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Rupert the Debitus

"Do I dream?"

0 · 667 views · located in Hell's Land

a character in “A Wizard's Compendium of Demons”, as played by Doc Squire

Description

Image




Image


Name: Rupert the Debitus

Aliases/Nicknames: Known as Rupe to the few friends he has managed to make. Sometimes also called Number 116.

Age: His literal age is ten, but in action and in mind he is around 20.

Gender Male

Sexuality: Asexual

Race: Warforged Golem

Occupation: Rupert's occupation is dependent on what his master needs. When his master says jump, he simply asks, "How high?" However most recently he has filled the position of artificer at a smaller shop. When given the choice as to what type of magic he would have liked to practice, one of the few choices he has been allowed to make in his life, he quietly said "Lightning."




Appearance: Due to his master's need at the time Rupert was created with little artistry. He is a solid construct composed of harsh edges and lines with more attention paid to his strength and ability to carry a heavy burden. His frame is heavy pig iron and lead with flakes of rust and signs of hard use beginning to show along his arms. His joints are hardy oak, but severe labor has begun to wear them down as splinters and slight signs of mildew have begun to appear. However most important is his inability to articulate emotion. His master built him without a functional mouth, but rather a simple repository to deposit his equivalent of food. In place of eyes are two unpolished stones, unable to express his inner thoughts. Do not be fooled though, he feels as deeply as any other living creature, it was simply a cruel oversight that he was created this way.

Skills/Powers:
  • Unliving Construct: Rupert, similar to other constructs and warforged, was built without the capacity for pain. This does not necessarily mean he is invincible, but rather he is able to keep a clear head in the face of seemingly mortal injuries.
  • Golem Strength: With his original purpose in mind Rupert was initially built simply for heavy lifting. As a result he is much stronger than your average creature in Ledirue. If you need something picked up, thrown, or crushed Rupert would be happy to help.
  • Gun Training: He has achieved proficiency in a variety of guns due to playing a bodyguard role for his master, eight times out of ten he can hit his target but he's not a perfect shot. His preference however is for his shotgun affectionately named, Bertha.
  • Lightning Artificer: It may come as a shock to many people, but Rupert was trained as an artificer. Most constructs are created with little cognitive ability past simple commands and blind obedience. Rupert, in contrast, was given complete sentience and the access to higher-level thinking and advanced mental capacity. As a result his master entrusted him to work as an artificer, specifically molding the capricious nature of lightning and imbuing objects with it. Whether it is powering an object or simply adding a shock factor to Bertha's bullets Rupert has an intermediate understanding of the properties of lightning.

Weaknesses/Flaws:
  • Naive: Despite having greater thinking capability than most other constructs he still suffers from the curse of youth. He is still rather young and depends on his master to prevent being taken advantage of. He often believes there is some good in everyone, even if the person in question is literally giving him the short end of the stick right in front of Rupert.
  • Easily Distracted: His relative youth makes him easy to distract. When something piques his interest are catches his eye he very quickly heads towards it to learn more about the subject.
  • Coarse: Because of his facial structure it is fairly easy for him to appear insensitive. Additionally, he feels as if many people complicate issues unnecessarily. Thus he has a tendency to say what's on his mind. When a locked door presents itself, the best course of action according to Rupert is simply through and leaving a Rupert-sized hole in his wake.
  • Sensitivity: Rupert for the most part is levelheaded as they come. Most issues barely bother him, and if they do it typically doesn't do more than rankle his mind for an hour or so. However one topic he does take very seriously is whether he's truly alive or not. Any doubt of his ability to think for himself or questioning of his sentience leaves a bad taste in his almost nonexistent mouth, and a poor evaluation of the speaker's character. More prodding on the subject may lead to Rupert losing his cool.
  • Fear of Water: He can't swim, he's essentially a giant rock.
  • Flammable: His joints aren't magically protected from fire, and in fact he may be prone to catching fire when dealing with the element. Plus because of the fact that he can't feel pain, he may not notice he's caught fire.

History: "Wake up, my son. You are eternally bound to serve. Anything I may ask of you, you may not refuse. But in the moments that fill the space between tasks you are free to do as you wish. Never forget where you are from, for as I have given you life I may also grant you the gift of death." These were the first words Rupert heard when he woke up on the stone slab. Summoned to life by the Master Artificer of Ledirue, Number 116 began his term of service. In the beginning most of his days consisted of heavy lifting. He picked up warehouse and dock shipments for the Master Artificer and brought it back to the workshop. Yet as time passed he began to grow curious about the world. He began to ask questions, and most importantly he began to wonder. An act that most sentients take for granted, Number 116 realized that if his master had so chosen he might simply have been a mindless automaton, yet he was not. He had been granted with curiosity and a naturally inquisitive mind. He went on and picked a name for himself, he no longer wanted to be a number. That day he confronted his master with the demand to be called Rupert, he expected to be disassembled for scrap within that same hour but instead the Master Artificer quietly smiled and began to refer to him by his chosen name. One day he walked into the workshop and saw his master chatting with The Wizard. He had heard tales of him in his wanderings of the city, but had never actually seen him. Later that day, his master told him that he had been given over to The Wizard to discharge a debt. The content of the debt was unknown to him, nor the term of service. For all intents and purposes he now belonged to The Wizard.

Personality: To the outside observer Rupert is as a stone statue. He limits his movements unless absolutely necessary, and since he is a construct one cannot even see him taking a breath. This manifests itself in his personality as well as he is usually even-tempered in nature and content to observe. Most problems seem trivial to him, whether it is a lack of experience or a true part of his personality only time will truly tell. For the most part he is a loner, because of his lack of life experience combined with his imposing stature it is fairly difficult for him to make friends. Despite this fact, he truly cherishes the few friends he has made and does his best to be there when they need him.

In his decade of life the most pressing question he has come across is whether he is truly alive or not. Is he living because he is able to think, or will he never be able to cross the threshold of life because he is simply a creature summoned to an unnatural life and built out of metal and wood? Thus he enjoys a hearty debate, even if sometimes the argument doesn't make sense. He feels that the sharing of thoughts is one of the most intimate things two living beings can do because of how unique it is to be alive. He doesn't really have a favorite food, but he does enjoy playing with dogs and cats.


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Bertha: She speaks for herself

So begins...

Rupert the Debitus's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Dae Mec
Judah stumbled and tasted dirt. Gods, he hated teleportation arrays. With the ease of a soldier, he cleared his mind of any grogginess from the spell and straightened, assessing his situation. The trees around him were large and unfamiliar—twisted, perhaps even unnatural. The memory of his meeting with the Wizard flashed into his mind. Judah grasped at his shoulder, feeling the uneven skin where the brand had been placed. Yes, that had actually happened.

“Ah, fuck,” he mumbled. So this was Hell’s Land. Great. He adjusted the bag slung across his shoulder and sighed. Inside, there were some rudimentary supplies and a whole lot of spoons. As mundane as his artificer talent was, it had come in handy plenty of times before. Fire was pretty useful, after all.

Judah glanced around, noting that there were others around him. One was a tall red-head who looked displeased with the whole situation. Her blue robes suggested that she was a mage, though Judah didn't know what kind. Another was a twitchy Dullahan, judging by the stitches around her neck. Judah had worked with Fae before; there were plenty in Ledirue, and the royal family had a few under their employ.

The third person was a blue-eyed woman wearing some kind of cleric’s armor. It wasn't one he’d seen before. Her lack of white hair meant that she wasn’t part of the Church of the Eternal Goddess, the one faith he knew about. Judah was rather apathetic about religions, so that wasn't too odd. And the third—was that a golem? What was one of the Master Artificer’s creations doing here? Well, maybe they were all in the same predicament. The Wizard had mentioned that others would be joining him. But they could also be demons, out to eat his soul. Unlikely, but you never knew.

“Hello. I'm Judah. You here ‘cause of the Wizard, too?” He only gave his first name, because names had power, and Judah had dealt with enough magic to be careful. Cautiously, he moved his hand to his sword. It was this same caution that allowed him to notice the gathering shadows by the base of a tree. As he watched, the darkness solidified into a large, humanoid figure. Two tendrils drifted away from the mass, becoming crystallized claws. Seven red eyes appeared on its torso. Then, the creature split, and now there were six of them. Maybe it's our welcome party! he thought sardonically.

Judah backed away. “Do any of you know what that is?” he called out, drawing his sword. “I don’t think it’s friendly!”

The words were hardly out of his mouth before the creatures dashed towards them with a guttural moan, claws extended. Nightpiercer burst into incandescent flames, and the sounds of fighting rang out around him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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Teleportation was a regular event for Astris, so she needed no recuperation. As she arrived in Hell's Land, she surveyed her surroundings, wrinkling her nose in digust. The smell of dirt and animal invaded her nose, and there were trees for as long as the eye could see. With no soft beds in sight. She puts her hands on her hips and held back a groan. No use in complaining, she had to do this quest for the Wizard and fulfill her debt, or there'd be no living with him.

She looked around at the other people (she refused to call them 'companions') around her. Rupert, who she had briefly met at the Wizard's home, was there, though she wasn't sure if that was a comfort or not. A religious looking woman and a Dullahan she guessed was Allanah's sister were present also, though they were certainly no comfort.

"Ah, fuck," the only living male in the group stated eloquently. She snorted in agreement, but didn't speak.

She wanted to waste no time in starting her quest so she could leave this nightmare. She sat on a boulder and crossed her legs, fishing through her bag for her checklist. The first item she needed was easy. The second and third were achievable. She had no idea how she would accomplish the fourth, it wasn't exactly something she could find in the grass. She sighed and put her bag aside just as the man started talking.

"Hello. I'm Judah. You here ‘cause of the Wizard, too?” he asked the group.

Astris smiled bitterly. "I believe that's why we're all here. To band together," she made a punching movement with her arm at this, "and help each other complete our quests. Or more likely just to entertain our debtor when we all turn on each other."

She saw the man put a hand on his sword and thought she had already been proven right. The the hairs and the backof her neck stood up, and she instinctively turned around to see a large shadow slowly forming itself into a living creature with claw and seven red eyes. In the time it took her to leap from the boulder, the thing had mutliplied into six creatures! One of them set its eyes on her and started charging right for her. She narrowly escaped being eviserated, and rolled in between two trees close enough together that they blocked the creature from being able to get to her. Just out of reach of its claws, she dug into her bag to get the white chalk she used for drawing summoning circles, and got started drawing the intricate shapes, hoping that what she had in mind would work.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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The smell of dust and what could be taken for animal musk was instantly familiar as Caera lifted her head to find herself in the new location. She could tell immediately that her changed face had been thrown off, and she quickly lifted her scarf up over her nose as a barrier against the eyes she had already felt crawling over her skin. She felt a draft through her hair, and reaching one hand up she discovered her tricorn was missing. A quick glance at the ground around her found it had been thrown into the dirt upon her arrival; she lifted it up and dusted it off before returning it to her head, creating a mask that left only her eyes visible.

She eyed each of her fellow debtors quickly, sizing them up as one would a target. The human male seemed familiar - a knight from the castle, maybe? He introduced himself as Judah. His eyes had been one of the ones on her stitches, so clearly more observant than appearance suggested. Astris she recognized from the drawings in her sister's letters, and she seemed to have "debtor" confused with "creditor", which followed Caera's text-based interpretation that she held herself as better than she was. Beyond that... the warforged seemed sturdy, but slow, and the gun on its back suggested more comfort at range. The other armored human looked like a knight; strength over mobility, but reverse the golem's fighting tactics. Both would likely be a liability in the forest's undergrowth.

She noticed the shadow at the edge of the clearing roughly the same time as Judah; while his hand went to his sword, Caera was taking a step toward the opposite end, her mind analyzing the threat as it presented itself. Opportunistic. Splits to go after all available prey, must need one extra to provide tactical maneuvering. Brain will stay still, hounds pursue, missed the mage but delayed response, poor ability to adapt? Must need to split focus between doubles. Must have limited range. Fall back and split up, take hounds one on one, find Astris, she can summon signal to regroup? Does she know signal flares? Acceptable risk. Move.

She darted back toward the treeline right as one of the shadows lunged for her, coming crashing into the dirt where Caera had been standing just a second before. Delayed response creates opportunity. She skidded to a halt a few feet from the edge of the clearing, and instead rushed past where the shadow "hound" had collided with where she'd been standing. She dropped a small bone sphere - one of her blood bombs for blinding opponents - next to the human male as she dashed past him toward another side of the clearing. He seemed smart, he could probably figure out what to do with it. Maybe. She didn't bother relaying anything to the others; she was already past the treeline, and could here "here" shadow in pursuit.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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OBSERVATION: Number of sentients taken through the teleportation array - 4
CONJECTURE: Most likely debtors to the Wizard as well.
CONCLUSION: Fellow party members, potentially FRIENDS?

Rupert stood up from the sitting position he had taken upon entering the teleportation array and began to investigate his surroundings. He had never been to Hell's Land but had heard tell of it among the chatter of the marketplace, docks, and warehouses that made up the commercial sector of Ledirue.

A horrific place populated by demons that increased in viciousness the deeper you went.
An entirely different elemental plane, with a weakness between the borders of the two worlds creating the forest.
A simple part of nature, another biome similar to the desert wastes or the frosty tundra.

These were all descriptions that Rupert had overheard. No one person could provide a definitive answer, but the one common factor was the presence of demons within the forest proper. Rupert had never seen a demon for himself but was excited by the opportunity to study them up close. He had had very little time to study the few texts dedicated to the topography of Hell's Land or the physiology of your average demon, so the ability to come to his own conclusions and perhaps even contribute his own perspective was an attractive facet of this quest. He was unsure what exactly the Master Artificer owed to the Wizard but he assumed it was important. The Master Artificer was usually quite reluctant to loan out her constructs, and he in particular was very rarely contracted out. In fact, this was the first time in his existence that entire ownership of his person had been passed on to someone else.

The forest itself was ancient. The canopy formed by the trees reached far beyond one’s eyesight and many of the trees themselves had trunks that were several yards across. As a result, despite the fact that it was still daylight the shadows cast seemingly darkened the day by several hours. Regardless, the Wizard had given him a task to complete and for all intents and purposes he was Rupert’s new master however temporary the condition might be. He began taking stock of the situation around him.

OBSERVATION: Human Male, Human Female, Dullahan Female, Godling Female.
EVALUATION: Likely capable adventurers, Wizard putting together novices unlikely

If these were to be his party members he felt on some level they could be trusted to take care of themselves. Otherwise the Wizard would not have sent them so deep into the forest right from the beginning of their quest. However, Rupert was no fool; while they might be dependable the best safeguard is to be prepared for all situations. He began by caring for Bertha. Aside from the light dusting from hitting the dirt floor she was by all accounts still in working order. Brushing off the dirt he freed three shrapnel shells from his bag and loaded his shotgun. Rupert found that in his time as a bodyguard that these particular shells carried an exceptional advantage over most flesh-based creatures. Just then he heard one of his fellow party members speak:

“Do any of you know what that is?”
“I don’t think it’s friendly!”

APPRAISAL: Likelihood of friendliness - Low.
ASSESSMENT: Threat level - high, prepare for impending combat.

He made a mental note of the Dullahan making a beeline for the trees, the Godling drawing a summoning circle in the dirt, and the human female locked in combat with one of the creatures. He cocked his shotgun and began to walk towards the shadowy creatures.

"Hostile, I am enacting Protocol Victor and will begin the use of lethal force. This is your first warning." Rupert unloaded Bertha's first shell at the nearest creature and pumped to reload.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Dae Mec
His sword clashed against the creature’s claws, creating sparks that made the beast screech. Judah twisted the hilt—with one motion, the blade severed the creature’s crystallized talons. Drawing back, the monster moaned, its red eye swiveling around. To his grim displeasure, the claws were already beginning to grow back, wispy shadows coalescing at the edges of its arm.

Judah knew that his sword was capable of hurting it. (Fire for purification, light for nullification—hence the twin magics in his sword.) However, it seemed that attacking its shadows didn’t have a substantial impact on it. The crystallized, bone-like parts of its bodies could be hit and destroyed, but they regenerated rather quickly.

Judah would have to get closer. He had a suspicion that the demon’s weak spot was its eye. Pressing forward, Nightpiercer almost moving on its own, Judah heightened his assault. The creature began to draw back. He glanced at the fights going on next to him and realized that the other shadow demons were retreating as well.

The priest-warrior woman was swinging her twin blades, backing along the path. Though her sword form was damn perfect, she seemed a bit off-balance. Teleportation sickness, maybe? It seemed that the red-headed woman was drawing a summoning circle of some kind, a look of intent concentration on her face. The golem had just given a verbal warning, and it (he?) had taken out some sort of gun.

The Dullahan girl dashed by him, diverting his attention for a quick moment. A round, white object fell from her grasp and rolled by his feet. Ducking, Judah grabbed the sphere and switched to a one-handed grip. The flames cut into its shadow body, and though it made its displeasure loudly known, it had no visible effect. Well, the demon did seem to be a bit paler, but that was all.

It’s not smart enough to divide us up? he wondered. Well, the demon’s better than the average bear, but I guess that’s as far as it goes. Judah blinked, coming to a realization as he fended off another of the demon’s attacks. From the look of it, I don’t think its shadow… um, things, can go that far from each other. I think we’re already pushing at its limits.

Judah wasn’t sure what the Dullahan’s device did, but he had a feeling that it was a long range type object. Once he saw an opening, he chucked the sphere at the demon, rolling to the side to take cover behind a tree. His aim was, uh, a little off—the sphere landed to its left, but it seemed to have worked. Writhing, moaning, the demon seemed less concerned with him and more concerned with its eye. Nightpiercer now in a two handed grip, Judah stabbed.

The dark shadows around the creature dispersed, leaving just an impaled eye. Judah examined the organ at the end of his sword.

“Well,” he said, “that went well.” He looked to see how his fellow debtors were doing, prepared to lend a hand if needed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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"THREAT: Hostile, you have been warned! I am enacting Protocol Victor," Rupert barked.

Rupert chambered another round and unloaded on the creature in front of him. It seemingly had a vicious effect on the shadowy creature as the shrapnel ripped several ragged holes in its body. However in a span of seconds the same holes began to close and the creature renewed its assault. Clearly there was some regenerative factor at work, and it was a little convenient that the creature had been able to divide into six figures; one for each of them. While Rupert had taken on several belligerents at once before, this was something he had never seen. Perhaps something to inquire into after combat had ceased.

It brandished its claws and rushed Rupert beginning another barrage. Rupert was able to dodge most attacks easily enough, it was simple enough to analyze the creature's favored side and preferred method of carving up prey. Rupert began by dodging widely, but once enough information had been collected he easily side-stepped the monster's claws by a few inches. However, this resulted in the monster's growing frustration and eventually one glancing blow with enough force behind it lodged one of its claws in the wooden portion of Rupert's arm.

OBSERVATION: Creature unable to completely cut through appendage. Probably developed to take on organics.
CONCLUSION: Harmless to myself, however potential harm to party members.
ACTION: Enact Protocol Victor, Sub-directive Harm Reduction.

The creature scrabbled at Rupert attempting to inflict more damage, but it also seemed slightly panicked at the predicament it had just found itself in. Unable to dislodge itself from Rupert's arm it used its claws to slash Bertha out of Rupert's hands. In what could have been misconstrued as a grunt of smug satisfaction the creature continued to try and slash Rupert's forearm off, this time taking care not to get both arms lodged. Rupert was not expecting being disarmed, but it was a matter of little consequence. In a single deliberate motion he used his other arm to take a firm grasp of the creature's head and hurled it high into the air towards one of the thicker trees. He picked up the errant shotgun, rushed to the base of the tree where the creature had fallen, and chambered Bertha's final round. Standing over the creature he had Bertha's muzzle trained right at its head, stepping on its arm for good measure.

"INTIMIDATION: Most shotguns this size usually are 10 to 28 gauge, but Bertha here is specially made. She's a brutal 42 gauge, three chamber, pump-action boomstick. She also doesn't take kindly to being knocked into the dirt either. You'd better apologize, unless you feel lucky. Do you feel lucky, demon?"

Of course being unable to speak the monster simply howled at Rupert while fighting to free its arm. However Rupert had always wanted to use that line after reading the tale of the human sheriff who refused to play by the town's regulations.

Bertha splattered the demon's entire head across the tree trunk's base.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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Astris jumped as she narrowly avoided the claw of the demon. Luckily it was still barred by the trees she was hiding behind. For now. She finished drawing the circle, then slammed her hand in the center, causing the entire design to light up into a glowing turquoise color. She stood back and shielded her eyes as the light got so bright it was almost blinding. After a few moments, it ceased, and in its place stood a large creature. It resembled a tiger, but stood at ten feet tall, with long, glowing turquoise fur that whipped around him, and enormous spikes that stuck out of his back.

Astris approached the Cryx, and he bent down so she could and rub his head. With her other hand, she pointed to the demon, and said, "Go kill it, Sivath!"

Sivath immediately sprang into action. He completely knocked the trees over in his haste to get to the demon, not caring if anything got caught in the crossfire. He slammed into the demon, and they both tumbled to the ground. Shadows came out of the demon, and started attacking the Cryx. Astris became worried that the creature would be defeated, so she sprang forward and grabbed onto his long fur, and hefted herself onto his back. She dug into her bag that only contained a knife, a notebook, some Fu-toh that was a vegetarian snack from the Far South, a self-replenishing ink pen made from an Artificer, some empty glass vials, a water strainer, and what she was looking for- a small lamp. She lit it, and waved it around the shadow creatures that were attacking Sivath. They recoiled at the fire, but only briefly, forcing her to constantly shove it at a different shadow. Meanwhile, Sivath, with this small reprieve, was able to swat at the demon with his own claws. It screamed as the Cryx sliced open its eye, then fell quiet as the shadows disappeared.

With the threat dead, Astris smiled, put away her lamp, and climbed down from Sivath. Once again, he bent down so she could scratch him behind his ear. "Thank you for your service," she said, then erased the circle with her hand. Another blinding light shone, then the creature was gone. Astris smoothed her robes and her hair, collecting herself, then walked closer to where the others were. "That was fun," she said, only slightly out of breath. After all, she had very little to do with her success. "What's next on the agenda?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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#, as written by Dae Mec
The demon's splattered head revealed that, no, the warforged did not need his help. Judah was impressed by the capability of both the construct and the weapon wielded. The pistol's long-range ability would be useful, especially since the inhabitants of the forest weren't the kind you wanted to get close to.

"Nice gun you've got there." He nodded with mild respect at the golem.

Then, some sort of enormous cat-beast sprung out of nowhere, attacking one of the shadow-demons. And was that—was there someone on its back? Yes, there was. It was the woman in blue robes, the one who'd made the wry comment about their quest. His guess was correct, then. Now, Judah no doubt that she was a mage of some sort. In short work, the cat-beast defeated the demon. At the woman's murmured words, it disappeared.

"That was fun," said the mage, sounding like she'd taken a quick walk, at most. "What's next on the agenda?"

Judah shrugged, sword (with the impaled eyeball) still in hand. "I don't know about you, but I really don't want to stay here. We made a lot of noise, and I wouldn't be surprised if we've attracted the attention of a few more nasties." He frowned. "What do you say we head further into the forest? Standing still won't do us much good."

Out of the corner of his eye, Judah noticed the gleam of metal. He turned to see the cleric/warrior woman several paces away. She was crouched on the remains of the demon, and she was breathing deeply. However, the woman seemed no less alert or ready.

"Hey there," he called, voice carefully pitched to just reach the warrior. It wasn't a good idea to yell loudly in a (literally) hellish forest, but neither was it a good idea to sneak up on a fighter after battle. He knew from experience that people got twitchy. "You alright?" Judah gestured to himself and the two others near him. "I was thinking about going deeper into the forest. Don't want to linger, and all."

Then, a thought came to him, and he gave a hesitant, if slightly sheepish, smile directed at all his fellow debtors. "I introduced myself earlier. Judah, in case you missed it. Sorry, but I don't know any of your names."

Judah blinked, turning to take stock of the people around him. There was the mage, the golem, the armored cleric... "Wait a minute," he said, looking around to make sure. "We're missing the Dullahan, aren't we?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Astris Sadelyn Character Portrait: Rupert the Debitus Character Portrait: Judah Blanchland Character Portrait: Caera Character Portrait: Serafina Alluvari Character Portrait:
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Caera was cautious as she approached the clearing, dropping low to avoid being spotted by any Shadows which might be lurking in the area. She lifted her head slightly when she saw the other debtors, but hung back a bit longer; they were hunting a face-robber, after all, and she didn't feel it would be very smart to assume it was them on sight alone.

She kept behind the treeline, eyes fixed on the four in the clearing, ears trained on anything they might say. The warforged gave his name; maybe that could serve as a test? She doubted a demon would be able to steal the name of its prey alongside the face. Caera focused on the stated name - "Rupert the Debitus" - and after a moment of apprehension, felt the faint familiar tug in the golem's direction. She pondered a bit on how "the Debitus" could be considered a proper surname, or why a machine would need a surname, then stood and walked into the clearing, bone whip resting once more against her shoulder.

Caera moved to stand a bit off from Rupert's left shoulder; far enough to keep the party in her field of vision, but close enough that he made an effective barrier between herself and the others. She doubted that the others were demons in disguise, but until she could confirm it, best to keep something between her and them.

"Demon huntin'," she answered, her accent thick enough that one could practically smell where she came from. "Since ye dinnae know," she added, shifting awkwardly. Talking to new people always made her throat hurt from the strain of forcing her words out. "'N' m'name is Caera. If we're... doin'... ehem. Hi."

She moved to stand a bit more behind Rupert to avoid any gazes which might be cast her way, eyes jumping between the other debtors. She counted five of them, then counted two - three? Four? - shadows' eyes. Counting one, that meant perhaps five slain, yet she'd counted six copies earlier. Had someone gotten two?

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Serafina’s heavy breathing ended in a long, drawn-out sigh, the sound of which was drowned out by one of the other people who had been presumably dropped here speaking. This time, the words that drifted through the air were comprehensible to her, as the bells in her mind and the wax over her eyes began to fade. She supposed Judah was a name, as was Rupert of Derbitus… Derinus… Debitus–there was still some distorted bells ringing off in the distance not helped by the odd tone and pitch of the one speaking. Regardless, the deed below her was done, though she scanned what remained of whatever that thing was. There wasn’t much substance left, and she wasn’t in the habit of making her offerings in the form of mush that needed to be lapped up off the ground, so her rites weren’t necessary now.

Leaning forward slightly, Serafina quickly sprung up to her feet with the momentum of a backswing and imagined now would be the time to introduce herself. “I am Serafina, cleric of the First Faith and Missionary of the Maw.” She gave a slight bow as the words reached the ears of the would be companions in her immediate area, not wanting her voice to trail to far and just now noticing that her mouth and throat hadn’t appreciated the journey either. At that moment she examined said companions, noting who she imagined to be Judah by his normal tone and Rupert by his abnormal one. At the moment, she wasn’t sure if he was just an odd man in an overbearing suit of armor or some sort of poltergeist, but it was certainly an interesting thing to look at that made interesting things wander into her imagination. And then there was another woman, whose name she had not heard since she had gained the ability to properly hear and seemed to be the least disheveled of them all. Going by that and the robes that they insisted on wearing instead of actual armor, she was probably some sort of spellcaster, but there was little to go by at the moment.

Then there was what Serafina imagined to be a person stalking around behind the other two, only deigning to utter sound after making its way behind Rupert. And it… she certainly made what could only be called sound. Demon huntin was the most coherent phrase to emerge, though name could be easily picked out within the context of Caera, which sounded too distinct to even be the result of such a thick accent. Serafina gave another small bow again when Caera finished talking, and then briefly looked to Judah, who had mentioned his plans, having little insight to contribute to any potential ideas for the situation. Then for a moment, she realized the difference in weight and shifted gaze to the nearby ground, sighting what she was looking for. Quickly scooping up her large weapon and returning it to its home, her eyes returned to Judah. “What was it, again, that you suggested?”

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Astris had to stifle a groan when she heard the woman called Serafina was a cleric. "Well, let us all hope that your god doesn't get the idea that we'd be more useful dead. Being a servant, you'd have to carry out the wishes." She had never heard of the religion the woman mentioned, because she made a huge effort to never be in the know when it came to religion, but she knew that followers were more often than not unyielding to their faith and devotion. It scared her, though she'd never admit it.

"Anyway, since we're all doing introductions, my name is Astris. As some of you saw, I can summon powerful creatures to do my bidding. I'm also apprenticed to the Wizard, so I probably know much more about him than any of you." It seemed a good idea to put the extent of her abilities on the table. Having to go it alone didn't seem appealing, for once. She'd keep her Necromancy under wraps for now, though. Never know how people might react to that.

She looked around at the cast of characters she was stuck with. They were all obviously skilled in their ways, so they weren't completely useless. The warforged seemed a bit too nice. The cleric would most likely be trouble at some point. Caera had mentioned another demon, so she was perceptive, but since Astris didn't see any demons bearing down on her, she assumed someone else had taken care of it. Jude seemed trustworthy, so there was probably something wrong with him.

In response to Jude's suggestion of going deeper into the forest, she said, "I agree. We should go forward, best to get this over with as fast as possible. I heard about a lake deep in the forest with lights at the bottom. In the dark, they say, it looks like an underwater night sky. The Silent Hope Flower, a plant that is said to cure some wound, blooms there. It might be useful to have some in our possession." In truth, the flower was on her list of items she needed for the quest. It was possible that the flowers could bloom near any body of water, but it grew near the lake most numerously.

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#, as written by Dae Mec
Judah blinked at Rupert's unusual way of responding. "Huh, so I guess it's obvious that the Master Artificer made my sword." Maybe it was something instinctive, since Rupert was also made by the artificer in question. He flicked the Nightpiercer downwards, dislodging the eyeball. Casually, he stepped on it, frowning at the way it squished.

The warrior-cleric practically leaped to her feet, introducing herself with a bow. He had guessed correctly about her occupation—Serafina, a cleric and a missionary, belonged to the First Faith.

"Missionary of the Maw?" he muttered, unsure. Yeah, Judah had never heard of that before. Perhaps it was one of the minor churches, like the warrior cult of Inev. But Serafina didn't strike him as the "fight and party" kind of person.

"Well, let us all hope that your god doesn't get the idea that we'd be more useful dead. Being a servant, you'd have to carry out the wishes." The mage's words made Judah grimace. It wasn't that he particularly cared about religion, but Astris's comment seemed deliberately designed to provoke the cleric. People tended to be touchy about their faith, First or not.

Apparently, Astris wasn't just a mage. She was also one of the Wizard's apprentices. Judah eyed her, opinion somewhat changing. She was definitely capable with magic, then. Judging from her attitude, she'd picked up more than just magic skills from the Wizard.

Before he could even consider Rupert's recommendation of a search party, the Dullahan walked in. She seemed a bit skittish, edging behind Rupert in a way that put the golem between her and the others. Apparently, her name was Caera, and she mumbled a quick greeting that Judah didn't entirely understand. Either way, he smiled back.

"Nice to meet you," he replied briskly.

Serafina picked up and sheathed her large sword. It was wave-bladed, and Judah knew from experience that those were irritating to fight against. “What was it, again, that you suggested?” said Serafina.

Slightly annoyed at having to repeat himself, Judah reiterated his plan. "Ah, I suggested moving deeper into the forest." Well, it wasn't exactly her fault, but Judah wasn't exactly the most patient person.

Astris agreed with him and suggested a specific destination. The lake, with its useful flowers, seemed like a good place to go.

"I'm fine with heading there." He sheathed his sword and stepped forward. "Unless any of you know where that is, exactly, we should probably start walking that way." Judah gestured vaguely north.

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Caera scratched at the stitches on her neck as the rest introduced themselves. She rolled her eyes as Astris gave a brief description of her abilities; it seemed her sister's assertion that the Wizard's apprentice could "summon almost anything" had been rather less useful than Caera had hoped. Nonetheless, she was at least willing to provide a slightly more concrete destination than "deeper in."

Judah took charge on a vague march north, provoking a hesitant "a-hem" from Caera. Her left hand dug bandaged fingers against bandaged palm as she braced herself for whatever eyes would fall on her as she spoke. The human knight clearly didn't know much about traversing unknown regions, which... did not bode well for their little venture. Hopefully the others would have a bit more sense about it.

"We shou' get a better view," she suggested, pointing her right index finger upward. "'S better'n jus... wand'rin'..." She averted her gaze as she trailed off, hand going to the stitches on her neck again.

She cast her eyes around the twisted grey trees at the edge of the clearing, judging which might be the tallest. She briefly considered simply walking off to get the view on her own, but doubted the wisdom in leaving herself exposed when they had recently misplaced a demon. She also didn't trust the trees not to reveal themselves as carnivorous. She turned her attention back to the debtors, and after careful consideration on each member's capacity to solve the issue, Caera decided she might rather risk the trees. Or, actually-

"I could scout ahead," she interjected into whatever the others were doing. "Jus' for a bit ahead as we go. Might make it easier to avoi' the nasties, too."

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As it was to Serafina’s misfortune, the woman who had yet to introduce herself was going to be one of those people. There were plenty of them in Falacraea and plenty more still to be met in her travels, and they grew tiresome quickly. They were aware of all of two faiths and had decided that, based on such a small sampling that they were in some position to spit barbs at any who crossed their path. Serafina made a habit of, when able, ramming those barbs back down their throats along with the rest of her armored fist, but now was not the most opportune time for such a thing. She would settle for her own barbs this time.

“You needn’t worry, Astris, my god has no cares nor concerns for the ignorant and the arrogant. That is something left to someone such as I to personally rectify and enjoy.” Serafina placed her right hand upon her chest and tilted her chin up during her unsubtle threat, all while maintaining her smile. Then she let the pleasantries fade with her smile and unceremoniously spit onto the ground, having found some bit of demon hidden in the corner of her jaw. This could have been a pleasant experience: exploring a new land, encountering new beasts and anything else that might dwell in this twisted forest, and accomplishing a mission on behalf of the First Temple, but it had already soured for Serafina. Apparently, she didn’t even need to give an offering to her god or eat some sort of flesh for people to dislike her, which gave her an odd sense of righteousness that the slightest persecution fuels endlessly. Now there was potentially even more to accomplish on this journey. The extra work did not weigh on the cleric at all–it was a simple thing after all–and was wholly contingent on whether the ignorant and the arrogant ceased to be so by the time they returned.

Regardless of any of this, though, was the issue of what to do next. Serafina was not the least bit familiar with these woods and had no intention of pretending otherwise. ”Whatever we decide to do we should hurry; we won’t accomplish anything standing here.” She scanned the immediate area again waiting for the others, not out of concern but out of interest and renewed clarity. It was quite a wonder to see, and made sure to take in as much as she could. She drifted so far that she even allowed her hands to engage in an old habit of drawing her swords ever so slightly from the scabbards hooked to her belt and then returning them just as quickly. It wasn’t a quiet habit, but it was one that gave her hands something to do when they weren’t needed.

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Rupert was unaware of the slight tension that had developed amongst the group already. He had not yet quite developed a complete understanding of human emotions and the dynamics associated with disagreeing opinions. However he was pleased that now everyone was introduced to one another, and he had a better assessment of everyone’s capabilities post-combat. Rupert re-holstered Bertha and walked a slight distance away so that he was facing everyone.

“INTERJECTION: Hello Judah, Astris, Caera, and Serafina! I look forward to our continued partnership and hope for a swift completion of our objectives!”

He began to ponder the words the Master Artificer and spoken to him before the beginning of the journey. She had been insistent on his ensuring the group’s survival, as if this particular contract carried a greater importance than the typical payment collection he was often sent out to do. Usually he was sent out to break a few knees because payment had been late, but even those assignments had not seemed essential. The Master Artificer typically just said it was “a matter of principle”, whatever that meant. Organic sentients were such strange creatures.

Just then discussion amongst the group brought up the idea of heading out of the clearing in a general northerly direction, or to do some basic scouting.

ASSESSMENT: Comparison of two options, reconnaissance or tactical exit from most recent site of combat. Reconnaissance to provide a better understanding of the topography and chance to reorient the group. Movement to decrease the chance of encountering more belligerents hostile to the group.

Rupert also took into account the Dullahan’s suggestion to scout ahead. As per his observation it seemed the Dullahan was more comfortable outside of group work, and he had extrapolated her abilities as she had emerged unscathed from her own personal duel with her counterpart demon. Scouting ahead would alert the group of any potential belligerents and give them time to prepare. Conversely, splitting up the group seemed counterintuitive to survival as per the Master Artificer’s command. Rupert referred to his inner databanks and considered what Sunzi, author of the Craft of Conflict, had to say on such a matter.

DELIBERATION: [Section 4, Chapter 2 – Assembling the taskforce] When tasked with an objective with a smaller war party, it is best to consider the objective at hand and ensure that sight of the objective is not lost.

How unhelpful. Rupert found that the man’s work was hit or miss and it seemed that this was one of those times that Sunzi had decided to be as nebulous as possible. Perhaps a different section.

DELIBERATION: [Section 6, Chapter 7 – Reconnaissance and Intelligence] When venturing into a new area in pursuit of an objective it is better to know than not know.

Slightly more helpful, still somewhat unhelpful. Perhaps he should simply refer to the words of Nylip the Old.

CONSIDERATION: [Musings, Verse 2; Line 15] Fortune favors the bold!

Rupert preferred action over inaction and was sure with 89% certainty that lack of movement would get them all killed. Besides, he agreed with the Dullahan with what the organics call a “gut instinct” despite his lack of a gut. Additionally, he wanted to see from the top of the tree. Rupert tightened the straps on Bertha, picked a tree to climb, dug his fingers in and began to ascend.

”DECLARATION: Companions! I am of the same mind as Caera! A greater vantage point can only better point us in the right direction. We may gather useful intelligence from the treetops while simultaneously removing ourselves from the site of combat.”

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Astris gave a sideways smile at Serafina's words and said, "That's how I prefer it." She was actually quite satisfied by what the cleric had said. She would much rather her attack her because she disliked her, not because it was ordained by her god. It was something tangible, something she could understand, and hopefully anticipate.

At Caera and Rupert's suggestion of getting a better look at there surroundings, she said, "I can actually help with that." She pulled out the chalk she uses for Summoning circles, got to work. She drew a different circle from the last time, but once again placed her hand in the middle. A bright light erupted from the circle, and a large, rainbow bird with a long tail burst from within. It flew into the sky, and swerved back toward the group, landing on the side of a tree, her giant talons digging into the bark. Her razor sharp beak was close enough to Atris for her to reach out and touch it, which she did.

"This is Gretiem," she said. "If I give her a destination, she will be able to lead me to it. We could just go on foot while she guides us from the air." Smirked. "But anyone who wants to ride her is welcome." Astris remembered when she first aquired Gretiem. She had tried to ride the Cryx, but the creature was prone to spinning while flying. It had been a long, wet walk home after she had been dumped into a river. "The Summoning will only last for an hour, so if we haven't found it by then, we're on our own."

She leaned into the large bird, and whispered, "Star Lake." Gretiem immediately flew off to locate it. "It would still probably be a good idea to climb a tree, just to get a better bearing on our surroundings."

When the Cryx came back, she started flying in circles to indicate they were to follow her that way. "It looks like our destination lies that way," Astris said, pointing.

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#, as written by Dae Mec
During the fight, most people experienced of burst of energy and focus. Different people called it different things: most knights called battle rush. Unfortunately, after the fight, this focus usually drained away. Experienced fighters, though, knew how to make that rush last a little longer... or not rely on it at all.

Judah was doing the second, each sense strained with hyper-awareness. Alright, the forest made him a little twitchy, but the shadows to the left of him were acting a little weird, and they'd just been attacked by weird shadow demons. It was justified.

Of course, he was made even twitchier by the fact that their resident mage and crusader cleric didn't seem to get along. Thankfully, Rupert and Caera seemed to be more willing to get along with the others. Rupert in particular was an interesting combination of naive and oddly experienced. But maybe Judah was being too cynical. Perhaps Rupert was actually a nice. Judah was just used to being cynical... and right. Caera, on the other hand, seemed... er, withdrawn and a little jumpy, but she also looked like she knew what she was doing.

It seemed like everyone was in agreement; scouting seemed like a smart idea to do. Then, Judah watched as an enormous rainbow bird erupted from a flash of bright light. Well. He didn't see that everyday. (But he had a feeling that it'd happen more and more often.) Once all the scouting was finished, Judah followed the lead of the others deeper into the forest.

"So," he said in a low voice, "Star Lake. But on the way there, we should probably get to know each other." Judah shrugged. "At the very least, if we know each other's specialties, then we'd be able to work together more effectively." Bodyguard work and the mercenary business in general meant working with a team. He'd seen more than one job, on his side and on the other, go bad because people didn't know what the others could do.

He tapped his sword. "I'm mostly short-range, whether it be with Nightpiercer or hand-to-hand. My sword's enchanted with some pretty potent magic that should be good against demons. Or anything flammable." Judah paused. "I also have some minor Artificer talent. Which is also useful against flammable things." He ducked under a branch. "What about you all? Likes, dislikes, pet peeves." Judah's smile was rather grim. "We might be stuck with each other for a while."

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Rupert continued to ascend the wizened, arboreal ancient by the simple strength of his arms and legs. He thought to himself that such an organism was probably centuries old judging by the size. This alone was amazing to Rupert because logging was both a serious issue and industry to Ledirue. He made a mental note to take quick sketches and descriptions of any new flora and fauna, as per the Master Artificer's request. Once again he was unsure as to their purpose.

Caera watched the warforged lift himself up into the trees for a moment, briefly reevaluating her assumption of his weight and the nature of the tree itself. It hadn't tried to eat him yet, and now that she considered it, her own time spent on the lower branches of a tree hadn't provoked any more violent of a response. She was willing to accept her prior paranoia as a miscalculation; in the calm following the demon attack, she'd reflected on at least three others she'd made beforehand, so she felt comfortable in the assumption that the idea of people-eating trees had been simple anxiety. She stepped away from the group, and a few quick steps up the trunk of one of Hell's Land's arboreal natives gave her enough momentum to leap off into the lower branches.

Just then Rupert and Caera both witnessed a sudden flash of light accompanied a loud popping noise. From the brief illumination a majestic creature manifested, avian in nature and its plumage was a swathe of reds, greens, and yellows. Rupert almost fell to the forest floor as he was overcome in amazement once again by the sorceress' capabilities. The sudden flash of light had also nearly caused Caera to lose her grip and plummet to the earth below.

Rupert eventually wished to inquire as to the nature of Astris' magical abilities, were they unique creations each time or summoned from an external plane? Did the summoning break down the creature's structure and rebuild it in a new location? Does that mean the creature dies in the process? More questions for later he supposed.

Caera's evaluation was much less favorable. She swung herself up onto the branch she hung from and pressed against the twisted grey trunk of the tree, peering around at the kaleidoscopic bird which had erupted from a circle etched into the ground. Apparently Astris had decided to help. At least now they knew which way to go.

Caera lowered herself to sit on the branch and rested her head in her hand, legs dangling in lazy circles as the dullahan considered how best to make her and Rupert's little trip into the canopy worthwhile, and how to prove herself useful when Astris had just proven she had the potential of outdoing Caera in her strongest area. Summoners were a pain in the ass, no wonder Fodla didn't have any.

...At least the bird was pretty.

"QUERY: Caera! Did you also want to scout at a higher level? It seemed prudent, and I defer to your experience in the matter."

The warforged called out to her, diverting Caera's attention across the canopy. She used one hand to steady herself against the trunk as she stood, her other hand scratching thoughtfully at the stitches on her neck. She looked up at Gretiem, then down to where the others had begun to move deeper into the wilderness. Astris' summon beast likely wouldn't be much use to those on the ground aside from acting as a beacon, and even that was limited by the apparent time limit. Caera also doubted it would be able to see much through the tangled mess of the canopy; if any threats were waiting along their path, it wouldn't know. There was also the possibility that those on the ground could lose sight of the bird. Caera supposed it was entirely possible for Astris to sense it in some way, but if she couldn't they would only end up getting lost.

Caera stopped scratching her neck, then began ascending the tree once more. "Ye, I'll go up," she called over to the warforged, leaping from one branch into another shortly before it broke underneath her. "Keep t'the mid level, bit ahead o' the rest."

"AFFIRMATION: Acceptable, I will follow your lead."

Rupert leapt away from the behemoth he was ascending and quickly followed close behind Caera. Soon they had moved a little ahead of the group, still aware of their location but a little out of sight as well. He considered it a small price to pay to ensure an overall greater survivability.

"QUERY: Caera, have you visited Hell's Land before? Any relevant information to impart?"

Caera gave an affirmative grunt from where she stepped through the branches above him, then paused as she reconsidered her response. The branches were thinner up here, and the process of shapeshifting herself into a lighter weight class was causing her some momentary distraction.

"This i'n't me first time in the godwoods, true, but I doubt I've got anythin' helpful worth sharin'," she explained, stepping from branch to branch, weighing little more than a squirrel. "M'first time was more west, where the woods butt against the Sea o' Fomori. ...Near Fodla," she added, in case the warforged wasn't enlightened with regard to geography. "For th' most part, I wouldn' be gettin' too attached to any landmarks. They like t' change sometimes."

ASSESSMENT: Topographical alteration, a feature of the woods yet unconsidered. Fascinating!

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