked if they could find time to actually talk, Bella nodded without even really having to think about it. “Yeah, that sounds good,” she said, her voice still trembling somewhat. “Sometime when we’re both not…” she gestured between the two of them and laughed a little. “I still feel like I might throw up so definitely not right now, but… sometime soon?” She offered. Instinctively, she went to check her phone to see when she was free, then remembered it was buried in the throng of people, somewhere she still couldn’t bring herself to go back to. “My phone is… in there somewhere…” she said, still unable to even really remember where as she stared blankly at the crowd. “I also need to find Kit. He made me this,” she said, gesturing at the headband. “It’s really cool and is a really cool idea, but… it works too well and I have a killer migraine and… feel a little like I might pass out. I bet he can fix it though, he made it himself. It’s really cool, right?” She rambled.

It was as if a weight had been lifted off of Luci. The horrific images faded from her mind, and a pleasant warmth took their place. It was still overwhelming with all of these repressed emotions coming to a head, and a part of her couldn’t believe what was happening. She certainly didn’t think she deserved it, but she was glad nonetheless. She laughed at Bella’s response, a genuine, pleased laugh. “Yes, some other time, when we are both more able. Soon sounds good to me.” She was proud of how well she managed to get through that sentence without stuttering. Truly, once she is more comfortable, speaking comes easier.

Once Bella started to talk about Kit, the warmth in Luci’s chest spread even further. The soft smile on her face was almost relieved; she was glad that Bella was able to find happiness with someone else, just as Luci had. “It is rather cool, I agree. He’s always been… been good at that, making cool stuff,” Luci agreed with a nod. “Would you like me to find your phone, or… or someone to find Kit? I would go searching for him myself but I’ve got…” She glanced around, leaning to peer into the hall and take in a clock. “Blast… 10 minutes, and I’ve got to fix m-my… I’m sorry. Would that be ok? Leo always sticks out like a mountain, I’m sure I could find them quickly.” Luci’s eyes were apologetic again. She had to be back on stage soon, and she was worried she would run out of time. Those nerves were returning, and her heart was starting to pound.

At the mention of Leo, Bella’s first instinct was to ask Luci to go get them. They were such a ray of positivity that it felt like they could have been exactly the person she needed right then. And then she remembered the few times she’d had to tap into their thoughts during training or a mission and just how loud and overwhelming they could be on a good day. “Um… if you can find my phone for me, I think I should be able to manage to text Kit to come find me,” she said. “If you can’t find it though, don’t worry, I’ll be okay. You’ve got to get back on stage and stay wowing the audience with your gorgeous voice, you hear me?” As the words left Bella’s mouth, she realised exactly what she had said, colour rushing to her cheeks. She’d said it without thinking, and had meant it as nothing more than a friend, but she didn’t know if Luci knew she meant it that way. “It’s a shame Morgana isn’t here to hear it,” she added softly. It was an impulse response, really, the only way she could think of letting Luci know that she didn’t mind, not really. Mentioning anything that she’d heard in someone’s thoughts was always uncomfortable for her, especially something as personal as this. But given what she’d already seen, perhaps this wasn’t such a violation of privacy. She just managed a soft, somewhat awkward smile and hoped that Luci knew she had meant it in nothing but kindness.

As Luci was given her little task from Bella, she nodded, perhaps a bit too excitedly. She was glad she could just be helpful. However, Bella continued, and she complimented Luci’s singing. There was an explosion of warmth in Luci’s face, and a flood of color accompanied it. Her eyes immediately dropped to the ground, a sheepish action, one she could not resist due to the fuzziness in her chest. After nearly two years, Luci expected Bella to hate her and her voice. Hearing her compliment her and it instead brought a sense of relief that Luci didn’t even know she needed. The inclusion of Morgana shifted her feelings away from relief into something more akin to embarrassment; this meant Bella had seen Morgana in Luci’s head when she was singing those love songs. The blush on her cheeks shifted up to the tips of Luci’s ears, and the mere mention of the witch reminded Luci of the softness of her lips, the playful verbal teasing that always left her stumbling and stuttering, and the softness of smooth, silky black hair between her fingers. “Y-yes, it r-really is a shame.” Although Luci was embarrassed, there was a new tenderness in both her voice and her eyes as they drifted away in thought, denoting just how much she felt for Morgana. “P-perhaps she and some others will show up later. I wonder what she would… think of this… this gaudy dress,” She added the last bit with a laugh and a shake of her head, and that helped remind her of her task at hand: helping Bella. “I’ll find your phone, don’t worry. Be back in a jiff.”

After one more nod, Luci walked back into the main hall. As soon as she entered, she spotted a familiar face, one that was nearly a foot taller than her. “Hey Luce!” Leo approached Luci quickly, but they paused once she saw the state of her runny make-up. “Oh no, did something happen? Are you ok?” Leo asked her, a deep layer of concern furrowing their brows.

“I’m fine, Leo, I promise. It was… It was a good cry, one that I needed.” She smiled up at Leo, a full, genuine smile, and it made Leo relax a touch. “But I will also need help fixing my make-up. Can you find Harold for me and meet me backstage in five minutes? I’m running out of time, my break is almost over.”

“Yes, you got it!” Leo jumped to action in an instant, disappearing into the crowd to go search for their friend.

With a shaky breath, Luci searched for Bella’s phone. The hall wasn’t too large luckily, and her sharp eyes scanned between the many moving bodies. Any conversationalists this time were promptly and politely declined, and with a couple minutes to spare, Luci spotted a clutch that looked similar to Bella’s dress. She saw a phone on top of it, one in a case covered in familiar stickers. The last time Luci had seen them was years ago, and they were much more faded and worn than before. There was a tug in Luci’s chest, but she squashed it quickly. Things would be better now. She picked up the clutch and the phone and darted back over to Bella. She wished she could be moving faster, but any longer strides meant more of her legs would be revealed due to those dangerously high slits in the fabric.

“Here,” Luci said as soon as she turned the corner. She held out the phone and the small purse, and her eyes darted up to take in Bella’s face again. This time, what she felt wasn’t guilt or sadness. Although small shreds of those emotions remained, Luci was close to content. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” She asked one more time, and her tone was just as sincere as she continued, “I could stay with you for a little while longer or try and find Kit for you. The singing can wait if it must. It’s not more important than your health.”

Bella’s first instinct was to compliment Luci’s dress and to say it wasn’t gaudy at all. But before she could, Luci had dashed off in search of Bella’s phone. Her calming presence gone, the noise began to creep back in, Bella beginning to realise that her headache hadn’t disappeared at all; rather she just hadn’t been paying attention to it for a bit. Hopefully Kit would be able to fix the headband to make it less loud.

When she spotted Luci weaving her way back over to her, she exhaled a little with relief. She managed a grateful smile as Luci handed the bag and the phone to her. There were messages on her phone, but they weren’t important now. She shook her head as Luci offered to stay with her. “No, I’ll be fine. Really. Go do your thing and blow the crowd away, okay?” She said, smiling at Luci. She managed to unlock her phone and open up her texts, scrolling until she found Kit. The message she sent was brief, but she hoped he’d get the point.

To: kit
SOS, gadget not working right

“I’ve texted him, he’s on his way now,” Bella said, looking back up at Luci. “So seriously, go do your thing. I’ll be listening.”

A part of Luci wished Bella had asked her today. This had been going so well, and she was remembering that, otherwise, she was going to be cemented on stage again. On stage, away from her friends, and under the watchful eye of every single person in the hall. But somebody had to be up there, entertaining everybody. Luci was locked into that role, whether she liked it or not. Bella’s soft encouragement was helpful, and Luci couldn’t stop the sheepish smile that creased her lips. Her hands fiddled with some of the crystals on her dress as she tried to figure out what to say. There was so much she had to say, so much she wanted to say, but they didn’t have the time. Luci wasn’t like Leo or any of her other friends; she couldn’t say “Damn your rules” like so many of them did. She was a good girl who did as she was told, even if it left a sour taste in her mouth. “Thank you, Bella… Thank you, f-for… everything. I’ll sing the next one for you.” She gave Bella one last bow of her head and took a few steps towards the exit. Although, she paused just to say, “I.. I hope you feel better soon. And… that dress looks lovely on you.” Admittedly, the last bit may have come out rather quick, and Luci practically ran away after it, but she had gathered the courage to say it nonetheless.

Now it was a race against time. She darted backstage only to see Leo and a rather fretful looking Harold standing beside them. “Hey Luce! I found him for you.”

“Thank you, Leo. Good job,” Luci praised, but it was clear her nerves were starting to return in full force. Leo didn’t mind though; even praise as minor as that warmed their skin.

Luci turned to Harold, who was holding a pretty basic kit for make-up. “One of the assistants had some make-up in her purse. It’s not much, and it’s not nearly as good as the stuff you had at home-”

It was clear Harold was prepared to ramble on, but Luci didn’t have time for this. “It’s fine, Harold! Thank you for all the help, but… Less talk, more applying.” She grimaced as soon as she had said it, immediately feeling bad. “Ah, s-sorry, that was kinda-”

Harold blinked a few times, a redness dusting his cheeks. “Yes ma’am,” was all he said, with a hint of teasing in his tone. A teasing that caused Luci’s own face to flush, but she tilted it up towards Harold regardless.

With less than 60 seconds to spare, Luci made her way back on stage. Her reappearance was greeted with a polite applause, but she hadn’t noticed. Her eyes were set to scanning the crowd again, searching for faces she would never be able to find. Her mother still hadn’t shown up, and a certain short, goth, raven-haired witch hadn’t either. So she smiled, waved to the crowd, and started singing her next song: a Dean Martin classic. “You're nobody 'til somebody loves youuu…” She finished the line with a sweep of her arm, and her wing copied the movement. Every crystal attached to her sparked and shined. “You're nobody 'til somebody cares…”

Earth
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"I got close to him somehow we managed to disappear and sneak up on me bastard was grinning ear to ear he set off some kind of explosive I've never seen anything like it black flame filled the entire room I'm surprised everybody's not dead when I came to the guy was gone and half the market was on fire luckily everyone banded together a managed to get the flames under control but they're still seems like there was a lot of casualties" said the agent

Pluto Region
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Hello?

The Ship
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The room had gone quiet. With the absence of Maria and their new friend, Alix; things began to calm. Etoile could sense her Papa’s unease, however, and went to her Papa's side. They were alone once more, the door having carefully been shut to make certain that a certain someone’s voice could not escape these walls. "Papa, something is bugging you?" Etoile asked him quietly, playing with the fingers on one of his hands. "You do not like Alix, do you?"

Tybalt brought Etoile close with one massive hand and brushed through her hair with the other, staring at the wall ahead of him. "It's not that I dislike her, but...she brings me great disquiet. You were afraid of her, too, and then you were not. What changed?"

"You were talking about secrets, you still have a lot of them, Papa. I want to know too." Etoile pouted, but her expression eased when he stroked her hair.

Etoile could not explain what it was she felt about Alix, "A feeling... a sense, like yours?" The child attempted to put it into words. "When she made that face, it reminded me of me... before you found me." Etoile admitted, "Sad... without any hope."

Tybalt pursed his lips in thought. "You already know the important ones," he assured her. "That I was different before the circus, or even before you, je ne suis pas un LeGrand ni de la Fontaine, and that my real family is here. What else matters?"

Tybalt looked down into Etoile’s eyes and frowned. "There is something different about that child," he cautioned. "The day I met you, you had tears. This girl...she has nothing. I cannot see within her. All I know is that her power is terrible, and that speaks to pain just as intense."

"Are you sure you will be safe?"

Etoile sighed, relenting. She yawned, blinking tiredly and laid her head in her Papa’s lap, blinking tiredly.

"Sometimes, you have no tears left, they just run until you have none inside of you anymore." She explained quietly, recalling the feeling. It was a distinct emptiness that she remembered, bleary from the drugged food that she had been force fed, hardly able to recall what it was like to feel at all until she had escaped that wretched place.

"I think it will be okay. If I tell her to stop, she will stop. There is only one who doesn't have to listen to me, but chooses too. Rappelles toi?" Etoile giggled, echoing his own words.

Tybalt continued running his hand through her hair, which had grown much longer with time. Gone was the petrified short-shorn orphan he first met, but he may have unwittingly taken on another very much like her. "Oui, rappelles, Etoile," he joked back, before scooping her up into his arms to carry her back to her room. "Un père s'inquiète, c'est tout ce que."



If Maria didn't have her eyes on Alix, it would have been easy to conclude that she wasn't even there. Her footsteps made hardly a sound as they walked to the kitchen, the child making less than a peep in the darkened hallway.

There were several scavengers passing through the kitchen when Maria peeked in through the doorway. None of the evening snack specters paid them much mind, but they knew Maria well enough to give her a nod of acknowledgment before each of them started shipping off to their respective rooms, food in hand.

Maria waved to the stragglers, releasing Alix's hand once they were gone. "What sorts of foods do you like Alix?" Having been a nurse maid before she met Tybalt, Maria was quite handy at taking care of children.

Before that, she had cared for her three younger siblings. Alix, however, was nothing like any child she had ever seen. Quiet, sullen, and far too thin.

Alix walked as far as one of the counters, then crossed her arms over it and slumped forward tiredly. It was clear that her lack of nourishment translated into a lack of energy. "Whatever stays down," she answered without much excitement. Lively conversation was undoubtedly going to be a weak point for Alix, but it was better than her remaining constantly silent. "What would you like me to make?"

"You sit," Maria pulled out a chair for her from the small table in the corner. "I will prepare something easy for your stomach," a light vegetable soup, Maria decided.

Soup was food for the soul, at least, that was what Maria believed. Slowly, methodically, the woman began to chop vegetables to make a broth, humming while she worked, since it was evident that Alix was far too tired for conversation.

Steam rose from the large broth pot on the stove. The kitchen began to fill with the aroma of simmering squash and zucchini. When it was ready, Maria ladled the soup into a ceramic bowl and set it down in front of Alix, hoping that she would enjoy it.

She made herself busy, cleaning up a bit before taking a seat across from the child, hoping that she had eaten.

Alix looked to Maria and stared in silence for a moment, then complied. Was this what confusion looked like for her? As she sat in the chair, she repeated the motion, forming a pillow with her arms and collapsing on top of it.

When Maria set the bowl in front of her, it looked as if Alix might have fallen asleep. However, the girl rose too smoothly and too quickly for that to be the case. "Merci," she said softly, before beginning to eat, sipping directly from the bowl, then stopping and clenching at her belly as the hot liquid spilled into her empty stomach.

"Ah, donc tu parles français ?" Maria laughed, watching her with interest. Her smile slowly faded when she watched Alix reach down to hold her stomach with pain.

Worry creased her brow, Maria rose, instinct kicking in that something was amiss. "Where does it hurt?" She asked, her voice gentle. Could it be that her body was not used to food from being malnourished for so long? Or was it something more serious?

Alix shook her head to both questions. "Stomach...it will pass," she said, but if it was a more serious condition, it was unlikely that Alix knew. Instead, she waited a few moments and began to drink from the bowl again, her body tensing from the pain but otherwise refusing to acknowledge it.

Maria's concern did not go away, but if Alix insisted it was normal, she would not bother her about it. "If it gets worse, please let me know." Maria insisted instead, knowing that it could take a bit for Alix to trust her with what was wrong. Watching someone writhe in pain and not helping them was against her very nature. For now, however, she would have to sit still unless Alix insisted.

"Did you work, Alix?" Maria asked, trying to make polite conversation.

This time, she nodded. "Made fasteners until I passed out. Then they threw me out. Then I came here. Wasn't even paid."

Alix could not even muster the strength to sound bitter about it. Instead, she returned to guzzling down the soup. Was this today? Yesterday? How recently? Where? It was not uncommon for such injustices to go unpunished as people at large put their hope in a future where no children would have to work, but their focus on the future came at the ignorance of the problems of the present.

"The world will often take advantage of the small. Here at least, you will find that you will not be asked to do things you never want to and will be able to rest and heal. I hope that soon, you can call this place a home, just like so many of us."

Maria had been here since the beginning. She had seen the kind of world Tybalt envisioned: where the starving all had a place at the table to come and eat. Where those who were running from their past could safely rest their weary legs.

Finishing her meal, Alix rose with all the liveliness and animation of a steam machine and walked to the sink, where she began rinsing and washing the bowl clean. "Merci," the child repeated softly. Evidently, though she did not know French, she could at least exchange pleasantries, albeit with monotonous delivery.

Maria was no mind-reader, but she could sense turmoil inside of Alix's tired head. The tomboy put away her bowl, then turned to Maria with an empty gaze, exhausted and directionless. What had been next on their list?

Maria rose, clapping her hands together. "How about a bath?" She suggested, "Come, I will show you where to go." She reached to take Alix's hand again. "We can find you some clothes afterwards, oui?" She smiled, always enjoying the opportunity to rifle through Genya's costume closet.

It was like holding onto a mannequin, one that walked and talked. Alix did not answer, but walked along with her through the corridors and hallways. They ascended to another deck, where the baths were located. Though a basic water closet was available to each of the quarters, the baths and showers were located on another deck across from the wardrobes and costuming rooms, making this area casually referred to as the beauty section.

"A bath after a meal is always the best," Maria smiled, running the water for Alix. She added scented soap and bubbles, preparing it the same way she would for Etoile in the hopes that it could bring a smile to Alix's face. "I will wait out here, so please, take your time." Maria would find Alix something she could wear in the meanwhile.

Alix stepped inside with a nod, waiting for Maria to leave before sliding the door closed and locking it.

She did not take her time, but neither did she rush. Were Maria in range, she would hear no splashing, no coos of delight, none of the playful sounds of youth. She was just...soaking.

When she emerged, Alix smelled much better, a hint of apricot cutting through the stench of her work clothes, which she had reworn without much thought.

Maria busily spent the time of the bath rummaging through the clothing. Alix preferred to disguise herself as a boy for reasons Maria did not fully understand, but she would not disrespect Alix's decision. Genya would be miffed that someone had gone through the clean piles of laundry, but ultimately, Maria did not think anyone would miss the things she had taken.

"I have found you clean clothes!" Maria sang, frowning when she saw that Alix had put her dirty clothes back on already. "Come, we will get you changed." Maria sent Alix back inside the bathroom with a clean pair of trousers and a button down shirt. They were more than likely too large, but they were clean and smelled like laundry soap.

Without much reaction other than a pause, Alix took the clothing and disappeared back behind the door. She disrobed and put on the new clothing. Though she swam in the shirt, the pants were at least the right size, and the suspenders fit her well. Moreover, she now smelled of both apricot and clean clothes.

The door slid open, revealing, not an orphan, but a heartbreaker, poised to devastate the hearts of women across France with a single gaze. It was small consolation for the girl, who preferred the image in the mirror, but at least Alix did not look like a street rat anymore.

Maria capped her hands together, glad that the clothing somewhat fit. "Magnifique," She complimented, realizing that she could not take Alix to her new room, not yet at least.

"Alix, I think it would be wise to pick out your costume now, otherwise people might question what business a boy has going in and out of a girl's room." Maria parted the heavy, purple curtain to reveal the closet where the costumes were kept.

Some had tags on them, indicating that they were designated for a certain performer. Others had yet to be claimed, all of them carefully crafted by the delicate hands of their in-house seamstress. "Does anything catch your eye?" Maria was most eager to supply help in picking something out.

Alix wandered in, her steps light as a mouse, drifting this way and that through the massive closet like a balloon in the wind. For some time, nothing seemed to catch her attention, until her eyes fell upon a large, wide-brimmed sun hat, which she swept up and placed upon her head. She tilted it to hide her face, then timidly peeked out from beneath it.

It was a start.

"Those are wonderful!" Maria admired Alix’s choice. It was the start of the perfect disguise. Maria assisted in going through the racks of clothing, pulling out a simple, but pretty dress and a necklace. "How about these?" She asked, holding up the items for Alix to see.

"I should think it will go well with your hair."

Alix followed Maria and looked upon the dress at length. If she disliked it, surely wouldn't she say something? Instead, she began unbuttoning her shirt, giving Maria her answer.

"Allow me to help you," Maria put the dress on over Alix's head, hoping this meant that she liked it. She zipped the dress up in the back and clasped the necklace around her neck, checking to make sure it wasn't too tight.

"Beautiful!" Maria smiled, "Come, look at yourself. Just like a princess." Maria stood behind Alix in the mirror on the wall, showing the child how pretty she was. "Do you like it?"

Redressed - pun intended - Alix replaced her sun hat on her head, then gazed upon the girl in the mirror. She looked to Maria once. Finally, she looked to the floor. "Just as described," she answered.

But that was not a 'no'!

It was probably the best answer Maria was going to get from her. "I will take you to your room now, oui?" She reached to take Alix's hand again. "You can rest and sleep there, no one will bother you." Except maybe her roommate, who might pester her to play.

Maria knocked lightly on the door, but there was no answer. She propped it open quietly, finding Etoile asleep in her bed in a pile of stuffed toys.

"Here, this one," Maria guided Alix quietly to the bed that had been freshly made for her, a stuffed bear having been set upon it. "Have a good rest. Please come find me if you need anything."

Alix stepped inside, removing her hat and necklace and setting them upon the dresser. She retrieved what looked like a small chocolate bar from the pockets of her male clothing, then folded up the suspenders and shirt and set them aside.

Hoping that Etoile was sleeping, she let out a quiet sigh, her brows twitching with pain she refused to let spill out. Then, still wearing the dress, she crawled into bed. It wasn't until she heard the thump of the stuffed animal falling to the floor that she even realized it was there; her presence of mind had been all but nullified.

She stared at it for a long while, then looked across the room to Etoile's bed.

Beneath a canopy that glittered with stars lay a child who looked more doll than human. What with her long blonde hair that fanned around her head and the elegant lashes that graced her porcelain-like features.

It was probably difficult for Alix to tell the difference between Etoile and the pile of stuffed toys she slept with.

In truth, Etoile had woken the moment Maria opened the door, but she did not want to disturb her new roommate. Etoile would need to be careful, there could be no more singing or humming in her room, not unless the child was absolutely sure she was alone.

Only after she was satisfied that Etoile was asleep did she lean forward and grab the teddy bear, dragging it beneath the blankets so as to be out of view. The chocolate bar she stuffed beneath her pillow, before resting her head upon it and letting her eyes drift to a close.

Boo 19
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Eminence
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/say Hello

Kanto Route 11
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Father
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A Star-Studded Affair Part 2

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Bones || Imagine Dragons




It began with a soft murmur that crept across the room. Slowly, the murmur turned into a whisper, then into a roar. Eventually, all eyes had lifted and turned to face the double doors leading into the grand party hall. ”The Matriarch?” They craned their necks to look over one another in their ridiculous hats and tall heels, waiting with bated breath for the rumor to be confirmed.

The doors moved on slow hinges, light spilling in from the hall outside, framing her glittering white hair with a halo. Her pale, unblemished skin glittered like diamond dust, and she walked with a calm grace that made the room fall to silence in her presence.

”The Matriarch!”

”The Matriarch?”

”Glory to the Matriarch!”

Their words sung in a cacophony like colorfully dressed parrots, clamoring for a piece of the small star that had landed within their gravitational pull.

”Please give the Matriarch some space,” her guard’s gruff voice practically barked; like a dog protecting his master. He guided her slowly, her serene gaze landing on the table in the corner beside the window.

A small crowd formed around Yeqon's table. It began with the acknowledgment of a single couple. With boldness, the people made their way over to introduce themselves to Kore and Yeqon, or more practically; to gain the benefits of familiarizing themselves with this year's Head Overseer and the son of Governor Cryo. After one, a few more followed, and Yeqon's peace and appetite had come to an abrupt end. The colorfully dressed crowd continued to chatter away with idle words. That is until something new came into their orbit. Like a glittering jewel, she graced this Gala with her presence. The magnificent figure having managed to capture everyone's attention. Yeqon too, paused in awe. Then, a distinct sense of dread, one he could not explain, quickly emerged. Yeqon hid it well, his expression having settled into its usual monotonous poise, and his gaze remained trained forward, eyes humbly locked on the approaching figure, the praised Matriarch.

”Praise the Matriarch!”

Kore was playing her role well: acting the part of the bubbly, airheaded Kore Mars most knew and had come to adore. When their gaze turned, so too did Kore's. Her breath caught in her throat, her eyes watching with an unwavering awe. Kore froze with realization, glancing at Yeqon with uncertainty while her smile remained pleasantly painted on her lips. Why was the Matriarch here? It was rare for her to leave her cozy cocoon on the top floors of Mother. Could it be that she had come to the party to greet the governor?

The Matriarch continued to move with lithe, elegant steps. She stopped in front of their table, her gaze settling on the two Overseers. Kore rose quickly out of respect, wondering if a curtsy would be appropriate. What was the custom? Kore's eyes darted to Yeqon, unknowing as to what she should do, what she should say. Her composure slipped for just a moment. "It is customary to praise the Matriarch in her presence," a man had sidled up beside the Matriarch, whispering beneath his breath so as not to cause them any embarrassment. "P-praise the Matriarch," Kore managed to squeak in her embarrassment, grasping the edges of her dress to dip into a low curtsy.

"Praise to the Matriarch." Yeqon bowed — his left hand placed behind his back, right to his waist, and head lowered. His movements were well-practiced, and he showed no signs of nervousness. As if on cue, a choir of guests followed Kore and Yeqon's example. Bowing to the Matriarch, they offered their praise in unison. A heavy silence followed. Yeqon broke the silence, taking a half-step forward. "What an absolute honor for the Matriarch to grace my Father's humble celebration with her presence." With his head still bowed, Yeqon spoke flawlessly, his words rolling off the tongue with a practiced ease. There was no hint of his usual hesitation or random pauses—just a respectful and clear voice.

"You may raise your heads," the Matriarch waved a hand, a small smile gracing her thin lips. Her voice was soft, but had the clarity of a summer wind. "I have merely come to express my... appreciation for the effort surrounding this year's games." Her eyes watched them with something akin to curiosity.

Surely, she could have sent a message over holo, if that was all she wanted. Even Kore could recognize that. This show was more than likely a display of power. To silence the budding rumors that the Matriarch was a made up figure meant to keep the upper-class in line. Kore could hardly think that the true reason for her visit was to express her appreciation to someone as lowly as herself.

"Thank you," Kore spoke after a brief pause, having collected herself and her thoughts. "We have put our all into making sure that this year's Games will be enjoyable for all of our viewers.”

Yeqon raised his body, maintaining his neutral expression. Was it true? Was she here to offer her congratulations? With his limited knowledge of the Matriarch, she did not seem the type to present herself in public for such a...trivial reason. There had to be more and Yeqon could think of an obvious one — the Governor's faction. It wasn't something mentioned out loud, but there was some tension between the Matriarch and the Governor's people — which consisted of the older and more powerful citizens in Mother.

They were a bunch who liked to flex their power in places not belonging to them — small rumors talked about their desire for a higher place in the Space-archy. "Thank you." Yeqon nodded his head in respect, "What my partner says is true, but I will add...most of the success is due to her brilliance." He gently placed his hand on Kore's shoulder, "She fulfills her role as Head Overseer wonderfully."

"I believe those words are too much, my son." A heavily endowed gentleman walked toward them. His mechanical arm and half robotic facial features shimmered in the light. He wore attire fitting for a Governor — if not too much on the regal side — and his cane echoed on the marble floor. A small group followed close behind him, looking just as well-dressed — the Governor's faction. "Praise to the Matriarch." Governor Cryo bowed, and his group followed. Their voices echoed humbly in the presence of her Highness. A perfect facade of blind loyalty. "My son's humbleness is getting the better of him. He fails to mention his achievements during this year's Games." the Governor's eyes fell briefly on Kore. They contained a mixture of emotions, the most apparent yet, subtle being disgust.

"Oh?" The Matriarch's gaze briefly flickered towards Kore. "I had the sense that when I approved your nomination as Overseers, the Games would be something of note. It was not a bad choice." Kore stood a bit straighter. She opened her mouth to speak, but someone else's voice cast over her own. This was not her place, she reminded herself. The situation had just become dangerous.

Governor Cryo's disgust was thinly veiled. It was funny, considering he had a grotesque appearance that made Kore's stomach turn. To her credit, her expression remained pleasant, with her careful, practiced smile plastered on her lips. Kore curtsied briefly in his presence as a sign of respect. Not because she wanted to, but because formalities demanded it. As much as she detested the idea, these people still outranked her. One day, Kore thought, clenching her jaw.

"Governor Cryo, what a pleasure it was to receive your invitation. You always did know how to throw a party." The Matriarch gestured around the extravagant space. Her guard inched closer to her elbow. The Matriarch had received an invitation out of customary formality. She was invited to every event, but it had been years since anyone had seen her outside of her sanctuary. "Please, tell me more about your son's achievements. I would love to hear all about it." She made her intention to linger clear. By now, it was obvious that the Matriarch had come to reclaim her grasp on her slipping authority.

A bitter taste filled Yeqon's mouth, but he kept quiet. He had no position to interrupt this hidden quarrel. The Governor knew of Yeqon's services to the Game, and to him, they were all failures. Nothing of noteworthiness. Yeqon preferred to hide from the spotlight and work alongside other departments to ensure the Games ran smoothly from behind the scenes. It was deplorable to Governor Cryo that his son humbled himself before a low-born girl, allowing her to take the reins and the glory. "Gladly, Your Grace. I happen to have constant conversations with my son discussing his actions." It was a blatant lie. He had spies hidden inside monitoring Yeqon's actions, "He isn't one to allow himself to bask in the spotlight. However, security, competitor and manager management, and the delegation of tasks to those belonging to stations outside the Overseers all fall under his command."

"He handles the more core functions of the Games, the ones not seen by the public. Like how a big machine needs the vital wheels and gears cared for to turn properly." The Governor smiled, displaying the expression of a delighted parent. He walked over to Yeqon and patted his shoulder with pride, "My son." he said in a tender voice, which easily fooled the crowd around them. Yeqon could tell that they ate-up the Governor’s words, feigning their close parent-child relationship. Yeqon felt sick. The Governor lightly huffed, "Oh, I almost forgot. Yeqon also does his utmost to cover up for Ms. Mars...unofficial mistakes. Which certainly isn't her fault. She is still learning the etiquette required of one to communicate and mingle with the upper-class."

Kore could tolerate taunts, jeers, and rumors about her love life. If there was one thing, however, that Kore could not stand; it was liars. "Mistakes, Governor?" Kore quickly interjected. Her eyes widened innocently, hoping to catch the rat by its tail. "If you wouldn't mind enlightening the Matriarch, since I'm sure she wants to hear about how Yeqon has fixed all of my mistakes." Kore was not a meek little mouse, nor was she the airhead she pretended to be on public holos for prying eyes. She was as much a cat as the rest of them. She may not have been born with blue blood in her veins, but Kore could still play their games.

"Yes, I too, would like to hear more about Mr. Cryo’s accomplishments." The Matriarch was quick on the uptake. She took a seat at the table, gesturing for her guard. 001 stepped forward, leaning down for her to whisper something in his ear. He stepped back, disappearing into the crowd that had gathered around their table. "Please, sit, everyone. It is hard to hold a discussion when everyone is standing."

In that split moment, the Governor's eyes turned venomous. He had no fear of revealing the cards hidden in his hands. But Kore accomplished something not many could do. She went outside of his expectations. He believed she'd flatter, remain quiet while he continued. But no, she demanded an answer for his claim, and dared to act as if she was on the same playing field as him. The smile on his lips did not change, but his insides burned slightly. He tightened his grip on Yeqon's shoulder, "Of course. Staff! Help my precious guests find a seat, make haste!" The Governor released his grip on Yeqon, who stepped back and pulled out a chair for the man. Yeqon was curious. Kore had displayed herself well in the public eye. There were a few minor mistakes, but none seen by anyone but himself. He made sure of it. Still, Yeqon felt something amiss but ignored the feeling. Instead, he pulled out a chair for Kore and found a spot beside her — building a wall between her and the Governor. The hall bustled with the sound of moving furniture, robotic and mutant staff rushed from place to place, offering a seat to all the guests following the Matriarch's and Governor's request. It took a minute, but everyone found accommodations. The Governor glanced around the hall to check, keeping the appearance of a charitable host, "Good." He sounded relieved, nodding his head in satisfaction. He sat in a position where all eyes fell on him, as they should.

"Now. Ms. Mars handles herself well...in most situations. Various sponsors, all friends of mine, have praised her judgment and energetic demeanor. Although I'd say, her personality is a bit much for my tastes, however, to each their own. Overall, she is a professional through and through." He stared at Kore, nodding his head as if to offer praise, "...However, she seems to have issues concerning the separation of her...personal life and her role as Head Overseer." The Governor’s tone changed to one of concern. He bowed his head, acting like his following words were difficult to say. "You see, my son is a very vigilant man. He tries to handle issues so Ms. Mars may focus fully on her role as Head Overseer. But I feel it's inappropriate when he has to handle her family situations." The crowd mumbled softly, wondering what he meant. "It was one month before the Games began that Ms. Mars' parents intruded on the preparation facilities, demanding to see their daughter. I heard they were acting rather...unseemly. My son did handle the situation, but it took him away from other, more important matters. Not just once but several other times, none of which Ms. Mars seemed to deal with herself. Isn't that right, Yeqon?"

The attention was now on Yeqon, his face showed no signs of nervousness, but internally his mind raced. How did Governor Cryo learn about this situation? Only a handful of talented guards knew of the visits, and they wouldn't have told. Yeqon tightened his already clasped hands, "...Yes...there were a few...very minor disturbances with the individuals in question. However, I handled them promptly and without trouble...Therefore Kore didn't need to present herself. " The Governor hummed, patting his son on the shoulder, "How dutiful, you did handle it well. No one knew of it. I, too, was unaware until the people in question approached me." Yeqon flinched.

"It was a few days ago. After visiting you, they confronted me while I exited the building. They knew me as your Father and asked for my help. Claimed to be Ms. Mars's parents, who she ignored. And at first, I did not believe them. Why should I?" He gestured at Kore, "Ms. Mars is a proper young lady, and they were...quite troublesome. They claimed that their daughter refused to see them, ignored their messages, and did other slanderous things, which couldn't be true. However, after checking, they were, in truth, her parents." He shook his head. "Still, their stories were hard to believe. So, I told them their presence would only cause further issues. So I have arranged for them to attend the Gala. In fact, they should be arriving in a few minutes."

Kore's mind began to race. The Governor had invited her parents to the Gala? She did not look at Yeqon, knowing that there would be no help from him. Was this the real reason he had invited her here tonight? To embarrass her in front of all of these people? To remind Kore of her place? Beneath the table, Kore's hands balled into fists, her nails digging tiny moons into her palms. Kore had been played for a fool. He had asked her, knowing that she would not refuse and she had been dumb enough to accept it. Kore wished she had never invited him out for a drink.

On cue, the doors to the party flung open. The entire hall turned to get a good look at the one part of Kore's life she had worked so hard to keep hidden. Her dad was dressed in a gaudy ash suit and yellow shirt, wearing a purple tie to a black tie event. Her mother's dress was gaudy, fake designer, with a purse that was six years out of style and hair that had been sprayed with so much fixant, it looked crunchy.

"Kore, Bug!" Her dad caught sight of her first, rushing towards the table, dragging her mom along by the elbow. If it weren't for the Matriarch's pose stepping in the way, they would have gotten closer. "Praise the Matriarch!" Her mom said hurriedly while Kore remained frozen in her seat. Her expression had been set to a cautious neutral, careful not to show the outward distaste she held towards her parents. "Mom, Dad." Kore's voice was surprisingly steady. "What a nice surprise." The Matriarch looked between them, as though she were watching a very interesting insect. "I am thrilled to meet the parents of one of this year's brilliant stars. Come, have a seat." The Matriarch invited. "You must tell us all about your Kore Bug." Kore, thoroughly nullified, could only smile.

"Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Mars." Governor Cryo's lips curved into a generous smile as he gestured at a servant, "Please, seat yourselves. As my guests, be comfortable and join our conversation." On cue, the servant pushed two chairs next to him — a social movement that not only showed he approved of their presence, but wished for them to be the center of attention. Governor Cryo waited for the couple to seat themselves, hiding his triumph,behind his smile. "Since you just arrived, how about sharing a few stories from your daughter’s past?" The Governor’s voice was cheerful, an unusual tone for someone so stern, "I, and I am positive, everyone else would be delighted to hear more about you and your daughter's history."

A quiet sigh escaped Yeqon’s lips, a clear frown decorating his face. He was used to these situations, the Governor was notorious for inciting social suicides among his enemies. Most gatherings ended in a few tragedies, but he didn't want Kore to end up as one. Since her status affects his and as partners, he couldn't let something like this slide. However, stopping this conversation was not possible at the moment. If it was the Governor alone, Yeqon could step in, but the Matriarch was present as well. She was someone he had no power to dissuade. So, he could only hold his tongue and wait for an opportunity. Yeqon could already feel that tonight would be a long one.

Kore's parents sat themselves excitedly on either side of her, managing to nudge Yeqon out of the way in the process to wedge a space between them. Her Mother took Kore's hand, her touch cold. Kore sat still, somehow maintaining her pleasant smile despite the inner turmoil she felt. "I don't think that's a very good-" Kore started, but was cut off by her Father. Her Mother squeezed her hand, as if to say she did not want Kore to ruin this moment for them. Kore's heart thumped with slight panic in her chest.

"You should’ve seen Kore as a child, always so ambitious! She wanted to be a big net star for the longest time." her Father spoke proudly, if not condescendingly. He had a lilt when he talked, close to that the farmers of old might have. "We tried to guide her down a more sensible path, to go into the family business, but she had her mind set. Did everything herself too, behind our backs. Kore bought her own holo, learned how to edit videos. We just sat back and watched her dance around and lip sync to her favorite songs in the living room." They were proud of their inability to provide for their daughter. They had never thought that becoming a net star was a legitimate career until Kore began to make real money and then, they wanted a piece. "Yes, remember that time our Kore-bug cried because she thought she lost all of her followers? But it turned out that Flitter was glitching."

The crowd chuckled, mumbling as Kore's parents shared her embarrassing past. Blinded by the attention, neither noticed how the nobles laughed at them more than enjoyed their presence. To those of higher status, these stories were both entertaining yet ridiculous. Even Governor Cryo couldn't hide his amusement. They were a talkative bunch, making it easier for him to twist their words.

"How unfortunate. Despite your best efforts, your daughter strayed from your chosen path." He intentionally made it sound like Kore was a rebellious child, fueling more gossip among the crowd. Before he could utter another word, pushing Kore further down a hole, the Governor was politely interrupted by Yeqon, "While it might have been a rather unclear path...hasn't her choice shown wondrous results toward this year's Games?" Yeqon smileed, glancing around, "Now that I look, I notice more than a few faces here who have sent messages to the office praising Kore's performances. Along with plenty more from viewers within and outside the ships." A wave of subtle anger flashed across the Governor’s expression, "Son, although Ms. Kore has shown results, it doesn't change how she ignored her parents' choices. Which is quite ungrateful."

"...You are right."

"Certainly, that is why-"

"However, those were past mistakes. And from what I have seen, Kore's current actions overshadow her inexperienced past." Yeqon stared at Kore's parents, "Mr. and Mrs. Mars, are you not proud? Not only is your daughter Head Overseer, but.." He waited until the room quieted. Their interest caught on his words. Why did he pause? Was there something they did not know? Yeqon makes a troubled face, "Perhaps I need to wait-"

"Oh, do tell!" Someone from the crowd excitedly pushed. Followed by others chiming in, their interest piqued.

Yeqon nodded, "Well, it is no surprise how ratings for this year's Games have already surpassed previous years by twenty percent on all platforms." he knew that wasn’t the information they wanted. Yeqon needed to introduce the next topic carefully. Since it would cause an unstoppable storm, however, this was the only way. "And this achievement is all due to my lover's...pardon me, I meant your daughter's popularity. Well...I must also share that Kore and I are in a relationship." The hall had erupted into sound, the myriad of whispers as loud and subtle as a scream. Yeqon ignored them and leaned forward to look at Kore, "I apologize for announcing this so soon, Kore...I know you wanted to wait to share the news."

Kore was used to being the center of attention, to the public’s prying eyes and snake-like smiles. This, however, was different. This was personal. The Governor was doing this on purpose to embarrass her. Why? To put her in her place? To show Kore that even if she rose in status, she would never be one of them? She steadied her heart in her chest, taking in a calming breath. She would endure it, for a little longer. Already, Kore was devising a strategy to turn this in her favor. To play herself as the girl whose parents practically forced her to raise herself, who; no matter what she did, could never earn their approval. However, something else happened, something Kore did not account for. Kore's eyes widened slightly as Yeqon leaned closer to her. Her head was abuzz, her heart suddenly hammering in her chest. She looked away quickly, her cheeks flushing pink. "Yes," it was hard for Kore to hide her smile. Kore did not think Yeqon would help her here, she thought that he would allow these dogs to tear her apart. How wonderful it was to be wrong.

"I did want to wait a little bit longer," she turned back to him. Kore knew that Yeqon hated being touched. So while she leaned closer, she was careful for there to be just enough distance between them where it would not be unpleasant. "But I'm glad we don't have to keep it a secret anymore." Kore smiled. She glanced at the Governor, wishing to see his reaction. From their earlier behavior, they could have very-well been in a real relationship. There was a reason Kore had asked to share a dessert, although she had not expected things to play so favorably into her hand. Even with this temporary setback of her parent's unexpected arrival, things were still going her way.

What went wrong? The Governor clasped his hands over the top of his cane — the pressure causing the smallest crack on the tip of the diamond that capped his walking stick. Obvious rage exuded from him and it was directed at Kore. What did she do? When did the little rat pull Yeqon into her schemes? This situation was almost too funny. He figured their relationship was nothing more than a fabricated scandal to entertain the masses — something that would remain nothing more than a rumor. Because the Governor knew his son, he hated attention and held no ambition or desire to be in the eyes of the public. It infuriated him. Still, this made Yeqon predictable and easily moldable, a child that listened. That is why he didn't worry about his alleged relationship with such a low-class girl, Yeqon wouldn't confirm it. He'd let it be, allow the public to gossip and wonder, but nothing more. Or so Governor Cryo thought. Despite the unexpected interference, Governor Cryo hid his displeasure — a neutral gaze but an amiable smile painted his face. He kept his silence amongst the chattering crowd, their gossip and awe worsened his mood.

"...Yeqon." His tone, neither loud nor low, was enough to silence the whole hall. His eyes locked onto Yeqon, their emerald sparkle held no emotion as usual, so the Governor couldn't figure out if this was a ruse to protect the girl or something more. He hoped it wasn't the latter. "Yes, Father." Yeqon could read the message behind the Governor's gaze, or rather the warning.

Do you believe I'll approve? Of course not. But this isn't something he can simply get rid of, his usual tricks of sabotage and murder won't work because of Kore's current status — Head Overseer. That is enough and they both knew it. Also, a bonus is the Matriarch's presence, no matter her schemes she has Kore in her eyes at least, so Governor Cryo can't make a huge move. "...How dreadful. This is something a parent should be told first before a crowd, is it not?" Head Overseer, the Matriarch's praise, and lover of Yeqon Cryo. This was enough to stop the Governor in his tracks, but what he didn't understand was why? Why did his son take on this burden? "I apologize. It wasn't my intention to cause you to be displeased-"

Governor Cryo's laugh cut Yeqon off. His voice echoed and it took a moment for it to settle, "Displeased? No...I am simply dissatisfied that I couldn't offer my congratulations sooner." His gaze landed on Kore, "Ms. Kore must be someone special...to catch your attention. Enough to announce to the whole world your personal affairs." Although the mood seemed joyous, no one could explain the lingering tension in the air. The silence remained as the father and son pair conversed. Yeqon faintly smiled, an expression that bore a huge resemblance to the Governor's, "Am I not a Cryo? We do not condone baseless rumors...that is why to silence the world we need to be truthful about our affairs."

"..." The Governor paused, but quickly recovered, "You are right! It seems I raised my son well. Congratulations!" He laid his cane against his leg and clapped. Signaling the entire hall that he approved, and soon everyone erupted into cheers and questions surrounding the two's relationship. While Governor Cryo quietly gazed.

Kore's smile only grew. This was their victory. "Thank you," she leaned over, carefully taking Yeqon's arm. "We hope to meet your expectations in the future."

"Congratulations," the Matriarch smiled. She lifted her glass, "Perhaps a toast is in order? To a most interesting, but beautiful couple. May your future endeavors be as bright as the stars."

Ramshead
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The imp disintegrates, but 100 other imps have already emerged from Morrigan's impassioned bonfire.
Morrigan fiercely tries to muster up water magic, but everything remains dry as the gin her father drinks. When the spilled rosé lights up with celebrating imps, nearly all hope succumbs to flames and dark rolling smoke.

She tries to focus but her mother is yelling in her ear, Morrigan can't make out the words.
She rushes into the house to try to stop the fire and is encompassed by scorching dryness. She is surrounded by imps jubilant in her failure, dancing around her body.
Then all the light is consumed by the deepest darkness, and all the oxygen is gone.

Titan's Fall
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Alex grinned as Forgemaster motioned the two over to a large central worktable. letting out a resigned sigh, the tinker rubbed a hand over his polished bald head. "Alright, my fan made mistakes aside, lets get to business now shall we?" He gave Yue an expecting look while Alex appeared to be focused on something across the room.

"O-oh, right," stammered Yue. She had been focused on the full color engraving of Tolkien's Smaug curling down Forgemaster's metal left arm. The whole room seemed surreal, tinged bright orange with [Creative Intent]. Tables, workstations, and tools of obvious custom make in every corner, and displays of weapons and other tinker-made objects in every open spot. It was a far departure from the sterile utilitarianism of Sairyn's lab...

Yue exhaled a slow breath as she looked around, and then hefted the beat up Silver Fang suit onto the worktable in the center of the room. She winced as the suit's heavily damaged servos groaned to life, unfolding into the open position. A loosely held tungsten plate clattered to the table from somewhere on its torso, eliciting an embarrassed sigh.

"W-well...," she trailed off, her mind racing for an excuse as if she expected to be scolded.

Without any prompting Forgemaster went to work. Various tools being pulled out from his belt and pouches, inspecting the suit in every way he could while muttering to himself. something however made the old tinker go still. After gently putting his tools away, Forgemaster picked up one of the tungsten plates and seemed to inspect it for a few quiet moments before tossing it back on the table with a look that ranged from bewilderment to disgust.

"Tungsten, that pretentious so-called greatest tinker of the modern age used normal tungsten for a speedster’s suit?" He then proceeded to storm off to the other side of the room and fire up his forge proper, causing dozens of equipment and machinery to come to life around him. The man continued to curse and swear the entire time over the original maker of the suit.

"W-well, uh technically I'm um... actually... an enhancer," Yue stammered, quietly as the Forgemaster got to work, though her attention was drifting towards the back of the room where she was tracing Alex's gaze. The suit slumped slightly as she stepped towards the object in the rear of the room that had Alex's attention, her fingers slipping from the suit's boot.

"Speedsters are inherently protected from the physics of their power, and can interact with the world while accelerated without transferring kinetic energy. My abilities are not subject to... limits or safeties. The suit was prototyped with mundane materials since we didn't know how it would interact with my powers...," she trailed off, offering the Tinker a distracted glance as the Forge fired up.

The [Intent] coloring the room seemed concentrated around one of the weapon racks, resonating throughout the room like a whispered song in an empty hallway. Completely enraptured, she found herself walking slowly towards it as everything else in the room seemed to melt away.

With Forgemaster becoming engrossed in his work, all the while still ranting and cursing up a storm, Alex decided it would be best to leave the old man to his work . . . from a safe distance. on the other side of the room. Being mostly heat and fire proof didn't mean he was in the mood to get stray globs of molten metal on his skin. Best to leave that to the man who actually had metal skin.

Keeping an eye on the Tinker, he meandered his way over to where Yue was in his peripheral. It was only after Alex was a comfortable distance away from the metalworking did he take note of what had caught Yue’s attention. He couldn't hold back his grin.

"Caught my eye the first time I came in here too. The sword Titan supposedly never used." The bastard sword on the weapons rack was a sight to behold. gleaming and polished as bright as the day it was crafted. The Sword of Justice was claimed to be a perfect blade able to cut anything. So sharp it would shave electrons off of air particles and cause its edge to crackle with an electrical charge. Alex leaned down to whisper. "You can pick it up if you want. Forgemaster let me try it out a while ago. I was just scared I'd lop off one of my legs on accident."

"Yeah...?" She asked absently as she approached the blade. Alex's words drifted from one side of her head to the other in a fog. The sword had completely captured her attention and, whether bidden by Alex's words or her own impetus, she reached out and touched the hilt of the sword. The [Crimson] welled up out of her skin and wreathed the blade in energy, filling the chamber with a crystal tone and causing Yue to flinch. She glanced over to Alex with a raised eyebrow in a moment of noticeable hesitation before she fully grasped the hilt and flourished the blade off the rack.

Tendrils of lightning chased the sword as she spun away from the wall several steps and flourished into a high guard. The weapon practically thrummed in her hands with a high, heavenly vibrato, a vastly different tone than the heavy bass note of the Brute Stick, or the low tenor of the Templar Greatsword. She was about to comment on it when the crystal note was abruptly drowned out by the shrieking crash of lightning striking the floor at her feet. Yue squeaked a note of surprise and tried to jump away from it, unintentionally flicking the point of the sword, which caused lightning to slough off the blade and leap towards Alex.

"UH?!"

Aperture
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Haze watched the armored man disappear fully into the portal, wondering if he would be okay. She took a hesitant step forwards, glancing at Moonlight and then down at her feet. She walked quicker, reaching out to the crackling portal. As her finger brushed against it, she clenched her eyes shut and drew in a deep breath.

Cairo, Egypt
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Theodore O'Grady III.
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Grayson Carter.
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Two days. Two days in the desert. Two days of a blind man in a desert. Seriously, when was the punchline going to happen? Grayson already hardly understood why he was here. Well, he did actually want to learn the history. He had already crammed on Egyptian history and mythology in advance, had audio tapes of as many guided tours as he could get his hands on, and may have written a light paper or two about his research findings and submitted them to the professor and his assistants... But he still chose to act bitter when he could. He honestly just couldn’t help himself with the jokes about taking him ‘sightseeing’. They just make it too easy. He could’ve had more fun with it and maybe even some fun on this trip… If it wasn’t for the golden retriever that barely left him alone since leaving for this trip. Wasn’t Charlie his roommate? When did he get stuck with the giant idiot for the buddy system?

For some reason, Teddy felt the compulsive need to be Grayson’s guide this entire trip. He had also taken it upon himself to describe each place they visited in as much detail as his vocabulary allowed. He knew he meant well by it. It’s the only reason Grayson ever just went along with whatever Teddy chose to tag along with him on. He’s just too nice. It’s so annoying.

He had hoped their day was coming to an end. He could feel the sun setting and it finally started to cool down around him. Grayson felt like he was caked in sweat despite being appropriately dressed. Of course, Professor Price had the ingenious idea to coerce them all to going into a tomb. Well, he wasn’t forcing them. But it’s not like Grayson was going to pass on the opportunity to be a part of a discovery. Superstitions be damned. ’Blind Man Makes Great Discovery in Egypt’. Get famous and laugh about it at the same time. Sounds perfect.

It wasn’t necessarily easy using a walking stick in a desert, so Grayson opted for grudgingly holding onto Teddy most of this trip. The part of the group trekking inwards, gave Grayson the opportunity to break away and grab onto whoever was closest first to start making his way away and a chance to breathe. But also in hopes of being able to find Nova or Charlie. At least they understood his humor. Explaining these things to Teddy was too much work. That leads into wondering how he even got into this school even though Grayson is fully aware that this man is somehow a musical prodigy blessed by the gods. And they have such a strange sense of irony.

Things had gone single filed as they delved further in. Grayson kept himself outwardly calm except for gripping a little too tightly onto the shirt of whoever was in front of him. He could follow the voices but he still couldn’t help but feel uneasy. He didn’t like small spaces and not being able to at least find the person privileged to know that fact was not helping.

The group that stopped was looking at a mural. Grayson listened in as he attempted to continue to feel through and follow the voices while he picked out and followed them. He chuckled as they described the scene of the mural. ”The gods fighting among each other. Sounds like chaos.” Somehow, he ended up with Teddy again. Absolutely no idea how he managed to just appear next to him without Grayson noticing. ”How do I always get stuck with you?”

”We have to do the buddy system. Did you see that sink hole?” Teddy’s face flushed over at realizing what he just said. [color=#]”I mean-”[/color] It wasn’t really words after that. Just southern mumbling before Grayson finally saved him and cut him off. ”Just stop talking and be my walking stick. I give up.” Grayson had no energy for this. He was tired, stuck in a small space, and the best he had was this idiot as a guide. But then, Teddy surprised him.

Teddy already knew Grayson was uneasy the second they went through the entryway. Grayson never really talked about himself as much as he acted. Teddy never asked. He’d tell him if he wanted to. Instead he just noticed. He saw the ways he’d change if they were in small spaces. The times he’d tried to act calm even though he was feeling disoriented and anxious. Teddy wouldn’t ask why but he could at least try to comfort and help where he’d let him. So he put his hands on Grayson’s shoulder’s to steady and face towards him and then gave him a brief hug. He really wanted to hug him for long but he also knows Grayson isn’t the biggest fan of affection so he had to take what he could get.

”I’ve got you, bro.” Grayson actually managed to smile at him. Teddy was beaming. Then a scream broke Teddy’s ‘moment’ and he needed to run towards the direction of the sound with Grayson being dragged along as a result. He couldn’t just say he’s got him and then ditch. That’s against Bro Code. It ended up being a creepy crawly. Teddy would’ve screamed too. So would Grayson.

"Guys. Where's Price?" Teddy finally looked around and noticed Price and Kayden were gone. Probably not good. Grayson deduced this much given everyone else’s reaction to them being gone. Great. They've definitely left us here to die," That familiar voice caused a devilish smirk to form on Grayson as he quickly made the few strides over to her. His hand landed on top of her head. ”I finally found you, Pix.” He couldn’t help himself from ruffling her hair a bit. ”We already made the mistake of following the crazy professor into an Egyptian tomb. At this point, it’s death or curse and we certainly asked for it-” Grayson shrugged and took his hand off her. ”Right now I’m just hoping dear ol’ dad remember’s to add ‘devilishly handsome’ on my grave stone.”

The Three Realms
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Melarue, as frightening as her near-mythical presence was, would not bite the hand that fed her. At this present moment, that would be the redhead, Rose. "How are you feeling?" What kind of question was that? A single dark brow lifted as if to give off the expression of disbelief that the healer had even dared to inquire about something so blatantly obvious.

How should a mage feel stripped of all that made her powerful? To rely on a man. However, as her dull mauve gaze drifted toward Bayard, Rue supposed that she was lucky. Of all the guards in the entire kingdom, he was the only one kind enough to treat her even remotely like a human being. To say there wasn’t a soft spot in that beating nuisance for him would be a lie. She watched him over Rosalyn’s shoulder for a few minutes, and just as it seemed he might catch her in the act of gawking, her attention shifted back to her current company.

"May I?" Rosalyn then asked, and Rue’s eyes wandered to the delicate hand being held out toward her. Oh, how she wished she had hands like that. How she wished… she looked anything like the woman in front of her. Instead, the years of being locked away and devoid of magic have… aged her somewhat. She’s not as pretty as Rosalyn or Phaedra. Her eyes have grown dull, her skin dry, and her hair lifeless - even when washed. These thoughts of her lost radiance caused her to scowl briefly and look away, almost as if she would deny the request.

She had to think about it for a moment - a seemingly long one at that. Finally, she gave the redhead a nod and allowed her to proceed with her apothecarial expertise. The quicker Melarue could heal in all ways, the quicker her beauty would be regained.

"Once we're out at sea and you're freed, I'll properly wrap these and brew you a tea that'll help restore some of your strength." A promise that Rue hoped the woman would keep. Not only would restoring even a little of her magic bring back her youthful vigor, but she might be able to escape this group. What use would they have of her? She had no interest in the affairs of men. Men started wars. It’s always a man. What she truly wanted was revenge for her expulsion from her own land. For so many centuries she had served her people, yet it only took a few days to cast her out.

As Rosalyn’s fingers rubbed ointment into her skin, Rue thought of all the ways she could burn the Elven people to the ground. She was powerful. Of course, she’d have to give her body time to heal, but it wouldn’t take too long. So long as there was nature - both human and elemental - there was chaos, and it will flow in abundance. All one had to do was wait, and Rue has learned to be patient. Just as she knew this time would come, she knows that her time will come as well.

While Melarue silently brooded over a future where she’d have a certain King’s head on a pike, Laou watched as Phaedra walked away. "I've been in a cell for days. I don't want to be held up in here, I want fresh air," she stated simply. Who was he to argue with her? After all, he let her go that day. Somewhere deep down in his gut, he knew her god-damned beauty had a whole lot to do with that. That, coupled with the shared experience of doing what they do, made him more forgiving that day. The loss of his sister made him… dark and cold, but the presence of courage made him soft. Phaedra, for as mouthy as she is, has plenty of courage to go along with her looks.

He just waved a hand at her and rested on the hammock, "Mhmm," Secarius didn’t want to waste his time with other people. People came and went in his life, and he had no business making friends or enemies. He folded an arm behind his head, closed his eyes, and decided that Phaedra probably wasn’t going to kill him today, so sleep sounded like a better idea than mingling.

Megina couldn’t help herself when it comes to observing true love blossoming in the air, and there was certainly something about Aramis and Rosalyn. At least Rendrik had a good sense of humor!

"I'm not 'his' prisoner. And I have a name... Phaedra," a voice came up from behind them, and Rendrik watched as the assassin came into view.

He held both of his hands up, palms out, in defense to walk back his poor terminology. "You’re right, lass, Phaedra it is." The archer wasn’t scared of her, but he was also an old soul with a soft heart. He’s not here to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Especially one capable of cutting off the family jewels in his sleep. A grown-ass man can also be scared of a woman, you know.

The conversation moved easily into the topic of hair, and Rendrik smirked and offered stupidly, "I wouldn’t mind a braid or two." He ran his hands through his hair and sighed dreamily, "So silky and shiny. I forget I am an old man sometimes." He leaned down and offered that full head of luscious hair to Vonmyr just for fun, but honestly, he remembered that his little girl liked to braid and brush his hair.

Also, he is a grown man-child, so that helped.

As they came upon the inevitable checkpoint, Rendrik’s eyebrows raised at the realization that they had nothing that would normally earn them an easy passage. Instead, they were having to rely on a motley crew of people that didn’t know each other at all. Well - enough? He’d have to think about that one later. The point is that they didn’t know the prisoners, and the prisoners did not know much about them. Anything could happen. While he liked to think that there was still good in people, he knew all too well that this mission could flop at this very moment.

They were just going to have to rely on a Dwarf and Rose. Instead of being hopelessly pessimistic about it, the old man decided that he was curious about how the pair would handle it. After all, Vonmyr did seem to have the best charisma out of them all - even if it was wrapped up in a tiny goofy package.

"Make a sound and lose your tongue," Bayard warned as if Megina really needed that. Did she want to die also? No way. Still, if she could have stuck her tongue at the pretty boy, she would have. Her eyes rolled instead. On the inside, as mouthy and stupid as she appeared, perhaps she - like Melarue, has officially decided to bide time.

Laou was still sleeping, so he’d be no issue at all.

Rendrik was about to do something when he was kicked on the calf! He sort of did this bent knee near backward fall thing, then turned around and scoffed and cursed under his breath. All in good jest, as they all have a role to play. "Oy! How many times have I told you to fix these knots, Old man! One good gust of wind 'n we'll be fish food! If I have to tell you one more time you're getting sold at the market when we get back." Deep down inside, the man knew that Vonmyr has probably been waiting a long time to be able to say something like that!

He went on to do as bid, feigning pain and frail age in contrast to his strong and still sturdy body. Moving slowly, he got straight to fixing those knots. He also listened because the whole entire conversation was really, really humorous. It took everything he had not to burst with laughter.

Vonmyr was a great actor, and surprisingly, as was Rose. Entertaining! Simply entertaining. They’d have a great laugh at their expense as well as a slew of jokes to carry them through the dour reality of their suicide mission. At the very least, they’d have good memories of their first few hours together!

What he found interesting was that Rose seemlessly portrayed the role of a soon-to-be mother. He didn’t know her at all, of course, except for maybe seeing her bright red hair flutter from one place in the castle to the other from time to time.

When the whole ordeal was over, and thankfully it was to a good end, he watched his friend fall head over heels for her. Oh, he’s so cute! So bashful, that Aramis. Rendrik chuckled to himself, figuring that he might as well as really make sure the knots are done well after all.


Melarue had also heard the scene from below, but she was not as impressed. When you are a few centuries old, things stop being as exciting as they used to be. You’ve also seen all the worst and best that living beings had to offer, so no - it was not anything extraordinary. What was interesting, however, was how the Captain of the ship fawned over the girl. He was gushing. You can hear it in his voice. It made her chuckle a little bit - on the inside.

Bayard’s footsteps could be heard nearing, and soon thereafter, he was removing the enchanted contraption from her head. When it came off, she felt… freedom again. After he unshackled her, she attempted to gently take his hand. She needed more support, so that gentleness ended up being more firm. Bayard could handle it, though. He’s been doing it for years.

Her other hand wandered toward her throat; fingers brushing against the tender skin there. Inside, her vocal cords were debilitated by neglect. Rue parted her lips to speak, but only an awful helpless sound, barely a strained noise, came out. Her fingers around his hand grew tighter, and she turned her face away from him.

Rue had nearly forgotten how nasty she must look. He had seen all of her, and in that, she was shameless - but her face, that once beautiful face, was now that of a dingy peasant. With her face still turned away, she flipped his hand open and signed on it, "Thank you. I want to not be around anyone for a little bit." She sighed and signed some more, "You can stay or go."

Bayard probably didn’t want to watch her wash up just a little bit more. After all, one hair wash was not enough to get rid of all the neglect. It felt awful. Then again, he was also as unamused by everyone else as she was. Maybe it’d be better than dealing with the loudmouths upstairs. Rose was interesting, of course, but Rue had plans for her.

Whether her guardian stayed or left, she opened up a small satchel of things saved for her as she descended below deck. The salves, too. They were given by Rose and Bayard. As thoughtful as they were, they might be too kind for their own good. Well, Rose. Bayard… Melarue wasn’t sure. He deserved nothing of the vile sort from her, yet it was also in her nature to destroy things. As that drifted into her mind, she filled a small basin with water and bent down to put her hair and face into it. She used the soaps to clean them, then had to wash her hair again. And again. It was knotted and gross. The third time was the charm.

After squeezing the wetness from her hair, she pulled a comb through it for what seemed to be a long time. The strands were a deep black and swept to her lower back. It took a lot of care and patience to deal with it in the aftermath of being imprisoned for years. It wouldn’t be silken like it should be, but after a day or so, her Elven blood would enliven it once more. Her whole body will look more youthful and powerful, not aged and decrepit like an abandoned structure.

As she looked into the mirror, which was hardly shiny and reflective at all, Rue could see the mauve returning to a subtle brilliance in her eyes. They had been listless before; a barely mute grey with only a hint of color otherwise. A dark smirk tugged the corner of her lips up. Yes, it will all be back soon. The Elven blood that had been but a whimpering ember now slowly began to burn a little brighter. The world will be very sorry for her return. If her name was as frightening to the people on board this ship as it was to others, they’ll be quite lucky to survive the darkness. As soon as they get to the kingdom of the Elves, she decided to topple that which she helped become victorious. The world may have forgotten about the Mage of Ruin, but they would remember.

From behind the deadly mage, Laou had all-too quietly approached from behind. Light on his feet, like cats paws as they scurry slyly across the floor, Melrue could not hear his approach. Only the silhouette of his head appeared vaguely in the mirror. She turned around slowly, and he reached down to take her hand. As gentle as ever, her knuckles rested in the calloused cradle of his palm as he fumbled beneath the dark robes to take a small object out.

Rue looked down as the small container, thin and black, was placed in her own palm. When he removed his hand, he nodded to encourage her to open it. She did. She twisted open the cap and was surprised to find a waxy crimson material. Lipstick.

Laou had been quietly observing her for a few moments. A woman’s body language was easy to decipher. Body language, as a whole, was a skill paramount to his work. Her interaction with Bayard, the way she looked at herself, and her sullen face that had aged miserably under the stress of captivity and magic deprivation, seemed to indicate that she felt less than.

He believed fully that she would kill all of them whenever she had the chance. He expected it. He knew her reputation quite well through the network of spies and assassins that branched throughout the Three Kingdoms. But a woman was still a woman, even if they were vile. "It’s red. An expensive gift from one of the Ladies of Leisure. It’s hard to come by, but I am not much of a lipstick kind of man." There was a smirk that followed that statement before he turned away to head above deck and join everyone else.

Melarue was slightly confused; holding onto the small container and peering at the contents for a moment or two. Such a simple gesture. Red lipstick was, indeed, rare and mostly given to those of utmost importance in society. In some places, it was a defiant act against religion. Sheep fat, rose petals, crushed red roots. She used to own this exact shade back when she was someone important.

She placed a finger into it and rubbed, then turned back to the cloudy mirror to smudge the vibrant hue on her lips. Instantly, it felt like there was life on her face again. After closing and putting it away, she thought that she was well enough to appear with the others. It took her a few more moments to get up the stairs, though. Who’d have thought that she’d be insecure? her; the fucking Mage of War - a frightening woman whose name spanned across the Three Kingdoms. She had been at the precipice of her power, and now she was here - the nadir of it all. Nothing at all. Did anyone remember her? She laughed at herself; a small sound. Of course, they do - even if it was just in books or some tale made to haze new soldiers.

While Melarue worked her way up the steps, Megina burst past her to head right for the booze. She grabbed one of the barrels of ale, which was hardly alcohol, and hoisted it over a shoulder. The little thing was quite sturdy and strong. On the way, she managed to juggle enough mugs for the crew, and went right back up! She set the keg down, popped it open, and let the spirit fill one of the mugs till it was overflowing with rich frothy goodness. This was life.

She plopped her ass down, stretched her legs out, and kicked her head back to drown herself in drunken bliss. It’s been years. So many years.

For now, the woman didn’t care about the others around her. What were they going to do? No one actually knew her. Sure, she had a mouth on her that ran nonstop, but Megina knew her worth quite well. One day these suckers would need her, and she was so inclined to leave them hanging or forget about them.

She crossed her ankles and looked up at the sky for a moment, "And so, the ragtag group sets upon their voyage. Deadly assassins, a lovestruck captain, a court lady, two dwarves, a man with bad jokes, the infamous Mage of War that makes grown men piss their bloomers, and… that serious quiet guy. Their first destination - Xalterra."

Her gaze passes from one person to the other, chuckling as she does so, "A savage land. Lawless. No one to defend or save us from the beasts. If not the beasts, then the men. If not the men, then Xalterran terrain." Megina mused all of this thoughtfully, but not entirely to herself - it could be heard by anyone. It’d likely be dismissed as drunken babble, though.

Perhaps there were only a few here that have traversed the Dwarven kingdom, but just because it was easy to enter, did not mean it would be just as simple to survive. If Megina were honest with herself, she wouldn’t be in much of a hurry to help any one of these people out. Not even her fellow Dwarf. Normally, she might be more sympathetic to her own kind, but she’s learned that everyone needs to look out for themselves. This “mission” was laughable, and to think she’d take an actual part of it willingly would be crazy. She’d play along for now, as that would keep her alive.

Megina knew Xalterra well, so she’d find a way to escape her captors. It wouldn’t be hard. She still had connections in her smuggling business. These fools that surrounded her were not the only people that had something. She had been uneducated and illiterate all her life, but especially savvy. The last five years had left her a little jaded, but once she got back home and to her old life, she’d be fine.

Laou soon emerged to join the rest of the group, his figure appearing from Phaedra’s side seemingly out of nowhere. "Now that Megina has… blessed us with the alcohol, I suppose all that’s missing is a game to pass the time." He gave Phaedra a side glance but eventually moved past her a bit. His hands were clasped at the small of his back, and he paced a few times as someone like him was expected. "Two lies and a truth," he offered. Now that the game was made, he wondered what they could play for. While he’d love to see a couple of the ladies without their clothes, sex and nudity were juvenile. There was no point in gold when they were very likely to die at the end of this excursion. As if the king would let them go. As if they’d get near any king at all in any of the Three Kingdoms.

"It’s simple. You must tell two truths and one lie with the goal of the others to guess your lie is your truth. It’s a game of bluffing. Whoever guesses incorrectly must drink. In the case that no one guesses correctly, the challenger may pick the next player. If one should pick the lie, then that person gets to choose who goes next." With the short explanation out of the way, he sat himself down on the floor and grinned, "Either way, you must divulge the lie. In saying that, I suppose it is worth noting not to give too many of your secrets away. I’ll go first."

Megina did what she does best, and that is filling up mugs full to the brim with ale. She passed them out, but forgot about Aramis.Oops. She joined the circle. So did Melarue and Rendrik. Melarue naturally placed herself close to Bayard, even if he was not going to play. Her voice was still weak, so she’d need him. Besides, this sounded like a bit of fun. Why not scare a few more people while she was still alive?

"My younger sister saved my Queen from death. My father was a lowborn assassin and trained me in the art since I could hold a sword. My mother made dyes for profit to give to street gangs, and when she could no longer pay - she was taken to work off the debt. " His face was straight, and to him, either could be believable. Then again, he was working with a different set of people, not just the girls from the brothel.

Descendant Academy
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P E N E L O P E x C A G E

power girl xx outfit xx #b17e2f

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It was embarrassing, the way Will's kindness almost brought tears to Penny's eyes after the entire shebang that was the training session. Against her best attempts and desires, she was sore and bleeding, her clothes stained with blood that wasn't all hers. Just by looking at Zehara, it was pretty obvious that Penny hadn't pulled her due weight either, and they were all being so nice, not to point it out. As she trailed dejectedly after Will and Zehara, halfheartedly trying to help with any rogue guards that came their way, she wondered—not for the first time—if it would be better for her to leave. She wouldn't contribute anything, but at least she wouldn't drag them down.

The blood and snow vanished the moment Penny stepped back through the simulation door, but her exhaustion and nerves did not. Without bothering to say goodbye to anyone, she got onto the elevator, which whisked her back to her room in an instant. There was no point going to the infirmary. She couldn't spend another minute being around the others, knowing that they had put in the effort, knowing that they had failed the training session.

Time passed oddly for Penny then, in a sort of slowed down manner, as if time had suddenly grown viscous and she had to struggle to move through it. She managed enough to peel off her clothes and get into the shower, letting the hot water beat down on her aching back until the flow turned tepid. She'd forgotten her towel, so she simply shuffled back into the room, water dripping off her bare skin onto the floor, and pulled a set of clothes from the top of her as-yet-unpacked suitcase, got dressed, and fell facefirst onto the bed. Her head had barely touched the pillow before she was asleep, snuffling miserably into the clean sheets.

Penny could not have said how long she was asleep before J.A.R.V.I.S.'s voice woke her. He had been kind enough to dim the lights while she slept, but now her presence was requested downstairs for a debriefing, and to encourage Penny to get up the lights were now turned up as bright as they could possibly go. Allowing herself one miserable groan, Penny pushed herself upright, and almost immediately blood thundered through her head, signalling a migraine.

"Come on, Penny," she mumbled to herself. Her hair was still kind of damp, and she ran her hands through it in an attempt to at least smooth some of it out. The wet outline of her body was clearly visible on the bed, but that would dry itself.

The way down to the lobby was surprisingly lonely; not a common occurrence in a building crawling with heroes. Even back in her training days Penny had found herself hard-pressed to have a moment to herself once she left the solitude of her room. Aside from the mentors, only two people were in the lobby when she entered, Will—those shoulders were unmistakable—and a stranger. Probably more heroes arriving from across the country. Penny couldn't bear the thought of being around others at the moment (not to mention her head was beginning to pound in earnest) so she walked as quietly as she could, almost tiptoeing, to the other end of the room, where she settled into a lone folding chair tucked into a corner, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arm around her legs.






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T H E O x G R A Y S O N

nightstar xx outfit xx #13315c

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The snow got deeper and heavier as Theo moved towards the edge of the facility and into the woods, and it took all of Theo's remaining energy and focus to keep moving through it. Whatever frost clinging to his clothes all melted away the moment he stepped back into the training room, and only then did he look up from his feet at the other heroes returning from the simulation, scanning the room for Josiah. His suit would have been obvious enough, and its absence was equally as obvious. Probably he'd zipped back to his own room. Theo frowned to himself. So much for teamwork; he'd barely gotten to know the guy. "Good effort, team," he mumbled at no one in particular, slipping into the elevator and up to his room once he was certain that nobody needed his help.

Theo didn't sleep then, but he didn't spend time socialising either, unlike the others. After the training simulation, it was clear to him that he would probably have to rely more on himself to find Jason. The others might have intel and resources, but as far as teamwork and capability went, they were more of a liability. After a steaming shower, Theo parked himself at his desk and began setting up the computer equipment that he'd brought with him, the bulk of it an extension of the command centre he had at home. With J.A.R.V.I.S.'s help, he was soon plugged into the requisite information networks, programmes running in the background to pick up whatever intel might be helpful. Only when it was all done did Theo figure he could afford twenty minutes to himself for a short nap. Tucking a pillow under his head, he rested where he sat at the desk, the monitor blinking and beeping just inches from his closed eyes. Helpfully, J.A.R.V.I.S. dimmed the lights, letting him rest.

He was more exhausted than he'd realised. Way more than twenty minutes had passed when the AI spoke up to announce the debriefing, jolting him awake. "Oh god. Uh—yeah. Okay. Thanks." Theo rubbed the small of his back where he'd slammed it into the chair when he rocketed upright, sighing. He knew how these debriefings went, and as much respect as he had for the mentors, he was not looking forward to them.

Just to wake himself up and prepare mentally, Theo opted to jog down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, slinging his jacket around his shoulders as he pushed through the doors at the bottom, emerging just as James and Aria passed him. Theo wasn't the most perceptive guy, but it seemed that a vibe of awkwardness was emanating off them, so he opted to stay quiet, figuring he could say hi later. Not too picky about who he ended up beside, Theo perched himself on the back of William's sofa, giving Alfred a two-finger wave which the older man acknowledged with a look and a small nod.

Dogs in God's Vineyard
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Anna ran without the slightest pause at Margaret's call, scowling as she quickly caught the scent of rot before anything else.

"Goddammit." She couldn't help but curse again, gripping tighter still at her revolver in a vain attempt to steady her trembling fury. "Goddammit."

Charles followed soon after, only to jerk to a halt with a muttered swear of his own. For all that he had seen of mangled corpses before, more than he could ever count, his stomach roiling as his gaze lingering on the girl's body. Bowing his head, he mumbled a prayer, difficult that it was to muster words.

Anna said nothing further for a long moment, glaring at the corpses, forcing sharp breaths in and out through gritted teeth. Eventually, she spoke up. "Leave them be. We need to keep moving. The heretics can't have gotten far. There has to be a path they took." She ordered, quickly looking further about the room, all the more furiously searching for a hint of a trail.

Adventurer's Guild HQ
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Wasteland
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xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxLocation: Fatherxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Speaking: #919191 | Thought: #D8BFD8





Content Warning: Very bad death


Their pitiful world wasn't afford the luxury of rest. The desert had neither soft beds nor firm mattresses. The only comfort offered was the sleeping bag sent by a sponsor and sand that could be sifted through to dig something like a hole. There Jax lay, on top of the sponsored bag, the inside of it far too hot for the comfort of the snow leopard. He stirred in his sleep, his eyes scrunching, his ears twitching at sounds only he could hear.

"I'm sorry," Thorne's hands trembled. She was smiling, despite the tearful expression she wore, signifying she was anything but happy. "I can't do this anymore," her bloodied hands reached behind her, ripping at her wings, a bone-chilling scream coming from somewhere in her throat.

Jax bolted upright from his makeshift bed, looking around the darkened camp frantically, his tail thumping against the ground in agitation. The fire he had built yesterday was all but a memory, the kindling having been stomped out by an impatient boot. His eyes surveyed the dead lands and crumbled building, trying to spot his partner.

Where was Thorne?

"Thorne!" A stream of curse words played in his mind. Thorne was only supposed to take half of the watch, she was supposed to wake him so that he could take over and she could get some rest. "Thorne!" The early morning air was still tinted with darkness. Despite the slow rise of the sun, there was nothing gentle in its warm gaze. Its red haze cast a harsh light against the dead earth.

"Thorne!" Jax called again, his heart had begun to pick up in his chest, painting his features with a certain franticness. All of the butterfly's belongings were still at their camp, her hover bike still parked right beside his. She had neither of her guns, which rest beside her empty sleeping bag, nor her water bottle, emblazoned with her name and two sponsors on the side.

"Where are you!" Jax left the camp behind, sprinting across the dry, cracked ground. A little bit farther, the ground dropped off entirely, leading downwards into a ravine.

"No," Jax breathed, swallowing hard. Thorne had wings, two large ones that decorated her back. If she fell, she could just fly upwards... right? Surely, the butterfly would not have made such a careless mistake.

"Thorne!" Jax called, his throat constricting with desperation. He swallowed hard, but there came no reply. Jax knelt down, looking over the side of the drop off. It was at least fifty feet to the ground below.

And laying at the bottom was an unmoving form, a group of carnivorous birds already circling the carcass.

Jax backpaddled away from the ledge, his tail dragging in the dirt. He turned over quickly onto his elbows and knees, gagging; the image of Thorne's unmoving burned behind his eyes. He remained there, unmoving, while the sun continued its ascent upwards.

Was it an accident? Jax couldn't help but wonder, eventually he moved to rise slowly to his feet. The leopard dragged his legs, making his way back to the camp where his belongings remained. Had Thorne jumped on purpose? A part of him wondered, heart thumping in his chest. She had seemed fine earlier, hopeful even.

Jax bat the hover cam away like an annoying fly, attempting to gather his spinning mind, which looped through his thoughts in a confused circle.

"Jax?" A voice drew him out of his head. His ears snapped up, his vision slightly blurry. It took a moment for his eyes to focus on the figure standing only a few feet before him.

"Thorne?" Jax stumbled, running towards her. He grabbed her shoulders, spinning her around, checking that she was whole, that she was real and most importantly: alive. "Don't do that!" Jax pulled her close to him, squeezing her tightly. Thank the stars, he had not lost her.

"What's wrong? What's got you so shaken up?"

"I thought- no, never mind what I thought. The important part is that you're alive. Where were you? Why didn't you answer when I called for you?"

"I was-" Thorne blushed and looked away. Jax stepped back, there was no need for her to finish that sentence. "Oh," his ears twitched. "Why didn't you wake me?"

"You spent so long trying to keep Ten alive, I thought you probably needed the rest." Thorne admitted, looking away. The mention of Ten was enough to make her tear up. Thorne shook her head, attempting to keep her sadness at bay. "I couldn't sleep anyway, so it's fine. I'll just sleep once we get to the next camp." Jax nodded, his heart was beginning to slow in his rib cage. "Hey," Thorne took a step back, releasing his hand from her own, "We should pack up, alright?" She tilted her head to the side, her hair spilling over one shoulder. The morning light had captured her features in its grace.

"Yeah... yeah, let's just shove everything into the bags and head out."

"Ah, I can't wait to shower! I smell so bad!" Thorne skipped while complaining loudly. Jax laughed, his relief palpable. They packed up their camp and strapped their supplies down, consulting their map again once before driving back onto the path and towards the second camp, the sunlight illuminating their backs.

Genesis
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The Royal Gardens
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a haunted memory
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► Kako Hattori & Sayaka, #915f6d


The lights were off by the time Kako had returned to Chiyo's dorm. Her bright blue eyes already adjusted to the darkness, scanned the room, over tucked in and sleeping bodies, then settled on Sayaka, still bundled and wrapped up.

With cold drink cans scooped in her arms, she sauntered over to the tent to drop them quietly. Chiyo was still nowhere to be found, so she pulled out her phone. Her eyes squinted for her last text message received from Juby. No updates. Bummer.

She turned around to recheck Sayaka, who was still not asleep like the rest. Taking up unwanted space on Chiyo's bed, Kako decided to move her. It was a clumsy effort as Kako attempted to grab the burrito roll upside down by the legs, and Sayaka's head hit the floor.

"Sorry," Kako muttered sheepishly, looking down at Sayaka. "I normally only move the dead," she shared, referring to her vampire hunts. Sayaka groaned in displeasure.

"That's great," she snarked. The burrito wriggled in frustration. "Because I am dead. Socially deceased. Just push a pillow over my face and finish the job."

Kako squeezed the roll to avoid another mishap. “That’s new.” She looked up at the ceiling, briefly considering it. She wasn’t a human hunter, though. With a shrug, Kako laid Sayaka flat on the ground and proceeded to drag her into the fort.

In the pitch black darkness, the sound of aluminum knocking against each other was followed by phone tapping. Kako's face then the tent lit up from the phone screen's brightness once she found the flashlight icon. Setting her phone aside, she cracked open a can about to glug it down but paused. "You like Calpis?" she asked Sayaka, holding the cold beverage closer to her face for her to see.

"It's not my favourite," Sayaka sniffed. She eyed the drink, her lips twisting to the side as she chewed on the unsavoury words that tried to follow, and relented, "But I'll have some." This was all very… suspicious.

"Tell me why you have it out for Chiyo, and I'll give you some." Kako got straight to the point and then rubbed cold can against Sayaka's heated up cheek. "Come on, while it's nice and cool.~"

Sayaka lifted a brow. She didn't have to be bribed to get into this.

"She's annoying." She began, and proceeded to list off without even blinking, "She cries easy. Her laugh is stupid. She keeps me up at night with her dumb bear. She's fifteen and acts like she's eleven. She thinks monsters are real and makes it my problem. She’s friends with LaYla YArA. She screams at everything. She acts cute but it's all fake. She-"

Kako took a quick sip for every reason. "So?" she cut in, shaking the can up to her ear to listen check how much was left. "I don't get it," she admitted with a blank stare. Sayaka's nose crinkled.

"Then you've never had a little sister," she retorted.

Kako's eyes widened, then she placed one can on Sayaka's stomach. "You got me there. What's yours like?"

Her lips curled with absolute displeasure. "Disgustingly Chiyo-like."

"They're different people, aren't they?" Kako mumbled, sitting cross-legged and leaving the can she drank from in the middle. "If you dislike having a little sister, why count another, y'know?" she asked, puzzled, resting her cheek in her hand.

Sayaka wormed an arm out of her cocoon and scooped up the Calpis into her dark abode. She squirmed to her feet and opened the can with a sharp hiss. "If you don't get it now," she snapped, "Then you won't get it. Ever." She jumped in her sack towards her own bed, her carbonated beverage acquired and patience worn through.

Kako reached out, flexing her fingers but ultimately let Sayaka go. "Drat, I overestimated the fort's comfort to contain her..."

The Tower
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Therion
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【ɗιαƖσgυє cσƖσя:#483d8b ♙ тнσυgнт cσƖσя #9b0044


The small workshop creation began to rouse, scratching around her ears doing exactly what he had hoped it would. “Moon can do it!” Sibylle gave Therion the same look she always did, stood up, then began to exchange hostile looks with the remaining teams.

Theri’s hand withdrew from the cat’s head and clapped against the other; his feet smoothly turned on his heels until he could scan the crowd. “Great! So we’re all set to win the crown game.” His eyes continued to briefly take note of every face in the room, until his gaze settled on Li-Seo. “Good for us, eh?”

“Hey, I got it working!” The bell that started the next round let out its shrill ring. Without hesitation, the first cell door sprang open as an identical trio emerged, their entire bodies wrapped in white bandages. A single member of the trio wore a crimson red robe, his blue eyes peeking out from beneath the bandages; it was his voice that addressed Artellis.

“Have you considered joining Veindall?” The crimson-robed figure stared straight at the leader of the team. The two that were with him moved in perfect sync, slowly taking up positions on either side of Sybil. “You’re well-suited for it.”

Greythorne
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PHOENIX WOODS
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outfit : herex|xhex: #c4a7be
xxxi know the world's a broken bone
xxxbut melt your headaches, call it home
xxxhey moon, please forget to fall down
xxxhey moon, don't you go down

xxx
xxx
Even though Phoenix knew that Zoe and Alex were related, it was moments like this where he struggled to believe it. He’d spent most of his life being the one to do most of the talking in conversations, and he’d always been perfectly fine with that. He was used to filling up the empty spaces. But with Zoe, there were no empty spaces to fill. He wasn’t sure if it was nerves or if this was just how she was all the time, but he could hardly get a word in edgeways. It was strange, but he couldn’t say that he minded. Her enthusiasm and cheerfulness was infectious, and so he found himself nodding and smiling as she spoke. At the mention of Alex, Phoenix deliberately glanced over to where he was talking to Rosie. Neden had an expression on their face somewhat reminiscent of thunder. Phoenix had to bite back a laugh at that expression, turning to look back at Zoe. That was an expression he knew all too well. For years, he’d thought that it was just Alex being his usual grumpy self. Now, he could read it as something different.

“You’d be surprised. Nothing gets the people of Greythorne out like the promise of free food and drinks,” Phoenix said. As if summoned by the mere mention of free refreshments, Alex appeared from nowhere, his arm already going around Phoenix’s waist. The smile that came to Phoenix’s face was easy and relaxed, kissing the top of Alex’s head without even thinking about it. When Zoe commented on how cute they were, he just shrugged a little and laughed. At the mention of pictures and at Jaiden’s arrival, he was struck with an idea. “Hold on.” He fished out his phone and opened up the camera. “Everybody smile!” He called, snapping a few selfies before grinning in triumph and shoving his phone back into his pocket.

“Want to grab some drinks?” Phoenix said to Alex, a knowing glimmer in his eyes. Zoe and Jaiden needed some one on one conversation time, and he knew that Alex knew it too. “Enjoy!” He called to the two women.



ROSIE THOMPSON
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outfit : herex|xhex: #cc0460
xxxyou will remember
xxxwhen this is blown over
xxxand everything's all by the way
xxxwhen I grow older
Rosie grinned and shook her head a little as Alex made a joke about his sleeping patterns. She’d always let him sleep through her homeroom and had only ever made passing jokes about it, never actually writing him up for it. But she wasn’t beyond teasing him about it now. Before she could, however, Neden interjected and said they needed to borrow Rosie. Rosie raised an eyebrow, letting them take her wrist and pull her away. Alex’s parting remark made her laugh a little. She almost missed Neden’s comment about what exactly they wanted her for, but when she realised, she found herself a little taken aback.

Once they got to what could feasibly be called a dancefloor, Neden took Rosie’s glass from her hand. Truth be told, she’d almost forgotten she’d been holding it, and as Neden once again asked her for a dance, she suddenly wished that the angel hadn’t put the glass quite so far away. Rosie suddenly felt like she needed to down the rest of the glass to soothe the bubbling nerves in her stomach. She couldn’t quite explain it, and she didn’t want to in that moment either. Instead, she returned Neden’s bow with a curtsey. “I shall hold you to that,” she said, stepping in to take Neden’s hand.

Something about dancing with Neden felt oddly right. With Rosie in heels, they were almost the same height. The steps were slow at first as they got used to being in hold and to the beat of the music. Sure enough, Neden was a wonderful dancer. Rosie hadn’t danced properly in years, but with Neden, it all seemed to just come flooding back. They didn’t have to speak. They could just stay perfectly in sync and in time with the music.

But at the same time, Rosie found it almost unbearable. She hadn’t been this close to somebody for this long since… well. For a little while. It felt all at once like it was lightyears ago and also no time at all. It felt too long and too soon all at once. It shouldn’t have mattered. Neden was a friend. Her best friend. That was all they had ever been. And yet a part of Rosie ached. Ached with some emotion too dangerous to put into words. Maybe it would have been easier if she had known how to put it into words. But she couldn’t name what she was feeling, let alone speak it aloud.

She was glad when the song came to an end. Letting go of Neden and taking a step back was more difficult than it should have been, but she did it anyway. “I think I need a drink after that,” she laughed lightly, a cover for an opportunity to step away and recover a little more than anything else. “I’ll grab you one too,” she said.

She had just taken another step away from Neden when the smell of ozone began to fill the air. She turned to look back at the angel, knowing that was unlikely to be good. But before she could ask any questions, the glass in the nearby windows shattered behind them. For a moment, the whole room was plunged into darkness, and when the lights flickered back on, a woman stood in the centre of the dancefloor. Rosie had never seen her before, but everything about her screamed danger. There was a violence about her, even as she stood perfectly still, just surveying all of those gathered. The silence that fell was heavy. And so Rosie took it upon herself to break it.

“Who are you?” She asked. The woman raised an eyebrow, studying her.
“You are not the one I wish to speak with, Siren.” She said, her voice echoing far more than it should have done in the packed room.
“Tough. I’m the one in charge here. Who are you?” Rosie repeated, taking a step forward. The woman laughed.
“You know, Siren, once upon a time, men said that our kinds were one and the same. Can we still call each other sisters? Will you stand against me?” She asked. Rosie swallowed, but raised her chin slightly.
“Your refusal to identify yourself makes me think that you are not the type I wish to ally myself with,” Rosie replied. “Tell me who you are.”
“I am Seterah. And I have come to seek justice for what I am owed.”

New kid
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"Gee, it sure is booooring 'round here," Iggy moans, walking rather unsteadily like a drunkard. The thin young man kicks a rock as he wanders aimlessly. His hair a mess, his fine gray dress shirt's wrinkled right sleeve torn off, his gaudy tie now dirty and torn, his dress shoes caked with mud, his pants haphazardly patched at the knees. He's been here a while now, though he's kind of given up on keeping track of time.

"How did I even get here again, I don't even..." he pauses and narrows his eyes which glow with a greenish color. He rather animatedly shrugs and slaps his hands over his head giving a toothy grin, his nails sharpening into claws and his voice warps slightly. "Oh riiiiiiight... because I'm the moron that doesn't read the fine print~!"

From his mess of hair an ear perks up, he hears something. He composes himself, his hair and eyes change back to normal and he spins around and... smacks his face into a tree branch, falling onto the ground in a heap.

"Owwwww..." he groans, holding his nose. A brilliant idea comes to his mind, he kicks about getting leaves stuck to himself and then lays out into a dramatic pose and plays dead like a possum.

Rhindeval
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liliya fae.
dialogue ; #f6a3b1. – thought ; #82ab9f.
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Content Warning.

The first sight she'd been greeted with once she arrived back to her apartment was Galen laying out on the couch in her living room, lazily scrolling through his phone and long since changed and undone out of his costume from the fair. By all means, the moment he looked up at her when he realized she was there, his expression twisted into one of irritation, frustration, seemingly not noticing the emotional state she was in, or didn't care enough to acknowledge it. Instead, a long sigh, standing up from the couch and making his way over to her.

"The hell happened to you? Look at your dress, it's filthy." His hand moves down to tug at the skirt of the dress, pulling it up slightly as if the show off the stain of dirt over the green fabric. She stared for a moment, just long enough that it finally got him to let go and walk away, towards the bedroom. She followed quietly, energy to even try and speak zapped, gone after all the revelations from Lilith. She couldn't even tell Galen about it, as if he'd believe her. He was already in a sour mood, clearly, and she wasn't keen on making it worse.

Why was he mad anyway, though? Sure, she was later than expected, but it wasn't that bad. Rather, she would have expected him to try and offer some sort of comfort at the sight of her, at the state she was in, but instead he's lazily dropping onto the queen bed in her bedroom, staring at his phone still as she makes way for the bathroom, a single glance back to where his back is turned to her, unacknowledging. Her lips purse at that, and she quietly shuts the door. The shower is her destination, and as she finally gets the dress off and lets it drop into a dirty heap on the floor, the water is turned on. Just a few moments until it heats up, and then she's in, letting the water wash over her body and get rid of the grime and exhaustion, at least a little bit.

It felt odd, the way her mind was beginning to just go numb. She wasn't quite used to this feeling, the loss of energy, but not from using it on work or something fun; rather, it was from raging emotions and thoughts, from the revelation of the century in her memories, the way a sense of despair clung to her, refused to let go. Suddenly, she realizes she feels entirely too alone. No one to turn to, no one to lean on. No one would believe her, would they? And the other girls, Lilith...somehow, she felt as if she couldn't even reach out to them. Isolated, or at least that's how her mind wanted her to feel, and she fed into it, believed it.

Eventually she feels washed enough, relaxed enough, and the water is off, steam rising into the air and to the ceiling, escaping through the fan that she'd almost forgotten to turn on. It's a towel that she wraps around herself, wringing out her hair and brushing it out so that at least it wasn't sopping, brushing it out a moment later and ignoring the small spray of droplets it left behind over the countertop. Numb, empty, tired. Or maybe her mind was just still trying to process things, stuck in a standstill over such unbelievable fantasy memories she has bouncing around her head now. It was impossible, but at the same time she knew they were all real.

She doesn't even notice Galen as she steps out of the bathroom, who sits up in bed now with his arms crossed, silently watching her as she crosses the room to her closet and dresser, tries to find something comfortable and warm to wear and soothe her to sleep. In the end it's just a pair of shorts, an oversized hoodie that she dons, and she moves to sit on the opposite side of the bed to her boyfriend, laying on her side and not even caring enough to get under the covers despite the chill of wet hair. She would in a moment, but this felt good enough for now.

Quiet settles in for a bit before she feels the bed shift under weight before the shadow of Galen looms over her, and then lowering closer, until his hand is wrapping around her waist, and a kiss is pressed into her neck. Soft and gentle, and initially she thinks he's finally trying to offer some sort of comfort, but maybe she should have known better. His hand moves down further, until it's pulling up her shirt, reaching under as he tries to shift her further back onto the bed, tries to get better access to her.

"Gale, no..." Is all she mutters at first, hand moving to gently press against his hand, "I'm not up for that tonight, please. I just wanna sleep."

It certainly doesn't stop him, though, not as he shrugs off the hand and pulls her back onto the bed, flat onto her back as he starts to pull off his shirt, a grumbled, "you said you would, are you seriously going to backtrack that now?" and she goes wide eyed for a moment. He wasn't going to listen? What was he even thinking, acting like this? She'd said no so he should-

He's half laying down on top of her now, still searching her neck before she manages another weak, "stop it, Gale," yet he doesn't, still feels around, still puts his unbearable weight over her as if to trap her and then-

It's a shocked yelp that leaves her lips as his teeth dig into her neck, not hard enough to break the skin or draw blood, but it may as well have. It sends a shock through her body, and her eyes finally prick with tears again before she lets out a small sniffle, and then finally, her hands place themselves onto his chest, and she shoves.

"I said no, Galen! Get off of me!"

Perhaps she shoves a bit too hard, more strength behind the push than she was expecting, because right as her words leave her mouth, she hears a thud, sees him sprawled over the floor on the side of the bed, and her eyes go wide at the sight. Panic springs in her chest, more so as he turns back around, and the slightest trickle of blood seeps from his nose. Had he really hit the ground that hard? Or maybe it was just an unlucky enough landing?

"A-ah- oh- I'm so sorry- I didn't mean to-"

"...The hell...?" Is all that leaves him for a bit, and she winces, whimpers away from the dark tone it holds, "are you fucking kidding me...?" Amber eyes move to look up at her then, and his brows furrow down further, rage clearly taking its hold as he stands, uses a hand to gingerly wipe some of the blood away, and then stares at it. Stares for far too long, as his expression shifts further and further, until suddenly he raises his hand, extended out and she's almost tensing up to be slapped, eyes going wide in shock as it descends, strikes her across the face sharper than she could have ever believed. As if she could even believe the fact that he had hit her at all.

They hadn't even been dating for that long; had she been so blinded and desperate for another relationship after how the other one had ended that she'd entirely missed a red flag like this?

Her breathing picks up in pace a bit, something of a hyperventilation as she tries to process what just happened, the fact that her face still stung and her neck was burning. Suddenly, everything about the one standing in front of her is terrifying, and she can't make herself look up, can't bring her eyes to connect with his as he seethes down at her, though she catches the slightest glimpse of a sneer, and she locks up again.

"I should have listened when they told me you were more trouble than you were worth," he hisses, leaning in closer as she flinches back, trembles slightly over the situation, the reveal of his true nature so soon, the fact that she felt trapped, like she couldn't run for her life as she should be now. Couldn't move, she couldn't- "it hasn't even been that long, and I've already had enough of your bullshit. Why won't you just do as I say? Listen? My ex always did, why won't you?" Her hands move up her head, hiding beneath them ever so slightly as she tries to shrink in on herself, "you're such a bitch, how could anyone put up with you any longer than I have? Ha! There's absolutely no way anyone else could!" That anger again, and she sees his hand raise once more out of the corner of her eye. They go wide again before she shrinks, cowers away and shields herself. Yet, rather than a slap, she hears the heavy footsteps, someone intercepting, and then silence, perhaps shocked.

When she opens her eyes again, it's Mathias who stands in front of her, gloved hand wrapped tightly around the wrist, while blue eyes pierce into those of Galen, who has considerably paled in comparison to before, his sneer turned into one of panic and terror at the sight of the man in front of him. The same panic that pulls him into some sort of state, one that leaves him stumbling and stammering for words, and suddenly he's not so terrifying anymore.

"A-ah- woah, wait- it's not what it looks like, I-I can explain!" Comes his lame excuse of a way to get out of the trouble he'd caused himself. Yet his pleas are met with a look of such malice from Mathias, that silently Liliya wonders if he'll kill Galen right then and there. "Oh no, no no, I think it's exactly what it looks like, Galen," The venom that drips from his tongue fills the room in an instant, and Galen stops breathing...until a sickening crack makes its way into the silence, and he falls to his knees in agony before his wrist is released. Broken.

He's letting out cries of pain for awhile, though neither her nor Mathias move as they watch him. Her, in shock, Mathias, detached and cold. "If you know what's best for you and your life, I'd suggest running away now." Comes his sharp hiss, and Galen's amber eyes are up on him, nothing but fear, horror, before he's running out of the apartment, the door swung open and slammed shut behind him as he does. Silence, again, until she feels the tears burn her eyes once more, and finally she lets herself break down, sobs wracking through her body as her brother turns towards her, expression softening swiftly before she's wrapped in a hug, tight and secure. "Oh my god, Lily...I'm so sorry...I should have come sooner."

His comforts are offered for several hours as they sit together, as she tries to stop the flow of emotions that come so swiftly and won't stop, and he simply nods along, hums occasionally to let her know he's still listening as she stumbles through her words, tries to explain, tries to even make sense of anything.

Of anything, when nothing made sense at all, and she felt like she was dying, drowning.

She can't quite will herself to speak about the memories, instead drowning them out with other words, but eventually she wears herself out enough to sleep, and crashes in the bed. It's Mathias that treats the new bruise and bite, tries to relieve some of the pain and get rid of the worst of the swelling, and she's silently thankful for his help when she hardly has the will to do it herself. It's considerably better by the time she looks at the clock, by the time she realizes that she still needed to meet up with those other girls and Lilith, even when she didn't have the energy to do so now. Why couldn't she have had a couple days to rest? To try and process everything?

Shove them down, she supposes, because whatever her English professor - or, the sorceress - had wanted to show them, she didn't want to miss. Maybe it would help settle worries, stress, concerns. Just a little bit, to take some of the weight off her shoulders.

Mathias doesn't seem thrilled when she says she needs to go out for the day. It's furrowed brows, worry and concern seeping into the expression deeply as she shows herself in the lazy outfit that covers the mark on her neck at least. The one on her face is covered with makeup as best she can, and frankly, the rest of her makeup job is shoddy and miserable at best. Did she particularly care? No, it was just to cover up puffy eyes, a bruise, and exhaustion.

"You should really stay home and rest. Is there something you need picked up? Or dropped off? I can do it for you, you know. Why don't you just go back to bed? I was just about to start making lunch, too." All manners of coaxing, but she just shakes her head, looks towards the door again, "I won't be long, I just needed to stop somewhere quick. I'll be back in a couple hours at most." Another frown from him, his arms crossing, before a huff leaves him. In the end, he lets her go, perhaps not up to the idea of accidentally causing her more stress that way. "Just call me if you need something, okay?"

Out the door she goes, into the clear, sunny day, and she wanders down the street at a dragging pace, only half paying attention to where she's going as she walks. In and out of her mind, in and out of reality. It's hard to stay in reality, but she does her best. And fails miserably, given she almost doesn't realize she's made it to Lilith's home until an unsure voice calls out to her from her side. Her eyes snap over to the figure of Eloise- Euphemia, shortly after, and she stares for a moment before relaxing again, her shoulders drooping forward as her hand moves up to rub at her eyes. "Mm...sorry, I wasn't...I wasn't paying attention. Hi, Elo...Euphemia..." The older woman flinches slightly as she calls the latter name, and Liliya wonders if that was the wrong choice, elects to not use it again in the future.

Silence falls for a bit, and quietly she thinks of her appearance, grimacing slightly to herself before shifting awkwardly, looking away, but the black haired girl is approaching her soon after, and before she can even process what she's doing, a gentle hand cups her face, luckily not on the side of the bruise, while the other moves up to carefully wipe away around her eyes. She blinks once, tries to figure out the reason, but then gives up and averts her gaze again, a weak, "I probably look gross, don't I?" leaving her.

Eloise's sarcastic snort almost makes her flinch back, and her words enter her ears and sit for a bit as she speaks. Acknowledging that she didn't look great, but offering the fact that Eloise herself didn't look all too nice either. It was a little comforting, knowing she wasn't the only one struggling, in pain.

It's awkwardly exchanged words before they finally make their way up to the steps, and she can't help but fall into a daze again as they do, staring at the wooden object as Eloise knocks, and then it's just a waiting game.

The Inn
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It had hardly been half a day since John had returned to the city. After what he heard happened to his family all he could do as he walked around the city was look over his shoulder and attempt to stay away from the guards. The armor and cloak he wore would allow him to avoid showing everyone exactly who he was but it wouldn’t keep him safe if they found out. His uncle was the leader of the resistance and it was very recently that him, along with the rest of John’s family were slaughtered by the queen’s men. From the sound of it his uncle had found a way to kill the current tyrannical queen however the Adavahr family paid a horrendous price. From everything he could find out he was the last survivor of the Adavahr name. He wondered what he should do now.

As he used stealth to get around the city, he looked around for any large groupings of guards that would cause him too much trouble. John could take a couple guards but if they called for backup he would be overwhelmed quickly. In truth he wasn’t even sure the guards knew to look for him, but it was better for him to be careful then locked up or worse. He looked down at his sword at his waist,
“I’ll die before I let them take me.” He said resolutely.
He wondered what to do next. As John continued down the street past the main plaza in the center of town he looked over his shoulder one last time to make sure he wasn’t being followed. To the best of his knowledge there was no one there. About twenty feet in front of him was an inn he had known since he was little. John debated whether it was a good idea to go in or if it would be too dangerous. It was beginning to turn dark out, and the tavern part was getting livelier. Due to how tired he was getting he shrugged off his suspicion. As he opened the large wooden door of the inn with a loud creak he could hear boisterous laughter of the patrons. He almost thought his entrance into the inn would make more of a commotion, but his fears were unfounded. He took a quick glance around the tavern and conveniently the front desk was near the door. He walked over to the innkeeper which was clearly preoccupied thumbing through a large leather-bound book. The man was a bit large with unkempt hair and a small pencil goatee. John cleared his throat to get the man’s attention.

“Ah-hmm.” John said as to get the man’s attention.
“Yes?” The man said without even looking up from the book.
“I’d like a room for the night.” He said putting ten gold coins on the table.
Without looking up the innkeeper took the coins and put them in a pouch behind the counter.
“Name?” He said.
Luckily, he had thought of a name to use before he attempted this transaction.
“John Lightheart.” He said without hesitation.
The innkeeper wrote something in his book and handed the knight a key.
“Room 13, up the stairs to the right. It’ll be on your left,” He said, finally looking at John.
John took the key and went straight to his room. He wasn’t sure if the innkeeper knew who he was but there wasn’t much he could do about it, he couldn’t go back home now. His house was still in tatters and his father’s blood still lay on the floor. He opened the door to room 13 and walked over to the oil lamp on the table. John lit the lamp and set it down, then went back to the door. He shut and locked the old wooden door, took his pack from over his shoulder and set it on the floor. John took off his sword belt and placed it in arms reach of the bed. He was so tired, and he would have a very dangerous thing he had to do tomorrow. As soon as his body hit the bed he passed out, not even caring enough to take his armor off.

Short Stories From the Abyss
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Undercity, Titan's Fall, Texas, U.S.A - Early Morning, On A Weekday

His lungs burned in his chest, pounding footsteps echoing off the rusted metal street of Iron Town. How long had he been running? Was he still being chased? He turned his head to look, and immediately regretted it. His chin hit the ground hard, the coppery taste of blood filling his mouth as the metal plating shifted beneath him. He scrambled forward, a whimper in his throat as the old metal folded on itself and slammed down where his legs had been an instant before. He tried to get to his feet, once, twice, three times, panic and fatigue making it difficult to find his sense of balance, draining the strength out from underneath him.

The clanking of footsteps sounded behind him. He whirled around, scrambling backward as he drank in the sight of his assailant. A man clad in metal armor, all oxidized greens and rusted reds, face invisible behind a mask of old, twisted metal. Wrought Iron, vigilante, Rogue, master and defender of Iron Town. Come to claim him.

"Disgusting vermin." The vigilante's voice was deep as the earth, mechanically distorted, and seething with rage. "Infesting my city." He rolled sideways, narrowly avoiding being skewered on a steel pipe. Wrought Iron continued advancing toward him, the rogue's footsteps heavy and unwavering. "Polluting it with your poison."

Metal filled the air, sharp, jagged, hungry for blood. He found his feet at last, and wasted nothing on hesitation, turning and running, desperate to escape his imminent demise. He ducked and weaved, each projectile avoided by the thinnest of hairs yet getting closer each time. He gasped air in greedily, his face soaked in sweat and maybe something else. He wouldn't die like this, not yet, not when he was so close-

His thoughts cut off as he slammed into a rusted metal wall. He cast his gaze around desperately for escape, none presenting itself. He spun on his heel, facing his attacker, hands pressed flat against the barrier. He was trapped, Wrought Iron's pursuit unflinching and inescapable. His every effort had been for nothing.

"Please- please!" he started, shame and terror burning behind his eyes. "I just- I am so close, I just need a little more and then-"

"Silence."

A yelp escaped his throat as a javelin of twisted metal slammed into the wall next to him, carving a line into the side of his face. Blood welled up, thick and hot, dribbling down his cheek and neck.

"Pathetic," Wrought Iron continued, coming closer. The armor on one arm lengthened and sharpened, forming a wicked, punching blade. "Selfish. Like all your ilk. After all the misery you people inflict on others for your own greed, you have the gall to beg for mercy? Ending you will be a pleasure."

He shut his eyes tight as Wrought iron drew back his arm, blade glinting in the neon lights off the street. This was it, with nothing to show. He only wished-

"Scuse me."

Wrought Iron"s blade halted, its corkscrew point barely a centimeter from its mark. "What?"

"Jeffrey Dahl?"

"What?" Wrought Iron repeated, an edge of confusion seeping into his mechanized voice.

"I'm looking for Jeffrey Dahl."

Wrought Iron's arm lowered slightly, and he used the opportunity to peek his head around the metal facade of the Rogue. Standing at the end of the alley was a woman in a clean 3-piece suit, seeming deeply out of place in the dirty labyrinth of the undercity. If gods existed, he would've kissed one.

"I'm Jeffrey Dahl!" he called out, trying to lean over so she could see him.

"No you're not." Wrought Iron growled, forcing him back against the wall.

"Yes- Yes I am! That's my name!" Jeffrey stammered. This was his only chance! If he could just buy this one opportunity to get away-

"Then they'll know what to put on the headstone." Wrought Iron pulled his arm back again, and any hope Jeffrey still had drained in an instant. The blade plunged forward, Jeffrey's eyes squeezed shut, and then-

Nothing. Several long seconds passed before he worked up the nerve to blink one eye open, then both shot wide when he registered what he saw. The woman stood beside him, Wrought Iron's bare fist pressed against the palm of her hand. The armor which had covered the vigilante's arm had been ripped to pieces by some unknown force and lay scattered across the alley, and while Jeffrey couldn't see his face, he could feel the incredible animosity radiating toward his savior.

"Jeffrey Dahl, right?" she asked, favoring him with a sidelong grin. He was struck by how her red eyes seemed to shine even in the dusk of the alleyway. "You're girlfriend paid me to come save you."

"My girlfriend…" he repeated slowly. Jeffrey felt as if his thoughts were running through mollasses. "Wait, she paid you?!"

"Sure did!" the woman confirmed cheerfully. Wrought Iron's arm was thrown aside with a flick of her wrist, stumbling him back a few steps before the sole of the woman's dress shoe slammed into his chest, sending him flying back out into the street. "Well. Almost. Payment pending upon completion."

"Rescuing petty drug peddlers now, Warlock?" Wrought Iron spat, rising to his feet. "How heroic."

"Thanks!"

"That was insincere." The whole alley seemed to shift as the metal plating on the walls and floor of the alley began to shift and rise, then slammed together, crushing the two of them in between.

---

Almost.

"Oof, he is not friendly," Warlock remarked, releasing the back of Jeffrey's shirt. He pitched forward, overcome by dizziness and nausea following their sudden translocation to… where were they? He posed the question to his savior, in between bouts of retching.

"Back home, I think," she replied, stepping to the side to avoid the growing pool of sick. She reached into the inner pocket of her coat, pulling out a folded slip of paper. "I'm pretty sure this is the address she- Oh, no, its over there." Jeffrey followed her gaze across the street, recognizing the dirty, neon-covered face of his apartment complex.

"Well, job done," Warlock congratulated herself, wandering off toward the roof exit. "Let your girlfriend know, wouldja? Byebye~!"

"Wait," Jeffrey croaked out, struggling to his feet for what felt like the tenth time in as many minutes. "You're just leaving now? That guy knows my name, if he comes after me- And- and what is she even paying you with?"

"Money!"

"What money?"

"I dunno," she shrugged unhelpfully. "Money."

Oh, no. Oh, no no no- If it was from his stash, the savings so they could leave-

"What am I even supposed to do about this?" he protested, stepping toward Warlock's back. "Everything- everything I've been doing til now, everything that guy was gonna kill me for! If she blows it all on something like this, then what was even the point?! She- she should've just taken the money herself then, left without me! Now we're both still stuck here! What the hell am I supposed to do about that?!"

Warlock's hand rested on the cold handle of the door. "I dunno," she answered simply. "Figure somethin' out, I guess." Then she opened the door and left, leaving Jeffrey dumbfounded on the roof.

"Figure something-" He ran a hand through thick curly hair, his voice barely a breath. His eyes turned back to the apartment across the street - the place he'd spent the past five years of his life, scrimping and saving every bit of scrip he could to buy he and his girlfriend a ticket away from the Undercity, away from Titan's Fall, looming over the road like a black walled prison. His gaze fell toward the street and… there, on the steps of his building, they lingered. The neon lights of the road reflected off her midnight-dark skin as she sat on the curb, chin in her hand as she waited for him to come back. Just as she always had.

"Yeah, I'll… I'll figure something out."

Scarriden
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LUCIAN MITCHELL
the villain - #40314a - outfit
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xxHow the most dangerous thing is to love
xxHow you will heal and you'll rise above
xxCrowned by an overture bold and beyond
xxAh, it's more courageous to overcome

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Cell after cell after cell. Kid after kid after kid. Every single one of them. He broke them out. Every single one of them. Some cells were harder than others, but he managed to force them open. And all of them got the same orders. Get out. Run. Look for Erin or Markus. But Erin and Markus showed no sign of showing, and so he stayed going. He hit the jackpot when he found a control room of sorts at the end of a hallway. It was empty; and that was something that left him feeling uneasy. There was a part of his that had been all too easy. There had been resistance, but not enough. Cautiously, a knife in his hand, he stepped inside. The computers were there. Open. Unlocked. He sat down at the desk, his fingers hovering over the keyboard. And then he started searching for the command he needed.

It was then that he saw a shadow out of the corner of his eye swing for him. He was cornered and seated, in a position of vulnerability. Of course it had been a trap. Lucian ducked, pulling his knees to his chest as he did, and then kicked out at his attacker. It was enough to force the man back a few steps, enough for Lucian to get to his feet and level the playing field somewhat. He didn't wait for the man to recover before he swung with his knife, cutting a gash into the man's cheek. This earned Lucian a punch to the chest, one that winded him. As a reflex, he flung out a hand, throwing the man a few feet away. He saw an opening and used it, using the other hand to fling a knife at the man. It sunk into his chest, but the man stayed moving, grinning at Luc. A vest of some sorts. Dammit. Chest wasn't a target then, not with a knife. But something else caught his eye and he grinned, a dangerous, feral grin of his own. The man lunged at him, and in one swift movement, Lucian grabbed the chair he'd been sitting on moments before and smashed it over the man's head. The man crumpled to the ground and stayed there, motionless. Luc didn't wait to confirm that, just turned back to the computer and found the command he was looking for.

OPEN: ALL CELL DOORS.
CONFIRM OPEN ALL DOORS?
Y


There was buzz, somewhere deep in the building. And then an alarm started to blare. Lucian swore, turning back to the computer. He was able to silence the alarm, but not before it had already been blaring for a few seconds. That was no coincidence, which meant that they needed to get moving, and fast. He stepped over the still unconscious guard and broke into a sprint. As he ran, he pulled any stragglers out of their cells and told them to stay running. Had Erin and Markus known to get their asses out of there when they heard the alarm? He could only hope so. But judging by the amount of guards running towards him now, he was their main target. Where kids still lingered in the halls, they also attempted to put up something of a fight as they ran, with a few taking down a guard by teamwork. It brought a satisfied smile to Lucian's face.

That smile quickly slipped as he rounded a corner and saw four guards waiting for him. "Hello, gentlemen. I was... just on my way out, so if you don't mind, I'll just slip past you?" He said. They refused to move, staring him down. "Yeah, thought as much." He pulled a force field around himself as he threw one guard against another. They fell, but they didn't stay down. Lucian was beginning to regret not bringing the chair with him as a backup weapon. He tossed a knife into the air and then flung it towards one of the guards. It found its mark and buried itself in the man's neck. He gasped as he fell to the ground, and Luc held out a hand to call the knife back to him. The others at least looked slightly more unnerved now. This gave Lucian the opportunity to throw another one of them down the hall, putting some distance between them and leaving him with just two to deal with. Luc held his knife aloft, ready to throw it.

"WAIT! If... if you let us live... we'll tell you where they took your friend!" One of them yelled, his hands up in a surrender. Luc hesitated.
"My... friend?" He asked.
"The- the- the guy! The shadow manipulator! They got him!" Lucian's blood ran cold. It felt like time slowed down as he took a step closer to them, the bloodied knife still in his hand.
"Tell me where he is. Now," he demanded, his voice low and dangerous.
"They- he-" And then there was a gunshot. The man fell forward, slumping into a heap, blood spilling from his mouth. The other man joined him seconds later, and Lucian turned his attention to the final man, who was holding a gun and grinning.
"You'll never find him." And then the man turned the gun on himself.

The scream of fury and of frustration that left Lucian's mouth was almost animalistic. How could he have lost Markus? Why had they ever split up? Did he have time to find him? Was he even still alive? He stumbled back, running his hands through his hair. It was then that a familiar face peered around the corner. Charlie, one of the kids.

"Oh thank fuck, I thought you were dead," she said.
"What the hell are you doing here? I told you to leave!" He demanded.
"Yeah, and I came back to help! Fucking bastards have had me locked up for the past two years, I wasn't gonna pass up the opportunity to kick some ass!" She paused. "Besides. I... wanted to make sure the others got out okay," she admitted. The others. The kids. Lucian needed to focus on the kids. That was what Markus would want. And then, once the kids were out, he could go back.

"Fine. Let's get going."
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Move it, short stuff."
"Okay, ouch."

Lucian picked up a few more of the others as they made their way out of the building. It turned out that Charlie's magic was rooted in light, an unpleasant irony he didn't need right then. But she was a talented fighter, to give credit to her. They picked up more of the kids as they ran, and it was only then that Lucian realised the range of ages they had. Charlie looked to be barely eighteen, but she was neither the youngest nor the oldest of the group. At several points, he was tempted to ditch them and go look for Markus; but he needed to get them out. He needed to get them out and find Erin. That was the priority.

They had just gotten outside when Lucian spotted a familiar figure. Erin was there, albeit a little worse for wear. He sighed with relief and made a beeline for her, wanting to tell her to look after the kids, to get them to safety. He'd go back and look for Markus. But before he could speak, the first gunshot went off.

The Jedi temple among the clone wars
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Jei sat down with the rest of them, at the public table and bench just off to the side of the vendor.

"Is this about that message we got? From that weird ship?" He asked, his voice steady, unlike how it normally was when he was forced to interact with any of the Jedi. There was something about this woman that stuck out to him, but he was struggling to figure out what. It didn't seem like it was anything bad, but it was still confusing to him.

"They asked for our help, and we said no, ya'know?"

The Prince's Palace
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【"Beadhead is not sexy after 11 am"】
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【The head of the table】
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【#5A8D88】
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Cyr lingered in the place between, vaguely aware of the chatter and giggling outside, but letting it wash over him like soft, cool waves. If it could replace the weird guilt that simmered low in his belly, that would be nice. Eventually, as the ache in his back faded and the voices outside dwindled, he drifted off too, unaware that a certain demon had aided his easy slip into slumber. His dreams, however, were not so easy, twisting and turning restlessly with the tension that still lingered inside him. The worry, the shame, the confusion.

When he woke, having tucked himself into a small ball in his sleep, arms tangled up with his legs, Cyr lay for a moment, blinking blearily at the midday sun that shone through the window. Where was he? What was going on? He sat up slowly, stretching out his tense traps with careful precision. Outside, he could hear voices again, and a strange…metallic sound? Oh, silverware on plates? When did they get plates?

Cyr stumbled through the process of getting dressed, still perhaps half asleep. When he emerged, clothes rumpled and hair badly mussed, having somewhat dried while smooshed against his pillow, an odd sight met him.

Wha…?” he breathed softly. Bez was the first person he spotted, sitting across the table, looking pleased as a cat with cream. He quickly averted his gaze. Amos sat next to her. And Myut was across from him, blocking his view of Bez’s other side, but he could guess. Eris, most likely. And Val next to Myut. Apparently doing something the Greed demon did not like, as when Cyr began to lumber over to investigate the food, Myut jerked in conjunction with a loud thump. He looked up quickly, only able to see Myut’s jaw bulging slightly as the other turned his face to the Sloth demon and spoke too softly to properly make out. Not that it was any of his business, right? Meu didn’t owe him anything.

Cyr awkwardly picked up a plate and began filling it with food. Nothing really stood out to him on the trolly, but food was food and it would be nice to have a warm belly after his disorienting nap. Once he had a fair selection of food, he surveyed the table again. There weren’t many options. Perhaps the end would be nice. He didn’t fancy sitting next to the little wrath demon, but it was better than sitting across from her. And….he didn’t want to accidentally make eye contact with Bez. It would be….awkward.

So he carried his plate over, keeping his head down, and settled down at the far end of the table. He poked at the food on his plate as he quietly listened to the conversation thrum around him, though he couldn’t help but sneak a glance over at Myut. He looked really nice. Suddenly self conscious, Cyr tried to smooth down his hair. Why hadn’t he thought to try and put on some new clothes? Or at least brush his hair. He was out here, looking like a horrible mess in front of everyone. What was he thinking?

Prometheus's Palace
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Summanus


Summanus lay there on the cold stone floor. His eyes grew heavy and his sight dimmed. The expenditure of continuous torture performed its debilitating effect on his body. He knew unconsciousness would soon take him and the next he would awaken will probably be before his hour of execution. This was not the first time he faced death or even torture. The life of a mercenary is not without its charm. The only difference was he traveled with a group, not of hardened killers, but idealists seeking change. The only one he could consider a killer was Mydnyte, and of course, Blue. That much evident to him even before the fire revealed the dried blood upon her fur.

Whose blood it was he did not know or was even concerned with knowing. All he does know is that Blue, despite her cryptic language, seems to have some doubts. He's not sure how doubtful she is, but it's certainly not enough to dissuade her from her current course of action. Summanus could only let out a breath. She was gone as soon as she came. Summanus could only hope that whatever happens to him nothing will come about it. The others better keep away, far away. He knows his life is not worth the risk of breaking into this place to rescue him. He was content to die here. A violent life deserves a violent end.

"An interesting 'friend' you've got there." A voice spoke out. Summanus hadn't the energy to lift his head to turn to address the stranger. He could only assume that it's one of the other prisoners locked up here. "The only thing just as interesting is yourself." The voice spoke again. "Thinking of others rather than yourself. It seems Prometheus has some predisposition against honest wolves." He chuckles. Summanus wasn't sure who was speaking to him, but he had no reason to oblige in conversation. He only wished to rest and perhaps dream one last time. "Life isn't a curse you know? But a gift." Another voice chimes. Summanus remains unresponsive. "It seems our stoic cellmate has little time or energy for simple conversation. I shouldn't be surprised. The Prometheans really worked you over. They must despise you most of all." The First Voice concludes.

"Well anyone who has earned the ire of Prometheus sounds like a friend to me." Says the second voice. "Let's allow him to rest, for now, we can reserve what we wish to say for a later time." The first voice decides. "Agreed." Concours the second. The voices grew inaudible by this point as the Borak drifts into unconsciousness.

Loyalist HQ
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Nova

Nova listened to Durandel pad off, hoping that the lava wolf's plan would pay off. Nova certainly didn't know where to start looking for a hidden entrance. Well okay, he would know where to START. There are only so many places around a wall that a sally port could be hidden. But it would still take time.

"You said you have some tricks up your fur? Have you ever snuck into a heavily guarded fortress before?"

No, as a matter of fact Nova hadn't. Most of his spycraft had consisted of going around trying to stop a giant war from breaking out, and that had surprisingly little to do with sneaking into heavily fortified places. Nova scratched the ground idly a few times with his front paw.

He hadn't snuck into fortresses, no...

But he did know a thing or two about how they operated. His father was the Chief Fortifications Expert of the Ausi. He was the one who helped re engineer Neva City's great walls. There were certain principles of defense that all engineers followed, simply because they were the best.

"Well, obviously we are going to want to ignore the gatehouse. That is always the most strongly fortified position. If this place is designed properly, they will also have interlocking sentry positions, so that no part of the wall is unguarded. But..."

He began to think back to how his father's walls were designed. There is always an inherent weakness in building a fortress anywhere that isn't a perfectly open, flat plain. Due to topography, there was almost always going to be a blind spot on the walls. Not as blatant as missing a tower, but a spot where the distance between the two towers is just too far enough away for the guards covering that sector to have a good look. Especially in the dark. That was just the reality of uneven terrain.

"If we can stick on the side of the fortress that has the guard towers spaced furthest apart, usually on a hill or something, we should be able to sneak in an area that is too difficult for the guards to watch."

The Sunlight Herd
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"What are you doing?" Sundancer asked as she stopped beside Scout, His buttermilk buckskin coat shimmered in the late afternoon sunlight, I looked over as Pheonix went back up to his hill and summoned one of his guards to his side. "Wanna graze together?" She asked and started walking off with the yearling close to herside.

Testing Palace
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testing testing

Naomi's Garden: Kitchen
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Naomi's Garden
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Atani Berentes was two bites before finishing her delicious meal when suddenly she felt a ring in her pocket. She had forgotten her errands for the day, and the ring was a reminder to get going again. Without bothering to count for change she threw down some money and hurried from the restaurant.

Cre' Est
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Knock, knock

The door creaked open.

"Detective?"

"Greetings, Doctor. May I come in?"

"Under normal circumstances I would say "yes," but this doesn't feel like a normal circumstance," she said with a glance over his shoulder at two guards flanking him.

"Right you are, Doctor. We believe we've identified a potential witness. But she seems to be in an incredibly agitated state and refuses to speak like a sensible and stable person. We were hoping you'd come with us to help calm her down so we can get some information out of her."

... The woman... I didn't see or hear her give consent... I went to help... Echoed in her mind on loop.

"Very well, Detective."

She stepped outside, closed and locked the door, and followed the three men through the streets until they reached a local inn just down the road. Walking inside to an empty inn was more than a little unusual. Even the innkeeper was gone.

"Might I ask why nobody's here, Detective?"

"The innkeep was kind enough to step out and close the building to the general public for as long as we need to question the witness. Makes our jobs, and her life, easier that way."

"If you say so."

"You disagree?"

"She's a woman in an unstable mental state and surrounded by armed and intimidating men in an empty building. Anyone, stable or otherwise, would be stressed about that situation."

"Do you have a suggestion?"

"May I speak with her alone first?"

"I was afraid you'd say that. But very well, Doctor. We'll give you a few minutes to try and calm her down and get her stabilized before we enter and continue with questioning."

"What've you asked so far?"

"We tried asking her name, where exactly she was that night, what she saw, if anything. And we got nothing. She just stammered or looked away from us muttering incoherently and shaking like a leaf."

"Mm." She said as her lips tightened. Well done, gentlemen, she thought with the most subtle shake of her head.

"Whenever you're ready, Doctor. She's in the first room upstairs."

"Thank you."

Walking up the stairs in the back of the building and turning the 90 degree corner before reaching the second story and coming to the first door. And even before she reached for the doorknob she heard the mumbling inside. She took a deep breath, opened the door, and was instantly met with screaming and a woman in rags dashing about the room knocking things over trying to escape from her.

Lorraine stood very still with her hands folded in front of her stomach and waited patiently for almost five minutes until the woman calmed down and simply sat down, backing herself into the coerner of the room, staring at her like a rodent staring down a wolf.

Lorraine gave a light bow and spoke softly.

"Greetings, madam. I’m Doctor Almna."

“Did they call you to examine me?! They think I’m crazy! They said I was crazy! Do I look crazy to you?!”

"No, madam. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay, and maybe ask-"

“I’m NOT okay! Those two attacked me and then were torn apart by a fucking Demon! How am I supposed to be ‘okay’?”

"You were attacked?"

“Yes!!”

"By who?"

“How should I know?! They were two men who chased me down, grabbed me, groped me, slapped me, and were starting to pull at my clothes before their blood was thrown all over the damn square!”

"I see. I’m sorry, madam."

“Why? It’s not like they attacked you! What do you have to be sorry for? Is this that stupid sense of self righteousness I’m always hearing about where you try to pretend you’re sympathetic to gain our favor before interrogating us?!”

"What in-… No, madam. Who gave you that idea?"

“Okay, Doctor. You wanna pretend to sympathize with me to make me calm down? Fine. Let’s play the game, shall we?”

She stood up, but continued to huddle in the corner.

“There. See? Calm as can be. Happy?”

"You were attacked, madam. What’s there to be happy about?"

“Oh, cut the bullshit sweetheart. What do you understand about being happy? You probably grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth, didn’t you? Had all your schooling paid for by mommy and daddy and got to be a doctor young by sucking off your school’s top brass after failing out. Right?”

"No, madam."

“Sure, sweetie. You’re probably still a virgin too, right?”

"… I am unmarried, yes."

“Oh! ‘Unmarried.’ Not exactly trying to say ‘no’ there, are you?”

"Unmarried women are not permitted to engage in sex in our culture. You know that, don’t you?"

The woman spat.

“’Culture’. Nobody actually gives a shit about culture. Especially the kinds of ‘men’ who attacked me.”

"That’s not true, madam."

“Not to your sheltered mind, maybe. But I’ll tell you sweetie, if you were to go out at night I’m certain others like the ones who attacked me would be happy to visit the same on you. What with your perfect face and body. Not to mention hair that’s perfect for holding like the reins of a fucking horse!”

"Oh..."

“Yeah. With a face like yours, tits like watermelons, and a pussy that’s probably tighter than a crab’s shell presuming you’re still a virgin, they’d fuck you all night long on any and every surface, and every position they could possibly think of!”

Lorraine fell silent and simply stared calmly at the woman as she slowly stood up, still pressing herself in the corner.

“Still think I’m ‘okay’?”

Silence.

“Didn’t think so. Have you given up already, Doctor?”

"No, madam."

“Still want to help me then? See if I’m ‘okay’?”

"Yes, madam."

“Gods, you’re thick. Take the hint, bitch. Get out of here! And take those assholes with you!!”

"I’m afraid I can’t, madam."

“Why? Are they paying you to badger me until I say something they can use to lock me up and get me off the streets like they do all the others?! Did they promise to help you lose your virginity nicely? Get you nice and wet first so you don’t feel them grating your insides like cheese when dry?”

Silence.

“What’s wrong? Don’t like the visual?”

"No."

“What are you going to do about it, then?”

"It’s happened to you, hasn’t it?"

“What do you think?”

"I think you’re emotionally unstable due to the recent trauma, but otherwise mentally sound."

“The fuck does that mean?”

"It means I think you’re okay. You just need time to settle down."

“… Okay? You think I’m okay?”

"I do. Despite your words and obvious frustration with me, you’ve given me no reason to believe that you’re mentally unsound or in need of physical assistance of any kind."

“Then why are you still here?”

"It’s my job. Even though I’m under the impression that you’re mentally sound and simply experiencing the natural effects of surviving a serious emotional trauma, I feel it’s my duty to receive confirmation from you that you’re okay before I take my leave."

“There you go again, using the word ‘okay’. You really think I’m okay after all this?”

"I do."

“Why?”

"I’ve given my reasons."

“Will you make some fucking sense?”

"Have I not?"

“No!”

"What would you like me to clarify?"

“How about all of it? How am I ‘okay’ to you after all this?!”

Lorraine gave a small bow.

"When I entered the room you ran around looking for an escape and then backed yourself into a corner. This is common behavior for an individual suffering intense emotional distress and whose mind is seeing everyone around them as a serious threat. Given that you encountered two men who sexually assaulted you, followed quickly by the Red-Eyed Demon tearing them apart, I can-"

“-I never mentioned him.”

"You said they were torn apart by a ‘Demon,’ right?"

“Yes, but-… Whatever. Keep explaining.”

"To add to my presumption, I found the wounds on the bodies were also consistent with his past attacks."

“Get on with it!… Please.”

Lorraine gave yet another small bow.

"Given the encounter, I can conclude that your emotional distress was a cumulative result of the assault, bearing witness to the violence that followed, and then being brought into custody in a room with no windows or escape routes. This combination of factors would make anyone frantic for a sense of stability and a semblance of control over their own situation."

“Is this your ‘professional’ analysis of me?”

"It’s my professional opinion, yes."

“What about my words?”

"It’s a regular occurrence for me to receive hateful rebukes to my words by patients suffering from mental or emotional distress. It doesn’t bother me."

“That right?”

"Yes."

“You sure you’re not a nun?”

Lorraine chuckled.

"Admittedly I thought about becoming one as a child for a bit. But medicine was my stronger calling."

“Hmph. So this is your ideal of healing me?”

"I would say we’ve certainly made progress."

“How?”

"You’re standing straight and no longer in the corner of the room."

The woman quickly glanced around and found she’d unconsciously wandered away from the corner and was now, more or less, in the center of the room.

"See?"

“When did I get here?”

"Somewhere between saying nobody cares about culture and letting me know what would happen if I went out at night alone."

“How?”

"I’m not a psychologist. But from talks I’ve had with colleagues in the field the center of the room is a power position, and moving to it is part of an effort to gain power and control over a conversation or situation. And given how aggressive your words were at the time, I’d say it fits the description quite well. Don’t you think?" She asked with a subtle giggle.

“And you just let me take this spot?”

"I’m not here to control you or try and claim power over you. As I’ve said from the start, I just want to make sure you’re all right before I take my leave."

“…”

"Are you?"

“… Yeah. I think so.”

"Excellent!" Lorraine said with a little clap of her hands, followed by a bow. "May Peur’Tia smile upon you, madam."

As Lorraine left the room the woman was left speechless until the door closed. And outside, the Detective was waiting for her.

“Doctor. Did you get anything?”

"Yes. She was sexually assaulted by two men and bore witness to the Red-Eyed Demon slaying them."

“Anything else? Who she is? How she got to the square? Why the Demon killed them but not her? Something?”

"No. Perhaps it’s my ignorance to investigative processes, but I don’t believe such things are important when it comes to a victim who’s clearly homeless and knows only that she suffered a traumatic event, and not why she had to suffer it."

“Hm. Fine. We’ll take it from here. Thanks for your cooperation.”

"Of course."

Lorraine departed the building and made her way back towards the clinic. But as she did so she saw a flash of a shadow cast by the rooftops moving close by. Upon looking up, she saw the Red-Eyed Demon staring at her before turning away and disappearing beyond the roof’s edge.

"Be careful, please." She whispered.

Magical Cave
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Akita
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mafuyu hanazawa.
dialogue ; #7f9f91. – thought ; #bb7e8c.
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Perhaps his joke doesn't fall entirely flat, given the way the pink haired girl before him lets out a small laugh. That was good, right? She didn't already completely despise him? He'd take it as something of a win, that he'd managed to take the smallest step forward in terms of becoming a friend.

"Oh please, if I were to go on a date with you, it definitely wouldn't be in a school setting. Besides, aren't there rules for that here?" He blinks once at the words, and takes this as his second small win. She wasn't completely averse to a date? Enough at least, that she didn't mind playing along with his joke. It makes his smile a little brighter with that in mind, and then shrugs, "probably, I'm good at letting that sort of thing slip my mind though. There's a whole booklet on rules, it's impossible to keep track of them all here." Besides, this was a college campus, wasn't it? Couldn't they be allowed to let loose a little more than in high school?

Probably not, there was still reputation to uphold for universities after all.

Maybe it was something he should catch up on more, given he'd be teaching high school soon enough. Not that he was overly strict, but letting too much slide would let teenagers walk all over him, and he wasn't exactly for that by the time he was free of the school system. In just two years, really, he'd be graduated and working soon enough.

"Thanks for the warning, but I should warn you, I get a special thrill of putting guys like him in their place. I can't stand guys like that either and if he tries to put any moves on me, I'll crush him," Blinking once out of his own thoughts, he finds himself staring at Kazumi for a second longer before his head tilts and he lets out a small laugh. Crush him, huh? That was certainly a choice of words. She wasn't the type to take shit, was she? Iphianassa and her would get along that way, he was rather confident of that now.

"If you say so; don't put yourself in a bad situation though, Haruto's dirty as they get." Mafuyu doesn't think he'd try anything...insane, or so he had thought until he'd crossed the line of stalking with Iphianassa. How long until he went further into that depraved territory? She seems like she'd be able to handle herself, but it still doesn't settle well with me.

Shrugging off the thought of too many unknown futures, he waves off her apology as she turns around to pull out her phone, call her brother and ask where he and Iphianassa ended up. Not far off, probably. It wasn't that big of a campus in comparison to others nearby. Higashi-Naruse only had space and funds for so much, after all, and as much as he would have enjoyed attending college in the city somewhere a little more prestigious, staying close to his sisters and mom, to home, and going somewhere cheaper even with a full scholarship to other places was better for him in the long run.

He was a bit eager to move eventually though, what with Hisao having tracked him down at this point. More anonymity in a city, less in a town of just barely over two thousand people. It wouldn't be long before that trash starting pinning things, or places down a little easier, would it? As long as he stays away from the girls.

Looking back up from where he had been absentmindedly kicking around tufts of loose grass, Mafuyu's eyes settle on Kazumi for a moment as she begins to walk away, and a faint smile comes to him then, "mhm, lead the way, Kazumi. I certainly wouldn't know the directions." His skateboard is back in his hands from the ground, a little careless in its retrieval, and he jogs for a bit to catch up to her and stick to her side, comfortable in the presence they shared for the moment. She really didn't seem too bad, a likeable personality and a seeming caring side to her as well. And yes, she was pretty, but you'd have to be blind to miss that fact about her. It's just the way her apparent personality thus far makes that sort of beauty a little more true, a little more deep than just the skin, and he finds himself appreciative of that. It wasn't always that way, after all. He'd met plenty of people who turned ugly the moment they opened their mouth.

The air is quiet as they walk for a bit, Mafuyu's mind continuing its wandering, but after a second he glances to the pink haired girl again, head tilted ever so slightly before slipping out the question that had been on his mind since they'd first entered, before he'd been able to given they were all in class or the two siblings were surrounded on both sides by curious classmates that wanted to meet them. "You and Natsuo, where'd you guys move from? I figure you're probably not from Higashi-Naruse originally, right? I feel like I would have met you both by now if you were, it's such a small town."

His words are up in the air only a moment before the answer to that question can even be spoken, interrupted by the sound of Iphianassa's voice, her apparent interrogation on the man who she'd had help her escape Haruto earlier before. His brow quirks slightly at the tone, at the words themselves; couldn't people just want to be friends? Though, knowing her, it made sense that she'd question everything that way. It was rather rare that most would seek her out in any positive manner or lacking some sort of ulterior motive, he knew that, he'd watched it go on for several years now, hadn't he? So truly, in the end, no shock here.

"So what’s your goal here? I don’t have any money, and I don’t own nice things. I don’t have many friends, and it’s not like I’m pretty; so what’s your end goal? Huh?" Silently, he follows in with Kazumi, though the woman doesn't seem keen on staying quiet in their positions as she questions her brother on what the conversation was over. "Miss Iphianassa here seems to think that by being around her, our reputations will be shot."

Looking down at her the, Mafuyu tilts his head slightly, faint smile picking up over his features. Sure, maybe reputation was at risk when you hung around those that had the bad rumors and the like hanging around their heads, but Mafuyu was rather confident that anyone who would treat someone else terribly just because of, exactly what they were, rumors would be far from worthwhile. Iphianassa's anger and harsh personality certainly were there for everyone to see, but that didn't make her a bad person. If anything, the brunette reminded him of his sister. Of Ran, who certainly had her own reputation and bad rumors building with each year they spent here. If someone were to treat her badly, how would he feel? Enraged, no doubt. So why treat someone like his sister cold or cruelly?

But there Kazumi goes again, that swift talk, though this time it's more of a pep talk than just general rambling. He listens quietly all the while, nodding along with each statement, stifling a laugh when the question of how attractive Iphianassa was is turned on Natsuo, who half chokes on the food he'd just put in his mouth. If anything was obvious in this sibling dynamic, it was that Kazumi had her way with teasing, and seemingly found every moment to inflict it upon the dark haired male. He often did the same with his sisters, so he could appreciate that. There was just a joy like no other, getting a reaction out of those related to you like that.

In the end, Natsuo agrees, even if he can't bring himself to look at Iphianassa. Mafuyu tilts his head then, looking over to her with a slight piqued curiosity over the situation. They'd practically just dashed away her concerns, or at least done so in the form of words; whether or not she'd take it and consider any weight behind them was up to her in the end.

"People can like you even without material things, you know. It's not all about money, in the end." Maybe it was for some people, but Mafuyu certainly wasn't one to care for it, and most people who did didn't stick around him for long when they caught a glimpse of his wallet. He shrugs lightly though, glances away, "and people shallow enough to only stick to a pretty face aren't worth your time anyway. Not that you aren't pretty, Iphi." It's a little teasing in tone, he's rather sure that he's the last person she wants to hear compliments from anyway.

"Miss Iphianassa, was something troubling you earlier? I saw you looking at your phone and I can only assume you got a troubling text message." Natsuo's voice cuts through a moment later though, and a brow quirks up in her direction at the words. Text message...of what? Had Haruto tried to get ahold of her again? Or was it something else? Well, he supposes he'll stick around just a bit longer to be sure things are alright after all.

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.

Atlas City
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Albert's entrance into the warehouse was not as grandiose as he had hoped, but he had little time to change his mind as he plummeted through the steel ceiling and slammed into the pavement hard enough to crack it. It wasn't his highest jump, but the reverberations through his legs were pleasant enough as he rose to his feet, sweeping his scarf behind his back.

"From the sky I arrive!" Albert boomed, grinning. "The Crimson Shield, here to stop your foul deeds! If what I suspect is true, you are all in real trouble! Tell me where the drugs are or..."

Albert paused, realizing he was intruding on a scene already unfolding. "Hey, wait, I didn't get here first?" Albert said, frowning and looking rather annoyed. "Pfah, what a bother."

Albert's fist snapped up, creating a wave of energy that intercepted the woman in black, striking her. "Mind if I cut in?" Albert smirked, trying to remember where he had seen the woman before.

Nigerius
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Blue

Blue was not in the rundown shack that everyone was currently hiding in. She spent most of her time "scouting" for the rebel group, finding them the "best" routes to steal and transport what little food they could attain. which for the most part Blue did actually help steal, because, well, she needed food to eat. While any other run she did was quickly... extinguished. And Blue felt that soon, the rebels would realize that there was one spy, that was actually a good spy, among them. It didn't bother her too much, as she was sure that no one would suspect her.

And the only one who knew was currently being held prisoner and was soon to be tortured before his hanging tomorrow.

A certain stormy wolf she was currently waiting for to be dumped back into his cell. She wanted to... talk with him before he died.

Blue waited in the back of the cell, her black coat camouflaging her perfectly. She wasn't taking any precautions either. She was just inside the cell, no armor, no weapon, no extra wolves to keep him from killing or attacking her. Maybe, he will kill me, she thought, or maybe he will curse me with his words. Oddly enough, she did not mind the dark, low lit cell... and she couldn't really understand why. Was it because she was about to meet her Pendant's original owner? Or was she so worried about meeting Stormy that she didn't care about the dark? Either way, she was unsettled with the mere idea that small bits of her thoughts were associating the warm light of her pendant with Stormy's... crackling energy.

There was no way, she thought fervently. There is no way.... She growled, angry that her brain was betraying the mission, even in this small way.

Stockbridge, Massachusetts
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The Vitalisian Empire
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Cassian Atwater - HTML #7E958Dxxxxxxxx&xxxxxxxxElewin Dame - HTML #716884
the time of year when the coldest peak of the Cleif Trye Mountains melts into green grass, the Summer Solstice


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The witch village of Desdarea was always blanketed in snow, aside from one day of the year. On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the witches of the weather specialty would rid the village of any sign of snow for one true day of summer. It was a sign of hope, that the witches and sorcerers of the world would continue on even in the harshest of conditions.

The village center was the heart of the festival. The weather witches and those involved with preparing the festival made sure that every inch of the square was filled with colorful lights and mind-boggling decorations that made the usual dullness turn into an actual dreamland. There was nothing more sacred to witches than celebrations, and Summer Solstice was no exception. It was the one time outcast and beloved were in one area to live as witches were meant to - without any abandon. There were even travelers that came in just for the Solstice, bringing in merchants and entertainers alike to partake in the memorialized day.

Cassian would have been completely content watching the festival from the comfort of his bedroom. His room in the house had a great view of the village center, but his parents knew very well that if he was left in the house, his eyes would not move from the pages of his books. So he trailed behind Nandor and Ilari, hoping to find some shadowed corner in the bright festival where he wouldn't be bothered. "Isn't it exciting to see all the grass again, Cassian? This is my favorite day of the year," His mother tried to encourage him, but he merely shrugged. This day, while joyous for many people, served as a reminder for just as many that they were trapped here in the snowy mountain top and could only enjoy this green grass through the efforts of their own magic, not from nature itself.

But his father gave him a look to play along, and Cassian finally murmured, "It's great, mom." His parents were also much more friendly and talkative with the members of the village, which was more of a struggle for Cassian. There were a few people his age that he could hold a conversation with, but a few of the older witches in the village always acted strangely around him, which made him feel even more self-conscious than usual. As his parents fell into different conversations, he moved to a more secluded area of the festival where he could read and hopefully avoid any further disturbances.

Year after year, Elewin had grown bored of the Summer Solstice. The only thing it was good for was keeping the Elder Witch and her council preoccupied with the event that they didn't bother with her or her family for one night. Engel and Lyris had stopped participating a few years back, leaving Elewin to wander out on her own to have a little fun for the night. There was no way Venus was going to miss the Solstice festival, so she wouldn't be completely alone. Most of witches in their generation would be there, including Cassian and Paxton - who she preferred not to associate with but Venus always enjoyed messing around with the two sorcerers.

Weargtooth Mountains
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Livia remained quiet throughout the advance, mounted upon her white steed, the sound of silence seemed to be overwhelming for her legionaries. She watched the canisters sail far, and wide into the distance, plumes of smoke wafting, and eventually dissipating into nothingness, as the unsettling silence returned.

"There's nothing here." The Praefectus said, interrupting Livia's deep in thought, while briefly her eyes moved towards her Centurion, he had such curious habits. She didn't think much of it, while the wind nipped lightly at her hair, ruffling the hooded cloak she had been wearing to keep warm.

Then the howling started, it was one, and then two, and soon the howling was oppressive, echoing through the crags and mountain peaks, unnerving the horses of the advance scouting party. Livia had her answer, these savages had no intention of Parlaying, or entering any form of negotiations. Her eyes briefly darted to her Centurion, whom had unsheathed his weapon. Livia on the other hand remained stone faced, as did her horse, through the howling, and the oppressive silence.

They made their intentions clear, as she observed the actions of her Centuriae, each readying their shields, and weapons to do battle.

Livia promptly dismounted her horse, landing on the ground with an audible thud of her boots, and heavy armor which was worn under her great cloak.

"Legionaries!" She called out, her shrill voice piercing the silence, and the howling. "These Savages have made their intentions clear, even now they stalk us from the shadows!" She cried out, her voice carrying through the wind. "We advance, and we burn them out! We will crucify the men, and enslave the women and children!" She bellowed, raising her sword up.

"Tonight we bring glory to our civilization, tonight we bring honor to our Empire. Tonight we dine in Iskjerne Bay!" She shouted, and then gestured forward.

"Keep your formations tight, pick your targets, and rely on your brother!" Livia shouted, and then took a few steps forward, even as the horses grew even more nervous from the howling. The dozen or so Legionaries mounted, quickly dismounted their horses, and joined their brothers in formation, locking their shields together in with Reginarus' phalanx.

Livia took up her position in the center, producing a small pistol from a holster that ran across her chest, and promptly firing it into the air, sending a stream of sparks into the sky, which culminated into a brilliant red flare that was almost as bright as the sun. It briefly lit up the surrounding area in a deep red glow before dissipating into nothingness. Livia then turned her attention forward, it would take time, but the might of her army would soon bear down on the Weargtooth mountains, she looked briefly to Reginarus, an unspoken resolution. They needed only hold out for as long as it took for the main Argosian army to arrive. From there they would push forward with sheer numbers.

Everyone there was braced for combat.


Colossa
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Erik "the Red" Thorvaldsen and Thodhilda Jorundsdottir had four children named Leiv, Freydis, Thorstein and Thorvald, the last one being named after Erik's father. Hrafn-Floki "the Blind" Ghostslayer and his loyal wife Helga also gave birth to two children of their own, Signe and Ragnar, who would often play together with Erik and Thodhilda's kids on Colossa during their long and peaceful adventures. Halfdan the Black's twisted ankle had healed over time and after he made a full recovery, he assisted Floki in building Colossa's very first Nordic space observatory. Floki would remain blind in both eyes for the rest of his life, but what he lacked in vision, he made up for with experience, knowledge and wisdom. He taught Halfdan the Black and Erik the Red everything he knew about woodworking, shipbuilding, how to read and carve runes, what types of metals, crystal stones and trees to look for when building, and gave them every vocal saga and folkloric myth he could remember from his younger years. Sometimes he paused between lessons and had to sit down, and as time progressed, it slowly became apparent that Floki was losing his mind.

Hrafn-Floki had not aged well. The years of Viking raids and adventures were catching up to him as he got older. Apart from being blind, he was also beginning to suffer the effects of Alzheimer's, a disease which none of the Vikings knew much about, but which they had experienced before. They knew Floki was slowly losing his memories, so his faithful companions did all they could to learn from him as the weeks passed. Helga continued to work on her own expertise, gathering herbs, plants and spices to use for cooking, weaving and medicine. She taught the young girls how to cook and sew, how to make healing potions and remedies that would come in handy as they got older. Erik the Red recounted to his children about the massive space-faring Viking longships he had seen back in his homeland, and encouraged all of his children to grow up strong, brave and intelligent so that perhaps one day, they too could sail the stars and recall epic adventures to their own children.

Outer Arm
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The custodian was silent for a moment, a trillion different thoughts condensed into a single moment before he was back around a tiny ship somewhere in the murky seas beyond the Veil. His avatar aboard the Balena was of the typical “ancient civilization”, a bald man draped in a toga that crawled with a strange, ancient script.

”I do not have the might of the Apparatus at my disposal this time, though some of the occupation forces may be requisitioned.”


While VIRGIL organized an adhoc operation in less than a minute, the FTL booster transiting to the Balena was making its own preparations, albeit autonomously. The GXP ship was soon also joined by another as it taxied to the astral gate, the Leagueship Bison. The heavily armed frigate was a blocky distinction from the sleek Balena.

”You are clear to transit the gate, Officers. I am opening communication with the host nation now, as transit to Langara is tightly regulated.”