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Ashley

A idealistic monk that has a haunting past, her good intentions often get her and others in trouble

0 · 643 views · located in Altaea

a character in “Altaea Saga: Twilight Chronicles”, as played by Romaneck

Description

    Character:
The Spirit Monk

""The strong must help the weak never prey on them, that is my code""
Ashley
Image
Bio
Ashley is not her real name to begin with, but it is the alias she has taken to embark on her quest to right the wrongs she has made.

Ashley has a background to be certain, her father was a wealthy merchant from the lands of Vorst and much like the people of said place was a craftsman of good renown, he even crafted toys for the princess Luca way back in the day.

How does the daughter of a craftsman is lured to a secluded life in a monastery then?

Ashley is but the second of 3 children that her family had, the first one Damien was a young lad that at the age of 15 discovered he was gifted by magic, of course he kept this to himself and due to diferences with his father he left the house at an age of 16 eager to explore the world and see what the magic he had would give him.

He had to do something, for in the wake of his departure Ashley who was of an age of 8, tapped into magical energies as well and since her manor was filled with the wooden items that had been crafted by her father´s skilled hands, she played with fire and as a result the whole place burned down to ashes, consuming her parents and the sister she had loved who was but 6 years old.

The neighbors arrived to see her outside of the burning building all in tears and blackened

It was then when she convinced that magic was a terrible thing, the most foul of curses, a terrible mockery to creation and she was tainted by it.

Luckily for her, there was another organization that had views regarding the regulation of magic trough the control of oneself and a rigorous training to master said ability.

Ashley was welcomed by the Shriah Order, it was a perfect match they sought disciplines with an unwavering devotion and she looked for someone to give her a purpose and train her to tame herself.

There she endured hardships and trial that forged in the woman she is today, a master martial artist that can push her body to limits that border on the supernatural

Now when a shadow of her past comes to haunt not only her but the land as well, she must take responsibility for her acts



    Gender :Female

    Equipment :A combat suit made to protect her from the environment more than the foes she faces, she also counts with a spiked bracelets for her wrists, neck and ankles
    Finally she has a garb that covers her whole body, as of now it is not her intention to call anyone´s attention

    Age :26

    Species :Human

Quirks:
  • Fears
    • Of all things, she is afraid of fire and magic as well
  • Likes
    • The fulfillment of duty and to do good whenever able
      tough she will deny it will at her hearth the thrill of combat is one of the things that make her feel alive
      She also has a soft spot for children, has a maternal feeling towards them
  • Dislikes
    • The vile, depraved and opportunists
      Absolutely abhors people who pick on the weak and needy
      Loathes that people who can do something to help but instead do not

Personality: Focused and goal oriented Ashley is not shy bur reserved and as her order has taught her she is a good diplomat to seek a solution without bloodshed
Do not be fooled tough, the minute and excuse to beat someone to a bloody pulp is justified Ashley will be the one to deliver the first strike
But being part of the order does not mean she has to cast away all emotions, she is fond of people who are good natured and value honor and duty

So begins...

Ashley's Story

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Her eyes had been blinded, her limbs shackled, the dehydration taking a toll on her focus and the air becoming more and more contaminated

It had been like this for minutes now, if she failed she probably would not die only live with crippling burns and defective lungs the rest of her life but she had to prove that she was ready, to her master, to her colleagues and most importantly to herself.

It was an important test the Fruga Ien Ro was one that set aside those who were used by magic and those who used the magic and she would bend it to her will, the fireball that was in front of her had been created by the collective efforts of 3 masters and it was roaring; a miniature sun that if left unchecked would burn her or consume the oxygen in the room if she took too long.

She had to free herself while keeping the small sun in check her biggest achievement so far was that she had freed the right ankle that was tied to her back but whilst doing so she felt how the sun grew, should she fail to contain it she would burn like others before her and surely more after her.

How long could her respiratory system stand the smoke? although magical in nature this fire was now compressed by her will alone but the remains of said ignition still got to the inside of the organism and the longer she took the harder it was going to get.

A greater test to her than to the rest due to her background, it had been the fire she had failed to control that had consumed her family but no longer was she that small girl that knew nothing of what she was doing, she was a woman a fierce discipline of the Shriah order and a sacred agent of peace, but without the capacity to fight those who would disturb the holy absence of war, she was useless.

She feed on this thoughts and remembered the epic tales of Lucia Whitecross, a woman that much like her had tested her will against a chaotic force within, but unlike Lucia she needed no guardian, a member of the order protected itself

"You will always find a helping hand on the end of your arm" she said as her muscles tensed and a burst of energy flowed from her chest to her arms in one movement the iron that had encumbered her were not broken with nothing but the strength of her own body; the scraps of these hampering bracelets had not yet clashed against the ground when she felt the flames rushing towards her.

She lifted her arms in an attempt to quench it, an attempt that worked.

Her eyes were still covered by cloth but she would not remove them, she knew that one less sense meant more concentration and the light of the fire would hurt her retina, which would in no way help the situation.

But the fire had grown too much, it was beyond her abilities to quell the flames.

She had not come so far to fail, she would either succeed magnificently or fade away as just another mage who was not suited to the field, and Ashley knew that her fate was not to be just one more forgotten name in a large book of failures.

When she moved towards the blaze her feet found something that resonated trough her being, the light of hope was cast upon her
Could it be? a talisman?

Her feet made her a mental image to what it was, a blessed necklace of 108 beads that was just the thing to empower the abilities that she possessed and pass the Fruga Ien Ro; in a swift movement she wrapped it around her arms and then it was finally done, the fire was no more

"I am ready" she told herself as a clap of hands was heard from the far ends of the room, coming closer still


That was what success tasted like and now "Ashley" had been picked to carry out a mission of importance to the Shriah, her cloak covered her face and protected the skin against the harsh climate, as her eyes met the moon a whisper escaped her lips "I, am ready" gods knew she was

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Alvarado finished his wine cup and sank down back in his comfortable bed, life was getting good for him, much better that it had ever been at Palse with the maddened Leopold he had had the "honor" of serving under that raving lunatic´s command.

What good was all that training if they never engaged? thats why he was now at the unclaimed lands where his fine instruction would pay off and the talents that he had learned at the Reino could be put to good use, for example the last skirmish against those half lings, it had not been a particularly hard battle but still at times he realized that the real challenge was not destroying the enemy but keeping the troops from mutinying against his rule, mutinying was bad... it tended to end in the death of the superior officer, much like he had killed Sanchéz and made a break to the Unclaimed Lands.

But it was easy to keep the men in check, a boast here, a threat here and a reward every now and then.

It was especially hard keeping their spirits high knowing that sooner than later they were going to face the Captain Croc.

Freak of goddamn nature that thing was, why couldn't it be an orc or one of those cat-like demis? Instead it had to be a crocodile humanoid monster covered in scars everywhere and with a temperament so mean that it could shake the dead out of its way with a frown.

He had worked with the captain Croc before, bastard had rushed into a pike battalion to break their formation so that the cavalry could trample the main infantry line with no opposition, worst part of all it was that it had worked the captain had opened a gap by himself large enough for the whole formation to go out of the window and begin a rout in the pikemen, and without the accursed pikes the cavalry met the infantry and it stopped being a battle and more like a goddamn target practice for those mailed riders.

"Commander" The voice came from the entrance of his tent, he rose up to greet his lieutenant "Lieutenant, I trust this interruption this late in the night is because of what we... had planned" he could only see his trusted lackey at the moment but he could see 3 hooded shapes behind him "Sir, yes sir young ones and eager" he said with a devilish smile "Good, good ill be certain to send them to you once im done" the lad made a gesture and signaled the 4 women in.

"Now, now girls dont be shy" he did not liked to simply take them, it felt so much better when they did more than just endure the whole thing.

He moved towards one and lowered the hood, she was a good looking red haired girl with freckles, a classical farm sweetheart but she was so young maybe 16, hopefully he would not be the one to take her maidenhood, the girl was petrified with eyes wide open and a cold expression on her face... nothing very exciting there.

Then he looked at the second a blondie woman with eyes blue like the the summer sky of Vectis, this one was taller but was plain like a boy... still if she could pee she was of use "Dont worry my dear" he told her as he softly placed his palm against her cheek "Im a gentleman"

He was moving towards the third one when she removed her cowl and threw herself at him, her lips met his in a long passionate kiss when she withdrew she whispered to his ear "I have been waiting for you my Lion of Palse" she was loosing no time! as she moved him to his bed and helped him out of his armor

Im going to make a captain out of that lieutenant for this!

The other two has began to light out the candles, this was getting better, who knows maybe this third one was a keeper?

As he slided his hands trough her skin he could feel that it was rough and dry skin and that she had some good flesh in those bones, particularly the legs they were not loose fat they were tight flesh in good skin, her hair was all ragged like a boy´s but it hardly mattered now he could tell when a woman put her effort into things and this one was completely focused on the here and now.

Too bad he was not doing that, it was only when her hands had him grabbed by the chin and neck that he realized where he had seen those eyes before... those two dim emeralds that were so seductive now... he had seen them but two weeks before, yes it was that damned diplomat that had begged him not to continue the skirmishes against the Vabro´s forces.

He encountered the eyes again and the seductive and promising feel that had drowned him in lust was gone, only a determined glare remained and that face was the last thing he saw before she snapped his neck in one swift and deadly move.

**********************************************

Ashley´s green eyes saw the fires in the distance, another easy job with the Alvarado dead the mercenaries and soldiers would fall out of line and be unable to be moved in against Vabro in an organized way, she had just to set fire to some of the tents while they slept, nothing to big but something that would grow slowly, giving her enough time to ride out with the other two girls and see the camp be consumed by the flame.

But that was but another piece removed from the board, now she had to strike the king Baron Nielsen was the one who was masterminding the whole offensive to claim the unclaimed lands.

And he was not as foolish as his field operatives, she would need something loud and flashy to get this done... luckily for her if the rumors were true there was an elf alchemist that would brew for the right price

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"Another decisive victory for captain Croc I see" the bald dwarf said as he counted coins

"Without Alvarado to lead them the Forlon Fighters got pummeled by the Captain, mauled 800 strong while only loosing about a score of men and took the rest prisoners, probably going sell them as slaves beyond the northwall, there is nobody to ransom them" an elf with a shaggy beard that hung beyond his shoulders "That was quite a feat Niupa"

Ashley simply nodded "Still we have but taken pawns and towers, as long as the Baron is on the field this skirmishes will only prolong and the half lings cant take a conflict of this scale" she folded her arms as she leaned back to the wooden pillar, the light was scarce as was common of most of the order´s reunions

"Our informant with the Captain says that a strike to Yree is being planned, the baron probably knows it since he is fortifying his position there, even for the Captain taking Yree while backed up with the Baron´s forces will be too taxing and force the reptile back" The bald dwarf, Edwin Goldgut kept counting those coins even with the lack of light, how could he keep a conversation and continue to add to the general sum of his treasury was a feat indeed

"I could use this diminishing of forces at his manor to cut the snake´s head" Ashley stood as her facial features hardened with conviction and determination to put and end to this whole ordeal
"Easier said than done Niupa, the Baron´s manor is one in name only it is more akin to a miniature castle that is guarded by patrols and high stone walls Ive worked on the field before with you and while there is no denying that you have talent this is beyond your infiltration skills.... unless you can walk on walls" The bearded elf, Carrington, heated off her eagerness "However as we know there is this elf that might be the thing we just need to get those hindrances sorted out"

"Good ill get him to cooperate!" Ashley was fired up again "Niupa dear, this isn't like breaking a nut and then just taking whats left of the wreck, you will need finesse for this and as experience has shown that is not something you feature" she leaned back to the pillar as she left out a frustrated sigh "I will be the one to go get him, we don't know much about him other than he has been asking for potions and ointments, while he has sold others himself that are complex in their nature and elaboration"

"No fire?" Ashley asked as she rose her eyebrow "That is right Niupa, no fire" he assured her as he rested his hands on her broad shoulders

**************************************************************************

The place was better than what they had told Carrington, he expected people knocked out of their senses on the floor drowning in their own filth, he had never really gotten the love for alcohol as everyone else did.

He chocked his shaggy beard as he looked around and then found the elf, was not really hard to find him since he was the only one around and he looked like on of the tower´s sons, what could he be doing so far away from home? and why wasn't he sinking on the most heinous of pleasures? he began to walk towards him and noticed that his eyes were set on him

"Hello there tower son" Carrington said as he seated himself without much of an invitation, he lowered his glasses and looked at him directly to the eye "Seems like you are a little far from the tower friend"

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Like a caged animal Ashley could not simply sit still and be calm, trough her mind several possible outcomes where already happening, what if the alchemist had forsaken their campaign? what if Carrington was unable to gain his support? what would happen if the Baron did not fell before the month`s end and received his support from the Tsardom then the Unclaimed lands might have to come up with another name.

The lack of commitment and devotion from her peers always troubled her, the dwarf goldgut who was in the room with her was a master of coin he could buy wares with a price drop and resell them somewhere else with a margin of gain above the 100%, that dwarf reinforced the classical stereotype that most folk had about the short people...

What would they do if the alchemist had not been convinced? would they have to strike at some other point? the Baron was arranging a meeting at his state to discuss the support of the nation of Sharn, most men, even those with a history of violence would rather not get involved with those sadistic mad dogs for such a small amount of land they seemed to field large numbers, her personal theory was that there was no civilian class at the Tsardom and that they all were part of the military with the women being used just to make more soldiers.

It was all based on guesses but she shuddered just to think of what ill fate would have befallen her had she been born there.

The sound of the door opening snatched her out of her thoughts and gave her alarm, there was Carrington smiling and with his cheeks reddened, she could tell he had been drinking at least a bottle but if she really thought about it she had never seen him "drunk", and next to him there was a blond man with long ears and gaunt appearance, a high elf to be certain, the alchemist that this operation needed but then...

"What are you doing Carrington! Who is he? Why have you brought him here?" she said knowing that they were all part of the Shriah order, they should not be seen as operatives

"Dear, he is supposed to accompany you to the manor so you might as well become acquainted with each other, he will cooperate provided certain conditions are met" as if nothing was out of order he moved in and leaned back into his chair "Like most of our folk my girl we are cautions and don't cross a bridge until we have tested the waters for a third time, before he went on on joining an assassination attempt he needed to know the details of what exactly make this baron such a terrible person... and I am an administrator I have never been good at this speeches of moral bankruptcy or righteousness about the sanctity of life so I thought you and our dwarven friend might want to tell him why exactly our dear Baron Nielsen would make Altea a better place by dying"

Gold gut began "The halflings are being pushed out of their homes by this man, this is hurting trade, the merchants are loosing power since he is monopolizing the markets and the mercenaries are stopping being an available workforce to become his own army, some like the Blackjaws have opposed this notion and are meeting him at the field but his strenght grows when promises of support and wealth are made and then completed to foreing nations the deserters of the Reino are coming to him in flocks and talks of an alliance with the Tsardom as well as providing a landing into the other parts of the continent trough roads and not boats,this has acquainted him support.

While the Baron alone is not a rival to the holy country of Vado, can we say the same about its neighbors? more importantly should he form allegiances with the chieftains of Ignir, well one can say that only certain areas of the market would see benefited and the Baron has been showing himself to be a fierce rejecter of the free market model and that would be horrible"

How had Goldgut missed the part were blood would drown the land? she had to speak up

"This isn't only about money and treasury, the lands will bleed peasants and soldiers alike will die because of the greed of this monster" she looked at the High elf, there was signs of deep thought going trough him, she had to convince him.

Moving closer to meet his eyes she continued "I am familiar with the elven folk, you rarely go into human matters and you have your reasons I am certain but please think about the people that would suffer due to this man`s greed, you have known of the Tsardom of Sharn I am certain, the Unclaimed lands are the roadblock that have stopped that barbarity and depravation from flowing into the other parts of Ea and while one nation no matter how strong or mighty could prove to be would not risk to conquer all the nations... how much lives need to be cut before this happens? how many widows will be made? how many Orphans would we attain? can you guess the quantity of bastards that never knew their father would come out of this? All we ask elf is that you make a hole large enough for me to fit in and cut the head of the snake"

She was breathing heavily, if he was not moved by the nobility of their cause... well she was ready to die for this endeavor, the only thing that would change should he not support them is that this would become a one way trip to her

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Things had, for a very welcomed change had gone better than what had been planned.

The alchemist had made the concoction before the expected time frame which had given Ashley and company the time to watch and predict the watch´s movements and exploit the lack of moon light, the sky would be clouded tonight and it was time to explain the plan.

"The manor is a testament of human thinking" Carrington explained as they watched the building from afar "It has strong walls to be certain but its design is flawed, the walls are shaped like a square so this facilitates our movement if we place our men directly under the line of sight of the watchers, they wont get spotted and this will enable a smooth operation."

"Once the clouds darken the moon, the alchemist and the assassin will move in, we have calculated that it is approximatively at this hour when the garrison switches turns so while the change is made the spotting of our operatives will be harder"

The clouds now had completely covered the moon and all the lights that could be seen came from the torches "Traton my friend, let the woman take care of everything, just place that acid and make the hole and immediately come back, don't get chivalrous on us you hear me? our ladyfriend, despite her peace loving and warm speeches seems to be have a grim talent at tacking lives"

In the dark of the night they could not see her frown, she was hardly amused by this comment from Carrington

"Well then lets get on with it, the sooner the Baron is dealt with the safer these lands will be" she grabbed both of the small barrels on her wide arms and said "Are you ready to make the run for it elf?"

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She chocked on her own words when she saw how silently and quickly the acid melted a hole trough the wall, she wondered why nobody had made a weapon out of that mix, if it only worked on stone that could be a reason or perhaps it took some time before acquiring its acidic properties... there was the chance that alchemists who handled the brew knew that if left on the wrong hands the substance could be a grim end for many lives, she was expecting it to be a tiny... tiny hole trough which she would have to crawl but it was a small door, she would not have to bloody her knees and arms for this it seemed.

"If we succeed today you will have saved many lives elf" she bowed and made her entrance into the manor, it all fell on her now, they had no clear idea of the workings that happened inside the building, there could be armed two headed magical giants behind every corner for all she knew, so she had to be quickly.

This did not meant she was making it as she went, her plan was to dress as a servant and hope to the gods that the staff was not that well known to each other, however luckily for her it seemed the Baron liked it dark and knowing the very basics of architecture the kitchen would be at the ground floor and the servant`s quarters would be near it, somehow it made sense in her head that they would use uniforms and store them somewhere close to their sleeping grounds.

Her feet made only but a whisper on the silence of the night, but with most of the sound dead she was certain that if she ran on the hard grounds of the building someone was bound to listen, with her eyes keen and her black suit deprived of anything that could make a reflection of light she was confident she could get in.

She was where? in the garden maybe? she could see threes and benches and a small road of stones that circled around the benches and... a fountain? yes it had to be one, they had shut it off since no water was pouring from it and she could spot a door where the stone road ended

That is my way in

Looking around to make sure she was alone, in a swift run Ashley was already opening the door, an odd thing to leave it unlocked but it did not seem to be common to have thieves so the only lock that would be needed was for the gates or important rooms for individuals who did not want others entering their quarters.

She made her way in and from the items placed in the room she could easily figure she was in the kitchen, knifes and large soup spoons hung in the narrow roof, she figured they could come in handy, but not really the Baron was not a combatant, from the reports she knew that he was a fat bald man that spent his time counting gold and scheming vile plots to widen his coffers, she should not have any problems at all for dealing with a man like that.

The guards? some of them could be skilled soldiers but those were probably asleep since the watchers where probably bust boys whose only function was to rang the bell the minute something was out of order.

She could hear steps coming her way, she identified the door from which the steps where coming and checked that the door was going to be pushed nor pulled, so then naturally she placed herself behind the door so that she would not be seen, she held her breath as she saw how a woman in a particular outfit entered the room.

Could that be the uniform she was looking for? it did not seemed that it would ease her entry into Nielsen`s room but then again she would be hiding in plain sight if she took it... but what if the guards knew the workers? she could not take the chance to be questioned about what was she doing there.

However even if she did not had any use of the uniform, the servant was not to see her or make any impediment to her trek.

One firm blow behind the neck and she was out cold, she grabbed her as she collapsed one part of her did it because she did not wished her to break anything from the rough landing and the other did it because the sound of her crashing would lure more attention than what she wanted.

Ashley figured that the Baron would probably be located somewhere in the grounds above, a big room with a splendorous balcony where he could watch the sun fall behind the mountains, she peeked outside trough the door and realized that the coast was cleared.

After hiding the woman with other supplies she sat out to make her way to the upper floors, the fact that the guards had to be on patrol worked to her advantage since they had to be on the move constantly, this would however work against her in the escape since it was foreseeable that there would be static guards with the baron and when they where found downed by her, well things would get exciting to say the least.

After a while she found a room in which 4 armed men where placed with naked steel on their hands on a narrow corridor, surely to make any advance be deprived of mobility, either they were guarding some item of great importance or the Baron was to be found there.

They were good, they saw her coming but could not react quickly enough to disable her...

She had already made a blow to the helm of one of them which left him at best with brain damage and at worst dead, that was one less to worry about, the narrowness of the corridor worked to her advantage since the men could not maneuver with their swords at hand two at a time, after a series of fast swings that bore no blood drops the guard attacked with the peak of the sword, it was a stupid movement since an attack of that nature was to pierce and Ashley had no armor to protect her from the swings this however left an opening in which her opponent left his arm stretched out towards her, by simple dodging the stab she grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him towards her, one uppercut to the jaw and provided he survived he would be lucky to be able to chew again in his lifetime.

There was only one left? had the fourth one routed? maybe gone for backup?

These ideas ran trough her mind as she dodged the third guard`s swings, but she could see the frustration in his eyes as she simply dodged his attacks and waited for a moment in which she made one lethal blow to incapacitate him.

She kicked the doors open, she wanted to catch the baron awake and see the dread in his eyes and while she would love to extract the most nefarious of punishments upon him for his ambition time could not be wasted if she valued her life,

Indeed she fond the Baron rubbing his eyes at the side of his bed, that was him no doubt; a bald man of a short stature and on his mid forties, she did not gave him a chance to stop rubbing...

One firm yet carefully aimed strike to the neck and that was it, the main engine behind the strife in the Unclaimed lands was dead.

A smirk of satisfaction drew on her face, another job well done however it quickly dissipated from her face when she looked out trough the balcony and her eyes saw several banners and torches, her eyes were filled by a horn that she could guess signaled an attack, she looked closer and spotted that the banners had the markings of a grinning dragon skull, with its lower jaw painted black

"The black jaws?" she said to herself as she realized what this meant, the goddamn captain had emerged victorious from the battle at Yree... how did the beast managed to win if the Baron`s forces where settled there? and how had he found the manor?

It did not mattered now, she needed to get out of there, she just prayed that the Elf Traton had not been met with a grim fate

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How had this happened?

She had been taken completely by surprise, how much time had she spend sneaking in while the band outside made its way into the walls, already she could see that arrows where being exchanged between the garrison and the assailants.

She always had a backup plan of sorts, but those where for things that where expected.

Go into a fortress and kill a general, resistance is expected

Go into a church and retrieve some papers, you must not be seen and if you are they must not tell, deaths are expected

Go into a diplomatic meeting for a peace truce in the unclaimed lands between mercenary bands, consider that talk will solve nothing and steel will be drawn, combat and deaths are expected.

Go into a Baron`s manor and kill him, guards spotting you and having a difficult way out could be an outcome, having a mercenary band that was known to be fighting at another location showing up at a manor that should be secret to begin with was not expected

She didnt had a a plan for this, if she made a run for it she would get caught and an agent of the order was not to be taken, but the fact remained... when the blackjaws arrived they would find the baron dead, what would they think? had he taken his own life ? had one of the servants killed him? Ashley had to make sure that anything but the truth was what they would believe.

She knew the baron was ambitious and an individual whose morality was easily labeled as evil, would it be that far fetched for the mercenaries to conclude that he had killed himself in defiance, he would not like to be captured.

Still that left her in an odd position, they would find her once the gates where breached and she wasnt exactly what looked like the manor`s staff, all covered in black and with a headgear that concealed her face...

"Ashley, are you in here?"

that voice? it was the elf "Traton?" she said as her eyes looked to the door and there he stood... this was bad news for them both "What are you doing here? the plan was for you to melt the wall and go! always stick to the plan" she felt frustrated he was here because of her inability to handle the reagents on her own, if she was smarter and more learned she could have applied the ointment without fear of melting her own arms on the process.

Whatever happened to him after the blackjaws got here, none was to blame but her

"did you ran into them in your way out? is that why you came back?" that was a likely outcome "Listen we dont have much time, the baron is dead but they will wonder how he died, his body is not maimed or scarred by the death unless they check the neck closely, we cant make an escape now if we tried I figure I could kill some on my way out but a whole band is beyond my capacity and... well if we look useful to them our lives could be spared... I really dont know what they will do to us but if our lives seem profitable they wont kill us"

Traton could pose as an alchemist or some kind of potion brewer that made sure the baron was healthy "You could pretend to be some kind of potion merchant that the baron hired to... I dont know make him virile or have his hair grow back or anything, make them see that you are better alive than dead"

She was another tale entirely, she could not pose as the Baron`s... wait a minute!

That was it, she had played that role too many times and knew it too well, she was going to be his mistress, she would somehow convince them that he was a sexual deviant of sorts and liked wide women that had a hunky composition, after all the rich people where always eccentric somehow.

"As for the baron, well he could make a cut in his neck which would disguise the blow i gave to him and tell them that he killed himself instead of being taken alive, we now just need find a knife and slip me into something that would not be out of place in this building"

She looked at him hoping to see agreement in his eyes "Sounds like a plan to you? if you have anything else im all ears"

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"Traton search for a room that looks like a study or library when they take you do not put any resistance, make it clear that you are a non combatant and more of a scholar, if they strike you or any of the like show them fear instead of defiance" there was still the details of her outfit and that the baron had not twisted his own neck

The halls were now getting filled with people running, some of the garrison rushing in to meet the blackjaws with steel at the gates and some others fleeing thinking that they would be able to elude them, but she knew she had to pay them no mind and she remembered the unconscious girl at the kitchen

"Traton listen go find somewhere to hide ive had a change of plans... whores are only useful alive for a reason and id rather not be exploited that way, tell them you saw me at times with the baron but could never find out what i did... ill work the rest on my own, I dont know how much time we've got but I still have to lay the scene to make it look as if the Baron had killed himself" and with that she was set out running.

The people did not mind her not anymore than she mind them, she had not much time for she heard the shouts outside and the sound of steel clanging drawing closer and closer

She was already on the kitchen and the thought of escaping did crossed her mind, after all the garrison and the attackers where too entertained with each other to notice her even if she met resistance all she did was to engage and open her way out it would be so much easier now that she only had to look after herself, besides he had been paid for his troubles and chose to come back on his own accord every action has responsibilities and he had not stuck to the plan

But she found that her actions did not seem to match her ideas she was already undressing the servant and had already a knife ready to fake the suicide, it had always gotten her on trouble, her naive idealism and such quality had always split the order regarding her assigments some believed that it was troublesome and the unpredictability that it brought was something that they could simply not afford and the others told her that it was that she had the very essence that had inspired the order for generations and provided she kept being successful she should follow her own call.

Which call was she following today? she wondered as she guiding the dead hand of the baron to its own gut and in one slice in which she was very careful not to stain her clothes she was done, all she had to do was wait for them to come at her and hope for the best.

It wasn't long fortunately, even tough she was patient the anxiety still burned her ever so often when the armed men arrived she was kneeling next to the baron with her head down as she looked at them and told "He said they would never take him alive ..."

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When they removed the bag from her head the light blinded her and she had to narrow her eyelids, she would have covered her sight with her hands but they were tied behind her back

Her attention was caught by the imposing man that sat in front of them, however it had to be the captain since it figured that no other crocodile demi would be seeing the prisoners and sitting so comfortably there.

It was a large tent with thick walls, they could be cloth or leather but Ashley could not tell since she was bad at telling silks and other crafting materials by look alone, touch always showed.

She looked around the tent there was blood on the floor and the signs of struggle were clear for her eyes, looking around she saw other prisioners who just as she had, were having their shrouds removed one by one, she was relieved to see Traton at the far end, total the persons with their hands tied where about 10 people, the captain had a pair of armed men to his right and left.

Ashley was taken aback just by the sheer size of that thing, it was a goddamn freak of nature its scales showed that he had been part of the battle since there where some blood stains on it... how fresh, it was her guess

He was comfortably eating a haunch of meat, while the meat he held would be enough to feed at the very least 4 men he ate as if it was just a chicken leg, scale was at play here it seemed

"I am the captain of the blackjaws, and you may call me Captain Croc now the reason you are alive is because I, we are civilised people but mercenaries at the end and we only wish to make good coin.

Nothing wrong with that, even the laws of gods dont go against that some people clean, others cook, while some give pleasure, we fight for anyone willing to pay our services... this last struggle however has... well our numbers thinned far more than I had hoped.

Now I hope you dont mind but we are looking for useful individuals, cooks, maids, guards anyone who can be employed for good god´s coin, those that are useful will live those who are really good, well the farmer always picks the best for the house

I will ask each of you for the profession which you served the baron with, and all i ask is a small demostration since in this dark ages you just cant take a man´s, or woman´s word for it alone

This lovely piece of meat for example, was just cooked by the baron´s chef he will be sold to kind masters that will pay good for his services and no harm will come to him, but he cooperated and has not tried anything funny, I am a polite man mind you, but to abuse my trust is to incur my wrath and said wrath has won wars so do yourselves a favor, now then... what do you do"

He pointed at the man at the start of the line "You, what is your job" he babbled some words and one could clearly see he was nervous, why woudnt he? "I am a gardener"

The croc simply shook his head and said "You best hope the Ignir have gardens for you to look after because thats where that skill is sending you" two men moved towards him and dragged him away

Ashley was surprised at how... polite the mercenary was proving to be, it did made her uneasy to see him so calm and cold, while the others where explaining their jobs and uses some where being dished out she met Traton´s eyes, they had not been kind to him... racism against high elves was something very common in her experience, but damn his eyes they did not offer any insight to his feelings? was he scared? was he trusting in her ability to pull them out of this as she promised or did he regretted the day he took this blasted assignment for those good willed suckers who employed him?

She was never good at reading elven eyes, they looked the same to her angry, sad or full of lust it was the same stare, there where changes on the skin, frowns, smiles but right now his eyes where all she could interpret and she read nothing on them.

Her gaze was interrupted when she heard the scream of a man and the sound of flesh against steel, she looked and the captain had hacked a man in half with his halberd "Ive never met a guard that was that bad boy, you are either lying or so worthless that I would not find anyone to employ you, next"

The sight was grotesque and had left the woman shocked no words would be coming out of her mouth

Say something anything

"Dont make me repeat myself woman" the croc got the same response as before, just babblings and cries "A shame" he looked at the woman next to the man that was to ashley´s left "what do you do girl"

She wasted no time "I clean... stuff" a valid answer giving the circumstances Ashley was surprised to see she managed to talk so fluently "Good" said the croc as he grabbed his halberd "If you dont clean this" he said as he once again swung his weapon and made a corpse out of the woman that did not talk "... Im afraid you will join them"

And much like her answer, her actions where clumsy but swift she was moving the corpses away from the captain´s sight

"Next" the man to her left stepped forward and said "I am, was a guard and give me a chance and ill prove it"

"Fine then, keep one of my men from coming close to me" the man was given a quarterstaff and he indeed did stop one of the mercenaries on his way to the captain he had good moves Ashley could tell

The croc smiled and said "Good enough, want to join the blackjaws then?" the man nodded and then two more mercenaries moved towards him with a bowl on their hands "We do have a rite of initiation tough, hope you dont mind"

"Im fine with it, besides i worked with mercenaries before thats how I ended up with the baron" they handled him the bowl and the Captain told "Drink"

That he did, and she saw how the lower lip of the man began to blacken... and then it quickly expanded until it covered his whole jaw black, she had not noticed since they were wearing helmets but she now realized that they all had black jaws and not parts of their warpaint.

And then it was her turn " What do you do?" she kept herself together "I am a bodyguard, I could not protect the baron from himself however" the croc looked at her "You have no idea how much I needed that man alive, very well" he pointed at Traton and said "my men will try to butcher that elf on my call, if he so much as bleeds you are a dead woman, do you understand?"

This should be easy

They untied her and gave her a quarterstaff as well, then it was on six armed men moved towards Traton, who was tied and immobilized, but she simply had to remember the Cet Dao Rao, it was one of her favorite martial schools since it focused on keeping someone alive rather than inflicting harm the Cet Dao focused on maintaining contact with the person being protected by a combination of dragging, shoving and pushing said person around the Rao was the discipline applied with a blunted weapon much like the staff she had and the Oal was with bare fists, this was going to be an interesting mix

It was a mixed blessing that Traton had his hands tied to his back, this made him easier to manage as she did not had to worry about his arms but at the same time this prevented her from having her back to his and move him around as well as feel the flows of his movement, still she was successful so far and the captain had noticed for she heard his shout "enough men, I am surprised woman care to join the blackjaws?"

She had seen how the guard had been initiated, she did not knew what that brew had and she could not risk it "I decline your offer good captain, mercenary work is not my thing" she had a defiant smirk "What a shame woman, I could use someone like you to guard my scales, you what do you do" he pointed at Traton and he was about to say something when he was cut off by one of the men in the room "Lung eard frek sais hess just a physician, duts sum kin uf doctr"

The croc smirked as he pulled a dagger out and cut the bonds of Traton " some kind of doctor you say" Ashley was afraid the captain might do something nasty to the elf, but he moved to fast and not to the target she expected.

The blade was bitting deep into her flesh, she had been stabbed in her leg "If she dies because of that wound Elf, so do you I hope im clear"

Ashley smiled, or at least she tried such a light wound she could probably shook it off on her own with some meditation and magic, why was everything blackening then? her head began to ache terribly, a sickness was over her... was she poisoned?

Then she could no longer think and collapsed to the floor

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Slavery...

He did not like it, a barbaric custom fit for the savages beyond the civilized borders of northwall but then again he was not particularly fond of the whole raping and pillaging and the whole war thing.

The thrill of combat, the sweet taste of victory and glory, the moment in which your opponent was certain that the victory was theirs just as you snatched it back from their filthy hands and you met their eyes and saw the desperation behind them.

But alas his liking for violence had always steered him to go and fight someone`s war or claim back a dethroned prince his kingdom or in the more extreme cases kill the kidnapper of a wife and fetch her back

At first he had done it because he had no choice, it had been a struggle between life and death and he knew when his eyes met the stars and they looked back at him, he was not meant to die and when a spear had pierced his head and gone trough his skull guided by the hand of a man he had trusted... only to arise again as a champion with a cause and a rekindled fire, fueled by vengeance, ambition and duty.

But today he had some busisnes to attend to, he had to sell people to the highest bidders and he had already met with a good asortment of people who had good interest in his offerings, yet it was beggining to get annoying that they always asked about the elf, it was getting tyresome to keep telling them that he was not for sale.

The elf was a goddamn prodigy, he had fixed and mended wounds that the croc was certain were to be crippling, they would leave a horrible scar gods be certain but some of those men would not only live, but some would be able to walk and others to fight, the elf was a keeper the croc had made sure that nobody inflected abuse or violence on any kind upon him and he had always invited him to eat with him and his staff at his table, some times he had politely refused but it seemed that the mercenary life was not his own and if given the choice he would not be there.

How was that different from slavery? a kind one with a full belly and women to keep him warm at night should he wish it... maybe if he offered men to keep him company he would be more compliant? one could never tell with those hedonistic elves many rumors circulated about their preference but it was hard to separate myth and legend from truth

Should legend be believed, he could be able to shape

shit and spit fire, he had heard that some people swore that they saw him transform into a black dragon and kill a whole company on his own, and as far as the croc knew that had not been the case.

He had to be on the lookout now, how many times had there been ambushes in place of good deals? hell it was hard to keep up counting but he stopped somewhere around the 50th time, its not like he was getting a medal at the 100th attempt so why count?

So of he was, to a good sized building for his ilk, northwall had Ignir barbarians visit it everynow and then and some of them had giant´s blood running in their veins, so naturally the entry into some buildings had to be high, it was uncomfortable for the captain when he had to struck deals with the half lings, it was rude to not eat under their roof but he wager it was even more rude to collapse the house in the attempt to enter.

The building was well lit with a lot of chandeliers and a second floor where the patrons could drown themselves in booze, he wondered how many people had fell of from there...

The slaver master should be around here somewhere...

He made a nod to the 4 men that were accompanying him, he was walking in with the elf to seem harmless but hells be damned if things got violent he would not be the only man fighting for his side.

As he looked around something caught his eye... a man, tall and broad with loose blond hair, it could not be, that man had died... well he was heavily outnumbered and most of his companions had taken heavy loses and never reported back so it was only safe to assume...

"Caim?" the croc walked closer with the elf at his side "Gods be good, I could have swore that you were deadmeat on the field!" it was not like the captain had missed him or felt anything that could be labeled as sorrow when he had not moved the blackjaws in to support the knight... could it be that this was the same man behind the events of Madsteihl? "you know me lad, I have a thing for suicidal charges but the man that filled the coffers ordered us back and so we did, tell you what ill buy you a drink for what its worth"

He made a nod to the bartender to have some drinks delivered to the table "Who is this?" he said as he looked to the thin and very feminine looking man that was next to the knight "Your friend boy or something? he you probably could say the same about me" he said as he pointed to Traton with his scaly thumb "but the man is my alchemist, I never knew elves had such talent I was supposed to meet myself some slave trader, dont figure you know where I could find him eh?"

The waiter boy was moving in to deliver their drinks when something happened, at the edge of his peripheral view he could see something moving at a high speed towards him, he already had a pretty good guess as to whom it was.

He stood up quickly and parried the blow, whatever it was, with his right arm. He heard the sound of some kind of jar breaking and he felt felt a deep pain on the armpit, he still had his other arm to deliver a blow and the assilant jumped back.

The captain then saw her, the "bodyguard" so she had come here after him? it was surprising enough to see that she had shattered the iron bonds that kept her in place, how had she done it so silently it was a really good question if she was a mage she would have had to use her hands or mouth to form some kind of spell to break off and even had she pulled it off it would have made a sound, anything, something.

"You are not the first who tries this wench" the captain pulled the long knife that she had stabbed in his armpit, by now people were getting up and exiting the bar while others watched with amused looks, the croc had seen enough of her to have a mild guess of her fighting style, she could not hope to match him in a fair combat, probably the place was flooded with traps of sorts and she could have more than one bystander ready to strike him if she made an opening, hopefully she was stupid enough to think him to be alone.

If he could incapacitate her movement or get a grip on her she was done for, he had fought smaller foes that where quick, hell those damned elves had left him wounds that nobody else could see unless they were really close friends, she was steady waiting for his attack... good this allowed the croc to think more deeply, the roof was made of hard wood, probably supported by several bars if he could collapse the whole ground or bring the roof down upon them it was assured that he would be in better standing than her.

So was it the roof or the floor?

The woman made a move and he realized that whatever was more viable would be the one to take, if the opportunity arose he should try to take any of those.

He in truth waved his arms towards the bodyguard, knowing that her size and speed would make an unlikely target for his large size but the blows he delivered where making holes in the ground that indeed made a weakening to the structure, one good last thump and the floor in which she would land would collapse with the force of the attack she would have to parry.

After some lenghty chace and miss, there were more holes than floor now it was almost time to put an end to this dance that they had spurred for far too long, and so it came she threw a kick at him and that was when he knew, he repelled the force of the attack by sending an strike in the same direction, the clashing energies only left the captain with a sore arm but they sent off flying the bodyguard who landed at the wooden floor and then heard the loud crack that it made once she made contact

The croc made a gesture that despite lacking the muscles that elves or dwarves had, could be clearly interpreted as a smile "always mind your surroundings bitch" one stomp shook the whole building and the ground in which she was collapsed on her burying her debris, he laughed as the echoing sound of the fall filled the air

It was then when he realized that the second floor was filled with men aiming crossbows at him and the others that had been at his table "bloody hell" he murmured to himself, he could see that Caim and his lad friend where being pointed as well, and the damned elf had run, his men, tough, no sign of them.

"The baron sends his regards you monster" said one of the men as he fired a bolt that was soon followed by others, he could hear himself saying "always mind your surroundings"

Luckily for him even tough the table was bolted to the floor it was not hard at all to use it as a shield in which him and his mates could take a momentary shelter, he looked at Caim that had too taken cover and said "I owe you another drink I guess"

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It was good to see that Caim had men watching his back, guess all that helping the helpless attitude did gave some rewards as the Croc could deduce due to the fact that some of his assailants had been downed by a bowman, damned good one at that one volley and a row of them had felled, would have to check if the shooter was looking for job.

Caim being the man of action that he was charged at them like a glorious knight in shinning armor, the croc figured he might as well keep some of the occupied for the knight not to end pelted by bolts, even while projectiles were raining upon the captain he moved to grab nearby furniture and debris of good size and weight and unleashed a flurry of unconventional missiles upon his assailants, the smart ones ran away the dumb ones would not get another chance to move again.

How lucky it was that the second floor had only one nearby ladder and that Caim was already covering it, that meant that they were trapped up there, if they had a second chance to unleash their fire upon them things could get dangerous, the croc could already feel several of them in his flesh.

"Caim get outta there!" Looking at the wooden supports that held the second floor in place he realized that with sufficient force they would collapse under his massive weight, well he had already wrecked the main ground with a hole large enough to fit the length of a fishing boat, so he figured they might give a remodeling to the second floor while theyre at it, every tavern required its renovations everynow and then... it was a grim kindness.

He began to ran over the wooden support pillars and in his wake he left a path of ruin, it was quick and not very smooth but it was brutal and effective, like everything the croc did.

He had already razed the entirety of the columns in a wall and he was heading for the next one, making haste and without a pause to even catch a second breath, there were only three more to cement the destruction of the second floor, but as he was breaking the first one of the last three remaining something that the captain had not quite taken into account happened.

The floor supports, unable to handle the weight of the patrons above did not require for the captain to wreck them, instead they busted themselves out on their own accord and the captain lifted his gaze to see the second level rushing to meet the first, all he could muster at the moment was a shout "O shhhh-" he did not get to end the phrase.

He tried to get out of the way by jumping out of the way and while indeed he managed to escape being buried completely only part of the upper body had saved itself, the wounds from the crossbows, the blows of the bodyguard and the falling of the second level had given the captain some new scars to show off, he realized that Caim had been able to escape the disaster at the second level "Caim!" the knight turned to look at him with a frown that made clear his feelings regarding the whole ordeal, but it was no time for womanly thinking.

"The elf" the captain said "Keep him alive Caim, Ill make it up to you, my word has never been broken and you have it but keep that goddamn elf not only alive but functional you hear me!" it was pretty clear to which elf he was referring, they were not common in this particular part of the continent, he looked behind him and saw that his tail and legs were not going anywere with all that rubble, if he was not so winded he would get himself out in no time, but right now his blood was cold, muscles sore, scales pierced... not in a general good condition to chase anyone.

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The fortune had smiled to her for a change, while on the last occasion the surprise had been of a sour taste today it had seemed to saved her life, she had been underestimated the beast it would have appeared that her size and agility would have given her the advantage in that skirmish but she had not bothered to take note on where the attacks made by the captain were landing.

Crawling her way out of the pit she had fell into she was welcomed by a exchange of attacks between the croc and his men against some assailants on the second floor, the commotion made by these fights had cleared the whole place for her and since they were keeping each other in such good company, Ashley did not find it rude to make her exit unannounced.

Limping her way out she saw no sign of Traton, good that meant he had made his escape... it seemed that everything that had gone wrong in their first time in the field had gone right in the second, she took the time to look at her wounds.

Her forehead was bleeding and she had some splinters of wood, her left arm had been pierced on the fall and her right knee hurt a lot, she could still move it so it meant that nothing was broken, but even if Traton had just ran away as she fell he would have a huge head start, with that limp she would not be chasing anyone.

A loud crash was heard again from the inside of the tavern and she managed to hear the Croc yell a curse that could not be concluded, with any luck that monster would be dead "I think ive had enough for today" she began to search for a place were she could work on the wounds she had sustained

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Once she had heard that restrain was the path to perfection, and several times she had told that to other apprentices, if one basked and gloated in luxuries discipline was bound to be lost in such a wicked way, the apprentices liked Ashley, they saw a woman of high skill and authority live the values she preached, she gave them a role model of sorts, one that appeased to almost everyone in the order.

The eager new initiates were fond of her sense of justice, the elders saw in her an agent that stuck to the code most of the time that showed the others how it was done and some of the women saw a fierce and untamed warrior that could trash other men with relative ease... and well the men, for the most part she suspected some of them ogled at her

It was a good thing then, that they were not watching her now.

Her whole body was submerged in a warm water, enjoying a comfortable bubble bath the likes of which she had not enjoyed in months... or had it been years now? she shook her head waving away the insignificant memory, she rested her neck and head at the bathtub in which she was enjoying her "break"

At first she hesitated to waste so much of the order`s resources on such vain pleasure, a room possessing just one door would have been enough to give her the time she needed to rest and get better, but not today... today she was living the life of a highborn woman, the normal procedure would have dictated she used the least and get the most.

But she had already broken her ideals when she sat out to help the elf, why had she done that? a haunting echo ravaged trough her mind and the voice of someone dear to her shouted from the past

"We can help THIS one!"

The memory of it made her bury her head beneath the water, the day after Arrys had told her that,she had seen the closest thing to hell on Altaea , the memories still troubled her sleep and plagued her mind... but she had managed to block it out when the situation called for it, had she remembered it because she was now enjoying herself?

She rose up wet from head to toes, it was so odd to have the body be attended to and then have the mind be assaulted by terrible memories, maybe it was something the order had done to her, to keep her on edge on some way.

The wounds that covered her body had already been tended to, the Captain had proven to be a fierce foe, she had struck men covered in mail and they had not felt so hard, the only thing she could compare it was like hitting a sack full of mashed granite, she could feel the strenght of her blows dissapting and the resistance of his flesh ricocheting back into her arms and legs.

A healer had already seen her and applied the necessary ointments and balms required to close the wounds and put her on a way to an early recovery, and while stretching her arms in certain ways summoned pain, she was for the best part functional and able for combat.

There was no need for her to rush into a wretched hive of villainy to find a fight so she figured that time spent here at northwall would not be a bad thing, she could not present herself to the order if she was not able to perform her actions to her full potential.

Ashley then remembered Traton the elf, as well to Carrington and Goldgut.

What had become of the alchemist? hopefully he was on his way to... whatever his way was and even more hopefully she would get a chance to allow him to see that she was safe and sound, that particular elf seemed to have more chivalry than a sense of self preservation which may be was the reason why he was not drooling himself back with his kin into experiences new and grotesque ways of pleasure.

Still she did not knew if he had carried the gold that Goldgut the treasurer had given to him while assaulting the manor, while a man with common sense would be one to do such action, the alchemist so far had shown that there was nothing common in his sense.

Maybe elves were simply slower? a human had to learn quickly or die the leaf ears however had a lot of time to waste into a field of practice. maybe she could find him and send him on his way before the croc got his hands anywhere near him, she had heard that the city watch had imprisoned the beast under several charges.

One by one she began to extinguish the candles on her room, hopefully tonight she would have a sleep deprived of trouble