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Byzania: Hour of The Witch



a part of Byzania: Hour of The Witch, by Madame.


Madame holds sovereignty over Byzania, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

744 readers have been here.


Default Location for Byzania: Hour of The Witch
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Byzania is a part of Byzania: Hour of The Witch.

6 Characters Here

Ezra Callen [9] "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."
Emily Austringer [9] Thrilled not to be cooped up making dumb puns... Wait.
Lord Executioner Caius Elrin [8] A knight on a hellish path paved with good intent.
Camilla Olivie Enais [8] Actually thrilled to be here.
Bellemere [8] "To vow for the silence, is to swear on the grave." - A Silent Sister saying
Sabine [8] just THRILLED to be here...

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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#, as written by Madame

An Emperor fidgeted on his throne, his fingers tapping impatiently on the armrest, scowl etched on his brow. Regal though his demeanor, he had clearly seen better days. His hair was slightly disheveled, his beard unkempt, his eyes sleepless and tinged with red. The silence in the room went unsettled and tensely built for several moments until it was broken by a commotion outside.. He straightened abruptly when the doors flew open, three soldiers dragging a screaming net behind them. Whatever animal was within it, it was not happy.

And neither was the Emperor.

β€œWhat is this you bring me?” He demanded, a creature was not what he had asked for.

β€œForgive me your grace, but this is the guide that I informed you of, the one who knows the forest to the east.” One of the soldiers was a commander, and spoke while the others kicked at the animal a couple of times, making it still and quiet except for a low growl.

The Emperor was in no mood for jests, and glared at the commander in quiet fury.

β€œThat is, your grace, I mean to say it was the guide, but when we went to retrieve her from her cell, we found this creature in her stead. The jailer swears by his life that it is a trick, and that he’s seen the woman transform.” The snarling and biting started again behind him, the wolf attempting to struggle free of the net once more. It let out a yelp when the kicking started again.

The Emperor held his arms behind his back, deep in thought, this information changed things. He believed the jailer quite readily. In fact it made sense that someone from that forest would have magical properties. Maybe she even knew…

The Emperor stepped forward, taking the commander’s sword and gesturing from them all to move aside. He took the sword and spun it before stabbing into the net, the blade mere positioned between the wolf’s neck and front paw, threatening to rid it of its head but skillfully not so much as cutting a single strand of white fur. This caused the wolf to become very still, and very quiet. They stared at one another, each baring their teeth. It was a standoff. The Emperor gave the sword a twitch after a few moments, letting his intentions sink in.

She was woman again.

β€œI don’t know what you want, but chances are you won’t get it.” she said plainly.

β€œThe Sorcerer, the one who came to me, he lives in the forest does he not?” The Emperor immediately began his questioning.

β€œ...” Sabine did not answer.

β€œI have a need of him, the whole of Byzania has a need of him.” The Emperor emphasized.

β€œWhat for?” Sabine was not actually interested in what for.

The Emperor drew away and gesturing to his soldiers, he turned his back and they proceeded to beat Sabine. She turned into a wolf again and fought back as best she could making more noise than she did success. After a few moments, the Emperor turned around again and approached her, the soldiers stepped back.

β€œWhere is the sorcerer.” He asked calmly.

β€œI DON’T FUCKING KNOW.” She was woman again. β€œHe’s been gone for three full moons. He comes and goes as he pleases and doesn’t tell me where.” Sabine spat angrily.

β€œAh, so you do know him.” The Emperor knelt down to face the pitiful creature before him. He grabbed her chin, β€œYou are going to do something for me, it is a matter of life and death for all who live in Byzania, and when you next see the sorcerer, you will tell him that I must speak with him.”

She was wolf again, and bit down on the hand of the Emperor.

β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ||Two Weeks Later||Duunba||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

Where it not for the fact that Sabine was directly needed, her head would've been on a spike two weeks ago. Luckily for her, or unluckily if you heard her tell of it, she was instead to go on a quest. The nature of which she was vaguely told later by a soldier in the dungeons where she was kept. Sabine had seen the Emperor only once, and it was more fortuitous for her neck if once was all it was ever going to be. The time for her task was now however, and so she was finally being let out. It had been far too long since Sabine had seen sunlight, or had a shower, or changed her clothes, or eaten proper food, and it showed, mostly on her squinty dirty face.

The guards who escorted her left her chained as she was put in a group of other people she couldn't even see properly. She rubbed her eyes and heard rustling. Her confiscated equipment was thrown at her feet. She stared down at it, regaining her sight. She probably looked like shit, bruised shit, probably smelled like it too. Ugh, what she would give for a river to jump into.

"This is the last of your traveling party your grace." A guard spoke to a pretty woman with brown silky hair and pouty lips. Sabine stared at her, eyebrow cocked. Was this the princess she was supposed to be escorting through the forest? Sabine hoped she wouldn't be wearing a damned dress on their journey. She looked around at the rest of the group, they decidedly did not look like they had been sleeping in the dungeons for fucking weeks.

"None of ya look like you've been in the dungeons this whole time... does that mean I'm special?" She held up her wrists, tugging them apart and making her shackles clink.

"You're being let out for the evening to prepare youself for your journey tomorrow, but if you're more comfortable in the dungeons we can send you back." The same guard who spoke to the princess quipped at Sabine, essentially warning her to behave herself.

"How's the King's hand." Sabine smirked.

The guard looked at the princess, his eyes begging her to let him take the scoundrel back where she belonged.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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The visions had not stopped. It had been happening for months now with no sign of abating anytime soon. In fact, they had only proliferated since they began too long ago. Strange beasts prowling between the trees, cresting through the waves, and slithering under the brush had chased away the princess’ other dreams and left Camilla waking every morning with some new image of looming carnage. Other, more conventional (if one can call any aspect of the sight conventional) visions thankfully filled her conscious mind, with only an occasional glimpse at anything explicitly magical. At first she, her advisors, and her father had all assumed that it was simply the ancient past come to claim relevancy within the mind of an imperial daughter, but then reports started coming in. The ancient past had breached more than one woman’s mind; it had started spilling over onto the continent and afflicting the newly born Empire. Something would need to be done about it.

For weeks the Emperor was squirrelled away with advisors of all sorts trying to think of some way to manage this crisis. Not many were permitted within these meetings, with even Camilla being ejected from them after only a few days, but most people in the palace could still hear the occasional shouts. Little information came with them other than the frustration of their emperor, but it did ensure that everyone was aware of the time, effort, and will being dispensed on this issue. In the meantime, Camilla continued with her lessons and met with her own advisors concerning her visions, attempting to suss out whatever useful information she could manage.

There wasn’t much beyond more and more creatures. There was a whisper here and there, pulling her towards some sort of potential solution, but it always turned out to either be nothing new or outright meaningless, but still she prodded as much and dove as far as she could in search of something. Eventually, likely long before she would have made any progress, the Emperor announced that he, in conference, had devised a plan. The Witch’s Tomb, that old seal of even older magic, was clearly not functioning as it should be and knowing its situation would be key to moving forward. Mystics and clergy jumped at the chance to journey to such a magical site, but their tricks and prayers did little in court and had little chance of doing much there either. So Camilla, the only person in the court known to possess magic, and the sight no less, would need to make the trip and investigate the Tomb. Old drawings of the place were laid out before her before they were packed away: symbols and structures that would hopefully be only slightly out of array and easily fixed. If not, every bit of damage or strangeness would need to be recorded and reported back, hopefully supplemented by an informative vision or two. Along the way, if she were to come upon the sorcerer, that failed advisor who couldn’t be bothered to reveal himself in a time of crisis, she was to question him about all of this and possibly bring him back to court. This was her mission; her duty as the princess of Duunba and the future Empress.

It wasn’t long before the party that would be escorting her through the forest to her objective was assembled. A guide, a pair of vallorous knights, a pair of less than valorous knights, and apparently a dog.

β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ||Some Time Later||Duunba||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

Camilla’s father, the Emperor and ruler of all of Byzania, had some bad habits. She knew this; her mother knew this; the servants knew this; and several visiting nobles probably knew this as well even though they dared not speak of it. One of them was on display in front of her the night before she set out on her journey: a poor excuse for a girl wearing what couldn’t even be referred to as rags (scraps was closer, but still probably too generous) hidden under a layer of dungeon grime. This was to be her guide through the forest when there would already be a scandal if the two were seen walking near each other.

She ignored the guard’s petty eyes and took a step forward. β€œHis hand’s doing quite well, actually, though it’s not surprising what happened: he was never very good with the castle hounds.” Closing the rest of the distance she tugged the displayed shackles downward with her left hand and gripped the girl’s chin firmly with the right: she was already shorter than the princess, but a greater difference in height seemed important. Turning her face slightly upwards to face her own.

Sabine's eyes widened with surprise and indignation at the insult directed at her, and at the fact that it was delivered so backhandedly. As the Princess advanced upon her with rather quite a bit of confidence Sabine became acutely aware that she was taller than her. Sabine's chin tilted in as her posture drew back instinctively, only to have it grabbed firmly and drawn forward, her shackles pulled downward. Essentially Sabine was forced into a submissive posture, something she was definitely not used to. This month was proving to be an myriad of firsts.

Camilla explained. β€œWhen you stare into a dog’s eyes, you’re challenging them. You need to be sure that they’ll either submit and look away, or have their mouth locked tight in your fist so they can’t bite.” Camilla wasn’t sure how strong the girl was, but few people were in fighting shape after two weeks starving in the dungeon. Regardless the grip was soon broken and distance was once again established.

Sabine hadn't the strength to struggle, and even if she did she was not sure if she would. The memory and anticipation of pain is often worse than the pain itself, and when you have adrenaline coursing through you the pain is often more bearable. This rang true with Sabine, as she keenly remembered the beatings she had received. She elected instead to remain absolutely still, but refused to look away from the blue eyes that were so alike her own. That at least, she could do without being on the receiving end of more boots. She scowled, weakly shaking her head once she was let loose. She was feeling a bit dizzy now. This was too much activity for someone in her state.

β€œI won’t be having some disheveled wreck escorting me around a forest. After this meeting tell the servants to feed her, bathe her, give her a bed, fetch her some new clothes, and burn the things she’s wearing now. For now though, it is important that she also be present for this.” She turned away from the soon-to-be-unshackled girl and to the rest of those gathered. β€œIf I’m not mistaken, you should all be aware of why you are here and where we plan on going starting tomorrow.”

So rude, didn't this Princess know it was her father's fault she was like this? She would have her know that Sabine quite prided herself on being clean before she was thrown into a filthy dungeon. "To your deaths by the way..." Sabine coolly added, feeling bolder now. Standing was getting hard, she decided to sit.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender
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Caius stood before his family on the outer steps of their ancestral home. His wife, children, and one of his brothers were present to see him off. His departure wasn't that irregular since he journeyed to the capitol with some frequency. As his position demanded, he often traveled to Duunba to attend various meetings and noble functions, as well as carrying out his obligations to the Emperor. The difference for this journey was that he would be absent longer than usual, and be traveling for the duration.

His wife, Sibelle, smiled as he embraced her and kissed her cheek.

"Come back to us, Caius.", she said quietly as he kissed her.

He nodded to her as he moved on to his daughter.

"Mind your lessons, Artemis, and keep an eye on everyone while I'm gone. Make me proud.", he said, leaning down and kissing her forehead.

Artemis smiled up at him. "Of course, Father, I'll keep them safe.", came her eager reply.

He looked down at his twin sons and placed a hand on each of their shoulders. He gave the younger of the two a stern look, and said, "That goes for the two of you as well. And Cassius, keep your brother out of trouble."

Cassius nodded in reply, and Castor looked away angrily, both said nothing.

Lastly, Caius turned to his younger brother, Garen. The two shook hands and simply offered the other a single nod, already knowing what was expected and that it would be carried out to the letter. Elrins took care of their own.

As the pair stepped away from one another, a servant walked up with Caius' horse packed and ready. He bowed as the Exarch strapped his axe in place, took the reins and pulled himself onto its back.

"Your Grace, you have food and provisions for four days, and I took the liberty of stowing your bow and some arrows if it pleases you"

"Many thanks, Bartus, farewell."

----Several days later----

Aside from the princess and the Emperor, Caius was the first to arrive to the meeting, which said something about his punctuality, but little in the way of effort. He was staying within the palace after all. While they awaited the arrival of the others who would be embarking upon this expedition, Caius stood by, quietly surveying the room. He had been here many times and the wonder that such opulence brought with it had eventually lost its effect. Now it was just another room.

As the arrival of the others began, he pulled his hood into place, giving his face some cover. Standing head and shoulders taller than the princess, the darkness of his garb, coupled with the obscuring hood, not to mention the large axe held before him, lent him an imposing, and formidable appearance.

His eyes roamed over the other figures entering. A woman in leathers and cloth that cost more than the armor any two guards in the palace owned walked in with the others. He didn't know her, but he knew where he garb had come from and wondered at her presence. The second to catch his eye was a man he had thought he would never see again. Ezra, the traitor, looking only a little worse than last they'd seen one another. One hand clenched at his side as he stared at the exile, the desire to fulfill his initial sentence making itself known. This was neither the time, nor the place, and as quickly as his choler had risen, it died away. The last to hold his gaze was a lady knight he did not know, only being able to place the order she hailed from.

With everyone present, the last member of their party was roughly brought in and unceremoniously thrown to the ground, not the smartest thing to do for someone who was supposed to guide them through a forest that few returned from. He bit his tongue and simply watched. He had, after all, visited her cell shortly after his arrival but had only looked in on her, not having had any desire to actually interact with the woman at the time. If he had, he might have slain her for attacking the Emperor. He was pulled back from his thoughts as the princess approached the filthy woman at their feet and grabbed her. His grip on his axe tightened, ready to move if things became violent, though he was surprised at the domineering manner the princess had suddenly adopted.

"It might be more prudent, Forest Dweller, if you do not make threats.", he said matter-of-factually.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ||The Rookery | Duunba||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

"Ah, you litte bastard, don't you nip at me!" Emily exclaimed, swiftly retrieving her hand from the prying beak of a large raven. "I know I didn't train your ass, my birds have fucking manners," she continued, filing away the thought of gently slapping the bird's beak in retaliation. He'd probably remember, and this one in particular did not like her to begin with. That was the thing with ravens, they were intelligent and clever creatures, perfect for complicated tasks but... They had a tendency to form grudges, plus they had an annoying habit of remembering faces to put with those grudges. She would have to remember to bring it up with Ser Mikhial to tweak their training for ravens and crows.

It probably wouldn't do anything, old Mikhial was set in his ways and she was to be gone for the next couple of weeks apparently, so it wasn't like she could enforce it or anything. She sighed and tried to feed the bird again, this time standing at more of a distance before dropping the seed into its cage. It worked, if only by a little bit. The thing still tried to bite at her. "Of all the birds in here," gesturing at the large cages that lined the wall of the Rookery, "I'd expect you would be the one to know that thing about biting the hand that feeds. Next time it might feed you this backhand," though if the raven seemed at all cowed by the threat, it did a good job of hiding it. Probably because it knew she wouldn't do anything.

The rookery was large circular room found atop one of the towers that dotted the walls that protected the Palace of Duunba. Despite the number of cawing and chittering birds, the room was still open, with open portals on all sides to let in fresh air, and if necessary, release birds from. A single wall separated the rookery into two, the side that held the raptors, and the side that did not. Cages lined the walls while some even hung from the ceiling, each with a bird cawing to be fed. Emily had already fed most of them, but the birds were greedy creatures. They would take the bag of seed out from her hand had they the chance. "Fine, I'll go over here with the hawks, where they actually like me," she said, replacing the bag of seed with mice and headed toward the other room.

As she fed the birds on that side of the room, she paused at a cage whose name tag read "Echo." "Hey girl," she said kindly, as she slipped a mouse in between the bars to the hungry maw of the large hawk. "You bored too?" she asked as she ate, "Well, don't worry, we get to go on an adventure... or something in a few more days," she said, gently rubbing the down on the bird's neck. "When we do, be sure you are on your best behavior for the princess," she said pointing an accusing finger at the hawk, who just blankly stared back. "You can caw at the others, I don't care, but not the princess. We have a reputation to keep, you hear?" Emily continued, a grin working its way onto her lips.

"I'm meeting with the others who are going to accompany us tomorrow, but after I'll take you hunting so we can get some exercise. We don't want to leave with rickety bones and joints do we?" she said, bidding her farewell to the bird before continuing down the line and feeding the rest of the falcons.

β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ|| The Next Day ||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

Emily bore a finely made blue tunic embroidered with the badge of the Order of the Falcon on one shoulder, and that of her own coat of arms on the other. She figured it would be best if she tried to dress her best for the meeting, but that lasted only a couple of minutes before she had the sleeves rolled up to her elbow. Still, she felt she was at least a bit more presentable than the Lord Executioner, who was actually still wearing his hood--inside. The other knights who'd seen him were not wrong when they said the man was the brooding type. Not that she'd venture a comment, she was no damn fool, one didn't criticize the Lord Executioner's fashion choice.

After she had greeted the princess properly and went through all proper decorum, Emily took a seat in a nearby chair and patiently waited for the business to be discussed. Eventually, a poor wretch was dredged up from somewhere, the dungeons apparently from what she said. Emily couldn't help but tilt her head. This was already a curious bunch. At the very least, it seemed like she would travel with a very interesting group. If the girl with the white hair didn't get executed but the Lord Executioner before the day was out. She gave it one-in-two odds. However, the girl had fire, she had to admit.

Even the princess seemed to have a bit of steel in her judging by the way she asserted herself over the other woman. The whole thing had Emily leaning forward in her chair, curious as to how this would all play out. Soon, the situation was diffused, but not without a parting word from the white haired woman. Emily couldn't help but laugh out loud.

Her hands rose and her fingers danced in the air, "Oooh, spooky. And cryptic. And a little foreboding. But mostly cryptic," she said, leaning back in her chair. "But you got spirit. I like that," she said, shrugging. "Still, pretty fu--, er," Emily swallowed the swear following a quick glance to the princess and the Lord Executioner, "Dumb. Pretty dumb, biting the Emperor," she said, unamused. Truth be, she was plenty amused, but she'd be damned she'd let the others know.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ||Morning | Duunba||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

Ezra sat upright in bed well before dawn, the location of the bed in which he slept apparently having no effect on the morning ritual he had become accustomed to over the years. For a quarter of a second, the strange surroundings gave Ezra paused, and during the remainder of that second, the previous day's events came flooding back to him.

He had ridden for nearly two weeks with no one but his brother and fifty soldiers to keep him company. Ezra pondered why he alone would merit so many men, and smiled at the implication. Yesterday, the party had arrived in Duunba, and after a very brief briefing with the Emperor(during which the man hardly looked at Ezra), Ezra was shown his temporary quarters and given leave to prepare, though not without a not-so-subtle threat at imprisonment should he attempt to leave the palace grounds.

Of course, Ezra had left anyway. He noted the palace guard had been surprisingly easy to evade, and he spent the remainder of that day exploring the city he had been unable to visit for more than five years. It had seemed so alien to him, and he found himself missing the distant, rural village he had made into his home. Now, on the morning of the party's gathering, Ezra took solace in the familiarity of his morning exercise. It would be some time before the scheduled meeting, and he would be damned if he let something as minor as a quest to save all of mankind from magical annihilation get in between him and a healthy start to his day. After an admittedly indulgent breakfast(by Ezra's standards, which would be understated by the term "conservative"), he readied for the introductions. Trimming his stubble, combing his hair, and dressing took shorter than he expected, and he found himself somewhat early, although upon entering the room, he was surprised to find that a few others had beaten him.

Most notably was the imposing figure of Caius Elrin, a man whom Ezra assumed he would never see again. He felt a pang of anger and guilt, the sight of the Lord Executioner dredging up a painful set of memories from his past. Ezra let his face betray nothing, meeting Elrin's eyes with his own, and refusing to show any sign of backing down. Caius wore his hood, despite being indoors, which Ezra privately suspected was because he thought it made him look more imposing and mysterious.

Next to the Lord Executioner stood another familiar face, although Ezra couldn't quite put a name to it. She wore a blue tunic, and bore an emblem that Ezra recognized as the badge of the Order of the Falcon, which made her a knight. If her garment followed traditional design, her family crest would be on the opposite shoulder, but from his current position he could not see it and did not fancy stepping between the woman and Caius simply to find out. He assumed introductions would be in short order. Another woman entered, and she provoked no immediate interest from Ezra, though upon closer inspection he realized this was by design. She wore finer leather and cloth than even some nobles he had met, and it was all very subtle in it's practicality. If he had not been looking, he would have passed this woman on the street without a second thought, and he mentally scolded himself for not noticing it immediately. Eventually the princess arrived, and the assembled group greeted her largely as one would be expected to greet a princess. Ezra, for his part, offered a bow, but remained quiet.

At long last, the final member of their party arrived, although "arrived" might imply that she had a choice in the matter. Ezra suppressed a flinch when the filthy, white-haired girl was brusquely escorted into the room. He wanted to rush to her side, help her gather her things, and take her to be properly cared for and fed, but he held himself back. He watched the exchange between the girl and the princess, and let a frown form on his lips despite himself. The princess's words seemed cruel and unnecessarily insulting, and Ezra felt sympathy for the girl, and was relieved when the princess ordered that the white-haired girl be cleaned and fed and cared for.

Then the princess addressed them, and the white-haired girl tacked a cryptic warning on the end, which prompted Caius to chastise her for "threatening" them. Ezra's lip twiched, and he nearly spoke himself, but was cut off by the Falconer's laugh. He knew that Caius was the type of man who wouldn't hesitate to cut this girl down, who wouldn't even feel remorse in doing so. He wanted badly to punch Caius, but knew that was mostly his own past with the man speaking. Still, he couldn't help but match the Lord Executioner's earlier gesture, and clenched his fist,

The Falconer did not speak like most knights or royalty, which Ezra took as a good thing. Even he had found he needed to choose his words carefully, having been out of practice for quite some time. When his brother had first recruited him, Ezra feared the group would contain nothing but knights of the worst kind, those blindly loyal to the emperor and, more frightfully so, to Caius. He had more than one nightmare on the road to Duunba of Caius and his knights all turning on him on the journey and cutting him down out in the wilderness, where no one could help him. Hearing the Falconer speak, Ezra knew right away she was not one of Elrin's flunkies, and the other woman didn't seem to be a knight at all, as far as he could tell. Ezra hoped he could convince at least one of the women to stand by him if Caius decided this journey was the perfect time to rid the world of him forever. Though he did not like the idea of relying on women to fight for him, he knew it was better than the alternative.

The Falconer's jokes and the Executioner's threats aside, the princess had addressed them, and Ezra would no further delay whatever speech she had prepared. With a glance and a slight smirk towards the Falconer, Ezra turned his attention to the princess and awaited her word.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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#, as written by Byte
She was antsy.

Oh, sure, she was the emperor’s esteemed guest and had been given a proper treatment reflecting that, but that hadn’t made her any less wary on the off-chance of things. You only gave these rooms to other nobles, maybe a pretty whore you’d planned on keeping as a weekend fling. Perhaps lend it to a servant on their name day, but that was probably taking it a little too far. The room was nice enough she supposed, silken sheets and feather-stuffed cushions weren’t a commodity for the assassin. Neither was having a room all to herself now that she thought about it. Still, that hadn’t made her any less paranoid.

Always was the way with the likes of her. Expect the best and prepare for the worst.

Bellemere stood, leaning against the nearest wall with a dagger in hand to scrape those bits of imaginary dirt from underneath her fingernails for want of something to disguise the fact that she’d been eyeing her companions-to-be like trophies to be hung as ornaments on the wall. Thoughts had drifted by and off again, some good, some bad, some in dire need of mentioning (like what the fuck kind of recruitment process did these lot go through?) if she could’ve, but all of them had a certain appeal to the assassin.

The Lord Executioner was the first to catch her attention, not wholly inconspicuous about his appearance in an attempt to look about as intimidating as a puppy dog. The hood and garb? Yeah, this was someone who’d take a shit too seriously. Bellemere had given the man a knowing smile when his eyes met hers, one eyelid dropping in a subtle wink. The Elrin family were a common name among the whispers, many with a reasonable sum for their heads to be served on a silver platter. The Sisterhood had, obviously, refused. They weren’t a simple household name out of sheer persistence, they were the closest thing the emperor had to a personal hand of justice, and Bellemere had the decency to leave this man alone if only for the sake of not stirring up too many sleeping dogs.

Plus, an axe to the face wasn’t an inviting thought.

Up next was a man who was probably more on edge than he ought to be. It was slight, admittedly good control over his emotions, but Bellemere had learned to pick up on the subtle differences in stance, and the fact that his eyes hadn’t exactly left the Lord Executioner for more than several minutes was enough to deduce there was more going on beneath the surface.

As for the rest? Well, Bellemere had remembered a couple of things, like ’The woman knight sure’s got a loose tongue, but restrained.’ and ’The princess has got a nasty bark on her.’ The latter of which she had offered a grin. Not the pretty princess of the fairy tales, that one. Not by a mile.

β€œTo your deaths by the way...”

Good. That made things easy then, she was familiar with death.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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Flicking the bits of grime that had transferred from her guide’s dirtied face to her hand but a moment ago, Camilla listened to the round of talk from her future adventuring party. There was little of relevance spoken, simply antagonism and quiet glances from those who did not speak. Regardless, they had all opted to ignore her and instead placed their attention on the childish provocation of a shackled, ragged forest girl. Considering how many of them were knights of the highest caliber and renown, Camilla expected a bit more respect from them, especially towards the princess of the empire they all supposedly served. At least the Silent Sister, decked in her fine assortment of clothes and empty mouth, and her guide, wracked by malnutrition and bitterness, had an excuse, but the others should have known better. They would know better going forward.

Camilla reached out her hand and placed it gently on top of the executioner’s tightening, leather grip. An axe wasn’t what was needed now. Applying a small amount of pressure, she dragged her hand across, scraping away whatever dirt remained on her fingers, and returned it to her side. Then she raised her arm to gesture towards the room’s assassin as she spoke of her, a quiet and subdued tone filling the room. β€œAll of you, be as the sister here and be silent. Since we are so quick to distraction I will simply explain it myself, and then you can go about exchanging threats and sharing vulgarities after I am gone.” Camilla had hoped that her father, who had insisted on leaving her out of decision making regarding this supposedly important quest of hers, had bothered to have them informed to some degree and provided with relevant supplies. She hoped, because after seeing the state of the woman who would be leading them all through the dangerous forest–bitter and weak–she was beginning to lose confidence in how well this was put together up to this point.

Looking around to make sure people were paying attention, she continued. β€œEarly tomorrow morning, we will all be departing Duunba and making our way deep into the great forest, led by our guide who you have all just met.” She turned briefly to glance at the white-haired woman to acknowledge her. β€œWe will be on horseback for as far as they will take us, after which we will make our way on foot. The goal of this venture is to reach a mountain on the far side of the forest that is believed to be a source of great magical power. Once there, we will conduct an investigation of the site to determine if it is involved in the recent events occurring across the Empire. With this done, we will return to the capital and report our findings to my fa-… the Emperor.”

Raising her arm to this time gesture towards Lord Elrin, executioner and recently appointed dishrag, Camilla explained the simple hierarchy going forward. β€œWhile I am ultimately leading this expedition, Lord Elrin will be the one managing the day to day operations as we travel and whose orders you will be obeying. Sabine, the guide you see behind me, as someone familiar with the forest will also be given some authority so we may make proper use of her expertise.” Her lips curled for a moment at her small rebellion of making an abused prisoner a party leader before quickly straightening as she looked around at each one of the people in the room with her. She finished with a question: β€œIs there any confusion or questions about why you are here and what we will be doing?”

A steady string of words that Camilla hoped kept her frustration subtle and beneath the surface of her voice. That said, part of her also hoped those around her were sharp enough to still notice.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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#, as written by Madame

"It might be more prudent, Forest Dweller, if you do not make threats.", Sir tall, dark, and palid said matter-of-factually. To which Sabine didn’t respond, she didn’t feel a need to, if he wanted to take it as a threat that was his thick-headed business.

A woman she didn’t put a voice to mocked her response, which an attentive Sabine would’ve scoffed at. If she was going to ignore the hooded man she would ignore the lady as well. These people seemed lax about waltzing right into the forest. It was a response much different from the few common folk Sabine had spoken to in her life and she didn’t know how to deal with it. The common folk had the sense to blow the forest’s danger out of proportion in their minds. Telling tales of what lived in there and what happened to those that dared enter. They made it seem like a it was akin to asking for a tortuous death. Sure it was death, but really it was as quick as the sorcerer and she could make it. We’re not here to torture. She could hear him say it even now. Along with his various insistances that what they did they did for a greater good. Wherever the sorcerer was he had better show up, he couldn’t expect her to stop these people on her own? Could he? Was he even coming back? She had this nagging feeling…

Sabine struggled internally while the Princess prattled on, asserting herself over everyone else as she had done with her, albeit without manhandling them. Sabine only glared back at the Princess when she turned to her, and was sure to throw a glare at anyone else who looked her way too. The hell she would be leading them anywhere. She would die before betraying the Sorcerer, they didn’t seem to understand that no matter how Sabine tried to make it apparent. One of these kicks had to finish her off eventually right? She was being bitter, whether she actually wanted to die was dubious at best. She just felt defiant about the whole ordeal in general, and dying sounded like a good way to spite her captors.

Hold one, they were going where? The mountain, The Lover’s Tomb, is that the place the princess had meant? It was the only mountain source of magic the sorcerer had ever mentioned to her, so that had to be it unless there was a second magical mountain on the far side of the forest. They were going to have to go through the entire forest to reach it. When she had been told they would be going in she’d had no idea just how far. The distance somehow added to the offence of the trespass. Sabine was less and less happy as new information poured in. Had she been paying attention enough to catch the bit about the horses Sabine would have flung herself off of a balcony.

Oh? What was this? They would be listening to her orders now? Sabine doubted it, she gave a dead-eyed look to everyone. Yeah, this lot wasn’t going to listen to a damn thing she had to say. But that wouldn’t stop her from trying. She was getting tired just thinking about the effort that would take. Effort being something she was short of in the moment.

She went back to staring at the ground in dejectedness.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sabine Character Portrait: Camilla Olivie Enais Character Portrait: Bellemere Character Portrait: Emily Austringer Character Portrait: Lord Executioner Caius Elrin Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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Emily could not help but feel that a majority of the Princess's tirade was directed toward her, considering that she was probably the one who'd said the most so far. Though she didn't outwardly smile, she couldn't help but feel a little amused by the fact that apparently she had inadvertently gotten the others chewed out as well. Regardless, she made a mental note to not press the issue, and to be far more careful with her words around the princess. She doubted the others would like her very much if she kept getting them into trouble by opening her mouth. So she sat with a closed mouth and attentive eyes as the princess explained the general plan for the next.

It all seemed rather clean cut, honestly. Escort the princess across the Empire and through the forest to investigate a specific magical site. She glanced at the individuals gathered and nodded to herself, noting it to be the perfect amount of bodies for a scouting mission. She had led a few herself during the war, but was pleased that she wasn't the one in charge this time. In fact, apparently she wasn't even considered to be second or third, which suited her just fine. She'd less to think about that way, and she had always been good at following orders. Once the princess's explanation was over and she asked for any questions or concerns, Emily was the one to raise her hand.

She'd made sure she'd excised any wisp of a smile she might've had in fear of being mistaken for flippant before she spoke. "Yes, I have a question," she began, her tone carrying the same seriousness as her face, "What is the route we plan to take?" she asked, glancing between the princess and the white-haired woman. It sounded like either could answer the question. Emily hesitated for a moment before reaching for one of her trouser pockets, and retrieved a small leather bound journal and charcoal pencil. She peeled the journal open, revealing the contents of a few pages as sketches of flowers and birds, before finding a blank set, intending to take notes.

Sabine scratched her head lazily, and picked out a flea. She regarded it with annoyance, she never used to have fleas, fucking emperor. Squishing it between her fingers she smeared it on the ground before noticing that the lady with the bright blue eyes and dark hair was looking at her. "You'll get as far as you can I guess." was her only response before she folded her arms and looked away. Wasn't the Princess supposed to be answering questions? What a pain in the ass.

Emily sighed and subtly shook her head. She should've probably saw that one coming. Her glance then fell on the princess.

Happy to see the seemingly lax falconer attentive, Camilla was quickly brought down again by her shackled guest's reply. Recovering, she quickly answered. "We will be taking the main road east for roughly a week, at which point we will leave it and travel along the assortment of dirt paths that exist in that part of the countryside. Two carriages have been prepared for us with enough supplies to last several weeks." Turning slightly to remind herself of who would be serving as her guide, she sighed. "From there we will be relying on our guide to travel through the forest safely."

"Hey, hey, how am I supposed to keep you safe. People don't come back from that forest for a good reason Princess." Sabine felt a sudden spurt of energy and got up, getting in Camilla's face, she was... she had to stop them from going if she could. They weren't supposed to go in there. The Sorceror wouldn't like it. He might even... "The forest doesn't give a damn who your father is. There is no Emperor or Princesses it recognizes." Her cheeks were slightly coloured with red, she was really getting worked up, her fists shaking. This wasn't fair.

Ezra had listened to the princess speak and was contemplating what she had told them, mentally keeping track of the important bits, including the Lord Executioner's status as their leader, and his own changing opinion of the princess. As was his habit, he had been softly rubbing his stubble when Sabine jumped up. She had been speaking, but if Ezra was being honest, he wasn't listening to the rabid girl. When she got in the princess's face, however, Ezra's hand fell to the sword at his waist, and he took a half step forward before restraining himself. Technically, approaching the princess with his weapon drawn was justification enough for Caius to kill him on the spot. He had only drawn his blade an inch from it's sheath, but he knew Caius would likely not care about a trivial detail such as that. It also dawned on him that he was about to pull steel on an unarmed lady, and as dirty and impolite as she was, he knew he wouldn't strike her down unless she had a weapon of her own. A second passed, and Ezra relaxed as it became apparent that Sabine would not harm the princess.

Turned around by the sudden outburst, Camilla faced the dirtied face of someone who apparently liked the dungeons. Sadly, they would have to wait and something simpler would have to do. She couldn't put too much weight forward, but it was enough to send Sabine to the ground, a place she would need to become accustomed to if she was going to continue with this. "I have already seen it. I have seen your forest. I have seen that tree you live in. And I have seen myself there. The forest will recgonize me because it already has." They were all going to learn about her eventually, so it might as well have been now.

Sabine was reminded of exactly how weak she was when she unceremoniously flopped to the floor, painfully. All of her bruises and possible aquired mircofractures screaming at her for her stupidity. She took a minute to even move, and moving hurt even more. God damnit. This weakness was absolute cow shit. She resolved to at least sit up, but she wasn't moving, not for now. "You've... seen it... liar." Sabine didn't even know what that meant, but she assumed that meant that the Princess had been there, in which case... why the fuck was she even needed? Moreover, that couldn't be. No one got past Sabine's tracking senses and she sure as shit didn't remember killing this jackass. She certainly would if she ever got the chance, she was sure of it.

And the princess shoved Sabine to the ground. Ezra's lips twisted into a slight smirk. Did she really need an escort after all?And what she had said about having seen the forest... Ezra's smile disappeared. Did she possess some gift, some magic? Was that even possible?

Sabine flopped back down, she was done, they could kill her for all she cared. She was done now. She just didn't have the energy and every part of her body was screaming. Dignity be damned. Who had the energy for dignity anymore? Sure as shit not her. She was wolf now. No more talking.

Ezra had to stifle a choke when Sabine suddenly became a wolf. He had heard rumors from across the empire of strange and magical happenings, but never witnessed such a thing himself. Despite the frequency of the rumors, and even the words of the princess concerning the purpose of their journey, he largely assumed it was just superstition. Now he needed a moment to collect his thoughts.

Bellemere had sat out the situation with increasing indifference, only looking up when the princess and her newly anointed dog elevated their passive aggressive shit-flinging to one shoving the other on the floor. Before bickering like little kids. As much as that was a mental enjoyment, the assassin remained straight-faced as she kicked herself from the wall and approached the lady knight who, she noted, had brandished a journal to write on.

Tapping the other woman’s shoulder for attention, Bellemere gestured to the journal and pencil. There wasn’t much else she could do to pose a question, and she didn’t think anyone in the room was learned enough to know signs. Even if they did, the Sisterhood had their own take on it so writing the question down was the next best thing. Someone needed to read it for her, though.

Emily glanced down at her journal and back to the sister, before handing it and the pencil to her. The sentences "Certain Death," and "Weird Magic," were the only things written, clear that she wasn't expecting anyone else to read it.

With a nod, Bellemere took the pencil and journal before quickly scribbling down a question that she’d meant to ask ever since the cursed forest came up. It was a wonder nobody else had yet, but maybe she was the only one to notice that the white-haired woman had come from the forest. Unharmed and all. Adding her final words, the assassin handed the journal and pencil back to their rightful owner.

Emily looked down at the journal and what the sister had written in it, tilting her head at the question now in her journal. "That's a good question," Emily told Bellemere, before putting voice to it. "The sister here wants to know how she," she started, gesturing toward Sabine-- who was now a wolf, for some reason, "gets out of the forest if people don't come back." Emily added a little twist to her own brow at the end.

"Ahem, if I may interject?" Ezra interjected, not waiting for permission. This meeting was clearly informal. "I think it's obvious, the answer to your question, my lady." He nodded towards Bellemere, and continued. "It's clear our 'guide' has some measure of magical ability." He made another gesture towards the wolf and gave a half smile. "You can come and go as you please, can't you? The forest is your home, and I have a feeling we'll have a far greater chance of survival with you showing us the way."

Ezra then turned to face the princess. "If I may, your grace, what did you mean when you said you have 'seen yourself' in the forest?" Ezra had already came to his conclusion, but he wanted to hear it directly from the princess. "Moreover, and no offense, but what in particular qualifies you to investigate this magical mountain? When you say you've seen the forest, and this girl's home, are you implying you yourself possess a magical gift?" Ezra's words came out a little more accusatory than he had meant them, but he kept his expression neutral and inquisitive.

Caius relaxed a fraction when the princess placed her hand on his own. Perhaps it was an attempt to calm him, or stay his hand if he decided to attack the feral woman. Whatever her reason quickly became irrelevant as she proceeded to wipe the filth from her hands onto his gauntlets. It didn't matter that the leather was permanently saturated with old blood, or that the metal was stained with the same. It was the act in itself that mattered.

While he was unsure of her intent. Whether she was blatantly disrespecting him by using him as little more than a rag, or it was an unconcious gesture, or even pure, ignorant hubris, it didn't matter. The princess had earned the enmity of the Lord Executioner. Regardless if she met her end, or came home the triumphant hero that saved the world from magic, he would claim her hand.

Caius banished own dark musings, as Camilla addressed those present. He had been briefed on the necessary details in the days prior. His time with the emperor had been particularly illuminating.

It wasn't until the feral girl and the princess clashed with one another that Caius deigned to respond. Only this time, it was not to move in defense of Camilla. The Lord Executioner turned his attention towards Ezra, noting the reflexive manner in which he reached for his sword. He knew the man would lay down his life to keep Camilla safe. Such was the reason for his current lot in life. His actions made perfect sense, but what did not, was why he was armed, or why he was here in the first place.

His patience having finally worn thin, Caius wordlessly moved to stand before their apparent guide. It was unusual, to be certain, but he was a pragmatic man.

"Change back, Wolf Girl.", he commanded, his rich voice seeming all the more authorative due to the small room.

Being a man used to being obey, Caius didn't wait to see if Sabine would, instead he walked towards the door in which they had all entered and gestured for one of the guards to come with him.

The pair stopped before Sabine again, and Caius pointed at her, saying, "Feed her, clothe her, and for Istutia's sake, bathe her. I want her in top form by tomorrow, Falhurst."

Once more, he didn't wait to see if the guard, Falhurst, would obey him, or if the girl would even accept his help. She did not. That is, obey, and only bared her teeth, which looked pearly white next to her dingy fur, when Falhurst neared, leaving the man unsure of what to do.

Caius turned towards the group and slammed the butt of his axe upon the floor, demanding attenion and cutting off Ezra towards the end of his question.

"If this is the way our foray into the wild is going to start, then we may as well slit our throats right now and save whatever we might encounter the trouble.", he intoned, pulling his hood down and crossing his hands over his axe.

The hood finally lowered revealed a man that might have been handsome, were it not for the heavy lines beneath his eyelids, making it clear he did not sleep much, and the jaded look in his eyes. Even chastising them, his impassive stare flagged little.

"We have allowed our guide into a deadly place from which few, if any, have returned, and the only person we know to have an inkling as to what we'll face has be beaten, starved, and imprisoned. Perhaps it is fortunate that I am now at the head of this expedition, the decision making thus far is rather suspect."

He looked the group over, letting his words sink in before continuing. "There will be no conflict once we depart, this leads to death. We will approach this journey as if it were a battle. The plans have been laid, the supplies have been gathered, and the objective is clear. Orders will be obeyed, we will establish a synergy and work as a cohesive unit, and discuss any matter pertaining to the group. Anyone who disobeys, causes trouble, or harm, or endangers the group will be severly punished." As he finished his last sentence, his gaze found that of Ezra and he pointed at the younger exile. "I have but one question... Why are we being accompanied by a traitor and murderer?"

With the dog lying tired on the floor, and the Lord Executioner demanding cohesion, things seemed as though they would, at the very least, be calmed from this point on. Then came the immediate contradiction. "Sir Ezra is here because he is a capable warrior whose treason and murder were of soldiers terrorizing the people of the Empire. He was no doubt chosen by the Emperor for this task for his talents and the belief that he would serve well here." Camilla may have the ocassional criticism of her father, one's she was even willing to openly voice, but for another to do so was incredibly disrespectful, especially when he was nowhere to be seen. A scowl formed on her lips. "Until you have expressed your grievances to the Emperor, put away your axe and accusations, for there will be no more conflict tonight either." Frustrated enough with what had already happened, Camilla had no patience left for questions or fights and raised a hand to her head to fruitlessly try to sooth the aching. "This meeting is over. You have learned all you needed to tonight and some of us need a night's sleep to calm themselves."

While this went on, a strange standoff between Falhurst and Sabine ensued, she with her teeth barred, staring him down, and he half squatting with his hands out, figuring out a way to carry out his orders and not lose any fingers. Half a moment went by before he took off his cloak and sort of threw it over Sabine's head. He gingerly attempted picking her up, trying to get her to stand on her own, only to be met with an uncooperative limp wolf. This seemed to embolden him and he figured he could just carry her with little trouble. They exited the meeting, to find maids. "I'll have to burn my damn cloak after this..." he mumbled.

Try as she might, Emily could not hide the grin this caused.


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Character Portrait: Emily Austringer
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β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ||Outlying Land | Duunba||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

It was nice to get out of that stuffy room. Between the commanding presence (and she commanded it, no doubt) of the princess, and the quiet broodiness of the others, not to mention their snide guide, the atmosphere of the room was... charged, to put it gently. However, Emily did like the the Silent Sister, despite only interacting with her for a moment during the whole meeting. She didn't yell at her, after all.

Fortunately, the meeting was over in time for her to catch the last scraps of daylight. True to her word, Emily made a stop by the rookery and fetched her feathery friend. From there it was out of the palace and into the outlying land. Emily rode the black horse she called Absent. As in the absence of color... The horsemaster didn't think it was nearly as clever as she did. She was a good horse, mild-tempered, confident, and loyal, and she was also too accompany her on the quest. She reached down and gave the horse a pat on the neck, as their pace was anything but rushed. If it was to be their last night near the capital for a while, they would enjoy.

Though, Echo was eager to taste the fresh air. Emily had taken a leather arm guard with her, which Echo sat rather impatiently on. She could feel her feet shuffle and readjust even under the leather, and if she continued, she'd have to bring a replacement when they left in the morning. Aside from that, Emily also brought her spear-- for personal protection, but otherwise she traveled light. Echo wore a tan leather hood, to help keep her calm, though the smell of open air made her eager, along with a pair of jesses around her legs, which Emily kept a hold of. "Easy girl, we're almost there," Emily cooed gently.

Eventually, they arrived at their usual hunting spot, an area with tall grass which led to a tree line of a small thicket, large enough for Echo to do her hunting, though not too large so as to lose her. "Alright," Emily said, removing Echo's hood. The bird threw glances all around her and readjusted her wings to her back, a sign of her restlessness. Emily only chuckled and smiled, "Fine, go find your dinner then," she said, dropping the jesses and throwing the bird into the air. With a couple of heavy wing beats, Echo took flight into amber skies. Emily watched her ascend until she reached a decent altitude where she began to circle, beginning her hunt.

That left Emily on the ground with only her spear, her horse, and her thoughts. With a couple of clicks of her tongue, she urged Absent forward at a lazy gait, at the very least driving what prey she could out for Echo to find. Were she looking for supper as well, she would've joined in, and maybe together they could've hunted a boar, but she'd already eaten, and Echo needed the exercise so that she would not be squirrelly for the next day. Heavens forbid what would happen if she took a nip at the princess...

With a loud caw above, Emily smiled and watched as Echo flew freely through the skies.


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Character Portrait: Ezra Callen
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β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ||The Palace | Duunba||β–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆβ–ˆ

Despite what the princess had said, Ezra did not know all he needed to know. She had skirted his question, and possibly thought he would ignore that fact because she so graciously defended him against Caius. Speaking of, Ezra had some choice words for the man, but figured they were best left unsaid for the time being. He would drop the issue of the princess's implied magical ability for now, but he could not shake the feeling of being kept in the dark, which he did not appreciate.

Upon dismissal from the meeting, Ezra found himself in the palace library, and before long had a stack of old tomes too heavy to carry together. He seated himself in a back corner, flickering candlelight casting shadows over the spines of ancient books around him, and got to work.

Only when the space around him dimmed to darkness did Ezra bother to look up from the faded text. His candle had burned to the base and had gone out, leaving his corner of the library cloaked in shadows. He stood from his seat and stretched, closing the book before him and sighing. It was the second he had delved into, and not even a hint of any magical mountains. He knew he shouldn't be too upset about it, that if the Emperor suspected this mountain as a likely cause of the magical disturbances he would scour the nation for any reference to it. Still, Ezra had nothing better to do.

Gradually, despite the aches of protests from his body, Ezra shelved the books he had read and a few others he deemed not worth the time and weight, and took the rest back to his room. It was well and truly into the night when he finally staggered into his chambers and began the process of undressing. Servants had brought wine, and he indulged in a glass as he began his evening meditations.

Ezra let a smile creep onto his face as he finished his second glass of wine following his meditations. He felt the alcohol warm him and dull his senses ever so. He wouldn't drink a third, and he knew that if it came to it, he would still be able to put up a fight. He had just laid his head down in bed when he heard a knock on his door. Two sharp knocks, a pause, a single knock, another pause, and then two knocks more. He sat up instantly, recognizing the pattern and pulled a shirt over his scarred torso. In the span of two heartbeats he was at the door, opening it and knowing exactly who to expect. He put on a look of mild surprise anyway, just to practice.

"How did the meeting with the princess go, brother? Ryler grinned like he was fifteen years old, and Ezra couldn't help but return it. He couldn't remember the last time his brother had treated him like a brother. Probably when he was fifteen. Ezra motioned for his brother to enter.

"It was...fine, I suppose. The Lord Executioner was there. He was practically frothing at the mouth to cut my head off."

""I think that's just his default mood. The man wouldn't know subtlety if you rammed it up his ass." Ryler chuckled and the two of them sat down at the small table. Ezra poured his brother a glass of the wine, and filled his own with water before Ryler continued. "But I didn't ask about the grim reaper, did I? Tell me about the princess! What's she like? I've only ever seen her from a distance, and don't get me wrong, I love looking, but I wanna know if she has the attitude to match the looks."

"She is, ah how do I put this? Dominant? The moment the word left his lips, Ezra knew it was the wrong word. Ryler's face lit up, again like a teenager.

"Do tell brother! I like my women to take control. Tell me, are they as impressive up close? I would think so. Ryler made a vulgar motion with his hands in front of his chest, and Ezra scowled.

"She's just a child, Ryler." Ezra scolded, but he knew his argument was weak. She was only seven years her brother's younger, and already an adult by a wide margin. There were women ten years younger than her getting married, though the thought pained Ezra, he knew it was considered normal. "Besides, aren't you forgetting your wife?"

Ryler's face turned grave. "Emmalyn passed away. Last summer. She died during childbirth."

Ezra let his face form honest sorrow and sympathy. "Ah, forgive me brother. My condolences. Did the child...?"

"Yes, a beautiful baby girl. Curly red hair, just like Emmalyn. We had decided to name her Brighton. You would love her."

"If I return from this journey, you and young Brighton will be the first person I visit."

"Don't talk like that brother. You will return. I'm not too proud to admit you're twice the swordsman I am. I...treated you poorly in the past. We all did. I apologize. I know it's an understatement, and that you have every right to hate us, but regardless of this quest, you're still family to me."

"I never hated you Ryler. I never hated any of you. I'm glad to know I'm still you're brother, though I think Jathan and Raina might not agree."

"Fuck them, Ezra." Ryler was on his third glass of wine now, and Ezra discretely removed the bottle and hid it beneath his chair. "Jathan has always been a pompous ass. When you return, the Emperor will rescind your exile and reinstate your knighthood. Jathan will have no choice but to welcome you back. And Raina will come around. She is engaged to remarry. Some southern lord, I actually can't remember his name. It's not a political marriage though. They are happy together".

"I'm happy for her, then. Do you want me to walk you back to your room? You're practically falling out of your chair."

" I'll be fine. It's not actually that far." The two of them stood, and Ryler wobbled before righting himself and downing the last of his wine. Ezra walked him to the door and Ryler turned before the door was shut. "Hey, you never answered my question about the princess's...uh..princesses. Ezra smirked and let the happiness of their conversation get the better of him.

"Yeah, Ryler. Impressive. Goodnight brother." Ryler howled a laugh that Ezra hoped didn't wake the residents of any of the nearby rooms.

"I think that might be the dirtiest thing you ever said. Glad to have heard it. Goodnight Ezra."

With that, Ezra closed the door and stumbled into his bed. He struggled his shirt off and blew out the candles until the only light was from the stars outside his window. He thought of the long journey ahead of him and the reward that waited for him at the end, and before he could worry about any of it, he was asleep.